Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Heading West

Going to be going out of town for a bit later this week and a bit next week. Heading over to the Southern California area to see family and friends. Wouldn't normally do a trip this time of year but I have to use up some PTO from work or lose it.

I accumulate PTO about 4.67 hours every pay period (paid every 2 weeks, 26 times a year). That amounts to about 104 hours a year.  We can only carry over to the new year 40 hours, so anything over that if it is not used it is lost. And who wants to lose PTO? 

Conversely, hubby (because he is in management) gets 11 hours of PTO a pay period. He too gets paid every 2 weeks, 26 times a year.  At his place of employment they can keep on the books 240 hours of PTO and never lose it, but if you go over 240 hours,  you just don't accumulate any more. Every quarter they have the choice of having his place of employment buy back PTO, but can only sell back 120 hours of PTO a year. He's done that before because he accumulates it so fast (close to 3 days of PTO every 4 weeks) that he can't take it as fast as it builds up. So we've funded some vacations that way as well as buying some big ticket items and recently used it to pay off one of our vehicles. 

So, we have this PTO that has to be used.  So why not take a little jaunt to the next state over and see friends and family as well as do a little sightseeing. We've been to all the usual tourist traps in that area, so we aren't going to do those, like Disneyland, etc., but have a few others planned (I'll be blogging about it later down the line).

I probably won't be reading blogs while I'm gone. For some reason, my tablet won't load up Blogger Dashboard anymore and its really hard to read blogs on my cell phone. So if I go missing for a few days, you'll know all is well, just out of town for a bit.

This will be my last post for 2018.  I can't believe this year has gone by so fast. 

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and the most safest and blessed 2019!

I will post January 2 (ish) with a wrap up of 2018 and a moving forward to 2019 including my word of the year for 2019 (which is a word I really need to practice more of). 

In the meantime, take care of yourselves. Its a jungle out there!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

All Wrapped Up

I'm pretty much done with my Christmas shopping and I haven't bought a thing online or in a store and by the time I finish it, I won't have wrapped a gift.

I don't have many to buy for in the first place. 

Hubby and me don't exchange gifts.  We haven't for probably about 10 years. I don't know why we decided not to. I think it was an economic decision that we just kept reinforcing over the years. We pretty much buy what we want or need during the year and I think we got to the point that we didn't really know what to get for each other. We do exchange cards.

I don't exchange gifts with my siblings or their families. Kind of stopped that when we lived in Montana. I'm thinking it was because we were scattered around the country and it got to be a hassle with finding gifts, wrapping them, shipping them. One sibling didn't want gift cards as they never used them. Another sibling didn't want gift cards from certain places. One year I suggested we just donate money to worthy causes the others supported. We all did it but I think it wasn't met with the enthusiasm I had about it and I think pretty much after that I stopped exchanging gifts with them.

Hubby has a brother and sister-in-law that we exchange gift cards with for either restaurants or stores like Target, so we will need to take care of purchasing them this year. Thankfully our local grocery store, Frys, carries a great variety of gift cards and they also give you 2x the fuel rewards for buying them. So easy peasy to get that taken care of.

Hubby buys gift cards for his employees, again easy peasy.

I usually give gift cards to son and daughter-in-law and gifts of course for the kids.

But this year I was thinking what to give them. Wee one is 2-3/4 and he has a WIDE assortment of toys both here at our place and his home. I frequently visit Goodwill and get toys cheaply priced there. He has so much that I really don't know what to get for him that wouldn't duplicate what he already has. Then step grand daughter is 13 and she too has a lot of things and she's at the age where she is outgrowing toys, so its a predicament what to buy her.

Then I got the most brilliant of ideas. Probably because I saw a report on the TV news that people would rather spend time with family members then buy gifts for them, valuing the time spent together over an actual gift.

So I thought why not get together on Christmas and do something fun. Like go to the zoo (closed that day) or something similar.  Mentioned it to son and daughter-in-law and they thought it was a great idea too. So this year for our Christmas gift to their family is to go to Wildlife World Zoo which sounds like so much fun. And the wee one knows his animals (though any cat is a tiger even though it may be a cheetah or a leopard) so I think he'll get a kick out of seeing the animals in person rather than in a book. And step grand daughter is a thrill seeker so she'll enjoy some of the rides there. (I'm not getting on the arial ride, just saying).

We will more than likely spend a good part of the day together but can go in separate directions if they need a break or we need a break and then that morning I'll throw a roast in the crock pot and all can come over to dinner at the end of the day.

All wrapped up.

Without hitting the mall.

I like it.

It could be a start of a new tradition.

And if it is rainy weather we have a contingency plan with going to the Odysea Aquarium and Butterfly World.  

So how is your Christmas shopping coming??

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Do You Uber?

I have to say before this past year I was aware of such ride services as Uber and Lyft but had never ridden in either one of them.

Then hubby's car was in the shop back in March and it was supposed to be done one day, but it wasn't until the next day. I happened to be off that next day so the car shop offered to send a Uber to me to bring me back to the shop to get the car. Of course we agreed to it since I could get the car before the shop closed and it made sense to do so.

But I have to say I was a bundle of nerves. How would I know that the car that pulled up to our house was the Uber driver and not someone meant to do harm (I do have a vivid imagination). Thankfully I got texts of who the driver would be, what type of car, the car license plate.

Needless to say, there were no problems and I got delivered to the car place in one piece.

Since then there were situations that it just seemed reasonable to consider taking a Uber. We Uber'd down to the airport when we were flying out to the DC area this past September. Again it made sense. Why pay for our car to be parked at the airport. More reasonable just to pay someone to take us down there in time. Same with the return trip. 

Lately, we have been Ubering on Fridays for me to meet up with hubby where we are going to have dinner. He has that 50 mile commute that can be anywhere from 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes or longer. So we communicate with each other when I get off work. How close is he to home? Is it better if I just meet him some place and Uber there? Lately its been more convenient for me to meet him at the restaurant and to get a table or get our name on the list.

Its really pretty darn convenient and not too bad economically and very safe.

I arrange for a pickup. Its already programmed in who I am, how I will pay, and I just say where I'm going. I get notification of how close the driver is, what car they are driving, their name, their license plate. 

They will only wait 2 minutes from when they pull up to the place of the pickup, but I'm always out there waiting. We confirm that we are all who we say we are and confirm where they will be dropping me off. There's definitely a "paper trail" so if I don't end up where I'm at and someone knows I've taken Uber they can pretty much figure out what might have happened since the drivers from Uber record pick up time and drop off time and location.

I've really enjoyed talking to the drivers. Like the lady who took us to the airport. She said she couldn't prove it, but she's sure she took someone to a place for a drug deal and then back home. And another ride to take a lady of the night to wherever she needed to be that night.

Or the lady who had a hubby and 2 children but drove Uber to contribute her share to the family income. She liked the flexible schedule and didn't usually drive nights but drove the night I rode with her because her husband had just come back from being gone 2 months in military service and their arrangements were that his first night back belonged to the children.

Or the guy just this past weekend that had driven over 8800 Uber trips. He said when he started, he drove 80 hours a week for Uber plus worked 40 hours weekly at a school as a special needs aide. He had previously been in the military and then managed restaurants until he burnt out from that. Now he only works 40 hours driving Uber plus the school schedule but of course that did affect his earnings.

Would I drive for Uber? Yes. Do I consider it safe? Yes. There is always that element of risk, but it is pretty monitored. Drivers rate their customers and if a customer gets too bad of a rating, they aren't able to utilize the service. Passengers rate drivers and again too low of a rating and it can affect their ability to drive. So far I've rated all the drivers as a 5 on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the highest. I also tell them I'm giving them a 5 and hope they'll rate me similarly. Hopefully the tip I leave helps them to do so. I don't like driving, but if I did, I definitely would consider doing this type of work, especially if you could get good tippers like we've been known to do. 

There are so many services that offer rides like this plus the services that offer delivery of food like Uber Eats, Door Dash, Grub Eats, Postmates, etc. Son and daughter in law have at times driven for Postmates for extra money or between jobs. Their stories are fascinating on what they have delivered for people and the tips received. Son delivered a pack of cigarettes to someone. Daughter-in-law cat litter to someone else.

One doesn't have to worry about driving some place with services like Uber and Lyft and one should never drive under the influence since these services are available. One can also be a hermit and never leave their place of residence with other delivery services. 

So, have you Uber'd? Would you consider doing so if the need came about?

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Back East

Lots of pictures here, so I'll try to keep the text minimal while describing where we chose to visit on our recent trip back to the Washington, DC area.

This was our third time visiting in that part of the country. I have family back there.  We saw on previous visits the White House, Vietnam Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, the Smithsonian's, etc., so this time around we wanted to see something different.

We flew in to Washington, DC on the red eye Thursday evening, arriving there around 9:30 in the morning on Friday. I hadn't flown in a bit and I am a reluctant flier but really the flights were pretty darn smooth.  Friday we just kind of lazed around since we hadn't slept the night before much on the plane. That night there was a family dinner that we attended.

Saturday was the wedding so that tied up most of the afternoon and in the evening we just hung around the motel we were staying at and caught up with different family members that were also staying at the same motel.

Sunday we drove down to Solomon's Island which was about 1-1/2 from downtown DC. We had visited there back in 2005. They make the best key lime pie at one of the restaurants we ate there back then. The drive is a pretty one down there.  

Of course we had the go wine tasting. We also ate at The Pier for lunch afterward. I had the crab salad. It was delicious. 

I thought this was a cute sign. School was due to start in 2 days down there.

Afterward we drove over to Patuxent River, about 30 minutes from Solomon's Island. Hubby had been born at the naval station there back in 1953. We couldn't go on the naval station obviously but we waved at it as we drove by. They have a museum outside the naval station that we visited back in 2005.

Sunday evening we visited the Mosiac District in the Arlington, Virginia area where we were staying .There are lots of shops and restaurants there. I liked this bench, though I'm not sure if I sat down on it I would be able to get up.

Monday we went over to Old Town Alexandria. Lots of shops and history there.

There was an old torpedo factory in the area that they converted to studios for artists.  There were 3 stories of studios there. 

You can kind of get an idea about how it looked. This was one of the staircases to the upper floors.

More in detail about the staircase.

City Hall in Old Town Alexandria.

No words needed.

Then we drove over to National Harbor which was about 20 minutes from Old Town Alexandria. Another place with shops and restaurants.

And a Ferris Wheel. No, we didn't ride it.

I just had to take the picture.

Yep, a Peeps store. Yep, tons of different colors of Peeps in there. Nope, didn't buy any of them. Did buy 2 plastic Peeps that were bath toys for the wee one and a book of colors featuring Peeps for him also.

There were lots of different statues there. Like Marilyn Monroe over the manhole, the sailor kissing his girl after WW2, Louie Armstrong, etc. I liked this one (why I'm not sure).

Yum. But we didn't have one. 

On Tuesday we went to Gettysburg which was about 1-1/2 hours from downtown DC.  It was impressive. Really well done with a movie about the battle, a museum, then you could do a car ride in your own vehicle through the various parts of battlefields and there was a narrative you could buy that would describe what happened here and what happened there. 

Contemplating what to say before he gave his famous address.

Since so many states fought in the war and so many battalions, etc., each one dedicated some type of monument to the men who had lost their lives fighting there. Some monuments were big like this, others not so big. 

Just a picture there. So much green back East. 

Not used to it if you live in a desert :)

And then we came back home on Wednesday. Short trip. Main focus was the wedding and then a day or two to sight see.

If you've been to the Washington, DC area, do you have a favorite place to visit?

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

what worked for us

Sharing our "secret" for weight loss.  We knew of the family wedding happening around Labor Day after the first of this year, but of course we didn't act on losing weight immediately.  We knew we wanted to be a bit skinnier for several reasons.  Appearance, but as well as comfort. We knew we would be flying and we knew how narrow the seats are to begin with, let alone if you are a pound or two (or more) overweight.  And we knew that it was just healthier to weigh less rather than more.

Hubby was "gung ho" about trying Nutrisystem.  Now I have to say in the beginning I had misgivings about it.  However, he has supported my efforts of different types of weight loss over the years (I'm good at losing weight once I put my mind to it, its maintaining that's an issue), including the protein shake diet I did a few years back when we were in Montana.  So I felt I had to support what he might want to try for weight loss, so we signed up for Nutrisystem.  We started the program 03/13/2018.

I have to say that I had thought that Nutrisystem was a lot of frozen food, but in reality if you go with the plan for frozen food it is the most expensive plan of the three they offer. 

They offer basic, which basically they just send you the foods you need for the day, you have no choice of what you get. Or the core (the one we went with) that you could pick what you ate for breakfast, snacks throughout the day, lunch, dinner. Uniquely Yours is the plan that you get a choice of frozen meals but its only so many frozen meals through the month. I can't remember the technique they cook their food in, but it doesn't need to be refrigerated or frozen unless you go with the Uniquely Yours plan. 

Meal preparation was pretty easy.  Most entrees just were in the microwave for 90 seconds or less or were bars about the size of a small protein bar. 

You eat 6 times a day, breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack.  Each is about 200-300 calories if you are a woman, a bit higher for men. 

They divide food into 4 categories that  you can eat.  Power fuels are proteins, Smart carbs are healthy carbs like fruits, cereal, pastas/rice/potatoes in very small servings, veggies that are unlimited if they are not starchy ones like potatoes or corn, and then add ons like salad dressing, other condiments, etc. 

Leafy, non-starchy veggies, like I said above, are unlimited, but they wanted you to eat at least 4 servings a day.  They didn't count those calories in the calories consumed for the day.  

Nutrisystem would provide food for me for breakfast (but then I had to add a power fuel), lunch, dinner, and evening snack.  For men, they provide breakfast (with power fuel we had to get on our own), snack, lunch (with extra power fuel provided by us), dinner (with extra power fuel by us), and evening snack.  So in addition to buying their food, we had to additionally purchase food on our own to supplement what they provided.

I'll be honest. The food (to me) is so-so to eat. Some is better than others, some was really hard to stomach.  But we were losing weight. Hubby lost 11 pounds the first week, me 3.4 and we steadily continued to lose weight.

Also, for each meal a week, breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc., they wanted you to do a flex meal where there were guidelines. Breakfast 2 power fuels, 1 smart carb.  Lunch 1 power fuel, 1 smart carb.  Dinner 2 power fuels, 1 smart carb. The menfolk get an extra power fuel at lunch and dinner over the ladies. 

Two months into the program, the food really all started to taste the same and there were some things that really we didn't like any more so I started doing some checking and tried to mimic what we could buy at the regular grocery store that would substitute something that Nutrisystem had on their program. I started reading a lot of labels and came up with a plan where we could eat "regular" food, keep within the calories of the Nutrisystem food and save ourselves a whole bunch of money.  So we tried that for a month with substituting meals with our own concoctions and rotating then with days we did just Nutrisystem and we both continued to lose weight (at about the same speed we were losing just following their plan). After the initial weight loss week for hubby, he averaged about 2-3 pounds a week, some weeks less, some weeks more. I did about the same, though my average was closer to 1-2 pounds a week. Nutrisystem says in their program you can expect to lose 1-2 pounds a week after the first week. 

So after 3 months of Nutrisystem, we stopped their orders and went with our own plan.

Here's a sample of what I eat for all meals except for dinner. Oatmeal (maple brown syrup low sugar from Quaker Oats) and hard boiled egg for breakfast. Cheese stick for morning snack.  Protein bar (Special K Chocolate Chip) for lunch.  Afternoon snack 6 pieces of cubed cheese and 5 Triscuit crackers. Evening snack yogurt.  (Roughly 750 calories).

Here's a sample of what hubby eats. Breakfast, yogurt, granola.  Morning snack, cheese stick and sausage stick.  Lunch, soup and mozarrella cheese stick.  Afternoon snack, nuts and grapes.  Evening snack protein granola bar. (Roughly 1025 calories). 

Dinner is a lean cuisine or similar meal that has at least 10 g of protein and under 300 calories. We also make a big plate of healthy veggies (both fresh and frozen) that we just dabble salad dressing on (keeping the salad dressing to low calorie ones). 

Hubby gets an extra power fuel for dinner, so he'll make one of these veggie burgers. 

Nutrisystem helped us realize portion control (which we knew already, just didn't practice it) and how to group things together between proteins and healthy carbs, so it was a good experiment for the 3 months we ate their food.

Friday nights were our "cheat" nights. We would go out to a restaurant but we tried to eat within Nutrisystem's guidelines.  So we would go some place like Red Lobster and have their fish cooked healthy, along with a salad, and veggies like broccoli or asparagus. We would share a bottle of wine. 

All the other meals we followed the plan. 

Nutrisystem has an app you can put on your phone that you can track your daily eating, pounds lost, as well as exercise. They send you a weekly report of your progress. Even though we stopped buying food from them, I still can use the app up to a year from our final purchase. I don't keep track of what I eat daily anymore because I know now calories and watch things more closely. They do tell you how many days you've been on the program. As of this past Sunday it was 223 days. I haven't really craved too much (I think that's because its designed to eat so frequently, keeps the blood sugar from dipping too low).  

When we were gone to Washington, DC area (my next post next week will feature sightseeing there), we still tried to eat within the program. I went up 1.2 pounds that week (mainly because I might have had a little more wine at times on some other days) but hubby actually lost 0.8 of a pound. By the next week the 1.2 pounds I had gained was gone in addition to some other extra pounds. 

We plan to continue this way of eating through the end of the year and then gradually start cooking healthy dinners, but continue to eat the rest of the meals with similar things we are eating now.

So my advice if you are going to do this. Keep it around 1200 calories for women, 1500 for men. Eat lots of veggies. Exercise (I did 40 minutes 5 times a week on the treadmill). Drink at least 8 glasses of water a day. Allow a bit of a "cheat" now and then. 

And like I said, it is working for us. Now the secret will be keeping off the weight. Both of us had to buy new clothes since we dropped several sizes. We promptly got rid of the big sizes and vowed not to buy those sizes again. We also weigh weekly, which is something I hadn't done in a long time. In fact the last time I had weighed before starting this program was 6 years ago. Let's just say it was a bit of a sticker shock when I saw how much I had gained in those 6 years. I knew I had gained some, but not that much that I did. 

We did drop our BMI's (body mass index). I'm now at 28.9 (considered overweight) whereas when we started I was at 36.5 (obese). Anything over 30 is obese, 25-30 is overweight, 24 and under normal.  Hubby started at 38.9 and is down to 31.2. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

briefly I can be brief, but I'm going to do my best to be so in bullet points with what's been happening over the  past few months since I last posted. I thought I'd do it in 1-4 sentences each with what has been going on and if anyone is interested in knowing more, let me know in the comments and I'll do a separate blog post about that particular item.

1.  Solar finally got up and running for our house on September 10th and for our rental house October 11th. Long drawn out process. We've gotten 2 bills for our house from the electric company and the 2nd bill, reflecting a whole month of solar, was more than 75% less than the month before, BIG IMPROVEMENT! 

2.  Since March 13, 2018, hubby and me combined have lost 109 pounds. He, being a man, has lost more (60 pounds) to my 49 pounds. We both would like to lose 20 more pounds each.

3.  Had a lovely trip (sans humidity and high heat) to the Washington DC area for a family wedding around Labor Day. Nice to reconnect with family, some extended that I hadn't seen in over 25 years. There is definitely a difference between dry heat and humidity and I'll take dry heat any old day.

4.  Wee one had his first airplane ride. I am not sure he made the connection of the airplane with how high it went, but he was not fond of being seat belted in when required and made just a bit of fuss about it (maybe more than a bit of a fuss).

5.  After a tumultuous summer of unexpected events regarding employment, son recently found a great job at a prestigious Italian restaurant working as kind of like a chef's apprentice. Its a fantastic opportunity to learn and grow in the field and the money is pretty good too.

6.  Because of the tumultuous summer of unexpected events regarding son's employment, we've watched the wee one more than we had previously, so found ourselves exploring things for him to do to burn off energy in the hot Phoenix summer which included indoor playgrounds and bouncy houses. This 60 year old grandmother still can do some climbing and moving around (though her muscles let her know that the next day). I also saw covetousness at work through the wee one's eyes at one of the indoor playgrounds.

7.  Wee one is increasing his vocabulary daily, but his favorite phrase when he is over here is "come on" when he wants me to follow him to play with what he wants to play. He may (just a bit) have me wrapped around his little finger.

8.  From the recent traveling, I deduced that the possible 2 worse jobs out there could be a hotel maid and a flight attendant. I would also add worse jobs here in Phoenix could be retrieving carts at grocery stores and people who clean pools, especially in the summer heat. 

9.  The monsoon season was pretty hard on us this year.  At son's place (our rental house) he had what is called a macro burst. It knocked down the wooden fence and literally blew the metal shed over to the neighbor's next door yard. Dealing with insurance wasn't that bad of a deal.

I think that's about it. Like I said, if you want more info, just let me know in the comments. Hopefully I won't go 2 months between my next post. Can anyone believe that the holidays are just around the corner?

Monday, August 20, 2018

tapping into the sun's energy

Yep, we are going solar.

I have to admit, I didn't know much about solar (still don't, but know a little bit more now).

I was ambivalent about getting it UNTIL APS, our electric provider, raised their rates significantly last September. Oh they were smart, they waited until the heat of the summer was over and people were using their air conditioners less so we wouldn't notice too big of a difference in the bill.  

And then they changed the times of the advantage plan out there where electricity cost less if you didn't use it during the peak times. The peak times were 12 noon to 7 p.m., so people got used to running appliances not during those hours (minus the air conditioner because you have to run the air conditioner almost 24/7 here during summer). They changed the times from 3 p.m to 8 p.m.  We thought that was good because we got more time with cheaper electricity.  We were wrong.  They raised the rates of the non-peak time a lot so they were actually getting more money from their customers because people were using more electricity during the off peak times.

So when our bill went up this year from last year significantly for the month of May and we had really tightened up what we used for electricity and had adjusted the thermostat for the air conditioner from 77 degrees to 79 degrees at night (80 during the day), we knew something had to be done because APS was going to again raise prices this September.  

So we looked into solar.

From what I understand (and I still don't know if I grasped it all), solar panels will be put on our roof (already done). The solar company looked at our kilowatt usage over the past year and designed a system that we would be producing about 101% of what we actually use for electricity. Anything we produce over that we'll sell back to APS at a certain rate per kilowatt.  We actually could end up some months where we owe no money to APS and actual months where they will owe us money for what we produce (that would be nice for a change).

We decided to lease the solar system rather than purchase it out right. Purchasing it is less expensive per month, but if there is any damage to the panels (say like what might occur during one of our monsoon storms) we (or our home owner's insurance) would be liable for damages. Leasing the system the solar company is responsible for any damages that occur to the system.

Its a drawn out procedure to get solar installed. You have to have the system designed and submitted to APS for their approval. Then the installation occurs, then the inspection by APS who sometimes can drag their feet because after all they won't be reaping the benefits of HIGH electric bills any more. We are at the place where we are waiting for their inspection and then our system will be turned on. From what I understand, there's an app for my smart phone that will show me how much electricity we are producing. I'm looking forward to downloading it and seeing how much money we'll be saving because right now every time the air conditioner comes on I cringe and see dollar signs going out the door with the high cost of electricity here.  The sales person from the solar company said it could take about 90 days for the whole process to occur and we are about 75 days into it since we signed up, so we won't get any advantage this summer but next year our bills should be significantly lower.

Our lease is for 20 years. At the end of the 20 years we can renew it, get rid of the solar panels and see what else is available at that time. Who knows what technology will do in that period of time. Who thought cell phones were possible in the year 1980. I certainly didn't. 

If we sell the house(s) (we got solar at the other house we are renting out) the lease is transferred to the new owners without them having to qualify for anything. It is considered a good selling point here because of the cost of electricity.

I saw a report the other day that in the 10 months since APS had raised their fees they had made 128 million dollars in profits.

128 million dollars in profits.

Yep, it was time to get solar and save ourselves a bit of money.

After all, we live in the Valley of the Sun who boasts over 300 days of sunshine a year. Might as well tap into some of that energy!

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

This is a story......

.....of a duck, a duckling, a shark, and a snake.

Meet the characters:

This is Duckie.  He is solar powered.  He holds the chlorine tablets to help keep the water in balance for swimming. He's our third Duckie we have had since we moved in about 2-1/2 years ago.  The other ones did their best but their light eventually faded out and no longer lit the dark pool.  (I think the heat got to them). 

This is Duckling.  He is a thermometer.  He just joined the family this past summer because......

.....Sharkie, also a thermometer, started having an opaque coloring
over his numbers and it was hard to read the pool's temperature.

This is Anaconda.  When the pool pump is on, he roams throughout the pool vacuuming up things from the bottom of it and some of the sides as far as he can reach.

They all live together in this pool. 

Like most friends, they like to spend time together.

And sometimes they like to be alone.

Its funny to watch them (remember I'm the one with the creative imagination) and see where they end up in the pool as the wind blows them or when the pump is on.  Duckie gets stuck a lot by where the Anaconda plugs into the pool. He can't go over the hose, but Duckling and Sharkie can because they are more lightweight.  Sharkie and Duckling get caught in the loop of the Anaconda at times and we hope they won't get squeezed to death. Sometimes when they are separated from each other we say that they have had a quarrel or if two of them are together we say that they are ganging up on the other one.

I know, I'm a bit weird.

The wee one, naturally curious about the big duck in the pool, was drawn to swim toward him when this season started.  Because Duckie has chlorine tablets in him, he is obviously not safe for the wee one to play with so we've gotten into the habit of swimming next to the wee one when he is by Duckie and saying "Hi Duckie" then picking up Duckie and throwing him to another part of the pool (don't worry, it doesn't hurt Duckie) and saying "Goodbye Duckie."  One day we were in the pool and Duckie floated toward the wee one. The wee one said "Hi Duckie", picked him up, tossed him a bit and said "Bye Duckie." It was cute to witness.

We were going to have the wee one learn how to swim this summer but schedules were hard to coordinate to have that happen.  Remember, we have the fence around the pool so that is an extra element of safety (though the best safety is constant supervision of young ones around any sort of water). We got him a life vest, one of those recommended by the Coast Guard for boating. It is for 30-50 pound children, he's about 31 pounds. We're aiming for next year for him to learn. Meanwhile with constant watching and the life vest he is pretty safe in the water and enjoys holding Duckling and Sharkie when he is swimming around. He does call them by name. 

Several of you commented on my last post about the pool water of 93 being not refreshing and I agree with that if people like cooler water to swim in. Anything under 86 degrees of pool water is too cold for me. I know, I'm weird. I'll occasionally go in if it is under 86 degrees, but it takes me forever (literally) to get in. At 90 degrees, I walk right in. It is a bit refreshing too when the outside temperature is 20 degrees warmer, like for instance the 115 degrees we had this past Tuesday. And the nice thing with the warm water is the wee one really likes the warmer temperature. He's more comfortable in it than when he went in around 84-85 degrees. He'll stay longer in the pool. And the other advantage. When he is in the pool with the warmer temps, he settles quicker at night to sleep and sleeps longer the next morning. 

I realize others like cooler water and I can appreciate that. But for me, its a win-win situation when it is 90 degrees or above. 

I know, I'm weird. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

As promised

Remember back in May when I wrote about Barrow, Alaska? About it being on that particular day 18 degrees and snowing? 

I said I would report what its temperature was on the 4th of July.  

So today, being the 4th, Happy 4th of July by the way, its time to report the results.

35 degrees was the high with fog!!

Contrast that to the 105 degrees that we had today. I mentioned in my post that I thought Phoenix would be double their temperature. I was wrong. Three times that much!

Tracking their temperature, June stayed pretty much in the 30s with snow at times and rain at other times. Yesterday, it was in the mid 40s.  Those people that live there are hardier than I am!

We are due for 114 degrees tomorrow.  I have to say that June was much cooler here than the previous 2 Junes that we have lived here.  We stayed mainly in the mid 100s.  Our pool was about 93 degrees this time last year and about 88-89 degrees this year so far. I would imagine it will cross 90 degrees over the next few days with the high heat expected.

Did you all have a nice 4th? I had the day off from work, usually have to work a holiday if it falls on my regular schedule and I don't ask for it off, but this year I had the option of changing my hours to my regular day off Tuesday, working that, then having today off. Decided to do that so I could spend the day with hubby.  We had a nice quiet one. 

Now next big holiday is Labor Day! And shortly behind that Thanksgiving and Christmas. Where did this year go?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

is there an app for that?

I have a love/hate relationship with phones. I know they are important to have in the event of emergencies, etc., but they also can deliver some of the most painful news (at least in my experience). I honestly would not have a phone if I could avoid having one, but I know that is not how things operate, especially in this day and age.

I have to have a landline for work though I rarely give out the number to anyone else though it rings sometimes incessantly day in and day out. I've come to start answering the phone. A lot of automated calls that I can opt out of. Since I've started doing that, the calls have been reduced about 50%. Though the IRS scammers still seem to call. I get at least 3-4 calls a week saying that I'm going to be arrested for tax fraud. I'm still here with no threat, so I don't take much stock in their recorded messages. I did get a bit angry last week when they called 3 times over the course of 3 hours and called back the number. I demanded for them to take my number off their calling list and if the didn't, I would call the police. They insisted it was not a scam (yeah right). It didn't work with my threats because 2 days later they called again.

But I digress.  Don't I usually?

I have a cell phone and use it rarely. Mainly to keep in touch with family.  In fact the standard joke is if you want to try to get a hold of me, don't hold your breath. I may answer or not. I may respond to a text or I may not. I used it a lot when I would walk a certain corgi but I haven't walked any dog in close to 3-1/2 years and don't see that changing any time soon.  

My last cell phone I got was back in 2012 until recently.  It was a smart phone but not a high functioning one. It was a free one when Verizon was still giving out free phones. I didn't do anything with it except answer it, make a few calls, and occasional texts.

It was terribly outdated over the years. I could have upgraded it every 2 years according to our contract with Verizon but I really didn't need a new phone or there was that stretch of time when son was particularly hard on phones and even despite insurance on them, he was going through a phone at least once a year so he took several of my upgrades.

Over the past few years I had a series of texts that I wanted to save just in case I needed them for evidence so to speak. So when my cell phone acted up about a year ago and I went in to see if I could upgrade it, the representative we dealt with said my phone was so outdated that they couldn't bring the text messages over to a new phone I would get. It was vital that I save those text messages then so I said "no thank you" and babied my phone.

About 2 months ago the phone one weekend just decided to turn itself on and off despite what I did. I removed the battery, I shut it off for a bit, etc. Nothing worked. On and off like clockwork. Couldn't do anything with it because when I tried it would turn itself off. I knew it was time to get a new phone so we ventured to the Verizon store.

Imagine my surprise when this store (different than the previous one) said they could transfer my text messages. By then I didn't need them as much as I needed them at one time, but I still wanted them if able.  I was glad they would be able to be saved.

I wanted a simple phone. Nothing fancy because I really didn't use the phone a lot. Didn't care about apps or playing games, etc. on them. Basically, lets have it available for calls and texts among family members. That's all I wanted.

I got a nice phone with the ability to download apps etc. if I decided to do so. It was easy to learn and within hours I was proficient with things.

And then I discovered apps.

It started simple. A weight loss app (more about that in another post but let's just say its been a successful venture losing weight and I'm closer to my goal than I was at the beginning of the  year). Then one time hubby took Uber for something and I thought "why not download that app in case I needed it." I have to say its fun to open that app and see the cars driving around in the area.

Then there was the Great Clips (hair cutting) app. Can sign in and get on their list so you don't have such a long wait when you go the store to get a hair chut.

Then there was Netflix.  Grandson likes to watch his "show" as he calls it. Son will let him watch things on it or YouTube but sometimes son's phone is not completely charged so I put Netflix on my phone as a back up.

Then there was the Kindle app from Amazon. Have to have the ability to read books. Then there was the library app for the same reason.  Then there was the Amazon app just in case I needed to buy a book to read through the Kindle app.  

Then Pandora for music. Instragram. I had an account for over 5  years but didn't really do anything with it. But who knows, maybe now I will.  Then Word With Friends so I could access it with my cell phone and  not just my tablet. Then Messenger through Facebook.

So I'm up to 11 apps.  And I find myself on my phone more than before, though I'm still not using it as a phone should be used. For making phones or sending texts. 

Its just too addicting, these apps. 

At least for me.

So how many apps do you have?

Monday, May 21, 2018

Mystery Castle

Royce Gulley lived in the Seattle area in the early 1920s, was married and had a young daughter, Mary Lou.  One of their favorite past times was going to the beach and making sand castles.  Mary Lou always cried when the incoming tide would wash away the sand castles.  Her father promised her one day he would make her a castle that would not wash away.

He did so in Phoenix, Arizona and it is known as the Mystery Castle

In 1927, Royce abandoned his wife and daughter and moved to the Southwest.  He had been diagnosed with tuberculosis and told he only had a few months to live.  Not wanting his family to get sick or to see the potential horrendous death he might have, he left them.  Except for a few letters he wrote to them, he had no contact with them over the ensuing 15 or so years and never sent for them to join him in Phoenix.

He started building the house and kept adding on to it over the years.  He used materials he could recycle through various means, old bricks, rocks, railroad ties, etc.  He often would bid on items in railroad cars that were abandoned by their owners (think of the recent show that has people bidding on storage units).  He didn't have much of an income so a lot of things he used for the house was things he managed to scavenge through the years.

When he died in 1945 (not from tuberculosis but from cancer) his wife and daughter were notified of his death and that they had inherited his house in Phoenix, Arizona.  They made the journey from Seattle to Phoenix, arriving at the house in the evening hours.  The house had no electricity or running water and would not have elecricity or running water until 1992.  Water was hauled in by truck.  

He had dug the equivalent of a small mine shaft under the house, which he locked up.  His lawyer had the key to it.  The lock could not be opened until January 1, 1948.  When his widow and daughter opened it, they found letters he had written and never sent, other writings of his, drawings, $500 for both of them.

Life magazine did an article about the unique house in the Southwest and dubbed it the Mystery Castle.  People were fascinated about it and came wanting to check it out.  Mother and daughter would often find visitors roaming the outside of the house and even inside at times, so they devised to start tours of the house for $10 for adults, $5 for children; the price that remains to this day. 

We visited the Mystery Castle this past Sunday.  Fascinating place and if you are ever in Phoenix and it is opened (it closes from the end of May until October because of the heat), it is worth a visit to it.

This is part of the chapel where there were some weddings held.

I thought this was a cute thing to do.

And there were shoes there. I hope those men didn't roam and they are still all happily married.

The house is 8000 square feet, 3 stories.  This is a bar downstairs.  In the corner of it is a hole that goes up to the 2nd story and to the wishing well. 

He built the wishing well specifically so drinks could be brought up from the bar through it to be enjoyed on the outdoor patio that was there.

A bedroom on the 2nd story.  Mary Lou and her mother lived in the house; Mary Lou for 60 years until her death. Her mom too lived there until her death, but I'm not sure how many years she lived there . This is not Mary Lou's bedroom.  It is on the 3rd story of the house and not part of the tour.

The original kitchen stove. They had modernized it a bit over the years.

Looking up from the 2nd story patio.  This would have been Mary Lou's bedroom behind the purple and brown coverning.

From the 2nd story patio, Royce built a hole to look out facing Phoenix.  You can't see it in the pictures, but straight ahead from the hole is downtown Phoenix with its tall buildings.  Those buildings would not have been there when the house was originally built. 

A portrait of Mary Lou Gulley.  She was an artist and a collector.  She was the one that furnished the house over the years.  She loved cats and there were a lot of cat items in various rooms.  She married later in life, did not have children.  She set up a foundation where the house would be a historical site and be able to be enjoyed by visitors over the years.  She died in 2010 at the age of 86.  She was able to live at the house until about 2 weeks before her passing. 

This is part of the guesthouse.  The bedroom is what we are looking at from the upstairs drawing room we'll call it.  That is a real saguaro cactus that was part of the land when Royce started building the guest house.  He built the guest house around the cactus. The cactus has subsequently died but its inside shell is what is left. 

Ceiling made from railroad ties.

Going up the stairs from the 1st story to the 2nd story patio.  

It is totally amazing to think it was built by hand, mostly by Royce as like I said before he didn't have much money so didn't have much to pay anyone to help him.  

He did build a castle for his daughter.

One wonders (at least I wondered) did he live so much longer than anticipated because of the climate he came to or because he had a purpose and a plan to build something and was doing physical labor? 

The sad thing is leaving his family for all those years and not having much to do with them.  What an interesting legacy he left behind.