Friday Links

Friday Links.

July 24, 2015

Tomatoes | The Orange Slate

 Kelp on the Beach |The Orange Slate

San Diego Garden | The Orange Slate

What fills your calendar this weekend? We have a family wedding and I am so thrilled to be celebrating two lovely people while also getting to enjoy time and conversation with family.

Some pieces while you sip your coffee this weekend:

In honor of wedding season, the wedding toast that every bride and groom should hear. (via NYT)

Tips for using Twitter. (via Buffer)

A good reason for summer parties. (via Christianity Today)

The sad story behind one of my favorite children’s books. (via PopSugar)

A lovely tradition. (via Cup of Jo)

Basking in summer tomatoes. (via Joy the Baker)

An interesting perspective on Harper Lee’s success and what other writers can learn. (via The Domino Project)

Speaking of, have you read the book everyone is talking about? everyone is talking about? My mama just bought me a copy. I’m so excited!

Why social media can be a good. (via Michael Hyatt)

An inspiring interview. (via The Chalkboard Mag)

A quick P.S.: If you follow me on Instagram or if we’re friends on Facebook, I’m taking a step back from social media for a bit. I’ve turned off my Facebook account and although I’m not sure exactly how I’m going to step away from Instagram intentionally because you can’t just suspend it, I am going to take a break from my frequent updating for a while. I’ll continue to update this blog and weekly newsletters will continue, so subscribe if you’re interested in regular updates.

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Grain Bowl: The Summer Grilling Version.

June 29, 2015

Summer Grain Bowl Title

   Summer Grain Bowl 1

Summer Grain Bowl 2

One of my favorite rituals, and one that I want to make sure I teach Miles to treasure, is that of eating together.

What better way to spend time with your toddler or small child, to instill healthy habits, and to introduce them to new delicious “real” food than to eat alongside them?

Now that we are starting to introduce Miles to more adult food, one of my favorite things to do with him during the day is to make something that we both like, sit down on the floor with him, and share.

Miles is a little obsessed with avocados and with pesto, so this is a pretty easy game to play. I make toast with avocado, sea salt, and lime juice or slice up some bread to dip in pesto and voila! Miles gets to experience new foods that he loves, I get to eat, and we spend quality time together.

This alternative to me frantically trying to find something to eat while he’s entertaining himself for 30 seconds has made our late mornings/early afternoon routines much richer and far less frantic and it gives me an excuse to introduce Miles to foods that I otherwise forget about.

A few mornings ago, I pulled out the leftovers from our grain bowl/grilled vegetable dinner the night before. (I’m a little obsessed with the grain bowl concept featured several times in my favorite magazine, Bon Appetit. If the idea of cooking bores you, try a subscription. I promise you won’t be disappointed and your life will change forever. Or something.)

I sat down by Miles and started to eat lunch with him while we played. He was SO excited to taste the savory quinoa and grilled butternut squash and I was thrilled to find yet another delicious nutritious adult dish that he would eat.

Whether you’re looking for a healthful summer dish for yourself or trying to find creative ways to introduce your baby to new, wonderful foods, this twist on the grain bowl will definitely be a summer favorite!

Summer Grain Bowl 3


1 cup quinoa

1 butternut squash

1 yellow squash

1 onion

A generous assortment of other fresh vegetables. We used 1/2 purple cabbage, a couple of bell peppers, broccoli, and cauliflower.

1/4 cup butter

2 garlic cloves

2 bouillon cubes

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup white wine

1 tsp. lemon juice


Olive oil

Chop the vegetables into large pieces, at least 1 x 2 inches. Toss everything in a few tablespoons of olive oil and a few dashes of pepper. Place in a foil baking pan and set aside.

Summer Grain Bowl | The Orange Slate

Prepare the quinoa as follows:

Saute the quinoa in 1/2 a cube of butter and 2 garlic cloves. Dissolve two bouillon cubes in 1 1/2 cups of water and add. Add 1/2 cup of wine. Add fresh herbs, 1 tsp. of pepper, and 1 tsp. lemon juice. Cover and cook on medium heat until the liquid is dissolved.

Grill the vegetables in the foil pan until the squash is soft and the vegetables are well-seared. Combine with the quinoa on a plate. I like to drizzle some creamy balsamic dressing over the whole dish.

*This post contains some affiliate links. Thanks for supporting The Orange Slate!

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My Search for The Perfect Summer Sandals.

April 23, 2015

Summer Sandals | The Orange Slate

Summer Sandals 2 | The Orange Slate

It has been the longest week – good in so many ways, but lots of early mornings and full full days. I’m also trying a new schedule/day structure with Miles to see if I can make our days a little less frantic and more peaceful and organized and it seems to be working well for him, for which I’m so grateful, but it leaves me feeling a little breathless at the end of the day.

Especially for work at home mamas, bur really for all mamas, do you find that your schedule and your juggling strategy change as your baby grows? (This feels like such an obvious question now that I’m writing it.) But seriously, do you have something that you *know* works and that sort of acts like the goal-post for structure or do you continue to flex? And when do you hit a wall and say “Ok, let’s change some things about how this day flows?” Anyway. That’s where we are.

Miles is suddenly much more active and needs a lot of intentional engagement and I am so excited that we are moving into a stage where he is discovering so much. BUT. My old (infant days) system of “I will answer all 300 emails while Miles plays quietly in his gym next to me and maybe falls asleep” is no longer functional. When Miles is up, I (or the babysitter, or Mark) needs to be focusing on Miles. And so I’m having to really think through our days and weeks carefully in advance to make sure that all of our time is organized and allocated and that Miles is getting what he needs and that Mark and I are fulfilling our work/school commitments.

I am also in the middle of a closet overhaul/packing for some summer adventures. I am not normally prone to a lot of style blogging. BUT. Summer is coming quickly and my shoe wardrobe desperately needs a little makeover. This girl needs some new sandals. Not flip-flops. SANDALS.

I love the leather gladiator styles (I’m so original, right?) and as I scrolled, I noticed that my picks were almost all falling in line with the natural leather color. I want to be able to wear this shoe comfortably all summer, but I want something dressy enough so that I can wear it without feeling like I’m dressing down – skirts, dresses, church, dinner out. You know. (So demanding. I want my sandals to do ALLLLL the work.)

I have all but given up heels for this moment in time (carrying a baby in a front-pack while wearing heels is possible, but risky, take it from someone who has tried.), so flats or nearly-flat is optimal.

So here is a run-down of the sandals I like. Which is your favorite? Cast your vote! I would love your opinions.

Summer Sandals

1. Tommy Hilfiger Ladonna. / 2. Tommy Hilfiger Leona Gladiator Sandal / 3. Steve Madden Comma / 4.Guess Rehon  / 5. Aersoles Back Atcha

I’m leaning towards a t-strap, but I really like the structured look of #3. And I like that #4 and #5 have the tiniest bit of a heel (although I would probably try to find #5 in a different color – maybe navy?).

How are you refreshing your summer closet?

P.S. I use occasional affiliate links on this site to support my work. There are a few affiliate links in this post. Thank you for reading!

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Regarding Our Summer Up North – A Short List

June 22, 2014


1. Just over two weeks ago, a moving truck came to take away our belongings. We fought D.C. traffic for one last time and headed away from the East Coast. The last two weeks have been the epitome of unabated vacation bliss as we’ve basked in the flawless early Michigan summer.

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2. Drinking morning cups of coffee on the back deck of my parents’ home is a luxury that never grows old.

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3. I woke up from a nap one day last week to find that Mark had driven an hour away to purchase five ducklings. They’re precious and soft and captivating and my mother calls the “Hippy Ducklings” because we have absolutely no idea what we’re going to do with them in six weeks. And who knew that ducks grew so fast?

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4. There are few more peaceful ways to pass a cloudy afternoon than fishing on the Boardman River boardwalk in downtown Traverse City.

5. We celebrated our first anniversary with an afternoon spent exploring the beach and pier in Manistee followed by a lovely dinner at Bluefish. In some ways, I can’t believe how quickly this year has flown by. In other ways (all good ones), it feels like Mark and I have been married forever. I can’t wait to see what Year 2 holds for us.

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6. Our little guy is due in just over two weeks. We are beyond excited to meet him.

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Grownup summer vacation is a true luxury and we are soaking up every minute of this unscheduled, unhurried time. What are your vacation plans for this summer?


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A Pony Kind of Weekend (And A Meal to Remember)

August 13, 2013

A camping meal to remember

Last weekend was blissful. A group of us headed to Assateague Island to soak in the sun and salt water and to see the ponies.

I’ve mentioned before that Mark and I have trouble packing light. (Really, it’s not Mark at all. It’s all me. I am not a camping minimalist.) But we somehow managed to add three adults to all of the gear in our little car and headed for the Bay Bridge.

On Friday evening, we arrived and set up camp, keeping an eye on the looming black clouds. Sure enough, around 10:00, a storm hit. I’m not talking about a little rain. For a while, it sounded like we were going to have to get an Ark. Torrents of rain beat against the sides of our tent. The wind lifted up a camping-neighbors’ canopy and placed it neatly into the middle of our camp.

Did I mention that K, one of the members of our party, had never been camping before? I was pretty sure that, after the storm, we were going to have to take her right back to D.C. but she survived the storm with amazing enthusiasm.

That was the low point of the trip. After surviving being drowned or blown away, Saturday’s sunshine had a fresh appeal.

We sat in the sun, splashed in the water, rented bikes and kayaks, and spied on the ponies, ate lots of bacon, and garnered lots of mosquito bites.

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I read the Misty books as a child and was ecstatic to see the famous ponies in real life. In the Misty books, cheery ponies romp along the beach, happy to show off for nosy tourists. In real life, though, the camp rangers warned us that the ponies were worse than bears. Pictures of cars and children who had been mangled by upset ponies covered the walls of the ranger stations and site bathrooms. The stories and pictures seemed a bit inflated but, needless to say, we kept a respectful distance.

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The Assateague ponies have very little sense of personal space. They are utterly unafraid of campers and would just as soon walk over an overly eager tourist as the beach sand. They even randomly saunter into the campsites, providing several minutes of suspense while the campers wait to see if they plan to trample on a tent.

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Ponies did, in fact, rumble through our camp in the middle of the night to check out the contents of one of the ice chests. Another one decided that he wanted to partake in our festivities as we sat munching oranges on the beach. He aggressively walked towards us until we abandoned our towels for safety and then he happily enjoyed our remaining orange.



Mark and I camped for an extra day after the rest of the group left. I was so excited to try out our Dutch oven for the first time. We didn’t really know what we were doing but now I am utterly hooked. I might even dig a fire pit in our front yard so that I can cook with the Dutch oven every night.

First, we chopped up some red potatoes. I doused them with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil, then added some garlic. Next, we added a pork loin, pre-packaged in a peppercorn marinade. I added a dash of red wine that I had smuggled into the park. After the potatoes and pork had cooked for about 30 minutes, we added a pile of chopped red bell peppers and half a pound of small tomatoes.

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Folks, the meal was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. The flavors blended together perfectly, the vegetables and meat cooked to perfection.


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I think the meal would work in a covered stoneware pot almost equally well. Of course, you’ll miss out on the smoky-fire-salt-air flavor if you cook this in the oven. For that addition, you’ll have to go camping on the beach.

One-Pot Pork and Potatoes

1 lb. of small red potatoes

1 pork tenderloin

1/2 lb. of cherry or grape tomatoes

2 large red bell peppers

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tbl. garlic

1 tbl. pepper

1/4 cup red wine

Quarter the potatoes. Spread them on the bottom of the pot and cover them with the olive oil. Add the garlic and pepper. Add the pork tenderloin and red wine. Cook at 375 with the lid tightly sealed for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, chop up the bell peppers. Add the chopped bell peppers and tomatoes, stirring only gently enough to ensure that the potatoes aren’t sticking to the bottom of the pot and to help spread the moisture. Cover the pot again and allow it to cook for another 30 minutes or until the meat is completely cooked. 

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Life | Table | Uncategorized

Camping Adventures and Open-Fire Chili

July 22, 2013

We escaped the brutal heat this weekend and went camping in the Shenadoah Mountains. It was perfect. Cool weather, wonderful food, fun company. Mark and I were excited to use every sigle camping related wedding-present.

I am a firm believer in the philosophy that fun camping is comfy camping. None of this dried food nonsense. Our group hauled enough food up to the mountains to feed an army. Our car was stuffed with bags of cooking equipment, bottles of wine, our ginormous French press, and a bucket of spices.

Also, no trek into the woods is complete without an air mattress. Backpackers, stop reading now. This post is about Complicated Camping.

On Friday night, Mark and I got to the site ahead of the rest of the group. It had rained shortly before and a fire was basically impossible so we had a cozy dinner featuring hummus and guacomole while Mark gathered large dead trees from the woods and we watched the threatening rain clouds.

The meals were split up into shifts and the McCords were in charge of Saturday-night dinner. Determined to avoid the typical campfire dinners, I planned to make chili and pasta salad. I’m not sure what equipment I thought would suddenly appear on the mountain but it wasn’t until 4:00 Saturday afternoon that I realized I was toe-to-toe with a cold, empty fire-pad. No grill, no stove-top, just one lonely grate, 16 cans of bean and tomato sauce, and some boxes of uncooked pasta.

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Did I mention that, although I managed to bring large quantities of kitchen goods, I also happened to forget a lighter and a can opener?

Fortunately, Mark can build a fire. Even without lighter. Also, campers are generally happy, good-willed people and a cheery mother at a neighboring site who was more prepared than I shared her can-opener.

So dinner was saved and we managed boil the pasta and cook the chili. We even threw in a skillet of tasty potatoes for the hungry, patient audiences.

Readers, dinner may have been a looming crisis and it may have taken two hours but it was so yummy. The tasty hot chili was just the ticket. Someone brought pies and s’mores and someone else brought riveting stories and our evening in the woods was complete.

Here’s a quick list of five tips for Complicated Camping that we garnered from this adventure. Next time, we’ll be experts.

1. Plan each meal down to the details. Don’t just generally envision it; actually make sure you have each ingredient, each spoon, and every dish necessary. Elaborate meals can be made over a campire if one just plans.

2. Bring as much gear as you can fit into your vehicle, but pack the basic essentials in an obvious location together. A camping trip won’t get far without a lighter, matches, and a flashlight.

3. Prep as much as possible before the trip. Cutting potatoes and vegatables, marinating meat, and mixing dry ingredients beforehand will save you from camping angst and cut down on cooking time and cleanup while on the trip. Additionally, preparation opens up the culinary possibilities for the expedition. It’s amazing what you can cook on a mountain over an open fire if it’s prepared ahead of time.

4. Bring more trash bags, Ziplocks, and paper towels than you think you need. You can store more than trash in a garbage bag. They can hold extra food, store dirty dishes, and heat-proof ice.

5. Enjoy the unexpected. All sorts of crises, surprises, and unplanned hurdles will occur. That’s why camping is fun. Make due with the supplies that you remembered, laugh, and make memories.

Open-Fire Chili

3 cans of Light Red Kidney beans

3 cans of Northern White beans

3 lbs. of ground beef

1 28 oz can of tomato sauce

2 28 oz cans of crushed tomatoes

2 6 oz. cans of tomato paste

2 tbl. garlic

2 tbl. pepper

1 tbl. chili powder

1 tbl. basil

2 cups of red wine

Cook the beef thoroughly in a skillet or shallow pan with half of the garlic and the pepper. Once the beef is cooked, combine it in a large pot with the tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, wine, and remaining garlic, pepper, chili powder, and basil. Allow it to come to a boil, stirring constanty. Simmer for an hour.

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The Times They are A’Changing

June 13, 2011

Summer is fully upon us in all of its sticky, muggy glory. When I sighed with relief this morning because temperatures were only predicted to be in the 70's, I knew this for sure. In preparation for the sunny hot days ahead, I spent some time this weekend preparing my car for the new season.

I keep a number of supplies in my car during the winter months in anticipation of an emergency or unexpected situation. However, it's important to keep one's car appropriately stocked during the summer months as well. Here's my list for my car's summer kit:

  • Water. This is a must. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are realities. Lack of water can turn a simple delay or minor breakdown into a dangerous situation during the hot summer months. In addition to keeping a bottle or canteen on hand and within easy reach, store a gallon or two in the trunk of your car or behind a back seat in case of a real emergency.
  • Flashlight. 
  • Food. Store a few simple non-perishables like granola bars and dried fruit.
  • Shoes. I travel to and from work in shoes that will be simply useless in an emergency. Keep an extra pair of comfortable sturdy shoes in your car.
  • Clothes. The long, sunny, summer days mean that impromptu outings and random adventures are bound to occur. I keep a change of casual clothes in my summer kit along with a pair of flip-flops.
  • Giant Beach Towel. A giant beach towel can double as a picnic blanket or a wrap on a cool evening.
  • Overnight supplies. Getting stuck somewhere overnight unexpectedly is no fun. But the inconveniences of a breakdown or emergency can be alleviated by keeping a few simple overnight necessities in your car. A toothbrush and some soap can make many inconvenient situations more comfortable.

What are some supplies on your summer car kit?

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Life | Table | Uncategorized

A Summer Feast

June 6, 2011
When I stepped out of the airport late the other evening, a blast of muggy warm air hit me. Warmer weather is upon us to stay, it seems, and the change in the weather demands a different kind of food, a lighter food, meant to be eaten as the golden summer air fills the evening sky.
So this weekend, I tackled Crusted Parmesan Chicken, halving the ingredients. Then I modified this recipe to create a delicious vegetable dish. I sprinkled Parmesan cheese on bread and toasted it briefly in the oven. Finally, I added some fresh fruits to the plates and my roommate and I sat down to a colorful, delicious summer meal.
Crusted Parmesan Chicken
1 package of chicken breasts (I used chicken tenderloins)
3/4 cup Progresso Italian seasoned bread crumbs
3/8 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 eggs
1 cup milk
Olive oil ( add additional oil if needed when sauteing the chicken)
Whip the eggs, milk, garlic, and pepper until thoroughly combined. Mix the bread crumbs and the Parmesan cheese together on a large plate.  Heat the oil on medium in a skillet.
Dip each chicken breast in the egg-milk mixture and then dredge the breast in the bread crumb-cheese combination. The original recipe says to do this step twice. I only did it once to save time, but a second coating would have been beneficial, although not necessary.
Place the breaded chicken breast in the heated olive oil and saute until both sides of the breast are light golden brown.  Repeat with all of the breasts. 
After each breast is sauteed, place it on a foil-lined baking sheet. Once all of the chicken is sauteed, place the baking sheet in the oven on 350 degrees and bake for 30 minutes.

Brussels Sprouts with Carmelized Onions

1 lb. Brussels sprouts

1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbls. butter
2 tsp. sugar
Olive oil
Place the onions in a pan with the butter. Sprinkle the sugar over them and saute on low heat until they become transparent, soft, and begin to delicately brown. Meanwhile, trip the stems from the Brussels Sprouts and steam until tender.
Thinly slice the Brussels Sprouts. Add garlic and Brussels Sprouts to onions and continue to saute for 5-7 minutes.

*Photos taken by Cassandra McCray

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A Summer Adventure, Part II

June 5, 2011

As I mentioned before, I’m not one of those people who thrives on heights. I wasn't exactly thrilled about the prospect of dangling 180 feet in the air. And I expected to come out on the other side of my adventures a stronger, braver, less-terrified-of-heights person than before.

But the thing about adventures is that they aren’t always what one expects.

Early in the morning, we set out with our guides, a lot of water, and climbing gear. We spent the morning on

 Two things surprised me about climbing.

1) It is a lot harder to hold on to a sheer rock wall than I had expected.

2) I barely had the mental capacity to be distracted by the height, because I was busy exhausting every ounce of energy I had on my search for hand- and foot-holds as I dragged myself upwards.

After a quick break for lunch, we set out once again. This time, we were going down.

As I waited for those ahead of me to descend the rope, I peered over the edge of the cliff. It was……a long way down.

The most psychologically daunting part about rappelling came, for me, when I discovered that, in order to begin my descent, I had to slowly lean out – backwards- over the cliff while hanging onto the rope.

Everything in me that was practical and rational defied this. Forward motion? Fine. Upwards motion? Ok. But why, I wondered, as I struggled to place my feet on the edge of the cliff, would any sane intelligent person voluntarily walk backwards into the air?

But somehow I managed, with the prodding of our guides, to get over the cliff. And then, it was all downhill, figuratively as well as literally. Halfway down, dangling 90 feet in the air, I paused for a minute to take in the stunning view. Red cliffs, dotted with green growth spread out in every direction. A creek trickled through the canyon below me.

It was then that the realization struck me that I had entrusted my life to a piece of fiber only half-an-inch thick. Panic struck me for just a brief second as I realized the hugeness of the empty space around me. But there was no turning back now. I certainly couldn’t climb back up the rope. And so I took a deep breath and continued my descent.

Sometimes I feel as if I wade through life waiting for epic moments, flashes of insight, clarifying epiphanies. I secretly envy those people who talk about the single unifying moments that come into their lives in which they conquer their greatest fear, or realize their deepest dream, or have some equally defining experience.

I think maybe I was expecting that to happen in Utah last week. But, if I’m honest with myself, I certainly can’t claim anything I ventured came close to one of those experiences. The surprising thing about my recent trek wasn’t that I had some moment of insight or felt more invincible or stronger or braver than I ever have before.

In fact, as I hugged towering red cliffs and dangled off the rock face, I was overwhelmed by the sheer size and strength everywhere around me. I was overpowered by how tiny and insignificant I and my world and problems and victories seemed next to the vastness of the cliffs and sky and desert around me.

In our world of ease and comfort and cell-phones and microwaves, it’s easy to forget how very tiny we are and how very vast the universe is. It’s easy to forget how great God is when our world is small and safe and soft.

Our souls need space and height and air and adventures and challenge. But maybe we need those things not to give ourselves an additional ego-boost or to remind ourselves of how great or invincible or cool or strong we are, but to keep us humble. Maybe we need those "Bucket List" moments not to feel big, but to feel small.

And so perhaps our souls desperately need to leave our places of comfort and security and cling to something bigger and vaster and stronger than ourselves not to remind us of our strength, but to remind us of our need.

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A Summer Adventure, Part I

May 22, 2011

Next week I'm setting off on an adventure. My wonderful family is good at many things, but long-term planning is not one of them. We've been batting around the idea of adventuring in Utah for a few months now, but somehow trying to coordinate the schedules of eleven people is a little more difficult than we had anticipated.

Then a few days ago, my mom called me. Could I be in Denver by noon on Wednesday? (Do people normally plan cross-country treks more than a week in advance?)

So next week I'm flying to Denver to meet these guys.

 And these girls.

They will have already traveled 19 hours from Indiana. We'll drive the remaining distance to Moab, Utah, where we plan to do this*:

Yes. Those are people up there, dangling in the air, attached to ropes.
The only kink in the plans? I'm terrified of heights. Not just a little squeamish, mind you. T.E.R.R.I.F.I.E.D. I tend to be fairly rational and level-headed. But something about having nothing solid between me and the ground inspires feelings of panic and desperation in me.

Two quotes are running around and around in my head, though.

"Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life." – Donald Miller

"Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt" – William Shakespeare 
Next week should be interesting.

Continue to Part II here.

*Picture copyright of David Y Knox Photography and taken from

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