Some Final Thoughts

January 20th, 2014

Hmmm. It’s been August since I’ve updated this blog. For nine years, I’ve been writing here, since January 2, 2005:

Maybe this year will be different… I’m choosing to focus on the kids, creating a written story of who they are, what they do, and how that affects who I am. Maybe I’ll add in a bit about my life in Him, and how that affects our family and hopefully, our community. C will be along for the ride, since I can’t do much without him by my side. Let’s hope that there’s enough interest to keep writing and reading for more than a few days.

I would say that I’ve accomplished that. We’ve seen many, many changes. Our kids are nearly grown. I find now that most of what I think about posting digs a little into their own private lives – times they share with their own friends now, as they choose, rather than me having to provide a window for others to sneak a peek. It’s been an odd coming-of-age for our family in the past few months.

Chris and I continue on at our jobs, mostly enjoying our work.

Marti at Christmas

We dream of new possibilities in the coming years… we chat about moving to California, but who knows if that will happen? We are open to what lies ahead, even if we don’t exactly know what that might be in the future.

Chris at Christmas

Perky is still… well, Perky. The girls love him. He’s getting older, and now he’s got little health scares here and there that demand a little more attention and care. He still has the ability to wiggle into the soft spot of our hearts, even if it means getting up in the middle of the night to see what he needs.

Perky December 2013

The kids are hardly kids any more. Paisley turns 23 this summer, working in Frederick at an international call center for high-end auto rentals, and living in Greencastle, PA. Rachel is in the middle of obtaining her A.A. degree in visual arts, and she will graduate in May 2016. Katie continues to excel at the local magnet arts high school, and Becky has just auditioned to hopefully attend there as well as a freshman in the fall. Our kids are smart, witty, creative, and kind, and we are blessed to know them and love them.

Four Grahl Kids

I’m not sure how often I’ll update this blog from here, but I wanted to give some closure to this chapter of our lives. We’ve homeschooled, unschooled, home churched and unchurched, refound and rediscovered each other and Life around us. It’s been a wild ride, and I am sure we’re not done yet.

Final Thoughts - Sparkling Adventures Bumper Sticker

I have always loved Micah 6:8, but I especially find that the translation in The Message brings a smile to my face:

But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.

Peace and blessing be with you always. There is a Joy in the journey.

Murder mystery and misty mornings

August 18th, 2013

Okay, those two don’t go together at all, but I couldn’t abandon the alluring alliteration. (There I go again!) My homeschooling mom friends had another murder mystery dinner party. This time, I was Heddy Chablis – the leftover hippie vineyard owner. I found a memorial wreath on sale for $1.75 at Dollar General – a few snips and a piece of ribbon, and I had my flowered headband. Best life that memorial wreath ever hoped for, I’m certain.

Heddy Chablis for the Murder Mystery Dinner Party

I wasn’t the killer. It was Papa Vito, played by my friend Susan, in the flannel shirt. What a fun night we had!

Vineyard Murder Mystery Dinner

Last week was filled with those crisp back-to-school hint of fall, including beautiful misty scenes as I walked around campus at work. I wish it could be like this all year long.

Flowery morning at HCC

Art by the kids and other stuff

August 18th, 2013

We finally got some of the kids’ artwork hung. They don’t really go together, but in a way, they totally go together. I really like it!

New Wall of Art

Paisley has been busy woodburning boxes to sell on Etsy:

Paisley's Club Box

I really like this spider one:

Spider Box by Paisley

I found a few pieces of the kids’ art while cleaning this afternoon, including these by Paisley that were stuck on a shelf all alone.

Paisley's art

Becky’s been busy on the computer, drawing a bunch of colorful animals like this one.

Becky's drawing

She doesn’t care for this quick drawing she did, but I really think it shows her potential.

Becky's drawing

And Katie? She got her driver’s permit. Now to get her driving!

Katie's got her permit

Rachel’s Summer

August 18th, 2013

I’ve enjoyed watching Rachel this summer. She’s doing all the fun things 18-year olds should be doing… being creative, hanging with friends, and having fun. She painted this really cool, colorful painting:

Rachel's colors

She’s constantly on the go. So much so that at one point, our aging window fell OUT of the van. Some painter’s tape brought it safely home until Chris could tighten up the hinge.

Van window

She spends a lot of time with her friend Alissa. Sometimes she looks happier than this.

Rachel and Alissa

She’s also been hanging at RCM a good bit this summer, playing music and helping Mrs. Susie with whatever needs to be done for the shows and such.

Rachel and Susie

Yesterday, she and Chris were looking at some old photo albums. Rachel took snaps of these three and posted them. What a sweet adorable thing she was… and still is!

Little Rachel

California – Fisherman’s Wharf

July 14th, 2013

We spent the rest of Sunday at Fisherman’s Wharf, digging up some yummy seafood, of course! It didn’t matter how full I got; I was having the seafood I needed.

Clam chowder at Fisherman's Wharf

The seafood linguine was delicious.

Seafood linguini at Fisherman's Wharf

We walked around and ended up at the Musee Mechanique, which is a privately held collection of old arcade machines, music machines, etc. It’s in a building that has wide open-air doorways, and people can actually pay to play. There were so many fascinating games there!

Arcade games at Musee Mecanique

Arcade games at Musee Mecanique

Some were creative and interesting, and we could totally understand their appeal to people in an era before TV and the Internet.

Arcade game at Musee Mecanique

Others were downright baffling. Bizarre, extreme, and even a little disturbing. My pics didn’t do justice in capturing them, but there games similar to this Opium Den in which the player works through the hanging criminals, manning the guillotine during the French Revolution, and even a couple that I would swear looked like they were promoting pedophilia or sodomy. Creepy.

Arcade game at Musee Mecanique

On the other hand, the aisle with old-school video games was fun and brought back memories.

Arcade games at Musee Mecanique

Just outside, we could view Alcatraz through the fog. If we’d had more time, we would have visited.


We were hungry for something a little sweet, but not quite like the stuff from this place. I’ve never seen so much sugar in one spot. Gross.

Candy, candy, candy

Instead, we opted for ice cream. We found this gem tucked on a side street, and between the friendly owners and the creamy deliciousness of their Mitchell’s Ice Cream, it was a great choice.

Norman's Ice Cream

At one point, we got lost not too far from our hotel in San Jose, and ended up in a Google parking lot! We had originally been hoping to visit my cousin Reigh at the Mountain View Google campus, but she was out of the country while we were there. Therefore, we thought it was pretty funny that we just happened upon the Fairchild Drive satellite office!


This is the red Mazda 5 van we drove around all week… very comfy and enjoyable!

Trusty Red Van

California – San Francisco’s Walt Disney Family Museum

July 14th, 2013

We spent Sunday in San Francisco, getting the only fog and sprinkly rain we had during our whole trip – quite fitting that it was in San Fran! We couldn’t even see the Golden Gate Bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge

Chris had read about the Walt Disney Family Museum, so we visited there for a few hours. Fascinating! The lobby holds many of the awards Disney received, including the special Oscar for Snow White.

Walt Disney Family Museum

With the many artists in our family, we were especially drawn to the many early sketches and preliminary work from movies we know and love.

Walt Disney Family Museum

Sketches from Bambi.

Walt Disney Family Museum

Early work on Snow White.

Walt Disney Family Museum

There were many cels on display showing the original hand-painted movie art.

Walt Disney Family Museum

A lot of memorabilia was available to view as well. We really enjoyed this mockup of Disneyland.

Disneyland mockup

Once again, Chris picked a winner. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina changed our east-bound vacation plans to scrambling for how far west we’d need to go escape a week of dismal weather. Chris guided us to the Henry Ford Museum, which didn’t appeal to me at all for a pack of girls, but which was surprisingly one of the most interesting, educational, and fun places we’ve visited. I should listen to him more.



California – Monterey Movie Tours and the surrounding area

July 14th, 2013

As I have mentioned, Chris and I usually aren’t the typical tour-taking sightseers. However, in looking for stuff to do in the area, Chris found Monterey Movie Tours, and we were sold! We arrived to find a tricked-out bus waiting for us.

Monterey Movie Tours bus

We first drove around Monterey, watching clips of the many, many movies made in the area, and then seeing the real spots – many of them barely having changed at all. We stopped a few times as we drove around the 17-Mile Drive, as well as driving right by where Chris and I had been taking pics earlier that day.

Monterey Bay

The coast is so pretty at every turn… it was hard not to take pictures of everything, and instead rest in simply observing the beauty around us. This is Lover’s Point, just a few blocks from where we were staying. Do you get it? Lover’s. Point. Heh.

Lover's Point at Monterey Bay

The 17-Mile Drive stretch is filled with wildlife and history. One thing that surprised us is the squirrel population! They are hilarious… dozens of them race in and out of the rocky crevices, and they have no shame in coming right up to you and looking like they’re ready to hold a conversation. For those who know me and my rodent phobia, you’d be surprised how un-scared I was of these cute little things… they weren’t at all like the horrid little wicked creatures of the East Coast.

Squirrels at Monterey Bay

They also made the funniest noises! This one stood there for nearly two minutes, just bleeping this screechy noise that I had no idea they could make!

Squirrels at Monterey Bay

We visited Bird Rock, and although it’s hard to see in the picture, there were seals playing just in front and to the right of the big rock, between it and the smaller rock. And of course, the larger rock was covered in birds.

Seals at Bird Rock

We drove south and stopped at the Lone Cypress Tree. It’s nearly 350 years old, its life expectancy, so experts anticipate that it may only be here another 40 years or so. That’s really freaky, considering that we saw it just yesterday on our first visit… 16 years ago – nearly half of the length of time it may be here yet. (However, although these were the figures from our tour guide, I’ve read other numbers elsewhere, including the link I’ve included.)
Lone Cypress Tree

Our longest stop was at Pebble Beach Golf Resort. We had about an hour there. It was very beautiful, but being neither golf players nor rich people, we felt a little out of our league and a little uncomfortable wandering around like the tourists we were.

Pebble Beach Golf Resort

We really enjoyed our time in Monterey. It was nice to have time and money to actually experience the place in a way we hadn’t been able to on our previous visit. And we want to go back again sometime.

On Sunday morning, we headed north again, staying in San Jose the night before we flew home on Monday. We’d not been to an In-and-Out Burger, so we made that lunch stop. It was truly one of the best fast food meals I’ve ever had. It was as if they succeeded at preparing the yummy burger and fries that all of the other joints are trying to make.

In-and-Out Burger

We’d also had rave reviews of Yogurtland from my friend Karen, so we found one along the way. And yep, it was pretty daggone good!



California – Monterey Bay Aquarium and the food!

July 14th, 2013

One of the perks of our rental was free admission to the Monterey bay Aquarium. We’d had a reception there when we visited in 1998 that offered admission to the display, and I had loved all of the beautiful creatures, so we were excited to visit again. Of all the animals there, I think my favorites were the jellyfish and the seahorses.

Jellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Sea horses at Monterey Bay Aquarium

The sea dragons are so delicate but funny-looking…

Dragon sea horse at Monterey Bay Aquarium

A tank full of pregnant males held my attention for quite a while, as they curled and uncurled around the scenery and each other.

Sea horses at Monterey Bay Aquarium

One thing the aquarium does really well is set the atmosphere for each display. The luminescent creatures have haunting music playing in their rooms, as well as lighting that accents the lovely glow-in-the-darkness they have.

Jellyfish at Monterey Bay Aquarium

I could have watched the soothing movement in the larger tanks for hours.

Pretty fish at Monterey Bay Aquarium

One of the highlights of the Monterey Bay location is the teeming wildlife that is right behind the aquarium, and it’s nice to walk out on their balconies and observe wildlife in the natural habitat right there.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

And of course, the other big draw to this area beyond the aquarium is the food! We visited First Awakenings just a few blocks from us in Pacific Grove, on my friend Karen’s recommendation (she used to live here). It’s a cool cafe with delicious breakfasts on their back patio. If I lived there, I think I’d want to walk there for morning coffee several days a week!

Breakfast at First Awakenings

I have friends around the country who rave about Pinkberry, so we gave it a try. I liked the yogurt flavor a lot – it’s a little more “Greek”-flavored than Sweet Frog, but I think I still like SF better.

Finally Pinkberry!

We had several wonderful meals in Monterey, but one of our favorites was at Fishwife Seafood Restaurant. They’ve won a lot of awards for best local seafood, and they did not disappoint!  I had a daily special, which was local fish (halibut? cod? I can’t remember) with shrimp, garlic mashed potatoes, and a smattering of local veggies. Oh. Em. Gee. Delicious.

The Fishwife - yum!

I loved all the shops that can be supported successfully when the economy warrant, and one my favorites was a store devoted entirely to socks. We hadn’t wanted to bring back souvenirs that were just trinkets, so all the kids ended up getting socks that reflected their special interests… Bichon Frise, art from one of Becky’s fav shows, Frida Kahlo, cool rainbows, whales, and other designs, and these cool knitting socks for me.

Socks, socks, socks!



California – Up the Coast

July 13th, 2013

On Wednesday, we left Burbank and drove up the 1 toward Monterey. We weren’t sure where we’d stay that night, and we began our day by visiting with some dear friends just north of the Burbank area. We had a wonderful visit over a lengthy lunch, enjoying their gardens and beautiful home. It had been a few years since we’d had a chance to see them, so it was good to reconnect on a more personal level than over the Internet. We asked for a recommendation for our stop that evening, and they did not disappoint!

We drove up the coast, and I stopped several times to take pictures of the water. I just could not get enough. I would love to try this camping venture – rolling the RV right up on the coastline!

Pacific Coast

Our friends recommended the SeaCrest Hotel in Pismo Beach, and it was breathtaking. This was our view when we awoke. Sigh…

Wednesday's hotel view

Our friends also said that Old West Cinnamon Rolls was the place to get breakfast, so that’s where we went. Now, cinnamon rolls are just about my favorite comfort food – the perfect blend of salty sweet goodness. Oh. My. There just aren’t words for how wonderful these were.

Thursday breakfast!

More pictures as we drove north…

Pacific coast

We hadn’t decided whether we’d stop at Hearst Castle. On the one hand, we’re not usually big “tour” people. On the other hand, more than one person said we really shouldn’t miss it. I’m glad we stopped!

Hearst Castle

Having just seen The Great Gatsby, I found it very easy to imagine big gatherings such as Mr. Hearst had. The pool and grounds were spectacular.

Hearst Castle - swimming pool

Spacious views were everywhere. It was not hard to imagine why someone who had the resources to build a home here would do so – it was heavenly.

Hearst Castle - the valley view

One of the things we found most intriguing was the history of various parts of the houses… walls, ceilings, furniture, and more all came from the far corners of the earth. The ceilings were quite unusual – often gathered from across the globe, disassembled, and then put back together in the home. Sometimes a larger ceiling would be split and used in two different rooms.

Hearst Castle - old ceilings

One of several libraries. The shelves along the walls had such a wide variety of books – several that I would love to have been able to peruse!

Hearst Castle - one of the libraries

More ceilings… this inlay work was beyond imagination.

Hearst Castle - more ceilings

One of the smaller guest bedrooms had ceiling with very intricate paintings by someone famous I didn’t know. Chris really liked the style.

Hearst Castle - even more ceilings

Another pool – this one inside and quite magical. The way the light played on the various blue and gold shades was quite beautiful.

Hearst Castle - gymnasium pool

We finally drove up to Monterey to the two-story condo unit we had rented for the next three days. It was so nice! We had fresh flowers waiting for us.

Flowers waiting for us in Monterey

We spent the evening in downtown Monterey, walking around a little, enjoying the views of the water. Relaxing.

Monterey Bay

California – Burbank

July 13th, 2013

Chris and I will celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary this September, so in early spring, he asked me what I thought about traveling back to California this summer. We’ve been itching to return since we visited in 1998, when Katie was nine months old, and Chris had a business trip there. Katie and I tagged along, and even though we were dirt poor and only had a few days there, we loved it, and I’ve been wanting to come back sometime. Now was our chance! I drove home (six hours!) on Sunday morning, spent 1.5 hours with the girls, freshened up quickly, and we drove down to BWI to catch our plane that afternoon for our big adventure.

In an odd twist of fate, our plane flew right over where I had just been earlier that morning. See that dot labeled “Teays” ??? Yeah, that’s where I was for the reunion weekend, leaving only ten hours earlier!

Driving right over Teays Valley

We flew close enough to the Grand Canyon that I can now say that I’ve seen it. From a distance, but still…

Grand Canyon

We loved the Burbank area. Most folks know Chris and I are big movie/entertainment buffs, so it was exciting to hear every day stories from my aunt and uncle about the area. It’s really a small town, in spite of how big it is! I mean, it’s weird how driving around can be filled with, “Over here is where such-and-so was filmed,” and “Over there is a guy we know who works in such-and-so department of XYZ movie company,” and “One time, we were here and saw Mr. Important hanging out over there.” It was fascinating to see so many familiar sites in such a common way.

Warner Brother Studios

Our first morning was spent doing the actual Hollywood downtown – the Walk of Fame, Loew’s Theatre, etc. El Capitan was prepping for the Monsters University premiere that would happen on Friday. I liked that out of all the movies they could be hosting, it was one from a franchise that’s near and dear to our hearts.

Monsters University Opening

Monsters University Opening

We were treated a visit to AV Squad, the trailer-producing company where my cousin Jordan works. Trust me, you’ve seen stuff they’ve done. They’re one of the premiere producers of movie and TV trailers in the industry.

Jordan at AV Squad

Chris and I really enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look, especially the Captain’s Chair in the conference room. Chris isn’t one to pose for silly pictures, but in this case, he found that resistance was futile  ;-)

Chris in the Captain's chair

We spent time in downtown Burbank, shopping at several shops that offered unique items, vintage stuff, or other niche merchandise. One store I really liked (though it was too expensive for my budget!) was a clothing store that purchases costumes from sets. They might end up with 5-15 copies of the same dress that the star had to wear in various stages of the movie, or several costumes that were outfitting a group of actors that needed to match. Really fascinating to see some of the items on the racks!

Costume shop

We had several totally yummy meals at restaurants that are so much better than anything around here. We really enjoyed the atmosphere of the Castaway, which overlooks the valley and is a spectacular way to end an evening. We had a lovely evening of yummy appetizers and good conversation. It was a joy to visit with my Aunt Debra and her husband Todd… they are very cool people, and the days we spent with them were a perfect beginning to our getaway.

Debra and Todd

Overlooking the valley