Sunday, December 30, 2007

There Is No Place Like Home

It's about 850 miles from our house to Kerry's family in Burlington, WA. While we are both glad we did not fly, it still is a long way; especially on the way home when all you want is to be home. We both felt like kids at Christmas waiting for Santa to arrive. The photo is of Mt. Shasta in northern California. It's taken from a gas station in Weed. Mt. Shasta and Mt. Lassen are the tail end of the Cascade Mountains.

The good news is a that we did not need the chains that Kerry purchased for his Honda Element. That means he can return them and get his money back. We sort of have this driving thing down pat. The night before we leave we have Chinese take out. The leftovers go with us the next day so we don't have to spend much time (or money) having lunch. This time we heated them in the microwave until they were really hot, wrapped them in a beach towel and then put them in the insulated cooler/warmer.

As usual, the trip to Gary and Susan's (that's where we stayed) included so much food that I may not have to eat for a week. Highlights of the food were:
+ Susan's homemade caramels (they melt in your mouth);
+fresh crab cocktail and clam chowder for Christmas Eve dinner;
+ real fruitcake complete with green cherries (made by a friend; I was the only person who ate);
+ Banana cream pie, chocolate cream pie, apple pie, and cherry pie made by Millie, the family baker (I combined banana cream and chocolate);
+ Gary's special breakfast of pancakes made from scratch, fried eggs (over easy) and bacon;
+ no bowling, but still Mexican food at Esteban's in Anacortes;
+ two pretty decent meals at Applebees (quesadilla burger);
+ homemade peanut brittle; and
+pomegranate martinis (Oprah's recipe) before Christmas dinner.

The other fabulous part of the trip was my visit to three fabric stores. I came back with two large bags full of wonderful fabric for future quilts. One place I went had remnants by the pound. I bought 1.6 pounds at $4 per pound. The highlight of the trip was Fabric Depot in southeastern Portland. I have never seen so much quilting fabric under one roof. The store covers 1.5 acres. If you are so inclined, go to Amazing place!

Last night we stayed in Medford, Oregon at the Windmill Inn. We expected snow over the Siskiyou Pass but woke to sunshine so hurried through showers and breakfast so we could get on the road. We stopped in Williams, CA for pasta at Louis Cairos. This restaurant is a legend along I-5. We had the Louis garlic bread. That's what they are famous for; the bread is smothered with garlic pieces that have been cooked in butter. The many pieces of garlic that fell off the bread were added to my penne pasta in a pesto sauce which I brought home for this evening's dinner. I can hardly wait. Kerry has leftovers too.

So what does tomorrow bring? Certainly a more austere food menu and time on the treadmill. Dorothy was right, there is no place like home.
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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Introducing Guest Blogger Doug And His Wonderful Story

Doug is my friend who travels around in his turtle (aka camper) with his wonderful border collie Kate. He sent me this today. It's the story of how he spent his Christmas in Portland, Oregon.

First I am sending this to you, not to have you think, hey Doug is a good guy, but to share my Christmas day experience with you. This is in the inner city, Portland, Oregon, but it could have been in Louisville, Tampa, San Diego. Away from the suburbs where you and I grew up. The people, I met today, may have known life in the burbs at one time, but not now. Of the men I saw today, many were my age, Vietnam vets. Some could have been in 41's war, a couple could have been in 43's war. In the meeting in the kitchen before dinner was served, Justin, the big fellow in the blue shirt told us. "Don't be surprised if someone cusses at you. Don't take it personally, they may be drunk, on drugs, you don't know, just don't let it get to you, smile and wish everyone a Merry Christmas". Justin asked if anyone would mind if he said a prayer, a short prayer, if that would be OK? We all held hands and he said a prayer for the people we were about to serve their Christmas meal. He asked God to bless the food, to look after these men and women" and at the end, "to watch over the group who had come to help today." Everyone responded "amen."

I arrived around noon and was told there was nothing to do for a couple of hours. I watched and listened, Closed my eyes a couple of time but mostly just observed. I had decided to volunteer on Christmas day but set out to find a location only a few days before the 25th. Several phone calls were made Monday morning, trying to find a shelter that would be serving a Christmas meal. Of the four I called, none were serving. One place gave me two other shelters to call. I decided the best approach would be to go there in person. I figured it would be harder to turn someone down in person, much easier to say no on the phone. The first shelter was in downtown Portland, next to the river. I parked across the street and walked past a group of men standing outside smoking cigarettes. Most of their personal belongings were in backpacks or black garbage bags. Inside I looked around and a fellow walked up to ask if he could help me. I asked about their need for volunteers; he said they had more than enough and while he appreciated my offer he just shook his head no. I was not needed.

We wished each other a Merry Christmas and I turned and left. I drove around and found the second shelter about a mile away. I walked in and sitting in a small cubicle were four men all in their thirties. Most in t-shirts and jeans. I was told the same thing, Thanks but we don't need more help. I just looked at this one guy and said "Jesus Christ, I really want to work", "I'll wash dishes, sweep, mop". I was not going to take no for an answer. That surprised the fellow, I guess most volunteers don't say things like that. "Be here at noon tomorrow, what's your name"? "Doug" I said, we shook hands and I left. I had gotten what I'd come for.

Justin asked if I could carve a turkey? "Sure, one of those things my father taught me when I was twelve". We all had jobs on the line. Everything was about ready. I could see Justin was looking, figuring. He said he had gotten enough for 75. We had a hundred. Justin said he needed a quick break and was going outside to smoke a "cancer stick". I made a remark about cigarettes and he turned and looked at me and said, "Cigarettes aren't bad, gave up heroin two years ago," he grinned. I shut up. An interesting man, probably in his late 30s, he'd been in that line outside the building a few years before. I asked him what he did when he wasn't running the kitchen. "Building a chopper" (motorcycle), he said his wife and daughter had been killed eighteen months ago, a head-on with a drunk. I shook my head "Motorcycles and working here keep me from going crazy."

Of the hundred or so homeless, only six or seven were women. When I was waiting to start my job a women came and sat at the table. I heard someone call her Mary. Mary had a sweet face but sad eyes, Bad dye job, red. Red was a popular color for the ladies today. She wore a parka, hiking boots and jeans. She asked someone if she could borrow their cell phone. We were sitting close enough that I could hear the conversation. She was calling her husband or boyfriend. She told him his brother had beating her up last night; she had 18 stitches in the back of her head and three in her knee when she had fallen down. The cops had come but the brother had told them she had a seizure and had fallen causing the injury. My take was she was bleeding pretty badly and he or someone call 911. After the ambulance had picked her up and taken her to the hospital, the brother trashed the tent where she was living and had thrown all her positions out in the rain. She told her husband/boyfriend the doctor had checked and the baby she was> carrying (pregnant) was OK. She was crying softly and asked when he was coming home. She then giggled, said she would be at the bus station to meet him, but not to look for a blond. "I dyed my hair red." I had a daisy stuck in a shirt pocket buttonhole, I gave it to her, she smiled said nothing just put it in her jacket pocket. These were but two of the hundred.

I'm sure there were a 98 more stories like Mary's and Justin's. Later when we were cleaning up, clearing off the tables, I noticed a very nice looking man, about 30 maybe 35, I asked him if he'd gotten enough to eat? He looked at me with cold eyes, but did not answer. I asked him a second time, again no response. I just wished him a Merry Christmas and moved to the next table. A man came up to me and said he had seen this fellow for two years now and he had never heard him speak to anyone.

There are times in all of our lives when we feel down, not loved, even forgotten. I have times like that, I think we all do, but I'm so lucky to be able to do and go as I choose. Guilty only volunteering once a year; yes I am. These people lead lives I/we know little or nothing about. Hopefully we never will be dealt a hand that has been handed to this segment of the population. As this Christmas day comes to a close, I hope you will take a minute and think about the men and women who live under bridges, in alleys, in boxes. I don't have an answer, I wish I did. I'm thankful for my friends, food and a nice camper where I can work, stay warm and get a peaceful nights sleep. Plus a sweet puppy to share my adventures.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Happy Holidays To All My Blogging Friends

We leave tomorrow morning for our Christmas visit to Kerry's family in Burlington, WA. We are driving, which is actually a good thing. We get to bring our pillows. The airports are so stressful this time of year that I don't mind taking two days to get somewhere. At least at the end of the trip we are not stressed out. Plus there is a great fabric shop in Portland we are going to visit on our way.

We have chains for Kerry's Honda Element (it's four-wheel drive); it has better clearance than the Prius. Kerry even practiced putting the chains on. My job has been to check the weather, which up until a few hours ago was pretty rotten. We have to go through the Cascade/Siskiyou Mountains at the California/Oregon border. They have had some snow.

This Christmas feels different from others. First, Mark will not be home until Jan. 7th. I had one other Christmas when he wasn't here. He came home earlier in December; we went to Yosemite and had dinner at the Ahwahnee Lodge. That was really nice.

But this year, Mark is engaged (something I've wanted for so long for him); that certainly makes it different. That really is the best Christmas present I could get; my son has found someone who makes him very happy. Today I looked at a picture of me holding him in the hospital when he was just a day old and am amazed at how time has passed. It has been a joyous journey. I love being his mother.

My family, with the exception of my sister (she shops early so we have presents from her; it's not genetic because my brother and I don't) had what my brother refers to as our humanitarian Christmas. We gave money to charities designated by the person receiving the gift. I really liked doing that. None of us really need anything. Next year my sister will do the same with us.

That also meant that I never went to the mall; in fact, never set foot in a store to buy anything. Gift cards are the greatest invention and ordering them over the Internet is even better.

This week has been devoted to cutting, piecing and quilting as much as possible, because I won't be able to do it for 10 days. Yikes, I get nervous just thinking about it. I now have finished seven preemie quilts. I think all of this is somehow related to geometry; it was the only math class in high school that made sense to me. Quilting is all about putting shapes together. I'm looking forward to the classes I have in January, especially the one on applique.

Well Bloggers, it has been a joy to read about your lives during 2007. I am richer for the experience. We share a community that is far flung and diverse. Maybe someday we will all meet. Dykewife's graduation in June 2008 might be the right time to do it. We could sit in the front row, knit and cheer her on. Happy Holidays to you all.
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Monday, December 17, 2007

Miss Kate At Her Finest

My friend Doug just sent me an e-mail and included this picture of his border collie Kate. I just had to share it. She is so cute and so sweet. She did flunk herding school, but we don't hold that against here.
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Saturday, December 15, 2007

I've Been Tagged....

Blogauthor ( was the one who did it. The best part about the tagging is she included me in a group of artists. I hope my quilting will someday be a way for me to express myself; right now I'm just a learner. But I'm honored that she put me in that category.

So five little known facts about me. Here goes.
  1. A year after I graduated from college I went to Europe and got a job with the Overseas Weekly. It was a radical anti U.S. military newspaper based in Frankfurt, Germany and owned by two lesbians. I didn't know what that meant at the time. It was the Vietnam era with a whole lot of unrest among troops in Europe and elsewhere. We also had a Saigon edition and an office there. I was thrown off a lot of U.S. bases in Europe by base commanders who didn't like the questions I was asking. I also was the only female reporter on the staff which, for the most part, was former GIs who didn't want to go home after their Germany duty was completed. I learned more about life in the three years I worked there than I learned in college. The guys taught me to swear; they couldn't believe I had never done that. I also learned a few other things....
  2. I married and divorced my son's father twice; just call me a slow learner.
  3. My first job after college and before Europe was with Miller Publishing. I wrote for Hogfarm Management, Feedlot and Feedstuffs. Not very glamorous. It was the most sexist place I've ever worked.
  4. I competed in the Miss Robbinsdale (my hometown in Minnesota) pageant and didn't win, but it was fun to ride in the parade on the Fourth of July. My boyfriend Roger drove my convertible. I later learned he was gay but boy could he ever dance. My best friend at the time got to be a princess but not Miss Robbinsdale.
  5. I have had asthma since I was five; spent the next five years in and out of the hospital for at least two weeks at a time twice a year with pneumonia. Missed a lot of school but learned that reading was a great way to fill time when you are in an oxygen tent. I'm still an avid reader.

Reading back over them, I sound pretty boring.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Four Preemie Quilts Finished

They can't be larger than 22 x 24 inches so they are pretty fast things to make, but also good experience for a new quilter like myself. I like the idea of these things cheering up a family that has a baby that is struggling with the beginning of life. Mostly they are made from scraps of fabric in my stash. I'll take them to the guild meeting tomorrow night.
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Friday, December 07, 2007

This And That

On Wednesday evening, I had a great conversation with Julia's mom Kathy. From the moment she picked up the phone we clicked. So we are both Kathy's and seem to have some of the same penchants in life. And we are both wonderfully irreverent, which I really like. I don't think I'm going to have to "show up, shut up and wear beige."

Certainly we found out that we both can fill a conversation easily. We talked for about 90 minutes. I finally had to go because I was starving; not that it would hurt me to starve. She's two hours ahead and had eaten. Anyway, I'm looking forward to meeting her and her husband Bud. Don't know when that will be yet. But we've exchanged phone numbers and e-mails. No date yet for the wedding.

We had river otters on the lower pond (pictured here) on Tuesday morning. They stuck around for a long time. Even flattened some grass on the north bank so they could clean themselves and then play a bit before they went on to the next pond for their next meal. Our ponds rarely get fished so we like to see the otters. They take care of the fish overcrowding for a while.

I took a sewing classes on Wednesday. They came with my new machine. I took classes 1 and 2. I'll take 3 after the first of the year. Met some wonderful women in the class and learned a lot about my machine, which is a Janome. Several of us are quilters so we had a great time discussing our passion. Learned something new from one of them that I've already tried. Instead of pinning the backing to the batting and quilt top, you can use an adhesive spray. I tried it yesterday and was pleasantly surprised how quick and easy it was. Also makes it easier to machine quilt and doesn't gum up your machine needle.

Spent yesterday finishing up another preemie quilt for the neonatal intensive care unit at UC Davis hospital. I have three so far and hope to have another one done before the quilt guild meeting on Monday night. Takes no time at all to make something that can be no larger than 22x24 inches.

I thought our Red Hat Christmas progressive luncheon was today, but it's next Friday which I'm grateful for. I have too much to do to get ready for the 356 Porsche Club Christmas party tomorrow night plus I have a quilt meeting in the morning to start the block of the month. I've never done this before but thought I'd give it a try.

Last night I finally cleaned up my fabric stash. I had just been flinging fabric around as I looked for something; finally it was just a big heap behind my cutting table. I'm sure it will turn into a heap again, but for now I think I know where things are.

We are going wine tasting tonight at Lincoln Produce Market; some of my book group members are going to join us. Well, that's all for now. Almost forgot, we got 3.4 inches of rain yesterday. That really helps.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Happy Couple

Here they are again right after they got engaged. And on the right is the ring he gave her. It was his maternal grandmothers. I don't think I've ever seen my son this happy before. I'm going to call Julia's parents tonight and introduce myself.
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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I'm Going To Have A Daughter-In-Law

Yup, my son Mark popped the question today and she said yes. That's Julia in all the photos. Mark is the guy with the camera and the striped hat in the second photo and in the bottom one with his arm around her. He gave her his maternal grandmother's wedding ring, which she can get made into anything she wants.

They called this afternoon after the hike where they got engaged. I could hardly understand what they were saying because they were giggling so much. I got tears in my eyes. I've been waiting for her for a long time.

They had already talked to her mom. Julia told her that she wanted to get married tomorrow. She's the only daughter so her mom really wants to be able to enjoy the whole process of the wedding. Not sure she was excited about tomorrow. I just said I'd go along with whatever they decided. I told her the line about the mother of the groom's job: show up, shut up and wear beige. She said no way. I look terrible in beige.

So a grand adventure is about to begin for these two. It started this afternoon on a hike outside Albuquerque.

They will visit us in early January; I can hardly wait. Today I was planning on writing about spaghetti squash but somehow that doesn't seem very important right now.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Perfect Sunday: Wine, Good Friends And Quilts

Our friends Brad and Bruce came for bagels and coffee this morning on their way to Reno for a week of well...with Bruce and Brad who knows. They have been in a committed relationship for at least 35 years. I worked with Bruce at PG&E. They left for Reno and the Atlantis where they play the penny and nickel slots and know all the best food and drink bargains in the town.

Then we headed to Grass Valley to forage for clean food. Bought beef from the Briar Patch Co-op which carries the local beef from Nevada County Beef, and picked up a spaghetti squash for dinner tomorrow night.

Then on to Nevada City for the perfect combination: wine tasting and quilt viewing. Ann Sanderson, whose quilts are pictured here, was the artist showing at the winery. She does amazing fabric art which involves quilting but you don't put it on a bed. The fish I found on Google Images, but I just realized that I also took a photo of one of her pieces with my phone. Hopefully I can add that with an edit. I'm sending it now. Okay, it's there. I love the frog.

This is one of those one-things-lead-to-another stories. So, the food at the reception for the artist and the wine tasting were scrumptious. There was a cheese that Kerry and I both agreed was just the best. We found the woman who catered the food for the event. We asked her about the cheese we loved; she showed us the label and then told us about a new cheese shop in Nevada City where she had bought it.

She gave us directions and two blocks later we were standing in front of this beautiful blue and white Victorian building. The store has been open only two weeks but from the business we saw, she will be a success. We will travel an hour for her cheeses.

We found the cheese we wanted, Jean de Brie. It's a camenbert that is a triple cream cheese; it looks like butter. We bought it. Then we tasted some other cheese and bought it too; a wonderful goat cheese. We bought bread and then Kerry got two dried apricots one dipped in milk chocolate and the other in dark chocolate. We headed out the door in foodie heaven. Turns out they were actually closed but stayed open to help us.

This is something we find over and over again in the country. The clock does not rule your day. People are so friendly.

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