Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I've done it again...

...and gone MONTHS between posts.

Here's an update of what's been happening in our lives during the (NINE!) months since I last blogged.

My parents came out on Amtrak for a month-long visit last November. It took them four days to get here and the only two complaints they had were that their cabin was too close to the restrooms and Mom had to climb the stairs to the second level for every meal (she doesn't do stairs). On the way back they changed their cabin to be away from the toilets and on the same level as the restaurant, and it was much better. Someday when I have the time (like after we've retired) I'd love to do that trip in reverse to visit them. It's a great way to see the countryside, and think of all that knitting time!

It was so nice to have Mom & Dad around for so long and to finally show off the house. They were with us for a week and then drove down to North Carolina to spend a week with Mom's cousin Lil. They came back for two more weeks and we all went to my Uncle Jim's (Dad's brother's) place for Thanksgiving. Lala's youngest son Bill, who I haven't seen since I was nine, was there with his family. I'd completely forgotten that when I was growing up I thought he was her only son, since he was the only one I'd met. When you are little, people you've never met don't actually exist. Since he was a step-cousin I always thought of myself as having 5 1/2 cousins. Jim and Lala lived in McLean, Virginia in a very nice, but relatively modest house, compared to some of the McMansions in the area - we're looking at you, Dick Cheney. They were planning on downsizing and selling the house, which they'd lived in for about 35 years, so it was going to be their last Thanksgiving there and there was a certain poignancy in the atmosphere.

Lala is the most amazing woman I've ever known. She is 90 and has more energy than a teenager on a sugar high. She also collects the most beautiful antiques. The table we ate Thanksgiving dinner at had once been owned by Captain Cook.

Three weeks after my parents left, we flew out to California for Christmas. We decided not to bother with renting a car so we arranged to fly from San Francisco to Modesto airport, which was the first time I've ever done that. It's tiny. Really tiny. The only commercial route they still operate was the one to San Francisco, the plane was the smallest I've ever flown in and our baggage was handed to us in the terminal directly from the tarmac through a roller shutter.

The daughter-child came over from England and met us at Mom & Dad's house Christmas Eve and stayed till Boxing Day. It wasn't long enough, but we have to take what we can get these days.

Just before Christmas I had my first root canal. I tell you, the minute I turned 40 I started falling apart - arthritis, varifocals, root canals and now, when I recently had a hearing test, it turns out I have some pretty bad hearing loss and may have to get some hearing aids! I'm turning into my grandparents.

Our travels this year have been pretty fun. In February we went to Portland, OR where David held some meetings, and our friend Lora, who runs Third Wave Coffee Tours, took us on an abbreviated version of her Downtown Tour. If you are visiting Portland, and love coffee, check her out. She knows her stuff, loves coffee, and is really fun to hang out with. I love coffee but I'm really a bit of a Philistine about it. As long as it's hot, milky and caffeinated I'm good. I did really enjoy learning about the different roasting, brewing and serving methods, although by the end of it was vibrating slightly. My favourite stop was at one of Portland's famous food carts. The owners make their own syrups and treated us to a coffee flavoured with lemon, rosemary and Douglas Fir, which I was initially skeptical about but which was awesome.

In early May we got to visit another friend from college, Lori-Anne, a freelance writer/blogger, who lives in Kelowna, BC. This was actually my first ever visit to Canada and as an introduction I think it would be hard to beat the Okanagan. It's billed as the Canadian Napa Valley and it's certainly beautiful, fertile and, in the winter, milder than most of the rest of Canada. We finally got to meet Lori-Anne's charming husband Kyle and her completely adorable children, Oliver and Amelie. Kyle is an artist and graphic designer who works at the Kelowna Art Gallery. Lori-Anne spent a lovely day with us, showing us around Kelowna and we stopped at the gallery where Kyle gave us a tour round. I also took the chance to snag another one of his paintings. He's a very talented artist and for the past few years has been working on a project called "100 for 100" in which he is creating one hundred 10"x10" original paintings and selling them for $100 each. A couple of years ago I bought one he'd done of pomegranates (my favourite fruit).

Pomegranate Study

When we visited I asked Kyle if he still had the one he'd painted of Tintern Abbey and I was so pleased to find that he did! We visited Tintern Abbey on our first summer vacation in Wales, very early on a Saturday morning before anyone else was there, the sun was only just up, mist was rising from the river nearby and everything was so still and quiet. Just lovely.

Remembered Ruins
I borrowed these photos off his website, but I'll try and get some pictures of them up in the house as well.

In the middle of June we took our annual leave in Australia to coincide with a work trip, so we had five days with David's brother Geoffrey and his family on the Gold Coast, and then five days with his mum in North New South Wales (yes I'm aware of how funny that looks), and then another five days in Sydney where we attended meetings and got to see his sisters.

We both came down with bad colds on the flight over to Australia and had just about finally shaken them off when we flew back to the States via California and stayed a couple of days with my parents to celebrate Independence Day and Cedric's 5th birthday. I was starting to feel like I was coming down with something again on the Sunday when we flew home and sure enough, it was another cold, but this time I ended up with a bi-lateral ear infection with perforated eardrums and resulted in having tubes put in both ears - leading to the ear test which indicated that I have some long-term damage. Sigh. As my mother frequently says, "Getting older is no fun".

Two days after the tube insertion (which was NOT fun - about on a par with a root canal, but quicker) we flew back to California where David was speaking at the Northern California Conference camp meeting, which is the best camp meeting on the planet. This has nothing (well little) to do with the fact that it's the camp meeting I went to growing up - it's just an intrinsic fact. It is located in the Northern California redwoods, just south of Fortuna, California, and is actually located right in a redwood grove. My family reserves the same spot every year - my parents take their 5th-wheel (and when I go they put up a tent), my brother, his in-laws and his brother-in-law each take their trailer campers, and they set everything up around a large central area. We call it "circling the wagons". Tarps are strung around the perimeter for a bit of privacy and laid on the ground between the campers and then several tables are put end-to-end along the middle for everyone to sit and eat at. There are about six pretty good sized redwoods in their campsite so they've worked out the best position for each camper to take account of the trunks, and everything is shaded beautifully. That's especially good in summers like this one, when we had several days in which it was nearly 100 degrees in the sun.

As a speaker, David had a hotel room in Fortuna, which he returned to each night. He's not fond of camping so that worked out well for him. I like camping, and I wanted to spend as much time with my family as possible, but I also like hot showers and sleeping with my husband, so I spent alternate nights in the tent and in the hotel. It worked out well.

We were pretty busy but David and I did get one day to see the sights, such as they are. Fortuna's not much to write home about, but we did drive the Avenue of the Giants, which is beautiful, and also visited Ferndale, which is chock full of Victorian gingerbread-y goodness. Unfortunately, we didn't get there until after 4.00 and they appear to roll up the pavements in town at 5.00, so we didn't get to see as much as we would have liked. I did my research though and made sure that Foggy Bottom Yarns was the first place we went. I got a skein of forest green laceweight, to remind me of the redwoods.

The BIG news of the year is that my baby girl has moved to California. After a year of post-graduation, being a grown-up, supporting herself with coffee shop jobs, themed hen nights, and teaching Lindy Hop and Charleston at dance studios, she decided she was sick of living in Reading (since she was four) and wanted to try something new. She has a lot of friends in the Bay Area from our two years there in 2008/9 so while we were in Australia she packed up and flew to DC, where she house/cat sat for us while we were away. She stayed with us for three weeks, flew to California with us, and we dropped her off in Santa Rosa on our way up to camp meeting. She's staying with her friend Claire (who is a complete sweetie) while she settles in. Amazingly she found a coffee shop job, a free bike and the possibility of some dance teaching, all within the first couple of weeks she was there, so now she's house-hunting. Or, rather, room-hunting, because even a one-bedroom apartment in the Bay Area is too expensive for her at the moment.

Have I said how proud I am of her? She's an incredible combination of fantastic creativity and focused determination. She can be very goal oriented when she wants to be and once she decides to do something she is very good at figuring out how to achieve it. I like to think she gets a lot of her creativity from me, but she definitely gets her focus, determination and self-discipline from her father.

This is a much more text-heavy post than usual because sometime after Christmas I discovered that I'd lost my camera. I knew I'd had it at Christmas because I could remember taking photos of the kids with it, but at some point I must have "put it somewhere safe" and now couldn't remember where it was. (I can't tell you how many things I've "lost" that way.) All the photos taken so far this year have been with our iPhones. A week ago I opened a bag in which I'd brought Christmas presents back, that I was sure I'd emptied when we got home, and sure enough, there it was. There was much rejoicing.

Since this has gotten rather long I'll post later on the (lack of) knitting/crafting progress this year and put up a few pictures.


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