January 2018 – Streamin’ new beginnings

Ten years ago we celebrated New Year 2008 at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park where I was presented the opportunity to be one of ten blogging contributors to Airstream Life Online Community.

HPIM2033 Happy New Year 2008!

HPIM2220 All aboard History Safari Express!My first History Safari Express blog post, “All Aboard…,” was launched on January 11, 2008, and began a 10 year odyssey of documenting how we used our custom-ordered 2007 Airstream Safari in southern California, while celebrating the seasons and meeting new friends.

Our Safari was built in 2006, the year Airstream was celebrating its 75th Anniversary.*

As we were celebrating New Year 2008, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park was celebrating its 75th Anniversary.  In 1933, Federal land here was acquired as parkland by the State of California and the first California State Park Custodian was assigned (DesertUSA, “Anza-Borrego Desert State Park California).  See the recent YouTube video, Anza-Borrego Tour.*

HPIM2182 Bill at Font's Point

Ten years ago, I switched from a PC to a Mac* and acquired the MacBook Pro that I’m still using today!

HPIM2323 New MacBook Pro Jan:2008!

We returned to Anza-Borrego in January 2008 where I explored Palm Canyon (Palm Oasis and Planet Earth).

hpim2188l Jan:2008 at Anza-Borrego Park

hpim2109l- Bill in Palm Canyon

Crossing the bridge from 2008 to 2018 has included profound ups (our marriage) as well as downs (passing of our pug Pau Hoa and corgi Mac).  We take strength in remembering the words of Professor Albus Dumbledore, “Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light,”* from Steven Kloves screenplay for J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.*

Happy and bright times in 2017 included taking our tricolor corgi Tasha on many San Diego Corgi Meetup outings (see photos) where she enjoyed showing off new collars and decorations made by Larry (who also made the jester’s collar for Sidney seen below).

IMG_1060 Tasha and friend Sidney

I enjoyed visiting Kaiser Permanente’s new, beautiful, state of the art San Diego Medical Center,* dedicated to green design while providing excellent, integrated patient care as well as exciting career and volunteer opportunities.*

IMG_0897 San Diego Medical Center

Old Man Winter was ringing in the New Year with Arctic air over much of the country as a hummingbird drank at our feeder while I wiggled my toes in sunny San Diego and listened to “The 2017 Song – A Year in Review La La Land Parody,”* sung by Tessa Netting!

IMG_1180 Celebrating the new year in our own backyard!

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

December – Streamin’ holiday cheer

December in the Northern Hemisphere, is a time of dropping temperatures and lengthening nights, leading up to winter solstice that has had cultural significance dating back to Neolithic times for people who have responded with observances often associated with the reversal of the Sun’s ebbing and the beginning of longer days, resulting in cheerful celebrations often around themes of birth or rebirth, renewal, hopefulness, and new beginnings, and characterized by people gathering, celebrating, feasting and drinking (Wikipedia).  December’s full moon is known as the both the Full Cold Moon* and the Long Nights Moon.

Recently, we received photos and cheerful news that the new owners of our Airstream Safari trailer successfully completed a round trip from San Diego to Northern California to visit their family while camping along the way.

20171025_122115 Hitched for maiden cruise

20171029_180037 Maiden cruise camping

We have cheerful memories of camping and celebrating the holidays and seasons from fall to spring over the years.  Ten years ago this month, Larry and I and our late corgi Mac and pug Pau Hoa celebrated our first December camping in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park where we met up with friends and celebrated the season.

HPIM1905 Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

I brought along my lighthouse keeper’s garb, which doubled as a conductor’s uniform, for The Polar Express* spoof performance I gave to entertain and cheer our friends.

HPIM1907 The conductor & uke player

I also brought my plague doctor’s robe and top hat to present The Nutcracker‘s Drosselmeyer giving a nutcracker to Clara* (Emma here).  (Also see “Nutcracker in the desert” and Tour of America’s “Characters.”)

HPIM1949 Drosselmeyer presents gift

HPIM1951 Emma receives Nutcracker

We then held an ukulele fest that could drive the cold winter away* (along with Dr. C)!

HPIM1954 Uke fest in the desert

Cheerfulness abounded both outside and inside our Airstream Safari.

HPIM1970 Airstream decorated for Christmas

So this December 2017, we are cherishing our home and wishing everyone Good Health and Happy Holidays!

IMG_1002 Larry's Holiday Panettone

And be of good cheer as you watch James Corden’s Most Intense Christmas Celebration Ever* and ‘All I Want for Christmas’ Carpool Karaoke!*

IMG_1020 Our holiday mantel 2017

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Nutcracker in the desert

Nutcrackers and nuts returned with us to our latest, favorite site in the desert to bask in the warm sun and cheer us inside the trailer during the cool December evenings by the Vallecito Mountains.  We were lucky to enjoy five sunny days before the Pineapple Express delivered wind and rain as we safely crossed over the mountains (due in part to Airstream’s aerodynamics and handling stability*) on our way back to San Diego last Friday.

DSC_0013 Nutcrackers in the desert

DSC_0099 Our desert campsite

Larry enjoyed getting up before sunrise and taking walks while sipping hot coffee as the sun rose.  Meanwhile, on the first morning, I was busy taking advantage of how beautiful the early morning sunlight looks as it streams into the Airstream, making everything look happy and festive.

DSC_0001 Nutcracker & books

Featured in this display is E.T.A Hoffmann‘s Nutcracker, first written in 1816.  This version was translated by Ralph Manheim and published in 1984 by Crown Publishers, INC., and illustrated by Maurice Sendak,* who did the brilliant set designs and costumes for the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Christmas production of Nutcracker,* which was made into a movie, Nutcracker: The Motion Picture,* in 1986.  This film is my favorite version over the years, but my video wore out, and it wasn’t until 2011 when it became available on DVD.

Before viewing my new Nutcracker DVD, I thought it would be good to go back and read the book, a real book that can provide a satisfying sensory experience.  For the occasion, I wore a Victorian style smoking cap adapted and embellished by Larry (a work in progress), similar to those worn by Professor Albus Dumbledore,* and a Hawaiian shirt inspired by Dr. C. (insightout).

DSC_0091 Reading Hoffmann's Nutcracker

The stockings were hung in the trailer with care, in hopes that Herr Drosselmeier would soon be there. (He was last seen in the desert delivering nutcrackers seven years ago.)

DSC_0092 Nutcracker - The Motion Picture

He did briefly appear on our seldom used TV screen, but was turned off because we prefer evenings relaxing on the lounge while watching stars through the Vista View windows, votive candlelight dancing on the shiny aluminum interior, and listening to the music of R. Carlos Nakai.*

DSC_0121 Nutcracker anticipation

It’s magical, peaceful, and timeless…  funny how time just slips away.*

The desert will always welcome nutcrackers…  as time goes by.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Happy in sunny San Diego

Our Airstream Safari trailer is happy as a clam after getting the salt deposits washed off upon returning to home base after basking on the bluffs of South Carlsbad State Beach for 5 days.  The big, annual wash and wax job will take place next month before we begin our fall camping schedule.

DSC_0335 Salt deposits washed off

We have been happily enjoying viewing free, over-the-air high definition TV over the summer and celebrating our independence from pay TV with the help of our Mohu Leaf 50 indoor antenna, saving us $75/month.

Last week, we were happy to discover the first flower bud on one of our pitahaya cactus plants, Hylocereus undatus, that we planted three years ago.  This is also known as Dragon Fruit and we are happy that it grows well in San Diego.

DSC_0001 Our first pitahaya flower bud

We obtained our plants and sample fruit of the Pitahaya Roja* (seen below) from Ong Nursery.

Last night our pitahaya bloomed under a full moon. Pitahaya flowers in Southern California bloom for one night only.

DSC_0054 1st Pitahaya bloom

Pitahaya pistil with writhing tentacles happily rises above 800 stamens.**

DSC_0052 Pistil rises above stamens

I climbed a stepladder under the full moon and applied a small brush to cross-pollinate two flowers.  The deed was completed by happy bees in the early morning.

DSC_0087 Bees pollinating pitahaya

We now await the fruits of our labors.

DSC_0021 Ripe pitahaya fruit

Eating Dragon Fruit* is a happy, refreshing and healthy experience.

Another happy experience occurred early this summer when we gathered with friends for a Victorian picnic in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.


(Photo credit: Travel writer, Charlie Jung)

Seen on the table is ham and cheese stromboli (made by Larry), along with German coleslaw, fresh fruit, lemonade, lemon curd, pickles, empanadas, hard boiled eggs, and sliced cheese.


(Above photo credit: Travel writer, Charlie Jung)

HPIM2905 Bill & Larry, happy in Old Town

And of course, we had a Happy time in Old Town San Diego!*

And continue to be Happy in America’s Finest City!*

* This is a link to a YouTube video.

** Pitahaya: A Promising New Fruit Crop for Southern California, Paul H Thomson, Leo W Manuel, 2002

Celebrating independence from pay TV

We are now home for the summer and celebrating Independence Day by celebrating our independence from pay TV, which will save us $900 per year!  A 12% increase in our cable bill this winter motivated us to take stock of our TV viewing habits, preferences, and the costs for pay TV, which led to an exploration of alternatives.

We are happy with the high-speed internet service provided by our cable company, but we were not happy to pay $75/month for cable TV and TV fees for the 75 or so channels that we mostly don’t watch, except for a few such as PBS, CBS, and MSNBC.  We first explored the possibility of selecting a more economical package, a lower tier of channels that included our favorites.  I was surprised that our cable company told us that to go to the next lower tier, we would need their cable TV box that would filter out channels that we would not be paying for.  But we did not want to rent a cable box, especially after recent reports that they are high energy users.*

We then explored the over-the-air (OTA) TV option by using TV Fool’s TV Signal Locator tool to determine what broadcast TV signals are available in our area. Once we realized that we could watch PBS via KPBS-HD, CBS via KFMB-DT, and other high-definition channels for free (and our favorite MSNBC shows, such as The Rachel Maddow Show could be viewed the next day on the internet), we used AntennaWeb’s tool to determine the proper antenna type for our viewing preferences, which turned out to be a small multidirectional antenna.  We chose the Mohu Leaf 50™ Amplified Indoor HDTV Antenna.*

DSC_0414 Mohu Leaf 50 amp

The test was to see if we could actually wean ourselves from cable TV, so we disconnected our cable TV coax and connected our Mohu Leaf antenna that was hung high on our living room window.  We were thrilled that this antenna picked up OTA high-definition broadcasts that often had better quality images than seen via our cable TV service, such as SpongeBob SquarePants broadcast by XHGC-HD.

DSC_0378 SpongeBob via XHGC-HD

Of course, it helps that we are on a hill and not far from one of three local TV broadcast towers.  We kept the antenna connected to our now cable-free TV for a month to prove to ourselves that we were not addicted to cable TV before actually discontinuing our cable TV service.  It was easier for us since we are not avid sports fans and can be satisfied by content provided by PBS, CBS, and other local TV stations.

DSC_0395 KPBS-HD OTA (Over the air)

DSC_0408_2 CBS, OTA, via KFMB-DT

We then discontinued our cable TV service and bought another Mohu Leaf antenna and a Mediasonic HW180STB Homeworx HDTV Digital Converter Box for our older, analog TV in the bedroom.  (The converter box is turned off when not in use to keep it cool and to save on energy costs.  It can also be brought into the trailer to enable our older TV to receive digital broadcasts.)

DSC_0386 Mediasonic HomeWorx converter

We now enjoy TV for free as it was meant to be when I was growing up and watching The Howdy Doody Show.*  Howdy Doody is always on (or nearby) the TV in our Airstream Safari trailer!

DSC_0371-2 Howdy Doody on TV

Declaring independence from pay TV is a liberating experience!

And, as Whispering Jack Smith sings,

The best things in life are free“!*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.