7 Reasons I Hate Shopping for a Trailer

In early spring, Jeff comes to me and asks if I want to go to the local RV and Boat Show the following weekend. I said, “Sure!” not really knowing what it would lead to. And why would I want to miss out walking through a crowded hockey rink maze. This one day, couple hour event led us on a two month journey of looking for a trailer of our very own.

Travel trailer photo for 7 things I hate about shopping.

7 Reasons I Hate Shopping for a Trailer

1. Numbers — You can’t just go out a pick a trailer. Well you could, but it probably would not be all that safe. Weight is important. How much weight you can pull, how much does the trailer weigh empty, how much does it weigh full, how much weight can the truck pull, and how much of a difference will the hitch that joins the truck affect all of this? Jeff was in charge of the numbers. Mainly because, after two minutes my eyes glaze over and I start thinking about poppies. He worked the numbers; so much it was giving him nightmares. If it’s confusing for a man with a math degree imagine what it’s like for everyone else. This was made even more nerve-racking by dealers telling us, “Oh, you’ll be fine!” and other RVers (via forums) saying, “Shit no, you shouldn’t tow that!” We looked at trailers from 33′ all the way down to a 23′. Numbers, numbers, numbers.

2. Reality Check — You have to compromise the dream of what you want with what is available. There are many trailers, sizes, options, and layouts; but not really. We looked at so many our eyes began to cross and we could not remember one from another. At one point, we resorted to handy-cam recordings of our tours so we could play them back later. With so many options, we didn’t think we would have to make allowances for what we wanted; but we would like one feature or two in this trailer and a feature or two in that trailer. We could not find a trailer with all those features existing in the same place — kind of like buying a house. Eventually we made a list of absolute must haves to help narrow down our search.

3. It’s Like Buying a Car — Even though you can’t drive it on its own, buying a trailer is like buying a car. You have to haggle for the best all inclusive price because what is written on the window is not necessarily the best they can do. Or the complete price. There is a bullshit back and forth match until both teams end up on a number (there are those numbers again) they can both live with.

4. A Growing Monopoly — There are a lot of places to shop for travel trailers in our area. There were two right here in town. We also went to three other towns to do all day research. It was tiring but at the time it gave us a good perspective of what was out there. It also helped us to build our knowledge base on trailers. But in hindsight it was probably a waste of time. There is a growing trend of many of the smaller dealerships being owned by a larger company making for less of a chance of negotiating a better price between them.

5. You Can’t Test Drive Them — You can walk around them until your heart is content but you won’t know if a trailer will fit your needs until you actually use it and unfortunately you can’t take them off the lot to test-live them for the weekend. I think part of the reason it took us so long to decide was our process of trying to work through every scenario of usability we could think of. “Well, if we did ‘this’, would it still work for us?” Mental test drives are tiring.

6. Toilets — When you are shopping you get to look at so many toilets but can’t use any, seriously it’s like looking at pizza commercials all day and getting a craving for pizza but there are no shops around. And don’t get me started on the nice porcelain toilets with the cheap seats?

7. 1 Slide or 3 — This one falls a little under numbers and a little under reality check. Slides are amazing! If you don’t know what a slide is, it’s basically a little compartment that slides out giving more space to move around. It is amazing the difference 2 to 3 feet make. We both love them. Unfortunately it is easy to get spoiled by slide outs once you have seen a few trailers with them. One of the first trailers we walked through at the RV Show had three slides (ooooo, ahhhhh), it was awesome. It’s easy to get spoiled by slide outs but they can easily ruin your numbers with the added weight. In the end we decided we definitely needed at least one to make our travel experience a happy one.

There you have it, 7 Reasons I Hate Shopping for a Trailer. Now that it is over, I wouldn’t put it past us to trade it in, five years down the road, for something else and start the experience all over again. The upside though is we won’t be so green when we do.

First Camping Trip with New Trailer

Are we camping or are RVing? I really don’t feel like we are camping because we aren’t sleeping on the ground in a tent. And I don’t feel like we are RVing because it isn’t a motorhome. And travel-trailering just seems too cumbersome but since it’s a campground I guess I will go with camping. Or maybe Rving. You definitely need all this stuff if you are Rving (Honestly, this is about half. I swear I tried to keep it to necessities.)

How are we going to fit all these supplies in the trailer?

Camping KOA Brighton

We have known about KOA campgrounds for decades but have never stayed at one. KOA Brighton was our first experience with pulling our trailer into a campground, checking in, parking, stabilising etc.

We got a little scared when we had to drive down past the campsites to the camp store to check in as the road narrowed to one lane on a slight curved decline. We were momentarily confused wondering how we would get out but then realized it was a one way that would loop around.

The location of the camp store and the road to our camp site.

Jason was inside in work gear with his brother and I chatted with them for a few minutes while Jeff finished the hassle-free check-in process with Jackie. We had no idea at the time it was their opening weekend.

Rubber Ducky Anyone

A season promotion for Brighton KOA is the “Collect a Ducky” contest. For every weekend you stay you get a different themed ducky. At the end of the season, the campers with the most duckies when a prize. Here is our first ducky.

Adorable April rubber duck. The first for our collection.

They have other family oriented weekend events throughout the season too.

After registering, we hopped back into our truck and a summer intern escorted us via golf cart to our camp site — talk about making the process stress free!!

Site B5

As you can see from the campground map above, our site was B5 and was centrally located. The campsite was well maintained and clean. It was a pull-thru so Jeff wouldn’t have to worry about backing up. Look how relaxed he is now that the trailer is parked.

Look how relaxed Jeff is now that the Jayco Trailer is parked.

The gravel strip was surrounded by green on both sides. On the front was our camping area which included a picnic table and a fire pit. F I R E!

The fire pit with two bags of wood and kindling.

On the opposite side our neighbours. We overlooked a road and could see the owner’s home, and the Big Bouncer (a giant rubber bubble that kids jump on and apparently LOVE; seriously, they love this thing).

Washrooms and showers were a few minutes walk. There is a little noise from the highway but it’s more of a background drone than a nuisance. There is a nice treeline view that surrounds the highway and I imagine in the fall it is quite lovely.

A view of treeline and hills as sun begins to set behind us.

The only negatives were no hot water in the shower area (for mens or ladies) and the wi-fi was pretty much nonexistent (Does any campground have good wi-fi? I think not.) I checked at numerous times and it was painful to download basic email. I eventually used Jeff’s phone. Overall we thought it was a great location. It was lovely and we plan to return.

Setting Up and Supper

We started to set up. When I see we, I mean Jeff. He had make sure the trailer was level. It wasn’t. We did a little back and forth on some wood planks he brought along and were mostly level enough so he could put down the jack and stabilisers. During this process a couple young men in a truck stopped and offered us some fire wood. Jeff purchased two bags and some kindling — which we now know is probably too much for a weekend when it’s just the two of us.

It was late afternoon when we pulled in so supper was a high priority. The outside stove was set on the picnic table and Jeff cooked some delicious burgers (see what else we ate this weekend).

Setting Up the BBQ.

I added salad, carrot sticks, and grapes to the mix which he was very happy about.

Jeff eating the burgers he cooked. And my veggies and fruit.

As you can see it was a bit cold for the last day in April. We didn’t mind though. It made it comfortable for what was to come.

Maureen pausing from supper for first camp supper photo.

That’s the neighbour’s camper, not ours.

Cleaning

I was a bit obsessed. I can admit it. The trailer was brand spanking new but in my opinion it was filthy. It hadn’t been cleaned since it left the factory. There was dust all over the walls, curtains, cupboards etc. I washed down and vacuumed everything but it’s still not as clean as I would like. I know, I know, it’s camping. Camping is not a clean activity. Ha!

It really didn't feel like the trailer would ever be clean.

Because of the cleaning process and organizing we really didn’t get to explore the campground as much was we wanted. There is a nature trail and a dog trail we both want to check out — maybe next time.

Campfire or Bonfire

We did get to build a fire. Well, I built it. Jeff got to watch me build it.

Building a fire in the pit on our campsite.

And it was pretty awesome if I do say so myself. Having the kindling already cut was certainly helpful but I probably wouldn’t get it again. Who needs kindling?! Just call me firestarter.

Warming up by the fire.

It was a long day. We were definitely tempted to snooze by the fire. Oooooo, fire….

Fire Pit.

I love their fire pits. The jumping reindeer metal with the fire background is pretty cool.

Practice Makes Perfect

Jeff got a refresher on dumping the black and grey tanks and learned that the starter kit that came with the trailer was crap. One of the first things on his list of “things to get” is a better hose — better as in longer and more flexible. He also hitched and unhitched the truck a few times.

Everything in Its Place

Our first camping trip was all about getting comfortable with our new addition. Everything pretty much has found its place inside the trailer and in the basement. At least it went from an overstuffed trailer…

We stuffed Glenn to the max.

…to a space where a  teacher can do some work (a teacher’s work is never done!)

A teacher's work is never done. Brought some camping.

It was a short trip, two nights and a full day but I think we settled in pretty well.

Towing for First Time

We picked up the Jayco White Hawk Travel Trailer from Lens RV in Brighton on a Friday. Their service technician took us through a walk-a-round and a walk-thru of the trailer before we hopped in and headed down the road.

Getting a tour of the trailer, even the roof.

Here is a view Maggie and Glenn just before we left the lot.

Maggie has picked up Glenn to take him home with us. Sort of.

I’m not sure how other people do it but we decided driving all the way home (33 minutes away) the first time was just too much stress. A few weeks before we were scheduled to pick up the trailer, I booked a pull-thru camping spot at the Brighton KOA a few minutes away from the dealer.

A Slight Detour

We actually took a drive into the campground a few weeks before they opened for the season. The gate was open so we took the chance. There were a few seasonal sites (trailers that stay the whole season) in place but it was otherwise quiet camperwise. The owners however were busy getting ready for the season which officially opened April 29th. We had the opportunity to meet Jason who was incredibly kind, supportive, and welcoming even though we were essentially strangers trespassing. He told us about the renovations they were working on and how they planned some changes for the coming seasons. Talking with him ahead of time really helped us cement our choice of staying there first.

When I called to book a site a few weeks later, I talked to his wife Jackie who was also equally kind and gracious. She seemed very excited for us joining the RV world; and offered their help, should we need it, setting things up.

Towing for the First Time

Pulling out of Len’s parking lot was a surreal experience. I had a goofy grin on my face and Jeff was trying to smile while he white knuckled the steering wheel as he pulled the truck and trailer out onto the highway. Traffic seemed to be in our favour. We were almost completely on the go when there was a loud metal on metal noise that jolted both of us. We could hear Elida, calling out behind us, “It’s OK, it’s supposed to do that!” or something along those lines. It was anything but OK to both of us but we continued down the highway. Wryly I said, “I guess that is a new sound we have to get used to.” One of many new sounds — most of which sound really bad and unnatural.

Our first drive took about 25 to 30 minutes mainly because we decided NOT to take the shortest route back through Brighton to the camp site (that would have been quicker). We both did not want to go through town and manoeuvre a tight corner. But this meant a slight detour and then driving on the 401. Jeff was incredibly nervous but he was a trooper and did an excellent job of manoeuvring the truck and trailer. I’m not saying there were not a few mini panic attacks along the way to destination.

Noises, Pick-up, and Shimmy, Oh My!

Having never pulled a trailer before there are many, many new noises. Those fancy weight distribution hitches can and do make all kinds of clunks, groans and creaks. Then there are the chains, and we must not forget the length. We thought the truck was long — adding a 32 foot trailer out the back and then turning corners, especially to the right means swinging wide to prevent jumping a curb.

Then there is the pick-up. Not the truck, but acceleration. Dragging a house behind you changes the way the truck speeds up and slows down. The 3.5 EcoBoost does a very good job of pulling, but in Tow/Haul mode it does rev higher and also uses engine braking (a little shocking the first time).

And finally there is the shimmy. Having the big monster on the back means the truck experiences a little bounce and “jiggle”. It is not sway as the trailer is following nicely behind, but there is a little “extra” body motion like a short teetertotter ride over and over; especially if the road is uneven. Pack the Dramamine!

In hindsight, it was probably a good choice to book the nearby campground instead of driving a longer distance under all that stress.


Our first trip was over and we arrived to our first camping destination in one piece! Now it is time to get used to our new home on wheels.

Pulled into "pull thru" campsite with no problem.

Chef’s Plate

I don’t know exactly how I came across the website for Chef’s Plate but it was probably Facebook. If you haven’t heard of Chef’s Plate, in a nutshell it is a “food box”, you know like the monthly beauty boxes? Except in this case once a week (or less if you skip weeks) you get two meals delivered to your door. Something about this really intrigued me so I immediately signed up.

A quick look at Chef's Plate Chicken Supreme with mashed potatoes and asparagus.

I had to register of course, provide a few preference details, and then pick a few recipes from their weekly assigned choices. On their website they had a coupon for two free meals (it’s still there) so I entered that and instead of paying $49.80 I paid $28. A $6 delivery charge is included in those prices.

I received an email last night that my box had been shipped and around 2:30 this afternoon it arrived via FedEx. I’d like to point out that a meal for two people x 2 is actually pretty heavy so I’m surprised they are able to do such reasonable shipping.

Here is a quick Instagram video of me unpacking the box (I mention them forgetting a piece of chicken but there was actually two in the package):

Everything is nice and chilled.

A video posted by Moe (@biggirlblue) on

The well packed box came with four ice cold packs around the meat. Since one of the meat options was chicken, and this was a concern for me, I was relieved to see everything was still so chilled considering the heat and humidity we are experiencing this week.

I have unpacked everything and put it in the fridge. I have to head out and do some grocery shopping (haha) and will decide when I get back what we will try first. Dinner options I received: Corned Beef on a Pretzel Bun and Herb Crusted Chicken Supreme (both are pictured on this page), one for each of us.

A heavy card stock recipe direction card came for each meal. There are a lot of instructions on the back so it doesn’t look like they are making you guess how to do anything.

I’m quite excited about trying some new recipes and I love the fact that I don’t have to go hunting for ingredients at the grocery store because everything is included (except basics i.e. brown sugar). I always get frustrated when I try to follow a new recipe and it turns out I cannot find one to five of the ingredients I need.

I will post an update once I try both meals and let you know how it goes.

A quick look at Chef's Plate corned beef on a pretzel bun

Chef’s Plate is currently delivering Ontario wide and “expanding quickly”.

UPDATE on My First Two Chef’s Plate Meals

From here on, the images are of my actual plated results.

Corned Beef on a Pretzel Bun with homemade tomato jam and mixed green salad — We both hated the salad that came with this meal. It was too bitter. I did not use all the juice from the half of lemon and it was still bitter. I think it needed sugar or something to balance it.

The sandwich was really good and I have actually found myself craving to have it again. The portion size was quite large and Jeff ended up saving half his sandwich for lunch the next day.

Corned Beef on a Pretzel bun with spinach salad and tomato jam via Chef's Plate.

There was also a side of tomato jam which was awesome. Jeff even liked it and he is not a big tomato person — that’s an understatement, he tends to pick tomatoes off everything.

Lemon was carried throughout the meal, in the dressing for the salad, spread for sandwich, and in tomato jam.

The full page recipe cards are easy to follow but I would like to see larger images. I know space is a premium but a little larger would be nice.

Montreal Spiced Steak with new potatoes and red delicious apple kohlrabi salad — Overall it was a tasty meal that was fairly easy to prepare and cook. The salad was OK. Better than the last one. I also mixed the ingredients together first before applying over salad, rather than mixing like the directions said, to give a more uniform taste.

The steak was yummy but perhaps the steak spice was a bit too salty. I’ve never pan fried a steak before so this was an interesting experience and I’m happy with the results and can see myself doing it again. The potatoes were awesome of course, they are potatoes, but they needed a cooking time of 30 minutes and not the 20 instructed.

A photo posted by Moe (@biggirlblue) on

 

UPDATE on a Few More Chef’s Plate Meals

We have tried a few more recipes over the last few months. I won’t give a full review of them, just a few quick thoughts.

Chicken Cheese Melts with tomato, basil, and corn nut chopped salad — Loved this. A new way for us to make chicken. I have never cooked with Provolone and cornflake crumbs before.

Chicken cheese melt and salad from Chef's Plate.

Turkey Meatballs over fresh spinach fettuccine and lemon butter sauce — Lovely, glamerous looking dish that really felt like no effort to make. Just enough for two. My first time cooking with marinated artichokes. Delish!

Fresh spinach fettuccine and turkey meatballs from Chef's Plate.

Chicken in a Lemon Cream Sauce with mashed potatoes and leek haystacks — Never thought of leeks as a side before (usually only make leek soup) so this was interesting to try. Chicken and potatoes were a win.

Chicken with cream sauce and capers with a side of mash and leek salad. From Chef's Plate.

Hand Rolled Ricotta and Kale Manicotti with fresh pasta and garlic bread — There was very little complaining about the greens in his pasta. It’s a fancy dish that was easy to make because all the ingredients were right there.

 

A photo posted by Moe (@biggirlblue) on

Herb Crusted Chicken Supreme with mashed potatoes and spiced green beans — This was an interesting method of cooking the chicken (stuffing then pan frying) and was very tasty. Described as “hard” difficulty on recipe card but really wasn’t that difficult in my opinion.

Herb Crusted chicken with a side of beans and onions from Chef's Plate.

Vegetarian Thai Red Curry with chickpeas, green beans, and whole wheat roti — This was a beautiful dish to look at. It was fragrant but overall not a favorite for either of us. It seemed too overloaded with the chick peas and somehow was too spice and too bland at the same time — too much heat. I did not use all the curry paste, thank goodness.

Vegetarian Thai Curry chickpeas from Chef's Plate.

Final Thoughts on Service

I really love the concept of having all my ingredients on hand and ready to go without having to worry about what I missed. The convenience is awesome! I also liked that I was able to learn a few cooking techniques as well as work with and taste new ingredients that I would not normally be exposed to. If you don’t like what they pick for you there are at least four other options to change to on their website.

As for the company and website, it is very easy to manoeuvre to change meal selections and to skip weeks. I picked and chose the weeks I wanted to use the service in advance up to two months. And there is a pause option that I am currently using because we had a big home expense and I did not want to have to worry extras payments. This is seriously one of the best features of the system. I hate box programs that make you feel trapped.

I like the service and will use it again soon.

***
Topic Links
* Visit Chef’s Plate to sign up (Yep, if you use this link I get a free meal.)

Homemade Pirate Costume

My DIY Pirate instructions from a pair of second hand pleather pants. I made this for my husband in 2010 (and he still has it today) but it can be easily used for a woman pirate. First up, buy a pair of pleather pants from the second hand store in your size or bigger. The bigger you get the more material you have to work with. I say pleather because it would be a waste to cut into leather and it’s cheaper. I found a pair of pleather pants for $13 and they were in excellent condition.

The red dash lines are cut lines. Before I started I had to cut out the thin material liner which was easy enough. A. on image at left — The pleather pants had a 2″ waist band and a side zipper that I cut out. B. and C. are additional cuts just above the knee and again about 6″ longer. D. is a cut line to remove the seams in crotch.

How to cut the pleather pants.

The material on the lower half of the pant makes up the buccaneers of the pirate costume (the boots).

Buckeneer shoe covers for pirate costume are cut from lower legs.

The small section between B and C makes the fold over at the knee. The small piece is turned inside out and placed a few inches within the top of the larger piece and hand stitched around. I used waxed floss because it slid in and out nicely and didn’t break easily. The stitches were large enough to hold pieces together. Nothing fancy as it won’t be visible anyway.

I made a cuff by inserting a smaller piece into the longer one and folding it over.

I cut the remaining large pieces of fabric in half up the crotch and opened them. One piece makes up the back of the vest and the other piece I cut into two pieces out to make the front part of the vest. I didn’t use a template, I just eyed it. The front pieces were cut into point which made the vest longer in front and short in back. Out of leftovers I cut long strips about half an inch wide and as long as I could make them.

Pirate vest cut from main body of pants.

I poked holes in the shoulders where the front pieces would be attached and the side pieces where the front would connect with the back. I then threaded the long strips through the holes in a cross pattern as if lacing shoes and tied the two ends in long knots. The size of the vest can be adjusted by the ties.

To finish off the costume he wore his work cords, a white shirt I had in the closet, a noisy silver belt I picked up from the second hand store for $3, and a black stretch sash I had around his head, and a pair of black shoes. I put some dark eye make-up on him and finished off the look with a sword I picked up from the costume store for $5. Total cost $21.

This could be adapted for a woman: black skirt (short or long) or men’s baggy pants, white or red blouse, bandanna or sash on head, and wide belt at waist.

Plus Size Costumes

Originally published 8/31/2010 at Large & Lovely, BellaOnline.

A Fruit Fly Serial Killer

This summer we developed a fruit fly problem. What is surprising is that it has taken this long, since we have been composting for years. We just seemed to hit the right amount of ripe bananas and compost to ignite a war between us and them.

When we noticed the first signs of the little critters flying around we ignored them. Big mistake. Don’t ignore them. One of the first thing we learned about fruit flies is that they produce like bunnies — in a shorter time span — about every seven days we could expect a new outbreak.

We started making a conscious effort in killing them. First I had a notepad that I used to swat them. I did pretty good with about ten flies in a session. Then all of a sudden it was like they learned from their dying comrades to get out of the way and I couldn’t hit one of them. Then I was putting a Ziploc bag near the bananas with a banana in it to catch them. This worked for about two Ziploc bags and I was only getting about six to eight at a time, hardly enough to account for wasting a bag or a banana. Finally I told Jeff, no more bananas or kitchen composter until we get this under control. We froze the bananas we had left (great for smoothies by the way) and cleaned out the kitchen compost collection container. It’s been about three weeks and we have seen a decrease in flies but they are still around and if they are still around… well hello bunnies.

I went to the Internet and found a forum with suggestions on how to kill fruit flies and the one method in particular that spoke to me was using cider vinegar in a glass with Saran Wrap on top with holes punched in the top to attract the flies. They crawl in but can’t crawl out. It seemed like a pretty inexpensive solution and the dead flies could just go down the drain.

I picked up a small bottle of cider vinegar the other day and put a glass by the banana area and by the compost area — just in case they are like butterflies and have the same flying route sense. I know, I know. Then I put one in the bathroom as that seemed to be a hot spot too.

Within two hours I had caught twenty flies in all three glasses. They were walking around so I swirled the glass to catch them in the fluid. My Karma is totally out the door. I got up this morning and there was a new hatch — each glass had ten to twenty flies. Eureka! It works! It really works.

Dead fruit flies in bottom of glass.

All day I have been circulating around the three spots and checking the glasses, giving them a swirl etc. I will change the glasses and solution tomorrow and add some fresh cider vinegar and Saran Wrap and wait.

Saran Wrap over a glass to catch fruit flies.

I am hoping to only have to do this for two more seven day cycles and in the mean time I am going to do a lot of surface cleaning to hopefully calm things down. It’s starting to get colder too so things will be in our favor. Fingers crossed.

From Ashes to Swans

The March break went quickly. Most of Jeff’s time was spent around home doing odd jobs, hanging a few hooks, re-attaching the gas tank to our twenty year old truck, and marking papers (I took a day off here and there). This weekend we drove to Presqu’ile Provincial Park to spread my mothers ashes. We were expecting it to be somewhat quiet but were surprised to learn that it was a waterfowl weekend — birders come to birdwatch — lots of car traffic.

We drove around for awhile until we decided that near the deer pasture would be a good spot (my mother was not much of a swimmer). We hiked in for about ten minutes and found a spot beside a mossy stone between two trees. It was a bright overcast day and the mood was reasonably light, I made a joke about my mother being stuck between a rock and a hard place — you had to be to appreciate it.

On route out of the park we stopped by the waterside near the back of someone’s cabin and saw two beautiful white swans eating. Most of the time their heads were in the water so I was able to get quite close. Beautiful. I took the Canon Rebel with me and took a few pictures (if you click on thumbnail you will get larger image).

New Year Traditions

When the in-laws come to visit over the holidays we usually ring in the New Year together. We start with an early supper out, followed by a drive through to the neighbouring town which has a light display set up behind the main drag of their downtown area. Every year we go and every year it has either rained and drizzled. Except last night, it was frigging cold. It was so funny because we were all wishing for rain that we used to complain about. I think our walk through the light display was in record time for us. Still it was fun and we followed through with the tradition. Here are a few pictures of the evening (taken with my Sony Bloggie which does not have a flash):

I started the night out with a Zombie which is a mixture of three rums, orange juice, lemon, grenadine and a another item I cannot remember. Pretty though:

zombie drink with rum

The waitress was nice enough to take a family photo:
family dinner

Half way through our lovely dinner the cook sent out a tray of skewered shrimp because “we looked like good people”. They were damn good shrimp:

plate of shrimp

On with the light show:

These first two photos give you an idea of how big the display is as I could not fit it all in one shot. We went in on the left, left a donation in the coin box, then entered to walk through. I only took a few pictures of my favorite things. You can click on the image for a slightly larger view.

city Christmas lights

city Christmas lights

I think these were new, they were out on a dock by the river:

Christmas tree lights

Christmas lights 4 b

This is one of my favorite items. They have them every year and I would totally buy one if they were available. There are also large bunnies about half the size made from the same lights.

Christmas lights 4

Choo-choo!

Christmas lights 5

Main trail through light display.

Christmas lights 6

Christmas lights 7

Last view of my favorite reindeer.

Christmas lights 8

We made a quick stop at the war memorial for soldiers that died in Afghanistan then headed home for some wine, comedy, and ringing in the New Year.

Happy New Year!

Breathing In and Out

Sleep has never really been a hard thing for me. I can sleep in a chair, a moving vehicle (I am not fun on long trips because I cannot stay awake), and I can sleep in bed. I have always been the type of sleeper people dream about, within two minutes of my head hitting the pillow I am sawing logs and ready for dreamville. That was at least until the last few months.

I am and will forever be a night owl but even night owls have regular sleeping habits and the last year I have been alternating between my norm and extended hours up to 5, 6, even 7 a.m. ( I will be working on a project and get it in my mind I do not want to stop until I reach a certain point). The extended hours are recking havoc on my sleep patterns and I find myself waking up sometimes hourly before I decide to get up all together and get on with my day feeling like shit.

The last few weeks I have developed my own combat pattern where instead of counting sheep I count breaths.

Beginning with 1, I take in a deep breath fairly slowly and on 2 I let it out slowly. I continue alternating my breaths with each number to the count of 50, forcing myself to focus on my breath and the counting, limiting my multitasking brain to two things. My mind might wander for a second to something else but I quickly corral it back to the breathing and counting.

The trick is to keep the breathing slow enough that I am taking in more air than usual but quick enough that it is comfortable and obviously not too quick that I hyperventilate myself into a sleep.

This provides my brain with more oxygen than it is used to getting. By the time I am done I am either rejuvenated enough to get up early and start the day or relaxed enough to fall asleep for a few more hours. Today I started the day earlier than planned.

How are your sleep habits?

The Hawk and the Squirrel

Usually when I get up the first I do, once I have said “hello” to all the critters, is let the dog out into the backyard. Yesterday I opened the backdoor and there was this large bird about twenty feet away from the stairs. It took a few seconds for it to register that it was a bird of prey because it was so out of place. I yanked the dog back in, closed the door, and continued to watch it.

hawk in back yard

As you can see he is pretty close. This is the closest I have ever been to one and it is especially unusual for it to be in town; although I am pretty close to the outer edge. Anyway, my first thought was it must be injured and made a mental list of places I could call for assistance (bird sanctuaries, animal rescue etc). It hobbled a few steps and that was when I saw the black tail and realized it was in hunter mode and had nabbed itself a squirrel. You can see the squirrel’s tale horizontal with the bird’s backside.

hunter and prey

The dog at this point was worked up. She wanted out to do her business and she knew I had seen something which made her even more excited. It is a chain reaction for her. I mulled over the idea of opening the door and shewing the bird away but then I would have a dead squirrel to deal with if it did not take it to flight — I do not do dead critter clean-up. I eventually decided to take Shelby out front to do her business and to wait out the bird.

When we came back in the hawk was getting down to the business of his meal. I kept an eye on him for an hour and a half while he worked away. It was an interesting experience to see this live. He eventually flew away with the squirrel in tow and Jeff had minimal clean-up before the dog could go out exploring.

I was disappointed that I could not get better pictures of the bird. The images above were as close as I could get with my Sony Bloggie — part of the clarity issue was I was taking the images through two pains of glass (not very cleans ones at that).

At one point I dug out the pocket binoculars so I could get a closer look at the bird’s features and our National Audubon Society Field Guide to Northern Birds in an attempt to determine if it really was a hawk or if it was a falcon. This was also an interesting process because I could find similar features on many of the birds of prey but none completely looked like the bird I was seeing. The closest was the Red-tailed Hawk in the light phase. Further inspection of photos and bird sites online makes me think it was a “juvenile”.

While I was viewing with the binoculars I wondered if I could hold up the lens of my camera to the binoculars to get a closer photo. Surprisingly it worked. As you can imagine it was incredibly hard to hold the arms up and center the circles so the shadow of the binocular kept moving around. Warning: The next few images may be graphic! You can click on the thumbnail for a slightly larger image.

hawk eating squirrelhawk holding down squirrelhawk eating squirrelred tailed hawk eating black squirrelred-tailed hawk tail feathersred-tailed hawk leg feathers

I realized the pictures are not magazine quality they did turn out better than I expected. This one is probably the best.

red-tailed hawk

While I was experimenting with camera a binoculars I thought I might as well try some video too (I get especially wobbly near the last minute so you may get sea sick):

And that was my little walk on the wild side!