Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas 2008- The Odessey...

It would probably be cute and/or show off what I learned in college if I compared our Christmas Adventures to Homer's The Odyssey, but I never read it. Therefore, the title just refers to the fact that this is a long post. Don't worry, it is the "Great Illustrated Classics" version.

Unlike most Christmases in California- it was raining. It did let up enough to take our "traditional" (it's the second time in two years so for us, that makes it a tradition- whether mom likes it or not!) Christmas Walk on "The Road." I didn't take any pictures of the dogs having fun since it was raining a bit. Here, I will substitute some pictures from last year's walk!

As you can see, it was not raining last Christmas. Laura, Claire and The Army Man were here last Christmas.

Ok that is enough nostalgia for last year.

Before I go on, I must say "American Pie" just finished playing on the radio. I turned it up and sang along. There are some advantages to living alone, although Pie did not appear to appreciate my singing. Is that because I have a horrible voice, or because I was confusing her with saying her name but not looking at her? Probably both.

Back to Christmas 2008- The Odyssey. First, on Christmas Eve, we made some cookies. When I left on the Sunday morning after Christmas, they were almost all gone. I admit I contributed to that sad fact.

Mom stirs the icing so fast her hand is a blur. Go Mom, go!

Craig and I experience some holiday cheer while icing together.

One of my masterpieces. Yum. Note the icing is about 2 inches thick.

Concentration is key to yummy Christmas cookies. As is icing thick enough to induce a diabetic coma with one bite. What would a diabetic comma look like? Would you be in a semi-circle?

Another one of my masterpieces. Note the red bow and the sprinkles applied in groups. I ate it. It was truly a culinary vision of splendor and grace.

A picture of the cookies that are now just a delicious memory. I made the gingerbread man. Craig did the very nice bell. I couldn't get the color to represent correctly while taking the picture. The cookies had a much nicer hue in reality.

After (or maybe during) making the cookies I put the dogs out the back and Fancy stepped onto the first step of the pool to get a tennis ball and this is what happened to her.
This is later, after her legs had dried back to almost normal. The hat is not normal.

After icing the cookies and taking weird pictures of Fancy, we went to our traditional Christmas Eve dinner at Pizza Hut. This is truly a tradition and has been happening for at least 10 years.

Then it was off to almost Midnight Mass. Almost Midnight because it is at 10 o'clock. Read "Doomsday Book" by Connie Willis if you would like to know what Midnight Mass was like in the Middle Ages. However, be warned that it is a sad book. As you can see from our picture, we were not thinking of the sad book at this time.

For real excitement, here is a picture of me and the 3 Dogs and the coat/ jacket I wore to church. I think Mom said a coat is long and a jacket is short. Or maybe it is the other way. I didn't wear the hood at church.

Here are photos from Christmas morning. Lots and lots of presents! I got all kinds of good loot but I won't list it all here because I don't want to make anyone jealous. I hope no one gets stuck in the sap, but I will say my favorite Christmas present is the one no one has to give me- my family. However, the presents that come in boxes and with wrapping paper are nice too.

The dogs also got good loot. Pie loves her tough tug ring and her Christmas Light Bulb that she chomps and it squirts out of her mouth. Those nice presents were from Grandma. Pie and Fancy both got squeaky soft soccer balls from me. Bloom got dog cookies which he is nice enough to share with the other two.
Pie has hers open already.

Fancy likes to savor hers while still in the wrapper. What could it be?

Next we had the traditional Christmas Breakfast of bacon, eggs, toast and orange juice. As you can see there are lots of Christmas Traditions at our house. Can you possibly imagine that there was almost too much bacon? I had to make the ultimate sacrifice and eat extra pieces so no bacon went unwanted.

After breakfast came the walk. See the top of this post. We did get wet a bit at the end, but I thought it was worth it.

After the walk was dinner! Scrumptious turkey and all the other good stuff. Here is the turkey after Dad carved it.

And here is Kurt playing with my camera while waiting for dinner to be served.

Looks sort of like this picture he took while playing with my camera last Christmas.
My camera has a flip screen so don't be too impressed that he is able to take a picture of himself and get his whole face an not just a quarter of his ear.

I did not take any pictures of us actually eating dinner. I suppose I was too busy enjoying it.

After dinner Bloom experienced a Christmas Miracle and came alive enough to steal Molly's Christmas present. After the picture was taken he retreated back into Bloom Land...

After all that excitement we had on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we extended the excitement by having a Day After Christmas Day Walk. Dad wants to know if it will become another tradition. I suppose we will have to wait and see! This is not "The Road" it is just a road. Maybe it is "the road by The Mine." My batteries gave out and I didn't get any good pictures so I will post some mediocre pictures. You can see it was a beautiful, clear day. A bit chilly, but nice and clear.
I like how Roscoe looks sort of surprised at finding himself in a photo. Too bad he is blurry.

According to the Sled Drivers (the pilots of the SR-71 Blackbirds) "on a clear day you could see forever..." We are not flying on the edge of space in the fastest air breathing manned jet ever built (and designed with a slide ruler) but it was still quite a nice view.

I hope this long blah (opps, "blog") post will sustain you for a few days because it will be a few days before my Internet is up and running at my new place. Until then, have a Happy and Safe New Year!!

Decisions, decisions...

Moving day is approaching quickly. I got my keys for the new place today. We toured the place and (eek!) it isn't cleaned yet and the previous tenant still has stuff that needs to be removed, including lots of junk. Will it be ready in time?

This leads me to reflect on my old landlady vs. my new one. My old landlady had the guest house ready to go way before I moved in. She took care of what she said she would, such as buying a wardrobe and removing the refrigerator. She even made me a deck and when I asked if it was ok if I put a path in she put the path in for me. She let me move in in the last week of the month and didn't charge me for that week. She gave me generous cash presents and nice cards at holidays... Two people speculated if I lived there long enough she might "leave me the house." And the ultimate in "nice landladies"- she gave me back my entire deposit before I even moved out. I am really going to miss her, and not only because she was so generous. She is a nice lady who cares about me.

My new landlady doesn't have the place ready. As is normal, I paid for the few days at the end of the month when I am moving in. She charged a large deposit plus a pet deposit. She is making me keep the old refrigerator in the shed. And it has old spilled food it in. Gross. She seems a bit harried.

Many people have said "I don't know why you are moving." Sometimes I question my decision. But I talk to myself in the first person, not the third. "I don't know why I am moving." If I used the third person it would be as if I had multiple personalities and that is probably a good way to get thrown out of the military. Then I would be out of a job and I would have to move again- to a cheaper place. Maybe I'd get on the gravy train. "Hi Mom!"

When I do question my decision, I remember that the dogs will be happy playing fetch in the yard, and I will be happy with the dishwasher and garbage disposal and bathtub and close parking. In high school someone told me they were switching schools because the ROTC room at the other school had a coffeepot. That person chose a coffeepot over me. (I'm guessing that person didn't see it that way, but hey- it makes for a dramtic blog entry.) I am choosing the yard and the dishwasher and the garbage disposal and the bathtub and the close parking over my nice landlady. Maybe I'm no better than that high school person, but at least I'm getting more amenities out of the deal.

My old landlady is so wonderful it is almost enough to keep me living there forever. Almost. After viewing the new place the first time, I had to decide... stay in the guest house with the wonderful landlady or move to a new place with a normal landlady. I chose the later, and I hope I made the right decision. If I made the wrong decision, I won't know until it is too late. Plus, as I told at least one of the people who speculated about my saintly landlady leaving me her house (and I suppose the guest house too) upon her death- that is not an appropriate reason to stay living someplace. Betting on the owner's death and subsequent bequeathal of the property to the renter. That only happens in novels. Kind of like only in novels do horse ranch owners give $40,000 retired dressage horses to teen age girls...

Saturday, December 27, 2008

No Pictures

Since I'm not at home, I can't post any pictures. Therefore, I will wait until later for any posts I have that involve pictures.

For now, I will reflect on the game Halo 3 since that is what is filling my days. Probably you know I am not the one playing it, so therefore it must be Craig, and in some cases Kurt, and for a few seconds, Cindy. But Craig was not very charitable and had no pity, and killed Cindy so many times that she gave up.

Halo leads players to have unrealistic expectations about just about everything. That you can jump from great distances and survive. Well- maybe the suit thingy has something to do with that. That you can get killed multiple times and come back to life. That you can carry really big guns around and never get tired. And also that you can pick the difficulty level of your life. "Yes, I would like 'easy' please. Actually, I'll take 'idle rich'." Or if you become rich by singing on TV it is "idol rich."

If I ever designed a video game, I would make it so that if you got killed and your blood is splattered all over the place and you are laying there dead, the game shuts off for at least a half an hour and then when it begins again you have to start over at the beginning. Since being dead for 1/2 hour is much more realistic than being dead for only a second. I would also make it so that when you die the music gets sad instead of continuing to upbeat heroic music that was playing before you died. I'm thinking it wouldn't sell very well and I would go broke and my life difficulty level wouldn't be "easy." Good thing I'm an "information manager" (secretary) and not a video game designer.

Craig has now beaten Halo 3 after playing it since Christmas and has upped the difficulty level. He keeps getting run over by a hover craft and dying gruesomely. Very sad.

I just spotted Fancy on top of the picnic table and Pie is no doubt up to no good either (she ate the Pope once when left in the back yard unsupervised. Ok, ok- it was the Pope Rosebush but that is still bad news.) I'd best go do some supervising.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Memory is a Fickle Friend

On the way to the snow, we drove past the site of the St. Francis Dam disaster. Being good tour guides Craig and Dad informed our visitor (Aunt Kathleen) that the St. Franics dam collapsed due to being built on top of an ancient landslide and the landslide gave away and a wall of water rushed from Santa Clarita to the Pacific Ocean, killing many, many people. I looked it up, and the exact number is unknown, but it is said to be more than 600. I have walked on the rubble of the dam many times, and passed by the site many more times, but this time I learned something new.

Dad reported that two motorcycle riders rushed ahead of the wall of water warning people and saving lives and that a statue was erected in Santa Paula (which was in the water's path) in their honor.

I can't remember what I had for dinner last night- ok- that is a bad example. I only eat about three different things for dinner, so it is fairly easy to remember... how about- I can't remember if my boss is a first or second lieutenant, no matter how many times he has to correct the letters I draft for him, so I was plenty surprised when I heard myself say- "I've seen that statue."

And so I had. Back before I had the dogs (pre-2004) I had a very pretty brilliant black 2000 Mazda Miata with tan leather interior and I was in a Miata club. We would to go for drives together, all the pretty Miatas in a row- sometimes as many as 60, but more usually around 20.
(I know Bloom is in the Miata in this picture and this is obviously a Miata Run since I don't have beautiful snow capped mountains with scenic overlooks by my house. In fact, this was shortly after I got Bloom and one of the last "runs" I went on. It was to King's Canyon and Sequoia National Park and I am very happy I went since it was so beautiful and scenic. Bloom is sporting his doggles and a whale spout to keep his fur out of his eyes.)
It's more exciting than it sounds. Sometimes you saw good sights and sometimes you drove twisty roads a bit faster than was safe, but it was all in good fun. We only had someone crash once. So- back to the statue. On a local "run" we drove the twisty mountain roads from the backside of Camarillo into Santa Paula. Then we paraded down the picturesque Main Street and lined up by the rail road tracks to wait for the rest of our group. I saw a statue that looked like it might be commemorating some War Heros. That was my impression. Maybe it was because the motorcycle that looked like the one Indiana Jones stole from the Nazis in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. I wanted to take a closer look but I couldn't as pretty much as soon as I spotted it our stragglers caught up and off we drove, to new adventures and a tasty lunch. I had some really good homemade lemonade. I think I was trying to drink less pop/ soda. See what I mean about memory?
When dad talked about the statue, I remembered all of this. What I couldn't remember is- was there one rider or two? Or maybe one guy on the motorcycle and one in a side car? Or was the side car idea coming from the Indiana Jones movie? I thought the guys looked militaryish and I remembered it was a bronze statue...

The next day on my way home I resolved to stop in Santa Paula and find the statue. My fickle memory came in handy because I remembered the street we came in on that went by the statue was either 7th or 10th Street. Yes, not only do I remember what I had for lunch on that sunny day over four years ago, but I also remember the name of the street that we drove into Santa Paula on. Am I weird? I pulled off the 126 highway at 10th Street, drove through the picturesque down town and found (right by the railroad tracks) a bronze statue of two police officers riding motorcycles that still looks like the one in the Indiana Jones movie. No side car, though.

Apparently I have a visual memory.

Since I was not in a long line of Buick SUVS during a Buick SUV club drive, I was able to pull over and get out and read the inscription. The inscription reveled the two were police officers residing in Santa Paula who received news of the impeding doom via a telephone operator. They did not actually witness the dam break, but upon hearing the news they jumped on their bikes and notified many people in the low lying areas of Santa Paula.

Can you see why my overall impression when viewing this statue for a few moments from inside my car was of a military person?
Maybe I can't remember how old I am or that time sheets are due every other Thursday, but I can find the location of a statue I saw once for a few moments in a town I've never been to before or since, four years ago...
Maybe I should start making more visual aids.
Besides exercising my apparently amazing long term memory, I was able to offer aid to a local motorcycle rider who saw me with my camera and enlisted me in taking a picture of him and his motorcycle in front of the statue so he could load it into the digital picture frame he bought is 90 year old mother for Christmas. Of course he had trouble understanding my name, but he was polite enough to blame it on the earplugs he was wearing. A nice guy. I wonder what other pictures he took that day? I guess I'll never know, but I'm sure his mom will like all of them.
Well- I'm off to eat one of my three usual dinners. I won't tell you what they are so I don't embarrass myself.
**why is it my formatting always disintegrates at the end? Where are the spaces between my paragraphs??

Monday, December 22, 2008

Moving and Dog Diapers

No, it is not a non sequitur. I will explain.
Some people think I move a lot. I think the majority of renters move a lot. When you don't have anything invested in where you are living, it makes sense to move around until you find the perfect place. Plus, you may be willing to move into a less than perfect place since you know you can always move later. If you own a home, you should probably not commit to buying until you find the perfect place. Going back to the people who say I move a lot, I have lived three places in six years (it will be four once I move next week) and I don't think that is over the top.
The first time I moved so I could have a dog, the second time I moved because the rent got too high, and this time I am moving so I can have a yard the dogs can use. The bathtub, dishwasher, garbage disposal, close covered parking and bedroom (vs a studio) are all nice too.
So what does this have to do with doggie diapers? I took a picture of Bloom in a (moving) Box and he is sporting his brand new diaper. In order to show the Bloom in the (moving) Box picture, I have to explain the diaper.

Bloom is approximately 14 now, and either cannot hold his bladder or forgets he is supposed to, or both. What can you do with a suddenly not house trained old dog in the cold winter, especially when you don't have a yard? For a while I kept him in the shower- at least clean up was easy. Then I heard about doggie diapers, but I made a good product even better. I bought a reusable doggie diaper with a disposable liner. But the liner wasn't as wide as the diaper and didn't do a very good job. However, the doggie diaper did show me how to use a regular baby diaper on a male dog. You just wrap it around like a cumber bun! According to the directions on the doggie diaper, you wrap it snugly around his manly contours. I'm not sure little Bloom has any manly contours, but I got the idea. So I put the baby diaper on first, then use the doggie diaper to make sure it says put, and to cover up the picture of Mickey Mouse and help Bloom retain some of his dignity.

We'll all be old some day and if I need diapers, I want to retain some of my dignity too.

Fancy and Pie play in the box too. They are such good dogs to put up with my picture taking!
Bloom breaks out of his box.

One more thing I should mention about the moving is all these boxes are really tempting Pie. I give her cardboard boxes as a chew toy sometimes and she cannot understand why she can't play with all these great toys I've brought home.
Today I caught her "tasting" one of my boxes.
Sigh. I am having trouble now with my line breaks...

Flash or No Flash?

Sometimes I think using the flash can ruin a picture.
Here is the cozy fire after the snow with the flash.

And here it is without the flash.

Here is Pie resting by the fire with the flash...

And here she is lighted only by the warm firelight...

Sure, the picture is a little darker, but it is also much more true to what I was actually seeing.

What do you think?

And here is Pie with the flash, although that is not an important part of this picture. I think I hear the Jaws music playing.

Santa Barbara and the Snow- But Not Together

Aunt Kathleen was visiting so mom and I took her to Santa Barbara. We saw the Mission (called the Queen of the Missions) and we went to State Street and did shopping. There is a lot of shopping on State Street. We did not see all the shops.

If anyone has read the book Island of the Blue Dolphins (I have not) the lady the book is about is buried at the Santa Barbara Mission. A bit of trivia for you.

We also went on a scenic drive up in the neighborhood above the Mission and came upon an open house so we stopped in to view that. If you can call following about 10 signs with arrows pointing the way "came upon." If I remember correctly the asking price was $2.3 million. I guessed 3 to 4 Million, so I was a bit off. I don't know the Santa Barbara market that well, apparently. It had a great view, a wine cellar, a gourmet kitchen and a tiny yard. It also had hardwood floors upstairs that came with dog claw marks, so at least my dogs wouldn't have to work too hard to dogify the house. The fire from a few months ago burned up the house across the street, and we could see more fire damage. The Realtor credited the tile roof and stucco construction for saving this home. I'm sure the firefighters had something to do with it also.

The previous day Dad, Craig and I planned to go to the snow. Aunt Kathleen came with us. I guess she doesn't get enough snow in PA. Some of dad's friends came with us, with their Malamute, in a different vehicle. They were in the different vehicle also- not just the dog. Speaking of different vehicles, since Dad has the four door jeep, four of us people and four dogs all fit, with all of our extra gear and the sled! We went to the spot up past Lake Elizabeth that we've been before. I was a bit worried the snow might have melted but that was an unfounded worried. I think my worry about the jeep sliding off the road and over the side of the hill was more founded in reality, no matter what anyone else says.

We found the snow all right. We drove until we got stuck, then we walked. It might have turned into a typical family death march, but Aunt Kathleen must have been warned by Aunt Anne against hiking with the us, because after a short way she stopped. We only went a bit further then we stopped too. That snow was very deep and not really conducive to walking, so it was for the best. We had a snowball fight, took an amusing video, you tube link then spent the rest of the time getting the two off road vehicles unstuck. We used the high lift jack, a rope, a tow cable, the shovel, various hand tools, the plastic sled, and local vegetation. Just about the only thing we didn't use was Pie the Puller. Too bad. Oh, and the winch. Which would have helped. A lot. I guess there was nothing to use the winch on in front of our Jeep, and the vehicle stuck behind us didn't have a winch. The lesson here is everyone should have a winch on the front and the backs of their vehicles. To make it even more exciting, the dogs had to stay out of the way and we had two dogs with us who don't wait patiently very well. Ahem- Pie and Roscoe you whinny dogs. And compounding that situation was the Malamute was lusting after my Malinois and trying to have his way with her. She was pretty good about staying in her down, but that was only making it easier for him...

After several freezing hours, dad went for help and we still haven't seen him. Just kidding. I wasn't cold at all since I was shoveling and hauling and pushing. We got both vehicles un stuck and went on our way. Three cheers for the Recovery School at Aberdeen Proving Grounds! I was also treated to a story about the Proving Grounds in which dad imitated the voice of a hapless enlisted person who got his tank stuck and dad instructed him to turn the treads inside out. Apparently a tread turned inside out is like a cleat. Dad found out later the hapless enlisted person then drove the tank down the street, tearing it up due to the treads acting like large metal spikes. Oh those foolish enlisted people. Doing what their officer tells them! I was not treated to an imitation of the voice of the high ranking officer who was quite upset about this. Too bad.

You can see my photos from both trips here. Photobucket link I'm having trouble with the hyperlinks. Be sure to view the second page as well. For people not as familiar with computers as others- any time you see something underlined, it might be a link.

I am still trying to figure out how to post the pictures better.

The Word "Blog"

For those of you who don't know, the word "blog" comes from weB Log. So now you know. To me it also sounds like BLah and BOG, two words that don't normally have positive connotations. What makes a person write about their personal life and post it on the WORLD WIDE Internet, where anyone (including weirdos) can read it? I am doing it because I enjoy my sister's blog and some of my friends also have blogs and I like those as well. So this is mostly for people who don't live in the same state as me.

I will probably post a lot of pictures of my dogs, because I spend most of my time with them. The picture of Fancy is just to test out posting pictures.