Monday, November 29, 2010

This Lil’ Vegan had Me Some Crabs!


It’s been just over a year since I switched to the vegan lifestyle.  I’ve surprised myself by becoming very devoted to a very new way of nourishing my body.  Even over the recent Thanksgiving holiday I managed to eat vegan about 95% of the time – even while away from home.


Sometimes a big ol’ exception has got to be made, and tonight’s dinner was one of those times.

Michael, his cousin Rafael, and two of his friends, Kyle and Chris, went crabbing today.  Around mid-morning I got a text message from Michael:

“Be advised we have 50 crabs.  Pound and a half each or so.  Be hungry!”

No way was I missing out on THAT meal!


Clockwise from Michael (in the back), Kyle, Mike, Rafael, and Chris.  We had to expand our table to hold all the bowls of crabs, bowls of melted butter, bowls for the shells,  bowls of coleslaw and mixed vegetables, and a plate of cornbread.


By the time the crabs (and the guys) arrived here the crabs had been cooked, cracked, and cleaned – awesome!!!  Some we simply ate cold, others we warmed by steaming them or baking them in the oven.

Since we’d had warning that the crabs would be arriving, Mike had time to make a big bowl of coleslaw, and I made a pan of cornbread when I got home from work.  With cocktail sauce, tartar sauce, melted butter, and lemon slices, we were all set for a feast.


Photo proof that I ate crabs!  Yeah, that’s a big ol’ pair of pliers next to me.  We are not equipped at our house with shellfish pliers so we made do with what we could find.  They worked great and the big roll of paper towels was also heavily used!


I have not had crab this good since visiting New Orleans a couple of years ago.  In fact - dare I say it - but these California Dungeness crabs were BETTER!  Now I know why many people in this area serve up these crustaceans instead of turkey on Thanksgiving Day.


We all put away a LOT of crab and yet we still had at least three bowls like this green one full of leftovers.

I have a feeling I’m going to be an omnivore for a while . . .

Sunday, October 17, 2010


Not sure we’re quite ready for THIS yet, but it’s something that fascinates me.  Tiny homes!  Tumbleweed Tiny houses, to be precise.  Mike and I toured this one in Sebastopol, CA., last weekend.  It’s even on wheels in case you need to move! 20101009_0118Jay Shafer owns Tumbleweed Tiny homes and this little beauty is his personal residence.  He’s lived in it for about 6 years now.20101009_0120This is the second time I’ve seen this particular little house, but Mike’s first.  He was pretty amazed at the size. 20101009_0119 Two comfy chairs in the living room with an eensy pellet stove in between.  Across from them, on the other side of the room is a built-in desk just big enough for a laptop and writing surface, where Jay does all his work and runs his business.

20101009_0123Every inch of space is used: built-in shelves hold office supplies and kitchenware.


A ladder, which can be tucked away when not needed, is the only way up to the sleeping loft.  Lovely!20101009_0125 The tiny, two-burner stove (probably propane).20101009_0122 The crock hold Jay’s water for cooking & dishwashing.  Gravity-operated ;-)20101009_0129More storage just outside the tiny bathroom which has a shower and a composting-style toilet.   Sorry, no photo. 20101009_0127

For better photos visit the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company’s website.  You can also check out all of Jay’s other designs.  My fave is the Epu.  I’m trying to talk Mike into helping me build one of these little beauties in our backyard.

Wouldn’t that be fun?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Keepin’ it Real – in Cubicle-World

Back by popular demand, this post was originally published on:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Keepin’ it Real – in Cubicle-World

I’ve been feeling a little guilty about my last post.  True, I still believe that cubicle-world sucks.  And I’d rather not have a day job but, at the same time, I am incredibly lucky to have it, in this economy, when so many people are out of work, and have been for weeks, months, or a year or more.  THAT sucks!

And now that I’ve complained and whined about the stuff I don’t like at my new job, let me tell you about some of the stuff I DO like about my new job.

The people.  As a group they are great.  Very nice – the biggest wig will say hello to you in the hall, and make sure they introduce themselves to new employees.  I haven’t seen it yet, but I hear the OWNER of the company shows up from time to time and treats everyone the same – because we are all important.

I know!  You hear about that kind of attitude, but you rarely see it.  I was skeptical at first until I put that in context with some of the things that have happened in the three short months that I’ve been there.

For example, on the 3rd of July an email came out from Human Resources telling everyone to go home after they’d worked just 6 hours instead of 8.  And that the entire next week, following the Monday off, would all be casual days – jeans and tennies!  (And if you work in corporate America you know how we worker bees LOVE casual days!)

Then there’s the walking club.  The owner and the Big Wigs (and I use that term affectionately ‘cuz so far I haven’t met one I don’t like and who has not treated me with kindness and respect) are all very concerned about their employees’ health and fitness.  We have a walking club, anyone can join, we walk as a group (for safety, mainly) on Mondays and Fridays.  You keep track of how many times you walk and when you’ve got 20 walks you get a $25 gift card (I forget to where but am sure it’s somewhere cool) OR when you’ve got 40 walks you GET A DAY OFF!!!

A day off!  That’s why I don’t know where the gift card is good for - because I’m so focused on getting that extra day off!  WOOT!

The company also put on an awesome Health Fair this summer where we got free cholesterol screenings, body fat checks, blood pressure readings, and lots of swag from local businesses like a direct-to-you produce company, Weight Watchers, Jamba Juice, and so on.  And there are on-site Weight Watchers meetings for anyone who wants to join that group.  Yep, they meet right in our conference room twice a month – how convenient!

Also, there are giveaways.  On my first day I was given, in a reusable tote bag made from recycled materials (because the company is making every attempt possible to be “green”), a Paula Deen signature skillet.  It’s very cool.

Twice since then I’ve won stuff – cookware, of course, since that’s what we do at this particular company, manufacture and sell cookware.  I won some Rachael Ray products in a raffle (yep, we make her stuff, too) and then, at a tailgate party in our parking lot (where the executives did all the cooking, and they even had veggie-burgers!) I won more stuff.  Within a year or so I figure I’ll completely replace all the old stuff in my kitchen with brand new stuff!

Oh, and I guess some higher-ranking person or another is a big A’s fan because during baseball season there are free tickets every other day for every reason you can think of and sometimes for no reason at all.  AND, get this: if you win tickets and it’s an afternoon game?  You get the afternoon off.

You read that right.

You get the afternoon off to go to the baseball game.  PAID time off.  AND a free parking pass.


Birthdays are special.  Cubicles are decorated with balloons and streamers so everyone in the building can go by and extend birthday greetings, special coffee is brought in for the birthday “kid,” maybe a gift or special bakery treat, and always a card.

New babies are HUGE.  Even the male employees get baby showers (whether they like it or not) with duck-shaped cakes and gifts.  Employees who move on to jobs at other companies are sent off in style and wished well and – missed.

So, in spite of my initial complaining and the feeling-sorry-for-myself attitude, I’m quite happy at my new job.  If I have to work - and until Mike and I are old enough to collect our Social Security, and until Obama has issued us our “free health care” cards, I do have to work - well, I’m glad I work there.

Oh, and I have pictures in my cubicle now.  :-)

Cubicle World Sucks, Comrades!

Back, by popular demand, this post was originally published on:

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

“Cubicle-World Sucks, Comrades

I couldn’t very well say that while I was smugly self-employed because, well, it just seemed cruel, not to mention just plain mean.

But now that I’ve re-joined the ranks of the employed, and am again spending my days in a cubicle like so many of you, I’m just gonna come right out and say it:

Cubicle-world sucks, Comrades!

Not only do I occupy a cubicle again but someone besides me now controls every hour of my workday.  No more lunch in the garden with my cats.  No more tossing a load of laundry into the washer anytime I want, and then taking a blissful 20 minutes to hang it on the line, outside, where the sun shines and the birds are singing.

No more sitting on the patio in the mid-afternoon to watch the bees coming and going, enjoying their busy humming.  No more naps on the daybed in the front bedroom sharing the sun spot with two cats.

Now I sit sit in a 4 foot by 4 foot square with 3.25 walls, two work surfaces, a shelf and a cabinet surrounded by metal and plastic and industrial-strength carpeting, everything in shades of brown, grey, or black.

I’m still new there so don’t know all the little idiosyncracies of the company yet, but I have already noticed the lack of decoration in the halls separating our little cubies.  Seems there’s some kind of managerial decree against posters, flyers, or anything else.  The hard outer walls are quite plain, too; not even a clock to be seen.   The lack of clocks forced me to bring in a tiny clock of my own because I stopped wearing a watch years ago, and I refuse to start again.  I depend on my Groupwise calendar to remind me of meetings, and I use my little clock to let me know when it’s time to go to lunch, or home.

Employees ARE encouraged to decorate – a bit – in their own cubies, with family photos and a trip souvenir or two.   I have noticed a few cubicles that are quite crowded with its occupant’s personal treasures but those same people have mentioned that they’ve been called “packrat” or told that their cubicles are “messy.”  Yet they keep everything anyway.

I like that bit of rebellion. 

So far I have not taken in anything personal except a tote bag that my mom got for me on her recent trip to  visit my sister in Australia.  It’s bright greens and purples and has a kangaroo on it.  I keep my walking shoes and socks in it and hang it from my coathook.

It’s the one bright spot in my little cubie.  So far.  I do plan to eventually take in some photos.  Really.  Every morning as I’m getting ready to go to work I think about quickly printing out some photos to take in and display but then I leave without doing it.

I’m just not reconciled to cubicle-world.

Not yet anyway.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Tracking Charisma

Tracking-KI6HUI copy

SV Charisma’s “position” in the Pacific Ocean as of 8/17/10
{courtesy of}

As many of you know my husband is currently at sea.  Literally.  He is crewing onboard the sailing vessel Charisma, owned by our friends, Alan and Kristen. 

We met Alan and Kristen when we participated in the 2007 Baja Ha-Ha, a boat race from San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.  After the race was over Mike and I turned our sailboat, Mirage, northward, and made our way back home.  Alan and Kristen continued on south.

Now, nearly three years later, they are finally coming home for good.  Can you imagine the places they’ve seen?  Three years cruising and living aboard!  I’d be totally jealous if I thought I could live aboard that long myself, without going crazy, or longing for land, or missing my cats and my garden.  In my imagination I’d love to do it.  But in reality?  Not so sure.

At any rate, I saw on Facebook that Alan and Kristen had arrived in Hawaii, their last stop before making the three-week-or-so blue-water sail from there back home to California (they live in Napa).  And, because Kristen had had enough sailing, thank you, and preferred to fly home rather than make that long overseas crossing, Alan was looking for crew.

Knowing this kind of long crossing is something Mike has always wanted to do, I figured this was his chance, and suggested to him that he “sign on.”  So he did.  He flew to Hawaii and now he’s at sea with Alan and another friend, Scott.

I get brief emails almost every day via a satellite link-up (Alan’s boat has way more fancy gadgets than our Mirage ever did!) plus I can see their position via Pangolin at this link:  Each of the little “balloons” in the photo is where the boat was when the position was taken and uploaded to Pangolin.  You can also see their latitude and longitude in the larger white balloon, if you are into that kind of thing.

It’s been fun watching their progress!

At the moment their estimated date of arrival is August 24.  That’s earlier than the 28th, which is what Mike was predicting last week. With sailing, you just never know.  A sailor is at the mercy of the wind, waves, and weather (or lack thereof).

Kristen called on Sunday evening and said there would be a party when the guys arrive in Napa, and that she’d keep me posted on what day and time it would happen.

Since it looks like it will be a weekday, I emailed Mike and hinted that it would be really cool if they arrived after 4:30 p.m. so that I could be there (I get off work at 3:30).

His reply: “

”I'll be sure that the skipper waits till 4:30, just for you.”

He’s good like that.

Monday, June 7, 2010

One Small Step for a Man – Memories of Me Monday

TODAY’S MEMORY JOGGER:  “Where were you and what were you doing the day the first man landed on the moon?”

I looked up the date – that was July 20, 1969.  So I’d have been 12 years old, living in Redondo Beach, California.  That’s plenty old enough to remember watching this history-making event on t.v.

But I don’t.

Maybe I wasn’t very interested, or it just didn’t make an impact on me at that age.  {It wouldn’t be until MUCH later in my adult life that I would develop the desire to travel into outer space – in fact, it’s on my List of Things To Do in My Life.}

There’s no doubt that my dad and my brothers would have had the television tuned to CBS for the entire 27 hours that Walter Cronkite covered the mission.  In fact, that may be why I don’t really remember it.  Since all other television watching had been pre-empted, I probably simply wandered off.

On the other hand, I DO remember where I was and what I was doing on August 9, 1974, when Nixon resigned the presidency.

I was in Sundance Canyon in Utah, enjoying an end-of-the-semester picnic with the instructors and students of the Medical Laboratory Workshop I’d attended at BYU that summer.

We listened to Nixon’s speech on the bus radio, and I actually remember wondering if I’d always remember that moment.

FOR NEXT WEEK:  “What do you think brings good or bad luck?”

Monday, May 31, 2010

God Bless America

And Happy Memorial Day!

20100531_0010 copy 

I made this quilt a few years back.  I love it, and display it year-round. 

Because we’ve just been gone for two weeks, Mike and I had no desire to go anywhere this weekend.  So, instead, we spent the three day weekend watching movies - “John Adams,” “Ben-Hur,” and “Napolean Dynamite”- cooking up all the delicious produce we got at the Vallejo Farmer’s Market on Saturday, reading, surfing the net, and gardening.

Speaking of gardening, here’s an update on my little Square Foot Gardens.  Eensy broccoli heads are forming:20100531_0002 copy

The Swiss Chard is ready to eat!  As is the kale and a head of red lettuce:

20100531_0004 copy

And the corn is really starting to shoot up:

20100531_0005 copy

I also did some baking today.  The weather has cooled a bit from the heat of yesterday which just made me want to bake.  I found a big can of pumpkin in the pantry so, even though it’s summer and not fall, I chose to make a couple of decidedly fall-like treats: pumpkin bread (with cranberries) and pumpkin pie (sans crust because crust is just too much trouble and Mike doesn’t care if there’s a crust or not).

Here’s the bread, just about done:

20100531_0008 copy

Oh, and even though I’m vegan now, I used some of these today:

20100531_0009 copySometimes you just gotta have a treat.

Hope your weekend was a much fun as mine!

Sky High – Memories of Me Monday

TODAY’S MEMORY JOGGER “What is the most exciting place you have ever been?  What made it exciting?”

The Empire State Building!  My family visited there while on a cross-country motor-home trip in 1972.  I was 15.  This is a great photo for those of you who have never seen (or don’t remember) me with long hair!1972-08 Debbie top of Empire State Bldg 15 YO-enhanced

It was pretty exciting being that high above New York City.

Unfortunately for my two little sisters, Denise and Lisa, my mom wouldn’t let them anywhere near the “edge!”  She was too afraid they’d somehow fall.

But the rest of us sure enjoyed the view!

FOR NEXT WEEK:  “Where were you and what were you doing the day the first man landed on the moon?”

Monday, May 10, 2010

Memories of Me Monday is on Vacation

Heading off to the Grand Canyon for 12 days of rafting the Colorado River, and making some brand-new memories!

Memories of Me Mondays will resume when we return at the end of May.

Meanwhile, how about sharing some of YOUR childhood stories??

Monday, May 3, 2010

Groovy, Man! Memories of Me Monday

TODAY’S MEMORY JOGGER:  “Describe a favorite outfit.”

Ha ha ha ha ha ha!  My mom will know the answer to this before I even write it. 

The Pants!

My parents and siblings remember The Pants that I got when I was around 12 or so and wore, and wore, and wore, and wore!

I LOVED them.

Here they are:

1969-05 Debbie 12 Years Old Mem Day Enhanced Copy

Have you EVER seen a pair of pants as groovy as these??  No Way!  Bright and bold colors (even back then I was very patriotic), a totally happening & MOD design and, natch (‘cuz this was the 60’s), Bell-Bottoms!

Memorial Day 1969-auto-enhanced-300-x-300

I’m pretty sure these first three photos are all from the same day, a family picnic on  a holiday like the 4th of July, or Memorial Day, but believe me when I say that I wore those pants every chance I got.  And always with that white polo shirt, bobby sox and my Ked’s tennies. 

In the above photo, left to right, are the five of us: Denise, Mike, Steve, Lisa, and me in the back.  Below: me, Mike with Denise, and Steve sprawled on the ground.


Here’s a photo of a trip to the beach (is that a flour sifter in my hand?) and I’m wearing The Pants.  Of course!


In my defense with regard to how often I wore The Pants, take another look at the photos; Denise is wearing the same outfit so it seems she had a favorite, too, with or without the sailor hat!  However, my pants were FAR groovier!

I’m tellin’ ya, they were so boss, they’d probably still be in style today. 

I totally wish I still had them.

FOR NEXT WEEK: 2 “What is the most exciting place you have ever been?  What made it exciting?”

Monday, April 26, 2010

Don’t Tell Me What To Do – Memories of Me Monday

TODAY’S MEMORY JOGGER: “Talk about an embarrassing experience from high school.”

It’s my blog and my rules so I’m going to take liberties with this one and write about an embarrassing experience from elementary school.  For one thing, it’s too hard to come up with just one embarrassing experience from high school (or junior high, for that matter!) and, for another thing, there’s a particular incident that happened during second grade that I’ve never forgotten.

At that time I was attending Hermosa View Elementary School in Hermosa Beach, California.  Reading was one of my favorite subjects and, as I’ve mentioned before, I loved the school library.

One day, early in the school year, my teacher announced that the library was having a contest.  It was a drawing contest.  Each contestant was to draw and color a picture to “celebrate our school library.”  It could be any scene we wanted as long as it had something to do with libraries, books, or reading. 

The winner’s drawing would hang in the library all year.

Well, I loved to draw, too.  I loved art in nearly any form; drawing, painting, clay, fabric, paper, whatever the medium, I enjoyed any creative process.

So I was excited about the contest.  I thought I had a good chance of winning.  I fancied myself a great artist (fueled, no doubt, by the parental encouragement I received at home) and I couldn’t wait to show off my skills.  I could already visualize my drawing, with my name on it, hanging in the library for all to see.

That afternoon, during free time, as I was gathering up the supplies I would need to draw my picture, the teacher made another announcement about the contest.

It was not optional, she told the class, every student was to draw a picture whether or not they wanted to enter it in the contest.

I froze.

Ok, now this will sound crazy to anyone but me, and I don’t pretend that I had the slightest inkling of why I reacted the way I did at the time, but I’ve learned in the many (many!) years since, that this is just the way I am.

Now that the contest was an assignment, I totally lost my motivation -POOF! - just like that.

Suddenly, I didn’t want to draw a picture anymore.  Not if I had to draw one.  Not if everyone in the class had to draw one, and not just those who were interested in art and books, like I was.  The contest lost all its lustre when it became a chore instead of a way to celebrate some of my favorite things.

I’m just rebellious that way.

I squirmed and struggled and fought against what was now, to me, an unpleasant task but finally, knowing I had to do it, I started to draw.

But I no longer cared if I won the contest.  In fact, I didn’t even want to win anymore.  I decided to draw such a bad picture that it would be sure NOT to win.

With a brown crayon I dashed off three lines the length of the paper.  Shelves.  Then with several different colors, I quickly drew some very  haphazard-looking books on the shelves, and colored them in.  With a pencil I drew some squiggles on the spines of the so-called books, not even bothering to write legible titles.

Done.  I wrote my name at the bottom and turned in my paper.

Are you remembering that I started out to write about an embarrassing experience?

Well, here’s that part:

ALL the pictures were hung in the library!

Yep, not just the winner, but ALL the pictures.  Including mine, that horrible, scrawling mess that looked like it could have been drawn by my baby sister, Denise, who was still in diapers at that time.

Worst of all?  My picture was just below and to the right of the winner, which drew everyone’s attention because it was so nicely done, so no one missed mine either!  With my name on it.

Like I said, I’ve never forgotten that incident, and probably never will!  I’m still rebellious – the harder someone tries to convince me to do something the harder I dig in my heels – but I did learn a very valuable lesson that to this day I follow:

If you’re going to do something at all, do it the best you can!

FOR NEXT WEEK: “Describe a favorite outfit.”

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Update on our Outdoor Projects


We’ve got four beehives now!  One day when Mike and I were both at work the beekeeper left a message on my cell phone that he was going to go to our house to “check on the bees.”

Well, when we got home we found he had not only checked on the bees in the first two hives, but left two more hives!   We now have two white, one yellow, and one blue beehive, as you can see in the below photo: 20100423_0093 Here’s a closer look at the two newest hives:20100423_0081 In this next photo are the original two hives, now with an addition.  The box on top, with the lid partially open, we believe is what’s called a “super.”  It is provided to give the bees more room to store their honey.20100423_0077 At the moment we have lots of flowers in our garden for the bees.  Here is a Pride of Madera plant in the cat’s garden – a honeybee favorite!  We dug this up, as a tiny plant, on Angel Island a few years ago.  Now it’s attempting to take over the entire garden!20100423_0094California poppies in our front yard:20100409_0052GARDENING:

Our Square Foot gardens are doing great!  In the back you can see the corn, peas and beans coming up.  On the right side second square from the back are turnips.  Other squares in that row are broccoli or peppers.  The front two rows are radishes, spinach, brussels sprouts, and lettuces.20100423_0067Spinach:20100423_0074A radish, peeking through, ready to eat!20100423_0070  Young swiss chard:20100423_0073 A variety of lettuces, with kale behind them:20100423_0072It’s going to be a great salad season!

How’s YOUR garden doing?

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Principal is Your Pal – Memories of Me Monday

TODAY’S MEMORY JOGGER: “Do  you have one particular experience about school that sticks out in your mind, above all others?  Describe it.”

Oh, yeah.  Sure do.

Spring 1970.  Sixth grade.  Franklin Elementary School in Redondo Beach, California.  My best friends, Judy Rich and Jill Brunson, and I were on the playground after lunch.

We were way at the very back of the blacktop area, jumping rope, or just chatting, or some such thing.  Minding our own business, definitely.

Two boys from our class approached us.  I wish I could remember exactly who but I don’t.  Anyway, they ran up to us and started calling us names.  Why?  Who knows!  It’s just what boys did.

We were three against two, and Jill was always brazenly brave, much more so than either Judy or me, so we began insulting them back.

That just made them mad and one of them kicked me in the stomach, hard.  The kick would have been bad enough.  Even worse is that his foot got caught in the waistband of my skirt, which was a wraparound style fastened with a single button at the waist and an oversized silver pin about halfway between waist and hem.

Neither button nor pin held up against the boy yanking his foot back.

My skirt dropped to the ground.

I screamed, horrified.

Judy screamed, too, equally horrified.  Jill shouted and ran at the boy, fists flailing.

I grabbed up my skirt and held it around me.  My face burned with embarrassment.

A playground attendant ran over to see what the ruckus was all about.  She grabbed the boys each by an arm as they tried to take off in the other direction.  The five of us were sent directly to the principal’s office.

But wait.  Here’s the really memorable part.

In Mr. Cleminger’s office we sat girl-boy-girl-boy-girl and got treated to one of his lengthy scoldings complete with his jabbing finger in our faces and his scowls and his pacing back and forth in front of us and his laying on thick the guilt, humiliation, and remorse, and especially the “what-would-your-parents-think???”

Finally, he wound down and went behind his enormous desk to reign from his straight-backed wooden chair. 

“Well?”  he asked us.  “What do you have to say for yourselves?”


Someone squirmed and their chair squeaked.  A foot moved along the dusty floor and created a sound like a quiet sigh.  A car honked somewhere outside. 

The huge wall clock ticked.

Mr. Cleminger glared at each of us, one at a time.  I was last.  When his piercing blue eyes bore into mine I could no longer hear anything but the blood pounding in my head.

The clock ticked again.  Someone swallowed loudly; it may have been me.

The very next instant, as one, all five of us kids burst out laughing.

We laughed and laughed and laughed; the kind of laughter that forces you wrap your arms around your middle because your belly hurts so much, the kind of laughter that makes the muscles in your face spasm and jump uncontrollably, the kind of laughter that won’t stop until tears are rolling down your cheeks and you’re gasping and choking and hiccupping.

As we finally wound down, and were wiping our faces and noses, Mr. Cleminger sat in his chair, his face totally impassive, and said, “I don’t see anything to laugh about.”

And totally set us off again!

FOR NEXT WEEK: “Talk about an embarrassing experience from high school.”

Beekeeping for Dummies

We’ve got a new project at our house, or should I say, yard?  Beekeeping!  Here is a photo of our very first two hives: They are located in the “Cat Garden” which, as many of you already know, is fenced off with special prison-yard-like fencing to keep our cats from roaming the neighborhood; it also keeps them safe from cars and other animals.  The same fencing will protect these hives from such predators as raccoons who, apparently, love to eat bees and will raid a hive if they find one.
It’s also fairly well sheltered from the infamous Benicia breeze and the large birch tree will provide shade in the hot summer months.DSCN4338 We took these photos the day after the hives were installed.  They are owned by a beekeeper by the name of Roccus (not sure of the spelling, and you pronounce it with a rolled R sound – he is from Lithuania).  Roccus will do all the work necessary to take care of the hives as well as collect the honey, while we simply provide a location for them.  Roccus has also offered to teach us as much as we want to learn about beekeeping. When Roccus brought the hives in the back of his truck they were just empty boxes.  The bees were in separate wired containers.  Once the hives were in place, using a smoker to calm them, Roccus simply dumped the bees into the hive, added the queen, and then placed the lid on top.  I got to manage the smoker which I pointed mainly at the little slit at the bottom of the boxes.
It was late in the day so the temp was cool, which causes the bees to slow down, and the smoker was doing its job, so Mike and I didn’t worry about not having a “bee suit” and Roccus, though he was wearing the suit, didn’t put on the netted helmet part of it.  Roccus got stung a couple of times but he did have his bare hands on the cages and hives, and he hardly seemed to notice the stings.   Mike and I didn’t get stung at all.  We just moved slowly and if a bee landed on us we simply waited for it to fly off on its own or gave it a very, very light nudge.  It’s surprising how unscary it was to be in the midst of a big crowd of flying bees but we could tell they were pretty calm so we stayed calm, too!
The queen bee and the thousands of worker bees were recently purchased via mail-order and don’t know each other yet.  So the queen bee was in a tiny wire cage with a “candy” plug at one end.  Over the next few days she will eat her way out of the cage.  During that time she and the bees will become familiar with each other’s scent and they’ll all be willing to set up housekeeping together.
Already, the bees are busily learning their way around our yard and the surrounding neighborhood, searching out the best nectar and water sources.
I don’t mind admitting we’re pretty fascinated with them!  I love to stand out there near the hives and listen to the humming, and watch the bees flying in and out.  I also had to run right over to the library and check out a couple of books on basic beekeeping so that we can learn all about what’s going on inside those hives!The cats were interested, at first, in the new addition to their garden (that’s Scout, in the photo above), but it wasn’t long before they were just ignoring the hives and their occupants.
If all goes well we will get two more hives in the next couple of weeks.  Roccus has promised us 6 pounds of honey per year from each hive, in return for providing the space for them. 
Seems to me we’re getting the better end of that deal!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Say “Uncle!” (Memories of Me Monday)

Deb-and-Uncle-Jerry copy{Uncle Jerry Lutes and me; March 1995; CSU Fullerton}

TODAY’S MEMORY JOGGER: “Talk about your favorite uncle.”

Ok, I hate it when I’m expected to choose one, out of a group of things or people, as my “favorite.”  Who can pick their favorite from a basketful of adorable kittens?  Each one has its little quirks and personality and one might have a crooked tail, or one especially cute ears or coloring.  They’re all favorites, just for different reasons.

That’s how I’ve always felt about my uncles.  I have two on my Mom’s side of the family, and three on my dad’s.   I’d love to talk about each one of them (and eventually will) but for this post I’m going to write about the one I was closest to while I was growing up; my Uncle Jerry Lutes.

Uncle Jerry, or Fritz, as many people called him (though not us kids; we always called him Uncle Jerry) came into our lives when I was around 10 or so.  He began dating my mom’s youngest sister, Bonnie, who at that time was in her 20’s and had recently graduated from BYU.  (It’s weird to think how close in age Bonnie and I actually are – we’re probably only about 10 or 12 years apart!)

I first remember meeting Jerry Lutes at a family picnic.  It may have been on the 4th of July around 1967.  We were all at the park with Grandma Ware and Bonnie brought Jerry as her date.  I liked him immediately.  He was very friendly, and very playful.  He played ball with us, and wrestled with us, and paid attention to each one of us kids in a very kind way.  I liked that because often grown-ups ignored kids once the introductions were done, or said annoying things like “My, aren’t those freckles cute?” or asked pat questions like “What grade are you in, and do you like your teacher?”  Like they were even interested in the answers! 

And Uncle Jerry always treated me with respect, like a young lady, not a kid.  I loved him for that, for sure!

So anyway, Bonnie and Jerry dated for quite some time.  Then, as the story was told to me by my dad (who loves romance in all forms and told this story with great relish), Jerry asked Bonnie to marry him.

Bonnie was just not sure.

She asked for some time to think about it.  A lot of time went by.  Jerry got tired of waiting and moved somewhere far away (I think maybe Utah to attend BYU?).

Bonnie realized how much she missed him and wrote him a letter:

“I miss you.  I love you.  Marry me.”

I’m tellin’ ya, I remember this word for word.  I thought it was SO romantic!  Hey, I was at that age, remember?  Ten or so?  Give me a break!

Jerry came back and he and Bonnie got married.  They lived in Utah for a time, then returned to California with their first baby, Stephanie.  I sometimes babysat Stephanie which was always fun, she was a cute baby, and very happy and easy to take care of.

Over the years Jerry and Bonnie had 8 (yes, eight) more children, my cousins Jeremy, Erin, Elizabeth, Joshua, Emily, Ashleigh, Andrew, and Heather (not necessarily in birth order).  With my other cousins in the Bisk family - Brian, Stacy, and Laurel - we had great fun gathering at my Gram Ware’s house for Easter Egg hunts, Christmas Eve parties, and Thanksgiving dinner, just to name a few.

Uncle Jerry was always there, and often in the thick of things with us kids.  Like my dad, he was young-at-heart and joined in the games with as much enthusiasm as the youngest children.  If Gram Ware organized us into baseball teams Jerry was the loudest cheering from the sidelines, or he’d coach third base where he’d urge us to steal home whether or not it was a good idea!

One of the things I loved about Uncle Jerry was his artistic abilities.  I loved drawing, painting, and other types of art myself, and admired anyone with talent in those areas.  And he had talent.  He drew portraits, designed many of his kid’s birth announcements, and painted a series of lighthouses for a collection he called “Fingers of Light” for his Master of Arts exhibit at UC Fullerton (see photo at top of this post).

And, get this?  For some years he worked at Disneyland!  First, he did caricatures of people – how fun is that?  And then!  He worked in Gepetto’s Toy Shop on Disneyland’s Main Street where he drew Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters.  These original drawings were then shrunk down to fit inside the face of a watch and sold in the store.  Can you imagine?  Truly, you couldn’t get any cooler.

Uncle-Jerry-at-Disneyland copy 
{Uncle Jerry at work in Gepetto’s Toy Shop – Disneyland}

I just wish I’d had a chance to buy one of those watches.  Not too long after he started that job Uncle Jerry died suddenly and very unexpectedly.  It was a huge shock to us all.

My life is richer for having had him in it.  I still miss him very much.

FOR NEXT WEEK: “Do  you have one particular experience about school that sticks out in your mind, above all others?  Describe it.”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Tom-Boy and The Princess


TODAY’S MEMORY JOGGER: “Were you responsible for any household chores? What were they? Which did you enjoy the most? Which did you hate the most?”

I’ve always thought I started helping with the dishes when I was around eight or nine years old.  My mom says no, I never did dishes that young.  So maybe my memories of standing on a kitchen chair with my hands in a sink full of soapy water are not of times I was washing dishes, but just of times when I was playing at washing dishes.

By the time I was in junior high, though, I KNOW I washed dishes, and often.  I didn’t mind too much, and I still don’t mind washing dishes.  I didn’t like the clearing up part; the moving of dirty dishes from the table to the sink, putting away bottles of salad dressing and the salt and pepper, and wiping down the table.  But I’ve always kind of enjoyed washing dishes by hand.

When my family moved to Woodland Hills in early 1973 for the first time we had an automatic dishwasher.  It’s a story in Hansen family lore now of the first time I ever used the dishwasher.  My mom wasn’t home and I was babysitting.  I had also been told to clean up the kitchen and wash the dishes.  Well, I naively squirted liquid dishwashing soap into the dishwasher’s soap receptacle and turned it on.

A half hour later I came back to find the entire kitchen floor 6 inches deep in sudsy water!

As a teen I did a lot of babysitting of my three younger siblings.  Steve was no problem; he was a laid-back easy-going little boy who played quietly with his trucks or building set or watched t.v., or just dug in the dirt:


Denise and Lisa?  Whew, different story!

Denise and Lisa were close in age, only around 15 months apart, but they couldn’t have been more different in personality. 

Denise was a tom-boy:2010-Old-Photos-0089-cropped  and Lisa a little princess:2010-Old-Photos-0091-croppedThose two didn’t agree on anything, fought about everything, and always chose any occasion when I was babysitting to have a knock-down, hair-pulling, screaming-banshee battle. 

Sometimes I wished they’d just kill each other and be done with it!

I have to admit, babysitting those two was probably my most hated chore!

A close second would be vacuuming.  Not sure why I didn’t like to vacuum.  It was just so boring pushing that heavy vacuum cleaner around on the carpet, including the difficult stairs, and sometimes my mom would find spots that I’d missed.  I still hate to vacuum!  I do enjoy the result of vacuuming, the clean carpet, but I heartily dislike the actual task.

Chores that I enjoyed, believe it or not, were the ones that took place outside.  I enjoyed yard work.  I loved to mow the lawn, and weed, and wash cars.  I was jealous of my brothers because they were usually the ones called upon to do the outdoor tasks while I was mainly relegated to the inside chores, in the traditional male/female roles of those days.

But sometimes, on a Saturday, the whole family would team up to attack the lawn and weeds, clean out the garage, or wash the family cars.  I especially enjoyed washing my dad’s fancy lime-green Mangusta: MangustaWhenever I needed extra money I’d ask my dad if I could wash and wax that car and he would always give me $5 for the job.

FOR NEXT WEEK: “Talk about your favorite uncle.”

Sunday, April 4, 2010

From the Memory Jogger Jar

Wow, last Monday when I wrote the “Memories of Me” post I totally forgot to draw a new slip of paper from the Memory Jogger Jar!

So here it is now, for tomorrow:

“Were you responsible for any household chores? What were they? Which did you enjoy the most? Which did you hate the most?”

Read my response tomorrow!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Happily Lost in the Stacks – Memories of Me Monday

Redondo Beach Civic Center Library{Redondo Beach Main Library}

TODAY’S MEMORY JOGGER: “Describe how you feel about libraries and talk about some of your experiences surrounding them.”

I can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t love libraries.  I learned to read at an early age, influenced by my parents and my big brother, Mike.  My dad especially read a lot; I have many memories of him reading a book at the breakfast table, or on Sundays in between Sunday School and Sacrament meetings. 

I was read to as a child, every day and, even after I learned to read on my own I often sidled quietly into my little sisters’ bedroom to listen while my mom or dad read them a bedtime story.

Somewhere along the line I discovered libraries; most likely my mom took us kids to the neighborhood library when I was small.  I was in awe that there could be an entire building devoted just to books!  Shelf upon shelf of books, and I wanted to read them all.

In elementary school my favorite days was library day.  The entire class trooped down the hall to spend an hour or so inside a special room set aside to hold what seemed like a million books.  And we could choose any of them that we wanted to borrow, and we could actually take them home for awhile.  I have a specific memory of discovering “Caddie Woodlawn” and “The Wheel on the School” at the Franklin Elementary School library.

In the fifth grade I was chosen to be a library helper.  I got to straighten the books on the shelves, making sure they were aligned perfectly with the edge of the shelf, and that they were in the right order.  This is when I learned about the Dewey Decimal System.  The following year I learned to use the card catalog and yet another world opened up to me.  I could choose any topic I was interested in and look it up in the card catalog and find all the books in the little school library on that topic, or all the books written by a specific author.

I also discovered the Encyclopedia Brittanica and made the goal to read every book in the set from cover to cover.  (No, I didn’t accomplish that goal, though I held onto all the way through high school!)

During the fifth and sixth grades, at Franklin Elementary School, we also had a visit, I believe it was every other week or so, from the Bookmobile.  It would park on the street next to our playground and we were allowed to go out the gate and up the steps into the library on wheels.  There, we had the choice of even more books, books that were not available in our small school library.  I remember clear as a bell one day in the bookmobile, coming across a book called “Brighty of the Grand Canyon” and it was also in there that I discovered and fell in love with “Misty of Chincoteague” and went on to read every book I could find by Marguerite Henry.

My best friend, Judy, loved libraries as much as I did, and in her family reading was as important and loved an activity as it was in my own home.  Sometimes I was invited along when Judy’s entire family piled into the car, on a Saturday afternoon, and headed to the large main branch of the Redondo Beach library system.  It was located near the beach, on Pacific Coast Highway, and it was such an adventure to go there.  It was huge, especially in comparison to our little neighborhood branch library or the school library.  I felt I could get (and stay!) happily lost among the ceiling-high stacks for days and not be lonely or bored.

I still feel that way when I go to a large library but I must admit, I love the little libraries the best, the more snug and personal the better.

As long as there are plenty of books.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Smitten with Kittens

The foster kittens are growing fast.  These photos were taken last Thursday and I can see a huge difference between the way the kittens look then, and they way they look now, just over a week later.
IMG_2282One of the most noticeable things is their ears.  When they are born, kittens’ ears are folded forward, and flat against their heads.  The ears gradually stand up more and more.  In these pictures the ears are about halfway up.  This morning I noticed the ears are all now straight up!  (I’ll post more recent photos very soon so you can see the difference!)
IMG_2241They are also walking around a lot more, and a lot less shakily.  Sometimes I see two or three in a very unsteady wrestling match.  It’s pretty funny.  They haven’t started chasing things, like a ball or piece of string, but I expect it won’t be long.
Yesterday Mike and I moved them into a large mesh-style cage loaned to me by a friend.  They have a lot more room in there and, when they aren’t napping, will be able to watch what’s going on around them.
They absolutely charm everyone who sees them.  My friend, Susan, brought her daughter, Jenny, and granddaughter, Maggie, to see the kittens.  Maggie was especially enchanted!
She was very gentle when we let her touch the kitties, almost like she was in total awe of them.
IMG_2246 Kitty, kitty!
IMG_2253 They are nursing very well now, even the brown-striped kitten (center of photo, above), who was the slowest to catch on.  Kinda strange since she’s always been the biggest of the bunch and the very smallest kitten, the little calico, was the first to catch on to the bottle.
IMG_2277 Ozzie
IMG_2269 Isabel
IMG_2270 Mindy
Of course, they are still spending most of their time SLEEPING!
{Thanks to Susan & Jenny for these great photos!}