Friday, May 31, 2013

Happy Birthday to Jack!

Littermates: Leo, Lucky, Piper and my Jack on the far right
My little Jack O'Neill is celebrating his 3rd birthday tomorrow - Saturday, the 1st of June.  It doesn't seem possible that we've been together that long already!

When he came to live at my house he was about this big:

Jack and this two brothers and their sister had been rescued from behind a trash dumpster in an alley up in North Hills. They were tiny, full of fleas and not fully weaned.  Had my friends Jackie and Maura not taken the time to set a humane trap for them, they would not have survived.

Now, all four are healthy, beautiful cats with loving homes.

After he'd been at my house a couple of weeks, Jack looked like this:

What a great face, huh?  
He grew and grew, and in no time at all he was very very looooooooong:

This tummy loves getting tickled!

He grew up fast.

And there were a few mishaps along the way... like the day he broke the window in the front door .
The culprit next to his handiwork!

Surveying the damage

Well, the window got repaired, and, more importantly, Jack was not hurt.  He was pretty darned surprised when it happened, though!

Things have gotten quieter as we've settled into a comfortable routine.

He has become very grown up in three years.

My beautiful boy
Like all kitty boys, he loves playing games and chasing balls and mousies. Unlike most kitty boys, he's a retriever (!) and will play fetch with you until your arm is sore.

Jack has stuffed animals he loves to fight with (he gives them a real good thrashing!).  He also enjoys stealing plastic forks out of the trash and batting them around the house... and hiding them in my shoes.

Thrashing Mr. Bunny
Jack loves having his feet rubbed and watching the world (we have hummingbirds, mockingbirds, squirrels, raccoons, skunks and one very fat little possum who visit on a regular basis) from that window he broke when he was little.

He likes going out in the courtyard to play, but when it's time to come in, he comes running.  He is obedient and bright and gentle with me.

He is a good roommate!

We've celebrated each year on his special day.

We always have little cake - Jack likes a dab of frosting

But his favorite is his special cat grass
I may call Jack my little pumpkin, but don't let that fool you.  He is muy macho!  After all, he is part Korat, and on his mother's side can claim as ancestors the wild mountain cats of Thailand!

Jack O'Neill 
Happy Birthday to my sweet little Jack!
Three years old already!
..and many, many more to come!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Old Spaghetti Factory

Heading north on Harbor Boulevard in Fullerton, California at dusk.
The Spaghetti Factory is in the red brick building up on the right
I haven't ventured far off the beaten track for awhile, so when some friends suggested dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory in Fullerton, I thought, 'Sure!  Why not?'

To my surprise, it's wasn't a very long drive from my home in Whittier.

The Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant in Fullerton, California is housed in a beautiful old building next to the Metrolink-Amtrak station.  Having dinner there turned out to be a lot of fun.

My first experience with the Old Spaghetti Factory restaurant chain took place in Phoenix, Arizona many years ago.  I remember there being a potted ficus tree in the lobby with spaghetti noodles hanging from it, and large photos explaining  how the spaghetti was harvested in Switzerland and Italy using time-honored techniques.

It was all pretty funny.
Spaghetti Noodles being harvested
Little did I know at the time, that the Spaghetti Tree hoax was actually cooked up as an April Fool's Day gag by the BBC in 1957.  It was a time when few Britons knew what spaghetti was and many people believed it.  If you'd like to know more about the silly story, check out this link:

Now, back to the present.  I met some friends there in Fullerton, and was immediately struck by the beauty of the building the restaurant is housed in.  It was really cool!  

I want to live there.  

Only not near the Metrolink-Amtrak station.  I'd have to move it.  Somewhere.

I loved the interior decoration, too.  It was like Spanish Colonial updated.  Beautiful!
The main bar

One of many dining areas
The Old Spaghetti Factory is my friend Jana's favorite restaurant.  She goes into throes of ecstasy over the Mizithra cheese and brown butter sauced spaghetti.  I have to agree, it's quite good!

Jana and her husband Randy
 However, there's always room for dessert!
Chocolate Cake
Yes!  Chocolate cake.  We love chocolate cake.

Way too much.
The front porch is an extension of the bar area
I had such a pleasant evening here with friends.  It's always nice to be able to share a meal, laugh and talk.  I'm glad I ventured off the beaten track that night.

Hope you enjoyed visiting the Old Spaghetti Factory with me!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Swans on the Lake

The State of Virginia is a beautiful place.

My friend Lisa recently went for a visit to a lovely lakeside community in the State of Virginia.  One of our mutual friends, Barbara, has a home there. (Lucky Barbara!)  On the trip, Lisa took a whole bunch of terrific pictures and has graciously let me post them.

There are swans on Barbara's lake.

Cool, huh?

I love all the evergreen trees, too.  We don't have so much of that here on the southern left coast of the country.

There are also (apparently) plenty of geese.


Geese coming in for a landing!

Waterfowl are cool
Looks like the geese were having a good time on the lake that day.

The clouds were pretty dramatic, but according to Lisa the weather was beautiful and it didn't rain much.

Here is one of the beautiful lakeside homes.

Must be nice to live by a lake!  I wonder if they get lots of mosquitos? This home has a small private dock.

Isn't this a beautiful swan?

He kept following the boat.

Maybe he thought the boat was his mommy?

Or maybe he just didn't have to paddle so hard in the draft of the boat...

Hope you enjoyed this little idyll in Virginia!

Thanks, Lisa!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


Sterling and Nicole
When I hear the name, "Blackpool", I immediately think of that wonderful film with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez called, "Shall We Dance?"

If you haven't seen it, let me recommend it.  It's a delightful, life-affirming film.  And it really makes you want to get up and dance.

Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez ballroom dancing
In the movie, Jennifer Lopez's character explains how Blackpool is the ultimate Ballroom Dancing competition, held in Blackpool, England each year, and how people come from all over the world to compete there.

So, when I heard my Cousin Nicole announce she and her new hubby Sterling were going to Blackpool it really meant something to me!

Nicole and Sterling are part of the BYU (That's Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA) Ballroom dance team.  They have been preparing with their team for the past year, working with renowned coaches and choreographers, to compete in the British Formation Championship.

Evidently BYU has quite a reputation there.  They are consistent winners in the world-wide arena.

From what I understand, there are five separate competitions held each year in the Empress Ballroom, Winter Gardens under the name of the Blackpool Dance Festival.  For nearly 100 years, some of the finest dancers in the world have gathered here to compete.

The Empress Ballroom, Blackpool
If you click on the link to the right that says, "Sterling and Nicole" you will see Nicole's fun blog post about this terrific opportunity.  My favorite comment of hers was how she sometimes didn't think she could get into her knees any more!

I know that feeling.  I just don't have her excuse!

Championship Formation Dancing at its finest

Ballroom dancing includes a variety of styles, such as the waltz, foxtrot, the hustle, and Latin dances.The BYU team became the first Americans to ever win the British Formation Championships, a feat they have repeated an unprecedented ten times!  They have also competed in the World Formation Championships and consistently earn top honors in the United States National Formation Championships.

I can't wait to hear all about Nicole and Sterling's experiences in England.  This year's competition began on May 23rd and ends on the 31st   

I guess you can't say, "break a leg", like they do in the theatre (HA!), so I'll just have to say: Good luck, Team BYU!

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Flying Fortress

Jay with the famed Memphis Belle
 My brother writes:
I was mowing the lawn on Saturday, when I noticed this old WWII plane flying low overhead.  I ended up taking the family to the airport, because I figured that's where it would be.  You could take a flight in the thing for a mere $450.  We decided instead to take a free tour of it on the ground.
Christian, Nils and Anders with the Memphis Belle
There were lots of people there.  I was surprised by how cramped the plane is inside.  You have to walk a narrow catwalk between the cockpit and the rear gunner position, and the catwalk goes right over the bomb bay.  I can't imagine it being fun to walk that while the plane is in flight.
My sister-in-law, Kirsti, in the open hatch of the plane
The plane, as you probably noticed in the photos, is a vintage Boeing B-17 bomber from World War II.  It's also an incredibly famous old plane known as the Memphis Belle.

At the Utah airfield
 The aircraft was one of the first B-17 United States Army Air Forces heavy bombers to complete 25 combat missions with her crew intact.  It recently underwent extensive restoration at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.

The Bomber was first deployed in September of 1942 from a permanent base at Bassingbourne, England, and bore the unit identification markings of the 324th Bomb Squadron.  The aircraft returned to the United States in 1943 for a 31-city War Bond tour.

Three boys I'm glad won't have to defend our freedoms in one of these
This particular plane was further immortalized in the 1990 movie, Memphis Belle.

My brother shares that he had an old mission companion whose uncle died aboard one of these B-17 bombers over Czechoslovakia during WWII.

Jay continues:
You could almost feel the fear and anxiety the crew must have felt embarking on a mission into enemy territory.  It made me think of the sacrifices made for our freedom, particularly with Memorial Day coming up.

Thanks to all the men and women of our armed forces who have sacrificed - and continue to sacrifice -  for our freedoms.  We owe you a tremendous debt.

God Bless You All.

Please note that due to the Memorial Day Holiday on Monday, May 27th, this blog will resume on Tuesday next week.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Holy Cow! G-Men!

It was hard to know exactly what to think of the promotional trailers for  BYU-TV's first scripted drama, Granite Flats, when they began to appear in March of this year.  Maybe that's because Granite Flats is hard to categorize.

First of all, it's set in 1962, in a small town next to an army base.

Then, it has kids as some of its major characters.

And it is quirky.

Very. Very. Quirky. 

Think Wonder Years meets Twin Peaks, then add Eureka, with a dash of X-Files and a little Hardy Boys thrown in for good measure.

Yes, I said it was quirky.

Richard Gunn as Sheriff John Sanders
Granite Flats has a handsome leading man, aptly played by Richard Gunn, whose character is - surprise - a down-to-earth family man with a beautiful wife and lots of kids.  (Who says married men with kids can't still be interesting?)  

Sheriff Sanders and his son Timmy
The show begins with the arrival of a boy named Arthur and his recently widowed mother at an army base in Colorado.  The small town of Granite Flats, Colorado is a quiet, friendly place - until part of the army base explodes.  

It gets interesting from there: is this a Soviet attack, an accident or murder?  And who are the mysterious men in black driving around town?

New friends Madeline, Timmy and Arthur in their secret headquarters
Three amateur sleuths and the police chief begin their investigations and start to unravel a complex web of secrets.

And these are no ordinary kids.  First, they are all exceptionally bright.  Secondly, they have their own secret headquarters.

Isn't that exactly what you wanted when you were a kid?

It's the kids who are at the core of this show.  They are all good actors, and portray well-rounded, believable characters.
Confrontations in the lunchroom
This is not a fast-paced show, but it is interesting, entertaining, and at times laugh-out-loud funny.  The various secrets and mysteries are plentiful and our young detectives are bright and engaging.

I'm writing this post, because fortunately, although Granite Flats' first season ended on Sunday, they are repeating the whole season beginning this coming Sunday, May 26th.  So, it's not too late to get hooked on this show!

I invite you to try this one.  It's family fare, but it is not conventional by any means.  I think you'll find it intriguing for the whole family. My neighbors enjoy it, I love it, and my 10 year-old nephew loves it too.

BYU-TV is available on Direct TV, ComCast and other TV carriers.  All episodes are also conveniently available on-line at

Check it out!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


My friends Meldee and Don took a vacation recently to Zion National Park in Utah.  Meldee was kind enough to share her photos of this majestically beautiful place.

She writes:  
These pictures were taken on a hike we took along the Virgin River to a park they call "Temple of Sinawava".  We did it early in the day.  I loved the constrasts in the red rock walls and the bright green brand-new leaves on the cottonwood trees and the gorgeous blue sky!

The Temple of Sinawava is a vertically-walled natural amphitheatre nearly 3,000 feet (910 meters) deep.  The canyon rim is mostly desert, but the canyon floor supports a forest watered by the North Fork Virgin River.

She continues:
This time of year there are places along the canyon wall that just have water running out of the wall.  Different from what you expect in the desert.

There were lots of flowers if you thought to look for them.  I saw that people didn't even notice them, walked right on by...

In 1909, the canyon was first declared a national monument, and in 1919 it was declared a national park.  It was Mormon settler Isaac Behunin who, in the 1850s, named the canyon Zion because it was a place of peace.

Thought for today: How many times do we fail to notice the beautiful things God has placed right under our noses - or right by our feet?   As you go looking for your place of peace, don't miss the flowers along the way!