Saturday, December 31, 2011

Lotsa New Stuff

We are ending 2011 with lots of new stuff. The first new thing would be Buddy, who arrived this afternoon.

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This is the first foster I have taken in all year, but when I heard there was a 2-3 week old bottlefeeder, I couldn't say no. He is probably part pit bull and part Sharpei, with all those wrinkles on his face.

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I don't have a clue what his story is because he was dropped off at the thrift shop by the woman who has been taking care of him this week and I didn't see her and the people in the shop had only just met him, but I've been feeding him a bottle, or trying to. He's not too great with it but has gotten in a few ounces this afternoon.

He's very sweet and very independent. And he has puppy breath. He walks with the waddle of a silverback gorilla and he is not interested in cuddling at all, except for the half hour he decided to curl up behind my neck, sucking on my hair.

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(Well at least ONE of us was comfortable!)

Walt and I also went to the post office, after we returned the car we rented last week, and picked up the mail that was held. One thing about having become a letter writer, is when I get home from a vacation, I can't complain that I didn't receive any mail!!!

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(This is AFTER the junk mail is removed!)

The final new things are our new cell phones! I was 3 years overdue for a new phone, but I liked my little flip phone with the doggy teeth marks on it so never went in to exchange it. However, there is no comeback from a trip through the washing machine and so I needed a new one. I wanted to find out how much our bill would go up if I bought a smart phone and used internet access. As it turns out there was an end of the year sale and an hour and many dollars later, we walked out with two smart phones, Verizon Androids and so we have been spending the afternoon trying to bond with them.

I was not in love at first, but as the evening has gone on and I have started to do things like...reading the manual, watching tutorials, and exploring more, I can feel those tinglings of fresh young love stirring. Of course, I have discovered free app downloads from Amazon and that may be the death of me!!!

But as we begin to enter a new year, there are old things to leave behind and new things to learn and that is a promising way to look at 2012.

Friday, December 30, 2011


I have had a cell phone for many years and I have never figured out what to do with it. I don't mean how to use it, I mean where to put it. Many people carry their cell phones around in their pockets, but since I wear mostly sweat pants, I have no pocket.

I am always on the wrong side of the phone. Mostly it stays in my purse, but I usually can't hear it, then, when it rings. Or if I take it out to be with me, I put it on my desk and then get distracted by doing something in the kitchen and still can't hear it. I rarely actually answer the phone. I usually get text messages or voice messages.

I have tried "holders." I got a cloth one that went on a string around my neck, but that just looked silly. A leather holder that clipped on my waist worked pretty well except that when I was sitting at my desk, it dug into my skin and I would take it off, leave it on the desk and either forget it there, or one of the dogs would sniff it out and chew up the leather.

I still haven't figured out the answer to my problem, but I do have a pair of fairly "good" pants that have pockets and I brought them with me to Santa Barbara, so I was able to carry my phone around in my pocket.

This was actually pretty silly since I communicate with very few people by cell phone and most of them were with me most of the time we were in Santa Barbara. But by god, if I got separated from them, I could have called them.

I was kind of happy with this whole pocket thing until late this morning when I took out the clothes I had washed to pack and bring home. I wondered what all that clanging was in the washer and then in the dryer and, sure enough, my cell phone had gone through a thorough cleaning and drying, as I had not remembered to take it out of the pocked I finally thought to put it in.

So I am, at the moment, without cell phone and will see what Verizon can do for me in the morning. I am about two or three or maybe even four years overdue for their free phone replacement. I was tempted, but my cell phone was special since (a) it was red and you don't see many red cell phones, and (b) it had been teethed on by a puppy (I don't remember which one) and I liked that distinctive quality about it.

But puppy teeth marks will now be no more...and I just hope that in my cleaning of my cell phone I also didn't erase all the information stored on it!

We came home today. We stopped at Tom's on the way out to say goodbye to him, Jeri and Bri. Jeri wanted a final picture taken of her and her niece.

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Bri was also interested in my t-shirt, with the sneezing baby Panda, and asked me if I would promise to wear it next time I came. I told I would, if she would be sure her Dad showed her the sneezing Panda video on YouTube.

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And then we turned our wheels out of Santa Barbara. I'm hoping some of you horticultural types can tell me what this plant is:

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They are growing all over Santa Barbara. I am assuming it is some sort of relative to the century plant but it looks like a brontesaurus hiding in the bushes. They are quite impressive!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

We Almost Saw the Giraffe

Well, that's not really true. We did see the giraffes. But not much else.

Walt called Tom this morning to see what was going on. Laurel had gone back to work, Ned and Marta were headed back to Sacramento, and Lacie was going to be with the babysitter, so it was just Tom and Jeri with Bri and they suggested we go to the Santa Barbara zoo, which I have never visited (Walt has).

By the time we got ourselves up, showered and dressed and got to Tom's house, said goodbye to Ned & Marta, got Bri dressed and ready and got on the road, it was about 11 a.m.

Normally this wouldn't be a problem. The zoo doesn't open until 11 anyway. But the zoo is a 20-25 minute drive from Tom's house and we had plans to have lunch with our friends Dick and Gerry, who live near Tom, at 1 p.m.. That meant that under the best of conditions, we would have 30 minutes for the zoo (though Tom and Jeri could stay as long as they wanted, of course).

Walt dropped me off at the parking lot (which was full) and I walked to the ticket line (which was long) while he went to find a place to park. He arrived, with Tom, Jeri and Bri and we all stood in line and waited. And waited.

Finally we had tickets and entered. I mostly wanted to see the giraffes, which you can feed, for a price. They are apparently part of the grand finale, so in order to see them first, Tom set off in the opposite way to how you are supposed to go.

It's a lovely little zoo, with lots of grass and places for the kids to play. It sits overlooking the ocean. We walked up a hill...and walked and walked and walked. I finally told Tom it was a lovely park, but were there any animals there?

Shortly afterwards, we saw lions. Sort of. One female lying in the sun appearing not to breathe, until she finally took one deep breath. Near her was the paw of what they assured me was a male lion. All I saw was his paw.

But next to them was the giraffe enclosure, with one giraffe looking out to the ocean.

We saw the feeding platform and a long line of people waiting to feed the giraffes.

Obviously, there was no way we could get onto the platform and get to Dick and Gerry's in time, so we scratched that plan. We had a quick look at the one meerkat that was out...

...and then Walt and I had to to leave. He went ahead to get the car, I made my way down the hill, stopping for water and a pit stop, where I found the real zoo--five mothers, each with 3 small children, all trying to pee in the women's room. The lions, sleeping in the sun had it much better off!

We were only 10 minutes late getting to Dick and Gerry's and had a lovely lunch, catching up on news and Gerry's recent trip to Ireland. She was happy for an excuse to use her Christmas finery one more time.

We finished the day at the Tupelo Cafe in downtown Santa Barbara where we had such a fun evening with Joe, Alice Nan and Jeri. Food was reasonable, but this is a $15 crab cake.

(note the size in comparison to the lemon slice). Fortunately it was absolutely delicious and almost worth that much money!

Thursday Thirteen

Reasons I’m stopping Thursday 13s
1. I’ve run out of things to count
2. The end of a year is a good time to end things.
3. I’ve enjoyed it, but it’s time to quit.
4. I have lots of not quite finished lists and can’t find things to finish them with
5. After 117 weeks, I can’t take the pressure any more.
6. I might do this again sometime, but not in the foreseeable future.
7. I’ve started repeating myself
8. I can’t keep track of what I’ve already written
9. It’s time for others to keep the idea going
10. There are things I’m tempted to list, but I don’t want to go public
11. ...and if I did another list, I might slip and do it anyway.
12. I think I’ve accomplished something here.
13. I can count on the fingers of one hand the comments I’ve had on these 117 entries.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sandy Socks

I may have figured out a great way to keep sand off your toes while walking on the beach.

If I had known the things we were going to do down here, I probably would have thought better about bringing only a pair of Birkinstocks and socks to wear with them. I have found they are not great for hiking in the woods, and they are not the footwear of choice while walking on the beach...unless you do it right.

We were invited to Tom and Laurel's this morning for pancakes. Tom had received some pancake molds for Christmas and wanted to try them out. They were characters from the movie Cars, and not easy to make, but Jeri gave it the ol' college try and actually got some recognizable pancakes out of the effort.

(Though most of us had round pancakes, which we decided were wheels.)

While waiting for pancakes to be ready, Bri showed me how the Advent Calendar from Jacquie Lawson worked.

To watch that little not-quite-4 year old manipulate a mouse and know what she was doing was pretty impressive...not to say intimidating!

When breakfast was over, the day's plan was to go to Goleta Beach. We took two cars and drove down to the spot most recognizable as the place where Tom and Joe hold their annual 4th of July beach BBQ. Bri decided she wanted to walk to "the pier," so we all set off across the sand in that direction. Walt was easy to find, since, pushing the double stroller, he left a trail that was easy to follow!

We had a wonderful time walking way out onto the pier to watch the fishermen and chase the seagulls.

Lacie slept most of the way.

On the way back to the playground where we had started, I gave up trying to keep my feet in the Birkinstocks so took them off, but kept my socks on, so I was walking in stocking feet on sand. By the time I had climbed the hill and walked across grass to get to the playground, the sand had come off my socks and when I put the Birkinstocks back on there was no sand on my feet, on my socks or on my sandals. Pretty good.

We spent some time at the playground and I got to do what all mothers love to do--take pictures of my children playing on the swings and slides.

We returned to Tom's, but just dropped things off and then gave them a couple of hours for naps and relaxing. We returned at 5 p.m., when Ned was barbequing some steaks he had cut from a HUGE chunk of tri-tip.

It was a delicious dinner, lots of good chatter, lots of laughs, and then saying goodbye to Ned and Marta, who leave first thing tomorrow morning to return home. We have one more full day here, and Jeri has two.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Butterfly Kisses

Today we went for a walk in the woods.

We walked with Joe's daughter Jocelyn, her husband David, and little Charlee.

We were heading for the Elwood Butterfly Preserve, where monarch butterflies come every winter to mate. I had read about it in the local paper and had always wanted to be in one of those places where you were surrounded by monarch butterflies. Here it was right in the back yard, just about.

As we approached the eucalyptus grove where the swarms were, you could suddenly see what looked like big clumps of vegetation in the branches of the trees.

Then as you watched, you realized that these were not just "clumps," but clumps of butterflies.

And as the sun rose higher and began to warm the clumps, the butterflies became more active, flying all over the place, and the clumps were much easier to distinguish.

It was just magical. We sat there transfixed.

Ned took video.

And Bri, along with a group of children, helped a butterfly fly, because it had gotten too cold. When they blew on the wings, it flew off.

We sat there for a very long time just watching them fly about.

When we were finished, we walked to the top of the hill and out to the bluffs, which overlooked the ocean.

The weather was perfect and the scenery so beautiful. When we left the preserve, we went and had lunch with Ned, Marta, Jeri, Tom and Bri and then came home, whereupon I dove, once again, onto the couch and slept for about 2½ hrs, during which time Joe's granddaughter had joined the group. We quickly reheated leftovers from Christmas dinner and then met Ned, Marta and Jeri at the theatre, where we saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie.

One thing I can say--it sure isn't Basil Rathbone!

Ending the evening on a happy note. It was a lovely, beautiful day.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The Year of the Puppet

I am writing this at 4 in the morning because I was so exhausted when we returned from Tom & Laurel's last night I dove into bed and was asleep within minutes. I'm not sure why I was so tired. Everyone else did all the work

Early in the morning, Ned and Marta had their own little Christmas and opened each others' gifts...they both got new slippers.

Around 1 p.m., Tom arrived with a truck so that the puppet stage could be moved to his house. This was his first look at the stage and he was suitably pleased.

(Now, it helps to know that the kids performed all their performing careers at the Veterans Memorial Theater in Davis. Walt's mother, who died this year, was called TuTu, the Hawaiian word for "Grandmother," by Brianna. Also, several years ago, the grand drape of the Veterans Memorial Theater was replaced. Ned brought the old one home and the curtains for this stage were cut from that curtain (also the black curtains that go on the sides and back were cut from the blacks that were replaced at the Vets. So this puppet theatre is just full of special meaning, which Bri will never fully appreciate, but we sure do!)

The stage was loaded on the truck and taken to Tom's house, where we waited until Brianna went down for her nap to move it in.

Jeri arrived in Los Angeles at noon and Alice Nan & Joe brought her back to Santa Barbara, where she finally got to meet her new niece.

Then there were tattoos to be applied.

Finally Bri went down for her nap and the stage was moved in. Walt and Ned put on the finishing touches.

Walt and Ned were fully prepared for a ho-hum reaction from Brianna to her new puppet stage, realizing how much she would like it over time, but that a stage might not be super-exciting to a not-quite-4 year old. It is necessary to view the video, which I will post when I get home next week, but Brianna's reaction on seeing the stage was more than anybody had dared hope. She loved it and puppets quickly became the focus of the entire day.

In the meantime, Tom was getting a turkey ready to go into the deep fryer (I'd never had fried turkey before--it was delicious!)

Dinner was a lot of fun.

And afterwards there was even See's candy to pass around.

Brianna opened her gifts first and there was, no surprise, a heavy emphasis on puppets, like this peacock puppet from Alice Nan.

It was generally agreed that while this old man golfer puppet from Uncle Norm may never be Brianna's favorite, it was definitely Ned's.

Through all the festivities, Lacie was adorable. 3 months is my very favorite baby age, and she did all those 3 month things I love, including snuggling and grinning.

And before she went to bed for the night, she showed that she, too, will soon be doing "Bri's trick" on Daddy's hand, though she appears a bit dubious right now.

It was a wonderful evening full of family, love, laughter and kids. Just the way Christmas should be.

For all the photos, check the file on Flickr.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Stop. Rest.

In half an hour, I should be outside looking for the jolly fellow in the sleigh with the red headlight. Last time I checked, NORAD's Santa Watch had him over Salt Lake City.

But for now, with the dishwasher running, the pies baking, and the memory of a nice day, particularly the long dinner, dancing in my head, I am going to sit down and bat out a journal entry.

Still haven't seen the girls and the puppet theater is still in the garage, so can't show you that, but I will tomorrow. I tried a new (cheap) movie making software package to put together the video I took yesterday, but it did a horrendously crappy job. There is a video on YouTube because I couldn't figure out how to delete it, and it will be re-made when we get home, but if you really want to see it, you can check here. I can't believe how bad the quality of the print is.

It was a quiet day. I was NOT the first one up, and surprised (a) that I slept until 7:15, and (b) that Marta was already up and reading when I staggered out.

I lazed around most of the day, took a couple of cat naps, and did nothing much of interest. Ned and Marta went downtown to wander the streets of Santa Barbara, watching shoppers rush by with their treasures, Alice Nan went Christmas shopping and finally, around 5 or 6 p.m. I realized I had to get out to get stuff for pumpkin pies.

It is a good idea not to assume that Joe and Alice have anything I need for baking. Joe does most of the cooking and is an excellent cook, but he's not a baker. Plus they are both very health conscious so I'm never sure if they have things like sugar and white flour. Also, last year I assumed they had spices, but I couldn't find ginger or ground cinnamon, so I left out the ginger entirely and was having Jeri crush whole cinnamon sticks to put in the pie. It turns out they had tons of cinnamon, but they were using it to repel ants in the bathroom. I never thought to look in the bathroom for cinnamon!

So this year I came prepared with pie pans and a rolling pin (last year I used a bottle of wine) and bought flour, shortening, cloves, and ginger along with the pumpkin and evaporated milk.

Joe cooked a fabulous dinner of barbequed chicken breasts he had marinated with fresh rosemary from his herb garden, along with elephant garlic and lemon juice, served with broccoli with hollandaise sauce and white rice.

After dinner we sat around and talked and talked and talked. Then we went into the family room and talked and talked some more. We got to talking about old punch lines, one of which was "Why don't you write your mother?" and the other of which was "Ginzberg." But the punch lines have been around for so long, we can no longer remember all the details of the jokes themselves and I proved that you can find ANYTHING on the internet by finding both jokes in a book of Jewish humor in a matter of seconds.

"Write your mother"

(you have to scroll down a page to find the comment where someone tells the joke)

Finally everyone (but me) settled down for a long winter's nap while I started the pies. I had forgotten that I borrowed Tom's cuisinart last year to make the crust. I refuse to buy pre-made crust, so I went back to the pre-electronics technique of cutting the shortening into the flour with two knives. The crusts actually turned out surprisingly well.

Next came the filling. Most of it went fine, though I had bought whole cloves instead of ground, but that was a spice that they had here, so crisis averted. I also am going to have to scrub the oven of the spills after the pies are done, but for better or worse, they are finished and baking.

I am looking forward to getting into my kerchief and settling down for my own long winter's nap, but I hear a clatter out on the lawn and think I should either investigate--or hide.

Where are those cookies...?

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night

And may God bless us every one.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Rest Stop

The drive from Davis to Santa Barbara takes 8 hours, no matter which way you go. I prefer to drive down I-5, which is flat, boring, and I think Walt says is a bit longer--but you can drive faster. You drive to Sacramento, turn right, drive an hour through valley towns and share the road with big semis, which I hate, and then at a point, you turn left and drive straight on for hundreds of miles along the viaduct that takes Northern California water and delivers it to Southern California, past endless vineyards (which in years past were empty hills and flat grassy areas), past the feed lot for the Harris Ranch (there is no missing that little place, with thousands of cattle, doing what cattle do best, the smell of which can wake you from a sound sleep).

You reach Kettleman City, in the middle of nowhere ("city" is a misnomer--it is a collection of fast food joints), turn right, drive another hour over to Highway 101, then turn left at Paso Robles and drive to Alice Nan's house.

Walt prefers to go west on I-80, veer off onto 680, and drive down to San Jose, where he picks up 101. 101 has more of interest, but is more congested and the mental "bookmarks" that I have in my mind seem farther between. It's a perception thing.

Whichever way we go, there are rest stops along the way. On I-5, I know every bathroom between Davis and Kettleman City from the days when I was drinking even more water than I drink now and had to stop every 20 miles or so to make room for more. Fortunately there are official state-run rest stops, with nice vending machines, every 20 miles or so once you make the left turn.

I know where all the McDonalds' are if I'm feeling sleepy and have to gauge whether to buy my iced mocha now or wait for the next one....and can decide if I want a drive-thru burger or to push on to Pea Soup Andersons for a sit-down lunch of a bowl of their famous pea soup and a tour through the ubiquitous gift shops.

Along the road from Kettleman City to Paso Robles, where it hooks up with Hwy 101, I gauge how green the hills are, whether there are wildflowers or not (not at this time of year, of course) so I know where I should look for a place to stop, where the wildflowers are at their peak, and decide whether I want to stop at the James Dean memorial at the half way point to take pictures or not. The memorial is not far from where Dean was killed, but is so subtle, you almost have to know it's there to find it.

Walt drove yesterday, so we came down I-5 to 680 to 101, which means that we stop at one big mall area so Walt can use the facilities at McDonald's, then down through Salinas, where I always get a wistful pang as we pass "John St.," because it reminds me that we are going through Salinas yet again and I have wanted to visit the John Steinbeck museum since the 1980s and still have never done it.

But ahead is Gonzales, where the Burger Queen is. We usually hit the Burger Queen at lunch, but we left so late yesterday that it was 5 and getting dark by the time we saw the familiar water tower that marks the exit where the Burger Queen sits across the mighty McDonald's.

We both ordered mushroom burgers for dinner, which come wrapped as tightly as a baby in swaddling clothes, which is good because they are so full of burger and cheese and mushrooms and (for me) onions that if you try take them apart, they literally fall apart in your fingers.


There was a young girl, about 16, who was working there who was trying to be so friendly. She asked where we were from, and seemed surprised that we had come all the way from Sacramento to have lunch there--she didn't seem to have a good grasp about how far it was. Later she saw me reading on my Kindle and asked if that was my "reading machine" and then wanted to know what story was reading. When I tried to explain the book about the brain that I was reading, she looked like she couldn't believe I could be reading that for enjoyment.

Walt pointed out something I have noticed too. If you are listening to an audio book (we were listening to Michael Connelly's new book, "The Drop"), you tend to get disoriented, especially at night, because you aren't seeing your usual visual cues. I remember being surprised to see that we were in Greenfield, for example, which is about 10 miles from King City and I thought we had passed through King City about 20 minutes before.

So Walt nearly missed his usual stop for gas, but did manage to pull off in time. He started pumping gas and I went to the rest room. It was on of those stalls where the toilet paper is wound tightly inside an almost impenetrable steel container. I was able to get a couple of sheets of one-ply to tear off, but then even sticking my hand way up inside and trying to run around the outer edge of the TP could not find its "free edge," and so I had to make due with the paltry bit of paper in my hand, which was not up to the task and tore as soon as it reached my body.

Fortunately there was no such difficulty getting enough soap for the hand washing.

Walt then took his turn in the rest room, but since he had locked the car and since it was freezing outside, I waited in the little gas station minimart. There were two guys in there, the young man who ran the place, and an older Hispanic man. The two were arguing about marriage. The older man was telling the kid he should never get married and that he could get all the sex he wanted without the commitment to share half of all his stuff with a woman. The kid was arguing that marriage was "created by God" for us and that to have sex outside of marriage was a sin. I butted in with the fact that I had been married 46 years and they could ask me anything. The Hispanic guy told me I was a saint.

About this time Walt came out of the bathroom and we continued on our way.

The rest of the trip was uneventful, mile after mile of darkness while Harry Bosch went on about his investigations. We pulled up here earlier than expected and sent off a picture to Alice Nan (who was at a neighborhood party) to let her know we had arrived.

We had reached our last (and best) rest stop.