Sunday, November 29, 2015

Bringing life back to the dead

For a while, I had it in my head that I wanted to paint skulls.  Morbid? Nah.  The desert is full of dead things.  So I put the hubby on a mission: bring me home cow skulls. 

Elly was super excited that dad brought home jerky.  I picked one with sheaths, pulled them off and soaked the skull in a bleach/water solution for a week.  Tutorials online suggest using a peroxide mixture but bleach was easier to procure.  Besides, I knew I was going to basecoat the skulls an off white as opposed to stay with the bare bone color.  The sheaths got a few good coats of clear coat.

Next: tape, newspaper and paint.  I chose a dark turquoise spray paint.

Pulled the paint off and was thrilled until I (unsurprisingly) noticed that there was bleed through onto the white.  I thought my solution would be to tape off and paint a line of copper color (acrylic) to cover it.  Except that bled through too.  I ended up having to free hand anyway. 

It was rough watching me paint.

I stripped some copper wire out of scrap wiring from an old project and the hubby and I wrapped it around the horns.  Another quick coat of clear and wham! I LOVE IT!

I'm already soaking another skull.  I plan on hanging them under my covered patio.  Until the next one....

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Flagstaff/Sedona Camping

I finally convinced my good buddy Jeff to take a bunch of us canyoneering and repelling.  We mustered up a good group of cohorts and headed off to the Flagstaff area for the weekend.  We set up camp, had a good meal and great conversation and enjoyed perfect weather.

And then I got altitude sickness. 

Everyone (but Mike because he's afraid of heights) took off to Illusions Canyon at first light and I went back to sleep.  Hours later, still fighting nauseua I woke and Mike and I enjoyed the afternoon just playing in the woods with the dogs. Even with the sickness, I still needed a weekend away to commune with the trees. 

The crew was late, and I got worried, but they were fine.  Exhausted, beat up, but fine.  The canyon proved harder and more advanced than originally thought, but Jeff said everyone did amazing.  Unfortunately, it'd be a bit of a lie for me to put up photos of their adventure, I'll have to pressure Mandy to do a write up.

But stay tuned, because I'm already hitting Jeff up for take two, so I can go.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Adventures in Do-It-Yourself: Oak Wall Edition

When we bought the house, it had two walls with hideous wall paper.  I had a wallpaper party and we tore it down.  Only to be faced with two amazing examples of horrible dry wall.  Hmmn...originally I wanted to paint both walls a turquoise color.  That was out of consideration unless I wanted to skim both walls.  What else?

I have been eyeing the reclaimed wood walls on Pinterest.  Most people use pallet wood.  The hubster was not keen on pallet wood - fears of bug infestation.  On a whim, I checked Lumber Liquidators site for unfinished flooring.  Bingo!

We took advantage of Labor Day sales and snagged 180sqft for $190.  It's unfinished and extremely imperfect white oak.   If you're considering this for flooring, be advised that it is a lot of small pieces, so your floor will look busy.  But it works well for a feature wall.

First thing first  - every board had a number written on it in pencil, so a sanding was in order.

Once sanded, I had it in my head that I didn't want to stain them, or paint them and I wanted the wood to look older. So we burned them.  With a torch.  In the garage.  Safety first kids! (Disclaimer, burn things away from your home.)

Prepping it (see above) took much longer than putting it up.  With minimal tools (hammers, nail gun, stud finder), the tongue and grove went up smoothly.  In one weekend, we had the whole wall up.

I am insanely happy with how it turned out.   I still need to go out and buy new outlet covers and put a coat of clear poly on it, but the wall looks amazing.  I was nervous to burn every piece, thinking it would be too dark, but I love how it turned out.

Once winter hits, we'll replace the patio door and put the remainder of our wood up on that wall. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Waterslide Fun 2015

It's that time of year again, where the adults and dogs highjack the rented water slide to play.  Its been brutally hot this week and we've been looking forward to this.  The slide this year featured a twist at the end that was quite fun.  The dogs had a blast.

The slide had a leak so Elly and the other hounds found comfort in the shady mud.

Elly was kind of a kill joy today but Rommel made the best of the slide and the wading pool at the bottom.

 Our pitbull friends were self sufficient and were able to make their way up the ladder without aid.

At several points, Elly got lippy and hollered at Rommel.  She wanted him to play with her in the mud, he wasn't complying.  This shot made me laugh.  He's looking at me like "what is her malfunction?"

And without further ado, a video of our fun:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Monsoon of the Year

The last few monsoon seasons have been mediocre.  Last night topped every storm I have ever experienced.  60+ MPH winds tore through the area.  I wasn't sure that our American flag would survive the storm, but good ol' American craftsmanship prevailed.  It rained side ways and instantly filled every wash. We were land locked by our terrain.  Washes on both sides of the house over flowed, trapping us.

Our shared drive flows during an active rain storm.  Apparently so does our actual driveway, as seen on the left.  And a small lightning tail peeking through on the right side.

 Once the storm pushed north, it was safe and dry enough for me to step outside and try to capture the amazing light show that was going on.  I took hundreds of pictures and wound up with 3 usable ones.  I really need to invest in the timer/remote I've been eyeing for my camera.  It would've made the process easier.

Photographing lightning is tough without proper equipment.  This storm made me realize how badly I need some camera additions.  I LOVE STORMS!

My favorite shot of the evening:

The storm pushed north and slammed Phoenix.  Within an hour, the washes went down, but my road was full of storm debris.  Friends lost trees and had damaged cars, so I think we fared well.

Bring it on Arizona, I want more storms like this!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Camping With Dogs

It's late.  It's chilly and you're cuddled close to your significant other under zipped together sleeping bags on the cold ground. The wind rattles the tent, and in an instant 60 pounds lands in between you.  Our pound puppy got startled and will wedge herself in between us for the rest of the night.  Forget rolling over and realize that one side will go numb and be sore in the morning.

Flash forward two years: our hand built trailer boasts a huge roof top tent with annex room.  Something disagreed with a belly and the same pound puppy stirs in the middle of the night.  I don't have children but I understand "mom hearing" and know that if my champion sleeper is stirring, something is wrong.  Cold, I climb down the latter, unzip the tent and let her out.  She returns, I climb up and go back to sleep only to be woken 20 minutes later.  A sour belly means no more soft tent bed, but sleeping on a pile of dog blankets with a sick dog.

Flash forward one more year: we upgraded to a SoCal Teardrop.  The pound puppy sleeps with us, still, taking up precious mattress space.  How is my fussy German Shepherd the easier dog in these situations?

Recently I read an amazing article written about Overlanding with Your Dog on Expedition Portal.  The writer hit the nail on the head. It is incredibly rewarding to camp with my dogs, it is the whole reason we made the transition from camping off the KTM 990 to going with a Jeep.

But there is a lot to take into consideration.

Bring extra.  Your dog will be more active while camping or on the road.  And my champion eater can be finicky while camping, so think about bringing things to encourage them to eat their food like canned pumpkin (which can also be great for sour bellies), coconut oil or peanut butter.

Snacks/Treats.  I didn't do this the first year.  My dogs always drop weight while camping because they are 100 times more busy.  The last few years, I have brought jerky and treats to supplement throughout the day.

We pack fleece blankets and light weight beds for them to snooze on.  Dogs can miss the comfort of home too.  Our pound puppy, Elly, (she's 7 years old but will always be my baby) does not have a nice undercoat like our shepherd, Rommel, does.  We were a little surprised with how chilly summer nights can be in Colorado and we modified a child's sweatshirt for her.  She actually prefers it to a dog coat, since it covers her belly.

Camping:  Most campgrounds will allow dogs, however, they must be leashed.  For us, this is a headache.  Our dogs are off leash trained and will remain at our sides.  But rules are rules and must be followed.  We do our best to avoid campgrounds as we prefer the seclusion that off site camping can give.  National Forests are great places to find these areas.

Parks:  National and State Parks generally do not allow dogs on trails.  Do yourself a favor and research the places you want to visit before leaving, and paying entrance fees.  We ran into a lot of "No Dogs Allowed" signs on beaches in California.  A few minutes on google before you leave can save you frustration.  National Forests are generally free of many restrictions and we spend a lot of time frequenting them.
Restrictions:  You have your dog with you.  If a park, store or restaurant doesn't allow dogs, be prepared to forgo that steak dinner, National Park or cute little shop.  If we're walking through town, Mike will stay outside the shop with the dogs.  We purposely camp in cooler climates, so leaving them to snooze in the Jeep with the windows down while we grab a quick bite to eat isn't the end of the world, but remember how quickly a car can get hot.  Think take-out dinners to eat at a picnic area.

Injury/Illness:  Thankfully, we've avoided a lot of this.  Elly caught a stomach bug and didn't feel well for a few days, but she bounced back.  Rommel pulled a muscle but nothing a little aspirin didn't cure.  Dogs can take aspirin and benedryl.  We keep a comprehensive medical kit in the Jeep.  Thankfully our brush with a rattle snake happened at home and not on the road - it may be a good idea to know where vets are along your route.

Know Your Dog:  Every dog is different.  Not every dog likes other dogs, can be trusted off leash, is easily susceptible to injury, allergy or illness.  Sometimes the pooch should stay home with a friend.  Our old man (miss you Bear dog), stayed with a friend his last few years while we went camping.  His advanced age and sore bones couldn't handle the stress of our long trips. 

Elly can get really grouchy after a few days camping from lack of rest.  Realize that camping is rough on your four-legged companions too.  Maybe that strange child shouldn't be allowed to pet your normally friendly pooch.  If that means being brutally honest with a naive stranger, so be it.

Our dogs are family.  They have gone everywhere with us since they were puppies.  We have spent many many hours training them to be on leash, off leash, voice trained, and socialized.  I am proud every time a stranger marvels at how well behaved our "kids" are.  We understand that traveling with a dog impacts not only us but others.

We take the good and the difficult (because none of it is bad) and will always travel and camp with our dogs.  Elly and Rommel enrich our camping experience forcing us out of the Jeep to run a field, trail or beach.

Have dog.  Will travel.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Cayucos - Our Haven

We woke to the sound of traffic.  Normally I wouldn't classify traffic and a good sound to wake to, but that meant the road was open.  As we were on the side of the road, the most we did was brush our teeth.  Clouds hung over the coast, and I was hesitant to be optimistic for the day ahead.

We passed several beach access points, and stopped at what I can only assume was not an actual access point.  The dogs did amazing being cooped in the Jeep the day prior.  They had an excess of energy to burn and absolutley loved their first romp in the Pacific ocean.  It was still gray out, but after a few lung fulls of ocean air, I was feeling refreshed.
Just up the road was a colony of elephant seals snoozing on the beach.  The males were busy fighting loudly in the surf while the ladies napped.

Mike wanted breakfast and coffee so we stopped in Cayucos.  We found the Divine Street Cafe; it was wonderful.  I had the best Chai Latte I've ever had and enjoyed a fresh yummy breakfast.  Their patio boasted a lovely garden, full of succulents.  Actually the whole town was full of succulents.

We grabbed the dogs and walked the street and found out quickly that this is the beach town for us: a dog loving, no fuss community.  Main street was small, but had just the right amount of shops and eateries.  Dogs were allowed everywhere, shops, patio restaurants, and most importantly the beach.  After walking the main road, the decision was made: we got a room at a beach dive who allowed dogs and would call this town our home for our last night of the trip.

After booking our room, we walked across the street to the beach and played for a while.  At this point, Elly was pretty much done for the day and just wandered about, but Rommel was in heaven.  The sun came out and we finally played in the ocean under blue skies.

After play time, everyone retired to the room for showers - dogs included.  We lounged before having an early dinner at the Sea Shanty across the street.  Elly and Rommel were allowed to nap at our feet during dinner, the waitress was sweet and efficent and the food was great.  We lounged for a while before heading back to the beach for sunset.

After the sun sank below the horizon, we went back to the Sea Shanty for dessert, another great waiter and huge peach cobblers.  After the hell that yesterday was, today was amazing.  The ocean air makes me feel nostalgic.  Cayucos does not boast rides, boardwalks, or shopping.  Cayucos offers you the ocean so you can find peace by the sea.

We turned in early, woke early and had breakfast and Chai at Divine Street again.  We had not left and already planned on returning.  Reluctantly, we loaded up in the Jeep and started our east bound journey home. All too soon, the ocean disappeared and the desert came into focus.  We were stuck in LA traffic for hours and our 9 hour drive turned into an 11 hour drive.  Temperatures rose and spirits sank.

Small pieces of this trip ranked in my top ten but collectively, California was fussy, busy and the drives from one point to another too long.  I will return to Yosemite, to the Giants, and most certainly back to Cayucos.  I will keep the peace left inside me from Cayucos for as long as I can before the grind invades and wears me down.

A simpler life is out there...