Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tying Up Loose Ends

Well, here it is, the end of the year, heck, the end of the decade. What? I know! How did that happen? Wouldn't it be ironic if all of our computers conked out when they rolled over to 2010?

Anyway, I have a few things that I've thought about blogging over the course of the year that I never quite got to, so this will sort of be a wrap-up post of miscellaneous stuff to close out the year.

Miscellaneous Thing #1:

This might be my favorite picture of the year. In May I flew home to surprise my dad for his 60th birthday. My sister picked me up at the airport in Denver, and we drove down to my dad's house. My sister's friend, Big A, came along with us and brought her son, Little A, who is four. Like many four-year-olds, Little A has his security blanket, and he keeps a pretty tight leash on it. We got in late that night, and my dad's party was the next evening. Before the party, Dad decided to take a nap in his chair. Little A decided that my Dad might be cold, so he went to his bed, got his blanket, and covered up my dad. Then he went downstairs where there are various stuffed animals and brought several of them upstairs for my dad to sleep with. After this picture was taken, he topped it all off with a Hacky Sack on my dad's chest. 'Cause you never know when you might wake up and need a Hacky Sack.

Miscellaneous Thing #2:

We went to Oregon this summer for more tree climbing lessons, and I kind of surprised myself by not blogging about it; although I did post a couple of random pictures from our trip. I won't give you as much detail as I did about last year's lessons, but I did want to at least put in one or two pictures! I know, you're thinking, How much can there be to learn about tree climbing? Well, last year, we just learned the basics; this year we learned how to facilitate other people up into the trees and how to do rescues. We also got to play with saws in the trees, learning proper pruning techniques. I'll tell you what, there's nothing like hanging from a rope with a sharp cutting device in your hand to make you pay really close attention to where all your gear is at any given time! Here is a tree all set up for facilitation:

The rescues were hard work, and I really impressed myself by being able to get a line into a tree, get my rope up and tied, get my gear on, climb up, get over to my "victim," attach myself to my victim and get him lowered to the ground and unattached from me in under 17 minutes. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of that, but I do have a picture of me relaxing in a tree boat, which was a lot nicer!

I'm not much of a morning person, but see how smiley I am? That's because this was the first time in about a week that I had gotten a decent night's sleep. Seriously. Hotel room=slept like crap. Tree boat=Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

After our class was over, our instructor took my husband climbing in a big Douglas fir. He would have taken me too, but I chickened out. Since it was such a high climb (about 200-250 feet) they were climbing single rope which involves a lot of gear compared to double rope, which is how I am more comfortable climbing. I hadn't done much single rope work, and the few times I had, I always had trouble switching over from ascending to descending devices, and I didn't want to get stuck 200-feet up, so I stayed on the ground and acted like I wasn't bummed about missing out on this climb. That's OK though, tree climbing really gives you a new appreciation for listening to your instincts, and my instincts were telling me not to go that day. So, some other day. Hubby had a great time though-here's a picture of him on the way up.

Miscellaneous Thing #3:

Missing book reviews-I've read a few books that I never got around to reviewing here, so I will do some quick summaries so that they're not hanging over my head come the new year.

The Gardella Vampire Chronicles by Colleen Gleason-I believe it was Chris's review of When Twilight Burns, the fourth book in the Gardella Vampire Chrinocles that piqued my interest in this series. I picked up the first one, The Rest Falls Away, and, if my Kindle history is anything to go by, quickly devoured the next three books in the series. That's the problem with the Kindle, when you get to the end of one book in a series it's so easy to just click, click and get the next book! It's not that the writing is that great, in fact I remember some of the dialogue being pretty bad, but it is quick fun reading with some fairly steamy love scenes, and I just might have to pick up a copy of the last book in the series, As Shadows Fade, now that I'm thinking about it.

Children of God by Mary Doria Russell-I finished reading this a few weeks ago, and I hate to admit it, but I didn't like it as much as The Sparrow. I knew this was a risk-The Sparrow is a hard act to follow. I've been agonizing over reviewing it because I'm actually thinking I might need to read it again to give it a fair review. For right now, I'll leave it at that, but I will come back and do a full review much for tying up loose ends!

Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions by Neil Gaiman-This is the first Gaiman book that I have read and finished (couldn't make it through American Gods) and I really liked it. I'm not normally a short-story gal, but I did enjoy most of the stories in here. There were a couple I didn't really care for and one that I didn't even finish because I just had no idea what was going on. A lot of short stories leave me feeling like the author didn't quite have it in him to write a whole novel, so he just sort of wrote down the ideas that he had for a story and then left it to the reader to fill in the missing parts; but with Gaiman I (mostly) felt like his stories were fully-realized stories, crafted with the end reader in mind. Be sure to read the Introduction, which itself includes a story as well as some background on the rest of the stories.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy-It was stark and desolate and depressing and beautiful and concise and I think I hated the ending. I'm not sure; I can't decide. I do think McCarthy did a wonderful job of capturing the minimal survivalist relationship between father and son-there's never much said, but there wouldn't be, would there, if you've been wandering a burned out planet for months? years? It's not like there's much to talk about other than how to stay alive for another day. And you know how much love is there and your heart breaks for the man who's trying to save his son and for the boy who has to live in this world and see the things that he sees. I haven't seen the movie, but I think Viggo Mortensen might be perfect in this role, and the fact that Robert Duvall is in it makes me want to cry! I love Robert Duvall!

The Gunslinger (Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King-I read this on the plane on the way home from my Dad's house, and it was good enough to keep me interested, but not great. It's sort of a western/alternate world/good vs. evil/horror, so I was curious to see where everything was going. I started reading book #2 in the series, The Drawing of the Three, but I just never really got into it. It was taking place more in this world than in the gunslinger world, and I just didn't really care. I feel bad about this because this is one of my husband's favorite series ever, and I'm sure it probably gets better as it goes, but for right now, I'm not ready to delve back in.

Miscellaneous Thing #4

Molokai Day 3-See, I told you I could give you a whole month of Molokai! This is another one that I will have to follow-up on in the new year. For now, suffice it to say that we had a glorious day hiking in the Kamakou Preserve with our guide, Bill, from The Nature Conservancy.

If you can think of any other miscellaneous things for me, let me know. I know 2009 was rough for a lot of people, and if you're one of those people, I hope 2010 is better. If you had a great 2009, well, I still hope 2010 is better for you!


Monday, December 28, 2009

Unexpected Gifts and Other Happy Things

Unexpected Gift: Remember when I told you about my awesome Secret Santa gift? Well, I thought that was the end of my Secret Santa surprises for the year and was perfectly content to go on my way. Then, a few days ago a mysterious package arrived from an address I didn't recognize. I opened it up and found these cute Dr. Seuss bookmarks and these lovely little magnets.

I thought, Huh. I wonder if I accidentally got TWO Secret! Turns out, I did not get two Secret Santas, just one really great Secret Santa. Also, I can finally reveal to you who my Secret Santa is! It's Jennie from Biblio File! I don't know how she knew that my bookmark collection consisted of used envelopes and old sticky notes and library receipts showing that I paid my latest late fees or that I just threw away a bunch of magnets because they had faded, rusted, or in some other way lost their magnet-y appeal; but whatever she's doing to figure out what gifts to send, it's working. Thanks, Jennie!

Unexpected Gift #2: Today I've been married for 14 years, and Hubby came home with four (4!) dozen red roses! Awwwww! Thanks, Babe, I love you!

Happy Thing #1: Waaaay back in October, Kari at Five Borroughs Book Review posted a review and giveaway for Sex, Drugs and Gefilte Fish. I don't enter many giveaways, but this one sounded fun, so I entered. And I won! Unfortunately, I wasn't paying good enough attention, and I missed the "please respond by" deadline. I responded anyway, but I knew it was fair game if she'd moved on to someone else (and, indeed, I thought she had. My name's crossed off the winner list and everything!). Well, whaddaya know? A couple...(few?) weeks ago I went to the mailbox and pulled out a mysterious package from an unknown address. And do you know what was inside? A copy of Sex, Drugs, and Gefilte Fish! Yay! Thanks, Kari! Also, I am a big loser because this is the first time that Kari is hearing about my receiving of the book.

Happy Thing #2: You know who is NOT a loser? Jaedin of Jaedin's Projects. I heard about Jaedin on the Cake Wrecks blog. A couple weeks ago, Jen and John decided that they were going to spend two weeks helping to raise money for charity (and this ties in to Happy Thing #3). For two weeks, along with their regularly-scheduled hilarity, they would feature a different charity each day. All they asked was that their readers consider giving $1 to each of the charities. In an effort to find 14 deserving charities, they asked for recommendations from their readers, and boy did they get an earful! Let me just say, I love me some comments, but I don't think I ever want to have to wade through 1500+ comments on a single post! Anyway, one of the people who commented was Jaedin's mom, Timber. As any good mom would do, she was nominating her son, Jaedin, who was trying to raise money to put together kits for newborn babies in Ecuador. Jaedin didn't make the Cake Wrecks final cut, but I visited his blog and was impressed with what he was doing so I donated a few dollars. A couple days ago, I received a hand-written thank-you note from Jaedin! Isn't that cool? I am happy to report that Jaedin exceeded his goal of $100 and was able to put together 15 newborn kits for the babies in Ecuador. Keep up the good work, Jaedin!

Happy Thing #3: As I mentioned above, John and Jen of Cake Wrecks fame decided that if they got all their readers behind them and asked them all to do just a little bit, they could make a big difference, and were they ever right! As of yesterday, they had raised over $50,000 for their charities. I saw another figure that had it as high as $70,000+. Tracking is inconsistent depending on the method of donation, so I went conservative, but either way, Wow! That last statement makes it sound like they're doing some sketchy accounting, but that's not it-visit their charity roundup page, and you'll see what I mean.

Happy Thing #4: Waaaay back in November, Wendy awarded me the Honest Scrap award. I've been meaning to publicly thank her for a while now, but, well, you see how I am with timely thank yous. I love Wendy's blog, Greenish Thumb, because she has a way of putting into words all the things that I've thought but never thought about trying to put into words, like why some of us who seem like the worst candidates for gardening ever often end up being the ones who love it most. I love her explanation!

Any happy surprises for you this holiday season?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What You Helped Me Do

One month ago was Fight for Preemies day, and I posted about March of Dimes and the preemie in my life (or my Jedi preemie, as one of my commenters dubbed him). I also asked you guys to help me raise money for March of Dimes by commenting and adding links to your own stories. Well, I am happy to report that you all helped me raise $100 for March of Dimes! I will be sending in my donation today, and I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who helped!

Bonus! I just went over to MoD to make my donation, and it was doubled because I put it on my MasterCard! I totally forgot that MasterCard will be matching donations through the end of the year, so if you are inspired to give, now is a great time to do it!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day-December 2009

Well, it has been one year since I first participated in Carol's beloved Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day! I figured this would be a good time to do a "Then and Now" post. You can go back and see what my Euphorbia Leucocephala looked like one year ago today, or you can just wait because you know I'll post it for you here now, right?

December 15, 2008

December 15, 2009

For one thing, they appear to have become much brighter and clearer. This could be because I was actually outside today and not shooting through my dirty window on a rainy day. Also, last year they were collapsing under the weight of all the rain that we'd had. This year hasn't been quite as monsoon-y yet, so they are holding up a little better.

Oaky, so that wasn't very exciting, but now I will show you our front yard last year:

December 8, 2008

And this year:

December 15, 2009

That's much more exciting, no? No? OK, how about more dramatic? And didn't Mocha do a good job of helping me stage today's picture to try to match last year's picture? See those little plants that are just nubbins on top of our wall in last year's picture? I told you a little bit more about them back in June. Here is a closer view from today. They are all about 6-8 feet tall now.

OK, that's really all I have for "then" and "now" pictures, so I guess I will resume my normal GBBD activities and just show you what's blooming in my yard.

This is a closer-up picture of my white bushes from the very beginning of this post. The north side is completely white like you see here, but the south side still has a lot of green left on it. Since we had had some light rain earlier this morning, I was having fun playing with all the water droplets that were left in the garden.

When I was taking this picture of my Thai basil, I noticed my Sweet Alyssum in the background all decorated with dew drops, like a little Christmas tree .

Potted miniature rose.

Red ginger (Alpinia purpurata). You can see some good pictures of other members of the Zingiberaceae family here. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge. If you click on the red ginger picture, you will see that the actual flower is a delicate little white thing that pokes its head up out of the red bracts, similar to the way the white flowers pop out of my orange shrimp plant (Pachystachys lutea), below.

Another flower with similar blooming habits is this Pink Quill (Tillandsia cyanea). In October, it was all pink, but now you can just see the tips of the purple flowers starting to form in between each of the pink sections. Hopefully by next month I'll have a more impressive display!

My cousin received this mum as a potted plant, and she passed it along to me when she went on vacation. I repotted it, and after a couple of worrisome months, it has made a nice recovery.

And, finally, on to my trusted and true orchids:

Here are some buds on Den. Pam Tajima (atroviolaceum 'Pygmy' x eximium) (a.k.a. "Pam") preparing to take over for some of the older blooms that are beginning to fade.

Inside, are some blooms that I cut off of Nameless Bob, Pam's outdoor companion.

Since my last post in October,Dgmra. Memoria Jay Yamada 'Hawaii' has bloomed, dropped its flowers and put on a new set of blooms, which you see here.

That's all for today, folks! As always, thanks for visiting, and please visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens to see what other blooms can be found outside today.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Big, Big Thank You to my Secret Santa!

I signed up to participate in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap for the first time this year, and I was really touched when my gift arrived. I received a card from Women for Women International which said that a donation had been made in my honor. This really means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot to the woman (or women) who will be helped by this gift. I don't really need any more stuff, and as much as I love books, I am fortunate enough to be able to go out and get them on my own. I know the money donated will be put to much better use by a woman trying to rebuild her life in a war-torn country than if it had been spent on a material gift for me. So thank you! Thank you so much to my Secret Santa for this kind and generous gift!

I know who my Secret Santa is in real life-her name was on the card-but I'm afraid I'm not sure who she is in the blog world, and I know how I am about using my real name in the blogosphere. So, in an effort to avoid "outing" anyone, I won't publish her name here unless I find out that it's OK to do so. I would also love to know which blog is hers so that I can go visit! Maybe one of the lovely gals over at the Book Blogger Holiday Swap could help me out with this pickle? Or maybe my Secret Santa will make herself known to me...?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I was at the North Shore, not the North Pole!

My Grandpa's birthday was on Monday, December 7th. He is 93, and, like a good granddaughter, I waited until almost 9:30 PM his time to try to call and tell him Happy Birthday. It's tricky calling the grandparents because you have to let the phone ring long enough so that they have time to get up from their recliners and get to it, but you don't want to let it ring so long that they'll get up out of bed to answer it. Also, 9:30? I wasn't sure if they'd be in bed or staying up for the news. I think they were in bed. So, yesterday, I finally got hold of Grandpa, but either my cell phone reception wasn't very good or Grandpa's hearing is finally starting to go or maybe a little of both. I was trying to explain that the reason I missed his birthday was because I spent the last two days on the North Shore and didn't have cell phone reception. Not the North Pole, not the North Slope, the beach on the north side of the island. We finally settled on the fact that I was calling from Hawaii. Close enough.

Anyway, the reason I was on the North Shore was because we had some monster waves rolling in, and rumor had it that The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau was going to run. Eddie Aikau was a life guard and big-wave surfer who lost his life when the double-hull voyaging canoe that he was on capsized on its way from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1978. Eddie tried to paddle back to Hawaii for help but never made it. The Eddie is a big-wave surf competition at Waimea Bay that only goes if the waves are going to be sustained at 20 40 30 feet* or more for at least eight hours. Since the competition began 25 years ago, surfers brave enough to face these huge waves have waited for the word to paddle out in honor of their fallen brother, but the waves have only been big enough to hold the competition seven times prior.

This year, forecasters were saying we might see 60-foot waves, and that The Eddie might run on Monday, December 7th. Monday morning the big waves were rolling in, but overall conditions were deemed not-quite-right, so The Eddie was put on hold until Tuesday. Hubby and I went up north anyway because he had to fly out that night and would not be here for the competition if it went on Tuesday (which it did). While I'm pretty sure we didn't see any 60-foot waves, we did see some pretty big surf, and there were guys out surfing it. Here's one of the pictures that Hubby snapped.

I know it doesn't look like much here-it's hard to show perspective on things like the ocean-but if you look just to the right of the center, there is a guy on a surf board coming down the face of that wave. Here, let me see if I can help you:

When you figure that surf board's a good 10-12 feet or so and then do the math, it kind of gives you chicken skin, doesn't it? For some more pictures that do actually manage to capture some perspective and detail from this day-professional photographers and all-you can do a quick search** for "Eddie Aikau 2009 photos" and watch this highlight video (it's all impressive, but check out the stuff they are riding through starting at 2:37 and again at 3:28). You may notice the jet skis in some of the video, but this wasn't a tow-in competition; the jet skis were just there for rescue and to tow the surfers back in to shore at the end of a big ride. I also saw them towing photographers out, but as far as the surfing goes, if you wanted to surf it, you had to paddle out to it. Also, I would recommend watching the videos in full-screen mode. You lose a little clarity, but it's much more exciting that way!

Since Hubby was out of town on the big day, my cousin came with me to enjoy the big waves. Well, she would have come whether Hubby was here or not, but what I'm trying to say is that I didn't have to go hang out all by myself. That would have made the 50-minute wait in the bathroom line even more of a bummer. Here are a few of my pictures from the day of the competition.

If you were trying to call a business in Hawaii on Monday and couldn't get hold of anybody, this might be why. Anybody who wasn't already here, was stuck in traffic.

Here's what things looked like a little closer to the shore. I believe this is Kohl Christensen coming in after his awesome ride, which you can see in the highlights from in Heat 7. His ride starts at about 00:41.
By the way, you can watch the highlights of all the heats on YouTube.**  Each video is only about 2-4 minutes, and remember: Full screen!

This was the view from where we were sitting on the beach for the first few hours. The waves were pretty small by the time they reached us, and by "small" I mean "only" 8-10 feet.

This was our view of the surf action. Again, see the tiny little surfer coming down the wave? He's on the left, about 1/3 of the way in. I realize this isn't going to win any photo competitions, but it is a pretty accurate depiction of what we were experiencing on the beach. 

If you like big waves, you might also like:
Billabong Odyssey This has possibly my favorite surfing clip of all time as its trailer. (Historically, this clip has been mislabeled as "Surfing a Tsunami". It's not a tsunami; it's a surf break called Peahi, aka "Jaws," over on Maui). As amazing as the surfing is here, I'd like to point out the cinematography. Watch it again (and again and again and again...) and think about getting that shot. Awesome.

*2/9/16--40-foot faces according to the Quiksilver blog, 30-foot according to the news, 20 if you're calling it big. Let's just go with BIG.

**2/9/16--Unfortunately, Quiksilver doesn't seem to be big on archiving. When I originally wrote this post, I had links to some great videos and photos on their website; and while the videos seem to have migrated over to YouTube, I can't seem to find the photos anymore, so search away.