Disney's "Enchanted"

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Guess who went to see a Disney movie! (Click any image to view it gi-hugically!)

Here I am posing with a character portraying the star of "Enchanted" -- taken with an awful cell phone camera!

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Halloween 2007

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Trick or treat! Trick or treat!

Believe it or not, these were our "work" outfits. We helped out at the Magic Castle Saturday night as volunteers. We got to see all the marvelous costumes, and helped collect ballots for the Costume Contest.

We also helped people find their way around, answered general questions, and got the dancing started for the deejay!

I can guarantee you I won't be wearing those high heels for Trick-or-Treating on Wednesday with my nieces and nephews!

Robin will be reduced to celebrating with a festive necktie, as he will be teaching in Chicago. Sigh!

Or is that "Boo!" ??

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Babysitting & Fires

Last week VJ's sister went to San Francisco on a business trip, and all we got was Ghirardelli chocolate.

AND we got stuck with her three youngest kids!

Lucky we adore them, and we rose to the occasion. VJ sez,

I wish I'd had an aunt like me. These kids got to go swimming, attend a street festival and enjoy the carnival. They visited the newly-remodeled Getty Villa museum, ate Mongolian Barbecue, and watched videos galore! ("Surf's Up," "Happily Never After," "On the Reef," "Shaun of the Dead," "The Peaceful Warrior," "Transformers," "Next" -- we never got to "Silver Surfer," sigh!)

The 2 youngest kids went Faery Hunting in Franklin Canyon and saw an improv show in NoHo while the oldest was chauffeured to his soccer game. They all saw "Twelfth Night" in Topanga Canyon. (We like to ensure they get lotsa culture.)

(Before you go thinking I'm some kind of saint, be aware that nobody probably brushed their teeth for four days either, and at least one jar of candy and one super-sized box of microwave popcorn vanished. I'm a rabid culture vulture, not a sensible mommy type!)

Following are pics (click any image to enlarge).

Everybody at the Getty Villa:

The first faery appears at the Faery Hunt:

Emily With the Faery Queen:

The Monster Ride at the street fair:

Barrelling down the Super Slide!:

All in all, it was a great time.

Except for the last part....

The last part was not fun.

On their last day, Sunday, we attended the street fair and then Robin left about noon to catch a plane to Texas to teach the following week. Thus it fell to me to get the munchkins home to mom.

On his way to the airport, Robin phoned to let me know he was hearing reports of fires all over the place. I texted my sister about it. She and her husband were on their way home on the 5 freeway, about 6 hours away. (They had finally gone sightseeing in San Francisco only that morning.)

My sister listened to the news and then began calling around to her Santa Clarita neighbors. As it happened, her 18 year-old daughter (Heather) had stayed home to watch the animals and enjoy some introvert time alone. Fortunately, the neighbors had been alerted, so everyone was watching out for her.

They had been evacuating homes nearby, but not her neighborhood quite yet.

So my sister texted me with updates while I smiled angelically at darling little children and pretended everything was lovely. I fed them lunch, we went swimming. I took the two littlest ones back up to the street fair (but it wasn't wonderful because a rogue wind was blowing fiercely and threatened to knock tents down).

Ryan noticed the smoke in the sky, and overheard at least two people remarking on the fires. I felt anxious that he might figure it out, but luckily his 11-year-old brain isn't that adept yet. I distracted him so he wouldn't think about it long enough to add up.

We strolled to the video store to return what we'd watched, and we picked up a couple new ones.

Then we went home and settled in for movie viewing. I was texting with my husband and sister the whole time. It was stressful!

After the first film, I cooked up some microwave lasagna for dinner. And then we settled in for "Transformers." Sheesh, that movie is loooonnngggggg! Which turned out to be great news, because the youngest one fell asleep and Ryan was too sleepy to wonder why mom hadn't come to get him yet. Just to be safe, I called Nancy and we invented a ruse about all the "traffic on the freeway" that was making her late. She talked to him a bit and suggested he go to bed, reassuring him that she would come for him soon enough.

So I put the kids to bed.

It turns out my sister had a helluva time getting home. All the roads around her home were closed, and the security people wouldn't let her through, despite her having a daughter waiting at home! Luckily, my resourceful sister knows a secret road in, and she managed to sneak home that way.

Apparently some tents in their back yard and her new gazebo had blown away. They began packing up their motorhome in order to evacuate, and her husband took an ATV out to investigate the area. Some neighbors had evacuated, but not all.

I invited them to come and crash here. So after the young ones went to sleep, I bustled around cleaning up the kid mess. Did dishes, picked up toys, rearranged furniture that been moved. I made up the couch for sleeping, and inflated one of our air beds and made it up. It looked very inviting, if I do say so!

At 2AM I got another text message from my sister, so I called her for their status. She said they were probably going to spend the night packing up. They had just suffered a power outtage five minutes previously, and they were working on the source of that problem.

I was exhausted, so I told her I was going to leave the front door unlocked. Everything was ready for guests, so if they showed up, great -- and if not, that was okay too. And then I toddled off to bed -- exhausted!

The following morning there was no sign of anybody. So I sent off some more text messages. Apparently they had worked all night long. The unenviable task of letting Ryan know why he was still hanging out at my house fell to me. (There was no need to let the 6-year-old know, and I had already let the 14-year-old know the situation the night before.) I got my sister on the phone, and pushed the young guy outside to have a comfy chat with mom, which helped a lot I think.

We had run out of bread, so we went off to the grocery store for supplies. I grabbed some sandwich makings and pork chops I found on sale. When we came home, I pitched the pork chops in the crockpot for dinner. Then I got a text message from my sister saying they were on their way! Yay!

So about 11AM there was a joyous reunion (and lots of Ghirardelli chocolate)!

It turns out the fire had come within about 50 feet of my sister's house. It burned down a fence between her and a neighbor, and took out a barn in her neighbor's back yard! Too close for comfort!

I fed everybody lunch with the sandwich fixings, and then bundled up the crockpot of chops to send home with them. Then they headed off, and I collapsed with exhaustion. It was HARD being Command Central for all that time! (And I'm not accustomed to deceiving children.)

Everything seems to be fine now -- I still get the occasional text message from my sister about fire flare-ups and road closings. I still have the beds made up and ready for occupancy should they be needed.

But for now, it seems the worst of it is over.


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Robin's Satellite

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Here is a link to information about the satellite Robin worked on years ago with an international team in Bristol, England:

Envisat Satellite Info

His simplified explanation:
The forward scan detects temperatures at the Earth's surface and buffers them. Later, the rear scan covers the same area but at a different angle and the values are compared to reduce the effect of the intervening atmosphere in each case.

Here is one of the images it captured of the recent Southern California wildfires.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Normally I love Florida -- it's great being in the tropics, and we love snorkeling. But this trip to Tampa was cooooold! The wind coming off the ocean had a bite to it, and mostly I was glad to be inside. There wasn't a prayer I was going to stick so much as a toe in that freeeeeeezing water!

So I guess you could say the entire Share conference experience this time out was, ah..... STIMULATING!

Apparently we arrived on the day they were celebrating Gasparilla, which I had never heard of! It sounds like an amazing festival, and we missed all of it. (I wish the Share publicists had warned us about it -- it sounded like a really unique and interesting experience!) It has to do with pirates and balls and coronations and all that thrilling swashbuckle stuff.

(As usual, click anything you want to view in a larger size.)

This Share also happened to coincide with Valentine's Day, so we had to sneak in something special to celebrate (of course!). It started with Robin renting a silver Mustang convertible (to match VJ's raincoat!), and we took an invigorating drive southward to old St. Petersburg where we enjoyed a dinner cruise aboard the Starlite Princess.

What made this cruise different from others we've taken was that the Starlite Princess is a genuine paddlewheeler, not a mock paddlewheeler like some other boats we've been on. Robin really enjoyed the experience of riding on a classic boat, going through drawbridges, and chatting with Captain Frank at the helm.

We also got to dance, drink, and dine on seafood for several hours as we navigated the Intracoastal Waterway.

I'm including a press picture of the boat -- naturally it was DARK when we were aboard her, not light.

Someday, when we have all the time in the world, we'd like to rent a boat and go all the way up (or down) the coast on the Intracoastal Waterway. Wouldn't that be fun?

Here we are in our traditional "toast pose." How do you like the Valentine-pink jacket I just happened to pack?

I confess: after the bracing ride home, we put the top back on the convertible and left it on for the rest of the week while we were at Share. Whatta waste! It almost hurt to keep it closed.

At Share, Robin and I delivered 5-6 sessions together (depending on how you count them), and Robin gave two sessions on MQ by himself. We got some great feedback, and we had a lot of fun (as usual). The socializing was terrific, the food was fantastic, and the company was grand!

When the week ended, we found ourselves with an extra day to waste, so we decided to do some museum hopping.

Naturally we had to take in the Henry Plant museum. Plant was a railroad magnate who did a lot to expand Florida's transportation system and thus trade. Along the way, he got in the habit of building fancy Gilded Age hotels. One of them was supposed to be exotic as Arabian Nights, as the Moorish Revival minarets imply. It was the first hotel to feature electric lighting and telephones, and hosted many prominent guests, including Babe Ruth, Sarah Bernhardt, Clara Barton, and even the Queen of England. Colonel Teddy Roosevelt stationed and trained his Rough Riders on the grounds during the Spanish-American War.

Apparently these minarets are now symbolic of the Tampa skyline. And I have to admit: you do tend to doubletake when you first see them! It's not something you trip over in every city you visit!

The Henry Plant Museum is now part of the University of Tampa campus, and Robin and I were both delighted that the building was being preserved through those means. (We're both heartsick about some of the recent demolitions of historic buildings, such as the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, when it seemed no one could find good uses for them. Just don't get me started!)

We were also fortunate while we were there to take in a special exhibition they had on Gasparilla! The best part for me was a display of sparkly coronation gowns over the years that Gasparilla queens had worn. Here are two of them: see if you can figure out approximately what years they are associated with (click to enlarge):

Now, I was interested in the St. Petersburg museum, which boasted a few Monets and other impressionists in its collection. So once again we headed southward to get some more culture.

I was not disappointed! In fact, I thought this was a marvelous little museum, with a darling collection. It was like a precious little jewelbox, and it didn't have that "wannabe" feeling that small museums sometimes can have.

Apparently this first Monet painting has been loaned out numerous times to major museums for exhibitions on Impressionism. It's one of a series of paintings Monet did of the Houses of Parliament. I've seen a number of the others at other museums around the world, and the dramatic changes in color and lighting with the same scene is quite fantastical. (This particular periwinkle/mauve color greatly appeals to me.)

My memory is notoriously unreliable so I can't be certain, but I think I vaguely remember this second Monet from a traveling exhibition I enjoyed years ago titled "The Impressionists in Winter."

I probably should stop having my picture taken with gorgeous paintings -- I always feel they make me look rather dull by comparison.

We stumbled onto a docent giving a tour, and she fed us a lot of useful information as she led us merrily about the exhibitions.

She shared a wonderful story about Julie Andrews falling in love with this Georgia O'Keefe painting, and how she whispered to her that they were selling t-shirts in the gift shop with an image of the painting on them. She said Andrews made a beeline for the gift shop and snapped up several before jumping into her limousine and racing away. (Apparently this was around the time she was performing "The Sound of Music," so it must have been centuries, er, decades ago.)

I find it interesting that O'Keefe's husband (Alfred Steiglitz) referred to this painting as "that red thing." While we were admiring it, another visitor looked at it and remarked that he liked its "sizzle."

After the St. Petersburg museum, I simply had to let Robin visit the gallery of one of his favorite artists -- after all, it was so nearby that it would have been a crime to deprive him of that opportunity. I wonder whether you can guess from the photograph which artist I'm referring to....? All the clues you need are right there. (Why don't you take a moment to guess before you give up and click on the link to discover the answer?)

Our last day in town found us in Ybor City checking out the historic cigar shops and Cuban influences. As we made our way to a Subway for lunch, the topic of Gasparilla reared its head again, and I came across the most amazing thrift shop window featuring displays of Gasparilla-styled costumes. I couldn't resist snapping a few shots of these amazing garments -- some of them compete well with the coronation gowns from the Henry Plant museum exhibit! See what you think (click on each one for a better view):

Overall, we enjoyed Tampa tremendously -- but we hope to return someday when the weather is nice and try it out for snorkeling.

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How Hard DID the Wind Blow?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The wind blew soooooo hard, it blew the paint right off the house!

Ha ha ha.

Okay, it's not funny.

Shortly after moving into our new house, I came outside one day to find big pieces of seafoam green "paper" lying in the driveway. It was very windy the night before, so finding junk in the yard wasn't startling, but what were these green sheets of paper?

Turns out they were paint off the house!

The main culprit seems to be an air conditioning duct along the top of the house that apparently wasn't prepared properly to accept the paint the previous owner had applied to improve the property's "curb appeal" for selling.

Mostly you can't see the problem unless you go to the second floor and look for it. (If you click the first picture above, you can see more of the detail.)

There's a little patch on the front of the house where metal is showing through the peeling paint. And THAT upsets me. It wrecks the facade of the house!

This is such a gorgeous looking house; I'm very sensitive to something wrecking the look of the facade.

Somehow, I don't think the previous owner would want that either, so we're trying to find out whether there's a warranty on the paint job we can still take advantage of.

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She's Hilarious!

Monday, January 22, 2007

This is my five-year-old niece, Emily. (Her preferences are for ENFJ, for those who keep track of such things.)

Don't let her angelic appearance fool you! This little gal has a wicked sense of humor. And she got off some amazing wisecracks over the holidays that we're still laughing about.

For instance, if you admire her dress too much (like the white one she's wearing), she'll let you know right away that it doesn't come in *your* size.

Here are a few other highlights:

I made some remark to her at Christmastime, and she looked at me and said, "Watch it or I'll use my 'cute voice' on you."

As we were moving into our new house, she announced she was going to imitate my husband. Then she stomped up the staircase and said (in a loud, fake-male voice), "Honey, I'm hooooome!"

On Christmas Eve day, my sister set out a spread of deli items for us to snack on. Robin is a vegetarian, and he had some cheese and dips. Emily came over to him with a slice of salami, waved it tauntingly in his face, and said, "Meeeeat, meeeeat, meeeeat."

My sister tells me the other day my oldest niece wore an elegant fur coat to class for the first meeting, and on the way home she commented that she probably looked like a dork. Emily piped up from the back seat, "But you're a beautiful dork, Heather."

Oh my, she's a pistol.

I'm going to update this from time to time with new Emily humor -- stay tuned!

My sister ran an errand, and when she returned home and pulled into the driveway, Emily looked at me and said, "There's your little sister!"

My sister bought a party dress. It was a Grecian-style gown, with gold sequin trim under the bust, laid over classically draped white chiffon. She looked elegant and lovely. But she reports that Emily looked at the dress and said, "Mom, the Eighties called. They want their Roman dress back." Pretty sassy for a 6-year-old!

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