Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Jim gathered his pillow, computer and assorted items and packed into the motor home. He lives light and likes it that way. The farther he goes, the bigger his house grows. New England his mansion in 2010. Louisiana, his yard, was spread with flowers and critters and rivers all over the ground. A deepening home, with no barbed wire to hold him back. No weeds grow on his wheels. As solid as a rock.
 A lifestyle of many "G'days" and as many "G'byes".
 He happily rolled out of the driveway, with the music playing: "On The Road Again..."
While parting has its sadness, I'm content to slip back into my old life for awhile,. Looking forward to a round of holiday parties, attending to my yard work, weeds and all, and solidifying my roots. As solid as a rock.

Monday, November 29, 2010


My neighbor, Jan Stewart, invited Jim and I over for a second Thanksgiving Dinner with her family. Jan is my friend and neighbor.
Her son, Brian, went to grammar and high school with my youngest daughter.
Brian's wife, Debbie Pendergrast and my daughter were best of friends and have children close in age.
Jan's oldest grandson, cammeron, is now married with a child of his own and he lives on the road above me and is also my neighbor.
His mother is Jan's oldest daughter shown here with her first grandbaby. That makes Jan a great grandmother. It sneaks up on you. Suddenly we are the matriarch's of our families and it only gets better and better. When I was growing up, grandmothers and great grandmothers didn't look like these two women, youthful and full of fun. May it ever stay that way.
I like the connections and roots of friends, family and neighbors. But, as Jim prepares to leave, I know that you don't lose those connections by becoming a gypsy and ramblin' about the countryside as we did most of 2009 and 2010. You just gain friendships and connections as you go. How grateful I am to have met and got to know Jim's son and family, cousins, Donna and Bob Parker, the Di Paola family, Diane and Bob Comollo, Jackie and Ray Nichol and their daughter Rebecca, Simone and Pat Purcell. Friends, Dolly Giordano and Arthur, Bill and Loretta Gallagher, Jim and Ginnie Palumbo, Sue and Art Lambart, Ted and Sandy Walden, Leo and Fran Perth, Ted and Judy Price, Al Penta, Beverly Malland, Randy Vining, Bob Gambol, Horst and Margo Schnieder, Barbara De La Fuente, Helga Geday, Jan and Larry Seaberg, Debra Vinsel, Kerri Kaufman, Donna Huffer, Bob Parker...I'm probably forgetting someone. Each has become a connection and gives life that same solidity as the roots of home.
Now I have new names to give to my plants. My wandering jew I'll call Randy...

Sunday, November 28, 2010


As I get ready to leave home, I look about at some of my favorite things.  I know I'm going to miss my Covered Wagon wall hanging. Let me explain. The Hal Humber, Resnich, Kessner families came West over the mountains in a covered wagon. A slew of crazy quilt blocks came with them. My friend, Mary Lou Humber, restored many of the blocks and made a full sized quilt with them. Four blocks were left over and she gave them to me. 
 The four blocks were in rough shape, uneven, frayed. A couple pieces shredded while working on them and had to be replaced by modern materials that fit with old materials. Material from my husband's old ties matched quite well. Now, the wall hanging has become even more personal.
 One block had to be augmented on one side to make it fit with the other three. Pieces of lace cover frayed areas and help hold the piece together. I rescued little bits of lace from an old slip and a pajama top to sew onto the blocks.
 Crazy quilts are known for their creative stitching and odd shaped materials. The philosophy, so I'm told, was why cut off even a precious point of this beautiful material when you can save it all? Years ago, people even re-used thread when taking apart a garment. Thread was tougher stuff then.
 So, yes, I'll miss my wall hanging, but know I have it to come back to. It represents, friendship, (Mary Lou), family, (my husband's ties) and my own work. A labor of love; a treasure.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Yesterday,  Jim and I began loading the motor home for his departure on the 29th. It is necessary to have everything I need in the motor home that I cannot carry in my  luggage. My art work takes up a good bit of space, but its important to me.
 These tea pots have remained unfinished since I met Jim. My medium is papier mache, decoupage and some metal, twig and fabric art.
Son Doug built new shelving in the motor home and we've changed things around a bit. Yesterday we worked on how to make the new space work.
Earlier this year, I carted a different papier mache project all across the U.S. and brought it home untouched.
This coming year, our pace will slow and we will spend more time at each stop, giving me a chance to do more than read and bike and enjoy nature. I'm looking forward to the relaxation, slower pace, and dedicating some time to soul saving sanity, my art work.
Wish me luck.

Friday, November 26, 2010


At 5:56 this morning, I received a call from my youngest son. He wanted to tell me some good news.
"Its Black Friday," he said as a lead in.
"Well, to cheer you and give you some good news, I thought I'd let you know that I drove down Pacific Ave. (this is in Stockton) and all the big store parking lots were full. There were people standing out in the cold waiting for the stores to open. Lines of people waiting to go in to do some shopping. That is the first time I've seen those lots full in a long time and I wanted to share the happy news."
  It is happy news. I would probably have been just as thankful for this evidence of an improved economy if he had called a bit later. But, we are a family of early risers, so I thought I'd pass it on to you.
 Jim settled in to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and alert us to a special event.    

 The parade, famous throughout the U.S., was also the venue for my Grandson, Mason, who played his clarinet along with the rest of the band members from Green Valley High School. I know you can see him there, on the right, in the back. We all decided his five seconds of fame is the predictor of a greater future.

Truth to tell, we were excited to know he was there, and thankful he had this great thrill in his young life, to play in the parade and also to perform at Carnegie Hall, even if we couldn't actually see him.

 Ten year old Owen helped peel potatoes. He got quite good at it. He likes to count things and arrange things in a numerical way. He wouldn't quit peeling until the pan had 25 potatoes in it, plus, it was important to him to peel the last potato.
 Doug and my brother Clark, fired up the pit to smoke the turkey. Later, when it was brought in to carve, the kids declared it looked like black leather.
 Cedric baked walnut and pumpkin pies. Here he is making a bean and cheese dip.
 Virginia and Theresa set up a nice table of hor d'oeuvres in the living room. Virginia prepared her special dishes and Theresa brought her famous cranberries, and Clarks shrimp avocado appetizer.  The main event was a table overladen with all the special foods.
Most of the big day was spent relaxing. Playing games. Enjoying being together with nothing to do but play.
 Doug taught 8 year old Theo to play chess.
 Theo liked replacing his powerful queen with r2d2, an equally powerful robot.
Cedric and Owen drooled over some neat Lego structures.
Owen perfectly assembled a complicated Lego structure, later in the day.
Everyone was thankful for a great day of family fun, feasting and relaxation. I'm thankful for many things, but having a day dedicated to getting together and feasting and playing is a wonderful tradition.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


I got this piece Michael Gartner wrote in my email. Its a great piece and I hope you enjoy it.
 Michael Gartner, editor of newspapers large and small and president of NBC News won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. This piece is well worth reading, and a few good chuckles are guaranteed. Here goes.
  My father never drove a car. Well, that's not quite right. I should say I never saw him drive a car.
 He quit driving in 1927 when he was 25 years old, and the last car he drove was a 1926 Whippet.
 "In those days," he told me when he was in his 90s, "to drive a car you had to do things with your hands, and do things with your feet, and look every which way, and I decided you could walk through life and enjoy it or drive through life and miss it."
  At which point my mother, a sometimes salty Irishwoman, chimed in:
"Oh, bull sh*t!" she said. "He hit a horse."
  "Well," my father said, "there was that, too."

   So my brother and I grew up in a household without a car. The neighbors all had cars -- the Kollingses next door had a green 1941 Dodge, the VanLaninghams across the street a gray 1936 Plymouth, the Hopsons two doors down a black 1941 Ford -- but we had none.
   My father, a newspaperman in Des Moines, would take the streetcar to work and; often as not, walk the 3 miles home. If he took the streetcar home, my mother and brother and I would walk the three blocks to the streetcar stop, meet him, and walk home together.

   My brother, David, was born in 1935, and I was born in 1938; and sometimes, at dinner, we'd ask how come all the neighbors had cars but we had none. "No one in the family drives," my mother would explain, and that was that.
   But, sometimes, my father would say, "But as soon as one of you boys turns 16, we'll get one." It was as if he wasn't sure which one of us would turn 16 first.

   But, sure enough, my brother turned 16 before I did. So in 1951 my parents bought a used 1950 Chevrolet from a friend who ran the parts department at a Chevy dealership downtown.
  It was a four-door, white model, stick shift, fender skirts, loaded with everything; and, since my parents didn't drive, it more or less became my brother's car.
  Having a car but not being able to drive didn't bother my father, but it didn't make sense to my mother.
  So in 1952, when she was 43 years old, she asked a friend to teach her to drive. She learned in a nearby cemetery, the place where I learned to drive the following year and where, a generation later, I took my two sons to practice driving. The cemetery probably was my father's idea. "Who can your mother hurt in the cemetery?" I remember him saying more than once.

   For the next 45 years or so, until she was 90, my mother was the driver in the family. Neither she nor my father had any sense of direction, but he loaded up on maps -- though they seldom left the city limits -- and appointed himself navigator. It seemed to work.
  Still, they both continued to walk a lot. My mother was a devout Catholic, and my father an equally devout agnostic, an arrangement that didn't seem to bother either of them through their 75 years of marriage.
  (Yes, 75 years, and they were deeply in love the entire time.)
 He retired when he was 70, and nearly every morning for the next 20 years or so, he would walk with her the mile to St. Augustin's Church.
  She would walk down and sit in the front pew, and he would wait in the back until he saw which of the parish's two priests was on duty that morning. If it was the pastor, my father then would go out and take a 2-mile walk, meeting my mother at the end of the service and walking her home.
  If it was the assistant pastor, he'd take just a 1-mile walk and then head back to the church. He called the priests "Father Fast" and "Father Slow."

   After he retired, my father almost always accompanied my mother whenever she drove anywhere, even if he had no reason to go along. If she were going to the beauty parlor, he'd sit in the car and read, or go take a stroll or; if it was summer, she would keep the engine running so he could listen to the Cubs game on the radio. In the evening when I'd stop by he'd explain: "The Cubs lost again. The millionaire on second base made a bad throw to the millionaire on first base, so the multimillionaire on third base scored."

   If she were going to the grocery store, he would go along to carry the bags out -- and to make sure she loaded up on ice cream. As I said, he was always the navigator; and once, when he was 95 and she was 88 and still driving, he said to me, "Do you want to know the secret of a long life?"

   "I guess so," I said, knowing it probably would be something bizarre.
   "No left turns," he said.
   "What?" I asked.
   "No left turns," he repeated. "Several years ago, your mother and I read an article that said most accidents that old people are in happen when they turn left in front of oncoming traffic.
  As you get older, your eyesight worsens, and you can lose your depth perception, it said. So your mother and I decided never again to make a left turn."
  "What?" I said again.
   "No left turns," he said. "Think about it. Three rights are the same as a left, and that's a lot safer.  So we always make three rights."
   "You're kidding!" I said, and I turned to my mother for support.
   "No," she said, "your father is right. We make three rights. It works."

   But then she added: "Except when your father loses count."
   I was driving at the time, and I almost drove off the road as I started laughing.
   "Loses count?" I asked.
   "Yes," my father admitted, "that sometimes happens. But it's not a problem. You just make seven rights, and you're okay again."

   I couldn't resist. "Do you ever go for 11?" I asked.
  "No," he said " If we miss it at seven, we just come home and call it a bad day.  Besides, nothing in life is so important it can't be put off another day or another week."

   My mother was never in an accident, but one evening she handed me her car keys and said she had decided to quit driving. That was in 1999 when she was 90.
 She lived four more years, until 2003. My father died the next year, at 102.
 They both died in the bungalow they had moved into in 1937 and bought a few years later for $3,000. (Sixty years later, my brother and I paid $8,000 to have a shower put in the tiny bathroom -- the house had never had one. My father would have died then and there if he knew the shower cost nearly three times what he paid for the house.)
   He continued to walk daily -- he had me get him a treadmill when he was 101 because he was afraid he'd fall on the icy sidewalks but wanted to keep exercising -- and he was of sound mind and sound body until the moment he died.
  One September afternoon in 2004, he and my son went with me when I had to give a talk in a neighboring town; and it was clear to all three of us that he was wearing out, though we had the usual wide-ranging conversation about politics and newspapers and things in the news.
  A few weeks earlier, he had told my son, "You know, Mike, the first hundred years are a lot easier than the second hundred." At one point in our drive that Saturday, he said, "You know, I'm probably not going to live much longer."
   "You're probably right," I said.
   "Why would you say that?" He countered, somewhat irritated.
   "Because you're 102 years old," I said.
   "Yes," he said, "you're right." He stayed in bed all the next day.

   That night, I suggested to my son and daughter that we sit up with him through the night.
   He appreciated it, he said, though at one point, apparently seeing us look gloomy, he said:
   "I would like to make an announcement. No one in this room is dead yet"
    An hour or so later, he spoke his last words:

   "I want you to know," he said, clearly and lucidly, "that I am in no pain. I am very comfortable. And I have had as happy a life as anyone on this earth could ever have."
  A short time later, he died.
  I miss him a lot, and I think about him a lot. I've wondered now and then how it was that my family and I were so lucky that he lived so long.
  I can't figure out if it was because he walked through life, or because he quit taking left turns."
  Life is too short to wake up with regrets.    So love the people who treat you right.    Forget about the ones who don't.    Believe everything happens for a reason.    If you get a chance,take it; and if it changes your life, let it.  Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it." 
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Thanksgiving is a major production at my house. I cook for at least two days ahead of time and enjoy nibbling and preparing the fattening, special foods I rarely touch at any other time of year. Think sour cream, creamed cheese, gobs of butter, rich pies and deserts. Yum. I avoid those foods except on special occasions, and that special occasion is about to happen.
 I take out all sorts of favorite recipes, then move along and sometimes discard one and opt for another. I cannot prepare them all, though I'd like too. We will have smoked turkey, two kinds of potatoes and gravy,  Italian stuffing, and artichoke stuffing, stuffed mushrooms, spinach souffle, corn pudding, pickled pineapple, kale salad, hippy broccoli, three types of cranberries, paella, sweet potatoes in broth.
New this year is a Spanish tortilla, made with 3 eggs to 3 potatoes. And, we haven't had roasted pepper salad at Thanksgiving. I debated between roasted red pepper dip and the salad. Decided on the homemade humus for dip instead. Well, the list is making me drool and its time to get at it.
I already made two crustless pumpkin pies, but normally the deserts are up to the guests to bring. Virginia's pear tart and Doug's berry pies. Oh, my. Haven't even started on the snacks. Its going to wonderful.
And, its not only about the bounty of food. We do reflect on what we have to be thankful for. We have so many cultures in our country and Thanksgiving is a true American holiday that everyone enjoys and it doesn't upset anyone. And, that's something of great value.
We've been without the wood stove for three days with the temperature lowering to 22 degrees. The chimney sweep came yesterday and cleaned the stove. Nice to have the house really warm again.
Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I really get into cooking Thanksgiving dinner because its always exciting to try new dishes and use everything in the spice cupboard. Well, in my case, that isn't actually possible because I have soooo many spice choices. In fact, the spice cupboard is full.
 It has spilled over and taken up a shelf in the pantry. Some items are dried fresh from the garden and put in little bottles and jars.
 And then, there are seasonings I have to have handy to the stove that I use the most.
 I tend to plan for weeks ahead, choosing and discarding recipes, favoring this one over that one. I like to make paella with saffron rice. No stores in my area carry saffron anymore because it is too expensive. I should have thought to go online. Gosh, what bounty we have in our country. I'll remember next year.

New this year is a kale recipe my daughter and her mother-in-law tweaked from a deli dish they tasted. And, as always, her pear with almond paste desert that has become a family tradition over the last five years. Its nice that family traditions change a bit with time, giving the feast an element of surprise. 

Normally, the whole family arrives with their own special treats, and usually some extra friends or brothers, or cousins.  Daughter-in-law Laurie, daughter Virginia and son Douglas are all good cooks and love to make special dishes for Thanksgiving. Doug picks summer berries and freezes them especially for holiday pies. He plans to smoke the turkey this year and I plan to make two different stuffing recipes on the side with a zinfandel and apple gravy. We always have something with pumpkin and corn to remember the Pilgrims.

Laurie always surprises us with some exciting new recipe. She is an artist and designs special place markers for everyone attending. This year, they will not attend since grandson Mason will be playing in the Macy's Parade and at Carnegie Hall. He is part of an awesome band from Green Valley High School. He plays clarinet and will have some camera time because a group of the boys will do a little spotlight take-out on the street. 

 Today is my major cooking day to prepare everything that can be made ahead. Ain't life grand? The spice of life probably isn't spices, but at Thanksgiving time, they play a great part of making life exciting. 

Monday, November 22, 2010


Forgive me, for I have sinned.  I let the white stuff fall down on the Motor Home, and failed to get the chimney swept.
 We  hunkered in with the heater blasting all day. I enjoy the snow as long as it melts away in a day or two.  Jim, however, was unfazed by the beauty of the white stuff. You be the judge.
 It was a wet snow. The maple tree branches are strong enough not to bend. The plum tree still has its purple leaves. The branches were bent heavily over my deck table.
 The fine needles of a heather plant turned snow into lace.
My Exchange student from Indonesia, in 1986, was dellighted that California had snow. Her father told her there would be no snow in California, so she was surprised to find out that some parts of the sunny state had snow.
 Linda, on the left, enjoyed playing in the white stuff and enjoyed the dog sled races at Bear Valley.
But, real snow looks like this:
It was deep, every year in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. This picture was taken in the 1942. My father would warn us not to climb the snowdrifts and touch the electrical wires. The snow WAS that high.
Brrrr!  I'm grateful to be a Californian.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


When the weather gets rough, the tough think of summer. Not the weather wimp! He is miserable. Mostly because the woodstove chimney decided it needed a Chimney Sweep. One of those things I didn’t take care of during the summer. Maybe, because I was having a great time on the East Coast where I photographed these beaches.
This rocky, hidden beach is at Gay Head.  Many hidden spots like this one require a climb.
On Martha’s Vineyard, the beaches are friendlier, but not used very much in June.
The Western end of Martha’s vineyard has beaches, but people here seem more interested in clamming, sailing and fishing. But, its a beach.
Some people like to lie on the beach, relax and tan. Me?  I like to rock climb and then cool my toes, or clothes. The remoteness appeals to me as well.

Sun and sand has its fans.
Jim’s family spend a week or two at Rockyneck every year in Connecticut.
New Hampshire attracts sun lovers.
But, a beach is where you find it, no matter how rocky or small. These girls were taking advantage of every inch in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. Life’s a beach! Especially when snow is on the horizon.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


 We have a whole working town as a museum in the Mother Lode, its Columbia, a gold mining town. Mystic Seaport has a whole bay and harbor as a working museum, called Mystic Seaport. Like Columbia, it has the old buildings, still plying the trades they did in days of yore. Printing, barrel making, clock works and so on. The star of the port when we visited in August was the restoration of a whaling ship, The Charles W.Morgan, though other rescue efforts go on at the same time.
Its possible to see the workers of today, like the sailor below...
and their equivalent occupation from yesteryear.
Of course, these guys were officers of the vessel, not a swabbie like the woman above.
 To me, the most fascinating business on the wharf was the rope making building, because the building had to be as long as the finished rope, which meant about 250 feet, if my memory is correct.
Its a marvel to watch how the strands were twisted to make huge, heavy duty ropes, much needed by the shipping industry.
 Ropes were made of the hemp plant which makes it illegal in the U.S. Too bad! We could use that industry here instead of importing from Canada or Germany or China. Our early colonists knew a good thing. Hemp makes cheaper paper rather than cutting down trees, as well.
Another good occupation might be the carving of figure heads. They are definitely obsolete, but look what beauties. And, collectors love them. This particular vessel was engaged in rescue training for their sailors the day we were there. Young sailors learn real skills in how to operate these vessels and it made for a fascinating day at Mystic Seaport.
The hardest part of this rescue was learning how to lower the small boat.