Month: July 2015

Bear Lake Monster Swim Trip

bear lakeHey guys!  I got back today from my little vacation up at Bear Lake.  For the last few years they have had an open water swim up there but I have always had a family commitment.  Well, this year I didn’t so I decided to go for it.  (Plus, they were doing a 1/2 mile swim which was super nice of them).  I found the only motel in town which looked like something out of Bates Motel but it was somewhere to sleep and headed up there Friday afternoon.  (I also saw Ant-Man and Mr Holmes this weekend so make sure to check out the movie blog for those reviews).

It’s kind of a weird tourist destination because aside from the lake there isn’t a ton to do.  There are only 4 or 5 restaurants and a few little shops.  No movies, bowling, or other activities for tourists.  I guess the lake is more than enough but Friday and Saturday afternoon it was raining and so it dragged a little.  I don’t know if I would want to get a place up there because when I couldn’t swim it would be kind of boring.

bear lake9

But luckily this trip the rain didn’t stop the race and I did get to swim.  You can see from the photo up above I finished and got my medal! With the weather it was very choppy waters and so I was glad I went with the 1/2 mile instead of the mile. I finished in 39 minutes which I was proud of.  I know technically it is slow but for me that was a pretty good time.   Here I am in the water:

bear lake8It was a small group of 1 mile swimmers but everyone was so friendly (as is always the case in open water events).  It was neat about 10 minutes into the swim I noticed a girl stopping and it didn’t seem like an ordinary stop.  She was gasping a little bit so I stopped and asked her if she was ok.  She said she was swallowing water and her asthma was bothering her. I’ve been there so I told her to do some breaststroke for a little while to get her confidence back and calm down the nerves.  She did and she finished the race! Afterwards she told me my encouragement had meant a lot to her.  That’s what is great about open water swimming- the community spirit that accompanies the sport.  Even though I am far from a typical athlete I probably was the best one to encourage someone like her to finish her race.  As I always say ‘if I can do it so can you!’.

Here’s a picture of all of us swimming the 1/2 or 1 mile races:

bear lake7I made this little video after the race.  It’s what I call old school- just my laptop and chatting, so don’t be too tough on that part of it.  The internet was very bad up there so I would have done more if I could.

Here I am showing my medal to Jim Hubbard who first introduced me to open water back in 2011 (I call him my open water missionary).

bear lake6After the race we all chatted for a bit and then I went back to the hotel room and had some breakfast and a good nap. Then later on in the afternoon the sky cleared up so I decided to go back to the beach and wear my glorious sun hat I bought a few weeks ago.

bear lake11 bear lake 10The lake was beautiful and the sun felt great. I wish I could have laid out in it even longer! But alas the sun went down and this morning I had to drive back home.  Still, it was a nice little break and I hope to do the Bear Lake Monster Swim next year and hopefully eventually get up to the 7 mile full race instead of just 1/2 mile. My next race Deer Creek Open Water Swim will be my 10th open water race! Can you believe it?  I can’t.

Go Set a Watchman Review

Stayed up all night reading for the first time since college. I mean when else am I going to get to read a new Harper Lee book? Parts of it bummed me out and you can tell it was written before To Kill a Mockingbird.

Still, it was better than I expected it to be and Lee’s skill with prose is definitely apparent. I really liked any section that was a vignette of the past and the idea of confronting the imperfect parent is moving. I just think it may have gone a bit too far with those imperfections. The romance is kind of lame as well.

My video review at

Here is my review from goodreads.  If you aren’t following me on goodreads or youtube please do.  Thanks!

go set watchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Feels a little bit like To Kill a Mockingbird fan fiction. It has an interesting idea of Scout dealing with the imperfections of her father but it takes it a little too far in that regard. I liked some of the vignettes of childhood which felt very TKAM to me. The romance is kind of lame. Still I was moved by a lot of the story and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

View all my reviews

My Brother’s Ted Talk

So my brother spoke at TedxPortland.  If you aren’t familiar with Ted Talks they are a series of talks by experts on a variety of topics.  A lot of them have a motivational speaker type of feel but not all of them.  In my brother’s case he was asked because he is the founder of Poler LLC which is a popular clothing and outdoors brand based in Portland.

He speaks about using technology to expand your life not minimize it, to help you get out into nature instead of isolating yourself.  It is a good reminder to me as someone who does spend a lot of time with media of different kinds to get outside and share that adventure with others.  I particularly like how he used the example of water as swimming in lakes and rivers is such a powerful experience for me.

This weekend I am going to Bear Lake for a race and since I haven’t been feeling that well I was wondering if it was going to be worth it.  My race is probably not going to be the greatest but listening to my brothers words made me glad I am spending some time in the beautiful water. Who cares about the race!

What do you guys think about what he has to say?  Do you find yourself phrozen to your mobile devices? What do you like to do to get connected with nature?

Hey Friends and Summer Movie Report Card

So sorry I haven’t written in a bit.  I haven’t been feeling great and was a little bit blocked on what to write about.  Sometimes after 7 years of blogging it can be a little tough to think of new topics to write about especially when I have my separate movie blog.  I figured I would just give you a little update on what’s going on in my life like I used to do when I was just starting out the blog.

Summer is slipping by faster than it should and I’ve hardly gotten to the open water at all.  Next week I am going up to Bear Lake to swim a 1/2 mile swim.  It should be a lot of fun and at least I will be in the water for the weekend.

It’s not even that I’ve been that busy I’ve just had an upset stomach and been battling an infection that won’t go away and is very uncomfortable.  I don’t know if it is this infection but I’ve felt low energy lately, like I wish I could sleep all day and do nothing.  Do you ever get that way?

It’s hard feeling so tired because I need to get back into shape.  The whole prospect is completely overwhelming.  After being bedridden for a while last year I’ve had a hard time jumping back into my exercise routine.  I think I am going to try and make little changes and not do anything too drastic. My goal is to focus on eating right and swimming as much as I can.  That should keep it from being too miserable.  Do any of you have any suggestions?

Everything is going well at work.  Like I posted a few weeks ago I am taking a slower strategy- still working very hard but trying to wait on things and make them as perfect as I can instead of rushing.  It seems to be working out quite well.  (The one downside to telecommuting is I’m never 100% sure what people think of me but I feel like it is positive).

I’ve been learning a lot and we have a new giveaway for MagicCool cooling towels you guys should check out. http://gvwy.io/3u8zr6. It would actually really help me out if you did enter and it’s super easy to do.

I’ve had a fun summer watching movies.  As far as new movies here’s the summary:

Minions- cute but not that funny.  C

Terminator Genisys- Arnold is good but that’s about. Makes no sense, bad acting. D+

Me Earl and the Dying Girl- Cute if a bit derivative of other movies and filmmakers B

Inside Out- Completely brilliant. Best movie I’ve seen since Perks of Being a Wallflower in 2012  A+

When Marnie was There- Moving exploration of a tween girl with depression and the mystery of the marsh house.  A

Love and Mercy- Ambitious combination of 2 movies about Brian Wilson of Beach Boys.  I liked it but it felt kind of fractured and wedged together.  B-

Jurassic World- Stupid movie but entertaining in spurts. C

San Andreas- Rock can’t save the bad dialogue and special effects I’ve seen before.  D

Tomorrowland- Interesting concept, original idea but episodic in feel, miscast and to be honest kind of boring.  C-

Mad Max Fury Road- Visceral, insane war movie with great battle sequences like I’ve never seen before.  A-

Far From Madding Crowd- Loved 2 leads, beautifully shot, didn’t like Troy segments or actor. A little soapy at times. B-

Pitch Perfect 2- Same plot as original but taken international. Nothing special but I did like the songs and it did make me laugh. B-

Ex-Machina- Very well made AI thriller. I wish I was a little more emotionally connected to characters and ending a little predictable but definitely worth seeing. B+

Age of Adeline- Hated the narration and kind of soapy but charismatic cast saves it. Overall a fine time at the movies.  C

Avengers Age of Ultron- I loved it.  I liked getting my backstory on all the team. Liked they seemed vulnerable, Ultron and the ending was great A+

So that’s the movies for the summer.  Over all, I think last summer was stronger.  I can tell you one thing I am grateful to Mad Max because I am so tired of dopey action movies like Terminator Genisys that don’t give me anything new.  Inside Out is by far my favorite of the summer and year.  It blew me away.

If you are deciding what to spend the big bucks on I would say my As are the best movies of the summer- Inside Out, When Marnie was There, Mad Max Fury Road and Avengers.

What have you liked this summer at the movies? Make sure to check out the movie blog for reviews of almost all these movies

What else is going on…

Well, I have been enjoying Big Brother.  Audrey is the first transgender contestant and she is stunningly beautiful. I would never have known if she hadn’t told us.  Unfortunately, she’s also been a total train wreck in the house but she seems to be squeaking by somehow.  It’s been a lot of fun to watch.  I really like a guy named Johnny Mac who is a dentist from Pennsylvania.  He is so funny.  There is also a poker player named Vanessa who I think could win.  I wish they weren’t doing Battle of the Block again because it makes things very predictable.

Any of you watch it?

I guess that is a good update on things going on.  Let me know what is going on in your life.

Liebster Award Drew’s Movie Reviews

Did the Liebester award over on the movie blog and thought you guys might get a kick out of some of my answers. Lately I’ve been a little stumped on writing topics so if you have any ideas let me know.

Rachel's Reviews

award-liebster-e1431999353202Hey guys!  My friend over at Drew’s Movie Reviews has nominated me for Liebster Award.  Thanks! I figure it would be a fun way for you all to get to know me better.  A reminder my regular blog has a lot of this information about me at smilingldsgirl.com.  My regular blog does get into politics and religion a little bit so not for everyone but I try to have a variety.

So here are the rules to the Liebster Award.

  • Thank the blog who nominated you and link back to them.
  • Nominate up to 11 other bloggers to receive the coveted award.
  • Answer 11 questions from the blogger who nominated you.
  • Tell your readers 11 random facts about yourself.
  • Give the nominees 11 questions to answer on their blog when they post their nomination.
  • Can you wiggle your ears?  No.  I wish I could!
  • Do you watch any web…

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Rachel’s Top 50 Animation Countdown (50-41)

I’ve started a new series on the movie blog of My Top 50 Animated films. I am going to release them over 5 weeks. I’ve worked very hard on the list so please check out 50-41. All of these are movies I love very much and would love your feedback on.

Rachel's Reviews

So I have a fun series I am going to be doing over the next 5 few weeks.  I have meticulously came up with my top 50 animated films.  This isn’t the most impactful or the best made.  It is just my favorite.  For example, I know Pinocchio is a masterpiece and I do appreciate it.  It’s just not a favorite of mine.  So you will disagree with many of these but you can make your own list ;)!

Nevertheless, love to hear your feedback.  It was very tough to do.  I also am still working through anime so there may be some of your favorites I haven’t seen.  Pretty much any movie on this 50 I would give an A too so I love them all even if it is 50th place.

I tried to keep this list in general order of my Disney Ranking but there may be…

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America is My Favorite

5bad11d0-2199-11e5-8352-a54ee272a10cThe other day my niece asked me ‘what is your favorite country?’ Without missing a beat I said “America is my favorite”.  She seemed surprised as if most people said Japan, England or some other country.  To me the answer was obvious.  Other countries are great and have wonderful aspects to them but America will always be my favorite.

There are a lot of reasons I love my country but most importantly is it is a country of dreamers, doers and individual rights.

We are guaranteed rights to speak our minds, worship freely, protect ourselves, and gather together for whatever purpose we see fit.  We cannot be searched unlawfully or treated without due process.  We are not subject to kings, rulers or one groups whims or philosophies.   I understand reality can be less than perfect in enforcing these rights but most countries, even highly developed nations, don’t even have the rights spelled out to begin with.

The fact is in America if you have a desire to achieve something you can go out and do it.  Will you be successful?  Maybe or maybe not but as long as it is a lawful enterprise you are free to give it a go. In a communist nation you may not have such an opportunity to pursue your dream. Many other countries try to shelter people from failure and therefore limit their eventual success (we are becoming more that way every day which worries me).

We also have a system where we attempt to educate every single person free of charge (aside from taxes). We fall way short on giving an adequate education but at least we try.  Still many students from around the world come to America to get their education.  It is unparalleled in its colleges and universities which by law no matter race, background or sexual orientation anyone that qualifies academically can enter.

America has a system of checks and balances that help to keep despots and tyrants at bay.  We have federalism that gives local and central voices power.  We can each vote for all our leaders and for the most part we can all run for office without any prerequisites of education or profession.  All of these things are not available in every nation.

Plus, America stretches across an entire continent something only China, Russia, Canada, and Australia can claim.  We have everything from the Rocky Mountains to the beaches of Hawaii.  We are the head of computer based innovation, have a legacy in manufacturing that needs to be reborn and we lead the way in movie-making, art, music and other creative expressions.

I’ve lived on the East, West coasts and in Midwest and traveled throughout America.  Wherever I go I have been blown away by the good people we have all around our country.  Sure we have problems but there still is much to be positive and optimistic about. Whenever I travel I can’t wait to get back home, get back to America!

At the very least we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the brave men and women who have fought and sometimes paid the ultimate price so we could have all of these freedoms.  America should be our favorite for that sacrifice alone IMO.

Happy 4th of July friends!  God bless America!

To read my talk on patriotism I gave years ago check out this post