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Old Dubrovnik by Moonlight

After an afternoon on Lockrum Island, Jo and I went on a mini-shopping spree, followed by a short rest back at Villa Odak. Then we meande...

Friday, November 27, 2009

Recollections the Day after Thanksgiving

Fran and yammies - a Thanksgiving Classic

Earlier this year we thought we would have the meal in Grass Valley at Mark's - what were we thinking? As if this year the holiday wasn't going to already be missing such a chunk of our hearts. So only a week or so ago the venue was switched to Rick & Nancy's. Mark, just back from New York State was there when I arrived around 3PM. He looks none the less for wear. Also on hand were the neighbors, Rachelle and uh... damn! I knew I'd forget his name. Diego is home from university and Adan took a much needed break from filling out those infernal, never-ending college applications. And me, and it was a nice manageable Thanksgiving mob.

A moment for Being Thankful

Thanksgiving was, as usual, a triumph. Again, the Thanksgiving miracle occured; a diverse group of friends somehow bringing pot-luck that wound up being a tongue teasing extravganza of flavors and perfection. I mean, YUM. In the past we flirted with salmon, Paella and such, but again we returned to old Tom Turkey (with a side of Tofukey for the honored vegetarians among us). Really, I don't know how we pull it off every year, but every dish was delish and there was plenty there-of. There was the usual embarrasment of pies afterwards - apple, pumpkin, pecan (TX style) all home made (which means pie shells weren't perfect, fillings leaked, flavors blew our socks off.

A Contemplative Moment Before Saying Grace


Yeah, that's Hommer peeking over his shoulder...


After dinner Mark showed us an album of photos from Fran's life. This is our first Thanksgiving with her. It was both difficult and exhilarating to see Fran from a cute chubby baby to the beauty she grew up to be. Mark gave me a disc of Fran photos that just love. Must gift him with some of my photos.

Not long after that is was time for the annual games session. Last year it was 'Bananas', but this year we returned to the tried and true Cranium; a board game that challenges you to do stuff like charades, clay modeling, drawing, spelling, you name it, until midnight.

In the Middle of a Game of Cranium


Whew! I was bad and kept zoning out, casting spells on my iPhone Harry Potter app. We played in pairs, Rick & Mark, Diego & Adan, Nancy & Me. Nancy and I came in last, but winning was never the goal anyway.

Nancy trying to recover from a laughing fit after
watching me at charades, performing the word 'Waterbed'

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Fancy a Side of Irony with that Drumstick?

Happy Thanksgiving! I'm soon to be off to Rick & Mommy Nancy's for Thanksgiving din-din here in Sacramento. Meanwhile, I'm here at home. There is a crackle log on the fire and I was just enjoying a cosmic joke on myself. It was back in October, you see, that I posted a week's worth of 'spooky shite'. As it happens, Thanksgiving is here and still I'm mulling over the issues that week brought to mind. Many of those so called 'spooky issues' tie in so well with the subtitle of my blog here; Claire's Sit-com Life.

Really, let me explain. I've had animal totems for ages. Totems, spirit guides, power animals - think of them as critters with a lesson for you. I'm going to tell you about my three main totems and how they totally fit in with the Sit-com I've always thought my life to be.

My first totem ever didn't exactly come to me in a dream - at least not a dream I can remember. When I was a first grader. My teacher told my mother there was something wrong with me. All I ever drew at crayon time was Red Foxes. Why? How the heck should I know? I just loved 'Foxy the Fox', as I called my totem. I don't recall if I dremt of foxes, or whatever, but they were close to my heart, pretty much on day one, 6 AM.

My next totem, came to me in a dream when I was 9 or 10 years or so, living in the Bronx. I dreamt I was walking to school and a waterfall sprang out from under the sidewalk by an empty lot. I fell hundreds of feet into a pond below and when I swam to the surface; I was a beaver. Great dream. I used to draw little comic book stories of myself as a beaver named 'Ronnie' (named for Rock n' Roll's 4 Seasons song, as I recall). I didn't realize that beaver dream was a totem dream until I was forty-something, but better late than never. From that early time thought I always thought of beavers as being very special to me.

My inch tall, toy Beaver: threadbare
via 40+ years of 'Velveteen Rabbit' love

When I did know my 'favorite' animals for what they were - totems, I had an amazing revelation; both totems are euphemisms for female sexuality. You know - a hot woman is a 'fox', and a beaver is... okay, moving right along... I decided that my two main totems were so sexual, and myself being on the verge of the asexuality of a single-celled yeast, had to be nothing more than a bizarre, and embarrassing coincidence.

Now my third totem - not my only totem, I've got loads of them, but the only totem other than Beaver, to come to me in a dream/vision; the Mountain Lion that appeared in my bedroom.

Recently acquired Mountain Lion pendant with Peridot eyes

Now here's my point. Last Monday, it dawned on me rather suddenly, that a mountain lion is also called painter, panther and yes, cougar. Guess what folks! Cougar is a new, and recently coined and accepted euphemism for female sexuality, that is, an older woman, who 'preys on' younger men.

GAK!

My Trilogy of Totems all contain a playful innuendo of female sexuality, and me here, damned near a vestial virgin. Now, is that not a prime example of my life having a distinctive Sit-com flare? Damn. Honestly, when I first realized this on Monday I more or less sat down and wrote a letter asking a wiser friend her take on it, then I journaled the whole thing and finally, I've come to the conclusion it all just proves my point. My life is a Sit-com of the non-televised sort, and that is OK with me. Let the polite sniggering begin!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Sunday Morning at the Farmer's Market

What is that under Highway 50?

Hurrah! Made a great discovery this morning with Mommy Nancy. We discovered something neither lost, nor hidden. Yes, we now understand how Europeans 'discovered' an already inhabited continent. Voila! We 'discovered' downtown Sacramento's Sunday Farmer's Market.

The market has existed for years, but neither of us visited it. As it happens, I invited Nancy to go there with me today because I didn't have time to hit the Fair Oaks Market yesterday and me here, all plum out of plums and other produce.

The market is so huge, it is difficult
to get a good panarama photo of it all.

First off, the Market is at least 5 times larger than any other Farmer's Market I've visited in California. I've been wildly envious of a Farmer's Market in Olympia Washington since 2002, only to discover there was one here in my county, virtually in my own back yard.

None of the photos I took today with my cell phone did the splender/glory of this market justice. The market not only has the expected fresh veggies, fruits, cheeses, potting plants, and such, but also has fresh fish and grass fed, free range beef, lamb & chicken. At its fish market section, there are HUMONGOUS carp, shrimps, octopus, strange ocean dwellers that appeal to the Asian palate and ping-pong ball sized Whelks! Can you believe it? WHELKS!

Whelks! A seafood so cool I have NO clue on how to
prepare it! Damned sure going to learn though!

I got overly excited with the available free range (REAL free range) chicken. I don't eat much meat anymore, but it's nice to know that when I do, it'll be raised happy, on clean food and not stuffed into one of those godawful henitentiaries where the chickens are overcrowded, etc. I'm dropping my plans to raise my own poultry (thank the lord for that, eh?).

Free Range Chickens! Don't have to raise them myself!

Nancy and I were so thrilled we did not hesitate to jump up & down like kids who just discovered the concept of birthday parties. We decided visiting the Sunday market is going to be an event for us whenever possible. I mean, think on it - I can now buy all my produce, meats and gardening starts at a Farmer's Market. The local grocery is now just for sundries. The thrill is that by shopping that way I will automatically further reduce the amount of over processed foods and cruely raised critters I consume. Damn. I am living the good life now. I wish it was located in MY end of town, but then I wouldn't get as much of an airing, would I?

The Farmer's Market is across the street from a South Sacto park and playground that totally blew the Mommy circuits in Nancy's mind. Toys that engage the mind, hand-eye coordination, rubber ground mats &/or bark everywhere underfoot. Toys that were - dare I say it - FUN! Here. Let Nancy demonstrate.

Nancy takes her Inner Child out to Play.

That's Nancy balancing on the left.

See the kid swinging around? And no Lawyers standing around ready to sue!

Why wasn't I out there playing too? Hey,
someone had to record all this for prosperity.

I did all I could to not to spend the mortgage money on produce and oh well, I nearly failed! My damages were a pink fleshed pumello, a pasture raised chicken ( hopefully for tonight's dinner, Moroccan style) in-the-shell chestnuts, cilantro, pomegranates (my seasonal favorite), 2 bags of fresh blue oyster and shitake mushrooms for the price of one (near to closing time at noon), and for instilation in the Gulag Garden, a nice in-the-dirt cluster of elephant garden. Oh, and I bought a small baggie of Purple Needlegrass seed for my back yard habitat project. Honestly - groceries ought to not make one so very happy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Mud Puddle Splashtacular!

I've been home for a couple of days. Started with achyness and giddiness then, a more annoying than anything, intestinal glitch of the barfy kind. Ok, that's enough detail. The good news is, other than feeling weak and 'off', I'm actually not feeling all too awful. This happens about once a year - I get achy or barfy or whatever, and between bouts of gastro-intestinal distress I feel OK. I haven't done the big bad flu in a few years now, just these little flus. Still it is the flu and I'm home, keeping it real, keeping it all to myself (as opposed to idiot co-workers who have (so help me, some do this) tell you they are ill, but feeling ok enough to work. Thanks a lot people! No doubt one of you (or some poor soul on light-rail) gave this too me. You're too kind.

Enough bitchin'! Ran across this clip and it totally makes me feel happy. How can you watch this elk, one of nature's children play and not feel somehow refreshed - and dry. Watch this and I dare you not too feel at least a little up-lifted.



Been two days... am still laughing at this playful elk.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My Chicken Dreams Come True

Le Tres Chic, Lavender Chicken Condo

Hurrah! Tonight, for the first time, I put the girls in to their new, upscale Chicken Condo. Up until now, they've been crashing in their rather flimsy temporary quarters. But now they have, or so I hope, the protection of a portable and lockable pen. There are wheels in the back so I can roll them to a new spot as needed. Portable coops are called 'chicken tractors'. What sold me on it, is it's plastic, like a giant Fisher Price toy for chickens. I can disassemble and/or hose the whole thing out as necessary.

You can see the girls in there, bedding down for the night,
no help from 'moi' necessary. *sniff* They grow up so quickly!

I fretted over whether it would be difficult to teach the girls how to go into their closing, night-time quarters (totally necessary to protect them from night roaming raccoons, skunks and opossums). Ha! After having their first meal out of their fancy feed container, as it was twilight, they climbed right up into their night-time roost as if they had made reservations and wanted to check out their accommodations. Why does their 'knowing how to be chickens' thing continue to surprise me?

"Bwwwak... I was hoping for better decor, bwwwaaak, I guess this will do"

I LOVE this coop. Has 2 pull out trays under the 'bedroom' (above), which I've lined with newspaper for easier clean-up. There is a little ventilation slit to keep the girls aired when I lock them in for the night. Their boudoir seems well insulated against excessive heat/cold too.

The girls are wondering about the 'privacy' of their spacious new quarters

That last view looks through the hole. They will - without my help of course - figure out to climb through that hole into the egg laying room. There is a removable porthole so I can remove their eggs, when those wonderful commodities make their first appearances say in February or March. I can very nearly taste that first omelet now.

My kitty Rum was looking a bit miffed that the girls are getting such first class treatment. Really - he was. So to make it up to him, and to keep the Animal Cruelty people away from my door, I washed and cleaned out his outside winter-time bed. Maybe being snug as a bug in a catbed (that would, I guess be a flea?) will keep Rum purring 'til spring.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Rompin' Around - Day Three

Another day, another romp - this time Joann and I drove on up to Grass Valley for my quarterly bio-feedback appointment (new age Cali-fornia type stuff).

My new therapy buddy, Kitie rested on my lap
while I relaxed during my appointment

While I was at my therapy appointment, Joann blew some cash at a new age Hippy shop. That was followed by a visit to the historic Holbrooke Hotel a couple of doors down where she worked off a few rows on her baby blanket project. I joined her later in the library at the Holbrooke for a cup of clam chowder and a cheeseburger. Joann enjoyed the basil fettachine - I nicked a taste - Yummy.
Joann enjoyed her visit at Grass Valley's Holbrooke Hotel

Following lunch I stopped in at the local food coop so I could pick up some much needed vitamins - blew more $ than Joann did on jewelry! Then we drove the long way home, along HWY 49 and through Auburn. There were several nice painted murals in town, some on the sides of buildings.
There was a cool mural painted over a gun/pawn/whatever shop. It depicted the giant water canons used by ambitious/lazy miners who washed away entire hills to break out gold ore. Totally the most destructive, albeit interesting method of gold mining - ever.

Nice Mural of Gold Rush Water Canons

Drive-by shot of Auburn Mural

A half hour and miles & miles of twisted mountain roads lead us along HWY 49 and over to Coloma's Gold Discovery State Park. The State Park commemorates where Sutter actually made his 1849 discovery of gold, Gold, GOLD!

Sutter's Gold Mill

Everyone knows, the gold lined a few pockets but tore the crap up out of the local Indian tribes.

And bugger all if the Gold Discovery Museum wasn't closed
forcing me to shoot this through the front doors

Cedar Huts in a Re-created Nisenan Village

We didn't exactly hike at Discovery Park, but we saw loads of interesting knick-nacks in the tiny town.
Warrior on Horseback just outside a gew-gaw shop

My favorite gew-gaw, the rocking horse Connestoga

Totally enjoyed the drive. It rained a bit, but not much. We made it back to Fair Oaks but weren't quite ready to go home yet - so we headed for the American River for a rip-snortin', river rock tearing up visit. Danged if we didn't discover the River is CLOSED! The turkey's were still roaming round, but somehow having access closed to the river was pretty sad. It's all the economics of keeping parks open these days. The river will re-open in the spring though.

Along our usual drive, we saw an adorably tiny Mule Deer buck with pitiful little antlers - barely a double pronger. He kept peering into the shrubbery, stamping a bit and looking timid, but intent.

The low buck on the totem pole

What the small buck was looking at made himself known, as a buck with sizable rack came out of the shrubbery. He was a looker! Quite handsome, the lord of the woods. The movements were all too quick for getting a decent shot, but you can see him below, his antlers were fairly large.

Grand Poo-bah, Lord of the Woods

The bucks shinnied back into the shrubbery and there was a ruckus as we realized what the confrontation was all about - a sweet, gentle doe. She did the doe equivalent of dropping a white hankie on the ground and the large buck chased off the smaller one. I thought things couldn't get any more interesting and then along came a small herd of bicyclists - a man and his children.
"DEER?" shouted the man, as his passel of mini-bicyclists rode past.

"Yes," said I, irritated beyond believe but I guess, live and let live. Off in the distance, Joann and I could see the three deer, led by the doe, who leapt so high she could have easily cleared a 6 foot fence.

As the man and his kids rode off, Joann and I did our classic, 'wise women of the village' head shakes. We know that sometimes you just have to slow down and have a look-see.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way To...


Photo by J. Bertsch
It was up and out this morning, to Starbucks - then HWY 50 to Lake Tahoe; lovely drive. It's really only this past year I got into my head that Tahoe is not that far from my house; hour and a little bit. Along the way we stopped time to time to stare at scenery.


by J. Bertsch

Our first stop was lakeside at some historic log cabins that once housed the rich and fab, but now house the Tallac Museum. Joann walked down to the Lake Tahoe shore to dig her feet into the sand and take photos.


Joann hiked down to the lake for some photos


In their hay day, the Baldwin cabins were private cabins


Joann's lake-side Photo
gorgeous, isn't it? photo by J. Bertsch


The cabins blend in nicely with the Ponderosa Pines that surround them.

Now it was time for a drive north to see Emerald Bay. But first we had this conversation:

Claire: "Want to see where Don and I saw the black bear back in April?"

Joann: "But's the bear's probably gone, don't 'cha think?"

Claire: "Uh... yeah, see your point. Guess we should make our own memories."

So, we drove about a 1/4 mile, and there, dead center of the road, staring at us - a HUMONGOUS Black Bear!

I did what I sometimes do when stunned - I froze. Stopped the car, but could not grab my small digital camera which was right there. Joann turned on her camera. We stared at the Black Bear, The Black Bear stared back at us, then galumphed off into the shrubbery and away into the woods.

We shrieked, whooped, high-fived and spent at least a half hour lamenting our failure to photograph the bruin. Still can't believe how I missed such an easy shot (and the bear couldn't believe it missed out on two succulent women for brunch). Bugger! Oh well. We now had out own Lake Tahoe memory of a Black Bear - incidentally, not a mile from where I saw a brown Black Bear last May. The photo on the left is a Black Bear I 'shot' in Canada.

Still carrying on about 'our' Black Bear, it was north to Emerald Bay. The wind roared through the pines, and it was hang on to your hat or get a shot of it flying over to the Nevada shore.


Emerald Bay


Joann's photo of the tea party castle on the Emerald Bay island (in photo above)
is so cute it doesn't even look real photo by J. Bertsch


Face of "Just-Saw-a-Bear-woman". photo by J. Bertsch

The rest of the day we drove up to Tahoe City for lunch at a Thai Restaurant. Then on to Norstar, where Joann's family spent a wonderful winter holiday a while back. After that I wanted to check out Martis Creek - a well known birding spot in Placer County. Might just get my Great Grey Owl there one of these days.


Joann got an Autumn look the cabin she's
enjoyed during winter vacation with her family


Martis Creek scenery - sagebrush and a little water


I scored the only shot of a Mountain Bluebird I've ever taken


It was a long, long day of driving and sniggering in the car over silly insider jokes. When we got back to my house I cooked up a chicken with some of my garden rosemary (one of the few herbs growing just now). Came out A-OK. Also baked up a yam and totally destroyed several ramakins of creme brule - uh! Every time I want to show off my cooking for anyone, I get excited and forget steps. So the creme brule tastes fine, but the texture is rubbish. Oh well! Oy are we worn out. When you're over 50, even a long day of fun kinda kicks your arse.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Kayla's #1 Grandmother is Up for a Visit

Joan is in Northern California visiting her first grandchild, McKayla, born last week. I get custody of the new grandmother for a few days. We decided to visit Robin out on the Meridian Ranch. For a nice look see at Robin's Jacob's sheep and I wanted another look at her chickens - yes, I've got chickens-on-the-brain.


Robin greets us on the new entrance at her Meridian Ranch Studio

I was worried a bit about keeping Robin, the busiest woman in Vacaville from her work. Happily, Robin said she has planned to try her hand at making 'wooly pets' for a class she is thinking of teaching. Joann and I immediately volunteered to be guinea pig students so Robin can see how it would be to teach a class making the fuzzies. Wooly pets are little kits for making animals, birds, bugs and such by sculpting raw dyed wool.


Starting our impromptu lesson wool sculpting lesson

The toys are neat, enough wool to make at least a couple of pets per box. The idea is to 'felt' the wool by prodding it with a sharp needle against a foam pad. Uh... soon I, the perpetual klutz was bleeding. Of course that was only to give Robin a heads up that she will need to have a box of bandages on hand when she teaches class.


Robin demos prodding, poking and stabbing innocent
widdle fuzz balls. Great therapy for working on personal issues

Here's some finished bunnies made with the kit. Joann's bun is on the right, the others are Robin's doings.


Quorum of Wooly Bunnies

To commemorate our work, we took them outside for a photo session


Robin's birds hang from the sage, Joann's bun-bun and
my Red Fox in front. Pretty, neh?

Class ended with Joann's first visit to the Ranch. I, being spoiled was given a tour or Robin's flock of mixed laying hens - a five toed Dorking, white laced Wyandots and Poof-legged Cochins, an Americana, and a very friendly Buff Orpington who came over straightaway so Robin could hold her for some petting time. Who knew there were such sweet chickens around? An admirable group of egg layers!


The Meridian Ranch 'Girls'

For a grand finale, Robin was cool enough to set Rusty out herding the Jacobs. Rusty is still learning but Robin took him to a competition earlier this year and Rusty did them proud - a blue ribbon! For a treat, Robin put Rusty through his paces for us. Show 'em how it's done Rusty!


All that fun, and Robin sent us back to Fair Oaks with a huge bag of home grown pomagranites - deep ruby red and delish.

Thanks for a great day Robin!