Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck

This book, the "Oregon Trail" by Rinker Buck, is delightfully fun and informative. It is a modern day adventure story set in an old covered wagon pulled by mules.

The style is similar to author Bill Bryson's work - kind of quirky with odd experiences you laugh at, but mixed with personal tidbits you find interesting and captivating.

Before reading this book, I didn't know the Oregon Trail was preserved as a National historic trail. I assumed it was now just freeways with a historical marker here and there to inform us what used to be.  But the Oregon Trail has only two stretches of suburban spawn around Scottsbluff, Nebraska and Boise, Idaho. The rest of the 2,100 miles is still accessible along remote farm and ranch roads. This, to me, is rather amazing. This would be a new and different way to see America.

More than 400,000 pioneers made this trek to come West. But somehow, having the experience redone in modern times with a gifted writer made the travel adventure come to life.

The author is someone we can all probably relate to in some way. He is middle aged, divorced, a drinker of wine, likes his shirts pressed and ironed, kind of a neat freak, and has career burnout. His brother, who relentlessly wears him down to accompany him on this trip, seems to be his polar opposite - messy, loud, a mechanic, opinionated, broke, with health problems. You can't help but wonder if one of them will be killed, or maimed on this trip.

Sharing travel experiences is often a snoozer for the reader, but this author does it well. It is a fun read, especially if you like American history, adventure stories, have family who crossed the plains, or even have a weird sibling you can't escape from, you will probably enjoy this book.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


"Yes, I can keep a secret" says the Bambina.

"Psst. I have a SECRET! It's my first one!"

Saturday, April 23, 2016

computers r us

Isn't this amazing?  much of the family is each busy on their computer...

Who knew that the old $4,000 family computer in 1984, would spawn and create something like this?

Friday, April 22, 2016

I love mommy!

"Yep, I got what I wanted!" remarks the Bambina. "It's just me and mommy all the way!"

"Uh, what are you doing? Don't you dare ruin this for me."

Thursday, April 21, 2016

New Pool

With the water shortage, swimming pools are getting a bit smaller in California.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Singing on the way to grandma's house

This is what I believe it's like coming to grandma's house - everyone singing songs all along the way

but this is what it is really like...Christmas songs, even though it is Spring. What can I say. It cracks me up. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Really? This is fun?

Well, at least one person is having fun!

Green Eyes

I may not be in the "top 1% of gazillionaires" but I am in the 2% world population of green eyes!  Wooohoo!


HBO has a new movie out about the confirmation of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. I was one of those who was glued to the radio in 1991 to listen to the hearings and now with this new movie, I became re-engaged and once again, re-enraged.

But what I liked the most, was how the movie showed the positive outcomes of this tragedy. This hearing sparked a dialog about sexual harassment and initiated placing new boundaries of protection around those who are harassed. It also spurred more women to run for elected office.

How did Clarence Thomas fare after this public "high tech lynching by uppity blacks" (as he called it). Well, he was confirmed to the Supreme Court where he can not be fired. He also never speaks during the presentations to the Supreme Court, and for me, he seems to be saying he doesn't have to participate if he doesn't want to, and so doesn't. It is like he is a little kid refusing to talk because he believes he is punishing us. He isn't. He is showing us who he really us - still bitter.

And how has Anita Thomas done after this? She continued to teach, wrote some books; in other words, she survived.

So, Ms Hill, I thank you for your courage of speaking up. I am one who believed you back then, and I still do. Your voice made a difference to me.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Like Father Like Son

One of these is the dad and the other is the son. Which is which?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bambina's 9 month old photo shoot

"OK, it's time for your 9 month old photo shoot.
Take a deep breath...

and hold it....

and now let it out...."

 "She did it!  I knew she could!"

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Tracy Chapman - Give Me One Reason

Don't you just love watching the movement of the body and that synchronized smooth flow? It can be breath taking and be a moment of ahhhhh. This dance, by Chris Martin & Larkin Poynton, to the music of Tracy Chapman, "Give Me One Reason" is very lovely.

Monday, April 11, 2016

"We are all Completely Beside Ourselves" by Karen Joy Fowler

This book, "We are All Completely Beside Ourselves" captivated me in the first chapter. Then, half way through the book, I looked up and said, "boy, I didn't see that one coming!" I haven't been this surprised with a plot twist since "Gone Girl," I then had to take a drink of hot chocolate, then dove back wanting to know more.

I selected this book because it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2014, so thought it must be good. And it is. This is one of those books that will linger long after you come to the end.

Here is what GoodReads says about the book:

Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind.

Now her adored older brother is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism. And her once lively mother is a shell of her former self, her clever and imperious father now a distant, brooding man.

And Fern, Rosemary’s beloved sister, her accomplice in all their childhood mischief? Fern’s is a fate the family, in all their innocence, could never have imagined. 

If you dabble in science, feel like you can classify peoples weird behaviors, or even question government authority, you will probably enjoy this book, too.  You will also probably feel better if you read it while you are snuggled in your blankie. 

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Death by Chocolate

My mother had a friend who was found dead in a final pose of taking a bite of a chocolate.

"Wouldn't that be a great way to die?" mom asked. I had to agree.

I hadn't thought of this death experience until I heard Sia's song, "Death by Chocolate" where she declares death by chocolate is a myth. But I know better.

I picture the death of my mom's friend, with a gooey red center - like a cherry chocolate because death is usually messy. Mom, however, pictured a Mrs. Cavanaugh's Mindy Mint chocolate death - sweet and kind of fresh.

Yep, death by chocolate. The ultimate way to go.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


If you are like me, you may find the produce isle of peppers a bit overwhelming. There are now so many peppers on display and some of us have absolutely no idea which one to choose. This guide has helped me at least put a name to some of those peppers.

Peppers also have a heat scale. Knowing this can help you judge how much of the pepper you dare to use, or how much you want to torture your guests when they come for a meal. Since I'm kind of a pepper wimp, I usually hover near the mild range - that is unless I'm having a mood swing or am really pissed off at someone I'm having over to dinner. THEN, I just sit back and wait. Sometimes these have been my best dishes, and if not, it has at least helped clarify my mood swing.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Speaking Alien

My granddaughter is now talking!  She speaks with a foreign tongue and we are pretty sure it is ALIEN!

How do we know this is ALIEN?  Because it is very similar to the speeches in this DOCUMENTARY, featuring aliens from the Galaxy, speaking in their own tongue, too.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Deal Making

"I will trade you THIS cheerio for some ice cream" says the Bambino.

"Do you think she will take the bait," asks the Princess?

Waiting for the train

The grandkid LOVES trains, so waiting for a train to go by can also be filled with excitement.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Making corn tortillas from SCRATCH

It's time for a new cooking adventure!
This video made me want to run out and buy a tortilla press until I realized this is probably where they got the design for the mammography machine.  So now, I'm reconsidering.

But Pati Jinich's kitchen is so orderly and pretty while she makes corn tortilla and then squeezes the life out of them - it almost makes me believe this may be STAGED, or else, I am definitely doing something wrong when I cook.

My Asian cooking adventure, with all that chopping, has been pretty messy and bloody. But perhaps smooshing food with a tortilla press will prove to be easier. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Egg Hunt at Gramz

It was so fun watching the kiddo hunt for Easter eggs. He was so delighted and excited when he found an egg!

And then he found another one and was once more filled with delight!

"This is just so darn cool!  I love this game!" he declares.

It was then even more fun when he realized that behind all that colorful wrapping, the egg was actually CANDY!

"Wow, Easter bunny eggs are so much better tasting than chicken eggs!'  

My First Easter Dress!

"Gramz, look at my new Easter dress!  I've never had one before. Isn't it just divine?" reports the Bambina.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Free Spirit

There are some who grew up in strict and religious households, and then when they are able, they jump to the opposite end of the life spectrum and create a life without religion, little structure, and much more flexibility.

But then there are those who come from a free spirit type of life, one without all that structure and barriers, and they, too, will often end up jumping to the opposite end of the life spectrum to create a life of order, control, and discipline. They will also often embrace religion.

It seems to be some kind of tit-for-tat balancing act the universe has put in place. It is a way to help give each new generation the opportunity to push against the old one and try to discover one that makes more sense, based on the missing elements in how they were raised. One generation will cling to structure, conformity, and rules, and then the next generation will cling to freedom and creativity, but then the next will go back to choosing a life of structure and control. It is rather fascinating to observe. It seems to be a way to make sure everyone can grow up with something to push against. This process helps one better clarify and define what they want out of life and what they feel will improve their life.

This is one reason why I find the book, Free Spirit, by Joshua Safran, rather fascinating. He came from a childhood created during the Haight Ashbury era of peace and cosmic love. With this search for creating Utopia came a life with not many rules and no structure. This book is an autobiography of a childhood that is unlike any that I have ever known and I found the author's journey rather fascinating. His writing style is also very engaging - almost like a novel.

Later, as an adult, Mr. Safran ended up embracing his Jewish heritage and religion, as well as becoming an accomplished attorney, author, rabbi, and even an advocate against domestic violence.  Here is an amusing video presentation about the book.

If you like biographies, or like to see the how people handle their different life challenges, or find you lean to being a free spirit yourself, you will probably enjoy this book. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Being a Fearless Woman

Katrina is in her late 20's, graduated from college, and then decided she wanted to see the world rather than settle down with a career. She left for the Pacific Rim, traveling from country-to-country and doing odd jobs to get by. When she didn't come home for Christmas, her parents were aghast, even sending her a one-way airline ticket so she could fly home. Instead, Katrina used that airline ticket to fly to Paris and begin a new adventure in Europe.

She has now been doing this for over a year. On her own. With no boyfriend. With no girlfriend. And is surviving, and seems to be doing well.

I was amazed to hear about Katrina from her mother. This young woman didn't have any of the usual angst and fear that I had at that age. She wasn't concerned about getting raped, murdered, or even kidnapped. Her concern was more about missing an opportunity she would never have again, and took the leap and jumped.

When I was at that age, I had been raised to be afraid. In my culture, worrying was something we all did. We were afraid of the devil, people of color, the democrats, as well as being alone. Traveling alone as a female would never have been considered a possibility. Ever. It was beyond any consideration whatsoever.

Now that I am older and wiser, I'm rather surprised that back in the old days, we didn't even think to question what we were led to believe. We were groomed to fear being alone. We all expected to need a man by our side, and we would worry what would happen if we didn't have that. The back-up plan was to always huddle with a gaggle of girls. We learned to negatively judge and condemn any woman who was not with a man which fortified the belief if you are alone, you must be broken. Or evil. Or something was wrong with you.

Let me share an example of a woman named Marsha, who also grew up in that same culture. Marsha is in her 60's, retired, and has been a widow for about 20 years. She called to let me to know she went out to dinner ALONE, to a local restaurant - for the first time EVER! She didn't have a man with her. She didn't have a female posse with her, either. Nor did she have her children propping her up. She went to a restaurant, was seated, read the menu, ordered off the menu, was served and ate dinner. For her, she was engaged in an act of bravery - she was eating alone, for the first time, in public. This was her stepping out of her comfort zone- in her 60's.

She is just now, at this later stage in her life, exploring what it means to be alone and trying to discover who she really is and who she wants to be.

I find these two female examples of bravery rather inspiring. Taking a leap of faith and defying one's comfort zone is a big deal. It doesn't matter what age you are - it is hard! But the results can be the development of an inner strength you can't get any other way than by being tested and finding out what you are really made of. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

1st day of Preschool

The kiddo went off to pre-school with his new bright red lunch bag.

No sooner did the kiddo leave, when the little princess slithered up to take over his former domain. "Mwaaa haaa haaa!" she smirks. "He who hesitates is lost!"

"This is now MY spot! So let the fun begin!"

"Hit me with five!"

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The delightful mystery

I love this photo of the Bambino.
For me, it has captured the kiddo's essence - he is serious, but also funny. He is also daring, but very thoughtful. And again, he is often very curious, but also very patient.
It is as if he is on the brink of an action, but right at THIS moment, we don't know action will manifest.

He is a very delightful mystery.

The Bambino Goes Grocery Shopping

The kiddo has some new chores.

I mean, he is two-and-a-half!  ha ha ha 

Hi Grandma!

Carol Burnett used to pull on her ear at the end of her show to say "hi" to her grandma.

I'm sure the Bambina is doing the same thing and saying "hi" in her own way, too.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Dinner time fun

Dinner time at the Q's is often filled with smiles and giggles. It really is rather fun to watch because it's like being at a party and enjoying a bunch of jokes you don't quite get, but laugh anyway because it's so darn funny to see the kids having a ball.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Relics Tour in Rome

I'm reading "Too Bright to See Too Loud to Hear" and the main character goes to Rome and takes a relics tour. This tour includes seeing the the foreskin of Christ.

"WHAT?????!" I thought, "that is some piece of creative writing! I mean, who would think this kind of weird stuff up and place it in a book?"

But then I did a search on Google, and there really IS a relics tour in Rome that is reported to include Christ's foreskin!

I am amazed at what people will make up and then even pay to see. It boggles my mind someone would even consider this as being real.  

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Dinner in the Tien Ong Cave in Ha Long Bay

One of the most wonderful, as well as unusual dinners in Vietnam, was in the Tien Ong cave in Ha Long Bay. It was absolutely FANTASTIC!

The crew brought everything into the cave for this nights special event- the kitchen, the dining area, a stereo system, chairs, linen, center pieces, dishes, a ton of candles, as well as all the food!

This is what we see when we arrive and walk up the steps to the cave. It is evening, around 7:00 pm and dark with some lights taking us up a small hill. Once we get to the landing, we see a lit walkway to lead us inside the cave.

This is the dining area the crew created in the cave

and the dinner table with its linen table cloth, napkins

with beautifully carved fruit centerpieces.

This is the chef's temporary kitchen they created in the cave, complete with everything needed to cook a royal feast.

The dinner menu

starting with soup (I love how they made it beautiful!)

followed by very tasty (and lovely) spring rolls

then followed by smoked duck in orange sauce (the best I have ever tasted!)

and then FRESH sea bass

with cute desserts.

This experience was one of the most memorable trip adventures I have ever had. It was absolutely remarkable. Exquisite. Breathtaking. And a beautiful memory.