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Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Philly Holiday Phlash

Hi Blog!

It is hard to believe that 2019 is almost over. We have spent the last three weeks traveling to visit friends and family. Our adventure started with a flight from Phoenix to Philadelphia. Every year Kathy's Philly Phamily gets together before Christmas to bake cookies. Her sister, Eileen, is the Captain of the Cookie Baking Team.

Dave and brother-in-law, Tom, are the chief cookie testers!

A trip back to Philly would not be complete without scrapple! Thank you Tom for making a special trip so we could enjoy this specialy treat.

The baking started bright and early on Saturday, December 7th. Kathy and Eileen were joined by nieces Vicki and Jen, along with sisters, Barb and Sue.

Niece Michelle arived later with the youngest cookie baker, Holly. Jen and Michelle get busy showing Holly the best way to ice the cut out cookies.

After hours of mixing, baking and decorating, it was  time for the great cookie draft. Each member of the cookie team gets to fill their tins with their favorite cookies.

After cookie baking, we joined our daughter, Katie, at her apartment in Center City Philadelphia. The following week we puppy sat our two grandpuppies, Ruthie and Maggie, while Katie attended a work conference in Vancouver, BC. Here are the "two good bears" sporting their new Christmas bandanas.

While Katie was away, we had time to visit with more friends and family. We had lunch with an old work friend, John Zoller, at The Dandelion pub. John is getting ready for another trip to New Zealand where he hopes to catch up with Dave's sister, Lizzy.

We also drove out to Saint Joseph's Villa in Flourtown to have lunch with Kathy's Aunt, Sister Jane Hill. After working in various parishes in New Jersey, Aunt Jane is living the retired life with her fellow sisters at the Villa. We had a great time catching up on all the family adventures.

Katie won't be joining us this year in Yangon, so we had a pseudo-Christmas on Saturday, December 14th. While Katie was away, we finished up some Christmas shopping at the new and improved Christmas Village in Love Park. Nothing improves the holiday shopping experience like a warm mug of mulled wine!

In preparing for our trip to Philadelphia, we learned that the Philadelphia Zoo created a holiday light show called LumiNature. We were able to buy tickets ahead of time. We arrived at the Zoo just in time for sunset.

While the animals were sleeping, the grounds were transformed with attractions featuring lit-up sculptures, trees decked out in LED lights and other luminescent phenomena. There was even a giant talking polar bear at the center of a laser light show. As we made our way around the zoo, we met live performers dressed up like they were on Broadway. While technically a one-way walk, we sneaked back for soft pretzels and hot chocolate -- and did it twice!


Upon Katie's return, we prepared a wonderful Christmas dinner of roast beast and scalloped potatoes. Unfortunately, we had such a good time eating, drinking and opening presents that we forgot to take photos.

On Sunday, December 15th, we all got together for the Annual Paxon Hollow Pollyanna Party. For those not from the Philadelphia area, it is like a Secret Santa Gift Exchange. Michelle, Katie, Jen and Drew hung out on the porch entertaining little Holly and Adam --

-- while Kathy's sisters (and niece) shared in some holiday cheer. Merry Christmas Barb, Eileen, Vicki and Sue!

Three generations of Miller Men (Adam, Tom and Tom) settle in to watch some football.

Kathy's Brother, Steve, his wife Lea Ann and son Ryan relax after their drive up from Frederick, Maryland.

A new highlight of the party is the Pirate Beverage Pillage. Folks bring a mixed six-pack of their favorite craft beverages - soda, wine collers, mixed drinks and craft beers. You pick a beverage or steal one from your neighbor. However, a bottle (or can) can only be stolen three times. The game ends when everyone has their six pack filled.

At the end of the Pollyanna Party each year, the Miller Family takes their annual holiday photo. Each person is holding a different family photo from prior years.

On Monday, December 16th, happy and exhausted from our Philly Phlash Visit, we flew back to Phoenix to prepare for our journey to Yangon, Myanmar. More on that adventure in the next blog.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Missing Ruby

Father forgive us, because we have sinned.  It has been one month since our last blog entry.

All the same, we miss our little Ruby kitten dearly.

Luckily, our friend Darla has soothed our sadness by sending us photos of the little tyke.  Rather than bore you with narrative, we'll just show you the "best of the best":

But, while you may think our hearts are only in Riverside, we have also been busy in Burma.  More on those adventures shortly.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Bibbling With Darla - Part 3

Friday, November 29, 2019
Hi Blog!

Wow! It's hard to believe Thanksgiving has come and gone. After the six hours driving to Thanksgiving and the three hours driving back, we needed a little sleep in. Darla graciously agreed to drive us down to Jackie's house on Friday, so we could hang out, play with the puppies and kitties and eat at their favorite Chinese restaurant, Bamboo! Jackie and Darla already know what they want.

With mai tai in hand, we are ready to begin our feast. Sorry, no pictures of food, we were too busy eating all the good shrimp with candied walnuts, barbeque beef, slippery pork and silky tofu. The leftovers sustained us for days!

Back at Jackie's house, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

We didn't end up with any puppy or kitty pictures, we were too busy solving all the problems of the world. It is always fun to catch up with friends. It may be a couple years between visits, but it always feels like coming home.

However, you can never have enough Christmas light pictures.

Saturday, November 30, 2019, was our last full day in Riverside. It was time to say goodbye to Little Ruby. Auntie Darla agreed to kitty sit while we travel to visit family. After getting Ruby settled in her room at Darla's house, we took off on a culinary tour before leaving for the deserts of Arizona.

First on our list, was some real cheese. We made a stop at the Cheese Cave in Claremont where we picked up some 10 year old cheddar and Rogue River Blue Cheese. The Rogue Creamery took top prize at the World Cheese Awards with this cheese. It is delicious.

We were also in need of some more fresh roasted coffee beans. Our next stop was Lucky's Coffee Roasters in Upland. Below, Dave is searching for that perfect bean.

Our mission to stock up the RV would not be complete if we didn't add more beer to the pantry. Dave may have had a little too much coffee at our last stop.

Deciding which ones are coming home with us is always a challenge, but Darla and I are always up to the task. While Dave is happy to snitch some from our tasters, he likes to pick a beer and just sit back and watch the show.


It seems appropriate that we end our visit with one last dinner at Anchos.

Darla promises she'll take good care of Ruby while we are gone. We are sad to give her up, but we know we will see her again next month. Thanks Darla!

One last chore before we go. The 27 tortillas have to be carefully packed and frozen so they will be there for us when we return from Myanmar.

This may be our last blog for a while. We hope to take lots of pictures during our family visits, but we won't have our laptops with us to prepare blogs. So, we'll take this opportunity to wish all our family and friends Happy Holidays, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Joyous Kwanzaa and Happy New Year!

Thanksgiving Adventure 2019

Thursday, November 28, 2019
Hi Blog!

One of the reasons we camped in Riverside was to be with Darla for Thanksgiving. When our friends, Lee Ann and Jim moved from California to Wyoming, Darla "stole" their two daughters, Janis and Stacy. Darla is like a second Mom to them. Last year, we all had Thanksgiving at Janice's house in Pinon Hills. Unfortunately, Lee Ann and Jim couldn't make it this year, but Janice and Stacy invited us to join them this year.

By now, you probably all heard of the big storm that hit California over Thanksgiving. The weatherman predicted heavy rain in the valleys and snow in the higher elevations.  In order to get to Pinon Hills, we had to drive I-15 over Cajon Pass in the San Bernardino Mountains. We were hoping to avoid the worst snow, by taking SR 138 before actually getting to Cajon Summit. You know what they say about best laid plans.

By the time we got the exit, SR 138 was closed. There was no way to turn around. The only option for us was to go forward by an alternate, longer route. The drive would normally be an hour and a half. By the three hour mark, Dave and Darla were getting a little punchy.

By the five hour mark, Darla was not amused!

The folks in Pinon Hills had no choice but to proceed without us. Stacy and her family, who left just a half our before us, made it through before the road closed. No dips and chips for us. It was beginning to look like Thanksgiving Dinner was going to a Cliff Bar!

As the four lanes of traffic creeped and crawled, we eventually merged down to one lane and passed all the spun out cars and folks stranded on the side of the road. By the time we made it down toward Victorville, we could see the entire area was in total gridlock. Nothing was moving south.

As we turned West, we could actually see a break in the snow. We were beginning to feel optimistic that we might actually get our turkey dinner after all. The snow was actually looking kinda pretty.

While we were valiantly trying to get there, Janis and her husband took the opportunity to play in the new fallen snow. Unfortunately, we later learned that Janis fell off the sand board while sledding down the driveway and broke her ankle. [Janis - we wish you a speedy recovery.]

Stacy and her clan joined in the snow fun. Look at those smiles. Little did they know that after dinner, they, too, would be stuck in traffic for six hours. [Stacy - hope you recovered from your drive.]

As for us, we arrived at 5:05 p.m. to the most beautiful sight a hungry person could ever ask for. The
three of us tucked in and tried to tell our tale through mouthfuls of tender turkey, creamy potatoes, sweet corn and fluffy stuffing. There was also salad, cranberries and biscuits.

While all the deserts were amazing, we had our sights set on Scott's homemade apple pie.

By 6:30, we were back on the road again. We decided not to go anywhere near Cajon Pass. We mapped a route that took us west through Acton and down CA 14 to I-5 to I-210. The route was two and half hours, but there was very little snow or traffic, and we kept moving. We were home by 9:00 p.m.

It may have been the shortest Thanksgiving visit ever, but it will definitely be one we will remember for a long time to come.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Bibbling With Darla - Part 2

November 25-26, 2019

Hi Blog!

On Monday, November 25, 2019, we continued our adventures with Darla. Our first stop was Old Town Temecula. The City of Temecula is a tourist and resort destination filled with all the cute shops you would expect to find. We came in search of fresh roasted coffee, craft cheese and balsamic vinegar. However, the coffee was too dark and the cheese shop was closed on Mondays. We did, however, come home with some nice vinegar.

While in town, we walked among the historic buildings.The historic jail was not built as a jail. It was a storehouse for the Welty Hotel. It is thought to have been used occassionally as a temporary holding cell for drunken patrons, hence the reference to a jail.

After a quick spin around Old Town, we headed out Rancho California Road toward Miramonte Winery. Located in the heart of the Temecula Valley, Miramonte was founded in 2000 and has emerged as one the most forward thinking boutique wineries in Southern California. We were eager to give their wines a try.

Dave and Kathy went with a red tasting, while Darla opted for white. At $17.00 for six tastes and generous pours, we felt we got our money's worth. All of the wines we tasted were well made. D&K took home the Cabernet, Touriga Nacional and Tempranillo, while Darla went with the Albarino.

After the tasting, we walked over to their Flower Hill Bistro where we enjoyed tasty flatbreads with a glass of our favorite wine of the tasting.

Our next stop was Doffo Winery, the 2018 Winery of the Year in Temecula Valley. The story of Marcelo Doffo, an Italian immigrant from Argentina is compelling. Before starting his vineyard, Marcelo and his brother, Jorge, owned an auto body shop where he learned to restore motorcycles. The Winery boasts a collection of over 200 vintage bikes. As for the wine tasting, we felt the $25.00 tasting fee was overpriced, the pours were skimpy and the wine just ordinary. As you can see from the photo below, they do draw a crowd, but it's mostly for the motorcycles. Kathy ended up with a bottle of port.

Serendipity: the occurrence and development of events 
by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

So, what are the odds that our friend Kim who lives in the UK would suddenly be called to a meeting in Corona, California, just five minutes down the road from Darla on Kathy's birthday! We agreed to meet with Kim at the Toasted Barrel right next to her hotel. Kim was able to join us in time for birthday creme bruele. Before long, it was time to wish Kim safe travels, as she had to fly back early the next day.

In keeping with the whole serendipity theme, the Galaxy Quest Documentary was in theaters one day only - November 26th. Darla arranged for tickets in advance. After a yummy dinner at Yards Brewery, we walked over to the movie theater.

For the few of you who have not seen Galaxy Quest, it is a parody of science-fiction films and series, especially Star Trek and its fandom. The film stars Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, Tony Shalhoub, Sam Rockwell, and Daryl Mitchell. The film depicts the cast of a defunct cult television series called Galaxy Quest who are suddenly visited by actual aliens who believe the series to be an accurate documentary, and the actors become involved in a very real intergalactic conflict.

Galaxy Quest went on to achieve cult status through the years, especially from Star Trek fans for its affectionate parody, but also to more mainstream audiences as a comedy film in its own right. Several former cast and crew members of Star Trek also went on to praise the film. It was included in Reader's Digest's list of The Top 100+ Funniest Movies of All Time in 2012, while Star Trek fans voted it the seventh best Star Trek film of all time in 2013.

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary” explored how the science-fiction comedy became an enduring fan favorite, a movie that helped launch the sci-fi- and fantasy-driven movie and TV industry that dominates global entertainment today. By all accounts, it was a movie that beat all odds: Surviving a set fire, the loss of a powerful director, and a studio that didn’t understand what it had, “Galaxy Quest” turned into a pop-culture phenomenon that would “never give up, never surrender.” The cult classic which premiered on December 25, 1999 nears its 20th anniversary.

The documentary was a funny as the original movie. All of the cast returned for interviews. The death of Alan Rickman hit them all really hard. The all had funny stories to share. Event the Galaxy Quest fans were involved in the project. We are now looking forward to going back and watching Galaxy Quest all over again.


Until next time, Never Give Up, Never Surrender!