About Mary Ames Mitchell

Writer, Graphic Designer, and Explorer.

YouTube Videos, Abigail the Puppy, an Aliner Travel Trailer, & Garden Fiascos

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Hey all

It’s the last day of May. I love June. It’s my birthday month. When I was in elementary school, I felt short changed because my friends and their families had left town for summer vacations by the time my birthday rolled around. This year, I will share my 70th, my daughter’s 40th, and my grandson’s 7th in a family-only Big Birthday Bash in my backyard. Festivities will include Pin-the-Tail-on-The-Donkey and an obstacle course, take-out Central American food from my favorite taqueria, Picante, and balloons.

Here in California, we are already nervous about the upcoming fire season. When will it start, whose house will get hit this year, and how long will we have smokey air? A news article in the SF Chronicle said that we’ve already had more fires this year than last year by this time. The big fires started in August last year. They used to start in October. Everywhere I go, lakes and rivers are at a low mark. Fingers crossed.

YouTube Videos

While locked down this last year, I spent a lot of time creating YouTube videos. Just a reminder. I have two YouTube channels.

  1. Mary Ames Mitchell (where I post stuff about my writing, genealogical research, and anything else non-RV related)
  2. Rambling in Ramsey (where I post stuff about traveling in my Ram Promaster City that I usually have set up as a campervan)

Most of the time I spent researching and producing a five-part series about my great-great grandparents Charles & Fanny Ames, 19th Century Human Rights Activists in honor of the 100-year anniversary of the passing of the 19th Amendment. My target audience was my family (fellow descendants of Charles Gordon Ames). But some of my Christian Science friends have been interested, too, because Charles was the minister across town in Boston while Mary Baker Eddy was founding her church on Mass Ave.

Curiosity motivated me to find out more about the women’s rights movement, which, I soon learned, was interconnected with the abolition movement. And in Boston, the same people who led those movements were mostly Unitarians. Another thing I learned was that back then, the people who were part of the Second Great Awakening (who opposed Unitarianism and Universalism) were as skeptical of science as their descendant Born Again Christians are today. Sorry if that remark offends some of you, but this is my blog and I get to insert my opinion. I tried to keep my opinions out of my videos, however, and state only facts and real-life events.

Abigail, My Corgi Puppy

Since November, I’ve spent a lot of the time trying to train Abby. We graduated from the Marin Humane Society’s Family Dog 2 class last week. FD3 starts the second week in June. Abby is very smart. She can do ‘hoop’ and stay on a mat for five minutes, if she wants to, or if the treat is something really, really yummy. She caught the frisbee in the air three times in a row yesterday afternoon. She is also a huge thief. I can’t set my coffee down, let along a plate of nuts or crackers. And she’s bossy, which is causing stress for 17-year-old Annie. So, I separate them a lot. Thank goodness for crates and tie-downs. Don’t worry. They both get plenty of attention.

My New Travel Trailer

There is no way to cook in a small van like mine with a bouncy puppy. I nearly blew myself up trying it with my propane stove. So, I’ve added a travel trailer to my camping program. In the video, I give you a quick tour of the interior.

My Garden

I thought I was being so smart purchasing a little greenhouse shelf and starting seeds early. I worked all winter building my compost pile. But something isn’t working. These vegetables were planted months ago. Similar plants in my neighbor’s garden are four times the size. However, the artichokes are doing great. I made artichoke carbonara last night. Yummy.

And I have plenty of salad. Lettuce, arugula, and spinach thrive in this tower. A few tomato plant seeds must have made it through the winter in the compost bin because I had five growing in the tower that I didn’t plant. They are now in the raised bed.

Speaking of which, does anyone know what to do with all these pill bugs? I read that they are good for compost, so I scoop then up by the handful and throw them into my compost bin. But nothing likes to grow in this raised bed.

That is all for now. I hope everyone has fun summer plans to look forward to. Stay safe and healthy.

January 2021 Update

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Mary Mitchell with corgis Annie and Abigail
Abigail and Annie were not being cooperative for this photo session.

Hey there friends out on the internet. How were your holidays? I hope everyone has remained healthy, that you are managing financially, and that you are able to see your loved ones.

All’s well here. As you can see, Annie and I have a new puppy. I was searching for a dog to adopt on Craig’s List and happened on a Corgi puppy. Our whole household is getting out more. No more sitting in front of the computer for hours for me. Sometimes Annie is very happy for the company and sometimes not.

Abigail and Annie on the floor in my studio.
Annie likes it best when Abigail is contained.
Abigail and Annie guarding the garden against squirrels.
Abigail and Annie guarding the garden against squirrels.
Both dogs still fit on my chair during coffee time in the morning.
Both dogs still fit on my chair during coffee time in the morning.

We’ve taken one day-trip together. You might have seen the above YouTube video about it.

Making YouTube videos has been my Stay-at-home thing. I run two channels. One is for my RV stuff called Rambling in Ramsey. I posted this video a vew months ago about converting my Ram ProMaster City into a camperfan without building anything or making permanent changes to the van.

I haven’t taken any overnight trips in a while because of the pandemic. Sadly, that means I haven’t seen my family in Southern California for a while. Real bummer. But the grandson who lives near me in Marin County loves toodling around town in Ramsey. Our favorite haunts are still the Railroad Station and the Dump.

I also have a YouTube channel by my author name, Mary Ames Mitchell. I post stuff about my books and genealogy research on that one. At the beginning of 2020, I created a series of videos about book formatting. You can access them from the tab above “Self-Publishing Guides.” But I need to redo them using a more updated verrsion of Microsoft Word.

My current project is a video about human rights. For several months, I’ve been working on a video about my great-great grandparents Charles and Fanny Ames. They were human rights activists in the 1800s. Originally, I only intended to compile the historical research that I had in my possession so that the rest of my family could access it. But as I gathered letters and notes, I wanted to know more details.

Researching through Charles and Fanny’s eyes, I’ve learned how interconnected the abolition and women’s rights movements were, how the Unitarians were involved, and what exactly heppened between 1833 (the founding of the American Abolition Society) and 1920 (the ratification of the 19th amendment). It’s amazing how many parallels I’ve found to what is going on today with human rights on all fronts (race, sex, and religion). Now I know how the term liberal came about.

I’ll let you know when I finish. Meanwhile, stay safe and be kind to each other.

Fire Update, Kitchen Garden, My Books, Bullies

Hey ya’ll

The latest on the fires here in Northern California

So far, my hometown, San Rafael, has only smokey skies, no fires. This is how it looked yesterday as I drove south from a Costco run.

Currently, the fires are north of me

and south of me.

My kitchen garden

On a cheerier note, my kitchen garden is doing great. I have a tower full of fresh lettuce, arugula, & sage. My basil died, I don’t know why.

I have zucchini, beans, cauliflower, and tomatoes in this skinny planter. And I got one more tiny artichoke.

I’m growing two kinds of kale, swiss chard, and green onions in my new raised planter. My creaky knees don’t like kneeling to harvest from the skinny planter, hence this tall one.

My books

Since we are supposed to stay indoors, and with all this time I’ve had being home, I’ve worked on my book marketing. My fiirst step was updating this website. (I got rid of my old website when GoDaddy tripled the price on me.)

You can view the ‘My Books’ page by clicking the above image or by clicking the ‘My Books’ tab on the navigation bar above.

Bullies

Lastly, I hope everyone is ready for a verbally abusive temper tantrum that will last four days on national television. One of the biggest lies we heard as kids was “words will never hurt you.” That is SO NOT TRUE. Verbal abuse is extremely hurtful. When my mom and my first husband didn’t get what they wanted from me, they told me I was stupid and selfish. Even though I’ve spent decades trying to prove they were wrong, it still hurts. Joe Biden and Kamala Harris know the barrage is coming, but it will be hurtful nonetheless. God bless them, and god bless you.

Preparing for Fire Evacuation

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It is only the middle of August and California is already burning. I’ve packed my Promaster City campervan, which is also my regular car, for a quick escape. At night I pack up my computer and hard drives containing all my work and place them by the door. Anything else that I don’t want to keep in the van all the time, like valuables, family papers, and my clothes, I place by the door, too. As my very first boss, Rudy Medina, told me, “Stay flexible.”

Also, stay safe everybody, and healthy.

Entertainment at Home

Hey there, locked down world. I hope you will catch this great performance by my grandson and me of The Three Little Pigs. Then maybe you could send suggestions for what fairy tale we should do next. Chase thinks The Three Billy Goats Gruff is too scary. Oh Dear.

Visiting Pigs and Chickens at the Dump

Momma pig at the Flying Can Ranch

My three-year-old grandson is with me every morning during Lockdown. We’ve been exploring the community inside the safety of my campervan, Ramsey Jr. We watch the trains come into the San Rafael station, the ferries at the Larkspur Terminal, the small airplanes at Gnoss Field in Novato and, lately, a big favorite is following the garbage trucks to the dump. Little did I know what other surprises they had there. Pigs, chickens, and peacocks. Here’s my latest video. Please check the like button even if you don’t watch the whole thing. Thanks.

Marin Sanitary Service also has their own fun video if you have a three-year-old around who likes everything mechanical.

What is the history behind this ranch? Anyone know?

Fun Feedback from “The Man in the Purple Cow House”

One of the best parts about writing a book is getting feedback from readers. Since my books are about my family, I often receive family-related feedback, such as an email from an aunt I never knew I had. She lives in Australia. More later.

Edid and my dad, Tom Ames, on Dad’s balcony at 109 Chautauqua Blvd, Santa Monica, in the 1970s.

But, this week, I got an email from an unexpected source. Enid, now in her seventies, was a tenant in the apartment complex my father owned. Those of you who have read The Man in the Purple Cow House know that my father’s last ‘home’ was a 28-unit apartment building on the corner of Chautauqua Blvd. and Pacific Coast Highway in Santa Monica. As my father’s mental health deteriorated, his ability to manage his apartment house turned weird. He alienated a lot of people. Yet, there were those who recognized my old Dad deep inside somewhere who liked to amuse. In the photo above, he wears his ‘hippie’ wig.

Here’s Enid’s letter.

Dear Mary

I was a tenant at 109 Chautauqua Bl. for most of the 1970’s. I moved back to R.I. in 1981 and from time to time, I thought about your dad and the unbelievable experiences I had living in his building. I wondered what happened to him. Unlike some of the Chautauqua tenants you mentioned in The Man in the Purple Cow House (I just finished Chapter 14), I liked your quirky dad and we got along very well.

I never knew that your dad lost the building to foreclosure. He told me that the police would be knocking on his door because of his garbage delivery to the Reagans, so he stuffed $800 in his sock for bail money.

I would have continued living there but after receiving his letter during his jail event I knew that it was time to leave. His stubbornness to abide by the new fire regulations after a massive fire in the Ponet Square Hotel in downtown LA was the last straw. Instead of putting in the fire doors, etc, he gave me a rope ladder that I could throw out the window if I had to evacuate. I had lived in a couple of apartments in the building and at that time I was on the top floor facing PCH, and he told me to move downstairs to the second floor and to stop paying rent. At that time there were only a very few remaining tenants and he told all of us to stop paying rent. The third floor would then be vacant and those remaining would be living there as his guests. In his mind those fire regulations would not apply to that building because it would have become a two-story building without rental units. It would become a private two-story residence. At that point I moved out.

He told me he had lived in a big house in Pasadena. I believed him when I saw a gigantic mirror that came from the house.

Every now and then I would think about those times in the 70’s and would check online for any information about your dad but never found anything. Because of the pandemic and spending so much time at home, I must have searched a little more diligently and found your story and ordered your book.

I am so sorry for the sad times you experienced with your dad, but happy that you had some loving memories, too.

I cried myself to sleep last night after finishing your book. . . 
 
I am so sorry for your dad, you and your brothers.  I know it’s a little late but please accept my condolences.  It doesn’t seem real that he could have fallen into such a state that he couldn’t or wouldn’t ask for help.

Thank you for reaching out with your letter, Enid, for being a friend of my ‘quirky’ dad, and for the above photo.

The Man in the Purple Cow House and Other Tales of Eccentricity is available on Amazon as an eBook and print book along with my other stories.

Self-Publishing Tips

Hi. I have shanghaied this website which was meant for my travel blogs, for placing some downloads for my self-publishing YouTube videos. GoDaddy, who hosted my website with all my writing stuff on it, quadrupled their prices. So I canceled the whole thing. Since I already pay for this website, I am using it. Please forgive me if all you want to see is information about traveling in Ramsey Jr (who is not going anywhere these days). If you are interested in self-publishing, then enjoy it.

Suggested Retail Price Worksheet

This graph goes with my video about preparing for downloading your self-published book to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing. One thing you need to do is figure out your suggested retail price. This worksheet gives you the formulas to do that.

Worksheet-for-Establishing-Retail-Price

To watch the YouTube video. Click here.

 

Layout Plans for Converting a ProMaster© City Cargo Van to a Mini-Campervan

Hi again,

In response to my last blog about my new campervan, Ramsey Jr, I received requests for specifics for the furniture I used and where I purchased it. Here is a list. I am also inserting my detailed plans and elevations to show you where I placed everything so far.

Note that I am 5′-7.” I barely fit lengthwise in the cargo section when the back seat is tumbled forward. If you are taller, you will need to purchase a cargo van without the back seat. Also, I have included things like lots of water bottles in preparation for boondocking for 7 days in one stretch.

List of essentials

TravelingPosition

This photo from the Ram ProMaster website shows how the van looks with the seats in place. This is how I need the van to be when I am hauling grandchildren around. Since the main purpose of this van is to visit my grandchildren 400 miles away, this was an important feature for me.

Promaster City w back seats up

The rest of the drawings illustrate how the furniture is arranged when the back seat is tumbled forward and I am actually camping. The layout allows for a nice open space in the middle, which I really like. It reminds me of the layout for VW Campers, just a wee bit smaller. The ceiling is high enough to walk around in the space hunched over.

CookingPosition

SleepingPosition

CookingLoungingPositionPassengerSideElevation

For the shelf, I used the IKEA Pinnig ‘bench with shoe storage.’ See my note about installing the middle shelf upside down to give the shelf a lip that holds in drawers/boxes.

Pinnig-shelf-on-IKEA

As you can see from the next elevation, I can sit on the folded mattress, which serves as a ‘couch.’ The sleeping bag is converted to a back cushion for the ‘couch.’

CookingLoungingPosition-elevation

SleepingPosition-Elevation

LoungingPositionBedExtended

Working Position

Here is the listing for the table that I have. I bought it for my Class B. I love it because it can be a coffee table or a dining table, and there are no cross-bars, allowing my knees to fit under the table easily. But the price has gone up considerably on new ones. Sorry about that. Look up Beckworth & Co. They may make a less expensive version now.

Folding-Table

Last but not least, something that is very important to us old folks. I double up the plastic bags and bring along a container of hamster shavings to sprinkle on top. The shavings prevent bad smells. During the day, the toilet becomes another convenient surface to place things at a workable height. I know, it sounds gross to use your toilet as a work surface but really….

ToiletPosition

This last photo, which was in my last post, shows you where I place the canvas bags filled with my clothes. I use a bungee cord to attach them to hooks on the seat belts. A black-out curtain hangs across the front area from a tension rod so that you can’t see in from the front windows.

Meet Ramsey Jr Thumbnail