One Little Word

Around the first of the year, I (along with 2/3 of the civilized world) usually feel compelled to write a list of resolutions.  A couple of years back, just to be different, I started making that list into a graphic poster and calling it my bucket list. Resolute!

As a rule, two or three things on the list gets accomplished.  I am not sure whether the actual act of writing it down, or just putting it up where I can see it is to credit (or blame) or if the things that got accomplished were just the things that I concentrated on the most.

In 2013 I did exactly two things on that list: Got my passport, and planted a garden. OK, we also had a pretty cool 25th anniversary celebration, even though it wasn’t the “extravaganza” I was envisioning. No, I think I got a little over-zealous in the annual making-of-the-list. What I learned from this though, was that you can’t really give 15+ items the full concentration they need, nor can you foretell the opportunities and setbacks that affect whether or not you even want to accomplish some of those things.

I had one stellar accomplishment in 2013 – Decorating a float for the Rose Parade – and that one wasn’t even on the list! So, when I started thinking about what I wanted to concentrate on this year, I thought about it differently. What one thing did I want to do, or accomplish that I would be able to focus on all year?  And then I read a Facebook post from my inspirational friend Jodee Bock, about One Word.

One Word is a book that basically professes narrowing your focus for the year to concentrate on just one word. This, say authors Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page, allows us to experience “mission and meaning; purpose and passion; strength and significance.” So instead of trying to focus on 15 concepts, or goals, you choose one word – or as the book suggests, one word chooses you – to become your North Star for 365 days.

I got the book, and read it in the 45 minutes the authors said it would take, and then set about the process of opening myself up so the Universe could deliver my One Word unto me.  I waited, and waited, and waited… and waited.

While I was waiting, I made a list of cool words I wanted to associate with throughout 2014.  Words filled with anticipation and mystery like “AND” “STORY” “RIPPLE” “MAGIC.” Words with purpose like “DETOX” “ACCEPT” “SIMPLIFY” “CONNECT.”  Open ended words with more than one meaning like “ALOHA” “NAMASTE” “EFFECT.” But I felt like I was bending the Universe to my own will. My One Word wasn’t finding me – I was picking it, I was cheating.

So then I started thinking about what concepts I would realistically concentrate on, and as silly as it sounds, it came to me.  No, not my word, but a scene from The Big Bang Theory.

In this scene, Penny is giving Sheldon acting lessons, and they start off with Improvisation which she tells him is all about saying YES. This makes perfect sense, and strikes a chord in me. Tina Fey in her book Bossypants, further elaborates, saying Improv is all about saying YES, AND…

I’m all about that, but I’m not going to choose IMPROV as my word. Nor am I going to choose YES, because I’d have to choose YES, AND… and that’s two words. But I felt like I was getting somewhere, I had a direction, I could feel the momentum. The big idea, the concept behind IMPROV was what I wanted, but the word… what was my word?

  • Improvisation is to make things up. Yes… and…
  • I wanted this word to help me make a difference.  Yes, and?
  • Make some changes, make advances… yes, and…

Wait a minute!!! My mother’s answer to anything that was bothering me, whether I was bored, or sad, or confused was to make something – Make a list; make a mess; make a promise; It’s got anticipation, purpose and it’s open ended! There it is! My word is MAKE! So, I made a little button – right there in the sidebar.


I’m going to make 2014 the year of MAKE, or of MAKING. Did you make resolutions this year, or what do you think of having one little word be your focus for 2014?

Details, Details

Decorating a Rose Parade float is much more detailed work than you’d think.  Here are some behind the scenes pictures of some of those details.

Each float starts as just a giant flatbed, like you’d imagine, then the designers make the general shape and theme.  Once that is established, the Fiesta Float people go on a scavenger hunt through their massive warehouse for the steel and wireframe pieces that have been used for previous floats.


The above picture, is a tiny fraction of everything available.  These pieces start out as what I’ve been calling a paint-by-numbers project.  For example the tiger above, is “color-coded” to denote what type of material you glue to the surface.


While decorating, you might find yourself in a somewhat compromising position, such as glueing crushed peach lentils to a tiger’s butt!  It’s a slow and tedious process, with painting the glue, precisely on the color coded areas, then patting the tiny natural materials, such as onion seed, for the black stripes.


The view as you walk around the float is pretty interesting.  You mostly see butts and feet dangling from the scaffolding as workers press statice flowers to this camel’s saddle.


Each task is very time consuming.  For example, here, we were popping the glue plug out of straws that were rolled in oregano.


Below, Dave spent his 6 hours creating the Sunrise at the Oasis sign – look for it on the front of the float.


Oh, and we did run into a celebrity!  This little cutie is Daniel, a beagle being billed as “the luckiest dog in the world.”  He was in a group of dogs to be euthanized, in a canine gas chamber in Alabama.  When they opened the door, he popped out alive as can be!  Look for him, he will be riding on the Lucy Pet Foundation float.


The little piece of excitement we had on Saturday was that PETA was outside protesting the Sea World float which is being constructed right next to ours. Their float, while not nearly as beautiful as our Dole float, has some majestic killer whales on the front, but it’s truly NOT disrespectful to animals!  One little example of both the Sea World float and the detail involved in creating these art pieces is the picture below. On TV the floats go by so quickly, you never get a chance to see the detail that we have had the amazing opportunity to see this week. For example, only the head and feet are completed in this picture, but I watched the people placing the split peas and beans on this using tweezers, and the back of a paint brush.  This is a great example of the dedication of volunteers working on these floats.


We took the day off today, to do some cool personal/genealogy stuff, but we’ll be back at it again tomorrow.  It will be much more intense, so tune in again to see the progress!

We Are (Dole) Family

Most people, when they go on vacation, bring along golf clubs, or beach towels… Us?  We bring scissors!

Linda Thomas Anderson

Our vacation goal in LA is not to catch a wave, a fish, or even some rays (although it has been 80+ degrees here!).  Our goal is to be a part of a community that is creating something – that something just happens to be the Dole Food Company’s Rose Parade Float!

We drove the 12 miles from Eagle Rock to Irwindale, through surprisingly light traffic to the Fiesta Parade Float warehouses.  Signage was great, directing “parade float decorators” through the snaking streets to the miles and miles of parking where we were glad we were wearing our lanyards, proclaiming us to be a member of the Dole family.  Once parked, we walked what seemed to be another mile, and once inside the cavernous building, yet another mile past the 13 other floats to ours.

Float 1

This being the 2nd day of the decoration process, the live flowers had not yet arrived, and instead of the perfume we expected to be in the air, it was more of chemical smell, which we soon learned was the Elmer’s glue on steroids we would be slathering all over everything – including ourselves.

We located our supervisor Darryl, who has been doing this for 30+ years, as have most of the staff, which pretty much happen to all be related to each other – so its like a family business! Since we were newbies, we were set to probably the most heinous task, glueing papery dried seaweed to the ribs on the underside of giant palm leaves.

Glue and Leaves

So, while the more seasoned workers created faces on camels, and stripes on tigers, we spent our 6 hour shift on two leaves!

Nori Gluing
























So, that’s all – we’re off to start our second day!  Stay tuned for more!


What a Difference a Day Makes!

After 25 hours of wondering at every turn whether we’d make it to our final destination, we finally made it to our destination!

I must say that Delta Airlines treated us very very well, and each flight, the one from Fargo to Minneapolis, as well as the one from Minneapolis to LAX were smooth as glass and arrived ahead of schedule.


Let me just try to express what a joy it is to leave the sub zero frigid, frozen plains, and a mere 5 hours later walk out into an 80 degree bright sunny day! But no, this picture is truly worth a thousand words….

We caught a shuttle from the airport to a small but very friendly car rental agency who held our car through our delay, and didn’t even charge us for the day we missed!

With the help of our iPhone GPS, we drove to the Pasadena area, and right to our cozy and fabulous AirBnB home for the week.  Our hosts left perfect instructions for how to get in, how to access the Internet, down to how to work the television.


But we were starving, having not eaten all day.  We drove up 3/4 of the length of Colorado Boulevard just taking in the sights, and getting the lay of the land. We then doubled back settling on a mexican cocina called Senior Fish, that had a lovely deck allowing us to enjoy our tacos al pastor and beer in the glorious afternoon sun.

We then took advantage of the fact that we didn’t have to worry about whether or not we’d miss a connection, or fail to arrive, and caught up on our emails.  We checked in with our hosts, letting them know we’d arrived, and also with Beverly at Fiesta Parade Floats, to see what time our shift would begin. Beverly told us not to arrive before 9am, as that’s when the designers get there, and there’s a lot of waiting around.

We then found the Trader Joe’s market, and stocked up on organic veggies for our morning smoothies, along with a couple of bottles of wine. Just a side note here, a weeks worth of smoothie supplies, PLUS wine, coffee AND creamer cost less than just smoothie supplies at our local grocery store at home.(Shameless plug for Trader Joes!)

1493039_10152511282212627_755121772_nSo here we sit, munching on some microwave popcorn and sipping our lovely Trader Joe’s wine, (in the proper glasses no less) feeling the 19 hours we’ve been up start to catch up with us.  Tomorrow we start on our float decorating adventure!

Adventures in Float Decorating

They finally arrived!

The long awaited VIP (Volunteer In Pasadena?) passes for Downtown Dad and me to the Irwindale warehouse where we’ll be decorating a Rose Parade Float later this month!VIPCROP

Sounds super elegant and swanky right? Don’t you just wish you could go along? Well, here’s some great news… even if you can’t come with us, you can enjoy it vicariously right here, because I’ll be telling you all about our trip from Frigid Fargo to Balmy LA, and our adventures while there.

  • We won’t be traveling around in a limo, or a convertible even, just a compact rental car;
  • We aren’t staying in a luxury hotel, but we will be trying out AirBnB;
  • We won’t be hitting too many touristy meccas, but we will be on the lookout for quirky or out of the way destinations. In fact, if you know us, you won’t be surprised to hear that we will be visiting at least one cemetery;
  • We aren’t counting on running into any celebrities, but you never know, it IS LA after all!

Let me give you the backstory on how this whole idea came about…

As a very young child, my family lived in and around Pasadena, but my parents decided to relocate North to the relatively small town of Santa Barbara when I started school. We occasionally would go back to visit relatives still in LA, but my parents, having been locals, avoided that entire area during the holidays. So, even though my cousins attended UCLA, one of them even was a finalist for Rose Queen, the Rose Parade was something we watched on television, never in person.

Every year, as I watched the parade, I’d marvel at the spectacle and pageantry of those flower covered floats.  And every year I’d say to myself, ‘someday I’m going to decorate one of those.’ So, last year, as I pondered my Bucket List for 2013, I ran the idea of doing just that past Downtown Dad, and much to my surprise, he was all for it!

But how does one go about getting on a volunteer crew?

First, I found the Tournament of Roses Facebook page, and posted that question on their wall.  I was referred by more than one person to Beverly at Fiesta Parade Floats. An email inquiry to her was swiftly answered. She gave me a time line of events, and what I’d need to do, and when to do it. That was in January, and now, at last, I have the coveted “passes.”

In the letter that accompanied our passes, it says we are only required to sign on for one 6 hour shift. Well, we will be there for 6 days, so we’d really like to take on as many shifts as they’ll let us, you know, to get the feel of how it all works! But, we don’t want to spend the whole time working! We’ve identified a few places we must go, or must see.

  • Neighborhoods in Duarte and South Pasadena I literally have not set foot in for half a century!
  • Griffith Park
  • The former site of my Grandpa “Doc” Hinkley’s Bowling Supply
  • Mountain View Cemetery
  • Those Hollywood Lights from those Hollywood Hills – or any scenario from Bob Seger’s Stranger In Town Album
  • Disneyland/Knott’s Berry Farm/Universal Studios?

If you have any good advice on where to go/eat/stop/explore, please leave comments! Or, if you’re in the area, come meet us for a beer!

Let the adventures begin…


In 1988, on a 110 degree in day in Houston, our living room was a chapel as Downtown Dad and I got married in front of 25 slightly soggy friends and relatives. A day later, we bid a 5 year old Bobby farewell as he boarded a Northwest bound plane on the first of his summer visits to his dad’s place in Seattle, while we boarded a Northeast bound plane for our honeymoon in Gettysburg.  It was, after all, the 125th anniversary of the civil war battles there.

Today, 2 more kids, 6 houses, 4 states, 5 dogs, 6 birds, 5 cats, 8 cars, 100 pounds, 15 jobs, and 25 Junes later, on a 72 degree day in Minnesota, our living room is a staging area as the two of us load up our trusty carship for a 9 day roadtrip/voyage/second honeymoon in Gettysburg.  It is after all, the 150th anniversary of the civil war battles there.

Tomorrow the adventure  begins   escalates  continues…

Creating a Raised Bed Garden

Almost 10 years ago, with two active young teens, we were lucky enough to find a house that suited our needs perfectly.

Pool party

With a huge backyard that included a pool, we were able to host many parties for our kids over the years.

As great as that was, we barely had time to mow the lawn, let alone do any landscaping.  Today, our nest is nearly empty, and we finally have time to hack into the jungle  cultivate some of the spaces that have gotten overgrown.

We decided that we would start with a raised bed garden. But, never having done this before, we started by finding ideas on Pinterest!  Here’s our inspiration…

Garden02 Inspiration

Garden01 Inspiration

We also found a great website called Gardeners Supply Company, where we could plan the layout of our garden, taking into consideration how much room each plant would need. There are visualizations of the finished product, with preplanned gardens, or, you can create your own plan.

We loved the look of the tower trellises, and the white picket fence is similar to the one already in our yard.  Also, the wood in the frames, even though it’s not, looks like railroad ties.

With all this in mind, we purchased our materials…

  • 12 Railroad tiesGarden01 materials
  • 32 bags of soilGarden02 materials
  • plant starts and seedsGarden03 materials
  • and one nearly bare patch of groundGarden02 Starting

We used ingenuity, along with some blood, alot of sweat, and some tears, to get those railroad ties from the driveway in front, to this spot in the back, it also involved a chainsaw, and a skateboard.

Garden03 Starting

Eventually though, we got all the materials in one place, and construction began.

Garden13 Starting

Garden10 Starting

Garden11 Starting

Four, 7 foot by 4 foot beds.  As you can see, we built right on top of the gravel.  Drilled holes on both ends of each side, then pounded in rebar to stabilize the railroad ties.

Next, we lined the bottom with a padding of newspapers, and poured the clean soil on top of that.

Garden09 Starting

Garden06 Starting

Garden07 Starting

Once they were done, the last week of May…  (it had snowed just the week before, and it rained for the rest of the week)  we finally got our plant starts in the ground on June 1st, and the seeds in the next day.  We strung twine across the ties in a grid, and gave each plant the space they’d need according to the plan from Gardener’s Supply Company.

Garden08 Planted

Garden01 Planted

Garden02 Plantedjpg Garden06 Planted

It seemed kind of late in the season to me, but Mother Nature can be amazing – and in less than a week and a half, we had radishes, carrots and brussles sprouts popping their tiny green heads out of the ground!

Garden01 Growing

To date, we’ve had one dog digging disaster, in which a cabbage was lost; and we’ve harvested enough leaf lettuce for two very small salads.  I’d say we are well on our way toward looking a lot like our inspiration picture, wouldn’t you?