Saturday, July 23, 2016

Life isn't Pinterest Perfect, even in Yellowstone

Guys! I have a story for you!! Bahaha. 

So for those following on our Facebook or Instagram accounts, you probably know that Cameron and I (and Darrow and Ione of course) are all on a long family vacation road trip. Well yesterday was Yellowstone Day, and things definitely didn't go Pinterest Perfect!

Let's start at the very beginning. 

(Bonus points if you then just sang "a very good place to start") heehee

On the way up a small whine in our car got worse. We were planning on getting up early in the morning on Friday and heading to Yellowstone, but decided to take the car in to get it checked so we didn't end up with a dead car in the mountains with no cell signal. Well, by the time they checked the car, let us know it wasn't anything in need of fixing, and we got packed up to go, it was 3pm. We hemmed and hawed and finally decided that we'd go over, get a camping spot and then do the park all day on Saturday. 

So we ask Siri how to get to Lewis Lake Campground, the one the website said is usually the last to fill up. Siri shows up the regular route up through West Yellowstone, but then she also shows a route that is half the miles, and only 10 minutes longer which would spit us out right below the park and Lewis Lake Campground rather than traveling down through the whole park. The shorter route seemed like the good idea because I hate backtracking. 

So we get going on that route and end up on a 30 mile stretch of mountain dirt road, bumping along.
But no biggie, we can do that. And we actually shaved 15 minutes off the estimated arrival time Siri gave us. Shorter and Quicker! Hooray! We pull up to the southern gates of Yellowstone only to see a sign that says "All Campgrounds Full". Great. It's 6pm, and we had nowhere to stay. We then had to decide if we were going to try and find a way overpriced hotel for the night or not. We opted for making a very fast tour of Yellowstone, only stopping at two spots and briefly, and then going back to Cameron's uncle's house to sleep.

So we drove through trees. And more trees. And more trees. Let me tell you, the southern part of the Park is not that exciting. 

And finally we got to Old Faithful. I'll be honest. I wasn't super excited about Old Faithful. I wasn't uninterested, but I didn't feel like I HAD to see it or my life wasn't complete. But we were there and the geyser app showed that we happened to get there just 10 minutes before it was supposed to go off. Can't pass up that awesome of a coincidence. So we pulled in, got the kids out, and ran over (me in my sandals, no backpack carrier for Darrow, just the cell phone for a camera, and only the sling for Ione...because we weren't planning on staying long). 

We sit and wrestle Darrow (who doesn't want to sit and wait...he's 2), and finally Old Faithful begins to "erupt". It was neat, but kinda anti-climactic to tell you the truth. I expected a good roar, or a higher column, or something. It went off, and after the initial "oohhhhh" of the crowd it went silent. And that was it. Cool. 

So before it was done we got up to let Darrow run around and decided to just see where the boardwalk went to try and get a little energy out of Darrow before we went back in the car. We started around to the right side of Old Faithful and ended up on the greater geyser trail. It looked like there was a little loop we could do, so we set out. 

And then things got cool! Not all of the geysers are super predictable, and some take hours or days between eruptions. Somehow we just happened to get there when so many of the eruption times coincided and things were going off all over the place. That was awesome. 

And then we got to the Beehive Geyser that went off 15 feet in front of us and it was exhilarating and so cool!!! 

We were pretty excited after that and decided to go on and take a longer route to see the other geysers that we could see going off in the distance. It was pretty spectacular! 

But as excited as we were, Darrow was getting done. So at a T in the path I told Cameron to just run up the trail to the right to see the Morning Glory pool he was dying to see and that I'd start down the trail to the left back to Old Faithful with the kids and we'd catch up. 

This is where things turned. 

I got going down the trail with both kids and Darrow finally got to the end of his rope. He was D.O.N.E. But I knew Cameron had to just be a few minutes behind me, so I picked him up on my hip and carried him (with Ione in the sling). Well you can imagine how well that went. It didn't. So I tried to carry him piggy-back style. Well, that didn't work either. So Finally I got him up on my shoulders and started down the trail, a mile and a half back to Old Faithful with both kids hanging off me...literally. But I figured any minute Cameron was going to catch up and pull Darrow off my back and we'd be on our way. 

Well he didn't catch up and he didn't catch up, so I kept plodding along. In my sandals. With both kids. I'd had my hair all pinned up, but Darrow spent the time picking the bobby pins out of my head one by one releasing the Kraken hair. By the time we're nearing Old Faithful the teenagers and young adults are making a wide berth around the crazy lady with Kraken hair and two crying kids, and the old ladies smile at me and say, "Oh, I remember those days! How cute!" and I tried my hardest not to growl at them. 

And then I got back to Old Faithful (in time for the next eruption an hour and a half later). And then I realized that I'd just done a mile and a half with two kids on my back. And Cameron hadn't caught up. I started to wonder. But surely he'd just spent time pondering at the pool. 

And then an hour went by, and he didn't show up. 

It was 10 o'clock, dark, and my husband was off somewhere in Yellowstone Park. I was getting pretty afraid. Headlines of a man eaten by a bear went through my head. I borrowed a cell phone from a nearby family to try calling him and it went straight to voicemail. So I finally decided it was probably past time to call the Park Rangers. 

So I went into the Inn, the closest building to Old Faithful, and explained the situation to the concierge. He called the Rangers, gave a brief explanation, and then handed the phone to me. 15 seconds into giving my report, Darrow went dead weight, pulling his hand out of mine and took off running down the hotel hall. "Hold on, I have to catch my 2 year old!" I dropped the phone and went and caught Darrow again (with Ione in one arm). He then of course starts throwing a royal tantrum. So I set him on the floor and pinned him between my legs and pick the phone back up. The next few minutes I'm trying to pay attention to the Park Ranger and the questions he is asking, while also trying to wrestle Darrow with just my legs to keep him from running away. Eventually I end up sitting on the floor, with my legs pinning Darrow down as he screams, with the cord of the lobby phone stretched as far as it will go. 

But finally I get the report made and tell the Ranger that I'll stay put in that hotel lobby until either the Rangers or Cameron comes. So we then go hang out on the couches and work to get Darrow calmed down. This poor kid was way way done. So I sat and sang songs to comfort him, and myself. He was out there. He'd come back. I wasn't going to be a Yellowstone Widow. 

And then finally the Park Ranger pulls up in front of the building, and in comes Cameron through the doors at 10:45. "Hey! I didn't get eaten by a bear!" Best sight of the whole entire day! 

So now let's jump back to Cameron. On the map the paved biking/walking path is marked in black and the driving road in gray. Cameorn had thought from a glance at the map that the road went to the morning glory pool, but once he was there he found it was the bike path, not the road. So he looked at the pool, and then decided it was time to head out. 

He's not sure why now, but in his head then he then thought, "Well shoot, I need to book it down the path to the road and wait there for Marquette." So he ran in the opposite direction as I was going. He got to the end of the path and waited and waited and I didn't show up, so he decided he's just cut the time down and start walking on the road back towards Old Faithful. 

So he starts running down the road in this heavy fire fighting boots (after working as an emergency wildland firefighter one summer with the Forest Service, he fell in love with those boots), hoping I'd drive up. Well, I didn't. And it was dusk and getting darker and darker quickly, and he was running down the road. Suddenly he realized that he was along in Yellowstone, no one knew where he was, and he was running. If there was a bear nearby he was totally going to wake up the bear's predatory response by running, and he'd get eaten. So he kept his eyes on the woods and walked quickly along .

He got back down by Old Faithful, but didn't know where he was in relation to the geyser, or where we parked. So he went into the first building he found. He figured at this point that I'd probably called him in as missing. As much as he felt like a goober for having to report himself as missing, he figured it was time. He went in to the lady at the front desk and explained the situation and she was a little odd. "Oh, that's horrible! I wish I could help. I can't call anyone for you." OKay. So Cameron went back outside and went running around looking for someone who could help him. 

He finally saw a Park Ranger driving up and started waving his arms to flag him down. And the Ranger drove right by him. Luckily though, someone was driving the wrong way down a one way street and the Ranger pulled him over. So Cameron ran and caught up and stood off to the side waiting to talk to the Ranger. 

"Do you need me?" the Ranger asked. "Yes sir, I do." So the Park Ranger told hi to go sit on the steps and he'd be with him in a minute. Cameron turned and walked a few steps and the Ranger turned around and called after him. "Wait. Are you looking for your wife and kids?" 

"Yeah. That's me." The Ranger chuckled and had him wait. After he was done with his business he got Cameron in the car and they headed off to the lodge. They went in the lobby all excited to reunite a family and I wasn't there. They asked the lady at the lodge and she had no idea what was going on and there wasn't anyone there looking for a missing person. That confused them until they remember there was the new Old Faithful Inn, so they drove over there. 

They hopped out, Cameron came in the door and Darrow shot over to him, "Daddy!" 

"Hey...I didn't get eaten by a bear!"

And with all the cool geysers going off that we saw, him coming through that door was the best sight I'd seen all day. 

We got to pack up in the car, passed out the cinnamon rolls we'd bought for breakfast the next morning, and drove (in the dark) through the park (dodging Elk), back to Cameron's uncle's house to sleep. 

So there you have it! There's our Yellowstone experience. It was crazy then, and kinda scary, but now we're laughing! 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tried it Tuesday: Pie Cookies

Yesterday we were invited to a neighbor's house for a Fourth of July Barbecue. Not wanting to show up empty handed, I looked around to see what I could make and kept coming back to a pie. I love making pies! Pies can be a mess though and only go so far with a crowd. 

And then I remembered some pins I'd seen in the past few years. Pie Cookies. That sounded yummy and easy and I figured that'd be perfect. Kids eat cookies great, they require little serving utensils, and it'd help the pie stretch more to give everyone a bite. 

So I searched on Pinterest for "pie cookie" and a plethora of pins popped up. Most of them were apple pie cookies, but I did see a few cherry or strawberry pie cookies as well. I opened up 5 of the recipes at random and read through the instructions and found they all were basically the same. 

Roll out the dough. Cover in pie filling. Top with dough. Bake. Stuff your face. 

I could do that. 

I used my normal pie recipe and did a double batch so I'd have enough for a bottom crust and a top crust.  All the recipes said to use your favorite recipe or buy the pre-made dough from the store. Either is fine!

If you are a video kind of person, the video below will explain the rest of what I did (and next time I'll dig out my tripod! I've totally got to work on my video skills if I'm going to do more of these-and make sure it's not a shaky hands day for Cameron). If you're not a video person (like me!) and would prefer to read, just skip and I'll explain what I did!

Once I had my dough rolled out I sliced one into thin strips for the lattice top. I tried to go with 1/2" strips so that the lattice pattern would be visible on the cookies. After the crust dough was all prepped, it was time to add on the pie filling. I was pretty sure one can of filling was going to be too much, but it fit well and spread out much more thin than I thought it would.

And then it was time for the lattice top. I forgot I don't like doing lattice tops. So time consuming and frustrating, lol. But, I got it on and done. And then it came time to cut the cookies. 

I was sure this would be one of a few places where problems would arise. It just didn't seem like it'd cut neatly without the filling oozing out all over. But I was wrong! They cut nicely and the top and bottom stuck together well! 

But then I ran into a problem I hadn't thought about. All the in-between pieces of crust. Normally with cookies I could just squish it back together and re-roll it, but now it had apply pie goop all in it. So much pie crust and filling there wasted. :( I used my 3" round cutter and got 11 cookies out it. 

I went to pull out the parchment paper to keep the mess contained and found we were out! So tin foil had to do. It worked, but not as good as parchment paper would have. I plopped the cookies on the pan with a metal spatula and then put them in the oven at 475. 

This is where I expected the next mess to come from. I was sure that the filling was going to leak out the sides and create a horrible goopy mess. But when I opened the oven about  minutes later I was shocked. There was little mess! They'd worked! Perfectly! They popped off the foil easy and went to the cooling rack intact. I couldn't believe it! 

But then I had the problem that I only had 11 cookies to take to a barbecue. So I decide to try a second batch, only mix it up a little. I did the double crust again, but this time I didn't cut the 2nd layer into strips, I left it intact. And for the filling I opened up a jar of my homemade blackberry prickly pear jelly and spread a good thick layer over the crust. Once the jelly was spread out I then put the top crust on and pulled out my 1 1/2" cookie cutter. I got way more cookies out of that and had much less waste. Before popping them in the oven I cut a slit in the top of each cookie, and even took a fork to some of the edges to try and seal them together and make them look more pie-ish. 

These leaked a little more than the apple pie cookies, but I made sure to take them off the pan and foil and transfer them to a cooling rack immediately after pulling them out of the oven so that the leaked jelly didn't have time to adhere the cookies to the foil. 

These ones were a HUGE hit and were gone well before the apple pie cookies. And fast enough that I realized that I never got a nice styled finished picture of them, darn it! But real life shots are always good, right? 

So, a pin (or set of pins) that I expected to be problematic totally turned out! And they were yummy!! I think I'll make more of these more often!