Friday, June 28, 2013


George is mesmerized by the birthday decorations!
It's not often you get to help with a truly SURPRISE birthday party.

George and her kitty friends had a good time decorating their home to get ready for the big event.

Oh!  There goes the doorbell!

She's HERE! Max leaps to lead the way!
Here's the big moment!


Surprise!  Happy Birthday!
Our friend Jackie got a huge surprise recently when she came home and found her house filled with guests ready to wish her a very happy birthday!

The cake was just gorgeous - and delicious
The house was packed with well-wishers!

Opening the birthday loot!

Jackie was very surprised.  It was a really fun event!

The kitties thought so, too!
Happy Birthday!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Urban Planning

Courthouse Station, Salt Lake City, in the rain 
Yesterday I attended a Webinar concerning Next Generation Urban Bikeway Design.  Last week I attended a Webinar which explored Enhanced Multi-Modal Level of Service standards.  (A webinar is a seminar that uses phone lines and internet connections to link up several groups of people at different locations.)

It's really not as complicated as it sounds - certainly not the Webinar part and especially not the Multi-Modal part.

It has to do with how livable our cities are, and how friendly they are to pedestrians and bicyclists. It's a question being asked by urban planners all over the world.  It's also something all of us city-dwellers have a stake in, and my company happens to do planning of this kind.

A "sharrow" bike lane
in Long Beach, California
When I mentioned this to my brother, he announced that a huge international urban planning conference was recently held in Salt Lake City, Utah.  Evidently Salt Lake City was chosen as a site for this conference as it is a model for urban smart design - all because of Brigham Young's preference for wide streets!

When Salt Lake City was originally laid out, Mormon leader Brigham Young opted for an orderly grid of north-south/east-west streets and announced he wanted all major thoroughfares wide enough to turn a team of horses around in them.

What this means for the modern Salt Lake City of today is that the streets are so wide planners can easily accommodate pedestrians, bike lanes and light rail as well as automobiles.  Pretty nifty, huh?

Since I work for a company that does traffic and transportation planning and engineering, I found it interesting to note that pioneer and Mormon Prophet Brigham Young's forward thinking is now getting some worldwide attention in urban planning circles.

Brigham Young remains one of my heroes.  He was an incredible man and the more I learn about him, the more I appreciate him.

Kudos to one of the first (if not the first) of the "modern" city planners!

Brigham Young (aged 57)

- SLC photo: JD Evensen

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Life in Hong Kong

Subway Rush Hour in Hong Kong
Jonathan, a friend and former co-worker, recently moved with his entire family to Hong Kong.  It's a startling change for a California boy.

First of all, he faces a daunting commute.  Although everything is very accessible in Hong Kong, during peak hours the subway is mobbed - awash in a sea of people.  Of the photo above, Jonathan merely says, "[It] took me 5 minutes to get on the train."

The other challenge was finding Mexican food.

That one made me laugh.

Well, he is a Californian to the core!

He did say the food in Hong Kong was excellent, but finding Mexican food was a challenge!

Mr. Taco Truck, Hong Kong
Jonathan writes:
Found a hole-in-the-wall restaurant about two blocks from work.  The burrito did not taste authentic.  no beans inside and the sauce was different.  But it satisfied my craving.  I will try the tacos next time.  They don't have tamales.

This so reminded me of how I crave Jack-In-The-Box tacos when I'm away from the U.S. for any length of time.  Now, in case you don't know about Jack-In-The-Box drive-through restaurants where you live, let me just explain that their tacos may not actually be technically classified as a food.  I mean, I crave them, they are delicious, but the texture is rather like crunchy cardboard, grease, and some meat-like substance that is probably TVP (textured vegetable protein).

It does beg the question of what means "home" to you.  Have you thought about that?

 If you've ever spent an extended period of time far away from home you'll know what I mean.  If you have had that experience, what aspect of every day living did you miss the most?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

More MoTabs On Tour

Loading buses in Indianapolis
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has been on the move for the past couple of weeks.  Here are some more behind-the-scenes photos of their concert tour!

My behind-the-scenes reporter, Don, writes that getting on the buses in the morning is easy... finding the bus with your stuff on it after the concert, is another story!

Tour Arena in Indianapolis
Life on the road can't be all bad - this buffet dinner (below) in Indianapolis looks mighty good!
Buffet Food - Pretty Yummy!
And of course, a nice place to bunk is always appreciated!
Nice place to stay!
Once the choir was in Madison, Wisconsin, they made their way to the Overture Hall for their evening performance.
A Beautiful Concert Venue
Overture Hall is a really beautiful place!

A View from the top!
I see Don went up to the top balcony to give us this shot.  Quite the bird's eye view!  I don't think I would sit up here if I were afraid of heights.

I'm not saying I am, but it looks a little scary from this angle!

Here is my friend Don's view from his place on stage
It's always a lot of fun to perform!  This is Don's view of the concert hall from the stage. You can see the orchestra tuning up for a rehearsal in the photo above..

Being on tour may be stressful in some ways, but I know the members of the Choir really love the chance to perform in all these different venues.  They also love meeting with audiences wherever they tour.

Setting up for a concert
Taking buses through mid-western America gave Don an opportunity to relax and check out the beautiful scenery.  He labeled the shot below a "typical home in Wisconsin".

Looks pretty good to me!  It almost makes me want to move to Wisconsin!  My Uncle Norman used to live in Wisconsin.  It's a beautiful place.  They have lots of cows there.  Dairy farms.  Green grass. Big trees.

And lest you forget, very cold winters!  (Just thought I'd put in a reality check.  You know, in case you were suddenly contemplating moving.)

What a beautiful country America is!

The Choir is making its way back home now, I believe.  They had a pretty wonderful tour!

Thanks, Don, for the behind-the-scenes peeks!

Monday, June 24, 2013


Britt and Kirsti in her Swedish Folk costume
So, how did you celebrate the Summer Solstice over the weekend?

If you're like most of us, you didn't.

But, like it or not, it's officially summer!

Cousin Andrew (left) and my nephews Anders and Christian
Unlike us boring Americans, Scandinavians celebrate the Summer Solstice with a bit party.  This year there was a very beautiful and quite huge full moon, too, over the weekend.  (I have no idea if that means anything, but it was pretty spectacular and I had to mention it.)

In honor of this, and in keeping with a few thousand years of tradition, the Swedish Club in the Salt Lake City, Utah area gets together every year for an old fashioned Swedish Midsommars party.  Okay, it's one of those pagan festivals that feature a lot of good food and dancing.

What's not to like?

Britt and Merwyn under the traditional festive pole
Britt and Merwyn, my sister-in-law Kirsti's folks, were visiting from their home in Washington state.  Britt, of course, is Swedish, so she felt right at home.  These are two of my all-time favoritist people.  Is favoritist a word?  Probably not, but it should be - you catch my drift!

Beautiful Mother and Daughter
Enjoy  your summer!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Kitty Comics

Shadow 'reading'

Cats love newspapers.

Cats especially love the funny papers.

This is my dear, and now (sadly) departed, furry niece Shadow reading the comics.  I think Garfield was her favorite.

Okay, pay no attention to the fact that she's reading them upside down!

Rule #40: Cats love to play with newspapers
Rule #330: Cats will only sit on your most important papers

These are little known facts from the great book of cat rules.

My beautiful niece Linnea with our little silly newspaper reader

Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Relief Society Art Class

Shirley, Laurel, Yours Truly, Deonne, Debra, Amy (our instructor), Brianna, Ellen, Karin, Michael and Vicki
We got a lesson in watercolor painting from an expert last week.  The Relief Society sisters in our ward (congregation) had a lesson from the watercolor artist in our midst, Amy McKeon.

Amy has a wonderful talent, as evidenced in her beautiful watercolor painting below.  I really love her work.

Amy's wonderful watercolor of her husband and siblings as children

Knowing how difficult it is to control watercolors, makes Amy's work all the more special to me.

The photo at the beginning of this post shows our little class.  We were supplied with everything we needed to just sit down and have some fun, including brushes, paints, cups of water, plates for mixing colors, and watercolor artist's paper.

We were also given a still life to try our hand at: a pitcher and ewer with flowers and some beautiful green apples.  Then, we just jumped in!  We laughed and talked and got some coaching from our patient teacher.

What was remarkable was how differently everyone's work turned out.  I think that's really a wonderful thing.  Everyone's painting was so subjective and very different, all based on our very different personalities and tastes.

As Amy does such wonderful work in watercolors, it was a little intimidating to try our hand at producing something of our own - but we sure had fun doing it!

When I got home, I showed my work to my cat, Jack.  He thought it was very interesting!

Jack investigating my artwork

He was more interested in the gummed tape that framed the watercolor paper, than my actual painting. I don't think he's much of an art critic!

Thank goodness for that.

I'm not much of a watercolorist!

It was fun to explore and develop talents.  Have you done anything that stretched your horizons lately?  Try it, it's fun!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Look Who Dropped by!

My Friend Ray as the Windswept Warrior
It's not everyday you open the door and see something like this standing on your front porch! (Nice, huh?.)

This is my good friend Ray dressed up for a promotional event called the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, which was held in Los Angeles last week.   I just had to share, because, yes... he looks like he stepped right off the pages of your favorite Paranormal Romance Novel, doesn't he?

I thought you ladies out there might enjoy some eye candy today!

E3 is a trade show which draws tens of thousands of professionals every year.  People come to see groundbreaking new technologies and amazing new products for computers, video game consoles, handheld systems and more.

Ensemble OnLine
My friend Ray was working for Semi Formal Studios, helping to advertise their flagship game, Ensemble Online, an MMO sandbox territory game.  One of the Stride Winds Warriors, Ray's character doesn't have a name (yet).

As you can see by the photos, opening day attendance at E3 was incredible!

The show is owned by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA).  The association is dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of companies who publish interactive games for video game consoles, handheld devices, personal computers and the Internet.

Leading computer and video game companies, business partners, software developers, buyers and retailers, the media, importers, exporters, manufacturers and various industry analysts (and other groups too numerous to mention!) from over 100 countries were invited to the festivities.

I didn't have to attend.  I got a a small taste of it in my own living room.

Awesome bad boy boots!

After I took these photos, Ray discovered that the shoulder piece had been fashioned to cover his left arm, not his right as shown.  It looked more comfortable the next day (he dropped by then too!)  But in spite of that, I think the costume was nicely done.  

Ray really enjoys interacting with the public.  He had a very good time during the Expo.  I understand he was quite a hit with the ladies who were attending.

Who can blame them?

On my porch

I hope these photos put you in a good mood.  I know Ray's visit lifted my spirits and put a big smile on my face!  Thanks for stopping by, my Warrior friend!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Butterlies in Indiana

Want to know what Mormon Tabernacle Choir members do with some time off while they're on tour?  (Well, some of them, anyway!)

They go to the zoo!

Evidently Indianapolis has a zoo with a butterfly exhibit.  A wonderful butterfly exhibit.

My friend Don, who sings with the Choir now currently on tour in the Midwest, shared some of his close encounters of the insect kind with us.

They're all so beautiful, aren't they?  I wish I knew more about them and their natural habitat.

It took me a moment to see it, but there is a beautiful butterfly sitting on Don's shoulder in the photo below.

Don and friend
Thanks so much to Don for sharing with us.

Next time I'm in Indianapolis, I'd like to go see the butterflies!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Costa Rica, the Jewel of Latin America

Not a postcard!  Not a painting!  This photo was taken near the Blue Osa Resort
My neighbor George just returned from a fabulous trip to Costa Rica.  I really enjoyed hearing about his adventures there.  I didn't know much about Costa Rica before his visit.

The purpose of his visit was a peaceful, rejuvenating vacation at a Yoga Retreat called the Blue Osa Spa.  The Blue Osa Spa isn't a resort in the traditional sense, but it afforded my hard-working friend some real joy and relaxation.

The Blue Osa Spa
First of all, let me explain where Costa Rica is situated.  It's located in Central America, squished in between Nicaragua and Panama.  They have the Caribbean Sea to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Costa Rica is often called the "Jewel of Latin America" because it has a stable government, happy citizens, and a growing economy.  In other words, it's perfectly safe to visit there.

Getting there meant flying from Los Angeles to the Capital City of San Jose.  You can see it on the map above, right smack dab in the middle of the small country.

From there it was a short plane flight south to the Peninsula de Osa.

The plane landed on the small airstrip at Puerto Jimenez, which you can see on the right side of the map above, off the Golfo Dulce (or Sweet Gulf).  It is called the Sweet Gulf, I believe, because it is a peaceful, beautiful place.  Dolphins and Humpback Whales spawn there and call it home.

From there it was still a long, bumpy ride in a car, on primitive roads, to the retreat.

When you got there, you knew you were far away from civilization!

Mother Nature at her most glorious

Don't you wish you could just go walking right into that picture?

The Tropical Rain Forest
The retreat featured great cuisine based on the local fresh fruits and vegetables grown at the resort.

Dinner by candle light

Yummy salads!

Marie, the French Chef (front right), and her crew
My friend raved about the meals and the staff.  He said he felt well taken care of during his entire stay.

John, one of several Yoga Instructors

The pristine pool

A typical room
One 'down side' to living or visiting here, well, to me, was that there are way too many critters in the rain forest!  You needed the mosquito nets!  I mean, it is the rain forest, after all.  There were also bats, tree frogs, lizards and other interesting things going bump in the night... and in the daytime, too.

The retreat has several dogs and cats roaming around.  One cat adopted my friend and would find his way into the room to hang out, and sometimes sleep with him.  That particular cat was very friendly and loved to visit with the guests.  I think he considered himself on staff.

As a cat lover, I must say, that is SERVICE.  I think every resort should have a set of "rent-a-cats and dogs" for people who miss their animals on vacation.

Another shot of the rooms
My friend commented on how simple the rooms are, but still very comfortable.  The temperature was always in the high 70s to low 80s and was pleasant the entire time.

Flowers from the garden

The brush
You could easily get lost in the countryside!

A Zip Line far above the forest floor
My friend went zip-lining through the trees.  He's braver than I am!  

Can I just say: Wow.

The pavilion
After more ambitious pursuits, it was nice to curl up on the comfy sofas at the pavilion.

Just seeing these photos, I can understand why people speak of "Tropical Paradise".

My friend said he loved the peace of this place and hated to leave.

To learn more about the Blue Osa Spa, visit: