.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Guest Writer Stacy: Tough Times for Pets, too

Daughter Stacy is experiencing firsthand the effects the slowing economy has on people...including herself. Though she's struggling to kickstart that new degree into a real career, she's staying positive and volunteering for an organization in San Francisco called PAWS (Pets are Wonderful Support). She sent this message to me just before Christmas, and it reminds me that there are lots of ways to help people in need. Sometimes going through their pets seems so much easier and more satisfying for both the giver and the receiver.

It is a tough time for a lot of people.

Yesterday me and three friends piled into the Egg of Saftey (that's Stacy's little Hyundai Accent) and delivered cat/doggy toys to PAWS clients in the Tenderloin. We mostly visited transitional shelters and homes for those with mental illness. A few people invited us inside to play with their pets. One cat really made an impression: his name is Ollie and he came right out and rubbed up against all of us. His owner immediately took out one of the toys and Ollie chased it around the bathroom. I realized when people are moving a lot, simple things like dog chew toys and cat treats get lost in the chaos. Bringing them gifts not only pepped up the animals, but made their owners smile too.

It was a really nice day!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Qwest no longer feels the love!

So, I get a letter from Qwest Communications telling me they're upgrading the service in my neighborhood. Great! I just need to call and schedule a service tech to bring out my new faster, better Qwest ChoiceOnline modem/gateway box. And, we're supposed to all get new email addresses, too. We'll now be called Q.com--isn't that cool? I have less than a month to get this dude out here.

But, wait, what's that, I use a Mac? Well, there's one teeny-tine catch: they will no longer be able to support me and my MacBook with an included email POP account! Oh, yeah. They forgot to tell me, the email and forwarding service is a package provided by...(wait for it) dunh, dunh duhnnnn, Microsoft!!?

But, oh, hold on a sec. The nice customer service lady suggests that there's a better solution for me! Cuz' you know, there're so few of us Mac users out there and all. I can go and get a FREE Google Gmail account. Oh yeah. Way to rub salt in the wound! Yes, they will take away my email address--the one I've had for more than ten years, the one I've got plugged into so many other online accounts--plus work, the one who's free server space I use to serve up my blog photos, the one I use to upload and download pictures, graphics, text, movie files, and all kinds of other big stuff that Hotmail and Google would probably choke on ...the one that doesn't put any added, superfluous garbage onto the bottom of messages in the name of being FREE!!!

You know and I know I can do this. But it's the sheer audacity that Qwest has that really chills my b#TT. I've been treated this way before. Way back when there were only 100 people in the country using Apple computers, and Qwest only had one guy who kinda' sorta' knew how to provide adequate customer service. But, I thought, now with all the iPods, and iMacs and iTouch phones out there that we'd be treated with a little more respect. Guess not. Corporate will always be corporate. They giveth and they taketh way, whenever it pleases them.

Perhaps I should get my "lil' bundle o' services" elsewhere. We can get DirecTV direct! And maybe it's time to use Vonage for phone service. And maybe Cox would rather support my DSL needs. I can taketh away, too.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Old Photo Treasure Chest-Another Find!

And this is getting fun. I found this old picture kicking around in a box in the attic. Why was I in the attic, you ask? Because it's time to put away all the Christmas decorations! These boxes were so thick with dust, I just had to drag them out. This one's from the 1970's. See if you can tell who everyone is. The bigger question is: who remembers taking the picture??

Labels: , ,

Monday, January 05, 2009

Thanksgiving Travels

Thanksgiving was a great time. It's my favorite holiday of all--I love getting together with family, upholding the cooking traditions (especially since I hardly cook much anymore,) and spending time, not money, on each other.

This year, Steve and I were at my Aunt and Uncle's home in Millbrae, CA where we got to catch up with my cousins and their families.

Mo and Pat brought Seth, now 6 yrs. old and very energetic.

John and Hillary came with Matt and Jack, their 8 yr. old twins.
Hillary made a fantastic Women's Day Magazine turkey cake--the the boys couldn't wait to dive into it and had it all mapped out way before dinner even started!

We also visited with my Aunt's longtime friend and neighbor Meata and her daughter Shannon--all great company and wonderful to see again.

That weekend, Stacy came down from her new digs in San Francisco, and together with her friend Sara, we ate lunch at Delaveaga Lodge in Santa Cruz and then took a hike in the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. These redwoods are not as large as the monster trees in Northern California, but they are still BIG. Big enough to fit Steve, Stacy and Sara in a crack in the trunk with lots of room to spare.

There are some trees in this forest that have very strange growth behavior, such as one that's got an albino part which is rather parasite-like in that it can't make it's own chlorophyll--and other ones that look like the trees the Ewoks inhabited in Star Wars, with huge lateral branches coming out from the main trunks with a 90 degree bend going straight up. Very un-Redwood-like behavior.

This is a Santa Cruz forest so of course, we even met up with a real Santa Cruz banana slug--so bright, he should really be a tropical creature! We always keep our eyes 'peeled' for these strange "bugs."

Nono was before his time: Wine tasting in the Salinas Valley

By now, most people have heard about the Napa and Sonoma valleys of Northern California. But, I bet you didn't know that the Salinas River Valley highlands in Monterey County, California is also a great place to find great wine. Steve and I had a chance to take a drive on the Salinas River side of the hills to visit four new wineries we hadn't visited before.

We thoroughly enjoyed every one. Best feature of all: we got to talk to the wine makers themselves, or at least a son or daughter of the winemaker. They all have their own stories, but a common factor, it seems, is that while they may be relatively new as wine makers go, they are not new to the area. Many were growing vegetable and fruit crops before the lure of the grape took hold. See Pessagno Winery.

They are so casual and welcoming here, we even walked in on one little ol' winemaker while he was still bottling: Puma Road/Ray Franscioni Wines. And another is a family who is Swiss-Italian and had been in this same valley for a very long time. See the website for Manzoni Estate Vineyards. We even got to share a few stories about our Nono's and Nona's (grandfathers and grandmothers in English)!

And then there was Joel Burnstein and Marilyn Remark of Marilyn Remark Winery with their two big retrievers, Hogan and Snead, (someone likes to golf!); we enjoyed talking with them long after closing time. The picture above was taken in one of their vineyards. On their website, Joel says of tasting wines from the Rhone Valley in France in 2001: "These vintages were from small vintners who sell every bottle locally to friends and family. We knew then the type of wines we had to try to make."

Some of the folks who are bottling now, are the second and third generation children of European immigrants. Many are getting back in touch with a part of life that seemed a distant past for them. It's no wonder--they were sitting on California gold! Turns out this area is very special when it comes to climate, weather, soil, and elevation--just the right mix for growing the right grapes and making great wines.

I wish my grandfather were alive to see how the making of wine has taken off in this area, so close to his home in Castroville. He used to buy his grape 'juice' from a grower in the San Juan Bautista area and he always had a few barrels cooking away down in the cellar. He may not have been nearly as accomplished a vintner as these folks, but he put just as much love into making his wine, and above all, loved to share it at the dinner table with guests. After all, he knew that good wine brings people together--and that's when he was happiest!

Labels: , , , ,

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Time for another guess at the photo treasures

Found another gem from the old treasure chest of the past. This photo was taken in Squaw Valley, California. The dog's name was Barney, and he was a real sweetheart! Who're the kids? Guess what year it was...