Sunday, October 30, 2011

Pumpkins and domestic harmony

C'mon!  Guess who I am!
Yaxley is here to tell y'all to have a happy and safe Halloween.  He's dressed up, can you tell who he is?

Really?  He's Clifford the Big Red Dog, of course. Sure, if Clifford were a strikingly handsome yellow lab/golden cross and was in training to be a service dog.  But just look how huge Yax is next to that pumpkin.  Play along now so we don't hurt his feelings.  He actually thought he was a ferocious, punkin' eating T Rex, but I told him his arms were too long to pull that one off.

I actually do have some fun Halloween related photos to share with you later. But as soon as the Husband finds out I'm just lazing off downloading photos and not cleaning up the computer room like I said I would, well, that's just gonna delay the blog posting for a bit.

You know what? Here's my opinion on this whole thing. In keeping with the macabre Halloween theme, some day when friends and family are standing by my tombstone, I don't want them to say, holy cow she sure kept a clean house. I'd rather hear something like, yeah she was a little weird, but she made me laugh.

Ugh, the Husband's not laughing right now. Alright, alright.  Off to do an arm swipe across the computer desk to maintain domestic harmony.

I think the dog should be yellow and
the chick a redhead. Just sayin'

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Sir Knight of Black Sword

It doesn't seem that long ago that my favorite kid was, well, a kid.  Here's a memory from a past Halloween all suited up as a brave knight as he psychs up to save a fair maiden from the fearsome Kaiser dragon.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Spirits of the season

Biltmore House, Asheville NC

The baby's crying upstairs, but I can't go up there.

It's October 29, 1977, and the Saturday night before Halloween. I've snagged a primo babysitting gig for a family of three charming children who live in an 1880's farmhouse several miles outside of our small southern Ohio village. The parents have gone off to celebrate Halloween in whatever fashion befitting young parents of that era, which as I recall, involved beer and rural cemeteries. They say they won't be getting back until late and that's fine with me 'cuz I'll get paid extra for mastering nothing harder than just watching their kids sleep. Easy peasy, mac and cheesy.

I know it sounds like folklore, but in the days before cable TV's, DVD's, and PC's we didn't have acronyms. No, what I mean is, we teenagers of the 70's were forced to design our own wholesome entertainment or else we'd be out there drinking beer and graveyard hopping or something.  So, considering it's dark outside and anyway, I'm stuck inside with three little kids in their PJ's, I gotta find something to do that's more interesting than staring at the carpet stains. There's only four channels on the TV on a good day and this isn't one of them. Good thing I was one of those higher thinking teenagers (geek who didn't have a date on a Saturday night) and had the sound idea to bring a book along with me.

This is where the smart thinking stops short like a drunk tripping over a tombstone. My tome of choice for the evening was the recently released Amityville Horror.  A True Story! the book cover exclaims in big red print. An old house possessed by evil entities! Red glowing pig eyes watching the children through the windows! Dripping walls and flying pests of biblical proportions!  Disembodied voices shouting GET OUT!  The perfect book to read for Halloween! Count me in!

Perfect, indeed. But not this night for this teenager. I can hear the wind blowing through the trees outside and the old farmhouse creaks and groans as if it's awakening from a deep slumber. And what the heck is that weird noise in the basement anyway? All neighbors are way past any viable screaming distance in this rustic country setting. And you know what they say, a possum rustling through a corn field makes the same exact sound as three men with an axe.  I have my teenaged self so worked up reading this horrific story that every little sound has me sinking further into something like a fetal position, but with one hand still out there to turn the pages.

Then the toddler starts crying upstairs.

Gah! I say.  I'm now standing in the center of the living room and staring at the ceiling. Mind is whirling . . . why is she crying, did something scare her?  Does something have her?  I have to go up and check on her, of course.  Yep, I do.  I need to go up there. I really should go up there now. Yup.

A retro reminder for y'all.  The year of 1977 is post-Exorcist but pre-Freddy Krueger.  Teenagers of this era had not been desensitized by slasher movies and rated-M video games. Our hormone enriched imaginations were much better equipped  at creating deep levels of dread and fear back then, I think. Well, at least I was pretty good at it.

So, yeah I did go check on the precious little girl and was able to calm her back to her pretty princess sleep. I had to, of course.  It was the moral thing to do facing those imaginary red-eyed demons and well, financially speaking, the smart thing to do if I wanted another sitting gig with this family. But I will tell you, with very little sense of shame, that it was absolutely one of the hardest things I've ever made myself do. To take on that creaking stairwell and walk straight-backed down the hall and into her darkened bedroom.

Oh, I did it. But I couldn't look out her bedroom window. Because I knew there would be a pair of glowing red pig eyes looking back in.

Sure, that's, um, interesting, you say, but why tell us this now, some thirty years later?  Because it's Halloween, you guys. And especially because I captured this neat photo of a sentinel lion sculpture during our tour of the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC.  And then I spookified it up to make it all creepy and stuff. Which reminded me of the lion statue that bit the guy's leg in Amityville Horror, which then brought the memory tour bus full circle by drudging up that Babysitting in Hell House nightmare.

And by the way, the 'rents came back in the wee hours totally skunked and the dad had to drive me back home in that condition.

In a Pinto wagon.

That, my friends, was the truly for-real frightening part of the night. You can't make this kind of stuff up.

I vant to bite yer leg

So, anyway

On the patio at the Arbor Grill.
Yax is trying hard to ignore a
french fry under my chair.
Right, so anyway we capped off the fall road trip by stopping by the Biltmore House for a tour of the place. No photos permitted inside the home, but we could take some shots outside and at the nearby shops. The lion above is one of a pair just outside the mansion's entrance. And the snapshot at the very top was taken from one of the gardens.

Anyway, it seems these Vanderbilts are particular about their fancy stuff, as they don't allow dogs in the mansion. Only service dogs, so we opted to leave our fellows to relax in the RV during our tour of how the other half lives.

On the rest of the grounds, we found it to be pretty darn dog friendly.  We stop for lunch on the patio at the Arbor Grill where Yaxley becomes a mini celebrity of sorts.

Two kids at a neighboring table come over to take photos of Yaxley.  Which became an open invitation for the junior paparazzi to swarm in. Digital camera flashes come from all angles as Yaxley turns his head from side to side to accommodate all his admiring shutterbug fans.

I'm tellin' ya, it's like hangin' with a rock star

The Biltmore House has their own line of fine vino and I think a wine tasting will be a nice touch after lunch.  And Yaxley needs to check off Wine Shop on his socialization list. Um, again.

This really was a beautiful place at the Biltmore Estate; well worth the drive in the rattletrap RV to get here. Yaxley was warmly welcomed everywhere we went and, as his usual style, became a social bridge for us to meet some remarkable folk. Everyone is really just a fellow tourist, unless you have a caped dog with you. Then you find out that one fellow has a brother with a disability and would love to have more info on CCI. This young girl ruffling Yaxley's ears just lost her thirteen year old dog she's known her entire life and is missing her terribly. And that petite lady petting the pup is actually the mother of a famous Iditarod musher from Alaska.

Incredible to think of all the people we pass by with just a 'scuse me.

Didja see it, food lady? Here's that stuff you like.

I think I'll close with a few images of our walking tour around the shops and farm.  Enjoy . . .

You know what, Cedric?  I think we'll turn to stone before she throws that ball.

Hey! HEY!  Oh I get it.  Just 'cuz you're a Vanderbilt
you can't talk to the working class.

Hey food lady, put down that wine bottle and lookit me!   
I'm on the wagon! 

Yaxley supervising the smithy

Showdown during an intense game of chicken.
The bird would have blinked first, but Yax said it didn't have eyelids.

I have no fear of these spirits.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: The flavors of fall

While I'm putting the finishing touches on the last of the fall vacation posts, sit back and enjoy this shot of Micron getting a taste of the season. Or something.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Color my world with dog

Yaxley says smells have a color.

Got another mind blowing factoid for y'all today.  Turns out that dogs can actually see colors; their world isn't just shades of grey as we've been led to believe by modern folklore.  Now they are indeed colorblind in the literal sense that their optical spectrum filters out reds and greens, which could be why my little fuzzy friends don't get so excited about our annual leaf-peeping road trip adventures. 

For curiosity's sake, here's a color spectrum from a study performed at the University of California, Santa Barbara that tested the colorblind theory.  The full article from Psychology Today can be found here.  It goes on explaining about cones and such.  What? Not enuf info for you?  Well then, grab a cup of coffee and  click here to read the actual study results.

Image from Psychology Today's Canine Corner (click here for full article)

It's a long way rattling down the highways to North Carolina from our Hershey PA campsite and we are compelled to stop for the occasional bio break for the dogs.  They leave their mark in three states before we even make it to the northern border of North Carolina. Ah, but now we come across a scenic overlook off the highway. Time for a mental break for us human beans.

Whacha all looking at?
Micron just doesn't get it.

And we find ourselves reminded again to always have CCI brochures on hand.  Yaxley all handsome in his training cape attracts attention and some in depth conversations with the other leaf peepers hanging around the scenic overlook. I step away and leave the Husband to talk with these nice folk. He's the people-person, I'm the socially awkward nerd. We are a fine team, we are.

Micron and Yaxley know what's coming next. Food Lady is messing with that black box again, so it's time to sit and put on a doggy smile. Even the onlookers remark on what pros these two are as they pose for the camera.  They've done this before, haven't they?

Yes, my leaf peepin' friends. Yes they have.

Both sides are my "good side", you know.
I think Micron smells like a color.  Can you guess what it is?
Smile Yax!  Dang, you're so serious.

Because the daylight hours are shorter this time of year, we stop before we can reach Asheville.  The Husband prefers not to drive the moving house through unfamiliar territory in the dark and I have total buy-in on that. That it's tougher to do the RV hookups by flashlight nails the choice down.  I'll go hookup the water and electric now.  Not at the same time, I hope, Honey.

We consult the camping guide and select Fort Chiswell RV Park to rest our weary wheels.  By the time the dogs are fed, watered and toileted, then our dinner is set steaming upon the dinette table, it's nightfall. Not a good time to walk the campground and check out our surroundings.  Besides, we can get WIFI here and I've got to check the farm. Right, I mean email.

But the next morning, the pups and I are met with some glorious natural wonders.

These next set of photos were taken from the dog run area. A light fog, dewy grass and the sunrise all made for some dreamy shots.

 Next post: We take a look at how the other half lives.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chocolate: it's not just for breakfast anymore

Well, we were out roughing it again in the SWRCT* last week.  One more road trip in the creaky old RV before we set fire to the damn thing winterize it for the season.  (*SWRCT - the Six Wheeled Rolling Cat Turd. See previous posts Recipe Swap - RV Road Dawgs and  Top 10 reasons to take an RV vacation with your dog)

What's that you say?  I must explain how vacationing in a portable house qualifies as roughing it? Yeah, yeah I know. We got us all the luxuries of home with beds, fridge, air conditioner, and a full bathroom all within 34 feet. The snack bar's always open. Trendy sofa all extra cushy with stylishly matching dog hair. It's not like we're tent camping in the rain or something.  So, what else could a citified girl like me possibly want?

Right, first of all get this. It has a kitchenette, otherwise cleverly disguised in RV language as the galley. Whatever pleasant imagery that may come to mind with that galley word, what it boils down to (pun, ugh) is that I cook full meals in my teensy little traveling kitchen. On vacation, I remind you. Aw, but that's not really so bad, truth be told. I like to cook almost as much as I like to stuff food in my mouth. It's a sad fact that I collect cookbooks just so I can look at the color photos and pretend that it's just one big menu.    

Put on your walkin' shoes, Yax my love.
The outlet mall is just yonder those trees.
(A quick side note to the uninitiated. Regardless of however badly your weight loss program is going on your RV vacation, never ever fry fish in the galley.  It may be a moving house, but it's only about 150 square feet of home sweet motorhome. Just sayin'.)

To summarize road adventures in the SWRCT,  it may be helpful to envision the thing as the ancient beast that it is.  This machine is older than my college kid. In dog years it should be dead.  But no, it lives on to sputter and cough down the highways of America. Every time we roll into a new town, I check for two things in the immediate area.  The nearest emergency vet should any of the dogs need care. And a Camping World so we can buy replacement parts for whatever is sure to fall off the flippin' thing this time.

And this fall adventure gets it start in a big grassy field. No hookups at all, which means we're on our own for clean water, grey and black water (don't ask) containment, electricity and whatnot. That means no cable TV, people.  And absolutely inconceivable to me - no WIFI (think Wilhelm Scream sound effect). Ok, is that roughing it, or what? Believe me now?

Starbucks!  Internet access and a latte.
It's gonna be a good day, Tater.

We've rolled into Chocolate World, USA.  This annual October outing to Hershey PA is to enjoy the flora and fauna of the Antique Automobile Clubs of America fall meet.  I'm sure there's fun to be had over there across the street looking at other people's old cars. And talking shop with the vendors with their arrays of used car parts all spread out on a blanket like it's some kind of a rusty picnic lunch for Lightening McQueen and his pals.

Good times to be had, as is reported back to me. I haven't actually been able to confirm any of those wild rumors. You see, I don't venture out that way.  Instead, I put the working cape on Yaxley and we hoof it out to find a WIFI spot. And perhaps fit in a bit of shopping at the outlet mall just a short walking distance away.     
Yaxley is people watching outside
Starbuck's window

Yax enjoys a quiet moment of introspection while I check email at Starbucks. Then we stop at Times to Remember shop to grab some Hershey specific scrapbook papers and such.  I'll bring this new acquisition home and put it in the pile of stuff I bought last year. 

So, that's us in the photo at the top of the blog post. Camper parking is across the street from from Hershey Park, which is cruelly closed for this weekend (see my lamentations from last year's Hershey trip here at Ten Ten in Penn).

The SWRCT is in the foreground of the photo, just right of center. What, it's too small? Can't see it? No matter, I didn't really intend for anyone to see the thing anyway.  Even from this distance.

Can we go now?
 But if you could actually make out the details, next to the RV you would find the Husband, Jager and our camping-in-the-field neighbor chatting in the comfy lawn chairs.  Our new friend is a body shop owner from West by God Virginia. A nice fella helping us to pass the time away during the long evening.
And I didn't see this one coming . . . the guy is an appreciator of the arts as well. He bought a slew of pedal cars in various versions of customized rust patina with the intention of displaying them as a sculpture in his body shop back home. True story.

Recall now - we're dry docked in an open field. No TV, internet or even Hershey Park to busy our minds with. So we find entertainment in other desperate ways. So things like this happen:

Objet d'art titled You're not bringing that
into my house

Oh, but this is merely the first leg of our journey. More adventures to come as we travel further away from our Ohio base and into North Carolina.

We pack up the lawn chairs, give the pups a chance to do their business (I told you guys to go before we left the open field), and we're off to rattle down I-85.

Or is it I-83?  Aargh, but I hate this navigator job.

Next post:  Heads up, Ashville. We're coming to darken your doorway.

What walkin' shoes? I'm a dog.

What is this? Not really sure, but looks to be some
kind of new and awesome ride for Hershey Park.
These were all over the field like a big yellow
obstacle course for RV's.


I slipped in yet another obscure movie reference on you, so let me 'splain this one. The Wilhelm Scream is a classic of sorts. Here's a YouTube compilation of the popular cinematic "man being eaten by alligator" sound effect.

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