While in Billings, we stayed at the Big Horn Hotel because they have a super fun indoor water park.
If it seems extravagant to go to a water park and spend the night in a hotel for a four-year-old's birthday, I agree. But, we've been talking about checking out this water park for a year or so. Lining it up with Anders' birthday seemed to work out well (and we didn't have to host a birthday party )
The Reef Indoor Water Park turned out to be so fun. After the initial shock at the overstimulating atmosphere, we all had a great time. Anders was a little nervous at first, but Finn dove in couldn't get enough. It didn't take long for Anders to join in. Henry, mom and I loved riding the big waterslides.
The next morning we celebrated Anders' birthday over waffles at the hotel breakfast and opened presents in mom's room. (You can tell it's her room because the beds don't look like they've been jumped on.)
Wait until you see the cake I made.
The lure of grandsons is strong, and last week my mom was back in Montana. We had lots of fun playing games, reading books and painting. I even got her to help paint my bedroom.
Since it was Anders' birthday over the weekend (4 years old!) we all piled in the truck for a trip to Billings. Who wouldn't want to spend the weekend in Billings for their birthday?
Our first stop was ZooMontana.
The boys and I went to ZooMontana in fall of 2009 and fall of 2010, but neither Henry nor my mom have been there. It was high time to get them to the zoo.
A couple weekends ago I took the boys over to Homestake Lodge for a little kick and glide on the 35 km of ski trails.
It so happened that a group of women from Bozeman were spending the weekend there, and a couple of those women are good friends of mine; friends that I don't hang out with much these days, but that I wish I did.
One of those awesome gals is Mariann. I was getting ready to ski, with the boys in the Chariot, and I couldn't find Rigby. So, I left without him. "That'll teach him," I thought.
As we came around the bend (with me yelling Rigby's name and the boys telling anyone we passed that we lost the dog) here comes Rigby and Mariann. He was so excited to see her that he had to ski with her. Perhaps he remembered all the times the three of us skied and hiked together.
Smart Rigby. Mariann offered to pull the Chariot and I got to ski most of the time free of effort.
The next day I got to go skiing again. This time it was just me and my friend, Krista. We skied up Mill Creek (the Snowbank Road, actually). It was a beautiful day, a great ski and lots of fun catching up with Krista.
We finished the day with lunch at Chico and a soak.
Such a great weekend!
The other day I was at the grocery store and looked down at my cart. Once I peeked past the cute kid in the front and the other cute kid trying to get run over, I noticed that almost everything I was buying came in plastic. Even the veggies.
Now I consider myself pretty eco-conscious and there is a lot we do (or don't do) to be good to ol' Mother Earth, but somehow all this plastic has snuck up on me. It's not like we drink bottled water, but plastic is EVERYWHERE.
We'll never be totally plastic-free like the very inspiring Beth Terry at My Plastic-Free Life. We are trying to make a move that direction, however.
I started with breakfast. The boys eat cereal and yogurt every weekday morning. They have eaten this since they were each six months old.
The ingredients are:
Oatmeal (in a plastic bag inside a big cardboard box)
Ten grain cereal (Bob's Red Mill--in a plastic bag)
Blueberries (frozen--in a plastic bag)
Yogurt (in a plastic container)
You see my problem here. It turns out to be an easy fix. The two cereals I can buy in bulk at the Co-op in Bozeman. Since I drive over there once a week for work, I can incorporate a shopping trip to my Bozone day.
The blueberries have to go. I'm replacing them with raisins and other dried fruit that can be bought in bulk at the Co-op. We'll miss the blueberries, but dried blueberries are too pricey. The other trick is to find dried fruit that isn't sweetened; I don't want to add sugar to breakfast. I can dry it myself in the summer, but there is no local (or even good) fruit during the Montana winter.
We were buying the largest sized yogurt we could find, but still going through a lot of containers. I decided I would make my own. I don't really have the time or attention to detail to do it on the stove (there is a lot of heating to a specific temperature, cooling, heating...) so I bought a yogurt maker. Yes, it is mostly plastic, but it is a one-time purchase that we will use every week for a long time.
I got this one, but kind of wish I had purchased the one with eight containers instead of six. It takes about 9 hours at this altitude, so I'd rather get more made with the same amount of electricity. Oh well. I've been making it for about a month and it turns out really well.
Now, I've added milk to our breakfast, since that is what the yogurt is made from. It's not like I can buy it in glass (maybe I could find that in Bozeman, but it would be too expensive, anyway). Not sure what to do about that, but at least we are using less plastic overall.
Reducing our plastic means more planning and more time on food prep. To that end, I've made a meal plan for four weeks. I am going to rotate it three times throughout the winter and then come up with a spring plan. It took forever, but all the ingredients are listed on the weekly menu, so I can make a shopping list once a week. I also put necessary recipes in the binder so everything is together (and anyone can pick up this binder, know what's for dinner, that the ingredients are here and how to make it.) Man, I can be organized at times.
Since we live in this lovely little town of 7,000 people, I have to head over the hill (25 miles) to the big city for some shopping. It's a little ironic to have to drive 50 miles to reduce our waste, but like I said, I go to my office over there weekly anyhow.
I'm also buying all my beans, pasta, spices and grains in bulk now. And grinding our peanut butter (that sounds kind of hardcore, but just means I hold a container under the peanut grinder at the store and push the "on" button). It's all stuff I used to do, but since it requires a trip to Bozeman, I've mostly given it up. I'm back on track now.
If you are wondering why I want to reduce our plastic you can read about how plastic is unhealthy for us and unhealthy for the planet in this article.
I also want to stop buying canned goods (which is why I am buying all those bulk beans) because every can is lined with BPA. Except for a very few exceptions, but none at our store. Want to know why?
You can watch Beth Terry's awesome talk at TEDx here. How convenient.
I'll be updating you more on our plastic reduction process (PRP) because I hope it will inspire you to make a couple little changes, too.
Last weekend we took our annual ski trip with the Sacred Mysteries Bookstore crew. We skied to Tower with them last year and around the Mammoth Terraces the year before. And Tower again, the year before that, but I guess we didn't take photos.
Tower Falls is a mostly frozen waterfall in Yellowstone. In the summer you can drive within 100 yards of the falls, but in the winter you get to ski 2.5 miles up the road to see it.