We’re all over the place this week… mostly out of town… so we just wanted to say:
I don’t know about you, but Thanksgiving feels extra-special this year. I appreciate Thanksgiving as a holiday to honor family, friends, and loved ones. While I’m grateful for my family every day of the year, I’m happy to have this one day to dedicate to them, to honor our emotional connections, and to reflect on what’s truly important in life: each other.
Thanksgiving, I guess, is a personal holiday, meaningful in the ways that matter the most to us.
We wish you all a happy holiday this week. Thank you, friends.
Happy New Year! I know I probably already said that, but “Happy New Year” again. This is my annual year-in-review/resolutions/favorites of my past year’s favorites post.
1). 2016 was exciting, but I don’t have to be wistful about it because the good things are continuing into 2017.
I’m still heartened with deep satisfaction from the life changes I was able to make in 2016. It was a particularly great year occupation-wise. About this, I can only say that I’m thankful every day to experience the feeling of vitality the luckiest people feel when they wake up driven and eager because they know they’re going to spend the day doing what they love, where and how they love doing it. Any work-related stress I experience is self-imposed, productive stress. I keep thinking this is all a splendiferous dream. I’m aware that I may have to wake up one day, so I’m enjoying it while I can.
Fitness-wise, adding (Les Mills) Body Pump to my workout routine was the best thing I did in 2016. It took me almost the whole year to get here, but I finally did, and I. Am. Loving. It.
The year was rich and rewarding family-wise, too. We spent lovely time with my family (between my brother’s wedding and Thanksgiving), and it was fun ending the year with my sister-in-law and her boys during their longish visit.
One thing we did with them was the annual Phoenix Zoo Lights, which is great, anyway, but so especially awesome with kids!
Phoenix Zoo Lights 2016
With Legoland now open down the way at Arizona Mills (where we also went with the kids), Legos were featured in this year’s Zoo Lights:
Phoenix Zoo Lights 2016 (with Lego sculpture)
On the darker side of 2016: It was a hard year in terms of our furbabies. It involved upheaval, heartbreak, and a lot of time, effort, and money spent trying to make life good for our kitties. It’s not over, but we’re determined. Our focus at the moment is on healing Cita physically. After that, we can focus entirely on healing her emotionally, with the ultimate goal of integrating her into our household with Nenette… yes, we’re going to attempt that again. We are not going to give up.
We’re already doing what we can to make Cita’s environment as stress-free as possible – putting Feliway (comforting feline pheromones) in her air, and Bach Rescue Remedy in her water – so we’re off to a running start. Reducing her stress is helping her to heal, in general.
2). Looking ahead at 2017, I am:
–Starting out the year with an updated workout routine, doing 3 Body Pump classes and 2 Body Combat classes per week, instead of the other way around. It was time for a change, and my body is loving it!
–Continuing work on alleviating (if not overcoming) my PTSD-related claustrophobia via repeated trips to the sensory deprivation tank.
–Speaking more French at home, since I completely failed last year’s resolution and spoke practically no French.
3). I usually do a “favorites of the past year” list; continuing with the tradition, here’s my list of my favorite of my 2016 favorites!
Les Mills Body Pump
Nature’s Wick Bonfire Nights candle
Favorite Skin care, hair care, cosmetics (all cruelty-free… not tested on animals):
Derma e antioxidant natural sunscreen with clear zinc oxide SPF 30
OGX Healing + Vitamin E shampoo and conditioner
The Body Shop Honey and Oat 3 in 1 moisturising scrub mask
The Body Shop Vitamin E Overnight Serum-In-Oil
The Body Shop Rainforest Radiance hair butter
e.l.f. Flawless Finish foundation (in Sand)
e.l.f. High Definition Powder in Soft Luminescence
e.l.f. Mad for Matte eyeshadow palette
Favorite Foods (all vegan):
Scivation Xtend BCAAs (strawberry kiwi)
Bragg’s organic raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
Trader Joe’s multi-grain sourdough (with sunflower and sesame seed) bread
Eureka! Seeds the Day bread
Seedless red grapes
KIND Nuts and Spices bar (dark chocolate nuts and sea salt)
Clif Kid Organic Z Bar (iced oatmeal cookie) with peanut butter
All in one breath: We trekked to California for a Thanksgiving extravaganza of riotous family togetherness with long-lost cousins and uncle and I finally came to understand “once removed” as I met some First Cousins Once Removed and yes, I do feel enlightened and very lucky to have learned this, as the lesson came about when I met some awesome relatives for the first time! OH and the extravaganza included cooking shenanigans involving an array of never-before-tried recipes, all vegan, I believe, and all tasty! I wrangled with some heads of cauliflower that predictably fought back by launching bits of themselves at me and the floor, but my helpful cousins noticed and picked the cauliflower out of my hair and eyebrows. I couldn’t help but envision the kitchen as a wintry Japanese hot springs full of snow monkeys engaged in social grooming. If Japanese snow monkeys could laugh, they would sound like us. We’re not as adorable as they are, though.
Japanese macaques (snow monkeys)
It was just so good to reconnect and laugh with my California first-cousin crew!!!
Back at Mom and Dad’s house, I started to write an actual post for this morning, but it spiraled into oblivion in the direction of something I wasn’t prepared to write at the moment. I’ll save that post for another day, if I pursue it all, which I may not.
So today, in closing, I would like to sign off with this selfie I took while snuggling with my new niece, aka my sister-in-law’s dog. I got to meet her this morning! It was love at first sight.
My niece is cuter than yours. She has soft ears. Your argument is invalid.
Until next time!
That cauliflower recipe, by the way, is outrageously good. I have it, courtesy of my cousin who brought it to us. I will make that cauliflower dish again… and I will win when the cauliflower attacks.
First, thank you for your words of support following Callaghan’s loss. Thank you for your kindness, your thoughtfulness, and for being here… for reading, and for caring. All the love means more than we can say.
Callaghan’s been handling his emotions well, leaning on humor as a tool, enjoying time with family and friends, and keeping busy with work, as well, with some of his French clients. This morning, he left early for a full day of work in Toulon; I’ll spend the afternoon hanging out with a friend until Callaghan gets back tonight.
We brought Papy’s ashes home yesterday.
It’s been busy. The fact that we’ve been going non-stop since we landed hasn’t precluded me from taking tons of pics, though, so I thought I’d share a few of them here (sans family members).
To start, this first one is a quote we found in a German magazine on the airplane, because it had us in fits of laughter. A little lightening up is always good, right?
It was probably one of those you-had-to-be-there situations, because we’re not sure why we found this so hilarious. We just did, and I’ll tell you what… we’re not complaining about cracking up over some much-needed random silliness.
On that note, here’s a pic I took of an old bank in Nice the other night:
Old bank in Nice. No idea what it’s called.
I’ve walked by this bank hundreds of times, but I only thought to take a picture of it this time, because, again, Random Silliness Therapy was in order. See, this very bank is the bank that French actor Jean Dujardin’s character attempts to rob in Brice de Nice. Brice de Nice is one of my all-time favorite comedies, and was filmed here in Nice. The bank robbery scene was actually shot inside this bank (as opposed to on a stage set).
To give you an idea of the bank robbery scene, lest you haven’t seen the movie:
Six years before he swept up Best Actor awards at the Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Globes, the Oscars, the BAFTAs, and the SAG Awards for one film (The Artist) in one awards year (2011-2012), Jean Dujardin, then mostly known in the south of France as a comedian, wore ridiculous blond hair to play a ridiculous character of his own creation, Brice Agostini, in a ridiculous movie. (Brice de Niceis pronounced “Breece duh Neece.” The character calls himself “Brice duh Nice” as you’d say it in English, though… that’s a part of the humor.) Brice de Nice belongs in the “So bad it’s good” category of films, so if you haven’t seen it and you’re in need of Random Silliness Therapy, I recommend it! (Get the subtitled version if you don’t know French. Dubbed is awful.)
Brice de Nice has something of a cult following around here. The whole joke of the story is that Brice aspires to be a champion surfer, but he “surfs” at the Mediterranean beaches of Nice, where there are no waves.
Here’s the trailer from which I’d snipped the pics:
On a more somber note, due to current events, some loved ones in the States were concerned for our safety regarding going to France. I was cautioned to refrain from “galavanting around,” as I’m wont to do when I’m here, but galavanting can’t be entirely avoided if daily life is to be lived. We had (and still have) errands to run on le Rue Jean Medecin and the Place Massena, which is adjacent to Vieux Nice, which attracts a lot of people and is therefore potentially hazardous… and since our schedule’s been so hectic, we’ve had to go at night, mostly. But it’s been fine. Here are a few pics:
The Ferris wheel all lit up.
Nice Etoile (mall)
A less-traveled street in Nice.
Flag made of lights. French patriotism like I’ve never seen it. There are also a lot of French flags hanging over people’s balconies.
The train station where we went to get Callaghan’s great-aunt, arriving for Papy’s service.
Weather-wise, it’s been chilly and mostly overcast and rainy, but the sun came out this morning, giving me a good opportunity to snap the views. Here’s the view from our bedroom in Callaghan’s Dad’s house in Le Bar-sur-Loup, a village in the hills above Nice:
Bedroom view, Papa’s house, Le Bar-sur-Loup
And the view from the bathroom:
Bathroom view, Papa’s house, Le Bar-sur-Loup
And food-wise! I have indeed been taking foodaholic pics, even though I’m a vegan in France, which translates to “I’ve mainly eaten salads supplemented with things from my back-up supply of nutrient-dense food that travels well.” By the way, this is the first time I’ve stubbornly refused to deviate from veganism in France. Not a single pastry has passed my lips… no croissant, no pain au chocolat. No cheese, no dairy of any kind. It’s hard to figure out what to eat. This is not a country that makes it easy if you go out to dine at restaurants and at people’s houses.
But here are a few of the beautiful salads of which I’ve partaken:
Salad in a restaurant (greens, tomatoes, onions, toasted walnuts)
Salad at Callaghan’s Dad’s house (endive and green apple with a homemade mustard vinaigrette)
Salad at Mamie’s house (Callaghan’s grandmother): Mixed greens and tomatoes in another homemade vinaigrette, this one with garlic).
That’s a piece of tomato pizza off to the side, by the way. It’s a south of France thing, and in its original form, like this one, it doesn’t have cheese. We picked it up in the boulangerie across from Mamie’s place in Cagnes sur Mer. It was delicious.
While I’m sharing foodaholic pics, here’s what I ate at the airport when we stopped over in Frankfurt, Germany on our way here:
Muesli with soy milk
Because it was 5:45 in the morning. I also had coffee with soymilk. Germany is hip with the times and you can ask for things like soymilk and almost always get it, like in the States.
I also got a pretzel, since I was in Germany, the mothership of pretzels, and I love fresh, authentic pretzels:
Wonderful pretzels in Germany!
Last, I took a couple of pics of the artwork Callaghan did for his Mamie when he was just five years old:
A man here on the French Riviera died recently. Men on the French Riviera die as frequently as men everywhere else, but only one was Papy, Callaghan’s grandfather.
Papy was the reason Callaghan came here to visit for two weeks last May/June. When Papy fell into medical crisis, Callaghan hurried to his side, even though it meant flying across the United States, and then across the Atlantic. Callaghan would not have thought twice about going if we lived on the moon.
Five months later, on November 2nd, Callaghan returned to France to work on a project in Normandy. In the middle of his 10-day business trip, he took a day off and flew down south to spend the day with Papy. That trip turned out to be a blessing on a deeply personal level, because within three weeks, Papy’s health declined until coma swallowed him alive, as comas do. Less than a month after Callaghan saw him that day in early November, Papy was gone.
That Callaghan and Papy had one day together recently while Papy was lucid and at home was a tremendous gift. Papy had spent a miserable summer and fall revolving in and out of the hospital for various reasons. Callaghan’s work trip couldn’t have been timed better.
When he came home, Callaghan didn’t need to describe to me Papy’s happiness during that visit. I have a warm memory of the countless times we’d trekked up the eight flights of stairs leading to Callaghan’s grandparents’ apartment: We would reach the last landing and turn the corner to find Papy and Mamie standing at the wide-open front door, waiting patiently with joyful expectation on their faces. Papy’s patience felt alive with anticipation beneath his calm exterior. That was the part about Papy and his relationship with Callaghan that I remember with the most clarity… the ritual and vision of Papy standing at the open door, waiting for his beloved grandson to appear on the landing. Every time, their faces lit up when they saw each other. There was so much love there!
Callaghan’s Papy, c . 1950, age 25
I don’t think I’ve known anyone else as dedicated to a grandparent to the extent that Callaghan was dedicated to his Papy, despite the long distance between them after Callaghan and I moved back to the States two years ago. Their bond reached back to the 70’s, when Callaghan was five years old and his mother suffered a stroke (a shocking occurrence at her young age). Callaghan went to live with their grandparents in the wake of their Maman’s hospitalization… and throughout his teen years, Callaghan continued spending lots of time with Papy, staying at his grandparents’ place at least one night a week.
I’d always been impressed with how Callaghan so resolutely assumed responsibility for his grandfather’s health. He cared for Papy with a gravity unique to their special bond. He cared for Papy like no one else did.
Grandparents are special, especially when they take part in raising you during your formative early childhood and teen years.
We walked to Le Jardin Secret to order the floral arrangement for Papy’s obseques (service).
I didn’t spend nearly as much time with Papy, but I got to know him through the many stories Callaghan told. How Papy played the accordion in his youth. How the events of World War II impacted him. How he’d gone on to own his own shop. How he’d enjoyed his daily walks to the center of his village, Cagnes sur Mer, to talk with his friends. How he’d loved red wine, and his Citroën Traction Avant.
Papy cherished his Citroen Traction Avant Quinze. It looked like this one.
Along with his father, Callaghan will be delivering the eulogy at tomorrow’s service, which I imagine will be difficult; writing and delivering a eulogy for the most important person in your life, for your hero, can’t be an easy thing. I’m honored that he asked me for help with writing and rehearsing it.
Such as it is that I’m here with Callaghan in France. This time, I had to join him. This is a time for family and for supporting each other. I couldn’t be with Callaghan during his earlier visits, but what matters is that I’m here with him now.
For the night of the ceremony – tomorrow night – Callaghan is planning a celebration for Papy at a favorite old pub. Everyone who will be there knew Papy, because they’re Callaghan’s long-time friends… they knew how important Papy was in Callaghan’s life, and what he meant to him.
I was thinking the other day that not having human kids means that I’ll never have to feel like the Grinch who stole Thanksgiving when my kid comes home from school brimming over with warm and fuzzy stories about the “history” of “the first Thanksgiving” and I find myself unable to keep from explaining the truth behind the myth. If schools could just limit Thanksgiving holiday festivities to cute finger turkey drawings, then fine, but somehow, I don’t see them omitting the fables of the “Pilgrims and the Indians” being BFFs on “the first Thanksgiving” anytime soon.
That bit of cynicism aside, one thing that’s remained true about Thanksgiving over time is its focus on expressing gratitude for a bountiful harvest, which has broadened to include giving thanks for everything that we have, including our good health and each other. This is the aspect of the holiday that appeals to me the most – its focus on family.
Thanksgiving is this week Thursday, and we’re going to be spending it with my family. When I lived in France, I missed the comfortable proximity to my family more on Thanksgiving than at any other time. You always hear people saying, we should give thanks and express gratitude for our families every day, not just on Thanksgiving, and I agree with this, but still… Thanksgiving.
And I’m feeling so grateful for my family… the family that chose me, the one that I’ve chosen and the one that I inherited just by being alive.
We all have family, even if we think we don’t. If your circumstances are such that your actual family members are absent in the world, if you feel isolated and friendless, as long as there are people in the world, you have family.
In Hawaii, you’ll find this concept expressed openly and naturally by the locals, as the family mentality is a part of the local culture. If you’re walking along the beach and a child is playing in your path, it’s likely that the adult sitting nearby will call to the child, with firm affection, “Come over here, Bobby… let Auntie pass.” And you’ll look over at the parent to find him smiling and nodding at you with respect. Auntie. Think of it! A total stranger will see you coming and say to his child, let Auntie pass. (Yes, this happened to me.)
You are family. We’re all family. Humankind is a human family, and I believe this to be true: When there’s injustice in the world, we have to remember that we’re all brothers and sisters, and we have to allow this to give us strength. Being united gives us strength. Our interconnectedness is an absolute, even in our moments of craving our solitude, even while counting our enemies. To me, Thanksgiving is a time to remember this and to feel our bond and connection with others. Being human also means that we can lose patience and hold grudges, but on Thanksgiving, I want to be mindful of our oneness and feel grateful for what that means. We walk the same earth and breathe the same air. We can help each other and commiserate and make each other laugh and offer comfort and support as easily as we can do harm.
Reflecting lights… candle flames on a dark morning.
Today, my Mom sets off on a journey new to her, familiar to many: chemo. We spent the weekend with her and Dad in California, and despite the circumstances, we all had a wonderful time.
Our family has been consumed with the development of her cancer since the last week of October, two weeks before we moved back to Arizona. Since then, in the midst of boxes and unpacking and getting our residential affairs in order and job-searching and holidays, time has speedily hustled us up to this moment, because that is what time does. It moves us forward.
This is actually Mom’s second go-round with cancer, but she didn’t have chemo the first time. What’s happening now was not supposed to happen. The daily Tamoxifen therapy she’d diligently followed after her first surgery proved ineffective… the cancer came back, and this time, it’s different. It’s HER2+. Aggressive cancers need aggressive treatment, so we’re looking at a year of all-out war, all told.
I haven’t talked about this here yet (and I wasn’t sure that I would) because the audaciousness of it simply defies words. The whole thing has been rather bewildering. It’s devastating and scary when it happens to friends and relatives, but to someone in my immediate family? That’s when it exits the realm of thinkability, leaves us looking at it, agape and aghast, from another dimension. This thing, this cancer, it’s like an obnoxious, uninvited dinner guest who just kind of showed up and sat down at the table, elbowing itself forcibly between all of us at once, making space where there wasn’t any to be had. It’s installed itself there like a fifth member of the family, and it’s demanding to be fed. Its hunger is voracious, and it’s rapidly grabbing for whatever it can get its filthy, greedy hands on.
Sure. We’ll feed you. Enjoy your chemo cocktail. And Herceptin. And radiation. AND SO ON. WE WILL NOT STOP FEEDING YOU UNTIL YOU COME APART AND CEASE TO EXIST. AND THEN WE WILL FEED YOU SOME MORE.
We’ll feed it, alright.
Today, the doctors will start slipping poison to the intruder.
Unfortunately, the poison will affect Mom as well as the intruder. I preemptively wrapped her up in a fuzzy warm robe and socks and slippers and a hat, because the Bay Area’s winter chill will increase as her treatment progresses, and she’s tiny. Her armor. Soft armor for a strong woman. She’s still good-naturedly running around accomplishing twenty things at once with her characteristic efficiency; she’s as indefatigable as ever. Callaghan and I couldn’t get her to just sit while we did things. That’s where Dad comes in… Dad is another weapon in her arsenal, maybe the most important one.
She’s well-armed, and that’s reassuring. An abundance of love and lots of prayers from family and friends. A lively sense of humor, a great attitude and a great deal of fortitude. The way I see it, the intruder has no chance. It’s outnumbered.
Why hello! It’s Thursday! It’s not Wednesday, nor is it Friday. I’m posting here today because we’re off to California again – flying this time – and I’ll mostly be off-line until Monday (“mostly off-line” meaning I’ll likely check in on Facebook to wish friends happy birthdays, but I’ll be scarce other than that).
This last week saw the end of an apparent cold snap through the relentlessly brilliant, bright blue sky, chilling the apartment just enough to result in two well-furred kitties for winter. Ronnie James and Nounours are all puffed up and ready to go.
Winter-coat-wrapped kitties are well-ROUNDed kitties.
Speaking of furbabies… two weeks ago, I was leaving a message on a friend’s voice mail when I was comically distracted by some fuss at the door. It started with a scratching, bumping sound, but the commotion really started when Callaghan opened the door and a German Sheppard practically spilled inside! Our door excited him somehow, and his Mommy was there (they live across the way… we share the stairs with them), introducing us. His name is Barley.
Now, I don’t know about you, but I think that “Barley” is just about the cutest name for a German Sheppard that I’ve ever heard. I wish you could meet this dog. He’s a funny, adorable, lovable sweetheart, is what he is.
Barley. I’m thinking of him now because he’s currently alone over there, and I can hear him barking. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest, but it does make me want to go play with him.
What’s the cutest name for a dog you’ve ever heard?
Why hello, December! I can’t believe it’s already time to recount the blessings of November.
November was all about road trips and nesting and family. Between driving from Austin to Phoenix, and Phoenix to San Jose, and San Jose back to Phoenix, we clocked in more than 40 hours on the road… and it was worth every second. November’s main highlights were moving back to Arizona and going to spend Thanksgiving with my family in California.
November’s “BEST OF” to note:
1). Being back in the desert.
This was actually taken yesterday (in December), but it continues November’s brilliant sun and gentle warmth, so here you go. Sitting outside in a t-shirt, blessedly dry in the absence of humidity!
Phoenix date palms lit up for the holidays
2). Music: Steve Earle, my favorite country artist and one of my all-time favorite musicians, period. He’s a wonderful poet, and I love his unique sound… it flows between country, country-rock and alternative country, rich with folksy, rock n roll and bluegrass flavors here and there. He’s just amazing. I made a playlist of my favorite Steve Earle songs and burned the CD for our trip out of Texas. It was perfect!
My Steve Earle CDs: El Corazon, Townes, I Feel Alright, Copperhead Road and Jerusalem.
3). Target’s generic brand energy drink (Archer Farms). We think it out-red bulls Red Bull, and it’s very tasty.
The energy drink that fueled our many hours on the road in November. It’s Target’s brand. I love the raspberry flavor, too.
4). Living in downtown Tempe.
On the patio at the Handlebar in the middle of the night, just because we could. I guess it’s debatable whether living near Mill Ave is a plus or a hazard. Nah… it’s definitely a plus.
Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium, down the street from our apartment. We get to hear the fireworks when the Devils score, and that’s a lot these days!
5). Re-visiting favorite old hang-outs.
Alice Cooperstown, Alice’s sports bar/restaurant in downtown Phoenix. Major points for nostalgia here.
6). Feeling truly at home again! After books, houseplants define “home” to me.
Our first houseplants in three years! They’re temporarily named “His Plant” and “My Plant,” respectively (L – R). I have a special fondness for spider plants.
7). My house-warming gift to myself, which didn’t cost me a cent.
I took some old books to Bookman’s and traded them for the hand-made Greek (Rhodes) Bonis plate on the right.
8). Dexter. We binge-watched the entire eight seasons, starting in Texas and ending in Arizona.
Our favorite serial killer. And everyone else’s, I suppose.
9). November’s rave-worthy beauty product was (and continues to be) Garnier Fructis Triple Nutrition Miracle Dry Oil for Hair, Body & Face. I spray a little in my palm, rub my hands together and run them through my dry air, and it leaves a nice sheen. Callaghan also loves it for his skin.
This oil defies the dryness of the desert without leaving you greasy. LOVE IT.
10). Two Very Happy, Satisfied At-Home Kitties.
Nounours at home on his blanky!
Ronnie James at home on the love seat!
And last, but far from least: Thanksgiving in California, a last-minute decision that was the best decision ever!
So, that little stealth mission I’d mentioned in my last post?
On Thursday afternoon, we spontaneously decided to join Mom and Dad in northern California for Thanksgiving. We hit the road at 11:00PM, arrived the next morning (the drive is 10-11 hours) and spent a fantastic weekend with them. It was especially great when my brother and nephew showed up! Thanksgiving on Friday felt so much like the real Thanksgiving that all day Saturday, I thought it was Friday. There’s nothing like family. It had been three years since I’d visited mine in California, so that trip was a long time coming.
We left for Arizona yesterday morning and got home after dark. I thought I’d share a few road trip pictures:
Passing a southern California wind farm.
We crossed the Arizona border late in the day, just before dusk. The state of Arizona turned 100 last year, and the centennial signs are still up.
You know you’re in AZ when you start seeing these helpful DUI prevention signs on the highway… “Drive Hammered. Get Nailed.” Oh, Arizona! haha
Another telltale sign: saguaros, particularly when silhouetted against a blazing sunset.
Somewhere north of Dallas, about four-and-a-half hours away from here, there’s an A-frame house nestled on the side of a country road, surrounded by sycamore, pecan and walnut trees. Inside live my cousin and her husband. Their three grown kids have headed out to their respective urban pastures, but the kids’ personalities bound throughout the home with so much liveliness, you’d think they still live there! And that’s wonderful, because Callaghan and I missed them when we went up to spend the weekend.
We spent a perfect fall weekend with my cousins at their home in the country just north of Dallas.
So that is where we went when we took off early on Saturday morning, and where we stayed until late Sunday afternoon, and that is why this post is a day late – because of all the pictures! I took over 200, and it was revealed after the fact that somehow, the image file size setting in my camera had gotten bumped up to 16mgs, which made re-sizing them rather time-consuming. Add to that the usual selection process and some errands to run, and, well, here we are on Tuesday with Monday’s post. (Sorry about that.)
In addition to re-connecting with my cousins, the weekend involved fossil-hunting in their creek-bed (there’s a creek and a bridge on their property), a go-kart spin on their road, a visit to Ray Roberts Lake, a visit to my cousin’s daughter’s house (which was excellent, because we got to meet their new son-in-law, though their daughter couldn’t be there), and a visit to the University of North Texas, where my cousin’s husband works. Most importantly, there was lots of conversation over great food. (Note to Self: ask cousin for the recipe for her delicious vegetable curry!) It all made for an interesting and fun and totally unique time that we wished could have gone on longer. We hope it isn’t too long before we can see them again.
With that, here’s a slew of photos, which fail to convey the splendid and unexpected fall magic that is fossil-hunting in northern Texas. Imagine going apple-picking for the rarest of apples in a privately-owned orchard! Honestly, though, I think the company we were in had everything to do with the marvelous time we had. There is nothing like family.
Fall is lovely in the country north of Dallas. This is my cousins’ bridge. The creek lies beneath.
A fossil amongst the fallen leaves in the creek-bed
Look what we found!
Turning the bend
A perfect little fossilized shell!
I can smell the fragrance of the country fall air just looking at this picture.
Stories in the stones
The part of the creek that had water in it in spite of the drought….
In the creek-bed
Callaghan and me (with an ancient snail)
The treasures we found!
Our collected fossils
The Christmas lights they leave up year-round make the place even more magical!
The ABC Family “young adult” television drama series Pretty Little Liars ate our brains, but we’re caught up now, so we’re re-claiming them… and our lives.
Pretty Little Liars
I don’t have much to say in our defense, but I can make the following observations: Pretty Little Liars is girly, sure, but its morbidity helps to mitigate that somewhat. It’s almost oppressively cloaked in suspicion, and we find it just dark enough to escape a total “frou-frou” designation.
Regardless of the fairly respectable tensile strength of my suspension of disbelief, I still feel some breakage in that area sometimes when we watch it. Callaghan does, too… we look at each other and go, “No way! There’s NO WAY that could happen!” Yet the absurdities keep things interesting, so they work.
At first, we weren’t into it. It was the lack of perspicuity in the plot that gnawed at our brains enough to drag us back for “just one more episode” time and again. First, we thought it was a ghost story, then we decided it must be a murder mystery, and now we think we’re dealing with a conspiracy, or maybe even a cult. We just can’t figure it out, and that’s the thing… or one of the things.
The television series is based on a series of books by Sara Shepard. We haven’t read the books, so we just have no idea. If you’ve read the books and you know, please don’t tell me!
It started innocuously enough. I mean, there seemed to be no threat of impending addiction. Our reaction to the first episode was “Eh.” Then we watched a second episode and kind of laughed it off. Several weeks went by with no further viewing, until finally we came to the fateful evening we said, “Why not… let’s watch the third episode.” And that was it! We’d become PLL slaves. The show had become our guilty pleasure. You know how it is… you get intrigued with the characters as they develop, you start to feel affection for them, maybe, and you might find that you have a favorite or two. Next thing you know, you’re emotionally involved in their hardships and conundrums. The usual stuff that gets you hooked on a series.
I remember when televised “Korean Dramas” sucked in the entire state of Hawaii and part of California, including my family. (“Family” includes close family friends. It’s the Hawaiian Way.) At the time – this was in the 2000’s, I think – there was no T.V. in my life, with the exception of some occasional sports such as boxing and basketball; my disengagement with television added a layer of intrigue to the Korean Drama phenomenon. What was it about these shows that had so effectively captured their audience? I couldn’t relate, but I didn’t question it. We all have our things.
Now, because of Pretty Little Liars, I understand. It’s the exact same phenomenon as the Korean Dramas.
Here’s the back-story on the Korean Dramas: The whole thing got started in Hawaii with one of my many aunts and uncles, but it migrated to the mainland when Mom and Dad brought some of the tapes back with them to California (they divide their time between the two places), so it wasn’t long before others in the Bay Area got into them, too. Tapes were sometimes mailed between family members in Hawaii and California. They circulated from household to household. After a while, “Korean Dramas” became a common term in our family vernacular. It got to be where enough people were watching them that I could feel justified in exaggerating that “everyone” was hooked (I think my brother managed to escape it, though).
Inevitably, the Korean Dramas would appear on the T.V. at some point when I would go home to visit, so eventually I got to see what all the fuss was about. What I saw was simply a Korean soap opera, complete with sub-titles (a fortunate thing, since my family isn’t Korean, and they don’t know any Korean). But I also noted the following:
–The women are exquisite, beautifully attired and impeccably made-up. The men are excessively good-looking and groomed and polished into unnatural perfection, as well. (I’m sure that there are also character actors who don’t fit the supermodel mold, though.)
–There’s a lot of angst. By western male standards, anyway, the men seem unusually emotional. I remember a lot of crying, brow-furrowing and hand-wringing going on, in general.
–Disasters of various types erupt on the regular, usually domestic or romantic in nature. “Drama” is putting it mildly. The script-writers seem to write illness, death, misunderstandings, betrayal and heartbreak into the episodes with unfettered glee.
When I told Callaghan about all of this, he was like, “OH YEAH!” And he proceeded to tell me about the time he and his friend went to check in at a hotel in California, and they heard screaming, fits of crying and general mayhem emitting from behind the reception office. The next morning, they went back down to the desk and heard the same thing, all over again. They became concerned, thinking that it was domestic abuse. It wasn’t. It turned out to be the Korean Dramas that the people were watching back there.
Standard soap-opera fare, brilliantly done, apparently, if their popularity is any indication!
Now, when can we access the latest episode of Pretty Little Liars….
Merry Christmas, everyone! We spent the holidays visiting with family and friends scattered around the French Riviera. The weather was gorgeous. We enjoyed two days of great times and merriment and family drama. (What are holidays without family drama? Incomplete!) Everyone is in good health and doing well, and that’s the most important thing. I hope you can say the same thing about your loved ones.
Here’s some traditional French Christmas cake for you: