Sunday, July 31, 2011


I’m in Murphys for a reason. To get important chores done. They never go away, it seems. It was time to take the lists, make an assessment of what I can and cannot finish and plan my return.

On that list was to replace my stolen bike. And I did.  But, it isn’t new! And, I don’t actually have it yet. I went to a bicycle shop, Ken’s Bike and Ski, in Davis, and another shop as well. I rode six different bikes and the one that was comfortable and stood out from the rest, I bought. It maneuvered beautifully, light in weight, fit me perfectly, and I was estactic. I got home, on my own hilly terrain and my calves and thighs seized painfully within a mile. Yesterday, I drove back 121 miles to Davis. The manager talked me into keeping it. I respected his words when he said, “We don’t want to send you home with a bike you are uncomfortable with.”  He took a laser measurement of my whole body. He adjusted the bike, seat and handlebars several times. He watched me ride and assessed my positioning and habits and I happily started back home. But, before driving the distance I decided to try the bike on the Davis Bike Paths where one can get a serious bike workout. After a 45 minute ride,  serious cramping in my calves and thighs was no longer a problem.  But one thumb went numb and one knee tweaked and my shoulders were uncomfortable.  These highly engineered bikes require  a specialized fit as all of YOU probably already know. I’m a newbie. It’s easier to buy a car than a bike!
And, I must say, the people at Ken’s Bike And Ski were terrific folks to deal with. I just didn’t have the time to spend another couple of days going back and forth for the adjustments they offered me.  In the meantime, my son-in-law has given me his old “junker” bike, which never gives me a problem when I ride it. Plus, it will have less appeal to a thief. At Ken’s Bike Shop, I bought a wonderful kryptonite chain lock that  can’t be cut with a bolt cutter. I won’t be able to connect it to the motor home until November, so Jim and I will have to share his bike until then.
Today, is revamp the lists, finish up what cannot wait and make return travel arrangements.

Saturday, July 30, 2011


On Thursday, we set out to bicycle Davis, notably a bicycle friendly town with well-marked  lanes that can take you through a loop around town of about 35 miles. In high traffic areas, people are ultra considerate of bicyclers. They must have had bike riders on their city council.

Virginia and I were riding pretty sophisticated bikes, while Theo, weighing about 60 pounds has a small one-gear hard pumping  pedal bike.   Our first stop was a school playground for a rest.

The kids at this school have an organic garden. Besides standard fare, they had planted  and were learning about swiss chard, amaranth, quinoa, artichokes, herbs and sunflowers.
The bike trail runs by every school in Davis so kids can bike to school instead of bus, and many do. We saw walkers, riders, and  kids on the bike paths on their way to summer fun.
Virginia joked  that the freeway overpass at Chilies Road is the only hill in Davis.

Our goal was brunch at a favorite Davis restaurant, famous for their crepes and wraps, and fresh pastries. The kids enjoyed rich hot chocolate while waiting for their food. Theo had blueberry pancakes and sausage, but Owen  had a strawberry chocolate crepe that was the equivalent of a candy bar for his meal.

This was our turn around point at 6 miles. Davis has bike racks all over town and it is necessary to lock up bikes.  We could have taken a different way back to our starting point but the kids voted to return the way we came. We had passed at least four parks with playground equipment and they wanted a shot at one of them.

Within five minutes, Virginia’s tire went flat.

The same tire went flat a second time after another five minutes. It was obvious the tire needed to be changed.

Theo rested in a nearby tree.

Owen gave mom an assist and learned how the job is done. Done quickly, actually. Modern bikes are well-engineered for repairs on the road. Since Virginia has thousands of miles on her bike, she knows the necessity of on the spot tire changes.

And, their playground of choice has one of those (now banned by most schools and parks in California) a self-propelled merry-go-round.  They’ve been in parks and schools since I was a kid. It’s sometimes difficult to understand the over protective mind-set of decision makers. It probably has to do with avoiding law suits. (I promise not to rant.)

Later, at karate classes, the boys did some sparring.

Defensive skills are only part of the process. They learn values;  courage, attitude, perseverance, politeness, respect and consideration of others.

The littlest kids are a hoot to watch. Pure joy.

Friday, July 29, 2011


My youngest daughter still has “little people”, those all too short years when the kids are busily growing into adults as you watch, except that you don’t realize how fast it happens. When I visit I get to be a kid again. Virginia and I swam at the community pool-Olympic sized.  The lanes are longer than those I’ve been swimming at the parks,  and challenging for someone as out of shape as I am. What a welcome respite from the heat in the late afternoon.

Both boys had lessons and testing that day, as well.

We popped over to the farmer’s market for dinner. Luscious choices to bring home and tasty choices among the food vendors.

I usually buy  more than I can eat.  This time I restrained myself.

We each chose different dinner items; for myself, rosemary naan and lamb kabob wrap on Indian flat bread. Virginia chose spinach cheese ravioli and a greek salad; the boys liked their corn dogs, chips and lemonade. We were all pleased with out choices. Too full for dessert, I eyed the wonderful choices in popsicles, even so.

Not all of them appear to be dessert. The kids chose sweet pastries and kettlecorn.

Next time I go, I’ll suggest they offer a taster dish of the various choices.

This farmer’s market, held in the city park, includes fair items like a balloon lady, a bouncy house, a rock climbing set-up, a water slide and sales kiosks with other merchandise besides the agricultural items. The kids love to go there.

After dinner, Owen showed me how well he can  type.  The letters are covered and he is learning to type without hunting and pecking.

They leave that up to the chickens.

The hens have free range of the yard and lay an egg a day. Four hens for a family of four provides enough organic eggs to share with the neighbors now and then.

Their own backyard garden provides tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, and lettuces in surprisingly small space. I slept like a log Wednesday night. Being a kid is hard work!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


As part of simplifying my life, I’m removing files and pictures from an old computer. The process is difficult because electronics don’t always respond the same way every time. I have this experience often and someone, (I won’t say who) blames it on human error. But why should electronics be any different from a human or an animal? They don’t respond in the same way either.

This mutt I met on my walk yesterday, was on the opposite side of the street. He stopped, looked at me warily and then crossed over in front of me and headed for the woods. Very untrusting and unfriendly.

This stray cat, on the other hand,  is thin. Her fur is  full of burrs and pitch. She has let me pet her. She is  quite trusting and friendly.
Jim’s free call from his computer had electronic overtones  yesterday. And, my camera has again decided not to flash.   I can only say who can understand electronics…or strays.
The picture project is difficult. Some burns produce a sensible album from picture   jpeg#147 to 260. Others divide, with 1 picture in one file, 26 in another, 39 in another and so on. They come up  jumbled and out-of-order. The computer technology is ancient,  from 2003.

I’m leaving to visit my daughter for a couple of days, so I may as well enjoy the flowers I see on my morning walk. They, my friends, are constantly changing, but I understand them.  They never do anything that I don’t expect.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I received a call from my Murphys renters that the swamp cooler had quit working. The expensive motor, not the cheap water pump, they told me. It was 92 degrees. Not good news. I called Art Alexander, my favorite repair guy, and left him a message- it was Sunday. Half an hour later, the renters called to report the back up system, their heat pump/air conditioner had just quit.  Groan.  Said heat pump is 33 years old. A replacement will probably run $5,000. And, my water pressure reducer wasn’t supplying enough pressure to kick on the on-demand gas water heater adequately. I guess it’s my karma to have everything go wrong at once.
I called plumber, Art Wells, and luckily got his wife. She set it up for him to come Monday at 8:00.

Art arrived promptly yesterday morning and had my water pressure reducer replaced in 15 minutes. The part was filled with gunk.
Then Art Alexander quickly repaired the swamp cooler without even stopping by to say hello to me. It was a too tight belt that wore out two bearings. The swamp cooler was up and running. The heat pump will need a major overhaul, but it’s  not fatal. He will repair it this week.

As it happened, Karen , Julie and Barbara stopped by for a visit and just for the heck of it, I took my non-flashing camera and tried for a low light picture of them since Julie rarely visits. And, voila’.  I had just ordered my new camera on-line hours earlier, and the flash decided to work. Whaa?

A second try, of Barbara,  confirmed, it is indeed working. Who can explain electronics? I spent two days, as did Jim, helping me pick the perfect camera. We both concluded that the camera is on the way out. So, the purchase was a good idea, but I thought Jim would never stop laughing.

In the meantime, the camera is still holding on until the new one arrives. I took this on my morning walk. A more colorful bird than the one-legged hawk of several days ago.
There must be good hunting near-by. Two other red tails were circling  above looking for breakfast. Beautiful.

Monday, July 25, 2011


My neighbor, Jan, recently purchased a solar oven and has been having fun experimenting with it.  Besides casseroles she has made corn bread and cookies. The experimental stage. Her oven is a pretty fancy affair and most likely performs better than mine. About twenty years ago, I did the same thing. I bought a solar oven, a very simple affair of folded cardboard with aluminized sides, and that’s it folks. I’d have friends come up from the Bay Area, throw a chicken and some veggies in the black pot, stick it in the solar oven and go wine tasting or trekking antique stores with them.  Then come home to a fully cooked casserole. Delicious and easy.

I wore out my original one, and made a couple of them at home out of card board boxes and aluminum foil.  They didn’t work as well. I baked cookies once on a plastic form that I had from a recent purchase and the plastic melted on one end showing me that the heat in my cardboard box was uneven. The cookies all turned out fine. I should have used a Styrofoam meat tray for my cookie tray instead. Everyone I’ve fed a meal from my solar oven is amazed at how good the food tastes. Jan inspired me to get out my solar oven and put this heat we’ve been having to good use.  I was expecting company and here is what I cooked:
I placed six Italian Sausage in the bottom of the (black is required even if you have to paint it black) pan. Over them I placed six chicken breasts. I added a 1/2 cup of chicken broth, 1/4 cup garlic wine vinegar, and several sprigs of fresh thyme then covered everything with veggies. Two cloves of garlic, crushed and sliced, some mixed deli black and green Mediterranean olives with a bit of the juice,; a diced  half of red onion, a small red bell pepper, about ten frozen brussels sprouts, a peproncini and a hot prosciutto stuffed pepper that also came from the deli Mediterranean olive mix available at practically any grocery store these days. I cut it up small to spread the flavor around. (I’ve also made this dish with six preperoncini from a jar without the olives,  but I liked the olive mixture better.) A meal like this will cook in about two to four hours, depending on how bright the sun is, meaning, summer like now. In winter, it takes longer. You also have to have full sun on your cooker the whole time. With my trees grown so tall, I now have to move my cooker around to keep it in full for more than two hours.

The finished casserole looked like this. It was absolutely yummy. I might mention Jan hates brussels sprouts, but loved them from the solar oven. No bitterness, wonderfully tender and sweet.  The best benefit of cooking in a solar oven, is you can’t over cook or burn anything.

I served this over rice, cooked in a solar hot pot. I could have put the rice in the casserole, and have done that with good results. Or next to the casserole in it’s own black pot. But I like having the little solar hot pot for heating up leftovers while I type, or cooking polenta without stirring, or a sweet side dish like carrots with butter, red wine and brown sugar. It also bakes a single layer of a cake mix or six  cupcakes  fitted into a round single layer cake pan. Both ovens fold up into a small package, by the way.  The other thing I like about solar ovens is that if you buy one from Solar Cookers International, you can share with third world countries a cooking concept that is easy to build, easy to use, saves trees and expensive fuel, usually gas or oil, for people who live without power in remote villages. Of course, solar ovens also serve people who live in regular housing as well. SCI is a non-profit organization that delivers five solar ovens to people that need them for every one that you buy. A great $25 donation.  There web site is:
But, if you type in solar cooking, or solar cookers in your search engine, all of the solar companies will pop up. It makes for some interesting choices. In Africa, for instance, they have small restaurants that operate on big solar cookers. They make solar “fryers”, and give you directions on how to make one at home from a disguarded television dish that the companies never come and pick up. Its a fun read and a fun thing to do. Great for the RV life and the environment. What’s not to like?

Sunday, July 24, 2011


Becoming a blogger has expanded my experience and knowledge of computer and photography. This shelf of photo albums is two of five shelves filled with pictures that I rarely look into.

However, with digital photography, This box holds all of my pictures  from 2003, which includes  hefty picture-taking trips to China, Alaska, Peru, and Thailand and seven months of meandering across the United States and back last year. They give me so much pleasure. Oh, that it were easy to convert all of my older pictures to digital, I would do it in a flash. Digital photography is a marvelous technology and then…and then… my camera,  for no, discernible reason, quit taking flash pictures.
Hunting for a camera on-line is hard work. I feel fortunate that so many cameras are given very detailed revues by photography magazine editors and professional users as well as hobby photographers.  Hundreds of  models to choose from made me cross-eyed. Features continue to increase as technology advances and you know fully loaded features are just bells and whistles that you’ll never use.  Most of the day was spent on-line but I did get out early with my now limited camera in hand and caught this unusual sight.

I heard the chain saw before I got to this new neighbor’s place. Grateful that my zoom wasn’t gone, I caught this interesting photo.

What I didn’t think to focus on was the three men hanging around watching as she did the cutting.

I  couldn’t see the  tree and why it had to be felled. A dead tree behind a screen of live ones is what I expect  she was removing.  I can use a chain saw, and have, for small cuts; trimming.  But, I have  never felled a tree.  All I can say is Wow!  I must get acquainted with my new neighbor.

Friday, July 22, 2011


People swear by their own special cures for ailments or bad habits. Some people swear by the health-giving benefits of owning a dog or a cat. It has been scientifically proven that pets provide many healthy benefits besides unconditional love.
I just finished reading The Good Good Pig, by Sy Montgomery. Sy developed an unusual and adoring attachment to a pig she named Christopher Hogwood.  She claims all pigs are intelligent, sensitive souls. They love and crave company, and contact. They have a sense of humor, enjoy a good joke, appreciate music. Certainly nothing you’d expect from a relationship with a pork chop.

In her book she mentions E.O. Wilson who had ten thousand ants living in his office at Harvard. He would look at them through his microscope and could actually detect individual differences in them, much to his awe and delight.
Ants and pigs  don’t necessarily cure anything except  the blues, but Sy and her friends and neighbors clearly doted on this pig and claim to have learned much about humanity from him. Mostly that animals aren’t corrupted by greed like humans are. Now that is a truth one can count on.
But, I think if I were to get another pet, it would be a camel.

Consider that if we have a planetary holocaust, the Sheiks of Araby will outlive us all. They are used to an inhospitable land of desiccating heat; they have camels to provide transportation and food, plus dung for fuel. Camels  can live on practically nothing; you can seek shelter beside them in a sand storm, take liquid from their humps and then their milk has ten times the anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties of cow’s milk. It’s naturally low in fat, and has triple the vitamin C.  It is the closest thing to mother’s milk. Camels also have an insulin-like protein that survives the digestive tract.  I’m not sure why that is important, maybe their spit is good for you.
My advice to you is if you spot a camel in your travels, you might want to latch onto that baby.
But, in the meantime, I got another remedy in my mail from elmhurst:  “To ward off cramps in a foot or toe, take your thumb and first finger and gently squeeze the area just below the nose. This may have to be repeated for a very bad cramp or charley horse, but it works.”
Thank you for that.
And, Donna Parker questioned Elaine May’s balsamic vinegar cure for hiccups claiming her family’s cure is best because you can cure hiccups anywhere. You won’t be carrying along a bottle of balsamic on the plane or a picnic, right?  She has a point.
Donna’s cure: “Fold your hands as if in prayer interlocking the finger’s except for the index ones. Concentrating on getting the index fingers as close together without touching and before you know it you no longer have the hiccups.”
I almost wish I’d get the hiccups so I can try some of these cures!  I know for a fact that animals get hiccups, I wonder what works for them?

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Yesterday hit 92 degrees. I  was dreading it.  I keep my doors and windows open and let in the night breezes. I have to wear a sweat shirt when I get up at 5:00 a.m. I closed everything up when it reached 60 degrees. By lunchtime it was 89 degrees. In the house,  It was still cold and decided to eat lunch on the deck for a little warmth.

It was comfortingly warm and balmy, I felt like I was taking a warm bath. Delicious. The only downside was eating alone. But I chuckled as I thought of Jim, in his sweats, having cold rainy mornings. Hmmm! Even Northern California weather has a lot to recommend it.  Low humidity is key. I like it.

Earlier I picked strawberries for my breakfast. And, before it got too hot, I took a walk.
This young Red Tail Hawk was perched on a low wire, and I stopped to take his picture.  He  stayed there for several minutes while I watched.

It wasn’t until I loaded my pictures into my computer that I noticed something unusual about this hawk. Do you see it? Then I realized why he  flew only a short distance away to a nearby tree.  There was another bigger hawk, probably a female,  nearby calling from atop a telephone pole.

He may have a mate. I’ll watch for him in the coming days. I know hawks stay within a range of about ten to twenty-five miles.