Tuesday, December 27, 2016


Christmas every year looks almost the same at my house. Endless cards and games between gnoshing.  Theo, Cedric (hidden) Kristanne and Doug play 13, the national card game of Viet Nam while...
...while Mason and Virginia play cribbage at the other end of the table. People change places, step in and out of games and in general have a good time.
We chose a Mexican theme for this Christmas. Christmas Eve dinner was home-made chicken enchiladas, Spanish rice and pinto beans with a romaine salad. As the family members grow, it's tough to fit everyone in with one picture.
After dinner we took a walk into the night to look back at the lights and found our selves in awe of the starry, starry night. Stars so close we could see the constellations and Milky Way as though touchable. Virginia started a carol and we stood in the street and sang and gave thanks that light pollution has not blocked ancestral skies on our tiny portion of the planet.
Grandson, Stewart, home from Japan for Christmas, brought this sample of Japanese foods. He taught us how easy Japanese is to learn because the characters are so consistent. If a character means house, or rock or walk, it will always mean that no matter how many characters in a sentence.  His brother, Mason, easily picked up some Japanese words. Leave it to the young.
Christmas day was more of the same. My brother, Bill, left, joined us for the afternoon. We are playing elevator with Stewart, Virginia, Mason, Owen, Ken and myself. At the opposite end of the table, Theo, Doug, Kristanne and Laurie play RummiKub.
We played around with hats and I thought of some artists paintings as I looked at what the camera did to Mason's arm. One giant appendage and one shrunken.
I rarely wear this hat, but I love it.
It has seven watches glued on it, plus other fascinating pins, buttons, beads and junk.
I bought a Playboy jacket at a second hand store just for the buttons. (I'm a collector.)  We had great fun with it. I liked this picture of Owen, though a bit blurry and in a distracting background.
It's tough to get Owen to stand still for a picture, but I love this smile.
And Dad, too. I liked this one though the light wasn't quite right.
But he liked a different one. I think he was trying not to laugh.
Stewart said, no way. The hat was too small and he couldn't get the jacket on his second arm.
None of these pictures are in the correct order. I didn't remember to take a picture of our Christmas Day dinner, which was chili rellenos with an apple and cabbage pomegranate coleslaw, and home made-by Doug and Virginia- Chicken, Pork and chili cheese tamales. Goodt stuff.
Before we finished Christmas dinner, the desert table was almost bare.
We had our anonymous book trade, only three to open. And, all too soon, it was bedtime for me,  the picture taker. My ears picked up hushed conversation sliding under my bedroom door as I succumbed to sleep.
The next morning, everyone was up bright and early. Ken and Laurie's family drove back to Reno in time to put Stewart, Mason and Kristanne on an Airplane for Las Vegas. Home for Mace and Stan; Stewart will reconnect with his girlfriend before returning to Japan.
My cup runneth over.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


I attended the Resistance Event against the Electoral College on the steps of the Sacramento State Capitol. People in every state were rallying, though only six showed up in Madison, Wisconsin, and Trump supporters tell us to "quit whining". People are disgusted to think a candidate can win 2.8+ million votes, but  because of the way the electoral college works, her opponent won the election. He is our president too and people are fearful of his destructive agenda so this rally looks more like a hate Trump rally. The crowd grew from 400 to over 1,000 people.
My daughter Virginia and I attended together. I was hoping to meet with a friend Galen Hazelhofer and the first person she ran into was Virginia. Galen is on the right. In such a big mob of people I was amazed we connected. And, speaking of the big mob of people, the organizers were concerned about violence. But there was none at this morning to afternoon event but the night before, 150 people protested and closed a couple of streets and took over a tower in downtown Sac. They were all anti-Trump. As many of you know, my co-blogger is a Trump supporter while I stand in the opposite camp. I think if people make an effort to at least consider other's points of view, we have a better chance of building a better and stronger democracy.
The organizers encouraged us to talk to Trump supporters and figure out what we have in common and where we largely differ. Two Trump supporters showed up at the rally. Virginia interviewed the man above and they talked for about twenty minutes. The young man was articulate, kind, sincere, educated and a veteran. I thought he had courage to come in the face of so many Anti-Trump people in evidence. His support comes from his veteran beliefs and that Obama did not do enough for vets. His friend was the opposite end of the spectrum, basically a war monger. Kind of like Allen West who quoted Trump's choice of "Mad Dog Mattis" for Secretary of Defense: "Obama fired him (Mattis) to save the Muslims, Trump hired him to exterminate them." And, "Be polite, be professional, but have a plan to kill everybody you meet."  Taken out of context I'm not sure what that means, but saying those things publicly doesn't give me confidence in Trump's choices.
Even so, the rally wasn't about hate. There were exhortations-do not revert to violence, anger and hate, but to build on what we know is good and protest vocally what we know is not good. And that probably sums it up best.
The organizers brought a Russian journalist to the podium. She declared that Putin considers the United States their worst enemy. Her message was clear. Make no mistake, Putin is not our friend. He made Europeans wonder why a U.S. President would give Putin any sort of gesture of approval after the slaughter at Aleppo.
The organizers brought a woman from Berlin who wanted to tell the world that after the Berlin Wall fell, East Germany was a drag on the economy, no decent infra-structure, crumbling buildings; a fearful, mistrustful, population. It took years and a lot of investment to heal the rift and bring the country to unity. Let's not let that happen to us.
A famous science professor described the attack Trump's agenda will have on climate change. He chose for the Environmental Protection Agency a person who claims climate change doesn't exist, it's a hoax. No wonder people are angry about Trump's shortsightedness. Hundreds of environmental organizations have charted and changed toxic rivers into healthy streams; protected corals from acidic oceans;  introduced native fish, wolves, birds and a multitude of threatened species to their original habitat and made visible, measurable, positive differences to our shared space. Corporations who have changed their business models to account for climate change have not spoken up or made suggestions to Trump. But, they know it is less expensive to accommodate climate change  and move forward than to clean up afterword.
Of course, that isn't going to happen, but that was the mood and what should have happened, in my opinion and many others.  And, early, before so many people showed up, I counted 5 wheelchairs. What a testament to courage and commitment.
The organizers brought Christi Pelosi, a member of the Electoral College who spoke about the way it operates in California and how it operates in some other states. It is obvious that such a divided electoral college and its upside down results does not represent the majority of voters.  It is an antiquated bill from 1787 that established the electoral college. I always thought the electoral college bill was established on the premise of the founding fathers belief the uneducated peasants didn't know enough about what was going on in their country to be trusted to vote. But it wasn't against uneducated peasants. It was to protect slavery and ensure that blacks did not vote. What a shame that people cannot get over bigotry. Blacks to this day do not get fair treatment in a country that is a beacon of freedom to the world.
These dogs were very popular at the rally. When Virginia and I left at 2:00, the protestors were marching around the State Capitol, and by the time we got into our car to head for home, the March completely surrounded the capitol. I was very disappointed in the early footage of the rally in the Sacramento Bee. They didn't see the half of it.

Monday, December 5, 2016


What a treat at Christmas time to enjoy Mountain Melody Women's Chorus  present traditional and contemporary songs for the holiday season.  I saw them Saturday evening in Murphys;  they sang in Valley Springs yesterday and will be at the Covenant Church in San Andreas Dec. 10th at 4 p.m. They will sing at the Vieuh Winery Dec. 11th, in Douglas Flat, at 2:30 p.m.  Above is the whole group under the direction of Julia Shelby.
Stage lighting is not very friendly and I went back stage to say hello to Marta Johnson and Carol Mertens.
I don't know everyone but you may recognize a friend. The group started in Mountain Ranch. Their husbands serve as MC's and they drive the van, so to speak. They are also accompanied by Marge Biagi-Castro on Piano and a very talented flutist whose name was not in the program.
At intermission, feet up, the ladies enjoy a bit of chatter about their performance, and rest their voices.

Getting  ready for the last half of the program involved some costuming for a special number.
At showtime, she looked like this. I believe she is Jennifer Robinson.

A second comedic number required a special costume, too. You can tell these women are having fun while they entertain us.
One of the nice things Julia does is give various singers a chance to solo for brief out-takes.
I should have asked everyone's name. Darn.
To join the group, you must pass muster and Mary Howell (right) was publicly praised as their newest member who "survived" her first year. On stage she was presented with a bouquet of flowers.

The group accepts donations to cover the costs of travel, music royalties, and rehearsal space. What a treasure we have in the Motherlode.

Saturday, December 3, 2016



Jim left my place on Monday. The weather here has been pretty cold for a weather wimp.
He waved goodbye and struck out for southern climes.  He reached Palm Desert yesterday and they've had a cold spell with some gusty wind.  You just can't predict the weather. I'm chuckling a bit at his expense.

Every year I head downtown Murphys for their open house held the first Friday in December.  This year I went early because the Mountain Melody was putting on a concert at 4:00. TILT. I had the wrong date, the Black Bart Players Theatre was locked with a sign: Concert 4:00 Saturday. I'll be attending a memorial service and won't make it. With time on my hands, I took some pictures. Somehow,  an outdoor decorated tree doesn't look right during the daytime. Now, with a little snow... My mid-west roots are showing. I miss a white Christmas.

I poked around some of the stores, admiring the tree trimmings for sale. I used to make a point of buying one new ornament each year. I have over 2000 ornaments, so I've quit that. A ridiculous problem for rat packers. Guilty.

I ran into some friends, but did I take a picture of Lynette, Ginger and Roger, Suki, Eleanor, Richard or the Gilmores?  No, I was too busy yaking. But I did take a picture of this cute baby with her daddy bursting with pride. He was just glowing.

I thought I'd have dinner as the restaurants were opening up. They were overwhelmed with long lines or reservations to get anything to eat. Finally, it got dark enough for the Christmas Parade. But, the streets were mobbed, everything is surreal from the camera lens.

Everything goes by in a blur. But, I had to include this picture because my kids attended Bret Harte High. This pick-up load of football players was rocking the truck back and forth so forcefully with their weight, it tested the shocks on the truck. I had never seen anything like it. Such fun. Both my sons played football for Bret Harte.

The lighted floats and entries were really nice. Even with a clear shot through the crowd, by the time your flash can focus, you still get a blur.

The young kids were enjoying the parade and that is what parades are all about. Enjoyment, not photography. It was cold. I left early. And on the way to the parking lot I  got a decent shot of these draft horses.

And this parade entrant getting its fancy gear removed. Aha! Now I know how to photograph a parade. At the beginning, before they get moving. Or, at the end. I returned home and ate cookies and ice cream for dinner.

Sunday, November 27, 2016


Instead of a full house at Thanksgiving, we managed a small gathering with seven people- our  hosts, Virginia and Cedric. Their son, Owen, is visiting Greece with his Grandma Olga, who speaks Greek and Russian. They canceled the Russian part of their trip due to the unrest in that country. I brought avocados and gumbo. Theo is the family expert on guacamole, so he immediately set to work.  I find it hard to believe that he got taller than me since the last time I saw him.
Virginia put him to work, cutting the ends of the fresh green beans.
Doug claims mashed potatoes and gravy is the best part of the feast. He brought two ten pound bags of potatoes and Cedric cheerfully peeled all twenty pounds of potatoes. The first batch is ready to cook.
The second batch waits in a large kettle for space on the stove top. Doug also brought gobs of cookies-his specialty-and a to-die-for lasagna. I filled a container to bring some home and dang, it got left behind.
Traditional turkey, smaller, and cooked split down the middle and flattened. A new method. The turkey cooks quicker and more evenly with breast not drying out by the time the legs are cooked. That also meant giving up the traditional stuffing. No one seemed to miss it.
Cedric made gravy by roasting vegetables, onion, carrot, parsnips, mushrooms, and celery. The veggies were yummy and so was the gravy, mixed with the liquid from boiled giblets and de-glazed drippings from the turkey pan. I don’t think Cedric left the kitchen at all until it was time to eat.
The guests were having a good time while all this work was going on. I taught Theo how to play cribbage and he beat me in a tight finish. Doug and I played Cribbage, cutthroat style.  There was a game of liars dice going around. My brother Norman watched and snacked.

Jim was waiting for his turn, a challenge issued for a four-way game, Doug and Theo, he and I.  All too soon, it was time to skype Laurie, Ken and Mason.  Thanksgiving in their new house was downsized as well with just the three of them.  And Kristanne was alone in Las Vegas.  Her boys and their father are off to Idaho visiting their other grandmother. We could only hear her on the skype. We couldn’t get an image. But, everyone will be coming to Murphys for Christmas this year, just four short weeks away.
Doug put together, “cranberry man”, which has become a tradition. He looks different every year. This is a tease because Cedric likes the old-fashioned jellied cranberry sauce over the home-made varieties most of us prefer.
Meet cranberry man 2016 with a kiwi head.
Doug traditionally carves the turkey, too.
Jim took a family picture for us. We had corn bread, gumbo, persimmon, pear and pomegranate green salad, olive rolls, stir fry garlic green beans, baked sweet potatoes, home cured olives, olive tapanade and all the aforementioned delights. I’ve probably forgotten something, but I tasted everything.  For a downsized feast, it was awesome.
Cedric made one pie. He always puts a decoration made with crust on his pies. This year, with the political situation, he made a scroll that represents the constitution with We The People engraved on the crust.
Virginia made her usual pear tart.  The dessert bar was overflowing with cookies, fudge brownies with plump fresh cranberries and candy.
Giving thanks for the good things of 2016, cherishing family and good health,  the predominant theme around the table. Life is good.