Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year for 2017

In 2016, I did not make as much of an artistic effort as I would have liked. I'm hoping that 2017 will be a little better in that regard.

The big things in 2016? An expanded front yard garden, with over 150 pounds of tomatoes, a year's worth of turnips, my first successful canteloupes and cabbages, and more chard than I can eat or give away.

And Kermit the Frog-Dog. He's about a year and three months old now, hopefully as big as he'll ever get, and blossoming with a sweet and gentle personality. When I first got him, he was very needy-puppy-don't-mess-with-your-laptop, but with the newly-donated furniture in our front room, he has his own chair right behind where I work on the Press. I pull out the computer, and he hops up on his chair and snoozes like a perfect Office Dog. Maybe he'll let me get more art done in the coming year.

In spite of not doing enough art in the past year, I did renew my love/hate relationship with water colors, and revisited my teen efforts (crap, 46 years ago???) with oil pastels.

Do I make any resolutions for the new year? Not really. I'd like to do some art work every day, but I know that it's not, at this time, a realistic goal. I know I'll walk more with Kermit, garden more with 10 raised boxes in the front yard, and learn how to lay hardwood laminate flooring (starting in a week or so). I'll keep the Piker Press going.

That's probably enough.

Happy New Year, everybody.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Surprise Snack in the Flower Pot

What the heck?

Who knew that ornamental sweet potato vines would produce -- sweet potatoes?

And not only are they edible, they're delicious with a little butter and salt.

Kind of looks like plumbing under the sink, though.

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Frog in Autumn

Some people might say that I am besotted with this dog. I can only counter that I have loved all the dogs I've had in my life. Kermit is no exception.

Kermit is also a dog with NO undercoat. None. Under that flat black hair he is naked. And he gets cold. We've had a few chilly nights, and since we sleep with the door open to the air, I've been awakened at 3am a number of times by a big froggy beast who forcefully pastes himself against my back to get warm. If I drape a blanket over him, he settles in.

So I got him a sweater.

Extra large.

Monday, August 29, 2016

I wasn't sure how stacking would work out after having surgery on my left hand, but it was fine.  A non-stick bandage kept the area clean, a light cotton work glove padded it even more, and then the leather work glove over top -- no problems.

Of course the highs were huddling very close to 100 degrees every day that I stacked -- doesn't matter if I get wood in July or August, the heat always soars for the dirty, strenuous wood-work.

Interestingly, this year the stacking seemed a lot easier, and I worked for longer stretches than previous years. For that, I guess I have Kermit to thank. The priority of walking him each morning for 40 minutes has really paid off in terms of my health.

Speaking of which big black pup, he's really coming along (so to speak) with walking on a leash. We've been walking through town instead of on the outskirts, and I'm pleased with his progress as he adjusts to the hustle and bustle on the streets.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ahhh ... Football Again

So imagine me, eagerly using the modern technology of Direct TV to search, last Sunday, for the first pre-season NFL football game, the Hall of Fame game.

No one else in the house was particularly interested, largely because the Hall of Fame game is pretty much an exhibition game (it does rhyme with "lame") and has no meaning for the season. Still, it was the Colts and the Packers, and who wouldn't want to see if Andrew Luck has healed up well, and watch for that nasty glint Aaron Rodgers gets in his eyes when he knows his team is going to shellac the opponents?

Right, not many people care, but I'm one of the few.

I find Channel 206 with a minimum of effort (I really, really like Direct TV) and tune in to hear the announcer saying, "We don't know if the game will be canceled or not at this point."


Apparently some doofus -- maybe that should be capitalized, because I think that this mess may have re-defined the appellation -- some Doofus overseeing the painting of the turf's logos didn't know the difference between field paint and exterior building paint (or didn't bother to check to see what the crew had picked up from Supply) and the field was ruined. Especially after they sprayed some solvent on it trying to fix the mess, and I don't know of any exterior paint solvent that isn't toxic as hell.

Game over. Good thing I didn't make up my chicken wings to eat during the game. Or a plate of noshes, either of which I would not have done for the Hall of Fame game anyway.

But it would have been NFL Football. So I've had to wait another four days. Tonight there are six games being played, and I am going to watch all of them. Well, no, I won't, but whatever game is on, I'm going to watch it.

I'm going to be looking with hungering eyes for those long, bullet-like passes, the fancy footwork of running backs, and the defensive pounces that can sit a quarterback on his butt on the field in seconds. Will Garoppolo start for the Patriots? And will the Denver defense look sharp again this year?

Can't wait to find out!

Monday, August 08, 2016

The Bountiful Summer

For me, this is one of the most beautiful sights of summer: sweet corn -- from my own front yard.

Apparently the raised planter right next to the sidewalk has just the perfect climate for corn, because the plants got eight feet tall and produced full-sized ears. The pretty containers of corn out on the back patio don't do quite so well, not as tall, and with smaller (but not less tasty) ears. Maybe it's because so many people walk by on the sidewalk and admire the urban farming project -- maybe it gives the corn there more self-esteem.

We had plenty of corn from that 6' x 2 1/2' box, enough for several meals (and I mean corn as the main ingredient) and some to put away in the freezer. The variety is Burpee's On Deck corn, developed specifically for container gardening.

The other wonder this year was a successful experiment -- growing canteloupe in a raised bed. I'd never grown canteloupe before, and wasn't sure the plants would set fruit. Well, they sure did! We've been eating canteloupe like crazy, something we just couldn't really afford before. Delicious!

The melon variety, incidentally, is again a Burpee's product: Olympic Express. We plan on planting them again next spring.

But even while we feast on melons and corn and tomatoes, we're looking ahead a month and planning where to place the brussels sprouts, the beets, the turnips -- winter gardening will be much more varied.

Ah, but back to corn. I'd still like to lay in another five or six pounds of sweet corn for winter ... I wonder if the fruit stand up the road has some for a good price.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Moose and Squirrel

Alex sent me this photo of Joma and Kermit with the title "Moose and Squirrel."

Monday, July 25, 2016

Why I'm Quiet

I had surgery on my left hand last Thursday.

The condition is called a "contracture" and it is a gradual tightening of a tendon. This one was in my left index finger, making my finger bend inward. It's been years since it started, and I wasn't worried about it, until this past year, when it seemed to be getting worse rapidly.

Now it's taken care of, the doctor says. In a week, stitches will come out and the mini-cast will come off. In the mean time, typing is a challenge. Well, actually, anything I'd normally do two-handed is a challenge.

But I did walk with Kermit again this morning, and we saw a glorious red sunrise come up through the hazy sky.

Monday, July 18, 2016


Just in case anyone was wondering how Kermit is fitting into the household...

Joma is four years old. Kermit is 10 months old. And while we still make sure that Joma is safely out of harm's way when Kermit gets silly-puppy-gallops, he's as gentle as a stuffed toy with her. She does get frustrated when he gets in between her and where she wants to be, mostly because there is no way she can shove him hard enough to make him move.

Joma's shirt? She adores playing "soccer" with kids her age. As you can imagine, it mostly involves kicking a ball and screaming while racing around madly.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

28 Pounds

Yes, I did. I picked 28 pounds of tomatoes from my front yard garden.

Bernie snagged probably another pound for his salsa before I got to the scales.

This has been a great year for my tomatoes, with Shady Ladies and Early Girls vying for the prettiest production. However, the tomatoes in the silver bowl are on reserve -- no one who is ambivalent about the taste of tomatoes should eat them, because they are Bush Big Boy, and definitely the best-tasting tomato I've had since I was a kid, and Mom raised Big Boys.

I'm going to go eat one of them now.

P.S. Bernie and I froze five pounds of zucchini this morning, and seven pounds of sweet corn yesterday afternoon. That'll take the bite out of winter!

Monday, July 04, 2016


Since people are not supposed to hang clothes outdoors, according to a city ordinance, I chose to hang some in my living room. 

Fortunately my living room has some large indoor plants -- they got so large I had the roof removed.

And anyone who knows me can tell you that my dog is an indoor dog, as you can tell by his shadowy figure on the rug.

I find that sitting in my comfortable chair in my living room, with my laptop in my lap and my laundry hung from the walls is a very soothing environment, absolutely wonderful for writing.

Artistic, yes? I love this idea of wall-hangings.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Morning Camp

When you camp out, one of the sweetest activities you have is to build a fire, in the evenings to light the night, in the morning to warm you up after you crawl out of your tent.

Kermit and I get up around five-thirty, mumble around doing what we have to do, and then hit the streets (and/or the river walk) by six, and creep in the northside gate around a quarter to seven or so. On select mornings, Bernie has a stack of kindling in the chiminea ready for ignition on the back patio, and my tea water on simmer at the back of the stove.

I must say that on mornings like today, when the temps are still in the 50s, that morning campfire feels mighty good. The sun comes up and adds to the thawing effect on our old bones, whispering to us that soon there will be no point in a fire, that if we are at all cool at 7am, we should count ourselves lucky.

Yes, I will. But I'm very lucky now, too, to sit and sip tea by the morning camp.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Awakened at 2 AM

We were awakened by John booming something about an accident on the street, sometime around 2 am. Bernie went to investigate; I blearily got up and took Kermit out, as puppies have to go when they're rallied from sleep, even if they don't usually get up until six. By the time I got out front, the truck that made those tire tracks in my neighbor's grass had been pushed back off our rosemary bush.

Apparently the driver had fallen asleep.

Right. In point of fact, he had been drinking, according to Bernie and John, who had conversed with the fool before the police arrived and arrested him for DUI. (I missed that drama as well. Thanks, Kermit.)

The wreck knocked down the fence; the truck got hung up in the rosemary bush -- a wild, unruly shrub that I've been itching to yank out for years. Glad I didn't, as it kept the truck from killing my tomatoes and baby shade trees behind it. A couple hours after I took this picture, we did indeed take out the rosemary -- the truck had snapped it off at the roots.

Amazingly, the simple construction of the fence allowed it to be pushed over before it broke, so Bernie was able to pull it upright and pound it back in with a mallet. It looks like it did before. Rustic, maybe, but pretty durable.

Can't say the same for the neighbor's car.

That driver sideswiped her car from tail-lights to headlights, and pushed it up onto the sidewalk. That crunching sound was what woke John up.

Did the driver actually fall asleep, or did he pass out? Judging from how long the destruction went on, I'd say the latter. Shame on him for driving when he was that drunk.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Kermit and Eperis - Dogs

Well, why not take some pictures of our dogs -- especially when they are actually behaving themselves instead of wrestling and crashing around the house? This day, they were tussling and roaring so loudly that we just opened up the back doors and let them take their rowdiness outside. And did they? No, they did not. They settled down on the pool deck and sunbathed quietly.

Kermit is proving to be a wonderful puppy. Based on some physical characteristics, and opinions of other Labrador retriever owners, we've revised his estimated age down a bit. He's only about eight months old.

However, our daily walks are getting much better. He doesn't drag me much at all, and I've become more confident about walking with him. We wake up before six in the morning, and then walk for about 40 minutes before breakfast.

His worst trait? He's still pining for the kids in the family that abandoned him. He sees or hears the kids at school up the street and he just goes into a frantic mood, trying to go to them and find his lost kids. I simply cannot walk him on the street where the school is, except on the weekends.

On Sunday mornings, Bernie and I have been taking Kermit with us when we go to 7am Mass. It's shady and cool where we park, and he can easily wait in the car. The early Mass is a quick one, no music or frills. After Mass, we take him to a dog park in Modesto where he can run loose and chase tennis balls or meet other dogs.

The big surprise is Eperis. Once Kermit entered the household, Ep stopped being a scooty little snotball, and has stepped up his game and become a responsible role model for the younger dog.

When they do get to chasing each other around the yard, Ep likes to evade Kermit by jumping into the pool. Kermit doesn't know how Eperis manages to run in the water yet, but I think in another month Ep will have lured him all the way in.

And of course, Eperis cannot be outdone in cuteness. He knows exactly how to get a belly rub.

There, I've blogged about two good dogs. They're a lot more fun to look at than James Franco.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Why My Teeth Fell Out After Seeing "Oz the Great and Powerful"

Now I know.

The ladies of this household all trooped off to SuperCuts and our favorite hair stylist, Anna, on Saturday afternoon. While Lil was having her massive mane sheared off, I happened to glance at the stack of magazines and saw this magazine with the cover artfully torn.

No, I didn't do it, but I'd like to shake the hand that did.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Big Dog

Kermit the Dog
10 months at most
Alotta cubic feet of canine

Friday, March 18, 2016


This is Kermit.

On the evening of March 16, we picked him up at the veterinary clinic. He and I dragged each other around the corner so that we'd have a relatively quiet street to see if we could get him into the car without a crane.

"Let's see if he knows anything about cars," we said, and opened the rear hatch of the Vibe. SPROING! Kermit landed in the back on all fours and -- plunked himself down on the carpet as if riding in a car was something he did all the time.

Earlier that day I had tidied our room, moved some small furniture to make a floor space available, brought in a new water dish, and put down an old blanket for a mat for Kermit to sleep on. I was anticipating having Kermit on a leash 24 hours a day for a few days, to accustom him to Pilarski civilization, keeping him apart from the rest of the household until he was calmed down.

Pffft. He came into the house, sniffed around our room, tried to climb onto the bed. "Aha!" I thought. "He knows what a bed is for." He also knew what the word "Off" meant. He quite readily made use of the blanket mat, so he knew what that was for, too. After a bit, I took him outside, and he knew what a good dog does outside.

In spite of my decision to keep him off the bed, when Bernie crawled under the covers, Kermit lay down right against his legs, and our resolve melted. Kermit slept in between us all night, and even though he is a BIG dog, he took up less space than Ep does when he sleeps with us.

Okay, so this dog knows how to sleep with people, too. He's housebroken, his toenails were cut by a professional groomer, he's sweet, loves people, he's gentle. He doesn't bark. Why in heaven's name would someone just dump him? He was at the animal shelter for over two weeks, and no one tried to find him.

Did someone think that the puppy they were raising was going to stay small? And were not willing to pay the $70 live surrender fee to the shelter? Maybe.

Thursday morning, Kermit got to walk around the house. He met John and Joma (Alex and Lil had paid him a visit on Wednesday) and was polite and happy, and then it was Eperis' turn.

They did okay, too. Ep was a little pissed at another dog in the house, but his herding skills kicked right in and he corralled Kermit in the middle of the living room. Kermit loved it.

We're trying to keep Kermit a little quiet until his incision is healed, but soon he and Eperis are going to have some rowdy times together.

So I've got a dog to wake me at 6:30 with kisses and crashing cuddles. Beats an alarm clock any day.

Yeah, he does look like Sebastian, doesn't he?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Guess I'll Have Those Words on a Sandwich, Pass the Dill Pickles

Too big. Too messy. Too much of a chance.

I was sure he wasn't the dog for me, the timing wasn't right, I didn't have time for a dog, blah, blah, blah.

Then Bernie and I went for a walk around the block. On the other side of Zumstein Street, a little dog ran out of a yard. "There he goes," I said to Bernie as the mutt scrambled down the sidewalk at full speed. But as the dog came past the cars parked over there, he dashed forward, across the street ... right at me. Wiggling madly, he came to my feet to greet me with recognition and delight. There was one white dot on the back of his little red neck, a dot that looked exactly like the dot on the back of the neck of a shelter dog called "Hoagie" that I had met and petted months before -- like last August. "Can this be Hoagie?" I said, just as his owner came running across the street, shouting, "Hoagie!"

"It IS Hoagie! I met this dog at the shelter," I explained to his owner. Bernie and I chatted with Brett for a while, then we went on our ways. I was glad to see that Hoagie had found such a doting owner.

Yet it gave me food for thought. If Hoagie, a dog I petted in passing six months ago, remembered me, what must that big pup think of someone who spent twenty minutes petting and playing with him, someone who just turned around and walked away and never came back?

I'd referred to him (after I met him when talking to Alex) as "that froggy mutt down at the shelter." And standing by my bedroom door looking out at the rain, I thought, "What would I do, call him 'Froggy?' Stupid name for a dog." And I'm not kidding, I heard something like a small voice say, His name is Kermit.

We went down to see him again this morning. Oh, boy, did he ever recognize me. We took him to the Adoption Room to let him interact with us in a quiet setting; we were impressed with his calmness mixed with happy spirits. He didn't bark, he didn't jump. He sat beside me, he came when we clapped for him. I put a leash on him to test how hard I'd have to pull on him to get his attention and direction ... not much at all. And then, on the leash, he just lay down and relaxed.

He'll visit the vet in the morning when Animal Control takes him there for neutering, and by evening, I will have a big, smelly dog with me, a dog named Kermit.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Not Him Either

Last week I went down to the local Animal Shelter to look at a dog. Alex had been down there volunteering, and came home with a tale of a nice puppy reputed to be a Labrador Retriever/German Shepherd mix.

We took him to an outside run and messed with him for about 20 minutes, then I had Alex call Bernie and tell him to come down and look at the dog, too. For having been in an animal shelter kennel for more than a week, he was remarkably mellow, and easily came to lean against my legs; he had a happy demeanor, and was willing to sit. His feet were enormous, though; plainly, even though he was a big puppy, he is going to be a much larger adult. I didn't really see any Shepherd in him, but the Lab was quite evident.

On a whim, Bernie dragged me off to an adoption event at German Shepherd Rescue of Modesto. We petted German Shepherds for about half an hour, big ones, puppies, in-betweens. We came home without a new dog.

The next evening, Alex and John had to go out of town, leaving us in charge of the girls. And of Eperis, who naturally slept in our bed with us because he believes that dogs do sleep in beds with people.

When I woke in the morning, Ep was already watching me, ready for a snuggle. Then I knew that the shelter dog was not for me. That huge puppy would require attention 24/7 for a long time, and I'm not willing to give up the interaction I have with Ep.

The other thing that I realized, thinking about the dogs I'd looked at over the weekend, was that all the German Shepherds we petted didn't really speak to us: they were all looking for their foster-owners. All looking for someone else. And the part-Lab? He wasn't looking for us, he was looking for anybody.

The Lab would have been too big to be a lap dog, anyway, whereas Eperis is obviously not.

I don't know if I'll find another companion dog for me in my life or not. Howie would be a hard act to follow. For the time being, Ep fills in as best he can, at my heels in the kitchen if he hears me get out the cutting board or opening the wrapper of a loaf of bread, greeting me in the mornings with many kisses, staring intensely into my eyes with optimism and good nature.

I'm content for now.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016


I was standing at the kitchen door that leads out onto the patio. A grey piece of fuzziness drifted down from the hopseed tree. And then another, more obviously a fluffy feather.

And then another!

And more, a veritable shower of feathers, not just downy chest fluff, but primary feathers as well. We stepped out the door to see who was plucking what up in the tree, and a small hawk flew away, leaving an avalanche of feathers hung up on the twigs and leaves.

An inspection of the feathers:

I knew immediately what the species of lunch was. And if that wasn't clear enough, there was this:

Delicious, crunchy fresh cedar wax-wing.

Why couldn't it have been one of those noisy, pesty mockingbirds?

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Moon and I

Never was able to take a picture of a full moon before, without the image horribly over-exposing. My "old" camera just couldn't do it. This image was taken with the "new" camera, a Sony DSC H400. And no tripod.

Not yet, anyway. I love the ZOOM on this new camera, but wow, I have to seriously lean on something and hold my breath to use it. When the moon was full last week, I leaned against the back of the house, held up the camera ... I did not know until then that the camera will focus even if you're not touching the shoot button.

I'm a little intimidated by a camera that's smarter than I am.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Goodbye, Mike

The illustration is one I did for the Piker Press story "The Health Club Gallery Tour" by Michael Price. He really got a kick out of it, and we planned on re-releasing the story when I got around to doing more illustrations for him.

Mike wrote stories for the Press for the last four years ... well, he wrote for the sake of writing, and the Press benefited from his work. The last one that got published was "Zucchini Bread: The Recipe" and this morning, I looked at the comments pending approval and found an ominous one:

"My taste buds loved many slices of Mike's zucchini bread over the years, and I will save this recipe since, unfortunately, Mike made his last loaves this past month. RIP, Mike."

My taste buds loved many slices of Mike's zucchini bread over the years, and I will save this recipe since, unfortunately, Mike made his last loaves this past month. RIP, Mike. - See more at:
My taste buds loved many slices of Mike's zucchini bread over the years, and I will save this recipe since, unfortunately, Mike made his last loaves this past month. RIP, Mike. - See more at:
My taste buds loved many slices of Mike's zucchini bread over the years, and I will save this recipe since, unfortunately, Mike made his last loaves this past month. RIP, Mike. - See more at:
My taste buds loved many slices of Mike's zucchini bread over the years, and I will save this recipe since, unfortunately, Mike made his last loaves this past month. RIP, Mike. - See more at:
My taste buds loved many slices of Mike's zucchini bread over the years, and I will save this recipe since, unfortunately, Mike made his last loaves this past month. RIP, Mike. - See more at:

What a horrible joke someone has made, I thought, and then Googled Mike's name and town to see if there was an obituary. I couldn't find one, so I emailed the commenter directly and asked for an explanation. And got the worst possible one.

Mike died last Friday night.

Mike was more than a Piker Press contributor. He and I shared a great interest in NFL football; he was always ready to hear my latest rant about unsportsmanlike conduct or unbelievable plays. Our last correspondence was about this year's Superbowl and how we hoped (grudgingly) that Denver would win so that Cam Newton would SHUT UP.

We discovered we were both gardeners, too, (something to do in Off-Season) raising tomatoes and zucchini and whatnot, comparing varieties and techniques and the climates of Minnesota and California.

This past June, Mike submitted a piece to the Press called "Lest We Forget," about a -- letter? speech? -- to his deceased father, with a quote near the end of it:

"Hell, now I might as well just wait and deliver [this] in person.
Shouldn't be long now, Dad."

Ah, Mike, I wish you hadn't been right, and I'm going to miss you a lot, my friend.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

New Stuff

This mockingbird was still a bit fluffed-up and grumpy-looking when I poked my head out the kitchen door and snapped this photo. It's not the greatest subject matter, the composition is ... meh. The big thing about the picture is that it is one of the first ones on my new camera.

I stayed with Sony, as my old ("old") camera has lasted for nine years. The new creature is another Cyber-shot, a Sony DSC H400. There's a lot more camera there, with a 63x zoom, and a host of features I have yet to explore.

People who know digital cameras well tend to sneer at the "Point and Shoot" cameras, but I think that this new toy is going to do everything I need it to do and then some, and I didn't have to spend a thousand dollars on it. The salesman at Best Buy was introducing me to a camera that -- in order to do what my old camera could -- would require me to buy two lenses in addition. Uh, no.

Looking forward to lots of new ways to shoot pics.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Development of Language

This is Joan Maria, AKA Joma, adorably assisting her grandfather in his culinary experimentation.

Joma is three and a half. She's been a little slow to master the use of vocal language ... or so they say. She certainly understands everything that is said to her, and there have been odd moments when words and sentences come out so clearly that it's amazing. She calls her big sister "Loa" -- but when Bernie teasingly pretended not to know who "Loa" was, Joma said, with a little exasperation, "Lillian." It wasn't that she couldn't say the name, but rather that she had decided for herself to re-christen her sister.

Ask her to say any word, though, and you get silence. At least here at home; her teacher at pre-school speech therapy has no problems with Joma's cooperation. Joma says what and when she wants to.

Bernie and I were hanging out with our grand-daughters a few nights ago. The TV was on, and Bernie wanted Lillian to watch a travel program about Laos with him. He'd recorded it a few weeks earlier, and this was the first chance he'd had to show it to her. Joma was playing with her toy cars on the floor beside him, ignoring the conversations around her.

He thumbed the remote down through the menu of recordings. And then did it again. And again. And then realized that somewhere along the line, he'd deleted the show.

"Dammit!" he said, shaking his fist in the air.

"DAMMIT!" Joma shrieked in merriment, leaping to her feet. "Dammit, dammit, dammit, dammit!" She crawled into Bernie's lap, laughing, "Dammit! Dammit-dammit-dammit!"

No difficulties with initial consonants at all. No hesitation about final consonants or middle consonants or the production of vowels, either. What's more, she knew that "Dammit" was an expletive, and thought it hilariously funny to say it.

She hasn't said it since that night; most likely she's saving up that performance for the most shocking and inopportune time. I hope it's not at pre-school ...