Thursday, December 26, 2013

Apple Cake and Cocoa Kinda Morning!

There is something special about the afterglow that comes the day after Christmas.  Contentment from full tummies and happy memories. Relishing the moments when you made others happy with gifts. Smiles over silly jokes made while playing games (we indulged in Monopoly, Uno and Clue this year).  Time to actually re-read the cards and letters that arrived and absorb the latest news from friends and family.  Inhaling the aroma of new fragrances.  I'm still in my new nightie that I received from my sister Linda for Christmas, enjoying a piece of apple cake (heated up in the microwave) and a cup of cocoa (made with milk, not water).
It is scrumptuous -- one of my mom's recipes -- Ash was in a baking mood so whipped it up yesterday.  Here it is, for the curious -- it makes a great little coffee cake in the morning:

Old Fashioned Apple Cake

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Grease 9X13X2 inch pan.

1 package yellow cake mix
1 can apple pie filling (cut up in small chunks)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
3 eggs
1/2 t. vanilla

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter or margarine (softened)
1/2 cup flour
1/2 t. vanilla

Combine batter ingredients by hand until well blended.  Spread batter in prepared pan.  Mix topping ingredients with fork until crumbly.  Sprinkle topping evenly over batter. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes or until cake springs back.

There is something about baking things that your mother made that helps you remember the woman ~ her life, her hands, her smiles and words.  This morning I'm missing my mom.

Last night I sat down with the 2014 Susan Branch calendar my daughter Ash gifted me and wrote in all the birthdays and special events I want to remember.  I love fresh starts.

Now I better get ready!  Ash and I are going over to the bookstore and out to lunch. Then I'm off to pamper myself with a pedicure!  Tonight's dinner will be left overs from yesterday -- yum!

Hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a peaceful, contented Merry Christmas!  We have so much to be thankful for.  I'll be enjoying the holiday with my daughters -- this morning Ash and I are going grocery shopping to buy the last items for our Christmas dinner.  Lys had to work this morning but is driving down again this afternoon.  Frosty woke up wagging his tail and is so much better.  Yesterday he turned a corner, so to speak, and the difference is like night and day.  What a wonderful Christmas present!  Tonight we're baking and playing games and watching favorite Christmas movies.

A happy Christmas, just being together, which is what it's all about.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Birthday Lunch

After a very long, difficult week, my friends put together a lovely birthday lunch for me today! Anita invited us to her warm, comfortable home, decorated in bright red and gold for the holidays.
We enjoyed a wonderful meal of homemade tamales (her mom made them from scratch), Spanish rice, and a cranberry sprinkled green salad. Everything was delicious! To top it off was a fabulous strawberry laden birthday cake. What wonderful friends!
Now we are off for our two week Christmas vacation. I plan to enjoy every moment of it.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Frosty the Woe Man!

Poor little Frosty! Last Sunday evening I let him and Chaucer out in the backyard and 15 minutes later he was at the back door, wanting to come in. I noticed something hanging out of his mouth and thought it was a dead leaf or possibly a dead mouse as it looked like it might be furry. I opened the door to investigate and to my horror it was his entire lower jaw skin hanging down! There was blood everywhere, including all over his chest and legs! Poor little soul came in and ran under the bed -- I'm sure it was instinct to go into his cave.
I called my vet, but being Sunday night I was referred to the 24 hour emergency vet in town. I gave them a fast call to let them know we were on our way. Frosty was a trooper -- so trusting, so obedient. I'm sure he knew I was trying to help him.

The vet was not sure she could save him due to the extent of the injury. His four lower teeth and the front bone beneath them had been torn out and the skin under his chin was pulled all the way back and danging down his chest. It was so severe that without knocking him out and examining him, she couldn't determine if his entire jaw was broken off in the back. Either an animal got him or he caught his chin on something and pulled back and ripped it out. At first we thought it was a jagged edge of fence board, courtesy of the pit bull that lives behind us who likes to chew the boards from the base up several inches. We speculated Frosty could have gotten his face in the hole and then caught his chin on a sharp protrusion. Now the vet is not so sure his injury would have been possible from wood. Maybe chicken wire or an animal? We'll never know. I've walked up and down that fence so many times this week, looking for signs, and had the gardener repair all the bad boards and make sure there was no wire in our back yard.  Anyway, back to poor Frosty.

The vet said she could try to drill holes, then wire and suture his jaw back together, but she wasn't sure it would work and that I needed to "make a decision." I love this little dog so much, he is so healthy and happy and this was such a freak accident, but if this was not repairable I also felt ready to make that decision for him. I called family members and talked to them over the phone, crying and trying to make sense of it all. Flashing through my mind was when my springer Kelli was in bad shape and I had to take her to this emergency vet -- they did $1400 worth of work and the next day we had to have her euthanized. I didn't want to repeat that and put him through surgery if the odds were against his recovery. I went back in and they put me in a room with the vet tech. I told her that I decided I should have him put to sleep. The vet tech looked at me with big eyes and said, "Why would you do that? This is repairable." She proceeded to get the vet. The vet went over her plan of treatment and told me it was risky, but she would try. I told her I needed to talk to my family again. She said, "No! You need to decide now! He needs treated." (More about her poor demeanor later.) So I took the risk and told her to do what she could do. Fortunately the jaw was not broken, except for the front part with the teeth that was torn off. We are hoping for the best. She said there was not much tissue in the front on which to attach any skin, so we really don't know how it will hold together when it is time to take the wires out. He'll have the stitches out in 2 weeks and the wires in 4+ weeks.  I left him there overnight and all day Monday, and picked him up Monday late afternoon.
One thing I noticed from the time I brought him home was that he could not drink water. He was accepting food by hand, but would lay by his water bowl and whine. It was so pathetic. I tried everything -- elevated the bowl, used a low rimmed bowl, put water in a ladle and held it under his chin, even put water in the palm of my hand to lap or lick. I called the vet the second night and asked if there could possibly be something wrong with his tongue mobility. She dismissed that notion and said there was no reason he couldn't drink. (She's the most abrupt, rude vet I've ever worked with.. I was hoping what she lacked in bedside manner she would make up for in surgery skills, but I'm not sure of that either.)  That night I put him up on my bed and I kneeled on the floor and tried to look up in his mouth. At this different angle I was able to see one of the wires sticking straight up between the lower canine tooth and the midline. No wonder he didn't want to drink! He would rake his tongue over that wire with each lap of water!

First thing yesterday morning I called the vet about the wire and she told me to bring him in at 1:00. The vet wondered if I knew where I could get wax for braces that she could put on over the wire. I made a trip out of my way to stop by the orthodontist I knew in town to get the wax. The vet said she would put him under anesthesia and then have me come into the exam room so I could see in his mouth and what she was doing. A few minutes later they called me in and he was laying belly down on the exam table with a tube stuck down his throat. The vet tech had his jaw wide open and his tongue pulled to the side. The vet was poking and prodding with her bare fingers and swabs, cleaning off the sutures in a brusque way. I noticed his breathing was very rapid and his eyes looked glazed. She was incredibly rough and I figured his little jaw with all the sutures and wires must be so tender. There were 3-4 wires sticking straight up in his mouth. I said, "No wonder he didn't want to drink," to which the vet replied, "Yeah, yeah -- I get it, I get it, I get!" (Snarky doesn't begin to describe her way of talking to people.) I heard him make some sounds, almost like he was trying to squeal but with the tube he couldn't. I found myself tearing up and said, "Ohhh, I think he's hurting!" The vet said, "No, no, he's not hurting. He's under anesthetic." She proceeded to poke around and explain the wires, and I heard him make another sound. Then the vet tech said, "Doctor, he's wide awake!" Then another vet tech walked by and mumbled something about how they had the wrong tube attached to the machine, she did a quick switch of the tubes, and they began administering the anesthesia through the correct tube. So he had not been out!  I was horrified, speechless! They asked me to wait in the waiting room and they would call me back in when he was under. I was so upset -- all I could think of was him having to endure having his sore jaw and tongue held open and all that poking and prodding. Didn't this vet know whether a dog was under or not? I sensed something was amiss when I walked in, based on his rapid breathing and look in his eyes, and I'm not even a vet!

They had me come back a few minutes later and there was a dramatic difference. His breathing was different, his tongue lay to one side on its own, he was obviously knocked out. She showed me how she had trimmed the wires way down so they weren't sticking up, but the ones on the bottom she had nothing to attach them to, so she bent them down fiercely against the bottom of his mouth, hoping they won't pop up again. She invited me to put my fingers in his mouth and feel how smooth they were now and I told her I hadn't washed my hands and didn't want to put them in his mouth, and she told me it was okay. Is that standard practice for her? She wasn't wearing any gloves, but I hoped her hands were clean. I was not pleased with this solution with the wires but she told me that was the best she could do and she hoped "they would hold." The ortho wax didn't work. There were little puncture marks on the underside of his tongue from when he had tried to drink and eat when the wires were sticking up. They put another IV in him to hydrate him since he hadn't had anything to drink since Monday, and also put another pain patch on his leg in case I couldn't get him to take his meds orally since he had gone through so much.

After an hour or so of recovery time, I was able to bring him back home, but not before letting her know that I did not think it was appropriate that she had sent him home Monday with wires sticking up in his mouth. She told me they were not like that when he went home, that she had bent them down, but because of the swelling going down and him moving his mouth to eat that they had "moved." I found this hard to believe, since he was afraid to drink even on the first night. She also informed me that I was "lucky" I got her -- that "none of the other vets in the practice would have known what to do for him." (Since then I have talked to several other people who would have recommended another surgeon in her practice that is supposed to be very competent and compassionate.)

Anyway, Frosty came in the house after yesterday's ordeal, went directly to his water bowl, and took a long drink. I have not seen him drink since, so not sure what that is all about, but he is eating well. I'm having to crush his pills and hide them in a variety of foods -- he catches on quickly, so I'm having to rotate through cheese, chicken, and various dog food flavors. He bled profusely last night and I called the vet to see if it was anything to be concerned about. I monitored it at home and it had stopped except for a little spotting now and then by this morning.

He had a really good appetite tonight and ate his food off of a plate instead of being hand fed, which is excellent progress. He also jumped off the couch, before I could catch him, trotted over to the front window and barked at the UPS guy! That's my Frosty!

He's spunky and I'm praying that he heals up quickly. 
Frosty, after devouring his dinner Thursday night!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

S. ~ A Fascinating Read

Curiosity got the best of me and since I'm a sucker for anything with hidden treasures, I bought the book "S." by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst.  What a treat -- and one you must get in hardback or you miss out on the whole experience.  "S." is actually two stories in one.  First there is "Ship of Theseus," the novel supposedly written by V.M. Straka.  This novel is mysterious and captivating!

But then a second story lies in the margins of the Straka novel!  This second story is basically notes that two people, Eric and Jen, wrote to each other as they tried to figure out Straka's novel and get to know one another through their notations.  (Dorst actually wrote both stories.)
To quote from the book's description:  "A young woman picks up a book left behind by a stranger. Inside it are his margin notes, which reveal a reader entranced by the story and by its mysterious author. She responds with notes of her own, leaving the book for the stranger, and so begins an unlikely conversation that plunges them both into the unknown."

Besides that deliciously sneaky feeling that you are spying on these two by reading their handwritten margin notes, the book is chock full of little surprises, which I love!  Postcards, letters, notes, newspaper articles....  What fun!

Check out the youtube trailer for a taste of the adventure you receive with this book:

 "S." by J.J. Abrams and Doug Dorst

I wasn't quite sure how to approach the book.  I was a little afraid the items would fall out of the pages and I wouldn't know when to refer to them, so I noted their page numbers in a corner of each one with a pencil and put them all in a ziploc baggie.  Then I circled the page number in pencil so I know if I see a circled page number to go to the goodie bag.  Violet is quite curious about the bag's contents.
The next dilemma to resolve was -- how to actually read the book.  Do you read Straka's novel and the margin notes page by page?  I was having trouble concentrating on Straka's storyline that way, so found for me it worked better to read a few pages, then go back and read Eric and Jen's notes and retrieve any goodie bag items. 

J.J. Abrams is the filmmaker who produced, directed or wrote Lost, Star Trek, Mission Impossible, Fringe and more. Doug Dorst is a university professor and a writer, and impressively a three time Jeopardy winner!
 A wonderful indulgence in a different world!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Hello December!

It's here again!  That most wonderful time of the year!  Christmas lists are being exchanged, I have a very special Christmas project underway (shhhh--it's a secret!), and this morning we reveled in the last of the Thanksgiving Day leftovers.  My daughters have been home since Thanksgiving, and since I was waylaid with a bad cold, they did all of the cooking for the holiday.  (My sister told me she will have to remember that one for next year -- haha!) 

Friday afternoon I was conveniently fortunately feeling a little bit better so we ventured out to Del Monte Center to see Catching Fire.  The decorations were hung on every store front and the Black Friday shoppers were out in full force. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and many shoppers sported their short sleeved shirts. 
  There was even a terrific blues band playing on the mall.
Yesterday afternoon we drove to Carmel to do a little shopping at The Crossroads and then took a drive to see the lights on the storefronts and trees along Ocean Avenue in downtown Carmel.  When my girls were growing up we had a calendar chocked full of Christmas events, like the Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in Carmel, so I take advantage of these little moments when they are home to capture the essence of Christmas when I can!  

One of my major accomplishments for November was finishing my book!  I completed the NANOWRIMO contest and will now let the novel sit in a drawer for a couple of months before editing.  It felt wonderful to claim the winner certificate.
 Yes, the busy month of December has arrived.  Enjoy it in all its glory and busyness!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Learning, Learning

Saturday led my friend Mary and me to yet another genealogy workshop, this one in Gilroy (aka the Garlic Capitol of the World, or so they say). I work in Gilroy so pass these scenes often.
 The green hills create a beautiful backdrop...
 I love this Old City Hall (now a restaurant)...

It dawned on me this morning what a busy month of learning it has been ~  three weekends in a row of workshops!  First, the Ancestry Day in San Francisco, then the following weekend my daughter Ash and I attended a mystery writer's workshop in Monterey, then this past Saturday the DAR sponsored genealogy program.  Have loved all of them!

The Writer's Workshop was held in the Monterey Peninsula College Library -- in fact right there in the room on the right in the photo below. 
But my favorite part of the library is actually on the opposite side of the building, straight through those triple doors you see above.  Here is what the other side of the library looks like:
The library sits on a hill so guess what those large lovely windows look out on?  Monterey!  I promise to go back and take a photo from the top floor sometime, lest you think I am teasing you with the panoramic views provided. That section was closed during the time we were there.

Now it is time for cleaning and grocery shopping -- my daughters arrive Wednesday night and we'll start right in with our pumpkin rolls and pies.  Just in case I don't make it back here before the big day, I wish you all a heartfelt

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Little Carmel and San Francisco History

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago, I'm participating in this year's NANOWRIMO contest and my novel is moving along. 50,000 words in 30 days requires consistency and the ability to scream down the "inner editor" who pops up to tell you that you're writing rubbish.  After all, the idea is to produce a very rough draft of a novel during the month of November.  I successfully passed the half way point, both calendar-wise and word count-wise.  Now I need to pour it on for the last half of the book.  My novel is historical fiction, set during the turn of the 20th century in San Francisco and Carmel.  This requires some research on my part -- how did they get around at that time? What forms of communication did they have?  How did they dress?  Carmel has always been rather Bohemian, a place for artists and writers to gather.  And of course, the great earthquake of San Francisco occurred in 1906, and it will have a role in my novel.

Ocean Avenue is the main drag leading from Highway 1, through downtown Carmel, and ending at the Pacific Ocean.  We lived in Carmel for a time, in a house tucked in the copse of trees near the top left of the photo below.  I have walked from our house there, down Ocean Avenue to the stores.  It's lovely, but a bit steep going home.  This photo is from 1905.  Note the horse and buggy. 

I took the photo below earlier this year.  It is the same section of Ocean Avenue, but looking from the opposite direction, in other words looking down the hill rather than up the hill.  What struck me were the trees they planted down the middle of Ocean Avenue!  They have grown majestically.  The first tree on the other side of the bell you see below is used as the town's Christmas tree each year.  It has been a tradition in our family to go to the town Christmas Tree Lighting, and we have attended Carmel's and Monterey's in years past. 
As any San Franciscan knows, while the quake created extensive damage, it was the fires that broke out afterwards that really caused major destruction.  In doing my research, I found a map that showed how far reaching the fire extended.  Can you find the Ferry Building toward the bottom of the map with the clock tower?  It is the same clock tower I took a picture of in my last post on November 12th.
Besides serving as a ferry station, the Ferry Building now houses an active marketplace, restaurants, and office spaces.  It survived the Great Earthquake of 1906.

It is always interesting to find familiar places on old maps, like where my daughters currently live and work in the city.  San Francisco. Monterey. and Carmel have such rich histories and writing about them reminds me of why I love living here, earthquakes and all.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Ancestry Day and Veteran's Day

The San Francisco Hyatt Regency Lobby.
Saturday morning I was up before the crack of dawn to drive up to San Francisco for the weekend. It's always great to spend time with my daughters there, dining and shopping, watching movies and chatting. This weekend I had an additional reason to go north.  One of my hobbies is genealogy and was putting on a conference on Saturday. It was held at the Hyatt Regency and the ballroom was packed with people. I ate lunch in the hotel restaurant, then walked around to enjoy the beautiful views the floor to ceiling windows offered.
The clock tower of the Ferry Building.

The Bay Bridge (San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge)
The Embarcadero Center Ice Skating Rink.
The Ancestry Day presenters were fabulous and I left with a syllabus full of helpful hints and notes. Hobby experts now rank genealogy as the second most popular hobby in the country, following on the heels of gardening as number one.
Saturday night the girls picked me up at the hotel and we went out to dinner. I spent the night at their apartment and then Sunday we shopped. We don't have to have elaborate plans to have a great time together. 

Have had a few busy days here. Friday was a non-student day at work so the speech and language therapists in our district met to share therapy materials and ideas, then had lunch together. Yesterday, Veteran's Day, was a day off work which gave me time to try out some of the genealogy research techniques I learned and work on my novel. It's coming along nicely and I'm keeping up with the NANOWRIMO word count. 

This week and all year round, please thank a Vet for their service to our country! Researching our roots makes me appreciate all the veterans in our family tree, from the Revolutionary War to current days.

Before we know it, Thanksgiving will be here! Nights are cooler -- November is in the air!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Encyclopedia of Moi: G

On to the letter G.... 

Geography - Call me a geek, but ever since I was a kid I've enjoyed studying atlases and maps.  I love learning about other countries. Yours truly was often the designated map reader on trips.

Giraffes - It wasn't until I traveled to Africa and saw these peaceful, elegant creatures in the wild that I began to fully appreciate giraffes.  At a giraffe center we have the opportunity to feed some (they have very long tongues!) and they were so gentle.
Gold - Are you a gold or silver person? While I do wear silver at times, I tend to gravitate toward gold for most jewelry.

Gardens - So good for the soul!  Not much of a green thumb myself, I do love wandering through beautiful gardens. Among my favorite gardens in the world are Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island, near Victoria, British Columbia.  Isn't it gorgeous?
Gardenias - Heavenly smelling! They remind me of my mother who wore a gardenia coursage on her wedding day.  They were one of her favorite flowers, too.


 Genealogy - I'm adding this on to my G list a day late here. How could I forget this fabulous hobby! 

Start your own Encyclopedia of Moi!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Morning Moon

I was up before the birds this morning. I can hear them now, those sleepy heads, singing out their morning calls. Frosty woke me up at 4:30, wanting to go out. He doesn't bark, he doesn't claw, he just makes an irritating growling sound until I force myself to crawl out of the warm covers and stumble to the door to let him out. He's 10 now and just can't make it as long as he used to. Sometimes I can go back to bed, sometimes I can't. This was one of those mornings when I woke up both tired, with red, sore eyes, and excited with anticipation.

This is the first morning of NANOWRIMO! In case you are wondering what that is all about -- it's about writing a novel in a month. Impossible, you say? Well, we didn't say it was writing a GOOD novel in a month. It will probably be rotten. But the participants in this month-long writing frenzy, from all over the world, mind you, hope to at least spew out enough bad writing that it can later be shaped up into something more readable. You can read all about it here:
I understand it is all about moving forward, not re-reading what you've written and opening the door to the "inner editor" who wants to change it all around and keep you from telling your story, and logging in words -- lots of words -- every day. My goal is 2000/day. Thanks to Frosty, getting me up before the crack of dawn, I already have 1438 for today. A decent start. We have to have 50,000 words by November 30th. There is a lot of encouragement, forums, even local groups and buddies to spur you on. 
Besides NANOWRIMO, we know what November means -- shopping, Christmas card prep, Thanksgiving plans, Christmas around the corner stuff. I do love this month! So I may be absent from this blog, or I may surprise us both and be even more inspired to write.
Happy November!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Encyclopedia of Moi: F

My mom was the master of wise old sayings.  Come to our house and you would hear, "Never put off til tomorrow what you can do today," "Beauty is as beauty does," and "Necessity is the mother of invention." 

Today I'm going to resort to her saying, "Better late than never."  It's been in the back of my mind for months that I need to complete my Encyclopedia of Moi. Months turned into years and I realized today that it's been two years since I posted the letter E. No, I won't give up -- I will finish what I started, it just may take a lifetime.  So I sat down and thought about what has been meaningful and fun in my life, all beginning with the letter F!

Faith - There are times it has eluded me, but I always come back to this core of my existence -- my faith.  Faith in God, faith that things will get better, faith in people that I love.  The word faith probably pops into my conversations several times a week!  There is no doubt in my mind that the more we practice faith, the more we experience it's growth in our lives.

Family - My family means the world to me!  We have strong family ties and in our hearts we know that we will always be there for one another, no matter what.  My parents taught my siblings and me unconditional love and my sisters and I strive to pass that on to our children and one another.  I feel so fortunate to have a family that shares this value.  Add to that a sense of humor that sends us into laughing fits, and I think we're pretty blessed to be part of such a balanced way of approaching life.


Friends - My friends come from so many areas of my life.  My "oldest" friends I keep in touch with are from grade school and high school.  I have a couple of cousins who are good friends that I can call on the phone and it is like all time melts away when we make contact. I've made new friends through the years through other friends, work and volunteer activities.  Through my nonprofit work, I've made friends with people all over the world and now have close friends in England and Kenya who I never would have met had it not been for this world opening to me.  My daughters and sisters are the best friends I could ever ask for!  It's such a joy and comfort to open yourself up to the richness of friendship.  

French - Today I'm sharing a secret with you -- I'm a bit of a Francophile. This started when I was a very young girl, actually, with French influences throughout my life such as...
~French classes were offered in my elementary school one summer, and I signed up so learned to speak and write French and appreciate French culture at a young age. This has followed me ever since. I took French again in college and my professor was impressed enough with my skill to recommend me for a full scholarship to attend a year of college in France.  One of my biggest regrets in life was NOT taking advantage of that scholarship!  Parlez-vous Francais?  
~The Christmas my dad gave my mom a tiny French poodle -- Tiny Lily was hidden under his overcoat when he came in the door that Christmas Eve and voila!  We had a new family pet -- my mom loved this dog dearly. 

~When I was about 9 years old, my mom gave me my first bottle of perfume --"Evening in Paris."  I can still close my eyes and remember the scent and see that blue bottle. Do you remember that fragrance?  I felt très sophistiquée.EVENING IN PARIS COLOGNE

~There was a magazine spread (I'm thinking it was Life magazine) about France in our living room which I loved to study  -- I remember one picture in particular that showed a girl about my age walking down a cobblestone street with bags of baguettes in her arms, and I imagined what her life was like.

~Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy was the first lady when I was at an impressionable age, and she brought a love of French sophistication and elegance to her role.
~I've been to France a couple of times and j'adore la France!
~Last, but not least, some of my ancestors were French, so I'm entitled!  ;)
Ooh la la -- my inner French girl is alive and well!

Flowers - Who doesn't love flowers?  Each time I pass a field of wild flowers I want to stop and take a picture. 
Join in and start your own Encyclopedia of Moi!