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.
The big tree if front of our house is loosing its leaves and it has finally cooled off. The Sierras have their first snow and you can smell the wood fire smoke from nearby chimneys. I love Fall.
OK Thanksgiving. We were too poor to travel far for Thanksgiving and with our "New Years Extravaganza" fast approaching, and besides Kelly's family is only a few hours away so it was a no brainier. Because Kelly works in the retail world she had the day before Tday off but not the day after so fortunately my schedule is flexible and I was able to change our companies holiday schedule to fit me needs. (some days it's good to work for a small company) Kelly's family only tenuously embraces the traditional Thanksgiving (last year there was a real risk of no pie! Kelly saved the day.) so we had the big dinner on Wednesday evening in keeping with our one day early schedule and then on Thursday took it easy and went to see both the latest Harry Potter and Walk The Line. Both were very good films but Walk The Line was a real treat. I have been a fan of Johnny Cash from my 9th birthday when I got a clock radio. Another interesting thing about Johnny Cash is that he died the day of Kelly and I's first date. We remember talking about him and listening to some of his music that I had, so It was kind of fun for us to remember those times.
I'm finally doing itů The 4 to 1 conversion on my jeep's transfer case. About a year ago I bent the shaft where it comes out of my transfer case a bit. That made it hard to drive over 45 because of the vibration. I acquired a used replacement some time ago and had Tom cut it to length and tapped the end so it would work with my hack and tap slip yoke eliminator. I also got a TeraLow 4 to 1 kit. I figured that if I was going to go that deep into my T case I may as well get a performance boost from it. So last night with the help of some friends we dropped the case out and tore into it. Right now the thing is in pieces on the work bench and with a bit of luck we will at least get a good start on putting it back together tonight. For those of you who don't speak Jeepanese but are still reading for some reason, a 4 to 1 transfer case just lets your jeep go slower in low range. For most things off-road slower is good because you get more control. I now have 2.72 to 1 transfer case so if I combined that with my 4.1 to 1 axle ratio and my first gear that I can't remember but is something like 4 to 1 I now have a abysmal combined final crawl ratio of about 45 to 1. With the new case I'll bring that to much more respectable 65 to 1. Now that's not crazy low or anything but it's not bad for a daily driver. Plus I'll get my freeway privileges back!
Well as you may have noticed I changed the way the site looks this weekend. I have been wanting to do this for a long time and working on it. A few weeks ago I got the navigation bar to stretch across the screen and now I have added the banner picture and made them go all the way across the screen. It ended up being kinda hard to figure out. I'm going to get technical here so you non tech folks can tune out if you want. What I did was change the BODY tag style in my style sheet to have no margin. That was actually the part that took so long to figure out. I had been trying to just set the margin for the elements at the top of the screen that I wanted to go all the way across, but I never could get them to overcome the BODY margin. So having set the body to 0 margin I had to use the P tag to keep the rest of the content away from the edges and then go back in and to all my pages and be sure I had P tags on all my paragraphs. One problem I still have if you look close is that when I have a pic that is included in a P tag it gets double margin, one from the P tag and one from the IMG tag. I'm not really sure how to resolve that but I don't think I'm going to do it tonight. It's past 12:00.
Kelly and I have had a very long week. Tonight we are going up to Pollack Pines to hang out with our friends the Shanks, have dinner and play some games. Last night Kelly made puff pastry in pie pans like a pie crust because dumb Safeway is anti pie and they never have the right pie stuff. Tonight she covered one with banana slices and chocolate pudding and the other in cheese cake and strawberries. So even though I'm not getting pumpkin pie I think I'm going to be ok here. That Kelly sure is awesome when she busts out her crafty skills. We're going to play one of our favorite game lately, Tri-Bond. The deal is you pull a card and it has three thing on it and you try to figure out what the common bond is between them. Sometime they are quite esoteric. The President of the United States, The Prime Minister of Britain, and a kitchen. Here's the hardest one ever; a hula hoop with a nail in it, a snow storm in Florida, and the USS Bainbridge. If you know what either of these sets have in common send me an email. By-by we're off.
This weekend our ward took all the youth out to Point Reyes National Park for a leadership training retreat. As assistant young men's advisor I went along but really didn't have a specific role. I was looking forward to getting to spend time with my guys and getting to know them better. It's about a 2 hour drive out there. We stopped at a rest stop in Vallejo so everyone could stretch out a bit. At the rest stop there was a good view of Vallejo but there was a steep hill that looked like it would offer a better view so I said to some of the priests "I'll race you to the top" and they took off. I made it to the top last with my legs burning. Man I'm getting old! The view was great though. Anyway we slid down and jumped back in the cars and an hour later pulled in to the parking lot where we were to begin an 8 mile hike. As I slid off the seat and out of the tall SUV my legs literally gave way completely and I was in a heap on the ground. It turns out sitting in the car for an hour, running up a really step hill and down, and then sitting in the car for another hour is a bad way to start a hike. The young men's advisor who is a Dentist (therefore a doctor) assured me that if I started walking my strength would return. It was kinda scary but I took his word and started walking. We stopped regularly to let everyone catch up and I was actually staying ahead of the slow folks. Sure enough my strength did start to come back but the weakness was replaced with Pain. Man I'm getting old! After awhile the bishop decided I was keeping a good pace and told everyone to stay behind me. We stopped frequently and people had prepared short leadership lessons. It was cool but every time we started to walk again it took a while to get the legs going. The last mile was along the beach. At the end we had a great catered dinner of BBQ'd ribs and New York strip, home made chili, rolls, salad and cake. It was all really really good. I am really soar today. Man I'm getting old!
We just got back from a really fun Stake Costume Ball. Kelly has a friend that she has known for years that does plays at the college in Modesto and she has access to all the costumes so we went down and picked up these outfits. It ended up being a really fun time. There was a live band and we did a bit of boogie and whatnot. There where a ton of really fun costumes we didn't even have the coolest ones.
For the last few months Kelly and I have been trying to read the Book of Mormon. Last August the church presidency sent out a letter asking everyone to read or re-read the Book of Mormon before the end of the year. And last night we finished. We didn't exactly read it form cover to cover though. We decided to start at the book of Alma rather than at the beginning. It was my idea and I think I was just thinking that that was the fun part of the book and so we could establish the habit of reading every night in the fun part and then it would be easier to keep it going. So we read from Alma to the end and from the beginning back to Alma, and now we plan to just keep going and read it all again. We should be able to make it to the end by the end of the year. It has been really cool to read that fast. It really has helped me get all the groups straight and see the coherent message of the book come through all the story. It really is a testament of Christ. If you would like a copy they are available Here Free.
We arrived home from our trip to Billy's wedding last night at about 9:00. What a trip! When we left we expected to just hang around Friday and then go to a wedding and a reception on Saturday but it turned out to be a non-stop weekend. As you know if you have been reading, Joe's wife Jessica had there baby Ginger Helen while we were in route. Kelly was feeling sick on and off the whole time (she went to the doctor today and they confirmed that she has bronchitis and is working of pneumonia), so she didn't get to hold the baby. She did feel mostly ok on Saturday, so she got to go to the wedding and subsequent parties. The drive home was uneventful but long. We packed a ton of fun and activity into those few days. So much so that I had a hard time remembering where I work this morning.
Having stayed up all night last night, I slept till 9 or something, then we made another trip the the hospital to see Ginger. We put a ton more pics up of her. We also got to spend a LOT of time with the other kids.
Kelly and I drove to Idaho today to go to Bills wedding and reception on Saturday and as an added bonus Jessica decided to have her baby today! So we drove straight to the hospital and got to see her when she was only a few hours old. She looks great! She slept the whole time. She has a bunch of dark hair. Now I'm staying up all night with Billy. We got disgusted with Joe's Dial Up internet connection so Billy flipped on his laptop and found that there were two wireless signals from his neighbors so we are both sitting here with our laptop's at 6:30AM having stayed up all night. I think the sun may be peaking. Happy Birthday to me and Ginger!
We had another fun weekend. Kelly was off work on Saturday again. I could get used to this. Saturday we slept in till almost 10 and then we spent the day planning out our garden and chicken run that we are going to put in next spring. We figure that it's going to cost us about $120 for fencing to keep the deer out and the chickens in. The plan is to put a "mote" of chicken run around the garden. We have read that this arrangement will greatly reduce problems with insects beating you to your veggies. Another advantage is that during the non-gardening months you can let the chickens into the garden and they will keep in fertilized. We plan to get about 5 or 6 chickens and in addition to the run, build them a coup that we will lock them in at night to keep the mountain lions and whatnot from getting them. We don't really know what we are doing so if you have any suggestions we are open to them.
For those of you that may have missed this, they are building a temple close to us. Utah close. Like only two exits past where Kelly works close. It will be so awesome to have it so close and not have to take a whole day of fighting the bay area traffic to go to Oakland. The temple is supposed to be finished next spring but I haven't heard any hard dates. We are exited for both the open house where we can bring our friends and the dedication. Construction is moving along at a good pace. We go up there (its on the top of a big hill) every few weeks and Tuesday night was the first time we could see what the exterior stone would look like. You still can't see it in the web cam but they have started putting it up on the back. It's a bit darker that the artist pictures that I have seen. It looks about like the Salt Lake temple in color. We forgot the camera so we didn't get any pics of it, but here is a cool string of Pics of them putting the steeple up. If you download them and view them in a slide show it's kinda cool.
We just got back from a really fun day trip to an area called Apple Hill. It is just an area on the other side of Placerville with a bunch of apple farms and this time of year when the apples are in season they have all kinds of fun craft booths, live entertainment, baked goods and it is a good place to get nice pumpkins. People come for far and wide. Kelly's parents, brother Harry, and sister Sandy as well as Sabrina, Sandy's daughter all came up to go with us. We went to four farms. The first one was a smaller one and didn't have too much going on except for the live entertainment. This singer named Sarah Gautschi was up on stage all by her self except for her guitar and a microphone. Her voice was a bit like Alison Krauss. We ate our picnic lunch there, and I really enjoyed listening to her. The next one was a place we went to last year and where they have really great pumpkins. This one also had a really fun band called Farm Fresh. They were all fairly young and they were on the back of an old Chevy flat bed bustin' out some fun "high energy" blue grass as they call it. They weren't technically perfect performers but they were really fun to watch and listen to anyway. I guess that's the high energy thing going to work for them. I would definitely pay to see them play. The third farm had a little train going around the lake, and some of us got to ride it. The last place I think is the biggest farm up there. They have all kinds of stuff going on: a fish pond, tons of craft booths, They sell all kinds of apples and my favorite of the day is the apple fritters they sell. They are so good it's to die for. They have just the right combination of crispy and squishy and a ton of fresh! This morning Kelly and I went to the feed store and picked up a bail of straw to set outside our front door and put all our pumpkins on and now it looks great. The Pumpkin picture is linked to a page with all the pics from the day in full resolution so Kelly"s family who forgot their camera can download them if they want.
Kelly and I were at the grocery store the other day and they had these woven bird houses made from deferent kinds of grass and moss and they were only 99 cents so we got 3. Today we put them up in the tree in our front yard. We don't expect to see any birds in them till spring but we hope we will have some residents then.
This weekend the Mormon Church held its semi-annual general conference. Kelly and I have always really enjoyed listening to or watching the conference. This weekend however, Kelly's sister was moving so we spent most of Saturday helping her move. By late afternoon we were all kinda wasted so I knocked off and, took Kelly's brother to the Priesthood session in the evening. The cool thing was that Kelly parents have one of those cool TeVo style cable things that let us record the sessions that we missed so we watched the morning session Saturday night and picked up most of the Saturday afternoon session Sunday evening. We went home from Kelly's parents Sunday night pretty much wiped out from a very full weekend.
Because Kelly works in retail and will not work on Sunday, she works almost every Saturday. That makes it hard for us to do things on the weekends. This Saturday though she didn't start work till 3:00 and she had Friday off so I skipped out of work at about 1:00 on Friday at we took off down California's highway 49 with the goal of going to a yarn shop Kelly likes in Sonora and then on to Riverbank where her parents live to see Tim Breton's Corps Bride with them and spend the night. 49 is beautiful fun drive through a number of famous gold rush towns and has been one of our favorite places to explore. This time of year the hills are golden but the terrain is still very beautiful and the little towns with there very narrow streets and historic buildings make you wonder what it must had been like in the 1850's.
Kelly and I have been scheming for some time now about hosting a small film fest in our new back yard. Last nigh we picked a date and a name and today we are making the first announcement. Make your plans now to attend the first annual Ashurst Cottage Film Fest.
Kelly and I having recently moved to a new house, and have also become members of a new ward at church. This ward helps the widows in the ward by providing them with firewood. The wood comes from various members who have trees come down on there property and is mostly oak. The work of cutting, splitting, hauling, and delivering is done by the various arronic priesthood quorums. As I have been called to be the priest quorum advisor for the ward, I am now involved with the splitting part of the project. Last night I helped the quorum with the splitting at one of the member's houses. I would estimate that we with the aid of a hydraulic splitter owned by the ward split well over a cord of wood. One guy was pulling wood from the stack where it had been dumped and setting them up for the splitter. The next guy was running the splitter up and down. The next guy would wrestle the wood in and out of the splitter and the last guy would toss the split wood into a new stack. That last job fell to me. I found it ironic that as the night went on and I grew more and more tired the stack got taller and I had to through the wood higher. Some of the extra boys were trying to split wood with a maul and actually managed to get a few of them. I took the opportunity to try out my new chain saw, but could not get it to start. Oh well. It was dark most of the time and it really was fun to be out working with the boys and getting something so worthwhile done. It brought back memories of splitting wood as a kid is Washington. Fun times.
Kelly got her hair done today. She made a deal with a friend of hers that is a stylist that she would knit her a hat for a hair cut... style... do... or whatever you girls call them these days. Kelly worked on the hat for a long time and when finished, it was truly a work of art, and today is payday. She got a cute ?bobbed/A frame? style. She said it is the best hair cut she has ever had. Pic of the Hair coming.
My cousin Billy who will be getting hitched to a fine Idahoan woman next month, has been giving me some technical feedback about how to make your favorite site even better (at least in the conventional/technical sense). I was telling him that he was "the wind beneath my wings" because his site www.BillBenac.com had played a not insignificant roll in inspiring me to make my own web page. His reply was that "the wind beneath his wings" was" in fact non other than my brother Joe. This was because Joe had pointed him to www.HtmlGoodies.com one year at christmas over a glass of eggnog, and Billy had subsequently gone home and stayed up all night crusin the site and then became the worlds best web guru ever.