Sunday, February 23, 2014

And The Nominees Are...

I was at home this morning, peacefully going about life taking care of household chores when the phone rang.  I did not recognize the incoming local number, but I answered the call anyway.





I suppose the person on the other end realized they had a wrong number.  I continued on with the housework when the phone rang again.  I noted from the caller ID that this time it was a local cell phone number.  I answered the call again.





Same person, perhaps? When I moved into the area I expected to get callers trying to reach someone who used to have the phone number.  I discovered quickly that the number once belonged to a local pharmacy, since that was usually the first question I was asked.  An older set of Yellow Pages later confirmed those suspicions.  This caller, though, seemed to be special. 

Apparently the person thought that changing from a land line to a cell phone and dialing the very same the number would cause their call to magically route the intended destination instead of once again ringing at my home. 

Hello, Darwin Awards?  I have a nominee.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Christmas Traditions

Growing up I thought traditions were handed down generation to generation and were important to maintain.  I did not think that new traditions should be adopted.  In my mind, only the traditions that were handed down from generation to generation could be called "tradition" and should be honored.   Yes, I can be a bit stubborn in thought, and I needed a lesson.  Life, of course, provided it.

In 1993 my first marriage ended.  The ensuing years were entwined with court date after court date.  The sudden change to life as a single parent with pre-teens made everyday living a bit challenging.  For a time, my children and I lived with my parents in their home. We were gladly welcomed.  I had never envisioned myself needing to move home at 34 with children in tow, yet there I was.  That Christmas I helped my Dad hang the red blinking bells that have been adorning the porch of our family home since I could remember. In the spring of 1995, my parents wanted to try living in a new town without selling their current home. 

My youngest sister and niece, myself and my children, joined together to rent the house from our parents while they rented a house in the mountains.  My budget, much like my sister's, was tight and nearly non-existent.  We both had to be creative to make each paycheck stretch while bills were paid, the heat was kept on, fuel was in the car to get to work, the kids had clothes, and there was food on the table.

For the first couple of years as a single parent, Christmas had been supplemented by parents decorations.  I didn't need to have any, as Mom and Dad had quite a stash from years of Christmas trees and four daughters with various crafty interests, plus Mom's handiwork.  The only problem in 1995 was the family tree had moved to the mountains.

The first Christmas in the house with my sister found us both setting up Christmas trees - hers was upstairs, mine was downstairs.  I wanted to find a way to bring holiday traditions for my children on a scant shoestring budget.  There was an immense amount of change in a short time for our entire family.  It was the first Christmas without Dad, as he passed away that summer.  I was compelled to move ahead, yet needed to keep as many traditions as I could for my children and myself as a means to keep my life together. 

I was able to scrape the funds together for a fresh tree and a new tree stand.  For our family, the Christmas tree was set up after Thanksgiving, but before my older sister's birthday.  In 1995 the tree was much smaller, but it was still fresh and it's aroma filled the living room.  It only took two strands of multicolored lights to decorate.  Because were left with very little to start our lives over with, the ornaments for the tree were pretty sparse, and  there was not enough in the budget to completely outfit a Christmas tree.

I knew there were possibilities, I just needed to figure it out while not spending a lot of money.  When I wandered into a fabric shop the week before Christmas and found 2" red round jingle bells on the clearance table, ideas popped.  The red metal bells made great substitutes for glass ornaments, and I loved the idea of "ringing in the season" with red bells on the tree.  It reminded me of the red bells that hung on the house those many years.  Dad also had a favorite yuletide wall hanging in which a rather red-nosed reindeer holds a banner that reads "Bingle Jells."  A new collection of Christmas ornaments ensued in the form of jingle bells.  New tradition #1 came to fruition.

With some tinsel, the tree was looking pretty good, but the decorations were still sparse.  A craft store had a sale, and it was close to work.  A lunchtime trip yielded spools of red, green, and gold ribbons which held "Merry Christmas" and "Seasons Greetings" tidings.  At 3 rolls for $1, I could easily afford a few spools.  While the kids were at the holiday dance for school, I cut the ribbons into 10" lengths.  I spent the evening hand tying bows onto the tips of the branches of the tree, filling in the sparse decorations.  The bows went perfectly with the jingle bell ornaments.   New tradition #2 was born.

Shopping the clearance table in the craft store that day brought a few punched paper cross-stitched Santa ornament kits to be stitched.  Six Santa's from different countries were quickly cross-stitched on my breaks and after work to hang on the tree.  This became new tradition #3.

As you can summize, my ideals of 'tradition' quickly went by the wayside.  Why hold on to something that clearly won't work for you?  On the other hand, why let go of the familiar and honored traditions.  I'm a Libra, therefore I like balance in my life.  I found it by shedding a preconceived ideal.

This year marks the 50th year the red blinking bells have welcomed Christmas in my family's home, a tradition now reflected by the red bells hanging on my tree.  I still hand-tie bows on the tree as a reminder that no matter how bad things seem to be, there will be a way to "fill in the holes".   There are 12 different Santa punched paper cross-stitched ornaments representing different countries and folklore. There is a small herd of clothespin reindeer.  There are angels made from beads and safetypins, with others stitched in traditional norwegian hardanger.

To a younger me who thought "You can't have 'new' traditions"  I can only say this:  You silly girl  Just wait.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Recipes by 25 Kindergarten Chefs

It's the time of year that we get out the family favorite recipes to prepare for the Thanksgiving meal.  I present for your reading pleasure, the 2013 edition of Thanksgiving Recipes by Mrs. Braga's Kindergarten Class at Sonora Elementary School. Bon Appetit!

Kiera - We get the turkey from the store.  Add stuff to it.  I want to add sugar and chicken and some of apples and my last thing is pumpkin squash.  Put the turkey in the oven, a warm oven.  Cook 45 minutes.  It's done when the timer rings.  And then you eat it.

Brady - My dad or my cousin Erick could kill a big daddy turkey.  Take the feathers off it and then put it in the oven.  Put some salsa sauce on it.  The oven should be 30 degrees.  Cook one hour.  The beep thing will go, "Beep, beep!"  We will have mashed potatoes with it.  I love mashed potatoes, so does my sister.  And then the turkey legs, you can hold the bones.  And I like wings.

Tayfun - Mom and Dad get the turkey from the store.  First they wash the turkey.  Then put it in the oven.  It should be a little hot.  Cook four hours.  The beeper thing will go.  We'll eat with a fork.  We'll have rice, beans, collard greens, and spinach.

Brody - Mrs. Braga will kill the turkey because she is the teacher.  Clean it.  Pick the feathers off and put it in the oven.  Add some fruit to it.  It should cook for 20 minutes.  The oven should be 15 degrees.  It's done because it's hot enough.  We will have fruit and vegetables with it and eggs.

Jesse - We will get the turkey from a farm.  Cut it.  Put ketchup and salsa on it.  Cook it in the oven, a very hot oven about 100 degrees hot.  Cook for 6 minutes.  I want some ranch dressing with it and hot sauce!

Evan M. - You get a big, huge, large turkey from the turkey farm.  (I don't like lobster and I don't like fish.  I only like turkey.)  Take the feathers off before you can take it home.  Don't put anything on it.  I don't like spices.  Put it in the oven.  On-hundred-thousand-forty-three degrees or one-hundred-thousand-sixty-seven degrees for 100 and then 60 hours.  It goes Pop when it's done.  I like ice cream, steak, and orange juice with it.  And that's it!

Peyton - We will buy and turkey and kill it and eat it.  Cut the skin off.  Put cinnamon on it and chocolate chips then put it in the oven.  A really hot oven, about 50 degrees.  Cook 5 minutes.  The timer will beep.  We will have gravy and bread and beans with it.

Zackery - Get the turkey from the turkey place.  Put it in a frying pan.  Put a wrapper thing over it.  Put it in the oven, a really hot oven, super hot - 85 degrees.  Cook for a long time, for 100 minutes.  Eat with a fork.  I want mac and cheese with it cause I love mac and cheese!

Ava - Get the turkey from the store.  Cook it in the oven, a warm oven.  I like potatoes with it.

Lucas - The turkey always comes from a turkey farm.  Grab it by the neck and cut it.  You can't cut it because it's super fast.  I am going to cut it up to pieces, take out the bad stuff and the beard and then put it in the oven.  I add lots of spices - pepper, salt, and a little bit of maybe salt.  Put it in the oven, 60 degrees hot so it can burn up the flavor and you can smell it.  Then you take the bad bones out and eat it.

Sarah - Well, maybe we will get the turkey from Jeff's store, Safeway.  They put like some crumbs in there to make the stuffing.  (I keep thinking are they going to put feathers in the turkey? But I think they just get them without the feathers).  No spices.  Put it in the oven.  It should be maybe 50 degrees for 40 minutes.  I don't know ho to tell if it's done but it will be done in 40 minutes.  Maybe some dessert with it.  Ice cream.

Joseph - My daddy is going to shoot one of the turkeys in Modesto.  My Daddy's big and strong.  We are going to take the feathers and then we are going to cook it and take the feathers off.  Put it in the oven and cook it until it warms up.  And then the feast comes!

Kelsey - Get the turkey from the grocery store.  Cut the legs off.  No spices.  Put cheese on it.  Ready to cook.  Put some more cheese on after because some might have falled off.  Put it in the oven, a warm oven, a little bit hot.  Cook for an hour and a half.  Put a timer on.  I would make a scarecrow and put it inside the turkey.  Forks are the legs.  Asparagus are the body.  The spoons are the arms.  And the face was a plate.

Riley - Get the turkey from the store.  Pt in on the stove or the oven.  I want to put on it some a little salt and a little parmesan cheese or just plain, actually.  I just like it in the refrigerator not the oven because I do like it cold!  You could put cucumbers on it with salt on the cucumbers.  And milk, almond milk or plain milk.  And some bacon with it because I like bacon.

Everett - I think my dad said the turkey is going to come from a big, huge field.  And my dad also said that he is going to shoot a big fat one.  We are going to have pumpkin pie for dessert and I am going to have pumpkin bread with my dinner.  They are going to put the turkey on a big pan that you usually put cupcake batter on.  Put that in the oven.  Cook at 25 or 22 degrees.  Cook for 20 minutes.  I look at the timer and my mom tells me.  We are going to have apple pie and apple bread, too.  That's it!

Hannah - We will get the turkey from the store.  Cut it up.  Put it in the oven.  The oven is 5 degrees.  Cook for 5 hours.  The oven beeps!  I want corn with my turkey.  I like corn!

Marley - The turkey comes from the wild.  Take it home.  Cut it.  Cook it in the oven.  Hot oven, 64 degrees.  Cook five-forty minutes.  I will have chicken nuggets with turkey and ketchup.

McKenna - We will get the turkey from Wal Mart.  Put it in the oven, about 30 or 40 degrees.  Cook 50 or 60 minutes.  It dings when it is done.  I want ketchup with the turkey.  I love ketchup!  I love turkey!

Violet - We will get the turkey from the market store.  Put some sausage meat on it then cook it.  Put it in the oven.  The oven is 4 degrees.  Cook 4 hours.  Take it out.  I want sausage with it and olives and salad.

Mateo - My Papa already has the turkey.  He killed it.  It fell off the truck and he killed it.  He already got all the feathers off.  He has to put bar-b-que sauce on it to make it good.  PUt it in the oven.  My Pap he cooks it up to 29 degrees.  He cooks it for two minutes.  There is a timer on it.  We will have salad.  There's carrots in the salad.

Adelyn - Mom and Dad will get the turkey at the woods.  They got to shoot it.  They are gonna put it in a pot.  They will put a red sauce on it.  Put it in the oven.  A kind of hot oven, 10 degrees.  Cook 20 or 30 hours.  It will beep.  I want carrots with it and purple grapes and brocolli and punch and some chicken.

Adyson - We will get the turkey at the farm.  Maybe herbs on it, maybe.  Then cook it in the oven.  The oven is 4 degrees.  Cook 2 hours.  It goes "Beep, beep, beep, beep!"  I want cranberries and, um, chicken and roast beef with dinner.

Sasha - Mom will get the turkey from the store.  Put pepper and salt on it and some hot sauce.  Put it in the oven, 20 degrees.  Cook a long time, forever - 10 minutes.  It will beep.  We will have pumpkin pie with it.

Kendra - Mom will get the turkey from the store.  I know what they do with the turkeys - they chop them up in the truck and make them eating turkeys.  Mom's going to cook it in a pan.  Cook on the stove because that's where you put your pans, in the bottom of the stove.  It will cook about an hour.  The stove will be burning.  It will beep.  I think a Thanksgiving feast would be good.  We will have grapes, too.  Grapes are part of Thanksgiving.  They are juicy and good for you.

Evan H. - Mom and Dad are going to shoot the turkey.  They will get a tray and put it on it.  They will put hot sauce on the turkey.  Then they are gonna cut it.  Then it is ready to cook in the oven, a warm oven, about 100 degrees.  Cook 50 minutes.  They will just check it and will be done!  We will have mashed potatoes with it.  That's it!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Changing Seasons

257,135 acres burned, nearly 2 months later the Rim Fire is 95% contained but still alive.  Resources are now focused on how to manage the recovery of the area.  The local mill seems to be a benefactor with harvestable trees being delivered, truck after truck.  Justifiably so, as SPI did not hesitate to send their bulldozer crew out to cut breaks to protect Tuolumne City.

Life is returning to somewhat normal around the county.  The incident crew camp recently disbanded in Tuolumne City.  Traffic signs reminding local drivers of caution due to fire equipment have been removed.  The Thank You signs still remain hung around town. The local schools are teaming with many visitors from the crews of the local firefighting agencies for visits with the students. 

Some of the students seize the chance to thank the firefighters personally, while others eagerly climbed into the cabs of the trucks to seize the opportunity to honk the horn in the big red trucks.  The fire crews were just as eager to spend time with the students, with some of them making a nostalgic trip into the Principal's Office, as a number of them grew up in the area.

Mother nature has already started to play her recovery hand in the burn zone.  Ferns have sprouted in some of the burned out areas.  Many people are looking foward to spring - it will be a wild flower bonanza.  The nights are most definitely cooler, the sun a bit later in breaking over the horizon.

This is the time of the year I play a game with mother nature:  which weekend is going to be the best weekend to take a drive and absorb the spectacle of fall colors.  I may already be late for some areas on the east side of the Sierras, if a couple of photos of Aspen trees I saw last week from the top of Sonora Pass are any indicator.  Two years ago I was late, last year I was a tad early.

Maybe this year I'll get it just right.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

And On the 12th Day...

For 12 days the Rim Fire has burned.  Daily routines for everyone in Tuolumne county have been changed.  Morning routines include checking the updates from the incident managers to see if evacuation orders have changed, seeing what the latest perimeter map looks like, and assessing the air quality based on how much haze and how much discernible orange and red shows in the sunlight.

The southwest corner of the perimeter is of specific concern for us.  While the perimeter lines include areas where lines have been cut and backfire operations have been conducted, the potential for the fire to jump the lines remains.  The southwest perimeter runs along a ridge line leading into a river canyon that runs to the north.  Tuolumne City is along the west edge of that canyon, with Soulsbyville, Twain Harte, Mi Wuk, Sugar Pine, and Long Barn in the path.  To the south, the canyon runs to Don Pedro reservoir, which would put Jamestown and Sonora at larger risk.

The behavior history of the Rim Fire, from my perspective, is to run wildly up river canyons, spread by spotting, crowning (tree top to tree top), and breaking over lines.  The number of firefighters increases daily and is likely to soon equal the population of the largest city in Tuolumne county (Sonora, 4,992).  Containment is slow in coming, and the local communities celebrate every single digit percentage of increase, particularly since we experienced days of decrease earlier in the history of this burn.

It has become unusual to go anywhere in the area without coming across fire rigs from the various agencies who have come to help.  Local businesses are coming together to host dinners for the fire crews.  Volunteers are flooding to local agencies donating their time as well as food and clothing for evacuees.  Home baked goods often make their way to the fire crews in the parking lots of the local stores.

Air traffic has increased significantly, and all the planes and helicopters are fire management resources.   We were used to the occasional CAL FIRE flight leaving the base at Columbia.  DC10's and C130 sightings used to be rare.  They are all considered to be the friendly fireflies of our summer.

Students, out of school due to county wide closures, have taken to decorating the area with home made signs, thanking the firefighters for their selfless work.  The more the fire rages, the more the community pulls together.  Recovery planning is in it's infancy, but therein lies the hope of our community and our next course of action.

One day the Rim Fire will be out.  We have a forest to replant.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Living Near the Rim Fire

Nine days after the initial report, the Rim Fire continues to change the face of Tuolumne County.  The population of firefighters on the lines is now larger than the normal populations of Groveland (609) and Tuolumne City (1779) combined.  Rim Fire is the 7th largest fire on record in the state, and still burning.

I have woken up daily to the yellow-orange, orange, and one day red-orange tinged sunlight breaking through the window.  The important perishables in the house have been identified, stacked and ready to pack the car once the neighborhood enters into  the state of evacuation advisory.  So far, the house remains a few miles outside of the advisory zone, to the west and south.

I fall into the category of "sensitive persons" for air quality, so an N95 mask has become an important tool, along with lots of water, allergy meds, and albuterol.  The County Office of Education, on recommendation of the Office of Emergency Services, Air Quality Board, and Department of Public Health closed all schools in the county.  We will hear later today if that is to continue tomorrow or possibly through the rest of the week.  If I need to leave the area to get away from the smoke, I'll be leaving as if I was evacuated, with car packed.

Mom has stepped up her volunteer schedule with Interfaith to daily half days instead of twice a week.  With evacuees coming into the area, the agency has been tapped to assist with needs. The local communities are no strangers to wild fires.  They know how valuable the teams are that are on the lines as well as in the background supporting the crews.  It's hard to find someone that lives here who does not directly know a member of CAL FIRE or any of the other local fire agencies on the lines.  Daily Town Hall meetings keep the public directly informed on fire operations as well as create an open venue for direct questions from the public. 

 In a state of emergency, accurate information is critical.  For those of you out of the area seeking information for concern of family and friends,  the following websites, in my personal opinion, are the most accurate websites I have found for reliable information.  CALFIRE Tuolumne-Calaveras and Stanislaus National Forest are the lead organizations on the fire.  Motherlode Fairgrounds and Calaveras Fairgrounds are areas where evacuees can go to wait it out and gain assistance from Red Cross. - Local news for Tuolumne County.  They know a lot of people are relying on the information they produce on their website and are striving for most accurate reporting for the sake of the communities in the area. - covers all wildfires in the lower 48 states of the US.  This particular page is updated by US Forest Services for Stanislaus Forest.  Inciweb posts daily perimeter maps that can be loaded into Google Earth that provides not only full detail of where the perimeter runs, but also the terrains the teams on the ground and in the air are having to deal with.  You can see that a good portion of the 20% containment is due to granite formations, void of vegetation, that is halting the forward spread in some areas on the north east edge.

CAL FIRE has status for all fires in the state of California, including Rim.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Who's that old lady?

I had one of those mornings recently, waking up and looking in a mirror, seeing my reflection and thinking "When did that happen?"  I suppose it's natural when you reach the middle age years to reflect back and remember yourself as a younger person.  Maybe it's been on my mind a bit more since my next birthday will grant me double-nickel status later this year.

I have developed my maternal grandmother's figure, albeit I'm a  few inches taller than she was.  My orthopedic says I also have her knees.  I know when the seasons are changing because my knees will tell me long before the meteorologists take note of the distinctive shift in weather patterns of the western hemisphere.

Old?  Me?  No.

Aged?  Not until I'm ninety.  Seasoned?  Certainly.

Last year I abandoned coloring my hair so I can allow the silver threads to become my natural highlights.  True, my hair is not the rich brunette that it once was.  These days it is more of a medium ash, and trust me, I know those silver threads have hoards of friends just waiting to be invited out to the party.  If I look close, those threads are not really silver or gray.  They are white, as white as norwegian snow. 

Skipping gray and going straight to white?  I'm okay with that.  After all I have carried the moniker since the day I was born.

I have never feared age.  I had some coworkers who asked if I was sad because I was turning forty.  I was a single parent at the time, and both kids were finishing high school.  That was not something to be sad about.  That was an achievement.  My kids threw me a party with friends and family.  One of my friends showed up in a gorilla suit and provided me with a bag of supplies, which of course included Depends, magnifying glasses, and various vitamins. With forty came wisdom and perspective to view my personal history as learning experiences, for better or for worse.

Fifty rolled around and was christened by a surprise birthday party with friends and family, including live music by Roger Kardinal.  I remember thinking "Fifty is not so bad.  What's the big deal about retiring at 55?"  Three years later, I totally understood.  It's not about the age, it's about the freedom of choosing what to do with your day because there will always be grocery money, gas in the car, a roof over your head, heating and cooling when you need it,  and being completely alleviated of the responsibility of having to hold down a job.

Retirement is a ways off for me.  I haven't defined what that should look like, other than being free of the bonds of having to go to work five days a week.  The economy is not encouraging to make an exit from the workforce any time soon.  Having both my husband and I experience on-again, off-again employment for the past five years has set the goal line back at least another ten years.  Right now I'm just hoping we keep averaging to be employed more often than unemployed. 

For now I can live vicariously through a few of my friends who have been blessed with retirement and are creating their new futures.  Like Bill, who recently bought a house and moved to Talkeetna, Alaska.  After backpacking around Denali and exploring the Kenai penninsula for most of his vacations, he finally pulled the trigger.  Life Dream achieved.  Well done, Bill.  And there are others making plans to make their grand exit by the end of the year, aren't they, Ellen?

I'll get there one of these years.  In the meantime, Bill, would you hook up a webcam and point it to the night sky this winter so I can watch the aurora borealis out your window?