Saturday, December 31, 2005

May You Take Next Year One Day at a Time

Sunsets and Turtles and Seahorses, Oh My.

Hawaii long ago lost the Polynesian Aloha that we are told is there in brochures and photos. It is a friendly but sterile place to holiday in the South Pacific. It has become the common place of beaches, surfing, shopping and fancy hotels, not much different from other vacation spots. The natural beauty of the islands is the only remnant of the original place and this is hanging on by a thread. The island of Maui retains a little of the 1960's hippie time and is the only island where you can listen to real Hawaiian music on the radio station.

Our two week trip to the island of Hawaii renewed many memories as it does each time we visit. But this time, I actually tried to get Polynesia to creep back into my old soul and with a little effort it did even though we were jetsetting. We were on Oahu three days, Kauai one day, Maui one day, Hawaii (The Big Island) two days, and then our vacation actually started and we were back on Kauai for 8 whole days. This vacation was also a little different from many we have taken due to a personality change in my husband. Hubby is the kind of person who thinks vacation days should begin at 6:00 AM and go through to 10:00 PM filled to the brim with activities---it probably has something to do with getting your money'’s worth, but he is also the kind of person who lives life at a the 110% blowout level. This time we actually slept in until 8:00 AM most mornings and were in bed before 10:00 PM. What a REAL vacation.

Ok, close your eyes and think warm ocean breezes and rustling coconut palms above your head with a gentle bubbly wave caressing the beach at your feet. Smell the plumeria blossoms in the lei on your shoulders. Maybe you can e
ven think about my newly discovered cocktail, a Kaffir Lime Drop, just for the fun of it. (Remember I have got this thing for kaffir lime trees. I was even was able to find one in one of the botanical gardens and took the photo below. I like to think that the fruit is a lot like me(…) bumpy on the outside, but filled with fresh zest on the inside.)


We arrived in mid-afternoon after the '“red-eye' flight. Bofore hubby'’s meetings started we took a drive to the Nuuanu Pali Lookout on the island of Oahu. This is a short drive from Honolulu to the other side of the island. There is a parking lot, then a short walk to the overlook that can be seen in the lower left of the picture. This is the view from the lookout . Pali is an Hawaiian word meaning cliffs. Well, it was certainly breathtaking and always brings back the memories. On some days this view has a strong ocean breeze blowing you over back into the parking lot. A Colorado mountain girl loves her mountain views.

We left the lookout and decide to get away from the crowds and hike down the abandoned paved road nearby on the back of the mountain side. Glad our timing didn'’t coincide with this '“little'” rockfall above.

This view above is from our Oahu hotel room balcony. Why a picture of an ongoing construction sight you may ask? It was taken for reasons of nostalgia and a painful realization. This site was once the location of the Tahitian Lanai Restaurant where my husband proposed to me late one night after his red-eye flight from Florida and where we had our little wedding reception the day we were married many years ago. We are now really old, having out-lived the buildings in our memories. Geeese!

When I first arrived in Honolulu, many years ago during a week of job hunting, I stayed at the YWCA located on one floor of a high rise across from this park - —which is part of the Fort DeRussy military R&R site. At the time I was there, Fort DeRussy was filled with soldiers from Viet Nam on R&R. I don'’t like to think about that. In the background in this photo are the aging YUPPIES doing some kind of tai chi or something in the park. Silly looking, I think. I have never been a group participation type person.

This is a view back to our hotel area from the Ala Wai Yacht harbor in Honolulu. I also lived here on a boat, a unique catamaran, for several months during graduate school. (Another life story.) The harbor has not changed much although the water doesn'’t look as clean as it used to.

I shopped at the Ala Moana Shopping Center the following afternoon. This is a paradise if you love to shop. It combines all the high end stores from the mainland U.S. with some of the Asian stores. I noticed that most of the woman sales clerks (which are at least partially Asian) dye their beautiful black hair a red-brown color - which is NOT flattering. My favorite Asian store was gone unfortunately.

Well, our next stop was Maui for just one day. Above a lovely view of a sunrise from our hotel on Maui.

Next stop for a day and a half was on Hawaii or as it is also called, the Big Island. On the left side in this photo above, if you look closely, you will see four people. One is a photographer, another is a woman in a long white muu muu with a Bible in her hand and the other two people are a couple getting married (or renewing their vows). I accidentally encountered this ceremony walking along the beach from my hotel. I was trying to get photos of the several large turtles coming to the surface in the water. But the turtles were relating to the ceremony in some Kharmic way, and I sensed my photo was not going to happen. So, no cool photos of turtles, but I bought several wooden and glass ones to add to my collection.

While on the big island we visited an acquaintance that knew a small company that raises shrimp and seahorses. We were introduced to an energetic young couple trying to start a very interesting business. The first photo is at a rock quarry with native tiny red shrimp that can just barely be seen. These are those little red shrimp that you can purchase in those '“environmental'” water globes that are sold. The globe is balanced with plant life and the shrimp seems to live forever in them. The seahorses are not indigenous to Hawaii and therefore sold only on the mainland U.S. They actually have to be habituated to people so that they don'’t get stressed out and die and that is why they are gently handled before being sold.

I will post part two of my Hawaiian adventure in few days.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

First New Year's Resolution

I have a told in my tose, I tant breed...I resolve to stop kissing cute faces with snot running down them!

Monday, December 26, 2005

My Hawaiian Bird Journal

Our trip in Hawaii included several hikes along the coast or over the high ridges of those jewel-purple mountains. There were many bird sightings. I wasn’t able to get pictures of all the elegant and rare birds we saw because I don’t have a telephoto on my camera (maybe this is next year’s Christmas present?). I did get some photos of the closer, more common or less shy birds.

In honor of Hedwig (and all other bird and nature lovers) here are my bird photos. I also did some research on the Internet so that I can pretend I know what I am talking about. Most of the photos were taken on Kauai, the Garden Island, where more than 80 species of birds are present but some of the photos may be on other islands…I didn’t make sure to mark where pictures were taken.

The state of Hawaii includes 6 major islands as well as other small ones. Therefore, this island ecology creates unique birdlife because of its isolation. According to several books and the Internet, 32 species of alien (introduced) birds, are now known to breed on Kauai where we spent most of our time. Many species have evolved in their own leisurely fashion to some 78 bird species unique to the
islands in Hawaii. Resident species remain permanently in Hawaii; visiting birds regularly come to Hawaii for only part of each year crossing that vast Pacific ocean.

When Polynesians first settled in Hawaii roughly 2,000 years ago (Kirch 1982) they also brought some of their favorite bird and plant species. One bird species brought by the early Polynesians still survives in Hawaii, the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus),
ancestor of the domestic chicken. The Hawaiians called it moa, not related to the flightless bird in New Zealand also called moa. The Hurricane Iniki forced chicken farms to release even more domestic chickens in 1992. The island of Kauai has very few or no introduced mongoose (depending on who you talk to or what you read) and therefore, these newly released chickens seem to have proliferated more successfully on this island. Mongoose were introduced to take care of the growing rat population in the sugar cane fields, but some idiot didn’t know that mongoose are diurnal (day feeders) and rats are nocturnal (night feeders), so birds and bird eggs got a double hit. At least jungle fowl keep the insects down and make sure you don't sleep too late on the mornings of your vacation---but probably to the detriment of the island ecology overall. These chickens are EVERYWHERE!

The first photo above is the view from our hotel balcony showing the jungle fowl cleaning the lawn of bugs and the other photo was taken in a parking lot near a hiking trail. In every instance children absolutely loved the chickens.

Another introduced species is the Brazilian Cardinal (Paroaria coronata). The islands also have smaller numbers of the red cardinal that we know. This fellow visited a rooftop seen from a side of our hotel balcony every morning because someone threw bread to that area!! The second photo is another cardinal in a plumeria tree below our balcony.

Then of course, even more adventurers landed on the islands after that first group of Polynesians. According to Robert L. Pyle of the Bishop museum (Hawaii) “16 species of birds (resident-native) have become extinct since Captain Cook's visit; 35 or more species (subfossils, probably native residents) were extinct before Captain Cook's visit; and about 150 species are alien introductions not established. Adding these to the 272 species here now constitutes about 475 species of birds known to have occurred in Hawaii.”

Affecting more change were more animals being bought by Polynesians and others, animals such as pigs, dogs, cats, rats, cattle and the mongoose (which I mentioned above). This changed the fragile ecosystems, endangering many native bird populations. Most devastating of all was the destruction and loss of natural habitat when lands were converted to agriculture (sugar cane first and now other crops such as coffee and pineapple) or development (they are continuing to “pave paradise to make a parking lot.”) Today, 30 bird species are considered endangered, and one is threatened. Hawaii is noted for having large numbers of rare and endangered plant and animal species.

One of my favorite birds, not a native and hardly endangered, is the Perkutut. My love for this bird comes from memories of its’ sweet gentle song which I heard each day when I lived thereas a young student. I had arrived on Oahu with little money, plans to go to graduate school, and knowledge of no one on the island (another life story someday). Each day this little bird woke me with his lovely song. This is also known as the Zebra dove, the Indonesian common name is “perkutut”, and its scientific name is Geopelia striata. It is among the smallest of the terrestrial doves, probably introduced from Asia. It is shy, and while ranging widely to look for food or escape harassment, it is not migratory and can be found everywhere in the Hawaiian islands. His head an neck are a gentle sky blue.

I can’t tell if this is a Golden plover below or the lesser plover—but I am inclined to think is is the lesser plover, but I am not a bird expert. We saw a number of these on the beach, they were shy and it was hard to get a good picture. The Golden plover migrates all the way from Alaska, maybe the lesser plover does also (?), I don't know.

The next photos were taken at a wildlife refuge. The interesting excavations that you see in the first photo are little bird homes we saw on the side of the hill as we walked out to the lighthouse at the Kilauea National Wildlife refuge on Kauai. If you look click on that photo and look closely at the center top hole, you can see the park service has inserted some support to help with bird home development--or maybe the building inspector was out and required more roof support? (Sorry that should go on my building blog.) These tunnels are the home of Shearwaters (see photo of sign) which nest in burrows in the soft soil of this Kilauea Point overlooking the ocean (sorry no photo of the actual bird). My husband said he can remember hearing these birds moan and groan at night when he was camping in Hawaii years ago. Great frigatebirds, brown boobies, red-tailed and white-tailed tropicbirds, and Laysan albatrosses can be seen from this point as well, but I didn’t get good pictures—just the white dots in the distance. Some of them swooped dramatically overhead catching the air currents against the side of the hill . I also tried for those photos in vain. We also saw Green sea turtles and distant humpback whales in the water.

Next is this ‘evolved Canadian goose’ which was really fun for me to see. They were much rarer when I lived in Hawaii many years ago and I never saw one. The Nene (pronounced "nay-nay") is a land bird and a variety of goose. Because of the rough lava terrain the bird has evolved from a traditional goose by transforming its webbed feet into
a claw-like shape and modifying its wing structure for shorter flights. Hunting and wild animals all but destroyed the species until they were protected by law and a restoration project was established in 1949. This is Hawaii’s state bird and is thought to be a descendant of some ancient Canadian goose that got off track, in the late 1700s. According to some research I did on the Internet, 25,000 Nene were thought to inhabit the Big Island, but by the 1950s the population had dropped to an estimated 30 birds ( I lived there in the late 60s). We talked to the ranger who said there are thousands now, but a web site states that it is estimated about 300 Nene currently survive on the Big Island, 200 on Maui, and possibly 160 on Kauai. This little family in the photo has two new ones to add to the population.

The Hawaiian stilt Himantopus mexicanus knudseni called Ae`o in Hawaiian is a subspecies of the North American stilt. This stilt differs from the North American stilt in size and color by having more black on its face and neck, and a longer bill, tarsus, and tail. It is estimated there is a stable population of 1,200 to 1,600 birds with Maui and Oahu accounting for 60-70% of them. This photo was taken during a private self-directed garden tour that we took. There are several large botanical gardens on Kauai. The tours are not inexpensive, but the money goes to preservation of plant and animals and habitat.

The photo below is of the ‘Alae ‘Ula or Hawaiian Gallinule (Gallinula chloropus sandvicensis). They call this a subspecies of the common moorhen. I found this fun story about this bird in the Hawaiian culture. "It was in the days before fire was known to the people, and the gallinule took pity on them. Flying to the home of the gods (the volcanos), he stole a blazing brand and brought it back to earth. During his flight the gallinule's formerly white forehead was scorched by the volcanos' fires -- thus its name "alae" signifying a burnt forehead. Today all gallinules bear a red frontal shield on their heads." The bird builds its nest in water vegitation laying 6 to 13 eggs. This bird is fairly secretive and I felt lucky to get a picture of this group with their young fowl on edge of this dam in the garden. You will have to click on picture to see the fuzzy young one on the left hand side.

I also saw one of the Hawaiian short-eared owls (Pueo) sitting on a utility line as we sped by in our rental car to the hotel, but it was impossible to get a photo. We also saw the Apapane and the Iiwi which are pretty in color (red or green), but very fast in darting about, so again, no pictures. Maybe I’ll have pictures if there is a next time. Below is a photo of their favorite tree with their red honey filled flowers up in the high misty hills of Hawaii.

Next post on the plants we saw.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve dinner 2005

Son is coming for Christmas Eve dinner and then we are on our way to see King Kong tonight. I have been anticipating seeing this for months!!

Since my son doesn't get much home cooking and I don't want a large meal before Christmas dinner tomorrow I am preparing the following.

Christmas Eve Dinner:

Scotch Broth (which really is a stew)

2 pounds cubed lamb (if you get bones use them too)
9 cups water
2 tsp salt (add one and taste for saltiness after you add the herbed salt below)
2 tsp herbed salt (like Herbs de Provence)
1/2 tsp thyme
12 peppercorns
4 whole cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
2 tblsp. dried celery flakes

(This second group to be added later)
1/4 cup butter
l/4 large onion chopped fine
2 large carrots or enough small carrots diced
1/2 cup diced fresh celery
1 tblsp. diced garlic
1/2 cup barley
3 tblsp flour
1 cup whole cream

Brown lamb in pan with a little oil. Add all of the ingredients in the first group and simmer for at least 3 hours.

When done simmering add all the ingredients from the second group (EXCEPT flour, barley and cream) to another pan and saute but not until brown, just until slightly cooked and flavors mix. Add last flour and barley in the second group and heat for 2-5 minutes longer.

Add the above to the hot lamb stock with lamb--you can strain other ingredients if you are particular from the lamb stock before adding the above--heat all through. Stir in cream and simmer 10 minutes before serving with some nice crusty bread and butter.

For dessert I am serving gingerbread and vanilla ice cream.

Watching football while gingerbread bakes. Boy the apartment smells nice.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Holiday Season 2005

What a rush I am having. I can't believe that I have done this!

Well, let me begin at the beginning. By that, I mean beginning about 20 years ago.

I had small children then and these holidays came with much responsibility. I would spend the months preceding December 25th baking cookies and freezing them for later decoration. I would be making unique and quality crafted tree decorations for the church sale (one Christmas I made felt Mrs. Santas in White, Black and Asian mode even!) I hand wrote notes on about 75 Christmas cards and got them out in the mail before I got my first card from anyone! I mean it was genius.

I would get the cookies thawed and decorated and take a package to each of my neighbors going door to door.

I would decorate my house from rafter to front door. I gathered my own greens from my yard and wove in ribbons and decorations...I REALLY did.

I would have my gifts shopped for and mailed in plenty of time to beat the long lines at the Post Office.

So, I had quite a system going. I mean I was a little snarly by the 23rd -- or the 21st if they forgot my birthday--but a little bourbon in the egg nog and I was mellow again. Come to think of it, we went through lots of bourbon that month.

Well, guess what I have accomplished this year and it is only the 23rd!!!

Trees up and decorated - 0
Cards sent - 0
House decorations up - 0
Cookies baked - 0
Crafts completed - 0
Gifts mailed - 50%
Gifts purchased - just enough

Dinner shopping--none--guess what?
I have finagled dinner at my daughter's in-laws' house.

Guilt for all this -0 (or should I say priceless?)

Happy Holidays! Joyoux Yule! Mele Kalikimaka! Greetings on whatever or however you celebrate!

(Finally got my part 1 draft on the trip posted below)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hawaii trip--Part 1.

Well, as I anticipated, the trip was a little crazy in the beginning due to using free miles, this meant we left at strange times and took longer routes. We had a 5 hour lay-over in San Francisco. Years earlier if this had happened we would have just suffered it out at the airport, but we are now older and with more discretionary income, so we took a taxi into town for a dinner at the harbor. We ate king crab, which is not that salty dried stuff you get on the East Coast. It actually tastes more like crab and your face and fingers smell fully of your gluttony when you are done. They gave us bibs with good reason. I washed very carefully knowing I would be sitting next to strangers on the long plane ride over the Pacific.

I have visited San Francisco before and knew the temperatures would be mild and the culture very liberal. The mild climate meant that there were homeless or drifters in the parks, all in very good humor doing street dancing and singing and dressed most colorfully. It seems everyone in California has a talent of some kind.

We encountered a 'farmers market' down near the docks. This was a little different than most farmer's markets you might be used to, because San Francisco's customers are relatively well-educated and upscale in income. So we saw stalls with fresh oysters and sushi, exotic flowers, homemade soaps and perfumed oils, unusual sauces and syrups (One sauce was a cherry jelly with chile peppers in it!), and this fruit (?) below that I had never seen before.

We bought some dried pluots (I can't remember how you spell this but it is a cross between an aprico
t and plum, I think. Ours were a deep burgandy red, not like the picture on the webpage linked above.) These were very tangy in their sweetness and they lasted as great snacks through a good part of our Hawaii trip. (We didn't think we had to report them to USDA upon landing in Hawaii because they only asked about "fresh" fruit. Anyway, if they had had bugs we ate them!)

I took some photos of the lovely sailboats, one of one of the many yacht harbors and of course, the smelly, noisy seals airing their armpits as they do---see the fellow in the upper middle.

As you can see, they also do Christmas in San Francisco. After our early dinner we headed back to the airport and on to entry on my journey.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

My Present? A Rapidly Fading Tan

300 digital pictures later! Really didn't want to come back. Will blog about it later, since today is my birthday! Happy birthday to me!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Aloha nui loa

View of Honolulu from Roundtop

I am leaving on a jet plane (Oooo, sounds like an old favorite song of my youth) early on Saturday. Friday I am packing, doing laundry, tying up loose ends. (It seems the older I get the more my life unravels and the more loose ends I keep trying to tie back up!)

Anyhow, checking the flight plan once again it appears that my trip will be from here and via San Francisco arriving in Honolulu on 12/3.. 12/6 leave Honolulu for Kauai. 12/8 on to Kona (via Honolulu). 12/10 back to Kauai (via Honolulu.) 12/19 leave the Pacific and head back home. Needless to say this whole mess is more complicated than it needs to be due to my using free miles and hubby's meeting schedule.

I hope to look up a number of old friends as we have many in Hawaii. I will try to blog, but since I am NOT bringing the heavy old laptop from work, I can't promise anything. I know you will all be so disappointed. Hopefully more so than my family in Colorado was when I told them there wouldn't be emails for a while. My son is jealous and my daughter will miss the free babysitting. Ah, such is life.

Of course there will be pictures, warm pictures to contrast with the winter weather that will greet me upon my return.

Keep an eye on the house building project for me---make sure they don't cut any corners.

Aloha nui loa.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It all depends on what IT really IS

By my way of thinking (and occasionally I do think before I blog) we live in a culture where the look of everything is more important than the core reality and function of the thing itself.

For instance, we are told that we should exercise and eat well for good health. Yet anyone who does this and still looks chunky is not regarded as healthy by the general observer, even though their health may be better than the skinny person standing next to them who exercises rarely and eats a quick donut and coffee for breakfast. It is all about the superficial look. Not the color of the skin and the healthy glow of the hair.

We envy that designer bag that is an ugly color and doesn't hold stuff very efficiently, but costs lots of money and sends the message that we are rich (and also stupid with our richness). It's not about what the bag does, but the message it sends.

We buy fruit in the grocery store that no longer tastes like freshly picked fruit with the juice of its season, but tastes like cardboard fruit. BUT the appearance of the fruit is perfect in color (maybe enhanced) and certainly perfect in shape. We don't tolerate any blemishes on those perfect orbs, while sacrificing freshness. It is about how it looks, not what it is.

We idolize athletes that win games and break records, yet they are running on steroids and metal pins and pain killers and braces. They are not exactly their original selves anymore.

We worship entertainment icons that are usually more plastic and toxic botoxed than real---especially the women. Their talent alone is not enough to hold our interest and our honor for their hard work. They must NEVER show their real age. We are amazed that pregnant celebrities are back in shape days after giving birth while real mothers actually look like the mothers they are--which is the real parent? (Watch British television for a refreshing change in making older people the primary characters in the television stories. They appear with their weight problems, faded teeth and all and BBC casts the younger people who actually look like the real girl or boy next door!)

And finally, the McMansions that we build are not to shelter our loved ones. They are hugh cavernous entities with specialized rooms that may never be used or never even furnished. It is not about the function of our dwellings anymore. A house is not a home.

(By the way, talking about reality vs image, did anybody see that terrible lip synching job Mariah Carey did at the Lions vs. Atlanta Falcons
football game halftime? It all depends on what singing really is, I guess.)

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Mixed Thanksgiving

I think most families find the holidays very mixed, at best. Relationships with relatives and in-laws are not perfect and so we try to be on our best behavior to make the holiday perfect. On top of that, we may see people we haven't seen in a year or more and want this time with them to be filled with the best of sharing while trying to run around and do all the other tasks at hand.

As I look back over my holidays while growing up, there were days with tears, days with resentment, days with fullness of feelings to the point of exhaustion. Most of my holidays were good, a few excellent, and a few (especially during my teens and twenties) filled with foot-in-mouth disease and anger.

Last week's Thanksgiving was at my daughter's. She invited the parents-in-law and my son (whom as you know I don't see often enough). The main attraction, besides football, was Xman, of course. He was on his best behavior, while being exhausted before the evening hours. My son was very affectionate to us, and both my husband and I were a little surprised at this since he is 25 and also a bit of a withdrawn person. I thought this over and think it was because he has not seen us in a little over a month, and he saw the change that age brings with time. I remember not seeing my parents for two years and flying home and feeling so shocked at the airport to see how old they had gotten while I was busy living my rich life. When you see someone weekly you don't notice these changes in them.

I had to cook only the sweet potato casserole and the sausage stuffing casserole. Everything else was done by my daughter! So that made the work insignificant on my part.

Another strange thing about this Thanksgiving was a call to my brother in Colorado to touch base with that side of the family. My sister and her family were there. My other brother and his wife are in Madagascar on a volunteer research project and not in attendance this year for the first time. My father has moved in with my brother in Colorado since the death of my mother this past spring, so this was the first Thanksgiving for them without my mother. I and my family played pass the phone to talk to all, except for my Dad. He wouldn't come to the phone saying he was too busy eating. I know that he wouldn't come because his hearing is so bad these days that phone conversations are very difficult for him, and this embarrasses him. He has always hated the phone, even when his hearing was fine. He will talk to my sister when she calls from Denver mid-day to check on him, but he is very comfortable with her and her voice. I am wondering if this means I may not speak to my father again before he dies...he is 91. They are talking about trying to get him out this spring to us when our new house is done. But, I know enough about life and its tweaks and turns, and that this visit may not happen.

As you can see, it was a very different Thanksgiving for me this year.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Epilogue to Life Story #2

As sometimes happens in life, an action or memory will be followed closely by a coincidental activity that makes you pause. Those of you who read my posting " Life Story #2" may be interested in something that we received yesterday in the mail. A distant relative of my husband's was going through her mother's things and came across the letter and enclosed photo above that was taken in front of Morro Castle. The letter was written by my mother-in-law regarding the infamous Cuba trip and now at least gives me a dated reference.
This photo above is just a little different than the one I posted, isn't it? The letter went on to say that Castro's two sisters who fought by his side were also at the hotel. She also wrote about the stories the Cubans told of Batista's cruelty and the details (if true--30,000 people tortured) which are just as awful as the details from Abu Graib and from Saddam's despotic rule. She wrote about a story she was told of 3 million dollars stashed in a graveyard as the revolution came down and an urn of Batista's that was filled with human eyeballs! The more things change the more they stay the same.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Egg Candy

This is a gift of "candy" from some Japanese colleagues. I am not fond of Asian sweets and I have a feeling that these will not surprise me when I taste them. The Japanese like raw eggs and these really look like raw eggs! At least the wrapping was beautiful and the thought was good. It was wrapped in pretty Japanese paper covering a box and then the plastic wrap which is shown and another layer of plastic covering over the actual tray of sweets.

(and later...)

Ok, the outside is sweet and as gelatinous smooth as it looks, The inside is powdery and grainy, exactly like the texture of a well-cooked egg yolk. Probably one of the most unusual foods I have eaten in a long time.

Monday, November 14, 2005

A Fall Walk in the Woods

Yesterday afternoon was too nice to stay indoors so I went for a walk in the woods just north of where I live. Most of the leaves were off the trees, but there were still some nice photos. Wandered through the grassy field to find soft green deer beds in the middle. The final picture of a tree in rock sure makes my life look easy.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

This is not a Meme

If you are younger than 50 you probably don’t read Ronnie's blog. But she has been writing about ageing for many months now and if you are younger than 50 (including you 20-somethings) and you read blogs of those 'older' you should read her most recent post linked above. It has some great insight both from Ronnie and her other bloggers about blogging relationships.

I challenge those of you under 50 (or older) to post about blog friendship---not about those you know personally in your life, but about blog friends (any age) that you have made and why you think these friendships work for you at your time in life. Leave me a comment or link to your blog, so I can read this.

The blog friends that are my age inspire me, because we share common ideas, experiences and problems. I love the way we pat each other on the back and support each other as if we were old friends. I connect with those who have similar hobbies (gardening and photography, for instance) and look forward to exploring these more in-depth when I retire. I see similar challenges in our lives and this helps me focus on the big picture.

My blog friends that are younger add so much to my life, since I agree with Ronnie in that we wouldn’t have such an in-depth exchanges of ideas if we were sitting together at a dinner party or luncheon. Their cell phone, children, good-looking passersby, whatever, would be a distraction and interruption. I get to give unsolicited advice (a bad habit of mine) but I also get great perspective from them, energetic ideas, and they help me remember the challenges I faced when I was their age.

Blog mates that are older than me help me see what lies ahead and help me prepare for the next part of my life. They prove that while some parts of the body may be presenting new challenges, that old brain and personality can still shine through when we are not distracted by appearances. They also remind me about how healthy humor is.

And finally the bloggers that I connect with that live in other countries add a tremendous new kaleidoscopic beauty to the exchange of ideas and experiences over blogdom. I get to re-visit those areas of the world I have previously seen or see these places through different eyes. I also get to take a new trip to an area of the globe and have tea in the back garden with the blogger.

I guess what I love about blogging friendships the most is the opportunity to exhange ideas with the whole smorgasbord of the world. (And I love the Internet so that I can look up "kaleidoscopic" and "smorgasbord" since my poor typing can mask my terrible spelling for only so long.)

Monday, November 07, 2005

Make Your Life Count vs. Counting Your Life Away

The summer that I was twenty-one waiting to begin my first teaching job since graduating from college, I worked at a local K-Mart store. While I had worked in the past as a waitress, this was my first retail experience in a store working behind the register. It was a little stressful since over $100,000 crossed my register each week, and they regularly sent fake customers through the line to see how you were doing and to see if you caught one of them hiding jewelry in a winter coat pocket or some other little test. My supervisor was an attractive, petite woman a little over 60 years in age. She dressed very well, and I kept wondering why she worked there. I am now guessing her job was due to a divorce or sudden change in finances in her life. I remember her telling me that she was counting the days until she could retire. And then she wryly added, “This is kind of stupid, because my life is short enough, why do I want to wish part of it to go by faster?”

Driving down to the house the other day, my husband repeated one of his mantras…something like: “I don’t want to winterize the boat just yet; I’d like to squeeze in another outing before that. I only have 20 more years of this before I am too old to get out anymore.” This statement always takes me back, because I have no idea what he is picturing in his mind twenty years from now. I also find this kind of thinking very depressing. So, I don’t even go there. I just like to live each day as fully as I can…John Lennons “Life is what happens while you're busy making other plans.” approach is fine with me.

Last Saturday night at my daughter’s house my son actually showed up for dinner. We hadn’t seen him in weeks. He had another cold and was low in energy. I told him he should sleep in this coming Sunday and should have slept in on Saturday so that he could repair his health instead of ‘jamming’ all day with his band. (He works nights.) He looked at me and said, “I have 52 weekends and I am not giving up anyone of them!”

Well, I have to take the garbage to the apartment shoot. I am going to count the steps there and magically will that number to be the amount of millions I will win when I buy a lottery ticket this weekend which should help me extend my life.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Fiddling with Paintshop

Blue Ridge Muse, manababies and others got me inspired this morning. Since I have nothing to say and since pictures speak louder than words...The grapes were cropped, made redder and I tried to sharpen the foreground which was blurred on the original. The others I just fiddles with all the artsy fartsy options in the software.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

One Reason I Love My Husband or What Men Might Be Surprised to Find is Sexy

Hubby was at a lengthy meeting with scientists from Norway all day yesterday. This is a big meeting where a huge number of scientists in lots of disciplines from Norway come to meet and exchange ideas with scientists in the U.S. At the cocktail party last night hubby was talking to one of the high level administrators who asked him, "If there was only one day to spend in D.C. what should I see?" The answer that hubby gave him, surprised the visitor. Hubby didn’t recommend the Air and Space Museum or the Museum of Natural History or any of the popular art galleries.

Hubby said: "Washington D.C. has much to see and it would be hard to see it all in one day. But, I would recommend the following: The Roosevelt Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. Read the words carved in granite at each of these memorials, because they reflect the important ideas on which this country was founded. These ideas are what America is really about, and we will get back on that track someday."

Needless to say, this well-traveled Norwegian was surprised and impressed by my husband’s suggestion. I hope he follows up.

My favorite is the Roosevelt Memorial. Most people miss it because it is located at the West Basin Drive which is usually only frequented by tourists during the cherry blossom festival. This memorial covers a good amount of space with four outdoor 'rooms' or 'retreats' built from walls made of red South Dakota granite. It is a very peaceful and quiet place and creates an atmosphere where one can ponder the meanings of the words. It makes me smile to note that all of these words were written before I was born.

For those of you who cannot visit D.C. the quotes from FDR are too many to post but here are a few from each room (comments in parens after some quotes are, of course, my two cents):

"No Country, however rich, can afford the waste of its human resources. Demoralization caused by vast unemployment is our greatest extravagance. Morally, it is the greatest menace to our social order." Second Fireside Chat on Government and Modern Capitalism, Washington, D.C., September 30, 1934. (Those who are against funding work shelters for illegal immigrants need especially to read this!)

"I never forget that I live in a house owned by all the American people and that I have been given their trust." Fireside Chat on Economic Conditions, Washington, D.C., April 14, 1938. (Can you imagine GWB saying this instead of “I have a mandate.”?)


"We have faith that future generations will know that here, in the middle of the twentieth century, there came a time when men of good will found a way to unite, and produce, and fight to destroy the forces of ignorance, and intolerance, and slavery, and war." Address to White House Correspondents' Association, Washington, D.C., February 12, 1943

"They (who) seek to establish systems of government based on the regimentation of all human beings by a handful of individual rulers call this a new order. It is not new and it is not order." Address to the Annual Dinner for White House Correspondents' Association, Washington, D.C., March 15, 1941.

"More than an end to war, we want an end to the beginnings of all wars." Undelivered Address prepared for Jefferson Day to be delivered April 13, 1945.

Where are the descendants of Roosevelt when you need them?

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Road trip

They let me stop to catch a photo or two.

Here is a shot of the grape orchard.

This is the rockwall by the garden. Notice how it catches the heat in the late fall to hold the vegetable harvest.

There were a few grapes still on the vine.

Saturday was nice with cold winds occasionally moving gray clouds overhead causing cold shadows to cross our paths. My husband had to pick up the small outboard motor that had been repaired after taking a swim in the Great Dismal last weekend---another story. We (my daughter who has cabin fever and who's husband is in Vegas at a bachelor party for the weekend---another story and rude comment on my part) and I wanted to head out to the wineries north of us. We have never taken any wine tours or tastings and decided to hit three of the local places.

Between picking up the small outboard motor, and then having to find a grocery store to triple wrap the motor in heavy duty garbage bags because of the gas fumes (which oddly enough did not bother my husband, just my daughter and I) we ended up with a late day start. You would not believe how strange we looked by the side of a country road wrapping something the size of a small child in garbage bags. I am amazed that no one called Homeland Security and that we were not pulled over later. Several cars drove by as the drivers gave us odd glances.

The local wineries we visited are small places that have not yet developed a reputation. The character and flavor of the wines were as unpredictable as the weather. Sometimes we were cold and sometimes warm. The wines were sometimes fair and sometimes pretty mediocre, but we were having fun, so didn't really care. Everyone was patient and let me stop and take a few photos which I posted above.