Thursday, May 21, 2009

Saving Money

Last November, Cindy's mom gave us a giant smiley face bank and suggested we put $2 a day in it to save spending money for our trip to Alaska. We have never done very well at saving money so this seemed like a great idea. We didn't manage to feed it $2 every day, but we fed the face often and sometimes put in more than the requiste $2.

Today we pried the smiley face open to reveal a wonderful little nest of money for our trip which starts on Sunday. Thanks for the bank Bonnie and for the idea. We are going to put the face back together and start feeding it again. It's fun to save money!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Grinding Rock

Gianna, Athan, and I went to Grinding Rock State Park in Pine Grove where we met Sandy and John who gave us a royal tour. Sandy and John are camp hosts at the park. They live in their RV and take care of the campground by day and make jewelry at night. They've been living the nomadic artist life for several years, and we had the pleasure of visiting them at their latest landing, this little known Park off of Highway 88.

They love this little State Park and have learned a lot about it in the few months that they have been its hosts. They took us on a great tour and showed us lots of marvelous sights, including the museum where Athan studied the map and chose some of the places he wanted to see. We visited the round house, called the Hung'ge, as well as the huge grinding rock with numerou petroglyphs and scurrying lizards. We saw the mother oak sitting in the center of a circle of her babies. We hiked to the environmental campground (one of Athan's choices) and we saw a bees' nest high in an oak tree. Everything was still very green with tons of wildflowers everywhere.

After lots of hiking we had lunch at Sandy's and John's campsite. We took a short walk after lunch around the campground and we each picked our favorite site should we ever come to spend the night at Grinding Rock Campground. Not surprisingly, we each had a different favorite. It would be hard to settle on a final choice but not hard to revisit Sandy, John, and this sweet little State Park.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Timers & Tippetts + Nell

While Michael installed automatic timers in the garden with August's able assistance, Cindy and I played with five Tippetts and Nell and took pictures. We played in the pool, rode bikes, climbed the plum trees, tried out the new playground equipment, did dress-up, and played Parchesi. Nell painted almost everyone's toenails (she only got one foot done on Cindy before dinner). And we ate food ALL DAY! Boy OH Boy! Playing make everyone hungry!

This morning when I woke up, I heard the water spraying in my yard. YEHAW!! What a time saver this is going to be. Thank you Tippetts for a great birthday gift!!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Go Fred!!

We are breathing a SIGH of relief. Cindy's dad, who was hospitlized last week with a mysterious fever, came home yesterday. He is happy to be home and completely confident that he will be on the ship next Monday when we head out on our cruise to Alaska. Go Fred! We knew you could do it!!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Yesterday, my dear friend Carol took me to the pet store after treating me to lunch at Diamondback for my birthday. I've had a one gallon fish tank sitting empty beside my desk since last November. The tank belonged to Ashley. I set it on an old fashioned telephone stand atop a crocheted table cover and imagined watching a fish in shimmery motion when I took pause in my writing-- a fluid meditation in honor of Ashley.

For months the tank sat with only the pump mechanism coiled inside. Carol who loves her own fish dearly agreed to take me fish shopping. She has a great relationship with the owner of the pet store and assured me that Michelle could help me choose the right fish and tell me everything I needed to know about caring for it. Finally after considerable delay, we made a date to shop after a birthday lunch.

Pictured below is Token--my lovely betta in his tiny triangular tank. He's everything I imagined and more. He swims languidly in circles-- round and round. He pulls his feathery fins in close and then lets them float wide in a delicious flutter. Sometimes when I turn to look, the tank appears empty until I spot one black eye peeking from beneath the lotus petals. I watch and wait. Slowly he glides into into full view and spreads his red-blue fins.

It's a simple pleasure, that's for sure.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Birthday Weekend

We are back from our 10 days of self-indulgence and deep relaxation and starting a weekend filled with birthday celebrations. Saturday we will honor five birthdays in my family and Sunday we go to Mariposa to acknowledge May birthdays in Cindy's family. We spent our first two days home working on gifts and cards and cake baking.

Today we celebrate these people:

Anna Mae (4-25) JL's oldest daughter had strep throat on her real birthday and missed the family trip to Great America, but she's recovered now and awaiting apple pie and ice cream as her birthday "cake" today. Mae and I enjoy a special connection and can talk on the phone almost as long as her mother and I can, rarely running out of things to discuss.

Nell (5-7) Culley's daughter turned 4 and had a little girl party on her real birthday. She gave Cindy and me a complete rundown of the party and sleep-over when we picked her up from school yesterday, complete with full-on hand gestures and facial expression the told much of the story.

Patricia/Dearma (5-10) turns 61 tomorrow and her birthday gift was an incredible Mexico vacation.

Sandy (5-9) is Raymond's niece who recently migrated west with her partner John and is dearly beloved by every single grandchild and envied by me for her nomadic life, living in an RV and securing wonderful positions as camp host at local parks.

John (5-18) My little brother is turning 60 this year and he hasn't had a birthday party in 20+ years according to him.

Sunday in Mariposa we celebrate:

Sandie (5-1) Cindy's sister shares a birth month with me and our similar Taurus behaviors are often critiqued by Cindy and her Mom--in a word we are both bullheaded :)

Sabrina (5-18) Sandie's daughter and Cindy's neice, the baby of her family who excells as softball pitcher and wry humorist. This kid's wit is exceptional.

Michelle (5-18) Cindy's niece who has a tendency to screw up a lot but who has a lovable and endearing nature that makes her always huggable.

Cheryl (5-30) Married to Cindy's nephew Tommy, she is a fierce survivor who mothers her beautiful daughters with equally fierce love.

Jimmy (5-21) Cindy's brother who we are not celebrating because he is Jehovah's Wintess but who nevertheless was born in May :)

And of course we are celebrating MOTHERS on Sunday. Bless them all!

Looking forward to visiting my mom at Carter's Cemetery either today or Monday! Wonder what she would think of her hugely burgeoning family?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Our Mexico Vacation- Part 4

Today is our last day under the influence of pueblo magico!

Yesterday was our biggest adventure yet as we headed out on the road to La Paz, a road under construction and pretty messy. The last 20+ km turn into a sweet four lane highway, a taste of something to come, but the section right out of Todos Santos is challenging right now to say the least.

The trip was worth it though. We chose to go to Playa Pichilingua, a beach north of La Paz on the Sea of Cortez. We got a late start and only had a couple of hours to play in the water because we planned to get back before nightfall. One reason for the late start was a quick lunch stop where Cindy had not one but two disappointing grilled cheese sandwich orders (she gave the first to me).

But our trip to the beach was wonderful! We accidentally parked ourselves on the family beach as opposed to the turista beach, but it was perfect. Little kids played in the water all around us and the boys rolled gleefully in the sand until they were covered in grit (ick) and then raced to the water. A cluster of little girls giggled as Cindy VERY slowly entered the water loudly exclaiming Ay yi yi! Chihauhau! over and over! After enjoying the water, we spent about 10 minutes in the hot sun but mostly sat beneath our umbrella listening to our audio-books and watching the families at play.

After several hours, Cindy was craving a dessert. She'd made friends with the guy at the nearby restaurant (How does she do it? Talk to people when she knows only a couple words of Spanish!) She ordered fresa y creme after I had talked her into flan which was on the menu but upon ordering not available. "Nothing can go wrong with that, right?" she asked. Well, actually YES! The fresas were frozen and the creme was clotted rather than whipped. Another sad moment in Cindy's food adventures in Mexico.

When we left the beach, we drove past what Cindy thought was a small market selling tee-shirts. She pulled over and trotted down to see if they had one she liked. It turned out the shirts were some guy's laundry drying. He was willing to sell her a shirt which would have made a unique souvenir, but she declined and retreated red-faced. This gal keeps me forever amused!

It wasn't long before I was laughing again as Highway 11 dumped us onto a flashy waterfront road in La Paz. First, Cindy spotted a Thrifty drugstore advertising ice cream and then APPLEBEES. Her dessert woes were over! We made our way into Applebees crusted with salt and sand (Everyone else was clearly dressed for dinner). Cindy ordered the Triple Chocolate Lava Cake--her favorite.

Meanwhile, I asked the waitperson to help me read the map. He brought two spoons and I helped Cindy eat her dessert, and we were soon on our way again. The young man's directions were good to a point, but there are almost no signs to help travelers in Mexico, and we missed the 2nd jog to Highway 1. Stopping for dessert and getting lost meant there was no way we would get home before dark, especially since we were still in need of gas. At the gas station, the attendant pointed out that we had no gas cap. He sold us one for 50 pesos and told me that the turn off to Todos Santos was 22 KM ahead.

OK, so my anxiety was high especially since I always drive at night because of Cindy's horrible night vision. She, however, is the authorized driver of the rental car, so we put all our efforts into team work to make it across the rugged road construction area in the dark: her hands on the wheel and my eyes on the road.

We made it home to our DARK house where I was dispatched to enter, turn on ALL the lights, and conduct a quick bug sighting. Sure enough there was big spider crawling across the great room. I put a dust pan in his path and he conveniently crawled right on so I could take him outdoors.

That was our big adventure in Mexico~

Pictured below:
PH blogging at D'licias;
The half built house on the lot next to C&A's. We learned that taxes are lower if there is building on a lot EVEN if it is not finished which is why there are so many partially constructed places;
CD under an umbrella on the gorgeous Playa Pichilingua;
CD at Applebees;
This morning's sunrise over Sierra de la Laguna (no Bonnie, Cindy was not up to witness this rising).

Tomorrow we begin our journey back to Tuolumne County.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Our Mexico Vacation- Part 3b

On Saturday, we took an excursion: shopping and visiting beaches and eating out. I'd read about a little shop called Traditions in El Calendario that specialized in folk art. It was hard to keep a lid on spending in this shop as there were so many intriguing pieces.

Eating out with Cindy is always a challenge, but in Mexico it is absolutely hilarious. She boldly asks for what she wants and often gets something at least close, though not always. For lunch on Saturday, she thought she was ordering taquitos when in fact she ordered fajitas. The expression on her face when the food arrived was priceless.

After lunch, we headed out of town the "back way," traveling bumpy dirt roads for several miles to Point Lobos, the fishing beach. Boats were pulled up all along the beach, many harboring dogs in the shade of their bows. There were thousands of pelicans and seagulls resting on the boats and in the sand. Some of the pelicans buried their heads in red boxes filled with refuse from cleaning fish. The beach was strewn with fish heads and spines and various pieces of entrails. Aquamarine waves rolled on the white sand. A peach and turquoise shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe perched on the rocks above a freshwater lagoon. Sightseeing in Mexico is always rich with contrast.

Our next stop was the surfer beach. We parked beside a slew of SUVs and walked out toward the water where we spread our towels and donned headphones to listen to our audiobooks. It was windy and cool, but we nevertheless were not to be fooled into complacence, and thus smeared on the sunscreen. Good thing, judging by the patch on my shoulder that apparently missed being slathered and so turned crimson after only an hour. We covered up with towels and watched the surfers before going to the outdoor restaurant for a snack.

Cindy wanted dessert! I kept it simple and order fries and a beer. (I've had 3 beers since arriving in Mexico and though I have yet to finish one, the first few slugs are coldly delicious--especially with the squeeze of lime.) Cindy spent a while talking with the wait person and a few others as she tried to figure out what desserts were available. Did I mention how her relationship to food is truly hilarious outside of the United States. She eventually order something called Milk Cake, which she did not like at all but which gave us a good laugh.

It was a great day, topped off by yet another magenta-hued sunset.

This morning, I went to Dharma talk. When Cindy met me at the gate outside La Arca, the cultural center where the talk was held, she gestured to my fellow meditators and said, "These look like your kind of people!" Yep, I fit right in at this gathering.

On the patio of the cultural center there was a tiny street fair with articles for sale by a women's cooperative. Oops need to keep a check on the pocketbook when there are so many wonderful handicrafts to buy.

Sunday afternoon was spent at D'licia's, where we shared a cinnamon roll and then "The Kiss" special: scrambled eggs, mango french toast, and fresh fruit. At last a dish Cindy could truly enjoy. After checking email and blogging, what's next?

Probably a nap and then the sunset!

Our Mexico Vacation -Part 3a

I'm dividing Part 3 into two parts: Part 3a pictures the events of a typical day. The sunset is always the most wondrous part of the day. In the photos below you will see a sunset, a side view of the house (look carefully and you will see Cindy waving from the roof), the ladder to the roof that I won't climb, AND the wolf spider who visited our kitchen.

The spider was the most eventful part of the day. Cindy spied it when she came in from the veranda where pale geckos were scurrying about the roof which prompted her to look up as she entered the house. There in the corner above the fridge was one gigantic wolf spider. It was late and there was nothing to do but retreat upstairs. In the morning when I came down, he was still in the same spot. I made my tea at the opposite end of the kitchen and took it outside where I did my journal writing.

When Cindy came down, she called Don who had already debugged our vacation when he entered the bodega to retrieve the TV. There were several TROPICAL roaches in there, and Cindy wasn't about to go in and help me move it into the house, so we called Don, the property manager. When we called him about the wolf spider, he graciously came right over and "exterminated." Cindy watched (to make sure wolf was dead and gone), while I retreated to the fruit tree corner of the yard so I could pretend I had nothing to do with this sentient being's death.

Afterward, we exchanged stories about wasps, tarantulas, daddy long legs, whip snakes, and rattlers we have encountered. Don is apparently the neighborhood exterminator, frequently called upon by homeowners invaded by creepy crawlers. We sure breathed a sigh of relief once the spider no longer sat in the corner of the kitchen.

Then we packed up to go to the beach: See Part 3b.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Our Mexico Vacation- Part 2

We are settling into a vacation routine, not unlike our weekend routine at home: I get up early, we spend the middle of the day and early evening together, and Cindy stays up late. The notable difference is what we do during our solitary time since we don't have Internet at the house. I get up and sip tea, write in my journal and read poetry, then do yoga. Cindy spends her late evening working on a book she's been thinking about for months or out on the upper patio (bocana) listening to her audiobook in her white fleece jacket under the stars.

Mid-day is LAZY! We stroll in the neighborhood, do a little housekeeping, sun bathe, nap, and read. We went shopping down town for a while once and have walked to the mini-Mercado for milk. Every evening, we watch the sunset. I'm afraid to climb the ladder to the roof, so Cindy took pictures for me, while I watched from the second story. Yesterday, we drove to the beach for the sunset.

In the evening, we play games (I beat Cindy at Scrabble) or watch a movie on DVD. We are enjoying the true meaning of vacation: to vacate our previously over-full life in exchange for easygoing living.

Pictured below:
Cindy teasing waves.
Patricia attempting a self-timed picture on the beach when the camera fell and she lunged to stay in view;
My favorite view of the house with the bougainvillea growing over the arches of the patio;
The road in front of the house from the roof (must climb that ladder).