Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ten Years In

... almost.

In less than a month, Kevin and I will celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary. We both are shocked by this, in two ways. Firstly, we can't believe we've already been married 10 years! Where did the time go? And, lastly, what do you mean we've only been married 10 years? Surely there's never been a time we haven't been together - is there?

It's true - time flies when you're having fun. And we are. So much fun! We've both been commenting about how much we've really loved this summer. We've had so much wonderful time off to relax, work on a few home projects, take some wonderful vacations, visit with family. Honestly, it just doesn't get any better than this!

Anyway. Ten years. It's a big milestone and, as such, Kevin presented me with a milestone gift. Yes, early! We're both a little impatient when it comes to giving gifts ;o) The other night just before going to bed, he took out a small velvet box that he'd had hidden for a month. He told me how much he loves me, how thankful he is that I'm his wife and how lucky we both are to share the love we have. Then, he opened the box and presented me with my gift: a diamond anniversary band! - it's absolutely GORGEOUS! It's simple, elegant and classic - exactly the perfect gift ... from the most perfect husband.Isn't it magnificent?!

Thank you, honey. Kevin, I love you more than you will ever know and can't wait to see what the next ten, twenty, thirty (and more!) years hold in store for us.

Living Pictures

Once again this year we were absolutely blown away by Pageant of the Masters. Honestly, this show defies explanation - it's truly something you absolutely must see in person.

Each year they have a new theme - this year's is "Only Make Believe"The living pictures focused on things like Alice in Wonderland, dragons and fairies, spacemen .... things from the imagination. Except, we didn't just imagine them - we witnessed them in all their incredulity.

They don't allow photos to be taken during the show, so I borrowed these photos from the Laguna Pilot newspaper:Uh-huh. See, I told ya. Incredible, right?

It's not too late! If you want to attend this year's show, you can still buy tickets. The show runs through August 31st. If you do go, why not stay over night? We decided that, because the show is over fairly late, we didn't want to drive the hour home afterwards, so we stayed at the Ayres in Laguna Woods. We can't recommend it highly enough! Wonderful hotel - great room, delicious breakfast in the morning. Yeah, we know ... pretty 'touristy' taking photos of our hotel room. What can we say? We're just kids at heart ;o)

Don't you just love vacations?!

Sarah at the Hollywood Bowl

Recently we saw Sarah McLachlan at the Hollywood Bowl. She is one of my all-time favorite singer/songwriters. Her music is so dramatic and haunting - just amazing.

If you've never seen her, she's a pleasure to watch in concert. We've seen her before and both times she's been so genuine - really just having a great time up on stage performing. Someone in the audience kept shouting out a song they wanted her to play. She acknowledged the request by saying 'Just sit back and enjoy the show; dessert will be coming soon.' We had a great time!

And of course, our picnic feast was delish! Tarragon chicken salad on squaw bread, kettle chips, fresh fruit and coconut/pecan cookies. Oh, and of course, a bottle of Cupcake Red Velvet! Perfect!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Working on the Wardrobe

I love clothes, I admit it. I love the huge variety of colors and textures - silks and cottons; crunchy knits and soft rayons; denims and name it, I love it. I always have. I love looking through magazines to get ideas, and then shopping for things I like, usually spending a fraction of what I saw in the magazines. And I have proof. A packed closet filled with amazing (or at least what I think is amazing) clothes for any occasion.

Each season I go through my closet and evaluate what's in there. I re-organize things and purge items when necessary. This past month while I've been off, I've purged quite a few items from my closet. It's amazing, really. Considering how packed it still is and how many things I donated...where did all of those things fit into that crammed-full closet?? I've also washed, ironed and repaired any items that were in need of it. So now, having done the prep work, I've been thinking about what I might want to look for while shopping for fall clothes.

Before shopping, I thought I'd look through and put some outfits together with the things I already own. You know, come up with some different pairings - things I haven't tried together before, including jewelry and scarves - and make notes and take photos so I'd remember them later. I kept thinking about it last night and was excited to get an early start on it this morning.

Oh.My.GOSH. I'd only been working on it for a little over an hour when I realized that, this one task could - and probably would - take me several days to complete, and by the end, I'd be totally exhausted. Literally. How do I know this? In just a little over an hour's time, I came up with 44 different outfits ... and I hadn't even gone through one quarter of the possibilities that were in that closet.

Needless to say, I decided that several days of doing just this one thing was completely out of the question. I did, however, put together some really nice outfits that I really like! I thought that maybe once a month I'd go through and put together five or six outfits so that I'm not overwhelmed by trying to do it all at once. One benefit from working on this task is that I realized I don't really *need* any new fall clothes. That said, I know that I'll probably pick up an item or two, but going through my wardrobe now certainly helped me realize that I already have hundreds upon hundreds of choices. I think I'll mostly look at buying a few accessories and, later when it gets a bit cooler, probably some heavier sweaters since I don't really have many of those. In the meantime, here are just a couple of things I came up with:(It's kind of hard to tell, but the pants are dark brown)I've had this leopard print scarf forever. I bought it at a vintage clothing store about 25 years ago.)I just love these colors together! It just looks like fall!I love these soft grays and lavender together... That's it for now. My mind is still reeling with the myriad possibilities!

The Happiest Place on Earth

Monday we took the boys to Disneyland. Kevin and I haven't been to Disneyland in about 8 years or so. We went to California Adventure about 5 years ago and we were supposed to go to Disneyland, too, but ...uhh... that didn't work out so well. But that's another story.


Monday morning we got up early, got ourselves ready and the car packed and off we went. Boy. Disneyland has definitely changed since the last time we were there! It's funny - it's not like I go there a lot, but when I was a child, we went there quite a bit, so that's really the Disneyland I remember. It's strange to see how it's changed. One big difference is that you park off-site and they bus you to the entrance of the park. That's not bad in and of itself, but it certainly curtailed our plan to go out to the car for lunch. Oh well, you know what they say about those best laid plans.

We had a GREAT time! We go there early enough to get a few fast passes and to go on several rides before it a) got really hot, and b) got really crowded. For instance, when we went to Pirates of the Caribbean, we stood in line maybe 15-20 minutes. When we passed by the same spot later in the day, the line was nearly 2 hours long! When we first went in, we picked up fast passes to Star Tours. We figured since they've just renovated and updated this ride, it would be pretty popular so we figured rather than standing in line, we'd get a fast pass and come back later. So glad we did! Our return time was 1:30; at that time they were no longer giving fast passes - they were all out for the day - which meant you'd just have to take your chances and stand in line. A two-hour long line. We used our fast passes and waited, again, no more than 15-20 minutes max. And it was totally worth it!

Over in California Adventure, Pat really wanted to go on the Tower of Terror ride. Ugh. That's the ONE ride I would never go on again. When Kevin and I went last time, I was SO excited to go on this ride! It's the first place we headed. Big mistake. I hated every.single.second of that horrible experience. Needless to say that I wouldn't go on it, Kevin passed, and there was no way Drew was going on it either, but Pat rreeeeaaaalllllly wanted to go, so he got a fast pass for it and we came back. The three of us waited for him at the exit of the ride. You've never seen such a huge grin. He absolutely loved it! More power to ya, kid!

We stayed until after the fireworks show was over and then we headed home. We were all completely exhausted. While we were waiting in line for the bus, Pat said he couldn't wait to sit down on the bus. He said it would be the first time he'd sat down since the last ride we'd been on ... about 2 hours before! It was a crazy fun, long, hot day - and I'd do it again in a heartbeat!

Baseball Reliquary

Never heard of it? Neither had we until Kevin read an article about their upcoming Shrine of the Eternals Induction Ceremony in the newspaper. It was to be held at the Pasadena Central Library this past Sunday afternoon. This year's inductees were Maury Wills, Pete Gray, and the San Diego Chicken. Cool! Apparently they conduct this event every year, but Kevin and I didn't know that.(Huh - how did we miss that one?)

As it turns out, Sunday was the day we were picking up the boys to visit with us for a few days, so the Induction Ceremony was the perfect activity for us! The event started at 2:00 p.m., and the library opened at 1:00 p.m. We were there when the doors opened so that we could check out the baseball exhibit also on display within the library. About 1:30 we meandered over to the auditorium where the ceremony was going to be held - good thing we did! It's a small auditorium so seats were in short supply. We managed to find four seats in the back of the auditorium and sat down to people watch. Before long, Maury Wills appeared in the crowd. What a genuinely nice man. He had his entire family with him and they were all seated in the front of the auditorium. Shortly there was a small crowd of people around him asking for autographs. We weren't certain if he would stay after the even to sign autographs, so we decided that Kevin and the boys should get in line now. I'm so glad they did! Mr. Wills was very personable and happily signed autographs for everyone who asked. He asked both of the boys if they played ball and commented on how tall they were. He gave Drew a 'what-for' for wearing a Marlins cap instead of a Dodger cap =) When Kevin approached, he asked if he'd sign a baseball for an umpire; Maury gave him the once over and said 'Yeah, what the heck.' ;o)

The ceremony itself was very nice. Over and above the Inductees and their awards, there were two other awards presents; one named the "Hilda" award and one the "Tony Salin Memorial" award. The "Hilda" award is named in honor of Hilda Chester; a lifelong Brooklyn Dodger fan. The award this year was presented to Chris Erskine - a columnist for the LA Times. The "Tony Salin Memorial" award is given in honor of Tony Salin, an author, humorist and Reliquarian who passed away several years ago at just 49 years of age. This year's award was presented to Paul Dickson - a prolific author of all things baseball. Both recipients were honored by their awards and very humorous in their acceptance speeches.

At the end of the ceremony, we stood in line to get the Chicken's autograph. Kevin has such fond memories of the Chicken from when he was growing up in El Paso. Apparently the Chicken traveled to different minor league ballparks as well, and Kevin remembered him from spending so much time at the El Paso Diablos stadium. In fact, a couple of weeks ago when we were straightening the shelves in the mancave, we ran across an El Paso Diablos baseball. It was just sitting on the shelf and we moved it to it's new home - a plastic baseball case. When Kevin found out the Chicken would be at the Induction Ceremony, he decided to bring the Diablos ball and have the Chicken autograph that instead of just a regular baseball. When it was finally our turn to meet the Chicken, Kevin pulled out the Diablos baseball and asked him to sign it, the Chicken was thrilled! He asked Kevin about the baseball and Kevin explained that he grew up in El Paso and had attended many of the Diablos games. His dad worked as a statistician and he knew the former owner of the team. Both Kevin and the Chicken chatted about those days and the Chicken happily signed the Diablos baseball. FUN!The four of us had a great afternoon. What a fun - FREE - event! You can bet that we'll be looking forward to attending next year's Shrine of the Eternals Induction Ceremony next year!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Wanna keep two adolescent boys busy for years?

Buy them baseball cards. Ten thousand of them.About 4 years ago, Kevin and I bought the boys baseball cards for Christmas. Not just a few specific cards, or even a few packs of cards. We bought them boxes and boxes and boxes of cards. I bought them from someone who posts on a forum I visit; she said that they were clearing things out and her husband had 10,000 assorted baseball cards he wanted to get rid of. I asked her how much she was selling them for and she said she had no clue what they were worth. I told her that, to 10 year old boys, they'd be priceless! We agreed on a price - $90.00 for the lot - including shipping - and I bought them.

Kevin and I could hardly wait to see the boys faces when they opened their Christmas gift that year! Talk about priceless!

Anyway ...

Flash forward to the present. Yesterday Deb and the boys went to mom and dad's for the day. When I talked to Pat and Drew and asked them what they were going to do, they said they'd brought baseball cards with them to sort. I asked if they were *still* sorting the cards we'd given them that Christmas. 'YEP!' And they've found some pretty good ones, too! Derek Jeter's rookie card. A Rod's rookie card. Barry Bonds and Manny Ramirez - BEFORE they started 'juicing'.

Not bad for $90.00 bucks!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Peter Putterer's Daughter

The other night when we were at the Hollywood Bowl, I mentioned to Bev that my dad has turned into 'Peter Putterer' - meaning he's been puttering around the house finding all sorts of little projects to keep him busy. She misunderstood. She turned to me with an odd expression on her face and asked, "Your dad's turned into peanut butter?"

Uh, no.

Anyway, I too have been puttering around the house finding all sorts of projects to keep me busy. (Strange segue I know, but there you have it.) That's one of my favorite things about summer and having the month of July off. In addition to some traveling, I'm able to regroup, reorganize and enjoy the gloriously mundane tasks that seem like drudgery during the working months of the year. I love to take the time over the summer to clean, organize, stock-up, and cook in advance so that when I start back to work, I have the peace of mind knowing that I'm ahead of the game.

So what have I been working on? A little of this and a little of that. I've washed and ironed all of my pants, and made any necessary repairs; I've washed and ironed all of my sweaters; I bought a new purse and organized that; I revamped my coupon file and made new dividers, complete with printed labels so that I can actually read them; I'm now up to date on all medical procedures: physical, mammogram, blood work, teeth cleaning and eye exam (complete with new glasses); I've weeded through my closet and donated items I no longer wear; together, Kevin and I cleaned out the entertainment center and went through all of our CDs - we downloaded anything we wanted to keep, and then donated all of the CDs to the Goodwill; I reorganized a dining room cupboard that has needed it for a long time; we renewed our lease with our fabulous landlords; helped Kevin straighten and organize the mancave; purchased a small recliner and new TV for the mancave so that we can relax in there with the AC on in hot days that will be coming in August and September; worked in the garden and around the yard; bought a new date book and transferred all information to it....

As you can see, I've been a busy little bee! In between, I've read books and magazines, enjoyed some wonderful meals with Kevin out on the patio, made ice cream, swam, spent time with family and friends - everything that makes summer so enjoyable!

My to-do list isn't finished, but I'm making headway. Lots of headway. And enjoying the heck out of every single moment! Pat and Drew will be spending a few days with us starting this Sunday and we have a few surprises in store for them. I still need to help mom and dad get some things done, and I'll be going up there tomorrow to get started. My laundry/craft room is still in need of reorganization and we'll be traveling to Laguna towards the end of the month to enjoy a little fun on the beach and be awed by Pageant of the Masters. This week we still have a Hollywood Bowl performance to attend and a picnic to plan for.

Have I mentioned how much I love summer?

The Growing Season

The urban garden has been hard at work since we planted it a few months ago.

The cherry tomatoes are ripening nicely! The larger tomatoes are well-formed, but have not yet started ripening. There are many, many peppers growing now - all still green at the moment, but soon they'll be ripening to both red and yellow. Surprisingly, we've had several cucumbers as well! I tried growing cukes once a long time ago without success, so I was somewhat hesitant to plant them. I'm glad I gave it another try! The two cucumber plants that we planted have just gone crazy! As for herbs, the lemon thyme is just massive - you'd never know it's all coming from just one plant! The basil is holding it's own and the mint, as usual, has just exploded.

Early on the lettuce faired nicely, but once the cukes started taking over, the lettuce took a back seat. We would like to make another raised bed and I think one half will be dedicated to just leaf lettuce. Different varieties, but just lettuce - that way it won't have to compete. The other half of the bed will be broccoli and cauliflower. We'll begin searching for the supplies within the next couple of weeks, but probably won't get planting until late August or early September.

Here are a few pics of the garden the other night:

Monday, July 11, 2011

Ain't the Canyon Just Grand?!


Just wow. Kevin and I just returned from the Grand Canyon - neither of us had ever been. In planning for our trip, we talked to many people who had been there and all of them said that the moment you first see the Canyon is indescribable. No kidding. It's THE most amazing thing I've ever seen. Awe inspiring, really.

We arrived at the Grand Canyon by train. It was an amazing journey from the small town of Williams, Arizona to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The train ride was beautiful. And peaceful. And very relaxing. (An aside: Why did society choose to fore go train travel? I realize that it's a slower method of travel, and a bit less convenient, but what it lacks in convenience, it more than makes up for in soul-soothing charm. You still get to where you need to go and the bonus is that you're much more relaxed and at peace when you arrive. How is that bad?) Arizona is funny; in my mind, I've always pictured desert - lots of cactus and dry desert landscape. And that's true - in Southern Arizona. However, not so in Northern Arizona. In fact, having left 100 degree temperatures and a great deal of humidity in our area, we arrived in Williams to high 70-low 80 degree temperatures and thunder storms. You know that old saying "If you don't like the weather, wait a few minutes (and it will change)"? That's what we found in AZ.

The morning started out gorgeous - beautiful sunny skies with nary a cloud in sight. We had breakfast, watched a wild west show and then boarded the train.By the time our train hostess finished her talk about train rules and regulations, complimentary snacks, and what we might see along the trip, the skies were filled with high, puffy clouds. Within another 20 minutes or so, the high, puffy, white clouds had turned a dark, stormy gray. The hostess predicted that, between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m., we would have some pretty generous thundershowers. She's in the wrong business; she's far more accurate than most weather forecasters you see on TV. At 1:00 p.m., it began to shower. A few drops first, then, a bit heavier just as we were heading out to sight see at the Canyon.

It was amazing. Our first real close-up included the Canyon in sun, clouds, thunderstorms (complete with lightening strikes!), and fog. It was absolutely breathtaking.Isn't it incredible?! We kept trying to capture a lightening strike in progress, but they proved to be elusive. We'd hear a clap of thunder and then try an anticipate where the lightening would strike - inevitably, we chose the wrong place!

While the top of the Canyon tangoed with the clouds, the view of the Colorado River down below was so clear you could see the rapids.Is this Heaven? No - the Grand Canyon! We had such a wonderful trip. Everything about it from start to finish went perfect. We packed up early Thursday morning to hit the road driving to Williams, Arizona.(Ummm...yeah, that book we're holding? It's an atlas. Guess it kinda loses something since you can't see what we're pointing to, eh?) Mom and dad watched our baby Slippers for us (thanks, Mom & Dad!), and while she was a bit mopey, she was just fine. The drive to Williamsis about 7 hours from our home (far from the 3 and a half to 4 hours the hotel's website indicated!) but the drive went by really quickly. Really! I'd gone to the library a day or two before we left and picked up a book on CD. Not just any book, but Wally Lamb's 'The Hour I First Believed'. Not familiar with it? It's one of those huge tomes that scares you away from selecting it because of the enormous number of pages within it's covers. Read (or listen to) it. REALLY. You will not be disappointed. The volume contains 20 CDs. TWENTY. It's such a compelling story that we were both completely engrossed - on the way up as well as on the way back. In fact, we only finished half of the CDs, so last night we sat in the living room and listened to two more. Only 8 more to go!

The small town of Williams is directly on Route 66. It's one of the many don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it places on the map. Kevin said, and he's probably right, that it's one of the places Disney/Pixar used to model the town of Radiator Springs in the movie Cars. The town is a bit hokey, but charming in it's own way. It's an interesting mix of western heritage and Route 66 tchotchkes - but it works.(I just love this little guy peering over the top of the stagecoach!)Honestly, if the town didn't have the railroad, I think it probably would have perished by now. But, luckily, the Grand Canyon Railway lives here, and so the town of Williams, while not thriving, continues to hold it's place. The Railway is THE main attraction here. Okay, probably the ONLY attraction here!, but it's quite the attraction indeed.This (and the other) hard working cowboy works the town. Literally. They hold two Wild West shows a day - one at 9:00 a.m. and one at 7:00 p.m. During the day they act as entertainment...errr...train robbers on the Railway, and then walk the town talking up the shows and inviting folks to watch.All in all, it was just magnificent. The trip, the scenery, the experience. All of it. Grand Canyon National Park. Grand indeed. A true national treasure. If you've not been to the Grand Canyon, I urge you to go. Okay, not necessarily this very moment, but soon. Why? Obviously the Canyon isn't going anywhere - it's been there for, well, millions of years. However, at the rate things are changing in our nation, and the rate at which national historic landmarks are closing (if you live in the state of California, you know exactly what I'm talking about), who knows if you'll be able to see the Grand Canyon in years to come. Or how much you'll be charged to see it. Take the time. Make the time. You'll be grateful for the lifetime of rich, wonderful memories.