Kelly had to work till mid afternoon on Christmas Eve so I finished up some shopping and got us ready to go in the morning and then pick Kelly up from work and drove us down to her mothers house in Riverbank. We had a lovely time with a big family diner Christmas Eve night and the morning opening gifts. I'm planning to do a page that will show all the fun stuff people gave us and some of the fun stuff we gave this year but it will be a few more days.
Kelly was scheduled to work this week every day until 2:00pm on Christmas Eve but she has come down with a nasty flue and fever so I made her stay home yesterday and today. We'll see about tomorrow after she makes it through the night without her fever coming back. This afternoon however she has been feeling quite a bit more perky so I agreed to take her to the In and Out Burger's drive through. After that we decided to drive up to Placerville to visit Kelly's favorite yarn shop Lofty Lous. It was such a wonderful winter day with patches cold mist hanging in the air and the sun already hanging low at two in the afternoon. After Lofty Lous we just had to go for a drive up in the mountains. We headed east out of Placerville along windy narrow roads through several cute little old towns with old mining era buildings sitting close to the road. After a while we found our selves at Jenkinson Reservoir where we had taken Bella to play in the snow the first weekend after we got her. It was a real bummer that we didn't have the camera with us because it was just one coffee table book shot after the next. As we crossed the dam at the south end of Jenkinson Reservoir on Mormon Emigrant Trail road the view looking out over the water with billows of low mist hanging over the lake and a few fishermen standing along the shore was breathtaking. Talk about lovely weather for a sleigh ride together. The picture is Kelly's Christmas card for this year. She draws one every year. This year it turned out especially well.
Jeep 4.0 liters are notorious for blowing oil backwards through the crack case ventilation system and into the air filter. It can be caused by a number of things but I have fixed all but the hardest of them. The last thing to try if all else fails to stop the oil in the filter is to pull the valve cover off and clean out the little flappy valve things in there. To be honest I really don't understand it all that well but the word on the street is that it should fix it. So the other day my jeep failed the infamous California Smog for high NOx. One thing that can cause this is a vacuum leak or other vacuum problems so I figured it was time to get the long procrastinated valve cover clean out taken care of. My plan for Saturday was to get up early and put up a string of Christmas lights on the front of the house and then get an early start on the Jeep and be done by lunch. Of course that didn't work and long story short, I got started a bit before 2:00. Taking the cover off was the easy part. I then spent the next several hours scrubbing and scraping the oily carbon deposits off the valve cover and it's innards. Fortunately I had the use of the awesome parts cleaner at work. Without that I don't know how one would get this kind of job done. After getting all the parts mostly clean I had to RTV the flappy thing back in place inside the valve cover and then RTV the valve cover gasket to the valve cover and the put it back on the engine. That took two tries because the first time the gasket fell off and got caught under the cover wrong so I had to pull it all off and try agine. I got that all locked down by about 9:30 so I pulled the spark plugs and replaced them just for good measure. Of course I have no real way of knowing if any of that will do any good as far as smog but it should at least keep some oil out of the air filter. I think I will replace the O2 sensor as well before I take it in for a retest. It ant easy being a greeny.
We just got back from caroling with our friends the Silvesters from the ward. We drove around in there big Buick and piled in and out at several other ward members houses to just sing two or three songs. I could have handled a bit more singing but it was really fun to drop in for a quick Marry Christmas and then jump back in the bench seats of the big car and be on our way. Afterwards we visited at the Sylvester's house for a good hour. I do love the Christmas songs. I almost don't want Christmas to come and end the Christmas season.
Kelly and I have these friends the Shanks who have a baby named Nate. He's somthin' like 9 mouths old. They had a company Christmas party last night and they asked if we could watch Nate for a few hours. Kelly wasn't going to be here but I told them I would be pleased to hang out with Naters. They showed up with him about 6:00. On Nate's previous visits he had proved that our house is not even close to kid friendly but I did moved the coffee table out of the center of the room to give him room to play on the floor and moved some things up high. I even gave the place shot with the vacuum just for good measure. After Nates folks left, he was cool at first and I was getting things arranged. Nate must have suddenly kinda figured they had been gone too long and that maybe they weren't just outside the door anymore, and he started to fuss and cry a bit. He crawled over to the door and sat there for a few minutes crying till I sat down next to him and started giving him chunks of a banana. That got his mind off his abandonment and thing started going better. His mom told me he would want to eat and had brought a tupperware full of SpaghettiOs. I sat him on my lap and held the tupperware under his chin to catch the drips and started spooning the SpaghettiOs in his mouth. I fingered thing were going fine but it turns out I was committing one of the classic baby feeding blunders. I got about 10 spoonfuls in when I guess little Nate got thinking "I wonder how those thing would feel squishing between my fingers?" or perhaps it was "I wonder how those thing would look like flying thought the air?" At any rate, in less than the blink of an eye he grabbed a little hand full a those thing and flung them across the room. I never even saw it coming. Lesson learned. Naters 1 Mark zipo. So anyway, I got the bowl out of reach but then I had another problem. It was like Nate was mini King Kong and the spoon was the little airplane trying to attack him. With those little lightning fast reflexes he kept swatting for the spoon and when successful send those dang Os flying in every direction. In the end I would say a good 90% of the Os did end up in his mouth, but the other 10% was spread out over an amazing area of our kitchen. After dinner was fairly uneventful Nate would alternate between playing with his toys on the floor pulling on my watch (I finally put it on him) and sitting next to me on the couch. About 8:00 he was acting a bit drowsy so I seized the moment, grabbed his blanky and snuggled him up with me on the couch and it worked like a charm. He was pretty much out till I decided he was so cute I had to get a picture, so I had to disturb him to get up and get the camera. And then agine when I realized the camera didn't have it's card in it. After all that and me flashing the camera at him repeatedly trying to get a good shot he was awake for the duration but he was happy to stay there by me on the couch and just watch TV. It's been a really long time since I have had excusive baby watching duty. At least 5 years. I figure I did OK. Nate's parents could see us through the window sitting there on the couch together as they walked up to the door and they seemed to be impressed that I had him so calmed down. It ended up being a fun night. Nate your welcome to come hang with me any time. Just eat your Os before you come.
Well I've got our car Bella all put back together from her road hazard experience the other night. Here is a list of the damage. Suspension parts $332.04, for an new strut and control arm plus $213.30 labor to put it back together. I got a used wheel for $40. They are $140 new. A new tire (Goodyear Assurance Triple Tread 205 70 R15) $100.00 plus $12.00 mount and balance and I got the alignment free due to a mistake in the paperwork. So that's a grand total of $697.34 damage. It could have been much worse. Like I said in a earlier post, I got one quote for almost $1400.00 just to fix the suspension. Getting all this work done has been an interesting experience. I found an online bulletin board dedicated to the Forester while I was looking for used parts and so I've spent some time there reading what other Forester owners have to say about their foresters. This has reinforced my feelings of satisfaction from owning this fine car. Kelly had a VW cabriolet when we got married and every time she would drive down to Modesto on her day off in that thing I would spend the day worrying about her. It handled very badly and was prone to braking down. When she takes Bella I feel much more at ease. I know there are few cars on the road that handle as well regardless of the weather, there is almost no chance it will leave her on the side of the freeway, and if she dose get it an accident it will take care of her as well as anything will. This is the first really nice car I have ever had. I think it may be the best car ever built. It gets good mileage, has a ton of room inside for people and stuff, it handles amusingly well on the road and it will go almost anywhere off road as well. I love to drive it. If I were in the market for another car I would definitely start test driving a new Forester.
As you may orů may not know, Kelly is The Story Lady at Borders here in Folsom. Every Tuesday at 10:30 she reads stories, sings songs, and generally entertains a crowd of juvenile patrons for a half an hour. This is one of her very favorite parts of the job. She has a number of regulars who have been reported to ask there mothers on a regular basis if today is "story day" and if miss Kelly will be there. On a few occasions we have been out and seen kids pulling on their parent shirt whispering "that's the story lady". Today was story day and 30 kids showed up. Kelly had candy canes for them because it was the last story time before Christmas, and a brown haired boy who comes every week and sits right in front with his mom brought Kelly a Christmas card and gave her a hug. She almost cried and spent the rest of the day bragged to her co-workers about her card. I love that girl!
It had been raining hard all day. I came home from work and said mostly in jest the words I'd live to regret "I'm tempted to drive up there and see the snow". Kelly jumped at that. "lets do it" "Can we" Ten minutes later the two of us were driving up 50 thought driving sheets of rain, heading into the storm. Up 50, left at Ice house road and up. At about 5400ft there was a bit of snow on the sides of the road that looked like it was left over from the plow but the water falling from the sky was still liquid. The rain had eroded some rocks loose and they had fallen out onto the road, so I was watching for that and driving around them. Nobody else was up there after turning off 50. We only say one irrigation district truck the rest of the night. Who would be out driving around in the mountains in weather like this? No one in there right mind it turns out. Anyway we were almost to Loon Lake and the end of the road and still no snow at 6400 ft. Rather suddenly the car jumped and made a big bang. We had hit something big. The right front tire was gone. I was only going maybe 30mph at most and I had been watching for rocks. I never could find what we hit even after walking up and down the road. The rim was bent pretty good and the tire was toast. But I had a spare so with the help of me lovely assistant I put it on. By the time we got that done we were cold and wet but feeling like it was just part of the adventure. Thing got worse from there. As we stared down the hill toward home it quickly became apparent that he wheel and tire were not the only casualties of the evening but that we had done some real damage to our beloved Bella. She was pulling hard the right and the tire was squeaking and tiny bit. Also because she is all wheel drive and has limited slip differentials I had to drive really slow to prevent further damage to the drive-train. The first quote I got for the repair was well over $1300.
We finally rolled into the driveway with a sore arm from pulling of the steering wheel and sadly got out of the car to find water standing on the driveway and against the garage door. I took Kelly in and went out to face the flood. I opened the garage door to find a full four inches of muddy water standing in the entire garage. It turns out that the whole property drains along the driveway and that that passageway was blocked by the leaves from the last post. I spent a half hour shoveling and raking to make sure things were going to drain and then went in to take a shower with two inches of water still covering the floor of my garage. In the morning the water had gone leaving a soggy muddy mess to clean up but the busted car was still there to be dealt with. Some days it just don't pay to get out of bed.