I prefer winter and Fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape — the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. ~Andrew Wyeth

Monday, December 31, 2012

Three and a half hours until the New Year

Having a small child with you for a few days is like... life before you retired. There is no excuse for not getting up early and you better have your clothes on and be ready for anything. It's all about the unexpected. It's about having the right answer for the questions and making sure that there are apples, carrots and chocolate milk on hand.
And then, when you think that you are doing it all wrong...
You get this... flowers picked "Just for you, Noni."
Kind of makes "Hi Noni!" at 5:30 in the morning a little more palatable.

Friday, since we got up SO early, we drove over to WalMart by 7:30 a.m. This is a really good time to shop. There was no one there. (I must remember this.)
Little Bean needed another pair of shoes or boots to hike in. We found a pair that he liked a lot.
Pretty cool don't you think? He fell in love with them. The only problem was that they weren't waterproof and I didn't have any waterproofing spray to put on them, so they got kind of wet on the hike. At least he had his own shoes to put on later while these dried. We also bought watermelon toothpaste and some Trident sugarless gum that didn't "sting" like Noni's spearmint gum did.
Little Bean has the most amazing toothbrush. It it a battery operated brush that lights up with flashing lights.  Red for a minute, then green ( or yellow) for another minute and you are suppose to keep brushing  until it changes color again. This way you brush long enough and don't have to count the seconds and minutes. I can't remember the brand but it's really a great idea for kids.

The Bean helped Papa with some chores.
He got a refresher course on what Poison Oak looks like in Winter.

 Without leaves, poison oak looks different than in the Summer so we showed him the bunches of bare branches and where it grows. Well, it grows all over the place. It's so prolific, but by the end of our walk he was pointed it out and staying away from it.
He wanted to know why the deer didn't get poison oak if they were always walking through it. I said I wasn't sure but they were probably immune to it.
"What's "immune" mean, Noni?"
"The deer are around it all the time so they build up a resistance to it."
"You mean that they don't get it if they touch it?"
"Right, they just don't seem to react to it."
"But I do?"
"Yes. Noni does too."
"OK!"
Oh good. I must have said the right thing. Immune... resistance... react. Words that could have gotten me into trouble. But he was OK with my assessment of the situation. 

Then we went on a hike to the top of the mountain. It was beautiful and cold. We walked up and over into an area that has a seasonal creek and had a mining operation years ago.
Bean walked with his grandpa down to the creek and jumped on a log that was in the water... and then over to the other side.
He was really good at balancing on one foot and then the other. He never complained about anything and did what Papa told him.
I love this sweat shirt. It kind of fit the day.
We lifted an old wheelbarrow to see what was underneath. We would NEVER do this in the summer. Might be a Rattletail under it. But there wasn't anything except a worm or two.
Can you see how dark and shiny the Bean's boot was? It was soaked through. We should have bought rain boots.
We walked back across the creek and up to the top of the hill. Then we continued on up the road to an old cabin that we have watched slowly collapsing for 16 years.
It was a one room cabin that someone actually lived in. I found Irises in the area, years ago, and transplanted them to our garden. There were bed springs and a sink inside, and an old water tank on its side. Pretty soon the earth will take back the wood and the rusty springs will disappear too.
The Bean was rather quiet standing there with Papa. It's kind of sad to see a house, that someone has lived in, just go to pieces. It's like the lives of someone, who bothered to build a little house and try their luck at finding gold, was at its end. The dream had died. I hope that they found something and that living in this beautiful place was worth more than gold to them. It had been for us.
We turned back and walked along the ridge.
For the first time he ran ahead of us. We found a tree with clumps of Mistletoe in it, but too high to pick.
Little Bean finally said that his feet were cold, so we started back down to the house.
 "Come on Papa.We need to hurry"

When we got back to the house we had to soak Little Bean's feet in bath water to warm them up and change clothes. After lunch Papa took a nap and we went outside to do a little dancing.
This is called the "Running up the dirt hill" dance.
 Look at that form!

This one is called "Skateboarding on a dirt hill." His dad use to do this on a BMX bike.. at warp speed. Use to scare me to death watching his father do tricks on his bike.
 I was glad there was no skateboard or bike underneath the Bean.
He nailed the landing and them...
The Bean did a graceful " half turn in the air". I think the special tongue movement has something to do with this amazing skill. I think it's inherited. The Prospector's grandmother always did this when she was concentrating on something.
And then.... the landing.
"Perfect"

 "Yes, it was."
"I'm cool."

Then the Bean made a "Play yard" out of salvaged wood.
This was done with pieces of wood that were in a pile near the old goat house. Don't tell me this generation doesn't have any imagination... that they can only play video games. He made a balance beam, a teeter totter, and two rocker boards to rock back and forth on. He would survive if the world lost its power grid... as long as his feet weren't wet.
Then we cleaned up, went in the house and had some "quiet time" before dinner. (This was for Noni.)

After dinner we had a fire in the chimenea stove outside.
 I LOVE sitting next to a fire, on a really cold night, outside. The fragrance was like camping in the mountains.
We don't build a fire outside very often. It's usually too rainy in the winter and not even allowed in the summer. But this was the perfect night.
Little Bean was excited about being outdoors and watching Papa building a fire.
Little Bean was outside, on a cold winter's night. He was lovin' life.
 The Chimenea was hot and happy.
I caught this photo with my new Nikon D5100 camera. Those were sparks and the camera followed the pattern of the sparks as they disappeared into the air.
Little Bean walked around with a flashlight trying to find animal eyes below the fence.
He said that he saw something move in the area below a pile of tree branches.. 
That's when he came back and sat with me again.
He wanted to know if wild animals could get though the two fences.
I told him "No. They are afraid of people, the Christmas lights, the dogs and PAPA."
Then he disappeared , leaving the flashlight on the chair. 
Guess where he was?
I guess he decided that being with Papa and Cutter was a better idea. They were all sitting on the couch INSIDE the warm house.
I sat out there for a few more minutes while the fire burned itself down. Then I returned to the house. It was nice and warm. I could see the fire from the living room. It was almost gone.
What a great way to end the day.

Little Bean left Saturday afternoon. 
His Dad and his brother came up and got him. 
It's kind of quiet around here.
Noni and Papa slept until 7:30 on Sunday. 
  Carl and Cutter keep looking for Little Bean.
We have lots of chocolate milk left... and lots of good memories.
See you soon Little Bean. 
We love you!



Three more hours to go...
 Happy New Year Everyone! 
I hope that it's a good year and that it brings good health and many blessings to all of you.







Sunday, December 30, 2012

Little Bean comes for a Visit

The Prospector and I packed up the dogs, on Christmas Day, took the truck (and the car) and drove down to the Bay Area, to my sister's house. I actually got my husband to leave the mountain and stay overnight with the stipulation that the dogs would come too.
My sister's house was beautiful and we had a wonderful day... a special family get together that was enjoyed by everyone.
 I stayed an extra day and then picked up my youngest grandson, Little Bean, for his first trip to Noni and Papa's house by himself.  He is six years old. He had talked about this trip excitedly. He was telling me all the things that we could do when we got to the farm.
But first we had to drive up into the mountains for two and a half hours. To a six year old  two hours is like ALL DAY.
Mommy said that he would probably fall asleep a few minutes after we started. RIGHT!
Instead of falling asleep, he decided to watch everything and ask questions. The main one was, "Are we there yet?" I'm sure you've heard that one before??
He said he couldn't sleep because the sun was in his eyes. We were driving east and the sun was, indeed, in our eyes.When we turned north to drive over the San Joaquin River, again, I thought he might take a nap. He got really quiet. When I looked back to see if he was asleep, he said, "Noni, why do you and Papa live so far away? How long before we get there?" I told him that we had another hour and a half to go.  I told him that we use to live in the town we had just passed through and that was where his dad grew up. His next question was, " Did you have kids when you lived in that town?" I realized that I was going to have to be very clear from now on... that a six year old only processes NOW and that it's very hard to understand a timeline of Daddy being a baby, then a child, then a Daddy. This is not an easy concept.
So I tried again.
"Well Bean, Daddy use to be your age and then he grew up. You will too." Before I could add any pertinent information to back up my statement, he said, "What are those tall white things over there?"
Thinking I had dodged a bullet (sorry!) with the human development issue, I responded quickly, "Oh, those are windmills. They make energy from the wind."
"But they don't go very fast.". He was really watching them and then he added, " How do they go faster?'
"They need more wind. The wind makes them go faster."
He looked at me and said, "Oh." and there was a moment of silence. Only a moment. Then he saw the sheep.
 "Look Noni. What is that?" A huge flock of sheep were lying out in a field enjoying the sun.
"Those are sheep." I said.
"Oh." he said. "Some are little."
"Yes, Bean, the little ones are called lambs."
"That's nice. I would like to touch them."
"Well Bean, the guardian dogs probably wouldn't let us touch the babies."
(OOPS!!)
"What dogs?" He hadn't seen the big white Maremma's that were lying around with the sheep.They really blend in.
"The dogs that watch over all the sheep out there. They live with the sheep."
"The dogs LIVE with the sheep?"
"Yes!" I said, "They are trained to take care of the sheep."
"Even in the rain."
"Yep, even in the rain."
We came to the Rio Vista Bridge and turned east again.
Bean spotted a hawk on a telephone line.
"Look at that bird."
It was about then that I realized that my grandsons attention span was saving me from serious discussions on any one subject and that all answers could be in very general terms. It also made me realize how new his view of life was and how he still had such a sense of wonder about everything.  He was discovering life.
What happens when we grow up? Where does that wonder go?
We stopped at a Farmer's Market to use the bathroom and we saw a goat and some chickens.
Between the Farmer's Market and Highway 5, in the Central Valley, we saw Egrets, hawks, more sheep and some starlings doing their graceful dance together in the air. I saw all of this though the youthful eyes of my grandson. I had seen it all before. I drive this route all the time. This time was different.
We drove to a gas station  and filled up. Bean noticed that there were two red trucks and a red sports car in the gas station. He said that he wanted a red sports car like that one. I said that it was beautiful and someday he could probably buy one. He said "Yes, I will."
 Then he wanted to know how long it would be before we got to see Papa.
I said, "About an hour."
"Why does it take so long?" Bean was getting restless.
I said, "It just does."
"We-ll Noni," ( this "well" had two syllables and an accent on the "we".), he said, " I think that you live too far away. I am tired of driving."
I'm sorry Bean, but we are more that half way there now. We will be there before you know it."
LOOK, Noni, I see COWS!"
Bless the milk cow farms in East Lodi. They don't know how much time they consumed and how they made the last leg of a trip across the Central Valley of California a whole lot faster.
"I love cows, Noni."
"Do you Bean?"
"Yes." he smiled, "They are my favorites."
Bean doesn't think that they need extra hay. He thinks they should eat the grass that is in the field.
Bean doesn't like the smell. ( I admit. It was pretty bad.)
Bean says that cows are really big and they lay down in the "muddy-poopy"mess and that is why they smell so bad.
I joked about which ones were the "chocolate" ones that gave chocolate milk.
He wasn't sure about that, but... could he have marshmallow's in his chocolate milk when we got to the house... and did we have the little marshmallows for his MARSHMALLOW GUN that he brought with him.
I told him we did.
We finally got into town, picked up the mail and headed down our road and home to PAPA and the dogs. They were all waiting for us.
The Bean rested, ate dinner, played with the dogs, watched a cartoon movie, played outside and made me a special puzzle picture at his brother's favorite desk in the extra room.
He was settling in and getting use to being with Noni and Papa in what he called "the house with lots of old things in it and no other houses around it." He wasn't afraid. He seems content. 
Little Bean was here for a few days, suit case, Bug Vacuum, Marshmallow Gun and all.
Uh, oh! We are going to have to put shoes and socks up somewhere safe. You know how Carl likes to steal  shoes and socks..
Tomorrow we will climb the rock wall, build a playground, throw rocks ( Yes, you can do that here. We have acres of rock throwing space.) and go buy a pair of boots at Wall Mart. He needs an extra pair for the hike with Noni and Papa.
Sweet dreams little guy. See you in the morning.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Holiday Blessings to you all

Have yourself a very merry little Christmas.
Let your heart be light.
Through the years we all will be together,
if the Fates allow.
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough.
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
 
 
 
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas was written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane. Judy Garland sang the Christmas song in 1944 in the musical Meet Me in St. Louis.
 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"The weather outside is Frightful..."

But our little home is warm and delightful.
A storm is moving over California today bringing lots of rain and wind. It's a day that make you want to stay inside.
Everything was rattling and making noise out there.
The wind shook the house. "What was that?, Cutter said, as he got up and ran into the bedroom.
" I don't know.", said Carl, He looked a little insecure about the situation.
He wanted to be brave but he looked at me to be reassured that everything was all right.
Such spoiled babies. They each have a blanket to keep them warm now that the cold has set in. They've also requested a covered patio, next winter, so they don't have to get wet when they need to do their doody (duty) outside. Yea... they are a little over the top, these Corgis and it's our fault. We enable their lifestyle... but a covered patio? I don't think so. Sorry boys.

I have pumpkin breads in the oven and there is some Christmas wrapping to do.
The weather is fierce out there but the Christmas tree near the window seems to buffer the storm's intensity. This is the "other" tree. My little "German" Christmas tree is over on the dining room buffet. This one is filled with family ornaments.
The piano always holds most of the Christmas decorations in this small living room of ours.
The piano takes up a large amount of space in this room but I love this old "friend" of mine. I really don't play much anymore but I don't want to give it up. Beside, my oldest grandson just started piano lessons. It's a long tradition in this family. He is sooo talented (says his Noni) and I want him to be able to play when he is here. So that piano is staying right where it is.
 There are charming felted Christmas trees hanging from the candlesticks that a blogging friend felted for me.

This one is my favorite.

And a paper star that I brought back from Germany.
Another one tops the tree next to the piano. These are very traditional in Germany and were at all the Christmas Markets.

Across the piano front are the cards that have been sent to us and some of my mother's old Christmas sheet music.  It's wonderful that some friends still send real Christmas cards.
Even a very creative one from my friend "C" and her daughter.
She had this made with a photo I took of her dog, Max, this summer when we took a ride into the Delta and she found the home of her dreams. She is now the proud owner of that beautiful old two story home in the small river town of Isleton. She was handed the keys last Friday. Oh Joy!! What a Christmas present this is! I'm sure that Max is happy about it too. He will have a backyard and lots of room to run. Go Max!!
I opened the door for a minute.
So I could step outside onto the porch and take a picture of the storm from one of the "garden ladies" point of view.
She is soaked and not talking, but her Ivy "hair" is looking really good. I wanted to show you how the autumn leaves are still holding on to the Flowering Pear Tree, even in this wind. See them in the distance, on the right, flashing orange and red? Amazing that they still cling to the tree branches.
Back inside I sat down to write a short post.
Cutter is right here next to me on the guest room floor. He's not sure about all the commotion of Christmas... but he will be happy about bringing one of the grandsons home with us. He and Carl will have someone to play with.
Oh no, what was that? The lights just flickered. Got to go.



Friday, December 21, 2012

Lost in Berlin...kind of.

Oh yes you can.
One late afternoon my sister and I decided to walk a few blocks from our hotel to the Brandenburg Gate and then to a bigger Christmas Market (Bigger that the one near our hotel.) that I had seen on the bus earlier in the day.
Yea, we decided to take a walk... in a town that we were unfamiliar with... without food or water... and without directions, on a very cold rainy evening. I have always had a really good sense of direction, (I actually brag about it.) and it has only failed me in a few situations, I rely on this sense of direction without hesitation. I inherited this ability from my father. He always said that you will never get lost if you remember landmarks and "Know your directions (north, south, east and west)."  "Look at the sky.", he would say.
 And it works... most of the time. I always seem to know what direction I'm going. But, in Berlin, this sense of direction acquired some kind of inner ear malfunction.
That evening my sister and I walked down past the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, one more block, to the Brandenburg Gate. We walked into a gatehouse, one of two corner buildings that flank each side of the gate, and marveled at the wonderful columns and style of the building and the lights that  are suspended from the ceiling. There was an abundant combination of neoclassic, Greek/roman architecture with some 1920's  accessories. Considering what this city has been through, the wars it has fought and the restoration  it has gone through every hundred years or so, it all looks pretty good. It all seems to work together beautifully.
At this point I thought that we were looking east and that the north was to our left. Wrong, wrong, wrong! I proceeded to tell my sister that we needed to walk left up the Strasse des 17, Juni which was west and I thought was north.  We walked along the edge of a beautiful park area that was shiny with rain.The sky was still kind of bright, but overcast and darkening.
The street was void of shops and buildings. This was not like I had remembered on the bus.
This was another memorial to the Russian soldiers.  I didn't remember seeing this one before. So we decided to turn around and go back toward the Brandenburg gate, where there were lights and activity.
It was getting darker and the lights were coming on everywhere. How could I have been so sure that the market was down this street, in this direction?
On our way back to the Gate we saw this plaque embedded in the sidewalk.
Does anyone remember President Reagan saying this? I do, but then I'm older than  most of you.

The Brandenburg Gate has always been something I wanted to see. It's the iconic landmark of Berlin and was the only structure that was left standing in this area in 1945, after the War was over.
This massive gate is the last of 18 original gates.
The first Brandenburg Gate was built in 1734, when a wall was constructed around the edge of the city. This wall was not for defensive purposes but for controlling the flow of people and goods to and from the city. 

The current Brandenburg Gate was constructed between 1788 and 1791 as part of a programme of building works to improve the wall and many of its gates. The Gate was designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans in the classicist style and in 1793 the Quadriga, the triumphal statue of the winged goddess of peace driving a four-horse chariot, was added on top of the gate.
In 1806 the Quadriga was stolen by Napoleon following the occupation of Berlin by the French army and it was removed to Paris. It was returned to Berlin in 1814 following Napoleon's fall from power, and the statue's olive wreath was exchanged for an Iron Cross.
I think this is the most beautiful chariot. A chariot drawn by four horses driven by Victoria, the Roman goddess of victory.
My sister is showing you how to look very confident under the Brandenburg gate, when you're cold and tired. Her older sister said "Smile for the camera."... and she did.
We continued walking south... no, I meant west... I was so sure it was south. 
Across the Pariser Platz and continued on down the wide boulevard,
and into what looked more familiar... more like a city street with shops and stores and lots of people.
One of the rules for being lost is that you should stay with the flow of people. This appears to work and although we could have retraced our steps back to our hotel, we were determined to find the Christmas Market that was here... some place.  So, we weren't completely lost. We just really had no idea where we were going. As it turned out, we walked four very long blocks in the rain and cold before we went into a store and ASKED directions. A lovely young Berliner, who didn't know very much English, finally figured out that we wanted to go to the Christmas Market. She pointed WEST down a street called Friednichstrasse (which was actually SOUTH) and so we walked four more blocks.
By this time I couldn't feel my legs anymore. We are talking LONG blocks and it was very, very cold. I was praying for a taxi sighting.
We finally saw the entrance to the Market. There were hundreds of  people out there enjoying the evening.
These folks acted like it wasn't WINTER. They were all having FUN. Children were laughing and eating all kinds of goodies. They were truly enjoying the whole Wintry, Christmas, "sausage in a bun" and hot Gluhwein scene. They did not seem to mind the COLD.
We looked around, bought a few things but really needed some food.
The market was surrounded by beautiful old buildings.

And overseeing the whole Gendarmenmarkt was a guardian. A winged lion that represented, to me, the toughness of these German people.
 That lion sure didn't represent this "California girl.". I was so tired that I couldn't enjoy the shopping. That's a first.
 Then we found a small cafe that was INSIDE ... and warm. It was kind of a tent but there were solid walls and the warmth must have been from all the people that were in there.  No one spoke English but somehow we conveyed, to the young waiter, that we would like some soup and a bottle of water. It was a miracle. He came back with good hot soup, bread and our bottled water.  I was never so grateful for hot food in my life.

We had no idea how to get back to the hotel without  retracing our steps and that was not going to happen.
They would have found me lying on the steps of a store front the next morning. The headline would have read.
Stupid American found dead a few blocks from her hotel. Cause of death: Inability to withstand mild winter conditions on streets of Berlin.
As it turned out, the fates were with us. We walked out of the Market and crossed the street. There before us, pulled over and waiting for someone, was a TAXI. I ran over and knocked on his window and said, "Are you working? Can you give us a ride? Please!"
Can you believe I said that? Isn't that what he does for a living?
Sis and I jumped into the cab and we went through this "nobody knows what anyone is talking about" conversation about where we were staying and he said, "Yes, The Berlin Marriott, OK." He never said another word to us, nor we to him, until we arrived at the hotel. It was worth every euro we had to pay... and the tip.
The next day we left for Dresden.
In retrospect, it was a grand adventure. In reality it was beyond what a 67 year old with bad feet should have been doing on a rainy, cold, early winter night in Berlin, when she had been walking and touring all day long... and this walk had been my idea. But I got to see the Brandenburg Gate, at night, with its beautiful Chariot driven by a Roman goddess. Now, I'm glad we did it.
Our warm hotel room never looked so good.