Wednesday, November 26, 2014

November Readings

This past month, I discovered a wonderful thing: I can check out books from the library online and read them on my computer! Okay, I'm pretty sure when I first said that to Curtis, he was pretty disgusted - he's a traditionalist when it comes to reading. Like in order to actually have read the book, you have to actually hold the cover in your hands and turn every page. But this has been especially convenient for me to just have something at my fingertips that I can do while Charlotte is napping and I have some free time. I don't always want to make the effort to take a bus to the library, and I don't want to buy a bunch of books because we'll be moving around so much, and books are heavy! So after a long stretch of not doing much reading at all, I've finally got back into the habit, and I've really been enjoying it.

If you're interested in checking out books online, go to to get started. You have to have a library card with any library in order to check out books.

Here's what I've been reading!

Wild - From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. I saw this book way back at the beginning of the year, before I liked hiking, and thought it would be interesting. It was the first thing I searched for when I made an account, and I ended up loving it and finishing it in just 3 days. In it, Cheryl writes about her life, her decisions, her mistakes, and how that all led her to decide to hike the Pacific Crest Trail by herself. It was difficult reading through the mistakes she made, and I couldn't imagine how anyone could think like she did at some parts. It hurt me a little at how she was quick to throw away things like a marriage with a man who really loved her. Reading about her hike is what originally attracted me to this book, and the way she wrote about her experience hiking made me want to do something similar. I have to say, after reading about her struggles and how she was so unprepared for it makes me believe I could do it...though I have no desire to do so alone! Curtis talks about hiking long trails a lot, and now I can say that my desire to may almost match his. :)

The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. I know the movie has been out for a while, and the book came out even longer ago, but I honestly hadn't heard what it was about and didn't know what to expect. I dislike watching movies, so I decided that if I'm not going to watch movies that I might as well read the book! This novel helped remind me why I love reading fiction so much. I loved reading each section and getting a look into each of the character's minds. I loved learning about a historical period, even if through fiction characters. I think the biggest takeaway for me was to remember that everyone I see is precious in God's sight, respect each person as a unique individual loved by God, and don't be quick to judge.

Winning Balance by Shawn Johnson. Being from Iowa and only a few months younger than her, of course Shawn has been someone I've looked up to ever since I first saw her compete on TV in 2007. I've watched and cheered for her in both the Olympics and on Dancing with the Stars. I enjoyed getting to read about her side of the story and learn about what was going on during all these exciting years in her life. I loved reading about this smart, beautiful, down-to-earth Iowa girl and can say I'm a bigger fan of hers now. :)

Marley & Me, by John Grogan. I watched this movie 5 years ago, but I was on an airplane going from Detroit to Amsterdam, so I honestly don't remember much. I think my main reason for reading it was to gain a new appreciation for my puppy Charlotte, and I was successful in that! Charlie's never nearly as much of a terror as this dog was, and I enjoyed reading about how others cope with the struggles of puppyhood. I have to admit though, I didn't read the end because I knew I would start crying and I didn't need that... Maybe someday I'll write a book called "Charlie & Me." Except it will NOT have a sad ending. ;)

And finally, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. So the story goes, I was about to buy this book at a Bookman's in January (when I resolved to read more) but then Curtis saw someone he knew, and I ditched this one for a big book that made me look smarter than this. So when I got the opportunity to read this book without any shame...well, how could I resist? I'm a huge fan of The Office, and was super excited to hear Kelly Kapoor's story. Of course, in this book Mindy points out all the ways that she's different than Kelly, but she will always be Kelly in my heart. Haha. I loved the inside look on her humble life before she became famous, after she was finally noticed, and behind the scenes of The Office. I didn't realize how much writing she did for the show, and now I appreciate her work even more!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Charlotte's Web[page]

Charlie - 4 months and 1 week old

Today marks 2 months of having Charlotte in our home, our routine, our laundry, our food, our recycling, and our hearts. She's impressed us with her strength and annoyed us with her stubbornness. She's tested every limit and broke every boundary that we set up. She's been a terror in our home, yet continues to win back our hearts with her head tilted to one side and her big puppy eyes. This puppy has us wrapped around her little paws.

Today, I just wanted to share a few things about Charlotte that I want to remember forever. I'm sure that someday, she'll be the perfectly trained loving dog, and I'll look back and laugh at the struggles that used to seem so difficult. And so, here is what life with Charlie is like at 4 months!

The way that she uses her front paws makes me think that with a bit of training and maybe a little physical therapy, she could one day use them as hands. She's lacking opposable thumbs of course, but when it comes to tug of war, trying to get something that I have, or attacking insects, she really seems to be quite coordinated.

When I sneeze, she stops whatever she's doing and stares at me, gravely concerned.

There comes a time in the day when she will suddenly go to her water bowl and drink a ton of water, then start burping and hiccuping like crazy.

Charlie's adventure in Sedona ended up with her almost being the same shade as Sedona's famous red dirt

She is a groaner - when I get her out of her kennel in the morning, she is the most excited to see me that she'll be all day. Her tail wags so fast it might fall off if it goes any faster. She rolls over and moans until I give her a good belly rub. Then, when we go outside, if she sees anyone she'll get so excited, hurry over to them, pee a little, then roll over and groan as they gush about how adorable she is. (Well, most of them do...those who don't obviously have problems.)

Our friends have also said that she is one of the most "vocal" dogs they've ever seen. Thankfully not because she barks a lot - she moans and groans and whines and makes other funny noises to get her point across.

Charlie's first nap in our bed, the day after hiking 12 miles

On 11/9/14, the day we'd had her for 7 weeks exactly, she took her first nap in our bed with us.

If she can get into the bathroom, she likes to pull the rug out and into the front room to take naps on.

I am not asleep because my arm is asleep (due to both of them lying on it), Charlie is snoring, and her breath smells. :)

On 11/16/14, we gave in and let Charlie sleep with us. Life will never be the same. ;) But it's not really that bad - she sleeps all night and doesn't do anything to try to wake us up! She just moves around a bit. Oh, and she snores.

Charlie found a "comfy" position for her nap during a long drive

Charlie does so well with traveling - our longest trip has been maybe 4 hours. She can be a terror minutes before we drive, but something about being in a moving vehicle makes her calm down and she becomes very pleasant to be around. Her favorite spot in the car is on Curtis' lap. Even though he's driving.

She's not much of a snuggler currently, much to my disappointment. The only way for us to be all cozy together is if she's asleep, or if I pick her up and stand next to her kennel. I used to do this as a threat: I would sweep her off her feet, march over there and be ready to put her in...but then she calms down and lays her head on my shoulder, and she always gets away with it. Now, if I want to cuddle with her, I'll use this to my advantage and only make her think she's getting out of it. Wow, dog psychology is so complicated. What have I become?!

Yesterday, there were guys right outside our back porch chopping down parts of a tree with a chain saw. Charlotte was terrified of the noise, and started doing this very high-speed pacing in circles around the futon. We eventually got her to settle down on our bed, where we all ended up taking a family nap time. :)

Charlie makes a friend in Sedona

She's starting to be less shy around other dogs...sorta. She gets nervous when they are approaching her and she'll stick her tail between her legs and try to "hide"...but as soon as they start walking away, all she wants to do is chase them. Right now, there's only one dog that she is completely comfortable around and enjoys playing with. His name is Chuggie, he's a Chihuahua-Pug mix.

There isn't much that Charlie won't do for a peanut butter cookie. She also likes deli turkey, ham, apple peels, and key lime pie. Oh, and anything else we happen to drop in the kitchen.

So far, Charlie has gone on 4 different hiking trips with us, 1 vacation, and one other night away from home. She's gotten to meet most of our friends down here, both Curtis' mom and my mom, and Curtis' older sister. I'm really excited for her to meet the rest of our families - I think she'll love them all, and she shouldn't have too much trouble with winning them over!

Charlie on Miller Peak after hiking almost 8 miles!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

A Week With My Mom

Hooray! My mom was finally able to take a much deserved vacation and come see me!! :) We had been to Tucson together once before I lived here, but this was her first time getting to see our home and some of our favorite spots. Of course the best part about the week was just being with her and having lots of great conversations, but here are some of the other highlights of our week together in Tucson.

She doesn't know it yet, but Charlotte is so excited to meet her other Grandma! Here she's waiting so impatiently in the cell phone lot :)
 On Wednesday after she arrived, we showed her our home and spent a lot of time catching up. It was a busier week for Curtis, so it was the perfect time for her to visit to keep me company! Weather wise it was also perfect - while it was snowing and below freezing temps back at home, it was in the 70's-80's down here!
One of our many walks outside together with Charlie. 
 On Thursday morning, we walked around my little "neighborhood," visiting the mall and other places near our apartment. That evening, we went to Sabino Canyon and met some friends for a walk at sunset.

Walking through Sabino Canyon at sunset.

Walking through the canyon - as the sun sets, the mountains turn pink!

One of the many river crossings in Sabino Canyon
On Friday, we packed up and took off for Sedona! Read about that adventure here. :)

Charlie napping on Mom's lap on the way to Sedona

And napping on Curtis on the way back. Why are there more pictures of Charlie here than anyone else?!
 On Sunday, we came home, unpacked, relaxed, and ate pizza. Oh, it's also important to mention that we introduced mom to In-N-Out, and discovered a Krispy Kremes in Casa Grande. Probably the best discovery of the week. :)

Best view of Tucson from one of the taller Tucson buildings

On Monday, we rode the bus with Curtis to the U of A and enjoyed the sites and sunshine around campus. When Curtis was done with school, we had lunch at our gourmet mac & cheese place called The Fix. Then, we rode the SunTram to downtown Tucson and wandered around there before taking the bus back home.

Riding the SunTram from campus to downtown Tucson

We walked around the courthouse and the model of the old Presidio

One last selfie together - inside Target in the kid's section was a Frozen inspired backdrop for parents to take pictures of their kids. Why not? :)
On Tuesday, we took one more walk to more favorite places for souvenirs and sushi before having to take her to the airport. The week went by way too fast! Of course, this was all just on the weekdays... check out my post about our vacation to Sedona for the weekend! I am so thankful that I got to spend so much time with her. Thanks to the rest of my family for letting her get away for a bit. :)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Sedona - home of the beautiful red rocks in Arizona. Even if you've never heard of it, you've probably seen pictures of the quintessential red rock formations. I remember hearing about it for the first time from a teacher at my massage school, as she spoke about her travels there and the beauty and serenity all around. While Curtis and I have traveled all around Arizona together, we had never even driven through Sedona before this weekend, though I would always put it on the top of the list of places to visit while we are in Arizona.

When my mom started planning her vacation to come see us, we immediately thought of taking her to Sedona. While Tucson's mountains have their own distinct beauty, we wanted to show off more of Arizona and still have a new adventure ourselves. We knew that it didn't matter how long or short, easy or hard a trail was, we would definitely have great views that you can't find anywhere else. Also, my mom was coming down for 6 days - that meant we could still show her around our home, and fit in a little weekend adventure!

The highway to Sedona

We drove up on a Friday afternoon, all piled into Yeti. I found a hotel called Beaver Creek Inn in Lake Montezuma, AZ, which is about a half hour away from Sedona itself. It ended up being a great find - off of the I-17, away from the tourists in a small quiet town, inexpensive, and very neat and cozy. Oh, and dog friendly too! Even Charlie approved. :)

Montezuma Well at 8:15am

On Friday night, we enjoyed dinner at the Vintage Grill. We chose it because it was likely the only spot open in town, but it turned out to be delicious - especially the bread basket. :) The next morning, we went up the road a bit to visit the Montezuma Well. It was early in the morning and chilly, but such a beautiful, peaceful spot. When we started the short loop trail, there was no one else around, but by the time we returned to the parking lot several more people had arrived. 

My beautiful mother and I!

We loved the reflections in the water, the morning sun highlighting some areas, and the small pops of fall colors around the well - just beautiful!

Charlie couldn't even look away from the well for a picture! ;)

Down by the side of the Well

Charlie leads the way!

This weekend, we were thankful for dog friendly trails and a dog who loves adventures. Charlie was thankful for completely new smells to follow and many new people to love. This was her first long road trip and vacation, and she did so well with it!

Cliff dwellings

View at the Visitor's Center

After visiting the well, we continued on the highway to Sedona. Almost right after driving West of I-17, the red rocks started appearing! We stopped at the visitor's center and learned about the best trails to do that day. Charlie gladly welcomed all the other tourists to the building, and got many belly rubs in return. :)

The sun shining on the Courthouse Butte

Bell Rock on the left, Courthouse Butte on the right.

Looking back at the parking lot full of selfie-takers!

We started with hiking about 2 miles on a loop trail that takes you up close to Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. The parking lot was filled with tourists and selfie-takers, but once we started on the  actual trail, it was a mostly quiet walk. While you can see the rocks and mountains from the parking lot, getting the up-close perspective and walking through the red dirt is so worth it. Take a hike, people! ;)

As the day progressed, Charlie's fur turned more and more into the color of the red dirt. 

Panorama with Bell Rock in the spotlight

Family picture in front of Bell Rock!

The 3 girls :)

We hiked up closer to Bell Rock, then followed the trail along the side of Courthouse Butte before taking another trail back to the parking lot. It was all mostly flat and a very easy and enjoyable hike. There were some areas in the trail where the red dirt was more sandy, and whenever Charlie came to it she would take off running through it - I think she liked the way the sand felt when she dashed through it. It was adorable!

We were probably out here enjoying the hike for almost 2 hours. After this, we decided the lunch cookies we had with us were enough to tide us over, so we continued driving through until we were on the Northwest side of Sedona, and ready to take on another hike. 

Highway 89, heading West into Sedona

Beginning Briggs Mesa trail

From 89A we took Jordan Road to a parking lot where there are several trailheads. We decided to go up the Briggs Mesa trail and come back down Soldier Pass Trail, making a 5 mile loop. This parking lot was also full, but the hike was still quiet and very pleasant. 

For the first mile or so, the trail was mostly flat and we walked along the trail, up and down through washes. The trail then started ascending over the next mile to the Mesa. Having Charlie provided us with many opportunities to stop and say hello to other hikers. Besides being her poky little self, she really did great with the whole hike and walked most of the way.

The beginning of the trail had us walking through the "forest," with views of the other  rocks  peeking through the trees.

I love how the green trees contrasted with the red rocks!

It was cloudy, but we enjoyed seeing the sun highlight different parts of the mountains around us.

We made it to the Mesa! The views got better and better as we got higher, and the steeper hiking at the end paid off with a great look at Sedona from up above.

All of us - including Charlie - enjoyed some peanut butter cookies before moving on. We walked across the Mesa to the other side and began our descent. 

Seven Sacred Pools

For part of the way down, we walked along a forest road until we came to 7 Pools. I didn't get a great picture, but I would assume that it looks pretty impressive during monsoon season. There were several places where I can imagine have cool waterfalls throughout the summer, but this wasn't the season for that! There were lots of people around that area, but once we started on Soldier Pass Trail back to the parking lot we were the only ones out there.

Charlie - who is as red as Sedona's dirt and has a belly full of cookies!

Another impressive sight along the way was Devil's Kitchen. It's a sinkhole, and you can walk up to the edge and see the ground that caved in.

Devil's Kitchen

The Sphinx Rock Formation

Pretty sure we tried to get Charlie in on this one, but she was just done with pictures. :)
We didn't end up doing anything in the main area of Sedona itself. It's very artsy and would be fun to walk through, but Curtis and I much prefer being in nature than around other tourists. However, at the end of our hike, it was around 4:30 and we still hadn't had a real meal for the day. We hadn't researched places to eat in Sedona, but knew our options would be limited with Charlie. We ended up driving to Cottonwood and eating at a Sonic. We called it a day and went back to the hotel to relax.

Sycamore trees

The next morning, we packed up and left early, but stopped to see Montezuma Castle before driving home. Curtis and I had visited last June, but it's such a interesting and fun stop along I-17 that it was worth showing my mom. We also enjoyed seeing the colorful Sycamores all around the area - it was much warmer last time we were there!

Montezuma Castle

And that was our weekend adventure! Check back later to see what else my mom and I did together over the week. :)