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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Undecking the Halls

It's time to get out the storage boxes and return all the Christmas decorations to their cardboard prisons, to be incarcerated until Santa returns again in December of 2013, leaving me with only the memories of this very well-celebrated Christmas.  The newly inflated numbers on my bathroom scale tell me it's high time the partying ended, so I welcome the return to normalcy... and the birth of a new year.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

My Favorite Things

Luther Burbank's Home
The Christmas season is my very favorite time of the entire year, and this year my camera and I got busy in order to record some of the pieces that make up this special period.

It all began early in December with the annual open house at the beautifully decorated Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, one of my most-loved events in  Santa Rosa. Volunteer that I am, I put on comfy shoes and took my place in the Burbank greenhouse to pass cookies and serve hot spice tea to eager visitors from all over Sonoma County.

 I love that there is so much to see and do during this festive season. I attended my first cookie swap this year; I didn't even know these parties existed, though I now understand that they are quite common and enjoyed by many. Where have I been?

I arrived home with 3 dozen tasty cookies and recipes to match. My contribution, pictured at the bottom, was white chocolate coated almond clusters. The recipe also calls for dried cranberries, and the combination of sweet, salty and tart is quite delightful. The only problem was that I ate the recipe's required salted almonds, a particular weakness of mine, the night before I was to put together my yummy clusters, so I had to head out to the market in the morning in order to replace what had disappeared the night before. Oink.

Entertaining and social gatherings in general make this such a fabulous time of year; I love getting together with friends and family.

The red and green dominates and, of course, the Lennox plates jump out of their dark and lonely storage cabinet and join the festivities.

The yard is pretty much at rest during this season, but not the olives and the berries. Oh, no! They are putting on their seasonal show.

The only bad part of this is the ripened olives fall from the tree onto the path leading to the front door, get stepped on and then tracked into the house leaving their messy juices on the floor.


The round and merry berries stay on the bushes until they slowly begin to shrivel and ferment, attracting hoards of greedy robins who proceed to feast and get tipsy.


The food!!! I already mentioned the cookies, but that is just the beginning of the delicious temptations of the season: turkey and stuffing, mince pie, eggnog, candy of all varieties, and maybe a spot of Korbel Brut or sparkling cider since the occasion is so unique.  However, appearing on my table this time of year is a hearty treat: minestrone. I usually make it well before the holiday, when the weather is just starting to get cold and comfort food begs to make its entrance.

I've tinkered with the recipe over the years, and this year I added 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes to the mix. The pleasing result was a minestrone with a bit of a bite, very subtle but unmistakable. It's a keeper!

I've always been one to go overboard in the decorating department, loving all the glitz and glimmer. As the years have elapsed, I've toned it down quite a bit; but it is definitely still one of my favorite Christmas things.

I so enjoy  pulling loved treasures out of storage boxes, saying hello to them after a long separation, anticipating how wonderful they will look all around the house as the fun times ahead are royally celebrated.  Later, disassembling them and putting them all away... well, not quite so much fun.

I start playing holiday music right after Thanksgiving because the couple of weeks before Christmas is just not enough time to enjoy all my favorite carols and songs.

I've got quite a mix of songs I relish, from Elvis to Chanticleer; but my very favorite sound of the season is almost any version of "Angels We Have Heard on High", also my mom's best-loved holiday song. I can remember loving to belt it out when I sang in the church choir. And, hey, I still know my alto part! I sang it with Ella Fitzgerald just yesterday.

"Let There Be Peace on Earth" is a close second. What a shame all of us can't adopt the sentiments found in this lovely treasure and live them the rest of the year. In the words of John Lennon, "Imagine, if you can."

So, these are my "raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens" for this extraordinary time of time of year.

May your holidays be joyous.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

On the Rocks's an annual tradition with me: paperwhites and vodka, surely one of the oddest pairings ever. I love to bring a little zip into these dreary December days, and nothing does it better for me than forcing paperwhites, commonly destined for early spring in the garden, indoors in a rock- bottomed glass vase. The secret ingredient, vodka, stunts the usually drooping greenery allowing the fragrant blossoms to take center stage. Here is the oh-so-simple recipe, courtesy of Cornell University.

Plant your paperwhite bulbs in sand, rocks, or marbles. Water them and let them grow to 1-2 " tall. Pour off the water and replace it with a solution of 80 proof vodka and water - 1 part booze to 7 parts water. Use this solution to nourish the paperwhites as they grow, topping off as needed. Differing from the sober water version of forcing, these semi-soused stems will be about 1/3 shorter and hold up the blooms in a wonderful, showy display of loveliness.

Go for it.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lucky Thirteen

I'll never forget the day I picked her up, a 9 month old pug pup that her original owners no longer wanted because they thought she was too much to handle. That same sweet pug, now a little old lady, turned 13 this week.

I immediately named her Winnie, thinking that her given name of Taz did not suit. These days she spends most of her time napping on the couch or on her cushion. After a series of doggie health problems, our walks have gotten shorter and shorter. Now it seems we are barely out the front door when I will note her tightly kinked tail starting to uncurl, the signal that the walk has ceased to be fun for her.

The arrival of little sis, Cleo, has done much to keep Winnie, a devoted couch potato kind of  dog,  interested and active. They've been best buds for four years, rarely out of each other's sight and always side by side on the bed at night, snoring in harmony.

So, happy birthday, my dear Winnie!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Mississippi Miracle

I've checked in with Jane on her forty-third birthday, and it sounds like she is celebrating it in style: present opening in the morning before the boys need to depart for  school, lunch out with Nate, and shopping in order to spend a gift certificate in the evening. The focus for everyone's birthday is, rightly so, on the birthday person; but on this particular birthday, I always reflect- for at least a little while-on what was going on with me that eventful and joyous day.

I had time to prepare for the birth since labor was induced, so I decked myself out in my cutest maternity there's an oxymoron if there ever was one. As I recall, it was a black and white mini number, hitting my legs a couple of inches above my knees. I must have looked like a blimp on stilts as I sluggishly waddled into the hospital in Meridian, Mississippi. However, I thought I looked pretty spiffy, considering the situation. Two hours later I was flat on my back in hospital garb, throwing up, so what did it matter?

Mission accomplished: a baby girl was born. Standing with an admiring group of strangers peering through the nursery window at all the pink and blue bundles, I was shocked as a large man pointed at my sweet baby and loudly stated, "Hey, y'all! Look at that one with them big jowls!" I was completely unfazed by the rude remark and the laughter that followed because my husband and I knew she was the most beautiful baby we had ever seen.

And she still is.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Some Like It Hot

Theme Thursday ~ Soups

It was a cool autumn day, perfect for piping hot squash soup, as my friends and I met for lunch at Brix in the Napa Valley.  When my bowl of soup, looking like a work of art, was placed in front of me, I thought it was almost too pretty to eat. Almost. It tasted as divine as it looked, and I enjoyed every spoonful.

See what else is happening at Theme Thursday.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Porky Pug

Cleo's Favorite Activity

A recent trip to the vet for an annual check-up and shots revealed the shocking news: Cleo has gained 3 pounds, a hefty weight increase for a pug. I had been thinking that she was taking on a slightly sausage like appearance, and the scale confirmed my suspicion. So, now she is on a diet consisting mostly of portion control with a side helping of increased exercise. The combination of the two should do the trick. Since I am her walker, perhaps  the  longer workout will cause me to lose a couple of pounds as well, a side benefit that greatly appeals.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

On Becoming a Girlfriend, Again

Me, Kathy, and Di

I suppose this is the autumn of my life, but it feels more like spring as I am finding myself returning to my past and rekindling lost friendships with high school chums. Why now? Certainly my 50th high school reunion was a major catalyst for this surprising revolution, but other factors have played a part as well.

1. I find myself with extra time on my hands. Thank you, retirement! I have been busy pursuing long lost hobbies: painting, photography, knitting...and developing new ones, blogging and discovering that I love to write. It's like journaling for me or, perhaps, a mutant form of scrapbooking. My life on a page.

2. The dynamics of my main group of pals has changed and not in a good way. Get-togethers of all 9 of us often turn into contests where everyone is talking and no one, except me it seems, is listening. Perhaps after 20 plus years together, we are not such a good mix. Or maybe I just don't fit in anymore. I like conversation; these Group of Nine gatherings are yelling matches with the same person always winning because she has the loudest, shrillest voice imaginable. It is amusing, though somewhat deafening, to watch the situation unfold in all its self-centeredness. My thought: clearly time to expand my horizons a bit.

So that is exactly what I have done, still keeping tabs on the Group of Nine, in all their dysfunctional glory and recognizing that when I see only three or four of them, rather than the whole group, we have great fun and there is actual conversation, with give and take...question asking, even. What a concept!  
I think it is working for me. I think I am on the right path in my autumn.

Mary Jo, Kathy, Me, and Di

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Birthday Bonanza

Scooter Inspects My Gifts

Yes, another birthday has come and gone. The celebration lasted 2 weeks, and I enjoyed all the food, gifts, and fun company. I am feeling very spoiled and very blessed. Lucky me.
With Bill and Sue at La Gare

The festivities began with  cocktails, followed by a superb dinner and champagne.  A giant piece of carrot cake completed the meal.


A couple of days later, the party was an outing with Jane and the boys.
After a stop at the Jelly Belly Store, we enjoyed a picnic in the park. The weather was perfect: not too hot, not too cold.

With Baird at Sea Thai Bistro

Her surprise visit from Washington was my good fortune...lunch at one of my favorite restaurants and shopping. I redeemed my gift certificate from Bill and Sue at Urban Gardens, a wonderful store full of treasures. I had no problem treating myself to a fun gift, and I even had a little $$$ left over for future spending.

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

At the final birthday gathering, I was feted with more  wonderful  presents, a delicious meal, and this scrumptious dessert.  I am a fan of butter cream frosting, but this cake, with its crusty sides and bottom,  topped that by a wide margin. Big yum!

So another birthday bites the dust and I look forward to the next one, a biggie with a zero in the one's column. Ouch.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Seeing Red

Haiku Friday

Green morphing to red
as Mother Nature's paintbrush
puts on quite a show.


See what else is happening at Haiku Friday.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Go, Bears!

Haiku Friday

Always so hopeful
As football season begins,
Rooting for my Bears.

See what else is happening at Haiku Friday.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Shaping Up is Hard To Do: Final Edition

I quit! For now, that is.  The remodeling projects that I had on my To Do List are completed, and order has been restored once again, leaving chaos behind. It has been a long process...6 months, if you consider that I began with the new wood floor installation in spring.

This final project involved the foyer, hall, and guest bedroom.  The most difficult part of the stage was the bedroom because moving heavy pieces of furniture was a big part of the job. Thankfully, that job was efficiently handled by the painting crew, while I had only to concern myself with the smaller furniture items and the multitude of collectibles of all shapes and sizes, not exactly an easy task.

The primer went on first, paving the way for the soothing pale green paint that I selected for the walls. The end result did not disappoint, though I was a little sad saying farewell to the cheery wallpaper that had decorated the room for so many years.

My favorite part of the whole project came at the very end: the installation of a new light and ceiling fan, looking blissfully happy hanging from the now popcorn-free ceiling.  I am  very glad to finally have smooth ceilings, so fresh and clean looking after thirty years. 

What took me so long?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Shaping Up is Hard To Do, Part 3

Once again, my home will be torn apart as the popcorn removal/painting continues. This time it is the guest bedroom that will be attacked, turning this ugly duckling into a swan. In preparation, I have removed all the bedroom's pictures, nicknacks, small pieces of furniture and lamps from the equation so that the popcorn demolition derby can begin next week. I had planned to keep the wallpaper, old and worn though it is, but changed my mind in order to give the room a totally new look: celery green walls. I think I will love the simplicity of a calming solid color. The wallpaper fetish I once had seems to have vanished. The icing on the cake will be the installation of a beautiful new ceiling fan, white with light oak blades.

Since the foyer and hall will also be de-popcorned and painted next week, I have some picture removal left to do; but that comparatively easy job, which will happen over the weekend, involves no furniture and curio removal. Yay for that.

Progress. It's happening.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Oh, the excitement of the first day of school! Peeking through the shutters, Alex is eagerly waiting for the little yellow bus that will transport him to his ASD class and his first day of second grade. I remember the first year he boarded that bus, only 3 years old and so small his little legs could barely reach that first step. He had to sort of crawl up the steps and into the bus.

And he goes for another year of learning and growth. He is so in my heart today.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

An Alfresco Lunch

One of my favorite summer activities is eating outdoors and enjoying the marvelous summer weather. This was the scene a few days ago: iced tea, good food, entertaining guests...and no wasps. It couldn't have been better.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Shaping Up is Hard To Do, Continued

Whew! I did it...survived the remodel, that is.  I knew I could, I knew I could, I knew I could. But it wasn't easy. However, looking at the final product, I can honestly say that it was completely worth it.

What a mess!
The Lady Pugs and I retreated to the deck to wait until the removal of the popcorn ceiling and take-down of the cement brick room divider, both unattractive features of my home, was over. The next step, the painting, wasn't as noisy but proved to be just as messy.

When all was said and done, I couldn't believe how much brighter and bigger everything looked.

 In fact, I can't stop being amazed by the difference the work has made in the feel of my home. The dark has gone away!

I love the entire job, down to the littlest detail. The can lights, burning so brightly in the kitchen, will make cooking a different experience; and I love that they have a dimmer so that I can have soft lighting in the evening after dinner is over. My favorite detail, however, is my splendid Tiffany lamp over the dining table. Fabulous!

That's all the good news. The bad news is that I still have some of that pesky popcorn left in the foyer, the living room, the hall, and the back bedroom: more work to do. So, the next phase commences on August 20 which gives me a little time to enjoy the work that has been done until I am, once again, engulfed in another remodeling tornado.

I'm getting to be an old hand at this.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Shaping Up is Hard To Do

I'm finally biting the bullet and doing some long over-due, serious remodeling in the family room, dining area and kitchen. Enough is enough. My home needs some updating in a big way. This Tiffany style lamp, hanging low over the table, is biting the dust and will be replaced by a semi flush fixture, also stained glass. Smaller will be nice.

One of the biggest eyesores is this awful pile of bricks in the entry way. I've hated it for the entire time I have lived in this house: 33 years. Bye bye!

But the biggest change by far will be the end of my ugly popcorn ceiling that says 60s, not in a good way. The equally unattractive lamp will be replaced by can lighting, modern and powerful. Suddenly being able to really SEE in my kitchen is going to be a shock to my system.

The icing on the cake will be a brand new paint job, getting rid of the wallpaper border that no longer appeals to me.  I am dreading the mess and upset to my routine and my pets but am looking forward to the change.

 Step one begins today: clearing the area involved, not an easy task for this collector. Then I just need to get through the week. I can do it, I can do it, I can do it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Little Goodbyes

Big goodbyes are those
That rip my heart apart
So bold in their attack
That they cannot be ignored
No matter how hard I try.

But life is also full
Of little goodbyes
That are hardly noticed,
like a door gently closing.
So quiet are they
That I find myself wondering
When did that happen
And why was I too busy to notice?


Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Perfect Picnic

Chris, Excited About Lunch

I suppose the day could have been a little bit warmer, but my picnic in Sonoma Plaza with Jane, John, Chris and Alex was perfect in my book: plenty to eat and lots of fun equipment to play on and enjoy.

Jane With John and Alex
In the Mission's Church
Before lunch, however, we put on our sightseer hats and joined the rest of the tourists to check out the Sonoma mission, San Francisco de Solano. John, having just completed 4th grade which includes the study of California's missions, requested a visit and seemed to enjoy himself. Chris busied himself with picture taking using, as a special treat, his mom's camera.

The price of admission included General Vallejo's home, so we continued playing our traveler roles and toured there, too.

I loved this old fountain gaily spashing water in the back of the old home.

After all of these activities, we headed to Santa Rosa where we visited another park with even more wonderful play equipment and super soft sand, perfect for rolling in and going barefoot. The boys' energy seemed to have no end!

Our final stop was my house, where quieter activities and pizza were on the agenda.

Yes, perfect.