Sunday, July 15, 2018

Last Of The Family Fun (California, Summer 2018)

The day after our jaunt to Sacramento was the Fourth of July.  Daughter-in-law Nicole had a previously scheduled bike ride, and was already gone when the rest of us woke up. Son Brian had done some research and suggested that the San Jose Rose, White & Blue Parade would be a good morning activity for the rest of us. After breakfast he packed a bag with snacks and drinks for Grandson Jay and made sure the stroller was in the car before we left.

The parade started at 10:00. For almost two hours we saw floats, Scout groups, bands, antique car clubs, dance groups, service organizations, and groups of pets go by. There was a festival area at the end of the route, but  Jay was getting tired, so we walked back to the car and drove to a Panera close to the house, where we met Nicole for lunch. Then it was back to the house for nap time.

Brian and Nicole had invited some friends over for dinner. They arrived about four o'clock, each bringing a dish to share. Brian and Nicole provided ribs, baked beans, cole slaw, and chips. Tony and I threw in a bag of Belly Flop jelly beans. After dinner we sat outside. As it got dark Brian offered Tony and I the chance to go watch fireworks. We declined. However, their house was close enough to the city's display that I heard the boom of the show for an hour after I went to bed.


On Thursday, the last day before Tony and I few back home, Brian and Nicole took the day off and we made a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Brian and Nicole are members, and their extra guest passes got me and Tony in for free. We spent a couple hours there, concentrating on Jay's favorite displays-the habitat exhibits with lots of fish, the penguins, and the children's area.

Before we left the aquarium we ate lunch in the cafe (where I thought the food was surprisingly good for a cultural institution).  After lunch we walked a couple of blocks for ice cream, then got back in the car and headed home. It took Jay about five minutes to fall asleep, and he napped for the entire  drive.

Brian had after-dinner plans, so Nicole, Tony, and I took James to the park, where he had a great time climbing, sliding, and digging in the sand.  At bedtime we gave Jay extra hugs and kisses, because we didn't know if he would be awake the next morning when Brian drove us to the airport.

Five years ago today: Hospitable Hosts

Friday, July 13, 2018

Extended Family Fun (California, Summer 2018)

When Hubby Tony found out we were going to have some time to ourselves on this trip he contacted his cousin Jean (on his mom's side) to see if we could visit with her. Although they are cousins, Jean is about 30 years older than Tony. She lives in Sun City Lincoln Hills, a planned senior community  a half hour north of Sacramento.

We rented a car for this trip. Tony called the rental office Monday morning to arrange for them to pick us up. The person he spoke to wrote down the time wrong, and the shuttle driver ended up arriving a half hour late. However, to make up for their mistake they gave us a slightly bigger car and waived the return gas fill up requirement, a nice bonus.

Our drive started out the same way as our previous route, but this time we went farther north on Interstate 5. We passed through Sacramento and kept going. When we arrived at Jean's we were greeted by her son Nick, who lives with her. Jean was right behind him. Although frail-looking, she gave both me and Tony a firm hug and invited us in. We chatted for several hours. Jean was able to answer many of Tony's questions about some of his long-deceased family members. I took notes so Tony would be able to remember all the details.

At the end of the visit Tony and I drove to a nearby Starbucks, where we used the wi-fi to research hotels in Sacramento. It was the beginning of rush hour when we got back on the road, but we eventually made it to our destination. We checked in, dropped off our bags, and immediately searched for places to go to dinner. Yelp directed us to a nearby Thai restaurant, then a ice cream parlor for dessert. When we returned to the hotel it was time for bed.

Then next day we relied on Yelp again to find a great coffee shop for breakfast, then headed to the Old Sacramento State Historic Park, a historical landmark that was once the western termini of the Pony Express and first transcontinental railroad.  Many of the historical buildings have been repurposed into stores and restaurants.  We walked around for a couple of hours, had lunch, then started back towards "home". This time we took a different route, which allowed us to visit the Arboretum at University of California-Davis. For part of the walk through the grounds we were escorted by a pair of turkeys:

Our last stop was in Fairfield, where we visited the Jelly Belly factory.

Jelly Belly factory
The plan was to take a factory tour, but the wait to get in was 30 minutes. Both Tony and I were tired, so we settled for visiting the gift shop, where we stocked up on Belly Flops (irregulars that didn't make the quality cut) and got back on the road again. I'm glad we did; thanks to a couple of accidents traffic was really bad heading back into the Bay area.  We had to be back at the rental car office by 5:30, and made it just in time.

One more set of adventures awaited us before we came home.

Five years ago today: How Exciting!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Family Old And New (California, Summer 2018)

Son Tony and his fiancee Ie live in Dallas, but she grew up in Central California. When Hubby Tony and I figured out we would be babysitting, we asked if there was any way we could get together to meet some of Ie's family. Eventually we heard there would a casual barbecue get-together at one of Ie's sister's houses.

After Hubby Tony and I left Grandson Jay with his parents we left for Manteca, a city approximately 75 miles away. Thanks to some heavy traffic it took close to two hours to get there.  We moved from Interstate 880 to 680 to 580 to 205, then got onto a state highway for another ten minutes.

Ie comes from a large family. Her mother and all but one of her siblings were there, and with spouses and children there were about 30 people! I did my best to remember names and family groups, but joked that I hoped there wasn't a quiz at the end.  Most of the people there had never been to the Midwest, so we spent some time talking about the differences in our areas.

Ie is a first generation Asian-American, with parents that came to this country in the late 1970s. The buffet meal contained dishes like barbecued meat and vegetable skewers, tossed green salad, and tortilla chips with salsa. Next to those were green papaya salad, egg rolls, and spicy pickled greens. Dessert was tasty Nab Vam (Tapioca in Coconut Milk), a mixture of chopped fruits and tiny boba swimming in a sweet liquid.

Nab Vam - Pinterest

After several wonderful hours of socializing and eating, Hubby Tony and I left to drive back to Santa Clara.  Everyone else in the house was asleep when we got in, so we quietly climbed into bed to get ready for the next day.

Son Tony and Ie were combining family time with personal vacation time. Sunday afternoon they stopped by Son Brian and DIL Nicole's house for lunch and socializing!  It was great to have most of the family together. (The only one missing was Son Donald, who was back in Missouri working and taking university summer classes).  Eventually Tony and Ie left for their next commitment.

After dinner Hubby Tony and I packed up our suitcases for the next adventure.

Five years ago today: All The Excitement Happened In The First Half-Hour Of Work Today. Then It Went Back To Normal.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

All In The Family (California, Summer 2018)

Shortly after the new year started Son Brian and DIL Nicole approached Hubby Tony and I about babysitting grandson Jay while they flew to the East Coast to attend a wedding at the end of June. We quickly agreed. The plane tickets were purchased in April, and then it was a matter of waiting.

Tony and I flew into San Jose on Tuesday afternoon. Brian picked us up from the airport, and we were just getting settled into our bedroom when Nicole and Jay arrived home from day care. We talk with the family via Face Time most weeks, but it still took Jay a little while to get used to us in the flesh.  At the end of the evening we watched his night time routine (so important for a 20-month old). On Wednesday we shadowed Brian, learning the morning routine and day care drop off and pick up.

A great day for a game
While Jay was at day care and Mom and Dad were working we drove to the nearby San Jose Earthquakes stadium, where they were showing World Cup games on the huge video screen. We watched Brazil beat Serbia in Group E play and got some great food truck lunch. After dinner that night Brian and Nicole left for the airport, leaving Grandma and Grandpa in charge for two and a half days.

Chalk is always fun

I was proud that we successfully navigated the first bath and bedtime without a hitch, and when Jay briefly awoke in the middle of the night he accepted my glass of water, then laid down and went right back to sleep.

We took Jay to day care both Thursday and Friday, then spent the days exploring the San Jose and Santa Clara area.  
Carmelite Monastery, Santa Clara

Del Monte Park, San Jose

In the evenings after dinner we read books, played with balls and bubbles, and took walks around the block. On Saturday morning we pushed Jay in his trike to the local strip mall. Brian and Nicole got home Saturday afternoon. We handed Jay back over to them, and borrowed Nicole's car for the next part of our California adventure.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Welcoming Weather

Ten days ago Hubby Tony and I left for a trip to Northern California. While we were there we visited with nuclear family, extended family, and new family. We were also able to get some time for ourselves. The weather was beautiful the whole time.

Our plane got in mid-afternoon yesterday, and we walked out of the airport into a typical hot and humid St. Louis day. It took ten minutes for the parking lot shuttle bus to arrive, and by the time I got on my shirt was sticking to my sweaty back. The rest of the day was filled with playing with the cats, unpacking, organizing, and laundry. After dinner Tony cut the very long grass and I made a quick grocery run. We went to bed early, not even bothering to watch the local news.

This morning we continued our catching up activities. I did more laundry, and put it all away. Downloaded photos from my phone, Tony's phone, and the camera. Caught up with work emails and scheduled some jobs for the upcoming week. After lunch I realized I had some errands that had to be run, so I got ready to leave the house. When I walked out into the garage I realized that the weather had changed from the previous day. It was really nice--almost the same weather we had left behind on the West Coast!

When I got home from the errands I opened up the windows so the fresh air could come in. Based on tomorrow's forecast we'll be closing the house up again tomorrow, but I'll take the nice weather when I can get it.

Five years ago today: Bromeliaceous

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Feelin' Fancy

The other day I had some work in a posh part of town. Wanting to fit in, I wore a casual tan linen skirt, a navy polo shirt, and my real-looking fake diamond studs. The job took about a half hour, and when I was finished I didn't feel like going straight home.  Instead, I decided to head to the closest mall.

This mall is small, but very posh. It's anchored by the area's only Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus stores. My original plan was to get some steps in by walking the common areas, but somewhere during the first lap I veered into the Talbots store, seduced by the clearance racks visible from the front door.  Besides, the store has two entrances so by going in one and out the other I was still technically continuing my lap.

After that I decided to stop in every clothes store that struck my fancy, including the two anchor stores. When the associates wanted to know if I needed any assistance, I cobbled together a story (which was almost true)  that I was looking for white shorts or capris for an upcoming casual event with some Very Important People.  For the most part I didn't find anything that struck my fancy and I was able to keep going.  However, in Neiman Marcus the associate showed me some Eileen Fisher shorts and capris and I decided to try them on.

That's one fancy dressing room!
She walked me to the fitting room, unlocked the door, and indicated I should go inside.  Holy cow! The room was the largest I had ever seen.  Two walls were covered in mirrors, the better to see both back and front of what you were thinking about buying. In addition to plenty of room to try things on there was a chair and a small couch. The associate hung my items up on a rack and left, saying she would be right outside if I needed her.

I tried on and quickly discarded the capris, but fell in love with the shorts They were made with thick but smooth linen, relaxed legs, and an elasticized back.  And "only" $188.  Not even remotely within my budget. Sadly, I hung them back up and left everything in the dressing room. On the way out of the department I thanked the associate, who gave me suggestions for several other stores I might try. I did go in a couple of them, and even tried on a few things, but after those perfect shorts everything else was disappointing.

When I left the mall I drove to a nearby upscale charity thrift shop, where I found a white golf skirt for $5. The stretchy cotton material was a far cry from the soft linen, but the price was right. I could get it and have enough to buy dinner that night.

Five years ago today: Bowls Of Morning Goodness

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Undesirable Expounding

They're at it again. The spammers and their comments, that is.

I let anyone comment on my blog, but remarks on posts older than 21 days are moderated. That means I get to approve them before they see the light of day. If someone I don't know leaves a comment I visit their blog to see what's on the other end. I've 'met' some of the nicest folks that way, and I end up adding their blog to my RSS reader. However, sometimes the link leads straight to a Google+ page with no real content, in which case I'm not interested. And sometimes the comment comes from someone who just writes nonsense; those go straight into the trash can.

For several weeks the spam comments have been attaching themselves to the same three or four very old articles on my blog, and I ended up closing those posts to additional comments. I hope that doesn't deter someone who is truly interested in what I have to say.

The newest tactic is for a spammer to post the same comment on several of my posts at the same time. The subject matter is usually completely off topic, and often off color. When I find them guess where those comments go?

Five years ago today: Sweet Feet

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Motor Driven Two-Wheeler

Last week I got an email from the store where I bought my bike that told me about their electric bike promotion. The message said that if I came in and took a test ride I would get a scratch-off card prize. The idea of an electric bike fascinated me, so today I stopped in to see what they were all about.

After asking me where I rode and what type of riding I did the associate gave me all sorts of stats and specs about the electric bikes, most of which went in one ear and out of the other. However, I did learn that:
  • There are electric bikes designed for commuters, trail riders and dirt bike riders.
  • The bikes in the store were regular bicycles that included pedal-assist, which meant that when you need assistance a small motor engages and gives you a boost.
  • Most bikes offer three levels of assistance. Their battery range is 20-60 miles, depending on the power mode and terrain. Not surprisingly, the more you pedal the farther you can go (because pedaling conserves the battery).
  • Recharging the bike is easy and takes three to five hours. You just take the battery off the bike and plug it into a standard wall outlet.
After I chose a bike to test the associate lowered the seat to the correct height and gave me a loaner helmet.  Before I left the store she gave me a suggested route (behind the strip mall) where I could test out the bike's speed. Then it was time to ride!

Once I was outside I turned on the battery and started peddling. The battery and motor made the bike significantly heavier than the one I already have, but it was still easy to maneuver. In my short ride the bike was very comfortable, with a nice wide seat and upright handlebars that had me sitting up straight.  I stayed in Eco, the lowest level of assistance. The electric motor made a light humming sound as I rode. I could feel the motor helping me along, and could go much faster than I usually do. When I looked down at the speedometer it told me I was going 16 miles per hour!

I went to the end of the strip mall, then turned around and came back the same way. The whole thing took less than five minutes and I was a little disappointed I couldn't ride for a longer time. After I turned in my helmet I got to pick my prize from a stack of cards in a small box box. I scratched off the center section and learned that I have $20 credit to spend in the store, which will be good for a small accessory.

As you might expect, electric bikes cost substantially more than conventional ones. I would have to save my pennies for a long time to be able to afford one. It sure was fun, though.