Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Birthday Sophie!

The years fly by way too fast. The little girl in this photo will be fifteen this Halloween. She is so excited to be getting her driving permit, I'm excited for her too, I just can't believe it. We've had a lot of fun over the years, still do but just not quite as often. Just a few days ago she reminded me how much fun it was to decorate the Christmas cookies and could we do it this year. I am already getting the supplies needed, it will be fun.

Sophie never let Halloween get in the way of her birthday; in fact I am sure she thought everyone was dressing up just for her to help her celebrate her special day. Her request this year was that we start her birthday celebration a little earlier so she could hang around longer before joining her friends on their Trick or Treat adventures. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SOPHIE, ENJOY!

Friday, October 30, 2009


I thought I had learned my lesson - never go anywhere without your camera - but sadly I have not. Please accept my apologies, because the most beautiful Fall I have ever seen here in this part of the mid-west just happened and I did not get it on "film". I wanted to weep today as I drove past the burning bushes that already were dropping their brilliant flame red leaves. I swear it was just a day or two ago I saw them and thought what a great picture they would make for my blog. Oh, well maybe next year, Cubbie anthem. Just one problem is that next year won't be the same as this year, maybe close, maybe not. Nature has as way of being original. Forgive me, I try really, but sometimes I just never learn -- never leave home without it - YOUR CAMERA!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Just Desserts?

I thought you couldn't have your cake and eat it too -- apparently if you are the Brothers Karsai you can!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Happy Halloween

Halloween has officially arrived on Artichoke Annie's blog with the recent receipt of Artwork by Oliver. Nothing brings me more joy than the art that pours forth from the imagination and hands of my grandchildren. My hope would be that all children would have access to an enrichment program at their schools as Oliver does. It does wonders for the self-esteem of children not to mention the boundless happiness that is brought to the family. Even though I am so many, many miles away and not close to give daily hugs and kisses it brings me so much happiness to share in these treasures via the Internet. Great job, Oliver! I love them and Happy Halloween to you all.

Monday, October 26, 2009

… had a great fall.

Illustration by Maxfield Parrish, Mother Goose in Prose by L. Frank Baum

It was eighty years ago this week that the financial world experienced "Black Tuesday", the 1929 stock market crash. A year ago many feared we were about to experience another Great Depression, the difference being that there are now measures in place to advert a total collapse of our financial system. But it may be those very financial reforms that lead us to a false sense of security at times. It can be a lot like being in an inflatable life boat in the middle of the ocean, it only takes a little leak in the boat and before long you are in deep do-do.

I was born nine years after the crash but it still had an impact on how I was brought up. My parents, my mother especially, did not believe in borrowing, even for a home. It was her belief that you saved before you spent. In later years she would amend that belief to allow for a home mortgage, but that was it. If you wanted to buy a car, you were to save until you had the cash to purchase one. We have become a very credit dependant society today and that monster has reared up to bite us in the ass.

There is a saying, 'moderation in all things' and that really is a pretty good axiom to live by. There is only so much the government can do to protect us from ourselves and over protection is never good. We have to learn to be responsible for ourselves and our actions. We need to exercise our responsibility muscle and make it strong, so as to withstand the many snake oil salesmen that await to make us their prey.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Bonnie Kakes

Bonnie K

Everyone should have a recipe for friendship tucked away in their recipe files. My favorite one is for Bonnie Kakes. Now not everyone will have same ingredients on hand as I do so feel free to substitute at will, the important step is adding the ingredients slowly over time. Over the years making this recipe has become kind of a seasonal event, much like that favorite Pumpkin Pie at Thanksgiving or those cheerfully decorated cut-out cookies at Christmas time. I hope you give it a try, with your own special additions of course.

  • 3 large cups of California
  • 2 tablespoons of Hawaii
  • Just a pinch of Utah
  • (Optional) Missouri to taste
  • Large quantities of finely chopped tennis games
  • Just a smidgen of micro-waved baby formula (remove before boiling)
  • A smattering of graduation ceremonies here and there
  • Lots of dinners out and dinners in

Add ingredients carefully, one at a time, and mix until smooth. Bake (the longer the better) with lots of love and enjoy with abundant bottles of wine.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

PCH Days of Yore

I remember the good old Publisher Clearing House days when my coffee table overflowed with magazines, mostly unread, while I tried desperately to increase my chances to win $1,000,000. I finally realized that the knock at my door, followed by my overwhelmed surprise as a bouquet of roses and a giant check were thrust into my arms, was never really going to happen. Probably had I invested all those dollars I spent on magazine subscriptions I would have my million dollars in a savings account today.

Today I read more books than magazines, except for one – Vanity Fair. Last summer while I was traveling I needed something to read while cooling my heels waiting for my delayed flight. I bought the copy of VF that you see here because Johnny Depp was on the cover. It is a great article on this rather enigmatic celebrity complete with lots of great photos of the man himself and his wonderful island hideaway. I ended up reading the magazine cover to cover, and that included the ads as well.

I was hooked and got online and ordered a subscription to Vanity Fair. It has turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected, reading this monthly magazine filled with its lengthy articles and abundant ads. I made a promise to myself that I would not even take one little peek at a new issue until the current issue had been read cover to cover by me. Sometimes the articles are about people I have heard a little about like Bernie Madoff's wife Ruth, or Jacqueline Kennedy who I feel I know, or sometimes it's an article about someone I have never heard of. But each article was interesting and left me feeling like I knew a little more than before I read it.

If someone were to ask me why I read Vanity Fair, I would say for the same reason men read Playboy magazine – the great articles!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

In a nationally televised address on January 10, 2007 President Bush stated "America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence and bring security to the people of Baghdad. This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 additional American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them – five brigades – will be deployed to Baghdad". (President George W. Bush (January 10, 2007). "President's Address to the Nation".)

Almost three years later the same words with minor changes might be used today:

In a nationally televised address on January 10 (date not yet determined), Bush President Obama stated "America will change our strategy to help the Iraqis Afghanistan government carry out their campaign to put down sectarian violence Taliban insurgency and bring security to the people of Baghdad Kabul. This will require increasing American force levels. So I've committed more than 20,000 (number not yet determined) additional American troops to Iraq Afghanistan. The vast majority of them – five brigades (TBD) – will be deployed to Baghdad Kabul and regions surrounding Kandahar".

Forty-two years ago today more than 10,000 protesters outside of an induction center in Oakland, California added their voices to an anti-draft protest that was being demonstrated throughout the country. This in protest of a war that wasn't a war – rather a "conflict", but nonetheless costly with respect to American lives lost and dollars spent. A conflict that went on for many decades depending if you start counting in 1945, when the first American died in Vietnam while on an American OSS mission, to the restoration of diplomatic ties with Hanoi in 1995. Officially and for the record keepers the Vietnam Conflict is listed as 1964-1973, nine years.

The Persian Gulf War, which consisted of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, lasted seven months. Now we are engaged in the GLOBAL WAR ON TERRORISM, which gets broken down as needed into geographic slices; since October 2001 we have been involved in OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM and in March 2003 we added OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM to the list. I would imagine this next thrust forward will get tagged OPERATION AFGHAN FREEDOM. It is almost with a certainty that the Global War on Terrorism, which is now in its eighth year, will exceed the duration of the Vietnam Conflict. I don't personally know anyone in the military currently fighting in the Middle East; I did however know two young men that fought on the ground in Vietnam. And while neither one would talk freely of their experiences, on a couple of occasions they would let slip the horror that still lived deep within and would be with them until the day they died. I can only imagine what so many families are going through today as they try to keep their lives together.

Some say the difference today is that we have a voluntary military and not a drafted one and therefore a basis for protest is non-existent. For me this doesn't change the color of the blood that is being spilled on foreign soils many thousands of miles away from America's border. This war has a momentum of its own, like a boulder rolling down a steep hill unable to be stopped. I wonder how many more years it will go on and even if there a logical end to it?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Urban Farm Boy

One of the really great times for urbanized kids today is in the Fall when the school field trips are taken to local farms for a visit. Kids love to see things growing and to be able to harvest their own food for the table. I think it nurtures a certain sense of pride to be able to provide for the family that has its roots back in the caveman days when we were all hunters and gatherers. OK, perhaps I got a little dramatic with my use of words. Maybe they just love getting on the big yellow school bus that is taking them away from school to a magic land full of dirt and sunshine where they can just run free.

Whatever the real reason, this I know, my grandson had a ball on his class trip to Tanaka Farms and look at the harvest he set upon the table. Looks yummy doesn't it? I don't know about you but I am about ready to give up this here city life and head back to the farm… well maybe for a day or two.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

I Love Lucy

What were you doing on October 15, 1951?
I was a month into my freshman year in high school and television was almost as new to all of America as I was to high school. If my memory serves me correctly, and it can be a bit foggy on occasion, I think my family got their first TV around 1948/49. There wasn't a lot on in those early years and not every household even had a TV; often my family's living room served as a neighborhood gathering of kids to watch Space Patrol or Time for Beanie.

But it didn't take long for the television airwaves to be filled with shows to delight the entire family. One of the best was the I Love Lucy show which made its debut on October 15, 1951. The odds that I was sitting in front of the television that particular night are pretty good. It was a love affair that lasted for years and years. The I Love Lucy show was nominated for an Emmy Award twenty-three times and won the award five times. In all the show received more than two hundred awards during its run. In fact the show is still shown in syndication today worldwide. And you still can get a genuine good laugh at Lucille's antics, as much today as you could fifty-eight years ago. Thanks Lucy, we do still love you.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Time to Awake

The Unveiling of The Awakening Artist/Sculptor J. Seward Johnson and my Granddaughter

Today was the official unveiling for The Awakening sculpture in our downtown Chesterfield Park. It was quite an event with great food, fun activities for young and old and even the weather could not have been better. We've had rain for the past two days and lo and behold today bright sunshine to welcome the giant from his long slumber.

It was exciting and we even got to me the artist himself, a very nice, unassuming man who seems to take his art with ease. I get excited when someone asks permission to use one of my photos or leaves a comment on my blog, I can't imagine how I would feel if I had several dozens of my sculptures on display around town, let alone this massive five-piece display.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Let Sleeping Giants Lie

It's just a couple more days for the Giant to catch his forty winks. This Saturday, October 10th will be the big unveiling of The Awakening in Chesterfield. I am looking forward to it and I am hoping the forecast for clear skies will prevail. Now you understand not everyone in the city is as thrilled as I am to see this new sculpture take a premier spot in our ever emerging downtown park. There are some who say it is too gruesome, too freaky and too ghoulish. But that's OK and that is art, not all art is everybody's cup of tea. I will bring you along with me on Saturday to share the experience, except for the refreshments of course, those I will keep to myself.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Quote the Raven: “Nevermore”

Poet Edgar Allen Poe died one hundred and sixty years ago today and fifty-four years ago I was reading his poems in my high school English class. A lot of time was spent talking about what Poe meant by this line or that line, a practice I always disliked in English Lit classes. How much more interesting it would have been to first study the man and then his works, perhaps then the meaning of the written words would have been clearer.

One thing I know now that I didn't know about him then was that, very probably, he was a hopeless alcoholic, driven mad by his "long sodden bouts with whiskey". He was also a winter baby born on January 19, 1809, that, and being a Capricorn were most likely leading factors for his dark display of madness. I am a Capricorn too and know there is a darkness about us which follows like a shadow on a sunny day.

Poe died at a remarkable young age of forty but despite his shortness of time of years and clear capacity he left behind an amazing body of work. What better month than October to wander to your local library or book store and get a copy of Poe's selected poems and reread them or read them for the first time. My favorite one begins like this;

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping. As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door- "'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my changer door- Only this and nothing more." From: The Raven, Edgar Allen Poe, published 1845

Sunday, October 4, 2009


I have a friend that I have known forever, so long in fact I have no idea when we first met, and it seems I have always known her. We went all through school together, from kindergarten to high school graduation. If you are a regular reader of my blog, Mollie's name has popped up one time or another. She is the one I would hop on the Red Car with and travel in to Los Angeles to see baseball games. I guess she lived four or five blocks from me, easy enough to walk or ride a bike to get to each other's houses on a regular basis.

What we did best I think is play. We played at sports in the park or on our make shift sports complex at the vacant corner lot. We played at climbing trees and digging holes in the hope we could reach China. We played at adventure, jumping on our bikes and exploring the environs of the city in which we lived. I remember one time we had this great plan to build a car, probably more a Go-Kart powered by a lawn mower engine. I don't know if we ever completed that project but Mollie would, she never forgets anything. And she is the kind of friend that doesn't talk about the stuff you wish she would not remember.

Distance and time separated us; Mollie left our home town after high school to go to college in Texas and I pretty much became a mom a year after high school. But the friendship prevailed and Mollie always checked in with my parents from time to time over the years. Mollie's passion to this day is volleyball. She has coached some of volleyball's finest and you would need the Los Angeles Coliseum if you were to gather together all of the kids she has mentored over the years. Misty May even brought her Olympic gold medals for Mollie to see. One day when I was surfing the Internet I found Mollie's name associated with a system used in volleyball call the "Ruby" named after one of her short and scrappy former high school players.

One of the best things about the Internet for me is that it has connected me with Mollie again. Even though hundreds of miles separate us, we are just as close as ever when those emails we send to each other wing their way through the cosmos. She is still a supporter and encourages me with my blog. A tip of the cap to you my friend, my BFF, it's nice to have you there.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Storybook Tigers

Don't let the recent rocking motion and lullaby's emitting from the United Nations put you to sleep. There is a storm a brewing out there and it could be quite serious. The players wear the jerseys of Team Israel and Team Iran and playing the role of sports commissioner may be China, whose salary might come in the form of oil rather than a millions of dollars a year signing bonuses. Israel doesn't like to be pushed around and bullied and when they gaze upon the horizon and see nuclear weapons aimed their way they can get really testy.

China has earned a lot of money off the loan they provided the U.S. Apparently they take this money they earn and invest it in buying assets and building plants in Iran. It's quite a vicious circle isn't it? We go to war in the Middle East to fight terrorism/or/ to protect our oil interest; you choose the option you prefer. The bottom line is a war, lots of lives lost and little resolution. This mess gets really expensive and our till is a little empty, so we look around for someone with available funds. Up steps China, oh I bet they could hardly contain themselves when they heard that knock on their door. So while we are fighting the devils in one direction, we find devils in another direction that we can cuddle up to all warm and fuzzy like. Round and round we go like the greedy tigers in The Story of Little Black Sambo, until we melt in a pool of butter.

I hope I'm not around when the melt-down occurs because I think it might be quite painful. I get so frustrated because things seems to happen so fast sometimes and once they get going it's like a giant boulder rolling down a steep hill, almost unstoppable, like those greedy tigers…

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Happy Birthday Comrade

Today is the 60th anniversary of the Chinese Communist party and there isn't a spare missile carrier, rocket launcher or tank available for rent from the local Hertz rental office in Beijing. It's a really BIG day in China, bigger than the Olympics' opening ceremony. It's the People's Republic, founded in 1949, chance to have their cake and eat it too. Streaming banners and lofty speeches declaring China's commitment to peace amid the backdrop of camouflage lorries laden with ballistic missiles and a bright sky lined with smoke-trails from the 151 jets that fly overhead.

Tiananmen Square is filled with tens of thousands of schoolchildren who flip colored squares of paper that display a "loyalty to the party" message, the women's militia, tall and uniform, march in their red skirts and white boots, while veteran "model workers" wave to the crowd. The parade ends with more cheering school children as thousands and thousands of brown and white doves are released from the rostrum.

I celebrate this day because it reinforces my belief in America and reminds that I am free. Free to get up turn on my computer and write this blog, as I see fit and without government approval or censorship. I can be critical of our political leaders without fear of being prosecuted and jailed. I live in a country so free, that by golly, we can choose to have our school children listen or not to our President when he speaks.

We are a great country who knows how to give a party. I like the way we celebrate our country's birthday; fanciful parades, hot dogs and ice cream, merry-go-rounds and Ferris wheels and people wearing crazy glasses and Statue of Liberty hats. And when night falls we light up the sky with giant sparkler fireworks, that have long since lost their originally weaponry meaning, and we listen to likes of the Boston Pops Symphony playing in the background.

Yep, I love American, even when we stumble, even when we take a wrong turn, because I believe in our hearts we really do want to do the right thing. America is you and American is me, all of us working together to make our home a better place for all of us. Freedom is our greatest right but with it comes responsibility and that sometimes requires that we think and make sure that the actions we take are the right ones and not the wrong ones.

Oh, and don't forget where we got the money to finance this war we're in. They seem to have enough left over to put on a big party today.