Friday, September 28, 2012

The Art of the Bagged Cat

First, you find a great bag...

It helps if it makes lots of crinkly noises!

Then you squishes into it...


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Avengers Assembled!

Our Marvel Heroes

Last week I got an email with the title, "Avengers Assemble!"  It was from a friend who announced that the Avengers film was coming out on DVD and inviting us over for a screening at his house.  So, a group of my friends all got together on Tuesday night to celebrate the DVD release of Marvel's excellent movie.

I just have to shout: Hooray!  The Avengers is out on DVD!

Yes, actually, I AM a geek.

How did you know?

And then, because of the famous shawarma (and very funny) scene at the end of the film (see above), we had to have shawarma to go with it.
Shawarma is a Mediterranean sandwich meal on pita bread featuring grilled meat and a yoghurt/dill/cucumber dressing and tahini (sesame) sauce.  If you've had a Greek Gyros sandwich, it's similar to that.
Our shawarma was accompanied by rice and a yummy tomato/mozzarella salad with balsamic vinegar dressing that someone (Thanks, Jackie!) made and brought along.  Oh, and there was also some dish like a sliced up quesadilla without cheese the name of which I was told more than once but have totally forgotten.  (I blame early onset senility.)  It was all very yummy.

The movie was even better.

We had a good time watching in my friend's home theatre with the gi-normous flat screen HD TV and the blu-ray DVD.  It was like being in the movie theatre, only better.  Well, without the popcorn smell.  And my feet didn't stick to the floor, but you get the picture.
For me the Avengers movie works on many levels: as a brilliant cinematic metaphor for life, the war in heaven and the general fight of good vs evil, an action packed (you can barely catch your breath!) adventure, a metaphor for the alienation in modern society, and as a story of true friendship and camaraderie.

Hmmmm.  I’m waxing too philosophical, aren't I?  Sorry about that! 

How about: I like this movie because they blew things up.  A Lot.  Oh, and Thor is cute.

I love my friends.  I love doing goofy things like this on a week night.  Thanks, guys! I think my super power is having the best friends ever.

What's your super power?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Latter-day Saint Women Assemble!

The New General Relief Society Presidency
Recently, I've read several articles published in major newspapers about my LDS faith, and have been increasingly.upset by uninformed journalists who assume (wrongfully!) that because LDS women do not hold the priesthood, that they are somehow second class citizens in the Church.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The Lord's Kingdom has an orderly system of government, which includes lots of outstanding women!  While we are not ordained to the priesthood, we serve in leadership positions of all kinds and as missionaries and teachers.  Women also routinely preach from the pulpit and lead congregational prayers in worship services.

Let me tell you, the women of the church are a mighty wonderful - and formidable - group of strong, good women!

This coming Saturday, September 29th, at 6:00 p.m. mountain daylight time (or 5 p.m. here in California), Relief Society sisters worldwide will be gathered together to view the satellite broadcast of the general Relief Society meeting.

This is a large group.  The Relief Society, founded in 1842 is the world's oldest and largest women's organization.  Today it includes more than 5.5 million women ages 18 and older in over 170 countries!

The meeting on Saturday will be our first real opportunity to hear from our new General Relief Society Presidency, consisting of General President Linda S. Burton, and her counselors Carole M. Stephens and Linda S. Reeves.  The general Relief Society presidency was reorganized in the spring of 2012.

While I will miss the old presidency, particularly Barbara Thompson (my favorite!) I'm looking forward to hearing from the new presidency.

Here they are so you can recognize them in the broadcast:
President Linda K. Burton
Sister Burton studied elementary education at the University of Utah.  She and her husband Craig have six children and 19 grandchildren.  She was already serving as a member of the Relief Society general board when she received the call to serve as the organization's president at the April, 2012 general conference of the Church.  She has served in many capacities in the church, including various callings in the Young Women, Primary and Sunday School organizations, and as a Seminary Teacher. She has also served on the Primary general board. Recently, she and her husband served for over three years in Korea, where he presided as president of the Korea Seoul West Mission.  They returned from Korea in 2010.
Sister Carole M. Stephens, First Counselor
Sister Stephens was also serving on the Relief Society general board when she accepted the call to serve as the first counselor in the general presidency at April conference.  She attended Weber State University and is currently a member of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers, where she serves as the Far West camp captain.  She and her husband Martin have six children and 15 grandchildren.  She has served as as stake and ward Relief Society president, ward Relief Society counselor, teacher and homemaking leader, ward Young Women President, member of a ward Primary Primary presidency, Primary teacher, Cub Scout leader, Church-service missionary, and a seminary teacher.
Sister Linda S. Reeves, Second Counselor
Sister Reeves has a B.A degree. in special education.  She was serving as the first counselor in her ward Relief Society when she was called to serve in the general presidency at April conference.  She served with her husband when he was the president of the California Riverside Mission.  She has also served as a stake Relief Society president, ward Young Women president, ward young single adult adviser, Sunday School teacher and Primary chorister.  She and her husband Melvyn have 13 children.

I think I'm tired just writing down all these women's accomplishments!

Live streaming of this broadcast will be available at in 16 languages (ASL, Cantonese, Cebuano, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Samoan, Spanish Tagalog, and Tongan.

Archives of the broadcast will also be available in those same languages at the same site within 24 hours.  Live video and audio will also be available in English and Spanish at

In the Whittier area, the live broadcast will be shown this coming Saturday in the Whittier Stake Center Chapel starting at 5:00 p.m.  A Spanish translation will be available.  Following the broadcast, a free dinner will be served in the cultural hall.  (This has historically been something yummy!)

This is always a worthwhile and uplifting meeting for those who attend, and a precursor to October General Conference, which is being held the following weekend.

I can't wait.  I'll be there!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fort Lauderdale Fling

The view from the hotel room balcony
Whenever there's a hurricane that swooshes through Florida I wonder why people live in such a place.  Then I see a lovely picture like the one above and go, "Oh.  Okay.  I get it."

And I suppose Floridians could say the same of me living in earthquake country.

My brother was in Florida recently, and was kind enough to be my reporter-at-large.  I think he took some great pictures!

My brother writes, "... at 3:30 a.m., a horrible thunderstorm blew through.  There were flashes of light, as if someone were turning on and off the lights in my room, and then immediate thunderclaps that sounded like we were being bombed.  I went out on the balcony to watch.  it looked like the lightning was hitting the hotel, and maybe it was. [It was a 15-story hotel.] The rain was just pounding down.  It was quite a show and it lasted for along time.  I guess that's pretty normal around here."

The next morning, he walked along the beach snapping photos that I could share with you!  (Don't I have a great brother?)

Look at these spectacular clouds!

There was another storm moving in, and it started raining again after this photo was taken.

The storm moving in
I love the colors in the above photo.  It looks like it should be a painting.  All those varying shades of blue are spectacular.  The brooding sky is gorgeous.  And those palm trees make everything look inviting. Isn't Mother Nature terrific?

What a beautiful earth we are a part of.

I believe this (above) is what poet e.e. cummings would have called a "blue true dream of sky".


Have a great day, wherever you may be in the world!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

It was right here, I tell ya!

                                                                            Flying low over Monterey Park                                                         Photo: D. Smith
A bunch of people from my office gathered in the office building parking lot on Friday to witness the Space Shuttle Endeavour's historic flyover of the Los Angeles basin.

It wasn't long before we could see it coming straight at us from the west, then turn north, so we got this really great sideways view.  The combined girth of the 747 plus the shuttle is HUGE.  Much larger in person than I've thought it to be in various photos I've seen.

Although I could see it perfectly clearly with the naked - well, eyeglass-enhanced, is perhaps a better description - eye, my pictures were less than stellar.  The above photo was taken by my friend Danika.  In it, you can see the shuttle just to the right of the tower, just above the tree line.  If you blow it up a bit, you can see the two escort planes directly above it.

It was quite a sight, let me tell you.  It looped around again so it could be seen by all on its way to Pasadena, so we had a lovely view more than once.

Our co-worker Kevin was in Pasadena, not far from the Rose Bowl.  Here is his photo of the Rose Bowl flyover, as taken from the Colorado Street Bridge:
-Photo: K. Klaus
Not long after that, we started getting photos from our Orange County office.   They are close to the Los Angeles Angel's of Anaheim's Angel Stadium there. (That's a mouthful, but that's what it is, officially speaking.)  They said they were right in the path of the flyover, and you can sure tell by the angles at which these photos were taken.

These are the photos our O.C, co-worker Tom got:

Photo: T. Huang
 Nice going, Tom!
                                                                                                                                                                                            Photo: T. Huang
Wow.  It's practically going right over your head!
Photo: T. Huang
Thar she goes!

My friend Robin writes that it flew slightly east of her home in Torrance.  "Close enough you could practically  read the name.  It filled the whole sky!"  [You can see my link to her blog post, RoboClow, "Space Shuttles Are Magic", in the column to the right of this post.]

She's right.  The pictures do not do justice to the awesomeness of seeing it so close!

Next stop for the Endeavour was Los Angeles airport.  From there it will be a slow truck ride to her new home at the California Science Center a few miles away.  (It's probably on the road now as I'm posting this.)

What an awesome, historic day, Friday was!

I can't wait to see the Exhibit once it opens in October.  That will be a lot of fun.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this post!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kitty Innovations

Evidently, wearing a plastic hat makes playing with the Turbo Track more fun
Kitty Engineering.  That's what it's all about.

I have to hand it to my kitty, Jack.  He is quite innovative.  His favorite toy is his Turbo Track.  Now that he's had his Turbo Track for a while, though, he is coming up with fun ways to make it more interesting!

First, it's trying on plastic bags to create a "blind".  I solemnly swear Jack put the plastic hat on his head all by himself.  The plastic bag enables him to sneak up on the Turbo Track without the Turbo Track knowing it is going to be played with!  

Very tricky, this Jack cat!

Next, Jack tries out alternatives to the ball that runs on the track.

Running the toy mousie on the track to see if it will roll...
He tries using a mousie to see how that will go.
Okay, the mouse doesn't roll, but it's still fun...
Being innovative is what my little kitty engineer does best!  He's always trying out new things.  And he'll often fish out old toys from his toy basket (see upper left in photo above) to see what other things he can play with.
Smile, Jack!

 It's all in a day's work for the greatest kitty engineer in the world!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Trail's End for Endeavour

Space Shuttle Endeavour is on her way home to California today.  It's flying across the country on the back of a specially modified Boeing 747 Shuttle Carrier Aircraft.  If all goes well, it will arrive at LAX (that's Los Angeles International Airport for those of you who may not know) tomorrow, Friday, September 21st.

In a special email from the California Science Center, we have been told to watch for flyovers of Endeavour in the Los Angeles area around 10:30 a.m. on Friday.

Endeavour will pass regional landmarks such as its future home at the California Science Center, Los Angeles City Hall, Disneyland, the Getty Center, Griffith Observatory, Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, the Queen Mary, Malibu, NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Universal Studios, Venice Beach, and, I'm pretty sure - my office!

Earlier on Friday morning, Endeavour will be passing over Northern California landmarks.

Being a complete space junkie, I will probably be in the parking lot of my office building trying to see it!  I've been so lucky - and thrilled beyond belief - to watch several shuttle landings, both at White Sands in New Mexico and at Edwards Air Force Base.  I remember well one of these landings at Edwards, with the landing shuttle still just a tiny speck on the horizon, while a little fellow, sitting on his dad's shoulders and trying hard to see, exclaimed, "Where's the space shovel, Daddy?"  

Well, starting October 30th, he will be able to visit it on a regular basis in its new home at the California Science Center!
Space Shuttle Endeavour lifts off for STS-113
The Endeavour orbiter was named after the British HMS Endeavour, the ship which took Captain James Cook on his first voyage of discovery in the years 1768-1771.  That's why the name is spelled in British English as Endeavour, rather than the American Endeavor.

The above NASA photo was taken of Endeavour's 19th lift-off on mission STS -113.  Its first launch was on May 7th back in 1992.

Endeavour on the launch pad in Florida

Endeavour will be on display in the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, a new addition to the Science Center currently under construction.  In addition to the shuttle, the pavilion will feature video experiences and significant artifacts such as the Spacehab flown in Endeavour's payload bay on shuttle mission STS-118.  There will be lots of fun things for guests of the museum to see up close!

For more information on the shuttle or the California Science Center exhibit, check out these links:

NASA Shuttle Operations - Endeavour

California Science Center - Endeavour Exhibit

All photos from NASA press releases

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Inn at Rose Harbor

Debbie Macomber
Years ago, while waiting for a meeting of the Orange County Chapter of the Romance Writers of America (OCCRWA) to begin, I saw a sweet-faced woman coming towards me.  I had no idea who she was, but I had noticed her making her way through the room speaking to the various women who had arrived early for the meeting.  As she took my hand and introduced herself, I think I muttered some inanities and she finally moved on to greet the rest of the crowd.

In those few moments, however, Debbie Macomber (pronounced MAY-cum-ber, "Like cucumber," she says) made a fan out of me.  She was so sweet and unaffected and her spirit just radiated goodness and kindness.  I felt an immediate kinship with this smiling, energetic woman.

Later in the meeting, she was a featured speaker.  I listened to her speak of the trials she had in getting her first book published.  She was an entertaining speaker, and very motivational.  

Not long after, I found one of her many books at a local bookstore.  I was surprised.  I hadn't realized she was already a New York Times Bestselling Author. That fact made me feel pretty stupid, actually!  

Okay.  I broke down and bought the book. It was the least I could do after she had been so very nice to me. Then I devoured that first book, and discovered, to my joy, that she was not just a sincerely nice person, but she was a darn good writer and story-teller as well!

My friend Abbie attended the TCAs recently and brought me back a copy of Debbie's latest and greatest novel (see above cover), The Inn at Rose Harbor.  (Thank you, Abbie!)  In case you don't know, the TCAs are a series of media events for folks who write about TV in magazines and newspapers, as well as the folks who review TV shows on TV.  All the networks come to roll out their new shows and promote their products.  It's an exhausting few days, according to those who attend, but days filled with panels of famous actors, promotional information, and fun previews.

It turns out that The Hallmark Channel plans to air a two-hour "Cedar Cove" movie in 2013, starring Andie MacDowell, with the intention of possibly creating a TV series based on Debbie's books.  I think that would be great!
Andie MacDowell
You may remember the likeable actress Andie MacDowell from movies like, "Green Card", "Four Weddings and a Funeral", and my favorite: "Groundhog Day".

I can't think of a better idea for a TV series than one of the Cedar Cove books, or the recent Inn at Rose Harbor, either!  Ms. Macomber's stories are heart-warming tales of "real" people you feel like you know, or have met, or should know.

Being interviewed for The Sacramento Bee fairly recently, Debbie Macomber was asked by columnist Allen Pierleoni:
You debuted 30 years ago as a pure romance writer, but segued into writing about friendships between mature women, who are inspired to overcome life's hardships. Why the switch?
Her reply:
Age and the process of maturing. I'm not the only one who's aging, and I've always wanted to write stories that are relevant to my readers. Life becomes more complicated, and as you grow older you think about things other than romance. So it just became harder to write about a 25-year-old falling in love. Still, there's always romance in my books, but the stories are richer and deeper.
In case you are not convinced, here is a link to the latest promotional video for her Rose Harbor book:

The Inn at Rose Harbor

If you're looking for a cozy read, you can't go wrong with one of Debbie's wonderful books!  And her latest, is no exception.  I cried through the ending of The Inn at Rose Harbor.  It's a beautiful book about the power of forgiveness.

I think you'll like it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Columbia River Gorge

The Columbia River Gorge
This is the gorge in the state of Oregon, USA, that the famed Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804-1806) came through.  Theirs was the first transcontinental expedition to the Pacific Coast of the United States.  Lewis and Clark eventually ended up at the Pacific Ocean, about 100 miles west of this point.

An Artist's Depiction of Lewis and Clark
President Thomas Jefferson was considering buying this land at the time and the team returned to tell the President that it was a good investment.  They cautioned that it was a little wild compared to the Blue Ridge Mountains that Mr. Jefferson was familiar with.  They were also a bit chagrined that they hadn't found the northwest passage they were looking for.  However, they assured the president that there were lots of timber and beavers to be found there!

An Oregon Beaver
Isn't he adorable?
Today Oregon is known as the Beaver State.

Later, settlers came in covered wagons to settle along the Willamette River Valley, where there was excellent fertile land for farming.

All I can say is I'm glad cars were invented before my time
so I could travel these trails in comfort!  Yes, I am a wimp.
My friend Desiree, our Oregon Correspondent, took the Columbia River Gorge photo last weekend.  She writes, "I drove to the vista where you can see the entrance to the Columbia River Gorge (looking east).  It's only ten miles from my home.  It's magnificent!"

(She added that it was a bit smoky the day she took the photo because of the fire on the east side of the mountains. I don't think it ruins the spectacular view at all!)

Thanks, Desiree, for sharing your beautiful corner of the world with us!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Happy New Year!

Today we are celebrating the festival of Rosh Hashanah and the beginning of the Jewish year.   It is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve and a time to proclaim mankind's dependence upon our Heavenly Father as our Creator and the Sustainer of all life.

Central to the observance of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the shofar, the ram's horn, which is the trumpet to announce the crowning of a king.  This is a symbolic crowning, an acceptance of God as King.  It is also a call for repentance.
In keeping with the season, whether by accident or design, the Whittier Community Theatre (WCT) is currently presenting the beloved musical, Fiddler on the Roof.

As a season ticket holder, I attended on Saturday night with a small group of friends.  To my delight, the theater was packed!  I understand their Sunday matinee was completely sold out.  That's always good news for a community theatre group.

You never know what you're going to get with a community theatre production, but the WCT , now in its 91st year of continuous operation, has been providing consistently good entertainment for as many years as I've been attending (and sometimes performing).  And that's a LOT of years!  This is a group that is close to my heart, and Saturday night they made me proud.

Richard DeVacariis as Tevye
The musical, Fiddler on the Roof, is a winner of 9 Tony Awards. It is based on Yiddish tales by Sholem Aleichem published in 1894.  It was originally titled Tevye, and is based on the story of Tevye the milkman and his daughters.

This show, as directed by Karen Jacobson, has a lot of heart.  Having seen this musical and sung its songs so many times I've lost count, I was not expecting to be moved the way I was, but I was brought to tears several times.  That is a tribute to Mr. DeVacariis and the whole, highly competent cast.

"Matchmaker" is always a great number
I knew it was a winner the moment my friend - a friend who flies to New York City a couple of times a year just to see the Broadway shows - leaned over and said, "This is good show."  From him it was high praise indeed. I heartily agreed.

I'm a big community theatre enthusiast. Community Theatre provides opportunities for people to develop skills and talents of all kinds.  

The WCT presents a four-show season in the Center Theatre on Washington Avenue in uptown Whittier.  Season tickets are still available, and are a real bargain.  Just call (562) 696-0600.  Honestly, they are very nice.  Call.

While I would heartily recommend going to see this show, getting a ticket for the final performances next weekend will be difficult!
L'Chaim!  To life!
So, happy Rosh Hashanah to all my Jewish friends out there!

“Leshanah tovah tikateiv veteichateim!” (May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year!)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sneaky Puss

Hmmmm.... there's something strange about that window blind!

Oh Hi.

Jack is hampered only by our rain-spotted windows.  We've only gotten enough rain in the past few days to muddy up the whole car and the house windows, not enough to wash them clean.  Where is the justice in this?

As I'm thinking this, Jack is trying to ignore me.  He doesn't want the neighbors to know that his mommy knows his secret special super dooper sneaky place.

"Jack!  What are you up to?," I ask.
I'm not doing nuthin', Mom.

Really, mother.  I'm innocent of any wrong doing.

Even if  I could think of a few things to do right now this very minute...
"Don't you shred that embroidered heart, Jack!"

"Yes, Ma'am."

I finally figure out that Jack likes to watch the humming birds out his special window.  The humming bird feeder is hanging outside, right above this spot.
Shhhh!  Don't bother me!
I've tried moving the blinds out of the way, but Jack prefers sneaking around them.  Seriously.  I think it adds to the general sneakiness of sitting on his special chair.  I try moving them, and he moves them back.  Obviously, I don't know anything about cool sneaky places.  I apologize.
I'm doing top secret spy stuff!
Jack is careful not to use his claws on the blind, which I appreciate.  This is currently his favorite spot in the house.

MOM!  Are you still there?  I'm playing!

"Okay, Jack.  I'll leave you alone.  Have a good time watching the birds!  Stay out of trouble, okay?"

"'K bye."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Fairy Lanterns

Chinese Lanterns
My Oregon correspondent, Desiree, writes that her garden is showing signs of autumn approaching.  I sure wish this was true for the area I live in.  We have had record high temperatures for so long now, that I feel as if we'll never have cool weather again.  (Sorry about the whining, but it's true!  My sweat glands are tired.)

Anyway, Desiree writes, "The Chinese lanterns are turning orange, a sure sign of winter approaching.  The fairies use them to light their way in the dark winter evenings as they tend to their important duties."

I did not know this!

Apparently, if you actually plant a fairy garden, you do so already knowing these kinds of facts about the fairy universe!  It's nice to imagine tiny attractive Cate Blanchetts and Orlando Blooms winging their way through your fairy gardens at night.

But wait, I'm thinking of elves! Sorry.  Elves are entirely different creatures.

Must get my fantasy creatures straight...

Fairies are described by J.M. Barrie (who wrote Peter Pan) in this way, "When the first baby laughed for the first time, his laugh broke into a million pieces, and they all went skipping about.  That was the beginning of fairies."

So, now you know.
Purple Aster
Desiree writes about her purple asters, " purple aster.. has just begun to bloom.  It's the last to bloom in the garden just as the nights are getting cold.  The cold air from the slopes of Mount Hood slip down at night bringing a 50 degree (F) blanket to cool the ground."

That sounds heavenly.
I love the name Plumbago.  Plumbago.  It's funny to say out loud.  Plumbago.  It sounds like a plum malady, like lumbago for plums.   Or tasty treats for plumbers...Like bagels filled with fruit.  But then they would no doubt be called plum-bagels, rather than plumbagos.

Or something.

Desiree had never seen this plant before she moved up to Oregon.  She writes, "It blooms very late in the summer and when its brilliant blue flowers appear I know it's time for autumn in a matter of weeks".

All this talk about autumn makes me long for cooler temperatures here in Southern California, too.  Seriously, when I woke up this morning at six a.m. it was already way too hot for my liking.

Autumn is my favorite time of year!  Bring it on!