Friday, December 28, 2007

Left coast - Petrified Forest

After Muir Woods, we ventured for one night in Davis. I happy to report that I did not have an emotional breakdown upon returning to the land of my graduate schooling. Downtown Davis pretty much remains the same. The campus has exploded with new much so that I can't remember what it used to look like in spots. I seem to have forgotten that the maximum speed in the town is like 30 mph and that people even on the highway there drive slow!

After Davis, we took the scenic road to Napa. It was curvier and windier than I had remembered, but it still was a pretty drive. Driving past some lakes and reservoirs, you could really tell how low the water is from the drought. We stopped at the Petrified Forest in Calistoga, which isn't really a forest but a few fallen petrified trees. The few trees were impressive and just attempting to pick up a small size log, you could feel the difference in weight. I bought a nice piece of petrified wood that's from somewhere in North America. Among the petrified trees, they identified some trees and shrubs as points of interest. One is manzanita, which has a beautiful red bark.
After our brief adventure in Calistoga, we headed to our hotel, which is almost brand new and just south of Napa. After multiple wrong turns, we finally made our way there. It doesn't help that it's located within a new office park and there are no signs at all. I didn't bother with the street name because I knew its general location and I figured there would be signs pointing the way. But it was a nice resort with a vineyard, spa and wine cellar in a "cave"...meaning an artificial cave. We indulged in some much needed spa treatments the next morning. I should have just spent the day least in the eucalyptus sauna or just chillaxing in the waiting room complete with tea and magazines. I now realize that my upper back and neck are just full of knots that may never go away. But after my short massage, my recent ailment in my left shoulder was feeling better. Our room rocked with double sinks, a separate toilet room with telephone of course, flat screen tv, and the best thing was that the drinks and wine in/above the mini bar were free. They refilled it the next day too. We eventually ventured back to Napa and went to V. Sattui and attempted to go to other vineyards but were stymied in one way or another. But we both really like V. Sattui so that was fine with me. Besides with all the goodies back at the hotel, why leave! I attempted to go the hotel vineyards but they had closed it...I guess from the rain.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Left coast - Muir Woods

I've been to Muir Woods at least four times now. It's a treat to come in via the Golden Gate bridge and then head right into curving hillside passes. There's a spot along the way that has a great view of San Fran. I guess this spot has really caught on considering there now was a hotdog truck parked there. What was new for me at Muir Woods was this sign. I didn't realize that Muir Woods had become a hotbed of first amendment activity that it needed it's own area.
California is in a period of drought and it was apparent here. By this time of year, the Woods should be a dewy and wet place. Not this time. More redwoods had fallen since my last trip, but in the right spot it was dark enough you thought it was past sunset.

I do enjoy seeing all the lichens, moss, and ferns sprouting all over the trees. I met up with some bear friends. Check out the one hiding in the corner.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Left coast - San Fran

I try to go back to Nor Cal ever other year just so my memory won't totally fade of my temporary home that I had during grad school. There's still a whole bunch of San Fran that I haven't explored, so this visit I decided to venture up to North Beach. It was about a 2 mile hike oneway mostly uphill from the downtown hotel but it was well worth it. I cruised through Chinatown and the hills weren't too bad until you got real close to the Coit Tower. It took about 2 hours for a round trip excursion complete with stops at City Lights Bookstore and various fun shops.
Even though eucalyptus trees is not truly a native Californian species, it sure is pretty.

Here's one of the views from the top of Coit Tower, which stands Telegraph Hill in San Fran. Of course, every single window is covered in glass so it's tough to get good photos. Plus it confuses the silly tourists as one unlucky girl found out when she bonked her nose hard into the glass. She thought there was no glass. That's the Golden Gate bridge in the distance and you get a vague sense of the topography of the city.

I didn't know that there were wild parrots that have returned to nature at Coit Tower. I believe the story is that a few pet parrots escaped and reproduced and now a flock is found around Telegraph Hill. They sure are noisy. My attempts to get a good shot of one was defeated by the angle of the sun and their reluctance to get close. But here's a glimpse at one at the end of the arrow.

It's real difficult to get a good photo of the hills of San Fran. But here's my attempt below Telegraph Hill. What you can't see is that the past couple blocks of sidewalks had stairs, not flat concrete.

In Washington Square Park, there's a church which I just randomly took a pic of. I think it's Church of Saint Peter and Paul, which is where Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio had their wedding blessed. They got married at town hall.

Next post will be of my adventures in Muir Woods.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Best assistant ever

I'm about to leave for a much needed retreat back to my former stomping grounds in sunny Nor Cal. It's always a treat to turn on the out of office assistant and type in those magical words of I'm on vacation. I can already hear the screams of No! I just hope this trip doesn't fly by like some of the others. So I will be away from my blog but I will be sure to post a long recap once I get back.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I fought the law and....

I'm about to head into the condo meeting to ask the Board why after 5 years they are forcing me to take down my birdfeeder. I really am not fond of confrontation, so it's the equivalent of going to the dentist and having some drilling done. I'm hoping they are reasonable people and we'll reach a compromise, but I'm not holding my breath. They can make the rules for the complex and that's the end of the story. We have elections, but no one ever runs so it's not worth a vote. I know I should run and start the revolution, but the next election is in 2 years and the term is 2 years long. Then I would just be one vote. I plan to be out of here in 5 years. I wanted to print out pics of the real problems around rotten wooden, light fixtures falling off the walls, etc. but of course after like 3 months of the printer telling me there is no toner, it finally really started running out. I have nice streaks across the page.

I was totally shot down at the meeting. There were 6 people. Three were old ladies that seemed sympathetic to my cause. One made a what? perplexed face when I told them the notice said it was a health and safety issue. She even had just bought a bird feeder for her own deck. But there was this one hateful biatch, who apparently hates all living creatures. She goes "Your feeder attracts squirrels." I go "It's squirrel-proof." She goes "Well it attracts other critters....I don't know...other critters." They wouldn't allow me to hang a post in the landscaping. That post would allow me to hang a birdfeeder that wouldn't harm the deck and the poop was fall into the landscaping. She said if they allowed then someone would want to put decorative frogs in the landscaping. So here's the general plan. Plus it might puncture the irrigation system...don't even get me started on that.

Continue with the secret bird feeders.
Buy buckets of bird seed and scatter on evil biatch's lawn to attract thousands of birds
Release all hostage live mice at her building
Summon all the bears of NJ to break into her house, trash it, and use it as there hibernation zone...ok I need to work on that one.

Ms. White, any ideas on how to harness nature? Anyone else, have some ideas?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Something to look forward to

I know its not even officially winter but it sure feels like it here. Below average temperatures, snow/sleet mix, scraping of the ice/snow off the car windshield, no sunlight, and the freezing wind = winter to me. I'm not talking about the good part of winter which is those snow days where you know it's ok to work from home under a quilt, with a cup of hot cocoa, and in front of the fireplace. Or the times where it's snowing but it's still relatively warm and not blizzard like. So here's the light at the end of the tunnel. Can you picture it? The first day of spring where no jacket is needed. Birds are chirping happily. Everything looks so green. The leaves are emerging.
The windows are wide open and all the fresh air coming in the house. Shh...Don't mention all that pollen. And the fawns!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Half a heart

This weekend has been full of little rodent action. I haven't been diligently checking my "have a heart" live traps in the basement because I wasn't catching anything. I had hoped that my ceiling patching was a success. But sure enough I checked yesterday and shockingly there was a dead mouse in a trap. Sad. It didn't smell so it must have been recent. I let the little mouse go in the landscaping and cleaned everything. There was a lot of presents left inside the trap and all around it. I refilled the trap with a cashew since I'm all out of Reese's PBC. This morning I checked the traps and sure enough there was a live mouse eating the cashew. It was snowing this morning so I grabbed my snow boots and was going to walk it to freedom. But I was worried it would just come back so I took it for a drive. I let it go by a pine tree and before I even had the chance to turn the camera on and fully open the trap, it shot out like a rocket. We played some hide and go seek around the tree, but it outsmarted me and disappeared. So there's no picture of my hostage.

Friday, November 30, 2007

No fun

I received a notice in the mail yesterday stating that I must remove my birdfeeders as per the condo's rules and regulations. First, the author referred to me as Mrs. Anyone who writes numerous letters as this District Manager probably does, should know that unless you are absolutely clear a woman is married, you should refer to her as Ms. He stated how bird "dropping" is a health and safety issue. Only myself and my guests are subject to this "health violation". Nevermind the fact that after living there for 5 years, I have never seen anyone else wash their balcony aside from myself.

I know that the regulations say that "No resident shall hang garments, wash, rugs, clothes, or other items from the windows or from any of the facades, porches, patios, or balconies." But this line seems to only refer to wash or rugs. I don't see how somebody hanging a wind chime is hurting the aesthetic appeal of the 20 year old development. What I do see hurting the aesthetic appeal, is the general lack of maintainence on the facade...rotted wood in the trim and posts, holes in the trim, lighting fixtures that are not securely attached, etc. Nevermind how in the summer of 2002, a macroburst swept through my area. I lost numerous larger trees and all they have replanted is one small red maple.

So I only fathom that this crackdown is the result of the condo association attempting to raise some money through fines. As soon as I got this notice, I was reminded of the X-files episode where Mulder and Scully pretend to a married couple in a gated community.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Just another shack

So I've been chomping at the bit to get out to the site I visited last month after I learned of the neighboring property's weirdness factor. Also, to view the beautiful lake. I also wanted to bring my boss because I know he enjoys that stuff too. Sadly we missed lovely fall foliage but it still was beautiful.
Somebody cleared all the vines off the old gate. Must have been a lot of work.
Here's the estate house I didn't get to see last time. Just for the record, no trespassing occurred. All those signs and threats of motion detectors and cameras were enough to stop us at the property line.
What you can't see in the pictures are the few vultures sitting on the roof. One was sunning itself with its wings wide open. Check the stairs to get to the joint.

I know that I wish this place would be restored and opened as some sort of hotel. They sure don't build homes like this anymore. It'd be a great place for parties and weddings...just throwing out some ideas here.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Inquiring minds - Thanksgiving edition

I always like to see how people find my blog...what keywords are punched into the various search engines in which my blog appears. It boggles my mind the type of information one seeks. The most recent comical inquiry is....

"how many hores do i have to walk in my tall boots to break them in"

At first, I was total shocked...but then I realized and hoped that "hores" is really supposed to be "hours" and not what I initially thought it was. Good luck gentle inquirer in East Meadow, NY. Be sure to keep us posted with the answer to that.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

First snow of the season

I don't know if everyone else was as shocked as I was to wake up monday morning and seeing a blanket of white everywhere. I figured it wasn't sticking to the roads so I left without my snowboots and immediately regretted it when I stepped in 2 inches of slush in the parking lot. I decided that I was too lazy to brush the snow off my car, which I also regretted since it didn't melt/fall off until most of the way to the office. It snowed heavily most of the day and even more so up north at the office. We got like 4 inches by home and nearly 6 inches by work. But it was the pleasant snow that barely stuck to the roads...that is except the office parking lot which was a mess and the sidewalks were no better. But they got the crews out by the afternoon. Of course it almost all melted by now.

It sure was fun seeing trees with leaves covered in snow. I wish I had some pics of the bright red maples.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


America's Next Top Eastern Painted Turtle that is. I had a photo sesh with Cashew today. He did pretty well, but needs to work on conveying more emotion in the eyes. There he is being silly with some shrimp pellet pieces on his head.
He gave me a scare yesterday. I believe it might have been a near drowning. I was in the basement working on resecuring the ceiling to stop the mice/chipmunk entry, when I saw him walking around the bottom of the tank. This was odd for him, but I let him go for about 15 minutes. He made a few attempts to escape the situation by clawing at the tank walls. But he's always done that at all water levels. Finally I got worried, grabbed him and put him on the floating rock. He usually scurries off it and hides in the aquatic plant. But this time he just sat there, front feet limp, and breathing real heavy for a couple minutes. Freaking me out all along. Then I shut the heat lamp off and he moved and turned toward the water. And then he went back into the water and into the plant. All was well. Of course a few minutes later he was on the bottom of the tank again, but he found his way back up. I think the filter system has made some currents he can't quite fight yet. But he should manage to find his way to the filter box (it sucks toward it) and then can climb on top of it and then be almost out of the water. He did this the second time he was hanging out on the bottom. I wonder if this was what happened to Peanut.

This is the usual spot I find him...tangled in the roots of the aquatic plant. He's grown quite a bit. His shell is 1.3 inches long. I'm really hoping to keep him out of hibneration this winter so he can grow and be large enough to be free by next fall. But he has to learn how to eat live food before then.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Just a coincidence or more?

A weird thing happened to me on Tuesday night. My dreams are a lot like Desmond's from Lost psychic flashs. I'm not saying I'm psychic, but that my dreams are like scattered moments and when put together they usually don't make a whole lot of sense. There may be things or people that carry over from moment to moment.

On Tuesday night, I had a dream about a friend's dog, who is the boxer in the pic. Now it wasn't that I had dogs, him, the owners, etc. even on my mind the night or day before. Because I hear that whatever you thought of last before you fall asleep might find itself in your dreams.

I dreamt we were in the woods and he was without a leash. We were in an area that reminded me of my parent's backyard. I was worried that if we encountered a bear he would go after the bear. Bears are recurring topics in a good chunk of my dreams. I was periodically pulling him by his collar or at least debating whether to lead him just using his collar rather than trusting him to remain with me. Then the second moment is of us trying to locate another dog (the black lab) and somehow we were heading to the lawn of my parent's backyard from the woods. I didn't think anything of this dream, but I emailed my friend to relay the dream. What do you know but the dog had run off that very night without his leash. He was found the next morning and carrying a bow tie in his mouth. It would just be too much if that bow tie came from some neighbor's decorative bear or something.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The squatters are back

About a week or so ago, I realized that my rodent tenants were back in the basement. In the spring, I had found their presents all over the ledge in the basement. I promptly had my father patch the holes in the drywall and seal any potential entry walls. Most of the holes were sealed except the ones immediately above the furnace, which were close to impossible to patch. I'm talking about less than 3 inches of clearance between the air duct and ceiling with numerous pipes going into the ceiling.

The presents were vacuumed up and have-a-heart traps (mice sized) were set. I never caught anything in the spring so I assumed they had been sucessfully evicted. As soon as it turned cold out, they were back. Presents were left along the ledge again. I also found an acorn sitting in the middle of basement when just the day before there was none. A bit alarming since it indicates that these tenants are stepping up their threats. I still haven't caught anything in the traps.
Last year, I had asked my father whether he saw any presents up there and he said no. Well I should have checked myself because there they were. I think the tenants find their way into the walls via the common hallway and then they just make their way through everyone's basements in the ceilings and walls. So this afternoon, I attempted to patch these last holes. It was hellish. I had thought to use the mesh that you have in window screens with duct tape and staples. I had planned to cut holes in the mesh to fit around the pipes. Yeah. That's easier said then done. I did my best and there's still some holes but I hope it's enough of a deterrent that they will just move on to one of my neighbors. If this doesn't work, then I'll need to borrow someone's cat to stand guard down there.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Fall into the gap

My cousin, her BF, and I went hiking along a portion of the Appalachian Trail within the Delaware Water Gap and Worthington State Forest. Our destination was this vantage point where you can see 360 degrees. This spot is also a popular birding and hawk watch. It was an almost 2 hour hike in and it was mostly walking over rocks of course. On the way there, we rested on a nice boulder and some birds flew pretty close. I was hoping that our final destination would be non-stop close bird flying action so we continued onward. Well not so much. Most of these birds at this final desitnation were flying so far away I couldn't see them at all. Just barely a dark spec in the sky. And it sure was blusterly up there. It was like the NJ Mt. Everest complete with a large pile of rocks and a plastic owl, of course. I will say the leaves were gorgeous.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

RIP Peanut September 2007 - November 2007

Peanut the painted turtle is no longer with us. He passed away sometime late this morning. I knew I should have checked on him when I got home last night. Something just told me to checkc on them but I brushed it aside. But I didn't since I usually feed them once a day. I had fed them that morning and Peanut was being such a good eater and he wanted to eat more but I was running late and I figured he would get a bonus meal that night. On weekends I try to feed them twice a day, but I missed out on their dinner feeding. He was his usual lively self yesterday morning. He was trying to climb the walls (I had to rescue him since he was wedged between the wall and the floating rock) and eating up a storm...even the good food he should have been eating all along. I found him this morning at the bottom of the tank between the wall and the filter. I thought he had gone into hibernation, but I still was alarmed because that was supposed to be weeks away. So I picked him and attempted to warm him. He opened an eye and moved his legs and head a bit. I placed him on the heating rock and he occasionally and slowly would move his head or front legs. I then was worried that he was getting too warm so I placed him in the water. He just listlessly floated so he was not going to go back to the bottom...if he wanted to go into hibernation. His lungs were I guess full of air. I checked on him later on and he still was just motionlessly floating. So I put him back on the heated rock. No movement at all and his eyelids seemed bloated. I checked on him again and he was all bloated. No motion from any limb and no flutter of the eyes. So he was gone.

I don't know what happened. As you can see, his belly was really orange and a little wrinkly from the day I got him. Cashew's belly is smoother and less orange. The past month Peanut seemed to be constantly shedding. His limbs were always surrounded by tissue looking substance. Cashew had it too, but not as bad. I thought that he was growing and so he had to shed constantly. He was indeed growing. Should I have forced him to eat the vitamin enriched pellets sooner? He was eating them the past week. Was the water too cold? It was about 70 degrees this morning. Did the fish I put in with them last week have some negative effect? The fish were segregated from them and they seemed to live in harmony even though the turtlets should be hunting them. Or was he doomed from the start being so small and having some mysterious ailment from birth.

Peanut was full of energy, stubborn, and scrappy. I had always planned on releasing them to this pond when they were bigger and stronger. I guess Peanut just couldn't wait. So here's his final resting spot. He's free now.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Going, going, gone?

I've known this was coming...but sad to see it was this soon...The castle is almost completely gone. It's the end of an era. Let's have a moment of silence.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The best time of year

I don't know about everyone else, but I love this time of year. Awesome leaf colors, crunching of the leaves, crisp cold air. Nevermind all those pesky bugs dying by the bucket load. I was out at a beautiful site this week. It had a nice rocky stream and it was all wooded. The leaves were splendid. The only problem is that I was super crunched for time. I had an hour there and tried to do as much as possible. I didn't finish so I'll be back next week.

The leaves have been hard to enjoy this week with all this rain. I've been outside at least part of the day most of this week. Driving in the rain during this time of year is precarious. Driving on wet leaves equals driving on a slip n slide. I slid like 20 feet down a hill on wednesday. Thankfully I stopped in time before hitting the car in front of me. The car had stopped short on a hill and it knew there wasn't enough room for me so it moved partially into oncoming traffic.

Then on the drive home in the rain on friday, I came close to a pretty serious accident on the highway. My pack and I were driving along and doing the speed limit since the weather was bad. There were four lanes. I was in the second from the right lane. A van was in the second from the left lane and slightly ahead of me, which left the far left lane open. Then all of a sudden I see this new black mustang next to me. I think it was attempting to pass the van and it started to lose control. It was between the far left and middle left lanes and it was weaving back and forth. Each weave got progressively worse and it was trying to slow down at the same time. Finally it looked like it might spin totally out but it just slammed into the median. I could see the pieces coming off the car I was so close.