Happy Halloween

Someone must be at the door. I look so cute. they probably want to see my Halloween costume.
I guess not. I’ll just rest until someone comes over.
Being the Joker is no laughing matter!




Horseback in Hawaii

Like Lesley Carter, I have my bucket list.  I also hold, sometimes unrealistic, admiration for people and because of that I want to try to do the things they do.

If Carmen can do it, I want to try it!  Copied without her permission.

Enter Carmen again. She’s taking horseback riding lessons, and she’s going to ride with the stars.  When will I ever learn, Marsha Lee, you are not Carmen?  Carmen can do things you can’t, and it’s ok.  But I tried.

Trying to “hang loose”.

Start with the end and work backwards.  I made it up the mountain.  You can all see that.  I made it back down or I wouldn’t be writing.  My husband asked, didn’t you love the views?

Oh yeah! The view was great!

I knew I was in trouble as soon as the guide adjusted my stirrups.  He tried to pull my leg back to put it in the stirrup, and it wasn’t going that direction.  He managed to get it in the stirrup, but I was already in pain.

The view as I saw it!

You notice that the picture is a little fuzzy.  I wanted you to see what I was seeing.  Remember I was bouncing with every excruciating step.  The view wasn’t in focus any more for me that it is for you!  Not only that I had my camera around my neck and hanging at my side.  The guide wisely reminded me that lenses and saddles didn’t mix, and if the lens accidentally came in contact with the saddle…  This is my third lens already.

Ah, relief, we stopped for a second. Snap. Ops, we’re off again!

So you can see that it really was beautiful  This was VERY early on.  I could still look out when the guide stopped to give us a break.  We are going through a housing development developed to continue agriculture.  Each plot was something like 10 acres, and they had to grow something.  I admit I wasn’t concentrating on his words right then.

Our guide explaining some history. Better listen.

This aqueduct was built in blah, blah, blah.  Amazing work of engineering.  I will appreciate it when I get home.  Meanwhile, my camera is still safe, but at what cost?  I have the reins in my right hand holding tight because my horse likes to veer to the side whenever he/she sees something green.  Down goes her (I’m thinking broad, gentle, must be an older woman horse) head.  MMMMMM.  “Don’t let the horses eat,” warned the guide in the beginning.  I yank with all my might and she grabs her bites to go.  My left hand is twisted behind my back holding onto the camera lens to protect it from the saddle.

The one guest who knew how to ride.

She looked comfortable in the saddle.  I definitely was NOT.  I got the BROADEST  mare.  When I was 10, I never could do the splits sideways, no matter how much I stretched.  I could do them front to back, but that position was not needed for this task.  At 60 sitting atop Bessie I was stretched wider than my widest 10 year old splits.  I had my heels down which stretched my nerves and muscles ways they couldn’t go either.  My toes were pointed up, and my knees were pressed in.  I don’t know what my ankles were doing, but they hurt too.

Look at that great form. Toes still up in ready position.

We finally got to dismount for a bit.  That was not easy, but my legs were still functioning at this point.  I blessed my husband over and over for choosing the morning ride that only lasted 2 hours instead of the lunch ride I had wanted that lasted 2.5 hours.

Still able to stand by myself. Halfway there. Snacks on the picnic table.

You can’t see how fat my horse is, but Francis’ horse is obviously looking for grass.  He didn’t get ANY on the way up!  I think horses must eat anything – tree leaves, grass, rocks…

We were told several times along the way to pat our horse and tell them what a good job they were doing.   I obeyed.

I was trying not to cry in front of everyone, but at least I was safe for a bit.  She had not fallen off the rocky path – came close a few times, I thought.  So I gave her sweaty body a brief pat.  She won’t look at me.  The horses in our neighborhood love me, and look at me, but they don’t have to carry me up a steep mountain side.

Smiling, smiling, smiling

We’re ready to go back down.  I’m smiling on the outside.  Francis isn’t under the same obligation.  This is it until we get back down.  No more pictures.  Bessie was really hungry on the way down.  She would pull off to the side of the road, bend her head down.  I used both hands to keep her on the path, not going over the cliff to higher grass.  Then she jogged to catch up to the rest.  I begged her to slow down.  I pulled back on her reigns.  I cried.  I pleaded.  She kept jogging until she caught up.

I was able to get off the horse, but a nice young man had to almost lift me off.  I couldn’t get my right leg over the saddle.  I slid onto the ground with him holding on to me.  I clung to Bessie until I could stand.  I didn’t care that she was sweaty and dusty. I couldn’t see anything for a few minutes.  Slowly I came back to life, and walked away from the horse.

Everybody told the guide what a wonderful trip it was.  I was crying.  I couldn’t stop the tears.  I told him I was out of shape.  The ride was great.

End with the beginning. Check that OFF the bucket list!!!

I was just grateful that I didn’t kick the bucket on that trip.  The next day I was fine.  We probably walked 6 miles along the beach to Whalers’ Village and back.  No stiffness, sore muscles, nothing.  Go figure!

Warning to newlyweds – don’t try horseback riding on a mountain trail on your honeymoon unless you are REALLY used to doing it!

Abstract Art

My former daughter-in-law is quite an artist.  She can barely see, yet she turns out, what I think are absolutely beautiful paintings.  I was talking to my new blogging friend Mike at Sum This Sum That about his wife’s work.  She has a painting that looks like my Scardy Kitty posed for it.  I told him about my DiL’s paintings, and he wanted to see them, so Mike these are for you – and all the rest of you, too!!!


Cosmos is my favorite painting , and is the only one with a name I remember, but it may be upside down.  I rotated it around some.  I also didn’t take it straight on, but I’ll do another picture later.  I’m finding that it takes me hours to even do a simple post like this because I have to do things to the pictures.  (not to mention writing and editing the little bit of script I add)

I had this one and Cosmos up in my office at work.  They are not up yet in my house.  I just love her bright colors, and odd designs.

This next one may look the same size as the other two, but actually it is about half of the 2nd one and 1/3 of the first one.  I had three this same size that I hung over my desk at work, and they made a nice collection.

This is the next one in the trilogy.   Actually I’m sure it doesn’t matter which direction they are turned, but I had them rotated 90 degrees in my office, but I can’t remember which direction.

This was the third one of the trilogy.  Once when we went to a restaurant together, the restaurant served crayons for the paper tablecloth.  She coached the four of us to create abstract masterpieces on the tablecloth while we were waiting for our dessert.  They came out pretty well considering.

This is another favorite of mine, but my step-son won’t part with it.

This is another one he won’t part with.  Many, if not most of these she painted when they moved in with us when the came from France.  One time I came home from work expecting company for dinner and the entire dining room table was covered with one of her canvasses.  She was not happy about having to move her studio.

Most of these paintings are 2 dimensional, but often she added texture such as sand to add interest to the painting.

This is the last one of Bounheuang’s paintings that I photographed.   She is amazingly accomplished.  She has a master’s degree in English from a French university.  She was a very prolific as well as talented painter while she was married to my step-son.  She is also a professional dancer, a licensed massage therapist, and is now going to school to become an acupuncturist.    She made my life more interesting to say the least!









Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: One Single Flower

I saw this challenge on Simply Captured and I liked her floral pictures so well, I thought I would submit a few pictures as well.  You might want to also.

Create a Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge post

  1. Then add a link to your blog in my comment box.
  2. To make it easy for others to check out your photos and post, title your blog post “Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge” tag.
  3. Remember to Follow My Blog to get your weekly reminders.
Spring 2012 rose

I’ve always loved red roses.  Here in Central California spring is perfect for roses, but by June the temperatures soar, and the roses dry up.  By fall they start to come back, but they are small and dry fast.

Beautiful in Berkeley

I’m fudging on this next “single” flower some, but I’m hoping you won’t mind.  It was so beautiful.  I fell in love with the color and the curly cues.

Avila Beach, Ocean Canyon, s single rose

This final rose came from Ocean Canyon KOA Campground in Avila Beach, CA.

I love the colors of these three flowers, and I love the way they look together.  Which one do you like best?  Do you have a favorite flower?

FAQs About Time Share Traveling

You all know that I retired two months ago, and we are still in the process of deciding how to organize our lives.  V likes the comfort of being at home.  I like home, too, but I love to travel.  Last week we traveled.  This was our third visit back to Ka’anapali Beach Club, and it feels like home.  Curtis still works in the beach office.  We know our way around KBC, and Maui.  It is ALMOST as comfortable and familiar as HOME.

Ka”anapali, Maui, HI

We tiptoed around our timeshare the first year back to Hawaii because we felt so badly about canceling our contract with the sweet saleslady.  But we still went back because it was lovely, and we DID buy a timeshare at KBC (Ka’anapali Beach Club).  You can read about that adventure here.

Ohana Bar and Grill

Buying a timeshare is an investment in future travel.  Even if you find a bargain like I did, it is more expensive up front than hopping in your car, forgetting to book a hotel, and getting on the road.  Click here to review that hotel find.   Needless to say, we didn’t go for any of the timeshare owners updates, but enjoyed staying there for two years.

Family fun

This year we went ahead and scheduled the update.  Their computers hadn’t forgotten that we had cancelled our Diamond Resorts Membership.  They didn’t really care at that point, they had another deal for us.   We could reserve the right to buy Resort Points for 18 months, and be on our way.

“What do you want to do today?” Who cares? It’s wonderful just being here!!!”

So V wanted to sign the option, and get moving.  Unfortunately, the computer won’t let you sign anything if there is an unexercised option still under your name.  And umpteen years ago, we had an option to buy more points under our cancelled policy.  As a real estate salesperson, V was impressed with their well-oiled sales pitch.  It made no sense to me that we had to sign a waiver releasing them from honoring an option that we had already cancelled.  So I was curious – V said to me, “This is too convenient.  Was this  planned?”  The old option made the new one look sick, and indeed, the new sales rep acted like he would like to purchase our old option.

A walking path led to the golf course between the beach and the rows of resorts.

So now you know the routine.  It’s like buying a car.  V was not buying it.  He didn’t care that much, we already had a week.  We couldn’t trade it anywhere.  We couldn’t comfortably take anyone with us.  We couldn’t get a better view, but we were able to go to Maui, and we liked being there.  Life was good.

Sunrise from the Scenic View of KBC

Now here is the thing I don’t understand about time shares.  We bought a deeded piece of property at KBC.  When we bought it, we lost the right to the week that was fixed with the original deed,  and we then had a floating week.  This meant we could schedule a week any time we wanted, that they had rooms available, and we were satisfied with that option.  But the well-oiled sales pitch was,  “What if they didn’t have a room?”  Their answer – They would book us at the hotel next door.  So in essence we lost our guarantee of a place at KBC.  BUT we could still come to Maui.

KBC through the coffee trees.

No, we wouldn’t have had to be that far away.  This coffee plantation is another story for another day, if you’re still interested.  To make our long story – and it did take a VERY long time – a little shorter.  Diamond Resorts agreed to taking our deed in for points thus guaranteeing our right to stay at KBC at no charge.  They also agreed to honor our option to buy additional points at the rate of several years ago.  They also agreed to double the points with no fees for two years, which was also part of the old option, thus moving us to the highest “level” of point ownership possible.

Just walk away from the deal, Marsha.

You know I would be impressed, and since I love to travel, I just looked at the purchase as buying options on 10-15 years of comfortable travel anywhere in the world.  When you reach the Gold or Platinum Levels of ownership, the way it is supposed to work is that you book your resort at the lowest point level and exercise your option to trade up at no extra cost.  We didn’t have this option with deeded property.  This meant that with the purchase of this option we could trade to a two-bedroom with an ocean view at the cost of the one bedroom opposite the ocean.  We could trade for airline travel.  After all the benefits were explained, V was not moved, so he said, “No”, and apologized, but said he would sign the new option to purchase so that the sales rep would get something for his effort.  The sales man, Terry Osborne, told him that he knew V would not sign up for the new option ever if he was turning down the old option.  So he asked what it would take to get V to sign and activate the old option.

Thinking about it…

V thought about it and said if they lowered the price enough to offset some of the yearly fees, it would be more appealing.  It’s hard for a salesman to be hard on another salesman.  At this point I just kept quiet.  If V really didn’t want to travel, there was no point in me pushing to buy travel time.  I still had my week in Hawaii, all paid for, no matter where we stayed.

Beach walk on the way to the Golf Course

No one was more surprised than I was when V agreed to buying the additional points after the salesman lowered the price another $8,000.  We ended up paying less per point for this option than any resale value on the market today, and even less per point that what we paid originally through the resale timeshare company.  I love a bargain, and if this helps you to bargain to buy the things you want to buy, I’m happy for you.  Nothing is a bargain if you really won’t use it.  I get at least 1-2 calls every month from someone wanting to buy my timeshare, so I know people are looking for them and selling them on a regular basis.  Timeshares are real estate – even if you buy points.

So to summarize, if you ARE interested in buying a timeshare:

  1. It will cost more than a regular hotel at first.  But you always get more amenities than at a hotel.
  2. Don’t agree to the first deal that is offered to you.  (or maybe the second)
  3. Check the internet for other options.
  4. Exercise your right to cancel if you find something you like better.  You are the one that has to be happy.  But remember that salespeople are people so don’t abuse them.  If you are REALLY not interested, don’t sign.  It hurts their numbers.
  5. Remember the resale timeshare ALWAYS looses some part of the amenities.
  6. You will always have a maintenance fee every year.  The price of that is negotiable.
  7. The interest rates are high if you finance – 10.99%
  8. The cost of borrowing your own money, if you have a retirement account is low. 2% – an additional 6% goes back in as an investment for you.
  9. The cost of travel will probably increase over the years, so you lock in the best price today.
  10. Points give you flexibility to travel other places that deeds don’t give you.
  11. Gold and platinum memberships give you the ability to book low rates and trade up at no cost, but you pay a higher maintenance fee because it is figured on points.
  12. Sometimes timeshares give you FREE ponts with no maintenance fee for a year or two as a bonus.
  13. It takes a HUGE amount of time to negotiate a good deal.  They will buy your lunch!

I’m not trying to sell KBC, but if by chance you ARE interested email me, we do get a referral fee that I would be glad to share with you.  I really did like our representative, Terry Osborne.  We also got the owner, Steve Cloobeck’s, business card.  Have you ever tried to get ahold of top management when you really had a problem with a hotel? They are the most private people in the world!

I am excited about our investment in our future.  We can travel to see friends, new and old, all across the country and even throughout the world using Diamond Resort Points.  That kind of travel is on my bucket list.  That we can extend our good fortune to include others at no additional charge to us, makes it even more fun.  That V can stay in a familiar place… well he is now excited about traveling and finding NEW places.

I did cross off one thing off my bucket list permanently while I was in Hawaii – horseback riding.  That’s another story!

I’m TRYING to Hang Loose!

I hope this was helpful.




Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign

This post was inspired by a prompt from WP Daily Post: Weekly Photo Challenge: Foreign. In this case I chose to focus on the word foreign meaning outside the United States where I grew up, and have lived my entire life.  Almost anything that is out of our comfort zone could be classified as foreign, and this trip was as foreign as I have ever felt in my life.  I hope you enjoy my long past memory of Paris, France where we traveled to be with my husband’s son when he married a Chinese-Laotian girl who grew up in France.

“The French approach to food is characteristic; they bring to their consideration of the table the same appreciation, respect, intelligence and lively interest that they have for the other arts, for painting, for literature, and for the theatre. We foreigners living in France respect and appreciate this point of view but deplore their too strict observance of a tradition which will not admit the slightest deviation in a seasoning or the suppression of a single ingredient. Restrictions aroused our American ingenuity, we found combinations and replacements which pointed in new directions and created a fresh and absorbing interest in everything pertaining to the kitchen.”
Alice B. Toklas

Basque restaurant in Paris

The short time we spent in Paris was lovely – eat visit museums, eat, eat, eat.  Wear fat lady clothes.  Someone told us that we had to go to this lovely alley Basque restaurant, Auberge de Jarente.

Address:  7 Rue de Jarente, 75004 Paris, France
Phone:  01 42 77 49 35
Marais District

We have a large Basque community in Fresno, and they are famous for their hospitality and home cooking.  This one was no exception.  It was early September, slightly cool enough to be comfortable in a light jacket at lunch time.  We sat outside and watched people come and go into their apartments across the alley.  The dining experience itself bordered on being elegant.  Cloth napkins and table cloth.  Handsome waiter checking on you often to bring you more of whatever you wanted.  Yet the location was an alley – very foreign!  I gained 10 pounds just sitting there that afternoon.

We took this picture as a joke since the food was almost gone.

We had kind of a meat paella.  There were foreign kinds of meats I had never eaten including duck, which was sort of heavy and greasy as I remember.  It must have been good, but you’ll never know until you go to Paris.  Amateur photographers may take a decent picture once in a while, but they forget that picture-taking is the MAIN objective.  That would mean as soon as the meal comes out, the camera is set ready to go.  As amateur photographers, we finished our delicious food, then we remembered that we Spencer and Margaret ALWAYS send us picture of their food.  oops – oh well!  I think that must be a foreign tradition – I still struggle with it.  “Eat first, photograph later – the All American Tradition.” – U.S. diner. (me)

Hotel in the Marais District

This really isn’t an interesting photograph, but it shows just how narrow and crowded the streets are.  I can’t imagine driving in Paris, and that is very foreign to me.  In my work I was driving about 30,000 miles a year.  We stayed in the Hotel du Vieux Marais which you can see if you enlarge this photo is on the right side just in front of the black car.

Louvre, Paris France

We did visit the Louvre because you can’t go to Paris maybe only once in your life, and ignore the largest museum in the country, and third in the world.  We got too close to Mona, and had to be ushered back.  I probably tried taking her picture.  (You know those amateur photographers always taking the wrong picture in the wrong place!)  I remember the big crowd standing around this tiny painting.   It is much smaller that I expected it to be.  I don’t know about you, but I get overwhelmed by museums and SO MUCH  visual input.  I can only take in a little bit, and then I feel stuffed and tired, almost like eating too much.  My brain won’t process all that I am seeing.  I know I won’t remember more than about one or two things in the museum at the maximum, yet I have this insatiable appetite for visiting museums.

Museum of Judaism

This was one museum I had to visit in honor of my friend, Elane Geller, who survived the Holocaust.  Going through this museum really brought home the fact that Jews had been in Europe for at least 400 years before Hitler was even born.  I wasn’t able to take pictures inside any of the museums, and I didn’t buy tons of souvenirs.  But the golden and bronze religious items on display were ornate and definitely foreign to a simple American like me.

I hope you enjoyed my short walk down my short memory lane.  There are a few more pictures, but I have to find out what they are!!! Maybe if I post one that I don’t know you will tell me what it is!????

Where were we?

Sorry that my photos are sort of grainy – too much noise.  We discovered undeveloped rolls of film YEARS after we took them.  We didn’t even think there would be anything to develop, but there’s enough here to jog our memories.  I’m not sure what happened to the rest of our pictures.  They were before digital!!  That’s foreign to me now!  How did I ever exist before digital?


Week at Ka’anapali Beach Club (KBC)

Do you prefer to relax or be very active on a vacation?  Ka’anapali Beach Club, one of the Diamond Resorts in Maui, HI, might be a place you would enjoy.

Timeshare traveling – not time traveling  This is taken from V’s favorite table around the pool. 

Timeshare travel differs from regular travel, and there is an art to doing it.  Believe me, that is another skill I am learning as I move forward into retirement.  At age 50 I had never been to Hawaii, never thought I would ever get to go, and was just plain jealous of anyone who had ever been!  Things change.  Friends asked us to cruise around the Hawaiian islands with them.  We landed in Honolulu, Oahu, and visited Kona, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii.  At each island we had several hours to tour, either guided or on our own.  We fell in love with Maui, and during our free time there went on a timeshare tour.  Timeshare sales people in Maui are as ubiquitous as abizia trees.  We were in love with the idea, but not enough to part with tons of our hard earned capital.

We went back the next year with American Express points at the Westin.  The Westin was lovely and we talked them out of making us switch rooms mid-week.  We did not escape the OTHER Timeshare sales people in Lahaina.  Here was the deal, if we agreed to spend 90 minutes with a KBC salesperson, we got a boatload of discounts from the Expedia man.  I love discounts, so we did it.  (He’s still there by the way.)  At that KBC presentation we signed papers to buy a timeshare to come enjoy a scenic view suite in Maui every other year for the cost of only $11,500.  (Much better than $90.000 at the Westin).  Unfortunately for the timeshare woman, we (I) got cold feet, but not so cold that we didn’t want a timeshare.  Actually V’s feet were never even as warm as mine but he accommodates.

So we went back to Lahaina and visited the Timeshare RESALE salesman (different breed).  He sat in his office waiting for people to come to him, and NO free tours of anything.  We bought his KBC timeshare at a fraction of the other timeshare value – NO points – deed only, and he very generously cancelled our first contract with Diamond Resorts for 3,250 points.  That little tidbit of information plays into a future story.

our newly appointed living room in scenic view room 1132

The next year, our first time as owners, we tried to register to use our KBC timeshare, nobody could find a record that V & M existed, we convinced them that we were real, and we really did own a timeshare there.  The next couple of times we used our KBC timeshare, we walked gingerly past the timeshare updaters.  (That also plays into another post about this saga.)  We didn’t want to run into the poor sales woman who was so sweet, and bought our breakfast, and dinner.

The open lobby is filled with gentle breezes, birds chirping and sunburned people year-round.

This is our third visit here.  We loved the place.  It is large, newly furnished and upgraded.  It is not a new hotel.  They are not building many any of those now. KBC used to be Embassy Suites.  There are some downsides – sort of.  KBC doesn’t have a full kitchen like our Westin timeshare experience had.  On the other hand, it didn’t cost $90,000 per week.  It comes with a sink, full refrigerator and electric cooking equipment.  Do you know how much V and I wanted to cook in Hawaii?

our kitchen/dining room area

We have our favorite restaurants, and we try not to eat so much that all we do is eat and sleep.  Believe me that is hard!!!  We use the microwave, but we really don’t miss the stove.  If you have a large family, love to cook, and want to timeshare travel, I would recommend a different resort.  If you do like to cook, and many people are whizzes on the electric frypan, then go to Costco on the way from the airport.  Many people do – we got stuck in the parking lot, and thought we’d never get out.  Costco obviously didn’t contact a feng shui when they designed their parking lot in Maui.

The bedroom opens up to the living area as well as the bath area.

We purchased the one bedroom unit, no frills, no added benefits, no bringing friends or relatives at the same time.  But the bedroom is large and comfortable. This was the best shot I took to get an idea of the layout of the entire suite.  To the right of the dresser is a nice desk looking out on the scenic view, which by the way is a lot less expensive than the ocean view.  Both the closet door and the bathroom door go into the bathroom, so you can access your clothes from the bathroom – a VERY handy feature.

We both loved the bathroom.  I know, who wants to spend time in THERE when you are on a vacation?  Trust me when you come back with your swimming suit filled to the brim with sand because you can’t stand up in the surf, you appreciate the shower.  When you not only can’t stand in the surf, but you can’t get up once you get down, and pounding waves from all directions polish you like a rock or a shell before they toss you out of harm’s way, you appreciate a deep soaking tub.  When you go horseback riding, and can barely get off the poor, sweaty animal, foggily clinging to it until you can stand on your own two whatever they are… You get the picture.  The bathroom takes on importance in gigantic proportions.

Notice the ubiquitous abizias in the foreground. I labeled our room on this trip.

There’s a lot more to tell about this story than you want to read tonight.  However, I warn you, I took notes while I was there, so I wouldn’t forget so much.

Do you want to hear the rest of the story?


Writing to a Prompt: A Complicated Subject

The WP Prompt:  Take a complicated subject you know more about than most people, and explain it to a friend who knows nothing about it at all.

Writing essays is my forté, yet writing to a prompt is a complicated task.  As I think about my professional life, I probably spent more time writing than almost any other single activity either writing essays myself or grading students’ and teachers’ essays for over 20 years.  Writing professionals have boiled essay writing down to a few steps which can be easily explained to someone who doesn’t write.  While most people THINK they know how to write if they can put words down on paper, it has been a shock to me to realize how many people struggle to write even a simple five paragraph essay to answer a prompt.

Essays usually convey information rather than to tell a story, although they may use facts to persuade or convince readers to take action as well.  New writers need to know that an essay consists of only three parts:  an opening paragraph, the body, and the conclusion.  Simply outlined, the opening paragraph restates the prompt stating three or more examples or facts. The next three paragraphs expand on the three or four facts stated in the opening paragraph.  The concluding paragraph points back to the opening paragraph and summarizes how the paragraph addressed the stated prompt.
These steps sound simple enough.  However, often the writer is asked to write to a prompt about which the writer has to search the depth of his memories to create a coherent response.  Other times the writer must research the topic to write an intelligent essay.   Notice that the first thing that I did to prepare for THIS essay was analyze the prompt or break it into pieces.   I didn’t just start writing.  I asked myself questions such as, “Of all the complicated things I CAN do, what ONE thing can I do WELL?  Of those possibilities, what can I write about in a few paragraphs?”  Next the prompt asks me to explain it to a friend, so I asked myself, “Who is my audience?”  Before I write anything I take a few minutes to ask myself questions about the prompt.  I usually jot down some notes in an informal list or outline.  In this case I also began with both a quotation and a definition or explanation of my topic.
Writing to a prompt is complicated for many reasons.  An author who does not know much about the topic may cut corners and merely copy the prompt word for word, and preface it with the words, “Today I am going to write about…”  This might be acceptable in first grade, but beyond that writers need to display more sophistication in their writing.  It would be better to start with a quote or a definition instead. 
On the other hand if the author has too much information about a topic, writing becomes complicated.  In this case writing can take many turns and twists because, according to the brain laboratory at UCLA, people have more than 70,000 thoughts per day.  One short essay can’t utilize all these thoughts, so the first step is deciding which thoughts are keepers.  When writers struggle with this, the result is that their writing is unclear.  That is the reason if I am writing under pressure on a topic I begin with brainstorming, then move to an outline.  I may do this in my head, but it is more effective if I write it out.
Finally writing to a prompt is a formal process.  Vocabulary and style become issues.  My blogging style is rather informal, uses simple vocabulary and sentence structure, and is often funny. My formal writing style as I would use in a writing prompt, differs from that in several ways.  I use a more academic lexicon or vocabulary, and vary my sentence structure, and I am usually more serious. Each sentence starts with different words.  For example, after I have written this essay, I will go back over it and circle all the initial words.  If I have more than two of the same beginning word, I will change one of them.  I will look at how many of the same words I use within the sentence as well.  I word processing programs as well as the internet have dictionaries and a thesaurus at the writer’s fingertips, so there is no excuse for repeating the same word multiple times.
Once I have thought out my topic, analyzed the prompt, brainstormed facts, organized the facts into similar paragraphs I started the actual writing process.  Next I wrote a clear and concise opening paragraph.  Following in next three or four paragraphs I developed the topic.  Finally I closed the essay with a summarization.  After writing I checked to make sure that I didn’t repeat myself or use all the same type of sentences. I proofread my piece one last time before considering it complete.  If you do these simple steps, you will have a passable essay for any exam, or job application.  Although a writer may not be a best selling author, he or she can follow some simple steps to become an expert in writing to a prompt. 

Tillamook Air Museum

October 24th is my younger brother, Randy’s, and my Grandfather’s birthday.  I always enjoy these next two weeks because for that amount of time there is only one year between us.  So happy birthday, bro.  This post is for you.

Happy Birthday, Randy

If you’ve read about my small family, you know that Randy is my closest and nearly only living blood relative.  Until Mom passed away in 2006 we hardly spent any time together, but since that time we tried harder to keep in touch. 

We both love the coast, whether Oregon or California, and five years ago we went to Tillamook to the Air Museum.  I thought we would never get there. It is in the middle of nowhere, but well worth the drive.

6030 Hanger Road, Tillamook, OR

For those of you who like me thought that all they had in Tillamook was cheese, you will pleasantly surprised.

Tillamook Air Museum

The hangar housing mostly World War II vintage planes was huge.  Actually it is the largest wooden structure in the world measuring 1072 feet by 296 feet covering over 7 acres.  It was built to house blimps.  (NO not me!!!) 

Inside the main hanger

Neither my brother nor I had been there so we picked out our favorite planes, got to climb in the cockpit of one, looked in the gift shop, read all the kids’ letters to the museum, and ate lunch.  We did it all!

World War II Plane

This was one of my favorites.

The students did a much better job of illustrating their visit than I did, and of course, I had to read every one of their pictures.  Good thing my brother was patient.

All of us got to be big kids that day.

There was hardly anyone there, so we got a lot of special attention.

I’m sure we did our fair share of shopping, too.  I would recommend this as a great field trip for students.  I know they don’t get to go on field trips in our schools often, and yet the ambiance of being in a structure like this with the actual planes helps bring history to life. 

Parents did you know that family vacations like this one do more to increase your students’ intellectual powers that almost anything else you can do for them.  So hop in your cars and go to your own local museums.  Take a trip to a nearby town or city and visit the museums there.  They might not appreciate it now, but they will later.  Even better if you take grandparents who might even know how the strange items in museums were used.  Even better, start reading both before and after the trip.

There are many gems right in your own neighborhoods.  And you are the experts.  Help your kids grow up knowing their own culture.  Then expand their culture to include other times and places. 

What kinds of places do you like to vacation?


Sunday Post: City

Jakeprinter’s Sunday Post this week is City. 

Resized, but unenhanced photo.

I love to travel, and most of all I love to go to museums when I travel.  My step-son married in France, so we had the obvious pleasure of traveling there for the wedding.  After the wedding, of course, we were on our own.  So we traveled from the small southern town where they married to Paris, and were to meet them there after a week.  I had just been to the National Archives in the United States for the first time.  I apologise to the French, but I was disappointed in their National Archives.  Many rooms were nearly bare as they had moved items to the Louvre

Enhanced photo of the National Archives in Paris

I altered the photo because I thought it looked way to drab.  I added two layers of increased contrast decreased brightness.  It didn’t do a thing for the sky, but I think it made a difference.  The sky, as I remember from MANY years ago, was drab.  It was a chilly September day. 

So now that you have seen them both, which one do you like better?

Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

SILHOUETTE. The proper definition of a silhouette is “the outline of a body viewed as circumscribing a mass.”  http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/weekly-photo-challenge-silhouette/

Sometimes I accidentally produce pictures that are silhouettes, and these are some I loved.  I used the one of me all summer as my profile picture.

At the Bicycle Museum in Davis, California, June 2012

I had a great time taking everyone’s pictures, and all of a sudden it struck me that if I stood on the other side of them I could get better photos! 

I’m glad no one was photographing me getting on. It was not a graceful picture!

Even with no facial expressions showing you can also see that this 1890s bicycle was not easy to mount!


I probably shot half of them before the light went off in my head instead of behind my subjects!

Slow down, Justin. You’re gonna…..

And they were having so much fun posing!


And then the light hit, and the rest of the photos were normal.

But they all had fun!  And the bicycle survived the crash, and so did Justin.

So I hope you enjoy my silly silhouettes.  Let me know what you think – silhouettes better or good lighting better?

Is There Like Beyond Spam?

Since my last post about spam when I was immediately removed from the WordPress blogging universe, I have had a breakthrough.  It seems that they have fixed the problem of me living with spam.  Thanks WordPress.

In addition to writing every day I try to read a fair number of blogs, and I was in the habit of pressing the “like” button because I couldn’t comment.  Today I tried pressing “Like”.  Like normal, but this time with a twist – I couldn’t like anyone’s work.  So If you think I don’t like you, you might be wrong.  It could be that my “like” finger has been deactivated.  Leanne, you were one of my “impossible to like” sites.  Sorry!!!  🙂



One-Eyed Charlie

Every history teacher wants to pretend to be someone in history, I think.  I had my shot at it for a fourth grade event called Butterfield Stage Days in Porterville, CA.    Most of the kids never guessed my secret.  They just wondered how I could be dead and still be there.  Whatever happened to fear of ghosts?   They never even said I looked WAY too young to be 200 years old!  What’s up with THAT?

This is the monologue I wrote and acted out.  It is almost that time again, so I thought someone else might want to use it.

Name’s Parkhurst, Charles D. Parkhurst.  The other stage coach drivers call me Charley.  You might be wondering why I’ve got this black patch on my eye.  Well, that’s part of my story, but my story’s got a secret, that I never told anyone – in all my days.  Maybe you can guess, but none of my friends ever suspected.  But my eye, well, I wasn’t born like this, with just one eye.  No siree.  When I was borned in 1812 back in New Hampshire, I had 2 good eyes, same as you.  Got kicked by a horse, by George.  Now you may be wonderin’ how I got way out here in Californie if I was borned way back east in New Hampshire.  It ain’t a pretty picture.  No siree.  See, back in 1812, not that I remember it much, fact is I don’t remember my parents at all.  You all got parents?  Seems like everybody does.  I guess I had them, but I grew up in an orphanage.

You might ask, what’s it like in an orphanage?  Well, I don’t remember too much, but we was always broke.  We worked hard, but didn’t have much.  All looked pretty much the same, too.  The house parents just came around gave us all the same hair cuts, and the few clothes we had, but tweren’t no love lost between us kids and them, I’ll tell ya.  We had nothing, so when I was 15 I ran away.  I figured that life couldn’t get much worse.  And I was right.

Life got much more interesting once I ran away.  Course, I had to work to live.   My first job was in Worchester, Massachusetts working for Ebenezer Blach.  He was a good man, ole Mr. Blach.  My job was cleaning the stables and caring for the horses.  I love horses, but then you probably already guessed that, me being a stage coach driver and all that.  One of the best they tell me, but I don’t like to talk about that too much.  Why I got a $20 tip from one customer when my team veered off the road, and I was throwed from the coach.  I hung on to them reins for dear life.  Oh sure it hurt being drug along by them horses through the bushes, but I finally managed to turn them horses right into the bushes, and stopped them cold, it did.  I think my passengers thought I was a goner, and on a mountain trail, they probably thought they was a gonna be gonners too, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

So working for ole Mr. Blach tweren’t so bad.  I musta did alright cause when he moved his business he took me with him.  Guess I must have been a pretty hard worker.  That’s where people started calling me Whip.    It was probably that name that landed me my next job with a couple of wealthy gold transporters who were headin’ out to Californie.  Those gentlemen asked me to move west.  Let’s see, that was in the early 1850’s.  I weren’t no whipper snapper then, nigh on to 40 years old.  Bout the age of some of your folks.

I drove with some of the best.  I remember that ole whip, Hank Monk, and Charlie Crowell, not to mention Jared Crandall.  I tell you it was wild back in them days.  Guess you can tell by my old weather beaten face – all that sun and wind – can’t get enough of the feel of that freedom, riding those trails with the wind a blowin’ us along.

Ah yes, the adventures, I tell you it was fast moving.  Like nothing you could imagine.  We took our passengers 60 miles a day most days, even if it meant going through mud that twer knee high.  Then we had to turn around and come right back home, too – 120 miles.  Dog tired, that’s what we were those days.  Dog tired, and proud of it.  Never lost one night’s sleep over nothin’  You ain’t experienced nothing unless you’ve rode in one of them thar buggies for 120 miles through the slush we drove em through.

Did I ever meet up with gangsters, you ask me?  Darn tootin’ I did, and they knew better than to stop me.  Always carried a six-shooter right there on the seat besides me.  Killed me one of them highway men dead on the spot.  Guess them other robbers musta gotten wind of it, ‘cause I never had no more problems with em.  But yeah, I got robbed once, but only once.  You don’t mess with Charlie Parkhurst more than once.

You heard about my drivin’?  Yeah that ole Jared Crandall probably told you ‘bout the time I ran over the quarter with both wheels.  Dead on that quarter, too, goin’ top speed.  I even surprised myself, but Jared, he never could get over it, me bein’ half blind an all that.  The way that man goes on and on, no wonder I was such a busy driver.  I keep tellin’ ole Jared, ya just gotta listen to those wheels.  You know if you kin hear them rattle, you knows yous on solid ground.  The second they don’t rattle – well in these mountains, you just better keep hearing them rattles.  No rattlin’ it ain’t a good thing I’m a tellin’ ya.

So where’d I sleep.  Well I didn’t rightly need a home bein’ gone so much.  I could sleep anywhere, so I just mostly slept with my horses.  I get along best with horses.  They don’t go spreadin’ stories about you.  Them other Jehu – that’s another word for driver – Them Jehu, they tried to get me to go in with them to the bar and spend all my hard earned cash on booze.  I tell them guys, “You guys nuts.  Who wants to spend all this money on booze, and just go ‘round spilling your guts to whomever.  No siree.  I need my guts to keep them wagon wheels hugging that solid ground.

Did I ever marry, you ask?  Well not for the lack of tryin’  Women, they could be such a bother, though I feel sorry for  them out in these here parts.  It ain’t easy for the womenfolk to be living out here in Californie?   I mean there tweren’t always doctors when them ladies needed a doctor.  I set many broke bones, and even delivered many a baby into this world cause there tweren’t no doctor.   Yeah those ladies called me “Prince of Ribbons” cause I really knew how to handle those reins up there in the ole box.    They even called me “Silent Charlie”, and I never minded that.  If I had somethin’ to say, I’d say it, but why waste words.  They just get you into trouble.  Better to stay silent and have folks think you’re a fool, than to start a yapping and talking, and prove it!

One more thing before I get back to my normal silent self.  I hear there’s an election comin’ up in your parts.  You all are too young to vote, but you know, it’s always been my passion that you vote or you done lost your chance to complain about anything.  I tell you I’m passionate about the right to vote.  You k now I was the first one of my kind to cast a vote in this great country of the United States.

You know, I’m startin to get me a sore throat here.  It’s been hangin’ on for some time now.  I’ve been a doctorin’ myself, and I’m still feeling kind of rough.  I think I’d better stop talkin’ here pretty soon.  Sometimes I just get to coughing.  Must be all that smoking I done over the years.  Don’t let them kid you that chewin’s alright either.  I’m afraid the cancer’s a takin over my tongue.  And here I go again – losing my voice so I can barely talk over a whisper.

So great talking to you all.  Did anyone figure out my secret – the one that I told you at the beginnin’?  Well, I’ll whisper my secret, though when I died in December, 1879, everyone found out – even that nice young Harmon boy that was livin’ with me for a time.  Nice young kid.  I left him my estate.  That’s when he found my red dress, and a pair of my baby shoes, but you didn’t get it from me.  I never told no one.

Family Journal

Primary Source Documents News articles from the 1880s just after Parkhurst died December 29, 1879.

The Hilarity of Real Spam

Both Sex Gratis and Tattoo Age need to work a little on their persuasive writing skills. as well as their language usage.  Maybe that is why the Common Core standards are pushing teachers to teach persuasive/argument writing grades K-12.  These folks are so pathetic they are fodder for the funnies.

“I think this is a powerfull site with much interesting blogposts about this stuff. And i just wanna say thnx for this. I’ll subscribe to your website to see if you post more stuff like these!”

I guess this person assumes is that I would WANT him/her to subscribe to MY website!!!  On what grounds would I want him or her to be part of my world?  Certainly their gravitar name and photo doesn’t do much to sell them.  Then there is the ignorance of simple rules of grammar.  I am not the best grammar teacher, but starting from the beginning powerful is misspelled.  I didn’t catch it, but by WP did on the routine proofreading checker.  I misspell words on purpose sometimes to make a point or make up a word, but this is not the case here.  Next “much interesting” should be many interesting.  I love the old red pen, don’t you?  Next, could he/she be use a more specific word than “stuff” What “stuff” is he/she reading on my blogpost that is so powerful and interesting?  I didn’t see anything too sexy or tattooish about my vase stories.  Rules of capitalization and spelling in a formal email such as this one should be followed if he/she wants to be believable to a stranger like me.  Finally, Is “stuff” singular or plural?  He/she is referring to one post, but using a referent “these” to refer to the plural “stuff” that was found in the post?  It is confusing if not incorrect.  

“Hi there you have a good weblog over here! Thanks for posting this interesting information for us! If you keep up the good work I’ll visit your website again. Thanks!”

You know, I like praise as much as the next person, but is this a threat?  If – then statements are great for science, but for enticing someone to do good work?  Not to helpful unless you are the parent.  IF you get your homework done, THEN you can visit your friends.  Kids love this – and RUSH to get their homework done!  My husband might TRY an IF – THEN statement like that, and substitute homework for housework.  On the other hand, IF he did try that, THEN I probably would have the dirtiest house in the world – and I don’t (BTW).  On an aside I think people who dislike each other and live together have lazy contests – who can do the least around the home? Maybe they used too many IF – THEN statements in their conversations with each other.

“everything is very open and very clear explanation of issues. it contains truly information. your website is very useful. thanks for sharing. looking forward to more!”

Who writes this stuff? OK Spam Geeks, EVERY sentence starts with a capital letter, unless you are a published writer with a huge following, and even then…  So lets assume that this is computer generated, and the programmer doesn’t understand the First grade rule of capitalization.  I get computer generated messages from WP, LinkedIN, Facebook.  THEY know how to generate a simple sentence that is correct and motivational.  I actually do endorse people when the generator asks me to – if I know them and like them.  So take a lesson from the experts and put a capital at the beginning of every sentence.

“hey, great job friend, cheers.”

I can live with these spams.  OK, there’s no capital, but it’s simple and sort of “Good morning” kind of innocuous statement.  I know, as a teacher, that “great job” is no longer acceptable.  I used to say that so much that my students would imitate me – voice included!  My spam friend, be specific in your praise.  What is great about my work?  Nonetheless, a simple, “great job friend, cheers”, well it’s happy and positive – no threats.  I can live with this one.  However, with enough of real people out there reading with faces instead of computer generated pattern gravitar, I’ll still delete this one permanently.  No sale.

What is you favorite spam, or do you look at them?  One of them might be me, so please look.  Have you found me there?  Are you still finding me in the Spam with sex gratis and tattoo age?  Are you finding more interesting Spam than I have?  Please share!

P.S.  My website was immediately shut down when I published this article this morning.    I had copied and pasted a gravitar of one of the spammers because it was so nonsensical.  Just a warning.  DON’T DO THAT!!!

PSS.  Thank you WordPress for reading my plea and restoring my blog.

Beautiful Vase Revisited

My vase got a lot of attention last night, and experts have moved in to help me.  I learned that my vase is vociferous noisy.  I remember back in the early days of television when there was more static in the picture than picture.  That is noise.

Asian Art Museum in San Francisco

The pictures of all my museum pieces had a lot of noise that might have been avoided somewhat had I used the button on the back of my camera labeled WB, but I took this picture 3-4 years ago before I knew the button existed.  (I didn’t watch the entire “how to” video).

After I played with it for about an hour last night, I turned it red, which really wasn’t better, but I worked at it, so I wanted to share.


Leanne worked on it today, and she said it’s hard to get the green out.  So I started with Leanne’s better green, and added a layer, and adjusted the hue and saturation levels.  The next thing that I did was to add another layer and adjust brightness up and contrast a little down.  I don’t really know how to get the image back to size, but I feel better about the color.  Adding layers really helped.  I don’t really understand layers at all, but I’m a fan of them now!!!  I’ve been reading about Leanne’s amazing layers for months now, and so here I am actually doing some myself.  YEAH!!!

Artsifrtsy/the EFF Stop suggests getting rid on noise, so I looked at my photoshop notes, and we had learned how to add noise, so I reversed the technique.  I did this by going to filter, noise and reduce noise.  I moved the slider down to 30% and saved it.  I don’t see a huge change, but it is much smaller now, so of course, it’s less noisy.  Let’s go back to the original ugly one, and see if I can recreate what happened with the smaller quieter version now that I know more.

I took hue down to -18, saturation to -39 and lightness to +4.  I merged the layers

To that I added another layer and increased the brightness to 79 and the contrast to 51.  Then I merged them.

Finally I went to the filter tab, reduced noise to into the teens, and increased color strength to around 80.  I don’t know that it would win any prizes, but it is a vast improvement over the original, and over my first efforts.  This was definitely worth the time it took to clean it up, and it will take less time as I do it and get better at it.  AND I could never have done it without my blogging friends Leanne and Artsi.  You ladies ROCK!!!

Wouldn’t you all agree???


One of my favorite sites, Leanne Cole, regularly gives tips on how to alter her photos.  I am just learning how to use Photoshop Elements 10.  So tonight I practiced a couple of techniques we learned in the last two classes.

Asian Art Museum in San Francisco

This was my original photo.  It was taken at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.  As I was looking at my pictures, I noticed that ALL the photos were green.  This comes from not having enough light. – and not knowing what you are doing.

So I tried improving it.  It was pretty easy once I got the hang of it.  I went to the menu tab “Enhance” then to Adjust Color and finally Removing Color Cast.  When you click on this you get the eye dropper, and click the eye dropper on a place that is supposed to be black, gray or white.  The the rest automatically adjusts.  Unfortunately, my photo went from lightly green, to VERY chartreuse green to reddish to yellow.  I don’t think that the above picture is all that great, but it is a change.

I also brightened the photo  and changed the contrast so that if you were blind, you could make out a few more details.  Next I cropped the picture and added my name.  Just adding the name a few weeks ago was too difficult, it seemed.  Now – piece of cake.  I even know how to adjust the density or opacity of the color of my name.

I’m not very happy with this, but I tried.  What do you think?  Is it just changing one bad photo for a different?


GMC Motorhome

My husband and I were just talking about this motor home today, lamenting that we didn’t have any pictures of it.  Yesterday I downloaded all my Tulare County pictures off my portable hard drive, and by George, there were three pictures of the old GMC, Barbie and Ken, motor home.

Road Trip  Am I lopsided here ??

You may have guessed by now that my husband likes almost anything that has four wheels and a motor.  He is particularly drawn to a vehicle that says, “I’m special – unique.”  When he told me he wanted to buy a 1976 motor home, I about came unglued.  That he wanted to pay something like $20,000…  I don’t curse.  Really a 1976  motor home!!! – then I saw it.  You can’t really see the paint job on this coach, but it was cute, and quite modern – 1990s at least.  The inside was passable, having been redone in 2003, except that the swivel chairs in the “living room” tilted imperceptibly forward as if to hurry you out of them.  Since that was the only place to sit in the motor home except the driver and passenger seats, it wasn’t a comfortable traveling coach.

Remodeled in 2003. It had a little plaque inside the door, “Remodeled by…”

We used this coach at least 2-3 times.  One time we were driving across the soporific road to the coast, V in the motor home, and me following in the car so that we wouldn’t have to drive IT around.  I was about 3-4 cars behind him when I got a call from his partner at work.

“Are you guys going to the coast?” he asked.

“Yes?”  I wondered why Ruben would be calling me.

“I tried to call V, but he’s not answering his phone.  Ron and Valerie are behind him.”

“Maybe we’ll see them there.  That would be fun!”

“You don’t understand.  V’s sewer hose has come out of the back bumper and is waving back and forth across the road like a tail.  Nobody wants to pass him because they might get slapped by the hose.  Ron and Valerie are afraid it’s going to come off completely and hit the front of their car.”

I was mortified, and just glad I wasn’t in the car with him.  I tried to call him, and finally got him on the phone, and told him.  He pulled over and retrieved the sewer hose, but it was trashed.

I wish I could say that was the only sad thing that happened to our GMC, but I can’t.  The other story I will leave you with was on me.  We had just bought the GMC, and had driven all the way to Salt Lake City to pick it up – in November.  I was an experienced motor homer, and my husband was not.  SO, I thought I would help him hook everything up.  It had been a while since I had a motor home, and in all fairness my first husband did most of the hooking until he was too ill to do it anymore.  Then I did it once – that’s another REALLY awful story.

I hooked up the water, and turned it on – FULL BLAST.  I had forgotten that you need a pressure gauge so that the water pressure doesn’t blow out all the pipes.  And I blew out all the pipes.  We couldn’t stay in our drippy motor home the first night.  We drove all over Salt Lake City to find a hotel where we could actually park it.  It was too tall for one place, and the valet had to park it, and he had problems.  I already hated the motor home, and really it wasn’t the motor home’s fault.

Most of the time the GMC sat in our driveway.  V kept it pretty clean, and once in a while we went out to the driveway, got in the coach, and sat in the uncomfortable seats in the 110 degree heat, ran the air conditioner and turned on the 10 inch tv across from the chairs.  I bought some cute dishes, found a turquoise and brown poke-a-dot comforter, made some adorable curtains, and we showed it to everyone who came over.

Finally V decided that he could do without it because he wanted to buy a race car or a red Corvette, I forget which.  He sold it to a rich couple in Carmel for their “hired help” to live in.  Poor guy.  But it was UNIQUE!!!

Off we go.

Would you love to have Barbie and Ken’s mobile home?  Do you have one that has stories of its own?