Christmas a time for family

Well, yesterday was one hectic day.  Greg and I got up to head over to his Granmother Dot’s for CHristmas lunch at the Astor House.  We joked, talked and gave her Christmas gift.  Her Friend Olive joined us, who is a spitfire at 99.  She had already headed out with family for a morning breakfast in Newburg and then rushed back to make sure Dot was okay and not eating alone.  Wonderful lady who also taught in a one room school house in the midwest.
Next stop was to my Godfather RB and his wife Jan.  It was great to see tham and they are still volunteering with St. Mary’s Cross country ski team.  This is the 9th year!  What dedication, plus it makes it so they can’t take vacations.  RB is off on Jan 4th for a 3 week bike tour through Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.  He is crazy as they average over 100 miles a day and that is tough on normal roads.  Imagine that on dirt and rough roads.  We also met RB’s Mom who is up from San Louis Obisbo.
After that we headed to my brother’s new house to celebrate Christmas with the kids and my Mom.  Love their new 5 bedroom 2.5 bath house.  They are very happy and each kid has their own bedroom now, very exciting when you are 5,3, and 9 months!  My Mom of course had to do all the cooking but my brother threw is some Vietnamese Steak from the grill to mix in with the Turkey and dressing.  Never a dull moment at the Johnson’s.
We missed Pam, Gordon, Bryan, Christina, Gordy and Lily as they were celebrating in Seattle.  We will see them next week when we begin our house hunting in Bellevue.  USA here we come back home and now this blog will get a little boring as I will only have monthly escapades around the world and not weekly.  Happy Holiday’s All and hope 2010 brings much joy and happiness in your lives.

A special day for an amazing lady

Born January 22, 1920; Passed December 13, 2009.  On Wednesday, we spent celebrating the life of Helen Pattee.  Greg’s grandmother that raised him while his parents worked.  Helen was an amazing lady who taught in a one room school house in Iowa.  Could you imagine our teachers today, teaching and cooking breakfast and lunch for all their students.  I loved hearing the stories of how there was always plenty of food at Grandma’s house, fresh from the garden.  That explains why Pamela (Greg’s mom) always cooks way too much food.  Grandma Helen was so sweet and called me Greg’s little angel.  Jim, Greg’s cousin Gina’s husband lead a very nice service and rounds of sharing.  He also read Greg’s letter to Helen before she passed away.  Pam picked a great Poem, I would like to share:
Do Not Stand At My Grave and Weep by Mary Elizabeth Frye
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glint on the snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.
I am gentle autumn rain.
When you wake in the morning hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die!

Return to a car driving family

So we caved, our 3 year no car family has come to an end.  Yesterday, we purchased a car the new 2010 Lexus 450h.  So the good thing we will be a 1 car family and my goal is to ride my bike to work or take the Microsoft Commuter.  We got a Hybrid to do the best to the environment as possible being a car family.  It is also 4 wheel drive so we can head to the mountain and go snowboarding and cross country skiing.  It is super cool the cruise control can sense the car in front of you and keep the distance between the two cars, so no more slamming on the brake when the dork in front of you slows down.  Also, as a Microsoft Tech Geek it has many super cool tech geek features…. LOVE IT!  Below is a good review I found on the 450h from 4 wheeler magazine:

We just returned from a day in northern California testdriving the new Lexus RX 450h, and as you might expect, it’s a rolling encyclopedia of new-car tech. We’ll do our best to explain it all in thumbnails, but suffice to say, it’s a capable and civilized alternative to your run-of-the-mill crossover rigs.

The heart of the RX is the time-proven Toyota 2GR 3.5L V-6 (a variant of which Lotus will be using next year on its GT4 Supersport race cars), which has been refined for this application with the addition of an EGR system for improved emissions and cooling, and an exhaust heat recovery system to aid in quicker heat-up times (i.e., cold-start conditions). The motor also runs an Atkinson-style combustion cycle (the power stroke is longer than the compression stroke), which helps to achieve greater fuel economy and thermal efficiencies at the expense of horsepower. How to remedy? In the RX’s case, two ways.

First, the gas engine works in concert with Lexus Hybrid Drive, a battery-actuated hybrid system similar to Toyota’s (Prius) Hybrid Synergy Drive. The Lexus system can be run for brief periods at high speeds as well as at idle (and during braking) to provide an extra power boost as needed, such as on steep inclines or for passing. In the new RX application, the battery can provide an extra 50 horses to the V-6’s 245, resulting in 295 peak hp at 6,200 rpm. Second, the engine is mated to an electronic CVT transmission. We’re not too keen on these "pointless" gearboxes, but we do know that they have fewer internals to break, are less expensive than a conventional slushbox, and can keep an engine revving in its "sweet spot" longer than fixed-gear transmissions. Add everything up and you arrive at an EPA-estimated 26 mpg on the highway, 28 city, from a V-6 powertrain that is amply powerful, frugal, and super-clean (SULEV-rated) in operation.

The heart of the RX’s all-wheel-drive system is "Active Torque Control," which utilizes a pair of electric motors–one to power the front wheels, the other the rears, each housed in a gear-driven transaxle–to provide front-to-rear torque bias. The RX operates under normal conditions as a conventional front-drive. When wheel slippage is detected, the system activates an electromagnetic clutch-drive coupling device bolted to the rear differential to transfer power, front to rear, at splits of up to 55/45. (A third electric motor under the hood acts as a starter to power the batteries, and can recharge the other motors as needed.) An onboard power inverter boosts battery voltage to 600-plus, and converts the juice from DC to AC to drive the electric motors. Have we lost you yet?

The RX’s suspension is independent at both ends–the rear double-wishbone configuration a new feature for 2010–with two-mode onboard shock tuning for sport/touring functions, and standard wheels are 18-inch alloys, with 19s optional. Ground clearance, at under 7 inches, is less than optimal, and our tester’s 55-series Michelins, while sure-footed on pavement, don’t lend much sidewall for dirt duties. Thankfully, the Lexus’ interior is what you’d expect from this marque, with its trademark wooden steering wheel and leather everywhere. Shucks, this thing’s nicer inside than my house! (It’s probably worth more than my house is by now, too, but that’s another story.)

Picture of Greg and I, the salesman Dave and our new girl…