Cherry Blossom Festival and Hike to the Cross

This was a fun day. My daughter sent over a link to a local festival so I decided to call my cousin-in-law up and head on over to check it out. One thing I love about Idaho is that there is never a shortage of festivals, no matter how grand or simple. So I thought this would be fun. Discovered it was also a bit educational (they have a radio station you can listen to where they give you information as you’re driving through the orchard and signs aplenty to pass on tidbits of trivia and information!)

Cherry Blossoms!

The title of the festival did not disappoint! We paid $15 to drive through, we’re allowed to stop and pull over at the beginning to take a picture, and then we just followed the vehicle in front of us to see all of the blossoms. They didn’t just have cherries, but also apple, and – soon – peach! I will definitely be back to see what kind of peach action they have in a few weeks.

Blossoms!

Once we were done driving through and picking up some goodies at the store at the end of the tour (think dried cherries, dried cherries covered in yoghurt, dried cherries in dark or milk chocolate) and then some donuts (how can you pass up donuts?) and we were off! Michaela asked if I wanted to go for a drive so we tootled around a bit and then as we approached Marsing, I saw the cross on the hill. Can I just say how wonderful it is to see when people decide to honor Jesus in a really big way?

No idea if this is private property or if it’s a local hot spot or if there is some backstory somewhere on the internets, but I decided to check caution at the door (I twisted my ankle BADLY a month or so ago and so it’s very tender) and suggest we walk to the top so I can get a closer look.

That doesn’t look far!

The walk was basically nearly straight up so I had the fun reminder of how desperately out of shape I am, but we made it to the top. The one time, I’m grateful for the “winds of Idaho”.

Love that cross against the blue sky. A ways away yet.

So after a few minutes we made it to the top. We’re not entirely sure what the picture below is for. Maybe for a gathering of people?

Just a covered area with a few crosses in the wall

Wandered around a bit, caught my breath, and then headed to the tippy top of the hill. No twisted ankles, no heart attacks, no embarrassing throw ups.

One perspective. Cool rock.

And then we made our way around again. And this is my favorite shot.

Purple graffiti, but I don’t care. Reminds me of royal colors.

And then I turned around and we could see the whole valley. It was worth the walk and the huffing and puffing for sure. So pretty. I am so grateful for the beautiful sky. Idaho has some of the most beautiful skies I’ve ever seen.

Oh, hi, world! I’m up here!

And then we wandered down and I realized it’s more treacherous going to down than it is coming up. One small slip (no re-twisting of ankles, thank goodness) and then we were back at the car and ready for food. 🙂

Reading Challenge 2022

Oh yes. I’m back at it! Adding one more book this year to the challenge! Erp!

Reading Goal: 22 books

The Last Wish (Andrzej Sapkowski)

Book 1 of The Witcher series. I’ve played the newest version of the game on Xbox (not yet finished because I restarted after so much time away), we’ve been watching the Netflix series, and so I thought, “Well, why not see what all the hub bub is about?” Good book, an easy read, and I get moments of, “Oh right. I remember this from the game / show.”

Sword of Destiny (Andrzej Sapkowski)

Book 2 of The Witcher series. I inhaled the first book and breezed right into the second. The chapters remind me a little of Sherlock Holmes in that while chronologically they are in order on a global scale, they’re like little mini adventures, not necessarily attached to each other. I could see myself wasting my whole reading challenge by just reading these so I decided to stop at this book and do something different for a while.

Jayber Crow (Wendell Barry)

This one came as a recommendation to me by my friend and coworker, Bob Hostetler. What a glorious book! It was so beautiful it made my heart ache. Hard to explain it and do it justice. So I’m not going to try. But think of a place where you are from (in this case a small town in Kentucky) as being so important with the landscape, your memories, and the history and community that it takes on a life of its own. Almost it’s own character.

Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making (Andrew Peterson)

This also came highly recommended by (and was a present from) a coworker, Thomas Henshell. Andrew Peterson is a singer, songwriter, author and likely a host of other impressive titles who writes about chasing your passion as a follower of Christ. His writing is honest, humble, and wise. He’s gone through ups and downs, failed, pushed through doubts and fears, and along the way has made significant impact in his field, his community of believers, and in his work. Great book.

The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)

I’d read this some time before, but had forgotten all about it so I picked it up again. Written from the perspective of fallen angels an uncle and his nephew try to “snare” a human and the book follows a bunch of letters from Screwtape to Wormwood. Enjoyable and convicting at the same time.

When Narcissism Comes to Church: Healing Your Community From Emotional and Spiritual Abuse (Chuck DeGroat)

Another recommendation from a coworker. Not something I’d normally read, but I figured I’d try it out. It was very informative and instructional and – in many ways – sad. That will make sense if you read it. But there are answers on how to handle the situation if ever you’re in the situation where you’re in a church or ministry where there is an issue of narcissism.

Blood of Elves (Andrzej Sapkowski)

Book 3 of The Witcher Series (unless you look at Amazon and then it’s book 1 and I get very confused). It’s always a good time to follow Geralt of Rivia, Yennefer, and Ciri in their lives and adventures. I’ve since read ANOTHER Witcher book, so I can’t even remember what this one was about. Suffice to say, Ciri is a handful, headstrong and talented, Yennefer has a love/hate relationship with Geralt, and Geralt goes where the monsters and money is. Always an easy read.

The Convenient Marriage (Georgette Heyer)

This was yet another recommendation from a coworker, so even though I had sworn off regency romances, when I found out it wasn’t buried in sex, I decided to try it out. After I’d read it, I found out it was actually written in the early 1900s so it was the novel that inspired a genre! Funnest fact? The heroine of the book had a stutter.

The Time of Contempt (Andrzej Sapkowski)

Yet another book in The Witcher series. This one I feel like should have been retitled, “Ciri’s time in the desert” because, frankly, that’s the only thing I remember about that book. Oh. And a unicorn. And a major war started and everyone gets sucked into it. After having played the game, and watched the Netflix series, it’s so interesting to see some names and places originated within the fiction.

Reading Challenge 2021

I decided to do a reading challenge again this year.

GOAL: Read 21 books in 2021

Last year, I posted my “thoughts” to Facebook, but this year, no social media, so I’m putting my blog to good use. You’ll discover that my tastes are very eclectic. I try to mix classics with modern so I don’t turn dumb. (Also, I’m really screwed in 2050.)

Anyway, here we go!

1. Stranger in a Strange Land (Robert A Heinlein)

Two words: hated it.

I thought I was reading a book I’d read in high school that I really enjoyed. I was so wrong. Don’t get me wrong, at first as I discovered where the popular word “grok” came from, I was having fun. Then, unfortunately, the book traveled down this hippy dippy free-love / Valentine-as-his-own-religion path, I had to force myself to read on. And the only real reason I did read on was because it was a challenge and I was committed. I’m not a quitter! But I was not liking it.

2. Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (Howard Pyle)

Well it’s a good thing I have some familiarity with the King James Bible because there was a lot of thee and thou floating around this book. An interesting read, though, but the ending was like, “WHAT?! THAT’S how Robin goes out?!”

3. Vanity Fair (William Makepeace Thackeray)

I made the mistake of watching the movie before reading the book, so all I could think of was Reese Witherspoon as Becky Sharp. Holy smokes was this a long one, too! But it’s an interesting take on society, in general, and despite it being written in the mid 1800s, it holds up pretty well when it comes to diving deep into the human condition.

4. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)

What an amazing book! I loved the premise of this book about family – and not necessarily the one you’re born into. It was also an interesting take on personal responsibility and sacrifice. Not at all what you’d read today, obviously. I found it refreshing.

5. Alice in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)

Okay, I was not expecting this book to be written as a play. That threw me off right from the beginning.

That and somehow the “free” Amazon Prime rental version I got read like it was written in English as a second language and the formatting was way off. I couldn’t take it and had to buy another copy so I could read it and not feel like I was lost all the time.

I will say the pace of the play and the banter forced me to slow down and really absorb the wordplay. I can’t say I loved it, though it was silly and fun, but I think I was spoiled (and not in a good way) by seeing Tim Burton’s version first, despite this tale being a classic. Oh well, who can figure out preference?

6. Slaughterhouse-Five (Kurt Vonnegut)

I didnot have any expectations on this book other than I knew it was a classic and an anti-war novel written brilliantly and banned at various times in history for whatever reason.

It was strangely interesting to me. I’m not sure what else to say other than, “Was he crazy?”

7. Andromeda Strain (Michael Crichton)

Wow. Considering this was written in the 1960s, it still stands up. Some of the images from the book are a little hokey, but the story is good and Crichton really did his research. I never saw the movie, and I think I’m glad I didn’t. It would have spoiled the book for me.

8. Northanger Abbey (Jane Austen)

Considering the majority of this book takes place in Bath (which I have visited!), I was baffled by the title for a while. Great book, but I would have liked to see some resolution to that horrible Isabella’s machinations. And her pesky, meddlesome brother. But no, we leave Bath and that’s it. The ending came on like a freight train. It felt like Jane Austin ran out of time having spent sooooo long in Bath. Still, it was a good read.

By the way, like “Worcestershire” sauce, I don’t actually know how to pronounce “Northanger”. (North Anger? Northanjer?)

9. In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and Family in Nazi Germany (Erik Larsen)

I loved his book, The Devil in the White City, so I thought I’d slow my brain (and prepare for history and lots of data) and try this one, too.

It illustrates how subtle and subversive the culture can shift a mindset when certain regime tactics are used. Terrifying how it parallels the media today.

10. Darker Shade of Magic (V.E. Schwab)

This book was recommended by a coworker as one of the best reads ever. I started it as an audiobook, but without a daily commute in which to listen, I found I wasn’t reading it. So I switched to Kindle et voila, I finished it within a week. It’s one of three books in a series and I’m told each one gets better.

Magically traveling through various Londons (red, gray, etc.) as one of a dying breed who can, the character of Kell (Antari messenger and part-time artifact smuggler) and his introduction to Lila, a merciless street rat (and thief), makes for a very quickly engaging and interesting read. The book definitely sets itself up for a sequel as it introduces questions about both Kell and Lila’s history.

11. Little House in a Big Wood (Laura Ingalls Wilder)

What a wild breath of fresh air! It was such a simple, honest book. What was life like living in the woods in Wyoming over a century ago when you caught, prepped, and did everything yourself living in a small cabin with just your family for company and miles of forest all around you? Well, read on, because you’ll find out.

12. Dead Poet’s Society (N.H. Kleinbaum)

I saw the movie so, years later, I had to read the book. Then I found out the book was a “novelization” of the movie script.

What a disappointment. I mean, I was literally reciting the lines from the book because I remembered them from the movie. Oh well.

13. Creative, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (Ed Catmull)

This was a great book. I mean great. Humility. Honesty. Bits of autobiography. Massive underdog. Landed on top and hoping they maintain that special sauce they worked so hard to achieve.

If you’ve ever heard of Toy Story or Pixar, you will find this book so interesting.

14. The Man Who Would Be King (Rudyard Kipling)

Weird? Good, I guess. It was not at all what I was expecting. I don’t even know what I was expecting. I never read “back covers” on these so everything is a surprise. It went in directions that were strange. The characters were interesting, though not particularly likable? And the crux of the story didn’t really get hopping until the end.

15. The Phantom of the Opera (Gaston Leroux)

Totally unexpected. I’d never seen the musical but someone I know had a book of the music (maybe my daughter or a friend from high school) so I’d heard some of the songs. The book was a bit slow-moving, but it was very enjoyable and interesting in terms of “how it was done”. That’ll make more sense when you read the book. 🙂

16. Dandelion Wine (Ray Bradbury)

This was another slower-paced book with an homage to Bradbury’s childhood. It was just a nice story of a kid growing up in Illinois in the 1920s. It was very wordy in its descriptions, but I loved loved loved stepping back in time.

17. The Invisible Man (H.G. Wells)

I had only seen the movie with Alec Baldwin. This book is nothing like that, that I can remember. It was weird. He works so hard to discover invisibility and once he attains it, he goes psycho and leaves his his morals at the door. And then we switch focus and get to his “backstory” towards the end of the book. I kept wanting to scream at everyone to just, “Throw paint on him!”

18. It Starts with Food (Melissa Hartwig)

This is a precursor to all the other books in the Whole30 program. I did the program in September so I thought I’d read the book first to see what I was in for and prepare myself as much as I could. Interesting read.

19. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)

I’ve read a few Dickens novels before, but never this one. I did not like this book for some reason. It made me angry. But I found I kept thinking about it. And reading it. And thinking about it more.

Dickens dives into how human beings cope with trauma and the general mob mentality and justification once society hits a breaking point (French Revolution). It was fascinating and depressing stuff.

20. Battle Ground (Jim Butcher)

This is the latest installment of the Harry Dresden Files series of books with poor Harry taking on a Kraken an that’s the least of his worries. I love the snappy dialogue and pacing of Butcher’s books. This one, however, did not thrill me as much as the others.

I have a theory, though.

Every other book in the series, I listened to on Audible with the dulcet tones of James Marsters (Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and for this one, I had to read it. It’s a reading challenge, after all. So I tended to catch the pace was too quick or I thought he glossed through that or when will he slow down to just let the story breathe?

Anyway, this one felt rushed to me.

21. The Lincoln Highway (Amor Towles)

I loved the book, A Gentleman in Moscow and Rules of Civility, I knew I had to pick this one up to read it. Towles went in a different direction on this one as it’s a bit more modern-day (1950s America) and his writing style takes a bit of getting used to. There are no “sentences in quotes” in this book. Just dashes and dialogue. If you can get past that quirk, you’re halfway there.

I like his writing, it’s so delicate. Like every word is a butterfly wing, snowflake, and unicorn just magically weaved together to tell a story. He always seems to manage to capture moments so well it’s like you’re right there with the characters.

My Gray Hair Journey

UPDATED: April 23, 2022

UPDATE: The dye is gone. I’ve discovered I have some natural hair color in there (some form of red?) Now just waiting for it to grow out. again because I have come to learn I really don’t like s

Mental Note: Creative positioning with a camera can hide a chubby face, but short hair in reality says, “Let me just shine a spotlight on that face for ya.”


Have you heard of the new fashion trend? It’s called Pandemic Gray. I’m certain there are more ladies out there than just me who thought to themselves,

“Well, I’m in the house for the next month or so, since everything is closed, guess I’ll just let it go for a few weeks…”

I’d tried to let my natural hair color grow out a few years ago, but – honestly – I just wasn’t ready. Somehow, I decided to BLEACH IT PLATINUM instead. Let me tell you, you think the silvers are jarring? Try white! (No, don’t. It’s a miracle all my hair didn’t fall out.)

So the journey to silver hair began in March of 2020.

See the smiley face on my mask? I got cute.

While I do have pictures roughly every month of this process, the first few are pretty subtle. I mean, you can barely see it. So let me skip ahead to more recent.

6 months in
15 months in

Other than feeling like I look bald when the sun hits that corner of my head juuuust right, I was pretty happy. I’d cut all the length off to make growing it out easier.

16 months – cut the last of the dye out
17 months
18 months

Everyone has thoughts on going gray and below are some of mine.

2 years (ish?)

What Have I Done?!

I don’t know if any of you are like me, but I was dyeing my hair consistently every six weeks. I had started going gray when I was 19 years old so, needless to say, within two weeks, you could see it coming back. It didn’t matter what color my hair was dyed either: brown, blonde, auburn — after two weeks, pigtails and braids were definitely out. I was too worried about “the demarcation line.”

Once I made the decision (the second time) to let the silver grow in, luckily I was already working from home. You can hide a lot with creative lighting and, if it gets really bad, you can just keep your video turned off during Zoom or Slack calls. I’m not saying I did this…but I did this. (Also helpful if you’re having a bad hair day, a particularly big zit, or a cold sore.)

Within the first month and a half, I started to feel the cringe of it. Six weeks was my “trip to the salon” time and I was feeling icky. So now we’re looking at running two weeks beyond schedule and I was getting self-conscious.

I obsessed over it. I checked myself in the mirror. I looked at websites where you can “go gray in a day” (to the tune of several hundreds of dollars and 10 hours in a salon chair). I watched before/after YouTube videos.

I questioned myself. A lot.

I became so obsessed with my hair that I began to wonder if other women who decided to let their hair go silver did the same thing. So I joined a Facebook group called Silver Sisters.

I looked at all their amazing pictures and thought,

Mine doesn’t look like that. Why doesn’t mine look white and lovely like hers does?

I immediately began searching Amazon for “gray hair” products because, even though I didn’t really have enough worth worrying about, this was a new and shiny experience and I didn’t need much of a reason to go shopping.

PRO TIP:

There is a big difference between blue shampoo and purple shampoo. If you’re like me, you’d heard of purple shampoo, but not blue.

Blue is for canceling out orange.
Purple is for canceling out yellow.

Thank you, high school art class and that wonderful color wheel.

Biggest Worries:

  • Looking old
  • Looking old
  • Feeling old
  • Getting called out for looking old
  • Appearing “washed out”
  • Not looking like “me” anymore
  • Becoming invisible
  • No longer feeling pretty or cute
  • My husband hating it (fyi – not a fan)
  • Looking old

I’m wondering if you’re beginning to see a subtle pattern here…

Despite worrying that I’d start looking like Aunt Bee, I kept on trucking anyway!!

Okay, Maybe This Isn’t So Bad…

Well, theoretically.

After I got to the, “you really CANNOT hide this anymore” stage, rather than give someone the opportunity to go, “Uh, Mel, you could use a touch-up…” I would proactively bring up that I was going au naturel. Like, a lot.

Like, every chance I got.

And I began to think, “Maybe people are getting sick of me talking about this.”

It didn’t stop me from doing it, but I did wonder.

After a few months in, I discovered that I LOVED NOT HAVING TO DYE MY HAIR. I mean, for reals. Now that it was impossible to hide (I wasn’t about to use any kind of gray hair concealer), I found that it was really nice to just not have to worry about it. Can’t hide it. Can’t go to the salon anyway. No one will care.

And quite literally – to my shock – no one did.

That didn’t mean that people didn’t have opinions about what they would/would not do to their own hair, though. When I’d posted to Facebook about the experience and what I was doing, I got a huge variety of responses from, “Not for me. Heck no” to “Do eet! Do eet now!”

Not one person said a thing about what I looked like. I really worried that people would be jerks about it for no reason. And it was a waste of my worry cycles.

I discovered that my husband wasn’t a fan of the look in general (he prefers me with dark hair), thankfully, he wasn’t actively pressuring me to dye it again.

I also learned another valuable lesson: Unless you specifically ask your husband to lie to you every time you ask him what he thinks about your gray hair, stop asking him if he likes it.

I did make the mistake of growing out my bangs at the same time as I began growing out the gray. (Get it all over with, amirite?) So awkward bangs grow-out, weird moving demarcation line of silver, and my dark color to this now-orangey brown weirdness. (Some call it “blorange”.)

I decided that I would not get any touch-ups, toners, low lights, or anything else to alter my hair. Some people opt to help the grow-out process along, but I decided that my hair and scalp will thank me for not treating it with chemicals anymore. Also, this natural process ensures that I’m slowly adjusting to it so by the time it’s fully grown out, I’ve had two years to get used to it.

CAVEAT: I reserve the right to change my mind and do any number of these things because I’m only halfway through here!

What I’ve Learned So Far…

  • I’m cheap (I love not paying for getting my hair dyed)
  • I need to style my hair (gray hair is kind of strangely unruly in spots, so I find I need to straighten it and curl it under to make it look like this whole thing is deliberate and isn’t just me being incredibly lazy)
  • I don’t typically need or use any special gray-hair products (my hair isn’t really yellowing so while I’ve used a purple shampoo once or twice in the last year – I didn’t really need to)
  • I prefer to cover the gray on my eyebrows (when I’m at home, I don’t care, but when I’m out — I feel it looks better because they are surprisingly kinky and bright against my naturally dark eyebrows – I mean it SHOWS)
  • My hair is thanking me (the natural hair is so soft; in contrast, the dyed hair is dry, especially around the ends)
  • Cutting off several inches of dyed hair makes the process easier (I can’t imagine how many years it would have taken to grow the gray to my waist).
  • While some people go for the pixie or shaved head to “get it done”, I am not one of them.
  • People will have opinions, mostly positive, some meh – at the end of the day it’s your hair to do with as you like. And really…it’s just hair. (So why is this so harrrrddddd?)
  • Join a Gray Hair transition group if you are finding the road tough or are looking for advice on how to brave the waters
  • Search YouTube for some transition stories because they are a great source of inspiration (I’d do one, but do I really have anything I want to say ON CAMERA? I’m so much wittier in print.)
  • If you don’t like it, there is no rule that says you can’t dye it again. Maybe it’s not your time. Maybe you just REALLY don’t like it. It doesn’t matter. You do you.
  • There is no right way to go gray. From what I’ve read online and seen on YouTube everyone does it their own way.
  • You get to learn all about patience whether you want to or not. Remember how fast your hair grows when you’re dyeing it all the time and you’re stressing out about it? Don’t worry, once you let it start to go gray, it will feel like it has LITERALLY STOPPED GROWING (it hasn’t, but that’s how it feels sometimes)
  • Take pictures along the way to document (if nothing else, to remind yourself that it’s still growing)
  • It gets easier as you go – the beginning is the toughest (trust me, after a while you may start looking for ways to show off your gray under all the top layers of dye)
  • Don’t jump on the impulse to dye — give it a while — I’ve heard so many stories of people who reached for the box dye and then regretted it and HAD TO START OVER.
  • I have tattooed eyeliner, but I find I also like to put on some purple eyeliner to accentuate my green eyes and make me feel like something on my face “pops” (I have not discovered the joy of red lipstick – I’m not sure I can pull it off)
  • Consider hats – now that you have silver hair you need to protect it from sun damage (I’ll admit I’m horrible at this — I hate hats). But I also hear that it keeps it from yellowing. So there’s that.

I hope this helps you. If I think of anything else, I’ll be sure to update!

Paint By Numbers – Oil on Canvas: Newb Alert

I guess a pandemic is a great time to try something new. Several years ago, I took a watercolor painting class with a friend of mine from work. I had a great time. We learned stuff. It was social.

I sucked, but I didn’t care.

So I decided to try some paint-by-numbers with acrylics. I found a bunch on Amazon, picked a painting I liked, and ordered it. For fun, I decided to take a picture every step of the way because, frankly, in the beginning everything just looks like spaghetti.

So here’s the progression. Enjoy! 19 different colors of paint on a 16×20 canvas.

By the way, the painting I chose has special significance, which I’ll explain at the bottom.

Two colors – barely could see the promise
Ooooo green. I get trees are in here
Loved the vibrant blues
Some deeper blues – starting to come together (ish)
More blues – ok now I”m getting fatigued on blue
How much more blue can there possibly be? Tough because the lightest blue required several coats
Oh thank goodness, something new. Ooo…like brick!
WOW that’s some orange – I’m beginning to get excited
Ok this is feeling like a painting now
Carpal tunnel, but more shades of brown/orange
Suddenly the painting has depth. Holy smokes, when did that happen?
Now we’re moving into the yellows
Feeling like an almost artist
What is that, lime green? Whatever works.
Now the pale grays and touch-ups. And all the numbers I missed along the way.
Finished!! I love it!!!

Finished product. Mostly. I have a few items I want to go back and darken up (if you really look closely you can see the numbers if the color is particularly light.

Significance of this painting explained: The setting reminds me of Amsterdam and that is where my husband and I traveled to for our honeymoon over 20 years ago. So since Valentines Day is coming up, I thought I would surprise him. The couple in the center just reminded me of us. And the colors were just so darn vibrant.

All told, the entire process took about a week. A few hours in the evening and a few hours on the weekends.

Since our cat passed away a few weeks ago, this was a surprisingly effective way at distracting me from the sorrow (while I focused on painting within the lines) and also is a great way to reduce stress from work, life, COVID, what-have-you. Also, since I walked away from social media, this felt like a great use of my time and energy and – at the end of it – I didn’t feel like I’d just wasted hours surfing. I had a painting to hang up!

I wish I could paint like this naturally, but I can’t. As a “check-box-er”, I like to do step-by-step / bite-sized projects, which is also why I like making bath products. Simple and can be done in an afternoon. Admittedly, this was much more involved, but it was time-consuming, not complicated. (And it came framed, which was nice.)

The kit comes with practically everything you need, but…..

I picked up lighted magnifying glasses (after I found the magnifying light was too cumbersome), a desktop easel, some paint brushes (in case I hated the ones the kit came with), and an artist brush basin so I could rinse my brushes between colors.

Hike: Rancho San Antonio County Park

There is a wonderful thing that Santa Clara County does that encourages people get out and walk / hike / stroll / prance. It’s called #PixInParks. They give you a list of a number of trails to hike and on each trail is a location where you take your photo to document that you participated in the hike. You send it in, complete all the hikes of the set, and – supplies available – you get a t-shirt at the end of the year for completing the challenge. What a great way to get people out and moving? SWAG!

Today’s pictures (there are so many more than what I’m showing you here are from Rancho San Antonio County Park nestled in the hills of Los Altos. The trails are nice and wide for the most part, there’s a wonderful farm in the park called Deep Hollow (with sheep, cows, goats, etc.) and they’ve even designated certain areas “one-way” to keep people socially distanced and safe in these Covid 19 times.

The weather forecasted rain by noon so we needed to get an early start. We did. Princess Buttercup (my granddaughter – not her real name) is barely old enough to have to wear a mask and each time we do a hike she opts to walk it rather than stay in the backpack. The first time we hiked and she walked, maybe a third of a mile. Today? It must have been three miles! What a trooper!

My daughter, granddaughter, and I have already completed 5 of the 7 hikes listed for the Magnificent 7 challenge for 2021!

#PixinParks #RanchoSanAntonio
Big barn
That is a great view!
Mountains!
Those silver eyebrows tho

Farewell to the Best Cat Ever

Miko (2006 – 2021)

My cat died. Miko was a glorious/beautiful/amazing Russian Blue.)

Rather than go on about how utterly devastated I am (the tears come without warning), I started writing down some of my memories of him so that I wouldn’t forget him. Like I ever could. Hopefully you get a sense of just how much he meant to me and even though he was “just a cat”, anyone who’s ever owned a pet that they loved like a family member understands how painful it can be to lose it.

What I remember about you, Miko. You:

• Were so chill, the minute Mom met you and picked you up as a tiny kitten, you rested on her forearm and immediately fell asleep (your sister, Peggy Sue, was having a conniption fit with a granola bar wrapper and running around like a maniac) – you were the right choice

• Cried in the carrier on the drive from the cattery, but the minute Mom took you out of the carrier and held you on her chest, you fell asleep and never made a peep during the 3-hour drive home

• Loved your “fridge mice” — investigating the freezer when the ice cubes dropped

• Jumped inside the fridge or freezer any chance the door was left open too long because it was such a novel change in temperature for you

• Loved sunning yourself in any bright spot, but mostly on window ledges (much better once I got the Kitty Cot so you didn’t roll off after you’d fallen asleep). You even would fall asleep on the phone if it was on the window sill and convenient

• If someone leaned over, you jumped up on their back

• Loved to nuzzle Dad’s head standing on the back of the couch while he was watching TV

• Loved to sit or lie on anything anyone was reading or using so that they didn’t forget you were there and wanted lovins

• Jumped up into Mom’s arms when she called you (and sometimes when she didn’t – surprise!)

• Loved to head butt and nuzzle Dad’s beard

• Loved to head butt and nuzzle Mom’s forehead

• Loved it when Mom nestled the top of your head below her chin and in the crook of her neck

• Learned to use the City Kitty in 30 days, never having to use a litter box again; sometimes you’d wait for Mom to come in and, if you were done, you especially liked to let us know so that we’d congratulate you

• Liked to sleep upside down or in the strangest positions on Mom, often playing with her hair or her nose or whatever was available

• Knew when you shouldn’t be on the table, when caught you’d meow in a special apologetic tone like, “sorry, I know”

• Would lead mom towards the microwave because you knew the drawer underneath contained all the good treats, especially the gravy pouches she’d give you

• Were especially tolerant of Mom carrying you around on her hip like a toddler, you never minded and just let her cart you around

• Found a way to investigate any box, no matter the size, ignoring your more expensive toys completely

• Knew when we were not feeling good and you stayed by our side

• Seemed to like to torture Karl and the more he avoided you, the more you enjoyed bugging him (and chewing on him) – no one else, just him

• Had to investigate and sniff any new thing: flowers, food, boxes, stuff

• Loved to be held and snuggled, napping in the lap of Mom or Dad was your favorite place

• Liked to chase after anything on a string; you were less interested in laser pointers

• Didn’t mind the millions of times Mom took pictures of you, you were game

• Loved to sleep on Dad’s black blanket between his legs when watching TV

• As a kitten, you’d sleep in the crook of Mom’s arm (she never slept lest she move you and, gasp, you become “uncomfortable”)

• Thought Dad’s feet were an amusement park ride and got yourself kicked out of the bedroom at night (Mom never cared so you never attacked her toes)

• Learned how to walk on a leash, but we had to stop taking you out because you started camping the door

• Didn’t mind Mom pressing your paw pads ever since you were a kitten so that she’d get you used to getting your nails clipped (though you never were a fan of that)

• Jumped in luggage and made yourself comfortable (making us feel even more guilty if we were heading out of town for a few days)

• Ignored us when we returned from a trip for an hour or so, then you stuck to us like glue to make sure we were sticking around

• Had the most delightful cat breath

• Stuck out your tongue, just a little

• Had the title Prince Miko because you were treated like royalty

• Other titles: Mikolicious, Meeks, Buddy, My Little Man

• Were very chill and tolerant of strangers, though slightly aloof, but you were very gentle and loving with the family (that’s why Mom picked a Russian Blue)

• Loved to play tag and would run past Mom and “tap” her leg as you ran by

• Loved play hide and seek with Mom – if she was hiding – and you saw that she was hiding, you were all in to find her (made her squeal with surprise a few times, too, because you were the better player)

• Were not at all a fan of baths and nearly flayed Mom the one time you fell into the toilet as a kitten and she tried to bathe you

• Were a fan of catnip as you got older and Mom has the video to prove it

• Would jump up on the arm of the couch by the door waiting for Mom to come in, ready to greet her at the door

• Loved any kind of bag, mostly for crawling inside

• Were just as happy sitting on a garbage bag as a cardboard box

• Your favorite place was sleeping in warm laundry either on the couch or in the basket

• Knew you shouldn’t jump up on the counter and ignored Dad entirely, but when Mom yelled at you, you jumped down and hopped over to her to say “hi” (hoping she’d forget what you just did – she didn’t, but she gave you lovins anyway)

• Liked to “interrupt” Mom when she was in the bathroom because the door didn’t lock without effort. Dad was always locking you out, but Mom didn’t care. You just stood up on your hind legs and pushed the door open and said hi as you strolled in

• The closest you ever got to water willingly was jumping up on the ledge of the bathtub and wandering back and forth between the cloth and the plastic while Mom was having showers

• Loved drinking the dripping water from the faucet after Mom had a shower

• Insisted that Mom or Dad ran the water in the bathroom sink so you could take a sip (you’d sniffle until you got your head placement just right)

• Would literally “walk” up Mom’s legs with your claws until Mom picked you up

• Liked to sit with Mom while she read, patiently waiting until she was situated, and then you’d hop up and she’d maneuver you between the arm of the couch and her, with her arm around you so she could hold you and still be able to focus on what she was doing

• Didn’t mind being held like a baby in Dad’s arms; you’d look up at him and gently pat his beard with your paws

• Came when Mom called you, just like a dog, yet at a more leisurely pace

• Never liked people food “at all” until you got older, then we’d catch you sneaking up on the counter to lick the bacon fat spoon, or anything else that was remotely savory, and unprotected on the counter

• Could get into drawers and cupboards so we had to “child-proof” the kitchen and bathroom

• You loved to sleep on Mom’s hip if she slept on her side, between her legs if she was on her back, or happily crash on her chest

• Were not at all a fan of the cat stroller Mom tried to get you used to (she hoped to take you on walks and hikes), but you were not having any of it – you preferred to stay home

• The few times you ran out the door (you’re an indoor cat) you didn’t get further than the fence, you didn’t know what to do with yourself

• Were inordinately interested in the smell of Ben-Gay and would seek it out like a bloodhound if Mom or Dad was wearing some on sore muscles

• Had the uncanny knack of being right where Mom and Dad’s feet wanted to land as you walked in front of us, garnering yourself the nickname “Miko Underfoot”

• Never listened to Dad when he told you “no”, but you listened to Mom

• Loved to get brushed and all Mom had to do was pick up the brush, say “Brush?”, and you’d leap over to the arm of the couch, no matter what you were doing (even if you were contentedly laying in Dad’s lap) for some brushing

• Loved to lead Mom where you wanted her to be, you’d walk just a bit ahead and casually look back, making sure she was following you correctly (to the food, to the treats, to the bathroom so she could see your grand deposit and flush on your behalf)

• Didn’t mind laying on your back and letting Mom rub your tummy (most cats would flay if someone tried that)

• Loved your tailbone (just before your tail) scratched; it made your tail curl

• You meowed after you used the toilet because you wanted credit for it. That was Mom’s fault, she congratulated you (if she was nearby) each time you did, so you got into the habit of expecting it and were none too pleased if your successes were not rewarded with pats and kisses and “Good jobs”, which they ended up being once you got our attention

• Received about 50 kisses a day from Mom when she held you, you tolerantly and patiently (and with much purring) accepted them all

• You liked to look at Mom and she’d look back, then slowly blink, telling you she loved you. And you’d blink slowly right back

• Loved clean warm laundry; you always smelled so fresh when Mom hugged and kissed you afterwards