Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Enjoy Scrapbooking?

I enjoy scrapping now, but if anyone had told me that years ago, I would never have believed them.

When the scrapbooking craze started years ago, I thought that it was "too cute". I had made scrapbooks in the past, but they were mostly glorified photo albums. I would occasionally save memorabilia for speciific events or trips. But I thought all the papers and fancy stickers and "cutsie" cut-out shapes were just not me.

A couple of years ago, I went with Mark's cousin and aunt to pick up some scrapbooking supplies. I just went along to have something to do. By then, the world of scrapbooking had matured into something that truly resembled art - at least looking at the scrapbooking magazines. I was becoming intrigued. But I didn't want to deal with all the supplies - the papers and the stickers and the ribbons and STUFF! I just didn't have room for it.

However, in one of the magazines was an article from the developer of another digiscrapping site, showing how easy it was to create scrapbook pages using PSP. I knew PSP. I used it at work to manipulate photos. I made a few pages and was becoming hooked. Then I found while surfing the web. Their beginning tutorial spelled it out for me and I loved what they had in their "freebies" section. But the world really opened up for me when I discovered the forums and the challenges - the support and assistance was amazing. (As an aside - there was some controversy going on at the time - on another forum, DSP was being bashed as an unfriendly place - I never understood that).

I've been away from digiscrapping and from DSP for several months - due to other things going on and a lack of drive, but I happened to scan the forums this week and found a thread I had to post to. Immediately, someone noticed I had posted and PMed me to say they were glad to "see" me.

I have had a special reason for learning to scrap. My sister passed away in 2004, but before she died, she left a list of things she wanted her daughter to know about "Mommy". I made a Mommy book for my niece that highlights the list, plus whatever else I could think of that she might want to know. And as I acquire more photos, I can add to the book - that's the beauty of digiscrapping.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Vacation Part 7 - The Trip Home

We went as far as Farmington Friday night after leaving Durango. We were both so tired that I think that lights were out before 9:00 that night. So, we were able to get up early Saturday morning and get on the road at 6:20. The drive to Santa Fe was again filled with wonderful views - vies that we hadn't been able to see on the way north Tueday night because of the darkness. We hit Santa Fe about 9:30 and went to get the Jeep.

I had to fill up the rental car prior to returning it, so I pulled in on one side of the pump and Mark pulled in on the other side. As we were filling both cars, we were unloading the rental car and loading the Jeep and trailer - we got entirely too good at transferring luggage this trip!

Because of the headwinds on the way up, we had to stop about every 2 - 2.5 hours to get gas. So, I added an extra hour to the project time that it would take us to get to Hobbs. But we had a tail wind and were basically going downhill so our gas mileage went way up. We got to Hobbs about 4:00 Saturday afternoon. Mark and I organized the Jeep a little, cleaned up and then went to visit Sandie and John. Sandie was my Administrative Assistant for several years and we had gotten to be really good friends before they moved to Hobbs to take new jobs.

We took them to dinner and we talked and we talked and we talked - at least Sandie and I did. After dinner we went back to their house and Sandie and I showed each other pictures of the happenings in our respective families. Their son, Sean, plays baseball in the NY Mets organization, and of course, Sandie is a very proud Mom. It was really good to see her again. I've missed her.

Sunday was another long day spent on the road. But the Jeep behaved itself and got us home in one piece (stupid Jeep - just didn't want to go to Utah I guess!). And for fun, I watched the GPS software try to figure out the route that Mark was taking and guess how many ways it was going to try to force us back on the path it had chosen. Mark has to go to Hobbs about once a month and thinks he's figured out the best route - but the GPS didn't seem to think so!

We got home about 8:30 Sunday night - worn out. The trip wasn't what we originally planned and I know that Mark was disappointed that he didn't get to go explore the backcountry in Utah. I was disappointed that I didn't get to see the Grand Canyon. And I spent more money than planned due to the rental car. But I still think the trip was a good one overall! We'll have to do it again sometime. Mark is already talking about a trip in the Spring to Big Bend - maybe the Jeep will behave itself then!

Vacation Part 6 - Durango

We drove back from Moab to Durango Thursday afternoon. The only thing that we had completely nailed down for the whole trip other than the hotel reservations were tickets on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge RR on Friday.

Thursday night was spent at what must be the locals hangout - the Old Tymer's Cafe. There was a couple at a table next to us that must have known everyone in Durango, apparent by the number of people that stopped by to say Hi. The food was really good there as well. Durango is an interesting looking city, but it's obvious that tourism is high on its attractions. Moab was the same way.

The next morning we got up and got to the train station really early to pick up our tickets. I was thinking that on a weekday in December, we ought to have a pretty light crowd - WRONG!!! There were 3 different school groups, other families with pre-schoolers and a wedding party. Mark didn't enjoy the trip as much because of the crowds, and I admit that by the end of the day, the kids had gotten on my nerves. But it was really cool riding on the train, and again the scenery was WOW!!!! I got some good shots of the train as we made the curves - steam and smoke belching. And I tried to do justice to the moutains and the Animas River. At one point the river was 700' below the train tracks and the train was hugging the side of a cliff.

I was also surprised that in spite of the cooler weather, the open cars were crowded. Everyone wanted to see the views and get photos of the train as it made its way. And of course, with that many kids, there was some jostling to see.

The train only goes about halfway in the wintertime, then turns around at Cascade Canyon. It was strange being in the train while it backed into one leg of the wye that is used to turn the train. We also stayed at the turnaround point for almost an hour so that everyone could eat and the kids could play in the snow. There were lots of snowball fights!

I grabbed some lunch and staked out my spot on the open car for the return trip so that I could try to get some decent photos. It was a good thing that I did - the car filled up immediately after we started up again.

Vacation Part 5 - Moab, UT

After leaving Mesa Verde, we started driving towards Moab. I was hoping to get to Arches National Park in time to get some late afternoon shots. It seemed a long way from Cortez to Moab, but only around 3 hours. As we started getting closer to Moab, the clouds starting picking up - darn. But we ventured on to Arches. We quickly did the drive and a couple of pull-offs. I was able to get a couple of decent shots of the Balanced Rock and we were able to get some pretty decent shots of the Window - both North and South Windows. But I was totally disappointed with what I got of the Delicate Arch - the most famous of the arches in the park. I was too far away and the light was no good at all - the sun was disappearing behind the clouds and behind the peaks.

We had dinner at the Moab Brewery. It was really good food and a fun atmosphere. I had a really good dark ale that's their seasonal winter brew. Mark decided we needed a picture to show the guys back at the Cypress Off-Road group that meets at a sports bar on the northwest side of town.

So I told Mark I wanted to try again the next morning to get a shot of the Delicate Arch with the morning sun. As we were driving up the park road the next morning, a thin strip of clouds passed over the sun. I was yelling, "Noooooooooo!!!" in my mind. But we went ahead and parked at the pull-off and I hauled out the tripod and my 200-500 mm lens - the big gun! Just as I got everything set up, Mark told me it looked like the clouds were going to thin out and I should get a little more sun. Miraculously, the clouds totally disappeared - and I was pleased!!!

We drove further into the park, and I took a ton of pictures. I wasn't happy with all of them as there was just a little residual haze that washed out some of the glorious colors in the pictures. But I did get some decent shots - enough to evoke memories for a long time to come.

Now, Arches was one of the places that Mark wanted to go offroad. And there was a trail that took off right next to the Delicate Arch parking lot. I knew he was disappointed. But he was the one that came up with the idea to photograph the rental car. We're going to paste the photos in the Jeep and tell it - "See you could have been here, but no, you had to go and get stubborn and refuse to leave New Mexico!"

We decided on touring the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park since it was on the way back towards Durango. Canyonlands is so huge that there is no way that you can do justice to the park in one day. And I would recommend being in shape and being able to hike some of the trails. But I was still able to get some pretty good shots. And we saw a lot more deer traveling to and from the park. In fact, we had to wait for about a dozen doe to cross the road in front of us.

Another site that we visited on the way to Canyonlands was Newspaper Rock. It has a bunch of petroglyphs dating back up to 2000 years ago. It was pretty impressive and I wasn't able to do justice to the whole thing, although I did get some shots of individual groupings of drawings.

Vacation Part 4 - Southwest Colorado

Wendesday, we checked with the dealership in Santa Fe - it was another sensor and they had the part in stock - uh oh, had I made a bad decision in pushing to go ahead with our vacation without the Jeep? A couple hours later they called and said the sensor was fixed, but now there was a problem with the oil pump and that part had to be ordered and wouldn't be in until the next day. Whew! We could have wasted a day in Santa Fe, instead...

We got up and started driving to Durango and then west. We stopped for breakfast at a bakery & cafe in Mancos, CO - a quaint small town between Durango and Cortez. This place had the most awesome cinnamon rolls with cream cheese frosting - yummmm!!!! And it was really the first place where we saw much snow/ice on the ground.

Heading towards Cortez, we came upon the entrance to Mesa Verde National Park. We decided why not, let's go explore. As we go through the entrance gate and the park ranger tells us it's 20 miles to the visitor's center, I'm not so sure. But then we start climbing and stopping at the overlooks - how can anyone not believe in God when looking at views like that????

We keep climbing and going further back into the park. We pass the closed motel and the summer visitor center and keep going - finally we get to the museum/visitor center. What's there to see and do - only some of the most amazing cliff pueblo dwellings! We can walk over to the porch of the next building and see several across the canyon.

But on the drive through the park, we stop and see a fantastic site - the main pueblo dwelling in the park. And we see a hawk soaring overhead. Life is good! But it gets even better.

As we are driving out towards the entrance to the park, we come across 3 bucks and a doe. Now, we have been seeing the deer crossing signs for the last 4 days - but here they are just standing on the side of the road, not afraid of us. Of course, being in a protected area, I guess they are used to people without too much fear.

We start dreaming what it would be like to have property in this area - I don't think I would ever tire of the views of the mountains. I don't know how I would do with snow for several months - but it's all a pipe dream anyway - unless I win the lottery!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Vacation Part 3 - Tuesday from Hell

Tuesday the part was supposed to come in and the Jeep get fixed. The truck was supposed to be there around 10 and the Jeep done before noon. So we get up, pack up (after 3 nights in one spot, that was fun) and drive the 50 miles to Las Vegas. We drive around town a little to see what's there - Las Vegas has a nice downtown area - really small town feel and a square with some great looking Victorian style houses on it. By the way, ever see a Pueblo style house with Victorian trim? Interesting - I should have taken a picture, but I was driving.

We get to the dealership around 10:30 - no truck yet. We start unloading the rental car and re-packing the trailer... don't really want to pack the Jeep yet since it may have to go on the rack. Mark starts piddling. Fortunately, I have a book. 11:30 - still no parts truck. Around noon, I suggest we go get some lunch. We get back before 1:00 - still no truck. The truck finally shows up around 1:00. Around 1:45, they come to push the Jeep into the service bay - the Jeep still won't start. Around 2:30, it's fixed!!!! Yay! We get it loaded up and start out. About a mile down the road - check engine light comes on. We turn back around. Same part is blown. Somewhere one miraculously appears. They put it, we leave. We've already cancelled the reservation for Moab for that night. About 3:30 we finally get on the road. It's going to be late, but we can probably still make Moab.

About 15 miles down I-25, Mark calls me since I'm following in the rental car - the check engine light is on again. We know where the dealership is in Santa Fe, so we decide to leave it there. I extend the rental on the rental car and we cancel Moab for the night. The dealership won't be able to even read the codes until early the next morning and if they have to order the part... we know this drill by now.

So, we make the decision to drive as far as we can and still go see Moab, even if Mark can't go rock-crawling. We get to Farmington Tuesday night, but have to pay for a hotel room since the Holiday Inn is booked up.

Vacation Part 2 - Monday - West of Santa Fe

Monday, we decide to go towards Los Alamos and into the mountains west of Santa Fe. We went past Camel Rock, but I didn't think to get a photo. There was an overlook at White Rock that we stopped at - fantastic view of the Rio Grande way below, plus a couple of waterfalls. Unfortunately, the sun was at the wrong angle to get great shots of the waterfalls, but again - the vistas were fantastic!

Then we came upon Bandelier National Monument - we decided to stop and see what was to offer. We had planned on buying the National Park pass with all of our stops at National Parks, so I got one at Bandelier. We followed the hiking trail back about 0.25 - 0.5 mile and saw some Pueblo ruins and evidence of the cave dwellers. I decided not to risk climbing up to look in the caves and the one restored cliff pueblo. We were at about 6000 feet elevation and I'm terribly out of shape and wasn't sure about the knees. It was fairly warm out in the sun, but there was some snow on the ground in the shade. Driving back out of the park, we had to stop at the overlooks so that I could get photos of the canyon and the mesas around.

We drove into Los Alamos, but the museum run by the National Laboratory wasn't open on Monday mornings. It was starting to snow, so we decided not to wait around but to continue on our journey.

Next stop was Valle Grande, a caldera - or crater - of the extinct Jemez volcano. In the summertime, this caldera is supposed to be a beautiful meadow of wildflowers with the mountains all around. It was still pretty impressive, even in December. We saw some property for sale and started dreaming - it would be a great place for a retreat!

Back to Santa Fe for the night - we were starting to know I-25 pretty well by this point.

Vacation Part 1 - New Mexico and the Saga of the Jeep

Mark and I went on a driving trip!!! It was my first true vacation this year, if you don't count a couple of visits to Atlanta. And it's the first trip that Mark and I have taken together in about 2 1/2 years.

The plan was to go to the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Moab, UT, and Durango, CO. We were taking the Jeep so that Mark could go off-road in Moab where there are some excellent (so he tells me!) runs. The Jeep had other plans.

We drove all day on Friday, December 8, to get to Clovis, NM. We had reservations at the Holiday Inn - Mark had a bunch of rewards points so we weren't going to have to pay for hotels - that was the plan, anyway! Weather was good, the drive was fairly uneventful although we went the route plotted out by my new GPS/map software. It took us straight through downtown Ft. Worth - not fun! And the Jeep was getting lousy gas mileage going straight into the wind - we were having to stop every couple of hours for gas.

Saturday morning we set out for Williams, AZ where we are going to spend the night before going to the Grand Canyon on Sunday. About 30 miles outside of Santa Rosa, NM, the check engine light came on. Since we were in the middle of nowhere, Mark drove on to Santa Rosa. We stop to get gas and call the dealership in Albuquerque to see if they are open. The Jeep won't start!!! So we call Roadside Assistance - the tow truck shows up pretty quickly and tows us to Las Vegas, NM (I can now say I've been to Las Vegas - just not THE Las Vegas). It's 12:30 and the dealership closes at 1:00. They diagnose the problem and say they can't order the part until Monday, get it on Tuesday and install it. Fine! Is there a car rental place? It's only open Monday - Friday. So, the service guy drives us to Santa Fe - about 50 miles away so that we can rent the car. We cancel our reservation in Williams and get a room in Santa Fe.

We decide to tour the area around Santa Fe while we wait on the car. Sunday we drive down to Albuquerque and tour the Plaza area of Old Town Albuquerque. We do a little shopping while there. We decide to drive back to Santa Fe via the Turquoise Trail - one of the scenic trails around Santa Fe. It goes past Sandia mountain and we drive up to the crest - boy, was it cold up there!!! It was about 22 degrees and the wind was blowing 20-30 mph.

But the drive up the mountain was worth it - the views were spectacular!

The rest of the drive was pretty good. We stopped several times along the way so that I could take photos. I don't know if I would ever tire of the views!!!

We finished up the day driving through the old part of Santa Fe, but Mark didn't want to stop.