Here we are!

Here we are!

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Date With Mom

Today, Daniel redeemed his "Date with Mom" coupon to go out to dinner at a restaurant of his choice. For Christmas I gave the boys an album filled with coupons to do different things with me during the year. Since Tim is at a U2 Conference in Cleveland and Michael is at Magic Mountain with a friend, Daniel thought it would be a great time to use one of his choices. I had to veto his first choice of Chuck E. Cheese, but his second choice was more acceptable.

Daniel likes Sweet Tomatoes even though he is a picky eater. He almost made it through the salad buffet with only croutons on his plate, but I told him he had to choose a vegetable. He plopped down some shredded carrots.

Next, he got a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a baked potato with some jello cubes on the side for variety.

Then he ended with dessert: soft serve and caramel sauce.

Sitting in the restaurant, I had to put on my MBA cap and make a few observations. Expectedly, with food prices and economy, the pickings in the salad bar have been slimmed down over the last couple of years. There were many employees visible, but most were not really doing anything productive. They looked like they were busy, walking around the floor and talking amongst themselves, but the counters were spilled and messy and the food was not being refilled very fast. We were there before the dinner crowd, so this is somewhat alarming. The condition of the restaurant is disappointing as well. The wall dividers are pretty disgusting and overall, it just looks like it needs a good cleaning.

With prime location and high traffic area, management is able to overlook these shortcomings and still squeak out a profit. If I was an investor, I would look for a tighter ship and higher standards. I guess in a sense I'm an investor; I just choose to invest elsewhere for dining. Unless, of course, my son wants to have a date with me there.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Going to China

I'm going to China in May! My Global MBA cohort is traveling to several different areas in China to learn more about global business and culture. China is such a large country, it's really hard to peruse the library guide books or travel forums. Narrowing down the cities helps a bit (e.g. Beijing or Shanghai) but the particulars about the trip are still elusive. Which emails and social media sites can I access? Do I load a VPN app? Do I bring my cell phone or buy a cheap one there? What kind of adapter to use? How much money should I bring? Where is the bottled water? How do you remember the exchange rate and the currency system? What does one bring home as a souvenir? What about squatty potties?

Interestingly enough, the blogs of people who adopt Chinese children have the most useful information. They blog about what they packed and what was useful to have along. The travel sites and forums, like Frommers and Fodors, were somewhat helpful as well. At this point, I am hoping to pack a small suitcase and a carry-on, leaving lots of room to bring stuff home. I ran across this site when looking for packing list ideas, and found the brilliant "one suitcase" tab which shows, for example, how to pack 14 items of clothing and make 30 outfits. While I probably won't need 30 outfits for a 12-day trip, I have found inspiration from the daily outfits and tend to view the site pretty frequently now.

I guess I should start practicing how to say things in Chinese, like "hello, thank you, how much, where is your squatty potty, I don't understand." Hola and gracias will not go very far, I'm thinking.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What is Truth?

What is truth? That was a question posed to us students taking a financial management course for a Global MBA degree. Our instructor has told us many times to focus on integrity and accuracy in the business world. He described different kinds of "truth" that we have heard before from our government, politicians, and other business people (can you say mortgage meltdown?).

This week, he told a clever devotional to the class and asked again, "What is truth?" There is personal truth: The Giants are a great baseball team (not everyone may think so). There is social truth or timely truth: Sunday is the Sabbath day for rest (at one point this was generally agreed upon by society). Without going into the philosophical argument for different types of truth, the last truth is ultimately the absolute truth: 1+1=2. Absolute truth is one where it is always true regardless of person, time, or interpretation.

He then read John 14:6: I am the way, the truth, and the life. Jesus said, "I am truth" and meant that He was the absolute truth; it is fact, certainty and reality.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Buck Rock Lookout

Buck Rock Lookout

We took a trip to the Buck Rock lookout this weekend. It’s a fire lookout in the high Sierra that offers a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. The lookout has a person in residence full-time during fire season and is open to the public. Here is a recap of our trip.

To get to Buck Rock Lookout, take Hwy 180 east from Fresno into Kings Canyon National Park. Turn right at the “Y” onto Generals Hwy. After about 10 minutes, you will pass the Quail Flat/Hume Lake turnoff, then you will pass the Kings Canyon Lookout on the left, the Buena Vista trailhead on the right (good hike by the way), the Big Baldy trailhead on the right, and finally the Big Meadows turnoff on the left.

After almost 3 miles, turn left at the Horse Camp Campground. This is a 2.5 mile dirt road that is one-lane and full of ruts and rocks.

At the Lookout parking area, there is a picnic table in the shade so be sure to pack some goodies. There is also a picnic table at the bottom of the Lookout, but it is in full sun.

This is what happens when you bring along a bag of chips to a high elevation.

The trail to the lookout is very easy and I would guess no more than a ¼ mile.

There is a vault toilet (fancy word for pit toilet or outhouse) at the bottom of the stairs. I would venture to say it is the nicest outhouse in the whole Sierra Nevadas.

After climbing up some smaller rock steps, you will climb 172 steps to the top. The stairs are narrow and steep, but extremely sturdy and stable. There are handrails on each side so you don’t lose your footing.

At the top, there is a small room with windows all around. It has a bed, small oven, refrigerator, wood stove, and desk. Outside the room, you can walk around all the sides.

The drive from Hume Lake took just under an hour and here is the view from the back road.

Our boys enjoyed it at 9 and 13 years old. There was a family with a little girl that appeared to be 4 or 5, and that was almost too young for climbing the stairs. For more information, visit

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Special Valentine

 "To my awsome family"
"From your youngest child"

Can you figure it out? 
"Mike" is listening to his iPod.
"Dad" is not happily plunging the toilet, as it might appear.
He is actually filling up the spa!

"Mom" is holding a hair dryer.
"Dan" is playing the Wii.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

So Happy

I am insanely happy right now. Do you want to know what self-seeking, consumerist item makes me this way? We just replaced our electric blanket. I can be toasty warm all night. I can heat up my side of the bed before I even crawl in. Now, this is not some new product to enter our lives. No, in fact, this is our fourth electric blanket since we’ve been married. They tend to stop working just after the warranty period is up. Here is the scenario: I use my side of the blanket until it is burned out and stops getting warm, then flip the blanket over and switch controllers. Then I use the “other” side until that one is burned out, too. It finally came to the point last week where the preheat/high setting on the old blanket wasn’t doing anything on either side. I looked for electric blankets when I was at Costco and Target this week, but neither store had one (it’s January for goodness sake). Today, I found one at JcPenney’s. I am so excited.

It’s not like we live in Alaska or anything (although Tim would like to try living in Sitka). Fresno has an average high of 53 degrees in January. Most people would say, “just put another blanket on the bed.” But the problem with that is, your bed is still cold when you get in. It takes a good hour for my feet to warm up no matter how many blankets are on the bed. And, you know, for such a simple thing to make me happy, no matter how ridiculous, it’s worth it!

So what do you do with an old, broken electric blanket?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Mendenhall Glacier

The Mendenhall Glacier was very cool to see. The visitor center had lots of interactive exhibits and a video. We took a little hike to the waterfall by the glacier. You can see the glacier on the left and it looks like a river in this picture.

Alaskan Cruise Day 8

Debarkation in Seattle. We woke up and had breakfast and then left the ship. We sent our luggage ahead to the airport since we were spending a few hours in Seattle. Some friends from church drove to Seattle from Fresno, so they gave us a ride to the Seattle Center (Space Needle) from the cruise terminal. We wanted to see the Experience Music Project (which included the Science Fiction Museum also). That was a great place to see. They had a history of the Seattle music scene, a “lab” where you could learn to play different band instruments, and a stunning display of original dresses from The Supremes. They had a feature on Jimi Hendrix and his history and impact on music.

After that, we walked around Seattle Center where they had a food festival with lots of vendors and restaurants. Then we took the monorail downtown and walked to Pike Place Market where Tim got some smoked salmon. After that, we took the light rail train to the airport and came home.

Alaskan Cruise Day 7

At sea until 6:00 p.m. where we docked in Victoria, B.C. We made the walk from the dock into town, which was just over a mile. Tim did some research before we left for some music or entertainment and came up with some options. We decided to try a presentation by “the Other Guys theatre company” at the Royal BC Museum entitled “Good Timber, Songs and Stories of the Western Logger.” We didn’t know what to expect by the title and weren’t really holding out too much hope. This was a fantastic presentation by six people performing different instruments and songs, and even a bit of poetry about the logging industry in B.C. A lot of it was tongue-in-cheek, but the musical performance was just incredible. We were very glad we chose that option. I really wanted to shop at Rogers’ Chocolates, but they were closed when we got there. We walked up Government Street a couple of blocks and then it was time to head back to the ship. We did one more pass up the Lido Buffet before packing up (as if we needed more food).

Alaskan Cruise Day 6

Early morning in Ketchikan, we were there from 7:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. We were not there long enough to get to Misty Fjords unfortunately, so we took another tour around town. We ended up on the same van as eight others from our church. And, what a coincidence, out of three cruise ships, the little 2 year old boy from yesterday was on it too, but he was happy since it was early morning. We saw some salmon that were about 15 to 20 pounds and getting ready to run. There were still more eagles and totem poles. Some people were snorkeling in wet suits in the ocean and our driver said that to the killer whales they look the same as seals. We did a quick walk through town and then it was time to leave. Back on the ship, they could not keep up with everyone trying to eat at the buffet. Eventually, we got some lunch and then an afternoon nap. That evening was dinner and a show along with a dessert buffet late at night. How do people eat so much? One of the singers made up a little song: I’m eating my way through the cruise ship, I’m eating my way through the sea, I’m eating my way through the cruise ship, my friends they won’t recognize me.

Alaskan Cruise Day 5

We arrived in Sitka and since the cruise ship could not get close to shore, we got to ride on “tenders” to get to shore. The tenders were the life boats on board and they could hold about 100 people. There were several tenders shuttling back and forth all day. We got on a tour van and saw the fishing docks where all the boats were moored. There was a sea lion that jumped out of the middle of the water with a fish in its mouth. The eagles swooped down to see if they could get anything, but the sea lion went under. That was cool. We saw a private boarding high school that was only for the Tlingits and paid for completely by the government. We drove around by Silver Bay and saw salmon berries, which are like raspberries. The tour guide said we could stop and pick some, which we did. We saw a brown bear habitat with two bears in it. They were rescued as cubs because their momma died. When raw meat was thrown in, the bears would do tricks, like stand on their hind legs with their arms raised or sit on a tree stump. There were lots of eagles to see up close and watch them eat the scraps. We stopped at a totem pole place and a river there held a legend that if you drank from it, you would never leave Sitka and if you did leave you would return. There was a family with a 2 year old on the tour, and why they decided to trap this boy in a van during nap time is beyond me. He was not happy that afternoon. After the tour, we looked around town and stopped for a late lunch. We had some salmon chowder and a burrito. There was “free Sitka internet” curiously enough.

On the ship, we saw quite a few more whales in the ocean. It was formal night again for dinner and at the rate everyone was eating, we should have been wearing bathrobes instead of dresses. The ship was swaying a bit but nothing like the first night. I should have videoed the pool on that first day at sea; the pool was sloshing over each side whenever it would tip that way.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Alaskan Cruise Day 4

We arrived in Juneau. We got off the ship and purchased some bus tickets to the Mendenhall Glacier. The sky was overcast and it rained all day. Once at the glacier, we went to the visitor center with some great displays of glacier life and history. There was a lake at the bottom of the glacier and a big waterfall on the side. We were able to hike to the waterfall and get a little closer to the glacier, but it was a 3 mile hike around the mountain to get to the actual ice, and we didn’t hike that far.

On the drive back, we saw lots of bald eagles waiting for the salmon run. The eagles were bigger than what I thought and they were so full of thick feathers, it almost looked like fur. They appear next to the inlet about a day or two before the salmon appear, so the locals know that the salmon will arrive shortly when the eagles show up to wait.

We had lunch on the ship and then walked to a local coffee shop, the Silverbow, for a coffee and wifi. Then we went up the Mt. Roberts Tramway, which is a tram that hangs on a cable and seems to go directly up because it is such a steep climb. At the top, there is a visitor and nature center and some trails. We did a hike through the rainforest with lots of lush greenery. There was also a short movie about the Tlingit natives. After riding down the 1,850 feet, we were going to do some shopping, but Tim saw a friend getting on the tram so he quickly ran through the entrance since the tickets were for a day pass. He did another ride up and down while I hit some shops. The goods are all touristy type, so we didn’t find much to buy that we couldn’t get in Fresno.

We hit the high seas again this night, but fortunately it wasn’t as bad. Next stop: Sitka…

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Alaskan Cruise Day 3

Waking up to smooth seas was wonderful. We were cruising through an inlet and it felt like we were stopped. But we were still traveling the same speed as yesterday. The captain said we were running late on our schedule because of the high winds and rough waters. We saw lots of whale tails and blows. We saw lots of small dark dolphins, but I’m not sure if they were actually dolphins or something else.

When we entered Glacier Bay, a boat of park rangers pulled up to our ship and they climbed aboard a small rope ladder. They provided information on the Bay and the glaciers. We were able to walk on the front bow while we were in Glacier Bay (“Jack, I’m flying!”).

I guess I didn’t know what to expect when we got to the glaciers. Maybe I was thinking something more North-Pole-like. They were so incredible. The mountains were about halfway covered with snow, with lots of trees and granite. Right in the middle of all the green, brown, and white would be a huge slide of dirty turquoise blue ice that was thousands of years old. It was really cloudy so we couldn’t see the tops of the glaciers. But we saw a big calving and several smaller ones. All of a sudden you could see a mound of ice start to fall into the ocean and make a big splash. Then you would hear a loud crack and splash.

When the ship turned around, we went back to our room and sat out on the veranda to view the glacier. It was just awe-inspiring. In the midst of the view, we could still hear people moving about on their verandas or going to get more food. I inwardly wished everyone could just be still and quiet and appreciate this natural beauty. I almost could imagine some of them standing before their great Maker, but only worried about food and comfort instead of the beauty of God. When we left the glaciers, sea gulls came right up to our veranda to take bread from our hands. We found out later that we weren’t supposed to feed them. Oh well...

Alaskan Cruise Day 2

We woke up the next day and had to use the hand rails in the shower. We were rocking so hard that just walking down a straight, narrow hallway was difficult. After commenting at breakfast how nice it was that we weren’t seasick, I started feeling woozy. At lunchtime, it wasn’t getting any better and we noticed that there didn’t seem to be many people out and about. They even had a supply of barf bags at the elevators. I sent Tim for some ginger ale and motion sickness meds. He said they were handing it out like candy. Hmm… Finally, at dinnertime I was feeling much better so we ventured out to the “formal night.” We were seated next to our friends and one of their daughters was also very seasick. They went running out of the dining room before the food even came.

Tim was not bothered at all by the motion and, in fact, enjoyed it quite immensely. He went up to the top deck in the front of the ship and had fun listening to music and reading for hours at a time. He asked the crew about the rough seas and they said it was quite bad. It was funny to watch people because everyone would catch their step and lean one way simultaneously. There was not a whole lot to see in the way of scenery since we were at sea all day.

We seemed to stay in our beds, although it felt as if we could roll off at any minute.

Alaskan Cruise Day 1

We flew to Seattle from Fresno at 5:30 a.m. Sunday morning. We each packed a suitcase and carry-on, and Tim brought his mandolin along. The flights were uneventful and we caught a taxi from the airport to the cruise terminal. Once on the ship, we grabbed some lunch and then went to our stateroom. We got a “veranda” with our room and could sit outside to watch the scenery. On the starboard side we watched all the food and luggage get loaded on the ship with a crane. The first event with “Michael W. Smith and Friends” happened at 4:30 and the ship was just pulling out at that time, so we stayed on our veranda to watch it instead of going to the show.

Dinner was nice with lots to choose from. We have been eating lots of seafood by choice and it has all been delicious. About the time dinner was over, we were hitting the “high seas” and it was rough. Lying in bed, we were rolling up and down and back and forth. The curtain was swaying and the closet doors were banging. I kept waiting for it to get still, but it never did.

Alaska Cruise Pre-trip

Wow, it’s been so busy this summer we’ve hardly had time to prepare mentally for an Alaskan trip. We went from a week of VBS at church to a week of vacation up at Hume. Then we came home and spent time with Tim’s sister and family. Preparing for an Alaskan cruise was hard to find time to do, but we managed to review a few tips about what to pack. Several (unlikely) things were suggested like bug spray, waterproof shoes, and a rain jacket.

We visited REI to get some items and I found some waterproof shoes to try out. After a day, I had bruises on the tops of my feet so I took them back and tried another pair. The next pair made me trip over my toes, so I exchanged them for a different pair. Those still weren’t comfortable, so I finally went to a different store and purchased a pair of trusty Asics and a can of waterproof spray. The shoes are great, but I haven’t yet had a chance to see if the waterproof spray works. A new rain jacket was necessary, too, since my 15 year old one is not rainproof anymore. We found that out when we went to Gilroy Gardens in December and it rained. I also purchased a pair of REI travel pants which are worth their weight in gold because they are so comfortable and functional.

Let’s go to Alaska!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Worship Team Farewell Party

The NFC worship team had a farewell party to celebrate Tim's 10 years as the worship leader. It was a lot of fun with a lot of good food and a lot of happy kids. Thank you to everyone for the nice gift!

Tim was given a shirt with one of his frequent sayings on it. It was really neat to be in a group of people where every person immediately understood the humor of the shirt (inside joke, I guess you could say).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Cover Girl Challenge

Here is my review on a couple new products from Cover Girl. I got samples to try out from which is a word-of-mouth marketing network. I report about my "word-of-mouth" about the products, and they give me free products to talk about.

Cover Girl has an eye shadow stick called Smoky Shadowblast for eyes. For lips, they offer Shineblast Lip Gloss. I received Silver Sky for eyes and Smolder for lips.

I started out with clean, makeup-free eyes and documented each step with pictures. (And it is not easy to take your own picture without looking cross-eyed, ha ha.)

Here is the "Before" picture:

Here is after "Step 1" which is a rounded end for shading the lid:

Here is after "Step 2" which is a tapered end for lining the crease and lids:

Here is after adding my own eye liner and mascara:

Here is ONE HOUR after application:
Here is TWO HOURS after application:
Yuck! This product is not worth the time it took to remove it!

Here are my naked lips:
Here are my lips with Shineblast Lip Gloss:

So, a little gloss and not much color. I think I'll stick with other glosses. I don't need to apply color and then apply gloss. A one-step product would be much better.

I would not recommend either of these products. What do you think?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Hot Wheels and Ebates

For a fun look at how Daniel sorts the Hot Wheels cars at church, see Jessica's blog. She loves to find things that come in every color, so when I saw the cars lined up according to color, she is the first person I thought of.

Do you need to make an online purchase? If so, do not proceed until you go through Sign up for free (with a $5 bonus) and start earning little rebates each time you make a purchase online. Most stores you would ever need are available (with the exception of Amazon). They mail you a check about every 3 months. When I signed up a couple of years ago, there was a $10 Target gift card bonus and they mailed it within a week. Different stores have different rebates and they have different incentives from certain retailers. I have ordered from Dell, Expedia, Ebay,, Old Navy, Sephora and more! Just ordinary online shopping has earned me about $100 in free money each year. Follow "my" link below and sign up! It's free!

Tracy's Ebates Link to Sign Up

The hard part is remembering to ALWAYS go through ebates.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Track Meet

Today Michael had an in-house track meet where just the one school competes before going area-wide. He ran the 100m, 200m, 400m, and Long Jump. I think my arms and legs would fall right off if I had to sprint 100 meters. The top three in each category get to go on to the area-wide meet with all the Clovis West feeder schools. Michael will find out next week if he goes on; they have to place all the heats first.

During the meet, they have several events going simultaneously, but none of them are in any hurry to start the next race. It's a lot of standing or sitting around interrupted by short spurts of speed. Music is blared out of the sound system while an occasional voice announces, "5th grade boys 200 meter, report to the starting line."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Toothpick Shudder Story

Tonight Daniel found a toothpick lying on the counter. He picked it up and turned it around a few times before tossing it across the room on the floor. I said, “Go pick it up. Never leave a toothpick on the floor.” He asked why not. I replied, “Don’t you remember the story about Nana and the toothpick?”

A few summers ago, Nana stepped on a toothpick. It was at the cabin. The cabin has barf-colored indoor/outdoor carpet that hides a lot of things, namely toothpicks. The toothpick broke on impact and neither Nana nor Papa could tell if part of it lodged in the wound. They went to the Hume infirmary. Then they went down the hill to urgent care. Then they went to the ER because urgent care could not do surgical type injuries. After numbing the foot and digging around for a toothpick fragment, they stitched the wound and prescribed pain meds. After all that excitement, they needed a vacation, so they went back up to the cabin.

I was telling Daniel this story and I got to the part about Nana having to go to the hospital and numbing her foot with a needle, when he quickly covered his ears and shuddered horrendously. Full-body, face-scrunching shudder. “No! Don’t tell me anymore!”

I don’t think he will throw toothpicks on the floor anymore.