Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Yesterday at 6:30 a.m. while I was on my walk I watched a driver from Burrtec Waste Industries pull up in front of a huge full-to-overflowing dumpster, jump out of his truck and muscle the dumpster into place so his truck’s arms could hoist it overhead for emptying.  The worker was no spring chicken and not a very big man, but he certainly was solid muscle.  Seeing how much strength was needed to do this, I couldn’t help but think about how tired he must be at the end of the day from all that physical effort.  And it made me grateful for people who do those physical kinds of jobs. 
I have a friend who is just about as religious as I am (which is not very) and not too long ago we were talking about prayer.  He said he doesn’t pray, but each Sunday evening he spends some time reflecting on his friends and family and their importance in his life.  He says it always reminds him to let them know how much he appreciates them.  I thought of this as I said “hi” to the trash man and for what it was worth I thought I’d like some blessings to waft down on this man as he goes about his hard work. 

Several months ago I saw an author interviewed on BookTv about his book “In the Courts of the Conqueror.” The subtitle is “The 10 Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided.” The author is Walter R. Echo-Hawk.  The first sentence in this book is as follows:  In the very first case to come before the United States Supreme County involving a significant Native American issue, Chief Justice John Marshall ominously described the American judicial system as ‘the Courts of the conqueror.’  Thus clothed, the Supreme Court handed down a sweeping opinion that appropriated legal title to the United States, even though most of the continent was still owned and occupied at the time by Indians tribes.” 

Those two sentences alone gave me the heebie-jeebies.  My thinking has always been that generally “we” never did right by the Indians and there has been way too much lying and broken vows on our part.  This is a hard book to read and a hard book to read.  By that I mean it is a long, dense, intense book and is going to take far longer to read than the two weeks I am allotted on an inter-library loan, and that reading what I am seeing with my own eyes is almost too painful to read.  I am glad I had exposure to Echo-Hawk on BookTV first.  What he said there encouraged me to go after his book, and reading it makes me wish I was at the beginning of my adult life instead of at the end of it, so I could stand up and be counted.

On a lighter note, I ordered a 4 oz bottle of Vanilla Bean Paste through Amazon.com for a recipe I intend to try.  It’s called “Brown Butter Cookies.”  They had better taste good because with the addition of this vanilla bean paste they will be very pricy.  But that’s not the point here.  The point is that Amazon sent the little tiny jar of paste in a cardboard box that was three feet long and 1 foot wide.  It was overkill if I ever saw it.  Of course there were yards and yards of bubble wrap inside, but that too was overkill if you ask me.  I’m sure I was paying for all that excess in the shipping charges that were included in the total cost, but to be honest, even if I overpaid by half it really wouldn’t make all that difference in the cost; the cookies would still be pricy.  All I have to say is that they had better be scrumptious!  Now I’ve got to find time to make them.  So much for retirement!

And guaranteed to put a smile on your face is a neat computer-thing called “Nude Men Clock.”  The name alone is worth a chuckle, but when you see it you may just get as much delight from it as I do.  (And for nervous Nellies, let me say that it is tastefully done!)

< http://lovedbdb.com/nudemenClock/index2.html>

You can change it from digital to analog by clicking anywhere in the clock.

So April is kaput after today.  Seems as Christmas was just yesterday and here we are heading into May.  Do you remember when Christmases were SO far apart and school years were SO long?  Thinking of “Time” reminds me of how much I enjoy reading time travel books.  Of special note are the first one I read, “Lady of Hay,” which exposed me to the genre, the best one so far “Time Traveler’s Wife” and most intriguing, “Her Fearful Symmetry.”   And of course there is the delightful movie, “Kate and Leopold.”  Liking time travel things reminds me that I am not too egg-heady for my own good.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013


ME:  Mornin’ (taking out my earbuds).

INTERVIEWER:  Good morning.  Mind if I walk with you and ask you some questions? 

ME:  You’re welcome to come along.  And I’ll answer questions, too, but I have to tell you that I’m not a very interesting person.  I’m not rich or famous or important or anything like that.  My life has been pretty mundane, so I don’t know…..

INTERVIEWER:  You let me decide that.  Let’s see…..I know you are a senior citizen, since this is a senior apartment complex we’re walking in.  But are you employed or are you retired?

ME:  I retired in 2000 when I turned 65.  We, my husband and I, chose this area because three of our six children lived within a short driving distance.  Funny thing, within 5 years one family moved to Alaska, and another moved to Tennessee (although she ultimately came back).  I always thought I would be at home in a semi-rural area; I’ve learned I’m much more of a city girl than I thought. 

INTERVIEWER:  Were you gainfully employed before you retired?

ME:  That’s hard to say.  I didn’t have a career if that’s what you mean.  The last six years of my working life I was the Administrative Secretary for The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in Anaheim, California. That was after we came home from the two year hiatus my husband spent as a consultant in Istanbul.  Before that, for the most part I worked through a temporary agency as a secretary.  I didn’t much like secretarial work, although I was good at it.  But I did like to work on a temporary basis.  The nice thing about temporary work is that if you are good, you get immediate gratification! The company is always happy to get someone who knows what they are doing and they can’t praise you enough.  I most always was approached to see if I’d like a permanent position, but for me the draw of temporary work was that I never had a chance to get bored.  If the job wasn’t right up my alley, then I could move on.  The reason I did this was so that I would have some free time to work on my avocation – genealogical research!  I had the best of two worlds!  I was lucky that my husband had a nice career so I was able to do this.   If I had been the sole support of a family (which for a while I was) temping wouldn’t have worked.

INTERVIEWER:  What was the most interesting job you went out on?

ME:  Well, the oddest job I ever took was a short stint at a company that manufactured smells.  The most interesting was one where I did medical transcription for a company whose owners investigated medical malpractice claims.  I worked there for a long time as a temp, and finally went on a permanent part-time basis with them – two weeks on and two weeks off.  It was a great job, and I only left it because of my husband’s job offer in Turkey that of course we couldn’t refuse!

INTERVIEWER:  Have you had an embarrassing moment on a job?

ME:  Only one, and it happened to be so funny that if it were possible you would have heard laughter from Pomona (where I worked) to New York City (where the person I was talking to on the phone was sitting.)  I won’t tell you what was so funny, but my words got tangled up worse than an old telephone operator’s switchboard lines, and take my word for it, the result was beyond hysterical, way beyond embarassing!

INTERVIEWER:  Hmmm.  Was it bad?

ME:  Bad?  Not bad, but not repeatable either.  Just hysterically and embarrassingly funny.

INTERVIEWER:  OK, I’ll let you off the hook.  Is it safe to ask you what is the most rewarding thing you’ve ever done?

ME:  I’d have to say it was having the book I researched and compiled, “A FINE PLACE TO REST:  AMERICANS IN THE PROTESTANT CEMETERY IN FERIKOY ISTANBUL,” accepted into the Library of Congress.  I spent the two years in Turkey doing local research and then when we came home I spent an additional three years working on the book here in the states, even making one trip to the College Park, Maryland branch of the National Archives to find the original state department records.  After it was printed in 1998 I queried the Library of Congress as to their policy on accepting books.  They said to send a copy and after it was evaluated they would let me know if it met their criteria for accession.  If not, they said they would not be able to return the copy.  So I submitted it with a letter that stated I understood and agreed, but if they didn’t want the book to please donate it to a local library.  I didn’t want all that work to end up in the dumpster.  I’m pleased to say that it was accepted, making me very, very happy.  I am still getting e-mails from people who have “found” a lost relative in that cemetery due to my research.  It’s been very rewarding.

INTERVIEWER:  Good!  Now, what don’t you like to do?

ME:  Don’t laugh.  I don’t like to do anything that has to be done.  I’d rather someone else did it.  Dishes, dusting, cooking, scrubbing out bathtubs and toilets….well, I guess what that is saying is I don’t like to do housework.  It’s a shame I can’t afford a maid.  I’d be SO happy.  But let me tell you this: I am lucky to have Jerry for a husband, because he is the exact opposite.  He’s neat and tidy and does his chores without a complaint (unlike me!)

INTERVIEWER:  Between you and me, I feel the same way about housework!  But let me ask you one last question…… Oh, look, we’re back home again.  We’ll save that question for some other time.  Thanks for talking to me.

ME:  My pleasure!



Saturday, April 20, 2013


Today's blog is a forerunner of my afternoon project; my intentions then are to open the refrigerator door and divest it of about half of the contents.  Well, not throw them all away, but do SOMETHING with them to make more room. 
Likewise, today's column will be patterned after that.  I need to move some pictures out of my computer to make it easier to find what I want.  So here goes:

I may have mentioned before that in this particular senior complex, which unfortunately goes through a new iteration every time there is a new property manager in place, now has decided to tout our apartment units as having "one bedroom and a private patio" or "two bedrooms and a private patio."  However, the "patios" are actually our front porches, and they are miniscule....well, not too bad for a front porch but laughable as a patio.  Especially since if you want satellite TV, you can ONLY place the satellite dish on your "private patio" -- not on the eaves or the roof or the lawn.  That space belongs to the owner.  Your private patio belongs to you.  (Interestingly enough, management is the judge of what is and what isn't appropriate to put on your "private patio."  But that's another story.)

The dish itself isn't too unruly, but it has a huge metal frame that it sits on - by measurement 3 feet square.   The size is, I think, supposed to keep it from being knocked around and losing the signal.  However, the strong winds we get in this area are able to move it easily, so apartment owners must weigh it down with either cinderblocks or cement tiles.  We opted for the heavy flat tiles.  I knew it would be ugly, but I told Jer I could live with it.  Better to have an ugly dish than to sign up for the cableTV that is offered us at $200 a month.

However, the ugliness finally got to me.  I told Jer we had to do something.  So this is our start.

We are in the process of turning our private patio into a private garden.  The turf is fake, but the plants are real.  Interestingly, the little white pillar in the center is a souvenir from Istanbul that we brought with us when we moved back to the States in 1993.  It is marble and was cut for use on tombstones.  We needed some heavy doorstops there and this is what our very helpful driver and good friend Ahmet Bey found for us.  We use one inside our apartment for a doorstop and the other one sat on the porch, totally useless, until the dish and frame arrived.  It now is useful! 

This little cactus garden is the latest addition, and it will sit in the empty space above.  I am, in my old age, working up an affinity for cactus.  Yesterday before we stopped at the nursery we were in a drugstore and I saw some cute miniature cacti, shaped rather like saguaros.  At the top of each arm was a bright pink, almost a florescent pink frizzy flower.  I mentally pictured a collection of these cacti sitting on that last paver tile and the price certainly was right, but somehow I smelled a rat.  I began investigating a little closer and discovered the florescent pink frizzy flowers were made of some kind of rattan and had been glued on top each arm.  No way, Jose!   I laughed, thinking I had almost fallen for it!  So when I saw this assortment of cacti at the nursery you can bet I had a thorough inspection of those tiny little flowers on the right hand plant!  Yup, real ones here.

Originally we had started out a few days earlier at Armstrong nursery in Upland.  When we went inside to settle up our bill, we spied this mat, and since we had decided earlier it was time to replace our old one, this seemed like the perfect answer.  It is a little smaller than I would have liked, but I just couldn't pass it up!  I thought perhaps Jer might balk at "pink flowers" everywhere, but Knight of the Garden that he is, he was ever the gentleman and let me have what I wanted.

Now speaking of Knights, just a few days earlier I turned off the beaten path on my way home from the market and took a short drive through a nearby older housing development.  I always felt a sense of mystery about it, because a very high fence surrounded it, the lots seemed huge, and so many trees were showing inside that it would seem to have been built in some kind of forest -- which we don't have in this neck of the woods.  Seeing as I had a bit of spare time, I turned the car into the development and found --- well, huge houses, huge lots, and some empty vacant lots indicating perhaps that not all the lots had been sold.  Then as I rounded onto a side street, I was nonplussed by this:

In fact, the whole house had been turned into some kind of fairy-tale.  If you enlarge the picture above and look over beside the covered gate, you can see a huge gold angel.  And there are many more things hidden around the yard and on the house, including on the roof.  But it was the knight in shining armor that got me.  Shades of Disneyland!  Coming upon it was such a shock.  Oh that I should know the story of what the owners had in mind with their fantasyland.  And I wonder what the neighbors think. 

I remember many years ago in Westminster a man painted his tract house blue and then put floral designs on it.  He was pleased as punch with his house, but oh my goodness did the neighbors have a fit.  (This was long before neighborhood associations and all the rules and regulations we have now.)  It was a rarity to have a blue house, and in the little mundane town of Westminster it became a "go see" sight!

Now in conclusion, there's just one more picture I'd like to share with you.  My daughter Bryn in Alaska recently had a medical procedure done and was left woozy and pretty much out for the day.  Her hubby drove her home; she laid down on the couch and was out like a light.  The next time she woke up, her husband was taking a picture of her and her support system.  Yes, there are 5 of them. 

Now for the refrigerator!

Friday, April 19, 2013


I cannot believe that after posting on a blog from mid-2008 to the present day I haven't yet shared my recipe for Quick Chicken Cacciatori with you.  I can visualize the young woman who gave me the recipe that I've used so often, but I can't conjure up her name.  At any rate, around this house it is a standard - easy to make, works with lots of different substitutions and has passed the edibility test.

Here's the recipe as it was originally given to me:

1 frying chicken cut up, or 7 to 10 pieces of chicken
1 can Ortega green chili salsa
1 package dry spaghetti sauce mix
1 #2 can tomato juice.

Brown chicken and pour off fat.  Mix other ingredients and pour over chicken.  Cover and bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

It's as simple as that.  BUT

The age of the recipe can be told by that "#2" - as you well know cans aren't labeled with numbers any more.  #2 converts to 20 ounces in today's nomenclature.  Next, Ortega used to make a smallish can of green chili salsa, a bit smaller than a can of tuna fish.  And that was in the days when a green chili was kind and gentle, not a jalapeno.  So today I use any kind of mild chili salsa I can find.  And last night I didn't have tomato juice on hand but I did have a can of stewed tomatoes, so I substituted that into the recipe. 

And lastly, I didn't bake it; I used an electric frying pan with a lid.  Once the chicken was browned, I dumped in the sauce and cooked it for 45 minutes.  It came out D-licious!  Normally I cook a little spaghetti with it, but last night I took Suzanne Somers' suggestion and used fresh zucchini in the place of spaghetti!

How is that possible?  She uses a vegetable peeler (or a mandolin or whatever) to make thin slices longways, then quickly fries them with butter and serves them next to any meat that has a sauce.  Sure saves on calories and visually the plate looks very appealing.  Try it.

I love experimenting with foods.  Actually, I loved it a lot more when I could taste the food that I was going to eat.  It has now been six years since my taste buds did their thing, and cooking certainly isn't what it used to be for me.  Nothing tastes right.  An example:  some mornings I get up, pour myself a hot cup of coffee, put a little swig of Hazelnut flavoring in it, and pour it out after the first taste, because it tastes like I've added a couple of spoonsful of salt.  Every bite I put in my mouth of ANYTHING tastes wrong.  There are a few things that taste fairly good, but it is not the good taste that one would expect.  It may not taste like anything identifiable, but whatever the flavor is, it isn't too bad.  But that is a rarity.  I have learned that if I cover something with a strong-tasting sauce, I can most often get it down.  And the worst part of this taste problem, other than the doctors don't pay it much attention, is that my "taste" changes from day to day, so I can't count on anything.  Rats!

Anyway, the Chicken Cacciatori recipe is easy to fix and good to eat if you are not me.  Give it a try!

Friday, April 12, 2013


Spammer, may I introduce Bob?  And now....

I'd like to introduce Bobby.  That's me.

I think you have us confused.

Although the AOL screenname I use for my social chit-chat is BobbyGail (my birth name being Barbara Gail and having used "Bobby" as a nickname for probably longer than you have been on this earth), you seem to have us mixed up.

Quite frankly, I am getting really tired of seeing each morning in my "in-basket" a bunch of messages with the heading "BOB, Here's a new Safe Cigarette for you," or "BOB: Open this attachment" or like today's, "WANT A LOAN, BOB?"

I suppose, since you send these e-mails to BobbyGail@aol.com, you are using "Bob" to make it sound like you have some inside scoop on who I am, like we're pals or something.  Well, you might as well get it in your head right now that BOB is not going to do it.  Actually, BobbyGail isn't either, because if you look at the pictures of us, you can see that BOB is really stupid, and Bobby is not.  She's smart enough to know that you are stupid.  She will never buy what you are offering, or do what you suggest, or borrow money or anything else from you.  In fact, she is mighty irked whenever she sees BOB appearing on anything.  So save yourself a nickel and stop sending e-mails to BOB.

Now I'm sure you know I am not so stupid as to believe you will read this and take it to heart.  But I feel a whole lot better about getting it off my chest.  And in case you haven't gotten the picture yet, read my lips:


Thursday, April 11, 2013


Paolo Soleri died on April 9, 2013



From Hot Coffee & Cool Jazz

Monday, February 2, 2009


Hanging on my front porch is a bell like the one pictured here. Made of bronze, it is old and weathered and the patina has changed over the years that we've had it. I'd guess it is about four feet long and weighs 15 pounds or so. In a strong wind, the long clappers hit the sides of the bell. There is a clapper inside the bell with a design that allows its sides to strike the bell and produce a different tone than the outside clappers. We allow it to ring all it wants in the daytime, but if we are having one of our infamous Santa Ana winds, we take it down at night, as we want to insure that our neighbors are able to sleep through the night.
It came from Arcosanti in Arizona, a place I've known about way back into the late 1960s and to which I took Jerry sometime after we married. Arcosanti is an amazing place, and something about it touches an "arty" core inside my being. I couldn't possibly tell you the "how" and "why" of Paolo Soleri's Arcosanti and do it justice.

I've borrowed from their website <http://www.arcosanti.org/main.html> and trust that you will go there on your own, for it is absolutely fascinating.
Here's what you'll read: "In 1970, the Cosanti Foundation began building Arcosanti, an experimental town in the high desert of Arizona, 70 miles north of metropolitan Phoenix. When complete, Arcosanti will house 5000 people, demonstrating ways to improve urban conditions and lessen our destructive impact on the earth. Its large, compact structures and large-scale solar greenhouses will occupy only 25 acres of a 4060 acre land preserve, keeping the natural countryside in close proximity to urban dwellers.

"Arcosanti is designed according to the concept of
arcology (architecture + ecology), developed by Italian architect Paolo Soleri. In an arcology, the built and the living interact as organs would in a highly evolved being. This means many systems work together, with efficient circulation of people and resources, multi-use buildings, and solar orientation for lighting, heating and cooling. In this complex, creative environment, apartments, businesses, production, technology, open space, studios, and educational and cultural events are all accessible, while privacy is paramount in the overall design. Greenhouses provide gardening space for public and private use, and act as solar collectors for winter heat. "

For those of you within visiting distance, you really should do yourself a favor and make a trip over there. You might find yourself bringing home a bronze bell of your own. Part of financing Arcosanti is from the sale of these wonderful bells. They have a wonderful gift shop where the bells can be purchased. They also have an online gift shop. The bells are not cheap, by any means, but I will say that like everything else, they were much less expensive pre-1980 when Jerry and I bought ours.

I truly appreciate the vision of Paoli himself, as reflected in this statement: "The problem I am confronting is the present design of cities only a few stories high, stretching outward in unwieldy sprawl for miles. As a result of their sprawl, they literally transform the earth, turn farms into parking lots and waste enormous amounts of time and energy transporting people, goods and services over their expanses. My solution is urban implosion rather than explosion."


Arcosanti is the outworking of his vision ... in process. It is a fascinating place.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


In January I joined a non-fiction book club which meets every other month.  I enjoyed the January book and our March book was announced as "The Man in the White Sharkskin Suit: A Jewish Family's Exodus from Old Cairo to the New World."  In the "off" month I read it twice, pretty much catching the story line of the book the first time and then as discussion day drew near I read it a second time.  It was this second time when I felt it was probably the most instructive book I had ever read, talking to me about a time in history that I knew nothing about,  pertaining to a group of people I had no idea existed, and a book demanding me to go much, much deeper in my own understanding of what I had experienced when I lived in the Near East.
The story, as written by Lucette Lagnado (the "Man" of the book's youngest daughter), was structured as a child's view of her own family and history in several settings.  First of all she sensitively writes of her parents' backgrounds - her father's family being Jews who had settled many years earlier in Aleppo, Syria and were greatly influenced by the Arab culture, and her mother's, again Jewish but coming from an entirely different cultural setting based in Alexandria, Egypt.   Lagnado draws fascinating word pictures for us that lay groundwork for all that happens when the difficulties, both personal and political, begin.  The marriage of her parents joins two people who have been raised in disparate communities and it is easy to assume that trouble is surely ahead.  A second and major part of the book is how this family, which grows eventually to have two sons and two daughters, tries to adapt to the political changes that culminate in another major forced exile of Jewish people, this time out of Egypt and the other middle-east countries that took place after the second World War.    Her own family had to leave Cairo with next to nothing and no where to live.  The last setting is when given a choice of living in either Israel or the United States, the family opts for America.  Along with others who make that same choice, she shows how life was for her own and other modern day immigrants.
At the time Lagnado wrote the book in 2007, she was a senior special writer and investigative reporter for The Wall Street Journal.  What is amazing is that since she was such a young child in those early years she writes about, she could not write from personal experience but had to research to get the accuracy and truth of what happened in her own family.  It must have been a monumental project; it certainly wasn't like sitting back and reflecting on one's own life experiences. 
Most of us in the book group were astounded at how little we knew of this next Jewish exile.  We broadly knew of the creation of the nation of Israel and that there was some difficulty in resettling groups of people.  But that was the period of time when we were in junior high school, high school, college, or starting our families -- and our eyes were not really focused on the details of the problems in that part of the world.  Most of us did not have relatives that were involved so we had no family stories to make us aware of what was going on.
When I finished reading the book, I wanted to know some more specific details concerning certain things that Lagnado brought up in her book, one of which was that her father considered himself both an Arab and a Jew, something I just couldn't get my mind around.  How could that be?  I had to first remind myself that all Arabs are not Muslims, but still..... 
For me, I always consider myself lucky when something I read in a book sends me off on a hunt for more information.  Sometimes it happens in a novel, but it is one of the reasons why I love non-fiction books.  And it helps when the author is a really, really good writer.  Lucette Lagnado has other books she has written, and you can bet that I will be searching out and reading them too. 

Monday, April 1, 2013


As everyone knows, Mondays are not good days at the workplace.  Actually, all Mondays seem to be as bad as full-moon days -- if anything crazy is going to happen, it will.  And it always does.

It is now an hour into the Monday ordinary workday here in California.  Jerry has made two phone calls to businesses.  The first was to follow up on an order he placed on March 15 and had not yet received.  The page below is what he received in the mail Saturday regarding his order and what he called the company about this morning.

Let me tell you that Riverside, San Bernardino, Chino and Mira Loma are all within a 15 miles radius of each other and are well known to everyone in this area.  There are big post offices at each place.  Take  a look at the route his order is travelling.  (The photo will enlarge a bit if you click on it.)

The woman in the company to whom Jerry spoke said she would put another shipment in the mail today.  She could not explain this document.

Now how much confidence do we have in what she said?

Then he made his second call.  This second call was to place an order for some ostomy supplies with a company he has dealt with for two years.  (Our HMO  tells him which company he has to use, and he basically places the same order on the first working day of each month.)

As the person on the phone was checking her computer to make sure she got the right account, she repeated the mailing address to Jerry:  10451 East Lynn Circle.  Jerry stopped her and said that was incorrect, that we lived on NORTH Lynn Circle.  She challenged him and said "The computer says you live on East Lynn Circle.  You must have moved." 

Jer was thunderstruck.  He replied to her, "Ma'am, we have lived at 10451 NORTH Lynn Circle for almost 8 years and we are still here."  She didn't much like that answer and finally said, "Well, I'll change the address in the computer.  I hope you know what you are doing!"

So that is our screwball Monday.  What can a body do????