Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Summer Day

Our snow is melting really fast. It has been sunny and warm every day for the past week.

We did a little family walk in Garner Valley today. Up here is pretty muddy, but Garner is much drier and warmer.
Unfortunately, we did not have the camera with us.

two fuzzy doggies walking along on a dirt road with a beautiful mountain view.
And there is Mark & Bea.

Nice picture right?

We are finally assigned to test two of the solar fields near Palmdale area, so on Monday,
we get to drive to Lancaster and spend some time with Mom Houghton.
Mark gets to shlep the big loadframe around again and put it to work.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

White Boys Don't Cry!

This text is from a county emergency manager out in the western part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan after a severe snow storm last winter.

The Mining Journal, Marquette, MI


Up here in the Northern part of Michigan we just recovered from a Historic event --- may I even say a "Weather Event" of "Biblical Proportions" --- with a historic blizzard of up to 44" inches of snow and winds to 90 MPH that broke trees in half, knocked down utility poles, stranded hundreds of motorists in lethal snow banks, closed ALL roads, isolated scores of communities and cut power to 10's of thousands.


George Bush did not come.

FEMA did nothing.

No one howled for the government.

No one blamed the government.

No one even uttered an expletive on TV.

Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton did not visit.

Our Mayor's did not blame Bush or anyone else.

Our Governor did not blame Bush or anyone else either.

CNN, ABC, CBS, FOX, or NBC did not visit - or even report on this category 5 snow storm

Nobody demanded $2,000 debit cards.

No one asked for a FEMA Trailer House.

No one looted.

Nobody - I mean Nobody demanded the government do something.

Nobody expected the government to do anything either.

No Larry King, No Bill O'Rielly, No Oprah, No Chris Matthews and No Geraldo Rivera.

No Sean Penn, No Barbara Streisand, No Hollywood types to be found.

Nope, we just melted the snow for water.

Sent out caravans of SUV's to pluck people out of snow engulfed cars.

The truck drivers pulled people out of snow banks and didn't ask for a penny.

Local restaurants made food, and the police and fire departments delivered it to the snow bound families.

Families took in the stranded people - total strangers.

We fired up wood stoves, broke out coal oil lanterns or Coleman lanterns.

We put on an extra layers of clothes because up here it is "Work or Die".

We did not wait for some affirmative action government to get us out of a mess created by being immobilized by a welfare program that trades votes for 'sittin at home' checks.

Even though a Category "5" blizzard of this scale has never fallen this early, we know it can happen and how to deal with it ourselves.

"In my many travels, I have noticed that once one gets north of about 48 degrees North Latitude, 90% of the world's social problems evaporate."

It does seem that way, at least to me.

I hope this gets passed on.

Maybe .... SOME people will get the message ...

The world does Not owe you a living!!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

VoilĂ !

Let me stop boring you with my life for a moment and share the recent updates from Jason on his African Adventures.

Jason with the family he stayed with during his training.

Jason's new townhouse.

Following is his email. Get the French dictionary out quickly!

Je suis voluntaire!

Bonjour tout mon famille et tout mon amis,
I hope this finds you well and doing good. A couple hours ago I officially swore in as a Peace Corps volunteer here in Conakry, on Friday the 6th of February, 2009. The ceremony was ok, the food was great (grilled chicken!!!). Life here has been an interesting adventure into everything from the bizarre to the grotesque, and I have loved every minute of it. Despite a rather stringent routine of activities scheduled by the Peace Corps, there isn?t a day that goes by that I would call ordinary. Every day something happens that I could never expect and usually it makes me laugh hysterically, or have a total WTF moment. The talk amongst the volunteers generally consists now of hilarious conversations involving the activities of everyday life: Questioning when our legs will stop being sore from having to squat over the latrine all the time. Sharing our plethora of responses to being called Fotay (white man) by the local kids. Making jokes about the different living conditions and pests we have to put up with, i.e. rats, spiders crawling on your face when your sleeping, cockroaches, etc.. Luckily, unlike most, I haven?t really been sick since my bout of Guardia. A few days ago I had a stomach ache that turned into headache and got really dizzy and just passed out, but since I woke up and was fine I don?t count it as being sick. However, since then my stomach has always felt a bit knotted and I haven?t been able to regain a very good appetite. Leaving training in Forecariah was bittersweet. I was greatly relieved to be getting out that town which was always 100 plus degrees, and to be done with the training program which was beginning to become a very annoying routine. Yet leaving my family was actually somewhat difficult. Over the past 8 weeks I grew a lot closer to my family than I ever thought I could have, and they truly seemed to enjoy and want my company even more than I did there?s. I ended up giving them all the candy I had left (thanks grandma), bought them a chicken, and gave my brother souleyman a years supply of condoms. Now we are in Conakry where we are celebrating for a few days the start of our actual work. Tonight we are having a celebrity/character party, I am going as Hunter S. Thompson, and we are making some alcoholic beverages with a lot of great fruit, and REALLY horrible tasting gin (that?s about the best this country has for a decent price). It?s anyone?s guess as to whether it will actually taste good or not, if it doesn?t I have a backup plan with a bottle of very nice French red wine I was able to buy off of a French embassy worker yesterday for a fairly hefty price. Yesterday I went down to the national bank of Guinea to withdraw my money for settling in and for my first 4 months at site. My withdrawal alone nearly cleaned the whole national bank of all its money, and what I got was 5,000,000 in 1,000 notes, which formed a stack so large that I could barely fit it all in my backpack. But it is nice to say for once in my life that I am a millionaire. I leave Here Sunday for my regional capital along with everyone else whose site is in the Fouta region, and will be there for 3 days (more celebrating yiipii) buying everything I will need for my house and whatever else. On Wednesday or Thursday I am taken by PC vehicles to my site in Gongoret. For the first three months I am basically not supposed to do any work except for settling in and integrating within my community. It will be nice not having to do something every hour of the day again, but I am sure I will get bored so I will have to start some sort of project. Seeing how there is now cell phone service in Gongoret, I am going to figure out some day that I will walk up the mountain to where I can get service so I can talk to people. As of right now I think it will be Sundays at 12:00 eastern time, but that may change nor will it likely be consistent. Speaking of cell phone, the last email I gave out my phone number but it was wrong. The number is 011-224-67-20-99-72. The last time I forgot the 224 part which is the area code so if you tried it probably didn?t work. Well for right now I have to go because there are a lot of people waiting to use the computers and I have been on for awhile. But I have 2 more days here so feel free to email and I will write back, and pictures will come later (when the internet here is working faster). Talk to you all soon.


OK. It wasn't all in French. Thank goodness. It would have taken hours to understand what's going on.

This is my favorit. The spiders are apparently good sized over there.
Big and beautiful spiders bring "big time good luck". Don't they?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Snow Days

Some like it cold!

Others prefer my new quilt!

Our babies are super spoild these days. We are up to our neck in snow and it does not want to stop yet, so Buck and Spitz spend most of the days and all of the nights inside.
Neither of them complains about it.
Since the pups are inside a lot during this raging winter,
Lou and Annamarie gave us the following to be posted very low on our refrigerator door.

Dear Dogs,

The dishes with the paw prints are yours and contain your food.
The other dishes are mine and contain my food.
Placing a paw print in the middle of my plate of food does not stake a claim for it, making it now your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack.
Racing me to the bottom is not the object.
Tripping me doesn’t help because I fall faster than you can run.

I cannot buy anything bigger than a king sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort, however. Dogs can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other, stretched out to the fullest extent possible.
I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out on the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.

For the last time, there is no secret exit from the bathroom!
If, by some miracle, I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine and try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge in an attempt to open the door. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years – canine assistance is not required.

The proper order for kissing is: Kiss me first, then go smell the other dog’s butt. I cannot stress this enough.

Finally, in fairness to you, dear pets, I have posted the following message on the front door:


They live here. You don’t.
If you don’t want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. That’s why they call it “fur”-niture.
We like our pets a lot better than we like most people.
To you, they are animals. To us, they are adopted kids who are short, hairy, walk on all fours and don’t speak clearly, and we love them a lot. And they love us...


eat less,
don’t ask for money all the time,
are easier to train,
normally come when called,
never ask to drive the car,
don’t hang out with drug using people,
don’t smoke or drink,
don’t want to wear your clothes,
don’t have to buy the latest fashion
don’t need a gazillion dollars for college
and if they get pregnant, you can sell their children…

Sunday, February 15, 2009

New Hobby, New Hair

You can't quilt with long hair!

Don't ask just sounds good and gives me a reason why I had to get rid of my hair.

The real reason is though, I cannot stand pony tail and that's all I did wear, since I really cannot stand hair near my face.

So here it is! My new hair and my first quilt:

I finished all the components on Thursday and took it to Annamarie's quilt studio.

I made it bigger than what she could fit on her quilting machine, so we ended up taking it to another friend's house who has a larger table. Annamarie did the quilting in an hour. It would have taken me months to do it by hand. She even made me a label for it.

This was our Valentine's Day present.

Mark took me to JoAnn's for more Valentine's Day fun.
I have 4 new quilts in the works already.

I needed fabric to make another quilt from the fabrics leftover after finishing the first quilt made from leftovers.

I have the whole thing figured out!

After each quilt, we have leftover fabric, but not enough to make another one, so we buy more fabric to make a new one.

When that's done...we have leftover fabric, but not enough to make another quilt, so we buy more fabric to make a new quilt.

When that's done....I already said what follows didn't I?

Thus... quilters stay busy forever and ever!

Not only we stay busy on the sewing machine, but we grow out of the house.

Eventually, we need a quilt studio to house all the crap...I mean... scraps that involves with quilting. Pretty soon, we have a room that looks like a small version of a JoAnn's store.

At least that's what my friend Annamarie has.

We did another shopping spree to Winco.
That store saved us so much money, I can buy even more fabrics now!
I cannot believe the prices they have! $3.98 /lbs Filet Mignon. Never heard of such a thing!
We ended up paying $180 for twice as much food as I normally buy at Stater Brothers for that price.
I wish the Winco would be closer to us!

We had Thai dinner (my favorit) in Banning to finish off the Valentine's blast.

When we got home, we noticed that my Spitzers is not feeling too jolly.
He did not eat all day and didn't even like his snack.
We found a tick on the top of his head. We performed immediate operation.
He ended up with a hole on his little head.

He spent the night on the fainting couch and was as good as new by morning.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

We Found The Outback



The sun came out this morning and after many hours of mexican work, we found our vehicles under the snow mountains.

Our neighbor, Stan, broke his plower, so our street had about 20 inches of snow accumulation since he was last in operation. Over all snow fall was about 3 feet.

He managed to rescue all of us by bringing his friend with a backhoe to clear the street.

Many of us pitched in, so we payed $100 each. A lot, but someone needs to get out, and go to work to pay for the looters in this country.

What do I care if it's snows, so long as we have plenty fire wood to keep me warm.

Buck and Spitz cannot get around in the deep snow too well and they don't mind at all to stay in the kitchen and help mommy with the cooking shows.

Monday, February 9, 2009

There is Global Warming For You!

Guess who is not going to school today?

Mark did attempt to get to work this morning.

He left at 5:30 and had no trouble getting out of our unplowed street.
Caltrans did not get to plowing the highway yet, so he did not go too far on the snowed in road before he decided to turn around and call it snow day. Safer that way.

It took him an hour to shovel the way back into the driveway though.
Who the heck came up with the idea to live up here?

It is good to have a snow blower, but it helps to have it right where we need it.
Last snow storm, we could not get to it, because it was snowed in.
This time, it is in the desert getting a tune up.
About mid morning, Caltrans closed down our highway.

All right Buck, let's get shoveling!

We have almost 3 feet now and it's still coming down hard. Who knows how long we will be grounded.
Fortunatelly, if the highway is not plowed, the mexicans cannot get up here to trash out the mountain the way they did it in December.
We had tanned people from all over southern california up here playing in the snow after the last storm. The community did not appreciate the garbage they left scattered everywhere, the invasion and distruction of private properties and the unsafe driving and parking they did.

If it's tourist season why can't we shoot them?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Snow Sunday

This looks like inclement weather Monday to me.
Not to Mark! He said that does not pay the bills.
We need a lot more snow than this to call it snow day.
We got about 16 inches today and there is more to come.

Our short and wet doggie walk. Everyone wanted to get back to the nice, warm house.

Spitzers crashed out on the fainting couch and stayed there for most of the day.

He loves Annamarie's quilt. She made this for us as a wedding present.
It will take a long time for me to get near as good as she is at quilting.

Buck spent most of Sunday near the pantry. He is looking at the pantry door and thinking: "If I look hard enough, something might just come out of there... After all...miracles happen! "

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


This title is not a reference to our neighborhood.
Not if we don't look out to see the view to the north anyway.

I found a new addiction a few days ago.
It's called quilting. I cannot stop it no matter how hard I try.

It stated out with organizing the craft section of the storage room.

The variety of fabric remnants from previous projects prompted me to start working on my very first quilt.

I called my friend, Annamarie, "the quilting grandma" to find out if there are any rules I should know about before I begin. She was not home, so I started with no rules to follow.

I cut millions of little rectangulars and made bigger rectangulars from them ..... just had a good time.
I use Grandma Houghton's breakfast table for the assembly area.

There is a time in every grandma's life to start quilting.

Next day, Annamarie appeared from San Diego and learned about my new adventure.

She promptly came over to our house with the basic quilting supplies: a cutting board, a pizza cutter like thing, a ruler and some instructions.... like I have to cut all my pieces to the same size. BUMMER!
She ruined my fun! She said what I am making is called the crazy quilt.

I don't care what you call it!
I am already thinking about the next quilt I will make after this one.
Having to do the CAHSEE (California High School Exit Exam) in my school is slowing me down though, but it pays for some fabric.
Mark is loading up the property with more oak still!
We had a clean yard for a minute and then he went to the forest with the chainsaw.