Daughter the First

I will always remember the day she was born. Realizing that I would not have the luxurious stretches of one-on-one time that I enjoyed with Son the First, I cuddled her close for those precious first 24 hours. I whispered my happiness to have her tiny soft perfection to myself for that time. I told her about her grandmother and great grandmother whose names she would carry forward.  

That special day was 28 years ago. Today is her Golden Birthday.

I am so proud of the wonderful woman, wife, and mother who is my beloved firstborn daughter.

Technical difficulties prevent me from posting traditional life history photos, but nothing will prevent me from honoring her today. I think I'll start with traditional chocolate cake for breakfast.

I love you BIG, Maggie.


Flannel Sheets

Changed the bedsheets last Friday. While I always enjoy fresh bed linens, there are two times a year when I really enjoy the task of stripping the bed and making it up again: early Autumn when we switch to flannel sheets, and late Spring when we switch back to cool smooth cotton sheets. Perhaps I could convince the legislature to quit monkeying around with the clock and instead declare specific days when we are required to Fall Back Into Flannel and to Spring Forward Into Smooth Cotton. I dread the monkey business with the clock, but I do so love Falling Into Flannel Sheets every year at this time. And I love Sipping Hot Sweet Beverages. And consuming Creamy Carbohydrate-Laden Meals. Fall is full of so many small pleasures.

Flannel sheets bring back happy childhood memories of wearing tights to bed on cold winter nights and making "lightning" under the covers by pedaling my legs rapidly against the tented up flannel sheets. Oh, the simple joys of discharging static electricity in the dark. But inevitably my sister and I would get too joyful and stern parental voices from the living room would warn us to settle down and go to sleep.

I'm the stern parental voice now. Well, I was before the nest was so rudely emptied anyway. The point is...I'm the boss of me now. Not even the legislature can tell me to settle down and go to sleep if I want to make sparks 'til the sun comes up.

I think I'll wear tights to bed tonight.

I love Fall.



Last night a 5.3 shook the ground beneath us (epicenter near King  City about 90 miles south of San Jose) and woke me to heart-pounding attention just before midnight.

Sometimes one needs a good shake to awaken one from unconsciousness.

As a native Californian I've been shaken before, and I expect to be shaken again. Unlike some, however, I cannot just casually shrug and return to life as usual without some time to reflect and respect the awesome forces of nature that will continue to shape Our Home.

We talk about being "grounded" or having a certain steady reliable base upon which to stand, but perhaps we would be wise to consider that nothing truly stays the same. Not you. Not me. Not the Earth. 

Yet we can wake up every new day in what seems to us to be the same place. But nothing stays the same. The ground beneath us shifts. With or without our approval. A shift may be slight or it may be catastrophic and reform our world in unexpected ways.

Humans possess endless creativity in the ways in which they respond to change. Some deny it and cling to what was. Some ignore it and carry on as if nothing happened. Some welcome a new or different way of being. I've tried coping with the shifting ground of my life in all those ways and more. And what I've come to know is that I have within me whatever it may take to withstand the terror of my feet going out from under me and to scramble to the next place that is steady.

Until the next earthquake.



It's been a long time since we've had any good rain and it's been awhile since I've checked in here at the old bloggity-blog. The words are just not flowing for me right now.

Winter vegetable garden is growing: peas, carrots, beets, broccoli, cabbage. I stewed up the couple of Roma tomatoes and all of the cherry tomatoes we grew and then we pulled up the tomato plant jungle to make way for the winter veggies.

The yard is still our favorite place to be but it's looking rather tired and torn up just now. The citrus box is nearly complete and it has a Washington Navel orange tree, a Valencia orange tree, and a dwarf Eureka lemon tree planted. We've excavated ground for a shed beside the garage and a circular spot in the Park for a small brick patio where the laid-down pepper tree was removed. We've pulled up some brick pathway to be reset and a whole bunch of hex pavers are being repurposed.

I suppose all the physical labor has drawn the energy I would otherwise put toward mental tasks such as stringing words together in coherent patterns. It appears that you can have my brain or you can have my brawn, but it's one or the other.

The rain will come and my words will return, but in the meantime I'll be outdoors grunting and sweating and shoveling and wheelbarrowing and moving pavers and taming the wild overgrowth with my trusty garden tools.


Soundview Cottage in Seattle

I'm a wee bit reluctant to let you in on this secret, but if you ever get the chance to stay at Soundview Cottage in Seattle please enjoy and tell Annie that Julie from Central California sent you.

For two lovely evenings after our explorations of Seattle we restored ourselves in this cozy hideaway that had easy access to all of the local attractions yet felt like it was miles away from civilization. Upon arrival on a Sunday evening we were graciously welcomed by the lovely owner of the cottage, Annie Phillips, and we marveled at the view from the deck. In one direction, the sunset:

 And in the opposite direction the moonrise through the pines:

Yes, you see a hot tub, and yes, we did enjoy it both evenings we were there. Very relaxing after a long day of sightseeing, as was the comfy bed with luxurious linens.

One of the sights we saw was the Space Needle at the Seattle Center, and we enjoyed the Chihuly Glass Exhibit.

We also hiked to the Seattle Public Library, rode the monorail, visited Pike Place Market, walked along the waterfront and rode the water taxi from downtown to SW Seattle, so you can imagine how lovely it felt to return to a cozy cottage at the end of that day.
In fact, we cuddled up to enjoy a DVD before slipping into the hot tub to ease our achy bodies.

The next morning we leisurely cooked a spinach and mushroom omelet from the ingredients in the fridge stocked by Annie. She had contacted us in advance of our arrival and asked if we had any dietary restrictions or special requests, because Annie doesn't cook breakfast for her guests like some bed-and-breakfast establishments do. And it turns out we rather liked puttering in the kitchen in our jammies. It made our vacation even more relaxing and comfortable.
We were reluctant to pack up and go, but we had to board our ship shortly after noon for the Alaska cruise. We know we will return to Seattle to explore some more of Washington. And when we do we will contact Soundview Cottage first thing to see if we can stay there again.


Alaska the Beautiful

The experience is bigger than words but I'm working
on a narrative of the journey. These few images carry me immediately back to sounds, sights, smells, and feelings provoked
by Alaska. There is so much more than just what you see here.

The Bigness of Nature overwhelms the senses when one is introduced to Alaska. So much water, so many trees, such steep high mountains,  fresh sweet air, constantly changing weather. Whales.



Finding God's Country

First you must head North.

To the Evergreen Playground.
In the Emerald City you must follow the Red Brick Way
to the top of the hill.

Notice the lovely architectural detail

Do NOT follow the man in kilt.
He will lead you astray. He's going the wrong way.

 Follow the Man With the White Moustache.
He will not lead you astray.
He's going the right way.
Ascend the Yellow Escalator to Heaven.
Further instruction awaits at
the Highest Height (otherwise known as theTenth Floor
Ah, yes. Reading.
So many choices. So little time.
Ooooo, the Historical Atlas of the American West.
I really love a good map, don't you?
(I also love a good nap, but that's a topic for another day.)
Let's take a peek, shall we?

Well, look at that!
We found God's Country.
Traveled all the way to Seattle to discover
that all one needs to do is click one's heels
three times and repeat:
"There's no place like home."
"There's no place like home."
"There's no place like home."

You were expecting maybe scenic photos of
Alaskan wilderness?

Patience, my pretty.
All in good time.


Garden Post Sans Cucumbers

So last night Pete took me to a lovely garden spot where I captured this self-portrait with Mr. Last:

Last night.

In Victoria.

British Columbia.


Pete, charming host and highly entertaining bus driver, delivered me and 100 of my closest Carnival Fun Cruise friends to:

Did I mention we were in CANADA?

Last night!

Tonight we are safely home in the Central Valley of California. Which is a lovely place in its own right.
But is certainly isn't CANADA.

I had to peel off my tights right after we touched down at the local airport this afternoon. It was 100 degrees.

Firefighters were hosing down the smoking side of the freeway as we drove home. True story.

So much to tell about our recent adventures to The North.

Stay tuned.


She's Golden


It's her Golden Birthday.

Twenty years crammed full of living can be messy sometimes.

So sometimes it helps to keep a Brother under one arm and Another Brother under the other...

Other times it's not a Brother, but Your Mother, that you need...
Of course the one who's really got your back is your Big Sister.
You'll always be the Baby and she'll aways be your Big Sister.
It's awesome.

We know it's not easy bringing up the tail end of this bunch, but the good news is you've always had a village looking out for you and you always will.

On this Golden Day we celebrate you. And...well...

...the teenager you were salutes the adult you are becoming.
Happy Birthday Baby.

So glad you were born. So glad you are alive.

We love you.

And I love you BIG.

Forever. For always. No matter what.


Sunday Dinner With a Side of Pickles

Used to be that "Sunday Dinner" meant beef roast and mashed potatoes. Or perhaps Fire Alarm Chicken (inside family reference to a dish I cooked at high heat that always set off the smoke alarm), and home-baked goodies for dessert.

Those are all good and fine, but today I think I have discovered my all time favorite Sunday Dinner thanks to the Mr. Last and his magic ways with fresh ingredients we happened to have on hand:

  • Lime cilantro rice
  • Grilled chicken
  • Kabobs of zucchini, yellow squash, onion, and fresh pineapple
  • Grilled corn on the cob
  • Tomatoes & cucumber
After dinner, he even magicked up some rice bowls for tomorrow's lunch by adding black beans, sour cream, and cheese to the leftovers. Fresh, healthy, and delicious.

And while he was busy on his side of the kitchen, I was over on my side with these:
Gotta wait a couple days for them to stew in the juices before I can give you a verdict on the taste, but I made some Refrigerator Pickles using this recipe from Food-In-Jars blog.

They only keep in the refrigerator for a limited time, so it looks like the magic meals we invent in the next few weeks are likely to include a side of pickles.



Read this recently and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Author's website can be found here.

The time and place in which this story is set reminded me of a  story about my Grandpa Charlie growing up in Cottonwood, Texas.

According to family legend, Charlie stayed behind one day when everyone else went to town. He was 12 or 13 and thought he'd try out the new family automobile -- and this was way back in the early 1900's -- while no one was around to watch him (legend does not tell how the family traveled to town).

He was delighted to get the machine running, but the excitement soon faded when he could not figure out how to turn the dang thing off. So he circled round and round until it ran out of fuel and when the family returned Charlie had to explain why the car was parked under the big tree in the yard.

I also recently enjoyed Diane Keaton's memoir, Then Again.
She's an interesting woman and her memories are interwoven with excerpts from the many collages, scrapbooks, and journals her mother created. 

On a somewhat related note, I went to my very first Drawing Class this week at the local community college. The college is on the edge of town where not too long ago crops were growing. We noticed the raptors hunting out there during the fall, and now I know why. Cottontail bunnies by the gob lots were stretched out cooling themselves on the shady lawns when I arrived for my evening class. Some of them lippity-lipped into the shrubbery when I strolled down sidewalk toward the Art Lab. Others remained still and avoided eye contact. I imagine they eat the landscape and annoy the grounds crew, but I found it rather charming to have bunnies all over campus.

So. Drawing Class is really small. Myself and one other woman were the only students the first night, but the instructor was expecting three or four more who we think may have had difficulty locating the class. It is a community education class, not a college course for credit, so it feels easy and encouraging. For me it's external discipline to force me to spend a couple hours a week practicing so I can improve my basic skills. I'm not interested in a late life career as Oma the Artiste, just trying to spread my wings a little with an eye toward perhaps one day creating Oma's Illustrated Memoirs for the enjoyment (or annoyance) of the descendants.

Not because I have lived interesting experiences like Diane Keaton, or enjoyed the fictional family capers of Calpurnia Virginia Tate, but I do have a story or two in me.

We'll see what comes of it. If anything.


Oma's Favorite Mug

I know. I know.

Cuteness overload.

My GrandBoys have mugs to melt an Oma's heart.
I couldn't pick just one favorite.

They are each my favorite. 

It doesn't get much better than Fourth of July with Chuck & The Boys.  


Food We Grew

Harvested the first big batch of warty pickles cucumbers this evening.

Yummy slices are chillin' in an ice water bath right now in the fridge.

Can't wait to dip the chips in garlicky hummus and munch the sweet, salty, crunchy snack.

I'm on a crunchy binge right now. Last night I polished off the better part of a box of Life cereal while I was reading Ivan Doig's autobiography of growing up in Montana, This House of Sky.

Sheep ranching is hard work.

I don't want a sheep ranch in Montana. Just a cozy cabin.
With a garden. Where I can grow pickles cucumbers in the summer.

Did you know that I once lived by a lake in Montana?

For three glorious days.


OK, well, I don't live on a sheep ranch, so I don't have to feed orphan lambs or shear wooly sheep or herd animals to better pasture, but I do have chores that I've got to get done tonight so we'll talk more about Montana another time, OK?

OK. Bye-bye.