Thursday, December 31, 2009

The RCL at SFO

We are in the Red Carpet Lounge at SFO waiting for our flight to Narita and Bangkok. Good news from United about our proposed stop in Narita. We do NOT have to check out our bags then recheck them. If this news is accurate, that means that we should be able to just take our carry on bags thru security, do the passport check and then exit. I sure hope that will be the case. Nan has already written to me this morning and her family is ready to take the 3 hour drive to the airport. This is a crazy plan, with lots of possible problems...and we're still going for it. I'm excited!

We were told to get to the airport 3 hours before our flight because security would be tight. We did as told, but security was not as tight as I thought it would be. The lines however were quite short and while we did have to wait a little bit, the process did not seem more onerous than usual. They did want me to take the laptop out of it's special "airport security" case, and they did take longer to look at our passports, but nothing else seemed different. I wonder what the process will be at Narita? (and we'll find out in a few hours)

In the meantime, life is good. We're off on a new adventure and we're going to meet friends. It's hard to get better than that!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

On the road again

We're on the road again and it feels good. Even though our flight takes off at 11:17 AM, the folks at the airport want us there at 8:00 AM. I'm guessing that security will be tighter since the Detroit incident. Why does someone have to spoil things?!

I'm ready to celebrate New Year's somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. I'm ready to see Nan at Narita too. Here we come.

Happy New Year 2010 (How many people remember Y2K? Was that only 10 years ago??)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Travel Status

Well, we've been in the good ol' USA for over a month, so it's time to leave. We're heading to the Ocean Princess which will be docked in Bangkok on January 3, 2010. If you want to see the itinerary, click here. We have taken extra precautions to insure that we do not have a mishap like that of Malaga.

We at "cruztalking" want to wish each of you a Happy and Healthy New Year! 2009 slipped away so quickly! I'm sure there will be a lot of adventures in store for 2010!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Blanket for Nan

In a few days we will fly to Bangkok where we'll board the Ocean Princess for a wonderful cruise throughout the Orient. The other DrC will be lecturing, and I'll be playing "go-fer" and social director. It's a fun job too.

As part of my job as social director, we are going to meet Nan in Narita, before we get on the ship. We have a three hour layover in Japan. IF everything works out according to plan, I will get to meet one of my former students and her family. This is a real treat and I'm so excited. So I'm hoping it will all work out.

Here's the plan. We will get off the plane in Japan, pick up our luggage, go through "customs" and when we exit, Nan and her family will be waiting for us. We'll hug and talk and have a grand time until we have to check in our luggage, get back into the security loop, and board our plane. We will probably see each other for an hour. We both know this is a crazy idea, but we are going to give it a try. I sure hope it works out.

Getting to this event started several years ago when Nan wrote to me, asking if she could take my online class the next semester. I said "yes" and filled her in on some of the details. She took the class, earned an A, and instead of saying "good-bye" we continued our friendship. We write to each other and send pictures back and forth. When this cruise became available I told her about us stopping at Narita and asking how far it was from there to her home. After a few frantic emails back and forth, we devised the crazy plan. Her family is even delaying a New Year's Celebration a day, so she can be at the airport.

As many of you know, I make I made a blanket for Nan in honor of this event. It's my favorite teddy bear blanket, made from 4 different colors, one for each member of her family. The pink is for her, the white for her husband, the peach for her daughter and the yellow for her son. Isn't it exciting that we'll have a chance to meet? Now, let's hope and pray that it will actually work out.


Every family has traditions. Mine is no exception. There are traditional festivals, traditional clothing, and for my family, there is a traditional food. At Christmastime, someone (usually me) makes a dish from the "Old Country" (Italy) that we all love. The problem is we don't know how to spell the delicacy, we do know how to  make it and eat it. We call it Sauce-a-Sedi, which is close to what my grandmother used to call it when we were all little kids. I've searched recipe books for years, trying to discover what the concoction is "really called" and the best I can find is "veal bird." Somehow, that is not quite as romantic as Sauce-a-Sedi. In simple words, it's a stuffed meat roll that is absolutely delicious!

I remember my grandmother showing me how to make Sauce-a-Sedi. She did not have measurements for any of the ingredients...she put everything in the palm of her hand and weighed it out by how it felt. One Christmas, she took my little hand, and put in the ingredients one at a time. This is how much parsley you use, how much oregano, how much thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper. She carefully put each item in my tiny palm and told me to feel it, smell it, touch it, so I knew how much was needed. It's funny, I can still hear her telling me the recipe.

These spices were put in a couple of cups of breadcrumbs. Then a half dozen hard boiled eggs were chopped ever so finely and added to the breadcrumbs. Several cloves of garlic were minced and added to the bowl. Then came the hard job...mincing two onions till they were teeny-tiny. She said they did not want to be seen, so you can guess how tiny that is. Added to the fact that onions make you cry when you chop them, this was the part of the recipe I did not like. Finally came the cheese. I don't think there is an Italian recipe without cheese. She would grate up a piece of Romano making a small mountain of white flakes and add that to the breadcrumbs. With her hands, she would mix the ingredients until they were just holding together. If more moisture was needed, she would dribble some olive oil into the mix to get the right consistency.

Now that the stuffing was made, the next step was to get the meat ready. She had huge pieces of round steak that were 1/4 inch thick. She would pound them until they were even thinner. Not quite as thin as a piece of paper, but pretty close.

The last item to get ready was the string. Lots of clean string was needed. She would break the string into 8-10 inch lengths and have them ready.

Finally it was time to put it altogether. She would lay out a piece of the thin round steak, cover it with three or 4 fistfuls of the breadcrumb mixture, (see how the breadcrumb mixture sticks together) and spread it out to the edges. The next step was to
roll the meat and breadcrumb mixture into a roll or log. The log was then tied together and it was carefully browned, then put in a pot of gently bubbling red tomato sauce where it would cook on low heat for about four hours. All during that time, she would look at the pot making sure it was bubbling just a little bit, but not too much and dipping in a spoon to make sure the sauce was tasting right. When she thought it was done, she took out the logs and let them set a bit, cut them into one inch slices and serve them with raviolis or another type of pasta. It was heavenly.

Today I just made a batch of Sauce-a-Sedi for the family. I made it pretty much the traditional way. I still do not know the correct measurements for the spices, but I know what they feel like in the palm of my hand. I do not chop the onions anymore. I use granulated onion that come in a bottle. It might not be as "fresh" as the teeny-tiny onions of my grandmother's day, but it's a lot easier on the eyes. The meat has changed over the years. It's difficult to get a HUGE piece of round steak, they just do not seem to exist. Instead I asked the butcher to cut a top round into 1/4 slices and then put it through the tenderizer once. These pieces are pretty thin, but I still hammer on them with my fist to make them a little bit thinner. Sometimes I roll the meat into logs and tie them together with string, sometimes I use toothpicks. If I use toothpicks, I need to remember how many toothpicks I used, so that before I serve them up, I retrieve the same number of toothpicks. It's rather disconcerting to bite into a toothpick when you least expect it. I no longer brown the meat rolls before placing them in the sauce. I've discovered that it is not really needed.

It takes about 2 hours to get everything together. I started this morning at 10 AM and the Sauce-a-Sedi were in the pot at 12 Noon. The yummy meat rolls will cook for about 4 hours, all the time scenting our home with the most amazing aroma. When they are done, they will be part of a delayed Christmas dinner that we are having at my niece's home tomorrow.

The tradition continues, and it's good!

Friday, December 25, 2009


Has anyone spotted Santa? If you want to see the route that he traveled, go to

Merry Christmas everyone!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

It's the Berries

The firethorns are decorated for the season with bright red berries. What a treat! There's even some life starting to show on the winter camellias...I spotted a bud today.

While the rest of the world is in covered icicles, we are seeing a few stirrings of winter life. After a week of cool days and some rain, the grasses are starting to grow; the ponds are starting to fill. If we are lucky, there will be enough water this winter to last a full year. Long before we were worried about global warming, we were worried if there would be enough water. So far, it looks good. Let's see what January brings.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christmas Cards

The Christmas Cards are in the mail. We were slow in getting them out this year. I don't know why as we are as busy as usual. I know I could send cards the easy way--a mass email to all my friends, but somehow, that just does not feel right. I like to look at my Christmas list and think about each person on it. As I think about everyone, I remember what makes each of you so special...then I try to write a couple of sentences. Sending a blanket email does not have the same feeling.

There was a dilemma with our letter this year. Actually, the dilemma was with the envelopes. We found stationary that we liked, but could not find any matching envelopes. Finally, I found one package of 24 green envelopes. That's fine, but I needed more than 24 envelopes. I went to several different stores in town, and each was out of envelopes (unless I wanted chartreuse or puce). Finally, I went digging into my Christmas boxes and discovered a series of "extra" Christmas envelopes from years past. I'm finally justified for saving them...and maybe I'm even getting with the "reuse-reduce-recycle" mode that is going to become so popular. So folks, that's why the letters and the envelopes are mismatched...I'm recycling! That's my story and I'll stick with it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Not Snow

We were supposed to wake up to snow--instead we have rain! It's easier to shovel rain!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Feather River Fall

If you've read Cruztalking for awhile, then you know that I like the drive along the Feather River. We took that drive yesterday for a quick trip to Reno (no, we did not win a thing). Fall has come late to the river too. But, more surprising was the stillness of the water. The Feather River does not flow swiftly, but it does flow. Yesterday, it was like a millpond. The reflections were wonderful.

Along the way, we spotted an old mine least that is what we think it is. Since millions of dollars of gold were mined from the Feather River, way back when, it's not unusual to see some remnants from the past. Still, we've been driving the road for years, and we have never seen this entrance before. Maybe it was hidden behind the greenery, which is slowly being shed as winter is approaching

On another topic--I was playing with the 5 X optical and 20 X digital zoom on my new camera. This was our view from the 12th floor of our hotel. I took the picture through the window without a tripod. The G-11 does a pretty good job but it cannot remove the smog that fills Reno's air.

5 X optical zoom

20 X digital zoon

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Late Fall in the Valley

It's almost December, but the Central Valley is showing some fall color. The streets of our town are lined with trees wearing red and gold leaves. Considering Christmas is less than a month away, we are finally getting some autumn color. If you remember, I took pictures of the fall colors in the Rocky Mountains...there fall comes early. Not so in the valley.

The colors were a good excuse to take pictures using my new camera. Since my Canon G9 was stolen, I've been looking for a possible replacement. I considered a DSLR camera, but when I looked at their size, I decided once again, they are just too big for me. Next I looked at the compact point and shoot cameras. The Canon S90 was tempting but it lacked a viewfinder. I also looked at the updated version of the camera I had, which is a G11. I read reviews at, Best Buy and Canon trying to figure out what would be best for me. After a whole week of thought (that is a long time for me) I decided on the Canon G11. It's a point and shoot camera, but it has the same exact settings as the Canon EOS DSLR. In fact, Canon calls the G-line of cameras their "first professional" cameras. I'm not a professional, but I do like to take pretty pictures.

So today I took pictures with my new camera. I played with different settings and came up with some pretty shots. Take a look and tell me what you think?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Slowly--getting back to normal

It's a slow process, but things are starting to fall into place. Even though it was Black Friday, I ventured out to buy a camera. I took the back road to Best Buy, thinking I would avoid some traffic. Well, it seems like a lot of other folks had the same idea! Once in the store, it was a zoo! I did find my camera and a sales person and between the two of us I bought what I wanted. The new camera is a Canon G 11 (replacing my Canon G 9). Instead of dealing with several small SD cards totaling 24 gigabites, I bought three 8 GB cards. Also replaced were the tripod and the flash drives. At Wal-Mart the computer backpack and one more of the adapters that was stolen were replaced.

Once home, I did some online shopping which is definitely the way to go! At I bought a spare battery for the camera (it had the best price). Lastly, at Apple I bought a super mouse, replacing the mighty mouse. Apple was having a Black Friday 1 day sale, so there was a $5 discount! I still need to find all of my receipts from the stolen items. That's a task that I'll tackle tomorrow.

Black Friday shoppers were out in force. The mall was jammed, as was Best Buy. On the other hand, Wal-Mart was about normal and the grocery store was quiet! The check-out clerk said she was having a slow day! After Best Buy, the urge to go to the Verizon store at the Mall to replace the aircard was erased. One zoo-like store a day is enough!

IF my accounting is correct, I've bought or ordered just about everything that was stolen. I am on schedule to turn in the insurance claims on Monday. AND, since I now have a camera, some pictures might start to show up on Cruztalking. I think the website needs a bit more decoration than it has been having the past few days.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Happy Thanksgiving! We have a lot to be thankful for. It's been a wonderful year with many outstanding adventures. We have good friends, good health and good times I hope y'all have the same!

I'm slowly digging my way out from under the drift of paperwork that is the result of the loss of one small back pack in Spain. (I shudder to think what I would need to do if more had been stolen!) I have been digging around in my files trying to find receipts for everything. (One receipt I cannot find is for a "travel patch" from Fort Lockroy, Antarctica. It cost $10. It's not an important item, it's just a neat souvenir. I don't think I can get another one. It's gone, like the pack, and that's all there is to it.) Then, for the more tangible stuff, I've been trying to discover replacement costs. Looking up everything on the Internet has made that part of the task easier. With luck, I should be able to file the insurance claims by Monday! Yes, I know it's trite, but I'm thankful this task is coming to a close.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sleepless in Spain

I have been debating what to label this entry. At first I thought "Ladrones in Espana" sounded good, then "Nightmare in Malaga," came up, but I settled for "Sleepless in Spain" because that's exactly what happened the first 3 days of the trip.

After flying for hours from San Francisco to Frankfurt to Madrid we landed in Malaga, tired, but happy to be in Spain at last. We picked up our luggage and a rental car and drove to our hotel in downtown. We had plans to spend the next three days driving the Spanish countryside on our way to Granada, Seville and if we had time, Torremolinos and Marbella. Well, we did not do those wonderful things because as we were checking into the hotel in Malaga, someone stole my backpack! Of course the backpack was filled with all sorts of wonderful goodies, including my camera, computer, lots of electronic toys and tools, a bit of cash, some jewelry, tickets for the ship and subsequent flights home, and a sheet of paper with copies of all of my credit and debit cards.

Instead of seeing the Spanish countryside, we saw a police station and our hotel room where I could make calls to the US to report what had happened and sort things out. We filed a police report, called different insurance companies in the US and in the end we cancelled the cards, collected some much needed cash from Western Union, and we hoped we would be able to board the ship (as the tickets were in the backpack). Hence a few sleepless nights worrying about what was going to happen next!

Boarding the ship was a bit of an adventure. Since we did not have our tickets, I showed the security team the police report that said they had been stolen. The security person wanted to take the police report to the "back room" to see if we were on the manifest. Needless to say, I did not allow that police report out of my hands--so WE all went to the "back room" and found our names on the manifest. We were allowed to get in line to board the ship. The first hurdle was passed.

Then came another tricky detail. A credit card is needed when you board a ship and all of our credit cards had just been cancelled. I gave them a defunct debit card and crossed my fingers it would work. It did! And we were given a "sea pass," a map to our cabin, and we boarded the ship. That was easy. However, the next day, when they ran the debit card thru their system, they discovered it was not valid. It took a trip to the Pursor's Desk to tell them our problem and that we would be settling the account with cash (of all things) when they said, "this happens all the time...don't worry, we know what to do." And they did know what to do.

After 3 days of running around getting things squared away, we were finally able to get some sleep! The next 12 days were great. The Navigator of the Seas is probably the prettiest ship we have cruised on. We were surprised at how much we liked her as we really like small ships, and Navigator had 3100 passengers and about 2000 crew. She's hardly a small ship. If I had my camera I would say, scroll down and see some pictures...but alas, no pictures (so I guess we'll have to take another voyage on her).

(As an aside, throughout the cruise, I would stop at pretty places and say "click" "click" and take an imaginary picture. It was so strange not to have any record of where we had been or what we were seeing and doing. I can however, tell WeedWoman that the travel sweater had a good work-out, visiting some new and interesting places...see below.)

We stopped in Funchal in Madiera, Tenerife and Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, and Nassau in the Bahamas. We had 8 wonderful days at sea. It was one of the few cruises we've taken where we did not go on any shore excursions ( credit cards...) It was also one of the few vacations we've had recently where we did not check email...for the same reason. Nevertheless, we enjoyed being away from the hassles that were going to greet us once we got back to land.

On Saturday we disembarked the ship, collected e-tickets for our flights and flew from Miami to Chicago to San Francisco. We over-nighted in SF and drove home on Sunday arriving about 3:30 PM. This morning I started the next round of calls, following up what I started back in Spain on the 6th of November. I think I was on the phone about 6 hours today. All the cards were successfully stopped. NO one tried to use them! I have filed insurance claims with my home and travel insurance policies. New cards are being sent to me as I write, and soon we'll be back to something that will resemble normal.

Since my computer was stolen, I needed a new one, so the big ticket item I bought today was a Macintosh MacBookPro 15. It's the new version of what I had and it seems to be a very nice replacement. I still have to figure out how to get my backed up files into the new computer and I hope my iTouch is successfully sync-ing with the computer right now. Next item to purchase is a camera! I thinking of updating my Canon G9 with the G11 model that came out in August, but then I'm also looking at the Canon S90. The reviews on both are good, so I have to see what I like the best when I can get my hands on one.

There are few more loose ends to tie up, but I know what needs to be done and it will take a few more days. We learned a lot of stuff from the backpack misadventure. I had never made a collect call before and I discovered that in Spain, you need to have a collect code. The hotel gave me the wrong code, so my calls did not go through. Out of desperation, I just dialed the numbers from our hotel room and charged them to the bill, and the calls went through. We should have had an international calling card to use, it would have made the "collect call" fiasco disappear. I learned that Western Union will transfer funds to you, but you need a Transaction Number to get the funds. My insurance company forgot to give me the Transaction Number. You also have to have the funds sent in your "passport name" not your first and last name. The funds were sent to my first and last name, but my passport has a middle name at first Western Union was not going to give us the money. That was an interesting call to make, and another story, and this is getting far too long.

I'm pleased I had a little bit of Spanish. Between my "broken" Spanish and their "broken" English, we were able to communicate. By the third day, I was getting pretty good at coming up with the words I wanted to say WHEN I wanted to say them. I even expressed anger at a taxi driver! I was surprised when the correct Spanish words just came flying out of my mouth!

We're going to be on dry land for awhile. The next big adventure will be a 32 day cruise that starts in Bangkok at the end of December. We'll be very ready for that adventure, but right now, we are licking our "wounds" and thanking our lucky stars that we did not get hurt and only things were taken. We are stronger than we were....but why did this have to happen in the first place? I don't think anyone has an answer to that question.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

One More Red Carpet Lounge (RCL)

We're on the road again. This time we're at the RCL in SFO. This RCL is 3000% better than the RCL in Denver which we visited in September. It's serene, clean, quiet, just plain nice. Did I say it was CLEAN. Right now there are more big screen TVs in the lounge than there are people.

Getting here was a bit of a challenge. The TSA lines were horrible and nothing seemed to move with ease...then came the ritual undressing (I guess I should say the security check) -- off with the shoes, jacket, backpack, computer, purse--What would it look like to have naked people in the lines? Somehow the picture of middle aged travelers standing in their birthday suits conjures up an image that the world is not ready to see.

Next stop is Frankfurt, then Madrid, then Malaga. In Malaga we pick up a rental car and drive to our hotel. That will be interesting. We need to find the car, then find the hotel. Watch this space to see how well we do.

A note to WeedWoman--I have the traveling sweater with me. I'll take pix along the way documenting the journey. When we see you next, that sweater will be well traveled! Should I have a sticker or patch or button for each location??

Monday, November 2, 2009

Rain in Spain?

View of Malaga from the Alcazar

I wonder does it really rain on the plain in Spain? We’ll be in Spain on Thursday and maybe we’ll find out. It’s another cruztalk for us; this time the other DrC is working while I’m playing back up support.

Before we board the Navigator of the Seas we’ll spend a few days in the Malaga area. I have 2 day trips planned: one to Granada and the other to Seville. These are places I’ve read about for decades, as they were part of what I had to learn when taking Spanish way back when. I have rented a car; I have Google maps as well as AAA maps, we have International Driver’s Licenses and a good sense of adventure. I think we should be ready to go. The packing starts in earnest tomorrow and we’ll be ready to leave on Wednesday!

For several months I’ve been getting to know about 90 folks who are taking the same cruise, thanks to the Cruise Critic website. The 100 page online conversation we’ve had is extensive as we’ve talked about shore excursions, rental cars, hotels, restaurants and travel in general. We’re supposed to meet a couple at our hotel in Malaga, and once on the ship, we’ll meet the rest of the Cruise Critic writers at a “Meet and Mingle” party, and then throughout the trip there are other adventures that have been planned.

In the meantime watch this space, as we’re on the road again!

The Alcazar in Malaga

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween?

This has always been considered a night of fun and pranks. As a child I only remember block parties and costumes. Then all of that changed when my father received a subpoena one Halloween night. What a sneaky way to serve papers. For several years after that event, Halloween became a time filled with wariness.  

Over the years I've had a variety of goodies ranging from candy to coins to give to the kids. I prefer giving a handful of pennies as parents don't have to worry about the safety of my treat and therefore throw it away. And the kids always have fun trying to see how many pennies they can grab in one hand. (it's about 10-12 by the way). 

This Halloween however,  I'm not going to participate. I don't want little goblins and monsters ringing my doorbell begging for treats. Instead I'm going to close the gate to our property and turn the lights off. It's not because I'm a Scrooge. It's because I feel safer not opening my home to strangers. Halloween has become a night if revelry in our town and I do not know how safe it is to open the door to a semi-out of control group of youngsters. So bah! Humbug! No Halloween for us! Is it really Happy Halloween anymore? 

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I spent 3 days in Dallas this week. It’s always fun to go to a “big city” and Dallas is a big city. While I can still drive in urban traffic and maneuver a car in tight spaces I do prefer living in suburban or rural locations, as they are far less hectic and offer room. A big city is fun to visit, but not where I want to live.

I did get to shop at 2 of my favorite places: The Galleria and Highland Park Village. The Galleria is a modern version of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milan, with a hint of GUM in Moscow (I think). It's shiny and glitzy and filled with every store you can think of. I think there is more shopping space in The Galleria than exists in the whole state of Wyoming. Highland Park Village however is a quaint, one of a kind shopping experience. It opened in 1931 and is considered the first shopping center in America. I love the architecture; the shops; and the feeling of the place. If I have the time, I like to walk around HPV then stop at Starbucks and have a latte.

I’m back home in CA readying for a huge trip to Spain in a couple of weeks. And, in case Weed Woman is reading this, I’m packing the “traveling sweater” so watch this space to find out where it is going next.

One more thing: the bird spikes seem to be working, however the last time we saw a Flicker it was pecking away at a WINDOW! Crazy bird!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Return of the Flicker

picture courtesy of

The Flickers have come back. They usually visit in the winter but they are here before Halloween this year. You might be wondering what is a Flicker and why should you care about it? 

Well a Flicker is a bird.  A rather large, pretty bird. It stands about 12-14inches tall. It has a pretty spotted chest with a black gorget around the neck. It has red patches under the wings that you can get a glimpse of as it flies and that's why it's called a Flicker. You see "flicks" of red in flight. Its official name is the Common Red Shafted Flicker.  All of this is rather benign but there's one more thing to know about a Flicker. It's a woodpecker!!!

So this little beast is back and that means flocks of them will try to attack my house for the next few months. No wood is safe when there are Flickers In the neighborhood. 

We have tried all sorts of methods to get rid of these pesty critters. Typical "scarecrows" such as fake owls, or sparkling CDs dangling under the eaves, or wind socks blowing in the breeze are mere obstacles the Flicker can deal with. We've resorted to throwing pebbles at them at night when they roost on the walls (and then "decorate" the house with "calling cards"). We have even tried scaring them with loud noises. The Flickers just fly away to return the next day and start pecking away again. 

Houses in our neighborhood have had shutters, eaves, molding, and doors destroyed by the birds. All of us have tried numerous ways to get rid of them  but they come back every year just like clockwork. They are not discouraged as long as there is wood to peck on.

Not only are they destructive, the noise is annoying, especially if you have a headache already. And did I tell you they decorate the house with great long droppings that have to blasted off with a pressure washer?  

Last year, as the season ended, we discovered "bird spikes." No these do not spike the bird and ready it for a fricasee. They are a series of long nails embedded into a plastic strip. You install the strips of bird spikes under eaves or on top if places you don't want birds to roost. We saw them being installed on the roofline of the local mall after it was inundated by pigeons. We found a hardware store that sells them in foot long strips and we installed them along the eaves. Well--the bird spikes are going to be tested. I'll let you know if they work. 

So far so good. I've heard the call if the Flicker. I've seen them hovering under the eaves by their favorite places but I have NOT seen them land on the wooden eaves nor have I heard them hammering away on the house. 

(As an aside, the cartoon character,Woody Woodpecker, was created by Walter Lentz because his roof was being destroyed by the rascally bird. The original Woody was an insane bird that destroyed things for the heck of it. As far as I know, a Flicker is not insane like "Woody Woodpecker.")  
Picture courtesy of

Monday, October 12, 2009

One day later on a morning walk

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday was bright and sunny, today we are waiting for a storm. The clouds are leaden and the air smells differently. Along the way I'm looking for scenes that attract my attention.

As I walked out of our driveway, I was greeted by one of the neighborhood dogs as he tried to lure me up the cypress lined pathway.
A little bit further down the road, I met up with a trio of horses who came by for their morning pet. Sometimes I have carrots for them, but this morning I did not. They did not stay long.

At the halfway point in my walk there is a pond that usually has ducks in it. This morning there were 3 ducks talking to each other.
As I was nearing the end of my walk, I was drawn to the roses. They are near the end of their cycle. The rose hips are ripe, but a few of the blossoms are hanging on for dear life. I wonder if they will be there after the rainstorm.
No exotic travels; no tantalizing adventures; just a quiet day in the country.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Morning Walk

There are big differences between autumn in the Rocky Mountains and autumn in the foothills of the Sierras. The Rockies are splashed with color. The foothills are covered in golden earth tones that do not yell “pay attention to me” but have a quiet subtleness that says the season is changing. Here are some images from my walk this morning.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


One of the vagaries of travel is tying together all the loose ends. The easy part is finding flights, hotels, rental cars. The hard part is working with several countries regarding ingress and egress, and that means visa requirements. In January we will be cruztalking on a cruise that makes several stops in China. This past week I have been working on the visa requirements for entry into China. My first challenge was to find a provider that was not going to ask a mint for the service. I found prices vary from $200 to $500 per visa! I asked my travel agent, which provider she recommended and used that service at about $200/visa.

Getting a visa can be a big deal or it can be a piece of cake. For example, when you go to Turkey, you need a visa, but all you have to do when you land in Istanbul is find the line that says “visa” and pay $20 American, and you get the visa.

Egypt has an interesting visa requirement. You can go directly to an Egyptian Consulate in the States and apply for a visa and for a small fee; they will affix it to your passport. You may also go through one of the many visa document providers that exist, both on and offline, and for a larger fee, they will affix it to your passport. OR, you could wait until you get to Cairo. At that point, find the queue that says “visa,” line up and pay $15 for a single entry or $25 for a double entry visa. They will give you a pretty stamp and you will have to figure out how to glue it in your passport.

If you are thinking of going to Brazil for the 2016 Olympics, then you will need a visa. You will have to go through a visa provider, but the visa is good for 5 years providing you use the visa within 60 days after it has been purchased. The same is true if you are going to Russia. The Russian visa takes up a whole page in your passport, and it has your name printed in Russian characters, which is fun to look at.

If you go through a visa provider, you will have to fill out a questionnaire or application form. While all the questionnaires are similar in that they want your name, date and place of birth, passport number, employer, etc. Some countries want detailed information on items you have long forgotten. That was the case with a Russian visa application. It was about 10 pages long, with each line written in Russian (i.e., Cyrillic) and English.

When all is said and done, filling out a visa application form is never easy. I strive to give correct information, but sometimes, I just don’t remember or I cannot figure out what they want. For example, I am retired. So when a form asks for my employer I state “retired.” That’s fine for most countries, but the Chinese visa form still wants to know from where I retired. Then they ask, when did I retire? Do they want the exact day or the year? I’ve learned that if the questionnaire says YY-MM-DD, they want the exact date. If that is not indicated, then a year will do.

Given the above, I filled out the forms for the Chinese Visa today. It took me 3 days of gathering to get all the information. In addition to a 2-page questionnaire that is written in both Chinese and English, I needed a current original passport photo, (do not send photos that I have copied and saved to my computer!) I needed a complete itinerary and my flight and cruise schedule for the entire time we are going to be gone. If I had copies of my e-tickets and my cruise vouchers that would suffice. Lastly, I have to send them my passports that have at least 4 empty pages, not including pages 20-24, which are never used for visas. I think the package is squared away. Tomorrow I’ll send it Priority Mail to the SF office of the visa provider, and, if I completed the form correctly and sent in all the right stuff, they tell me that I should have my visas and passports back in 4 days. I hope so. I do not like having my passports out of my hands for that long and then to put them through the mail system to boot.

On the up side, we will be traveling through seven countries. China is the only country that needs a visa. Thank goodness for that! I would not like to go through a similar process for each of them.

Earlier this year I worked on getting International Driver's Licenses. It was a piece of cake: passport photos, copy of US Driver's License, and $15. It would be nice if visas were that easy!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Soul in the Mountains

I like to be near mountains. Mt. Shasta and The Tetons are my 2 favorite places. My soul lives in the moutains.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Almost Home: Random Thoughts

We're in Weed, CA, where you see signs like "Weed like to welcome you" or "Weed, A Natural High." I wonder what Abner Weed, the man for whom the town was named, would feel about these sentiments?

It's been an easy drive, but not necessarily the most interesting. Western Idaho was rather flat and bland, not to mention dry. Eastern Oregon was hillier, still dry but more interesting to look at. Still, the communities looked like they had died 30 years ago! We stayed in the tiny town of Vale, OR where the sidewalks were rolled up by 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon. We drove around the whole town (about 8 blocks long) and could not find much to recommend it. The campground however was clean and had all the services that we needed.

As we were driving through Burns, my cell phone rang. We were surprised to hear it, thinking that cell service in this remote corner of OR would be unavailable. Then, we looked at the top of a nearby hill, and there was a cell tower! It was a Verizon tower too!

Driving into Bend, we tried to follow the instructions delivered by Stu-y our "faithful" GPS, and once again, he earned his name (which is short for Stupid). He directed us to a 1 lane dirt road that would eventually link up to a road near our campground. We looked at the path and decided that Stu-y was wrong one more time. When I got to the campground I asked about the dirt road and the two clerks laughed saying that all the GPSs lead folks via the back road...and some folks even take the dirt road instead of driving 5 extra miles to the paved road that goes the same place. Whoever said that maps are not necessary when one has a GPS needs to do some rethinking.

When you see figures that tell about the population density of the US, you tend to think that there are large collections of people everywhere you go. Then you get to this corner of the US, and discover that there are far more trees than people. It's good to know that not everywhere looks like the SF Bay Area, LA, NY or Chicago!

Tonight in Weed we are enjoying a rainstorm. We hope it stays a rainstorm and does not become a snowstorm. When we arrived here this afternoon, we had a wonderful view of Mt. Shasta. All 14000+ feet of her was standing tall and proud without any cloud cover. Then, out of that blue cloudless sky came the rain (and we hope no snow) that we are having tonight!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Good Quote

Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn."
--Elizabeth Lawrence,
garden designer and writer

Monday, September 21, 2009

Project Linus Update

I've done more than travel this summer, I've completed a Baker's Dozen of blankets for Project Linus too. Here are few of my summer creations.
Thank you Project Linus!

Click here to see a few more of my creations.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Almost Autumn

Today we went for a ride to look at the fall colors that are just starting. The bright red Mountain Mahogany dots the hillsides. The aspens have a tint of yellow in them.
Fall is definitely "in the air."

Along the way we saw a quiet stream reflecting the mountains;
a lonely farm basking in the late summer sun;

and snowberries.
If you look carefully, you can see the Tetons in the background! It does not get much better than this!

It's a magical time of year to see the colors change from green to gold.