Forget The Cold and Snow, Let’s Go Sand Sculpting!

I know many of you are currently digging out from the results of a major snowstorm. So, instead of shivering and blowing your noses, why not go to beach hopping! And here’s a great place to start.

Each year, Hampton Beach, New Hampshire hosts a sand sculpting championship that attracts master sand artists from all the world. Over 300 tons of special sand is trucked to the beach for the event. Each contestant is given ten tons of sand and just twenty-one hours to complete their masterpieces. Denene and I were on hand to witness this spectacular display of talent.

Forrest Gump by Merideth Corson took the fourth place honors.

Michele Lepire’s Tropical Paradise placed third in the overall contest, but took home the most prize money, winning both the People’s Choice award and the Sculptor’s Choice award.

Salvador Dali Lama by Fred Mallet won the fifth place honors.

Steve Topazio of Rhode Island created this angry sun blowing down a sand castle.

Tim Russert remembered in sand.

Morning Bath by Carl Jara took the second place spot.

The winner of the 2008 Hampton Beach Sand Sculpting contest was titled Japanese Garden by Karen Fralich of Ontario, Canada.

Karen adds a few finishing touches to her masterpiece.

Denene and I truly understand what it’s like to look outside and see nothing but snowy whiteness, while sitting inside with no electricity, no water, and even worse, no internet. Here are some photos that explain why we decided to return to California to live, where, by the way, it’s currently 60 degrees. However, it is raining and has been for several days, off and on, and the skies have been a lovely shade of Seattle-gray for a couple of weeks now.

Anyway, here are photos from a few of our old neighborhoods, starting with our house in North Carolina.


Next up is a shot of the salt marsh at Plum Island, Ma., near our weekend place where we enjoyed kayaking in the Merrimack River.


Our Seattle home.


Our Boston neighborhood.


Finally, a brisk winter day in our California neck(s) of the woods…






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Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Do the chairs in your parlor seem empty and bare?

Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there?

Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?

Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?

I wonder if you’re lonesome tonight

You know someone said that the worlds a stage

And each must play a part.

Now the stage is bare and I’m standing there

With emptiness all around

And if you wont come back to me

Then make them bring the curtain down.

Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?

Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?

*Are You Lonesome Tonight lyrics ~ Elvis Presley


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Flowers Not in the Attic


Our backyard is home to quite a few birds—ringneck doves, mourning doves, finches, jays, numerous hummingbirds, a mocking bird, robins, a covey of quail (14 of them to be exact), a murder of crows, and sometimes turkeys and ducks.

We feed the smaller of the winged critters and as a result we reap the benefit of bird-watching without having to leave the property. But with so many of our feathered friends frolicking around comes danger…a feral cat of gargantuan size. Therefore I spend some time watching for the beast and subsequently chasing it away when it slinks into the yard.

When I’m not available Investigator G. Nome goes on high alert to handle the cat patrol for me, and he’s able to go places where my size simply will not allow. Anyway, I tagged along with him yesterday while he made his rounds. This is what I saw as we walked his beat.




















And, after a long, grueling day of patrol while contemplating life’s worries, struggles, violence, and hatred, sometimes you’ve just got to take time to…well, you know.


Because tomorrow’s another day that’s worth facing. Besides, how would the birds survive without us to care for them? So on we go…



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I See Monkeys, Peacocks, and Bears…But No Snow!


Stop monkeying around and have a look at a side of California most tourists never experience. After all, this brief trek sure beats the heck out of the snow and cold some of you are experiencing this weekend. Yes, it’s sunny and in the mid 70’s at our house today.

So park the snowblowers, swap your winter boots for a pair of flip-flops, and follow me. I think you’ll enjoy the sights.


The narrowest point of the Carquinez Straight












The Oak Ridge Boys performing in Santa Rosa.


Yes, those are very large windmills, and there are hundreds.



To the well-intentioned writer. When the scene calls for a shirtless man, well, it’s spelled bare, not bear. Big difference. Here’s why.




Dozens upon dozens of peacocks live in a neighborhood not far from ours. Ride through and you’ll see the brightly-colored birds perched on rooftops, car hoods, in driveways, front porches, etc. They’re everywhere.






The end.


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Annie Oakley Lives in My Closet…with My Great-Grandfather


Annie Oakley once lived near my great-grandparents. Annie was 53 when she built her home near my relatives’ farm. At the time—1913—my great grandfather was 24, so it’s likely the two never socialized. However, the stories of their famous neighbor have made their way into many family conversations over the years. As a result, I’ve often heard tales of Annie, including those of she and her dog, Dave, and how Annie used to shoot apples from the head of her beloved pet.

Hunting and fishing in the area adjacent to Annie’s home was spectacular, and she and her husband, Frank, often invited friends to join them at their “sportsman’s paradise.”

Annie encouraged all women to take up the shooting as a sport and as a means of self-defense.


My great-grandparents on the porch of their modest Maryland farm.

Around the same time when Annie was busy shooting and riding and my great-grandparents were busy with their own affairs, their other neighbors conducted business as usual.

Children attended school, with boys and girls sitting and studying apart.


Boys on the left of the classroom, writing their assignments on large slates. The boy’s face in the lower left is blurry because he moved at the time the shot was taken. Boys were required to hang their hats on the wall in the rear of the classroom.


Girls were seated on the right side of this classroom. Notice their bonnets hanging on the wall at the rear of the room.

Common Core had not yet arrived.



Of course, school buses were not exactly “the thing” back in Annie’s and my great-grandparent’s time, but they made do with what they had. Either horse and buggy…


…or walking.


Annie grew weary of her retirement and of the home where she and Frank had chosen to settle, so the couple headed south where they met up with Buffalo Bill Cody. Cody died later that same year.


Buffalo Bill Cody

Annie pressed on with her career, and at the onset of WWI offered to establish and train a group of women volunteers to fight in the world, but her offer was rejected.

Annie died of natural causes on November, 3, 1926. Frank died a few days later, also of natural causes.

Their dog, Dave, was killed in a car crash in 1922.

My great grandfather died in 1973. He was 83.

Both he and Annie Oakley live on in a scrapbook in my closet. Their neighbors there include Edgar A. Poe, Harriet Tubman, and John Wilkes Booth, but those are stories for another day. Until then, Happy Halloween. Boo!


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Road Trip: Visiting Jail Inmates


Many of you will be spending this weekend at the beach or at the mall. Maybe you’ll be doing yard work, or simply relaxing while watching TV or reading a book. However, not everyone is enjoying the sun and sand or quiet time. Instead, there are thousands upon thousands of people who’re on the road, traveling to the various jails and prisons across the country in order to visit a loved one or close friend who’s incarcerated.

Sometimes, these weekend jaunts to see inmates are long-distance trips—four or five hours or more—one way—and they often require a stay at a hotel, meals on the road, a missed day at work, and a number of other costly inconveniences.

A visit to a jail, or prison, can be a stressful experience. It’s certainly not as simple as going to a friend’s home to sit on a couch for a couple of hours, laughing and joking about the good old days. Not at all.

So what’s it really like to visit a jail inmate? Here’s a short video that explains the visiting process and procedure at the Chatham County jail in Savannah, Georgia.

*Remember, no two jails or prisons operate in the same manner. Rules and regulations vary greatly. The video is merely an example of how one sheriff chooses to run his jail. However, the goals are all the same…security.

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