2012 November Tia's Tacos

Tia's Tacos is a Riverside Mexican Restaurant with reasonably good food, but the real attraction is outside.  The  back and side yards are filled to the brim with . . . stuff.  Someone with a lot of time, money and a ton of imagination filled the area with odd creations.  The ground is covered with tiles, mosaics or concrete filled with whatever they had on hand.  "Whatever they had on hand" includes oyster shells, hand tools, old calculators, even a bicycle.  
They made a credible effort to create topiaries by making wire cages around the trees, but the trees don't always cooperate.
There are several huge wire sculptures, filled with all sorts of things.  Plastic bottles, shoes, shells, beer bottles, tools - everything is put to use, including the palm trees fronds, which serve as head-dresses for the enormous sculptures.

Of course, if the sculpture is standing on it's hands, there's no need of a head-dress.
Someone had a great time creating whatever fantasy pieces they thought of, and the results are funny and unexpected. 

2012 November 27 - Calendar Pin Up Queens!

Time for a change of tone - a very special Pin Up Calendar!  This is the calendar put together by the group of ladies mentioned in my November 6th blog entry.  They put together their own costumes, we all created the sets, and I took the pictures.  I can't even begin to describe the fun we had making the calendar, but every one of our Pin Up Queens want to do it again!  We'll see what the future holds, but for now - here are the 2013 Mission Village Pin-Up Queens!

Miss January - at 77 years young, she is an updated version of the New Year’s Eve Baby, wearing Depends instead of diapers and sipping Champaign instead of a bottle! 
Miss February - 76 years young and her sweet, shy smile is misleading as she flirtily lifts her skirt to draw attention to those long, fishnet-covered legs!
Miss March - 65 years young and a real fan of au natural sunbathing!  For our calendar she is modestly screened behind shamrocks and wearing a St. Patrick’s hat . . . What, you didn’t notice the hat?
Miss April - or as we call her, Miss Legs!  84 years young with legs that Tina Turner would die for!  
Miss May - just 83 years young, our Queen of May is as fresh as her springtime flowers.
Miss June - 63 years young, making waves at the pool and ready to play ball!
Miss July - 55 years young, hot as a firecracker and ready to light up the night sky!
Miss August - at 60 years young, she’s a sexy mermaid looking for a hot cabana boy.  
Miss September - Just 84 years young, here she is, showing off the other side of Rosie the Riveter, our #1 Mile High Club Recruiter! 
Miss October - the Lady of Darkness is 66 years young, showing off her famous cleavage and long legs and ready to surprise you!
Miss November - Here is Miss January again, ready for Thanksgiving this time; forget the turkey, just meet her in the teepee!
Miss December - 82 years young and ready for the holiday party!  Naughty or Nice -   Does it matter?

November 23, 2012 Goodbye, Manna

Our little black cat Manna finally reached the point where she was not having a good life anymore.  We had to fulfill our last responsibility to her, no matter how much it hurt us, and she is gone now.  She was my little girl and I am in a lot of pain right now.  

Eighteen years ago, right before Halloween, a stray cat had a litter of kittens.  One little kitten was black and a neighbor worried about what might happen to a black kitten at Halloween.  So he advertised to find a home for her, and we were fortunate enough to answer the ad.  

Most of Manna’s youth was spent with her adoptive mom - not me, but our sweet gray cat Princess.  Princess loved Manna like her very own and even when Manna was a big girl, Princess would bath and groom her like she was still a kitten.  

At 18, Manna was the last of her generation.  During much of the time that we had her, we were a 5-cat family that included Princess and Manna, plus our beloved Snowball, quiet Blackstar, and a beautiful but not-too-bright calico cat named Angel.  
Angel and Manna were just a week apart in age and for awhile they got along like sisters.  They would play together and snuggle up with each other for naps, but as they grew up Manna developed true cat aloofness and didn’t have much use for Angel.  Princess was the only cat that Manna really cared about.  

I never had much success photographing Manna.  Her black coat always made her features disappear, with just those green eyes showing.  But Manna was with us through so much; she was part of our lives during the hard years working on the house on Diamond Street, and the years we lived in the Carriage House.  She was with me when Randy traveled to Israel and when he worked in Arizona.  She shared our lives through so many changes.
As she grew older her main activity was sleeping.  Our philosophy was that at her age, she could do whatever she liked.  We easily accepted the fact that she basically lived on the bed, with just a few trips down for food and litter.  And somethings she didn't even need to get down for food.  She was a skilled people-trainer and eventually was able to teach us to give her treats on the bed.  Feeding Mana was a tricky business; as a diva, she kept her girlish figure, and like many divas, she did it by being bulemic.  If she ate very much, she would just throw up.  Since she lived on the bed, that created issues.  We learned to give her just a few pieces of treat, but to do it several times a day.  It got to the point that when we went into the bedroom for anything, we automatically gave her a treat.  Didn't even have to think about it, just did it.

Her affection for the bed made her transition to RVing very easy. The only real difference was that we occasionally need to raise the bed to get to the underneath storage.  Manna didn't mind; in fact, she seemed to like it.  She just rode the bed up and down, like an amusement park ride.
Manna didn't even get off the bed in the morning when I made it.  She was amazingly skilled at stepping around whatever area I was working on.  I kidded her about being in the way but the truth is she never was.

For several years Manna slept with me at night.  Not snuggled up next to me, of course - that would not be becoming to a diva.  Instead she slept on the bed just above my pillow.  Which means I scooted down on the bed, to be sure she had enough room.  People who don't live with cats don't understand, but people who do, will understand this perfectly.   

In spite of her aloofness, Manna held the record as the best purr-er ever.  Whenever I scooped her up, even if she didn't want to be held, she would automatically purr loud and steady.  One of my favorite things in the world is that warm purr against my ear.  
During our 18 years with Manna we developed routines and habits around her that we were barely aware of.  Feeding her treats, making the bed around her, leaving room for her above my pillow - what will it cost my heart to stop doing these things?  How long will it hurt, when I start to do them and then remember there is no longer a reason?  She was our smallest cat, just a tiny, aloof kitty, and I will never stop missing her. 
 I wish I could turn back time.

November 22, 2012 Happy Thanksgiving!

Shorty is such a joy.  In just one week he has really fit into our family, although he still likes to chase the cats. One thing he doesn't like is his after-neutering collar.  Hopefully just a few more days of this!
Last night we went to Bann Thai, a great Thai restaurant in Riverside.  The owner/chef is an old family friend of Teresa's family and we always have a good time there.  Randy ordered the coconut soup, which was not only delicious but also came in a really interesting serving dish.
Later we headed over to the church to work on their big Thanksgiving dinner.  For 25 years this church has been making dinner for the needy.  It started small and now they feed somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 people.  And most of those meals are delivered!  This year Randy and Aunt Jean spent hours and hours cooking about 35 turkeys.  That is probably 1/6th of the total turkeys cooked.  As usual, I did clean-up and helped de-bone the cooked turkeys.  

On Wednesday night the big job is making mashed potatoes.  They have a big potato-peeling session and fortunately a lot of people show up for that.  Afterwards (around 7-8 pm) the peelers head home and the cooking starts.  Cousin Mike brings several burners and a few guys cook about one ton potatoes in big pots.  
And then the potatoes get mashed . . . by hand.  Small household appliances would burn up against this volume and the church doesn't have a big professional mixer, so 6 or 7 people line up and just mash away, using old-fashioned hand mashers.  There are just enough people to switch out occasionally, giving arms a short rest.  Since Randy was cooking, I took my turn here.
Today we will be spending Thanksgiving with the Booth and Burns families, which means good company and too much food.  
Happy Thanksgiving!

November 21 2012 Getting used to the family

Shorty has a lot to learn about living with a family.  He hated the leash - he tried sitting down, whirling around at the end of it, and when that didn't work, he tried to bite it.  He also wasn't any good at staying inside; he would try to slip out the door every time it opened.  And he double-hated his kennel.  Randy took on the task of fixing all this.  He took Shorty for walks every day until Shorty learned to enjoy it.  He is still in the process of teaching him "Stay", but Shorty does much better and doesn't always try to sneak out now.  And to fix the kennel problem, each night Randy put Shorty in the kennel, put the kennel on one recliner, and slept in the other recliner next to him.  That way Randy could comfort Shorty when he whined and take him out in the middle of the night, until Shorty understood that the kennel is just a bedroom for sleeping, not a jail for punishment.  It took 4 nights in the recliner to get to that point across, but now he sleeps through the night.

Then yesterday, when everything was much so better, we complicated the situation by taking Shorty to the vet to get fixed.  Some of Shorty's baby teeth were still in his mouth, crowding his adult teeth, so he also got 4 baby teeth removed.  Now he is sore on both ends.

Meet Shorty

We had some changes this week, and here's my theory as to how it came about:  Sugarbaby has been on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge for 6 weeks, and he is tired of seeing his best buddy in pain.  So he asked an angel to fix the problem.  The angel looked around for a someone who could reach Randy through his sadness.  And one skinny little stray said "Pick me!  Pick me!  I can do the job!"
So the little stray went up to Randy and said "Look deep into my eyes....."

"Got him!"
Meet Shorty.

The Antique Gas & Steam Engine Museum

I always anthropomorphize animals, so it should come as no surprise that I can do the same for inanimate objects.  Not all objects, of course, but some.  And given my affection for dinosaur bones, cow skulls and old tombstones, it is natural that the inanimate objects I find most appealing are old ones.  I didn’t actually know I felt this way until we joined our cousins at the Gas and Steam Engine Museum in Vista, California.  This entry is going to have a ton of pictures, because I fell in love with the place.

We went there because our cousins restored a 70 year old tractor and put it in the Gas and Steam Engine Parade.  The tractor used to belong to Jack’s dad in Missouri years ago, and this summer Jack gave it a much-needed overhaul.  It’s a Farmall B tractor and although it looked pretty rough before, it looks great now. 
The Museum grounds are home to a wide range of old machinery in various states of repair, or more accurately, disrepair.  
It was as I walked among these machines that I started to feel like they had personalities.  Farm equipment and earth-movers - they seemed to me to be patient and loyal as they sit quietly, waiting for the next chapter in their existence.  
And because they are here, their next chapter is likely to be a good one.  Most of these belong to the Museum and Club members can “adopt” them and fix them up.  It takes a lot of money and work to restore one of these, so you know that folks who do it for machines they don't even own are doing it because they love the old things.  These machines are a remment of our own past and they remind us of times when families worked together to build their own future.  Every one of these machines was, at some point, someone's dream-come-true, someone's hope for a better life.  Some are so far gone now that they just provide parts for others, but even that fate has dignity because it contributes to the continuity of their history.  So they sit in the California sun, waiting for their turn to be restored or used.
They sort of reminded me of old farm horses from an even earlier time, retired as times changed and they are not needed anymore.  Now they must rely on people valuing them for themselves, instead of the work they used to be able to do.
Not all are farm machinery.  They have almost two rows of old Caterpillar tractors . . . which is how I learned that they used to print "Caterpillar" in cutesy, curvy script.
Some of the more fragile machines, including some old cars, are stored under a shed cover.
And they are very democratic here - size really doesn't matter!
Some engines didn’t actually really do anything, but they are still restored with loving care.  This huge thing runs like a champ, although it’s not attached to anything.
There's another big machine running that only makes loud noise and pretty smoke rings.
At the other end of the spectrum, some guys displayed small engines that they built or restored, and they loved to answer questions about their treasures.
And how about this old toaster?  To me it looks like an accident waiting to happen, but in 1915 it was the latest technology and housewives were glad to get one.
Club members put on several demonstrations over the weekend.  They did a great demo with an old thrashing machine and tractor, and what it took to get all of these machines working right and together I can only guess.  
All weekend they used an old word-burning stove to bake cookies.  Randy was interested in how it works; since it doesn’t have a thermometer they just learned by trial and error how much fuel and damper is needed and they turn the cookie sheets a lot.  It works just fine; they made some mighty fine chocolate chip cookies in that stove.
There's one big building full of looms and spinning wheels.  I asked a weaver if she felt this was a dying art and she said no, there is a growing number of young people taking it up; one of their best weavers is just 19.
They even have a couple of old braiding machines that they use to make jump ropes.  The guy in charge of these spends most of his evenings and weekends finding, cleaning and repairing them. 
And they have a working wheelwright and a blacksmith shop.  The day we were there a young lady was demonstrating blacksmith techniques.
The "Gas and Steam Engine" parade ran both days of the weekend.  These folks - men, women and even children - love this and they came to have fun!

This machine was fascinating - the engine is cooled by running fluid over the screens that form the teepee shape over the engine.  So you can see the radiator fluid doing it's job as it goes by.
The parade included lots of tractors, of course, as well as some machines I could not quite identify.

Big old earth-movers were there, too.  There is no rule that says a machine has to be prettied up - it just has to run, which in some cases is tricky enough.
And then there were the steam engines.  Here was the surprise for me - I fell in love with these big, powerful engines with their intricate gears and wheels.  I just could not see enough of these old machines.  I was so glad that someone put in the time, effort and cash to get these vintage machines working again.

But it was the big steam-powered steam roller from 1914 that stole my heart; I followed this thing around like a groupie.
I just love the size and complex intricacy of this machine.  With all those gears and wheels, it looks like pure Steampunk!