Beauty in the Snow

Yeah, it's been snowy for a week now and I guess if I got up early and drove in it every day I would be more ready to see it gone but those aren't my circumstances. To be honest, I think I didn't mind it too much even when I did have to get up and drive in it daily. I was raised in So Cal and Hawaii and that "good" weather gets just plain boring.

I love all the seasons and this year, having no kids to chase after and being unemployed I can actually enjoy the snow - from the protection of my warm little house, with my electric fireplace. It's started last Friday and is snowing right now, Sunday evening. And it still thrills me.

A year or two ago I got a bird feeder that the birds will actually use and since then I have a birdy party every day. And being an avid photographer with a new DSLR with a long zoom lens (although I'd love an even longer one!) I've been enjoying taking pictures of my new friends. With the variety of birds, squirrels and an occasional bunny I sometimes feel like Snow White.

I've noticed that when the temp drops much below freezing the birdies don't come out. But when it's warm enough and just snowing (not raining) the birdies come out in force. At one point the other day I tiptoed into my bedroom to sneak some shots and found Cookie (my cat) laying by the french doors, enjoying the show herself. The birds were coming in real close, just outside the doors to get out of the snow under the tree and under the eaves. I have a suet block in the near tree too, to attract them. I saw some red birds that I've never noticed before on the feeder and got pictures of them. They were red house finches, which I've never seen around before. They've probably been here but the red is just brighter with the white background to light them up. Occasionally the nasty starlings would come around and bother everyone, although they do take pretty nice pictures. One of my favorites, the Northern Flicker, a woodpecker cousin, came by too. Then there were the usual chickadees, sparrows, blue jays, squirrels, crows, towhees, cowbirds and juncos. Even a family of bright yellow grosbeaks came by, but they took off before I could get a shot of them.

Ah - the life of the unemployed!

Point - Counterpoint

I feel I need to blog something regarding a past blog - one of Rick's, that is.

On Friday, December 19, 2008 he had a blog entitled "Snow, Ice, and Radio Announcers" and I feel there is a thought in it that I need to counterpoint:

"Yesterday was a particularly snowy day, prompting a lot of worry-warts to leave work early "so they could make it home". Yeah, yeah... The snow was all of an inch deep, but whatever."

My thoughts on this particular point, since I have a "problem" giving people the benefit of the doubt is that some people are uncomfortable driving on this icy stuff. Even after having done it for a week they may still be apprehensive and have never been very skilled. They may live on a particularly hairy hill that is difficult to traverse under icy or snowy conditions. They may get off after dark, meaning after the slushy roads that existed at 2:30 freeze hard and turn to sheer ice by 4 or 5 PM. When I worked, although I'm not too uncomfortable driving in those conditions I was one of those who got off after dark and, if given the opportunity, I would gladly leave when the roads were still mostly slush. I have a hill to climb and a very icy neighborhood to finally drive through. I do not consider myself a worry-wart. I just prefer to drive under better conditions if given the choice.

"And that - is the rest of the story. Good Day."

Bits and Pieces

I know - here I am again, not blogging for weeks. Well, life has been too interesting in some areas and not interesting enough in others. There are big things taking place in my children's lives that I'm not really free to blog. And then my own life is kind of on hold - my work, my business, my life.

So, to follow the theme of bits and pieces:

  • I have two weekly family obligations now - I babysit Joe and Shayne on Fridays and on Tuesdays Heather, Hunter and I go shopping together. I'm enjoying both so far.

  • My business is at a standstill, I intend to advertise in the yellow pages and maybe the local newspaper when I have some available funds. In the meantime, I'm looking into selling photography, online and locally. The trick is finding the right outlets. Rick has been saying I should contact the local paper to see if they'll do a little story on me and my fledgling business. Hey - free advertising, right?

  • We have been in a deep freeze since the weekend and it's supposed to continue at least through next weekend. As usual, we have the cold temps but not the precip. We did get just enough snow to make everything slick and it refreezes every night where the sun hit and melted during the day. Our next chance for snow is tonight or tomorrow. That's fine - I'm ready - bring it on!

  • I have an offspring going in for some exploratory surgery this Friday, laproscopically to begin, then more if needed. It will hopefully ease this person's mind and eliminate some frustrating symptoms. They will be staying overnight.

  • Rick and I, his daughter and her boyfriend flew over Snoqualmie and Blewett passes last wknd to Leavenworth, a Bavarian village just over the Cacsade mts from us. We had an interesting day but it was a little too crowded for my taste, even though the crowds were supposedly half of the normal Xmas wknd crowds. Then we flew back that evening over Steven's pass. Basically the whole day was spent in the snow on both sides of the mts, in the car and on foot. Brrr!

  • I'm still putting together things to send to family members that I reconnected with last month. Honest - I'm working on it!

  • I updated our smugmug galleries, in particular the "Family" category that I had only one gallery in, despite having the mob that I do. That is now corrected and the most popular person in the family according to "hits" on our website? - Joe!

  • Rick's cousin lost a cat to a coyote, then miraculously got her back! Turns out it was someone else's cat that was in their yard that was attacked, their "Snowball" (no - she's black) was sleeping in a closet and wasn't discovered for a couple days!

  • Another of my offspring is having serious marriage difficulties and is leaning on family to get through it. As much as we'd like to see things work out, it doesn't look hopeful. But we'll be there regardless.

  • My Montero is down at Dale's, he's always offering to help me sell my vehicles. Well, this one just isn't getting any attention, I had more interest after I raised the price so I just raised it again, we'll see. I also have the title to the van I drove up from Calif so may proceed on that sale as well. I'm just waiting for the ice to dissipate first, I don't want anyone test-driving it right now.

  • Here's a rant - why do they have to screw things up that you've used for years? In this case I'm talking about ground turkey chubs. I've been using them to make all my hamburger dishes since the 80's. Now everything I make from it tastes tainted. The "meat" doesn't look the same either. So, after all these years I'm switching back to ground beef. I could spend $4/lb to get the better ground turkey but part of the reason I initially switched was cost and that's no less a factor still.
Like I said - bits and pieces. I hope that covers everything. Maybe something bigger will jump in my face and lead me to a more interesting blog.

That Long I-5 Drive

Not much to say about the I-5 corridor between SoCal and Washington. I guess if you haven't done it over and over it may seem interesting but to those of us who've done it too many times - ughh! I really shouldn't complain though, to be honest.

I was in a great rig for driving that long haul. My uncle had a 12 passenger aka 1 ton Chevy van that I brought home so I didn't have to rent something, so I could bring whatever I wanted home and so I could take more time to sell it and get a little more money than if we'd sold it in a hurry down in California. It has a lot of power and is tall and imposing. I drove aggressively, moreso than normal. Maybe the power of the big van got to me. I was on a mission. I got in the fast lane and pulled right up on the butt of anyone in my way. Everyone moved over for that big vehicle, less about 2 cars the whole trip. It did get only about 15 MPG though.

I drove through to 8 PM when I hit Redding and was getting weary again. I knew I had mountain roads ahead and then Oregon with the worst I-5 roads on the trip. So I stopped and settled into the Super 8 motel.

It had everything I needed without even having to ask. It only lacked in the area of their continental breakfast. It was the slimmest of all the breakfasts I've enjoyed this month on my trip with Rick, just donuts, cereal and things you toast. But I ate what I needed and hit the road.

Not really anything to report about the drive. One accident at I-5 and highway 14 to the Mojave Desert, a little fog just over the grapevine and the usual grey and drizzle once I got halfway through Oregon. There was a little traffic nearing Portland. But nothing to really compain about. Overall an easy (boring) drive.

I was sure glad to get home but knowing that my kids would expect stuff from me immediately I warned them that I would spend my first night home at Rick's, it's my sanctuary, my hiding place from the kids. He had his mannequin "Mona" holding a "Welcome home, Suzie" sign, the goof.
It was great to just veg, have someone feed me and just sleep as long as I wanted on a real bed.

Mmmm. Zzzz.

Wrapping Up the Estate

Most of you reading this know the ending, how the estate was finally settled. But for documentation sake I'm going to blog it anyway.

At the end of my last blog I was talking about the money we were making at our garage sales and how we were going to use the money to have the outside of the house painted. Well, apparently we had not yet discovered that mom's laptop and digital camera had been stolen on Friday of our last sale weekend. Then Monday when mom went to deposit the sale money at the bank she discovered that all the large bills (as well as the rolls of quarters and dimes) had been stolen late Sunday. Approximately $1500 in cash was gone. Fortunately we didn't sell the appliances at the sale and so still had a little money from the sale of those after the sale, as well as the ones, nickels and pennies. I think they came to about $400.

After having worked our butts off sorting, cleaning and selling, to have that much loss was very discouraging. We felt like we were getting nowhere and we were killing ourselves to get there. So we decided to revisit an offer made by one of our garage sale customers - an offer $85,000 less than the appraised value. But considering that we wouldn't have to finish painting, cleaning up and repairing the house, we wouldn't have to pay to refinance the house ($10,000) and we wouldn't have to pay realtor fees (he's a licensed realtor) we decided unanimously to cut our losses and let him make that deal. He is getting a great deal and we're all done, we can all go home and just wait for escrow to close in early January.

So I left the painting supplies sitting around, mom and I both packed up all we could take and we took off Thursday, Thanksgiving day. I left at 11:30 in Uncle Eugene's van packed to the gills and mom hit the airways at 4:40.

The day we made the decision to sell was amusing. Kathy and Pearce showed up to have a powwow and replace the broken dining room window. They came in and Pearce just exploded - not in anger, just in his thoughts on the subject. It was comical. But he had his say and went outside to spray windows and wait to help the trash man empty our 9 overflowing trash cans. He even set up a camping chair on the sidewalk to wait. In the meantime mom, Kathy and I all talked about the pros and cons of selling to "Ron" or renting, refinancing and selling later next year. We all came to the same conclusion to quit pouring money, time and energy into the place and let it go. Then we had Pearce come in and we called dad to let him know our decision. It felt so good when his only reply was a concession to our wishes. We met with Ron and got escrow going that very night. Then out for a celebratory dinner at Chili's.

This was a close to a big chapter in all our lives. It was Kathy's and my home away from home while we lived in Lakewood. And it was always our landing place when coming to Southern California for all the years to follow. It was always Granny's house, even though she died in '94 and was difficult to say goodbye. But it'll be someone else's house to make memories in now. I hope they have as many good memories as we've had.

A HUGE Job!!

One of the first things I had to do when we got here was go to the bathroom. Interesting, huh? Well, while I was on the throne I started looking around, trying to determine what had been done in that room. I had no idea how the huge job was going to take place.

The house was so packed with junk, boxes everywhere. The boxes were filled half with stuff and half with garbage. Every drawer, closet and those boxes was full of something and had to be sorted. So we just opened something and started. If there was a set of something it was spread all over, part here and part there. Everything had a chip or broken leg. Everything was filthy. There were shelves on the walls everywhere covered with dirty, chipped teenager-style knick knacks. I found the missing handle to the antique dresser drawer in a box in the garage.

Uncle Eugene was an artist and his favorite subject was nudes. Apparently he started doing nudes early in life, probably right after his teens and continued up to his death. Everywhere you turned there were more nudes. So we had to get them all together. We also gathered up the other artwork so we could all look through it and pick out what we liked.

We sorted and finally started having a garage sale 2 days after I got here. We had the sale every day for the first week and averaged about $300 a day, not bad. I advertised on Craigslist and Friday we had a $1000 day, Saturday was about $600. Our sales are going well. We need to make this money because we need to have the house painted inside and out. I can do the inside but I'm not touching the outside - it's black with hot pink trim. It also needs a window replaced and a couple thresholds repaired/replaced. The dumpsters we've been filling cost $100 a piece. The gardener costs nearly $100 a month. There's trash, water, power, and cable to pay for. But tomorrow is our last sale day, thank goodness, we need to get the house painted and get rid of this junk that's left.

I've been removing shelving and nails from the walls and filling holes. There were 2 walls of wallpaper that had to be stripped. Then the carpet will be pulled up. Dad took care of lots of trash before mom came out. The gardener took down the avacado tree that was attracting rats. My brother in law, Pearce, and Rick did a bunch of tree trimming. Pearce also plans to replace the broken, rotted window in the dining room.

So - the work continues. Mom will be leaving Thursday and I hope to leave Saturday or Sunday, as soon as the painting and carpet are done.

As much as I hate to see the old place go, it's been in the family since '65, it'll be great to be done and I can go back home to my soft life. I'm sore.

So much for the Fun

Well, I guess I'll start by finishing up our trip.

We spent the next day traveling the highway touted one of the best in Utah, highway 12 through Escalante and Bryce Canyon. Well, we enjoyed the previous day's highway much better. Highway 12 was pretty but I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It was too much like home, I guess. There were the pretty pines and some stark white naked trees that looked fantastic in front of the vivid blue sky. But mile after mile of that gets boring.

We did get to Bryce Canyon while there was still snow. I never have seen Bryce Canyon but I've seen plenty of pictures and always hoped that I could see it with snow. Well, It was just as gorgeous as the pictures, even moreso. Rick and I had fun going from spot to spot, goofing around with all the signs announcing the name of the lookout along with the elevation. It was cold and there was lots of ice and snow.

We got our fill of pictures there and hit the road for Vegas. We made it just after dark, took a quick drive down the strip (sorry, I haven't been there for about 30 years) and found a room in the next town down the road, Jean, Nevada. It's a big casino/hotel/restaurant all in one. No town really, just a casino, etc. But the room was only about $35. We hit the bar, had a few drinks, made fun of the singing act and hit the hay.

The next AM we headed for the interstate and made a beeline for Lakewood. We made in there at about noon thirty. My mom, sister and 2nd cousin Edith were all there to greet us.

So much for the fun part of the trip - now the work begins.

Anything but Bland(ing)

When we got up this morning Rick got up and looked out the window. To his "Guess what?" I was gonna guess rain. But NO! His reply was SNOW! It had snowed about an inch overnight. We certainly weren't expecting that. So we started checking out the weather forecast to see how fast we should head outta here. No snow in the forecast, just a slight chance overnight. So we decided not to worry about it.

I was actually excited to be able to see the desert with a dusting of snow. I've always liked the photos with that combo. I think my mom painted a picture like that too.

So we took off and it was amazing, at every turn or just over every ridge was a brand new view. It was fantastic. Unfortunately, with so much to look at and/or photograph we didn't make very good time. I think we did maybe about 200 miles max.

We saw the Natural Bridges Park with 3 natural bridges. Unfortunately, having just spent 2 days seeing dozens of much
more dramatic arches the bridges weren't as exciting as they should have been. But we did hike down to one and got shots from below.

We passed lots of buttes, canyons, the Colorado river, a pretty bridge. There was a "Jacob's Chair," a "Cheesebox Butte," "Dirty Devil," "Factory Butte," "Bear's Ears Pass," "Glen Canyon." But my favorite spot was a little historical town called Fruita. The ancient Indians grew fruit there, then the Mormons. They have old restored buildings, a small river running alongside the rock wall, lots of bright autumn yellow trees,
parks, petroglyphs, lots of fairly tame mule deer. Very colorful, clean and interesting. My best shot I think of the whole trip was one of a pair of horses eating with the sun backlighting them.

We were going to fly down hwy 12, touted "the scenic highway you can't miss" to the town of Escalante tonight but at a photo stop Rick ended up talking to a couple like us and they were adamant that we stay in Torrey, just before hwy 12 to see it in the AM hours. We told them how hard it had been to get just as far as we did today and they said
if we thought that was good we haven't seen anything yet.

So I'd like to get up early, like 6 and hit the road to get the most of the light for the day. It would be nice to go to Crestline by tomorrow night but now it looks like we may spend just one more night out here and leave for CA Friday AM.

I think I may wear out my camera on this trip.

Arches 2

As much as we had just spent most of a day hiking, getting in about 7 miles or more, when we woke up the next morning we were ready for more. We still wanted to see one of the most famous ones, called the Landscape Arch, it's a very long, slightly arching arch. It's actually 100 yards long. But it was in the section of the park furthest from the entry. So we had a long drive.

On the way into the park we spotted a hawk soaring around, no
doubt hunting for some food. We wanted to stop at the visitor's center and check out info on an area called the Fiery Furnace, a place I'd seen on the web but hiking it was a little more involved. I got some great shots of the hawk and then we found out that we could do the Fiery Furnace but it takes about 2 - 3 hours to do and the guided tour starts at 1. We wanted to leave the area before that so we opted out on that idea.

As we headed out we enjoyed reviewing what we'd seen the day before and refrained from stopping too much for more pictures. We finally passed the road that went off to Delicate Arch and were then in fresh territory.

First we came to the Fiery Furnace area and I wanted to just step inside the maze of canyons 10 feet or so, just enough to get a few shots but there was a $150 fine for entering without a permit. So we moved on and came to a spot where we got to see something similar. Inside these little narrow canyons was an arch called "Sand Dune Arch" which was just beautiful but the wind was whistling right through that canyon and blowing sand ferociously! Then we headed out for the next one called "Broken Arch," across the desert in the blowing sand .8 of a mile. We got there and explored as usual then headed out the back side to follow the loop. We had gone quite a while in the blowing sand, walking on sand and were beginning to wonder what was up, this trail was only supposed to be .8 mile long. It was, but not the loop. The loop was more like 2 miles. but it took us through some interesting slot canyons and we thoroughly enjoyed it once we got out of the blowing wind and soft sand.

We finally headed out to the Devil's Garden area to see the Landscape arch. First we stopped for a real short jaunt to the base off the Skyline arch. THEN on to the other stuff. The trail was being very
heavily groomed by lots of young strong people, using rakes, shovels, a soil packing machine and lots of boulders. The arch was interesting but not the best in my opinion. I still preferred the Delicate Arch. We finally felt fulfilled.

We headed back through Moab to go down to the next town near the turnoff to our next highway, Blanding. It was difficult to find a hotel with wifi but we did finally.
It was a bit of a dive but it was packed, no doubt for the wifi. But once unpacked we found that the wifi they offered wasn't set up right and we actually ended up using some neighbor's wifi instead, it was unsecured and we could connect.

Next stop - Hanksville?

The Arches!

No, I didn't say the Archies - Arches! As in Arches National Park.

When I was a kid I went on a couple road trips with my family but we never
made it into Utah. I've seen pictures of the arches and other monoliths and knew I'd enjoy seeing them in person. Well, Rick and his daughter flew through this area last year on a road trip (in very HOT July!) and he knew he wanted to come back. So this was a big part of our plan for this vacation / family meet / help trip.

In my last blog I introduced you to one of my younger half brothers who lives here in Utah but has never made it to the Arches. He really needs to make the effort, it's unbelievable!

I left you as we drove into Moab , Utah, which is 3 miles from the entrance to the Arches Natl Park on Sunday night. So Monday
morning we drove to the park after breakfast. But first we had to stop at a small city park right on the edge of town that is located on 2 sides of the Colorado River with a picturesque bridge connecting them. It was rather still and we got some nice reflection shots. It was beautiful in the sun but rather cold in the shade. Now on to the Arches.

The first pull off and hike area we ran into is called "Park Avenue" because the monoliths that line both sides of the "canyon" resemble the big buildings that line Park Avenue in New York. That trail is 1 mile 1 way and we walked about 3/4 of the way before we returned to the car. They have names for all the towers but I didn't learn all of them.

We headed up the road to the next turnout which was to see the balancing rock. The rock on top is the size of 3 school buses. We walked all the way around it and played with pictures of us holding it in our hands or pushing it.

Right in this same area is an unspecified rock that many tourists have dubbed "Penis Rock" and for obvious reasons. We hiked out to it as well, although this wasn't a marked trail and we really shouldn't have. We were careful to walk only on what they refer to as "slickrock" or in other people's footsteps so as not to do any harm to the area. They have a saying "Don't bust the crust" which is referring to the weird stuff the soil does when left alone, it crusts up and grows lichens and keeps the water flowing correctly.

Next stop - the "Windows", our first arch! Actually 2 arches side by side with nothing to block the view from either direction. Some arches are in front of a wall and so are kinda one-sided, you can only see the sky through them from one side. These had a trail completely encircling them. Right to the south (?) of them was another arch - the "Turrets" arch, with a little brother stuck up above him. We walked right through him and onto a ridge past so we could get lots of interesting shots from both sides.

Right across the street was the "Double arch", 2 arches that shared one side, kinda triangular. It was very photographic. We climbed up inside it too. I started using some of my special lenses and laying on my back, etc, to get unique angles. We also started offering anyone we saw taking a pic of their loved one in front of a landmark the opportunity to let us get them both in the pic. We did that a lot, and a few folks offered the same back to us.

The next hike was the icing on the cake. The famous arch that's on the Utah license plates - the "Delicate Arch." It was a 3 mile round trip hike but pretty strenous with things to see the whole way. We walked on a lot of that slickrock and there was a lot of uphill climbing. When we were nearing the arch I spotted a small arch up about 20 feet and decided to climb up to it. When I got up to it and looked through - there was the Delicate Arch! It looked fantastic. The hike around the last section was like a video game or the Flintstones. The Arch was gorgeous and there were lots of people. We noticed at one point across the canyon on a ridge a couple people. We decided on our way out to try to find the route to that spot. Rick started blazing the trail and we started noticing a few "cairns," the little stacks of rocks used to mark a trail. So we followed them and found the spot. The view of the arch was even better from our new vantage point because the sun was behind us, at the spot where everyone else was the sun was behind the arch and so it didn't light up very well. It was the best hike with the best goal of the whole day. Oh yeah, there was a little authentic 102 year old cabin that had been lived in by a fellow named Wolfe. There were also some petroglyphs, very neat ones.

On our way back to town we had a spectacular sunset that we stopped to photograph and watched it get brighter and brighter while we were stopped, like someone was turning up the dial.

After a dinner at Wendy's we went in the hotel hot tub that was decorated with the arches and stars on the ceiling. A totally awesome day and still more to see tomorrow!

On Vacation

OK we've been on the road for a couple days now and I haven't shared any of it with you. Sorry, been busy! Actually, it's more a matter of exhaustion from all this driving and FUN!

Our trip started about 6:30 Saturday AM. We hit the road and enjoyed listening to tunes on the DVD player that Rick picked up for this trip. It plays just about everything. So we loaded up some CDs and DVDs with our favorite stuff and spent all day driving in the light on and off rain and enjoying just talking and listening to tunes.

We all know what eastern Washington looks like. Oregon was a little more interesting but Idaho was just plain boring. It was dark by the time we hit Utah.

We made it to my brother Mark's house in Lehi, near Provo. He has a nice split level house, a son, Marky 6 and daughter, Rebecca 9 of his own and a stepson, Nathan 15 and stepdaughter, Celeste 13. It was humorous, when we all got inside and sat on the couch he just exploded in conversation. Apparently he's been wanting to know a lot of stuff and share even more for quite a while. At our Grandma's funeral a couple years ago I could see that. His wife, Rachel, got home from work shortly after 11 and joined the conversation. We ended up in the kitchen eating home made appplesauce seasoned like pie filling - yummy, with ice cream. They have 2 cute dogs, a white terrypoo named Holly and a Golden or yellow lab named Sandy.

They had an interesting story about Sandy. Apparently some released convict had chosen their house to break into one night and the dog knew something was going on so she woke up Rachel. She and the dog stepped outside, saw the guy sitting in their vehicle and called the cops. They came out and got the guy. He was going to break into their daughter's room with a rock and rob them, who knows how that may have turned out.

The next morning we got up and for breakfast Mark made some biscuits and they brought out the applesauce again and - yep - the ice cream too, or cool whip. That was breakfast! Funny!

I shared some pictures with them and we hit the road. First things first though. Coffee - they're Mormon so they didn't have any. Then a trip to Cabela's to look for a coat for Rick. Didn't buy one.

So now we hit the road again. More rain, more tunes, more fun. We turned off the highway at one point to explore and had a great time driving down this dirt road, maybe 5 miles. We found lots of stuff to take pictures of. Plants, hills, high power lines, (?) barbed wire and broken glass (??). Then I videoed our exit, Rick ran it up to 60 MPH on that dirt road! We got out a whole lot faster than we went in.

We got into Moab not long before sundown so we found a room and headed out to find dinner. We ended up at the Moab Brewery. Good stuff again.

So far so good, 2 days and no disasters or arguing. Let's see what the rest of the trip holds.

Work, work, work

It certainly has been a busy week. But today it's raining, I'm forced to stay inside, so I figured I might as well blog.

I've been doing some serious yardwork. Stuff I haven't been able to get to for years. It feels great. I chopped back a vine real hard and have 2 more in front that I'm gonna chop nearly to the ground. I'm weeding and barking. I'm moving things around that just aren't working where they are. Yesterday I asked Denny to bring his little chainsaw over and trim and chop some things that are long overdue. There was some serious trimming on the 2 evergreens I have out front. Then we went out back and actually cut down 4 little trees, 2 were volunteers in the wrong place and 2 have been in their places since I've been here but all they've done is been something to mow around. We also trimmed up some trunks, removing low limbs and also some high limbs that were ripping up the playground my grandsons are now playing on. I was gonna proceed into the front yard today but, as I said, it's raining so it'll have to wait til tomorrow. I need a day to recuperate anyway, I was so sore last night I could barely move. Thanks goodness for that HOT TUB!

My dad is in California and has been for the last week. My mom's last family member died in June so the old house has to be emptied and readied for sale. He was an artist and a recovering alcoholic. I think he would have taken fair care of the place but he had a tendency to take in people who had no respect for the place, it wasn't
their family's house. Who knows, they may have not had respect for their own place, had they ever had one. They also had 4 dogs who supposedly have all died since my uncle's death, even though they went home with someone who was living there. Anyway, dad has been clearing out the trash and junk, filling dumpsters, etc. In a week he'll be heading home and my mom will be there a few days later to start painting and distributing the remaining stuff. Rick and I will be going down on a multifaceted road trip. We would like to spend a couple days in Utah, exploring the Arches area which he flew through with his daughter, Sarah, a couple years ago. I have a brother there whom we'll probably spend the night with and meet his family. Then we'll go to Crestline where my family has roots and see my sister's place. Then on to Lakewood (or Bellflower, whatever it's called now) to help with the house. We'll take a day and jet over to Thousand Oaks to see Rick's son's family. He has a new baby that Rick hasn't seen yet, his second grandchild. We may also have a dinner over at my father's house in Cerritos, just 3 miles from the house we're going to help paint, etc. Overall it should be a good trip. And I should come home with some goodies, artwork or something.

Oh, yeah, I'm somebody now! If you google either "photography auburn, wa" or "video auburn, wa" I have a balloon on the map! Yesterday I was "J" but today I'm further down, I'm "N" and "R". I wonder if that's because I made some changes and it pushed me down the list, I added a couple videos and removed my cell phone, it was showing as my main phone. Anyway, I hope it'll help get me some work.

What a Day!

When I was raising my family and only had 3 kids there was a day that stood out. Well, today I had a day very similar to that day - except my kids are all raised, now it involves my grandkids, does it ever end?!?

The day in the past I was actually babysitting a 4 yr old nephew, David. So Kevin was 4, Denny was 1 and Rach would have been 9. David had a fall and broke his front teeth out and was a big bloody mess. The rest of the kids were all just being kids. So I had to throw them in the van and rush them all to a local clinic to get David repaired. Kevin was in a clown suit, I think Rach was dressed up as well and Denny ended up with one of the biggest poopy messes ever! When everything was done I went home and David's parents showed up expecting dinner because I had planned a waterless cookware party, but had to cancel when their son fell. So I threw together some mac & cheese and hot dogs.

Today I was watching Joe and Shayne. We were outside in the pretty but cool and dewey morning, me weeding and they playing, everyone getting pretty wet, and a little muddy maybe. I went in the house to use the bathroom and heard the front door open. When I came out of the bathroom there was Heather and Hunter. Heather was a little frantic. Hunter had somehow gashed his head and she didn't know how to handle it. I looked at it and determined that it may need to be stitched. So I gathered up the wet, muddy little boys and piled 3 car seats in my little car. Then Heather and I each had a poopy diaper to change, Shayne and Hunter. We all crammed into the car and went to the urgent care clinic in Covington. I opted to stay, figuring it wouldn't take too long. There's a real nice playground there so I took the boys there for an hour or so. I found a granola bar in the back of my car and we split it. Then we got cold so we went in and sat in the waiting room and watched "Ice Age," pretty much from the beginning. Shayne finally fell asleep in my lap and Joe just watched the movie pretty much, good kids. People came in, got called back, got treated and left. Heather and Hunter had already gone back when we came inside and started watching the movie. The movie was just about finished when I finally asked someone if Hunter was still in there, if maybe I hadn't somehow missed something. They were coming right out. He had either 4 or 5 staples in his little head.
So it was probably right near 4 hours that we waited there. Joe fell asleep in the car on the way home and stayed asleep until Kevin showed up to pick them up.

I don't know why but I was just exhausted after that day! So I grabbed some clean clothes and went to Rick's and used his tub for a nice hot soaky bubble bath. That felt great. Then when I left his place Rach and Heather were ready for the hot tub so we did that for about 90 minutes.
As hectic and unplanned a day as it started out, it sure made up for it in the end.

Did I mention - I love my hot tub?

Catching Up - Again!

OK, there I go again - no blog for a good 2 weeks - darn!

Not that I'm being lazy, mind you. Quite the contrary, I've been very busy. Unfortunately none of the work I've been doing has earned me a single nickel yet. But it'll come - in time.
I managed to get my Craigslist items updated in a manner that will actually sell things, namely my Mitsubishi Montero and a computer I bought on ebay a while back. Those 2 items will net me over $3000, unfortunately half of that immediately has to be paid out for property tax, but the rest I can live on for a while.

My website has been growing. Last week I concentrated on a gallery of my photos for people wishing to order a slideshow DVD to be able to use for title and closing pages. It's been interesting learning to build web pages and using Dreamweaver. As bamboozled as I was at the beginning, I'm picking it up quickly now. This week I intend to create a "Contact Us" and an "Order Form" page. I flew through the other pages rather quickly once I caught onto Dreamweaver but the ones left have all special items on them that involve more learning. It's exciting, I'm already looking forward to my next website or two that I'll build for my other services, photo restorations and selling my photos or Photoshop-ing customer's photos into watercolor or other artworks suitable for framing.

The first week of October was cool, rainy and windy. But this past week has been gorgeous. So I've been taking advantage of the good weather and getting yardwork and other homeowner-related projects done outside. The biggest change has been a great clean deck and concrete thanks to the pressure washer I borrowed from Denny. The deck was very slippery when wet so my aim was mainly to remove the slime but the washing removed the stain as well, which is great, I'll restain it next spring. I've never pressure washed anything around here, the concrete walk to my front door and driveway look great. Denny has a trailer full of bark that we're gonna split, so I'll have to spread that once it's here. I also did a lot of trimming overgrown bushes and whacking down an unruly vine, everything is looking so tidy. I still have another vine to whack, even harder and some trees need trimming. Then there's just the usual perennials that need to be cut as they die down.

I've been enjoying my hot tub about 4 nights a week. I think it's been very therapeutic. I stay warm all night and my back doesn't hurt when I roll over in bed like it has for years.

Rick bought a new pickup this last week. He had one that wouldn't start about every other time he tried to use it so he threw up his arms in frustration and sold it. The one he bought is in very nice condition. Straight, no rust, only minor dents on the tailgate, upholstery is decent and the driver's seat still has plenty of spring. We spent time both days this weekend cleaning it, he used Denny's pressure washer on it as well. It really needed it since it's been living in dark woods for the past few years, lots of pine needles everywhere and lots of green. It's a '84 Chevy 1/2 ton plain jane pickup.

There's nothing new with the kids or grandkids. Same jobs, no pregnancies. I may not have mentioned but Tony moved back to Cincinatti early September and Rach will join him in the spring, if he hasn't come to his senses and moved back here to his bigger family that he still doesn't understand is HIS family as well as Rach's. We're all hoping anyway.

OK, we're about up to speed now.
Thank you for your support.

Anacortes Oyster Run 2008

I've been hearing about this Oyster Run for months. It's interesting, I see really no purpose for the whole thing except to "be there".

Rick has been doing this ride with his friends or family, at least once in his car, before he bought his Harley, since 2004 as far as I can tell. I've seen pictures so I had an idea of what to expect.

But it's like the Grand Canyon - pictures just can't capture it, they can't do it justice. Rick said in the past a fire ladder was set up at one end of the road to allow a person to climb and get an aerial view. The impressive thing was the shear number of bikes/bikers and the line of them coming into town that stretched as far as the eye could see. I just checked online to see if there was an estimate of the number - 30,000. This was expected to be the biggest event yet because of the gas prices prompting motorcycles sales to skyrocket. And here in the northwest - if you have a bike you MUST do the Oyster Run!

A month ago or so I questioned the plan and day of the event since I'd already attended the Spring Opener to Toppenish and had an idea of what to expect. The ride either to or from the event was planned and ridden together as a group, then the opposite direction was loose, everyone by themselves or a couple bikes riding together, etc. What he'd experienced in the past was the ride up was done early AM individually, straight up I-5 to get into town by 9 or 10. After milling around and having lunch, and visiting the vendors,etc, the group would leave together and take a relaxing ride back, taking ferries and enjoying the scenery. And the event is on Sunday. So I suggested that we go up on Saturday and spend the night, lessening the amount of time we had to spend on the road on one day.

A couple weeks ago Rick found out that his group was going to Reno for another event. They're Boeing workers and are currently on strike so I guess they figured they'd take advantage of the "free" vacation time. So we were on our own.

I don't know when he forgot about the idea of staying overnight. It was on my mind indelibly because the previous rides have been a bit excruciating, the seat I was riding on was really just a pad, 7" wide. He had a better, wider, softer seat I could use but it was thicker and put me a whole head above him. Well, Rick shelled out the big bucks and bought a new seat, a one piece that was both seats. It sat him higher as well so I still sat mostly behind him. He didn't care for the new seat when he first used it but it's just different, he just has to get used to it. The difference for me was gargantuan! I can ride anywhere now in comfort. The only pain I got was a cramp in my hip on the way back. The new seat is 14" wide and actually supports even my upper thighs, not just my bum.

Anyway, Friday I reminded him of the idea of staying overnight and eventually he decided that it would be a good idea so he found a deal on a room and booked it.

We putsed around Saturday AM and finally hit the road noonish. We went pretty much straight there, stopping only once at a rest area. We checked in at the motel and while he was parking the bike I went up to the room. It had been a smoking room that was freshly painted so the door was propped open. I glanced in and yelled down to Rick "You didn't pay an arm and a leg, did you?" This place was awesome! It had a kitchenette, 2 baths and the bedroom was upstairs (2 tv's too).

After settling in we decided to go find some food. I've discovered that taverns have pretty good and inexpensive food so I suggested we find one. It took a while but eventually we ended up in old downtown Mt Vernon. They were having a craft sale street fair thing so we had to park and walk to find a place but we did and the food was excellent, Rick couldn't even finish his.

After eating we went back to the room - now what? Rick had mentioned Chuckanut drive in the past, that we should check it out on this ride if we had a chance. Besides, it was about 6PM and we were in a strange town, what else could we find to do? So after googling it we hit the road again. We found it without a hitch and it was indeed a beautiful ride. But Rick was just whizzing down the road and I was attempting to get some shots from the back of a moving motorcycle - not an easy thing to do. The hardest thing about it is that the helmet gets in the way and you can't easily look through the viewfinder. So we rode the whole thing and the sun was getting lower and lower. We ended up in Bellingham via the back door. We didn't know if the road dead-ended or what. We turned around and this time we stopped for some awesome shots. It turned out to be a perfect day for sunset shots of the San Juan Islands in the Strait of Juan De Fuca. The sunset lit up the whole sky and lasted for probably at least an hour.

We got up at 6:30 Sunday AM showered and hit the free breakfast most motels seem obligated to offer now. Not too bad, I had yogurt, half a chocolate muffin and biscuits and gravy. For once we got up and ready early enough to enjoy the full "menu".
Then we packed up and headed for the big event.

Being as early as we were we didn't really have an issue with traffic. It was pretty much what I imagined, based on the pictures I'd seen. We were parked in one of the diagonal rows that were set up in the middle of the main street. We wandered the streets looking at bikes, visited the vendors, looking for the "right" shirt to prove we'd been there. There was a marina nearby and I prodded Rick into walking down there and getting pics of boats, fish and a seagull in her nest. We were gonna have "taco in a bag" for lunch but opted for the wraps they offered instead. Then we watched a couple motorcycle "drill teams" of sorts, the first one looked like cops and rode quiet Hondas. The next one were noisy, old Harleys, 1930's and 40's and they did quite a nice job of stunt riding. Known as the Seattle Cossacks, they wore Russian-looking maroon and white uniforms.

There were lots of interesting sights. People brought their dogs with goggles. I enjoyed seeing big, bad bikers with their tattoos and their little
foo-foo dogs. They were also enjoying the outdoor latte cafe, again, with their tattoos and leather. There were fantastic and expensive paint jobs, we found one bike decoupaged. There were antique bikes, old gnarley bikers in their worn out leather, fashion biker chicks in their color coordinated (other than black) leathers with lots of fringe. Helmets were personalized with hair and horns. But the best sight of all was on the freeway on the way home, after I'd put the camera away - darn! There was a bike that passed us with a small, pink pet carrier bungied to the back. I didn't get to see what was inside but we caught up with them and I made sure to check it out. It was a duck! Just laying peacefully in it's little box - AFLACK!! Too many pictures to put in this blog - go check out our smugmug site with the link ("my and rix pix") at the upper left section of this page. (You can also click on any of the pictures in my blogs to see larger versions)

It was 3 when we hit the road but Rick wanted to be sure to let me see Deception Pass, since we were so near and I had never seen it in all my 23 years living here. It was beautiful but I would sure have loved to have spent more time, walking down to the water and exploring a little. Some other time.

We weren't so fortunate in missing the traffic on the way home. We were in the thick of it. It was rather grueling. We just came straight home and Rick collapsed when he got inside, right on the floor. We got a little too much sun for his delicate nature. I was just cramped up a little and cold. I was shocked to see the temp signs saying 65º, I was COLD! Not freezing, just colder than I like and for longer than I like. But we made it back.

An interesting weekend to say the least. Very full. Maybe too much for a couple in their 50's, eh?

Sweet Accomplishment

This appears to be a week of accomplishment. Not that it's gone smoothly.

Yesterday was the worst. I really had only 2 goals - bake the zucchini I shredded a few nights ago into a chocolate cake and zucchini bread and go down to Denny's house and reformat his hard drive.
Before I was out of bed though, I received a call from my first customer requesting 4 copies of the DVD I created for her. Not a bad thing. So that became my first priority.

I burned the DVDs without a hitch. Then I went on to make the labels and ran out of color toner 2/5 through the first sheet (I only needed 2 sheets). OK, so I have to go to town to get toner. Walgreens advertises that it'll refill your cartridges for a discounted amount, so I've been wanting to give them a try.

While I was burning the DVDs I was gathering the ingredients to make the zucchini stuff and realized that I didn't have enough cocoa for the chocolate cake and no bread pans to make the bread. Another reason to go to town.

Since I had to go to town anyway I decided to hit the PO and mail the completed projects that I had for my folks and sister. I'd also get the new battery for the Montero that I need to sell.

So I pulled the old battery out of the car to take along, grabbed the stuff to mail, the old empty toner cartridges and headed for town.

I got gas first - no problem there. Next I hit Walgreens with my empties. They warned me that they don't always work, especially if they've been empty for a while. But I needed the color one the most and it just ran out. HP is the best for successful color refills so one should have success. I decided to go do my other stuff and come back.

So I headed for the PO to mail my stuff. Grabbed a box and packed up the stuff for the folks but had no tape. Got to the counter and was informed that I'd have to buy tape, they don't provide tape. I have tons at home so I paid for the box, mailed my other package and carried the folks' package back out to my car. On to Walmart.

I grabbed the old car battery and put it in a cart to avoid having to pay the core and to assure that I'd get the right replacement. Everything went well there. It was even a Walmart battery that I was replacing so I just looked for the same number. The first one I laid eyes on was a perfect match. I also found the cable end replacements without too much difficulty. The baking pans I chose to buy remind me of some either my mom or my granny had when I was little, very retro, I couldn't resist. I had to kill time so I looked at the toner cartridges. A new color one was only $4 more than the refill I was trying to get. So I called to see if they had success refilling mine. So far the black one worked and one color one failed and they were evacuating the second color one. So I gave them more time and called again - not done yet but they're sure it'll be fine. I was running out of things to look at so I decided to chance it and went to the checkout. I still had to pay my core charge and then go to the service desk for the refund, $9.

Back to Walgreens. Nope, the second color one failed too. All I got was a black refill which was the less important one. Their color cartridge was $3 more than Walmart's and they couldn't sell it to me at the Walmart price. Grrr.

From here everything turns around. I went home, printed up the labels, taped up the folks' box, and put that all in the car. Then I took the battery down to the Montero (it was parked in front of Denny's house), installed it and drove it home.

I headed down the hill to deliver my product and finally get that package in the mail. I managed to find my customer driving around the Safeway parking lot, looking for a parking spot so I delivered the DVDs right to her car. The PO was empty so I walked right up to a clerk and got my package mailed.

From there I proceeded to go to Rick's. We ran to his ex's to deliver a check for his daughter's cell phone bill, then to the library to pick up a couple movies, one being the "Bee Movie". We went back to his place, he cooked up this little marinated pork roast for dinner and we ate and watched the movie. It was a good movie and an excellent dinner. After being out of sorts all day Rick seemed to be in a pretty good mood by the time I left.

I had earlier contacted Rach about going in my hot tub so I had to get back to set up the umbrella since it looked like it would start raining. I haven't gotten to use it yet but was excited to see how it would be to use it. I didn't extend it completely but kept it at an angle since it's so huge and my tub is so small. That way we could still have open overheadish and still see the sky off that direction where it was tilted up. It rained on and off the whole time but we were snug as a bug in a hot tub!

So, after all that, again, my blog is supposed to be about my accomplishments. OK, here's what I've accomplished this week thus far:

  • I sold my van! (to a very happy mother and son for $300)
  • I burned and delivered 4 extra DVDs to my first customer ($20)
  • I burned and delivered 17 extra DVDs to my second customer ($85)
  • I got my projects for my sister and parents completed and mailed
  • I installed the new battery in the Montero and moved it into the place that the van used to be
In writing that doesn't seem like so much but some of those things have been months in coming, and the van has been years! But I still have 2 more days this week. I'm still gonna get that computer wiped and that zucchini cooked, today.

Playing Ketchup

There I go again, not getting any blogging done. It's not because nothing has happened, just lazy I guess.

The week after I did Chester's memorial DVD I actually got another job! It turned into quite a nice job, over 100 pictures and netted $311. I'm not really sure though that this guy was even gone yet. I was dealing with the wife and she kept speaking of him in the present tense. He was 59 and dying of cancer, so it may have been imminent. They had just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in July, sad.

I'm so glad August is gone. It was one of the coolest, wettest Augusts in my memory. September has been just awesome. Temps back in the 70s and 80s. Today and tomorrow are supposed to be mid 80s, then a day in the 70s, then down into the 60s for the unforeseeable future - fall will hit this week. But I used all this beautiful weather getting work in my yard done that I haven't been able to do for a cuppla years. Lotsa pruning, weeding, thinning.

Last weekend Rick and I went to the fair. I haven't been to the fair for prolly 5 years. I wore a dress to keep from being expected to go on any "scream" rides. It worked, we walked around just looking at stuff like a couple of old people. But we didn't get to go look at any critters. I guess I'll have to go on a ride if I expect Rick to look at the animals. Maybe next year. One thing I've noticed that has caught on at these events is teeth whitening. I saw a booth at the Tall Ships in Tacoma, they were doing it for $40. I've been wanting to try it out, I should have done it then. The ones they had at the fair were $99. It was one of the more unusual sights to see. We also saw a drummer group that have been on TV called the Procrastinators. They used stools with pots and 5 gallon water bottles attached for their instruments. They ran around, jumped up and down, juggled their drumsticks and did a very good job percussing. Very entertaining.

Saturday AM was Joe's first day at teeny-weenie soccer. He was probably the youngest one on his team. At the beginning he had no idea what he was supposed to do. When the game started he and 2 of the opposing teammates just stood there looking over their shoulders at everyone else chasing the ball, it was hilarious! But by the end of the game he figured out how to chase the ball too. Shirley and I were his cheering squad - "Give me a "J"! . . . He finally got his chance to kick the ball and what did he do? He picked it up and held it like "MINE!" It was so cute. It was kinda unfair though because they had bigger kids playing who were kindergarten age and knew perfectly well what they were doing, so they dominated the game. But the little ones were still cute.

The big news this week was my hot tub. We finally got it going Saturday. I called my old hot tub guy and he came out (1 1/2 wks after I called, he's painting his house) and pulled out his electronic tester and discovered a soldered-on fuse was blown, which meant that he would have to replace the board ($300 + labor). He "unofficially" told me the problem and suggested I find someone who could solder a new one on. That just happens to be one of Rick's many talents. So we bought the fuse and a fuse holder ($6) that we soldered in place and now we can just change the fuse if it blows again - user friendly! We filled it as soon as the heater element and new seals were in (we knew those needed replacing before the hot tub guy came), did the soldering and reinstalled the board and turned it on - nothing! Woops, the reset button needed to be pushed. Then it worked, so we turned it on and headed for Denny's for dinner. We ate dogs with cream cheese and salsa (try it - it's yummy!) then played bowling on his Wii. By the end of dinner the hot tub was about 6º warmer. By Sunday morning it was up to temp. So last night we went in about 6, earlier than I would have gone in but Rick has to get up early. We sat in the tub and talked and watched the birds at my bird feeder for an hour or so, until we were pruney. I have a pair of quail that come to feed. They came by and we enjoyed watching them, they're so funny how they run away when they get spooked!

That's it, all caught up again. Today I'll go out and place some brochure holders around to drum up more business. I'll also work on my websites, check them out at the top of this blog page, there are 2 now. My first one for photography tips with my services being offered and now a new, free one (the 110mb is a free website server) devoted to the memory DVDs. I also harvested a monster zucchini that needs to be processed and baked into chocolate cake and zucchini bread, muffins, etc, one of those "autumn" things. We didn't get around to picking any blackberries so no cobbler. I love autumn, it's one of the seasons I missed out on growing up in So Cal and Hawaii. Especially the fog, the mist on the fields in the early AM, on the corn fields, on the geese "grazing" in the fields. I'll have to have Rick call me when it's one of those mornings so I can go out and catch some shots of those beautiful mornings.

Numero Uno

Say hello to Chet, or rather Chester. Chester E. Main, husband to Clara, father to Becky and Colleen. Born 1930 and died August 22, 2008. That's last Friday. He was my first "client".

Yes folks, I actually made my first sale already! Yeah, it shocked me too.

I was working on my Craigslist ad and website to continue hawking my wares by every venue imaginable. Just got the Craigslist ad done and was dumping the same info into my website when -
the phone rang!! And - it wasn't anyone I knew!! Why would a stranger be calling me?


Yeah, I was mildly excited. Turns out they went to the funeral home here in Auburn who do their own DVDs in-house. They were too restrictive and Colleen wanted it to be more personal. So they looked and looked and couldn't find anyone. Then they came up with the idea to call another funeral home to ask if they could give a referral for someone who could do this for them. They called Yahn and Son who has someone to do theirs but may call me in a pinch. I had the feeling Ed might pass work my way!

I met with Colleen at 1 yesterday, got most of the photos (they totaled 73) scanned right away and by 7, when I met her again to get the last of the photos and the music, I already had them done and most of them repaired. So I just had to scan the dozen or so that she gave me and touch up everything one last time. Then this morning I jumped right into it, got the music situated, pictures timed right, zoomed in & out on all, etc, etc. I handed Colleen 3 DVDs and a CD of the digitized pictures at 1:30 and she gave me a check for $205.

I hope they like it. They were so grateful to find someone who would do what they wanted. When I told her that one thing we thought would be nearly impossible, synchronizing a spot in a song that mentions "standing with Grandma and saying our vows" with their wedding picture, actually happened she got teary-eyed. They lost 2 other close relatives in the past 3 years and hadn't gotten a decent slideshow either time.

I can't believe I actually found a new market that's still wide open, that I enjoy doing and do well. I just have to keep working on getting my name out there.

Thanks a bunch Chet. I'm sorry you had to go, but thanks for the opportunity.

About Me

My photo
After 2 unsuccessful marriages I spent 12 years as a divorcee, only to fall prey to another man's wiles. We had a fun 5 years together and then he decided he wanted more freedom so once again I'm single.

So I'm freshly divorced at 57 and have 5 great kids and now 7 grandkids. My kids are still a major part of my life but I'm busy helping my aging parents on Kauai.

I've lived in California, Hawaii and Oklahoma before finally settling here in Washington. I love Washington and come back to visit family, friends and take care of my garden often but will be temporarily a resident of Kauai.

I've moved 30 times in my life (no, my parents weren't in the service, at least not since I was about 2) and finally planted roots when I got my little house that I've owned since '91.

My family are Jehovah's Witnesses, I've been one since '72.