Friday, December 23, 2011

Book Review: Stories I Only Tell My Friends

Stories I Only Tell My FriendsStories I Only Tell My Friends by Rob Lowe

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't encounter Rob Lowe's work until I saw him in Tommy Boy. Lately I've loved him in Parks and Recreation and thought his autobiography would be an interesting read. Imagine my delight when I saw that his book was available in audio form and that he was the one reading it. Score!

Now, Rob Lowe isn't a literary genius by any means, but he's entertaining. I could not believe all the encounters he's had with Hollywood's finest, starting from a very young age. I mean how cool is it to have grown up with close friends like Emilio Estevez & Charlie Sheen, Tom Cruise, & Patrick Swayze? I really admired Rob's drive. He worked hard to get the career he has. He didn't have the doting stage parents and extra help all the other child actors had and he did what he needed to in order to succeed.

This book also made me want to watch all of Rob's movies. I've never seen any of his earlier work like The Outsiders or St. Elmo's Fire. And apparently The West Wing was a huger show than I thought. I don't remember ever watching it, but looks like I'm going to have to work my way through it now.

After listening to this book I find myself liking Rob Lowe even more than I did before. Not only is he a good-looking famous guy, he has a ton of character, talent, and charm not present in many actors today. And I imagine he'd be just as amazing in person.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Book Review: World Without End (Pillars of the Earth Part 2)

World Without End (The Pillars of the Earth, #2)World Without End by Ken Follett

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was the sequel to Follett's 'Pillars of the Earth'. It follows a very similar premise to the first book... it takes place in the same towns and follows the ancestors of the Pillars characters a couple hundred years later.

I have to say I wasn't nearly as enthralled by this book as I was by the first. I listened to the audiobook version of this and it took me about 5 cds to really start getting into it. Had it not been the sequel to something I'd already read, I would have given up after cd #2.

While the storyline did improve, I thought Follett fell quite short in the creativity department. Most of his characters sounded like exact replicas of those in Pillars... most having the same problems and trials as well. This book was over 1000 pages and I thought it could have been at least half that. How many times can the plague start up again? How many times can we have the same quarrels between peasants and clergy? How many times will the bully be unfairly rewarded by royalty and continue to rape the defenseless female villagers?

If you've read Pillars of the Earth and loved it, I recommend just stopping there. There isn't anything to be gained by reading World Without End and those 1000 pages could be better spent on reading more original, new ideas.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review: The Book Thief

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book about a young German girl during the Holocaust told from the point of view of Death. It follows her from the death of her little brother (where Death first encounters her) to her life with her foster parents. All through her tumultuous life, her love of books and reading is one of her few comforts.

This was a fabulous book. One of my favorites, especially for an audiobook. Amazing characters who draw you in and make you really care about them. I highly recommend it.

Book Review: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Midnight in the Garden of Good and EvilMidnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is a true story about the town of Savannah, GA and a murder (and subsequent trial) that took place there back in the '80s.

I really tried to like this book but it was just so-so. I don't know what it was, but it kept me just interested enough to keep me listening. I think if I'd have had something else more appealing I would've stopped listening altogether. It did make me want to visit Savannah to see all the great old houses, but that's about it.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas is Coming

So I've been feeling the Christmas spirit this year a lot more than I usually do.  I don't think we even so much as got a tree last year. I know. I'm a horrible person. And I generally don't like Christmas music. It makes me instantly irritated. Maybe it's the fact that they redo the same 10 songs over and over. But I digress.

My point is, this year I'm doing much better already. We went and picked out a tree this weekend and actually decorated it! Gracie loves it. She always does love the tree though. And surprisingly she doesn't ever attack the ornaments. And I played Christmas music! I still have a very limited amount of music that I'll listen to, specifically music I remember hearing growing up, but hey, it's the first time I've listened to Christmas music by choice in a really long time!

She looks so introspective...

We also had my company Christmas party this past weekend. It was nice to get dressed up with my super hot husband and hang out with my work buddies. Didn't win another Wii this year, but the trip into the photobooth was a nice consolation prize. I don't think I've ever even been in one!

Now to see if the festive feelings continue!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My Bathroom is Organized!

For the longest time my bathroom cabinets have been a huge jumbled mess of a disaster. Every morning when I get ready I get more and more pissed off at the avalanche of beauty products that inevitably tumbles out of the cabinets. Not to mention the rats nest of cords from the blow dryer and curling irons and such. This weekend I finally reached my breaking point and decided to do something about it.

Now I really didn't spend much... I bought a few magnets to stick on the back of my eyeshadows and some of those pantry organizer wall thingies used for tin foil and such, but that's it! Everything else I found around the house.

So here's my make-up cabinet. I have a few larger items that I use on a daily basis, so I cut the top off a box and put them all inside. That way I can just put the little box out on the counter, use all the stuff and then put it back. I grabbed a mason jar from the cabinet to keep all my makeup brushes and tools in, and another box was used for refill type things like new bottles of lotion, toothpaste, and razors (close to the shower so I can reach it when I realize I'm out of shampoo!). I already had the metal bucket with dividers in it and used it for all my brushes and combs (more frequently used items towards the front). Good news was, I could stick all my eyeshadow to the front so I find them easily and don't have to clutter up my makeup bag with things that aren't used every day. I used an empty baby wipe container to hold all my little barretts and clips and such.

Moving on to the cabinet under the bathroom sink. This was the real disaster area. Everything was just shoved in and it was a giant mess. First I mounted one of the organizers onto the inside of the door. The fit was pretty tight... it's barely small enough for the door to close and is just wide enough that I could screw it into the fat parts of the cabinet and not have the screws bust through the other side. Whew. This thing works great for my blow dryer and heat tools. Then, if you look inside the cabinet, I've got a shelf: top for tp and bottom for a basket full of awesome "girl stuff" HA! (notice I never painted the inside of my vanity...)

On the other side of the cabinet, I mounted another organizer shelf. This one I filled with all the hair products and lotion that I use frequently. No need to shuffle bottles around to find the one I want or have 50 bottles fall out on my foot! Yeah!

Inside this cabinet I put another shelf. On the top I used a long tin container to hold all the bottles of less frequently used products... shampoos, more lotion, etc., in front of which I put a couple items that get used on a regular basis but didn't have any other spot to go (gotta make sure the spider spray is in easy reach!). On the bottom I put a cutlery tray and used it to hold headbands, travel size shampoo & such, teeth related products, soap, & lesser used make-up.

So there you have it! My newly organized, highly efficient bathroom!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bedroom Decor on a Budget

So I'd been wanting to give our bedroom a little make-over since we moved into our house. I purposely painted all the bedrooms a neutral beigey color so I could add whatever colors I wanted as accents and still have it look good. Since the duvet cover we already had was brown, this didn't exactly make for the most interesting of rooms. Over time I collected ideas of what I wanted to do and found cheap ways to accomplish it. I thought it turned out pretty good! Granted, we still haven't dealt with the closet/storage situation in that room, but we'll get there eventually.

Here's what the room looked like when we first bought the house... two words: GROSS.


Here's the breakdown of the costs:

Lamps: $9 for 2 bases at thrift store + $18 for 2 shades + $6 spray paint= $33

Sconces: $3 for 2 sconces at thrift store + $1.76 for 2 tapered candles + $4 spray paint= $8.76

Headboard: $50 on sale

Bedding: $176 with 20% off coupon  (duvet cover, 2 pillow shams, 1 decorative pillow)

Mirror: $20

Total: $287.76

Not too bad, eh? I have a few other projects in the works, mainly decorative items for the surrounding walls, but most of these are super cheap and involve spray painting old bottles and other misc. things. And maybe we'll get some curtains eventually too. But as it is now, it has a much more put-together feel and actually like going in there. Huge difference from where we started!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Wall

Remember this big blank wall I mentioned a while back? The one I was clueless as to how I should decorate it? Well, I came up with an amazing idea ( I thought so anyway...) and have finally finished my vision.


 Big, boring, and devoid of color (unless you count beige as a color)


Look at all the things!

So what is all that stuff? Well I'll tell you. I had this idea to create sort of a family history wall. I wanted to hang up pictures and some objects that represent our ancestors and maps of where me & Seth's families are from. Thing is, my vision sort of had to be tweaked a little bit because of a couple hiccups, but the general idea I had is still there.  Turns out old photos don't have the best quality so I couldn't blow them up large enough to fit the frames I had. They are also black and white photos which doesn't really help add color to an already drab wall. So, I used current color family pictures for this wall and put the black and white ones above the piano on the orange wall. 

I also would have liked to hang all the pictures on a big tree mural, but that wasn't a very realistic option budget-wise and there's no way I could paint a nice looking tree on that giant wall myself. But, I think it looks nice without it, so no big deal. I also don't have all the frames and shelves filled up yet, but at least they're hung. All that other stuff can be filled in later easily enough.

I got almost all of the shelves and frames on the beige wall from Ross for way cheap. They have a lot of great decorating stuff there. I got all of the old maps and plates from Etsy shops. So fun to look around on there for cool odds and ends. Oh and just in case you're in the mode of hanging pictures, I found a great tip to help hang pictures straight, more specifically, the pictures with dual hooks on the back. Check this out! AWESOME and EASY! So that's it! Pretty cool eh?


Friday, November 4, 2011

Crazy Skin Care Tips

Lately my face has been driving me crazy. I'm always breaking out and my skin is super oily and well, it just doesn't look very good. So I tried to find something that would help improve my skin.

First up, I tried to find something that would make my make-up last longer and keep my face from looking so oily. I know this is going to sound weird, but I've started using milk of magnesia & chafing gel. HA! I found this video (she's a little blah blah blah but gets around to the point eventually) and was so curious to see if it worked. To my surprise, it did! I've tried several mattefying products and primers and nothing ever works.

Here's what I use:

Phillips Milk of Magnesia ORIGINAL flavor only! This only cost about $2. I shake up the bottle before each use, moisten a cotton pad with it and wipe all over my face. Then...

Monistat Chafing Relief Powder-Gel: This cost about $6-7, but you only need a pea-size amount for your entire face. It makes your skin feel super smooth without being greasy. I love this!

I was really skeptical about this. I did not think it'd work, especially because when products are supposed to work for oily skin, it doesn't mean OILY like mine. I never see any difference, but I have seriously been amazed at how well this works. My make-up looks great pretty much all day. Huge improvement. I've been using these for about a month now and I haven't noticed any bad side-effects like break outs. Woo hoo!

Next up is a new method for washing my face. This is going to sound insane. I did not think it'd work but it totally does. Use oil to clean your face. That's right. OIL. The stuff you want to take off your face. Like dissolves like. Who would have thought? If you want to see all the different kinds of oils and ratios you can use for your skin type, take a look at this site. I'm just going to tell you what I use.

I actually started out with extra virgin olive oil only because it took me a few days to find castor oil (I found it for $2 at Walmart... not at Target or Walgreens. Look by the laxatives. I've been spending a lot of time in that isle lately eh?)

Castor Oil


Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Right now I'm using a mixture of about 3 parts olive oil to 1 part castor oil (I put mine in a little travel size plastic bottle).  I squeeze about a quarter size amount into my fingertips and massage it all over my dry face in a circular motion. After a minute or so, I get a washcloth, soak it with hot water, wring it out and put it on my face to steam for about 10 seconds. Then I gently wipe all the oil off, rinsing the wash cloth with hot water a couple times as I go. When I'm done, my face feels super smooth and soft and all the dirt and makeup is gone! Even mascara! I was shocked at how much better it cleaned my face! Even more surprising is my skin has improved dramatically. My breakouts cleared up really fast and my skin looked great. And I found I didn't really need the daily exfoliant I'd been using to keep my pores clean. Great thing is, this is quite a bit cheaper than the Cetaphil I'd been using and I always have olive oil around the house!

So there you have it. My new, cheap, amazing skin care routine! It really does work so give it a shot!

Mama's Got a New Pair of Pants

You ever have that favorite pair of jeans that gets washed and worn so much that the color fades to a weird shade of blue? Yeah me too. I hate that. Everything about the jeans is perfect... they aren't torn, they fit great, they're all broken in... but the color looks crappy.

Have you ever noticed the Rit Dye in the laundry section of the grocery store? Have you ever wondered if it works? Or if it was actually feasible to dye your clothes? Well... so have I. But it's something I always just forgot about. But the other day as I was doing my shopping wearing my faded (and not so cute) pair of jeans I thought, why not? What have I got to lose? I don't like how these jeans look anyway so if the color gets ruined, no big deal. I read the box to see how much dye I needed and ended up getting 4 boxes of dye: 2 Navy Blue and 2 Black. I wanted a dark blue result and thought this would be the best way to achieve the look I wanted.

To my surprise, dying my jeans was not hard or messy. First you need to wash them to make sure there's no dirt or stains. I decided I wanted to dye 2 pairs of jeans and a hoodie and 4 boxes of dye just happened to be the right amount for this quantity. The dye needs to be dissolved in hot water first, along with a cup of salt (for cotton clothing). To avoid a mess, I dumped the salt and dye into an empty gallon jug, added the hot water, and shook it up to mix. I took my freshly washed clothes out of the washing machine, set it to the "Large" load size, and filled it up with hot water. After dunking each item of clothing in the hot water, I took them out and set them aside, dumped the dye into the washer and let it agitate for a few seconds to mix, then added the clothes back to the washer. The clothes need to soak in the dye for 30 minutes, so I set the washer to the longest cycle (18 mins. on my machine), then reset it for another 18 min. cycle before it got to the rinse stage. After the second 18 minute cycle, I let the washer run through the complete rinse and spin. Once the dye cycle was complete, I ran the clothing through a regular cold wash cycle with a little detergent then dried as usual. And that was it!

There is a little clean-up involved... I ran my washer through another hot cycle with bleach to clean out the drum a little more (as suggested on the dye packaging) and wiped off the splatters of dye on the washer lid, but it wasn't bad at all and my washing machine was just fine afterwards! I couldn't believe how well this worked. It's like I got a couple pairs of brand new jeans and my hoodie looks just as it did when I bought it! Woohoo! And the great thing is, this cost under $10!

Sadly, I forgot to take a 'before' picture of my clothes before I got them wet, but my jeans were a medium weird shade of blue, close to this:



Front View- Jeans & Hoodie
(Don't you just love my clunky work shoes?)

Side View

Also, you'll notice the stitching on my jeans isn't dyed, which is awesome. That's because generally the stitching on jeans is a different material which doesn't absorb the dye. This also means that this dye will not work with certain types of materials. 100% cotton is best, but there are some blends and other fabrics that will work, you just have to alter the process. Best to check first to see if your article of clothing is dye-worthy though.

So there you have it! A cheap, easy way to bring new life to old clothes. Who'd have thought?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Teh Humanz

Gracie found a new hangout spot this weekend. Seth walked in the kitchen and looked out the back door to see her up on the gazebo. So, naturally I made an lolcats out of it.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Like a Fish

Did I happen to mention I started swimming? Well I did. About 2 months ago. I decided I needed to start doing some sort of workout seeing as how the running thing sort of took a nose-dive. Not that I didn't like running. I do. It's just that I found that I made way too many excuses as to why I couldn't do it: too dark outside, too hot/cold, too dangerous, etc. I knew I needed to find something else that I could stick with. Something I could do all year round.

So one day my sister, Annie mentioned something about doing a triathlon next year. That got me thinking... maybe I should try swimming! Like running, I was never very good at swimming. I had to take swimming lessons twice as a kid because I forgot how. But, I figured hey, I got to be pretty good at running, maybe I could get good at swimming too! And thus began my swimming adventures.

Now, had I just been venturing into the swimming realm with no direction, I'm sure I never would have started. Luckily a co-worker friend of mine is a swimmer and he was able to give me some good tips and show me some helpful videos and such to point me in the right direction. And I'm not going to lie. Those first couple weeks I felt like I was drowning. Getting the breathing down was tough. And anytime I swam without my fins it seemed like I wasn't moving. Swimming even one lap (50m) took a ton of energy.

But here I am, a couple months into it, and I'm doing pretty well. I was surprised at how fast I improved. I can now swim 800m no problem... that's 16 laps. And the only reason I have to stop there is so I can leave in time to get ready for work. I'm not fast yet by any means, but I'm getting better everyday. I've even considered taking some actual swim lessons. I know. CRAZY. I've really been surprised at how many different activities I enjoy when I give it a fair chance. Who knew?

Me in all my swim gear glory. That's HOT.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Book Review: Pillars of the Earth

The Pillars of the Earth (The Pillars of the Earth, #1)The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was recommended to me by a co-worker and I have to say I wasn't all that excited to read it. The premise seemed a little boring... a story about a cathedral getting built. I was skeptical at best. However, this book got my attention from the very first page and managed to keep it through 32 audio CDs (983 pages for you readers). In the car. During my commutes. That's saying something.

Now just saying this book is about a cathedral getting built doesn't quite cover what it's about. Sure, there is a lot of talk about a cathedral and the architecture of it. But, there is also a great story to go along with it. The characters all had great depth. I cared about the heroes, I hated the villains. Which may seem like an easy thing to do, but surprisingly it doesn't happen all that often.

To give a little background, Ken Follett was an established, popular writer of mystery/suspense novels. He became interested in the architecture and history of cathedrals and spent a lot of time studying them and learning about them. He decided he wanted to take that knowledge and incorporate it into a book... which is where the idea for The Pillars of the Earth came from. With good reason his publicist was a little wary of Follett deviating from his tried and true standard genre. But, Follett wrote the book anyway and it has become his best selling novel to date. And with good reason. This was a wonderful book and I highly recommend it.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I'll Do What I Want!

There are so many non-fun things that come with adulthood: jobs, bills, responsibilities. But lately I've been enjoying some of the little things that I love about it. When you're a kid it seems like there are so many rules to follow. Don't do this. Don't do that. Why? BECAUSE I SAID SO.

As an adult (at least outside working hours) there are no, "Do it because I said-so's." Pretty much your life is a blank sheet of paper and you can fill it with whatever you like. When I was a kid we had a lot of rules about this and that. No eating after 4:00pm or you'll ruin your dinner. You can't buy Lucky Charms or Cap'n Crunch and only 2 boxes of cereal open at once. Don't walk around outside in your socks. Turn all the lights off when you leave a room. Up by 8:00am on the weekends. Most of those rules were pretty reasonable. But these days I'm throwing caution to the wind. And it's awesome.

Cookies for breakfast? Don't mind if I do! Don't want to put my shoes on to check the mail? Fine! Leave all the lights on in the house? Why not?! Buy 15 different kinds of sugary cereal and open them all at once? Just watch me! Sleep for 12 hours straight? Hells yes! I'm living on the edge over here and loving every minute of it.

You got any rules you like to break?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Book Reviews: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian and The Giver

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Being somewhat familiar with Native American culture, this book was really fun for me to read. It's a great under-dog story that keeps you rooting for Jr. the entire time. While this wasn't a literary great by any means, it was an entertaining, quick read and I really enjoyed it.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

First I have to say I really liked this book. Very interesting concepts. It's intriguing to think how things would be if your life was structured in the same way these people's lives are. Everything laid out for you... who your family is, who you'll marry, what your life's work will be. On one hand it would be great to have someone else do all the thinking for you. Make all the big decisions. But then, human nature lends itself to wanting things it's not supposed to have. Or things that are forbidden. Seems like those urges would be tough to control, even with medication.

Now as a side-note this is the first in a series of 3 books. I was a little confused by the fact that none of social structure or characters carried on to the other two books. So, if you go on to read either of them, keep that in mind.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Backpacking Gear Reviews

Before we embarked on our backpacking trips this year, we decided we should invest in some quality gear. Our last trip had involved a leaky tent, uncomfortable packs, and less than desirable sleeping conditions. We tried to remedy those things this time around as well as a few other minor elements. This is what we've found from our testing so far.

I love this tent. There are so many details on it that make it a great piece of equipment. It is meant to be a 3 person tent, but I thought it fit 2 people perfectly with just enough room to spare for small items (3 people would be a bit of a squeeze).  The main reason I went with the 3 person tent over the 2 person, was this one has 2 doors, one on either side. Let me tell you how awesome this was. Each person having their own door and vestibule rocked. No more climbing over people in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. No tracking dirty feet across the tent. This tent also comes with it's own footprint tarp and has a small gear loft inside (great for keeping items easily accessible). I also liked that the zippers and tie-down cords were reflective so you could see them in the dark. The tent was incredibly easy to set up and the orange color makes it highly visible when you're trying to find it in a clump of trees. Now as a disclaimer, we haven't seen any adverse weather (no strong winds or rain), but knowing Marmot, that won't be a problem.

I tried on every single women's pack at REI before I found this one. I couldn't find a pack that didn't put pressure on my hip bones or one that didn't squish my bewbs and make them look weird or rub on my neck. Or that just felt comfortable. This pack met all of those criteria and I'm happy to say it was just as comfortable on the trail. I liked that the hip belt was wider and flatter than the other packs I tried. It also has cutouts that align with your hip bones so there is no pressure on them. I was able to put 100% of the weight on my legs which meant my arms and shoulders never got sore from the weight. It does not come with its own water pack, but the 3 liter water bag from my day pack fit great into it and there were openings and straps for the hose to be easily routed to my shoulder strap. The bag had plenty of room for all my gear and an adequate amount of pockets and exterior straps for things like water bottles, jackets, and my fly rod. This was an incredibly comfortable pack and I am extremely happy with it!

I was so excited to get this sleeping bag. I always sleep cold when I'm camping and thought this was the solution for sure. Night time temps on the 2 trips I took this on were probably around 35-40 degrees, so not too cold... nowhere near the 0 deg. temp rating of this bag. While I did like that my sleeping pad didn't move around while I slept (or didn't sleep...), it also prevented me from closing my bag in around me, thus making the bag feel drafty and cold. Maybe this would be better if you were a little bigger and filled out the bag more. The pad seemed to let a lot of cold air up from the bottom as well, making me think that the complete lack of down on the bottom of the bag wasn't such a great idea. So, the bag was comfortable, but not warm. The pad was suitable and worked well... I liked that it was extra thick at 2.5", plus it packed down super small. Seth's pad actually leaked however... so not sure if mine will end up with the same problem. Ultimately, I had one of the worst nights out backpacking I can remember. Too bad, I really had high hopes for this combo.

I have a love/hate relationship with pants. I love wearing them, but hate shopping for them. The junk in my trunk, though quite spectacular, doesn't lend for easy fitting in the pants department. I also have this problem where the length of my legs doesn't quite conform to standard sizing. A "regular" inseam usually measures 32", a little too short. "Long" inseams are typically 34" or longer... too long (if you can actually find long pants...). So as you can imagine, shopping for pants isn't usually a fun activity for me and I usually have to try on at least 10 pair of jeans (usually double that) before I find something that fits, and even then it's not a home run. So when I went to REI to find some new convertible pants (or Adventure Pants as Seth and I call them) I wasn't surprised when after trying on about 10 pairs, I still hadn't found one I was in love with. But, somehow on my way into the dressing room, I'd found another pair of adventure pants and thrown them on top of the pile. This was the last pair I tried on. And I loved them from the moment I put them on.

These Mountain Hard Wear pants are so amazing in so many ways. First of all, they fit me. Like a glove. Ample room for my butt and thighs without being tight. No gaping at the back. And get this... their regular inseam length must be 33" because they were long enough to cover my boots without being slouchy and sloppy. WOOHOO!! They have 2 snaps and a zipper to close as well as a drawstring to give that extra tightness if needed... thus eliminating the need for a belt. The fabric is super light and stretchy so it moves really well while hiking. And as is a common problem with adventure pants, the zipper at the knee doesn't rub when I bend my leg. The pants have 2 zipped cargo pockets, easily unzipped and zipped with one hand. I would like to have had the two hand pockets at the top, but I can overlook that because of all the other amazing traits. I can't recommend these pants enough.

Several years ago Seth and I each bought his and hers Danner 453 GTX boots to wear for our more serious hiking excursions. While Seth has always really liked his, mine just never seemed to cut it. My ankle area/lower calves are not dainty like most women and my feet are really wide. While the Danners were plenty wide enough, the back of the boot was too high and always hurt the back of my leg, especially when walking downhill. The boots were also too stiff, not allowing them to conform to my foot. I could never get them tight enough and when I did, it caused the pain on the back of my leg to worsen. The last straw was when I wore these on our 10 mile backpacking trip. My feet came away sore and blistered. All I wanted to do was take the stupid things off. They made the trip miserable. So when another backpacking trip was on the horizon, I made the demand that I HAD to get new boots beforehand. That's where these Keens come in.

I did a lot of research online before purchasing these. I was pretty sure this was the boot I wanted, but went into my local REI to try them on first, just to make sure they would work. I immediately loved these boots. They were really comfortable and fit my foot really well. The back of the boot didn't put pressure on my leg and there was a ton of room in the toe box for my wide feet. They were a little stiffer than a tennis-shoe type day-hiker boot, but not near as stiff as the hard-core backpacker boots available. The perfect mix. Add all that to the cute factor, and I was sold. But the true test would be in the hiking.

I hiked about 5 miles in these boots without even thinking about them. They provided great traction and my feet felt super comfy the whole time. No hot spots. No blisters. I actually LIKED wearing these and that's saying a lot. Now I haven't tested out the waterproof-ness or durability of these yet, but if all goes well, I'll be using these babies for years to come.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Backpacking the Uintas: Ostler Fork

Seth and I spent the last couple weekends backpacking up in our local mountains: the Uintas. It had been a couple years since we'd last gone so we were excited to get out and give it another go.

On our first trip we headed for a group of lakes near Christmas Meadows. Here's the route we took:

I'm not going to lie. That was a HARD hike. It was about 5 miles to our camping spot at Ostler Lake. Five STEEP miles. My butt almost fell off. But we made it!

It was a very secluded spot and we were the only ones camping there. It was the quietest night I can ever remember with not so much as a gust of wind.Unfortunately it was a pretty rough night as far as sleeping goes. Neither Seth nor I slept much at all and we were both pretty disappointed with our new sleeping bags.

The next day we fished Ostler Lake. I caught 3 fish: 2 good sized cutthroats and a tiger trout. Somehow Seth managed to get skunked.

After fishing there for a few hours we ate lunch and napped for a little while and thought maybe we should just go back home after the horrible night we'd had. But, after packing up our gear and heading back out onto the trail, we realized we weren't ready to leave yet and made our way up to "No Name Lake"... a little lake just southeast of Ostler. No Name Lake was incredibly beautiful and our camping spot was even better than the one we had the night before.

 I managed to catch 2 cutthroats on a beetle at No Name but somehow, Seth got skunked again. The next morning we decided to hike up to Amethyst Lake before heading home. We only got to fish for about 45 minutes before a storm rolled in, but we both caught a few brookies in that amount of time. I believe I caught 3 and Seth caught 9! We wished we had more time to spend there, but we now had about 6 miles to hike to get back and figured we'd better get a move on it.

This was a pretty aggressive trip for our first time out this year, but we had a great time. It was nice to finally get in some fly fishing after going the whole spring and summer without it. Not to mention some camping too!