Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The house with no end

The Winchester Mystery House (copyright Winchester House)

For me, the best kind of house has secret passageways, lots of places in which to play hide-and-seek, all kinds of rooms and hallways and surprises.
The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, is such a place.
We found it when we were looking for something to do with a few hours before the Yanni concert.
Apparently Sarah Winchester had all kinds of spare money when she moved into an 8-room farmhouse in the "country."
She also had all kinds of fears and superstitions.
She thought the house was haunted so she figured she had to keep moving to outwit the ghosts.
The door out to nowhere (copyright Winchester House)
She slept in a different room every night and kept adding to the house so the ghosts would leave her alone.
Over the years, she added multiple rooms and stairways and closets and a ballroom. She actually wanted two though she never used the first.
Today, the house is visited by tourists who are curious and willing to pay $40 each to see inside . (One hundred and ten rooms of the 160 can be visited.)
It's kinda spooky but mostly quite cool.
It's also kind of dangerous because some doors open out into nothing but air.
Some stairways end abruptly.
Some of the closets open onto stone walls.
Some look into other rooms so you'd never know if someone was watching you.
I loved it.
We walked around and around and came out in unexpected places.
We climbed funny little stairs that were only a few inches high. (The lady had arthritis and couldn't handle regular stairs.)
You could climb several flights and only be one or two floors higher when you finish.
The stories that go with the house are fascinating although the lady didn't do much except spend her money. Workers built around the clock for 38 years and never finished. When they were done with one room, they were dispatched to another one, remodeling and adding on a whim.
Sarah Winchester paid them well and decorated beautifully.
She had some clever ideas and put in gorgeous stained glass windows. She created a monument of sorts with gardens and a carriage house and a kind of timelessness that fires up the imagination.
It's kind of a shame.
With the space she had and the wealth, she could've opened up a really nifty orphanage.
Sarah Winchester's main bedroom (copyright Winchester House)
I can just see kids running around in the place ... me with them!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Over to the dark side

I've always been a Republican.
My mom was a Republican and I grew up kinda thinking the Republicans were the chosen people while the Democrats listed to the dark side.
Over the years, Marc and I have had a few debates about our leanings because I didn't see any need for him to be a Democrat.
But then his dad was one and he likes to go against the tide so it fits.
However, last night we both went to the Democratic caucus.
I was not impressed with any of my party candidates and he assured me that attending a Democratic caucus could be educational and fun for me.
We drove over to the Lehi Jr. High school where it was supposed to be.
In past election years, the Democrats could sometimes meet in somebody's living room.
Yesterday it was a madhouse.
Cars were lined up both sides of every road leading to and from the school.
The line of people snaked out for blocks.
When we finally got inside it was wall-to-wall bodies.
And they ran out of ballots.
It was a crazy scene.
Somebody ran home and printed more ballots and then handed them out to everybody.
On the Republican side you had to show your ID and walk into the gymnasium to listen to speeches and think.
On the Democratic side, it was good enough to fill out your pseudo ballot and toss it into the box.
It didn't matter that you didn't know your precinct. "We'll figure it out," said the lady holding the box.
As we walked away, leaving the chaos of the Democratic gathering behind and passing the well-ordered, peaceful Republican hallways, I said to Marc, "Hey, this is just like Heaven and Hell."
He laughed.
I then realized there's a fundamental difference in personality here. Order, peace and sense of purpose go with Republican values. Disorder, disruption and obstructionist behavior goes with the Democrats.
Everything suddenly made more sense to me.
Now, seriously, I KNOW there are all kinds of people in both parties and both parties have their virtues and their flaws.
But for us as a couple it was illuminating.
And it made for an entertaining date night.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Bern Baby Bern

Of all the places I would have expected myself to be on a busy Monday's not at a Bernie Sanders rally.
But because I love my grandson Hayden, there I found myself, in the gymnasium at West High in center Salt Lake, on a bleacher seat among thousands of arch supporters of Sanders, most of them much younger than I and much more colorfully outfitted.
It started out that my son thought the event was to begin at 4 p.m. and asked me on my phone if we had any plans to attend. Hayden wanted to go.
Since my husband is a Democrat, my son thought he might be attending out of idle curiosity or just as an opportunity to check out the opposition and could take Hayden along.
Then the TV news announced the rally as starting at 2:30 and seats were filling up fast so I offered to take Hayden up to it since Marc had to stay at work.
(Hayden's parents have a polling and research business so there's lots of political talk at their house.)
Hayden really wanted to be a part of history.
So I hitched up the wagon and we headed out.
Getting there was no problem. Parking was a little bit of a problem. Finding a seat was no big problem. Waiting until Bernie showed was a major problem.
We were on site around 1:30 in a hot, crowded gym with 4,798 other people.
Bernie didn't come in until 10 or 15 minutes after 4 p.m.
We didn't dare leave and we didn't know how long we would have to stay.
There were numerous false starts as people made the wave with their Bernie signs and several hard-core supporters got up to speak in Bernie's absence.
It was a long time without food and water.
Finally the moment came and the elderly Bernie was in front of us in person.
He spoke eloquently of hopes and dreams and lofty aspirations.
He promised cleaner air, cleaner water, better-paying jobs, health care for everyone, improvement in immigration law, legalization of marijuana, less control by the police, a women's right to maintain control her body, free trips to space (just kidding on that one).
Hayden's eyes grew wide.
I sat down in dismay.
All of those things are great things...except for maybe the marijuana thing... but who pays for it all and how?
I couldn't help but shake my head.
I went to this rally with my eyes wide open but I was still surprised.
How can I support somebody with no sense of reality?
Does anyone seriously believe all of this can be achieved without pain and loss for somebody?
I came away not feeling the Bern.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Dream time

Yanni soaking up the love in San Jose
Over the years, I've reviewed Yanni's shows, book and concerts several times. His music speaks to me and apparently to people all over the world as his music continues to sell at record levels and his concerts all over the world sell out.
I've talked with the sexy music man on the phone more than once.
I own every album and a couple of DVDs of his monumental shows.
He's, in my opinion, a musical genius who gives and demands excellence.
Not only does he create stunning music but he's a gracious showman, willing to share the stage and the spotlight with other musicians who excel on the keyboard, the violin, the trumpet, the harp, vocals and the drums.
To be at a Yanni concert is to be transported to another world.
This one in San Jose at the City National Civic Center started about 7:45 and didn't finish until 10:20. (It would probably still be going on if the crowd had had its way.) Yanni and his entourage didn't let up the entire night.
Yanni and the 15-piece orchestra presented old favorites jazzed up for the night, new songs that will add to the array and thoroughly delighted the audience filled with fans of all ages and descriptions.
Lauren Jelencovic singing "Nightingale" was unbelievable as she not only hit all the impossibly high notes but played with them just like the bird does.
Charlie Adams on the drums proved he can handle the drumsticks masterfully and drink from his coffee cup at the same time!
Nowhere better to be
Yanni said he's been doing concerts now for 40 years and intends to return not only to San Jose but to Reno and New York, the only two places where he had concerts scheduled but had to cancel due to bad weather.
But it felt almost like a farewell concert maybe because I'm going to be 29 again this year for the third time.
It was lush and passionately played.
The lights added another layer of dimension and color.
The carry-you-away melodies from past concerts and albums were soothing, inspiring and gorgeous.
It was, in my opinion as an unbiased fan, absolutely lovely.
(If you want to catch one of the shows in this North American Tour, there's still time: see
He also has new music out (Sensuous Chill), a new PBS special filmed in Egypt and more magic to come, I hope!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Posting pops

A fool's gold
It doesn't seem like a daunting task.
The grandson in England wants some more Tootsie Roll Pops.
He's eaten and enjoyed the ones I sent a short time ago.
And Easter is coming so it's kind of a no-brainer.
I figured I could find some on and I'd be a hero grandma.
The problem is they only make these lollipops in the United States and it costs a ton in shipping to get them to Jack. I hadn't noticed when I packed in a few with his Christmas presents.
(I'm kind of a cheapskate when it comes to paying shipping.)
I thought I could do better, better than paying $40 for 100 pops.
I took my granddaughter with me to the store and we bought 25 pops and a mailing bubble envelope.
We journeyed to the post office where we tried to self-mail the loot.
The machine told us we had to go to the front counter.
We had time so we stood in line a bit and asked the lady to weigh it for us.
"$22.50," she announced.
I gulped. That much for $5 worth of suckers?
I hesitated and she added, "And you need a customs form filled out."
I said I didn't have one yet. I just wanted to know how much shipping it would cost.
She pushed the envelope back at me.
"She doesn't have a customs form so we can't help her," she told the girl standing beside her, a postal worker in training, apparently.
We left the post office.
I was thinking hard.
Meanwhile, my granddaughter and I both really wanted a Tootsie Roll Pop.
"Let's have one while I decide what to do," I said.
Adell started trying to get the package open again. It had self-sealed really, really well.
She pulled on it and gnawed on it and finally made a small hole. Then she reached in and grabbed hold of a sucker.
"Ah ha!" She got another one and one for each of her siblings.
I went back online later on and found the $40 package. Amazon wanted another $28 to ship it. The $40 was only for the candy.
That came to $67.
Are you kidding me?
I decided it was a bargain to mail it for $26.
So today I rewrapped the suckers, resealed the package and filled out a customs form. I paid the postal service their $26 and the candy is on its way.
There are still 20 suckers so $4 plus $26 is only $30, right? $1.50 a pop?
Oh, and there's me, the biggest sucker of all...
A grandchild's happiness is worth the price, don't you think?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A magical ski adventure

A mighty threesome, Ally, Ellie and Adell

It was one of those magical days when everything just seems to come together.
Marc had been wishing he could get out skiing one more time before spring (it seems to come in late February these years).
He wanted to see the twin grandsons ski. (Their parents take the family skiing every weekend for survival purposes.)
We both wanted to get a couple of granddaughters together, friends who live 100 miles apart.
We wanted to give one a chance to learn to ski at the same time.
And I wanted to see the baby.
So we launched into a plan to get to Beaver Mountain this past weekend. We packed a lunch. We surveyed the territory. (I wasn't going to ski on my newly repaired knee. I was going to watch and tend and enjoy.)
We made arrangements with the various mothers and a reservation for a Learn2Turn lesson.
We left at 6 a.m. and drove to Logan and on to the resort which is about 2 and 1/2 hours from our home.
Paige on skis for her first time
We arrived to find it sunny and warm. The snow was beautiful. The sky was blue.
We got Adell her skis and boots and found out where to go to wait for her teacher.
We met up with Brian the dad and his crazy boys — boys who can ski like they were born on the mountain.
Marc took off for a couple of death-defying runs.
I read a book for work until the baby showed up with his mom.
At lunch we shared sandwiches, chips and cookies. We checked on the new skier who was pretty proud of herself. She was loving it!
By the end of the afternoon, she was skiing like a pro and keeping up with her new friends who had been skiing for years.
The baby and I hung out. The mother of the baby and the twins got in a couple of unencumbered runs. Rare.
The two-year-old got on skis.
All in all, it was a marvelous day.
Everybody was fine. It only snowed toward the end. It was powdery, fine and nobody got hurt.
Hey, grandpa, can I ride up with you? (Brock)
It was one of those days you almost don't believe and you're not sure you'd expect to ever happen again.
We're still surprised at how well it went.
Who's going with us next time?