Monday, November 24, 2008

Life in LA LA land, my pictoral version of the trip

I arrived in LA in the early afternoon of Nov. 15 after flying in from St. Louis via Phoenix. Tired but happy and thrilled to see my friend Laura, I agreed to a little sight seeing before heading to her condo in Tarzana.

Venice Beach is a place I've heard of for years but never seen before. Wow!
All I can say is it exceeded my expectations! Below is a typical view of the street scene.

We happened onto an acrobatic troop getting ready to do their thing. We watched the program and it was worth taking the time. These guys are good! (Not to mention all the rippling muscles and washboard abs!)

The movie "Big" has long been one of my favorites, so I couldn't resist posing with a genuine "Zoltar" fortune telling machine!

We had a late lunch at a restaurant in Venice Beach, and then headed for home. And yes, I was as tired as I looked next to Zoltar.

The next morning we headed off to Laura's favorite Farmer's Market. Let me tell you, if I had access to this sort of place year around, I think I'd end up becoming a vegetarian! The fruits and veggies all looked so great I wanted to buy some of everything!

But I settled for some fresh raspberries and a bouquet of flowers, while Laura shopped for the rest of our fruits and veggies for the next few days.

Although the smoke and soot from the fires in the hills was a little aggrevating outdoors, we headed out for the Reagan Presidential Library in the Simi Valley. When they say watch out for rattlesnakes, they mean business!

The Simi Valley was a place beloved by President Reagan, and I can see why. The rolling hills, even in the brown shades of fall, are beautiful, if treacherous during fire season. This view looks out over the valley, and you can see not only a plume of smoke from a distant fire in the hills beyond, but a white cross on a nearer hill. The mountaintop crosses are a fairly common sight in Southern California.

This statue of the President is in front of the main entrance to the library. He is depicted in ranch dress, complete with cowboy hat in his hand, a natural look for this president, who was truly at home on his ranch and on a horse.

Another highlight at the library is Air Force One, the plane President Reagan used while in office. After the plane was retired from government service several years ago, it was brought to the library and retrofitted to appear inside as it did when President Reagan was in office, complete with multiple jars of Jelly Bellys. It was interesting to walk around inside the plane. A photographer was on hand to take the classic shots of everyone waving from the top of the airplane steps. Laura and I posed, and looked forward to adding that photo to our blogs. The photo was on a DVD with some other pictures and Air Force One info, and cost $22. I bought it, but when we got back to the condo we were very disappointed to find that the entire disk was locked and we were not able to download our photo to put it on the blog. So, future visitors to the Reagan Library, beware if you plan to get your doorway photo of Air Force One on the DVD--it will be viewed on the DVD and the DVD only! (We could have paid for a photo on paper as well, but we didn't realize we couldn't download the photo from the disk.) Caveat Emptor!

The pictures below are from the Getty Villa, which contains one of the two J. Paul Getty Museums in the Los Angeles Area. On my last trip to LA, Laura took us to the Getty Center Museum in Los Angeles. On this day our target was The Getty Villa in Malibu, home to an extensive collection of Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities. Mr. Getty had the museum built as a recreation of a first-century Roman country house, the Villa dei Papiri. The original Villa dei Papiri was located in Herculaneum and was buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Much of that villa remains unexcavated; therefore, the Getty Villa incorporates additional elements drawn from other ancient Roman houses.

The Getty Villa's sixty-four acre site opened to the public in 1974, and underwent a major renovation in 1997. We encountered several groups of students of all ages, many with sketch pads and clipboards for note taking. The Getty Villa is dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Rome, and Etruria.

As we wandered through the display rooms, I saw many items that evoked memories of things I learned in high school Latin class and a class in ancient mythology I had in college. I've had the good fortune to visit Rome, and hope to visit Greece in the future to see more of these beautiful antiquities.

Another tourist asked us to take a photo of his companion and him, and he reciprocated with both our cameras. This is my dear friend Laura and me with the beautiful Getty Villa grounds in the background.

I made a pit stop just before we left and when I came back out front, there was my friend Laura looking pretty wiped out. We were both ready to call it a day and head back to Topenga Canyon for shopping (we're NEVER too tired to shop!) and then to the valley for dinner.

That was the last picture on my camera. You can see many more pictures of our California Adventure on Laura's blog. (She's a much better cameraperson than I!) Just go to and find the blog section. While you're on her site, check out the beautiful jewelry, handbags, and other items, and if you are so inclined, read about her fantastic weight loss story. She is my idol!!! (No, really, Laura, you are!)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Halloween and Fall Colors

This is what the trick or treaters saw when they rang my doorbell last night! Pretty scarey, huh?
My little next door neighbor boy, age 6, did a classic double take that was hilarious! I could tell he knew it was me but he wasn't believing his eyes.

Madison approved of the costume and of the trick or treaters . He wanted to go out and kiss all of them. Most were somewhat apprehensive, since he weighs 85 pounds, which is more than a lot of them weighed!

This picture was taken by my neighbor Kathryn at her house, where after the treat or treaters were done, she and I shared a veggie pizza and some wine and watched an old video called, "Quackster Fortune Has A Cousin In Brooklyn". I'd never seen it, but since it starred Gene Wilder, I figured it would be good and it was. Kathryn described it as "charming", and indeed, that is an excellent description.

Kathryn has a French bulldog, "The Empress Josephine" (Josie for short) who adores Madison and follows him around like a little sister. He tolerates her jumping all over him, and loves to go walking with her. and have her visit him or go visit her at her home across the street.
This is my big boy. He and I both need to eat less and exercise more.

This is her ladyship, The Empress Josephine, aka "Josie".
What a little cutie pie!

And this is Madison and Josie, aka Mr. Mutt and Miss Jeff, playing in my backyard earlier this fall. He's so gentle with her it's amazing. To hear them carry on, you'd think there was a major dogfight in progress, but it's all play, gumming and slobbering all over each other until both of them have wet faces and ears.

Today my friend L in southern California reminded me that not every place in the country enjoys the fall colors we have in the midwest. If it's a good year and we have plenty of rain in the spring and summer and then a cold snap in October, our trees turn gorgeous colors. I grew up with this, so I don't think of it as any big deal. I know people pay money to go to New England to see "the fall colors", but I have them right in my yard! This year we had a rainy spring and summer and a cool snap early in October, and this is the result:

This is the view out my front door. Most of these are maple trees, which turn various shades of yellow, red, gold and chartreuse. I read somewhere that trees don't really "change their colors" in the fall. The colors we see here are the true colors of the leaves. In spring and summer they are filled with cholorphyll for photosynthesis, giving them the characteristic green we generally associate with the leaves of most trees. In the fall when the chlorophyll goes wherever it goes (What am I, a plant biologist?), the leaves are left with their "true colors" showing. Hmmmmm. Reminds me of a song on one of Richard's videos.....

Anyway, here's another picture, this time facing north from my front doorway. These are maples too in the foreground with several types of evergreens in the background. There are lots of evergreen trees on my street, so even when the other trees have shed all their leaves, we continue to see a lot of green. Wonder why the evergreens don't lose their chlorophyll? If I get the energy, I'll look it up.
This is the view looking south from my front door. The small dark red tree is my little Japanese maple, which seems to be prospering. I have been feeding it plant food spikes in the spring and mulching it well in the fall, as you can see from the leaves raked up around the base of the tree.

The house next door to me with the pumpkins and the flag is where Hollis, my six year old neighbor lives. Hollis is the little boy who did the double take at my Halloween get up. His mother is home schooling him, his four year old brother, and later, I guess will include his 18 month old sister. The kids and their parents are good people and good neighbors.
You can see a couple of azalea bushes near the Japanese maple, and they also get a lot of mulch in the fall. Next to the foundation the leaves are protecting from frost ivy and violets and some kind of pretty purple spring/summer flower that I don't know the name of. There are also hosta further back toward the porch, and next spring I'm going to put in quite a few more hosta and some coleus. They both do well in shade, and my entire front yard and most of the back is in shade nearly all day in spring and summer. There's just a little spot of sunshine in the middle of the backyard where I put the tomato plants. BTW, I pulled the tomato plants out last week. There were only three or four green tomatos left on the vines, so I brought those in and put them in a paper bag in a cool dry place. They will ripen in a few weeks. If Buttercup was looking forward to the hanging tomato plants this fall, she will be disappointed--but she hasn't said one way or another.

Last but not least, the view to the north. You can see my garage, which is far too full of other things, primarily having to do with cats, to permit my car--my wonderful silver baby Prius--to live inside. (My Prius gets between 42-44 mpg in town and between 55-60 mpg on the highway--and I have just about sprained my arm this summer patting myself on the back for buying it two years ago.)
But as my friend L says, I digress.
My neighbor E to the north has a beautful dark red tree, but I have no idea what it is. It's not a Japanese maple, or any other tree I'm familiar with. If she were home, I'd ask her, but she's out galavanting around. She's on the go a lot. She and I belong to the same Red Hat group. Another friend invited me, and E and I were surprised to see one another at the meeting when I showed up for the first time. (One of these days I'll take my camera to a Red Hat function and prove to you that us older gals know how to have a good time!)
The street in front of my house is asphalt, and there are sidewalks on both sides all up and down the street. It's only four blocks long, and I'm smack in the middle, two blocks from one of our one way"main drags" in one direction and two blocks from an L "almost" dead end in the other. The L turns onto another asphalt residential street that eventually comes out onto another major street. Since we are nearly a cul de sac, our traffic is light, it's quiet, and we pretty much know our neighbors. It's a very eclectic street, as my friend Kathryn pointed out to me one day recently. On this little four-block street we have a Hispanic widow, two black families, a deaf man, a Chinese man, a home for the developmentally disabled, a church, and multiple families with small children as well as many retirees. I love this neighborhood and thank the day I decided to buy this house.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Trip Back in Time

In my church there is a group of (mostly) women who play recorders. We play all kinds of music, and we love to play for church services and concerts in the community. We've played for Madrigal dinners at Christmastime and we play several concerts a year in local nursing homes and assisted living centers in the area.

The recorder is an ancient instrument, predating the modern flute. Much of the music written for recorders dates from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, the Renaissance period. Several years ago the members of the group decided we would acquire period outfits to go with the Renaissance music. Yesterday we played (by invitation) at the Renaissance Fair sponsored by the Episcopal Church in Paducah, KY. Paducah is about 80 miles from Carbondale, so we left early in the morning to arrive just before 10 am.

Weather permitting, the Fair is held on the grounds of this beautiful old church. Inside the church, which is a lovely, ornate and traditional sanctuary with marvelous stained glass windows, tapes of Renaissance music played in the background. A short prayer service was held every hour on the hour for anyone who wished to attend.

This year the weather cooperated beautifully! The skies were mostly clear with just a few white wisps of clouds high overhead. The temperature started out in the 60's and by midafternoon, was in the low 80's. An occasional breeze whirled leaves around and had the bright banners and flags fluttering and snapping.

The shadowy looking fellow in the foreground was dressed as as medieval "inquisitor" type. He roamed around looking for people to "put under arrest" and eventually had one fellow in "the stocks". (I didn't even see the stocks until we were packed and ready to leave, so I didn't unpack my camera to get a shot of that, more's the pity.) When I shot this picture I didn't realize he had walked into the foreground, which is basically what he did all morning, slinking around in that creepy looking garb.
On the grounds booths and tables were set up with displays of ancient crafts, including basket making and some sort of threadwork (which my friend L would recognize immediately, but the name of which I can't recall). A magician performed for the children, and he seemed to be a big hit with the young ones. A lot of items were for sale, including home made soaps and sachets, homemade bread and cookies, jewelry, and the aforementioned baskets.

The portly gentleman making the baskets pointed out to me that they were all made of leather! I've seen many lovely wicker baskets at craft fairs, but I'd never seen any like these. I was quite taken with them and bought one for my daughter for Christmas. (Kim, if you are reading this, you still have to act surprised at Christmas.)

I didn't buy any cookies from this lady, but one of my friends did and she said they were delicious!
A lot of people were in costume, and visitors as well as performers were constantly snapping pictures.
The blue striped tent in the background was set up with games for kids. Quite a few youngsters were running about the grounds, some in costume, some not. All of them seemed to be having a terrific time.
A bagpipe player wandered through the crowd. He stopped to chat with us and told us he could only play for a few minutes at a time, since the instrument takes so much wind to play. Our group decided to alternate with him to keep the music flowing. We would play a half dozen songs or so, and then the piper would play for a few minutes. Sometimes he switched to a stringed instrument that looked a lot like a mandolin, but had a different name, one I hadn't heard before (and can't recall, of course.)
Many people stopped by to listen, take our pictures, and tell us how much they were enjoying the music. (Of course, we hate hearing stuff like that--NOT.)
There are usually 8 or 9 in our group, but only 5 of us could make it to the Fair this weekend. Below is a snap taken of our group by the huband of one of our members just as we began to play.
I am on the far right playing the soprano recorder. If you think by the time it hit 80 degrees I was roasting in that burgundy satin dress and hat, you would be right! Thank goodness for the slight breeze. And thank goodness I had braided my hair and tucked it up under the hat. When it's down it feels like a "shawl" on my neck and shoulders. I'd really have been uncomfortable with "flowing tresses."
Tables were set up near the food booth so patrons could purchase their wares and sit in the shade to eat while enjoying the music and the ambiance.
The sign above the food booth says, "Ye Olde Sausage Shoppe". They were selling bratwurst sandwiches with toppings of either kraut and apples or caramelized onions. Yum! There were two kinds of soups, butternut squash and creamed leek, and also hot or cold cider as well as coffee or soda. After playing for an hour and a half we broke for lunch and enjoyed some of the delicious food. We resumed playing after lunch and played until nearly 2 pm. It was getting pretty warm by then, and all of us were tired and ready to head back home.
The Fair is still small, but is growing every year. This was our second year to be invited to play, and we had such a great time, we're already looking forward to next year.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Florida visit, second half--finally!

Let me think...where did I leave off? We've looked at animals and the yard and grounds--did I get to the geese? I think not, so that's where I'll pick it up.

Since they've lived in Florida with a pond on the property Kim and Ron have had a number of geese and ducks, as well as the chickens. Currently, they are down to one duck, but several geese glide around on the pond looking picturesque.

There is one goose who is extremely friendly, and is aptly named, "Friendly Goose". He likes to be petted, and especially likes having his long neck stroked.

This is "Friendly Goose", coming up to me for a little "necking".

By contrast, one of his companions is somewhat aggressive and loves to nip and peck at people--hence that one is "Naughty Goose". It's interesting that "Friendly" will get between a human and "Naughty" to "protect" the human.

"Naughty" would cheerfully have pecked my ankles and knees, but "Friendly' got between us and fended him off. What a guy, er goose!

One of the fun things we did while I was in Florida was to go to the "Butterfly House", which I think is in Destin, but don't quote me on that. (My daughter can't understand why I get all the little towns down there mixed up and can't remember what is where. I tell her, wait until you're in your 60's--you'll figure it out.) Anyway, the Butterfly House is small, but very beautiful and worth a stop. This is one of my favorite pictures from there. Many of the insects are so well camouflaged that it's difficult to get a decent picture, but this one shows up well.

Here's another one, but it doesn't show up quite as well. Luckily if you stood still they would often light nearby so you could see them.

There were several children at the butterfly House when we were there, and they were entranced with the colorful insects. It was fun to watch the kids watching the butterflies!

One evening we went to a restaurant in a rural area, sort of out in the boonies. It's called "Gator's", and justifiably so. Much of the seating in the restaurant overlooks a large pond which is swarming with "gators". The food was so-so, sort of heavy and home style, not my favorite type, but filling. The ambiance, however, was fascinating. You could see the scaly critters cruising around in the pond. I expect they are well fed, but after dinner when we went outside to take a closer look, I decided to respect the sign!

I didn't use a zoom on this, so you can see I was pretty close to the gator. There is nothing but the yellow rope to keep stupid tourists from getting closer. I don't know if they've ever had anyone dumb enough to try it, but I was very happy to stay well behind the rope. I've watched enough "Animal Planet" to know these critters can move fast when they want to. Besides, I kept thinking, that gator could easily go under the rope if he took a notion. So I snapped this shot and returned swiftly to the car, happy to have all my toes intact.

No trip to Florida is complete without at least one trip to the beach, and we made several. This beach is at Destin, on the Gulf. This area is known as "The Emerald Coast", due to the color of the water in the shallows. In the distance beyond the surf line you can see some "dots" that are my daughter, SIL and a friend of theirs getting ready to SCUBA dive near the old pier. Lots of critters live around the pilings, including octopus and colorful fish. Occasionally larger fish will come in to feed, so you never know what you'll see. Although I am a certified diver, I didn't dive on this trip. My back was bothering me some, and it was better not to push it.

Another beach pasttime that the kids have taken up recently is kite surfing. This is way beyond flying the kites I knew as a kid. These babies go for hundreds of dollars, and additional equipment, such as as multiple lines, a harness and specialized board are needed. It's kind of a cross between water skiing and flying a kite and takes a great deal of skill to learn to control the kites with their multiple lines. Then one has to learn to get on the board while flying the kite and attempt to stay up, allowing the kite to pull you along the water. Sounds like fun, but it's also a lot of work!

This is Kim and Ron's friend, Russell, who is still learning to control his kite. In the distance you can see Kim and Ron's kite (in the middle) and another kite even more distant. Ron and Kim were flying so far out I couldn't get a decent picture of them. However, I could see pretty well, and Ron was able to get up on the board and stay up for several seconds. Kim can control the kite really well, but is still struggling to get up on the board while flying the kite.

At one point the kite pulled Ron way down the beach and Kim was irritated that she had to jog nearly a mile to help him put up the kite when it was time to leave. The trouble is, so far Ron has only learned to go in one direction. Getting the kite to pull you back and forth takes a lot of practice. There were some other kiters getting lessons from an expert, and it was cool to watch that guy do summersaults and other tricks on the kiteboard. He had total control of his kite and could make it take him any direction he wished.

Some of you may have read about the guy who was kite surfing during one of the recent hurricaines and got smacked into the side of the building. Doofus. All he had to do was let go of the kite bar and hit the release on the harness. I expect he was trying to avoid losing his expensive kite. As I said, doofus.

Kim and Ron met in college when both were members of the "Marching Salukis" band. Both play trombone, and have continued to play since college. Shortly after they moved to Florida, they joined a community swing band. The band is surprisingly good and also has a wonderful vocalist, who is married to one of the trumpet players. The band had a paying gig one evening during my visit. We hurried to change clothes after a day at the beach in Destin and drove into town to the concert location. After the band got set up, I snapped some pics. My son in law is the guy with the mustache, peeking out from behind the railing on the right. Kim is on his right, essentially invisible behind the railing and a music stand.

The venue was a pretty large grassy area in the middle of an upscale shopping center. My guess is around 200 people were seated in the white chairs, or milling around the edge of the lawn, drinking wine and eating canapes. Each member of the band got a ticket for a free drink. Gina, the singer, gave hers to me, since she is enciente and can't drink alcohol.

Attractive young people dressed in "zoot suits" and "flapper dresses" circulated, giving away beads, chocolate cigars, light sticks, and feather boas. Their attire was inconsistent with the
band's music from the 40's and 50's, but who cared?

A portable dance floor was set up in front of the band, and many in the audience, including several kids, had a great time dancing . The program lasted for over two hours and all of us were really tired by the time we started the drive back to Crestview.

One day we rented a pontoon boat and spent the day tootling around in Destin Bay. We anchored off the beach and Kim and Ron spent some time messing with the kite again. The weather was great, the sun was hot, the water was salty and warm, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly--except when Kim and I got stuck in the shallows and had to be pulled out by a passerby. (Ron was way down the beach with the kite and didn't see what had happened.) Kim at the wheel of the pontoon boat. Next time remind me not to say, "Smile!"

Daisy Dog went with us on the pontoon, of course. This Mama's girl goes nearly everywhere with Kim. Dogs aren't allowed on the beach, but she behaved very well and stayed on the pontoon with her water bowl and occasional trips to the nearby scrub brush to use the "doggie ladies'."

Ron, managing to get it up. Um, perhaps I should rephrase that. Ron flying the kite. Better?

For lunch we docked at a local wharf and disembarked to the restaurant just above the wharf. Yum, fresh seafood! The boat above was moored nearby and I like the way it looked against the background. I plan to paint it. I took a snapshot and did a painting of another boat, a much older derilect fishing vessel, moored at about the same place when I was down visiting several years ago. That boat, however, along with part of the restaurant, disappeared in Katrina. The restaurant survived and has reopened. Who knows where the old boat ended up? But it's immortalized in an oil painting that I plan to give to Kim for Christmas.

It was a wonderful trip, full of a lot of fun activities, but also with lots of time to spend with my daughter, something I don't get to do near enough of. I'm glad it was a great trip and I got to relax, because the day after I got back, my mother went into the hospital. The next 6 weeks were difficult, but I was well rested with a fully charged "battery", and both Mom and I came through it just fine.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

September already? OMG!

It's past the middle of September! When I realized how long it's been since my last blog entry, I was a little stunned. But then, a lot has been happening. My original intent was to blog right after I got back from Florida on Aug 14, but you know what they say about the best laid plans, etc.

As I say, I returned from a wonderful visit in Florida with my daugher and SIL, and was all set to unpack on Friday and get with it, loading the pictures, blogging and catching up on email. Instead, this is what happened: Friday morning Aug 15 my 94 year old Mom called me at 8 am and said "I need you to come over as soon as you can. Something is wrong." I threw on my clothes, grabbed a cup of tea to take along and took off for her apartment at the Assisted Living center where she lives, about 5 miles from me. When I got there I saw the problem was with her left knee, which was swollen, warm and very painful. I tried to make her more comfortable and called her doctor's office (the ortho who had done the knee replacement on this leg 12 yrs ago.) They said they couldn't get her in until Monday, but if it got worse, to take her to the ER. It got worse, and around 4 pm I called 911, since by then she couldn't even stand up to get into a wheelchair.

What happened next I'm going to gloss over. After 8 days in the hospital and still no definitive diagnosis (Drs. couldn't decide between septic joint and pseudogout), she was discharged to a skilled nursing facility for rehab. The knee had improved quite a bit, but she was very weak after 8 days flat on her back. She stayed at the nursing home for almost 3 weeks, and during that time I nearly tore my hair out. Without going into details, let's just say her care, particularly in the evening and at night, was less than safe and adequate. Her physical and occupational therapists were terrific and had her on her feet and getting stronger all the time, when I finally decided I couldn't take it any more and had her discharged to my home. She stayed with me for a week, continuing home health PT and nursing visits. This past Thursday I took her back to her apartment, and I don't know who was happier, me, her or her two cats. I guess it's a case of all's well that ends well. PT and nursing are still following her and will for several weeks. It was a scarey time, and even though it was only a little over five weeks, I was totally exhausted by the time I got back from taking her home and getting her unpacked, etc. Anyone who cares for an elderly, infirm person in their home for an extended time must have stars in their crowns, so to speak. I don't know how much longer I could have kept on. But for now, it's good.

Back to Florida! I got to the airport in Fort Walton Beach the afternoon of Aug 5 and my SIL picked me up there. This turned out to be one of the best visits down there I've ever had. We did so much and I took lots of pictures, so here goes:

This is the view down Kim and Ron's driveway from the side of the house looking toward the road, or in other words, their "front yard". From left to right are Dusty (Mama), Baby Penelope (who is nearly hidden behind Dusty), nameless horse, and Wishbone. Also various chickens managed to get into the frame.

The part of Florida where they live, the central Panhandle, is very lush but not sub-tropical--no native palm trees.

The nameless horse isn't really nameless. I just can't recall her name. Kim was pasturing her temporarily for a friend, who came and got her a day or so after I got there.

This is Mama Dusty and Baby Penelope. If I were any kind of grandparent, I'd know exactly how old she was when I took this, but I don't. She was born in early June and this was taken in early August, so can't be more than a couple of months. They grow fast, these little guys.

This is Wishbone, a gelding Kim has had for a little over two years. When I was down in FL 2 years ago, he was a colt just a little older than Penelope and extremely frisky. I was actually afraid of him! I was worried he'd push me and knock me down, because he was so exuberant. This visit, I found him to be a big cuddle bunny! He loved to nuzzle my neck, and have me scratch behind his ears, stroke his mane, and talk to him. Kim says he's very gentle to ride, as is Dusty, so both of them are good role models for Penelope.

Kim on Wishbone. I'm glad to know she always wears her helmet when she rides, be it horse or motorscooter or bike.

This is Scotty, Kim's Sheltie pup, who is about 9 months old. He's about as big as he's going to get, but still all big feet and clumsy playfulness. He's very sweet.

This is Valentine, a Great Pyrennes, about a year old. She will get bigger! Yikes! There's not much to compare to her size in the picture except perhaps the door behind her, which is a standard door width. She's extremely gentle and being a guard dog by nature, she will not leave the property. She knows where the boundaries are and stays inside them. She thinks she's a lap dog, and to get attention will place her extremely large paw on your lap. It's nearly impossible to ignore her! But she justs wants lovin'.

This is Daisy, Kim's beloved Aussie Shepherd. Daisy is a "Mommie's girl" and whines if Kim is out of her sight. Kim takes Daisy nearly everywhere with her, and the dog is quite an athlete. She has run races with Kim and won prizes for dress up contests. She even has her own life jacket (see below.

Girls just wanna have fun!

This is Daisy on the pontoon boat we rented to cruise around in the bay. What fun!

This is Kim's Buttercup (as opposed to my Buttercup, who is a cat!). I have to admit this one had the name first, but when a cat tells you what her name is, how can you argue with that?

Buttercup is a mixed breed, and the vet says she has a lot of greyhound in her. It's easier to see when she's standing up, since she has the high haunches, and lean belly. This Buttercup is very skittish around most people other than Kim. She finally has allowed me to pet her, after many years of my visiting down there. She particularly doesn't like men, and won't even let Ron pet her. We figure she was abused as a young dog, and she went through three or four adoptions before Kim took her. People kept adopting her and then bringing her back because all she would do is cower in a corner. Now she seems reasonably well adjusted, and claims this spot in the corner of the livingroom

This is Pixie, the Pembrooke Corgi Kim and Ron have had for quite a while. It's not so obvious in this picture, but Pixie has, ahem, a weight problem, as in her belly nearly drags the floor! She is on diet dog food, but is adept at sneaking from the others' bowls. She's a sweetheart, and is one of the two, the other being Daisy, who visit me every Christmas. Madison loves his "cousins".

Last but certainly not least is Snoopy, their Siamese cat. Snoopy is about 17 years old as near as we can recall. He's still active and very vocal and loves his Grandma! He sleeps with me whenever I visit.

With Kim and Ron having 5 dogs and one cat, and my having 5 cats and one dogs, we have 6 of each between us! Some kind of symmetry there, I suppose!

This post is getting long so I'm going to finish another day, hopefully tomorrow, when I will talk about kite surfing, Kim and Ron's swing band, and other fun things.

Look at this face! What a doll baby! But she's a sassy little girl, and tries to get away with biting if she can. Kim is teaching her not to bite and to be led on a halter. She basically walks around dragging the halter for now and will learn to be led soon. She won't be able to be ridden until she's two years old, but if Kim keeps working with her as she is now, Penelope will be a star by then!