They say, “If you don’t like the weather in North Texas,
just wait a few minutes.”

Where we frolicked last week

Where we frolicked last week

We’ve had four days of ice, temperatures in the teens and low twenties, and four or five inches of snow last night. This morning, the pool water even got down to 31 degrees. (It’s a salt water pool.) I forced the heater to stay on for a while, and now it’s in the forties. As I look out over the patio at the pool, it’s hard to believe how quickly things changed.

Last week, Jonathan, Lindsey, Avery, and Kieron visited. We cheered the beautiful January weather—mainly in the sixties and low seventies during the afternoons. Exactly a week ago from this evening, We frolicked in the hot tub for the second evening that week. Nicole, Scott’s daughter, waded into the pool up to her neck. I waded in up to my thighs. That’s my limit when the water’s cold.

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Our Guard Cat

Recently, we were away for a week on a trip to Florida. I worked; Lynda shopped. We were fortunate in that we didn’t have to worry about our house because Cossette is, among other things, an excellent guard cat. We left her in charge of guarding our bathroom. As you undoubtedly know, one of the most dangerous birds is the mourning dove. They hang around our house in groups, looking for a way to get in. But Cosette is up to their tricks, and she maintains a vigilant guard. Click the image below for a video showing Cosette in action as one mourning dove prepares to assault the bathroom window:
Guard Cat

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Cottonwood Arts Festival 2010

In early October, my cousin, Carolyn Oldham, and Lynda dragged me to the Cottonwood Art Festival in Richardson, just outside of Dallas. It’s a very large semi-annual festival. As usual, I had a lot of stuff to do around the house on the weekend, so I was sort of a reluctant companion.

As it turned out, I really enjoyed the festival, and the girls practically had to drag me away. Although there was a large variety of very nice art, three artists in particular caught my eye. To see more of each artist’s work, just click their name or pictured work.

Larry Fielder - Wood art and vessels

Larry Fielder, from Velarde, NM, carves very nice wood wall art and vessels that can hold small flower arrangements. I am a fan of hand-crafted wood. Larry and I are almost the same age, and we discovered a lot that we have in common. I found it interesting that we both majored in architecture during roughly the same years. I switched to art but never became an artist; he graduated in architecture, practiced as an architect, but eventually became an artist. We had different paths during the Viet Nam war, but we both share an affinity toward wood as a medium of expression and art.

Engraved assemblage from sharecropper houses

Aaron Hequembourg‘s engraved assemblages integrate old weathered wood, antique newspapers and other printed publications, and acrylic washes into pieces that would make a beautiful focal point in a room. The rustic look is perfect for Texas and other parts of the Southwest. The pieces he produces are original, beautiful, and comfortable.

Robin's Egg Blue - by Meredith Kuntzsch

 

I really liked the way Meredith Kuntzsch merges light, color, and texture in her pastels. There’s a lot of similarity among her various pieces, but together, they make an interesting study of color and texture that I found very powerful and appealing.

Next time, the girls won’t have any difficulty getting me to tag along.

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Whirlwind Labor Day Visit to Illinois

On the Friday before Labor Day, we drove from Plano to Fairview Heights, Illinois to visit Lynda’s family members and mutual friends. It was a looooooong drive: 630 miles and over 10 hours with two brief stops.

Bob and Rob With the Cookies Lynda Baked

Bob and Rob With the Cookies Lynda Baked

The following day, we visited Bob Peck, Lynda’s stepfather. He lives in Sparta, IL. Bob had pneumonia earlier in the year and had been on small amounts of oxygen for a while. We happily found him in pretty good health and spirits, and he wasn’t using the oxygen—at least not continuously. We had a very enjoyable visit. And Bob’s eyes lit up when he saw the coconut oatmeal cookies that Lynda had baked especially for him.

Lynda and Aunt Berneice

Lynda and Aunt Berneice

Rob and Jerry Hunting for Pills

Rob and Jerry Hunting for Pills

We continued on to Centralia and met Jerry and Sara Norton for lunch. Then, we all drove to Aunt Bernice’s in nearby Irvington. Bernice is the last of Lynda’s aunts. Visits with Aunt Berneice are always entertaining. As always, she was very talkative. While we were there, Bernice involved us in a search for some possible missing pills under the couch cushion. After feeling around in the couch lining, I found about six or seven night-time Tylenols, one or two unfamiliar pills, three and one-half tic tacs, a dime and four penneys, a tooth pick, and some crumbs and dust. I could hardly wait to wash my hands. I suggested that in the future, perhaps, she shouldn’t take her pills while sitting on the couch.

We also ran across an old picture on the dining room table of Bernice’s husband, Uncle Lloyd, taken somewhere in North Africa during World War II. I photographed it with Lynda’s camera, and the result wasn’t so bad.

Some of What We Found in Aunt Berneice's Couch

Some of What We Found in Aunt Berneice's Couch

Lloyd Gregory Somewhere in North Africa

Lloyd Gregory Somewhere in North Africa

Lynda With  Eileen Stalcup

Lynda With Eileen Stalcup

In the late afternoon, we visited a lifelong friend of Lynda’s mother, Eileen Stalcup. Lynda’s mother, Mildred, and Eileen palled around and dated together in Centralia when they were teenagers and young adults. When we lived in Centralia, we also visited with Eileen on occasion. Whenever we visit family and friends in Southern Illinois, we always try to drop by and see Eileen.

Dinner in Centralia with Jerry and Sara Norton

Dinner in Centralia with Jerry and Sara Norton

 
That evening, we dined with the Jerry and Sara Norton at a little Italian restaurant in Centralia. The food was not so great, and neither was the wine, but the conversation made up for it. Since the Nortons live in Northern Illinois, it was great that we could get together in Centralia. After dinner, we returned to Fairview Heights, near St. Louis, for the night. We had a few more visits in mind in the morning before returning home.

Darlene and Lynda

Darlene and Lynda

Lynda, Maryann, and Jim

Lynda, Maryann, and Jim

Barking Couch

Barking Couch

The next morning, we had very nice visits in Collinsville, IL (just East of St. Louis) with Darlene Kimbrell and Maryann Miller and her husband, Jim. Darleen and Maryann are two of Lynda’s oldest friends—from grade school. Maryann and Jim claimed to have a dog, but we never did see it. For all appearances, they just had a barking couch. You see, the dog had a little hideaway in a space under the middle cushion of the couch—where I was sitting. I worried that at any moment I was going to get a big snarly bite in my butt. Thankfully, it never happened. Soon, he settled down, and we all had a wonderful conversation. We never did see the dog. Apparently, he was “all bark and no dog.”

White Castle, Home of the Belly Bomber

White Castle, Home of the Belly Bomber

Lynda, Onion Ring, and Belly Bomber

Lynda, Onion Ring, and Belly Bomber

A little after noon, we headed back to Plano via Arkansas. Due to a very unfortunate oversight, we had forgotten to eat at a White Castle while we were in Fairview Heights. (It’s sort of a family ritual.) If you don’t already know it, White Castle “belly bombers” are delicious little hamburgers, but they’re decidedly not nutritious. An added benefit is that you can taste them hours later as the ingredients churn in your stomach. As we were sharing our feelings of dispair about not satisfying our belly bomber cravings, Lynda decided to try and find a White Castle with her new Droid X. We found one, but we had passed the town it was in. Then Lynda found one that was just a little ahead of us. Thankfully, we pulled off, and there it was—drum roll please. We each tossed down three belly bombers, mine with cheese, and we split an order of onion rings. Zoweeee! Was that good. We also took a nutrition document. Zoweeeee! What a lot of calories and carbs!

We spent the next night in Little Rock and ate a hearty Middle America dinner at Cracker Barrel.

The next day, we headed out for Plano with a stop in Hope, AR, the childhood home of Bill Clinton. We enjoyed a private tour of the museum and home, and we learned a lot of interesting things about Bill.

At the Bill Clinton Museum in Hope, AR

At the Bill Clinton Museum in Hope, AR

Chldhood Bed of a Future President

Chldhood Bed of a Future President

When we arrived home around 3:00 PM, Cosette was very glad to see us. And we were happy to see her.

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Our Uninvited Guests

Our pool heater--mysteriously full of leaves

Our pool heater--mysteriously full of leaves

The other day, I noticed that many leaves and branches were missing from a Hybiscus located near our pool heater. Looking a little more closely, I discovered a lot of twigs poking out of the pool heater vents, so I took off the sides to have a little look-see. The heater was stuffed with twigs and leaves—obviously some sort of nest.

I used some leather gloves and my shop vac to suck up the leaves and carefully remove them. As I pulled up a large batch near the bottom of the heater, I found seven newly born rats. Their eyes were still closed. Boy were they gross. As much as I hate to hurt animals, even vermin, I took them out into a field and smashed them with a shovel.

Seven baby rats in our pool heater

Seven baby rats in our pool heater


During all of this, one adult rat shot out of the heater compartment and dashed up a Jasmine on a nearby trellis. Well, we just can’t tolerate rats around the house, not to mention the massive damage they seem to be doing to nearby plants. So, I replaced the nest of babies with some “special” rat food. (To be continued)

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4th of July Family Gathering

Little Howdy celebrates the 4th

Little Howdy

We were very fortunate to have the whole family together over the 4th. Scott arrived from Afghanistan the Monday before the 4th. He spent most of the week with Manivanh, Nicole, and Andrew. The Kings arrived from Seattle on the second.

Nicole celebrating the Fourth of July

Nicole celebrating the Fourth of July

The weather on the 4th was fantastic—HOT. Lynda had festooned the house and patio area with 4th of July decorations as only she can. We were in the pool by late morning and spent most of the rest of the day there. Nicole demonstrated how she has become a fish by swimming under water, being tossed into the air by Scott and Jonathan and always begging for more. Andrew managed his fear and actually dunked his head in the water, bobbing up with a smile. Scott and Andrew were doing some great father-son bonding. Avery had serious squirt gun fun and was begining to consider his first attempts at swimming. This would be more evident in the coming week.

In the early afternoon Jonathan and I fixed a batch of Margaritas—not the mix kind—real Margaritas. We used about 40 tiny key limes, and it took forever to squeeze them. Our hard work payed off, though. They hit the spot. A little mambo, calypso and reggae, and the party really got going. I think it was the most activity the pool has seen. As the collective energy gathered strength, fueled by the Margaritas, our family was at it’s celebratory best. Everybody got thrown into the air, although, technically, some of the adults didn’t quite make it above the surface of the water. Everybody mugged for the camera. And everybody developed a powerful hunger.

Lindsey and Rob enjoying ribs

Lindsey and Rob enjoying ribs

 I barbecued a ton of ribs and in the process discovered the secret to five-star ribs. I researched on the Internet to try to identify the “best practices” yet keep the process as simple as possible. I cheated a little, though, and used the oven for the slow cooking part; then I finished them on the barbecue. But results count. The party goers agreed that they were the best ever. (I added the ribs recipe to our recipes on this site.)

In the late afternoon, we had our silly annual family 4th of July parade on the sidewalk in front of the house. (We basically walk past our house and the next-door neighbors waving flags and singing.) We finished the day by watching the fireworks on TV in the evening and popping poppits on the sidewalk.

I must say that this day will stand out as one of my happiest. We achieved a synergistic joy and silliness that will always be close to my heart.

The following evening, Scott had to fly back to Afghanistan for the final five months of his contract. 🙁 We’ll miss him very much, but you can be sure there will be a joyous celebration when he returns in December.

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Visiting California Family and Friends

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been eight years since we were in California. This year, we visited my brothers, Brad and Brian, my Aunt Joyce and Cousin Frank, and a childhood friend, Toby Scott, whom I hadn’t seen in over fifty years.

Aunt Joyce and Lynda chatting before dinner

Aunt Joyce and Lynda chatting before dinner

Cousin Frank fixing our gourmet dinner

Cousin Frank fixing our gourmet dinner

At Aunt Joyce’s home near the UCLA campus, Frank prepared a delicious gourmet chicken dish with leeks, and we discussed a broad array of stimulating issues of the day over wine and dinner. I always come away from my visits with Aunt Joyce and Frank full of intellectual enthusiasm.

Brad planned a fun-filled three-day trip to Catalina Island on his trawler, Galatea, which was once owned by William Hanna of Hanna-Barberra cartoon fame. Accompanying us were my brother, Brian, and Dennis and Kathy Moran, close friends of Brad.

Approaching Sea Diamond for cocktails

Approaching Sea Diamond for cocktails

Sea Diamond's beautiful master suite

Sea Diamond''s beautiful master suite

When we reached Avalon, Catalina’s most popular venue, we picked up a mooring. Nearby was a beautiful 90 ft. motorsailor, Sea Diamond, owned by a widow whom Brad knows. (He knows just about every large-boat owner in Newport Beach.) She invited us aboard for cocktails.

The boat had originally been owned by her uncle, and then several other people. After a fire aboard, the boat was partially restored in Germany by a wealthy European who ran out of money. Cita, the current owner, purchased it and finished the restoration in Newport, Rhode Island. The boat is unbelieveably elegant and has been restored to it’s original splendor. Cita and her crew were wonderful people to talk to, and we all had a magnificent time.

Wild Galatea Crew
Doin' the Funky Monkey

After cocktails, we returned to Galatea for dinner and what turned out to be a raucous evening of wild dancing. I, unfortunately, was a party pooper. However, I did get some great photos of the crew doin’ the “funky monkey.”

Watching the zip line
Zipper. Fate unknown.
Checking out the new zip line

The following day, we rented a glorified golf cart and explored the area around Avalon. We enjoyed beautiful panoramic views of the harbor, saw one of the Wrigley family homes (from the street), observed the new zip line attraction (This was not on my bucket list, but maybe I will add it.), checked out Zane Grey’s house (now a cozy hotel), and bought a few mementos. (Note to self: book three or four days at Zane Grey’s and try out the zip line.)

Then, we moved up the island to Moonstone Bay, where we anchored.

Rob fires "Happy Hour" canon

We began the happy hour promptly at five with me firing a small starting cannon which resonated and echoed throughout the valleys around the bay. Then we downed “a few” marvelous Margaritas (Brad’s recipe) featuring Key limes. After cocktails, we motored ashore, grilled steaks, and ended the evening with a game of Bocci Ball.

The next day, we dropped back into Avalon. With Brad’s expert helmsmanship we navigated a narrow channel, deftly turned the 50-foot plus boat 180 degrees, droped off Steve, hovered near the dock, picked Srteve up, and head out toward the mainland and Newport Beach. Gotta have that morning newspaper.

Blue Whale in Catalina Channel

Blue Whale in Catalina Channel

As we were mid-channel, Brad spotted a whale, and we slowed down and inched our way towards it to within about 50 to 100 feet. For five or ten minutes, we watched the whale loll about and occasionally exhale through its spout. Then, we returned to Newport Beach, washed down Galatea and got her shipshape to Brad’s satisfaction—and that’s no small task. Arrgh. Lynda and I went out for a seafood dinner and returned to Galatea for our final night aboard before heading north. This trip to Catalina will be one of my cherished memories.

After Lynda and I left Galatea, we drove up the coast to Ventura to visit with one of my very best grade school, junior high, and high school friends, Toby Scott, whom I hadn’t seen for over fifty years.

Rob and boyhood friend, Toby Scott

Rob and boyhood friend, Toby Scott

Toby and I lost touch when, at the end of my sophomore year in high school, my family moved from Pasadena to Palmdale. Almost by accident, I discovered that Toby and I are both webmasters of our respective high school class websites (Coincidence or fate; you be the judge.) This enabled me to locate Toby, and we re-connected.

Through Toby, I discovered that we share an interesting claim to fame. Go-karts were invented in 1956, and tested and raced in the Rose Bowl parking lot in Pasadena, CA. Well, Toby and I weren’t the first, but with the help of my father, we did actually build a go-kart and test it in the Rose Bowl parking lot in 1957 or 1958. Our go-kart days came to an unfortunate demise when one of us accidentally hit a ticket booth and tore up the steering. So, in a sense, we are go-kart pioneers.

Toby invited us to his home to meet his wife, Ilona, daughter, Jessica, and his mother-in-law. They treated us to a wonderful marinated flank steak dinner and fascinating conversation. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit with the Scotts, and I only wish we could spend more time together discussing topical issues, our life experiences, and old times.

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Our New Website and Blog

I’ve been planning for a long time to update our AveryNet.US site and also incorporate our “Home on the Range” blog (the one I update regularly about once a year or so) into the site. Now I’m gonna git ‘er done, as they say in Texas.

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Visiting Family and Friends in Seattle

So, today, after 22 months, I am finally updating the blog. I’ll try to be a little better about this in the future–perhaps a good New Year’s resolution.

SnowfallAs the date of our holiday season flight to Seattle grew closer, snow, followed by more snow, with more in the offing was forecast. We left Dallas on a sunny 70 degree afternoon and arrived in Seattle on a snow-covered 27 degree evening. It was hard to believe that it was the same day. The snowscape was beautiful with the trees and mountains. Scott and an excited Nicole met us at baggage carousel two, and they drove us to Lacey.

Scott asked if we had heard about the two charter buses that slid down an icy hill in Seattle and were hanging over a twenty-foot drop off over the interstate. When we reached his house, that was the news of the eve. Fortunately, nobody was injured, and the passengers had successfully climbed out the windows to safety. Later, tow trucks were able to pull the buses back onto the street.
Nicole and Sleeping BagWe treated Nicole to an early birthday present–a pink sleeping bag with a dog’s head, feet, and tail and embroidered with her name. (Her birthday is in January when we won’t be here.) It was the least we could do for bumping her out of her own bed for a week.
Supermarket

 

 

The next day, Scott, Lynda, and I rushed to the mall to try and complete our Christmas shopping before the next round of snow and expected 70 mph winds were to strike in late afternoon. After shopping, we stopped to pick up a flashlight and some D cell batteries. All out of batteries. Then we stopped for some windshield washer fluid. All out. We also stopped by the supermarket to pick up a few things. We discovered the answer to the question, “What would happen if everybody went to the store at the same time?” It took us an hour to check out. And that’s no exaggeration.

As it turned out, we had just a little more snow, the very high winds didn’t materialize, and the electricity stayed on. So far, so good.

We put up the christmas tree, lights, and ornaments. It’s getting to be a lot like Christmas. Daaaa da daaa da daaa….

More coming soon.

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Rob’s Birthday

We celebrated Rob’s birthday in grand style this year with the AMA group (Rob’s coworkers) out on a balcony with a potluck lunch. It was a beautiful sunny day in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Later that evening we all met for dinner at Chili’s and then trekked over to Barnes and Noble for a poetry reading by famed poet and friend, Roy Bentley.
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