Saturday, July 4, 2015

Rules and Regulations

What do old people talk about when they are alone together?

Joe made pancakes for breakfast this morning, which we all enjoyed.  Then we sat around discussing things that had happened with Bri yesterday.  At some point I decided to go take a shower while I didn't have to fight at least 3 other people for a turn.

When I got out and returned to the living room, there was a lively discussion going on about the rules of hop scotch.

The discussion turned so serious that I ended up on Wikipedia while Olivia was finding "how to" videos on You Tube.

Fascinating, the internet.  Did you know that it is guessed that hop scotch (originally called "scotch hoppers") originated with the Romans, but the rules were not written down until 1635 in a book called "The Book of Games" by a guy named Francis Willughby.  It is also a pretty universal game.  In India it's called Stapu (though India seems to have many different names, depending on the geographical location), in Spain Rayuela, in Israel Klahss, in the Netherlands Hinkelen, in Croatia Skolica, in Malaysia Tengteng, in Mexico Mamaleche (interesting name!), in Cuba La Pelegrina, in Brasil Amarelinha, in Scotland Peevers, in Albania Rrsavi, and in the Philippines Piko.  I'm sure there are lots more variants.

In Australia, hopscotch is played in stages. First stage is played by hopping per the standard rules. Once this stage is complete, the player is promoted to the next stage called "jumps" where the player jumps into each square with two feet. Final stage is the most difficult stage called "sizzles", which is similar to jumps except the legs are crossed. The first player to complete all three stages wins.

In France they play a version called "escargot" because it is a round form

(Those French always have to be different!)

This in-depth discussion, complete with video, did not lead to a game of geriatric hopscotch.  I doubt that I could get to 2 these days without breaking my leg!

It was a very lazy day.   By 3 p.m., Walt and Norm still not had taken showers. I went off to the store to order Tom's birthday cake to be picked up tomorrow.  Norm was settled in to watch golf, and then baseball.  I went back to sleep after going to the store and slept for more than an hour.

In the late afternoon everyone went to Costco to buy food for tomorrow's picnic.  

(apparently there was a dress code.  I didn't get the memo)

I opted to stay home and read my book.  I am turning into Marta, who spends most family social occasions in a different room reading a book.  There is something to be said for that, though I am sure we are both considered anti-social.  I find the older I get the more the loud noise of crowds, even people I love, begins to get to me and I really just want to get away somewhere with a book for awhile.

For dinner we went to Family Movie Night (with tacos) at Tom & Laurel's.  We sat around communicating with each other.

Lacie decided to be a superhero (that blue thing that says "Santa Barbara" on it is actually her t-shirt!)

While eating Tom's delicious tacos, we sat around outside watching cartoons.  1930s Mickey Mouse cartoons were particularly entertaining, especially as the guys tried to figure out how a football game could have a score of 96-96)


Friday, July 3, 2015

The Recipe

We were promised rum punch.

When Ned's godmother called the other day, she invited us to come to the house for lunch and to meet their neighbors.  She also promised that Dick would make his famous rum punch.

Dick's mother was originally from Trinidad and in our UC Berkeley years, he gained some fame by mixing his grandmother's rum punch (using Trinidad rum, not that Baccardi stuff) for all of our parties.  He still makes it on special occasions, and I felt very special indeed when the tattered recipe book came out and he prepared to make it yet again.  It was like looking at a page from an ancient text from Hogwarts.

Dick got out his bottle and vials of mysterious liquids and soon had a batch of the golden elixer ready for us.

It didn't make us want to run out and play a game of quidditch, but it was lovely to sit on the patio, with the coolish-warmish breeze blowing across our faces, and having a nice chat over goat cheese and crackers. (I am determined to learn to like goat cheese.)

Gerry is a wonderful cook and the lasagna was delicious, the lemon meringue pie even more so.  The neighbors were very pleasant and after they excused themselves to go home to tend to their garden, we sat around and talked for another hour or so.

But then it was time to return to Alice Nan's to go with Brianna to her karate class.  She had spent the morning at "Zoo camp" and was now ready for the afternoon activity.  When we arrived here, Ned and Marta had already arrived and all of us went to the center where the karate class was to be held.

Bri graduated recently from white belt to yellow belt.  And let me tell you, if you're ever depressed and feel like life isn't worth living, drop in on a class of 5-8 year olds learning karate and you can't help but smile.  They are so darn cute.

Bri, who has been posing for cameras her whole life saw me with mine and immediately struck a pose.

But her attention thru the whole class was on Uncle Ned, hiding off behind a post trying to catch her unaware.

She found him every time, though, sitting up straighter and grinning at him.

Watching the kids go through their moves was so cute.  The teacher is teaching them how to defend themselves and I decided that if any one of them were to be attacked, they could get away easily enough because the attacker would be laughing so hard at their fierce and determined moves!

Before the class was over, Norm and Olivia had arrived, and not too long after we arrived back and Joe and Alice Nan's house, Jeri and Phil got here, so we were all together again for dinner and then everyone went off to their respective places of repose for the night (Ned, Marta, Jeri and Phil to Tom's house, the rest of us here).  I conked out on the couch while everyone was chatting and didn't wake up until 3 a.m.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Down 101

In "East of Eden," one of my favorite books, John Steinbeck waxes poetic about his beloved Salinas Valley. 
The Salinas Valley is in Northern California.  It is a long, narrow swale between two ranges of mountains, and the Salinas River winds and twists up the center until it falls at last into Monterey Bay....
I remember that the Gabilan Mountains to the east of the valley were light gay mountains full of sun and loveliness and a kind of invitation, so that you wanted to climb into their warm foothills almost as you want to climb into the lap of a beloved mother.  They were  beckoning mountains with a brown grass love.  The Santa Lucias stood up against the sky to the west and kept the valley from the open sea, and they were dark and brooding--unfriendly and dangerous.  I always found in myself a dread of west and a love of east....the morning came over the peaks of the Gabilans and the night drifted back from the ridges of the Santa Lucias.  It may be that the birth and death of the day had some part of my feeling about the two ranges of mountains.
Every time we drive to Santa Barbara on Highway 101, as we enter the Salinas Valley, I think of Steinbeck.  The valley starts at the town of Salinas itself, home of the Steinbeck Museum, and wends it way 30 miles south to Gilroy, the garlic capital of the world.  With its working farms, construction equipment, big trucks kicking up clouds of white dust as they cross over the highway, and lines of cars moving in both directions the valley is not as beautiful, I suspect, as it was in Steinbeck's day, but still the green fields, where there are green fields are lush and beautiful and dotted with farm workers bent over tending to the crops.  Even now, in the midst of drought there are fields with sprinkling systems going full blast, the sunlight bouncing off the water like diamonds.

As you approach Gilroy, the smell of garlic comes wafting through the windows and as you leave Gilroy there are cherry stands, just closing at 4:30, when we were coming through, but open long enough for us to pick up a bag of cherries to bring with us...our annual July habit.  The cherries are big and dark and juicy and delicious.  A nice complement to the bag of Fritos we shared for lunch!

On the approach to King City there is a line of tall trees...I wish I knew what kind they are, but they stand like a wall separating the highway from the foothills of the Santa Lucia mountains, and then the tree wall is gone and ahead we are approaching the town of King City, with the tall signs for fast food restaurants seeming to grow out of the very treetops of the forest around the city like odd looking flowers.

Then out of King City and into Oil Country, the ugly city of oil wells, all looking like those drinking birds we used to have as children, their heads bobbing up and down in the wasteland that is the ground around them.

We pass through Camp Roberts, a National Guard post, where all the California National Guard units train at some point.  It is difficult to tell from what you can see from the freeway that this is an army base.  It looks completely deserted, but presumably there is more activity away from the prying eyes of the public.

We are following Historic El Camino Real, following the 600 miles that connect the California missions, established by Father Junipero Serra and the Jesuit and Franciscan monks, stretching from San Diego north to Sonoma, north of San Francisco.  Many spots along the route are marked by these historic shepherd's crook signs.

We pass by a couple of the old missions, now repaired and open to the public, but pretty much invisible (or at least not obvious) to those zipping by along the highway.

I remember when much of the land around here was not yet overgrown, but now there are vineyards seemingly everywhere.

So much more beautiful now when they are lush and full, and heavy with grapes than they were on our last trip here when they are just starting to leaf out.

At one point we passed a herd of what looked like was probably from "rent a goat," where you rent a herd of goats to come out and eat all of your vegetation. I've seen them in overgrown fields around Davis occasionally These guys were all bunched up against the fence, munching away, and one little guy was climbing a bush.

I noticed when we passed through Paso Robles that the temperature outside was 80 degrees.  The highway here is divided by huge bushes of Oleander, in pink and white and, while I had been taking photos regularly on the way down to illustrate some of the places about which I have written, it was not until I tried to get a good shot of the oleander that I realized I had left the SD card out of the camera and had gotten NONE of the photos I had taken.  That this entry is illustrated at all is thanks to Google images.  I must go out first thing in the morning and buy an SD card!

By the time we had crossed over Cuesta grade and down into San Luis Obispo (31 miles from Paso Robles), the temperature had dropped to 73 and in another 13 miles to Pismo Beach it was 63.  As we had left triple digits in Davis, I was thrilled.

We stopped for gas as the sun was setting.  I checked my text messages and heard from Ashley that the dogs were doing well and that she had given Sheila extra treats.

It was about 9:45 when we finally arrived at Alice Nan's house.  We had been listening to a Harlan Coben book all the way down and it was nearly finished, but we will save the finale for the trip home.

It's nice to be here and I look forward to Tom's big annual BBQ on Saturday.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Some Reasons Why I Sponsor

June was a good month for letters from Compassion kids.  Twelve letters from an assortment of my 30 kids.  That's a lot.  These letters from the children are so heartfelt and so warm that I thought I would share a few quotes to let you see why it is that I sponsor and how wonderful these kids are.  (The little guys, under about 8, don't write their own letters...but these are samples from the older ones, who do...some of them in English)

1.  My house tasks are feeding of piglets, washing plates and others.  I want to work as a teacher when I grow up.  I want to help and teach children to learn more knowledge. Thank you for supporting me and guiding me through all the way. -Annie Rose (Philippines)
2. It is my pleasure to write to you again this wonderful morning that God has granted to us. I hope that you and your family are well and safe.  I am so happy today because every day in my life is always bright as a saying that says, "it always takes a smile to make a dog's day brighter." -Erik (Kenya)
3. Let me take this opportunity to thank God who has given me this golden chance to greet you in the name of Jesus Christ our beloved lord. The main issue of writing this letter is to thank you very much for everything you have done for me.  Like I thank you for the letters.  I would like to tell you that every day I pray to God  because God has made me what I am. I am happy with the verse you sent to me because it has improved me to have love with my friends.  I thank God and you very much because you have helped me in many things.  When my mother died, I didn't know that I was going to get another mother like you.  Praise the Lord.  -Shallon (Uganda)
4.  I am very sad about this news.  I pray for your friend Mike's soul and also I pray for Char's health and her five children's health.  God has given you all needs for your friend Mike and Char's family. Your wedding photos are so nice.  I wish you a happy wedding anniversary.  Your dress is so nice.  I like your veil looking very nice.  I like your church  I like music and songs very much.  I sing songs very well.  I wish you a happy wedding anniversary to next year.  -Anjali (India)
5. I'm fine, thanks God, because every time I read your letters I feel I was living those moments with you. I always think of you and pray for you so that God gives you everything you need, like in Philippines 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me."  -Banesa (Haiti)
6. I sneeze especially when I get flu and cough.  My birthday has already ended; I had a nice party but it was not grandiose.  What about yours?  Have you ever sneezed?  How do you celebrate your birthday with your family?  Please pray for me so I can have more patience just like Solomon and that I can be intelligent like the three men Shadrack, Meshach and Abednego.  Please pray for my schooling and temperance.  I will be praying so that God can bless you abundantly.  -Briana (Haiti)
7. I thank you for your letters and prayers you have been giving to me.  Your letters bring joy to me any time I read them.  God bless you.  I pray that God will protect you from the hands of the devil and provide you all your needs.  Pray that God will help me end this academic year successfully.  -Emmanuella (Ghana)
8. I thank you for giving a lot of impressions and good messages to me, for the help, attention, gifts and prayers all this time.  I just want to say goodbye because I'll depart from Project now.  My goal after the departure from Project is to work to help my parents and siblings.  There are actually a lot of benefit I get from Project.  Project activity now really helps the progress of teens nowadays indeed, to educate and to create in any field.  -Esther (Indonesia)
9. Thanks for the letter and words of encouragement for me.  I am so happy when I read your letter.  Thanks for the picture.  What is the favorite sport of Brianna?  I like to play basketball. Thank you also for sponsoring me.  If I have no sponsor maybe I will be sad but I am happy that I have you.  Thank you for the gift I received.  We spent the money for the hospital bill when my mother gave birth.  My new sibling is a boy.  His name is Direk.  -Fred (Philippines)
10. It is nice that you are happy to help your cousin.  God will reward you so much in your mother's health and your cousin's too.  I will keep praying for your family and also for your cousin so it is God who does the miracle.  Greetings to Brianna and luck in the play.  I did not know what bowling was, but with the explanation you gave me, I understood and I will practice it to learn it very well.  Thank you for the explanation of bowling.  -Brayan (Honduras)
11. Today, I am so pleased to be writing to you.  It is like a water spring running in my heart. My activities are going well.  I was very happy for the letters and the nice pictures.  I love to look at them with my friends.  I have a little member of my family who is afraid of looking at the dog. -Miché (Haiti)
12. I am preparing to celebrate Christmas by serving the old people.  I will visit them and assist them with work at their homes.  I will also go to Church and after my service I wish you well and thanks for being a wonderful friend.   Murugi (Uganda)

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Limited Choices

I must be getting old (forgive me if I quote my mother!).  I am finding more and more that I am just too sleepy at night to write this journal entry and if I haven't written it earlier in the evening, I am actually writing it early on the day that is is dated.

Last night we went out to dinner with friends, came home to watch Jeopardy and then The Daily Show and then I was just too tired to do anything but go to sleep.

I woke up, as I always do, sometime later, and lay there, as I always do, trying to figure out what time it was and how long I'd been asleep.  I figured it was between 3 and 4 a.m.  If it was 3 a.m., I would try to get back to sleep in the recliner.  If it was 4, I would come into my office and work on this entry.

It was 3:30, so I opted for trying to go back to sleep, but instead I was sitting there trying to figure out what to write here, and also what I wanted to write to my Compassion child, Emmanuella (from Ghana) from whom I had received a letter yesterday.  The two "thinks" were actually kind of connected.

Emmanuella had told me she was reading a book called "The Wicked Stepmother" and was learning a lot from it. I decided to see if I could find it on Amazon--and I did.  It's apparently an Ugandan story about the second wife of a man and her jealousy about the son of the first wife.  The first wife dies and the second wife pretends to be mother to the now motherless boy, but is always trying to make sure her own son comes first in the father's eyes.  She wants to make sure her son will inherit the father's "stuff" when he dies. She finally decides to kill the boy and puts poison in his lunch, but she had given her own son the better lunch, with a bit of meat in it, and he decided to share it with his stepbrother, so the stepmother's son ate the poisoned meal and dies.  Not exactly a pretty story and I wondered what Emmanuella was learning from it, but the book comes with questions after each of the four chapters, which I see could spark some interesting discussions.

I wanted to ask her about her own culture, compared to that of the Ugandan village in the book. For example, are crickets a special treat of children in Ghana, as they are the children of this book.  Is it common for a man to have more than one wife?  Does the village get together to bless new acquisitions, as they do the father's new bicycle, etc.?

Obviously I got the book for my Kindle.  However, it was $3 and I didn't want to read it badly enough to pay for it so when I noticed it was part of the new Kindle Unlimited subscription program I decided to take advantage of the free 30 day policy and joined so I could get "The Wicked Stepmother" for free.  

We had discussed Kindle Unlimited with Jeri and Phil the night before.  You pay $10/month and all of the books you want to read are "free."  The promise is that you can read hundreds of thousands of books under the new program. It's quite controversial because if you read a book from the Unlimited program, Amazon tracks how much of the book you read and only pays authors for the number of pages you actually read, which smacks entirely of Big Brother watching your reading habits.  There has been lots of discussion about that policy on Facebook lately.

But this was a 30 day free trial and would save me $3 in reading "The Wicked Stepmother."
I then got out my list of upcoming books for our book club to check availability under the Unlimited service and discovered that none of those books were available through Unlimited.  I randomly checked the titles of books that I am interested in reading which are not on the book club list and discovered that none of THOSE books are available either.  Not sure quite what the "hundreds of thousands" of books includes, but apparently nothing that I am interested in and nothing current.

So as soon as I have written my letter to Emmanuella to ask her some questions about her feelings about the book, I will end my free trial of Amazon Unlimited because it says in your Unlimited contract that if you opt out of the program they will remove any books you have chosen from your Kindle.

This may be a good program for some, but I personally think it's a terrible program for someone like me and a great program for Amazon to bilk yet more money out of its customers!

Monday, June 29, 2015

Sunday Stealing

1. Who was the last person of the opposite sex you laid in a bed with?

2. Where was the last place you went out to eat?
Our anniversary dinner at Osteria Fasulo here in Davis.

3. What was the last alcoholic beverage you consumed?
I had a little bit of champagne yesterday, but not much.

4. Which do you prefer - eyes or lips?
For what?

5. Medicine, fine arts, or law?
Oh fine arts, of course.

6. Best kind of pizza?
Sausage with mushroom (and, if Walt's not having any, onion)

7. Is your bedroom window open?

8. What is in store for your future?
Going to Santa Barbara for 4th of July

9. Who was the last band you saw live?
Preoccupied Pipers.

10. Do you take care of your friends while they are sick?
If it is at all possible.

11. Any historical figures that you envy?
I envy anybody who has given up their comfy lives and gone to work among the poor.  It's something I am too selfish to do.

12. How many songs are on your iTunes?
Oh, lots!  But it's an eclectic mix of show tunes, Christmas music, international music, classical music, etc.

13. What brand of digital camera do you own?
Canon...and there are many things about it I do not like.

14. When was the last time you got a good workout?
For me getting up from my desk and walking into the kitchen classifies as a good workout.

15. Are you experienced?
at what?

16. If you need a new pair of jeans, what store do you go to first?
I haven't had jeans since high school, 60 years ago.

17. Are you a quitter?
Sometimes, I'm ashamed to admit.

18. What are two bands or singers that you will always love?
Judy Garland, John Denver.

19. What of the seven deadly sins are you guilty of?
Gluttony and Sloth.

20. Did you just have to google the seven deadly sins to see what they were?
No...I read it on Blue Country Magic!
INTERESTINGLY:  One year ago, I also did a Sunday Sealing on this date.  In reading over it, I found this question and answer:

Change one law in your country, which would you change?
Make same gender marriage irrevocably legal in all states.
Well, got THAT wish, at least!!!!!

Sunday, June 28, 2015


There was a moment yesterday.  Nothing special was happening.  We had finished dinner and were eating cake and I looked down the long table at all these people I love so much and thought how much Walt and I are blessed to have them all in our lives...and then had a bit of a tear when I looked at the portraits of Paul and Dave on the wall behind them and wished they were here to share the joy and the love.

We could not possibly have had a better, or more fun, or more joyous, or loving anniversary celebration.  Ned and Marta arrived around 11 to finish cleaning house (it will take me months before I find everything again!!)  Walt went to the train station to pick up Jeri and Phil, who were exhausted from taking the red eye from Boston and getting very little sleep, so they headed upstairs to take a nap so they could be in party mode.

Char arrived, Norm (Walt's brother) and Olivia arrived, Jeri and Phil (when they woke up) picked my mother up, and Tom et al. eventually arrived.  We sat around visiting.

Polly was a pain in the butt most of the day and actually bit Lacie in the hand (which I didn't realize until this morning, after they'd left; I knew Lacie hurt her hand, but didn't realize it was because of Polly)

Bri had brought a box of art work and her "portfolio" from her week in an art class and described things to each person, in turn.

Ned achieved the goal he wanted to achieve...he climbed the tree in our front yard with Bri.  (It reminded me of when my father waited for so long to be able to take little Jeri to the Swensons Ice Cream store near our house and buy her an ice cream cone)

Meanwhile Uncle Norm worked a puzzle with Lacie, who loves puzzles

We continued to visit while Tom and Ned prepared our "surf and turf" dinner.  Ned made a tri-tip roast


while Marta and Lacie worked on reading, writing, and drawing.

And Tom took care of the "surf"...

Of course there was cake

After dinner everyone made a toast (each of which ended with a cheer)

And then, because this is a musical family, the evening could not end without music and dancing.

Tom and Laurel had brought a dog, Bandit, for whom they are dog-sitting, with them and things were kind of rocky among the four dogs at the end of the day, so rather than write this journal entry last night, I went to sleep in my recliner, where I could play referee, if necessary, but all four settled down right away and slept all night.

I could not possibly have asked for a better way to celebrate our anniversary, except if we could have somehow had David and Paul here with us.

Thanks EVERYBODY who made it such a special day!!!