Paid road trips are my kind of vacation

When was the last time I took a vacation that wasn’t tied to visiting family or working?

Ummmm….

But you know what?  I don’t mind the so-called ‘working vacation.’ I mean, I’m not really one that seeks out a tropical beach with an umbrella over my head and one tucked into my drink.  I’m more of a road trip sort of gal.  I like to seek out cool hikes, scenic mountains, waterfalls, kayaking waters, or funky little museums in out-of-the-way towns in the middle of nowhere, Oklahoma, for example.  So if I can tie a little work into a road trip, work that may take me off the beaten path to explore new towns/wildlife refuges/waterfalls/boating waters–why would I pass that up?

In short, the answer is I WON’T!

Earlier this month I had a meeting halfway across the country–Hubby and I presented a training course on a project we worked on years ago.  And since we don’t board MaeBelle (she would die of a broken heart, being ‘abandoned’ and all) we drove the 1,800 miles to the meeting. The trip served multiple purposes: we attended the meeting, we got to visit family and friends, and I got to do some field work in Colorado on the drive back. Hubby couldn’t stay for the entire two week trip, so it was just us girls on the drive home.

My field work was in NW Colorado–from Meeker to Craig to Maybell (And YES! MaeBelle got to go to Maybell, Colorado!!) and points beyond.  It was a pretty sweet gig–drive around looking for wet spots, take photos & GPS points, make notes, move on to another wet spot.  I’m involved with a project at work where I’ll be mapping wetlands in Colorado, and it’s always helpful to have a little on-the-ground reconnaissance before you begin work, you know?  Lucky for me, Colorado is between Montana and Arkansas, so things worked out pretty well.  I went just a little bit out of my way to visit NW Colorado, but I got to visit a friend in Avon and I got to spend the night with my in-laws (free room & board PLUS dinner and breakfast (I mean, I guess could have had gas station hot chocolate and Cracker Jacks for breakfast instead of the homemade huckleberry pancakes.  Confession: a few days earlier I did have that exact gas station breakfast, so I guess I CAN have it all. Life is good.  2nd Confession: I much prefer Crunch ‘n Munch to Cracker Jacks. That is all.).  Total damage to my odometer?  Well, it was about 250 miles longer to take the scenic tour, which, in my opinion, was totally worth it.  My fuel was paid for, my rooms were paid for, my meals were covered, I earned a few bucks…and I got to hang out with my favorite doggie (who is an AWESOME travel partner still at 13 1/2 years) and see some cool places.  What is not to like about this set up?

I need a bumper sticker that reads:  WILL WORK. WILL TRAVEL. WILL PLAY.

Have I mentioned how much I love my job(s)?

Sunset hike to use my new camera

Last night I thought the sunset might shape up to be something spectacular, so I grabbed my camera, tripod, and MaeBelle and we took a quick jaunt up the trail just above our house to watch the sun set over Helena.  I love that we live so close to the trails.  This particular trail is just a block and a half from our house.  It took us about 15 minutes to get to our spot to set up the camera and wait for the sun to set over Mount Helena.  MaeBelle was happy to be out hiking.

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Although I haven’t taken much time to mess around with the manual settings on my camera (I just need to find some time to read the manual), I did play around with some of the scene settings like sunset, close up flower shots, and the like. I know I’ll get a lot more out of my camera when I can find the time to experiment manually with the camera.

I love the view of Helena from this little point–you can see the cathedral and the Sleeping Giant in the background watching over Helena.

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Although the sunset colors weren’t as spectacular as I’d hoped, there were some nice cloud formations over the Scratchgravel Hills.

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One feature I was anxious to try on my new Nikon D5600 is the time-lapse movie feature.  This is one setting I did read about in the manual, about 20 minutes before I left for our hike.  It’s a cool setting!  The camera takes a series of photos every few seconds and it stitches them together into a movie, so I don’t have to do the work on my computer.  This is a new feature to the Nikon D5000 series, and I like it.  Check out my 10 minute time lapse (condensed to 4 seconds) taking a photo every 5 seconds.  You can see a jet contrail that looks an awful lot like a shooting star, and halfway through there is a train headlight that appears near the middle of the shot.  Nifty!  This feature will get lots of use by me.

Exciting things in Urban Farmgal’s future!

I’m getting a new camera!

Why is this news, you might wonder?  Well, I’m getting a digital SLR camera so I can get my photography on–in the garden, in the kitchen, and in the great outdoors.  And…more importantly, I’m gearing up to make some cooking videos this summer using my weekly CSA shares.  All too often our members ask questions like “What is this vegetable?  How do you use it/cook with it/ eat it?”

URBAN FARMGAL TO THE RESCUE!! (That is meant to be a little cheeky.)

And a video blog will soon be born.  It’s like I’m pregnant with this idea and will be giving birth to the real deal later this spring–and I’m soooooo excited!  I’ve been wanting to do this for some time now, but I’ve been putting off purchasing a camera as long as I possibly could.  I just couldn’t justify the expense and the indulgence of a brand new fancy-schmancy camera until now.  Now I have an outlet for some creative endeavors (i.e., cooking vids) that will result from this new purchase.  The time seemed right and I’ve been researching the ever living crap out of digital SLR cameras.  The technology is mind-boggling to a gal who last used a camera with interchangeable lenses in the 1990s. (Does that make me sound old? *Sigh*   So be it.)

So be on the lookout for my little videos later this spring.  I’ll probably try out a few before the CSA begins so I can get a little practice under my belt and tidy up some of the little details that I probably won’t consider until in front of the camera.  One of those practice videos just might be this carrot cake I made for my stepdaughter’s birthday this week:

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In case you are wondering, those are hazelnuts topping the cream cheese frosting.  I didn’t have any pecans or walnuts, which is what I normally use in carrot cake.  So I made the substitution and had this revelation: this might be the best carrot cake I’ve ever eaten in my life.  And I’ve eaten a lot of carrot cake.

Also, earlier this week I sold my first knitted bag!  I’m so excited.  This is the first bag I knit specifically to sell through Urban Farmgal and I sold it to someone at the gym.  She had commented on it while I was knitting it, and every time I saw her she mentioned the bag.  This week we finally made the sale!  I am currently in process of knitting a hat for another gym member.   Usually this time of year I begin to slow down in the knitting department because I’m spending more time in the garden–I’m not sure that’s going to happen this year.  I might even end up teaching some knitting classes this summer.

For now, the focus is the garden and securing a camera and lavalier mic for making food videos!  And making another carrot cake this weekend.  That tops my to-do list.