James on October 31st, 2013

Well we are handing out candy tonight and decided we would share a Halloween Story!

This was inspired by a writing prompt from the Veterans Writing Group of San Diego of which I am a member.

Sound effects are from freesfx.co.uk
Background music Jake Butineau

James on October 30th, 2013

I am realizing how much I miss my family. I know that is a pretty deep way to begin a cupcake recipe but I have been known to occasionally bend rules. Being with Janka and watching how she remains engaged with her family forces me to deal with some choices that I unknowingly made. One thing though on my side is, I have enjoyed all my life the ability to quickly adapt new routines and behaviors. Duplicating some of her outreach efforts will probably help me reconnect a bit. How does this relate to 7 up Cupcakes

It all starts with Aunt Annie! Aunt Annie was the life of the party and probably also the easiest aunt to get to react to something. She also just happened to be queen of the 7 up Cake (or as grandpa would say Bubbleup Cake). Interestingly enough, many of my childhood memories relate to food. So often when I think about aunt Annie, I get the hankering for some 7 up cake. This is precisely the perfect storm that was brewing when I needed a way to thank my next-door neighbor. Perfect opportunity to make some 7 up Cake Cupcakes!

Now, I have often made 7 up Cake but his was my first time making cupcakes so I did a quick search to see if there was anything I needed to do differently. The answer was no; it was all about the time. I decided to use AJ’s Recipe!

First step was creaming the butter and sugar. I chose to do this by hand using a fork and large wooden spoon.

After adding the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Followed by flour and lemon extract. Folding in the 7 UP, I had my batter.

Next I filled my cupcake wrappers

Then baked at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.

Yes I also made the icing and I added blueberries to some left over batter. It came out so/so (Janka liked it though, as it linked more closely with her desire for healthy diet). I may try to make some muffins removing the lemon extract.
Thank you, Aunt Annie!

James on September 28th, 2013



I do not enjoy going to war.  I intentionally avoid situations that I feel have higher than normal potential to make me declare war on an individual, or entity.  So when the ants initially arrived I sought a harmonious resolution.  Having dealt with such a situation before I first deployed the light scented agent baby powder to render their entry point inoperational. Later I learned that pleasant scented cinnamon sticks may be placed in the area to deter them and I utilize that method successfully today in that initial location of notice.  Yes I can, with clear conscious proclaim that upon first discovery of the Ants, I was quite civil. 





So let me tell you about our backyard. I watched with excitement the joy my wife took in discussing how we would create our backyard.  Of particular interest to me were the greenhouse, fruit trees, and garden.  On July 14th my wife began pruning the flowerbed in the backyard.   That was the same day Dave and I repaired the table that was damaged in the move together in that yard.  We were in good spirits and happy the backyard was and is a social place for us. 



My lovely wife had begun digging in the soil for our garden.  The term soil I choose not as a precise description of what she was facing.  No that term I use as a form of visual language to aid us in obtaining our goal of a beautiful backyard oasis.  What she was digging, more accurately, slowly, chipping off and breaking down was arid rock.  She began this on August 4th and I believed she would soon tire of it.  I thought there was no way we would every grow anything in that area.  Besides she was chipping away in flip flops I was sure she wasn’t serious.  



By August 8th she had chipped away at a nice portion of the area where she wanted to place the citrus trees and I decided it was time to get serious.  I joined in the fun.  It wasn’t long before I hit some sort of root.  It was moist and the surrounding area was just full of ants.  I dug up the root and just kept hitting shovels full of soil and ants. Even then I did not declare war, though I will admit we had a conflict. 



This was where our fruit trees were going and we couldn’t plant them in arid, ant infested soil.  So I went chemical, home depot was my supplier but like I said it was civil and justified.  An action I felt was needed to provide the best possible environment for the plant life I would be bringing into the area.  I did what I had to do and for a few days everything seemed fine.  That is everything was fine until. 


I hit an old gopher trail in one of the sections when I turned over that dried hollowed out soil it was covered in ants.  It was right there and then that I declared war. 


Bait Recipe




I got the supplies and I made the bait.  I watched them come to and gorge themselves on the new supply of lethal faux nourishment.  I felt no guilt and no pity, no I just wondered if I should make more if it would be enough to make this a safe place for my garden and greenhouse. 



Only time will tell….


James on September 15th, 2013


I know we have not posted in awhile but things have just been happening really fast. I guess what I am most excited about, is our new home! Janka and I noticed we were bumping up against our lease in April and decided to buy a place before our lease was up.  We spoke with my agent and began hitting the open houses. Nine offers later, we were in escrow on our new house!  Thanks to all the veteran supporters out there (I used a VA loan) and I want to thank the previous homeowners for working with me through that process.   

Key to the process I think was the patience and connection with the agent.  Our agent Kurt Pruitt was attentive and connected to several communities, which helped us a lot.  We tried to find a home with a different agent about a year ago and were completely disheartened.  The process seemed laborious and it probably just wasn’t the time for us. 

Now that we have settled in, Janka and I have been going over our relationship, how we have gotten here, and where we are going. We talked about when we began organizing ourselves to buy a house. I found a picture I made in Photoshop as a visualization tool (above) in April 2011.  I checked the blog and found we were completely silent that month, followed by Janka’s article on creative visualization in May.

It was nice to take a reminiscing look back and begin working on the images for our next goals!


We look forward to sharing all we learn as we build our garden and make our new house a home.

Wyatt on March 31st, 2013


Recently, James mentioned that it’s been a while since we did something fun together. After some reflection, I agreed that while we spend time together, we haven’t planned a quality time for a few months. That’s not like us! Soon we e came up with an idea of one activity each weekend. I like to plan ahead, looking forward to what’s to come; while James is more spontaneous. To accommodate our different styles, we agreed that we’ll make a conscious effort to spend one day each weekend doing fun things together but we’ll play by ear what we’ll do, depending on what we feel like, what we can afford, the weather and so on. That way, we can be spontaneous and not committed to a certain activity but still be looking forward to our regular date.

The first weekend, we hiked at a new trail (Crest Canyon Trail, see article). For the following Saturday, I finally made a reservation for a whale watching trip that I purchased last year (time flies!)

Driving to Seaforth Landing took only about 15 minutes from La Jolla. We departed at 10.00am and after a short while, our boat Privateer slowed down far from the shore, with nothing around us but the blue ocean. Following the guide’s instructions given through a microphone, the majority of passengers eagerly gathered on one side of the boat, silently watching the sea with great anticipation. The guide pointed out the “foot prints” which are marks on the water indicating the position and direction of the whales. This time they indicated a presence of a mother Gray Whale heading North with her baby, after relaxing in the breeding grounds in the lagoons of Baja California.

We wondered why wouldn’t the whales just stay South, resting in the warm waters of the Baja lagoons, safe from killer whales and other dangers. We soon learned that the Gray Whale is a very picky eaters and will travel North every year to feed on amphipods. The whales eat krill which is abundant in the South they still make the trip to eat the amphipods the few months in summer that they can.   By the time we saw the evidence of the whales’ presence, even though limited, we were familiar with basic facts about the seasonal Migration of the Gray Whale, thanks to our knowledgeable tour guides. It was a fascinating presentation and we appreciated learning something new about this particular species of our cohabitants.

As we started heading back to the shore, we were lucky to view a spectacular show performed by about fifty dolphins. They seemed so playful and cheerful, constantly jumping out of the water everywhere around the boat, mostly in pairs, swimming as fast as our boat. While Gray Whale can swim approximately 4-7 mph, dolphins can be as fast as 25 mph and they are often seen swimming along speeding boats.

Well, since picture is worth a thousand words, I have attached some to share our experience.




James on December 9th, 2012


This year Janka and I thought it would be fun to shoot photos for our Christmas cards.  So we gathered up Wyatt, our cameras, and tripod and headed down to La Jolla shores for a fun afternoon.


As you will see from the photos, Wyatt wasn’t particularly fond of being so close to such a large body of water.  From his tender steps I also got the feeling he was wondering if we were walking around a giant litter box!  After watching me set up the tripod and adjust the cameras, he decided it was safe to venture out and take a look around his surroundings.


After trying out a few poses (you can find ideas here) we walked Wyatt over and took several shots. 


After that it was a quick ride home and the fun with Photoshop began.  Here are some tutorials that can help you create your own.  Photoshop tutorials

Another couple’s Christmas card idea’s

Merry Christmas and I can’t wait to see what you create!

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James on November 27th, 2012



Return of the Hikers

So after a large Thanksgiving dinner and a quick trip to the scale I realized I needed to get back to my hiking. So Janka and I decided to find a quick trail nearby to visit. Remembering I kept seeing a park sign on my trips to Costco right off the 52, I did some Internet snooping and realized that was the Bear Memorial Park and they did indeed have a nice hiking trail.

We went on a Sunday afternoon right around 12:30 pm. We noticed one family, a couple enjoying the afternoon, and later got passed up by a runner; other than that it was a pretty non-eventful hike. A few water crossings and some decent hills.

While checking Yelp reviews, I noticed that a few reviewers warned about sketchy individuals frequenting this park. We didn’t notice anything of that nature, but our experience could be because it was a holiday weekend or just because it was a lazy Sunday afternoon after Thanksgiving.

A bicycler’s view on Marian Bear Park!

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James on November 18th, 2012

Janka and I recently had the opportunity to visit Catalina Island.  Well, recently being August 26, 2012. I happened to be going through my computer cleaning out my photos (it’s amazing how much memory they take) and thought I would make a post.  If you have the opportunity, I definitely recommend taking the trip.

Catalina Island website


Great getaway for families too!  Here is one family’s take on the island.

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So maybe there isn’t a marriage enrichment program like from Warrior to Soulmate in your area.  Or maybe there is and you just aren’t ready to take that step, regardless, there are small things you can do to add to the quality of your relationship.


One thing Janka and I have done that we would like to share is we have begun to take nightly walks to watch sunsets down at the beach.  Since our move,  we moved about six months ago to be closer to our new jobs, we hadn’t taken advantage of lovely La Jolla shores which is only a 5 minute drive away.


A few weeks ago we began walking on the beach to catch the sunset, and gradually we have begun nightly jogs  rather than our strolls and picture taking.  We have found this to be a great way to check in with one another and get some bonding time.


So what could you and your partner do to carve out some time together?  Once you find your activity if you need some conversation starters Visit our friends at Stependous Marriage for some ideas!


Also here is a great article on the value of spending time together.



Enjoy the photos and we will catch you up on all our adventures shortly.

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Recently, James and I attended “From Warrior to Soul Mate” couples  enrichment retreat taking place at the Hilton Hotel in Mission Valley. This three-day training, led by Chaplain Dick Millspaugh is designed to help veteran and active duty military couples and teaches couples how to enrich their relationship, improve communication and gain deeper understanding of their partner. From Friday evening to Sunday afternoon, we attended workshops provided by Chaplain Millspaugh, his wife Carol and many other skillful instructors.

What we have learned is perfectly summarized in the title of the workbooks we received: “Practical Skills for Successful Relationships”. That’s exactly what this training is about – workable and very useful everyday tips designed to increase harmony and ensure the relationship thrives. The whole weekend was very couple-oriented and the advice and tips we received were incredibly helpful. There were some presentations, kept interesting and to the point, as well as entertaining. Most of the time, however, we were allowed and encouraged to interact with each other through dialogue and various exercises that facilitated it. The time we spent here was an amazing mixture of professional advice, practice through exercises utilizing a variety of useful tips, and an open discussion, all in a very safe and supportive environment.

I will admit that prior to our arrival, I wasn’t sure how much about our relationship I was going to be willing to disclose. However, I gathered very quickly that this was a totally safe environment. We were among people who have all experienced, in one shape or another, what we have experienced, simply because they were all in a relationship!  Slowly but surely, everyone seemed to open up and soon statements from the instructors such as: “OK, one more comment and then we have to move on, since we are running out of time!”, were said with more frequency. There was so much to cover, so many people eager to share their experience, and suddenly, the weekend didn’t seem long enough!

It was apparent however, that at the end, majority of attendees (mostly men may I say with a smile) were emotionally drained. Not in a negative connotation; there was simply a lot discussed, a lot disclosed (I assume mostly between partners themselves; even though people opened up to the audience as well), and a lot of emotions let free. I won’t lie if I say I could sense the emotions in the room at the end. Watching people’s faces and hearing them describe what the event meant to them; it seemed to me that this weekend had a great impact on many of us. It seemed to me that in one way or another, every single couple gained a new perspective on their relationship, that the time we spent together had an impact on all of us. I sincerely hope that many more couples will get an opportunity such as this one. The PAIRS couples retreat has an amazing potential to improve relationships and marriages.

Thank you again, Dick and Carol Millspaugh as well as all the amazing instructors, for this amazing experience!

Read more on Chaplain Millspaugh and From Warrior to Soul Mate.

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