Saturday, October 17, 2009

Saturday, Oct. 17 - Follow-up

This is a "follow-up" to my big metal detecting find on the trip. (Refer to Aug. 27 post). I found this object on the property of my aunt and uncle in Monroe, New York, in the foundation area of an old carriage house that had burned down a long time ago. After some discussion, we finally decided it must be some sort of door knob, with the slit on top being the keyhole. (the other side had a short shaft-like projection). I could make out the letters "Q.R.S. Co" on it and I did a brief Google Search to see if there was ever a hardware company or doorknob company called "Q.R.S." The only company I could find was some kind of music company that had that name and I couldn't see any connection with doorknobs with them. And that's where things stood until I got home.

But after much research on the computer since I've been home, I have finally discovered what the circular metal thing REALLY was. It is NOT a doorknob. It is the end piece to the music reels made by the Q.R.S. Company to play in player pianos in the first two decades of the twentieth century (that's 1900-1920)! The company was located in Buffalo, New York. In this picture I found on the internet, you can see the same circular disks like I found on the end of each roll of music. I'm guessing the other end also had the same cap, and the tube the paper was wrapped around fit onto the protuberance that was on the other side of my piece. The paper had little holes cut into it, and as it turned, pneumatic tubes inside the piano were activated and the melody was played as the keys went up and down on the keyboard by themselves. I'm sure you've all seen a player piano. Anyway, I had a lot of fun finding it, researching it, and finally figuring out what it was --- kind of like a detective game. Maybe looking for coins or jewelry at the beach won't be the only thing I do with my metal detector in the future!

While I was gone for the summer, my husband Dave (who doesn't like to travel), started a new hobby: lapidary work. He is making beautiful jewelry out of rocks! He used to do some lapidary work before I met him and now that he is retired and has more time on his hands, he is going back to it. He joined the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society and signed up for a class specifically on cabachon-making (see below) and goes once a week and can use their equipment (at least until his early Chanukah present arrives next week!)

Dave started out tumbling small rock pieces in a rock tumbler which polishes them on all sides; you can see a few in the small white bowl at the top of this photo. But what he has really gotten into lately is making cabachon jewelry (see below) which he cuts out of rock slabs like those shown here. He finds the slabs in rock stores, on the internet, or at gem and mineral shows (which is where he is right now). He picks out ones that have interesting patterns or unudual colors. All the rock patterns are natural, none are painted.

This picture shows the progression of a stone from its original rock shape on the left (the rock on the left is a piece of petrified wood I had gotten for Dave at the beginning of my trip when I visited the Petrified Forest National Park). The big flat piece is called a "slab" which has been cut out of a rock; this is what Dave usually starts with. You can see the oval shape he has marked on this piece where he intends to cut the rough cabachon shape from next week at his class. Once the basic shape is cut out, the next step is grinding the sides of the piece until a smooth, rounded dome shape is obtained. Then he polishes the surface until it shines and the colors of the rock look their best. The last step is to mount it in a setting which can be hung on a chain as a necklace as all the ones shown on the right are, or a pin, bollo, belt buckle, bracelet charms, earings, etc. Then you wrap it all up pretty and give it to your wife! I like this new hobby of Dave's a lot!

The last few days of my trip, when I reached under my dog Juliet's belly to rub it, something didn't feel right. It almost felt like a new nipple had appeard in the middle of her chest. When I finally turned her over, this is what I found:

When I got home, I took her to the vet. She took a sample of the fluid inside this growth and checked it under the microscope. There were some abnormal cells there and she sent the sample out to a pathology lab for further testing. A few days later, I got the results. Juliet has a malignant plasma cell tumor. She is scheduled for surgery to have it removed next Tuesday. The only good thing about this is that it isn't a mast cell tumor which is what the vet originally thought it might be. A plasma cell tumor, I am told, is usually completely removeable by surgery with a wide margin around it and generally doesn't spread. So, please keep your fingers crossed and say a prayer for my little Juliet next Tuesday.

I don't like chewing gum. But when driving long distances, I do like to chew something and I found that jujubes work just fine (since all my dental fillings have been replaced by crowns which seem to stay on a lot better). Before I left on the trip, I ordered 14 pounds of jujubes which my calculations said would be the right amount. I was off; brought back about half. (Those are gallon size Ziplocs.)

Another "follow-up:" Remember back a few months while I was in New York and I fell and broke my left hand ring finger (see post of Aug. 27)? (This is what it looked like at the time.) It really hurt a lot at first and I kept it splinted for 4 or 5 days. Then, as it hurt less, I stopped using the splint and by the time I got home, I was able to use the finger pretty much as before (which wasn't a whole lot anyway, due to osteoarthritis).

Well, last week when I was seeing a new rheumatologist about the increasing arthritis pain in my left wrist and thumb, he ordered x-rays of my left hand. The next day I got a phone call from his office telling me that they were referring me to an orthopedic surgeon for the broken finger joint in my fourth finger. I hope that including this picture of the x-ray doesn't grosss anyone out. I think it's really neat to be able to actually see where the bone is broken and even more amazing to me is the angle the little bone at the tip is, relative to the direction it should be going (it should be pointing towards the tip of the finger which is bent to the right in this picture.)

The orthopedic surgeon I was referred to says that I had to keep
that last joint immobile and let the bone heal correctly. It is surprising that it really doesn't hurt unless I press hard on it. If it had kept
hurting, maybe I would have kept the original splint on instead of taking it off after a few days. Since I broke it 7 weeks ago, it would have been healed by now. Anyway, now I get to wear this nifty splint 24/7 for the next 6 weeks. Oh, joy.

I just had to include another picture of Philip and Ryan taken at family dinner night last Wednesday. They're just so darn cute! I don't know WHERE Philip gets all his curly hair from!

My brother Jeff, holding Ryan, is cute too.

We have a huge pine tree (huge by urban San Diego standards) that has sat in the corner of our front yard ever since we moved into this house in 1971, and I'm sure for many years before that. You can see in this picture its size relative to the neighbor's one-story house (approx. 60 feet according to the arborist's estimate). It is an "evergreen" and that was always its color: green. When I got home from the trip, I noticed that its color was now brown, as in dead brown. The arborist said it had succumbed to to the bark beetle and pointed out the numerous holes in the bark. He did not think it was saveable. So, next on our to-do list is getting this huge tree cut down and the stump removed.

"Next"(above) refers to the current problem of getting the kitchen sink unplugged --- hopefully without having to replace the sewer lines again --- the plummer has been here 3 hours today as I am writing this. Yesterday he replaced a pipe and put in a new garbage disposal which seemed to stop the leaking but overnight it developed another leak and so far today he has stopped that leak but now the water purifier under the sink is leaking and the faucet itself is making a strange squeeking noise when you turn it off. I suggested to him that maybe it was the sound of a can of worms being opened.....

So, as I say good-bye to this tree, I will say good-bye to you, my loyal followers, end this blog, and return to my "normal" life, with all its trials and tribulations,
....and start thinking about my next trip....

[how's that for a sappy ending?]

Sunday, Oct. 4 - MEET MY FAMILY!

The day after I got back from my trip (and, in fact, one of the reasons I came back when I did), was my grandson Philip's third birthday. His parents, Granit and Eric, had planned a wonderful pirate theme party at a local park to which Philip had invited the 20 or so kids in his pre-school class and their parents and siblings. Since all the members of my family were there, I want to share some of the pictures I took to introduce you to my immediate family. (I think that's only fair since I've shared pictures of all my other relatives as I visited them this summer.)

This party was well-planned and, despite the wind and cold weather, everyone had a great time. This picture shows my daughter
Kelly, a pirate at heart, applying pirate stickers and makeup and a pirate scarf and/or eye-patch to the kids who wanted to look like a pirate when they arrived.

Here's the birthday boy! Philip, why do you look so worried? Three isn't exactly over-the-hill, you know! Oh, I see --- the juice box is empty!

These are my two youngest grandsons. On the left is Ryan, 11-month-old son of Eric and Granit (making him Philip's little brother). On the right is 9-month-old Amit, the son of our other son, Paul and his wife Pazit. (For those of you who may not know my family, our two sons married sisters, making their kids "double cousins." These two little guys almost seem like twins though.

...and this is piratey Ryan (left) and piratey Amit (right) after Aunt Kelly got 'em thar piratey scarves on! Aren't they adorable?

This is the pirate ship that Eric's wife Granit made (maybe with some help from her Dad). The kids had a great time running in and out of it. They also made up their own game of let's- rock-the-boat-and-see-if-we-can-destroy-it, which, thanks to Granit's good boat-building skills, they were not able to do!

On the left here is my daughter Kelly who has lent her pirate hat to her father. On the other side of Dave is our son Paul.

This is a picture of Dave, our son Eric, and his son, Philip. Somehow I managed not to have a really good picture of the birthday boy or his father taken at the party (at least, not one showing Philip's beautiful hair). So I am using this one, taken on Father's Day, to show you these handsome members of my family.

One of the pirate-themed games Philip's Mommy Granit set up for the little pirates involved having them "walk the plank" while parents "attacked" them with light-weight cannon balls and helped the alligators nip at their legs. The kids thought this was a great game and kept repeating their walks over and over. Then some insisted on being the alligators --- got a little wild after that...

Proud daddy Paul holding his son Amit!

Proud Grandpa Dave gets his turn holding Amit.

And with this picture of me holding Amit, I will end the official portion of my day-to-day adventures of this. summer. I thank you all for following along on my trip. Please know that I am safely home now, enjoying my husband, children, and grandchildren. You can always reach me at Happy travels to you all ---whether they be real or vicarious!

I will be making one more "follow-up" post, hopefully tonight, to fill you in on a few things that have happened since my return.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Satueday, Oct. 3 --- Arriving home!

I tore myself away from Carol & Don's house at 2:30. I went over to my sister Lorraine's house to say hi and pick up something from her for our Aunt Helen. After a brief visit, I drove her over to Van Nuys Airport where she and husband Dan keep their plane. They had recently gotten back from a quick trip (via commercial plane) to Alton, Illinois, to see their son and grandson (Joel & Benjamin) perform in a local theater production of "Annie." You might remember that when I was visiting Joel & family back in July (see post of July 29), I watched them in an early rehearsal of the musical. I hope I get to see a video of the final performance some day; Lorraine said it was very good.

This is my 91-year-old Aunt Helen and her 7/24 caregiver, Fe. She lives in Leisure World in Laguna Woods, half-way between Los Angeles and San Diego. Visiting with them was the very last stop on my trip before I arrived home. We went out to dinner at Polly's restaurant, which was where I took them to dinner just before leaving on my trip, two-and-a-half months and 8600 miles ago.

It was a short one-hour drive home from there.

We're home! (well, not really. Carol took this picture this morning just before I left her house. But it looked like a great picture to end the blog with.)

About 30 minutes after I got home and Dave was helping me unload the Roadtrek, the dogs ran into the house through the doggie door from their first inspection of the back yard --- and the whole house started smelling like skunk! I guess the little critters had been enjoying 3 months of our backyard without the dogs being there and were expressing their displeasure at our return. Well, at least Dave was glad we were home!

This is dog #1 (Juliet) getting her de-skunking bath...

....and dog #2. Actually, now that I look at these pictures, I think they are both of Juliet --- but Maggie got a bath too.

Aaahhhh, it's good to be home!

[Note: there will be one more post of tomorrow, even though my trip is officially over.]

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Friday, Oct. 2

It was about a 3-hour drive today to get to the Los Angeles area. My first stop was at Eden Memorial Cemetery where my parents and my Aunt Florie are buried. I spent some time at the grave sites and then continued on my way.

I got to my good friends, Carol and Don Neumark's, house in Encino, CA, a little after 5:00. As usual, Don was about to embark on a project. This time it was laying out rocks, gravel, and pebbles around their landscape---basically covering all the "dirt" spots. The rock had been delivered and at 8:00 am tomorrow morning the work was to commence.

A smaller, but more immediate project, was the decorating of their Sukkah, which was awaiting the helpful hands of their son Micah and his wife who arrived shortly after I did.
When they got to the house, Micah and his wife Katie helped put up the Sukkah decorations. Tonight is the first night of Sukkot, a fall harvest holiday Jewish people celebrate by building a Sukkah and decorating it (see below), and "dwelling" in it for 7 days. After finishing that, there were a few minutes before we all headed over to Carol's sister's house for Friday night dinner. Just enough time for Micah (who is a computer wiz) to take apart my external hard drive (which has the only copy of my 92,000 pictures) and see what was loose inside (I had been hearing something rattling inside if I gently shook it ever since it fell off the coffee table at Traci's house). He extracted a small chip which had come loose. There was no way he could reattach it but, since the hard drive seemed to be working without this chip in the circuit, he just removed it and put the hard drive back together. He did suggest that I get a new hard drive, or at least a new shell for the one I had, but I did not (yet) abide by his advice.

This is Elaine and Danny Spitzer and their four dogs (you might have to scroll down to see all four if you enlarge the picture.) Elaine is Carol's sister. They also have 3 children, but only one, Ari, was home to join us for dinner. It was the Spitzer's turn to host the weekly family Shabbat dinner which was, this week, attended by not only Elaine, Danny, Ari, Carol, Don, Micah, and Katie, but also the Neumark's daughter Kayli, Carol & Elaine's mother Lila Meyers, Danny's father Jack, Jeff & Susan (friends of the Spitzers), and me! I did not bring Maggie & Juliet but I sure enjoyed their 4 canines.

This being the first night of Sukkot (Jewish harvest festival), the weekly Shabbat dinner was being held in Danny & Elaine's Sukkah. The sukkah is a temporary structure to remind us of the dessert shelters the Jews used while wandering in the dessert for 40 years during the Exodus. During the 9-day holiday, meals are eaten in the Sukkah, weather permitting. Often, if the family has little kids, the kids sleep in the sukkah too. The sukkah is decorated with fruits, flowers, lights, pictures the kids have made, and sometimes prayers, signs, or art-work. It must have a roof of straw, palm or other leafy boughs (so that the sky can be seen through it).

Danny Spitzer led the Shabbat and Sukkot blessings before we ate the delicious dinner that had been prepared. Neumark/Meyers/Spitzer Shabbat dinners, which I've had the pleasure of enjoying several other times, are ALWAYS delicious. They rotate whose house it is at each Friday, Carol always makes a challah, and everyone brings a dish to share. And they are ALL great cooks!

Here Danny is explaining the significance of the the lulav and the etrog --- the symbols of Sukkot.

This picture of Carol and Don was actually taken the next day (I know, cheating again) just before I left them. Notice that the 3 big piles of rocks are gone. If you look carefully behind Don's left elbow and shoulder, you can see some of them now incorporated into the landscape and forming a sort of dry stream bed. It looked very nice. And the 3 men working on the rocks (there were also smaller rocks, gravel, and pebbles involved which were piled right next to where I was parked) since 8:00 in the morning didn't even wake me up!

Thursday, Oct. 1

After saying good-bye to Natasha and Daniel, I set out for a nearby Kragen Auto Parts to get a new bulb for one of my interior lights (no, not the circular one!) that had burned out. Since I was heading for an "auto parts" store, it reminded me that I had not checked my tire pressures in a while. I have a nifty wireless tire pressure system with a sensor mounted on the valve stem of each tire. Only I have to actually turn it on to check the pressures and I don't do it as often as I should. Today 3 of the tires read close to 55 psi, which is what they should be, but the 4th one read 14 psi, no matter how many times I checked it. When I got to the Kragen store, I went and took a look at it. It was definitely flat --- and I have no idea if it just happened last night or if I've been driving on it like that for a week! After getting my light bulb, I drove to the nearest gas station and filled the tire with air. When I was reinstalling the sensor thingy, which requires a valve stem extender on my Roadtrek, I could hear the air rushing out as soon as I put the extender on. Without the extender, no leak. This gave me hope that all I needed was a new extender and NOT a new tire. I then drove a few miles to a tire store and asked them to check out the tire and the extender. They agreed that the extender was bad and that was probably my problem (they didn't really examine the tire, unfortunately). The extenders they had didn't fit so I wound up having them put on a 1/2 inch extender that I had and they were able to get the sensor back on with that. It seemed to be holding the air okay but I was a good girl the rest of the day and checked the pressure every few hours.

I drove 3 or 4 hours until I got to Coalinga, CA, where I planned to (and did!) spend the night. The picture above is one of several open bed trucks I passed this day full of tomatoes. What I want to know is, what keeps the ones on the bottom from getting squished? There do not appear to be any boxes---just a whole truck bed full of tomatoes.

I worked on my blog several hours tonight but am still almost a week behind.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Wednesday, Sept. 30

After getting a late start from Traci's house, I drove the 120 miles to Alameda (near Oakland), CA, where I finally got to meet my 6-month-old great-niece, Natasha Rose. And boy, is she GREAT! She has big blue eyes, the cutest smile, and chubby little cheeks that belie her premature birth. She lives in a big old Victorian house that her parents are refurbishing.

And this is Natasha with her mom & dad, Irene and Daniel Neumansky. Irene is my sister's daughter. Irene and Daniel got married 3 (?) years ago in a most unique and enjoyable wedding (Flames were involved.)

While we humanoids were focused entirely on Natasha, Juliet was transfixed by Tiny, their foot-long fat black fish in an aquarium in the playroom. I'm sorry Tiny doesn't show up well in this picture, but, take Juliet's word for it, he was in there.

Irene and Natasha strick a regal pose on a new mirror-backed hall chair. Seeing the photographer's (me) reflection in the mirror when I viewed this picture made me wish I'd been a little more creative in shooting it and had positioned us so that I would have appeared to be sitting on her shoulder --- you know, like "Be good---Auntie Sue is watching you!"
Aren't their smiles cute?

You know how people make funny noises or silly faces or suddenly clap to get a baby's attention and try to get them to smile? Well, see who was, and who wasn't, surprised by the sudden funny sound Irene let out?

This picture shows one of my favorite "rooms" in their partially-restored Victorian house: The outdoor sunken living room (could also be called a patio, I suppose). This is what creative people make when, after putting in a new foundation and leveling their house, they discover a 4-foot difference in height between the bottom of the back door and the yard it is opening into. They also built into it a gas-powered fire pit which Irene appears to be surveying in this picture. A few minutes later, with the flick of a lighter, a flames appeared to leap from the lava rock. Neat!

I like this setting for an official family portrait because they are both pyromaniacs and a Neumansky family portrait just wouldn't be right without flames.

This is obviously me holding Natasha in the sunken patio. We were all enjoying the warmth of the fire as the evening was starting to get cool. (You might have to scroll down to see the firepit.)

We ordered Thai food for dinner and Daniel was kind enough to go pick it up and bring it home so we didn't have to worry about going out for dinner. And it was quite delicious too. Natasha sat quietly (mostly) in her seat and chewed on her toys while we ate, waiting her turn.

She has just started eating solid food (well, "mushy" might be a better adjective). I had the honor of feeding her her cereal dinner, which she ate very nicely, and then rocking her to sleep. Nitey-nite, Natasha!

This picture is from the next morning (I know, I'm cheating a little) when I went in to say good-bye to Daniel and Natasha (Irene was at work, Daniel was working upstairs in his office, and the nanny was watching Natasha and another little girl.)

Can't you see Natasha's beautiful big blue eyes imploring me to stay?
I wish I could, little girl. I wish I could....

Tuesday, Sept. 29

After sleeping 15 hours (!), I got up, had breakfast, and was off for the 3-hour drive to Folsom, CA (near Sacramento), where my beautiful, intelligent niece Traci lives. She is a neuro-psychologist at the VA hospital there, specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injury. My timing was good and I drove into the parking lot just as she was getting home from work.

This somewhat blurry picture is of Traci showing me her new apartment. I took three pictures of Traci and, unfortunately, all three are blurry. Sorry, Traci. (maybe my camera suddenly has traumatic brain injury?)

When Traci told me there was a Spaghetti Factory nearby, that's where I decided I wanted to go for dinner. This one is a train motif and we actually ate in the railroad car pictured here. We both had our favorite spaghetti topping: browned butter and mizithra cheese --- Yummy!

That's not Maggie or Juliet that a just-showered-and-ready-for-bed Traci is getting settled in the chair --- it's her stuffed duck that gets kicked off her bed at night. After Traci, who has to get up early for work tomorrow, went to bed, the duck, dogs, and I worked in her living room on the computer until we, too, gave it up and went out to the Roadtrek to sleep.