Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year!

Catherine's mother, Nancy, is here for a visit. She kindly agreed for a snowshoe trip at Paradise in Mt. Rainier National Park. They've had more snow since last weekend, with more than 130 inches of snow still on the ground this season.

So we packed up the car and made the trip to Mt. Rainier. The roads were a bit worse than last week, but with blue skies and sun-drenched snow-covered mountains we couldn't pass it up. We haven't seen the sun in quite some time, so it was nice to get a very big dose of sunshine.

We passed several tents and abandoned campsites on our little trek, which has me really thinking...

We stayed long enough to catch a beautiful sunset, and then made the drive back down the mountain. No avalanches, no frostbite - all safe and sound!

I'm thinking of taking Ian back up there tomorrow for some more fun in the snow. I won't be able to publish another blog before the New Years, so I'll make this my official Happy New Years wish. Have fun everybody, and best wishes for a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!


Monday, December 24, 2012

Skinner Family Christmas Letter

Well, the Christmas tree is up with the decorations and lights are on. We're ready for a happy time together to this Christmas season, and to wind down the year. And what a year it has been! I won't bore you with all of the details - for that you can read the other 70+ blog posts that Catherine and I have published here.

Suffice it to say, we've been busy. I've had a wonderful time exploring the National Park System, with day trips and camping trips in the Olympic NP, Mt. Rainier NP, Grand Teton NP, Yellowstone NP, Glacier NP, and Crater Lake NP, as well as the backcountry surrounding Mt. St. Helens. I've had so much fun exploring the wild places around here on foot and through my camera lens, alone and with my family. At work I've transitioned through a couple of jobs, as some of you are aware. I started out the year with a physical therapy student at the clinic I was running, which was both challenging and rewarding. In June I took over as the sole physical therapist providing care for every ROTC cadet nationwide, which brought me much closer to my athletic training roots. That was a long and busy 3 months, at the end of which I took a much needed vacation "out west" (as I like to say, though that would put me squarely in the Pacific Ocean from here!) to go see some of our most picturesque parks. Catherine and the kids were absolute champs, spending 3 cold (COLD in Yellowstone) nights in a tent at Grand Teton NP, Yellowstone NP, and Glacier NP. Glacier was my favorite for sheer remote and rugged beauty. We spent Ian's birthday there, and he asked if we could go back for his birthday next year. YES! Once back to work, I started to do inpatient care, which is wildly different and way outside of my comfort zone from what I've done for the past 10 years. To finish out this year I am assuming the duties as Assistant Chief of Physical Therapy. Oh yeah, and I graduated from Temple University with my Doctor of Physical Therapy degree this May. To top everything off a couple of weeks ago I found out I was selected for promotion to Major, which is kind of a big deal. When I look back on the year, I see that I have been so richly blessed that it leaves me practically speechless. I pray for a happy and blessed Christmas with you and yours, and a wonderful and prosperous New Year! Marc

This year has flown by.  I've been driving the kids all over our small part of WA state.  We started out the year with swim lessons, cub scouts, and ballet, and now no swimming, but still ballet, cub scouts and a couple of other therapies.  Thankfully both kids are comfortable swimming on their own in a pool now.  Seems as if everyone else has already shared about our travels this year.  Hmmm.  So, what else did I do this year?  I taught 2 cooking classes this past year at the local cooking school in Olympia.  One was an English Tea class in the spring, and another was a Cuban Cuisine class at the end of summer.  I also did some quick and easy recipe demos at the Taste of Christmas open house they do. 
I also got together with a friend and did A LOT of canning as soon as school started.  We did pickles, salsa, peaches, honey spiced peaches, chutney, pickled beets, jam, and ketchup.  We also froze a big batch of roasted marinara sauce and applesauce.  Since that worked out so well we combined efforts on a few homemade mixes for Christmas: Oatmeal Pancake Mix, Beer Bread, Chocolate Chip Cookies, and Hot Chocolate Mix.  I also have enjoyed trying out numerous new recipes on the family this year.  A couple of the keepers have been a Cooking Light recipe for a corn chowder with squash, and a crock pot recipe for pork chops with mustard sauce that I serve with quinoa.  I've gotten away from posting to my cooking blog when my camera died, but I'm hoping to get back into it.  It was fun sharing some of the new things I was trying with everyone. If you're interested my blog is:
One other big thing I started this fall was working on taking better care of myself.  I have been doing pilates once a week (where we are working on the reformer and other challenging apparatuses), and water aerobics (once a week in the deep water, and trying to get there a second time each week for working in the shallower pool).  I also have been starting to balance what I eat better.  So far, I've lost 8 lbs.  Hoping to get to 10 lbs by the end of the year, but not sure I'll make it. I'm happy I have a starting point to continue from next year.   Hopefully I'll have a bigger weight loss to post about next year! 
Hope you all have had a fabulous year and a very Happy Christmas!  Catherine

I had a good year. I got to go to Disneyland and I had a lot of fun. My favorite part of Disneyland was the Star Wars Jedi Training Academy. In Miami I got to go over next door to Mrs. Johnson's house and we went swimming in her pool. And after we were done we got to have ice cream. We went to three National Parks and we each got a Ranger Badge. To earn ours in Yellowstone, we had to see Beehive Geyser while it was going off.  We went to Mt. Rainier and I got a book. I am thankful that I got to have a fun time with my family. Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! Ian

In the summer I went to lots of National Parks and I got lots of tokens. Last year I was in kindergarten. And when summer came, I graduated. Now I am in the first grade! In summer it was Ian's birthday and in January it was my birthday. And I am six and a half, on January seventh I will turn seven. In Disneyland there was a hotel and there was a giant pool and there were lots of rides. I met Tinkerbell and her sister, Periwinkle. My dance teacher is really fun! I am thankful for my family and that I got to meet Tinkerbell and I got to go to Disneyland. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and have lots of fun. Leah

Merry Christmas everybody! Marc, Catherine, Ian, and Leah

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Sledding Trip to Mt. Rainier

For the past two days I've made the trip up to Paradise at Mt. Rainier for some winter fun. I took both Ian and Leah Saturday, and only Ian decided to come with me Sunday. Leah got a bit too cold Saturday, and she had no desire to revisit that experience. Saturday we did a bit of snowshoeing, and then the kids went sledding. While we have absolutely no snow here, they've had a boatload of snow so far this year at Mt. Rainier. There was just over 10 feet of snow sitting on the ground, according to the Park, compared to just over five feet this time last year. 

The Park works overtime to keep the road from Longmire to Paradise open with all that snow. I bought some tire chains that make the portion above Longmire a snap, though the height of the snow as you get closer to Paradise just towers over the car - easily 10 feet, if not more in places.

Both kids enjoyed the snowshoeing, but they were both most eager to go sledding. I walked them up the little hill and then ran back down to get their videos. The walkway was pretty well packed, but the walls built up to contain the sleds were not. I postholed up to my hip on one step! Luckily I was able to dig myself out in time for Leah to go zinging by.

Then it was Ian's turn. As usual, he didn't want to give it a go at first. But then it was like pulling teeth to get him off that mountain! I'm glad they both had fun, though.

After sledding, I thought we'd go for a short walk. Both kids agreed, but by the time we had left the parking lot the wind had picked up and Leah was complaining about being cold. So that walk wasn't very far.

Then today, since the one day snowshoe rental is actually 2.5 days in length AND I had the time, Ian and I went back to Mt. Rainier to do some more snowshoeing. We had a very nice time once again at Paradise.

It was as close to a perfect winter wonderland as I think I'll ever find.


Friday, December 21, 2012

Enjoying Christmas Break

I've been enjoying my half-day schedule this past week (and eagerly anticipate a long weekend followed by another half-week of half-days; sometimes life is tough). The kids started their Christmas break too, so today once I saw the sun shining I took the kids for a walk. No sooner did we hit the woods though, than the sun decided to hide behind some clouds.

It was a bit chilly, but still nice to get some fresh air. We had some snow earlier this week and are planning another trip to Mt. Rainier tomorrow - this time with snow shoes! The mountains have had at least three storms dump 1-3 feet of fresh snow each since our last trip their two weeks ago. Can't wait!

Have a wonderful day everybody, and enjoy the last of the Mayan Nonpocalypse!


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Winter fun at Mt. Rainier National Park

I don't know why I haven't made the effort to get to Mt. Rainier in the winter before, but I'll definitely be spending some time their this winter! I dragged the kids along for the fun. The plan was to drive to Longmire in the southwest corner of the park and then put on the tire chains for the drive to Paradise. Someone had had an accident so the road was closed to up-going traffic. We made the best of the situation though, and walked around the Longmire area.

To be clear, we haven't seen any snow where we live this year. We've been struggling into the upper 40's/low 50's for our highs. But the mountains have had over three feet of snow this past week, on top of all of the snow they had in October and November. So the time was right.

We packed all sorts of warm gear, to including a couple of thermoses of hot chocolate, into the car and made the drive to Mt. Rainier National Park. Once we got closer to the mountains, we could see snow covering the trees up at elevation. There was snow on the ground just a mile or two outside the park gates. By the time we made the drive up to Longmire there was a fair bit of snow standing on the ground.

Ian and Leah were most interested in a snowball fight. I caught the precise moment that Leah got Ian right in the head. Don't worry, it was a total fluke and Ian wasn't hurt in the slightest. In fact he belly laughed!

We walked the "Trail of the Shadows". Snowshoes weren't necessary, as many people had walked the path and we had very firm snow. Just a bit off the trail though and I would posthole a good bit.

I didn't realize there were thermal features at Mt. Rainier National Park. There was a pond of sorts that the trail wandered around with many small bubbling springs. Very pretty streams emptied into it, and there was a cabin at the far end.

When we got back to the parking lot the traffic accident still had not been cleared, so the kids wanted to have another snowball fight. That was pretty much the highlight of their day, the multiple snowball fights. Here I caught Ian getting Leah.

The accident was finally cleared a little after 3 pm, so we took off up the mountain. Even with tire chains we didn't make it up before it started to get dark. We had planned on sledding at Paradise, but it didn't work out this time.

There is always another week though. We'll try again in a couple of weeks. Have a wonderful day everybody!