Wednesday, March 30, 2016

A Fractured Bone and Broken Plans

The Life Altering Impact of a Broken Bone

My daughter was supposed to be in Ecuador last week on an environmental service trip with other college students, doing some reforestation and working at a high school. Instead, she spent her spring break at home in Montana on crutches with a broken foot. After so much anticipation and planning for this trip to South America, her disappointment was palpable.

a pair of crutches

Being home, however, was healing. The swelling, pain and bruising of her foot diminished greatly over the week and she caught up on some much-needed rest. She had not planned to be home at all this spring, so

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter is early this year

I feel like Easter sort of snuck up on me this year, but that it is probably because it did! Even last week felt like it was just too close to St. Patrick's day to dye eggs and put out Easter decorations!

An easy Easter decoration

Easter does not occur on the same date each year.  

It can be observed anywhere between March 22nd and April 25th, depending on the timing of the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. With Easter falling on March 27th this year, that is nearly a month early compared to some other years. So - if you weren't feeling ready for Easter, perhaps it's because it really is very early, compared to many other years. 

Not all schools take their spring break at the same time, and Easter does not always coincide with those breaks. This year, Easter weekend marks the last few days of my daughter's break from college and the first

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

"An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind."

- Mahatma Gandhi.

Wouldn't our world be a better place if we all used words, not weapons?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Did You Forget to Wear Green?

All those of Irish decent (and many other people) wear the color green on St Patrick's Day. But do you know why? 

Today I'm sharing a little history about this tradition. And a suggestion for a quick and easy way to keep yourself from getting pinched if you forget to wear green on St. Patrick's Day.

March 17th is St Patrick's day

The Wearing of the Green

In the late 1700's, when the Irish rose up against the British, wearing the color green or a shamrock was forbidden, as it was considered a rebellious act. People who were non-compliant with this rule were

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Common Denominator of Pi & Blogs - plus a Pie Crust Recipe

Today is Pi Day and I am (sort of) talking math, as I illustrate the common denominator between pi and blogging. If you don't like arithmetic - don't click away yet! I am also sharing a wonderful pie crust recipe on this day of π!

Pi Day is perfect for Pie

March 14th has become known as "Pie" or "Pi" day, thanks to the ingenuity and creativity of math teachers attempting to better engage their students in the subject of math. March 14th -- or  3/14 -- is Pi Day because the infinite number of Pi (3.14 ...) begins with the same numbers as this date. 

Pi can be written with an endless number of digits after the four in 3.14, although it is most commonly used in mathematical calculations as 3.14159. Celebrating Pi was an extra big deal in 2015 when the date could

Saturday, March 12, 2016

How to Make a Soft and Flexible Cold Pack For Aches and Injuries

It is very easy to make a soft and flexible cold pack, to keep ready in your freezer, for when someone suffers an ache or injury.

Picture this:
  • You have a migraine headache
  • Your daughter has a black eye
  • Your grandson's little index finger got caught in a cupboard door
  • Your son just had his wisdom teeth extracted
  • Your husband twisted his ankle and it is very tender and swollen
  • OR, maybe you just have huge bags under your eyes from a sleepless night!
You know that a cold compress may help, so you pull an ice pack out of your freezer. Then, you

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Pleasant Stay at a Hotel in Houston

I received some compensation for writing this post, but it is an honest review and all opinions are my own.

My family had a pleasant stay at the Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks Hotel in Houston last week. Houston did not feel as "Texan" as I expected, perhaps because we spent most of our time at an event that could have occurred in many other places.

Crowne Royal Houston River Oaks Hotel in Houston, TX

My husband, son, and I flew to Texas to watch my daughter and her college team compete in the Western Athletic Conference Swimming and Diving Championship meet.

The U of Houston Natatorium is beautiful

Swim meets can be exhausting (whether you are a swimmer, coach, official, or spectator) and a good night's rest is important. Fortunately, our hotel was both quiet and comfortable.

We knew that if we all stayed at the same hotel, we might get a few extra minutes to spend with our daughter, who wouldn't have much free time. As soon as the team reserved at the Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks, I booked a room for us there as well.

We remembered to take a family photo

Our reservation was upgraded to a suite on the 18th (top) floor, as part of my compensation for writing this review. 

Our suite was huge and included: 

  • a spacious sitting room with a desk and a pull-out couch, both of which were used by my son. The sleeper sofa was as comfortable as you can expect from that sort of bedding.
  • a coffee bar/wet bar area with a fridge, coffee maker, and microwave.
  •  a good-sized separate bedroom with a king-sized bed. 
  • 2 flat-screen TVs and speedy Internet service. 
  • a big bathroom with a hair dryer and a makeup mirror. The only entrance to the bathroom was through the main bedroom.
Pictures of our hotel suite

All the appliances and the Internet service worked well. The shower head in our bathroom had various settings, although the water pressure was not as forceful as I usually prefer. When I mentioned this to the staff, I was told that they "want all of their guests to be 100% satisfied" and a maintenance person was sent up to look at it.
The hotel provided dinners for the 40 athletes, 3 coaches, and the bus driver of my daughter's team, in a private eating area. My daughter said there was an ample amount of good food served to them each day, by very friendly staff. Overall, this was a very satisfactory hotel stay for the team.

The bus was able to park right in front of the hotel for the kids to get on and off.

I heard repeatedly from our athletes and family members how accommodating and friendly the staff were. I found this to be true as well. 

One person mentioned that their room was not very clean, but ours was satisfactory. When two women reported an issue with their bathroom, the hotel took their concerns seriously and moved them to a different room. 

I heard comments about how nice the pillows were, and how much someone liked the hair conditioner provided by the hotel. I loved the scent of the soap and the texture of the lotion.

I loved the toiletries provided by our hotel

Our room looked down on busy Houston highway traffic. Being from Montana, we found it entertaining to watch the huge volume of cars that were on the road all the time! At first, I was worried we would hear a lot of road noise, but (at least from the 18th floor) that was not the case at all. Our room was very quiet all of the time.

Houston skyline and highways were visible from our room

Although the hotel is older and some people said the carpets should be updated, the lobby is very pretty and has lots of sitting areas. I especially liked the decorative lighting.

I loved the decorative lighting in the hotel lobby
The hotel had a well-stocked gift shop and a popular bar area, which was crowded for several nights with guests visiting for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

The hotel had a little store

We enjoyed the full-service/buffet breakfast (an add-on price to room rates) in the on-site restaurant, which provided hot and cold breakfast foods. I am a coffee snob - so we skipped the Folgers coffee and made a stop at Starbucks most mornings on the way to the pool.

The hotel had a nice dining area and a good breakfast buffet

For an additional fee, guests can park in the hotel garage, and there is an option for valet parking. We never had any trouble finding a spot in the garage.

The parking garage at our hotel

The hotel has an outdoor pool, business center, and fitness room.

A phot of the hotel outdoor pool

The Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks is about four miles from downtown, but this was not really an issue for us. The swim meet was held at the University of Houston Natatorium, and it typically took us 20 minutes to drive there from the hotel.

GPS map of our hotel location

I was told that Houston has been nicknamed "the cement city." While I could find no facts to back this up, the name does fit. The maze of highways and ring roads is mind-boggling, and driving in the traffic is not for the faint of heart! We had to allow extra time to arrive and park on the campus Friday afternoon, as it was also the location of the Republican Presidential debate that day.

A Republican Presidential debate was being held at U. of Houston while we were there.

I'd never visited Houston before, except when switching planes at the airport. Unfortunately, we didn't have much time to explore the city as the swim meet consumed most of the four days we were there. 

Houston has a very metropolitan feel, with a population of over 2 million people. The days were mostly sunny and warm during our stay. Of course, most of our time was spent in a natatorium that was quite warm, as all pool facilities are!

The University of Houston Natatorium is beautiful.

Despite being in a huge and urban city, we did see a couple things that felt quite Texan, such as several cowboy boot sculptures and lots of "Lone Star" decorations. Twice we had to stop our car and wait for a parade of horses and chuck wagons from the Livestock Show and Rodeo to pass by.

A parade in Houston

My son wanted some good Texas barbeque, and our lunches at Goode Company Barbeque and Gatlin's BBQ were both excellent.

This place had good food - and character!

Taking advantage of the ethnic opportunities of being in a big city, we went to the Blue Nile Ethiopian Restaurant one night and had an amazing meal.

After the final event of the meet, the team and families gathered at El Tiempo Cantina to celebrate the hard work and achievements at the meet. We enjoyed Tex-Mex cuisine in a large party room; paid tribute to the athletes, coaches, and seniors; and began thinking about gathering again next year.

Swimmers were pretty evenly matched in this heat.

It is still to be determined where the WAC 2017 Swimming and Diving Championship meet will be - but if it is at the University of Houston, I would not be surprised if the team considers staying at the Crowne Plaza Houston River Oaks hotel again.

The Crowne Royal Houston River Oaks lobby is very pretty.

It was a fun trip to Texas, and now I am counting the days until we see our daughter again!

 Have you ever been to Texas?

This post may be linked to one of the great link-up parties I follow and list on my blog. Check them out!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

How to Get Every Last Bit of Lotion Out of the Bottle!

Are you tired of wasting money because you can't get every last bit of your lotion out of the bottle it was packaged in? Do you find it frustrating to have to bang the bottle against your palm, hoping to use up the rest of the product that the pump dispenser can't pull up?

I've never been able to solve the problem of wasting the dredges of my lotions - until last week!

While getting ready to fly to Houston last week, I needed to refill my travel-sized jar with my