Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Two Out of Three

Busy evening tonight – only partially successful. It was fun anyway.

After the kids’ taekwondo class this afternoon, we picked up Brad and stopped by the house to change, then we headed out to the Mall … along with pretty much EVERYONE else in Amman. Ok. I know that Ramadhan is coming up very soon and folks need to shop to prepare for Iftars and visiting relations, etc. it’s an important time of the year … but I was not mentally prepared for the holiday shopping madness. That’s ok. We got to the mall and had to park way, way down in the most subterranean of all levels of the parking garage, then ride 17 or 18 fully packed escalators back up to the ground level where the phone shop was located (maybe it was just 3 escalators, but they were packed). The main purpose of going out, was to go to the phone shop. Unfortunately, about 20 other people also wanted to go to the same tiny shop at the same time and I really didn’t want to wait. So, we wandered out, hoping it would improve.

We went down to the other end of the mall and picked up a movie flyer, which was objective number two. No time to see a film tonight, but we wanted to see what was playing this week. No Harry Potter, but Green Lantern and a few others are in town.

Next we went to TGIFridays to grab some dinner, which was objective number three. Funny thing is, I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at a TGIFridays in the US, but we really like the one here. The food is reliably good, and the staff is ALWAYS very friendly and helpful. Always. We usually get at least one manager walk-by asking how our dinner is going as well. This evening, our waiter was a nice young man named Yusef, and not only did he take great care of us during dinner, he kept us all entertained with some very impressive magic tricks. Yes, dinner and a show… who knew??! He was very sweet with the kids too and taught them a few games and tricks. We had a great time!

On the way out of the mall, the kids and Brad stopped at a Virgin music store, which, oddly enough, is one of the best places to buy books in the area. I went back to the phone shop where I think the same 20 folk were still milling about, and had brought in about 10 more friends. Objective number one was a definite failure tonight. As a matter of fact, more and more people were pouring into the mall, minute by minute, and I was absolutely not interested in staying around to watch the place fill up to max capacity and bust at the seams! I made my way back to the music store, met up with the family, and we snuck down the rear escalators, down down down to retrieve our truck from the depths of the garage. It was even tough getting out. There were too many cars coming in for the outgoing cars to cross through and get away (and nobody directing traffic down in that part of the garage, even though they were out in force elsewhere… which was very unusual – the mall staff is usually pretty good about such things). The only thing more surprising than the crazy numbers of people AT the mall, was the the fact that there were still billions of people out on the roads… where did they all come from? I thought that all the cars in the city had to be packed 3 deep in the parking garage that we’d just escaped from?!?! Maybe there are a lot of tourists this week? (No, I do not do well with Christmas crowds either… some people enjoy a busy mall as an 'outing'.. I am not one of them, even on a quiet day, even in a nice mall like this one... )

Tomorrow, I’m leaving the kids with the nanny and will hit the phone shop in the morning. No shopping on weekend evenings for the next few weeks for me… no, no, no, no, no!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Since We’ve Been Back…

We’ve been hanging out and not doing all that much since returning home. Well, I have been trying to get us on some sort of schedule and, among other things, get the house slowly back into shape. We sorta missed the whole Spring cleaning time and need to catch up! The closets will not empty themselves of outgrown clothes, old toys do not jump into the charity box, etc. I know that we’re still on vacation, and I’m not torturing the kids with endless chores. On the contrary, we pick one ‘zone’ in each room per day and that’s it. It’s actually going quite well… we might be organized by the time school starts up again. It’s possible.

It has been good to meet up with friends again, although we’ve been slow about getting around. Donna teased me about seeing me twice in one week when she ran into us at breakfast at the club this morning. That’s ok, we’re getting there :)

Out cats have been pleased to have us back and have spent a lot of time snuggled close.




We’re not going to be able to sneak away again without them knowing it! We’re not planning on going anywhere though. The kids might do a bit of summer camp and will get back into their regular activities, taekwondo and piano. Ramadhan is coming up, as is the HOT part of summer. I think we’ll be cruising lazily through the next month or so. I’m sure I’ll find things to blog about. Like today, when I decided to buy a beer for my 10yo. We went to the co-op to do a little shopping, and as we walked up and down the aisles, Honor found items here and there to add to our cart. Apple sauce. Popsicles. Soup. I asked Brian if he wanted anything, and while he commented that it seemed like we were getting a lot of things that Honor liked, he didn’t see anything that he wanted. I even offered him a gatorade. The answer? Nah. So, we got to the beer aisle and I noticed a few bottles of Guinness sitting loose on a shelf. Thinking of Guinness molasses bread, I held one up and asked Brian if he wanted it… knowing that he knew exactly what I was thinking, because he knows, that I know, how much he loves that bread! So, I added the bottle to the cart. We paid and left for home. It didn’t dawn on me, until much later, that any witnesses would not have had any clue about the bread connection. Hmm? Guess it’s good that we shopped early in the day and the store was pretty empty… except all of the staff… I’m just hoping they were busy elsewhere in the store and didn’t notice! 

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Best Part

We did a lot of very fun touristy things while on our R&R this year, but the best part was simply hanging out and visiting our family in California. We don’t get enough of this!

Watching world cup FIFA and baseball games with grandpa (or an episode of Sponge Bob when he shared the tv :) !)


Getting whupped by Grandma at Rummikube


getting snuggles from a demanding KC


playing together in the pool….


And so much more! Sharing meals, walking to the park, everything. Our vacation was very special and full of love… and it’s all your fault mom and dad!

We miss you so much already! Thanks for the wonderful visit!!! Love you!


For my birthday, my inlaws wanted to get me something I wanted and would actually use, so, Susan took me quilt fabric shopping one day to feed my new hobby! Luckily, there is a lovely little shop very near their home.

The Mennonite Quilt Center

2011-07-08 14.07.07

They had a great selection of fabrics and notions. They also hold classes and take orders for machine quilting of pieced works. It’s a great shop and makes me wish we lived nearby so I could visit more often.

A fun touch…. along the sidewalk near the shop, are tiled ‘quilt’ patches in the sidewalk!

2011-07-08 14.06.46

(the sun was very bright so some of these were difficult to photograph)

2011-07-08 14.07.47

2011-07-08 14.08.16

and my favorite… I love star patterns.

2011-07-08 14.05.48

We also dropped into their ‘Nearly New’ shop next door – as if I needed anything else to mail home - but it’s an organization that supports good charities, so we popped in. I found a small handful of nice crochet booklets to bring back.

Oh, and my birthday ‘loot’…

2011-07-08 15.09.30

close up of the colors

2011-07-08 15.09.30

There are coordinating pre-cut strips of cool blues and greens, with hints of burgundy and brown, and I picked up a pattern book that will help me use these stripes with a minimum of head-scratching on my part (seeing as I’m still learning!). I think this will make a pretty throw or small bed-cover.

Thank you! :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Kings Canyon

Well, someone has been lazy… and I guess since this is my blog and I’m in charge here, it’s been me being lazy! We’re home(!) from R&R and settling back in. It only took 24+ hours travel … all good thankfully… and several hours of being bawled out by three cats who had missed us VERY much, but we’re home. We have yet to settle back into our summer routine because we didn’t actually HAVE a routine this summer before we took off after school, so we are now working on finding our summer schedule. I still have some great photos to share of our time in California with the inlaws. We had a lovely relaxing visit and we miss them already!

One thing we did together was head up to King’s Canyon National Park. The animal shelter we delivered Honor’s baby bird to was located in the foothills, so after stopping by there, we kept on going up the highway. Last summer we visited the amazing coastal redwoods, this year we had a chance to see the giant sequoias. We highly recommend the experience! Here are some of my favorite photos.



This massive tree was fallen in the 1800’s. It doesn’t rot, and is big enough inside to have once housed a logging camp.



Taking a break!






For perspective, check out the people behind the tree.


The moss growing on the trees was pretty too.


Moss on Honor was cute too.


Us, with General Grant, which, according to wiki, is the 2nd largest tree in the world, but according to park info, may be ranked differently… all I know for sure is that it is one very MASSIVE tree!





The kids and their grandparents :)






Another photo of Miss ‘LOOK AT ME!’. 






Rocks MUST be climbed.



Big trees = big pinecones. Actually, Honor looked for the biggest cone she could find, Brian’s goal was to find the most perfect/unbroken cone he could, and the one he found was quite lovely… hard to that see here though.


Elevation marker


I love how the colors in this photo turned out – like old fashioned autochrome photography or something.


We had a lovely day out and beautiful weather in the mountains, sunny, clear, 75F…. it was tough to get back in the car and drive back down into the valley’s 100+F temps!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

They don’t stay little and cute

Cute baby animals grow up to be big animals with very specialized needs. How simple is that? Apparently, not simple enough. How about ‘wild animals do not tame’? Still, not simple enough… There are, unfortunately, a lot of selfish and willfully ignorant people out there who mess with wild animals, especially wild animal babies, and end up ruining the animal’s chance at a proper, normal life in the wild. Some folk are ignorant, some just don’t care. Trying to make a wild animal a pet is just plain mean, and in California, it’s illegal too.

Of course, accidents happen. Cars hit animals. A tree is knocked down with a nest in it. A pet dog or cat gets into a wild animal nest/burrow and kills the parent critters, leaving orphans, etc. so some people take in animals for good reasons, not selfishness, but it’s still illegal for non-certified Californians to keep wild animals as pets, and it’s not something that is good for the animal either, unless the rescuer knows what they are doing so the animal can be rehabilitated and returned to the wild… which is why we were happy to be able to get our little sparrow turned over to the pros asap. We looked online and found the Critter Creek Wildlife Station, which is a shelter and rehabilitation center for injured, orphaned, and confiscated wildlife.

We arranged to bring our sparrow to them as they have volunteers who take care of and release found songbirds. It is not a zoo, but because Honor has a strong interest in animals, we asked if we might tour the shelter. They were located up in the foothills and they are a non-profit, volunteer run center that manages to do a whole heck of a lot with very little. They are supposed to be funded by the state agencies that turn over confiscated animals, but I’m sure you can imagine how little that amounts to in reality! They rely on donations, memberships, hard work and creative thinking, for example, there were wild grape vines growing around the property.. not just for decoration, but to feed the raccoons. Poultry farm castoffs provide meat for their raptors – to an extent that they’d be unable to function without it.

You can check out their website to Meet the Animals, but here are a few that we met. We could not (for the animals safety) go near the mammal babies, and certain tarped cages or bird cages were ‘quiet zones’. When we went to deliver the baby sparrow, we all piled into my father-in-law’s truck and made it a family outing with grandparents.

The first critters we met were dogs. They have five dogs on the property and we were greeted enthusiastically.

Next we met Shasta, a mountain lion. They cannot be rehabilitated in California, so he will have to remain in a cage for life. He has a very nice, large cage, but still, it’s not very fair…


Because of the heat, we were told that we might not see him right away, but as you can tell, he was interested in us and came right over to visit before ambling back over to climb onto his ‘cave’.


They had a number of other wildcats, exotics, that had been owned as pets… meaning neutered and declawed(!)… that will have to live our their days in a cage. Zoos aren’t usually interested in these beautiful cats because they are smaller than the popular lions and tigers.



Each animal had its story, and they had homes for even very common wild animals, like raccoons, squirrels, and Canadian geese that cannot survive in the wild.


Raccoon babies are adorable, but they get less agreeable as adults, and they can be very destructive with their sharp claws and agile paws! Once tamed, it’s hard to get them wild again, and if released ‘tame’, then they become ‘nuisance animals’ – which never ends well for the animal.




Another animal that people try to make into pets are monkeys. Seriously? Why??? They are cute, but require tons of care and work for their entire lives! They are messy and if you are foolish enough to want it as a housepet, it requires a lifetime of diapering. The really sad thing is that they are smart enough to know that their life isn’t ‘normal’ in captivity.


This little guy seemed happy with the attention of our visit, but when we left, he curled up on his platform and tucked his head down into his arms.


Next we went to see the big birds. The center had a nice number of very large enclosures for large prey birds, including one big enough to house a couple of eagles.

Owls and owls.



Most of their food is in ‘dead meat’ form, but we learned that one way they test to see if an owl is ready for release is to house it separately with live mice in a tub. If the mice get eaten, the owl can hunt.


Different species had their own enclosures.



In addition to the very large flight cage, smaller raptors had their own spaces, like these falcons.



My favorite, the crows and ravens, were also taken care of. One crow in their care was held as a pet for many years until the owner’s neighbor called the authorities and they had to take it from her.


They also shelter deer and have a wonderful & private enclosure for them.


…and they house a couple of fox and coyotes that have been confiscated from people holding them as pets. Coyotes do not make good pets!


Red fox are not native to California.


They’ve a nice little pond for rehab birds where they’ve worked out a nice biofilter system for keeping the water clean. Unlike many bird ponds, this one smelled nice… pretty amazing for an organization without sufficient funding or manning! Keeping a bird pond so clean is unusual!



The location they have is great, and they’ve been there since ‘85


They were lucky to get land with water… although this creek is dry most of the summer. They say its very unusual for it to still have water in July, but due to all the snow this winter, all of the rivers in the area are severely flooded and the creek is still going strong.


Unfortunately, many of the houses and animal shelters are smaller and more crowded than they would prefer, but you can tell they are actively working on things and that the animals are well cared for. Among future projects in the works are a better home for this guy… another non-native.


As most of these animals are wild animals, and the goal is to rehab and release those that can be released, there was no getting close to most of these critters, for the critters’ sake, but some were pets and are non-release-able. Honor got to snuggle a wiggle-y ferret… also considered a wild animal and illegal in California.


And waiting for her on the other end of the bridge


another ‘wild’ rescued critter waiting for some attention.



Critter Creek is a place run by hard working volunteers who manage to accomplish a whole heck of a lot, for a huge population of needy animals, with far too little support. If you are able to help out, check out their brochure for their ‘wishlist’ (donations of items, money, and volunteers are needed) and/or consider a membership at this link: