Thursday, June 30, 2005

Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry...

How green am I that I am always caught by the meat hook when I see the butcher shops and fish mongers in China Town? Part of it comes from the unusual presentations, the really good smell of Asian barbecue or strong and whoa-baby! smack of old fish, or just the piles of meat - turtles -frogs -heads -etc. I admit it, I am curious and want to see more! This is not your local grocer. (Although I must input here that I have become so sensitive to smells that I cannot go into our local market after 2:00 due to the meat counter in the back. It gags me. And in SoCAL, this market's slogan is "It's our meat that made us famous!" The smell is outrageous.)

The overwhelming scent as you pass by most of these markets makes you want barbecue for lunch. Although seeing the whole bird, from beak to toenail, is still unsettling for my immature pallet. I am a tad concerned about the lack of food code grading letters I see at home. I tell myself there are millions of Chinese who feel these restaurants and markets are fine, it's just not familiar to me. Let's think about it, You usually don't see your meal hanging on hooks as you walk into -say Mimi's or Ralph's.

This window display proudly encourages consumers into purchasing what looks like a dried flattened whole chicken. One of these days I am dragging Chronicler with me so that she can explain how all these foods are preserved, prepared and all the "why?"s involved. I can't think of how one would flatten a whole chicken. Is there a machine that presses it for hours? I don't know, but I am curious! Behind the chicken is a hook full of dried fish, which I can fathom. They're flat to begin with, shouldn't be too hard. It is difficult to see in the photo, but the table on the right has bits and pieces of FRESH -like directly out of the tank (in the background) fish. A worker was furiously chopping the fish into precise chunks. A woman off to the side of her was quite irritated about the offering she was handed and refused it for another one. Me? I couldn't tell the difference. That's what I am talking about. I am that dull when it comes to these things.

I would have taken whatever the gal gave me and walked out happy. (I need to read more.) Fish head soup. The only recipe I have knowledge of that actually uses a fish head. And yet, here is a box full of them, actually stacks of boxes. I had to wait some time before I could capture this with my camera. These boxes were being depleted quickly. Now seriously, is every family having fish head soup tonight? I doubt it. That means there are more recipes out there I am completely strange to and I am missing out!

This gal was so busy I had to wait about ten minutes before I could get her permission to photograph her at work. I want her to work for me, nothing distracted her, she was a machine! A friendly machine, but nonetheless, she was manic with those fish! I watched her methodically remove specific fish, not just any fish but a particular one and then begin to filet it while still flipping and moving about. There were times she seemed agitated with them for wiggling out of her knife's aim, but she was boss and in the end, something was removed before they were placed on the table for sale.

I wish I could download all of the photos I took while in the markets of ChinaTown, some are so beautiful and others full of sights that are new, at least to me! If you ever have the opportunity I would strongly urge you to spend the morning in this very unique district. You will have the time of your life! The food is great, the atmosphere is electric, and the people are warm, welcoming, and really busy!

add to sk*rt

Overheard: random voices from behind my head

Over heard (quite loud and proud) from line at the counter at KFC yesterday while lunching with Thor:

"It doesn't hurt anymore once they take the clamp off your n*pple."

Try not to burst out laughing when you hear that.

add to sk*rt

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Inside one of China-town's Markets

"All under heaven is for the good of the people," by Dr. Sun Yat-sen.

This statement is on the famous double dragon gateway that arches over Stockton Street. Built in 1970, it welcomes all to the official China Town of San Francisco.

All under heaven is good for the people! What a gospel Principle! And what a way to begin one of my favorite and absolute musts when I am in San Francisco. Thor and I missed it our first trip, but when we had the opportunity to visit again some 20+ years later we fell upon China Town like a 15 year old girl for a boy band! We couldn't get enough of the sensations that await all who walk down its' streets.

A great example of efficiency and beauty is the display in this market. Literally thousands of different herbs, veggies, spices, dried fish and all manner of unnamed products line the immaculate shelves floor to ceiling in gallon and half gallon glass jars topped with shimmering chrome lids. It made me feel quite dull as I stood there in awe and wonder. I feel as though one would have to be born into the culture and grow very old to have enough time to understand the scope and possibilities of use for the items on display. All natural and all with specific purpose. It made me think of Western remedies and what little we do that is truly natural anymore. I must admit that I was fascinated by the top row in this photo which shows bags of "fins" in a variety of sizes as does the jar at the left of the second row. All I know about fins are the infamous soup. (...And I am sure there are many more uses for them!) The proprietor of the store was proud and pleased to allow me to photograph his truly bright and pretty store.

My first introduction to Leechee fruit was, in of all places, St. George, Utah! Perhaps not the genuine preparation, these curious little fruits were very delicious, preserved in their light sugar syrup. About ping-pong ball in size, it takes two bites to enjoy one. With a leathery skin similar to that of an avocado, it gives slightly under your touch. The pebbly/spiky leather is peeled easily away revealing the palest of pink, almost white soft fruit. Akin to the feel of a pear in your mouth the sweetness will surprise your pallet. I am just entranced with the colours! Rich rosey pink to magenta and mulberry contrasted with the flat kiwi green. It's a designer's dream and I just know that when Heavenly Father was sketching out this one He took suggestions from toddlers! You can purchase Leechees in most large chain markets, give them a try!

Along side of these leechees I saw flat peaches, long beans - looooooong beans! They had to be at least 18 inches! I wanted to grab up a bunch to take home - delicious! The aroma of all the freshest of apples, nectarines, and a fruit I do not were heady and intoxicating! The streets are lined with market after market with nothing but fresh produce some still in the packing boxes. Some decorated with beautiful flowers and greenery. It fills your eyes as much as the pallet!

If you plan your trip for the afternoon, you have planned it too late! Wake up early and head out to the market for breakfast. My suggestion will invite you with its' aroma for half a block - NO EXAGGERATION! These little cuties are calling you with the sweet vanilla cup-cake-y scent that almost forces you up and into the store. Again I was met by a very happy, proud and welcoming owner who was pleased to allow me photographs. We tried to communicate in the usual way, by raising the decibel level! After a few minutes we both laughed and brought it back to the normal pitch! She showed me her tools and irons and even the batter. Watching her carefully pull the round fluffy balls from the iron and onto the plate in one piece was a treat. I think anyone would have fun eating the waffle one little ball at a time! Imagine your toddler's smile when he was given the tiny little fish! (to the lower right of the "normal" waffle) That happened to be my favorite and I searched all morning for an iron like either of them. (no luck)

As you walk through China Town we need to remember we are uninvited guests. We need to be aware of our facial expressions, pointing fingers, and all remarks we make may be misinterpreted as rude. The visual stimulations, scents, sounds, and culture can provide so many opportunities for growth and learning, but can also seen strange, odd, and sometimes even shocking. I would suggest saving most comments until you are back at the hotel. Ask permission before taking photographs. Smile, say hello and thank you -even if you think you are misunderstood, politely nod when eye contact is made. Stand back more towards the curb and allow the regulars to do their shopping. Thor and I are fairly short, 5'7" and 5'4" respectively; however we towered over many of the folks. Imagine if someone were that much taller than you and was in your way as you tried to do your weekly shopping. Be as polite as possible.

Most of the folks I met were courteous, friendly and willing to show and teach me new things. Some were not as accommodating and I knew they felt I was an intruding tourist. Try not to be one of the rude, gawking, and loud - remember that it is a different culture and what is normal for us may not be for them. Yes, it's in the U.S., but just like most towns with a majority of immigrants, there is an adjustment for both cultures to be made.

Bring a few dollars and stroll through the shops for a genuine souvenir. If you don't plan on a purchase be careful to stay out of the way of those who will be. If you are being an observer, do so from a distance; if it is possible, ask if it is o.k. for you to stand and learn what they are doing. If you are denied a photo op or entrance, just say thanks and leave. There is sure to be another interesting shop a few stores down that will welcome you.

add to sk*rt

IF hard work was all it took to be rich, Migrant Workers would rule the economic world.

One more post on the murals in Coit Tower.

Back in the day, S'mee moved. Our family moved several times when I was a child, sometimes several times in a single year, but there's another post in all of that. One place that seemed to drag us back every so often was a (then) farming community. Potatoes, Alfalfa (at one point, our home was smack in the middle of one of these fields), plenty of Dairies, Turkeys, Chickens and their Eggs, and APRICOTS!

We were all fairly young, too young to be legally employed down at the local fast food. There were few jobs young women could earn wages from. Baby Sitting, Yard and House Work, and working with APRICOTS! The first year we worked the apricots, I was too young to go to camp. I had one more year to age. But my sisters needed to go and there wasn't money enough to spend on such luxuries as girl's camp. So we all got on our bikes and rode out to the fields and began the few summer weeks worth of camp money pitting and laying out fresh picked apricots.

The farm was large, dusty and HOT! We earned $1.00 per flat, which if memory serves correctly was approximately 4' x 12'. (after a day or two it wasn't the dimensions that mattered). The 'cots would arrive in large crates too heavy for us to pick up. They would be stacked near our posts. The people who had worked there for more than a day realized that it was faster to load up your clothes like this gal and then dump all of the collected fruit onto the space available on the flat. We would pick up the fresh and ripe fruit, twist it without bruising it and then place it flesh side up to dry naturally in the sun. The pits would be thrown into large collection barrels a few feet away from the flats in a central location. When your flat was full, you would go get an new one and place it on the one below and start all over raising your work surface 2 1/2 inches at a time until the end of the day.

The faster you accomplished this task the more money you would earn. The key was to become faster and faster each day. I remember by the end of the second summer of doing this job I didn't care about the money anymore I was out of my mind and just began "decorating" the flats in designs of swirled apricots, checkered apricots, perfect angles, lines and geometric shapes, and I remember to this day the last flat I laid out had an apricot tribute to Mickey Mouse.

The stench of the farm after the first week was incredible. Fruit that had been mishandled or dropped and forgotten was left to nature and began to rot and ferment in the hot sun and eventually the wet humid fumes of it all were overwhelming to me. We stood by ourselves on cement slabs large enough to accommodate the mesh wrought iron table that was just large enough to hold the flat and just enough room to stand around one side of it. Other than that, it was the fine dusty soil the farm and plant was situated in. Large corrugated metal and wood buildings held the farm equipment and there were the obligatory and miscellaneous towers here and there. The proximity to these metal building provided us with the radiant heat of the reflected sun and the rumbling of the machinery.

Ants came in by the droves and so did any other multi-legged creature looking for a treat. It was a feast for the insect kingdom and you learned not to stand still for too long and how to swat while pitting and not miss a beat!

Large trucks would come in twice a week from a large skin care company and remove all the pits for use in their lotions. (Our hands were nice and soft by the end of summer!) The noise from this process was pretty loud. (Imagine a large garbage truck lifting up and dropping down metal trash cans full of pits and dumping them into the truck over and over until it was full. yowsers!) After the days worked was finished we got backed on our bikes and rode back home, exhausted.

Although this is the end of my story it is not the end of those who began it. Prior to our pitting, someone had to go out to the fields and get the product in the first place. Anyone who has worked in the Church Farming fields knows the enjoyment one gets from dragging the hoses from tree to tree; climbing on wood ladders to thin the fruit blossoms, and hand picking the fruit. Multiply that (usually) one days' free labour of service with friends and family chatting and laughing into your daily piece work job and its' value for putting food on the table and you get a job that will break your body down and take years off your life.

The migrant workers don't have the time to chat in the fields and design Mickey Mouse out of the fruit they collect. They are not allowed to just eat what they want. The restrooms are actually honey pots, a name Thor uses because they attract all manner of vermin. And they are usually located at the corner of the field, which depending on the day could be several acres away. They carry their own water, which is added the their work load. Their noon meal is located near the "honey pots", so you can imagine what has become of it in the heat and exposure. They become the mule who walks from tree to tree and hand carries the baskets in from the field that were too heavy for us to haul ten feet. Most of their work is with their hands over their heads, faces to the sun. Others work for hours with their backs bent over or on their hands and knees.

Imagine receiving a check at the end of the week -pennies per pound of fruit, where it is your word against your employers' as too just how much work you produced. Any arguments and you are threatened with deportation. At the end of your job you are politely asked to go back to Mexico and come back next year, again to do piece work without benefits, pension, or the majority of your family. All of your housing and expenses can be taken from your check prior to your receiving it if you live on the job farm site. Even if you choose to live elsewhere, if you are a migrant worker, you will live in housing that is substandard and over priced. (Cracking floors, infested with mice and roaches so much that any food is destroyed/eaten by the vermin in one day. One toilet and one sink. All this for $1200.00 a month. S'mee lives on 1/2 acre, in a 1500 sf home -3bed/2bath-with all the conveniences of modern society for $800.00 mortgage. The house next door, which is LARGER is rented for $750.00 per month) To manage it, you invite several other workers to share your living space for the season. This means no furniture other than the old mattresses you can find placed directly beside each other on the floor with no room to walk other than on top of the mattress. Your food is stored in bags on the floor because there is no refrigerator. If you do find one to use, your grandmother would have thrown out years ago because it uses so much energy to run it isn't cost effective. Because you speak a language other than your employer's you depend on an interpreter for correct information.

(While in the Central Coast we listened to one NPR program and learned just how un Christ-like some of these farms still are. It doesn't matter to me if you are pro or con on immigration. NO ONE should be living -especially in the U.S.A.- under these conditions of threat, coercion, poverty and filth. Thank you to corporations like Taco Bell for (finally after 4 years!) upgrading the conditions nation wide!)

Some times the employers are honest, pay well, provide good housing, medical aide when needed, provide honest interpreters, and rehire season to season. Some employers know they have their workers by the neck and abuse the tar out of them through deceit, language barriers, and threat.

EITHER WAY FARM LABOUR IS HARD WORK! I know from my VERY LIMITED experience as a young girl that I would NEVER want any of my children doing the same labour without fair compensation. (If you previewed the 'hard work' link, realize the pay has increased, but not much else. Read: now instead of $50.00 per day they make about $100.00 Would any of us do this work for that pay?) I look at the food I purchase very carefully and with an empathetic eye to how it came to be on my table. Thanks to those who work the fields for very little pay; and have to move every few months (some weeks). It is right and correct that you are honoured in these murals and it is right that we not forget what it takes to get a piece of fruit from the field to our table.

Would you like to do more than just say "thanks"? Click HERE to open a form letter to encourage other fast food chains to follow Taco Bell's Supplier Code of Conduct. Read it under "Our Company".

add to sk*rt

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

  • Coit Tower, San Francisco

  • Coit Tower, San Fran., CA
    Originally uploaded by S'mee.

    Lillie Hitchcock Coit was a little girl when she was playing with friends in an abandoned building. The building took fire and she was rescued by volunteer fire fighters. Later in her youth as she was walking home from school she saw the Knickerbocker Engine no.5 struggling to get up those infamous hills to yet another fire. Dropping her school books she ran to their aide and yelled at others standing in the street to help the volunteers. Lillie was hooked. She loved the firemen in their uniforms, but more so for their heroic efforts time and again.

    Going to the links will give you plenty of history and more information on the tower itself, so much so that yesterday's blog went into cyber space never to be seen again! That said, there are stories of Lillie abandoning her hubby at the alter to run after Engine no.5 still dressed in her dress and veil! After hubby died at age 47 Lillie went to France and entertained the likes of Napoleon all the while her heart still with those Knickerbockers. When she died at age 86 she left one third of her vast fortune to San Francisco and asked that it "be expended in an appropriate manner for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city which I have always loved." (The other two thirds of her fortune went to the Universities of California and Maryland - nice gal!)

    Controversy and politics were the order of the day and after all the dust settled the city decided upon what we have currently up on Telegraph Hill. The tower itself rises some 212 feet giving the folks inside a 360 degree perspective of the city. After a $3.00 ticket purchase on the main floor, one rides the elevator. 20 or so more steps spiral you out into the open air.

    This is one of the photos I took. So many structures! So much concrete, steel, and asphalt that finding any green is near to impossible. Like a Where's Waldo? game.

    Find the green and you win! There are spots here and there, but it is always amazing to me how the buildings are on top of each other. There are actual places in this city that only get a few moments of direct sunlight each day because the buildings are so high and built so close. Until I spent time wandering around the neighborhoods, I didn't notice how most of the city homes are actually one huge building with connecting/shared walls; (Victorian Houses)

    with facades that are painted and designed to resemble individual houses. It is a hard concept for a gal from SoCAL where in my (lower middle class) neighborhood everyone is required to have at least 1/2 acre per single residence. I look at my "tiny" back yard differently now. Across the street from our hotel we saw that most of the housing had a penthouse suite and that roof access was often used to provide an outdoor patio, sunroom, or even gardens. While standing perched atop Coit Tower it is interesting to see what the different neighborhoods use this space for. We saw the afore mentioned, but also solariums, shuffle board and tennis courts, and even a school playground!

    From this vantage point one can see Alcatraz, Lombard Street, ChinaTown, Fisherman's Wharf, the TransAmerica Building, and both the Golden Gate and Oakland Bay Bridge, among other landmarks.

    Here is a link to the Virtual Museum on line where you can click and point your way through many of the sights and history for yourself! This is a video documentary of events leading up to, during and shortly after the 1906 earthquake. Have fun, take a tour, enjoy!

    add to sk*rt

    Monday, June 27, 2005

  • The Palace of Fine Arts

  • mom and dad 2 -1 -2005 083
    Originally uploaded by S'mee.

    One of my favorite places to visit in San Francisco is the Palace of Fine Arts. Built by Bernard Maybeck in 1915, it stands near the bay in a terrific neighborhood surrounded by elite homes and green gardens. Land obviously is at a premium in the Bay Area, and to see the green lawn and the reflection pools is a treat.

    The pool is actually an ancient wet land used by Maybeck purposely to reflect the structures beauty. Unfortunately Maybeck could not or did not see the future and the the pool is has begun to sink into itself, taking the surrounding flora with it! There is danger of the entire grounds being destroyed and evidence that the structures themselves are already pressured and stressing.

    The solution? A bake sale. Well, not exactly, but the city of San Francisco has designated a committee to oversee the reconstruction and repair of the entire park. The city has also approved and set aside $4.9 million for the project and asking for another $16 million in donations! The work has already begun with the tagging of trees and structural reinforcements. In the mean time it takes some of the beauty away from the park, but not much - it's still so peaceful and thought provoking to walk these grounds and listen to the birds and water while seeing a new piece of the monument you missed the time before.

    mom and dad 2 -1 -2005 109
    Originally uploaded by S'mee.

    This photo demonstrates how the trees' roots are unsupported and the weight of the plants, trees, and foliage pull into the lake. Trees all along the edge of the water have already been swallowed whole, exposing their root balls to the sky as if a giant reached down and plucked them out of the ground like an errant weed; tree tops under the water and limbs reaching out like a drowning victim. It is sad to witness and one hopes that it can be saved in time.

    The walkways are also in danger; some have been blocked from use. The black asphalt border that surrounds the perimeter looks as if it has been melted and rolled under the surface. Chain link fencing has been put up as a safety precaution. One cannot walk near the water's edge as in years past. It it an enormous sink hole.

    If you are interested in the history of this edifice or would like to contribute to it's restoration, please visit the link in the title of this post. (All private donations up to $500,00 will be doubled thanks to Maurice Kanbar.) There are so many facts, interesting tidbits, and many photos- that I would be here all day repeating what has already been written. Click here for a virtual tour, enjoy!

    add to sk*rt

    Sunday, June 26, 2005

    Carlton has been too busy to (b)log!

    mom and dad 2 -1 -2005 102
    Originally uploaded by S'mee.

    Thank you for being patient as I have been traveling around! Now that I am home I have need to catch up and get back to business. So I will be back to blogging in a day or two.

    When I do get back we will go over where Thor and I have been, what we saw and experienced and even some new commentary on up coming jobs here at home. Plenty of photos and descriptions.

    In the meantime, off to the side, a pretty picture. Any guesses where this was shot?

    add to sk*rt

    Monday, June 20, 2005

    and you thought it only happened in the movies...

    So this morning is "wake up and go get more boxes day". Last night #5 came into the front room and announced: "I want to say thanks for ALL THE STUFF YOU GUYS GAVE ME OVER THE LAST FEW YEARS! Good grief! I have too much stuff! Promise you'll never buy me anything else...EVER! lol!" Then about ten minutes later she came in with her list of things she will need once she is in her new apartment. Thor just looked at her and said, "You're on your own kid. We ain't buying you anything ANYMORE!" lol.

    It was about 11:30 and we can hear the new washing machine working up to a "situation" (read: Houston, we have a "situation"). A loud thumping noise soon became a loud Wham WHam WHAM WHAM WHAM WHAM with every female on the premises meeting at the huge white fixture of doom. We all burst out laughing when we saw the machine lid bouncing up and down in a mighty rhythm trying to expel all THREE foaming pillows #5 had shoved in there for one last cleansing before the trip. "Well, it seems they puff when you wash 'em." said #5, "Brilliant, Sherlock" came #3's reply and as we were all trying to save the hallway from wreck and ruin with suds and laughter #5 again (remember this is the smart one in the family) proclaims, "They really soak up the water don't they? I thought they'd shrink and get all flat." LOL! I mean really, how did she pass all those science AP exams? (Note to the BY-U School of Science: Stop requesting she change her major! English for her is looking the better choice!) We ended up with a puffy bathtub of foam and eventually ran each pillow separately through a spin cycle. After all the commotion she mentioned there were still things to learn on the last day before you leave home. QUICK! Someone get a recording device of some kind - there's a college freshman who admits she has something to learn! lol

    add to sk*rt

    Sunday, June 19, 2005

    one more reason I am a jerk sometimes

    O.k. So it's Father's Day, 10:00p.m. and I just remembered that I forgot to call my dad! I am such a LOSER!

    Not as an excuse, but today was NUTSO! Bishop canceled all meetings other than the typical block, but not until Thor and I had walked out the door for said meetings. So needless to say the better part of our morning was kind of goofy. Church went well, although the reality of being in the RS presidency is kicking in and there is no just going home after church anymore. It took me 45 minutes to make it out to the car where Thor and the really neat Teacher and Deacon we take to church were waiting for me. Like they had nothing else to do than wait on S'mee! I think I will be driving my own car from now on. ugh!

    I got home about 45 minutes too late to see me friend who drove an hour "just to see me" before she had to drive another hour to get on a plane to go home. I felt terrible and still haven't been able to get a hold of her to explain my rudeness.

    #1 and his wife came up and did the Father's day thing with Thor (always so good to see them!!! : > ) while #3 went to meet #4 at a fireside. Then there was a small situation with Thor and the "church needs"- so he took care of those situations and came back. #5's non-boyfriend texted her from San Diego (3+hrs away) where his Grampa was in surgery and expected to not make it through. So she was upset and so was the non-boy friend. (Turns out later he came out fine and wrote a note to his very elderly wife= "Hello gorgeous, we made it through another one, I love you.") When #3,4,&5 came back we did the Daddy-day thing once again (this was particularly fun). Later #2 and his wife and the 2 year old came over (also very fun!!!) and we did the dad's day stuff all over again! When they went home about 45 minutes ago (9:30-ish), we got on the last minute scheduling and packing for #5. That's when it hit me.

    We didn't call either Grampa-Dad and we both are feeling like junk. It's 10:00 and way past 'calling the old folks' time. How do you make up for this one? I don't think you can.

    add to sk*rt

    Saturday, June 18, 2005

    Carlton's Log: Day Five (yeah I know day 4 is absent)

    Three hours ago we pulled into the driveway after a straight bee line for home, no breakfast, no lunch - only potty stops along the way! Thor and I wanted to be HOME NOW! lol

    Too pooped to write much other than I took whopping 312(?) pictures. So as soon as I can transfer the c.d. from Thor's laptop to the monster on the desk... you'll be the first to see some of the more worthy shots, like maybe 10. lol. Face it, I am cheap and it depends on how much is already used for on this month's Flicker account!

    As Chronicler commented yesterday, Thor likes to drive. So we drove! We head out of the hotel at 11:00 and we weren't back until 10:30-ish that night. Where did we go, what did we see? We went up the 101 for about an hour, decided it was a parking lot and headed for the coastal hwy 1 route in hopes of seeing Giant Redwoods. We got as far as 40 minutes north of Jenner and then meandered our way back home to the hotel. Along the way we saw places I had never been before and Thor had forgotten. We went through the artsy town of Sabastapol and the tiny neighboring towns around it. We encountered a head on TC involving a semi-truck and a mini-van. (Seemed nasty but a slow hit -right turn vs. left turn- no wahmbulances, just a ton o police and a road block which sent us through really beautiful country along the Russian River.) We saw Bodega Bay ("The Birds" was filmed here), slowly drove through Tomales, population according to the sign, 50; and enjoyed the view of the ocean water from the inlet at Point Reyes. Curiosity caught us by the neck and we had to go check out the light house on the point. (Note to sign makers on the peninsula: If you are going to tell us it is closed Monday and Wednesday, might want to include that it is also closed well before sunset at 4:00. Thanks.) Saw a bunch of very happy CA cows and rich people who do not want you to go see the light house. (Note to rich people: Hey folks, you have the great privilege of living on "protected" National Property. That means unless we have some sort of connection and a ton of money we can't enjoy the "National Property" everyday as you do. You have your terrific home and great view, can't we just drive by and get along?) We eventually made our way out to the Muir Woods and down through Sausalito, then back over the Golden Gate and "home". Whew!

    More details tamale or later tonight if I get an opportunity. We leave for the BY-U late Monday to drop off #5 and then home again on Thursday. (This is the third time I have had a new car, second if you count that the car is "mine" to drive primarily. It feels very odd that it is sitting in the back yard just waiting for me to take her for a drive.... sigh)

    O.k. See you all later.

    add to sk*rt

    Thursday, June 16, 2005

    Just because you asked so nicely...

    French Chocolate TrufflesAdapted from Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate,
    by Barbara Myers; Penguin Books, 1984

    1 cup sweet (unsalted) butter
    8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
    ½ cup brandy
    Unsweetened cocoa powder

    In a heavy saucepan, cut the butter into pieces and melt over medium-low heat. Turn heat to medium, and when butter bubbles, stir to mix well. When bubbling turns to foam, remove the butter from the heat. Let it settle for 5 minutes, then skim any remaining foam from the top. Carefully pour the clear liquid into a cup, leaving the light brown sediment in the pan. Wipe pan clean with a paper towel.

    Return the clarified butter to the clean saucepan. Add the chopped chocolate. Stir over very low heat until chocolate is melted and smoothly blended with the butter. Remove the pan from heat and cool slightly. Stir in the brandy.

    Refrigerate for several hours or overnight, until the mixture is firm enough to handle. (Stir it occasionally to prevent the butter from separating.)

    Shape the chilled mixture into irregular balls, about 1 to 1 ¼ inches in diameter. Sprinkle the cocoa on a sheet of wax paper, and roll the truffles in it to coat them. Place on a cookie sheet in a single layer and refrigerate until firm. Then store between sheets of wax paper in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator. (They’ll keep well for several weeks.)

    Serve chilled.
    Makes 3 to 3 ½ dozen truffles

    Thanks to California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco
    p.s. Chronicler: The nice folks at the counter where I inquired about classes and or demos said there were none available at that location. However this says otherwise: Summer Festivals!

    add to sk*rt

    Carlton's Chocolate Log!

    Chocolate! Today was the exciting trip to the Chocolate Exhibit in San Francisco.

    Where do I begin? After parking the car and walking down a block or my thoughts were interrupted by a man sitting in the corridor of the building. "Hello." "Good Morning." "How are you ma'am? Everything going o.k. for you?" "Yes, thank you. And yourself?" "Not so good. I pay $575.00 for a room. ONE room. So I sit here to try and get my food money. I mean I have a room, but the rest I try to get help with. Can you help me?" "I am sorry, no, I can't, I only carry my ATM card. Can I bring you a burger later?" "No, ma'am. Are you sure you're o.k.? I mean, I got $5.oo I can give you it right now if you need it." "No thanks, I have enough." "You sure, you look like you could use $5.00." "No, thanks, I need to head into the museum now. See you later." "Sure ma'am. Bye and God bless you." I guess I should have dressed better.

    As I walk into the museum there is a sea of lime green shirts on very small people. When I say a sea, I mean if you were between the ages of 6 and 14, you were at that museum to day. Yeowsers! I allow the kids to get in ahead of me, I figure (correctly) they will fly through the exhibit while I tend to linger a tad more. I took two pictures of the display case before the entrance and then a security guard comes over to me and very aggressively informs me that "THERE ARE NO PHOTOS ALLOWED IN THE MUSEUM!" well o.k. then. I crawl past him and enter the exhibit, slowly regaining my original size.

    The first part of the exhibit is rain forest education and just how the trees that produce cacao are grown and where. There is a Really -really- creepy Leaf Cutter Ant LIVE diorama. This display case is Gynormous with about 80BILLION red ants going all Geoffrey Dalmer on these fake trees with actual branches. They are chomping and carrying the bright green dime sized pieces back to a small container behind the scene. This diorama extended the entire length of the wall (24 feet?) and about 8 feet tall. (The whole point being how everything in the forest is symbiotic and the ants help fertilize the tress, yada yada yada...)

    Next came ancient pottery and the uses of cacao by the Myan Culture. Cacao was prized and expensive and used by the elite and also as sacrifice for the gods. Special apparel was worn while drinking a cup of the then bitter elixir made from the cacao and water. Not just any cup would do, special urns, pitchers, and bowls would hold the spectacular liquid. During the processing, again, only the special grinding bowls and basins would be used. Drinking the cacao required special clothing and adornments of high quality. In the display there were rich dark green beads made from an unnamed rock, but polished and spherical about an inch in size and long enough to hang around a man's neck and still reach his navel. At the center of the strand were ornaments of the rock in odd designs, I presume were symbolic carvings. Ear plugs were mentioned and shown twice as was a beautiful 5-6 pointed flat star-shaped white shell carving with a spiral cut out of the center. This piece was noted as specific to honour Quetzlcoatl; the god they worshiped above all others.

    After the Aztecs came the Spanish! And they kept their secret passion for chocolate for quite some time. But when they finally shared the secret (1600-1700) it hit big with those who could afford it's "intoxicating" and "addictive" taste! Neither of the prior terms are truth, but ask any chocoholic and they may tell you differently! The rich and famous eventually created shops similar to Starbucks where they could meet, chat and enjoy a hot cup of (the still bitter) drink. Charles II of England tried to pass laws and policies that would eventually close these shops. His concern? Political! It seems that his political enemies would gather around a steamy hot cup and plot his demise! (dun dun duuuuun!) Also invented in this era was the infamous saucer! Prior to chocolate drinking it seems no one cared too much about spilling! But with the popularity of cocoa among the elite and wealthy the stains peaked someone's interest into saving the costly clothes that were being dribbled on, hence, the saucer. At the show there were exquisite examples of the fine china sets that rival any tea sets you may seen. These delicate beautiful sets were thin porcelain and hand painted with scenery, flowers and graphic designs. One particular set that caught my eye was a covered cup that would hold about half cup of cocoa. The lid was domed and had a red rose bud for the handle. Gorgeous! The saucer was also very interesting as it had an intricate scroll-work cut cup-holding bowl formed into the saucer. Shaped like a small bowl, the cup would fit into this bowl (with a small slice cut through to the saucer to accommodate the handle) to avoid spillage. It too, was hand painted with red rose buds and other small flowers.

    "It's strengthening, restorative, and apt to repair decayed strength and make people strong!" Louis Lemery 1702 (I'm not sure, but I think Louis here thought chocolate made you strong...)

    This brought us to the slave trade that boomed when the demand for cacao/cocoa rose. The 17/18th century brought a new awareness of the benefits of drinking cocoa. Adding sugar added a demand for this product and that increased the demand for slavery as well. William Cadbury saw the slave trade and the influence cocoa and sugar had on it and began to protest. When abolishion came, working conditions for the freed slaves did not. In 1907,William was so displeased with the industry and it's work ethics that he called for a boycott among all the cocoa producers in England and Europe. His letter to other owners of companies helped to improve the former slaves and all others who worked to bring chocolate to the masses.

    During 1875, Daniel Peter added condensed milk to chocolate. Along with the added sugar, the added milk made the chocolate affordable and tasted "better" to the common people. (S'mee!) The more sugar and milk added -the further the cocoa went, eventually others added everything from eggs to bread to cocoa to help make a variety of products.

    "Candy making should be taught and acquired as one of the womanly accomplishments. Each household should have on hand a small stock of fancy molds." - Sindney Morse, Household Discoveries, 1913 (dang that women's lib anyway!)

    Approximately 1890, Robert L. Strohecker invented the beloved easter bunny!

    Scientific fact: The chemical phenylthylamine is in chocolate and it is the same chemical the body produces when the person producing said chemical is feeling "in love". oooh la la!

    Scientific fact: Chocolate contains theobromine, which enlarges the blood vessels. Medical professionals now are using this as a treatment for high blood pressure! (this could totally explain S'mee's tendency towards extremely low blood pressure!)

    Scientific fact: Chocolate does indeed contain caffeine, but in too small of quantities to affect the brain, such as in a cup of coffee or glass of tea.

    Other facts: The U.S. is #1 in the world for grinding cacao and getting it ready for processing.

    In the 1970's the demand for cacao peaked! In 2000, there was such a surplus of cacao that it exceeded 1 million tons! This created an all time low and prices went to the basement! Today, June 16, at approx. 11:30 a.m. Chocolate was down $16.00 at the New York Stock Exchange. Call your broker and BUY!

    Cacao MUST be hand harvested, creating jobs (both good and bad). The pod, about the size of a pineapple, is rooted right onto the trunk of the tree. It takes a tree at least 2 years before a pod is ready to be harvested. The pods look similar to the pods in Body Snatchers. Once removed from the tree, the pod is opened and scraped clean of the fiberous and slimy and smaller seed pods inside. The seeds inside are about the size of your thumb tip and are left out in the sun to dry on banana leaves and ferment for at least a week. After a week the size, taste and colour of the seeds have changed from a creamy white to a slightly wrinkled dark brown. The dark brown cacao seeds are then packed in burlap or other air infusing material for shipping. They seeds need to remain dry to prevent molding (ugh!).

    Cacao is best grown in the shade and tropical climate. This is beginning to devastate the rain forests in some area, however grower are beginning to use the outer edges of the forests, which do not effect the crop nor the forests at all. Great solution! The largest producer is in Africa, Ivory Coast, where there is concern about child labour. There are laws that prevent child labour and efforts are being made to see that producers eliminate children from there work force all together. The U.S., England, and most of Europe refuse cacao products from farmers who use children; which is helping to force other farmers to more ethical practices in the fields and factories.

    One item on display fascinated me. It was a sculpture depicting the Day of the Dead, a celebratory day for honouring relatives who have gone ahead of you, so to speak. The sculpture, according to the museum notes, was designed to show the history of the holiday. "It represents the "Tree of Life" as based on Mexican "folklore" mixed with Biblical histories." Interesting. The base is a woman's skeleton and has many levels for dead loved ones to reside according to the life they earned while on earth. There are devils nearer the base and owls towards the top. Other fancy and colourful birds are sprinkled throughout. The top has a place for seven candles. Again, interesting.

    For even more information check this out. For recipes here's where you want to be!


    p.s. as I was leaving it was raining. Nice. I was wearing a white tee-shirt. Needless to say I ran to the garage where the car was parked! lol The Street-guy was no longer in the corridor. Perhaps he went home, out of the rain.

    add to sk*rt

    Wednesday, June 15, 2005

    Carlton's Log: day two!

    Thor found a camera for me to use - yeah! So I am off today to the Museum of Sciences to check out the Chocolate exhibit for dear Chronicler. Yes, it's a tough assignment, yes, it wasn't on my original agenda, but one does make sacrifices for those dear to them! (excuse me while I wipe the morning cocoa from my mouth...ahem) After that? Who knows!

    On the trip up here I was very frustrated with the camera, grrr. I thought the problem was a funky memory chip. In fairness, the camera in question is very old, (cost about $65.00 when #4 bought it for the family way back in the day - so you know it was really high tech then,lol), and has been dropped more times than Elizabeth Taylor. The folks down at the "tech" store informed us that, yes, a memory chip can go bad from too much use (Thor just looked at me and laughed), so we purchased a new chip. After the new chip was installed (read: placed in the little hole, sorry if that too technical for some of you, lol) the camera seemed to take pictures, so we left the store happy clams. As it turns out the camera is indeed BRokE, kaput, DEAD! Several of the pictures, after successfully being had, upon reviewing later came up as: "UNSUPPORTED DATA". o.k. 68 pictures of scenic interstate highway 5 were scrambled beyond recognition or completely black. I had a terrific photo of the naturally tawny hills that sit right on top of the watered food producing fields of the Central Valley, which looked more like a giant pile of puppies laying on cool green grass. I also had a picture of the Pea Soup Anderson's. (note to self: do not go back there to again until you are in your late sixties, maybe even wait until you are 76-ish. OLD PEOPLE FOOD-ack!) There were plenty of photos of the energy windmills that dot Palm Springs, Tehachapi and up through the "5". And also photos of the hotel(yikes!) where we are staying. (corner of ding ding and clang clang! Free San Fran wake up call! : )

    So I am off! (in more ways than one...) See you later tonight!

    add to sk*rt

    Tuesday, June 14, 2005

    Carlton's Log: day one - sort of...

    Well here we go again! The last time Thor and I came to San Francisco we experienced the 9-11 tragedy and the effects it had on this international city. i.e. controlled mayhem! (anyone interested in that story?, write me in the comments box and I'll write it up) We arrive today and we end up having a an earthquake, 7.6, off the coast and then again a 3.9 inland (much smaller, although I did feel it as I standing in our hotel room rather high off the ground...). Along with these earthquakes came a tsunami warning.

    Our #2 called us during our dinner and told us about the tsunami warning. It was kind of funny or perhaps more so coincidental that he was also the one who called to warn us about 9-11.

    I think that the warning and excitement currently being reported is due largely to the recent events of last winter, and the enormity of the destruction and deaths from that tsunami. The U.S. has (I think?) better advantages for broadcasting predictions and warnings and so the call goes forth: Be ye warned! The news currently is taking any and all calls from viewers, some crack pots, others with actual albeit minimal information about what they felt or experienced during the two quakes. I have to be honest, there is only ONE station even bothering to televise this event; and no one in the hotel or otherwise warned us at all. lol It's kind of funny that we heard all about this via a (very inland) SoCAL phone call! lol

    Lest anyone think that I am reducing the past events, I am not nor do I wish to belittle them in any way. It's just odd how, while in the midst of the supposed commotion - no one cared lol. Perhaps it is because we are in the center of the city on top of Nob Hill and are a fairly safe distance from the shore.

    Here's another "thing"; my digital camera broke and I have no means of photo journaling this trip as of yet. The thought of purchasing a new camera makes me crazy... it would be nice, but I just bought a car and there went all of S'mee's monopoly money for the week. Grr. So I will figure out something else. For now, that's day one in S.F.

    p.s. please forgive spelling errors! Different keyboard, no spell check!

    add to sk*rt

    This is Halloween!

    Ahhh, the crispness of the mornings are lasting well into the afternoon and has announced that autumn is once again here! WaHoo! It's my favorite time of the year. I know that we'll have two weeks of cool weather, then another three weeks of really hot "Indian Summer", then two or three days before Halloween it will get cold and stay cold for at least four months.

    The whole of autumn gets me excited. I enjoy the anticipation of the holidays. I try to get into Disneyland for one last hurrah and to sneak a peek at the "Nightmare Before Christmas" (N.B.C.) display at the Haunted Mansion and steal as many idea as possible within my budget. I am a holiday freak and I admit it.

    This morning I went into nutso mode and the wheels are turning. After a quick trip out to the shed, inventory will be taken and plans will be made. This year there will definitely be more tombstones made, and hopefully more decor that lends itself to the theme. All of this is crazy because we rarely treat children in our neighborhood. The times they are a changin' and good folk stay away from the door to door festivities and only the crack head 32 year old moms with a soundly sleeping 3 month old come asking for milky way bars. (Oh, and the 24 year old gang bangers who scare the bujeebies outta me) But still I hope.

    Two years ago I made up the front porch with floor to ceiling "New Orleans" lattice closing it off on all sides except the entry. Once inside there was a friendly "graveyard". (I prefer Halloween lite to blood and guts gory) I have tons of silk grass (from the wedding business years ago), so the grass was laid over bundles of crumpled newspaper to resemble grave "humps". Each site had it's own tombstone and some actual dead roses. There was a floating glow in the dark ghostie balloon and when guests arrived at the porch they would inadvertently step on the fog machine dispenser and fog would cover the floor of the "yard". The soundtrack from Nightmare before Christmas was playing in the background and with the other decorations, it was pretty cool.

    Not too many people showed up, but those who did, albeit on some form of "medication", were happy they came by for their lousy candy. I always want to throw a fun party, but competing with the "Trunk and Treat" at church and school carnivals always means not enough guests to bother with. sigh.

    This year Halloween is on Monday, so I will again attempt to bring something new to the slab. Goals are as follows:

    New additions to the tombstones.
    A wreath with eyes and teeth similar to the one in the Haunted Mansion/ N.B.C. Theme.
    Gates similar the scenes in N.B.C.
    Characters from N.B.C. that will greet the trick or treaters on the porch.
    New luminaries that follow the theme and create a path to the door.

    We'll see how it goes. I will be posting on the projects so all can see where it succeeds and if they fail. Costs and difficulties.

    I will also be posting projects I have done in the past that probably everyone has done to death, but maybe someone new will pop by and get an old idea and turn it into something better. Please share!

    First project just to get me in the mood... scary cupcakes!

    I am hoping to get started soon, so stay tuned!

    add to sk*rt

    Monday, June 13, 2005


    As Thor and I were on our way to Palm Springs he suggested we stop off at a car dealership and within an hour we were the owners of a new vehicle. It's boxy, it's smaller than the extended mini-van we had, but still large (if compared to, let's say this but not as large as, this). We got this. Normally Thor takes several months to make any decision, read: sometime in December I was expecting a car decision to actually come to fruition.

    I am not sure if this was the reason for the 5.6 shaker the next morning, but hey, whatever brings us a foot massage. We were on the second floor of our hotel Sunday morning when the "earthquake" hit. Technically, if you have lived here in CA for any length of time, a 5.6 isn't much to write home about. Actually we were into it about 45 seconds before we finally accepted that it wasn't a plane flyby and actually the earth rumbling. After it was over we called the kids at home. #5 answered and said she was answering the phone just as it began so we talked with her while it was going through our town. It was cool to think it had that much time to get to where we lived. Science!

    add to sk*rt

    Friday, June 10, 2005

    One last shameless plug...

    Here they are! Claremont Young Musicians Orchestra, CYMO

    at Walt Disney Hall in L.A. , May 2005.

    Don't you just love the organ pipes in that hall? Gorgeous! And there, right over there, yeah her, that's my #5! She's having the time of her life!

    So, If you're in the Southern California Area and would like tickets to see the show....HAH! No can do! This concert is FREE! But, they usually have a SRO crowd and "sell out", so get in line early if you want a FREE seat! Bridges Hall, Claremont Colleges, Claremont CA. 7:00 THIS Sunday. Doors open at 6:30, "tickets" will begin to be passed out to those in line about 6:20 or so. Come early and grab a seat, these kids are amazing! (There is even a reception following the concert with food and drink and opportunity to meet the musicians and the conductor!)

    Program and other information available at: Claremont Young Musicians Orchestra, CYMO

    add to sk*rt

    Around California in 7 days

    You have got to love them. Only men would chose and continue the tradition of having an annual summer event OUTDOORS and in PALM SPRINGS. Yup, it boggles the mind.

    Thor's company has an annual event that occurs during the end of every June. There are many places that could accommodate this type of event very nicely and still maintain the "feel" of what the event should have and for the "party" afterwards. Why, then, do we continue to hold this outdoors in the heat? This is an event where those in the know come dressed to impress, i.e. formal attire. (Sweat is always an appropriate accessory to an evening gown!) In Palm Springs during the end of June there is no such thing as "water-proof" mascara and most make up feels smothering at least. I have tried to find dresses in the past that allow a "dress" sandal, but in that heat, your feet swell and stick to the bottom of any foot wear and you smack smack smack with each footstep. It's crazy. Forget your hair, -it ain't happenin'.

    So, tomorrow Thor and I will gussy up and make the sojourn to Palm Springs! We will spend the night there and then race back home for #5's farewell concert at Bridges Hall at the Claremont Colleges. (shameless plug: It's FREE! Sunday, 7:00, be there!) She will be playing the same music she played at Disney Hall, so she is relatively stress free about it. Then on Monday, Thor and I head for "Frisco" (tiny "wahoo!" is heard in the background of S'mee's head).

    I enjoy San Fransisco because of the immense diversity. A lot to do and much to see. I absolutely love the China town experiences and will take may digital photos to share. I love going over to Oakland, Berkley and (on the other side) Mendocino. I can stay in the different neighborhoods for days and enjoy myself in the park for weeks! There are museums and library's and monuments galore. That and all the different forms of architecture will keep S'mee busy for the entire time!

    I will head down to the wharf for the obligatory pearl. (S'mee has collected pearls since she was a little girl and now has about 45 of the little darlings. More on pearls some other day.) While there I will stare at the sea lions for a few minutes and then grab some lunch and head back somewhere else. I enjoy the whole "civic transportation" gig there. I am such a dork!

    Last time Thor and I were there we went sight seeing on a city bus. The folks there are very friendly (especially to Thor! 8-[ who wasn't amused. lol) . We got loads of advice on what to see, where to see it and how to get there via the transit system. Some people I have talked to are afraid to use the system, especially alone, because of the "getting lost" factor. Heck! It's an adventure, you are on a bus, car, subway, etc. It's not like you are out there alone. If you get lost you ask someone; or if the worse happens, use your cell and get a cab to take you back to the hotel. You will have a great journal entry for it in the long run.

    When #5 went to S.F. with her high school band, I admit I was apprehensive. But I explained the transit system and the emergency routine to use if she needed to, and sent her off. She came home with great stories. She was tour guide Barbie and her group of kids saw all kinds of cool things. It was the same when she went with the band to Chicago. (She LOVED Chicago. note to self: I need to go there someday.)

    So I am off for about a week. Y'all have fun while I'm gone. Keep doing the dishes and pick your socks up off the living room floor.

    add to sk*rt

    Wednesday, June 08, 2005

    She is the "class" of 2005

    Today is the big day for #5! Graduation! She is happy and woke up to take friends out to breakfast before going off to the rehearsal. On the flip side she is nervous. Nervous because she has to give her speech and she doesn't want to "preach" or "act like I know anything they don't already know." She is afraid that mom is going to brag too much about the honours and scholarships (she has a right to get nervous about that). She just wants to be normal.

    But normal she ain't! She discovered "university" education in the fourth grade and has been determined ever since to get her education from some "U". She has worked extremely hard and with real dedication to that goal and it is finally here. I have to say she was one of the two we never had to ask if homework or practicing was done. It was always done, and then some. On top of the school she had a real zest for mentoring, volunteering and scripture studies. She reads her scriptures - all four standard works- everyday, everyday! I don't know too many adults who read all four everyday. (She was concerned about entering the Religious Studies Honours Program at the Bayou, her mom isn't concerned at all)

    I can honestly say, outside of the 3 months in junior high when she wanted to be popular and sassy, she has been the model kid. People say girls are hard. My two girls have been amazing. They are better than the parenting they received and the parents are receiving the blessings.

    O.k. enough mom braggity time. Good things to all who read this. See you all tamale!

    add to sk*rt

    Tuesday, June 07, 2005

    The Easy Road part three

    I went home. Back to the day to day routines and no paycheck and having to scrimp again - still. The big paycheck never had a chance to arrive. But after all the attention and all the pumping up of my attitude, ego, and ability it was time to go where I really mattered. I was making all kinds of strides and money for a corporation that in the long run probably doesn't even remember my contributions or name. At home, no one said thanks or appreciated what I was doing...yet.

    The thing about being a mom is this: No one cares until it's too late. No one cares if you were there to do all the icky stuff, or even the really really fun things unless they go wrong and then they tell you about their disappointment or lack due to your efforts. It is the dictionary definition of "thankless job". But does that make it less important or necessary? Less worthy of praise and thanks? Consider a "janitor" or "housekeeper" for a facility. Let's say a hospital. No one ever really thinks about them. Heck, when is the last time a housekeeper saved anyone's life? The doctors do that, right? Maybe the nurses? Well think about it, no, "janitors" and "housekeepers" are right up there in the life saving business and no one shows them the respect they are due. Why? Because we assume they are uneducated, unmotivated, less than.., frankly, they aren't nurses or doctors when they had the same opportunity to become such as anyone else. But they choose to stay low and mop and sanitize and wash the laundry and wipe up the vomit and blood on the floor. Imagine a hospital where a janitor/housekeeper does less than the job requires and you are next to lay in that bed they cleaned. It gives me the heebeejeebeeies thinking about what could be left behind. Although I can honestly say I have never searched out a janitor to say "thanks, I mean it, really, thanks for keeping the place clean."*

    The whole idea of political correctness nudges us to rename these janitors "housekeepers" in an effort to elevate their status. I can hear the voices now, "yeah, now we are compared to janitors! I HATE being a housekeeper, housewife, SAHM, whatever, I am more than that!" We hate it because of all the "someones" out there, some in our own homes that demean this work as menial and something worthy of "any idiot". Think back to what would happen without your menial labours, icky-ness everywhere. And we have all seen it ourselves; that one lady who just can't get it together in her own house. It's filthy and smells and we all think ill of her and sorry for her families. Yet, we demean ourselves for doing the job correctly. It's a conundrum for sure!

    Perhaps the original sin is with women. We are, whether we like it or not, the primary care-givers (another PC attempt at elevation) for those in our families. EVEN the women who work outside the home full time and come home to another's "help" or none at all. I see my sister in this role. She works outside her home and still comes home to make a warm meal, clean the house, reared worthy children and kept a happy guy all the while. How she accomplished all that I can't imagine, I wasn't a good working mom and I know it. But there are women like my sister who do manage to do it; out of necessity or talent, they succeed. But the fact remains: women teach their families and are primarily responsible for the rearing of the brood. Part of that teaching should include respect for mommy and what she is doing, whatever she is doing. I mean really teach our children, both genders, what is involved in all this "care-giving". We all point fingers at the examples of ill parenting, housekeeping or basic living. How about pointing some fingers in the other direction?

    Although the paychecks never came, the payoff has. I can see it in my sister's home as well, so I don't think it is a matter of the "stay at home"s versus the "work out side the home"s. For me the pay off comes to those who have taken the hard road. Done the menial and elevated those labours into what they truly are. They choose to serve and sacrifice for their children and spouses willingly and with a good attitude. They teach those being served the value of having a good home with parents who care enough to stay actively involved throughout the rough road. The payoff comes when you see the last of your daughters at the alter of the temple, dressed in purity and reflecting the teachings and principles taught by parents who took "the easy road" and lived life for their family rather than going for what they could have had in the "real world". The thanks may be silent, late, or perhaps there are those times when the "movie stuff" actually happens and your sons write you a long thoughtful thank you letter on the day of their temple sealing. I have received 3 such "thank you"s and let me tell you, nothing can compare to those kinds of paychecks. It helps me see that I really do matter and what I do, all the mundane mindless dribble that goes with the mom role is worth it. I am worth it. Taking the predictable road is worth it. Sanrio International has long forgotten S'mee; but my family will be with me for eternity.

    *Since the original writing if this post I have sought out housekeepers, janitors and other folks who make it their life's work to keep things nice for others, and say, "Thank you" in a way that they understand just how much I appreciate their effort.

    add to sk*rt

    Monday, June 06, 2005

    The Easy Road part two

    Back ground on Thor and I: We were married when Thor was 19 and I 18. Our children began to arrive two years later. Thor was young, but had a career and decided that "no wife of [mine] will work outside the home!" Part of that was pride and part of that was a true sense of his families upbringing and philosophy. I will admit that I both enjoyed and hated that at times. It gave me the opportunity to do whatever I chose to do with my days, however, before children came along I found myself bored at times.

    Enter children and my life became less than relaxed. Mundane, monotonous, bored, how many words can mean the same thing? Amidst the drudgery of the housework, diapers (cloth), and dishes there were great moments of infant discoveries and childhood achievements. I have to admit there were the days when I would have given my right arm to have an adult to chat with.

    Thor worked 7-12s. 7 days a week, 12 hours a day. This was the norm in our early years of marriage. There were times when the 7-12 became 7-18 and then the times when work stopped all together and we would ride the savings train until the next job opened up. I was always one who looked forward to my husband coming home, I didn't care about the money, I married for Thor! Unfortunately money is needed to buy the little luxuries in life, like electricity and food, so Thor would take most every job assigned to him and off he would go for another couple of months. Life was good financially and we bought a fixer upper in the desert and set up housekeeping. Many things had to be done and I learned how to fix and repair and paint and make do until the "real" money came in. (still waiting...!)

    The 80s came and destroyed the work force in CA and Thor couldn't get a job for three years. We lived off of food storage and hand-me-downs and S'mee went to work for the first time since high school.

    I was nervous and scared and thought that because I had put off any collage in place of children I was crazy to even try to get a job. I sent out so many applications and only had one employer call me for an interview. I landed a minimum wage job at a "Hello Kitty" store. My co-workers were all still in high school and I was older than the owner of the store. I felt out of place and desperate. But an amazing thing happened. After one week I was given a pay check and told that I was catching on well. After three weeks I was offered the management position and soon I was earning national awards for myself and my store for our sales and for our visual displays. The boss/owner asked me to enter corporate contests; I won first place in every contest I entered except one, and that was a second place. I was noticed by a corporate sponsor/affiliate who encouraged me to enter other contests and had two of my works published in national magazines. I was doing things I had never done before and being recognized by "important" people in the business. I was asked to do art design for rubber stamp companies, and to create and demo new products. When the owner of the store decided to sell the store back to the corporation, the CEO of Sanrio International came to discuss the deal. I did not know at the time this was the son of the original owner and developer of Sanrio, I just knew him as "Daniel-san". My boss introduced me and after a business lunch "Daniel-san" asked that I address him as "Danny". o.k. Danny then proceeded to offer me the store. He wanted me to run and manage the corporate end of this venture. My pay had just been quadrupled and my title put me at and above levels of others I had worked under in the private sector of the business. Some were very pleased at the promotion, others not so. Either way I would still only have to work 40 hours, but now with benefits, a pension package and "perks". There were many people, including my former boss, who were amazed at my relationship with "Danny" and figured it would not be long before I would move up into the company and into the San Francisco head quarters. I actually could see that myself, which was really complementary and flattering to say the least.

    About a month before all of this happened, Thor finally got jobs again. First a week here and a week there. Then before we knew it he was back to the long hours and regular pay. I conferenced with Danny and politely told him I was honoured and pleased, but I would be going home to my kids!

    add to sk*rt

    Sunday, June 05, 2005

    The Easy Road part one

    A few years ago a friend from high school contacted me after 20+ years.

    His life had gone the way of many independent people in the late 70's. He was and is very gifted and intelligent. He had a terrific home life with a loving family and many talents. He left high school and fell into experimenting with drugs, alcohol, sex, and yes, rock and roll! He never married, realizing too late he loved himself more than anyone else and had allowed the girl of his dreams to slip away and marry someone else. He had traveled the world, climbed mountains, taught voice and guitar, been in a successful rock band, researched tortoises in the U.S. deserts for 5 years and lived in a Tibetan monastery as a monk for 7 years. He considers himself a Buddhist and is skilled in meditation and Hindu transcendentalism. He is an author and poet and is currently living back at the monastery which brings him so much comfort.

    Throughout our conversations I began to see that instead of finding himself, he had found temporary comforts in the solitude that comes from removing one's self from the world. He had been "back in the world" for about four years when he contacted me. It was about a year before the 9-11 attacks in the U.S. 9-11 caused a great confusion in his philosophy and way of thinking. All of the sudden he was no longer able to "let it be". He was upset and angry and wanted retaliation and justice. This was contrary to his belief system and thus began an open wedge in his "solid" base.

    Two months after 9-11, his father died unexpectedly and tore my friend's world in two. The base of his foundation was beginning to crumble. His letters paused for a while and then one very deep, thought provoking essay came through. He was confused and hurting and wanting so desperately to find something "real". He moved across country to console his mother and get away from whatever was haunting him. After a few months he moved out and down into CA near his brother, who after years of abusing his body was dying of liver disease.

    Needless to say, 9-11, his father's death and now his brother's death were too much for him to take and he again moved back to the monastery for some down time and reflection.

    Before he left he remarked how nice it was that Thor and I decided to "take the easy road and do what was expected. To not venture out into the world but stay home and let life pass us by." With his life experiences I can understand why he would interpret what Thor and I chose as predictable and expected, but easy? No.

    Each of us had the view that the other did what was expected from them at the time. I grew up in a little hippy atmosphere where everyone was "expected" to try drugs, search for life "out there" and rebel against the status quo. I actually felt I had done the unexpected and stuck to the routine. Get married, have some kids, make a life, follow the rules.

    Nothing about either life was easy for sure. However the end results were what made the difference in the decisions. His life was indeed difficult. His life has so many unanswered questions and he feels that "the only way off the wheel" is by letting go of it and allowing things to just "be". He has been convinced that he has no control and that he should not control his destiny. Thus is the trap of his philosophy. It is easy to allow others to do what they will; but when you also need to allow "whatever" to happen to you without regard to your own will, you have no responsibility and no consequence -thus no chance of reward. This life-style will keep him "on the wheel" for eternity. Taking himself away from the world restricts his experiences and his learning. How does one learn to overcome if one is always hiding from reality or running away from it when it hurts? This is the time to learn, to experience, to grow. It is easy for him to be "obedient" and "nice" when he is constantly surrounded by others who are adopting this same principle. No words, no conflicts, solitary isolation away from real life and real challenges. It is difficult to be nice when you are tired, when someone has yelled at you, when you are behind with the bills. That is the test. The real test. And it's hard.

    add to sk*rt

    press release: At 11:03 this morning I was called to serve as the 1st counselor in the Relief Society. If you read past comments on the subject, all has been revealed. Which brings me to the scary part, I think after hearing the Bishop's blessing during the setting apart, there are "reasons" for my call, some of which are indeed "scary". lol

    On a brighter note, the organization from which I was recently released has an AWESOME new presidency and will totally kick booty! I can really see the Lord's hand in the way everything worked out. It is way cool to see how it came together. The three gals in there now will be able to get things done that were near to impossible before. Timing! All the Lord's timing!

    add to sk*rt

    Friday, June 03, 2005

    Did I ever tell you how much I hate bugs and spiders?

    I woke up yesterday thinking it would be an easy day. Knock off some easy cafe type curtains, cut a rug to fit the bathroom, get rid of the weeds overtaking the front yard, make a nice dinner and then kick back and wait for the Bishop to call. (I was released from my calling and told to expect a call on Thursday night)

    The curtains. What should have taken no more than an EASY hour took almost the entire day. It was just one goof-up or small snag after another. Things like the screws just not wanting to stay put in the wall. Huh? How does stuff like that happen? Where is #4 when I need him? lol. #4, since he was able to hold a screw driver has had the ability to fix pretty much anything. He's a genius (seriously), and my right hand man when I need something tricky done. Bada bing and it's a done deal.

    So about 3:00 I decide to scrap the bathroom rug for the weeds, which are haunting me. #5 and her "non-boyfriend" (yeah right!) dig right in with me and in an amazingly short time we are finished. Hey we had to remove a literal ton of ornamental rocks and small boulders to get to the weeds growing between them and then replace them to their spots. Weed whacker, hula hoe and plain muscle were the tools of choice. After about 2 hours the yard was filled with 5 huge piles of weeds and debris from the wind! #4 shows up and begins to help as well.

    With the small bed in front of the porch cleaned to perfection I think I should go ahead and re-plant some flowers. For me this means: Sunflowers and alyssum. I am taking a chance on some morning glories and nasturtiums, but I don't hold my breath. I am like Charles Manson to the botany world. My sad little Charlie Brown wysteria is hanging on for dear life, so I just keep praising her and hoping for a miracle. And thinking I might be able to pull it off, I got three Yucca plants for in the corner.

    I am down on my hands and knees, very happy at seeing the dirt turn easily and being able to plant some more seeds, and to add some small alyssum sprouts in between the rocks. Everything is going fine. Until I reach for another pod of flowers. My right hand is immobile and stiff and extremely weak and I cannot life even the tiniest of plants without excruciating pain! YEOWWWIE! So I look at my hand and the outside edge of palm, pinky side, is blown out about an inch and the skin is so tight that it has turned completely white. My pinky finger is straightened tight and stiff and cannot move at all. Hummm. I search for a bite or puncture, any wound really. Nothing. Weird. O.k. Well, something is wrong. So I ask #4 to finish planting the flowers taken from the packaging (I don't want to waste the $2.00!!!). He sees my hand and says, "Go call dad, I will take you down to the doctors". (Which for us, is about an hour drive) I tell him o.k. and go inside to tell the other kids and get the dirt off of my hands.

    I call Thor and he is almost home, so we drive to meet him and Thor and I head down to the doc's. Along the way, my arm is beginning to ache and stiffen and pretty soon the pain is at my elbow and beyond. Still no sign of why. Thor calls the ER nurse at the hospital. Hands the phone to me and we go through all the pertinent info; she'll call me right back. The call comes back, this time with a Dr. on the line who asks our ETA. About 8 minutes. "I can tell by your descriptions and voice that you are going into neurological dysfunction. If you begin to shake, tremor, or lose speech, have your husband pull over and call for an ambulance." "O.k." I am having tremors in my hands and my tongue is getting thick. But for now I think the car can get us there faster than waiting for an ambulance, and really, other then the ache and stiffness, I feel o.k. I can still breathe and talk, so I am not too concerned.

    I get into the ER and the evaluation takes place. "Go down the hall, turn right on the rug, and wait in ER#2." What she should have said was: "Go down the hall, turn right on the rug and wait in ER#2 for about 3 hours until everything goes away. The nurse will call you at that point and then we'll have you sit up in a very uncomfortable exam table for another 45 minutes and then a dr. will exam you, give you a non diagnosis and then have you sit for another 45 minutes while they write you a prescription you will probably never even fill."

    What the dr. said was that it wasn't a recluse bite, no ulcerated skin, etc. And that the symptoms were exactly the same as a black widow bite, but concentrated to the right hand/arm only so they are ruling that out as well. I was to go home and come back if the rest of my body began to ache in the same manner as the arm and hand.

    This morning the hand has almost gone back to normal size and has an odd reddish bruise(?) on the side where the pain is. Pinky is still stiff, but movable - jerky, kind of- and the stiffness in the arm is still there to a point. It looks more like I was stepped on by a horse than bit by a spider.

    All's well that ends well and I am headed outside to finish the flower bed. Perhaps I was only licked by a spider.

    add to sk*rt