Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Amazing Family

I have some incredible family members who are so very entrepreneurial and talented that I just had to share more about them.

My brother Frank and his wife Kristin are quite the internet entrepreneurs with several really wonderful businesses online. They have Posh Eyewear, through which they sell reading glasses and accessories. I don't yet wear reading glasses, but I love looking at the accessories -- and these "Pocket Eyes" are a really cool option for reading glasses on the go. This makes my inevitable future need easier to anticipate.

Kristin has also begun Elastic by the Yard site selling "skinny elastic" to use in creating baby headbands. I'm usually not much of a fan of head bows for babies, but the skinny elastic coupled with the small felt flowers are cute -- and it's hard not to enjoy the sweet pictures of my niece Hailey that decorate the site! Kristin may yet bring me around on these head decorations... On a related note, you must check out Hailey's Halos, the pre-made headbands Kristin makes.
And of course I've always loved Kristin Barnett Photography (the site even has a picture of me!), and Frank's marketing work as well as his theological musings at Ek Anastasis. Definitely a power couple!

My cousin Melissa Riedel is one of the most talented people I've ever met. She is also both incredibly humble, and quite hilarious. Her singing literally will bring tears to your eyes or send chills down your spine, it is so beautiful--don't take my word for it, take a listen to or watch one of her recordings. Of course, after putting on an incredible performance like this, you spend a little time with Melissa and you will find yourself in tears again from laughing at her wit. If you get a chance to see a Melissa Riedel production, it is so worth it (and you should totally go out with her after the show if you can)!! I can only imagine how much fun she would be to work with on a major production.

Last, but not least, is my amazing husband and his brothers who own and run Perkins Adamantine Technologies. AdamanTech is a technology service provide company and the Perkins boys have the ability to handle high tech issues and explain them to (not-so-high-tech) people like me.

As an aside, both AdamanTech and Frank Barnett marketing have provided services to The Barnett Law Firm -- it's nice to sometimes keep things in the family.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Once in a Lifetime: Part Two

On December 14, we followed up our Reagan Library experience with a private tour of Rancho del Cielo, the Reagan Ranch also once known as the Western White House. In 1974, the Reagans purchased "Tip Top Ranch" about 30 miles outside of Santa Barbara and renamed the incredible place "Rancho del Cielo" or Ranch in the Heavens. I can now personally attest that the property certainly feels like a place very close to God.

Rancho del Cielo was a place of retreat for the President during his eight years in the White House, and he spent about 350 days there. As any admirer would guess, Ronnie was by no means idle on his ranch, quite the contrary. He spent his time building fence, riding trails, and constructing or upgrading portions of the ranch himself by hand.

In great contrast to the urban and opulent places other presidents have owned, the ranch was actually quite humble and rustic. It did have indoor plumbing, but no central heat. As we understand, Nancy liked it to stay about 80 degrees inside, which was accomplished by keeping the fireplace stoked with wood that Ronnie chopped and kept in sufficient supply. The two enjoyed time together reading and Nancy talked on the phone, but they rarely entertained.

It's easy to understand why the Reagans found such peace at the ranch -- from the moment we arrived the sense of peaceful solitude was pervasive. I also enjoyed seeing Reagan's handiwork throughout the ranch house, including the porch: Ronnie laid all the stonework himself. Twice.

Just outside the ranch house was a small pond filled with big memories. Reagan himself built the full dock and called it one of his greatest achievements. Hanging at the end of the dock was the life preserver that William F. Buckley gave him once upon a time.

Clearly an important photo op for The Barnettica with Reagan's dock and Buckley's life preserver.

We also looked through the stables and storage area, where we found some additional treasures. First, I caught Frank with this riding mower and related picture.
The best part, of course, is a close look at the picture (no offense to Frank). I really loved seeing these two icons of American history in their playful time at the ranch and so clearly in love with each other.

We all found it interesting how well the ranch seemed to suit Nancy, despite what a first-class lady she always has been--she sometimes seemed a little too .... fancy for a ranch. I suppose it mostly suited her because of how well it suited her other half. They were, indeed, a matched set.

Then we found the Brat. [UPDATE] So it turns out this Brat was actually THE original ranch work vehicle. Someone found it for sale, purchased it and had it restored (along with the Ranch name on the door). They confirmed it was the right one with the VIN. That's a much cooler story than I remembered.

In the garage, the Brat sat next to an old jeep work vehicle that we understand gave Reagan's security detail--as well as Nancy--some difficult moments. It had no roll bar and was pretty rugged. Ronnie regularly used it for his ranch work and appeared to love every minute of the manual labor from all the pictures we saw.

One of his long-term projects was to build the fences that are in some of these pictures. He did it all by hand with help from a couple friends. The wood came from old telephone poles and he used post-hole diggers to make all of the necessary holes by hand. I believe he managed to finish over 400 feet of fencing in his spare time!

Also kept in the storage area, this faux movie poster was quite amusing, particularly, yet again, upon closer inspection.
Check out the cast and crew -- definitely a movie I would love to see!

Seeing Maggie in this reminds me of a great story about the Queen's visit to the ranch. There was a major storm and no helicopter could land. Instead, she was driven up the 7-mile difficult mountain road and the water actually came into the vehicle and up over her ankles. Naturally, she managed just fine and enjoyed a visit in the rustic American West with the Reagans.

Up near the stables, there was a bell with a similar one down by the ranch house. Each day that Ronnie and Nancy went for a ride, Ronnie would tack up Nancy's horse and prepare for the ride. When the horse was ready, he would ring the bell to alert her that the horse was ready. Similarly, when Nancy was ready for lunch, she rang her bell to call Ronnie in to eat.

Here is Frank ringing the bell by the stables (sorry it is side-ways, my bad there):

As we were leaving, we learned a little more about the Reagan Ranch visits for the media. If you look out in the distance beyond the gate you can see "bald" area on yonder mountain top. That is where the press was permitted while the Reagans were in residence.

They found it quite boring, except for the times that the Reagans decided to provide a show -- which we understand both Ronnie and Nancy did on occasion. For example, Ronnie once faked a heart attack while in his front yard before jumping up to take a bow. On another occasion, Nancy took an opportunity while out riding her horse to share with the media her "Just Say No" sign for an unexpected photo op. Stories like these really made the day at the ranch a special chance for us to get to know the Reagans in a different way.

One of the last sites that we drove past is this new area with the names of all the President's Club members and supporters of the Young America's Foundation (YAF). YAF owns and maintains the ranch now, and it is not generally open to the public, although it is open to the President's Club members.

Sometime in the next few months, Mickey Barnett's name will appear on one of these metal plates.

When we left, the good people at YAF gave us each a copy of the book "Riding with Reagan." It is a wonderful read, authored by the Secret Service agent, John Barletta, that rode with Reagan on the ranch (and elsewhere) beginning shortly after the 1980 election through to the day he had to tell the President riding was no long a good idea because of his health--a moment that would break your heart, I'm sure. C-SPAN has a video presentation about the book that runs about 45 minutes.<

Our two days in California provided one of those incredible experiences and a host of memories that will last a lifetime. Thanks, Dad.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Once in a Lifetime: Part One

On December 13 and 14, I had the privilege of experiencing one of those incredible once in a lifetime trips. My dad brought Frank and I to southern California to participate in the unveiling of the U.S. Postal Service's new Reagan stamp, which will be issued in honor of the Gipper's Centennial birthday on February 6, 2011.

The trip had a bit of an inauspicious start: Frank was so sick the day before that we didn't know if he would make it on the trip. Then Dad missed his first flight and had to come up with an alternative plan. Thankfully, we all managed to meet up by late morning.

The unveiling ceremony took place at the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley. The library opened in 1991 and houses incredible exhibits chronicling our 40th President's life and presidency--it's definitely worth a visit if you're ever in the area.

Before we got started, we got to stop in the Green Room and meet the artist as well as the other ceremony participants.

Nancy Reagan attended the ceremony, along with Postal Board Governors Mickey Barnett and Jim Miller, singer Jordan Pruitt, artist Bart Forbes (who created the painting for the stamp), and Reagan Foundation director John Heubusch.

Gov. Miller's comments, as well as all aspects of the ceremony, were wonderful. In particular, I appreciated his acknowledgement that Reagan was special because of his deep abiding faith in God and his belief that he was placed here for a purpose.

I have to admit that, for me, the best parts of the ceremony were watching Dad as he sat next to this amazing First Lady, about 30 feet away from me, and the unveiling itself.

I managed to capture the actual unveiling in a short video:


Nancy's reaction to the stamp was incredibly touching as she so clearly loves her Ronnie to this day. She gently touched his cheek, and stared at the painting for several minutes. It was wonderful to share the moment.

After the ceremony, we were thrilled to join a small private group for lunch with Nancy and the other ceremony participants. Of course, Frank and I were at the "kids" table (with Jim Miller's daughter), but the experience was wonderful. We sat next to a gentleman who has been friends with Nancy for several decades and he had some amazing stories -- the kind of stories that would make you think he is a pathological liar except that he was invited to this lunch! (We did, in fact, believe all of his wonderful stories.)

Here is my place setting and the delicious soup we enjoyed. It was pretty amazing to walk into a room set for less than 40 lunch attendees and have my name at one of the seats.

We, of course, ate on Reagan White House china, so I had to capture that as well.

After the lunch, we had a private tour of the portions of the library that are currently open. Unfortunately, many exhibits are closed for renovation in anticipation of the Centennial Birthday activities beginning February 6, 2011. But we did get to see the Oval Office replica, Air Force One Pavilion, the Discovery Center, the White House Miniature, and An American Christmas exhibit.

This is the fun professional photo from our trip through Air Force One:
In our trip through the Discovery Center, we got to try out the Resolute Desk, and found an amusing coincidence: a recurring character of Special Agent Frank.

The Discovery Center was really a neat exhibit that allows young students to participate in a role-playing exercise that is based on the 1983 military coup in Grenada and resulting U.S.-led invasion code-named Operation Urgent Fury. The U.S. decision to invade was a controversial one, and students participating in this exercise learn about the process of reaching that decision as an executive team. Some students also serve as military advisors who must decide what military strategy to employ, while others get to serve as members of the press deciding how to handle the President's media blackout. It looks like an incredible learning experience!

The "Oval Office" is a 2/3 sized replica of the real one, and it was fun to take a turn in the hot seat for decision-making.

Special Agent Frank was apparently one of the "characters" that students portray and he participates in the Oval Office portion of the scenario.

One of the wonderful exhibits we explored was the White House Miniature, which is a temporary exhibit.
It is a one foot to one inch ratio, and the detail is just unbelievable. Tiny carpets were reproduced "stitch by stitch" and all of the artwork and portraits appear in the miniature exactly as they do in the White House.

Frank jumped in this picture
to provide some perspective on the Oval Office detail.
One interesting fact: the architects of the miniature actually update the Oval Office to reflect the current President so this is a depiction of the office as it currently appears in Barack Obama's White House.

Around the room housing the miniature, the "An American Christmas" exhibit was also captivating.

Note the giant laptop and Reagan magazine covers representing the 1980s.

Of course our current decade is the YouTube, Facebook, and Twin Towers decade.

In closing out day one of this incredible adventure, we spent a somber moment at Reagan's grave, and marveled at the incredible sunset view from his final resting place.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Staycation ... or Steak-cation

John and I have been married for four years as of tomorrow, and to celebrate John planned a fun weekend full of surprises for me. It was amazing, fun, and (candidly) a little bit nerve-wracking: I am the planner in the family and not only did I not have any part in planning the weekend, but John kept everything a surprise right up to the last minute.

We had our very first (but hopefully not last) Staycation--we stayed in town, but took a little vacation.

We started out Friday with a special lunch at a place I've only been to for happy hour, but always wanted to try a meal. Fez is a downtown chic sort of place--something I would enjoy trying, but not really John's type of place.

Lunch was a little late, so we had a light fare of crab and shrimp risotto cakes and garlic rosemary french fries.


After lunch we drove to the Hilton Suites in downtown Phoenix. I didn't know our destination until we arrived and it is a beautiful hotel. John had already checked in and arranged for a room on the top floor so we had a nice view and an incredible, huge suite.

We chilled for a while and enjoyed the big screen t.v. and movie channels as well as the lovely bathroom to get ready for a special dinner. We left the hotel to walk to dinner and, trust me, it is interesting to walk to an unknown location for dinner!

The destination was excellent: Durant's, a local steakhouse just down the street from the hotel. The food was AMAZING. We started with a special appetizer of "Durant's Debris," skewers of the "debris" left over when the chef makes the special cuts of steak. So yummy!
In the background of the picture you can also see the tasty bread and olive oil.

After our amazing steaks (so good that we almost want to call the whole weekend a "steak-cation")and a tasty new wine, we had a fun surprise when they brought us a white chocolate raspberry cheesecake on oreo cookie crust.

One of my favorite things is enjoying a hot tub or jacuzzi and so it was lovely to come back to the hotel, which had a great hot tub.

On Saturday morning, we got up and the only information I had about the day was that I needed to wear comfortable walking shoes, a hat, and jeans. We walked across the street from the hotel and hopped on the light rail...and I still didn't know where we were going. John kept teasing me as to whether we would get off at each stop until we finally reached a stop at Priest and Washington streets.

At this point I figured out the end destination: the Phoenix Zoo!! I was very excited because I've never been to the zoo here before. We waited for a bus to go from the light rail to the zoo, about 1.5 miles away. But then we got impatient and walked the rest of the way.

The zoo was great fun, and such an opportunity to enjoy each other and God's creations.

We always really love the monkeys and apes. I'm not sure why, but it's definitely a Perkins thing.

And then we also just love being silly. Obviously.

For your enjoyment, we also took some videos. In this first one, the youngest orangutan was playing with a toy and provided great amusement for all of the kids watching.


Next, our fun with the otters. You can hear some whistling in the background, which is John, and then the otter in the video seemed to be responding. This little fellow certainly had a lot of personality and we enjoyed "talking" with him for a while!


Finally, I just got a kick out of the prairie dog babies.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cherish the Moments

I've recently had some great reminders to cherish the little moments in life and the importance of keeping life in perspective.
Today we attended a 100th birthday celebration at our church. We enjoyed lunch with the extended family and had a lesson in perspective when we looked over the scrapbooks and artifacts from the last century.

Just look at Erma's spirit and joy celebrating with family -- quite inspiring!

We were also reminded of a simpler time when a birth certificate was filed a week after the birth (which likely took place at home) and a person born on November 11 was not born on a holiday.

For those who are curious, November 11, 1918, is the date the Armistice ending World War I was signed; Wilson declared it Armistice Day in 1919 and it became a legal holiday in 1938. Eisenhower signed into law a bill in 1954 declaring the Veteran's Day holiday to celebrate all veterans' sacrifices.

We had so much fun recently when my family came to visit and a lot of the fun of course centered around my sweet niece Allison who is at a truly hilarious age. The best parts always seemed to come in the sweet, quiet moments of the day.

Riding in the car provided many great moments just listening to Allison. She likes to sing and chatter--and she really likes to imitate her mom and dad talking on the phone. She has even learned to pause for the "other person" to talk, and just keeps saying "yeah. yeah." Precious.

This was such a sweet moment to catch. Allison is highy entertained by her Mimi Jackie's iPod. They had finished a log play time while Kristin was doing a photo shoot and decided to wait for us at the car.

This is the sight we found.

Last but not least is this great shot with Uncle John as they were both just waking up.

So, don't forget to cherish the little moments as they happen, and to keep some perspective on life--things will probably look a little different a few decades down the road.