Saturday, December 29, 2012

Apple takes a trip

I grabbed the apple as we ran out the door for the airport. Sustenance if we got stuck in traffic. The next time I thought of it, we were unpacking in Amsterdam and there it was at the bottom of the carry-on bag. Unpacked, it found a new home on the apartment's kitchen table.  Days of sight-seeing flew by; we gathered our stuff for the Norway cruise.  Apple (it now had a name) was swooped up with everything else.  Unpacked again on board, it sat in our cabin as we sailed north to Norcap, the northernmost town on the planet and while we cruised back south again stopping at port after port, finally arriving back in Amsterdam.

"Apple" experienced the midnight sun which turned out to be eerieer in the flesh than we expected.  At 1 a.m. we were still puttering around in the cabin, thin sunlight glinting off the surface of the sea. Although we slept sufficient hours we felt exhausted and drained, our diurnal rhythms shot to hell. There was to be a burial at sea for Apple, but there wasn't sufficient darkness for cover. Throwing  anything off the boat is verboten. Much as I'd like to ignore the rules, and to the great frustration of my husband,  I can't help toeing the line - it's a Canuck thing. 

A ding-batty, new agey Belgian woman we talked with at 1 or 2 a.m. told us in her limited English that the sea and the midnight light were exerting a strange power over us. I usually dismiss this kind of thinking faster than you can say Weirdo, but I had to agree there was something inexplicable about the feeling.

Back in the real world Apple spent another couple of happy days resting in our hotel near Schiphol Airport watching us train off to Haarlem one day and Der Haag the next. Could we toss it in the trash at the Airport Holiday Inn after all we'd been through together? No. Packed up again, Apple made the long ride home and has been resting on the kitchen counter now for months, slowly mummifying in an honorary spot alongside our De Kuypers souvenirs from KLM.

Will Apple hang in long enough to stow away to South India?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sepia Saturday 157 - The fur collar

In this week's photo prompt of Santa in Stockholm, everyone looks like they're having a great time. I can remember street cars in Winnipeg looking just about like these, with all the varnished wood interiors. In winter, the odor of moth balls, alcohol and stale cigarette smoke would cling to your clothes long after you exited the car.

First I'm posting a nostalgia photo of my sister and me opening presents Christmas morning. Our big fat cat Sandy joined in the festivities. The tree (ours was typical) was lightly sprinkled with tinsel;  we had a dozen ornaments which my mother kept tissue-enshrined in a shoe box. Trees were not a big deal for us. We had plenty of them outdoors - our neighbors had two huge blue spruces and the branches would frequently be covered with picture perfect snow and icicles. That "Christmas tree smell" wasn't special - it was in the air all the time.

Winnipeg street, December 2012

As to the photo prompt, my eye was drawn to the leopard skin collar. Years ago, I read an excellent essay by a woman - I'll call her Mary, who inherited a full-length leopard skin coat from her fashionista mother. Mary, shorter and plumper than her mother, hadn't the chutzpah to wear such a garment; it was the anti-fashion 60's when jeans and bare feet were in. Fashion was out. Mary had the coat revamped into a short jacket which she wore in the 70's but the anti-fur movement heated up and we pushed these garments to the backs of our closets like guilty secrets. Sometime later, at the urging of her daughter, she had a shawl collar made from the remaining fur and attached it to a long black dress coat she wore for many years. Time passed, the coat was stowed in a box with other nostalgia garments and survived a few floods, many moves, moth and mice attacks. Moldy and shredded, it finally had to go, but there was a small piece of intact leopard skin left on the collar; she used it to cover a large button mounted on a pin. Her mother's memory lived on, adorning hats and collars. My guess it that the button/pin endured and will be passed along to many generations ahead.

I wonder if the leopard skin collar on this lady in the photo was cherished by someone and survived the passage of time?

I have my own recycled fur story which centers around my mother's fur coat which was converted to Teddy Bears (called "Jilly" Bears after my mother) by my life-long friend Linda. Here's a picture of my mother wearing one of her fur coats on a bright sunny Christmas day in 1947.

And here's a picture of the Jilly Bear, made from Jill's coat, beneath a Christmas tree, 2009.

Happy Holidays to all the Sepia Saturday gang! To read more Christmas stories, click here:
Sepia Saturday

Fiction: Organizing the desk - come hell or high water

The roosters stopped crowing next door. Clouds were building up over the ridge line, rows of them bumping each other; the masses were turning from white to grey, then darker and darker. Quickly I stood up to see if I could make out anything in the silence but saw nothing as the light was quickly waning. Hairs stood up on the back of my neck. My chair fell over, knocking pens and stacks of papers to the floor.

Shit, shit, shit. I righted my chair, bent over and began restacking the piles of year-end receipts I was organizing, my usual practice during the slow week of Christmas holidays. A day-glow orange post-it sticker fluttered out of the pile and I noticed the name scribbled across it - Lionel Townsend. What? It was my handwriting. Why would I write this loathed person's name on a note? I'd spent years trying to forget the lying cheat who'd stolen too much of my time and money, embroiling me in a nasty real estate law suit.
As I straightened up I saw a movement through the window out of the corner of my eye. That strange white horse was coming over the ridge, three dogs running alongside at full clip. I'd seen this horse before - just a glimpse from behind a tree or a rock. One day when I turned off the main highway I'd spotted him running across a field. Driving the curving road home from Temecula to buy 2013 filing supplies, I'd seen him half hidden in an avocado grove. I thought it odd that he glanced at my car as I drove by. 

I swung around and grabbed the binoculars, quickly scanning the ridge. A wall of smoke appeared from nowhere, rushing up from behind the horse, suddenly engulfing it. In seconds, the dogs, the horse and the smoke vanished. In disbelief, I cranked my window open, straining to see or hear something but there was only an eerie, heavy silence as if all of nature had been muffled. The air seemed fetid and warm.

Keeping the binoculars trained on the vanishing point, I groped for the phone. Nothing moved; the phone was dead. Frozen in my tracks I could hear a faint crackling. The crackles morphed into an piercing scream followed by an gut wrenching roar. There were three massive booms. Across the now blackened sky, I saw a few lines of fiery light sail up and hesitate for a moment, like the palimpsest of a Disneyland finale, while a wall of flames reared up on the horizon obliterating everything. The binoculars dropped from my hand. 

"Happy New Year Lionel" was my final thought as I was sucked out of the room, up and over my disorganized desk, past my shiny new calendar and stacks of neatly labeled file folders; jettisoned into the inferno, the fucking post-it note clinging to my sweater.

Stellar inferno from

Highlights of 2012

Although my left ear was pronounced stone deaf this year, I re-connected with music after several years of ignoring and avoiding it because of the quality of the sound I was hearing. I discovered that I can enjoy certain kinds of music particularly in acoustically superior settings.  Some of my personal  highlights, music and otherwise, of 2012.....

  • The LA Philharmonic Gustavo Dudamel all Beethoven concert
  • The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam - Netherlands Philharmonic playing Brahms
  • Creme puffs, wine and laughter on Barbara's deck
  • Madame Butterfly opening LA Opera
  • The San Diego Symphony Rhapsody in Blue concert
  • The double Thanksgiving dinners in Northern California
  • The revival Book Club reading of Wolf Hall
  • Haarlem and the Frans Hals Museum    
  • Dinner for six at the Plaisterer's Inn, Winchcombe England
  • The Military Tattoo in Edinburgh 
  • Sailing through Loftgren Islands on the coast of Norway
  • Dido and Aeneas  - the final lament, sung at St. Giles Church in Edinburgh 
Speaking of lists, here's a great compilation from the New Yorker:
The Hundred Best Lists of all Time

Monday, December 24, 2012

Grapefruit at Chateau Marmont

A friend recently posted on Facebook that she'd eaten brunch at Chateau Marmont. Out of curiosity I looked at their breakfast menu. Half a grapefruit is $5.00 and a glass of orange juice is $7.00.
Grapefruit Fallbrook style garnished with passion fruit
I smugly calculated that by eating breakfast at home and not at Chateau Marmont, we save on the side orders alone, $24.00 per day or $8,760.00 per year. Probably even more considering my grapefruit at home is a greater value than the CM as it's often garnished with passion fruit - a twofer.

The Chateau Marmont menu is the first I've seen that states, "Please refrain from taking photographs or smoking". 

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore

In a review of "Mr. Penumbras's 24-hour Bookstore" by Robin Sloan, Roxane Gay states:

In Stieg Larsson's novel, "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", Lisbeth Salander is a hacker. Her superpower is an ability to uncover anything about anyone using her Powerbook, a laptop produced by Apple from 1991 to 2006.

Gay goes on to say that Powerbooks are relics today and our smartphones have more computing power than Salander's Powerbook.

Obsolescing at a rapid pace, I didn't realize I was so far out of it until I read this. Smartphone? Have never owned one, which fact makes a clear statement about my current technology status. At least I'll never suffer from "nomophobia" - the fear of losing or being separated from one's phone. My Mac? Has to be taken to the Apple store for professional attention because a mere mortal non-genius cannot accomplish a necessary upgrade. This normally simple task is now too difficult for me because of a myriad of incompatible software I've been seduced into downloading. Each download has resulted in waves of new problems, advertising and reduction of computing efficiency. Everything seems to be getting harder and harder. Now I sit frustrated, swearing, sneering at my keyboard and my favorite key has become delete.

Maybe naively, I think my generation lived through and enjoyed a glory age during the emergence of computer and internet technology. Changes and improvements came at us at a comprehensible pace compared to today. We basked in the free use of incredible internet technology for almost a decade while everyone understandably scrambled around figuring out how to monetize the whole shebang. In the demographic scheme of things, I was known as an early adapter at one point - now I'm just an old fogie (no adjectives necessary) in anyone's book and on any chart.

By the way, I've downloaded the book, "Mr. Penumbra..... " a novel about traditional researchers and digital experts joining forces to solve a mystery and am looking forward to a good read.   


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sepia Saturday - Kissing the Blarney Stone

Kissing was the subject of this week's Sepia Saturday and too late I remembered my parent's grand
" Trip to Europe" after Dad's retirement. One of the highlights of their excursion to Ireland was a visit to Blarney Castle where they kissed the Blarney Stone. Is this stretching the week's theme too far? Am I admitting to an excess of reserve in my family when the only kissing picture I can find is one of my father kissing a stone?

Blarney Castle is the home of the celebrated rock. Stories about its origin and meaning abound and they all sound like Blarney to me - testament to the fact that some of the BS is likely to rub off when you kiss the thing. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sepia Saturday 156 - Kisses

The parting kiss, passionate and poignant - what an inspiration for this week's Sepia Saturday!  Surely I could find a "kiss"photo in the family collection. But alas - I couldn't find a thing and in frustration decided to pass up this Saturday and get on with the Christmas celebrating.

But then we turned on our television late last night and one of my favorite films of all time was on - Cinema Paradiso, the story of a famous film director, Toto, remembering his childhood in Sicily where Alfredo, the Cinema's projectionist, first encouraged his love of films. He returns home to his Sicilian village for the first time after almost 30 years for Alfredo's funeral and the stories of important people in his life unfold - but it's mostly the tender love story between Alfredo and Toto.

The town priest ordered Alfredo to remove all the kisses from the films, judging they were too provocative and stirring for the small town's film going audience - pretty well everyone in town. Great scenes in the movie include shots of that audience, including Toto, mouths agape, watching as the hero and heroine close in for a passionate smacker and just at the penultimate moment, there's a hiccup and the movie goes forward, kiss eliminated; the audience boos, eyes roll, feet stomp. 
Toto watching the kisses

The film has a wonderful ending - all those censored out kisses spliced together on a reel and left as a last, loving gift from Alfredo to Toto.


For more smooching stories pucker up over at .....

Sepia Saturday

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Thanksgiving Apparition

Helping my grandniece label glasses for Thanksgiving dinner, I looked up and saw the apparition on the dining room wall. The ghost of Thanksgivings past had appeared lurking for turkey. Large trees had just been removed from my nieces' yard and light streamed through the windows, passed shimmering through wine glasses and projected on the wall. The result was a lovely soft piece of light art that entertained us while preparation was afoot for the dinner. 

Colette marking glasses.

Apparition on the wall.
 The rest of the house was ready...television tuned to the correct channel.
Ready for the crowd.
Autumn color.
The table was decorated with buckeyes found on a recent family hike. Buckeyes get their name because from certain angles they resemble the eye of a deer. Superstitions about them include that carrying one in your pocket will bring good luck and fend off rheumatism.

I learned from Wiki that in Britain, the game "conkers" is played with the nuts. The nuts are attached to a string and then bashed into each other. The World Championships are played on the Isle of Wight on the second Sunday of October each year. As many as 5000 people show up for the spectacle and as is true with almost every sport, there are ways to cheat, one of which is to artificially harden your conker. In fact, Michael Palin of Monty Python is a famous or infamous conker cheat, disqualified one year for steeping his in vinegar, followed by a baking process. Somehow, I don't think he was a serious conkerer.

All About Conkers

Table ready for action
The kitchen heating up as dinner prep is well under way.

Kitchen action.
Kitchen on overflow.

Tanya, one of the more glamorous family members doesn't look like she should be in a kitchen, but she pitches in...and the dinner was great. My photos end abruptly here as the eating began...

From the glamorous part of the family.

Generation gap: my grandniece with colorful hair tells me about her tattoo plans.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Cabbage Head

Image borrowed from
I have cabbage head at the moment. We watched Cherry Blossoms last night, a beautiful German film about aging, dying, dreams, living in the moment, ungrateful children and Japanese Butoh dancing. The cinematography is worth the price of admission if none of the many other themes ring a bell.

The main character, a widower, while visiting in Tokyo, prepares cabbage rolls for his dreadful, repressed jerk of a son.  My brain strayed from the heavy emotional content of the scene and reverted back to it's "food" setting, a place I seem to have easily cast off since retiring.

Cabbage rolls, eh? In a Proustian second, I was transported to a my sister's kitchen as she reached in the oven and pulled out the old familiar beat-up baking pan tightly packed with meat stuffed rolls nestled side by side. My mouth watered as my attention switched back to the idiot son character in the film, pushing the deliciousness around on his plate, wordlessly but clearly rejecting his father's sentimental gesture. Later the father takes the forlorn cabbage rolls to his Japanese Butoh dancing friend, as different from him as possible, but who gets him as his children cannot, and she physically acts out human cabbage rollness by wrapping them together in her dance tarp.
Humans rolled

This morning I made my quick garden inspection looking for snail damage and noticed how beautiful the ornamental cabbages were with water droplets clinging to their colorful leaves. They looked.....well, delicious. Isn't that twisted?

I planted only a few of these beauties but wish I had planted more. Fortunately I can remedy this lack with a mere touch of a button on Lunapic and turn the lone cabbage into a Kaleidescope.

I wish I could press a button and have instant cabbage rolls, but it'll take a trip to town to buy a
not-so-photogenic head to drag home and start stuffing. 

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Sepia Saturday 155 Work Wear

This week's Sepia Saturday prompt features work clothing advertised on a building. As I was studying the image I noticed the Reid & Co. name on the building next door, did a little research and found a fascinating story - but it was too long and complicated for this purpose.

One of the first images that came to mind for me looking at this advertising was Rosie the Riveter, the iconic working woman from WWII. Although she didn't wear overalls, her outfit clearly meant business! Rosie symbolized the women who sustained our nation and her troops during WWII by  stepping into the places of the men who went to war and who ultimately paved the way for the
feminist revolution of the 60's.

During my career in the food business I did no riveting but spent most of my time in food labs developing new products. My "uniform" was the traditional lab coat. I never minded wearing one as it eliminated the need for fashion on the job and served its purpose - to keep the clothing underneath clean. Some of my co-workers hated them for various reasons, one of which was safety. "Killer" lab coats, they'd claim could drag you into a piece of machinery or exacerbate burns because the thick cloth might absorb hazardous materials such as acids and be more of a hazard than protection.

Later in my career, when I was consulting for various companies, particularly foodservice chains, the lab coat was off-putting for many of my clients. When I went into restaurants, the workers would think I was from the health department or some other kind of officialdom and freeze up. For most people, lab coat = nerd. My credibility as a creative person was nullified and so for foodservice work, I changed to a chef coat with a few modifications. My last coat had multi-colored buttons and I enjoyed it very much. If I was still working I'd add "tattoo" cuffs to the coat to make it fun and au courant.

Here I am slinging hot dogs in my button coat at a local school fund raiser.  Now retired, I don't mind dwelling from time to time on the bottom rung of the foodservice ladder.  It's actually noble work and the kids were fun.

The traditional chef's garb includes a toque (never wore one myself), white double-breasted jacket and checkered pants. The double-breasted jacket is useful because it can be reversed to hide stains; the thick cotton cloth protects against heat and splatters; the cloth buttons were used instead of metal because they could stand up to frequent washing. The checkered pants are a no-brainer - can't see the stains.

As for the advertising on billboard walls, here are a few of my current favorites gleaned from an email forward - one of those persistent things that keeps coming around and around. At last, just before I pressed "delete", I found a use for one of them. The best of the best of the ads need few words if any at all.

For other stories you may find riveting, click on over to

Sepia Saturday

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Some simple things I ate in Ireland and England

A few years ago while traveling with a group in Turkey we trudged into the dining room of yet another awful "tour group" hotel.  First course on the menu: Mint soup. As we were thinking this concept over, a traveling companion at a nearby table leaned over and whispered that it was Cream of Scope.  Cracked me up. "Pass the Prilosec!" I asked my husband who was busy dosing himself with Tums.

Actually the mint soup was very good - not like the lentil soup we ate in Burma. The Burmese soup tasted fine but soon after eating it my nether parts seized up like I'd just drunk a bowl of Portland cement. With cast-iron stomachs we've been fortunate enough to eat just about anything, just about anywhere, with little ill effect. Of all things, I wouldn't have guessed a simple soup could harbor such consequences. I recovered quickly but am permanently divorced from lentils.

Both in Turkey and Burma, our interest was in history and seeing sights/sites. The food was OK but we had to budget our time and energy so we treated it as sustenance only. As we get older, we're eating more and more simply, especially while traveling. Too much food (and drink of course) knocks us both out.

Here's the kind of thing we look for - a lovely beet and berry soup served at Gorman's Hilltop Inn on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. Sorry (to my food photography friends) about the schmear on the edge. No Prilosec or Tums needed.

It was raining outside in the Irish way, soft and drizzly; we were happy to be indoors, watching the owner's beautiful lab through the dining room window. A well-behaved Inn dog he was always waiting patiently for the next guest!

Later that day when the skies cleared, we went for a walk and saw these handsome Irish ponies.

Here sit I, all alone with my multitude of condiments at breakfast in Clonakilty at Springfield House, Bed and Breakfast. The hostess loves little place mats. You'd never guess she'd set this kind of table because the house itself is quite austere. That's our rental car in front.


Clonakilty, a dot on the map, albeit a dot fairly close to Cork, is a spare and beautiful spot where green treeless hills swoop down to the sea. The landscape is broken up only by single lane, twisting, shoulderless roads and tidy farms here and there. David Mitchell, the author of Cloud Atlas, which our book club is reading this month, lives in Clonakilty and I wondered if he was immersed in this simple, uncomplicated setting when he created and wrote his fantastic and complex story. 

Back to what we ate: the simple charcuterie plate was available on most of the Irish restaurant menus. A perfect meal for traveling - compact and calorie dense, it refuels you with little bulk. 
We enjoyed the avocado on this plate...after a couple of weeks away, we started to miss our
daily dose.
 Potatoes came with everything in Ireland - even a salad.
Welsh Rarebit in the The Old Tea House in Winchcombe, England.
A terribly out of focus photo but the only one I have which shows the lovely Irish
summer days we were enjoying......
which provided an excuse for consuming copious amounts of Irish soda bread to generate warmth.