LIFE SHIFT

When two old native Californians pack up and move to Ohio, with 2 cats and a dog. This should be interesting - follow us!

Life is exciting even when it is hard. Having lived in California all our lives we have made the decision to pack it all in and move to Ohio with the chance to purchase a small property there outright. A place where we dream of a small garden and chickens and no more mortgage payments. 

It's beautiful in Ohio, but it snows. This is sure to be an adventure, as neither of us has lived in snow before. Our youngest son (21) moved there in October of 2016 and our youngest daughter (25), is going with us - so we still have the comfort of family, in spite of leaving our two oldest children behind in California. (We will badger them to move out to Ohio)

Our moving Pod is getting delivered today. So I took a few minutes this morning to document a couple of things in my backyard. Things from this, our first home, where we raised our 2 youngest children. We have lived in this home for 20 years as of today. 

 

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Forever imprinted

When you always leave a mark. (We also embedded a time-capsule within the walls of our home, many years ago. I don't remember what exactly we put into the old cigar box before we sealed it up - but hope that someday it will be a fun discovery for the people who end up finding it.)

Two chairs. They were living at the home when we bought it, 20 years ago. If they fit in the Pod, they will go with us. If they don't, they will maintain their residence at this lovely old house. The BEAUTIFUL staghorn fern above, is breaking my heart. It was a gift from our elderly, now departed, neighbors who were like grandparents to our children growing up. It would not survive in a Pod in storage for a month or more and there will not be enough room in the RV to take it with us. There is consolation in knowing the wonderful family that has bought our home, likes the fern and will take care of it as it continues to thrive where it currently lives. 

Two chairs. They were living at the home when we bought it, 20 years ago. If they fit in the Pod, they will go with us. If they don't, they will maintain their residence at this lovely old house. The BEAUTIFUL staghorn fern above, is breaking my heart. It was a gift from our elderly, now departed, neighbors who were like grandparents to our children growing up. It would not survive in a Pod in storage for a month or more and there will not be enough room in the RV to take it with us. There is consolation in knowing the wonderful family that has bought our home, likes the fern and will take care of it as it continues to thrive where it currently lives. 

Craft Night with Friends

I don't blog much and when I do, it is all over the map. I like to explore and create and do a bit of almost everything. Blogging is my weakness for sure, and not in a good way, but I wanted to share these little creations that I made last night during a craft night with my friends. 

WITCHES' POTIONS BOTTLES

WITCHES' POTIONS BOTTLES

With nothing more than a few empty plastic jars and a few misc. supplies laying around, I put together these jars of potions. The original idea came from a Pinterest post that gave me the idea for the spiders:  PINTEREST SPIDER IDEA

I made 3 Potion Bottles: One for "Spiders", One for "Eyes of Newts" and "Warts". These are the plastic jars that I started with: A mayo jar, an aspirin jar (note the child safety cap - an added bonus for later), a coffee jar. Washed and removed the labels. 

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Then an idea! Alphabet pasta would make GREAT lettering for the lid of the Newt Eyes. Hahaha!

I decided the Newt Eyes would be pickled. 

I decided the Newt Eyes would be pickled. 

The next thing to do was to visualize how I wanted the finish products to look and start thinking about what I had on hand already. I didn't want to spend extra money on this project, so I dug through my cupboards. I found some brown spray paint and some tape and stickers. I taped, wrapped and used stickers on my bottles to mask where the paint was going to go and to create raised lettering with the stickers and by gluing the pasta on to the lid of the newt eyes jar. I used hot glue to form the word, "Warts" and make bumps to simulate more warts. 

Ready to paint!

Ready to paint!

I coated everything in a layer of brown spray paint. I sprayed some other stone-finish black paint here and there and sponged some white and black paint around to make them look more decrepit. Some of the paint cracked and globbed as it interacted with each other, but that was fine, the messier - the better, to get the beat-up ancient look! Then I started to embellish. I used a sleeve made from the stiff clear plastic sheet that the craft stickers came on and glued google eyes to it for the newt jar. I made another for the spider jar. The reason for the sleeves, it made a hollow in the center of the jar to lower in a small battery powered votive candle to make those jars into little lights. I WOULD NOT USE A REAL CANDLE IN THESE - EVER! I used moss to tuck around the lid of the wart bottle, dried beans inside so it rattles - remember the child-protective cap on the aspirin bottle? Now the little ones can't open it to let the beans bounce all over your floors! I also glued a wine cork to the top to make the lid more interesting. There is no light in my wart bottle. Cotton balls and $1 Store plastic spiders fill the perimeter around the plastic sleeve in the spider bottle, so I don't waste a lot of my cosmetic supplies. 

WARTS. Rattles from dry beans. 

WARTS. Rattles from dry beans. 

SPIDERS. Battery light. (Notice the "Eggs" at the top, that I had with stickers before I painted, didn't come out right, so I just painted over that part. I don't think you would have noticed, if I didn't point it out! Messy and mistakes are okay!)

SPIDERS. Battery light. (Notice the "Eggs" at the top, that I had with stickers before I painted, didn't come out right, so I just painted over that part. I don't think you would have noticed, if I didn't point it out! Messy and mistakes are okay!)

NEWT EYES. You can see the top - the pasta lettering. Battery light. 

NEWT EYES. You can see the top - the pasta lettering. Battery light. 

NEWT EYES. Inside the bottle you can see the google eyes glued to the clear plastic sleeve. I also tucked some moss down in the sleeve to give it a bit of underwater look. 

NEWT EYES. Inside the bottle you can see the google eyes glued to the clear plastic sleeve. I also tucked some moss down in the sleeve to give it a bit of underwater look. 

I finished most of them by wrapping the lids in some jute twine to cover the lettering on the plastic lids. 

I mostly just used what I had on hand and borrowed some paint from my friends at our craft night. So this fun little project cost me virtually nothing, was fun to do. 
I hope you like them.

I know two little girls who I am going to gift these to for Halloween! 

What is the most favorite Halloween decoration that you have ever made?

Desert Drive & Discovery

It was already afternoon on Saturday, sitting on our front porch enjoying the second day of spring in San Diego, that hubby and I started discussing what we wanted to do with our weekend. It is seldom that we both have the weekend off and the glorious mid-70s degree weather was urging us to get out and just DO something.  We enjoy taking rides in the car and exploring streets and areas in the surrounding Southern California, but with my husband's gas-guzzling F350 pickup truck and my car's ailing transmission, a car ride seemed out of the question, until we came up with the idea of renting a wreck to cruise the area. So out we went to find a rental company with cars still available. 

At the second rental company, we were offered a 2015 silver Mustang for 1/2 price since it hadn't yet rented out for the day. As we drove out of the rental yard, I could see hubby's smile in his rear view mirror, as I followed him back to our house to drop off my car. 

We hit the road, taking nothing but our cameras, wearing shorts and t-shirts, knowing only that we would drive towards the east and figure it out as we went. 

We took a leisurely drive up through the San Bernardino Mountains, stopping occasionally to take photos of the colorful wild flowers blooming along the roadside of the mountains and desert areas. 

 

Ocotillo Plant in Bloom

Ocotillo Plant in Bloom

Purple Mountain Lupine

Purple Mountain Lupine

Roadside Rudbeckia

Roadside Rudbeckia

Petite Yellow and Orange Blossoms - If you know what these are, I would be interested in knowing too!

Petite Yellow and Orange Blossoms - If you know what these are, I would be interested in knowing too!

We climbed up the mountains, slowly, pulling over to let traffic with places to go, speed past us and we slowly made our way up... At the 7000 ft above sea level mark, we started seeing thawing snow on the ground. The car's outdoor temp gauge, assured us the temperature in the mountains where the patchy snow was holding on, was in the mid 30s to 40s. We switched the car climate control from AC to heat to stave off the goosebumps. It was way too cold for us in our shorts and flip-flops!  By early evening we had arrived in Big Bear City, where due to the lack of fluffy snow, the skiers left behind the popular resort, the hotel rooms were renting for half price! We picked up a mound of loaded hot dogs and "gourmet" chips for dinner and headed off to our budget hotel for heat and some quiet television time. Using the extra white towels from the hotel bathroom as extra blankets while we tried to warm up!

We were up before the sun the next morning, determined to see some animals... in our hopes of finding the elusive Bald Eagles, maybe a bear or two, or perhaps some deer. We found ourselves off on roads we had never been before. Dirt roads even. Slowly bumping along, carefully navigating pot holes and rises that threatened to high-center our rented ride. We saw deer, plenty of deer. At one point, a doe gave us a glaring eyeball for "making" her leave her grazing spot in the middle of the road. Disappointingly, we did not see any bears or Bald Eagles. We did however see many, many beautiful Steller's Jays. They are comical, loud, flighty and very difficult to catch with a camera... but I managed a couple of shots of the black and vibrant blue bird. 

Steller's Jay - 1

Steller's Jay - 1

Steller's Jay - 2

Steller's Jay - 2

Feeling satisfied with our mountain excursion, we decided it was time to drop back down to the desert floor for some much needed warmth! So we headed back down the other side of the mountains, opposite from the direction of where we came in. Dropping down into the warmth, into Palm Springs. Ahhhhhhhhh.

Warm Palm Springs, shot through the car window as we passed through. 

Warm Palm Springs, shot through the car window as we passed through. 

So somehow, while getting into and out of this fun-to-drive little Mustang, hubby had managed to rip open the seat of his pants/shorts. He was relegated for the rest our trip, to the interior of the car, to avoid the embarrassment of his tighty-whiteys peeking out through his backside. So we just did a quick drive-through lunch, grabbing a couple of burgers, but NOT GETTING OUT OF THE CAR! Hahaha! We sat in the parking lot of a Starbucks and ate our burgers, then swung through the Starbucks drive-through to replenish our energy with caffeine for the ride home.

We turned towards the outer rim of mountains that surround Palm Springs, that would drop us once more into the desert floor for the rest of ride home.  

Blooming Ocotillo Plant above Coachella Valley.

Blooming Ocotillo Plant above Coachella Valley.

We came home through Temecula CA. Temecula probably best known for it's wineries. Today wasn't a wine-tasting day, so we continued through, until we came to the giant steel horse sculptures that sit high upon a hill overlooking the freeway. We noticed that since last time we came through there, there were additional sculptures that had been added. We were interested to find out more about these sculptures, so we slowed in time for me to see a sign that indicated the artist responsible, had a show yard/studio just off the freeway! Of course we turned off to see more. 

We pulled into the private RV resort; Vail Lake where we were given a 30 minute guest pass to look around. It's like we pulled into something that was a cross between Disneyland and Jurassic Park. It was magical and exciting to see life-sized animal sculptures, dinosaurs, horses, camels, you name it! They were familiar to me at the same time. I was trying to place where I had seen similar creatures before... Then it dawned on me! I had seen similar dinosaur-like creations; mastodons, horses, saber-toothed tigers and the like in the Anza Borrego desert at Galleta Meadows!

If you have never seen Galleta Meadows, you should absolutely go if you can swing it. These creatures of steel roam the desert floor in natural settings that mimic the look and feel of what it might have been like when these animals really roamed the earth. It is a fantastic exploration experience. (As a suggestion: Look them up and research before you go, so you can see as many as possible. There are many I have not seen yet, but plan on going back with a better understanding of where each of these amazing sculptures are installed.) You can find more information about Galleta Meadows here: GALLETA MEADOWS.

Galleta Meadows (My photo taken from previous road trip to Galleta Meadows).

Galleta Meadows (My photo taken from previous road trip to Galleta Meadows).

The artist of the Temecula horses was in his studio, so of course I had to ask... "You couldn't be the same guy who has the installation in Borrego, could you?" My mistake. I should have worded that question differently. I saw by the glint in his eye, the game was on... 

"Why can't I be?"

"It's not that you can't be, but are you?"

"I want to know why you think I can't be."

"I was just saying the coincidence is so great. I love the work in Borrego and it looks like your work here. Is it you?"

"Is what me?"

...and the game played on until he mercifully let me off the hook and admitted he was the artist. Whew!

His name is Ricardo Breceda. He is funny, kind and willing to share about his work. He showed me his book, his story, "RICARDO BRECEDA - ACCIDENTAL ARTIST", written by Diana Lindsay. I had to have it! He of course, had to sign it for me. Which he did, "Enjoy & Gracias! Ricardo A. Breceda 03-22-15". I immensely enjoyed his talent and looking through his work. Here are couple of photos from his Vail Resort Studio: 

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The art of Ricardo Breceda

The art of Ricardo Breceda

That was our last stop, at Ricardo's studio at Vail Lake Resort. The rest of the ride, was straight through to home. We were home in time for dinner Sunday evening. A great weekend and I came home with a great book to read. Which I did. I read the whole thing yesterday.

(Ricardo is a strong multi-talented person who deserves all the admiration that a person can dole out. He has mine. You can find out more about Ricardo and his work here: WWW.RICARDOBRECEDA.COM and you can order his book here: RICARDO BRECEDA - ACCIDENTAL ARTIST. The book is a great read, the pages are photograph heavy, which I adore. Best of all, there are location references to his installations!)

Lions, Tigers & Bears

It was our wedding anniversary gift, our anniversary was in December, two tickets for hubby and me to visit an exotic animal sanctuary in the foothills of San Diego East County. So we called and scheduled our visit for this morning at the animal sanctuary called, Lions, Tigers & Bears. A 501c3 non-profit organization in Alpine, California.

There are nearly twice as many tigers in captivity in the United States alone, as there are tigers in the wild in the ENTIRE world! Many captive animals live their lives in deplorable conditions, never seeing sunlight or in cages too small to stand up. A tiger can live 20+ years.

There are nearly twice as many tigers in captivity in the United States alone, as there are tigers in the wild in the ENTIRE world! Many captive animals live their lives in deplorable conditions, never seeing sunlight or in cages too small to stand up. A tiger can live 20+ years.

Lions, Tigers & Bears is a no kill, no breed, no sell animal shelter, specializing in exotic big cats and they provide homes for bears, smaller wild cats and a variety of domesticated animals as well. Their goal is to provide animals with a lifelong home with enrichment, health and dietary management and is completely funded by donations. 

This is a beautiful young male tiger, barely a year old. Well beyond the adorable tiger cub that some people have been tempted to purchase as pets. From frolicking kitten to majestic and massive creature in UNDER 12 months!

This is a beautiful young male tiger, barely a year old. Well beyond the adorable tiger cub that some people have been tempted to purchase as pets. From frolicking kitten to majestic and massive creature in UNDER 12 months!

These animals have all come from different situations, from painfully sad existences in many cases. Some were television actors or street and circus performers. Maybe street-side attractions or from well-meaning but misguided pet owners who found that the animals soon became too large, too aggressive, and/or too expensive to care for properly. Zoos are reluctant to take these animals for a myriad of reasons and there are even zoos that may find themselves in a position of needing to rehome an animal or euthanize it. This is when facilities like Lions, Tigers & Bears are called upon, if the animal is lucky.

Most are not. 

Meatball is one of the few who came to the sanctuary from the wild. Having too many people-run-ins, he was on his 3rd strike with the Wildlife, Fish & Game Dept. Luckily, his reality-stardom that he acquired while roaming the streets of Glendale, California, saved his shaggy hide, and his notoriety, managed to secure his spot of a forever home in this beautiful facility. The only other option... Well, I think they should have named him "Lucky" instead. 

Meatball is one of the few who came to the sanctuary from the wild. Having too many people-run-ins, he was on his 3rd strike with the Wildlife, Fish & Game Dept. Luckily, his reality-stardom that he acquired while roaming the streets of Glendale, California, saved his shaggy hide, and his notoriety, managed to secure his spot of a forever home in this beautiful facility. The only other option... Well, I think they should have named him "Lucky" instead. 

At LTB (Lions, Tigers & Bears) you can purchase a tour to see the animals in their habitat and hear their stories about how they came to LTB. Ok, you CAN hear the stories, but I will say, it's also REALLY easy to get side-tracked trying to listen to your guide tell you their interesting stories, when there is a 200 lb male tiger chattering and chuffing around behind you. They did have to remind me a couple of times to keep up with the group. I promise, I am a rule follower, but I was so enthralled, I got lost in my own head a couple of times. You can also purchase the opportunity to "feed" an animal. I knew hubby would love that! Now, this is not feeding in the sense that we are giving them their full daily requirements or going into their cages to hand out headless chickens and hide pumpkins in rotting logs throughout their enclosures. These are more "treats", delivered on the tip of a 3 foot aluminum fork from beyond a fence and for the larger cats, a fence AND a barrier of bars. No sense putting the animals or people in harm's way, when you have a 15 pound vat of raw beef and a carnivorous animal with claws like meat cleavers! 

The bears saw us coming and rambled quickly into their cages, where they knew to go to get their treats. It's smart training, because the bears get their treats there they like going in the cages. In case of emergency, like the wild fires that are all too well known in that part of our county, it makes it easier to coax these large animals into their cages that have wheels and they can be quickly removed from the facility if they have to. Not to mention for whatever other reason they would need to move the animals. The bears were mostly delicate nibblers, daintily removing their peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from the tip of the fork and they sat quietly and patiently waiting their turns as we worked our way down the line of their enclosure.

This gorgeous grizzly had just come from playing in the pond. This is probably my favorite photo of the day.

This gorgeous grizzly had just come from playing in the pond. This is probably my favorite photo of the day.

I am a photographer... I found the layers of fencing, cyclone fencing, wire mesh, electric fencing, wood and pole structures to be a horrible nuisance, a necessary evil, but a horrible photo annihilator! So I was thrilled to manage this shot through 2 wire fences and string of electrical wires. It was so amazing to watch the two grizzly bears in this enclosure romping around together and splashing at each other in the pond. They were truly having a great time - I promise, you could almost see them laughing and could hear their happy grunting and growly voices. 

They had an area of smaller cats, mostly bobcats common to our area here in Southern California. They were fed chunks of some sort of red meat. I was too busy trying get photos through the fencing to pay attention to what they were feeding them exactly. Beautiful cats, except for their size, you could almost forget they are wild. They are so similar in appearance to our domestic cats. Although a quick tussle during feeding between one of the bobcats and his African serval friend, reminded quickly, you wouldn't want one of THOSE cats mad at you!

The shy mountain lion took awhile to coax from his den. He is not so fond of being out in the daylight and around all the obnoxious people. But what a gorgeous cat he is. These mountain lions are also local to our area. Hubby expressed he was quite surprised at how large they are. They definitely are not small cats like the bobcats, but not as big as the tigers either. They are lions. To me, he looks about (slightly smaller and finer boned) what you would expect the size of a female African lion is. I didn't ask to be certain, so that is only what it looks like to me. I could be completely wrong. I suppose I could google it too. I might later. 

Finally we get down to the really big cats, the BIGGEST cats, the tigers! Hubby and I had been holding out to feed these guys. They are incredible animals! When they roared and growled, you could feel the vibrations in your chest cavity. Hubby was so excited. I let him go first so I could take his picture of him feeding a tiger.

Feeding the tigers, especially this particular tiger, was NOT like feeding the bears. She had a much more aggressive attitude. She snatched at the food and screamed if she thought you were going leave without giving her more. She doesn't like hats, sunglasses, large camera lenses, or men really. Surprisingly enough, she seemed to tolerate hubby and me pretty well. Although she vocally let a couple of other people have it, enough that the whole group of us startled when she did!

Hubby had so much fun feeding the first tiger, instead of me feeding a tiger, I let him feed the next tiger in my place. This is the young male tiger from earlier. This animal is still young and really quiet friendly. He didn't display the aggressive behavior of the other tiger.

The leopard enjoyed scaling the cyclone fencing of her enclosure to grab her treat up near the top of the cage. Those claws acting as grappling hooks to easily climb the fence. 

Today we acquired such an appreciation for the amount of work, time and money that goes into the care of these regal animals. It's astounding to imagine the cost. We talked with our guide a bit about the expense. One enclosure for just a couple of bears was a $350,000 endeavor! Shockingly, that is not taking into account the donated materials, and volunteer work and construction hours, with permitting fees ALONE being approximately $90,000! These sanctuaries need our resources to survive. The animals rely on us to survive. Go visit this sanctuary or any of the accredited sanctuaries. They take the money from these tours and invest it all directly back to the care of these magnificent animals.

 Please consider a visit or donation: www.lionstigersandbears.org


A Monarch Caterpillar

It was Wednesday, a week ago, that I went to the local farmer's market with a friend. The market was quiet and quite small that day. We were hoping to pick up some fresh produce, but outside of oranges and lemons, there weren't any booths for veggies. We already have our own orange and lemon trees, so what was available wasn't what we were looking for. As we turned to leave we passed a small table with some plants and I spotted a mint plant. Mint was actually on my shopping list, since I planned on a beef dish for dinner requiring mint. As we talked with the farmer, we discovered he also had milkweed plants. On those plants, Monarch caterpillars were crawling around and happily munching away. On a whim, I had to have the plant, not for the plant itself, but for the caterpillars on the plant!

The kind farmer saw my excitement about the caterpillars and added an extra fat one to my plant and let me have the $6 plant for $4. I came home with a new plant and a few caterpillars! 

I have been in photography heaven for the last week, having something new and fun to make pictures with. 

I also discovered there must have been some undetected butterfly eggs on the plant, when after a few days, this teeny, tiny little guy appeared. He was only about 1/4 inch in length!

Here is the biggest caterpillar and the smallest caterpillar, with my thumb in the background for comparison:

I have babysat these caterpillars, keeping count and corralling them back onto the plant when they have wandered off. Finally, the larger ones, set themselves to begin their transformation! AND YES, I was excited. I have never seen this happen first hand before!

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Then, just yesterday, I checked on one of the caterpillars that was hanging to make sure he was still alive, with a slight nudge of my finger. He moved. So I left the room, not more than 30 minutes, I assure you! And when I come back into the room, where the plant is in my window, I see this!!! 

By last night, there was another one too! I am so excited for the coming butterflies! I hope to be here to witness them emerging from their protective jade igloos, so I can capture those images as well. If I manage that, I will share here too!

A Cake Smash

Ok I will admit, I am new to the whole cake smash photo session idea, so it was a fun challenge when I got asked to photograph this sweet little girl's first birthday cake smash!

I had no doubt, she would take to the cake like a champ, and that she did! Her eyes lit up big when she saw the cake set down in front of her and her mommy gave her the go-ahead to put her hands into it.

I don't think she was entirely convinced that she should be actually touching the cake, until mommy gave her a bit more encouragement - It didn't take too much...

It only took her about 3 minutes to finish with the cake and then come after me...

...with sticky fingers and a pink frosting smile. 

I can't wait to do more of these Cake Smash sessions! Contact me for your next Cake Smash, I only ask that YOU clean up the sticky afterwards!