December 20, 2013

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At one time, the poinsettias only connection with Christmas was their appealing bright red color. They were rare, especially in Northern climes. Now, poinsettias are as common as the Christmas tree. They have been hybridized to be perfectly formed and multicolored. Their color lingers and cheers me all through the gray days of winter.


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This is a quilt block.

As a theme, I think the artists and photographers did them justice.



December 9, 2013

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That first snow, at 5:00 a.m. surprised me. I’d never seen it that deep in Murphys. I wished my old friend Buster Reidel was still around to confer with. He would know how unique is was or wasn’t back to 1920. He used to advise me not to plant my tomatoes until after Frog Jump. He was keen about local weather patterns.

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Tree limbs bent over the roof and over the railing.

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The small wires that hold my summer shade cloth were totally encased in snow.

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It made for some pretty pictures.

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My housemate, Karen’s car, isn’t garaged. After a lot of melt, she braved the first day, and got out to the store for cigs. you can see where she was parked. Coming back was a different matter.

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She was all over the driveway getting back. But, it was a smarter choice because that partly melted snow is now ice.

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When the power went completely out, it was still light outside. People up here know to have a good supply of candles and flashlights. I covered the end of the table with an old tablecloth and set up the outage. I placed candles in strategic places in each room. We ate soup and bread for a light supper. People in the east probably chuckle at our unpreparedness for snow, but we do know how to weather a power outage.



November 24, 2013

I’ve heard people say, “I hate funerals,” I’ve said it myself. We don’t like to face the sadness of a life ending.

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Eleanor Darby, (left) lost her best friend and husband Dan,  November 9th, and, a good friend Betty Fitzgerald, November 7th. Eleanor is as beautiful inside as she is on the outside. I took this picture as she stood outside the church yesterday, with her niece, Pam. She and Dan were married 56 years, they lived in Angels Camp their entire lives;  they were married in St. Patricks Catholic Church where the funeral mass was performed. Those necessary rites and rituals have meaning for all of us.

I can identify with the feelings losing a spouse can bring. I lost my husband of 40 years in 2000 and was numb for a year. I couldn’t recall later what I had done for Thanksgiving, or Christmas. I couldn’t remember some people who attended his service or much of what went on, though I seemed to be in control. With distance, we recognize that death is a part of life. An ending, but much more.

This morning and yesterday, I thought much about Eleanor and Dan, their boys, Mike and Robbie, who shared such wonderful and humorous remembrances of their Dad, from learning to say I Love You, his  dreams, and careers, and his famous chili beans that were cooked for the reception.  Dan’s brothers that I knew, Earl and Elda, Jack and Ida, Lloyd and Ruth.  (Eleanor and Elda are sisters who married brothers.) His nephew Rod and Kristi, his grandniece, Nicole and Larry. Friends, Don and Betty Fitzgerald, and so many more from every walk of life.

Relationships have so many patterns and pathways. I met his grandniece, Nicole, first, when she was about three years old and in the same dance class as my daughter, Virginia. We both lived in Fremont at the time, It was 1972 or 3. Her mother Kristi Darby divulged to me that our planned retirement in Murphys was very near where she had liived in Vallecito. Her mother had been the Postmaster there and she and Rod had a house they rented there. Not long after we built our house in Murphys, she ended up my next door neighbor,  two parcels over.

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Kristi with son-in-law, Larry, daughter Nicole, grandchildren, Shannon and Garrett. Nicole and Virginia then attended High School together. At the reception, we got to catch up on each other’s lives.

I met Eleanor and Dan, and Betty and Don Fitgerald through the high school sports programs, and Quarterback Club. Their kids attended High School with ours.

Dan’s father, “Chub” Darby, was a Murphys fixture, and all around character in his nineties, when we met. He participated in the Homecoming Parades, and his cabins are now part of a vacation rental. Darbys hale from gold rush days, two roads are named after them. I remember Chub whenever I cook his watercress potato salad. If I buy the cress in the store it never tastes as good as picking it in a local creek.

Our friendship was strengthened when all of us became a part of AFS, American Field Service, A student exchange program, along with Dutton  and Ben Smith, Carol and Clark Burton…Walli…so many memories and faces, if dis-remembered names.

Nicole went on an exchange to Austrailia. Virginia went to France. Eleanor and Betty took in multiple exchange students over the years.  Betty ran the program with the help of many others, as Kristi and I did in later years.

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Linda Djamaludin from Indonesia was our exchange student in 1986. They always say you get more from the program than you give, and it is so true. The support at AFS meetings was wonderful. Our girls went in different years.  At each meeting we would read Virginia’s and Nicole’s letters from their temporarily adopted country.

Eleanor, and Kristi, and I, with all the county exchange students, loaded into our Motor Home and traveled to Pasadena for a special opportunity to work on the floats for the Rose Bowl Parade.  We did it two years in a row with kids representing probably twelve different countries.

Eleanor and Dan visited students they had hosted in Italy, France, Switzerland and Sweden. They are really life changing events.

At the reception, we didn’t talk about death and loss. We were witnessing the continuation of life around us. Children, grandchildren, aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews with the DNA and blood of their special inheritance of life everlasting.  And, then there is always Dan’s beans, Chub’s salad…Mike’s paintings…


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A visit to Saint Anthony of Padua Church almost didn’t happen. When we arrived it was locked tight and Jim was bent on visiting what he remembered as one of the most beautiful churches he’d ever seen. His parents were married here in 1938. His mother attended the French Catholic School around the corner.  His cousin Jeanette lives nearby and probably still attends church here. Playing with his cousins at his grandmother’s house. Jim has so many memories of the older section of downtown North New Bedford.

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The parish office was in the building next to the church and we rang the bell and got permission from Father Murphy to go inside and take pictures. His first question? Did you attend mass this morning? We hadn’t  and he proceeded to tell us that churches, his included, are struggling because so many people don’t attend. He lectured us about our lack of attendance, but he allowed us in.

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The organ loft.

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A view of the ceiling.

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The Altar.


Each side of the church opened into alcoves where the Stations of the Cross are depicted in carved statues.

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The 12 Stations of the Cross are written in Latin as was the official language of the church even when I was a child.

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The statuary was amazing, like something you see in old European Cathedrals. Here an Angel holds the Shroud of Turin.

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The Communion rails were made of highly polished, carved wood.

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The podium of carved white marble. The columns are marble as well.

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I am not a church goer, but I can appreciate the beauty and the workmanship that went into the building of this gorgeous church while keeping in mind the hand tools used for such work 101 years ago.

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It would be nice to think a place of such beauty will last forever. I do hope it is professionally photographed to retain the essence of this magnificent edifice in the event something happens to this historical treasure.

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We decided to visit a nearby Art Museum which was displayed in two different buildings. One building was formerly the Star Department Store where Jim’ s grandmother worked as a retail clerk in Ladies Clothing.

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The small collection was mostly very modern pieces except for an exhibit of old photos.

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It was nice to walk around town on a Sunday because there is little traffic and ample parking space. DSC08016 (Copy)

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We kind of gasped at cigarette prices. Jim heard they just raised the price of cigarette tax by $3.00 a pack in Massachusetts.  It should help people break the habit. Hypnotism works best, I’m told.

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We enjoyed dinner with Donna and Bob. After snacks we had stuffed roasted vegtables, stuffed quahogs, and clam boil stew using up the leftovers from Friday.

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Bob roasted the leftover veggies from the feast in the barbecue.

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You could never leave the Parkers house hungry. Donna is an excellent cook and loves to feed people.

Cherokee Landing is the name of the park we’re camped in near Saulsbury, Tennessee. It is green and beautiful in this part of the country as we follow the lush area along the banks of the Tennessee River.

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The Park has a small lake we visited on a mid-morning stroll. Placid and pretty.

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We inadvertently frightened  geese feeding on a shaded bank of the lake.

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Which then gave us the added pleasure of watching them swim toward the opposite bank.

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They made fast for an area with a nesting box, though we have seen no goslings-yet!

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The lake so still it made a perfect mirror.

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After dinner, we took a second stroll by the lake. The drake above set apart from the flock, perhaps ostracized because he has a dead foot. He must have been injured some time ago. A determined survivor.DSC05029 (Copy)

The evening shadows long and milky.

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A welcome wildflower patch that looks to be related to violets.

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A pine bow, ripe with pollinating catkins. Soon cones will grow. My intention is to rest and slow the pace and heal while I’m here so I can again regain strength enough to keep up with Jim. (It is tough to limit oneself when I’m used to doing anything I want.) But, life is good.

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The minute we drove up to VIVIAN ALEXANDER,  a museum  and work shop of Fabrage’ eggs, I knew it was someplace special. Two rescued statues flank the door of the museum, and a rusted punched tin panel topped the doorway. Anyone who reads my blog knows I love rusty stuff and rescued anything.99% silver

Alex Caldwell, the Alexander half of Vivian Alexander, showed us into his workshop. Above you see an egg of 99% silver being decorated with whatever he decides to put on it. The silver is a powdered silver called filings. Alex is an engineer/artist. A great deal of planning and work go into transforming a bird egg into a work of art that is strong and useable such as a purse or clutch.emu, reha, and goose eggs

These are the eggs he uses, a reha, emu and goose eggs.

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Alex discovered a process of enameling over the silver and you will see how that beautiful silver pattern he calls guiluche shows through the enamel.

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Then we entered his showroom of items currently for sale. Their beauty takes your breath away.

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Alex makes a series of  affordable goose egg ornaments for Christmas  and Mardi Gras , and Easter that people like to collect.

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Since this is Louisiana, Alex put alligator skin on this purse, a little salute to his home state.

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And this one.

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There was so much beauty on the table. I picked the one I liked best and… gulp, bought it. It reminded me of Goudi’s work. And, in a fever I bought three other pieces as well.

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When I went to pay for it, I learned that this piece was made by Liza Caldwell. And, she hugged it and kissed it and we cried together. “It is my favorite piece. I don’t know if I can part with it. I worked so darned hard on this piece, two years.”  It is now my treasure to share. Alex told me, “Don’t let it sit on a shelf. Use it. Set it on the table and people will want to see it.”  And, I will.

I took many more pictures and if you want to see an album of my photos, you can click this link:


Now, I’ve saved dessert for last.

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Alex showed us  into the museum. Here is the most beautiful piece of the collection, bar none. I’m grateful to have a picture of it to enjoy. The lighting, mirrors and  bright brass made photography difficult, but he gave us every advantage with great patience and told us some great stories of these pieces as well. Several of the pieces in the museum are  Carl Fabrage’ designs. Alex learned from Fabrage’ and has become world-famous as a teacher, lecturer and expert on Fabrage’. I thought like Tiffany, someone was still making Fabrage’. It is Alex.

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Alex holds a beautiful piece from the museum collection for us to photograph.

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Alex was summoned by Hollywood to make a replica of the most famous Fabrage’ egg which was featured in the movie, Oceans 12. The egg was made for the Russian Czarina’s coronation and is called the Imperial Coronation Egg. It opened to reveal a horse drawn carriage. Forbes owned the largest collection of Fabrage’ eggs and sold off  his collection for 120 million dollars. Alex estimates this piece from his collection brought 28 million dollars in 2004. It now belongs to Consuela Vanderbilt, the Duchess of Marlboro. He values his replica at $9000.

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This piece is encrusted with real diamonds and rubies.

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Notice the rooster popping out of the top of this treasure.

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In this watch, the head of the snake marks the hour as the numbers rotate around the circumference of the egg. Amazing pieces and amazing stories of his world renowned talent. An egg returned to him for the museum by a local buyer because it endured a flood during Ike. The Smirnoff egg, commissioned to have a bottle of Smirnoff popping out of it. And much more. When you visit Southern Louisiana, make sure to stop in to see the work of this amazing master craftsman, Alexaner Caldwell of Maurice, Louisiana. You can check his website, which I haven’t done yet.

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Life is short. Art is forever.


February 15, 2013

I know yesterday was Valentines Day, but it doesn’t seem to resonate when you are parked next to a swamp.IMG_9223 (Copy)

On the 13th, we did some cleaning, and packing stuff away. Our bedroom windows were hung with beads from Mardi Gras 2010, New Orleans. Some of them had become faded and the curtains needed washing.

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So, we said our last goodbye to Mardi Gras by taking most of the old beads to the park laundry  for anyone to take if they like. That is a common practice in parks we live in. The new beads aren’t as colorful as those we had, but, we had way too many, anyway.

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Jim worked on a leak in the Bronco’s sun window and we got ready to leave. Late in the afternoon, we went for  swamp walk. The late sun makes shadows on the swamp weeds.

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It is so beautiful in this swamp, with reflections in the water.

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Everywhere you aim, is beauty. You can’t take a bad picture here.

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Of course, lurking under all this beauty are alligators. We talked to a woman who saw four of them.  Her family is camped right next to the swamp.

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Look at the size of his powerful hind feet.

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An uncrossable bridge if you don’t want wet shoes. We went around to the other side where it was just as wet.

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These small metal boats are used by the rangers. We saw a fisherman on the river using this type of boat for fishing, as well. He said he likes to fish, but only uses barb less hooks and releases everything he catches.

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It’s cold,and we’ve had more cold and foggy days than sunny ones.

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Jim spotted something moving in the water. We watched this turtle munching weeds just popping up and down in the water.

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I spotted a snake. He is so fat, I thought at first it was a piece of rubber someone had thrown in the swamp. But the lens proved it to be a big black snake.

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I didn’t have my glasses on, but I showed the picture to the local fisherman we talked to and he said it is a water moccasin. A very poisonous snake.

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I know I’m going overboard here on the turtles, but they are so darned cute. A little turtle confab on a log. The one has green moss growing on his shell. Sitting in the sun with their reflections in the water. Nice.

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Lake Charles Mayor, Randy Roach, listens to Jim explain what he liked or didn’t like about Lake Charles and/or Louisiana.  What we knew about Mayor Roach  before we met was that everyone likes the guy. He is very much a people person and really gets involved in the community. We talked for 45 minutes about our life-style and impressions, and his philosophy of governing. He likes to see money put into infrastructure of the city that benefits families, not any fancy buildings or glittering trappings of office. He is very proud of the city parks. Located in neighborhoods so they are very available to everyone because he believes they  invite wholesome activities for children. The Mardi Gras itself, involves families and children. We notice that theme over and over in Lake Charles. He gave us a great overview of Lake Charles’  strategic location in Southern Louisiana. All roads lead to Lake Charles for jobs,arts, business and quality of life.  In fact, we met two couples who came to visit and decided to move here. That speaks volumes.  Mayor Roach served two terms in the State Legislature before his 12 years as Mayor. (He didn’t tell us that.)  We left with the keys to the city.

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We attended the Royal Regalia with Renola Simon. Each Krewe has their own ball,  by invitation only,  to see the marvelous costumes.  The regalia is a promenade for the community to see the beauty of the Royals.  The young royals were introduced first and seated to witness the adult Kings and Queens promenade . Leading the first Queen was none other than Mayor Roach. I think she has a title  other than the Krewe be- knighting of their royals, but it is a learning process and I’m not sure how everything is done.

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This is an overview of this huge building and the promenade. The young royals are seated to the stage on the left to watch each Krewe promenade. They have attendants who quickly roll up their long trains so they do not get stepped on as the promenaders exit on both sides of the stage. Then they roll the trains back out again. It was mind boggling. Queens Elizabeth and Beatrice have nothing on Louisiana’s royalty, aye! In fact, when Queen Elizabeth attended Mardi Gras, she was invited to a private ball. She with others  paraded before the Krewe Queen. She stood, used to having people bow in her presence. She quickly bowed to the Krewe Queen, who then got up and bowed to her.

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The hall has rotating spot lights making  picture-taking very difficult. If you get a decent shot, the timing, the movement, the distance for us, high in the bleachers, it is mostly  luck. So, you are going to see some blurry photos.

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This was the clearest photo I took all night. With about 50 Krewes, they move very quickly on to the next Krewe in line. Renola’s Cajun Krewe did not enter the regalia this year. Their queen is chosen by whomever gets the slice of King Cake with the baby in it. Most Krewes vote for their King and Queen. Renola explained that each of those feathers costs $35 each.

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Not all of the Kings and queens have elaborate feather head dresses, but most of them do. Just look at their head gear. You have to have a special closet to store these costumes.

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Another beautiful head dress.

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The kings and queens for 2014 will be chosen right after Mardi Gras so they can budget for their costume, design, and chose it. Most of them are now professionally designed and made. Renola, who is  80 years old, has been Queen for her Krewe twice. She made her own costumes.

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There is much color to the promenade, but I noticed most of the Kings and Queens wore white. Aren’t they gorgeous?

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Equally gorgeous are the 12 to 15 foot long trains.

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Not all Krewes are big. Some new Krewes are small and are made up of family members only.

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For many couples, their  social life revolves around their Krewe.

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The Krewe chooses their music for their promenade and some is jazzy, some is rock and some is krazy. All fun.

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Several Krewes concentrate on the Chicken Run part of Mardi Gras.

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New this year, to many oohs and ahhs was a lighted costume. Quite the feat.

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This King and Queen costume is once again as tall as the person wearing them. Fantasy in bloom.

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Then there are the gargantuan costumes that are 8 to 12 feet tall.  These are not king and queen regalia. They  put them on the promenade to show these magnificent costumes for our enjoyment.

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These are very challenging to carry, as well as build. Some take 4500 hours, according to Renola.

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These speak for themselves. Such a deal!

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December 11, 2012

Julia Shelby, a San Francisco transplant, started Mountain Melody Womens Chorus in 2005. A bright star in our mountain communities is this all volunteer group of about 18 women, singers all, with two piano players and a flutist.   Shelby chooses  innovative music, with intricate, lively and echoing harmonies. What a treat.

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Also a treat, is Casa Terra Cotta, this beautiful mountaintop estate, loaned to the Calaveras Arts Council for the event. I was  grateful for the sun, but the time of day was brutal for photos.

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I ran smack dab into my neighbor Judith, and friends I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, David and JoEllen Gano. A stranger grabbed my camera and offered to take a picture.

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What makes the estate so enchanting, is the marvelous windows surrounding you from every direction, providing the best views from the mountain top, at  the same time making picture-taking difficult.

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I concentrated on faces and the wonderful music. Dobru’ Noc, a Slovakian Folk Song

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This Little Light Of Mine.

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The Seal Lullaby

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Nothin’ Gonna Stumble My Feet.

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After the concert, we enjoyed desserts and wine punch and mingled with guests and members of the chorus. Michael VonErich sung the solo Mary Did You Know? Her deep resonant voice, and the words brought me to tears. I had to meet her, only to discover she is moving away from Mountain Ranch. She told me she grew up singing as a child with Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene, the guys who wrote the words and music to the song. What a talent she is. And what a loss to our community.

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Maddie and I walked the grounds and enjoyed the views.

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Some people stayed close to the outdoor fireplace.

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We all got to sing for Marta Johnson’s birthday, another old friend I hadn’t seen in years.

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On the drive home, Maddie and I oohed and ahhed at another birthday, these little newborn lambs on wobbly legs. We both wondered  why are these young lambs born in the cold month of December? We hope it isn’t from climate change, but in my yard I’ve seen a late fawn all through November. A strange year in so many ways.


October 5, 2012

Since our accident on May 27th, I swear, I have never had so many doctors in my life. If it isn’t one thing it is another. Poke and probe and test. Since the accident I feel like I have sand in one eye and it keeps swelling.  After a round yesterday with my eye doctor and picking up records from one place to deliver to another place, I stopped at the Arts Council for an art fix. Jim has taken gallery pictures for me that I appreciate, but it isn’t the same as being able to view your own choices of things you admire. I am ever impressed by the talent in my community.

My favorite piece in the exhibit was this triptych in the photo above.  I’ve done a close up of each piece.


Simple lines, bold colors. Beautifully matched.

Many nice pieces, so if you have a chance to visit the Arts Council Gallery in San Andreas, do it. I’m working on a piece of my own, but it is not for sale. Maybe, since I’m home for an extended period, I’ll get a piece finished for the affordable arts exhibit they do before Christmas.

I don’t know why I like old, rusty, derelict cars. This worked on a ceramic piece. Tough to execute.

Homer as a pretty jolly sculpture is appealing

Trees, another favorite theme. Who doesn’t love a tree?

Bead work is making an impact in the arts/crafts world. This little bird is something to hang on the Christmas tree or not. It works anywhere.

If I have errands, I like to seize the day, and art makes me smile and eases the burdens we sometimes carry.



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