11/29 Sunday

The day after walking around LA, my foot hurt so bad that I stayed off it all day. Randy hurt too, but not as much, so he was able to get some things done. For dinner Randy grilled chops over at Dan and Ashley's place. Leo and Lisa will be leaving on Monday, so we wanted to get together with them one more time. 

11/28 A long trip for lunch in LA

Since this area has some public transportation, Randy arranged a trip to LA today. Leo and Lisa joined us - early in the morning - and we arrived at the train station at 7:20. According to the schedule, the 7:35 train would take us from Vista to Oceanside. The LED banner at the station confirmed this, so we relaxed and waited. And waited, it just never showed up. But the 8:05 did show up, so we took that one. Unfortunately that meant we missed our connecting train from Oceanside to LA. So we got tickets for the next train, then realized it would not leave for 2 12 hours. Now we had some time to kill. So we walked to a coffee house, got coffee and talked about our favorite movies.
Then we walked down to the pier. I love the ocean, and will go for a look any chance I get. It was a lovely day, cool enough to be comfortable and warm enough (in the sun) to dispense with our jackets.  
But the water, of course, was cold. All the surfers wore wetsuits, as they sat on their boards and hoped for a wave. 
Eventually our train left the station. The trip took another 2 1/2 hours, but it was a smooth-riding train, with stops at 13 stations along the way. We arrived in LA Union Station, a lovely building built in in the 1930s, with much of the old stuff remaining. 
We picked up a map, asked the lady behind the counter where we could get a good lunch, and started our walking tour. Just down the road from Union Station is a beautiful building, the United States Post Office Terminal Annex; pretty fancy for a post office. 
The lady in Union Station recommended we eat at Philippe's. Randy and I had been there before, back in 2001, and felt it was good enough to repeat. We walked in the door, looked at the lines, and everyone decided "no". Another day we may have waited, but thanks to the train snafu we just didn't have the time today. The lady's second recommendation was right across the street, the Regent China Inn. They offered a daily special for $4.95 and she had assured us it was very good, so we went there. We ordered fried rice, shrimp-and-eggs and kung pao chicken. Each order came with white rice, egg drop soup and hot tea, all quite good. The portions are enough for family-style, so we put them in the center of the table and everyone sampled everything. 
Full and ready for a walk, we headed out. Chinatown was the only scenic area near enough to walk to in the time we had available. So we started walking through little shops, crowded with unusual (to us) items. I am not sure what you would really use Deer Tail Extract for, but somebody must know, because they make it. 
Chinatown's gate has two golden dragons, who don't seem to like each other. 
Leo wanted to find someplace with whole ducks on display; it's kind of a staple of every Chinatown we've been in. We found one, but we couldn't figure out why a turkey dinner there would cost $48.95, even if it does come with Special Sticky Rice. Must be something about those hanging ducks.
And I wish I knew what's in all those little wooden drawers in the Pharmacy shop, but I didn't want to ask and I wouldn't understand the answers anyway. I would love to have the cabinet, though.
One store sold live fish, which it smelled a lot worse than they should have. 
We saw a bad sign of the times - gas is over $4 again here. Fortunately it's not that high in Vista, where we can still fill up the car at Costco, for around $2.45 a gallon. 
Along Main street are structures with greenery growing up them, and plaques commenorating some of the people and places important to the history of this area.
Most of the plaques I saw were about Doria Deighton Jones and her husband John Jones. I would have liked to see the building used as a combined cigar store and shooting gallery. 
On the Old City Plaza bandstand on Olvera Street is a life-size Nativity scene.
 Very, very beautiful.
Near the edge of the plaza is a big, beautiful Moreton Bay fig tree. What amazing roots these trees have, like something out of a fairytale.
Next we looked into a building advertising a "Cultural Expressions of Day of the Dead", which could have been very interesting, but it didn't seem to have much in it; just a few paintings. Back outside Leo pointed out the City Hall building, which he recognized from a distance because it was used in the opening credits of the old Dragnet show.
We stopped for a very quick look in Plaza Fire House Number 1, where they have an old firetruck on display.
The last train back to Oceanside left at 4:30 so we headed back to the station. Our train was #666. But it was an uneventful 12 hour trip to Oceanside, where we hurried over to the next station to catch the train to Vista. It was scheduled for 7:35 pm and we arrived in plenty of time. And just like the morning train, it didn't arrive. This time I called on the emergency phone and spoke with a young lady who told me that yes, the train did come. I assured her that the group of people on the platform didn't overlook it. She put me on hold, spoke to someone else awhile, then told me that after 7 pm the trains only run once an hour. I suggested she might want to update the LED banner which kept proclaiming there would be a 7:35 train. Then we waited for the 8:05 train, took it back to Vista where our car was parked, and Randy got us all home before 8:30. It was a long day but we had a good time. And our sweet dogs had not made a mess inside; 13 hours is a long time to "hold it"!

Happy Thanksgiving, 2015

This year Thanksgiving was unusual because Randy did not cook a turkey. He didn't cook 10 turkeys, either, which is what he normally does when we are in southern California. Because normally when we are in southern California, we are in Riverside, where Randy, Teresa and Aunt Jean spend several days cooking turkeys for Central Community Church's Thanksgiving event, which feeds complete turkey dinners to several thousand people. This year, however, we were in Vista, not Riverside. And while it's supposed to be a 90 minute drive to Riverside, there is no way to know how long the trip might really take, due to California traffic. Sometimes a trip that should take one hour takes three. 

So this year we didn't take part in the church's dinner; instead we drove up to Riverside on Thanksgiving day, to share the holiday with the Burns and Booth families. Since it could have been a long trip, our contribution was Randy's peanut clusters, which need no refrigeration and will be excellent for several days. Teresa let us keep our dogs at her house; we could take them out for a potty break before leaving, since we weren't sure how long the drive home would be. One unusual thing about California is that you have to factor in potential traffic issues.

The dinner was a great time to catch up with family. Teresa's daughter Jackie was at her boyfriend's family dinner, and Jim's daughters were not there (recent marriages impacted the holiday schedules a bit) but Teresa and Jim both had at least one of their kids present, as were Mike's daughters. The nature of these dinners is that anyone can bring anyone, so there were as many friends as family, which is a great way to celebrate.
There is nobody who puts on a dinner like the Burns/Booth family. Instead of serving a main meat of turkey, they serve turkey, ham and prime rib. Side dishes include potatoes and gravy, creamed spinach, broccoli cheese casserole, salad, mac and cheese, green bean casserole, stuffing - I lost count. And then, after you can't eat any more, there is dessert. Aunt Jean makes most of the desserts, which means they are excellent. This year they included lemon cream pie, German chocolate cake, pecan pie, raspberry cheesecake, nut tart, apple pie, pumpkin rolls, and, of course, peanut clusters.

We couldn't give in to food coma because we had to drive home. We picked up our puppies and drove home, and although it was after dark, we didn't run into any real traffic problems. An enjoyable holiday!

Loading a tractor

One of our friends who volunteered during the fall auction found a bargain too good to pass up; Ken is now the proud owner of a Farmall tractor. Of course, you can't put a tractor in the back of your car, you have to get a flatbed to haul that sucker home. So today our guys helped his son get it onto the flatbed, then tied it firmly down. Can't have that thing coming loose on the drive through town!

Anniversary prime rib dinner

We celebrated our anniversary by going shopping - a few clothes, some groceries, and a big, beautiful prime rib.
We had discussed going out for dinner, but nobody cooked prime rib like Randy does. So we got a big one and Randy sliced it into sections. One of these portions is more than a meal for the two of us. Now we just need to find some room in our tiny freezer!

11/20 Ikea

If I'm having Swedish meatballs for lunch, we must be at Ikea!
I just didn't feel like staying home today but didn't have anywhere I wanted to go, and didn't want to get anything in particular. So Randy took me to Ikea store in San Diego. We actually had a couple of items we wanted to buy there (they have the best veggie peelers and comforters) and we like to see their designs and ideas. 

The most interesting thing we saw there was this kitchen. With just a few little changes, it would be a great kitchen for our new (yet unknown) house. Don't know if it would fit in the place, but it's a lovely goal.

Rock gardens and Smudge pots

Since our RV site won't be here for long after we leave, I figured I'd better do something about the rock collection I put together in the corner. These aren't special rocks, they're just pretty and I don't want them buried by a bulldozer. So Ashley kindly gave me permission to set up a rock garden by the Farmhouse. She even provided a framework, so today I moved everything to it's new home. I didn't move the tree stump; no sense putting in something that is going to rot. Ashley let me use an old wheel rim; I put little rocks in sections of the wheel, by color, then filled in the rest. No prize, but I like it.
Last night Dan asked us over to see a smudge pot in action. He got a few of these in the auction and set one up in his front yard. It puts out a pretty, flickering glow along the tube section and a lot of heat; it actually makes a great yard piece.

When the game stops

Shorty is really obsessive about his yellow tennis ball. He wants it all the time. He loves to chase it when we throw it, but he refuses to give it back to us; he sits down with one paw over it. Still, we throw it when we get the chance. Sometimes when it bouncing, he bumps into it. If it goes under a chair or down the stairwell at the front door, he chases it. But once in awhile it lands next to Missy. Suddenly the game stops. Shorty freezes in place, staring at the ball, looks quickly at Missy, then looks at us. Apparently we are supposed to fix this. Since he's a butt about returning the ball, we don't always fix it right away.

After the auction

It was a long day yesterday, and we were on our feet the whole time. I have had plantar fasciitis in my right foot for awhile, and recently Randy joined me in this problem. So we take care of our feet. Randy recently ordered a special brace for us. Plantar fasciitis is a tissue injury that gets worse when the foot extends, as it does during sleep. I was expecting not to be able to walk today, so last night I used it for the first time. It looks funny. . . 
but it works! My foot hurts a little bit today but not nearly as much as I expected. Hopefully I can just use this in case of emergency.

Late last night the rain came back, with strong winds. I don't like strong winds in an RV but I was so tired I went right to sleep. This morning there are evidences of the rough night I slept through.

11/15 Fall Auction at Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum

The Fall Auction is over! It started at 9 and ran until dark, which is around 5. The rain started around 4. 

There was a TON of stuff to auction. Big stuff like cars, tractors and an ancient RV, a lot of pallets full of machine parts and tools, and table after table of "smalls" - anything that would fit in a cardboard box. 
As the small items on the table are sold, Young Marine volunteers moved them into a roped-off area and set them on pre-numbered tables. Each number belongs to a buyer. I was buyer 711 and if I had bought anything, it would have been set on section 711. But the yard was full of machinery could not be moved to a table and pallets full of heavy parts. All of the stuff in the yard had to be man-handled into the customer's truck, or moved there with a forklift. This is where Randy and I worked today. After customers pay for their items, they get a printout of their purchases; they are supposed to give the list of one of the volunteers, who make sure they get all their stuff, and only their stuff, checking items off the list as they are found. But the yard was not roped off and everyone was wandering around, looking for and moving their stuff. There were always several people waiting for the volunteers who ran the forklifts, and there were always trucks parked in the forklift's way. It got dark and rained (lightly) but we got everyone out, and I think the customers all got what they came for. It was a good day for the Museum; they make a percentage on each item. But we are pretty tired tonight.

Almost ready for the Auction

The Antique Gas and Steam Engine Museum has a big outdoors auction each spring and fall. During the week before the event people drop off items to be auctioned. The Museum and the vendor share the proceeds, so everything has to be sorted, tagged and entered into the computer. But first, it has to be unloaded. Sometimes the goods are a few items in the backseat of a car, but sometimes it's a whole truck full; that's when our guys pitch in. 
It looks like there will be a lot of things ready to become someone's newest treasure.
At the end of the day, after all drop-offs were done, all items were on display and all data was entered, we all got pizza and relaxed a bit. Tomorrow will be a long day.

Meatloaf and Cakes

Randy had a busy day in the kitchen. Today it was our turn to make the main dish for our group's dinner, and he felt like making dessert, too. A couple of days ago Randy cooked down two pumpkins so today he made a pumpkin bundt cake. 
Next he made a gluten-free carrot cake. 
It was so good that when people complimented Randy on the cake, they didn't even know it was gluten-free. 
Yesterday he ground beef and pork together and today he used that to make meatloaf. He also made mashed potatoes and gravy. My contribution was doing a mountain of dishes, several times. Then I took a 3 hours nap - still not feeling well. But the dinner was a success - Randy made 9 pounds of meatloaf and it almost all disappeared!

While we were sitting outside eating, we heard someone driving in the Museum's parking lot, making doughnuts. They were tearing around recklessly, but it was too dark to see who it was. Rick drove his golf cart over to have a look, but they took off.

Tonight the coyotes were even more vocal, and they sound closer. This morning we had found signs that they came up to our RV during the night. So I was very careful when I took our dogs out tonight. I took them one at a time, on a leash, with a heavy walking stick and a flashlight that I used to look for eye-shine. No problems, but we won't take any chances with our puppies.

I took the dogs out by myself because just as we got home, we heard that driver in the parking lot again, driving fast, squealing tires, and suddenly - a crash. Randy drove our Jeep over to see if anyone was hurt. It was a 16-year old boy driving a big truck, and fortunately he was OK. His arm was scraped up pretty bad but the truck was totaled, so he got off very lucky. Doesn't matter how big your truck is, if you run into a big tree at full speed, the truck loses.

Dirty laundry

Since I took such a long nap yesterday, I was going to take half a valium to help me sleep and get to bed at a decent time. But around 10:30 Randy heard Julienne whining. Usually that means she wants to get on the big bed with us, so he let her out of her kennel and onto the bed. However, there was a communication problem: this time the whining meant "I need to pee". So pee she did, right on the bed. Time to strip the blanket, sheets and waterproof mattress cover, remake the bed with clean sheets, and hand-wash the linen. Since I wasn't tired anyway, it seemed like a good idea to go ahead and do the laundry right away. With just one washer and dryer available, I finished around 2:30 in the morning, which was about the time I got tired, anyway. Everything works out.

Tonight I didn't feel well, so Randy joined the group for dinner without me. When he got back home, we stood outside and listened to the coyotes howl; there are a lot of them here and they are all talking tonight.

Cupcakes and Capri Salad, plus Raccoons

Today I went to the dentist for what I hope is the last time, and got the last old crown replaced. For some reason the novocaine didn't want to work on that particular tooth; it took eight shots before I was numb enough for them to get the temporary crown off. But eventually they got it done. In spite of the problem today, I cannot say enough good things about the entire staff of Dr. Steelman's office. I had the best dental care here. Today's issue was handled so nicely and professionally; they listened to me when I said "not numb enough" and made sure I was comfortable before proceeding, and did a very good job. 

I had taken a valium before the visit, and what with all that novocaine, when I got home I went back to bed. And didn't get up until 4 pm. It would have been a wasted day, except for the dinner when our group got together again today. Ashley made pot roast with potatoes and carrots, and other people brought side dishes. Randy's contribution was a Capri salad. Last night he made one for Tuesday's dinner (a very good dinner of chicken pot pie, broccoli with bacon, plus apple and berry pies for dessert, compliments of Patty, Rick and Lisa). It was well received so he made another one today. It disappeared again.
And for dessert he make cupcakes. Almost too pretty to eat . . . but we ate them anyway!
We ate outside tonight and had unexpected guests again. Not the skunk (thankfully) - it was the raccoon family. It was a group of 3 or 4 (hard to count under the house) so I'm pretty sure it's the same family we rescued from the dumpster last week. Just one raccoon was eating the cat food; I think it was mama, because she was keeping the others in line. Any time one of the others tried to reach around her to get a handful of cat food, she would push them away. Apparently this was her own special treat. 
I love the raccoons, but they are getting pushy. There is a very active two-year old in this house, a young boy who likes to play in the yard, plus a very shy outside cat. I already know how ready mama raccoon is to defend her family; she needs to not cause problems here.

Sharing Myrtle Creek with friends

Another Ladies' Day Out! This time we shared Myrtle Creek with Patty and Lisa. Outside it's a paradise, even in November.
Inside - it's Christmas!
One of the best things about Myrtle Creek is the way they combine imagination and creativity. They use everyday objects (and whenever possible, old ones) in unique and decorative ways. The results are amazing. 
And it's not just for Christmas. The imagination magic is everywhere. I want it all.

Tractor Circles

Here in Vista we occasionally wake up to find one of the mysterious tractor circles, first cousin to the better-known crop circles.  
This week we are blessed because friends who usually visit on weekends will be staying here all week. So we will celebrate by having dinner together as many times as possible this week. Tonight we warmed up the leftovers from last night, added Ashley's excellent home-made chicken soup, and had a great meal together.

Raccoon Rescue and a Low Country Boil by the light of a Trident Missile

This morning Randy and I walked the dogs down to the big dumpster to get rid of our trash. The dumpster is positioned in such a way that people stand at the edge and throw their trash down into it. Randy and Shorty made it to the edge without me; Julie stopped along the way to smell everything. Randy called to me, quietly, to come join him; he had noticed something unusual in the corner. 
A whole raccoon family was down there!
And they couldn't get out. One kept trying to get out of a small hole; I worried about him because the hole had very jagged edges. Another one tried to scramble up the side; nothing worked. 
We took the dogs back to our RV and Randy put some tools in a golf cart, planning to pry open the dumpster's side door. I wondered if the raccoons would still be there when we got back, but of course they were. And getting kind of scared. We don't know when they got into the dumpster, but it was probably in the night. They all looked close to the same size but one was a little bigger than the rest, and the other three kept coming over to her and hugging her or standing behind her; that was their mama.
Randy made his way down to the dumpster side and worked at getting the side door open. But it hasn't been open in a very long time, and a lot of stuff has been banged against it (the dumpster is used for metal and construction materials, as well as garbage). In spite of everything he did, the door wouldn't open. It made a lot of noise, though. 
Mama raccoon took this as a threat. She placed herself in front of her big cubs, staring intently at the direction of the noise. The cubs fidgeted and chattered nervously behind her, but she didn't blink, she didn't move, she focused entirely on that noise, ready to do battle with whatever was making it.
But since the door didn't open, we needed another plan. There is always scrap stuff around here, so we found a piece of wood big enough to serve as a ladder and took it over to the dumpster. 
Randy maneuvered it into position. It was long enough to reach from the bottom to the top of the dumpster at a climbable angle. The little critters watched him the whole time.
Then we got in the golf cart and drove far enough away for them to feel safe, hoping they would quickly explore this new thing. As it got later in the day more people would be coming over, and the raccoons would not climb out while people were there. Fortunately, within a few minutes one raccoon's head showed as it climbed up the wood and out of the dumpster. After that, the other three came out fairly quickly. We went back to haul the big piece of wood out of the dumpster and put it back where we got it, and all four raccoons were nowhere to be found. Hopefully they learned to leave this alone!
So our day started great, and it ended great, too. We had already made arrangements to meet with the gang for dinner tonight - Randy was making a Low Country Boil, with potatoes, corn on the cob, Polish sausage, mussels, shrimp and crab legs. We cooked and served the dinner over at Ashley's again. While dinner was cooking, we saw something amazing in the sky. Couldn't tell exactly what it was, but it looked like a blue comet. Later I read that a Navy Spokesman said it was an "unarmed Trident missile that was test-fired from a submarine off the coast of Southern California". No wonder conspiracy theorists have such a following, everything the officials say sounds like a script. It sure was moving slow, for a Trident missile.
It didn't matter what it was overhead, we settled down to a great meal. Everything was excellent; nothing was overcooked (which is the bane of seafood) and it was seasoned perfectly. Randy usually tastes a little bit while he is cooking, to be sure everything is just right. This time, with seafood, there was no tasting. So when the gang started pouring aperitifs (scotch, whiskey), he was starting on an empty stomach. After that, he didn't feel like eating much. But the rest of us made up for him!