Sunday, January 30, 2011

Brain Freeze . . . January 30

My internet was out completely for several hours today, and speeds have been erratic at other times. I started to work on an intended multipart blog about an unusual trip I took a few years ago, but I ran straight up against brain freeze. Did the ability to think waft away into the atmosphere without my wifi lifeline to the world?

Teaser for my unusual trip:
Door to my room

So it seems. I feel like I haven't done a thing today.

But as I look around, there is a stack of envelopes with checks in them to pay bills, waiting to go to the post office.

I found an important piece of correspondence that's been missing for three weeks, despite my plowing through every pile of papers in the house.

Before the internet went down, I sent my payment info to the hotel in Saint Rémy for my stay there in the summer. See a slide show of photos from the hotel.  I do miss Provence.

Lest I forget Sunday morning -- the News Junky's Dream: the Sunday morning interview shows. Face the Nation is still being preempted by sports stuff so the morning was cut a little short.  Football or something.

And I took a nice nap. 

That wasn't so bad after all.

See you tomorrow.


News Junky . . . January 29

Okay, I admit it. I've been a news junky since the tube-radio days. Not that I recall there being 24-hour news then. But I do remember nonstop coverage of political conventions in the days when the outcome was not preordained and true suspense reigned until the very last minute.

When they invented transistor radios and ditched the cord, I went mobile, room-to-room, while performing my household tasks. I never missed the news, whether from LA to Detroit, or Dayton to San Diego, all locally produced except for short national network feeds, perhaps five minutes on the hour.

Whereas you can roam with radio (early multi-tasking), TV anchors you to one spot, demanding your singular attention. Or at least it tries, but I've thwarted it by having TV on in every room so I can still move from place to place as I work. As much as I "watch" TV, I'd hate to be anchored to a media room or man cave.

CNN started the 24/7 news on TV in 1980, but I don't remember having cable until we moved here to the mountains in 1989 and then only for a few years, until my husband threw the cable company out of our lives. I caught my broadcast networks via antenna until late last year. During all those years, my heart sank every time someone phoned me between 5:30 and 6:00, interrupting my only chance of the day to watch my precious national news.

Even after I got cable again, it took me awhile to discover the CNN option. Oh, I "knew" CNN -- it's in hotel rooms world-wide -- but I never before had my own CNN to turn to when my NBC station unaccountably inserted one of those real housewife disaster programs into the morning line-up as they did recently.

This week, the uprisings in Egypt have dominated CNN 24/7 and I've had it running most of the time, except for occasional deviations to local channels for other news. However, when I turned it on this morning to find out what had happened overnight, they were rebroadcasting what I'd seen at 5 p.m. last evening.

So I switched to This Old House, just in time to be in on the first episode of a new Old House, then I shut off the TV.

Today I wrote a letter (email) to a hotel in Saint Rémy-de-Provence inquiring about accommodations during language school for this summer. In French. I can fake a conversation in French, but it's so much harder to fake proper spelling, proper accent marks, and proper verb tenses, not to mention all the flowery phrases of politesse.

My Pocket Oxford Hachette French Dictionary has a sample letter for just such occasions, but I wanted to add my connection to Magali and Colin and their language center, in case there's a student discount.

French people don't write perfect letters in English and we find them amusing and charming. I hope the French find my errors amusante et charmante.

I eventually turned the TV back on late today, to HGTV house hunting programs, another new experience, which unexpectedly enthrall me but also demolish my self-esteem. But that's another story. I've just seen the late night report on Egypt, where lines of Egyptian men locked arms to protect a museum of national treasures against looters.

Would that freedom and democracy prevail.

See you tomorrow.

P.S.  Hooray !!! This just in. My letter in French has just been answered and I need only to fill out a confirmation to complete a reservation. I'll do that in the morning when I expect to be a little more clear-headed.


Saturday, January 29, 2011

TGIF and that leaves Saturday & Sunday . . . Jan. 28

Thanks, to those of you who tested. Two people who hadn't been able to comment succeeded today.

I posted Testing Testing at 1:48 a.m. this morning (Friday). I should have gone to bed then, but I had opened the Picasa photo program to find a particular photo of my Mom and Dad for Thursdays Out. Picasa is still a big mystery to me, but one day I stumbled upon it scanning every photo on my hard drive (and that's a lot) for faces, then grouping them with facial recognition software for identification. I knew that early on it had indexed my Dad in his cowboy hat and that's the one I wanted and it was easy to find.

So, having completed Thursday's blog, when I went to shut down, Picasa was still open and scanning, waiting for some ayes or nays on its tentative identifications. There were over 10,000 unidentified faces when I got sucked in. And in. And inner.

But who can resist the Ding of incoming email in the middle of the night? It was writingfeemail's Friday blog. (She's one of the remarkable women I met at Essoyes, France at Writing from the Heart.)  Friday blog? She lives in the Eastern time zone, and I shot off a quick email asking whether she was "still up tonight" or "already up tomorrow."

She was up and ready to leave for work and I was still sitting here at 4 a.m. clicking on faces.

Mama through the years
Oh, well. I'm down to 9,059 unnamed faces and went off to bed by 4:30. There wasn't much left of the night.

I suppose a certain lack of focus in completing tasks I set for myself might be a side effect of chronic sleep deprivation. Or is it the distraction of world events?

I got a chill hunkering over the computer late last night after the heat went off, and it was chilly in bed, with me too tired to snag a throw, and it was cold outside today despite the sun, and even chillier in the freezer aisles in the market despite wearing a sweatshirt, and just to top it off, getting an additional shiver at the sight of a young woman in a spaghetti strap top who was also in the store.


I'm not crazy. When I got home, the weather gadget on my computer desktop had an exclamation point which clicked to a SPECIAL WEATHER STATEMENT ... WINTRY WEATHER EXPECTED THIS WEEKEND.

I could have told you that! I've been feeling it already.

After our very wet fall, we haven't had any rain since early January. We could use some now.

See you tomorrow.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Testing Testing

Several of you have told me you have been unable to post comments, or I have been unable to see comments you have posted. I found a forum where lots of bloggers have the same complaints, but frankly, the answers weren't all that helpful. One thing I'm trying here is to have comments appear on a separate page from the blog, rather than "embedded."

Please try to post a test comment, especially those of you who have emailed me separately that comments aren't working or were difficult.

A security window will pop up asking whether you want to see only the secure material in a mixed page. It doesn't much matter whether you answer yes or no. If you say No, you will see the profile picture of the commenter, if you say Yes, the picture space will be blank.

Thank you thank you!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Thursdays Out . . . January 27, 2011

One Last Fantasy

Have you ever watched one of those police car chases on TV and, just for a moment, the fantasy flashes through your mind that it would be a hoot to try to outrun the police?

Well, read this story from

Officers Chase Jackson Man

January 24

Angels Camp, CA - An elderly Jackson man led CHP Officers on a chase through Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties.

Last night, San Andreas area officers tried to pull over 83-year-old John Smith* for a mechanical violation, and he failed to stop. At one point, officers flattened all four of Smith's tires with spike strips near Angels Camp. The chase continued into Tuolumne County, despite Smith's four flat tires, and Sonora Area CHP officers took over on Highway 49 at the Stevenot Bridge. Officers used a PIT maneuver, striking the rear of Smith's Jeep, causing him to spin out. The chase ended at 10:04pm on Highway 49 north of Reynolds Ferry Road.

"Mr. Smith was charged with felony evading," says Officer Mike Remmell. "It was determined that Mr. Smith was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but a possible medical or age issue was the reason for the failure to yield."

Based on Smith's  age and past medical issues, he was released to his family members.
* Pseudonym provided
Written by BJ Hansen, MML News Director
What was he thinking? you might ask. Maybe he thought this could be his last chance to live the dream? One commenter on the article must share this view: "...or it was on his bucket list. evading police, check-. ..."

The Last Glitch from Last Night

When I said my American Express didn't have any complicated entanglements, I forgot about PayPal. Easy, I thought. Just go to PayPal and delete that credit card as a method of payment.

No matter how many time I hit "delete," it keeps telling me, "You may not remove your funding source while an authorization is still pending."

Hunh? I want to find out what this pending authorization might be (I'm really hoping not Eurotunnel), but have you ever tried to have conversation with Virtual Agent Suzy? Talk about a dog chasing its tail. This is NeedleCraft Thursday. There is no time to wait on hold during EST business hours. Oh, the new credit card arrived today. "Next Day" service only took two days.

Speaking of  NeedleCraft Thursday, there was a professional photographer (or an amateur with a really good camera) taking pictures of the various groups meeting at The Little House today, for use on a new website which is being developed. Anyone who intentionally made a weird face will have his/her picture posted. (Just kidding. Or not.)

Terri did a double-overlapping crochet stitch when she should have taken one step back and shaken hands with the person on the right, thus warping the zigzags on her afghan. (Catch my technical crocheting jargon.) Before today is over, Ursula should have her straightened out.

Today at the senior lunch, three desserts were served (this is an exception to normally nutritionally sound menus): chocolate chip cookies, which some of us treated as an appetizer, apple crisp with whipped cream that seemed to be the real product, and these chocolate cupcakes with ice cream that Mary Brown made to celebrate the birthday of one of the men at lunch. Yum.

I had a meeting later in the day, so stopped at the library to fill the time. What a beautiful day; almost warm, no cars coming either direction when turning left out onto the highway. I'll describe to you sometime how much those of us who stay here year around love our peaceful winters.




Peaceful winter parking lot at library

Terri asked for my blog link today and called me this evening to comment on Mom and Dad's depression-era frugality. She cleaned for them many years ago and told me about going into the kitchen one day to find the box of corn flakes tipped over on its side and corn flakes scattered over the counter. "Shall I clean this up?" Terri asked. "No," said my Dad, "we're waiting for the ants to leave."

Dad was a kidder, but you never know ... 

Dad and Mom at art show

See you tomorrow.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Circling the Drain

Friday morning I turned on the computer as usual and watched as email streamed into my Inbox, looking for mail from "real" people. Normally I might have ignored something from American Express, since it's usually "Your January Statement is Ready," as it was today, or "Your Payment is Due Soon," or "Account Alert: A Payment was Received."  After all, I have the account set for automatic payment so don't worry about those deadlines, but I do monitor the account closely on the website.
 I read a couple of emails and sent a few that had escaped the spam filter to Junk. The American Express one came up and I read the title, "Fraud Protection Alert."  In today's jargon, WTF!?!  It asked me to review an attempted charge made moments before the email had been sent: £199 for EUROTUNNEL!  It gave me pause; I have been charging upcoming trip costs, but nothing in pounds, and I don't use AmExp for overseas travel.
Wanna drive to London?

Sigh . . .  I got on the phone with the fraud department and the agent closed account. A new card was supposed to be delivered today, but haven't seen it yet and it's too late for delivery service tonight. On the plus side, this card isn't tied to a bunch of payments I make, except . . . , oh, oh, just ran into another glitch.  But that's tonight's glitch. I'm not through with yesterday's glitches.

Just by way of set up for last night's final straws, I had to buy Quicken anew for the new computer, since an update I'd done last year wasn't portable. Of course they change things around enough so there's a new learning curve in finding the same old same old. I set up a new Am Exp account in Q and downloaded recent transactions from the Am Exp website, which had already assigned me a new (hidden) account number. Quicken's offer to add the account to automatic updates didn't work ... used the wrong password or key to the vault or ??? but by then I was in a hurry to head down the hill for some serious grocery shopping and French class in the evening. I was too late to take recycles as intended. I can barely walk around the car in the garage.

I haven't visited the prepared frozen food aisle in ages. Wow! It's so much more than Hungry Man and Swanson's now. After piling my car full of cat food and groceries, I stopped at a fast food joint for a quick dinner: the regular good hamburger, without cheese, and the chocolate shake with no whipped cream (caloric enough without). They arrived, hamburger with cheese, shake with whipped cream, and as a bonus prize, a long black hair wrapped in the hamburger wrapping. Thankfully not around the hamburger itself.  Do I complain? No. You're hearing it first. It seemed right in keeping with how the day was going.

Maureen saw the French keyboard in last night's blog. She guesses she won't be wanting to send very many messages with one of those.

Once I got home I got into a Quicken morass. I did manage to link Am Exp with my new account and set it up for download. But Quicken noticed I hadn't linked it to another account I opened for the new computer. (Twelve months, same as cash, no interest.) I tried and Q insisted the name I wanted to link it to was already used. Duh! That's the account. Eventually I made it work and it ran a download, and . . . $600 had disappeared from my checking account. I thought it had just entered duplicate payments beside the one's I'd entered manually, but not. I decided reconciling a recent bank statement might give me some leads, which led to discovering some register errors, which . . . well, you see where this is going.

It's all okay enough, as long as I remember there is one $10 something that must never be checked as cleared.

It was late when I started last night's short blog and I tried to get the photo of the French keyboard a little larger, so the letters could be seen. I finally suggested double clicking to show it full size, but when I tried that myself, the Back button in my browser didn't work to take me back to regular size. As I said earlier, WTF!?! Waddaya do when your back button won't work? I thought I must be the only one in the world this had happened to, but then I Googled it. For me, Alt + back arrow button broke the logjam and it started operating as normal.

See you tomorrow.


Arghhhh . . . for January 25

I promised myself I'd blog daily. I even end each day's blog with "See you tomorrow."  I was about two lines into my blog "tonight," distracted by watching the State of the Union, recorded earlier because I'd been at a class at "live" time. Planning to gripe about a  -- well, the proper adjective escapes me -- an email that arrived Tuesday morning. Somewhere during charts and graphs of Anderson Cooper and pals, and taking a little side trip into Quicken to check on info related to the morning email, things all went terribly wrong ... ripple effect, unanticipated consequences, still digging out.

But maybe I can do something I promised Maureen in French class: show her what a French keyboard looks like. Visualize sending an email with this. Many long sessions trying to get the "@" in the email address. It's not quite as it looks.

You can double click on the photo to make it bigger but I don't know how to make it smaller again.

Why emailing from France drives me crazy
 See you "tomorrow."


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cool Moon Phases . . . January 24

Have you noticed that little moon widget over in the right-hand column of this blog? It's really cool.

I did take a moon picture, once.
 I have one of those on my Facebook page. I love being able to say the current moon is waning gibbous, 64% of full, as it in fact is as I write this.  It was on my Facebook sidebar until Facebook began messing with apps on sidebars and I think I'm the only one who can see it there now.

Friday evening my sister and I went out for dinner. (You know, the tipped salt shaker meal.)  Afterward I dropped her off at her house and headed home through a cold clear night. As I drove around curves, up and down hills, a big bright moon seemed to rise into the sky then dip down behind a hill. I wanted to try for the perfect moon shot, a huge moon emerging from behind a hill.

But the road home is narrow and space to pull over never coincided with the perfect view. Last chance would be at home, if the critical moment hadn't passed already.

It hadn't. Only the tiniest sliver of moon peeked above the hill as I stopped my car in the driveway such that I could steady the camera on its roof. I waited. The moon rose a tad. I tried a shot and got a flash photo of the car rack.

I waited.  Why didn't the moon come up as fast as a setting sun seems to plunge into the ocean?  I shivered. It was cold out. It rose a little, filtered by a tree.  I waited.

Nuts! It was going to rise all the way through the tree. Too slow and too cold to wait. Why couldn't it rise a little farther left?

So I went to Facebook to see by my Current Moon that it was waning gibbous, about 97%. And I saw the link to put the Current Moon Module on my blog. If you look closely at it, it accurately represents the moon phase where you live, that is, if your computer time is your local time.

The developer of the software sent me an email today, thanking me for installing it and linking to additional moon information programs he has available, such as info on moon phases on any date in history. (I'd already purchased one of those last year, but have waited for the new computer to install it.)

Brilliant. After all, what murder mystery author, for example, wants to get called out by some snarky reader that there was no full moon on the night in question?

See you tomorrow.


Monday, January 24, 2011

Kudos to My Sister . . . January 23

92 MOG
  I didn't talk to my sister this morning. She had to head back down the hill for a luncheon in town before I even woke up, but I'll bet she aches in every muscle of her body. She spent part of Friday and all of Saturday preparing the Mountain House to have new flooring installed in a few days. That meant clearing everything but the furniture off the floor and stashing everything that's on top of or inside buffets and cabinets somewhere else.

This had been our parents' home for the last decade plus of their lives, but they left behind the trappings of 67 years of marriage. They had moved to the mountains over 20 years ago, shortly after my husband and I did, and through the years, my sister and husband contemplated retiring up here. So when Mom, our surviving parent passed, we agreed that, rather than sell the house, Sister would inherit.

Married during the Great Depression, the folks’ frugal mentality and work ethic of the era remained for life. Thus, Mom seems to have saved every glass jar and plastic container anything ever came in, every set of dishes, the pots and pans they received as wedding gifts, the envelopes from every piece of mail and all financial documents, no matter their age. Mom used the backs of envelopes for notes and financial calculations and other records, so each had to be inspected rather than simply tossed.

Sister found many nightgowns and towel sets she'd bought for Mom over the years, unused, since the old ones still served. Mom kept all the "nice" shoes she'd ever acquired and kept her accumulated wardrobe sorted and stored by season.

Despite being a lady in her nineties, Mom's tastes in furnishings were still Modern although many cabinets were conversions of old radio and TV cabinets of theirs, and even of her mother's, all of which she'd adapted to a more traditionally appointed house. Her knickknacks and mementos are paintings and small artistic objects rather than clutter and kitsch.

Dad was a saver, too, but, except for his clothing, his manly items, art and stained glass supplies, golf clubs, and tools for yard and repair were not inside the house, so didn't have to be moved. Pop was not a person who hired something done. He just did it.

My brother-in-law retired awhile ago and has been doing fix-up of the in-town home in preparation for eventual sale. Now my sister's retirement approaches and they've been pressing hard on the Mountain House. They've done a lot of culling out on a regular basis. Still, they'd entertained here for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so things remained intact for that, but the floor installation crunch is now on and my sister did a backbreaking job moving everything to the garage and to high shelves for the duration of the installation. Wow!

But the real prize among the papers, she found Mom and Dad's love letters!

Dad never wanted to leave Mom behind, but he couldn't control that he died five years before her in the end. Theirs was a true romance.

Hats off to my sister's hard work this weekend.

See you tomorrow.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Plan B and the Hijackers . . . Saturday, January 22

Up for 19 hours, jet-lagged, I waited on the curb outside the car rental agency at Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport for my car, hoping the wind-tunnel effect of the breeze through the passageway would wake me up enough to drive. Rental agreement in hand, I idly memorized the plate number for my "Fiat Punto or similar Economy 4 Door Car Manual."

It might be a long wait. An impatient customer had called over my head to the counter agent helping me that he'd been waiting a long time at the curb for his car. "It'll be right up," insisted the agent. Other newly-arrived airline passengers cruised the car rental counters, searching in vain for an available car.


It had been a quick decision last fall to fly off to "Writing from the Heart" in Essoyes, France. France was awash at the time with grèves and manifestations, garnering lots of press here, which, if anyone actually noticed, had escalated it in their minds to pitched battles in the streets of France. The grèves, strikes against government action to raise the retirement age, targeted mostly transportation services.

As most French strikes seem to do, the trains -- just as an example -- may close down but not all lines at once; different lines may be affected on different days, but usually no longer than a day, possibly only hours, on a particular line, and with or without specific prior notice. In other words, who really knows? A hint to take the car to work.

Manifestations seem to be miscellaneous assortments of people who gather together to protest at various locations around the city.

Under the best of circumstances, getting from CDG to Essoyes is not easy. It's perhaps 150 miles away and off the beaten track of trains and autoroutes. Arriving at CDG late in the morning, with the first gathering of the class scheduled for late afternoon, I wanted the cheapest transportation possible! For previous classes, Janet Hulstrand, our instructor, had been able to arrange for a cab pickup for everyone from CDG or Paris and passengers split the costs. But her cab guy retired and, furthermore, arrival days, times and places for each of us was different.

So I reserved a seat on the train from Paris (the City, not the airport) to Vendeuvre, about 45 minutes from Essoyes. To get from airport to Paris, I'd take the RER B train and transfer by cab, foot or metro to the station for the Vendeuvre train. There'd be a meet up with the other workshop participants in Vendeuvre when my train arrived, to share a cab to Essoyes. A little bit complicated, but certainly doable.

Just days before the trip, threats to rail and air traffic and the fuel supply were becoming more focused, with dates for strikes being announced. Time for Plan B. Word out there even suggested that airports would be closed down, a rather major hurdle to even Plan B, but I told Air France I wanted to be rerouted through another country if it came to that. Although domestic flights were affected, they assured me long hauls would not be, but that didn't stop me from checking their website every few hours to make sure they hadn't changed their message. When Oct. 12 -- my arrival day -- began to be bruited about as a strike day, I emailed a shuttle service for a price estimate for one way to Essoyes. Yikes! 500 euros, almost half my airfare.

I'd rejected the car rental option earlier in the planning. I'd never driven in France but I've been a front seat passenger often enough to know right-of-way rules are crazy. Furthermore, could I stay awake driving after the long flight? I tend to nod off between here and ... well, anywhere.

I reserved a car.

In a stroke of good fortune, a Paris blogger promised to publish on Oct. 11 a compilation of what exactly would be affected by strikers and manifestations on Oct. 12. When I got up to go to the airport the morning of the 11th, railway outages promised to be widespread. The French railway site showed all stops for the Paris-Vendeuvre route as canceled on the 12th, so I quickly canceled my train ticket. The decision was made for me. The car it would be. I stuck my GPS with the French maps in my suitcase.

That's how I came to be standing at the curb with my little suitcase train and piece of paper in my hand and why people were wandering the airport looking for a way into Paris. 

Perfectly balanced luggage train, able to follow
old lady running full-bore
There is a lane along the curb for delivery of rental cars and for buses discharging and picking up passengers. There is a second lane running the same direction beyond that, divided from the rental car parking area by a chain link fence. We seemed to be at ground level, with more levels of airport rising above us. At the left end of the street, a ramp swoops down from the end-to-end loops of arrival and departure access roads, cars in constant motion up there. Off to the right, after a stop sign, another ramp heads left up to rejoin the terminal racetracks.

I watched for the plate number on every car as it approached in the far lane, making myself as prominent as possible there at the curb, so I would not be missed, what with buses and other vehicles stopping there too.

Then I spotted it, way down at the left. MY plate number. The car came barreling down the far lane, not even slowing until it reached the stop sign at the other end of the road, just before the left up ramp. As I began to run toward it, full-bore down the sidewalk towing my luggage train, four men emerged from somewhere on the right and began piling bags and boxes into MY car. (Mind you, I had not run in 20 years and I'd had an unfortunate incident many years before that.)

"Merde!" I thought. "C'est à moi, c'est à moi (it's mine)," I shouted, blasting through a curb cut out into the roadway, waving my paper in hand.

The four men and the driver paused, staring at what must have been quite a vision. I held my paper out to the driver, demanding in French, "Is this not mine? These are the plate numbers. This must be my car. Is that correct?" (Although it was much grander than the expected Fiat Punto.)

Citroën Picasso, upgrade from Fiat Punto,
but still four-door manual

The driver handed me the key, the men unloaded their things, one of them put my suitcase in the trunk, and they all decamped to the curb to watch me.

For starters (heh), I couldn't start the car, so I waved for someone to come back. A guy, not the original driver, came over and showed me how the steering wheel was locked. He returned to the curb. I started the engine and tried to let off the parking brake. NO CLUE about how that would be done.

I stepped out of the car and waved again. He came back, leaning in through the passenger door, and showed me a complicated little sequence of events involving a button on the center of the dash and pressing on the brake pedal simultaneously with a double punch sequence on the button. (Not a good system if you're in a traffic slowdown and forget you're back in a clutch car and stall the engine and the parking brake goes on automatically.)

The answer to the only other question I was able to ask was that, no, I couldn't use my GPS. (Uh oh.) And I was not going to wave them back again, no matter what. So directing all my concentration toward feeling out the proper clutch-gas interplay, I eased around the corner and gunned it up toward the racetrack.

Charles de Gaulle Racetrack. Car rental agency conceivably near the car icon.
So what was that all about?

They seemed a pretty amiable bunch, not wild desperados; French speakers, although they would have looked right at home playing jazz at Preservation Hall in New Orleans. (Ah, French Quarter. Maybe they were jazz musicians.) Still, there must have been someone in this little scenario not totally innocent of guile. Hijack, not by force, but by sleight of hand?

See you tomorrow.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Another Step Forward

Yikes! My sister blew into town this afternoon for the next day or two to stow away the breakables in her retirement home in preparation for arrival of the flooring people. I tore her away from her toils for a break for dinner at our nice eatery and a chance to talk over our coming trip. The two of us, seated in a booth for four, pulled the table closer and this happened.

In fact, the pepper, the wine list and maybe even the bud vase tumbled over as well, but wait staff were quick to upright everything but the salt shaker. We paused to toss three pinches over our shoulders. Hope it was the correct shoulder. I’m not exactly up on these rituals, but I did admire the interesting arc the salt formed and wanted to get its picture before everything was swept away.

Friday evening, in a flurry of emails, Sister and I settled on dates for our air travel for the Provence tour in the summer. At the end of that tour, we’re splitting up, her to join her husband for touring elsewhere, me to attend language school. She and I will reconnect in Paris for the flight home together.

We got on the Air France website from our respective homes to enter reservation info, coordinating by phone and email. We got as far as the payment page when up popped one of those "sorry, our reservations system had a hiccup. Please try later." Good grief, do two people making similar flight reservations at the same time clog the system? We redid our entries, paid up before it dropped us again, going back later to fill in the critical passenger data.

My seat. Sister is the X across the aisle.

The cool part was selecting the side-by-side seats. We pulled up the seating chart simultaneously, decided on the seats we wanted, then clicked the little empty blue seat we’d each chosen, and voilà, the little red indicator plunked each of us where we wanted.

Ah, wonders of the Internet. I don’t know why I should say that ... have been using it for years, so I shouldn’t feel amazed. But sometimes I pause to marvel.

See you tomorrow.


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thursdays Out . . . January 20, 2011

This Senior Signs photo is making the email rounds. Chances are, if you're a senior, this has already hit your inbox. Our Thursday NeedleCrafts group meets at "The Little House," our community's -- er -- "little" senior (and other adults) center. The photo was being passed around there today, so for you non-seniors out there, you can see how we amuse ourselves.

Last week Rose gave Barbara a knitting pattern for a vest she wanted to make with some roughly-spun natural wool. It has a name but I haven't seen it written so can't remember what it is. It was supposed to keep Barbara busy at NeedleCrafts for weeks, but she came in with the completed vest this morning. Maybe she'll come in with a bucket of mail to sort next week, like I've been doing when short on other hand work.

This gathering is as much to socialize as to produce afghans, quilts, sox, gloves, sweaters and cute little animals, and the topic turned to reading after Barbara told me her husband had nice comments about my Show-and-Tell of the Kindle at the Computer Users Group this week. He'd demo'd his iPad in our Dueling Readers face off.

Rose has thought about getting an electronic reader of some sort, but she hesitates until she makes a dent in what she estimates is 1,000 unread paperbacks neatly lined up on shelves awaiting her. She carries a 16-page, small-print list of what she already owns so she won't re- buy. Maybe she'll get her Kindle next Christmas. I told her I'd love to see her list and she pulled it out.

My excitement for the day still wasn't over. My sister and husband are having new floors put into the family home which they'll be retiring to before long, and I took delivery of the boxes of wood and tiles at the house so they can acclimate  there for awhile before installation. Who knew?

See you tomorrow.


Sidetracked . . . January 19

Today I realized that the Aero Peek on my new computer wasn't peeking. It did get going after hours of fiddling around, but I don't quite know what I did. What's the point of having Win 7 if you don't have cute effects?

See you tomorrow. Hope I don't get sidetracked again.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Little Bits of Progress . . . January 18

Summer travel plans are progressing and that’s exciting. Nothing like a good Plan A to make me happy. (More about Plan Bs in a later blog ...) I took a-once-in-a-lifetime Jeanne Mills’ Scrap Basket Tour, inspiration for quilters, in 1999. At a once-in-a-lifetime week of intensive quilting instruction at Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar the year before, I’d picked up a bookmark with a graphic of the Eiffel Tower on it with its brief ad for the tour, and the prospect lit up my life.

Inspired by Monet, l'Orangerie
May, 2008

So much for once-in-a-lifetime seminars at Asilomar and quilters’ tours to France. This year I’m embarking on my 10th trip with Jeanne’s tour, the 9th of these to France. You might guess from this that I love France. It actually goes back to a trip in the college years with my first husband, one of those angst-filled journeys on a shoestring, during which Paris came to feel like home. This year’s trip will be to the Dordogne and Basque Country in the southwest with a finisher in Paris.

Lee in Paris, May 2008

But no Provence. Not in the past two years. Paris is my favorite city in the world, but I love Provence and I need a Provence fix. So my sister, who’ll be retiring shortly, and I are heading for an Experience Provence tour, the "lavender tour" I went on in 2008. It’s based in a villa in the small town of Ste Cecile-les-Vignes, from which we fan out over the region for photography and markets. (There’s still one room with queen-sized bed available: .)

Artichoke, not lavender
L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, June 2008

Lavender field
Ste Cecile-les-Vignes, June 2008

With all this travel in France, I’ve also needed French lessons, both here (home) and in France. In France it’s been at a residential program in Provence -- twice -- and the good news I got is that my unconventional proposed schedule can be accommodated to return there for a few days of language immersion right after the lavender tour. I’m just stoked!

Students of French at the
Musée Mistral, June 2008

See you tomorrow.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Holiday . . . January 17

Today I read other people's blogs.

For your enjoyment, here is a photo of a stained glass window my Dad made for me many years ago. It has lived in the front door of two long-lived-in homes. The models were my daughter's cockatiels. Its dimensions are ~ 2' x 3'.

See you tomorrow.


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Odds & Ends Sunday - January 16

What to do with the trivia that attract my attention? Odds and Ends seems like a plan. (And if I’ve messed up my singular and plural nouns and verbs in those sentences, I’m just confused.)

Things went a bit amuck with the photos last night. I was racing to beat the clock for a January 15 date stamp. I missed. As the outcome of trying hastily to correct certain errors, I only previewed the changes. Meanwhile, photos hopped about unexpectedly. Learning curve here. Read every preview before you press publish. :-)

If 50 is the old age of your youth and the youth of your old age, what are you at 73?
I’d considered blog titles based on "A Woman of a Certain Age." There are similar titles already out there. Furthermore, the "certain age" appears to be much younger than I am. (Yikes! But it’s only a number, after all!) Also among candidates were "In No Particular Order (Nonlinear Observations)" and "Running Free ... No Set Schedule to Blog." After consideration, I decided on my oft-used description of my travels.

Jubilation on Saturday morning. "Quicken Deluxe 2011" was waiting in my mailbox. Not the computer "mailbox" and not the post office mailbox where I get my mail. Costco insisted on my street address, which works fine with UPS, but the post office doesn’t do home delivery here. They deliver to cluster boxes scattered throughout our development; I have one of those, but I don’t use it. This turned out to be some hybrid service between UPS and the post office and I had watched the package languish in a shipping center (via tracking software) for four days only three hours away from here!
Why am I so excited about this? Lack of Quicken has been the main thing that has slowed my computer to computer transfer, and I wasn’t looking forward to a holiday weekend of waiting. I’m sick of the mess in (at least) two rooms. Now I can make some real progress!

I don’t like to make fun of people for their shortcomings, but I can’t help it in this case. This has to be the most inept phishing attempt yet. This arrived in my mailbox. Don’t worry, I didn’t open it and I hope you’ll view emails with similar titles with suspicion.

********** Quote **********

Subject: Administrator
From: "Webmail Administrator"

Attn: Subscriber
This is to notify all our suscribers that a total of 420 subscribers
account has been shot down due to their failure to comply with our
administrator to carry out our update of the webmail interface and the
security of our database and to help know the active users from the
inactive to enable us create more account for new subscribers.You are
hereby given a secound chance to comply now and provide our Administrators
with their reqiured info for your account to be verified.
reqiured info:

verify password:
date of subscription:
date of expiry:

Once you provide our Administrator with this info your account will be
verify with the new features sent to you for faster access to your


This message has been scanned for viruses and
dangerous content by MailScanner, and is
believed to be clean.

********** Unquote **********

See you tomorrow.

TravelingSardineClass Explained

Simply enough, it’s the way an international flight feels these days. You hunch your shoulders and poke your elbows into your sides to keep from spilling out of your space. Your knees are jammed against the seat back ahead of you even before its occupant flings it backward without giving notice, grinding your thighbones into the their sockets. There is not much that is fun about flying anymore, but there are rewards at the other end of each flight that keep me reaching out to grasp them.

Essoyes (Ess-wha).
... I saw it online: "Writing from the Heart ... in the Heart of France." I wanted to do it "someday." Last fall, I decided that "someday" was NOW! ... On Oct. 11, I headed for France to the small village of Essoyes that had nourished, among others, Renoir.

We spent a week, we five women and our talented instructor, Janet Hulstrand (, immersing ourselves in French ambiance and writing from the heart.

Here’s an abbreviated version of our final homework assignment.

What do you want to take home?

I think, as I said in computerese in an earlier class discussion, I have "refreshed my page." I’ve written all my life, sometimes with more intensity than others. I’m past wanting to write as an economic imperative; I want to do it for the joy of writing, as I did as a kid, and pick my times and places to share.

Not to say that it will never happen again, but I’m in a place/period/whatever "beyond angst." I’ve gotten over it. I want to write clearly, economically, seeking the exact word or turn of phrase to pinpoint an idea. I want to do so with good humor. I adore dropping in a word or phrase that takes a beat to two to sink in to the reader before eliciting a smile or laughter.

Being in this place and with these people -- Essoyes and writers -- has refreshed my page. It’s made me want to reclaim the joy on a continuing basis.

What do you want to safeguard/nourish/protect?

I want to carve out the time to write. So much of what feels "busy" to me are fascinating distractions, but distractions nonetheless. They distract me from guarding my health and managing my time. They leave me with fractured leftovers of time, not clean, pure periods that allow for the concentration and clarity required to write. I must raise this in priority, to give it its due.

What do you promise yourself to do as follow-up to the work you’ve done here?
Resolve, resolve, resolve. I have no real barriers except myself to writing. Even while I carve out the niche in time, I need to clear out space, reducing the clutter I easily manage to bury myself in. I need to read completely our texts, to profit from their inspiration and their practical suggestions, to help me stay on track. I need to maintain the relationship with my fellow writers from this workshop, with inspiration from their wildly different personalities and background, yet their similarity in commitment. I will find a trusted friend who can read my stuff and give me safe commentary.

Worth every crammed minute in the sardine can.
See you tomorrow.

Friday, January 14, 2011


We had an early snow this winter. And rain. Lots of rain, 22 inches so far for the season.

But today we got a pause. It was beautiful. Chilly, everything washed by nature, winterized by man and nature.  I stopped for photos along the way while returning from the post office.

Marina beach

Dredging project

Empty boat slips

The creek

Bridge over the creek

Creek has subsided.

Momma with babies???

Beach at the lodge

Deck chairs

Driving lessons

Tennis courts at rest

Downstream from the courts

See you tomorrow.