A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

What I Got for Christmas

Another year with my little buddy.
A year ago I really believed Sinbad would not be with me much longer.  
He continues to do well thanks to medication and special food.

He does a lot of this these days.  I wish I could.

I watch very little television.  But when I do...

Yeah, that's about how interesting TV is these days.

Now we will work on another year together.  
Wish us luck.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Gingerbread #5

Chateau St. Jean Winery

This one was the winner in my estimation.  It was created by the Boys and Girls Club and done by the kids themselves, mostly 5th graders.

Over 230 individually decorated icing covered graham crackers were used in the recreation of the Chateau St. Jean Winery and gardens.

I stood there thinking how sick I would be if I had to eat any small portion of this.
Seriously, I was getting a bit nauseated standing so close it.

Well done kids!

This concludes the gingerbread contest series.
Have a Happy Christmas Day everyone from Sinbad and I.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Gingerbread #4

B.R. Cohn Winery

Simple but perfectly executed.

I think a professional cake decorator got called in on this project.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Gingerbread #3

Madrone Vineyards Estate Winery

There was no doubt this was made with gingerbread.  I could smell it just standing there.  
It got my vote for the most fragrant piece I saw all day.

It was all I could do to keep from licking the roof much like Beni the dog did with his image in yesterday's Gingerbread creation.

Unlike yesterday, no Rice Krispies were harmed in making this. That's all gingerbread with white frosting and some peanuts to mimic the stonework on the front of their winery.  

Oh the aroma!  I could just carve out this whole wall and take it with me.

One of their wine bottles used for the stump of the chocolate grapevine.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Gingerbread #2

Muscardini Cellars

I walked into the tasting room and was welcomed by a young lady sitting on the floor who directed me over to the tasting area.  I said I had come just to see their Gingerbread House.  See, at this point I was still thinking this contest was all about gingerbread houses.  Her face lit up and she got up telling me this was it.  She had decided to do something different this year and created a fireplace scene all by herself and was quite proud of it as well she should be.

The pieces on the mantle are made with Rice Krispies covered with icing.  The stockings are all employees at the winery.  Serena is who made this.  She was in the process of repairing the crumbling candy "fire".  The bricks are sugar icing covered graham crackers.

The picture frame depicting their tasting room setting hung above the fireplace is the gingerbread part.

These are edible candies made locally where they will overlay any image you like onto the candy.  I think the guy on the left is old Mr. Muscardini.  In the middle is the mother (in her younger years) who died this year and the son who is running the winery today.

And this is Beni the winery dog also made of Rice Krispies covered in icing.  Don't ask me how Rice Krispies can be molded into shapes.  I didn't ask.  Beni has been caught twice licking himself, but no damage was done.  You can see the candy fire Serena was repairing behind Beni.

 Another gingerbread piece tomorrow.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sonoma Valley Winery Gingerbread Contest

There are more than 400 wineries in Sonoma County.  Sonoma Valley (where I live) alone has dozens of wineries.  Each year at Christmas there is a Gingerbread Contest.  I thought it was a Gingerbread House Contest but eventually came to understand anything qualifies.  I checked out the creations at the wineries closest to my home.  "Vote for your favorite and you are entered in winning a case of wine".  It would be just my luck to win something I don't care for.

Imagery Estate Winery
This one got my vote for the most pathetic looking creation.  The wine tasting lady came by and told me that this was created in Dallas, Texas and sent here.  "It was amazing that it arrived intact."  
Okay, now I am impressed.

She pointed out how it was becoming a "victim of the environment" which I assumed the wine tasting room itself.  Yeah, the columns are getting wonky and the roof is caving in.

Except for the lettering, the label images are replicas of the winery's actual labels.

After looking at the accompanying booklet I then realized that the columns are supposed to be all wonky.  That is how the original artist created the image for their wine label!
I retract my "pathetic" vote and give it a Well done!

Another Gingerbread creation tomorrow.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Twisted Manzanita

It seems this manzanita bush couldn't decide which direction to grow.  
I wonder if early on in its life a rock was on top of it and it grew out from beneath it.
The rock and since moved on.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Tracks in the Mud

After some recent rains I went for a hike and came across the tracks.  Under the right conditions these could be come fossilized tracks just like those that dinosaurs left behind.  But this isn't the ideal place for the right conditions.  Too many hikers and bicyclists will soon obliterate these tracks in the mud.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Germiest Public Places

Weather.com had an article recently about germs in public places.  It is after all, that time of the year - flu season.  Okay, I'll get this out from the start:  I'm a germaphobe.  Well not in the strictest sense of the term, but I am ALWAYS aware.  Seven years ago I got sick.  It turned into pneumonia and my wife took me to the hospital, not once but twice.  I have never been so helpless in all my life.  My mother and grandmother both died from pneumonia.  Ever since that adventure, I am AWARE.

Here are some of the points brought out in the article.  None, except for one, were a surprise to me.

1. Grocery cart handles.  Yep, I always wipe the handle down.  My store has anti-bacterial wipes at the door as you walk in.  Thank you Safeway.

2. Table surfaces and condiment containers in restaurants.  The doctor they interviewed for the article said he doesn't go so far as to use a napkin to pick up the ketchup bottle or... well I do!  The article didn't mention your knife and fork sitting on the table surface when the waitress seats you.  Think about it.

3. Laundromats.  This is the one I had not considered but then I never go to a laundromat.  Those wet clothes of yours picked up bacteria from the previous loads coming from households you cannot imagine.

4. Public restrooms.  Rest assured, those faucet handles have many times more bacteria than the toilet seat.  I trigger the toilet lever with my knee or a slip of TP in hand.  When I leave, the paper towel is still in my hand when I pull on the door handle.  I then turn and go for a 3 point shot for the trash can. No paper towels?  Air blowers instead?  I use my shirt tail on the door handle.  And yes, I have stood there waiting for someone to come through the door and slip out once they pass.

5. Gas pump handles.  No surprise there.

6. Children's playgrounds.  Think about it.

7. Women's office desktops.  This one was surprising in the sense that women's measured worse than men.  Reason being was women had more contact with children and there is usually food items at women's workstations.  Office desk tops measured 400 times more bacteria than toilet seats.  This one made me think of this one lady at my bank.  She's always coughing and hacking and blowing her nose. Yep, she licks her finger to thumb the bills in her hand.  I stand clear of her.

8. The remote control.  There's nothing worth watching on television anyway.

9. Your underwear  (your underwear is a "public place"?).  The article mentioned underwear should be washed separately from the rest of your clothing.   Hey, just don't wear underwear. :))

10. Money.  Of course.

11. Electronic stores.  You like to go to Best Buy and play with the new computers, cameras, tablets and cellphones?  We all do.

12. Toy stores.  Kids play with all the toys and then your kid comes along behind them.

13. Door knobs, stair rails and I'll add on the rubber grip for the escalator.  Look at the people holding onto that escalator grip the next time you are at the department store.  Coughing, sneezing, wiping their nose, then put their hand back onto that rubber rail.  Here I'll confess to another quirk of mine. On push/pull doors going into a store, I always use the one on the left, going in the OUT door.  That handle on the other side of the OUT door gets significantly less usage than the designated entry door. Also my shirt tail or sleeve comes into action here again.

14. Airplane seats and restrooms.  Oh don't get me started on airplanes!  I don't fly anymore anyway.

This brings us to flu shots.  I don't get them.  There is a long list of viruses out there and they never know which one is going to be the main player for the upcoming season.  One shot does not cover all the virus possibilities.  So they make an educated guess as to which one it will be and make up vaccines for that one.  It's crap shoot.  My wife gets flu shots.  She's gotten sick in spite of doing so. I've not been sick once since that bout with pneumonia 7 years ago.   Besides, I'd have to go to Kaiser to get the shot and you think I want to be around all those sick people?  That's like being on an airplane!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Save the Poinsettias!

It is that time of the year when you give or receive a poinsettia as a gift.  Days or weeks later, after all the fuss is over the plant usually winds up in the trash bin.  We received this poinsettia as a gift and I just wanted to see if I could keep it going until the next season.  This plant is three years old this season.  Save the poinsettias!  It is easier than saving whales.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

Well I find myself posting another item I received in a e-mail.  I always enjoy learning historical facts which this has, but then there is that other issue.  Oh how simple it all was when I was a young boy.

Apparently, the PC police would have you believe that saying "Happy Holidays" is the only appropriate greeting for this time of year. Everything else is "banned".

Let's take a little look at the history of Christmas in America, dating back before the Revolution. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed by the Puritans in Boston.

"For preventing disorders, arising in several places within this jurisdiction by reason of some still observing such festivals as were superstitiously kept in other communities, to the great dishonor of God and offense of others: it is therefore ordered by this court and the authority thereof that whosoever shall be found observing any such day as Christmas or the like, either by forbearing of labor, feasting, or any other way, upon any such account as aforesaid, every such person so offending shall pay for every such offence five shilling as a fine to the county."
From the records of the General Court,
Massachusetts Bay Colony
May 11, 1659

But why? The Puritans who came to Massachusetts to build life anew had several reasons for disliking Christmas. It was a staunch reminder of the Church of England and the old-world customs that they were trying to escape. In fact there was pressure from the British to conform to English customs.

Additionally they frowned on many of the Christmas traditions of drunkenness, feasting, games, and wassailing - an act that sometimes turned violent. Wassailing was a custom of people who held a lower economic status, visiting wealthier community members and begging - or demanding - food and drinks in return for toasts to their hosts' health. If the host refused there was usually a threat of retribution.

Interestingly enough, that tradition evolved to one we still practice today: Christmas caroling!

Fast forward to June 26, 1870 where Christmas was declared a national holiday. During the 19th century, Americans reinvented Christmas, transforming it from a wild carnival to a family-oriented day of peace and tradition.

Today, we see different kinds of chaos surrounding Christmas, such as Black Friday. Recently I wrote you my thoughts on that madness. It still amazes me how violent people will get for a new television and it scares me to think what they'd do for something they really need, like food or water.

We also see reports of school campuses banning the word "Christmas", retail employees having their jobs threatened for uttering the word - the controversy has even torn apart a small town in New Jersey who can't agree on whether they should refer to the annual lighting as the lighting of a "Christmas tree" or a "Holiday tree".

Back when Christmas was first banned we were missing one important thing - the Constitution. The same document that protects an individual's rights to say "Merry Christmas" protects an individual's right to say "Happy Holidays".

You see, we have the freedom of choice. Forcing one or banning another is purely unconstitutional and frankly, downright silly.

Friday, December 11, 2015


I received this in my email today. Normally I wouldn't put this into my blog but as the author wrote, this scam is very clever. Then I thought being the season and all, maybe it could happen to you so here you are.

This scam is actually very clever. Just when you thought you'd heard it all.
Be very careful out there! Beware of people bearing gifts.
The following is a recounting of the incident from the victim:

Wednesday a week ago, I had a phone call from someone saying that he was from some outfit
called: "Express Couriers,"(The name could be any courier company).
He asked if I was going to be home because there was a package for me that required a signature.

The caller said that the delivery would arrive at my home in roughly an hour. Sure enough, about an hour later, a uniformed delivery man turned up with a beautiful basket of flowers and a bottle of wine. I was very surprised since there was no special occasion or holiday, and I certainly didn't expect anything like it. Intrigued, I inquired as to who the sender was.

The courier replied, "I don't know, I'm only delivering the package."
Apparently, a card was being sent separately... (the card has never arrived!) There was also a consignment note with the gift. He then went on to explain that because the gift contained alcohol, there was a $3.50 “delivery/verification charge," providing proof that he had actually delivered the package to an adult (of legal drinking age), and not just left it on the doorstep where it could be stolen or taken by anyone, especially a minor.

This sounded logical and I offered to pay him cash. He then said that the delivery company required payment to be by credit or debit card only, so that everything is properly accounted for, and this would help in keeping a legal record of the transaction. He added couriers don’t carry cash to avoid loss or likely targets for robbery.

My husband, who by this time was standing beside me, pulled out his credit card, and 'John,' the "delivery man," asked him to swipe the card on a small mobile card machine with a small screen and keypad. Frank, my husband, was asked to enter his PIN number and a receipt was printed out. He was given a copy of the transaction. He guy said everything was in order, and wished us a good day.

To our horrible surprise, between Thursday and the following Monday, $4,000 had been charged/withdrawn from our credit/debit account at various ATM machines.
Apparently the "mobile credit card machine," which the deliveryman carried now had all the info necessary to create a "dummy" card with all our card details including the PIN number.
Upon finding out about the illegal transactions on our card, we immediately notified the bank which issued us a new card, and our credit/debit account was closed.
We also personally went to the Police, where it was confirmed that it is definitely a scam because several households had been similarly hit.

WARNING: Be wary of accepting any "surprise gift or package," which you neither expected nor personally ordered, especially if it involves any kind of payment as a condition of receiving the gift or package. Also, never accept anything if you do not personally know or there is no proper identification of who the sender is. 

Oh the Happy Holidays! 

Bear Rock

I found another interesting rock during a different hike. 
This one I couldn't bring home with me so I just gave it a name and moved on.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The 2% Mindset

I came across this online a long time ago.  I saved it, then lost it.  Well, now I came across it again.
I don't know where "they" got their statistics from but if this is any sort of accurate, 
I find it kind of sad.  Something to think about.

Saturday, December 5, 2015


This is just a test. 

Well it seems the video will show after all.  The problem is that I am unable to "preview" it before posting as I have in the past.  I found in the "Help" section of blogger someone else had the same issue.  They were told "...it just hangs up in processing. Go ahead and post it.  Your video will work."  Well, I did, and it did.  

Notice the little clock and the arrow in the upper right corner.  That means something as normally they are not there in past videos.  Any ideas?

I guess I can live with it this way.  I just like things to work the way they should.

Friday, December 4, 2015

I Give Up

I am still unable to insert a video on my blog and there isn't a ten-year-old on YouTube to show me what is wrong.  Or at least I haven't located his or her video on YouTube yet.

This video wasn't really anymore than an exercise for me.  I was just practice using the tools in the video processing program.  This video was all using still photographs.  No moving pictures.  I wasn't intending to put it on here but then decided I may as well in case someone out there had four and a half minutes to kill.

Click on Video and hopefully it will take you my YouTube channel.

#$%@! Blogger!!

Once again I am having trouble placing a video in a blog post.  I spent most of yesterday trying to solve the problem which in itself led on to additional issues with Google accounts, YouTube, Blogger, Google+,  (just insert any other service or rather disservice here Google can throw at you).

In an unrelated problem, a couple days ago I all of a sudden had no sound in a different video I was working on.  The solution to this issue was discovered through a YouTube video.  Don't you just love it when some ten-year-old on YouTube guides you through the steps to fix some computer issue?

So instead, here's an old picture of my now old cat when he was younger and healthier.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Big Trees

In the forest where I hike often there are these two trees that are different from all the rest of the trees in the forest.  And they are huge.  I don't know exactly what kind of tree they are.  Maybe they are just really old while all the others are younger by comparison.  You cannot tell by these pictures but the limbs of these two trees are as big as the main trunks of most the other trees in the forest.

Tree number one.

The striking feature is how the branches begin so close to the ground.

Looking up tree number two.
 Even way up there the branches are big.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Just Passin' Through

The deer are always in the backyard but I've not seen this big buck before.
This was a hurry-up grab shot not realizing the camera had focused on the plant.

Moving on to another window they had already turned and were heading away.
He stopped at those low hanging branches in the distance to rub his antlers in them.
I had hiked six miles in the woodlands yesterday and saw no animals.  
I come home and see more in my backyard.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

I couldn't help myself

On one of my hikes I came across this unusual looking rock with this strange coloration.  That and it was nearly perfectly square looking as if it came out from an 8 inch baking pan.  I brought it home.
Poor rock.  Sitting there minding its own business then I came along.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

More Madrone

The busy background disrupts from the main subject.  Not much can be done about that. 
But they are very photogenic nonetheless.

The Madrone grows only along the western coast of North America from British Columbia down to San Francisco Bay with a smattering of spots south of, then becoming very rare nearer Santa Barbara.  As the tree matures the bark peels away like sunburned skin.  The greenish under layer is very cool to the touch in comparison to the air temperature.  That is why they are sometimes referred to as the refrigerator tree.  Why these trees are scarred as they are I couldn't find a reason.  They do survive fires and this could be fire scars.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Old Madrone

I thought this old Madrone tree had some pretty good texture going for it.

You may recall my playing with my camera testing some of the settings it had.  
At the time I wasn't much impressed with several of them including the "vivid" setting.  
But here vivid did seem to have its merits.  Maybe you must choose when to use it and when not to.