Posted: July 12, 2015 in Ramblings

Alex had very few of them during this past school year, because he was working with Insight School of Washington (an online school).  I am proud to announce he got all A’s and B’s this year!  Previously, his teachers and counselors had often changed him to a straight pass/fail scheme because he found it so hard to concentrate on class and homework, but this year he had no accommodations at all (except the school-permitted ones, like being allowed to retake a quiz) and did remarkably well!

I guess it helps that he has a hardass authority figure hanging over his shoulder barking out orders all day.  Hahahahaha.  Just call me Sergeant Pick.

Brittany on 5 Euros a Day

Posted: July 8, 2015 in Ramblings

(still not)

Feeling a little more refreshed.  Here is a selection of the best photos I took on the trip.  I have a lot more, but my camera’s focus got bumped to manual at one point, and a lot of the pictures from that day are hideously blurry.  We figured it out later (after taking 4 hours to download the manual because wifi was so bad at the campsite), but I’ll have to get back to Suscinio Castle someday and take better pics.

Many years ago I took a photo of Alex standing in the Pacific, looking out towards the sunset.  This is the same pose, standing in the Atlantic, looking west.

Many years ago I took a photo of Alex standing in the Pacific, looking west. This is the same pose, standing in the Atlantic, also looking west.

clam cartoon

Chris’ new friend.


At Concarneau.  Clare is wearing the white shirt, Ant in the blue.  You know the other guys.

At Concarneau. Clare is wearing the white shirt, Ant in the blue. You know the other guys.

Flowers at the entrance to Concarneau, the walled city.

Flowers at the entrance to Concarneau, the walled city.

Chateau de Keriolet, easily the cutest castle we saw.  Excellent private tour in English!

Chateau de Keriolet, easily the cutest castle we saw. Excellent private tour in English!

A rose in the gardens at Keriolet.

A rose in the gardens at Keriolet.

I have 2 stained glass photos to show you (one from Auray and one from Vannes), but they are still not playing nicely with the rotation software.  Stay tuned.

France on 10,000 Euros a Day

Posted: July 8, 2015 in Ramblings


Well, here we are enjoying our first European vacation since 2011. This time, we’re camping in Brittany, near the coast, but I demanded a couple of days in Paris first. (Camping is so not me, even when it’s done in an RV with showers and a kitchen.)

We started things off at the Trianon Palace Versailles. Nice hotel, but we didn’t get to stay in the nice part. We stayed in the newer, more generic building across the courtyard. Still, it was good enough.  Excellent free breakfast, too.

Front of the Trianon Palace.

Front of the Trianon Palace.

This is a picture of the old palace part. Those are my boys in the picture.

We felt a bit rushed because we arrived on Sunday morning, and the grounds and palace of Versailles itself are closed on Mondays (and we had to leave for the coast on Monday). Sunday was our only option.  So, jet-lagged and hungry, we bought tickets and made our weary way through some of the famous gardens.  Eventually we ended up in a boiling mass of people in the courtyard of the palace, all waiting to get in. Frustrated, we went back to the hotel to nap with a promise to return later in the day. Which we did.

This being the 300-year anniversary of Louis XIV’s death, there are numerous extra celebrations, and the associated increase in tourists as well. Our tour of the palace was less than ideal, because it was (a) very hot and (b) very packed. Basically the whole place was stuffed with people and we had to move along with the flow; so many people crowded into the best areas of the chambers that we couldn’t even see much.  We kept getting poked with selfie sticks, too.

A piece of interior décor.

A piece of interior décor.


Yes, that’s the Young Master in orange shirt. See if you can spot my reflection and Chris’ in the mirror!

DSCF1259 DSCF1276

Monday morning we took a taxi to the Versailles office of Avis, and picked up our rental car.  I drove in France!  (I drove a lot in France, after we managed to change the GPS to an English voice.)  At first it was terrifying, because we picked up the car at the train station and had to get out of the city to find our road to Brittany, listening to French GPS directions.  Chris heroically navigated me out of the maze of streets – with only a few wrong turns – and we finally got on the toll road at 130km/h (80mph).

There was a tricky situation when we reached the end of the toll road. Chris was driving by then, and we’d pulled into a pay lane that didn’t take credit cards.  But we didn’t know this.  He tried his Amex and then his MasterCard, both of which got rejected.  As he pulled out some Euro bills to pay with, the machine ejected our ticket and the wind blew it away!  I got out of the car and started hunting for it, but there were tickets and litter all over the place, and the line behind us was getting very long and people were getting impatient.  The “press button to speak to an attendant” didn’t seem to be working, and finally a nice truck driver got out and came to help us.  Twelve minutes later we were through the gate and heading onward.

We got to the campground well in advance of the UK Picks, who had been delayed on the channel crossing.  But eventually everyone was in town and we were beginning to get over our jet lag.

Our first outing was to a small town called Auray.  Quite typical little French town.

A house I liked.  Right on the river.

A house I liked. Right on the river.


I did get some good interior pictures of stained glass windows in the church, but my software program is still not rotating them correctly, so later on I’ll come back and post them.  The USP’s had a little luncheon at a creperie:  we had bacon/ham/egg/cheese galettes (salty crepes) and a crepe with chocolate and butter.  I was absolutely certain that this crepe was the beginning of a long avalanche into dietary hell, and I was right.  I ate more bread and carbs and sugar over these two weeks than in the previous two years combined.  Crepes, ice cream, cookies, croissants, pastries, fruit, and more.

The good news?  I didn’t even gain a whole pound!

Next day Vannes, which is where Aramis became a bishop after giving up the Musketeer business!  Bigger than Auray, but still a similar kind of place.  River, shops, church, creperie.  We then split off from the UKP’s so that we could go to the Vannes Aquarium, and an unsuspected treat was the included admission to the butterfly house.  I only got one pic before the lens fogged up.

Before the fogged lens.

Before the fogged lens.


After the fogged lens. Same breed of butterfly.

We also tried taking pics in the aquarium, but the fish were generally too lively to have their photos taken.


Tiny fish.


I didn't know the Great A'Tuin lived in the Vannes Aquarium.

I didn’t know the Great A’Tuin lived in the Vannes Aquarium.

I’ll write more later, but am still suffering from jet-lag.  Have pity on me.  Maybe when I get back, the photos of the stained glass windows will have rotated themselves.

Drink Recipe

Posted: June 12, 2015 in Ramblings

Many of you know what an “Arnold Palmer” is.  Half iced tea, half lemonade.  Of course, restaurants tend to tart this up with stuff like “peach iced tea” (sorry, Diane) or “iced tea with diet lemonade” (gack!).  However, this week I came up with a new version, which I have happily dubbed the “Arnold Rimmer” – it is an Arnold Palmer with a dash of lime juice.  Enjoy.

The Psychology of the Individual

Posted: June 12, 2015 in Ramblings

I wear hearing aids.  Not often, because most of the time it’s just me and two cats in the house, and there’s nothing to hear.  However, out at restaurants, or when Chris is home, I often use them (because Chris is a mumbler).  The deeper the speaker’s voice, the less likely I am to hear properly.  They stay in a little zippered case in my handbag, so that if we’re out and they’re suddenly necessary, they’re on hand.

At my first appointment at the hearing clinic, back in 2013, the doctor was a very understanding young lady who knew from the start that these would not be constant-use hearing aids.  We discussed the scenarios where I’d need them, and she simply advised me to use them “when necessary.”  Over the course of 2 years, about 10 office visits, she was always very helpful, and remained pleased to learn that my ears were reasonably good, and that the hearing aids did not “need” to be used all the time.

She has since moved on, and the clinic has assigned me to a different doctor whom I just met today.  She’s also very friendly, and we recapped my hearing aid requirements.  I thought she’d be pleased as well, pleased to learn that my ears are still good enough to go without, most of the time.  But no!  On parting, she said, “You really need to try to wear those hearing aids more often!”  I just smiled and left the office, puzzled and a little sad.

First of all, why would I need to wear them more often?  My “scenarios requiring hearing aids” have not increased, and my hearing seems to have stabilized.

Second of all, why is she not happier about this?  My eye doctor is always happy when my glasses prescription hasn’t changed.  My MD is always happy when my thyroid is stable.  I myself am happy when things don’t get worse!

Possible thought:  she wants them to wear out, to get me involved in an upgraded product.  This is all I could come up with.  Maybe I’ll drop my office visits down to once a year.