Archive | January 2020


Shhh! Don’t bother me. I’m reading.

It’s my latest challenge to declutter my house and rid myself of things.

I know! How good is this? I am actually tidying up and ridding myself of stuff by reading, by sitting here and reading.

I rarely hold onto books anymore. I know with all the new books being published and referrals to, or discovery of, old jems, there’s just too many books to read to spend time reading ones I’ve already read. So if a book isn’t one I would re-read, I donate, give away or exchange it. I only keep “keepers”. Oh and I keep reference books. And there’s my box sets of Little House and Famous Five. And all of Mr S’s books; he never parts with books.

My problem is: I buy more books than I read. And I borrow books. And friends lend me books, saying they think I’ll like it. And I’m in a book club. And I like keeping books.

I have several books on the go at once.

So, I have piles of books everywhere.

The two sides of the book shelf behind “Mum’s spot”. Where I sit and read and watch tele and muck around on the ‘net. Of course, I have more books than this. All around the house.

Now before you comment, “Hey Lucinda, books aren’t clutter,” or, “Hi, you might want go start with all the other paper clutter around your house before you start reading,” know that I really enjoy reading and decluttering by reading strikes me as an enjoyable task.

A few years ago Dar inspired me to Read Down the House. I picked twelve books that had hung around my house for too long and aimed to read them. I didn’t get through them all. Pout! One is still on my shelf. A worthy book. A book I searched for for years. A book I craved. And now I’ve owned a copy for years. And haven’t read it! (And when I tried, found it a little boring.)

So to this year’s reading challenge:

Read from my house.

1. If I get to page 100 and am not enjoying it, out with the book.

Do you know how hard it is for me me give in and not read a book once I start? Let alone one that I have bought and have had sitting on a shelf for months and years!? A little frizzon of anxiety, like I am breaking a core rule of being, hits my stomach. I can’t let a book defeat me. I have to win by finishing it.

But as a fellow bookclubber says, “I just need to learn to let it go. Life is too short to read things you are not enjoying.”

I will persevere!

2. If I find I am just not in the mood, I can put the book down but I must try again within the month. Or Out With The Book.

I thought about adding a rule to not buy more books until I have freed space on my shelves but that is just silly. Who can NOT buy books? I realised that wouldn’t work anyway when I read a recommendation by Jennifer. The book wasn’t at my local library so I had to buy it. The online seller upsold me another book by recommending one by the same author. I just had to accept the offer. What if the book wasn’t available in the future? Or I forgot it’s title or author?

I was going to also add a rule that I can’t take books from friends who want me to borrow the book. But that’s just mean and anti-social.

I’m not going to set a number or a theme or a topic. I’m not stop borrowing from the library. I am just going to try to dive into some of the book I have at home.

Anyway, shhh, I have to finish this chapter.

Shopping is the opium of the masses

The main thing I was looking forward to in the US was going shopping.

With a huge market, and variety of choice, I knew I’d want to shop.

Even with our pathetic dollar, I knew/hoped the prices in the US would make for cheaper goods.

I was really looking forward to shoes! Sand shoes. Dressy shoes that come in different colours and designs.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

The US really is a shopping paradise. Choices! Lots of choices!

And cheap. But why did the dress and coat I really want in Bloomingdales cost over $400 and $2,000 respectively? They WERE gorgeous. But I resisted.

On my first full day in the States (after visiting Old Sacramento, I didn’t just shop), I hit Maceys.

Mr S said, “Don’t buy at the first shop you visit. Look around. We can come back.” But I know we don’t do that. Too many places to visit. And anyway this was The Post Christmas sales. (As it turns out, I did return as there was a stuff up with a pair of shoes – they gave me two different shoes, not a matching pair in a box, so I took them back. Luckily they found the left shoe of the right shoe I wanted. And while I was there, I bought the watch I saw and which spoke to me but didn’t buy on the first visit. No watch has called me in years.)

On that first visit to Maceys I bought:

  • Boots for $30. (Maybe I should have 10 pairs?)
  • Nike runners.
  • Some other brand of runners.
  • A Calvin Klein coat in the most divine blue.
  • Micheal Kor shoes.
  • A pair of green sling backs.
  • Two pairs of active wear leggings. (I need these now I am a regular gym goer.)
  • Mr S bought me two blingy costume jewellery bangles.

I could have gone really mad with dresses. So much cheaper than at home. But I have enough dresses.

In San Fran we hit the discount stores that take remaindered stock. Ross is my fav. Also visited the shopping centres which has Bloomingdales. The shopping centre had curved escalators!

In San Fran I picked up:

  • Pair of red loafers
  • Pair of blue Sketchers (With all my walking and exercising, I need new sand shoes. My current pair are wearing out and are ready for the bin. I was putting off buying new ones until our trip to America.)
  • A gold Calvin Klein cardie. I have one in black and one in white at home. This will be perfect with all my navy work dresses that don’t suit the black or white.)
  • Another pair of exercise tights
  • A black top.

I also popped into several shops, including new and secondhand book shop, Costco and supermarkets. I always love checking out bookshops and supermarkets in other countries. I had to find a diary and some mascara I’d bought years ago but then the importers stopped bringing it into Australia. Both of which I bought. And:

  • 1.75 litres of my favourite vodka at $US32 – less than half the price here.
  • A lovely little Christmas tray
  • Several different types of melanin. We can only get this by prescription. In the US it is on the shelf at Costco.
  • Four books, including two I was so glad to find from a second hand book store as they are out of print and I couldn’t find in Australia.
  • A double lined water bottle
  • Foot cream
  • Pens that write on glass
  • Little place setting nutcrackers for Christmas (Second hand. They only had five.)
  • Two Hamilton t-shirts
  • Reading glasses.

Oh dear. I should have listened to friends who said to go over with an empty suitcase.

I had to buy a second suitcase. Luckily it will be very useful as it opens like an old fashioned suitcase, not one that has two halves. Easier to use when travelling.

  • So what else?
  • On the way to the airport we stopped off at a factory outlet shopping centre where I bought:

    • A pair of lined crocs
    • Kate Spade handbag
    • Pink sandals.

    It is truely amazing the choice that comes with a big market. I saw some amazing variety in taps and furniture and electronic goods. But you know choice doesn’t make you happy and choice isn’t the same thing as freedom. It’s just more variety, “more permutations of the same meaningless shit”.

    (I’m sorry. I can’t just revel, can’t take simple joy, in buying heaps of stuff. I have to question and interrogate my actions – a life unexamined is not worth living and all that. I’m reading a book about hope and may post on its message soon.)

    I know I’ve bought a lot, and it seems incongruous with my posts about decluttering, but all these things will be used.

    Now to make room for the new stuff!

    A day at Yosemite

    A day at Yosemite is not enough. But it is all we had.

    Fortunately it was a full day as we spent the night before at Oakhurst just outside the park. (Mr S loved the receptionist at the hotel. When asked about a place to drink she said that there wasn’t a place, saying, “We’s just a small place. We’s roll up the red carpet early.” Mr S loved it so much, he kept saying that line for days!)

    I like the teeny tiny hut that is a hairdressers next to a mechanic’s garage on the main street with hills rolling behind.

    The day was packed with moments of open-mouth wonder and awe-inspiring views.

    This valley has been impressing people for centuries.

    I saw my first frozen waterfall. (Oh yes, it was cold! But later in the sun, it was lovely.)

    Better waterfall views were to come. We got right under this partially frozen one. As we walked towards it, we could hear the thunderous explosion from ice cracking away. The video is only 6 seconds – didn’t manage to capture the sound of ice cracking.

    We visited the First Nation’s museum and village. Their treatment by the white settlers was horrendous. Their continued cultural survival shows the power of human spirit.

    On the way into the park, I was chanting about wanting to see a bear and calling bears. “Come on, bear. Come out of the trees! Wake up! Stop hibernating!”

    No bears emerged from the trees. But …

    As we were leaving, we saw a deer. And what was that behind the deer?

    A coyote. Crouching and tracking the deer.

    We pulled over. I got out of the car for a closer look. Neither animal cared that there were several cars stopped to watch, nor a bus driving by, nor people excitedly snapping photos.

    The deer was not perturbed by the coyote at all. The coyote tracked a bit. Then rolled in the snow. Then tracked a bit more.

    I think the deer knew the coyote wasn’t really interested.

    We drove off (before there was an unhappy-for-the-deer ending). We stopped for a toilet stop. I didn’t need to go do waited in the car. And what ran right by my door?

    A coyote!

    I don’t think the day could have been better. The end of the visit certainly couldn’t have been topped.

    If I were to return to Northern California, it would be to spend a few days in Yosemite and take some hikes. Such an amazing place!

    Eating out in America

    Things I expected or knew.

    1. The serving sizes are HUGE.

    Look at the size of these chicken wings! They were massive. Must have some huge chickens around!

    And the serving of Mexican food.

    And this ice cream from an ice cream parlour straight out of Grease. This was the “small” serving. I should have bought the tiny, and shared it with Mr S.

    Mr S got the large. Look at it again! It is the height of 2/3 of his torso!!!

    2. There’s a lot of deep fried food.

    3. There’s a lot of meat.

    Mr S’s paella had a huge lobster tail.

    In the restaurant called Texas, Mr S’s steak came with a side of chilli beef and The Dreamer’s main dish was chicken with a steak. (OK, we’ll occasionally serve up several kinds of meat – at Christmas and BBQs, but I’m sure we don’t do it in restaurants.)

    4. Salads are served before your main course. Unless you having salad for your main course. The main course is called an entree. Entrees are called appetisers.

    Things I didn’t realise.

    1. Creamy style dressings are the go. For salads. For chicken. For everything. Add some more fats to your deep fried food! And lots and lots of cheese and cheesy sauce with added cheese on pasta.

    2. The food is sweeter. Hurt your teeth sweeter.

    I had a Thai beef salad. It was lovely – except could have done with half the very sweet dressing. By the end my mouth and teeth were sore and I had to give up on the lettuce. Now I know why people in movies ask for the dressing on the side. I wouldn’t dare ask for that in France, where they have a light hand.

    3. The fancy supermarkets are beautiful. And huge! Look at this fruit and veg display.

    And how clever to have a kitchen set to display the kitchen items?

    4. The sourdough bread is actually sour.

    5. All the drinks come with masses of ice. In one restaurant, my Coke was like a slushy; the ice towering over the rim of the glass.

    6. Soft drinks are refilled for free. Sugar overload or what?!?

    7. I know there is a lot of people but the restaurants are HUGE. And there are a lot of them.

    Look at this Mexican one.

    Americans eat out more than we do. There were always queues outside the restaurants as people waited for a table. Places didn’t seem to take bookings as we do here.

    Mr S’s cousins hardly ever cook at home. They did not cook at home the whole time we were with them. Mr S actually cooked three times for them. (Partly as a thank you, partly to show them how easy it is to cook at home and how homecooked is much better.) They say it is easier and cheap to eat out. I disagree. Which brings me to the next point.

    8. Eating out is not cheap. Even without the state tax and the mandatory tip, it isn’t cheap. I can eat out cheaper at home. Maybe the restaurants are factoring the continuous soft drink refills? We paid $100AU for four burgers with chips, two beers and two cokes.

    I really became to resent the expense of eating out by the end of our trip. The food just wasn’t worth the cost. I wasn’t enjoying the experience.

    9. Americans can’t cook chips, or fries, or French fries, or whatever you want to call them. Either over cooked or powdery in the middle. Often flavourless.

    10. A lot of the food is soft and mooshy. Like the Mexican above. Or like the soft buns on Maccas burgers. And messy in presentation. The places our cousins chose seem to go for quantity, not appearance. Look back at the ice creams! How are you meant to eat them? With a lot of mess, that’s how; they flop over the glass and run on the saucer. It was yucky and I gave up. Never again!

    All up, no wonder they have an obesity issue. And no wonder I saw a massive dialysis centre, a multi storey block only for kidney dialysis!

    We talked about doing a return trip, next time to Southern California with the cousins. I will have to make it clear that while I am most happy for them to eat out once or twice a day, Mr S and I will not. We will buy the beautiful fresh foods and pack sandwiches and snacks when out and about.

    The smoked salmon was divine. The fruit soooo good. Lovely cheeses.

    11. There are interminable questions from waiters as there are unending list of choices – sizes, dressing, how the meat is cooked, accompaniments. No just saying, “I will have the chicken salad and he will have the burger.”

    One last thing

    My favourite dish, and Mr S’s favourite, was a a bowl of chilli. I swear it was like I used to cook it before Mr S said he didn’t like my chilli beans to be so sloppy. Anyway, we had several bowls and will experiment with different recipes at home. I bought some chilli vegetable soup from a supermarket. It was soooo good. Our supermarkets do not sell hot, ready to eat vegetable soup. Oh, the power of a large market!

    Last meal was a “light lunch” at the Texas Roadhouse, where you crack open free peanuts and drop the shells on the floor! (Took me quite a bit to do that. Just seems so wrong.) Anyway my light lunch was a salad and bowl of chilli. And unlimited sweet bread rolls with cinnamon butter.

    I’m young, scrappy and hungry

    I saw Hamilton in San Francisco!

    I’m not a fan of hip hop or rap. Can’t stand listening to it. And I don’t know a lot about early USA history.

    But I loved the musical.

    Oh the dancing!

    Oh the singing!

    It is amazing.

    I want to see it again in Australia, to see if we can do it as good as the Americans.

    Oh dear! I’ve joined the cult!

    Bought two t-shirts to prove it. I will walk around emblazoned with my new religion.

    Historical Sacramento 2

    Our second visit to delve into history at Sacramento started with a visit to the State Capitol.

    It was the first day of sitting for the parliament. As we arrived, there was a press conference outside. We resisted the urge to get ourselves on camera. Listening from afar, the pollies sounded like politicians everywhere. “Now is the time to act. So pleased to be here to announce the steps we are taking. If we do not do something now, the issue will only grow. We are doing this for the people of our great state.” Doing what? Who knows?

    We entered the Capitol building via a side door, with no idea where to go. There were no signs, and being a working building, people were rushing everywhere. Worried we’d be caught out as imposters, I pretended to be interested in the wall displays.

    A side hallway showed a statue, so we went there. The statue stood under an impressive rotunda. Had no idea who the people in the statue were as there is no plaque. Found out later that the statue is of Queen Isabella of Spain and Christopher Columbus with a page boy. Well of course that’s who you’d put centre stage in the Californian state parliament building!

    To the side stood a small info desk that told us tours were available, starting in the basement. Mr S hates being on tours, but I told him too bad. And I am glad we did it. We wouldn’t have found our way into the basement, nor the galleries of the Legislature and the Senate, nor the rooms displaying original furniture and equipment.

    The basement had an interesting display on seismic activity. Apparently there are 400 to 700 earthquakes in California every week.

    After signing up for the free tour, we had to wait by the statue of Ronald Regan, which was at the the centre of the base of rotunda. On the surrounding walls were four triptychs on Californian history. Amazing how happy the native Americans look at the arrival of the Spanish and the “Americans”. (According to the tour guide, before it became the 31st state, there was nothing. It was just wilderness. Mmm, wonder if the Spanish, the Mexicans, the native Americans agree?)

    The colours of the Parliament follow the Westminster tradition. Red in the upper house and green in the lower. Unlike our system, both houses can initiate bills.

    No photos of the legislative house as it was sitting. I found it strange to see two flags on one representative’s desk – the USA and Israel.

    The parliament sits in a lovely park. The air was so sweet, moist and cool. While the roses in the rose garden were pruned for winter, the avenue of orange trees were in fruit and some camellias were in flower. The park also has a number of memorials and statues: to the Spanish catholic priest who founded a series of missions in the 1700s, the Vietnam War, Purple Heart recipients, the Sisters of Mercy, fire fighters.

    We walked straight down eleven blocks to Sutter’s Fort. The long street took us pass lovely old houses, the stairs of some stop directly on the footpath, opps sidewalk; dubious looking residences and quite a few homeless people.

    Sutter’s Fort was impossible to miss. It’s definitely a fort – walled, painted white with two bastions. Turns out the walls of the fort are not original. It went into decay when it was no longer used, collapsed, and then people reused the bricks.

    So glad we visited this – I learnt quite a bit about Californian history, which wasn’t hard as I know very little.

    Rooms align the inside of the fort walls. Some are furnished to replicate the period; others have displays with information panels.

    There were groups of students rotating through activities – candle dipping, bread making, watching a blacksmith use a forge – led by people in period costume. One centred around a covered wagon. Who knew they were so narrow? They’re always wider on TV.

    This was a really pleasant afternoon. And thrifty sightseeing. The only cost was $7 to get into the fort.

    Gold rush territory

    Mr S’s ancestor came to Australia for gold via California, where he’d been a 49er.

    So a must see for us was gold country.

    First stop in Eldorado County was Placerville, known as Hangtown.

    Heavy doors, once on local building, now decorating the public toilets

    Mr S and his cousin disappeared into a bar. Cousin’s wife and I ate there. Not impressed. When the country music band started up – good as they were – I had to leave. Not my type of music.

    Next stop was Plymouth, another tiny town.

    I imagine being like Anne of Green Gables, visiting my in-twon relatives in a house like this one

    Do you like the false double story, with the window but no second storey?

    Same building, showing signs of needing love and restoration.

    To hitch your horse, rings along the elevated pavement/verandah.

    The next town was the cutest one we visited. Amador City. It also had more touristy stores, which were great for window shopping. Wish I could take more home. Given the forest is right behind the buildings, can it really be a town, let alone a city?

    As I anticipated, Mr S and his cousin hightailed it to the pub while we were wandering among the shops.

    Next stop Sutter Creek. More shops and yes, I bought some things from the antique/second hand store: little nutcracker men which act as place markers; photos next Christmas.

    Love the facades. Do they fool anyone?

    Always lots of creeks in gold country.

    Note the covered drains

    I want to sit here and be served afternoon tea

    Final stop for the night was an old bar.

    We couldn’t have done this long day trip without a car. Thank heavens for Mr S’s cousin.

    Eureka! We’ve found the source of one of Mr S’s great-great-great grandfather, give or take a great.

    My must dos in San Fran

    I had four must do things when we went down to San Francisco for three nights. The plan was to have lunch with Mr S’s uncle for his 85th birthday and celebrate New Year’s Eve in this beautiful city.

    1. Walk down Lombard Street. Tick. Did that. Walked up first. Then down. With crowds of other people.

    2. Catch the cable car. Tick. Did that. I actually didn’t know there was a difference between a tram and a cable car. Turns out there are only three cable cars left in the world – Wellington NZ, Hong Kong and San Fran. And I’ve been on every one. The cable car we went on in San Fran was from Melbourne. How good is that?

    3. Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Tick. Did it. Amazing structure. But very crowded on the New Year’s Day we strolled across. So crowded, and the path was shared with bikes, and pedestrians bikes could go both ways, I am amazed we only saw one accident. The noise of the cars was horrendous. Still, it was amazing. Loved the models with the explanations of the engineering.

    How thick are the cables?

    It was really sunny and warm. Don’t think I’d like to do it in summer.

    4. Visit Haight and Ashbury. Didn’t do it. Something for next time.

    Mr S added to the list: drive down the step streets used in the movie Bullet. Tick done. I was freaking out. It was steep!!

    View out the back window.

    The lunch didn’t eventuate (illness and family conflict) and, as I wrote yesterday, we ended up spending most of New Year’s Eve. But I did get to do most of my must dos and some great shopping.

    New Year’s Eve

    Despite all my travels I have never spent New Year’s Eve anywhere other than Australia. And for all of my adult life, I have always spent it on the east coast of Australia, one of the first countries to ring in the new year.

    Actually celebrating the New Year isn’t something I feel the need to do; after all, it’s just some arbitrary arrangement. I have been known to do nothing but stay at home, read, watch TV and have a few drinks – sometimes even going to bed before midnight. And I don’t like crowds, especially of drunken people, though I’m not adverse to socialising with friends.

    On NYE, the cousin’s plan was to take us on a day trip to Santa Cruz and then return to San Fran for the midnight fireworks.

    We drove along the coast, stopping frequently to admire the views and breath in the fresh salty air.

    We had pie direct from a farm for morning tea.

    At Santa Cruz I wanted to buy a t-shirt that said I bought this t-shirt st Santa Cruz, as there seems to be a fashion of cheap t-shirts for sale st home that are emblazoned with Santa Cruz.

    We strolled along the boardwalk. I didn’t realise that the boardwalk meant something along the lines of a fun fair or Luna Park. It was a perfect day with lots of families out and about.

    This was an indoor swimming pool and now is used for games, putt putt golf and eateries.

    Lots of beach volleyball games in action.

    We had a late lunch and then promenaded along the wharf. I just had to see the sea lions. Half way along the wharf, I could hear their barking. A couple were frolicking in the water close to the wharf; most were snoozing on the wharf piers. They have cut viewing holes in the wharf so you can see them.

    On our return along the wharf someone was kicking off celebrations by writing in the sand.

    We started the return journey but the cousin wanted to stop off at Capitola Village. It was beautiful. With the long day’s drive and several margaritas, I was content to stay here for NYE, perched on a verandah, overlooking both the creek and the beach, under a heater.

    After a few more hours, we were happy to head back to San Fran so our designated driver could have a few drinks.

    When we got back to the hotel, Stacey and I were happy to go to bed, so only Mr S and his cousin kicked on.

    I never made it to midnight, but I had a gorgeous evening. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect setting.

    Two evenings in San Fran

    We had a couple of fantastic nights in San Francisco over new year’s.

    Like every other tourist, we made our way to Fisherman’s Wharf.

    We had drinks and mini burgers (sliders) at a bar and then strolled around among the holiday crowds.

    Kitschy but fun was the wharf with mechanical and electronic games, some very, very old.

    We visited another wharf. The light show on the Christmas tree was spectacular.

    We took the cable car to Union Square. First stop the St Francis Hotel to check out the castles made of sugar as part of their Christmas decorations.

    A walk around Macey’s to look at their Christmas windows. Every Christmas, they display homeless cats and dogs in their windows that need adopting.

    We then walked up to the Christmas tree and outdoor ice skating rink in the centre of Union Square.

    On our second night, after dinner at a traditional Italian restaurant that had a duke box on each table, we drove to the hills on either side of the city to admire the view.

    The first two stops were lovely. The air was still. At one there was a memorial to all forms of US navy. We crossed the freeway and walked over the old fortifications at Battery Spencer. We watched the planes flying in and circulating in their holding pattern. They were like fireflies or mystical lights.

    The other view from Inspiration Point was on the other side of the city. The wind had whipped up and it was freezing so I only gave the view a cursory look.

    Such a beautiful city!