Here We Go Again…

We had the bus in storage at a place in town but we didn’t have access to electric. We brought the bus back to the park for a few days to plug in and charge the batteries. Then we took it back. We were on the waiting list at another park to have a site with electric and we finally got the call that they had one for us.

IMG_2649

Leaving Las Casitas

We moved it right before the end of May. It had rained a few inches in the previous days including that morning. When we got to the new storage spot the site they had us on wasn’t concrete, just grass over caliche. It was kind of an awkward back-in due to a large rock strategically located in the way for Jim’s turn. He got off the caliche and the bus sunk down in the grass. OOPS!

When we got stuck in our park last year, we had to call Coachnet to get us out. Urk. We didn’t want to have to do that again. They guys at the storage park were very helpful and one of them said “I’ll get the boards.” Apparently this has happened before. They shoved them under the tires but the wheels were still spinning. Once that starts happening you’re usually screwed. One of the guys at the park went and got his big ol’ pickup and a heavy duty chain. I was skeptical that the pickup could pull the bus out but with Jim on the bus accelerator and the truck ahead, they did it! Nice and slow. Then Jim made the turn and we made sure he got on the caliche this time. Whew!

It was close but worked out fine. Kind of like the time we almost got stuck in Grandview at the Elks. The bus is much heavier than the average RV. We did figure it out and we’ve gotten stuck and needed a tow three times in the ten years we’ve had the bus, in Oregon where we high sided, At Marni and Eric’s and in our park.

It is stored for the year now. If we take any trips it will be later in the summer if/when things settle down with the coronavirus. I know things are opening back up but there are also more new cases PER DAY than ever. This week it hit 22,000+ new cases in one day in the United States. Not exactly going in the right direction… Yet.

And we were offered a refund for our European trip in August, including airfare. Second cancelled vacation of the year. We shall see what happens.

Before & After Inside & Out

So what have we been doing during the pandemic? We are stocked up on food and liquor. We have a good sized farmer’s market down the road and their prices are great! Avocados? Three for a dollar! Nice sized too. Roma tomatoes much better than in the store also cheap. Next time I go I will get some fruit too.

A friend of mine on Facebook is the daughter of one of my professors I had in my BFA program in college. She posted a picture of a serigraph he printed in 1965 and described it as a quintessential piece of mid-century art. And she was right. Since our house is small, I wasn’t sure where we could hang it but the price was right so I bought it.

The framing cost way more than the print! The framer is great though. She is a little ol’ Texas lady, Sylvia, who is always perfectly coiffed and made up. Every transaction with her is a personal one and she always comes up with good suggestions. The actual framer, Max, is the one who actually does the work but she runs the show. When I took the print in, Sylvia wasn’t there so I explained to Max what I wanted. They didn’t have the mat color I wanted so before I went back I stopped at Hobby Lobby and found the perfect match. Saved me some money there, ha! Of course, the price had to come from her so I went back the next day for the sticker shock. She picked out a better frame color than black, I gave her my deposit and it was ready the next day!

BEFORE AND AFTER:INSIDE

I replaced a painting I did in 1980 with Mr. Rugolo’s serigraph from 1965. Mr. Rugolo was a great teacher and from him I learned the concept of a happy accident.

IMG_2622
IMG_2626

It looks great though and it’s nice to change things up.

BEFORE AND AFTER: OUTSIDE

The outside changes took a little longer… We had three inches of rain not long ago and down here, rain as almost always accompanied with wind. Two retama trees in the back of the garden were showing their age and sprawl and one of them sustained many broken branches. It was already way leaning over from the last flood so it had to go. The other retama was more upright but had broken branches stuck high up in it and it was hanging over our neighbor’s house and ours. We wanted it thinned out but still shaped like a tree. When you cut them it takes a few months to develop their feathery offshoots. When they bloom in the spring, they are spectacular.

The park was having a lot of tree work done and the park owner knew we wanted some work done; Juan did some for us a couple years ago. Several days went by. Juan was still working in the park all week so I left a note on his truck as a reminder and then spoke with him. This went on for a week. Finally on a Friday, he told me he would be back at 3 PM to estimate and do the work. He never came back. When I told the park owner that the first guy never came back she said he told her he would be back on Monday for us. But he never told me that. So I started calling around to get other estimates. Two companies came out and I was convinced that either one of them would do a good job. Only problem was that I forgot to ask if they were insured. Here in Northern Mexico stuff like that isn’t always routine and the park requires vendors to have insurance. Of course.

So I called another company. You have to make sure they speak English both on the phone and when they come to estimate. My Spanish isn’t good enough to conduct business with a contractor. When I asked if he was insured he said, “Of course.” He spoke English, came out and seemed knowledgeable and competent. When he texted me his estimate, I texted back WHOA! He was over twice as much as the other two. We talked him into a discount but he was still much higher. By this time I just wanted it done. We set it up for him to come on Monday and he texted and said it would be Tuesday. Northern Mexico again. I tried to get him to commit to a time but never heard back.

Then he called Tuesday morning and said he would be here Wednesday at 8:00 AM. What to do? He assured me they would come.

So at 8:00 AM I was up at the office waiting so everything could go smoothly. At 8:45 I called him and said “Please tell me that you’re still coming.” He said he was and he would be here in 20 minutes. Forty five minutes later he called and said fifteen minutes. Finally they came. Except the English speaking estimator wasn’t with them but a guy he brought to the estimate, Raul, was.

It is pretty close quarters in the garden and they understood that no plants (or houses) were to be damaged. The guy with the pole saw and the chain saw was a master. Retama is a very hard and thorny wood. The complete removal of the one tree went fine. He placed his ladder on the branch he was cutting with the chain saw and it came down in pieces. Then he used the pole saw from the ground. The second tree was a little more problematic but they handled it like the pros they obviously are. Even the overhanging branches were brought down safely with no mishaps. He would cut almost through the branch then catch it with the saw and bring it down. Raul gathered the brush and hauled it to the trailer. One large branch near the neighbor’s house required Raul to stand on the very top of the stepladder (the one that says NOT A STEP!) and catch it.

BEFORE:

DURING:

AFTER:

We need some sod behind the garden but that’s not our department. Once it gets laid though, I will keep it alive.

Next big project? On Thursday we are having a bunch of dirt and mulch delivered along with edging for the front by the street. When we get some cooler days I will tackle that. It’s been very hot for this time of year, around 95-100 degrees every day. Tuesday it is supposed to be down to 80. And maybe some rain, which we could really use.

Around the garden:

Love in the Age of COVID-19

We have been sheltering in place since about March 12. Even though the park was still having events like the Olympics and Happy Hours with little emphasis on social distancing, we decided early on that we really didn’t want to catch the COVID-19 virus. The park did quit serving meals and the end of the season was fast approaching.

Since the United States still hasn’t ramped up testing there was just no way to tell, especially early on, how widespread it was. Before lots of people started getting sick and dying. Jim was able to find us each a N95 mask online before supplies ran out. A lady in the park made us cloth masks to go over them. I knew I kept this fabric for some reason…
IMG_2496I asked her to use the guitar playing part for Jim’s mask since he had received his new electric uke just in time before South Africa shut down. Thank goodness he has had it and been able to play during the quarantine.
IMG_2502I went on my first pandemic shopping trip on March 7 and it was crazy. You had to wear a mask to get in the store and I wore gloves too. An employee was sanitizing the carts before bringing them back into the store. I usually bring in a cart from the parking lot but after I saw that I have waited till I was in the store to get a cart. I stocked up to the tune of almost $300 but lots of people were hoard buying and some things were scarce like meat and of course, toilet paper and paper towels. What good is toilet paper going to do you if you don’t have food?
IMG_2491IMG_2489
I also stocked way up on liquor. Jim dropped me off because he had to take the cats to the vet for their annual exam and shots. Of course he couldn’t go into the vet, he handed over the carriers and waited for them to bring them back. They were there for over an hour so I had plenty of time to shop.
IMG_2533

The stock situation was a little bit better the next time I went on March 22.  They actually had paper towels and toilet paper but with a limit on how much you could buy. Some people weren’t paying any attention to either the limits or the six feet of separation required. This time I spent about $150 on food, including meat which was hard to find the first time. I’m keeping a Quarantine Diary.

Then they started talking about “opening” up the states by Easter. What a disaster that would be! Case numbers and deaths were still rising and testing still was lame so it was anybody’s guess how many were infected. As the numbers kept going up, Texas, including our county, ordered a shelter in place order through April 24. I went back to the grocery store on April 23 just in case they really did make that boneheaded move. Meanwhile the numbers were still going up until the United States had the most cases and deaths of any country in the world. Winning!

We took the isolation order seriously but some people didn’t and continued to hold happy hours, jam sessions and dinner parties. We really miss the socialization but we had already invested quite a bit of time staying in; we didn’t want to blow it. And new people were coming into the park, some from cruise ships and from parts unknown. There was no guidance on quarantining themselves, making a tenuous situation even worse. By this time we knew there were asymptomatic carriers, unlike the Governor of Georgia. Who knew which person that might be? A few other couples are also in total isolation and although we feel like we’re missing out we still think that is the best tactic. Hopefully we will have some friends left when this is all over. At least we can go outside and exercise. Spain was locked indoors for over a month, you couldn’t even go outside!

We know this isn’t easy for anybody but feel fortunate to have money to spend, a place to hunker down and no loss of employment. Of course our investments are tanking but our financial person says we will be alright. More winning! We are also thankful that we bought our little house when we did. The garden has been a lifesaver for me, giving me something to do. We spend every evening on our porch watching the birds and talking with friends through the screen door at a distance.
IMG_2545The cats have been going outside, even Astrid! They are good and usually stick around the catnip plant. Then they sleep for the rest of the day. Life hasn’t changed much for them.
IMG_2562

We’ve been practicing yoga on the porch, walking and swimming laps for exercise. The weather is really starting to heat up here but it is unlikely that we will be able to travel in the bus this summer. We’re not sure about our trip to Europe in August either.

I am working on transferring all my web content to one place and that is a work in progress. Check out www.wendelyncrosby.com for a look. More coming soon.

We are really stocked up on food and the big question every day is “What should we have for dinner tonight?” We’re making lots of Mexican since we missed out on our trip there in March. It turned out to be a good thing though because right when we were supposed to be there we found out that Mexico was banning alcohol sales and the little village we were going to barricaded off the town and won’t let anybody in or out! Whew! We had our flights refunded and our deposit returned. We will go later, maybe for our 30th anniversary in October.
IMG_2516IMG_2531We have a good routine going and plan to continue. Get up, have breakfast, read the papers, let the cats out, play music, exercise, garden, then retire to the porch when it cools off. Texas has opened up as  of May 1 so we expect the case numbers and deaths will continue to rise. What are they thinking? I thought they said they could open up when cases went down for fourteen days straight but they are still going up. I know, it’s the economy stupid! But restaurants can only have 25% capacity. Social distancing has to be maintained. Hair salons and gyms not open yet. It’s nowhere near safe to open;  I fear the increase of infections will be astronomical. Over 60,000 people have died already in less than two short months. It’s more important now than ever.

Be safe, stay vigilant, be happy, be healthy.

And wash your hands! Again.

Vacation is a Virtual One…

We should be sitting on the beach right now, margarita in hand. Our trip to Mexico got cancelled due to the corona virus. We hope to be able to rebook sometime soon and we kept our deposit at the little hotel we stay in in Xcalak.

We have driven all over the Yucatan peninsula for many years, visiting every Mayan ruin we could find. A map:
map2011 - Copy
Not all of them are on the map. A complete (I think) list:
Coba
Tulum
Ek Balaam
Kinik Kal Mo
Chichen Itza
Uxmal
Izamal
Itzama
Dzilbalchaltun
Ake
Mayapan
Ozkuntok
Uzmal
Kabah
Sayil
Labna
Xlapak
Kinichnaak
Chakmultun
Knichna
Dzibanche
Kohunlich
Becan
Hormiguero
Xpujil
Chicanna
Calakmul
Palenque
Edzna
Oxkintok
Escarcega
Balankanche
Chachoben
Rio Bec
Balanchen
Xtampak
Yaxchulan
Kuklichan
A few pics from various sites. Makes me want to go back!
labna17akabah3akulkilcan1

And from our cabana in Xcalak which is where we should have spent the last 10 days. You could see the sunrise from our cabana each morning.

I still wear that dress. All my clothes are vintage; I’ve just owned them the whole time.

So we wait out the coronavirus. We are fortunate to have a good spot to hunker down in. Jim’s practicing his electric uke on the porch and we have the garden to play in.

Today is Easter. It’s 100 degrees here, the height of spring.

Happy Easter. Summon all the gratitude you can; we’re all gonna need it.

 

It’s Finally Here! It’s Beautiful! And Sounds Great!

When Jim started playing his baritone ukulele in the band here at our winter park, he plugged in his acoustic and it bumped up the sound. But as he got more practice and skill, he wanted to be able to play leads that would require a different sound.

After much research (of course!) on November 25, 2018 he contacted a reputable South African ukulele maker, Brian Fanner,  and started a dialogue that would continue for many months.

Initial email:

I’ve been playing a Pono Nui Baritone acoustic for four years. I’m trying to add lead riffs and lead uke to my skills. I’m looking for a solid body electric uke to aid in my lead playing skills as I find the Nui acoustic nylon just doesn’t have the right sound. Do you have a similar scale electric baritone? What might the cost be? I’m in the USA.

Thank you for your assistance.”

After much emailing back and forth about specifications and dimensions and types of wood, he finally took the step on March 6, 2019 and said “Go For It!”

March 6 email:

“Here is my understanding of what you are building:

Custom 23” (tenor guitar scale) baritone solid body electric ukulele. The woods are curly maple on ash for the body wings – front and back. The neck is laminated maple and wenge. And the fretboard is maple with ebony inlays. A volume, bass and treble and blend pots and 2 single coil p90 style pickups with wood covers. Truss rod neck. No pickguard. I’d like the output plug on the edge of the body, not on the face. Chrome Strap buttons. Hi gloss natural wood finish.

I prefer the fret block at the 10 fret (D with standard dgbe tuning) rather than at Fret 9 as I have seen on some guitars.

Please add anything I may have missed or misunderstood.

What do you plan to use for bridge hardware? A pic would be helpful and a pic of the back.”

A similar ukulele to show Jim what it would look like: From March 2019.

Brian warned that it would be a “longish” build since it would basically be a prototype. When asked, he said that meant about six months. That would coincide nicely with our arrival back at our winter park so he could begin practicing and playing it at the monthly band gigs.

And so we wait…

Jim emailed occasionally to find out what the progress was but he was really careful to not pester him. Didn’t want anything to get held up. Often it would be days before he received an email in return.

April 14, 2019

Hi Jim

I have done some changes. The nut (at the headstock side… the bridge piece is the saddle) is currently 34mm which would leave 9mm between stings with a 4mm fretboard overhang and the bridge string spread is 36mm. 12mm between strings. This is quite a lot narrower than your acoustic but I feel still wide enough. 16mm is very wide almost like an electric bass sort of spacing. This is kind of like comparing a nylon sting classical to an electric guitar so I’m not sure its of much worth. I just wonder how you will get along with that. One issue is if it gets wider at the bridge the strings will not fall over the pickup pole pieces. I would need to redesign the pickups if it gets much wider there.  Check out the attached pic from the design. It is Just a basic design.. not much detail.
Brian

Then in September Jim got another email.

Hi Jim
Well… I had a minor disaster at the 11th hour machining the pickup cavities when the bit broke and made a nasty tear out :/. Hence the inlaid curly ash ‘pickguard’. I think it actually really improved the look of the instrument so perhaps it was a good thing. What do you think? I hope you like it!
So I will do the frets today and have it in the booth for finishing then just to fit it all up with hardware.
Not too long now.

Brian Fanner


Then in early November 2019 he got this email from Brian:

Hi Jim

Sorry for not getting back to you. Truthfully, I am just putting it off as it’s bad news. The neck just didn’t work out, I’m afraid. Multiple issues. I think building through necks si something I won’t take on for customers going ahead. Too much room for error as a prototype build.

So looking ahead. We have a nice body for a bolt on neck for which I have a laminated blank. This might actually be another happy accident, in my opinion.

I’m not sure how you feel about it though. If you just want a refund at this point, I completely understand. But I think as a bolt on it’ll be really nice. I’ll still sculpt the heel in nicely Alternatively, cut a whole new one from scratch. The programs are done for it. But I’ll finish this one as a bolt on regardless.

What do you think?

Brian Fanner

So basically, he had multiple problems making the neck work and in the end, he had to cut the old neck off the body! In truth, it really doesn’t matter if is a through neck or a bolt-on. It should play the same and maybe in the long run its better to have a neck that can be easily replaced. So we told him to go with the bolt-on and proceed.

Later in November 2019.

Hi Jim

I’ve got back to a whole instrument again lol. We started laying down paint this week. I think it is much better now. I could set up the neck angle and the truss rod adjusts at the heel so it’s much stronger at the headstock side. The neck also has a nice shape. Much nicer than the one that went pear shaped. I’m going to try my best to get it out in the next week or two.

Best

Brian Fanner


December 18, 2019

Hi! It’s all nice and shiny. I’m having problems with the wood pickup covers that seems unresolvable so I have these plastic covers now. Vacuum formed in the kitchen. The wood ones are too weak where the bolt holds it on. So they are going to probably break sooner if not later. My current holdup is the paint is still a bit soft. But I’m going to start wiring it up so long.

January 9, 2020

Sorry for slow response. I was in and out of signal. Trying  to get a bit of digital detox this holiday.
Ok so current situation… basically done bar the wiring and back cover plate. With regards wiring… I’ve somehow managed to misplace the blend pot I got for you. So weird as I had it with all the other components and now its just gone. Perhaps just go with a 3 way toggle, volume and push pull tone knob so you can get an out of phase sound? Otherwise I must order another blend pot… personally I think the toggle will be better. Unless you are constantly using one sound its easier to do pickup changes on the fly with a toggle switch… not so easy with a blend.

To do the backplate I’m just waiting on a part for my cnc which is now broken again. Just a minor thing but it’s not functioning and I need to cut a template for the backplate using it.
Otherwise there is light at the end of this tunnel lol. How will you tune it up?

Brian

And then Jim got word in late February that it was ready to ship! Woo Hoo! He even paid extra to have it shipped within a week. At first the package tracked fine from South Africa to Europe. Then it appeared to be stuck in a distribution point in Europe. For several days it didn’t budge. What now? He contacted Brian and they followed up on the shipping. Even though the tracking didn’t seem to progress, it kept saying it would be delivered by end of day March 6.

And it was! The FedEx truck arrived and he removed a ukulele size package! And, as it turned out, it was delivered exactly a year after Jim gave him the go-ahead to start the build. March 6.

All in all, it was an exercise in patience, trust, communication and restraint. It paid off big time!

Castor Bean Seeds For You!

I am sending this letter to my gardening friends. If you would like to have some seeds, please leave me a comment with your email and I will get your address and send you some.

Dear Gardening Friends:

We are in the middle of a Shelter in Place order here in Texas due to the corona virus so I wanted to bring a smile to your face this spring. I am enclosing seeds from my very prolific castor bean plants for you to plant in your garden. I am thankful that our house has a small garden to play in, helps me keep my sanity.

The black, larger seeds are the green variety in the picture above left. They are even taller now (maybe 30 feet) than in this picture, but we didn’t have a winter freeze the past two winters. When I grew them as an annual in Kansas, they easily reached 15 feet tall. The stems and branches are thick but lightweight making pruning and handling easy. They have a large green seed pod. The speckled seeds are the red leafed variety in the right picture. They don’t grow as tall as the green ones and have no flower but the attractive red seed pod. The ones in the picture are about 10 feet tall.

Plant directly in the ground where you want them to grow; they don’t transplant very well. The picture of the green variety above is just six plants. Plant them a couple feet apart and they will fill in nicely. The red variety makes an attractive see-through screen. Plant them about a foot apart. Both stand up well to the wind we have here in south Texas. Keep moist until the seedlings emerge. After that, they require very little water; it never rains here and I don’t water them.

IMPORTANT! The seeds and all parts of the plant are poisonous. They are where castor oil comes from and also the poison Ricin. Dogs and cats will not eat them but keep away from kids. I have grown them for years and never had a problem. Handling them is no problem, no need for gloves.

Once you successfully grow them, you will have more than enough seeds to keep you in stock and pass along to your friends. I am going to post on the blog too so tell your friends and I will send them some too.

Enjoy!

Wendy 

Sheltering in Place…

We were supposed to fly to Mexico today for a vacation. A REAL vacation, where somebody cooks for you and cleans for you and fixes your drinks. On the beach. People think that when we travel around in the bus that we are on vacation all the time but we still have to shop and cook and clean.

We were looking forward to meeting up with friends we met there, Michael and Bill and Janelle. They were flying in ahead of us and we would all cross paths for a few days in Xcalak. They had to cancel too.

Even though Jim bought trip insurance, American Airlines didn’t want to refund our flights. Of course they didn’t. They cancelled the flight from McAllen to Dallas but not the flight from Dallas to Cancun. How convenient. Our trip insurance didn’t cover a pandemic. We won’t have any problem with the deposit at our small hotel in Xcalak and we will rebook at some point. Jim managed to talk the airline into a full refund instead of rebooking before October, when we made the original plan. So that’s a good thing.

It probably worked for the best though. Besides the travel restrictions (Mexico had closed the border by then) we got a note from our host in Xcalak that the government was cutting off the sale of alcoholic beverages during the virus. WHUT?!! We are well stocked up here with no shortages looming.

We still don’t know what will happen with our already booked and prepaid trip this August to ride bikes and travel on a barge down the Danube. We have trip insurance for that too but who knows what the airlines will try to pull? And during this financial and health crisis, those giant companies that pay few USA income taxes are trying to stiff the little people, who maybe will get a whopping $1200 out of the money we spent in good faith.

Hidalgo County has finally issued a Shelter in Place order after the corona virus hit the county a few days ago. No group activities of more than ten people and six feet of social distancing required. Apparently somebody called the County on our park since they were continuing water volleyball and the end-of-season Olympics with lots of shared food and close proximity. The owner said she got a warning ticket and that people could decide for themselves whether to participate or not… I agree in theory, but if the sick people don’t stay home, the rest of us have to. Most of the big activities are finished for the season. We are staying at home, walking the cats, watering the garden, washing our hands and reading alot. Jim has been playing his new electric ukulele too. It’s a beauty and sounds great. More on that next.

One last dinner party…
Untitled-1
We had to cancel another one when the Shelter in Place stuff took effect. We are following the rules. Why wouldn’t everybody?

Hope everybody reading is well, stocked up and happy. One day at a time.

Home Improvement

We have a large propane tank that was taking up a lot of space on our back “patio.” Jim got the idea to move it to give us a little more space back there.

We had planned to move it to the other side of the air conditioner but the propane guys said that was too close to the A/C and could spark. They showed us where the ideal place was and Jim did the prep for them to move it and hook it back up.

Before:
IMG_2428
During: Jim did all the prep work.

And After. Not much space gained but every little bit helps.  The little propane tank is for the bus BBQ. We keep forgetting to move it back to the bus since we got the Big Green Egg.

We also snagged a new sign for the porch. A friend in Colorado was selling it and he shipped it for us. We didn’t even realize it went with the zebra painting until we hung it.

Overall porch view:
IMG_2399

Count Your Blessings

IMG_1764
And write them down! A couple of years ago I read about the idea of writing notes about positive things that happen throughout the year, putting them in a jar and opening them on New Years Day to recollect the blessings and good times. We have done this for the past few years. It’s fun to remember the days and fun times.

A few from 2019…

We try to do one a week or anytime something good happens. Focus on the good stuff.

Decade End Wrap-Up

It’s a new decade, not just a new year! Whoa! Where does the time go? We had a very nice Thanksgiving with good friends. We squeezed in 10 at the table. The table will fit twelve but the room won’t. From all the laughter I can say everybody had a good time. We served our traditional Tequila Bloody Marys, turkey with all the fixings and lots of wine. Our good friends Bill and Janelle came down to celebrate with us and we all enjoyed laughing around the table.

A friend here had a memorial service for her husband who died last year and we planned another dinner for her, his daughter and visiting friends. At the last minute, one of the guests came down with the flu. What to do? We had had out flu shots but they hadn’t incubated for the required two weeks and we didn’t want to risk everybody getting infected.

We put together a last minute group and had a delightful evening. Sometimes the best laid plans don’t work out but we put together an alternative plan and had another grand time getting to know our neighbors better.
IMG_1637
Christmas was fast approaching with all the usual stuff to do. We didn’t do a tree this year, just our Santa which Jim’s parents gave us many years ago when we moved to Washington D.C. Carmella hunted down all the catnip toys. We had a quiet dinner with just the two of us and some delicious rib eye steaks.

Back to Thanksgiving… At the table people started to reminisce about families and loved ones and June told her Mom’s cremation story which reminded me that I still had my mom’s ashes from when she was cremated seven years ago. I actually dragged them from the cabinet and showed everybody the box which I had never opened.

I decided then to do something with them before the end of the year since it was at least still the same decade she died in. Jim portioned out the ashes into thirds and we determined the size containers we would need. The teddy bear was Mom’s constant companion in her nursing home days. He’s staying with me. Mom donated her body to science; she was Donor #11284. They sent along a silver disc with the number which probably hung around her toe. I am going to make a necklace of it.

Jim and I headed to Mexico and got three containers so I could split them up with my two sisters. Of course we had to get margaritas at Angel’s and met some fellow Winter Texans, Linda, Bonnie and Tom who knew people in our park. Small world! I also picked up a nice sterling silver and malachite bracelet while Jim was getting the margaritas. Hey, it was 50% off. Life is short. And getting shorter.

IMG_1714

Linda and Bonnie. Hi girls!

This is the one I got for my share. I forgot to take pictures of the other two before I shipped them off. They are all different. Mom loved to travel and now she still is.
IMG_1763Right before Christmas we had an emergency with our new quilt, which we love. We have only had it a couple of months but some of the black fabric in the center square started to fail; not at the stitching but the fabric itself. I texted our lovely friend Marg and she said to ship it back, she can totally fix it.
IMG_1315

She said sometimes you get a bad piece of fabric and she has never had that happen before. Now she has reported that it is totally fixed and she is shipping it back, minus all the cat hair. OOPS!  She said unless you knew where the damage was you would never suspect. She is the best. Check out her Marg Art page on Facebook. Warning: it’s addictive.

The garden is continuing to fill in. It is winter, so things are cooling off a little. Today the temperature is 70 degrees and we are starting to get a little rain, which always helps. It actually rained three inches a while ago!

We have booked two international trips so far for this year, one back to our spot in Xcalak, Mexico where we haven’t been since we started traveling in the bus. It will be nice to be on a “real” vacation. Everybody thinks when we’re in the bus we are on vacation all the time but you still have to cook and clean and shop and do laundry. We will meet up with our friend Michael while we are there along with the aforementioned Okies who we saw at Thanksgiving.

And Jim, the exhaustive researcher, has completed the booking for our bike and barge adventure on the Danube in August. We will fly into Munich, spend a few days getting oriented, then on to Passau where we will board the barge for the bike/barge portion of the trip. That lasts two weeks with between 20-40 miles a day on the bikes. Then we will head to Prague for several days before heading home. We will be gone almost the whole month of August, my birthday month! I am thinking we should maybe look into a cruise to Alaska too. That will be my fiftieth state. We’ll have to see if we have any money left… Amber?

Jim’s band played for folks in the park on New Years Eve and they knocked it out of the park! Everybody drank, danced and had champagne at midnight. It was a great show.

We had another dinner on New Year’s Day. Peni brought a bone-in ham, Debbie made black eyed peas and green beans and tater tots and Peni also made rolls and dessert. All I had to do was make a salad and pour the wine. Another great evening with friends. Jack was there too but he leaned out of the picture.
IMG_1759Even though the chickens are still in the park, they don’t come to the garden anymore, thank goodness. Well, thank Doc. But we have a duck! What? Rhymes with duck! So far she is not destroying anything but providing endless entertainment for the cats.
DSC_2771ad
The bougainvillea is blooming along the avenues on the way into town. They are spectacular. Enjoy and Happy New Year.