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Friday, April 3rd 2015

2:26 PM

It's time to move on...

On November 30th, 2007, I began my blog here. Now, over seven years and 826 posts later, it's time to move on. Bravenet is no longer supporting this particular blog service and, let's face it, I haven't exactly been a frequent poster here for quite a while.

In an effort to reinvigorate my blogging and move forward with my writing career, I'm going to focus on my blog at my new website, which you can find here. My website, hkvlayman.com, is a work in progress so check back often for updates.

Thank you so much for reading here and joining me on this journey! See you at my new website!

All the best,


ps - I will be leaving this blog up so if you do want to see what we were up to during our first few years back in California, feel free to stick around a while! For a real blast from the past, check out my blog from the two years I lived in England (2005-2007), Greetings From Harrogate.

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Tuesday, November 11th 2014

9:57 AM

Veteran's Day

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Tuesday, September 2nd 2014

11:05 AM


  • Random: I was also out with JoAnna and her parents quite a bit throughout the month.

It's already September. How'd that happen? Each month seems to go by even faster than the one before.

The last official month of summer went by in a blink. August got off to a very fun start with our camping trip to Yosemite. (You can read about that here and here.)

Two days after we got home from our trip, Ryan went back to his dad's for the remainder of summer. My parents came with me and we went to the beach on the way home.

The next day was my mom's birthday. We had a nice lunch out to celebrate.

Tuesday, August 12, JoAnna invited me to take a yoga class with her. I'm contemplating writing a separate entry on that alone. Let me just start off by saying I'm not exactly flexible. The class was wonderful, but it just about killed me. I felt like I'd been hit by a truck for the next several days! I think if I can ever find it within myself to hang in there, yoga would probably be good for me - if I survived.

Saturday the 16th, my parents and I went to the Tehachapi Mountain Fest. It was nice to get out and wander around. It was warmer than I thought it was going to be but there was plenty of shade. We noticed there were a lot fewer vendors than there had been during previous years. Only on our way out did we realize the vendors were spread out over several locations throughout town.

The following Monday and Tuesday, I went to the Antelope Valley Fair. (Thank you for the tickets, Jim!) Monday I went with JoAnna and her parents, and Tuesday I went with JoAnna and my dad. It was fun wandering around eating fair food, and checking out all the animals and exhibits.

Monday the 25th, my parents and I went to see the season 8 premier of Doctor Who at the movie theater. That was fun!

Wednesday the 27th, JoAnna and I got custard and wandered around The Blvd., enjoying the balmy evening and live music playing at the Bex Bandstand.

The next day, Joyce and Norm brought Ryan home! We celebrated with pretzels at the mall. It's wonderful to have my boy back home with me.

Sunday, my parents and Ryan and I went to the beach. I didn't take any pictures because I actually went in the water! The beach had a festive atmosphere, with more people than usual out in celebration of Labor Day.

Below are photos from the month. Enjoy!


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Saturday, August 16th 2014

3:54 PM

July 2014

  • Random: Holy moly - am I really just about caught up??? :)

I don't think I've ever had a month where I didn't look back and say, "It was a busy month!" July is no exception. 

July 3rd, my dad and I went cherry picking one last time at Villa Del Sol in Leona Valley. It was definitely the end of the season. A majority of the cherries were past their peak but we still managed to get plenty of good ones. We pitted and froze the ones we weren't going to eat right away. It'll be wonderful to be able to bake a cherry cobbler with those cherries once the weather cools off.

I celebrated Independence Day with Monica and her parents at Ryan M.'s parents' house. It was a lot of fun - volleyball in the pool, barbecue for dinner, and plenty of fireworks.

The next day, my dad and I went up to Wrightwood's Mountaineer Days festival. It's always fun to go to a fest. We hung out by the Oscar Mayer weenie mobile and then went on a hay ride pulled by a Jeep festooned in patriotic ribbons and decorations. After that we wandered around the fest, taking it all in before having lunch and a refreshing iced tea at the Village Grind.

The following week was, frankly, insane. Tuesday the 8th through Sunday the 13th I was out every single night. Tuesday I went west coast swing dancing at the Hacienda near LAX. Wednesday was my normal west coast swing dance class. Thursday I went to the Atomic Ballroom in Irvine with my dance sista, Sandy, for more west coast swing. I stayed the night at her place which was a good thing, because we didn't get in 'til the wee hours! The next day we spent listening to '80s music and laying out by the pool. It was relaxing and so much fun! Friday evening I went out for dinner (Kinetic Brewing Co.) and a movie ("Fault in Our Stars") with JoAnna and her husband's cousin. Saturday the 12th I went with Monica and her parents to a Phil Vassar concert at Marie Kerr park. I'd never heard of him before but he puts on one heck of a show, especially if you're into country music! And really, summer just isn't complete without attending one of Marie Kerr Park's Starlight Series concerts. :) To wrap up the week, Sunday I went with my dance sistas Lisa, Angie, Genevieve, and Sandy (and Sandy M. - there are two!) to Clubhouse in Placentia. Lisa, Sandy, Sandy M. and I took a great semi-private workshop from pro Rachel (I feel terrible that I can't remember her name at the moment!), who gave us some fantastic styling pointers.

It was a great week!

Monday the 14th I took a break. It was actually really nice to have a night in after being out so much.

The next day I was back out again. I went with Lisa to her private lesson in Hollywood (Lisa and fellow dance family member, Jason D. are competing in American Smooth this November). We met up with Jason's mom and sister to hang out and watch the lesson. The venue itself was amazing, harkening back to Hollywood's more glamorous era. It was great to meet the instructors, pros Jonathan and Lorena, too.

After the lesson it's Lisa and Jason's tradition to get boba smoothies. I'd never had one before. It was de-lish!

From there we went to the Hacienda but didn't stay long before heading back home.

Things settled down for a little bit after that. On July 19th, my parents and I went to the beach.

The following week, on Weds. the 23rd, the dance family got together at Bex to celebrate Lisa's and Angie's birthdays. From there we went to class, which was followed by froyo. It was such a fun night! Everyone had a great time and we were all a little crazier than usual with the celebratory vibe in the air.

Tuesday, July 29th, I met Joyce in Summerland and picked up Ryan. (Ryan's cousin, Sarah, came along, too.) It was so great to see him again! I always feel like a part of me is missing when Ryan's gone.

That pretty much wraps up July. Below are photos from the month. A lot of them are fun candids I didn't mention in this post, so be sure to take a look. :)


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Friday, August 15th 2014

3:28 PM


I've added four photos to the album in the blog post below. One is of Ryan learning to do a headstand at taekwondo, and the other three are from Will Rogers State Beach.

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Thursday, August 14th 2014

1:47 PM


I always say things like this but seriously, can it be the middle of August already???

I guess that means it's time I posted about June. :)

June managed to be at once very busy and also sort of slow. The slow part was Ryan being done with school but me not being done with work. Looking back on it though, A: we really were quite busy and B: I don't think Ryan minded playing video games as much as he got to. :P

The beginning of June saw the beginning of taekwondo camp. Tuesday and Thursday mornings Ryan and other intrepid campers got to have fun doing taekwondo-related things for an hour. Campers got to do entertaining obstacle courses, simple tumbling, handled nunchucks, and got to break boards - all without the usual formality and structure of regular class. On Tuesdays after camp, there was a half hour introductory Korean language class. Ryan learned to spell his name in Korean and that is now his preferred signature.

With camp two days a week and regular taekwondo class three days a week, Ryan got plenty of physical activity in.

On Saturday, June 14th, JoAnna and I attended the Wine in the Pines event at Pine Mountain Club. It had been five years since the first time we went. (You can read about that experience here.) It was a lot of fun but it was definitely different than it was before. The weather was warmer and it seemed like there were fewer wineries participating this time around.

We were there in celebration of JoAnna's birthday and for her birthday, she got a truly incredible pink sombrero. It was certainly an attention getter! JoAnna got a lot of great comments on it. The hat was also fairly heavy, so I took over wearing it for a while so JoAnna's head and neck could have a break. :)

Overall it was a very relaxing time, wandering around sipping wine and munching nibbles. We also did a little shopping. (I picked up a cute blouse and a pair of sunglasses from a local boutique.) We ended the trip with an ice cream cone. Hopefully it won't be another five years before we go again!

The next day, my parents and Ryan and I hit the beach in celebration of Father's Day.

The following Monday and Tuesday evenings (the 16th and the 17th), my mom and Ryan and I went to the Fathom Events showing of Doctor Who episodes, "Rise of the Cybermen" and "Age of Steel." (There was an interview with David Tennant after the episodes.) The next night of the event was "Wings 3D," a special narrated by David Tennant. The footage was amazing and immersive, like nothing I'd ever seen before.

On Saturday, June 21st, Ryan and I celebrated the solstice with a fun day out with Theresa and Gillian. Gillian is a fan of Ugly Dolls so our afternoon started off with a visit to UglyCon. It was in an intimate venue at an art gallery in LA, which was really cool. In addition to all the Ugly Doll-related art, there was a 3D printer creating Ugly Doll figurines. Ugly Doll co-creator and artist David Horvath was there and it was interesting hearing him talk about Ugly Doll's genesis and history.

Outside the venue there was a table where you could make shrinky dinks (remember those!) and pin-on buttons. Ryan had fun doing that.

I had a bit of an odd experience while that was going on. I looked up the street and saw a woman wearing a silver sequined skirt. The sun was hitting it and it was shining and glittering like crazy. I looked away for a second to see how Ryan was doing. When I looked up again a moment later, the mysterious woman in the silver sequined skirt had disappeared. There was nowhere she could have gone - not into a car or into a shop - from where I'd seen her last, only a moment before. Weird.

After the con we had a picnic at Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades. It was the perfect way to spend the longest day of the year and the first official day of summer.

The last week of the month flew by in a flurry of taekwondo for Ryan and work for me. On the 29th I dropped Ryan off to be with his dad for the next month. That never gets easier. Luckily, I had my parents with me so the drive home wasn't so lonely.

So there, in a nutshell, is June. Oh! I forgot to mention that on June 4th Ryan and my dad and I went cherry picking. You can never have too many Leona Valley cherries. :)

Below are photos from the month. Enjoy!


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Wednesday, August 13th 2014

3:57 PM


  • Random: I can't believe in my post about Yosemite I forgot to mention Elmer!

Around dusk on our first evening in Yosemite, someone suddenly yelled, "Ellllllmmeeeerrr!!!!!" Before I could ask what the heck, I heard answering yells from all around the camping area. There were at least half a dozen cries of, "Elmer!" echoing around.

It turns out, yelling "Elmer" while camping in Yosemite is a tradition going back possibly to the 1960s. Depending on who you ask, Elmer is either a lost hiker or lost little boy. Some say Elmer was never found while others insist he was. Whatever the case, people still call out for him to this day.

Each night we were camping, someone at some point would call out for Elmer and other campers would always answer.

Anybody out there have their own Elmer stories? Please feel free to share!

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Monday, August 11th 2014

1:38 PM


  • Stuck In My Head: We all listened to a lot of classic rock (Beatles, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Seger) and Lumineers while at the campsite. :)
  • Random: I wanted to take the feeling of Yosemite back home with me!

JoAnna's family has a wonderful tradition of camping in Yosemite each year. This tradition started with JoAnna's mom, Olga, going with her family when she was a little girl. I was excited when JoAnna invited me and Ryan to come along on this summer's excursion. I hadn't been tent camping since before Ryan was born and I hadn't been to Yosemite since running camp right before my freshman year of college in 1991. Ryan had never been tent camping so I thought it would be a good experience for him.

Ryan and I met up with JoAnna's parents early Sunday morning, August 3rd. We caravanned, which made the trip up a lot easier. There was a light drizzle when we left the Antelope Valley which stayed with us until McFarland (about halfway there).

Because it had been so long since I'd been to Yosemite, I didn't realize how vast the area was. It was another 50 miles past the park's entrance before we got to our campsite. The drive there was beautiful, though. There's a long tunnel (which Ryan loved going through) which pops out to a viewing area aptly called Tunnel View (click to read more about this and other iconic Yosemite views). That's when I had my first, "Oh my God," moment. There had been a fire in the area so there was residual smoke in the air in addition to the sky being slightly overcast. However, this didn't detract from the view's initial impact. To say it was incredible is a serious understatement. Seeing El Capitan and Half Dome right there was stunning. Unfortunately, we didn't stop but luckily someone got a photo, which I included in the album below.

As we headed toward our campsite, I was trying to explain to Ryan just how amazing our surroundings were. I said, "There's nowhere else like this on Earth!"

His response was, "Other places have mountains and forests." 

I shook my head. "BUT THEY DON'T LOOK LIKE THIS!!!!"

I lost phone service shortly after Oakhurst, which is a few miles outside Yosemite National Park. From that Sunday through the following Thursday, I could only use my phone as a clock and a camera. It was actually really nice to unplug for a while.

Our first afternoon and evening there was spent setting up (a special thanks to Izzy for helping me set up our tent!). We stayed in the Upper Pines camping area. JoAnna loaned me and Ryan a four-person tent as well as an air mattress while Larry had sent along a couple of sleeping bags with Ryan. The entire party consisted of - besides me and Ryan, and JoAnna and her parents - Monica (JoAnna's sister), her kids Sebastian (Sabby) and Isabel (Izzy), Ryan M. (Monica's fiance) and his son, Blake. JoAnna also brought her dogs, Egg and Sunny, a rotweiler and golden.

Our campsite wasn't far from a placid section of the Merced River, so once we were all settled our group took an evening stroll over to it. Unfortunately California is in a drought (again) so there wasn't as much water around as there has been in the past. However, there was still enough to wade around in and enjoy.

After dinner we had s'mores by the fire - a camping must! We had those huge marshmallows, which made the s'mores extra gooey and messy.

Later on in the evening a light drizzle began to fall which carried on throughout the night. It was soothing and relaxing to hear the soft patter of rain on our tent.

By morning the rain had stopped and any residual smoke had been washed away. It was still overcast though, but that kept the temperature down. JoAnna, her parents, Ryan and I went to breakfast at Curry Village (click here to read about Curry Village Pavilion and other dining options there). While the ambiance was enjoyable, the food was overpriced and not that great. We should have stayed at our campsite and had the chorizo and egg burritos Monica made! Live and learn.

We spent much of that Monday moving campsites. Apparently this is a pretty common occurrence. We had a reservation for one night in one spot then the rest of the nights were in another spot. There were a lot of other people nearby playing musical campsites. While moving again was a pain, it was well worth it because our new site was a lot nicer. There were fewer people around us and it was closer to just about everything - amenities, trails, etc. It was a little farther from the bathrooms but that was actually a good thing, as the bathroom lights go on at night and blare into your tent.

In the afternoon, Monica, Ryan M., and I took the boys to the river. It was still overcast and threatening rain so no one else was there. It was fun wading in the river while the boys played. There were little minnows in the river as well as a couple of ducks that came by in hopes of handouts. The only downside was there were a ton of flies. The only bite I got the entire time I was in Yosemite was from one of those flies. They didn't bother us while we were in the river but as soon as we sat down, it was fly central.

When we got back to the campsite, Ryan and I sacked out for a while. The last couple of days caught up to us and we were wiped. Later on we had dinner at the campsite. I have to say a huge, "Thank you!" to Monica, Olga, Ryan M., Walter and JoAnna for bringing all the cooking and eating utensils and for doing all the cooking. While I brought food to share as well, everyone shared their food (and drink!) with me and Ryan, and made sure we had plenty to eat. It's greatly appreciated!

After dinner we went to Curry Village for ice cream. They don't stint you, that's for sure. I ordered a double scoop thinking scoops were like you usually get. One scoop there is worth at least two normal scoops anywhere else! Ryan wanted cookies and cream but they ran out, so they gave him extra of the vanilla he chose instead. He didn't even get through half of it!

That night everyone went to bed fairly early. Ryan M., Blake, Sabby, Ryan and I stayed up a little while telling scary stories before going to be ourselves.

The next morning, Walter, Sabby, Ryan, Monica, Izzy, and I got up early to take showers. We saw a couple of bucks (deer) on the way.

I didn't realize how dirty I was until I got clean. It felt good to wash up. When we were done we got some coffee at Curry Village. They serve Peet's and I got something called a Mayan Mocha. It was pretty good - chocolate coffee with a hint of cinnamon and chili.

Ryan M.'s mom, Karen, joined us for the day and we all took the tram over to Yosemite Village where we checked out the visitor's center and the Indian Cultural Exhibit (click here to read more about each). After wandering around we watched the half-hour Spirit of Yosemite film about the history of the area. It was interesting and I was surprised to discover Ryan actually found it interesting as well. (Did you know: Yosemite was the inspiration for our National Parks system?)

Later on, everyone went to the Ahwahnee Hotel for drinks. The place is extremely nice and we got friendly service at the restaurant, even though we weren't guests. The waitress even told me how cute Ryan was and what nice manners he had. :)

That afternoon JoAnna and Izzy took the dogs for a walk to the river. Karen and I tagged along. Izzy wound up getting immersed up to chest level in the river while I managed - with Izzy's help - to keep it to ankle level. :) After dinner, Karen, Monica, Ryan M., Blake, and Ryan and I took off for a moonlit walk to Mirror Lake. After a while, Monica and Karen turned back. The rest of us kept going. The moon was nearly full but it still was pretty dark when the trees blocked the moonlight. Unfortunately, when we got to the lake we discovered it was dry. Because the moon was so bright, we couldn't see as many stars as I'd been hoping - though at least it wasn't overcast anymore so you could see some stars.

Ryan was concerned about water coming back into the lake, even though I assured him that wasn't going to happen. I was more concerned with not being able to see what was in the forest around us. It was nice to be out for a moonlit stroll but Ryan and I were definitely happy to get back to the campsite.

Around 1:45am we were awakened by a park ranger warning everyone there was a bear in the area. We had to make sure every food item was properly stowed in bear-proof food lockers. They take bear-proofing extremely seriously in Yosemite. When we were sure everything was good to go, we were able to go back to sleep.

That brings us to Wednesday, our last full day at Yosemite. In the morning, Ryan and I went for a short walk just the two of us. That was nice. That morning was the first morning it wasn't overcast. Seeing the golden sunlight filtering through the trees in the morning was amazing. The place is gorgeous no matter what, but when the sun is out it's like everything is suddenly in Technicolor!

The sun being out also meant it was quite a bit warmer than it had been; however, it wasn't unbearably hot.

After breakfast everyone but Olga and Walter went on an extended hike from the campsite to the bridge at Vernal Falls. The views were incredible! Ryan was a trooper but was not happy with all the uphill and the warmer weather. He told me, "Hiking is annoying." Oh well... 

Later in the afternoon Ryan and I went with JoAnna to pick up her dogs from doggy day care, then we met up with everyone else at Curry Village for pizza. The pizza was delicious! After pizza, we wandered over to the amphitheater to see what was going on. There was a live children's/comedy show about Yosemite's history that really caught Ryan's fancy. He absolutely LOVED it! He kept saying, "This is definitely worth it!" We wound up staying for the whole thing. I was amazed at how into it Ryan was but was thrilled he was enjoying himself so much.

After the show, we headed back to the campsite. JoAnna and I walked back to Curry Village for some ice cream while Ryan stayed at the campsite with everyone else. On the way back, we say a juvenile bear up in an apple tree and then got within touching distance of a buck.

The next morning was spent packing up and getting ready to head out. I have to say Ryan and I had a great time! I was worried that Ryan wouldn't do well unplugged (and he did manage to squeeze some playing time out of his DS) but overall he had fun riding his Razor scooter and playing with the other boys.

For me, I loved being out in nature. There is something spiritual and humbling about being in Yosemite. My thoughts cleared and I felt a sense of peace and calm that I can't remember having in a long time. I'm so thankful to JoAnna and her family for having me and Ryan along on their camping trip! 

Below are photos from the trip. Be sure to check out the captions. :)

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Saturday, July 26th 2014

2:41 PM


I never seem to realize just how busy we are until I look back at everything we've done over the course of a month. May is no exception. There was A LOT going on. Of course, whether or not it's interesting to anyone is another matter altogether. :)

We kicked off the first weekend of the month with a trip to the beach. 

Throughout the month Ryan had taekwondo class. He tested for and earned his green belt. The following are photos from class, testing, and getting his belt.


The following weekend (the 10th) we went to the beach again. We started off at Henry's (officially, "Arroyo Burro" or "Hendry's" only no one actually calls it by either of those names) but it was way too windy. We ended up back at our old haunt in Carpinteria. 

Throughout the month Ryan had school and guitar in addition to taekwondo. I had work and dance class. The weekend of the 17th we went to the Lilac Fest. Thursday the 22nd we had a wonderful thunder storm, which Ryan had to go be out in.

The next day my friend, Lanette, invited me and Ryan and my parents out to the Intermediate Space Challenge, which she was helping judge. It's out at the Mojave Airport and is basically a team rocket building competition for school aged kids. It was great to see Lanette and watching the rockets was fun! Later on in the day, Ryan had his last guitar class for the semester and there was a class party. That was fun.

The following week, my dad and Ryan and I went cherry picking. Cherry cobblers ensued. :) We tried a new recipe but decided we like the one we usually used best.

Somewhere in there Ryan and I joined JoAnna and her parents for the last part of the Jethawks game and for fireworks after. 

Also somehwere in the month of May JoAnna and I went for a walk on the aqua duct. It was a gorgeous night.

Below are photos from all those activities.


We capped off the month with another visit to the beach.


And that in a nutshell, was May. :)

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Monday, July 21st 2014

5:21 PM


  • Stuck In My Head: For some reason I've got Skylander's Empire of Ice Soundtrack on repeat.
  • Random: April 25th marked the one year anniversary of Joe coming into our home!

April was an eventful month - literally! In a nutshell, there was the Poppy Fest, the Merrell Down and Dirty mud run, Ryan's taekwondo tournament, and of course, Easter. But first...

The desert has a beauty that isn't always obvious - not the way a lush forest, field of flowers, or ocean vista is. The desert - specifically the High Desert (elevation 2600 feet, hence the name) where I live - has a beauty that only natives and long term residents immediately appreciate. For most people, it takes patience to see the High Desert's charms - and that patience is generally rewarded in the spring when the wildflowers bloom. Unfortunately, we don't always get enough precipitation in winter to get a really good display of spring wildflowers. In fact, this was the first year since 2008 that we got an decent display.

Springtime is when the Antelope Valley shines with temporarily green hillsides and the valley floor carpeted in a riot of bright orange poppies as well as wildflowers in contrasting shades of purple, yellow and white. At the beginning of April my parents and Ryan and I went out to the east side of the Antelope Valley to look at the wildflowers. It's funny because the flowers on the east side are different than those on the west. The east side featured purple, yellow and white flowers of varying hues while the poppies hung out on the west side. Below are a few photos my dad and I took during stops at Alpine Butte and Jack Rabbit Flat.

A few days later we went out to the west side of the valley to see the poppies.

On April 12th, Ryan had a taekwondo tournament. It was Yin's Gold Cup at College of the Canyons. Ryan did very well taking 2nd in poomsae (forms) and tied for first in sparring. It was a long day but a good one.

The next day was the crazy mud run I did. If you missed my post, you can read it here.

The following weekend was Easter. It had been several years since Ryan and I were at home for Easter. It was nice. We had a fun egg hunt in the back yard then went out for one more look at wildflowers. They are beautiful but fleeting so you have to take them in while you can. We drove to a slightly different part of the west side to see them (near Neenach). 

The next weekend was the Poppy Fest. Again, if you missed my post, click here.

That pretty much wraps up April. Oh, we did have a picnic at the Arches in Wrightwood and Ryan spent spring break with his dad. Below are some random pics from the month, including a photo of my mom's incredibly wonderful cheesecake! Enjoy!

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