Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

So the day is here.  I have been awake since about 4:30 going over what needs to be done today.  It's pretty straight forward.  I need to get the pie(s) in the oven first, then put the turkey in around noon.  Ned and Marta are going to pick up my mother and bring her here to visit for a couple of hours until it's time for them to go off to Marta's parents' house for dinner.  We'll have our dinner, return my mother to Atria, and then go to Marta's parents' house for a second dessert.

I'm going to make the traditional green bean casserole that I don't like, but Walt does.  I figure it will be a great thing to give my mother to do--take the ends off of the green beans.  She needs a job and that should be perfect -- easy, time consuming and I hope she doesn't forget halfway through the job what she's supposed to do!

I tried to get things organized yesterday.  Not much "organizing" to do when there are only 3 people and no complicated things to prepare, but I am trying some new things, like Geoffrey Zacharian's guide to make sure the turkey is dry before putting it in the oven.  He recommends putting it in the fridge, uncovered, for 24 hours.  So I've done that.  I brined a turkey for the first time last Thanksgiving and couldn't really tell the difference from un-brined so we'll see how GZ's recommendation works.

I'm also NOT going to stuff the turkey, but am going to make dressing in the crock pot.  Since this is the part of the meal I am most picky about I hope it works.  I read several recipes for doing it and will make my own, based on everyone's suggestions.  It certainly makes removing the dressing to a serving plate easier than scooping it out of the body of the bird.

And then there will be Jeff Mauro's sinfully rich mashed potatoes, with cream cheese, butter and half and half.  Oh, and potatoes too.

A good idea, but here are a few things on my "thankful list."

* Of course #1 is the family and how much I love our relationships with each other
* Especially Walt, who works so hard around here and how much I appreciate him
* (I love him too!)
* The dogs who entertain us nightly
* Having a warm home to live in on these cold days
* Being able to see so many theatrical programs
* Having the good fortune to be paid to write
* All of my "extended family," the Compassion children around the world
* Char, my best friend, without whom my life would be very blank
* All of my other friends, close and casual
* My mother's health and the good care she is getting now
* Books.  And more books
* Having Brianna and Lacie to write to
* Everybody who has read Airy Persiflage through the years.  I love you all.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Sex and Turkeys

You can't turn on any news program without hearing about sex.  It is disheartening to hear what goes on with such beloved icons as Charlie Rose or Kevin Spacey.  There must be soul-searching all over Congress....surely a good percentage of those high and mighty representatives have some hanky panky in their history and now that women, after so long, are being believed they are tentatively coming forward and the stories are slowly coming out.

It appears the only person who does not believe the women is #45, who says Moore says he didn't do it and he must be believed.  BS.

But I'm having such a difficult time about Al Franken.  I was heartsick to hear the accusation against him and waited to hear more women come forth.  While waiting I examined the lewd photo and, as a photographer, I looked at it closely and saw that his hands are hovering over her breasts, they are not on her breasts, which I found reassuring. I also realized that they were on a comedy tour and the kiss, while stupid and ill-advised didn't rise to the level of dating teenagers, or grabbing pussies, or rape or any of the other accusations that have come up about other big names.

So the jury is out on my opinion of Al Franken, who has obviously lost his opportunity to run for president (though if #45 is any indication, sexual misconduct isn't an automatic show stopper), but I felt better when I read that 36 women involved in Saturday Night Live, whether stars or production people signed a statement which reads, in part,
What Al did was stupid and foolish, and we think it was appropriate for him to apologize to Ms Tweeden, and to the public. In our experience, we know Al as a devoted and dedicated family man, a wonderful comedic performer, and an honorable public servant.
A second accuser has now come forth, saying that he grabbed her butt while they posed for a photo.  And I don't excuse that.  Again, how stupid can you be....but at the time he made his living as a comedian and it was something funny to do in an age where nobody gave it a second thought.
If nothing else does it rise to the level of the other men who have been accused of everything from pedophilia or rape?

There is a very thought-provoking article written by feminist S. Novi who is also having difficulties knowing what to think of Franken.  I really encourage people to read it.  She doesn't excuse anything that he has been accused of doing, but offers another way to look at it.
Let me say right up front that as a woman and a life-long feminist, I absolutely support women coming forward when there have been sexual assaults or abuse. There has been a history of demeaning women in both the courtroom and life so that most refused to put themselves through the process and simply remained quiet. However, this situation is quite a bit different and it requires that we step back and view this with a lens of logic. The fact is that Franken doesn’t have a history of demeaning women, in fact it is the opposite.
I had a disagreement yesterday with someone with whom I have been in agreement about politics for years.  She is adamant that Franken is a disgusting human being and she wants nothing more to do with him.  When I pointed out the photos of the woman grabbing a guy's butt on the same tour, she snapped " now they are slut-shaming."  I don't consider her a slut, nor do I 100% consider Franken on a par with the other molesters who have been accused.  I consider this a comedy tour where bawdy things are commonplace.

In her defense, she is running this through a colleague she respected, who turned out to have a hidden history that included sexual misconduct.  I can't be that black and white.  I don't in any way condone the actions of which Franken has been accused, but I just can't write him off.  

I wait and watch and see where it all goes from here.  I will be very disappointed if a legion of other women come out with new accusations.

In the meantime I am nothing but disgusted by the sexual abuser in the White House, who seems to prefer to support a pedophile for Senate than risk the election of a Democrat.  But then he disgusts me on most days, so why is today different from any other day?

But speaking of turkeys.....

Yesterday I did my big Thanksgiving shopping and enjoyed the choices I had for the main course.

Since there will only be 3 of us for dinner (assuming we can convince my mother to come out to the house), I looked for a smaller turkey, remembering the time I cooked a 31 lb turkey for 24 people.  I managed to find an 18 lb turkey and will be brining it today.  

With only 3 of us, and planning a very simple menu, I was surprised to see that the tag come to $177.  But I hope I have everything and though I have successfully cooked Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for 50 years and though our only guest will be my mother, I find I am still nervous about getting it all right.

Happy Thanksgiving all!!!!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Gracie and Jane

I don't know how many are familiar with the show Talk Stoop.  Apparently it is a full 15 or 30 minute show in New York with interviews of celebrities who happen to pass by the front steps of hostess Cat Greenleaf for a brief chat.  Out here on the West Coast we don't get the show, but we get like a 5 minute (or less) snippet of the show in between programming on the USA network.

My favorite part of the show was always "Gracie Greenleaf," Cat's bulldog, who sat, or usually slept, on the top step...

...occasionally sniffing the guest.  Gracie made the show for me.

I hadn't seen Talk Stoop in awhile but it popped up the other day and...there was no Gracie!  Instead, Cat had a new dog who looked like a terrier -- not nearly a good substitute for Gracie.  Apparently Gracie died back in April.  I looked and looked but can't find either a photo of the new dog or what his/her name is.  However, I did find a web page "In Memory of Gracie," where people can post photos or videos of Gracie.  There are no entries!  But I guess I'll have to get used to the new dog...and maybe eventually learn his/her name.

In the afternoon we went to a movie!  Alert the media!  This is the second movie we have seen this year, the first was Beauty and the Beast when Caroline was here in March.

Several movies came and went that I missed (like Victoria and Abdul, which I really wanted to see.  I'm assuming it will eventually make it to Netflix).  But tonight we actually went to see Jane, the story of Jane Goodall in a theater.

Jane Goodall is one of my heroes and I have followed her story since the National Geographic aired the very first special on her in the early 1960s.  I still remember that before Jane, I was taught that humans were the only intelligent creatures because only humans knew how to use tools.  Jane proved that theory wrong, showing chimpanzees taking twigs and sticking them into ant holes to get ants to eat.  It has since been shown that many animals know how to use tools.

The movie was very special but as much as I enjoyed all the chimpanzees, I was most impressed with a scene where a male and female lion attacked a wildebeest during the great migration.  The female had the wildebeest by the nose and the female had him by the tail, while all the other wildebeest ran by.  Then the whole herd stopped, turned around, came back and started threatening the lions, who dropped their catch and slunk off.  Lemme tell you, the last thing you want is to be threatened by hundreds of angry wildebeest!

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Perks

There are perks of being a critic. 

The obvious one is that you get to see all the big shows that come to town.  Any traveling Broadway show that hits Sacramento, I get free high priced tickets, great seats, and all I have to do is enjoy the show and write about it.

Another perk is watching a theater company improve over the years, like the Davis Musical Theater Company, which was not wonderful 40 years ago, but which has turned in some amazing first-rate productions these last years.

The down side is that I have to see everything and while most are fun, some are real duds and trying to write something about them is real work and I figure helps pay for those great shows that are easy to review.

The perk that I don't often think about until it happens is seeing shows that are maybe not the best but so much fun it more than makes up for it.

One of my very favorite theater groups is the Winters Community Theater.  Winters is a small town (~7,000 people) and they have had this theater company which has been going for some 40 years.  They perform in the community center and people sit on uncomfortable folding chairs around big round tables (on opening night you get free champagne and cheesecake; other nights you can buy cheesecake)

What I love about Winters is that they are amateurs and they know it.  The definition of "amateur" is someone doing something for the love of it, and these guys love what they are doing.  They don't pretend to be or act like they are better than they are.  They just do what they can, but love what they are doing. Walt and I rarely leave a Winters production without smiling about how much fun it was and how much everyone loved what they are doing.

This week we had what may have been the most fun we've had at a theatrical production this year, and it was at Winters, where set changes seem to last forever and the pace of things is slower than it should be, but the overall result was just so much fun you almost didn't mind.

This show was The Wizard of Oz and it had a cast of thousands (well, about 35), including Tibby, who played Toto, and who was incredibly cute, especially when any of her "real" family came on stage (like the Cowardly Lion or Glinda) when her tail would wag much faster.

I was covering this show for two different newspapers (both of which will get the same review).  Debra DeAngelo, on the right, is the editor of the Winters Express, and since she was also playing Auntie Em, she couldn't very well review the show.

The last time she did a show it was Calendar Girls and I reviewed that one for her as well.

In the Munchkin number, I lost count of how many little kids were on stage, but one of them had a real baby in a front pack and a toddler by the hand.  The toddler wasn't into show biz and kept struggling to break free, finally doing so and first running off stage by a side ramp and then trying to run off stage and into the audience. Since the girl who was supposed to be his Munchkin mom was packing a baby, she couldn't chase him, so someone else managed to catch him before he plunged off the stage.

Toto didn't stay on script and barked when she should not have and didn't bark when she should (but Dorothy hid her face in Toto's head and barked for her)

Putting some of the familiar actors in the Oz costumes changed their personality and several gave better performances than I've ever seen, particularly the wicked witch who chewed the scenery just wonderfully.

And then there was Sunday's British Panto, Robin Hood in the Forest of Frogwarts, a zany 2-hour romp that is perfect for little kids.

There was lots of audience interaction, a chance for many kids to come on stage, and a finale that had everyone in the audience throwing plastic balls at the stage.  It was a little too much for me, but the kids in the audience loved it.  For the older people, they even had banners hanging over the houses of Hotwarts:  Pachyndwarf, Canary foot, Rasta Puff, and Chirpiz.

All too silly for me; I much preferred The Wizard of Oz.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Stealing

Welcome back to Sunday Stealing which originated on WTIT: The Blog authored by Bud Weiser. Here we will steal all types of questions from every corner of the blogosphere. Our promise to you is that we will work hard to find the most interesting and intelligent questions. You may have heard the expression, “honor among thieves”. In that age-old tradition, we try to credit the blog that we stole it from, if possible. We also provide a link to the victim's questions in our "Previous Victims" widget. (It's our way of saying "Thanks!") Sometimes we edit the original meme, to make it more relevant to our global players, to challenge our players, to select the best questions, or simply to make it less repetitive from recently asked questions from a previously post. Cheers to all of us thieves!

 With Thanksgiving coming up this week, I thought it might be fun to find a set of Thanksgiving-related questions.  This came from a site called Documented Legacy

1.  What made you feel patriotic this year?
The women's march the day after the inauguration and seeing the crowd that easily outnumbered his.

2 . What do you value most about your life?
My relationship with our kids and how close our family is -- no arguments when we get together!

3.  What do you appreciate about your friendships?
There is something wonderful about a long-term friendship that has lasted 50 years or more.  You know each other's lives, their family and you can go months without seeing each other, but then step back as if you just saw each other yesterday.

4.  Name one person who can make you laugh, even months later. Why?
The grandkids.  Kids can always bring a smile to your face even months later.

5.  What is the funniest thing you remember about a Thanksgiving past?
Watching Walt's mother playing charades, when she was alive.  Never ever being able to give a clue silently! (We always liked giving her the hardest clues for that reason!)

6.  Do you have any unusual traditions, rituals or habits around Thanksgiving?
These days, no.  In the days when we went to Lake Tahoe every Thanksgiving, we loved playing games and especially charades after dinner.  Also, Tom's annual baked Alaska.  I miss those days.

7.  Name one ancestor that you think about on Thanksgiving and tell us why.
My godfather, Fred West, who brought a 2 lb box of See's candy each year at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  We looked forward to that.

8.  Is there a family heirloom at the Thanksgiving table? What is its story?
Not any more, but in the Tahoe days we had this ragged old paper turkey that we bought for the first Thanksgiving there, and we brought out every year, as it got more and more ragged and required more and more Scotch tape to hold it together.

9.  What is your favorite part about Thanksgiving Day?
Getting up in the middle of the night and sneaking leftover stuffing or pumpkin pie!

10. What random act of kindness did you perform or that was done to you this year that makes you feel grateful?
I suppose this could come under a random act of kindness.  We hosted a young vet student from Guernsey while she was taking a course at the university.  Her mother had stayed for 3 weeks with us when she was her daughter's age.  We were younger and had more stamina then, but I think Caroline had a good time here.

11. What do you appreciate about the change of seasons?
I am always a much happier person when the summer temps are finally gone.  And I love the fall color, even though we don't get a lot of it here.

12. Name five things that make you happy about today.
* A good visit with my mother (the Klonopin must be working!)
* #45 decided to reverse the decision lift the ban on killing big game animals in Africa, until he has a chance to "study it."  Signing those petitions HELPED!!!
* Fun production of The Wizard of Oz at the Winters Community Theater
* Free champagne and cheesecake before the show
* Nothing on the calendar for the rest of the day

13. How has the celebration of Thanksgiving today changed from when you were little?
For all the years of my childhood, we had dinner at our house, and the family all came there. 

(my sister took the picture)
After Jeri was born, the dinner moved to Walt's and my house and I enjoyed being the hostess, then we started going to Tahoe until David died.  

dinner at Tahoe, 1990

Now we have lost all tradition.  With the family spread out, there is no logical place to get us all together and the older my mother gets, the more I feel the need to celebrate what might be her last holiday, so I have dinner with her, and others either come or not, but she's not comfortable in crowds.

Thanksgiving 2016

14. If you could share Thanksgiving dinner today with one person in history who would it be? Why? (Note: it can be a relative)
Wampanoag chief Massasoit. He was at the very first Thanksgiving and I'd like to hear how that compares with today.

15. What is one wish you have for the next generation as they begin to establish their own Thanksgiving traditions.
I think our kids have good memories of Thanksgivings past.  I hope they are now establishing their own traditions, especially Tom and Laurel so that when the grandchildren grow up they will have fond memories of their Thanksgivings.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Saturday 9

Welcome to Saturday: 9. What we've committed to our readers is that we will post 9 questions every Saturday. Sometimes the post will have a theme, and at other times the questions will be totally unrelated. Those weeks we do "random questions," so-to-speak. We encourage you to visit other participants posts and leave a comment. Because we don't have any rules, it is your choice. We hate rules. We love memes, however, and here is today's meme!
Saturday 9: Son of a Preacher Man (1968)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.
1) This song was originally offered to Aretha Franklin, who turned it down. What's the most recent thing that you said "no" to? We were invited to join Ned's in-laws for Thanksgiving dinner. Because it would be too confusing for my mother and because she's 98 so I never know when her "last" holiday is going to be, I said that I would be cooking dinner for my mother instead, so we would not be able to come.
2) Two years later, Aretha recorded "Son of a Preacher Man." What's something you changed your mind about When I graduated from high school, my plan was to become a nun.  I had my trunk packed and my plane ticket in hand to fly to St. Louis, where the motherhouse was. The nuns weren't sure I was ready, so encouraged me to wait six months and then decide.  After six months I decided I didn't really want to do that after all.  I often wonder what I would be doing now if I had gone ahead with my original plans.

3) This song tells the tale of Billy Ray, a young man who could be very persuasive. If we wanted to change your mind about something, would you be more easily swayed by an emotional argument, or with verifiable facts? Definitely an emotional argument.  My mind's made up---don't confuse me with facts!
4) If you ordered a "Son of a Preacher Man" in a bar, you'd get a cocktail made with peppermint schnapps, gin and lemonade. When did you last have lemonade? Was it just lemonade, or was it spiked with alcohol? Whew.  I don't remember.  But whenever it was, it was just plain lemonade without alcohol.

5) Dusty had a thing for maps. She admired them artistically and enjoyed using them to take long car trips. Do you use printed maps? Or do you rely on technology, like GPS or Google Maps?

I used to be very good at reading maps.  Now I'm hopeless.  I use our GPS to get me somewhere I have never been before.

6) As a girl, she attended convent school. There, one of the nuns discouraged Dusty from performing, telling her that if she would do better to be a mother or a librarian. When you were growing up, did the adults in your world encourage your dreams?
Well, I didn't really have dreams but my father decided my life course (which included becoming a teacher, which I knew I did not want to be).  I just wanted to be a secretary, which I eventually became--and loved it.
7) That nun inspired Dusty's first major act of rebellion. In an attempt to make herself look less like a future librarian or housewife, she bleached her hair platinum blonde. In school, were you much of a rebel? Or did you conform to the expectations adults had of you?
Oh lord, I was so NOT a rebel!!!  I think that's the 11th commandment of Catholic girls' schools -- thou shall not become a rebel!

8) Early in her career, Dusty provided the entertainment at a family summer camp. She appeared on the bill with a clown, a fire-eater and a hypnotist. Have you ever been hypnotized?

No.  I've often wondered if I would be susceptible, but the fear of losing control would keep me from volunteering, if I ever had the opportunity.

9) Random question: Have you ever played matchmaker to your friends? If yes, did your efforts lead to romance?

Just once.  They are married now and their children are adults.  It wasn't so much "matchmaker" as "facilitator," as they had broken up and had not seen each other for a few years.  I made it possible for them to see each other again and the rest is history.

Friday, November 17, 2017


If you've read this journal for any length of time, you know how this makes me feel.....

This is sickening -- Trump’s just given the greenlight for bloodthirsty American hunters to murder elephants  in Africa and bring their heads home as trophies.

Trump’s own son shot and mutilated an elephant -- and now he’s changed the law so anyone can join the slaughter and bring home elephant body parts as souvenirs, even as ivory poaching threatens to wipe them out.

Let’s build a massive global outcry to shame the US into dropping this disgusting plan, and when its huge, Avaaz will work with key African countries to deliver it at a major wildlife protection meeting days away.

Sign the petition to President Trump, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and conservation authorities around the world:
"Elephants are facing extinction and this is no time to strip them of protection. Trophy hunting drives the slaughter of elephants, increases demand for their body parts, and projects a double standard that makes it harder to tackle ivory poaching. We call on you to do all you can to reverse the US decision to allow the import of elephant trophies, before it is too late."

Many efforts have been made to outlaw hunting elephants for their tusks, but poaching still occurs on a regular basis. It is thought that from 1930-1940 there were 3 to 5 million African elephants roaming the continent. Now in Western Africa elephant populations are counted in the tens or hundreds.  Conservation Int'l estimates that an elephant is killed every 15 minutes....and this is with the international ban in place.

It was a gigantic win when China was convinced to ban ivory.  What will happen now?  Will China decide to follow suit and allow ivory importing again?

Having read many accounts of people who have spent years with elephants and recorded their families in action, this lifting of the ban hurts me personally.  I hate what happens to elephants.  I cheered when the circuses decided to retire their elephants.

We went to the Chicago zoo once and there was one lone elephant (the other two had died) standing in this small cement yard just staring out.  I apologized to her.  She died a couple of years later.
There are two elephants at the Santa Barbara zoo.  A favorite of the kids who visit, but I hate to see them.  Elephants belong in families.  And free.

I've been following stories on the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, the world's most successful elephant rescue and rehabilitation program.  It's wonderful to follow a baby orphaned when his mother is killed for her tusks, to watch that baby bond with the helpers at the orphanage, to watch them create families with the ther orphans, the grow to teenagers and start learning how to live on their own, to watch them finally graduate and become free...and then return in a year or so with a baby in tow to show him/her off.  Wonderfully rewarding.

But what is tragic are the babies who are too traumatized and never get over seeing the slaughter of their mother...and literally die of a broken heart.

Also watching video of the whole group working together to help a baby in trouble is so terribly moving.  And the death rituals of groups of elephants is downright human.  In fact, when you read the observations of these researchers who study elephant behavior you can't help but come to the conclusion that elephants may be the most "human" of any animals.

And now thanks to our glorious leader, people are going to be able to fly to Africa and kill them again to bring their "elephant trophies" home. 

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, told CNN it means "elephants minding their business are going to be gunned down by rich Americans."

I have been so upset by this lifting of the ban, I have been very teary all day.  Not boo hoo crying, but every little thing on TV moves me to tears.

If we didn't have a sociopath in the White House who seems incapable of feeling empathy for anything, we might have a chance of getting the ban put back in place again, but I have little hope.
My grandchildren know elephants.  My great grandchildren may never know an elephant.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Christmas Miracle

I always go through the tortures or the damned before I do an interview.  I knew today's interview would be easy because I would be with Ned, who knew the information he wanted Tom Fay, the lead singer of the Rhythm Kings, to talk about and is a take charge guy anyway.

The last interview I did I did in the lobby of Atria because it's the most quiet place around, so I chose that for our interview today.  

Ned with Tom and Ned's friend KC

The point of the interview was to get information to publicize a fund-raiser Tom and Ned are working on, to raise money for a Sacramento animal organization.  Tom has been doing an annual fund raiser for about 7 years, now.  Each year it's a different organization and with the glut of animals needing care this year because of the fires in No. California, this seemed the ideal charity for 2017.

Tom wrote the Santa Rhumba, which I embedded yesterday.  I heard  that he wrote it in his sleep, got up one morning with it all in his head, wrote it down and recorded it.  So my main interest was in finding out how he dream-wrote it (especially since I dream-wrote my pig entry the other day!)
Tom had lots and lots to say about lots and lots of musicians I'd never heard of (not being into the local rock scene) and I hoped he wouldn't be disappointed when I only was able to write a one-paragraph thing about the concert.

However, as he talked, I realized that what I had here was a real human interest story and I hoped that my editor would let me handle it like that (after I wrote to her, she agreed with me)

It starts with the Santa Rhumba and the CD that came out of it, a compilation of music by a bunch of local bands that was a fund-raiser for AIDS.  Lawsuit was part of that CD and recorded their "Grassy Knoel."  Tom and Ned didn't really know each other, though both of their bands played at the CD release concert.

Anyway, the song took on a life of its own and everyone loved it.  Ned was still at the radio station at the time and made sure it got played (along with "Grassy Knoel") during the Christmas season.  Since 1994 it has been played on college radio stations, NPR affiliates, and local radio stations, as well as being available on iTunes. 

Six weeks before Christmas in 2014, Tom had a stroke.  A bad stroke.  He nearly died.  And he left the hospital with a feeding tube because he could not swallow and a walker.  The doctors figured this was as good as he would ever get.  That year was the bleakest Christmas he had ever known but he was watching TV and the host of the show said he had just heard this really cool song by the Rhythm Kings and it was #12 on the Sirius Radio top 100 countdown of alternative Christmas hits.

Tom contacted the host and said "that's my band."  The guy was very excited and said "you have to get better and perform that song on our show next year!"  So Tom began to fight.

His wife Cottie (who was the bartender at a club where Tom had performed) is absolutely adorable and is obviously the reason why Tom is alive today.  They discovered that the fluid he was being fed was mostly sugar and salt and researched to find an organic liquid called Liquid Hope and slowly he began to get better.

In May of 2015 he was able to swallow again and he worked so he was able to throw away his walker and sure enough in December of 2015, he performed "The Santa Rhumba" on "Good Day."   He contacted Ned's friend KC about playing with him and KC brought Ned, who sang backup and became kind of Tom's helper.  Now Ned and Tom are working together to put on this year's charity event.

Tom still has post-stroke symptoms, but he has progressed further than anybody ever thought he could...and it's all because of "The Santa Rhumba."

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Pick a Pear

I love the Food Network.  Saturday is my day to indulge in a marathon of shows like the Pioneer Woman, Tricia Yearwood, the Barefoot Contessa, and The Kitchen (I miss Farmhouse Rules since they changed the schedule--it took me awhile to get used to Nancy Fuller's delivery, but I grew to look forward to her homespun cooking).  I didn't really like The Kitchen much, with four chefs making various things, while an audience applauds each new ingredient, or any recipe taken out of the oven (dumb!)  But lately I've learned a lot from offhand comments the chefs toss out from now and then.

Geoffrey Zakarian has changed my life.  Well, slightly.

I have loved pears all of my life but for the past many years, I never buy them because I'm usually disappointed.  They are either overripe and mushy or under ripe and too firm to have a good flavor.  When I really need a pear fix, I buy canned, but of course  that's nothing like the real thing.

However, awhile back. Zakarian made a comment that to check the ripeness of a pear, you don't feel the body of it, like you do an avocado, you check the flesh at the top, around the stem.  If that is soft, the pear is ripe (if the body is soft, the fruit is overripe and mushy).

Well, hello new world!  I have had an orgy of pears this season, no longer uncomfortable wondering whether or not a pear is ripe.  I haven't had a bad one yet.  Walt now buys several pears at the farmer's market each Saturday and I encourage him because I know that I will really enjoy them....and I do.
There is something so...sophisticated...about sitting down to a lunch of crackers, a wedge of brie and a delicious, perfectly ripe pear.

I have fleetingly thoughts of using my newfound pear knowledge to make something more fancy with the pears, but I like just plain pears too much to taint them with wine or something else.

Thanks to The Food Network, after 74 years I finally know how to cook a steak and have it turn out the way I want it to, without nervous guesswork, and I have even cooked pork chops that are not overcooked and dry. Chicken is no longer guesswork and Walt hasn't had to return a piece of chicken to the microwave to zap it in a long time.

It seems like such a simple thing, but I'm proud of myself.  You'd think that at my age, those things would come second hand to me, but they have not.  I'm better at the fancy stuff than the basics.

Tomorrow I am meeting with Ned and his friends Tom and Cottie Fay.  Tom Fay is the guy who wrote the Sacramento favorite "The Santa Rhumba," featured on a fund-raising Christmas CD recorded in 1994 that included Lawsuit's "The Grassy Knoel," certainly two of our must-hear pieces of Christmas music, along with Bing Crosby's "Jingle Bells"

Ned just created a new video of the Santa Rhumba (look for Ned in the silver suit)

Fay apparently hosts a fund-raiser for some Sacramento charity each Christmas season and this year, the recipient of the funds raised will be a local animal shelter.    Ned is not only helping to produce the show, but will also play in one of the bands, Preoccupied Pipers (which consists of some of the old members of Lawsuit).

Since he has a mom who works for 2 newspapers, he's hoping I can help get them some publicity, so I am meeting with them tomorrow  to interview both Ned and Tom and then write an article for both papers.  I don't have the OK from either paper, but I'm hoping I can write the article well enough that they will print it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

When Pigs Fly

In getting ready to choose a postcard to send to a SwapBot partner, I looked over her profile and saw that she had a link to her Pinterest board.  I hadn't been on Pinterest in forever and it was fun looking through the things that interested her.  I particularly liked her board called "I like pigs."  Who knew there were so many pig-themed products!

Pinterest is a great time suck, perhaps one reason I don't visit more often, but when I do get lured in, like today, I get deeper and deeper. 

Now I have to admit that this entire entry was "sleep written."  It was very weird.  It seemed that as soon as my head hit the pillow, I began writing it in my head and I don't know how much of the time I was awake and how much of the time I was asleep, but it seemed like I was writing this the entire night.  I was amazed at how the entry wrote itself and how all I needed to do was come to the computer and type it up.

So I did.  I came to the computer at 5 a.m. and do you think I could remember ONE thing I sleep wrote?  No.  Past the pig products, I haven't a clue where I was going through the entry I was so proud of having written in my sleep.  There was something about the Pinterest boards of the Today Show hosts--but I don't have a clue why that was in there.  It just seemed logical and I knew all I had to do was look them up on Pinterest for...whatever reason...?  But of course if they are on Pinterest, they are not easily searchable.

So.  Pigs.  What can I say about pigs?  I don't have a lot of experience past a trip to the Alaska state fair where we watched a mother give birth in the middle of the night (one of Char's daughters was one of the people who worked in the animal barn, so she alerted us to the impending birth).  We actually got there just after the last piglet was born, but we stood around oohing and aahing over mama and her babies.

I also spent time standing in awe watching the Duroc pig, the largest pig I had ever seen.

Char told me later that the pig was a house pet and apparently some time after the fair, the owner's wife had given him a "the pig or me" ultimatum, so now the owner lived alone with his pig.

But I still don't know where my sleep-written entry was going with the story of the fair and as far as I can remember, I have no additional memory of interaction with pigs.  Except, of course, remembering the famous scene of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz...

I think I learned then how dangerous pigs really are.

So there you have it.  My sleep written entry in all its piggy glory.  Next time I'll try writing an entry when I'm awake.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Melody, Olivia and Roz

I sent a letter to my friend Fred more than a week ago, so if someone was going to answer it and explain where he is now, they would have done so, so I assume that after more than 50 years, Fred has joined the people who have disappeared from my life without a word of explanation.

It got me thinking of other people who have disappeared.  One, my friend Melody, obviously wants nothing more to do with me.  I know why and so I don't try to contact her.  We never had a falling out but there is a huge elephant in our room that we never discuss that finally killed the friendship.  But I miss her a lot.

My friend Olivia disappeared shortly before she was due to have major surgery.  I have no idea if the surgery was a success or not and have not heard from her since, nor from her sister, whom I contacted after I had not heard from Olivia in more than a year.  I know that her recovery time was going to be long and there was a chance she would be incapacitated indefinitely.  I assume she is stlll alive, since I can't find an obituary for her, but I don't have a clue where she is any more.

Another friend who has disappeared is Roz Morrow, whom I met through The Experiment in International Living.  Roz, her husband Stan and I had many adventures at various Experiment events throughout the country, when we were representatives for our respective states, and when either Walt and I or I alone flew to Annapolis to visit them. 

The last time I saw Stan, he took me to a polyglot dinner.  Stan spoke I think five languages.  I could limp along in French and Portuguese at that time and it was quite a challenge.  I obviously was not on a level with the others, but was pleased that I did as well as I did

The last time I saw her was in 2004, shortly after Stan died.  During my time with her at that time, I tried (perhaps vainly) to help her figure out the internet, how to send e-mail, etc.  I did receive an e-mail or two from her, but nothing in a long time.

I have tried to find her several times, including once writing to one of her children, but never got a response  But today I found her obituary.  She died in 2013 of congestive heart failure.  It seems ironic, since the Roz I knew was a big woman who was always (unsuccessfully) on a diet and tried every diet program around until she finally found TOPS, which I suspected at the time was more a social thing than an actual weight thing.

But according to her obituary, she finally hit her goal weight in 2011 and was crowned the TOPS Maryland State Queen for that year, so to die of a disease that is associated with weight two years later just seems unfair.

In addition to having the Experiment in International Living and weight struggles in common, both Roz and Stan were theater people.  Walt and I flew across the country once or twice to see him in performance.  He and a friend of his did The Sunshine Boys around the Annapolis area for literally years.  I never got to see that production, but did see two other productions.

I still remember the day I met her. It was at an Experiment meeting in San Francisco.  I had been listening to a lot of complaints that people had with exchange students from Brasil and since many of our own students had come from Brasil and I had a soft spot in my heart for Brasilians, I remember saying, somewhat loudly, as we crossed the lobby of the hotel, "doesn't anybody like Brasilians?"

I heard this voice from across the lobby saying "What do you mean?  I LOVE Brasilians."

Roz, too, had many Brasilian exchange students and felt about the country the way I did.  The two of us locked arms, went to lunch together away from the Brasil-haters and a strong friendship was born.

We stayed in contact and the next time we met was in Vermont, the headquarters for The Experiment in International Living.  Stan came with her this time.  I knew he had played Sancho Panza in a production of Man of La Mancha and when I was sitting in the cafeteria and saw this short, rotund, bald-headed man coming through the door, I knew instantly that it was Stan.  And it was.

I don't know if we met at other Experiment events, but a personal friendship had formed.  They came here to California and we enjoyed giving them the Grand Tour.

I am sad to know that Roz is gone.  She was a force of nature, a big ball of love and hugs and served a big stack of bagels every morning for breakfast.

I think I'll have a bagel tomorrow morning in her memory.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Sunday Stealing

This is from a blog called Haley from Home.  Haley is a mom in the UK.  She's a mom to 3 boys and is on a quest for a simple life.

What are five things you would like to do more.
- Read
- Lunch with friends
- Spend time with my grandkids
- Have longer visits with my children
- Go to movies

What is your quote to live by
You can only make a difference if you care (lyric from "When You Care" a song in The Last Session)

What was the best thing that happened this week?
Walt and I took a fun trip up to Apple Hill, to visit all the apple farms there, eat apple stuff, take pictures and enjoy the beautiful day.  It's the kind of thing we almost never do.  We had such a good time!  Also Jon Stewart made a guest appearance on Colbert.

What is something you are stressed about?
I am always stressed about my mother's condition, especially her fainting spells and her anxiety attacks.  We are starting her on anxiety meds this week and I hope it helps.

What book has influenced your life?
I don't know that there is any one book.  At different times in my life I have found various books helpful.  I am currently reading a lot about dementia and Alzheimers.  The book that had the biggest effect on me was a little book called "How to Survive the Loss of a Love," which a casual friend gave me after my friend Gilbert died in 1986.  It helped me get through my first serious period of grief.

Share a childhood memory
Spending time in the basement of the local grocery store, where there was a cat with a litter of kittens.  I loved spending time there playing with them.  The apartment building next door had a basement and I was terrified to go there because I was told a "boogie man" lived there.

What fictional character would you most like to be?
At the moment, Claire Frasier, the heroine of the Outlander books. 

What is something you are proud of?
Having raised a litter of children who are now adults and are all nice people whom I consider my friends.

What was the last thing you celebrated?
We took Ned out to dinner for his birthday in August.

What are weird things you like?
Well, weirdness is in the eye of the beholder.  Some folks think Gilbert & Sullivan is weird, but I love it.  Also have heard people who say they would never eat an artichoke because it's so weird, but it's one of my favorite vegetables. 

What is your favorite song to sing?
Lately I am trying to learn Hamilton so I'm listening to the CD in the car all the time.  I love "The Room Where It Happened."

Name three things you do well.
- Procrastinate
- Cook
- Write

What are your priorities in life?
My mother's welfare
-  That pretty much overshadows any other priorities.

What is something that scares you?
The idea of ending up like my mother or having an accident or stroke that would incapacitate me and make me dependent on someone else for everything

Best book you read this year?
Hard to pick just one.  I loved most of the crime books I read this year, got engrossed in Katie Tur's "Unbelievaable" (about the Trump campaign), loved "Silent Footsteps" (about a woman's years observing elephants).  I just finished "Wonder," getting it finished before the movie comes ot next week.  It was an easy, fun read.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saturday 9

Welcome to Saturday 9. What we've committed to our readers is that we will post 9 questions every Saturday. Sometimes the post will have a theme, and at other times the questions will be totally unrelated. Those weeks we do "random questions," so-to-speak. We encourage you to visit other participants posts and leave a comment. Because we don't have any rules, it is your choice. We hate rules. We love memes, however, and here is today's meme! 
Saturday 9: Get Down Tonight (1975)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here. 1) Tonight, KC has three things on his "to-do" list: do a little dance, make a little love and get down. Tell us three things you'd like to accomplish this weekend.
1 - finish my review of Gibraltar
2 - go to the play Moving Day and get that review written
3 - visit my mother

2) This week's song is considered emblematic of disco, a genre that had as many detractors as fans. Is there a kind of music you simply cannot stand?

I have never been a big fan of rock and especially heavy metal.  Anything that is that loud and that confusing just doesn't appeal to me.  Most other music is OK with me, in varying degrees.  Even hip hop, which I am learning to enjoy from listening to endless replays of Hamilton.

3) Before becoming a musician, KC, aka Harry Casey, worked in a record store. In those days, record stores were very popular. Peaches, Coconuts, Sam Goody and Tower Records are four store chains that once dotted the landscape but now are gone. Today, if you wanted to purchase a CD, where would you turn?
I don't buy CDs any more, but the last ones I bought were from Amazon, except for those we bought from The Lamplighters.  Now I just download one or two numbers from the internet.  Other than my computer (which has crappy speakers) and the car, I don't have an easily accessible CD player anyway

4) One of his duties at the record store was unloading the big corrugated shippers filled with LPs. What's the heaviest thing you've lifted lately?

My back doesn't like to lift heavy stuff, but I do occasionally bring in the 5 gallon water bottle after it's been delivered.  Usually, though, Walt has taken over that job.

5) KC is proud that he's lived his entire life in Miami-Dade County. Do you expect to change your address in the next year or so?
We have lived here 43+ years, 

6) In 1975, the year this song was popular, former Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa disappeared, never to be seen again. Many theories flourish about what may have happened to him. Is there a famous criminal case that has a hold on your attention?

I remember Jimmy Hoffa (our youngest child was 3 at the time).  I can't think of any other criminal case that "holds my attention" except for maybe the Charles Manson murders...and then only because it was a tragedy for a friend of ours, so whenever something about Manson comes up, I think of that.

7) Jaws was the most popular movie of 1975. Are you afraid of sharks?

Not when they are out at sea and I am on the shore, or when they are in an aquarium.  Do I want to go and swim with the sharks?  No!  But shark documentaries are fascinating.

8) Actress Angelina Jolie was born in 1975. People magazine once named her "most beautiful." Who is the most beautiful woman you can think of?

For physical beauty, Angelina is a good choice.  Caitriona Balfe from Outlander is also a beautiful woman. There are other beautiful persons that may not occur to people, like Dame Judy Dench.  Most of the current female celebrities look so much alike that it's hard for me to tell them apart.

9) Random question: A wizard offers you a choice -- would you like your life to stay as it is right now (in terms of your health, your career, your relationships and your finances) for the next 5 years, or would you like to take a chance that the future will be brighter?

I'm too old to change.  And my life right now is just fine.  Hard to think how my life could be brighter.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Window Seat

We went to a play at the university last night.  It was called Gibraltar and is a study of a new widow adjusting to the death of her husband, and learning about grief (a real "upper" of a show!)

The set was designed by John Iacovelli, an Emmy award winning artist who teaches MFA design at UC Davis.  John was my very first interview when I started writing for the Davis Enterprise and my memory of him was that his hair was much wilder and I found him scary (mostly, I suspect, because it was my very first interview). 

He has designed everything -- more than 200 stage productions and often when you look at credits for movies or TV shows, John is the designer.  He's won all sorts of awards in addition to the Emmy (for his production of A&E's Peter Pan).

I particularly liked the design for this show because it is set in an apartment in San Francisco and it took me a little bit to realize that the apartment had a window seat. Maybe it was because the stage of the little Wyatt Theater is so oddly shaped that a window seat is the most logical thing.

But as a native San Franciscan, I appreciated that little touch, because one of my favorite things about San Francisco is that it seems to be the showplace of bay windows.  Drive around the City and everywhere you look, houses have bay windows, many with window seats.  In fact, it's only lately that I am noticing buildings built with flat fronts.  

When we were growing up, we didn't live in a fancy Victorian like these famous ones, but our house had a bay window with a window seat. 

(When we lived there, there were no trees on the street and no garage under the window seat.)  It seems that every house existing in the city when I was growing up in the 50s had a bay window somewhere in the house.

Our window seat was in the living room and looks most closely like this:

Though it was about twice as wide as this one and it was probably higher than this one is.

When we got our TV set, a giant Muntz TV, the logical place to put it was in the center of the window seat, which made it a great place to sit with your back against the TV and read or watch the world outside.  Our street was one of the steepest in the city, so it was a "show" to watch tourists try to drive up to the next street.  There was a stop sign at the top of the hill, so you had to be balanced on this steep street and then try to start up again without sliding back down--and when I was growing up, automatic transmissions were not commonplace.  In fact, in one of his very early bits, Bill Cosby had a whole thing about trying to drive in San Francisco and encountering a street like ours.

We watched many people get to the top of the hill and then slowly back down again to find a better way to get to Union Street.  Especially in the rain!

I loved to sit on the window seat in December and watch for the mailman.  Our house was the third house on his route and he took the bus from Rincon Annex and got off at our street early in the morning.  It was best on days when he delivered mail more  than once a day (can you believe they used to do that?)

When I think of our little flat in San Francisco, my two strongest memories are the floor heater, which I loved to stand over when it was cold, the warm air blowing up my skirt.  I could stay there for hours too.  And the window seat.  I still have fond memories of the window seat and wonder that now that the place is all yuppified what it looks like today.

So I'm going to give John Iacovelli a good review for his set design 'cause it made me feel all warm inside, even if I had difficulty understanding the play.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Daddy's Home!

I don't need to wonder who is making Polly bark.  It's not some bad guy loitering in the's Walt, who gets a whole different bark from Polly than, say, the mailman.

Over the years, Walt, who at first was tolerant of my desire to foster SPCA dogs, has been totally won over to a dog fancier.  He plans his trips to Peets for coffee, for example, for Saturday so that he can stop by Petco and see the new puppies.  We don't foster any more, but the puppies are still endearing and though I rarely join him to go see the puppies, it's one of his favorite things to do.

When we took Polly in, neither of us liked her much.  We tolerated her because she was such a needy dog.  Even now, many years later I still wonder what happened to this little dog in the first year and a half of her life to make her so terribly skittish.  She has improved.  Some.  In the ~10 years she has been with us.

In her first year or so, she lived to be in my lap.  And when she was in my lap, she buried her nose in my armpit and would live the rest of her life there very happily.  When Walt bent over to pet her, she cowered with her tail half hidden under her, but with the tip of it wagging a bit.

Over the years, she started lying in my lap in the other direction, where she could look out on the world and when Walt came to pet her, she mostly stopped cowering.

I'm not sure when it was that Walt became her favorite person...or why.  If he is in his chair, she is in his lap.  If he's not here, she is in the dog bed.  Rarely does she leap into my lap any more, which is fine with me.  I think it's cute that she and Walt have bonded so well.

In addition to having chosen Walt as her person, she has become more insistent that we follow her rules of behavior.

If Walt comes into a room and does not pet her, she barks until he does.

If he starts to go upstairs and is obviously leaving the family room she barks until he pets her on the head before he leaves.

He gives her a treat at night when he is locking the dog in for the night.  It used to be she would go outside and bark at the back fence and Walt would call her in and give her a treat.  Then she realized that she was getting a treat for barking and coming in, so she stopped barking at ghosts in the night on the far side of the yard and just stood on the patio giving a yip-yip bark that nobody could hear but us.  As soon as she heard Walt stand up, she would run in and bark her "OK--I came in; give me a treat now" bark.

Lately she's stopped bothering to go outside at all.  She just decides at some point, around 10 p.m., that it's time for her treat and she barks and barks and barks until he gives it to her, then she jumps into the chair with him and goes to sleep until he goes upstairs to bed.

(I wonder what Cesar Milan would say of her complete domination of the humans around here!)

She hasn't forgotten me, of course.  I'm the breakfast and dinner person.  I try very hard not to stand up until she is unaware of me, but usually she watches me like hawk and if I show any sign whatever that I am about to go to the kitchen, it's nonstop barking until I get to the kitchen.  Once I feed the dogs, she doesn't care about me until it's meal time again.

Both dogs are having a difficult time adjusting to the time change.  Where they used to start bugging me around 4 for dinner (I don't feed them until 6), now they start bugging me at 3.  Fortunately, Polly seems to understand what I say to her because I'll give her butt a skritch and say "Not now.  It's too early.  Come back in an hour."  And by golly she goes away and comes back in an hour.  Almost exactly 60 minutes.

Yes, life with Polly is ... interesting.  And I never, ever was the kind of person who ever referred to Walt by any name at all, other than "him."  But Polly has bonded to him so strongly that I find myself telling her that "Daddy will be here soon."

Then I blush with shame.  :)

The Unkindest Cut

I found it!!!

This morning we were meeting the Cutco rep to have her sharpen my knives (a free lifetime service from Cutco) and when I went to assemble my knives, my big knife, the one I use every. single. day for about the last nearly 30 years was missing.  Neither Walt nor I could find it anywhere.  I knew I had used it the previous night to cut potatoes, but it was not there.  Not on the counter, not in the dishwasher, not even in the garbage, which I rooted through outside at 1 a.m. when all other avenues proved fruitless.

I went to sleep trying to think where else to look, I woke up trying to search every place I'd already searched before, but still no knife.  But then I found it.  

My cutting board was slightly opened just the width of the overhanging counter and the knife was lying between the counter and the cutting board, pretty much invisible unless you go to pull out the cutting board!  But there it was just in the nick of time.,

So the lovely Erin arrived on time, got a cup of coffee and began sharpening our knives.  What a delightful person.  She even sharpened my big chopping knife that isn't Cutco.

We talked about theater.  She's only been to one play (Phantom of the Opera) and she wanted to know if I'm a "famous critic," which made me laugh.  I guess I'm famous in Davis, where I have been the only critic for 17 years and anybody who likes to read about theater has been reading my reviews.  But that's hardly what I call "famous."  Compared to my 3 cohorts for the Sacramento paper, I can't hold a candle to them.

I asked her about sharpening my Cutco scissors, which she does not have the equipment to do, but said she would show me how to send it to Cutco so they could sharpen for me.
I gave her my scissors (the ones on the right on the board) and she said that "these are not Cutco."  I told her that yes they were and that I had bought them from Marta, who was selling Cutco.  She checked them and sure enough, there was the tiny "Cutco" logo.  She was shocked.  She had never seen scissors which looked like that, and brought out her scissors, with the black handle.

Later, I contacted Ned and found out that I probably bought them in about 1998, when Marta was selling for Cutco. 

Anyway, Erin was so excited to see such "old" scissors that she took a picture to show all of her other Cutco reps.

She also gave me a sort of wake-up call about what people her age think about "old people."  I don't remember if she told me how old her mother is but she is already thinking ahead to keeping her safe in the future and let me know that on her mother's 75th birthday, she is taking away her car keys!!!  I will be 75 in 3 months.  I didn't tell her that, but I thought that if her mother feels the way I do, Erin is going to have a hard time on that birthday.  Walt didn't let her know he was over 75.  I wonder what I thought about car keys and parents when I was her age....

And speaking of "old people," I took a piece of our big apple pie to my mother in the afternoon.  I was so pleased that I finally had something "exciting" to tell her about.  The first thing she asks me every time I come to visit is "so what have you been doing exciting that you haven't told me about?"
I told her about our trip, showed her the pictures from Apple Hill, tried to be entertaining (she kept asking me what country it was in) and told her I had brought her a piece of the apple pie we had bought.

When I finished and went back to the chair to sit down, she said "so what have you been doing exciting that you haven't told me about?"


She "found" the container with the pie in it several times while I was there and I'm 99% sure she will never eat it, but I feel good about including her in all the "excitement" anyway, even if she didn't have a clue what I was talking about.