Friday, January 29, 2010

January 29


Dear Neighbors, yes there's more than one of you,
Please note the date, January 29, 2010, Christmas was December 25, 2009, last year.  Take down your Christmas decorations!  One of you put them up the day after Halloween, nearly 3 months ago.  We're not just talking lights here, we're talking big red bows, wreaths, decorated trees, all the sights of Christmas.  Get over it!  Christmas is gone and won't be back for awhile. 
If you can't stand to take it all down turn it into Valentine decorations.  Twist those bright red ribbons into hearts or cupid's arrows.  
I don't want to be a fussy neighbor, I appreciate that you have no kids, your dog hardly barks, you're never home, all the things I like in a neighbor but your Yule tide trimmings have got to go.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

State of the Union Response


I feel it necessary to give a response to last night's State of the Union Address.
So jobs are going to be the # 1 priority in '010, that's nice, they  should have been priority #1 in '09 and maybe the jobless rate wouldn't be standing at better than 10%.  Empty promises do no one any good.
Making big banks and Wall Street the bad guys is not the answer, nearly everyone has money in Wall Street either through personal accounts, 401's, pension accounts, etc.  So when he attacks these institutions and markets decline because they don't know what he may do we all suffer.
If he taxes the big banks they'll do one of two things, make fewer loans or pass the cost on to us, either way we lose.
He says there will be transparency in government but he's had a year to do that and he hasn't and he won't.
He said that all the combat troops would be out of Iraq by this August, but he failed to say that he's leaving 10's of thousands support troops there.
Though the Republicans are a stubborn, cantankerous  group he could have found a way to work with them or at least convince people that it was their fault.  Bill Clinton managed to do that, but for some reason he doesn't seem to either want to or be able to.
I don't want the Republicans to get smug, they have nothing to be smug about, I don't want the Democrats to continue with business as usual, that's not going to fly, and most of all I want the President to realize that he's not just the President of the large, liberal cities, but rather President of all the areas in between.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Wyatt Earp


Wyatt Earp may seem like a strange subject for me to write about but it really isn't, I've always had a fascination with the old west and the stories about the people who settled it.  My Dad always had Old West magazines laying around the house (I think that he always felt he'd been born a century too late)  that I'd read,  and when we traveled we'd usually include a side trip to old forts, cattle towns and of course Tombstone.  
Mac and I went there too a few years ago, really great place to see with its old saloons, opera house and of course the OK Corral.
We love the movie Tombstone have seen it more times than I can count, finally had to buy a copy of it. Kurt Russell as Wyatt is good, but Sam Elliot as his brother Virgil and Val Kilmer as Doc Holiday steal the show.
 Then Monday night we caught a show on PBS about Wyatt, telling his story from childhood, where his father was a deadbeat moving the family from town to town skipping out on debts, through his marriage that ended with his wife's death, his career as a bordello bouncer and on to his career as a lawman in Abilene and Dodge City.  From there he moved on to Tombstone and the event they say haunted the rest of his life, the gunfight at the OK Corral.  We've all seen picture of the famous shootout, the men facing each other across the corral, but  the program said the fight had taken place at barely arm's reach, extraordinary.
In later life Wyatt  was in Los Angeles and loved cowboy movies, traveling from one end of town to the other to see them all. 
Last year we watched a movie called "Sunset", a rather fictionalized version of his meeting with Tom Mix when he served as an advisor on one of his movies.  It starred Bruce Willis as Tom Mix and James Garner as Earp.  Though no means a great movie it was amusing and we enjoyed it.
Tom Mix was one of Wyatt's  pallbearers when he died and it's said that he cried.  I think he must have been a most interesting person, one of those you'd like to meet, have a beer with and a long talk about long ago.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hey Buddy Can You Spare a Dime?


While sitting in a local dance club a couple of weeks ago a generic looking blonde came up to us, gave me a big  hug and said, "Haven't seen you since the Cavalier."  Well we had no idea who she was, but Southern etiquette requires you to respond in kind, so I said, "Well they did burn it down, so here we are, how have you been?"  And she proceeded to tell us that she was involved with the old owners of the Cavalier and they were in the process of opening a new club, should be open in about 8 weeks.  We thought that was great, told her that if they needed any help to let us know because Mac had done a lot of paintings for the old place.  She left, with us being none the wiser as to who she was and we forgot about it.
Then last Friday night she showed up again, with her significant other in tow, whispered to me that she had forgotten our names, which I'm sure she had never known, introduced us and they began talking about the new club, what they were going to do, how they would run it, the bands they'd have, except for one little thing, they needed $35,000 that they would pay back in 6 months as 10% interest.  We were gobsmacked!  I mean we didn't know these folks from Adam. And worse, they wouldn't go away which really put a drag on our dancing, needless to say we left early.
Next day we called our friend Mike, told him he'd have to dig up the can of cash in the backyard because we were going into business with 2 people we'd never met before but would be making us a lot of money.  After the laughter we decided that the old maxim is true, it definitely takes all kinds.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Library























In a fit of madness, or just a moment of deciding my daughter April was right, I started to do something about our library.
Each time she comes she asks,"How do you find anything?", and truth be told, we can't find anything.  Frequently we buy books we already own.  
So with a prayer to Athena, goddess of wisdom and strategic battles,  I headed upstairs where our books are spread over 3 rooms, 6 bookcases and 2 closets.  I felt not unlike Hercules trying to clean out the Augean Stables. 
First I had to decided how to sort them, the simplest being by author, and that's what I'm doing, at least for the fiction.  Now that doesn't mean they'll be in alphabetical order, that's too much moving.  But all of Jane Austen will be together even if she's next to all of the Stephan King.
For the nonfiction, which actually makes up most of our library, it will be by subject matter, i.e.  travel, food, customs, folklore, antiques, history.  This should only take me about a month or two. 
So all you librarians, and almost librarians, say a prayer for me.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Classics Strike Again


Was on YouTube yesterday watching Hitler rants and I ran across a comedian with a guitar doing a rant about Pachibel's Canon in D.  It was hilarious!  He was playing Pachibel's Canon in D on the guitar and said that he hadn't always been a cool dude with a guitar, but rather, a geek kid playing the cello, and that he'd loved all the classical music he'd played except Pachibel because the cello only got to play 8 lousy notes D,A,Bm,F#,G,D,G,A) over and over ---54 times-- (he'd counted it) and so he hated it, but couldn't escape it.  They'd played it at a step-nephew-in-law's graduation  with Vitamin C singing their version of it , turned on classic rock station and Arrowsmith is singing it as "Crazy", folk station had another version, Blues Traveler is doing it and calling it "Run Around", Plain White T-Shirts are doing it as "Hey There Delilah", Green Day calls it "Hope You're Had the Time of You Life", the Beatles did it as "Let it Be", U-2 "I'll Wait For You"----- so there's no escaping it.  I laughed till I cried.
And by the way, if you haven't seen any of the Hitler Rants you're missing a good laugh, particularly the one about Brett Favre and old fart quarterbacks.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hasta La Vista Epson


Yesterday on Facebook I said that my Epson (let's be specific) printer was getting ready to take a long flight down a short flight of stairs and today is the day.  I hate that printer, they gave it to me free with my new computer last year and having used it for a year I feel they should have paid me to take it. Read a great little piece about printers at "The Oatmeal" saying that printers were sent from hell to make us miserable and it's true.
They jam, they give cryptic error messages, make horrible prints (either grainy as hell or full of lines), make a racket that sounds like robot mating, break down when you need them the most (when I had to print out boarding passes and had to make a flying trip to the library to do it), refuse to recognize the ink cartridges I bought because they're the cheap ones and not the over-priced name brands that cost more than the computer, and occasionally prints well so I think I should keep it only to discover the next time I need it it's worse than useless.
So hasta la vista Epson, enjoy your trip.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Mid-Winter Dreams


Yes I know that technically it's not mid-winter yet, but I can dream.  It's a beautiful day here, highs in the upper 60'd, loads of sunshine and I went puttering in the garden.  Pulled a few weeds, but it's much too muddy to do much of anything but dream.
Winter has been hard on my Southern garden and I'm worried about my Hibiscus  and the Confederate rose.  The lemon tree and orange tree came through fine and the bougainvillea seems to be ok.
Mac planted Fava Beans (an English Broad Bean, but he knows it as a Spanish bean) and they're thriving.
I planted Spanish bluebells last fall and Louisiana iris' s and I waiting to see what happens with them.
In the meantime I'm going to look through my Niche Garden catalog and do some more dreaming.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Every Family Has One Part Two

I have been working hard on our family genealogy since New Years, looking into both mine and Mac's families.
I've had a lot of help from Mac's cousins Bill and Terri, a friend, Pat Navarro,   and most of all from  his cousin Isabel who really came through, making lots of phone calls on my behalf.
But one person who could have helped, but didn't, was Mac's older brother, who shall be nameless,
though  Mac's younger brother says, "Once an a*****e always and a*****e".
Cousin Isabel called h
im to ask if he could make copies of some newspaper articles about their Father for us, she had given him the articles originally, and naively thought he would be happy to share them with us.  He said no, he wouldn't do it.  Isabel says she's saying prayers he'll change his mind, but I'm not holding my breath.
Actually, we already have the articles, Mac's Mom had sent them to us, so the only person he's hurting with his attitude is himself.
The research has been great fun, when I get it done I'll share it with the family or with most of the family. So far in addition to finding family members on census rolls,  I've found the passenger list where Mac's maternal grandparents came to the States from Spain, I've traced parts of my Dad's family back to the 1700's in Virginia and I'm working on my Okie/Indian connections.
Mac's Dad's family remains the most elusive, but Mac is going to contact a cousin on the Gutierrez side and we're hopeful.
So though Dr.Evil may plot against us the research goes on.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I've been working hard on the family genealogy and have received a lot of help from Mac's cousin Isabel.  So today I thought I'd write about Mac's maternal Grandmother Maria Antonia Campos Hernandez.  She was born in Macotera, Spain in 1886.  She and her husband Sebastian Hernandez Hernandez emigrated from Spain about 1911, going first to Hawaii and then on to California. Mac's Mom said they buried a baby at sea and she was their first child born in America.
Like many immigrants they were poor and the only job they could find was  picking crops.  Patty, Mac's Mom, remembered going to school and then having to leave and follow the crops, from asparagus in the early part of the year, through beans, tomatoes, apricots, etc.
Sebastian and Maria worked hard though, saving their money,  and eventually they bought their own home on Watkins St. in Hayward where many other Spanish families lived.  They eventually owned 3 houses and used 2 as rentals.
She didn't like cooking and Patty can't remember her ever doing it.  Though it's obvious someone taught Patty to cook.  The family would butcher a pig each fall and make its own mortadella,  chorizo and other Spanish sausages.  They also made their own wine. 
Mac remembers her loving to watch the wrestling matches on tv. she called them  los luchadores and would cheer them on.
After the death of her husband Mac's Aunt Dottie and Uncle George lived with her.  They had a big dog, a boxer, that many people were afraid of, but Abuela would smack it on the nose and it would run off.
She never spoke English, though I suspect she understood a lot of it.  I met her in 1965 when she gave a Bridal shower for me.  Sweet lady, always full of kisses for everyone.  Mac says she was one of those smiley Grandmas who was always glad to see you.  Unlike most of the older Spanish ladies on Watkins St. she didn't wear black, much too cheerful for that.
Diagnosed with diabetes she would sneak ice cream bars carrying them in her dress pocket.
In her late 70's she had breast cancer and had to have a mastectomy  and radiation treatment.  Mac's Mom said she was so strong and  never complained
She died in August 1966, a strong, brave lady who had traveled far, endured much with little complaint and much humor.


Friday, January 15, 2010

Taxes


We paid our quarterly taxes today, which improved Mac's mood no end.  It's good to know we're funding so many worthwhile things, like:
 
A study to find out if high heels hurt your feet

A study to see if Dragon boat racing helps cancer survivors

A study to see how canoes help cultural identity

A study to see how snorting cocaine causes anxiety

A study to see if women are aroused by porn

Fund a study in France about the olive fruit fly

Pay for tatoo removal in California

Fund efforts to combat "goth culture" in Kansas


I sleep better at night knowing how hard my tax dollars are working.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Old Age and Cold Weather.


All things considered it could be worse.  Our lowest temperature so far has been 22 and our lowest high was 38.  Cold, but not International Falls Minnesota (the nation's ice box) cold, where it hit -37 both Saturday and Sunday.  But I've never liked the cold, not even as a kid.  I was born in Oakland,  California which is frequently damp, but the temperature is rather temperate with the average highs being in the mid-50's to the mid-70's  and the average lows running from the low 40's to the mid-50's.
When I was 4 we moved to Kansas City, Missouri which gets quite cold in the winter, with lows in the 20's and highs in the 30's during winter, snow is not unusual.  The first time I saw snow there I went out to play and quickly returned to the house and covered my hands with bandaids.  They were simply cold, but I thought I'd hurt them because they hurt so badly.
Before moving here to Georgia we were living in Hemet, California, where a friend informed me it was 70 today.  So I'm not use to winter, and as I get older it gets harder to deal with.  I wake up with all my joints aching, my back aching, my skin dried out because the air's so dry, and my hair looking like Carrot Tops on his worst day.
I can't play in my yard, everything is frozen, can't clean the pool it has ice in it, don't need to mow, the grass doesn't grow in the winter, though tomorrow I'm going to fire up my tractor and blow pine straw with it.
What I do "enjoy" about winter is how clean and crisp the air is.  The sky is always very blue here, next to no air pollution , but there is an extra crispness to it in winter.  Not all our trees lose their leaves, the live oaks, magnolias, swamp bay and others stay green year round.  And we get lots of winter visitors to our bird feeder.
Usually February is our coldest month, but I'm hoping January gets the honor this year and that we can start an early spring.  In the meantime, I've ordered some silk long johns and booked  a flight to the Florida Keys for us, it had better warm up down there!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Last Restaurant Standing


Not a huge reality show fan, but there are a few I watch.  One that I'm watching for the third year is Last Restaurant Standing  on the BBC.  Nine couples are given a restaurant and each week much complete a food related challenge in order to stay on.    The lowest 3,  in terms of money made and success in completing the challenge,  are put into a further challenge and the loser leaves.  Simple as that, but it's not.  With each couple one must be the chef and one must run front of house, being the host/hostess setting up tables, directing staff, etc.  Some of the people have restaurant or kitchen experience and some don't have a clue.  They must name their restaurant (one couple named theirs Ostrich because she'd dressed as one while working at Disneyland and had become "one" with the ostrich---they didn't last long),  pick a food theme (organic, locally grown, vegetarian, ethnic, something), decorate the place, hire staff, shop for food and complete the weekly challenge, be it providing special meals for folks with dietary needs, writing a cookbook, turning one of their meals into a frozen dinner to be sold at the store, or putting on a theme night.
I know they vet the people who get on these shows, and of course they're looking for "good" television, but at the end of the day, or show as it may be, Raymond (pronounced Raymoan) Blanc, a Michelin starred chef in England, will become partners with the winning couple and open a real restaurant with them.
This show is quite well done, no Gordan Ramsey obscenities or screaming, Raymond is quite well spoken.  It's hilarious though that they put subtitles under him when he's speaking, when in fact it's the English, Irish and Scottish  on the show you have trouble understanding.  We've watched this show in England and they don't subtitle him there.
The first show was last Tuesday and they threw 2 couples out, one  a Mother/Daughter combo because the daughter was trying to open cans with a knife (and holding it by the blade to do it) and a Mother/Son combo because the son couldn't explain their vision for their restaurant.  He couldn't even talk, he just stood there.
Some of the couples look interesting and it should be a good year.
If you've never watched it give it a try. Also enjoyable is the fact that we know this part of England quite well (Oxfordshire) and recognize many of the towns and villages.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Winter Dreams







Cicero said that if you have a garden and a library that you have all that you need, and for me that's true.
Though this winter has been hard on my garden and many plants are burned from the freezes we've had.  But strangely enough plants you'd think would suffer in the cold do not.  My roses are thriving, Mac cuts some for me nearly every day, the Asparagus ferns look bright and green,  my Camelia is covered in buds and getting ready to bloom, and to say nothing of the Pansies who don't care how cold it gets.   There is ice in the pool but  I'm hopeful that soon I'll be working in my garden.


As for my  library is grows daily to the regret of my credit card and the delight of Amazon.  I just finished an incredible book called The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt an English author.  I've read nearly all of her books and she never fails to impress me.  Her use of language is phenomenal.  I don't race through her books like some I read I savor them.    They make me think, go look things up, and think some more.  In contrast, I'm now reading a collection of Stephan Kings's short stories, Just After Sunset,  another author I've read nearly all of.  He scares me, always has,  and because we're of an age his details are things I identify with: the music, the movies, events.
Next on my list to read is The Cranford Chronicles, we watched this series on DVD and I knew I had to read the book they were based on.
So as winter lumbers on, I have dreams.




Thursday, January 7, 2010

Gone, But Not Forgotten


Since I'm on this genealogy kick I thought I'd write about one of my Grandmothers today.  Neither was what you'd call real "grandmotherly", but Grandma Strader took the cake for being less than the ideal grandmother.  
When you think of grandmothers, at least for my generation, a picture of a little round woman, hair in a bun, glasses perched on the nose, apron over her dress, baking in the kitchen while telling lovely stories to her grandchildren.
Not my grandmother.  She was thin, stringy, iron grey hair worn long, Lucky Strike cigarette in hand telling you not to do something.
Lola Marie (my middle name is the same as hers so I'm kind of named after her) was born in Monett, Missouri on April 1901 and married my Grandfather Virgil Martin Strader on February 28, 1919.  Though they had 6 children, Virgil Jr. James Edward (my father), Carol Jean, Charles Cecil, Irma Elizabeth and Fredrick Martin,  it was not a successful marriage and they separated sometime after the birth of their last child.
My first memories of her were when we moved back to California in 1953, though she had babysat my older sister Judy and I when when were young, and had come to visit us in Missouri.  She looked so old, and witchlike, that I told my Mother that I hoped I'd never get that old, she would have been around 52 at the time, living in a cluttered house with an old dog named Rusty.
Judy says that when she'd give us a bath when she babysat us that she told us that if we weren't good we'd go down the drain!  Not the sort of thing a young child wants to hear.
When I was 9 I broke my arm and stayed with her for a couple of days because both my parents worked.  She insisted that I sleep with her though she had 2 other, crammed to the ceiling bedrooms, and told me not to be afraid of anyone breaking in because she had a knife under her pillow, and she showed it to me, a big one, a butcher knife.  Oh did I sleep  well, knowing how safe I was.
She was thin and always said that she ate like a bird, and we kids would say yeah, a vulture, because it wasn't true that she didn't eat a lot, she did, just very slowly, so you forgot how much she had eaten.  She must have had the metabolism of a humming bird, she never gained any weight.
When my parents were going somewhere that we kids didn't want to go we were given an alternative, we could stay with Grandma insead. Ha!   Went to a lot of places I really didn't want to go, but it beat the alternative.
Now it wasn't all bad, she had a closet full of National Geographic that dated back to practically their first issue.  And her dog was friendly.  She even taught me how to make chocolate chip cookies using a cake mix, I still make them!
She fought with nearly all of her kids at one time or another except for my Aunt Carol who must be a saint.
My Grandmother died in about 1985, so she had a long life.  I hope she enjoyed it, but she wasn't a person who looked on the bright side of things and so I fear it wasn't the happiest.  I can picture her up in Granny Heaven, smoking a Lucky and looking for someone to talk about.



Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Piano


I had my piano tuned today, it was long overdue.  It had gotten so bad that the cat had started howling when I played.  The piano is in our livingroom, also known as the insurance salesman room because it's only used by people we don't want in the real part of the house, and the ceiling is more than 20 feet high.  That's makes for a great sound when I'm playing, but heating and cooling it is next to impossible,  and that affects the piano.
My tuner said it wasn't too bad, but now it sounds so much better.  Bugs and I can get back to the classics.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Winter Visitors

Because Ms Kitty spends a lot of her time watching birds she thought it would be a good idea to get Mac a new bird feeder for Christmas.  She and I went online and visited a lot of sites before we found this one.
The redbird is fake but the little
 brown jobs are here most of the time. We're hoping that the cardinals and other visitors to our backyard will enjoy it too.


 











Sunday, January 3, 2010

Hunting Down the Ancestors


One of my New Year's Resolutions was to track down our  family histories and I've made a start on it.  I've been able to trace parts of my Father's family back to Maryland in the 1700's.  Finding information on my Mother's family and Mac's has been harder.  My Mother's family was in Oklahoma and Arkansas in the late 1800's and there aren't a lot of records from then.  Her family, both sides originally came from Ireland so I'll have to do some searching there, and they had such a common Irish name, Kennedy, that it's going to be difficult.  The Andersons also came from Ireland, but I think they lived somewhere in the South before Oklahoma.  I'm trying to find my Great Grandmother's maiden name, but no luck so far, all I know is the first, Lizzie. My Great Grandfather was Richard Anderson.
Mac's family, both sides,  emigrated from Spain to Hawaii and I may have to search immigration records for Hawaii and San Francisco to find out more names.  His Mother's family came from Macotera, Spain and his Father's family from near Huelva, Spain.  I know his Mother's parents, names, Maria Campos and Sebastian Hernandez, but I can't find his other Grandparent's names.
I have sent an SOS on Facebook and some of our cousins and a friend are trying to help find Mac's Grandfather's name.  It's scary how quickly names get forgotten in a family.  I'm betting that most of Mac's family doesn't even know that their Dad had a sister named Isabel.  I found a picture of her one time and Mac's Mom said that was who it was, but she had married a Puerto Rican (their family was Spanish and very proud) and basically had been cast out of the family.
So I want to put a family history together that I can share with both our families and our daughter.  I feel like Sherlock Holmes, no telling what I'll turn up.

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year's Resolutions


It has come to this, I've decided that in order for me to actually keep my New Year's Resolution it may be necessary for me to make them public, then it will be embarrassing if I don't keep them.
So, here they are, in no particular order, many holdovers and leftovers from last year, year before last, last decade, last century.

1.  Make my last will and testament.  Though I plan on living a long, long time and being a sweet, little old lady who keeps pussy cats, it is necessary to make some arrangements and I've been putting this one off for a long while.

2.  Lose some weight.  Join Weight Watchers, exercise more, quit wearing baggy clothes and deal with my post middle-age spread.  It's either do this or arrange for a new area code for parts of me.

3.  Update my address book and throw away all the bar napkins that our friends write their phone numbers on.  Though the napkins add a rather boozy smell to my address book they look like h**l.

4.  Clean my desk and keep it clean.  This ought to be interesting, right now if I didn't know it was a desk I wouldn't recognize it as one, definitely looks like a tip.  Need to organize, reorganize, toss out and find the desktop.

5.  Quit reading the news, I can't change things, though Lord knows I could do a better job than what's being done now. Our current crop of politicians, both parties, just annoy the hell out of me  and  that does my blood pressure no good.  I need to remember that living well is the best revenge.

6.  Travel more.  We've always traveled quite a bit, but lately I've been lazy, when Mac suggests a longer trip I say I don't have the energy, but the truth is I'm just getting lazy.  So I resolve  to take one short trip each month, one 3 dayer at least every other month  and at least one long one this year.

7.  Oops, almost forgot.  I'm going to learn more about mine and Mac's family histories.  I'm  going to contact my last uncle and Mac's oldest cousin and collect their memories.  I regret that I didn't learn more from my parents and Mac's.  May even join ancestry.com

So there they are, we'll look back at them in a year and see how I did.