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Winter - 2011

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Lodi Women's Club Christmas Boutique
Monday, November 21, 2011: This weekend we visited the Lodi Women's Christmas Boutique and saw lots of wonderful crafts. The building above was built by the women's club in 1923. My mother is just walking in the door and looks to her left at the large display of gift baskets. This is a wonderfully successful raffle. I'll explain below.
Entrance to the boutique
The Christmas boutique display room
Lunch at the boutique
There are about 80 gift baskets just inside the front door. They have a huge mixture of products, wine, candy, music, gift certificates, kitchen gadgets, baking goods, etc. Raffle tickets are sold for $1 each, 7 for $5, 15 for $10 and 40 for $20. Each of the 80 baskets are numbered with a tiny numbered bag next to the basket. The raffle purchaser drops a ticket into the bag with the corresponding number with the basket desired. Gwen and mom had fun investigating the baskets and dropping their tickets in the bag. Neither Gwen nor mom bought anything but I bought a bottle of Lodi Olive Oil from some cute girls who were members of the "Lodi Pony Club". The olive oil looked good. Mom bought our lunch at the Christmas cafe in the basement. It was simple sandwiches and soup. This boutique is the start of what promises to be a busy Christmas in Lodi.

Gwen's birthday, she got an edible bouquet

Tuesday, November 22, 2011: Gwen's birthday was today. Her daughter Lesa sent her an edible bouquet which was very well done and tasty. We also went to lunch at a local Mexican restaurant in Woodbridge, California, only about two miles from our house. We also went to Costco and bought some outdoor Christmas lights for my Mother's birthday, she doesn't know it yet. We will decorate her house with colorful LED Christmas lights. They draw such little current you can connect upto 33 strands together. Just before I left for choir practice, I noticed a Facebook announcement that was having a ONE CENT sale on ANY cell phone if you opened a new line account. Gwen and I have been researching for months because we want to get "smart phones" so we both knew exactly what we wanted. We had to pay a $60 activation fee with Verizon which we would not have to pay if buying from Costco but saved $600 on the cost of the phones so I believe we got the better deal. Gwen ordered the phones while I was singing. We got two different style phones, she got the new Motorola Razr while I got the new HTC Rezound. What a nice birthday for Gwen ... we both got presents.

A Thanksgiving tradition at Temple Baptist in Lodi, groceries are brought to the front.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011: A Thanksgiving tradition at the Temple Baptist Church in Lodi is to bring groceries to the front of the sanctuary. The sanctuary is filled with these bags of groceries which are later sorted then distributed as a ministry of the church.

Family Thanksgiving

Thursday, November 24, 2011: Thanksgiving is a family affair but not in Lodi. We drove to family in Woodland, California for great food and a fun visit with family.
Friday, November 25, 2011: Today, known as "Black Friday" because today is the beginning of enough business for retailers that they are finally in the "black" for the year (as opposed to being in the "red"). My sister Dorana wanted an item advertised at a retailer for Black Friday sales and since she is in Mexico I agreed to get it for her. It was my first experience of early morning shopping (before 6am) on the busiest shopping day of the year. I was disappointed. None of the stores I visited, Big 5 Sporting Goods, Kohls, Radio Shack, Target and Staples had any buying frenzy. I was able to get the item for Dorana without any problems and chose to pass on the item I was going to get for myself. Maybe the sales just did not justify the frenzy this year.

Posing with the cat and Dorana's car

Saturday, November 26, 2011: If you can believe it, I had to revisit the rental where I installed the hot water heater a few months ago (again). The heater would not re-ignite even though the pilot was on. I decided it had something to do with the natural gas connection so I researched and learned how the connections are currently installed. I bought new parts and changed the connection. It ignited immediately and I hope it STAYS fixed this time. Mom suggested we should have gotten a plumber to do the original work then it would be THEIR problem. I answered, "No, it just would have been done right the first time."

Gwen and I drove around town in my sister's Pontiac Bonneville enjoying the ride and completing errands. Every time we arrive home, our cat, Annie loves to lay on the hood of the car because it's a warm spot to relax. She gets paw prints all over the hood and my sister is NOT a "cat person" so this photo is for her.

We dined at Whirlows for lunch today

Sunday, November 27, 2011: About a month ago, I purchased two $25 gift certificates at Costco for a total of $25 (so 50% discount). Today, we finally got a chance to try one of the certificates (we plan to use the other as a gift for a friend.) The restaurant is in Stockton, California so about 15 miles from Lodi. It is a unique salad and sandwich location where you build your own meals by selecting from the menu or pointing to the fresh salad condiments. The prices are reasonable and of course, with our discount, only half of that. We went to Whirlows after church and then for a walk around the Lincoln Center Mall. Before leaving the mall, we found a yogurt shop for dessert. We watched football the rest of the afternoon and ordered vests for gifts from L.L. Bean online plus shoes from Amazon for the CyberMonday sales event. We wanted to give both a headstart on the day. We didn't have to pay sales tax or shipping for either order.

Putting up Christmas lights for the first time in hundreds of years.

Monday, November 28, 2011: For my Mother's birthday, my original plan was to take Mom to a NFL game in San Francisco. But when my Father's health became worse, we sold the tickets and planned to do something else. My sister Dorana came up with the idea of Christmas lights and today I followed up on that suggestion. So I hung Christmas lights for the first time in a very LONG time. I bought four 33 foot strings with 100 LED bulbs each and as it turned out, I needed another two strings for just a simple ring around the windows, door and wrapping the posts. The great thing about LED bulbs is that they draw very little current, in fact you can connect 25 strands together. Click the photo for the night-time view.

Holiday train ride
Tuesday, November 29, 2011: This morning we rushed to the community center to be sure we got our tickets to the United States Air Force Band Christmas concert. The tickets are free but you must have one to be admitted and they are usually given away quickly. Gwen dropped me back home so I could work on the final exam for my college course. This quarter has flown by, it seems like I just began the course yesterday. The final exam begins this weekend and grades are due by the end of next week. We got our new smartphones this afternoon so the rest of the afternoon was spent charging and setting up the phones. My sister Sandy arrived and will stay until tomorrow afternoon. I came across this little train taking Christmas shoppers through the parking lot of a local mall. Click the photo to see the train engineer who looks the part.

Having lunch at the senior center
Thursday, December 1, 2011: This was a new experience today. Gwen and I visited the senior center for a $2 lunch. Mom was meeting friends at the center, Marge, Larry and Janet and we tagged along. It was an enjoyable lunch and we all had a great deal of fun joking with each other. The others stayed for an afternoon movie while Gwen and I went shopping for the Salvation Army "adopt a child" Christmas program. We were to buy for a 3-1/2 year old girl who wanted a kitchen set, tea set, and coloring books. We finally found what we were looking for at WalMart but did our best to find it elsewhere first. This is my first published photo from my new phone. I actually shook the phone so the image is fuzzy which become really apparent when the photo is enlarged. I'll get better at using this new technology.

Gwen waiting for a tasty lunch to arrive


Friday, December 2, 2011: Gwen and I decided to go to an afternoon movie today. The movie started at 1:05 and we were running short on time so left at noon to grab a burger before the movie. Thank goodness we chose Moo Moo's Burger Barn next to the movie theater. We had the best burgers since "Steak 'n Shake" located in the eastern states. Additionally, the restaurant advertised free WIFI so having new smartphones, we took advantage of the free Internet connection. You can click the photo to see how happy Gwen is when her Monterey burger arrives. We saw Hugo 3D which is SLOW but I really enjoyed the 3D and the very detailed historical scenes of Paris and the train station. The main theme is historical so if you enjoy old movies, you will likely enjoy this story. The two photos of Gwen were taken with my new smartphone, this time much better than the first photo.

Mom and I Christmas shopping


Saturday, December 3, 2011: My mother and I went Christmas shopping today. But first we needed fuel in her car so we drove to Costco and bought fuel at $3.39, the lowest it's been since we arrived in California. After getting fuel, we went inside the store for two items. Mom wanted a little heater to set beside the kitchen table to keep her warm in the morning and a box of triple chex (wheat, rice and corn). She also loves to visit all the free food sample tables so we got snacks while shopping. She also likes to visit with everyone in the store so she met several new faces today. Next, we drove to Target because Mom has a coupon where she gets a $5 discount when she buys $50 in merchandise so she had a two page list ready for Target. I was hungry for lunch so stopped at the "Target Cafe" for a bite before shopping. Mom disappeared into the store aisles looking for items on her list. I found her about 30 minutes later with nothing in her cart. She explained that the items she wanted weren't on sale until tomorrow so we would have to return tomorrow. So out the door we went to Safeway only a few doors down. The mall had a nice decorated tree with a bunch of kids playing around it checking the wrapped boxes. We took the opportunity to take our photo.

The REAL mall Santa


Sunday, December 4, 2011: After church, we met the real Santa (no fake beard) and with a genuine smile. Gwen and I took Mom's 20% discount card to the Elephant Bar Restaurant and had a good lunch. Unfortunately, the restaurant claimed the lunch prices were already discounted so we got a discount on the appetizers only. After lunch we took a walk in two malls and found a few Christmas gifts and the real mall Santa. This one actually seemed to be enjoying himself and had a real beard. I figured he was a homeless person that the mall cleaned up and sat on a stool for a month. I hope he at least gets a percentage of each of the photos taken of him and the kids. We had a productive Christmas shopping day along with some fun. Click the photo to see another view of Santa, his real beard and genuine smile.

Carpet cleaning at mom's house


Monday, December 5, 2011: Today was a work day at mom's house. The carpet cleaners arrived before 9 am and the worked hard to clean the carpet while I moved the furniture around and out of their way. You'd think with a truck mounted compressor and vacuum they could clean anything but even their equipment could not get the carpet perfectly clean. Note the nice door decoration for Christmas. I worked on scoring assignments in the afternoon then we all went to an evening concert of the United States Air Force Band of the Golden West. We were part of a sold out crowd to see the concert. Tonight I must pick up my sister at the airport and return her car, darn.

Preparing for a docent party


Thursday, December 8, 2010: Today was party day for the Lodi Lake Docents. My father was one of the original docents so my sister Dorana, who is now a decent, chose to have the Christmas party at the parents house because it was so difficult for Dad to go away from home. We looked forward to the party even though Dad passed away a month ago. Mom and Dorana are lighting a candle activated Christmas scene. Later, the house filled with docents, a potluck dinner and gift exchange. Meanwhile, I was at choir practice, our performance is this Sunday. Click the photo to see the rest of the room.

Friday, December 9, 2011: Turkey luncheon at the Lodi senior center


A couple of weeks ago we visited the Lodi senior center for a luncheon and got tickets for the Christmas luncheon at that time. Today, the room was filled and lots of volunteer helpers to serve and help pickup. Costco even provided helpers and probably some of the food. Anyway, we had fun and enjoyed the food. Unfortunately none of our numbers came up for door prizes. Click the photo for a view of downtown Lodi in December.

Temple Baptist Choir during the Christmas program
Sunday, December 11, 2011: Today was the performance I've been practicing for since September. This is a large church but a small choir. They have an awesome media system, the best I've ever seen with lights and, in this case, electronic background music. The music portion of the service lasted a full hour including the children's portion. We had to perform twice, once for each service which I thought would exhaust our voices but we all had enough stamina and in-fact, the second performance was better than the first. The men are up front because there are so few of us. This was one of the enjoyable benefits of spending the last six months in Lodi.

Getting help from Karl at the Verizon Store

Monday, December 12, 2011: Today was a fun day out. We spent the entire day in Elk Grove, California to use a Mimi's Cafe coupon then visit a bead shop, hardware store, children's clothing store and a Verizon Store. We used our smartphones for GPS directions to different areas of the town since we were not familiar with Elk Grove. Much of our time was spent in the Verizon store with Karl helping Gwen solve some problems with her new phone. We both need to watch the three hours of instructional videos available online but will need to get a faster connection than what we have at the trailer to do it. Karl really wasn't the person to talk to about the Motorola Droid Razr that Gwen just bought but he found the answers she needed to solve her most current problems. We also enjoyed shopping in a small bead store for some Christmas present items we can make. Next door to the bead store was a children's clothing store, expensive but we found a nice shirt for my new grandson Noah so he can look like his dad and me. Gwen also found some yarn for a scarf at Jo Ann's fabrics on sale which will match her new vest. I learned about tactical flashlights at a sports shop next to Jo Ann's and found the one I've been looking for. Finally, we ended up at our favorite yogurt shop before returning home. You can see that photo behind this one, just click the photo.

Enjoying dinner with Mom at a church social

Friday, December 16, 2011: Tonight was a special time with mom at a church Christmas dinner. Mom purchased the tickets some time ago expecting the meal to be wonderful and it was. Two Sunday School classes including mom's, come together for the meal. The contract with the Salvation Army to prepare and serve the meal. The Salvation Army chef did a great job with choice of tri-tip or chicken and both were prepared perfectly. Mom got to visit with all her friends. I believe it was a tough night for many, however, because many had lost long-time partners this year so it was difficult to enjoy the fun time without the partner present. Along with the mean, a piano and saxophone duo entertained after the food. The saxophone musician also played the bassoon which I preferred. You can click the photo to see another photo of me at the table.

Out for entertainment from a not-so-usual Christmas program
Saturday, December 17, 2011: Tonight we took Mom to Christmas program with the reputation as one of the best in Lodi. It is at the First Baptist Church with 72 in the choir and a 30 piece orchestra. This was not the usual Christmas program, much better with some impressive musical arrangements of familiar and not-so-familiar Christmas tunes. This was the most impressive performance I've seen in a long time.

Meeting Ralph and Janet again as they visit their grandkids for Christmas

Sunday, December 18, 2011: What a great day for meeting friends. After church we drove to Stockton to meet with Ralph and Janet who took some time from their Arizona travels to drive to Livermore to visit their grandkids. We met for lunch at the Old Spaghetti Factory, which I thought was disappointing but a good place to meet. I had to sit with Ralph so we could compare phones. Ralph has a new iPhone while I have a new Android HTC Rezound. We both use Verizon as our carrier. Ralph showed us "MyFitnessPal" APP where he tracks exercise and food calories. I immediately downloaded it and began using it at today's meal. It promises to be one of our favorites for controlling how much we eat and balancing with exercise. We talked about their Arizona travel plans and plans foCheaper night pricing for fuelr the Escapee Chapter 37 rally in June. You can click the photo for my photo with Ralph and Janet. The 76 gas station across the street was advertising night unleaded fuel at $3.24 which is 15 cents lower than than the daytime price. I would assume that will start a nighttime price war. I've never seen lower prices at night before.

On a cold foggy morning we find the new brass plate at Dad's burial site



Monday, December 19, 2011: Mom got a postcard from the cemetery that the brass plate had been mounted at dad's burial site. We had many items on our "task list" today so we decided to make a visit to inspect the new plaque. It was cold and foggy this morning, a great day to visit a cemetery As mom said while driving to the cemetery, "this is the business to be in." A service was being held in the chapel on the grounds. I replied that a cemetery will not benefit from my death, I expect my ashes to be scattered. This cemetery certainly seems busy and with the "baby boom" generation approaching old age, they may have to build more buildings and add more acres. Click the photo for a view of the plaque. I was able to spend the last four months of my father's life with him, you can see the whole story here.

Noah is a happy baby


Thursday, December 22, 2011: These last couple of days we have taken care of both Chloe and Noah for a few hours each day. What a pleasure to be with the kids. Noah is growing quickly and will soon be crawling and playing with Noah. Noah is beginning to get into a night time sleeping schedule and will soon wake only once in the night. Noah spends the day with next door neighbors Jim and Suzi. Chloe enjoys pre-school each day where she brings home a craft project. When I picked her up today, she was taking a nap with all the other kids on the floor with her blanket and pillow. As soon as she saw me, she jumped up and was ready to leave. Noah likes to talk and stare at colorful lights. Tomorrow, we will take Chloe to the Children's Museum while Noah goes to the doctor.

Meanwhile, we are parked at the Gold Ranch RV Resort in Verdi.

Kim and Chloe are excited about the Edible Fruit Arrangement grandma ordered for them

Friday, December 23, 2011: Great-grandma in Lodi thought ahead and had an Edible Arrangement delivered today for the family. These are really a lot of fun. Gwen had one delivered to her as a gift from her daughter and everyone in the family enjoyed it. That's where mom got the idea. Chloe especially liked it and filled up on strawberries, grapes, catalope and sucked all the chocolate off a couple of the pineapples. I cut her pineapple into narrow stripes and she ate those too. We DID save some for Ben when he came home from work. Today was eating, napping and playing all day with the kids. Chloe learned that we could watch one of her favorite TV shows on my phone so she sat in my lap for nearly an hour watching an playing games with her favorite characters. That was tough on the phone battery but got Chloe in the mood for breakfast. We also drew pictures on the sliding glass door window using felt tip window markers ... my first time to see those.

Ordering a kids meal at Wendy'sShopping in Costco today for socks and vegitable platters

Saturday, December 24, 2011: On this Christmas Eve day, Gwen and I took Chloe shopping for some last minute gifts as well as appetizers. We first went to J.C. Penney, Gwen was looking for a special gift. Then we decided to get a vegetable tray for the family gathering Christmas morning at Costco and Gwen wanted some heavy socks because of the cold mornings. We still needed some wrapping paper and I wanted some organizer bins so off the Michael's. Chloe enjoyed all the travel and shopping. She especially liked the speed bumps in the parking lots. Our last stop was at Wal-Mart, Gwen wanted fabric and I was still looking for the right sized organizer bins. We first stopped at Wendy's inside Wal-Mart to get Chloe some lunch. She ate about half her hamburger, drank all her fruit juice and nearly all the french fries. We ordered apple slices, not fries but did not discover the mistake until it was too late. We delivered Chloe home just in time for her nap. This Christmas Eve we had a wonderful dinner then assembled a few gifts. We are ready for Christmas morning. Kim is writing "For Chloe and Noah from Great Grandma" on the chalkboard. Click the two top photos for additional views of our day.

Santa has arrived and Christmas is ready

The gift is assembledBen and Dale assemble a gift



Sunday, December 25, 2011: Ben and I worked last night to assemble the easel, it took the two of us about 30 minutes to assemble. It's a nice hardwood easel and should last through both kids. This morning Scott, Mindy and Joe joined us for Christmas morning of gift giving. Of course Chloe had the most fun but became tired after so many gifts to open.

Scott gets help with a giftMindy with Noah

Mindy does a great job of taking care of Noah while Scott gets help from Chloe. Chloe seemed to be the helper for opening all gifts. Note her new L.L. Bean vest in the photo below.

Chloes open another gift.
Noah happy after a second bottleChloe trying her new sunglasses
Monday, December 26, 2011: After a morning of errands, Gwen and I spent the afternoon with Chloe and Noah. Noah was a very hungry boy, his usual 4 ounces was not enough. Chloe snacked on vegetables after her nap then modeled her new sunglasses. Later for dinner she ate her share of pizza. We also did a Skype session with great-grandma in Lodi. Chloe likes to visit that way. We have one more day with the kids before we leave on Wednesday.
Fred Meyer in the coast fog

Our camp only a few feet from the Pacific OceanFinding some wet weather boots

Friday, December 30, 2011: The last few days have been travel days and we either did not have Internet access or I was too tired to add anything to this site. We've been camped on the Oregon coast now for 24 hours in the rain and typical coast weather. Gwen has been looking forward to visiting her favorite Oregon store, Fred Meyer and Brookings has a particularly nice one. We bought a few grocery items then shopped for boots and clothes to keep us dry. We chose to come to the Oregon coast in the winter because we need our "Oregon Fix" and the coast will be warmer than the Oregon interior. There is also a 50% chance of sunny weather in the winter months. Anyway, we had no wet weather boots and Gwen didn't have a rain jacket so we found everything we needed on sale at "Freddie's". We are camped in one of our favorite coast towns. It's a mystery but I'll be dropping hints as we explore the area for a month. Today was a rest day. Both Gwen and I have congestion, perhaps passed from the grand kids so we are wanting to get rid of the symptoms so we can enjoy our time at the ocean.

A gray day on the Oregon coast
Saturday, December 31, 2011: The last day of 2011 on the Oregon coast began with some bright sunshine but quickly changed to a low overcast but no rain, yet. We are looking forward to walks on the beach, even on gray days like this one. I don't remember this amount of sea-foam on the beach, lots of debris too, like logs and sticks, must be coming from the nearby rivers and creeks which empty into the Pacific. Click the photo for another view.
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