Sunday, May 23, 2010

Hunting Ground

Hunting Ground (Alpha & Omega, #2) Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another enjoyable extension of Patricia Briggs' contemporary world. The evolution of the plot & the rich character development were equally enticing. On a personal note, I laughed out loud in delight when she described the hotel with the goldfish, obviously the Hotel Monaco!

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010



Our oldest kitty, who just turned 10 this month, is probably not going to be with us much longer. She had surgery last October to remove her right side mammary chain, after we found a couple of lumps. It turned out to be mammary cancer, which doesn't have a good prognosis in cats. (We later learned that because she'd had a litter of kittens, then had been spayed, that this dramatically increases the likelihood of mammary cancer - just something to note for those of you with girl-kitties.) Well, she not only has several tumors close to the surface of her skin, but a chest x-ray has revealed that the cancer has spread to her lungs. Countless tiny white dots pepper the x-ray, and the vet couldn't give us any estimate of how much longer she might live. Currently, her behavior is unaffected, as is her relationship with the other members of our cat-family: Comet & Serendipity. We will just enjoy her company for as long as she's not in significant pain, but it's sad to know that the end is probably measured in months.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Our California Trip: Kings Canyon National Park & In and Out Burger @ Fresno

We were unable to see the Mariposa Grove at Yosemite, because the road was still closed due to snow, so we spoke with a ranger & had a hurried pow-wow, and we decided to trek to King's Canyon National Park, which is several hours away. Hey, we had the whole day before us & only needed to make it back to Fresno in time for dinner!

We went to see the grove of trees that includes the General Grant Tree. Let me just show you how huge these babies are.


Yes, that is our CAR at the base of the Brothers. And I'm opening the trunk of the car. Yes, that's me. I like these trees ... they make my butt look small! *grin* And here is my Aunt Mary Ann ... no, she's there, look in the lower left corner of the photo. Even a wide angle lens can't capture how big these trees are. Largest living organisms in the world. Dang.


We had a car-picnic, as the picnic tables were covered in snow ... and then we made it back in time to have dinner at my sweetie's favorite fast food restaurant.


A successful vacation, all around!! Oh, and a note to Mel ... we DO have a lovely camera -- the Sony Alpha 200 is ours ... the Olympus Camedia was the one we borrowed. I liked the latter ... but not as much as the former!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Our California Trip: Yosemite National Park

We spent 3 days in Yosemite Valley. We'd hoped to expand our trip up to the Tuolomne Meadows & Glacier Peak & Mariposa Grove, but all the roads were closed because a lot of snow had fallen just the week before!

The pictures pretty much speak for themselves.

Yosemite Valley

Upper Yosemite Falls

We attended a performance of a one man show by Lee Stetson, who did a great job portraying John Muir. If you've seen Ken Burns recent National Parks series, you'll recognize him.
Lee Stetson as John Muir

We splurged on a half-day guided photography session with an Ansel Adams Gallery Staff Photographer. Evan took us to lots of amazing spots & we learned a ridiculous amount of information about photography & Yosemite.
Ken getting advice from Ansel Adams Gallery Staff Photographer Evan Russel

Half Dome and cascade framed by pink dogwood

I think this is a Stellar's Jay.
Western Scrub Jay. I think.



The 4 of us did a LOT of picnicking. It was awesome.
Picnicking at Cathedral Rock, Yosemite



Stay tuned ... one more post to go, about our side trip to Kings Canyon National Park!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Our California Trip: San Joaquin Valley & Tenaya Lodge

We left the coast and started inland, aiming for our accomodations just a few miles shy of the south entrance of Yosemite, which meant we had to cross the entire Central Valley.


We'd been told by several individuals, independent of one another, to stop by Casa De Fruta, which was close to our half-way point in our journey.


They had a ridiculous amount of stuff for sale, and had little buildings for different things - Casa de Fruta was mostly fruit & nuts, Casa de Wine, Casa de Sweets, and Casa de Choo Choo, to name several. We also found out after the fact that it's home to the Northern California Renaissance Festival! Who knew?!


After about 4 hours of driving, we made it to our destination, whereupon we learned that we'd been scammed by the people who made the reservation for us. The accommodations were decent, and we had a very pretty corner of the property.


By the following morning, though, we all agreed we were not happy enough with them to stay there for 3 more nights. My honey & my uncle went to the front desk, explained our concerns, and within an hour, we were moved to 2 separate rooms that met all of our needs, plus they gave us passes for free breakfasts. Eight thumbs up for Tenaya Lodge! (Just make sure you go through the Lodge for reservations, though, if you want to stay there!) We then set out for Yosemite, which you'll see in the next installment!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Our California Trip: 17 Mile Drive and Point Lobos State Reserve

We had a great time exploring some truly scenic spots. First of all, we coughed up about $10 to be able to drive the 17 Mile Drive. There were a lot of beautiful beaches & we were there at twilight which made some of the lighting tricky, but pretty.



We watched the sunset from Bird Rock & kept our eyes open at the right time & saw the rumored "green flash". I'd've thought we were imagining things, except we both exclaimed "OH!" at the exact same time! Sorry -- no photo of it -- it really did last something like a third of a second!

We made our way around the point & were able to see the Lone Cypress, just before the light failed altogether.

Lone Cypress along 17 Mile Drive, near Pebble Beach CA

Then, on winding roads in the dark, Ken's sense of direction prevailed & we made it back to Pacific Grove!

The next day, after our 2nd Aquarium jaunt, we went to Point Lobos, where we picnicked near China Cove. It was just delightful!

China Cove, Point Lobos State Park CA

At Chuck & Mary Ann's urging (they'd done some exploring while we lingered at the picnic table and soaked up the beautiful vistas), we went on a short hiking trail that overlooked some sea caves.

China Cove, Point Lobos State Park CA

Yeah, amazing, right? We overheard one person saying he'd been to this spot many times before and the color had never been so pronounced, nor the water as clear! See the spots on the beach in the above photo? Look at what they are!

Harbor Seals

Mama Harbor Seals and their pups!!! We loved watching them frolic in the water. The pups would cry out or get stuck & the moms, like all moms everywhere, would just look at them as if to say "are you freakin' kidding me???" and then they'd patiently nudge them where they were supposed to be.

After an enjoyable couple of hours, we decided it was time to set out for the San Joaquin Valley & Tenaya Lodge ... and from there ... Yosemite!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Our California Trip: Monterey Bay Aquarium

As mentioned in the previous post, Seven Gables Inn was a mere mile away from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We bought our tickets at the B&B for $29.95 a person ... and lo! and behold! they were TWO day tickets. SWEET. We made two trips to the aquarium, spending 5 hours there the first day & then about an hour the second day.

First stop: OTTERS. Love 'em. I've been told they're my totem animal on account of my playful nature. If you want to see them for yourself, check out the Aquarium's "Otter Cam"!


One of the coolest exhibits there was the Kelp Forest. It really brought home just how many sea creatures depend on this type of marine environment. Plus it was just very serene and pretty.


One of the aspects of the Aquarium I really enjoyed was the fact that it had lots of space outside, to view the marine sanctuary in the bay. Looking over the railing, we spotted this little guy, just hanging out in the sun. How cool is that??


Another exhibit that was super-cool was the Jellyfish one. I got a ridiculous number of pictures of all kinds of jellyfish, but the Moon Jellyfish remain one of my favorites. I've also seen them in the wild & swum amongst them, which I admit feels really creepy. They're still very pretty.


This starfish was just waving "hello"!


I've always been fascinated by sand dollars, but I've only ever seen them washed up on beaches, literally skeletons of their former selves. It was just amazing to see so many of them in this tank.


One of my absolute favorite exhibits was the Secret Lives of Seahorses. It was pretty dark inside the exhibit & I struggled to get good pictures, but I just loved it!


That's all for now. Next post will feature Seventeen Mile Drive and Point Lobos.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Our California Trip: Seven Gables Inn

We went on a FABULOUS vacation last week, so I thought I'd share some bits with you. We stayed at an absolutely amazing bed and breakfast, in Pacific Grove, California, called Seven Gables Inn.

Seven Gables Inn

It was right along the road that follows the water, so our view from the Breakfast Room was just outstanding.

Breakfast room at Seven Gables Inn -- what a view!

My aunt & uncle are avid birdwatchers, and they were very happy to find many birds they'd not seen before, including this Island Scrub Jay.

Island Scrub Jay

The bed and breakfast was a mile south of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where we made 2 visits over 2 days. I loved the leafy sea dragon!
Leafy Sea Dragon

I have a lot of other pictures from the Aquarium, but I'll save those for the next post!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Do. Not. Piss. Me. Off.

So, we are back from vacation, and 99% of it was just lovely. I'll have photos for you all to view in just a few more days, but first, here's the 1% of it that was just horrendous. I've drafted a letter & it will be put in tomorrow's post. Let it be a warning to you all. Also take note of the info on the front page of their website. I sure as hell didn't see it when I combed through their website at the end of December. Here is the letter:

Jessica Fitzgerald

Operations Manager

National Park Reservations

6475 Highway 93, South Suite 23

Whitefish, MT 59937

Re: Fee charged for Reservation Number xxxxxxx

Dear Ms. Fitzgerald,

I am writing to register a complaint regarding the fee charged to make a reservation for our recent stay at Tenaya Lodge. When I called the phone number in January to make the reservation, it was not at all clear the purpose of the fee or that it would be a separate charge paid directly to your company for “services.” I asked the reservation agent, Bryan, to clarify it several times & was told it was “applied towards your account and if you had to cancel this trip, it would apply towards a future reservation.” At no time was it made clear to me that I would be charged $140 for what amounted to (1) a 10 minute phone conversation (2) an exchange of emails to fix 2 errors and to clarify (again) what the various charges were. I was clearly under the impression that the $140 was applied towards the cost of our stay, or I never would have made the reservation, period.

When I was told upon checking in that the fee had not been credited to our resort folio, I was absolutely livid. When I called National Park Reservations to state my concerns, the agent did everything within her power to behaving in a condescending and inflammatory way, saying things like, “Well I’m not Bryan and I don’t know what he said” and “I don’t know what you perceived, but it’s a standard fee.” I am quite certain of what Bryan said & what I perceived, because I jotted notes down on the conversation. I am also quite certain that I would never have agreed to pay $140 for such a service, therefore it was unclear. Regardless of what front-end message you may put on your phone line, when a customer asks for a clarification, and your employee provides misleading information, it is your responsibility to rectify the situation.

I attempted to explain to the agent, to whom I spoke on May 3rd, that it was also exceedingly misleading to fail to have the fee information listed in the email you generate to confirm the reservation. Initially, I was outraged, but felt a sense of responsibility to provide feedback to help your company be more aware that it is failing to be clear on the charge. I am now of the opinion, partially because I was promised by the agent that I would receive a call back from her supervisor on the morning of May 4th, and no such call took place, that your company willfully and purposefully is in the business of deceiving travelers. I still have received no contact regarding my complaint, and thus I have opted to write this letter and also to send a copy of it to the staff at Tenaya Lodge so they may choose to exercise caution in doing future business with your organization. Rest assured, I will do everything within my power to inform all of my friends, family, and associates to avoid doing business with your organization.

5/18/10: UPDATE: Ms. Fitzgerald received my letter and called me. We spoke for several minutes, and I reiterated my concerns. She conceded that the fee structure had not been made clear to me, and she said they will be issuing us a refund by check. At this point, my trust level is low, so I'll believe it when I see it.'s encouraging.