Friday, April 24, 2009

Pinnacles National Monument - Nine Mile Hike

We spent Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday at the Pinnacles National Monument near Hollister, California. This is one of our favorite places to hike and camp. We always try to go in the spring and/or fall because in the summer it is just wayyyy too hot, and in the winter it can be unbearably cold, especially at night.

Well, this visit turned out to be unseasonably warm, or should I say, HOT! It was like July or August instead of April. On the other hand, because of the recent rains the wildflowers were out in full force, and looked absolutely incredible. We saw flowers we'd never seen before, and in such quantities that they blanketed the ground in many places. And the green grass and leaves! It was really beautiful. I just wish I were a better photographer so that I could do proper justice to the gorgeous scenery.

Mike's photos are much better than mine but since he hasn't given me copies yet, and he's gone to bed, you'll have to make do with my poorer efforts!

Usually it's the Pinnacles themselves (caused by a long-ago volcanic eruption) that are the attraction . . .

. . . but this time the flora stole the show. Here are just a few of the photos I took of the wildflowers, grass, and trees:

...the easy part of our hike....LOL!

. . . hummingbirds love these. . .they are Common Monkeyflower . . .

. . . we'd never seen these before, they are called Virgin's Bower. . .

. . . not sure which member of the Pea family these purples beauties are . . .

. . . of course, California poppies were everywhere . . .
. . . amazing, even growing out of cracks in the rocks. . .

. . .switchbacks took us ever higher . . . just look at all that green. . .

. . . and what a view from up there . . .

. . . oh, and we can't forget the young, healthy poison oak EVERYWHERE. . .
my favorite plant . . . NOT!

. . we also saw this cool dude sunning himself on a rock . . .

. . . and explored Balconies Caves with teensy flashlights.

Must admit, though, that this next photo was my absolute fave of the day:

Mike, who looks so cute, and my CAR waiting patiently for us at the end of a long, hot & dry, nine-mile hike. Ahh, the pleasure of moving from one place to another while sitting still!

Amazingly, we neither of us had blisters, but I had aching hips and knees, and my feet were so tired they burned. We didn't take quite enough water but at least I did have sunblock for skin AND lips, and we wore good hats.

And you can bet the pool at the campground felt AWESOME.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Cat, Bees, and a Cemetery

Wow, way too long since I've posted here. I've been posting at the Webajeb blog, though. This past week I've been very focused on making Webajeb website changes, getting my online store functioning (and I did all by myself!), and now am busily uploading my digital products AND creating new ones. I'm having such a good time now that all that boring and tedious techie stuff is pretty much done! And I must say, I've learned a LOT. But the designing & creating is what I truly love. There's inspiration all around me. Inspiration came in the mailbox this past week in the form of junk mail! I made two new digital scrapbook page layouts based on that piece of advertising. You can see them here.

So...what have I been doing on a more personal! Must confess, not a lot. I've been spending most of my time in front of the computer in my little dark hole of an office. It's a good thing my friend, Betsie, asked me to visit her cat, Fitz, while she is away traveling, or I mightn't have gotten out of the house at all! Here's the handsome guy:
Earlier this week we did take a drive out to Bloomfield, in Sonoma County. Way back, I bought the BEST honey at Bloomfield Bees & Bouquets and I'm almost out so I wanted to get some more. We found the farm stand just fine using the address I got from the internet, only to find that the beekeepers have moved. There was no new address posted, but am sure I will be able to find it on the internet (I know they have a website). Anyway, here is a photo of their oh-so-cute little farmstand:
It's on the honor system; you can see a box attached to the door on the left. It's got a slot in the top where you drop in your money for whichever item you buy. Gotta love that! Unfortunately, they were totally out of the large jars of honey I was after! I ended up buying some creamed honey out of the little white refrigerator, and Mike got a small container of honey with the comb still in it. I guess we are going to have to find their new place if I want my big jar of honey.

The address of the farm stand showed the city as Sebastopol. But very nearby was a teensy town named Bloomfield so I guess that's where Bloomfield Bees got its name. We decided to explore this little town of Bloomfield and found it to be very small. The entire downtown area seems to consist of a restaurant (Stormy's), a masonic lodge, and the town hall. A block away is a single building that is the Bloomfield School. A few streets of houses are nearby and, at the very top of a hill, the Bloomfield Cemetery. Since we love old cemeteries we had to get out and have a look. Here are some photos:
Some very old headstones, dating back to the mid-1800's.

I tried to look up Bloomfield on the internet, curious about how many people live there, but couldn't find a number for how many people live there. The town came into being in 1856 and at one point in the late 1850s, it was the second largest town in Sonoma County. In 1877 it had four hotels and a population of 250. Then the railroad passed it by and it stopped growing. So I'm guessing the population is probably about the same. From what we saw, that seems about right.

The other reason I'd wanted to go to Bloomfield Bees was to possibly talk to the beekeepers about starting up a beehive in the backyard. I don't know where it has come from, but lately I've had this obsession with beehives. Wha'? I just want one in my backyard so that I can harvest my own honey. Is that crazy? I've been tempted, while driving I-5 to snag one of the hundreds that are visible in the fruit orchards, and take it home. I could do it in the winter while it's cold and the bees are hibernating. When they woke up in the spring they would be in my back yard! I did a little research and have found that a start-up hive with a queen and some drones and all the equipment needed to maintain it would be around $650.00. Yikes!

Maybe I'll just go buy a jar of honey instead.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Suisun City Waterfront - A Walk with Friends

Mike, with our friends, Linda and Allen, from Roseville.

The four of us met in Suisun City for lunch and a stroll around this charming little town; none of us had ever been here before. It was terribly windy, but not too cold and the sun was out in full force so it was actually a pretty nice day. The old building they are standing in front of caught my eye, of course, due to my recent fascination with old buildings, especially falling-down ones. And this one is falling down; check out this next photo:
Funniest part is, the building is for sale! (I had Mike stand directly in front of the For Sale sign so that it wouldn't ruin my picture, ha!) We peeked in the windows and could see that this building used to house a mexican restaurant. My guess is whoever buys it will have to bulldoze it down completely and start over, which is actually kind of a shame.

Here are several photos of the Suisun City waterfront, a nice little area with restaurants, shops, offices and, of course, boats.

That lighthouse is not a real one; we walked over there and found it is more a piece of art, built in the late 1990's and was dedicated on July 4th. I did find a reference on the internet to Suisun City's huge fireworks show each Independence Day; it is supposed to be the biggest in the area. We may have to check that out this summer.

We had lunch at Bab's Delta Diner:
It is 50's style and had a really friendly crew. Our waitress told us Babs is her grandmother, and that several generations of the family still own and work at the restaurant including her mother, Debbie, and her son, who works on weekends. The food was good and the service friendly. I'd definitely eat there again and next time I won't pass up the home-made bluberry cobbler!

While walking around the very interesting residential area we came across this old Dodge that Linda said was just like a car she'd had when she was a lot younger, except hers had been red.

I wish I'd taken more photos of the houses; they all had so much personality. One looked like it used to be a schoolhouse, and it was on School Street, too. I did get this one photo but I was actually more interested in that amazing purple wisteria.
I know we only saw a small part of this little town, since we were on foot. I'd like to go back with our bicycles and really explore the entire area. I read that the It's-It ice cream sandwiches are made here, somewhere, and that the company has recently opened a small retail store next to their factory, where you can buy the sandwiches.

That alone is worth a trip back! Who's up for meeting us there???

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Jack Kitten - the Summer of '05

Ya gotta say it - "Awwwwwww!"
I've been scanning printed photos (or their negatives, if I still have them) from 2005. It's a tedious job but like most tasks, when I look hard enough I can usually find something that makes the work well worthwhile. In this case, I didn't even have to look very hard.

My BFF, Judy, is making me something - I'm guessing a book of some sort - using my and her emails back and forth to each other, and photos, from 2005. She has asked me for a long list of photos from that year, to go along with the stuff I wrote about in my emails. When I went looking for photos that she could use I realized that in 2005 I was still using (mainly) my Canon print camera, and was only just learning to use a small digital camera I'd gotten for the previous Christmas. (It's sad to see the very poor quality of my digital photos from that year, but at least I can see that I have since improved a thousand-fold!)

So, the days of scanning are going to be well worth it just for that, but there are other benefits, too. Since I'm a digital scrapbooker it's awesome to now have those photos in digital format and available for digital layouts. I can use them on my website, my blogs, email them to people, or share them at sites such as Photobucket or Flickr. Plus, they are now backed up on my external backup drive. If the prints or negatives get wet, or my laptop has a melt-down, no problem; I have backup copies!

In fact, I'm thinking I won't even keep the prints or the negatives. I think the negatives can be thrown away and the prints given away to whoever might want them. And....if no one wants them, I'm pretty sure I'm going to (gasp!) throw them out, too!

Yeah, a little scary, but I can't hold on to everything; my house is just too small. As long as I have digital versions I can always print out a copy if I ever want to. As I'm scanning the photos I have been tagging them with people's names, events, etc., so they're super-easy to find later. In fact, if I want to do a special layout for a specific person (or pet!) I can quickly retrieve all photos tagged with that person's name. Much easier than shuffling through piles of printed photos no matter how organized they are.

Oh, and one last bennie? Finding photos like the one at the top of this post! My guy-cat, Jack, when he was just a few months old and during one of his earliest explorations of the outdoors. Wow. Was he ever CUTE!

And since the photo is now digital I was able to bump up the color, sharpen it a bit, and then try out some creative cropping.

Bringing the focus forward to Jack:

Putting a slight leftward tilt on the photo:

And my fave, a very definite rightward tilt for a really fun look:
Jack-Jack the Jungle Cat

Can't wait to do some more scanning tomorrow!