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Monday, November 30, 2009

Festival of Lights

We (Sophia, David, DZ, Adeline and I) ushered in the Christmas season Sunday night by attending the Los Altos Festival of Lights parade.

The first parade took place thirty two years ago and consisted of a small gathering of some costumed storybook characters and a jolly Santa Claus. It has grown to include a dazzling display of lighted floats, local high school marching bands (Adeline and I think Monta Vista's band was the best with Mountain View coming a close second), glowing costumed characters, vintage cars carrying the town's elected officials, and of course, ending with the numero uno highlight--Santa with his reindeer!

Our family started attending the parade ever since we moved here 23 years ago. Since we live so close, we are able to walk to town. Last night the streets were lined with grandparents cradling their grandchildren, parents with kids hoisted on their shoulders, and babies in strollers. It was a joy to my ears to hear the kids squeal with delight as each illuminated float or costumed character passed by. I am certain the clear cool night contributed to the large crowd (at least 20,000).

Sophie and David and their IPhones waiting for the parade to begin. Adeline wishing she had an IPhone to pass the time away.

At least 50 snowflakes dancing down the street.

David's favorite float--he wants a house with a picket fence.

The arrival of Santa and his reindeer.

I am so glad to live in a town with such a memorable tradition.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Sneak a Garden Peek Week 3

Something is not right.

Yesterday afternoon while I was planting bulbs in my garden, I heard crickets chirping! It was 70 degrees outside. It is too warm. Crickets are not suppose to be chirping in late fall!

Here we are at the end of November and our deciduous trees still have leaves. We have had some cold nights which has resulted in some colorful displays. I am aching for a good rainstorm to knock all the leaves off the tree branches. I want to light a fire in my fireplace and listen to the rain patter on the roof.

Let me take you for a spin around my garden to show you what I am talking about.

Here is a (bing) cherry tree. Notice the green leaves still clinging to the branches--all of these leaves should be gone by now!

I have three Smoke trees. Here are two in their full glory below:

I love the rustic color on this one:

Again, the leaves should be gone by now.

My crape myrtle has just begun shedding its leaves:

No leaves should be on these trees.

The Chinese Tallow is at the half way point to being fully denuded:

I love the yellow leaves of this potted Japanese maple on my front porch with two protea underneath. We have wood stacked to the left, all ready for a fire in the fireplace -- please....let it rain!

Here is another Japanese maple blazing with color. When we moved here 23 years ago, the top of this tree had been trimmed to the "gutter line" of the roof. It is a beautiful tree year round. Yesterday afternoon, this tree cast a brilliant glow throughout the yard. It was magnificent!

Do you remember the picture last week of the ginko tree with the stunning yellow leaves? Well, it is the only tree in the yard that has completely dropped its leaves.
Can you believe these prolific flower blooms?

I just had to sneak in a picture of this bird feeder that Martha found at an estate sale this past summer. I love to watch the birds as they partake of the seeds. I guess even the birds aren't flying south this winter or at least they have delayed their trip.

Yes, those are lemons hanging in the tree behind the bird feeder. I am lucky to have lemons year round.

Look at the striking seeds of the Japanese anenome:

The weather forecast does not show any rain or rainclouds in the near future.

Please, let it rain!

Well, we'll take another sneak peek next week.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bees and Honey

I love honey. I love the color, the viscosity, the aroma, and the taste.

I have a collection of honey pots....

a beekeeper nutcracker, a beehive ornament, and an array of honey utensils.
There is nothing more comforting than a big dollop of honey with a dab of butter on a nice warm piece of homemade bread.

Let's find out how that dollop of honey got to your kitchen table.

First, we'll take a look inside the beehive.

The typical beehive is full of massive amounts of activity. Each bee has an assigned task: there are approximately 20,000 to 40,000 female worker bees whose task is to collect the nectar and raise the larvae; there is one female queen bee; and there are a variable number of male drone bees whose job is to fertilize new queens.

Now we need nectar for collection. Someone (a gardener...nature...) has to plant flowers that produce nectar for
the worker bees to collect . The worker bee uses her long, tube-like tongue to suck out nectar and stores the nectar in her second “honey stomach” which she uses like a nectar backpack. The honey bee will visit between 100 and 1500 flowers to fill her honey stomach.

The bee returns to the hive with her full honey stomach. She passes the nectar on to the “house” worker bees by letting them suck the nectar from her honey stomach. The house bees proceed to "chew" the nectar for about a half an hour to break down the complex sugars into simple sugars. At this point the nectar consists of 80% water.
The nectar is then deposited into the honeycomb.

Next, the bees fan the nectar with their wings, which creates a draft and helps the excess water to evaporate. The nectar thus becomes thicker, and the high sugar concentration prevents fermentation. The honey in the honeycomb is sealed. This is the bee’s food storage—food for the bee’s lean times to sustain themselves. A colony of bees eats between 120 to 200 pounds of honey annually.

The beekeeper will leave enough honey for the bees, collect, process, package and distribute the "excess" honey so we can purchase it at the local grocery store.
So, next time you are enjoying that spoonful of honey, think about the long arduous process of producing that honey-- from planting and growing a nectar producing flower to the honeybee's labor to the beekeeper's collecting and processing to the distribution to your kitchen table.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Our Thanksgiving Feast 2009

As usual, Martha's home was warm and inviting, and decorated with autumnal and Thanksgiving decor.

The tables are set.

The food is ready to be served.

The prayer has been said and the family is ready to dig in.

(Adeline, Mary and David filling their plates)

The "kid's table", filled with adult cousins:
(Sophia, Peter, Gabe, Dan, Emma and Adeline)

Me and my siblings and parents:
(from left to right around the table: mom, me, Paul, DZ, Gayle, Mary dad, and Martha)

I brought the rolls to our family gathering. I picked up this fabulous old huge bowl at an estate sale in Los Altos which is perfect for letting the dough rise. It is huge!

My favorite recipie for rolls comes from the Lion House Recipie Book.

The recipie is easy and makes a nice wonderful light and fluffy roll. I always double the recipie for one can never have too many home made rolls at dinner. Every time I make rolls, I think of my grandma and the way she would fold over the dough and flatten it with her knuckles. She worked at Marriott bake shop in Salt Lake City and was a master at making rolls.

I am now off to bed with a nice full belly--ready to dream about all the lovely blessings I have in my life. Number one is my family.

Thanksgiving Thoughts

An abundance of blessings....
So much to be grateful for....

Thanksgiving with family then....

(notice how we are all wearing dresses and the table cloth is ironed)

with turkey and glowing candles...

(we are still wearing dresses (except for Paul, of course) and the tablecloth is impeccably ironed--we have an additional sister, Martha. left to right: Paul, Martha, Gayle, Mom, me, Judy, Mary; my dad is taking the picture and Gwen isn't born yet)

Thanksgiving last year.....

with lots of food, fun, family, friends and warmth...

And a walk in nature...

Hoping your Turkey day is filled with much love.

(will be posting additional pictures of today's family gathering later tonight)

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Weekend in Monterey

This weekend Sophia, DZ and I went down to Monterey. Sophie and DZ were completing a scuba diving class while I relaxed on the shore, explored the town and soaked up some sun. The sky was crystal clear blue, and the weather was gorgeous, although a bit nippy.

We got up early--arrived at the beach by 6:30 and saw this incredible sunrise:

Sophia preparing to take her first ocean dive:

A very confident looking DZ.

Some instruction on shore before taking the plunge.

A dizzy DZ after a day of diving.

A euphoric Sophia after completing two dives.

The beach was pristine. I am grateful to live close to such beauty.

I loved........

Walking along the shoreline;

Gazing at the glistening water;

Feeling the warm coarse sand kiss my toes;

Searching the surf for otters and sea lions;

Having sea spray tingle my face;

Getting a natural pedicure;

Listening to the call of the seagull;

Hearing the rhythmic crashing of the waves;

Finding a creature's recently vacated home;

Plunging my feet into the icy cold water, and

Letting the tide pull the sand away.

Such a marvelous weekend............

Monday, November 23, 2009

Singing Around the Piano

As young children, my sisters , brother, and I would gather around the piano singing songs while our mother tickled the pearly whites. I loved the way my mother would embellish the music which gave the songs an "added zing".

We would sing from this most cherished book which includes pictures and songs for the seasons and holidays:

The book was a collaboration of three women from Utah - one wrote the music, one drew the illustrations, and one wrote the words. Even after 50 plus years, I can still sing many of the songs by heart.

Since this is Thanksgiving week......

I thought I'd share two of the songs we would sing:

Almost 50 years later.....

We still love to sing while our mother plays.

Such precious memories.