Sunday, December 28, 2014


This was the year of the big trip, a cruise to Alaska and 3-day add-on for the 6-hour bus ride into Alaska's interior.  Lots of photos taken then, which are posted on the Alaska 2014 Travel Tales link, but photos taken throughout the other months of the year were sparse.

The cover photo, taken on the cruise, for the 2015 calendar 


Sophia's now 11.  Brandon was 14 in January.



During the cruise, on the way to dinner


Sophia's in the 6th grade, Brandon's a freshman.

Sunday, April 20, 2014


I first learned of geocaching from an internet friend, Theta Brentnall, who lives in California and travels frequently with her husband, Gerry, in Cleo, their RV. At many stops they geocache, go in search of "treasures" hidden by others.  Once discovered, the finder signs the log that is in the cache, and then returns the parcel to the same hiding place for the next person to find.  These coordinately of these caches are noted on the geocaching web site and can be plugged into GPS-equipped tools to aid in the search.

The weather here has improved to the point I can go out and walk again. Scurrying along the same old road, past the same houses can be done quickly, but it's also boring. I hit upon the idea that I could walk and search for something and the time would pass quickly and I'd have a goal. I don't have to do it every day, probably won't, but it would be fun to do with Brandon and Sophia, and Dawn and Bob if they're not at work.

Today is Easter Sunday and the weather was forecast to be sunny and 70. Perfect to try geocaching if the kids, Dawn and/or Bob were up to it. There are three caches in Jackson Bog, two of them along the shore of Shady Hollow Lake.  And that's where we went.

Brandon had loaded the coordinates of "Make a Wish" and "Pride Rock" on his iPhone and acted as our guide, selecting the proper offshoot to take when the trail forked. The first location was "Make a Wish" and the clue was in code with the solver beneath it. Decoded, it read,  "Look inside stump at ground level. Cache is a pill container painted black."  There were two stumps in the area. The hole under the first was empty. At the second stump the first hole checked was also empty; the second, cache found!  We laughed at our success, signed the tiny log inside the container, snapped pictures and then returned the container to its hiding place.  

That find happened so quickly into our search that we immediately headed on to find the second cache. This hint said "Off the beaten path melon size rock." A second hint when decoded said, "Look for a rock on a log," Simple enough.  But there were lots of trees and many were horizontal. We made our way through sticker bushes, over fallen trees and around thickets without finding the melon-size rock. Obviously it wasn't where we expected it to be. Then we looked on the other side of the trail, and found it right away. Two searches, two successes!

 The rock, found.

The cache contained several items, including a special travel bug.

Signed the log book on behalf of all of us and Bob left $1 bill.

We planned to hike back to the car over the Bog's boardwalk, but failed to find it and were too tired and hungry to keep looking.  

Our finds have been logged on the geocaching web page.  Some people have thousands. We have two. But there are many more in the area and we will be out searching again soon!  And time permitting when any of us are out of town, sites there can be searched as well.

Friday, February 7, 2014


I seem to be establishing some sort of routine here. February is the month I visit California. When I was in Venice two years ago, it was only for a day. The early days of February were spent helping Brett and Michelle prepare for their move to Venice -- packing boxes, watching the moving van being loaded and finally, driving down in the car with Brett and the dogs, Lulu and Nick.  The day after the move was made, I returned home. Last year I got the emergency call from Michelle that Brett had been in the motorcycle accident and would need home assistance when he was released later in the week from the hospital.  And although we went out for daily walks, Brett's legs worked better than mine because my hip, wonky after the weird dancing I did at Dawn's and Bob's wedding, was still giving me problems. This year there were no hindrances. Given warm air and some sunny skies, I was ready to go.

I arrived at LAX on Wednesday evening, January 29, after two routine flights routed into and out of Denver.  It was 10 degrees at home, 47 in the mile-high city, and 70 in Los Angeles. 

The street entrance to the kids' house

There was no agenda for the next few days. Brett and Michelle get up early -- usually between 5 and 6 AM.  So Brett was up and gone before daylight. Michelle is working at home, part of a team forming a new company. My "job" each day was simply to walk at least a mile. Walk anywhere, with no specific destination. So on Thursday, January 30, I took three one-mile walks. I found it is easy because there are sidewalks and a variety of sights to entertain the eyes. After nearly two months in frigid and/or snowy weather at home when I didn't venture out for exercise, I was afraid I'd have lost some stamina.  Guess not, because on the last walk of the day, Brett suggested I slow down!

Saturday, February 1, was sunny with a light breeze, a great time (after two months of below freezing temps) to sit on the deck and feel the warmth. I had to leave the deck chair to take the picture, but returned to it immediately. There will be more hours spent there, too!

A neighbor's front yard cactus against the blue sky

On Monday, February 3, five days into my visit, the temperature was in the 60's where it was to remain through the week. The morning walk was to Whole Foods, Michelle's grocery of choice for foodstuffs, just a half-mile up the road. I could try to tell you how beautiful it was, bright sun and soothing breeze, but maybe this photo will say it better.

Tuesday, February 4, was another sunny day with daytime temps remaining in the 60's. Michelle and I took a walk  to the watch repair shop, three miles round trip.  My knees and hip felt fine although my feet were crying "wolf" louder and louder as we neared the house on our return.

Venice Beach
Venice Beach Boardwalk Shops

This could get boring. Wednesday's weather was a repeat of the previous several days.  Having survived Tuesday's 3-mile walk, I decided to do it again by walking to Venice Beach's boardwalk. I discovered it isn't a board walk, it's a wide, paved, clean-swept walkway.

Facing the beach is a row of shops selling touristy items - T-shirts, sweatshirts, maxi dresses, sunglasses, skateboards, etc. I was focused on walking, so it is likely that I missed some interesting personalities passing by.  I must return and sit down to do some people-watching.

Michelle has been working long hours and declared on Thursday, February 6, that she needed to get out of the house. She suggested that we go out for lunch and I was all for it. (Eating out beats a deli meat sandwich every time!) I had a huge salad with chicken, an ice cream scoop of feta cheese, Chinese noodles for crunch and tomatoes for color, accompanied by Chinese slaw.  It was a meal that seemed to be reproducing itself faster than I could eat it, so enough for dinner, and perhaps breakfast as well, came home for later consumption.

Michelle had made a list of places she would like to visit while I am here. It was apparent that once away from her desk for lunch break, Michelle was in no hurry to return to it. She suggested that we drive to the Hollywood sign in spite of the rain that was approaching and so we did! The photo was taken on our drive away from the sign.  At one point, I believe we could have reached out and touched it.

Friday, February 7, I woke up with a cold. Not bad, just aggravating (sniffing and sneezing and stuffy head). The weather had cleared after yesterday's rain, and the temp was unchanged. The day's walk was 1.5 miles in 30 minutes. It felt good to be outdoors.

We'll just skip right to Saturday's activities since the weather apparently doesn't change. Brett had decided Friday evening to take Saturday off from work. He went to the gym and Michelle ran a couple miles with their small dog, Nick. I read and responded to email. A news report stated that there'd been a 3.8 earthquake a few miles away, but we felt nothing. Near noon we were in the car and driving to Brett's new office space that is being remodeled. Lots yet to be done before moving day in two weeks, but the green/chartreuse paint has been applied.

Remodeling of office space underway

Other colors in the space will be less bright: light grey, dark grey, ice blue and dark blue. The kitchen counter and cabinets have been rebuilt using old barn wood and they are beautiful! Sliding barn doors are also being built to function as a partition between two areas.

Lunch in Century City

Then to Century City for lunch. When we arrived back at the house around 3 PM, Brett and I went out with the dogs and logged 1.5 miles.

On the evening's agenda was watching "Skyfall", a movie referenced by a potential client of Brett's as to what he had in mind for a project.

It was slow moving on Sunday, February 9 -- just because it was Sunday! Brett made pancakes for Michelle who was about to tackle the on-line exam as she works to get her Master's Degree. With breakfast out of the way, Brett put on his leathers, got the Indian out, and rode off to meet friends before going to his office to prepare for a trip to Las Vegas on Monday. I headed out to return to Venice Beach for some people watching.

There is a large area between the boardwalk and the beach set aside for skateboarders to practice their skills. As I watched, I noticed that most were teens, but there were also adult men and even some wee folks accompanied by parents.

People watching was disappointing. Perhaps the sights get more interesting after the sun has gone down, or any time other than a Sunday morning. I went with the intention of capturing some outlandish garb or behavior, but all I could come up with was this fellow. While he stood on a 5-gallon bucket, he balanced a pole on his head and appeared to be holding a snake in each hand, but these just as easily could have been coiled ropes. I wasn't going to go closer to satisfy my curiosity.

Monday, February 10, saw the temperature move from the low 60's to the upper 60's. And the sunny, cloudless skies continued. My day's walk took me to the Post Office to mail Valentine cards to the Valentine children. Since I was so close, I continued on to Venice Beach again, and extended my walk to the waterline.

I told Brett and Michelle about geocaching shortly after I arrived and now there's one in the house. Each day one of us adds something. We started with a small bottle of lotion placed there by Brett. Michelle added a small pepper the next day and I followed with a contribution of three shelled almonds. Yesterday a key was added and today, I put in a shell I brought back from the beach and removed two almonds. Miles walked today: over 3!

Tuesday, February 11, was atypical. Although I was slow leaving the house, once walking, I logged 2.5 miles. As I was finishing my trek, I received a phone call from Michelle.

Brett had driven to Irvine, an hour south of Venice, where his firm (hired by FivePoint Communities) is spearheading the landscape design of several hundred community acres of Pavilion Park, a small portion of the Orange County Great Park project ( on the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. His back had been bothering him, perhaps sciatic nerve-related, and on this day it rendered him useless and helpless. His text message to Michelle: "I'm f@*ked. I'm lying on the floor of the office and can't move."

Lulu comforting Dad 
Fortunately, Brett's boss lives in that area and he was able to make an appointment for Brett to see a chiropractor. By the time Michelle and I got to Irvine (thank heaven it was mid morning and we weren't impeded by the legendary freeway traffic congestion), x-rays had been taken. No treatment today; the doctor needed to review the films. Brett was to go back later in the week. So I drove the sedan back to Venice with Brett laid out in the backseat, and Michelle drove his 2-door. The rest of the day (and evening) was spent with Brett prone on a pallet on the floor, big dog Lulu lying beside Brett and Michelle playing nurse.

Happy Presidents' Day. It's Wednesday, February 12. I got my 2.5 mile walk in by going to pick up take-out for lunch (another huge salad for Michelle and me from California Chicken Cafe and a wrap for Brett) and then repeating the walk later to pick up prescription meds for Brett.

He had a rough night and needed to see someone to get relief. (Michelle and I can massage his backside and leg, and while it gives immediate relief, that doesn't last.) Michelle found a group of medical doctors who make house calls (cha-ching) and one was at the house before noon. The doctor was a personable woman who gave Brett a muscle-relaxing shot in the butt and prescribed two meds, one which is for pain and the other, a muscle relaxer. Brett said neither the shot nor the prescriptions seem to be having an effect.

No photographs and no outing on Thursday, February 13. I had put off doing some on-line research so hunkered down to get it done. Brett had agreed Wednesday night to try sleeping in bed instead of remaining on the floor. I slept on the couch and took him his meds every four hours. He doesn't even remember waking up to take them. Brett spent his day still on the floor or in bed, although he did try the couch in the morning. That lasted long enough for me to snap the photo. With him is their little dog, Nick.

Brett took some short walks through the house uttering stupid comments which were probably his indication that he now wished to live. I heard laughter coming from the bedroom as he watched the latest Johnny Knoxville movie while he procrastinated calling the chiropractor to confirm (and then cancel) his Friday appointment as well as getting into a bathtub of warm water.

On Friday, February 14, it was back to the routine. Brett was apparently going to take recuperation a day at a time. He had sufficient meds to get him through the weekend. He thought he would be good as new by Tuesday.  Sure....

He was up and about Friday, even lying out in the sun for a couple hours while he conducted business on his cell phone. Brett still couldn't sit but he was comfortable lying on a firm surface such as the guest room bed, living room floor, or backyard lawn. The Valentine's Day dinner was carryout, because he couldn't pull up to a table to eat.

As I walked mid morning (2.5 miles, but who's counting?), I saw writing in the sky. HAPPY ...  Happy what, Valentine's Day? Awwww.

When I looked up again, the script was finished. Apparently this wasn't for Valentine's Day, but for someone's 15th ... birthday or anniversary, perhaps?

The skywriting continued for another hour or so, and the next message started with Papi, but as quickly as something was added, the wind had whipped the previous word's characters away.

Saturday, February 15, was a lazy day. Brett was about to exhaust his prescribed meds and called the house-call doctors' group to discuss his current situation and request refill prescriptions. Brett described to the doctor his tight calf and numb foot. As a result, a greater dosage of hydrocodone was prescribed as well as a different muscle relaxer, and a prednisone-type medication was added. My exercise for the day was the mile I walked to the pharmacy and back to get the new meds. By midafternoon Brett said he was feeling mellow and hoped the prednisone would correct the sciatica. The doctor told him that if he is not greatly improved in a week, he will be referred to an orthopedist to determine if he has a disc problem.

Brett told us that he is scheduled to interview three job applicants on Monday. One is coming at his own expense from out of town. Since Brett cannot sit, I suggested he invite the candidate to have a seat in a chair while he moves to lie on the floor. It should be memorable for everyone!

Sunny and 66 (but it felt warmer) on Sunday, February 16.  Brett spent some of the overnight hours reading on his computer about sciatica and its treatment. Lying in bed is not the recommendation; activity is. So once his morning meds were on board, he laid on the floor, extended his bum leg and asked me to raise it and hold the position until he gave me the okay to lift his foot higher. Evidently stretching the hamstring brought relief. He felt so good afterwards that he even volunteered to fix Michelle pancakes for breakfast. He spent the rest of the day stretching his hamstring, doing some yoga poses Michelle showed him and for variety, lying in the sun in the back yard. I took a new walking route toward the beach and got lost, but since I'd added the Map My Walk app to my phone, was back on track quickly. By the time I returned to the house, I had walked 3.5 miles.  No new photo today. If you need a reminder, refer to Friday's photo.  Just make the temperature a little warmer.

Monday, February 17, morning was sunny and warm enough that I needed only a light jacket for my walk to the grocery store to get ingredients for the evening meal I told Michelle I would prepare. She had errands to run late in the morning and I tagged along. Once back at the house, I finished dinner and she worked on material for the business she is helping build.

Brett appears to be on the mend. Or, the meds are doing a great job of masking his problem. A coworker drove him to work and then home in the evening. There is a mounting stack of projects to work on and he needs to be at work with his crew. As for the interviews -- Brett stood as he talked with all three candidates and was pleased with what each could contribute to the studio's assignments. Hopefully the feeling was mutual.

Tuesday, February 18, the last day of my three-week visit. My last day to walk and walk and walk. I asked Michelle if she had an errand I could do, and she said that a pair of Brett's glasses needed a minor repair if I wanted to walk them to the optometrist. I set off and arrived 45 minutes before the shop opened. So, to kill time, I walked to the beach, sat down to kill some more time and then headed back. Glasses were fixed in a few minutes, and I headed back to the house.  Miles walked:  4. Total for the three-week visit: 42 miles!

Brett had invited Michelle and me down to Irvine to see the work ValleyCrest has done in the design and installation in the common area of Pavilion Park, the first of the Great Park neighborhoods. I was blown away by what I saw, but even more impressed by the thinking and philosophy it represents.

The play area ("tot lot") has an arc-shaped wood teeter totter. When we walked past, two mid-teens were enjoying it.  There is a 3-foot square of heavy wood mounted on a spring that kids (and adults like me) can't resist trying to balance on. For those who might fall off, a cushion of about eight inches of firm foam is buried and covered by a forgiving blue-pebble rubber pad. Soft enough to prevent bruises but firm enough to comfortably walk on.

Many materials from the former air base are incorporated in Brett's studio's designs. For example, the trellis outside the community multipurpose building was constructed using not only wood but salvaged steel from the former runways.

Over 1500 Heritage trees were dug up, put in containers and will be replanted in the neighborhoods as they are developed.

There is a green house which includes towers growing a variety of plants. In the future, as more homes are occupied, these will be replaced by larger towers where a variety of vegetables for the use of neighborhood residents will be grown. Outside the greenhouse are beds of herbs that are already available for community residents to use.

Plantings in Pavilion Park are indigenous to the area. In the event watering is prohibited, they will survive a drought.

Hopefully the vision and execution of Great Park Orange County will be the benchmark for developments elsewhere. To read more, visit

As I left LAX on Wednesday, February 19, it was difficult to believe I had been in Venice for nearly three busy weeks! Although Michelle and I had visions of making frequent day trips to a variety of interesting places, life kept us busy closer to home. But the primary purpose of my visit was to spend time with Brett and Michelle and I did. I appreciated their invitation and willingness to put up with me for so long!  I look forward to returning for another Brett and Michelle "fix", more unimpeded walking and visits to more Los Angeles area sights.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014


At an age where logic made sense to me, I remember hearing a quote attributed to Lewis Carroll:  "The hurrieder I go, the behinder I get."  That's how 2013 felt to me.  Nothing was overwhelming, but there were very few times when I had time to be bored.  

My knees following surgery 18 months earlier were good to go, but I'd hurt a hip dancing at Bob's and Dawn's wedding reception in September 2012 and three months later I was still hobbled.  So I started the year making the decision to trim some of the bulk off my frame.  There was no New Years Resolution -- it was a statement of fact.  A change in life style:  eat healthy foods and exercise.  And so I did.

Then in early February I got a phone call from Michelle.  She was on her way to the hospital. Brett, riding his motorcycle home from work, had been in an accident.  The driver of a car in a left-turn lane changed his mind and moved into the through lane and into Brett's path. Brett hit the vehicle's right front fender and flew over the hood. Injuries: multiple ribs broken front and back on the left side, a punctured lung and broken collarbone.  He was released from the hospital four days later and I was on my way to play nursemaid and chauffeur while he recuperated.

It was a bitter-sweet visit.  I hadn't had an opportunity to spend that much time with Brett once he was a teen with a driver's license.  But he didn't take recuperation lying down.  First, he couldn't lie down and breathe, so he spent the next several months sitting up to sleep.  And while I was there he insisted on getting outdoors every day -- at least walking the dogs down the street to the dog park.  One day Michelle dropped him off two miles away where he met a friend at a cafe.  I waited for his phone call to go pick him up. It never came because he had decided to walk home.  Need I say he was hurting when, walking with great care, he came up the steps to the front door?  Near the end of my two-week visit, Brett went back to work and began working out again by pedaling his bike on a trainer.  His report in November was that he's almost 100%.  With the insurance settlement, Brett invested in a replacement motorcycle and fresh gear.  He has also just taken delivery of a second bike. Can't keep a good man down!

Back here, Dawn tabled her interior design business and took a job with Penneys in their custom window treatment department.  She's been successful, but that's not a surprise because she enjoys and is good at design and sales.  However, it's meant less time with Sophia and Brandon.  And more time with them for me.  When Dawn has early morning appointments I sometimes keep Sophia company until she gets on the school bus. This photo was taken the end of August on their first day of school.  Sophia is in the 5th grade; Brandon, 8th. 

Both Brandon and Sophia were signed up for fall sports, and practices started in August. Sophia cheered again this fall and enjoys it so much she's let her hair grow (like the high school cheerleaders do) and has just taken a class in tumbling. The goal was to learn to do a round off back handspring. She is making progress. Her teacher/coach said she is capable but the hard part for a student is overcoming the fear of not being able to see where he/she is landing.  

Early in football practices, before the season's games began, Brandon hurt his back. He visited a series of doctors:  the family doctor, our chiropractor and then an orthopedist who recommended physical therapy when a CT scan didn't show a structural problem that would cause the pain.  Visits to the therapist two or three times a week for about three months strengthened his back and increased his flexibility, but the discomfort remains.  A neurologist ordered an MRI and said the problem involves the muscles around the sciatic nerve.  They are too tight and irritating the nerve.  He prescribed continuing physical therapy.  And so it goes on.  This school year Brandon isn't participating in any sport involving physical contact.

Younger brother Jeff's daughter was married in August and we three siblings who are rarely together attended, as did Dawn and Bob.  The wedding was outdoors at a city park with the reception at a downtown restaurant.  I think we guests had every bit as much fun as the bride and groom.  Jeff, who we learned has hearing aids, demonstrated how he controls what he hears with a remote control.  When he left the table, remote left behind, he stopped to talk with a friend.  Dawn picked up the remote and we all laughed as we watched the expressions change on Jeff's face while she twisted the dial.

The newlyweds, Alexander and Brittany Negrette, as they prepared to leave the reception.

Dawn isn't a little girl anymore, but this is still her Uncle Jeff, also known on this day as father of the bride.

As we sat at the reception, I noticed a wedding band on Jeff's finger and asked Mimi about it.  She explained that they had been married "a few weeks ago".  WOW!  Two reasons to celebrate on this day.  I have a new sister!!

By July I had lost 30 pounds, and now, a year after starting the new, healthier way of living by eating more nutritiously and exercising regularly, I have kept those pounds off.  I dropped six clothing sizes and invested in summer wear that fit better, donating the no longer needed items to the Salvation Army. But I still have some things in those larger sizes that are so comfortable, even if less attractive with their unnecessary bulk, to wear while at home. 

And now on to 2014....