Category Archives: Family

Christmas Reflections on Boxing Day 2016

Diana (Charlie) and I spent a quiet Christmas Day at home with Mist and Smoke. We hope you all had a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah or, at least, a trouble-free day if you weren’t celebrating a holiday.

I picked up a Noble Fir last Monday and left it in the rain before moving it into the sunroom. Instead of decorating it with multi-colored strings of twenty-plus year old lights we used three strings of white, blue and pink LEDs this year — looks good. We then added the usual Christmas ornaments and Di’s British decorations. No tinsel, as we learned with Magic and Merlin that cats eat tinsel and I really didn’t want to . . .

After a morning of tea, coffee, exercise bicycle and then breakfast, the day unwound: opening presents; Skyping relatives in Britain; basketball, football and Dr. Who on my TV; movies and Bewitched (B&W) episodes on Di’s.

And, of course, fixing a turkey dinner.

Because Di’s ailments prevent her from standing for any considerable length of time, most of the cooking has become my responsibility — with some directions from her. Before Thanksgiving I picked up four Butterball turkeys from Aldi and Target (99¢/lb) — Di mandates a Butterball. Fifteen-pounds is just about perfect for us — fits in the oven, plenty of room for stuffing/dressing, a lot of meat for dinner and seconds and two large tubs of leftovers.

Christmas dinner would consist of turkey, mashed potatoes, peas and stuffing/dressing.

We made three different stuffings: Trader Joe’s Cornbread with added giblets and clams — cooked separately as Di is allergic to all types of shellfish; seasoned bread and onion stuffing which went into the turkey and under its skin; and bread and onion stuffing with diced British sausage added, which will be cooked this afternoon. All of this means that I’ll be able to snack on stuffing for several days without eating all of it before Di gets her fill.

About 1:30 pm I placed the turkey into a 400° (F) oven for thirty minutes — for browning — then put some aluminum foil over it to prevent burning and turned the oven down to 325° for the rest of the cooking cycle. Every thirty minutes or so, I basted it with melted butter. As there was still some ice in the turkey when I opened the package before stuffing it, I allowed it to cook until 6:oo pm — yes, I tested the internal temperature with a digital meat thermometer before taking the turkey out of the oven, and allowed it to sit for a while before carving and dismembering it.

Di came in to make her gravy, and I dished out turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes (Gold with melted butter, garlic and pepper) and peas for each of us. Yum. Everything was tasty; Di had one helping, and I had two. Following dinner, I put the leftover potatoes, peas, dressing (Di’s) and some of the turkey into a plastic tub and finished dismembering the turkey and putting its meat into another large tub — a week’s worth of leftovers for the two of us.

David, Di’s brother, gave me a bottle of whisky for Christmas — a 20-year-old Speyside Single Malt from the Un-Chillfiltered Collection (92 proof). I had one glass for dinner and two after — of course, I also missed the ending of the Laker game and the Dr. Who Christmas episode.

All in all it was a very pleasant day.

Reflections

Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace to people of good will — so why were several of the commercials for new movies, to me at least, ultra-violent? Maybe, because they were coming to theaters after Christmas? Hmmm . . .

There seemed to be a lot of discussion around Thanksgiving and Black Friday about people working in department stores on Thanksgiving Day. It seems that some people feel it is unjust to ask people to work on Thanksgiving just so we can shop for cheap(er) things before Christmas. Hmmmm . . .

How many of these clerking and stocking jobs are held by at, or near, minimum wage employees who can use every hour they get to support themselves and their families?

And why no outcry for those who work everyday regardless of holiday?

Police, Fire and other emergency workers are always on the job. Hospitals don’t close. People still go to work at our water and sewage departments. Electricity and gas employees still work as these utilities won’t run themselves. Gas stations and convenience stores stay open. Some restaurants, theaters, and recreational attractions (think Disneyland and ski resorts) run all day long. Airports, airlines, trains, buses, taxis, Uber and Lyft continue to move us from place to place.

Did you listen to the radio or watch TV or surf the Internet yesterday or on Thanksgiving — they don’t function without people working.

We’ve become — if we really haven’t always been — a 24-7-365¼ society. So how about we just thank those who have jobs that require they work on holidays rather than make ourselves feel better by complaining about it?

To those of you who work on those days most of us don’t have to (Sundays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.) — Thank-You. I, for one, greatly appreciate the work you do to keep my world running.

 

Huntington Beach Airshow

p1010142bsmallSometime early this year of lat last year, I began seeing items touting an airshow involving the U. S. Air Force Thunderbird aerobatic team on the beach. Yeah, right. Well, last February (I think) an F-16 did a preliminary recon of HB — hmmm . . . maybe, maybe.

Well, this last weekend it became a reality.

Late Thursday morning I took Charlie (my wife) to an appointment at her hairdresser’s in Newport Beach. I returned home to read and wait for her call. About 1 pm I heard a tremendous roar and looked out to see a flight of jets (the p1010158bsmallThunderbirds) flying over our house heading southwest to the coast. It was their first practice flight over the beach for the Saturday/Sunday show.

Charlie called a few minutes later and I climbed into the car to pick her up. I saw a good deal of the jets practicing their maneuvers on the fifteen minute drive to the hairdresser and on the return pointed them out to Charlie. It was the first she had heard of their being a show and was thrilled to see the planes — and wanted to go.

p1010172bsmallI thought Friday, the practice day, would be best because the crowds would be smaller than those on Saturday and Sunday but as luck would have it Charlie wasn’t feeling up to it. Sunday was supposed to be cool so we decided to make the visit to the beach and show then.

Sunday dawned cool and moist. I had charged up her scooter (the same one we p1010200bsmalltook to Europe) and loaded it onto the Buick’s carrier. About noon we headed over to Mike and Sandy’s where we were going to park the car for a short, block and a half, “stroll” down Beach Blvd to the show.

After speaking with our friends for a few minutes, they were going to Long Beach p1010214bsmallto see a live theater show that afternoon and had already seen the airshow, we set out for the beach. Di had her British jacket and I had a USC hoodie and an umbrella in case it decided to rain — it decided to begin sprinkling just about the time we crossed PCH and got to the beach.

We missed the opening parachuting but saw several solo aerobatic acts and both of the jet aerobatic demonstration teams. In addition to the U. S. Air Force Thunderbirds the Breitling Jet Team also gave an impressive demonstration. p1010228bsmall

Airshow Jets

The Breitling Jet Team flies the Czech built L-39C Albatros. The Albatros is a sub-sonic twin-seat military jet trainer.

The Thunderbirds fly the Lockheed Martin Fighting Falcon F-16 supersonic single-seat air superiority/ground attack fighter.

There was also a demonstration flight conducted by a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet.

At the airshow

p1010243bsmallThe weather turned steadily wetter and I quickly had to don my hoodie and unfurl our umbrella, but the rain was an inconvenience, not an outing killer — and we do need the rain.

We spent most of the afternoon around the Beach/PCH area and tried to stay away from tall people who could block Charlie’s view of things. She (I) bought a Thunderbird t-shirt and was most disappointed that she couldn’t get closer to the HB Police horses. p1010127bsmall

We were there for a bit over three hours and thoroughly enjoyed the show. It was the second time I’d seen the Thunderbirds. Dad had taken my brother and I to see the air races at Fox Field where the Thunderbirds were also performing. this was some fifty plus years ago when they flew the F-100 Super Sabre. The thing I remember most about that show was being able to walk up and “touch” some of the racing aircraft: P-51 Mustang, P-38 Lightning, F8F Bearcat, etc. I’ve also seen the Blue Angels perform.

p1010251bsmallWhen the Thunderbirds finished their show, we (and most everyone else) headed home. Many of those walking and riding their bikes were thoroughly soaked. Charlie got wetter on her scooter than I did walking. It took a few minutes to get the scooter secured to the carrier while Charlie waited in the car, but we still made it home by 4:30 pm. She changed into dry clothes while I made p1010272bsmallher a hot cup of tea.

And I, I poured myself a nice whisky . . . all in all, it was a very pleasant day.


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The Trip — 2016: Part 29 — Arriving Home

Once again our plane is a Boeing 777-300, very comfortable and smooth. We took off about three-thirty — a delay of about an hour and a half with arrival in LA scheduled to be about 6:10 pm.

I got a copy of the Wall Street Journal and The London Times and read through the taxiing and takeoff until it was time to eat. Well, at least, until it was time for a Jack Daniels or three.

The meal consisted of:

Starter — Prosciutto and Mozzarella with melon

Salad — Spinach and frisée with strawberries and blue cheese and yogurt dressing

Entrée — Seared white halibut with beurre blanc sauce, champagne risotto and grilled asparagus

Dessert — Gourmet cheese plate of red cheddar, blue cheese stick and Montero farmer white

It all tasted quite good. Filling but not stuffing.

Di watched movies on her video screen, and I worked on my Trip photos for most of our very smooth flight. Toward its end we were served another light meal, salad and sandwich and dessert. I also drank several glasses of ice water — no more Jack.

Touchdown at LAX was 6:20 pm. We waited until everyone else had deplaned before leaving. The scooter, despite the best efforts of the crew was not delivered to the plane’s door but a wheelchair was there and the scooter was waiting when we exited the boarding tunnel. A minute to put it together and we were off to Immigration and Baggage — it was, again, a v-e-r-y l-o-n-g walk and a couple of lift rides, as Di’s scooter cannot negotiate stairs or escalators.

Note: The elevators/lifts in this section of LAX only have access to two floors: the floor you are on and the floor Immigration wants you on.

Immigration was extremely busy as several planes had recently landed, including the three hundred people from our flight. We were allowed to use either the automated processing or Special Assistance and after a glance at the long lines opted for Assistance. A few minutes later we were through passport control/immigration and headed to the Baggage area.

We were passed on the way to baggage by several young (18-22) men who had been on our flight and had exited at the opening of the plane’s doors. They had waited in lines long enough for us old slowpokes to catch up and pass them — chortle.

Our luggage carousel (3) was just beginning to unload baggage from an AA flight just in from Mexico and a few minutes later began to disgorge the baggage from our flight as well. Wonder of wonders, less than ten minutes later I had all four of our suitcases and onto our last check by Immigration.

I handed him our customs declaration, a quick glance and we were out. Up the tunnel and into a sea of faces and name cards from drivers — ah ha, the driver who had taken us to LAX in June was right there. I called to Charlie, who was ahead of me and the driver took my cart. The time was 7:40 pm — an hour and twenty minutes after touchdown and we were out.

Because of the crowds and construction, our driver had to park in a lot several minutes walk away from the Tom Bradley International Terminal — that walk and a smoke for Di had us in the car at 8:00 pm on the dot. There was still a good deal of traffic on surface streets and the 405 Freeway, but we pulled up at our driveway a minute before nine. Home.

I walked Charlie to the bench outside our front door and then helped the driver with the rest of our luggage. The house key was actually in the carry-on where I remembered leaving it and I soon had the door open, the alarm switched off and Charlie deposited in her garden room.

The cats said “Hello” and “Where the heck have you been?” I brought in the luggage, put the scooter in the garage, made Charlie a cup of tea (decaffeinated Earl Grey) and sat down exhausted. Time enough tomorrow (or Saturday) for emptying the suitcases. “Zzzzzzz . . . ”

(to be continued / concluded?)

The Trip — 2016: Part 28 — Leaving England

We checked out of The Swan at Streatley at nine-thirty this morning and rode to Heathrow with the same driver who took us to Newbury yesterday and arrived at Terminal 5 shortly before eleven. Our itinerary told us to go to Terminal 5; however, BA said that our flight (actually on American Airlines like our flight to London) was leaving from Terminal 3. We are currently waiting for a Special Assistance bus to take us to Terminal 3.

Trip - Di and luggage in the bus

Di and luggage in the bus

Well, at slightly after noon the assistance bus arrived. The driver lowered the ramp in the back and then stopped traffic so that Di could drive her scooter into the back of the bus. He then loaded the luggage and we were off. The trip to terminal 3 took about ten minutes, without any stops or hang-ups along the way. We were quickly unloaded and . . . Di needs a last smoke before going into the terminal.

The AA desks are to the right of our entry and there is no one in line ahead of us. We are quickly processed except for the scooter. After about ten minutes the clerk finally clears things dealing with Di’s scooter and up into the lift we go to go through Security.

Again, Di’s scooter gets us the short line, which really isn’t too much shorter than the long line. Five or fewer minutes later we are through Security and into the shops and headed for Lounge H — AA’s Admiral’s Lounge. It’s a small lounge but there is warm food and cold drinks. I have a bit of lunch and a drink. Di has a cup of tea and a couple of pieces of chocolate cake and some bread and butter.

Our flight appears to be delayed a bit, but I don’t know how long a delay.

Just checked at the entry to the lounge and it seems as though the two o’clock flight to LA is now the three-fifteen flight to LA and should start boarding from Gate 27 about two-thirty or in about thirty-five minutes.

Well, I went shopping. First I went to a couple of book/magazine type stores and tried to get a crossword puzzle book — but, they only have British style crossword puzzle books. And, second, I went to buy some whisky. That took me to World of Whiskies. I found some that the clerk told me were not exported to the US — maybe, maybe not, but they are not generally available in Britain. I bought two bottles of Auchentoshan which I had enjoyed at the Quod Restaurant in Oxford. I hope they’ll taste as good in the US.

Trip - View from the lounge

View from the lounge

Returning to the AA lounge at about two twenty-five, I found that our flight was already boarding at Gate 27 — Di didn’t know because the announcements did not reach the part of the lounge in which I had found seats.

Gathering our stuff together, we ventured out into the Heathrow pathways and slideways to Gate 27. Upon arrival we were given assistance and shunted, after passport checks, etc., to the front of the line into the aircraft. Di drove her scooter to the aircraft door, escorted past everyone else, of course, and put on board. I brought our hand-carry items to our seats — garnering some comments along the way about her riding and me having to carry both her and my carry-on luggage — and then went back to fold up the scooter so that it could be stowed in the cargo hold and brought to us at LAX without delay. (Of course, they wouldn’t let me off the plane to go some six feet and fold up the scooter until they got an OK from Security.)

After stowing our gear in the overheads Di had some OJ and I some champagne while we waited for everyone else to finish boarding and the flight to begin.

(To be continued)

The Trip — 2016: Part 27 — Shopping and St. Thomas of Canterbury

Trip - No Fishing

No Fishing

This morning I made Di tea and went to the front desk for some coffee and milk which were delivered ten minutes or so later. Finally figured out how to use the coffeemaker in the room, Magicmix. Coffee isn’t very good but it does put caffeine into my bloodstream to start the day.

It’s cloudy but not raining and Di is able to have tea, smoke and read on the patio. We’ll be heading into Newbury for some last-minute shopping later in the morning.P1010051bsmall

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Toward the altar

Pryors picked us up at eleven-fifteen and deposited us at the edge of the pedestrian shopping area in Newbury at noon (and to return at three). Oh, goody, three hours of following my wife shopping and carrying her purchases.

We visited a number of shops looking for four things: a suitcase to replace the one lost by BA, a fruit bowl for Helen to brighten her new kitchen, books, and, of course, candy.

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Altar window

I found a bowl for Di in John Lewis (designed in Britain and made in China), found a suitcase in another shop (no I didn’t get the one going for £695), purchased a dozen books in WH Smith and candy at Tesco‘s. Picked up the suitcase after the books and candy and loaded them into said suitcase. Then returned to John Lewis and purchased the fruit bowl — in a lot of bubble wrap.

We then found a café in a quiet courtyard and Di had a pot of Earl Gray tea and I read The Daily Mail. Just before three we headed out to where our car should be waiting and there it was. The return route was the reverse of the morning’s and again we passed Tricia’s home in Hampstead Norreys.P1010069bsmall

Upon returning to our hotel room we discovered that our room’s phone still was not working. Helen showed up at four to have tea with Di. I helped Di to the restaurant and then went for a walk through Goring and went to look at a church I had noticed earlier in our stay.

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To the back

The church turned out to be St. Thomas of Canterbury. I walked around the church and through the attached graveyard and memorial to the local dead of WWI and WWII. The interior was simple with a beautiful stained glass window high on the wall behind the altar.

Di and Helen were demolishing a second pot of tea when I returned to The Swan and so I retired to the reception area to read and blog. After two hours of tea, Helen and Di returned to our room and said their good-byes.

Tricia arrived a while later and we moved to the restaurant. We found the same low table and comfortable chairs we’d had the previous night ordered drinks: Pimms, whisky and gin and tonic. Starters, dinner, dessert and conversation. In all it was a nice dinner and company for our last night in England.

(to be continued)