Happy New Year

Charles and Helen's Year End Letter


2020 Holiday Letter

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Hi All!

Travel Highlights this year

WoW! What a year for travel! Oppps, there was no travel this year due to Corona Virus :-( Helen and I stayed home and only went out once a week for grocery shopping.

Travel Trailer

No use of the trailer this year :-( Most campsites in California were closed and we didn't want to venture far from home.

So What Did We Do All Year?

Building Cabinets

The year started off with building 7 cabinets. These cabinets are 7 feet tall by 30 inches wide by 18 inches deep. We needed them for extra storage. Three are in the dining room to create a kitchen pantry. The other 4 are scattered through-out house. We spent about 2 months making these and they really look good!

The first task was to purchase the lumber needed for the cabinets. This is the first of 3 loads. Fortunately, I have a large SUV (a Ford Expedition) which can handle full sheets of plywood.

Infrastructure is always a good thing to have. Here you can see the outfeed table I built for my table saw. I made extensions for my saw horses to hold a sheet of plywood which was at the perfect height to support lumber coming off of my table saw.

Helen is helping to cut the lumber to size.

Once the lumber is cut to size, it is time to sand it smooth.

We put our friend, Tim, to work sanding and vacuuming the plywood. He was visiting us over the 2019 Christmas holidays and loves working on other people's projects :-)

Everyone helped out with the sanding as it took days to sand 30 sheets of plywood. Here Helen is lending a hand.

Charles really wanted this part of the project to go faster, so he attacked it with two orbital sanders at a time.

Tim is helping to glue the fixed shelves in place.

Once the top, bottom and the center fixed shelf are glued, the cabinet is held together with home made wooden clamps till the glue cures.

Helen is adding the edging to hide the layers of plywood on the edges.

Sanding is NEVER done! Here Charles is sanding the corners smooth.

Staining the plywood was another big project.

The cabinet is together, except for the back.

More staining. Look at all the pieces that we were working with.

The cabinets have been stained and a polyurethane coating has been applied to protect the finish. Once cured, it is time to put the doors back on and put the cabinets into place.

In California, we have to worry about earthquakes, so each cabinet is securely fastened to the wall. These are the three in the dining room which Helen uses as a pantry.

The family room got a cabinet to store all of our DVDs, games and our limited wine selection.

Two went into the computer room for miscellaneous bedding and other stuff.

The final cabinet is in the Master bedroom which Helen uses for clothing.

Cozy Homebuilt Airplane – SOLD

The Cozy has been sold. I hadn't worked on it for three years and finally came to the realization the project would not be completed. In July, I placed an ad on Barnstormers.com and in October, it was sold to a new builder in Florida. A Cozy builder friend of mine, who lives in Los Angeles, has a specially built trailer for moving Cozy aircraft. He drove up to my area, picked up the plane and took it to Sarasota, Florida for the new builder. I hope he gets as much pleasure working on it as I did.

My good friend and building partner, Jeff, moved to Auburn, California, to be closer to their kids and grandkids. Jeff had been keeping the engine for the plane at his house. When he moved, the engine came back to me. So, once the plane was sold, I thought I would have lots of extra room in the garage, but that was not to be. The engine, plus all of the parts and accessories that go with it, take up as much floor space as the plane. I'm now actively trying to sell it. Know anyone that would like a 1989 Mazda 13B rotary engine with a propeller speed reduction unit attached to the front?

Neighbor, Benjy, is helping move the canard into the driveway.

Soooo many boxes and such a little trailer. Will it all fit?

More boxes are being added to the trailer.

The number of boxes in the driveway is slowly decreasing.

Gosh, where should we put this box?

Finally, after 4-hours of hard work, everything is either on the trailer, in the fuselage, in the back seat of the car or in the front seat. It all fit, yea!!!!

She's on her way to Florida.

The last glimpse as she rounds the corner...

Trying Out a Meal Kit Service

My brother convinced me to try out EveryPlate. They are a service which provides a selection of 11 meals a week. You choose either 2, 3 or 4 meals and they ship you all the ingredients and the recipes to make the meals. The meals are simple with only 6 or 7 ingredients per meal and it takes us 45 minutes to an hour to make a meal. It is really neat! We have been using them for three weeks and have enjoyed every meal we have made. I was able to get a dicounted rate of $3 per person, per meal, for 3 weeks, plus $9 for shipping. Now that the discount is over, the price goes up to $5 per meal, plus $9 for shipping.

Even though we really enjoyed the EveryPlate meals, we like to do our own shopping, which has been the highlight of our week. Next, we plan to try a meal planning service, Mealime which is similar, but they only provide the recipes and the shopping list. You do your own shopping. They have a basic version which is free and pro version which offers more meal choices and a few other benefits. Have you tried either a meal kit service or a meal planning service? If so, I'd like hear about the ones you have tried.

Shepard's Steak Pie

Creamy Mushroom Steak

Negative Tide

In February, before the CoronaVirus shut everything down, our good friends Dee Dee & Jeff and Dee Dee's sister Patty, asked if we would like to see a negative tide. A negative tide is one which is much lower than usual. In the case of Half-Moon Bay, about an hours drive from my house, the tide was so low, you could walk out on the reef. We saw lots of sea creatutes, such as octopus, oysters and clams, spiny urchins and a host of other sea animals that had gotten caught in the many pools of water that were isolated from the rest of the ocean.

The lowest portion of the tide lasted about 2 to 3 hours, so we had plenty of time to look around, though it was a bit tricky walking on top of a reef. At the end of the day, we went to a popular seafood restaurant in the area where we dined on many of the creatures we had seen. It was a very fun day.

Left to right: Dee Dee, Jeff, Charles and Patty. Helen is taking the picture.

L to R: Jeff, Dee Dee, Patty, Helen. The top of the reef was very interesting as there were many "streams" running along the top.

This panorama is best viewed by clicking on it. It will open in another tab. Then click on it in the new tab and it will get much larger. Then you can use the scroll bars at the bottom and right side to see a detailed view of the top of the reef.

Star fish

Sea anemone


Ahhhh, dinner, a seafood stew with many shellfish.

Hiking in Muir Woods

Dee Dee and her sister, Patty, wanted to go hiking in Muir Woods. Unfortunately, Jeff could not join us as he had recently had surgery. The drive up was beautiful and we had a great time hiking amoung the very tall redwood trees.

Left to Right: Dee Dee, Charles, Patty

Helen and Charles

This tree was born in 909 AD and was cut down in 1930 AD. It was around during many world events. Click on the picture to see what major event occurred for each of the marked circles.

Beautiful streams flow throughout the park.

Charles & Helen standing in the crack of a redwood tree.

Burning Man

On another trip with Dee Dee and Jeff, we visited the Oakland Art Museum, again, this was before CoronaVirus. They had a very interesting special exhibit on Burning Man. Here is their description of the event:

Each year the week long Burning Man event attracts over 70,000 people to Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. Participants create and build Black Rock City, a temporary metropolis where experimental art installations—some ritually burned to the ground—are the centerpiece for innovators, makers, and a burgeoning artistic community.

Two large, multicolored mushroom-shaped sculptures which continuously open and close...very slowly.

Making Face Masks

At the beginning of the CoronaVirus, Helen and I decided to make a couple of masks for our use. They were so easy to make, we ended up making 20! Charles found the design he liked best, then layed out the pattern and cut the material, while Helen sewed them all together.

One piece of material we used had a Snoopy pattern on it, so we thought it would be a fun design for Granddaughter, Helena. We even made a specially sized one for her. Other masks we made were solid blue and solid red color.

It has been fun getting the comments on the Snoopy masks when we wear them to the store :-)

Snoopy masks we made. The one in the middle is for granddaughter, Helena.

Charles meticulously layed out the pattern for each mask before cutting the cloth.

Our Garden This Year

The story of the most prolific, hearty tomato plants starts with a fresh tomato from a store, containing sprouted seeds. 12 seeds became plants, and 4 were selected to continue growing. Just look at the pictures! 20 good-sized tomatoes were harvested daily for a few weeks. Now it is December 13th and 2 more tomatoes were picked! In addition to our 4 “freebie” tomato plants we planted 4 nursery raised plants, which gave us many tomatoes.

We also planted strawberries, green beans and grew baseball-bat sized zucchini! The strawberry plants are generating many runner plants.

These are our Costco tomato plants. The picture was taken about a week after they were planted in April.

This is just one of the freebie tomato plants.

One days worth of tomato picking. Most of these tomatoes became sauce which is frozen in our freezer. This picture was taken mid-August.

Other vegetables from our garden, squash, green beans and of course tomatoes.

Our zuchinni squash were huge!

When Dee Dee and Jeff moved, Dee Dee gave us her flowering plants. Look how well they are doing under Helen's care!

Helen's green thumb really shows in this picture of our front yard. The agapanthus are doing really good this year. Helen has transplanted the original plants all over the yard. She even has some in a flower pot on the porch.

The flowering plants are doing so well, they even attact humming birds. It took Helen days to get this shot. Can you find the humming bird?

These Mums really took off. Helen had purchased three small plants in March and now she has eight!

Visitors this Year

No visitors this year :-( We were supposed to have two German college students visit us for 3 months. They are majoring in English and as part of their course requirements had to spend 3 months in an English speaking country. One of them was the daughter of our good friends Peter and Beatrice who live in Germany. But, due to the pandemic, all travel to and from Europe was cancelled. We were looking forward to their visit and had prepared our trailer so we could take them all over the Western USA.

Frederike (left) and Benita (right) had their trip cancelled to the USA due to Covid.

We hope your year was as eventful and as exciting as ours and...

We wish you a merry holiday season and a happy New Year!


Charles & Helen