Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!!!!!

Anyone have any resolutions lined up for 2011? Frankly, I really don't. There will sufficient activity going on for the B's next year to deal with; no need to add anything else to our plates!

Change is in store; along with some travel, a visit with dear, dear friends in May, and hopefully lots of other good things.

Happy New Year to all!

Mrs. B

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Mrs. B's 2010 Book Reviews: February

March by Geraldine Brooks: Really Good/4 Stars

This is the second of Brook's books that I've read recently. I really like her writing style and her imagination!

March is primarily about the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's "Little Women"; meaning, what he was up to while he was absent from that story. But, it's more than just what Mr. March was doing during the Civil War as the tale goes back and forth between "the present" and March's life before he met Mrs. March (Marmee) as well as telling the story of how he and Marmee met.

For anyone who loved "Little Women", this is a must as it's simply a neat concept; write about secondary (if even that) characters from a famous book and provide that character's perspective on the others. In addition to hearing from Mr. March, our thoughts of the seemingly saintly personage of Marmee are knocked out of the sky.

I'll admit I did get a bit frustrated with Mr. March towards the end of the book (probably meant to) and I sometimes found Marmee quite, well, shrill, but, in general, I thought ALL of the characters were well written and the concept, once again, quite fascinating.

FYI, if you read this and enjoy it as well, read "The Wind Done Gone" by Alice Randall who pens a tale around the character of "Gone with the Wind" as told by Scarlet's slave half-sister.

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi (Book Club Selection): Solid/Good/ 3 Stars

From Goodreads: "Douglas Preston fulfilled a lifelong dream when he moved his family to a villa in Florence. Upon meeting celebrated journalist Mario Spezi, Preston was stunned to learn that the olive grove next to his home had been the scene of a horrific double-murder committed by one of the most infamous figures in Italian history. A serial killer who ritually murdered fourteen young lovers, he was never caught. He is known as “The Monster of Florence." Fascinated by the tale, Preston began to work with Spezi on the case. Here is the true story of their search to uncover and confront the man they believe is the Monster. In an ironic twist of fate that echoes the dark traditions of the city's bloody history, Preston and Spezi themselves become targets of a bizarre police investigation.

Unfortunately, I never really wrote my review of this book after we’d discussed it in book club. Now, I can’t really remember too much about what I thought except I do recall it was a pretty fast and interesting read, despite the multitude of Italian names one had to try to keep track of. Luckily, there was a “Cast of Character” list included, as well as a timeline. This is the brief snippet I did write after reading the book:

Review forthcoming after book club discussion on 1 March.

For now, let me just say:

1. It's a good thing the investigators/police in the US didn't handle the case of, say, Charles Manson in this way or else he'd still be running around murdering and terrorizing people in California.

2. Sometimes, a doorstop is just a doorstop.

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri (CD): Really Good/4 Stars

I was enthralled with this story.

Gogol is a typical American teenager growing up on the East coast in the 70s and 80s. His mother and father immigrated to America from Bengali India in the late 60s after an arranged marriage. His name Gogol (his "pet name") was bestowed on him by his father after one of his favorite (Russian) authors (and there is much more to it than that). Gogol was supposed to have a "good name" as well, but the letter from India from his grandmother which contained his good name never arrived. So, Gogol he became. When his parents tried to give him a "good name" (Nikhil) when he entered school, he refused to answer to it.

Although Gogol's parents do their best to fit in, they never quite do. Gogol and his younger sister are usually a bit mortified by their parents and do all they can to encourage them to become more "American" (celebrate Christmas, have one "American" meal for dinner a week).

Gogol grows up, goes to college, chooses a career that is not one his family had hoped for and, most importantly for him, he legally changes his name from Gogol to Nikhil (the "good name" his parents had tried to bestow on him at age five) because he'd become uncomfortable with Gogol; felt people wouldn't take him seriously, etc. Gogol/Nikhil becomes involved with different women, but, none of his relationships really work out; an interesting parallel to the fact that his parents relationship, although arranged, endures.

In the end, this was an enchanting story about two generations of an Indian family and the relationships between father/son, mother/son, brother/sister, husband/wife. Like Anne Tyler, Lahiri is a master of character development and writing a story that isn't really about anything in particular; just, simply, life. I've added her books of short stories to my to-read shelf as I am interested in reading more of her work.

It's poignant, funny and thought-provoking. I think I liked it all the more having listening to it as opposed to reading it myself as the narrator was able to provide the correct accents for the main characters; for whatever reason, I love listening to Indian voices.

The Lace Reader by Brunonia Barry: Didn’t Much Care For/2 Stars

I probably would have liked this book a lot better had it been about what I thought it was going to be; lace readers, witches and tarot readers in Salem, MA. Well, it WAS sort of, but, just barely.

I went to Salem, MA with my step-mom back in the 70s. Thanks to Arthur Miller's "The Crucible", I had some understanding of the Salem Witch Hunt of the late 1600s. Even though it was definitely tacky, I was fascinated by The Salem Witch Museum and the various shops filled with "witch stuff". I bought a deck of Fortune Telling Cards that I had for many years after (maybe this was what planted the seed of interest for my future Tarot reading?) We also stopped by Hawthorne's fabled house of 7 Gables.

Anyway, back to the task at hand, this book. Someone in my book club mentioned she'd read it; come to think of it, I don't remember her saying if she liked it or not. All I heard was "Salem", "Witches", "Readers"; so, I got the book.

Turns out that these things were in the tale, just on the periphery, though. I found the actual story to be vaguely interesting if a bit old; a troubled woman tries to come to terms with the death of her twin, childhood abuse, etc. Add in a half-hearted romance with the local (alcoholic) cop, a weird bunch of religious freaks, some wild dogs on a lonely island and a emotionally distant mother, well; I felt I'd read this before.

Still, I got through it quickly so it WAS readable. But, another problem, though; it was a bit convoluted and so I kept forgetting what had happened and had to go back and reread portions.

I don't think I should have bothered because the ending twist was so unexpected (and happened in the last 10 pages of the book) that I don't think I ever could have seen it coming (or else maybe I could have, had I been paying better attention). Seriously, the end came with a BANG and left me thinking, "WTF?" Not to mention, there were many aspects of the tale that were just sort of left hanging out there or unexplained.

So, I guess this is one of those books that, should I care to, I might reread, knowing the ending, and getting more out of it. But, I didn't like it enough to reread it, so, there you have it.

I did get a kick out of (the limited) exposure to Salem, the witches, etc.

Mrs. B

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mrs. B's 2010 Book Reviews: January

Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris (Book Club Selection): Solid/Good/3 Stars

Harris, probably best known for "Chocolat" (and perhaps the movie with sumptuous Johnny Depp is even better known than Harris's novel), delivers another story involving a small French village, widows, and food. That, however, is where the similarity ends; whereas "Chocolat" is lovely and fluffy, "Five Quarters of the Orange" is a dark and murky tale.

In fact, this was one of few books I've read where I didn't really care much for any of the characters (save one) but still found it highly readable and engaging. This was due primarily to Harris's fantastically descriptive writing style. She was educated in languages and it certainly comes through; she grips you from the get-go and pulls you right in.

In summary, a woman returns to the village of her youth after many years absence and buys the farm where she had lived with her widowed mother and two siblings. However, she does not alert the people in the village to whom she really is because the family had left under tragic, seemingly unforgivable circumstances, all those years before.

Harris expertly travels between the present, the past, and the in between in her telling of the tale (not always easy to do).

Our book club discussion was lively, and, as is befitting such a complex story, some of us picked up on threads that others had not; made comparisons that others had not seen, etc. One member aptly said, "This book is like movies such as The Sixth Sense in that you know if you go back and re-read it, you're going to notice things you didn't the first time around".

I don't know if I'll ever read it again; I might hope for a movie rendition, though! And, certainly, I'll likely delve into one or two more of Harris's books.

A word to the wise: Don't read this book while you are hungry. In addition to writing novels, Harris also has co-penned two cookbooks. Food; yummily described, is featured prominently throughout!

BTW, I'd rate this 3 1/2 stars if I could.

Helen of Troy by Margaret George (CD): Really Good/4 Stars

Although I own a copy of the book, I actually listened to it on CD. My guess is that I would have enjoyed reading it just as much as I did listening to it (and, in fact, I did go to the book to re-read a section or two).

It took me forever to get through this; not because it was not good but because it was 25 CDs! I started it in November of 2009 and finished it almost two months later.

Did Helen of Troy (nee Sparta) actually exist? Did Troy? It's unclear whether the characters described in Homer's Iliad (and Odyssey) were real but what seems apparent is that, over time, with all the telling of the stories and tales, they may as well have been.

As with George's other historical fiction tomes featuring strong female personalties (Cleopatra, Mary Queen of Scots, and, Mary Magdalene), the tale is told from Helen's perspective only. It begins with her life as a child in Sparta so the tone changes from that of a child, to a teen, to a young woman, to a middle aged woman, to an old woman; over the course of the book. George is a master at this; you feel as though you're growing up right along side the main character.

Most everyone knows the story of Helen of Troy, "The Face That Launched A Thousand Ships", and how it is intertwined with those of Paris of Troy ("The Judgment of Paris"), Achilles ("Achilles Heel") and, of course, the country of Troy itself and the long battle between Greece and Troy (10 years), seemingly over Helen and waged primarily by her cuckolded husband King Menelaus of Sparta and his war-hungry brother Agamemnon. And, finally, the infamous Trojan Horse, designed by wily Odysseus.

I first learned about all of this through a Greek mythology section my 6th grade teacher taught. Since then, I've remained fascinated by the Greek Gods of Mt. Olympus, the lesser Gods, and the mortal children of both. This is likely why I really got into this particular book because, in addition to telling the story of Helen, there was a lot of antics and involvement from the Gods woven throughout the tale. Additionally, there is excellent character development of some of the lesser, but equally important, folks in the tale (Hector (Paris's older brother) is one of these) plus some invention, I'm sure, of characters that didn't exist (assuming any of them actually did!)

On the surface, it's just a great story of love and war. Dig a bit, though, and there is more depth, if you allow yourself to ponder it.

In any case, I'd definitely recommend this book! Since finishing it, I went back and re-watch "Troy" and may now also re-read my old copy of Edith Hamilton's Greek Mythology!

An Echo in the Bone (Outlander #7) by Diana Gabaldon: Solid/Good/3 Stars

Like a lot of folks, I eagerly await each installment of Gabaldon's series about Jamie Fraser and his time traveling wife, Claire.

I must admit, though, that her earlier books (1-3) were much more interesting to me than the latest ones, this despite the fact that a lot of the action in the more recent books has taken place in 1770s North Carolina. Maybe it is because the older ones focused more on the Claire and Jamie story line (my sister Ann refers to the books as "The Claire and Jamie Books")? I've just not been as engaged with some of the characters that figure prominently in the later tomes.

And, tomes they are. This one was over 800 pages long! I sort of plodded through the first several hundred pages; the action picked up around 400 and I read quickly up until about 700 where it got, I must say, a bit silly, save for one story line (there are typically three or four going on at any one time during the book).

Typical of Gabaldon, she left this one wide wide wide open for #8. She'll have to write another one as too much was left hanging!

I keep waiting and hoping for Jamie to time travel to the present. Now, that would be something worthy of another 800 pages. It hasn't happened though. Yet.

Mrs. B

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mrs. B's 2010 Book Reviews Part One

I've been trying to come up with an easier way to do this series, especially as I read a whopping SIXTY books this year. I know, hard to believe, huh? Anyway, Mr. B was helping me create pie charts of the books' statistics but it sure looked a lot less difficult when he showed me than when I attempted to do them on my own. Cripe, it'd take me longer to do those suckers than put in reviews of all I read! Thanks anyway, Mr. B!

But, for the series opener, I figured I'd throw out the stats I compiled; just in written out format, nothing fancy.

Many of you who frequent my Blog are either also following me on Goodreads OR see my reviews as they come out real time via Facebook. However, this is a nice annual tradition for me; to see in black and white and color all in one place what I've accomplished!

So, here goes the opener. Of the 60 books I read:

7% = hated/1 star
20% = didn't much care for/2 stars
33% = solid/good/3 stars
25% = really good/4 stars
15% = totally awesome/5 stars

85% = fiction (14% of these historical fiction)
15% = nonfiction

Reason Read
17% = book club selection (80% of these 3 stars and above)
38% = recommended to me/someone else I know read it (60% of these 3 stars and above)
45% = my own choice (62% of these 3 stars and above)

32% = listened to (many of the stinkers are in this category, I might add)
68% = read-read (of these, 15% I actually borrowed from the library or someone else; unusual for me since I typically like to own everything I read)

43% were duplicate/favorite authors. Of these, I was sorely disappointed (1 or two stars) in 23%.

Believe it or not, I read the most books (seven) in November. Other heavy hitter months with six each were March, May, August and September. The least read months were January and June (three).

Finally, there was only one book that I started and just could not bring myself to finish. This dubious honor goes to (drum roll):

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick

Summary of the book from Goodreads:
Rural Wisconsin, 1909. In the bitter cold, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman, stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win this man's devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. What she has not counted on, though, is that Truitt - a passionate man with his own dark secrets -has plans of his own for his new wife. Isolated on a remote estate and imprisoned by relentless snow, the story of Ralph and Catherine unfolds in unimaginable ways.

With echoes of Wuthering Heights and Rebecca, Robert Goolrick's intoxicating debut novel delivers a classic tale of suspenseful seduction, set in a world that seems to have gone temporarily off its axis.

My Review:
Quite frankly, this book simply stinks.

I got about 1/2 way through it and just didn't care to finish it.

As for the remainder of my reviews, I think I'll go back to doing it by month, so, next up, January 2010's books!

Mrs. B

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A White Day After Christmas

It did start to snow here around 7 last night; we were freshly home from a wonderful day at my mom and dad's and settled in to watch "It's A Wonderful Life". About 1/2 way through the movie, the ground was covered. As an aside, anyone who doesn't tear up watching this movie is a total Scrooge.

These pictures are from 9 this am. Probably about 5" at this point. Now, at 11 am, it's still coming down and, who knows, maybe we're heading towards a FOOT of it :-)

Since Facebook's photo uploader appears to be on the fritz, I'm resorting to the "old fashioned" way of posting via my Blog!

More pictures of the holiday festivities coming soon!

Mrs. B

Standing on our front porch
Snowy tree in our yard
Our SUV almost covered
Looking down the street
Lucy running in the snow (I love this picture!)
Ok, cold now. Time to let me in!
Our backyard

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays From The B's!

Here is hoping everyone has a wonderful holiday and a terrific New Year.
Mrs. B, Mr. B, Lucy, Pete, Lily, Ares, Athena and Apollo

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mrs. B's Birthday Dinner 12.17.10

As usual, as always, Chef B outdid himself the other night! Let the pictures (and video at the end) speak for themselves!
Mrs. B

My Menu
My Menu and Julia's Cookbook. Per my request, Chef made everything from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking"
Mrs. B and Bubbly. I perched at the kitchen island whilst my Chef did all the hard work!
Beautiful Bubbly in our Wedding Day Champagne Flutes!
First Course. In essence, cheese cookies. Yum. Note: We used Grandma C's china.
A totally classic picture. Chef B pulls the spit out of the poulet. I love the expression on his face!
Saucing the Main Course.
Saucing/plating the Main Course.
A fantastic White Burgundy to accompany our Main Course.
All hail to the wonderful Chef B!
Chef B prepares to enjoy the fruits of his incredible talent!
Surrounded by presents!
I don't care HOW old one is. Opening cards and presents is always fun!
A welcome surprise gift from my Mom. An exact replica of THE cookie jar we grew up with; filled with a special recipe cookie. I'm not gonna post the pictures of me crying. Got me, Momma.
The incredible finale! Pots de Creme and Port. YUM-O

Friday, December 17, 2010

What's In Your Toolkit?

One of the things those of us in Human Resources used to say to employees and managers was, once you learn a new skill or develop an aptitude or live through and grow from a particular difficult experience; these things are now tools in your toolkit and, no matter what, regardless of where you are or what position you find yourself in, you will from here on out carry them with you. Obviously, in that environment, we were referring to knowledge, skills, aptitudes, talents, experiences, abilities, etc., etc. which were mostly work-related.

And, so, we all have tools in our toolkit that pertain to our own professions (or prior professions). We also have tools that are either just an innate part of who we’ve always been, or, tricks we’ve picked up along the way in this game of life. Frankly, I find these a heck of a lot more interesting and fun to discover about people. For instance, you’re at a cocktail party and a person you vaguely know whom you always felt to be somewhat of a stick in the mud and rather boring shocks you by their admission that they play guitar in a grungy rock in roll band. Or, another person who never says “boo” at work cannot be stumped by any quote from a movie; always knowing what movie it was from, which character said it (and to whom) and who the actor was playing the role.

Then, there are folks that you know fairly well who amaze you in your discovery that, outside of your sphere of involvement with them (whether it be work, church, book club or even a good friend or family member) there is something totally unexpected that they either do (sky dive, cater gourmet meals) or can do (play the ukulele, tie a cherry stem in a knot with their tongue).

I woke up this morning, my birthday (the number of years is slightly over the speed limit in a 45 MPH zone), thinking about the tools I have in MY toolkit. Because anyone reading this probably won’t give a rat’s about my professional tools, I’ll leave those out of the list.

· I read Tarot cards/spreads and cast Astrological charts. This is a fun party trick, but, I think a few folks have found these readings/charts helpful during difficult times of their lives.

· I went through a Teaching English as a Second Language certificate program at Duke. I absolutely love coming up with creative lesson plans and teaching individuals who need to be able to function effectively in our country. It’s time consuming, though, so it’s not something I’ve chosen to do as a second career.

· I believe that I can write and that people are usually interested in what I write about. Guess what? If you do a Google search “Microsoft Hearts”, Mrs. B’s Brilliant Blog’s entry about whether or not the game cheats (written by yours truly while in a snit over continually loosing) comes up as #3. Out of 5.6 MILLION results. If you search “Microsoft Hearts Cheat”, the same entry returns at #1 out of just less than a million. Although this is a complete and total fluke, I’m somewhat proud of it!

· I am extremely interested in and consider myself a relative “expert” in these areas:

o The Tudors

o The Wizard of Oz

o The Titanic

This doesn’t necessarily mean much except I can engage in interesting conversation at cocktail parties regailing folks with tid-bits in these areas that they probably didn’t know before!

· I can raise my right eye-brow. I can’t tell you how many times this has come in handy when I’ve wanted to say something not very nice to someone, but couldn’t. This raised eyebrow arch look says it all.

Ok, well, maybe not the most auspicious talents, but, hey, I’m only 47 years old. Who knows what I’ll achieve in the next 50 years! Maybe I’ll finally be able to nail that cherry stem thing.

Mrs. B


Monday, December 13, 2010

A Different Approach

Every year, it’s the same. I spend quite a bit of my time in the creation of either an informative and interesting (but not too long) Holiday letter OR I comb through the multitude of pictures amassed during the year and design a photo Holiday card with an appropriate quote or quip contained therein. Or, in some years, I’ve done both. Then, I dutifully tromp out to the Post Office to buy a sufficient amount of (non-religious) Holiday stamps; typically Snowmen or other non-threatening (or non-insulting) icons.

I’d say in the past I’ve sent out upwards of 75 of these greetings, knowing full well right off the bat that there will be several that won’t reply in kind:

· Older family members. I cut them some slack, however.

· Certain deadbeat family members and/or friends. They don’t get any slack. After a year of not hearing from them, they came off my list. I have to admit, it does surprise me, year to year, whom I don’t hear back from.

· Jewish friends. I’ve cut them slack in the past but upon thinking of it, why is it that Jewish people cannot send out a Holiday greeting? It doesn’t have to say “Merry Christmas”; it can simply be a letter or a picture or a card with a pretty red cardinal in a snowy tree branch. No more slack to be given.

This year, as I prepared to start “the process”, I have to admit my heart just wasn’t really in to it. It’s not that I don’t have any Holiday spirit, I do, I really do. Case in point, I made a huge batch of Cranberry Liqueur to share with seven lucky recipients. Back before Thanksgiving, I began my Holiday baking and ended up with dozens upon dozens of cookie goodies, including:

· Peppermint Shortbread

· Snickerdoodles

· Double Peanut Butter

· Butterscotch Pecan Oatmeal

· Mint Brownies

· Rollo Prezel and Reese’s Pretzel

· Bourbon Pecan Toffee

These I packaged up and shipped out/delivered last week, leaving a sufficient quantity for The Kid’s consumption and to share on Christmas Day.

But, when it came down to it, I just didn’t feel like doing the annual Holiday greeting from the B’s. As I was poking around upstairs in the office, I came across a TON of unused Holiday cards; either leftover from years past or the several different packages of cards I routinely receive from the Humane Society. And, I got to thinking; “Well, let’s do it differently this year”.

So, with the exception of immediate family (who will receive cards I selected for them personally at my local Hallmark), anyone else who receives a greeting from the B’s will receive one of the cards I discovered in our office. Not that there is anything at all wrong with them; they just were not purchased specifically to be sent THIS year.

And, I have another rule, too. I’m not sending a card unless I get a card first. I know, how Scroogie is this, huh? But, seriously, considering how many cards/greetings I typically receive AFTER mine have gone out, I’m fairly certain that others do this exact same thing.

Not counting immediate family, we’ve so far received NINE, which means I have so far sent out NINE. Given we are 13 days away from Christmas, this is a somewhat paltry amount, but, it is what it is.

Oh, and cutsie Holiday stamps? Forget it. I’m using my normal stamps (it just so happens that the Forever stamps now have wintery visions of pinecones and such; it wasn’t planned).

I know Holiday are supposed to be about a lot of things that they never turn out to be about. Like, giving rather than receiving, kindness, being together with family, and, of course, the children. So, maybe I’m being ridiculous with my new stance on Holiday greetings, but, at least I’m not wasting my time, either. I’ve more time to wrap those presents for the children, bake more goodies if I so desire and open up the refrigerator several times a day so I can hear my Snowman in the ‘Fridge telling me to shut the door.

Who says I’ve not got the spirit? It’s just a different approach this year, is all!

Mrs. B

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Yet Another Time Waster

How much fun am I going to have with THIS!, folks!

Mrs. B

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Parade of Homes: Part One

I can't remember when exactly I started doing this, but, instead of counting sheep when I cannot sleep (something, really, that never made much sense to me), I take a mental tour through all of the homes I have lived in. I start out with the one I can remember everything about (or mostly everything); this being the first house we lived in after we moved to San Diego in 1969.

I do recall bits and pieces; odds and ends, about earlier houses, but, interestingly enough, I remember more of things to do with the neighbors/the neighborhood than those actual houses.

For example, the house on Sunset Lane in West Lafayette, IN where my sister and I lived with our Father and Mom, I remember it was next to a energy station and there was a constant buzz in the air. My not-yet Step Dad and his first wife lived on the same street, several houses away. I remember sitting outside at a picnic table there in what was like a breeze-way. And, of course, I remember being knocked off the back-end of my sister's tricycle by a huge standard poodle named Cocoa. How could I NOT remember this as Cocoa, after straddling my chest, bent his head down and bit through the lobe of my left ear. My mom kept the news clipping and I still have it, "Girl, 3 bit by neighborhood dog". Obviously, there wasn't much exciting going on in that town!
The Sunset Lane House
Amy and Ann at Sunset Lane 1964
Amy and Father at Sunset Lane 1965

The next house, the first that my Mom and Step Dad lived in together, was over in Lafayette (as opposed to WEST Lafayette; crossing a bridge over the Wabash meant the difference between the two) was on Carlisle Road. Once again, I don't recall overly much about the house other than snippets. Sitting on the back of the couch watching "The Wizard of Oz" with my sister Ann (duly terrified of the witch and her flying monkeys). Hanging out in this incredible backyard with an astonishing garden with my sisters (now plural as the marriage brought me another sister) and Ann's friend Debbie Boyd. Sitting in Mrs. Boyd's kitchen waiting for her freshly baked bread to come out of the oven. To this day, I remember her killer bread! Vague recollection of spending time in the house behind ours with a boy my age named Simon.
Kathy, Amy and Ann at Carlisle Road 1968
Ann, Debbie and Amy at Carlisle Road 1969

There is probably something more scientific regarding memory than this, but, I think when your memory is still young; meaning, there isn't much yet to remember, what you tend to recall are memories of feelings, events, people; nothing terribly specific. As you mature, your mind is able to hold onto details and put them into their proper place. Hence, the earlier houses I lived in, I don't remember things like how many bedrooms there were, the color of the carpet or where the bathroom was located but I do remember the people surrounding me and certain things that happened. Obviously had I remained in either of those houses for a longer period of time, those things would have stuck with me, just like I can remember every detail of my Grandma's house on Highland because, even though my very first visit there occurred when I was an infant, my last was when I was in my thirties.
Dad, Grandpa, Grandma, Mom and Amy at the
Highland House 1969
Mom, Grandma, Amy and Rebecca at the
Highland House 1994

So, our first house in San Diego on Terrace Drive. That is where my ritualistic Parade of Homes commences when I cannot sleep. With it, and every house the follows, I allow myself to walk up to the front door and go inside. I look to the left, to the right; taking note of the various rooms and even small details like a window seat over there or the placement of the dining room table. With each house, with each room, memories flood and I might find myself a bit distracted. Depending on the mood and what memories chose to come, I may end up in one house for a very long time indeed. Sometimes, in fact, I'll fall asleep never having left the Terrace Drive house.

Sometimes while in the Terrace Drive house, I spend time thinking about the two elderly ladies that lived, by themselves, on either side of us. I liked one "better" than the other, Mrs. Aiken. Her house was pretty large (compared to ours, I guess, which was sort of like a bungalow) and she had this really neat ottoman in her living room that opened up to reveal a stash of toys and games she let me play with. She'd give me treats in her tidy kitchen. The other lady, Mrs. M (I can't recall her last name) lived in a house similar to ours. She also would give me treats but I don't think I had as much fun with her as I did with Mrs. Aiken. Looking back, I do believe they had a sort of adversarial relationship and used me to poke each other; "Take that, Mrs. M., the child is visiting with ME today!" Now, I wonder why; and also why they were always alone. Where were their families? Their grandchildren? I'm sure there were stories, there always are. And, how interesting that my Mom allowed me to go pester them on a routine basis! I cannot imagine anything like that going on these days! But, of course, that was over forty years ago and things have really changed in this world.
Amy and Mom at Terrace Drive. 1969
Note: Mrs. M's house is on the left!

We had this nasty all-black cat named Warlock when we lived on Terrace Drive. Seriously, he was AWFUL. For whatever reason, he took a particular dislike to my sister Ann and would purposefully hide underneath the dining room table, stalking her. When she'd walk by, he'd leap out and pounce on her legs, all claws out. She forever had scratches up and down her skinny white legs (yet another memory!) Because this was before Mom and Dad wised up to leaving cats outside, Warlock met an end he more than likely deserved; squashed on the entrance ramp to I-15 (which was literally a hop, skip and jump down the street).

In the same dining room where Warlock once had his lair, me and a group of my friends chased each other around the table with balloons tied to our ankles. It was my 6th birthday party and my Mom had come up with this brilliant idea; we all had the balloons on our ankles, we went around in a circle and attempted to stomp on the balloons of the girl ahead of us. Once your balloons were stomped, you were out of the circle. The girl with last balloons standing (so to speak) won the game and a prize.

My brother Jon was born when we lived in that house. I woke up one September morning to discover our usual babysitter was there instead of Mom and Dad (we still called him Uncle Butch at that point in time, though). I still remember that the babysitter was tying my shoes when she informed me and Ann that we now had a baby brother.

Ann made me an angel food cake with white frosting and poinsettia decorations for my 7th birthday.
Amy at Terrace Drive with cake by Ann 1970

Dad tells me I learned to really, really read sitting in the window seat with the Little House series. One of his memories is working in the kitchen, hearing me read out loud. One of my chores while living in that house was to empty the trash and clean the ashtrays. I took great pride in being the best ashtray cleaner ever. I had a ritual and an order to the process, the last ashtray I cleaned was always the big heavy clear glass one in the TV room in the back of the house.
Sisters at Terrace Drive: Kathy, Amy and Ann

Ah, having begun this Blog entry, I've realized I have a lot more to remember and write about. So, I'll carry this forward in the next post, as, it's time to get cracking with my present day.

Mrs. B