Monday, December 31, 2012



My sister Dawn spent Christmas with her immediate family in Chico and drove the three hours to my house on Dec. 28th. Brother Norman is my homeless brother and we all get together once a year at Christmas.  Norman is very political and shared all of the letters he has written to various newspapers and congress-people. We played Rummikub endlessly, it seemed with much fun and hilarity.

Yesterday, the rest of the family arrived, Clark, Bill, and Theresa, Clarks Finance. Bill lost his bid for congress. Without my glasses on, I didn’t realize I caught everyone with their mouths full.

We don’t exchange gifts, but Dawn bought me a shirt she couldn’t resist.IMG_3208

She knows I’m an avid fan of Downton Abbey. Mary from Downton Abbey is the figure on the right. If you don’t know the program, well, it may be hard to understand. We had a lot of fun, remembering the program which is set to begin a third series January 16th. I will miss it because I’ll be on the road with Jim.


We talked politics and solved the problems of the world in four hours. We reminisced about being raised with politics at dinner every night when we were growing up. We all have different solutions, it seems. We talked about our thinning ranks.

Dawn reminded me she will be 80 years old on her next birthday.

Norman is 66. Bill is 75. Clark is the youngest at 57. We’ve lost two brothers, Mark and Dan. So, we remember them and tell family stories. There is always a new one not everyone has heard before.  It is time well spent. Today, I un-decorate and say good-bye to another eventful year as I close the house, (mostly the refrigerator) and pack my bags and prepare to meet Jim. (Maybe I can hide the five pounds I put on over Thanksgiving and Christmas.)

Sunday, December 30, 2012


The day after Christmas, we celebrated with Ted, Bev, their children, and the grandmas, Eunice and Ruth, who are family members of Kristanne’s boys, Austin and Alec. Las Vegas is a long way to go for a visit and Murphys is much closer for them.
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Alec and Austin with cousins Abby and Daniel. (Ted is visible in he background.) The kids are sucking orange juice up through a peppermint stick “straw”.
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After dinner, the gift exchange. Grandma Eunice gave Austin what looked like a huge bag of cash. But, hidden inside the bag was a family tradition. This year Austin got “the ugly cup.”
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It has been a tradition for several generations In Eunice’s family for someone to pass on the ugly cup at Christmas. It is inscribed with these words: “I had a choice of being rich or good lookin’” Austin will now have to pass it on next year. She gave college-age grandson Alec, a gift-card of gas for his car. What clever gifts!
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The boys enjoyed the Guinness Book of World Records Austin received from his cousin Owen, who is in Italy.
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Bev and her Mom.
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Then, later in the day, Austin in his new pajamas, texting.
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Mason, texting.
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Alec texting.
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Emil texting.
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Naturally, boys love to wrestle and/or show off their strength. Alec is a student but he works full-time as a manager of a Golds Gym. So, it isn’t all texting.

Next, is Christmas with my nearby siblings.  I absolutely love the holidays and the extended family get-togethers.

Saturday, December 29, 2012


We celebrate Christmas in waves. First comes Christmas Eve with the immediate family. My kids and grandkids. Always fun.
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Daughters, Laurie and Kris, chatting over a glass of wine.
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An unusual event, sharing new tattoos. Son Ken at 51 surprised all of us with his first tattoo.
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Grandson Alec with his first tattoos.  He also has one on a thigh and the backs of his biceps. Hmmm! I’ve been thinking…no, not really.
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We had a guest from Northern Italy, an exchange student by the name of Emil, who fit right in. We played a loud game called Pass Phrase, I think that was the name of it. All ages could play.
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Dinner was unusual as well, with smoked pheasant that Ken bagged during his recent hunt. Very tasty, replacing the usual turkey or ham or beef.  We had paella, a green salad, butternut squash and spinach souffle.
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After dinner, we opened our gifts, which for the adults is an anonymous book draw. Each person buys a book, wraps it without any tags and puts it under the tree. The books are drawn by number allowing you to keep the book you’ve drawn or steal one from another person. Son Doug turned his book into a scavenger hunt, giving clues around the house for whomever chose his package, which was a 13 clue, fun, mystery enjoyed by all.
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The grandkids kept company as the younger generation does, with their fingers texting away. DSC04369 (Copy)

I finally understood that they do communicate with each other and texting isn’t such a dissociative practice.  I saw plenty of interaction besides the texting. It is no different than me talking to someone and taking notes. It was an eye opener for me.
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And there was plenty of time for interaction between generations, with Stewart and Austin wrestling. It rained and rained. Kris wanted to take her exchange student to see the snow. They got turned away at Forest Meadows without chains. Timing is everything.
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We celebrate on Christmas Eve. Played cards until the wee hours. Then, the next morning, We set up my computer and  skyped with Virginia and her family who are in Pisciotta, Italy with her husband’s sister who has a four-month old baby.
It was a calm Christmas, quiet. Between downpours, we walked the dogs, five of them,  and  nibbled and gamed the day away. I hope everybody had a happy Christmas.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


I recently enjoyed tandoori chicken at a restaurant in Stockton. A reader wondered if you can cook it without the clay pot. The answer is yes, but I couldn’t find my recipe that I got from a friend. I found it yesterday and here it is:

3/4 cup Greek yogurt, mixed with 1/4 cup water.
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger.
2 cloves garlic diced
2 tablespoons Indian tandoori spice mix. (The mix is made with garlic, onion and garam masala, the ingredient that turns it pink.  I’ve made it without the garam, and it still tastes good. If I can’t get the mix, I  replace it with 1 tsp sweet paprika, for color, 1 tsp ground cumin and 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper. I’ve been known to toss in a bit of cilantro, too.)

1 tablespoon dried fenugreek leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil.

Mix everything together into a paste and cover six chicken thighs with it and marinate in the refrigerator overnight, or, all day if you start early in the morning. (At least seven hours. ) When ready, turn your oven up to 400 degrees. Lay thighs in a single layer on a lightly greased baking sheet and roast for 20 to 30 minutes. Turn on the broil and brown for five minutes, turning and basting the pieces. Melt a tablespoon butter over all and serve with lemon wedges and sliced raw onion. Eat with rice.

This recipe serves six people, but that is three people at my house. If I’m going to turn on my oven I triple this recipe.

My gang comes in today for the holidays, with four college age boys, one a guest from Italy, and then the rest of the troop.  I baked and parted a turkey for a buffet style supper with a cold paella salad, green salad and plenty of bread for sandwiches. That should get them through to a trip to the snow tomorrow.

We are so fortunate to have such choices of interesting foods. I hope you give it a try some day.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


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At the doctor’s again yesterday, in one examination room, was a poster of a painting by Leonardo Da Vinci, that miracle inventor and artist. He rendered a death image with a cigarette hanging out of its mouth. I couldn’t help but think what an amazing man with such foresight to decide early in the game that cigarettes were a deadly habit. Shoot, and I thought that Native Americans brought the smoke habit to settlers and it spread from there.
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I stopped at the post office for stamps. (Still haven’t mailed a card.) Today, for sure. I stopped to look at the art work from the kids at Head Start. And, their public Christmas tree.
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I decorated my table with old Christmas cards two days ago, and covered them over with a plastic see-through cloth. Many people don’t send cards anymore and I’m glad I’ve kept a crop of them from the past to enjoy.
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It is a bit of inspiration to get at it. And I do enjoy sending cards because it keeps me in touch with people I rarely see. Put the carols on, warm a cuppa cider…hmmm. Smells like Christmas already.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


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I’m shamed to say I haven’t written a single Christmas card this year. I was intent upon learning how to do a Christmas letter with a photo gallery. Even with the help of a friend, I’m afraid it will have to be next year. My signal was down and took the better part of three mornings to get it running again. Therapy takes up the liion’s share of my time, so I decided to photography some old Christmas Cards I like.
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The card says it best. It is a lovely season. Hopefully today, I’ll get some cards mailed

Monday, December 17, 2012


The NRA called America’s Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents “Jack Booted thugs” in an ad, causing former President George H. Bush to withdraw his membership in the organization. The NRA was formed to strengthen our militia and helped win the war. After the war they promoted gun training and safety, all supported by government funds.

In more modern times it was the NRA that realized the dangers to society of non-licensed gun purchasers and promoted legislation to license privately owned firearms. They promoted sports, target shooting competitions and responsible gun ownership. Gun ownership was very selective, however. No blacks were allowed permits.

Even after Martin Luther King’s house was bombed, he was refused a gun permit. When he later got one, his house became an arsenal.

Huey Newton and some of his followers hailed the lack of gun control. They walked into a state capitol building with loaded rifles in hand. They had legal permits and there was no law to say they couldn’t do it.  They began following cops around Oakland and policed the police every time they stopped a black man on the street. They would bail out of their cars with guns in hand and shout legal advice to the person being “harassed”. Oakland quickly made city laws to control the Black Panther Party.

It all began in 1977, under Harlan Carter, the NRA turned from a positive force in society to the most feared lobby in the United States. Harlan stated: “Beginning in this place and this hour and this period, the NRA History is finished.” His mantra was ABSOLUTELY NO GUN CONTROL. Period.

The NRA had friendly relationships with the cops, but when legislation proposed a ban on  “cop killer bullets” and assault weapons, under Carter’s leadership,  the NRA was opposed and so it has been ever since. He led a public verbal attack on police leadership and continually bashed the cops.

The second amendment does not confer a broad, untouchable right for personal weapons to the extreme position now taken by the gun lobby.

And, it is now accepted that government is helpless to do anything about it. From a citizens point of view, that is not acceptable.

Does Obama have the guts to change that? Will he be able to change that? Will the filibuster be fixed so bills can come to the floor for a vote? The NRA buys congressional votes, just like other powerful lobbys. What does it mean when a powerful nation like the United States is afraid of the NRA? That is not acceptable.

Gun owners think sensible rules about gun control means yanking guns away from them. Not so.
Safety clips on automatic weapons are opposed by the NRA. Selling on-line weapons to anyone is ok. Selling unlimited guns to a family is ok. Selling 15,000 rounds of ammunition is ok. They oppose child safety clips on weapons. Assault weapons that fire multiple rounds a second are extremely dangerous and have no other function than to kill.
Individual protection does not require an arsenal of assault weapons.

The NRA set the table and fed us myths about gun control.  Now it is time to do the dirty dishes. Tell your congressional leaders, enough is enough. Sensible gun control is a must.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


The most awful thing I can imagine happening to me is to lose one of my children. The senseless violence, the innocence of young children attending school, shattered by deadly violence. For any parent to be faced with the awful reality of sending a child to school and having that child gunned down by a madman. I want to know, how did he get the guns? Legally? How did he get them on school grounds? Don’t we have a right to laws that can better protect us from the enormous proliferation of automatic weapons in the hands of irresponsible users? Unrestricted automatic weapon sales are for profit over the sanctity of life. Gun law reform is imperative. If you agree, sign on to all of these websites that demand our government DO SOMETHING NOW.

We want government BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE. The Preamble to the constitution reads that our government was set forth to protect the general welfare of the people.
AND there are things we can do. Sign this petition as well and spread the word.

What is sad is the victims of previous random killings who are waiting and waiting for change to happen, only, it never does.

Do you live in a big city?  Can you get YOUR mayor to sign on? How about the governor of your state. Be proactive. Let’s make it happen.

Thursday, December 13, 2012


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The Sonora Elks Lodge I’ve joined has an organ/piano player, Lenny. At our meeting last night he played Christmas Carols while the rest of us sat around and chatted and sipped pre-dinner cocktails.
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I enjoyed the sing-along, something I hadn’t had an opportunity to do in years. In high school I relished high school choir, the recitals, the camaraderie, the whole process was so enjoyable that when it came to church choir, I would attend two masses each Sunday so I could sing twice. Fellow Elk member, Judy Roberts, (in pink) told me that she recently attended a community Christmas Party where many young people attended. At a community sing, they were lost. It is something they’ve missed along the way and they didn’t know the words or tunes to the most common of Christmas Carols. She sighed, feeling sorry for them. I hadn’t realized that our Christmas Culture is generational. As children, we caroled on the street from house to house with our school teacher leading the way. At our last stop, (my house one year) my mother had hot chocolate ready for our weary voices and a fire to warm cold hands and feet. I  guess we are turning into old fogies and caroling isn’t hep anymore. Their loss is our loss too.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Rainy days are good for sitting around the fire with a bowl of popcorn and a movie; decorating the house for Christmas and optimizing your new computer.

That's it folks. I'm figuring out all the glitches and pathways that come with System 7. So far, I like it a lot. Maybe tomorrow I can even blog.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012


Julia Shelby, a San Francisco transplant, started Mountain Melody Womens Chorus in 2005. A bright star in our mountain communities is this all volunteer group of about 18 women, singers all, with two piano players and a flutist.   Shelby chooses  innovative music, with intricate, lively and echoing harmonies. What a treat.
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Also a treat, is Casa Terra Cotta, this beautiful mountaintop estate, loaned to the Calaveras Arts Council for the event. I was  grateful for the sun, but the time of day was brutal for photos.
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I ran smack dab into my neighbor Judith, and friends I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, David and JoEllen Gano. A stranger grabbed my camera and offered to take a picture.
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What makes the estate so enchanting, is the marvelous windows surrounding you from every direction, providing the best views from the mountain top, at  the same time making picture-taking difficult.
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I concentrated on faces and the wonderful music. Dobru’ Noc, a Slovakian Folk Song
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This Little Light Of Mine.
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The Seal Lullaby
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Nothin’ Gonna Stumble My Feet.
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After the concert, we enjoyed desserts and wine punch and mingled with guests and members of the chorus. Michael VonErich sung the solo Mary Did You Know? Her deep resonant voice, and the words brought me to tears. I had to meet her, only to discover she is moving away from Mountain Ranch. She told me she grew up singing as a child with Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene, the guys who wrote the words and music to the song. What a talent she is. And what a loss to our community.
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Maddie and I walked the grounds and enjoyed the views.
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Some people stayed close to the outdoor fireplace.
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We all got to sing for Marta Johnson’s birthday, another old friend I hadn’t seen in years.
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On the drive home, Maddie and I oohed and ahhed at another birthday, these little newborn lambs on wobbly legs. We both wondered  why are these young lambs born in the cold month of December? We hope it isn’t from climate change, but in my yard I’ve seen a late fawn all through November. A strange year in so many ways.