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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Hug-a-Sheep Day

Hug a Sheep!
I missed Spinzilla this year and was sad. I took heart when I read that Robin was celebrating Hug-a-Sheep Day at Meridian Ranch. Woooo hoooo! I was all set to go, but felt a tad run down. Then it dawned on me... what if I only brought me, to Hug-a-Sheep Day, leaving my spinning wheel and such at home? Yes! I was off to Vacaville with bells on my toes (see photo on right).

The day began looking like a storm, was nigh, but at noon, the sky was blue and the spinners, knitters, felters and 'sitter-outers' such as me, were all were sunny.

All the spinners were there with their facinating wheels, working on various cool yarns - cottons, silks, alpaca, Merino and Jacobs' wools. It. Was. Awesome.

pointy bobbin of fairy tale sort
One of the ladies had the coolest mini 'Great Wheel' - see below. Said she won it at a sheep festival. The mini-Great Wheel is plastic and its base is PVC pipes. It spins very fine (thin diameter) yarn, so she is currently using it to spin up some cashmere yarn. She turned the wheel using a little crank handle at it's spoke. This wheel's bobbin is the same as that of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale. It's near sharp enough to prick one's finger, then take a long nap while waiting for your prince's smooch.

The coolest spinning wheel there today was this tiny wonder
Something else that caught my eye was spinnner Alison's wool vest. She knit it of Jacob Sheep wool. Jacobs are white with spots so yield black, white, and all shades of grey wool. Wish I'd taken a close up photo of her lovely vest. By the by, this is one of the two ladies who gave my chickens new homes a few years ago.

Allison in her cool vest, at her rad spinning wheel 
I took time to meander over to the barn to visit with the huggable Jacob ewes. Stephany, not a ewe, but one of Robin's Farm Club members was on hand to answer questions. Up front, we all know what a Miss Know-it-all I can be - don't you just want to slap me? I thought 'not much anyone can tell me about Jacobs'. Right... inside of 5 minutes Stephanie had given me loads of new information on Jacob sheep. I knew Jacobs are an old breed, but hadn't realized as an 'un-improved' breed, Jacobs being close to their primitive origins means their useful behaviors were never bred out of them. For example, they are still fantastic mothers. In contrast, a highly messed-with-breed, the Merino sheep - are notoriously bad Mothers. A Merino ewe might birth her newborn lamb, then wander off to see how the clover tastes on the other side of the pasture (Lamb? What lamb?).  But a Jacob ewe will birth offspring, but stay put, licking, fussing over and protecting her lamb. She might even be licking her twins or triplets as Jacobs may have more than one lamb. That reminds me, oh, I can't wait for spring and the new lambs!
One, two, three... HUG A SHEEP! 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Anyone Up for Wandering about in Sacramento's Bowels?

Old Sac's history museum on a sunny day
 For decades I've wanted to take a Sacramento Underground tour. Perhaps I should explain. Back when Sacramento was HQ for the 1849 Gold Rush, the city was raucous, lively and prone to massive flooding. In response, the city fathers (and some Moms) opted to 'raise' the level of the city streets to a level above, rather than below the river levees. The 'raising' took a whopping 16 years to complete. The end result was many buildings had their first floors became basements, and many second floors became first floors. 

Flash forward to 2016. The streets of Old Sacramento, along the Sacramento River, a bustling tourist trap (uh... I meant, place of immense curiosity and shopping opportunity) and much of it remains underground. Annually, in Autumn, various tours of the underground bits of Old Sac are offered to the general public. This was my time to take the tour with friends. 

Pre-tour pic of Jeri & Rick at museum
The original plan was for my friends Jeri, Rick and Nancy to take the night-time underground tour. Unfortunately Nancy had a health issue so had to forgo the treat. The rest of us sashayed down to the waterfront at the History Museum, arriving early and waiting about with a dozen or so other tour participants. As I said, this was a night tour, on a v. rare, ergo rainy night on which I used my sad old iPhone 5 for photos, so many photos are not up to even my normal crap standards, as per picture to left. 

A museum docent let us into the museum briefly prior to the tour so we could be outfitted with receivers and earphones (so we could all clear hear our guide). There was time for a few peeks at the museum's goodies. 
A little Dias de los Muertos - Day of the Dead - display
California Indian artifacts
Once outfitted we went back outside where we met up with our muleskinner/tour guide. He told us the night tours were earmarked for adults who wanted to hear 'adult' tales of the raucous Gold Rush era. I had thought the night tales were for ghost stories. Alas! That, it seems, is another tour for another time. After introductions, instructions and motley deductions we were off to our first stop: Eagle Theater. The theater was the first ever in California. It was built with lumber and canvas sails from boats abandoned by sailors turned gold prospectors.  Yes, it was raining heavily, & yep, this is drought stricken California.
The welcoming lady at the door is the museum docent that greeted us.
We tripped though the theater's bar to the wooden benches in the auditorium. There our boisterous guide told us the tale of the first hanging in Sacramento. Nice story for a dark and dreary evening. As the story progressed he picked tour members to play various roles in his tale. Note the prone guy in the photo below. No one asked him to act out murder of his character, but nonetheless he put on a grand performance, interspersed with his 'deceased' character shouting out comments at humorously opportune moments. 
Prone corpse, not as dead as one might imagine...
To the delight of Jeri and meself , Rick was called up on stage to play a part. He put in a great performance.
Rick, in his staring role as Sacramento townsmen
After the telling of the hanging tale, we returned to the bar in the back where the docent treated us to tiny tumblers of some good old fashioned sarsaparilla - I helped my greedy self to two. 

Our guide now took us to an underground system of tunnels and pillars. I loved how the air was heavy with the scent of soil. Guess this must be what it would feel like to be a mole or a gopher. Oh, except those varmints don't have nice wooden boardwalks to trod on.
Imagine soil scented air and wooden planks beneath one's feet
Entering a gambling den to learn to Gold Rush gambling ways, first hand
A 'Shut the Box' game set just like the ones we got to try out
Now came a fun bit - our guide led us to a room - which as pointed out earlier, was once the first floor of a brick building. There he told us how gamblers would - at prices exorbitant at either yesterday's or today's value - rent spots in saloons where they would entice pigeons - that is 'suckers' - to gamble. The game was 'Shut the Box'. The mark would throw die, then would lower numbered wood tiles to that same total (i.e., if you threw the die and got a 5, you could then flip over a 'five'. Perhaps turning down a
'5', or the '4 and a 1' or just the '2 and the 3'. You continued to throw the dice & lower tiles ALL of the tiles are lowered. Get all the tiles down and you win. That task is far more difficult than you may think. I couldn't stop snickering to myself over the similarity of 'Shut the Box' to 'Shut the Front Door'. Heck, I'm snickering as I type. Oh, and if they'd had the game on sale, the safest bet would be that I'd have bought one! I'm so very happy there were none to buy.

Next, we marched out of those tunnels and over to a different building. 

This underground area was strewn with items that were found in the underground soil were on display, or items from the 1860s were displayed. Other items were put on display to give the 'flavor' of the late 1800s.

Used to be restaurants, barber shops & such when this was street level
A few women started businesses that did quite well. One was an African American lady who not only owned her own building and ran her own business, and invested in insuring her holdings. So when a fire hit and burning her holdings to the ground, her building - unlike many others whose sites were charred - was quickly re-built. Uninsured sites has a much longer wait.
Site of where a women ran her own business - yes, where 'soiled doves' plied their goods

Rick and Jeri examining some choice remnants, goblets,  

bottles, pipes and plates from the gold rush era.

After the tour members enjoyed wandering around the deep diggings, our guide regaled us with several tales - some romantic - others of wealth gained &/or lost.

A view across the 'diggings'
Shoe shine stand
underground archaeological dig set up with grids 

Our tour group was walked down to second street. There, at tour's end, all participants were given a souvenir shot glass. Hum... 'Finest Soiled Doves in Sacramento City'.

How sweet! They prized dirty birdies in old Sacramento.  *wink*

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Dubrovnik back to Budapest

View from Cavtat Harbor toward the Hills
The owner of Villa Olav & Jo
 say their goodbyes

Today we left Dubrovnik, flying back north, to
Zagreb. Tomorrow we take a train on to Budapest, then it's... gasp... home. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Jo loves to swim, and she started the day with a hike down the thousand steps from Villa Olav to the ocean where she enjoyed a 'farewell' swim. Later we drove to the rental car depot at the Dubrovnik airport o return the rental car - sort of...
we got to the car return at the Dubrovnik airport where I asked if we could keep the car for few more hours, and miraculously - we got a yes. We'd wanted to drive to Albania, but didn't have enough time. Rats. The car agent suggested we drive to his favorite town, Cavtat instead, which we did. There we visited a little restaurant located next to the town's harbor.

The harbor with the archways of the restaurant in the backgrounhd
Walked around the harbor to the restaurant, stopping to photograph all the different fish I could see in the harbor's waters, loads more than I'll ever be able to identify. Will just have to appreciate them for the fishies they are.

Lunch for Jo was a massive bowl of fresh yummy mussels. For myself, I had the tastiest seafood salad I've ever had; fat morsels of shrimp, octopus, shelled mussels & clams. And every bit of crab was crab, with not a jot of pollock in the lot. Best yet, my meal came with dessert - yes, more chocolate cake drizzled with raspberry sauce and a hot cup of coffee.  I'd be glad of the big meal as the day progressed.

Then we were off  to the Dubrovnik mini-airport.
Never saw a bus like that before - where are the wheels?

All passengers had to get on a bus to ride over to the jet. Here's the bus exterior....
Bus interior 

 By the time the bus left it was jam packed as it headed for the jet.
Our flight to Zagreb
On the flight I realized, Croatia is color coordinated 
with decor of matched terracotta and shell white
We arrived in Zagreb after dark, and we 'assumed' we would stay at Central Hotel where we stayed before. But reservations - we had none. There is a Croatian sort of convention in town and most hotels jam packed, we were out of luck. The hotel clerk recommended we head down the street, which we did, stopping at the first hotel we came across, the Premier Hotel Astoria. Don't be too impressed, it's owned by my nemesis, the Best Western Corp. At the Astoria there was but one room left unoccupied, a business suite that was already booked but not occupied. There was some hard core begging, resulting in the clerk lady checking computer thingies and making a phone call or two. After several anxious minutes, it was announced we had our selves a room for the night. HURRAH! The room only had one bed. RATS! The bed was big enough for two. WHATEVER!

Early the following morning, we shuffled our luggage back down the street to train station for a long day on the rails.
Pulling out of the Zagreb station
The train cars had cozy little rooms with sliding doors, no dementors
Croatian countryside
Budapest Train Station, Gate 9 3/4 (I can dream, if I like)
The Budapest train station
From the train depot we took a taxi, returning to the same little apartment complex where our trip had started.

Here is the apartment building, which is built over a little bar. Each evening the bar hosts a lively group of students and locals. Jo enjoyed an adventure or two there.
The Apartment Building
It was our last evening. We took a last walk around the old neighborhood, Budapest's Jewish quarter. The 5% of my genome that is Ashkenazi Jewish felt right at home. We went to a little restaurant across the way & a few doors down from our apartment. There we enjoyed a nice meal. We chatted with the people one table over, and raised a glass to an adventurous trip, well met.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

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 meandered downhill again to old Dubrovnik. There we had a repeat dinner not to far from the ferry dock.

Jo enjoying a little appetizer

While we nibbled at appetizers in the 'al fresca' setting, a bridal party waltzed by. Jo loves people and she called out to the bride, letting her know just how pretty she was - and as you can see from the photo, the bride is a treat in tulle!

After dinner we each took a walk around Old Dubrovnik. I knew something was being celebrated but was clueless as to what.
Lots of festivities and lots of music in Old Dubronik
I meandered over to one of the old buildings which was spectacular
The marvelous lighting added to the wonderment for me
Inventive clock tower
This spot was wanting a Gregorian chant playing in the background
Can't even imagine the purpose of  this beautiful hall

Turns out there was a festival in progress.  The Kinookus Food Film Festival, an international event, happening every September. Jo and I just stumbled into it. The festival celebrates the regional wines, purest olive oils, and my favorite, shellfish (yum!). Oh, and there is a marathon, I suppose is held to take off some of the food accrued festival fat. As the internet describes the event, it is a '....feast of diversity, unity, meetings, ideas, games and enjoyment. Now, I didn't partake of any of the featured food or film, but I did visit one of the displays, celebrating many film stars, old and new.

Add caption
A couple of the new stars showcased, no surprise, play characters in Game of Thrones. Lots of those kind of souvenirs were about.
Winter is coming. Spring too, if you only wait long enough.
I returned to roaming the old city
Night view of the Dubrovnik harbor
After touring Old Dubrovnik, I very nearly enjoyed hiking back uphill to Villa Odak. It's our last night. Tomorrow we begin a slightly circuitous route back to Zagreb, then on to Budapest.