Sunday, August 29, 2010

Nikolai - Cat of the Week

My cyber-friend, Anado, whose blog, Chapel of Jimmy Ray, I've been following for ages, sporadically does a "Pet of the Week" feature. I decided it might be fun to follow suit and show off some of my special family members, too. If I stay with the program, this will be a 21-week project...

First up is Nikolai, who is probably the most beautiful cat ever to share his life with us. He had a rough life before we scooped him up... abused, declawed, allowed outside (a never-never-no-no for a declawed cat), was subsequently hit by a car and spent weeks in rehab, abandoned by his previous family, and finally wound up in the adoption wagon of the local "Friends of Animals" group, who, frankly, despaired of ever adopting him out because he was such a basket case. He cowered in the back of his cage, he hissed, he swatted, he bit, he hated dogs, other cats, kids, and just about everyone. We decided to accept the challenge of loving him, and, after three years, while he's still a pain in the ass, things are working themselves out. He still hisses, swats and bites, but not as much as before, and he's decided being petted, sitting in our laps and sleeping on top of us isn't as bad as he originally thought. He even socializes with a few of the other cats now. We love him to bits because he IS so obxonious, and I think he's finally beginning to realize (and appreciate) it. Here are some of the reasons we love him...

Friday, August 27, 2010


Today I received Amy's annual report from World Vision. Amy lives is a small village near Thies, in west central Senegal. Her community is, unfortunately, very poor, and each day is a struggle, though things have improved a little since World Vision began working in the area. Amy lives with her uncle and one brother. No mention has ever been made of her parents, so I don't know if they are alive. In spite of the family's poverty, Amy is able to attend school and is in grade 5. She is a good student and her favorite subject is history; she also says she is good at "conjugation". Admittedly she has me beat there - I was lousy at conjugation - both in English and foreign languages. She likes playing team games, and contributes to the family life by pounding millet and washing the clothes. Amy will be 13 in a few weeks, and she has grown up considerably in the past year. She looks quite mature in this year's photo, compared to her distinct little girl look last year.

I made a bag for her for her birthday, and will be sending it off tomorrow, along with some stickers, a pack of colored pencils and a drawing pad.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August Full Moon

This picture hardly does justice to what I saw last night - it was one of those, "You had ta be there" moments. As dusk fell, I was flinging water everywhere, trying to revive both myself and my herb garden, when I looked up the street and saw the moon rising over the crest of the hill at the end of our street. It was sorta like Stonehenge, with the moon shining through a slit in the rocks. Well, at least that's what it reminded ME of, and I thought it was very cool!

This week, summer dropped on us like an atom bomb. Last weekend was in the comfortable mid 70s, Monday it was in the mid 90s, and yesterday it was over 100. Today is a little cooler, and, at least, the air is moving, sending a delicious breeze drifting through the open windows. In typical San Francisco Bay Area fashion, which dictates, "If you don't like the weather, wait a minute..." , the prediction is for cooling through the weekend, then the bomb is going to drop again next week. I may not like it, but my tomatoes and green peppers are ecstatic!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Phalaenopsis children

Only one of my orchids in the Greenhouse In The Loo is currently blooming, plunging me into serious depths of orchid depravation. So, when I saw a new shipment of Phalaenopsis in the Raley's nursery today, I picked up a couple to revitalize my spirit. Phals are among the most popular orchids in the trade, with many hybrids having been developed over the years. I've seen them in many colors - from darkest purple, through magenta, pink, white, yellow, orange, beige and even green. Fortunately, they're relatively easy to raise, and I've had good luck so far keeping mine alive and healthy. Although they don't bloom nearly as often as I'd like, I've been blessed with at least one "offspring" from each plant over the years.

Phalaena was the the name given to a group of large moths by 18th century Swedish botanist, Carl Linnaeus, and, because the flowers of this species supposedly resemble moths in flight, they are sometimes called moth orchids. While I think some moths are quite beautiful, I really don't see any resemblance between them and these beautiful flowers... but what do I know?!

So, here are my two newest "flower children"... as you can see, they both have many unopened buds, so I expect them to be blooming for quite a few weeks to come.

Monday, August 23, 2010


Today I received the annual "progress report" for one of the two children I sponsor through World Vision. Her name is Rekha, and she lives in the state of Karnataka on the southwestern coast of India. She's now ten years old, and was just promoted from 2nd to 3rd class at her school. The report says she's a very good student, whose favorite subject is Kannada, her native language, and whose current ambition is to be a teacher. This report states Rekha is in good health, is a happy and cheerful child, and enjoys playing with friends, and playing the popular game of kho-kho, an energetic team game of chase and pursuit, played on a field of 27x15 meters.

Since I'm such a terribly non-maternal person, World Vision offers me the opportunity to watch from afar (best for all concerned) as two young girls grow up, and to participate in their well being, as well as helping the community in which they live. For a paltry monthly sum (auto-deducted from my bank account so I don't even miss it) I, along with other sponsors, can help the girls with things like health care, education and school supplies, clothing, better food and clean water. It's difficult to believe my small donation can go so far. I get the pleasure of writing to my sponsored children and sending them small gifts such as colored pencils, drawing paper, hair ribbons, balloons and stickers. They write back to me and keep me apprised of how they're doing in school and life in general. All of this I do from the comfort of my own way-too-comfortable lifestyle. Oy... it makes me feel like such a mentsh!

I can't recommend this happy, painless process enough, and urge everyone to adopt a child and start gathering your own very feel-goods! Go to World Vision to find out how.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


It's been a rough few days... I'll be back to the land of the living soon, I hope...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Shabbat Brunch

I like Saturday mornings. I no longer work, so Saturday morning isn't a goal, or something to hold in anticipation, or a light at the end of the tunnel like it was for so many years. Maybe it's because the neighborhood seems more alive - I see people working in their yards, washing their cars, walking (in the name of exercise) up the hernia-buster hill we live on, and the neighbor down on the street behind us, who restores old cars, spending the day in his driveway working on his latest project. A few weeks ago he got the engine running on an old jalopy and I thought invaders from Mars had arrived! Egads! What a racket!! I went out in the back yard and waved and gave him two thumbs up, while he danced around his driveway like he'd won the lottery, as the car roared and complained and belched smoke. This week he has the engine running smoothly and it no longer scares the crap out of the entire neighborhood when he starts it up.

Sadly (or not) something I no longer do on Saturday, is go to Shabbat service at the synagogue. I don't know why I fell away from that - it used to mean so much to me. But, as the years pass, I find myself getting more cynical and solitary, and I no longer feel the need to express myself in that way. Things came to a head a few years ago when I quit my last church job. Everything had become so pat... so routine... so boring. It was... "This is the way we go to shul/church, go to shul/church, go to shul/church... this is the way we go to shul/church, so early Saturday/Sunday morning. La la di da di da!" Fifty-some years of being a liturgical musician took its toll on me! These days, I just want to sit in my yard, or, when it's cold, sit in front of the slider, and look out at my wonderful view... at the colorful, noisy birds who raid the feeders, the miles of green hills and trees, the tankers, auto carriers and ferries chugging up and down the Carquinez Strait, the expanse of blue bay beyond the Strait, and Mt. Tamalpias rearing it's majestic self far in the distance. I know the beautiful, powerful, exciting ocean is just on the other side of Mt. Tam, and I can hear its roar, smell its salt and almost taste the sharpness of the air. Who needs to be inside a building, singing, chanting, bowing, reading, praying, and all the other stuff. Not I. I'm better off without it and it's better off without me.

However, there's one chunk of the Sabbath I refuse to let go... my lox and bagel brunch. This IS the thing I anticipate all week... my goal... my destination! For a short, blissful time, as I savor every bite, it's the perfect time to give my own version of thanks... thanks for the goodness of my life and all of the wonderful things that make my life so marvelous and incredible and awesome and wondrous and just downright cool!

Happy Saturday, everyone!

Friday, August 13, 2010


Oceana is my newest treasure. She arrived at my house yesterday and took up residence in my studio on the wall over my altar. She was created by sculptor Cheryl Dolby, of Roanoke, Virginia. I've always had a strong connection to the sea and all of its creatures - both real and mythical, and when I saw this beautiful work on Cheryl's blog, I thought about it for about ten seconds, then went to her Esty shop and clicked "Buy"!

This is Oceana's story, a story about the ocean, written by Cheryl...


As she was standing at the edge of the ocean
she could hear the waves chanting
their familiar song.

“Come to me,
I am geater than you,
I am wiser than you....
I am the one.”

She resisted once again.
How long could she continue to resist…
How much longer before she embraced her larger self,
her destiny...
her soul…
the sea….

Food experiment...

I was right in the middle of making hummus this afternoon, when I discovered I was out of tahini. UGH! I hate it when that happens!!! Hard to believe, because I use a lot of tahini around here. Not wanting to schlepp the 20 mile round trip to the grocery store, I said, "This is a job for Google!" I found a bunch of recipes, but one was so simple I decided to dive in and try it...

2 cups toasted sesame seeds
1/3 cup olive oil

What could be easier?

Instructions said to use a food processor and pulse until the desired consistency was reached. Since my f.p. was full of the half-made hummus, I used my blender instead, and it worked just fine, though the blender sounded like it was going to die. I ultimately added about a half cup of olive oil to get it as thin as I like it. It's a little "grainy" - sort of like peanut butter, but I don't mind that. The best thing is that it doesn't taste as bitter as the product I've been buying for years... so, guess what? I'm never doing store-bought again! I think I'll try experimenting in the future - maybe make it with a mix of olive oil and toasted sesame oil... or, perhaps, use lemon-infused olive oil... I love experimenting! Especially when the experiment comes out great!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


This has been the coldest summer I can remember in many years. There's been daily wind roaring up the hill from the Bay, and I've seen enough of the marine layer to last me the rest of the year. I'll do my best to remember these days the next time it's in the 90s, without a hint of a breeze or a fog patch in sight. This evening, around 7:30 a blast of sun finally punched it's way through the fog for a few minutes, and made it look as though the heavens were on fire. Then it quickly disappeared and the gloom returned.

Many of my friends who grow stuff are, along with me, whining about rock hard green tomatoes, itty-bitty beans, and non-existent green peppers. One of my six tomato plants is performing splendidly, but, so far, all of the others are duds. There's a lot of promise, in the form of green rocks, so I still have hope. Today, I managed to find enough green beans for dinner, a generic salad tomato, and a generous wad of Sweet 100s...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Buried Treasure in my own back yard!

I LOVE potatoes - any way you can imagine... mashed, broiled, skillet fried, latke-ed, french fried, scalloped, hash browned, hasselbacked, chipped, baked, twice-baked, roasted, au gratined, steamed, as a crust for a savory tart, O'Brien-ed, sliced thin and fried on my sandwich grill, in soups, in salads, and, believe it or not, even boiled. I dug these up on Friday morning, and, alas, they're almost gone already. Since I grow everything in containers, I only get a half dozen or so crops a year, but they're well worth waiting for!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cat Vultures

Our cats know bloody well begging is not permitted, and they're not to bother us while we're eating, but that doesn't stop them from trying to stare us down and intimidate us into giving up a bite of food every time we sit down at the table. Elvis, Ralph and Martina give us "The Vulch" from the catwalk.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Would you believe... A bead store in Vallejo??!!

I was driving down Marin Street on Tuesday and saw a sandwich board sign on the corner of Marin & Florida advertising a bead store just around the corner. I couldn't believe my eyes, and had to do a U-turn to go back and see if it was really so. Mon Dieu! There it was... in the downstairs area of Dan Robeski's fabulous former home ...The Pomegranate Seeds Galleria !! I parked my car and dove inside, and, IT WAS TRUE!!! Hundreds and hundreds of strands of beautiful beads lined every wall, with bins and bins of individual beads and findings covering every horizontal surface in sight. Better yet, there were fantastically beautiful necklaces and bracelets on display and for sale, along with books and all kinds of jewelry making tools. Ah! A Paradise!! Best of all... they offer classes in basic beading, wire work, design, Peyote, soldering, resin work, even classes in moving from hobbiest to businessperson and teaching workshops. Too good to be true? I sure hope not, because I want to take a bunch of those classes and move myself from bead embellisher to jewelry maker. I'm so stoked I can hardly believe it. I was embarrassed to learn the store had been there for over a year... I've been out of circulation in the arts community for far too long. I wonder what else I've missed??? I look forward to finding out! Here are a few of the things I bought... don't know what I'm going to do with them yet, but I'm going to take the basic beading class and figure it out!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Finally finished piecing this monster...!

I started piecing this top waaaaaay back sometime early last year. Then Dmitri got sick, then Diana got sick, then they both got sicker, and Martin and I got swamped with their care. Not that I minded for a minute the time spent caring for them, but it was so involved and ongoing, it just sucked all the energy and creativity out of me. Occasionally, I managed to work a few hours at a stretch, a time or two a week, but I need concentrated, non-stop, daily time to work at my best. Then, after all of that care, both kitties died - Dmitri in January and Diana in June. The mourning process for both precious kids was intense and lengthy. I've finally gotten both feet back on the ground, and am, once again, able to apply the time and energy I need to make stuff happen. I finished the top two days ago, and am beyond happy to have it done, as well as totally happy with the results. I began work on the back yesterday, and, hopefully, will have it done in a week or two. Then I can take it all to the senior center on a Piecemakers meeting day and make the "sandwich", and start quilting it. With my new machine at the ready, I'm really looking forward to the quilting process, for once! It'll probably take at least a month to quilt because I really went off-scale with all the ditzy, small pieces this time. Plus, I want to try some free-motion stitching on the panels (if I can get up the nerve!)
Stay tuned...!