Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Allan Family Christmas Update 2013





Greetings to all of our family and friends!  Once again another year has passed us by.  The day to day pace makes time pass quickly to be sure. 

Chris and Rita continue to prepare for the eventual move to Pine Grove, in the foothills east of Sacramento. The barn, which was delivered as a “kit” was finished up and signed off by Amador County in May. Immediately the overflow from Lakewood started filling it up. A good deal of renovation also was done to the tiny cabin we refer to as the “Boat House” due to its diminutive size. With the help of our friend Paul we were able to re-sheet the interior paneling upstairs and down, as well as new flooring in the restroom, shower area and “living room”. Future plans call for an outdoor/indoor kitchen and Tiki Lounge themed using the items generously bestowed upon us by our friends Ed and Diana Mackinson. The move is still scheduled for summer of 2016, after Emily graduates from Whitney High School.

Rita continues to focus on Girl Scout projects. Her girls have started their Gold Award projects, and in some cases, as in Anne’s, they are all but complete. Emily has selected her project and should have it finished in a year or so. At that point the troop will disband. Rita continues to spend her days upstairs developing construction training courses for Caltrans. She has built a foam box for recording voice-overs to be used in her online courses. Emily does a lot of the voice acting which is good practice for a possible future career. Rita also spends most weekends working at a small scrapbooking store in Bellflower, which gives her some hobby income and affords her time to visit with her group of friends.

Chris has more projects under way than he would like to admit. Work sporadically gets done on projects in Pine Grove, the steam locomotive restoration in Portola, the last of the 15” gauge railway equipment, and building components for a future model railway in “O” Scale. He doesn’t have much down time. Add to that taxiing the kids around, cooking meals, food shopping, etc. he is kept quite busy, and time flies by at a frightening pace for him. He and Rita also managed to paint the exterior of the house as well as scrape the last bit of that gaud awful popcorn texture off the ceiling of the living room in Lakewood. A new concrete driveway, poured by a contractor, as well as new plantings by Rita really helped restore some “curb appeal “ to the place, which will hopefully translate into a better price when it comes time to go on the market in a couple of years.

This year Chris and Rita celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, a real milestone! To celebrate, they dined at Lawry’s Prime Rib in Beverly Hills. This restaurant was on Chris’ “LA Bucket List” of things to do before he leaves, so it was a natural choice. The fare was, as you might imagine, quite excellent.

Anne, now a senior in high school, got to sample college life when she attended the California State Summer School for the Arts, at the Cal Arts campus in Santa Clarita. She spent an entire month sleeping in the dorms, and took art classes 6 days a week for a month. The program is quite prestigious, and we are very proud she made it in. All she needs to do is hang in there for another six months and it is off to college, wherever that may be. There are still several options open to her.  Anne’s driving skills are improving, including learning to drive Rita’s Escape with the stick shift. She hope to finally get her license on her 18th birthday next February.



Emily is in her sophomore year at Whitney, and has a full docket of activities as well. She took part in the school’s Fall stage play of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”. Given a meaty role, with many lines to memorize, she did amazing!  She worked a lot of late night rehearsals and gave it her all.  School keeps her busy with many class projects and clubs. Emily has an active social life as well, she always has friends close by which is a blessing.

Missy our Akita dog is slowing down, but still makes it to the dinner table every night. She still has a good deal of energy and enjoys being around the family and getting her hair everywhere she can!
We will continue moving forward, it is our hope that all of you can do the same. As always we wish for you a happy holiday season, and a happy and prosperous 2014. Keep in touch if you can, we always enjoy getting updates from you all!

All the best,

Chris Rita Anne Emily Missy

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Allan Family Christmas Letter for 2012

Another year has scurried by quickly and just like that, the Holidays are upon us. 2012 brought new experiences for some, progress on our projects, and some happy memories. This year, in an effort to promote the “green” agenda, our Christmas greeting will be electronic, by way of this posting. The truth is sending out cards this year is proving to be difficult given our accelerated lifestyles. Please don’t feel slighted, we love you all just the same! 

Where to begin? Anne and Emily are continuing their school days at Whitney High in Cerritos. Anne is a junior, and Emily started as a freshman. They are both doing well, and more often than not work well into the night on homework to keep up their grades. Rita and the girls continue their Girl Scout careers. A highlight this year was the Girl Scout’s 100th Birthday Celebration at Disneyland, which included a walk down the castle drawbridge with the other girls from their troop. The troop also traveled en masse to Seattle for a week, taking in the sights and displaying their 1960’s era authentic vintage uniforms, which were purchased from various sources, including Ebay and thrift shops.

The girl's troop at the Disneyland Girl Scout Birthday Celebration.
Anne received her learner’s permit to drive, and did some behind-the-wheel time with Dad. She did really well, and when her parents can afford the insurance she will make a fine full time driver. She has also made new friends in conjunction with following a band out of San Diego, Steam Powered Giraffe. These guys are a Steampunk Victorian family-oriented group that plays at the San Diego Zoo, among other venues. Anne is also active in several school clubs, and is continuing art training in her spare time. 


Emily is enjoying school and all her friends; she has an active social life. This year she earned a Presidential Award for Educational Excellence, and we are very proud of her. Her class also went on their east coast field trip over Spring Break, and she got to experience a great deal of history, as well as take in a Broadway show. Her mermaid themed birthday party was a big hit. Luckily it was a pool party, otherwise it would not have made much sense.

Rita continues to tele-commute to Sacramento from the upstairs office. She is designing training courses for Caltrans, her employer, and still enjoys working from home. The Girl Scout troop takes up a good deal of her time, as well as keeping the girls active in their various activities. Rita began painting the house here in Lakewood in preparation for the move north in a few years; hopefully that project will be completed sometime in the spring, Chris plans on helping. A current obsession of her and the girls is visiting thrift shops wherever they travel, and bringing home treasures like vintage clothing, etc. This certainly saves vast sums of money compared to shopping at the mall. Rita spent her 50th birthday at Laguna Beach with the family, including the yearly dose of “culture” at the Pageant of the Masters. Rita is also continuing with her scrapbooking hobby, and enjoys some time away from home with friends who have the same interest.

Off to Seattle!

In the queue for the Haunted Mansion for Dad's 50th.
Chris of course has project ADHD, that is to say, too many irons in the fire. Work continues on the locomotive restoration at the museum in Portola, California, which will hopefully wrap up in the next couple years. His big “push” this year has been putting up a 24 square foot, two story barn at the property in Pine Grove. Although not technically done as of this writing, it is (hopefully!) watertight for the winter. He spent two weeks in November finishing up the exterior with help from his friend Paul, Roger, and our great new Pine Grove neighbor, Mike. More than a few cuts from the sheet metal were bandaged up, many hard lessons were learned, but in the end the result was quite nice. The family will travel back up in the spring to finish it up. 

Chris spent his 50th birthday at Disneyland with Anne and Emily, and had a great time “pub-hopping” with his good friend Ken Eells at various places around the resort. It was a great way to start his second half-century! He has also been working on more parts for his 15” gauge railway parlor car, which will be finished up after the move north. Locomotive #18, a 15” gauge steamer built by Chris, took part in the 60th anniversary of the Redwood Valley Railway in Berkeley, California this past June. Participating was a real treat for Chris and his friends in attendance, to say the least. In his spare time Chris enjoys napping, and occasionally working on some O scale model railroad building. A lot of driving the girls around fills in the rest of his time.

The barn at Pine Grove is almost done!

Halloween.

 

Missy the dog is still doing well, and although getting on in years, still has a good deal of energy, enjoys her walks, and being around us. She is still as happy as ever. 

A truly busy 2012, and 2013 promises the same. We hope all of you are happy and healthy, if not prosperous. Please continue to try and keep in touch, and we will do the same. Have a wonderful holiday season and a happy, safe 2013! 

Yours in merriment, 

Chris, Rita, Anne, and Emily Allan (Missy too.)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Allan Family Christmas Update 2011


Greetings to all of our family and friends! Once again we turn around and another year has passed us by. Time flies when you never stop moving.

The Allan Family of Lakewood: Chris, Rita, Anne and Emily continues with the day to day struggle to stay ahead of the curve, so to speak, and life is never boring. With numerous Girl Scout trips and events, long weekends fixing up our property in Pine Grove, and just the day to day, a dizzying vortex of activity is the dominant theme in our world.

Rita continues to have the shortest commute in LA County, from the bedroom to the upstairs office. Her work for Caltrans takes up her days, while Girl Scouts, scrapbooking and various crafts take up the rest of her time. She has been fixing up the 10 foot by 10 foot square “boat house” (so named because it is like staying in a tiny boat) in Pine Grove to make for comfortable accommodations while we work on the property. So far she (and Chris) have installed a wood stove, shower, water heater, kitchenette, indoor and outdoor sink, and have the paneling for the upstairs loft all stained and ready to nail up. She has even begun transplanting some greenery from Lakewood to up there, including a heirloom rhubarb plant. Sisters Mary, Patty, and cousins May, Lauren and Christopher came up at the end of the summer and hung out for a day with the family, it was fun having them there. The highlight for the kids was the Slip and Slide built by Rita, which worked great until the well ran out and only gave us pumpkin colored muck for a couple of hours. Rita also spent a harried month of October turning out costumes for the girls and their friends to wear to the Disneyland Halloween party. They were very detailed and everyone loved them.

Chris had quite a busy year, at one time making four separate round trips over the Grapevine to Northern California in one month. Work continues on the steam locomotive at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola, California. Much was accomplished this year, and there is a whole load of work yet to do. He also started a new project in Arnold, California; a logging locomotive restoration for the Sierra Nevada Logging Museum, which should last until 2014. Not much progress on any of the 15” gauge projects this year. He sold off his steam shovel build to help fund the remainder of the parlor car project, which was sad and a relief all at the same time. The highlight for Chris’ 2011 was a rail cruise up the scenic Feather River Canyon, from Oakland, California to Portola aboard Roger and Gloria Stabler’s private railcar, the “Two Rivers”. Five days and nights enjoying the Pullman accommodations with good friends, sumptuous meals and tasty cocktails made for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Various other activities fill in his “spare time” including trying new recipes to cook that the family will actually eat, and driving the girls back and forth to Disneyland on a regular basis. Chris is enamored of the new Tiki-themed bar at the Disneyland Hotel: Trader Sam’s. He wishes he could spend more time there.

Anne is a sophomore at Whitney High School in Cerritos. The course load is tough but she is doing well. Pre-calculus was especially difficult but she is gradually improving. Her artwork is also improving as she studies different styles and has joined the Lakewood Art Guild. Anne has become a Disney-o-phile, spending a lot of time at Disneyland with her “gang,” the Peter Pals. She hopes one day to get a job at Disney Imagineering. She was able this year to interview Imagineer Ray Spencer for a school report, which was a real highlight for her. She is starting to work on her Girl Scout Gold Award, a project for the City of Lakewood Pan American Association, and has become a real fan of sleeping in.

Emily is in 8th grade, also at Whitney. She has taken to drama, and was in a school play last spring, and most likely another one this coming spring. She is also studying hard and is making very good grades. Emily remains a Barbie enthusiast and everything pink. This year she adds Monster High to her list of favorite things. She completed her Girl Scout Silver Award, developed and ran a Harry Potter Girl Scout camp. She enjoys hanging out with her circle of friends. Emily is quite keen on Christmas coming, and has led the charge to get the decorations up, which is good, since her parents are getting more tired as the season wears on.

Missy is slowing down, she is we estimate around 9-10 years old now, but still excited to walk around the neighborhood, or ride in the truck. She is quite good at taking care of us.

That’s our year in a nutshell. 2011 went quick, and there is no indication that we will slow down any time soon. 2012 promises to be a banner year, with a barn raising in the summer and only 4 years until the big move to Pine Grove. We hope all of you have a wonderful season and a happy, healthy New Year. Please keep in touch, and stop in if you get the chance, we might actually be at home!

All the best,

Chris Rita Anne Emily & Missy

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Allan Family Christmas Update 2010

Greetings to all of our family and friends! We will once again attempt to update you on our past year of activity, accomplishments, and other stuff.
As the girls get into their teenage years, life becomes increasingly hectic. Both Anne and Emily are now attending Whitney Academy in Cerritos. Their school is part of the local school district, and focuses on college prep. Another benefit for Chris and Rita is the school bus transport provided, so no more multiple daily driving trips across town.
Rita consented to move her Caltrans office into what was the master bedroom, and the bedroom is now on the ground floor. Chris suggested this arrangement because less noise from the street gets through to the back of the house. The move, which took place over the summer, involved a lot of painting, new carpets, windows, and other improvements that were put off for too long, like central heat downstairs. The new office also includes homework areas for both the girls. Rita continues to be active in Girl Scouts. She led the annual campout to Newport Beach over the summer, and keeps busy organizing other troop activities. For her Mother’s Day in August she received a baby dragon sculpture for the garden, and for her birthday she loved the ”Harry Potter” themed Jelly Belly vending machine we bought surplus from a candy shop in Jackson. At Halloween she added a large inflatable skull to the roof of the house; she affectionately refers to him as “Achmed”.
Anne’s highlights for the year included her East Coast trip with her 8th grade class, from Washington DC to Boston in less than seven days. She also was treated to a “backstage” tour of Disney Imagineering from a friend of ours. Anne hopes one day to become an Imagineer, and the tour, which was incorporated into a school career report, was quite inspiring to her. She graduated with honors from Carmenita Middle School in June.
This year also marks the first year both the girls have Disneyland Annual Passports, so they can take advantage of our proximity to the Park and visit as much as they both can stand. Anne is a rabid Disney fan, and Emily loves Tinkerbell, and they both love a few hours a month running around Disneyland parent-free.
Summer Camps for both girls this year included Surfing at Huntington Beach, improv/theater camp at the local Community College, and of course Girl Scout camps both in Long Beach and up in the mountains near Idyllwild.
Emily finished up 6th grade and took part in the school play and the talent show, and did a wonderful job with both. She was accepted to Whitney school and decided to go, reluctantly at first, but she now loves it. She was encouraged to attend the same school by both her parents, for the reasons previously mentioned (there’s a bus!)
The really BIG news is the purchase of Chris and Rita’s retirement property in the town of Pine Grove, California, in the northern part of the state, about an hour’s drive southeast of Sacramento. There is not much on the acre-and-a-third parcel except for a couple of shacks. One of these “outbuildings” will become a bunkhouse of sorts, someplace to stay while we are working on the property. Chris is quite excited to get out of the greater Los Angeles area after the girls are out of High School. The property purchase gives him some hope this may actually happen! The land is wooded and lies at the 2300 foot level. The well, septic, and power were put in by the former owner, so all we have to do is drop in a house and shop in the future (among other things).
Chris continues to restore the steam locomotive in Portola with his team. It will be a long term job but one he enjoys. Every so often he even makes it out to the garage to work on one of his projects, or somebody else’s. He has several more lifetimes of projects ahead of him.
Missy continues to take care of all of us, and enjoys napping and barking at the UPS truck.
That’s about it for now. We wish all of you a joyous Christmas, and a happy, prosperous, and safe 2011.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Anne!

Anne celebrated her 14th birthday on the 3rd. We are all very proud of her accomplishments and how well she is doing in school. Tomorrow she is going to Madame Tussaud's wax museum in Hollywood with her friend to be followed by lunch at the Hard Rock. We love you sweetie! - Chris

Anne's friends decorated her locker as a surprise on her birthday.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Happy Birthday Emily!

Emily celebrated her twelfth birthday today. The family took her out to Mimi's for dinner, and she picked out a chocolate cake at Trader Joe's. On Saturday she will have her friends over for a mystery dinner. They grow up fast! Happy birthday sweetie! - Chris

Emily gets ready to blow them out!


Delicious chocolate cake!

Monday, December 7, 2009

End of Year Update for 2009

In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it 'Christmas' and went to church; the Jews called it 'Hanukkah' and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say 'Merry Christmas!' or 'Happy Hanukkah!' or (to the atheists) 'Look out for the wall!' ~Dave Barry, "Christmas Shopping: A Survivor's Guide"

On that note we would like to welcome you to the 2009 edition of the Allan Family Christmas letter. Another year has come and gone. Some events in our lives were happy, some sad. We have again persevered, and hope the same holds true for all of you.

Life here in Lakewood continues to exemplify the dream that is Southern California; traffic, noise, shopping and nonstop coming and going. All of us here have a lot going on, and a lot to be thankful for. We all still like (or at least tolerate) each other and in the end that’s pretty good!

Rita continues her Girl Scout mission which serves to get Anne and Emily out of their bedroom at least occasionally. Nut sales have wound up for the year, and cookies are getting ready to crank up. They are saving up for a troop cruise in a few years, something to look forward to. Caltrans work is still keeping a roof over our head, but Gov. Arnold has seen fit to put Rita on “Furlough Fridays” three days a month, which does eat into our savings a bit. Hopefully that will all end by June 2010, we remain optimistic. The rest of Rita’s time is spent reading with the Kindle, her form of escapism. Recently she relayed the floor in the kitchen and installed a dishwasher, all in one huge day of effort, which her back muscles didn’t appreciate.

Chris still has a few projects in the works. The locomotive restoration in Portola, Ca. (his form of escapism) continues. Sadly he lost one of his best pals, Dana Greeley, this past spring. Dana was a great guy Chris has known for most of his adult life, and was of late helping him out in Portola. Another smaller narrow-gauge locomotive is being restored for a private individual here in So Cal. This one is named “Apollo” and was rescued from an abandoned gold mining operation in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. Due to financial constraints not much time has been spent on his own projects unfortunately. He takes joy in driving the girls back and forth to school, and looks forward to a trip up north to Concord right after Christmas. Other activities include honing his cooking skills, and internet-scouting various possible locales for the move to up north after the girls are in college.

Anne is now 13, and is in eighth grade at Carmenita Middle School in Cerritos. She is doing very well grade-wise, and is active in other activities there including leadership, and tutoring. There is lots of homework during the week, but enjoys her Sims computer game, and of late, oil painting during her brief periods of downtime. Anne also helps out at the local county library on Wednesdays after school reading to the little kids, and helping the librarian organizing things, etc. Her summer highlight was summer surf camp in Huntington Beach. Anne is quite adept in the water, and even got good enough to stand up on the board a few times. Next fall she enters high school. Yikes!

Emily is (until January) eleven years old, and is in sixth grade, her last year at Nixon Elementary. Next year she will take her sister’s place at Carmenita Middle. She enjoys a lot of the same things her sister does. Emily is Dad’s “sous chef” in the kitchen most nights, and has learned to make a mean hollandaise sauce! She enjoyed a week at horse camp this past summer in Bonsall, in northern San Diego County. This was her first long trip alone away from home, and she did great.

For the first time in many years (if ever) we took a family vacation together. After some deliberation we decided on a few days over on Catalina Island. The whole adventure can be perused in our summer update blog post. Suffice to say it was a relaxing time away from home, which we all needed. A nice change of scenery was a good thing.

Aside from some other omissions that may have escaped our frazzled brains, that was about it for 2009. We look forward to another busy year in 2010. We send our love to all of you, and hope to see many of you soon. Missy the dog would really like that too. She loves visitors, as do we all!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all,

The Allan Family
Chris Rita Anne Emily Missy