Sunday, May 29, 2011


We high-tailed it out of town on Thursday afternoon in an attempt to beat the holiday traffic on our way up to Yosemite. Of course, there's no getting around L.A. traffic... It turned our 5 hour trip into a 6.5 hour journey. Upon arrival, we figured out it was well worth the wait. It was 43 degrees when we arrived at the Tenaya Lodge. The valet attendants had two fires burning to warm us as we jumped out of the car. The air smelled lovely - all piney and fresh!

We were really fortunate to plan our trip when we did. Yosemite had experienced an unprecedented winter. Record snowfalls and the subsequent melt had produced raging waterfalls - the likes of which had not been seen in a generation. Everyone we met talked excitedly about the beauty we were going to experience the following morning.

Our lodge was one mile from the south entrance of Yosemite. The closest attraction to the South Entrance is the Mariposa Grove- giant Sequoia trees for as far as the eye could see. The photo above is of the girls on a fallen Sequoia. I had no idea that Sequoia trees need fire to reproduce - once we learned that fact, it explained why so many of the trees had char marks on their massive trunks. I have to hunt down James' photos of the Grove because my photos didn't turn out great - I was messing around too much with the settings on my camera and most were overexposed...

After a 2 mile hike through the Grove, we backtracked to the South entrance and made our way into the heart of the park along Wawona Road. We pulled off the side of the road about 7 miles in when we saw this small waterfall:

Last year, this would have been a small trickle of water along Alder Creek. It was our first indication that what everyone had been saying was true - we were in for some beautiful sightings! Also, the Park Service announced that (Friday) morning that Glacier Ridge Road, usually closed from early October until early June, was going to open at noon. We passed about 50 cars lined up at the gate to road around 10:30AM and decided to hit Glacier Ridge on our way back out of the park. We continued on the Wawona Road toward Yosemite Valley - the heart of the National Park.

Our next stop was Inspiration Point. It is a massive granite outcrop that (if you hop over the wall and climb down some smaller rocks) offers an impressive view of the Yosemite Valley. At this stop, we found out that Josie LOVES rock climbing! I would never have guessed - she is soooo NOT our daredevil child!!

On the rocks at Inspiration Point

On the right is Bridal Veil Falls, on the left Half Dome and El Capitan.

Another view from Inspiration Point

We went through a tunnel that connected the Wawona Road (Rt.41) to the Southside Drive. As soon as you exit the tunnel there is another viewing area. Breathtaking is the only word I can use and it seems an understatement...

Here, it looks like Josie is propped up against a fake background! It was just so beautiful!

I thought this shot offered a bit of perspective... How incredible is this view?!

We made our way into Yosemite Village to park the car and take the hike up to the Lower Yosemite Falls. (1 mile loop) We found the wildlife to be quite at home in the village:

Seems even the deer know to use the crosswalks!

Yosemite Falls was raging!! You could hear and feel the rumble of the water hitting the rocks long before getting near.

We took quite a few photos at the base of the falls, but the spray was overwhelming - my camera was nearly soaked! After viewing the Falls, drying off and grabbing a light lunch we headed back toward the South Entrance with a planned stop at Glacier Point. ( We didn't know it until late Saturday, but we truly were very, very lucky to get up to Glacier Point - the park rangers closed Glacier Point Road on Friday night and it didn't reopen... Snow was falling on Saturday night and as we left on Sunday morning!)

Taken from Washburn Point (elev. ~6700ft)

Washburn Point

We finally made it to Glacier Point (elev. 7214 FT):

Yosemite Valley floor as seen from Glacier Point

There was still about 8-10 feet of snow on the side of Glacier Point Road as we made our way back down and headed home - it was about 7PM and we had a really full day!

On Saturday, our pace was much slower. The traffic in the park had increased about ten-fold due to the holiday visitors. We planned to take the gentle hike to Mirror Lake/meadow and then have lunch at the beautiful Ahwahnee Hotel. Again, because of the record snowfall and melt, Mirror Lake was not offering reflective views. The usually still and slow moving waters were raging - but it was a beautiful sight.

Here, my Daredevils return from climbing a rock... James does not set a good example!

And finally, just a few shots taken while we were waiting to be seated for lunch: (the weather turned quite chilly and windy soon after... glad I took these while the weather was still nice)

Yosemite Falls from the Ahwahnee Hotel

As I mentioned above, it was snowing when we left our hotel at 7:30 this morning. When we pulled in the driveway here around 1PM it was 70 degrees and sunny. Just a small indication of how incredibly diverse the geography of California is. Until next time... :-)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

House Painting 101

"The Jordans" ( first and second on right) and their crew

Over the past 11 years we have lived in 4 states and bought/sold 5 houses. This is the first time that we have ever had the exterior of our home painted. Our house here in California is a typical Spanish style house. It has a stucco exterior, curved tile roof and wood facia trim. We've lived here for a bit under 2 years so it was time to update the ONLY white house in our neighborhood.

The color of the house is regulated by the Home Owners Association. We were limited by the color palate for not only our style of home but in which subdivision of the overall community we reside. I cheated a bit with the color selection... our neighbors Steve and Lori had their house painted in the same palate just a month ago. (They have the only other Spanish style house on our cul de sac.)

Back in March, we were solicited by two young men we now refer to as "The Jordans". They are college students who have their own house painting business . They dropped off an information sheet, a list of references and photos of their completed works. They followed up with a phone call and a visit to the house for a no cost/obligation estimate. James said he would much rather have our money go to kids working their way through college as opposed to a commercial painting company. We signed a contract with them in April and they followed up in early May with a proposed schedule, color chips and a walk-through of the process.

The Jordans and their crew arrived on time (6:30AM!) on Tuesday morning. They conducted a safety drill with all the workers before beginning work - ladders, ropes, harnesses - the works. I was so very impressed with their professionalism. They kept me informed on what was expected to be completed each day, on an hour by hour basis. This really made me feel secure in our decision to hire College Works... On the other hand, Maddie and Hailey were absolutely thrilled to leave and come home to all the 'eye candy' each day! :-)

Here's a few before and after photos of the work that is still in process:

Before - the house looked dated and was the only white house in our subdivision

Safety Instruction and actual painting began in the backyard

Back of house

Matt starts on the side of the house

This was a tricky area. The ladder couldn't be angled much because of the garden wall. Matt handled this part like a pro!

End of Day Two (my camera setting was off, so it looks REALLY yellow!)

Cameron preps the courtyard.

Courtyard, End of Day Two

Believe it or not, the work will be finished today. The boys will perform a walk-though and inspection of all the work before a check is written. If you live in Souther California, call these guys!

Anyway, we're headed out later on this afternoon for our weekend trip to Yosemite. We're staying in the southern part of the massive park in an area called Fish Camp. Weather is supposed to be nice. Low to mid 60s during the day, into the low/mid 20s at night. Brrrrrr. I'm ready for some chilly weather!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Coming Up for Air

Josie and Maria enjoying a visit to Carl's in Fredericksburg.

I've been absent for a while... When things are going 'not great' or get really hectic, I tend to go underground for a bit. This has been the case for past few months. I've not had a chance for reflection or updating the blog because there's been a Perfect Storm of events demanding my attention. I'll try to remember everything that has gone on so I can update everyone on what's kept me away...

In early April, my husband was kind enough to send me and Josie back to the East Coast for a few days. It was a hastily planned trip, with little time to arrange visits with friends and family. We arrived late on Tuesday, April 5th at BWI airport. On Wednesday, we drove down to Fredericksburg to visit with our friends from Josie's preschool. We spent a lovely day with Jamie and her girls. Other friends that we had hoped to see were busy - short notice on our visit and other life events have a way of getting in the way.

I had contacted my friend (HS classmate/Annapolis roommate/BFF) Karen to see if we could squeeze in a quick lunch or drink somewhere. I was shocked to learn that Karen had been in a horrific, head-on collision the Friday before our arrival. She was going in for surgery while we were in town, so I made sure that I had all day Friday to devote to a visit with her. Upon my arrival at her house, I found her to be in good spirits - bruised and battered, but mobile. She handed me the police report from the accident investigation which (Karen had warned me...) read like a novel.

A teenager had stolen his parents mini-van and run away from home. He and some friends were partying while driving and smashed into Karen's car head-on. (Karen was returning home from work. It was nearly midnight) The driver and his passengers bailed out of the van and took off. It was another driver who witnessed the accident who rendered aid to Karen and called 911. The EMTs who responded to the call told Karen that her BMW had saved her life - and they were right. The BMW has two front airbags for the driver - one deploys from the steering wheel to protect the upper body and head. The other deploys below the steering column, preventing the driver's legs from being crushed as the frame absorbs the impact of the crash. This was the life-saver for our 6 foot tall Karen! I'm happy to report that her beautiful legs remain intact! The impact of the collision, along with the airbag deployment caused a few facial bones to break. It was frightening to see the amount of blood on the airbags. I'm so thankful that my dear friend lived to tell the story...

During our visit to Maryland, my sister Suzanne drove down from Philadelphia with my nephews Zach and Liam. It really was a great effort - Suzanne missed work and the boys missed school just to visit with us. It was really great to see them and their visit really lifted our spirits. We were able to share a fun family dinner with our parents and Claudine - who was so wonderful to host Josie and me during our stay.

We returned to California on Saturday April 9th. We hit the ground running as James had planned a belated birthday celebration for the girls at Club 33.

In mid-April we were thrilled to meet up with James' brother, Rich and his family, at Disneyland. Josie loved having her cousins on hand to ride the rides and go to the Princess Faire for storytime. Later in the evening, Maddie joined all of us for a big family dinner at Naples.

Maddie with cousins Alicia and Zoe

Alicia, Zoe and Josie listen to the electric violinist

During this time, Maddie was wrapping up her SAT Prep course and taking both the SAT and ACT. Such a stressful time for her. As a parent, there's little one can do to help. There is so much pressure nowadays on students who want to go to college. It seems to have changed so much since I was in High School. The guidance counselor at Maddie's school had her convinced that only kids with 4.0+ GPA and outstanding SAT scores would be accepted to college. I had to spend a lot of time talking her down off the ledge - assuring her that there is a college for everyone. Why must these 'professionals' lead kids to believe that anything less than perfection is a failure? Very frustrating for me given Maddie has a solid GPA and scored well enough on the SAT and ACT to meet the entry requirements for the colleges on her 'Wish List'.

I tend to take on the anxiety that my children are experiencing - how could any Mom not?! Maddie has been working so hard to maintain her GPA this semester - she has both Chemistry and Geometry, which demand so much of her effort. I know this story can be told by every parent of a high schooler... it's mentally exhausting for me.

In addition to all the college prep drama, we have been preparing for two big trips that we will be taking in the next few weeks. We will be spending Memorial Day weekend (and our 11th wedding anniversary!) at Yosemite. Josie is very excited about "going hiking" and I am looking forward to finally holding my camera again. James and girls gave me a new Wide Angle Zoom lens for Mother's Day and I'm very excited to start playing with it!

Once the girls are out of school (late June for Josie) we will be heading to Barcelona, Spain. We'll stay in Barcelona for a few days before embarking on an 11 night Disney cruise. We'll be visiting our favorites again (Rome & Florence) and checking out some new places (Malta, Corsica, Sicily). We haven't been in the Mediterranean since 2007 so we're all really excited to be returning. Our nephew Liam and Maddie's friend Hailey will be joining us on this adventure. We'll return to the US in July and stay on the East Coast until August.

Anyway, that's about it for now. Fingers crossed, I'll be posting some beautiful photos from Yosemite and beyond in the coming weeks. Thanks for checking in on us.