Despite the hail…

We had a great weekend celebrating our anniversary in Flagstaff, despite the hail that scared me to death and damaged our car. I definitely want to return to do more exploring. Plus, I loved the hotel the Little America. We stayed at a Little America in Salt Lake City for all the swim meets during my daughter’s college years at “the U.” Go UTES!

We visited a meteor crater, the hotel had two and half miles of hiking trails, I swam in the pool, the food was great. Here are some pics from our trip:

pool at Little America Flagstaff
The pool at the Little America hotel where I swam.
nature trail at Little America
The nature walk at the hotel.
Meteor Crater Winslow
At the Meteor Crater.
Walnut Canyon cliff dwellings
Cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon.National Monument.
red wild flower
Flowers on the nature trail. Anyone know what they are?
Little America light buttered roll
THE Little America ROLLS! Boy, I missed these from our Salt Lake City trips. Light, piping hot, filled with butter!
Meteor Crater
View of the meteor crater.
sunset in Flagstaff
Sunset from the hotel parking lot.

Reflections on a Happy New Year’s Eve Adventure

December 31, 2017. This was a day when memories were made with my son. We made a promise that day to ski together once a year, until we could no longer do it. Unfortunately, that was the last day we ever skied together.

sunrise in Salt Lake City

This was our view leaving the day for our New Year’s Eve ski adventure.

View from Brighton ski slopes

The view from the top of the mountain.

After not skiing for about a decade, guess what? I can still do it and it’s not that bad! Yesterday we hauled our equipment into our friends’ Sequoia under a gorgeous pink sky. Driving to Brighton from Salt Lake City was filled with the most breathtaking views. Once we reached the top of the mountain, I was stunned. I listened to the “oohs and ahhs” of other skiers getting off the chairlift, who experienced the view for the first time like me. I didn’t stop to take a bunch of pictures, and the one I did had my thumb across the bottom, but the iPhone wouldn’t do it justice anyway. I have those spectacular views embedded in my mind’s eye.

mother and son ski selfie

My son and me taking a ski selfie.

I felt a bit wobbly at first, as did my son, but soon we got up to speed and our skis were like old friends we’ve lost touch with but when you get together again, it’s like no time has lapsed. We skied most of the day with our friend from Santa Barbara and raced down the slopes maybe not like pros, but better than I anticipated. After not skiing for so many years, it felt amazing. For some silly reason, I had decided I was too old and that my ski days were behind me. When I was younger–before I was a wife, mother or a writer–I was a skier, sort of like how my daughter identifies as a swimmer. Giving it up, was like letting go of a small piece of my personality. It turns out I’m still a decent skier and my son and I have made a pact to ski together every year—as long as we can.

Rather than teaching my son’s girlfriend how to ski for her first time, we decided that she should enroll in a learner’s class. I think that was the best idea because I know how hard the first day of skiing can be for adults. We may have saved their relationship!

Today, I’m especially sore. Yikes, I do not remember this feeling from decades ago!

Two days ago, I really stepped out of my comfort zone and impulsively rented Nordic skis with my girlfriend. With all my downhill skiing days, I didn’t know there were Nordic centers where you can rent equipment, buy a pass and have trails to follow. It was awkward until I settled in and let go of my nerves. Then it became rhythmic and restful, all the time breathing the fresh outdoor air. It reminded me of swimming freestyle with the breathing patterns, alternating limbs and physicality. They’re very similar.

I think cross country skiing is something I’d like to do more of. It’s less exhilarating than downhill skiing, but it’s more peaceful and quiet. I love downhill skiing too and am so glad to have more days of skiing ahead.

Nordic ski center in Utah

Tracks at the Nordic Center.

How are you starting off your New Year? Have you ever returned to an activity you gave up years ago? 

That was a question for New Year’s Eve 2017. Not 2020. Now for the bad ending to the adventure, which was so 2020. Read it here.

 

Why Salt Lake City?

stream through tree lined path

Scenic walk from our airbnb to downtown Park City.

Salt Lake City has been in the spotlight because of the historic vice presidential debate last night. Salt Lake City is a vibrant, clean, friendly yet small city that I fell madly in love with while my daughter went to the University of Utah. During her four years as a student-athlete, we took many trips to watch her swim meets and enjoy the gorgeous sights in SLC and surrounding mountains resorts.

We were impressed by the community spirit of rooting for the Utes. Everywhere there are “Go Utes!” murals, flags and signs. The football stadium is always sold out–rain or shine. The gymnastics team is the most attended women’s sport in the country with more than 15,000 fans in the Huntsman Dome.

When my daughter graduated and moved out of Utah, I really felt sad. I thought we’d never visit Utah again without her there. But, instead we rented an airbnb in Park City the past two summers. I love it more than ever. It is such a healthy, beautiful place to be to beat the desert heat.

A friend asked my daughter and me to put together a list of things to do in SLC for her niece who’s a freshman at the University of Utah. Most of our things to do revolved around food. But, all in all it’s a list of our favorite memories during four years of being Ute fans. Here’s our Salt Lake City guide for UTE students, parents and visitors:

 

Hotels

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A view of the Grand America from the pool deck of the Little America Hotel.

The Grand America Hotel — nicest in SLC, fun to walk through, even if you don’t stay there. I never made it to Sunday Brunch, but it’s supposed to be amazing.

The Little America — same company, Sun Valley Company, owns both the Little and Grand America hotels. It’s very nice but a little more low key than the Grand America. Restaurants are great, try the Coffee Shop for comfort food and amazing hot rolls with butter. I loved the gym and pool and big rooms at a great price. Our home away from home in Salt Lake City. 

Restaurants

IMG_7526

A sandwich and salad at Les Madeleines.

Valter’s Osteria — fine Italian, special occasion, delicious and great atmosphere. The owner Valter is so personable!

Market Street Grill — Pacific Northwest seafood flown in daily. Great for big parties or family lunch and dinner.

Sushi:

Takashi My favorite sushi restaurant. They have an excellent menu with many hot dishes, too.

Sapa My daughter’s favorite sushi restaurant. I think she and her friends liked the “all you can eat” special. Plus it was exciting because you aren’t allowed in unless you’re with someone 21 years old or older.

Casual:

Les Madeleines — small Parisian bakery/cafe for breakfast and lunch. I love the tomato basil soup with salad!

Freshies Lobster Co. — Park City must! Casual restaurant that started as a food truck serving lobster rolls and lobster salad, amazing! The best meal I ever had in Utah! So simple but delicious. Here’s a review by the Salt Lake Tribune which says they opened a Salt Lake City restaurant blocks away from my daughter’s former house!

delicious lobster roll at Freshies

Amazing lobster roll at Freshies in Park City.

Italian — Antica Sicilia and Doce Sicilia. Recommended by Matteo Songe,  a teammate of my daughter’s from Italy. He said this was authentic Sicilian. The Carbonara pasta is prepared with flames in a cheese wheel table side!

Aristo’s — family-operated Greek. Delicious. Outdoor seating on the patio in the summer.

The Pie — pizza hangout for students.

Copper Onion and Stoneground Kitchen are two other restaurants we went to a lot that were always good.

Kat’s breakfast list and what to order:

Blue Plate  — Benedict omelette

Ruth’s Diner — Anything! Have the biscuits.

Finn’s Cafe — Eggs Benedict

Eggs in the City — Literally anything, if you want something sweet get the cinnamon roll pancake

Park Cafe — Michigan hash

Bruges Waffles & Frites– amazing waffles and fries. Only order a size small of the fries though

Kat’s shopping list

IMG_9148

City Creek Center

Love Street Apparel — super cute boutique and not expensive.

City Creek Center  nicest mall with the most stores including Nordstrom, Lush, Apple, Sephora, etc. Shop on  Friday or Saturday if you’re there for a weekend, since the entire mall is closed on Sunday!

Patagonia Outlet in SugarHouse

Things to do:

hiking under chair lifts.

Park City hike on the ski slopes.

Liberty Park — beautiful city park for walks or running.

9th and 9th — small area of shops and restaurants you can walk to and from Liberty Park. Thursday nights 9th and 9th at 9 pm bike ride.

Sugar House — more shops and restaurants

Salt Lake City and County Building — historic 1890s building with 2002 Winter Olympic display.

Temple Square — interesting to walk to and around. We never made it to find our geneology, but that is supposed to be available to the public.

Park City — day trip to walk and shop — or perfect summer or ski vacation spot.

Deer Valley — chair lifts in the summer. Spectacular views and hiking.

Skiing — Alta, Deer Valley, Brighton, Park City, Snowbird, Alpine skiing at Brighton has beginning to more advanced, plus rentals.

Hiking

 

 

Living Room Hike

Fifth Water Hot Springs

Sports at UTAH — go to football, gymnastics, basketball, swimming, etc. The crowds at football and student MUSS section are so enthusiastic. Red Rocks Gymnastics is a top five NCAA team consistently and they have 15,000 plus in attendance — the most attended Olympic sport for collegiate women in the U.S.

Church — CenterPoint in Orem. Pastor Scott McKinney. Scott and my husband were best friends from grade school through high school. It was so nice to reconnect with Scott and his wife Sara. They provided our daughter with a home away from home. 

IMG_9129

Downtown Salt Lake City, UT

Where your favorite places to visit and do you have any recommendations? 

 

Now that the summer is over….

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My daughter and Waffles at home this weekend.

My world is a little less crazy in September than it was in August. Of course, it’s only September 2nd. But, I haven’t left our desert in more than a week. The last two weeks of August, I trekked from Palm Springs to Santa Barbara to Phoenix—and my daughter and husband threw in a trip to Salt Lake City in between.

I was supposed to help my daughter set up her new home in Arizona this Labor Day weekend, but after my husband’s shoulder surgery Tuesday, I postponed my trip. A friend lectured me about leaving my husband alone after surgery. She said that my daughter should drive home to help us out—not me drive to see her. “After all, the new house isn’t going anywhere, she can get by with slowly unpacking, and you can help her at a later date,” she said. My husband did need attention, just a little, and my daughter happily agreed to come home for the weekend.

It’s only a short drive from the Phoenix area to Palm Springs. Four hours to be exact on one freeway—“the 10.” In So Cal, we say “the” in front of every highway. They don’t do that in NorCal or Washington, where I grew up.

My son lived four hours away in Santa Barbara, which is in the opposite direction of Arizona. In the words of a native Southern Californian to drive from Palm Springs to UCSB, “you take the 10 to the 210 to the 118 to the 23 to the 101.” I feel so much more comfortable with the drive to Arizona on “the 10.” Period. Except for the big trucks, which I don’t like, it’s a one-shot deal. I hope to get there soon to help her set up her new home.

I’m also anxious to get a fresh start to the fall. I’m relieved we made it through so many hurdles. Vacation, the move, the surgery, etc. are all behind us in the rearview mirror. It’s time to look ahead.

IMG_1684

Olive the cat seems to have survived another few days with Waffles.

What do you think about the end of summer and the start of fall?

My love affair with Salt Lake City is over…

27972293_1735398013176887_1553649643564654071_n

The last dual meet for these senior Utes.

After four years of visiting our daughter at the University of Utah, my love affair with Salt Lake City is sadly over. She left the great state of Utah to start a career in Arizona. Although my husband said we can always go back, I wonder, how often will we? My bet is that on a rare occasion we will trek up to see our friends the McKinneys  or maybe go to an alumni swim meet. But, other than that, I will miss the gorgeous city surrounded by mountain peaks. Salt Lake City is a vibrant, clean, friendly yet small city.

Another thing that is amazing is the community spirit of rooting for the Utes. Everywhere you see “Go Utes!” murals, flags and signs. The football stadium is always sold out–rain or shine. The gymnastics team is the most attended women’s sport in the country with more than 15,000 fans in the Huntsman Dome.

A friend asked my daughter and me to put together a list of things to do in SLC for her niece who’s a freshman at the University of Utah. Most of our things to do revolved around food. But, all in all it’s a list of our favorite memories during four years of being Ute fans. Here’s our Salt Lake City guide for UTE students, parents and visitors:

 

Hotels

IMG_8439

A view of the Grand America from the pool deck of the Little America Hotel.

The Grand America Hotel — nicest in SLC, fun to walk through, even if you don’t stay there. I never made it to Sunday Brunch, but it’s supposed to be amazing.

The Little America — same company, Sun Valley Company, owns both the Little and Grand America hotels. It’s very nice but a little more low key than the Grand America. Restaurants are great, try the Coffee Shop for comfort food and amazing hot rolls with butter. I loved the gym and pool and big rooms at a great price. Our home away from home in Salt Lake City. 

Restaurants

IMG_7526

A sandwich and salad at Les Madeleines.

Valter’s Osteria — fine Italian, special occasion, delicious and great atmosphere. The owner Valter is so personable!

Market Street Grill — Pacific Northwest seafood flown in daily. Great for big parties or family lunch and dinner.

Sushi:

Takashi My favorite sushi restaurant. They have an excellent menu with many hot dishes, too.

Sapa My daughter’s favorite sushi restaurant. I think she and her friends liked the “all you can eat” special. Plus it was exciting because you aren’t allowed in unless you’re with someone 21 years old or older.

Les Madeleines — small Parisian bakery/cafe for breakfast and lunch. I love the tomato basil soup with salad!

Freshies Lobster Co. — Park City must! Casual restaurant that started as a food truck serving lobster rolls and lobster salad, amazing! The best meal I ever had in Utah! So simple but delicious. Here’s a review by the Salt Lake Tribune which says they opened a Salt Lake City restaurant blocks away from my daughter’s former house! No way! Not FAIR!

Italian — Antica Sicilia and Doce Sicilia. Recommended by Matteo Songe, swimmer from Italy on the Utah Swim team. He said this was authentic Sicilian. The Carbonara pasta is prepared with flames in a cheese wheel table side!

Aristo’s — family-operated Greek. Delicious. Outdoor seating on the patio in the summer.

The Pie — pizza hangout for students.

Copper Onion and Stoneground Kitchen are two other restaurants we went to a lot that were always good.

Kat’s breakfast list and what to order:

Blue Plate  — Benedict omelette

Ruth’s Diner — Anything! Have the biscuits.

Finn’s Cafe — Eggs Benedict

Eggs in the City — Literally anything, if you want something sweet get the cinnamon roll pancake

Park Cafe — Michigan hash

Bruges Waffles & Frites– amazing waffles and fries. Only order a size small of the fries though

Kat’s shopping list

IMG_9148

City Creek Center

Love Street Apparel — super cute boutique and not expensive.

City Creek Center  nicest mall with the most stores including Nordstrom, Lush, Apple, Sephora, etc. Shop on  Friday or Saturday if you’re there for a weekend, since the entire mall is closed on Sunday!

Patagonia Outlet in SugarHouse

Things to do:

Liberty Park — beautiful city park for walks or running.

9th and 9th — small area of shops and restaurants you can walk to and from Liberty Park. Thursday nights 9th and 9th at 9 pm bike ride.

Sugar House — more shops and restaurants

Salt Lake City and County Building — historic 1890s building with 2002 Winter Olympic display.

Temple Square — interesting to walk to and around. We never made it to find our geneology, but that is supposed to be available to the public.

Park City — day trip to walk and shop.

Deer Valley — chair lifts in the summer. Spectacular views and hiking.

Skiing — Alta, Deer Valley, Brighton, Park City, Snowbird, Alpine skiing at Brighton has beginning to more advanced, plus rentals.

Hiking

 

 

Living Room Hike

 Fifth Water Hot Springs

Sports at UTAH — go to football, gymnastics, basketball, swimming, etc. The crowds at football and student MUSS section are so enthusiastic. Red Rocks Gymnastics is a top five NCAA team consistently and they have 15,000 plus in attendance — the most attended Olympic sport for collegiate women in the U.S.

Church — CenterPoint in Orem. Pastor Scott McKinney. Scott and my husband were best friends from grade school through high school. It was so nice to reconnect with Scott and his wife Sara. They provided our daughter with a home away from home. 

IMG_9129

Downtown Salt Lake City, UT

Where your favorite places to visit and do you have any recommendations? 

 

The privilege of hanging out with our grown kids

Last summer, I spent a few days with my daughter in gorgeous Salt Lake City. Fast forward a year and we have a few days with both kids at the beach. I’ll write about the experience in a few days of how it’s different from when they were youngsters at the beach. Here’s what I wrote last year:

IMG_8231

On top of the world at Deer Valley, Utah.

 

I spent five, count them, five glorious days with my 21-year-old daughter in Salt Lake City, where she’s a student. I shared a bit of her life, her territory. We had a few plans like driving up to the resort town of Park City to be tourists. But mostly, my objective was to be with her.

During the past three years when I’ve visited my daughter, there’s been zero one-on-one time for mother and daughter. We visit, my husband and I, when there’s a college swim meet. We take her out for dinner Friday night, which is nice. She meets us at our favorite hotel usually with a teammate or two in tow.

I don’t mind this at all, and we love any moment we get to spend with her. But, it’s quick, clean and disinfected time together. The next morning my husband and I go for a big walk around town. We make our way to the pool 30 minutes before the meet begins and catch up with other swim parents. Then we watch the meet, which is always exciting. Afterward, we wait for warm-down, team meetings and showers.

Sundays we get all day with her unless we have an early morning flight. We’ve been taking the 9 p.m. flight home lately, so we get extra time together.

This trip was entirely different. I traveled on my own. I had the option of my favorite hotel, my daughter’s living room hide-a-bed or sleeping in her room on a plush, thick mattress, kept for relatives and recruits. I opted to be in her room. I didn’t want to inconvenience her roommates with “Mom” taking over their living room.

 

IMG_8237

Waffles the pug puppy.

I wrote while she swam and went to school. I took the pup “Waffles” on walks, the first one each day to get coffee. Seriously, I don’t know how four girls survive without any coffee or coffee maker in the house? The rest of the day and evening was whatever we decided to do. We walked, played tourists in Park City, rode the ski lifts in Deer Valley, walked some more, shopped at Target for supplies, ate sushi and lobster rolls. We also spent a lot of time in her room watching Gilmore Girls, reading, and just being together.

I feel so honored that my daughter wanted to spend these days with me. She didn’t feel like I was intruding or that she had to cater to me. We like each other’s company. I’m very proud of how “together” her life is. She’s on top of her homework, swim practice, and does extra cardio and fitness, plus takes care of all the little stuff like grocery shopping, cooking and having a social life.

I must have done something right. Or, in spite of me, she’s figured out this thing called life.

About those lobster rolls! We went to Freshies Lobster Co. in Park City. I discovered this amazing place from a blog called femalefoodie. Seriously, it was the best meal I’ve had in three years of visits to the state of Utah.

 

What is your favorite thing to do with your grown kids?

Are parents over the top for hiring video game tutors?

IMG_8584

Personally, I prefer my kids being outside instead of sitting in front of a screen.

A WSJ article called “Ready, Aim, Hire a ‘Fortnite’ Coach: Parents Enlist Videogame Tutors for Their Children” by Sarah E. Needleman, caused a furor this week. I’ll admit I stopped paying attention to gaming after my kids left home. The extent of my own video game experience was Mario Brothers and tennis on the Wii. My son liked to play Zelda and he used his GameBoy Color to play Pokemon. I guess you could say we weren’t a big video game family.

When my dad emailed me an article about parents hiring coaches for “Fortnite,” I realized I had no idea what Fortnite was! Since then I’ve learned that it’s a hugely popular video game with millions playing worldwide. Parents are hiring online tutors so their kids get better at the game, much as we hired Coach Todd to help my kids with their stroke technique in swimming. Why would parents hire tutors to help their kids play a game? There are many reasons including huge monetary rewards and even college scholarships. Who knew? Even my daughter’s college the University of Utah introduced Varsity Esports as a thing.

“The U and its nationally ranked Entertainment Arts & Engineering video game development program announced today that it is forming the U’s first college-sponsored varsity esports program. Utah esports will compete in multiple games and has confirmed the industry leading League of Legends as its first game with additional games to be announced shortly. The esports program is the first of its kind from a school out of the Power Five athletics conferences (Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12, Atlantic Coast and Southeastern).

“Esports has had a dramatic rise in popularity in the U.S. over the last few years – especially on college campuses,” said A.J. Dimick, director of operations for the U’s new esports program. “We think college esports is a great opportunity and we want our students to be part of it.”

The U’s esports program will be sponsored by the EAE video game development program, which has been ranked the No. 1 video game design program in the nation for three of the past five years by The Princeton Review.”

Here are some excerpts from the WSJ:

“It’s not the violence or the addiction of the hit game that bothers mom and dad—it’s the losing.”

Ally Hicks fretted over her 10-year-old son playing the hugely popular shoot-em-up videogame “Fortnite.”

This is for your own good

It wasn’t the violence or the amount of time she was worried about. It was the result. He wasn’t winning.

So she hired him a coach. For about $50, Ms. Hicks purchased four hours of online lessons from a player she found through a freelance labor website.

For many children, “Fortnite” has become a social proving ground. More than 125 million people play it world-wide, according to its maker, mostly in a free mode pitting 100 combatants against each other until one person or team is left standing.

Winning bestows the kind of bragging rights that used to be reserved for the local Little League baseball champ. Just like eager dugout dads opening their wallets for pitching lessons, videogame parents are more than willing to pay for their offspring to gain an edge.

Nick Mennen was happy to pay $20 an hour for his 12-year-old son, Noble, to take “Fortnite” lessons. The dad is already dreaming of a scholarship—or at least some tournament money. (“Fortnite” creator Epic Games Inc. recently pledged $100 million in tournament prizes. Some colleges court gamers with financial incentives to join their varsity teams.)

Noble used to win “Fortnite” infrequently before he began taking about six hours of lessons a month. “Now he’ll throw down 10 to 20 wins,” said Mr. Mennen, a software developer in Cedar Park, Texas.

The success has made Noble competitive with his dad. “I should be the one charging him,” Noble said. “He’s not as good as me.”

Coaches can be found on social media or through contracting sites such as Gamer Sensei and Bidvine, which said it has hired out more than 1,400 “Fortnite” coaches since early March. Some coaches can’t believe parents want to sign up their children for lessons.

“It’s really surreal to me,” said Logan Werner, an 18-year-old “Fortnite” coach in Roy, Utah, who plays the combat game on a professional team called Gankstars. “My dad would have never paid for me to take videogame lessons.”

Hiring a “Fortnite” coach for a child is no different than enlisting an expert to help a child excel at basketball or chess, parents say. Some sit in on lessons to make sure coaches are professional and that their children, well, level up.

“I want them to excel at what they enjoy,” Euan Robertson said of his sons Alexander, 10, and Andrew, 12. He hired them a “Fortnite” coach in June, who can stay as long as the children keep up their grades.

Here’s a video from Good Morning America about the phenomenon of hiring tutors to help kids improve at Fortnite. According to their story, tournament play has up to $100 million in prizes. 

In USA Today, “Fortnite tutors are a thing. And yes, parents are paying them,” written by Caroline Blackmon, writes that the craze over Fortnite is like Beatlemania. Really?

It’s turned kids into couch potatoes.

It’s caused professional athletes to crash and burn at their jobs.

It’s even infiltrated daily conversations with its own vocabulary.

Fortnite arrived on the scene last July as a free-to-play shooter by Epic Games. But it started off as less than a success when first released.

Then, in September 2017, Epic added a free-to-play “battle royale” mode, in which 100 players on a large island fight for survival.

That’s when things went crazy.

It captured the Minecraft generation with its free play, bright graphics and ridiculous costumes. It even overtook Minecraft in March as the most-watched video game in YouTube history.

“In terms of fervor, compulsive behavior and parental noncomprehension, the Fortnite craze has elements of Beatlemania, the opioid crisis and the ingestion of Tide Pods,” according to the New Yorker.

Now instead of pushing back against the addictive nature of the game, some parents are doubling down on Fortnite by hiring tutors for their kids.

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I prefer this view to a video game.

What are your thoughts about hiring tutors for video games? Do you think it’s a reasonable thing for parents to do or not? Are parents going way over the top, or is it fine to give our kids all the reasonable advantages to help their self-esteem and perhaps earn a college scholarship?