Road Trip

I am with Ray, Rachael, Liz and Liz’s boyfriend, Ron, en route to our Texas home in Sherman, sixty miles north of Dallas. We started yesterday afternoon at 4, drove until 1 am when we reached Williams, AZ and now have been driving since 8 am. It is almost 8 pm now and we will reach Sherman, hopefully, at around 1 am. My rear end is tired from so much sitting!

We have stopped only for gas and fast food, which has consisted of all the usual suspects, McDonalds, Subway and Taco Bell. Last night we were planning our Christmas meal at Del Taco only to discover that it was closed. Instead we ate at Panda Express with all the other travelers who were on the road on Christmas Day. Clearly, one obvious New Years’s resolution will be to shed these “fast food” pounds.

The roads have been clear except for snow at Williams. There was residual snow from a recent storm all through eastern AZ and western New Mexico, big fat flakes on the trees, which made everything looked flocked. Quite beautiful.

We are making our way eastward with the aid of Satellite radio. We listened to Outlaw Country for part of the way, but have shifted to music of the 90s: Nirvana, Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, Real2Real. Currently it is Aerosmith’s “Sweet Misery.” The radio makes this very long trip a lot more entertaining. Here comes Madonna’s “Vogue.”

I have taken my turn driving and now Rachael is behind the wheel. Ray, Ron and I are presently in the back seat and the girls are up front. This is noteworthy mainly due to its rarity. Usually I drive until I am way too tired then Ray takes over until he reaches the destination for the night. So, this is a pleasant change and much safer.

Ah. Liz just saw a sign that declared “The Rapture is close.”

If we don’t show up in Sherman, you’ll know what happened…

Happy holidays, folks.




Speeding Through the Night

Heading to Texas after a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with family, plus lots of church. I managed to do the 360 degrees with the thurible (incense burner) today at church and not conk or decapitate one person. A Christmas miracle.

Ray, Liz, Ron and Rachael are with me now as we cross the Colorado River and enter Arizona. We hope to make it to Flagstaff tonight. We will see.

Merry Christmas to you, my many FB friends. It Is a pleasure to have you in my life.

Christmas Eve

It is 2:21 am so this will be short. Returned from Midnight Mass just a bit ago. It was beautiful!


damien chapel

We spent the afternoon and early evening at Sarah’s and celebrated our Christmas. Here are a few pictures.

family shot

other family shot

A lovely day filled with lovely people.

Merry Christmas to all.

A Busy Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning

I have made two pans of stuffed shells for Christmas Eve dinner, which we will be eating at Sarah’s house tomorrow. Sarah is at the end of a grueling rotation in Family Medicine that has required 80 – 90 hour work weeks, so we are gathering at her house since she will be too tired to make the trek too far, given that she has to work at least part of Christmas Eve, all day on Christmas Day and then one half day on Friday before she gets to rest.

I also made a peach cobbler and plan to make a banana cream pie and a pumpkin pie tomorrow morning.

Gregorio is making food as well, and Liz and Ron are bringing a salad.

I’m sure we’ll have more than enough to eat…

I am serving as an acolyte tomorrow evening at Midnight Mass at St. Thomas the Apostle in Hollywood. My family (minus Sarah, Gregorio and Luna) will be coming. I love this service. It has all the bells and smells associated with a high Anglo-Catholic mass, and it should be beautiful. The church will be decorated to the nines and the choir promises to be excellent. Plus, I have been informed that I will be one of the chalice bearers, meaning I get to help serve the wine. Needless to say, this is an honor and I am very pleased to have been asked to help.

I am serving again on Christmas Day as the thurifer. This will be my first chance to swing the thurible 360 degrees, which is required for Feast Days. My advice: go to Midnight Mass; I will simply have a tall candle and you will be safer. The thurible is where the incense goes and it’s on a long chain. I will be swinging that hot incense burner on chains as I am coming into church and leaving after the mass. I am hopeful I don’t conk more than a couple of people on the head. If you live near the church and hear the ambulance siren at approximately 10:30 am or at noon, then you’ll know what happened.


Of course, I also get to see my beloved Luna tomorrow, which makes me exceedingly happy. I can’t wait to hang out with that little sweet pea.

I am headed to bed now. I will be up early to make my pies.

Happy holidays to all and to all a good night.

St. Thomas the Apostle Decorated for Christmas

ST. Thomas

Flash Memoir: Christmas Traditions at My House Growing Up

When I was growing up, our family tradition for Christmas was to go to Midnight Mass at Holy Trinity Episcopal church in my hometown of Bonham, Texas, then return to our house with all the church people for a big party. This meant the party started around 12:30 or 1 in the morning on Christmas Day and usually went until 3 or 4 am. At that point, we kids were all scurried off to bed and then around 6 or 7 am when we little ones woke up with visions of sugar plums in our heads, we rushed into our parents’ room to wake them up so we could hurry downstairs to see what Santa had brought us. The rule was that there was no opening of gifts until everyone was there.

Now one might argue that the wee hours of Christmas morning was a questionable time to throw a party, but I certainly remember the few times we weren’t expecting guests after Midnight Mass, and it felt slightly anti-climatic. The truth is – upon second thought – I hardly ever remember a time we didn’t have this Christmas party for our fellow Episcopalians, and since Anglicans (we were good Anglo-Catholics despite our location in tiny rural Texas) are notorious drinkers, then I always recall those parties filled with happy people who were celebrating Christmas together with a liberal dash of whiskey, scotch, gin, rum, beer or wine, depending on personal preference. Kids were chasing each other through the house while the adults chatted, laughed, drank and smoked and the older kids were upstairs doing exactly what the adults were doing downstairs with a sincere hope they wouldn’t get caught.

The only problem with these festive Christmas parties was how it conflicted with Christmas morning activities. My parents stumbled downstairs looking the worse for wear, particularly considering they probably had had about ten minutes of sleep since they had to set up the “Santa Claus” display for me and my five other siblings immediately following the final goodbye to their guests.

The way Christmas morning worked in my house was that my parents took our baby pictures, which were all done in a sepia tone by the same local photographer, and they placed the pictures in various chairs and on the couch next to our presents from Santa. Nobody waited to see what other people received; no, nothing so polite as that. When it came time to open presents there was a flurry of paper tearing and box opening that would have been impressive to an outside observer. The sound alone would have been noteworthy; all that paper tearing and wadding amidst shouts of happiness that Santa had brought the exact right model of toy airplane or the exact right color for that new bicycle. Santa did a pretty good job of bringing exactly the right gifts, most of the time. Except for the Barbie debacle, which was completely indicative of my mother’s views on girls and what was acceptable and what truly wasn’t for her little daughter.

The story goes that I requested a Barbie and some accompanying clothes for one Christmas when I was around ten (1963). My mother, who didn’t approve of Barbie and her clearly sexualized body – big breasts, unrealistically slim waist and perfectly proportioned hips – instead explained that Santa had found these adorable little dolls – flat chested and looking a lot more like me than Barbie – and he had brought them to me because they were age-appropriate. Of course, as a kid I was disappointed. All my friends had Barbies and I just wanted one, too. My mother never, ever understood that Santa had not hit a homerun with that gift. I remember her looking particularly pleased when I was busy playing with those dolls instead of the Barbies that my friends would bring over.  My dolls did, after all, have a full trunk of clothes that came with them.

So, I grew up with a wild and frenzied Christmas morning that started just past midnight and ran until about 9 am when the whole family – post present-opening – yawned and returned to our beds. We all slept for several hours and then the Christmas lunch preparation occurred and friends began to drop in.

These are happy memories. The primary focus was the open door policy of our household. I suppose when you have six children who have many friends, you might as well embrace the revolving door. Plus, our church friends were mainly our every day friends, too. The only missing persons at that early Christmas morning party were our local family. However, they arrived shortly after our midday Christmas lunch and remained for much of the remainder of the day.

I sorta wish that Ray and I were carrying on the family tradition of a party post Midnight Mass. After all, it’s easy to be all keyed up from that spectacular event and a post-church gathering feels like the right release valve for all involved. Alas, a party is not in the offing this time. Perhaps next year, Ray and I will have a conversation about that.

As for tonight…I believe I will now head to bed.  I have been busy with Christmas preparations even if they are more modest than my parents’ holiday party.

Sleep well, my friends.  I will check back in with you tomorrow.


Photos While Orange Picking in Ojai

I was in Ojai a couple of days back and took pictures from atop a tall ladder while I picked oranges. Here are the pictures below.

Underneath the tree, looking up

inside orange tree


Ripe oranges along with green oranges for new harvest


inside tree1


Orange blossom on tree with ripe and green oranges


orange blossom

Northeastern view from the treetop

top of tree

Southeastern view

sun in clouds

Western view

little cloud1

Another northern view of the Topatopa Mountains, 6700 feet

topa topas

These mountains turn bright pink at sunset.  It is quite beautiful.

Our orange grove is right on the edge of the Los Padres National Forest, which includes the Topatopa Mountains.  This is wild country with lots of deer, coyotes and mountain lions.  Not that we’ve officially seen a mountain lion at the orange grove.  We hope to keep it that way!

5-Star Honey Cake With Caramelized Pears

I made this cake today. It is delicious. I am taking it to a party this evening. Let me know if you try it!

Happy eating.

• Unsalted butter, softened, for pan
• 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
• 1 teaspoon coarse salt
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 2 large eggs
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar (I used ¾ cup maple sugar instead of these two sugars)
• 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons best-quality honey
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used coconut oil)
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest
• Caramelized Pears
• Freshly whipped cream, or nondairy whipped topping, for serving (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 10-inch spring form pan. Dust with flour; tap out excess. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, and cinnamon in a bowl; set aside. Mix eggs and sugars on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until pale and thick, about 3 minutes.
2. Whisk together honey, milk, oil, and zest. With mixer on low, add honey mixture to egg mixture; mix until combined, about 1 minute. Add half the flour mixture; mix until smooth. Mix in remaining flour mixture. Pour batter into pan.
3. Bake until dark golden brown and a cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack 15 minutes. Run a thin knife around edge of cake; carefully remove sides of pan. Transfer cake to a platter. Top with pears. Serve with whipped cream or topping, if desired.


• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 1/4 cup sugar (I used maple sugar instead of white sugar)
• 1 3/4 pounds red Anjou pears, cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges (or 1/4-inch-thick wedges if pears are firm) (I used regular pears)
• 1/4 cup best-quality honey

1. Heat butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sugar; cook, stirring, until almost dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Add pears; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and just golden, 12 to 20 minutes. (Around 18 minutes) Pour in honey; cook, stirring, until pears are coated and very soft, 3 to 5 minutes. (I cooked these pears with the honey for much longer, probably 15 minutes all together, or until the sauce was very thick.)

whole finished cake