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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

TRIP TO DAD'S -- PART FOUR

TRIP TO DAD'S -- PART FOUR


As I write this we are still hoping that dad's house has escaped harm from the fire. The focus of the media coverage is now on the Montecito/Santa Barbara area, so we don't have as many updates as we were getting. From what we can gather over the internet, the worst of it is done in Carpinteria. This is, of course, assuming that the wind doesn't change direction and blow it back up there. Nothing is a given with a fire like this. The firefighters did a lot of back-burning on Monday on the hillside right above dad's house, and it seems to have protected the buildings on the hill. The evacuation order is still in effect for that area, so we will not know absolutely for sure until dad and the family can get back in there. So, we are still keeping our fingers crossed. Since this fire is into its second week already, I have decided to go ahead and continue my post of our trip down to dad's in October.


TAKING A BREAK


Linda and I tried to get out and about in Carpinteria a couple of times during our two weeks as dad's caregivers. I would like to mention that Linda's son was there also during this time, as he lives with dad. He always takes the night shifts, being available in case dad needs help during the night. So when we wanted to take a break, we would ask him to stick around for a couple of hours. He was always accommodating, which helped us tremendously. On one of our breaks we decided to go out for lunch in Carpinteria. There is one particular restaurant that we really like in that town, Zookers, so we decided to go there (click here for their website).


We both decided to order their Stuffed Grape Leaves which are stuffed with ground lamb and rice. It was a nice meal and gave us an opportunity to get out and stretch our legs.


FLOWERS AROUND DAD'S HOUSE


My usual perch while at dad's was sitting outside on his deck, watching the birds. At every opportunity I was taking pictures and videos. Granted, my camera would not cooperate sometimes, but I did manage to get some pretty good shots. Here are some more pictures I took of the flowers around dad's house.


Angel's Trumpet

Can you spot the Silver-Spotted Skipper?

A Sulphur butterfly on the bougainvillea plant

Hummingbird getting nectar from a Bottlebrush flower

Not sure what this is, but it was in a large pot on the deck
I even got a couple of butterflies in on a couple of my pictures, which is always a plus. I think I should note that the bougainvillea plant in the picture above is HUGE! Back in North Carolina, I had only seen bougainvillea plants in hanging baskets. But in Carpinteria they are all over the place in people's yards, beside the road, everywhere. And they are all huge. Below is a picture that I took of this plant a few years ago before California was in such a bad drought. It is still pretty now, though.

Bougainvillea plant

MYSTERY BIRDS


One morning I was walking along the driveway from dad's house headed to the RV when I noticed a small flock of about 10 birds on the ground over near the hedge. I had my phone with me so I quickly took a few pictures and watched them walk across the street from dad's house. Then I went inside and got my camera so I could get better pictures. I found them in the bushes across the street and they didn't seem to be frightened of me. I took a few pictures which turned out pretty good even though it was still not very light outside. I had never seen these birds before, so you know I had to look them up after I got my pictures. It turns out they were Tennessee Red Quail. I knew they were some kind of quail from their body shape, but I had never heard of these. There was not a lot of information available on the internet, but it seems that they are a variation of the Bobwhite Quail and are mostly bred for hunting preserves. I can only guess that these either escaped from someone's farm, or they are a wild covey that migrated from a nearby hunting preserve. Wherever they came from, I was glad to see them as they were beautiful birds.






THE WEATHER


The weather when we first arrived in Carpinteria was rather warm, but we were glad of it since we had left Yakima in below freezing temperatures. However, after we were there a few days the weather ramped up and got downright HOT. We thought we were back in Yakima in August. An interesting note for my East Coast friends is that hardly anyone in the Carpinteria area has air conditioning in their homes. They simply do not need it on a regular basis because it usually doesn't get that hot. We certainly could have used it for a few days, though. Here was the weather forecast for the second week we were at dad's.

The week's forecast
Do you see those triple digits on Monday and Tuesday? Yes, it definitely got that hot, and with no A/C in the house, it was pretty hot inside, too. I tried to stay outside as much as possible, but there wasn't even a breeze blowing so it was even hotter out there.


Actual temperature inside (top) and outside (bottom)

These temperatures were well above what is normal for the area during October. Thank goodness the temperature goes way down at night, so the heat didn't pose any problems for sleeping. And, during the day, we could go out to the RV for a little air conditioned relief from time to time. Since I am talking about the RV I thought I would include a picture of our little home-away-from-home. The inside was quite nice. This is where Linda's sister and brother-in-law live while they are taking care of dad. Linda's son lives inside the house with dad.


Our home-away-from-home


ACTIVITIES FOR DAD


Linda's dad is a very active person, even though he uses a wheelchair to get around most of the time. He can still walk without one, and he takes at least one walk every day using his wheely-walker. He also does stretching exercises every day to keep his mobility up. I hope if I live to be 97 years old that I can be as active as he is. He also likes to exercise his mental faculties by playing cards and reading the LA Times newspaper every day. This is in addition to all of the "business" that he carries on by  phoning his friends in the Lion's Club. Even though he doesn't get out very much, Dad still is very involved in the community of Carpinteria.


Playing Solitaire...he wins a LOT

Dad is also very much a sports aficionado and if there is a game on TV, he's there! I mentioned in a previous blog that the World Series playoffs and the World Series games were played while we were with dad. We watched all the games and, of course, we were pulling for the Dodgers all the way. Linda and Dad both got into the spirit of things by wearing their Dodgers t-shirts. Dad has been a life-long Dodgers fan and it was such a treat for us to be able to watch them playing in the World Series with him...even though they didn't win.

Go Dodgers!!

THE LITTLE HAB FAMILY


You already know what happened to the original little Hab when he got red, but I haven't told you about the fate of his brothers and sisters. I had a total of two habanero peppers turn completely red while we were down there. The original little Hab and his red brother both wound up on my plate at different times during our stay there. Quite tasty!


The remaining members of the Hab family did not turn completely red while we were down there, so I brought them home and after they finally turned red, I dried them in my dehydrator and ground them up. But they were pretty to look at while they were in the process of turning red.



ARTWORK AROUND THE DECK


I've talked a lot about Linda's dad, but I haven't mentioned her mom. She was a wonderful, funny, happy-go-lucky lady who, sadly, passed away in 2010. However, her presence is still very much felt at dad's house. Linda's mom collected stone statues of animals which were made by the artist Isabel Bloom, who used to have a ceramics factory in Santa Barbara. They are still scattered around the deck and remind me of her whenever we are down there.



Many of the beautiful plants and bushes that she planted and tended while she was alive are still there, too. A few years ago we brought home one of her rose bushes, a yellow one, and planted it in our yard in Yakima. We have named it the Mom Rose. Here is a picture of her lavender rose that is planted in a very large pot on the deck, as well as more of the plants and flowers around the house.

Lavender Rose
Bougainvillea Flowers

A visitor to the deck

Side deck with flowers all around

Back of dad's house
One of the most striking plants at dad's house is this one below, an Agave Attenuata. He actually has two of them on his property and both were in the process of getting ready to bloom while we were there. It looks like a group of aphids really like that plant, as you can see by the little black things that are gathered on one of the flowers.


Black Aphids

PARTING SHOT -- WORDS OF WISDOM


One thing that has always stayed in my mind, from the very first time I went to dad's house, is this little plaque that he has hanging on the wall. It's in a pretty prominent place, right beside the dining room table, so you can't miss it. I love the sentiment, which puts growing old into perspective. I think this is a nice parting shot for this edition of the blog.



Next week I will wrap up our visit to dad's so we can get back to the real world after Christmas. So check back in next week.


Thursday, December 7, 2017

"TRIP TO DAD'S" POST WILL RESUME NEXT WEEK, PLEASE READ BELOW ~~ PARTING SHOT

THE "TRIP TO DAD'S" POST WILL RESUME NEXT WEEK, PLEASE READ BELOW:


As I am typing this, Linda's dad, sister and brother-in-law have driven to a nearby town to escape all the smoke from the Thomas Fire in Ventura, CA. This fire has spread rapidly in the past couple of days due to the Santa Ana winds, and at this point in time the fire is closing in on the town where dad lives (about 20 miles away from Ventura). Hopefully the firefighters will be able to get it under control before it reaches the town, but there is no way of knowing. At least dad and the rest of the family are safe. Linda & I have been checking for updates off and on all day. Information coming from the fire area is very spotty at best, due to the size of this fire, but also due to numerous other fires also burning in surrounding areas. This has been a horrible year so far for wildfires in California, and my heart goes out to everyone who is experiencing this nightmare.

I contemplated posting my usual blog today, but my mind just can't seem to concentrate on it right now. It's hard to be thinking back to just a few weeks ago when we were there, having a good time with family and enjoying the nice weather. Just thinking about all the devastation that has taken place and will continue to take place is just overwhelming. I read an update a few minutes ago saying that one of our favorite places, Ojai, was surrounded by fire last night. Thankfully, the firefighters so far have been able to save the town. The hillsides around the town did not fare so well and many areas have burned, including many homes. Parts of the town where dad lives, Carpinteria, are currently under a voluntary evacuation notice. We are just keeping our fingers crossed that the fire does not come any closer to it.

As we draw closer to the holiday season, things tend to get busier and busier. For that reason, the blog posts may be a bit sporadic for a while. Once I wrap up the blogs for our trip down to dad's (hopefully next week), then I can promise you some better pictures and video because my new camera arrived today! At least that is good news. Hang in there with me and be sure to check back next week at the usual time.

PARTING SHOT


It's hard for me to put up a blog and not include at least one picture or video. So, to help raise your spirits, as well as mine, I am posting a couple of short videos of Summer Girl, playing with her new toy.




It's a laser light, and I have been driving her crazy with it all week. She loves it!


Wednesday, November 29, 2017

TRIP TO DAD'S -- PART THREE


I know, I know, some of you are probably sitting on the edge of your seat wondering what happened to the Little Hab, since the last report was that he had just turned red before we left. Well, we took him on the trip with us along with the other three much smaller peppers from that same plant. I placed them all near a window and waited to see if they would all turn red. Since Little Hab was already red, I cut him up and ate him with my burrito that we had for supper one night. I know, it pained me to have to do that, but after all, that was his purpose in life.


The most unkind cut of all
Linda took a picture of me right after I ate a small piece of the pepper, just testing to see if it would be too hot for my burrito. Here was my reaction. I am pleased to report that he was not hot and actually had a bit of habanero flavor to him.



After Linda's sister and brother-in-law left on Wednesday for their vacation, we settled in to our job of taking care of dad. To tell you the truth, there wasn't a whole lot to do while looking after dad because he is still pretty much self-sufficient, even at 97 years old. He just amazes me with all he does. I sometimes felt worn out trying to keep up with him! I spent a lot of time hanging around the back deck, watching birds, which was perfectly fine with me. Dad has a wonderful, huge bird feeder that attracts all kinds of birds, so you know I was in heaven.


By the way, you may recognize some of these birds as the "mystery bird" from last week's blog. No one came forward with the name of this bird, but as promised, I will let you know right now. Although this bird is not native to Southern California, there was a quite sizeable flock of them at dad's house. They are commonly called Nutmeg Mannikins, also known as the Scaly-Breasted Munia or Spice Finch. From what I read, they are most likely the descendants of someone's pet birds who escaped in Orange County area in 1988. When I mentioned this to dad, he immediately got out his California state map so he could show me the area we were talking about.


Pinpointing the origin in the wild of the Nutmeg Mannikin
Dad just loves maps (so that's where Linda got it from!) and doesn't hesitate to bring one out at the drop of a hat! This little bird was the most frequent visitor to the bird feeder the entire time we were there. They are actually quite small, even smaller than a goldfinch.


These guys in the bird bath are an adult male and three juvenile males. You can just barely see the beginnings of their scaly feathers under their chins.

The other birds got their share of time spent in the bird bath as well. It was rather warm while we were there and I am sure that they welcomed the chance to take a bath and cool off a bit! They sure seemed happy!



I took a boatload of pictures and video. However, when I got back home I was dismayed to find that most of it was out of focus. My camera has been acting up for the past few months and it decided to really act up while we were at dad's. So I don't have nearly as many pictures and videos to share with you as I had planned. Still, I did get some good pictures in spite of the camera. Needless to say, Santa is going to fix that come Christmas. Anyway, this video below is of the Bottlebrush Hedge that separates dad's house from the road. It is as tall as his house and was in full bloom while we were there. The hummingbirds and bees were all over it, and the other birds liked to hide in among the branches. The sound of all those birds chirping was almost deafening!



One day I took a walk up the road a bit, looking for something to photograph. All of a sudden I heard this very loud chirping sound, and it was so loud I thought it was right in front of me. I kept looking around and couldn't find anything that was making the noise, until I happened to look about 25 feet away. There was the little rascal, sitting on top of a cactus plant. Although this video is a bit shaky, I decided to include it so you can hear the sound I heard.


Dad's house gives a great view of the town below and the ocean, when the weather is clear. You can even see the Channel Islands in the distance. I took a short walk up the road to a higher vantage point and took this picture below. You can see what appears to be hills off in the distance. That is the Channel Islands. I was shocked to learn that they are 22 miles offshore. It looks like they are only a couple of miles out.

Channel Islands in the distance
One of our duties while we were there was to help dad with watering the plants. Dad still gets out on the deck and mans the hose to water things. Linda assisted him with this task and between the two of them they managed to keep everything watered. It has been so dry in California the past few years that it is really a struggle to keep things alive. But there are some beautiful plants around his house.

Dad doing some watering

Lavender rose that is growing in a huge pot on the deck

Century Plant

Back view of dad's house
Orchid plant that is growing in dad's yard
Bird of Paradise flower

One thing we had promised dad was to bring him some fresh tomatoes from our garden. We managed to have a few ripe red ones to take with us when we left Yakima, as well as some green ones. We ate the red ones in the first few days that we were there, and fortunately the green ones eventually turned red as well.


Dad has been a member of the Lions Club since the early 70's, even serving as a District Governor during the mid 1980's. He continues to be very involved with the club, attending meetings whenever he can. While we were there he attended a meeting where they had their yearly picture taken.



I have covered the first week or so of our trip so I think this is a good stopping point. Don't worry, there are still plenty of pictures and videos to come so check back next week!

PARTING SHOT


This week's bird picture is of a Nutmeg Mannikin perched on top of a dead branch. I know, it's a poor substitute for the Summer Girl, but what can I say...you work with what you have.





Wednesday, November 22, 2017

TRIP TO DAD'S -- PART TWO


We safely made it to our motel on Sunday after two full days of driving. We didn't  have to report as dad's caregivers until Wednesday, so we decided to make a couple of day trips on Monday and Tuesday. We chose to make a trip to Santa Barbara on Monday. Every time we go down to dad's visiting Santa Barbara is a must, for three main reasons. One, to shop at Whole Foods and get some of our favorite tonic water for our drinkiepoos (it is Whole Foods 365 brand); Two, to shop at Trader Joe's and get whatever we need from there (usually tea, olive oil, soy sauce, and various other things we like); and Three, to eat lunch at Harry's Plaza Cafe (click here for their website). This has become a tradition every time we go to see dad, we must eat lunch at Harry's sometime before we leave. The reason we like it so much is it is a throw-back to the old days, and I do mean the old, old days of like the 50's and 60's. They have great food, too, and they always bring you a small plate of sourdough bread, sour cream, and their signature salsa to munch on while you wait on your order. The atmosphere is quiet and subdued, unlike most restaurants these days. You can actually carry on a conversation and hear what is being said. They have red leather booths and pictures all over the wall of different celebrities and dignitaries who have eaten there. It's just a very interesting place.


Harry's Plaza Cafe
After our trip to Santa Barbara we headed over to dad's house to spend some time with the family. With it being the playoffs to the World Series, we settled in to what would be our evening routine for the next couple of weeks: drinkiepoo, dinner and baseball.

The next day, Tuesday, we took a trip over to Ojai (pronounced Oh-Hi). This is a little artsy, spiritualistic community that we absolutely love (visit the city website here). A couple of years ago we briefly entertained the fantasy that we would move there, but reality eventually set in and we realized it was not possible. Still, we do like to make the trip whenever we are in the area, as it is only about 40 minutes away. One reason we like to go there is to visit Bart's Books (visit website here). This is an "outdoor" type bookstore because it is a structure that has no roof! The books, which are mostly under little overhangs, do not seem to suffer from the weather. Ojai is located in a somewhat dry valley, and I don't think they get a whole lot of rain. Also when in Ojai, we very much enjoy walking around the backside of their main street shops. The front side is right up against a busy highway and is very noisy, but the backside has trees and grass and benches to sit on. We got a sandwich and some chips at the Rainbow Bridge grocery store (website here) and ate our lunch while sitting on a bench people-watching.

Ojai post office

We returned to home base and decided to go in search of Little Free Libraries in Carpinteria, which is the town below the hills where dad lives. We found all three of them and also dropped off some painted rocks from the Yakima Valley Rocks Facebook group.

The next day, Wednesday, we decided to take a walk down on the beach before we had to begin our duties looking after dad. Linda's sister and brother-in-law were not leaving for their vacation until after lunch, so we drove down to Carpinteria State Beach for a walk. The weather was perfect with a slight breeze blowing. I think it had been years since we had walked on a beach, and it felt good.



I took a few videos. I thought it might be nice to show the hills opposite the beach, which is where dad lives.






We had a nice walk along the beach and ran across some really interesting things. Someone had made a sort of "art project" on the beach. Linda added her touch to it and I took a picture to document it for posterity.


Modern art?

I thought this was a pretty cool piece of seaweed.


Looking out over the ocean from State Beach you can see a number of structures out on the horizon that look like ships.  Upon zooming in on them with my camera, I could see that they were not ships but were oil drilling platforms. Linda says there used to be way more of them, but as they became inoperable they were taken down. I can't imagine going to the beach back in the day and seeing those things scattered all over the place!

Oil drilling platform
There were lots of birds walking along the shore, and some of them were kind enough to pose for me.


A big difference between the beaches on the West coast versus the beaches on the East coast is the amount of shells that are washed up on the shore. I don't think we saw any shells on the beach during our walk. Intact, whole shells are quite rare on the beaches out West. Back East, the beaches are littered with shells of all kinds. We used to walk on Holden Beach and pick up buckets full of perfect shells every time.


Upon leaving the beach we happened upon this cute sculpture that was just begging me to take its picture.


PARTING SHOT


As per my agreement with Summer Girl, for the posts about our trip we are going to have different pictures of birds stand in for her in the Parting Shot. Here is a picture of a very different kind of bird. Can anyone guess what it is? I will tell you that it is not a bird native to this country. I will reveal its name on next week's blog.

Mystery bird

That's all for now. I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving Day and I hope we all can refrain from eating too much...yeah, good luck with that!