Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Dogs of 2008

I did a "Dogs of 2007" last year and I liked being able to go back this year and see who passed through this house during the year, so I decided to do another one for the Dogs of 2008. This was the first year that we had Jack Russell terriers--four of them in all. It also was a sad year, with the loss of Poochini and Tosca. But here is the list of all the dogs of 2008:

2008Bissell.jpg (41734 bytes)

Bissell was the first dog we've had who was named after a household appliance! I had purchased a Bissell steam floor cleaner the morning that I brought him home from Petco. I never expected the name to stick, but he really looked like a Bissell. He was a real sweetheart.
2008JackRussell.jpg (24123 bytes) Jack and Russell were broth Jack Russell terriers, both pretty unsocialized, Russell the more timid of the two. Russell spent more time with us than Jack
2008Gizmo.jpg (23516 bytes) Gizmo came to us looking like a Gremlin, so Ned named her Gizmo. She had been treated for an infection (demodex) and needed to regrow her fur. She did.
2008Munchkin.jpg (24944 bytes) I can never forget Munchkin because her bark is my cell phone's ring tone for Ashley. She was very sweet, but needed attention 110% of the time and barked incessantly if she didn't get it.
2008Doos.jpg (25386 bytes) Two more Jack Russell siblings, Scooby Doo and Scrappy. I had both of them several times and had a bad scare when Scrappy got loose (fortunately he came back)
2008Freddie.jpg (16460 bytes) Two Jack Russells AND lively Freddie made for an interesting life around here! I had to send them all away when I took a fall and hurt myself.
2008Georgie.jpg (26096 bytes) I can't really remember anything about Georgie, which must mean that he wasn't here more than a day or two.
2008Chico.jpg (20151 bytes) Chico was our first, but not our last chihuahua puppy.
2008Joy.jpg (21214 bytes) While Chico was here, we also took in Joy, another chihuahua mix. Discovered these little guys were really lovely dogs.
2008Hannah.jpg (23912 bytes) Hannah is Nicki's mother and the two of them arrived together, though she was so protective of Nicki, Ashley decided they should be separated.
2008Nicki.jpg (32517 bytes) Awww...sweet Nicki. She was here two months.
2008Tara.jpg (19524 bytes) Tara just wanted to be left alone. She and Nicki hated each other. We had to find a new home for Tara.
2008Goblin.jpg (28184 bytes) I called him Goblin, Ashley called him Cotton because he looked like a Q-Tip, and later he became Claus because he looked like Santa's beard. He was Nicki's age, but waaay too big for her and scared her, so he had to move to a new home.
2008Poodles.jpg (52094 bytes) I still feel sad about the death of Poochini and Tosca, but they were just too little to make it without their Mom.
2008Twix.jpg (24103 bytes) Twix was also a sweet puppy, but entirely too big for Nicki so she left with Ashley after we returned from Santa Barbara

Out of curiosity, I decided to count how many dogs/puppies we have fostered since Toby, Jed and Leo came in January of 2005. Turns out that to date it has been 84 fosters, 4 of whom died. But 80 have moved on to forever homes (...well, 78, since Nicki and Twix are still homeless).

It helps to look back and realize how many dogs we have learned to love and then had to let go. We didn't fall in love with all of them, but most of them. It is especially helpful knowing that most of them are now in loving forever homes and very happy dogs. Now if only we can find that perfect home for Nicki!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


A week ago, 60 Minutes had a segment on Kenya's Sheldrake Wildlife Trust, which rescues orphaned baby elephants and attempts to raise them and return them to the wild. During the course of the filming the segment, one of the babies died. He had been under the doctor's care for an infection, but did not survive. Daphne Sheldrake, who founded the Trust says that despite their best efforts, they lose 50% of the babies they rescue. She struggled to hold back the tears as she discussed this new loss.

Bob Simon, the 60 Minutes reporter, asked Mrs. Sheldrake how she did it. How could she stand to lose these little guys. With a helpless wave of her hand, and tears barely contained she said "because there's always the next one...and the one after that."

I related to that because it's how I can continue to foster puppies for the SPCA, despite the death of some, and watching others move on to new homes. It always hurts because you love each and every one of them, but there's always the next one...and the one after that... who need someone to love them and either comfort them as they come to the end of their lives, or prepare them to move to forever families. Without a cadre of foster families willing to love a dog and then give it up, many of these dogs would have to be euthanized.

NickProfile.jpg (117035 bytes)Our little girl moved on today.

No, she hasn't found her forever family, but I heard from Ashley this morning saying that she had been doing some research and discovered that a certain type of animal massage might be helpful for her. She can't find much information on autistic dogs, but she felt this might do some good.

She also wanted to start Nicki on a rigid training schedule to see if she could find a key to helping to housebreak her, since that is probably the biggest impediment to her being adopted. She also added that if I didn't want to let Nicki go, she would try to find the time to stop by here and work with her at our house.

Much as I didn't want to give Nicki up, the most important thing is doing all we can to maximize her chances of adoption, so I agreed that this sounded like a good idea.

Since she moved here in October, we've been comparing notes on the eccentricities of Nicki and it was very helpful that Ashley was here while we were in Santa Barbara because it gave her a more intense time with her, to observe things that I may not have mentioned, or might have missed.

It bothers her, for example, that when Nicki is stressed, she shuts down. I've noticed this before. Whenever I bring her home from the Farmer's Market or from Petco, she gets into what I came to call her "depressed stance." She would sit upright in the far corner of the floor of the front seat of the car, with her head down and not move. After we got home, I would hold her in my lap until she seemed to "come to" and begin noticing that she was home again. It didn't usually take long before she was ready to go chasing Lizzie again.

When Twix was here, Walt and I had noticed that she found a "hiding place" in the living room. I noticed that I didn't see her as much with Twix around, though the two did play together well.

We also agreed that in a strange place, she might be easier to housebreak, whereas here it would involve not only training her to go outside, but also training her not to use all her favorite spots inside.

NickLiz.jpg (102420 bytes)

I suspect Lizzie probably isn't going to miss her, but I will miss their chasing games up and down the hall, the only time Nicki truly looked "happy." Ashley has 3 dogs at home, one other one with neurological problems, so we don't know how Nicki is going to react being in the house with the three of them.

NickWalt.jpg (105097 bytes)Walt is very good with all of the dogs we have, but Nicki was one of the special ones, probably because she is one of the "special ones." Just something about this little girl. He had gone out to run errands this afternoon, but made sure that he got back in time to say his goodbyes before she moved to Ashley's house.

Ashley promises that they will come for visits and that if things seem to be too stressful for her, settling into a new house, she will move her back here. Also, her own classes start in mid-January, so it may be that Nicki will move back here again when Ashley doesn't have as much time for her any more.

But this feels like a goodbye, like we're going through the emotions of watching another of our babies move on and waiting for whoever is the next one who needs a temporary home.ere's always a plus side, though...the towels have come off the floor and tomorrow we will do a major stream cleaning of the floor. Maybe for a brief moment we can get the smell of doggie potty out of the house.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Matinee

A matinee audience is definitely different from an opening night audience. I usually review shows on opening night and every year since I've been a critic, I've had a show to review the night after Christmas. This year was no exception, but since we were in Santa Barbara, obviously I couldn't do it. Derrick said he understood and we would just have to skip this one, but then the publicity guy offered me tickets for a later date, and I chose today's matinee, which will still give me an opportunity to get a review in,

The show was Stomp, and for those who are not familiar with it, here is a taste from the finale:

It's a 90 minute show and at the end of it, Walt and I decided that it was really a 90 minute version of Lawsuit's "Bottles of Chance," which had a long percussion break toward the end of it that was always a highlight of any Lawsuit show. Also, one of the guys looked like a very tall David, which added to the enjoyment of the show (another one reminded me of Phil!)

But the difference in the whole atmosphere was apparent from the very first. On opening night there is usually a radio wagon in front of the theatre, running a contest for people who are waiting to go into the theatre itself. There are usually a few people in the "will call" line, which moves quickly and smoothly. There is a table set up in the lobby where the publicity people greet the critics and give us each a packet containing information on the show.

Since opening is a night performance there are rarely children.

The will call line today went on forEVer and though there were only 3 people ahead of me, it took about 15 minutes to get up to the window. There was nobody to greet me in the lobby and give me a reviewer packet, since all the reviewers had come two days ago.

When we got to our seats, there was a line of empty seats next to me. Soon a guy with his son came and said he would be sitting next to me. I promised to try and behave myself. Then a woman, another boy, and a very proper white-haired old woman who looked like she'd gotten lost on the way to a Lawrence Welk retrospective came in. They were apparently with the guy and his son. Soon they decided that Grandma should move down to sit next to me and the whole group got up and rearranged themselves. They they decided that Grandma should sit next to Mom, so they all got up and rearranged themselves again (I was on the verge of telling them that when the pre-show music stopped someone would be removing one of their chairs and the person who wasn't sitting would have to leave!)

The boys sat next to me and kept pointing at me, whispering to each other and giggling. Sigh.

There were lots of kids in the audience and I wondered how many parents were going to regret bringing them. As the mother of music-making children, a part of me cringed when I watched the talented crew on stage make all sorts of music with everything from brooms to plastic bags, to drink cups and straws, to mere body parts. Everything had the potential to become a musical instrument.

(this is the broom dance which opens the show)

The boys next to me were sucking on candy canes (though no food is allowed in the auditorium) and I was enveloped in a peppermint cloud much of the time. When they finished their candy they began making different sounds with their hands whenever they clapped at what was going on on stage. I had a feeling that Mom was going to be losing her garbage can lids when the family got home!

It was definitely a fun show and I'm glad that we came home from Santa Barbara in time to see it. But I'm glad that our normal night is opening night.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


"Where's the restroom?" I called out quietly to Walt, as he was returning from said facility while we were at a gas station.

"What?" he asked, since we were some distance apart and he doesn't usually hear me the first time I say something.

I asked him again, a little louder

"What?" he asked again.

I finally had to raise my voice enough so that others could hear me. But he did direct me to the restroom. By the time he did, it was no longer an idle question, but more of an urgency.

By the time I reached the restroom, some 14 miles from the gas pumps (or so it seemed), there was no time for niceties like putting seat covers down on the seat. But there was no great embarrassment until I went to get some toilet paper.

You know those toilet paper holders that allow you to take ONE sheet at a time? This one had maybe 10 squares left on it and it wasn't one-ply, but more like half-ply. And I needed more than 10 squares, so I was reaching up to the extra roll, hidden away as ingeniously as old timers in a gated community, twisting my hand around, trying to find that elusive edge of the sheet of half-ply paper and trying to extract more than a single sheet at a time.

It's an adventure tending to your needs on the road!

Nicki was so happy to see us when we returned home that she left a trail of poop from the family room the the living room...and then turned around and did another trail from my office to the family room an hour later. There were signs that Ashley had been here shortly before we got home and had washed the floor but you'd never know it now. It seems Nicki has not stopped releasing her bowel and bladder since we got here. It does sort of take the bloom off the happy rose of seeing that puppy again.

Both Walt and I came in the house so happy to cuddle with Nicki--Sheila won't be interested until I go to sleep tonight and she cuddles with me, and Lizzie got her share of cuddles along with Nicki. But when Nicki started with the non-stop pooping and it was hard to stay in soft focus.

It had been a long day -- longer for Walt, who had to do all the driving, than for me. We had been up sort of late, visiting with Joe's daughter, Jocelyn, who had just come home with her new fiance and we were getting caught up on our respective Christmas dinners and congratulating Jocelyn and David on their engagement.

In the morning, it was getting the Lanza family off to their next Christmas party, then over to Maravilla to say our goodbyes to Walt's mother. It was about noon before we finally hit Hwy 101 and start home.

We had listened to the first half of Michael Connelly's "The Black Echo" on the drive down and we were both very hooked on the story so I started up the second half of the book and the miles just flew by (well...for me they flew by--I was in a visual blurry haze most of the trip, at least until the sun started to go down!)

I had listened to a different Connelly book, "The Overlook" on the last trip I took to Santa Barbara by myself and thought this would be as gripping...and it was. Gotta get more of those on audio. GREAT way to pass the time when you're on the road.

Walt was so engrossed in the story that he didn't realized we had passed through King City (where I thought we might stop for a meal), and was beyond The Burger Queen before he realized we had passed it as well. So we rolled on to Gilroy and beyond and finally stopped at a Denny's, where I had some tilapia that didn't set too well, by the time we got home again.

There were signs that Ashley had been here shortly before we got home. The floor looked like it had been newly cleaned (just in time for Nicki to mess it up again). What other dog/house sitter would come in, keep your floors clean, groom your dogs (Sheila and Lizzie had been bathed and Lizzi had a nice hair cut; both dogs had their nails trimmed)...and then she leaves huge stockings of goodies for all three of your dogs, the two that live with you permanently and the foster puppy AND goodies for you too! She's very special.

The dogs and I opened all the gifts and Sheila was particularly thrilled that she had new noise-making toys to tear up (her goal in life is removing the noisemaker from any toy that has stuffing in it).

I spent way too much time struggling with the new software for Flip Video, but I did finally get it all figured out and was able to make a video to post (if you are interested in 5 minutes of trying to feed Brianna!)

It's good to be home, but it sure was a nice Christmas!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

It takes a village

How many adults does it take to feed a baby who doesn't want to eat? Four. One to hold the spoon and shovel the food in, one to make funny faces to distract the baby, one to eat a bowl full of big people food to make the baby want to mimic the adult, and one with a camera to record it all.

A big dog passing through is also helpful, but you have to be careful that the baby doesn't spit the food stored in her cheeks onto said dog.

We're learning the ins and outs of raising Bri.

After her two days of excitement and exhaustion, she didn't sleep much at all last night and so all three of them looked exhausted when we arrived around noon. Bri was slow to wake up, and grumpy as well.

She was not much interested in the rocking zebra we gave her for Christmas, and not even much interested in the new playhouse she had received from Santa.

But she eventually woke up and enjoyed playing with the jellyfish ornament she had picked out for the Christmas tree.

After the excitement of getting almost all of her lunch in her, we all packed her up in her new Radio Flyer wagon (they sure look different these days)...

...Laurel loaded the empty space with toys and a blanket, and off we went to the grounds of a nearby school.

Laurel walked in front to take pictures from that direction; I took up the rear to take pictures of the whole group in movement (an unphotographed event doesn't really take place, you know!)

We had a nice walk, and spent some time lounging on the lawn for awhile. Laurel was careful to make sure Bri had something on her head and commented on how silly it was to worry about sunburn in the dead of winter!

I, of course, was pleased to see that my granddaughter is already showing an interest in photography.

(There are some fun videos to be edited, but I'll worry about that tomorrow at home.)

After the walk, Bri finally went down for a nap and from the looks of them, Tom and Laurel were hoping for one too, so we left and went to visit with Walt's mother. We are leaving for home tomorrow but we're going home having had the best Christmas present of all...two days playing with our granddaughter. It's been great!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Yes, it was a grand success

It was a great first Christmas for Brianna, who arrived dressed to the 9s, including her ruby red slippers. (Those didn't last long--but we had to take a photo!) Note the "baby Bling" on her left arm, a silver bracelet that was given to Laurel by Cousin Gerald & Melissa Baur at one of her baby showers.

I can't believe how much more mature she is now than she was when we last saw her, in August. She had her fussy moments, but was in a good mood for most of the evening.

Tom always describes gatherings like this as a bunch of adults sitting around making idiots of themselves, trying to get Brianna to smile. Alice Nan's husband Joe and Walt were particularly good (a) at making idiots of themselves, and (b) getting a smile out of Brianna!

It was a pretty low key afternoon. Walt and his sister went to Maravilla to get their mother ("Tutu" to Bri) and Brianna seemed fascinated by her.

The guys did most of the dinner, with Joe cooking the turkey, Tom making the mashed potatoes and "Walt making the gravy." To figure out why I put that in quotes, you'll have to watch the video of the day. It's only 5 minutes, but it takes forever to load.

Dinner was delicious and everyone went home too full to eat pumpkin pie! (We did have some later, though.)

We kind of rushed through gifts. The gifts from Bri we opened before dinner while she was taking a brief nap. I just LOVED the canvas-textured photo she gave to me.

Mealtime is a real challenge, as Ms. Brianna seems not to care much about food at fact, she doesn't seem to like it much at all (one trait she did not get from her grandmother, for sure!)

I had great sympathy for Tom and Laurel as I watched them try to get her to eat, to get her to take a bottle, to get her to take a nap, though she was obviously exhausted. But all things considered, her newfound mobility (she is now walking around furniture and "that close" to taking her first steps, at not quite 9 months!) has sweetened her disposition significantly.

I got down on the floor for the first time in...well...years...and interacted with her for about half an hour (and I got up again too ─ everyone cheered.)

I have some good video from today, but it's taking forEVer to upload, so I will add the link, hopefully, tomorrow. It's 1 a.m. I need to sleep!

This has been a wonderful trip and I'm so glad we came.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

All Is Calm (eventually)

When I asked Tom what I could do to help for Christmas, he told me I could make the pumpkin pies. I did pack up cinnamon, cloves, and ginger to bring with me, fearing they might not have them, but it never occurred to me to bring pie pans and rolling pin. Surely everybody has those, right? I forget that there just are people in the world who manage to survive without really "cooking." If you "cook" you naturally have all this stuff readily available, if you don't cook, you don't need them.

So this morning Walt and I went out to buy stuff for the pie: flour, sugar, spices, pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, butter. Some of those things I'm sure they had, but I wanted to pay for it all ourselves, since Joe and Alice are hosting us for the rest of the week. I managed to find a food processor in the cupboard, so I planned to use that to make the crust. I couldn't find a rolling pin either here or at the store, so I just planned to use a wine bottle, which I had used once to make a pie crust in Ireland. didn't quite happen that way. The dough stuck to the bottle and the breadboard. I had a minor hissy fit. Walt decided to go out and buy a rolling pin, then I got a call from Alice Nan at Long's, looking for a rolling pin but she had called Joe to ask if they didn't have a rolling pin and he sent me looking into cupboards (but either there isn't one, or I can't see it in the dark cupboard). Then I got a call from Walt saying he was buying a pastry cloth. These were going to be the most expensive pumpkin pies ever (and tougher than they needed to be).

But it turned out Walt found something for the house he'd been looking for for years when he bought the pastry cloth and Alice Nan visited with friends she met in the store when she bought the rolling pin, so everybody came home happy, the pies got made and all turned out OK.

When the pies were finished, we drove over to the place where Walt's mother lives. We were all having Christmas Eve dinner in the dining room there. Joe joined us around 5 and we all traipsed off to the "big" dining room in the Independent Living section.

It was probably the best dinner I've ever had at Maravilla (and I've had some very good meals there). Most of us had prime rib (which even came medium rare, as I ordered). The sweet potato/coconut soup was fabulous, and it was all topped off with a pecan torte with a bourbon caramel sauce.

Walt's mother didn't finish all of her meal, but she had help...whether she wanted it or not.

Joe and Alice went off to a Christmas party and we stayed behind until Walt's mother was getting ready for bed. We watched the "17 and counting" marathon the story of the Dugger family, which just had its 18th baby because Walt's mother simply couldn't believe it.

Everyone has gone off to sleep and I'm about to myself. As a mousetrap was sprung earlier this evening and its unfortunate victim dispatched to the garbage, it's really true that at the moment "not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse."

Tomorrow we will get to spend Christmas with Brianna (whom we have not seen yet).

I hope everyone is having a more wonderful Christmas than the poor little mouse.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

100 More Things

Since we were going to be spending the entire day in the car driving to Santa Barbara today, I decided to borrow this meme from my friend Mary, since I didn't think I'd really have anything interesting to write about.

The drive went well. We are listening to the audio book "The Black Echo" by Michael Connolly. Walt said that things like that tend to put him to sleep, but this was so gripping it kept him awake. We've only listened to half the book and have the other half to listen to on the way home.

The drive was uneventful, and we stopped at Pea Soup Anderson's for dinner. Now we are at Alice Nan's house, which is nicely decorated for Christmas and tomorrow I'll be making pumpkin pies!

Now here's Mary's "100 more things." It's similar to other lists I've seen, but I haven't done this specific list before. Things I've done are bolded and, where possible, I've added descriptive comments

1. Started your own blog. Well, duhhh. I started this one in March of 2000, on what was then Geocities. It's still hosted by Geocities, now owned by Yahoo (or is it now owned by Google?).
2. Slept under the stars. Often, in the days when we used to camp, before we had kids and needed to buy a tent.
3. Played in a band.
4. Visited Hawaii. How many times? - Three times, I think. Once in 1960 with my mother, twice with Walt (once to visit Mike Blackford, who was living there and to revisit all the haunts Walt remembered from his childhood there, once with some Brasilians who treated us to time on Kauai in a time share.
5. Watched a meteor shower. Sometime in the 1960s, somewhere near the Sierras. I've never forgotten it. It was spectacular.
6. Given more than you can afford to charity.
7. Been to Disneyland (and Disney World). I've been to Disneyland so often I don't care if I ever go again. We took each kid once, went as chaperones for the Jazz choir for several years, and took many of our foreign guests. The last time I went was with Peggy.
8. Climbed a mountain. Early in my pregnancy with Jeri, we climbed to the top of Mt. Lassen. As I recall it was a trail to follow, not anything that required special equipment.
9. Held a praying mantis. We used to have a pet praying mantis that we kept in a terrarium and I would catch live flies for it.
10. Sang a solo. Not a solo, but a duet. Our alto soloist wasn't available, for a Mass we were doing, so the director made me and another girl "the Benedictus girls."
11. Bungee jumped. Not on your life.
12. Visited Paris. Once, for a day. I caused an international incident.
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea.
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch. Does PhotoShop count?
15. Adopted a child. Not one that I could hold in my lap, but several through Foster Parents Plan and Christian Children's Fund.
16. Had food poisoning.
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty. What a thrill that was. It made me sad when they stopped letting people do that.
18. Grown your own vegetables. Fresh corn on the cob, tomatoes covered with tomato horn worms and zucchini the size of watermelons. My year of being an earth mother.
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France. Maybe next time.
20. Slept on an overnight train. We took the train to Seattle. We slept sitting up in the seats--so much more comfortable than trying to catch a nap on a plane!
21. Had a pillow fight.
22. Hitch hiked.
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill.
24. Built a snow fort.
25. Held a lamb. Fed baby lamb from a beer bottle with a nipple attached to it when I was in Australia.
26. Gone skinny dipping. Once, in my father's pool. He promised nobody would watch Walt and me and then afterwards made it seem like the most lurid thing we could do. My father was always great at making sex sound dirty and disgusting.
27. Run a Marathon. Surely you jest.
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice.
29. Seen a total eclipse. The best was a total eclipse of the sun, which was the weirdest experience ever.
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset. I love a beautiful sunrise or sunset.
31. Hit a home run.
32. Been on a cruise. Just once, on the canal boat from London to Oxford. Some day, before glaciers are gone forever, maybe I'll make that Alaska cruise.
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person. A couple of years ago. It lived up to all the hype.
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors. As our ferry boat approached Dublin, I literally "felt my heart leap up," as I felt I was "going home" for the great grandmother I never met. I also visited Scotland, but didn't have that same feeling.
35. Seen an Amish community.
36. Taught yourself a new language. I sort of became "conversant" in Portuguese just by having so many Brasilians living in our house.
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied (in general). We'll never be rich, but I'm satisfied with what we have.
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person.
39. Gone rock climbing.
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David. -- does the version at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas count?
41. Sung karaoke.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt. Seemed kind of silly, all us people sitting on bleachers watching a hole in the ground...but it was cool when it finally erupted.
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant. Not in a restaurant, but I did buy a whole Chinese meal in the supermarket for two homeless guys who were sitting outside holding "hungry" signs. We bought gift certificates for a woman standing outside Denny's with her child begging.
44. Visited Africa.
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight - in Hawaii
46. Been transported in an ambulance. - after my bike accident
47. Had your portrait painted. It hangs over my desk and was painted by a doctor I worked for. It's called "Bev Word Goddess Circa 1998.

WordGoddess.jpg (117811 bytes)

48. Gone deep sea fishing.
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person.
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. I've not only been to the top, but I walked down to the bottom afterwards...accidentally.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling.
52. Kissed in the rain.
53. Played in the mud.
54. Gone to a drive-in theater.
55. Been in a movie. Do Ned's movies count?
56. Visited the Great Wall of China.
57. Started a business. I did cake decorating out of my house for a couple of years, and only after I quit did I realize how many health regulations I was in violation of!
58. Taken a martial arts class.
59. Visited Russia.
60. Served at a soup kitchen. - Only helping to work at the Holiday meal here in town (which I will be missing this year)
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies.
62. Gone whale watching. Killer whales in Puget Sound and humpbacks in Australia. Also saw a mom and baby humpback playing off South Beach in Hawaii.
63. Got flowers for no reason.
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma. - regularly, when my hematocrit is high enough.
65. Gone sky diving. See "bungee jumping." - pulleeze. No way
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp.
67. Bounced a check. - Not deliberately.
68. Flown in a helicopter. Flying from the Oakland airport to the SF airport. It was VERY loud.
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy.
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial. Awe inspiring.
71. Eaten Caviar. Too salty
72. Pieced a quilt. Made quilts for all the kids one Christmas, made a quilt for our La Leche League leader. Thus endeth my homemaking years.
73. Stood in Times Square. In all honesety? Too busy for me. I don't like NYC.
74. Toured the Everglades.
75. Been fired from a job.
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London. - Though we have been in London many times, we've never stuck around for the changing of the guard.
77. Broken a bone. I've broken toes a few times.
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle.
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person. We were rushing from Oakland to catch a train in Colorado, so we had about an hour to appreciate the canyon
80. Published a book. It was a home-published book. Two of them, the history of The Lamplighters, in San Francisco.
81. Visited the Vatican.
82. Bought a brand new car.- our GMC van, "The Jolly Green Giant."
83. Walked in Jerusalem.
84. Had your picture in the newspaper. - more times than I care to think about.
85. Read the entire Bible.
86. Visited the White House. Just after Jackie Kennedy did her remodeling, and once again sometime later. It made me sad to see all the safety precautions that had been installed in the intervening years.
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating. (I leave that sort of thing to vice presidential candidates)
88. Had chickenpox.
89. Saved someone’s life.
90. Sat on a jury. It was a cemetery desecration case and we found the guy innocent, even though we felt he was probably guilty--but the prosecution had not proved the case.
91. Met someone famous. In 1961, I met Judy Garland. In 2001 (I think) I sat at a cocktail reception with Carol Channing (when Steve's partner Jimmy introduced us and then wandered off leaving me tongue-tied).
92. Joined a book club. Book clubs are very big in this town but they all seem to be long-running and it is impossible for a newcomer to break into the group.
93. Lost a loved one. Too many.
94. Had a baby. Too many! (LOL)
95. Seen the Alamo in person. The thing I remember most was the bullet holes in the walls.
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake . - I haven't swum in it but I've seen it. Too many times (nothing more boring than having to drive the road alongside the Great Salt Lake. Best done at night, which I've also done.
97. Been involved in a law suit. Only the band by the same name!!
98. Owned a cell phone.
99. Been stung by a bee.
100. Read an entire book in one day. Can't remember any titles specifically, but I've done it more than once. Give me a gripping book, a comfy chair and don't bother me until I've finished.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Visions of Sugar Plums

Don't I wish.

I wish I were snuggled down for a long winter's nap with visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, but there are miles to go before I sleep (how's that for mixing up quotes!)

The day started very, very early. About 4 a.m., to be exact. It wasn't the dogs that woke me, I woke myself, thinking it was much later. But it wasn't. It was 4 a.m. and by the time I realized that, I was wide awake. I tried going back to sleep, but no luck, so by 4:45 I was up. I had things to do.

On the schedule for today was making cookies for Ashley, who has complained in the past about the lack of sweets in this house. Given my entry yesterday about the memory of baking cookies, and the fact that I am doing NO baking (except pumpkin pie) for the Christmas dinner, I decided to go on a baking orgy.

While I was waiting for the oven to preheat, I had a chat with Ned's sister-in-law, Lindsay, who was having a celebration tonight because she finally got her teaching credential. We were planning to attend. When she was that I was making cookies, she said that nobody has given her Christmas cookies, so I said I would bring her some. And then I decided to bring a bunch down to Santa Barbara just because.

I started with brownies because I had a box of No-Pudge brownie mix and decided to use it. This was a chocolate mint flavor. These are great for dieters because they are low cal and I don't know what all. I made them all the time when I was following Weight Watchers. You mix the mix with yogurt and pop it in the oven. They turned out better than I expected (though not nearly as good as the home made kind) and that set the stage for what was to come.

Next it was chocolate chip cookies. I had bought chips a couple of weeks ago, anticipating this baking orgy. They turned out exceptionally well and almost duplicated that elusive taste of my mother's cookies that I talked about yesterday.

After chocolate chip cookies, I made Snickerdoodles, one of my favorites. I made an old fashioned kind. I couldn't figure out why they didn't seem right untl after they were baked. I realized that the ones I'd made before are made into balls and then rolled in a sugar mix. These are drop cookies sprinkled witwh the sugar/nutmeg mix. Oh, they tasted just fine, just not the way that I usually have my Snickerdoodles. But I packed them up for Ashley and another batch for Lindsay and the rest for the Santa Barbara bag.

I was going to make gingerbread, but was out of molasses, so instead I made peanutbutter cookies. I was literally taking them out of the oven as Walt was getting into the car. (I did have a few cool ones to pack for Lindsay, but she got short shrift on that batch.).

I left a disaster in the kitchen and off we went to the dinner at Buca di Beppo, which was very nice--a joyous celebration of Lindsay's accomplishments, and an opportunity to spend a little time with Ned, since we won't see him for Christmas. Marta was working, so she didn't come.

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Ned with his brother-in-law, Brad

On the way home, we stopped first at the condo Walt's sister owns in Sacramento so he could pick up mail and put up a "for rent" sign, then 20 miles back to Davis so I could do some last minute shopping at Borders Books. As we got out of the car in the parking lot, Walt suddenly realized he hadn't shut the garage door to the condo, so we finished our shopping, he dropped me off at home (to clean up the poop, which was everywhere), and drove all the way back to Sacramento to close the garage door.

Now it's 1 a.m., I've been up since 4 a.m. and I'm hoping I can get a couple hours of sleep, though Nicki is sleeping in the living room, and that probably means that she will wake up in the middle of the night and get disoriented and I'll have to put her into her cage. (I'd do it now, but it's so nice and peaceful and quiet and I hate to disturb things!)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Memories with a Hint of Cinnamon

What is more traditional at this time of year than making Christmas cookies. Brianna has been introduced to the process.

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I remember making Christmas cookies with my mother when I was a little kid. I learned recently that she threw away the cookbook that had all those recipes I now wish I had. She would make several kinds and you could count on the kitchen filled with the aroma of freshly baked cookies throughout the month of December. Wonderful aromas of chocolate, cinnamon, and other mysterious spices. The cutting board would be dusted with flour and my mother would be putting cookies into the pig cookie jar that now sits in my kitchen, covered with dust from years of disuse.

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How I loved that cookie jar. It might have been worth something today, but all the color that was on it eventually rubbed off. I remember that my sister and I tried painting the kerchief around his neck with red nailpolish, but that didn't last either. I got very good at lifting the head off of the body to swipe cookies and putting it back without making a sound. (And people wonder why I was put on a diet at age 10!)

I loved my mother's "thumbprint" cookies which was an orange flavored butter cookie, formed into a ball, rolled in chopped walnuts and then a small spoonful of jam put in an indent in the ball of dough with your thumb. They were fun to make and delicious to eat!

Of course there were brownies and chocolate chip cookies. I don't know what there was about my mother's chocolate chip cookies but only rarely have I been able to duplicate that taste. It definitely does not exist in the store-bought kind. Maybe it was that extra dash of love that a mother adds! Licking the beater from chocolate chip cookies was the very best.

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My favorites, though, were what she called "Goodness Sake Cookies." I have since found the recipe under many names, most commonly Mexican Wedding cakes. A rich butter cookies with chopped pecans, rolled in powdered sugar when they are still warm from the oven.

On Christmas Eve, my sister and I would take a plate and fill it with some of those home-baked cookies for Santa, add a glass of milk, and place it on the window sill because we lived in a flat and had no fireplace, but we had a "Light well," a space between our building and the one next door and we knew that Santa came down the light well on Christmas eve. He always left cookie crumbs on the floor--I guess Mrs. Claus did a lot of sweeping up at the North Pole.

When our kids were growing up, I wanted to share the cookie making experience with them. We made lots of cookies over the years, and they made good gifts to give to neighbors, teachers, and other special people we wanted to remember. They always loved "ooey gooey cookies," chocolate chip cookies warm from the oven, with the chips still melting as you broke the cookie apart.

When I was learning cake decorating, we even made gingerbread houses.

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Our kids made cookies to leave for Santa, too, though since my own childhood, we had learned that Santa preferred beer to milk, so there was always a beer waiting with the chocolate chip cookies (which were Santa's favorite). (Nowadays, I suspect Santa would request wine instead of beer...)

I loved making Christmas cookies, whether as a little kid with my mother, as a grown up for the office open house that I held each year (staying awake until the wee small hours of the night making lots and lots and lots of different kinds of cookies for the people who would stop by my office--definitely an over-achiever!), or making cookies with my own kids.

When I saw the photos of Bri today, helping make her first batches of Christmas cookies, it just warmed the cockles of my heart to see that the tradition is being passed on. What a lot of memories that little girl has ahead of her!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Blind as a Bat

I was unwittingly very rude the other day. It was the day I went to see Australia with my friend Jessica. We were coming out of the parking lot and two people were walking toward us. Naturally in the light of outside I couldn't see either person's face. Jessica made some sort of greeting to the woman and the woman walked on. I thought she looked somewhat familiar but, as I said, I couldn't see her face at all, but figured she was an acquaintance of Jessica's. Jessica turned to me and said "That woman acted like she knew you."

Instantly I knew who it was ...or thought I knew who it was--a woman from Walt's office. But the moment was passed and I didn't remember her name anyway, so I couldn't turn around and call her. But I came home and described her to Walt and when he was next in his office he asked her if I has "snubbed her" and she said I had.

He explained about my problem and she understood, of course.

There are times when being half blind is a good thing. Today we went to the Farmer's Market. There are lots of craftspeople displaying their wares, hoping to snag some sales for Christmas, but of course I can't see them without looking closely, so I am not tempted by something catching my eye as we walk past.

Ashley had asked us to bring Nicki to the market because there was a woman who has adopted other special needs dogs she and was interested in Nicki, so we were dropping her off before Walt took me to my hair appointment. I got all teary at the thought that this might be the last time I'd see Nicki, but ultimately the woman thought she was too big and didn't take her. Ashley says she still might be "talked into it" but I want somebody who is going to fall in love with Nicki for herself, not be talked into it! How could you not fall in love with this little girl?

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Walt dropped me off at the Y2K Nail and Hair Salon. I usually have my hair cut at whichever cheap place I happen to be near. But the last time the haircut was so bad, I wanted Robbie again. Robbie first cut my hair at one of those cheap hair cutting place (or I never would have known about him). You can't not notice him. Not only does he look like Hagrid from Harry Potter, but since Hagrid was played by actor Robbie Coltrane and this guy's name is "Robbie," it was hard to convince little kids that this wasn't the "real" Hagrid.

Robbie was fired from the place where he first cut my hair and moved to another place. He cut my hair just before I left for Australia. Then I had my hair cut again in Australia and after that I learned that Robbie had moved on again, so I went back to the cheap places.

The last time I had it cut it was horrible. The woman was delightful. And seemed very, very thorough (i.e., she took longer to wash and cut my hair than anybody in a long time). And while cutting my hair she talked about the special skill needed to cut curly hair. I expected I was getting a top notch job. And, of course, I'm half blind, so I couldn't really see what it looked like when she finished, except it seemed longer than I'd asked for. But I'm a wimp. I never make waves.

When I got home I could see that it was a horrible haircut and though I had asked her to take off about an inch and a half, if she cut 1/8" I would be very surprised. I struggled with finding Robbie or trying another cheap place and I finally decided I would pay the big bucks and go back to Robbie. He cuts Ellen & Shelly's hair and they told me where he's working now. As he started working on my hair he asked "who cut your hair last time? This is a terrible job." I told him that was why I was back in his chair.

I am happy with how it turned out...

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I had told Walt I would call him when I was finished and so I did, but he didn't answer his phone, so I left a message saying I would be walking toward the park where the dogs were.

That was a good and a bad thing. I passed by a baby shop I didn't know was there and naturally I went in. And I bought more stuff for Bri, including my very favorite gift for her period. If I find out someone else has already found it and given it to her I'm going to be sooooo disappointed. It is absolutely the perfect gift, for something that isn't stamped with any 49er logo.

When I got back to the park, Ashley told me that Nicki had not been adopted and that Walt had gone home about 15 minutes before. I called him on his cell phone and the house phone again and still no answer on either, so I sat and waited awhile and then called home again and he answered. He said he would be down to pick me up.

I bought some kettle corn because I was hungry and because I'm always tempted to buy kettle corn and never do, and I stood in the street eating my kettle corn and waiting for Walt when someone across the street waved at me and said something like "I see you eating your popcorn." Naturally I didn't have a clue who she was (she reads this--so I apologize!) until she came all the way across the street when I could see her again. We talked a bit and wished each other a Merry Christmas.

I'm now wondering how many other people I have passed by without greeting them because I just don't see them! January can't get here soon enough.

Oh--and we came home with another dog. This one is Twix, who is about Nicki's age, and Sheila's size. Ashley asked if we could keep her for a couple of days and that she would take care of her after we leave for Santa Barbara on Tuesday. So far all the dogs seem to be getting along all right.

And Nicki is VERY happy to be "home" again. She really, really, really hates (a) being on a leash, and (b) being out in the park with other dogs.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Ho Ho Ho and a Bah Humbug

Just when you feel it's safe to feel all warm and cozy about the approaching holiday, some scumbag comes along and ruins it for you.

It was a lovely day. My writing group hadn't been together since before Jeri's wedding, for various and sundry reasons, so Joan decided to get us all together for a holiday party. It was just wonderful to see them again. I haven't been part of this group for very long, and I am (by far) the "baby" of the group, but they are beautiful, intelligent, interesting women and I always enjoy my time with them. Joan had been doing holiday baking and set up a table of goodies for us.

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Peggy - Joan - Nancy

We usually sit and talk from about 10 until noon and then everyone goes home by noon to watch Charlie Rose, but when I got home today I looked at the clock and it was 1 p.m. The time had just flown by. We've made plans to get together for Valentine's day, if not before.

In the afternoon, Walt and I were going to go shopping. While we have all drawn names and have agreed that nobody is going to spend more than $5 for our special person, there are still the "Santa gifts" that we always give (the "hang the expense, I want to spend money" gifts that I have such fun getting each year). These are the things that, traditionally, I pick up here and there in the months before Christmas, but since I haven't been driving, the only gifts I'd purchased were bought on line ... and while that is OK, what fun is it if you can't feel it, smell it, and experience it in all its entirety (including handing your credit card over to someone to pay for it)

And so we went off to what I thought was going to be the outlet stores at the Nut Tree, but we got side tracked and ended up doing most of our shopping in NON-outlet stores. But I'm still pleased with what we got.

We decided to check out the new "carnival" area at the Nut Tree. The Nut Tree used to be this huge restaurant/gift shop/toy store/kids train/airport place that was a staple of travelers going between San Francisco and Sacramento. My uncle and his wife always stopped there and always got into a fight there (or so family lore goes) because she spent too much.

Well, they tore the building down several years ago and the land sat there unoccupied for a long time. People still came to the area because they built this huge outlet mall across the highway, with hundreds of outlet stores. Eventually the non-outlet stores started springing up in the old Nut Tree location: Old Navy, Borders, PetSmart, Sees Candy, cell phone stores, restaurants, BevMo, etc., etc. They apparently never got rid of the "rides" that the old Nut Tree had for kids, and recently opened this carnival area which has the old Merry go Round, something that looks like a new (bigger) train, and then stores which supposedly feature local products, whether craft products or locally grown produce.

One of the places that recently opened its doors was Fentons Ice Cream. This is a satellite site of the original Fentons which is in Oakland, and which was a favorite of all of the Pinata group families. I suggested to Walt that we stop and have a sundae...something we never ever do. He readily agreed.

He ordered a black and tan

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I ordered something called a "fudganna", which was kind of a banana split, two enormous scoops of ice cream in a container with a banana and fudge sauce.

sundae.jpg (117531 bytes)The problem was that the ice cream was piled so high that all the fudge dripped down onto the saucer before it ever got to the table.

Undaunted, I used my spoon and chunks of banana, pierced with a fork, to dip into the fudge sauce, sort of like a banana chocolate fondu. I stopped short of picking the saucer up and licking it (which I really wanted to do), but I think that I definitely got my share, and then some.

I actually left some ice cream in the glass, as it was just too much to finish.

Fortunately I had made this wonderful butternut squash-apple-sweet potato soup last night and we decided we would just have leftover soup for dinner, heated whenever one or the other of us felt hungry.

We made one stop at the store that I had gone to the outlet mall for in the first place and I was thrilled at the sale they were having. I did my bit to support the economy there.

And finally we were ready to turn our wheels home. I still have a couple more things to get, but I felt really good about what I'd found, was looking forward to coming home to wrap presents and spend the evening catching up on stuff I'd recorded on the DVR.

When Walt got out of the car in the driveway to open the front door, he discovered that someone had stolen his bike.

Bah Humbug. I hope whoever stole it crashes on the damn thing. I'm remembering that the year Paul died, someone stole our car at Christmas. Maybe the gods can pick on someone else next year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Redefining Tradition

This is turning into an odd Christmas. Odd because I've hardly thought about it. It seems strange that this is the first year in about 40 when I am not cooking dinner for a small army. Tom says I can make pumpkin pies, but I'll be doing that in Santa Barbara.

I skipped my boss's party, which always kicks off the "holly in my heart" season for me, when my friend came to town. Other than the Cousins Christmas, there are no other Christmas parties planned (my mother,on the other hand, has been going to one party a night, it seems!)

With all the puppies--the two that died, and the one who poops, I haven't thought much about any Christmas preparations until today.

I forget how long it takes to write Christmas cards. And I only wrote 9 of them tonight. The cards go out to people who don't have computers and can't check the on line version of the Holiday Letter. It's more difficult this year since it's harder for me to see what I'm writing. I actually held a flashlight onto the card as I wrote tonight so I could see what I was writing!

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(you don't have to lick an e-card!)

Every year I think it must be the height of tackiness to post a letter on the Internet and then send e-mail to tell people where to find it.

But actually, if you think about it, it is really such a better way to do it. Stamps are 42 cents apiece now and I used to send out something like 200 cards, so right up front that's over $80 in postage alone. Add to that the cost of cards, the cost of printing up the letter and it's a very expensive proposition.

Secondly we are living in an age where the idea is to conserve natural resources and think of how much paper I'd be using to mail out 200 Christmas letters.

Finally, I just love doing the on-line letter. I start planning it toward the end of summer and sometimes work on it for weeks before it's ready to post so the family can approve it. I can use color. I can add all the photos I want and make them big enough so people can actually see them. This year I added a video (of Steve's big night at Davies Hall in San Francisco). The video was an afterthought. You can bet there will be more of them next year. I just think the year in review looks more interesting on line -- and I certainly take a bazillion times longer to do the on-line letter than I ever did for the printed version, so nobody can say I throw it up because it's easier.

But I know Emily Post would disapprove. And what's Christmas if you aren't feeling guilty about Emily Post's displeasure?

The other thing I did today was to wrap Christmas presents. Now that the pressure of getting the feature article about Stephen written has passed I could start actually thinking about the upcoming holiday.

I didn't have a lot to wrap (yet), but they were all big, so it took lots of room to find a space to put the big boxes. It's nice having them all done. So far.

I still have to buy the "Santa presents." We decided this year that since so many in the family are having money problems (and who isn't?) that instead of choosing names to buy one person a "good" gift, everyone would write their chosen person a letter telling him or her how you feel about that person. And we will add to that a gift not to exceed $5.

I was able to get my gift put together and the letter should come easily, but Walt and I always add a "Santa Gift" for everyone as well as the "get a BIG present" gift. I have to admit that it's been kind of nice that I can't drive because I don't have the pressure to be out scouring the malls looking for the perfect thing. Walt and I will go...somewhere (probably the outlet mall because it's huge and the choices are more varied) and do it all in one day. We leave Tuesday for Santa Barbara, so it had better be soon!

I realize that we have been in the process of redefinining Christmas family traditions for a few years now. We still haven't quite settled into a yearly routine and I doubt that we will do it this year either, but we have all sorts of new things to try and it will all be fine, one way or another.