My Blog is Two Years Old, So Now What?🤷‍♀️

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Invisible-no-more turned two in the month of November, 2018. With that milestone, and the New Year beginning, I got to thinking. How is my blog doing? Is it the same after two years of personal growth, and all the changes that have happened since I began this journey?

Honestly, there have been many times, particularly over the last 6 months, when I have felt guilty about my blog. I have not posted regularly, or been prompt reading other blog posts. I am slow to respond to comments and feel terrible when bloggers, who I truly care about, have waited for me to “get around” to acknowledging them.

I want to be clear here, no one has made me feel this way! Not one harsh word or comment has ever been communicated to me-this is my guilt, my issue. So, I need to either close down the blog, or figure out a better balance with my new, more active (and fun) life!

I don’t want to end my blog, it has brought too much into my life. I have met amazing people, learned too many new lessons and it has enriched my existence beyond words. Instead, I want to analyze my current situation and attempt to bring a clarity to this process. My goal is to write content that is truly engaging, as well as meaningful to me personally.

I got an idea from Amy at Bedlam and Daisies. She took a look at her top blog posts from last year. And, I thought this might be a great place for me to start this analysis. I am looking for trends in what spoke to readers. So, without further ado:

The top ten posts of 2018, ranked by “likes”

  1. Yoga Retreat, One more time –

    2. The Final Family Climb in Tucson

    3. I Am So Touched and Humbled By This!growning self blogger award

4. Leftover Ham? No Problem

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5. Great Article From a Like Minded Blogger

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6. King Cake for Mardi Gras

7. A Precious Gift

8. Standard Route on MT. Lemmon

9. Eating and Drinking Our Way Through The Tucson Botanical Gardens, Savor Tucson!

10. Sally’s Baking Addiction, January Challenge: Conquering Yeast

So, what have I learned from this exercise? For one thing, I have had an amazing year! And, all 10 of these posts are from Jan and Feb 😳 Clearly I started off strong, posting more often, and then let too much time pass between entries.

Variety seems to be key as well. Travel posts did as well as adventure and baking. That seemed to be true as I expanded this list to the top 20 blog posts.

If this is true, then people like the variety but don’t know when to look at my blog, because I am too inconsistent.

Other posts that did well, by this limited metric, included my fellow bloggers. Both posts from my trip to Montreal, where I visited with 3CStyle, ArtyPlantsman and Mainepaperpusher (aka, Dominique💕 ,Darren💐 and Linda🐉) did well. As did my book reviews for James (Jay) Cudney, author extraordinaire 📚 and I have two other books of his in the hopper to post!

What did not do so great? Some of you may remember that I participated in the April “Blogging from A to Z” Challenge in 2018. This was a great challenge for me as I posted daily in the month of April. The posts were pretty detailed and time-consuming, but I was happy that I did it! But, since they were not well received, and took an immense about of my resources, I will not join this year.

Sally’s Baking Addiction challenges are hit and miss. Generally, they are well liked and, because I truly enjoy them, I will continue this through 2019. I have been doing these challenges since their inception by Sally, and although I am often at the absolute deadline, I have made each and every one. I have also learned a few new skills along the way, which makes this worth it for me 😊

So, with this cursory look at my blog stats, here is what I am planning. I would like to set the personal goal of a minimum of two posts per month. One will be related to an activity or travel experience and the other will by Sally’s monthly challenge. I envision that the personal write up would be at the beginning of the month, and the baking post near the end (as that seems to be my default pattern 😉). There may be the rare occassion that I might get three posts in for a month, and I am ok with that!

The point here is that I am going to challenge myself to be a better blog buddy, participate regularly with the blogging community and hold myself more accountable to the overarching goal of my blog maintenance.

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Sally’s Baking Addiction: December, 2018 Challenge: Gingerbread House🎄🎅🏼🌟

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So, once again, I am getting this post in just under the deadline 😂. Honestly, I should be packing for our trip south, but I really want to keep my Sally streak alive! This past month has been very busy with holiday merriment, visiting with people I won’t see for several months and climbing with the kids. All great stuff, but I need to get back to blogging now💕

 

This month’s Challenge was to make a gingerbread house from scratch. Sally provided a wonderful video and great recipes for the gingerbread, frosting and royal icing. 

My daughter and I have been making gingerbread houses for years. My son was there too, eating all the candy and pointing out all our flaws😉. So this time around, I really wanted to challenge myself to construct something that truly reflected our family. So, what could be better than an outdoor climbing gym at the North Pole 🌟

My daughter and I headed off to the Candy and Cake store with a rough plan. We knew this would take several days and that we would most likely have to try somethings that would not end up working, but that was ok. We purchased gum paste, fondant, templates, molds and edible paints, we set to work on the figures first. 

my daughter made the top row, I made the Santa and last elf. 

I love these penguins, but flippers do not make for good climbers😂 We decided that they would be working the front desk!

That was pretty much the first day! We stopped here to allow the gum paste creatures a chance to dry out.

The next day my daughter was called into work, and I was on my own. I began painting these little guys. 

I added some elf ears and harness, safety first!
Two of the elves are on top rope and needed harness, while the middle one is bouldering, so he didn’t need one😊
 
 
I also starting baking the gingerbread. I made one batch of Sally’s recipe and got lucky! I was able to get all the pieces I wanted, with a little leftover for some tree shapes.

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The ginger bread is delicious! The little extra trees and bears were quite tasty! The walls need to be transformed into climbing structures. This is where the fondant came into plays. I dyed some white fondant and made marbled colors and one dark “wall”. The fondant was rolled thin and “glued” to the gingerbread with the buttercream recipe.

 

You can see the structured wall on the right, (below) the fondant was pressed onto a brick template. The wall on the left is using the marbling effect only.

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The wall on the right (below) has the marveling effect and pressed with the template. Since this is the bouldering wall, we also wanted to make extra features which was done using Rice Krispies! 

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Once the fondant had time to dry, it was time to affix the elves. They also needed ropes and holds wich we made from gum paste and fondant, and painted.

Then I had to turn my attention to the front of the gym! We needed a desk, a sign and the penguin workers! 

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I struggled, so hard with the penguin eyes!!! Oh my God! I tried paint, made them out of fondant, nothing looked even half way decent! I ended up buying sugar eyes, and they look stoned😳 

I do like the name of the gym, “Slay It”, get it?? Sleigh=slay=crush it! I am so clever😉

The desk is made out of Rice Krispies too and covered with pink fondant that was pressed onto a brick template sheet. The smaller trees have frosting decorations and the larger trees….

IMG_9758These are made from melted white chocolate wafers. 

So, after 5 days, a ton of trial and error, and the messiest kitchen you could imagine..

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I had to take a panoramic shot to fit it all in one frame! It is more of a diorama than a house, but I am pretty happy with it 😅

 

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I had to add some mats, safety first!!

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It is outdoors, so need some snow❄️

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Another awesome Sally Challenge in the books! I think I will just do the normal challenge next month!! No extra work for me😄 

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday 🌟

Sally’s Baking Addiction: November, 2018 Challenge: Savory Vegetable Cheese Tart🍠🍅🧀

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Once again, I am getting this done just under the wire! 😬 It’s the last day of November and Sally will be revealing the December challenge tomorrow. Perhaps I will challenge myself to get that done BEFORE December 31st😁!

Sally loves pies!! Like, really loves them. And, every year in November, she dedicates her blog to all things pie related. This time, she went with a savory tart, which is just a flat pie😂

Sally’s savory vegetable cheese tart recipe begins with a choice of crust. I went with her All butter pie crust, so glad I did! I don’t make a lot of pies, and have never had the best of luck with these types of crusts. Usually I make them too dry, because I am worried about it turning out too wet. But I went for it anyway!

The concept is pretty straightforward. Mix the flour, salt and a little sugar together. Cut in the cold butter.

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Until it is the size of peas

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Why does every recipe say that? the size of peas…? How big is that really?🧐 my “pea size” is actually quite a bit larger 😉

Then add the ice water until it is not dry, but not too wet either 😳 Whatever.

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This recipe will make two crusts, one is needed for this tart. I let it rest in the fridge overnight. The next day I rolled it out.

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This was the best roll out I have ever made, hopefully I can replicate it again!

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The dough went into the tart pan

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Then I blind baked it for 15 minutes at 350F. I don’t have pie weights, so I went with the dried beans!

While the tart was blind baking, I mixed the second element of this dish, the ricotta filling. The cheese filling went into the warm tart shell.

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Now came the creative part! We could use whatever vegetables we liked to top the tart. Sally provided lots of great ideas, and I went back and forth as to what to choose. Finally, I settled on sweet potatoes, tomatoes and zucchini. I was worried that the tomatoes might be too wet, but I cut them thin and blotted with a paper towel, just to be safe.

I tried to do something creative 😂

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This was brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and thyme.

And, baked until the veggies were tender, for about 40 minutes in my oven.

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And then we feasted!!😋

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My hubby really liked it. And what about the other crust that was left over?

I have always wanted to try a sweet potato pie recipe. I chose one from Alton Brown, and yeah, it was great!

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November was a good month at our house 👩🏻‍🍳❤️!

Learning From a Pro: Food Photography & Food Styling Workshop 📸

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I was blessed to have such an amazing summer! So many wonderful trips and fantastic experiences 😊. Here we are in November, about a week from Thanksgiving, and I am still playing catchup with my blog!!😳

This food photography workshop, which I attended in early October,  is just one of those amazing experiences. I first learned of Clare Barboza from a friend in Seattle.  Leslie, my friend of many years, knew about my passion for baking and had seen many of my photos on Instagram. Probably why she recommended Clare’s workshop to me 🤣😂🤣! I’m kidding! Leslie has always been very supportive of my crazy Insta adventures.

When I first began researching this opportunity, Clare was splitting her time between her two studios, one in downtown Seattle and the other in Vermont. She has since chosen to focus her business at the Vermont location, which better supports her family. I instantly fell in love with her photography style and decided, rather quickly, that I wanted to attend her weekend workshop where she would educate us on lighting, composition, and use of props in food styling. I had never been to Vermont, and it would be in the fall when everyone says it is gorgeous, so I signed up!

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Brattelboro is a cute, little town that I really did not explore 😔 I did not leave myself enough time to poke around! I flew in late Friday and out early Monday, leaving two full days to absorb as much photography knowledge as possible (and hit a local climbing gym 😉, priorities you know).

Clare’s studio is beautiful, bright and full of fantastic props for her photography.

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The left side of the studio is all windows, allowing the natural light to stream in during a large portion of the day.

Clare prefers natural light and the large set of windows allows her to alter the directionality as the day progresses.

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It helps to have a fully functional kitchen when specializing in food photography

Clare’s husband helped her remodel the kitchen area, which is airy and bright. Pretty handy guy to have around!! And, check out the view from the kitchen window.🌳

She wanted to divide this large space, and used these vintage window frames. I loved the look of these, and had to snap a pic.

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The other half of the studio was full of props! I was so jealous😂. I had a ball picking out surfaces of various colors and textures.

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Clare’s husband made these boards, again, a handy dude!

She also had vinyl surfaces of various colors and textures to choose from for backgrounds.

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Her collection of place settings!! Anything you could think of was available to enhance our scenes. Dishes, cups, silverware, bowls ….. I was in heaven💕

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This is only a portion of the full collection

We would begin each day with a short lecture/discussion about a certain topic. If you have ever attended a photography class, you will have heard of many of these same themes.

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The class getting ready to learn

Clare mixes concepts with actual hands on practice. I loved this! We had many opportunities to hone our skills. We began with a discussion on light and how to redirect it when needed. We also talked about composition, leading lines and depth of field. Many of these are topics covered in any photography class, but Clare gave us tips and ideas specific to food. And, she shared many of her gorgeous pictures and how she set them up.

Throughout the two days, we would be given five assignments. We could take as many pictures as we wanted, but had to choose one or two, from each task, for a critique on the last day. This was harder than it sounded! Sometimes I had many pictures I liked and others I couldn’t find one😲!

Our first assignment was to shoot a drink with backlighting. She provided us with different colored drink mixes, garnishes and sent us to work! At first I was not very comfortable just grabbing her supplies, and I was overwhelmed by so many options to choose from! I took over a hundred pictures and kept only 10! A theme that I would repeat many times over the course of the weekend.

I tried to challenge myself to create two different looks with this assignment.

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This was a backlit, fresh and airy feel

 

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Here I used the same drink but went for a more holiday, evening look.

Our next assignment was to photograph a charcuterie display. Clare set out a huge array of meats, cheeses, crackers and assorted goodies. This is my heaven!🥖🧀🍎

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She demonstrated her thought process, how she would approach this shoot.

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She told us the mood, or feel she was trying to create

She arranged, and then rearranged the components until she liked the composition.

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She added props to tell the story.

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And took test shots at various angles.

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Now it was our turn, yikes!

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This is just one of my many attempts

 

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I decided to add some height by rolling the salami and placing it upright.

I don’t know if I succeeded in this assignment, but I was full, as we were encouraged to eat the cheeses 😋

Lunch was included in the price of the workshop, and I thought it was the charcuterie ingredients, but Clare made us a delicious, and much healthier option. Her soup was wonderful, and really topped me off! She also offered us a tasty dessert, chocolate!🍫

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Our afternoon assignment was pasta! Clare provided us with the makings of an excellent pasta bar: several different shapes of noodles, two different sauces (red, and white), several garnishes, even bread for the pictures.

Our task was to put together an attractive dish and shoot it from above and at a 3/4 angle. Again, I took so many shots, and chose these three for the critique.

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It was so fun to see what the class came up with! We were all very different from one another.

Day 1 had come to a close, and I know I was kinda beat. Being creative on demand is mentally taxing for this science based person 😊. We had also been rather passive all day and I was in desperate need of some physical activity!

I had researched climbing gyms nearby and found one in Hadley Massachusetts, only and hour away😳 Central Rock Climbing Gym was just what I needed that night!

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Unfortunately they did not have auto belays, so I only bouldered. But I did send an inverted V4 😁 Very happy about that!

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I will definitely spend more time here, if I get the chance!

The next day was to be the “tough” day. I didn’t really know what Clare meant by that, but found out fast! She meant that we would be photographing food that is notoriously hard to make pretty.

This second day highlighted the food styling portion of the class. We discussed choosing a mood or vibe, and how to select props that enhance, but not overshadow the food.

And, we went over the dreaded color wheel 😫 I say dreaded because I just struggle with that thing!

Our first assignment was salad photography and I decided to face my color wheel issue head on! That meant trying to figure out the complementary color thing. I have seen many green salads paired with blue backgrounds, and everyone else loves it.

So…

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And I hate it! A number of other students liked this. I did like the choice I made with the linen, as it has the red stripe that I liked with the strawberries, but the rest…. oh well, I will keep working with the wheel.

The last assignment for the workshop, Clare called “the canned soup challenge”. And this was tough! We were to take a can of soup and make it look appealing, somehow.  If you have not opened a can of soup lately, give it a go, it may shock you how horrible it looks! All the “green” vegetables (like peas and beans) are a mucky shade of brown/green 🤢 One of the students chose a lentil soup and, I am not joking, it looked like dog food!

One advantage here is that I do make a lot of soups and stews and have photographed them for this blog. So I have practiced a bit already. Still, this was a tough one!

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We were allowed to use some fresh garnishes like herbs or sour cream. I tied a bundle of peppers together to add some color too and chose a monochromatic palette in the hopes that the colors would appear more vibrant. At least I liked it more than my salad🤣

The last portion of the class was a group critique of the photos we selected. This is always helpful! It is also tough because it is so subjective, one person will like what another finds distasteful. My goal is to take it all in and improve as best I can💕

With that, the workshop came to an end! I loved it and would happily join another of Clare’s classes!! I learned so much and had fun. Her teaching style is so approachable, there was nothing you couldn’t ask her😊

I finally had some time to look at that legendary Vermont Fall Foliage that everyone raves about! I went for a quick walk in the town.

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And another shot in downtown

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I met up with two of the ladies from the class for one final dinner together.

 

We drank, we ate and we talked about how ugly canned soup looks!!😂😂😂

A big thank you to Clare Barboza for all the great lessons learned! 📸🥗😉

Climbing in Squamish BC 🏔🧗‍♀️⛺️ Mom’s Take Away!

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One of the best perks, for me, as a mature climber, is that I get to climb with my adult children 😊 Both our daughter and son are excellent climbers. Our daughter, Alex, began just two years ago, but as a former, nationally ranked gymnast, it did not take long for her to pass her parents in both ability and passion for the sport. Ryan, our son, began as a little boy. He joined the climbing team for a few years, and now is working on his AMGA Rock Guide certifications.

What this means is that I have this amazing situation where my son guides the family on all the best routes, in a variety of beautiful climbing areas. Smith Rocks in Oregon, Mazama in Washington, and The Cochise Stronghold in Arizona, are just a few of the sites we have climbed together.

But my favorite, from this season, was the weekend we spent in Squamish, B.C. The plan was simple. Ryan and I drove up from Washington, on Friday and secured a campsite at the Squamish Municipal Campground. Alex and her boyfriend were driving separately to meet up with us. What can I say about this campsite? It was definitely cheap, but far from quiet!! The reality is that we did not sleep much those two nights, thanks to some extremely rude campers😩 However, the nearby showers made it a favorite choice for Alex and I. Seems the guys didn’t care too much about that 😂. Next time, mom needs a hotel😉!

Ryan and I had some daylight left that Friday evening, and didn’t want to squander a minute of climbing time! We set out to climb Star Chek

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Ryan gearing up on the first pitch of Star Chek

This is a pretty easy, straight forward climb. And the views of the Cheakamus gorge are phenomenal! Another unique feature of this climb is that you first descend into the gorge to find the base of the route. It is steep, but there are fixed ropes to help, we did not find it too difficult.

This first pitch (5.8) is 4 bolts leading out to the arete. Pitch 2 (5.7) is longer with 8 bolts and follows the arete to an excellent ledge. Definitely a picture moment📸

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Pitch 3 (5.9) is 4 bolts, which takes you to the top

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Ryan took some pictures and video of me on the way up! You can really hear the roar of the river in the video 🌊

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As I said in the video “I love this climb”! We need to return so that hubby and Alex can send it as well. Just beautiful! And, the rock quality is excellent. 😊

Now that we were back at the top, we walked over to the road, and our car. Just enough time to get dinner in downtown Squamish, which has many dining options! This is one camping trip where we did not need to pack a ton of food, or a cooler. It was easier to make the short trip into town. Lots of Tim Horton’s to choose from, because you know, I had to have my coffee ☕️😳!

The next morning, now that Alex and Joe (boyfriend) had arrived, we all set out for the Thighmaster bouldering area. I should mention that Alex and Joe prefer bouldering where Ryan favors multi-pitch climbing. As a result, I get to do both!

We made our way (very short approach) to the Black Mark boulder

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The route you see here is Black Mark (V4, 10 ft) and beyond my abilities at this time! But not a problem for Alex!

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She crushed it! Ryan and I were still warming up.

Then it was my turn 😬 I set my sites on Adam’s Apple (V1, 8ft). My history with bouldering is that I tend to get a move, or two, from the mantle and then struggle.  This route is on the same rock, to the left in the picture above.

With the kids cheering me on, here I go!

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Getting to the lip was fairly easy

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I head right looking for a place to throw the heel, nothing here😳

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Head back to the left, and starting to get tired

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I throw it left, and the fight begins!! I have no idea how long I spent trying to haul over this mantel

The view from above was so sweet!💕

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The boys seem bored😊

And, only minor scrapings to show for it😂

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This was my last send for the that day, I was ready for more coffee☕️. Apparently Ryan was done too, so we went to downtown to shop for gear while Alex and Joe went onto harder climbs 🧗‍♀️

After lunch, and some retail therapy, Ryan and I decided to do a little hiking. Squamish has plenty to do for the non climbers in your party as well! We found a trail that lead out of the downtown area and paralleled the estuary. The Oceanfront Interpretive Trail lead out from Cleveland Street in downtown and ended at the Howe Sound.

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I do recommend this easy hike/walk, as the view really is beautiful. Unfortunately, Ryan and I had to turn back to meet Alex and Joe for dinner. Next time, we will make it to the beach!

After another fine meal, and zero sleep 🤬 we decided on how best to spend the last few hours in this beautiful place. I did some campground yoga, while the kids poured over the climbing books.

It was decided that Alex and Joe would head over to another bouldering area, while Ryan and I set out to do some trad climbing on the apron, located on “the chief“.  Officially known as the Stawamas Chief, it is a giant (over 700m) granite dome. It’s just gorgeous🏔

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We settled on two routes that would get us to the top of the apron (red arrow). This was a slab climbing day, to be sure!

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We started out on Rambles, a 5.8- with 4 pitches. The approach was very short from the parking lot (love that!😊) The pitches can be easily combined to 2 total. We did do the 10b variation on pitch 4.

Great view at the top of rambles!

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Rambles will get you to base of several other climbs. We chose Banana Peel, (5.7, 8 pitches). The first three pitches were pretty straightforward, pitch 4 had an interesting finger crack traverse, but quite easy. The rest of the route was just a lot of smearing along  various flake lines.

I don’t have a lot of pictures as we were moving pretty quickly. We still had a decent drive after this! Ryan had told me we would walk off, but I didn’t realize this meant we would walk off down the front of the apron! 😬 I thought we would hike down the back, like most walk offs. He enjoyed videotaping me while I mentaling worked through this!

Obviously, we made it back to the car just fine! I can’t say that it was as easy crossing the border back into Washington 😜 such long delays!!

So, what did I learn on this trip?

  1. My kids are awesome, I am constantly in awe of their abilities and I am lucky they let me tag along 💕
  2. Squamish is gorgeous! And the climbing there is magnificent🏔
  3. Campgrounds⛺️ are still awful, I need a bed, shower and a good night’s sleep. Hotel next time for sure😊
  4. Tim Horton’s makes pretty good coffee☕️👍🏻
  5. There are many more climbs here that I want to send in the future, and I am strong enough to do some harder grades
  6. I want to learn to place trad gear 🧗‍♀️
  7. I want to do more leading, if Ryan will let me!😉
  8. Crossing the Blaine border in the summer sucks! Nexus card perhaps?

Let me know your thoughts on this amazing, beautiful climbing area!

Sally’s Baking Addiction: October, 2018 Challenge: Pumpkin Spice Toffee🍬🎃

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I know, I know, EVERYTHING is pumpkin spice right now. And, people often fall into the “hate” or “love” group when it comes to pumpkin spice. I happen to love it❤️ If you do too, then this is a great, easy recipe.

Sally’s Baking Addiction Challenge this month does involve candy making. Many people are a little intimidated by this process, but as usual, Sally has some great tips to make it simple.

The essential tools will be a candy thermometer, a heavy bottom sauce pan and a wooden spoon. Sally also recommends a silicon mat to pour the candy mixture onto. I am sure that this would be helpful, but I just used parchment paper coated with non-stick cooking spray.

There are only 5 ingredients  needed to make the toffee: butter, warm water, light corn syrup, salt and sugar. All these go into the heavy bottom and pan and stirred with the wooden spoon. This does take some patience as you wait for the color to develop.

Initially, the mixture is pale and thin

 

While the sugar mixture is boiling, you will need to periodically brush down the hardened sugar crystals that collect on the sides of the pan with cool water and a pastry brush. Sally has a video showing what this looks like.

In the video below you can see the color and consistency changing as it nears the recommended 290F degrees.

This is removed from the heat and the pecans are stirred in, and you need to immediately pour the hot mix onto the prepared pan.

IMG_7388 It will be thick and requires about 5 minutes to set before adding the melted white chocolate.

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This is topped with the rest of the chopped pecans and sugar/pumpkin spice mix

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And that is it!!😊 give it some time in the fridge to set and then break into pieces. 😋

 

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This is the easiest toffee I have ever made, and the flavors can be changed to whatever YOU like💕 Give this one a try👻🎃🍬

Meeting my Blog Buddies in Montreal!🇨🇦Part Deux!

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Remember this motley crew from part one of this visit? We last heard that Dominique, Darren and I were heading to Mount Tremblant 🏔 for a fun filled day of laughter, food and reluctant hiking. And Linda and Bill, were scheduled to arrive the following day in Montreal.

Dominique saved the trip to Mount Tremblant for when I could go with her and Darren. She thought I would like it, and she was right!! She knows me so well😊

This ski resort is a couple hours Northwest of Montreal in the Laurentian mountains. Like any ski resort it has a vibrant presence year round. Something that I forgot to mention in part un, is that it was hot in Montreal! We were experiencing some really warm temps, and it was gorgeous up here in the mountains.

We arrived and set out for the village. There was stunning architecture everywhere and I took far too many pictures. I will restrain myself and just post a couple.

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The main building at the base of the mountain

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This is one of Darren’s pictures, I didn’t even know he took this one! 😂

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I loved the colors of the village shops and hotels

It would take two gondolas 🚠 to make it to the top of the mountain, where the hiking paths were located.

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The first gondola took us to the shops and restaurants

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It truly was a gorgeous day!☀️

By now, it was lunch time and we (meaning for sure, me😉) were hungry. There were many restaurants to choose from but I saw a Crepe shop, and lobbied hard for that choice! Dom and Darren were kind enough to let me have my way! I could have had any one of the dishes, they all looked good. Dom and I settled on ham and cheese crepes and Darren went for the yogurt. Look at the differences in our lunches 😳

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Darren’s sensible and healthy lunch!

 

Look at these crepes!!! They are massive! And, mind you, Dom and I each had one plate of these😲, and don’t forget the maple syrup we added 🍁😂.

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Clearly Darren is the healthiest of us all! With a couple pounds of protein and carbs in us, we were ready to head to the top of the mountain. This required gondola ride number two, and was a rather long trek up. We had plenty of time for some photos. 🚠

In all combinations possible!

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Damn, I have a lot of freckles!!

 

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Dom loaned me her hat

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This is my favorite picture of them both ❤️

Now, we are ready to hike, or are we?🧐 The tricky part about the term “hike” is that it is subjective. What one person sees as a hike, might be a walk to another. I was prepared to let Dominique and Darren choose what they wanted to do. We were all full, and Dom had  her running shoes on, so we went to the map.

I made a few modifications to the map, just for clarification purposes 😉

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The star marks the gondola, which we were informed, would be closed by 5pm.

The arrow shows the “360 trail”. This is a short loop that is known for its views and observation tower. The three of us decided that would be a smart place to start.

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The views were as advertised!! So pretty💕

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Dom told me that this lake has canoes, paddle boards and kayaks for rent.  I may have to make my way back out here!!

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Darren’s picture of me being a big dork😜

 

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Darren caught this image of Dom and I attempting to lure a crow out of a tree with some chocolate. We wanted a picture of it for Lisa! This did not work as the crow was too smart and the chocolate melted in the sun!

As we neared the end of the 360 trail, the observation platform became an option.

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Well, for one of us! Two of us decided that there were too many stairs😂

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We made our back toward the gondola, where we faced a decision. There were many more paths to choose, should we go on another hike/walk? After careful study of the area, and some quick calculations on mileage vs time until the gondola shut down, we settled on the Sasquatch trail. We would go down the Sasquatch and back up one of the other paths to make our way to the gondola.

It is important to note that every opportunity was afforded all members to vote down this idea!! It was Dom who said “we have plenty of time, lets do it!”

The peppy girl with her hand up on the map is Dom!

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We started off well. As usual, Darren and Dom would stop and take pictures of inspiring critters or plants. About half way, Darren started casually mentioning that we were going down in elevation quite a bit. Then he would speculate on when we might be going back up. We had a group meeting to determine if we should just turn around at that point.

We decided that we would have time to make it, if we didn’t stop for any more pictures and picked up the pace. Ya, that did not last 😂😂. You can’t have three bloggers together and not take pictures!

We made it to the bottom of the route, and turned to head back up the other trail (yellow arrow). That’s when it happened! Dom went down, voluntarily! I was a little further ahead scouting for the best/shortest path back up. I turned around and Dom is laying on the ground (😵) and I hear Darren’s sweet, soft voice saying “are you ok?”

We really were not that far away from the finish, but I was getting worried that Darren and I may be carrying her the rest of the distance! I resorted to, what every hiking guide does at some point, lying! “Its just over the next hill!” They saw through my deception immediately! But, once Dom was vertical again, and with some well placed hands on her back, we made it to the gondola, with time to spare 😊

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Another brilliant capture by Darren! 

We had another couple hours in the car to make it back to Montreal. And a delicious and hearty meal at a Thai place (I think). We were discussing what to do the next day, we knew Linda and Bill were planning on arriving, but not exactly sure when.

Dom and Darren had some photo work to do with Lisa, and I thought that they might need a break from me the next day😂. We decided to do our own thing in the morning, and meet up for lunch. Dom and Darren were going to work on some photo shoots and me…..

I was starting to feel the need for a work out 🏋🏻‍♀️! There were several climbing gyms in the Montreal area, however, I was on foot and wanted a good one within walking distance. Allez UP turned out to be just the right fit!

It was a 4 mile walk to the gym, actually 4.5 thanks to, you guessed it, more construction! I had to get going early so I could get there, climb, and get back for lunch with my buds💕

It was another beautiful day ☀️ and there were some cool things to see. This bridge, near the gym, had hundreds of spider webs! 🕸🕷 Had to take a pic!

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I finally found an unblocked entrance to the building! And, had a great time climbing the auto belays and bouldering 🧗‍♀️

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I felt good and ready to walk back. Near the end of the trip I realized that I was seriously low on nutrients and caffeine😬  I didn’t want to eat lunch without Dom and Darren, but what to do? Remember that beautiful gift basket they gave me when I arrived at the hotel?
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I tore into this like a pack of hyenas with a fresh kill! Well, not the gourd! This, and the in-room coffee at the hotel, got me through!

After lunch, we still had some time to kill while waiting for Linda and Bill. Dom took us for a short walk to a beautiful cemetery. Ya, a cemetery. Honestly, I could have spent all day there 😊 So serene and full of old architecture that you just don’t see anymore.

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Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name, but I do know that it is hundreds of years old.

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You just don’t see headstones like this anymore

 

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I loved this angle, where you see the old statue with the newer church dome in the background

While we were roaming around, we got the word! Bill and Linda were at the hotel😍!

The three of us rushed back to find Bill in the hotel lobby. Somehow, Darren recognized him from a picture Linda posted three years ago!!! I am now officially in awe of Darren!

We chatted for a bit, the five of us, and decided to head to a nearby park that Dom knew to have amazing views of the city. Once again, she was right💕

It was a short walk to the top of the view point. And, once again, I took too many pictures! I will just post this one.

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It was at this point in the trip that Dom revealed a very personal battle that she has been having with her phone. Apparently, she has “selfie” issues 😲 So, at the top of a very steep drop off, she decided to work on her craft. Darren and I were a little concerned as she seemed to be teetering on the edge of a long drop!

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My picture of Dom’s selfie form, it looks good from here😂

I still haven’t seen any of her selfies and do hope she is making progress on this vital skill 😉.

My last night in Montreal was upon us, and we went to a Thai restaurant (or was it Indian?) for the only meal I would share with Bill and Linda.

Sadly, I only saw them for a couple hours, and the lighting at the restaurant was not awesome for photos.

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Linda getting a shot of Dom and Darren

 

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Not sure what Linda and I were thinking with this one!

 

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I love this one of Linda! This is who she is, fun, warm and so very kind! Bill is pretty awesome too💕

 

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These three are up to something!!

We ate, we laughed, we talked way too loud, we took tons of pictures, we told stories and we closed the place down!! Honestly! The dude had to kick us out😂

And then I was out of time😔! I had a very early flight back to Washington, plus I walked a total of 14 miles that day😏, I was tired!!

I know this was a long post, and most of you gave up reading by now. But this was an emotional journey for me. I never dreamed that when I started my blog, almost two years ago, that I would make such important connections, with such amazing people! It’s true that not everyone could make this trip, and there are other bloggers out there who are just as important to me. But the fact that I pulled myself out of that dark place, and put myself out there, and let’s be honest, that is scary, and came away with these friends…Well, all I can say is thank you❤️ Thank you Dom, Linda and Darren, for rescuing this once sad, lonely and invisible person. I love you all🙏