Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Happy Holidays

Just a quick note to say Happy Holidays!

My sister Nancy and family came for Thanksgiving and the kids all had a great time out in the snow riding horses, etc. It was even warm enough to put up the trampoline.

Immediately following, I went for my week in Albuquerque. Coincidentally Nancy was in town too for a house hunting trip, since they have plans to move there this month. And my sister, Monica, made it down for a night to join in on the mini-reunion! Incidentally while I was in Albuquerque, Mike was having a week of all out blizzards in Wyoming.. Snow 24" high. (He says "Why bother to build fences, the alpaca will be able to walk right over!")

And then the week of the 19th the girls come back up to Wyoming for 2 weeks for Christmas. We are hoping Mike's son, Dan, will join us for one of those weeks. And just today I heard Josh and Jed might come as well. But other than that we intend to stay home and relax through the holidays! Hope you can do the same.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005


Lots of progress this month. First milestone was to pass my Ski Patrol (Outdoor Emergency Care Certification) class. I passed with a 96, although walking into the test I still was not sure I'd get the required 75.. It was tough stuff. Now there is still lots of hours ahead for on the hill training, but no stress there. I feel a great sense of relief having passed that.

Mike and I spent last weekend in Denver, driving Saturday, visiting Monica and Dave (my sister & Husband) for the afternoon and evening. Then Sunday Morning we went to see our alpaca at the ranch we bought her from. We spent the rest of the day "in training" at that ranch before driving home that evening. We trimmed some nails, gave some shots, bred our alpaca (unfortunately she is still not pregnant.), and picked up lots of other helpful alpaca tips. On the alpaca front, things are progressing a bit slower than we would like due to transportation and apparent difficulties getting pregnant. After trying to buy three pregnant females it seems none of them are confirmed pregnant at this time. They are all still at their original farms. The Georgia one turned out not to be pregnant and so is there being bred. The Missouri one is still trying to get to New Mexico to be bred (after losing her baby last month) and the Denver one is just being slow getting pregnant... Oh well, practicing patience.

I spent a quick week in Albuquerque with the girls but due to Ski Patrol constraints there was no associated weekend. December will be almost as bad but I do get in 1 weekend. I find myself scrambling to get in the agreed upon days in my parenting plan with Kelsey & Sara, guess the summer was shorter than I thought. Anyway, I'll plan better next year. On the upside I am in Albuquerque in November and in Dec, and the girls come to Wyoming in November and December, so we get lots of time together.

During my week in Albuquerque I turned 43 and got glasses, which was a surprise. I thought it would be the typical trouble seeing close that people develop, but it turned out to be a problem with distance, that then made my eyes more tired adjusting to close vision. Still not sure if I understand or believe that I need them, but they do help.

Mike's workload has been steadily increasing and he is busy full time for the next month or so, which is great. He has gotten one job caretaking a house in Jackson, which means paid to drive by once a month and flush toilets and look for maintenance issues and then he will be paid to fix what he finds. This is big business in Jackson where such a large percentage of the houses are occupied only a few weeks a year. He was thrilled at this contract and hopes to get a few more.

Mike did expand the horse shelter at our house and we loaded up on hay for the winter. We still have some fencing and a bit more shelter work to do before the Alpaca come. We had hoped to pour concrete for our garage, but can't get any concrete (perhaps ya'll are aware of the concrete shortage in the country). Now that the snow is on the ground we may have to abandon the project until the spring.

I did tell the waitress at Dinner on Sunday that I had broken my fingernail while trimming the toenails of an alpaca.. she said she thought nobody had ever said that to her before (and probably wouldn't ever again)... Imagine!

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Peruvian or Chilean

We bought alpaca this week. After 2 years of planning and dreaming Aardwolf Alpacas is born. We hooked up with a woman (Ellen) in Albuqueruque who helped us find a starter pair of Alpaca. The question of the week was Peruvian or Chilean... Ellen had built quite a nice little business for herself in 3 years and was strict in her discipline to breed only Pure Peruvian Alpaca. Most other breeders don't do this and tell us just follow your instincts and buy quality animals ad you can't go wrong. Our trouble.. we don't have "experienced instincts" just yet, so following her advise did not seem like an unreasonable thing to do.

On Thursday, when we were working the deal to buy Alpaca two (Serena) she had a baby (Bonus). She was female and black (double and triple bonus). The baby was not Pure Peruvian.. but easily worth $10,000. So we decided to buy a third animal, that my instincts told me to buy.. 3/4 chilean, and bred to a 1/2 Bolivian.. But I think she is really a nice animal. Now I guess we will see 1st hand how much difference it makes to stick with Peruvian.

Unfortunately, the baby died on Saturday. She had been pre-mature and the owner hadn't known she was born for some time I guess, and she was born in the freezing rain. She caught Pneumonia and never recovered. So.. Bonus snagged back! Our first blow. We are sticking with the three anyway, and now are trying to arrange insurance, shipping, breeding, visits, not to mention fencing. Fun stuff. With all the logistics it looks like we will be lucky if they are on our property by New Years, so I am practicing my patience (tough for me). in the mean time there is always fencing to keep us occupied (right Monica?).

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Another month

Well another month has gone by, too much activity to write much. Today at work we finished the big project (Flying Saddle Lodge) that we were supposed to finish by August 1, so I have a moment to breathe. In the mean time along with finishing this project and another one (Teton Literacy Program), this month has included...

* Getting a fishing license, two fishing trips, including a visit from Mike's Brother-in-Law, Joe and his Dad. And.. I caught a fish!

* Rafting one last time and taking the Romanian Students that are working this summer at the office... and giving them the whole experience.. Yep dumped the whole boat. It was quite a shock since we had to go at 7:30 AM to get Teo and Alin back by noon, so it was COLD. Teo had not considered the possibility she might get wet, and so was quite shocked... We recovered though, and got back into the raft, only to pass search and rescue 20 feet downstream looking for a dead body! The mood before we flipped and the mood after the flip was remarkably different!

* My September week in Albuquerque - Lots of parenting responsibilities during this monthly visit. Saw Sara's new school. Got the new activities underway, Worked lots on Kelsey's driving skill, although not a real road yet! Not to mention that September is the birthday party visit when both of the girls have their birthday parties... So Kelsey was an overnight Friday, Sara was an overnight Saturday, and we all parted company exhausted.

* Hiking the King - Snow King Ski Area which comes right down to my office. I was shocked the first day I walked with Randy, a co-worker that is 12 years older than me and had knee surgery 3 months ago, at how out of shape I am. I began a daily regiment of walking at lunchtime. Maybe I'll make it to the top before the snow flies! (HA)

* Joining the Ski Patrol - Something I've always been interested in doing.. So I did. Thought it might be something fun to do with Mike and although he wanted to do it in the past with me, this year he is not too keen on it. Thinks his skiing isn't up to par. So after much debate I decided to go for it. It should be good exercise, and a fun way to get involved in Jackson. What I DIDn't know is that the training is so intense. I will have the same training as an EMT-Basic when completed. So it will be hard-core study from now until Christmas.

* A few very nice horse rides - the latest of which (last Sunday) was a 16-mile (8 miles each way) ride to a Ghost town. Fun until Jane jumped over the creek and I flew off the saddle and connected in an unnatural way... After that (10 miles or so more) it became more of an endurance/torture ride for me. Mike was also hurting pretty bad by the time we got off the horses (7 hours of riding later). Our muscles have recovered, but the Deep purple/black/green/blue Hershey bar sized bruises on each of my inner thighs are still interfering with my Ski hill hiking.

* We did think the Farrier had hit on a good idea to have a chiropractor come see Jane and perhaps help her foot problem and maybe other problems too. We did have the guy come, and it was very interesting seeing him make adjustments with Rubber mallets. She did seem to have some room for improvement, but in the end her foot problems have not ceased...

* Mike spent the month fishing and finishing the barn job he had.

* This coming weekend we are heading off to Coeur D'Alene, Idaho for an Alpaca show. We are quite excited to see Coeur D'Alene, and enjoy the drive through the fall forests. We will be having dinner with Mike's son, Dan, in Missoula on the way. And then of course there are the Alpaca... I had a dream last night that this is the year I should buy! ;-)

Thursday, August 18, 2005


Well, time to get this blog entry off because life keeps happening! The trip to the VirginIslands already seems so distant! We had a great time. The girls and I spent two days in Orlando (Universal Studios and Sea World) on our way to the Caribbean. It was very hot and humid.. Almost unbearable, if not for the occasional air-conditioned ride! As it was our first trip to Orlando, we all thought there was SO much to do there, and thought it would be fun to come back for a week, but in the winter!

Then off to the Virgin Islands, our delay in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and at Customs on Tortola was long enough that the first thing we did was change plans and stay on Tortola for the night, hung out at the beach and had a great dinner. Then the next day we were on the boat. If you haven't seen the boat, it is pretty nice and can be viewed outside and in at Kelsey, Sara, and I shared a room and the other 17 of the Swenson party all shared double suites, filling the capacity of the boat. There were also 7 crew to attend to most every need, a 24-hour open bar, plenty of snorkeling, kayaking, diving (for the 6 people that decided to participate, including Kelsey), a theater room (for those with stomachs of steel!), jumping off the boat, shore trips for shopping or beach, card playing, and two hobie cats at our disposal. Not to mention 3 gourmet meals each day, surprisingly well portioned, as I didn't feel like I over ate at all. The trip in general was better than expected. We didn't have the usual family spats, which looking back must have been because the crew made all our decisions for us. That has to be the best investment of all! The first thing the crew said when we got on is that this boat was their home and they considered us guests in their home, and truly we felt that hospitality, they did a great job and the it was a very pleasant atmosphere and experience.

The next best investment was the diving. Since we hadn't gotten Kelsey certified before we went, we expected the "resort course" (for non-diving first time tryers) to be one trip in the water. All the divers were surprised when it turned out the resort course included a dive every day. The $75 investment was well worth it and Kelsey feels like she has picked up a new hobby for life. This is fitting well into her aspirations to become a marine biologist/marine wildlife photographer. She thinks she will spend a year someday working on the Cuan Law. She had her 15th birthday while we were there and she felt properly recognized as the crew threw her overboard in celebration.

The weather was perfect (a bit hot but very pleasant on the boat and in air conditioned rooms!). We were on the boat 7 days. The girls and I went home that last day. It will be a trip we won't forget soon. A proper celebration of my parent’s 50th anniversary (even if the crew did NOT throw them overboard). I've included a few photos here, and in the future will provide a link to imagestation for those who are interested in more, once I have everyone's photos and can select a "best" set.

The girls are now back in Albuquerque, and I'm back in Jackson to carry on life. It somehow feels changed. The girls started school last week, Kelsey as a sophomore, Sara in Middle School. Those are stories for another day.


Monday, July 18, 2005

Rafting, riding, and work.

I mentioned our rafting last blog. The day turned out perfect weather and perfect water. The rapids were better than when the river was higher. Mike took Jackie, Marc, Jonathan and Benjamin down. They dumped at the big kahuna rapid and rode through the next rapid in the river. I picked up the girls and then we met them at the take out to hear their adventure. Benjamin (8) did not want to go again.. So he and Marc went home. Mike went fishing (excellent) and I took Kelsey, Sara, Jackie and Jonathan for another trip down the river. Jackie tried to demonstrate the first trip to us and fell out again on the same spot as before, but we managed to save the boat upright and pull Jackie back in before the next rapid. Well they left the next morning for LA with storied to tell!

Jackie, Marc
Benjamin, & Jonathan Zev

Mike has been working on the house. The downstairs is almost finished. The Zevs stayed in the new family room with a working bathroom (even if it didn't have a door!), but progress is being made and we hope to start the additions soon. Mike has also been taking some time for fun and went out fishing both Thursday and Friday last week while the kids were at Riding camp. The fishing has been great. Better than I ever heard from him. The kids also enjoyed the riding camp last week. They got to do "poles" (whatever that is), barrel riding, cantering, and trail riding. And the best part for them was that they got to take our horses Wed, Thurs, and Friday, riding to the lessons and back. Wednesday we were a bit unsure and so we trailered the horses over. I wasn't paying attention, and the girls were being slow getting the lead ropes, and Mike was just working on getting the horses out.. anyway the back got opened up before the horses were detatched and Sonny tried to back out. When he couldn't get out he FREAKED, which is exactly what we were told would happen if we did this... Oh well, we will try not to make that mistake again. We also were a bit concerned about them loading in the trailer again. But we decided to give it a try on Sunday. We went to a canyon near us and Mike fished and the girls did some trail riding and I worked. It was a beautiful day and the horses loaded without incident, and even though I was a bit nervous sending the girls out on their own into the woods, they did great.

So now that the Zevs are gone I am on the home stretch for our Carribean trip. Wednesday (after I got back to work after my play day) I was told that my main client expected the drawings for his building to be done by August 1 (in other words before I leave on vacation). This is laughable! Anyhow, I agreed to crunch as hard as I can in this two weeks and see what we can accomplish. It won't be done, but I'll do what I can. Maybe this means getting organized so someone else can work on it while I'm gone. The office doesn't do real well at teaming up on projects.. This has advantages and disdvantages. This time it's a disadvantage. So rather than writing this blog I should get working. Now we are 8 days from leaving for vacation, and I still have three more sewing projects. Don't think I'll need to write another blog cause you know what I'll be doing!

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Well we rode the horses!

We had to get the horses shod before we could ride and couldn't get that until yesterday, so while Jackie Zev (aka Jackie Schuster) was visiting we found an opportune time to get out. She and I went for an early morning ride and then after breakfast her kids rode a bit around the yard, first time on a horse not in attached to a pony pole. Then Jackie and her husband Marc went out for a ride. The horses did beautifully, we were really pleased. Beautifully that is aside from the one interesting incident when Jackie wanted to take an extra jaunt around the block and lope a bit. Sonny, whom I was riding did not like being separated from Jane, even for that brief few minutes and started SCREAMING and screamed and screamed until she got back. Jackie also had an interesting ride on a particularly prancy horse... My girls did not ride because they were off to horse camp this morning.

In the mean time Lila (my office manager) has given the girls chores to do at her house in exchange for lessons with the horses, that are mostly (at least until this point) ground work so the girls have things they can do when we are not around. They love the arrangement so it works good for all.

Jackie and Marc are visiting during their summer trip across the West and to Yellowstone, etc. Last weekend we were able to join them in Yellowstone. We appreciated the opportunity to go to Yellowstone and camp and of course are thrilled to visit with them. They saw lots of wildlife including a grizzly. Maybe next time for us.

This afternon we are taking the Zevs white water rafting, another activity weare happy to be able to provide them and another chance to get out on the river. Mike might even do a bit of fishing today :-)

Sunday, July 03, 2005

And now for something completely different.

Well, we bought two horses yesterday. Never really knew I wanted horses, but I guess it all started because we bought land..... Actually Mike has had horses before and was interested in having them again and I guess that was all the encouragement I needed. I tried to find alternative to owning (leasing and offering boarding, renting etc.) but it was looking like nothing was going to work out so we realized horses are not so expensive, we could buy a couple and if we didn't like it we could always sell them again. Anyhow, Friday the girls and I went to Idaho Falls to do our final shopping before our trip to the Virgin Islands and instead went horse shopping. We stayed the night in IF and since the horses we bought came with a trailer, we could bring them home with us Saturday. They are happily munching our grass now, which we like to see as it is now over waist high.

The horses are both 15 years old, one (white one) is an Arabian/Quarterhorse cross gelding. The Mare is a Quarterhorse. We tried to pass on the trailer.. since it is so funky, but the guy essentially threw it in. I'll throw another photo on of our newly mowed grass, since we buckled down last week and each spent an hour for three days just to get about 50% of the yard mowed. We need to consider a riding lawn mower.. oh yeah I just got two!

Other news of the week.. We went rafting on the white water section of the snake last week, which was fun, even if not a long thrilling ride. And I had a court hearing with my ex. He agreed to let me take the girls to the Virgin Islands, but is fighting to require Sara to change schools. This garbage never ends.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

News from Wyoming to start with!

Well, life has been so eventful lately. My mom thinks I should keep a blog (Modeled after my sister's blog)... I just don't know where to begin, although I have the same problem with an update letter, so here goes. This is the first entry of my blog.

I imagine my last letter was just after we moved to Jackson, into the 1000sf Condo. We immediately started looking for our first fixer-upper to buy and after much sticker shock in Jackson settled on a little (ugly but soon to be pretty) house in Alpine, 40 miles down the road. There is a commuter bus that runs from the end of my road to town so I am willing to commute that far, as I can get some things done (like write this letter). But it freaks me out a bit when I think that I leave home at 6:30am and get home at 6:30pm for an 8-hour job! So again I am trying to make the ride productive and do my exercising at lunch, and that was my home time is freed up. This is an adjustment after my commutes of the past 7 years.

On the brighter side Alpine is beautiful. I have also never lived rural before. We have 2 acres, and everyone around us has horses, we also have a horse pasture and are looking for some loaners to munch our grass and give the girls some horse experience this summer. The forest is two houses away and the valley extends in front of the house. It is very quiet and has a billion stars! We have had 3 sets of Robin hatchlings in the yard. And all that at 1/3 the cost of a run down house on a 1/4 acre in Jackson.

The house had an unfinished basement and carport rather than a garage. The upstairs (two bedrooms, 1 bath, living, kitchen, and dining) were finished but smallish. So we are currently finishing the basement, so the girls can live down there. We got carpet in on Friday so Sunday night was their first night in there. We will enclose the carport in phase two, making it a three car garage, and phase three is to build an addition with a great room in front then convert the kitchen, dining, living into a master suite. Our original goal was to do this sort of project every 6 months and that would be Mike's income, but his business has grown very quickly in Jackson and so we don't need to rush quite so fast.

Mike has built two decks for a guy in Jackson with promise of other decks and remodel work to follow. He has a client (two older ladies back east) that have a house in Jackson and he has replaced their tile in three bathrooms, and now they are calling him to replace thermostats, put in a garage door opener, re-stain some woodwork etc. This is a great client for him. And next week he starts on a barn for some folks in Alpine. So he has been pretty steadily busy, and our past experience has shown that once he gets busy, it will keep on coming. Although he is physically challenged everyday, he is happier not to be idle.

My job has been fine. I quickly remembered all the reasons I got out of Architecture and most of them still apply, but it pays the bill and is interesting for the time being. In the mean time I am getting more interested in alpaca again, but won't do that until we are more sure that we will not be back in Jackson, we are still trying to work our way back up there. We went to a national alpaca show in Salt Lake ad learned a lot.

We had the chance to use our raft once on an easy section of the Snake River and are going to try something more challenging next weekend.

The girls are having a good time. They have been sleeping a lot, hanging out a lot, jumping on their trampoline a lot. I don't think they miss living in Jackson nearly as much as I thought they might. Last week they went to a horseback riding day camp. They met a good friend (the teachers daughter) and learned a lot. This was english riding so even Kelsey learned a lot. We signed them up for the next session in July. The ranch that had the camp was about 2 miles away and so the girls rode bikes home, giving them another venue to explore the hood. The neighbor across the street also has a daughter in between my girls ages and they have had her over a couple of times, so they are doing well. The summer is going fast though.

As I mentioned we are looking for loaner horses for the girls to ride. About a month ago we met another neighbor who immediately said, "Are you going to use your pasture or are you interested in boarding?" I thought it was fate. We quickly discussed the details and it seemed a perfect fit (not least of which was that since she lived next door we could share the responsibilities). Well, she has had trouble getting a trailer.. blah, blah. Anyway long story short the horses still aren't here. Did I mention the summer is going fast?

Finally, last weekend we entered a Dutch oven cook-off. I made chicken cacciatore, Parmesan /garlic rolls, and Baklava. There were 7 teams. The cook-off started at 10am and you had to have your dessert ready at 1pm, Bread at 2pm, and Main Dish at 3pm. Then judging at 4-5pm, so it was ALL DAY and we were exhausted. But we learned a lot and had a lot of fun. We, however, did not win anything, which really surprised me as all three judges said my Baklava was great, one guy the best he had ever tasted. But apparently (although they told us otherwise) you were judged on presentation; garnishes, etc. We were not prepared at all for that, and therefore did not even get awarded a fourth place for the "best baklava ever tasted". That is not to say that the other creations were not fabulous as well. The leg of lamb, Herb Rolls (my bread was underdone and therefore no surprise at all there), and double layer chocolate cake, were all excellent winners. Anyhow, I guess we learned how to improve. That is IF we decide to compete again.

Click here to see more photos of the cook-off at imagestation.

Still struggling with legal battles with my ex, but he apparently has granted permission for me to take the girls to the Caribbean with my family in August. The other hot issue is that he has decided Sara should change schools. But I think I'll leave that for another issue. This letter is long enough.

Hope all is well with everyone else. We'd love to get news back. Watch this blog for more updates. I'll try to send a notice out the next few times. Please let me know if you like this format and /or would like to be notified of future postings.