Saturday, December 02, 2006

Nothing Says Christmas Like Rubber Grapes!

"Probably the reason we all go so haywire at Christmas time with the endless unrestrained and often silly buying of gifts is that we don't quite know how to put our love into words."

-Harlan Miller! Yes, that's me, humming away, and can you believe it? A Christmas carol no less! Jeepers, I hate Christmas music. LOL. But that is a different entry. Nah, tonight I am in a really good mood, because we put up the Christmas tree last evening, and we had so much fun. :) We had cheese steakes for dinner, so there were no dishes to have to worry about, and that left the rest of the evening free to just have a bit of fun. I have a few more decorating touches to do, and we still need to put the lights on the outside of the house, then we are all finished. :) After I am done here, I am off to wrap presents, which is my favorite part of the whole holiday experience. I love giving presents. LOVE IT!

I am not always wonderful at finding the "just right" gift however, in fact I have had some spectacular present bombs over the years. LOL. It's ok, I can admit it, it simply isn't my strong point, although I can promise you... my gifts are rarely dull! I have been thinking the last couple days about my first ever Christmas shopping trip, when I was allowed to choose, and purchase, anything I wanted, within budget of course, for those I loved. It was Christmas time, 1966, I was 4 years old. Mom dressed me in my faux fur stole, filled my stylish, yet unpretentious handbag with 10 $1 bills, and off we went to Woolworth's. I was now, officially, a shopper, and not just any shopper, I was a Christmas shopper.

I can still see the decorations Woolworth's had on display. Tinsel trees, large bulb-ed lights for Christmas trees, and over near the lunch counter, was a huge display of stuffed santas... of all sizes. :) One of which magically ended up under my Christmas tree that year, I loved that santa. Anyway, I began my shopping by looking for something for my brother. My brother is 15 years older then I am, but he was my best friend, it was easy to find his gift. I chose a model airplane for him. He wasn't home that year, he was working on real airplanes for the Air Force in Vietnam. Sigh. I missed him so much, but somehow, seeing a picture of an airplane on that model box, made me feel closer to him. :)

Next I chose for my father. Did was easy to buy for, he had a sweet tooth that went clear to his soul, so I purchased for him, his very own box of Whitman's Sampler Chocolate. Mom was another easy person to buy for, she was always fussing with her hair and make-up, and always asking to borrow my sister's compact mirror, so, I bought mom her own mirror, one that she could take along in her purse, and which had a picture of a rose on the back. I was sure it was the height of glamour and sophistication. LOL. So far my first ever big shopping trip was a success! Now, what to buy my sister? My sister, was difficult to by for. She and I are 10 years apart, so growing up I kinda felt like an only child. Brother left when I was 3 and sis and I never really clicked as siblings. I loved rock music, especially Paul McCartney, she loved someone named Elvis Presley... whoever that was! LOL.

What to buy, what to buy! Toward the back of the store, there was a large display of household knickknacks and bric-a-brack. It wasn't all that long after Thanksgiving, so there were some items that were a bit on the autmny side. There were brown napkin sets, some paper mache pumpkins, and a nifty display of faux fruit and vegetables, more then likely they were for making a cornucopia for a holiday display, but doggone it... they looked really cool. I could see my sister displaying them on her desk, to give it an autumn look all year long. I could see her dopey boyfriend, Terry, coming over to study with her, and in a fit of low blood sugar, picking one off the plastic stem, popping it into his mouth and chewing, and chewing, and chewing. LOL. The dope! Yes, rubber grapes would be the perfect gift. :)

After we shopped till we dropped, mom and I sat down at the Woolworth's lunch counter, and had a real girlfriend lunch. I always had the Tuna sandwich with fries, she always had the Salad and Soup combo. We had a good day that day, and I still remember it... 40 years later. I remember it, because a day like that didn't happen very often, my mom had a good bit of mental illness to deal with, or rather not deal with, so I embraced days when she seemed to be inside her own mind. It was a good day. It was really cold, but the sun was shining so brightly, and all over one could hear the bells of the season. The memory of that day is the one I seem to gravitate to most often, when I think of Christmas when I was a child.

After we got home, I laid down for my nap, and when I woke up, mom had wrapped all the gifts we bought that day, except the one I bought for her, and the one I bought for my sister. She let me do the wrapping on those, after dinner that night. When I was finished, they went under the Christmas tree, straight away. It nearly killed me waiting for Christmas morning to come. I was sure the rubber grapes would be the hit of the holiday season! It was my turn to pass out presents, the ones I could pick up anyway, and I bet you could guess... I went right for my present to my sister first. She pulled away the ribbon, she gently removed the large red bow on the top of the box, and then began to removed the paper, as to not tear it. IT WAS EXCRUCIATING! Finally, she opened the box, she reached in, lifted the grapes above her head, and fell over laughing her butt off! As did my father, and my mother. LOL. "Grapes, I got RUBBER GRAPES!" My sister laughed so hard, that a small, yet apparent puddle formed under her... ummmm... chair. LOL.

I made my sister peeeeeeeeee. LOL. At first I was angry that my present had generated such mirth, but then, seeing her peeeeee, and seeing my mother and father laughing so hardily, made me begin to laugh as well. And I have to admit, seeing my big sister peeeeeeeeing her pants out of laughter, was a a little sister's sweet revenge. See, it could happen to anyone, even a big 15 year old, like my sister. LOL. After she excused herself to change, she came back in and asked me why had I chosen rubber grapes as her present. I told her all my reasons, and she agreed, it would be funny if Terry thought they were real, and to my credit, I had chosen some that were pretty realistic looking. After dinner that night, she placed them in a small pink bowl on her desk, where they stayed until she left for college. :) Sigh. Funny the things we remember from our childhood, especially during the holiday season. Sis knew at the end of the day, it's really the thought, and the love behind it... not the gift. :)

So tell me, how are you at gifting? What's the stangest gift you ever recieved?

"Christmas Tree"
Berkeley, California
December 1st, 2006
Late Evening

Friday, December 01, 2006

John Scalzi's Weekend Assignment # 141: Love To Travel?

"It is not down on any map; true places never are."

-Herman Melville

Weekend Assignment #141: Do you enjoy traveling? Not the arriving and being where you're going, min you; I'm asking if you enjoy the actual act of traveling from on place to another, by car or train or airplane or whatever. What I'm asking for is if you enjoy the journey as much as you enjoy the destination.

Extra Credit: Any more travel planned for 2006, or are you home for the rest of the year?

-John Scalzi (By The Way)

Do I enjoy traveling? Oh my yes! When Alan and I take our long trips, as we did when we went to Nevada last October, we have a wonderful time together. He and I have been taking long car trips together since before we were dating, in fact, his present to me for my 21st birthday was a trip to Reno, Nevada. At the time, he and I had been best friends for quite a while, and we enjoyed many of the same things, so we had a little getaway together. We had a fantastic time. We did a little gambling, saw a couple shows, and enjoyed each others company. :) Now here we are... YIKES... 22 years later, and old married couple... and we still have a blast!

It's about a 4-hour ride northeast, by car to Reno, and about a 5 1/2-hour car ride to Santa Barbara, which is south. That is a long time to spend in a car with someone, even if it is someone you love. LOL. We pass the time by talking, we have such a good time just making conversation, but sometimes we will play car games, such as "Song Titles," or "MadLibs." We are both usually on the lookout for something interesting to photograph, lol, so sometimes our journeys take longer then other times, but gosh the sights we have seen. There really is nothing like, burning a new CD, putting it in the car stereo, and taking a long car ride together, just he and I. :)

The sights we have seen...

A seagull pays me visit, while I visit Fort Point. 9/22/06

Current events give us plenty to talk about. 5/9/06

I enjoy photographing public art while driving. 11/24/06

"Passages" San Francisco Embarcadero.

Travel is about the journey... not the destination. :) 12/24/2005

Extra Credit: I have one, or two "maybe" trips planned for December. We'll see. :)

Golden Gate Bridge
Marin County, California
Spring, 2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Lovely In Autumn

"Use all the talents you possess... for the woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except for the best."

-Henry Van Dyke

This is a Steller's Jay, I found this bird at the Monarch Sanctuary in Pacific Grove, late last month when I went to photograph the Monarch clusters. The Pacific coastline is so beautiful this time of year. I am hoping to spend a lot more time along the coast, in spring and summer, of next year. I want to do some more comprehensive photography of not just the birds, but also butterflies and the wildflowers you can find along the coast. I found out from a park ranger, that the hillside behind the Point Bonita Lighthouse, has somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 different varieties of wildflowers. That will also allow me to work on photographing butterflies, and other winged creatures in a more natural setting.

The conservatory was a great place to begin learning how to photograph the butterflies, but by the end of the exhibit, in October, I wasn't feeling challenged anymore. I am also hoping that Marin County will bring me more opportunities for photographing, speciffically, Snowy Egrets. I love those birds... such grace and beauty. :) Since I am unable to get out during this cold snap we are experiencing here in Northern California, I am using my time wisely by reading up on what to expect when I go on my planned photo jaunts, after the first of the year. :) I might even ask Santa for a new pair of binoculars. :) Right now it is 41 degrees, but it could reach as low as 28 by tomorrow morning. My hands are sore, but just looking at that Egret makes me feel warm inside. :)


"Steller's Jay"
Pacific Grove, California
October, 2006

"Snowy Egret"
Southern Marin County, California
November, 2006

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Round Robin Challenge: What We Are Thankful For

"Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so let us all be thankful."


I love this time of year, autumn is the perfect time to slow down one's pace, and to take the time to reflect on what went right during the year. This is a really cool challenge that Tammy of, The Daily Warrior, chose for us this time around. :) I am such a lucky girl, I am so thankful for my life. 2006 has been especially kind to me, in that I have made some new friends, Suzanne, John, Linda, and Charley, just to name a few, and of course, we are welcoming new members to the Round Robin Challenges with every new challenge! How cool is that? So, what more could a girl ask for? How about a little time with her camera, and some favorable light. :)

I am grateful for everything, and everyone in my life, but I feel most alive when I am out with my camera. Sometimes I plan the photo outings I go on, if I want to photograph something specific, but a lot of the time I simply allow life to happen, and my camera records it for history. That can be an awesome experience. :) The following pictures, are actually short vignettes of what I saw with my camera in the past year or so. The "Cosmic Messages On The Wall" is a good example of a photo opportunity that wasn't planned. It was a story that unfolded over a couple weeks early last summer. I am thankful for my camera and all the posibilities it provides.


San Francisco at night...

Mermaid Sand Sculptures on the beach in Santa Barbara...

Cheese... GLORIOUS... Cheese...

The Bubble Gum Wall, in San Luis Obispo, California...

The discarded couches of Berkeley...

Life in autumn...

Cosmic Messages Written on Walls...

#1. Follow Your Dreams"

#2. Seriously, Follow Your Dreams"

#3. "Fine, Live In Despair"

And finally...

Free Rock Concerts On The Beach :)


Be sure to pay a visit to all the Round Robins, to see their entries. :) If you would like to play along with this challenge, it isn't too late. Just pay a visit to the official Round Robin Blog, and read the entry, then follow the directions. If this is your first time playing, be sure to read the *Welcome Entry & Rules Of Play.*

Round Robin Linking List

Tammy... The Daily Warrior

Steven... (sometimes) photoblog

Carly... Ellipsis... Suddenly Carly

Karen... Outpost Mavarin

Nancy... Nancy Luvs Pix

Linda... Blah, Blah, Blog

Suzanne... New Suzanne R's Life

Danella... Deep Red Style

Robin... R's Musings

Robin (Gannet Girl)... Search The Sea

Cheryl... Life Through My Lens

Caylynn... Caylynn's Contemplations *Welcome New Member*

Gattina... Keyhole Pictures

Sassy... Sassy's EYE

Janet... Fond of Photography

Gina... Gina's Space


Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Your Monday Photo Shoot: What's Pretty?

"Everybody needs beauty, as well as bread, places to play in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul."

-John Muir

Your Monday Photo Shoot: You know what you think is pretty. Show us. It can be a person, a place or a thing, just so long as the primary reaction you (and hopefully others) get from seeing it is, my, that's pretty. It's so simple that your major difficulty, I expect, will be narrowing down the field to one thing.

-John Scalzi

Isn't she lovely? This photo shoot was an easy one, I thought about this beautiful young deer right off. I found her last October, when I was visiting the town of Pacific Grove, California. I went that day, in search of the large clusters of Monarchs that can be seen in the trees, in autumn. I found the butterflies later in the day, and when I was finished photographing them, I decided to visit a small park, I had passed on my way into town. This amazing creature was there, and she was so gentle and sweet. She came right up to the car. No worries. Sigh. What a great day that was!

"So Pretty"
Pacific Grove, California
October, 2006
Late Afternoon

Monday, November 27, 2006

It's Christmas Time In The City...

"Let's be naughty and save Santa the trip."

-Gary Allen

Union Square on Black Friday... there's just nothing like it! Alan and I had such a good time last Friday, that we have decided to go straight to Union Square on Black Friday, 2007, and bypass all our usual side trips. If you are a people watcher like I am, you would be in people watching heaven, because you will see it all, and the best part is that for the most part, everyone is in a pretty good mood. Competitive shoppers mind you, but in a good mood all the same. I thoroughly enjoy the street performers. Ms. Robot is my favorite. I first saw her last year when we took a ride by the square. We didn't stay that day, but I got a couple good photos of her from the car. I was intrigued. She was back this year and I was able to see her interact with the crowd. Young and old seemed to enjoy her unique style. Yeah... it was fun... to be sure. Sometimes I think that if I wasn't so shy, I might have enjoyed being a street performer. Who knows what my style might have been, but I bet it would have been something mermaid-ish. LOL.

I was going to stay late to see the tree lighting ceremony, but I couldn't, silly legs were hurting too bad. Sigh. No worries. I am going back to San Francisco sometime next week to photograph the Union Square tree, all lit up at night, should be lovely. Also, I am going to photograph the ice skating rink at Justin Herman Plaza. It's gorgeous, and is San Francisco's answer to New York City's, Rockefeller Center. I wish I would have learned to ice skate as a child, it looks like so much fun. I don't think it would be a good idea for me to try to learn at my advanced so I will remain a spectator. :) That's ok, it makes me happy to photograph beautiful things, so, it all worked out for the best. :) Just wait until you see the awesome photos I bring back! :) For now... here is what I saw on Black Friday, 2006... Enjoy...

Watching The Shoppers Go By...

Enjoying The Perfect Cup Of Hot Chocolate

I Always Photograph Tony Bennett's Heart...

The Union Square Christmas Tree...

Macy's Window At Christmas...

My Favorite Street Performer...

November 24, 2006
Union Square, San Francisco

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Visit To Old Sacramento

"It's Christmas in the heart, that puts Christmas in the air."

-W. T. Ellis

Last Wednesday, I decided to take a break from my regular routine of Yoga, Therapy & T'ai Chi, and instead, Alan and I took a long ride to Sacramento, to photograph the holiday decorations at the Governor's Mansion, and in Old Sacramento. It was beautiful there. Cold, but beautiful. It was also a bit damp, and a tad foggy, which is not unexpected for this time of year. With it being the day before Thanksgiving, it wasn't as crowded as it might have been otherwise, which was nice for taking pictures. :)

Lovely Gold Rush era buildings, and wooden streets

A small riverboat, bringing in a supply of Christmas Trees.

Tower Bridge over the Sacramento River.

Choo-Choo trains can be seen at the Railroad Museum.

Workers placing the capitol Christmas tree...

And putting the last holiday touches on the Governor's Mansion.

A gorgeous sunset on the way home. :)

Alan and I have such a good time on this type of day trip. We didn't over plan, and didn't plan to be home at any certain time. It was just a ride to Sacramento to see what we could happen upon. We had a couple of spots in mind, like the Governor's Mansion, but other then that, we just let the day happen. It was a pretty nice way to spend the day before Thanksgiving. :)

I am now off to make some Turkey Enchiladas, tell me, are you still eating Turkey also? What's your favorite way to serve your turkey leftovers?

Sacramento, California
November 22, 2006