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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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Mr. and Mrs. Sims Go To Washington

WashingtonROAD TRIP UPDATES: We arrived in Seattle after another 14-hour drive in the car – refreshed by the mountainous and pine scenery, along with all of the incredibly diverse scenery in Idaho and Oregon – but once we finally all piled out of the car, we were ready to party! We get into town and catch up with family we hadn’t seen in over a year, since before the COVID-19 pandemic began; but once we finally all got together, we laughed until we cried.

Ever since mentioning the 4-week road trip to his parents, my husband’s mom had been preparing a small get together for anyone who might want to come and hang out with family again, post-vaccination. Of course, only a meager 30-40 people replied yes.

So, it’s safe to say the party grew in size and complexity from day 1. For starters, there would be an army of 3-8 year-old nieces and nephews to entertain, and plenty of food would be needed for the remaining adults at the party. Of course there was the added question of masking up or not, so it was decidedly held outdoors – which, for anyone who’s been to Seattle in July and August lately can tell you, it’s quite hot – in fact, it might even be reminiscent of Texas summers (see Climate Change) – which means we also needed to think about keeping everyone cool. Thus, all week long, Aaron and I were running around Seattle getting food, setting up the outdoor equipment and furniture (underneath the artistically placed shade awnings for the occasion), and scheming up the menu and planning for the event which would take place that Saturday.

Sherwin Williams

HOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECT UPDATES: Finally the rain in Austin has stopped! This certainly has been a crazy summer in Texas with all of the rain we’ve been getting throughout June and July – check out what I mean here: https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/june-2021-us-climate-outlook-wetter-and-cooler-average-start, and honestly I couldn’t be more grateful for it. My garden has never looked better.

Alejandra and Jose are working more quickly than I could have anticipated, but now that it’s finally dry, it’s time to to finish up the exterior paint and install the windows.

When we first discussed this project, I had some slight idea in mind of which colors would go naturally with our exterior brick, however wasn’t quite ready to take the leap in painting over it. Plus, I had hoped to keep the materials looking as natural as possible, thus deciding to go with a green and tan exterior. While I didn’t anticipate him being so passionate about this part of the project, my husband and I had a lot of fun doing some reconnaissance in the area to see which colors looked the best on different homes, so we could test out our theories, and agreed on this palate. From there, it was simple, according to the SUNTEX Quick Guide steps below…


SUNTEX Quick Guide to Home Improvement Projects

The beauty of working with friends that you trust is that you can leave the creative problem solving completely in their capable hands, while sharing your inner-most dreams and goals for your home, because they genuinely want to know what you want to see in your home! Working with SUNTEX as a customer was a fun experience because I got to see our work first-hand, and feel the pride in knowing exactly what was happening along the way.

Alejandra, and the entire SUNTEX team, did an absolutely incredible job in setting aside time that was convenient for Aaron and I to meet (outside of working hours of course), and walked us through the project every step of the way – without the burden of too many meetings or being bombarded with emails. She understood that as someone with a busy schedule both in and outside of work-life, it was important to communicate in ways that were effective and insightful. For example, while choosing paint colors we hit a snag when learning that due to the winter storm, as well as a national shortage due to supply-chain delays related to the pandemic, there was a shortage of paint samples. Gone were the days when we could paint a few small squares on the outside of our house to test & see whether or not we liked the color.

To Sherwin Williams’s credit (sherwin-williams.com), they had some pretty cool work-arounds for this problem that Ally was happy to share with us:

  1. small stick-able squares that allowed you to see the color you wanted on your home, or
  2. you can upload a picture of your home online and test out random paint colors.

House Rendering - Front

House Rendering - Back

Note: If you have a couple of hours to kill and just want to have some fun, I highly recommend checking out the ColorSnap visualizer here: https://www.sherwin-williams.com/visualizer#/active/default.

We opted for solution #2, and were able to design a couple of simple renderings of what our house might look like with a splash of paint, specifically rosemary green (SW 6187) and netsuke (SW 6134) – check them out for fun (left, front of house; right, back of house). Alas, before even arriving, we had been able to detail online exactly which parts of the trim we’d like to paint tan, and which parts of the house we hoped would be green (of course, deferring to Ally & Jose’s discretion on site), and were able to come up with the perfect outline for them to follow when painting the house!

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Idaho, Oregon, Washington – Oh my!

ROAD TRIP UPDATES: After our evening arrival in Salt Lake City, we were happy for the easy check-in, delicious dinner, and good night’s sleep at the Radisson Hotel downtown (https://www.radissonhotelsamericas.com/en-us/hotels/radisson-salt-lake-city-downtown). The city itself was warm and vibrant – and nestled in between the glorious mountains of Utah, the views are hard to beat no matter where in the city you stood. We also noticed some of the temples on our way in, which were certainly spectacular views to behold – with the stark white architecture which contrasted perfectly with the green fields and blue mountains surrounding them (featured right). The next part of the journey would take us through Idaho, Oregon, and Washington as well – so in this post and later this week we’ll focus on the PNW energy profiles, and the vast beauty that comprises this part of the country.

Idaho Energy Profile

IdahoBefore traveling through Idaho, I’ll admit I didn’t know much about it beyond some faint idea that they grew potatoes (see Idaho Potatoes, https://idahopotato.com/). Naturally, my imagination led me to believe the state was covered in potato farms and not much else, and while there is certainly farm-land to be found in Idaho, we saw plenty of other vegetation as well! For one, there were tons of streams and rivers throughout – and we even stopped at dog park for Benny and Earl while we were outside of Boise, that was covered in green grass and weeping willows. It was just beautiful, and very peaceful I might add!

Checking out their energy profile on EIA.gov (https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=ID), we immediately learn that Idaho is a much greener state than anticipated:

  • “In 2019, 76% of the electricity generated in Idaho at utility-scale power plants was produced from renewable energy sources, the third-highest share for any state after Vermont and Maine.”
  • “Idaho is among the five states with the lowest average electricity price, in part because of the large amount of electricity that comes from relatively inexpensive hydro-power, which accounted for 56% of the state’s generation in 2019.”
  • “Idaho’s small population contributes to it being among the 10 states with the lowest total petroleum consumption, but Idaho’s per capita petroleum use is near the national average.”

Perhaps it’s obvious that with a lower total population, (roughly 1.78 M, https://datacommons.org/ranking/Count_Person/State/country/USA?h=geoId%2F16), Idaho has lower overall petroleum consumption rates, however I think it’s still pretty impressive that so much of their state grid is dominated by renewable energy and hydro-power.

Oregon Energy Profile

OregonIt’s no secret that Oregon has a diverse landscape – home to some of the tallest mountains in North America, including Mount Hood (https://www.fs.usda.gov/mthood), as well as counting numerous rivers and waterfalls within it’s vast territory – such as Multnomah Falls (https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/crgnsa/recarea/?recid=30026) – it’s no wonder that this state is such a sought-after travel destination for skiers and hikers. Our journey through Oregon this time was short however, and we would only be spending a brief moment passing through the grassy hills and into the pine-forests before arriving in Washington later that same day.

It’s easy to think of Oregon as “just another Pacific Northwest State,” if you’re not from the area, and while there are some regional differences between Oregonians and Washingtonians or Californians, the western-most states do have a lot in common when it comes to energy. Just check out what eia.gov has to say about their devotion to green energy (https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=OR):

  • “In 2019, 49% of Oregon’s utility-scale electricity net generation came from hydroelectric power, and 62% came from conventional hydroelectric power plants and other renewable energy resources combined.”
  • “In 2019, wind farms produced 11% of Oregon’s electricity net generation from more than 1,900 turbines with more than 3,400 megawatts of installed generating capacity.”
  • “Oregon is a partner in the West Coast Electric Highway along with California, Washington, and British Columbia, Canada. As of December 2020, there were more than 670 public electric vehicle charging stations with a total of more than 1,800 charging outlets in service across Oregon.”

While other states are still trying to build wind farms, Oregon leads the way in wind and hydro-power, and has already begun construction on the electric car infrastructure needed for battery-powered cars to charge and continue to operate on longer trips.

I also found this Quick Fact about Oregon energy interesting (https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=OR): “Oregon receives more than 90% of the refined products it uses from the Puget Sound refineries in the state of Washington.”

To find out more about Oregon’s energy profile, check out the following links – or share your own insights within the comments section below!

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