Friday, December 31, 2010


Sharon and Bert Sargeant visited yesterday with bottles of wine in hand. We toasted the New Year early since they will most likely be snowed in with a good fire and  plenty of food and water. In fact, they attempted to visit the previous night and were snowed in. Then the melt. So, they came last night
 Bert is also a local prankster who at one time ran a county survey line across the front of our property and convinced husband George that the County was planning to confiscate 20 feet of frontage to expand the road. He enjoyed seeing George turn purple. He also put a very cheap priced for sale sign on a friend's 49 Ford and gave his friend's phone number to field all the phone calls. Well, that's Bert. We've managed a payback or two along the way.
My brother Norman is staying for the rest of the week. He's had some amazing unconventional experiences and we've enjoyed rehashing old stories, about his visit to the Peoples Temple in 1975, and meeting the "False Christ"  Jim Jones. Jones, if you remember, took 900 people to Guyana in 1978 and induced them to commit suicide by drinking cool-aid spiked with poison. He spooked Jones. He attended with his friends, John James and family and declared Jones a fake. Mrs. James was so upset with Norman's declaration that they never resumed their friendship.
Norman's been rich and he's been poor but he likes poor for the challenge better than the ease of the "easy" life.
If you celebrate, be careful. We will have icy roads and plan to stay safely tucked inside. Yesterday, just going out for my shoulder therapy at 10:00 a.m., I found the roads were slick and treacherous and there were a number of small accidents locally during the day from the slippery ice.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


With logistics in large families, its not always possible to get together on the actual holiday. It matters little when the really important element is just to get together once in a while. This week was siblings week. Three out of five brothers and my sister managed a holiday dinner that included brother Clark's daughter, Melissa and her daughter Stella.
Sweet Stella brought cookies she decorated for the occasion.
Norman, far left, last visited with family members 19 years ago. Far too long we decided.
Clark's family is complete, so of course we posed for pictures.
Brother Bill has been a bachelor for a long time. When his wife Sandi was alive, he teasingly called her Loni which stood for Little Or No Ironing. Now he demonstrates the way a bachelor can heat up leftover pizza if he doesn't own a microwave.
Catching up was fun. We looked at old family photos and enjoyed a lot of humorous stories of a life we shared long ago.
 Since I haven't had a signal I spent over an hour on the phone with technical support and finally got back on -line this evening. Even so, its with a catch. I have to stay plugged into my office attached directly to the modem. No wireless for me. It reminds me of the days when you had to stand within five feet of the phone to speak to anyone while the kids plundered the dresser drawers knowing you were tethered.  But, it was fine for its time. Now, wireless is the way to go.

Sunday, December 26, 2010


When cousins get to tease cousins, no matter the ages they all enjoy.
Aunt Cathy with Abbie.
California weather meant the little guys spent several hours on the trampoline Christmas Eve Day.
Daniel and Beverly.
 Its hard to wait your turn to open a present.
Even the big kids enjoy a cousin present.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care.
 As the day got late, the guys put up the candles and lit the tree.
 By popular request, Cedric made his pecan sticky buns before working on one of the Christmas meat pies, or pastie, as the traditional dish is known in our family.
 Laurie displayed some Christmas "bling" with her lighted necklace.
The "dueling" cooks each made a giant pastie, each a bit different, both delicious. The banter goes something like this:  "Your pastie is an abomination, its too juicy its too much like a pot pie."
"Yours needs a little something to spice it up." All in fun, not a morsel remained after breakfast on Christmas Day.
After dinner, the candles were snuffed, the tree adored and the family enjoyed the evening.
Some looked at family photos or played cribbage or Rummikub
One of the grown-up "kids" helped the little ones with their toys.
The guy who drove the farthest distance enjoyed a nap.
And, a merry Christmas was had by all.

Friday, December 24, 2010


When you get to a venerable age, surprises are not too common. Its fun to surprise someone, and to be on the receiving end can be very special. And it happens more around the holidays it seems.

It was a busy day. The kids painted cookies, played games and worked puzzles.

 In our family, only the kids get gifts. They look a little weird under our funky little tree. 
And then the surprise.
Good friends, Norma and Jose Tapia sent us over a full chili verde dinner for our whole gang. I don't know how Norma, who cooked this wonderful feast,  knew that my favorite Mexican food is chili verde. Her home made chili verde is to die for. She sent the chili, the rice, her fresh refried beans, like nothing I'd ever tasted before; And, the tortillas and jamaica, a hisbiscus flower drink that is typical of her families traditions. Oh, my. We were in food heaven.
You can't imagine the flavors and the oohhs and aahhs. Then, when we were all practically comatose from eating too much,, my daughter picked up the camera and caught the stragglers at the table:


Thursday, December 23, 2010


In my local paper, I was dismayed to read an advice columnists letter from a woman who attended one church for the 30 years of their marriage and her husband attended another. Her husband died but her pastor refused to ask the congregation to pray for him because their churches were  fundamentally different.
Oh, woe is humanity in the hands of men. 

Its Christmas Time. A time of peace and good will toward others. We are at war. Its a religious war with people killing themselves and other people in the name of God.  Banish religion and keep God. 
 I'm reminded of Ela Wheeler Wilcox's simple words.

So many gods, so many creeds
so many paths that wind and wind.
While just the art of being kind
is all this sad world needs.
(Ela Wheeler Wilcox)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


 Yesterday, when I went on-line and looked at Yosemite's famous Christmas Dinner, not only did I find out it started in 1927, I learned that they hold multiple dinners throughout the season and you no longer have to go through a lottery to attend. Its a once in a lifetime thing to do. Put it on your bucket list.
My little book by Washington Irving was published by a respectable publishing house, but it had no date. When I went to  Wikiepedia and found out Washington Irving died in 1859, I realized for the first time that the Bracebridge Hall Dinner at Yosemite and the dinner by the same name described by Iriving, were not the same dinner.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


In the 1970's I found this little booklet entitled Christmas At Bracebridge Hall, written by Washington Irving. A friend informed me that the Bracebridge Hall Dinner was a yearly event at Yosemite National Park, Olde English in style and costume, held every Christmas.
Since I live relatively close to Yosemite, I called there and  learned one must submit a form to attend and the attendees are then selected by lottery. If your name comes up, you get to buy these very expensive tickets for this two day event, a grand Old English dress ball and banquet. I submitted an application for three years in a row and finally my name came up. But, my husband was seriously ill that year and we couldn't attend. By this time it didn't matter, though.  We'd had an opportunity to attend a similar dinner at the Old McHenry Mansion in Modesto, costume, authentic food and all.
 This picture from that dinner, dressed in costume is one of my favorites. (It was tough to get George into a tux.)
 In later years, reading this little book inspired me keep menu cards for very special dinners, mostly Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners I cooked at home. With French people, food is a religion and we certainly made it so at Holidays. Its the difference between food and a feast. With what I cooked and others brought, we were likely to have five different deserts, 10 varieties of cookies, nuts, and fruits and cakes and pies. Three kinds of cranberries, two kinds of sweet potatoes, six or seven side dishes. The turkey, roast or ham, done up in a special way. Much of this food, shipped across country or imported;  fruits, wines and oils we hadn't even heard of when we were growing up. I guess I've come to say, during this Christmas Season, as someone before me intoned:

If you have a roof over your head, food on the table, a warm bed at night, you are certainly better off than 75% of the people on earth. If you have the type of bounty I'm describing, you are among the wealthiest 8% of people on earth. Be thankful, celebrate, share with others, and make Merry at Christmas.
I decided to go on-line, (Isn't the internet wonderful?) and find the avenue to the Yosemite Park's famous Christmas Dinner for you to see.

Wait a minute. Washington Irving died in 1859. This 17th century dinner has been celebrated at Yosemite since 1927?

Monday, December 20, 2010


My friend Ron sent me an email with pictures of this "Big Load" moving on public roadways. 

For the past few weeks, a "super heavy" load has been making its way from Hardeeville SC, enroute to Boiling Springs NC. It is a large electric generator destined for a clean coal power plant. The generator weighs in at 1.98 million pounds and isn't something you just jump on an interstate freeway with and truck it on down the road. 
The whole thing kind of made me wonder how the Chinese would move this big generator. Since I visited China and saw how they use more manpower than machine power, even in their road building efforts, this gargantuan project made me curious. I remember people carried huge loads on their bicycles, tricycles and small motors. It was very interesting and I took many pictures but none as good as this series that I received in an email. 

Tires are really quite easy to stack. And moving a ladder with a bike (in the background) is nothing. But, just try it.

This guy doesn't even have the advantage of a bike. He has to keep moving. No one in China thinks a thing of a load like this. Its very common.
It doesn't matter what you have to carry, if it stacks, it moves. 
Stacking is an art in this country.

A great place to visit.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Some people have a bad hair day. At least, its a temporary condition.
For me, its bad feet, not temporary. Since enduring an ankle replacement 10 years ago, my feet are very particular about what they are wearing. Friday and Saturday, I visited good friends in the Bay Area and worked a few hours at the Archive. On the way home I bought a pair of shoes. Extreme for me, bright red athletic shoes. Athletic is just an affectation of the ad men. What we used to called tennis shoes or gym shoes,  have become the norm for everyday wear. Truth be told, they are comfortable.

Extreme shoes can be found at Nordstroms and other retailers you wouldn't expect. Major designers have gotten into extreme shoe designs. Ankle breakers are dangerously  uncomfortable. A pair tossed one model off the runway at a famous fashion shoe a couple years back.  But they still fascinate me.Here are some I've recently found on-line.

These remind me of the Chinese bound feet.
Is there an art shoes trend?
These look more like a deadly weapon, women's self defense. I would question if a woman could even stand up on these spikes.

These two pairs were obviously meant to be worn.


Friday, December 17, 2010


This morning, I received one of the best gifts I'm likely to receive this Christmas. It may look like a bag of garbage, and that is because it is a bag of garbage. I received this picture from my partner, Jim, with this message: 

Now, let me tell you, I was extremely proud of my guy who finds living with me on the road a pain in the butt sometimes when I insist on gathering everything recyclable and saving it until we find a place to deposit it. Not an easy job. Limited space, constantly moving from community to community makes recycling daunting. Different states have different rules. Some charge. Often recycling places are difficult to find; usually located on the outskirts of town, off the beaten path. Half the citizens you ask can't tell you where the recycling place is located because they don't use them. 
Jim grumbles a bit while he is looking up on Google where the nearest place might be. But, he does it and I am grateful. But, for me to be home and for him to recycle was a great surprise. Thank you, Jim.  

California is very progressive and its easier to find places to recycle. When I see a guy point to his "down" filled vest and tell me "... this is stuffed with recycled plastic bags." Or when I hear my friend Jerry tell me, " motorcycle lights are made from recycled cans..."; or when I see the public bathroom doors made from prescription bottles at the Solar Living Center, you have to know this is a growing and viable industry. Recycling projects would astound you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


   Yesterday, when I spoke of the Christmas card with the poem, "T'was The Night Before Christmas", I deliberately didn't put the author of that poem as Clark Clement Moore, even though I'm ancestrally related to him. He was a sour, difficult,  and mean spirited man and there is evidence to suggest he was not the author. His peer, Major Henry Livingston Jr., related to Moore's wife, is more likely the author. I read a comprehensive article some years back  about the investigation into the true author of the poem and came away convinced it was Livingston's name that belongs next to this poem. Just for the heck of it, I looked it up on Wikipedia and I was amazed to see Wikipedia has a briefer version of the debate. You may look it up if you'd like at this link:

The poem has had major influence over the magical games we play at Christmas with our young children. It has, in essence, given definition to the gift giving, charitable figure that left presents for children in their socks or shoes over the centuries in many cultures. The actual title of the poem is "A Visit From St. Nicholas."  St. Nicolas was a real person with a history of his own that represents the charitable side of man's nature, mostly lacking during centuries of hungrier times.
 There are cards that depict St. Nicholas, with his flowing beard, walking with a staff, with his pockets overflowing with presents. I couldn't find the one I had in mind. But with that poem we metamorphosed St. Nicholas into the jolly red suited fat man we know as Santa Claus. And, even he has changed over the years.
From an old fashioned guy like this one...
To a slimmer, hardworking guy like this one. Its all fun.,
Wikipedia, by the way, is a free service. A very valuable one in my opinion. They are stressed for operating cash and are looking for donations. If you can send them a fiver once a year,  we can hope they will always remain free. There isn't very much that is truly free these days.