Friday, February 3, 2012

Keebler/Beaver Holiday Update 2011

Our last Christmas tree before the kitchen remodel takes down the wall behind it. 

Holidays 2010-2011
Jack, Karen, Randi and Bill
      We enjoyed a pleasant 2010 holiday season with friends and family.  On Christmas Eve we met Karen's grad school friends, Randi and Bill for dinner.  We cooked and served Christmas Day dinner at Aunt Lovie's.   
Turkey, Jack, Aunt Lovie
Karen, Jack, Aunt Dee

     Karen learned from her cousin, Brian Wuollet, that his mom, Aunt Dee, planned to visit grandchildren in Tucson and Surprise, AZ Christmas week.  We enjoyed meeting the Surprise descendants and going out to lunch at a French restaurant with Aunt Dee on 28 December. 

John & Debbie Hope with grandson Austen (3), Great Grandma Dee, Alicia, Justin, Jennifer and John (5).  Missing is Carson (1) who was napping.

January  2011

Patty and Aunt Lovie with coffee and Choco Vine

     New Year's Day brought our resident Costa's hummingbird almost close enough to reach out and touch.  It also brought Karen's cousin Patty and husband Dave along with Aunt Lovie to dinner at our condo.  Karen's latest after-dinner discovery -- Choco Vine with raspberry -- was served with coffee and ice cream for dessert.  YUM!
Jack and Dave try Choco Vine on their ice cream for dessert.

     Robin brought granddaughter Ari, age 2 3/4 for a 17-day visit on 7 January.  Robin said people looked at him with disgust for making a small child pull that roller bag; but she insisted on doing it.

   It seems Santa had stopped by our condo and left a pile of gifts under our tree for Ari.  It took her three or four days to open them all!
"Here's one more!"

"You're kidding!  This is the last one?"

      One of our favorite places to visit was a community park in Surprise that has a dog park, a playground with swings and a lake with ducks and geese you can feed. As in Ari's Albuquerque neighborhood, we can go to  a "swing park" or one without swings, "the slide park."

    Ari and Grandma made a cherry pie and took it to Aunt Lovie's to bake and share.
"It's still hot, but we're gonna eat it."

Grandpa introduced Ari to a pomegranate, which she seemed to have enjoyed as much as he does.

    We had a surprise visit 17 January from the younger Worleys -- Aaron, Erin and Silas -- who stopped by on their winter travels.  Ari got to share her toys with Silas who at 13 months was sturdy enough on his feet to hold his own jumping on our couch with Ari.   

     17 January was also the day Ari's Auntie Kim came from St. Louis for a visit.

"I met my Auntie Kim just once before on the Tozi airstrip when I was a baby.  Now she's come to see me in Ari-zona and we're sunning ourselves on the patio while we get acquainted."
     Auntie Kim and Ari made chocolate candy like Grandma Blume used to make for Christmas with Grandpa Jack as mentor.  It looks like the family tradition is in safe and tasty hands for the at least one more generation.

      On 19 January we drove south to Tucson to visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, one of our favorite places to take visitors -- so favorite we maintain a membership even though we only get down there a couple of times each winter.       
     On the 21st Ari awoke from her nap to find Daddy had returned.  Then we all went to our favorite hole-in-a-wall Mexican restaurant for una comida michuacana.   

"I really do like lemons."

      Ari had one more night with Auntie Kim.  She and her Daddy returned to Albuquerque the next day on an early flight -- but not so early Ari couldn't eat some of the watermelon Grandpa got for her.

     Kim stayed on for 3 more days of swimming at the Rec Center pools and playing Bridge with Aunt Lovie and us.

     January in Arizona can't be over until we celebrate Aunt Lovie's birthday.  Karen's cousins, Diana and Stevie came south for the occasion from Minnesota and joined Patty and Dave and us on our patio for margaritas.  Then we all went to Famous Dave's for dinner.

Happy Birthday, Aunt Lovie!
Dave and Aunt Lovie

Patty, Stevee and Diana


Stevee's photo of us taking photos

February- March 2011     

      A Northern Flicker came to our humming bird feeder for breakfast on Ground Hog's Day, 2 February.  These birds nest near our house in Fairbanks and near our house on the Tozi.  It's fun to think this one dropped by to greet fellow Alaskan snowbirds.

Watching the birds roost at dusk in the courtyard

     Joyce and Julian visited for a couple of days that included Joyce's birthday 8 February after which they went to a fancy hotel in Scottsdale where Joyce attended a conference and Julian enjoyed the hotel pool.  Karen fixed Eggs Benedict for Joyce's birthday breakfast.
Birthday Breakfast

Alaska Snowbirds enjoy the sun!

Doug and Sara
    Karen's high school classmate, Doug Laird, and his wife, Sara were in the Phoenix area briefly in February.  Doug was planning a trip on his BMW motorcycle, "Deadhorse to Ushuaia," that would take him through Fairbanks in late June/early July en route to Deadhorse, Alaska.  We met for breakfast to get better acquainted in hopes we'd could host Doug and his fellow bikers when they came through Fairbanks. 

Karen and Mary
     We revisited La Cocina Mexicana for lunch with neighbor Mary Ursich who takes care of our car during the summer months and Butter when we travel away from Sun City overnight and have to leave Butter behind.

Jack and Aunt Lovie
Aunt Lovie and Patt
     We joined Dave and Patty at Aunt Lovie's for a Valentine's Day lunch and to wish Jack safe travel on his yearly foreign vacation. 
Patty, Dave and Karen


Jack roughing it in Melaque

     Then Jack departed for six weeks in Mexico in time to avoid the long awaited kitchen remodel.  

     A Picasa album documenting the remodel which was finished the day Jack arrived home can be found at:

  But here are some photos of what Jack came home to on 24 March.  

Remember the wall behind the Christmas tree?  It was at the left of this photo where the counter curves out.
This is the living room viewed from the dining area.

This is Jack's favorite view.  It shows how much more light is allowed in from the patio to the dining area and kitchen.

     A day after Jack's departure, Karen drove to Carefree to join Wuollet cousins Jim, Mim and Dan and their spouses Darlene, Bob, and Marilee for lunch.  After lunch Jim brought out his computer and we looked at some of the photos Jim has collected of our parents and grandparents.
Mim, Karen and Jim

     A big event in March was Ari's Spring Break.  Actually, it was Spring Break for her mom at UNM where she is an assistant professor in the economics department.  Maybe the students had a break, but professors had work to do.  So, Robin and Meg drove over on 11 March so Ari could keep Grandma company camping out in a condo with no kitchen.  We cooked either in the microwave in the hallway or on the burner of the grill on the patio.  We ate mostly on the patio and washed dishes in the bathroom. 
     Before Robin and Meg left for Albuquerque on the 12th, we played outside in the courtyard and Ari helped her daddy put her gym together.  Then Grandma and Ari spent a fun-filled week of activities like going to the swing park, visiting the Phoenix Zoo's children's zoo, spending a morning with Grandma's college friend, Deanne at Corta Bella's swimming pool and getting to ride in Deanne's golf car.
     On Ari's last day with Grandma, we went to say good-bye to Aunt Lovie who was sad to see her go.  Then we went to the Botanical Garden with Grandma's friend Randi and got to see and learn about a gazillion butterflies.   
     After a visit to The Sugar Bowl, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor in Scottsdale, Grandma and Randi took Ari to Sky Harbor Airport where Ari's Mom mom met her and took her home.                                                                                                                                   
Watching the birds roost

     On 29 March our good friend, Fairbanks neighbor and matron of honor, Pam, arrived from her snowbird nest in California for a short visit.  Karen and she crammed in morning coffees, lunches, evenings watching the birds roost in the courtyard, a trip to Tucson to the Sonora Desert museum and a quick visit with the Delbridges, Fairbanksans who winter in Tucson, and an afternoon with Jack at one of the Sun City Rec Center pools.

Lunch in the Ocotillo Restaurant at the Desert Museum

Identifying the birds in the Desert Museum Aviary

Snowbirds in Paradise

     One can't visit us in AZ without posing for the obligatory photo by the giant saguaro cactus in the courtyard.

  April - May 2011  
     We arrived home in Fairbanks 4 April prepared to spend a month enjoying spring and getting ready for the month of May on the Tozi.  We had arranged for grandson, Brian, to fly up from St. Louis at the end of April to help with some of the many chores we hoped to accomplish both on the Tozi and on our Fairbanks property.  We were especially excited that Robin had scheduled himself and Ari to spend three weeks with us -- our last week on the Tozi and two weeks in Fairbanks.
     Then, on April 6 Robin fell 17 feet from a climbing wall in a gym in Albuquerque.  He managed to land on one leg rather than his head, neck or back -- so things could have been a lot worse.  He underwent two surgeries to repair multiple compound fractures in his lower right leg.  Needless to say, his recovery was going to take the better part of the summer and we would not see him and Ari in Alaska in May.

    We satisfied some of our grandparenting urges babysitting Silas a couple of times in April, making good use of the toys we'd collected for Ari's visit at about the same age in 2009.  Keeping up with Silas also helped us stay connected with his paternal grandparents, Jay and Pam, who would not return from California until early July.  

      Grandson, Brian, arrived 1 May, and we scheduled our departure for the Tozi a few days later, only to be delayed until 9 May by pilot reports of snow remaining on our airstrip.  Meanwhile Brian helped out with a lot of the Fairbanks yard work that'd been piling up there.  Brian hoped to do some wilderness hiking on the Tozi and took advantage of his Grandpa's experience to learn compass and map skills.  We were able to ship over 500 lb of freight to Tanana to be shuttled out with Jack on our departure day.


     On 9 May Jack flew commercial to Tanana in the morning.  Brian, Butter and I chartered directly to the Tozi in the afternoon and sent the plane into Tanana for Jack and our 500 lbs of freight.  Jack was able to hang out with Tozi neighbors, Tom and Stan in Tanana.  He got some reasonably good photos on his flight out of the approach to our airstrip -- always a thrilling sight for us on our Tozi homecomings. 

Tom Fogg and Stan Zuray in Tanana

Approach to Tozikaket Bush Camp 9 May 2011

Getting closer . . .

. . . and closer to touchdown.

On the ground we're about to unload the Tanana freight.

Brian photographs Heliocourier's take off from TBC.

Loading up for the 3/4 mile trek to the house.  The fun has just begun!

     The delaying snow on the airstrip was gone, but after slogging through ice-water ditches and sawing through fallen trees to reach the house we found . . .

. . . 3 to 4 feet of snow had slid off the roof to block the door.  The water cans left partly filled beside the door were frozen solidly in the melt/freeze ice below the snow.  The river, however, had broken up and flowed freely across the gravel bar and into the slough in front of the property.

9 May 2011 - View of the Tozitna River from the outhouse

Our spring adventure on the Tozi is further documented in a photo album:  

June 2011

45 Years and Counting
     We returned to Fairbanks in time to celebrate our anniversary.  Brian stayed on another week and continued helping us with yard work.  After his departure, we had a couple of days to change the guest room sheets before hosting Sijo Smith for Solstice/Fathers' Day Weekend.  Sijo had completed a two week microbiology course at UAF.  
     We picked Sijo up at her dorm Saturday.  That evening she helped Jack make homemade noodles for chicken soup to share with Erin Juliet and Silas.

Heading Downtown for Solstice Festivities

     On Sunday Karen and Sijo headed downtown for the Solstice Street Fair.  
Finishing off with Ice Cream at Hot Licks

  Sijo's flight back to Anchorage wasn't until Monday evening, which gave us time to take in more of the Solstice Street Fair with Jack and Butter before heading for the airport. 
Sijo found a gift for her mom at a street vendor.
Moose antler arch in Golden Heart Park

     Spending time in three different homes throughout the year, we never seem to be caught up on our social life.  We'd missed Chris and John Majak when they were in Tucson in late January,  but we caught up when they joined us for dinner on the deck in Fairbanks in late June.
     June ended with the long awaited arrival of Karen's high school classmate, Doug Laird, and two of his biker buddies from Reno Nevada, Jim and Sam.   The plan was for Doug and Jim to drive the Dalton Highway north to Deadhorse for the first leg of Doug's planned "Deadhorse to Ushuaia 2011" adventure.  Unfortunately, Doug's BMW developed a problem en route from Reno.  While Sam toured parts of Alaska south of Fairbanks, Jim made a dash for Deadhorse on his own and Doug made arrangements for his "Beemer" to be repaired in Fairbanks while he flew home with plans to return for the Deadhorse ride in mid-August.
Sam, Jack, Karen, Jim and Doug enjoy the best Thai food in the West at The Thai House in Fairbanks.

Jim took off for Deadhorse on his own while . . . 
. . . Doug flew home to Reno.

     We should note that Doug did return to Fairbanks and made the Deadhorse run.  He was back in record time and headed back to Reno.  In late fall he was back on the road to Argentina.  We followed his trip to Ushuaia on his blog.  Anyone interested in learning more about this awesome trip may contact Karen to be put in touch with Doug.
July 2011

   Doug, Sam, and Jim had all departed by the end of the first week in July.  It was time for our yearly camp-out with Joan and Doug.  We opted for a weekend at the nearby Chena Lakes River Campground where they biked and Karen joined them on hikes to build our appetites for shared special outdoor meals.
     Even though it would mean a reduced chance of our babysitting young Silas Worley, we eagerly awaited the return of his grandparents, Jay and Pam, from their California snow bird nest.  We made up for missing Pam's birthday and their anniversary as well as celebrating our anniversary with them by having them over for dinner including massive strawberry shortcake for dessert on the deck in mid-July.

Jack, Kaitlyn and Karen
     Fairbanks summers cram the major events of Solstice, Golden Days, WEIO (World Eskimo Indian Olympics) and the Tanana Valley Fair into a festival-filled seven-week period.  WEIO was special this year as Kaitlyn Zuray, daughter of Stan & Kathleen, was competing for the WEIO queen crown.  We attended the talent competition at which Kaitlyn demonstrated her skill at cutting salmon. 


     We also attended the coronation at which Kaitlyn was chosen second runner-up.  First runner-up was the daughter of one of Karen's former co-workers.

     As in many years past, Joyce and Julian came up to Fairbanks from Anchorage for Golden Days, which overlaps with WEIO, and stayed with us.  They and our friend Seth joined us for dinner on the deck one evening.  Karen went with them to the Golden Days Parade.  On Sunday we four lunched on the riverside deck at Pikes.


The Tanana Chief plies the waters of the Chena River

August - September 2011

Jim, Jim Jr. and Tom at breakfas
     Then it was time to change the guest room sheets again and get the motor home ready for the arrival of Jack's brother Jim and nephews, Jim Jr. and Tom on 28 July.  A few years in the planning, this would be the nephews' first trip to Alaska and their dad's second.  Jack and they had communicated back and forth in planning a trip in the motor home the first week of August that would cover most of the state's major roads and include salmon fishing on the Kenai River and halibut fishing in Kachemak Bay out of Homer.

Preparing food for the trip
Making patties from home-ground beef

30 July - The Blume Boys ready to hit the road

     Karen enjoyed watching the guys prepare food for their Alaska adventure and then saw them off before equally enjoying having the house to herself for a few days before heading for a week of Granny Duty in Albuquerque.

     They headed first for the Soldotna RV park of the Best Man at our wedding, Billy Carver.  He was out of town for work, but his bride, Annie and her sister turned out to be first class Kenai River salmon fishing mentors.

Annie and Riza with fishing gear

Annie and Jim Sr.
Annie and Riza - Gracious hosts
      The guys got their limit of "reds" over a 3-day period and enjoyed the hospitality of Billy's partner, Rod, who hosted a barbecue and sent them off with plenty of smoked salmon. 

  Jack's camera malfunctioned after Soldotna, so he missed taking photos of the overnight halibut fishing adventure out of Homer and the wonderful dinner and hospitality of Tom and Nancy Thibodieu when they stopped in Kenai before heading back up the highway. 

     Jack got a different card for his camera and was back in business in time to take a dozen or so photos of a moose on the drive back up to Fairbanks. 

     Meanwhile --  In Albuquerque Robin and Meg had both planned to attend professional conferences in early August.  Karen flew to Phoenix, spent one night in the Sun City condo assuring the air conditioning worked and then spent Saturday 6 August driving to Albuquerque.  She arrived with enough daylight left that she could watch Ari and her friend, Cecelia, show off their tricycle-driving skills in the driveway next to Ari's house.


     On Sunday morning, Robin, Ari and Karen drove to the Sunport to meet Mary Kancewick who flew from Anchorage to attend a writers' workshop at Ghost Ranch in northern NM.  We went out for breakfast and then took Robin back to the airport for his flight to his conference.

     We took Mary to rent her car.  While Ari and I waited, Ari opened a backpack full of gifts Mary had brought for her, including a nifty butterfly.
Mary and Karen

     Mary followed us to Robin and Meg's where Ari gave her a tour of her house before Mary drove on to her workshop.

     Grandma walked Ari to school each morning and picked her up at 3pm.  Then they did fun stuff like go to the swing park, play spelling games and build stuff out of Legos.

Future engineer?

Montessori School Girl

Playing the Spelling Game
     Grandma hates to miss a birthday, so Ari and she prepared a birthday dinner complete with cake and ice cream for Meg when she came home on Thursday even though her birthday had been in July.  The following morning, Karen drove back to Sun City, spent another night checking out the air conditioning in the condo, filled her carry-on bag with produce at Food City and caught her flight back to Fairbanks in time to host her book group the next day.  

     Jack had returned from his motor home trip with the Blume Boys who had returned to St. Louis with the salmon and halibut they'd caught.  It was time to get ready for our fall trip to the Tozi.  But first, Jack had to do something about the heart tests he'd done earlier in the summer -- like have a stent put in.  Then the doctor didn't want him to leave town for at least a week, which delayed our departure until the end of August and shortened our stay to 3 1/2 weeks.

      As in the spring, we encountered some obstacles en route from the airstrip to the house.  We've learned to leave a chainsaw at the airstrip to deal with the trees that fall across the trail.  After such a busy social year, we enjoyed being back home on the Tozi -- just us two and Butter.  It was a restorative time during which we had no visitors, not even wildlife ones other than birds, voles and fish.

     The big coup was that Jack got our new motor, which hadn't started in the spring at all, running.  And he got to go pike fishing at last!

     More photos of our fall time on the Tozi can be viewed at:

     The highlight of September for us was Robin's and Ari's "make-up" visit the last week of the month.  It was six days rather than the expected 3 weeks in the spring, but it was great to have them and to see Robin back on his feet.  Complete recovery of his leg can take up to another year, but we enjoyed some hiking as he pushed himself to get back in shape.    
     We returned from the Tozi a day earlier than initially scheduled so as to be ready for Robin and Ari's arrival.  A happy coincidence was that our friend Seth would also be in Fairbanks on Saturday, the 24th.  For the second year in a row, we brought a live pike in a cooler to share with Seth.  This year we would share it with Robin and Ari as well.

Robin visits as Jack & Seth prepare . . .

      Arriving in the afternoon, Robin was recruited to filet the pike.  Seth showed up in time to assist in the preparation of Jack's famous fried pike.
. . . the pike for our supper.


     Robin arrived carrying a yellow tube containing a gift for us.  It was a panorama photo taken from our bank on the Tozi blown up to about 20' long. 

     On Sunday morning, Ari helped her daddy and grandpa make biscuits for breakfast.  Grandma had brought from the Tozi a shirt that Robin had worn as a smock for painting when he was about Ari's age.  Ari wore it for making biscuits and then Grandpa showed her a photo of her daddy wearing the same shirt. 

Soaking hand in mud
      After biscuits, we packed up our swimsuits and drove to Chena Hot Springs for lunch, hiking, soaking and swimming.

Soaked fingers
Soaking in hot tub
Soaking Grandma

Swimming with Grandpa

Swimming with Daddy

Swimming?  More like flying.

     On Monday, the 26th, Ari, Robin and Grandma went for a walk in the neighborhood.  Then we met Gordon and Sara, passing through Fairbanks enroute home to Juneau from Stampede, for lunch at the Thai house.  Robin went from there to collaborate with a colleague at UAF while Grandpa and Grandma got to spend the rest of the day with Ari.
More hiking

Sara, Gordon, Jack, Ari and Robin at Thai House

     On Tuesday, the 27th, Ari and Grandma went to the story time at Noel Wien Library to hear stories about crocodiles and do a crocodile-related craft.  Robin has said he'd like to see Ari participate in one of those marshmallow tests to see how well "deferred gratification" is developed in 4-year-olds.  Well, Grandma is here to say Ari would pass with flying colors.  To make the crocodile, the kids glued tiny marshmallows to the cardboard crocodile gums by first licking the marshmallow.  Ari did this with about 50 marshmallows and never ate a one.  She was proud to take her creation back to show Grandpa.

"One marshmallow, two marshmallows . . ."
"See my crocodile teeth?"

     On Wednesday, the 28th, Silas came over to play while his parents went to an appointment.  It was interesting to watch the progression of the relationship from observing each other from the corner of an eye to parallel play to sharing to genuine interactive play.

"Does she or doesn't she want to play?"
"Hmm.  I might just sit here with Grandpa."

"Would you like a book?"

"Maybe this frog will play."
"Even better!  Frog has cookies inside."

Parallel play with cars

Sharing Grandpa & Thomas the Train
"C'mon!  I'll race you to the edge of the cement!"

By the Bill Berry mural in The Berry Room

     Grandma thought there was another story time at the library on Thursday, but when we got there, we learned it had been on Wednesday.  Our neighbor Sue is one of the children's librarians.  She gave us the lecture she gives to school kids explaining the Bill Berry mural.  Ari probably wasn't too impressed when I told her that Grandpa had known Bill Berry and even posed for the students of one of his drawing classes. 
     She agreed that ice cream at Hot Licks would be suitable compensation for missing story time.  Then we went home to another session of candy making with Grandpa.
Making chocolate candy with Grandpa

30 September Departure

     Grandma drove Ari and Robin to the airport early Friday morning for their flight back to Albuquerque via Denver.

October 2011

Chicken fajitas are one of Jack's recent specialties.
     Tom Fogg came to Fairbanks from Tanana for a few days in early October.  He spent a couple of nights with Russ Wood, another former Tozi neighbor, and his bride, Barbara, whom we hadn't met yet.  After Tom had returned to Tanana, we got Russ and Barbara over for Jack's chicken fajitas.  Barbara agreed to play Scrabble with Karen on Facebook.

Barbara and Russ Wood


     On 19 October Jack flew to Phoenix and tested the air conditioning at our condo in Sun City for a couple of nights before flying to Albuquerque, where it was more comfortably cool, to help out with Ari while Robin went to a conference.  

Robin and Ari
     He stayed there until 1 November so he could visit with Robin when he returned home and see Ari in her Halloween costume.  He even got to go Trick or Treating with Ari and two of her friends from their neighborhood -- a privilege Grandma envied.

A pink fairy
Two fairies and a pirate
"Whew!  No one said trick or treating was such hard work!"

Red-breasted nuthatch


      Meanwhile, back in Fairbanks, Karen wound up her Fairbanks social life with a final book group meeting for the year, a final Bridge game until next spring, lunches with friends, and packing for the trip to AZ.  Aside from being able to witness some beautiful snowfall, she had two sightings of a red-breasted nuthatch, a bird described in our bird books as "rare" or "accidental" in our area.  This photo was possible when the bird flew into our picture window and was sufficiently stunned to stay put while Karen got her camera and went outside to get this shot.

November - December 2011

Karen B. and Sue

     Karen arrived in Arizona 7 November with Butter.  She'd learned on Facebook that two friends from our earliest days in Fairbanks who had long since moved to The Lower 48 would be in Arizona that very week.  We got Sue and Karen B. to cancel their hotel reservation for their last night in AZ.  We picked them up in Mesa and brought them to the condo for an evening and morning of sharing memories and catching up before taking them to the airport for their flights home.

     Much of early November was spent getting the condo ready for Thanksgiving.  Robin, Meg and Ari planned to join us and Aunt Lovie for Thanksgiving dinner which we agreed to have on Wednesday, the 23rd, so as to have Thursday to relax and eat leftovers before Robin and Meg departed early on Friday the 25th.

     On 18 November Karen received a surprise package containing a treasure chest of Godiva chocolates.  She thought she had a secret admirer.  The sender turned out to be Robin who hoped there'd be some treasure left for his visit over Thanksgiving.

Jack installed the "new" oven in time to roast the turkey.
     We'd hoped to have our malfunctioning oven fixed in time to roast our turkey.  The repairman's verdict suggested we should replace it. So Jack got on Craig's list, found an identical, but upgraded oven, drove 100 miles round trip to pick it up, brought it home and installed it.  It works!  So we were able to roast our turkey for an early T-day dinner with Robin, Meg, Ari and Aunt Lovie.  It was such a great meal we forgot to take any photos.  

Saying good-bye to Mom & Dad
     Having Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday allowed us to relax and eat leftovers on Thursday.  Karen, Robin, Meg and Ari were up early Friday morning and headed for Sky Harbor.  Meg flew back to Albuquerque to end of semester assistant professor tasks.  Robin few off to a three week work junket in Singapore, Zurich and Montreal.  Ari and Grandma drove back to the condo for ten days of fun activities that included a trip to Arrowhead mall, ice cream with Don and Carolyn Gray at The Sugar Bowl in Scottsdale, playing games, checking out library books and DVDs, reading, swimming, biking, garage sales with Grandpa, going to a playground, checking daily an online advent calendar with Grandma, cookie baking, chocolate candy making, hiking at Badger Springs Wash . . . 

Inside Arrowhead Mall
     When Grandma and Ari went to Arrowhead Mall last March, Ari saw kids running into the fountains.  She wanted to do that this trip, so we took her in her bathing suit.  Once there she was reluctant, so Jack and she ran around the outside of the fountains.

"Sorry, Grandma, I'm going to eat the whole thing." (She did!)
Carolyn, Don, Karen & Ari at The Sugar Bowl
Jack also ate all of his banana split.

  Don and Carolyn are friends from Fairbanks.   Don was one of Robin's encouraging high school teachers  They met Ari at 18 months when she visited Alaska with Robin and Meg.  It's fun to share experiences with other grandparents who have twin grandsons about the same age as Ari.

Ari got a checkers game at a yard sale with Grandpa.

Her first two-wheeler
     When Jack told Karen that Ari told him her daddy was getting her a two-wheeler with training wheels when she is four, Karen said, "You'd better ask Robin about that."  It seems Ari had told her daddy she wanted one and he said, "Maybe when you are older."  She decided that since four is older than three, she'd be getting a two-wheeler with training wheels when she turns four in April.  With Robin and Meg's okay, Jack bought two pink 12" bikes off of Craig's List -- one with training wheels.  The woman who sold them has a 6 y/o niece who's outgrown the bikes, one of which was kept at her home and one at her aunts.  We're doing the same thing.  The one with training wheels went home with her and the other is here at the condo.  The training wheels and her helmet can go back and forth until she doesn't need the wheels anymore.

     It was the holiday season.  So Ari and Grandma made the thanksgiving pies and Christmas cookies.  She and Grandpa made the traditional "Grandma Blume candy."  Ari's a big help in the kitchen.

Making cookie dough and . . .

. . . cleaning the beater

Playing at the slide park
     Ari started reading on her own at our house.  We got several books at the library, one of which was a Dick and Jane reader that made a lot more sense than the books written with phonics.  Ari sounds out words, but once she mastered a big word in Dick and Jane like "mother," "father" or "something," she was sight reading as well.
     On the way from the library we stopped at the "slide park."  That's a playground that doesn't have swings.  We did get to the swing park in Surprise with Ari once.


Resting and snacking at Badger Springs Wash
     We planned our car travel for taking Ari back home to Albuquerque perfectly.  We went a day later than planned to miss snow in Flagstaff and made it home a day before it started to rain in Sun City.  We stopped at Badger Springs Wash at Mile 256 on Highway 17 going north from Phoenix.  We'd gone there a year ago with Robin and Ari.  This time we saw the rock paintings we'd missed last year.

Inspired by the 800 year old petroglyphs, Ari painted on a rock that had split along the centers of two depressions that appeared to have been made by those painters of old either grinding their paints or maybe grain.  One depression remained intact and was filled with rainwater that Ari used as paint for her rock painting.

Paint pot?

     Besides starting to read on her own and ride a two-wheeler, Ari made great strides (or should we say strokes?) in her swimming.  Still wearing her water wings, she became comfortable in the Sun City Rec Center pools and struck out on her own dog paddling the length of the pool.  We wanted to break our trip up by spending a night in Flagstaff, so Meg got as a room in a hotel with a pool.  Thus, Ari had one more opportunity before going home to Albuquerque where her daddy, championship swimmer in high school and college, had not yet lined up a pool in which Ari can learn to follow in his wake. 
"202? Olympics here I come!"
Little Mermaid

"I'm outta here!"
     When it was time to check out of our hotel in Flagstaff, Ari was so ready to hit the road for Albuquerque, she pushed all our stuff out to the lobby on her own.

Another Olympics option?
Home at last with Mama!

Keeping up with the Advent Calendar

Holiday Dress
Good Will hat
      Karen's college friend, Sandra, had gifted us with a Jackie Lawson online Advent Calendar that had fun activities to share.  After Grandma and Grandpa went home, Ari and her mom counted down the days with the calendar.

     We spent 8-11 December with Meg and Ari in Albuquerque helping to get Ari to her school on Friday and gymnastics on Saturday.  Karen had arranged tickets for the four of us to attend a matinee performance of The Nutcracker on Sunday.  Anticipating a pre-holiday weekend in Philadelphia with Ari's Aunt Sara, Uncle Nate and Grandpa Ron, Meg got Ari all new clothes that just happened to go beautifully with a hat we picked up for Ari on a trip to a new Good Will store in their neighborhood.  The first scene of The Nutcracker wasn't over before Ari confided to her mom that she wants to learn ballet.

"Enough photos.  Are we going to the ballet or aren't we?"
Xmas Eve - Randi presented Karen with one more Kohout for her collection
     After such a stimulating post-Thanksgiving, we probably needed some down-time.  Robin scheduled himself, Meg and Ari to spend a few days at Key Largo, FL, returning to Albuquerque on Christmas Day where they also had a low key holiday.  We had Christmas Day dinner at Aunt Lovie's with Karen's cousin, Mark and his wife, Janet.  We continued a tradition of having either Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve dinner and a movie with friends, Randi and Bill, by doing both.  Actually, we took so long at Christmas Eve dinner at Buca Beppo, the movie theater closed on us.  So we saw The Descendants with them on New Year's Eve and then brought take-out to our condo for supper and a toast.
Xmas Day - Aunt Lovie, Mark & Janet

New Year's Eve toast with Bill & Randi

     Finishing up this year in review in January means I won't have to start next year's with 2012 holidays.  Though 2011's have passed we surely wish anyone who has made their way through this piece to the end a healthy and Happy New Year!  We hope to have many more adventures with friends and relations one place or another in 2012.