Friday, May 30, 2014

Tour of Missouri: Katy Trail State Park

Memorial Day Weekend was our big kickoff to biking the Katy Trail. The Katy Trail is a rail-trail that has been built on the former Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad (MKT or Katy). It is 240 miles long and runs from Clinton, Missouri to Machens, Missouri.

One of two train cars on the Katy Trail. Reminding everyone that this trail is a rail to trail project. 

My family made it a goal to bike this trail in 2014. We are not experienced bike riders so we knew that we would not be riding end to end. We set about with a smaller, hopefully more attainable goals. The first goal was to bike from Sedalia, MO to Clinton, MO ( a mere 37.5 miles).


We developed our plan and our back up plans and headed off. We decided to use a family member as a support car (someone who can drop us off, pick us up, and supervise The Short Chic while we were off biking).  Our Plan A was to make it all 37.5 miles in one day. Plan B was to bike take two days and bike from Sedalia to Windsor, MO (20.9 miles) and then Windsor to Clinton (16 miles) another.

As we woke up early on Saturday, May 24 to head out we noticed dark grey skies above us. We checked the radar and discovered in fact the rain that had been eluding us all week had found us and was about to come crashing down. The Husband put a halt to our biking adventures as he knew that if we biked in the rain we would be wet, muddy, and miserable.  So, we called a rain delay and pushed back the ride another day. We did find other cool Missouri things to do but that is another post!


Sunday finally came and I almost felt like a small child waking on Christmas morning.   The day you never thought would arrive had arrived.  We drove from our campsite in Warsaw MO to the trailhead in Sedalia, MO. After last minute checklist items: air in the tires, water in the water bottles, bathroom, and of course pre-ride photos we departed the Sedalia trailhead a little after 8:30 in the morning. I should note that the Sedalia Depot is one the only original depots on the trail. It has been fully restored and from the outside it looks awesome. It was closed when we were there.


The first leg of our ride (Sedalia to Green Ridge, MO)was 12.2 miles of shaded tree-lined and beautiful trail. Wild onions were in full bloom as was the Honeysuckle plants. The trail smelled so sweet from all the flowers and the fresh rain.  The trail was in good condition and I would say we made good time. We averaged about 8 miles per hour. The overall elevation of the trail is pretty flat but there are variations along the way. There are no hills. We could feel the elevation decreases as we found ourselves biking easier and faster. Then we would find ourselves winded and realize we were going up an incline.  You can't tell the inclines because they are so gradual.


We were so excited to approach the Green Ridge Trailhead. The Boy had already eaten 2 bags of beef jerky, 3 granola bars and was still starving. The Husband's stomach was rumbling so loud at times I thought the MKT Train was back on the line.  With a stop for food in mind, you can imagine our shock when two dogs came up behind The Boy and attacked him. Before I could even catch up to him they had bit him and ran off.  (More of this story later in another post!)


The local Casey's store employees were so nice to us! They filled our water bottles and gave us topical first aide cream and band-aids. We loaded up on some Casey's pizza and lounged out in the town's city park. We inspected the dog bite and determined not to end our ride.  Encouraged by how well the first leg went, we sat off to go the next 8.8 miles to Windsor, MO.

It is amazing how different the trail became on our second leg. The shade was gone. It was mostly sunny and bright. The shade of trees became occasional. Our view became the Prairie Restoration  project the Department of Conservation was growing.It was only 80 degrees out but it felt like a solid 95 that day. The trail also changed. Where it had been firm it was now soft. Our tires sunk into the trail and maneuverability became very difficult.  Our patience was tested. Our capabilities stretched beyond our comfort level. If we would have had cell phone service I am positive a call would have been placed to our support driver to be waiting for us in Windsor.


During this leg we passed the High Point for the entire trail. We also started noticing what appeared to be really old telephone lines along the trail. However, we learned along the way that in fact they were not old telephone lines but really old telegraph poles. Some are pretty dilapidated but others still had insulators on them.


By the time we reached the trailhead in Windsor we all were pretty much finished riding for the day. Since our support car was not waiting for us we hit up the local Casey's. The Boy got more pizza, more jerky, cookies, and water. The rested our tired legs. We even met a man who was traveling by bicyclist from Southern California to Northern California to New York City. He was passing through Missouri and stumbled onto the Katy Trail. We met families out for short rides. We even saw The Boy's middle school health teacher!



Several people had told us the trail was hard and not soft to the West and we made a decision that we would keep going the next 6 miles to the next trailhead in Calhoun, MO. The trail was better; firmer. We once again had shade. The leg from Windsor to Calhoun was probably our fastest leg of the whole trip.


When we reached Calhoun we learned the trailhead was off the trail and up a very steep path. The Husband immediately began having muscle cramps and declared himself finished. We called our support car and told them to find us in Calhoun, MO. We were only 9.4 miles to our destination.

One of the turtles we encountered on the trail.

As we sat there recovering and resting, we felt like we had failed. We were not going to reach our destination. The Husband drank some Gateroraid. The Boy pouted that there was no Casey's at this stop. Then we decided we were going to keep trying! We called the support car and told them to pick us up in Clinton, MO and we headed off with only 9.4 miles left to go.


The shade came and went; although a lot of it was mostly full sun exposure. We found ourselves stopping every mile for a water break and talk about how excited we were to be finished. We arrived in Clinton, MO a little after 6:00 p.m. to find my Mother and The Short Chic waiting for us, camera's in hand.

At the conclusion of the day we were exhausted. Every large muscle group ached. My fingers and hands were numb and tingly. We were ready for cold drinks and food. And bed. By the next day, our thighs and legs were sore. Today, the only thing that reminds me that we biked 38.13 miles are four of my fingers (2 on each hand) that are still numb. I am sure I grip the bike wrong, I am sure my bike grips are not made for long rides, and I am sure I just need more conditioning.

We successfully completed our first leg and planning has commenced for our second adventure.  With this ride, I am up to 56 Missouri Miles. I earned several more badges including 25 Cycling Miles, 50 Missouri Miles, The Katy Trail Badge, and a Healthy May badge.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Last Day Of School Autograph T-Shirt



Another school year is in the books. The Boy has finished his junior year and The Short Chic just finished her kindergarten year. Time sure does fly!

Having the end in sight for The Boy makes me wish I could slow down time for The Short Chic. Since time slows for no one, even Mommies, I have developed a few strategies for at least preserving these fleeting moments.

This year I made a Last Day of School Autograph T-shirt for The Short Chic. She is going to wear it on the last day of school and collect autographs from all of her friends. This way, when she is no longer small and kindergarten was years past we can look back at her t-shirt and reclaim a glimpse of who she was.

Last Fall I introduced you all to this wonderful product from Avery, DIY Iron On Transfers as I used them to create our Halloween costumes.


My inspiration for this project came from a post by Sugar Bee Crafts. She used a silhouette machine, which I do not have.  I remembered that I had some Iron On Transfers left over and I knew immediately that I was going to use them for the shirt.

Avery has an online creative center that allows you to create your own project.  I used basic shapes and the font options to create my logo. There was a small learning curve but I quickly got the hang of it.


Once the design is finished, you simply print it on the iron-on transfer paper. I then trimmed the design and peeled the backing off.



The rest is really pretty easy; as easy as ironing.


The only odd instruction on the packaging is to not use an ironing board. So, I ironed on the floor!


I let the transfer cool and then peeled off the tissue paper.  She is ready for the last day of school. She already has a plan on how to get all the autographs she wants. She has worked really hard this year and deserves a little half-day fun!




Update:

Our shirt was a huge success! The Short Chic loved walking around with her own Sharpie and received a lot of autographs.  I can already envision a cute little t-shirt quilt at the end of elementary school with all of her autograph t-shirts incorporated in it.  Preserving moments...that is what it is about. 


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Short Chic Writes

It is the end of the school year. Each night The Short Chic has been bringing home mounds of papers. I am sure her teacher is cleaning out the classroom before summer begins.

The Kindergarten students have practiced writing all year long. They even had a publishing party last week to share some of their stories but really to share the progress they have made. The Short Chic says she wants to be a writer and an actress when she is grown up. I am going to share a few of her stories with you. They make me smile! Of course I begin with the one about me.

A Day With Mommy

written and illustrated by The Short Chic
translation by Mommy


"One day I had a day with Mommy. It was my birthday."
"We ate McDonald's for breakfast. Papa joined in."
I went to school. It was time for lunch. Mommy brought me lunch."

"Me and Mommy and my friends shared a cookie."


"We got our nails painted. I got flowers on my nails. It was the best birthday ever."

Friday, May 23, 2014

Breathing

Lately it feels as if the world has just been in my face. Everywhere I turn another situation is there giving me the finger.  I feel really ganged up on. I feel really tested right now. In this overpopulated world, I am feeling alone and vulnerable.

Things that were constant for me have started changing. I am not sure the direction they are taking me, let alone I am not sure it is a direction I will like. I find myself hurting. Not a physical pain but more of an emotional one.

I have been here in this space before. A few times. I don't really like it here. I feel the need to protect myself from the emotional hurt. I usually do that by closing myself off. Turning inward. Isolating.

I know my tide will turn. I just don't know when. Until then, please know that I am doing what I know to do. I am tightening my circle. Keeping my head down. Focusing on what matters the most.

And breathing. I just need to keep breathing.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Teacher Gifts: Acrylic Clip Boards

The end of the school year is upon us. The Short Chic is about to finish her first year of school and is already looking forward to being a First Grader next year.

The Short Chic loves her teacher and talks about her all the time. I know the school year provides us with several times to express our gratitude towards those who teach our children. We just celebrated Teacher Appreciation Week. If you are like me, I am always trying to find the best gift I can to show the teacher our thanks.

I started making Acrylic Clip Boards this past year for holiday presents for my co-workers. They are easy to make. Relatively inexpensive. And just super cute! Here are some of the clipboards I have recently made:



Now let's get to the how to of the project. I took a class at Creating Keepsakes Convention (CKC) a few years ago on Acrylic scrapbooks. That class really helped me figure this project out easily.

The first step, as with any project, is to gather your supplies.


  •  I found acrylic clipboards all over the place (Wal Mart, Target, even Dollar General had them). 
  • I buy vinyl from Pick Your Plum every time they have a daily deal featuring it. 
  • Cricut machine. I love my machine and keep looking for reasons to use it! I have lately been thinking about purchasing a silhouette machine but I just have not made the commitment. 
  • Cricut cartridges
  • Hole Punches
The next step is to cut the vinyl.

You want the vinyl to go on the backside of the clipboard so it does not interfere with using the clipboard, so you need to cut mirror images of the vinyl. I simply put the vinyl onto the sticky mat upside down.

I make sure the pressure is up as high as it can on the Cricut machine. The needle has to cut through the vinyl and the paper backing.

Select your font, select your design, and CUT!


Turning the clipboard over so you are working with the back view, next start layering. Normally in scrapbooking you layer from the bottom to the top but in working with acrylic clipboards you want to layer in reverse. You want to layer from the top back.

I started with a simple saying, "You're the best". Then I added a gold ribbon. Use a credit card or something flat to smooth out any bubbles. .

(NOTE: The bubble showing in the photo on the right hand side is not on the acrylic clipboard at all. In fact, my husband decided to iron on our kitchen table and it made the varnish bubble!)


Still working from the back, continue layering until all the layers are added. I realized after I made this clipboard for our kindergarten teacher that depending on your design you might be able to take this another step.

                                .


When you are finished, turn the clipboard over and admire the view from the front. 



I added the teachers name and the clip board was finished.  I think if you wanted to, you could tie ribbon to the clip attachment. The names are a bit tricky. Just always be mindful that what you are working with has been cut out backwards, needs to be stuck down backwards, but you want it to look right when you are finished! With that in mind from the back view, the M in Mrs. was actually on my right hand side and moved to the left. Which is contradictory to how we write! It took my brain a few seconds to figure out that the wrong way was the right way for this project. 


If you wanted to, from the back you could finish layering from top to bottom and then layer again from bottom to front to give the clipboard the same look from front to back.

I did that on the Mickey Mouse Clipboard:

                                  

These clipboards are a great gift for anyone who uses a clipboard frequently. Teachers, trainers, coaches, and medical staff all use clipboards. They are an easy way to show your appreciation and to brighten their daily life just a little!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Tour of Missouri: Wallace State Park

The Husband and I are getting really good at the hitching up and pulling out of the driveway. This time it only took us 15 minutes!

Less than an hour drive from our home we visited our second state park; Wallace State Park in Cameron, Missouri.  The park has four campgrounds, a lake with a swimming spot, and nice nature trails surrounding the area. 

We used the online camping reservation system to make our reservations. The nice thing about the system are the photos of each campsite. We tried our best to find the perfect camping spot and I think we scored a jackpot!  We were close to a line of trees, had nice shade, and a play area very close to our campsite. 

                                                                                                                                                                                            

We all went for a hike on Saturday so we could log our 100 Missouri Miles.  The surroundings were so green and pretty! I was able to get some great photos along the way. The May-Apple plants were actually in bloom. If you look under those big green leaves you might catch a glimpse of a flower underneath.  If I understand it correctly only the May-Apple plants with two leaves produce a flower. The flower will eventually lead to a May-Apple fruit.


The trails are interlinking so you can start off on one trail and wind your way to another. It is always helpful to know the color of trail you need to find your way home. Or you leave bread like Hansel and Gretel.

Our path lead us to this long bridge.


This bridge lead us to the lake.


Of course any amount of trail walking can lead you to finding unwanted friends. The Short Chic found two ticks crawling on her. Each time we had been on the trail less than five minutes before she came running and telling us she had a bug on her.  Her friend Katelynn proclaimed that The Short Chic was the bravest girl in the world because the tick was the scariest thing ever!  Katelynn had no idea but she permanently etched a memory in our hearts!



Some times when you are older it is more fun to explore off the path. The Boy decided to follow the creek bed instead of the marked path. Ironically, he found no unwanted friends.

The Short Chic  spied several snails. She has since proclaimed herself the "Snail Finder!"


Nature is just an interesting thing, to me at least.  I love how the creek in this photo is dry but you know it is not always dry. It is often powerful enough to erode the ground from this trees trunk. In the end, it creates a very eye-catching sight that makes your stop and look while hiking.


It might also be true that Missouri is not flat. In fact, we are rather hilly which means when you walk downhill you also will have to walk uphill. 


Another truth is that 2.5 miles might seem like a lot to a group of six year olds. Of course, it helps to have Mommy drag you hold your hand up the hill.


Despite all hope we did not spy a single Morrel Mushroom on this hike. Mother Nature is not cooperating with the rain needed to help them grow. 


And of course, you can always count on a teenager to have their nose in the electronic devises no matter the surroundings.  (The good news, you still have cell service at Wallace State Park!)


Saturday afternoon one of our worst fears about camping materialized. The storm clouds moved in. It got dark. Radar showed strong winds, large hail, and even a devastating tornado hitting a small town an hour or so away from where we were camping. I have added a radio weather or a working cell phone with a radar app installed as a necessity for the camper. Angie recommended the app, Intellicast.


We got so lucky. The storms split us (one went south of us and one went north). We found out that in fact our camper can hold 13 people when it needs to, which is where we all went for the few moments that it did rain at the campsite.  

Do you see those five kids on that bed? (Well, you can't actually see two of them, but I assure you there are five.) They were full of sand when they came in from the rain. Sand that they deposited in MY BED! Lesson learned: leave those little one's outside when it rains so the rain can wash off their dirt!


I am also happy to report that the new camper is now well insured! The whole time the storms were circling us The Husband and I could barely look at each other knowing we were not insured and knowing if hail came our way the canvas would be no match.


Since the rain amounted to drizzles, we were able leave the camper and continue to cook dinner. We opted for dutch oven lasagna and garlic bread made on the open fire.


After a long day of hiking, it was a welcome meal.


Even the young picky eaters enjoyed the meal!


After dinner, we sat about making tin can ice cream. My dear friend Meeghan showed us how to make this ice cream using two tin cans a few summers ago and we have enjoyed her family tradition. 


We had a wonderful Mother's Day weekend spent camping. We spent time with some old friends and some new friends. My Momma showed up and spent some time relaxing at the campsite. She brought bubbles for the kids. She even made up some heavy duty bubble mix using corn syrup. Some of the bubbles were the size of softballs!


We have now officially visited two state parks on our quest to receive the Missouri Camper Award. 
We added another 3.5 miles to our 100 Missouri Miles initiative. That brings my total up to 16 miles.

New Here? Check out our tour of Missouri!

Ha Ha Tonka State Park

Watkins Mill State Park