Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Bird Park

There is a bird park sanctuary in Shenyang, China.  Fred and Livia had a chance to visit there.

I wish I knew more about the wildlife there to share with you.  But I don't.

I hope you can enjoy the pictures anyway.  Feel free to comment on how clueless I am.
Fred likes chickens... or does he?

This little guy  - a long-necked goose, I believe - looks as interested in the photographer as we are in him!  I think he's quite charming.  'Hi goosie gander!  Wither do you wander?'

Fred meets a peacock

Recycle bins keep the park tidy

This is a pretty interesting chicken!
In the picture above doesn't it look like that guy in the magazine is spying on the chicken?  Ha!

It looks cold!

My grandfather would take me to see the ducks when I was little, too.  He would always cut bread into cubes to feed to them.  We would attract large flocks of all kinds of birds around us as we threw our bread cubes to the ducks.

Looks like these guys are pretty curious about the tourists, even without the bread cubes.

I bet this park is lovely in the summertime.
An ostrich or an emu?  Ostrich, I think.  Can you tell the difference?
Remember the children's book about "Ping, the little duck on the Yangtze river"?  This next picture makes me think of him.

Fred finds it all very interesting
I love that jacket, Fred.

I want one, too.

Peacocks are lovely, but their screams are creepy

These fellows look like the "G-Men" of the bird world, with their black suits on!
This seems like a lovely sanctuary.  Thanks for visiting with me!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Sister Mandy in the Wilds of Arizona

Sister Missionary Mandy
I love this little girl.  She is a bright spot in the Universe.  This is Mandy and she is currently serving as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  (Yup, girls serve, too!)

I happen to think she's beautiful.  And the little dog in the photo, too.

Mandy attracts wildlife.  I think they're attracted to her sweet and sunny temperament!  In any case, she jokes that the dogs keep following her home.  But perhaps that's a subject for another blog on another day...

From what I hear, Mandy has recently gotten a transfer and is now serving in Marana, Arizona.

Here she is pictured with the whole Missionary Zone:

Lots of good lookin' kids, aren't they?

Mandy's mom tells me that the senior missionary couple in the back (on the left) are actually Mandy's 2nd cousins once removed!  Mandy's dad comes from a huge family, so it doesn't surprise me.  Small world, though.  I find that a rather cool coincidence.

Senior couples get to choose where they serve, and how they serve.  For example, when my father and stepmom served, they were able to live in their own home.  They did the equivalent of a "9 to 5" in the local mission office a few miles away.  It was like having a job, only they didn't get paid for it.

By the way, none of these young people get paid to do what they do.  They want to serve the Lord, they volunteer, and they fund their own missions.  Often they are helped by family, friends or their home ward (congregation) members, but it's still a sacrifice.

The Marana Relief Society Sisters
Isn't this photo great?  It's the Relief Society sisters in the area where Mandy is serving.  They realized the Sister missionaries needed some help sprucing up their apartment, so they held a "Missionary Shower".  I think that is a great idea!

Missionary apartments are not known to be particularly...um... well-decorated.  And that's the nice way to say it!

If you'd like to know more, check out the movie, "The Best Two Years".  It's a funny movie, and won a film festival award, so it's totally watchable no matter your faith and frame of reference.  But it will give you an idea what some missionary apartments are like - and what missionary days are like..

I recently heard a man describe a missionary apartment in the country of Peru.  They lived in a room above a garage, hauled their water up two flights of stairs.  Showers included a bucket of water and a drain in the floor.

Okay, that's extreme.  These girls are serving in the USA, so they have nice accommodations.  Maybe not great, but nice.
At the Gila Valley Arizona Temple
Here are the Sister Missionaries posing in front of the newly completed Gila Valley Temple.  (By the way, Gila is pronounced "HEE-la".)

Thank you Mandy for this update on your activities!  We're happy you seem to be doing very well.  God bless you as you teach people the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.  It's the only thing that will heal this troubled world.

Friday, April 26, 2013


Georgy Girl
This is the story of George.

George first came to live with my dear friends Jackie and Maura after being rescued from under a friend's rental house up in Crestline, California.

George settled happily into life at Jackie and Maura's house.  There are a lot of animals there, and life was good.

Not long after rescuing the kitten, Jackie discovered George was a little girl!  However, by that time the name had stuck.

George was a little shy of Maura.  So, George became Jackie's kitten, and would love for Jackie to carry her around.  George would also sit on Jackie's lap.

George with her beautiful markings, enjoying her Christmas toys
Pixie was rescued about the same time.

Pixie became Maura's kitten.  Pixie, a little boy kitty, liked Maura, but was a little afraid of Jackie.
And so it went along peacefully for a while.

However, Lucky, my Jack cat's sister, also lives in this household.  She is Jackie's cat.  She has been Jackie's cat for more than two years now.  She is a feisty little girl and very opinionated, just like her brothers.  Lucky decided she liked Pixie just fine, but almost immediately hated George.

Really hated her.

Lucky would swat George and hiss at her whenever they met accidentally around the house.

It was not pretty.

George enjoying a little nap
Jackie tells it like this:  "Then, one day George suddenly didn't want me to pick her up any more.  She was staying in Maura's room and letting Maura hold her, while Pixie moved into my room.  He is now my buddy and wants to be loved and petted and carried around by me."


She continues, "And Lucky now has no issues with George.  I think she wanted to be my only baby girl (the rest of 'mine' are all boys) and told George and Pixie they needed to trade places."

The Family Tree
Now there is peace and harmony in the land of George once more.

Isn't it amazing that the cats worked this problem out all by themselves?

I think so!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Fairy Garden in Spring

Angelique in full bloom

My friend Desiree shares that they are finally having warm days, so her daffodils, tulips and wood hyacinths are all blooming at the same time.

She thoughtfully sent some pictorial evidence of nature's glory this past weekend, so we could enjoy her garden too!

Just in case you are wondering, my friend Desiree lives in the Pacific Northwest section of the United States.

I love the flowers called Angelique (see above).  They are frilly pink tulips.  Aren't they delightful?  They look all ruffled like a ladies' fancy dress.  However, Desiree shares that this flower doesn't take high temperatures very well.  "Tomorrow," she writes, "it will be in the 80s (degrees F) and Angelique will be on her way out.  She can't take high temperatures."

(Hmmm.  I can relate.  I can't either!)  Oh, but she is so lovely.  I have never seen an Angelique before!

Bleeding Heart
The bleeding heart is a funny name for a flowering plant, isn't it?  Desiree says she loves these flowers so much she planted white bleeding heart next to the pink. She says there are also lily of the valley coming up in the shade of the bleeding heart.

Dog-Toothed violets and columbine
"Dog-tooth violets and columbine are the first to poke their heads up in the spring," Desiree explains.  "They greet me in March," she says, "when the cold rains are still coming down from the mountains."

Desiree planted more than one hundred bulbs in November and they are coming up now, and blooming in sequence...  first came the daffodils, then the tulips, followed by the wood hyacinths.

Planting over 100 bulbs is a lot of work!  But it sure pays off beautifully.

She tells me her cherry trees have also bloomed and are now forming small cherries that will be ripe in June.  (Oh, how I'd love to be there then!)

The bonica roses are growing strong and will also be blooming in June.  "The lilacs are just beginning to open their blooms and I can smell their sweet fragrance through my open windows," Desiree continues.

She promises to send more photos next month when her planter boxes will be blooming with the purple campanula that everyone loved so much last year!  Campanula is the Latin name for Bellflowers, so named because they look like tiny bells.

How the fairies must love this garden!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Swiss Chef

A birthday party was in progress when we entered the restaurant
It's been a very long time since I visited the country of Switzerland.  However, this past Saturday I felt like I took a small vacation there when I and some friends went for dinner at a restaurant called The Swiss Chef.  This restaurant is (of all places) in Van Nuys, California.  Not exactly a haven for Swiss or other Germanic folk!  

As it turned out, The Swiss Chef is a delightful place with real old-world charm and delicious food.  Remarkably, I also discovered they had entertainment, too!

Sometimes a little accordion music is just what you need...
An accordion player and a fiddler entertained the diners
It was hard to get a clear photo of these guys as they were constantly in motion!  Their music was delightful and made for a very festive atmosphere.

I can't tell you the last time I had rouladen and spaetzle.  They even had sauerkraut with caraway seeds, much like my mother used to make.  Okay, I must concede that mom's was better, but they took a close second.  

And red cabbage.  I love pickled red cabbage.  And hot, crusty bread with liverwurst spread.  Oh, yum!  Let me take a moment to remember it... (breathe deeply) ..sa-vor the mo-ment...

Okay, I'm back now.

We even got to meet award-winning Chef Ueli!  He came walking through the restaurant with his big chef's hat on as we were finishing our meal, speaking to all his guests.  I was able to tell him how delighted I was with the food I ordered.

I just had to share my special evening - my little visit to Switzerland...  via Van Nuys, California... with you.  Hope you enjoyed it.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Whittier Stake Women's Conference

Waiting for the chapel session to begin
This past Saturday I attended a really fun event hosted by the Whittier, California Stake Relief Society.  It was a Women's conference, and it was very well attended by women from all over Whittier.

Sister Mary Pineda, our Stake Relief Society President
The conference began with a chapel session.  Our keynote speaker was Bishop Glenn Heap, a Marriage and Family Counselor with a local practice.
Glenn Heap, our keynote speaker
I happen to love Bishop Heap.  He's a good man and very engaging speaker.  (He's also kinda cute - but sorry, girls, he's married!) The main thrust of his message was to keep on doing good things and never never give up.  "Keep on dancing, even if you're dancing alone" was one very funny story he told about an unfortunate incident at a Dance Festival in his youth.
Our Stake President, and a Stake High Councilman chatting with Bishop Heap
Our Stake President, President Powell, was there (he's pictured above in the middle), as was Brother Fisher, the Stake High Councilman over the Relief Society (on the left).  I've grown very fond of Brother Fisher this past year.  These are such good men.  I'm glad they are a small part of my life.

From the chapel session, we were free to choose from a large number of fun classes.  Some of these were held in Spanish for our Spanish speaking sisters.

While we were in our classes, the luncheon was being set up in the cultural hall.
Setting the tables for lunch!
There were hundreds of women attending, so to eliminate the need for people to stand in line, or have to be served, the tables were already set with a serve-yourself meal.  It still took quite a bit of preparation.
There were a lot of tables to set - this is maybe a third of them
The tables were very colorfully decorated.  And the desserts - a variety of delicious cupcakes - became the table centerpieces.

One of many dessert trays!
My first class was a gardening class, taught by my own home ward's Relief Society President, Laurel.  Laurel has a degree in something plant related (Botany?) and has worked for years as a professional gardener.
Laurel answering gardening questions
I really enjoyed her presentation.  She had many helpful tips on gardening in the Whittier area, as well as lists of resource materials - and even some free seed packets!
Our Ward Relief Society President, Laurel
The gardening presentation made me want to grow something in a pot on my patio.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll be motivated to do it this year!  It's still not too late in this neck of the woods.  Our growing season is nearly all year around.
Getting healthy snack tips from a dietitian/nutritionist
My second class choice was cooking.  This was divided into two parts, one focusing on healthy snacks, the second on crock-pot cooking.
Cooking with Crock-pots presentation
I got some good ideas from the first, and learned all kinds of things that you can do with a crock-pot in the second half of the class.  That alone was really helpful.  (Did you know you can bake potatoes and make jam in a crock-pot?  I didn't!)
Amy taught a class on Family History Research
My third, and last class of the day, was my friend Amy teaching a class on getting started in Family History research.  She provided a very clear demonstration of how to use the FamilySearch website.

I really enjoyed that, and felt I learned a lot.
Amy taking questions after class
More than that, it was all fun.

After the third class, we moved into the cultural hall for lunch.
A delicious lunch!

Every table had a luscious serve-yourself chicken salad, with a couple of different salad dressings, croutons and Mandarin orange slices to add to it.  Crusty whole wheat rolls and butter were also provided, as was a pitcher of ice water.  And in the above photo, you can also see the cupcake centerpiece.  I got one that had a fluffy whipped lemon frosting that was to die for.

My chicken salad was yummy
Here is my plate.  I did not go hungry!

There were LOTS of ladies attending.
Just a small glimpse into the crowd
This was a fun event.  A lot of time and effort went into the planning and preparation for this, and it certainly ran smoothly.

I came home energized and happy that I'd attended.

If you want to meet some of the nicest women in your neighborhood, attend Relief Society!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Taiwan, Land of Scooters

Scooters line this Taipei street
My nephew Daniel recently took his family on vacation to Taiwan.  He labeled the above photo, "Taiwan, land of Scooters."

That cracked me up.

However, I can see that it's true!
Scooters are a convenient way to get around crowded city streets
It's not all scooters on the streets of Taiwan, however.  

This (below) looks like many of our own downtown areas.

 Street vendors provide some tasty "street food".

Here in the Los Angeles area, we have food vending trucks.  Not much different, actually!

Another shot of suburban Taipei

Taking the stairs to the subway
The Taipei subway system
Daniel has remarked how much nicer - and cleaner - the Taipei subway system is compared to many in our own country.

Boarding the train with the family is quite an expedition
Going on a day trip out of Taipei involves some preparation when you have little kids!  The family took a trip to Tamsui, which is a smaller city to the north or Taipei.

Tamsui was an important shipping port and center of commerce in the 19th century and has many historical attractions.  According to Wikipedia, Tamsui is accessed from Taipei by taking the rapid transit line to its northern end.  It's only a 40 minute trip from the main Taipei station.

Daniel and his wife Holly on Valentine's bridge
Valentine's Bridge, also known as "Lover's Bridge", is located at Fisherman's Wharf in the port city of Tamsui. It's a single slanted tower cable pedestrian bridge, modeled after a sailing ship's mast and rigging, which spans the harbor.

Both the bridge, and the view, look pretty spectacular!
View from the bridge
Sightseeing boats crisscrossing Taiwan's northeast coast leave from Fisherman's Wharf.

I understand that the bridge is illuminated beautifully at night, with lights that change colors, making it a popular destination for local couples... and romantics!

Many Taiwanese TV drama serials are shot in this beautiful area.

The bridge

Hoped you enjoyed this mini vacation!