Saturday, December 16, 2006

Into The Christmas Woods

"Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveler, thousands of miles away, back to his own fireside and his quiet home!"

-Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers

My back pain is getting worse, Karen talked me into calling my doctor so I could get an appointment to be seen. It takes a lot of pain to make me give in, and see a doctor. Ok... I give! Like my good friend said, "take care of it now, so you won't have to possibly miss Christmas." Yep. Monday afternoon was the soonest I can be seen, but it won't be my regular doctor. YIKES! Still, I am sure it will go smoothly.
In the mean time, I took a small car ride up into Tiden park, here in Berkeley, to see the "Christmas Fantasy In The Woods."

Nestled deep into the middle of the park, is a wonderland of beautiful Christmas lights and decorations, which are just a part of the fantasy, the star of the show was the fabulous Merry-Go-Round, that has been a part of Tiden Park's history since 1948. This was my first visit to the Christmas Fantasy display, but now I think we will be making it an annual tradition. It's the perfect place to go, if one wants to step back in time, and enjoy a more simpler, less commercial aspect of Christmas. I hope to get back to the park, before it closes on December 23rd. I have to ride this Merry-Go-Round! It is a Bay Area MUST SEE!

Tilden Park

Holiday Fantasy Tree

Peace On Earth Is The Message That Greets You!

This Bear Was Too Cute!

I Say It's An Egret. Alan Says It Is A Stork. Hmmmm... Any Guesses?

A Cute Little Snack Bar. The Hot Spiced Apple Cider Was Wondeful! Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!

The cafe also serves candy, snacks, corn dogs, and sandwiches. :)

East Bay Parks Special Events

Tilden Merry-Go-Round History

Hours 5:30 - 8:30 PM Till December 23rd

Tilden Merry-Go-Round
Tilden Park
Berkeley, California
December 15, 2006
Early Evening

Friday, December 15, 2006

John Scalzi's Weekend Assignment # 143: What You'd Want, If You Were A Kid

"...And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

-Dr. Seuss

Weekend Assignment #143: Imagine you are a kid today, age 10 or under. What would you want for Christmas/Hanukkah/Seasonal Holiday of Your Preference? Don't look back on the toys of your youth, now - think about what kids have NOW that you would want if you were their age. Also, if you're a parent, don't ask your kids what they want, this is supposed to be about what you would want. If you were their age. I love my daughter, but I guarantee you, there are things she wants that if I were a kid her age I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole.

Extra Credit: Do you kinda want the same toy now that you're an adult? Come on, you can admit it if you do.

-John Scalzi (By The Way)

Dear Santa Claus

My name is Carly Elizabeth Gordon, I am 10 years old, and have been a very good girl this year, or so I have been told. ;) Here is my list for you, complete with pictures. I promise to have cold milk, and warm cookies waiting for you on Christmas Eve. I know you have a million places to be that night, but I hope you will come by my place for a holiday visit. You like Snickerdoodles with extra cinnamon... right?

Always, Carly

PS Just in case, I will also have a Latte waiting, it's December after all.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 5 "Anya"Action Figure

Lil Bratz Dolls "Twins"

Bratz Accessories

Calico Critters "Wiskers" Family

Elmo... Any Elmo will do!

FurReal Cuddle Chimp ... I LOVE Monkeys

Quiddler Card Game. I Love this game!

I LOVE opossums

Extra Credit: I want every single thing on this list, especially the stuffed opossum. There's just something about opposable thumbs that intrigues me. :) And ok, I can admit it, the Anya action figure would be cool. She was one of my favorite characters from BTVS. :)

"Leaf Skiing"
Moraga, California
December 11th, 2006

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Not Really Autumn, But Not Really Winter

"Spring, summer, and fall fill us with hope; winter alone reminds us of the human condition."

-Mignon Mc Laughlin, The Second Neurotic's Notebook, 1966

It was December 13th yesterday, and the weatherman promised a little reprieve from the days of rain that has assaulted the Bay Area lately. I was ready for the sun to peek through... it was not to be. Sigh. Just as well. As it turns out the weather matched my mood, as memories and faces went drifting through my thoughts, like rain and fog, across the hills behind my house. My horoscope for yesterday, gave me the following advice...

"You know what is in your heart now, but you might want to whitewash it to make it all nicer than it truly is. Circumstances aren't necessarily bad; it's just that there is more going on than you want to talk about. Don't be hard on yourself. Today it's ok to sit quietly with your own feelings, knowing that you will soon need to peel another layer off the onion to reveal what's next."

Sure, easy for you to say!

I got a lot accomplished yesterday. I kept all my usual appointments, did some Christmas shopping, did the annual "Toys for Tots," donation, did some mood photography, and encountered Mr. November. Yes, as usual, two people, two paths, nothing ever really changes... you know? You would think I would understand my own thoughts by now, but you know how it goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. My back is still sore, really sore. I suppose that has a lot to do with my mood, but I can't help but think it was too bad I didn't read my horoscope until last evening, if I had read it before I left the house, I might have did things a lot differently. On the other hand, I wouldn't have missed that smile for anything. For a moment I didn't hurt, and the weather felt warm. Go figure.

Berkeley, California
Tilden Park
December 13th, 2006

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Round Robin Challenge: Lights Of The Holidays

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful."

-Norman Vincent Peale

I love the challenge Suzanne, author of the blog, "New Suzanne R's Life," chose for us this time around, "Lights Of The Holiday's." This is such a pretty time of year. There is still a little bit of autumn hanging around to inspire me, and winter is already doing her best to make a joyful noise.:) I was noticing today, that the light outside is already beginning to put on her winter coat, even though we have a couple more weeks. While both seasons inspire me, I am kinda glad that Christmas is officially a part of winter. The winter light is a bit softer, and the night comes on with such loveliness. All the more lovely for the showing off of Christmas lights, like the ones in the above photo. That is a view of San Francisco, as taken from Treasure Island. As you can see, the "City By The Bay" has made it's buildings to look like packages. I could stare look at that view forever! :) I wish I could show it to you in person. :)

It's Christmas Time In The City...

Macy's, Union Square, San Francisco, Ca

Sak's Fifth Avenue, Union Square, San Francisco, Ca.

Holiday Display, Union Square

My Kind Of Lights... Holiday Shoes On Sale!

My second favorite place to see holiday lights has to be, Union Square, in the city. As you can see, they pull out all the stops, to make it a beautiful place to shop, or to just sit with a hot beverage, and enjoy the holiday shoppers, street performers, and the excitment of the children as they take in all there is to see. Take a peek at what caught my eye, then go have a look at the entries posted by the other Round Robin participants. Just click on the links below, to be redirected to their journals and blogs. :) Happy Holidays! :)

Round Robin Challenges

Linking List

1. Suzanne... New Suzanne R's Life POSTED!

2. Carly... Ellipsis... Suddenly Carly POSTED!

3. Janet... Fond Of Photography POSTED!

4. Linda... Blah Blah Blog

5. Karen... Outpost Mavarin POSTED!

6. Nancy... Nancy Luvs Pix POSTED!

7. Sassy... Sassy's EYE POSTED!

8. Connie... Windswept/Connie's Country Life

9. Danella... Deep Red Style POSTED!

10. Julie... Julie's Web Journal POSTED!

11. Steven... (sometimes) photoblog POSTED!

12. Gattina... Keyhole Pictures POSTED!

13. Teena... It's all about me! POSTED!

14. Phinney... Paragon POSTED!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Trees And Menorahs!

"Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles."


Your Monday Photo Shoot: Show off your Christmas tree and/or Menorah or other seasonably appropriate holiday centerpiece. So, if you celebrate the Solstice or commemorate Kwanzaa, or, heck, just plain like the all, you're covered. We're focusing on this year's decorations, so recent pictures are preferred. But if you haven't gotten all set up yet, you can reach back in your archives.

-John Scalzi (By The Way)

Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah :)

I have showed plenty of photos of my official Christmas tree, but I don't show off the little mini-Christmas tree that I keep on my desk, so here it is! Sitting beside the tree, you see a white container of Hanukkah cookie mix, with a little dreidle cookie cutter. I couldn't pass it up. Next weekend I will make dreidle cookies, as we light the menorah. Yep, I have a Christmas tree, and we observe Hanukkah, because, see, I am Jewish by heritage, and Methodist by choice. Lonnnnnggggg story, but the short version is that I found out in my late 30's that my mother was Jewish. The way I feel about it, all believers can celebrate Hanukkah, so why not appreciate it right along with the traditions of Christmas? It's the best of all possible messages and spirit of this time of year!

Both traditions mean a lot to me, but I have one other holiday tradition in the way of a decoration that is always a part of our seasonal displays, my stuffed moose Ross, "Protector of the Presents." Ross sits under the tree, among the packages, on the "Bench of Importance." He is there to remind us, not to be naughty, by trying to figure out what might be in the wrapped up boxes and bags under the tree. I guess you could say Alan and I have a firm grasp on the silliness of the season, as well as an appreciation for it's deep significance. :) Our's is a happy house.

Berkeley, California
December 12, 2006

Monday, December 11, 2006

Are You Gonna Need A Bag For Your Bubble Wrap?

"Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special! How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer... Who'd have ever guessed that product consumption , popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously?

-Bill Watterson, "Calvin & Hobbes"

Do you ever encounter someone so completely grouchy, so completely rude and disagreeable that they actually amused you with their stick-up-the-buttness? LOL. It must be because I am thoroughly in the holiday spirit this year, but for a change, it is other folks who seem to be grouchy... not me! There also seem to be less holiday decorations in the stores out here, then in previous years, but that's a different story. For this entry, I will share a true story of holiday hilarity and histrionics, that I am sure will become a beloved holiday classic... and may in fact be made into a TV movie produced by Irwin Allen. :) Is he still alive?

It all started on a cool December 10th afternoon, when I paid a visit to a national chain office supply store. Yes, there might be one in your neck of the woods... so pay attention. The nerves you save may be your own. Ok, see, I have these two boxes that I need to put into the mail tomorrow, so that they will get to their two destinations in time for Christmas. I needed a medium sized brown box, and some other assorted office supplies, so off I went. When I first walked into the store, I was greeted with a smile from a nice lady, who wished me a good day. I smiled and returned the sentiment, and went about my shopping.

About 20 minutes later, I got in line behind a very tall, bald, man who was dressed as a elf. Complete with assorted bells about his clothing. Jingle, jingle. jingle. All the way! I couldn't help but smile, but I noticed that the young lady who was working the register was NOT smiling. 'Poor thing, she must be tired, ' I thought to myself. When it came my turn to approach the check-out, the lady turned to the man four aisles to my right... "Sir, I can help you over here." What? It was my turn... had she not seen me? "Yes, ummm... there is a lady right there who is next in line." Said the nice consumer 4 aisles over. "Sir! I can HELP you OVER HERE!" The checkout artist barked at the now surprised man 4 aisles to my right. This time, the man pointed to me, and said, "THAT lady was here first." And with that he turned away to let we two ladies work it out. LOL. Good idea! :)

"SIGH.... Ma'am... come here... I will help you!" Jeepers, what did I do? Was it my mere presence? Did I remind her of someone she hated? Who knows. Anyway, I decided to make the best of it, after all, we wouldn't have to see each other ever again, so why sweat her poor mood? Right? In my cart was 6 items, one of which needed to be price checked before I could purchase it. That did not help the young ladies mood. "Excuse me miss, could you tell me the price of this item? There was no tag on it? "SIGH," said the employee of the month, "I suppossssse I can do that for you... sinnnnncccce you didn't see it yourrrrrrrrrself!!!" LOL. Oh my, I think she likes me! :)

So she scanned the product, and the price was acceptable, so it was a go! Good, that was easy, but then things in general began to fall apart. With each item came a snippy comment from the check-out girl. "Card stock huh? I suppose you make your own greeting cards!" "Yes, actually I do," I responded. "Well, are you sure you don't need ink?" LOL. I think I would know if I needed ink...but I answered her inquiry anyway, "No, I have enough ink." SIIIIIIIIGGHHHHHHH," said the clerk. There was a really long silence, and I didn't know what to say next, if indeed if I should say anything at all. The next item she scanned was a roll of bubble wrap, and with that item she said, "Are you gonna need a bag for your bubble wrap?" "Well, yes," I said, "I think that would be most helpful." With my reply she stopped cold, and stared at me for what felt like an hour. LOL. In actuality, it was probably only about 10 seconds. That is when I took out my Mastercard to run through the little slide machine.

"DON'T SCAN IT NOW... WAIT FOR ME TO TELL YOU WHEN!" LOL. Ok, it was just getting funny now. What could I have possibly done? This lady was getting dangerously close to fulfilling my Christmas Eve tradition of being called a "Bitch" by a total stranger. Do you suppose it was the curse of December 10th kicking in? What could it possibly be? I stood patiently as the lady finished up totaling my merchandise, and then I scanned my card, and exited the store. I had been polite, and like I said, I was a little amused that she was so rude to me. After all, what could I do realistically? Tell her boss? Maybe, but somehow it didn't feel like it would have been the right thing to do. If this young lady lives her life as a grumpy, grouchy, grinch, then she has her own troubles. She will figure it all out on her own, and besides, isn't that the best way to learn a lesson?

Gentle readers, have patience with those you encounter for the next couple weeks. It is a tough time of year for a lot of folks. The world is a scary place. Wars, rumors of wars, high prices for everything, and such sadness in the news. We humans must remember that we are human first, and we should give ourselves a break, but we should also try to pass that break along, to those we meet along the way, because you never know who you will meet on your way from here to there. That girl I met was clearly hurting, but it isn't always someone crying, who might be calling out for our compassion. Tis the season you know.

"Jack, The Pumpkin King"
Berkeley, California
December 10th, 2006
Late Evening

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Saturday In The Park In Early December

"They're most festive. When you think holidays, you think Egrets."

-Alan Pelzer

The weather here in the Bay Area has been all kinds of crazy the last couple days. This weekend is stormy. Overnight there are supposed to be some thunderstorms. I hope so, I love watching them dance off the bay, and the way it makes the air smell is intoxicating to me. Everything is so fresh and new the morning after a good storm. The downside is that the temperature is too cold for my achy joints and muscles. I injured my back last week, and the pain persists. Sigh. In the middle of the afternoon yesterday, I got a bit of cabin fever, and decided to go for a ride, in search of the last of autumn.

I thought it might be fun to drive down to Cull Canyon in Castro Valley, I haven't been there for a while. It was a good choice, because the trees, which still had colorful leaves on them, were just glowing! The sun was waxing and waning, so I got a lot of practice in dealing with lighting. I took most of the photos from my car, my back was hurting too bad to do much walking around. Still, I was happy with what I saw. :)

Towards the later part of Saturday afternoon, I parked my car closer to the pond, and to my happy surprise, there was a beautiful Egret, sitting in the water, pretty close to a pathway. I sat in my car for a few moments, before deciding to go ahead and try walking down the small hill to where the bird was wading. I will know tomorrow if it was a major mistake or not. My back has been really sore, but it was a marvelous opportunity to sit and photograph that amazing bird. I guess it was a case of take the photograph now... pay for it later... kind of opportunity. :) The camera won! LOL.

This was a moment I wouldn't have wanted to miss. I caught the Egret, catching his dinner! I am not sure what kind of little fish it might have been, but when I looked down at the water's edge, there were quite a few just below the surface. A quick visit to the parks district page told me that they stock the pond with bass, catfish and sunfish. To me it kinda looks like a baby bass. If you recognize it... name that fish!

After reading a little bit more about Egrets, I found out that this type of Egret is not a Snowy Egret, but instead, it is the Great Egret. The Great Egret is a much larger bird then the Snowy Egret, and has a yellow bill and black feet, as opposed to a black bill and yellow feet that is characteristic of the Snowy Egret. Sigh. My quest for the Snowy Egret continues. LOL. In the mean time, I am happy with this fellow, yes, I think I will be paying him a visit from time to time this winter, if my back is on the mend. :) I may be in pain tomorrow... but I think I will still be happy I went for the photos all the same. :)

You can get info on Cull Canyon, including a map, here. :) Lovely place.

Cull Canyon
Castro Valley, California
December 9th, 2006
Late Afternoon