**Yes, I know this is in Iowa, but it’s easily something that someone in Nebraska could do.

Today the family took a day trip to Mount Crescent Ski Area in Crescent, Iowa. Dave and I can now proudly add this small mountain to our “I didn’t realize there was skiing there!” locations that includes Mad River Mountain, Ohio, Mountain Creek (formerly Vernon Valley), New Jersey, and several resorts in South Korea.

From 2009 12 28 Mount Crescent Ski Area

First off, realize that this is the first time Dave and I have skied since we’d had kids. We skied almost annually every year we were dating/were married from 1994-2002. I was about 12 weeks along with Jacob when Dave and I took our AFIT graduation trip to Lake Tahoe in March 2002. Dave and I like to think we’re decent-enough skiers.

So combine the fact we hadn’t skied since 2002 with our never having to pay for more than just a pair of lift tickets for Dave and me.

That being said, we were met with the shell shock of the price tag for a family of 4 to ski, rent equipment for the kids, and get 90 minutes of semi-private lessons for the boys — with one of the kids skiing for free at age 4: over $200! Phew. Plus lunch at the slopes, and dinner on the way home. Our checkbooks were still in shock from Disneyworld!

What’s really sad is that Mount Crescent is probably one of the least expensive ski opportunities there is! I looked at all the other ski mountains Dave and I had been to that might have cost the same, and they cost more! So if we’re going to make this a routine family outing, I’d better up my AF Reserve work!

Dave had to wait about 45 minutes just to get our lift tickets, and we got quite annoyed. I was imagining the minutes ticking away from our day. It turned out the computer system was down and the attendants were having to manually calculate our bills. Thankfully the credit card machine was working!

From 2009 12 28 Mount Crescent Ski Area

The boys didn’t have their lesson till about 2 hours after we started skiing, so Dave and I worked with the boys some on little fundamentals. The boys seemed cooperative, and after about 45 minutes of letting the boys ski down to us, then pushing or pulling them back up the hill, we convinced them to take the lift up to the top of a green run. Timmy had a blast — he just pointed his skis down and went. Stopping was an issue (which the lessons helped with immensely), but he was having a ton of fun. Jacob, on the other hand…not so good. He took his first spill about 20 feet from the end of the lift and was in tears after that.

Uh oh.

We had to explain very carefully to Jacob that the only way down the hill was for him to simply go, and that we had arranged a lesson for him later on and we REALLY hoped he’d be cooperative for the lesson. It was slow going, but he made it with a lot of help! He calmed down with a snack and a chance to warm up in the lodge before his lesson.

From 2009 12 28 Mount Crescent Ski Area

Both boys had a fabulous time with their lesson and their confidence was well-boosted, and we spent another 2 hours skiing and had so much fun. Dave and I would take turns with each of the boys…with Timmy, we could ski at speed and still not keep up with Speedy Gonzales, but with Jacob, while he’s a champ at the snowplow, he’s VERY CAREFUL. I would just snowplow with him, giving more pain to my already-anguished thighs from last night’s plyo workout.

From 2009 12 28 Mount Crescent Ski Area
From 2009 12 28 Mount Crescent Ski Area

NOTE: The boys didn’t keep the poles for long. After about an hour both boys relinquished them for the rest of the day.

From 2009 12 28 Mount Crescent Ski Area

In summary, we had a great time and both boys would enjoy more ski trips. This is a tiny little ski area, but definitely a great place for the boys to establish confidence. The ski conditions were exceptional, since it was about 10-15 degrees F most of our time there, with snow flurries most of the afternoon. None of that softened snow freezing into ice sheets at sunset like Dave and I typically experience in the northeast!

In other news, as I’d mentioned before, Dave and I hadn’t skied since March 2002, meaning our equipment hadn’t been used since March 2002. While our skis, bindings and poles — albeit out-of-ski-fashion — worked well, my boots each developed visible cracks in the plastic when I put them on. They didn’t seem mission-terminating, so I used them today, but I’ll definitely need to start looking for new boots soon.

I’d also like to keep an eye out for second-hand equipment for the boys. If anyone knows of any good sources, let me know!

27. December 2009 · 4 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,
From 2009 12 19 WDW Vacation Day 2

I didn’t make a big deal out of this beforehand, but for Christmas the Vollmers took a vacation to Walt Disney World! We were there from December 18-23rd and the flight home on the 24th was pretty scary. Dallas-Fort Worth Airport cancelled the next flights to Omaha after ours left. We flew out around 2:40pm. Phew!

It’s rare for us to take a traditional vacation like this. As a military family, we’re typically pretty far from our extended families and Dave’s vacation time is usually dedicated to visiting our parents…the kids’ grandparents. Our last non-family vacation was 2 1/2 years ago.

But how could we resist? We were able to take advantage of Walt Disney World’s 2009 military promotions, both for the hotel room and for the tickets. So all 4 of us enjoyed 5-days of Park Hopper benefits for about the price of one 5-day Park Hopper!!

We had a wonderful time this past week, the boys were very well behaved despite getting about 90 minutes less sleep per night than usual, and we managed to fit in everything we were interested in doing in all 4 of the Walt Disney World parks. We stayed at the Caribbean Beach Resort, which offered an outstanding deal for military families. Jacob and Timmy met 21 characters, we had the standard “breakfast with the characters” and I got my grown-up fix with the fantastic Spirit of Aloha dinner show on our last evening at the resort.

NOTE: We received a lot of questions about why we didn’t stay at the Armed Forces Shades of Green Resort which is near the Magic Kingdom. Dave and I had stayed there before when we were younger, but this time around we didn’t make the arrangements in time, so we could only get a suite for Christmas week (which we didn’t need), and with Dave’s rank, we’d have been paying about twice as much for the suite as what we got at the Caribbean Beach. No need for a suite, all we did in the room was sleep.

We had debated taking a trip while we were still living in NC — we’re very glad we waited, though. Timmy’s now 45″ tall and the break point for many of the more-thrilling rides is 44″. Only two of the attractions were off-limits to Timmy: The Rockin’ Roller Coaster at Hollywood Studios and the Primeval Whirl at Animal Kingdom. We definitely were able to live with that. Both boys will proclaim that the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is their favorite ride. DINOSAUR at Animal Kingdom ended up being quite frightening, Timmy was rather spooked afterwards….

We took advantage of the Disney Dining Plan during our stay. The link at the Disney World website is very vague about it, so I’ll include this one that provides MUCH more detail. The pricing for 2010 is a bit more than we paid, but you get the gist. For about $102 per night of hotel stay, our family (2 adults, 2 kids) enjoyed 2 complete meals plus one set of snacks each day. Do you come out ahead? Well, if you aren’t doing anything except Disney World during your visit, it’s an outstanding deal. Several Downtown Disney restaurants are included in the promotion, so we even had a great dinner at Wolfgang Puck’s one of our nights there. It would have been difficult for us to spend less than $100 per day on meals, so by having prepaid for the meals with the hotel payment, we didn’t have to make such a big deal about what our meals would cost. It’s great for budgeting the food portion of a Disney vacation.

It’s also great for things like the $36-per-person buffets — we loved the Tusker House Mediterranean/African buffet at Animal Kingdom and the boys enjoyed breakfast with the characters at Chef Mickey’s — and the $60-per-person Spirit of Aloha dinner show. With the dining plan, we could choose those types of meals and definitely come out ahead! Even the “Quick Service” fast-food style meals were rarely less than $50 for the 4 of us.

It’s a LOT of food. Every quick service and table service meal (when not a buffet) included desserts for each of us, most of the time we’d save the quick service desserts for later snacks (usually cookies, fruit, or their yummy famous Mickey-ear Rice Krispy treats), thus freeing up our daily snack allowances for bagel/cereal breakfasts in the morning.

On occasion Disney World offers vacation packages that include a FREE Disney Dining Plan. They had a very generous promotion in 2009, but we didn’t travel during the inclusive dates (we missed it by a day!).

Oh, one more thing — Disney won’t come right out and tell you this, but even if you pay for kids on the meal plan, we weren’t restricted to the kids’ menu for the Quick Service fast-food style meals. This came up at a Noodle House-style restaurant (near the Lilo and Stitch attraction at Magic Kingdom). Jacob wanted noodles, but the kids’ menu was only chicken strips or macaroni and cheese. It didn’t matter for the Quick Service, Jacob was allowed to order adult portions. At the more formal settings, they’re a little more strict, although at buffets it didn’t matter, and 4 of our 6 Table Service meals were buffets or homestyle where all 4 of us ate the same thing. I was happy about this because I wasn’t looking forward to my boys eating nothing but pizza, cheeseburgers, nuggets and mac/cheese for a solid week. Other great Disney Dining Plans tips can be found here.

Which brings me to my next story. On our 2nd day at the parks, Timmy had cheese pizza and chocolate milk at Pizza Planet for lunch, Mickey Ears ice cream for a snack, then a cheese quesadilla and chocolate milk at Wolfgang Puck’s for dinner. When we went to the Lego Store at Downtown Disney, all that cheese and milk caught up with him and he barfed right on the edge of the children’s play area outside the Lego Store. Poor little guy. No, I didn’t take any pictures, don’t worry! After he got sick, he seemed fine and begged to stay and play — he also didn’t make a mess of his clothing, which was a miracle! Were it not for how, um, neatly he got sick, I probably would have packed us all up and went back to the hotel.

We found out that many of our friends were taking their Disney vacations at the same time. We were able to meet one of our Air Force friends (who I was deployed with this past year), Rose, and her fiance’ Brad and his sister Wendy, at Hollywood Studios for lunch, and we also met one of Dave’s former NC State classmates, Nicole, at EPCOT for dinner in Mexico. It was fun to catch up with friends!

Enjoy these photo albums from the trip. I’ve captioned the pictures, so they’ll describe themselves.

2009 12 18 WDW Vacation Day 1
2009 12 19 WDW Vacation Day 2
2009 12 20 WDW Vacation Day 3
2009 12 21 WDW Vacation Day 4
2009 12 22 Walt Disney World Vacation Day 5
2009 12 23 Walt Disney World Vacation Day 6
05. December 2009 · Comments Off on Let’s Have a Debate: "Real" vs. "Fake" Christmas Songs · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

A couple nights ago Dave and I were riding in the car, twirling through all of our Christmas music options — we have 2 local stations offering holiday tunes, plus the “Holly” station (XM Channel 23 — we have a 90 day free trial with the new truck) and our respective iPods have Christmas music playlists that we can pipe through our car stereo.

Ashanti’s Christmas Melody came on and Dave and I got into a discussion of why we can’t find a station that just plays the “classics”. We’re both in agreement that Christmas Shoes is one of the saddest songs ever and we don’t care for it. I don’t feel too joyful when I hear it. Sorry if that’s just me. I know the song means well.

This led to a debate about Christmas being a time for being especially kind to others…but is that really Christmas? Isn’t Christmas fundamentally a celebration of the birth of Jesus, and not of buying things?

Or was Christmas originally a Pagan winter solstice festival celebrated by the Romans?

So here’s the deal: What do you think of all these pop stars coming out their their own Christmas tunes? Redefining classics year after year.

I’m mixed. I really enjoy when the pop stars record renditions of the classics (such as this Barenaked Ladies holiday hit here).

But not all of them.

There are several original holiday recordings that I like, such as Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas Is You.

But again, not all of them.

Dave’s claim is that “the classics” include not only the traditional songs (Silent Night, O Holy Night, Away in a Manger), but also some neo-classics, such as White Christmas, Ruldolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman. He’ll even put the original Charlie Brown Christmas songs in that category.

I’m crying foul at that, that White Christmas and Rudolph were probably regarded similarly to Christmas Shoes. A modern-day non-traditional Christmas song that hits the charts and becomes very popular.

So…what’s MY favorite Christmas song? Harry Connick, Jr.’s arrangement of Silver Bells. I particularly enjoy all his big band holiday arrangements.

Dave’s favorites? I’m going to guess that his favorite holiday album is Canadian Brass’s “The Christmas Album”. He really enjoys any of the classics on that album, performed in their full brassy glory 🙂

Merry Christmas friends!
03. December 2009 · Comments Off on Worm Update…Let’s Get It ON! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , ,

Just call me Heidi Fleiss.

After all, I was pimping out my pumpkin flowers earlier this summer.

Winter has finally arrived here this week. It’s 26 degrees F outside right now, with a low of 22 expected overnight, and lows in the teens later this weekend. And windy too. So our house is beginning to cool down and my worm bin, which has been in the basement since they first arrived at the end of August, now has to move upstairs as our (unfinished) basement plunges into the 50s.

After some growing pains with how often to feed the worms (tip: always err on the side of underfeeding), and moisture control resulting in white mites, and escapism, I discovered about a pound of food every 10 days does the trick.

So after 3 months, I now have half of the bin filled with rich, black castings, and I’m starting up the opposite side with new materials.

Tonight, when I checked on the worms after moving them upstairs — where the light is much better — I discovered that my worm bin was filled with BABIES! I dug down some and found dozens of worm “cocoons” in the mature half of the bin. Whoo hoo!

So I’m now hosting a vermicomposting RED LIGHT DISTRICT in my kitchen!

According to a Vermicomposting How-To Site, I found this description of red worm reproduction:


Redworms have both sexes, but mating is still necessary. If the worm has a swollen band, called the clitellum, at about one third between head and tail, this means that the worm is sexually mature. Redworms mate in their bedding at different levels, sometimes even on the surface. They may mate at any time of the year. They are attracted to each other (maybe for their beautiful body face, or other irresistible qualities.) They find each other and lie with their heads in opposite direction, bodies closely joined. They produce a secretion and secrete this through their clitella, a mucus that forms a band around each of them. Sperm from each worm move down a groove into receiving pouches of the other worm. The sperm enters in a storage sac. Some time after the worms have separated, the clitellum secretes another substance called albumin. This material forms a cocoon in which the eggs are fertilized and baby worms hatch.

Redworm cocoons are round shaped and small. They change color during their development, first white, becoming yellow, later brown. When new worms are ready to emerge, the cocoons are turning red. It takes at least three weeks for the worms to develop in the cocoon. Temperature and other conditions are factors in the development of the hatchlings. Although a cocoon might hold as many as 20 eggs, usually only 3 or 4 worms will emerge. The young hatchlings are whitish with a pink tinge showing their blood vessels.”

Here’s a closeup (thanks to my new camera, which arrived today) of a worm cocoon.

From 2009 12 02 Worm Cocoons

Here’s a closeup of the “swollen band” mentioned above indicating a sexually mature red worm. If you look VERY closely just to the left of the swollen band, you can see a baby worm looping through the castings:

From 2009 12 02 Worm Cocoons

Here’s a handful of worm castings after 3 months in the bin, after they’ve consumed about 10 lbs. of food since late August. You can see a mature red worm on the left, and the yellow pearly spheres are cocoons.

From 2009 12 02 Worm Cocoons

When the sun is shining into my kitchen tomorrow or Friday, I’ll attempt to get pictures of some of the tiny baby worms, they look like little 1/4″ threads.

I’m so excited — I may actually make the investment for a REAL worm bin. We’ll see….