And a very Merry Christmas to all ... Dec 24th thru Dec 27th 2014

I'll just start by saying how sweet it is to be spending Christmas at home this year, and to be close and connected to family.  Jimmy and I had three weeks at home to get ready for Christmas Day, albeit, three weeks of inclement weather!  We put up our tree and did some decorating, but we've culled that down to a dull roar (moving five times in 14 years will do that for ya).  He and I shopped and even enjoyed that, 'altho we're not big shoppers.  We cooked and had friends and family share dinners with us, and we participated in local holiday festivities.  No wonder those three weeks flew by!  In between times, we watched raindrops hit the ground, and I'm sure it must be heresy to say this in drought conditions such as this state has endured for several years, but we got real tired of rain!  So there, I said it.  Those dreary days did make it seem kinda wintry. 

All decked out -- looks like Santa visited our house!

Nope, we didn't see snow on either Christmas eve or on the 25th, but plenty of rain fell on the 24th, and this snow wanna-be, above:  Hail.  The deck was peppered with white stuff several times this day (heck, it's just hail).

Yee-haw, skip the reindeer -- Santa rides a crow!

 Love this picture:  Mom and Daughter

The sun was shining brightly when Jimmy and I drove down the hill to spend Christmas day with son, Matt, and his pretty new wife, Jennifer, at her parents' home in Roseville, an hour away.  I guess we got there around 1 or 1:30.  The kitchen table (above) was laden with goodies to nibble on while dinner was in the oven.  Matt made yummy crostini for everyone, as well.  The day was cool and windy, but dry!

 Sophie was looking very holiday-ish.  

Charlie (Alice and Tom's dog) seemed very content sitting on Jimmy's lap. 

 Today is also Jen's birthday, so she had lots of goodies under the tree!

 By gum, if she didn't get a new urban bike!  Now the whole dang family can go riding on the American River Trail.  Yay!  Santa was very good to everyone!

 Usual after-Christmas waste pile.

Dinner was served around 4 pm, and the six of us ate like we hadn't had a bite to eat all day (despite snacking half the afternoon!).  And dinner was wonderful!  Coffee and Dutch apple pie w/ ice cream for dessert.  Mmmmm.... The men cleaned up afterwards, and then everyone gravitated toward a couch or an easy chair, but Jimmy and I looked at the clock before too long.  We didn't want to be on the road real late due to, ah, drunks going home from parties. So we gathered our gifts and, after many hugs, we headed back up the hill for home, getting in by 8:30ish.  Of course we forgot to leave on lights, but our neighbors' homes were lit with outside Christmas lights. No problems.  Honestly, we had THE best Christmas!  Thanx to Alice and Tom, and Jenny and Matt.  The dogs were also quite entertaining with their new toys....

One of our presents that arrived by mail from Tallahassee was this 1,000 piece picture puzzle of Yosemite Valley. The day after Christmas we put the leaf in our dining room table and commenced putting 'er together.  Can I tell you that all the pieces look alike?  Geez.  It didn't take too long to get the outside border done, but needless to say, it'll take a while to finish it.  That's ok, we have the time!. 

This very chilly morning (Saturday, the 27th), we were outside picking up storm debris from the past three weeks, mostly small sticks, when we stumbled up on these ice crystals in the leaf rubble of our front yard (above and below pics).  Only an inch (or two at the most) high, they sparkled in the shade like diamonds. If you see ice crystals in your yard at lunch time, you know it can't be very warm outside.  It wasn't; only in the mid 40's.  We had hail, we have ice ... but no snow ... yet. 

Finally, a package arrived from my SoCal friend, Lyn, in yesterday's mail.  Along with avocados from their tree and other really neat goodies, is the shirt you see below.  I nearly fell over laughing when I saw it.  Picture me walking down the street in this shirt!  If you've ever been thru Texas, you know how big an outfit Buc-ee's is.  She also included a bag of beaver nuggets from Buc-ee's, but I'm scared to try 'em!

Happy Holidays!
The End


Out and About on a misty sort of day -- Sunday, 12/21/14

I knew the minute I stepped outdoors that three solid weeks worth of drizzle, rain, mist, downpours, fog, and etc., would result in a panoply of fungi, or as I like to say, 'shrooms.  So, I tucked my little point n shoot camera in my pocket before we set out for our first walk in as many weeks.  Today, and I say hallelujah, no rain, just a misty fog that glazed everything with droplets ...especially pretty dangling on evergreen tips. Beneath the tall trees, big drops liked to splat on our heads, or worse, down the back of our necks!  I got smart and pulled my hood up when walking under them.  Temp was in the low 50's, a warm-up compared to many, many days in the 40's, and quite pleasant for walking.

All the 'shrooms were shiny, as tho hand-polished.  Some still contained a half-teaspoon of water.  I haven't named most of these guys ... only the few I could positively identify (from a field guide).  Nearly all of them colored the woodsy floor like flowers, and many were quite beautiful.  From the tiniest of tiny to dinner-plate sized, below are a few of my 'shroom pictures.

 White Worm Coral

Tooth Jelly

A misty walk for Jimmy and me.

I wear a size 7 ....


 Redbelt bracket

 Apricot Jelly -- tiny, delicate, beautiful.

These tiny, acorns-on-sticks look-a-likes popped up in my keyhole garden.

Not many others were Out and About this afternoon.  We took our time, enjoying the quiet.  My shoes got wet from wandering into the woods, but no matter -- it felt grand to be outside.  Today is the Winter Solstice, shortest day in the Northern Hemisphere, and we spent as much time on our three-and-a-half mile walk as we wanted.  (Last year we were in Punta Areas, Chile, on this date -- their Summer Solstice!) Well, maybe, just maybe, the sun will shine in NorCal tomorow -- I have my fingers crossed.


Learned something new today! Tues, 12/16/14

Aha!  The signboard in Alice's kitchen tells it all.  Jimmy and I knew this was coming; we've been looking forward to it all year!  Our in-laws, Alice and Tom, make tamales every December, and this year Jimmy and I have been included ... er, wait ... I mean, we've been RECRUITED!  The date was planned, and not only would we be helping, the younger set -- Matt and Jen -- would join us.  

Jimmy and I left Nevada City (in the rain) @ 8am to be in Roseville by 9am to begin.  We would be eager learners. Matt and Jen, who now live a short distance away in Sacramento, followed a bit later.

Alice ordered 20 lbs of pre-made masa, above left, in two plastic sacks.  Above right, she squeezes it into two large broiler pans (while Jimmy grabs an empanada).  Below left, is one of two crockpots filled with 20 lbs of pork butt cooked overnite and ready to be shredded.  Below right you see the pork now shredded into two large pans.  OK, let the fun begin!

 Alice ladled some of the cooked pork liquid (sans fat), and chili powder, into the masa, and said, "knead it in!" 

 And so we did, but not without some foolishness mixed in!  ("Don't play with your food!")

All six of us hard at work!   First, lay out a corn husk, apply a thin layer of masa atop, spread a handful of pork longways on one side, roll it up and fold over the top edge.  I didn't take blow-by-blow photos because I couldn't -- my hands were goopied up!  Matt and Jen have the monster pan of masa in front of them, plus a glass dish half emptied of pork. Catchy Christmas music played on the BOSE.  Good thing Alice covered the table with a blue plastic throwaway, 'cause we made a mess!  The chairs were covered with towels to protect them.

Tom escaped for a while w/ a previous app't, but he brought back sandwiches for lunch, so he was "forgiven."  

The sun came out for a little while in Roseville, lifting everyone's spirits, if only for the moment.  Alice and I walked out into her back patio to admire her cactus ... and we enjoyed feeling the warm sun.  We were pretty sure the plants welcomed the rain break, too!

The humongous masa pan, scraped clean.  The other followed shortly thereafter.  Our tamales went into two large steamers, to cook (steam) for approx one-and-a-half hours.

We asked Alice to pose with PART of the final product, already steamed, cooling and almost ready to divvy into freezer bags.

It was an all-day job.  Tamales, in batches, steamed away on the stove top.  After finishing the traditional tamales, Matt made up two small separate kinds of tamales to try something different.  We didn't get to taste any of his special tamales, as we wanted to get home before dark and before the next wave of predicted rain hit.  We left around 3pm, made a brief stop at Wal-Mart, and got home at 5pm, just at dark.  The rain began falling again (!!) a short time later.

The traditional tamales we all helped make are -- in one word -- delicious!  We not only learned the basics on how to make them, we had a wonderful day, filled with laughter and family camaraderie.  Matt had never made this Mexican staple before, either, and Jen hadn't participated in tamale making for years, so they both appreciated the Tamale 101 today, too.

And, everyone took freezer bags of tamales home.  After all, we made 20 DOZEN TAMALES, plenty for sharing!. Wowzers, I guess so!  Thank you, Alice and Tom, for EVERYTHING!

ps:  Man, we were tired when we got home!


A Merry Victorian Christmas ... to you and you and you -- Dec 14, 2014

Every year throughout the month of December, Nevada City, CA hosts a Victorian Christmas event on Wednesday evenings and Sunday afternoons.  Two years ago, Jimmy and I, along with Alice and Tom, spent a very chilly few hours there, dodging raindrops and trying vainly to stay warm.  This year was a bit different.

After a seafood gumbo lunch at our house with Alice and Tom, we four (wearing long-johns) headed down the hill to the Victorian Christmas party.  This year, newlyweds, Matt and Jennifer, joined us ...and this year is extra-special for all of us, because Matt and Jen have moved from LA to Sacramento.  O boy -- not far from both sets of parents!  No rain was forecast for today (Sunday), but that didn't mean sunshine was blinding us or that it was particularly warm.  Nope, we had just the tiniest of sprinkles, one spot of sun, and the rest was gray skies, with a temp in the mid-40's.  Glove weather.  Christmas weather.

We had a great time.  Many people, especially vendors, were dressed in Victorian garb, and kids looked especially cute in their holiday finery.  We listened to music, drank warm apple cider, tried roasted chestnuts, and dropped into stores and galleries for a look-see (and a momentary warm up).  Street "musicians" and magicians entertained the crowd.  And, yes, the streets were crowded.  A fun time for all.

Happy Holidays! 

Not necessarily related. 

 I thought they tasted good.  Jimmy didn't.

Bicycles exempt? 

Miss Christmas tree was handing out candy canes (thanx!).  The little girl at bottom left was completely dumbfounded by the walking, talking tree ... esp when the tree offered her a candy cane!

Same Santa, different year.  Must be a tradition by now! 

Nevada Union High School jazz band ... quite good.

Lights on the old Methodist Church come on at dusk.

The End.
(Actually this was at the beginning, but it begged to be called "The End.")

* * * * * * * * * *
A little after 5 o'clock, the six of us walked to Lefty's Grill, got right in and seated at a table.  We were early, which helped.  We enjoyed a delicious dinner in a nice, warm atmosphere.  After that, we all trooped back up the hill to our house, turned on the (natural gas) fireplace and rehashed our day.  I hope the other five had as grand a time as I did!  Tomorrow is a "rest up" day, and then Tuesday ....  Well, I'll tell you about it, but not yet.  You'll have to wait.  Hint:  More fun!

Speaking of cute "kids" ... Jen and Matt in Lefty's.
Welcome to NorCal.