Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Year of the Classics and a Giveaway!

I think 2013 is going to be the “Year of the Classics”.

No…I’m not talking about classic cars, or music classics such as the Beatles or The Rolling Stones, or classics as pertains to vintage clothing.

I’m talking about books.

I think 2013 is going to be the year that I “read the Classics”!

You can get them for free online and yet I go out and buy books when I could read these? What am I thinking?

There must be a reason these books have been read by countless generations, right?

Books like…

Pride and Prejudice
Moby Dick
The Scarlett Letter
Wuthering Heights
A Tale of Two Cities
Oliver Twist
David Copperfield
Jane Eyre
Jane Austen
The Great Gatsby
Vanity Fair
Treasure Island
The War of the Worlds
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Adventures of Don Quixote
The Last of the Mohicans
Lorna Doone
Little Lord Fauntleroy
The Red Badge of Courage
Robinson Crusoe
A Christmas Carol
David Copperfield
The Brothers Karamazov
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Count of Monte Cristo
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Les Miserables
The Phantom of the Opera
Anna Karenina
War and Peace
Journey to the Center of the Earth

How many of those listed above have you read? Which would you recommend?

I have read these…
Great Expectations
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
The Secret Garden
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
Black Beauty
Little Women
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

So I guess it’s going to be a busy year for me in 2013 because I do of course, have a stack of books by my reading chair that I have already bought that I have to get through also. Not to mention the ones I read for my online book club From Left to Write!

And speaking about the From Left to Write book club, we are hosting an awesome giveaway just in time for Christmas gift giving. Crown Publishing has put together an amazing book bundle. There's enough to keep some for yourself and gift to others.

Go to BOOK BUNDLE GIVEAWAY to see the list of books you can win and enter!

What about you? What's on your reading list for 2013?


Monday, November 26, 2012

Back to Work

This year I took a a couple of vacation days, the day before Thanksgiving and the following Monday, which is today. That made for a nice, long vacation. I had Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday off and I am so not looking forward to going back to work tomorrow.

Wednesday I got up early and my mom and I went into the city (Bakersfield) and had a nice breakfast and hit a couple of Goodwill Stores. My mom and I love thrift store shopping! I was searching for Christmas decor but didn't find anything. After Goodwill-ing, we went grocery store shopping for Thanksgiving items, all the pie, stuffing and mashed potato fixings.

Once we got home and put everything away it was time to make the pies. We used to make the crust from scratch, but since frozen pie crusts have gotten so much better we use those, but we do make the pie filling from scratch...well from a can but that's from scratch for us!

Thursday of course was Thanksgiving and we spent the morning straightening up the house, getting the extra chairs all ready and making the stuffing and turkey, then the family arrived and we had a wonderful meal and enjoyed seeing each other all together again.

We barely remembered to take pictures. Here's my mom and standing next to her my sister Lisa and then sitting is me and my brother Fred and his youngest, Melissa, the baby in our family and isn't she beautiful!

I had to get a picture with just me and Melissa of course!

Here's a picture of my godson and Melissa's big brother, little Fred.

After everyone left I spent about two hours getting everything cleaned and put away in my kitchen. Friday was a relaxing morning and then we all met in Bakersfield again to celebrate Thanksgiving with my dad. We took dad to Golden Corral because he loves buffets. I had a great time having all my family together again and I know dad really enjoyed it.

Here's the only picture I managed to get. This is my dad and on the right is my son James and on the left is my sister's son Isaac, who also is my Godson! Can you believe that my dad is 6 foot and both his grandsons are taller and bigger than he is???

Saturday I had to go and get new tires put on my car. My son James, (in the picture above) went with me. We had a great time considering we had to wait for two hours at Big O Tires! We spent the time playing Monopoly on his cell phone and I won!!! Of course he helped me to win and when I was almost losing he bankrupted and gave me all his money and property. Wasn't that nice of him?

Sunday I went on STRIKE and said I was not doing anything the whole day...and I didn't. I just watched movies on NetFlix and played on the computer and watched TV and read my book and chillaxed all day. My daughter's little puppy Chorizo was as exhausted and I was and laid on the little bed we've set up for her in my bedroom. Doesn't she look comfortable?

So today, the whole world went back to work...but not me :)

I decided to spend the day putting up the Christmas Tree and decorating the inside of the house. This year I decided not to put the Martha Stewart ribbon and garland that I love, love, love. I decided to try something different. I don't like it! Not sure if I am going to do it over or just live with it as-is for this year, but it's just too plain! I do love that where I put the tree this year it's reflected in the mirror, double the lights and that!

So tomorrow it's back to the real world and for once I'm not really looking forward to going back. I had a great Thanksgiving and a wonderful time being off. Can't wait for Christmas and tamale making and Biscocho baking!

How are your holidays shaping up? All your shopping done? To tell the truth I haven't even started, so don't feel bad if you haven't either.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

FOOD...What is it good for? Absolutely Everything!

If feeding me and my brothers and sister as we were growing up had been left strictly to my mother then we would have eaten nothing but beans and tortillas morning, noon and night!! Ok, well maybe that’s a bit exaggerated, but seriously…if not for the fact that my dad was a meat and potatoes kind of man we would have starved!

See mom is a very picky eater, always has been, even as a child. Plus she doesn’t like to cook. She CAN cook…she can make some awesome dishes! She is a wonderful cook! Her chile colorado is to die for, as are her chili beans. But she dislikes cooking with a passion, probably because she dislikes eating. . .

Did your mouth just drop open in shock? How can anyone dislike eating? Well trust me she does. She eats because she has too. Food is not a big deal to her and she finds it frustrating to think of what to cook. And when she does cook she’s so sick of the smell of the food while it was cooking that she can barely manage to eat a bite or two. And leftovers?? Forget about it! She’s not touching leftovers!

My dad on the other hand will eat your arm if you don’t move it out of his way quick enough. I can remember him coming home in the mornings and my mom would make him breakfast. She would make him three or four pancakes slathered with butter and then she would fry an egg and put it on top. Dad would then smother it with maple syrup and joyfully break open the yoke and watch all the yellowy center mix with the syrup and he would scarf it down.

Dad loves food so much and eats with such relish and abandon that small children have been known to stop in restaurants to watch him eat. The way he moves his mouth and the joy in his eyes I guess are like magic and little kids can’t help but stare at him while he eats. He’s kind of gotten used to it. We have pictures of almost all the grandchildren sitting on his lap and staring up mesmerized by their Tata as he eats.

So suffice it to say that my brothers, sister and I were not brought up to be open to many kinds of foods. We didn’t have any idea when we were kids and up to young adulthood what tuna was, or onions, or fish, or beets, cauliflower, lobster, crab, shrimp, or even salads. We knew beans, tortillas, potatoes and always some kind of beef, cooked some kind of way.  We knew that dad would buy a small tin of something called sardines but we never knew what they were because he had to go outside to eat them as mom couldn’t stomach their smell!

I remember one of my first dates ever with a boy and they brought me a salad with garbanzo beans. I asked him what those were and he said, “Garbanzo beans” and I said, “No seriously…what are these?” I refused to believe him and he had to call the waitress over and ask her what they were and she said, “Garbanzo beans”, and looked at us both like we were space aliens!

So I’m reading this book for my From Left to Write book club called The Headmasters Wager by Vincent Lam and the author goes into detail about a lot of the food that was served in the home of the headmaster who was of Chinese descent living in Vietnam. I tell you what!!! Mom would sooner have died than to have lived in that home.

The food talked about in this book! Wow! Man oh man! My mom would be overwhelmed and disgusted by most of it. But some of it sounds so intriguing to me. For instance:

Squabs stuffed with cave swallow’s nests, scallops in a cognac reduction, braised and truffled lobsters, sharks fin soup, braised goose, giant abalones with fragrant mushrooms and freshly spiced jasmine flowers, giant chilled crabs, raw fish salad, kuay teow teng soup of egg noodles containing eight meats and sea foods, poached groupers, fresh sweet prawns live and wriggling in bowls to be cooked at the side of the table as each guest preferred, either deep-fried or dunked into boiling water.

I couldn't even find photos on the whole worldwideweb of most of these dishes. Here's a few that I did find.

Shark Fin Soup

Braised Goose - Photo Courtesy of Street

Abalone with Mushrooms, I couldn't find the Jasmine Flowers. This photo courtesy of

Raw Fish Salad - Photo courtesy of Food Network

Kuey Teow Teng Soup - Photo Courtesy of Elizabeth Lin

Sweet Prawns - Photo Courtesy of the YapIsland Blog

And that was all for just one party held at Tet or Vietnamese New Year! What a way to start the New Year! I guess it's not that different than the way we always started the New Year as far as strange foods because I'm sure to many of you the idea of eating Menudo would be a bit disconcerting right?

Menudo - Photo Courtesy of Victoria blog
Menudo is a traditional New Years Day breakfast food that is supposed to have medicinal purposes in that it is the cure for hangovers.

I like the description of what Menudo is that I found at the Urban Dictionary: Awesome Mexican soup made with tripe (beef stomach,) hominy, chile peppers, onions, cilantro, oregano, and a splash of lime. Some like menudo served with tortilla and "con pata"--which means with a pig's foot in there too. Menudo is traditionally eaten on Saturday mornings and has been known to cure the common hangover.

What's the strangest food you've ever had? Have you ever tried any of the foods pictured above?

Headmaster Percivial Chen is a proud Chinese born man who runs English language school during the cusp of the Vietnam War. In his refusal to accept his adopted country's turbulent times, his gamble becomes a life changer. Join From Left to Write on November 15 as we discuss the The Headmaster's Wager. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Iwanna Wednesday - Looking for a few good Pilgrims!

This weekend I put away my Halloween decor and started putting out Thanksgiving stuff, but alas...I didn't have much. I have three ceramic turkeys and one little horn of plenty or Cornucopia.

I've been looking around for a while now trying to find Pilgrims, last year they were everywhere! Lurking around every corner, at HomeGoods, Goodwill, The Dollar Store and Walmart, this year they all went AWOL!

So what Iwanna for this Iwanna Wednesday is to show you some that I found online. Some wonderful and beautiful, some crazy funny and some that are just crazy! Follow me...let's see!

This one falls in the wonderful and beautiful category! I just love it, the cute little iron arms and the little basket and lantern and the base they put it on, looks like little, tiny, baby tiles! There is nothing about this one I don't love! Oh...well maybe I don't love the price too much, $34.50 for just one Pilgrim?  That's a bit too steep for me, but if you can't live without this little gem, you can find her at Jim Shore Heartwood Creek Collectibles at Main Attractions.

And this one also is wonderful and beautiful. It's the Pilgrim couple and an Indian couple. I love the little saying on the apron of each of the women too. Iwanna this set and they are on but unfortunately they are currently unavailable *sigh*! What a surprise!

Here's a crazy funny one. These little guys are just so cute! I love their big feet and they are very patriotic with their little flag. This is Pete and Prudence Pilgrim and these are not too bad at $5.95 each...very affordable. These are from Designed to Be Sweet.

I don't know if these are crazy... crazy funny... or wonderful and beautiful. I can't quite make up my mind. I think the beaks give them that crazy vibe but the fact that they are squash make them crazy funny and the fact that they are such perfection and so unique makes them wonderful and beautiful in my eyes! And the way the little one is gazing up at the big one, can you say ahhhhh! This one is from and it runs $14.50, another affordable one but out of my budget for trinkets. If it's not from The Dollar Store or Goodwill I won't usually buy it.

This next one is what I would just call crazy, what say you? I found these on ebay at $50.99!!! These are troll dolls, remember these? These were huge in the 1970's you could find them everywhere! But to make them Pilgrims??? Crazy, crazy, crazy...but cute. To a collector I'm sure $50 for them would be nothing. I'll have to keep an eye out for these guys at Goodwill!

And do you love Nesting Dolls? Who doesn't right? Well I love these Pilgrim Nesting Dolls, so cute and so easy to store. These I found on Etsy for a mere $65.00! You can actually customize these anyway you want.

And this last one is my absolute favorite, Iwanna this one cause it's so darned cute! I know it may be a little bit macabre, the Pilgrim lovingly kissing the sweet little turkey on the head when behind his back he has the hatchet ready and waiting and you know he's getting ready to swing it. But times were tough in Pilgrim days and you had to be brave enough to kill your own turkey. I'm really glad that now we can find them easily in the refrigerated aisles of our local grocery stores (sorry to any vegetarians). This little guy was also on ebay for $13.79 and "bonus" he's a salt and pepper shaker!

But I will keep searching in the after Thanksgiving sales and throughout the year and hopefully next year I will have a whole little Pilgrim Kingdom!

Happy Iwanna Wednesday and may all your Iwanna wishes come true!


Monday, November 5, 2012

I Have Betty BoBettis Purse!

I grabbed my purse after lunch to reapply my lipstick. A habit I have gotten into as I get on in years and realize my full pouty narrow, thin lips need a lot more help than they used to. I can remember when a quick swipe with some gloss was all I needed, now I need to carefully draw a mouth back on with lip liner and then carefully fill it in with lipstick!

Anyway, I grabbed my purse and as I pull it into view from the shelf in back of my desk where I keep it, I had a feeling of Déjà vu. You all know what Déjà vu is right? And if you are from Bakersfield…NO… I don’t mean the strip club across from the Montgomery World Plaza!

“déjà vu [( day -zhah vooh )] The strange sensation that something one is now experiencing has happened before: “I knew I had never been in the house before, but as I walked up the staircase, I got a weird sense of déjà vu.” From French, meaning “already seen.”

As I looked at my purse I realized I had Betty BoBetti’s purse! You might ask “Who in the heck is Betty BoBetti?” Betty BoBetti is a fictitious name to protect the innocent and protect myself from being sued by a woman who has always been very private about her name and personal life.

Betty is who I wanted to be when I grew up. I first met Betty in 1983 when I got a job at a collection agency. I was hired as a bill collector. Well an assistant, trainee bill collector to be more precise. I had worked at the agency for about six months or so and I would often stop to listen to a woman that worked in her own corner of the building. This woman was very vocal, loud and direct. This woman was vicious!

I would hear Betty tell the debtors that they had 24 hours to come into the office with a bazillion dollars or she would refer their file to the attorney’s office and she would sue them and then she would locate assets and then she would levy on those assets and by golly, they would pay this debt! If I had a penny for every time I heard her say, “Well you aren’t a turnip and I don’t want blood, I want cash!” I would be a millionaire! (Every single debtor we spoke to always said the same tired old thing, “Well you can’t get blood from a turnip!”)

I liked this woman’s gall, cheek, audacity! And I wanted to be like her. Here was no shrinking violet, like I had been all my life up to then. Here was a woman who had no fear and knew how to get the job done! Here was the professional mentor I had been searching for!

So I gathered up my own gall and marched up to her and said, “Betty, what do I have to do to become the type of bill collector you are?” I must say I sounded sure of myself even in my legs were shaking the whole time. Betty said, “Are you serious?” I said, “Yes I am.” The next day I was transferred to her department, the Commercial Collection department and began a training routine that changed my life and helped to make me who I am today. (So if you want to blame anyone…blame Betty!)

Betty was the epitome of the quote, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” She taught me that the worst thing that can happen is that someone say no and to never take no for an answer!

I remember once when this highfalutin farmer in the area, a very influential person, came into the office for an Examination of Finances. Betty told me Mr. Farmer was in the lobby and for me to go and conduct the interview. I turned green and wanted to puke. I said, “Ummm Betty, don’t you think you should do it? You have way more experience than I do and this man is a very important man in our city and I’m just a trainee.” Betty looked at me and said, “Alicia…this man puts his pants on one leg at a time just like we do, he’s just another debtor.” I have to say I did a good job with the interview because we did find assets to seize and Betty BoBetti managed to have this man’s airplane repossessed! So before you go feeling bad about this poor man, remember…he had an AIRPLANE and yet he didn’t feel he had to pay his debts!

To get back to my moment of Déjà vu. Betty had a huge purse, almost exactly like the one that I am now carrying. And I call it a purse but really it was more like a briefcase but not as big as a carry-on bag, regardless…it was BIG. I can remember going into Betty’s office and wondering what in the world she needed such a huge purse for! What could she possibly have that would fill that? Now I know, that’s where she carried her “cojones”!

Makes you wonder what I have in my purse right?


Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Purest Kind of Love

Today I saw a homeless man outside the window of my office. I was sitting at my desk and all I saw at first was his head. He was there for quite a while so I stood up to see what he was doing since where he was standing was a driveway and he didn’t seem to be concerned that a car could turn into the parking lot and hit him.

This man was about 34 to 40 years of age, disheveled with long curly hair wearing dirty jeans and a red thermal undershirt that had seen many washings and was more a rusty dark pinkish color. Sitting next to him in the driveway was a beautiful dog. The dog looked like a German shepherd but was more a blond color than black and white.

The man was standing in the sun and was playing with something in his hands and I saw that it was some clear green plastic twine and he had a whole tangled bunch of it in his hands and he was trying to roll it up and put it into order. The other end of this twine was tied to the dog collar of the dog. The dog, with his tongue hanging out, was sitting patiently next to the man. I watched the man as he rolled and unrolled the twine, trying to get it perfect. The dog sat patiently.

At times the dog would rise and walk a few feet towards the parked cars to get into the shade of the trees. He would sit there for just a few moments and then come right back to the homeless man. I realized that the dog was hot, sitting there in the sun with his owner and he would move over to the shade for some relief. But obviously he didn’t feel right being far away from his owner and he would trot back and sit in the sun again. The dog did this about four times and I contemplated going outside and telling the man that he was making that poor dog suffer, but I didn’t.

Eventually, the man got the twine wrapped to his satisfaction and he looked down and said something to the dog and the dog looked up at him and then the man dropped to his knees and gave the dogs neck a huge hug and the dog licked his face. The man stood and started walking and the dog walked with him. My eyes filled with tears.

Many would say someone who is homeless shouldn’t have a dog, why put a dog through the same kinds of trials, tribulations and suffering. I don’t know if that man was really homeless, or just dirty and disheveled as a norm but I do know that he loved that dog and was good to him and that the dog loved him. The dog was clean, much cleaner than his owner and his coat was brushed and he didn’t look hungry.

As they walked away I realized how three years ago I wouldn’t have noticed at all, I wouldn’t have felt the dogs pain at being in the sun and being thirsty, I wouldn’t have worried whether or not that man took good care of the dog…I simply wouldn’t have noticed.

But since my daughter brought little Chorizo into my life I’ve changed. I didn’t know I had changed, but I have. I am now a dog lover.

I do know that I’m not as good a dog lover as my daughter, or even as kind-hearted a person as she is because she would not have hesitated to go out there and take water to the dog and give the man a collar for the dog or some money for him to buy one. She would have given the man whatever toys, food and bedding she happened to have in her car for Chorizo. She would have offered the man food if she thought he needed it. I’m proud at having raised such a good-hearted person even though I don’t take credit for her being as such. Yet at the same time, I am fearful for her because she doesn’t have the fearfulness in her that I have. The fear of strangers and homeless people, which kept me from going and offering the dog and the man help. It’s a double edge sword, being proud of this daughter and fearing for her as well. Both edges are sharp and cut my heart for her. But I am so proud of her!

Oh! I had to come back because I forgot to give credit to the artist of the photo Homeless Man and Dog Linocut.  The artist is Shellie Lewis and she has a really cool blog which you can visit here.