Monthly Archive for February, 2012

Dreaming of June

Our Cholla. Click for more detail.

In protest of a winter that is one day longer than normal (Leap Day and all that), here is a sneak peek of what awaits us in the backyard in June.

A Stealthy Mission Leads to a Special Surprise

I don’t want to give away the locations of the super secret letterboxes in Santa Fe, but I want to tell you one of our favorite adventures. (This one doesn’t involve Attack Lizards, like yesterday’s long-overdue update…)

I’ll try to do this without spilling too much of the specific details.

In my research of different boxes to find in Santa Fe, I stumbled upon one that didn’t have a specific starting point listed. It was just listed as “Santa Fe, NM.” This is not uncommon. In the text of the clue, the instructions are whimsical and written in punny code. This, too, is not uncommon.

After reading through it, and using my knowledge of Santa Fe, I was pretty sure I knew where the starting point was. Or at least, I thought I was close. I was sure we’d be able to figure it out when we arrived in person.

This particular location is not open to the public 24/7, so we had time on Friday night to do some recon. We took notes and figured out the best way to proceed the next day. After breakfast on Saturday, we headed out, our mission clear, even if the exact details were not.

Despite being very vague, this clue had very specific instructions.

For example (and the names have been changed to protect this letterbox), we were supposed to go see Mike and/or Dave. Once we’d located Mike and/or Dave, we were supposed to ask to see Patrick Henderson. We were warned by the clue that talking to anyone other than Mike or Dave could jeopardize the mission, and/or people would just think we’re crazy. It assured us that no one except Mike or Dave would even know who Patrick was.

We timed everything perfectly. It was right at Opening Time, so the crowds were minimal (practically non-existent, actually), and an elderly man was busy setting up for the day. He called over his shoulder from the back room, “I’ll be with you in a moment! Feel free to look around!” He came over a couple minutes later, and I said, “I was wondering if Mike or Dave are working today?”

He stopped. He got the funniest look on his face, and his eyes began to sparkle. “Mike or Dave!?” he said in an hushed, excited tone. “You need to go over that way,” and he pointed us through a different door, in the right direction. Without giving too much away about this location, it involved walking through an area that was usually closed to the public at large, and he told us what to tell Security if we were stopped!

We could hardly believe it! The excitement nearly threatened to overtake us.

Again, we go through another door and follow the man’s instructions. The same sight greets us: A man is working in the back and calls up to us, saying he’ll be with us in a moment. He then comes over to us, and I ask again, “I’m wondering if Mike or Dave are working today?”

He gasps out loud; his face bursts into a smile and he says loudly, “YOU MUST BE HERE TO MEET PATRICK!”

“Well, yes, we are!” I exclaim.

He then ushers us BEHIND a big ol’ sign that says, “EMPLOYEES ONLY.”

“It’s okay,” he tells us. “People aren’t usually allowed back here, but you guys are special.”

Claire is just beside herself with excitement, and even Daddy is impressed by this turn of events. Again, without giving anything away, we were then “introduced to Patrick” and then given a private tour of the behind-the-scenes of this particular place that we would have never been granted had it not been for our stealthy mission.

And we didn’t even have to use our cover-story with Security… ūüėČ

I never told you about the Attack Lizard

I was looking through the posts I’ve written about our Letterboxing adventures and realized that I never finished telling you about our most recent trip to Santa Fe!

For those of you who don’t know, Letterboxing is like a treasure hunt. You solve puzzles and figure out clues that all lead to a hidden box (or pouch) that contains a carved rubber stamp. You stamp this into your Journal and then put your own mark (via a carved stamp of your own) in the accompanying log book. You can read more about this hobby here.

Anyway, Santa Fe is one of our all-time favorite destinations, so we went there for the long 4th of July weekend. As with any trip we take, I plugged our destination into the website I use for finding letterboxes and was amazed at the results! It was like hitting the jackpot!

I researched which boxes we were going to find. I solved clues that could be solved before hand. I mapped out the different starting locations.

What awaited us was better than we could have imagined.

We’d been to Santa Fe before, but we saw it in a whole different light. Letterboxing gives you an excuse to be in places you wouldn’t normally be or to search for things you wouldn’t even expect.

The letterboxes in Santa Fe were fantastic and so clever.

I’ll be sure to post more about our adventures (without giving away any of the secrets of the specific letterboxes), but the story that comes to the front of my mind is the day I was attacked by a lizard.

It all starts with an Arroyo and a Hitchhiker Hostel.

Yes, really.

An Arroyo is a stream bed or gulch. It’s dry most of the year, but seasonally fills with water and then recedes. A Hitchhiker in letterboxing is a little carved stamp that moves from permanent letterbox to permanent letterbox by the next letterboxer who finds it. A Hitchhiker Hostel is like a little hotel for Hitchhikers, and prior to our trip to Santa Fe, I had no idea something like this existed. Basically, you leave some hitchhikers at the hostel and you take some hitchhikers from the hostel, and it keeps them moving around the country.

I wanted to see this for myself! I even carved a special Hitchhiker for this very reason!

Colorado Dragonfly: She's TINY, as you can see by the quarter in the photo.

For this particular letterbox, we figured out where we needed to be. Daddy decided to stay up on top of the arroyo with Claire while I went down to check it out.

It was steep and rocky. I was wearing my garden gloves, so I wasn’t too worried. I was careful to look for any snakes. I’m gripping the instructions in one hand and trying to keep my balance with the other. I make it to the bottom of the arroyo without any incident!

I figure out where I need to be and see what I’m supposed to see. It’s here! I’ve found it! I reach down to clear away some pine needles and a rock, and this lizard jumps out at me!

I scream!
(So much for being stealthy and discreet.  Granted, the area was deserted.  Literally.)

Then, I had a heart attack and died. The End.

Miraculously, I start breathing again. Meanwhile, Daddy and Claire are distraught. I can’t see them, but I can hear them call down to me. Claire thinks I’m hurt, and Daddy is wondering how on Earth he’s going to remove my body from the bottom of the arroyo without attracting attention. Ha. Kidding. He swears he, too, was concerned for my safety and not the logistics of the whole thing.

I assure them that I am okay. Physically.

After I stop shaking, I uncover the rest of the hostel and do my transfers.

Meanwhile, that poor little lizard has bolted back to his loved ones and is telling a chilling tale of how he was just minding his own business when this crazed redhead tried to attack him! ¬†She came out of nowhere! ¬†The poor guy will never be the same. “Twitchy” will tell this tale to his grandkids when they ask him how he got his nickname.


I love this photo. Right now, it’s the “cover photo” of my personal Facebook page (I change that often, but this one spoke to me, so I put it up last week, and as of the time of this post, it’s still there…). It’s also the background on my phone.

We took this photo in Hawaii, on the island of Maui. We’d stopped to explore the Black Sand Beach (yes, there is one on Maui!) while exploring the road to Hana.

It’s at a park called Wai’anapanapa.

Just saying it is fun.

Side Note: This weekend, Claire was looking through a calendar we got from a conservation organization. March’s picture is a beautiful shot of this very Black Sand Beach! I showed Claire the photos WE took of that beach, and when she saw they were the same, she was in awe! “Look! I see those three palm trees, right there!” Fantastic!


This was a trail we would have never found if it weren’t for letterboxing. We were thrilled to discover that there was a letterbox hidden at this very park, and the clues seemed easy enough. Needless to say, the start to this particular letterboxing adventure was just as rocky as the shoreline. ¬†We could not find this trail. We did not understand what some of the clues meant. ¬†None of it was making any sense. We traipsed off in the totally wrong direction, all the while pretending we were on the right track. ¬†We tried to force meaning out of the things around us. ¬†“Surely this is what they meant!? ¬†Maybe they meant that!?” ¬†No. ¬†When you’re right, the answers to the clues slip into place. ¬†Usually.

We knew the rules, but decided to blatantly disregard them.

Although completely frustrated but not wanting to give up completely, we decided to stop for lunch and try again.

After a bite to eat at the park, we decided to try one more time. This time, everything fell into place. ¬†(We also agreed on how WE would have written the starting point of the clue, but that’s neither here nor there. ¬†Details, details.) ¬†With this renewed energy, we found it! ¬†It’s one of the coolest trails we’ve ever explored.

The picture doesn’t show how dark and mysterious this all was; the camera has lightened it up quite a bit. The canopy was so low that my husband had to crouch while under some of it. ¬†It was so thick, you could barely see the bright blue sky through it.

We’d stumbled into another world.

Steps worn by other adventurers and the passage of time.
Such a great reward for not giving up, for going back to the beginning and trying again.

This photo inspires me in so many ways.

Claire’s First Presentation

Yes, Claire is in Kindergarten. ¬†Yes, she’s preparing for her very first presentation!

She finished her poster on Susan B. Anthony and is practicing her speech…the one that she’ll be giving on Wednesday to her class. One of our kitties has been helping her. Kinda.

Claire: “Jasper, do you know what suffrage is?”
Jasper: ¬† …blink …blink …blink
Claire: “Suffrage is…Jasper? Do you know?”
Jasper: ¬† …blink …blink …blink
Claire: “Jasper. Suffrage is the right to…….?”
Jasper: ¬† “Meow?”
Claire: “That’s right! VOTE! Suffrage is the right to VOTE! Good job, Jasper!”

I’m sure she’ll do a great job!

When I was in Kindergarten, I got to be the Letter “i” in the Letter People Parade.

The Vowels

My, my, how times have changed.

A Big Milestone

After years of begging to have it done, we finally acquiesced.

Claire got her ears pierced today!

She wanted little hearts in honor of Valentine’s Day, but they don’t offer those as the initial studs. So, just like her momma, she opted for her birthstone.

As you can tell by the photo above, they did them one at a time, and she didn’t even flinch.

That’s my girl!

Now we’re just being picky.

Remember how excited we were yesterday that we got an end-loader on our street? ¬†Well, last night, our neighbors played around with their 4×4 and packed down the drifts that were left when they gave us one pass with the “plow.”

Yes, one pass.

Today, this is what the street looks like:

This isn’t what I’d call “plowed,” Colorado. Nice try.

Because a picture of it means it really happened.

For the 2nd time this season (and the 1st time this year), and 3rd time EVER since we’ve been in this house (for over 10 years), look what happened!!

Did you follow all that?

We got one pass with a “plow,” and we just can’t believe it.

Two passes would have been even better, but we can’t be too picky at this point.


Claire dug down to get into this “cave” on the deck.
I think using the table on the deck as a snow fort is pretty clever.

Then, when we shoveled the front, we built this one!

Happy Snow Day, Denver!

Butterfly Valentines

I’ve been waiting until February to post this, so that people wouldn’t get too mad at me. ¬†Yes, we started this process early this year. ¬†I figured it would be easier to get all the steps done without having to rush through them.

This year, Claire wanted to make Butterfly Valentines.  Last year, we made Origami Butterflies, but these are a bit different.  (I adapted a pattern I found here.)  My all-time favorite Valentine was the year before that.  You can see it by clicking here.

Anyway, last year, I had trouble finding Valentines that weren’t so candy-centric, and this year was no exception. ¬†I used the above pattern, but rather than use candy, we used a pencil. ¬†(Claire is REALLY into pencils right now, so this was a win-win!)

I discovered that Hobby Lobby had Valentine Pencils on sale!  Sweet!  (Pun totally intended.)

Claire wrote her message on the patterns, and we copied them.  We cut them out.  She did most of the cutting, but I helped.  (There are 14 in her class and we did one for each teacher.  16 butterflies is a lot to do in an assembly line!)  Then, we traced over the writing with glue and glittered them.

Then, we waited for them to dry.

When they’d dried for a couple days, we curled the antennae, slipped the pencil into the wings, and Claire put glittery heart stickers on each one.

The end result is cute!