Wednesday, January 28, 2009

An American Kestrel in Benicia

A couple days ago, taking advantage of the gorgeous summer-like weather, Mike and I hiked up into the hills above Benicia. It was quite a climb to the top but worth it for the view:

Looking out over Lake Herman to the Suisun Bay and the reserve fleet, you can just see a few of the retired military ships in the upper right part of the photo. Beyond them, across the Suisun Bay, is Pittsburgh, just east of Concord.

In another direction:

Looking southwest, past Vallejo to the Alfred Zampa Memorial Bridge over the Carquinez Strait. C&H is the long low building to the left of the bridge, and above C&H you can see Highway I-80 snaking up into the hills, heading toward San Francisco.

But the best view we saw on that hike was this guy:

We first saw him hovering over the grassy field hunting for his dinner. Amazingly, he landed on this fence post, within zoom range of my little camera. Even more amazingly, I managed to hold my breath, and hold the camera still enough, to get this clear shot.

Mike thought he was a peregrine falcon; I was voting for red-tailed hawk.

We were both wrong.

Back home I found our predator in The Audubon Society Pocket Guide to Familiar Birds of North America. He's an American Kestrel. The two black sideburns on each side of his face made the identification easy. Here's another photo:
Isn't he amazing? He's the smallest north american falcon. To think, just a short hike from our home, we can see wildlife like this thriving in suburbia.

I hope no one ever develops that open land.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Lotsa Finished Projects!

I've had a very productive few days! I put a self-imposed limit on my internet time and made great progress on my list of UFO's (UnFinished Objects). Here are the things I've completed:

A small cross-stitch piece of a hummingbird and flowers. I put it in its frame for this photo, but it's not "properly" framed quite yet. I need to stretch it on the backing so that the faint crease down the middle is gone. Still, it's SO close to being finished that I'm counting it!

This is a coffee cup cozy, for use with those cardboard cups you get from Starbuck's and other coffee houses. This was only an hour-long project, including cutting out the fabric and hand-sewing the button on. I followed Erin's tutorial as posted on her blog, House on Hill Road, and which you can find here. I made this as a gift for my friend, Chris, in Napa.

(By the way, I photographed my coffee cup cozy in the macro photo studio that Mike and I built using a 12x12x12 cardboard box, some tissue paper, and a sheet of posterboard. Want to make one of your own? Check out this tutorial at Strobist!)

Next, I finally finished my Bargello quilt!!! This pattern is from the book, "No-Sweat Flannel Quilts," by Beth Garretson and is called "A Bit of Bargello."

I am especially happy about getting this done because I actually put together the quilt top 2 or maybe even 3 years ago, got it machine-quilted by Paula Gallagher of Quilt-in-Time in Benicia (as far as I know she doesn't have a website or I would list it), and then, for various reasons the quilt got put away and just remained stored in a closet, nearly forgotten.

When I took it out recently to finish it, I had to search all over for the fabric strips I was sure I had cut to make the binding. Two days later I finally found the strips at the bottom of a container of scraps. I stitched them together, then onto the quilt, and then did the hand-stitching while watching a movie. DONE!

By the way, for the BEST instructions EVER on how to bind a quilt, check out this tutorial at the Gratz Industries blog. Easy to follow, gorgeous results!

My bargello quilt is lap size and now I really regret not making it at least a twin-size. Bargello strip piecing goes really fast and looks great. Plus I just LOVE the colors. And look how cute it is on my white iron daybed!

Not to mention how pretty it looks next to the eyelet bedskirt on that same bed. ARGH, should have made it twin-size, and should have made two of them! I'll know better next time.

I spent much of today in the sewing room again, with Scout as company, as usual. She loves the sewing maching, she loves fabric, and she loves the warm ironing board. Now if I could just teach her to thread a needle!

My project today was this purse, the pattern is called "La Borsetta" by Meredith Burns. I bought the pattern and fabric at the Patchwork Cat quilt shop in Benicia. Sadly, the Cat is no more, as it's owner, Bonnie, closed it a couple of months ago. I still miss it! She had The Best fabric, and a lot that were cat-related, of course.

So the first photo shows the purse when it is laying down flat. This photo shows how it expands and can sit up by itself. It turned out really cute, I think. There are pockets on both the front and back, a ribbon and button closure, and two shoulder straps. Don't you love the cats 'n coffee themed fabric?

It's fully lined inside with another, coordinating fabric, and is a perfect size for an on-the-go knitting project, or just as a fun weekend bag. I do believe I'll be using it when I go off to Pacific Grove for a scrapbookers getaway this weekend, dahhh-ling!

Benicia Arsenal Post Cemetery 1849

Sunday afternoon we took a drive....

...and tucked away at end of Hospital Road in a southeast corner of Benicia is a small, and very old, military cemetery. As the name of the road implies, there used to be a hospital at this location as well, an army hospital, which was used between 1849 and 1854, and was the only army hospital on the West Coast. The hospital is long gone, but the cemetery remains.

The cemetery is known by a number of names, among them the Benicia Military Cemetery, the Benicia Army Cemetery, and the Benicia Post Cemetery. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Benicia Arsenal-Benicia Barracks Historic District. It is the oldest U.S. military post cemetery in the Pacific States.

This cemetery is the final resting place for 211 people; soldiers, civilians (including some women and children), and prisoners-of-war (Italian and German), as well as three dogs. Originally the graves were marked with wooden plaques but over the years became weather-worn to the point that the names could no longer be read.

When renovations were done and marble headstones erected in place of the wooden ones, many then had to be marked as Unknown.

Seven headstones mark the graves of German prisoners-of-war. These graves are in a far corner, away from the rest.

We found the lone Italian prisoner-of-war buried among the U.S. soldiers and speculated that by the time he died, 1944, Italy had become an ally of the U.S., thus explaining his priviledged resting place.

The cemetery burials date from 1849 through 1958.

The graves of the three dogs, complete with little American flags. These graves are in an area of their own, way off to one side. I wish they had dates on them!

A little later we drove by this building, recognizable by most Benicians; the Clock Tower. We paused to read the plaque out front which stated it was built in 1859 and originally had two towers. An explosion destroyed it in 1912 and when it was rebuilt it had only one tower, this time with a clock installed. We noticed that the clock does NOT keep the correct time!

We met this kitty by the art studios near the Port of Benicia. She was very friendly and let us pet her. Mike even gave her a little beef jerky. Her collar tag told us her name: Sunflower.

Oh, we did see another animal on our little outing, in the cemetery porta-potty:

A raccoon!!

Friday, January 23, 2009

My Eco-Friendly House and Car

I'm going to take a bit of a breather from the computer for the next two days. At least, that's the plan. Sometimes, even when I say that, I am drawn back by the need to just quickly check my e-mail, or read a few blogs, design just one thing, and pretty soon I've sat at my keyboard for most of a day.

So I'll leave you with just a few photos that I uploaded yesterday, and was going to upload a bunch more but got distracted by something .... hm, I think it was reading blogs first, then I designed a new piece of digital scrapbook paper (which you can see here), then Mike suggested a movie which I seldom pass up (we watched "21" as a Netflix instant play movie), then . . . I don't know, probably another movie and then I had new books from the library to delve into, well, you get the idea. I'm highly distractable (is that a word?) lately, and sometimes that just means I need a change of pace.

Thus, the breather from the computer. I'll spend time with a friend in Napa, outside taking photos of this sunny day in the midst of rainy ones, and in my craft room doing creative things with my hands that don't involve a keyboard.

Meanwhile, here are just a few photos from our recent driving tour of northern California (Redding, Eureka, Crescent City, etc.). I'll post more later. Maybe. Enjoy!
Here's my new eco-friendly house, LOL! Mike and I discovered this trio of "tree-houses" in Redding while we were visiting the Sundial Bridge and the nearby arboretum and gardens. Totally made of twisted vines and branches, they almost look like they grew there on their own.

Come on in!
Further north there were places to watch the wild elk.
Of course, they don't want you to get too close as they are highly unpredictable. I, of course, being a rebel, had to walk out past the sign warning me to stay back. (Mike takes pictures of such acts to have in case he ever needs "evidence.")
There was a huge puddle at one place that we drove through to get to the parking area. I saw a car barrel through there very fast with the water spraying up six feet high and thought, wow, that looks like fun! So my car, Pretty Penny (yes, my car has a name, all my cars have had names, don't yours?), and I decided to try it, too.
Who says a hybrid car can't also be daring? :-D

And a couple more photos to remind you to relax and take time to do the things you love:
The northern California coast.

A fly fisherman on the Sacrament River, Redding, CA.

Have a great weekend!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Never Give Up on Your Dreams


As many of you know, my son Rodrigo, has been trying to get into a Physician Assistant program for nearly two years now. Yesterday he interviewed at UC Davis School of Medicine for their PA program and shortly after the interview, while he was driving home, the school called and offered him a spot! Obviously the interviewers felt the same way Rodrigo did after the interview: that he and their program were a perfect fit!

Needless to say, we are all ecstatic! This was his NUMBER ONE choice of schools, and one of MY two first choices since it's located here in northern California, and that means he and his new bride, Dianna, will be moving up this way, whoohooooo!!!

Here is a look at the Physician Assistant curriculum:

This curriculum consists of 112.5 quarter units over eight quarters with courses in:

* Advanced Principles of Primary Health Care
* Behavioral Science
* Ethics
* Family Practice
* Family Theory
* Fundamentals of Primary Health Care (medicine)
* Geriatric Medicine
* Health Assessment
* Health Care of the Western Farmworker
* Pharmacology
* Professional Development
* Clinical Preceptorships
* Clinical Geriatrics
* In-patient Rotation
* Surgery Rotation

Finally, after years of working in the administrative side of the health care profession, Rodrigo will be moving into the hands-on patient care area, and his desire to work with the underserved populations of California is one of the specific situations for which UC Davis' program prepares its students.

Just goes to show: never give up on your dreams.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Digital Layout - Hiking at Skyline Wilderness Park

I recently posted about our hike at Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa, CA. Can you believe it, I actually got a layout made from the day, LOL! Well, I had some help. There's a template challenge going on at K-JOI and I love templates so here's my finished layout:
(template by K-JOI Studios / paper & elements by Club Scrap)

I love templates because I can use one to create a great layout very quickly. One of the hardest things about scrapbooking, whether traditional (paper) or digital, is designing a balanced and aesthetically pleasing layout. That's why page templates are such a great time-saver; someone else has already figured all that out for you!

One of the things I'm doing in my little biz this year is creating a lot of page templates to sell and/or give away as freebies. Keep your eye on my Webajeb blog for more info, and grab the templates (and other cool stuff, too) as they are posted!

In the mail today was a cross-stitch kit by Bucilla that I ordered (just what I need, yet another project). I'm excited, though, because this is one I've wanted to stitch up for a long time, have been on the lookout for the pattern and finally found it on the internet.
It's called Max's Moon and I think it's soooo cute! As soon as I finish the hummingbird I'm working on (soon!) I'll be starting on this one.

What are you working on?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Orange-striped Office-Mates

Mike took this photo of me at my desk with a cat on either side of me. He thinks it's pretty funny the way the cats have "arranged" my workspace to suit themselves. Actually, this crazy set-up has just sort of evolved over the past week or so.

First, Scout was being a super-pest, always wanting to be in my lap while I'm trying to work. Then Jack would get up on my desk and squeeze himself behind my laptop (where it's warm) and lay on top of the wires and cables for a nap. After awhile I was tired of Scout being on my lap all the time so I opened up one of the top side drawers on my desk and placed a folded blanket in it. She took to it immediately.

Well, it wasn't long before Jack started bulldozing his way onto Scout's spot and then Scout was back to insisting on sitting on my lap.

The other top side drawer was opened, another blanket folded up and placed there, and now they are both happy. Anytime I'm in the office, they are, too. Now, if I could just get them to help me with some of my work!

When I've had enough of the computer I like to relax with a piece of needlework like this:
Just one of my many in-work projects!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Word of the Year - 2009

I was still undecided on whether or not to make New Year's resolutions this year when I came across Tip Junkie's "Talk to me Tuesday" post. Instead of making a list of resolutions you come up with a single word that sums up what you want for yourself for the upcoming year.

Click on the banner above for more details straight from Tip Junkie's blog and be sure to join in on the fun yourself. Bonus! Tip Junkie will be giving away a custom pendant by Tabetha of Reminisce Heirlooms with the winner's Word of the Year inscribed on it.

My Word of the Year? Well, naturally my first inclination is to pick a word like Wealthy or Rich, but I'm guessing that's not quite the point of the exercise, lol. So, in order to help combat what I think of as one of my worst faults - procrastination (or you could just call me plain ol' lazy) - I've decided to go with a word that will serve as a reminder to just get movin' already:


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Hiking in Skyline Park - Napa, CA.

The boots are out!
Yesterday we went on our first hike of 2009. Mike found some info on the internet about Skyline Park, in the south end of Napa, CA. We decided to check it out. I packed a couple of apples, a bottle of water, and a little candy, and we both brought our cameras. It was a cold day, but it was also our first clear (non-foggy) day of the year so we jumped at the chance to get outdoors.

We found Skyline Park easily, parked, and walked to the trail entrance. The "Rules of the Road" were quite clear:
Bicycles have to watch out for hikers; everyone has to get out of the way of horses. We saw lots of both, as well as many other hikers; it was a busy day on the lower trails.

Some of the other signs were not so comforting!
I was hoping it was too cold a day for any of those critters to be out and about!
Hm! I'm not particularly scared of bears, but then I've never encountered one out in the open before either. Then there was this sign:
I've heard enough stories about these big cats hiding in the trees and dropping down onto unsuspecting hikers or runners to be a bit wary. Mike shrugged it off, but I was definitely keeping an eye on the overhanging branches. I have a lot of respect for cats and their stalking and hunting abilities!
The trails were nice; mainly well-marked, variable, and through different terrain, which made it fun and interesting. Some of it was rough-going, especially when the trial went steeply uphill, or the last 2 miles which was ALL downhill (ouch on old knees).

We came across the remains of what looked like old buildings that had been carved out of the rocks and hillsides. We aren't sure what they were used for, there weren't any goldmines in that area that we know of.

I love moss-covered rocks. I took lots of photos of them along our hike, but this one's my fave:
The green moss in the sun was so pretty!

One of the things Mike loves is CAVES. Any cave, any abandoned mine, any lava tube, and he's IN. Too bad he didn't have any light source on-hand because there were a number of caves that he'd have crawled right into if he'd been able to see at all:
This is Lake Marie:This is probably the first "destination" that hikers aim for in this area, and where most turn around. After we reached Lake Marie we had a decision to make. Turn around and go back the same way we came, which would have been a nice, manageable first hike of the year. Or, continue, up to the peak (1,640 feet!) and back around via the ridge trail. I knew that we should play it safe, and go back, we could explore the rest another time, but true to form, I couldn't resist the urge to see what was around the next corner and I suggested we go on. Oops!

The map we were using didn't give a scale so it was difficult to estimate distances, nor did it have elevation. Well, we knew how high the peak was but I thought we were already perhaps 3/4 of the way up and I really wanted to see the view.

It turned out the trail went DOWN for quite awhile first, then it went up but we had to regain all the elevation we had lost. I was starting to feel the burn! Partway up we found a huge overhanging rock and, after making sure there were no mountain lions sunning themselves on it, we rested there while we ate our apples.
We did make it all the way to the peak, with many rest stops for me, and once there were surprised to find frost on the grass in the shady areas:
Then when we came out of the trees on the other side of the peak we could see all of the south end of Napa Valley. . .
. . . the "new" bridge cross the Napa River at Imola. . .. . . and pretty much the entire city of Napa!
The views were spectacular; I wish my photos did it justice. Guess you'll just have to make the hike yourself! It's worth it, really!

Of course, by the time we got back to the car we had hiked approximately 8 miles and I could barely walk. Getting old is NOT for sissies! That last downhill part was TOUGH. Today I'm doing pretty well, but I'm still sore. I think I'd have felt worse today if not for the steaming hot bath I took as soon as we got home. (I think I may take another one this evening!)

It was definitely a fun day. We were intrigued by the area and will probably be doing some internet research to find out more about its history.

If any of you know anything about that area, please leave a comment and fill me in!