Neighborhood Watch

We are apparently part of a neighborhood watch program here. Okay, it's most family watching family maybe...

We've jokingly compared our antics to those of my folks (and probably many others out there). Both of our computers sit side-by-side in front of windows that face the street. That affords us the opportunity to notice comings and goings of people and notice cars we're not familiar with--Things like that. We also mumble things that old people do. You know, things like, "Those boys are going to get into trouble riding them durn mini bikes back and forth like that." Those kind of comments are usually followed by a click of the tongue or shake of the head.

The same sort of thing happens when we go by Denny's house on the way here. They live 5 doors down on the other side of the street as I've said before. If they go by our house (they sometimes loop around from the other direction on purpose) they toot their horn. If we go by their house we toot our horn. It's just a little something we do.

Saturday we were out shopping for things, and one of the things we bought was a new dorm fridge for Sarah. It was in the back seat of my car and easily visible sitting there behind me. As we do so regularly, we tooted the horn as we drove by the kids' house, saying 'hi' and letting them know we're back home. We're home for just a couple minutes and had just opened a beer and sat down when Suzie gets a text message from Denny:

"What's in the box?"

We cracked up. You just don't expect that level of observant, you know? After exchanging a few text messages back and forth but still offering nothing of an answer, curiousity ate away at them and they sent Denny up to see what it was. Just for fun Suzie went out and threw a big blanket over it while it sat in the car. I think he felt a little disappointed when he found out it was nothing exciting.

It was a good weekend to get stuff done. The weather was decent (albeit a little on the muggy side) and we got things done that we needed to do. The pile of wood that we bought with our wood stove last Monday is finally all stacked behind the garage (a lot of wood!), the radiator I bought for Suzie's car a few weeks ago is finally installed, and we replaced some house cabling and a splitter that was causing our internet to come and go.

We also are on track to getting our wood stove installation underway. We've decided on "slate look" ceramic tiles for a base to put our wood stove on, and Suz is going to pick them out today. We need to get that installed so we can sit around all winter in our underwear fanning ourselves!

R.I.P. Pokey

Suzie and I were having an evening of hashing out differences last night. We still struggle occasionally with offending each other by use and non-use of possessions--Favoritism and things like that. Anyway, we had just reached a good point of understanding after a couple hours of talking about things when this text message came in from Sarah:

"Pokey just had a heart attack and died"

I stared at my cell phone in disbelief. Not even an hour earlier Sarah and I were talking on the phone about her upcoming transition into college life and things we were going to to this weekend.

"What!?" I shouted at the phone. Suzie was sitting next to me and asked what it was about. After telling her, we both were numb with disbelief.

Pokey was a special dog. Pokey was a weird dog. But most of all, Pokey was someone's dog.

Teresa came home with Pokey as a little puppy only a year and a helf ago from one of her annual trips over to visit her friend, Karen, on the other side of Washington. Yes, Pokey was very, very young. Karen can be very persuasive, and when you couple that with the fact that Teresa can be easily swayed, she might come back with anything. Several years ago she came home with Cream, a kittycat they still have. I might add that neither of these animals were "first choice" picks. Cream was always a little more "stand-offish" than most cats, and also tended to pee on things. I figure that one of her parents was probably a feral farm cat. Anyway, Pokey was odd from the start. There was just something about her that seemed "not quite right" to me. Sarah was less than impressed with her mother's choice of a dog too, and tended to make less than favorable comments about how stupid she was or whatever. That was in the early days. Sarah and Teresa both grew to love that dog, and I also went straight for the dog whenever I stopped in for a visit.

Pokey took over their house as many dogs do. Hair, toys, and all type of things dog related were strewn about. Pokey loved tossing floppy toys into the air and catching them. She wasn't a "ball" dog--She liked things that had swing and sway to them. She was perfectly happy entertaining herself if she had to. They told me once about going to a dog class with her, and she spent the whole time playing with a toy that was given to the dog owners--Oblivious of everything else around her. The other dogs sat and watched her tossing the toy into the air and catching it all by herself.

One day when Pokey was only half grown she broke one of her front legs. Apparently she was tied up in the back yard and was near the fence where the next door neighbors also dogs-Two big, burly ones. Near as they can tell, even though the fence is solid, they did something against the fence that scared her, and in her haste or movements, she self-inflicted a spiral fracture or something on herself. Teresa apparently paid a lot of money to have her leg fixed, but her walk was never the same. From that day on she had a sort of "hopping" limp whenever she ran or played. We thought it odd at that time that a dog could break a leg so easily, but dismissed it.

One day last summer I visited Sarah and she was out back with Pokey. She was having the time of her life chasing bubbles that Sarah was blowing. She could have easily done it all day long (click to see them full size)

Last night Teresa and her friend, Noelle, took their dogs for a 4-mile walk as they had done so many times before. It wasn't a run for the dogs--It was a walk for the ladies. It was what they liked to do, and gave them exercise, a time to socialize, and also afforded their dogs a time to get out and get the same. When they got back to Noelle's house, Teresa said Pokey got a "second wind" and started jumping and running around, then all of a sudden had a seizure and folded up and died on the spot. When we think back, it's apparent that she had some sort of developmental issues with her body. It's like she grew too fast or something.

Sue and I went down there right after getting the message to give them support and talk with them about it all. Noelle's husband Kurt was just finishing up the burial when we arrived. It was a sad, sad evening.

Although it's very hard on both Sarah and Teresa, it came at a bad time for Teresa especially because Sarah will be away at college starting next week.

We're all animal lovers, and were (and are still) devastated. Rest in peace, Pokey.

"Where's Your Blog?"

Those were words that Suzie uttered last night. She was surprised that I hadn't blogged the camping events of last weekend. She's right--I should have blogged it but for various reasons I apparently did not. Sometimes time just gets away from you, you know?

I have been hearing about Lily Lake for what seems like years. Actually, it probably has been years. I'm sure I heard about it from her way back when--Back when I was just "another employee" at LaCroix Industries and we liked to share little blurbs of our weekends when we had a chance in passing. Yes, I have heard about Lily Lake countless times. I guess for that reason I was not overjoyed to go. With me, if everyone goes one way, I tend to go another just to be different. It's hard to explain, but that's me. At any rate, back to Lily Lake. As I mentioned in my little comment on Suzie's blog, it lived up to the hype. It was an amazing place!

It was a pleasant trip over on Friday after work. I rode over with her son Denny, his wife Heather, and her brother T.J. in their rig. Everyone else had already gone the previous day so we were last to show up. We had to park several miles from the actual camp area because of a steel gate across the road, but one of Denny's quads was already there, locked in his trailer behind Rachyl's Chevy Tahoe. After getting that out, he ferried us and our gear to the camp area with a few back and forth trips.

What greeted me wasn't quite as I pictured it, but it was close. I knew it was an island in the lake that we were camping on, but I guess I didn't understand that it was close enough that you could walk over on a partially submerged log. While the people used the log to walk over, the cargo was ferried over using inflatable boats dragged alongside the "walking log".

Okay, my first impression of the place didn't totally overwhelm me, but I most definitely did like it. I guess I was just thinking about how much trouble it was to actually get us and everything to the place. I guess I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I was also a little put off by Suzie a little on Friday night after I got there. She has always been the leader and organizer of her family (and has done a stellar job at it!), but she was still in that mode. I was seeing a stern-faced Suzie--Giving orders and instructions to everyone whether she realized she was doing it or not. She didn't look happy, she looked busy. The thing is, she didn't need to be that busy--All her kids are grown and (mostly) able to think for themselves. I perceived a self-imposed leadership role instead of a relaxed, happy wife that was enjoying her surroundings. That was only on Friday night. We've discussed it since then and decided that the beer and sun of the day (she got there Thursday night) had most likely contributed to her demeanor.

What greeted me the next morning was what really made that place magical. The sun peeking over the treetops, creating little wisps of rolling fog on the lake surface was truly beautiful. I was surprised that in the morning everyone congregated around the campfire where it was about 55 degrees instead of going 30 feet away to a sunny spot on the edge of the island where it was more like 70. Because it was warm and beautiful there and that's where I chose to drink my morning coffee each of the mornings we were there. I wish I had a better one, but here's a picture of the view I enjoyed each morning (click for full size):

I thought it was funny how cold it was over by the fire because of the shadows, but yet, that's where everyone chose to sit. I guess it's something about having a fire.

We did all our "bathroom duties" on the mainland, walking across the logs on the opposite side of the island from the side we arrived from. If you looked at the island from above, it would probably look like a stencil of the letter "O" because the island was joined to the mainland on opposite sides by anchored logs that we walked on to get across. There were no biting insects anywhere on that island. We occasionally experienced one on the mainland, but even those were few. There were lots of dragonflies and damsel flies everywhere though (maybe they kept the "biters" down?) and I spent a lot of time trying to capture good shots of them. The weather was fantastic and we got plenty of enjoyment from swimming and floating in the lake.

The only downside? Dust. It wasn't that there was that much dust--It's just that all the dirt that showed anywhere was of the fine, powdered variety that kicked up when you walked on it. It was funny to see the little kids actually taking "dust baths" in it. Those boys were a mess!

Looking back at it, I would say that it was a very good camping trip. I was really enjoying the place and all it had to offer, and I'll look forward to next time. Hopefully the road will be open and we'll be able to actually drive to the area instead of doing quad caravans with heaped cargo.

Looking Forward

Well, I've been a lot more upbeat since my last blog post. 'Course, that's not saying much--My last blog post was pretty dark.

It seems that right after I made the last post I discovered that I was getting sick with a cold. Sue and I both wondered how much that may have played into the way I was feeling. I just ended up getting a minor cold and I'm almost back up to snuff already. What's weird is that since the actual physical symptoms have manifested themselves I've been in a pretty good frame of mind.

I spent a little time off and on working a little extra into my photography page of my website since this weekend. The casual observer wouldn't notice much of a change (if any) but I spent some time doing a little thing about my photography beginnings. It was kinda fun because I got to do some digging to find out what I could about my first digital camera back in the early 90's.

Sarah is in the throes of splitting hers and her boyfriends' lives up. Not for good, but they are going to different colleges, so it's going to be pretty weird for them. She will be in Tacoma at PLU and he is going to the other side of the state, to WSU at Pullman. She has expressed an interest in going on another hike with me and Suzie too--Most likely for photography reasons. She mentioned an interesting thing to us last week about doing a photography "project" where we go out and search and photograph things that look like the letters of the alphabet. You know--Things you see, like shapes, lines, outlines, etc. No fair using actual letters. We haven't decided on whether or not to do it yet because it would be more of a long-term thing. There's no way a person will be able to go out on one photo junket and find something to represent all 26 letters of the alphabet. I predict that it will not happen anytime soon anyway because she will be starting school soon and her time will be well filled with other things. Sue and I are interested in the idea though, and thanks to Sarah for planting the seed. Time will tell.

I'm sitting here all alone in our house, and I'll sleep here alone tonight for the first time. Suz and half of her family members went camping today, and the rest of us (some of us had less flexible work schedules) will go up tomorrow. She has been touting this place for a long, long time and she is very excited to be able to go back again. My enthusiasm is less than hers though because the history is with her and her family. They had the special times and the memories. They and Lily Lake have history. Now granted--I'm sure this will be a good camping place--But for me it will probably just be a good camping place. I have been trying to "mute" it a little in my mind when she starts telling me a good anecdote of one of their previous visits. I have kind a of a little "rule" I use for such things that are highly touted, and I'm sure I've mentioned it in at least one blog post somewhere in my past. I was referring to garage sales, but it applies to a lot of things. The rule? "The flashier the sign, or the more abundant the signs, the worse the sale is." I don't want to get my hopes up... I want to just be able to form my own opinions and things. I guess it's just my skeptical nature. All I know is that I am going with an open mind and fully intend to have a great time. I like camping and it's been a long time since I've been last. I truly hope I love the place as much as they all do!

The Renaissance Faire!

I had never been to an event like this, and neither had Sarah or her boyfriend, Sopha. While I had a good idea what it was about (having seen many of Suzie's pictures from past events), neither Sarah or Sopha had a clue. We could both tell when they showed up Saturday morning that they really didn't know how far to dress for it. That soon changed when they got to dig around through Sue's bags and boxes of goodies. "It's all about accessorizing!" Suzie said, handing out some choice items for them to wear. It was plain that Sopha was feeling a lot better about things when he donned a nice hat and dagger that complimented his look.

When we were in the car and on our way, I asked if anyone had eaten yet. Everyone shook their heads. "Okay, I'm buying us breakfast." I announced.
"Are we going through a drive-through?" Sarah asked, obviously hoping.
"No way!" I said, "We're going to parade through the restaurant. After spending this much time and effort to dress up, we want everyone to see us!"
Our restaurant of choice was Denny's, and I'm sure we caused a few remarks among the patrons. What better way to enhance someone's mundane meal?

The Faire was very busy. Maybe because it was a cloudy and cool day (especially for August) or maybe it was the location, but whatever the reason it was quite a turnout. I can't really say that I have ever seen such a myriad of people decked out in such interesting ways. Knights, ladies, kings, peasants, pirates, minstrels--You name it. There were even people dressed as mythical creatures like dragons and centaurs. There were people playing music, and actors putting on shows. There were places where attendees could try their hand at fencing, battling, or archery. There were places where you could buy any manner of weaponry from the era, get your armor tuned and adjusted, and tons of places with clothing and accessories. Popular eats included things like turkey legs, corn-on-the-cob, and pickles. There were other things, but these foods I mentioned were the ones you kept seeing people carrying around. After all, what better thing to be chowing down on when you're dressed in armor than a charred turkey leg?

Every event like this has a beer garden, and this was no exception, but theirs was different. While both of the beer gardens (one at each end) at the event did have plenty of beer, that was not their main seller. Mead was the beverage of choice that everybody was quaffing. That's pretty good stuff!

We ran into Scott (from my work) and his wife there, but neither of them were dressed up. Apparently, they live just a little ways from the event and just had to check it out. They were both enjoying themselves in the Mead Garden.

We met up with Sarah and Sopha over and over, but it was apparent that nobody was in any hurry to leave. We were there for a few hours I think. Sarah was having a good time with her camera too. When we all met up for the horse riding show, it was Sarah that took the awesome pictures. She was the only one of us with the long lens, and she took some awesome shots of them riding, juggling, and tumbling around the ring of hay bales.

When it was all over, we were all in agreement that it was a great event. You can always tell when nobody wants to leave. The funny thing about this event is that it's not the wares or events that make it unique--It's the people attending. We walked around and around that place for hours and always saw new people and things. It was a hoot! I highly recommend it, and in fact, I'm going to recommend that my parents attend next weekend if they can. They were both dressed up so great at our wedding that they should indeed make use of their excellent costumes and take in the event.

Be sure to click our pictures link over on the right to see all the great shot we took!

This weekend wasn't only about the Renaissance Faire though. It actually started out with dinner and a concert Friday night. We stopped in at Olive Garden for an excellent meal (one of our wedding gifts!) before continuing on to the show. We saw Los Lonely Boys at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma. While the casino itself was nothing to write home about, the show was very good. The three brothers that make up the band are very talented and very much "in tune" with each other. Not only did they play a good concert, they entertained as well. They also included a guest during one song: Lee Oskar, the harmonica player from War. Remember The World is a Ghetto and Lowrider (to name a few)?

It was quite a weekend... Yes indeedy.

"Turn on the Heat--It's August!"

That's what I told Suzie last night while we were sitting here at our computers. It was getting chilly and I felt like wrapping myself in something. It was just weird to sit here last night at about 7pm or so and think to myself, "Hmm... I'm kinda cold." The next thought that followed a millisecond later was, "Hey wait a minute--It's August!" According to the weather report I just read a couple hours ago, we're looking at mid-60's and such for the whole next week! Jeez... It wouldn't be that big of a deal if it wasn't for two things:
  1. We just came off of a record-breaking heat wave
  2. It's August
When I say record-breaking weather, I'm not just shouting generic ramble--We in the Pacific Northwest really did shatter some records last week. Here in our part of Auburn Suzie recorded 108° one day! I know that doesn't mean a lot to anyone that may be reading this in other parts of the country, but here we pride ourselves on our temperate climate.

In other news, Sarah learned a little about sharp edges on cans of food when she had to go to the emergency room to have 4 stitches to hold the end of her finger on. Apparently, she cut the top open on a can of chili, but the opener left two uncut spots. She decided that a spoon would probably get the job done if she pried hard enough at it. Wrong...

Suzie is just now getting back on her feet after a gall bladder cleansing regimen (more about that on her blog) and just in time, because tomorrow we're going to a concert. One of our many casinos here in the state of Washington is the Emerald Queen Casino, and it's one of those that I always make fun of as far as concerts go. It's where the acts "of yesterday" go to prove they're not dead yet. Well, we're going to see Los Lonely Boys there. I've never been there before, so I hope it's good. Personally, I didn't think Los Lonely Boys were close to death. Most of what plays there are bands from the 80's, like Foreigner, Pat Benatar--That sort of thing.

We're planning a visit to our local Renaissance Faire this Saturday. Sarah and her boyfriend are both going too. None of us have ever been to one before, so we're counting on Suzie to be our tour guide. It sounds like fun. Sarah is pretty excited about going, and she is planning to take her new camera with her too of course. I'm glad she is having fun with it.

I managed to get my iPod "restored" back to it's normal self today. You know that old adage: If it ain't broke, don't fix it? Well, I "fixed" it a while back and it's suffered ever since. What I did was upgraded it to the next (caution: geekspeak alert!) firmware version. Normally that's a good thing, but this one was a major upgrade so it was a "pay" upgrade. Anyone that knows me knows that paying for stuff like that just isn't my style. I "found" a copy of the upgrade and ran it. Sure, it did the upgrade all right, but some aspects of it suffered horribly--Most notably the wifi. I finally figured out the way to "flash" it back to the previous firmware and now it seems to be resting comfortably after its ordeal. Think that taught me anything?


Camera (and) Bugs

Last weekend I received a text message from Sarah that I found interesting. She asked me if I would consider letting her use my camera. While I'm not keen on lending something like that to someone that really had no clue as to how to use it, I was intrigued at the notion that she was interested in it. Suzie and I were already starting our trip around the peninsula at that time though, so I couldn't have lent it to her anyway. Apparently, she and one of her friends had recently had some fun experience with a similar camera somewhere taking pictures of things in tide pools with the long zoom lens and her creative nature had been tickled.

But it got me to thinking--I still hadn't figured out what to get her for a graduation present. Could this be it? The more I thought about it, the more I decided that it could be exactly what I was looking for. After all, she is very creative and a superb artist, so adding photography to that sort of brain activity seemed like a perfect fit.

After discussing it with Suzie I went on the offensive--Perusing Ebay, Craigslist, and anywhere online that I might find a deal. After much looking, I found the perfect setup for only $415. It was the same exact model of Canon that I have (the 350D or XT as it's also known), and came with the 75-300 zoom in addition to the standard lens. Also included were extras like an additional battery and a few nice filters. It was owned by someone that kept very good care of it, and it was in a lot better condition than mine. It also included all the paperwork, manuals, and computer cable even. It was a great deal! The only thing missing was a bag to put it in, and Suzie had graciously decided to give up her beautiful camera case. She said she had been wanting a different one. "Besides," she said, "it matches Sarah's laptop bag!"

I bought it on Ebay using a Buy it Now option, but it was actually a local seller up here in Friday Harbor. It showed up at work Friday just as I was leaving. Perfect! After going over all of the goodies with Suz when I got home, we pondered how and when to present it to Sarah. We decided to ask her if she wanted to go hiking with us. She had signed up to go on a hike this fall with other college newbies from PLU as a sort of welcoming activity, so I figured she'd like to maybe get herself reacquainted with hiking. None of us are real hikers after all, so a refresher is always good. We decided to hike to Sheep Lake right up next to Mount Rainier. Sue and I had gone there last year, it was pretty good and afforded lots of photo ops. When I asked Sarah Friday if she wanted to go with us on Saturday morning, she said yes.

Saturday got off to a slow start which was good. Enjoying my coffee au naturale in the morning sun of my "new" backyard is killer! It's such a garden setting. As a matter of fact, I'll probably head out there again shortly to enjoy this morning the same way. Anyway, back to yesterday: Steve came over mid morning and visited for a while. He had come to buy Moana. Yes, she now has a new owner. It was only right--I no longer had an empty foyer/entryway to put her in anyway. Steve has been after her for a long time. "You ready to sell her yet?"

When Sarah came over it was almost lunchtime and getting to be a pretty warm day. She was clearly surprised when we presented the camera outfit to her. Probably also quite overwhelmed. We were both hurling camera and photography jargon at her at a rapid pace.

She didn't fiddle with it much during the 1.5 hour ride to the top of Chinook Pass that I noticed. When we got to the destination and actually started hiking she was still slow to get going. Unfortunately, we had picked a very warm day, and it was also very buggy. Honestly, we were all so sick of being bitten and were so tired of swatting deer flies and mosquitoes that none of us were having a very good time on the way up. Add to that the fact that I'm out of shape and carrying a heavy pack (it was mostly the water in it), and it was not a very fun hike in. I kept having to stop and catch my breath, and when I did I just got bothered to death by bugs.

When we got to the end and were all enjoying the Sheep Lake setting before us, Sarah started to get into it. She was busily taking pictures of flowers, jay birds, and everything else. Our hike out was much better than it was the other way because it was downhill and cooler by then. We made another stop down the road a little ways for more photos, and that's where I heard the phrase that was music to my ears. After just arriving, we were still sitting in the car waiting for Suzie to come out of the bathroom when Sarah said, "I've been wanting a camera like this for a long time."

That made my day! I didn't tell Sue she had said that until later last night when Sarah left, but she was also very glad. After all, we both love taking pictures and it's very cool when we can share the love of it with someone else.

We shared our ritual with her after we got home too. Downloading all our pictures onto our computers and playing show and tell. Naturally we started with Sarah's pictures. She got to see how we "oooh and ahh" over the great ones, "eww, that sucks" over the really bad ones, and ponder how others could have really popped if this or that was different, or how if this or that was cropped out how much better it would be. Basically, we critique and praise our pictures every time we get home from a photo outing. It's our favorite thing.

The bottom line: Sarah took some really interesting shots. While she didn't take nearly as many as Suzie and I did, she is clearly on a good path to a fun hobby. She also mentioned when we were coming home that there was still a bunch of photography books in the basement on their bookshelf. I explained that those were all mine and that I had learned a lot about photography by perusing them. It's clear that we chose the right gift.

She loved it.