Weekend Stories and random links

Daily Prompt: Ready, Set, Done Our ten-minute free-write is back! Have no mercy on your keyboard as you give us your most unfiltered self (feel free to edit later, or just publish as-is).
Today we go for laughs. Lots of them. First was a short story about Kate. She was housesitting for the next door neighbors who have two dogs and a cat. No problem except one of the dogs is 110 pound or more black lab named Hulk. The name is appropriate, I have never seen a bigger lab. It turns out he likes showers and so on at least one occasion, he joined her in the shower. Kate described him as a big slippery otter in a small shower stall. She was not amused, but her dad and I were.

It warmed my heart to see Kate and her friend working on their physics project. Assignment make a tennis ball launcher that can accurately place the ball at a TBD location between 2 and 7 meters. Kate went for the sling shot approach. She’s learned to use my new saw table cutting lumber, a drill press to create accurate holes, and many other tools. It warms my heart to see her so productive.

Bob took Elle to the dog beach in Del Mar. She has a wonderful time swimming and racing around with other dogs. Evidently she likes to play submarine, walking with her nose and eyes sticking out of the water, the rest of the dog underneath. Problem with the game is that she drinks too much saltwater and thus always gets sick afterwards. Bob hasn’t learned that you never take Elle anywhere after a trip to the beach. This time it was the Home Depot parking lot where she had a problem. One bag or even 10 bags would not have been sufficient to clean up that mess.

At work, everyone has been tasking with writing their own evaluation for the year. And to help, we have a set of prompts. Reading the first one has everyone in despair. How do you respond to “Leadership qualities–Company Values. Demonstrates integrity.” The obvious answer is “Yes, I do that” but they want examples. How do you demonstrate “integrity” in a single bulleted short sentence?

More absurdity at work. Modern process requires a web based entry for all facilities issues including plumbing problems. And to make sure no one is tempted to create non-essential service tickets, the website is hidden under the name “Maximo”. So when problems like a broken water fountain pouring water onto the floor, an overflowing toilet, or a dripping pipe in the bathroom occur; we employees are empowered by this web site IF WE CAN FIND IT. And IF WE HAVE THE CORRECT PERMISSIONS to create a ticket. If we don’t, then we have to find someone with enough authority to report it for us. Then someone somewhere sometime will look at said ticket and assign someone else to check the problem. Very efficient process for these plumbing emergencies.

Now some entertainment from the web. First is an incredible video created from time lapse photos of the wave. Titled
YIKÁÍSDÁHÁ – Navajo for Milky Way or “That Which Awaits the Dawn” this movie is by Gavin Heffernan (SunchaserPictures.com) and Harun Mehmedinović (Bloodhoney.com). WOW, what a gorgeous view of the night sky. Take a look.

Next is a startling photo of slumbering lions — photos from the wildlife photograph of the year contest. I would be proud to have taken a photo this good.

Now some more laughter. Political humor. First link John Oliver in his show “Last Week Tonight” where he did a hysterically funny piece on women’s wages. At one point in Maggie’s career as a young girl, she wanted to issue something called Lola Bucks as money. No one in our house was willing to trade dollars for lola bucks. So if anyone could actually find a “Lola Buck” it would be a collectors item and now might be worth real money. Well John Oliver suggested using “Lady Bucks” which come in pink and purple colored denominations. Watch this segment only if your prepared to laugh.


And then I am inspired by Rick Scotts Wedding Dress Political Ad. He makes it simple, choose him because he’s handsome and sleek. Perhaps the repuglians really do know what is best for me.

And no, I was unable to write this post in 10 minutes. It took closer to 30.

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Friends, imaginary or real

Daily Prompt: Imaginary Friend

Many of us had imaginary friends as young children. If your imaginary friend grew up alongside you, what would his/her/its life be like today? (Didn’t have one? write about a non-imaginary friend you haven’t seen since childhood.)


As a kid, I had many imaginary friends who were always willing to try new things, who always listened to me, and who were positive wonderful companions. As an adult, imaginary friends still exist. But I don’t know who they are yet. They are the people who pretend to be friends and then back stab you. The ones who take advantage of your trust and then to abuse i. The ones who spread vicious gossip and try to push you down for personal gain. These types of people make me sad. I wonder why these people act so cruelly. Did someone break their trust and teach them the only way to get ahead is stomping on others? Do they feel ashamed or guilty about their actions? I can’t be like that. So I trust and reach out to new friends and acquaintances on a regular basis. And you know what, in almost every case the joy they bring is far more than worrying about an occasional problem person.

Real friends bring true joy into my life.  I’ve been blessed.  With them, I laugh; work; and share all the small things that make a life rich.  Who are my friends.  My husband, Bob, a life long companion who does things like give me his car this morning so I don’t have to stop for gas on the way to work.  My mother-in-law who has been supporting me with love for years, even when I do things that seem strange to her.  My mom who taught me that having too much food and drink means guests are always welcome in a house.  Suzie, Marianne, Carolyn, and other women friends who share my hobbies, interests, and love of good food / wine.  With friends like this, I don’t need any imaginary friends.  Thank you to everyone.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful day here in San Diego. As one of my friends at work said “Beautiful cool crisp morning in October followed by Fire in the afternoon.”

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Favorite Movie, bad question

Daily Post:http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/fourth-wall/
Fourth Wall
You get to spend a day inside your favorite movie. Tell us which one it is — and what happens to you while you’re there.
How can I choose only one favorite movie? It depends; am I happy? tired? stressed? or relaxed? Choice of the favorite depends so much on my mood that this becomes a stupid question. Unfortunately it seems to be a favorite one, especially for those passcode security systems. What is your favorite movie, favorite food, favorite novel, month, or whatever. Mostly I have favorite scenes. When I am really tired, something lighthearted like the princess diaries is my favorite. I can laugh at some of those great scenes, like the one where the princess falls off the chair or in the second movie where tells Lily that she’s getting married. And then there are the surreal scenes: My Dinner with Andre where the whole movie is two people talking a table, or Across the Universe with the blue men. And of course who could forget The Princess Bride with the RUS. It must be I am abnormal to not have favorites. Or is it a measure of my complexity? Or just a really bad question? You decide.

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Circuitous Paths and the Unexpected

Circuitous Paths
A stranger knocks on your door, asking for directions from your home to the closest gas station (or café, or library. Your pick!). Instead of the fastest and shortest route, give him/her the one involving the most fun detours.
What a great concept, circuitous fun paths. We did it, not the stranger from the daily prompt. Went wood shopping today. Started in a shop that had beautiful incredible hardwood pieces. I wanted to buy lots of them and have Bob make me tons of tables. But he feels not yet worthy of this wood nirvana, the pieces are too nice to for practice and learning. Then we followed the train tracks until south until just before the freeway. There is a store that gets regular shipments of wood via train. I saw carloads of wood being delivered while riding the sprinter to work. Evidently when Santa Fe Railway sold the train tracks to North Country District, there was a lawsuit by this shop to keep their access to railcar wood deliveries. And I heard complaints from Jan whose husband helped design and build the sprinter that this lawsuit added a couple of years onto the Sprinter line construction. There’s a good story there.

Elly, our dog, had a wonderful time at this shop. There was a man who loved dogs and cannot have one where he lives. So he played with Elly, got her some water, and for a grand finale, fed her HIS lunch. Fried spam. He dangled the spam slice from his mouth and let Elly take it from him. Elly loved it. Bob swears those calories are coming out of her dinner.

After visiting yet another wood store and running a few errands came home to yet another adventure. Totally unexpected. After using the bathroom, I discovered the door knob had frozen in a closed position. Had to call Bob to bring tools. After 45 minutes, was finally able to dismantle the door knob and escape. Charlie found this event fascinating. He tried to help, pulling himself up to a standing position and looking through the door hole. Putting arms underneath the door and seeing what he could hook with his claws. Dodging orange cat paws while trying to pop hinge pins adds a real sense of adventure to the process. Here’s the proof.


As for circuitous paths, they are fun. One never knows what one will learn. Me, I didn’t expect to become familiar with the inner workings of a door knob.

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Photos from December 2013 at Brindejon

Cleaning up my photo stash and came across these great pictures. There were a couple of good days at my parents farm. First was a silly little toy that shot a helicopter up into the sky. Everyone had fun trying it out.







And then we had fun searching for snow. That took some work, most of it had already melted. But my girls are always resourceful and managed to find a 4 foot hill for sledding. As you can see in the photos, the dogs had a wonderful time.






And then there was the group lamp painting session




that was a good trip. everyone had fun.

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What has Robine been doing?

Yes, I am alive and doing well despite rumors to the contrary. Evidently various family members have been checking with Bob to see what’s happening since both the quantity and quality of blog posts has diminished. The last month has been an incredibly creative and productive time, just not with the writing.
Decided to start finishing some projects, beginning with the lady in the moon. It was one of my first forays into both sculpture (with paper mache) and lighting (using a set of christmas lights). Made a ton of mistakes and then put it away for a year. As the creator, I can see every small error and the large ones also. Not finished yet, at least I know how to get past the problem spots. Plaster, spray paint, gesso, and a willingness to accept paint spots on light bulbs as artistic elements helped with this transformation. Last weekend I finished the back. And I now have the patience to slowly paint small sections at a time. 20 hours of painting and it probably will be done. Below is a picture of it partially finished. Look for a series of photos showing the progress in a couple of weeks. Every weekend, I put on a few mor

But thats not all. I’ve been working on my painting. At lunch a couple weeks ago, a friend at work taught a short class on using water color pencils. We did apples. I don’t have my watercolor apple from the class, another friend borrowed it as an example and then lost it. Dang…won’t lend her my pictures without at least getting a photo first. So I tried to redo the apple using INKIST, software on the IPAD. Here’s the first apple.

And then I went on to multiple water color pencil drawings. First picture of Elly had a bad perspective. That lead to an exercise of doing 20 complete drawing of her in an attempt to get a good one. You will see those later when I finish the series. Right now I am on number 7. Each drawing takes hours, so it will take a few more weeks to complete. And I have tried several other drawings with watercolor pencils to learn techniques — how to draw, how to blend, how to add the wash. Actually have a few good photos of the work. But I must confess that the photos look better than the reality. More vibrant and better contrast. I still don’t think I am a water color person–it is too hard to correct mistakes. But the medium is intriguing.



But we still are not done with the artwork. You see, I also took a beading class and have gotten back into making jewelry. This started when visiting Liz in Albuquerque. We went to a beading shop and bought way too many beads. Gorgeous hematite, lovely tiger eyes, copper beads, and more. The photo below shows a small portion of the recent output. There are a few more necklaces downstairs waiting for clasps and earrings waiting for fasteners. Plus another dozen necklaces in the planning. Guess what everyone will be getting as presents over the next few months.

But wait, have done still more work this last weekend. I am not teaching electronics although I now have two art studios that want me to do so. Art beat on Main Street offered me a teaching gig last saturday night while we visited their wine bar and listened to piano jazz. And of course I can teach at the California Sculpture Academy. The question is can I figure out how to make money from this process. And of course, first I have to learn all the electronics before I can teach the classes. To do this, I am making a lighted tree sculpture. And working through a series of electronic lessons. Spent hours wondering how to do the complicated wiring of 24 LED’s until I realized that 8 groups of LED’s was really easy. No real impact to the artistic element, having 8 groups also leaves me with a lot of input ports on the computer. That means I can play with fancy knobs to change the color, the brightness, the blinking rate and even allow the user to set a timer on the lamp. Might even pull together a light organ which would allow the tree to light up based on music. Below are photos of the electronics class, tree being checked out by Elly, and some of my notes on electronics.



And still more has been going on. Decided to reuse an old embroidered pillow (the frog on a rock) as a seat cover. Maggie has been gone for years and probably has forgotten the pillow. If she complains to loudly then I will put making a replacement on the to-do list although when it gets done is negotiable. Here’s the chair.

As you can see, I have been busy. Unfortunately it seems I can’t do both the art and lots of writing at the same time. But hang in there, this phase will pass and then there will be more stories.

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Thoroughly Catted

Want to write this morning, but work calls. So a short post showing what thoroughly catted means in our house. Bob was the unwitting victim.


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Delayed Birthday Presents

Lets talk about extravagant spending, since we did it yesterday. Now, we had skipped several big holidays this year — birthdays, anniversary, just because presents and the like because too much was going on in life. So yesterday we made up for that and added in a few more holiday celebrations to buy a new table saw. I’ve always wanted a new table saw. Bob’s cheap old saw died last week; so we decided to buy a new one. It was cute, Bob spent a lot of time researching table saws, checking craig’s list, and even visiting a used tool store in downtown San Diego. Yesterday was payday, so the first thing in the morning, we went to Lowes and bought it. Bob was so excited, he didn’t even give me time to have breakfast.

Here’s our new baby. Bob spent all day putting it together.


And best of all, Bob has promised to teach me how to use the saw.

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Bad while being Good

That’s me, being bad and good a the same time. Bad for not swimming and good for writing. But the moon and night sky was so spectacular: the full lunar eclipse which meant a blood red moon and a meteor shower at the same time. Inspiring. But the cats didn’t think so as evidenced by their constant motion and nervous energy. Elle barked and growled at shadows. Guess it makes sense, these animals are very aware of their environments and the moon light was not normal.
Last week I started physical therapy for both a knee and an ankle. Everything went akimbo in my body — sprain the right knee, start limping, and then sprain the left ankle. Start limping a different way and repeat the process. Its been bad for the last month. Even went onto crutches for a few days which helped the ankle but hurt the knee. Learned to be bold when explaining what happened. Use only two words “Bar Fight”. Much better story than the truth and everyone laughs.
Last saturday, met friends at a beading class and got inspiration. Not only are some wonderful necklaces and earring being made, but I got inspiration for a tree lamp statue using singletons. This combines my love of pretty things, my interest in electronics, and my passion for making big messy projects. The lamps will need several hundred wire coat hangers, at least a dozen milk jugs, hundreds of LED’s, and a lot of abandoned single earrings. Lots of fun, I’ll be able to create a mess that lasts for months with this project. As a follow up from the class, one of my friends from the beading class had a present for me on Monday. She made me a really nice necklace for holding my badge. It has silver beads, garnets, and lots of pretty sparklies. I was touched, it has been a long time since I’ve gotten a surprise just because present.
For the last month, actually since returning from vacation; I’ve been in a funk about work. I am tired of doing the same thing for years. Its a good job, full of challenges, pays well, and yet I am bored. Add in a sense of being unworthy and underqualified, after all I don’t have the degrees that are listed on the job reqs, so by definition I am not qualified for anything even my own job. And yet I know that is not true; I am very good at my job. Turns out that talking with other senior engineers, many people feel that way. After all, the best engineers are people who solve problems. And by definition if your doing the same job for years, then your not solving problems. So the problem is how to change my job, something I can solve. And with some creativity, for example, my company may be hiring a couple thousand engineers next spring in Melbourne, Florida…..so there are even good daydreaming opportunities. Just what I need as I leave for work…..

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Tissue Paper Cats

On Saturday night, the cats ruined a half dozen sheets of tissue paper. Beautiful, red sparkly paper got destroyed as they romped through the crinkly stuff. Of course it was my fault. First I got the paper out to wrap a present which made it a valuable commodity. If I like something that is new, clean, and crinkly; then of course the cats must give it attention. And then I made the mistake of trying to pull the sheets away from them. Well they got ruined in a good cause as we had much laughter watching them play. Charlie started it and Sophie joined in the fun.





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Got hungry for popcorn the other day. It’s all those movies we’ve been seeing recently; my way of getting cool during the endless heat wave. And when it popped, I got the greatest picture of popcorn. All the corn perfectly popped and amazingly it all stayed in the pan.


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Bad Kate

Kate was bad at dinner tonight. She decided to feed leftovers to Sally at the dinner table. We’ll punish someone later after we figure out who gets what punishment and for what offense.


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Getting in trouble

Over the last few days, captured a couple great pictures of the cat and dog. Heres charlie helping himself to dinner.

Here’s Elle sleeping in the hall

Here’s sophie sprawling on the bed. I like the perspective of this shot

and here is Sally with her famous glare

All three cats love sleeping on our bed. Notice how they are all as far apart as possible while staying on the same surface.

and here are two friends sprawling on the floor during a hot afternoon.


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Tribute to David

Maggie wrote that she restored to pinning bugs as a way of avoiding homework. Of course, what she was really doing involved traveling to New Hampshire and helping her grandmother bury her grandfather’s ashes. Long hard trip for both of them, but in the end they were successful. Coming home was a problem, Mary got caught in the travel chaos caused by the chicago airport fire and vandalism. On Friday they started canceling planes, so Mary ended up traveling to LAX and then taking a shuttle to San Diego.

Funny story. Mary, my mom-in-law, lost her phone in a shuttle bus coming home from the airport. She called the guy who drove the shuttle. He said he couldn’t find it. Then she called her own phone and it rang in his van. He answered it and thus got tricked into sending the phone home.

Bob wrote a lovely obituary which got posted in the Union Leader in New Hampshire. One of the women with whom Mary attended high school read the obit and contacted her. It was a nice result from a sad event. Below is the OBIT for those in the family who missed it earlier.

Vista, Calif. – David Lewis, father and husband, died peacefully in Vista at Rancho Vista nursing facility on June 12, 2014.

David John Lewis was born March 16, 1930, in Denver, Colo., to John and Carol Lewis. During his early years, David lived in Buffalo, N.Y., and then later in Long Island, N.Y., with his parents and his brother, Richard Lewis, and his sister, Barbara Lewis. The family moved to Franklin, N.H., in 1948, where they bought and successfully ran The Journal Transcript, Franklin’s local newspaper. David met his future wife, Miss Mary Ayotte in Franklin. David and Mary married at St. Paul Church in Franklin, on Nov. 28, 1953. David and Mary have two children, Robert Lewis, born June 18, 1955, and Garrett Lewis, born July 18, 1960.

David was a technologist and had a lifelong interest in science and engineering. He graduated from the Tilton School in 1951 with honors in physics. He next attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering. Following MIT, David attended the University of Pennsylvania on a full-tuition scholarship and worked as a research assistant in a microwave laboratory at the school. David also enlisted in the ROTC and was promoted to the grade of second lieutenant. David graduated from University of Pennsylvania with a master’s degree in electrical engineering. In 1961, David joined the Hughes Aircraft Company in Los Angeles and worked in developing antenna systems for airborne radar applications. In the course of his 25 years at Hughes, David has received patents for technical innovation and authored numerous technical articles.

David had an active lifestyle and broad interests. He enjoyed flying and earned his private pilot’s license and owned his own airplane. David also was a certified SCUBA diver and enjoyed diving in the Malibu area. After retiring from Hughes, David and Mary moved to Oceanside. David had a good retirement; he’d begin each day with a long morning bike ride, and spend the afternoon with Mary and his grandchildren. He and Mary loved being with their grandchildren. They spent many happy days taking them to the Wild Animal Park, the zoo, Disneyland, and other parks in southern California.

David leaves his wife, Mary (Oceanside), his son ,Robert Lewis (Vista), and his son, Garrett Lewis (Olympia, Wash.). He also has five living grandchildren, Michael Lewis (Olympia, Wash.), Maggie Lewis (State College, Pa.), Elizabeth Lewis (Albuquerque, N.M.), Jennifer Lewis (Davis) and Katherine Lewis (Vista). Other surviving relatives include his aunt, Marylyn Lewis (Sacramento), his nephew, David Lewis (Franklin, N.H.), and nieces Janet Lewis (Bristol, Conn.), Sally Tobias (Pennsylvania), and Sue-Ellen Farrell (New Jersey).

.SERVICES: Services were held. A private interment will be held at Holy Cross Cemetery, Franklin, N.H.
Published in Union Leader on Sept. 17, 2014

From the Guestbook
September 17, 2014
Dear Mary, My deepest Sympathy to you on the loss of your husband. I remember singing at your beautiful wedding. I also remember our school days at Mt. St. Mary. God bless you and your family.
Henriette Raymond Girard,
Allenstown, New Hampshire

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Adventures in the enchanted land

Not all enchantments are good and adventures generally mean the gods will test you before any rewards are given. That was certainly true this last weekend with our adventure to New Mexico. There were moments of great joy; but also moments of despair were nothing seemed to be quite right. The first clue to our tests began when Bob called to confirm hotel reservations as we were leaving for the airport. And the hotel told us “We were bumped from our hotel room; but not to worry. When we arrived, they would take us to another hotel.”

Arriving in Albuquerque at midnight was eerie; an empty airport has a disturbing feel. We tried to take a taxi instead of calling the hotel shuttle and waiting. The taxi driver refused to take us. Called the hotel and their first response was “the shuttle stopped at 10 pm”. Bob persevered on the phone. After learning our names, they did send out the hotel shuttle who took us to the promised second hotel. There the gods demanded payment causing a large bag with about 10 dollars worth of quarters to break and roll all over the ground. Eventually we pass the hurdles and made it to the front desk. More confusion when they could not find a reservation and claimed they were full. But eventually all got sorted out and the first hotel paid Thursday night’s bill.

On Friday, trials continued. Bob was feeling a bit sick. At breakfast on Friday, I spilled coffee, burned toast, and poured waffle batter all over the self-service counter. Then we changed hotel rooms. The hotel was trying to be nice; they gave us a poolside room. Well, an indoor pool side room on the third floor is an interesting experience. All the heat and humidity rises up from the pool. Add in no direct window to the outside and you have a very surreal hotel room. At least it was clean and neat. I like the low end hotels – you get empty refrigerators, microwaves, coffee pots, laundry facilities, and free breakfasts. Much better than those fancy ones where the fridges have motion sensors on the overpriced contents and charge you 15 dollars to empty the fridge. But then we got to spend a great afternoon with Liz—Lunch and Old Town.

The next day was Take your parents to work day. Really great visiting Sandia National Labs. Lots of cool stuff.  Besides seeing all the labs where Liz works; we got to see a Z-Machine.  What is a Z-Machine, well I had to look up the definition.   From webpage http://www.sandia.gov/z-machine/

“Sandia’s Z machine is the world’s most powerful and efficient laboratory radiation source. It uses high magnetic fields associated with high electrical currents to produce high temperatures, high pressures, and powerful X-rays for research in high energy density science. The Z machine creates conditions found nowhere else on Earth. Z is part of Sandia’s Pulsed Power program, which began in the 1960s.”

And there are lots of really interesting photos / descriptions on the sandia websites.  Take a look.  For example, a robot that can literally turn on a dime because it is smaller than a dime.

One bad part of the tour was spraining my ankle.  So afterwards we went to Liz’s apartment where she had an ace bandage.  Got some great photos of her room; it’s the nicest dorm I’ve ever seen.  Second bad part was getting a call from the hotel asking if we were staying Saturday night.  We called, they said OK.  Both of us were glad to see our suitcases were still in the bedroom.

The next day adventures continued.  We got to the airport several hours early only to find that our plane was an hour late arriving (Fog in San Francisco).  That meant we missed our connection in LAX.  We did get booked on the 7:30 pm plane (the next one after the 4 pm plane).  But that plane broke down in San Luis Obispo.  So the airline called in a third plane from Yuma, Arizona.  We did finally make it home at a semi-reasonable time on Sunday evening.  Long hard trip, but I enjoyed it.

Below are a series of pictures in random order from the trip. Enjoy.  First is a Store window in Old Town.


Tree in old towntree

Greetings from a rescue turtle in old town


waiting for bagswaiting


window in church in old town.  it’s a moon map; but I don’t know how to read the green portions.


view over the wing






airport1 airport1_blog vblog_climbers1



this could be a great painting someday

bob_rest_paint2 bob_rest_paitn1 burts insideairport_blog license lizbed lizbobcar lizcloset lizdesk lizdoor lizdormbuilding lizkitchen lizlivingroom poochparkcing selfies stairs

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Happy Autumn Equinox — it’s the official beginning of Fall.  Tonight we celebrate.  A fire, perhaps marshmallows, and a nice warm evening outside.  Plus I’ll write a long blog post about the last weekend spent in the land of enchantment.  Tried to write one this morning; but made the mistake of opening too many pictures at once.  Hung the computer, which took an hour to recover.

For a good description of the equinox, see the washington post article.



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Writing Assignemnt

Hi all, the first class assignment for one of my two classes that started yesterday was writing 20 minutes stream of consciousness. And the post it. Here’s the class homework.

Damm, I am already behind. Can I drop this class? It is only tuesday, the second day of the class and I am three writing assignments behind. Plus another class. I knew it was insanity to take two classes while working full time. What I didn’t plan on was having an extreme heat storm and lots of extra work duties. So many work duties that next week I will probably volunteer for the extra overtime before it becomes mandatory. Earn a thousand dollars and get brownie points at work versus an extra couple of weekends. Tough choice, the time is hard to replace. And how am I going to get time to do the blogging.

Speaking of heat, a co-worker heard me talking with Bob about rain. I was incredulous, it was hot and sunny in 4S ranch. Someone else had just measured the temperature from their car at 105 degrees. But Bob told me it was raining and the co-worker verified as I found out later. He stopped by to tell me that there was a rain cloud positioned over San Marcos and Vista. I think he wanted it to rain locally as a possible way of lowering the outside temperature. But it didn’t and he was happy to concur that humidity when the rain stopped and sun resumed would be awful. It was. I came home to a hot wet driveway later in the evening.

Speaking of coming home. Elly was waiting for me. In fact she walked in front of the car as I was coming down the steep driveway. Stopped and asked for help. Bob came and let her into the front seat. For the last month or so, Elly has been coming outside to meet me. What she loves to do is hope in the car for a ride during the last 20 to 100 feet of driveway. So tonight she got about 5 feet of driveway, but it was air-conditioned. And she got a few pets from me. Tradition was satisfied. So after hoping out of the car, she went into the backyard under the illusion that it was cooler outside. Maybe a degree or two, but not much more than that. You have to understand that is not normal behavior. She generally wants to come into the kitchen and ensure that I don’t give the cats too much attentions.

The guidelines for this exercise say 20 minutes of stream of conciousness, but it’s only been 10 minutes. Should I cheat on the exercise or keep writing> Anyone who knows me knows that I will keep writing. I am too honest for my own good. But tonight I’m tempted to cheat…..so what next?

Time for a bit more whiskey. As some of you may know, we recently visited scotland. One of the must do things I wanted to try was whiskey tasting. But it didn’t quite work out that way. We did one whiskey tasting in Edinburgh at a pub. But it wasn’t the same as visiting a brewery, no a distillery, and tasting whiskey after a tour. We didn’t get the chance to do that. Bought my dad some wonderful expensive whiskey; but didn’t get myself anything.

So I’ve been trying whiskeys since returning home. Have bought three different bottles, two good ones including a bottle from Oban, and one cheap one from trader joes. Now by cheap whiskey, I mean the trader joes single malt high quality whiskey where we don’t know the origin. That is different from the rot-gut cheap blended whiskeys. Oban was great because we got to visit the town and I had a lot of fun that day. But I think I like the cheap whiskey best. I like the burn as it goes down the throat. Smooth whiskeys, ones that don’t have that burn, are too easy to drink.That’s good for Bob, I am a cheap date.

ONly have a couple minutes before this writing assignment is done. So I am going to talk about heat measurements based on cat length. For the last few days, it has been three cats at plus four feet in length. That means really really hot. Sophia is the hold out, she likes hot weather. And normal cat stretching is about 3 feet in length. A cat who measures 3.5 feet sleeping indicates the weather is hotter than normal, good for cat stretching. When the cats are sleeping in curled up balls, that means the temperature is ok, probably somewhere in the 70’s or 60’s if it seems cold. Below 60 degrees and you start seeing cats sleeping next to other animals — cats, dogs, or humans. And if the cats are sleeping under blankets, then it is COLD. Of course Sophia is the exception, she always wants to sleep with me. If it is cold, I am her heater. And if it is hot, I am her cooling device. UGHH!!!!! I HATE HOT CATS WHEN IT IS 95 DEGREES WITH 90 PERCENT HUMIDITY.

YES! THE 20 minute writing assignment is over. Onto the next homework assignment.

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Hot Days, 4 foot cats

It’s been hot, really hot, here in Vista. And the cats show it….they stretch and sleep and stretch some more. I swear three feet of normal cat has stretched out to at least four feet. Are they happy, I don’t know. Sophia is as cuddly as usual, wanting nothing more than sitting on me; the more skin contact the better. UGGHHH!!!!! It’s hot and I am miserable. I do not want or need extra cat heat. And I am surprised if I feel cool to her. But the hot weather does make it possible to get stretch cat photos. Enjoy.








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quick amusing notes

Was just at Lowe’s where they had no cashiers working.  A long line of people with two self service machines.  Watched one man hassle with scanning large pieces of lumber because there were no hand held devices either.  When it came my turn, they wanted me to scan a special bar for the paint.  Since I had no idea what this special bar was at the time, I declined to scan it.  Later when putting the paint in the car, realized the special bar must have been the strip on the top of the can.

Does Lowe’s really want me to turn a can of paint upside down at their scanning station?  Imagine the mess created if the top came off the can of paint.   There is not much time before the paint covers a large surface area.  Bob suggested that the best way might be grabbing a dustpan or a hose to cordon off that paint.  And I don’t even want to think about cleaning it out of the cracks. At that point, I would be like “There is a spill here, can you get someone over to clean it up?”  Wonder if I would get a new set of clothes out of them to replace the paint covered ones?

There is an art festival in downtown Vista today.  Someone had a lot of fun putting up signs like “tearable puns”, “trolls looking for a home” and “Found Cat”.  The found cat poster showed a black and white skunk with text detailing how to pick up Stinky.  I’ll see it later today when I meet friends for dinner and an art class.

Bob thought he would conserve water by sharing a shower last night.  Boy was he surprised to learn I was taking a literal cold shower.

Went out for breakfast this morning with Bob, Mary, and Elly.  Curbside was busy; lots of dogs outside.  So Elly got excited.  She was a real stinker; kept wanting to bark.  Like having ill-mannered little kids, Bob and I spent breakfast time taking turns with eating and walking the dog.

Charlie is really hard on the hair bands.  He’s managed to steal most of a new package from me.  It’s hot, too hot for down hair.  So this morning, I was reduced to using a hair stick instead of a hairband.

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Dog Park; Kids constrained

Hot, sticky, and a wonderful day. I slept in and DID NOT go visit Allan’s Alley for breakfast. What a horrible person, I broke 20 years of Friday morning tradition to sleep an extra 30 minutes. A good way to start the day. Then before coffee; Bob, Elly, and myself; went to the dog park. I love this park, they fence the kids and let the dogs run free. Elly had a wonderful time, racing around and enjoying a dog party. The only thing that bothered her was my pace. Instead of keeping up with the pack (Bob, Elly, Myself, and any other dogs she considers friendly); I walked slowly taking lots of photos. Elly would run up with Bob and then go back and find me. Back and forth, multiple laps. She was tired; but content at the end of the visit.plant

The light was wonderful. As always, I took lots of scenery pictures. Not so many good dog photos; they were moving too fast. But you can get a sense of the dog party from this shot in the parking lot.

dogsThe park caters to dogs. At the water fountain, there is a bowl full of water. It’s chained to the fountain and they put bricks to keep the ground under the bowl from getting too muddy.waterAnd they have lots of signs talking about doggy type things – bags, poop, and rattlesnakes.signOf course the kids need to be kept safe; but they get some very interesting looking play equipment.plgroundBut the best part for me are the plants and photo opportunities. I love taking pictures of trees. tree2   tree1

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Random Tidbits

Last night we had a possible near miss. There were loud rustlings in the brush outside our garage, some big animal. At that moment we realized Sophia was outside. Called her and she came in with a fluffy tail, scared. Then we realized that Charlie also had busted out. Did the dinner call and he came. But we think it might have been a coyote or a big possum. And if it was a coyote, then we got lucky.

There is a lawmaker from Missouri who is my new hero — NOT! He’s suing the government who provides his health insurance because it includes contraception. And he claims it violates his religious beliefs to have contraception available to his ADULT daughters who are still on his health plan. Come on, would you want your dad controlling your medical needs as an adult? I would not. And I don’t even want the responsibility over my daughters choices once they become adults. If they can’t make good decisions then I failed in my job as a parent. What ever happened the christian belief I was taught of turning the other cheek and doing to others as you would have done to you. If you don’t want a service, don’t use it. But don’t try to tell me I cannot because you don’t.

Apple killed the IPOD. Now there are no big storage, portable, easy to use music devices. I can only hope that someone else comes along and makes a great replacement with two improvements. First, it used drag and drop for managing music, no more itunes. Second, you can sort on the music device, by date, size, track number, or other criteria. Third, it has a better connector than the flimsy 30 pin connectors. Four, lots and lots of storage for my music. I like carrying a large library with me. Finally, hours and hours of play time. Ok, that is more than two improvements, but with those changes I would be the first to buy one; even if it cost a lot of money.

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A good day followed by insanity

Today was great day, despite having to work. Got some really good tips on finding the next better job internally at work. Have been training a new person who is doing great at her job. Got more work which is good for job security. Of course, it seems like I have too much work, but thats much better than too little work. Learned that a good friend has job suggestions for Liz. Talked with Maggie who is coming out for XMAS at winter break. Since I am paying for Liz and Kate’s plane tickets at thanksgiving, it seems only fair to pay for her ticket at year end. And that made Maggie really happy. Heard from the guys in scotland that they received their unexpected but much appreciated tee shirts. And had a good art class at lunch. And of course, I did get some work done in the short periods between everything else. Essentially nine hours worth of work since that’s what I am getting paid for. Although I am really glad we don’t track time by the minute.

At lunch time there was a demo / tutorial on water color pencils. At work, we have created a new club “creative collections” where crafty type people (all women at the moment but men are welcome) get together to share our love of art and hand crafts. Monthly meetings vary between tutorials done by members or show and tell type sessions. Best of all, we did the formal paperwork and now my workplace pays for supplies on the tutorials. Past lessons had been sewing, beading, show and tell, and general gossip. The club started because a woman at work wanted some friends who enjoyed doing cross stitch at lunch time at work. Well those of us willing to do the work are running the club and hosting the tutorials. Which means that this month, another woman named Carolyn and myself, got to take a road trip down to Blick Art Supplies and buy some water color pencils on company money. Yeah. I get to try the different brands of these expensive pencils. And today Carolyn hosted a lesson on how to draw an apple using the colored pencils. The lesson was very successful although I don’t have anything to show for it. After the lesson, all three sets of club pencils were checked out. And my artwork along with Carolyn’s were taken as examples for those who missed the lunch lesson. I will get it back and now I am inspired to do more artwork.

So here is where the insanity arrives. I signed up for two new writing / blogging classes starting next week. 30 days worth of prompts, no home work on weekends. So weekends can be used for catching up on assignments. I’ll use robinesworld.wordpress.blogspot for storytelling and dragoncatlives.wordpress.com to do an art journal. Its going to be a very busy month. But all in a good cause. Hopefully I will learn more about writing and more about art during that month. And hopefully I have lots of fun doing it. Even if there are days where I curse at my insanity–signing up for two classes while working full time. And lets not even talk about the art electronics classes I am supposed to be planning and teaching. Wish me luck.

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Clouds, a moon, and friends

Its been hot recently. Really, really hot which means I melt and very few blog posts get written. It is so hot that even Elly and Charlie don’t get into too much trouble. Here they are sleeping on the hot kitchen floor. You can see they are good friends.

But last night had a couple of extraordinary events. First was a beautiful cloud, glowing a bright yellow in the evening. So bright and beautiful that I came home, ignored all the animals, and took a photo. Then a few minutes later, it was even better with more colors. And then it disappeared.


The clouds were followed by the Harvest Moon. Nice full moon, but nothing spectacular.


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Random Notes about cats and dogs

The cats have been thirsty recently. So we have had a rash of cats on the fish tanks….


But charlie has to be different


More cat adventures….
We went out for pizza the other night and brought home leftovers. The next day, Charlie got into the box and helped himself to the hawaiian pizza. When Bob found him, he was sitting on one piece carefully picking canadian bacon of the other.

All three cats got flea medication. Sophie and Sally both run at the snick sound made by opening a tube. Charlie wasn’t suspicious about the sound, but he did run when he realized something was getting dabbed on his back.

Sophia won the bed battle. If she’s on the bed, Elly thinks twice before getting on the bed.

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Porch Revived

Owning a home is an expensive hobby; the only thing more expensive in my mind are children. And like children, homes come with large ugly bills such as the one coming due on our front porch. It needs to be replaced. I would love to build a big new different porch, but thats way beyond our budget. So Bob has been doing the best at patching. And thanks to him, this bill can be postponed a few more years.






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Wicked Wine Run

Finally someone came up with a running raced perfect for me–The Wicked Wine Run. Two options, a 5K or 1K race. As you run the course, various wine tasting stations appear. Everyone is supposed to wear outrageous costumes and they throw in free food. Sounds like fun, unfortunately it happened last month. But perhaps next year I can do it.

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Movies, Food, and Art…enjoying life

Rotten tomatoes and all those critics are wrong, both Bob and I enjoyed the movie “The Giver”. Although the book is excellent and better than the movie, some elements became stronger with visualization. For example, I had never imagined a society as oppressive and overseeing as that one despite reading the book multiple times. I had never thought about the pressures put on The Giver, the one teaching the Receiver. The level of surveillance in that society is disturbing. But more disturbing is how soon we might arrive at that level of control. We have cameras everywhere. We have monitoring devices in the cars with talk that soon the insurance companies will penalize us for not sharing that data. We freely give away information about our shopping habits at every store. Now in the movie the information was gathered, but not used. But the same applies to the NSA records leaked by Edward Snowden.

The movie “The One-Hundred Foot Journey” was a lot more fun to see. Had a good time seeing a low key, nice gentle story about families, cooking, and relationships with Mary. I liked the story about a family moving to southern france and opening a restaurant. That is something I would like to do–move to France and sell cookies. Bob says no way, he doesn’t want to move.

Have been going out for some great meals. Perhaps too many. On Thursday, breakfast at curbside. Thursday night, dinner from Yellow Deli and beer at Mother Earth. We had planned on eating there, it turns out the restaurant is dog friendly. But Elly wasn’t well enough behaved. Friday morning, breakfast at Allan’s Alley. After eating there for 20+ years, it’s expected….”if it’s Friday, then we eat allans. On Saturday it is curbside.” And yes we did eat at curbside on Saturday morning. And we had lunch on Friday at Yellow Deli — second time Elly went home in disgrace. Bob came back and we then had a good lunch. Pictures below. But that’s not all. On Saturday, we also went out to Stone Ale Brewery for beer. On Sunday, it was breakfast at home followed by wine at 50 barrels. I had 2 free glasses, we couldn’t let them go to waste. On monday, it was a relief to eat at home. But overall, many great meals with family. Lots of laugh. Life doesn’t get much better.

Speaking of cooking. I made a soup with existing ingredients (i.e. refrigerator review) that Bob described as hot and spicy, sweet and sour, sort of oriental chicken soup with icky greens. I liked it even if he didn’t and it was healthy. But the cookies later on made up for it. First attempt at the breton galletes. It’s a thin crisp butter cookie that is not too sweet and a bit salty. Add on some salted carmel and the results are good. Tomorrow night, I’ll try again with some chocolate to make a carmel, chocolate cookie. And then as a finale, we had great whiskey from Oban in Scotland. We actually went there; but didn’t tour the distillery.

Sometimes its better to enjoy life as it happens. And I’ve been doing just that, spending time laughing with family and friends. Unfortunately Poor Elly missed some of those good times and spent hours in the kitchen in disgrace. Perhaps we should enroll her in doggy manners classes.





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Newspapers and other things

The concept of paying up front for something once seems to have disappeared from our society. Instead, the new purchasing model is automatic subscription. If you read the fine print of these contracts, it states the price doubles in the second year and they will not notify you about renewing the subscription. Everyone wants you to sign up for these contracts — a gym membership, the wine club at 50 barrels, netflix, tracfone, and many other services. If you don’t then you cannot enjoy these services. Of course the vendors love it. But I hate it. It is easy to end up with several hundred dollars in bills every month just because you wanted something somewhere along the line.

So today, I added to my annual bills by doing something I never like doing — signed up for an online subscription. I love the washington post and have no problems with paying for one year. But now I am committed to endless renewals without notification unless I do something. It is written in the fine print of the contract you have to accept. The choice is stark–read the newspaper or not. But I have now put an automated notice in my calendar to about the automatic renewal for next year so I can have the decision to spend money or not. And I will enjoy the newspaper.

As a bonus today, I have some pictures from Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis to share from my IPAD. Enjoy. The first is Bob and Kate in a restaurant. Great food, but the fact we were hungry may have helped. Second is the dining room in the house we rented. Third is some pastries my mom bought in Stornoway. Yumm.




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Damm Dog and Damm Cats

Who would think that the dog sleeping so happily in the picture below could be a problem. Well that’s Elly storing up energy for some nighttime adventures. She’s decided that barking at shadows in the middle of the night is a great game. Not only is there fun to be had with the barking, but then I get up make her go back to bed. ATTENTION, YEAH!!!!!

And then the cats get into the act. They all want attention. And with Kate spending many nights at her grandmothers house, I get all of them. So they come over, one at a time, and demand attention too. No wonder I’m a tired wretch on this monday morning. And they look so peaceful sitting on the table where cats are not supposed to be.


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Take Your Parents to Work Day

In an ironic twist of fate, Bob and I signed up for the “Take your parents to work day” AKA Family Day at Sandia National Labs. The invitation came from Liz who is pleased to show off her work place. Plus she knows I’ve always thought the national engineering research labs would be a great place to work. The irony comes from the fact that Liz has visited three different engineering firms ( BAE Systems, Northrop, and Raytheon) as a child attending “Take your child to work” events.
In other news, everyone survived their first week back at work. Kate started her last year of school on Monday. She’s a senior now; only 8 more months of mandatory school for her. She’s not happy; but it’s a hard schedule with all honors classes. For a kid that says she HATES science, the class selection is puzzling—calculus, physics, environmental science, economics, English, and being a teaching assistant for a chemistry teacher. My mother in law, Mary, has gotten a job working at the local elementary school as a kindergarten noon duty. Two hours a day and she loves it. And Bob had his first teaching gig in the classroom with robotics. That
is going to be a hard assignment, the kids all have attitudes.
I’ve been home for a week and immediately returned to work. Very depressing; the same problems I had left still were there waiting for me. Plus a few extras. Good for job security; not so great for the soul. But I will also be teaching at the sculpture academy and that should be fun. This weekend I’ll start working on my classes for the fall semester. As I may have mentioned, I am teaching artists how to add electronics, lights, robots, and motion into their artwork. It’s an interesting to teach these people how to build, use, and program computers without using any of the scary technical words. We build things and I show them how to modify a basic design. So far; lots of enthusiasm from the artists. Big challenge for me since I’m redesigning the education process. This weekend, I’m going to pull together a project teaching them how to set up a simple lighting circuit for the September class. In future classes; we will add a computer that lets the artist control the lights. Another class will focus on using sensors to make things happen like turning on electronic sounds or lights. Final class in December will be building an interactive light display. I THINK. We will see what reality is after getting those lesson plans finished.

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Its Raining in San Diego

Last night we had a lightening storm. Couldn’t hear any thunder and didn’t see any rain. I kept waking up and wondering what the bright flashes were. This morning, all was answered. We have a glorious mix of lightening, thunder, rain, clouds, and blue skies. Hope it rains lots. Only bummer was for Kate who had to change her outfit for the weather.


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Brittany Flowers for Painting

Last night I was dreaming about Brittany, France.  In particular of brick walls and beautiful pink hydrangeas.  These came from a picture I put on my work computer desktop.  It’s a picture I want to paint.  But before I can start; need to have a free weekend for cleaning the art studio downstairs.  So instead, I use software for playing with the picture.

Here’s the original picture


One of the things I want to do is change the picture — take out some of the plant on the left and make it taller.  Clean up the house a bit, simplify the background and add more ocean.  I can do some cropping, but the adding will have to be done using imagination and oil paints.  I can use the software to blur the data and add more color variations in a filter called oil painting.



and then I can play with just the flowers, looking at how the picture might appear without the house and beach behind.  Here’s the cropped original


and here are a couple variations of the oil painting algorithm and cropping.


and even closer details


So in a month or two, I’ll have some actual paintings to show off.  Can’t wait to get started.


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early morning hot dog

Its hot here. Ugly sticky hot weather. Wunderunderground says the current temperature is 67 degrees with 94 percent humidity at 6 am. And predicting temperatures in the high seventies. I don’t believe the temperature readings since it feels a lot hotter inside our house. Here is Elly’s assessment of the weather.


Yesterday, it was in the high 90’s and still humid. Of course, Bob and I decided to have a barbecue, cooking outside would be better than inside. Bought some baby back ribs, came home and actually read the recipes. The ribs had to be oven cooked for at least 2.5 hours, the peach pie needed an hour cooking, the sauce needed 1.5 hours cooking. But the left over pie crust cookies only took 15 minutes. Result — the oven was on and the house really hot all afternoon. But dinner was great. And having hot sticky weather almost makes me want to go back to work. First day of a 5 day work week. And first day of school for Kate. And first week for Bob’s robot classes. Wish us all luck.

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Salted Breton Caramels

One of the foods I enjoyed in Brittany were the salted caramels. I had heard about them because of a NY Times article earlier this year:



Today, I opened a box of cookies called “tartellettes caramel chocolat” and remembered why they were so good. That led to the search for recipes since I won’t be able to buy them easily here in San Diego.


The cleanest recipe I found came from the website



The recipe for salted butter caramel

- 300g sugar
– 80g salted butter
– 25cl whipped cream
– 2 tablespoons of water
– a pinch of sea salt.

In a heavy-based large saucepan, dissolve the sugar in two tablespoons of water over a very low heat (it is recommended that you leave the sugar mixture sit for a very long time so that the caramel is smooth).

When the mixture starts to darken, stir it frequently until a soft and smooth caramel is obtained. Add the cream. It is essential that it is set over a low heat. When the caramel is very smooth and clear, allow it to cool down slightly before adding the chopped-up butter and a sprinkling of sea salt. To finish, pour into a glass jar.

And finally, the perfect way to end a beautiful, sunny day holidaying along France’s west coast, consists of a stop off at La Fraiseraie. Everyone should savour the taste of this ice-cream parlour’s salted butter caramel flavour at least once in their lives. The taste is unparalleled and perhaps only equaled by La Fraiseraie’s strawberry, raspberry or passion fruit flavours!


A great looking collection of recipes (albeit in french) can be found



Some other recipes that sound fantastic come from




Breton pastry with salted caramel apples

Breton pastry is a delicious cross between shortbread and sponge cake, which originated in Brittany in north-western France. It takes less time to make than other pastries because it requires no chilling or resting; just make and bake. There are so many options for topping this versatile biscuit; this recipe for salted caramel apples is incredibly easy, and the spicy apple flavour works well with the pastry’s buttery richness.

Simple Breton pastry make a lovely spongy base for these salted caramel apples. Photo: Marcel Aucar


For salted caramel apples

2 cups granulated sugar

120g unsalted butter, at room temperature, diced

1 cup thickened cream, at room temperature

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground allspice

pinch ground nutmeg

1 tsp fleur de sel (or any other flaky sea salt)

5 granny smith or fuji apples, peeled, cored and cut into 2cm-thick slices

For Breton pastry

4 egg yolks

175g castor sugar

160g butter, softened

220g  plain flour

8g baking powder


For salted caramel apples

Pour the sugar in an even layer over the bottom of a heavy, two to three-litre saucepan. Heat over medium-high, whisking gently as it begins to melt. The sugar will begin to form clumps, which will melt away as you whisk.

When the sugar turns a deep amber colour, add the butter and whisk, being careful to not get burnt if it spits.

Add the cream, spices and salt. Mix until well incorporated.

Add the apples and cook gently for five minutes or until the fruit has softened. Let cool slightly, then serve on the Breton pastry with a scoop of creme fraiche.

For the pastry

Place yolks in a electric mixer fitted with a whisk and begin whisking on high speed. Add the sugar gradually and continue whisking until pale and creamy.

In a separate bowl, beat butter until smooth. Turn speed down to low and add the butter to the mixer, one-quarter at a time, whisking well between each addition but not so much as to deflate the yolk mixture.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and sift in the flour and baking powder. Using a rubber spatula, work the flour in gently until well combined. Scrape the contents of the bowl onto a work surface and bring the dough together, making sure not to overwork it.

The pastry is ready to use either to line tart rings or rolled out to make biscuits. Spray 5cm tart rings with canola oil and dust with flour. Place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Gently press pastry into the ring, pressing it to the edges to form a border around the edge.

Bake in a 165C oven for 15-18 minutes, or until the pastries have puffed up and are golden-brown. The pastry shrinks slightly as it cools. Place on a rack to cool before adding topping.

Frank’s tips
The excess uncooked pastry can be frozen and kept for up to three weeks before being thawed and cooked.

Alternative topping suggestions for Breton pastry: Chocolate mousse with roasted figs, crushed summer berries, or lemon verbena panna cotta.


And another salted caramel recipe is:


Salted butter caramels

Caroline Velik


These caramels can be made with any type of sugar and butter, although the flavour is better with quality ingredients.

Photo: Marina Oliphant


375g raw castor sugar

250g good-quality salted butter, diced and chilled, plus extra for greasing

5 tbsp creme fraiche

Sea salt flakes to garnish


Grease and line a 20-centimetre square slice tin with baking paper. In a heavy-based saucepan, place the sugar over a medium heat. Cook to quite a dark caramel. Turn the heat down low and carefully add the butter, a few cubes at a time, making sure it is all incorporated before adding more.

Stir in creme fraiche and continue to cook until thickened (118C on a digital or sugar thermometer). Pour into tray and sprinkle over salt flakes. Allow to cool, then refrigerate until set. Cut into squares to serve.


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Happy Cat, Happy Dog

The animals are delighted to have us home. In particular, Sophia has become my shadow. She’s either on me or sleeping right next to me every second I am at home. Although she looks totally relaxed and asleep, if I were to leave the room she would follow.


Charlie is a bit more aloof, but he also sticks close. He pretends to be disinterested and then starts begging for treats.


Elly is perhaps the happiest animal. She loves having her routines like breakfast at curbside cafe resume. After breakfast, she always gets a treat — a bit of egg, banana, or something else. Given her preference, she would choose bacon every time. Tomatos are OK, but never eaten if there is the possibility of something better.


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Home from Vacation — What’s Next?

Walking into work after a vacation is always hard. Walking into work almost two months of vacation felt like a prison sentence until I entered the first door and heard the first hello of the day. My coworkers were all glad to see me; there were many warm greetings during the day. Even got assigned decent tasks, not just the left over scutwork often given to those not present at key meetings. It made me very happy to return. It is a pleasure to be wanted.
So the long planned trip is now over. Hard to believe, I’m not sure what the best part was although I think it involves food: baguettes hot from the oven, ripe tomatoes in all colors bursting with flavor; incredible whiskey tastings, steak and ale pies, lentil soup, and lamb chops. Meals with family filled with conversation and laughter. We did things separately and then met over food. Thats not a bad way to live.
And now the next chapter begins. Kate will be a senior in high school. Liz is a senior in college. And Maggie will be finishing her masters degree this year; so there are three graduation ceremonies coming next spring. Both Bob and I will be teaching electronics and robotics to non-technical students. Bob will be working with high school kids associated with the juvenile hall schools in San Diego and I’ll be working with artists. Both of us will need to be adaptable, flexible, and willing to try lots of different things because the classical scientific hard class approach will NOT work with these audiences. They want to learn, but have a different viewpoint and education style than the typical NERD. And ordinary life will continue — work, art, family, house, pets, bills, and other standard aspects of life.
The blogs will continue also. This one, RobinesWorld, will cover the small things in life that make me happy. The plan is to publish a short post every day or so. This forces me to keep writing every day and helps me focus on how good things are. This blog is lots of fun to write.
My other blog, Dragon Cat Lives, will have the longer photo essays based on events in Europe. My goal is to post at least one story a week, but focus on writing, editing, photo selection, and photo processing. Put a lot more work into polishing the stories. For this blog in particular; I want feedback and critiques. Is the writing good or does it need something more? Do the photos work with the text? Are the stories interesting? What can I do to make them better?

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thinking in the box

Please excuse the blogging silence; I’ve have been and will continue to be on vacation until August 15.  You can check out my vacation blog at


In the meantime; enjoy this comic.


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Post 500

And I don’t even have much to say despite the evidence of 500 posts.  Been traveling, so you can catch up on travel stories at my blog dragoncatlives.wordpress.com.  Finally got internet; but it’s a bit dicey.  Here’s a picture of my internet access point in France.  Yep, that’s right; we sit in a chair and borrow the neighbor’s internet.  Any kind of weather and the service goes down.  Actually the view from there is beautiful.  What I see from that chair is in the photo that follows.  We are in a form of paradise.  And I’ll have some more posts with stories in the next few days.

internet access point


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Well it was a couple weeks ago that we decided not to celebrate birthdays. Life has been strange; a huge gaping hole in the family structure that was David. But I did get one birthday greeting that was somewhat big data type disturbing. Google displayed artwork just for me. I know they have all kinds of data; but still it’s unnerving when they use it. Even in a positive manner.


Also checked my horoscopes for that day. Lets talk about mixed positive signals. Can learn helpful skills; but expect to have to redo work. New skills; how to arrange a funeral and juggle 10 million travel details at the same time. I was told to keep a secret journal. Wonder if a public travel blog counts? And I need to redefine the game. Well that happened today when I left work and won’t be back for 6.5 weeks. Was asked why I bothered going into the plant on the thursday before an off friday. Well it will be a good day to check email, not get much done, and then leave for a 3 day weekend. I’ll bring a variety of candy and cookies to share with the co-workers and catch up on the gossip. That should make the following monday more tolerable for returning to real work.

So here are the horoscopes:

IF JUNE 17 IS YOUR BIRTHDAY: Your next4-6 weeks might be notable for inspiration and astute business tactics, flavored by contact with groups of people who find you fascinating. You can make quite a bit of progress with your career and financial aspirations if you focus on getting ahead and make key decisions now. Even so, there may be time for a little romance or an enjoyable vacation. Plan ahead so you won’t need to make crucial changes or new starts in September or November, when your judgment and your luck are on a downward spiral.

GEMINI (May 21-June 20): You can learn by rote or just take notes. Your ability to absorb helpful information is heightened, so this is a good day to accept every opportunity to dive into a new study or learn a new skill.

GEMINI. (May 20 – June 20): Mercury reenters your sign. Expect to resend, reapply, or review business that you thought was taken care of. It’s a pain-in-the-derriere, but you’ll be glad you did.

Gemini (May 21-June 20): Today is a 7 — Words come easily with Mercury backing into your sign. Keep a secret journal. Research and investigations lead to confidential information. Discuss options, and let go of worries you can’t impact. Redefine the game

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New Blog for my trip

In just a few days, Kate and I leave for Europe.  A fantastic trip, we two women will be renting a house in France for a month where the focus is learning to live in another country.  In which I cannot speak the language.  Kate has three years of high school french; so we will see how much she has learned.  At the end of July; we meet up with Bob and my parents for some traveling around Scotland and London.  It’s going to be a great trip.

And during that trip; I plan on taking lots of photos as well as doing lots of writing.  And the trip is big enough to require it’s own blog.  I don’t want to clutter this collection of dinner time stories with travel details.    I’ll be doing some cross posting as well as continuing with the small stories about life on a daily basis here.  But if you want the travel pictures and adventure stories; look at dragon cat lives.  So check out my new blog “Dragon Cat Lives” at




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cat proofing

Bob and Charlie have a friendly competition. Charlie wants to jump on top of the china closet in our kitchen. There he sits, six feet up; surveying his realm. Bob hates this behavior and tries constantly to stop him. The latest approach is using barriers. Lovely, interesting, artistic barriers. They add a quirky note to my kitchen. And most interestingly; they don’t work. Charlie still jumps.


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Limited Shanty Town Success

Well the cat enclosure has had limited success. ON the plus side, Charlie loves his new room. And he shares it willingly with Sophia. But Sally does not seem to use it. I’ve seen Charlie try to roll Sally while she’s out there. Now Sally is a mean old lady and willing to stand her ground on important things like being first to eat from the fresh dry cat food. But she’s not standing up for her rights to use the new cat cage. And that means we can’t put all the litter boxes outside yet. Perhaps in another couple of weeks. And the ants love the food / water bowls put outside. So there’s another problem that needs fixing. But I have a couple pictures of cats actually using their enclosure. Enjoy the photos.



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Successful Foraging for Shoes

When woman has 4E width feet; shoe shopping is an exercise in frustration.  No cute sandals for those with wide feet.  One goes and looks at the cute shoes; sighs; and then goes to buy the ugliest, most expensive, and uncomfortable shoes existing.   In fact, I didn’t even know that shoes could be comfortable until in my late 30’s.  I would always go barefoot or wear tennis shoes with holes on the sides.  So with an upcoming trip to Europe; I’ve been stressing about shoes.

But miracles have occurred and I have 5 new pairs of comfortable shoes.  Bought another pair of the standard Birkenstock sandals with extra holes added by the shoemaker for wide feet.  Then my mom was able to buy some comfortable and not ugly sandals via mail-order; so I got two pairs (black and gray).  I bought a new pair of flip-flops from the men’s department.  And then today; I found a pair of 4E width tennis shoes; again from the men’s section of famous footwear. Hurrah!!!!! I have comfortable shoes.  Perfect for lots of walking in Europe.

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Shanty Town Reaction and other small news bits

Well the cats, Sophie and Sally, are ok with the new enclosure. Charlie loves his new room. He goes in and out, in and out, all day long. Interestingly, all the cats still prefer sleeping on our bed to spending time outdoors at night. They might be going out for a few minutes here and there; just to check out the world. But I am not aware of it; whenever I wake up in the middle of the night the cat lumps are still there.

Elly has developed a couple of really bad habits. First she is jumping on some people; usually me or my mother in law. I know that it is because she is excited; but I don’t like it. She’s big and can knock someone down. The second bad habit is getting up in the middle of the night to bark at things. Of course; the night before we got the cage built; she had a good reason. Charlie and Sophia busted out of through the kitchen window and were galavanting outside at 2 am. But most nights, it’s just plain annoying. I have to get up; tell the dog to get back into bed. And of course, what she tries to do is get into my spot on the bed. So, I forsee some training for Elly in the near future.

That’s OK, because we think she will make an excellent therapy dog. While David was at the nursing home; she was allowed to come visit. And she loved it; seeing new people and getting petted makes that dog happy. It was interesting how the presence of dogs seemed to perk up the residents. Many of them loved to pet the dogs. And all Elly needs (besides a really good temperament) is her canine good citizen award. Of course, not many dogs can reach that goal. But we think she can do it.

Family has been coming from all over for the funeral tomorrow. Liz came home last Friday. Garrett, my brother-in-law arrived on Tuesday. His daughter, Jennifer, arrives tonight. My parents arrive tonight. Maggie can’t come home. She’s got to do her research this summer or she won’t get her masters thesis done. And if you leave bugs in the field unattended, evidently bad things can happen. I don’t really want to know what those bugs do to get into trouble; but I hear involves ending up with many more pests than one wants.

Tonight my parents arrive and we probably will go to 50 barrels for wine and cheese. Maybe even ask the girls to deliver dinner. My New Years resolution was to get out with friends at least once a month. So I joined the wineclub at this local winery. They buy grapes in Northern California, bring them down to Vista, and make the wine right on Main Street in the tasting room. The wine club membership gives me 2 wine tastings or 2 glasses of wine per month. And so every month I have to meet someone at the winery. So far; it’s been good. And I’ve met a number of friends there. Tonight it will be my folks who are intrigued by a dog friendly wine establishment. They will bring Sadie, their dog. I’m not sure if Elly will be invited or not.

Today is the big potluck at work. And yep; I’m organizing it. It’s not hard; lots and lots of people get invited. Either you bring a dish or give me 10 bucks. And then I go shopping with other peoples money. We get to spend about 200 bucks at a really good local deli; buying hot food. Plus another 100 bucks at costco; buying sandwiches and other stuff. The trick is to not get worked up about what people are bringing. All I want to know is are you bringing a yummy surprise or giving me money. And with the money; I do write down the names until the last day. But I don’t worry about checking these names. Last night I floated about 40 dollars; will probably get it back today. And if I get more (very likely) then someone gets to buy donuts or bagels as a surprise in a few weeks. All the potlucks in the past have had lots and lots of leftovers. The best trick of all is announcing clean up policies. Anyone who helps with cleanup gets to take home leftovers. So today, some lucky soul will get half a sliced ham; another 1-2 pounds of sliced cheese and yet another person might get enough hot dish leftovers to have a dinner for two. Everything disappears in 5 minutes. It’s beautiful. With 10 people cleaning I don’t really have to do much work. Its fun and I need something fun. Tomorrow is the funeral and no one is looking forward to that. But it’s good that it will be done soon. Arranging funerals is an interesting sales process; really slick, and not fun. But that’s another story for another day.

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Shanty Town

It’s official; we live in a shanty town. Yep; we built a shanty right next to our front door. The idea was to (1) move the litter boxes outside and (2) give the cats a safe place to play outside. A big 15 foot by five foot structure; six feet tall. It’s not yet furnished; but already the cats are interested in the space. Once it gets finished; the cats will be able to go outside day or night. Here’s the work in progress; more details will follow in a few days.





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Sad News

Lots of things are going on; not all of them good. My father in law died last Thursday afternoon. He’s been suffering from Alzheimer’s for years. A fall in the middle of the night last month hastened his departure. A simple fall combined with anti-blood clotting medication lead to a huge leg injury requiring skilled nursing. Then Alzheimer’s disease left him lost, confused, scared, and delusional. He was a bad patient; much of that exacerbated by the disease.

Alzheimer’s is a really cruel disease. Patients lose their internal clock, staying awake at all hours of the days and nights. Often the worst traits are amplified by the disease. And this combined with sundowners; a period of confusion occuring while the sun is setting can lead to violence in about half of all Alzheimer’s patients. And as the mind fails, the newest memories start fading. I think this terrifies the patients who know they are loosing their minds. And terrified people will do anything to try and bring sanity to their lives. But they don’t know how to anymore. For David, at the end, he considered Buffalo New York to be his home; a place he lived in between the ages of 2 and 4. But he never forgot those that he loved most — his wife and my three daughters.

The care demands are overwhelming. A 1-2 minute attention span along with the need to be careful with a leg wound meant he had to have someone with him 24 hours a day And either the family does it at a huge personal cost or you pay large sums of money. Night nurses run about 250 dollars a day in addition to the nursing home costs. And insurance does not pay for any of that care. We, the family, paid both types of costs; there was no choice. The disease or some complication will always kill these patients; the only question is how long will it take. As a family member; you can only watch the patient slip away; yet there is little time to mourn because the immediate care demands are so big. Bob and Mary (his mom) were incredible caregivers. They both showed great tenderness and compassion. Taking care of David was so hard, I am not sure I could have done the task. Instead, my job was being alert, continue working, helping provide information for decisions, and listening to both of them talk.

David went fast; as if he knew the fall would kill him. And now we are dealing with funerals and a lot of other details necessary as part of our society–legal and personal. The full impact of his absence will take a while to before I fully acknowledge it. And it’s much rougher for Bob and my daughters because they have known him and lived with or near him for all their lives. I don’t even want to think about how Mary must be feeling to loose a husband after 62 years of marriage.

The memorial service is on Friday morning. David was a good man. We will miss him.


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Tomorrow is Friday the 13th and a full moon. That won’t happen again until 2049

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Elly Selfies




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Fungible Birthdays

Bob and I decided that we no longer want birthdays in June. Nor are we celebrating fathers day this June. There will be no celebrations, no cake, no presents, and no parties in June this year. Instead, I’m using hard won learning from my days as a florist’s daughter “All holidays are fungible”. Life is too busy, uncertain, and overwhelming at the moment; so birthdays are being postponed. September seems like a good month; we could celebrate it along with the equinox. Or my mom suggested coming up on October 4th when she’s hosting a barn party. Imagine 100 strangers all singing Happy Birthday to us. Its got interesting possibilities albeit a bit scary. So we can have fun planning something fun this fall. Will let you know.

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Piano Recital

Last week was the last recital held at the piano warehouse.  For the last 12 years, we have attended piano recitals there every June and December.  It was a family tradition. First Maggie , then Kate did the recitals; never together.   Now the store is closed.  No longer can the kids play on a piano worth 85,000 dollars.  Kate had the prime spot on the program — last student to play.  And for the first time ever, I took pictures.  Here’s Kate at the piano and below is a link to my first published video.



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