Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Wishing you and your families a peaceful, memorable Christmas this year. Here in California we've had rain, rain and more rain the last week, but after today it is supposed to be dry for a few days. I don't mind the rain -- we need it and the stormy weather makes it seem more wintery than those dry, warm Christmases we've had some years. Still it is better for travelers to not fight the rain and wind so for that I'm glad.

My dad and daughters are here this week (Lys off and on as she has to work part of the week). The tree is decorated and the fireplace mantle sparkling with colored light-filled garland. The girls have been opening the little doors on our Advent calendar box (below) to discover daily mini-surprises and chocolates.
We attended the church's Christmas concert which is always spectacular. Today Ash and I will finish up our Christmas shopping and wrapping. Game nights, yummy food, Christmas movies and remembering the reason for the season will carry us through the spirit of the holidays.

Have a wonderful Christmas and blessed New Year!

"For somehow not only at Christmas,
but all the long year through,

the joy that you give to others
is the joy that comes back to you."

~John Greenleaf Whittier

Note: Victorian clip art courtesy of Averyl's Attic:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Enjoying Art

I love good art. I could wander through the Louvre in Paris for hours. So when I saw a PBS special about a very special exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, I called my daughters and said, "Let's go!" Since we had last Friday off work, I drove up to the City and after lunch we went over to Golden Gate Park's de Young Museum. Here we could see canvases touched by the paint brushes of Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Monet, and others. Prints of the actual masterpieces never do them justice.

The exhibit summary says it all:

"The second of two exhibitions from the Musée d’Orsay’s permanent collection, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne and Beyond: Post-Impressionist Masterpieces from the Musée d’Orsay follows on the heels of the first with a selection of the most famous late-Impressionist paintings by Claude Monet and Auguste Renoir, as well as works representing the individualist styles of the early modern masters, including Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gauguin, and the Nabis Pierre Bonnard and Édouard Vuillard.

"It is here where the Orsay’s collection shines brightest with masterpieces such as Van Gogh’s Starry Night over the Rhone, a haunting Portrait of the Artist, and Bedroom at Arles (on the left below).

The exhibition includes a superior collection of paintings from the Pont-Aven school, including Gauguin’s masterpiece Self-Portrait with The Yellow Christ (on the right above). The exhibition concludes with the Orsay’s spectacular collection of pointillist paintings, represented by the masters Georges Seurat and Paul Signac.

"The de Young is the only museum in North America to host the exhibition."

Here are a few of the beautiful paintings we enjoyed.

Van Gogh's Self PortraitStill Life with Onions by CezanneWomen at the Well by Signac

Starry Night Over the Rhone by Van GoghThe Snake Charmer by RousseauJoyousness by Gauguin

A Dance in the Country by Renoir
Of course, learning about the artists lives was fascinating, as well. We learned that the woman in Renoir's Dance in the Country painting became his wife! And, of course, there is the whole debate on whether Van Gogh cut off part of the lobe of his left ear or whether he lost part of the ear in a fight with friend Gauguin.

Photos courtesy of de Young Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Just a note tonight to say that most everyone in our area has been going crazy celebrating the SF Giants win of the World Series! While I didn't go up to the City for the parade today, I was there in spirit!

SF Giants Parade

Was this city proud of its team or what?!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

For the Love of Baseball

For as long as I can remember someone in my family has been a baseball fan. When I was young, growing up in Ohio, my older brother was devoted to the Detroit Tigers. He collected baseball cards throughout his life and I remember his favorite player was Rocky Colavito. Later in life Jack opened his own sportscard and memorabilia shop. He and my dad continued their love of sports and even I have an assortment of old baseball cards.

Baseball is one of those all American games -- something we've all played in school, easy to understand, enough action that it doesn't drag (though that can be a matter of opinion, according to some of my family members), but enough lulls that you can go get a snack and not feel you missed the major game changes.

World Series fever has captured me this year. Perhaps it's because the SF Giants are so close to home, my daughters now live in San Francisco so it seems like "our team", Americans need something uplifting to watch. Regardless of who wins, both the Rangers and the Giants are coming from behind -- typical American story. So here's to mom's homemade pie and baseball!


(Note: The photo above was taken in San Francisco last weekend. We went to the mall and the line you see looping around was just to get into the SF Giants Dugout store to buy souvenir hats, jackets, and memorabilia.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beach Blanket Babylon

Sunday I drove up to the City (San Francisco) and spent the day with my daughters. We went to lunch and then to the rambunctious musical "Beach Blanket Babylon". This campy show has some excellent vocalists performing parodies of popular songs through the last half century and ridiculous impersonations of celebrities and politicians. It's all topped off (forgive the pun) with outrageously HUGE hats and hair! Here is a taste:

Beach Blanket Babylon commercial

We went to the mall for Starbucks after the production and the SF Giants regalia was out in full force on the streets and in the stores in anticipation of the World Series starting tomorrow night! Go Giants!!!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Last Thursday I flew down to Southern California to stay with my dad for a few days. He had to have a cardiac procedure on Friday and needed someone to take him to the hospital and stay with him for a few days afterward. Armed with Bronte's thick "Villette" and my camera, I entertained myself during the waiting periods and made myself useful the remaining time. Dad is doing just fine and the test results were better than we'd hoped. He was able to resume normal activity, including driving, by Monday. We had some much-needed rain and it was overcast when he dropped me off at the airport for my return home.
Little did I know the tremendous treat awaiting me on the plane!

Lift off...
Good-bye to Southern California.
Into the clouds.
Everything turned pure white for a few minutes...
but when I looked out the window again
we were above the clouds!

I couldn't help but think of the reflective Joni Mitchell song, "Both Sides Now."

"Rows and flows of angel hair
"And ice cream castles in the air"
"And feather canyons everywhere"
"I've looked at clouds that way.
"But now they only block the sun
they rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way."

(Now this part of the song didn't fit -- as you can see the sun was in full force, and my mind kept reverting to the Beatles "Here Comes the Sun".)
"I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It's cloud illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all."

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Light Keepers

My sister made this very special bookmark for me last Christmas. She sent it to me in a little wrapped box with a beautiful explanation:

"This bookmark or keepsake was made especially for you. I choose the color turquoise since it is the birthstone for December. The color is supposed to have a soothing, calming effect, it also promises peace.

"The dove is the deepest symbol of peace and faith. The dove represents the Holy Spirit and reminds us there is always hope.

"Your keepsake would not have been complete without a lighthouse. I remember you telling me your late husband loved lighthouses. I hope when you look at it you are reminded of him and wonderful memories. With the lighthouse comes the light keepers legacy of courage and inspiration always looking out for the welfare of others. The lighthouse serves as a guide to ships at sea. Christ, the lighthouse, represents His light to the world.

"And finally, the cross. A reminder of the resurrection and sacrifice made for us."

I love the idea of the light keepers legacy. It is a part of my heritage, my values, my spirituality to believe that we are to live meaningful lives, helping one another in our journeys. The book "The Purpose Driven Life" resonated with me on many levels. I started attending a different church this year. We have an excellent, upbeat pastor who delivers sermons that the modern man and woman can relate to. I enjoy this church, too, because they are all about serving others, feeling connected, having a sense of purpose. I've examined my beliefs carefully over the past couple of years. It all comes down to faith. Some question God's existence, turning to science and big bang theories and evolution. If you do a little research you will find scientists who believe in both: some scientific theories and the existence of God. I can't prove God's existence, but I know it in my heart, in the consistent history of answered prayers, in the eyes of my children. I chose to follow God.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


A friend introduced me to this wonderful program called Postcrossing. You send postcards to other people in the world, and in turn you receive postcards from others who have signed up with Postcrossing. It is not a direct card exchange (although you can do that if you wish) but rather randomly selected people from the Postcrossing group list.

There is something special about opening your mailbox and seeing a colorful picture and a handwritten note. I've been a letter writer and postcard sender most of my life. My cousin and I were great penpals all through high school, and even though we have never lived near each other, pen and paper have kept us close. My sister traveled a lot and it was always fun to get a postcard with a summary of her latest adventure. I've collected postcards for years so when a friend told me about this project I enthusiastically joined. It has not let me down! I've received postcards from Japan, Germany, the Netherlands, Taiwan, China, Poland, Russia, Spain, Belarus, and the USA. It is so interesting to learn what people in other parts of the world do in their daily lives and see the places where they live.

I just received this lovely message from someone in Russia who received the card I sent her of San Francisco:
I've just received your card with the view of San-Francisco and its cable-car. Thank you!
I happened to live in NewYork for 3 months a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, I had no enough time to travel throughout the country. So I didn't manage to visit California as I dreamed about it. It must be the first place that I'll visit next time when I go to the USA.
You wrote that you live in agricultaral area where they grow lettuce and strawberries. It sounds like a paradise for me cause I'm a vegetarian and LOVE strawberries and greenery! =)
Have a sunny day,
Anna from Russia"

Now it's my turn to send a card to someone else -- let's see who they pick for me to postcross to....

....going to the site
....logging in
....requesting name

...Ah-ha! A college guy in Germany. Well, I'm off to scribble a postcard to him!
Interested? Check it out:

Postcards Exchange

Happy Postcrossing!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Life At The Sea - Part 5 (The End)

To complete our week together, we drove up to the mountains north of Santa Cruz and spent a lovely afternoon taking the Roaring Camp steam engine train through the redwoods.
It is so peaceful there and was a relaxing way to end our family time together before everyone flew back to their homes.

Life At The Sea - Part 4

Our visit with my sisters, nieces and dad this summer went by much too fast. We squeezed a lot in to a week. We spent a very full day in San Francisco, riding the cable cars, meeting some friends for lunch at Hard Rock Cafe, and enjoying ice cream at Ghiradelli Square.

Pier 39 has a colorful carousel, lots of shops and a delicious looking farmer's market.
At one point we split up -- some went to Alcatraz Island for a tour and others went shopping on Pier 39. It was a memorable day.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Realizing that I haven't blogged for the past two weeks, I must explain. I really did not abandon ship in the middle of the course. Life just got a hold of me and wouldn't let go! I started back to work at the school district mid-August (earlier every year, it seems) with the usual fall initiation craziness. Then loose ends from my summer projects and fall prep responsibilities nagged and nagged until I took care of them, one by one.

Now September is here. That gear-switching month, scolding in that stern school teacher voice, "No more nonsense now! Time to get back into your routines!" Go to bed on time, get up on time, take out the trash on Sunday night, fill up your tank before the weekend prices. Keep your bed made, your laundry caught up, and stay on schedule with your book club for a change. I'm listening. And there is comfort in returning to routines. A sense of being productive. A sense of stability. Peace. All is well.

So now, I can also get back to writing in my blog -- my wonderful outlet for whatever topic I feel so inclined to discuss. And to make sure I have tied up ALL my summer loose ends, I'll continue with another entry or two to wrap up our Life at the Sea (aka "days with summer guests"). A coworker went to an Earth, Wind and Fire concert last night and mentioned their song, "September." I've had it in my head ever since.

Do you remember the 21st night of September?

Love was changing the minds of pretenders

While chasing the clouds away

Our hearts were ringing

In the key that our souls were singing

As we danced in the night,

Remember how the stars stole the night away

on and on - say that you remember
on and on - dancing in September

on and on - never was a cloudy day

Some bells were ringing

Our souls were singing

Do you remember, never a cloudy day?

Now that's the September spirit!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Moving Day!

The day had arrived. "The girls" (my daughters have put up with that term most of their lives, being lumped together like the cliche-ish two peas in a pod) have moved out into their own place. After weeks of anticipation and days of preparation, the alarms went off at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday and we all crawled out of bed and began the final car-loading, last minute packing, and pet catching.
Life in a Box -- skillets, yoga mat, music stand, picture frame, heating pad

Ash and Lys were in good spirits, I was simply relieved that we had the foresight to do most of the prep before Saturday morning dawned. By 8:30 Lys and her bunny Penny were on the road to their new place. The plan was that she would go up first in order to open the gates and doors in the event the moving truck beat us up there. Ash and I would stay behind to supervise the movers, who were scheduled to arrive between 8 and 10 a.m. At 8:45 they called and said to expect them between 10 and 10:30. With cat Serena bellowing from the pet carrier, we decided that Ash should also head on up and let Serena out of her misery.

So I waited. Alone. For the first time in almost three decades I'll be living alone. Will I find new pursuits? Will I simply enjoy the solitude after busy work days? Will I find a new purpose or re-dedicate myself to old interests? I picked up a broom and began sweeping. There is a quiet peace in the swishing of the broom on the wood floor. Visions of all the people I've observed sweeping went through my head. My sister Linda sweeping -- telling me how after living overseas she observed many European women keeping such tidy homes. The school girls in Kenya -- sweeping the school steps with shrub branches. My mom -- sweeping the back patio off in the cool mornings, lost in her own thoughts. I remembered a quote about how it was easier to envision Jesus sweeping the streets than delivering a severe edict from the palace steps. Gentle, quiet movement is soothing.

Then the movers arrived and from then on there was no stopping! I showed them where things were -- the old sofa, the bookcases, the boxes, the TV -- until the truck was loaded. Then they left, with me following in my car for our trek to the City.

The move went smoother than we could ever hope for. Beds were delivered and set up by the mattress company, the internet service guy showed up promptly, the movers arrived and unloaded everything in record time. Ash and Lys were in charge -- "Put that here, just set that there". I was proud, amazed, awed by their poise and independence.

I confess I cried a bit when it was time to hug them goodbye and leave. Although Ash had lived away before, to have both of them "launched" on their own, knowing it's time to let go, made me realize that 90% of my parenting work is now done. I'll always be there to guide them, help them, answer questions for them, but I have to trust that they'll do the right thing and handle every day life on their own now. I'll miss them, but this is what parenting is all about. And truly my heart is bursting with joy for them.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Life at the Sea - Part 3

When my children were little, my husband and I loved to take them to Dennis the Menace Park in downtown Monterey. It has your typical swings and slides, but also many unusual park activities -- a climbing wall, swinging bridge, a roller slide, and one of my kids' favorites -- a maze to get lost in. We enjoyed the delights of this play place once again when we took the relatives there during their visit.
Climbing on the train engine is a favorite.
On the north side of the park is Lake El Estero, where you can rent paddleboats and enjoy the day puttering around the lake.
Across the lake, you can see the beaches and Monterey Bay, and even parts of Fisherman's Wharf.
There is also a lovely walk around the park perimeter.
To the south of the park is the cemetary where my husband was laid to rest. After our afternoon at Dennis the Menace Park, the relatives joined us in walking over and placing flowers on his site. It's peaceful there -- under a big tree (he loved trees), near the ocean (he loved the ocean), and across from the park where he spent time with his most beloved treasures -- his family.