Burchart Gardens, British Columbia, Canada

Burchart Gardens, British Columbia, Canada

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ruby Tuesday Too - Indian Musician at the ITC Rajputana Hotel, Jaipur - April 22, 2014





During my five month stay in Jaipur, I spent a lovely evening at the ITC 
Rajputana Hotel.  This brightly garbed young man played outside one of
their fine restaurants.  I think the instrument is a sitar, though I am no expert
on Indian musical instruments.   Please correct me if I am wrong.

From Wikipedia, I learned that the sitar is descended from a simpler Persian
instrument and it is a plucked instrument used in Hindustani and classical
Indian music.  The sitar gained in great popularity in the 16th and 17th 
century.  "It derives its distinctive timbre and resonance from sympathetic
strings, bridge design, a long hollow neck and a gourd resonating chamber."
Musicians normally sit on the ground to play the sitar.

Vilayat Kahn, from a family of court musicians dating back to the Mughal empire,
 is credited with introducing sitar music to much of the world.  His first record was
produced at the age of 8 and his last performance took place when he was 75.

Pop musicians such as George Harrison of the Beatles and Brian Harrison of
the Rolling Stones helped introduce the sitar to the Western world.  George
Harrison visited India to study sitar under one of the world's greatest sitar 
musicians, Ravi Shankar.  











http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sitar

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vilayat_Khan


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Friday, April 18, 2014

Orange You Glad It's Friday, #86 - Northern California Sky - April 18, 2014


I wish I was at my old home just off the Pacific Ocean for this sunset but it is 
dazzling even here a hundred miles north in West Sacramento with no ocean
in the neighborhood.  These displays of nature are a reward and a reminder
that, indeed, there are some splendid gifts in this world that don't cost a thing.






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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Harper Ann Is a Year Old! - April 16, 2014


It hardly seems possible that a year has gone by since the night we spent at the
Sutter Roseville Birthing Center waiting for my grandchild's arrival.  While Laura 
labored, her mom, all three of my boys, and another friend passed the time 
alternately chatting, snacking, and dozing, until, shortly, right before 7AM,
everyone but my son, Alex, Laura, the OB nurse and the obstetrician remained
for the big event.  


April 13, 2013 
The proud father-to-be, Alex Vukasinovic, with his brothers,
Shawn Smith ( the short one ) & the Jeremy Vukasinovic

Shortly after 7AM, we were called back into the room where, thrill of thrills, I met
my beautiful GRANDDAUGHTER, Harper Ann Vukasinovic, for the first time.






Of course, to me, she was the most beautiful baby ever and I was so happy to see a
little girl after having raised three sons!  Uncle Jay was already making plans to take
her fishing and to teach her to shoot a gun and to take her to a 49ers game while I
was picturing her in cute dresses and taking ballet!

I only got to see her for six weeks before it was time for my return to India.  Alex
dutifully downloaded Skype but he wasn't so great at staying in touch so I could see
Harper.  Laura did send videos of the major firsts...her cute smile, rolling over, etc.

I did get back home December 3 and I've been staying with the family in West
Sacramento, luxuriating in four months now of being a full time grandmother.  It's
been a delight seeing this baby crawl, learn new words, grow by leaps and bounds
and bond with her Nana.  If I am not out in the morning, she will crawl outside my 
door and howl until I respond, then she is all smiles.  She has a voracious appetite
( like her Nana ) and there doesn't seem to be a food that she has been offered 
that she doesn't like ( except, perhaps, raw mushrooms ).

The night before Harper's birthday party, Harper's two uncles, her "abuela", Elmira,
who had taken care of Uncle Jeremy and her dad almost from the time they
were born and Uncle Shawn's friend, Kim, came for dinner.  Uncle Jay
brought the most incredible cake his friend from Genintech made for
Harper.


It was almost too beautiful to cut but, believe me, it was so delicious!

Her first birthday party was held this past Sunday, the day before her birthday.  Her
Uncle Shawn was home from six months in Kuwait so we were all together for the
occasion, just as we were for her birth.  It was a lovely event, on a bright sunshiny
day, held in her Nene's backyard in Antelope, California.



I decided to wear an Indian outfit for the occasion.


Uncle Jay was all smiles.


Uncle Shawn was catching up on his beer drinking after six dry months in Kuwait.


Here come Mom and Dad with the cake!




Harper was lovely in her frilly pink dress and she enjoyed playing with her
cousins and was wide eyed at all the gifts.  Most of all, she seemed to delight
in devouring her birthday cupcake and frosting.   All the hoopla was a bit 
exhausting, though, for a little one-year-old.





Thursday, April 10, 2014

Welcome Home, Shawn - April 10, 2014







Tuesday night, my oldest son, Shawn Smith, who is with the USAF Reserves, landed at the 
Sacramento airport, with part of his squadron of the AFRC 945th, based at Travis AFB,
California.  Shawn, who is a master sergeant, has been a reservist almost twenty
years now and had been deployed with his group to Kuwait for six months.  I
hadn't seen him in nearly a year, though, since I went to India in June.

We often miss each other like that.  In fact, Shawn, who was supposed to be best
man at his brother, Alex's wedding, was deployed to Germany one week prior and,
since the whole unit had to fly together, he wasn't allowed to delay for that special
occasion.  That's life, however, in the military - and he has spent a lot of his reserve
life on active duty - not that he's complained.  He likes the Air Force and has
enjoyed his years there, moving up the ladder to his present rank.




This is a photo of all three of my sons taken a year ago the night
Harper Ann was born.  Shawn, who some think resembles George
Clooney, is the shortest of the three.


I didn't get any pictures Tuesday night as they landed about 10:40PM.  Alex picked them
up at the airport while I stayed home to fix one of his favorite cocktails - also, my
favorite from New Orleans nursing school days: the Sazerac.  Before I moved out
of the house we shared when my job ended, it was often enjoyed when we weren't 
planning on driving anywhere.  One Sazerac is best when one doesn't have to 
drive and a good night's sleep is soon to follow!!!

Laura made chocolate chip cookies which were a perfect accompaniment to the
drinks and Shawn presented his niece with her gift from Kuwait:  a stuffed camel!!
Harper Ann woke up when she heard all the commotion.

For those of you who have never had a Sazerac, I am including the recipe I use.
One should really use rye whiskey, NEVER bourbon

I've adapted several recipes to my taste and this is how I make my Sazerac.  I
normally use Old Overholt Rye Whiskey ( 4 yr old ).  Another good rye is 
Rittenhouse.


-1 teaspoon absinthe or more, or Herbsaint (a New Orleans brand of anise liqueur)
  Two good absinthe brands are St George, Kubler from Switzerland and St.
   George from San Francisco.  Avoid absinthe from the Czech Republic.
-1 teaspoon of
simple syrup (or 1 sugar cube or 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar) -
  I prefer the simple syrup since it dissolves completely - 1-1/2 parts of sugar to 1
  part of water brought to a boil and cooled - can be stored in the refrigerator for
  future use )
-4 dashes
Peychaud's bitters
-1 small dash, a scant drop, of Angostura bitters (extremely optional; some feel it 
 helps open the flavors, but traditionalists may leave it out).
-2 ounces rye whiskey.
-Strip of lemon peel

Fill old fashioned glasses with ice to chill.  Discard ice and swirl absinthe in glass to
coat completely, then discard.  Blend with whiskey, bitters, simple syrup and an ice 
cube and stir.  Twist the lemon peel over the glass so that lemon oil cascades into the 
drink, then rub the peel over the rim.  The twist should NOT be put into the drink or as 
Stanley Clisby Arthur says, "Do not commit the sacrilege of dropping the peel into the 
drink." ( funny, but, most of the time, when I get a Sazerac in a restaurant, the lemon
peel is IN the drink! ).  Remember that the flavor of the absinthe should be there, but in 
the background.  It should not dominate.  If mixing ingredients in a cocktail shaker, stir 
gently but don't shake!!!




We enjoyed a couple of rounds of these and sent Shawn on his way back 
to Travis AFB, with a designated driver.  I had no problem sleeping Tuesday
night and dreamt of long ago student nurse days, Dixieland jazz, raw oysters,
and good times in New Orleans.

The following morning, Harper Ann was up bright and early, enjoying her Kuwaiti
camel from Uncle Shawn.











Good grief, Nana, isn't that enough pictures!!!



Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Black and White Wednesdays - Buffalo at Kafe Kokopelli, Dade City, Florida - April 2, 2014


During my ten day January stay with one of my dearest friends in Zephyrhills,
Florida, we did quite a bit of excellent dining - which is responsible for the
extra pounds around my girth ( that and my lack of will power ).  We had dinner
one night at a delightful spot, Kafe Kokopelli, set in a hundred year old building
in Dade City, Florida.  Once the site of Model T sales, it now houses a terrific
restaurant with a varied menu and a crazy decor.  This buffalo is one of 
the critters that graces the interior.




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Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Mary Frances McGee Quinlan - My Mother - April 1, 2014


I received a call from my brother, Charles Henesy, a few hours ago, notifying
me that our mother, Mary Frances McGee Quinlan died in her sleep at 4AM
this morning at Gwinnett Extended Care Center in Lawrenceville, Georgia.
May she rest in peace.  

Her body was sent to Emory University, her decision many years ago.  She was 
always a very determined lady and, would never have gone into a nursing home
if she had been in control.  Until the stroke that felled her, she had lived the
previous eighteen years in a duplex, growing increasingly less able to care for
herself because of macular degeneration and beginning dementia.

Mother was one of thirteen children, the daughter of Mississippi sharecroppers.
She grew up, knowing backbreaking labor, picking cotton.  Her mother died
when she was twelve and her father soon remarried.  He died shortly thereafter.

She was an avid student, however, and did very well at Pelahatchie ( Mississippi )
High School.  She then went to nursing school in Columbus, Georgia where one of
her brothers lived.  She left nursing school in her final year to marry Charles
Henesy, an army lieutenant at Ft. Benning and, later, went to work for Dr. Otis
Gilliam.  Her marriage did not last and I remember our living for some time in
the poorest of housing projects.  Dr. Gilliam was her employer for many years,
a kind country general practitioner who even made house calls and took me
along as his "nurse" occasionally.  He was the reason I became a nurse.

Mother eventually married Daniel J. Quinlan, another Army officer who was 
like a father to my brother and me.  Ultimately, my mother and he divorced.

I remember my mother as being very smart, hard working and dedicated to 
my brother and me. She did not have a wealth of friends.  She loved canasta
and we played when I was very young and all my life.  She taught her grandsons,
Alex and Jeremy and, every visit to Georgia, we would play for hours.  Shawn
missed out.

Mother was an avid reader and she loved poetry.  She always encouraged my
writing and, one of my greatest regrets, is that I did not complete my book of 
poetry when she was able to be aware of it.  She would have been very proud 
of that.  She did not like to travel but she did come to San Francisco for a few
weeks every summer to escape the Georgia heat.  As a young Army wife, though,
she lived in Austria ( my brother was born there ) and she spent six months in
Thailand with my stepfather.  She never could understand my love for travel.

After my nursing position with San Francisco ended, I was able to go to Georgia
on five different occasions to spend a month with her.  It was on my final visit
that I found my mother sitting in her favorite recliner, speaking unintelligibly, unable
to answer my questions.  I had previously been notified by a lady who did her
weekly grocery shopping that mother had not been taking her medications.

After five days in the hospital, my brother drove her to Gwinnett Extended Care,
part of an excellent medical complex where Susan, my sister-in-law, had 
worked in Same Day Surgery.  Mother remained there until her death, receiving
superb care.  She was so fortunate to be close to Charley and Susan and
her grandsons, Chris and Matt Henesy, and two beautiful great grandchildren, 
Liam and Britt Henesy.

I can never thank my brother and his wife enough for their continued love and
care of my mom during the past years she has been in extended care.  

I am just glad I made that trip to the South in January so I got to see my mother
one more time, the week of her 90th birthday.  For just a brief minute, she 
recognized me, saying, "I know that voice," and, after I told her it was Carmen,
her daughter, visiting, she said, "I love you," something I rarely heard from her in
her lifetime.



Mary Frances McGee in her 20's



Mary Frances McGee Quinlan in her 30's





These two photos were the last of me and my
mother, taken in January 2014, a week before
here 90th birthday 



Monday, March 31, 2014

NF Inspiring Photography 85 - Catching the Light - Laughter at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam


The last two years, I've returned home to San Francisco from India with 
December connections through Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam.
It is a duty free shopper's paradise and it always gaily decorated for the 
holidays.  Since I rarely have funds left after my lengthy India stays, I am 
quite content to stroll about, camera in hand, taking pictures, and allowing 
myself an indulgence of a few bars of marzipan for the continued trip onward.

I thought this picture, as I disembarked my India flight, was perfect for 
today's theme, "Catching the Light".




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Sunday, March 30, 2014

See It Sunday - Theme: Structure - Hong Kong LIghts - March 30, 2014


Flying to and/or from India on Cathay Pacific Airlines from San Francisco is nice
because, besides the fact that it is a really superb airline, one can have
a free stopover in Hong Kong ( their main hub ).  I spent five days there on
my return home from Mumbai in 2012.  Even though I was alone, I still 
enjoyed my visit and loved the fact that, as a senior citizen, all my rides on
the Star Ferry on Victoria Harbor were free.

I did a harbor cruise, one night ( not free but well worth the price ) to see the
spectacular "Symphony of Lights" which, according to Guinness Book of
World Records is billed as "the world's largest light and sound show".  More
than forty buildings on both sides of the harbor participate in this incredible
synchronised light extravaganza.  You can view it from the harborside 
promenade but, from the deck of a boat, it is even nicer.




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