Monday, May 31, 2010

Tree house goes green; new bumper; grandkids take a hike

By all rights this should be several posts, but my laziness wants to just make it one long post. The Blog apologizes.

Darci drew this picture of The Boy's cat (note the fearsome claws!) and The Boy, wearing an extremely unlikely red Raiders shirt, and sitting on his swivel chair. Her drawings crack me up.

I have lots of pictures from this weekend's walk, but this one proves that summer is here. Mrs Notthat is wearing a tank top and the previously lushly green hillsides are now lushly brown tinderboxes.

The nice weather caused the grandkids to call my bluff about painting the tree house ("we have to wait until it stops raining" I have preached to them all winter). So we attacked it.

Riley was a lousy painter, but was reasonably good about getting most of his paint on the wood. Darci, on the other hand, was an OK painter - especially of herself.

Alert readers will note that Darci is wearing a different shirt at this point - the first one was pretty much saturated with green paint.

For some reason, they couldn't wait to paint the floor. I spent a lot of time explaining how they needed to be careful not to paint themselves into a corner, and yet, they did it anyway. (Yes, I know that they are only 5 and 3, but still.)

Finally we were done. As bad as this looks, she actually cleaned up pretty easily. Well, except for the bit she got in her hair.

Riley had his issues too, but at least his hair was paint-free.

This morning I went out and did a lot of touching up and Mrs Notthat and I now consider this finished. Darci and Riley, not so much. Careful viewers will notice the "D" and "R" have a slightly darker green paint on them. Darci wants to paint her "D" pink and Riley wants to paint his "R" either yellow or black (or both). I'm pretty sure I will mysteriously be unable to find pink or yellow or black paint anywhere.

Speaking of painting, this is The Boy's latest gadget for his Jeep. Being bare steel, the first thing he had to do was paint it. Weirdly, he seemed to have no trouble finding black paint.

This is how his Jeep looked with its stock bumper.

And this is The Boy installing the new bumper. It's all set up now for the winch that he is planning on adding as a future gadget.

The grandkids have been dying to go on a hike with us, so we took them to one of our favorite areas from last winter - the boulder infested Castle Rock State Park.

There were a few trees down across the trail. Note the walking sticks that each of them found and used throughout the hike (mostly to whack things).

After going about halfway, I surprised them with "energy pills" disguised as M&Ms. The green ones were the most powerful. (At least until I reluctantly admitted that the brown ones, which I had been saving, were really the most powerful later on, when they were really starting to drag.)

Here we are at a waterfall lookout. I have no idea why my mouth is open like that. Darci probably made a rude noise.

I love all the moss-covered boulders. They loved crawling around on them, dodging poison oak (which was all over the place - they seemed pretty good about staying away from it; we'll see in a few days how that went).

Here we are at the top of a bunch of rocks. The kids loved crawling about on these things and did not want to leave.

In the end, we walked about three miles. There was a bit of kid carrying going on towards the end, but for the most part, they did great.

Thanks in large part to the energy pills.

That's it - move along...

Monday, May 24, 2010

One hike, one pirate, one black cat

A couple of minor things and then the Big Deal.

First, yes, we had a Saturday walk. Mrs Notthat agreed to attack the insane Priest Rock trail at Sierra Azul.

This is her nearing the top of the most insanely steep trail I have ever been on. And she is smiling. Sort of. This was nearly as impressive as her finishing the marathon. She's an animal on the trails. Bunnies flee as she approaches. She really rocks!

After the walk, with nearly every muscle in our bodies aching and sore, we stopped at a garage sale on the way home. And she picked up this pirate outfit for Riley.

The next day, Mrs Notthat and I went with The Boy to pick up a rescue cat that he fell in love with.

The cat stole his heart when it tried to remove his arm.

Her official name was Bugsy. The Boy has changed it to Skittles, since that is what it most doesn't resemble. (He's a teenager. I'm sure it makes sense on some level that old people like me will never quite get.)

He has kept the cat in his room for the most part. Today he introduced her and Teddy. It actually went very well, which was a complete surprise. The cat didn't seem to care at all about Teddy, completely ignoring him, and Teddy just followed her around, sniffing her and waiting for her to start barking. (He's not a bright dog.)

So we will see. The Boy still has that snake in his room as well, although I don't think it or the cat has noticed the other. Yet.

That's it - move along...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Random grandkid pictures

I downloaded the pictures from the camera tonight and found some, ummm, interesting things.

First, there was this picture of Riley playing tag with Teddy. Teddy is getting old and sounds like an old man (sort of like me, but a bit less whiny) when having to get up, and he has some trouble coming in through the dog door. (He now keeps poking at the flap with his nose, causing it to make a lot of noise, in an effort to get someone to open the door for him. If no one shows up after a few minutes, he heaves a heavy sigh, rolls his eyes, and comes on through the dog door on his own. That dog can lay a nasty guilt trip on you.)

In any case, it's remarkable to see him bounce around like a puppy when playing with the kids like this.

I set up the croquet set in the backyard, so naturally the grandkids spent an hour lining up the mallets on the deck, pretending they were a fence.

This is the first (usable) picture that I know of that Riley has taken with our camera. There were about a half dozen he took before this that, at best, included maybe an arm or a shoe. I'm sure this one was a complete accident. Darci is obviously very enthusiastic about this process.

And then there was this dress up picture, with their friend Camren strenuously averting her eyes.

That's it - move along...

Monday, May 17, 2010

I wasn't going to do this, but SNAKES!

I know you are all tired of reading about these weekend walks. I told myself I wasn't going to make a post this time and spare you more pictures of the great outdoors.

But then I looked at the pictures and decided I just had to do it. Sorry.

Mrs Notthat, Coach Luap, and myself went for a 13 mile hike at Windy Hill Park.

There were bunnies! Lots of bunnies!

The bunny hunter! Note the fog-looking stuff over my shoulder.

A little bit further up the trail and we were deep into that fog-looking stuff, which is officially called the "marine layer" (four syllables that are another way to say "fog").

These were growing along the trail. They look like small chayote (Spanish for "maiming gourd"). It was all I could do to keep Mrs Notthat from picking these and making them into dinner.

The marine layer finally started burning off and the sun came out.

Walking down a single-track path bordered with lots of wildflowers.

I've got no idea what this is, but it was really cool looking.

A butterfly. There were lots of these once the sun came out.

Here is the first snake I came across - a garter snake with glowing eyes doing its best to hide from the camera.

Mrs Notthat trying very hard not to get muddy. She had been on this trail last weekend and it had been dry. We had a bit of rain during the week though, so now this part of the trail was properly muddy. Yay for me (I walked this part of the trail, about a half mile stretch, twice since it was so cool).

And then, as we were heading to the finish line, there were a couple of women with a dog that had hit a blockage in the trail. A five foot long vicious-looking blockage in the trail. Mrs Notthat went to nudge it with one of her walking sticks, which the death snake then lunged at and tried to kill. When that didn't work, the snake reluctantly slithered off into the grass. The two women with the dog thanked the brave Mrs Notthat, glared at Coach Luap and I (who were hiding behind them), and we all headed on down the trail.

Only to be told by some old guy coming the other way that he had just shooed a rattlesnake off the trail.

Near the parking lot we met up with a ranger who told us that our snake was a fairly harmless gopher snake. He also said that a rattlesnake can only strike at a distance of about half it's body length.

Which I guess means all well equipped walkers should carry a tape measure. Or have brave Mrs Notthat along.

That's it - move along...

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The winter walking season is now officially over (I think)

Last night we had many of the people that we spent large chunks of the last six month's Saturdays with, hiking through mud, absurd hills, poison oak, and astonishing views, over for a pot luck dinner. We all showed off the medals from the various events we participated in (there was a LOT of bling in the house!) and shared a lot of stories, with hills getting higher, mud getting deeper, snakes getting bigger, and coyotes getting fiercer with every telling.

Embarrassing Note: I'm awful with names. So some very nice and noble people are not going to be named correctly in the following. I apologize for that and hope that everyone understands that this is just due to me being pathetic. In any case, no real names are being used, as per usual.

The weather was great and most of the evening was spent on the deck.

Mrs Coach Truc and Mrs Notthat enjoying a laugh over how much fun it is wading across raging creeks.

Mr Uidualc watching Coach Werdna while he texts in a pizza order.

Please pay no attention to that bag of potato chips you see on the table - they were simply a prop for Coach Luap's talk on nutrition. (We all took turns sampling the prop though.)

Sitting against the wall, that is Mrs Coach Luap and Mrs Uidualc, with Coach Luap, Ms Evae, and Ms Evae's boyfriend sitting at the table, and Coach Truc on the right, plotting his assault on the potato chips.

Ms Evae being perky. Coach Werdna still trying to work out his toppings in the background. Coach Truc still eying the potato chips.

From the left, that is Ms Evae's extremely fit bike-riding boyfriend, Coach Truc, and Ms. Evae.

The evening finished with a viewing of a DVD that had lots of pictures from most of our hikes from the last six months (which brought out MANY more stories and "facts" and such). And capping it off, we presented Coach Luap with a poster that each of us signed (and I managed to drop, adding a 3-D effect to the upper-right corner).

In the end, it was a blast. There was lots of food (even if some of the sausages turned out a bit too blackened) and many laughs.

There was a tiny bit of sadness too: it's really over. Reliving all the walks reminded you of what you had accomplished and how hard the coaches worked to set all this up and drag us, sometimes kicking and screaming, on these Saturday walks. Most of us would much rather have spent these mornings in our nice, warm, and dry beds, but we all know we are way better for having persevered and braved the obstacles and occasional pain to hang out with a great group of people.

A lot of us will continue to meet reasonably often on Saturday mornings throughout the summer, either as part of the San Jose Fit summer program or for informal hikes on the huge number of wonderful trails scattered around the Bay Area.

This winter program, the coaches, and all the walkers has done its job - it has given us all a lifelong appreciation of getting out and moving around.

And the skills to decide when to help a snake across the trail and when to run away from it.

That's it - move along...

PS: Tip - running away is almost always the right answer.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Grandma in stitches and working up a sweat

This post covers two wildly unrelated things from this week.

For whatever reason, the grandkids are fascinated by any kind of injury we get. If we happen to have a bandaid on, they must know why (and it had better be a good reason), and you better be prepared to talk them out of getting one too.

Last week Mrs Notthat had a small basal cell carcinoma thing removed and was left with some stitches that she has to protect with bandaids. The grandkids were dying to check it out.

At work, to celebrate the national Bike to Work Day, they held an iWalk event with a 3K (a little less than two miles) walk and a 5K (a little over 3 miles) run. For the first time, I chose to do the 5K run.

About a mile into it, this was the view ahead of me. I am very used to seeing many runners ahead of me.

What was odd was the view behind me - I wasn't even vaguely last. This is a very unusual position for me to be in. The guy in red in this picture saw me take these pictures and offered to take one of me.

This bit of vanity cost me a number of positions in the race, but nothing like the number of positions I lost later when I started mixing in some walking with my running. In the end, I finished far from last with a very respectable (for me) time of 31:07. And a LOT of sweat - it got pretty warm out there.

And, unfortunately for the grandkids, I didn't end up with any injuries requiring bandaids.

That's it - move along...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Monster carrots and swinging high

Sunday was a grandkid-filled day, and the nice weather meant we got to spend most of it outside.

We planted some carrot seeds, courtesy of Htebazile (not her real name) from work, in the plumeria planters last fall or so. Their tops were taller than Darci and going to seed, so we thought it might be time to pull them up. Darci yanked out the tallest one first.

Then Riley went to work on one.

In the end we pulled up half a dozen carrots. Darci decided we should make a vegi soup with them. And then her and Riley promptly each ate one. We then planted more seeds in the planters.

I've taken pictures before of the kids on the swing, but this time I gave Darci the camera, and she got some great pictures. (I have to stop the swing or the kids end up running into the roof gutter. They love this thing.)

This is a great picture, and it gives a pretty good idea how high they get going.

And then she took this picture. (And about 50 others almost this riveting.) It is really well lit and composed though.

Me expressing my concern over her artistic choices.

Once I wrestled the camera from her, the two of them decided to try sitting on as many chairs as possible. (Darci told me she was the queen of the princesses - what does that even mean?)

Then Darci pretended to be a carrot and The Boy pretended to be an angry farmer trying to pull her out. Or something like that.

Mrs Notthat trying to rescue the strawberry plants that were way too ignored over the winter. I will be stunned if they come back, but she has a way of pulling plants from the brink.

Finally we got the vegetable soup cooking. It turned out great, although some of the carrots had very wooden centers (seriously, it was like they had little bones). We've really got to pull up the carrots when they are much younger.

And that's about it. A full day in the backyard and I'm wore out. But smiling.

That's it - move along...