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Category: Summer

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Overwhelming Gratitude to SUNTEX, Part 1 of 2

Ecclesiastes 5:12 states, “The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether they eat little or much, but as for the rich, their abundance permits them no sleep.”

 

My prayer is that Alejandra and Jose are sleeping soundly, because their labor of love knows no bounds.

Before leaving on our month-long road trip, and because we had worked out this highly unconventional, yet perfect agreement – to ask SUNTEX to complete our house repairs and key upgrades while we were out of town, while also requesting they house-sit while we traveled through the country to see family and friends – we were able to create perfect synergy in our plans. I’m a stickler for efficiency, so this was my dream come true, and Ally and Jose made it 100% possible.

The week before we left, Aaron and (I wish I could say the dogs, and) I cleaned the house through and through. We worked until we sweat, as we were hoping the house would feel as though it was home – and I even asked Ally to grade me on cleanliness, thinking that we might some day rent it out online.

Yet with all of the back-breaking work we put in to clean all the way down to replacing the drawer lining, sanitize every last crevice of the fridge and kitchen, and make up the beds as a hotel might – it was nothing compared to the work the team at SUNTEX put in, to make our wildest home project dreams finally come true.

Home Improvement, Exterior Paint, Before Photos

Home Improvement, BEFORE Photos

A Little more Backstory…

When we moved into our home, there was really no direct sunlight into the kitchen; the windows were poor-quality and then failed to hold up under (literal, ice) pressure during the winter storm (some even sealed shut). Because we don’t have a ton of space in the home, we’ve done our best to reduce wide-door entries eating up surface area, while still allowing coverage for privacy (sliding barn doors, which admittedly, needed additional improvement).

We hope to raise our family in this home, but weren’t sure how long we would stay – living a fairly nomadic lifestyle. We also wanted to experiment in hosting our home for rental income in the future, should fate allow. All of our personal efforts however, while definite “home improvements” were not quite professional-grade quality, and aside from all of that, I would not have wanted anyone to stay here with the exterior yellow and brown paint.

The Review…

So when I say that SUNTEX made all of our dreams come true, I mean it. Driving home, and the relief we felt upon arrival, went way beyond my expectations for what we thought our house could and would look like, and I am so grateful that we hired SUNTEX to do this work, and make our house feel like a home.

Home Improvement, Gutters

Gutter and Fence Installation, AFTER Photos

Home Improvement, Exterior Paint

Exterior Paint, AFTER Photos

When we walked in, there was a collective sigh of relief as we walked from room to room, gazing upon the new features – after of course, staring excitedly at it for about 5 minutes right when we got home. Because it was late at night (about 11pm on a Sunday evening), we couldn’t really call anyone (exception: my friend, who’s birthday was also that day!) to share in the elation of our new home, so we just stood there, beaming smiles while admiring the paint color, the gutters, the trimming of the front bushes and lawn, and the new home before us that for some reason, we had the keys to.

 

Home Improvement

Home Improvement, Framing AFTER Photos

Upon entering the house, we examined all of the new details of our home which we knew well – and noted how each single project amounted to boundless improvement on the home. The gutters would save our foundation, and the sides of our home from moisture. The new windows would keep moisture out, keep cool air in (during the summer, and retain heat during the winter), and gave the house an overall “brand new clean” type feeling (even our indoor plants had been arranged in the same way we would want them displayed).

 

My favorite piece might have actually been the trim that SUNTEX added around the main closet and bathroom floors, as well as adding the surrounding framing, of course (see right for photo). Also check out the BEFORE & AFTER photos within this post, and tomorrow’s blog post – these rooms all now feel complete, rather than “in progress,” which provides immense peace of mind.

 

 

 

Though I’ve mentioned each project distinctly this month (see below for reference)…

Installation Project Preliminary Review & Photos
(9) brand new Elevate windows The most Beatiful Lake in Montana + What’s happening to the House now?!
Power washing & Cleaning, the driveway, sidewalk and house in preparation for Exterior Paint and Trim

SherwinWilliams: Rosemary Green (SW 6187); Netsuke (SW 6134))

Mr. and Mrs. Sims go to Washington
Coordinating the Installation of Norandex Gutters surrounding the home, with well-thought out locations for the downspouts Just like that, Gutters are Up!
Fixing the back door so that it closes; and fixing our sliding barn-door project (AKA fixing our DIY installations!!); Fixing the backyard fence D-I-Y
Cleaning the Entire House until spotless See this post, Overwhelming Gratitude to SUNTEX, and subsequent Blog post for Before & After photos

…it is important to note that I chose to hire SUNTEX originally because I knew they would do great work, for the best price – and I was right. To see more of the “final version” of our home repairs, please do take a look at tomorrow’s blog post: BEFORE & AFTER, The SUNTEX Transformation.

Directly to my Boss’s, Ally and Jose…

Thank you for every last detail you put into this project. Upon entering the threshold, and every single day thereafter, our home has felt like a dream. It genuinely felt like we were in someone else’s home the first time we walked in – and I had to ask my husband to double check that we hadn’t wandered into the neighbors house by mistake.

It was no mistake. The house had just been significantly improved by excellent craftsmanship, and the love you poured into each and every aspect of the project. We could see and feel it, and cannot thank you enough for all the work you’ve done.

I’ll check back in after a couple of weeks to let you know what we break – just kidding, so far so good – in the meantime, I could not be happier with having hired the best team at SUNTEX to help us bring our home improvements up to par, and our goals and dreams across the finish line.

I work with this company because I continue to believe in the products, solutions, and education that we provide to our customers; and as a customer myself, I am thoroughly impressed with SUNTEX.

Thank you SUNTEX

Yellowstone National Forest & the Fire that birthed it

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Forest & the Fire that birthed it

What can I say about Yellowstone that you haven’t heard before? Likely nothing, in all honesty, you just have to see it for yourself!

One thing I will say, is that this was actually our second time visiting the park, and somehow I managed to miss an entire lake (that covers the horizon from the shore) – a massive body of water that can be seen almost anywhere on the North-east side of the park. In our defense, the park is quite large, and we were camping on the South-eastern side of it the last time we came, but when we drove into Yellowstone National Park this time around and saw what looked to be an ocean in the middle of land-locked Wyoming, it’s safe to say we had to stop and see! Check out the photos from our trip to see what I mean (featured on the left and right).

Bull Elk, Yellowstone National Park

Bull Elk, Yellowstone National Park

While I won’t get into great detail here – particularly since we already covered the impacts of climate change on these beautiful forests in an earlier post (here: https://suntexllc.com/on-the-road-again-next-stop-climate-change/) – I did find it odd that we were surrounded on this trip to Yellowstone by completely scorched forests.

It’s important to note here, that naturally occurring forest fires are part of the forest’s history, and even help new life to grow! What was odd this time however, was just how much of the west was covered in dead trees – both within Yellowstone National Park – and in the surrounding areas (we saw evidence of large forest fires in Washington, Montana, and Wyoming, and the smoke from the fires was prevalent throughout the month-long trip).

To learn more about the naturally occurring forest fires of Yellowstone National Park, check out the following link: https://serc.carleton.edu/NZFires/megafires/Yellowstone.html – which includes charts of forest fire activity in the park from the last century! If, like me, you’re curious to learn more about climate change in general in the Rockies, check out the following: https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/how-do-the-rocky-mountains-influence-climate.html, and be sure to share your favorite insights in the comments below!

The Grand Tetons & the Moose!

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park

Yes, this post is mainly dedicated to Yellowstone National Park, however I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our journey through Grand Teton National Park (https://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm). This park borders Yellowstone, so seemingly, they shouldn’t be very different, right? Well, of course, if you said this you’d be wrong.

Yellowstone offers wildlife and dense forests of course – similar to the Grand Tetons – however the main attraction of Yellowstone are the hot geysers such as “Old Faithful” and the entire park is essentially sitting on one big volcano. The Grand Tetons do not have any geysers that I’m aware of, however what they feature is a staggering, jagged mountain range that can (usually) be seen for miles around – and with snake river winding through it, and the golden grassy knolls that waiver in front of it, it’s truly a site to see, setting it apart from any other park around.

Grand Teton National Park

Moose and Calf, Grand Teton National Park

Even though the camp ranger told us upon pulling in that they had seen black bears every single night perusing the mesquite fields just outside our campground, we did not see any while we were there. We did however see something we had been yearning to see all trip, and she and her calf were visible from the road to our campsite each night before sunset: a moose!

 

It’s hard to tell just how big she is from across the river, and because I’m not a complete moron, I wanted to be sure and respect her boundaries, however given her stature from even 100 yards or so away, it’s obvious she is a big girl! We were absolutely mesmerized by her and her calf, and stood there taking pictures for a long time before leaving her to peacefully finish dinner. While I can’t be certain, I would bet that she and her ‘little one’ are still there, just outside of the Grand Teton campsite, munching on brush and awaiting the next group of campers to come gawking. If you happen to see her, tell her I said hello, and Bon Apetite!

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Wyoming Energy Profile

Welcome to WyomingWhile Wyoming might not be the most populous state, it’s certainly populated with millions of breathtaking views. Thus far on the trip we had seen the immense beauty of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, Oregon, Washington, and Montana – so it was baffling that I was still surprised at just how much more beauty Wyoming had to offer.

The transition from Montana to Wyoming wasn’t too drastic since the two states share a similar topography, as they’re both part of the Rocky Mountain range, but once we got into the Shenandoah forest, it was hard not to feel like explorers traversing an unfamiliar territory. We drove for just seven hours that day, through the most beautiful part of the country – Yellowstone National Park, and just after it, Grand Teton National Park – before finally arriving at our final campsite just beyond Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Jackson Hole, Wyoming

Elk Reserve outside of Jacksonhole, WY

With the natural scenery, and plentiful rivers along the way, I had a feeling we’d be looking at a similar energy makeup as Montana and Oregon, however this time, I was wrong. Even though Wyoming has made strides in recent years in building their renewable reserves – as you can see by the stats listed on the EIA.gov website, “Wind power in Wyoming has more than doubled since 2009 and accounted for 12% of the state’s electricity net generation in 2020. The state installed the third-largest amount of wind power generating capacity in 2020, after Texas and Iowa” – they’re not a big producer of hydroelectric power as I would have guessed.

According to the state’s energy report from 2012, “Wyoming has a long history of hydropower dams, dating back to the early 1900s. While hydropower generation is considered small and seasonal, it represents a consistent and established electricity source. There are 15 hydropower plants on 10 reservoirs. Thirteen of these are operated by the Bureau of Reclamation and two by private companies. The total hydropower generation capacity in Wyoming is 299.6 MW. The five largest producers are Fremont Canyon/Pathfinder (66.8 MW), Seminoe (51.6 MW), Alcova (41.4 MW), Glendo (38 MW), and Kortes (36 MW)” (https://www.wsgs.wyo.gov/products/wsgs-2012-electricalgeneration-summary.pdf).

However, since 2012 it seems Wyoming has put their energy into producing wind power, which has led to some pretty remarkable advancements in their green energy sector. However green energy is still fairly new, and Wyoming has produced more than it’s share of coal and oil and gas for decades – just see the Quick Facts from eia.gov below (https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=WY#tabs-1):

  • “Wyoming produces 14 times more energy than it consumes, and it is the biggest net energy supplier among the states.”
  • “Wyoming has been the top coal-producing state since 1986, accounting for about 39% of all coal mined in the United States in 2019, and the state holds more than one-third of U.S. coal reserves at producing mines.”
  • “Wyoming was the eighth-largest crude oil-producing state in the nation in 2020, accounting for slightly more than 2% of U.S. total crude oil output. The state was the ninth-largest natural gas producer, and accounted for almost 4% of U.S. marketed gas production.”
  • “Wyoming’s large energy-producing sector and small population helps make the state first in per capita energy consumption and gives it the second most energy-intensive state economy, after Louisiana.”
Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

It’s funny how we could travel through the state for days and days without seeing so much as a windmill, or an oil well, and come to find out after that Wyoming produces a fairly large amount of energy, enough even to export energy to other parts of the country, and generates a large portion of their economy. Of course, however helpful these quick facts and charts may be, they do not paint the full picture. To learn more about Wyoming’s economy, check out the links below:

DIY Projects: Good or Evil?

DIY Projects: The Fence

WIP: Back Fence

While it pains me to admit this, like most home owners, I am not skilled enough to truly master the art of “Do It Yourself” projects, more commonly referred to in Pinterest boards worldwide as, “DIY Projects.” If you watch any amount of HGTV (https://www.hgtv.com/) – which, coincidentally plays on the television screens at our local building and electrical permitting office – then you might be faced with an insurmountable desire to take some crazy leap of faith on likely your largest illiquid asset such as, re-doing the flooring.

Or in our case, we re-did the doors. All over the house, we’d had the epiphany that doors are unneeded and unwanted objects – and during social distancing measures have honestly not been too unwelcome. However when we have had guests in the past, we’ve found that most would prefer a door on their bedroom, or on the closet to hide their luggage from our dog Earl.

Thus, one of the things I spoke to Ally about was fixing our “DIY Projects” so that they actually worked. For example, I hoped she could help us out by:

  • Fixing the back door so that it closes
  • Fixing our sliding barn-door project, which allows us more space in the primary bedroom, bathroom, and closet

…and finally, though we didn’t cause this problem:

  • Fixing the backyard fence which was falling down – including agreeing to fix my neighbors portion for congruence

Proud of my hard work in the back yard, I told them not to worry about landscaping or pond maintenance – however nearly everything we had attempted to “fix” needed some definite fixing up. And even though we were not the cause of the damage in the case of the back-yard fence, I knew it too was beyond our skillet to truly repair a fence that would need to stand on it’s own, and not bring our neighbors fence down with it.

DIY Projects: Sliding Barn Doors

New and Improved! Sliding Barn Doors

Although it’s not written on their website, Ally and the team at SUNTEX saw the vision for the doors and the fence, and willingly added these projects to the list of repairs to be completed on our home. Looking at the photos below, I think you’ll start to see why we’re so grateful that they did (see photo on left).

Though we don’t have many daunting “Before photos” of the Fence, I can tell you from experience that it used to be nearly impossible to open without some magic brute-force strength and careful maneuvering. You might say we were excited for SUNTEX to step in and help.

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Bear, Bear, Bear! Well, Now We Have a Bear Story

Grizzly Bear

Stock photo of Grizzly Bear

ROAD TRIP UPDATES: Perhaps if you’ve lived in the mountains all of your life, the thought of seeing a bear doesn’t surprise or alarm you. Unfortunately, I have never had the great pleasure of seeing a bear before now, though I’ve heard numerous stories from family members, friends, the news, and even Hollywood regarding human-bear-encounters. My initial thoughts were that seemingly, if you’re not covered in bird seed and/or honey – and you don’t go anywhere near a mama bear’s cubs – then you should be okay to keep your distance from them and wait for them to pass.

Of course, this was also before doing a little bit of research on this dangerous internet, and finding that with Black Bears, you actually want to appear tall and loud, acknowledging them with “Hello Bear” or something non-threatening, until they walk away – however Grizzlies are almost the complete opposite.

Instead, in dealing with a Grizzly bear, you should not make any sudden movements, and sort of like T-rex, just hope and pray to whomever you pray to that it does not see or take interest in you as you walk away slowly (check out what PBS.org has to say on this subject for more info: https://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/the-good-the-bad-and-the-grizzly-what-to-do-if-you-encounter-a-bear/117/#).

Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana

Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana

So, all week long, joke as I might that I really wanted to see a bear while camping or hiking in Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado, I sincerely did not want to encounter one too close to our tent. Thankfully, none of the rules I had read online applied when the situation actually presented itself.

On the drive from Glacier National Park to Custer Gallatin National Forest – all of which is in Montana, along with several other national forests – we came across one of several thickets of extremely dense forest, with outstretched lakes scattered in-between. The lakes shimmered through the trees, and gave you the feeling of being in an enchanted forest, full of beauty and possibility. We came upon a section of the drive that was wide open, and with only two lanes, decided it was our best chance to pass a car whom we’d traveled respectfully behind for about thirty minutes, with likely another forty-five or so to go until our next turn off.

As you may have guessed, out of nowhere, as we’re attempting to pass another car, a teen-aged Grizzly bear pops out of the tree line on the right-hand side of the road, and directly across both cars – first, on our right, and then, directly in front of us. Someone was looking out for us that day, because in my periphery I saw it and slammed on the breaks just in time, and almost simultaneously as my husband, Aaron, was shouting, “Bear Bear!”

Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana

Since he ran out so quickly and we were focused on survival at the time, we did not get a photo of him unfortunately, however the photo above should give you a pretty good idea. I slowed down immediately upon applying the breaks, but also to get behind the car on our right, and back into our lane. We pulled over to the right again and when we finally stopped, Aaron turned to me and said, “I think we just saw a bear!” and thus concludes my very first bear siting, where thankfully it didn’t, but it almost killed me.

Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana

Custer Gallatin National Forest, Montana

That same day, we arrived in Red Lodge, MT (just outside of Yellowstone National Park); there’s less smoke here in the valley, and the town is adorable! I think I could stay here a while. The drive in follows a river (from what I can tell, that began on the other side of the state), which contained tons of rocky sections with banks of flowers and greenery all around. We set up camp, and locked our food away from any potential bears nearby, which we know well knew were in fact, a possibility – and started to take in our new scenery in the Custer Gallatin National Forest.

HOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECT UPDATES: It’s Crunch time! It’s the last week of repairs in the Sims’s residence, and it’s a good thing SUNTEX planned for rainy days and time to clean up the project afterwards! Final steps will include: the trim and re-install of the sliding barn doors, adding the final touches to the side of the fence that’s now falling apart, and likely the worst part yet – cleaning everything up!

Hopefully Ally and Jose had a much less eventful week than we shared (after all, it would be truly odd if a bear showed up to our home in Texas), but have likewise been able to get out an enjoy the outdoors. The only bearable places in Texas at this time of summer, are inside with brand new windows and a fully-functioning AC, or in/near the water somewhere outside. It’s been a fairly rainy year which has kept this year one of the coolest on record – just check out what KXAN.com had to say about July of this year:

“July contained only one day with the temperature at or above 100 degrees. According to the new 1990-2021 normals, there are on average 9.5 (or 10) 100-degrees during the month of July. The last time Camp Mabry recorded just one 100-degree day in July was back in July 1988. Do note most recently, July of 2010, 2007, 2004, 2002 and 1997 had zero 100 degree days in the month of July. And July 2011 contained 29” (https://www.kxan.com/weather/summer-2021-weather-recap/) – see photo left. Weather in Austin, TX

According to that same link, August only had three days above 100 degrees Fahrenheit – yikes!

Lending our house to Ally and Jose was really the least we could do in this kind of weather – as they completed painstakingly hot outdoor projects in 80-100 degree weather, we escaped to the coldest parts of the country. No matter what the house looks like, we owed them a debt of gratitude. Though, I did hope the house looked good too.

The Absolute Beauty of Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park

I honestly thought I would have to travel to Alaska to ever see a glacier, however I now know that’s not quite true. Even while the world seems to have turned upside-down, and things have seemed pretty dire during this pandemic “season” – which has lasted over two years now, even as we head into another fall – I can’t help but feel grateful for the blessings in my life, that I’m reminded of every time I step out into nature.

I am grateful to be able to take the last few weeks of August off from work to do some site seeing; I’m grateful that whether it be a dining room table or a campfire, we’re able to fill it with food to eat; and I’m grateful that in my lifetime, I was able to go to Glacier National Park to see the beautiful sites – as well as the main attraction, Glaciers.

Glacier National Park

The weather in Montana had already turned colder than the day we arrived, however we were also climbing in elevation again, so we had to stop by the local outdoor-outfitters shop and pick up some snow gear to make sure we made it through the night. I guess in hindsight, not realizing that a park with Glaciers year-round would be cold, was in fact, pretty dumb! Alas, we survived to tell the tale, and warn all of you camping and glamping advocates to layer up when visiting Glacier National Park (https://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm)!

Camping Glacier National Park

Camping with the Family in Glacier National Park

So when we finally started setting up camp – putting down the tarp & tent in the driest location, then setting it up and adding the rain-protector over it; building up our “to-go” kitchen while being mindful of bears; and adding our warmest bedding within the tent – we were just happy it was no longer raining. Since we were pretty cold and tired from all of the travel and camp tear down, we heated up some pre-made tortilla soup (don’t tell my mother I did not make it from scratch), and bundled up as we watched the sun go down over the edge of the mountains.

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park

“Surely we’ll see a bear here!” I thought, “…just hopefully not too close”. From time to time all week I would joke that I was going to leave out a little honey to see if they came – to both my husband and my in-laws fear. Alas, I do not want to end up in the news so of course I did not follow through with this plan, however given my strong desire to see wildlife I was definitely on the lookout all week. We stayed in the Apgar Campground near McDonald lake – which certainly did not disappoint. I mean, look at these pictures (see photos on the right and below post)!

Glacier National Park

Apgar Campground, Glacier National Park

The hikes were incredible as well – trekking through the man-made paths through dense pine trees that smelled fresh and hopeful – and trying to keep Earl in check so he didn’t chase any wildlife to his demise. Though we went in August the air was frigid cold most of the time we were there, however it would warm up just enough mid-day to sweat a little so you felt like you had earned your shower each (or every other) night.

On the day we decided to drive across the park to see the whole thing (an hour-long drive into a cloud forest, on top of the mountain range), we finally saw our first Glacier! While driving the “Going-to-the-Sun Road”, through the Rocky Mountain mountains, there is a trail you can take to see one of the closest Glaciers to the road, named Jackson Glacier.

Admittedly, It was somewhat difficult to decipher it from the mountains around it, however it had a much smoother top and looked like it was covered in dense snow, in the middle of August (see photo below)! The sad truth is that this Glacier, among many others in North America (and all over the world), is shrinking – just check out the excerpt below from the hike to see a little bit about the history of this Glacier.

Glacier National Park

Jackson Glacier, Glacier National Park

There’s a lot more to unpack within that statement, so please check out tomorrow’s blog post (https://suntexllc.com/climate-change-the-powerful-role-glaciers-play-in-cooling-our-planet/) to learn more about Glaciers and the role they play in Climate Change.

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The most Beautiful Lake in Montana + What’s happening to the House now?!

ROAD TRIP UPDATES: Initially, I was a little disappointed to learn that several of the campgrounds inside of Glacier National park were closed for the summer camping season. Our first night camping in Montana, we stayed at a campsite just outside of the national park, called Dickey Lake – and holy cow, it was breathtaking – see Earl in Dickey lake below.

Montana, Earl wading in Dickey Lake

My husband’s parents and Auntie Bengie accompanied us on the trip and helped us set up camp that first day – and even cooked dinner that night according to the pre-made menu:

The inconspicuous “Brisket Sandwiches with Caramalized Onions on Hoagie buns, with Au Ju French dipping sauce and San Pelegrino on the side.” 

It’s safe to say my husband comes from fancy campers, and we were reaping all of the benefits of high society! We ate and talked, taking in the fresh mountain air, until nightfall – when the more mature among us took off to sleep in a motel and not in the tent – and we prepared for our first night in the wild, open, outdoors.

Our first night in the campsite (and we would come to find it wouldn’t be our last), we were not allowed to cook over a campfire, or even make one to keep warm, due to the smoke from nearby forest fires (to learn more, please check out the following article from MontanaFreePress.org: https://montanafreepress.org/montana-2021-fire-season-smoke-air-quality/ – and pay close attention to the dates on the ‘Last Update’ in the right-most column). If you’re looking further down the page on this same link (https://montanafreepress.org/montana-2021-fire-season-smoke-air-quality/), you’ll find the Air Quality ratings from 1-6; for most of our trip through the West, the air quality ranged from 2-4 (second half of August). It’s safe to say the air quality, and lack of forest fires (no s’mores?!) impacted our camping trip; not to mention the air quality of millions of residents in cities all over the western part of the United States. #ClimateChange

Montana, Grouse

At any rate, the lake itself was serene. My husband were starting to get the idea when we crossed through the mountains ranging from east to west in the entire state of Montana – that this state was absolutely beautiful – but even so, Dickey Lake was truly a gem. Dickey Lake, Montana

On our way in, we saw what we believe to be a Grouse (https://fieldguide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=ABNLC09010) — see picture on the left, and during our first hike near the lake, we encountered a bird that resembled the Western Tanager (https://fieldguide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=ABPBX45050), see photo on right. Please check out the photos within this post, and let me know what kind of birds you think these were in the comments!

Dickey Lake, Montana

As for the lake, the water was somehow clear and turquoise blue simultaneously (see photo on the left) – and very cold, even the first day we arrived when the high was in the 80s (degrees Fahrenheit). The second day the temperature dropped to a high of 55 degrees Fahrenheit (+/-10 degrees or so), and our lack in fires became a little more dire, so unfortunately we decided not to swim in the lake after all.

HOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECT UPDATES: So, I really didn’t want to tell Ally this, however at some point during the camping trip I had a bad dream about the house. In the dream, we came home and found weird chipped paint and rusty nails everywhere, a room had somehow been added(?), and then I had to sneak out of a new porch that had been added to get out of the back door. At the time, I did not relay this to Ally, because she might be tempted to end the surprise and send me evidence of the work done on the house – and thank God I did not ask her to either, as the surprise was definitely worth the wait.

Especially, since by this time, SUNTEX had completed the installation of:

  • (9) brand new Elevate windows
  • Power washing and Cleaning, the driveway, sidewalk and house; and completed the Exterior Paint including the Trim (SherwinWilliams.com, Rosemary Green (SW 6187) and Netsuke (SW 6134))
  • Sims HomeNorandex Gutters surrounding the home, with well-thought out locations for the downspouts
  • Fixing the back door so that it closes (fixing our DIY installation)
  • Fixing our sliding barn-door project, which allows us more space in the primary bedroom, bathroom, and closet (fixing our DIY installation)
  • Fixing the backyard fence which was falling down – including agreeing to fix my neighbors portion for congruence

While there’s certainly plenty to cover, allow me focus on the windows for a moment.

Our home was built in the early 2000’s, so it’s not very old – however the windows were certainly sub-par, and a couple had cracks from even before the winter storm tested their durability.

We initially requested the basic, Picture-style Elevate windows (inn white) – check out the features shown below:

Elevate Window Features

For more information about the type of products SUNTEX offers for windows and window repair, please check out former Blog post on SUNTEX Window Products, here: https://suntexllc.com/product-deep-dive-energy-efficient-windows/.

Earlier in our search, we entertained one or two other window bids to see just exactly how window products compared. As new home owners, we had no idea what we were looking for at first.

The best windows we saw had a thick, five-layer custom design to trap heat and filter UV light. They allowed you to open the window pane in the middle of the window, so that you could lean it towards yourself and clean it, without removing the screen or going outside. Of course, there were likely tons of other features that I’m leaving out here – but the one thing I won’t forget was the price, which we unfortunately could not afford at the time. Thankfully, some time later, SUNTEX was able to step in and work with our budget, and find windows of incredible quality. The elevate windows Ally pitched me even had the key features I was hoping for: environmentally sustainable (thicker, more durable window panes), with the ability to open the window in the middle and fold it up to clean (admittedly, I am irrationally drawn to this feature).

That said, when Ally brought one to my house to familiarize myself with the look and feel, I knew these were the ones we were dreaming of! I couldn’t believe she could find them within our budget. It’s no surprise, well-knowing their work ethic and attention to quality, that SUNTEX would do an incredible job. What did surprise me however, was the amount of love in the work they did. You could see it in every detail of each project. In addition to the long list of completed projects above, Jose and his team added sealant around all of the doors – which we hadn’t even discussed – to help us out with energy costs, and mitigating pests coming in. Wood trim was also added to the garage door frame (unobtrusively) to mitigate light and air coming through, again leading to lower energy bills. Ally made sure that the team cleaned up both inside and outside after the work was done – to make sure that everything looked perfect for our arrival home. We weren’t sure what to expect when coming home, so this granted a breath of fresh air, and a warm welcome home – but more on that to come later.

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Let the Camping Commence!

Camping MontanaROAD TRIP UPDATES: This weekend, we’ll leave Washington to go east towards Idaho and then onto Montana, and will not be staying in room with four walls again until we get back to Colorado in two weeks. It’s safe to say we’re anxiously awaiting the Great Outdoors, and all that we will see and learn while we venture off the beaten path. For months leading up to the trip, my mother-in-law strategized the menu for the trip, and after arriving in Seattle she let me in on the plan – or, rather, she relayed me the items she’d already cooked and I entered them into our itinerary in excel. We later packed them into the cooler adding the things we would eat last according to the schedule at the bottom of the cooler, and the things we would eat the first night at the top, as per an online blog post recommendation she had found at some point in her extensive camping research. We packed two cars full of coolers, tents, and cookware and set off east. There was a brief stint in Spokane, WA, and then onward to Dickey Lake, Montana! Please do enjoy the photos from this part of the trip – this lake ended up being one of the most beautiful spots we would visit in all of Montana, which is an extremely high bar already.

SUNTEX logoHOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECT UPDATES: While I still haven’t seen any official pictures of the updates to our house yet, my appetite for them is growing. Alejandra tells me the paint, windows, gutters, and back door repair projects have all been completed! I still cannot believe the pace they’ve been able to keep these past couple of weeks, particularly with the rain delays, but it’s safe to say I’m very pleased with the effort and the communication SUNTEX has provided thus far! Even without being completely plugged in all week she’s kept me up to speed on everything happening at the project site, and has kept her word on the overall schedule of repairs. This week there are only a few projects left, and given their speed so far, I have no doubt that Ally and Jose will be completely wrapped up this week:

  • Repair the Fence
  • Repair the Sliding Barn Doors in closet & bathroom
  • Clean up!

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The Day of the Party! Good thing someone looked up the weather in Montana…

Party Washington

Pike’s Place Market, Seattle, WA

With excitement brimming, dishes stewing, and the water glasses sweating in the 90-degree weather, the day of the Sims family party had finally arrived! I couldn’t wait to see everyone again, and tell them what we had been up to and where we were planning to go next. Since I was in charge of salads – both lettuce and fruit – that day, I had to get a head start on the mise en place for the dish so it could all cool in time for the guests to arrive. Luckily I had the kitchen mostly to myself, and we had already gone shopping at Pikes Place Market earlier in the week for all of the necessary goods, so I got to work.

Soon, people started piling in, and the smiles and hugs reverberated through the crowd. Food was served, and time seemed to slow down for that afternoon as we all met under the shade awnings and talked about what a year we’d had. The kids played in the sprinkler/slide and absolutely none of the adults complained when they got wet from standing too close to the action. We talked about our plans for the house and the work SUNTEX would be doing all month long – and somehow I was even more invigorated to see all of the changes. We also mentioned our camping trip and the healthy fear of bears that had started to take over us.

Party Washington

Pike’s Place Market, Seattle, WA

Funnily enough, we had been planning so intently for the weekend reunion, as well as gathering the camping supplies and doing meal prep for the cooler, that no one had even bothered to look up the weather where we would stay. So, it was quite a surprise when someone shouted, “It’s going to snow in Montana in August?!” Quickly, we whipped out our phones and checked – sure enough, the second night we were planning to be in Glacier National Park, the temperature was expected to be 28 degrees Fahrenheit, with a chance of flurries! My Texas ears just couldn’t believe it – snow in August?? We had packed for cool weather but not this! Thank God someone looked it up before we left!

I think it’s safe to say the party was a success. With full bellies and full hearts, everyone parted ways that evening, laughing a little easier. It was incredibly refreshing getting to spend time with family again, and even though we were outside in the summer heat, we didn’t encounter any problems a Topo Chico couldn’t fix.

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Washington Energy Profile and the Beauty of Hydroelectric Dams

WashingtonIf you’ve ever been to Washington, especially having come from Texas, one thing becomes clear very quickly: there is a lot of water in this state! I’m not just talking about the rivers and lakes you’re used to, and not only does this state have a beautiful rocky coastline, but there is also tons of rainfall all year long (73 inches of rain per year on average, according to: https://www.bestplaces.net/climate/city/washington/index). The beauty of this type of weather pattern of course is that everything within that wet environment is poised to grow tall and wild, and the pines trees and giant blackberry bushes will certainly convince any naysayers!

In fact, when I lived in Seattle, I remember planting dahlias one spring and feeling shocked to find them, along with roses, peonies, poppies, and other native flowers that presumably had been planted before we lived there growing in abundance that fall! I did get tired of the rain from time to time, but I did not ever tire of watching out garden grow and change each season.

Given the hydro-electric dams in Oregon and Idaho, it’s no wonder that Washington, an even wetter state, should prove ahead of the bell-curve on this metric as well. In fact, according to eia.gov (https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=WA):

  • “The Grand Coulee Dam on Washington’s Columbia River is the largest power plant by generation capacity in the United States, and the seventh-largest hydro-power plant in the world. It can provide 4.2 million households with electricity for one year.”
  • “Washington generated the most electricity from hydropower of any state and accounted for 24% of the nation’s annual utility-scale hydroelectricity generation in 2019.”

Although these figures are certainly impressive, I think the chart below paints an even better picture of just how much of Washington’s energy grid is devoted to hydro-power:

Washington Energy

Washington Energy Consumption Estimates (EIA.gov)

If you’ve been following along with the prior blogs from this week, you already know how this ranks among the other Pacific Northwest states (see Idaho and Oregon’s energy profile posts, here https://suntexllc.com/idaho-oregon-washington-oh-my/). Looking for more details on the state? Feel free to check out the links below:

For more information on hydroelectricity, be sure to check out tomorrow’s post!

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