Saturday, November 29, 2008

Blog Award - Real Person Award

WOOHOO! I'm so excited. I just got my first blog award. Okay, I didn't JUST get it, but I just found out about it. I actually got it about two weeks ago. With being away in San Francisco, Thanksgiving at our house with my parents, boys out of school, etc., I'm just now catching up reading the 40+ blog posts I've missed over the last two weeks (I only follow about 6 bloggers).

I've been awarded the Marie Antoinette award... - I know... - Really?? Let them eat cake, Antoinette?? Uh, thanks a lot!

Anyway, as explained by the blogger who presented me with the award, lemondingo, this is also known as the "Real Person Award". Evidently the more private, less vilified Marie was very devoted to her children, had a circle of close friends, and loved reading, music, science and philosophy. Now, I don't care for philosophy, but the rest pretty much fits.

I think what I'm supposed to do now is make a long speech thanking all the people who ever believed in me when I no longer believed in myself, blah, blah, blah.... Okay, just kidding, we'll skip the speech. I would like to pass this award on to two other bloggers: my friend Barb,
(, who is definitely a real person if there ever was one, and Sandra at - who seems like a real person but who gets so much sewing done I'm starting to suspect she might actually be twin seamstresses blogging as one person, lol.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm thankful for...

my parents, who, in addition to being my parents (and thanks for that, by the way) looked after the boys for NINE DAYS so Devin and I could have a "mini-moon".

my husband, who completes me (she sighs with a disgustingly dreamy smile on her face).

our three boys, without whom life might become boring pretty quickly - believe me, it's NEVER boring!

enough. We have enough of everything that matters - friends, food, health, family, etc.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Well, today we drove home. It's kind of sad to see our lovely vacation end, but it will be nice to see the boys. We really thought we were going to be home just in time to see them before they went to bed but fate (or a bad road) intervened. We got a flat about 120 miles from home. I'm not sure what was going on, but four other cars were pulled over to the side with hazard lights flashing within a half-mile of us. I can only assume they got flat tires, too. By the time we waited for AAA to get there and change the flat (our flashlight batteries were not up to the job and there was no moon) the other cars were all back on the road. Anyway, we ended up getting home about 9:15 or so, too late to kiss the boys good night.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


Well, this is our last day in San Francisco. And what would a trip to San Francisco be without visiting Chinatown? I was especially looking forward to this because the last time I was there was about 20 years ago. In a past life, I went to the military language school in Monterey, Ca. to learn Mandarin Chinese and we made several trips up here with our instructors. Here's the entrance gate.
We mainly just wandered around and followed a guide book walking tour, visiting a temple, a fortune cookie bakery, and several shops. The highlight was our dim sum lunch. Dim sum is Cantonese so I can't tell you what it means but it's like a lunch of Chinese appetizers. You order more or less a la carte. My favorite for originality was this dish, fried shrimp balls. I didn't even know what it was but saw it passing us several times and finally asked the waiter for one by describing it. -And just how would you describe this? My favorite for taste was the egg rolls, which were absolutely delicious. The wrap was flaky and the inside was tasty and mild. Devin, being more used to Chinese food off a buffet, prefers soggy, pungent ones - ugh. I even got to speak a little Chinese for the first time in about 15 years. It was only a couple words, but the replies were appropriate, so I can still make myself understood, even if I am appallingly rusty.
Before we headed out of town for our hotel, I convinced Devin that the trip wouldn't be complete unless I visited at least one fabric store (I had three picked out as possibilites). Britex Fabrics is just off Union Square a couple blocks from Chinatown so I went there while Devin did his own thing. The place is HUGE! It's probably only about 20 feet wide but it's about 80 feet deep with 10 foot ceilings and there are FOUR floors. It was pretty impressive. I ended up going into overload, though, and didn't buy anything at all. It happens quite frequently that, if I feel rushed, my little homosapien brain is overwhelmed by the possibilies of what could be done with all this eye candy and I can't focus to save my life.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Today we did one of the greatest things yet this trip!! We rented a GoCar. I have to preface with a caveat. It probably is not for everyone. It is a rumbly ride and you are totally at the mercy of the elements. Also, it is a little tiny car with top speeds of 30 mph (going downhill) on roads with normal cars. Once I even had to get out to push on an especially steep hill. Last, but not least, I felt like a total dork at first.... Then I got over it and started waving and smiling to everyone we passed. We had perfect weather for it - just warm enough but not too warm - and no rain in the forecast.
A GoCar is a little 3 wheeled go cart that is street legal and can be parked in motorcycle spaces. As we checked our car out, I had to admit I had a brief thought that the helmets were just to help preserve our facial features so our next of kin could identify us. Not particularly reassuring was the fact that #25, pictured here, wouldn't even start, so we were moved to #29. #29 had a bashed in front with the light secured by.....yes, that would be bathtub caulk! -I asked. I was reassured to find that the "ejection seat" button actually controlled the GPS. The GPS unit keeps track of where you are along the tour route and gives you a guided tour of all the places you are driving as you get to the corresponding way points. We ate lunch at Fort Point below the Golden Gate Bridge and watched the surfers ride the waves. A sea lion even made an appearance out there. Then we pretty much drove all over the western side of San Francisco in our little putt-putt.
The website said the tour we selected would take about 2.5 hours so we thought we were safe planning for 4 hours. My biggest piece of advice to anyone who wants to do this is to get there when they open and plan for all day. We had a total blast! We were gone 5 hours and didn't even complete the tour. We only returned when we did because the place closed then and it was getting dark. We probably could have easily taken twice as long and it still would have been fun.
After we turned the GoCar in, we tried to meet up with Devin's Uncle Lyle and Aunt Margaret for dinner. After a little navigational error, we finally got together and had a lovely dinner at one of the restaurants down at Fisherman's Wharf.
After dinner we headed to the Audium ( for a show. It was one of those places you might walk right past a dozen times before you really see it. Luckily we had no trouble finding it. They have 174 speakers (floor, ceiling, walls) in a small room where about 50 people are seated in circles. The lights are turned out and it gets pitch black. Then different sounds are played through the speakers. It's like surround sound but better. It ended up feeling very Zen. You just sit and listen. You can't make things move faster or slower, you can't see, and there is nothing for your brain to do but process the sounds as you hear them. I think we all enjoyed it (Uncle Lyle and Aunt Margaret came with us).

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Today we got a late start (yeah, yeah, I'm sure it's my fault again!). First up was the Golden Gate Bridge. We drove across the bridge to the Marin headland on the north side and ate lunch in Sausalito at this wonderful little restaurant, aptly named Fish. It had a seafood-cafe style menu and was on the end of a dock in a marina. -Very picturesque and the food was VERY yummy.

Devin wanted to walk across the bridge all the way to the other side. I am still scared of heights and walking on a shaking bridge a few feet from traffic high above hypothermia-cold water just didn't sound like that much fun to me. However, it was one of the things Devin had to do it just to say he had done it. Imagine how bummed we were when two different locals told us it can only be walked south to north, not north to south. That didn't make much sense to us although we thought they probably knew what they were talking about. We stopped at the north end anyway and were thrilled to discover they were wrong after all. There was a pathway that led under the bridge to the walking side so Devin got to walk it after all. I met him on the other side, thinking that just driving across that bridge with its narrow lanes and heavy traffic was plenty of excitement for me.

We were having such a good time we ended up being nail-bitingly late for our twilight tour of Alcatraz Island. When we ran up, huffing and wheezing, we probably had an entire 2 1/2 minutes to spare. The ride out on the boat was beautiful. Here is a shot of the Golden Gate Bridge with the sun going down behind it. And now I'm finally where many people probably believe I should have been long ago. I thought about calling my parents and telling them I was in prison and could they come down to bail me out but I don't think I could have done it without laughing. It was a great tour (one of those audio tours) but a little weird walking around with lots of other people in a space in which not one of us actually belonged. -Like touring a ghost town. I also got a great night shot of the sky line of San Francisco.


Today we walked, climbed, climbed, walked, climbed.... Okay, you get the picture. I know why everyone in San Francisco has skinny butts. It has nothing to do with the abundance of Asian fusion food. It's because they are on nature's treadmill every time they walk down (and up!) the street.'s my photo essay about our day:
Coit Tower - one of the highest points in San Francisco with awesome views from the top after a slightly scary ride in a rickety elevator.

View of downtown with the Transamerica building (the one with the pointy top).

View of the Bay Bridge with the Ferry Building (from Monday) just below it.

We could see EVERYTHING from up there, including the sun. It was the first time we glimpsed blue sky since Monday when we drove in from the valley (it's been foggy).We went down Telegraph Hill (where Coit Tower stands) by the steps on the water side. The people who live here have to carry everything up these steps - which sometimes amounts to 4-5 stories, depending where they live along the steps. I can't even imagine what unloading a trip to the grocery store with small children would involve.It was very pretty, though. There were public gardens along the way and all kinds of serene nooks and crannies, like this small fountain. Next we went to the curvy part of Lombard Street. This is the one you seem to see in every car chase filmed in San Francisco. The view from the bottom, enhanced by my wonderful husband......and the view from the top......and a shot of one of the houses with beautiful flowering bougainvillea climbing all the way up the side......and the view from the top at night. That's Coit Tower to the left and the Bay Bridge that's lit up behind it.Next we went to the Presidio. Last time I was here it was still a military base. It still looks like a military base but was semi-privatized in 1994 and both Devin and I agree it was a little surreal driving around a military base that clearly is not a military base any longer. I didn't take any pictures and we didn't stay long. It was kind-of unsettling.

Last stop was the Palace of Fine Arts. This was originally built for the World's Fair in 1916 (I think that's the right year). It is currently closed for renovations but is extremely beautiful from what we could see from outside the fence and across the pond.

Last but not least, here is a night shot of the Golden Gate Bridge. In one of my blonder moments, I forgot to pack a tripod so most of my night shots aren't turning out at all. This one was a joint effort. Devin held the lens while I balanced the body on a post and snapped the picture. It was just at dusk - magic time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


Today we got up and headed for San Francisco. One of the tips from the guidebooks is that the public library sponsors about two dozen free tours ( all over the city (donation suggested). One of the dozen or so things on our list to do this week is to visit the Ferry Building and there was a library tour at 12:00 today. We searched and searched for someplace to park once we got across the Bay Bridge (pictured here) but garages were full and all the spaces had two-hour limits. I was starting to freak out when we finally found a lot with spaces to park in and ran up to the tour group - already in progress but we squeaked in only a couple minutes late. Whew. It was a fabulous tour and I highly recommend this tour program.

The Ferry Building was built almost a hundred years ago and at its height about 100,000 people a day passed through it. This photo is of the central tower. There is also a wing on each side which extends about 250 feet. You can see what a beautiful building it is now but only 15 years ago it was in disrepair and you couldn't get this view because of the freeway which ran between where I was standing to take this and the front of the building. The 1989 earthquake damaged the freeway badly and it was decided to tear it down instead of repair it (Thank goodness!). Also, in the fifties the beautiful space inside was turned into offices. The skylights in the ceiling were covered by a fluorescent drop-ceiling and there were three floors of ugly cubicles. - I'm sure glad we got to see the restored version without the freeway running in front of it. It really is quite an impressive building. The bottom floor is now a bunch of boutique style shops and eateries.

We enjoyed the Ferry Building tour so much that we picked up another tour of Market Street that began about a half-hour after the first one ended. It was a lot of architecture and history and wasn't quite as good as the first tour but was still very enjoyable and informative. By the time the second tour was over, it was time for dinner, so we headed for our hotel and dinner.

After dinner, it was back downtown for a concert at the Fillmore. The Fillmore is an old rock venue that almost every well-known band has played at one time or another. Everyone from Cold Play to Willie Nelson to Norah Jones. It was VERY cool. We were there in plenty of time to get a primo place to stand - close enough to get sweat spray from the warm-up band. We got to see Blues Traveler with 998 of our new best friends. Although there were no-smoking signs prominently posted all over the place, there was enough pot being passed around for anyone close to the stage to get a really good contact high (Not a single cigarette, though. I'm sure they would have stopped that cold!). Nobody seemed very concerned about keeping it hidden, either - must be because it's San Francisco, CA, not Newport, OR. I'm sure glad Devin doesn't have to do drug testing for NOAA like he did with the Navy because he might have some 'splainin' to do. Sorry about the sucky picture but that's as good as it gets when there is no flash allowed and the entire floor is moving like a trampoline from all the people bouncing (and in some cases jumping) to the music. -The venue is on the second floor. It was AWESOME!

On the way home I had to stop and get a picture of this beautiful, lit up building. I think it's a court building or something. Can you tell I love old buildings?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dylan's photo essay

I was downloading pictures for my post yesterday when I realized that my card had about 70 pictures on it instead of around 15 - the amount I had expected. Imagine my surprise when I had time to go through and look at the following masterpieces, obviously taken by my youngest, Dylan. Here are some of my favorites, absolutely unedited (I didn't even crop).
Rat portraits (13 "poses")
One awesome close-up of Dakota's impossibly long, dark, curling eyelashes (can you tell I'm jealous?).
Pictures of Dakota's rock collection, weaving, and pokemon card collection (8 still-lifes). 3 self-portraits - I laughed so hard when I saw the last one I thought I wouldn't be able to make it through any more.
Three photos of bathroom fixtures-two of the sink and the following porcelain study:
14 photos his two trophies, several including fingertips.

A dozen other photos of floors, hallways, and fingertips. Is it just me, or do I have the next Ansel Adams on my hands? roflol


Today we started with a tour of the Jelly Belly factory - the only jelly bean worth eating. We weren't allowed to take any pictures inside the plant but I did get a shot of jolly Jelly Belly Santa out front. We learned a lot of various, useless things. For example, I've always wondered how they make the bean shape. Answer: They fill trays with corn starch and push this shape-press thing down into it. Then they fill the resulting 200 or so jelly-bean shaped depressions with slurry which cures over a couple days. Out come the jelly beans guts. And how do they make the coating not have a settling spot on the bottom where it sits as it's coated. Answer: They tumble it in a huge vat that looks like a personal sized cement mixer. 250 lbs of jelly beans get coated at one time. They knock the edges off each other as they tumble. It takes 10-21 days to make a Jelly Belly jelly bean from start to finish. It was such an interesting tour that Devin and I talked about going on it again tomorrow but that would cut into time for other things. AND that would give me the opportunity to buy ANOTHER SEVEN POUNDS of candy.

So we headed out for wine country. Our first stop was the Gundlach Bundschu winery just outside of Sonoma. I chose this relatively at random because there were literally hundreds of possibilities. Okay, the truth is, I was captivated by the name. I was an exchange student in
Germany for a year after high school and Gundlach Bundschu sounds really cool when you say it out loud. Devin proceeded to call it Gundschu Bundla, Bundlach Gunda, and, finally, "that Gunda Bunda one". Kinda ruined the magic :) . Anyway, the lady doing our tasting was very nice and helpful, especially when she found out we were wine-tasting virgins.

We scooted out of there after a half-hour or so to make it for a tour about 35 minutes north at the Benziger winery. This tour was recommended by our guide book as one of the more informative ones. We rode in a tram through the fields and the guide explained all the things that go into making a wine the way it ends up. For example, how the amount of sun and nutrients in the soil affect the taste of the final wine. We also got to go through the cave (man-made) where they store the wine in barrels. There were dozens of these tunnels leading off to the sides filled with stacks of barrels. I've never done any other winery tours but I can highly recommend this one, especially for beginners. They were friendly and informative, giving us a much better idea of all that goes into making a good wine. After the tour, we went in for the tasting. We really liked several of the wines here and, as we were deciding which ones to purchase, Devin suggested we join the wine club. Devin is a beer drinker, not at all a wine drinker, so I jumped at the chance. Now we will be getting regular shipments of a few bottles of wine at a time to try out at home. Yummm!

Tomorrow - San Francisco!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Today we got to ride roller coasters together! We never get to do this anymore because we ride with the boys or, if one of the boys doesn't want to ride, I stay on the ground with him and Devin rides. Devin is a roller coaster FIEND! I, on the other hand, am deathly scared of heights.

The summer after we got married, Devin and I were talking about what to do for our summer vacation and he suggested Seven-Amusement-Parks-In-Seven-Days. Privately, I'm thinking it sounds like something only a bachelor could think of and only his frat buddies would think of as a good idea (probably after a few beers). Out loud, I said something along the lines of "Gee, honey, that sounds wonderful, but I just don't think we could find seven amusement parks that are that close together." Just as I was getting ready to congratulate myself on my tactful way of declining, he named off the seven amusement parks we could visit and how long it took to get from one to the next. This was one of the most valuable lessons (learned by me) in our first year of marriage. First, never underestimate my husband's planning potential. If he wants something, he lines everything up meticulously and it almost always happens for him. Second, if I want a certain outcome, I need to tell him exactly what it is and not be subtle because he, like most men, doesn't have the chromosome needed to interpret subtlety. The flip side is that he can take my honesty because that same missing chromosome is what would make him take my differing opinion as a personal attack on his judgement. Leading to the third lesson. Compromise is possible. After some discussion, we ended up going to two amusement parks, leisurely sightseeing our way between them.

One of the things I love about Devin is that he is always up for anything I want to do (like go drink wine tomorrow, yippee!). Therefore, I try to willingly and enthusiastically participate in things he wants to do as a way of reciprocating. Today what he wanted to do was to ride in the front AND back of every roller coaster in Six Flags Discovery Kingdom. They have about five big ones. I rode front and back in two with him. I rode once in the third, which he didn't care to go on twice. Rode only once in the fourth with my eyes squeezed tightly shut the whole way, and absolutely refused to board the fifth, even once! -After he rode it, he agreed I wouldn't have liked it at all. Here he is in the front laughing like a maniac! He rode two of the coasters about six times apiece and rode front and back in all. I took pictures instead. Luckily the park wasn't crowded at all and the longest we had to wait was about five minutes (keep in mind he ONLY rode front and back - typically the longest lines). We also got to see a couple animal shows (dolphin, birds, killer whale). Even though it wasn't something I would have done on my own, we really had a blast today. It's a lot easier going to an amusement park without two young children in tow.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Saturday - driving

Well, we had planned to leave absolutely no later than 10:00 this morning. Not very ambitious, but reasonably early. True to form, we finally rolled out around 10:30. This tardiness is totally my fault, I do it every time, and I think poor Devin has given up even pretending to be surprised.

Anyway, we had a very nice drive down I-5 into California. We finally got to our hotel in Fairfield (just east of San Francisco) at about 8:00 PM. The most momentous thing that happened today is that Devin was devastated to learn that the Red Lobster Endless Shrimp, which he's been salivating for and which has been going on, it seems, for months now, ended on Thursday. That's TWO days ago!! So, no Endless Shrimp this year. :(

Friday, November 14, 2008

Sunshine, at last!

The sunshine has finally made an appearance here on the Oregon coast. It has been so foggy and rainy at times that traffic signals are lost in the mist at somewhere between one and two blocks away. It's kind of fun driving down the main road through town because, although I know in general what will become visible next, I find myself paying more attention to things I don't normally really see. Anyway, the last time we've seen the sun at all here was sometime just before Halloween.

My parents arrived for a visit on Thursday and they brought the sun with them. -It's been absolutely beautiful ever since. They are staying through Thanksgiving, which is wonderful for two reasons. First, I love to have company over the holidays. It makes it a lot more fun to have more than just our family sitting around the table for Thanksgiving dinner. Since we're geographical orphans that has sometimes meant eating at someone else's table but that's okay, too. We have some wonderful friends in Florida who always adopted us for Thanksgiving and I find myself thinking of them especially often at this time of year (If you're reading, "Hi, Tom and Maria and family"). Second, Devin and I are taking off tomorrow for San Francisco. This is the first real vacation (longer than a couple days) we've had without the boys since Dakota was in Kindergarten, which was five years ago. I'm really excited!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Final soccer game for Dakota

Okay, you caught me. This actually happened almost two weeks ago but I'm just now getting around to blogging about it. One of the personal highlights for me was watching Devin try out Dylan's skateboard. Dylan has gotten pretty good at it and can do all kinds of tricks which I can never remember the names for. Hey, I grew up in Montana and it's hard to skateboard in the snow so I have no frame of reference. Devin's attempt lasted all of about six seconds before he stumbled off. To be fair, I don't even try to skateboard because I know I would make Devin look positively graceful in comparison.

For the last soccer game of the season, the kids only play the other team until half-time. After that, the kids on one team play their parents for the third quarter and then the other team plays their parents for the last quarter. Playing our own kids was a blast. We did NOT go easy on them. I think the kids learned their parents have still got a little game... and the parents learned just how bad a shape they're really in (although we tried really hard to disguise our huffing and puffing). Devin even scored one of the goals for our side. Everyone had a great time once we got past the smack-talk. One of the funniest things was that the ref was calling all kinds of fouls on our side which absolutely did not happen. For example, once he waited until the ball got almost to our goal and it looked like the kids wouldn't be able to score, so he called a hand ball, giving them a direct kick on the goal from about 20 feet. None of the parents had even touched the ball!! When they didn't make it in the first time, he called it back and had them try it again because he hadn't blown the whistle. I've never seen this square-off between kids and parents done anywhere else but it should be. It was so much fun for everyone.

After the game, there was an impromptu awards ceremony where the kids all got their medals. I was really proud of these kids. They improved so much over the season and it was a really great group.

Dylan had his last football game later in the same week so he is done, too. Now BOTH boys are wrestling.... But that'll have to be the subject of another blog entry.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Memory Keeper's Daughter

I just finished this book by Kim Edwards. It is fantastic. I've started book clubs in two of the last four places we've lived just so I could discuss books like this one with other people. It's about a doctor who delivers his own twins, one of whom is born with Down's Syndrome. He makes the decision to send the one born with Down's away and tells his wife the child died. The rest of the story explores his reasons for doing this and the consequences this secret decision has on everyone around him. It possibly says more about me than it does about the book, but so much of it really resonated with me. I found it to be thought-provoking and extremely well-written. It's her first novel, although she has written many acclaimed short stories. I don't want to give any details away but if you like to read, do yourself a favor and put The Memory Keeper's Daughter on your reading list.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Computer woes

Devin got me a lovely, brand new computer last spring. From the beginning, it has had major issues. I've spent several days on the phone with tech support to try to get things straightened out. The end result of my most recent call (on Thursday) is that they had me erase EVERYTHING and start over as if it was new out of the box. That makes twice in the last six months that I've had to back up and install everything from scratch. To add insult to injury, the DVD drive still didn't work so they sent me a new one. I got the replacement today and I haven't put it in yet but I'm hoping this problem will finally be laid to rest.

The other problem is that every once in a while it throws what I can only describe as a grand-mal tantrum. A grand-mal computer tantrum looks like this. At the same time it emits this horrible screeching sound. The whole thing reminds me of the (true story) man in Germany who was reported for disturbing the peace. When the police officers arrived, they found he had thrown his computer out the window onto the sidewalk below in frustration. They totally understood because they'd often wanted to do the same thing and just asked him nicely to clean up the mess. I can so relate right now.

In the meantime, Devin doesn't understand why I don't just demand that they send me a box to ship it back to them so they can fix it and send it back to me when it works. - I would love to take a short vacation in his brain because I imagine it must be more calm and relaxing than any tropical paradise. Here in the real world, if he asks for a box, they ask if a delay of two days for shipping would be acceptable to him. If I ask for a box in exactly the same tone, I get three more trouble shooting tips to try first. Be that as it may, if these problems aren't resolved this week, I will be getting a box to ship it back to them. Sometimes I wonder why a computer is even necessary. Then I think, "Oh, yeah, my blog..."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Another Quilty post

I finally finished it!! Wahoo! This is the black hole that has been sucking up all my sewing time lately... and house cleaning time, and cooking time, etc. lol. It took way longer and was much more complicated than I had thought it would be. I have never ripped so many seams as I did on this quilt. I think it finished out pretty striking, though. It's a generous-sized lap quilt (46x68). Many thanks to my friend, Barb, for encouraging me to try the Seminole pieced border. All that's left is a little bit of the binding and then it's off to its new home for Christmas. The recipient doesn't read my blog, so I thought I was safe posting a picture. With my luck, she'll surf on over for the first time ever and the surprise will be spoiled.