Here is a page of photos of the Jeang family and Mantey family. More scanned photos to be added later.
Here is to a wonderful and healthy 2015 to everyone!
In 2014, I went up to Alaska twice, once in May to welcome the new employees and then later in August towards the end of the season. We didn't get to do much fun stuff in May, but we were able to go on a couple of hikes in August. The first was the Slaughter Ridge/Gulch trail, and the second was the Harding Ice Field trail. The first trail is in Cooper Landing and it took us about four hours accompanied by a lost border collie. The rewarding view at the top was breathtaking. The second trail is out of Seward, and it took us about 6 hours to get up to the top of the cliff spot on the trail and back. The views were also truly amazing. We vowed to train so that we can ascend to the end of the trail next time. Another fun thing we were able to do is to go back to the Alaska State Fair. We were there in 2011 on the same trip we saw Gwin's Lodge for the very first time, and we were happy to revisit the fair and take in more of the Alaska culture and sights. Asya and Zion didn't make it to Alaska this year.
Asya spent the Spring 2014 semester in London with her good friend Anjali. In addition to seeing and experiencing London, they also took advantage of the month-long Spring break and visited quite a few cities - Amsterdam, Zagreb, Barcelona, Paris, Rome, Venice, and Prague. What an amazing adventure she was lucky to embark on!
Wei Wei traveled to a remote western region of China in Qinghai province with other members of ECLAT Foundation (www.eclatfoundation.org) to visit high school students sponsored by the foundation in June 2014. Here are some photos. More trip report to come later.
Keith reports that business at Gwin's Lodge has been going very well so far. The first sockeye salmon run is very good, the weather has been above normal (reaching 90 of some days), most of the cabins are booked, and the line goes out the door at the restaurant. We pray that this continues for the rest of the 2013 season!
Scanned some pictures for Mom and Dad, here are pictures of them traveling in Europe in 1993, here are pictures of them traveling in China in 1997, 2001, and 2002, and here are some miscellaneous pictures over the years.
Our family trip to Alaska in late July through early August 2013 checked off items on our list of to-dos in Alaska. I wrote about it on our blog. We rode the Alaska Railroad from Anchorage to Denali in the Goldstar train in clear dome car. The next day we went on the Kantishna Experience bus tour. This is the longest trip offered, lasting 11 to 12 hours, and traveling the entire 92 mile road into the park and back. We were lucky to see Mount McKinley poke her head out. The scenery was beautiful. We then spent another day exploring on our own, and then came back on the train. On this trip another highlight was whitewater rafting on Sixmile Creek with Mudflap as our guide (of the Sarah Palin reality show fame, episode 6). This creek features three canyons of whitewater, with five class V rapids in the third canyon with names like “Staircase,” “Suckhole,” “Merry-Go-Round,” “Zig Zag,” and “Jaws.” Zion fell out of the raft at one point and we were able to quickly get him back in the raft. Keith almost flipped backward out of the raft but we were able to pull him back in before he lost his grip. It was an exciting and breathtaking trip. We also did a flight-fishing trip to Wolverine Creek at Big River Lake and fished our limit of sockeye salmon. The salmon congregating at the mouth of the creek trying to leap up the shallow pools of the creek, and the black bears catching the salmon was a sight to behold! We also took a trip to Homer Spit and stopped at Clam Gulch and the Orthodox Church.
Spring is here! The bradford pear trees are in full bloom and the ornamental peach trees bloomed profusely for at least two to three weeks. Beauty is everywhere! Here are some pics from the first three months of the year.
We have some additions to the zoo in 2013. A male Java Green peacock and a white peacock or peahen (too young to tell now). Both are juveniles. The Java Green is very exotic looking with longer neck and legs. The crest on the head and the feather coloration are also quite different. The Java Green was subsequently sold to a older couple who wanted a mate for a Java Green they already have. The white peahen was unfortunately killed when we went to Alaska later in the year. Also picked up one Sussex rooster and two hens, all youngsters as well. These are in addition to the three red sex link hens we bought last month. So now our poultry count is up to 9. Yes, we managed to go to Canton First Monday Market with Mom. Also picked up a lot of plants, which we hurried into the ground Saturday before the big storm Sunday morning. Of course the three poodles, Cookie, Kasey, and Kirby, were treated like celebrities, with people wanting to pet them and taking their pictures every 15 minutes. We had a great time enjoying the great weather and seeing all the wares brought in by the vendors. My prized buy is a milkglass bowl with a dove on the lid. I've never seen one like it. Keith's favorite buy was an old stone mortar and pestle.
Wei Wei was in Chongqing in December and Wuhan in February 2013. The Chongqing trip was to lecture about the Markman hearing in patent litigation, and it was done in Chinese! The conference was hosted and organized by the Southwest University of Political Science and Law and Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law. Besides meeting the professors, judges, and students, the highlight of the Chongqing trip were spicy hot pots and a dip in the hot springs. The Wuhan trip was for client business that was completed successfully. One of the highlights is a visit to a plum blossom garden by the famous East Lake in Wuhan where thousands of plum trees were in full bloom. Pictures from both trips are added to the Picture Gallery.
We are gearing up for the 2013 season for Gwin's Lodge. Our GM is ordering new merchandize, answering inquiries from potential guests, booking the cabins, and interviewing prospective staff. I am also planning the outings, like seeing the brown bears at Katmai National Park, whale watching out of Juneau, and a bus tour through Denali.
Keith hurt himself. He snapped the tendon that connects his right biceps muscle to the bone at the elbow when he tried to catch a bundle of shingles that was falling from the roof. He had to endure an operation that reconnects the tendon to the bone, with two entry points for the doctor to pull down the muscle, drill through the bone, and then suture it at the back of the bone. Keith was extremely sensitive to the anesthesia, and was very nauseated for a very long time. His surgery began at noon, and we didn't leave the hospital until 10 pm. What an ordeal! Keith is now healing very nicely, but he has to wear the splint for four weeks, and then there will be weeks of physical therapy. I hope he listens to me now when I say don't do XYZ!
We have been trying to persuade the city of Parker to revise or repeal the animal law it passed in 2008 that outlaws many families and genuses of animals, including peacocks and emus. This law was passed many years after we have started keeping various animals. When we first moved to Parker, the only restriction was no swine. Keith set up a petition on change.org, and received 323 signatures. We sent out postcards to some neighbors. The Murphy Messenger published an article complete with pictures about our predicament. The article is inaccurate that the calls that resulted in summoning the police were not complaints. We have never received any complaint. They were people who drove by and were concerned with the peacocks being outside of the fence. We also submitted comments to the P&Z Commission, who did decide to review the law, and to our delight, make recommendations to the city council to strike all the offending language in the law. Next will be a public hearing, and hopefully the council will adopt the recommendations. Victory!
Katniss is a German Shepherd puppy that we adopted from DFW Rescue Me in October 2013 just before Keith came home from Alaska. Katniss is by far the most aggressive dog that we have ever had. She disrupted the peaceful co-existence between the dogs with the peacocks, chickens, and emus. She also upset the existing hierarchy of the dogs, and challenged everyone. She has fought her way up the totem pole and is now only submissive to Kona and Cookie, and maybe Koda. Recently we found Kenai with a limp and not eating. We brought him to his pen and kept him confined for a week so that we can observe him, and keep him safe from Katniss. Even with shock collar training, Katniss still finds opportunities to chase after Kenai and we have found bunches of feathers ripped from him. After a few days of forced feeding, Kenai finally recovered and the limp is gone. When we first released Kenai, he was ecstatic. He jumped up in the air as only an emu can with his long neck and head raised, then he ran and ran and ran around the yard. We were so happy that Kenai is well as we were really concerned with his condition.
Kenai was again attacked by Katniss in early 2014 that resulted in much more serious injuries. We found Kenai sitting down by the fence near the woods. When we examined him, he was all torn up in both legs and on the neck. Some flesh was clearly missing. We brought him inside the house and set him up in our downstair bathroom. We lined the floor and up the wall with absorbent pads. We administered (injected) antibiotics and put the Chinese white powder medicine and antibiotic ointment on the wounds. We also force fed him. The wounds were horrific. We thought surely Kenai will die this time. Amazingly, after a couple of days Kenai started to eat and drink on his own. Then he started getting up. We kept up with the antibiotics and wound care as he continued to get well. Remarkably, Kenai has now fully recovered with hardly any scar or spots missing feathers. Truly miraculous! What a tough bird!
The Gwin's Lodge restaurant has been open since July 11, 2012 and has received overwhelming kudos from everyone who have stopped by for a bite to eat. Many who have stayed and/or dined at Gwin's Lodge over the years have expressed to us that they are extremely pleased with the renovations, and that they are very glad that we are open again. It was very encouraging and gratifying to talk to customers who appreciated Gwin's Lodge. Many are already repeat customers at the restaurant and staying at the cabins. Our hard work is finally paying off! Praise Lord! In the couple of days that I helped in the restaurant, I talked to visitors from Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Israel, as well as local Alaskans and travelers from the lower 48. Blog entries about Gwin's Lodge can be found at www.gwinslodge.wordpress.com. We appreciate your prayers and good wishes as we are still under piles of bills from the renovations. Find us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/GwinsLodge, which is constantly being updated with pictures.
In the short time Zion and I had up in Alaska, we also did a number of fun things and created lasting memories. We went on a guided fishing trip, we fished along the banks of the Kenai River at various points (Soldotna bridge, Bing's Landing, and Jim's Landing), we went on a scenic rafting trip (Asya wanted to go on a whitewater rafting trip that would have included class V rapids but we didn't quite have the time this trip), we went horseback riding, we went on a halibut fishing trip (Zion sat this out), and we went on a Kenai Fjords cruise (Zion and Keith didn't fare too well with seasickness but they did recover sufficiently to enjoy the buffet). Beautiful scenery is everywhere. Needless to say, we took many pictures.
June, 2012 - Asya and her friend Alexis have made the trek to the Northern tundra! Just have to post this picture of the adorable cubs that Keith took recently at the Lodge.
Well, it's now June and Gwin's Lodge is still not totally up in operation. Keith has been in Alaska since April 17 and has been working very hard with the crew. Due to deferred maintenance and poor construction, the kitchen had to be totally ripped out and virtually everything replaced. All the mattresses, linens, bedding, and sleeper sofas are replaced. All the wiring and plumbing too! Needless to say, we've exceeded our budget and timeline. We just keep praying and hope that we can get the Lodge open soon and 100% operational to serve many lodging and restaurant guests while they play and fish in this beautiful place!
Meanwhile I am holding down the fort at home, putting lots of hours at work, taking care of the kids and animals, and keeping up a fairly busy extracurricular calendar. I don't want to be superwoman, but at times I feel like I am having to put in lots of extra effort. Work has especially been challenging, with multiple clients demanding short deadlines and rushes. Hope all this hard work by Keith, me, and the crew will result in a great season! Looking forward to going up to Alaska soon to escape the already hot and humid weather here!
Asya has decided to attend UTD and enroll in their Art and Technology program, which focuses on computer animation and gaming. I accompanied her at orientation this week. Hope she will enjoy college life. Meanwhile, Asya will be going off to Alaska later this week! Here is to a wonderful adventure in Alaska for her and her friend Alexis!
On Mother's Day we got together with my family and had a great time eating and enjoying each other's company. May, supposedly the wettest month of the year for North Texas, turned out to be very dry. June started off with some great soaking rain storms, which we really needed. Let's pray that we don't repeat last year's drought!
We did it! We bought Gwin's Lodge! After months of wrangling with the bank and the US Department of Agriculture, we finally signed on the dotted line and closed on the purchase on January 27, 2012. The website is at www.gwinslodge.com, and I started a blog at www.gwinslodge.wordpress.com. You can also find the Gwin's Lodge on its Facebook page.
The historic Gwin's Lodge is located in the town of Cooper Landing in the Kenai Peninsula in south central Alaska, which is known as "Alaska's playground." It is located at milepost 52 on the Sterling Highway (known as "Alaska's Scenic Byway") near the confluence of two world-class salmon streams - the Kenai River and the Russian River. This is the most productive Sockeye Salmon sport-fishery on Earth. Gwin's Lodge is the closest accommodations within easy access to the Russian River. Gwin's Lodge is also near some of the finest road accessible Rainbow Trout fishery in Alaska. There is really no better place anywhere for world-class fishing. This combined with the breathtaking surroundings makes Cooper Landing a sportsman's paradise and an outdoors person's perfect vacation getaway. Gwin's Lodge has 12 cabins and two cottage houses.
Gwin's Lodge first opened in January 1952 before Alaska was even a state. Helen and Pat Gwin hand chopped, stripped, and built the log house that became Gwin's Lodge. Gwin's Lodge has been an iconic landmark known for home cooking and comfortable lodging. Its central location (about 100 miles from Anchorage, 50 miles from Seward, and 50 miles from Kenai) makes all indoor and outdoor recreational activities throughout the Kenai Peninsula easily accessible.
It's 2012! We wish everyone a healthy happy and prosperous 2012! The year 2012 promises to be interesting. There is the presidential election, Asya's high school graduation and going to college, Keith managing and operating Gwin's Lodge and away in Alaska for at least four-five months in the Summer, and continued challenges in my job. Since it's the year of the dragon, my Chinese Zodiac, I foresee 2012 will be a great year!
For the holidays we took a long car trip to Florida and visited the theme parks and Keith's parents. My Mom and Wensi, our exchange student from 2005 who is now studying at Ohio State University (another Buckeye!), also joined us. We left DFW on Friday, Dec. 16 at around 7 pm and drove straight to Orlando. We arrived at around 1 pm with enough time to check into the hotel and then to the airport to pick up Wensi. The next few days we toured Disney's Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Universal's Island of Adventure, Universal Studios, and Sea World.
The most notable ride that we enjoyed tremendously has got to be Sea World's Manta. It's a roller coaster ride that rotates the riders so they become face down during the ride (some call flying roller coasters). The sensations of the ride during loops, twists, corkscrews, and accelerations became a totally new experience. Wensi, Zion and I rode it repeatedly and even convinced Asya and Keith to try it (they gave it a thumbs up). All the parks were crowded but the weather was fabulous, in the mid to upper 70's and sunny.
Keith's back started to bother him on the only day we didn't go to a theme park, so he asked Asya and Zion to walk on his back. Instead of improvement, this really aggravated his condition to the point that he couldn't even get up or sit up. On Saturday, Dec. 24 with Keith still in a lot of pain we packed up, left Orlando, and drove to Crystal River to Keith's parents' house. We spent Christmas with them and got to go out on the boat with Dad to see King's Bay and the surrounding springs. The manatee sanctuary locations were crowded with dive boats and tourist boats. We spotted and observed quite a few manatees but we didn't get in the water as by this time, the weather had changed and became a bit chilly. On one of our drives in town I spotted three young raccoons that scrambled up a tree as we approached and was able to snap some pictures. We also visited Homosassas Butterfly, a small attraction that had butterflies in a planted atrium. Because we had to take Wensi to the airport on the 26th, Asya, Zion and I took the opportunity to visit Disney's Hollywood Studios that day and had a good time. Keith's back slowly got less painful and upon returning home, our chiropractor didn't have to do much to correct the situation. The drive home took 18 hours straight and we got home in the wee hours of Thursday, Dec. 29 (round trip about 2900 miles). All was well at home. Our emu Kenai fared quite well being confined in the new larger pen Keith and I constructed for him. However we later recognized that one of our new young peacocks has disappeared, probably a victim of a hawk. We are grateful for the fun time that we were able to spend together as a family on this trip. We also came home with 9 weeping cedar elm seedlings (later identified as Chinese elm or lacebark elm) and two Easter red cedar seedlings that were volunteers from Keith's parents property which we promptly planted. Also brought home some water plants. Right before embarking on the trip Asya finally submitted her college applications. Now the wait begins.
It is early December 2011 (today is December 5), and we have been getting the rain we should have received this Summer. I think we got at least 4 inches. We are grateful for the rain! Some areas just northwest of here got a couple of inches of snow! However, the 2011 rainfall totals are still below normal.
I went to Taiwan again for business in November 2011. The trip seriously sabotaged my low-carb diet. How could I pass up the beef soup noodles, the pepper pork bun, stinky tofu, pineapple cake, shaved ice dessert, the plum drink, and all the other goodies? Time to get back on the diet, however! We also managed to visit the weekend jade market not once but twice! The jade market, as well as the flower market, is within a very short walk from our home-base, Miramar Gardens Hotel, so the visits made for a nice break from working in our rooms and to stretch our legs. I scored some pearls, jade pieces, and some rocks from China.
Today was our State Fair day, a very wet day and not the best weather for the State Fair. But we managed to have a good time. Saw the requisite bird show (though the showing we first went to see was rained out) and ate some yummy foods. I had two chalupas near the front of the Cotton Bowl Stadium. Because of my low-carb diet, I didn't indulge in my usual Fletcher's corny dog. We are finally getting some good rain.
It is September 16, 2011 and yesterday the Lord rewarded us with some good rain. We have had a hard long dry Summer - 70 days of 100+ degrees, fires in Possum Kingdom Lake areas and Bastrop (over 1500 homes destroyed and over 35,000 acres burned), and absolutely no rain. The hot dry streak finally broke yesterday. This morning we got up early and joined in the festivities at the Plano Balloon Festival. The balloons were late in setting up; it turned out that the winds are too strong at higher elevations so the balloons would not launch but stay on the field. For the first time that we know of, they let everyone down on the field and get close to the balloons. There were quite a few balloons that we have not seen before. After years of sitting and watching only from outside of the launch field, it is a nice new perspective to be on the field and be right next to the balloons when the propane heaters are fired.
Keith and I went to Alaska in late August, early September. Keith had seen a piece of real estate for sale and asked our friend Bob Harr about it. Bob told us about Gwin's Lodge, a restaurant, shop, two cottage houses, and twelve cabins sitting on over five acres across the Sterling Highway from the Russian River on the Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai Peninsula is located in south central Alaska and is known as Alaska's Playground. We checked it out as much as we could online and decided to visit and see it in person. A six-hour direct flight took us to Anchorage where we stayed the night. We arrived after 9pm, but it was still daylight. Our hunger pangs drove us to a restaurant near the motel, and we suffered sticker shock. My side order of bacon was $7, though it was three slices of very nice bacon. The next day Bob came to pick us up and we rendez-vous'ed with the bank representative, the real estate agent, and someone who worked for the previous owner at Gwin's Lodge. The two-hour drive from Anchorage to Cooper Landing was very scenic - rounding the Turnagain arm of the Cook Inlet was full of beautiful sights and vistas. At the property we toured and looked into nearly every building, which took over three hours. The Lodge was shut down this year. That night we stayed with Bob and his wife, Sherry, in their Kasilof home and enjoyed their hospitality. The next day we toured Soldotna, a nearby larger town where, if we were to operate the lodge, we would be provisioning needed items. We then said goodbye to the Harrs and set out for Seward, after we stopped by the Lodge again where we met Rick, someone who worked on the property as a handyman. We also visited the campground by the Russian River right down the road from the Lodge. The river is lined with a well-constructed and maintained walkway with ramps and stair cases to access the river. We were awe struck by the sight of dying salmon in the river, as well as some that are still quite lively and chasing each other in the shallow water. Keith was able to just pick up a salmon from the river. We also saw areas by the walkway where bears must have bedded down. We then stopped by the Summit Lake Lodge and talked to the owner about his lodge. He was very kind and generous in sharing his knowledge and insights. We stayed at a small motel in Seward near the waterfront. We tried to go on a cruise to see the glaciers but due to high seas all cruises were canceled except a buffet cruise inside the harbor. However, we were able to hire a seaplane to go out for a short half-hour tour over the tundra, which made Keith, even after two motion-sickness pills, deathly ill. Keith was glad when the plane finally landed. I, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed the ride and am inspired to maybe someday learn to fly one. We then visited the Aquarium in Seward, ate some good food in a Greek restaurant in-town, and then hiked up to see the Exit Glacier, which was indeed impressive up-close. At a river bed near the glacier we picked out some choice rocks (having first confirmed with a park ranger that it was fine to do so) that we hauled back to Dallas. We drove back and stayed in Anchorage for the night, and went to the Alaska State Fair in Palmer the next day. The Alaska State Fair is quite different from the Texas State Fair - the food is especially different. We had crab bisque, shrimp, crab cakes, and other seafood. We also chanced upon a chef competition, and tried three dishes with beef as the central theme. All three were quite delicious. We saw a logging competition, something that definitely is not at the Texas fair. Another show we saw was the Chinese acrobats from Shanghai - who knew?! We had a great time at the fair. This visit inspired me to visit all 50 state fairs, which is something I clearly need to get going on. The next morning, we packed and went to the ulu factory and purchased our requisite souvenir knife. We then visited the Alaska Zoo, which was a nice little privately-run zoo. We also drove up a mountain near town and had a good vista looking down on Anchorage. Then it was the flight home after eating at a local diner (where we also ate the night before). More research at home revealed that Gwin's Lodge is in the middle of the Kenai Peninsula, right smack in the midst of world-class salmon fishing grounds. It seems that 2011 is our year to be adventurous and take some risks. After much prayer, Keith and I are now in the process of buying Gwin's Lodge. I have built a website for it at www.gwinslodge.biz, although we have negotiated to buy the old .com domain name as well. The bank has approved the loan, and we are now just waiting on USDA approval, which is guaranteeing the loan. We hope to close the deal by the end of the year or early 2012, then we have to begin earnestly getting the property ready, hiring, and setting up the business.
Unbeknownst to me when I first wrote about 2011 below in mid-June that 2011 will continue to be a difficult year. We are now on the verge of breaking the 1980 record of 69 100+ days - as of today (Aug. 20) it is the 53rd day. It has not rained for over a month and most of Texas is in severe drought. Our thuja trees are a total loss and will all have to be replaced (with something more drought-tolerant). The U.S. Congress squabbled like schoolyard children and finally raised the debt ceiling the day before the deadline. The S&P downgraded the United States credit worthiness to AA+ with a negative outlook, which has never happened before. For two weeks now, immediately following the downgrade, the global stock markets went on a wild roller coaster ride. The elite U.S. Seal Team 6, the same team that took out Osama Bin Ladin, recently lost 30 members. In addition to Michele Bachman et al., now we also have Rick Perry in the Republican candidate pool for president. We live in interesting times. If this is interesting, I'd rather aim for boring.
I started working out with a personal trainer, Julie Hoang at Fit180, but is taking a hiatus to see how the low-carb diet works out. The low-carb diet is advocated by Gary Taubes, described in Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It. My goal is to get back comfortably into size 6 clothes again! After a few sessions with a personal trainer, I decided the money was not worth it. I was also too stressed out by the even earlier rise time needed to fit the sessions into my days. This coinciding with an incident with Z produced very high blood pressure readings. Not worth it. I will stick to the low-carb. (Note: by November I've lost inches and can comfortably fit into previously tight clothing. It really works! Who knew eating eggs, bacon, meat, and vegetables can slim me down!? I am a true believer, and hope to get Keith to join me.)
I went to Taipei again for business in July. A very productive trip that yielded two pieces of patent litigation cases for a new client. Also saw many classmates and had a great time. Another highlight worth mentioning is the visit to the National Palace Museum. A couple of exhibits integrated high tech and old art that were truly magnificent and innovative. Because of my computer background, I was particularly fascinated by two exhibits. One exhibit projects a long scroll of a famous painting using at least ten to twenty projectors onto a wall and onto a horizontal surface about table height. The painting depicts people performing various activities on a holiday along a river bank, such as acrobats doing stunts, children playing, farmers herding their cattle, vendors at a market, etc. The exhibit uses computer technology to animate the painting, so everything in the painting came alive. It was done so seamlessly to wonderful effect. A second exhibit also projects a lengthy painting of a beautiful scene of mountains and rivers. Computer technology is used to depict and animate the scene over four seasons. The visitors view the projected painting on the wall, but a projected scene is also presented horizontally in front of the visitors so it appears that we were standing by the river seeing the reflection of the mountains in the river, leaves falling from trees into the river, rain drops falling, etc. It was absolutely beautiful. I've never seen computer technology used to such success at a museum before. Another fun thing is of course going to the night and weekend markets to sample all the yummy street food. Some common food that can be found at these markets include stinky tofu (I's favorite), pork ribs braised in herbal soup, black pepper pork buns, oyster pancakes, etc. I and my co-worker would walk all over the market, pick out what we want to eat, and then try to fit it all in. Some foods though, looked good as soon as we see it, so no wait is needed.
We adopted two emu babies! On our July 2011 trip to Canton we came across a family selling two 6-week old emus. We couldn't resist! Alas, one emu died of unknown causes a little more than a month later. The remainder emu we named Kenai. He (or is it she) eats bread from our hand and loves to run after the dogs.
2011 is turning out to be a challenging year. We had earthquakes, tsunami, and the resultant nuclear crisis in Japan. Massive number of tornados that killed nearly 300 in Alabama and other areas in the Southeast. Flooding in the Midwest and regions along the Mississippi. Meanwhile the economy is still in the tank and unemployment still depressingly high. No wonder some kook claims that Jesus is coming back this Saturday, May 21 and the church body will meet him in rapture. Has he not read the numerous passages in the Bible that Jesus will come like a thief in the night, and that no one will know when He will be back? In May we lost Tommy the turkey, two of our peahens, and both guineas. After more than a week of bunking outside Keith finally trapped the culprit, a bobcat, on June 2. It will make a fine pillow or table-top runner. Now in mid-June, we've had a series of 100+ temp. days. Grass is feeling crunchy beneath our feet, and cracks are forming in the earth. We pray that God bless us with rain to quench the ground and thirsty plants!
We lost the male guinea. Apparently the female guinea built a nest and laid eggs in a small forested area outside our fences. Some predator came and attacked them. The female escaped but the male was no where to be found. Keith salvaged the eggs and is incubating them. Maybe we will have some guinea chicks in 28 days. The poor female seems so lonely. The bobcat did later get the female guinea. However, Keith was able to incubate some eggs and now we have two guinea chicks as well as chicken chicks, and one peachick.
Spring 2011 is finally here! For Spring Break, we are touring area colleges. We visited Austin College, Texas A&M, and Southern Methodist University and did a lot of walking. We were very impressed by Texas A&M's Department of Visualization in the College of Architecture. They seem to have a program tailored to exactly what A wants to do. The head and assistant head of undergraduate programs took their time with us to answer all of our questions. Also talked to a current student who showed us his impressive "reel." Will be visiting Hendrix College and University of North Texas soon!
I visited Taiwan for work at the end of March 2011. Although we (another AK attorney and I) were plenty busy, we managed to visit three night markets and sampled some yummy local delicacies like stinky tofu, grilled squid, oyster fry, plum drink, etc. I also discovered that the best way to get over jet lag is vigorous exercise, i.e., walk all over the night market and sample the food! This was an unusual trip. My flight to Taipei through Tokyo got postponed and then finally delayed to the next day due to mechanical problems (there were several gate changes, including terminal changes, and boarding then deboarding) and the crew being on duty over the time limit. Due to such delays, I and my seatmate got to spend quite a bit of time together and exchanged contact info. Later, when the Japan earthquake occurred, after I already came back home, I thought of her because she would have still been in Tokyo at that time. Exchanging emails later I found out that her daughter just gave birth when the earthquake hit. She said she was absolutely horrified by the shaking and things falling around her. On this trip, my luggage also didn't arrive in Taipei with me. It arrive the following evening, which forced me to visit the nearby market to get some underwear and other needed provisions.
The first week of February 2011 has proven to be challenging for North Texans. First we were hit by an ice storm on Tuesday, February 1, which forced offices and schools to shut down Tuesday through Thursday because the temperature never rose above freezing for the ice to melt, and then on Friday, February 4, a snow storm hit and dumped over 5 inches, which far exceeded the weather people's expectations. So Z got his birthday off from school and I worked from home four days that week. Meanwhile this really put a damper on the Super Bowl festivities all week. Can't ignore the notion that God sent a message to Jerry.
I moved to another law firm, Andrews Kurth LLP, in the new year and will be officing downtown Dallas. My hope is that the new little red Beemer will make the commute not so terrible. The year 2011 promises to be full of new experiences and challenges!
Amazingly enough, another year is drawing to a close, and another new year is right around the corner. On many fronts, the year 2011 promises to be interesting, challenging, and hopefully fun and joyous. One of the Christmas presents I received is a little red sporty car, a BMW 335i that can go from 0 to 60 in 5 seconds - so much fun to drive. Keith will continue to work on the addition and promises to finish it in 2010 (right?). Also trying to get the back pond to hold water. Keeping our fingers crossed. Maybe we can get started on the kitchen remodel? This is also the year that A will need to select a college and work on college applications. Yikes! And I promise, no new puppy!
Thanksgiving 2010 was spent with family, with Keith's parents visiting from Florida. The weather was wonderful but the temperature plunged on Thanksgiving day. The same happened for Christmas, going from 85 degrees a couple of days before Christmas down to near freezing. Now that the days are growing longer, warmer weather is on its way!
We adopted three turkey chicks and four guinea chicks at the beginning of October 2010. Alas, by December we are left with one turkey and two guineas due to the resident bobcat. Tommy the turkey is a sweet bird. He comes running to us when he spots us outside the house, and on several occasions he walked in the house. Tommy will let us hold him and hand feed him bread. Because Tommy hasn't learned to perch higher to sleep at night, we have to put him in the chick coop each night to keep him safe. The bobcat did finally get Tommy one fateful night.
On July 1, 2010 we were on our way to a nearly 4,000 mile road trip to: Rocky Mountain NP, Grand Teton NP, Yellowstone NP, Badlands NP, and Mount Rushmore (can you tell we have a National Parks Annual Pass?). Yellowstone is truly amazing. So grateful that our forefathers had the foresight to preserve this amazing landscape for us to enjoy. We loved the cool weather (although it got a bit too cold for us at times - 31 degrees), the incredible scenery of mountains and waters (the Upper and Lower Falls and the Grand Canyon were awesome - probably my favorites), and the sighting of the animals. We had a close encounter. Keith got out of the car to observe some buffalos off the side of the road, over a small hill so that we couldn't see what he was looking at from the car. A moment later, we saw him running for cover to the car with a herd of buffalos close behind him. They were crossing the road to go to their resting spot for the night, and Keith and the car were right in their path. We also saw, in a distance, mama grizzly nursing her two cubs. At one of the geyser basins, a chipmunk ran around our feet looking for hand outs. The rafting on the Snake River in the Grand Tetons and the horseback riding and fly fishing in Yellowstone were wonderful highlights of the trip. Keith and I each caught a cut throat trout. It was incredible to see the trout jump out of the water snapping up the emerging may flies. No matter where we looked the sights were beautiful and amazing. We took over 1,400 photos and videos with our new camera. Now my computer is running out of memory with all the years' of photos and iTunes music. Keith also managed for us to visit the Mantey homestead in Battlecreek, Nebraska on our way back. We also dropped in on Lois Kilgore, Keith's father's cousin. This was a truly memorable vacation and I look forward to going back. P.S. One day after we came home, the trusty Suburban's transmission gave out. God was looking out for us and didn't leave us stranded by the side of the road in rural Nebraska!
Tim has gone home to Germany after a Spring semester with us! We wish him the very best and hope to see him again soon!
We traveled to Angel Fire, New Mexico for a ski vacation for Spring break 2010. Also made stops in Sweetwater for the annual rattlesnake roundup, Santa Fe for dinner (Plaza Cafe), Pecos National Monument, Las Vegas (Blue Hole), an alpaca farm (Victory Ranch), and Cadillac ranch in Amarillo. Skiing in Angel Fire was fun, but it sure was crowded. We thought we had left snow behind when we came home, but the next 24 hours brought at least seven inches of snow at home, on the first day of Spring!
February 11, 2010 has gone down in the record books as the snowiest day ever. Over 1 foot of snow! We awoke February 11 to a pristine white scene. Everything was covered in snow and it was still coming down in big fluffy flakes. The kids thought for sure school was closed, but alas no. Snow fell all day and continued into the night. That evening we rolled down snowy banks, built a snowman, and romped around in the snow with the dogs. Cookie, Kasey, Kirby, and Kody were delighted by the snow. Koda and Kona loved lounging in the snow and taking in the scene. Coco, on the other hand, could barely step through the snow. Finally PISD and other larger school districts relented and announced the cancellation of school the following day, which made it a four day weekend with President's Day the following Monday. Snow didn't stop before we went to bed. Friday morning I drove to work and got to the office before everyone else. Everything looked beautiful and sounds were muffled. My office window overlooks a forestful of beautiful snow ladden trees. Kids sledded down a small hill in a park nearby. What a blessed day.
Mom and I ventured to Tucson, Arizona for the world's greatest gem and mineral show 2010. We were led by friend Vicky Tehrani who is a veteran at the gem show. What an amazing event! All I can say is that we were dazzled and overwhelmed and much poorer than when we left Dallas. Bought baroque pearls, corals, lots of turquoise, lapis, stones of all kinds, and silver findings. The petrified wood, minerals, and other rocks were amazing. We only made it to the Holidome, Convention Center, and Electric Park. Mom scored a beautiful but heavy Chinese rock that she loved. Would love to take Keith next time. It's a rock lover's paradise!
The year 2009 sure went by in a flash! December 2009 was unprecedentedly cold with three snow falls that kept us indoors and at home most of the time. Amazingly the peacocks got through the bitter cold without problems. Then 2010 came. As one ages, the years seem to go by quicker and quicker. The passing of a friend who was only 39 on New Year's Day made me realize that life is too short and that we need to live each moment to the fullest. I want to be mindful of the legacy that I leave behind. The morning I learned of friend and colleague Steven McDonald's death, January 2, 2010, we were headed to Canton. We came back with puppy Kirby, our dog #8. We had no intention of getting another dog, but this woman spotted us with Cookie and Kasey, and stopped us. She had a very small standard poodle puppy, the last of the litter, she was desperate to get rid of. Kirby weighed 5 lbs. Three weeks later, he is 13 lbs. Two months later, Kirby is about 27 lbs. His growth rate rivaled Kona's. Kirby is our third standard poodle. He sports all black fur with a patch of white on his chest and a very small white spot on his chin. Yesterday we went to the nearby park with Cookie, Kasey and Kirby. It was Kirby's first time with anything around his neck. He balked at it first, but very soon learned to walk on a leash by our side. We were very impressed and extremely pleased! We are hoping that he will grow up big and strong! (Note: Kirby has grown up to be a big dog that has real brute strength. He loves to chase Kasey around, roughhouse, and be groomed. He is another velcro dog, perhaps even more so than Cookie.)
Tim is an exchange student from Hamberg, Germany who is staying with us for the Spring semester 2010. He arrived at our home January 16 and settled in nicely. Today we went to the Fort Worth Stock Yard and ran into Mayor Moncrief. Mayor Moncrief chatted with us for quite awhile and he welcomed Tim to Fort Worth. We also chatted with the cowboys of the long horn cattle drive (missed the drive by 10 minutes), Tim got on a long horn bull for photos, and we had a nice Mexican lunch and shopped in the Historical Stock Yard. The kids also ran the maze in chilly driving rain. Even though the weather was rainy and cold, we had a great time. We also visited the Amon Carter Museum and saw many of Frederick Remington's paintings and sculptures. On the way, we made a quick stop at an antique mall and spotted a Frederick Remington Bucking Bronco sculpture for $1990. Didn't buy it. After dropping A and Z off at friends' house for the night, we visited a Chinese eatery for some noodles, pork chop, and stinky tofu. Tim liked the pork chops, but definitely not the stinky tofu or the bubble tea. At least he tried everything!
School (Fall semester 2009) has been in session for many weeks now and we have settled into a new routine. We have also become more interested in horses and are taking lessons. Maybe eventually we can keep a horse at the house. All of us have also started teaching ESL at church once a week in addition to altar service. A and Z are helpers in my Level II class and Keith helps in the Foundations class. It's fun to learn about all the students in our class and to help them learn English. We have students from Mexico, China, Iraq and Bosnia.
It has been a very rainy Fall so far. We are expecting flash flooding tonight. We have never seen so many snails in the garden! The crazy cosmos are blooming in full force, attracting many Monarch butterflies to flit and flutter among the flowers. Recently Keith dragged home a dead bobcat that had gotten run over near A's school. Two days ago Keith found one of our peahens and a hen dead. The weather is not so agreeable for them. Couldn't really tell why they died. All the other peacocks and chickens are doing fine.
July 2009 - Just came back from our trip to Japan and China and have posted some photos. After more than two weeks away it was great to come home. We had a great time but we came home with sobering thoughts. The Japan and China we saw were in stark contrast. Tokyo, Japan was crowded but neat, and China was a sea of humanity everywhere we went. The restroom facilities of Japan and China cannot be farther apart in comparison. The toilets we saw in Tokyo were outfitted with bidet, heated seat, and/or automatic lid lifter. The restrooms were always immaculate. In most restrooms in Beijing and Xian, toilet paper was never supplied, and the atmosphere was always saturated with the stench of excrement or unpleasant cleaners. Most of the facilities were of the squatting kind. Although Tokyo also had congested traffic, but in China the drivers drove recklessly, honked constantly, and acted in a way that endangered pedestrians. After coming back, Keith's brother Dan informed us that his company, ABB, has had employees killed in traffic accidents in China every year. This is not surprising since we saw first hand how Chinese drivers drive. A news article I read on July 13 while in China reported that a retiree has resorted to throwing bricks at cars that run red lights at an intersection in the Gansu province after a woman was killed. A survey indicated that such action received over 80% approval rating. In China we also encountered people who cut in line in every single line we stood in, which we did not see in Tokyo. We also got scammed at least twice by unscrupulous cab drivers. I've spent much more time in Taiwan, ridden in many more taxis, and have never experienced such deceit. As a Chinese, I am saddened to see a nation that has historically and traditionally prided itself as a civilized and polite society now has a population that behaves in such uncivilized, disrespectful and selfish manner, and that this is what our kids had to witness. Why, I wonder, one country reacted to congestion and over-population with order and organization, while another reacted with recklessness and disorganization? The Japanese developed a respect for lawfulness and rules, and the Chinese became ingrained with the survival of the fittest mentality. I wonder if China's Cultural Revolution that turned its society upside down, destroyed the educated segments of the society, and rewarded and encouraged people to turn on one another, even one's own family, has something to do with this?
For Valentine's Day 2009 Keith detailed my Suburban, which I prefer and appreciate over any flower bouquet. The kids also helped begrudgingly. Keith said that they behaved like Paris Hilton in A Simple Life.
We celebrated Thanksgiving 2008 with our families, including Keith's parents from Crystal River, FL. We are extremely glad that they were able to travel to spend time with us. We have a lot to be thankful for, especially for our health and for our families. Christmas 2008 was very nice - we stayed in town and enjoyed some downtime family time. Now we are in the middle of February (2009) with temperatures flirting in the 70's. We had a bad ice storm at the end of January 2009, and Appollo was tragically killed. The heavy ice made him come down off the roost, and our pyrenees, for some inexplicable reason, chased him down (caught by our security video camera), and plucked his long tail feathers off. He must have died from shock and the cold because he didn't have any other wounds. We were heartbroken and upset that the dogs we got to protect our flock were the killers. We couldn't understand it. Zathura disappeared for three days and finally came back home. We were so relieved when she came back. We still love Koda and Kona very much, but we will be taking extra precautions and keep a closer eye on them in the future. We are now down to 8 peacocks, four males and four females. The four male peacocks are one year olds from the same hatch and do not yet sport beautiful tail feathers.
Keith has been hard at work rehabilitating our stairs and the living room floor. The carpet in the living room and stairs has been ripped out and is in the process of being replaced with a granite called Riversite. We also went ahead and painted the living room. Keith is almost done with the living room floor. The staircase risers still need to be done, and the railing needs to be stripped of the ugly brown paint and redone. (Note: as of March 2010 the stairs and the bedroom addition are still not completed. Sigh....) (Note: the stairs were finally completed Summer 2010, but the addition is still far from being completed.) (It is now January 2, 2012, the addition is still far from being completed.)
We have a new member to our family - Kasey, a chocolate standard poodle with amber-colored eyes. Kasey is another first Monday Canton market puppy we have added to our family. We've been adding one dog per year, it seems. Kasey (Nov. 2008), Kona (Dec. 2007), and Koda (2006). Kasey's personality is very similar to Cookie's, which we love. Cookie is of course very jealous of the new puppy that is taking attention away from him. Cookie and Kasey are our velcro dogs - they stay with us wherever we go. We've been taking both of them on walks at the park.
We hosted some children from a Uganda orphan's choir in October 2008 while they visited our church. We have some new Fall photos to share with you.
I had cholecystectomy to remove her gall bladder in October 2008. Here is a chronicle to my ordeal. The recovery and healing was quick and pain free. Thank you to everyone who prayed for her surgery and recovery, especially the Zweiaker bible study class at Messiah and our families!
During Spring break 2008 we visited Aunt Margie and Uncle Ron in Orlando and Mom and Dad in Crystal River. It also snowed in March, and in April we had several tornados touch down in and near the Dalls/Fort Worth area. God looked over us - we didn't suffer any damage or injury, but it was scary enough to send us to our downstairs closet. We have been busy planting Knockout roses, trees, and a victory garden of vegetables. The idea of a victory garden intrigued us because we learned that this was actually a WWII concept. It appealed to our sense of being self-sufficient, though we will be far from it, and to our sense of being green. I don't think you can be more ecologically-friendly than to harvest vegetables right from your backyard!
A's Creative Writing Corner - A's selected writings can be found here. It's a celebration of words, ideas and imagination.
2008 is the year of the rat! In the beginning of December 2007, at Canton's First Monday Market, we got our sixth dog - Kona, another Great Pyrenees. Kona (named after the Hawaiian town of coffee fame) was 5 weeks old and 4.5 pounds. Less than two months later, Kona grew to 30 pounds! Kona likes to follow Koda, our one-year old Great Pyrenees, around to learn the ropes of surveying the property and looking for breaches of the property line. It is so cute to see both of them together playing and running in the field. It has been said that two Great Pyrenees can take down a bear! With the sightings of mountain lions in this area, we will feel more secure when our property is guarded by Koda and Kona.
Keith's sister, Kathy, and her family came to visit us for Thanksgiving 2007 and we had a good time spending a few precious days with Kathy, Ned and Kendra. We visited Southfork Ranch and Fossil Rim. Kathy loved the ostriches! :)
In August 2007 we vacationed on the Big Island of Hawaii and had a wonderful time. We stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa for the first part of our stay there, which was located on the Northwest part of the island. We then stayed South of Hilo near Kea'au on the Southeast side of the island. These are two very different regions - one desert-like with lava fields and the other tropical with waterfalls and lush green gardens. We drove all over the island - over 2000 miles! We swam in geothermally-heated pools playing tag with fish, snorkeled in tidal pools filled with fish and corals, went horseback riding on Parkers Ranch (the world's largest ranch), saw the sun set on the horizon and gazed at stars from the peak of Mauna Kea (at over 13,700 ft.), walked around the rim where violent volcanic eruptions occurred, and flew in a helicopter over the Pu'u O'o, the lava flow vent of the Kilauea Volcano (the lava currently is flowing inland rather than to sea). The threat of Hurricane Flossie, earthquakes, and tsunami didn't dampen and, luckily, affect our plans. God was watching over us! I think this was a perfect vacation and a great hurrah for the kids before school started.
North Texas had a very wet Spring and Summer 2007. Everything is very green and lush, but all the bugs are also very happy, especially the mosquitoes and the chiggers. This year's total is well over 30 inches, which far exceeds the past two years' rainfall totals.
A has advanced to the state science fair with her project (2007)! Although she didn't place at the state science fair, we are still so proud of her! Her project was titled The Intelligence of Fish.
Spring 2007 is here! The bradford pears, redbuds and forsythias bloomed beautifully this year. Now the Texas mountain laurels, wisterias, grape hyacinths, and lady banksia roses are in full bloom. Everywhere you see is green, the shade of young leaves that is so soothing to the eye and peaceful to the heart. We planted even more trees - bur oaks, Chinese pistachios, shantung maples, live oaks, redbuds, and cedar elms. More bushes were also planted - sweet brooms, Chinese fringe flower, sweet olives, and knock out roses. Everything has come to life, and unfortunately that also means that weeds are also out in full force, so we are also busy plucking out weeds of all kinds.
A new addition to the family zoo! Koda is an adorable Great Pyrenees who joined our zoo in December 2006. We wanted a Great Pyrenees because this breed can stay with livestock and fend off predators. In July 2006 we lost our emu baby, Sapphire, and on January 29, 2007 we lost our rat terrier, Pepper, to what we think is a bobcat. We wanted a dog that would not harm our chickens and peacocks but would be able to keep predators at bay. In less than three months Koda doubled his weight and is now taller than Cookie, our standard poodle. We've read that the males of this breed may reach 120 lbs. Koda has a very deep bark that resonates and travels very far. Unfortunately, this breed is very verbal and Koda likes to bark at night. We are hoping that he becomes more discerning as to what he should bark at and what is just normal noises of the night. We are also learning to live with fur that is not on the body of the dog but is sticking to our clothes. One of Koda's hobbies is to pull up newly planted trees and shrubs. With the addition of Koda, all of our dogs now boast a French origin (Poodles and Great Pyrenees).
We visited Chicago in November 2006. A highlight was visiting the Natural History Museum and seeing Sue. We also ate at the same Chinese restaurant in Chinatown almost every night because we really liked the food. We also sampled the local favorite - Gino's deep dish pizza. Although short, we had a great time in Chicago.
Jack, a green winged macaw, joined our household when he was five-week old in July 2006. We named him after Jack Sparrow of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Here is his goofy picture when he was a baby. We hand fed Jack until November 2006. Jack loves getting scratches on his head and under his wings. He also likes to snuggle. Jack has a red head, red chest, red shoulders, a green band on the wings (blue on top and red on the underside of the wings) and turquoise blue back, darker blue wings and a tail that is blue and red. Jack loves almonds, eggs and rice. He likes to climb down from his stand to our lap to share our dinner, especially if dinner includes rice. If he is in a playful mood, he will roll over on his back and try to grab fingers that stray into the vicinity of his claws. Once a finger is grabbed, then it goes into his very sharply pointed beaks.
We spent the Fourth of July 2006 with Keith's family on Lake Douglas in Eastern Tennessee. It was great to see everyone in the Mantey family. We also had fun water skiing, tubing, white water rafting, horseback riding, shooting off a variety of firecrackers every night, and visiting the Forbidden Caverns. We also managed to squeeze in a visit to Arkansas' Crater of Diamonds State Park to try our luck at diamond mining and with Keith's Uncle Elmer in Memphis on the way.
Our peacocks Apollo and Zahara have been out of the cage and living in our garden, however, Zahara's attempt to lay and sit on her eggs has resulted in her death. She disappeared and never came back. We suspect a coyote or bobcat may have killed her. The peacocks have become less timid and would get very close to us in search of tasty morsels. Every morning they peered into our windows to see when Keith will come out to give them handfuls of treats. They are curious birds and they like to inspect everything closely. They roost on the shade structure over the patio that Keith built, but occasionally they will fly up on the roof and take a stroll inspecting our rooftop. Little Baby Zathura is doing well and now full grown. We now also have a pair of white peacocks, Atlas and Zuri. In late 2006 we also added two young peahens to our flock, Zaza and Zara. Zaza is an Indian Blue peahen and Zara is a white peahen.
I got the crazy idea that emus would be great additions to the menagerie. Keith was the Head Egg Turner and after 50 days Sapphire was hatched. Sapphire was adorable and fun to watch. He had a crazy running posture that looked like he left his head behind trailing at the end of a long neck. He loved being hosed down with the water hose. Sapphire was born March 2006. We had to leave him at home with the other animals for Keith's family reunion. Sapphire was attacked by what we think is a bobcat and he was killed (we have spotted the bobcat since we came home and we resolved to trap and relocate the bobcat). We were all devastated and saddened by Sapphire's death. We have become so accustomed to hearing his emu baby peeps....
The major construction in the yard has been completed - wrought iron fencing with stone columns, flagstone walkways around the koi pond, two patios and two arbors. The fence and the gates are beautiful and really enhance the beauty and integrity of our property. Everything turned out beautifully and really added architectural structures and shade to the yard. The new mail box that Keith designed and built is functional, sturdy and beautiful. Our old mailbox was wiped out by a truck that ran into it and flipped over as a result (the driver passed out).
We are thankful to Christ our Lord for our family, our good health, and God's many blessings on us. We are grateful for our new house that will enable us to create our little garden of Eden and give us more room to stretch.
God Bless America
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Last Updated January 2015
Website first published July 7, 1998
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