This year we added an official Festivus celebration to our holiday calendar. (Wikipedia has a well-written and comprehensive article about Festivus, and you should read it if you’re unfamiliar with this winter holiday.) Bryan made a Festivus pole for the house (under $10 DIY or you can buy one here –Bryan), and our friends Kathy and Jarion went with us to a movie (Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol; worth the IMAX surcharge –Bryan). After the movie, we ate supper at our house and participated in an extended Airing of Grievances session (she’s holding a Grievance form against his chest, above.) We went to their house for carrot cake for dessert, and the dogs took care of the Feats of Strength portion of the customary Festivus celebration.

Guest Bathroom

When we bought our house, we knew that our second bathroom was sort of terrible. The fixtures were nice, but the room was painted bright yellow with a sort of multi-layer brown/gold spongy finish. I suppose the previous owners had thought that the effect would be rich and elegant. I thought that the effect led one to believe that a large mammal had been smeared in its own poop and then had seizures in the room, blotting the excrement all over the walls.

A second problem involved the sink. It was a nice Kohler pedestal, but its lack of a cabinet meant that there was no storage at all in the small bathroom. This was a problem for our teenager – even a low-maintenance girl like Mandy needs a place to store a few bathroom things. Since the room doubles as a guest bathroom, there was no way for her to store her own lotions and potions that still allowed the room to be presentable for guests. It was getting more and more frustrating for all of us.

So this year, one of her holiday gifts will be a remodeled bathroom.

On the Saturday Mandy left for her annual winter trip to Tulsa, Bryan and I shopped for and bought a new vanity, counter, and sink for the bathroom. Sunday was spent removing the fixtures, repainting the room, reinstalling the toilet and adding the new vanity.


We all wanted a brighter orange wall color, but it would have clashed with the granite countertop. It’s actually turned out rather more classy and grown-up than we’d intended, but it’s very pretty and I suppose we’ll manage.

North Georgia

Our friends Adam and Amy live in Georgia. We keep in touch online but hadn’t spent the weekend together since before Bryan and I were married, and before their daughter Maddie was born. Maddie’s three now, and another baby’s on the way. We decided it was time for another getaway weekend. Since it’s easier for us to travel, they chose a cabin in the north Georgia woods.

The boys worked on some minor photography projects, though since Amy spent part of the weekend feeling yucky, we didn’t do the family pictures we’d been planning. We made a few side trips to visit hiking areas and waterfalls nearby. I think the biggest accomplishment of the weekend may have been figuring out how to drive AROUND (rather than through) the horrible tourist trap town of Helen, GA.

Predictably, all the tourist areas were mobbed with people on a three-day holiday weekend. The viewing deck at this pretty waterfall was so crammed with people we could barely get onto it. Bryan’s magical postprocessing mashup* of several exposures makes it look like a peaceful scene.

We also hiked to the top of Brasstown Bald, the highest point in Georgia. It was a wide, pleasant trail with a great view from the visitors’ center built at the top.

We enjoyed spending a weekend in a comfy cabin in the woods catching up with Adam, Amy, and Maddie. Thanks, friends!

* Take lots of photos, layer them in Photoshop, mask out the people so they disappear and VOILA! Serenity in memory if not in the moment. –Bryan

Bike Tour to Leola

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Mandy and I met up with our friend Kathy this weekend for a quick bike trip to Leola. Forty-five miles or so one-way, camping next to a lake, a trip to a catfish restaurant for dinner… should be a good weekend.

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Our route was nice, mostly rural highways with a usable shoulder. The roads weren’t flat but the hills were mostly doable. Of course, even though the three of us rode up nearly every hill we came to, I have to post the one photo I have of Mandy and Kathy walking up a hill. Continue reading “Bike Tour to Leola”

Backpacking with Hayduke and Isabel

Our friend Isabel just turned five, but she’s been outside a lot. Her parents are both active, outdoor people – they both cave, and Amy runs and backpacks, and Spike hunts a lot – so Isi’s quite accustomed to sleeping in a tent, to eating noodles while sitting on rocks, to peeing in the woods. No problem. Isabel is comfortable in the big wide world.

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So it was no surprise that Isi’s first backpacking trip was a resounding success. We’d been planning it for months. We met up at Fairview campground on Friday night and did a quick car-shuttle before dropping into the Ozark Highlands Trail near Ben Hur. Continue reading “Backpacking with Hayduke and Isabel”

Nose bleed

For some reason, Mandy gets nosebleeds occasionally. They’re usually not a big deal, with the exception of the one major self-inflicted crash into the red pickup in the McDonald’s parking lot. But it seems that when she gets one, she gets several of them in a few days’ time. It doesn’t seem to bother her much – they’re messy, but usually easy to control and not much more than a yucky inconvenience.

Making himself at home

We’ve had a “FOUND PUPPY” sign up out by the busy road for two weeks now. I’ve only received one phone call, from a woman who lost her little black pomeranian. “I’m not sure what this dog is, ma’am, but I can tell you for sure he’s not a pomeranian.”

I brought him inside on the first night and slept on the couch with him, since it was chilly and there were thunderstorms. I just didn’t feel right about letting the little guy stay outside by himself. Now he stays outside during the day, while we’re gone, but spends his evenings in the kitchen and sleeps inside, too. Continue reading “Making himself at home”

Tent Cleaning

Seeing as how this blog’s name is “Past Tents”, you shouldn’t be surprised to find out that we are frequent tent USERS but we’re not very good about maintenance. We tend to leave our tents crammed into their stuff sacks for weeks after a camping trip, without airing them out or cleaning them at all.

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Finally, we had enough of stinky tents and washed all four of them this afternoon. We scrubbed them down with soapy water, rinsed them, and even soaked each piece in Mirzyme to get rid of that wet-tent smell. We hung our strange laundry on the backyard line to dry in the breeze. Worked like a charm.