December 29, 2012
We celebrate Christmas in waves. First comes Christmas Eve with the immediate family. My kids and grandkids. Always fun.
Daughters, Laurie and Kris, chatting over a glass of wine.
An unusual event, sharing new tattoos. Son Ken at 51 surprised all of us with his first tattoo.
Grandson Alec with his first tattoos. He also has one on a thigh and the backs of his biceps. Hmmm! I’ve been thinking…no, not really.
We had a guest from Northern Italy, an exchange student by the name of Emil, who fit right in. We played a loud game called Pass Phrase, I think that was the name of it. All ages could play. It was loud and raucous.
Dinner was unusual as well, with smoked pheasant that Ken bagged during his recent hunt. Very tasty, replacing the usual turkey or ham or beef. We had paella, a green salad, butternut squash and spinach souffle.
After dinner, we opened our gifts, which for the adults is an anonymous book draw. Each person buys a book, wraps it without any tags and puts it under the tree. The books are drawn by number allowing you to keep the book you’ve drawn or steal one from another person. Son Doug turned his book into a scavenger hunt, giving clues around the house for whomever chose his package, which was a 13 clue, fun, mystery enjoyed by all.
I finally understood that they do communicate with each other and texting isn’t such a dissociative practice. I saw plenty of interaction besides the texting. It is no different than me talking to someone and taking notes. It was an eye opener for me.
And there was plenty of time for interaction between generations, with Stewart and Austin wrestling. It rained and rained. Kris wanted to take her exchange student to see the snow and big trees. They got turned away at Forest Meadows without chains. Timing is everything.
We celebrate on Christmas Eve. Played cards until the wee hours. Then, the next morning, we set up my computer and skyped with Virginia and her family who are in Pisciotta, Italy with her husband’s sister who has a four-month old baby.
It was a calm Christmas, quiet. Between downpours, we walked the dogs, five of them, and nibbled and gamed the day away. I hope everybody had a happy Christmas.
July 29, 2012
It is Halloween. Vicki wishes us a Happy Halloween. It’s strange to think of this American Holiday in the midst of a an ancient city, dining on fried dumplings and sweet black rice in a hotel with no glass in the windows. We hate to leave this beautiful mountain village of Jiliang as we are still aglow with unforgettable memories of our time here.
From the bus, we see overladen donkeys hauling goods, people walking the roads, scenic villages, cows, horses, children drying corn or grain outside. Most pictures from the bus are too blurry to keep.
We look back at the Eastern Himalayas, our last look at the beautiful mountain and marvel at the many exciting experiences we had in this special area just 250 miles from Tibet. So close. Tour mates discuss our next trip and we swear it will be Tibet. Someone recommended the movie, Seven Years in Tibet, Lady Yang, about a famous concubine, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and so it goes as we head for the airport to fly to Kumming. (koo-ming.)
At the Naxi Stone Drum Village, we stop for lunch. The restaurant is crowded with Naxi people. Service here is more casual than other restaurants we’ve been to, Vicki tells us. The food simpler. Did we care? The place was fascinating with its chili pepper curtains, dividing the outdoor diners from the indoor diners. We are seated inside a small room with a wonderful view of this interesting gathering.
The faces are intent as they play mah jong. We realize no one is eating lunch but us.
Everyone plays. Women tend to stick to tables with women, but mix when the numbers are uneven.
This old fellow sits and watches the game, quietly smoking his opium pipe.
Viki said it is unusual to find this group of people gathered here and she asks around and finds out a government official is set to visit the village and the “seniors” are waiting in the courtyard to hear his speech.
I sneak a peek into the open air kitchen.
There is no refrigeration. Everything is fresh or stored in vinegar.
A photo bonanza for us, as we watch the activity and listen to them chatter among themselves. They totally ignore us. This table of women is playing some kind of card game and have apples to snack on. One woman is asleep at the table with her head bent low.
When the government official arrives, they listen with rapt attention.
Their meeting ends about the same time as our lunch. Wanning, with an interpreter tries to engage this elderly gent as everyone leaves the restaurant. But, the dialect is obscure, and she nor the interpreter can understand anything he says.
Now the Naxi are very curious about us. They do not shy from the camera and enjoy seeing themselves in our little screens with smiles and much straightening of their clothing. No hands come out for money.
We walk around the area to see what we can see and stretch our legs. This gentleman apparently has a car. He took out a bench from his trunk and proudly showed it to us. Or, maybe he was hoping we would buy it. We couldn’t tell. A car here is quite rare. We see almost no private auto traffic on the roads.
As we load into the bus, a beggar woman stands outside our window gesturing her need for food in her plastic covered dish or to sell us something Viki speculates. Vicki says it is too late but those in the bus who have snacks demand to stop and hand her some salty nuts, candy bars and a few yuan we offer. Vicki disapproves of encouraging begging and she says it is also very unusual to find a beggar in this remote village.
As we get back on the road in the bus, we see these two Naxi women walking back to their homes. Everyone seems to enjoy relatively good health and good spirits. Walking is their main mode of travel. Tomorrow, Kumming.
July 14, 2012
After taking the kids to Columbia to pan for non-existent gold, I took them to see the biggest nugget in the United States, this 44 pound gold nugget at Kautz Winery in Murphys. I’ve been there many times with out-of-town visitors but not with young kids. They were impressed, but more impressed with the sensitivity of an assay scale where they could put a single penny on the scale and watch it re-balance.
They liked the life-like sculpture of a California black bear, a critter they are familiar with. Bears are common in Alaska and to their culture, which is Inupiat. When the kids recently moved to Colorado, some of their new found friends didn’t know what an Eskimo was. And the kids are still unfamiliar with some fruits, as in: “I thought cherries were red?” They were eating St. Anne’s. And an apricot, they were unsure if it was a small, un-fuzzy peach or a plum. Nome, where they lived, is very isolated. Their mother is always amazed by the plethora of flowers in California, and Kautz’s Winery is a treat for the eyes with lavish gardens.
Our next stop was Stories And Stones, a store in Angels Camp that carries huge geodes, jewelry, bones, arrowheads and all manner of gem stones and shells from around the world. They also have a skeleton of a grizzly bear. Stories and Stones is a wonderful, educational place to take children. Their small allowance goes a long way. They can pick out pretty polished stones for twenty-five cents, or fifty cents and up, and get a bag with a tag of their little treasures. Alyssa and Amanda chose mood rings and a couple of small gem stones. Angelo, chose magnetic rocks, an arrowhead, and shells. Selection is so much fun here.
Part of the day was spent working puzzles, learning Mexican Train Dominoes and playing cards. At age five, Angelo needed some help with the puzzle. They spent most of the afternoon playing in Murphys Creek and listening to the music in the park. Kids instantly make friends with other kids.
They compete to help out with table-setting and emptying the dishwasher. I told them they did a perfect job and they hammed it up for a picture. I look at the paltry pictures I took and think to myself, how many opportunities do I have to take cute kid pictures? Kids are such hams and I’ve not taken many of them as we go about our day. But, maybe that’s a good thing. After all, it isn’t about pictures, it is about enjoying their visit. (Note: kids move FAST.)
December 22, 2011
As a family, we gave up giving each other gifts long ago, except for the children. As I age, I know that Christmas is a matter of the heart and we value the gift of time with each other over anything else. That includes the food, an important part of our shared time together. Special dishes, lovingly and thoughtfully prepared.
Appreciating the trappings of the season all around us, glowing lights, cheery voices, the smells of cedar and pine, the colors shining bright, secret smiles, hidden glances, the scurry and hurry and expectation of things to come.
And Peace. We don’t expect World Peace to happen as much as we may wish it. But, in our country or city neighborhoods, where Christmas dwells, 80% or more people take a day out of their work to celebrate Christmas, and there is a sense of peace. Little traffic on the road. The quiet of a neighborhood as everyone turns inward to reflect upon the beauty, the warmth, holiday hugs, the family together, the deeper meaning of Christmas Spirit. Love, Joy, Hope and at least, a day of peacefulness.
January 20, 2011
Vegas has finally outlived its early reputation for gaudy flashy signage. Those same gaudy flashy signs are now a cherished part of history. Someone with fore sight saw fit to save bunches of the old signs and they are now displayed on the old Las Vegas “strip”, Fremont Street. These signs have bulbs and neon. Some are still part of working businesses. All fun and flashy, trying to draw you in. The more flash the better. Others are part of a Neon Museum which we will visit this week, along with the Fremont Street light show some night this week.
This rather conservative neon sign was and early one. A nearby placque explains that the first lighted sign on the street was erected in 1929.
The Aladdin Casino didn’t survive, but its lamp is still on.
This sign is on Fitzgeralds Casino and the script tells you, How To Get Out Of A Bad Hand. It kind of resembles a get out of jail free card.
I loved the name of this place. It’s a piano bar that plays everything, blues, a bit of soul, rock, pop, country. The warning signs on the window suggest it can get pretty rowdy. But, on Sundays they play classical music. If I were a night owl, this is where I’d hang out.
The new Vegas clubs are behemoths, resort style places. They don’t care for the old Vegas sizzle, let it-all-hang-out sexiness. Y’all-come on in honey. But, if you are looking for that old fun razzmatazz, there is still some to be had here.
There’s still eye popping girls, girls, girls around town not too sophisticated to let you take a picture-for a tip, of course.
I liked the mix of the new and the old. This restaurant has a modern lighted sign, but its doors are right out of Arabian Nights.
The lure of easy riches prevails. The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
And, a real 61 pound solid gold nugget on display at….where else? The Golden Nugget Casino.
We are looking forward to seeing this big fellow lit up. Its hard not to lament the passing of the old Vegas. But, progress is progress.
Now you can zoom overhead on a zip-line above the old Vegas Strip.
Or sit on underwater lounges at the Golden Nugget and watch people sliding through glass tubes with sharks swimming about. Hey, not too shabby.
Or enjoy people watching from the deck at Mickie Finnz while you enjoy a cool brew or sandwich.
And, you can still look for that luck to bless you with untold riches. That’s what its all about. Ca-Chinka, ca-chinka, ca-chinka. $$$$$
September 22, 2010
Most cities are different during the day than at night. But the contrasts in Reno are greater. My goal yesterday was the Museum of Fine Arts on Liberty Street. Since Jim and Randy went off to see what is left of Bill Harrah’s Auto Collection, I decided high art would be my game. Unfortunately, the museum was closed. I roamed around town, poking my head in here and there. The Spy Shop intrigued me. The owner told me he had surveillance stuff and self defense items of every kind for men and women. Not my cup of tea, but I loved the sign.
Speaking of my cup of tea, this pretty blue teapot caught my eye in an Antiques Mall. There was so much stuff crammed in the place, with 180 vendors, you could hardly see anything, except in the furniture section.
I liked these chairs, but, they don’t fit in a motor home. Living in a motor home squelches your impulse purchases, which I like.
This steel sculpture resembles a giant fish and I liked it. Its better seen in its grand scheme as it sits in front of the Reno Court House.
I was tempted to visit Filthy McNasty’s just for the hell of it. The name made me chuckle, but I wasn’t in the mood for a brew just then. Instead I returned home to program my new Digital Picture Frame I bought yesterday.
Reno at night is another world. The strip, only a shadow of its former self, is still a wealth of neon glitz. There was a time when it was considered garrish, and rightly so. It fits the whole concept of risque mystique. The sideshows, gambling, girls, burlesque, high rollers, rich and famous headliners, music, cards, money, slots, dice, cheap eats, elegant dining, topless dancing… excitement. Reno called everyone before Vegas came of age.
The arch was my very first view of Reno from the passenger train that moved our family from Milwaukee to California in 1954.
The adult caberets…
Betting the horses, the football games, you name it…
The best show…
The best food…
The best bet…
The best fun…
The best hotel…
A bank on every corner and in Reno, money to loan is “Lucky” money.
My husband loved to gamble. It was one of his favorite towns and I was surprised at how many cherished memories I have of this gutsy city of thrills.
July 8, 2010
Another hot and humid day yesterday. While in the air-conditioned motorhome about 11:00 AM doing computer research about our upcoming return trip to California, my nine-year-old grand-daughter Jaime knocked on my door. She had a chess set and a deck of cards with her.
We had an interesting game of chess. She beat me by bending the rules a little!
Jaime’s ready for our chess match.
She discovered our stash of Belgian Chocolate…need I say more?
She loves our Belgian Chocolate!
Then a hot game of cards playing her specialty…Slapjack. A little more rule-bending and I was defeated once again.
We got to talking about old TV shows which prompted her to go fetch her Cartoon DVD collection.
We watched two hours of Cartoons.
We enjoyed a late afternoon snack of sliced chicken, cheese, crackers and pepperoni. She left about 5:00 PM. A nice six-hour visit. She’s such a real fun little gal!
I was in the mood to watch a little more TV, so I dug out our DVD set of the old On The Road with Charles Kuralt. The first volume ran two hours…four 30 minute programs. It was a really great series about the interesting people and places one comes across while On The Road. No wonder I like RVing so much!
A great RVing series!
Eric and I are going to a minor league baseball game today. Forecast is for a high of 84 degrees. Somewhat better than the high 90′s we’ve experienced for the last few day…but still too hot for the Weather Wimp…that’s me!
All original material Copyright – Jim Jaillet 2009
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