Friday, December 31, 2010

What's in a Name Challenge!

What? Yet another reading challenge?

Uh, but this is a neat one. What's in a Name Challenge! tests participants to find and read books that fit its six different categories. And, these are thinking-outside-of-the-box categories. For instance, one category is called "a book with a number in the title." Interesting, no? Participants only need to read one book in each category, and we have all of 2011 to complete the quest.

This challenge is hosted by Beth Fish who blogs at Beth Fish Reads. For more details about the What's in a Name Challenge!, click here.  

As usual, I already have my list of titles for the challenge, culled from my 2011 Reading List. Here you go:
  1. A book with a number in the title: At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien
  2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title: The Clue of the Broken Locket by Carolyn Keene
  3. A book with a size in the title: A Little Too Much Is Enough by Kathleen Tyou
  4. A book with travel or movement in the title: Travels with Zenobia, Paris to Albania by Model T Ford: A Journal by Rose Wilder Lane and Helen Dore Boylston, edited by William Holtz
  5. A book with evil in the title: Bad-Ass Faeries edited by Danielle Ackley-McPhail, L. Jagi Lamplighter, Lee Hillman, and Jeff Lyman
  6. A book with a life stage in the title: I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason by Susan Kandel
It's less than 2 hours until 2011 yawns aloud in my time zone. Happy New Year, dear readers!

Foodie's Reading Challenge for 2011

I like to read cookbooks. Reading recipes is often times just as creatively satisfying as preparing them. So, it isn't surprising when I tell you that I also like to read stories and memoirs that revolve around food. Uh-huh. What better reading challenge for this joyous aspect of reading then the...wait for it... Foodie's Reading Challenge hosted by Margot who blogs Joyfully Retired.

Like most reading challenges, participants choose their own goals. The Foodie's Reading Challenge has five levels—Nibbler, Bon Vivant, Epicurean, Gourmet, and Glutton. For more details about this challenge, head over to here.

My goal is to complete the Bon Vivant level. These are the books I hope to read for the challenge.  Yes, indeed, they are part of my list of 70. For those of you who are new to me, you can click here for my personal reading throw down.
Glazed Murder: A Donut Shop Mystery by Jessica Beck
Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme
The Kitchen God's Wife by Amy Tan
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes

Hometown Challenge

Who doesn't like to read books about her hometown or region?

Okay, maybe not you over there. But, for everyone else with their arms up, here's a reading challenge you'll like. Simply called Hometown Challenge, it's hosted by Kris who blogs at Not Enough Books  and Outwardly Pleasant. She also hosts the annual Cozy Mystery Challenge that starts in April, which I did last year.

The Hometown Challenge started in September and runs through the end of August 2011. Anyone can sign-up any time before August 1, 2011. There are four levels to the challenge—Tourist, Relocation, Local, and Founder. Kris's rules are quite flexible, so if a person lives in a small town, such as I do, she can choose books that take place in her county or nearby big cities.  For more details about this reading challenge, click here.

I'm electing to read books only that take place in my town and county—Hollister (San Benito County) California. Being a small city and county, I'm aiming to complete the tourist level, which is one to two books. My two, which, of course, are on my 2011 Reading List.  are:
East of the Gabilans by Marjorie Pierce
The Octopus by Frank Norris
Hollister, California

Cruisin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge 2011

When it comes to me seeking reading challenges, it's a given that I will search for a cozy mystery challenge. Success! If you're into cozy mysteries and reading challenges, check out Cruisin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge 2011 hosted by Yvonne who blogs Socrates' Book Review.

The challenge runs from January to December, 2011. Participants can choose one of three levels—snoop, investigator, and super sleuth—for which to aim. For more details about the Cruisin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge, click here.  Not sure what a cozy mystery is? Then click over to

I'm signing up for the "investigator" level, which means I will need to read between 7 and 12 cozy mystery titles. My goal for the challenge is to read the 11 titles listed below in alphabetical order, which are part of my 2011 Reading List.
Glazed Murder: A Donut Shop Mystery by Jessica Beck
Size 14 is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot
Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle
Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out by Lee Goldberg
Queen of the Flowers by Kerry Greenwood
I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason by Susan Kandel
Cape Perdido by Marcia Muller
Locked In by Marcia Muller
A Night Too Dark by Dana Stabenow
The Clovis Incident by Pari Noskin Taichert
How to Crash a Killer Bash by Penny Warner

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The 2011 TBR Pile Challenge


The 2011 TBR (to be read) Pile Challenge is one of several reading challenges I will join this year. This challenge is hosted by the Roof Beam Reader aka Adam who says that he is "one of the 5% minority - a male book blogger!"

The goal of this challenge, according to the Roof Beam Reader, is "to finally read 12 books from your 'to be read' pile, within 12 months." All 12 books that a participant reads must have been on her shelf for at least one year. Tomorrow is the deadline for signing up, which involves listing the 12 titles to be read and, if desired, two alternate titles in case one can't stand reading one or two books on her list. To learn more about the TBR Pile Challenge, click here.

Here are my 12 titles in ABC order, with publication dates for the Roof Beam Reader. Sink or swim, I'm reading them, so no alternates for me. Will I regret that? We shall see.
Around the World with a King by William N. Armstrong (1995)
Six Months in the Sandwich Islands by Isabella L. Bird (1998)
Size 14 is Not Fat Either by Meg Cabot (2008)
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson (English translation 2008)
Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes (1996)
Cape Perdido by Marcia Muller (2005)
The Audacity of Hope by Barack Obama (2006)
Nightcrawlers by Bill Pronzini (2005)
America and Americans by John Steinbeck (1968)
The Clovis Incident by Pari Noskin Taichert (2004)
Roughing It by Mark Twain (1962)
Behold the Many by Lois-Ann Yamanaka (2006)

Reading for Fun 2011

"Don't read so much," the mama said to me, standing in my doorway. "You'll go crazy."

She said that to me a long time ago when as a kid I had again lain too long on my bed reading yet another book. I'm sure what she meant was something like "Go play outdoors!" Did I lay my book down and go outside? I doubt it.

Since the husband and I moved to Hollister seven summers ago, I haven't done much book reading for fun. Most of my reading has been research for work. I want to change that in 2011. The last few days, I've been pulling books from the bookshelves and the various book piles throughout the house. Those plus the ones I got for my last birthday come up to 70 books.

Soooooo, I shall be reading 70 books in 2011. It's not so bad though. About a third of them are children's books, which is still one of my favorite types of books to read. To see my list of 70, please click here.

To make my reading quest even more fun, as well as to help motivate me, I shall participate in reading challenges sponsored by reading-loving bloggers. I'll be doing individual posts about the different challenges, tout de suite. Until then, have a listen to Claude Bolling performing "Just One of Those Things." No connection at all to my reading list. I just like the song and Mr. Bolling.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Shopping for the Unknown X's

Today's letter is "X."

Last week, I told you that the husband and I decided to have some fun with the xmas presents for each other.  Exaggerating the use of the mathematical terms, it went like this:

$10.00 = total expense we each would spend

x ≥ 5 presents (In other words, 5 or more gifts)

How did we do?


X-wise, we found that x = Six exceptional gifts!

We shopped downtown, going in opposite directions. Amazingly, we each finished before the time allowed: 60 minutes – x minutes = 45 minutes

My expenses: $9.95.  At the thrift store, I found a Michael Crichton novel and a booklet about Oregon caves, which was published in the era when the husband worked there during the summers of his college days. Because the husband is a visual artist, I purchased water colors and a couple of brushes at the art supply store. (Hint, hint, the husband.) At our favorite drugstore, I bought Post-it notes for his note-taking and a box of Milk Duds for the next time we go to the movies.

My shopping spree ended at the first store that the husband entered. The husband, being exact, tackled his quest by thinking $2 per present. Both he and the lovely Carol at the shop came up empty with ideas, so she suggested that he go to the 99-cent store on the side of town where I was. The clever husband walked the back streets so I wouldn't see him. When Carol told me, I happened to notice stickers and ribbons (like the ribbons they award at county fairs). "If the husband comes back, you could suggest these," I said, pointing to the rack. "Sure," she said. "Which ones?" "Oh, he'll know."

I felt sorry for the husband because shopping is such a dreaded activity for him. Not anymore. The man did extremely well for himself! His expenses: He had more than $2 in change left over. Hello!

At the 99-cent store, the husband bought a package of bamboo spatulas (which I really need), a bag of Cracker Jacks (my snack for the movies), a green plastic poncho (that can expand to fit both of us), jacks (remember them?), and a toy echo microphone. Even the mama had fun talking into the microphone, which reminded her of the cans-and-string telephone from her childhood. That got the husband and me wondering if we could set up such a system in the house. When we mentioned that to the husband's brother, he said, "Yes, that's called wireless." 

The husband found the sixth present at the thrift store where I had found his books. He said he just happened to turn in an aisle and there it was. A true bargain, 25 cents! And, it is the best present I have ever gotten!! I am not exaggerating at all!!!

So, what is it already?

Look for yourself: The extra-charming straw cowboy hat with a red sheriff's badge! Whoo-hooo!

The husband and I enjoyed the quest so much, we're going to do it again next year. Life is exquisite!

Today, I'm hooking up at ABC Wednesday, hosted by Mrs. Nesbitt.  The letter of the week is "X."  Did you notice?  Click on this x to check out other "X" posts.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Result: The All Things Alcott Challenge

Back in November, I signed up for the All Things Alcott Challenge.  Because it was during the last six weeks on the challenge, my goal would be to read one book by or about Louisa May Alcott. I'm sorry to say that I didn't make my objective.  I read the Wikipedia article about Ms. Alcott's life and read one short story, "An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving."

The Wikipedia article about Ms. Alcott is a great introduction to her fascinating life.  Here are five facts about her:
  • Ms. Alcott was born on her father's birthday. Her father was Amos Bronson Alcott, one of the founders of American Transcendentalism.
  • One of Ms. Alcott's teachers was Henry David Thoreau, author of Civil Disobedience.
  • She wrote novels that Wikipedia describes as "passionate, fiery novels and sensational stories," which perhaps would be categorized today as Chick Lit.
  • The character "Laurie" in Little Women may have been based on Ladislas Wisniewski, a young Polish man she met on one of her travels through Europe. According to some Alcott fans and experts, he was Ms. Alcott's romantic affair.
  • Ms. Alcott was the first woman to register to vote in Concord, Massachusetts.
Some of Ms. Alcott's works can be read for free online. You can find "An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving" here.  I am amazed that I hadn't ever read it before. It's the kind of old-fashioned story that should've made it into the elementary school textbooks that I read for English classes.

"An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving" was  a delightful story about a poor family who made do gratefully with what they had and dropped everything to take care of important matters. The story opens with the mother and her children preparing pies and such for the next day's Thanksgiving meal. Then word comes that the mother's mother has taken deathly ill. She and the father head off immediately, leaving the two older children, in their early teens, in charge of the six younger ones. The next day, the children decide to go ahead and make the Thanksgiving meal so that it's ready for their father when he returns home. Never having cooked a fancy meal on their own is the challenge. Also weaved into the tale is a bit of fright in the form of a bear. The ending is a surprise for everyone in the story, and for the reader.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I almost forgot to post a Christmas song. The husband and I just finished wrapping presents. Yes, I know.

Anyway, I've accomplished my goal: Post a Christmas song a day until Christmas. Here's the list of the past 24 Christmas songs that I've posted (I'm too pooped to give you links. Sorry. But, click here to go to the 25 Christmas Songs category:
  1. "Christmas Time is Here Again" performed by the Beatles
  2.  "Jingle Bells" sung by Ella Fitzgerald
  3. "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" sung by Bruce Springsteen
  4. "I Want A Hippopotamus for Christmas" performed by Gayla Peevey
  5. "Mele Kalikimaka!" sung by Bing Crosby
  6. "Jingle Bells" performed by Glenn Miller and Orchestra
  7. "Carol of the Bells" performed by Jake Shimabukuro
  8. "Up on the Housetop" sung by Gene Autrey
  9. "Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel" performed by Randy Granger
  10. "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree" sung by Brenda Lee
  11. "O Holy Night" sung by Enrico Caruso
  12. "Peace on Earth" and "Little Drummer Boy" performed by Jack Black and Jason Segal
  13. "Holly Jolly Christmas" sung by Burl Ives
  14. "That's What I Want for Christmas" sung by Shirley Temple
  15. "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" sung by Ray Charles
  16. "Sleigh Ride" performed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra
  17. "It's Christmas Time at the Railway Station" performed by the Juke Box Band
  18. "Feliz Navidad" sung by Jose Feliciano
  19. "Silver Bells" performed by Twisted Sister
  20. "Thank God It's Christmas" performed by Queen
  21. "Solstice Bells" performed by Jethro Tull
  22. "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "We Three Kings" performed by Barenaked Ladies
  23. "A 'Soalin'" sung by Peter, Paul, and Mary
  24. "Deck the Halls" performed by Saulo Couto
Today's song is "So This is Christmas" performed by John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir. Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Mystery of the Christmas Presents

Sitting on our doorstep are two Christmas bags that someone left on our doorstep. The husband and I found it when we came home yesterday evening. Somebody must've come by when the mama was sweeping leaves in her garden. We brought them in and looked for tags to identify the givers. One said "Delsa" and the other said "Happy Thanksgiving."

Obviously, someone left the presents at the wrong house. So, of course the husband and I headed back outside and knocked on a few neighbors' doors. No luck at all.  Nobody was home at the house where we think the intended giftee lives. And, the other neighbors couldn't help us. All we can do is try again come morning.

We set the presents on the doorstep in case the ones who left them finally realize they got the wrong house and come back for them. I surely hope they do.  The paranoid part of me wonders if the presents contain contraband or a bomb. But, I suppose if it was the latter, we would've heard something ticking. Heck, it would've blown up by now. If we can't find the owners or nobody comes to pick them up, I suppose we'll take them to the police department. What would you do?

I don't know which is the strangest thing that has happened this year at home: These mysterious presents or the solicitation back in May. What do you think?

Today's Christmas song is "Deck the Halls," performed by Saulo Couto. The video also treats us to Mickey Mouse clips. As for today's linky party, I'm hopping around at Never Growing Old: Follow Friday 40 and Over! Come join me. Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Final 23rd Date of 2010

Later today, the husband and I will be off on our twelfth 23rd date. I admit that I'm impressed that we did honor last year's Christmas gift to each other.  Every 23rd of the month, we dropped everything and took off for an afternoon or a whole day. We drove back roads we've always wanted to explore. We hiked unfamiliar parks, strolled along beaches, and wandered in nearby cities. When it rained, we took ourselves to movies and, on one occasion, to the Egyptian museum. I wrote about some of our adventures, which you can find here, if you're interested.

Our final 23rd date of the year will be a shopping adventure. Yep, shopping. The activity the husband probably dislikes to do the most. But, it is time for us to do some Christmas shopping for each other, so why not on our 23rd date. To make it fun, we made a few rules.
  1. We can only spend $10. Uh-huh, ten bucks, including taxes.
  2. We must purchase at least 5 items for each other.
  3. No handmade items allowed. 
  4. Handmade coupons for perishable items (such as food or flowers) to be bought later are allowed. The item and price, including tax, has to be written on the coupon. 
  5. We can only buy presents in our county. There are only two small cities in this county, folks.
  6. We must complete our shopping in a town or store within an agreed time limit, which we will determine before we each go our separate ways in the town or store.
He-he. Fun, yes? In case you're wondering, we are giving ourselves the gift of 23rd dates in 2011, too. I love my life with the husband!

Today's Christmas song is from Peter, Paul, and Mary—"A 'Soalin'."  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

ABC and Outdoor Wednesday: Winter

Today letter is "W."
This is what winter looks like in my part of the world. These are the low mountains of the Diablo Range that makes up the eastern border of my town and county. (Check out my other blog, Take 25 to Hollister, if you'd like to know more about my town.) We've had a few rainy days during the last few weeks, which to me means that everything is starting to get green again.

Yes, I'm spoiled. Winter in my area is mild compared to the Sierras, the Midwest, New England, Alaska, Europe, and other places that get lots and lots of snow, and sometimes blizzards. I really can't imagine living a full winter in such cold. Now and then, snow covers the mountain tops around us, but it melts within a few hours once the sun comes out. 

In good years, our winters are cold enough to make the fruit tree orchards in our area happy. The good years also give us lots of rain to fill our reservoirs. This looks like it could be one of those good years. We can only hope.

Today's Christmas medley, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "We Three Kings" is performed by the Barenaked Ladies. Hope you enjoy it. Afterwards, come join me and check out the other participants at ABC Wednesday and Outdoor Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Winter Solstice

December 21, 2010 Total Lunar Eclipse—Almost halfway there!

What a momentous Winter Solstice we're having this year! Not only is it the longest night of the year, but there is a full moon. And, a total lunar eclipse! Did you see it? The experts say that the last time a total lunar eclipse coincided with a winter solstice was over 370 years ago.

It had been raining all day and evening in our area, but as the time approached for the eclipse to begin, the clouds parted open like stage curtains. The more the earth blocked the moon from the sun, the more brilliant the stars became. We were able to see part of the Orion constellation. At the peak of eclipse when the moon was like an orange ball, the husband said it looked like Orion was reaching up to grab it.

What an amazing Christmas gift we all were given today. Thank you, universe. Thank you, God!

For today's Christmas tune, I present to you "Ring Out, Solstice Bells," performed by Jethro Tull.  The animation was the 1976 promo video for the song. For the lyrics, check out this page .

Monday, December 20, 2010

The First Name

Su-sieee! is how the mama calls for me. When she urgently wants me, she puts a long emphasis on the second syllable. If I don't answer in two or three beats, she calls again. Su-sieeeeeeeeeeee!

So, dear readers, in case you were wondering, that is why I italicize the second syllable of my name.

The mama had not planned to name me Susie. She had another name in mind for me.  But, the mama was foiled by her accent and the nurse who was assigned to get my name from the mama.

"What is your baby's name?" asked the nurse.

"Tessie," said the mama.

"Susie?" the nurse asked.

"No," the mama replied. "Tessie."






The mama gave up. "Yes, Susie."

That's the story the mama tells me. After all these years, I'm still thankful the nurse couldn't understand her.

Today's Christmas song is "Thank God It's Christmas,"  performed by Queen. Enjoy the song and have a wonderful day!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

A Night Out

Last night, the husband and I took the mama to the annual Filipino-American Community of San Benito Christmas Ball. It was her night to dress up, eat Filipino party food, and make merry.  She even got up and danced twice. The husband describes her dancing as walking to the dance floor, moving to the music a few seconds, and walking back to her chair. We could tell she enjoyed herself, and that's what it was all about.

The husband and I got up on the dance floor a few times. We needed to work off the overflowing plate of delicious pancit, lumpia, lechon, pinakbet, dinuguan, and other yummy food. It was probably a sight for the young ones, as well as the older crowd, to see two old fuddies twisting, bopping, and twirling. I'm not kidding when I say we danced with gleefully random abandon to the beat. Thankfully, we still can.

Okay, I admit I wore both my ankle braces. Thankfully, again, I had bought a pair of twinkly Converses on sale a few days ago. They're pretty nifty don't you think? That's them in the photo, with my old lady's purse that I got for free at a rummage sale. Yep, I'm starting to look like one of those old eccentric ladies. I love it!

It was a fun, enjoyable night for us three—the mama, the husband, and me.  Yes, indeed!

So, what's the Christmas song for today? "Silver Bells," dear readers, as performed by Twisted Sister. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

PhotoHunt: Male

Since this week's Photo Hunt theme is "male," I thought I'd participate with a photo of my favorite male. As you can see, the husband is a lovable goofball who likes to bring merriment to my camera's viewfinder. I took this photo back in February on the steps of the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose. The exhibits obviously inspired his pose. Click here if you'd like to see more goofy joy from the male who is the husband of mine.

Your Christmas song for the day is "Feliz Navidad," performed by, who else but, Jose Feliciano.

For more PhotoHunter interpretations of "male," please click here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

It's Friday! Toot! Toot!

I'm hooked up at two different memes today: Skywatch Friday and Follow Friday 40 and Over.   After listening to your Christmas song, come join me at both sites to check out cool stuff by other bloggers.

Today's song is called "It's Christmas Time at the Railway Station." I heard it for the first time today. It's a pretty song, performed by the Juke Box Band, the puppet band on the Shining Time Station TV show. The song was sung in a Christmas special called 'Tis a Gift.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

L is for Luxury

"L" is today's letter.
Click here
for other "L" posts.
I'm rolling in luxury.

Well, I shall be next week.

The husband indulged me with a gift certificate for books for my birthday. That is my favorite kind of present. Thank you, sweet husband!

This year, I took my time selecting the books that would be lined up to be read in the coming year. I wandered around a bookstore first, checked out several book blogs, and glanced at a few book lists. Here's what I finally chose (If you want to hear today's Christmas song as you read about the books, scroll down and click on the video first):

A Night Too Dark by Dana Stabenow. This is the 17th novel about Kate Shugak, a private detective in Alaska, who has a homestead in a national park. In this story she investigates the murder of a roustabout who works for a company that wants to open one of the largest gold mines in the state.

Locked In by Marcia Muller. The author's Sharon McCone series has been around since the late 1970s. It's one of my favorites. Sharon is a private detective in San Francisco. The summary states that Sharon was shot and now lays in a hospital bed unable to move or speak, but her mind is conscious.

Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle. The first title of a mystery series, the story is also set in San Francisco. The protagonist is a bookbinder. A mystery, female protagonist, bookbinder, and San Francisco. What's not to like? Hope I do.

How to Crash a Killer Bash by Penny Warner.  Here's another mystery series with a female amateur sleuth set in San Francisco. The protagonist is a party planner.

Last Night Twisted River by John Irving.   From the reviews, this story seems to incorporate many of Irving's "gimmicks" (for a lack of a better term) such as bears.  I haven't read his books in almost a decade, so we shall see if I still think of him as one of my favorite authors.

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. I didn't know this story is classified as detective fiction. I was just sold on the idea of an 11-year old girl named Flavia de Luce and her eccentric family living in an old country house with an old Victorian chemistry lab that only Flavia likes to enter.

Mr. Monk is Cleaned Out by Lee Goldberg. I miss the "Monk" series on TV. 

Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph Ellis. A non-fiction book? Uh-huh, and a Pulitzer Prize winner, to boot, about Adams, Washington, Jefferson, and the other people who helped form the United States.

Craft Hope: Handmade Crafts for a Cause by Jade Sims.  This book provides instructions on making various crafts that are matched to charities for which the crafts can be given.  Craft Hope is an online group that hosts projects throughout the year to help others.

Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris. A few months ago, I watched Sedaris being interviewed by Jon Stewart and was instantly taken by Sedaris' charm and wit. So, of course,  I had to chose a book of his essays.

At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O'Brien was published in 1939. I'd never heard of it until two days ago when I wandered around the bookstore. The title caught my eye. The story is supposed to be about a college student who writes a novel about a guy who is writing a novel.

Is your head spinning? Are you exhausted from reading all the descriptions. I am.  Too bad I don't have four minds the way cows have four stomachs. I could then really read four books at the same time.

But, wait, I'm not done yet. To add to my list of luxury items are birthday presents from my friends:

Travels with Zenobia: Paris to Albania by Model T Ford, by Rose Wilder Lane and Helen Dore Boylston.  Lane was the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Boylston wrote the Sue Barton, Nurse series. The two women did this road trip in 1926. Thanks Missus Kate!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows.  The story is about the residents of the island of Guernsey during WWII when the Germans occupied it. The authors tell the story in the form of correspondence between a Guernsey resident and a London writer in 1946. Thanks evil2win!

Oh, and there's one more. Since I was at the bookstore, I decided to buy a birthday gift for myself. He he. I'm now reading Glazed Murder by Jessica Beck. Suzanne owns a doughnut shop in a small town. Very early one morning, as she's opening her shop, someone dumps a body in front of it.  Guess who's going to figure who the killer is?

Books, books, books!  I love the luxury of owning them!

Today's Christmas song is "Sleigh Ride" by Glenn Miller and his orchestra. And, don't forget to swing over to Alphabe-Thursday to read other "L" posts.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Update of Our Hairy Vow

Today is ABC Wednesday
featuring the letter V.

When the husband and I cut all the hair off our heads (as well as the husband's beard and mustache) in January, we vowed not to cut or trim it for a year. The story about that is here, if you're interested.

Here are our vivacious selves at the beginning of the year.

Over 11 months later, our vow is still intact, with one allowance for the husband to trim his mustache so he can have full clearance to his mouth for eating and drinking. Here we are a couple of weeks ago. Believe me, there is lots of hair underneath those caps.

And, here's your Christmas song for the day: "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" sung by the venerable Ray Charles. After listening to it, head over to ABC Wednesday to check out the vignettes of other "V" bloggers.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Thinking Back: Shirley Temple

I grew up watching Shirley Temple movies on TV. The story lines were simple and basic. Little Shirley usually portrayed a child who lived with a loving father, grandfather, or another relative, or a waif who lived in an orphanage. She often played matchmaker to a wealthy man, woman, or couple who eventually adopted her. And, in most, if not all, of her movies Temple sang and tap danced her heart out. Perfect fare for a Sunday morning.

I was probably a teenager when I learned that Shirley made her movies in the 1930s, during the middle of the Great Depression. Much later, I learned that the movies were very popular and brought hope and cheer to many people. I wonder if they still would.

To learn more about the actress and person, who became a U.S. ambassador in her later years, check out these links:
Stowaway is a movie that Shirley did in 1936 when she was 8 years old. She played an orphan in China called Ching Ching. One of the songs that Shirley sang in the movie was "That's What I Want for Christmas." And, that, dear readers, is your Christmas song for the day. Enjoy!

Monday, December 13, 2010

A milestone: 200th Post!

Today's post is number 200! Yippeeeee! When I started at the beginning of this year, I didn't know if I could last a month.  :-)

Another big number for me is 57! A prime number. The number of times I've traveled around the sun.  Zipping through the redwood trees with the husband and friends was a great way to celebrate the new year.

It was the first time for all of us. At the highest points, we were about 10 to 15 stories above the ground. Didn't seem like it at all. The husband says the platforms on which we stood were about halfway up the trees. Didn't seem like that at all, either. By the time I got comfortable with traveling from tree to tree, we were halfway through the tour. Would I do it again? You bet!

Want to check out where we went in the Santa Cruz mountains? Click here.

Today's Christmas song is "Holly Jolly Christmas," performed by Mr. Burl Ives.  If you'd like to listen to the 12 other Christmas songs that I've posted thus far, please click here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Zipping Along

Hello dear gentle readers,

Not much to say other than I begin another trip around the sun today. To usher in my new year,  the sweet girlfriends K and evil2win, the husband, and I will be zip lining  through a redwood forest this afternoon.


Your Christmas song today is "Peace on Earth" and "Little Drummer Boy" performed by Jack Black and Jason Segal. Some of you may remember this medley being sung by Bing Crosby and David Bowie in the late 1970s.

Peace and love, One and All,
Su-sieee! Mac

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thank you, Senator Sanders!

Thank you, Senator Sanders for having the guts and balls to state so clearly how wrong it is to extend the tax cuts, as well as to cut the estate tax rate, for the very, very, very rich. 

Thank God, we have someone in Congress who has the guts and balls to tell it as it is.

Senator Bernie Sanders, the progressive Democrat from Vermont, spoke on the Senate floor for more than 8-1/2 hours yesterday. Click here to see a video of his speech.

In my mind, Senator Sanders embodies what a politician is supposed to be—one who advocates for the American people.

I also think Senator Sanders embodies the true meaning and spirit of Christmas. And that leads me to today's Christmas song. Here is a 1916 recording of "Oh, Holy Night" performed by Enrico Caruso.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fifteen Days to Christmas

Christmas time is here. For some people, Christmas preparations started the day after Thanksgiving. Puff! Up went the Christmas tree and the Christmas decorations. A week later, the Christmas presents sit around the tree.

I hung the Christmas wreath on the front door yesterday. The day before that the husband and I did some online Christmas Shopping. Maybe tonight, I will finally put the artificial tree up. Since Sunday, I've thought about putting it up after the mama goes to sleep so she would have a pleasant surprise in the morning. But by 11 o'clock, I've lost my motivation. So, I'll probably do it while the mama watches her evening TV so she can distract herself with giving me directions on which branches need to be filled with more ornaments. Yes, the tree will definitely go up tonight. As will the Christmas stockings be hung on the hearth, including those of our dearly beloved parakeets in heaven.

Have you got your tree up yet?

Today's Christmas song is "Rockin Around the Christmas Tree", sung by Brenda Lee.  Enjoy!

P.S. I'm hooking up at Java's Follow Friday 40 and Over! Come check out other bloggers with me by clicking here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

K is for Knucklehead Acts

This is the season to be jolly. Ho! Ho! Ho!

No doubt the Republicans in Congress are happy. They got the tax breaks for the poor rich for another two years. And, then they turned around and blocked passage of a bill that would give a one-time amount of $250 in 2011 to the elderly and disabled receiving social security benefits. Because consumer prices have not climbed high enough, social security recipients do not warrant a cost-of-living increase for another year.

Heaven help those whose only income is a social security check, and may their monthly benefits be more than the average $1,153. That was the amount in October, 2010, according to the Social Security Administration Web site

I just don't get it. Unless, perhaps, just maybe, the Republicans figured they helped the common people already by agreeing to an extension of unemployment benefits.


With all the knuckleheadedness that's going on in Congress, I still am optimistic about humanity. The trick for me is not to be complacent. So, onward and upward.

Even after writing a downer post, I have a Christmas song for today.  Please check out "Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel," performed by Randy Granger on the Native American flute.

One last note: I am participating in Alphabe-Thursday, hosted by Jenny Matlock. For more interpretations of the letter K, please click here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Look up! You'll never know what you might see.

I've found another meme to have fun at—ABC Wednesday Round 7. This week's letter is U. Click here to visit other interpretations of the ubiquitous U. That is after checking out today's Christmas song. It also fits the the ABC theme.  "Up on the House Top" is one of my favorites. This version is performed by Gene Autry.  

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Playing Gardener

About a week ago, I got a paper bag full of iris bulbs from a woman who runs the community garden in our town. She'd dug up hundreds of them and was giving them away. Purple, white, blue, and yellow. But, I won't know what colors the iris are until they bloom. Yesterday, I had fun planting some of the bulbs in a bunch of baskets of different shapes and sizes. I can just imagine the iris baskets lined up in a row in the front yard come spring.

That is, if they bloom. The few times I've planted iris, nothing happened. I may have planted them too deeply, which iris aren't supposed to like.

The experts say that iris should be planted in September and October for a spring bloom. Maybe that's for another part of the country. 

The experts also say that iris should be planted before the frost. We've had a couple of frosty mornings already, but I don't think the experts were talking about California climate.  A woman at the thrift shop where I got some baskets (25 cents for 2!) told me to cover the bulbs with leaves. That should keep them warm, she said. Fortunately, yesterday morning, I helped the Mama prune the apple tree. Each basket is topped with a layer of apple leaves and apple twigs to keep the leaves snuggly in place. I just hope the iris won't be suffocated. 

So, come spring, we shall see what surprises pop up. If nothing happens, I'll just sprinkle the baskets with flower seeds of some sort. Que sera, sera.

Today's Christmas song is "Carol of the Bells," a Ukrainian carol  performed by the electric Jake Shimabukuro on his ukulele and the U.S. Marine Forces Pacific Band.  Enjoy!

Monday, December 6, 2010


When I'm good, I'm very good at doing stuff. Quite efficient, almost to the point of being annoyingly anal-retentive.

When I'm bad, I procrastinate. That pile of stuff in the hallway that I see as I type away on the keyboard, for instance, has been there since October. That's when I moved the pile from the side of my table where I couldn't see it at all. I won't even tell you long it was there.

Yeah, and the point is?

The husband's and my latest book was published last month. I'm finally getting around to mentioning it. I ought to have started publicizing it a month or so before it came out. Anyway here I am to brag about it.

Career Opportunities in Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources. A title I know you all want to go out and buy right now.  Then, you'll know what's going on when Hollywood turns it into a spectacular film.  Just kidding. About the latter, that is.

Our masterpiece is a career guide book about 99 occupations that are available in farming, forestry, fishing, agriscience, agribusiness, pet services,  veterinary medicine, landscaping, the food manufacturing industry, and natural resources management, among other areas.  To read about the specific jobs, please click here.

The title is part of the Career Opportunities series published Ferguson Publishing, an imprint of Infobase Publishing, Inc. in New York. The book is aimed at high school students, but it is also very appropriate and useful for college students, those wishing to change careers, and the general public.

So, if you know of young folks and not-so-young folks who may be interested in pursuing a career in the areas that our book covers, well, then let them know about Career Opportunities in Agriculture, Food, and Natural Resources.  The husband and I would greatly appreciate it.

And, now, for your Christmas song of the day. To celebrate the joy of another new book, I give you Glenn Miller and his Orchestra.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mele Kalikimaka!

I wouldn't mind finding an all-expense paid trip to Hawaii for the husband and me under the Christmas tree. What? You would, too?

The husband and I fantasize about one day living in Hawaii. We like it that much. Swimming in the ocean over there is heavenly. The husband says it's like floating in bathwater.

I was maybe 30 the first time I visited Hawaii. Immediately, I felt like I found home, as in this is where I finally belong. I was so close to being born there. If only.

The daddy had lived in Hawaii for almost 18 years before moving to the mainland. In the late 1920s, the daddy was among the thousands of young Filipino men who were recruited in the Philippines to work on the sugar cane plantations in Hawaii. He said his plan was to return home after he finished his contract. "Three years."

It didn't work out that way. He returned to his hometown after WWII was over, no longer a Filipino citizen. He'd served in the U.S. Army and when his sergeant had asked the daddy if he wanted to become a U.S. citizen, he had said, "Sure. You bet." Words to that effect. 

So, he went home, met the mama, and instantly fell in love. They started a life together there in the Philippines, but it did not take long for the daddy to realize that opportunities would be better his family in the United States. Hence, back he came. In six months, he made enough money working long hours in the fields to book passage for the mama and the brother. The daddy and the mama never looked back.

What a ramble to introduce today's Christmas song! It's called Mele Kalikimaka! which is Merry Christmas in Hawaiian. The performers are Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters.  Enjoy, and Aloha!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

What Do You Want for Christmas?

All I want is what every beauty contestant wants: Peace in the world.


Friday, December 3, 2010

What a Show!

This was earlier in the week. Or, was it last week?  All I remember is I've never seen a sky like that! I was so fortunate.

To see what else is up around the world, check out Skywatch Friday.

And, here's your rocking Christmas song for the day. For two more songs, click here.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

J is for Joy of Christmas

Yesterday, I found the joy of Christmas  at a local holiday bazaar. For the last 20 or so years, the group of dedicated hospital volunteers in my town have sponsored this event. The husband and I happened to already be out and about, otherwise I doubt we would've gone. I am so glad we did drop by. The bazaar got me into the Christmas spirit.

There were only a few vendors, but the place was full of cheer and goodwill from the vendors, the hospital volunteers, and the patrons.  The husband and I enjoyed walking around and looking at the knitted, crocheted, and other crafted items. You could tell that each item was made by someone who took care and had pride for having done a work well done.

One table was full of tiny wooden animals and figurines. As we walked up to it,  an elderly man came up to me and gifted me with a mini doll ornament. He turned to the husband and said, "You look kind of fishy." Then he presented the husband with a mini fish ornament. What a charmer the man was! We spent a long time looking at his wooden crafts and listening to him talk about how he made them. His vivacity was so contagious. I don't think he cared if he sold anything because he was surprised when I did buy four of his coasters at 50 cents apiece.

The bazaar also sold lunch. We weren't hungry but maybe next year we should eat there. Not yet noon, the tables were already full with mostly elderly women who were happily munching and gabbing away. It was the joyful look and sound of what I think Christmas is all about.

So, now I'm ready for Christmas. That joy I found yesterday is inside me. It will help me keep things in perspective as we go through the commercial and materialistic aspects of the holiday season. I'm sure it will. How about you? Are you ready to just enjoy yourself with the spirit of Christmas?

Today is the letter "J" at Alphabe-Thursday, hosted by Jenny Matlock. Click here to read what J-things other bloggers are writing about. That is, after listening to today's Christmas song.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Christmas Song A Day?

I got this idea from a Facebook friend who is attempting to post a song a day at his page. With 16 minutes left to the first of December, I give you the first song. From the Beatles, of course!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Unattended Little Boy

The little boy, maybe 2 and a half or so, stood on the edge of the lawn pointing happily at the red and orange leaves in the gutter. He wore no hat nor gloves. He had on no shoes or socks. He wore only a short-sleeved tee-shirt and thin shorts. The temperature was in the 50s. What the heck was he doing outside?

As we pedaled by him on our bicycles, I did not see any adult keeping tabs on him.


A few houses down the street, an elderly man was mucking about in his garage. "Excuse me," I called, hopefully, "Are you missing a boy?"

"No," he said. "Is there one missing?"

"There's a little boy on the corner. He isn't wearing any shoes or socks."

"That's not good," said the man looking up the street. 

"Do you know where he might live?"

"No," said the old man.

The husband and I turned back.

The little boy couldn't or wouldn't answer any of our questions. "What's your name?" "Are you lost?" "Where do you live?" He merely wanted us to look at the pretty leaves in front of him.

Because he kept pointing across the street from where he stood, I took it to mean he lived there. So, I lead him to the house directly across from where he stood.

Knock. Knock.

Nobody was home. Would people really abandon their kid like this?

The little boy followed me to the next house, pointing at every thing that seemed to fascinate him. No one answered the doorbell. Dogs barked from inside the garage. No doubt they were warm.

All the houses around us seemed tightly shut. I did not want to knock on every door. Was nobody asking where their little boy was? What were we going to do with this kid? It was time to call for the police.

While the husband talked with the dispatcher, I needed to keep the kid warm. He was healthy and big for his age, but I did not want him coming down with hypothermia.  I'm sure the almost three feet tall boy looked quite funny wearing my pink skull cap,  orange gloves, orange jacket, and purple sneakers.

After the husband got off the phone, he went and knocked at a house where we had seen small kids play in the front yard. Fortunately, the husband's bright chartreuse bike kept the little boy mesmerized to stand in place with me. As he stood gazing at the bicycle, I noticed a woman walking up the street from which we had turned back. She was talking on her cellphone. I called to her, pointing to the boy, "Is this your son?" She kept looking at me, so I kept repeating myself.

As she crossed the street, the little boy shouted gleefully, "Mama, mama!"

The woman continued talking on the phone until she reached us.

"What's your name?" I asked the woman.

She looked at me unsurely. Remembering that she was speaking Spanish on the phone, I asked again, "¿Come te llamas?"

Then she woke up. Another fortunate break: she spoke English. It turned out that her son had been standing in front of his house. He probably slipped out of the garage when her husband had the door open. (The door was closed when we were there.) She had been in the bathroom so didn't know that her son was not in the house.


I'm just glad all turned out well.  I hope.

How long had the husband and I been out there with the boy? The husband thought it was probably 10 or 15 minutes. I thought it was forever.

The lessons I learned yesterday afternoon.
  • Having a cell phone is definitely wonderful to have on hand to call the police when you need help.
  • The husband and I have no clue about kids' ages. The husband thought he was maybe 4 or 5 and possibly autistic because he wasn't answering my questions. I didn't put everything together until after it was all over and I rewound that incident in my head over and over.
  • The little boy may have understood me if I spoke in Spanish. Will I brush up on my Spanish skills? Probably not.
  • Always go knock on the house in front of which a seemingly lost kid stands.
Maybe the husband and I should've minded our own business. But, if you saw a small child wearing only a tee-shirt and shorts in the cold, without any adult supervision, would you do nothing?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Skywatch Friday: West vs. East

Earlier this week, I stood beside my car and took a shot of the evening sky to the west. Then I turned and took one of the sky to the east. How amazing the difference was! At least, to me.

To the West

To the East

To see sky views from around the world, check out Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dear Readers,

I wish each and all of you joy, peace, love, and happiness.

Thank you always for your visits. 

Truly yours, 

Su-sieee! Mac

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I is for Idiosyncratic Iconoclast

The photographer wishes to thank the husband for agreeing to pose at the given moments and allowing her to post the following photos that exemplify the spirit of idiosyncratic iconoclasts. (Whew! What a sentence of big formal words. That is, for me.)

Want to meet the husband? Click over to Arrmac's Blog!

Want to check out more "I is for..." posts. Head over to Alphabe-Thursday, hosted by Jenny Matlock.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Autumn Self-Portrait

I like Autumn. 

I seem to wake up in the fall. 

Maybe it's because I'm a fall Autumn baby. 

Yes, that sounds good.

This week, I'm participating in Outdoor Wednesday, hosted by A Southern Daydreamer. See what other bloggers have been doing outside by clicking here.

P.S. I'm also linking up with Follow Friday 40 and Over, hosted by Never Growing Old. Come check out other blogs with me by clicking here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Ups and Downer of the Weekend

Because Veterans Day fell on a Thursday this year, the past weekend was a four-day one for some folks. A few of our friends think that the husband and I have a seven-day weekend because we work at home. I say they're just envious. But, I admit that if I ever had to do a 9 to 5 job again, it would be a very difficult adjustment. So, knock on wood that won't need to be.

Anyway, back to the highlights of the weekend.

The husband and I went downtown to watch the Veterans Day Parade. That was the first time I've been to one. Ever. It was a short, but fun, parade. 

If you love a small town parade, come to Hollister, California.  A couple weeks ago was the high school homecoming parade. A couple of weeks from now will be the "Hey, it's time for Christmas!" parade. That's not the real name, but you know what I mean.

Other annual parades that march through downtown include the Portuguese Festival Parade,  the Horse Show and Rodeo Parade, and the Mexican Independence Day Parade.


That's what popped out of my mouth about one hour into our three hours of doing research in a library. Fortunately, it was not at our city library, but the one in the town and county next door.  I didn't mumble it or say it under the breath. I said it quite loudly so every kid and adult in the children's section heard me. There was immediate stunned silence, including from the husband who just a second before my outburst had been talking to me about our research. We were talking in just-above-whisper tones, which was hard to hear because of the NOISE around us.

Being that it was the children's section, some kind of noise is to be expected.

Quiet noise, that is.

Not toddlers shrieking. Not small kids who were talking in outside voices as they played? worked? on computers half the room away from us. Not middle schoolers giggling as they chased each other up and down the aisles.

The unsupervised children wasn't even the worse part of it all. The worse was seeing parents stand or sit next to their children who shrieked and talked in outside voices. Obviously, they had learned to tune their kids out.  The librarians? They sat about 10 feet away. Shelves blocked their view from the children's section. So, I suppose, their motto was similar to Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heroes, "I see nothing! I know nothing!"  None of the librarians looked happy to be there.

After my outburst, some adults and children tried to monitor themselves and others. Ssssh-shhhh!  A half-hour or so later, the husband and I moved to the quietest corner we could find, where all we had to contend with was the constant chatter of the library technicians at the circulation desk, and later a teenage boy who droned on about nothing to a teenage girl who barely responded.

What ever happened to the standards of Quiet! in libraries that librarians establish?

Every now and then, the husband would look at me and crack up, as he remembered my outburst the day before. I'm glad I continue to amuse the fellow.

Most of the day I was on a ladder pruning an apple tree in the backyard. The husband joined me after lunch to reach the tall branches. The mama sat beneath us stripping leaves off the branches and cutting branches so they would fit into the green recycling bin.

We worked until almost sunset. A good time was had by all.

By the way, I understand why the mama likes to get up on the ladder. There's something rather freeing, and risky, by being up there. In other words, cheap thrills.

Have you ever heard a British-style brass band?

Try it, you might just like it. That's what the husband and I did on Sunday afternoon. We made our way down to a local church to hear the Pacific Brass Band, a group of local musicians, perform a diverse range of marches, hymns, folk songs, and other pieces. The band is composed of brass instruments only—cornets, tenor horns, flugelhorns, trombones, and tubas. Oh, and percussion, too. Gotta have that beat.  It was amazing how the band got such a full concert-hall-size sound in the church.

I couldn't find a sample of the band's music, but I did find a fun video that will give you a general idea of what a British-style brass band sounds like.  Take it away, Mr. Bean.

P.S. Hope you had a glorious weekend, too, with more ups than downers.