Thursday, July 31, 2008

Where in the World is Rene?

The majority of you wanted to hear more about Rene. That's OK - I understand. Her life is way more interesting than mine. :) So here you go:

My favorite sister is not content to sit around the house. No, she goes off and has fabulous adventures all over the world. She visits exotic places like the Amazon jungle and Macchu Picchu and rides scary city buses around huge, foreign cities, where English is spoken only in her dreams.

This week, however, she is stateside but still she travels. She has crossed the continental US to attend a fancy military Officer's Ball (I want photos Rene!). She is getting ready to return to the Lone Star State, where she will finish up her final year of college. Her adventures are far from over, however and there will be further installments of "Where in the World is Rene?" here on All Astonishment.

And if you were one of those Gentle Readers who wanted a recipe or wanted to hear about the upcoming Fight Class, tough! I mean, check back soon. :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


To a Worthy Purpose

Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.
Hellen Keller

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

My Kind of Model

Stood Up, originally uploaded by MrsMama.

My sister was such a good sport on our recent photoshoot. She didn't think twice when I said, "Here, stand up on this stool". We sure got some fun pictures. Thanks Rene! :)

Monday, July 28, 2008

Three Things Come Not Back

Remember three things come not back:
The arrow sent upon its track
It will not swerve, it will not stay
Its speed: it flies to wound or slay.

The spoken word, so soon forgot
By thee; but it has perished not;
In other hearts ‘tis living still
And doing work for good or ill.

And the lost opportunity
That cometh back no more to thee
In vain thou weep’st, in vain dost yearn
These three shall never more return

Saturday, July 26, 2008

My Photography

I developed my passion for photography late in life. I got my first Digital SLR, a Nikon d80, just a few years ago and have been busy learning and enjoying the art ever since. It's my creative outlet and I am entirely smitten.

I've recently upgraded to the Nikon d700.  Photos and impressions coming soon!

All of my photos have been taken with the Tamron 17-50 (a sweet wide angle lens) and the Nikon 50mm 1.8, which is nice for indoor shots and portraits.

I just got the Nikon 24-70mm.  I'll let you know how I like it soon!

 Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2
For post processing, I use Adobe's Lightroom. To me, it's more intuitive than Photoshop and it can do almost everything I need. I do want to learn layers and Photoshop one day.

If you are interested in photography, check out Flickr. There you will see some inspirational pictures and have the chance to interact with some talented photographers. Also, one can make a huge difference in their photography by following the guidelines in this simple list. Paying attention to these things can help turn a blah photo into one that is potentially outstanding.

And here are some of the books that are on my bookshelf and I highly recommend.  These are not uber technical.  If I can understand them, anyone can!

If Your Lips

This is a wonderful poem to teach your children. (I need to memorize it as well! See Open Mouth, Insert Foot)

If your lips would keep from slips,
Five things observe with care:
Of whom you speak, to whom you speak
And how, and when, and where.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Intent, originally uploaded by MrsMama.

My favorite sister and I had a fabulous photoshoot in our orchard. She was such a gracious model and let me do all kinds of fun stuff. The Munchkins and the pets tagged along so there were a quite a few shots with a tail peeking out here, a furry nose there, or a kid climbing a tree in the background.

Thursday, July 24, 2008


My husband recently emailed me this "Word of the Day":


All I'm going to say is, "Thank you kickboxing!" :)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Even though we live in the country, we only need to drive about 2 miles on gravel road to get to our house. It's amazing how much dust and dirt 2 miles of gravel road can generate! Our van is constantly covered in a fine, tan powder that poofs off every time we slam a door and our clothes are smeared with dusty smudges when we accidentally brush against the vehicle.

Did you know that there is an official name for the dust that come from country roads? It's called "coom". Really!

Now that you know, try to work this word into a sentence this week. Here are some ideas to get you started:

"Ugh. Did you see the coom on that car? You know, they make car washes for that..."

"Quick! Roll up the windows - that cloud of coom is coming our way!"

"Mom, did you know you had coom on your, um, backside? It's been there all day."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

She's Back!

After a semester living in Peru, my favorite sister is back in Missouri. We snagged her for a weekend and have enjoyed catching up and hearing about her adventures abroad.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Happy Summer

Happy Summer, originally uploaded by MrsMama.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things

My favorite summer perfume, produced on the west coast of Ireland.
(Why couldn't I have fallen in love with something I can find at Target?!)

My favorite snack. I have absolutely no willpower when I open a bag of these.

My favorite Summer Splurge:

I love to keep one or two lemons on hand. A few slices in a glass pitcher of homemade lemonaid looks so summery. When you are done with them, put the slices down the garbage disposal for a quick burst of freshness.

Our Summer Lemonaid Recipe:

Mix together 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of lemon juice.
Add 7 cups of water and stir well.
Serve with lots of ice and a slice of lemon.
This can be easily doubled or tripled for company.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Where in the World is Rene?

Let see....

My favorite sister is not in Peru. (anymore)

She's not in Bolivia (that's so "old news")

Manchu Picchu? Nope.

Where is she?

Here's a hint: she is in a land that is infested with chiggers.

Friday, July 18, 2008

South Park City

While we were in Colorado, we had the opportunity to visit an old mining town. They call it a museum, but South Park City is one of the few museums that you can take your kids to and let them touch and climb and explore.

34 authentic buildings are filled with over 60,000 artifacts that portray most of the economic and social aspects of boomtown life. Seven of the buildings are on their original sites; the others have been moved from abandoned camps and ghost towns in the area. It was a fascinating, fun way to spend a few hours.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Wheeler Lake Trail

Wheeler Lake is a gem of an alpine lake, tucked in an elbow turn of the Continental Divide. A hillside covered with white cascades pours into the lake from snow melting under the crystal blue Colorado sky.
Or so they say. We wouldn't know - we didn't make it that far!

We decided that the
Wheeler Trail should have been called "Wheezer" Trail because that's what we did all the way up! Hiking at 12,000 feet is very, very hard when you are not used to it (pant, pant).
The hike follows an extreme four-wheel drive road under part of the old Magnolia Mill and past various relics of mining days. Mount Lincoln at 14, 286 feet watches over the broad valley of the Middle Fork of the South Platte River, above which lies Wheeler Lake. Below the waters of Montgomery Reservoir lie the remains of the town of Montgomery. The little town started in 1859 after gold was discovered on nearby mountains. Within two years the town had two hotels, seventy cabins, and two sawmills. In one two-week period, miners found between fifteen and twenty rich strikes. Citizens decided to name the towering peak to the west, which they believed to be the highest in Colorado, after President Lincoln. They even sent him a bar of gold from one of the mines located on his namesake. The following year 1, 000 people called Montgomery home. A drugstore, mercantile, dry goods store, and various saloons served their needs. Six gold mills worked the ore from the area ’s mines, with the Magnolia, Montgomery, and Pendleton being top producers. As many as 2, 000 people may have lived in town at one time. They even proposed Montgomery as the state capital!
Well, we hiked for about 90 minutes then we turned around and hiked an hour down. Even though we didn't get to the Lake, we had fun scrambling over rocks, crossing small creeks and large mudpuddles, and just exploring.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Ground Squirrel Uprising

Day 1
We noticed a small Ground Squirrel scurrying on the rocks outside our cabin. It's so cute - we are all enchanted and delighted to see such friendly wildlife close up.

Day 2
We scattered birdseed on the patio and were happy to see our friend the Ground Squirrel return. He brought along a few friends. They look so happy playing on the rocks.

Day 3
We awoke to the sound of tapping on the glass door. It appears that the Ground Squirrels are hungry.

There are more of them now.

Day 4
The Ground Squirrels seem well-organized and strangely efficient. Additional reinforcements are arriving daily.

Day 5
It has become apparent that we are outnumbered. We think we've identified the Leader, however we have been unsuccessful in our attempts to negotiate. Food is running low.

Day 6
As we have been unable to squelch this local uprising, we have no choice but to retreat. We fought bravely, but could not resist their sheer numbers and persistence. As we pass the mission to the next family who vacations here, we leave this word of warning:

Don't Feed The Squirrels

Monday, July 14, 2008

Hi Ho, Hi Ho...

On our recent Road Trip, we had to opportunity to visit the Country Boy Mine in Breckenridge, Colorado.
The Country Boy Mine, founded in 1887, is one of the oldest and most famous mines in Summit County, Colorado. Early in its over 100 year history, the Country Boy Mine was known for its gold and silver production and later earned national fame by producing large quantities of high grade lead and zinc for use in World War I and World War II.
We strapped on our hard hats and ventured 1000 feet into the cool, dark tunnel. Water trickled beneath our feet as well as dripped down on us from the "ceiling".

Master Munchkin was old enough to have been a "Blast Monkey". These young boys would scamper up ladders in the mine, climbing up to 300 feet in the air, and place sticks of dynamite into the holes that the miners had chiseled out of the rock. If the stick did not detonate for some reason, the Blast Monkeys were sent back up to investigate.

Mining was hard and dangerous work, but it paid better than a lot of jobs back then. The men worked 10 hour shifts, working by candlelight in cold, wet conditions. Due to the dust produced by the drills, the average Miner died in about 4 years.

The Country Boy mine still has gold in it - 25 to 50 million dollar's worth - but it would cost more than that to retrieve it. So now they "mine" tourists.

Outside the mine, we had the opportunity to pet some friendly burros and to pan for gold.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Food, Glorious Food

What's a Road Trip without some glorious food?

The first item worth sharing was the Dark Chocolate fondue that we had at Swiss Haven in Breckenridge, Colorado. It was served with pound cake, fresh strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, marshmallows and bananas. It was so good that, towards the end, Miss Munchkin and I were scrapping the last of the chocolate out with our spoons and scooping it directly into our mouths!

We also ate at Bubba Gump's in Breckenridge. The atmosphere was fun and the food was good. I had shrimp 4 ways (five, if you count the one I stole from Miss Munchkin).

On our last night in Colorado, we had a campfire outside the cabin. Of course, we finished the evening with S'mores.

(the view from our cabin)

World Lit

To me, a vacation wouldn't be much of a vacation without lots of books. And time spent curled away in a comfy corner chair, reading without (much) interruption.

On this trip, I ventured a bit outside of my normal reading fare. First I snarfed down John Grisham's The Summons and The Last Juror. Then I read a contemporary romance written by my kickboxing buddy, Amy Knupp, Doctor in Her House. Then came a fluffy, fast read - Sisterchicks Go Brit by Robin Jones Gunn followed by the fascinating tale from Angela Hunt, She Always Wore Red. Lastly I devoured Saving Alice by David Lewis.

I found a treasure in a Breckenridge book shop; Photographing the Landscape: The Art of Seeing by John Fielder is worth reading and re-reading (while being careful not to drool over his gorgeous pictures).

Before the Road Trip, I picked up the unabridged, 10-hour audio version of The Swiss Family Robinson. As we drove, our whole family sat enraptured, listening to the elegant diction and vocabulary written in the late 1800's. What a great story!
And my great wish is that young people who read this record of our lives and adventures, should learn from it how admirably suited is the peaceful, industrious and pious life of a cheerful and united family, to the formation of strong, pure and manly character.
And, of course, no family trip would be complete without some good ol' Hank the Cowdog. :)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Far and Away

I am sitting in a not-so-local Starbucks, drinking a Verdi Cafe Mocha, logging onto the Internet for the first time in, um, six days. Ahh......

We are having an awesome Road Trip.

Some of our favorite highlights so far include hiking near the Continental Divide, exploring a mine 1600 feet underground, panning for gold, visiting an old-fashioned ghost town, gazing at the insanely bright stars at 10,000 feet, eating chocolate fondue, and shopping and swimming in Breckenridge.

I'll catch up with you more after we get home. Remind me to tell you about Master Munchkin's First Kill, The Cup of Horrible Tea, Hiney-Cringe Road, and the Ground Squirrel Rebellion.

Take care and see you in a few days!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Only Joy

We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.

Helen Keller

Monday, July 07, 2008


If we discover a desire within us that nothing in this world can satisfy, also we should begin to wonder if perhaps we were created for another world.

C. S. Lewis Mere Christianity

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Greatest of All Mistakes

It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do a little.

- Sydney Smith, writer and clergyman (1771-1845)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Road Trip

We are getting ready for another Road Trip. I don't think we will have Internet access where we are going (sharp, audible intake of breath inserted here). It will be a trying time for me, but I will do my best to survive. ;) In the meantime, things will be pretty quiet here on All Astonishment. But don't worry, Gentle Readers, I'll will be back and should have some incredible new photos to share.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth

Happy Fourth of July Everyone!

I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him. ~Abraham Lincoln

This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave. ~Elmer Davis

Yet America is a poem in our eyes; its ample geography dazzles the imagination, and it will not wait long for metres. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The Poet," Essays, Second Series, 1844

This, then, is the state of the union: free and restless, growing and full of hope. So it was in the beginning. So it shall always be, while God is willing, and we are strong enough to keep the faith. ~Lyndon B. Johnson

Star-spangled happiness
and banner waves of pride.
~Cherishe Archer

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Here are a few websites that I've discovered recently that I think are worth sharing:

Lookybook preview children's picture books - you have to see this!

List of specific Gluten-Free foods (brands)

Mint free budget and financial tracking

Facts on Fiction - "preview" that book your child wants to read

Tiny URL - create short, anonymous links for your webpage

Photographing Fireworks - get ready for the 4th

10 Things to Like about $4/gallon Gas

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


Miss Munchkin and I had our first Advanced class last night. I have to admit that I was feeling a bit nervous, not knowing what to expect and meeting new people, etc. But it went very well! The teacher introduced us and the students were very friendly - even the big, black belt guys. After warming up, we didn't waste anytime getting into the new material: we learned how to do a double-leg takedown and a shoulder-throw, then we did some work with bear hugs and headbuts. It was really fun! I think Miss Munchkin got a thrill from throwing her mom over her shoulder. :P

Here's a visual for you: