Featured Post

Dubrovnik and a Bit of Bosnia

Mostar, across the Neretva River Enjoyed a hearty breakfast this morning while listening to Lulu belting out 'To Sir with Love' ...

Monday, July 28, 2008

My Other Potter Obsession



I have distinct memories of when I was in first grade or so, of the closet of the narrow front hall our Bronx home. The closet had no door, only a drapery curtain, the same as every other closet in our 2 bedroom flat. But in the closet on a top shelf where I couldn't reach, and when I was a very good girl, my mother would climb up there to fetch my reward; The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

I loved the story, not just because getting to read it was a humongous sort of kid reward, but because Peter was a naughty rabbit and I was fascinated by the final lines of the tail... I mean, tale... which take place after Peter was so bad that he lost his shoes and jacket in Mr McGregor's garden.

"I am sorry to say that Peter was not very well during the evening. His mother put him to bed and made some camomile tea; and she gave a dose of it to Peter! "One teaspoonful to be taken at bedtime." But--Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail had bread and milk and blackberries for supper."

To this day, if you want to get on my good side, read a few lines from The Tale of Peter Rabbit, or maybe just offer me bread, milk and blackberries for supper.

I have GOT to bake some blueberry bread pudding...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mini-break to Switzerland (almost) - Day two

Smokey Does Tahoe Too

Saturday night, due to another 'Pooh-bear' moment of luck, we managed to get the very last campsite at Fallen Leaf Lake.

Mind - I don't mean, we got one-of-only-a-few, or one-of-the-last or the 2nd-from-the-last campsite; we got THE last campsite. *triumphant chuckle*

It's been a decade or so since I camped at Tahoe. Camping just isn't the same for me anymore. I still love it, but frankly, time passes for me so rapidly that by the time I set up a tent, it feels like five minutes have passed before it's time to take down the tent and go home. I'm living in a ever-shrinking time warp. Don has no problems with that however, so he pitched a tent. Me? I decided to overnight in my 'H.O.N.D.A'., that is, my 'Hollow Orbital Nocturnal Dream Annex' - in the back seat to be exact.

After claiming our campsite (via a yellow tag, not by peeing on the shrubber), we went back out in for an evening birdie search. My iPod was a failure at calling in any owls, but it did tempt a beautiful pair of Western Tanagers.

Male Tanager - bit out of focus, but obviously alert, isn't he?

Also, as the sun set we spotted a couple of Common Nighthawks. The photo below was not taken at Tahoe, but it was taken by me last May in Colorado.

Common Nighthawk - aka Stealth Fighter

View from Fallen Leaf Trail

Next morning we were up nice and early and hit the Fallen Leaf Visitor trail which, I am embarrassed to admit, though it was suitable for an old lady in a wheel chair, that suited me just fine, thankyouverymuch. The trail started with beautful view of sunny marshland, on a wooden balcony. We spotted Orange-crowned Warblers, numerous chickadees and the odd nuthatch. The two pictures below are one of two bickering Warbling Vireos.

Who's a sweet birdie dat sings so purdy?

Yes, you's a purdy birdie!

Don got a lifer when a Williamson's Sapsucker made a quick entrance, strickly for Don's benefit of course. Obviously the bird kingdom was making restitution to Don for cheating him out of his lifer Grey-crowned Rosy Finch.

Williamson's Sapsucker

The birds were fun, but there were also quite a few wildflowers to admire.

Ranger Buttons

Wild Hollyhock

Sierra Rein Orchid

Our last weekend hurrah was a few stops in the Loon Lake area that we birded last February. There the Lazuli Buntings showed off for Don but avoided me like the plague - retribution for my selfish thoughts about the Rosy Finches at Squaw Valley? Oh well.

And last point of the weekend, I'm happy to report the wildflowers were obedient, sitting without figgiting while I took their portraits. If only birds followed the lead of wildflowers I would be a deliriously happy woman.

Pussy Paws

Monday, July 21, 2008

A Mini-break to Switzerland - sort of.

At the top: Olympic Quality Scenery

I've been meaning to get up to Lake Tahoe for some birding for a couple of summers now. The pattern is, I think about it in June, then next thing you know, it's October and too late. This year Don got the idea to go on up, so when he asked if I was interested, we were off like a shot. Saturday morning we started by driving north past Donner Summit. After birding a couple of spots with some success, we decided to visit Squaw Valley, which is known more for it's past Winter Olympic glory in 1960, than as a birding spot. We paid our $22 each.

Squaw Valley


Soon we were in a big bucket, being schlepped up, over rugged rocks shaped by the Earth Mother to look like hound dogs, old men and precariously balanced bowling balls. The ride was about ten minutes and soon we were at the top where the air was fresh, cool, breezy, and I was screwed.

First off, I wore the crappiest of walking shoes imaginable - evil, ancient sneakers that were in the garage so long I forgot why I banished there. So when I tossed things into the car on Saturday morning, in went the sneakers; yes - I had wanted them in the car, but there ultimate goal was supposed to be the Good Will truck, NOT a hiking trip. Duh! So there I was, standing in a beautiful alpine meadow wearing evil sneakers, one size too small. Just standing still made my feet ache.

But wait! That's not all friends! Just as when I was in the heights of the Rocky Mountains a few weeks ago, the altitude of Squaw Valley kicked my fat arse and wheezy lungs, but good.

It is a pain in the arse being rotund.

So, I broke the tragic news to Don that he was going to have to search for our target birds - Grey-crowned Rosyfinches - alone. I was about to explain the details of my decision to him when I noticed him, with a wisp of alpine dust in his wake, he disappeared over the horizon.

Bugger.

Oh well! I still had a good time. I slowly meandering around a broad mountain valley, enjoying the sweeping vistas like a chunky nun-novice, singing "the hills are alive, with the sound of music...! La, la, la, la! With songs they..." You get the picture. Yes, it was a magical time, wish you were there.

In retrospect, I can't believe it didn't occur to me to photograph the Indian Paintbrush strewn meadows. I did however take photos of many of the little wildflowers. Here is one that looks like snow, for those, like me, who never make it up to such heights in the winter months.

>Not exactly Edleweiss, but it did look happy to greet me

Birding wise, I did see a new species for me, a lone Cassin's Finch, that sat on a little fence, just long enough for me to see what it was, then it was off on the winds; annoying skittish birdies.

The afternoon was wonderful - really felt like I was in Switzerland or someplace exotic, even though it is less than two hours from home; a classic mini-break.

One of the other diners at the Poolside Cafe


I lunched at the Poolside Cafe when Don made it back from his hike. He said it was fun, but he found no Rosy Finches. We drowned our sorrows in mugs of cold dark beer. Later, when we mounted the stairs up to the gondola for our trip back down the hill, I suddenly got so giddy I was certain for a minute there I was going to faint. I did not, but whoa! That was a close one. Drinking a beer, for me, was not one of my better ideas.

Uh... an afterthought; am I a cruel & selfish friend if I derived the ensiest bit of satisfaction that Don did not see Grey-crowned Rosy Finches? Highlight to see answer ----> Y E S ! ! ! !

[Those who fear Ms. Miller is going to drop dead any day now, should rest assured that nothing could be further from the truth. The woman is desperate to add the'Grey-crowned Rosy Finch to her life list' and to that end she will anything necessary - including - returning to Curves Women's fitness centers, for a healthy dose of aerobic exercises. She SHALL return to SquawValley and she will get her bird.]

Yes, I'll get you my pretty... and your little photo too! *cackle, cackle, cackle...*

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

More on the Year of the Rabbit

It has occurred to me that I’ve had a fair amount of luck this past month. First, I won an abalone necklace with a $1 dollar raffle ticket at this year's Honored Elder's Day. The Necklace is HUMONGOUS, and I can't decide if it is beautiful or only 'amazing'.

The California Indian made necklace is has two different looks - the one above shows off the lightning bolt shaped mother-of-pearl pieces, the other below, showing the reverse side of the Red Abalone shells. Click on both sides to see bead work details.

The cell phone is there for scale as it is about the same size each of the abalone carvings. So - Cool fashion accessory or oversized shields of amazement, your call!

Then, at the weekly Farmer's Market, I found an unused, Running Press, blank Women's Journal for a measly $2 (compliments to the Friends of the Downtown Library Book Sale). I've used Running Press journals to record vacations since a benefactor gifted me with one many moons ago. Am totally stoked over the nearly free hardcover journal.

Then I found the wine barrel planters of my dreams in Napa for only $10 bucks per cabernet saturated *pop*. Not to mention a windfall of truly awesome stuff from Barbara and Suzi (thanks again you two!).

But that's not all folks! Next, again at the Farmer's Market I spun a prize wheel, winning a free ticket to the California State Fair next month.

Finally, at Ms Anna's brother's wedding on Saturday I ended up with one of the centerpieces that I had my eyes because I fell in love with the beautiful 'ashes of roses' tinted flowers. Am loving the clear, rectangular glass vase (see at the top)- *happy sigh*. Thanks again to the Masayon's!

Lucky Rabbit Year Spoils

Ok, I'm thinking maybe it's time to buy a lottery ticket - if my luck holds up I could be birding the shores and forests of Nova Scotia...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Love Those Blue Moons

Anna, second from the right

Every once in a blue moon, my long time friend, the honorable 'Ms. Anna' flies down from Washington state. This week she came down and invited me to the wedding of her brother Wally and his bride Carolee. The pair had something of a whirlwind romance and decided to take that eventful trip down the aisle. The wedding was intimate and full of love from various family & friends. The Reverend was a hoot - a genuine, fire and brimstone, preachifying preacher of the sort normally only come across in Lil' Abner strips. I never did heard sech speechifying a'fore and he really made you feel like something as special as yer hen laying striped eggs, was taking place. However, my favorite bit of the wedding was the ring barer - 4 or 5 years old - lay on the floor, twiddling the ring-pillow, for most of the ceremony.

Mid ceremony (note ring-bearer, bottom right

After the wedding the group made its way to a Roseville Cattleman's restaurant for the reception. That was nice, as Anna put it, that the guests didn't have to do any of the work. That brought us to think of a family wedding of Anna's that I attended decades ago. At the reception, Anna was in a community center kitchen with her aunts and sisters, preparing and serving meals for several hundred people. Anna came over to me that day, while I was wolfing down a previously unidentified speciality.

"Do you know what you're eating?" Anna looked quizically at me.

"Uh no," I said, I gulping down a delish mouthful,

"That's blood pudding."

"This is my second helping," I said sheepishly, "I guess it's too late to pretend I'm appalled."

Anyway, this wedding too was a lovely way to spend an afternoon - visiting with a good friend during one of her family's happiest occasions. Always great seeing 'Ms Anna', yaking about the old adventures and making up a new few ones to boot.

Monday, July 07, 2008

New Bright Shiny

Full House

Spent plenty of time in the Gulag Garden over the weekend; I was determined to get recently purchased plants into the ground, and I did - sort of. On Saturday, Jeannie came over with 'the next generation' of Bebe's kids (tee hee) - her grandson and her little nephews and niecelette. Her brother and his wife came and we stared at each other knowing we'd all met before, then I remembered. I'd attended their wedding many years ago. They've got two boys now so I guess their marriage 'took'.

Late last week I got word my other buddy Barbara was driving up to Napa Sunday to her Father's house. Her Dad, Dr. Hans, recently moved to an assisted living facility in Fairfield, which for me is even closer than Napa.

Shortly after I heard Barb would be in Napa I happened to discover - via Craig's List - in Napa a winery was holding a 'weekend blowout sale of wine barrels - only $10 each! I was floored by that - I've hunted barrels for months and the cheapest locally are priced at $30 and in some cases as pricey as $50 each. Cool that I could visit Barb in Napa and buy barrels in only one oh-so-economical drive. That was the sort of thing that makes it obvious that I was born in the Chinese Year of the Rabbit - the symbol of luck.

The sale was over the weekend, so I was worried they would be out of barrels by Sunday. No worries - a helpful winery guy loaded into my Honda, all it could hold - four 1/2 barrels and one 1/4 barrels. The man said he'd only just sawed the full sized barrels in halves and quarters that morning. The barrels were sweet with the scent of cut wood and Burgundy - ummm....

No Worries - Plenty of Barrels

I must say, my Honda smells teriff. After the car was loaded up I headed off to Barb's a few miles down the freeway.

Barbara and her sister Suzi are now getting their cousins and aunts and assorted friends (uh... that would be me actually) to pick out objects they might find useful or attractive that will also serve as remembrances of Dr. and Mrs Albertson (Hans is still alive & well enough).

Everyone is finding it melancholy and strange to pick among objects you know the Albertson parents gathered over the years. So Saturday it was just me and Barb, rummaged around the house. I opted to spend the night, which I hadn't planned on, so while we sorted through dishes, glasses of cut crystal and a zillion other treasures, we could yak, laugh, drink up port wine (me) and Bailey's Irish Creme (Barb). I am proud to announce only one porcelain vase was broken, and thank heavens it wasn't me who dropped it!

At 'Chez Claire' I cracked plastic tumblers are used exclusively, because frankly - I'm a klutz. The last time I had house guests I felt a tad embarrassed about my tacky tumblers. That will no longer be a problem. Bequeathed to me are a beautiful set of glasses; Black Forest theme - etched foxes, boar, deer, grouse, frolicking amid branches of oaks and pines. I will not use the glasses for every day use - they wouldn't last the weekend. Nice to think the next time I have company I can serve them up punch in classy glasses.

There were other treasures to bring home as well and over time I will show some of them in this blog, as they are unwrapped and placed next to my other treasures I've gathered over the years. Remember the line in the movie Jaws; 'You may need a bigger boat'? Well, considering all I brought home, I'm beginning to suspect I may need a bigger house.

Bugling Stag on a glass

Saturday, July 05, 2008

A Friend Lost

Got sad news today. Once upon a time, when my parents and I moved to San Diego I had two good buddies; Joann, who lived up the street and went to a different school than I did, and Diane who was a high school friend. Over time her mother, Eunice Mock, Diane's sisters and my parents and I all became good friends.

My mother was always friendly and I wasn't surprised that she befriended Diane's mother. But I was totally surprised that my father became part of the friendship. In later years I decided that my father had a little crush on Diane's mother, Mrs. Mock, but who knows. She was a very amiable person and my father could be very amiable when he choose to! Anyway, soon it wasn't unusual for me to bring Diane home with me after school, and my parents would invite her and Mrs. Mock, Suzi and Heidi in for dinner. Daddy was the one who cooked usually and he was good at it; yummy baked salt cod with olives, tomato paste and rice, lamb chops with mint jelly, oxtail stew, all sorts of dishes he thought they might like to try - or whatever the heck we were having! Diane's family was going through a difficult time around then and come to think of it, maybe that was what softened every one's hearts. Anyway, whatever the reason, there was bonding. The whole time we knew them took place during my final year of high school, but it seemed like a much longer period of time - in a good way.

These days Diane, her sister Suzi, is now called 'Aveeda' and the youngest Heidi all live in Northern California & Yakima Washington. Mrs. Mock, Eunice has lived on and off in Yakima Washington, in Ukiah California with her oldest kid, James (who has since passed away) and recently, back in Washington.

Diane called me today and told me her mother 'Eunice' passed away during the night. I've only seen her a couple of time in the last few years, but she seemed as spunky as ever, though the years of course were wearing on her. I decided to mention her because she had an important role in my life. I will never forget I - still in high school, chatted with her one day and she said something like, '... and you'll do very well in college...' and I was like all 'what? Me? College?'.

Thing is, I had wanted to go as long as I could remember, because when I was very young I wanted to be a veterinarian. But I received no encouragement and frankly, the matter of fact way that Eunice mentioned the idea, gave me pause. She then said, 'Of course you'll do well in college!' and went on about it. She was the first adult that brought up the thought as if it wasn't stupid or only a pipe dream. That re-stoked my then floundering ambitions.

Thanks for that Eunice! While you're wherever you are now, I know you'll run across my mother again. Don't let my father talk your ear off, and hey, look up Irmgard Albertson while you're at it. I know you're all get along just fine.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Introducing HIS Lordship

[Management expresses sincere relief that at last - Claire is CURRENT with this blog. Amen. Pass the plate.]

Have to show this off - my office plant buddy, my Gloxinia. This plant is somewhere's around 5 years old now. I bought it at the farmer's market and am astounded with the thing's success in blooming annually, like clockwork; HUMONGOUS red bells with white ruffles.

His lordship, Emperor Fredrick Von Gloxinia

Purdy, huh? I recently ordered seeds of the colors/varieties below. They're easier to raise from tubers but no one has them this time of year and I'm too antsy to wait for next spring.

My future gloxinias - Mother Nature willing...

I used to have the variety Emperor William (above, top left flowers) which also bloomed like crazy. It died during an unfortunate pot transplant. I didn't even know it was possible to kill a Gloxinia, they're so amenable. Oh well, nice to know I have a talent at something.

Interesting side note. My office desk is on the 10th floor. All my office gloxinia and two geraniums have pink or red flowers and I can not have red flowers on the windowsill. Why not? Because hummingbirds fly up ten stories to hoover just outside my window and give longing looks at the flowers, and dirty looks at the human that dares to taunt them with unobtainable goodies. To save the little guys the energy loss I have nothing red in my window - the glox up top was moved shortly after its photo session.

Being an office building there are NO windows I can open, otherwise believe me, I'd be feeding the feathered little helicopters.