Saturday, December 26, 2009

Too Much Fun to Blog

I thought that being on vacation would mean lots of posts and lots of pictures. I thought wrong.

We are having a great time and every time we do something fun, my husband says "You have to blog about that." Then we do another fun thing and I forgot all about the last one.

I will just have to do my best with a brief and incomplete summary of the past few days. On December 23rd, we joined our long-time friends Kevin and Christie as they finalized the adoption of their twins at the Monterey County courthouse. Afterward, we went out to breakfast and I received a phone call from my realtor that she had just opened escrow on our house. It has been for sale for 2.5 years, so this is a momentous event for us. There are still a lot of hurdles to be jumped and so much that can go wrong, but if things are still on track in another couple of weeks, I may just get excited.

Later that night we went to Bubba Gumps for dinner and it was one of the best times we have ever had eating out as a family. I am not sure what it was, but on this one evening the food was just right, the girls were happy, the service was perfect and we were entertained by live carolers singing Christmas classics. It was just one of those magical family moments that you can tuck away in your memory box.

Christmas Eve wasn't what we had hoped, but we did get to visit with family. We returned home from vacation to sign the papers for our home sale and to exchange gifts with the relatives. It was a little sad because the grandparents weren't up for the party. They were the primary reason we had traveled all the way home.

Christmas day we returned to Carmel and our vacation. We didn't buy any extravagant or fancy gifts, but there was plenty of presents under the tree and the girls were all smiles anyway. After a nice long nap, we went to the beach and let the girls play until sunset. The beach was much busier today. I guess others thought it would be nice to see the sunset on Christmas day too.

After that, we showered the girls and took them to Fisherman's Wharf in Monterey to enjoy the Christmas lights on the boats and to eat dinner at the Old Fisherman's Grotto, one of our favorite restaurants. The lobster ravioli was to die for! We were having such a nice time together and then the waitress informed us that the couple next to us had just paid for two desserts for our girls. No one had ever done something like that for us. It sure made a special evening even more magical, such a sweet and friendly gesture.

I hope you all are busy making some special treasures for your memory box!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Ready For Christmas

.............well almost. The girls are certainly ready. They are having a great time on vacation. It's a little hard to keep them off of all the antique furnishings in this vacation home, but we still manage to keep our cool (after a time out or two).

I have been working on this picture for two days. It didn't quite meet my expectations, but I still think it looks pretty cool. There is so much more for me to learn in Photoshop. I guess that will have to wait. I am looking forward to the time when my editing skills can match my imagination.

I hope you all are enjoying the season. Now off to finish my shopping!!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Day 2 - Maybe a Little Too Much Squeezed Into One Day

We didn't want to waste one moment on the fun meter for our first full day of vacation.

We slept in, but only just a little. We all had breakfast in the house and dashed off to see "The Princess and the Frog". I really liked the story, but I was greatly disappointed with the artwork. I thought I was watching something on Cartoon Network; the quality was so poor. What has become of Disney? There was so much potential for creative expression in the swamp scenes. Oh well, I guess the era of Disney setting the artistic standard has ended.

After the movie, we went shopping and purchased some pajamas for the girls. Then we took them to see Santa Claus to sit on his lap and to ask for him what they wanted for Christmas. Even my shy Chloe was brave and direct. Chloe tells me she wants some Polly Pocket toy, but then I hear her ask Santa for roller skates! They took nice pictures of the girls with him, but I don't have a scanner with me, so I cannot share on my computer.

We came home, ate lunch, and then went out to pick out a Christmas tree for our vacation home. The girls had a fun time running around and acting crazy.

After setting up the tree, we decided to give the girls one of their presents early. Little did we know that the scooters required full assembly, but we all worked together as a team and had both of them put together in a very short time. It was getting dark, but there was still enough time for the girls to try them out on the short dead-end street where our home is situated. They scooted around until they were tired out.

We had dinner reservations for a nice restaurant nearby and one of the girls was acting up. I'll leave out her name because I try to keep this blog focused more on the good stuff, rather than the bad. She was moody, ill-mannered and obnoxious throughout dinner. Dad and I were both exerting all the patience we could muster, but the quality of the experience was sadly lacking. We realized that we were partly to blame because she was tired, cold and hungry (not a great combination). Amazingly, as we left the restaurant, we had several people, including the hostess comment on how well-behaved our girls were. I wonder what they're used to!

Today's pictures weren't the greatest, but I only took 10 all day, so there wasn't really much to choose from. I'll try to post pictures of the tree tomorrow.

Tomorrow is going to be a much slower day.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Vacation Begins!

I haven't had much time to blog lately. That's because Dad and I have both been working extra hard night and day in order to get ahead at work to be able to take two weeks off with the girls for Christmas break.

Thursday afternoon was the grand opening ceremony for our new animal shelter that I designed and built for our city. I love that my job allows me not only to design, but also to manage the construction....all the way down to ordering the final equipment, hanging the pictures and selecting a Christmas tree to dress up the place. It was a cold and foggy afternoon, but there was a good turnout. Since the shelter opened two weeks ago, there has been a noticeable increase in adoptions and there is room for future expansion.

You can click on any of the smaller pictures for a larger view.

Our animal control officer cuts the ribbon to her new animal shelter.
The front facade has animal imprints and pawprint cutouts.
A new lobby. The old facility didn't have a lobby. It was a small trailer.
New well-lit and heated kennels with outdoor runs for the dogs to go inside and outside at will.
Cat condos with separate toilet space. They have interior ventilation.
A "Get Acquainted" room for prospective parents to play with the dogs and cats.

Friday, I worked in the morning and then Dad and the girls picked me up just before noon to head off to glorious Carmel-By-the-Sea for a two week Christmas vacation. For the second year in a row, we rented a home. There are so many nice houses here for sale and a lot of owners rent them out while waiting for a buyer. It only took us 3 hours to reach our destination, leaving us with plenty of time to unpack, settle in, and make a trip to the beach before sunset.

This looks like the beginnings of a beautiful vacation! There are a lot more pictures and posts to follow.
This is the entry to our vacation rental in Carmel. The hydrangeas are in full bloom.

Chloe does the Happy Dance on the beach to celebrate.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Catching Up

I haven't posted in a very long time. It seems like life is extremely busy right now. Work is busy for both Pete and I. We had a very nice Thanksgiving with family. We brought the food over to Pete's parents house. It was a smaller gathering this year as other family members opted to go elsewhere, but it was still nice.

Now I have another cold, so my writing may be especially poor. We leave on vacation in less than two weeks, so we will probably be very busy getting life in order before then.

This past month Dad went sailing with some friends while I stayed home with the girls. Actually, we didn't stay home the whole time. We went to Huntington Gardens in Pasadena and met up with my sister for a day of exploring and fun. It was fantastic. I felt like I was back in China when we walked through the Chinese gardens. They seem so familiar.

I'll write more later. Time for some pictures. Click on any of the smaller ones for a larger view.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Fix-it Friday Autumn Beauty

Well, it's that time again and this week's editing challenge had a darling little beauty burried in a pile of leaves. I played around so much with the edits that I wasn't able to keep track of my steps, so I'll just let the pictures tell the story. I cropped and rotated the image to give the subject a slight tilt. Many others cropped out the tree and grass. This is a nice touch that gives the illusion of an endless sea of leaves. However, for me, I liked the green contrast from the grass and I thought the tree balanced out the subject, so I kept those elements in my final crop. I also thought this picture would work well with a painterly effect, so I played around with that too.

You can click on any picture for a larger view.




For other great editing ideas, go here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Staying Home

The Flu
Today I had lots of big plans at work. I had an appointment with an accountant to audit one of my projects. I have three contractors scheduled to perform various tasks on another project and I have paperwork and design work to do for my next project. It was supposed to be productive.

But then, stuff happens when you're busy making plans. Here it started around midnight. Chloe woke me up to tell me her tummy hurt, just in time to make it to the bathroom. And so it began. Now it is 13 hours later and she is still sick to her school, no work, no rest. I am hoping Dad can step in and give me a break in a little while.

I took a picture of her sitting by the fireplace, snuggled in a blanket. If only she felt as good as she looked. I am also throwing in a couple of miscellaneous pictures. One is a family portrait I took a couple of weeks ago. I cannot believe how difficult it is to get 13 people to not blink or make a funny face at the same time, especially when 5 are children. I don't really see a future in this for me, but it was sure fun to try.
Learning Curve

Yesterday it was cloudy and gloomy all day. We didn't get any precious rain, just the clouds. Finally, right at sunset, the clouds broke apart enough to allow for a beautiful scene. I had to steal away a few minutes early to capture this image just down the road from my house.

I've got the girls to myself this weekend. Dad is going sailing to Catalina Island with friends. Hopefully, if we are all feeling well, we can get out and do something fun as well. Until next time!
Shafter Sunset

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ninety Years Ago

Woodrow Wilson was president of the United States of America. World War I was over and the Treaty of Versailles was signed and the Nazi Party was formed in Germany. The sale of alcohol was prohibited. We were still ten years away from the Great Depression. The Cincinnati Reds won the World Series over the Chicago White Sox, taking the series in five games to three. Milk was a whopping 62 cents per gallon, bacon was 55 cents per pound and the average wage was a record $1272 per year. The average price of a new home was $5,626...........and Earl Williamson (my father) was born in Vernon Texas and later moved to Oklahoma as part of a family with 10 kids. Now, only three remain, including my dad.

This past weekend we traveled to Las Vegas and Pahrump Nevada to celebrate my father's 90th birthday. His health is good and his family is grateful. My brother couldn't make it at the last minute, but we did have a nice turnout all the way down to the great grand children. I am so happy that my daughters are able to see and know their grandparents, all four of them. It is more than I ever could have hoped for when we decided upon adoption.

All the rooms in Pahrump were booked Friday night so we stayed at a nice resort hotel in Vegas. We drove through Red Rock Canyon to take a couple of quick pictures on our way to Dad's birthday party. I reserved a dining room at the local winery restaurant and we had an amazing time visiting, swapping stories and enjoying each other's company, plus an amazing 5 course dinner. My sister, the florist, brought a beautiful exotic bouquet of flowers as a centerpiece and a carrot cake which was topped with airplanes in recognition of Dad's lifetime career of working on them and flying them.

As always, Chloe and Pearl had a great time and I lament that I did not get outside to take some great Fall vineyard shots with them. I was just having such a nice time with the family inside. By the time we finished, the sun had set but we were all thankful to have another wonderful memory to add to our collection.
We stopped off at Red Rock Canyon to shoot a couple of pictures before going to the party.
My sister made this beautiful arrangement.
Dad and Mom enjoy the company.
Grandaughter Lisa (my niece) and fiance Brent
Carrot cake with airplane toppers
Dad blows out the candles.
The next day Chloe and Pearl play with rocks at Grandpa and Grandma's house.
Daughter Nancy (my sister on far right) with grandson Brian and great-grandchildren Isabella and Greta.

Mom and Dad