Wednesday, January 20, 2016

California - It's raining again!!!

It's been hard here in California with the drought we've been trying to deal with for so long. Lawns have dried up into hopeless, barren, brown entries into our homes all across the state. I really don't mean to complain, but it's hard to imagine how bad it's been if you live on the East Coast or in a lush environment.

Normally, sunshine is associated with happiness but sometimes maybe sunshine isn't always the answer. Sometimes a good soaking is what we all need. There's that old proverb:

All sunshine makes a desert

We have really been loving this rain... and snow in the Sierras

Like my Dad said, "Everything changes".

Lauren and Chris wallowing in all of the Sierra snow

Unbelievably, this is the little creek on our place by Lake Tulloch

Obviously we have to check out this miracle of nature! Never thought this would happen last year!

So we had to make a family photo of it! Dave was the photog :)


Lauren even found a natural spring on the ranch. It was so awesome that we kept stepping unexpectedly into puddles in the grass and our wet feet hardly mattered anymore.  We used to complain about the rain in years past. Turns out, it makes all the difference.

Monday, December 14, 2015

It's About To Be...Christmas

So this is our Christmas in a nutshell.  A game of Guesstures after dinner with the Helmuth family and here is quintessential Dave - going all out for his his team win. 
Nothing new there ;)

It's basically a game of Charades but it's a requirement for all attendees - pretty intimidating the first time because most of us have been doing it for years and have already made fools of ourselves a number of times so we have no pride left. Lauren started in on it when she was 5 years old and nailed it the first time. But believe me, we have seen some epic fails at this game so the pressure is on. But Lauren's beau, Chris, lucked out this year by not having to be here - oddly enough his parents in SoCal would like to see him on Christmas ;)  Last year, Kevin's sister-in-law, Krissy, came to dinner unsuspectingly but as I recall, she failed to embarrass herself. Well, there's always this year...

Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas since I missed the Christmas card train this year. 

                                                                    Kathy and Dave

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Roses, Climbers and Craig

I'll start out with the roses - the last ones of the year before we have to trim down the bushes. Dave loooooves his roses and always brings a few in for me. The deer love them too so it's a real struggle to keep them fenced and protected. We thought we saw the last of them in early December but were surprised to see more even after the new year. 

I'll end the post with the roses too but, for now, I have some pictures of Yosemite...

We decided on the spur of the moment to ride over to Yosemite to see the climbers who are "free-climbing" the Dawn Wall of the El Capitan rock face. Free-climbing means using just your hands and feet to climb up the rock wall. The climbers are attached to ropes to catch them if they fall but, otherwise, it's just using the body to climb - there are no screwed in metal bars and no ropes to pull themselves along.  
This was the very sad view we saw on entering Yosemite it seemed like most of the park was burned - miles and miles of devastation - where beautiful forest used to be. 

So here is "El Capitan" and what you see in the picture is called the "Dawn Wall" because the sun glows on it at dawn. If you look really closely - reeaallly closely - you will see the climbers' tents. See the tall pine tree in the center of the picture? Well, let your eye roll 1/3 down from the top of the tree and, just to the right of that, you will see a couple of teeny, dark dots on the rock face. Those are the climbers' tents where they sleep and spend their downtime. They are climbing in this time of the year to avoid having their hands sweat in the heat. Climbing is mostly done in the afternoon so they can keep cool and spend most of the daytime in their tents to give their fingers and legs a rest. 

Here's a closer look at the tents. We could only see the climbers with our binoculars and since I only had my phone with me to take these pictures, this was the best I could come up with. 
From what we hear, they are expected to reach the top tonight! I think they have been climbing for about 2 weeks.

On our way out of the Park, we decided to see the site where our friend, Craig, crashed in his CalFire plane in October. He was fighting the Dog Rock Fire and it's called that because of the rock, along the road, that resembles the shape of a dogs head. You can see it in the picture below. Jutting out over the road is a rock that looks like the profile of a dog's snout. It's easier to see when you're riding in the car but maybe you can make it out. The fire was along a ledge above this point. This is right along the El Portal Road entrance to Yosemite National Park. 

We haven't heard the official cause of the crash yet. From what we can gather, Craig was following a lead plane through the smoke, with another plane guiding them from above, when his wing caught something along the ledge and the wing came off. You can see how jagged the rock is and, with volumes of black smoke, these fire fighting planes have to follow the lead plane and sometimes fly blind to get in there, near the fire, to release the retardant on the flames.  Craig did this day in and day out for 13 fire seasons, all across northern California. There aren't many of these pilots so it is a terrible loss for the State. As well as a terrible personal loss. 

                    I couldn't leave Dave's lovely roses behind so they traveled with us in the car :) 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Wedding Pics Are In!

Well, doesn't he look relaxed :)
A little help from his friends

Almost new sisters

I let him go a while ago but this made it official

Let's do this!

Uncle Doug officiated

I think she promised to watch a lot of sports. That's why the men look happy :)
Just the beginning

Getting ready to celebrate!

Woooo Hooooo !!!

Mr. and Mrs.

The guys! And, er, Lauren. 

The wedding was as fun as it looks!

Every wedding gets a bit hectic right beforehand but the month before this one was crazy because Giovanna and Drew bought a house and had the sellers from he_l.  It was an incredibly bizarre transaction but they had an amazing real estate broker who hung in there with them and refused to let the house go... Giovanna's mom, Josephine. And she managed to pull it off in the midst of planning a big wedding.  Every detail was flawless - from the paper-signing to the flowers at the wedding. 

Finally Josephine and Gino can enjoy!

The garter...  3 year old Caleb is giving it his best shot.
Hey- some guy out there really seems to want to catch that thing! Awesome!

The bride had a few things to say too. Uh oh :)

Sissers now!

Pullin' the trigger.

Got it done.

Congratulations Giovanna and Drew

We love you!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Ultimate Sacrifice

Last year around this time, I wrote about a longtime friend who flew for the California Fire Service. We lost him yesterday when his tanker (81) crashed in a canyon in Yosemite while he was laying fire retardant and fighting a fire near the entrance to the park.  Craig and Dave were looking forward to their planned golf in November after they both hoped the 'fire season' would be over.

Craig never stopped flying over the past, nearly 40 years. First in the Navy, then the Reserves and then the last 13 years for Cal Fire. Just last year he put out a fire in Copperopolis, the town next to ours up at the lake - just blocks away from where our friends own homes. Over the course of 13 years, he has helped save many communities and thousands of acres of beautiful wild land. Just this year alone, it's mind boggling to think of how many fires he has flown on!

He was always upbeat and quite a guy.  He and Sally just celebrated their 39th Anniversary and his first granchild is due in 2 months. He was quite a guy.
Today the Governor called it "The ultimate sacrifice".

ABC News:

And my blog from last September:

Tanker 81

   When Dave and I were newlyweds and he was assigned as an NFO (navigational flight officer) in the Navy, there was no other pilot he would rather fly with than Craig.  We all had babies and social lives intertwined with one another.  Well, oddly enough, Craig is now flying tanker 81 for the state of California and fighting wild fires that threaten the territory near our house at the lake.  In the off-season he teaches BioChemistry at one of the University of California universities. 
So... the Professor flies dangerous fire missions in his off time. Who would ever know!  

Ironically, he was working the famous Rim Fire, only an hour from our house, laying retardant on the flames.

                                                                        Tanker 81.  Craig's plane. There he is!

Craig flies over our house regularly and tells us whether our cars are there or not. 

Ever since the "Rim Fire" was broadcast on TV for the past few weeks, we've heard from friends from all over the country, asking how we are and whether the house at the lake is in danger and we really appreciate everyone's concern.  Thankfully, all is well with us but we have seen firsthand the power and ferocity of these wildland fires and it is scary.  Within the first week after the Rim Fire broke out, we were at the lake with Drew and Giovanna and her parents.  Luckily, the smoke only came in one morning for a couple of hours and then the breezes blew it out.  So we thought we were home free from then on.  
Well... over Labor Day we were expecting to be at the lake with Kevin and his wife Lauren so Dave and I headed up first and this is what we found when drove through the gate:

It was definitely not the place to be.  The fire by this time had spread into Yosemite National Park which is about an hour drive from our place. 
We turned around and went home.

Craig works for "Cal Fire" - the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection- which is responsible for protecting over 31 MILLION acres of wildlands. Wow. Fortunately for us, we have a major Cal Fire Base at the end of our road.  We sometimes hear them doing drills and, frankly, it is reassuring.

The devastating Rim Fire started on August 17th and it has been the third largest wildfire in California's history, burning about 400 square miles.  It's the biggest wildfire on record in the Sierra Nevada. As of September 12th it was only 80% contained.  They estimate it will be fully contained by September 20 - a week from now! The fire was caused by a hunter's illegal fire that went out of control and is named for its proximity to the Rim of the World vista point in the Stanislaus National Forest.  The Rim Fire now has it's own Wikipedia page!  


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

39 But Who's Counting?

This is how the weekend ended - on the beach at Crissy Field in San Francisco.

Crissy Field was an Army airfield, adjacent to the old Fort Mason and, in 1974, it became a National Recreation Area where families now come to swim, picnic, walk and run. It's one of our favorite places in the city so we headed there again at the end of our Anniversary weekend. We have been there so many times before so it's very special. It does feel a bit lonely to go there without a dog but I don't think Dave is going to rectify that ;)  I'll have to ask to borrow the Hankster from Kevin and Lauren :0

 (No comments about the blonde hair, please - the alternative is... gray... ah - maybe white.)

And this is how the weekend started!  
We moved Giovanna and Drew into their new house in Walnut Creek. It's a big town, close to all the commuting options in the Bay Area, and it has great schools. But... it was a harrowing real estate purchase. Multiple offers and a bidding war ensued with a seller's agent who was the worst of the worst. They would never have had anyone hang on during this ordeal but Giovanna's mom, Josephine, is a real estate broker and she was not letting this place go.  It was an awesome example of persistence and making people do the right thing. We are all very grateful and appreciative. 
So here they are...still in the box stage.

After the boxes were unloaded, we headed into San Francisco for an Anniversary weekend. We're a couple of blocks from Lauren's place in this photo. The deal was that we were "switching" homes - she was staying at our house and we stayed in her apartment in the city. We like to call it our 'pied a terre'. It sounds good :)

The metal 'line' in the road is the cable line for the cable cars.
Here's the street outside her front door. I hesitate to give out too much info on the blog... I'm getting paranoid... But the red awning is a good restaurant and it's on my 'list'...
We went to dinner at Cotagna and our menus were very tailored to our evening!
The restaurant called to confirm our  reservation and they asked it were an 'occasion' .  So I said it was our Aniversary, thinking we would get a decent table - not thinking much more about it. But the menu was a nice touch.

The next morning was pretty sweet in Lauren's apartment. She has a great view and a Keurig coffee maker which was so nice for me because I love a good cup of coffee. (I have to break down and get one.)  Dave requires the morning paper and he wasn't as lucky at getting that. He had to settle for reading the paper on my cracked ipad... that's another story... 

We did not go to Church that Sunday morning but... well, almost...with my coffee. 
Often, that is more thoughtful.

After a nice brunch at Park Tavern (which was better than dinner the night before) we made our way to Crissy Field.
That water is freezing! It comes down from Alaska.

Alcatraz is the 'rock' island in the distance.

One of the mansions on Marina Blvd. What you can't see is that behind me is... the ocean and the Golden Gate bridge.
 Nice digs.

Washington Park - next to the Church of Saints Peter and Paul.  Our neighbors, Anna and Steve, were married here. There's an art venue in the park every weekend.

The End.
Great weekend.

Can't believe it's been 39 years!

Now for the Wedding in 2 weeks!