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Cheng and I move in with our Super-Amazing-Generous friends on June 22. After 4.5 weeks, we return to our lovely home with new bathrooms. Since we’re still waiting on a few more installations, I’m only going to start by posting a few basic photos here of the more interesting changes. Look for the real before/after photos in a later post.

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It was pretty freaky to stand in the bedroom and look through both bathrooms directly into the hallway!

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*quick note – I usually choose to keep my blog posts to a writing minimum and fill it with pictures. This one; however, screamed for verbal detail.

“What do I do all day?” you ask.

Well, here’s the short version of a typical day in my life.

I wake up at 6am to the gurgling undulations of what invariably becomes Snuffy’s kitty puke in my sandals by the door, which is usually quite convenient for cleanup, unless it’s a tennis shoe morning. Even though I’ve already skipped my gym workout for today, I figure I’ll stay awake to get some chores done. Without changing out of my pjs, (bra? what bra?) I step outside to water the lawn. Even though I planted some baby perennials that need the water, my main goal is to spray the hell out of the aphids that have taken up residence on the Big Red Sage and my ginormous Desert Willow (not a true willow.) I scare away the cat that likes to sleep in the driveway in hopes of catching the various squirrels, doves, or heaven-forbid-it-ever-catches-them scary grackles that churn up my mulch with their twirly, whistly dancing and proceed to hose down the green things miraculously still alive.

While I’m outside I can hear Snuffy howling at me through the window, but I ignore her because she’s usually extra needy in the morning, probably because she just heaved her guts out and wants affirmation that I won’t move my sandals before tomorrow. Stepping inside brings her howls anew, and she chases me into the bathroom where I scrub the weeds I couldn’t help pulling out from under my fingernails. Jumping on the toilet seat, she starts doing the boot scootin’ thing that animals usually do when that scary dingleberry just keeps clinging. Nope, clean butt, but she cries each time I touch her tail or back legs, so I wonder if she broke something trying to climb on my wire shelves exhibiting pottery from last week’s West Austin Studio Tour. She tries to lick her butt, but can’t quite raise her leg high enough. Well, I acknowledge her advanced age and rotund qualities, try to help move her leg, and get a warning bite for my effort. Ugh, maybe she has worms! I quickly wash my hands again. Amidst her anxious calls and swirling underfoot I notice she’s visited her litter box twice, uneventfully. I walk away to consider calling the vet about my dying cat and hear more scraping in the box. Benignly, she swishes her tail and walks away to curl up in her ottoman box. Huh, I guess constipation causes an achy tail. However, just to be safe, I grab a baggie in case I do need to call the vet later. Online directions say, “Can be stored in the fridge for up to 48 hours.” Let me double baggie that. Gee, these litter covered tidbits look surprisingly similar to the sesame seed covered dates already in the fridge. Won’t the vet be surprised if I bring in the wrong sample for testing? And won’t the hubby be surprised when he’s looking to satisfy his sweet tooth and…?

A knock at the front door leads to a neighborly request to lift a cedar chest into his van for moving to their recently purchased house, still in the ‘hood. “I cleaned all the rat droppings off the top, so it’s actually looking pretty good now.” Thanks Keith, glad I could help.

Shower. Eat. Coffee. Dress. Facebook. Email. Or something resembling that order.

Time to wake up the hubby so we can sign papers at the bank. Applying for a home equity loan truly becomes a giant headache, and that’s even before we close! But, oh, the lovely bathrooms we can look forward to after next month’s remodels. I’m already considering how to throw an amazing bathroom party later this summer. Drinks/ice in the tub? Photo booth in the walk-in shower? Lipstick autographs on the mirror?

Hello Ivey! Oh, it’s pretty much your first time ever notarizing a home equity loan? So glad we can be your trial. Yep, it’s raining outside. Oh, sorry you wore white pants and your birthday is ruined. I suppose you could practice more if you dislike your penmanship so much. Can we please return focus to the buckets of money we’re signing away here? Thanks.

I run to the grocery store because I’m craving protein and the best our kitchen has to offer is canned beans and nuts. I find this yummy looking quinoa salad with cilantro, lime, and other southwest-type tastes. Perfect! I toss some chicken, brussel sprouts and cabbage into my cart and plan to stop by my favorite BBQ place on the way home for a beef rib and coleslaw (with extra cabbage.)

On the way home I pass Josco, the bathroom showroom with toilets we’re considering for our remodel and decide to stop in for a seat check. Sit check? Regardless, I visited yesterday to discuss dimensions, flushing power and prices, but forgot to actually test the toilet seats for comfort and support. I sit. Seems ok, but difficult to tell for sure. I wonder if anyone would notice if I dropped trou in the middle of the showroom? Hmmm…better not. I visit the restroom to see the flushing in action, but am scared off by the upgraded, automatic self-cleaning seat. Back in my car, I notice the parking lot of my favorite BBQ place is not totally packed, so I decide to pop in and pick up food to go, but I’m surprised to see the line almost out the door. Nope, not leaving raw chicken in the car that long! I’ll make do with the quinoa salad for lunch while I research toilets some more.

Hey, what’s this in my email? “Hi Negina, Thank you for participating in the annual Black Star Co-op Member-Owner Survey. You were randomly selected from over 300 respondents to receive a $50 gift certificate.” Saweeet! And this email: “Winners posted for the annual Lukas art contest through Jerry’s Artarama.” Not mine. Not sweet. I view the 3 winners and 12 honorable mentions looking for flaws, so I can denigrate the contest and its worthiness, but finally admitting that they’re pretty darn good.

A few electronic bings later and I’ve finalized plans for this weekend, bought a movie ticket for Friday night, hyped a Salsa social dance on Saturday (preluded by $50 worth of food/drink at Black Star Coop), and forwarded an online shopping cart to our bathroom designer in preparation for our next meeting. I consider chatting about these plans with the hubby at work, but decide not to stress him out by mixing his work and home life. He gets grumpy.

I leave the house for Errands: Round 2.

1. Since my fuel light lit up earlier, I decide to stop at the corner station first, hoping the price of gas isn’t much higher than it was at the warehouse store I left earlier. Filling up continues to be a contentious point between me and the hubby. He researches online the cheapest place around and may drive miles out of his way to go there. I stop whenever I notice the light and I see a station on the right side of the road. Since I fill up every 2 weeks and my tank only holds 12 gallons, I fail to care about the minor price differences.

2. With the pink guide in hand, I return to the scene of yesterday’s finger trauma to exercise my right to vote in the primary run-off election. Had I done my research, I could have taken care of this particular activity yesterday when I renewed my vehicle registration and picked up my new automobile plates. Instead, I proceeded to slice my finger on the corner of the plates, preventing me from fully participating in last night’s pottery class because of the high amounts of bacteria in the clay, and still having to venture back there today to cast my ballot alongside many of Austin’s retired folks. I definitely made sure to pick up my “I voted early” sticker. Totally made it all worthwhile.

3. I successfully visit the darkened group art show location to pick up my sub 12” art, where it hung during West, redeeming part 2 of my epic errand fail earlier in the week. Part one consisted of trying to renew my vehicle registration without my checkbook. Only later did I find out I could have used a credit card for a small fee. Considering I chose to pay in person to avoid the $1 upcharge, I’m happy to have avoided the cc fee. Part 2 mentioned above had me cupping my hands around the locked door wondering when the scheduled pick-up day had become nonexistent. Only upon returning home did I see the email postponing pickup to later in the week. Part 3 of Tuesday’s epic errand fail required a 2+ hour wait for my long overdue oil change. However, today, success! I carried home my sub 12” painting and returned it to its rightful place on my hallway wall.

4. Call ahead to Black Star so someone can unlock the door and hand me my hard earned $50 gift card.

5. I don’t have to wait for an amazing, peppery, melt-in-your-mouth beef rib at the best BBQ joint in North Austin. By 2, the lunch line dwindled to nonexistent. Errands: Round 2 complete. I head home to enjoy the meats of my labor.

While writing this story, I answer the house phone and complete an electronic survey about my voting choices. Considering I’ve already cast my ballot, it seemed rude to answer that their “facts” won’t sway my vote in any way. But is it really possible to be rude to a recording?

During the rest of my afternoon I indulged in a short cat nap…with the cat. I cut 2 mangos, decided they were too ripe to enjoy (I prefer them on the sour side) and stored them in the freezer for a later sorbet-making date. I added fresh cabbage to the coleslaw mix from my favorite BBQ joint to make it spectacular. I roasted CSA beets, cooked chicken curry for dinner, and finished my writing. Wonder what I’ll do tomorrow?

Cheng was turning 40. I wanted to plan something fun. He hates surprises, so no big party. He’s doesn’t respond well to gifts, because he doesn’t really ever want anything. He does enjoy hiking, things outdoorsy, and PBS type documentaries. I remembered him watching an entire series on the National Parks, so I decided to plan a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National park. Remember he doesn’t like surprises, so I made sure to tell him all about our upcoming vacation. We had fun. I took a lot of photos. Waaay too many photos. Here are fewer than 30 of them with some of my commentary highlighting the best/most interesting parts of our trip. If you desire to see more, I uploaded 300+ photos to Cheng’s Flickr account.

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We scheduled our entire vacation around being able to stay one night in the original Old Faithful Inn. Over the 24ish hours we spent here, we watched Old Faithful erupt 6 times, including once under a nearly full moon. The next picture was right after an eruption at sunrise.

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Badger, badger, badger, ZINK!!!

Coating up with protection from the hot, hot sun leaves Cheng looking more like an old man than ever.

DSC01716  …because this is all that’s left if you stay too long in the sun ;)

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Unless of course you take time out to swim in the hot/cold mix of water where boiling waters join the freezing Gardner river.

DSC01697Our car temporarily became swept up in a herd of bison crossing the road in Lamar Valley. Once the males started groaning and sticking their tongues out at each other (across the road, through our car) I realized how close and how huge they really were, and decided to close the window, offering tons of protection I’m sure.

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Two days before our hike along Beaver Pond Trail, near Mammoth Hot Springs, a ranger informs us of multiple bear sitings along this trail. I can’t decide if I want to see a bear or not. Luckily (or maybe un-) we don’t see any grizzlies or black bears.

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But we do find a lone pronghorn munching grass on our 6 mile walk.

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Travertine buildup from these hotsprings coats the signs and edges of the boardwalks to make it look like snow.

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Herds of elk mommas and babies hang around outside our cabins at Mammoth Hot Springs. In another month or so rutting season starts, so I’m glad we’re not sticking around for that craziness.

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I dragged Cheng on an hour-long horseback ride through blooming fields of sage. He got stuck riding a horse actually lazier than he is, urging and kicking him the entire way!

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Here we are at the brink of Lower Falls looking south down the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

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I’m not sure how we timed this visit to Artist’s Point so perfectly, but look at the amazing rainbow in the mists at the bottom of Lower Falls!

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Different bacteria thrive in narrow ranges of temperatures, as shown here and in the next 2 photos. See how the colors very clearly change around the edges of the hot springs?

DSC01168Rainbow lake

DSC01090Morning Glory pond

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Roads on the east side of Yellowstone were closed a few days due to smoke from the Alum fire, named because it originated near Alum creek.

DSC01333We hiked about 4 miles round trip to see the Lone Star geyser, arriving just in time to see this “minor” eruption of 25-30 feet for 2 minutes. We got comfortable, had lunch, and witnessed a “major” eruption, shooting 40-50 feet in the air for about 20 minutes, culminating in a 10 minute bout of steam creating a roaring, tornado-esk vortex.

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Sunset over the Midway Geyser Basin really lit up the boardwalk and surrounding hot springs.

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It was difficult to look anywhere, but toward the amazing sunset, but facing this direction showed off the lovely pinks in the steam and the mostly full moon.

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These trees wear “bobby socks” from all the minerals they’ve absorbed from the hot spring runoff.DSC01263

We saw this geyser erupting from the main road. Cheng got so excited, he careened into the parking lot, took off running in his yellow crocks, knocking old folks out of his way to beat the tour group already on the boardwalk and left me to leisurely follow, taking photos along the way. It was still erupting when I finally got there.DSC01147

Walking around the grounds at Old Faithful Inn early in the morning makes it look like the entire field is on fire…which it pretty much is.     DSC01000

Awesome graffiti! DSC00981

Our 4 mile hike to the lookout over Phelp’s lake in Teton National Park, recommended to us by our house(cabin) keeper. We chose not to continue the switchback trail down to the lake because it was getting late. And because we’re lazy.DSC00921

You can just see the Tetons peeking over the horizon during our raft trip on the Snake river. We saw lots of birds – bank swallows, bald eagles, osprey, ravens, etc.DSC00877

Jackson Lake Lodge looks out over an enormous grazing area great for wildlife watching. Somewhere in this phote are elk, and maybe moose.

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Cheng shows off his Geocaching trackable created for his birthday – Lordy, lordy look who’s 40.DSC00771

After numerous dead ends down gravel roads too rough for our sporty Kia Rio, we finally found the right one leading to The Boundary Cache, where Cheng made his first find and dropped off his trackable.

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What an amazing vacation! Happy Birthday, Cheng!

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If you enjoyed these photos and want to see (a lot) more, visit

Cheng’s Flickr account.

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This post has more photos than previous, but it’s still under 100, so not as overwhelming as looking at all of them on Flickr.  One benefit to visiting the Flickr site, though is that Cheng has more diligently captioned the names of places and is working on uploading the twenty-ish video clips we took (under 90 sec. each)

 Happy reading!

(Sorry, all the panos got relegated near the end instead of chronologically when they were taken. I haven’t figured out how to change this.)

Ok, so maybe a new post every day was a little ambitious. However, I’ve gotten such positive, encouraging feedback about my captions, that I’m motivated to keep going. I’m working on captions for a new post of “pretty pics” so check back in a couple days or click on the “follow” button waaaaaay at the bottom so you’ll get an email when a new post is available for your viewing pleasure :)

Crap. I just wrote twenty-some blurbs and then deleted them by accident.

I’m trying to add at least 1 post each day with thematic pictures. That way you can skim over them if you’re bored easily or look at them in detail if you want a more intimate experience. 1300+ photos can be overwhelming (for all of us.)

Anyway…here is the next installment of our exciting 2012 Asia vacation! (and soon you’ll be able to see them ALL on Flickr)

Throughout our journey, we encountered many different types of animals. Luckily, not any snakes or scary things (other than the fire ants that liked the taste of our feet!)

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Click on any of these photos for a more intimate experience

Since the hot weather has arrived, I thought we should organize a tubing trip before all the water dries up.  We can discuss details (like times, location, etc) once I get an idea of who wants to go on which dates.

I skipped over June 16 for those of you playing in TBUF and June 17 for Father’s Day.

My first solo art show!

Luscious Dew

Art will be displayed from December 6, 2011 – January 19, 2012

(Closed between Christmas and New Year)

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Join me for an artist reception Thursday, December 15

6:00 – 8:00 pm

Cospace

911 W. Anderson Lane #203

Austin, TX 78757

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Check out my artist bio and price list here:

Artist bio and price list

I just finished this oil painting yesterday. After starting it in the spring, taking the summer off, then finally reinstating regular painting days, I’m done! I took this picture while visiting the tiny town of  Etna, CA during our honeymoon in 2010. Cheng was sleeping in, as usual, so I went for an early walk. I really liked how the sunrise played with light and shadows along this wall. In the painting, it was fun to be very loose on the flowers up front to contrast with the tight lines of the bottles in the window. Surprisingly, the brick wall was the easiest and quickest part of the entire painting once I figured out the general pattern and did some math to get the scale just right.

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Oil on canvas 16x20

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