Sunday, November 2, 2014

Weekend Festivities

This was the big race weekend for Dan and Chris. Dan left early on Friday morning to meet up with Chris and some of Chris' friends, all of whom were staying in a motel in Bastrop for the three-day Formula 1 event. You may remember that it was Dan's goal to have his "new knees" strong enough to handle the rigors of this strenuous event.

While it was race weekend for the guys, it was Halloween weekend for Kelsey, the grandkids, and me! I drove over on Friday morning and returned this afternoon.

Pumpkin carving took place on Friday, after Clara got home from school. The kids couldn't agree on whether the eyes should be circles or triangles, so we chose to do one of each. The same for the mouth . . . Clara wanted the teeth to match her own nearly-toothless grin, but Robert wanted "pointy teeth." So Jack got Clara-teeth on top and pointy-teeth on the bottom. Robert had no desire to touch the slimy insides of the pumpkin, but Clara dug right in. She also did much of the actual carving this year, with Kelsey taking over only at the end, when Clara's wrists were getting tired.




Matching top teeth.



Kelsey has been the Queen of Halloween Costumes for as long as I've known her. Even before the kids came along, she made wild and wonderful themed costumes for Chris and herself. And ever since Robert started trick-or-treating, the kids have worn coordinated costumes (Clara as Princess Leia and Robert as Yoda; Robert as a fireman and Clara as a dalmatian; Clara as Alice and Robert as the Cheshire Cat; etc.). But this year she reluctantly let the kids pick their own store-bought costumes. It was a difficult thing for her to do, and she has already started trying to talk them into the old tradition of coordinated costumes for next year. 

Robert went trick-or-treating as a Power Ranger this year. He recently discovered that TV program on Netflix and thinks the Rangers are the coolest super-heroes ever (only rivaled by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). He is taking Tae Kwon Do lessons this year, so he had some awesome Power Ranger moves to try out.


Clara chose a monster costume, but it was a pretty cute monster.


We started our trick-or-treating at dusk. The first house we went to was their next door neighbors, a sweet couple who dotes on the kids almost as much as grandparents! 


As it got darker, some of the houses were a bit spookier. A lot of the home-owners were sitting on their porches or in their driveways to hand out treats.


Clara thought I should have a costume, too, so loaned me her Minnie Mouse ears (from her summer Disneyland trip) to wear for the evening. Here's a strange selfie of me, showing my cute ears. As you see, I'm carrying Robert's pumpkin ("Grandma, please carry it for me. It's too heavy!").



At one house there were two people sitting outside and a couple of what looked like mannequins dressed up like Grim Reapers. When Clara went up to get her treat, one of them came to life and jumped out at her. She screamed and ran, and, from that point on, both kids were leery about going up to many of the doors. 

But all-in-all it was a fun and successful Halloween night. When we got home Robert put on his pajamas and started sorting out his candy. Clara came to help him with the daunting job. Quite a haul, which explains why his pumpkin was too heavy for him to carry.


The next day - Saturday - was a relaxing day. Robert played most of the day with his Disney cars. He spent a couple hours, at least, running a race, which started with the lineup: 


He even set four of the cars up on the couch, and they were the race announcers. His method for racing the cars is somewhat complex. He races them around the corner of the couch, toward a finish line, keeping track of which cars have lapped the others. The race itself kept him occupied for a couple hours.

In the afternoon Kelsey and I sat outside and watched as the kids rode their bikes, scooters, and Robert's Jeep. 








We had a few quiet times on Saturday, as well. Clara spent a half-hour on my iPad, learning to play Farkle. And Robert let me read to him for awhile. That evening we had popcorn and watched The Nightmare Before Christmas on TV - a great ending to the Halloween festivities.


And as long we're speaking of the grandchildren, let me do a little grandma-bragging on them. Clara is now in third grade and recently brought home her first report card of the year - all "A"s! She's also participating in the school choir. Robert is in pre-school and is a member of the "100 Club." That means he can count to 100!

I got home late in the afternoon on Sunday. Dan didn't get home until after dark. Here's his good news . . . his new knees stayed strong and pain-free for all three days at the races.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Settled In Before the Holidays

It was the middle of July - three and a half months ago - that Mom made her move from New Mexico to Texas. It's been a long and twisty road getting her completely settled into her new home at Stoney Brook. But it's finally a done deal.

I won't re-hash, here, all of the story, but if you count the big move from Carlsbad, she has had to move three times before settling into her "forever" unit. It's a one-bedroom "grande" apartment, and I think she is really happy with it. We helped her get moved, unpacked, and settled last week. Dan also spent one day putting together a wooden utility cart, to give her more space for things like her coffee maker and toaster. She doesn't have a full kitchen - just a kitchenette, with a microwave and a little refrigerator. But she does have a nice sized living room, with windows on two sides (she's on a corner), and a nice bedroom with plenty of space for her queen sized bed, her computer desk, and her chest of drawers. She also has access to a patio space with a wooden bench. What she is MOST thrilled about is the wonderful, walk-in closet, with lots of shelving. She has more storage space now than she actually needs . . . room to grow. The only thing she is needing now is a small loveseat, to put in the living room. We'll go shopping for that someday soon.

I think she's quite content now, with everything . . .  except the food. Institutional food leaves a LOT to be desired, and she's pretty disappointed in that. I try to get her out for a good meal at least a couple times a week.












Friday, October 17, 2014

Eerie Noise from the Sky

Last night - not sure what time, but probably around 9:40 - I was watching TV. Dan had just gone to bed, but was awake, reading.

All of a sudden, a loud, low-frequency rumbling began, our windows started chattering, and my innards were shaking like Jello! I muted the TV and listened for awhile, thinking it would stop, but it didn't . . . A few particularly spooky episodes of X-Files came to mind.

We live close enough to Ft. Hood to hear fighter jets, military helicopters, and various munitions testing on occasion. But this rumbling was different. It went on and on. So, although I was already in my pajamas, I slipped a jacket on and ran outside to see if I could spot the source of this roaring rumble.

I wasn't alone . . . No, not aliens!

Alan, from next door, and another neighbor, were both out in the middle of the street, looking skyward and trying to solve the mystery. We were all three tossing out ideas, none of which quite added up, and then suddenly - very suddenly - the noise stopped. No winding down. No fading into the distance. It just stopped.

I came inside and went to the bedroom to talk to Dan about it. He had heard it, too, of course, but didn't seem to be nearly as curious as I was.

I didn't think I could get to sleep until I figured out what I had heard/felt. So I went on-line, Googling all sorts of phrases like, "loud rumbling sky temple texas." I found that others had heard roaring rumbles in the Temple-Waco area in the past, and some suggested it could be caused by flaring from an oil refinery. Hmmm. Maybe. But I didn't think so. Too loud. Too long. I kept searching and discovered some comments about the noise resulting from rocket tests at SpaceX, in McGregor.

Sure enough, I finally found this brief article from a KWTX-McGregor website titled "Our Town Texas."

MCGREGOR (October 15, 2014) 
McGregor's SpaceX facility plans a louder-than-usual test that could happen as early as Friday. 
The California company tests its rocket motors at its facility in McGregor west of Waco.
The upcoming test "will be significantly more noticeable than the typical tests we run daily," the company said in a brief statement.

"As early as Friday" must have meant Thursday night. McGregor is 25 miles, as the crow flies, from Temple. I can't imagine what the people there, in McGregor, experienced. I guess they are somewhat used to the tests that go on there, but this one was a doozy.

Here's a YouTube video of one of the SpaceX rocket tests that Dan says was probably similar to the one we heard last night.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8-61AzLnlA

Saturday, October 11, 2014

2014 U..S. Vintage Racing National Championship

Yesterday was a day to mark on the calendar. FINALLY, after 45+ years of being married to Dan, I agreed to accompany him to a car race, at the Circuit of the Americas, near Austin. He has wanted me to go with him forever, and I think had given up hope. But on Thursday he asked me if I would like to go - he enticed me with words like "old", "vintage", "beautiful" - all of those words modifying "cars" of course. He even compared the event to the Balloon Fiesta, in Albuquerque. And to his utter surprise, I simply said, "Sure."

I had a good time.



It was a very nice day. The steady breeze kept the heat from being too much of a problem, although by late afternoon it was 96 degrees. From the start, I had one goal in mind - to get to the top of the tower. It has fascinated me, ever since we viewed the track from the outskirts, before it was actually open to the public.



So, after a short sit in the main grandstand, and a brief introduction to the venue, by Dan, I was hoofing my way to that tower. It was quite a little hike, mostly uphill, but turned out to be well worth the effort. They charged $15 to go up the elevator (the stairs were closed). And I couldn't hand over my money fast enough. (Okay, to be honest, the money came out of Dan's wallet, but I did the handing over.)



Notice, when looking up at the platform, that there is a section, toward the front, that is glass. The tower is 251 feet tall, but the platform is only at 231 feet. That's not even half -- a little more than a third -- of the height of the Gateway Arch which we visited back in May. But I thought the view from the tower was more awesome than from the Arch. Also, being able to be outside in the fresh air made it a more enjoyable experience.


Here you can see the glass in the platform. The railing around the edge is also clear glass, which adds to the rush when you walk out there.


These two photos are taken while I was standing on the glass, looking down through it. The first one is the structure of the tower itself, from above.









This is looking down on one of the two paddocks and pit areas, which we later walked through and admired some of the cars up-close.



At the base of the tower is a stage and amphitheater, where performers come throughout the year. This is looking down on the stage area from the top of the tower.



Dan walked with me to the tower, but didn't have any desire to go up to the top. He waited for me below, in this "very crowded" grandstand. That's him - the little reddish dot at the point of the arrow. Well, you'll have to trust me on this. When I look at the photo at full size in full resolution, I can see him sitting there. I am told, by Dan, that during the Grand Prix races, the grandstands are all full of people, but this was a smaller race, and it was a weekday. So we had no crowds to contend with.


Once I'd gotten my trip to the top of the tower, we went to the paddock to see some of the cars. These, of course, were what Dan came to see. It was fun seeing some of these vintage cars all dressed up for the prom, so to speak.


Dan seemed to be most interested in this Benetton Car - what he called "a true F-1 car." He might have been a wee bit prejudiced, though, considering what kind of engine was inside  (below).


I was looking for pretty, shiny cars to photograph, but Dan kept wanting me to take pictures of things like this, which I did, and which he says is a "great picture." Hmmm. I guess it might be, if I knew what I was looking at.


Here's the car that the above belongs to.


A Selfie!


 This fellow was a little reluctant to pose with his Porsche, but Dan talked him into it for me.







Finally, we sat down in the grandstand and watched a race. Those cars are LOUD and FAST. I should have taken my Nikon with me, because my Panasonic bridge-type camera just isn't as responsive as a DSLR, making it hard to snap the shutter at the right time. But I caught a few of them as they zoomed past me, including Dan's favorite, with the Judd engine (leading in the first picture).



It was a fun day. And it was a good thing we went yesterday, because the rain moved in over-night, which would have been a spoiler for going today.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

It's Here Again - My Favorite Season

Fall stirs something deep inside me! I love it!