22 December 2008

Oh Christmas Tree?

We went out to get a Christmas Tree, but got carried away.

Of course I am just kidding, we are just cleaning up the corner of the property.

Have a Merry Christmas!!!

14 December 2008

Bring it on!

My lovely bird feeder attracts many colorful birds in the neighborhood. This is how it normally looks.

Then lo and behold, I discovered one day that the two squirrels living in our neighborhood were raiding the bird feeder, leaving nothing for the birds. So I vowed to find a way to keep the squirrels out.
Seeing how the squirrels climb the pole and drop down onto the birdhouse, I put a plastic board on top of the bird feeder. It worked, at first anyway. The squirrel climbed up, dropped on the roof, and slid off just as I planned

My feelings of victory soon vanished however as the squirrels found not one but two ways to defeat the feeder guard.

First, they simply jumped up from the ground and hang from the bird perches. I thought they might figure that one out, so I already have plans to raise it higher. But then those turkeys figured out they could just climbed the pole and reached over to the feeder and hang on that way.
I admit they won this round, but I am determined to squirrel proof my feeder.

However, I am not totally cruel and heartless. Once I defeat them I do plan to build a squirrel feeder, so they can still eat. After all I did cut down two of their oak trees and associated acorns. But I just want them to leave the bird food alone, and I will put them on their own welfare system.

My neighbor says the squirrels get all the fruit on his trees - picks them just before the pears get ripe, and carry them off.

Stay tuned, I will be victorius.

28 November 2008

Veteran's Day at Arlington National Cemetery

One of the neat things about Kent working at Arlington National Cemetery is knowing about the events that take place there. The ceremonies held at the ampitheater at the cemetery are often attended by high government officials and members of Congress. This year for Veteran's Day on November 11th Vice President Cheney spoke at the annual ceremony, since Pres. Bush was in NYC.

It's very touching to see the aging veteran's carrying the flags into the ampitheater. A military band and choir perform patriotic songs, and small American flags and pins are given to all the attendees. It was a lovely autumn day-not even very cold. It was definitely a day when we were proud to be Americans and felt grateful to all military members, past and present. God Bless the USA!

12 October 2008

The Once and Future Life (Part 3 of Moving to Virginia)

With the Baby Blessed, the Family Reunioned, and the newlyweds off on their Honeymoon, we stopped overnight again in Houston then flew back to Virginia to start a new life - or should I say restart the life we had when we left 5 years ago? We spent 4 weeks in hotels before our house came open. It was suppose to be a time of rest and recuperation from our hectic summer activities. It did not exactly turn out that way. The problem with not moving for 5 years, is one forgets how much work there is to do, how many things need to be re-established. Everything from which cell phone plan to get, to establishing residency to get new drivers licenses, vehicles registered, and a thousand other things. Not sure how we ever did it with kids to get registered for shcool and all that on top of it.

Now, 10 weeks later, we are in the house, our possessions arrived mostly intact, but we are still working on the house, to help it recover from 5 years of renters, and basic neglect. There was no serious damage, just the house was filthy, carpets worn out, and all our painting and decorating had been white washed. So we rolled up our selves, dipped in the paint brush, and went to work. We are still working. It seems everything in Virginia costs twice as much as we expected. Every endeavor is another shock to the system. Our savings that was suppose to last us a while is quickly draining out as we replace flooring and make needed repairs.
But this will be home for us for a few years at least. I reach a milestone in 3 years when I can retire from the government service and immediately start drawing retirement pay. I will not have the means to stop working then, but it opens up possibilities that are not available to me now. But that is for another time...

We look ahead to new adventures here in the eastern USA. Lots of things to see and do. No family near by, but they are much closer and easier to go see from DC than from Germany. Also much easier to call. The house in Germany started to feel empty after all the kids left home for college and missions. It takes some getting use to being empty nesters.

Germany, so real and dear to us for so many years seems now just like a dream. Were we really there that long? Did we really do all those things? It is hard to re-adjust to life here in Virginia. I never really got use to it before. But will have to now. Even while we miss our past life, we know that with time memories of this place will be made, and someday we may even look back fondly on our time here.

The memories of living in Germany hang in our minds, like the pictures and souvenirs hanging on the walls in this house. I gaze around and wonder if it was all just a sweet dream that I have awakened from, or is this all a dream and I will one day awaken from it. My mind knows this is real, but my heart misses the friends and places so familiar.

Now we have a new reality to experience. A new life to build. New chapters to write in the story of our existence. Thank you all for the memories, and may our roads cross again on some distant path.

"is it living, or just existence?"

Wedding Bells (Part 2 of Moving to Virginia)

After visiting our new granddaughter and her proud parents in Houston, we flew to Spokane Washington for a Family Reunion on Elaine's side. It was a bit hectic with all the family in the Christensen Homestead, but we all got along, and enjoyed each others company. The girls had a wedding shower for Adri,

..while the men went to shoot each other with paintballs in the heat. I am certain the women had a better time than we did. That may be the last paintball event for family reunions, as us older guys are getting a little slow running around in the desert with heavy clothes. But it was good to see most fo the family together again. Mom & Dad do a good job of getting the family together every other year.

One of the highlights of the week was going through the Spokane temple with Adrianne and Russ as Adrianne took out her endowments. It was neat to be there with Grandma & Grandpa and Garrett & Tyler & Russ all together in the Temple.

After the reunion, Everyone flew back home - to Provo or Mesa to prepare for the Wedding. Tyler and I drove 12 hours to Provo one day, spent the next day getting him set up for school, and left the next day with Garrett for another 10 hour trip to Mesa.

Because of the heat in Arizona in August, Adri & Russ decided to have their reception the night before the sealing. We spent the day getting the cultural hall decked out, and enjoyed the festivities.

I dont have many digital images of the reception or wedding. You can link to Adri's Blog Blog or the Stinson Clan blog to see many images. I include a few of the set up, for completeness.

30 August 2008

Baby Blessing (Part 1 of Moving to Virginia)

If you did not know, we left Germany, and are taking the long way back to our home in Virginia. It is hard to leave behind Germany, again, but we feel it is the right thing to do.

First stop was in Houston to visit our litle grandbaby Kiera Stinson. She is so small and cute, lots of dark hair as you can see.

Here is one of our favorite pictures of Baby Kiera, laying on the quilt Elaine made.

Kiera had her Blesssing at church that weekend. Garrett & Tyler visited that weekend from Provo as well.

A three Generation picture from after the Blessing.
It was too short a time in Houston, visiting Jason, Lissa and Kiera, but after that, it was time to head up to Spokane for the Christnesen Family Reunion.
Footnote: Alas, baby Kiera had not uttered the word "Grandpa" by the time we left. But I will try again when we visit in the fall, to get her to say those immortal words!!

07 July 2008

We Become Grandparents!!

July 1st, 2008, we became GRANDPARENTS!
Well, we actually had some help from our daughter Lissa and her husband Jason, but this blog is all about US, not them, so it is OUR accomplishment. (see link to Lissa & Jason's blog to see more pictures)

Unfortunately we will not get to see baby Kiera until later in the month. Such is the problem with being so far away.... I have to get there so I can teach her a first word - "Grandpa"
After all, I have been in training for three years for this new phase of life!

In search of the Loch Ness Moster

This blog entry is dedicated to the lovely and talented Elaine Carson who not only took most of the photographs, make all the travel arrangements, but also acted as hostes, cook and tourguide. Whew, that takes care of about everything but the driving and paying the bills, which I (Kent) did most of :)

We decided to have one last adventure before we left Germany, and decided to visit the Scottish Highlands. It was cool and windy most of the trip, but was a fun expedition overall.

The inspiration for this trip was directly attributed to three things: the movie "Water Horse", the fact that we did not make it to Loch Ness during our previous visit to Scotland (due to the snow), and third, to the discount airline Ryan Air.

Our first stop was Doune Castle, which was taken over by the insulting Frenchman in the Monty Python "search for the holy Grail" movie. ".. your mother was a hamster, and your father smelled if Elderberry". "I blow my nose in your general direction you silly English Knnniggggits" (You have to watch the movie)

Yes, there is a Loch Ness Monster!
And since we found her so early in the trip, we decided to continue exploring the Highlands.

Scotland's Veterans Day parade and ceremonies. We stumbled upon this accidentally.

on the Isle of Skye - Lots of wind, and great Vistas

This is one of the most photographed castle in Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle

More sheep than people on the Isle of Skye
Road construction was very common - just like Germany!
Bagpipers standing at many "vista" rest stops, of course looking for donations

20 May 2008

Whirlwind Europe Tour

My Mom and Brother Joe came to visit for about 10 days. Mom was about to celebrate her 80th birthday, and wanted to see some sights of Europe again, and see some for the first time. We visited Paris, Rome, and Berlin, as well as spending some days in Kaiserslautern resting up between trips. It was perfect weather, and a very successful time overall.


Lorraine American Cemetery, the largest American cemetery in Europe.

First stop was visiting Monet's Garden in Giverny. It was probably the loveliest garden I have ever seen. It was even better than the Keukenhof in Holland (As beautiful as that place is) Giverny is smaller, but just had more variety. Elaine on the porch of Monet's house

Mom & Joe at the Arc de Triomphe

Kent & Elaine there too.

At the Eiffle Tower. Joe & Elaine went up to the second level

Of course, we had to visit the Louvre Museum

And drive by Notre Dam on our way out of town. We did visit inside the cathedral, but you dont get the real view from up close.

We next flew to Rome for two days

Joe meets the Romans

Kent at the Coliseum

Joe visits inside

Mom & Kent at Trevi Fountain

St. Peters Plaza, Vatican City

Then on Mom's 80th Birthday, We took a one day flight to Berlin. She wanted to see the Berlin wall, which we did. She was surprised there was so much NEW buildings. But when you consider 90% of the buildings were damaged in World War II, it is not too surprising.


Kent & Dorothy at the Holocost Memorial

Kent at St. Peters Church

Joe at the Brandenberg Gate

Joe at Checkpoint Charlie (mock up)

Some free time around the house at Hohenecken

Mom celebrates her 80th Birthday

Joe defends Hohenecken Castle