Thursday, August 27, 2009


As I've mentioned before, one of the duties that comes with our housesitting gig is to go through my parents mail and forward on the important stuff. One of the things I most look forward to about moving out is not having to do that anymore. They get a lot of mail and most of it is junk. However, every once in awhile, there are a few gems. Like the autographed George W. picture sent to my mom in thanks for her contributions to the Republican party. I had no choice but to immediately put it up on the refrigerator. Or the certificate of gratitude sent to my mom in honor of her contributions to the US Olympic Team. Also currently up on the refrigerator. I've learned some things about my parents by going through their mail and coming across these gems. Apparently my mom is a generous person, as evidenced by all of the mailings she receives in gratitude of her contributions. What I've learned about my dad by going through the mail is that he is, apparently, getting old. He receives marketing materials for assisted living places almost weekly. He gets AARP magazines and notices. However, my favorites would have to be the advertising materials for cremation services. Personally, I would think these mailings would be quite offensive. I mean, if you're getting information on cremation, then the company sending it must assume that you already have one foot in the grave. However, maybe as you get old you come to terms with the fact that maybe you do have one foot in the grave and then you appreciate the information on what to do with your body when you do, in fact, kick the bucket. So, maybe the real test of whether or not my dad is getting old is whether or not he is offended by these mailings.

Offensive or not, I do find the cremation information very entertaining. With such a sensitive subject, these companies waste no time in getting to the point.

"As difficult as it is, sometimes we owe it to ourselves and to those we love to face the truth. Dying is part of life."

"For a variety of reasons, more and more California residents are choosing to plan for a memorialized cremation over traditional funeral arrangement - and the numbers are increasing every year!"

Then, they have to convince you that burning your body up when you die is the way to go.

"Cremation just makes sense. Simple, Economical and Dignified...It just makes sense!"

"How do we acknowledge and respect the people we love and the planet that has served us so well in life? We offer basic cremation services because our clients are smart."

They tout the many benefits of cremation over traditional burial:

-It's less expensive
-There's less impact on the environment
-It's easier for your loved ones to deal with during such an emotionally vulnerable time

Then, of course, they include famous quotes to inspire you to plan for your death:

"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift; that's why they call it the present." -Eleanor Roosevelt

"Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning." -Winston Churchill

One of the companies even offered to enter my dad in a drawing for a pre-paid cremation if he simply requested more information.

Of course, one of my favorite parts was the disclaimer/apology at the end in the case that the mailing arrived in an untimely manner:

"This mailing is part of a general distribution - delivery to a home where illness exists is unintentional."

"Please accept our apologies if this letter has reached you at a time of serious illness or death in your family."

Yes, I am really looking forward to not having to sort through my parents' mail anymore. But, I'll definitely miss the rare gems that come through.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Pacific Northwest - The Final Chapter

After good times in Seattle, we headed out a bit further on Monday. We decided to go to Leavenworth. It's about an hour and a half from my sister's house and is on the other (eastern) side of the Cascade Mountains. Being on the other side of the mountains, it is, therefore, a bit warmer. I was excited about the fact that I could finally wear shorts. On the way to Leavenworth we stopped at a couple of beautiful waterfalls to check them out. I thought they looked pretty cool, but Tracy said there was a lot less water going through since it was late in the summer.

Mr. Frisby checks out Eagle Falls

Mr. Frisby, Me, Tracy, and Shannon at Eagle Falls

Mr. Frisby and I at Eagle Falls

Deception Falls

Me and Tracy at Deception Falls

After our brief stops, it was on to Leavenworth. Leavenworth is a small "Bavarian" town. Walking around, it's like walking through a little town in the Bavarian Alps. See:

Leavenworth's Main Drag

I was very excited when we stopped for ice cream and I saw they had Licorice flavor. Mmmm. I love Licorice flavored ice cream! I think one kid was a little disturbed to see me eating black ice cream. I heard his mom trying to explain what it was as they passed by. The blackened mouth was totally worth it.


Mr. Frisby and I in Leavenworth

When we got back from Leavenworth that evening, we had some dinner and then decided to take the Jeeps out for some 4 wheeling for FHE. It started raining before we headed out, but if you've ever been to Washington, you know that you can't let the rain stop you. So, we went 4 wheeling in the rain and had an awesome time! We all went, so there were four of us in each Jeep. The red Jeep had myself, Mr. Frisby, Jesse, and Holly. It's a 4 wheel drive Jeep, but not totally decked out for crazy stuff. Jesse did most of the driving, but Holly, Mr. Frisby and I all got turns, too. The white Jeep had John, Tracy, Mark, and Shannon. It's totally decked out for 4 wheeling craziness and when Mr. Frisby and I climbed in it for the ride home and saw the AC, digital clock and dome lights, we decided it was the Rolls Royce of Jeep Wranglers.

The red Jeep during Mr. Frisby's turn driving. I'm in the front and Holly and Jesse are in the back.

The white Jeep with John at the wheel, Tracy in the passenger seat, and Shannon and Mark in the back.

The place we went is about 20 minutes from John and Tracy's house and it had some awesome trails. It was getting dark, it was raining, and it was a bumpy ride, so most of the pictures we took are pretty blurry. However, I think they turned out pretty cool:

This one is one of my faves

After our 4 Wheeling FHE, we went home and had Tracy's Blackberry Pie. After all, what FHE is complete without dessert?

The next day was our last day in Washington, so we packed up and relaxed around the house until it was time to head to the airport. On the way to the airport we stopped at Snoqualmie Falls to enjoy a little bit more of Washington's natural beauty before heading home to the Golden State. We checked out the Falls from the top and then hiked down about a half mile to the bottom.

Snoqualmie Falls from the top

Mr. Frisby and I at the bottom of the Falls

All in all, it was a great vacation. We packed in a lot of stuff and had tons of fun. And now, Mr. Frisby can add another place to his list of countries he's visited. Thanks for the good times, Van Horns!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Weekend Activities in Seattle

When we got back from Victoria, Tracy's girls were home from girls' camp, so that weekend it was time to play. On Saturday, we went with the whole family (minus my oldest nephew, who had to work) to go canoeing on Lake Washington. At the edge of the lake, there are lily pads all over and they've cut "trails" through them. So, you can head out in a canoe and cruise around through these "trails". It was pretty cool and gave us a little different perspective. There are floating bridges that take the highway over the lake, so we were canoeing right under the highway and we could see the cars buzzing by as we peacefully plied the waters amongst all of the lily pads. After we finished canoeing, we hiked around a little on the footpaths near the canoeing area.

Since we didn't have time to see the Locks on Saturday, we headed back to Seattle after church on Sunday so we could see them. The Locks create a passage between Lake Union and Puget Sound. We also checked out the Salmon Fish Ladder nearby. On the way to the locks, we passed this troll statue right under an overpass. Notice the VW Bug in his left hand:

Checking out the action at the locks

The Salmon Fish Ladder is a series of "steps" in the water which the fish jump up to go from the lower Puget Sound to the higher Lake Union. There is a viewing area where you can go down and see the fish underwater:

Though there were fish in the water, they weren't jumping up the ladder. Sad. They were jumping like crazy out on the lake, though. As we were leaving the locks, we stopped and watched the lake for about five or ten minutes and there were salmon jumping everywhere! I got some video of it, but it was on our HD video camera. I'm fairly certain that's a little too high-powered for Blogger, so I'm not even going to try to post it. If you really want to see it, just ask next time you come over. After the locks, Tracy and John took us to a park in Seattle which has an amazing view of the skyline:

I told you - Amazing!

After checking out the view, we discovered a little playground at the park with all of these spinning apparatuses. Apparently, Seattle kids like to make themselves dizzy. They literally had all of these things that you just climb on/in and you start spinning, really fast. Then you get really dizzy. Then you throw up. Okay, only Mark threw up. The rest of us stopped before we got to that point. These pictures don't do it justice because they all look like we're just sitting still and making weird poses. But, just imagine that we're all spinning and getting very, very dizzy.

A great way to spend the weekend. And with only one incidence of vomiting, we're already doing better than Sharon's family.

Next up, our little getaway to Bavaria and good times 4 wheelin'

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Oh Canada!

After a fabulous time in Seattle, we were excited to head off to Victoria the next day. It takes many hours to get there from Tracy's house, so it's not really a day trip. We, therefore, made plans to stay the night. My brother-in-law had to work, so Mark was Tracy's traveling companion. It started with the drive to Canada. That was fairly uneventful. Apparently, the Canadians also feel that crossing the border is fairly uneventful, as they welcomed us with this nondescript sign:

Our only problem in crossing the border was when Tracy responded to the border agent's question about guns in the car with "I don't think there are any." He then proceeded to ask several detailed questions regarding my brother-in-law's line of work and what type of guns he has. He informed us that we really should be more certain when crossing the border because if we were pulled over as foreigners and guns were found in the car, "that could mean jail time up here." We appreciated his information and his Canadian accent. After crossing the border, we headed to the ferry which was about half an hour away. We drove onto the ferry and enjoyed a one hour and forty minute ferry ride to Vancouver island, complete with a presentation by a coastal naturalist. We were hoping to see Orcas. We didn't. But we did see a couple of Bald Eagles and lots of sailboats as we cruised through the Southern Gulf Islands of BC.

After getting off the ferry, we drove another half hour down to Victoria. We checked into our hotel and then decided to explore the city and get some dinner. Our first stop was Chinatown. Victoria's Chinatown is about a block long. It didn't take long to explore. But we did enjoy Fan Tan Alley, a tiny alley right off the street with a few shops and an awesome modified Julio Iglesias record.

After Chinatown, it was on to the waterfront where we appropriately ran into a flock of Canadian Geese. Mr. Frisby and I were excited about all things Canada, so the geese were a welcome sight. I also really wanted to see a Mountie, but it didn't happen. I had to settle for buying a Mountie Christmas ornament.

On the way to get dinner, we decided to stop at Rogers' Chocolate Shop. Here we are making a beeline for the currency exchange next door so we could make some purchases:

After dinner, we returned to Rogers' for some ice cream and a beautiful view of the city.

So went our first day in Canada. The next day included a little more exploring and the lovely Butchart Gardens. And still no Mountie. We checked out the Legislative Building and The Empress Hotel. Of course, Mark kept us entertained throughout.

Next we went to Butchart Gardens. It truly is beautiful. I think my favorite was the Sunken Garden (see picture with me in it). Gardens aren't really Mark's thing, but he fortunately he had his Nintendo DS, so he kept himself occupied while we checked everything out. He made sure we knew he didn't like being there, though, so when we crossed the little rock bridge in the Japanese Garden, we were surprised to hear him exclaim that that bridge made the whole trip worth it.

After we finished at Butchart Gardens, we began the trek home. We got back on the ferry, hoping to see Orcas. We didn't. But we did see this cool seaplane:

Then it was back to the border. Tracy wanted to buy a magnet from Canada, but hadn't found one that she liked in Victoria. So, we planned to stop at the small gift shop at the border. The gift shop is on the opposite side of the highway, however, so we had to park at the Duty Free shop and run across the highway. And, the gift shop was smaller than we remembered, so there were no suitable magnets there. Only Olympics magnets (since the winter olympics are in Vancouver next year) that cost a fortune. So, Tracy found a pin at the duty free shop which she decided she would convert to a magnet when we got back. After the quick shopping stop, we headed across the border. The USA has a much more exciting welcome sign than Canada. This made us feel appropriately proud of our citizenship.

And that was our trip to Canada. In spite of seeing no Mountie and no Orcas, we had a fabulous time.

Up next: More good times in Seattle

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Mr. Frisby and I just returned from a fabulous vacation to the Pacific Northwest. My sister, Tracy, lives just outside of Seattle and since Mr. Frisby has never been to the area, we decided it was time for a visit. We flew into Seattle on Wednesday morning and immediately set about seeing the town. We started at the EMP (Experience Music Project), but no pictures were allowed, so we have no physical documentation. But, we went and had a good time. Next up was the Space Needle. We were hoping the weather would clear before we went up, but it didn't. Still, there was stuff to see. And, who doesn't like looking around from 520 feet in the air?

Mr. Frisby, excited for the Space Needle adventure

Mr. Frisby and Tracy check out the scene below

My nephew, Mark, succeeded in keeping us very well-entertained throughout the day. One of the first things he did was head-butt a street sign. A couple other antics:

After our return from the Space Needle, we took the Monorail over to Pike's Place Market so we could buy some fish and watch them throw it. We also bought some flowers and tried some fresh fruit samples.

The Market entrance

Mark, Tracy and me at the fish counter

That's our salmon flying through the air. Can you see it?

Mr. Frisby contemplates the complex flavor of a pluot

We had a great day in Seattle!

After our very full day of sightseeing, it was back to my sister's house to cook our fish for dinner.

Up next: Mr. Frisby's first visit to Canada, our friendly northern neighbor