Something on your mind? ? ? :-)

If you would like to leave a comment to tell me what you like or if you would like to share an experience you have had, have suggestions for new adventures, or would just like to share what's on your mind, please feel free to do so! I would really, really love to hear any feedback you would care to offer!

When you click on the comments link at the bottom of the post, you will be presented with choices for logins, if you do not already have one of the accounts listed, or you do not choose to login with that account, you can always choose the anonymous option, in which case your name would come up as Anonymous! If you choose to use one of the other log in options, your name would appear as the public name you list for that account. For example, mine would appear as Willow's Quiet Corner, and, of course, your email would not show!

Thanks! And, again, thanks for stopping by! I really hope to hear from you and to see you again soon! Let me know how you think I am doing! :-)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Snow, Lunch and Welcome!

We have snow in our back yards, too!  This is a vintage
photo I took several years ago - since the clouds robbed
me of a good view of them for this post!  Sorry for the
washed out quality!  It was just too faded to get all
the richness of color back in it!  But, I did try!
First of all, I would really like to welcome and thank Rosemary over at The Summer Porch for stopping by for a visit and for following my blog!  I scooted over to take a peak at her "Porch" and just loved her photos and blog and quickly signed up as one of her followers.  It looks like we both started our blogs right about the same time!  I know I am looking forward to having a glass of lemonade or sun tea while spending a little more time on her porch and hope you will take a moment to visit with her also!

Secondly, I would like my dear cuz to see that we, too, have snow here in our back yards.  (She was kind enough to share her snow pics from her little 9 acre farm.)  This is just to the north of us.  See the tops of the mountains?  They are being a tiny bit shy and are trying to hide behind all those clouds.  Go ahead, look a little closer.  Ignore all that green stuff in front.  Just there, right above the clouds.  See them?  You can just barely see the very tippy-tops of the mountains and that they are blanketed in a nice thick layer of white, like a fluffy down comforter to snug them all in.  The snow report for our local mountains says they just got an additional 6" of powder on a 2' base.  Mammoth is showing an additional 2" on a 13' base (and they were all the way down to just a measly 11' base just a couple of days ago!).

Ok, here's another shot.  This time we are looking eastward, towards Idyllwild, hidden by the clouds up there at the top of the mountain (on the other side of these mountains, you will find Palm Springs).  Again, just ignore, and look behind, all that green stuff we have on the ground here (you know, you might remember them - grass and leaves and stuff?  :-).  Ju-u-u-ust above the green and ju-u-u-ust below the clouds.  See? The snow level came down very, very low!  Br-r-r-r-r-r-r!

One last shot.  This one is to the west, above the hills behind my friend's house where the clouds are trying to push their way over the hills at the end of the day.  She lives around Corona, and just a short 45 minute drive beyond these hills you will find my house.  The snow rarely falls on these hills, but they got some yesterday!  I know, it is rough, but somehow we manage to struggle through it!

I took these shots from near my friends house today (Sunday - but by the time I will actually get this posted, this should probably say yesterday!).  We have been trying to get together for lunch for the past few weeks, but things just kept getting in the way.  But, today, we finally were able to make it work.

Conventionally grown in the pinkish wrapper at
the top and the organically grown ones in the
whitish wrapper at the bottom!
I started the day with my weekly trip to the Farmer's Market.  The stand I always buy from seems to consistently have the best berries and I somehow was under the impression they were organically grown, but today after I had already purchased my basket I found out that they are conventionally grown.  So, I gathered up some strawberries we could do a taste test on.  I had just bought the conventionally grown berries, so I also searched out and bought a basket of organically grown berries.  I do not know which varieties they were, and I know that would have more to do with taste differences than organic versus conventionally grown, but . . .  I decided I would have my friend help decide which were actually better.  While they were both very, very good, the organically grown ones were unanimously chosen as the winners.  Unfortunately, they are not always available!  But, as long as they are, those will be the ones I purchase from now on!

Then we had mimosas by her pool, just relaxing, fanning ourselves (oops! what I meant was . . .) being fanned by her pool boys, and soaking up some of that lovely sunshine!  Just kidding, cuz . . . while the sun WAS out, it was actually way-y-y-y-y too cold for that!  We actually had to wear our heavy jackets while we took her sweet pooch for his constitutional before we left for our girls day out.  I think it must have been down in the low 50's, maybe even as low as the high 40's, but to us it felt like it was in the 30's!

Our first stop was the theater.  We went to see 127 Hours.  If you don't know anything about it, it is a movie based on a true story about a guy who goes hiking alone without telling anyone where he is going, and of course, disaster strikes.  He falls into a crevice, miles from anywhere/ anyone and out of site of anyone walking/flying around above, and ends up getting his arm pinned between a rock and the canyon wall and after several days and no hope of being rescued, all his water has been drunk and he begins drinking the only other liquid he has available, which he described as being "No slurpee", he frees himself by breaking the bones in his arm and then cutting his arm off.  This is exactly where being so squeamish can be detrimental to movie-going.  There were, needless to say, parts of the movie I could not watch.  

The movie shows the range of emotions he went through and the thoughts and hallucinations that were running through his mind throughout the ordeal.  He handled it with humor, videotaping messages and his goodbyes to his family and friends, with extreme frustration at times (who wouldn't? ? ?) and grace and a level-headed concentration on not losing it.  It really makes you think about the lengths one would go to stay alive.  Could you drink your own urine?  Could you cut your arm off to survive?  Could you do it without bleeding out?  He is a tough guy and is still out there hiking and even climbing, but apparently, he now always leaves a note as to exactly where he is heading!  It was very good and I am glad we went!  Just don't plan on going out for steak and Bloody Mary's afterwards!

My Australian Violets - just because they are
so cute and I love them, even though they are
desperately trying to take over my ENTIRE yard!
After the movie, we stopped back by her place to take Champ out for another little walk.  He is getting up there in years and has a very difficult time, so she has to take him out fairly frequently.  He is such a sweetheart, he is totally worth it!  But, it also gave us a little breather between the movie and lunch so I could get the movie firmly out of my mind before we headed out for our lunch.  

For everyone else, these may be called violas, but growing
 up, we called them violets, so they will forever be violets to me!
They are one of my favorite flowers because they look so sweet!
We had a nice long, leisurely lunch at Macaroni Grill.  But, since all I had eaten for the day prior to that was the strawberries, I was so-o-o hungry by the time we got to the restaurant, I forgot to snap a pic of our delicious lunches!  :-(  Sorry!  We started out splitting a Caesar Salad and snacking on the freshly baked rosemary bread dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  For my entree, I had the Fettucini Alfredo with a nice glass of Chateau St. Michelle Riesling.  It was just yummy!  My dear friend had the Pasta Milano and the Riesling also.  She says that is her absolute favorite dish there.  She likes it so much she can't quite make herself try anything else!  I know exactly what she means!  Once I find a favorite, I don't want to take a chance on anything else! 

It is like a little mini-vacation to be able to sit, relax, talk, laugh and catch up on all the events in each other's lives.  Good food, good drink and good company!  A day well spent!

So, back to my regular life, one of the things I am working on is this scarf.  I am trying to teach myself to knit from a book.  It is slow going and I am not nearly as comfortable with knitting needles as I am with a crochet hook, but I am hoping it will get easier as I do more of it!  I still can't tell what exactly constitutes a row by just looking at the work!  How lame is that?  :-)  It seems so much easier to identify and count rows in crochet!

Things I am "reading" are Sophie Kinsella's books: Twenties Girl, Remember Me? The Undomesticated Goddess and Can You Keep a Secret?.  Her books are the perfect antidote to stressful days!  My friend introduced me to her through her Shopaholic series.  Love, love, love them!  I would love to get the entire series on CD!  I absolutely love being read to!  I love books on tape (CD) for that reason!  At lunch, I can pop out my ipod and break out the knitting needles and sink back into my seat to be transported to another world for 45 minutes or so!  And, since Sophie usually gets me laughing out loud, I can go back to work feeling a little more refreshed and a bit more able to get through the second half of the day!  If you haven't read her yet, please do!  You'll be glad you did!  I promise!

If you want to test out whether you would like books on tape, you can listen to Miette's Bedtime Stories online for free.  She reads short stories and has rather an eclectic selection from which to choose.  If you have a favorite author, you can check out the listings she has on the right side of her page to see if she has "read" one of their stories and take a listen.

I am also working on a story for this "Dinner Party" game one of my epals told me about.  (Thanks, John!)  I'll share a bit more of that in a future post.  But, it is something that has held my interest for quite some time.  I have thought about it frequently and I am very anxious to do it up right and would like to share it with you someday!  I'm afraid I am going a bit overboard with it, but that is what is making it so much fun for me!

One of the other things I am working on is painting the inside of my house.  I tackle one room at a time.  This long holiday weekend, I am painting the bathroom.  Why does it always, always, always take so much longer than I think it will?  But, I have to admit, it is turning out to be so totally worth all the hard work!  I am really loving the way everything is beginning to look!  This project is long overdue!  I only have the living room, dining room, laundry area and all the closets to go!  Then I get to start decorating! ! !  Yayyyy!  One of these days, once I have everything done and all back in order, I may try to share some pics, but that is going to be way, way, way down the road yet!  I am sooooo slow!

While doing a little surfing, I happened to run across this article, and it piqued my curiosity, so I googled the Wagon Teamster's blog.  It is a fascinating read and I thought you might enjoy it, so I am sharing the link.

Before I go, since this post is a little short on pics, I thought I'd share a pic of the blossoms on the new peach tree I told you about in one of my previous posts.  Aren't they adorable!  I was surprised to see they have no scent!  At least, not that I can detect!  My mother has the nose of a bloodhound, so she might be able to detect something there, but I sure can't!  My lemon trees and orange tree are another matter.  The lemon trees are loaded with blossoms about to open, any day now!  Soon the air will be perfumed with their scent.  It is so intoxicating, I wish they had scratch and sniff screens so I could share it with you when they do finally open up!  It is so difficult for one pair of lungs to sniff up the whole thing alone!

And a shot of the grape hyacinths that have popped up in the last week or two.  The paperwhites have already come and gone without me documenting their existence this time around, but they'll be back! 

And finally, a shot of the orchid I bought a few weeks ago paired with a maidenhair fern.  I also recently purchased some air plants.  I still haven't decided what to do with them just yet, but will figure out something soon, I'm sure!

So, what are you working on, reading, creating?  Let me know!  See you next time!  TTFN!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Chuc Mung Nam Moi! Vietnamese for Happy New Year!

The Tet (New Year) Festival and the Preparations! 
a guest blog by Trang

Hello, everyone!  My name is Trang and my friend asked me to share with you my photos and experiences at the flower show and the Tet Festival that I attended in celebration of our Vietnamese New Year.  It is one of my most favorite celebrations and I am very excited to share my adventures with you!

The Vietnamese lunar new year was February 3, but the festival was held Friday through Sunday, February 4th through the 6th.  This is the Vietnamese Year of the Cat; for the Chinese and Japanese, it is the year of the Rabbit.  Some of us wonder why the Vietnamese year is different, and I wonder if maybe it is because we Vietnamese are closer to cats than rabbits, in that we have more cats around us and in our homes than rabbits.  But, that is only a guess!

The Tet or New Year celebration is very important in the Vietnamese culture and it lasts three days and each day there are different activities scheduled.  The Tet is a time for families to reunite, a time to reconnect with our friends and a time of thanksgiving. There is so much to do to get ready for this special celebration that we begin our preparations the week before.  Traditional foods are purchased like "banh chung" (rice cakes), flowers are bought to decorate our homes (peach blossoms are especially popular) and red hanging scrolls (like those in the photo above) are hung up around our homes with wishes for good luck in the new year on them.  Other popular items purchased for the celebration are candies, firecrackers and red envelopes to “li-xi” (give money) to children.  You will see a lot of red in our decorations.  Red is symbolic of good luck.

If you want to shop for flowers, "Phuoc Loc Tho The" Mall in Westminster is the best place to go.  It is a very busy place and the best time to go is the Friday before the New Year.  If you wait until the weekend, it is too busy and very, very crowded.  The flower market is full of all kinds of flowers, like orchids and branches of peach trees loaded with blossoms, and there are kumquat trees and bonsai.  It is so colorful and beautiful and the scent of all those flowers is so beautiful and wonderful that I very much enjoy going there and look forward to it every year!

So, let’s see, we’ve got the flowers to decorate our homes . . . now we need to get some food for our celebrations.  We love our fruit and eat a lot of it.  Here you can see some of the traditional fruits we eat, dragon fruit, kumquats, papaya, pears and tangerines.  Yum, yum!  Let's stock up!

So, now that you have your flowers and some food for the Tet, it is time for you to come along with me to the Tet Festival to see what they have there!  So, grab your hat and let’s go!

Saturday, my husband, my two sons and I went to the Tet Festival at Bolsa Grande High School, and we had a wonderful and very fun day!  The festival is an important way for our Vietnamese youth to learn more about their heritage and to be proud of their Vietnamese ancestors and homeland.  It is actually their job to build all the displays for the festival depicting the traditional homes and traditional ways of Vietnamese life.  They learn about these things by talking to their their parents and grandparents about them so they can figure out how to put it all together.  

The tickets were $5, or free if you were “ao dai”, a serviceman in uniform.  I saw some American ladies “ao dai” and I thought they looked so cute in their uniforms!  

I would also like to mention that all the money collected in ticket sales is used to pay for the materials needed to build the displays.  Any money collected in excess of that amount is divided up.  Some is put away for the next year's festival and the rest is put back into the community.  Some may go to scholarships for children whose families do not have enough money to put them through school.  Some may go to organizations who help support those in our community who need help.  All of the money is accounted for and the totals are published in our local Vietnamese newspaper so everyone knows how much was collected and used and what the excess was used for.  Not only is it a lot of fun, but it really helps to support and strengthen our community.

Wow, there were so very many people at the festival!  There was a lot to see: flowers, plants, foods, displays and a parade, and so much to do: shopping, playing traditional games, listening to music and watching the stage shows, and so much more!

They had created some vignettes of traditional scenes found around the Vietnamese countryside.  There was a little “nha la”, or cottage, which is typical of a small home you would find in the country, with a thatched roof made from palm fronds.  Here I am posing inside the house.  Notice the red scrolls of good luck on the wall behind me!  The week before the festival, my son and his friends collected all the palm tree leaves to make the house.  He showed me his arm and there were a lot of cuts on it from the sharp leaves.  My poor son!  He gave his blood for the Tet!  But the house was really cute and they created a very good example of a typical country home, so I think it was worth it!

This is a re-creation of a "ghe cau", or fishing canoe.  You can see it behind me in the photo above.  Notice the thatched roof over it to keep off the sun and rain!  This is a small personal canoe, which is used for transportation or fishing on the waterways.  And it is also used as a market when it is docked. People walk up to the boats on the dock to buy the products; fish, fruit, meat, whatever the vendor is selling. 

Since fishing is a big part of Vietnamese life, there was also a small display showing a typical fishing net, and how it is used for catching all those fish.  And below is a photo of a duck pen.  Many people keep ducks in pens like this for their eggs as well as for making dishes with duck.

Speaking of water, sometimes you don’t want to float on it, but you do need to cross it.  That is where the "cau khi", or Monkey Bridge, comes in handy.  This is a tree trunk or a very narrow piece of wood that spans the creek or river with rope on either side that you can try to use to keep your balance while crossing. 

Would you want to try to cross this bridge?  If this were a bridge in Vietnam, there would be water running underneath it instead of grass as shown here!  It is extremely narrow and can be very difficult to walk across, even with the ropes on the sides to hold onto (See the blue rope on either side of the bridge?  You still need very good balance, those ropes are not completely stationary!). If you cannot walk across it standing upright, you can try to cross it by pretending you are a monkey and bending down to use your hands and your feet trying to cross it that way, hence the name, Monkey Bridge.

There was also a reconstruction of a "mieu", or shrine to memorialize and honor the heroes and brave people who made sacrifices and great contributions to the country.  You can see it in the photo above behind the dragons.  The shrine is a raised platform, supported by a strong central support, upon which offerings are placed.  People come to the shrine to pray for those heroes.

The game room was a very popular place, especially with my husband.  Vietnamese chess was being played and my husband stayed there much longer than he did anywhere else at the festival!  That is him in sunglasses in the center of the photo behind the people playing chess.

Here I am demonstrating how street vendors get their product to market.  Villagers make food in their homes to sell in the streets and transport it in baskets hung from a pole they carry over their shoulders.  Sometimes, if the woman has a baby she has to take care of, the baby will be placed in the back basket and sits very still and holds onto the ropes, while the front basket is filled with the food that is to be sold and off they go to sell their food to make their living.  As you can guess, these baskets can get very heavy.

Speaking of food.  Somehow we managed to find time to eat lunch in between all these activities.  This is how a typical sidewalk café table would look.  Notice how close to the ground everything is compared with what you would find in the United States and Europe.  The food was really very good.  My son especially loved the sugar cane juice!

On the stage there were several events, there was singing of new year songs and music and my personal favorite, the performance of the Royal Family, with the king, queen, prince and princess, and the armies with their red and blue uniforms. 

There were also many beautiful girls wearing the traditional dress representing the three areas of Vietnam: the northern, central and southern parts of the country. 

One of my sons participated in the festival, dressed as one of members of the royal family.  Here, he is wearing a blue dress.  I was so excited to see a photo of him, dressed in one of these costumes, was just published in the local Vietnamese paper!

The festival is so important to our culture, the local Vietnamese TV station sent one of their reporters to interview some of the performers as well as some of the people who attended for their news show.

Well, anyway, we had a really, really great time and I enjoyed it very much!  Maybe next year you can join me at the festival!

Ok, I think that is all for now!  I hope you enjoyed going on this adventure with me!  See you next year!  And I wish you and your family a year of good luck!  Bye bye!