Float Decorating One Last Time

October 23, 2014

Armed with the knowledge  that I would be moving back to Massachusetts sometime in 2014, I volunteered to spend a day working on the Tournament of Roses Parade floats for a final time.  This was the second time I worked on the floats and it was a completely different experience, which was fabulous!

The sunrise as I headed up to Pasadena was gorgeous, a sure sign of the awesome adventure that lay ahead!

sunrise as I leave

After parking my car I headed down the street to The Rose Palace, my temporary home for the day.  It was one of three locations where floats were decorated.

rose palace from parking garage

The last time I volunteered all I did was cut flowers and fill buckets with fresh flowers, but this year I started my day actually decorating a float!!  And not just any float, but the Banner Float, AKA the lead float!!  I took this picture while waiting for one of my co-volunteers to finish painting glue on a section so I could apply the cut flower petals.

susan applying glue from above

Here’s a shot from further away so you can see the scaffolding and a couple of ladies applying glue.

banner float adding glue

And this was my view from above…

susan and peg on scaffolding

All the floats are painted and then the flowers/seeds/other natural products are glued on top, kind of like a paint-by-number.  The floats are painted first so if an area is not 100% covered the slight bare spots still have color.  I took this image from upstairs in the viewing area so you could see the difference between the painted only and fully decorated areas.  The painted only areas are so pale in comparison – notice how bright the leaves are.

banner float - color contrast

Here’s the viewing area…anyone can come and for a fee view the floats from above.  All volunteers had to wear volunteer t-shirts or sweatshirts so we were allowed upstairs at no charge.


Speaking of flowers, I did spend the afternoon cutting straw flowers.  This is done by hand with ordinary scissors, and though kind of boring, I found it to be relaxing.  All that is needed to decorate floats is the colorful petals so they need to be carefully cut away from the rest of the flower.  This is one of many boxes of flowers that I went through…

box of straw flowers

And here is one box lid of petals only.  The petals are not fine enough for decorating so every now and then another volunteer would come get the lid and put all the petals through a blender before making them available for gluing onto the float.

box of cut petals
Here’s some of the unusable flower parts…

straw flowers after

These next three pictures are an overhead view of the nine floats that were being decorated in The Rose Palace.

floats from above - banner float in foreground

floats from above 1

floats from above 3

And now some random shots I took while walking around the floor.

football from ground


gluing flowers onto sign

scaffolding 1

scaffolding 2

Once again this past year the experience was organized chaos.  It never ceases to amaze me that the floats actually all get completed on time.  Though I left feeling I didn’t really make a difference, I know that I did.  It truly is such a massive undertaking that every little bit is a big help.

And it was really awesome to once again to work on something that is viewed by millions of people and see all the behind-the-scenes action that makes it all happen.





The Kitchen Pipes Are Drunk

October 13, 2014

At least one would think so after my little project.

This past Sunday morning I felt compelled to make progress in transitioning my parents’ home to my home.  I have an incredibly huge to-do list, some things large and some things small.  This particular morning I decided to cross a small one off the list.

My siblings had visited a couple of weeks ago and neither were interested in the liquor, most likely because none of the open bottles have been touched in at least a decade, and I’m a wine and ginger brandy kind of gal with gin and Kahlua sprinkled in.  All of that being said, I had the green light to get rid of all of this…

bottles on counter

I thought it would be very easy, that I’d just need to unscrew the top of a bottle, pour the contents down the drain then move on to the next bottle.  Sometimes that was right, sometimes it wasn’t.  With the help of all the below I was able to accomplish my task.


Who’da thunk this process would be so complicated?  Certainly not me!!!

Since all the bottles were either glass or plastic, they’re all in my spare recycle bin.  I’m sure the trash guys are going to wish they were at the wild party I had…they might even Google to see if it made the news!  ;-)

recycle bin

Now that I have extra cabinet space, what did I do with it?  Well, here’s the “before” pic…

bottles in cabinet

…and here’s the “after”.

spinning in cabinet

What has replaced the liquor?  All my spinning stash…something equally addictive, but NOT something that will go down the kitchen sink!  :-)

Spinning — A New Addiction

October 8, 2014

I have a lot of yarn.

I have so much of it that I’m not going to show you pictures of my stash because it’s borderline embarrassing (unless you’re a crafter…then you completely understand).

When I moved and discovered how much yarn I had, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t buy more until I used up a good portion of my stash. Though I’ve broken that promise a couple of times, I’ve also found a loophole. I wouldn’t buy yarn, I’d MAKE it! :-D

While in California I participated in a Stitch N Bitch group whose members knitted, crocheted, dyed yarn and spun yarn on wheels or spindles. Earlier this year I became very intrigued with drop spinning so one of the ladies let me borrow several of her spindles until I found one I liked. She gave me some instructions and helped where possible, but there were holes in her knowledge as well as her ability to pass along that which she did know.

Undeterred, I ordered the spindle just like hers – Tsunami from Golding.  It was a bit pricey for something I was dabbling in, but whenever possible, I find it’s best to dabble with preferred tools. That way if I end up shelving the whole thing at least it was a decision based upon my skill, or lack thereof, instead of a less than favorable tool.

I spent the next couple months spinning a bit here and there but mostly admiring how nice the spindle looked sitting in the mason jar on my bookshelf with a little bit of gold yarn wrapped around it.

This whole time, fellow spinners at Stitch N Bitch were busy spinning on their wheels so my level of intrigue remained, albeit for drop spinning not wheel spinning. I’m all about portability…and I’m thrifty (really!). Wheels START in the $300’s and rapidly go up from there, and though many are considered portable, they’re not portable in the way I want (no tucking in a carry-on bag or briefcase when traveling).

Some Stitch N Bitchers went to a Fiber Festival where there was a woman conducting free drop spinning classes all day. I spent about an hour sitting with her and was nearly blinded by all the light bulbs going off in my head!! Everything was clicking and making sense — I was so excited!!!

The yarn on the left is my first attempt at spinning – the yarn on the right is what I spun after my lesson at the Fiber Festival.

first spinnings

Unfortunately, my newfound skill happened right before I moved to MA so my spinning was set aside but never really out of my mind. I was just too busy to give it the attention it deserved, and to be honest, I was a bit afraid that my skill had evaporated during the months of non-use.


I received a class catalog from Webs and found a 6-hour Beginning Drop Spinning class was offered on a Saturday. I was super excited and signed up immediately.

I walked into the class of 8 students confident that I would walk out a spinning machine, but the first couple of hours were spent talking about the process of drop spinning, various types of roving and the animals they come from, pre-drafting, over-spinning, under-spinning, plying, etc…a serious amount of information that had my head, well, spinning! :-(

Fortunately instructor Ashley Flagg was very knowledgeable and knew how to pass along what seemed like scraps of information that later all interconnected, at least for me. By the time lunch rolled around my confidence was back.  Click here to watch Ashley in action and see how drop spinning should be done.

We were able to spin for about an hour-and-a-half that afternoon before we plied our spinning into a 2-ply yarn, wrapped it into a skein using a niddy noddy and tied it off. I left the class with 10-1/2 yards of spun, plied yarn, which meant I had spun 21 yards. It’s not great, pretty icky actually, but on the other hand, people pay a lot of money for yarn that constantly varies in thickness. ;-)

class yarn

I didn’t spin again until nearly a week later. The day after class my arm was sore from being up in the air for that hour-and-a-half of spinning, then the next three days were long work days. The fourth day was too, but it was the start of my weekend and I was energized, so Thursday night I picked up my spindle and off I went. The same for Friday and Sunday.

How busy was I? Take a look!

weekends spinning

I will spin the rest of the roving in that ball on the left then ply the yarn, wrap it into a skein on my niddy noddy, set it in a mix of hot water and Eucalan, then let it dry. While it’s drying I’m going to search for knitted hat or headband patterns that I like that match the yardage of yarn that I have. I’ll need several because until the yarn is dry and I try knitting with it and know my gauge, I’m not sure what I’ll be able to make.

What I do know is that I need to actually make something with this yarn no matter how inconsistent it is so that I can complete the cycle and increase my knowledge based upon experience. I’m sure the yarn will have problems, but I won’t understand those problems until I (try to) use it.

Besides, it will be really cool to tell people that not only did I knit the hat (or headband), but I spun the yarn too!

Yep…I’m addicted ;-)

A Different Perspective = A Treasure Found

October 5, 2014

Growing up, there was a bunch of kids who played in the woods behind a neighbor’s house.  Though we called it “the woods”, the area really was the outer edge of the reservoir.  No matter what we called it, we spent countless hours in amongst the trees.  We raked pine needles and pine cones to make bike paths and pedaled our way amongst the trees, we played cops and robbers, we climbed the smaller trees, we played tag…we were kids having a blast.

When childhood turned into teenage years the magic of the woods and reservoir faded, the tree-filled acreage becoming an area to ignore.

Now that I’m living in my childhood home again (more on that in a future post), I have a completely different perspective on the reservoir – the magic is back!


The longest loop is nearly 4 miles long as illustrated below…


There are additional paths that will allow shorter walks so I’m not lacking for variety.

This past summer there was lots of water fowl – geese, ducks and herons.  Birds are always present and singing away.  Turtles, snakes, chipmunks and squirrels are known to keep visitors company.

Speaking of visitors, I love seeing how many people are walking, jogging and pedal biking on these magical acres.  No hunting, fishing or water usage of any kind is allowed (boating, kayaking, etc), neither are dogs (unless they are service dogs) or motorized bikes.  I am so thrilled to see everyone following the rules, something so rare, especially in a place where “big brother” isn’t always on duty.

One of the best things about the reservoir, besides it’s location, is that the gravel and dirt paths are kept up very well by the local water department.  There aren’t any potholes or large bumps – perfect conditions for using them without worrying about losing your footing or sliding your tires.

And the scenery isn’t too bad either  ;-)


Yesterday when I finished my walk, instead of leaving by the entrance I went in at one end of my neighborhood, I exited via the entrance at the other end of my neighborhood and discovered another treasure.  The new entrance to the nearby community college is almost complete which will give me an alternate walking option – one with HUGE hills – a pleasant, maybe painful, change from the nearly level reservoir walk.

It’s so good to be home!

Visiting The Space Shuttle Endeavour

October 2, 2014

I hoped to be one of the thousands who watched in person as the Shuttle Endeavour circled the Los Angeles area on the back of a 747 before landing at LAX.

I wasn’t – I was in Alaska.

I hoped to be one of the thousands who lined the streets of Los Angeles at night while the Endeavour was driven on the streets from LAX to its temporary home at the California Science Center.

I wasn’t – I spent that weekend working with a friend who had a booth at a Fiber Festival.

I hoped to be one of the thousands who visited the Shuttle in its new home before I moved back to Massachusetts.

I was…with 4 days to spare!  :-)

My Mom was always a huge fan of space travel, and though I’m really not, every now and then it would capture my attention.  One of the benefits to living where I did in SoCal (a much more rural area than what is regularly shown on TV) was the wide open spaces with minimal man-made lights.  I was able to go on-line here to find out when the Shuttle or Space Station were flying overhead then go outside at the appointed time, look in the correct direction at the correct elevation and watch the white light fly across the sky.

That was kind of cool.

I knew my Mom would love to have watched the flyovers, just as I knew she would love to have seen a Shuttle in person.  I did both, partly because it was so cool, and partly in honor of Mom.

The day of my visit I met a friend for breakfast at The Original Pantry Cafe in Los Angeles.  According to Mapquest, the drive would take me 1-1/2 hours.  Given that I would be driving during the middle/end of rush hour I allowed myself 2-1/2 hours.

I was 15 minutes late…and there weren’t any accidents, just lots and lots of traffic.  :-(

After a fabulous breakfast we were off to see Endeavour!

California ScienCenter Shuttle sign

When we first walked through the door I remember feeling very underwhelmed at the size of the Shuttle.  I guess I was thinking HUGE like a 747, but it wasn’t…

Shuttle Endeavour

…until I looked up from below its tail, then yikes, it was huge!!!!

back end of Endeavour

I had envisioned being able to walk around from behind a roped off area far from the Shuttle, but I was thrilled to find that wasn’t the case.  The supports that were holding it up were roped off, but we could walk all around Endeavour and underneath it!  We were kept just far enough away so we couldn’t touch it.

Here are pictures of the rear and front mounts…they attach to the floor in such a way that should there be an earthquake, the Shuttle supports are fluid enough to move with the shaking so as not to damage it.

rear attachment same as rocket

front attachment same as rocket

The white tiles on the upper part of the Shuttle are textured for added insulation.  They are also white so they reflect heat rather than draw it in.

closeup of white blanket tiles

As for those black tiles that we always hear about, there are thousands on the underside of the Shuttle, and no two are exactly the same size or shape.  Each is specifically designed for maximum heat resistance given its position on the Shuttle.


See that white box?  That’s where the drag chutes come out upon landing…

parachute door

Me and my friend Jennifer hanging out with the Shuttle…

me and Jennifer closeup

After about half an hour, Jennifer had to leave, but I stayed and soaked up all the wonder of the Shuttle for another hour or so.

Shuttle front to back on right side

hatch on front left side

underside view from left rear

The weather was glorious so before heading home I spent time wandering around the gardens behind the Science Center…

fountain at end of path

white roses

dark pink and white roses

A perfect day ended on a perfect note…the drive home?

1-1/2 hours!  :-)


Selling My Southern California House

September 28, 2014

In early February, after the chaos of the trade show and follow-up work settled down, I invited three realtors to my home.  I explained that I was selling my home sometime in 2014 but exactly when that would happen depended on its value.  I also made it clear to all three that I was interviewing multiple realtors as I wanted to make sure that the person who would be playing a huge, albeit temporary, role in my life was one with whom I “clicked” – and vice versa.

I only had one condition of sale — that I rent back for up to one month.  I was not giving my notice at work, buying airline tickets for me and the cats or scheduling movers until the house had closed as houses have been known to fall out of escrow.

Realtor #1 came Friday night.  She loved my home and wanted to leave with a signed contract (which was already prepared).  When she told me what she would list it for I nearly fell out of my chair.  It was much higher than I thought, but she had comps with her so she wasn’t lying.  Our conversation went fabulously until she had a physical reaction when I told her my condition of sale.  She blinked hard, jerked her shoulders upward and slightly leaned back.  The next 15 minutes were spent listening to her suggestions on ways not to have to rent back.

Scratch Realtor #1.

Realtor #2 came Saturday morning.  He loved my home as well and felt that nothing needed to be done to make it “show ready” and he had no issue at all with my renting back.  He also had comps but said he would get back with me in a couple of days re: listing price as he needed to compare the comps to what my home had to offer, something that I thought would happen with all the realtors.  He was very nice, asked a lot of questions about the neighborhood, but was a bit disorganized.  On the plus side, when I asked about pictures for the web, he indicated that his company hires a professional photographer so the house would have the best possible on-line representation.

Keep Realtor #2 in contention.

Realtor #3 came Sunday morning.  Her opinion of my home matched those of the first two realtors, and like them, she came prepared with comps.  She also told me the price she would list my house for – just $3000 higher than the first realtor so I was now confident of the value of my home.  She didn’t have any concerns about renting back for a month, however, she was not a fan of open houses and therefore didn’t do them.

Keep Realtor #3 in contention.

The awesome news that I took away from the interviews was that my house could be listed right away!!!  I was thinking June, but nope…now!!  After years being a victim of the housing market crash, I was finally back in control :-)

By the middle of the week I had contacted Realtor #1 and let her know I wasn’t going to be working with her.  Realtor #2 had gotten back with me as promised and then followed up with me a couple more times even though he knew I wasn’t going to be making a decision for a week or so.  Annoying?  I looked at it as he really wanted the listing.

So I gave it to him.

The house was listed for his realty company only on February 24th, then for the entire MLS system on March 1st.

Want to see what had the realtors all excited about listing my house?  Okay…here are the professional pix!  Please note that when I bought this brand new house 9 years ago, I considered it a blank canvas waiting for me to play with it.  In the pictures I did all the work myself, including painting, sewing, shelving, etc. unless otherwise noted (I worked with my brother on installing the ceiling fans).

The front yard – drought tolerant/native landscaping which means no outdoor watering.  PERFECT given the current drought situation.  If you want to read about my converting the front yard to this landscaping, click on the category on the right called Front Yard Conversion  :-)

front 2

The backyard…the fences & block walls came with the house, and I didn’t pour the concrete patio:

back fr bed side

back fr swing

back arbor

Oh…did you want to see the inside too?  Well come on in!  :-)

The view when you walked in the front door:

full great room

The view from the sliding glass doors…an electrician installed the two mini pendant lights above the breakfast bar:

great room fr sliders

The entertainment center I had custom-made and the gas fireplace (I had the logs installed – I don’t play with gas):

etainment center

The front bedroom, AKA my office/studio/second guest room (the Elfa shelves stayed with the house, and though you can’t see it, the closet had a straight valance over it made from the same material as the awning valance):

front bedroom

The front bathroom – the only room I did not paint:

front bath

The guest bedroom:

guest bedroom

The laundry room (pardon the picture of the kitties above the door knob – one was posted at all doors leading out of the house as a reminder so realtors/buyers would not let the kitties out).  For a better look at how I painted the walls, click here to read about that fun project

laundry room

The master bedroom:


The master walk-in closet (all Elfa shelving/drawers you see – and more that are not in the pic – all stayed with the house):

master closet

Thanks for taking the tour – I hope you enjoyed it!!!

How long did it take to sell my house, a house located in the middle of a still recovering housing market?

Fourteen days!!!


Josh Groban Concert At Tanglewood, MA

September 23, 2014

There really is no greater joy than doing something special for someone, especially when you know that what you’re doing means the world to them.

Saturday, August 30th was a very joyful day for me.

This past summer when my cousin Liz and I were talking about concerts we’ve attended and I mentioned Josh Groban her eyes popped wide open and she got all excited.  My brain instantly went into overdrive as I knew Josh would be performing at Tanglewood in Lenox, MA with the Boston Pops.

In early August, after confirming my ability to snag a couple tickets, I messaged Liz and asked if she wanted to go to the concert.  Her response?  “OMG! Yes I would love to go”.

We messaged back and forth throughout the month, then on Monday the 25th I confirmed the tickets.  I also learned of a huge bonus for Liz but I chose to keep that a secret, which was hard…very very hard.  I did have some fun with Liz during our messaging that night – here’s the fun part after she found out where our seats would be (copied right out of our Facebook messages):

Liz:  and you asked me to be your date!!!! I’m honored! One more off my bucket list!!!

Me:  Dating me was on your bucket list? I think you need help with that list of yours… :-D

Liz:   oh my no, seeing a concert from the front and not the nose bleeds….

It was a long week for both Liz and me but concert day finally arrived.  We drove out to Tanglewood, parked the car then hung out at Will Call waiting until it was time for me to get our tickets.  As soon as the envelope was handed to me I could barely contain my happiness…everything worked out!!!!!!

I went back to the bench and gave Liz her ticket – she was beyond thrilled to see that we were in one of the 3 front sections, row J.  I let her calm down a bit then handed over her second “ticket”.

liz reaction to m and g

You’re reading that green triangle correctly – it’s a Meet & Greet pass!  Right after I snapped this picture cousin Liz started crying and shaking.  I nearly cried too because I was so honored to be able to do something that meant so much to her!!!  When Liz was finally able to speak again she told me she that this concert let her cross two things off her bucket list — not sitting in the nosebleed section when attending a concert and meeting someone famous.

The two of us headed off to the Meet & Greet staging area where we hung out with many “Grobanites” as they’re called – those over the top Josh fans.  Attendance was taken and then we were led inside to the hallway where the Meet & Greet would take place.

Here’s Liz patiently waiting.  She doesn’t look happy at all, does she?

liz calming nerves

Here’s her big moment!!!!!

josh and liz sm

And here’s mine!

me and josh

Afterwards Liz needed a beer to help her recover so we went to the Beer Garden where she uploaded pictures and shared her adventure with all her friends on FB…and via text message with a select few.

liz checking fb

There was still more than an hour before the concert so we grabbed something to eat then walked around the grounds a bit.  The views were spectacular though you can’t tell from my picture.


We had reserved seats in the Shed but thousands were ready to enjoy the concert from the lawn…

lawn seats

Liz and I were both thrilled when we found our seats and discovered that in our section, Row J was actually the 7th row!!!  The excitement was in overdrive now!!!!

When the concert finally started it was AWESOME!!!  Not only was Josh’s song selection fabulous, including covers of other artists’ songs (like Neil Diamond’s Play Me), but his banter with the audience was engaging and funny!!  Here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure  :-)

crooner josh

drummer josh

piano player josh

full stage during play me
And finally, the audience reaction while Josh was singing the song he is probably most known for, at least the one that first introduced me to his music – You Raise Me Up.

stage during you raise me up

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