Monday, September 17, 2007

Wondering where I have been?

Well, September is shaping up to be a very busy month. I do try to get to the blog when I can but other things keep dragging me away. Last week for example:

The first and most primary thing was that I had to get 40 hours of work in before 11:30AM on Friday. The fortunate thing was that I had 2 hours of comp to carry over from the previous week. So, no problem with the 40 hours you think. Well, there were complications to making that goal - of course!

To start with, the tiling on my shower was finally complete, after 2 years. I was so excited. With company coming, I was going to have my shower back in the Master Bedroom so that the company could use the guest bath. Yeah! However, there were lots of details to take care of first. The tile was all laid and thinset down but still had to be grouted and sealed. I grouted, waited a few days, sealed, waited another day and sealed again. Then, there was the matter of the shower doors - very heavy and unwieldy - a two person job. I was determined however and did manage to get them up by myself after much grunting, groaning and praying all as I was trying to balance both and keep them from crashing down all over the place. Next, was the problem of what to do with shower items (shampoo, rinse, etc.) I surely did not want to put them on the floor of my nice, new tiled shower. I really liked the teak shower caddy I bought for the other bathroom so ran down to BBB to buy another one but, as luck would have it, the one in the store was missing some of the parts and they didn't have any more so it had to be ordered online. Next, when I turned on the shower, the shower head was squirting as much water back through the hose joint as through the shower head. I guess, after 10+ years, it finally gave up the ghost. Another trip to BBB to get a new shower head. And then the install on that (which didn't take too long but was one more thing).

As if the shower, accessories and 40 hour week were not enough, I had to go and decide to buy a new TV (my first HD plasma - sigh). Buying a tv just isn't the same anymore. You don't just take it home and put it on a stand (unless of course this is your second or third HD TV). The TV was just the beginning. They didn't have it in stock so it had to be delivered (Ooops - have to go home from work a couple of hours early for the delivery men - cutting into that 40 hours I was trying to put in). The delivery went well but then there was the pickup and hook up of the DVD upconverter so that DVDs could be watched in the higher definition format. Then there was the new HD Tivo player that was required and, of course, all of the HDMI and Optical cabling (what the hell were those? - not something used a few years ago for sure!). And, Comcast had to be called to come install the cable cards so that the TIVO would work and the HD on the TV could be used. Comcast, in their ever so efficient (not) manner could not even come out until Friday and then only give you a 4-hour window (hence, having to leave work by 11:30 on Friday) and all just to install 2 cable cards! After receiving the tv, I decided that since the stand did not swivel, it would be nice to have the tv on the wall with a swivel arm so that all in the room could see the tv since I was having guests come over. That required yet another visit by the great guys of the Best Buy Geek Squad. They were kind enough to schedule their visit during the same window as Comcast and even came early in the window (12:15) since they knew I had other things that I needed to do. Their awesome job with the TV - installing the arm, hanging on the wall, hooking up all components and hiding the wires in a plastic arm was complete by 2:00. Still no signs of Comcast. They finally dragged in around 5:00PM (1 hour after their window) and then didn't know how to do the install and didn't bring the right equipment - aargh. Another guy had to come out - still didn't know what to do. By that time, I had missed picking up my friend at the airport and also missed the first yoga class of my spa/yoga retreat at the Four Seasons. This was getting ridiculous. At 8:15PM, I finally kicked the cable guys out and headed off to try and catch the end of the wine and cheese reception.

But first, back to the rest of the week. Aside from the shower, tv and cable stuff and trying to get 40 hours into the week, I also had to close the books for ATW which I did at 5:30AM one morning so that I could be at work by 7:30. Then, my friend Diane had her 50th birthday so, on Thursday eve, we were off to Vino Locale for drinks and food to celebrate. And, I also spent a couple of evenings sanding, painting and fauxing the walls to repair the places that Thomas had chewed. I also painted the wooden divider where he likes to scratch his back.

And then there were the wooden risers I bought to put under the feet of the guest room bed so that I could create a storage space under the bed. That took part of one evening as I had to dismantle the bed to get the risers under the legs and then put it all back together. All of this stuff in one week between Sunday and Thursday. (except the Cable and Best Buy stuff on Fri afternoon.)

By Friday eve, I was so ready for the weekend to begin. I made the end of the reception and met up with my sister and my friend from LA. After the reception, we headed off to the bar for more chat and drinks, finally dropping into bed around midnight. I was up early - 6:30 - the next morning to go home and feed the dogs and let them out. Grabbing a peppermint mocha, I headed back for the 9:00AM yoga session (really glad to make at least one), a stone facial (yes, they stoned my face) and finally relaxation by the pool. My friend, Philip, who had come from NY, joined us at the pool. At about 4:00PM, we finally left the pool and made our way back to my house where we were able to enjoy the new tv by watching the USC game (fight on!). USC won in a nice manner. We saw the ending at Linda's house where we had gone at half time for some pool, food and drinks. Getting home at about midnight again, we were all exhausted. The next morning, I was ever so thankful to have the extra shower as the three of us tried to get ready for the day. After showers, we made our way to the farmer's market where we enjoyed delicious crepes (mine - crab, avocado and asparagus, theirs - ham and cheese) and tasted our way through the fruits, vegetables and chocolates of the market. As afternoon came, Jolene and Philip boarded their planes to return to LA and NY respectively. It had been a wonderful weekend with wonderful friends and family. I was exhausted and thought I might sit down to enjoy some more of the new tv. However, I forgot that I had not yet setup the TIVO on the network and spent the next 3 hours on and off the phone with my BIL and the TIVO tech support staff trying to get it all set up. Whew! Buying a new tv is hard. At last, I was able to watch the great outfits of the Emmys in HD detail - what an experience.

And, what a week! All good but incredibly busy and tiring. I am doing my best to make it through work today and then looking forward to resting at home this evening before going on to more ventures.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

The Journey continues - Custer Park and other fun

La, la, la - I am sitting here waiting for a big file to run. So boring so I decided to catch up a bit more.

On Sunday, the last full day of our road trip, Lorraine and I rose early (again) to go horse back riding. We drove moderately up the highway expecting that we might see Bison again. The prairie dogs were back in full force and, of course, I was totally amused again. Just love those little guys. We got into Custer Park and drove up to Blue Bell Lodge. They have a full stable set up there. We got our helmets, signed our waivers, paid the fee, took some photos and finally mounted the horses for our ride. We were lucky to be the only two that morning. Our guide was a nice girl from Minnesota who had moved out to South Dakota with her boyfriend who managed a cattle ranch. She was telling us how they had to sell their house in Minnesota and how much trouble and cost it was finding a new place in South Dakota. I couldn't catch everything she said but it sounded like she was saying that a gentleman's ranch (not a working ranch) of only (yes only) 15 acres (with a house on it) was $650,000. Wow! They don't know how lucky they have it out there.

The ride was nice although we didn't see much wildlife (some turkeys) since it was already starting to get warm. Lorraine's horse just wanted to eat and poop. Mine followed up the rear and did okay. Overall, it was a nice ride.

After our ride, we decided to drive through Custer State Park. We dutifully paid our fees (yes you get week passes at the parks but we had gone to a National Park, National Monument and State Park - all of which require separate fees). The Ranger was very kind and friendly and told us just where to go to find the Buffalo and Elk. We headed off into the park and soon found lots and lots and lots of Buffalo. It was rutting season so all of the males both young and old were feeling very frisky. They were making these grunting noises that I found very funny and fake charging each other. They also had some very serious staredowns. Of course, I was trying to get photos of it all. At one point, two buffalos were heading our way - right towards the car and I was trying to get photos. Just as they were coming up out of the creek bed, a cowboy went riding by, scaring them off and spoiling the photo. So, what did I do? Took a photo of the cowboy instead! :)

We soon found that the cowboy was a member of a wagon train. We didn't know it at the time but read in the paper the next day that the group was not just on a tourist "wagon train ride" as we thought. They were actually a part of a wagon train party that was traveling the route for a number of days and living like the settlers on the wagon trains. Sounded interesting to me.

After getting past the wagon train, we entered Elk country. The elk weren't as prolific as the buffalo and, for a while, we thought that we wouldn't see any. Finally, we saw one, laying/sitting all by itself out in the middle of a field. Of course, I had to take a photo, and another one, and another one, and another one........The wind kept blowing the camera and I couldn't quite get the guy centered in the photo.

We drove out of the park and saw a few more elk along the way. Our next adventure was to be the last approach to Mt. Rushmore which goes through "the tunnels". The road is beautiful but very windy (not like the wind but like s-curves). It wound back and forth, back and forth. When we came to the first tunnel, it was well worth it. What an amazing view! You can see Rushmore framed perfectly through the tunnel. Everyone was stopping to get out and take photos and we did, too. You had to wait your turn and wait for the cars to clear out so it took awhile. There was a Corvette club out that day and they were all over the place with their tops down (the cars) and their yelling voices. We waited and took photos. Some of them look like Rushmore is sitting right on your shoulder.

There are 3 tunnels built into the rocks this way. It is an amazing architectural feat that must have really taken some planning. At first, I thought that only 2 of the tunnels looked through at Rushmore but, when we got through the 3rd tunnel and turned around to come back, we discovered that the 2nd tunnel also looks at Rushmore but from the other direction! Amazing!

I was really glad that we had decided to go up that road because we almost didn't due to time but it was well worth it, at least to me.

After the tunnels, we decided to drive across another scenic route called the Needles highway. There are tunnels on that road that a motorhome cannot get through so they are warned away from there. The wild flowers were amazing and the views of the black hills incredible. There is a lake surrounded by huge bolders (about 2 stories high or more) that was so scenic. It is a resort town and looks like a fun place to stay. I can't remember the name of it at the moment. It was a hot day so it was nice that we were up there in the mountains where it was cooler. Temperatures down lower were peaking at 105 degrees!

We left Needles Highway and headed back toward Custer. We stopped in to see the Crazy Horse monument which is under construction still. The Head alone is said to be able to hold all of the 4 heads of Mt. Rushmore. Since the monument is privately funded, it costs $25 to go in and see it. We didn't really have the time so we told the guard at the gate that we didn't want to go in. She encouraged us to just go in and take a photo and leave and come back another time if we got a chance. Since she was so friendly and helpful, we did decide to go in and take a photo. And then we left.

We were getting hungry by this time and thirsty, too. It was just past lunchtime so we headed into Custer, found a nice place for some food and tequila/grapefruits (Gold Greyhounds) and relaxed for a while from our travels.

Next up: Mammoth Bones and Cool Caves.......

Labor Day Weekend

What a nice, calm, relaxing weekend! I really enjoyed it and got some well needed rest.

Saturday started early with a little walk in the garden - how exciting that I can actually walk in the garden without stressing over weeds, pruning, etc. Yes, all of that stuff is still there but, due to Michaels hard work (along with some of my own), it is now getting to a manageable stage and has become a joy to walk around.

Watered the new plants and pulled a few weeds. By that time, it was time for breakfast and shower and off to paddling practice at 9:30AM. After paddling, I headed home to change and then off to my volunteer job at the animal shelter. It was too hot to walk the dogs so I just took them out into the yard and let them run and play. There was a little miniature pincher and he just found a bone and chewed it after doing a little exploring. The other dog was a very hyper furry Alaska dog mix thing. When I first put her in the yard, all she did was run back and forth at full speed the whole time I was going to get the little minpin to put in the other enclosure. When he came in, she hugged the fence trying to get friendly with him. He stuck his head through and gave her a kiss but that was about all. I put some water in the pool for her and she took running leaps across the yard to jump into it, then dug with her paws and danced around in circles. It really was a funny sight.

I left there muddy and wet and headed off to See's candies to use a gift certificate that I had received as a Christmas present in December. Not that I didn't want to use it sooner. It is just these darn 25 lbs that I have gained since then that really need to go away.

Heading home, I was pretty tired. It was about 3:30. I decided to take a break, open a bottle of wine and enjoy some chocolate and wine.

After a glass of wine and some chocolate, I decided it was time to grout the shower (now that all of the tiles have been cut and thinset in - yeah!). I mixed up the grout and worked hard at filling every crack, smoothing, making it beautiful. Of course, I did all of this with my hands, only reading afterward that I was supposed to use gloves and that the mixture was known to cause cancer - oops! My hand was pretty wrinkled and shriveled up but it looks fine today.

Hard work over, I decided that another glass of wine and some more chocolate were in order! That is how I ended my wonderful day!

On Sunday, I went about my yoga and farmer's market routine, stopping by Susan's and Bill's to drop off melon, corn and guacamole before heading home to do the crossword puzzle, eat some more chocolate and take a nap. What a rough day! Later in the afternoon, I headed over to Susan and Bill's for a fun labor day barbecue. Arriving home very late, I went straight to bed.

Monday found me up early (so what is new) and out in the backyard planting some plants I picked up at the Farmer's Market on Saturday. They had to go into the ground before it got too hot. I planted a couple of small sages and an eggplant (maybe I will grow my own eggplants). There is one little one on it and I hope it ripens. So far, I have had very good luck with this plant seller and everything he has sold to me has really thrived in my yard.

I also did some pruning and weeding, filling a bin and doing my best not to overprune the roses which makes Michael sad. He feels so sorry for them. I just feel happy because they give me nice long stemmed flowers that way.

At around 12:30, I was finished with the yard and headed into the house. The goal was to vacuum and steam clean the living room and hallway. I began cleaning out the living room, moving furniture and getting ready for a good cleaning. Along the way, I decided to clean off the bookshelf which is really a Video Tape/CD shelf except for the bottom which had some old school notebooks. I started reading through them and decided that I probably didn't really need my notes that much and started throwing them away. Then, I came across an old journal that I had written when I lived at Catalina Island. It was filled with emotion and the confusion that rains on 20 year olds trying to find their way in life, love and sex. I mention "good" friends quite a lot by name but really do have to admit that now, 29 years later, I really have no idea who those girls were! There are a couple of names that I recognize but the two main ones, Debbie and Louise, I have no idea who they are! And Debbie even made cookies and sent them to me! Oh well..........

It was interesting reading through it and brought back some memories. I was such a serious student - about time since I totally slacked off my Freshman year and had to start playing catch up in my Sophmore year.

After my little journey into the past, I continued the cleaning and managed to get the magazines and phone books on to the shelf in the space vacated by the discarded notebooks. This helped to declutter the place a little bit more - gradually, gradually letting go and simplifying.

I finally got the rugs vacuumed, steam-cleaned, vacuumed again and dry. By this time, the dogs had been outside all day long and were beginning to look pretty sad-eyed at the window. I finally let them back in and, wouldn't you know it, Thomas had managed to step in the one poop in the yard (I had cleaned them all of that morning but he had made a new one) and tracked it in on my nice clean, good-smelling carpet - ugh! It was all I could do not to strangle him - not really! I quickly had them both sit until I could get a rag and clean their feet. Then, I spot cleaned the rug where he had stepped and things were all good again.

After all of the days work, I cleaned the tub and prepared a bubble bath for myself. It was nice to just relax in peace for awhile. All clean and happy, I watched little tv, ate some cheese and chocolate (no wine today) and headed off for bed.

A wonderful weekend!

This morning found me up early for work and waiting on the new cleaning service. I would have to say that their work was good and bad. Some of it was really good and some of it not so good. I am hoping that they will get better. They do seem eager to please and came highly recommended by my friend. I was a little disappointed that they waxed some of the furniture I had already waxed and re-vacuumed the rug I had just cleaned rather than cleaning the windows as I asked. Now, I will need to clean the windows. However, they did a good job on the stove and the grout in the bathroom. The faucets were only so-so but, after I pointed it out, they fixed it up. Everything was put back in the wrong order and I had to go through and set everything right. They worked slower, stayed longer and charged more than agreed but the price was still fairly reasonable. I reminded them of our time/$$ agreement and the next time they will stick to it and I will insist on it. It is nice to have a clean house (except the study and the guest bedroom - one of which is still full of the stuff from the bathroom being worked on and the other of which is still a disaster in need of filing and letting go.......) I am not totally sold on this service but will give them another try and hope that things go better. It would be really nice to have some help with the cleaning.

And, that was really the end of the weekend. Back to work.......