Friday, December 25, 2020

No place like home for the holidays; communicate, celebrate kindness

Bruce Keller and Christene "Cookie" Meyers are hunkered down, taking small domestic trips,
 keeping their passports at the ready as hope for international travel and a vaccine becomes a reality.


Bruce Keller and Christene Meyers enjoy a holiday
snuggle just the two, wishing they were with family.

 —Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays
For no matter how far away you roam
When you long for the sunshine of a friendly gaze
For the holidays, you can't beat home, sweet home

--Allen and Stillman from a 1954 hit tune

'THERE'S NO place like home for the holidays,” as the classic tune says. And there's no year that compares to the amount of time we spent at home in 2020.
Who knew, a year ago, that we'd be isolating, distancing, quarantining this year? That we'd be spending days on end in the confines of our homes. We've spent months in sweat pants, house coats and gym clothes, or as one friend put it, "Our most crucial fashion decision was when to change from our nighttime pajamas to our daytime pajamas."
AFTER MONTHS of isolation, economic anxiety, and pandemic fatigue, there is good news, though.
The vaccines we've awaited are testing now both abroad and at home; we should all be vaccinated by spring, and ready to hit the travel decks again.
With some modifications, we can still have a happy holiday. We can even venture
Gran Canaria, Cookie and Keller enjoy truchas, coffee, royal headware.
to select,  hygienically proper hotels, with care and caution. In our case, here in San Diego, we're able to stay in hotels in our own state. Out-of-state travelers will be welcome once the latest three-week ban lifts, which is Dec. 28.
 A FUN pastime for us this year has been to sort through photos of Christmases spent in other lands. We've ushered in the Yule in San Juan, with giant sculptures of the wise men and "Feliz Navidad" banners hung throughout the Old Town.
We've eaten splendid holiday fare in restaurants and private homes. One of our favorite culinary memories is of sweet potato turnovers, or truchas de navidad. It's the Canany Islands' answer to beignets. Try making them. Fairly easy and we're sharing our favorite recipe. 
A San Juan street scene celebrates the holiday.
Remember how short our time on earth is.  Call a loved one you haven't spoken to recently. Do something nice for a stranger.
OUR BELOVED "Jeopardy" host, Alex Trebek, passed away in early November.  His last taped show airs Jan. 8 and his farewell to a faithful audience is rumored to be a touching one. Put that on the docket to watch. Meanwhile, some of his best shows are airing, and Ken Jennings is in the wings to host during transition.
Alex Trebek's final show will
air early January, a swansong.
We recommend dressing for a TV movie, or a celebratory dinner.
 We're doing it, just the two of us!
NOW, WE 'VE all spent nearly 10 months isolating, masking, distancing, playing it safe. So the world is  faced with a holiday without the usual family and friend parties, celebrations, dances and general merry making. Try to be introspective. Be kind, imagine a better world.
  So indeed there might be no place like home for the holidays, but we're not all able to be home.
I like to "click my heels" and imagine I'm in Kansas -- or back in Montana.
After all this angst, fear, exhaustion, fatigue and separation, we'll never view our "old life" the same. If we have hope in our hearts, and a generous spirit, we can make the most of a rotten year -- and embrace the future with renewed appreciation of family, friends, our lucky lives!

Thermal pools of Yellowstone beckon for a fresh start in 2021. 

UP NEXT: Yellowstone in winter for the New Year! Do something fun, do something outdoors, keep the faith that we'll be beyond this COVID scourge soon. We bring you an idea for an amazing nature connected trip in the New Year. How about a trip to our nation's first national park, Yellowstone! Meanwhile, explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a novel approach to nature, the arts, travel, family and more at:


Friday, December 18, 2020

LOCKDOWN! California reels, hotels, restaurants close as virus rises

With hotels closing throughout southern California, this beautiful Westin north of San Diego is empty.

The lovely outdoor reception areas and bars of many southern
California hotels (here the Westin Carlsbad)

WE WERE WARNED that there would be another COVID spike in winter.
Today -- nine months after the first lock down -- we are locked down again for the third time in southern California.
People continue to gather, spewing germs, disregarding distancing edicts, hosting parties, endangering us all.
The post-Thanksgiving surge of cases predicted before the holiday has arrived.
The United States confirms more than 16 million COVID-19 cases and 300,000 deaths since the pandemic began.  Worldwide, nearly 72 million cases and 1.6 million deaths. 
Masks dangling from their ears for the photo,
Keller and Cookie take a stroll with Nick.
 Nevada is making national news, turning parking garages into an ICU. New York, California, Texas, Vermont are all high, with numbers in Massachusetts, Maine, Louisiana and South Carolina rising, too. Here in California, our numbers are at a record high on top with 21,000 deaths. New cases reached 140,843 this past week, an increase of 41 percent over last week.
THE NEWS IS not good and we're due for another spike after the Christmas and Hanukkah holidays.
Many of our favorite California, hotels and restaurants are closing.  The small mom-and-pop cafes we frequented are folding. So sad. We received notice from two hotels this week warning that travel will be restricted and we might not be able to take our planned holiday trips (to safe, distancing, masking, thoroughly cleaned Hilton brand resorts.) While our holiday hotel reservations are in jeopardy, we are assured that our deposits will be refunded. 
That's the least of our worries.
We tip our hats to those in service and on the
front lines, here at Scripps Green, where 
Bruce Keller has his regular bloodwork.
WE WOULD be happy if our fellow dwellers on planet Earth would help us through this international health crisis as the surge continues with no end in sight. Vaccines for the masses are still months away so until then, please, let's all be careful, considerate and cautious. 
The New York Times reports the daily average of new COVID-19 cases this past week was 211,199. That’s 28 percent higher than the average recorded 2 weeks ago.These few simple steps would make everyone safer:
We found a busker wearing a busker mask

* Get out in fresh air.  Clean hands often, either with soap and water for 20 seconds or a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol.
* Avoid close contact with sick people. Put distance between yourself and others (at least 6 feet).
* Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others.
Hilton has been in the foreground
with its excellent hygiene policies,
here a sealer on a pristine room. 
* COVER your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
* Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces daily.
* Wear masks in public settings and when around people outside of your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
Masks are important; they help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others, and protect you from their germs.
We add these suggestions: avoid shock news, seek facts not gossip or politically motivated opinion.  Follow science.  This is not political. It's a matter of being responsible citizens, of being considerate of one another.
We are sad that so many are suffering. It would help us all if we'd mind these few simple suggestions.
How about it, folks? Can we all give it a shot?

Keller, Cookie in a festive pose with the twins, Nick and Nora,
on last Christmas, for a holiday greeting.
Home for the holidays! This photo was taken "at home on the range," for our card last holiday season, before our beloved Nora passed away from a chronic kidney infection.  We like it because we treasure the Montana memory, and it brings home the beauty of home sweet home. We'll share favorite holiday memories and consider how to make the best of the holiday in these strange, isolating times.  So haul out the holly, the mistletoe, the memories, and make it a safe and healthy holiday season. Catch us Fridays for a fresh spin on family, art, music, travel, health and happiness. Please share the links:


Friday, December 11, 2020

Hummingbird hurrah! Let's hear it for this tiny, tenacious bird

This tiny hummingbird weighs less than a penny. We found him wounded on our patio and helped
him fly again this week. He's returned to his box to visit a couple times. Happy news! 

This hummingbird is probably a broad-tailed variety;
Keller caught him in flight near one of our Montana feeders



Editor's Note: Our rescue this week of an injured hummingbird found on our patio prompted several hundred replies to our Facebook post and a request for more on the hummingbird. Here's to this beautiful bird!


This hummingbird in flight was outside our
San Diego townhouse in the courtyard garden.
I'VE LONG loved the hummingbird, that tiny, delicate, but tenacious creature.  When I was a child, my grandmother let me help her boil sugar water then fill the feeders. (Four parts water to one part sugar, a pinch more sugar; boil gently for three minutes and change the water every few days.)

I've rescued hummingbirds from cats' paws and   Yorkies' jaws. I gently directed one from the rear of the garage when he flew in then couldn't find his way out. (I used a large red silk scarf to guide him.) This week, we helped a hummer recover from a fall on our patio. We fixed his dislocated wing, fed him, nursed him until he could fly. He's been back twice that we know of.
I'VE WATCHED with fascination as hummingbirds compete for the feeder.  I've been dive-bombed by hummers while gardening with a red or pink scarf on my red hair. "Why do they like red?" I asked my grandmother.  She explained that the bird's sense of color has to do with its dense concentration of cones in its retina. 
This hummingbird was enjoying geraniums
at the Montana place, in early July.

Amazing to me is the fact that the cones contain pigments and oil droplets in shades of yellow to red. Scientists say those drops act like filters, serving to heighten color sensitivity in red, yellow and orange, while muting colors such as blue, brown and green.
I TIP MY hat to hummers; they are small but mighty. They've also been around millions of years. The first hummingbirds developed 22 million years ago, arriving in South America from Asia.  They spread through that continent, then migrated to  Central America, the Caribbean and eventually North America. We've admired them on several continents, always marveling at their endurance and beautiful colors. We've logged five varieties in California, four in Montana. 
This little guy was at rest
at an Idaho rest stop.
To make a day's rounds of 25 miles, the hummer must beat its wings two million times. They must carry enough "fuel" to make a 24-hour flight and can travel as much as 645 miles in a single haul. (That's about twice our car trip driving limit of 325 miles a day.) They've been known to migrate several thousand miles with only a few stops.
Our little friend has been back twice to the box in which
he recovered from his accident earlier this week. 
HUMMERS HAVE predators, particularly free-roaming domestic cats. Their other enemies are windows, buildings, stationary objects. Sometimes, they're hit by cars, and they can encounter problems during migration and lousy weather. Like all of us, they also succumb to disease. 
Hummingbirds do return to a favorite feeder year after year, and can live three to five seasons. A few live long enough to die of old age.
 I WAS DISHEARTENED to discover that the male has little to do with the female or the young, once he mates. But no species is perfect. Keller defends the male hummer's actions, saying, "He's doing a lot.  He's carrying on the species."
We hope our little visitor lives long and prospers, and that he continues to visit us again and again.
He worked his way into our hearts in these few days, and we treasure the gift of his magical presence.

Many hotels in southern California are empty this week.

UP NEXT: With the first COVID vaccines being tested, and COVID deaths rising at an alarming rate, California is once again in lockdown. We look at the effect the pandemic is having on the travel and hotel industry.  A photographic foray through southern California this week documents the sad fact that many of our hotels are closing, with staff put on furlough, and beautiful rooms, pools, conference halls and restaurants empty. We explore these challenging times with a nod to science and the good that may come of it. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays at: Please share the link with like minded people.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Motorcycle madness: Evel Knievel's fame lives on in Idaho Visitor Center

Butte, Montana, native Evel Knievel tried a jump in this spectacular canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Jumpers enjoy a tamer form of entertainment --
 still with an element of danger. This is 
a popular adventure at the bridge.



THERE'S SOMETHING attractive about a daredevil. Even when we know know there's danger involved in his recklessness, we watch -- fascinated, if a little afraid.  And so it was for millions of us watching Evel Knievel 46 years ago -- on Sept. 8, 1974. 
That's the date when, with much media fanfare, the famous daredevil attempted his most ambitious feat.
He failed to leap the mile-wide chasm of the Snake River Canyon in Twin Falls, Idaho, on his specially engineered rocket motorcycle. Gravity and a malfunctioning parachute cut his death-defying jump from 1,600 feet to 500 feet but Knievel still made $6 million from the stunt.

The Twin Falls Visitor Center is worth a visit.

HE ATTEMPTED his leap employing a unique "skycycle" which he helped design.  The stunt made him a household name around the world -- he was already a star in my native Montana.  Although few knew his birth name -- Robert Craig Knievel -- everyone knew "Evel" Knievel and we were proud of our Treasure State's most famous daredevil.  In his life he attempted more than 75 ramp-to-ramp motorcycle jumps and was inducted into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 1999.
 Some of the more famous include flying over the fountain at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, jumping over busses at London's Wembley Stadium, and that abortive trip across the Snake River Canyon in his wild, steam-powered vehicle. 
Now,  just past 13 years since his death on Nov. 30, 2007, in his Florida home, we celebrate this Butte, Montana, native, for his guts,  daring and his sense of showmanship.
A bronze statue pays tribute to
Idaho Falls champion and
founder Ira Burton Perrine.

Thoughtfully planned walking and viewing areas lure
tourists to enjoy the Snake River from on high near
the well designed and modern Idaho Visitor Center.

Butte born, Knievel came full circle. His grave site is in his hometown of Butte, south of town in a grove of trees. His tombstone, with its cartoon rocket car, was chiseled in 1974 and ready in the event that he perished duringn his much publicized jump attempt over the Snake River Canyon. Evel lived through many broken bones acquired in his crazy stunts. His last leap was a gentle one, s to his rocket car tombstone in 2007 at age 69.
 Knievel's Idaho jump
 WHILE KNIEVEL is a star at the Visitor Center, Twin Falls is equally proud of its founder, Ira Burton Perrine, who is immortalized in a lovely bronze and gave the bridge its name. The
center also has an artfully displayed souvenir and gift shop featuring locally-sourced products. There are also a variety of exhibits showcasing the natural features and history of the region. An interpretive center includes a display of settler and civic booster Perrine stagecoach, exhibits about the agricultural history and geology of the Snake River Canyon, and a pleasing array of photos
Although he was born in Montana, Evel
Knievel is immortalized in Idaho, near
the site of one of his few failed jumps.
His Butte tombstone also carries
his famous "rocket cycle" logo.

 and information about the abundant recreational opportunities in the area.
A tribute to Evel
Knievel is one of the
  interesting displays
The Center also serves as a centralized location for exhibits about the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument, Minidoka National Historic Site, Craters of the Moon National Monument and City of Rocks National Reserve. 
DURING OUR visit, folks were relaxing on the center grounds, and hiking a well developed trail system. We wandered up to a scenic overlook along the Snake's canyon and watched as jumper parachute from the 486-foot-tall Perrine Bridge.
Evel Knievel pulled off a lot of crazy stunts during his lifetime — so many in fact, that some fans actually were disappointed when he and his motorcycle easily jumped over a pyramid of more than 50 smashed cars on the Coliseum floor in 1973.

This tiny hummingbird had a dislocated wing which
prevented his flying from our patio.  We nursed him back.
UP NEXT:  We saved this tiny hummingbird this week, rescuing him after he landed on his back on our patio.  We had no idea there was such hunger for a good-news story, so next column, we salute the hummingbird, our favorite tiny fellow traveler. Its tenacity, prodigious flying talents and attention to its young make it a worthy subject, not to mention its ability to endure swings in the winds and weather. Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us Fridays for a fresh look at nature, travel, the arts, family and more. Please share the link with like-minded friends: