Friday, December 30, 2011

Logan's Big Day

November 5, 2008

December 29, 2011 -- the $5,600 grimace

 Thanks to this crew, featuring the smiling orthodontist with a piece of chewing gum visible in the right side of his mouth!It was a big deal. Everybody clapped and he got his picture taken wearing a silly hat:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

From Soup to Nuts!

                       Soup day falls three days after Christmas in my house. Anything left in the refrigerator either goes in the soup pot or the garbage today. And I think it is my favorite day of the season. No planning, no presents, no parties, no panic. I love the Christmas send-up, but by the time the day itself arrives, I'm done with it. Then I fall into a chair and veg out for a couple of days. By the 28th, I'm back in harness, ready to toss the Christmas wrapping and the leftovers. And that's where I am today.

The washing machine has been running at full tilt (which is very descriptive of the way our machine operates -- "running" across the laundry room floor and ended up at an odd angle to it's home base). The house is filled with yummy soup smells, the refrigerator is nearly empty. The tree looks sad and lonely. The gifts have all been settled in their new homes. Most of the sticky stuff has been cleaned up and the empty soda containers are in the recycle bin.


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Oh, Yum!

This is my adaptation of a recipe Valery sent me. Our CSA share included a nice big leek and a butternut squash this week, so this worked out perfectly. I'm sure the original was just as good, but my spin added some meat and saved me the fuss of cutting up the bread. Here's what I did to make this:
Savory Bread Pudding

1 Med Butternut squash cut into 3/4" cubes. Put in a plastic bag with
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Shake to coat squash and dump squash onto a jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides)
Roast in 375 degree oven about 30 minutes, until tender, but not squishy

While squash is roasting:
Saute leeks and
4 cloves garlic in
2 Tbsp butter
add 1 Cup cooked meat (I used diced ham)

Set aside and whisk
4 eggs
3 Cups milk (I used 1 1/2 cups 2 % milk and 1 1/2 cups half and half
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

Stir leeks, garlic, and meat mixture into the egg and milk mixture

Pour over
6 cups cubed stale bread (3/4 in. cubes) (I used garlic croutons) spread in the bottom of a 9x 13 inch pan

Bake at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes — until custard is set.

It smelled really good while it was cooking and it was yummy.

Logan is generally averse to new food or any kind of change and he did say he doesn't care for butternut squash, but he ate it all.

I would have enjoyed it more if my "Pine Nut Mouth" were gone. I developed a bitter taste in my mouth last week and thinking it must be a symptom of something dreadful, I googled and found a number of references to a bitter taste developing a few days after eating roasted pine nuts imported from Asia by Trader Joe's! No kidding. Just a week ago, I fixed Brussels sprouts with parmesan, garlic, and pine nuts (guess where I got my pine nuts). I was fine tuning the recipe I planned to serve for Christmas dinner. About four days ago, I developed the bitter taste and learned about "Pine Nut Mouth." What I don't know is whether it is an allergy and only a few of us lucky folks will get it, or if everyone who eats the same pine nuts will get it. Unfortunately, I used the rest of the pine nuts to make a huge batch of pesto which I froze in cute little containers with the intention of passing out Italian themed Christmas gifts. Today I pitched the pesto. Let them eat Marinara!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Where's Ben?

 Last night's Madrigal was magnificent! Of course the kids sang like angels and looked splendid in their Renaissance costumes. The program was tremendously enhanced by Mrs. Jameson's exuberant directing and Mr. Davidson's enormous piano talent.
Can you find Ben in the kingdom of assembled choristers below?

 After the performance, as the audience and performers mingled in the foyer, the air pulsed with the energy still being discharged by the singers. The combination of their voices raised in joy and wearing fancy clothes generated warmth and happiness that spilled over all of us.

And so, the semester ends. Ben has only three more to go before graduation. Both boys continue to earn excellent grades and get lots of praise and recognition from their teachers. And I continue to bore people to death with my bragging. Get used to it -- I'm not cutting back.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

See Hear

Last night I dreamed I was at the movies watching a graphic sex scene. The dream cinematography was amazing, mostly done in silhouettes of blues and blacks, occasionally lapsing into full form and then fading back to solid silhouettes. Clearly it's a sign you're over the hill when sex dreams are all about the cinematography.

And then I was awakened at 4 A.M. by Logan depositing a load of clean laundry in my room. He needed the dryer space because he was washing his clothes. AT 4 IN THE MORNING! The kid runs on 23 hour days, like a toddler who is not quite ready to give up napping. Logan goes to bed earlier every night (last night it was 7:30) and gets up earlier, until one day a week he takes a long afternoon nap, goes to bed late, sleeps in, and then begins the cycle all over again.

Today I'm going to a Christmas luncheon at the lah-de-dah country club with a bunch of local quilters. Four of the names on the guest list are women who are Paducah winners with quilts hanging the American Quilting Society's permanent collection. Exalted company, snazzy setting. A day of pretension. And I'll be able to see and hear it all. I picked up my new glasses yesterday and the new prescription is wonderful! I also replaced my hearing aid which had failed to survive a cycle in the dishwasher. It came out clean, but didn't improve my hearing. Now with two functioning hearing aids, new retention straps so they don't fall out, and increased gain, I hear pretty well.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Passing the Baton

It's time to pass the baton. Christmas 2011 will be the last time I host Christmas dinner. And of course, I am overcome by conflicting thoughts as I make this decision. I think it is a good thing for Ben and Logan to know that Christmas happens in other houses. I also think it is good for them to acknowledge that their grandmother is aging and her limitations are increasing. Next year the remodeling of Julia's house will be complete and she will take over.

I'm finding that decorating the house becomes more difficult each year. I've given up outdoor decorations all together except for two fake potted poinsettias. The indoor (fake) tree is up, but not completely decorated. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care and their toes hold chocolate coins (a tradition with us). I won't give up some of our traditions. I will continue to make a Christmas stocking for each new family member and will hang ours with care and chocolate.

Guess why lots of the decorations stay up year round:
a) I have Christmas in my heart all year
b) I like the way they look
c) I have nothing to put in their place
d)I'm too lazy to take them down
e) I have no place to put them
f) All of the above

Cooking the Christmas feast takes more energy than I have. I want to enjoy the day, not collapse in the recliner with exhaustion. My stamina took a big hit with this year's surgery and it just hasn't rebounded. I can still get lots done, but the pace is different. However, I promise you, there will always be Brussels Sprouts, no matter where I dine!

Make no mistake, I'm not depressed, simply getting a bit tired. Friend and former pastor, Mary Maaga, has written a Christmas story where she describes approaching each day like a Christmas stocking ready to reveal its small joys. That struck a chord with me; I awaken each morning with joy and anticipation, eager to see the wonders of the day.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Soap Box

I went to the snazzy new supermarket in Springfield a few days ago to see what I could see and by the way, I needed laundry detergent. I saw beautiful produce, both organic and conventionally grown (isn't it ironic that "conventional" means the use of chemical fertilizer, genetic mutations, hormones, and insecticides?), lots of tempting and interesting cheeses, aisles of health products and laundry detergent in plastic bottles. No cardboard boxes of powdered detergent. I like powdered detergent for several reasons:
  • Transportation and storage issues: water weighs 8 -1/3 pounds per gallon. The liquid in liquid detergent is water. Heavy stuff costs more to transport than lighter stuff. Plastic bottles are odd-shaped and difficult to store efficiently. Cardboard boxes are cubes and store and stack with ease. Much easier to warehouse! The plastic bottles have to be placed in a cardboard box to stack and store -- redundant packaging!
  • Clean up: I'd much rather clean up spilled powder than spilled liquid.
  • The environment: Cardboard boxes are much easier to recycle and  if not recycled are easier on the landfill than plastic containers.
I'm going to let the spiffy new store know about my concerns, but I'm afraid I'm getting a glimpse into the future. Is powdered detergent an endangered species?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Let It Snow

I was surprised to awaken to this first dusting of snow -- and I love it! I am shocked that my neighbor hasn't shoveled her driveway yet, in fact, I don't see any tire marks on it either, maybe they are out of town. I hope they are well. Normally she would clear her driveway and create neat little snow banks on either side by this time on a snowy day.

School is in session, but I have declared a personal snow day. After a very busy day yesterday, I'm happy to sit back and pick at the housework today. I love days when I'm home alone and just drift from reading a few pages to sorting a pile of laundry, sewing a few stitches, and straightening up a room. I will go out later this afternoon to mail Kathy and Rick's quilts and even later to attend the high school's winter concert featuring Ben on Glockenspiel. He's excited about it and so am I.

Yesterday I taught a complicated quilting technique to one of my quilting clubs. I confused several people and a few caught on, so I guess that's OK. I learned a lot about how to teach a quilting technique and think I will do much better next time.

After our Christmas pot luck luncheon, I picked up the boys at school for Logan's dental appointment and Ben's eye exam. Logan had a couple of cavities, the first in his permanent teeth (boo hoo) which he will get filled after his braces are removed later this month (yay!). Ben's eyes are unchanged and he didn't need new glasses -- no out-of-pocket cost, all covered by insurance (which is an out-of-pocket cost the first of each month!).

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Keep Peas, Beans, and Corn Out of the Equation.

I was married to a man who would eat no vegetables but peas, beans, or corn, fresh, frozen, or canned. I think that is one of the reasons I love our CSA assortment of veggies. This week we have lettuce, cauliflower, spinach, cilantro, onion, pepper, sweet potato, and spaghetti squash. I'm going to roast the cauliflower with olive oil, lemon juice and parmesan. I don't know yet whether I'll use the spaghetti squash as a pasta substitute and serve it with meatballs, or let it stand alone as a vegetable side dish. We like it both ways. I'm still undecided about how I'll use the cilantro and the sweet potatoes. Another reason I love the CSA assortment is because they provide a foundation for meal planning which can get tedious after 50+ years. As I write this and look at the picture, I think I've come up with a way to fix the sweet potatoes; I'll slice and fry them with the onion and pepper and toss in some of the cilantro at the end. The spinach is almost like a dessert -- it is so sweet and tender and there are so many ways to use it: in salads, soups, omelets, stir frys, and just slightly wilted. 

Ben is going to his first math competition on Friday in West Plains. Math is easy for him -- it's like his native tongue. So far this school year he's carrying a 103% average in his trig class. It's completely foreign to me and just bewilders me when I watch him get pleasure out of solving equations. But then, he doesn't get much out of quilting.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Name Game

Amanda and Ash threw their traditional Thanksgiving bash and we all had a great time with much to be thankful for. Way too much food was prepared by Amanda and contributed by the rest of the fam.
Because of an abundance of butternut squash in my CSA shares recently, I prepared three different squash dishes: mashed squash with creamed cheese and pineapple (not my fav), candied squash with apples (pretty good), and savory roasted squash with fresh sage, olive oil, garlic, pine nuts, bacon, and parmesan (yummy -- you could leave out the squash and it would still be good). The rest of the menu included a moist, blackened turkey, dressing, cranberry, Chinese noodle salad, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, garlic bread, some yummy apples dishes, pumpkin pie, cheesecake, cheese, summer sausage and crackers, brownies, clam dip, sparkling cider and some Missouri wines. 

 When not cooking squash, I made labels for a few quilts -- the one above is for Logan's Halloween quilt from last year.

The following labels are for Rick and Kathy's quilts which I will be sending off to them in early December. I made them in gratitude for Kathy's visit to help me after my knee surgery in June. To understand the labels, you need to know that Rick and Kathy call their home "Toad Ranch" and Kathy affectionately calls Rick "Top Toad."

This is on the back of Rick's quilt; it says, 
"Top Toad
made with love especially for
my brother, Rick Blair
by Melody Moore, Ozark, MO
November, 2011     Quilt #42"

and this label on Kathy's quilt, says:
"The Princess and the Toad
made especially for Kathy Felch
with love and gratitude
by Melody Moore, Ozark, MO
November, 2011
Quilt #41"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Long Dry Spell

Nothing is wrong. I am just not moved to writing anything fresh and interesting. Life is good, but repetitious, predictable, and dare I say it, boring! (Make no mistake, I love boring, boring is very satisfying.)

The kids are great. I love Logan's observations: "It smells like snow!" or "You should have seen the pattern the birds made when they flew!" And Ben is pensive, quiet, and kind. When I am making my bed, without a word, he walks to the other side and helps. When I drop something, he tells me I should let him pick it up. The crazy schedule has let up a bit for now and we can all breathe a bit before it resumes in January.

Quilting continues to consume me, but I fear I bore everyone around me with it. Finished Rick and Kathy's quilts and will soon mail them. Meanwhile I continue to work on hand quilting Rachel's quilt.

Still doing that veggie thing. Picked up an enormous butternut squash yesterday which will be a Thanksgiving dinner contribution tomorrow when we go to Amanda and Ash's with the greater local clan. I'm bringing three variations on the theme: mashed squash with creamed cheese and pineapple, roasted savory squash with sage, garlic, bacon, pine nuts, and Parmesan, and candied squash with apples.

When I'm not quilting, doing domestic duty, or going to various club meetings, I read. Lately, I've been reading everything written by David McCullough. I don't know how I missed him when he was winning Pulitzers, but I've just discovered him. So far, I've read: Truman; John Adams; The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris; 1776; and The Johnstown Flood. I'm now about half through Mornings on Horseback and will next read The Path Between the Seas: the Creation of the Panama Canal, 1870-1914 and The Great Bridge: the Epic Story of the Building of the Brooklyn Bridge. And that will do it for David McCullough. I love the way I am transported to the time he writes about, so if you'll excuse me, I think I'll return to the late nineteenth century.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

They're Not Finished Yet

Quilt #41

Quilt #42
(I know, the Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything)

 This pair is for a pair of sweethearts -- my sister-in-law, Kathy and her husband, my brother, Rick.
Kathy came to stay with me for a week when I had knee surgery in June, and since I have a standing offer of a quilt to anyone who comes to visit, I had to pay up. I gave her some choices of completed quilts and quilts in progress. She chose the top quilt which was about half finished, and she asked if I would make one for Rick as well. Never quite sure if I'm inflicting my quilts on the recipient, or if they are really appreciated gifts, I was delighted with her request. Kathy's quilt is made from "traditional" prints mostly with little flowers on a contrasting background. For Rick's quilt, I used the same pattern but chose only geometric prints and plaid homespuns. Can you spot the one block made of geometric prints that is identical in both quilts?
The actual quilting of #41 is meandering feathers, while #42 has a macho woodsy theme with moose, bears, and pine trees. If you click on the images you can see the quilting in the larger views. The colors in these pictures are kind of off, for some reason I couldn't get a picture that looked true. The actual colors are darker, richer, and more subtle. And the quilts aren't finished yet because I still have to name them and sew on labels. I expect to have them finished and mail them off on December 5th after I've toted them around for "show and tell" and my various quilt clubs.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Same Time This Year

                                            2009                                                       2010


Same tree, same day, different years. All these photos were taken on November 8 -- and so different each year. I'm still trying to learn the weather patterns and to read the seasons here, but I don't think it's possible. I do know our glorious fall is at an end. Today's storm will bring down many of the remaining leaves and winter will be upon us.

This morning when Oreo went outside, she found the cold, windy, wet weather not at all to her liking, so she turned right around and came back in. She immediately went out the other door and seemed quite surprised to find the weather just as nasty.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Life in a Small State

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill (Dem.) with Ben

Now we have met the Missouri senators from both sides of the aisle as well as the current governor. 
I must say, of the three this is my favorite pol. She listens, she pays attention, she works, she sucks up information, and she's personable.

She serves on the senate's armed services committee and has been working hard at straightening out  the mess of misidentified heroes at Arlington. Today she needed to make sure her own house was in order, so she called at the Veteran's Cemetery where grandpa Steve is the director. She sat down at the computer and reviewed processes associated with identifying the fallen. She was impressed and hopeful that some day Arlington's records will be in such good order. I was impressed that she got right down to the nitty-gritty -- didn't just ask for a report, but said, "show me" in the Missouri way.
Off on a grand tour (Steve driving, Ben and an aide from her Springfield office ride in the back)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

To Whom it May Concern

Quilt #39 "November's Child" (Twin sized)
 While working on this quilt, I kept imagining a new mother holding her baby, maybe nursing, reading, singing, or just cuddling. It would make a very generous lap quilt, quite able to keep a mother and child warm in the middle of sleepless cold winter nights. And just maybe they could feel the love that was sewn into each seam. I'm keeping it until a new mother with a child born in November appears. If not this year, then next. If you know someone who qualifies, let me know. The quilt is completely washable and can recover from milk, spit-up, or whatever. 
Quilt #40 "Jubilee" (King-sized)
Jubilee can be defined as an anniversary celebration. I am celebrating the completion of five quilts started a year ago. This happy celebratory quilt would make a good wedding gift. Like the quilt above, the prospective owner has yet to present him/herself. I'm thinking maybe a grandson's wedding. Wonder if any more of them will get married?
Does he look like marriage material? (Larger than king-sized at more than 7 feet tall!)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Life In a Small Town

A couple of years ago in a burst of creative boredom, Logan fabricated a game of "Ozarkopoly." He made men, houses, hotels, and dice out of modeling clay and then painted and baked them. From construction paper he fashioned Chance, Community Chest, and property cards. The money was made from printer paper. Names of properties were pulled out of the right side of his brain and included local restaurants, landmarks, streets, public buildings. No railroads in Ozark. Also only eight spaces to a side and capricious rents to make the game more interesting. I hate to play monopoly -- I think it brings out the worst in everyone (especially me); however, I was able play along with this game for a couple of hours tonight, enjoying the more sophisticated agitation the more mature boys provide. And then I threw over the game board (in a very sophisticated fashion). 

Today's lunch menu was a revival of one of Danny's favorite sandwiches. Andouille sausage from Trader Joe's, with sauteed bell peppers (from the CSA) and onions served on a ciabatta from Sam's Club. I'm trying very hard to use up all our CSA veggies before I go pick up some more. Tomorrow I will turn the bag of basil into pesto, and make something like ratatouille from the eggplant also incorporating green tomatoes and that should do it. Except for the purse-lane. Purse-lane is the new turnip. 
For dinner tonight, we had cock-a-leekie soup (leeks, chicken, and barley). It used up our leeks and hopefully helped cure the cold that is running through the family. Logan was pretty sick this morning, but seems to have rallied this afternoon (it was that rousing game of Ozarkopoly) and now I feel like it's my turn.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

If CSA Married TJ

 After a six-month break for knee surgery, we have rejoined Millsap's CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Today in our first pickup of the winter season we got salad greens, spinach, purse-lane, basil, a leek, butternut squash, egg plant, green tomatoes, mung bean sprouts, bell peppers, and red potatoes.
 And I made this: tossed green salad with plum tomatoes from far, far away, raw fried potatoes with onions, topped with just barely wilted spinach and served with Trader Joe's sausage. All but the sausage, tomatoes, and onion were from our CSA share.

 For the grownup in the family who doesn't have to drive anywhere tonight (football and marching band season are over!), a glass of Chardonnay/Viognier from Chile (by way of Trader Joe's).
And in the mail today, a glorious assortment of Good Earth teas to accompany my Trader Joe's triple ginger snaps.

No, we don't have Trader Joe's in Springfield. Sharon and I drove 360 miles round trip to Kansas City and spent $50+ on gas so that we could each buy $200 worth of groceries. We are hoping that a couple more people will join us on our next trip so we can spread the gas cost around a little. Let me know if you want in.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Letting Go

 When Ben and Logan came to live with me and Colleen in El Dorado Hills, I immediately got them involved in Soccer. Ben and Logan both played on the Bumblebees and wore the number 38 on their reversible shirts as did everyone on the team. Made things simpler. I'm amazed that I still have two full outfits. I never seemed to be able to find all the pieces on game day. On occasion, cut off pajamas served as shorts, fortunately, they were the right color.
 Ben out on the pitch. I'm surprised to see him there as he usually played goalie, his favorite position. He liked it because the ball rarely came his way and he could pursue his observations of the bugs in the grass without too much interruption.
 Coach Simon Eccles, a wonderful man. He and his wife Pam were so good and encouraging to me in the early years.

And this banner from the first season of little league T ball. I made the banner, not knowing that everyone else would spring for professionally made ones. I still think I like my hokey homemade one better that the ubiquitous print shop banners. Ben is at four o'clock and Logan is at one o'clock in the circle of marlin(s?) around the boat containing the coaches.

This is all that remains of the Marlin uniforms. Again, Ben and Logan played on the same team, making it much easier on a stressed grandma who didn't have to trundle off to two separate sets of practices and games.

Logan wanders around the field, hoping to escape notice of the coach. Both boys hated playing T ball.

Here's a school shirt from Lake Forest School ("A California Distinguished School"  in case you can't read the smaller print) where Ben attended through fourth grade and Logan through the second grade.  All these treasures are going in the trash. I'm having a hard time parting with them, but don't think hanging on to them makes much sense. I tried to imagine how I would feel if my mother handed me a bunch of clothes from my childhood years and immediately saw the point in throwing them out, just keeping the pictures and the memories.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

More Dumb Luck

Ben and I drove to Jefferson City after he got home from school yesterday. We arrived at the Doubletree Inn Just at six o'clock and had a wonderful meal in the Penthouse restaurant. It made me realize how long it has been since I've been anywhere at all (a couple of years actually).
And I enjoyed every minute and every morsel! I've been concerned about how my new knee would travel, but I was quite comfortable the whole way, driving and all.

I dropped Ben off for his morning of test taking and did a little exploring. At 8:00 in the morning, the light was perfect for these pictures of the capitol building (front side above, and the back is below). No one was there, it was quiet, still , and breathtakingly beautiful. I was a little concerned about muggers or bad guys, but it was so gorgeous, I decided to risk it.

A view across the "Wide Missouri" from the back side of the capitol.

After checking out of my hotel room, I realized I had forgotten my Kindle. I had to return to look for it, but didn't find it. However, I did find some other important articles I had left behind. As I returned to the car, I waged an internal debate over whether I should replace my lost reader with the same basic model, or if I should upgrade to something snazzier. I got my answer when I found the "lost" Kindle in my purse. Had I not thought it was lost, I would never had returned to the room and all the other stuff would have been left behind. Talk about dumb luck!

Ben completed the test and we headed back to Springfield for him to join his band for the competition at Missouri State. We expected he would miss the preliminaries, but arrive in time for the finals. We got there just as they were lining up for the preliminaries. He jumped into his uniform and marched off. Dumb luck!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Problem Solved!

I hate it when I can't sleep because I get tangled up thinking about problems I don't believe I can solve. Sometimes I just have to leave the issue alone to work itself out. Example:

1. My house has a few maintenance issues I have not been able to resolve. The ground is eroding under my front walk, the sewer line is held together with duct tape, weathered boards are popping off my back porch, the John Deere room floods when it rains, the down spout in the front of the house creates an ice hazard on my walkway, the grout is coming loose in the kitchen and bathroom, and I haven't been able to find anybody to fix these problems for me. And I think I need to address them before I list my house for sale next spring.

Last Thursday evening while Ben sang in a choir concert, I happened to sit in the audience right in front of the man who built and sold me my house. He's also a real estate broker which I learned when I casually mentioned my desire to sell the house next spring. So, long story shortened, he's going to fix my house woes (fixing and selling). Yay! Perfect solution. (Very nice man, too!)

2. Ben missed taking the PSAT test on Wednesday (he didn't hear the PA announcement because he was playing loud music in band). The test is only offered on two days all year -- yesterday and this coming Saturday. Schools can choose which day they wish to administer the test. 99% of locations chose Wednesday (yesterday). There are no make up options. One must have a PSAT score on record to be eligible for National Merit Scholarships. The test is really critical if a student wants to qualify for a scholarship. I was sure we were hosed and that Ben had blown all chances of a scholarship.

This morning we located a school (150 miles away) that is testing on Saturday and has an available seat and will allow Ben to test there. Yay! Problem solved and I always wanted to see Jefferson City anyhow, never been to the state capitol even though we've lived in Missouri six years.

3. Going to Jefferson City means Ben will miss participating in band tournament Saturday. I'm worried how his grade will be affected -- these events are very important and so is Ben's beautiful GPA (again, think scholarships).

I contacted the band instructor and he is accommodating Ben's situation without penalty. Yay! Problem solved.

I feel like all my problems are falling away without effort. I'm on such a roll, I'm trying to think up any other lingering issues because it seems the planets are aligned to solve whatever is eating at me. Should I buy a lottery ticket?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Robin's 50th Birthday

Robin would have been 50 years old today. She was born in the Naval hospital at Oak Harbor, Washington at 5:25 A.M. weighing 6 lbs. 10 3/4 oz., and measuring 20 inches long. I miss her most of all when her boys do something wonderful (which is every day) and when I recall wonderful things she did. Today her ashes are buried beneath a marker in Coloma's Pioneer Cemetery next to the grave of her great-great-great-grandfather, Ezra Schooley. It's a beautiful place and although it's far from where I now live, I like knowing she is there. A few tokens surround her grave: photos of her boys, a butterfly, an angel, some coins, and an empty champagne bottle.

When I turned 50, Robin and Colleen threw a surprise birthday party for me. It was lovely: champagne, a string trio playing Mozart, 50 golden balloons, wonderful friends, and the early arrival of Colleen's third child, Danny, who was on his way home from the hospital at the time of my party. I wish I could do something like that for Robin (minus the new baby part).

We tried to celebrate Robin's birthday today. Colleen and Valery went to visit her grave and brought a bottle of champagne. Because Robin loved champagne, we have developed a ritual over the years of washing off her marker by pouring a bottle of bubbly over it. While Valery and Colleen performed the ceremony, I drank a glass of champagne and talked on the phone with them. I tried to evoke joyous memories, but it seemed contrived and I just felt too sad. I' m grateful to Valery and Colleen for carrying on the tradition and taking care of my dear Robin. Oh, my God, I miss her.

Friday, October 7, 2011


This photo from the web was taken a bit before our time, judging from the parked cars, but the school looked just the same.

I didn't attend the 55th reunion of Oakland's Fremont High School, but classmate Mel McKinney did. He wrote, presented, and has generously shared his reflections on our class. I've added parenthetical comments.


We are the children of the Great Generation. Our parents grew up during the
Great Depression and went to war against Hitler and Japan.

Whether actually in uniform, or supporting the war effort at home, our parents were part of a Nation unified in its resolve to win. The enemy was clear and sinister, not ambiguous like the shadow enemies of the wars that followed. The war our parents fought ended in a conclusive victory, but one that paved the way for so much that followed. (My father was an air raid warden, his brother, Bill, a B-27 pilot in the South Pacific.)

Two things that immediately emerged from the victory of WWII were a sense of relief it was over and a very real economic prosperity triggered by the massive industrial retooling and innovations triggered by the urgency of the war. As children growing up in the ‘50s we thrived in that window of relief and prosperity.

Oh, there were some lingering dark clouds, like Atomic Bomb drills, where as elementary school (at Cleveland School) and Jr. High kids (at Bret Harte) we ducked under our desks in the naive belief imposed upon us that somehow a 1/2 inch piece of wood was going to save us from the equivalent of 20,000 lbs of TNT, or more, as A-Bomb technology rapidly developed following the end of WWII.

Somewhere off in the far distance in a little known place called Korea American soldiers were still fighting and dying as we were winding up Jr. High School and about to spend the great summer of 1953 as 16 or 17 yr olds preparing to enter Fremont High (I was 14 in 1953). Most of us knew little of this Korean War and paid little attention to it. We were focused on growing up, enjoying the fresh air, freedom and relative prosperity of the ‘50s.

Eisenhower was President, Stalin died and the Yankees beat the Dodgers in the World series, 4 games to 2.

For those of us who were 16, part of that magnificent freedom came from the fact we’d just obtained our driver’s licenses. In my case it came packaged with a Model A Ford I’d talked my Dad into letting me get when I was 15. For a year it sat on blocks in our back yard as I tinkered and toiled to bring it into shape for that big day in the spring of 1953 when I took it and my learner’s permit to the Claremont Ave. DMV and managed to scare the examiner into passing me.

But, for the most part, the magic space of the 50s spared us from what our parents had endured, and from the turbulence of the 60s and 70s that followed. For us East Oaklanders it was:

*The Laurel District,
Binks, (I don't remember Binks), the Laurel and Hopkin’s theatres
The 57 MacArthur Bus
The High street bus (the 79)
35th Avenue, with Rosie’s Hamburgers and Glen’s Hot Dogs (and the 15 bus)
38th Ave with Caeser Ancilotti’s bar and Audrey’s hose wielding grandfather driving off male intruders (must have been a guy thing, I don't remember Audrey or her grandfather)

As we left Bret Harte, Hamilton and Frick Jr. High schools to meet and unify at Fremont, our horizons widened to:
Big down town nights at the Paramount and Fox Oakland theatres (and the Roxie) (3-d movies, Bwana Devil and House of Wax)
The Plaza Drive-in, where we mingled in our scrounged together cars (and always ordered coke and fries)
with the Piedmont kids driving their Dad’s Lincolns and Cads
Groping evenings on Lake Merritt in those convertible top electric boats
Edys Ice Cream on Grand Ave.
Fenton’s on Piedmont Ave.
The Diamond District, with Casper’s Hot Dogs
An occasional lunch up the street on 47th (?) prepared by Nick’s Mom (that would be Nick Nickolas)

Len’s Body shop across from school (and the swimming pool)
Afternoons at Robert’s Recreation Area and pool in the hills (slathering our bodies with a combination of baby oil and iodine, seeking the perfect tan, but getting a perfect burn, no fears about holes in the ozone!)

Cheering Frank (Calcagno), John Hendy, Walt (Fisher), Mike (Moffett), Al Johnson, Jack Forrest, Nick (Nickolas), and the rest of our gladiators who took on Castlemont, Oakland High, San Leandro High, McClymonds, Tech, and the others.

I ran some track with Don Lee, Paul Miller, Sprague Paine and some others. No one ever came out to see us.

We were inspired by Giants like:
Mr. McLaughlin, who wove so much wisdom of life into cutting up a frog and who was putting biology to practical use with I believe Miss Yoshida.
Tudor Jones, our Counselor, (my Counselor was Mrs Griffith who was concerned that her female counselees get into the right sorority at Cal) who finally took me aside and literally shook some sense into me to quit goofing around because if I didn’t I’d end up digging ditches, which didn’t sound so hot.
Mr. Billings, who had the guts to get down and dirty about sex in our Senior Problems class and give us the straight scoop on what went where, what happened after it did and the consequences of putting it there.
And the parents of our friends:
Nancy’s parents: Mel and Anne Indelicato.
Here was a walking, talking (if you can call it that…Mel Indelicato didn’t just talk. He emoted. He broadcast. His joyful explosions got your attention a block away. I worked in the Produce Market during a couple of summers. Mel Indelicato was a Rock Star of the Produce Market.
Oh, and Nick, worked at Angeli Bros, across from where I worked at Levi Zentner. We lobbed cantaloupes at each other.
And Anne, a sweet angel of decorum and great cooking.

Bob Miller’s parents: John and I believe Martha.
Mr. Miller was the only white collar executive I knew.
They lived in a nice home up there on Atlas Ave, in the Redwood Heights neighborhood, which was a step up the ladder from where I grew up over behind Mills College. Mr. Miller’s kind, sage wisdom and humor was one of the influences that helped me see what Tudor Jones was trying to hammer into me. Quit goofing around!
And, Mrs. Miller’s tuna sandwiches got me through those long afternoons between lunch and dinner.
Many years later I cruised the neighborhood and there they were.
“Mother,” he called to her, “Open some tuna.”

I mention these few parents simply to trigger your memories. You all had friends and parents of friends that helped you grow, entertained you, put up with your feet on their furniture, fed you or tolerated you tying up their phone for hours. Remember them now as a wonderful part of your Fremont years.

(The parents I remember are John [Brooks] and Emily Rice, Linda's parents. He was a reserve colonel in the Army and so influential at Greyhound, his workplace, that he was able to get Linda summer jobs. Emily was an excellent seamstress and was always elegantly dressed in dresses she had made from Vogue couturier patterns. And I remember Janet's parents, Roy and Elizabeth Goodman -- so kind, gracious, and sophisticated.)

Came June of 1956 and Fremont cut us loose to find and live our lives.
Eisenhower was still president and the Yankees beat the Dodgers again, this time 4 games to 3. Oh a few small things were starting to wrinkle our perfect world, like:
*The U.S. tested its first aerial Hydrogen Bomb out in the South Pacific
10 million tons of TNT. We’d come a long way since the 20,000
pounds of TNT we dropped on Japan.
But we still had wonderful distractions from what was starting to pile up in China and Indo-China, which came to be known as Viet Nam.
Elvis Presley was gyrating and grinding into stardom with Heart Break Hotel and other hit singles.
Around The World in 80 Days, The King & I and Friendly Persuasion reassured us that all was well, as Woody Guthrie told us that This Land was Your Land and My Land.

I live up in Little River, near Mendocino. I get down to Oakland a few times a year. At least once a year I drive the old neighborhoods and drive by Fremont High. It’s a prison yard. There is no football field. The bleachers and track are gone. It’s hard to imagine that the kids attending school there think of themselves as being in a magic place and living in a magic time. We were very, very lucky kids.

Mrs. Viola Tweedy could have made a movie star out of any of us if we’d followed through. Our Senior Play was You Can’t Take It With You, which we proved wrong. We did Take It With Us. As the song says, “Fremont Stands Forever.” Well, there may be some buildings there with the name Fremont on them, but the Fremont we knew stands forever in our hearts and memories.

The magic of the times combined with a unique bunch of kids and caring teachers. We took Fremont with us. Is there one of us who isn’t influenced each day, or doesn’t in some remote part of our brain think each day of something or someone at Fremont?

Thanks, Mel, for giving me permission to use your words in my blog. Mel is writing more than reflections on our formative years as he says in an email:

Yes, I'm writing. A published novel...3 unpublished ones...
two screen plays (1 now sold and in pre-production) and
a Television law series I'm trying to sell.
Starting a non-fiction and another television series.
When not writing I spend the rest of my time fly fishing,
duck hunting and schlepping my wife around to craft fairs and
flea markets.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Many Pictures, Few Words

Logan, looking good in the ninth grade, 2011 (the braces come off in October!)

School Picture, Ben, 2011 (So handsome and grown up!)

Logan, as he sees himself (at 6"1" - 180 pounds)

Valery and Logan ride bikes at the American RiverValery and the boys, Robby, Ben and Logan - this taken at Lake Tahoe.

A trio of car climbers at Rick and Kathy's Toad Ranch

Brother Rick and SIL Kathy celebrating her 65th birthday at Toad Ranch. I think they are starting to look alike.
Sister Valery at the Toad Ranch birthday celebration. Doesn't she look great in her pretty dress?
Thanks for all of these photos, Val, (except the school pix).