Farewell to Summer

Our summer here is officially over.  Fall begins tomorrow. The high temperatures will linger into October but the nights will begin to cool. In November  we will experience our “fall” in Southern California.  From now until then we will have dry dusty days without rain, Santa Ana winds, and abundant sunshine. The palm trees will remain green, native plants will flourish, hillsides will continue to brown,  leaves will drop and blow in the wind, but a few splashes of fall colors maybe found.

Summer was wonderful.  Although we spent more time at home than usual, we enjoyed many opportunities to get outdoors and appreciate summer. Rather than bore you with details,  I decided to showcase a few highlights and allow the pictures to tell most of the story.

A visit to Berkeley and the University of California

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Exploring Berkeley and visiting with family.

Visiting a winery near Gilroy, California

Salinas, California-Home of John Steinbeck.

Beautiful Monterey Bay

Camping in Big Sur and exploring the California coastline.

Laughing in amazement at sun bathing sea lions.

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A Phoenix sunrise. One of two trips we made to Arizona.

Who knew Arizona could be so green?

We loved our visit to Oro Valley north of Tuscon, Arizona…

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…and even enjoyed the rain!

Our small garden yielded us tomatoes, onions, peppers, squash, and strawberries.

I worked on a few sewing and craft projects.

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We spent a great deal of time with family, friends, and just hanging out.

(and of course eating and shopping!)

So while we say farewell to the Summer of 2016…

I am looking forward to what comes next!

How was your summer?

(or winter-depending on where you live)

The Public Library

A much younger person once told me that the day of a public library had passed. He felt there was no need to check out books, sit in a stuffy place while people around him said shhhhh. Computers were a much better way to research any bits of information that a person might need.  Uh…hadn’t I ever heard of Amazon???  Sitting to read a magazine or explore a bookshelf seemed like a waste of time to him. The idea of handling a bunch of musty old books or any other such nonsense seemed incomprehensible. As much as I tried to plead my case for the need of libraries, he just didn’t get it.

Ahhh well…youth…????

With a broken computer at home I am at the library-using a public computer. Having a smartphone or tablet  I seldom need an actual computer these days-except to write a blog post, type or print a document maybe. It might be more fashionable to head on over to a Kinko’s or some other such place, spend a few dollars and act like I don’t really need to be there…but… why would I want to do that when I can do this for free with my

Library Card!!!

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Oh sure, if I want to print something here it will cost me 10 cents a page (although it was free for may years) and I can only use the computer for 2 hours per day…but

 Why not?

If you have read my blog previously you may  know that I have fond memories of libraries-about my father taking us to the library as children while my sister and I checked out stacks of books (for free-if you don’t count the overdue fines we inevitability incurred). Most recently I talked about how much I enjoy the online services offered. I am able to search for a book at online at home, place a request, and then wait until the book is located. A text message will alert me when I am able to pick it up and for how many days it will be held. I can then pop into the library to pick it up. I also receive a text message when the due date is approaching. I can log on to my library account and renew my book several times before I actually need to make another trip into the library. No more overdue fines and super convenient!

OK, you might say. That is all very nice. After all, you can just run to the local big name book or warehouse store to purchase a book. Of course there is Amazon. If you have Prime you can even receive it within hours or the next day. No worry about fines or library cards and all of that nonsense.

Good thought.

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Well….

Today I needed to use a computer. Since the computers at the library are in high demand, I am assuming many other people need computer access for some reason. As I nosily look around, I see people job searching. Some here are seniors, some people dressed nicely-others not so nice. Perhaps  owning a computer is not within their budget. A few students are here working on projects of some sort. For some families a computer might not be in the budget or if they have one the cost of internet is too high. In our area you can expect to pay $60 a month (at least) for home internet service. McDonalds  or Starbucks might not be convenient or available or whatever.

The library is getting busy as kids finish their school day. I see a few young people here-a couple of girls quietly giggling together while they have school work laid out on the tables before them There is a young couple studying. What a  nice way for teens to study together.

I picked up a flyer at the door.

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They are promoting upcoming library events like storytime for kids on Tuesdays  or a free craft corner in the evening. The library is celebrating Hispanic Heritage month and a date for a puppet show of Alice In Wonderland is approaching. There is a literacy program. There are opportunities for volunteers. The Friends of the Library have a small bookstore where donated books are sold for a fraction of the cost of a new book. Contact your local library to see if they are taking book donations. (Most of us have a few laying around gathering dust and taking up room) Movies and books on tape/CD are found here too!

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Who knows? The children’s reading area might stimulate a lifetime of learning!

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Maybe the library isn’t for you but this really is an opportunity for many…people of all ages!  It is diverse in its offerings and with a county or city library system if your location does not have what you are looking for they probably can get it! The reference librarian is available to direct and assist you in your search.

And its free!

I passed a young mother on my way in today. She had a young boy of about 6 years old in tow. Her arms were overloaded with a stack of children’s books.  They were laughing and talking as they walked away. I envisioned them laying all of those books on the living room floor to explore together. Or maybe she would read to him as he snuggled beside her in a cozy chair. They may have some set aside for bedtime stories. Bonding time. Books can take you places or stir the imagination!

We will go shopping for a new computer this week and I will probably not be back to use the computers anytime soon. Sure, I could pop over to the bookstore and buy a book but I feel my money is best spent elsewhere (we all have our priorities). Sure, I buy books on Amazon if I need to own an actual book. There is, however, something about the atmosphere of the library that makes me love being here. Few distractions, no cell phones, no dirty dishes calling to me!  Maybe it’s the memories it evokes. I don’t know for sure.

What I do know for sure, is that the library system we have here is a gift and I hope it is one we can embrace in a changing world. A library just might be one of the best kept secrets!

Summer, Sewing, & Retirement

Every once in awhile I need an attitude adjustment. This retirement thing is a work in progress. Even after 2 1/2 years I can easily fall into lazy habits, get off track, cringe when I jump on the scale, and well…basically I need to refocus! Not that I am not busy but I sometimes have found myself being busy with the business of being busy.

Huh????

Last week is a perfect example. On Monday I was at the hospital all day waiting for the arrival of our newest great-granddaughter. Very exciting! I was the on call labor coach in case the young parents needed reinforcements. I have been front and center for four of my own (of course), my sister, and four grandchildren. For six others I have impatiently sat in the waiting room. I have completed 3 Lamaze classes, read countless books, and offered too many hours to count of advice by phone, visits to nervous moms, and had more than most of sleepless nights in this miracle of babies, pregnancy, and babies being born. So there was no place I would have rather been!!

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I mean, is she perfect or what????

It was also the weekend visit of one of my oldest and dearest friends, a baby shower of her second grandchild, and a visit from our oldest grandson, home from almost two years away. During the week I met a sister for lunch, had my brother staying with us (and thrilled to have him back),  met a friend for coffee and another dear friend for our usual swimming meet up. Church, household stuff, Bible study, and oh yeah…Thommmee-the most patient and understanding husband on the planet needed some attention too.

Anyway, I realized that all of this business was causing me to stress a bit and I wasn’t enjoying the moments with all of the scheduling. I was talking too much about what I still had to do (how special did that make the person I was with feel?) so….readjusting and focusing on my friends and family became priority. Fortunately, these wonderful people love me as is and were most patient with me. I have to say, I treasure each and everyone of them!

Once I realized what I was doing I reminded myself to do what I love, make Thommmee a top priority, and slow down a bit. After all, retirement does not need a checklist!

What does that have to do with sewing you might ask? One of the things I love is sewing. My newest project is making these Sprocket Pillows.

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(for a niece)

They are so fun to make and a great way to use up scraps of fabric.

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(given to a granddaughter)

I am giving them away as fast as I make them.

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(another granddaughter)

I am not offering a tutorial as I was not able to obtain permission from the website where I found them (besides her tutorial is so fantastic). You can find instructions at cluckclucksew with a template included.

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(my friends grandson-nursery colors black, white, and gray!)

They are simple, fairly quick, and come in two sizes.

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We are leaving in a few days for a trip. It will include a visit along the California coast. Our itinerary open and flexible. Brother is back to work, baby and new parents are doing fine (we saw them yesterday). The grads have graduated, no birthdays, and the diet is out the window anyway.  No sewing next week but, that is alright.

I am ready for some quiet and time with Thommmee.

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Death Valley-Super Bloom

A special treat is happening in the Death Valley……spring flowers! With only an average annual rainfall of 2 inches a year, this season, the park got  3 inches of rain so far! Three rare storms in the first two weeks of October was enough to cause millions of dormant wildflower seeds to spring forth.

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Our yearly camping trip to Death Valley Nation Park is at Thanksgiving so the chance to visit this past weekend during the super bloom was a special treat. The roads, campgrounds, hotels, and just about everywhere we went was full of enthralled spectators. Never before had we experienced such unique splendor. Death Valley, despite its name, is such a beautiful place anytime of the year. Although barren of many plants, trees, and shrubs, the diversity and beauty of the park is not to be missed. It is this diversity that makes this park so incredibly appealing-from the salt flats to the sand dunes, the mountain tops  to the badlands, and the sunrises to the sunsets. It is a land of extremes.

We were going to see Death Valley in the spring and during the extraordinary blooming of spring flowers!  Out the door at 3:30AM we arrived full of anticipation and excited to explore. We spent two days driving around the park with many stops along the way.

This is some of the highlights of our trip.

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Desert Gold

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Deep Purple Phacelia

(If touched can cause a rash)

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More than 20 species of wildflower bloom in the park at various elevations.

We saw these at a higher elevation but I don’t know their name.

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The Desert Five-Spot

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The Gravel Ghost

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(see how seems to float from the very interesting leaves hugging the ground?)

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The Charcoal Kilns. No flowers but a group of young people making a video!

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Badwater Basin. 282 feet below sea level. That is not snow in the background…

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…it is a salt flat.

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This was a shrub growing among the Desert Gold flowers.

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On a normal trip the landscape would look more like this…

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…instead of this!

 Our second night  we were sent packing with 45-60 mph winds… which collapsed our tent….so…we slept in the car! Not the best way to end our trip but worth every minute to have been able to enjoy such a rare sight.

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A day earlier than planned we soon found our way home. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it though!

Boys and Girls

Isn’t it interesting how families seem to have more boys than girls, more daughters than sons, or more guys than gals? In our blended family we have 4 girls and 2 boys, 4 grandsons and 7 granddaughters, 1 great granddaughter and 2 more on the way (due in April and May). Thommmee is 1 of  5 brothers and 2 sisters, I am 1 of 4 sisters and 2 brothers.

In our more local/ immediate family we seem be surrounded by girls. As a result, I spend time with the girls in efforts of cooking, sewing, shopping, etc. We all spend time together camping, vacationing, playing games, barbequing,  beach trips, and a multitude of birthday parties. When it comes to doing ‘guy’ things, however, I have often felt that I fell short. I recently decided to make more of an effort to participate in some of the things that they enjoy. Surprisingly (or not) we actually ended up having a really good time.

A few weekends ago my 16 year old grandson and I made plans to attend an outdoors/sportsman event near me.  We were both really excited to spend this time together but honestly I was a bit apprehensive that I would disappoint him or he would be bored hanging out with grandma. Although we are very close and enjoy a very special bond, we are usually a part of a group since he has become a teenager. He lives about 30 miles away and this would also be his first trip managing the congested Southern California freeways by himself. On a Friday afternoon he headed my way as soon as he got out of school and arrived at my house about 3:30. I had decided to just go with whatever I would normally do so we quickly got busy making strawberry jam. Now, I realize this might not be a 16 year old boy’s idea of fun but I figured it was still hanging out with grandma so…. It was fun and he learned a thing or two about making jam.  Since it was Valentine’s Day weekend, we took a jar of fresh jam and decorated it for him to give to his girlfriend ( along with his other special mementos).

While I cleaned up, he went outside with Poppa (Thommmee) to barbeque some steaks and veggies. I made potatoes and garlic bread.  After dinner we settled down to play some board games and cards. We baked brownies. We talked. We laughed.  Eventually Poppa was ready for bed but we sat up and talked well past my  bedtime. We really shared with each other and I will treasure that evening forever.

Early the next morning the three of us were up laughing and talking over pancakes and bacon (which is enough to make anyone happy-right?) We didn’t invite Poppa or anyone else to go along on this trip so the two of us headed off to the event. Now, I don’t know what I expected, maybe a bunch of dudes in overalls chewing tobacco or some other foolish notions of what hunters, gun carrying survivalists might look like (sorry if I offended anyone here-I am somewhat a sheltered urban raised girl ). Anyway, it was mostly men (hey ladies, the ultimate place to meet a guy maybe?), normal looking people, a few women, and even a few families. Nonetheless, I am fairly certain I was the only proud grandma accompanied by her handsome 16 year old grandson. We had a great time but for me this was a one time event (just the show not the grandson).

Encouraged by this adventure, the following weekend I offered to take Thommmee to the Gold and Treasure show at the Fairplex (formally know as the LA Fairgrounds). He loves to watch all of those treasure hunting, prospecting, gold digging type shows so he was all in! (maybe this is where I got that stereo-type idea of the outdoorsmen?) They were selling all types of  machines, gizmos,  and every sort of prospecting gear you could imagine. They even sold dirt and a dirt of the month club membership so you could pan for gold in the privacy of your own home…really? Again, mostly men but more women and families at this event…..normal people! I think get these ideas from the shows Thommmee watches. They must pick extremes types to keep the shows interesting.

OK. I tried. I love the outdoors. If you read my blog you know I love to camp, I sleep in a tent and cook outdoors. These two weekends were a bit of a stretch for me but these men  appreciated my willingness to try something new and I got to spend time with these great guys.  I am not complaining at all. Next weekend our church is having a ladies afternoon tea which I will be attending. Not sure this is a fit for me either. I like my jeans, sneakers and bracelets. Perhaps I am someplace in between but I would like to keep an open mind.

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A New Chapter of Exercise

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Like many of us, I started the new year with a plan to start exercising more. Like many of us, the idea is easier said than putting into action. Since I have a local gym membership, I decided to find out what classes were offered that might help keep me motivated. Sometimes a commitment works better than just half of an enthusiastic plan. I found a class on Tuesdays and Thursdays at high noon so off I went.

I am usually a morning person so the idea of a noon class did not appeal to me but since I was making this commitment I went for it. This class is a senior exercise class so I expected to walk in to a bunch of…well seniors… sitting on a chair swapping recipes and talking about their next doctor appointment.

Was I ever wrong!

Yes there were chairs (for which I began to appreciate in the first 15 minutes), weighs,

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resistance bands, balls, music, and well…seniors!

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(no, this is not me)

 Not seniors like you might think of your grandma or that lady down the street, but active busy seniors that have a desire (and are able) to stay that way…well…like me! That is perhaps where the similarity ends.  These seniors (most of who had been attending for some time) know how to move. They can hop, pump, keep time, and go strong for the entire 60 minutes!  Although I did complete the class on day one, I was exhausted. To make me feel even less fit (if that was even possible) the instructor is a gorgeous 70 year old woman!

WOW!

As I stumbled out of there that first day I made the decision to come again. I think they were surprised to see me back knowing that the roads are paved with good intentions and this core group of seniors had seen their share of newcomers come and go before. Like I said, I am committed. Yes, I was thankful that we sometimes sit, occasionally hold on to the chair, take a few water breaks, but this one hour class is intense! I have adjusted my schedule (as well as my attitude) for the class at high noon,  put people around me on notice not to expect to hear from me during this hour and hey, I have to get going! Its Thursday and almost time to head off to class.

Until next time………

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The Christmas Cactus

The Christmas cactus is such an interesting little plant. They have flat odd oval shaped leaves.  The stems grow in all directions with no apparent rhyme or reason. In the late fall they develop lovely buds which usually open during the winter holidays when they then  become an amazingly beautiful plant. There are no pricklies as you would find in a more traditional cactus.

The Christmas cactus is officially called Schlumbergera which grows wild in the jungles near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  As a houseplant, you will often find them growing on a California patio or living room just about anyplace  where they can  thrive with proper care. The key to getting a Christmas cactus to flower during the holiday season  is the correct light exposure and temperatures with limited watering. As with most succulents and cactus, too much watering can make them soggy or even kill them.  In the fall months, the Christmas cactus should receive indirect bright light during the day with total darkness at night.  They often start blooming in late November and may continue on into January. The fiery blooms may be red, white or various shades of pink. The blooms last longer at about 45 to 70 degrees.

My mother in law lives near the Mississippi River and has the most beautiful Christmas cactus you have ever seen. It is always lush and full of green foliage when we visit each year but I have never been around when it blooms.

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I had her send me a picture.

The recent warmer fall  weather in the Midwest may have caused the late blooms this year. She has given me pieces to take home to grow my own cactus but I have had no success in getting one to start. My sister also has a Christmas cactus. Hers bloom magnificently during the holiday season.

This year, however, she has no blooms at all.

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She says it is in mourning because of the loss of our sister. Can plants be intuitive this way?  I have no idea but two years ago it looked like this…

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…and last year like this.

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This year it is simply drooping.

We were all drooping a little this Christmas.

When visiting recently, I asked if I could have a piece of the cactus to take home and try once again to grow one from a cutting. She said she could do even better!  She has a friend whose father starts Christmas cactus all the time and was certain he’d be delighted to give me one. Sure enough, a week later I had my own Christmas cactus.

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Now I would hardly call it a start. I would more call it a young plant and I am thrilled. The trick will be to see if I can keep it alive.  One of my goals this year is to increase the number of houseplants I have. Last year I started with a few small ones…

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and so far so good.

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I love African Violets and I think this one may actually bloom.

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The antique cup with the succulent was a gift.

In the past I have had some moderate success growing houseplants. We have some nosey cats now and I need to be sure the plants are either out of reach or non toxic. The Christmas cactus in non toxic.

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(Delilah, my faithful feline companion)

Houseplants is a newer hobby I am pursuing in my retirement. Not only are indoor plants pleasing to the eye, but during photosynthesis they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. They increase humidity in the air around them, help purify the air, and some think even offer other health benefits-even boost healing!

I am going to try to propagate another plant from a cutting but for the moment, I will just enjoy and embrace my beautiful Christmas cactus.

Check back in 6 months and I’ll let you know how I’m doing!