Archive for the ‘Home base’ Category

Celebrating independence from pay TV

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

We are now home for the summer and celebrating Independence Day by celebrating our independence from pay TV, which will save us $900 per year!  A 12% increase in our cable bill this winter motivated us to take stock of our TV viewing habits, preferences, and the costs for pay TV, which led to an exploration of alternatives.

We are happy with the high-speed internet service provided by our cable company, but we were not happy to pay $75/month for cable TV and TV fees for the 75 or so channels that we mostly don’t watch, except for a few such as PBS, CBS, and MSNBC.  We first explored the possibility of selecting a more economical package, a lower tier of channels that included our favorites.  I was surprised that our cable company told us that to go to the next lower tier, we would need their cable TV box that would filter out channels that we would not be paying for.  But we did not want to rent a cable box, especially after recent reports that they are high energy users.*

We then explored the over-the-air (OTA) TV option by using TV Fool’s TV Signal Locator tool to determine what broadcast TV signals are available in our area. Once we realized that we could watch PBS via KPBS-HD, CBS via KFMB-DT, and other high-definition channels for free (and our favorite MSNBC shows, such as The Rachel Maddow Show could be viewed the next day on the internet), we used AntennaWeb’s tool to determine the proper antenna type for our viewing preferences, which turned out to be a small multidirectional antenna.  We chose the Mohu Leaf 50™ Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna.*

DSC_0414 Mohu Leaf 50 amp

The test was to see if we could actually wean ourselves from cable TV, so we disconnected our cable TV coax and connected our Mohu Leaf antenna that was hung high on our living room window.  We were thrilled that this antenna picked up OTA high-definition broadcasts that often had better quality images than seen via our cable TV service, such as SpongeBob SquarePants broadcast by XHGC-HD.

DSC_0378 SpongeBob via XHGC-HD

Of course, it helps that we are on a hill and not far from one of three local TV broadcast towers.  We kept the antenna connected to our now cable-free TV for a month to prove to ourselves that we were not addicted to cable TV before actually discontinuing our cable TV service.  It was easier for us since we are not avid sports fans and can be satisfied by content provided by PBS, CBS, and other local TV stations.

DSC_0395 KPBS-HD OTA (Over the air)

DSC_0408_2 CBS, OTA, via KFMB-DT

We then discontinued our cable TV service and bought another Mohu Leaf antenna and a Mediasonic HW180STB Homeworx HDTV Digital Converter Box for our older, analog TV in the bedroom.  (The converter box is turned off when not in use to keep it cool and to save on energy costs.  It can also be brought into the trailer to enable our older TV to receive digital broadcasts.)

DSC_0386 Mediasonic HomeWorx converter

We now enjoy TV for free as it was meant to be when I was growing up and watching The Howdy Doody Show.*  Howdy Doody is always on (or nearby) the TV in our Airstream Safari trailer!

DSC_0371-2 Howdy Doody on TV

Declaring independence from pay TV is a liberating experience!

And, as Whispering Jack Smith sings,

The best things in life are free“!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

 

 

Safari hunt for wild horses

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Auspiciously, our relaunch of desert camping and return to Borrego Springs occurred on the two-year anniversary of our first photo shoot of sculptor/designer Ricardo Breceda‘s The Serpent with a Chinese dragon’s head, when Bert Gildart (“Year of the Dragon”) and I (“In pursuit of dragons and pearls“) photographed Larry offering a pearl (symbolizing wisdom) for the dragon to chase.*

The Serpent is one of many metal sculptures by Ricardo Breceda* on the Galleta Meadows Estate owned by Dennis Avery* (who sadly passed away on July 23, 2012).  Although I have photographed many of his sculptures (See “Springtime in Galleta Meadows“), there are many more that we have not seen, so upon our return to Borrego Springs, we wanted to find, visit and photograph the horses, especially since Chinese New Year 2014 marks the beginning of the Year of the Horse in the Chinese Zodiac (Find your fortune).*

DSC_0093 Borrego Springs' horses

When we first arrived at Christmas Circle, we spotted two horses pulling a stagecoach, but we wanted to do a photo shoot with the wild horses, so we checked the Sculpture Installations Map and drove down S3 to find them.  We were not disappointed.  As we arrived, a sabertooth cat was attacking one.

DSC_0035 Attacked by saber-tooth cat

I set up my camera while Larry put on his Chinese peasant outfit of the 1880′s consisting of a tunic, trousers, coolie hat and sandals.  He then offered a wedge of cabbage to the first horse, which appeared skittish.

DSC_0040 Offering to skittish horse

He was more successful when he offered two wedges (Number 2 is a lucky number in Chinese culture).

DSC_0058-2 Offering 2 for good luck

Larry illustrated one of the themes of the I Ching hexagram 34, Ta Chuang / The Power of the Great, “Perseverance furthers“.

DSC_0082 I "Perseverance furthers"

“Perseverance brings good fortune.”

DSC_0075-2 Acceptance

DSC_0095 Happiness

We are hopeful for good fortune as we gallop into this Year of the Wood Horse, but it might be a wild ride!  For good luck, we cleaned and decorated the house with Chinese symbols and red and gold colors.  Our Chinese New Year’s Eve dinner featured roasted Chinese duck, Chinese mustard green/ham egg flower soup, and jiaozi, Chinese dumplings (See “Where Dumplings Came From and Why Eat Them on New Years,“* which has a quick image of jiaozi in our trailer)!

DSC_0190 CNY 2014 dinner

Time passes, but our hearts remain young as we celebrate life!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Safari is home for the holidays!

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

This is the first December in seven years that we have not taken our Airstream Safari out to the Anza-Borrego Desert to bask in the sun and celebrate the holidays.  Last month our Corgi, Tasha, suffered a ruptured spinal disc necessitating an emergency hemilaminectomy and a prescribed period of rest.  She is now making a remarkable recovery, walking well, and gradually increasing her daily activities as she follows the activity progression protocol set up by the Veterinary Specialty Hospital.*  According to her Discharge Instructions, she can return to her normal routine and activities after the post-op 6th week (on Christmas Day), which is really all I want for Christmas!*

DSC_0315 Tasha Post-op Day 31

Our Safari is our home when we are away from home and it’s so nice when we’re all home for the holidays!*  (We appreciate having the trailer refrigerator nearby to store the holiday food.)

DSC_0297 Home for the Holidays '13

Being home for the holidays also gives us a chance to enjoy time in our backyard patio and work on projects, such as a deck for the gas grill.

DSC_0330 Larry works on grill deck

DSC_0383 New gas grill deck

While Larry was working on the deck, I was writing this post while savoring the aroma of simmering Christmas potpourri* as Larry’s no-knead ciabatta (Italian slipper bread)* was baking nearby.

DSC_0352 Homemade ciabatta

Larry set up and decorated our multi-use bamboo easel as a Christmas tree on the patio.  It made its debut last December in the Anza-Borrego Desert.

DSC_0356 Patio Christmas display

DSC_0311 Merry Christmas 2013!

We have so much to celebrate and be thankful for during this magical holiday season!

DSC_0372 The nutcracker and bell

Though I’ve grown old, the bell still rings for me as it does for all who truly believe.“*  (The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg)

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Shifting sands and disc

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

Just a few days before our return to Agua Caliente County Park earlier this month where we encountered 5-inch deep loose sand in our campsite due to a flash flood here in August, we noticed that our tricolor Corgi, Tasha, was coming up the back deck stairs slower than usual.  I first thought that maybe it was a pulled muscle, because she seemed better after I gave her aspirin (following cautions such a these).  But while walking our Corgis at Agua Caliente, we could see that Tasha could not keep up with Mac, so on the last day we made an appointment with our local veterinarian, Dr. Helen Green, DVM, and promptly brought her in to the Mission Valley Pet Clinic upon returning to San Diego.  Her wobbly rear legs suggested a back problem and she was started on Tramadol and Methocarbamol for the weekend and was to return for further tests.  Over the weekend she lost control of her bladder and was not using her rear legs to support her weight.

We read about intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) and knew we were about to face a very difficult decision when we brought Tasha back to the vet on Monday.  Dr. Green tested Tasha and found that she still had deep pain sensation in her rear legs and could benefit from surgery, but that window of opportunity was closing with every passing hour.* While we were in the exam room, Dr. Green called Dr. Robbin Levitski-Osgood,* Veterinary Neurologist and Neurosurgeon, at Veterinary Specialty Hospital, and conveyed to us the good news that there was a 95% chance of successful surgery if we acted now.  Even though we were originally leaning toward a conservative, medical approach, we were persuaded by the good prospects of our 6-year old Corgi walking again.  We immediately drove Tasha up to the Veterinary Specialty Hospital.

DSC_0157 Veterinary Specialty Hospital

“The Veterinary Specialty Hospital is a multi-specialty, state of the art, full service hospital.  We truly are the Mayo Clinic of veterinary medicine,”* says Dr. Steve Hill.  This 3-story hospital has 18 exam rooms, 6 operating rooms, specialty rooms, ICU, neurosurgery suite, radiography suites, a full service laboratory and much more, including a complete Oncology Center.

A caring and attentive staff quickly admitted Tasha.  Dr. Levitski examined Tahsa and ordered a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)* that demonstrated a T13-L1 disc herniation.  That same evening, a left T13-L1 hemilaminectomy* was performed with fenestrations from T12-T13 to L2-L3 to remove large amounts of herniated disc material.  Immediately after the surgery, Dr. Levitsky called and said that the surgery went well and called again in the morning with the good news that Tasha was moving her legs!  She continued to do well and was discharged home on Wednesday where her activities are restricted as she continues her healing process and recovery.

DSC_0171 Tasha Post-Op Day 3

To facilitate the healing process, the detailed Discharge Instructions specified that she should remain in a crate or small area for the first two weeks, except when she is carried outside for short toileting breaks.  Howdy Doody came by to cheer her while showing off his new makeover done by Larry.

DSC_0199 Howdy Doody visits Tasha

Larry made a corset-like sling to help support her back while on potty breaks.

DSC_0217 Tasha in homemade sling

DSC_0233 Homemade sling materials

Mini drip irrigation tubing was used as boning in the medial part of the towel sling and bamboo sticks were used in the ends of both slings (an old blood pressure cuff was later adapted as a backup sling).  Boning prevented gathering of the fabric, allowing for even weight distribution.  On Post-op Day 3, Tasha was able to briefly and independently bear weight on all four legs.

A makeshift gate made from parts of a metal crate ensures that our Corgis only use the side dog ramp versus stairs when going outside.

DSC_0208 Mac using ramp

DSC_0276 Post-op Day 12

Tasha is now walking and taking time to appreciate the garden.  We are thankful for the wonderful doctors and staff, who have helped her on her way to recovery!  We are happy that she is able to walk again because something in the way she moves, moves us.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

San Diego on the feral side

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

We took a walk on the wild side last week during an interlude at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, once called the Wild Animal Park, and this week we discovered a wild animal den in our own back yard.  While Larry was relocating and grooming our bromeliads, our corgi, Tasha, approached a plant bed where she was greeted and frightened by a loud hiss. After securing our dogs, he removed a potted plant exposing an open area under our outdoor white birdcage, which is situated against an ivy hedge.  An orange tabby feral mother cat with her two nursing kittens, about 4 weeks old, had made this dark and secluded lair their home.

DSC_0333 Feral cat den

A feral cat is a descendant of a domestic cat that has returned to the wild, and most neighborhoods have them, including ours.  We’ve grown accustomed to them and believe they help control rats, but in this case, a den in our enclosed back yard is disruptive for our dogs, and we felt a responsibility for the kittens and mother.  So I rounded up our live animal cage trap (our local County Animal Shelter also loans traps for a $50 deposit) and Larry prepared a larger cage for temporary housing.  The trap was baited and placed by the den.

DSC_0348 Feral cat cage trap

Early the next morning, we found the mother in the trap.  There was no time to take pictures, as we worked quickly to retrieve the nearby kittens with a reacher grabber and place them in the prepared larger cage.  We moved this cage to a secluded side yard and transferred the mother in to rejoin her kittens.

DSC_0339 Feral cat & her 2 kittens

Our plan was to transfer them to the San Diego County Animal Shelter, but since the cats were caught on a Monday (the shelter is closed on Mondays) and I work Mondays and Tuesdays, we provided them with food, water, a litter box, and comfortable foam bedding and shelter for the next two nights.  The cage was partially covered with towels during the day and completely at night.  They adjusted well and each morning we could see that the mother was caring for and nursing her kittens with blue eyes.  We learned that kittens’ eyes are blue until about 6-7 weeks old. They need to be with their mother for 8 weeks before being separated. Frequent handling by people is needed from now up to 7 weeks to ensure that they do not become feral.  If we had not caught the mother, the foster kittens would have been taken to the Humane Society and fed by volunteers.

DSC_0344 Cage prepared for night

Yesterday, we loaded this cage into our F-250 truck and delivered the cats to the Animal Shelter, which will determine the health of the kittens and when to separate them from their mother.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, there is a severe feral cat overpopulation crisis in the United States today.  Josh Hirschmiller says in the KPBS These Days interview, “What Can Be Done To Reduce Feral Cat Population?“, that there is an estimated million or more feral cats in San Diego County.  The Humane Society suggests, “The best approach involves sterilizing cats, conducting robust TNR programs [Trap-Neuter-Return], support for innovative cat programs through shelters and rescues, and educating owners on how keeping cats indoors is valuable for both cats and wildlife.”  The Feral Cat Coalition in San Diego has a free TNR program.  See how TNR programs improve the lives of feral cats, while reducing their numbers in this Humane Society YouTube video: “Life On The Streets: The feral Cat Crisis“.

Our veterinary care clinic, San Diego Pet Hospital says, “All animals deserve a loving home.”

DSC_0054 Our own cat, Tigger

“I’m Tigger, and I approve this post and message,” says my neutered (and once feral) cat!

San Diego safari interlude

Friday, April 19th, 2013

Our Airstream Safari descended 4,000 feet from our campsite in the Cuyamaca Mountains and enjoyed a restful interlude at home base in San Diego before going to the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  In the meantime, our Airstream friends, Bert and Janie, visited me at the Whaley House and Larry at home.  The following day we took them on a journey to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

“Safari is a Swahili word for ‘journey’,” said our Africa Tram driver and guide, and indeed, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park* is a journey through various habitats for a large array of wild and endangered animals, along with a wealth of plant life.  As soon as we entered the park, Bert spotted many photographic opportunities,

DSC_0226 Bert on safari photo shoot

such as the Southern Bald Ibis, native to southern Africa.

DSC_0229 Southern Bald Ibis

We continued on our safari and came upon a romantic lion interlude.

DSC_0247 Romantic lion interlude

A nearby lioness basked contentedly in the sun and seemed satiated (perhaps after dining on the 4×4 driver).

DSC_0244 Contented lioness basking

We took the Africa Tram for an overview of the largest exhibit, the open-range enclosure, covering 300 acres and presenting various plains habitats of Africa and Asia.

DSC_0271 Bert, Larry, & Janie, Safari Park

The tram makes periodic stops for photographic opportunities,

DSC_0266 Photo shoot from tram

such as photographing the giraffe.

DSC_0264 Giraffe

Janie and Larry rested after we got off the tram at Nairobi Station, while Bert and I hoofed it up to Condor Ridge.  Photographing the California Condor through a mesh enclosure is difficult, but Bert reveals how it’s done in his post, “California Condor Milestone“.

DSC_0304 California Condor

We are happy that the California Condor is escaping extinction due to breeding programs* at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and the Los Angeles Zoo.

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

To have and have another celebration… of life!

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

The other (political) party was still reeling, but our party was just getting started as we celebrated the first night of Hanukkah on the eve of our departure for a five night stay in the Anza-Borrego Desert and light up the dark nights with celebrations of Hanukkah, winter solstice, Christmas, New Year, and especially life, which seems so vulnerable, precious, and brief.

Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Dedication and the Festival of Lights, is a wonderful celebration of freedom, and is observed by lighting the candles of the Hanukiah and by eating food that is fried or baked in oil.  For the first night of this eight-day celebration, Larry made egg rolls that were dipped in apricot Sriracha sauce and sufganiyot that were injected with cherry/raspberry/blood orange jam and sprinkled with powdered sugar.

For this trip, Larry made a bamboo Christmas tree and added lights and decorations topped by a red star given to us by our good friends Bert and Janie.  We also brought along one of our hummingbird feeders from home.

Good reading material, including a new book, To Have And Have Another, by Philip Greene, was brought along.  Our very nice neighbor Donna gave us a Corgi Christmas ornament (seen below).

As we continued our celebrations, Anna’s Hummingbirds were having a festive time with our feeder.

For the 5th night of Hanukkah, Larry made latkes and used our tire infrared thermometer to check the temperature of the cooking oil!

He says that using chopsticks was easier than tongs to turn over the latkes.

 

At night our desert campsite was lit up by our Hanukiah and Christmas tree.

So we say to our friends, “Happy Holidays, Good Health, and Peace!”

May we “light one candle… and let it shine through our love and our tears” (Peter, Paul and Mary)

Aye, there’s the rub rail

Thursday, October 11th, 2012

A rub rail covers the bottom edge of the exterior aluminum panels, along with the bottom line of rivets that attach the panels to our 2007 Safari trailer.  This rub rail area is susceptible to water in at least two places, especially in the rear of the trailer where much rain water and dew run down.  The trailer was only two years old when we found part of the chrome/vinyl rub rail insert hanging down during a trip.  Moisture can loosen the self-sticking adhesive backing of this vinyl insert.  We reattached this vinyl strip using 3M Plastic and Emblem Adhesive #08061 and details are posted here.

Click on the image above to enlarge it and you will see that the factory applied sealant along the top edge of the rub rail bracket.  The integrity of this seal is important, because if enough water gets behind the rub rail it could lead to floor rot.

Last summer, I found areas of cracked sealant along the top edge of our rub rail.  In one respect, we are fortunate to have a relatively dry climate in San Diego, but we do get plenty of dew.  So after I replaced our Marathon tires in September, I sealed the rub rail cracks with Acryl-R and applicator from the Airstream Store.

Actually, I put a bead of Acryl-R along the top edge of the rub rail around the trailer, and then the trailer got its annual big washing and waxing.  For the occasion, I got a new, sturdier stepladder and more of my favorite wax, Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Professional Sealant #20.  This sealant, along with the nail polish that I applied last year, has prevented any further growth of filiform corrosion.

So now that the trailer is washed and waxed, and presented with new tires (and new AGM batteries last May) it seems happier and ready for our fall camping season. We celebrated by observing the Chinese Moon Festival, also called Mid-Autumn Festival.

Larry set up a display featuring the many symbols of this festival, including mooncakes with an egg yolk in the middle.

We gazed at the full moon as our Chinese paper lanterns seemed to dance, and the Tillandsia secunda (in the foreground) seemed to wave in the breeze, and we remembered the legend of Chang’e, the Chinese goddess who lives on the moon, a love story.

Summer of ’12

Friday, October 5th, 2012

Summer began by my thoroughly rinsing off all of the salt deposits that accumulated on the trailer during our beachside outing last May.  An important part of this annual process is to fully extended our three awnings and wash off the accumulation of salt and dirt.  The details of our trailer awning care are seen in my post, “Trailer Awnings“.  I am always amazed at the amount of dirt that accumulates along the very top edge of canvas where it attaches to the trailer (and can’t be seen or washed away until the awning is fully extended).

Diesel prices rose to $4.599/gallon this summer and the cost to fill up the F-250 tank was an even $100 here in San Diego, but the upside of living here is that we don’t have to go far to enjoy the great outdoors, even our backyard is a tropical oasis.

Summer projects included Larry’s application of finishing touches to our trailer sun shade screen seen in my last post, “Drift and the land yacht“, and in my research into replacing our six-year-old trailer tires.

San Diego’s Old Town is a great place to work and play.  Larry and I put on our Victorian era attire and went to Old Town State Historic Park where Nick & Dave were photographing anybody for free as long as they were wearing vintage clothing.  Nick & Dave do tintype photography using the wet plate collodion process.

(Photo credit: Joe O’Dell)

They took our photos, showed them to us and, after they applied the finishing application of clear lacquer, we returned in two weeks to pick them up.

Nick & Dave’s assistant photographer Joe O’Dell took pictures of us with his Nikon camera and used Photoshop to make the image below showing us with the backdrop of Bodie, a ghost town in California.

Our Renaissance faire friend, Jim M., died in late summer, reminding us that life is fragile and brief and of the importance of cherishing and sharing each day with our loved ones, from season to season.  Summer is now over, the leaves are beginning to fall, the air is cooler… but love endures, along with our memories of the summer of ’12.

Mid-Autumn Festival

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

The rising full moon amid fluffy clouds in an otherwise clear night sky was an auspicious sign as we began planning our fall and winter camping season.  This occurred last Monday night as we celebrated the Chinese Moon Festival.  According to Wikipedia, this festival is also known as the Mid-Autumn Festival and is a popular lunar harvest festival celebrated especially by Chinese and Vietnamese people on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese calendar, always coinciding with a full moon.

This is a time when family and friends gather together outside under the full moon and share in festivities such as eating mooncakes, sipping wine, and hanging brightly lit lanterns.  Loved ones who can not be together on this night can still feel connected by looking up at the moon at the same time.

As is customary in Hong Kong, Larry suspended Chinese lanterns on bamboo poles from a high point, in this case, from the top of our pergola.

We feasted on Larry’s homemade pizza under the pergola and watched the festive lanterns dance in the cool night breeze as lights twinkled in Mexico and throughout the South Bay.

As mentioned in Wikipedia, this festival is strongly associated with the legend of Houyi, the Archer, and Chang’e, the Moon Goddess of Immortality.  This is illustrated in YouTube’s “Legend of Moon Festival“.

Much of the symbolism of this festival revolves around the shape of the full round moon, emphasizing unity, wholeness, completeness, togetherness, well-being and prosperity.  It is said that catching the reflection of the moon in one’s teacup, glass of wine, or bowl of water is a perfect moment.  More ways of celebrating the harvest moon are described by Eleanor here.

Another perfect moment occurred on this auspicious night with the blooming of our Nightblooming Cereus, Queen of the Night.

This festival is also called the Mooncake Festival because mooncakes are often prepared in the shape of the moon and are usually made from lotus seed paste and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs.  We celebrated with two types of Chinese bean paste pastries, winter melon and mung bean.

We continued to share this special night by my ongoing daily bedtime readings out loud of Harry Potter, currently Book 3, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

About the Author

BILL, along with partner, Larry, were first-time RV'ers when they purchased their custom-ordered 23' 2007 Airstream Safari SE. Bill (a retired RN) and Larry (a retired pediatric Occupational Therapist) enjoy bringing history alive in the area of San Diego, CA.