Monday, October 22, 2007

Playing farmgirl at Boulderneigh...

The other day, while sitting 10 feet off the ground on a stack of haybales, I was attacked by a mountain lion. At the time, I was supposed to be taking a nap, while awaiting a dinner of "cow with veggie sauce." Oh, and did I mention that my name was Isabella? It's just all part of playtime with my "five and three-quarters" year-old nephew, who thinks it's great fun to crawl around in the hay on a cool fall day...

There's always activity at Boulderneigh - from unloading and stacking wood, to picking the last of the goodies from the garden. And there are lots of animals around, too. There was Rosie the bulldog, who just went to sleep forever:

Oreo lives down in the barn, catching mice and enjoying attention:

There are also three horses: (from left to right) Oliver, Sammy, and Russell. Olly is an unamusing combination of stubbornness and flightiness, which I got to experience first-hand a few weeks ago while my sister had a dressage lesson with Russell. As we were riding around the arena, Olly decided that every corner had a boogie-monster. The problem is, I haven't ridden a horse regularly since I was my nephew's age, so Oliver didn't get quite the stern talking-to that he deserved. But we did spend a lot of time going round and round in circles, since I wouldn't let him totally avoid the corners, and even though he hopped and few times and tried to to shake me off, he was unsuccessful.

And last, but not least, my sister has a small flock of 6 Shetland sheep:

So if you happen to call and hear a scream in the background, have no fear: I'm just sitting in the barn, waiting for dinner, being stalked by a 5 year-old mountain lion. :)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Texan travels...well, actually, stays for Oregon

So I got a message from a friend the other day, saying "You're doing that disappearing act again...where are you?"

Well, I'm near McMinnville, Oregon, staying with my sister and her family. I went to college here my freshman year so this is familiar territory - but we won't talk about how many years ago that was. Fall has arrived and the colors are amazing - like the main street in McMinnville, a cute little downtown area with all kinds of fun shops:

Since this is the Northwest, there are coffee shops on every corner. One of my favorites in McMinnville is Cornerstone Coffee, where you can get a White Tiger Mocha:

White Tiger Mochas are divine...there was a period of time, when I worked in Nebraska, that my sister would buy a little bag of the white power mix and send it to me. I lived in the middle of nowhere, with the nearest town of any consequence being 30 miles away but, miraculously, there was a espresso place. (Remember the last century, before Starbucks had conquered North America? And did you know there's a Starbuck's inside the Forbidden City in Beijing??? I have photographic proof somewhere!) Anyway, there were a few odd looks the first few times I schlepped my plastic container into the store, but pretty soon I had them hooked, too. :)

McMinnville is also home to Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose (although he didn't like that name...) and the Evergreen Aviation Museum. My sis has a membership, so I've had a chance to wander through a couple times already:

And then there's just quality time with family, like the walk we took last Sabbath afternoon. My nephew decided, for reasons unknown, that he wanted to push his old stroller. On a 3 1/2 mile walk. A walk that was ALL uphill on the way there...

So, Wendy, I'm still alive and kicking - and that's what I've been up to! :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Saying goodbye to Rosie the bulldog...

A few years ago, my sister and her husband purchased a pair of English Bulldogs - Winston and Ruby - and raised several litters of puppies. My sis decided to keep Rosie from the second litter, and she's been in the family for the last seven and a half years...I've always spoiled my sisters' dogs rotten, mostly because I let them sleep with me. Rosie was no exception and over the last few weeks she's been in bed heaven...I woke up in the middle of the night a few days ago and realized that Rosie had her head up next to my pillow, paw splayed out, sleeping for all the world like a little dog-person:This last weekend, Rosie had some significant health issues and ended up going to the vet for a blood test and some x-rays. Things did not turn out at all like we expected - Rosie has a large heart-based tumor that's inoperable and it's just going to get harder for her to digest food and to breathe. So they made the decision to let her go to sleep here at home, after an afternoon full of treats both edible and stuffed...she'll be missed.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Texan the Oregon Coast

I arrived at my sister's house in Oregon last Friday. On Sunday, the family took off for a day of fun along the coast. It was a typically rainy Oregon day, with temperatures more like November than September. So I put on about 4 layers of clothes to keep warm, since much of the Oregon Coastal Aquarium is outdoors. But we had fun! My sister and I got our photo taken in front of a life-size painting of a Japanese spider crab (did anyone ever see the Gilligan's Island episode where there was a giant spider living in some cave? I think it was about the size of that crab...):One-on-one with the jellyfish:My nephew and I getting up close and personal with sea slugs and other marine life at an interactive display (I got "hugged" by a sea urchin!):After dinner, we drove out to the Yaquina Head lighthouse, where the clouds cleared out long enough for us to see a spectacular sunset:

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Texan Oregon

Being at home for a few days meant that my dad, the world's most awesome mechanic EVER, could replace the heater core on my car. (Yes, my car has issues. No, I'm not ready to break down and buy a new one yet.) Anyhoo, I've been dealing with another bothersome issue the last few months: there is a short somewhere that's causing the "check oil" light to come on sporadically:There's no rhyme or reason to it - except that if the light is off when I turn the car on, it never comes on. And for awhile there, it was really freaking me out (as my friends in Nebraska know!) But I discovered something else that scared me even more than the harsh orange glare (warning! warning!) of the "check oil" light. The harsh red glare (danger! danger!) of the "low coolant" light:Thankfully, that was a temporary danger signal while dad was having me drive the car, after replacing the heater core, to cycle the coolant through the system and so he could top it off. So, with the car tuned up and my bags packed, I headed for Oregon. The first night, I stayed in Rawlins, Wyoming - a place that's pretty much 100 miles from nowhere. The next morning, I was a bit shocked to see a Ford Festiva: The last time I was in Wyoming (and in Oregon with my own car, for that matter), I was driving a Ford Festiva. I had a love/hate relationship with that car - and it found ways to show its annoyance with me, too. Case in point: it's the only car that I've ever heard of that has gone moldy. Oh, yes. During my freshman year in college, I went home to Colorado during Christmas break. When I came back, I jumped in the car to head to town...only to find a strange green tinge of mold everywhere. A few buckets of diluted bleach later and the car was no worse for the wear. My Festiva once had seven people inside....started on 2 spark plugs (for the record, it had 4)...and routinely got more than 40 mpg. But I still tried to drive it into the ground - and never succeeded. It had a long and fruitful existence, until some lady in a Ford Expedition totalled it beyond repair...

Anyway, I saw some lovely fall foliage on the way through Utah and Idaho, and stayed in Nampa the second night:And then it was on to Oregon!

Miles driven: 1,769

States my tires touched the ground in: Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Idaho, Oregon
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Monday, October 1, 2007

Amarillo: the best-kept cultural secret in the Panhandle!

Y'all know I'm a Texan. So I may be a little biased - but it sure is fun to be in a town where you can go to a rodeo AND the symphony in one week! A few days ago, my dad and I went to the Tri-State Fair and the last qualifying PRCA rodeo before the nationals in Las Vegas. There was saddle bronc riding, barrel racing, steer wrestling and roping, and bareback bronc riding:
And bull riding:
With only a little extra work for the clowns to do:
A few days later, my parents and I went to the opening weekend of the Amarillo Symphony. It was start of the 83rd season (surprising for a cow town, isn't it?), with new director Kimbo Ishii-Eto at the helm. Amarillo built a gorgeous new venue, the Globe News Peforming arts center, a few years ago. Here's a shot of my parents at the entrance, and a view of the stunning stage:

Texan Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee and Arkansas

After picking a few more Honeycrisp apples in Michigan, I started the drive down to Tennessee and stayed overnight in Franklin, Kentucky, just south of Bowling Green. I'd never actually been to Kentucky, so this was a first, but I do have fond memories of Bowling Green...from a trip to Scotland and a guy named Bill.

Back in 2001, I had decided to leave my job in Nebraska and take a little time off. (Sound familiar?) People were shocked and horrified that I was leaving without having another job - they'd ask "What are you going to DO?" "Well," I'd reply, "I am planning a trip to the UK with a friend of mine..." And that, magically, seemed to make everything OK!

Now there are good friends. And then there are good friends that you can travel with. For me, Heidi is a friend I can travel with. She and I planned a 10-day trip to England and Scotland; I was in charge of making hotel arrangements. When we got to Edinburgh, Scotland, I had to make a confession: I'd booked two beds in a co-ed hostel.

Normally, I'd be the one to freak out about something like this but hey! I had backup! Anyway, we got the key to our 4-bunk room...opened the door....and there was no one else in the room. There was, however, a huge green army-issue duffel bag. Heidi looked at the tag and announced that it was a he, his name was Bill, and he was from Bowling Green, Kentucky. Then she thought we should go for a walk. So we got our first taste of Edinburgh, which is a really fun city:(I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel to pull that picture out of my hat - the trip was in pre-digital days...) And then Heidi took me on the walk 'o death; I won't go into detail here. I think neither of us wanted to be around Bill longer than we had to....but Bill ended up being hilarious! Picture this: a former anti-terrorism trainer who was out of the military and pursuing a Master's degree in Theatre Set Design from the University of Kentucky, who was traveling in Scotland after spending a semester studying in Wales. We laughed so hard...including Karen, a Canadian nurse, the fourth member of our first-night posse.

Anyway, back to the current road trip. After stopping overnight in Kentucky, I stayed in Calhoun, Georgia for a couple days and got a chance to visit with Carolyn, and friend and mentor. She had to give me crazy directions to her house, like "when you see the fencing, turn right," sort of an "over the river and through the woods"-like drive. We had a great time getting pedicures, getting lattes at a fun little coffee shop, and walking on the pedestrian bridge over the Tennessee river:I stopped in Jackson, Tennesee and had dinner with Ryan, a friend from academy days, and his lovely wife Tiffany:

They're expecting their first child next year - Congratulations!!!

Then it was on to Little Rock, Arkansas, where I stayed overnight with family before heading to Amarillo and a beautiful sunset at home...

Miles driven: 1,811

Length of this part of the trip: 5 days

Total miles driven: 3,513

States my tires touched the ground in: Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas

Weirdest sight: a Tennessee truck stop restroom that had a device on the wall that sprayed you with a knockoff perfume for a quarter. Very odd...

Worst roads: From the eastern border of Oklahoma, all the way to Oklahoma City. You'll need a front-end alightment (and maybe a massage!) after that bumpy ride...

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