Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 ... A Year of Firsts!!!

This was a pretty amazing year for me.  There were more FIRSTS than I have ever experienced, making it very memorable, thanks to new RV friends and long lost best friends now found.  Has it really been a year since my first Indio trip and my first Segway ride??
 My first trip to Quartzite was amazing, as were the sunrises in the Arizona desert.  The flea market was everything everyone told me it would be ... and then some!!!
Summer came and I pulled in behind Patty and Dan heading North to Alaska.  Along the way, there was the first ride on the Sumpter Valley Railroad where I got a first-hand lesson on being an Engineer while riding in the cab!!
My first trip to Banff National Park in Canada, heading towards what came to be the best trip of my lifetime!!
Thanks to Patty and Dan Chance for letting me join them on an amazing trip up the Alaska Highway!!
The world famous Sign Forest on the Alaskan Highway in Canada.
More amazing sunrises on the way to Skagway where we spent a week with wonderful friends/employers of Patty and Dan.
My first ride on the White Pass and Yukon Route Railway from Skagway Alaska into Canada and back.
My first up close and personal experience with a bear ... although I've been very close before, I probably could have reached out and touched this guy.
My first view of Skagway Alaska, beginning of the Klondike Gold Rush.  Pictures just don't do it justice!!
WOW ... my first boat to the Columbia Glacier.  This was definitely the highlight of the trip.  We spent the entire summer in shorts and T-shirts ... except for THIS day!!
That wall of ice in the background is the glacier, calving as we are surrounded by huge ice bergs.
First time playing with Orca!!!  This was a total shock ... I never expected to see these guys in real life!!
My first sight of a Russian Brown Bear ... three times as big as the brown/black bears we saw on the road.
Not the first sight of an eagle, but probably one of the best nature images I have ever taken.
My first trip to Garibaldi, Oregon to see another gorgeous sunset.
My first trip on the Oregon Coast Scenic Railway ... dinner with lots of RV friends.
My first ever kite flying experience!!  It was amazing ... so much so that I purchased TWO kites!!
First time ever up close and personal with wild cats in Bandon Oregon.  This is Bob the bobcat.
Back from Alaska, I purchased a smoker and cooked this yummy smoked pork for the first time!!  I'm not good at barbecuing ... but I have to say this pork was amazing!!
With more awesome RV friends Barbara and Tom Westerfield, I went to the Fresno County Fair for the first time since I moved 60 miles down the road, 60 years ago.
Patty Chance and I went on my first trip to Costa Rica.  What an amazing country!!  Take a poncho ... you're gonna need it!!!
First ever sight of Capuchin monkeys in the trees above our room, screaming at the Howler monkeys.
Not the first time I got scared to death, but definitely the first time a red-eyed tree frog jumped on my shoulder.
First time ever seeing a sloth in person, let alone one scratching his chin
After all that traveling, my two baby puppies were glad to be home for a month before heading off again on adventures in 2014.
Cooper is catching up on his sleep, as we'll be starting new adventures in a few short days.
Happy New Year everyone ... I hope 2014 is good to you!!!

Monday, December 30, 2013

Wash, Rinse, Repeat ....

Getting ready to roll entails a lot more than just putting some food in the fridge and driving off.  I KNOW all my RV friends are familiar with the needs of their mobile houses.  If you got into this "pasttime" thinking it was going to be a totally relaxing endeavor, I'm betting you have since changed your mind.  I have!!!  But then again, I'm one of the extremely small group of people who travel alone, and therefore have to do all the prep work myself.  Washing the mobile Buzzards Roost is always an ordeal I put off as long as possible ... especially when it is 33 degrees outside!!
My good brush broke in Alaska, so I'm making do until I get to the Indio Rally.  I wash, rinse, wash and rinse again and it STILL looks bad.  About the third time, it finally comes clean enough for a quick wipe with a squeegee and towel.  The system I bought last year that was supposed to be the "bees knees" for washing, is too wide for most of the areas, requiring much more hand washing than I'm willing to do.  The only good thing I can say is that it's good exercise!!!  I finished the other side yesterday and will bundle up for today's completion.

I've already cleaned the batteries and checked the water levels, opened all the emergency exits, treated all the rubber seals with special goop, lubricated the steps and the entry door so it doesn't squeak so loud it wakes the neighbors and did a quick clean of the interior.  Tomorrow I will sanitize the water system if I can figure out how to get the 4 gallons of bleach water in the tank.  According to my How-To Manual, I'm supposed to use the water pump to pump it in.  I have no idea how to do that, so wish me luck!!  After that, time to load up with fuel, food, clothes, camera gear and all things doggie.

In the meantime, I'll just watch the sun rise until it warms up a little.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

My Little Soapbox!!

It seems that Merced's unemployed welfare crowd has finally taken a hit to their paycheck ... at least temporarily.  For that I say YAY!!!  It's about time!!!

You see, some people in the government who make millions of dollars, seem to think the rest of us should pay people NOT to work.  The part that makes me mad is that they are taking that money from MY pocket.  I worked hard all my life, sometimes at menial jobs, saving everything I could so I could afford to buy a house.  For all my trouble, they raised the property tax to cover part of the welfare/unemployment price tag, giving unemployment and welfare benefits to people who simply don't WANT to work.  Ask them ... I have ... and most will tell you "why should I work when I can make more money staying home?".

Here's some statistics taken from the Merced Sun Star local newspaper.  In California, people can apply and receive unemployment benefits for 26 weeks.  The people who run our Federal government, saw fit to add to that another 37 weeks ... free money!!  How many of those receiving benefits do you think diligently applied for jobs ... and there ARE jobs available here, lots of them!!  Well by current count, 13.6% did NOT, resulting in the highest unemployment rate in the country.  In 2008, the unemployment rate was 5.6% with 17 weeks benefits.  Now it's 13.6% with 63 weeks benefits.  Do you see a trend???

My grandfather came here from the Isle of Man and only because of his hard work, was he able to start a cattle ranch.  No one offered him a job ... no one offered him free money ... and no one offered him welfare money just to sit on the porch and drink beer!!  He worked hard, as my whole family has.  He didn't think he was entitled to anything except what he worked for and if he wanted to eat, he better work pretty hard doing anything available.

I'm sure when Congress reconvenes from their little vacation, they will reinstate the benefits weeks, but since it wasn't budgeted for, I'll be curious to see where they get the money.  I'm hoping they actually wake up and smell the roses ... the only way to get people off unemployment is to cut the money.  I'm sure there are a few people who really need help, but they are getting almost seven months of help already.  Maybe you won't be making your usual $15.00 an hour and maybe you'll have to sling hamburgers at McDonalds ... but it's a JOB and you will make MONEY so you won't be living off the rest of us!!

Get off MY back and GET A JOB!!!  I'm tired of carrying your weight!!!

Friday, December 27, 2013

Costa Rican Chocolate!!!

Although I'm not really a hot chocolate kind of person, when Patty and I were in Costa Rica in the middle of their monsoon season where a torrential downpour soaked us to the bone ... we were treated to hot chocolate and snacks.  Yes it WAS 90 degrees, but the Eco-Lodge provided us with a wonderful HOT drink ...  cocoa.  It was the best I have EVER had.  Not the least bit bitter or grainy as some chocolate mixes ... and I didn't have to put twelve marshmellows in it to make it drinkable.

When we spied a bag that said "Cocoa" on it, we discovered through hand signals that this was the one we were loving ... AND it was "instant" cocoa!!!  I took a quick picture in the hopes I could find it for sale somewhere.
Back home, I hit the internet for a couple of hours before I finally found a company selling it.  Of course the Cocoa Dulce isn't expensive at all ... it was the shipping!!!  The breaking point was eight bags, so I placed the order and began the long wait.

I figured it would take awhile to get here.  At about the four week point, I gave up, figuring it was about time to call the credit card company, but got busy with other things.  Just before Christmas, I received a package ... totally beat up, written all over and fairly smashed.  The return address was Miami Florida.  Wasn't I surprised when I opened it to find a package within a package within a package again ... and it was my cocoa!!!  I fixed a cup immediately ... and it took me back to sitting on the dock, relaxing, soaking wet, eating a kind of hot pocket and cookies while swatting mosquitos as I tried to dry my camera.  Hmmmm memories!!  That scene will forever be burned in my mind every time I have a cup of wonderful Costa Rican hot chocolate.

It was then I realized ... Uh Oh ... I had ordered a huge box of small packages, full of mostly white powder from Costa Rica, close to the Nicaragua border ... and upon further inspection of the box, saw it had been opened and resealed more than once.  It didn't come through Dallas Texas as I expected ... it was sent through Miami Florida, probably on a slow boat!!!  I'm sure my name is now in some Federal database and I expect guys in Ninja outfits to show up at my door any time.  It's ok, I'll just invite them in for a cup of cocoa!!!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Merry Merry Christmas!!!

I never did find out if Santa made it around the world ... I crashed about 10:30 pm after defrosting and seasoning the 8 pound turkey breast I planned on smoking for Christmas dinner.  Cooper was up early and nosing around the tree until he found four new balls for me to throw.  Sweet Jessie would have stayed in bed all day!!  Especially since chasing the goat last night!!  The two puppies and I spent a quiet but busy Christmas day together, baking and watching The Mummy Marathon on TV!!
I let the turkey sit out for 30 minutes before placing it in the smoker at 220 degrees with lighter flavored Cherry biscuits for smoke.  It should take around 5-1/2 hours to cook to 170 degrees, then another 45 minutes wrapped in foil.  With that done, I started in on baking for the New Year, in between throwing the ball.  Baklava was a big hit and is on the menu again.  I just wish it didn't have quite so many calories.  
Next up the sweet rolls ... cinnamon and nut filled puffs of dough, soon to be covered in frosting!!  I know ... I got a little distracted between checking the turkey and throwing the ball, so I let these rise a little too long.  No matter ... into the oven they go!!
Twenty minutes later ... YUM YUM!!!!  Only 10 more pans of rolls to go!!!  I think it should take me about three days to finish baking the lot.  Then it was more ball throwing, or kicking as the case was.
By 1:00 the smoked turkey was done to perfection.  I found it much easier to buy these beautiful 8-10 pound bone-in turkey breasts ... when done, you cut the two huge breast pieces off and carve it up into nice 1/2" thick slices.  An interesting thing, leftover frozen turkey isn't all that great as far as I'm concerned ... but leftover frozen SMOKED turkey is just as good as the day it was cooked!!!  Half of this is going in the freezer!!   Hmmm maybe I should have given Cooper just ONE ball, she mumbled as she threw it for the hundredth time!!!
Still trying to remain on a diet ... regardless of how many cookies and pieces of baklava I ate ... I kept it simple.  Mashed potatoes with a little butter ... okay, a tablespoon of butter!! ... roasted vegetables and two beautiful pieces of turkey.  It was awesome ... and the puppies thought so too!!!
Two hours later, having cleaned up all the dishes from the days baking and Christmas dinner, I sat down to relax with the last Mummy movie ... but Cooper was having none of it.  By now, Jessie is in the act too, so for the next couple of hours, I'll be throwing the balls (into the trash bin)!!!

I hope you had a great day with family and friends ..... Merry Christmas Everyone !!!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Twas The Night Before Christmas ...

And all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even my mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In the hopes St. Nicholas would find them there.
The puppies were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of doggie treats danced in their heads.
And me in my jammies, not wearing a cap,
Stretched out on the couch for a long night's nap.
When out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter.
Away to the window, I flew like a flash,
Tore open the door and tripped over the trash.
The moon, on the breast of the new frozen dew,
Gave the lustre of mid-day to the yard ... who knew?
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a little white goat ... Oh No!!  Oh Dear!!
With a mouthful of hay, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it wasn't St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his tiny hoofs came,
And he jumped on the table as I called him a name.
Now dash!!  Now Scoot!!  You crazy little goat,
As I headed inside to pick up my coat.

So up to the fence breach, the little goat he flew
With me following behind, my cold hands turning blue.
And then in a twinkling, I heard in the dark,
Prancing, pawing and little dog barks.
As I drew in my head and was turning around,
Out the door two little dogs came with a bound.
Heading straight to the fence, they barked and they pranced,
Around and around the lost goat they danced.
All of a sudden, Showby came into view,
wild eyed and snorting, not knowing what to do!

The goats eyes were crazed and red like a cherry,
Running back and forth, it was pretty scary!!
He had a cute little face and a round little belly.
That shook when he ran like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly little elf
And I laughed when I saw him in spite of myself.

A cry from his mouth and a twist of his head,
soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He turned on a dime and went straight for the hole.
Finally back home, which was certainly my goal.
I replaced all the boards and nailed them down tight,
Gave Showby some grain and left on the light.
Back in the house, we're again settled down,
To await Santa Claus when he gets to our town.

As I closed my eyes, erasing the night's sight,
I swear the goat said Merry Christmas and good night!!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Fitting End To An Era!!!

Last night, the San Francisco 49'ers played the Atlanta Falcons for a spot in the postseason games.  They WON!!  It was a great game played in an historic stadium, soon to be demolished.

Candlestick Park was constructed beginning in 1958 and will be replaced by Levi's Stadium in 2014, just in time for the 2016 Super Bowl.  Mostly known as the worst place to be for a night baseball game, Candlestick was close to the water, wind and freezing cold rain of San Francisco Bay.  Anyone who has been there will tell you it was miserable.  When Pac Bell (now A T & T) baseball park was built, we baseball fans were happy, happy, happy!!!

So it was fitting that the 49'ers won in what may be the last game of this stadium.  Despite some bad Falcon attitudes and crashing into 49'er players, knocking them to the ground when no one was looking (sore losers), Kaepernick and his crew scratched and fought in a game that was VERY close.  With it also being the Coaches 50th birthday, I'm sure there was LOTS of partying going on after the game.

It's sad to see Candlestick Park go, in spite of all the bad things said about it over the years ... mostly because the NEW stadium won't be located anywhere near San Francisco.  It has been built in Santa Clara, 40 miles south, close to the San Jose International Airport and Great American Theme Park.   They will still be called the San Francisco 49'ers, but I'm saddened because it just won't be the same.  
Congratulations Colin Kaepernick and the 49'er Team for making San Francisco proud!!!  It was a fitting end for a GREAT stadium!!!

Merry Christmas Eve to all my friends!  I hope you have a wonderful day with family and friends, and remember the reason for the season!!  Practice kindness ... pass it on!!!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Definitely Naughty ... It's Coal Time!!

Bratty kids have hit my neighborhood ... and they are definitely NOT nice.  I was all set to watch the football game yesterday.  I had my drinks, my snacks and my puppies all snuggled up.  When I turned to the Direct TV Channel, I got a message ... Searching for signal.  I've been getting that a lot lately so I changed channels ... several times!!  I could get a couple of cartoon shows, but not the football game I was looking forward to.  What a time for it to get worse!!!
Previously, I called my friend who ran me through all the diagnostics to no avail.  Finally, he said to go check the satellite dish.  What I found, made me madder than a wet hen!!  It looked like some neighborhood brats had used my dish for target practice.  One of the three "guns" or transponders ... whatever you call them ... was broken, with the remnants laying on the ground.  The second one was cracked and the dish had several dents!!

I've been trying to delay the replacement.  I'm sure Direct TV would replace it in a week or two, along with another two year contract ... but the worst part ... when they were here last, they said I would have to have the dish installed on TOP of the roof, not on the facia boards.  I'm not happy at all about having holes drilled in my garage roof.  They actually refused to repair it unless I agreed to the relocation.

I watched the game as the signal went in and out ... how frustrating that I missed several good plays AND replays.  I sure hope those kids get COAL for Christmas!!  Amazingly, the Cardinals won!!  My Seattle friends are crying in their beer.  Now to see what good kiddie cartoons have a better signal!!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Are You Ready For Some Football???

Those are probably words most wives and girlfriends don't like to hear, but being the black sheep that I am, I  LIKE football!!  There ... I said it!!  I'm pretty sure I have been blackballed from the ladies tea group, but ever since I spent some time in Denver, I've been hooked.  Way, WAY back in the old days, I turned 21 in Denver where I worked for a Secretarial Service.  One of their contracts was to provide services to the visiting football teams (NO, not THAT kind of service!!!) so they wouldn't wander into the wrong part of town ... or the wrong bar ... and get in trouble.  Basically, it was our responsibility to keep them out of jail!!

The most memorable night was when the Baltimore Colts (now the Baltimore Ravens) came to play the Denver Broncos after just beating the number one team, Kansas City!!  Boy were those guys ready to party ... except for the quarterback, whose name escapes me, who had a broken arm.  We had a great time and we got ALL of them back to their hotel in one piece.

From that time on, I was hooked on football.  I don't watch every game, but Sunday you will find me in front of the TV yelling for my favorite San Francisco 49'ers.  I watch the Oakland Raider games, just to be sure they lose, but don't advertise that fact.  If you are around Raider fans, you just pretend you like them to keep from getting beat up!!  Just kidding ... some of my good friends are Raider fans!!!!

The Seattle Seahawks are up there this year ... they have such a devoted fan base that I love to see them win games ... and they are expected to win today, as are the 49'ers.

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco's quarterback is a local kid ... making it even more exciting to see them win!!  He's from little old Turlock, just up the road a few miles.  When you actually KNOW someone who is playing, it makes it much more interesting.  That plus the fact that one of the camera guys on the sidelines taking all those great shots you see on the internet and Sports Illustrated ... that's one of my heroes of photography ... Scott Kelby.  You can walk up to him anywhere and he will take time to not only talk to you, but answer ANY question about photography.  He will give you all his tips and tricks ... he shares everything.  THAT is unusual in todays market!!

So I'm gathering up the popcorn, the Hickory Farms and all the candy I've received so far this Christmas and I'm ready for the game!!!

GO 49'ers !!!!!!!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Planned Obsolescence!!!

I just hate that manufacturer's don't build quality, long lasting products any more.  They seem to build them to last 3-4 years, if that long, before they crash and die, forcing you to buy another one.  People used to be proud of the fact that their products lasted many years ... but now they just plan for it to quit working so you will buy another one, putting more cash in their pocket!!  I'm not sure if that is due to cost cutting or the workforce.  Either way, I don't like it!!

My original washer and dryer was a $400 Kenmore set from Sears ... it lasted 22 years.  The washer still worked but the dryer took 3 hours to dry a small load of towels.  My PG&E bill was suffering!!  After I moved to the Ranch, I purchased another Kenmore set, 7 years ago for $800.  Last week, the dryer started complaining loudly with beeping noises until it quit altogether.  Really???  I hardly even use them ... I wash maybe two loads a week!!!  At $500 for repairs, I did what the manufacturers count on ... I started hanging all my wash in the back yard!!  Needless to say, that didn't last long before I purchased a new set at TWICE the cost of the last one.

This time however, I went on-line and looked at all the reviews on every make and model.  These are LG's ... one of my friends has been using these for 4 years and she loves them.  This was the only manufacturer that had 5 star ratings on everything.
With all the other rental expenses, I really wasn't looking to spend a lot of money ... and lucky for me, they were having a BOGO half off sale.  Even so, they were VERY expensive!!  Don't even think that someone is going to inherit these babies ... I plan on living long enough to get my money out of them ... I'll even split the loads and do FOUR a week ... assuming they last longer than the last set!!!

My friend had a 2008 SUV from a local dealer and granted, it wasn't American made, but it was affordable for her.  69,000 miles later, the engine blew up to the tune of $6,000 in repairs.  Her vehicle was valued at $4,000 and so she really had no choice but to purchase a new one!!  She doesn't even really like it ... the interior space is much smaller than the old one and her dogs are cramped in the back seat ... but it was affordable!!

My iPhone 4 cost me a chunk of money ... and it needed to be updated constantly.  It finally got so slow that I couldn't send messages ... so I did what they count on ... I quit upgrading.  The problem with that was the harassment I received from NOT upgrading.  I finally gave in and purchased an iPhone 5 ... which I have already had to upgrade twice!!!  And of course, it is getting slower and slower.  It's not even one year old.  I think the upgrade contains so much extra #@%$ that it overloads the memory ... and there you have it ... you need a new phone!!

My computer wasn't very old either ... and since I did the upgrade, certain things have slowed down, which again I think is a memory problem.  I deleted 2600 bad images in the hopes of freeing it up, but that only helped the storage space ... not the current memory.  I'm not sure if I CAN upgrade the memory in this machine since I purchased it with the maximum.  Looks like my computer may be heading towards obsolescence!!  I better start saving my pennies!!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Cookies And Milk ... Just Like Santa!!

That's what it took to get the rest of the shots of "B" ... LOTS of cookies and milk.  This image of him sitting on the Grizz I picked up in Alaska, was the happiest ... he was just up from a nap.  It was all downhill from here!!
After the Chef pictures, we let him crawl around on the floor for awhile ... and boy is he fast!!!  On my hardwood floors, he squealed from one end of the house to the other!!  Realizing it was lunch time, we sat down for something orange and disgusting looking ... it's no wonder he wouldn't eat it!!  Especially when he had the taste of cookies all morning!!  Maybe the cloth bag full of diapers will keep his interest.  It worked really well .. he was laughing ... but I don't think this is what his Mom had in mind.
Another hour passed and I actually got a couple useable images ... no smile however!!  This is what Mom was looking for ... black and white with the red hat.  This image can be created in a flash on your iPhone ... but it took some time in Photoshop to scrub out that Santa Hat.  
More cookies ... you can tell how good they are working now!!  In between every take we let him wander around ... he smiles ...  we sit him back down and this is the result!!
Finally, having tried a bottle of hand lotion, his bottle of milk, cookies, diaper bag, dog toys and wrapping paper, I suggested we put the cookie UNDER the lights.  Laying on the floor, I snapped a couple of quick ones as he crawled toward me looking for it!!  You've got to be inventive with babies!!!!
Nana was over my shoulder squeaking the dog toy and waving his bottle for this one.  By now, it's his nap time and he's had about enough of this nonsense!!  
I decided this about the best we were going to do ... I had at least 5 images for Mom ... not EXACTLY the one she was looking for, but with a tired, hungry, snuffy baby, I didn't think we were going to get any better.  
Five hours later, it was time to hang up the camera.  Just like Santa, "B" was full of cookies and milk and ready for a long nap.  As soon as I put him in the car seat, he was out like a light!!  This model business is just too strenuous!!!
The good news is that Mom was thrilled with the images.  As for "Kid Photography" ... be inventive ... be PATIENT!!!  And if that doesn't work ... you just have to try again!!