Besoaked and Besodden

November 20, 2014

These are two of my most recent favorite words and describe the day pretty well. I can find neither in the dictionary, however, but maybe I’m not looking hard enough. I’m not beyond making up words, but these seem pretty legit.

Anyway, I’m enjoying a rainy day–especially the part in the cafe with book and coffee and muffin. Had great intentions to plow through a bookshelf purging and reorganization project, but … well … other stuff happened.

So… here are a few rainy day shots: the first one is apparently what it looked like in the seventies when it rained, because the filter I used is called, descriptively, ’70s: 


Does that say seventies to you? To me it says besoaked and besodden.

The next couple are just under-the-umbrella shots… tricky if you’re holding said umbrella and leftover burrito in one hand and shooting with the other. It is raining, even if you can’t tell:




November 20, 2014

Jim’s aunt Annita turned 91 a little over a week ago. She spent her birthday at the Summit Medical Center in Oakland, having been admitted five days earlier because she’d gotten to the point where she was unable to eat or drink and her husband (Jim’s uncle Dean) was struggling to care for her. After about a week, they moved her to Piedmont Gardens, a skilled nursing facility not too far from their home. She’s now in the hospice ward and it looks like that’s where she’ll remain.

Piedmont Gardens is just around the corner from the historic Church of St. Leo the Great, which is where Annita and Dean were married (60 years ago), and where I think all five of their kids (most of them anyway) went to St. Leo’s catholic school.. as did Jim and his two siblings.

These things are hard. Annita lived a long life and I think she would say it was full and rich and happy.  But it’s still sad to see the matriarchs go. It’s sad to see the generation pass on. Jim’s mom (Annita’s sister) died almost 45 years ago–way too early–from cancer, so to see Annita frail and close, is bringing up a lot of sad memories. It’s like she’s taking with her the last part of Jim’s mom.

Annita and Sonia were raised in Brazil, children of a French mom and Brazilian dad, and lived a high life. The short version of the story–I’m definitely glossing over details here–is that on a vacation to California when the sisters were young adults, they met two brothers from Kansas at some kind of officers club and (eventually) married them–Dean and Jim’s dad. Two sisters married two brothers… it made for a lot of very close cousins.

Four of the eight cousins live in or within an hour of the Bay Area. The other four are scattered about, but still close and in touch. Email’s been flying the last three weeks. Jim and I went down today to see Annita and spend some time with Dean. We saw John (who came up from Arcadia) and Marie who drove over from Mountain View.

The good news is they are able to keep her comfortable. She doesn’t really have anything wrong, she’s just old and slowing way, way down. We’re not sure how aware she is; her memory is mostly gone. Most of the time she sleeps; she’s really not even able to eat. I think it will be a quiet passing.

Here are some pictures:

Sonia (left) and Annita (right) in outfits their mom, Vovo, a designer (I’m corrected when I call her a seamstress) made:

In 1930 (age 7):

sonia and annita 2

In 1932 (age 9):

sonia and annita

This one’s from a family reunion in 2001 (age 78):


Christmas 2008 (age 85):


And a couple from a reunion in 2011 (age 88):


And with Uncle Dean, who’s taken very good care of her:


Arty Arboretum

November 18, 2014

Again with the filters.

Fall must be a good time for messing with one’s camera settings, because I’m having all kinds of fun doing it and coming up with images I really like.

This may be my favorite photo of all time.. something about the light really appeals to me.


This uses the HDR setting and is particularly zingy:


This one is just a typical fall arboretum shot.. nothing wrong with that:


I kind of like the grunge effect. I’d unintentionally reversed my perspective and thought it looked interesting as I was walking along:


Then we came upon this art piece….


And upon closer inspection, saw it was a collection of gingko leaves that someone had painstakingly arranged in concentric circles around this bench. So unusual, so nice.


Felt all sickish today… a variety of cold symptoms returned… so didn’t do too much.

My big outing of the day–meeting Jim here for lunch (so what else is new?). It is one of my favorite downtown corners: nice building, nice colors, nice trees, nice views… lots of activity. Comfort food was in order.


Ambled around on a couple of errands, took a few pictures, returned home to wallow and futz with photos. Came up with these for the day:

Third and B, heading west on Third, toward campus:


Along B Street, across from Central Park. Those apartments:


And the ol’ look-down shot, when all else fails:


Happy Place

November 16, 2014

Here is the perfect morning.

Wake up in a warm cabin in the heart of the Sierra. Button up flannel pajamas and amble downstairs. Pour some Peet’s into a large fiesta cup and add a splash (more than a splash) of half and half. Kick back.

Breathe in the incomparable aroma of fresh-baked crackers (I’m not kidding, these are amazing: bit of wheat flour, dried fruit, nuts, rosemary and other wholesome goodnesses).

Julie’s hands cut slices from previously baked-then-cooled loaf…


… and spread on sheet to bake until crispy:


Fill a plate with warm, crunchy crackers, cover in goat cheese, add a few hunks of cantaloupe. Sit, eat and quietly thank your angels.

After a bit, replace flannel pjs with levis, your favorite black waffle henle, and a few more layers of pile and down. Lace up boots and mobilize for a walk in 32 degree mountain air.

Then, camera and iPhone at the ready, head downriver (the Upper Truckee) for a couple-mile walk with a pair-o-pals.

First, the photographer on a sunny morning:


An early morning river shot:


A genuine tree hugger:


Who’s climbed up this tree.. Julie up, Carrie down:


Looking downriver (as Julie dismounts):


Walking on:


More of my favorite river shots from today, and more experimentation with different filters:




Then head back, pack, clean, empty and load up. This is Gail, a very generous and gracious cabin host out in front:


And a couple views down 50 again, because I can’t resist road shots:



Perfect morning. Happy place.

Hawley Hike

November 15, 2014

Got a little gift of a hike today. Didn’t expect it, so it was extra appreciated. We are four: Carrie, Gail, Julie and me at a cabin near South Lake Tahoe.  I am along for the ride, a fourth wheel on a tricycle, willing to do whatever these guys do when they come up here, it’s all good. I brought hiking stuff in case, and so it was. Only Julie and I were interested though.

We drove just a little bit down the Upper Truckee Road, across 50, down the road a bit more and to a trail head. Up a trail about maybe a mile, maybe a mile and a quarter. Easy grade, but nice views. We turned around when we reached 50, at just about Echo Summit. Perfect morning hike. Here are some pics.

Along the road:



At the trailhead:


At a good view spot. That’s Julie in front, Tahoe in back:


A tiny bit of snow:


Leafless aspens:


Postscript: I am now back from the weekend trip, and after a little googling, found out a little more about this Hawley Grade. First of all, it was about two miles from the trailhead up to Echo Summit, and it was something between about 750 and 900 feet of elevation gain (found lots of different opinions on this). So…longer and slightly more rigorous than it felt that morning, probably because we talked like fiends the whole way.

Secondly, this is a place of historic significance.  Here’s what I found out: 

“Along Hawley Grade you relive a bit of California’s history by ascending the first wagon road to be built across the central Sierra. Hawley’s Grade was a short-lived but key link in a trans-Sierra route to Hangtown and Sacramento. By 1850, Hangtown–today’s Placerville–had become the unofficial capital of northern California’s gold-mining region, and two years later a route of sorts was built from it to Johnson Pass–1/4 mile north of today’s Echo Summit–from where it dropped into Lake Valley. Drop it did, so steeply in fact that block and tackle had to be used to haul westbound wagons up it. An alternative grade had to be found. 

A route over Luther Pass, to the southeast, was surveyed in the winter of 1854 for the purpose of providing a wagon road to Sacramento and Hangtown that would be better than Johnson Pass and also shorter and easier than the primitive Carson Pass route. That spring, Asa Hawley established a trading post in upper Lake Valley near a part of the Upper Truckee canyon’s wall that quickly became known as Hawley’s Hill. Construction soon began on a grade that would be gentle enough to safely accommodate wagons. Financed by private interests, this route–Hawley’s Grade–was completed in 1857, making it the first conventional wagon road to cross the central Sierra. Combined with a recently constructed Luther pass segment, this grade fast became the route to take. In 1858, El Dorado and Sacramento counties improved western segments of this largely-one-lane toll road, making it far superior to the higher, longer, snowbound Carson Pass route  to the south. 

Timing couldn’t have been better, for in 1859, sliver was discovered in the Comstock Lode at Virginia Town, today’s Virginia City. Traffic was reversed on the road as a flood of miners from California’s gold fields scrambled east over this toll road to try their luck at or near Virginia Town. Alas, even as Hawley’s Grade was constructed to channel westbound miners and pioneers into California’s Mother Load country faster than was possible along the Carson Grade, so too were plans made to convey miners and others east to the Comstock by a faster route. By the summer of 1860, a wagon-and-stage roll road–abandoned today–had been constructed down Meyer’s Grade, then east to climb over Daggett Pass, situated above Tahoe’s southeast shore. Hawley’s Grade, briefly a shortcut that siphoned traffic from the Carson Pass route, now became the longer, unprofitable toll road.”

Cool, huh?

Shotgun on 50

November 14, 2014

My favorite. Riding shotgun and clicking away.  Here are a few from the drive up to Tahoe this afternoon on a beautiful fall day. Nice to get out of today’s valley fog (though, wow, that was nice to see after forever).

On the road, just out of Sac:



Getting colorful:



And colorfuller:


And Tahoe comes into view:


Settling in, wine in hand, appetizers on table, waiting for the others to show up. And they’re bringing dinner!


Someone thought these were very pretty fall street-scapes. It wasn’t Jim.

I just thought they were worth a few quick snaps.

I mean, imagine: Walking downtown. it’s wet, heavy, dark, be-soaked, sodden. And the colors are peak-fall rich. I simply must capture it. I’m quick on the draw, he’s not THAT late for his 2:00 appointment. C’mon. But he is not amused. I would say the whole lunch went that way, but that would be sensitive me.


Here are a few nice pics from midday:

Walking through Central Park:



Crossing Russell, looking east:


Not earth shattering pictures, I grant ya, but if you’re a photo-a-day blogger, you do what ya gotta do. As I write this, the sun’s coming out. According to my weather app, that’s it for rain for awhile. Now are you glad I got some pics?

Shock and Awwww

November 12, 2014

Today’s shock came when we dumped our one and only houseplant out onto the grass. We’d decided, after ignoring it for fifteen years, having not killed it, it was probably time to repot it. Surely, after all this time, it needed some fresh soil and a little TLC.

(The plant had been a “gift” from our old favorite neighbors who left Davis around 1999, was it? No telling how long they’d had this plant before turning it over to us.)

In any case, I expected to see signs of great suffering, something horrific and moldy. At the very least, I expected the thing would be severely root-bound.

It was not.

The soil was rich-looking, light, not packed at all, and seemed healthy. Weird.

And this was all we had for roots:


See? No twisted, gnarly, intractable rootball. At least fifteen years in the same soil, only occasionally watered.. and still just a delicate, airy fairy network–if you can call it that–of roots.

I am not a plant expert, but isn’t that weird? I’m not kidding when I say we ignore this plant. Seriously, I water it when I can remember, maybe once a month, and that’s it. Kind of bordering on plant abuse.

It had, somehow, over the decade and a half, lost half its soil (Frances said over time, soil gets packed through waterings and whatnot, though this soil was, as I said, light and very unpacked).  We added dirt, settled the plant in, removed a few brown leaves, and watered it. Presto: happy, cozy, well-loved plant.


Is this the point in the story when things turn tragic?  Now that we’ve finally paid attention to the plant after years of indifference, will it wither and perish?

Will keep you posted.

PS. What I should have written about today–an even BIGGER deal than repotting our one houseplant–was our meeting with an attorney in order to set up a living trust. At long, long, LONG last. It finally seemed time to deal with all those pesky money and end-of-life details… trusts, wills, powers of attorney, advance directives, who gets what/when.

But I figured that’d be boring and uninteresting.

Hood Ornamental

November 11, 2014

A few fall shots ’round the hood:

Shot from my bike while waiting for the light to change, Russell and B:


Wondering who in the world’s going to mow and maintain this patch-o-grass, in front of City Hall:


Someone, somewhere’s missing a roll of TP:


Central Park Plaza, always so pretty in the fall: