Bear Lake

My kids spent the first three weeks of July counting down the days until we got to visit the Loosli Family in Bear Lake. Each year, they spend the entire month of July at the lake with their extended Eyre Family.

To say my kids have missed the Looslis would be an understatement. Rachel and Lucy had a difficult time remembering that Eliza was out of town, repeatedly asking if they could invite her to go places with us. Adam begged (daily) if he could go play at Oliver and Silas's house. And Kaleigh cried for Ashton. (Actually, she still does.)

The day finally came, and the kids were reunited with their friends:

The little kids went for a ride on the sailboat (pulled on the beach by a tractor):

And the big kids did some tubing:

There was also dancing on the dock:

Playing in the sand:

Soaking in the hot tub:

And then there was the part we should have skipped. Or rather, Steve should have skipped.

He could have stopped himself here:

Or here:

But he says he couldn't resist the peer pressure from these guys:

And Steve ended up on the wakeboard. It was his first time since we went with Kyle and MaRea years and years ago. I think I was pregnant with. . . Rachel? (That would have been nine years ago!)

He paid the price later that night. And into the early morning hours. (Steve told me the next day that he almost went to the hospital!) And he was still in serious pain a few days later. Poor guy called me from work and said he couldn't open the door. But at least he showed those boys he could wakeboard!

We enjoyed some great discussions (added to by some other visiting friends, who had recently returned from living in India for 18 months with their young family). I was enlightened, inspired, and I also partly modified some of my plans for international travel with my kids.

In addition, we had the opportunity to meet some of rest of the Eyre family. Let me just say that they are quality people. Every single one of them. Linda is one of the most genuinely kind women you will meet, and Richard was always seen holding a grandchild or engaging in a riveting conversation with his children. (He also told me he walked around the corner and thought he saw Mickey Mouse's shadow. . . but it was just Kaleigh's hair.)

And before there are any more questions- yes, I met Shawni. And she appeared to be completely amazing and completely normal at the same time. I had no idea how much of a celebrity she was until everyone started asking me about her :) I am relieved that my life is not examined as closely as hers is. But good news: I won't ever have to worry about becoming Mother of the Year because I just went inside and warned my kids NOT to follow me because I was going in to get away from them!

We enjoyed great food (Steve brought dinner from Sonora Grill) and the kids played in the water until the sun went down:

So thankful for this friendship between Rachel and Eliza:

And the friendship we have with the whole Loosli family.


TV Famous, Blog Famous, and Gracie Famous

A couple of weeks ago, my sister asked me if I knew a 10-year old girl who would like to be a model for a photo shoot for The Food Nanny. My niece, Gracie, happens to be my favorite 10-year old girl, so she got the job.

I took all of the girls with me, and we drove down to the delightful home of Leah Wright, otherwise known as Shimmy Girl. Gracie met her fake dad and her fake mom and was assigned to sit at the kitchen table and play with her phone, instead of eating dinner. She was told to act annoyed and irritated, which Gracie did indubitably well. When the photographer complimented her on the great looks she was giving, she wittingly replied that she had had some practice. Gracie was absolutely perfect.

I had told the girls that they were going to meet someone famous (referring to Courtney Kendrick). Rachel very eagerly waited for her to arrive. In the meantime, she got to meet Liz Edmunds, who was very much friendly and energetic. (I will admit I had not heard of The Food Nanny before this, but anyone with a weekly television show is "famous". . . right?)

Lucy spent a lot of the time playing outside in the fabulous yard, but Rachel stayed close to watch all of the action (and play with the little kids):

While we were waiting for lunch to arrive, they all pretended to be models:

You can see much better images of the photo shoot here. (My pictures were quickly snapped with my phone while trying to keep an eye on my other kids, one of whom seemed determined to wreck the immaculate house.)

Pretty safe to say the four girls had a good time:

That night, when we were selling fresh herbs at the farmer's market, I heard Rachel yell out, "Come buy your lettuce and herbs from the famous, Gracie Ballard!"

Be sure to let me know when you see the ad debut in LDS Living or The Deseret News.

And if you want to tune into CW30 on Sunday at 9:00 pm, you might recognize someone else who just became famous. (Hint: she looks darling in a cowgirl hat.)


Grand Targhee Music Festival

After a few terrible mishaps, I have learned that Steve expects present for him on Father's Day. Things that he wants. Sometimes he submits lists. Sometimes those lists are ridiculously long. So sometimes I ignore the lists and try my luck with a surprise gift instead.

Steve found out that the Grand Targhee Music Festival was taking place the same weekend as Outstanding in the Field and mentioned a few times that Josh and Kelsey had purchased tickets, hinting that he would like to go too.

I'm not a big concert-goer and wasn't yet feeling great, so it was pretty easy to make Steve think that the music festival was out of the question. But in June, I bought two tickets, reserved a campsite, and hoped I would be able to handle the long weekend by mid-July.

Steve was very excited (and surprised) to receive the music festival tickets for Father's Day. He did, however, refuse and return the gifts Rachel and Lucy chose for him. Steve can be picky. . . hence the lists.

We went to Outstanding in the Field on Friday night, had a rough (cold) night camping at our beautiful campsite at Teton Canyon Campground, and then met Josh, Kelsey, Dalton, Holly for brunch in Driggs, Idaho:

We almost didn't go there because of the laughable name, but it claimed to offer "global flavors using local ingredients" so we decided to give it a try. It was not at all what I would have expected to find in a small town, like Driggs, and we were pleasantly surprised by the menu choices (Latin, Greek, and American). I ordered the Inca Plate, which was made with quinoa, roasted root vegetables, curry sauce, and warm corn tortillas. Everything we ate tasted fresh and healthy; even the Idaho potato french fries were advertised as freshly cut, never frozen. On a scale of definitely not likely, somewhat not likely, likely, probably likely, and extremely likely, I am extremely likely to eat at Miso Hungry every time I go through Driggs.

The owner was the only one working front of the house and had her hands full with seven or eight tables. Steve and Josh had a difficult time relaxing because they wanted to refill drinks and bus tables for the other customers. Steve couldn't hold himself back and ending up clearing our table, seating some guests, getting them menus, and giving them some recommendations as we left. I think that's a pretty good indication that he loves his line of work.

And then we were off to the music festival. The Saturday schedule at the Grand Targhee included performances by Sarah Bareilles, James McMurtry, Jackie Greene, and Michael Franti. The singers were all strangely accessible to anyone who wanted to meet them.

This is Sarah Bareilles telling Holly she is sorry that she can't take any pictures with fans. (She was actually super nice, and it seemed like she had been told to say that.) Naturally, I hurried and took a quick photo:

The temperature was blazing hot throughout the afternoon, but as soon as the sun started to go down, things cooled off. And people really started to loosen up. The people-watching was spectacular:


We were again pleasantly surprised by the food options at the festival. We snacked on edamame and had thai curry for dinner. Michael Franti was seen wandering around the festival, eating food, and mingling with people. The thing to do seemed to be to take a picture of him holding your little kid. We didn't have any little kids with us, so we just took a picture of ourselves, without Michael Franti.

Michael Franti is an engaging entertainer and has a commanding, yet seemingly effortless voice. Steve and I were enjoying his performance from a distance, but we ended up with front row seats when Michael Franti came out into the audience to sing.

And that worked out kind of well for me because I was completely spent and ready to fall asleep.

Of all the performers, Michael Franti was probably the most family-friendly. In one of his final songs, he invited all of the kids and anyone over 60 to come on the stage and sing with him. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy who really cared about people.

Yes, that is Steve bee boppin in front of the camera at the beginning:


A great Father's Day gift, if I do say so myself.

Oh yeah. I went to sleep in our tent that night, very much aware of the recent fatal grizzly bear attack in nearby Yellowstone. But no bear attacked us. . . just a crazy squirrel who tried really hard to get into our tent:

P.S. We are big fans of national forest campgrounds. They are much less crowded than national park campsites, extremely inexpensive (usually only $10 per night), and the individual sites are generally larger and more spaced out, providing better privacy. Teton Canyon Campground was a great find and we will definitely stay there again. Next time, I hope I'm up for some hiking. The trailhead to a few different trails was located just past our campground, and there were quite a few people there enjoying the beautiful scenery.


Outstanding in the Field

I first heard about Outstanding in the Field back in September on Say Yes to Hoboken. (I know that I've made a lot of references to that blog recently; it turns out I really like it.)

I was enamored by the pictures and needed to know more. This description of what Outstanding in the Field is, was taken from their website:

Our mission is to re-connect diners to the land and the origins of their food, and to honor the local farmers and food artisans who cultivate it.

Outstanding in the Field is a roving culinary adventure - literally a restaurant without walls. Since 1999 we have set the long table at farms or gardens, on mountain tops or in sea caves, on islands or at ranches. Occasionally the table is set indoors: a beautiful refurbished barn, a cool greenhouse or a stately museum. Wherever the location, the consistent theme of each dinner is to honor the people whose good work brings nourishment to the table.

Ingredients for the meal are almost all local (sometimes sources within inches of your seat at the table!) and generally prepared by a celebrated chef of the region. After a tour of the site, we all settle in: farmers, producers, culinary artisans, and diners sharing the long table.

I immediately sent Steve an email with a link and told him to add it to his "someday" file. (Tickets run about $200 per person.) When the schedule was released in March, and we saw Jackson, Wyoming on the list, Steve told me to buy six tickets and we would make a business trip out of it. (The part about me being stuck in bed, recovering from surgery and really needing something to look forward to might have had something to do with Steve being willing to spend $1200 on dinner.)

We dropped our four kids off with three different kind-souled families and drove to Jackson without any kids for the first time in ten years. It was almost nostalgic. (Steve claims he fell in love with me on our first trip to Jackson in the summer of 2001.) We love Jackson.

We were some of the first guests to arrive at Mead Ranch. The long table was set in a freshly mowed section of the pasture. And I suddenly wished we had brought a photographer along with us to better capture the simple beauty.

We enjoyed various hors d'oeuvres prepared by guest chef, Richie Billingham of 43 North and went on a wagon tour of the ranch, given by host farmer, Kate Mead. (The horses' names were Lucy and Grace.)

After a quick introduction to the ranch and brief history of Outstanding in the Field, it was time for dinner.

The famous-on-facebook newlyweds, Kelsey & Josh:

Steve and me:

Somehow, I failed to get a picture of the third couple in our group, Dalton and Holly. Dalton is the son of former Denver Broncos defensive end, Rulon Jones. His family runs two hunting ranches in Liberty, UT and Blackfoot Mountains, ID. Dalton is an aspiring restauranteur, currently employed at Sonora Grill.

The other company at our table was fantastic, as well. On one side of us was a small group from Casper, WY who eagerly asked questions about Sonora Grill and had an engaging conversation with Holly about autism. On the other side was a couple who own an art gallery in downtown Jackson. A few seats down from us sat Kate Mead, owner of the ranch and some of the winemakers. (We might have lost our credibility with the art gallery owners when they asked where we were staying and I told them we were camping.)

The farmers, ranchers, and winemakers who had contributed to the meal walked around during dinner and met everyone.

I only managed to take a couple pictures of the food because I was too distracted enjoying it. I wish I would have at least taken a picture of the menu so I could remember what everything was.

The food was beautifully presented and tasted good, but we were a little surprised that it was not spectacular. Don't get me wrong, it was an elegant meal with classy ingredients, just not prepared perfectly. We are, admittedly, a tough crowd to please, but we heard others at the table whispering about the dry meat, etc. as well. But I enjoyed my newfound ability to eat without getting sick and had more than my share of the food, which was served family-style. The highlight of the dinner was the first course of heirloom tomatoes with fresh basil and truffle oil. Wine was served with each course, and they even provided a non-alcoholic drink for me and Steve.

The setting was impeccably beautiful and the atmosphere was perfectly serene, which more than made up for the slightly disappointing food. Too bad those rolling hills were blocking the view of my Tetons.

Outstanding in the Field founder, Jim Denevan, and Eden Reilly:

Bottom Line: Our dinner was unforgettable. Such an incredible memory. The experience was well-worth every penny. I will eagerly look forward to other opportunities to attend (or possibly host) other dinners with Outstanding in the Field in the future. (We are going to send them information about Dalton's ranch in Liberty, in hopes of hosting in the future.)


Am I the Only One

Seriously. . . am I the only one who didn't know about CafePress? Rebecca claims she told me about it before, but I guess I wasn't listening. The Team Ballard store was way too fun to create. . . my mind is spinning with all sorts of ideas. Next up should probably be a Sonora Grill store. Rachel will be so excited to finally get a t-shirt.

Please note that this is not a political endorsement. Team Ballard shirts were made as a birthday gift for my sister-in-law, Angie (and subsequently, the rest of the family).

Angie: I had lots of laughs as I scrolled through your old blog posts to find your original post about Team Ballard. And just think of all of the I Love Mike paraphernalia you can make at CafePress!!!


Animated Gif

I read how to make an animated gif on Say Yes to Hoboken, but since I don't have Photoshop, I asked my sister to make one for me. These images of Lucy from the splash park were perfect. Now I want to go back and get the kids to pose for more shots. . . and play around with the pictures myself because it turns out that you don't need Photoshop to make animated gifs. These other links and instructions were left as comments by readers of Liz's blog:

2. There's a free open source program called GIMP (Gnu Image Manipulation Program) that is similar to Photoshop in many ways. (see www.gimp.org/downloads/ for the Windows installer)

To make a simple animated gif in GIMP: add all your images as separate layers (in the order you want them to appear). Select "Save As" from the file menu. Click on "select file type", choose gif from the list, click "save", and when it gives you the option to "save as animation" or "flatten image", select "save as animation", click Export, then click Save. All done!

There are many options you can use to space out the frames, etc. (google "GIMP and animated gifs" for tutorials), but that's the fastest way I know of in GIMP to get from a sequence of photos to an animation. :-)

3. Just discovered that this is available in photoscape, which you can download for free.


In Case You Were Wondering. . .

Our Christmas lights are on. The kids plugged in a strand of lights the other night, and I decided to leave them on. I'm hoping it draws enough attention that Steve will finally take them down. If nothing else, the pizza delivery guy got a good laugh out of us the other night. We have turned into those people. The ones I used to make fun of.

I have gained ten pounds. More evidence that my surgery was successful. Pros: 1. My mother will be pleased. 2. It's nice not having to wear a belt every single day. 3. It's thoroughly fun to tease Steve that fifty more pounds are coming. Cons: 1. Any more and I may have to buy new clothes. 2. As I was sitting on the beach at Bear Lake with the sun-darkened, athletic Eyre women yesterday, I became acutely aware that not only have I gained ten pounds, but I also haven't participated in any form of exercise for five months. And my legs could use some sun exposure. More on that fun day later. 3. Rachel told me I take up too much space on the rocking bench in our backyard. "Seriously, Mom, you have half the bench!"

Kaleigh was, officially, the easiest child to potty train. Easiest child ever. She still wears Pull-Ups at night and when she naps, but other than that, she is doing amazingly well. Only two accidents in three weeks. Her stubbornness has some benefits.

No more cable tv at the Ballard house. We have officially begun saving money for our trip to South Africa and, subsequently, canceled our cable. The amount of money we would have paid to Comcast over the next 18 months is equivalent to the cost of my plane ticket to South Africa. I say my ticket because I think no television affects me the most, so it should count as my ticket. The house is awfully quiet late at night when all of the kids are asleep and Steve is still at work. We will be looking for more ways to save/earn money over the next year to pay for our trip. Unless I can talk Derrick into paying for all of us. He is a hard worker and a good saver.

Adam still manages to watch a lot of tv and movies. We can pick up a few channels, including Qubo, with a rabbit ear antenna that sits on top of our flat screen television. Classy, I know. Adam spends more time watching our Living Scripture dvds than Rachel and Lucy ever did. He loves all of the fighting, and apparently, he's learning about some other things too. The other night, Steve was wearing a headlamp and Adam said, "Don't shine that light in my eyes! Do you want me to go blind and make Jesus come and put mud and water in my eyes so I can see again?"

We got a trampoline. Rebecca's friend was moving and we were the lucky recipients. Our kids are in heaven. Especially Lucy who officially "earned" the trampoline by participating in the "Fit in Six" competition with me back in February.

Steve has good timing. In our relationship, I am usually the one saying rude things. But every once in a while, Steve lets something slip from his almost-always judicious mouth. And it's probably because of its rarity that I get mighty offended when it happens. It happened last night. He spent the morning apologizing. I was still upset until I got the mail and saw an envelope addressed to Emily Ballard from Steve Ballard. He told me it was a funny story why he actually mailed the card the other day. All I know is that the timing was perfect because it's almost impossible to be mad at someone who sends you a card like this:

P.S. I am still going to write all about Outstanding in the Field and the rest of our trip to Jackson. Soon. Because it was awesome.


Panoramic Weekend

I downloaded a really neat iPhone app called Pano a couple weeks ago and used it for my first (and second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth. . . ) time this weekend. The app makes it super easy to create images with elongated fields of view, which was absolutely perfect to capture the long table at Outstanding in the Field. Pano provides a semi-transparent shadow that helps you line up consecutive photos, and then it carefully aligns, blends, and stitches the pictures together, almost flawlessly. I had so much fun creating beautiful panoramic pictures with my iPhone that I had a hard time putting it down to take photos with my real camera. Pano is on sale for only $1.99 and is now one of my very favorite apps.

After I get unpacked and catch up on the dishes and laundry, I will post more pictures with details about our incredible weekend. But, until then, enjoy these panoramas:

Mead Ranch in Jackson, Wyoming

Outstanding in the Field

Grand Targhee Music Festival
Blankets and chairs are mostly unoccupied at this point in the day because it was hot!

Grand Targhee Music Festival
Much more relaxing once the sun went down. (This picture didn't turn out very well. The blanket next to the blue cooler is a little messed up. . . as it the lady sitting in the chair above it.)

Teton Canyon Campground near Driggs, Idaho
More pictures to come. Like one showing what the crazy attacking squirrel did to our tent.