Saturday, December 6, 2014

45 Minutes to Breathe Today

A little of everything! Just like the way Life has been these past few weeks!
It feels like Life has been at an extra fast pace since we adopted our kitten, Maggie, on November 8th. My CA trip--with its very full days-- Thanksgiving, and now the Christmas season make for many obligations and the desire to go to bed extra early each night. I'm sleeping around 8-9 hours a night because I need it desperately.

Christmas presents, thankfully, are done. Not wrapped, but purchased.

Christmas cards are done. Addressed and mailed. We sent out only a small number this year.

Christmas decorating is done. Thanks to a hyper kitten we decided not to put up a tree this year. Decorations from years of boutique shopping, some stockings, and 1 nativity will be enough.

I'm trying to keep a balance of what to say Yes and what to say No to, in terms of helping with Christmas things at church. Yes to helping with the Festival of Nativities. No to choir. Yes to the Christmas party. No to attending a bazaar today. I know my limits! And I know I get overwhelmed easily if I commit to too many things. Plus there are the daily house chores that need to be done. A clean house is one of the things I need to keep my sanity!

The past few days were very nice, spending time with Eric before he had to start 6 straight days of work today.  I'm looking forward to giving him nice Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners in a few weeks, even though he has to work on the 24th AND the 25th.  This is the first time since we've been married he's had to work these days and I haven't been in California. It will be fine, and I'm already thinking about how to spend my Christmas Day, like using it to work on an upcoming Relief Society lesson.

Going to the gym each morning has been my respite. Getting those steps in, reading my Kindle while listening to classical music (to drown out the horrible hip hop on the radio.)  It has really helped to keep my weight maintained with the delicious meals and treats that inevitably pop up during the holiday season.

Yes, keeping a balance is what it's all about.  My goal is to keep it up!

And next week is going to be another busy one!  5 out of 6 days are already booked!

And now?  My 45 minutes are up. Time to make dinner.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

My California Trip!

I'd better write about my trip before too much time passes. I've already been home for nearly 2 weeks!

After not seeing most of my family for a year due to a sick doggie and other obligations, I finally went back and spent a week in Southern California. I have a 96 year old grandma, a cute niece and nephew, cousins, friends, and my mom, of course-- all of whom needed me to go down there.

It was a good, smooth, jam-packed week. There was something going on every single day. I rented a car for the first time and zipped from here to there seeing who I wanted to see and doing what needed to be done.

Every morning I would rise early and walk 5 miles through San Marino and the lovely Lacy Park. By Day 3 I had carved out the perfect 10,000 step route by walking to the park (about 3200 steps,) doing 2 laps on the park's outside track (getting to around 6800 steps,) then walking back to my mom's house. The smell of roses as I entered and then the smell of the surrounding eucalyptus trees were very invigorating each morning.

Once back at my mom's I would have my shake, just like Eric and I do each morning here at home, then shower and start my busy day.

Click on the photos to see them full-sized.

This was waiting for me on my bedroom door.

On my first morning I walked down to my brother's house just as they were leaving to walk to the pre school where my niece attends. I was invited to join them.

Those cute kids ride fast! My brother, Jonathan, said, "Are you ready to run?"
Later that afternoon my mom and I went to the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena. A print of this beautiful painting hangs in my living room. But this is a picture of the original.

This amazing painting is one I had never noticed before in all of my many visits. Just look at the details around this war beaten soldier. He is surrounded by the carnage of battle as dead comrades lay all around him. His face shows an expression of defeat and exhaustion.

The Norton Simon also houses favorites by the known masters like Cezanne, Picasso, Rembrandt, and Rivera.

Clockwise from top left: Renoir, Monet, Degas, van Gogh..all stunning, and the real thing.

You cannot visit Southern CA and miss out on a meal from In n Out Burger. Sorry Five Guys!  In n Out is still the best. (Except maybe the Lions Club Pioneer burgers at the 4th of July celebration.)

I always make an effort to visit Tito and Tita's grave, located in the cemetery adjoining my niece's pre school. They both passed in 2008 and sometimes I still cannot believe they're gone. The stones were designed by me.

Thursday, while my nephew was at his martial arts class, my mom rested and my niece and I took a walk around the neighborhood. Fire hydrants are for climbing. It's the rule!

My mom's newest doggie, Branson. A sweet, slightly unruly Golden, rescued from a family who paid no attention to him. He is healthier and happier now. (Much happier than he looks in this photo.)

Do you see it? The next morning on my walk I passed a tree in San Marino and the light hit it just right so that this strange little tree person emerged. 

The Rose Garden at Lacy Park has some incredibly gorgeous blooms.

On Friday afternoon I spent a few hours with my cute grandma, Elinor. We had sandwiches, topped off with apple pie and ice cream. We felt like big bloated balloons, but it sure was yummy!

On Saturday I had lunch with my mom (in blue) and some of the lovely ladies from church: Helen, Afton, and Penny. They were headed off to a play, but I was headed to Downtown Disney to get Eric a jacket and meet up with my cousins.

The Downtown Disney plans changed because dinner reservations were impossible to get at a decent time. So I still went, found Eric a Disneyland jacket, then drove to meet my cousins at my aunt and uncle's house. We went to North Woods Inn for dinner instead. The best part was that I finally got to see my cousin, Robby's, two little girls in person for the very first time.  He and his wife are amazing parents. Look at the sweet look of contentment on K's face above as she nestles into her daddy's shoulder,

We had to wait 90 minutes for a table, but we had so much fun! It was great to see them!

Monday morning, back on my walk, I had to take some last pictures of Lacy Park. Those walks were my respite every day. And they helped me burn off the calories from those daily meals out!

Monday lunch with my friend, Heather. We've been friends since we were freshmen in high school.

Time to say goodbye to the kiddos! I visited my niece and nephew Monday afternoon when they got home from school. That evening I stayed in a hotel near the airport. I had an early flight. I was in bed with lights out by 8pm! It was a very full week!

Back home with my cute hubby!  He liked his Disneyland jacket! I'm glad, since I didn't actually go into Disneyland this trip.
The weary traveler. Home again!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Welcome Maggie May...

We have a new kitty in the house! And just like Ramius before her, little Maggie May came into our lives unexpectedly.

After a busy week with Eric on day shift and me attending to different obligations, we enjoyed a day together yesterday of sushi and grocery shopping. Everything was going as planned until we were heading out of Fred Meyer around 3:30pm. A woman and her son were standing off to the side with a box that said "Free Kittens." This little girl kitty is the last one, they said.  9 weeks old, litter box trained, de-wormed, but no shots yet.

I picked up the little gray kitten with her white chin and feet, looking at Eric. "We could take in another cat," he said. "Get her if you want."  I told the lady we would take her, despite the fact that I'm leaving for California tomorrow to visit family for a week.

Our relaxing evening turned into setting up newly named Maggie May in the big soft carrier with a kitten sized litter box, food and water bowls, a blankie and a couple of catnip mice.  It seemed like every task I started once we brought her home only got halfway done and we were all so tired by bedtime. She meowed a lot all night and sleep was pretty elusive, especially once she got her energy after what was probably a chaotic and confusing day.

This morning I woke up tired after 4-5 hours of sleep, still managed to get my 10,000 steps in before breakfast (Eric too,) and then we spent the morning making decisions about where to put the kitten and what to put her in while Eric is on his 12-hour shifts and I'm away. Acclimating her to upstairs and to the other 2 cats will have to wait.

She now has a big crate, complete with an in-progress obstacle course that Eric is making for her. A few test runs show that it will be a great success when it is all finished. Darcy, the 18 year old kitty has resigned himself to the new addition. Ramius, the 5 year old, always full of drama, has been pouting for hours. Five years ago HE was the tiny new, unexpected, addition!

With Darcy being 18, we probably won't be a 3 kitty household for very long. And, although Ramius would've done just fine being a "one cat cat," he has a little adopted sister he'll have to eventually adjust to.

Maggie May is as cute as can be, loves sleeping in the crook of Eric's arm, and has already shown a lot of trust in her new surroundings. We take GOOD care of kitties in this house. She's very lucky! So are we.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Another Busy Halloween! (5 Years of Tallies)

As you may know, we live in a neighborhood that gets a lot of trick-or-treaters.  A LOT.

Last night we celebrated our 5th Halloween in this house...more than I had in my CA house (because I was down with the H1N1 in 2009 and just hid and suffered that night.)

Final tally last night? 651 kids. Which is amazing, considering that the trick-or-treating seemed to start extra late (except for the 2 early birds at 4:30.)

We followed the tradition of going to our neighbors' house across the street, where they serve yummy soups and appetizers. At the clocked ticked on, it was time to run back home and pass out those 1125 pieces of candy.  It's tough to ration when we start as slow as we did last night, though.  After an hour we only had 150 kids and a ton of candy.  Not to worry.  It really picked up.

I did some digging and found the tallies for our other years in this house:

2010:  526
2011:  680(!!)
2012:  565
2013:  649
2014:  651

Of course this is not an exact science and sometimes I get a little off on my counting when I am distracted by the costumes and the throngs of kids, but it's pretty close.

And next year? Eric is scheduled to work graveyard (no Halloween pun intended.) So I'll either hang out longer at our neighbors' house or hide downstairs in the family room and watch a movie.  Trust me, this amount of trick-or-treaters is not something you want to take on alone if you can help it. Plus we'll save about $100 on candy for one year.

Next up...Thanksgiving.  Halloween decor is down, Thanksgiving decor is up. And Christmas music was playing at Macy's today, which I'm not quite ready for yet!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


This beautiful song was written by Stephanie Mabey and performed by David Archuleta.

I just love the lyrics. They are so uplifting:

There are times when you might feel aimless
You can't see the places where you belong
But you will find that there is a purpose
It's been there within you all along and when you're near it
You can almost hear it.

It's like a symphony just keep listenin'
And pretty soon you'll start to figure out your part
Everyone plays a piece and there are melodies
In each one of us, oh, it's glorious

[Verse 2:]
You will know how to let it ring out as you discover who you are
Others around you will start to wake up
To the sounds that are in their hearts
It's so amazin', what we're all creatin'

It's like a symphony just keep listenin'
And pretty soon you'll start to figure out your part
Everyone plays a piece and there are melodies
In each one of us, oh, it's glorious

And as you feel the notes build
You will see

It's like a symphony just keep listenin'
And pretty soon you'll start to figure out your part
Everyone plays a piece and there are melodies
In each one of us, oh, it's glorious

You can download a free mp3 of the song HERE. Simply skip to Step 3 if you don't want to enter your email address and it will hop into your iTunes lickety split. Very quick and easy... and yes, free!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Meet the Mormons--the film

Last Saturday Eric and I went and saw the film, Meet the Mormons. I was happy that he agreed to see it because I wanted to watch it in the theater before it was available to stream online.  We went with another couple from church (who just happen to be the bishop and his wife.) I am Mormon (a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as LDS.) Eric is not LDS, but he is as supportive a spouse as I could possibly hope for despite us not being of the same faith. I love him so much.

In a brief 70 minutes the film focuses on 6 LDS individuals from around the world and their unique stories. Belief in God plays a large role in their lives, but mostly the stories are just about the people, their accomplishments and challenges. It did not feel heavy handed. It did not feel like an hour-long commercial. It felt like a glimpse into the window of other people's lives who just happen to be Mormon.

I wish I could tell you which story was my favorite of the 6, but they were all wonderful. I was very touched by the final story of the once struggling mom who sees her teenage son off on his mission, but I think everyone who sees the film will find some element of it with which they can identify. Why? Because it is about people and our similarities. When we focus on what we have in common, as opposed to our differences, everyone's a winner.

Whether you are LDS or not, have questions or not, I encourage you to see it. You will be uplifted and leave with a smile. There aren't many movies that can promise that--and all proceeds from the film go to the American Red Cross. (More on this here.)

Below is a link to the film's website, where you can watch the trailer, find a showing in your area, and listen to American Idol's David Archuleta sing the beautiful song, Glorious, which is highlighted at the end of the film.

Meet the Mormons Official Website

See it. It will touch your heart.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

October, When Did You Get Here?

I told myself that the next time I posted something on my personal blog it would be pictures from Education Week at BYU.  Ahem...that was 2 months ago.

It isn't that Life has been busier than normal, but I do think Eric's schedule has contributed to my procrastination.  The poor man was on graveyard shifts for nearly 3 weeks straight, with only 1.5 days off before that and 6 days of day shift before that.  See, I'm counting backward.  That's not mornal. I mean normal.

Days for me have been spent going to the gym in the morning while Eric sleeps off his graveyard shift, then I come home and do my morning routine. This involves drinking my breakfast shake in front of the computer while checking email and usually watching an episode of The Good Wife. (Love that show.) Then I go shower in the downstairs bathroom so as not to wake my tired husband and then creep out of the house to run errands.  Or I do laundry, which is the one main household chore I can do while he's sleeping because the laundry room is downstairs.

We have dinner at 3:30, send him off to work at 4:30, and just when I have the freedom to be as loud as I want vacuuming or clinking dishes around, I don't feel like doing those things. Go figure! But I do them in a condensed way so the house doesn't look too neglected. Graveyard shifts are a part of our life, just not so many in a row.

Trust me, I'm not complaining. My husband has a decent job that supports us, and in this economic climate, you'd be crazy not to be grateful.  Still, those graveyard shifts can be challenging on the spouse (me.)

I don't know why I'm writing about that.  That wasn't the plan.

Anyway, his schedule is back to normal, and after 2 more days of day shift he'll be free! We actually have a trip coming up next weekend. We're heading up north to see BJ Thomas in concert. Inexpensive tickets at a little casino in Kingston.  I've never even heard of Kingston.  But hey, a getaway is a getaway.

Following that is Halloween, always a big event in this neighborhood because we get hundreds and hundreds of trick-or-treaters. (We're talking 600-800 kids.)  Our neighbors across the street have a small gathering with appetizers and soup, and then the neighbors in attendance all scatter when the little goblins start appearing. We sit in our dining room distributing candy for the next 3 hours, keeping a tally to compare with the neighbors later.  At 8pm the porch lights all go off.  Halloween is over for another year.

In November I'll be flying to California to see my family.  Aside from my mom, no other relatives have seen me since I lost weight this year.  I'll get to see my cute 96 year old grandma and my cute niece and nephew. There's a Disneyland trip planned with my cousin too. I haven't been in 3 years, which is a long time for me!  And it will be during the holiday season--best time of year at the park. Of course I'll be spending time with my mom, seeing friends, and looking longingly at my CA house that sold last year.

Yes, it is that crazy holiday time of year!  The whirlwind has begun.

(More posts in the works! There are other things to share.)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

23 Hours in Woodland

The great thing about having an RV, especially a small and simple one like ours, is that you can pack up fast and get away for a quick overnight.  That is what we did last night, back to our favorite park 20 miles away in Woodland on the Columbia River.

The only thing that detracted from the enjoyment was the wind. was non-stop windy.  Whooshing windy noises all night outside too.  I ended up taking cover yesterday afternoon to read my Kindle in an area near the office, instead of setting my chair up in the sunshine.  I also had to buy some eye drops because my poor eyes were so worn out from the wind.

But we had a fun time--we went to Casa Tapatia and had an incredible lunch, relaxed at the RV park reading and listening to the iPod, and watched a movie on Eric's laptop last night. (The Island...good story! Adventure for all.)

I will say that I felt a little off my game when it came to taking pictures, but I attribute that to the fact that it was our 4th time there. It's hard to make things to look different after 4 times!

Anyway, here goes.  Click on them to see full-sized version... was in heaven with my Xango dessert at lunch yesterday. See how we rough it? Out there camping in Nature?

View of our row from the river.  Can you see our little Chalet? (Right behind the play area.)

River view from Space #1

Bringing 2 cars may be cheating, but it sure is convenient!
Hi, Sweetie!

This trip's artistic shot

Big boat a-coming down the river

This Class A Prevost RV was enormous!

But the winner was this touring bus that was towing a trailor as long as the bus.
Lovely view this morning. Still very windy, but pretty.

 A change of scenery, even if for less than a day, is good for the soul.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Our 4 year Anniversary

4 years ago today, on a not-too-hot August afternoon at 4pm under the gazebo in my mom's backyard...Eric and I were married.

It is an amazing thing to be married to your best friend.  I look forward to many more years of love, bliss and adventure with mine.

I love you, Sweetie.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Vase

A few weeks ago I took on the daunting task of organizing my jewelry.  I wouldn't say I have a lot, but it was tossed hither and thither, making many pieces neglected over time.  For a few hours I convinced myself that I needed a new jewelry box, so I went on a hunt.

Unsuccessful after going to 5 stores, I made one last-ditch effort and went in a neighborhood estate sale. 

Did I find a jewelry box?  No.  But I did find something else. An odd connection to people I never knew.

This was a house I had never paid attention to before.  The sale was being run by an outside company.  There were no pictures of the deceased person or people who lived there.  Still, I found myself intrigued as I got to know these nameless people while walking from room to room.

I learned that someone who lived there loved to knit.  They loved Japan and Japanese art.  They liked cats.  They liked to garden.  They liked working with their hands out in the workshop.  They liked Corningware.  They liked owning several sets of dishes.  They liked vintage kitchenware...or maybe originals from their generation. They liked crystal.

Smaller items were laid out on tables, but the rooms still had some furniture, almost like the owners were simply away on vacation.

There is a certain sadness that a fully lived life is temporally reduced to the things a person leaves behind, but there is also the hope that buyers appreciate what they find at sales like these and bring them to life in a new way. Things are just things, of course, but in this particular house I sensed discretion and thought as I looked at each decorative piece.

As I prepared to leave I felt a kinship to these anonymous people. Their presence was strong and I felt I wanted something to remember them. 

On a table by the front door was this lovely lead crystal, handmade vase:

It is only 8 inches tall and not something I needed, but I bought it. It spent a few days in the kitchen and now greets you on the mahogany secretary in our dining room. Most items I bought for my CA house were from estate sales, so this vase is right at home.

Like the other pieces, I think about its story and history, where it came from and why.  And while it is one of hundreds of items from those people that is now in a different home, it beings me joy to know that the personal atmosphere they created in their house has found a little space in ours.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Pictures of the Party at Porter's Patches...

Say that 5 times fast!

Last Saturday we took the Chalet out again!  It was only 24 hours, but it was a milestone trip for us since it was the first time we did not use hookups.  Power and water were both dependent on our generator, propane tank and fresh water tank.  It was the perfect opportunity to see what the Chalet could do in a boondock situation and it passed with flying colors.  We also packed in record time,  forgetting only one thing--a hand towel for the bathroom.  Paper towels quickly solved that problem.

Little by little we are getting better at this!

It was also the first time we have camped on someone's expansive property (perfect for a first time boondock.)  Porter's Patches belongs to Eric's friend, Steve's, dad.  The land has been in the family for generations, and owned by others for just a few years.  A cute log cabin house is the main living space, but there are also 3 guest houses, several greenhouses, a chicken coop, a Christmas tree farm, and a log gazebo that make this property very charming and very personal.

We visited with Steve, his wife, Kristie, and their family.  Eric and Steve's friend, Roger, was visiting his family in the area and dropped by to introduce us to his new fiancee.  Eric, Steve, and Roger have all been friends since their early teens. Extended family and friends came and went throughout the day.  Some stayed overnight in campers, in tents, a guesthouse, and even under the stars.  We noshed on guilt-ridden, yummy foods and had a very fun and relaxing time late into the evening. 

Pictures!  Click on them to see them full-sized.

All set in our shady little spot!  The big ice chest we recently bought has come in very handy for carting water and perishables. The fridge works great, but it helps to have a backup plan.

Tossing the football

Everyone relaxing

A fire burned in the gazebo's fire pit and there were BBQed hot dogs and hamburgers for dinner. 

Eric, Jane (Steve's sister,) and Steve

A lot of people brought dogs, but Tigger II lives there.  A very nice, mellow dog who loves eating people's leftovers.

Eric and me.

Mr. Mike Porter, Roger, Eric, & Steve

Trina & Roger, newly engaged and moving to Singapore for 3 years

Roger, Steve, and Eric

Porter's Patches at twilight

Next morning!  (We slept like rocks!) Eric is showing Kristie P. and her little son how we make our breakfast shakes in the Nutribullet.

Both little boys, ages 5 & 3, were mesmerized by our "house on wheels."

Yikes!  What did you just make me drink?! It tastes weird and gave me a purple mustache!

We love our Chalet!  (Yes, we pronounce the "t")  "Sha-lett."

Across the field, looking at the main house and many outbuildings.

Steve, Otis Murphy (the doggie,) and Eric

The greenhouses and vegetable garden behind the main house. I tried to walk around the property and get steps in, but I wasn't very successful. Too many picture opportunities!

The Christmas tree farm.

The VERY loooong driveway.  Our Chalet off to the right. This is one of my favorite scenic pictures.

Passing the morning gathering on the way to the covered bridge.

"Porter's Patches, established 1894."

View of the Chalet from the bridge.

How many people have a pumpkin patch in their front yard?

Mommy and son, enjoying the morning country air.

Sometimes you just have to sit in a field in your shark-shaped helmet and ponder Life.

Two miniature horses live in the field next door.

Visiting by the main house before heading back home.

Unpacking was as easy as packing because it was only a one-nighter.  We arrived home refreshed from the change of scenery and grateful to have spent time in the countryside with friends.

And yes, we already have our next trip planned.