Monday, March 2, 2015

Arizona 2015 (Part 1) . . .

My brother Blake and I have been visiting Mom and Dad in Tucson since Wednesday.  We have been looking forward to escaping the Ohio Winter for quite a while, but it went right down to the last minute – we had to change planes in Dallas-Fort Worth on the way, and there was a Winter Storm Warning there for an amount that northerners would just laugh at.  Thankfully, it stayed warm enough that they received only rain and we blew right through – though DFW cancelled hundreds of flights over the weekend when the Texas Winter finally did arrive.

Lots of images to share – most are hiking related and others are just cute . . .

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Living proof that life goes on while vacationing in the 21st Century – Blake and I both brought laptops along and set up shop on the dining room table.  This was the view as we dropped everything to go across the park to play Pickleball with Dad.

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Dad took us on a “warmup hike” the day after we arrived (Dad’s warmup hikes only last about six hours).  We went up to “The Dome” in Saguaro National Park, east of Tucson.  I find it fascinating that we can take strenuous hikes way up into the mountains and still see the city in the distance most of the time.  Every now and then, a hiker will encounter strands of fencing from the days when ranchers used this land – couldn’t resist taking a pic that I described as “Manmade Thorns and God-made Thorns”.

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While we were on the dome, we visited with a man from Quebec who mentioned that he had always wanted to know the elevation there.  Being that close to town, I immediately whipped out my phone, went to the Google Play Store, put “altimeter” in the search box, and within seconds had one on my phone.  We have used it constantly ever since and it’s great when we’re dealing with the relentless climbs Dad takes us on (“relentless” has become a bit of a family joke over the past few days).  The altitude at The Dome was about 4,500 feet – the readout on this pic was taken at Mount Kimball the next day.

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Afterward, Mom and Dad took us to The Gaslight Theatre – where Blake took his very first “selfie” on his birthday.  Because of the timing of Blake’s birthday and our parents’ winter escapes to Tucson, this was the first time they had seen Blake on his birthday since his youngest son Tyler was born 21 years ago.

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On Friday morning, we set out at dawn on the Finger Rock Trail on the way to Mount Kimball – Dad said this was the most strenuous and most scenic hike in the mountains around Tuscon.  And he was right on both counts.

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I took pictures of Finger Rock (it’s just to the left of the tallest peak on the right) at various points as we climbed the trail.

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Eventually we couldn’t see it anymore, and finally the whole range was blocked by another peak as we continued to climb.

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The trail looked like this all the way to the top.

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There were lots of Saguaro Cactus along the trail at the lower elevations.  Dad had just explained how a hard freeze that lasts several days can cause the moisture inside a cactus to freeze, expand, and literally kill it from the inside.  And then we encountered these two fellows – I called the one on the left “The Scarecrow” and the one on the right “I Am Groot”.

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At a “saddle” where the trail forked as we headed toward Mount Kimball, this camera was mounted in a secluded spot under a shade tree.  We found two more just like it a couple of days later.  I assume we were on Candid Camera, but we never heard the shutter click.

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The scenery changes with the elevation – by 5,000 feet, the Saguaros were gone and were replaced first by scrub trees, and eventually by pine trees that brought the sights and scents of home.  I was amazed by these two stacks of enormous rocks in the middle of nothing else.

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We finally reached Mount Kimball – six hours and 4,000 feet in elevation from where we started at the trailhead.  There were a couple of other hikers there when we arrived, so we took each others’ pictures at the summit.

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The view from Mount Kimball is spectacular in all directions.  These are two views in the same direction – the one on the right is a closeup so you can see the little white specs just above the middle of the picture.  That’s Biosphere 2 about 40 miles in the distance . . .

The trip back down the mountain took 4½ hours and was every bit as grueling.  Blake and I were both really sore the next day, so we played a little Pickleball with Dad, caught up on our work, watched the Dayton/VCU basketball game, and observed life in the park where our parents live.  And that observation led Blake to take one of the most endearing photos I have ever seen . . .

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Almost 58 years of marriage, and our parents have still got it . . .

Saturday, February 21, 2015

New Stuff on the Horizon . . .

Greetings from the Winter Wonderland – 6” more inches of winter got blown off my driveway this morning.  But not before I put this on my Facebook page . . .

“Ah, the thrill of the Saturday morning scavenger hunt ... wandering out onto a driveway covered with a blanket of new snow ... looking for that one tiny blemish where the snow looks just a bit deeper ... dipping my hand into that blemish ... and pulling out my newspaper”

And this . . .

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“Perhaps our southern brethren would like to go out and sweep the palm fronds off their driveways in an act of solidarity. . .”

Yes, I was in a mood this morning.  But now to subjects more fitting for our business . . .

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Nothing like putting them all in one graphic – these are the 32 new Spellbinders dies that released yesterday.  Click on this link or on the graphic to see all of them!

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And this is something we hadn’t decided for sure that we were going to carry, until we started getting requests for them.  These are the some of the new Tim Holtz Kraft-Core Collections – the Metallics look especially interesting, and there are three sets of A2 cards and envelopes!

And now it’s time to go back out into the weather – I have video duty at church this afternoon and a cards/board games/snacks evening with some high school friends this evening.  Have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

In Bitter Cold, It Takes So Little to Make Me Happy . . .

The farther south you go, the less winter weather it takes to make everyone go directly to Defcon 5.  I have friends in Florida griping about temps in the 40s – friends in Tennessee with ice bringing down tree limbs – friends in Kentucky who got a foot of snow on Monday.  And here it was five below this morning (with –25 windchill) and expected to be ten below tonight.  So we take our enjoyment where we can get it . . .

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Since I gripe at Ranger (and other suppliers) when new releases come late, it seems only fair to note that two boxes of the new February Distress Color arrived this morning – a day earlier than we expected.  So the first 100 or so of you who ordered these are going to start getting happy e-mails from our system.

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And this one is personal – but fun.  In December 1975, American Legion Post 615 in my hometown sponsored a Citizenship Test for the seniors at our high school.  I don't remember much about the test -- except that we got out of class to take it -- but I got the highest score and was awarded a $50 U.S. Savings Bond.  I put it in a safe deposit box and have rarely thought about it for years.  But a couple of nights ago, I ran that bond and several others through the Savings Bond Calculator to see what they're worth today.  That $50 bond stopped earning interest nine years ago -- and now it's worth $269.50.  Ah, the power of compound interest.   The Legion is responsible for lots of good deeds in our town – this is just one of them.

I put this on my Facebook page yesterday – most reacted like I did, but one wet blanket started lecturing me about inflation and taxes and how in the long run I will have actually lost money.  His comment started with “I hate to burst your bubble . . .”

But my bubble is still intact – I didn’t spend a dime to get the bond, and it brings back a lot of fond memories.  Anything monetary that comes with it is just a bonus . . .

Monday, February 16, 2015

Flat Stanley . . .

I got an e-mail from my friend Judy Jackson a week or so before the Clearwater show.  She was going to be there and wanted to know if I would help her with her twin granddaughters’ Flat Stanley school projects by letting her take a picture with them in our booth. 

For those of you who need enlightenment, lots of elementary schools do projects where the kids make a “Stanley” out of cardboard – that way it’s easy to fold and put in an envelope.  Then it is either mailed or transported to friends, relatives and such – with the hope that pictures and cards and such will be sent to the students from all over.

And so we did – and I was honored to participate.  Yesterday, Judy e-mailed me a copy of the picture we took for Faith and Joy . . .

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The sight of this sent me to the closet, where I went through boxes of pictures until finally I found the right box.  Ryan did this project when he was in the first grade in 1995-96 – they called it “Travel Mate.”

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This is “Elf” – I found him in the box with the pictures and postcards and stuff that were sent to Ryan from all over the world.  The timing was perfect – Ryan’s Uncle Dex was traveling a lot in those days, and he took Elf everywhere for months.

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Everywhere that Elf went, he sent postcards to Ryan and picked up lots of little trinkets and stickers and such from his stops.

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Elf made it to the Grand Canyon before I did . . .

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And because Dex and Ella had just become engaged, Elf got to make a trip to her homeland – it’s obviously out of focus, but that shot on the right is Elf in Moscow, Russia.

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Since it worked out that the project ended during one of Ella’s visits to the U.S., we arranged for both of them to come to Ryan’s classroom and help with the presentation.

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We got a U.S. map and a small map of Europe and put little flag pins on spots where Elf had traveled – with string leading from each pin to a picture taken there or a postcard that was sent from there.  We had so much fun with the project that we decided to continue it for the rest of the year.  Elf went to Australia with a friend of Dex’s, to the Southwest with Karen and David and their family, and on our vacation to Colorado and Wyoming.

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From Mount Rushmore to the White House – Elf was everywhere.  By the time we retired him to the box in the closet, Elf had been to 38 states and 9 foreign countries.

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And his year ended on New Year’s Eve at Dex and Ella’s wedding at Key West.

Time passes – more than 19 years since this project started, more than 18 years (and three daughters) since that Key West wedding.  That request from Judy and the picture she sent me yesterday resulted in a fun trip down Memory Lane for my family.

I hope Faith and Joy’s Flat Stanleys have a trip that is just as memorable.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words . . . Times Six

After sharing the note from the Copic folks about the dockworkers’ strike on the West Coast, a friend sent me some pictures that gave this ordeal a whole new perspective.  The first were taken before the congestion caused by the strike . . .

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And the rest were taken after . . .

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Another customer told me that this issue is dominating the news out west.  I am simply amazed that I have heard/seen absolutely nothing in our local news about this.  I wouldn’t even know about it except for updates from our suppliers.  And yet this is affecting everyone in the country in some way.