Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Envelope, Please

In the garden- everything can be put to good use. It's the same in life.

















2008 was the year of broken bones, broken promises and goals not reached. People I loved and assumed could be counted on are gone. By death, divorce or other design, members of my family come to accept the disappointment that people we love are quite willing to let us go.

Could- have, would- have and should-have- these words are wasted exercise. Better to exorcise. Regrets, disappointments, fears- list their names on scraps of paper.
Stuff into an envelope. Before lighting the New Year’s Eve fire, seal the envelope- then use it as a torch. Toss it in and imagine the flames purging your life of what is best left behind. Raise a toast that the old demons are now reduced to ashes. Promise to God to use what is left to build a more beautiful future.
New Year’s Day, the logs and paper will have converted to charcoal and cooled. Collect in a bucket and escort them to their next home- perhaps to the vegetable path.
Soil loves to be enriched with the cast-offs of our history. Calcium from breakfast eggs hells. Leaves blown off the crepe myrtle trees by winter winds. The ashes from the fireplace. When we till these offerings into the soil, Mother Nature works her magic with them, turning what some only see as trash into nutritious soil on which a beautiful garden will flourish.

New Year's Eve, 1974. I was at New Year's Eve Party in Belmont Shores. To the outside world, I appeared quite happy. Inside, I was mush. Lonely mush. A gallant young man had galloped through my life- I hadn't seen him in exactly one year- so of course I was pining after what I could not have. Alone on the chilly deck outside the party, I decided this pity party was really boring- quite non-productive- I promised God I was ready to move on.



At that exact moment- a friend of a guest came out to check on me. What I thought of at the time was a low point in my life- I now understand was a bounce point. This new young man- Gerry Plunk- we've been married for 33 years. The stuff with the other fellow- it turned to compost.






The Garden Photographs were taken at the Sherman Gardens and Library in Corona del Mar. Each was chosen as proof that circumstances should never be allowed to get in the way of your desire to connect with nature. The one true connection to nature- is through the garden. No ground space- go vertical like the impatiens planted up the palm tree. Or hang a pot. Lack of water- humble succulents can be beautiful.
Admiral Envelope has a rainbow assortment of different envelopes which can be viewed on http://www.admiralenvelope.com/index.php

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Hazelnut Torte Cake



To my friends needing one more recipe for a dessert- but want something lighter-

To my friends with Celiac Sprue- the gluten intolerant disease: This recipe is my gift to you.

Preheat oven to 325 F. Grease and flour a 9 " spring form pan.

12 ounces Hazelnuts - in a blender, grind into a finely textured meal
2 tsp baking powder - blend in
6 Egg Yolks- break into large separate bowl
2/3 cups Sugar- whip into egg yolks
2 tsp. Vanilla Extract*
Thoroughly stir in the hazelnut mixture
6 Egg Whites- in a different bowl with clean whisk- beat to form stiff peaks
Gently fold in the hazelnut mixture, 1/3 at a time until no white streaks appear.

Pour into 2 buttered and floured 9" springform pan. Bake for 60-75 minutes. Test for doneness by lightly tapping the cake top. When it springs back- the cake is cooked.
Cool completely on rack. When completely cool, change one layer into two by slicing in half horizontally.

Whip Cream Frosting
1 Pint Heavy Whipping Cream
1 tbs Vanilla
1/2 Cup Sugar Whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Slowly add vanilla and sugar for maximum flavor.

2 Pints fresh Strawberries, divided and de-stemmed

Spread whipped cream over bottom layer. Embed enough quartered strawberries for added support between layers. Generously slather whipped cream frosting on top and sides. Pipe an edge to form an outer border to hold up whole strawberries on top. Decorate sides with halved strawberries. Refrigerate until serving time.

*Not all vanilla is gluten free. Rodelle makes a gourmet quality gluten-free extract.


Hazelnuts can be found in most better specialty grocery stores.


Monday, December 22, 2008

Finding Blessings

B-rrrr. Gloria Whitley sent the photo from the Pacific Northwest. One thing about snow. Every one I know from a chilly climate is nice. Think it has to do with the blessing of so much time inside together.



Obviously, it was warmer in September when Anka Sepulveda and her husband Chet Wills met me for dinner in Portland.





B-rrrr.

While these families shovel snow, I will be putting into action an idea from the trip to Eugene with GWA: strawberries as a ground cover.

Even with vastly different climates- there are still garden ideas we can share. That is a blessing of travel. I plan to plug in a dozen little plants in the plantar next to the spa. Then this spring, I imagine sitting in the bubbling hot tub, reaching over to pluck strawberries and pop them into the mouth straight from the garden - that is luxury better than supplied by any resort.




Life is like a bed of roses. Full of beauty. But every voluptuous flower is held at the end of a thorny stem. The 2009 AARS Hybrid Tea winner "Pink Promise" fills the vase with blooms. A portion of the proceeds of every bush sold is being donated to support the work of the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Osh and Costco are among the retailers who now have them in stock. Every one you purchase is a blessing given and received.

This Irish blessing, I almost didn't open it. Sometimes I get impatient about downloads. But the Irish are poets- I had to make the time. It is about the truest little clip about the blessings we should ask for each other


video
More inspirational downloads can be found at http://www.e-water.net/info_en.php
This Christmas, I wish your life to be overflowing with true blessings.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any Presents”
Jo March (Louisa May Alcott).
The house is decorated. The presents wrapped. The merry clanging of the accouterments of baking and candy making accompany Christmas Carols playing on the stereo. Between batches, I am dusting off cherished volumes on the bookshelves. One by one I open the books, pulling out scraps of paper marking where favorite passages are highlighted. Author Sarah Ban Breathnach obviously does the same. She wrote about the passage above in her classic Simple Abundance- A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. Her entry “Gifts of the Magi” recalls Jo grumbling about their poverty at Christmas in Little Women.
Sarah is emphatic: Christmas is about gifts. Always has been. Always will be. The trick is to give important gifts- the best of which cannot be wrapped up in a box.
That first Christmas showed what gifts are precious. Gifts of the Spirit. Joseph gave Mary the gift of trust that she was not carrying another man’s child. Angels brought the gift of joy through song. An innkeeper gave shelter of what he could. The Three Wise Men gave the gift of diversion. They had every reason to be skeptical- the baby in a manger did not match their notion of the circumstances they would find the promised “King of Kings” to be in. At the risk of their own lives- they did not tell the truth to King Herod. Instead of returning with news of where the insane despot could find the baby, they helped the young family escape to safety in Egypt.
Perhaps all this is why the Nativity Scene, which wandered tabletops and mantles for many Christmases until it finally found its home on top of the piano.
There is something Karmic about the manger scene lying at the feet of an Egyptian papyrus painted with the classic Egyptian fable of the journey from this life to the next.
The papyrus came rolled up in my husband’s suitcase from the bazaar: it arrived as a terribly wrinkled souvenir of a long-ago business trip to Egypt. When we could afford to have the memento properly mounted and framed, it hung in Gerry’s office until he decided to make a career change that would have him better able to enjoy our son’s company before they moved on in adulthood.
Setting up the manger has always been special. But rituals need updating to keep their inspiration fresh. This year is lean- what could be put together to freshen the crèche? What could be crafted to pull our attention to the emotional impact that belongs in Christmas?

The answer was in using what we already owned and repositioning. The Angels- these paper-machete ornaments didn’t have to be hung from the tree. The cloisonné-like snowflake pulls in the colors from the Egyptian papyrus. To the child-like imagination it is quite acceptable Technicolor Stand-in for the Star of Bethlehem.

Next- how to make the angels fly underneath a brightly lit sky? A saleslady at Through the Garden Gate reminded me that the disposable hangars from the dry cleaners- the ones with a tube in the center- pull apart leaving these little “hooks” which can be cut right off the hangar. Voila`- these hooks were hot-glued to disposable chop sticks, which were in turn hot-glued to the manger.

Merry Chrismas Everyone. May your eyes, ears and hearts be open to all the love and wonder of the season.

The papyrus was prepared for dry mounting and custom framed by Baxter's Frame Works, 1273 S. Diamond Bar Blvd. Diamond Bar, CA 91765 (800) New-Frame (909) 861-3033 http://www.baxtersframeworks.com/
Through the Garden Gate is at 895 West Whittier Blvd, La Habra, CA (562)697-6869
has a sister boutique, Through the Garden Gate Too located just afew blocks east in the El Cholo Plaza.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Garden Blooming Blog Day- December

Dateline: Diamond Bar
USDA: Zone 10
Elevation: Estimated at 800 foot above sea level

I learned from Debra Prinzing that on or about the 15th of each month the plan is for garden bloggers to run around with a camera and document what is blooming.
If you live where it snows: you may eat your heart out- this has less calories than cookies.
Here's my first official contribution- limited by my pre-caffeine photo-shoot capabilities this morning.
The bougainvillea in top photograph was chosen for the chameleon changing of its tissue paper bracts in shades of peach and pink.

This pixie impatiens blooming in the window box outside my shed is replenished from cuttings.



Statice and "red" Valerian bloom in flushes nearly year round. If someone can ever explain why a plant with pink blossoms is called red- that description does drive me nuts.


Chartreuse shrimp plant is also easy to cultivate from cuttings and are long lasting in the vase.







The cooler night time temperatures have triggered the tangerines to turn orange.



The succulent sunburst Aenium 'Sunburst' are propagated from cuttings stuck in spots that are inhospitably hot in summer to most traditional flowering plants.




What would Christmas be without poinsettias?
The dew drops on the leaves of the burgundy plant are a giveaway to its placement in the side yard.



Author Debra Prinzing's blog shedstyle is a
regular stop on my blogosphere rounds.
Her post at http://www.shedstyle.com/2008/12/15/december-garden-bloggers-bloom-day-my-first-installment/ is how I learned about Garden
Bloggers Bloom Day!
Not shown are the roses and Angel Trumpet- which look a bit beat-down from the past few days of serious rainfall.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Perfect Christmas is Imperfect



Rarely are the best Christmas memories the most expensive. The best are the ones most personal ones. The ones with hurdles to overcome. the ones when you have to "make do" with imperfect circumstance.

It came at the end of one of the years that Trevor played Pop Warner Football. Otherwise known as the winter of infectious childhood disease.


As the "bumps" made the rounds- this mommy was pretty much locked at home for the weeks leading up to Christmas. Not being able to leave home except when my hard-working husband was home- about the only things I could do was to pick tangerines and take the list to the grocery store. That year turned into the year of the perfectly turned out meal.


The menu was posted on the refrigerator. The table was set ahead of time. Platters, bowls and serve ware were matched to the menu- each container was labeled with a little tag of what was to go in it for the big holiday meal.
A backwards countdown determined the time to start each dish. Everything for the main meal was ready to go hot and fresh to the table- at the same time.
My father-in-law was not the easiest man to please. But that year he bragged on that meal like it was served at the Four Seasons.
I have not a clue what we gave or got that year. What I remember is how adorable the boys were in homemade costumes. performing their play and the miracle of how stress-less it all was.


"Theme-ing" presents is a great way to elevate simple gifts to a memorable event. A youngster's family would remember a Mouse Christmas.
Laura Numeroff's award winning "If you give a Mouse a Cookie" is delightful reading for a young child and can usually be found at local bookstores..


The plate of Night Before Christmas Cookies was presented by Sue Maxwell- aka Oregon Sue- who who sent the recipe with a photograph from Dede Wilson's Bakers Field Guide to Cookies, with this note.
"I used to pipe on the eyes and nose, but I found miniature chocolate chips and just stick them on instead. So much easier! They keep their shape when they are cooked. Easy! Use a small chopstick or one of those long skewers to poke a hole in for the tail after they are cooked. I couldn't find the black licorice for the tails here, so I use red. It's the "lace" and you peel off the strands ... "
The book, the cookbook and the cookies are nice in their own right. But given together the pleasure multiples the memory of each.


The recipe for Night Before Christmas Mice (with more pictures!) Can be found at http://www.leftoverqueen.com/2007/12/24/christmas-cookie-series-night-before-christmas-mice/

Author Laura Numeroff's web site can be found at http://www.lauranumeroff.com/index.htm


A chocolatey version of the cookies can be found at //http://www.recipelink.com/mf/31/2762

Thursday, December 11, 2008

More Holiday Traditions

My father was a security guard for most of his working life. My college-educated mother stayed at home with their three daughters until the oldest of us was married. We didn't have much in the way of material goods. But we had books to fill a library. That made us as good as rich.
I passed to our children the love of language by including the gift of a book with every holiday celebration. No celebration is complete in our home unless there is something to read and remember.

Here are a couple recommendations I would like to pass on to you

First thing in the morning, Doug Green is a double- shot of espresso. He runs a blog from about as far away from here as one can get and still live on the same continent. On the east coast- in another nation, Canada. I subscribe to his blog because I find it much like him- intelligent, thought-provoking and high energy.
His recommendation of My Natural History (The Evolution of a Gardener) by Liz Primeau pushed it to the front of the line to make it to my last book order.
My Natural History is a loving journal of what it means to become a gardener. Liz Primeau put in writing "Whatever our differences in regards to politics, religion or age, all the ones I've met could talk non-stop about gardening."


Paula Panich sent an e-mail addressed to her friends who love France and life about Mark Greenside's newly published I'll Never Be French (No Matter What I Do)- "I am a terrible snob when it comes to nonfiction writing, so that when I beg, plead, and whine: BUY THIS BOOK NOW, please know I love it myself, even though it contains a terrible flaw: I'm NOT in it."

John McMurtrie, Book Editor for the San Francisco Chronicle wrote in his December 7th review, "Imagine Larry David, the maddeningly neurotic but hilarious comic, spending a summer in a French village - against his will, of course - and you get some sense of what Mark Greenside goes through in his engaging memoir "I'll Never Be French (No Matter What I Do)."
Turning the pages, I couldn't help but think that if Mr. Greenside and I met in a political context, we would almost certainly lock horns. However, on the pages of this book- I liked this man very much.
Travel has a way of changing how you look at yourself. Mark Greenside's retelling of accidentally falling in love with a foreign land while simultaneously feeling more mainstream American is enchanting and crisply humorous.

How information is gotten out is changing. In addition to books- there is the Internet.
When searching for a specific recipe- it can be pretty handy. Helen Doss found this gem of an appetizer on the Food Network site. It is by Giada de Laurentis. It is GOOD.

Crostini with Sun-Dried Tomato Jam:
1 (8-ounce) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped, oil reserved
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Crostini: 1 baguette, cut into 3/4-inch slices
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
5 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

For the Sun-dried Tomato Jam
Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of the reserved sun-dried tomato oil, olive oil, onion, and garlic. Stir and cook until the onions are soft and beginning to brown at the edges, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the sugar, vinegar, water, chicken broth, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and continue simmering until most of the liquid is reduced and the mixture is the consistency of jam, about 5 to 10 more minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside. For the Crostini: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place the baguette slices on the baking sheet. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the baguette slices with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until lightly toasted, about 8 minutes. Place the soft goat cheese in a small bowl. Stir in the thyme. To assemble: Spread the crostini with Sun-Dried Tomato Jam and top with the goat cheese and herb mixture. Transfer to a serving plate and serve.

Doug Green's website is http://www.douggreensgarden.com/ You can subscribe to his blog there.

San Francisco Chronicle article can be read in its entirety at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/12/05/RVKQ14F7IT.DTL&feed=rss.books

Giada de Laurentis' recipes can be accessed through the Food Network at http://www.foodnetwork.com/search/episode.do?fnTalent=83&fnShowId=&fnSearchString=&fnStartDate=mm%2Fdd%2Fyy&fnEndDate=mm%2Fdd%2Fyy&fnSearchType=episodeFinder

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Heartfelt Acts

Friendship is the best gift.

Living in the Internet age means is that friends who move away are just a click away.

My friend Becky Neil, now lives in the (frozen) banana belt of Montana. I love her because ever since we met when I was eighteen, she worries about me and wants the best for me. Like my own personal guardian angel, the unseen Becky hovers through the keyboard- always nudging me towards what is Godly and important. She got me hooked on the Harvest Daily Devotionals by Greg Laurie.

I like them all, but the one titled "Heartfelt Acts" published on December first is very special this year when the Christmas Spirit is tame in homes across America. The lesson opens with how the Bible does not spend allot of time on the historic events of the Roman Empire. The text instead is thick with what is truly great. About people. Relationships. Home. About not fretting over when we have fallen. Give mistakes to God- He gives us the forgiveness we need to get back up.
What Pastor Laurie taught in the story of the woman who bathed Jesus' feet was that "...it wasn't the gift that mattered. It was her heart behind the gift."



When you put out the Christmas decorations, you don't think about what you spent on those that are now traditions. You think about the memories they trigger.


Every year a small rosemary topiary tree is decorated in our kitchen. It is covered with gingerbread ornaments, candy and a ribbon which ties an ornament which came on a package many years ago. The corn husk doll has been with us since we were first married. The oils in the tree scent that corner of our home. The aroma transports me to family feasts of Christmas past. I see our my son, Trevor, carving the turkey with a surgeon's precision. I imagine Kenny, a growing child, playing fetch with the dogs. I remember my nieces and nephews stopping by on their way to see their grandmother- their eyes wide-open when handed their own presents. It didn't cost my family anything to give me these memories. All they had to do was show up and be themselves.

In 1998 I was founding President of the Diamond Bar Republican Women Federated (DBRWF). Whatever it has achieved politically- policy is important- it is the friendships with a group of giving people filled with passion for common sense that keeps me coming back long after I left political life.


Jody Roberto (right) is special to me because she is the one who talked me into giving the invocations for the DBRWF It's been a privilege that brings me joy.

Outgoing President Jody, is holding up the sweatshirt custom crafted into the cutest sweater given to her as a token of appreciation for two years of leadership as President. The board arranged for the Americana inspired design to be done by Kathy Delgado.


Senator Robert S. Huff (aka Bob) rushed Between Sacramento and Washington D.C. to be back home to swear in the incoming board.


(L-R) Barbara Carrera. Jody Roberto, Trisha Bowler, Jolene Zirbes and Patty Anis.




Holding their certificates are Diamond Bar Mayor Pro Tem Carol Herrera and Edda Gahm. I love Carol because when I have a question she points me efficiently to good sources. The Pop Warner Cheerleaders were having difficulty this month finding sponsors for a trip. I sent a note to her- she wrote back with suggestions- I hear the fundraising goals were quickly met.

Edda is the trusted keeper of my secrets.


(L) Jolene Zirbes is a bank Vice President. When her late husband hired me as Editor of the community newspaper, The Windmill, I instituted the editor's column. Her reaction to that column still means the world to me.

(R) Patty Anis is the "quiet one". One of the most dependable people I have ever met. On Saint Patrick's Day I always raise a toast to our Saint Patty.






(L) Barbara Carrera- Incoming President- is eternally 21. One of the most evenly pleasant people I have ever known.
(C) Trisha Bowler- her name can be found in the dictionary under "loyalty".

(R) Jolene Zirbes


(L) Bob Huff- see the Senator's face light up- it does that whenever his wife, Mei-Mei, enters the room.

Shown with Barbara Carrera and Trisha Bowler- aka "Big Red".


There are many others attending that night. Too many to mention here. Some who are camera shy.
I used to wish there was money to buy you all presents for what you do. I wished I had time to make you all something special. But money and time are not commodities I am rich in.
But what I have- words and thoughts of good wishes- I give you freely. God Bless You, everyone.

Greg Laurie's Devotion " A Heartfelt Act" can be linked to directly at http://www.harvest.org/devotional/archive/devotion.html?date=2008-12-01
Kathy Delgado who turns sweatshirts into wearable art can be reached at 909-396-7181


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Piano Player Becomes a Senator

December, 1993. I was searching for someone to play Christmas carols for seventeen of my friends to sing along to at my Cookie Exchange. Bob Huff volunteered. He prefaced his offer by asking me not to expect too much. Since his fee was exactly what my husband wanted me to budget (nothing), without touching a key or hearing his voice, Bob got the job.
Bob never told me that when he was in college at Westmont, he recorded two albums of hymns with the Russia for Christ Choir. They performed in Russian for shortwave radio stations to beam inside the iron curtain during the Cold War. His warm voice just might be responsible for the thaw in international relations.
Since he doesn't remember the words now, Bob doesn't tell people that he has sung in French, German, Latin and Spanish.
If you want to know Bob's impressive resume'- that can be looked up on-line. But if you ever are asked in a stump the guest game, what languages Bob has sung in, you can add to the list above, Mandarin, Taiwanese and- of course- English.

December 2008, my piano player with the melodious voice is now California State Senator Robert S. Bob Huff. There are very few occasions when a gal gets to see a personal friend go to the Senate. So with my husband's blessing and encouragement, I flew up to Sacramento for the day. To see Mei Mei's "Bobby" sworn in.

I called my trustworthy travel agent- Patty Gee booked me on Southwest Airlines, out of Ontario Airport.

These are my recollections, observations, and commentary from this most significant day.

The early morning was gorgeous. As the sun lifted the day from darkness, it back- lit the hillsides in dark silhouette. Iridescent peach-colored clouds shimmered in the turquoise sky like a giant silk sari from above tossed across the landscape.

I didn't know my full fortune. Fog closed airports that morning from San Diego to Sacramento for hours. Friends flying up from Long Beach Airport (including the one with a rental car, and the one who knew the full address of where to meet in the Capitol) were delayed 5 hours. Not even the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Ronald George was able to officiate as scheduled: fog.

The fog lifted just enough in Sacramento for my plane to land close to on-time. I was in the right City. I knew who, what, why, when.

The driver pointed the cab in the direction of the capitol, turned on the meter and drove. To his amusement- I am in the backseat dialing from my cell phone trying to find out where exactly I am supposed to be. The 411 operator swears there is no phone assigned to Robert Huff in either the Assembly or the Senate. With the changing of the guard, the Capitol Operator was too busy to help.
I forget if it was Tim Shaw, Jr. or Jody Roberto who answered their cell phone. They were among the group still bonding at the Long Beach Airport. I now had a room number. Fortunately, there is only one building to choose from.



People dress differently in the Capitol. The male visitor's guides at the airport wore top hats and tails straight out of Dickens. The officers guarding the capitol sit tall in the saddle. They looked quite happy. The officers inside the building wear these Smokey-the-Bear hats and very serious faces.

Being a So Cal lifer, I am used to dress-casual being appropriate for all but the most formal event. The only other times I have seen so many dressed in dark ensembles is at funerals or in movies like The Godfather.

Okay- The guys really looked smart in their suits and ties. The women were svetle.





(Mei Mei Ho Huff with daughter Jessica)










(Bob with wife and daughter)























(Bob with Mark Mendoza)



Me, in my camel woolen sweater over a suede skirt and
boots- I looked like a tea-stained polar bear.

After a light buffet breakfast graciously served in the Senate President pro Tempore's reception area- the prosciutto wrapped asparagus were scrumptious- my camera and I had time to do a little exploring on our own.

The California Capitol building- much of it is utilitarian. But then there are these wonderful details scattered about underneath the tall ceilings- although I must admit- that hanging finial in the Senate Galley- in an earthquake- I wouldn't want to be sitting underneath this







This tile "rug"- the detail from the trip I would most like to bring home. It was not in any special room. It was just infront of an elevator hallway. The very simple vine and border's intricate execution graced the otherwise plebian space with understated elegance.





It was fun to compare the portraits of two California Governor's hanging on the same grouping in a back hallway- the late President Ronald Reagan and now Attorney General Jerry Brown . The official portraits are as different from the men themselves.












The Assembly deliberates on green carpeting.The Senate deliberate on rich red flooring. Perhaps this Christmas- year-round ambiance created this legislative majority class to vote as though they are, as a body, Santa Claus incarnate.




Promptly at 11:45, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi welcomed the Senators, families and guests to the opening of the 2009-2010 regular session of the California Senate.


The Sacramento Children's Chorus sang away my political cynicism. Joy to the season!


The Chaplain of the Senate, Rabbi Mona Alfi's invocation of brought God in the room ahead of any politics. As it should be.

When the Hon. Arthur G. Scotland, Presiding Justice, California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District administered the oath of office to Bob and his colleagues, my pride in Bob manifest itself in tears. Bob is not just an able legislature- he is a truly good man. I thought about all the men who serve because they are addicted to microphones and cameras- the attention. Bob is one of those who loves the work. Government is his calling. Nothing more, nothing less.

The President pro Tempore of the Senate Darrell Steinberg delivered his opening speech. He seems quite an affable man- although my first impression is a bit more complicated than that. He opened his remarks with the admission that our beloved state is 28 billion dollars in debt. His words which followed then did not square the the gravity ot answer how best to come to terms- to get past the economic emergency. The way he quoted President Lincoln about the need to "hustle"- was way out of context. The misappropriation of words gave me "Republican Reflex"- aka "Hold-on-to-Your Wallet" syndrome. That tacky 80's pop tune "Do the Hustle" played on my imagination. He spoke of bonds-triggering my impish-Irish alter-ego into thinking that he would hold us in "bond-age".

It was a missed opportunity. It tinged my happiness for Bob with some sadness for the process. There is much to agree on in a general sense- but rather than build consensus- Senator Steinberg's speech became a lecture which left me thinking he had the potential to be a one man filibuster. His speech convinced me- of all the minority labels I qualify to use- the only one which in this day an age causes me to be an outcast- is that I am a Republican in California. It is the only minority label the legislature refuses to give any measure of respect to. It should.


The Minority Floor Leader Dave Cogdill was right in his remarks which followed. There is agreement on many of the platitudes of Senator Steinberg. However, God is not just in the details- so is the devil.

Departing, I wondered if those at the front dias had come to take for granted these words, widely attributed to Cicero, emblazoned on the front of the Senate rostrum

Senatoris est civitatis libertatem tueri.

Translation:

It is the duty of the senators to protect the liberty of the citizens

Bob takes his work seriously. His first day as a Senator, Bob introduced legislation to implement performance-based budgeting. Way to Go, Bob! There is no liberty for the citizens if we are subject to unbridled predatory taxation.

Bob and wife, Mei-Mei, walked hand in hand, leading what ended up being nearly 40 family, friends and staff to lunch two blocks to the Pyramid Alehouse. A most efficient waiter kept us in soft drinks fed us from a menu selected for the occasion. What to eat? When in doubt: ask the waiter. His suggestion-Philly cheese steak sandwich- was the best I've ever eaten.

Some time before we took our last bites- the Long Beach crew entered to a standing ovation! And a well deserved lunch.


Appetites satisfied, those who had not made it in time for Bob's swearing in could finally peak at his new office.
We all met up again at Bob and Mei Mei's Sacramento home. Chatting and waiting to head back to our respective homes. Next comes under saving the best for last. Meeting members of Bob's original large farm family.
Sitting in the Huff family room, it was as if I stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting and it sprung to life. Over the fireplace were a signature collection of old tools, very much like he has kept in every home I've known him to have.






Meet Clyde Huff and his wife, Joan. Clyde was standing just above me in the gallery during the swearing-in. His pride in his baby brother, Bob, was manifest in his face. baby brother- Bob. Joan, shown with tools, is the quilter in the family.






Meet John and Pat Huff. John is seen with the youngest guest- Jared- who turned the trip into a school project. Pat (seen below with table cloth) was decorating a tablecloth with "chicken scratch". She told me the technique is often called "poor man's lace". Its like cross-stitching- but each symbol sewn on is not just an "x'. It's a cross stitched over a star. Light thread is stitched over dark squares: dark stitches over light squares. The pattern created is pure farmhouse delight.








Bruce and Liz "Bob's sister" Leary- are the operations and programming directors of CORR- City of Refuge Ranch ministires- offering Biblical Studies to inmates and working hard to expand their ministry dedicated to safely and responsibly returning parolees to God and society. Liz crocheted.



Doreen, a family friend, drove up with Bruce and Liz. She was knitting a scarf to become a Christmas present. Originally from England- she knows the town where my husband was born. Now she lives in neighboring Chino Hills- the Leary's picked her up on their way up.







It was nearing time to depart. The fog was rolling back in, thick and fast. Denise Bitell let me hitch a ride with her, Jody, Tim, Edda Gahm and Leia Hernandez. Their flight was leaving after mine.

Our special day ended pretty much the way it started. I got home easily. The poor Long Beach contingent continued their adventure when they landed in Burbank- took a rental car to Long Beach to pick up their cars- then drove back to their homes. In the fog.





Pat Gee is with Progressive Travel, located in the Pacific Palms Resort, City of Industry. http://www.progressivetours.com/




Mark Mendoza is Real Estate Program Manager for Ace.- Alameda Corridor East




I met Ronald Reagan once when he was Governor. I was probably a high school sophomore.




Pyramid Alehouse 1029 K St., Sacramento, CA 95814 (916) 498-9800 other locations found at website http://www.pyramidbrew.com/




The legislation introduced Bob's first day as a Senator is detailed at http://cssrc.us/web/29/news.aspx?id=5209





More information on CORR can be found at http://www.mgfhq.org/Leary/corr.html