Thursday, December 31, 2009


New Year's Eve

Play a thin tune
on a paper horn
Old is dying
New is born

Scatter confetti
over the floor
Sweep an old year
Out the door

Blow up a wish
in a bright balloon
Whisper dreams
To a midnight moon

Play a loud tune
on a paper horn
Old is dying
New is born

by Myra Cohn Livingson

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Jan Knudsen coined the word "Letterosis" to explain her fascination with natural or manmade forms that suggest letters. She photographs them and makes words out of the photos. Her letter signs appear in a number of galleries and in Piazza of Murphys. Piazza advertises its goods as Soaps to Sofas. Its a fun place and I particularly like the letters because I had one of my "accumulation attacks" way back in the eighties and gathered from magazines and posters interesting graphic letters. I glued them to flash cards and managed several alphabets, both upper and lower case. And I thought I was the only weird one out there.

Jan got into a competition to find letters in ordinary objects with her sister, and claims they realized it was a "sickness" they shared. Jan went on to create a business out of her obsession.
There is beauty in everything. Not a sickness, nor weird, really. The simple objected rendered as art.
If you type Letterosis into a search engine you'll get three pages of Jan's outreach into galleries, her appearances and workshops.
She hails from Groveland and is doing what she loves.
I particularly liked the flowers in hope and joy. So appropriate.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Calaveras County is unique in that it has but one city, Angels Camp. Even the County Seat at San Andreas is not a chartered city. Local communities here, Mountain Ranch, West Point, Murphys and so on, are run by "clubs." The Murphys Community Club held their Christmas Party and Dance along with the installation of new officers last night. President Houston handed over the reins to incoming President Creagher and it was he who pointed out the notion of a club.
People think of club's as a social, fun group rather than the hardworking institution formed 69 years ago to replace the governmental functions that an organized city would perform, he explained.
This group of fantastic volunteers fundraises to pay for lighting Main St. maintaining our park, providing recreation, building and maintaining restrooms, garbage removal, and most of the other functions of government.
So, it was that Supervisor Tom Tryon installed new officers and joined the festivities.
Outgoing President Houston handed out an award for service to Bob Reagan.
Friends met, mingled and celebrated before dinner.
There was a grinch or two about the place. But, despite all the work, the Community Club is still about FUN.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Blogging the blacksmiths yesterday put me in mind of my own affair with metal, the consequences of never throwing anything away. The above items came from the old foundry in Angels Camp that was torn down many years ago. Rusty metal always calls to me. Don't know why.
The unidentifiable hunk of rust above the wheel is a piece I wrenched from an old potato harvester that belonged to my grandfather. I visited the old homestead in 2004. The airline security people looked at me a bit strangely when my suitcase passed through the xray machine, but said nothing.
A mixture here of my daughter's hay hooks from her horse and shoeing days and more pieces from the foundry.
These hand forged door latches are from Chris Mollett's house which was built by a friend of hers. He even hand hewed the wooden beams and made the doors. Talent of which I am envious.
The long saw blade with the missing handles belonged to my father who worked in the woods as a lumber jack. His handsaws are hanging there as well. I tend to hang things that have interesting shapes and function... that is... everything, if you are a collectiholic.

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Pounding a piece of molten metal on an anvil is undergoing a revival in western communities. Paul Quyle has been teaching blacksmithing for twenty years. (Paul wasn't available the day I visited. His students were on their own.)
More and more women participate in the craft as evidenced in this class. Students have a choice to pound and shape on the anvil, the "old fashioned" way...
...or use this power hammer above.
Most of them use both methods in combination for their projects. Forging a hand wrought piece to place in your home is difficult and time consuming. They take great pride in their work even it its just a simple hook or spoon.
This renaissance in heritage crafts is popular in the western foothill communities and in places like Colonial Williamsburg, and in Texas and Wyoming. There is a North American Blacksmiths association at:
It seems strange that some people actually earn a living as a blacksmith.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


There was music on the streets during Murphys Open House.
Violinists at Lavenders.
Caroling with the Church Choir.

Two of the M's, Michal and Madalaine visit Mr. & Mrs. Santa. The three M's are actually 4 M's.
Marilyn Pinnow opened the first Toy Store in Murphys. And, it is still going with a new owner. She is a talented writer and published a book about the Hippy 60's. She and I and Maddie above.
A time to meet old friends in a crazy hats. Small towns vs. big towns? We have more fun!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

700 Billion Dollar Man


The 700 billion dollar man, so called because he was plucked out of obscurity by Secretary Hank Paulsen to be Chief of the Federal Bail Out Plan. Neel Kashkari soon discovered it was an unenviable position.
As a young man, he was fascinated by Washington DC politics and wanted in the middle of the fray. He found out what a difficult job that was. Publicly pummeled, savaged, and doubted by the press, castigated by enemies he didn't know existed. He resigned ten months into the job after forging a bailout, something that had never been done before.
Now he lives a real life.

He exiled himself to the Sierras, built a cabin in the woods, chopped wood, and reconnected with family. He calls it "Washington Detox."
Now, he listens to the coyotes and beholds the stars and says: "This makes 700 billion seem small."
Perhaps we can persuade him to institute ethics seminars, make them mandatory for all congress people, and wage some real change in Washington. Then, like a 12 step program, when our representatives fail the people, they go through detox.

Well, its Christmas, I can dream, can't I? Happy Holidays!


Looking at an abbreviated Christmas season, I found myself happily and busily connecting with old friends. At this Christmas brunch, I encountered Betty Prescott, one of those amazing women who is an inspiration to all who know her. At 85, she is still downhill skiing and managed to go five times this year.
A mutual friend, Eleanor Hauselt, an old friend now gone, was rafting the Grand Canyon in her 70's and walked the Milford Tract in her 80's and was a cancer survivor in her 90's.
Lucy Tryon road horseback across the plain in Spain in her 80's.
Dutton Smith broke her leg in her 80's skiing and finally hung them up two yeas ago. Defiantly.
I love it.
I wanna be just like them. Never quit.
Being over the hill can be exciting if the downward slope is loooooong.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Incomparable beauty. It snowed in lovely drifts, melted a bit and then continued to pile on the white stuff until it reached about a foot deep. I plunged into clean, undisturbed surfaces to the mail box, and through the yard, quite fascinated by changes wrought to ordinary views. A perfect day to stoke up the wood stove, and hunker down to a project one never has time to do. I wrote a couple letters; examined a half finished scrap book, but couldn't finish it without a copymaker because the storm also brought a power outage.
Managed to fry a couple eggs and heat water for tea on top of the wood stove. While it was pleasant and relaxing, doing without power for five hours is unsettling. It presses home our dependence on computers, electric lights, tools and appliances. Even the gas, on-demand, water heater didn't work without its electric thermostat, nor the portable phones we have that plug in the wall. Hmmm! We're so connected.
In Calaveras County, Bear Valley Ski Area will be gloriously happy, as I was at first. I'm done complaining, I'm just glad the power is back. (And I give Jim a bad time about being a weather whimp.)

Sunday, December 6, 2009


A dead chicken can be transformed into a thing of... well... not exactly beauty. Ahm, stark raving lunitic works. This is the downtown tasting room crew for Twisted Oak Winery during Friday's Murphys Christmas Open House. I never asked owners, Mary and Jeff Seith, why they moved a beautiful old barn from Murphys downtown, to the highway edge of their property and hung a bunch of dead rubber chickens on it. Now the rubber chicken has become a lively trade item. I swear he must have had them made to order.
Mary Seith helped Bev Bennedetto squeeze every chicken in the place. They all have different voices. It may help to imbibe a bit before you start squeezing.

If you are served a bit of Murgatroyd by a cat in a hat? Smile, you're at Twisted Oak. In fact, this red with flavors of currant and nutmeg will keep you coming back.

I've eaten chicken nuggets before and I've seen some gold nuggets in my time, but this one...I mentioned lunitic didn't I? At no other winery in the Mother Lode is there more fun than a visit with the twisted folk at Twisted Oak.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


If you've video taped your family events and plan to transfer them to DVD's be careful about your choice of machines. Several years back, using a GO.VIDEO brand DVD burner, I played the old videos through the machine, using my television set as a monitor, and burned everything to DVD..The machine changes the analog signal to digital. It was a lot of work, with titles and multiple indexes and so on. Then I set out to make copies for each of the kids and some other family members. Nyet! The newly burned DVD's would only play on GO.VIDEO despite the company's literature to the contrary.
I tried them on friend's machines, computers, every different system imaginable, over a year, nothing!
Fast forward to rescue 2009. My daughter got me started with a Dazzle, which feeds directly into the computer for a monitor AND burner. Every piece of new equipment you buy will claim ease of use. Don't believe it. Its NEVER easy. It took many tries to get the thing half way working. I failed miserably because the machine isn't easy to use, and the directions are minimal. It stumped Jim. With infinite patience, my daughter and I gave it one last try. Finally, results. We were actually able to save video into a hard drive and then burn from it. Otherwise I'd have no room on my computer to hold that much video.
It took a solid week of diligent work, but I transferred everything and made copies times 5. IT WASN'T EASY. I can breathe a sigh of relief. I don't know why I always fall for the newest technology.

Last night, a guy named Brian told me about this great new technology, the web cam, earphones and Skype. I'm going to figure out how to call all over the world, and from Thailand, FREE. Its a snap, all you have to do is download the program before you go. Easy. Great. Can't wait.
You know that old adage? If it sounds too good to be true it probably is? Especially true for new electronic devices. Nothing is EVER easy.

(Times 5)

Friday, December 4, 2009


Since we all like to eat, you would think that a bachelor would learn how to cook, out of self defense, aye? When I first moved into the motor home with Jim, I made my own breakfast and he made his.
Jim made the same breakfast EVERY DAY. He poured liquid egg product into a measuring cup, added six precisely cut slices of cheddar and slathered the top of this mess with salsa and cooked it slowly until it until the cheese melted. I tasted it once. Its edible.
For dinner, he cooked three things, cardboard turkey burgers, fried chicken breast, and microwaved salmon out of a plastic package over lettuce. Salad. Everything gets covered with salsa or grated parmesan cheese out of a shaker box and plenty of pepper. Oh, yummy!
I quickly took over all cooking and we made a deal, I do the cooking, he does the dishes. We were both happy with that arrangement.
Now, comes the problem. He is ALONE in the motorhome for the next month plus. He called and said the over easy eggs were not easy. Today, he told me he was sticking with sunny side up until they cooked through. (A little like leather on the bottom and raw on top.) I gave him some hints but its difficult to believe that anyone can be so inept in the kitchen.
I was warned about engineers. He actually counts the number of wheat thins he puts on his snack plate and measures the cheese he cuts. Arrgh!
Oh well, he knows how to open a bottle of champagne without it spilling. I gotta hand him that. Plus, he'll really appreciate me when we get together again.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


There was a time when I thought Christmas was mostly about kids. And it is, if you have kids at home. The secret is, I enjoy Christmas as much as any kid. The seasonal parties, get-togethers with friends, baking cookies, decorating, the wonder of the lights, the seasonal programs and the happiness imparted when you meet people on the street. Even strangers talk to you pleasantly during the Christmas Holidays.
Friends are the gold we've always been told they are, and I intend to party as much as I can.

Lighting the cherries jubilee brought Jan out with the fire extinguisher, but you can't beat back the holiday cheer even if you try.
Of course, while I suffer from terminal cheeriness, I must admit, it annoys some people who want to grump once in awhile. When we had little or nothing, Christmas was always special. We made it so. I hope everyone enjoys the holidays as much as I do. Even if its just lighting a few cherries on fire.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


A Tokyo rail passenger company, Keihin, installed a face-scanning machine for employees reporting to work. This feed back machine tells them if they are smiling broadly enough to present a good impression.

Doncha just love those plastic smiles at stores that hire greeters? Or store clerks you don't know who give the big smile, use your name and ask company directed plastic questions like: "How may I help you? Or: "May I help you find something today?"
I know, I'm cynical and old fashioned.

But get this:
Lonely Japanese men have latched onto a thriving new collectible, girlfriend dolls. Yup, that's right. Some men obsessively collect these kind of lumpy pillow dolls with a face painted on them, like a girlfriend. They take them out on romantic dates and everything. (These are not the hard core otaku that are anatomically correct dolls for lonely men to use for sex.) One guy claims: "She has really changed my life." He named his favorite doll Nemutan. I guess he introduces her to his friends.
Another lonely "2D" (so called for preferring relationships with two-dimensionals) said he would like to marry a real, 3-D woman, but laments, "How can someone who carries this doll around get married?"

Maybe leaving it home would help? You think?
This information was in the New York Times.

Monday, November 30, 2009


Weird news is always suspect because it is so hard to believe. But here goes:

San Antonio Police Chief, William McManus upgraded his training program to teach his officers how to obey the law while off-duty. He personally explains to his incoming cadets that police officers must not commit crimes. He's had to fire 10 officers so far this year for that reason.

Isn't Texas part of the U.S.?

The August issue of Gourmet magazine highlighted the high quality sushi sold at a BP gas station at the intersection of Ridgeway and Poplar St.s in Memphis, TN. A sushi chef works on site and sells around 300 orders a day.

In this economy? If you can't get a restaurant to hire you, strike out on your own.

The Brazilian environmental group SOS Mata Atlantica is encouraging people to urinate in the shower saving a flush per day, or 1,100 gallons of water a year.

Whaaa? Who cleans the bathrooms?

The Peterborough City Council (in Britain) ordered retirees who gather for coffee in the library to give up hot drinks in case one accidentally spills on a child.

Couldn't they use sippy cups?

This next isn't news, but a scary sign of the times:

A Captain at Santa Rita Prison was asked what the difference was between young new recruits and old time recruits, during his career. He answered thus: "They are older, 26 is average. Many still live at home with Mom and Dad. And, immature. Let me give you an example. A young, newly graduated deputy wanted a Saturday night off. I told him we couldn't spare him and he'd have to work. His mother came in and bawled me out for spoiling her son's weekend."

True story. I was the one who asked the question.

(Most of this information came from Chuck Shepherd of Funny Times.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009


Tomorrow, Jim leaves for Yuma in the Motor Home. I remain in Murphys until Dec. 16th, when I fly to Thailand with my grandson,, Mason. I'll be unable to blog from then until I return on Jan. 2nd, 2010. Egads! A new year and Christmas spent in Thailand. Should be interesting. I'll have lots of pictures and stories to share when I return.
Jim has been busily charting the first leg of our travels.
He'll spend Christmas in Yuma. From Yuma to Tuscon where I will fly to meet him on January 9th.
Tuscon to visit old friend Sandee Voges. Then on to Chiracaua National Monument Southeastern AZ.
Demming, New Mexico to visit Jim's Spanish Teacher.
Then Columbus, New Mexico- the only place that Pancho Villa invaded the U.S. and killed American's there.
To El Paso, Texas and down to Big Ben National Park. We travel East across Texas to New Orleans by February 5th for Mardi Gras and other attractions. We expect to spend a month in Louisiana because there is so much to see and do.
From there we'll post another itinerary.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


I chuckle, now, about shopping madness in the 1980's. Remembering one particular Christmas with kid's high expectations; siblings too numerous to afford; trying to find the right gift with funds inadequate to make a dream come true. Tradition played its part as well. All of which placed me frazzled and desperate for last minute sales in Stockton at a Penny's Department Store on Christmas Eve. The lines were daunting and dispirited I stood, contemplating why I was in this horrific line, instead of sitting in front of the stove with a bowl of popcorn and a hot toddy enjoying my home and family.
Someone in front of me said, "Let's go to fabric. The line will be short. No one buys fabric this close to Christmas." I hesitated to give up my place in line, but, followed, went upstairs, and there, the line was like all of the others. Tired shoppers struggling with packages, waiting in line with purchases from other departments. The only glimmer of hope was this clerk had an assistant, a bagger, which could conceivably make the wait shorter.
We plodded slowly forward. About seven deep, I heard someone voice my own thoughts. "Why do you have an assistant when none of the other clerks do?"
"Oh, I don't work here," chimed in the bagger. "I'm a customer. I just thought I'd help out and now I can't quit."
It took a second or two for the information to percolate and suddenly my tiredness left. The clerk and bagger were happily and furiously removing tags and loading bags and bantering with the people closest in line.
I proposed a hip-hip-hooray, thrice, and the word spread down the line as everyone gave voice with lifted spirts.
I walked out into the cold night with my parcels, enjoyed the crisp wind on my face, and went home a new person. It ain't about the stuff.

Two years later, our family gave up shopping and agreed to donate to charities instead. We found such enjoyment in each other, I can't believe it took us so long. I know this is anathema when the economy is depending on spending. But none of us would change it.

Friday, November 27, 2009


Lucky be we that Thanksgiving is a four day event for our family. Everyone arrived on Wednesday. We took advantage of the balmy weather; the kids used the trampoline and adults and kids hiked to Michaelson School and played kickball.
There was time to rummage through the recipe box and decide what old favorites to make.
Time for relaxation for man and beast as business gives in to the holiday.

Game marathons ensued with Chess, Mille Bornes, Yahtze, Yu-gi-oh, Cribbage, Shut The Box, Lego Bionicles, Apples To Apples, Dominoes, Crazy Eight and a lot of banter. Sometimes different games captivated opposite ends of the table.
We've been accused of being a gaming family.
Music plays its part as well.

The bartender was prepared for those who imbibe.

The turkey was smoked.

The potato peeler, (twenty pounds of them) and the baker took a break in the kitchen.

The menu: Smoked turkey, spuds and gravy, Irish potatoes, corn casserole, stuffing, amazing salad, three types of cranberries, sweet potatoes with bananas, pineapple and rum, sweet potatoes with chicken broth and bay leaves, smoked chicken breast, and curried chicken. Desserts: Marzipan pear tart, blackberry and apple pies, sticky buns and snickerdoodles.

Thanksgiving has long been our favorite holiday. We thank you Sarah Hale.