Beth declared that Christmas is now Utahraptormas, so I made her a necklace of a velociraptor claw, and a website explaining the tradition. It was fun. 🙂
Here is our rosemary tree with presents under it:
And a lovely shot of our little garden space, with snow:
It has snowed a bit here and there in November and December, but this was the first really strong snow, that stuck. Kind of magical!
We made seeded bread with marscapone + toasted hazelnuts + blackberry honey for breakfast, and had a nice oven roasted turkey and mashed potatoes in the evening. After it got dark, we made vanilla bean + cinnamon ice cream and watched (2/3 0f) The Desolation of Smaugh. [Spiders!!]
Like we do, last week Beth and I had some time to kill, so we wandered south of Moab. Maybe we’d finally get to check out the exciting cities of Blanding or Bluff! But then something magical happened. A few miles outside Moab, there is a wonderful little place called Hole in the Rock.
What is Hole in the Rock? It’s a lot of things, such as:
A 5,000 sqft house/diner carved out of a giant sandstone structure (pictured above).
An exotic zoo.
Your one stop destination for native American art souvenirs.
Seriously. In the 50’s, Albert and Gladys Christensen blasted out this huge section of rock and made themselves a house over the course of several years. Here’s a picture I found online (they don’t allow photography here).
It’s much cooler than you’d think, actually. If you ever end up in Moab, I highly recommend visiting Hole in the Rock. It’s crazy to think as you’re walking around the house (on the tour) there’s about 65+ feet of solid sandstone above your head.
Hole in the Rock also features, for some reason, an exotic zoo, where you’ll find
an albino racoon
a very intense emu
the dear from bambi
Here’s a picture of Beth getting a kiss from the two-humped camel. (Such a nice camel! You put a carrot stick in your mouth and he takes it from you, very gently).
What? It was awesome.
After Hole in the Rock, we made our way farther South, just wandering. We decided to turn off the main road and head toward “Needles Overlook,” which was 17 miles west of Highway 191.
It turns out, Needles Overlook is on a cliff that overlooks a huge basin and, in the distance, the Needles District in Canyonlands National Park (but just to be clear–the overlook is NOT a part of Canyonlands).
We arrived a few hours after noon. It was cold. Like, really cold. We were treated to the slow formation of a snow storm over the basin (was amazing, pictures don’t do it justice) and then it promptly started hailing on us. This only lasted a few minutes. When the storm left us and moved back out over the basin, I got a pic of the storm. Here it is:
Here are some pics from our Needles Overlook adventure.
Wilson Arch (before turning off of 191)
The lovely road to the overlook.
Beth being brave!
And that was it!
Living in Castle Valley is wonderful. I’m still amazed when I go outside that I actually live here. I enjoy the quiet (no dogs and no loud bass from cars at stop lights–it’s just blissfully quiet). I enjoy the space (each property is on five acres, and mountains give the valley a sense of seclusion, but also really define the wide open space). I love working from home, on my trusty macbook air.
But when I saw that the library was hiring a children’s librarian (part time), I applied right away. I love books, and I love working with kids (I got a degree in education after all!). But what I really think I’ll love is working in a place with other people (who ALSO love books), and being a part of the community. People love libraries, and the library is definitely an important to the city. Here in Moab, a lot of the kids from local elementary and middle schools (within walking distance!) go to the library after school to do homework, read, and interact with their peers until their parents pick them up.
I was hired to work the late shift three days a week as a children’s librarian. I’m really excited to start. I’ll still be running my business and podcasting from home, but a few days a week I’ll spend half the day in town, helping kids with their homework and checking books out to them. 🙂
The girl is sick today, so I made her hot cocoa (from scratch, not the packets). Recipe below. Wish her well!
2 tablespoons & 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder
1/4 cup of sugar
pinch of salt
2 tablespoons & 2 teaspoons of boiling water
1 3/4 c. of milk
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 c. to 1 c. half and half
Mix together cocoa powder, sugar, and salt in a saucepan
Add boiling water and bring to simmer
Simmer for 2 minutes or so (but don’t burn it)
Add in the milk and cook it so it’s H.O.T. (but don’t boil it)
Remove from heat and add vanilla
Divide into 2 mugs
Top with cream (to bring the temp down) and stir
Add whip cream because duh.
An early birthday present for Beth, I ordered these hand-made, beautiful mugs from Droste Pottery. Fantastic.
For a week now, we’ve had water coming out from the baseboards in the laundry room. We finally got a plumber to come and check it out. After cutting several holes in the drywall, he found the busted pipe, and spent most of the rest of the day fixing it. There was water everywhere, and it’ll take a long time to dry out, but we got the leak fixed.
Thankfully it wasn’t a leak in the concrete slab/foundation.
After all the plumbing drama (the leak wouldn’t stop long enough to attach the new fitting at first, and then the water softener started leaking ALL over the laundry room), we went to dinner.
**Update–captured a second spectacular rainbow, pics below. For all pics, click to see the big versions.**
Today started off with fresh home-roasted coffee. This was a good thing.
Then we went into Moab to run many errands. It’s strange driving into a city full of enthusiastic tourists, in no hurry to go anywhere. They are sight-seeing, appreciating the sun and the cool little shops, and the view.
But I just need to buy groceries.
Also, I’m coming into town from a little valley where 300 people live. Quiet, spacious, and wonderful meets busy, excited and loud. It’s a bit jarring.
Today we were in Moab so Beth could sign papers and FedEx them to the title company. We sold our old house in Salt Lake City, and were just wrapping up the final loose ends. This was a good thing. 🙂
We barely beat the rain storms home. The temperature dropped from 80 into the 60s, and the rain and wind came. Up here in the valley, storms can be a bit intense. All the homes are on five acres, and there are very little trees (this is the High Desert). When storms come in, they are fierce.
But then the storms leave. While the air was still saturated from the rain, the Sun came and made the most beautiful rainbow I’ve ever seen. This was amazing.
Of course, pictures will never do justice to the real thing, I took some anyway, so I could share. It was magical.
I love it out here.
Here are a few more pics from the storm and the rainbow:
sunflowers and the driveway:
Parriot Mesa after the storm:
Update: after I published this blog post, another rainbow popped up at sunset. It was brighter and bigger, and looked like it went right over our house. The only way I could get the whole thing in frame was to do a panorama shot. Here is the panoramas:
And here is my favorite picture, an edit of the panorama:
A Rainbow Over Sunhouse
Whether it was the excitement of moving in to a new house, or the fact that my bedroom is the designated “cat safe-room” while we put the rest of the house together (the cat food/water and litter box is in there), I did not sleep very well last night.
The wind woke me up around 1:30 a.m. It was ripping through the tiny trees just outside my window. I love these kinds of interesting weather moments, but I also needed to sleep. July 4th was one of the more stressful days in recent memory.
It’s weird being in a new place, where everything is different. I keep thinking… we really live here. There’s no home to go back to in Salt Lake where everything is familiar, and I know where to find an F-ing pair of scissors when I need them! …which is to say I guess the move hasn’t quite sunk in yet. The house is a disaster, and we will definitely be spending the next several days (weeks??) putting the house together.
But this morning, because I did not sleep well, I woke up earlier than usual and decided to take the dogs for a drive, and then a walk along a section of the Colorado River called Sandy Beach.
I dunno if you’re tired of seeing this view, but I sure am not. Here’s what it looked like when I left this morning:
And here’s how it looked down on Sandy Beach:
I didn’t get it captured so well on camera, but for one stretch of the beautiful drive down along the Colorado, two deer popped out of the brush and ran along with me, one on either side of the road. I slowed down to 15 m.p.h. and just drove behind them for a while, before they decided–seemingly at the same time–to pick one side of the road and sprint away.
It was a pretty fantastic morning, despite the lack of sleep and the chaos of the house!
After living in Salt Lake City for seven years, I’m moving!
Beth and I are moving to a tiny little town called Castle Valley, in south-eastern Utah.
Here’s a picture of Castle Valley that really doesn’t do it justice (because it’s so wonderful in-person):
The Story of How We Found Castle Valley
In April of this year, my dad came to visit us. Beth and I had previously visited Moab (in October 2013 when they closed the National Parks), and Dad had a friend who stayed in Moab for half the year, so we wanted to take him down there, and he wanted to go. After hiking at Arches National Park Friday evening and Saturday morning with my father, he wanted to chill in the hotel room, so I went out with Beth.
Here is how Beth and I vacation: wander around the city/area looking for stuff to see or do. At the entrance to Moab, where the Colorado river crosses the main road, there was a sign that said “Castle Valley 17.” Seventeen miles to Castle Valley. We didn’t feel like hiking, so we decided to explore. What’s a Castle Valley? Maybe it’s a nice town where we can have a nice lunch.
So we drove along the Colorado River, one of the more scenic drives I’ve ever been on. Eventually we saw a historical marker, and, that being the kind of thing we do, we stopped for it. Just off the main road was a gravel pull-off area, but no sign of a historical marker. Beth suggested we drive farther down this new road, driving away from the Colorado river, to explore.
So we did, and about 10 minutes later we found ourselves at the entrance of a little town called Castle Valley. Oh! THIS is Castle Valley. I had thought it would be farther up the road, but no. Here is was. So we drove around. And it was gorgeous. Remote, surrounded on all sides by beautiful landscapes:
On one side is Castleton Tower, a very striking rock formation.
Opposite that is a giant cliff face that stretches the length of (and beyond) the city.
At the end of the valley is a tiny cone of a mountain called Round Mountain, and beyond that, looming like a mother bear, the giant La Sal Mountains.
We could live here, we said.
No really, we could.
Well, why shouldn’t we? It is a magical little valley, we could move here forever and be happy. So we decided to. It probably took 10 minutes of being in the valley to decide that we should. Even before we looked at housing prices, even before we knew for sure if Beth could get approved for telecommuting, we knew we would figure out a way.
Why Leave the Salt Lake Valley?
Salt Lake City is beautiful. When I first visited in 2006, I was blown away. Mountains! Snow! Public Transportation! The city was vibrant in a way that cities in Florida are not. There are museums and hiking trails and cool little local shops, and oh yeah, Mountains.
But Beth and I have always talked about moving to a small town. Every vacation we’ve taken has been to (or driving through) small town. I would love to live out in the country, we’d say. Look how quiet it is, how fresh the air is! Those little towns were never quite right, never quite feeling like a destination. So we kept looking.
Actually, the number 1 reason to move is that Castle Valley is lovely, and perfect for us.
Though Salt Lake City has a lot going for it, and I love a lot of things about it, there are some things that we don’t enjoy.
Through the magical meteorological process called INVERSION, bad, toxic air gets trapped in the valley, and hangs out for most of December – February. In July, fires from west of the city blow into the Salt Lake valley, and hang around in the sometimes stale, stagnant summer air until a storm comes through and pushes it away. While we don’t have it as bad as some cities in California or Southeastern Asia, every January we have the worst air in the nation.
If you’ve never had to live in a smoggy place for an extended period of time, I’ll try and describe it. You feel tired all the time. Your chest feels heavy and your throat is constantly scratchy. Your eyes get itchy and your head aches all the time. Constantly. For days.
Here is what the valley looks like every January:
photo credit: leggnet
The air in Castle Valley is extremely fresh. There are no major interstates, cities, or industrial plants nearby. It’s amazing.
Directly across from my office window in Salt Lake City is a club that hosts live bands every night from 10pm to 2am. They are careless about their noise pollution, but they are still within the state’s allowable decibels, so there was nothing I could do to get away from the noise. Thanks, Urban Lounge.
Every night, I hear and feel the THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP of dance and rap music in my office, as clearly as if there were a car with a $5,000 audio system parked outside my window. This noise is made worse by my hearing damage (from years of playing drums): I am especially sensitive to sounds in the lower sonic spectrum, so I hear this much clearer than other people have reported hearing it while standing in my office.
There’s also an office building on our block with an industrial heater and air conditioner. All year long there is deep, throbbing HUMMM of one kind or another. The parking garage behind our house amplifies the noise, and you can hear it very clearly in both bedrooms.
Not to sound too old and grumpy, but our neighborhood can be a bit loud. Drunk people walking home/to their cars at night, dogs in neighboring houses ALWAYS barking, cars with bassy speakers or loud mufflers, etc. **Shakes fist at everybody.
Castle Valley is blissfully quiet. No sounds from cars with loud mufflers or speakers, no dogs barking, no concert speakers or industrial temperature-controlling-equipment. Just nature. Bird sounds. Insect sounds. Other animal sounds I couldn’t identify. Mmm.
Plain and simple, traffic makes us both unhappy and uncomfortable. Every week, either as a pedestrian or as a driver we are involved in one close call after another. Again, not to sound like a cartoon character here, but people are getting worse at driving. I am amazed at how many people are texting on their phones instead of paying attention to what they’re doing on the road. It scares the hell out of me.
Also, our PARKED CAR, sitting IN FRONT OF OUR HOUSE has been hit TWICE by an impaired driver (once it was meds, and once it was alcohol).
No thanks. We’re moving to a town of ~300 with ONE paved road going through town.
Finding Sun House
We’d been looking at houses in Castle Valley for about two or three weeks when I found one that wasn’t listed on any of the sites we’d been looking at. The pictures of the living room and dining room were lovely, the shots of the outside of the house looked very interested, but the kitchen… it was the kitchen that sold it. I sent the pic to Beth knowing she would love it. It’s a big kitchen, with the appliances set into the cabinets, and a nice, big island in the center of the kitchen (with a stove set into the island). In fact, here is the picture we saw:
It’s so bright and open! So much space to cook. Beth and I both enjoy cooking, so we were definitely looking for something with a nice, big kitchen.
The photos were all very nice, and we added it to our list of houses to look at when we visited Castle Valley again with our realtor. In the mean time, we continued to look at houses and real estate websites. We started naming all the houses, and called this one Murder House, because it only showed the kitchen, living room, and outside the house, but not the bedrooms (so those are where the murders happened. LOL, Beth).
Eventually, we decided to call the house Sun House, because it has a sun room, lots of windows, and is very open and bright.
As soon as we toured Sun House, we knew it was Our House. It has enough bedrooms that we could each have our own spacious office (since we both work from home). It has a big yard (all properties in Castle Valley have five acres), and a detached car port, garage, and a room, so I will have my very own drum room, which is really the most exciting thing I can think of… 🙂
Sun House doesn’t look like much on the outside, but it’s a beautiful house, and it’s really perfect for us and our five animals!
Here’s the view from the front door:
And here is a view of the back of the house (looking the same direction, at Castlton Tower)
That row of windows there is the sun room. 🙂
Here are a few more pictures of Sun House [note: the inside pictures feature the previous owners furniture–I will post pictures of how it looks once we’ve moved in and decorated it ourselves]
The living room and bright entrance to the sun room
A view of our sun room
The front yard garden (right outside my office window)
We don’t live there yet (as of the time of this writing), but we’ll be moving in on July 4th.
Saying Goodbye to Dragonfly House
The house we live in now is lovely. It was built in 1886 (or thereabout) and is absolutely charming. Beth has lived in this house for about 8 years longer than I have (since 2001). I’ve got lots of good memories of this house, and I’m sure she has many more.
Here is a picture of the house in Winter, during a heavy snow:
Goodbye, Dragonfly House! You were great.
So that’s the story of Castle Valley. This is my last weekend in Salt Lake City, and there is a lot to pack, and lots to do. We’re closing on July 1st, and moving on the 4th.
Here’s to new beginnings!
Enjoy this massive picture of the Castle Valley area (that little outline of roads and green on the left is the city).
(click to make it larger… it’s a big photo!)
Came home from walking Lucy, and saw a GIANT fire and a column of smoke coming from very nearby. I thought it was Smith’s the huge grocery story that was on fire, but it turns out it was a big apartment building (currently under construction).
There were several firetrucks, and a big crowd gathered to watch.
Here’s a short vid I took of the fire: