Thursday, January 28, 2016

In addition to time with our extended family during Cindy's birthday party, we had two great evenings with our son Eric and his wife Liz and our grandchildren Kylie and John. We had a lot of time with Liz and Kylie during December when we met them in Texas for the Junior National Swim Meet. It was good to spend time with Eric and John this time.

Saturday morning, John had a basketball game. He really enjoys the game but we hadn't seen him play for 3 or 4 years. Basketball is one of two sports he plays. He is also a swimmer. It was fun to watch his team of 5th graders. John has improved so much since we last watched him play.

Not only does he know how to play defense and watch to make sure he can pass the ball to his own team mate, not the opposing team, he also listens carefully when his coach talks to the team. And he alert when the other team heads for the basket.

Everyone spends time on their smart phones, don't they? Here Kylie is getting ready to meet her friends at a high school basketball game. A little later, John was looking at his phone, too. Don't doubt all the adults in the room did the same during the evening.

The family has two sweet, well behaved dogs. We especially enjoy Batman, the black lab. He is always looking for love. Ziggy and Batman like each other.

Liz and I always have a lot to talk about.

Somehow, we didn't get any photos of Eric either evening. We did photograph him at the Saturday party.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

On Saturday we celebrated the 80th birthday of John's sister, Cindy. We were glad we could be there to mark that special occasion. Plus, we had a lot of quality time with many in our family. We spent two nights with our son Eric and his family. I will talk about that in another post.

At the party all four of the children (now ages 82, 80, 72 and 71) in John's family were together. Especially since we have been traveling, getting everyone together doesn't happen very often.

John is on the left, then the birthday girl Cindy, Kendal and Tim.

It was good to see so many of our nieces and nephews.

This is John with nephew Craig and niece Jennifer.

Brother-in-Law John with great nephews Cody and Alex and nephew Mike.

Nephew David and great niece Kelsey.

Brother Tim, his wife Diane, and nephew Blake.

Niece Tina (on the left) organized the party with her sister and brothers.  Here she is with out son Eric and grandson John.

Eric with Vance, Tina's husband. He prepared most of the food served at the birthday party.

Here is niece Becky and Blake's finance Julie.

Great nephew Sam with his wife, Mandi, and sister Sarah.

Here are  nephews Mark and Thad, Julie and great-nephew Logan.

We were also glad to see good friends Deirdre and Verlene.

Kerry is Craig's good friend.

I'm sure I missed a few family members, but these photos show most of the folks we had such a good time visiting with during the party.

And the Winner Was--Kohl's

Thursday, we started on a 4 day trip to Colorado for a birthday party. When we arrived in Albuquerque to spend the night, we realized we had left my down coat and our suitcase back in Arizona! That meant almost all of our clothes, my shoes for the party, etc. We did have the kit with medicine and toothbrushes, etc. What to do now?

We decided to wear the same clothes the next day, then head to Kohl's when we reached Littleton, where we were spending two nights with our son Eric and his family.

Friday, that is what we did. Only $181.00 later, we were set (we thought) for the rest of our trip. It seems, we didn't do very well buying the right side. I have two things to return, including the shoes I bought. John has one purchase.

But, at least we had clean underwear and John had new pants and sweater. Thankfully, my good clothes were on a hanger and we remembered that. And we got along with John's down coat, a heavy flannel shirt and a light fleece jacket I had in my backpack.

We were glad we didn't have to wear our dirty jeans to the party.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

More to be Proud Of

I've posted before about our granddaughter Kylie and what a wonderful swimmer she it. Last weekend, she competed in a high school swim meet in the south Denver suburban area. We are so proud of her. She set two pool records with her swims, placing first in those events.

The LittletonIndependent web site posted a story about the meet this week and here is the part of the story by Jim Benton that talks about Kylie. She is not only excellent at swimming, she is a real team player and a humble person.

It took her a bit, but Heritage sophomore Kylie Andrews finally admitted she performed well in the Smoky Hill Invitational girls swim meet on Jan. 16.

Heritage won the meet with 483 points to finish ahead of host Smoky Hill and Chaparral, which finished third. Legend was fourth, Douglas County/Castle View eighth and Ponderosa 13.

Andrews set pool records in winning the 100-yard butterfly and 100 backstroke. She swam a 55.91 to better the butterfly meet record of 56.07 set by Heritage's Shelly Patton in 2012.

In the 100 backstroke, her time of 56.03 snapped her own meet record of 57.39 set last season. Andrews also holds the meet record of 52.33 in the 100 freestyle, but she didn't swim in that event this season.

She also contributed on relay teams. CJ Mitchell, Andrews, Marissa Kiefer and Katherine Harston won the 400-freestyle relay in 3:40.59. Andrews also swam on the 200-medley relay team, which placed second.

“My team did really good and all my competitors in my races, my opponents, did really well,” said Andrews. “And I feel like I had a pretty good races.

“Right now I feel real good with how I'm doing. There is always room for improvement. There were just good vibes for this meet, and everyone did really well. I like all the events I swim except for really breaststroke.”

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

All's Well that Ends Well

We had some exasperating and frustrating moments last week. Tuesday morning we headed out to Best Buy to buy John a new computer. He is writing his family history and his own life story and our two old (very) laptops just weren't up to heavy use anymore.

We picked an HP Envy with plenty of storage and without serious graphic capability, since he doesn't do gaming. We also purchased the new 2016 Microsoft Office, which we would download once we set up the computer. At home, John did the set-up then attempted to log in to the site to download the software. Somehow, he ended up with a page containing a phone number and a message saying he had encountered a problem. I called the number, then had them go into our computer remotely to see what was wrong. They tried to convince me we had a trojan and a virus that could not be eliminated by the Geek Squad. BUT, they said, just sign up for service from their company, for $100+, $200+ or $300+ and they would take care of it. I hung up and off we went, again, to Best Buy.  Obviously, it is very, very important to enter the Microsoft website name accurately.  A slight error sent us to the bad guys, instead of getting us 404 error that the url wasn't valid.  BE VERY CAREFUL!

We have always been happy with the service we received from the Geek Squad out of Best Buy.  We have had to take computers to them several times.  And we had a great crew from there install the TV in our winter house.

But this week, things are a mess.  The squad members are friendly and doing their job well.  BUT, the new corporate policy of requiring appointments at the Geek Squad desk is a pain.  And you would think that Geeks would have a reliable web site for checking the status of repairs.  NOT.  We had two automatic phone calls telling us the work was done on our computer and we could pick it up.  Twice we have gone in to pick it up and it wasn't ready.  "Don't pay attention to the automatic calls, wait till an agent calls in person," we were told.  What?  The Geek Squad automatic phone notice is to be ignored?

When we checked the web site for the status of the repair, it too said the computer is ready for pickup.  Geeks don't have a reliable web site?  Can you believe that?

When we went in to pick up our computer, we were told we could schedule an appointment for 1:30 in the afternoon, or sign in and wait.  They had appointments up until 1:30, so if all those folks showed up, we would have to wait that long, at least.  We had been in a store next door when we received the second call saying the computer was ready. .  We were supposed call or come in, make an appointment, drive 13 miles home, then come back 13 miles to pick it up? Plus, it wasn't ready. They were still doing updates.

It isn't the fault of the squad members for this appointment system.  But it seems they should both provide appointments and have enough staff to handle walk-ins.  Even auto service shops provide that.

We complained and asked to talk to a supervisor. Andrew really came through. He couldn't give us the computer, it wasn't ready. But he did give us a nice $150 off the cost of the computer and helped us make an appointment for the next morning. When we came in the next morning it was done. When we asked the Geek Squad member to install our Microsoft Office software on their wifi, she agreed. Apparently all the Geeks were aware of the problems we had had and so this Geek said to give them about an hour. And, she wouldn't make us set up another appointment. She would help us the minute it was ready.

We wandered the shopping center for an hour, spending some money, of course. Then we went back to wait. The minute the work was done, she waved us up, explained everything they had done for us, and sent us on our way. (They had completely wiped the computer since we didn't know what the other company had done. Then reinstalled everything.

Final thought:  if anyone should have a reliable online presence, it should be the Geek Squad.  They need a new computer system.  Even the in-store computers were very slow.  And they need to schedule more Geeks.

However, the work they did was good and everyone we talked to was nice and helpful. After all the frustrations, it ended well.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The Bad and The Good

This has been the coldest Arizona winter we have experienced in the seven years we have been coming here. Until this week, the daytime high has been in the 50s for several weeks. We were getting tired of it. We come here to be in shorts and t-shirts--not possible in these temps.

Look at what we woke up to last week.

That's right--frost on the truck windshield! Brrr.

Then came the rains. See the water, running in the street? And the rain running off the neighbor's roof?

Finally, this week, we are having highs in the low 60s and lots of sunshine. And the good side of the rain is the flowers on the cactus. Beautiful!

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

We've been seeing down coats, gloves, heavy sweatshirts, and even some ear muffs and ski hats. What is this all about? Well, it's winter in Arizona. We've had a really long cold spell. If you are up north, you wouldn't think it is cold, but to those of us who come here to wear shorts most of the winter, highs in the 50s (62 is normal at this time of year) and nights in the high 30s or low 40s are cold!

And this week, El Nino is bringing lots of rain. This is only the 6th of January and we have already received 1.2 inches of rain. Average rainfall in Phoenix is 8.03 inches. If it keeps up at this rate, we will be way over average. Here are two photos of small lakes left in our resort by the rain.

At least we can look forward to beautiful flowers in the desert after all this rain.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Travels in 2015

We had a busy year in 2015, but I was amazed to find we had only driven our truck (our only vehicle) 10,666 miles, and only 4004 of those miles were towing our 5th-wheel trailer.  What amazed me most about these numbers was that we used to put about 15,000 miles a year on one of our cars before we retired. My commuting mileage alone was over 7,000 miles a year.

In 2015 we were traveling from May 1 to October 10, spending time in 28 campgrounds during that time, visiting two of them twice.  Almost all of our driving--6,159 miles--was done here in Arizona before May 1 and after Oct. 10.  We spent time in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. 

It was a fun year, especially the time we spent exploring central Colorado and parts of Utah, visiting many places we had not been to in years.

Our truck uses diesel fuel and it was pretty expensive at the beginning of the year.  As you all know, those prices decreased over the months.  The least expensive diesel was $1.59 a gallon--just last week here in Arizona.  Those fuel points from shopping for gift cards at Fry's saved us 40 cents a gallon!  Unfortunately, that was a one-time purchase.  Our total fuel cost for last year was $2,550. 

We haven't made our plans for 2016, but we look forward to another great year.