Monday, November 14, 2011

Fall Postcard...101 Years Later

As many of you who read the blog are already I aware, I live in a giant old house filled to the rafters with stuff. I use the word stuff, because this matter that occupies most of my house can't really be classified as "junk" or "crap" or even "flotsam and jetsam" of dry's history.  It's my family's history, deposited here over the years and now it's an archive of American history.  And so it was in this archive that I was cleaning yesterday and came across my great-grandpa's collection of post cards from the turn of the last century.  My eye happened upon this very pretty one...

Postmarked November 14th, 1910

This postcard is 101 years old today.  It was sent from my great-great-aunt Anna Braun to her brother, my great-grandpa Edmond Braun.  For those who cannot read the tiny pencil script I have transcribed it for you...

Dear Brother,

Received your letter yesterday, was perfectly horrified to hear that H. [their sister Helen] had scarlet fever but am glad it is only a light fever.  Hope Willie [their little brother] won't take it and still maybe it would be better for him to have it now too as he will never have better care than at present and while he is small too.  Let us know any news you get from them and please address my mail to [unreadable].  I go to the post office about every other day so I would get it about as soon as from there and then if any more is said about ________ John won't know about it because he can hardly but read them when he brings the letters from the P.O. [post office] and wants to.


So just to clarify a few things here is the back story on this post card.  My great-grandpa was living in Barstow at the time this letter was sent.  He was living in a cave outside of town while working as a brakeman for the railroad.  His elder half-sister Anna was living in Grand Junction, Colorado with their other sister Helen and her postman husband John Chalmers.  So when Anna refers to John hardly being able "to help but read the letters" she is referring to him apparently reading all of the postcards he delivered before he actually delivered them.  Helen, who was married to the nosy postman was away in Napa Valley at this time visiting their mother Rosa who was living with their two youngest half siblings Willie and Theodora (Teddy) at the Elmshaven Estate in St. Helena, California.  Anyhow, obviously they didn't want John to know that his darling wife Helen was sick with scarlet fever all the way in California so they conspired to keep it from him.  Now for those who are concerned about Helen's fate...she recovered and lived to be 78 years old.  So all is well that ends well.  

Now for those who would like a visual to go with the players in our story here they are:

From Left to Right Back Row:  Anna, Ernest and Helen Braun
Center Row: Wilhelm Rieke and Rosa Rieke
Bottom Row:  Theodora, Edmond Davis-Braun and William Rieke

Ed Braun - the recipient of the postcard

Anna Braun Overman - the writer of the

Helen Braun Chalmers - the "H"
with scarlet fever in the letter

Willie Rieke - the younger
brother who may have benefited
from scarlet fever but never actually
got it.

Rosa Goerke Braun Davis Rieke -
the mother who never got Scarlet Fever either

John Chalmers and daughter Clarice
I was lucky enough to find this old cyanotype of John Chalmers with a postcard in hand, holding his mail pouch, with his daughter Clarice riding inside, in his postal uniform.  Before facebook we sent postcards with little tid bits of information to show proof of life to our loved ones who were far far away.  So maybe time or at least people haven't really changed that much at all.

And here is proof that Helen lived to be 78...
So 101 years later I guess these people, though long gone, are not forgotten...if only because they left this little post card behind that gives us a window into their world.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th, ten years later...because it's only appropriate.

Ten years ago I woke up from having my wisdom teeth removed to see the first of the World Trade Center's towers burning on the TODAY show on NBC.  I assumed I was we all know anesthesia and Novocaine can do bizarre things to you and after all I often hallucinated about Matt Lauer.   But, wasn't a figment of my imagination.  As we all know it was very very real.

These are my wisdom teeth 10 years later...they look
surprisingly like candy corn.

That morning my dad had just picked my mom up from LAX as she returned from a business trip to Alaska.  Trivial as it might sound...that would be the last time that my dad would ever be able to wait at the gate in the airport terminal with flowers in hand able to give my mom a hug the moment she disembarked the plane.

I went and crawled into the bed of my grandmother in the room next to me.  She was sitting on the edge of the bed with remote in hand toggling back and forth between the television stations trying to find out any new bit of information she could.  The first thing she said to me struck me as odd..."This is the first time I have ever seen all the television stations without a single commercial..."

There was silence between us for a few minutes but I knew exactly what she meant.  It was a new day in America.  When the almighty dollar is put on hold for 72 know something has changed.  And after all, what was the point of commenting on the horror of what we were seeing?  Some things just don't need to be stated.

I was 19-years-old that day, the same age my Grandma Dorothy had been sixty years earlier when she sat in front of a Zenith Stratosphere radio listening to the reports of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  I had the immediate thought that history was about to repeat itself.  I assumed that soon we would be at war, this time World War III.  I would have to become a nurse at the Air Force Base delivering babies like my grandma had done, we would have to start rationing canned goods and panty hose and all the boys I had grown up going to school with would ship off and who, just who, would be this generation's Bob Hope?

My grandmother Dorothy May Govan in 1941

Clearly these were the stupid naive rambling thoughts of a teenager, still under the influence of sedatives and pain killers.  But the strange thoughts just kept coming.  My mind immediately flashed back to the summer of 1999 when I had been a teenage diplomate at a program for international high school students at the United Nations and my friend Michael Biel (from Germany) and I had broken away from the chaperones and gone up to the top of the World Trade Center and taken a quick picture with the New York skyline behind us.  As trivial as it seemed I had this instant sense of mourning that we would never be able to duplicate that picture when we were older like in a Kodak commercial.  I remembered that that trip to "UN Camp" had been the first time in my little life that I realized that the rest of the world wasn't too fond of us Americans. Then those thoughts were pushed from my mind as I watched the first tower start to collapse on television.

WTC, Observation Deck of Tower 1, July 1999
And suddenly I suppose I started to realize that I was watching people dying in real time.  We were seeing death in real time that was somehow in slow motion.  As the towers collapsed floor by floor it seemed liked it was going just fast enough to make it impossible for people to escape but just slow enough to inflict tortuous anguish on those who watched.   And there is something about seeing death in real time that kind of burns the lining of your stomach and causes the back of your throat to both dry and swell at the same time.

It would turn out that I never became a nurse delivering babies at the Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, California like my grandma, but I would train to be a first responder and then do a masters degree up the street from the Norton Air Force Base at Loma Linda University's School of Public Health, specializing in disaster management.  The boys I grew up with didn't all ship off.  Just a few did.  My family's neighbor Thomas Jenkins Jr. from our little town of Coulterville, California (pop. 115) was the first casualty of the first Gulf War...made the cover of  Time Magazine...and I had it in my mind that if you went to war you never ever came back.  But all the guys from my cohort came back..they weren't the same though...not ever.

Lance Cpl. Thomas Jenkins, 21 of
Coulterville, California

Subsequently, the Patriot Act was passed.  US troops deployed to Afghanistan, Toby Keith was everywhere.  Suddenly it was cool to be an American again, where in my teens it had been oh so gauche.  Air travel went from being an awesome experience to a loathsome humiliating experience.  Islam became a loaded, if not dirty, word.  Everything was different and yet everything was the same.  We (the US) were still rich, we were supposed to shop and consume and travel and shop and consume some more.  Our civil rights were different.  Our national security was different.  Our concept of "us" and "them" was different...but our Starbucks and credit card limits stayed the same.

On March 20th, 2003 I was in the tiny medieval walled town of Trujillo, Spain, staying in a 16th century Franciscan monastery that had been converted into a hotel.  Everything in the room, save for the flat screen television broadcasting CNN, looked just like it had 500 years ago when the building was first constructed.  I watched as the imbedded reporters cruised along in the army tanks as the allied forces led by the Americans began their march on Baghdad.  And I thought, maybe this was it...we (the US) were already in we're going into Iraq...just like World War II had two major theaters in Europe and Pacific, this war would have two theaters and this war would be fast like Operation Desert Storm...right?  Then everything would go back to normal.  No more Patriot Act, no more full body cavity searches at the airport or limits placed on how much fertilizer you could buy for your lawn.

Trujillo, Extramadura, Spain on March 20th, 2003

Of course eight and half years later...the war is still going.  In that time I have traveled to Ground Zero, to the Pentagon, to Pennsylvania, to the Middle East and I have made a beautiful friend in a beautiful woman named Catherine Lafuente, whose father Juan Lafuente, died in the World Trade Center on that fateful day, and who has devoted her life to cultivating peace and understanding with Islam.  And today I saw her mother Colette Lafuente read out her husband's name at the 9/11 memorial ceremony at Ground Zero.

I don't really have a thesis for this post or even a point to make.  I am just reflecting on the last decade and musing to myself how it feels as though in some ways only a week has passed and in other ways it feels like a lifetime has gone by.  I wonder what the next decade has in store for us all.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bacon as Metaphor for Joie de Vivre

Today's post is a photo essay that I like to think captures one creature's longing for meaning in life.  In the case of this little soul, bacon is life, and thus the longing for bacon is tantamount to man's yearning for that something special...that existential purpose...that joie de vivre.

I think the title of this post is going to be the title of the next paper I write to present at a conference.  I can make an entire PowerPoint chronicling Odie's eternal struggle to satisfy her lust for bacon.  I smell a jury prize at the AAR next year.

"Do I smell bacon...I am pretty sure I smell bacon..."

"I'm sure of it...I know you have bacon but
you are hiding it from me!"

"Anguish...what is life if not for the bacon?" said Odie, this
time in a French accent.

Whitny's Blood, Sweat & Tears Blackberry Flavor Extravaganza Turnovers

One of the biggest perks of living in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the shadow of Yosemite National Park is around this time every year wild blackberries start growing like weeds.  And what choice does a girl have but to go out and pick them and then turn them into golden buttery fruit-filled baked goodness.

So how do you get the berries on the vine from plump purple cluster to warm gooey filling in a puff pastry?  Well the first thing you need is a good berry picking partner...I have this little bundle of red fur fluff below as my sidekick.

This is Ling...she cares nothing for blackberries and would
much rather hang out on the porch than trudge through the

There are a couple of things you need to know about wild blackberry picking...the first is that only pluck the berries that are so purple they are practically black and look like they are about to burst and the second thing you need to know is that if you get to a berry patch and find that there is a black bear already picking berry clusters there...just walk away.  The average black bear eats 35 lbs of blackberries a day in the fall and in order to meet that quota they aren't afraid of taking a swing at some greedy human intent on a blackberry snack.

After you have collected your blackberries put them in a bowl and wash them.  Of course you should probably first go wash out your wounds.  Blackberry vines are spiteful horrible plants with spines on them that basically tear you to shreds...much in the same way a cornered alley cat would...and leave you looking like you have just crawled through trenches lined with concertina wire.  

Once you have bandaged your wounds and washed your berries it is time to inspect them.  You need to make sure that each berry is totally ripe, otherwise it will give your pastry filling a sour bitter taste.

I find that retiring to one's study is the ideal environment for
examining your blackberries and of course wearing a smoking
jacket only enhances the experience.  Sadly my smoking
 jacket was at the dry cleaners.   

Why inspect the blackberries?  You want to avoid the berries that look like this one pictured below.  They may be pretty but those little ruby colored drupelets (Yes, that is what they are called...drupelets.  It might be my new favorite word) are still ripening and thus have either a bitter or sour taste and can ruin your whole pastry filling with their potent flavor.

Word of the day:  Drupelets

Once you have inspected each of the berries put them in a colander and rinse them once more to make sure you have washed away all of the "nature" from the berries.  

After examining each berry I would say this is one awesome
haul...totally worth all of the shredded skin on my extremities.

Then take your berries to the kitchen and prepare everything you need for baked berry ooey gooey goodness.

I like to lay all of the measured ingredients out ahead of time.

Whitny's Blood, Sweat & Tears Blackberry Flavor Extravaganza Turnovers

  • 1 cup of fresh organic blackberries picked with your own two hands
  • Rolled out puff pastry dough 
  • Half a package of cream cheese (or 4 ounces to be precise)
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup of powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice squeezed from a lemon (none of that bottled stuff)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons of water
  • 2 teaspoons of washed cane sugar

Throw the cream cheese, egg yolk, powdered sugar, vanilla extract and lemon into the mixer and attach the big paddle to whip all of this confectionary goodness into submission. 

While the cream cheese and other components are being beaten and battered (but in a good way) in the Kitchenaid mixer go ahead and take the egg and water you had set out and whisk them together into an egg wash.  What is the egg wash for?  The egg wash creates that crackle-laquer finish on the top of croissants and other pastries and gives the pastry dough its flaky goodness when baked.  You will use the egg wash and a little pastry brush to gently paint the pastry dough with the egg wash before you put the tray of pastries in the oven.  

Use a roller to flatten out your pastry dough and then cut it into squares.  I cut these in about 3.5 by 3.5 inch squares and then painted the edges with the egg wash.

Now that you have your pastry dough squares cut and the edges painted with the egg wash go ahead and take the cream cheese and sugar filling from the Kitchenaid mixer and use a spoon to measure out a dollop of the filling and drop it in the center of the pastry dough square.  Then find three or four cute little berries in the big bowl of berries and place them in the cream cheese filling.  Then take another square of the pastry dough and place it on top of the bottom sheet of dough with the cream cheese and berry filling and press down on the edges creating little pastry pillows.  Then seal them by using a fork to create a border around the edges.  

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and then get a stick of butter and some flour and rub the butter all over the pan you are going to place the pastry squares on.  Then sprinkle four all over the oven sheet with the butter.  This may seem like a waste of time in a world where most people just spray pans and baking sheets with Pam or some sort of synthetic butter-flavored lubricant.  But Whitny Braun uses real butter.  If you love yourself, if you love your family, if you love will use BUTTER!  Because butter brings makes people better.  

Now place the pastry pockets about an inch or two apart on the buttered and floured pan and then get that egg wash out again and paint the top of the turnovers.  Then get a handful of sugar in the raw and sprinkle it gingerly over the top of the pastry dough.  The sugar will cling to the egg wash like glitter sticks to Elmer's school glue in a grammar school art project.  Place an adorable little blackberry on top  of each of the turnovers and then pop those bad boys in the pre-heated oven! 

Wait twenty minutes or so...and then...wait for it...

Voila!  You have piping hot, delicious turnovers that will rock your world

Now if you find that you have leftover berries as I did...there still more you can do them!  I decided to make syrup...because who doesn't like blackberry syrup on waffles, french toast, on your toothbrush in the morning, who cares?  Blackberry syrup is just delicious.  It's like the nectar of the gods if the gods lived in Coulterville, California.

This mixture pictured above is just 4 cups of blackberries, 1 cup of raw sugar, 1 egg white, 1/4 cup of tapioca and a squeeze of lemon juice.  Stir it with a big wooden spoon and let it sit for a while and allow the berries and sugar and lemon juice to sort of dissolve into a blackberry soup.  Then pour it in a saucepan and bring it to a slow boil reducing it down to a thick rich sauce and then strain out the seeds.  Strain it a few times so that you have a totally clear liquid and your end product will be this delicious elixir of blackberry goodness pictured below...

So there you have Blood, Sweat & Tears Blackberry Flavor Extravaganza Turnovers and syrup concoction recipes.  So you may have your Connecticut estate full of blueberries and cranberries Martha Stewart and you may invite the who's who of international high society out to the "farm" to harvest them...but I, I have Ling the dog and a colander!  It's really only a matter of time before I get my own magazine and holiday television special...only instead of "Martha Stewart: Living" mine would be called "Whitny Braun: Mediocre Living".  I have a gut feeling its going to be all the rage.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Most Intelligent Cat in the World

This is my cat Maxwell J. Peanut and there is really only one word to describe him...magnificent.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cattle Country at Sunset

There is just something about this picture that makes me feel like a Ford F-150 or a Chevy Silverado should come pulling into frame and then either John Mellancamp or Bob Seager and the Silver Bullet Band should start playing. There's just something about this pictures that exudes "Americaness".  I call this composition, "The American Road" or "Backdrop for Detroit Vehicle Commercial".  

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Cindy Lou Who Restores One Cynic's Faith In Humanity at Local Bank

This week I experienced a first, something I never thought would come to pass in my lifetime…something so incredible that when I tell you what it is it was will sound so oxymoronic, so improbable you will most likely scoff at the words you are reading on the screen, minimize this page in disgust and go back to watching one of the “Real Housewives” shows or playing World of Warcraft.  Well boys and girls, are you ready to hear something so astounding you’ll file it away in the “impossible” category along with things like free lunches and a sensible but stylish shoe?  Here it goes…brace yourself…and don’t say I didn’t warn you:  Today, I had a heartwarming experience in which my faith in humanity was restored…AT THE BANK!

If you haven’t blurted out a colorful expletive from a bygone era, like “Poppycock!” or “Balderdash” or my personal favorite, “Blather and bilskate” by now and slammed your laptop shut in outrage then I figure that right about this point you are asking yourself, “But Whitny, how on earth is this possible?  Aren’t banks soul-sucking, bone crunching leviathans that prey upon the hopes and dreams of hard-working men and women?”

Well, yes…I am not arguing that for the vast majority of us our only experiences with banks involve hours spent on hold trying to navigate an automated phone tree and overdraft protection fees and loopholes in the fine print which allow them to foreclose on our homes…however, today I saw something at the bank that sweet and pure and reminded me that there are still some young people out there who believe in the ideas of hard work and the American dream.

As I approached the bank teller’s counter I saw an adorable petite blonde girl, vaguely reminiscent of Cindy Lou Who from the Dr. Seuss classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas who was apparently celebrating her 18th birthday by taking her life’s savings to the Bank of America in Sonora and opening her very first savings account.  Apparently Bank of America requires a $25 minimum to open an account and so this sweet girl was there to dump her life’s savings in the form of a pile of coins from a Jansport backpack on the bank’s counter.

This pretty much captures the essence of the girl at the bank.

Now my cynical mind immediately assumed that the bank teller, an elderly woman in a collared kitten sweater, would be irritated by the idea of manually counting out each and every coin in the pile that would ultimately amount to what is a trivial sum in Bank of America’s coffers.  But shocker of all shockers…she wasn’t annoyed in the least!  She didn’t laugh at the young girl’s paltry savings or roll her eyes in disgust…no, no…she actually happily pulled out a deposit slip, a bunch of paper wrapper to put the coins in and proceeded to painstakingly slide each penny, nickel, dime and quarter across the counter, counting them with as much care and concern as a Goldman Sachs accountant inventorying a billion dollar hedge fund.

Now the cuteness and heartwarming goodness didn’t stop there.  The collared kitten sweater-wearing elderly bank teller began counseling the young pony-tailed girl on the different programs the bank had in place to help you grow your wealth and again I was waiting for cynicism to seep into the situation.  But again, it didn’t!  The little teenage girl listened enthusiastically and shared her plans with the bank teller to save up for a pick-up truck that was for sale at the auto body shop down the street so that she could drive herself to the restaurant where she was a waitress and in the fall drive herself to community college.

As I stood behind these two national treasures, these two gems of Americana, these two “real Americans” (as any politician running for office would call them)…I felt like the Grinch in that scene where suddenly the ice melts off his heart as he hears all the Whos down in Whoville singing “Da-ho-dooray”. 

And this was me after watching this little interchange...

Yes, oh yes, And the Whitny, with her Whitny-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And she puzzled and puzzled ’till her puzzler was sore. Then the Whitny thought of something she hadn’t before. What if Christmas (the American dream), she thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas (the American dream), perhaps, means a little bit more. 

So anyway, as I sit here on a Sunday afternoon writing on my blog I find that I am a little less cynical, a little less jaded, a little less likely to roll my eyes at the idea that there are still some people out there in this great nation of ours who don’t think of hard work, modest means and learning from your elders as old fashioned values.  Apparently there are some people still out there that just see all those things as a way of life.

Okay, I’ll get off my soapbox now.  Thanks for the listening.  

Friday, July 29, 2011

Gems of Wisdom: Quotes Gathered from the Folks at the Bed & Breakfast

For today's blog post I thought I would take a moment to share with you some of the great quotable wisdom I have gleaned from my experience living here in Coulterville, California...a town that up until a few weeks ago Wikipedia apparently had listed as a ghost town.  According to the last census, we here in Coulterville (and it's bedroom community of Greeley Hill) enjoy a population of 210 permanent residents and a steady stream of international tourists passing though on old Highway 49 en route to Yosemite National Park.  So check your facts you giant free encyclopedia!

So without further ado, for your reading enjoyment, I present to you some vignettes from the confluence of cultures here in the high sierras...

Cultural Exchange:

A lovely aristocratic family from Mexico City arrived here at the B&B. Apparently en route they stopped at Lyon's Towing in Greeley Hill to ask for directions and it was here where they encountered Chris our local mechanic/tow-truck driver/resident coverall wearer.  Chris apparently looked them over and said: "You can't be Mexican, yer too white to be Mexican and too tall...but yer ladies sure are pretty." 

     *Well done Chris, spreading international diplomacy and cultural understanding one tourist at a time!  I didn't ask but I do truly hope that Chris punctuated that sentence by spitting out a was of chewing tobacco onto the pavement.

Unusual Requests:

"We want three king sized beds...all in one do this for $100?"
     ~ Man calling from India about a room (clearly a really big room)*
          *Okay, where besides maybe the fantasy suites at the Palms can you find a single room with three king sized beds?  

Spacial Disorientation:

Caller:  "How many people can you put in your smallest room?"

Me:  "Our smallest and cheapest room sleeps two people."

Caller:  "Can we put seven people in that room?  Oh and do you take coupons from your Holiday Inn Express?"

Me:  "Oh look here, we're all booked up for the rest of the year." (This is a bed and breakfast people, not a clown car or steerage class on the Titanic.)

Existential Struggle:

A Chinese man who had recently come to Silicon Valley to work for a major computer company visited the B&B with his family.  He requested that rather than join us at the breakfast table in the morning we place the breakfast on trays in their room the night before so they could get an early start for Yosemite National Park.  We obliged.  I boiled eggs.  I gave them Yoplait.  I squeezed them juice and gave them milk in the bottle.  I also gave them their own baby watermelon and a case of fresh strawberries along with granola bars, cereal and bacon strips they could microwave...but alas...I had forgotten the one thing that all men must have in order to get a jump on the day...BREAD!  I was accosted that evening upon their return.  The conversation went a little like this:

Me:  Welcome back Mr. C., did you have a nice time in the park?

Him:  But we have no BREAD!

Me:  Pardon?

Him:  This morning...there was NO BREAD!

Me:  Oh I am so sorry...I really honestly thought that I had given you enough to eat.  I really do apologize.

Him:  But we have no BREAD!  No BREAD!  (He pauses to take a breath) NO BREAD!

Me:  Yes, I understand the hardship of not having bread

Him:  But NO BREAD!

Me:  I understand, I am so sorry...I really thought that I had met your carbohydrate needs for the day with the cheerios and granola bars and bananas in the juice and such.  I am so sorry.

Him:  But we have NO BREAD!  When you were sleeping I go into your kitchen and look through your things and I find that all of your bread is frozen!  FROZEN BREAD!

Me:  Well yes, I mean we freeze the bread so that we have it for french toast...wait, you were in my freezer in my personal space...while I was sleeping?

Him:  French toast is not BREAD!  I try to find you in bed and wake you for BREAD!

Me:  I am so sorry...I just had no idea how passionate you were about bread.  

Him:  I like WHOLE WHEAT BREAD...for fiber!

Me:  I just didn't know...sometimes in this crazy life we get caught up in the rat race and forget to think about the fiber intake needs of other...clearly I did that.


Me:  Now remind me again exactly how many more days is it that you are staying here?  


Okay, that's all for now...

Until next time folks...


Monday, July 25, 2011

Hey, Apple...wanna buy my amateur photography?

Plum Smoke Tree Foliage (also an excellent color palette
for the next time I redecorate my room)

I had thought briefly about entitling this post, "Summer in the Sierras:  A Photographic Retrospective"...but that just sounded pretentious and the kind of post that a bunch of your friends on facebook would "like" and then talk about what an affected pain in the rear you were later when you couldn't hear them.  So I decided to go with a plea to Apple to see if they wanted to buy my amateur snapshots of the property here in the shadow of Yosemite National Park to include in their desktop image folder under "System Preferences".  Somehow I don't think I should wait around for a call.  But...please, dear friends on the internet, feel free to use these pictures for whatever you want...even if just to ridicule me.

This is the same plant featured in the first picture...but depending on
what time of day you photograph it and the intensity of the sun it can
appear to have a completely different palette of hues and tones.
Wow...I sound like Martha Stewart.  But don't worry...
I am not engaging in securities fraud or insider trading.  

Every afternoon the leaves on this tree turn crimson in the sunlight.

Tell me this picture doesn't make you long for
 maple syrup drizzled over a waffle?

This is a wild flower that has been spreading all over the meadow.
If you blow on it the little flower buds blow apart like a dandelion.  

Weeds...albeit gorgeous ones.

More of this unidentified wild flower.

This is the leaf of an as yet unidentified species of weed
that has been popping up all over the foothills of the
 Sierras this summer.  It feels like velvet...
which makes it a classy weed.

The Dorothy Mae

My friend Andie thinks this meadow looks like the one from
 "Twilight".  I keep checking but so far I haven't seen any
vampires that sparkle like diamonds in the sunlight.
 I'll keep you all posted though.

...and here we have the road home.  If you look very closely
in the bottom center of the picture you will see a little red dog.
That's my Ling on patrol.  

Finally, we have Antione and Fiona...the two frogs that hang out
in the pond next to the house sunning themselves all day.
I think they might have the best life of any couple I have
ever met...mammal or amphibian.