Meditations/Observations

  • Going By Too Fast! December 25, 2016

    by Noella Noelophile®

    “Uh-oh!” my husband exclaimed.

    I turned from arranging a plate of chocolate-chip cookies to give the neighbors.  The timing was perfect–that was just as our cat, “Snow”, made a leap that may qualify her for a role in The Nutcracker next year.

    And what goes up, must come down.  In this case, kitty landed directly in the middle of my carefully-arranged plate of cookies.OK.  So Christmas Eve Day was spent baking more cookies for the neighbors.  Bad kitty!  Beautiful kitty.  (If you are a similar “crazy cat person” and need a feline for your Christmastide and about the next fifteen years, may I just climb up on my soapbox for a second and say–shelter adoption?  Please?  I’ll even provide the link to Long Beach Animal Care Services here–they have some wonderful cats available for forever homes.)

    But–I’m getting off topic.The point, other than to share a fun Christmas 2016 memory with you, is that Christmas zooms by far too fast.

    I remember that from my youth.  Weather was straight out of a Christmas card–silvery frost and snow.  Time seemed to stand still under all the snow–it seemed we’d never, ever, ever get to Christmas morning and the tree and presents!  And then, suddenly, Christmas morning was half over, all the packages were opened and we had to start setting the table.  Relatives were coming!

    More years later than I care to tell you, and thousands of miles away. there’s no snow for Christmas.  But in drought-stricken California, the past two days’ rain were a fantastic gift.

    And the season’s STILL zooming by too fast.My favorite parts of Christmas 2016?  Today, of course–a bright-blue Christmas ornament of a morning with all the houses decorated with lights.  But also, the Dickens Christmas Fair preparations (and if you’re in the Bay Area, now’s a great time to tell you that they start taking volunteers in about September, if you want to be part of their 2017 festivities!).

    Another favorite?  Getting to be a part of Haute Dogs’ “Operation Santa Paws” visit to the local animal shelters, one weekend ago.  And, of course, seeing the breathtaking lighted trees at night on the shoreline in Long Beach.

    Wherever you’re celebrating Christmas (or Hanukkah), solstice or otherwise, today, may it be full of light, joy and may you be surrounded by those you love.  And I wish we could make Christmas last for at least another week, but preferably all year.  Merry Christmas!

  • Wood Smoke and Sea Gulls November 24, 2016

    by Noella Noelophile®gobble

    On Wednesday morning, we went to the store to pick up a certain gobbler.

    As we drove into the parking lot, the sky was bright-blue.  In the air was the heavenly scent of someone’s wood-burning fireplace,  Then, we heard a familiar, squawking cry.  Sea gulls!

    All of the above reminded me of what I’m thankful for, this Thanksgiving.

    When I was growing up, on the East Coast, sea gulls were something you heard in the summertime.  Their cries sounded of sunny days and freedom–and years after moving away from the ice and snow, it’s still fantastic to live in a beautiful state where we hear them on a regular basis.lighthouse1What else am I thankful for?  Here in Long Beach, we’re a small community by the sea.  Later this morning, community activist Justin Rudd hosts the “Long Beach Turkey Trot”, a 5K and 10K Thanksgiving Day marathon with all the proceeds going to charity.  They’ll have runners and walkers starting at 7:00 am, 8:30 am and 10 am, at 1 Granada (right by the beach!).  It’s a glorious place to spend Thanksgiving morning, if you have the time.into the shelter1Later on in the Christmas season, Justin and his “Community Action Team” will bring the community together with a “Christmas Cookie Contest” and a visit to local animal shelters to bring cheer to the animals awaiting forever homes.  Justin’s community spirit and loving heart are  two definite reasons for thankfulness in Long Beach–and if you’d like to volunteer to help C.A.T. with any upcoming events, they will definitely be thankful for your time.

    In California in general, there always seems to be something interesting happening.  I’m thankful to be within a day’s travel to San Francisco, with its quirky, unique events.  Christmas spirit2The Great Dickens Christmas Fair will forever and always be a favorite–and if you’re in the Bay Area, you may be thankful to hear that they’re open tomorrow, as well as weekends through December 19th.

    Additional blessings?  Family and friends are a given, as is a special someone in my life.  (You know who you are, and you cook a mean Thanksgiving turkey.)   I’m thankful for the giving spirit of artisans like Paula Bennett, who continues to teach fiber arts to the next generation, free, through her nonprofit yes4arts.  I love getting to watch the sun rise over palm trees and not having to worry that it may snow and we’ll have to shovel before work.  And I love the spirit of indomitable writers and artists on whom I frequently report in this blog–who may have faced incredible challenges but remain positive and inspiring.beach and participantsHappy Thanksgiving, 2016!  Now–what are you thankful for?

     

  • Christmas…in August? August 20, 2016

    by Noella Noelophile®yellow flowers1

    It happened this past Thursday.

    Strolling down a favorite Long Beach street, blocks from the beach, on an 80-plus-degree August day, I headed into a favorite card/novelty store.

    And there it was, right where it could scare anyone back out of the store.  A display of Christmas cards.

    “That wasn’t my idea,” said the saleswoman apologetically.  “We just put out the  Halloween stuff.  My manager wanted to do this.”sunset3Guess I’ll always be hopelessly old-fashioned.   I’m old enough to remember a time when we never saw so much as the tip of a reindeer antler before Thanksgiving.  (Of course, those were also the days of dime stores that sold little pocket mirrors you could buy, dust with silver glitter and paste on plastic deer to “drink” from a starlit pond, as a Christmas craft.  As well as the days of red and green wax trees and whipped-wax snowball candles–remember those?  AND of the four-foot lighted choirboy trios that adorned porches and lawns throughout December.)

    But, okay.  While I refuse to buy Christmas cards while we’re still talking about ‘the dog days of summer”, I may as well share some early resources with you.sunflowers12After all, now is the perfect time to plan ahead.

    If you and your family would love to do something special in one of the weekends before Christmas, we are coming up on a deadline.

    (Photo courtesy of Markki Pesce, and used with permission.)

    (Photo courtesy of Markki Pesce, and used with permission.)

    Nelson’s Columbia Candy Kitchen, a five-generation family business, invites visitors to make candy canes with them, for free, from late November through the weekend before Christmas.   (Here’s a link to an earlier interview with Janice Nelson, about their unique store.)

    As you might imagine, though, just about everyone wants to do this!  For consideration, you need to send a postcard (or more than one) to them at the store.  The deadline is Labor Day, and they’ll draw, at random, to determine who gets to be their guest for the Christmas 2016 season.  Here’s the link for information.candle 21

    Now, if you, like me, fondly remember vintage Christmas ornaments–OR you love that look–you might just like to pay a visit to Whimzy.  This is a very cool craft supply/vintage treasure store, run by Dianne White.  Not only do they showcase work by local artists–they’ve also started teaching crafts classes.  And if my earlier comment about “whipped-wax candles” filled you with nostalgia, you may just find a few of those on hand.

    (Dianne and her sister, Sheryl Simpson, are also the co-founders of Glitterfest, a very fun juried mixed-media art festival.  I love this one!  The next Glitterfest happens on October 15th.)

    Now, would you like to get involved crafting something exciting for Christmas 2016–while you still have time to finish it? Paula from 2015 show_edited-1

    If you’d like to know more about needle arts, you couldn’t possibly do better than to ask designer Paula Bennett, founder of nonprofit yes4arts.  She offers free knitting and crocheting classes, asking only that her students “pay it forward” by teaching others what they’ve learned.  (But she will accept donations of yarn or crochet hooks/knitting needles, if you have extras, as she continues her work instructing the next generation of fiber artists.)by Armani Nejor2

    And be prepared–she’s going to take any preconceived notion you may have had about needle arts, and turn it on its ear!  She designs slinky, sexy, and innovative clothing, using both knitting and crochet.  Above is of the pictures from this year’s yes4arts Spring Fashion Show.

    You might also like to mark your calendar, before you get busy this Christmas season.  Saturday, November 13th, will be the date of Paula’s first “Winter Holiday Fair”, in Torrance!  She’s offering free classes, including Renaissance doll making for kids and intermediate design techniques for more advanced fiber artists!  There will also be vendors onsite, selling their handmade work, as well as great food.

    OK.  While I’m still getting used to the idea of Christmas  in August, starting to think about Christmas now does have its advantages.  Mainly, being able to plan something special without the frantic, “Oh no!  It snuck up on me!” element.

    But with that said–I hope that store will wait a little longer, next year, to put out the Christmas cards.  At least till the week after Labor Day.

     

     

  • The Power of “Mieuw” July 23, 2016

    by Noella noelophile®purrr21

    In our house, we’d had a very mature discussion.

    The time had come to welcome a new feline family member (or two).   We were headed for the local shelter.

    Mature cats, we had agreed, were our candidates.  They were less likely to be adopted, and a lot less rambunctious for their future lives as indoor kitties.how may i help mieuw1We were sticking to our plan beautifully.

    In the cat room of Long Beach’s Pitchford Companion Animal Village, we’d lost our hearts to a gorgeous, three-and-a-half-year-old silver tabby mix.  One cat adopted, one more to go.

    And then…

    We walked past a cage just near the door.  A small, five-month-old black kitten with downy, baby fur thrust a paw through the bars at my husband.  “Mieuw…”Snuggles 3_edited-1(You probably know what comes next.  She had us at “Mieuw”!)

    Ever notice how, the moment you’re comfortably “felined’, other adoptable candidates (“catdidates?”) seem to come purring out of the woodwork?Snow on stoveOur two four-legged family members have now been part of the household for years, and we know who’s in charge around here.  Anyone who doesn’t, can just ask our silver-tabby dominant kitty, “Snow”–after they finish scratching her chin.

    And now, pet shops seem to have adoptions every week, with cats practically pointing to themselves as you walk by. “ME-ow!  Me! Now!”  There is a glorious Maine coon cat in a window not far from the grocery–and she has a way of following passersby with her eyes.  “I am auditioning a new family, wouldn’t you like to submit your application?”

    Last Christmas season, we enjoyed “Operation Santa Paws”, where Justin Rudd and company visited local animal shelters.purring through the bars1We could hear this kitty purring through the bars of her cage at the Seal Beach Animal Care Center.  If we didn’t already have two perfectly good “miniature lions”, we would certainly have brought her home!   (However, ours already don’t seem to comprehend that a bed has sufficient space for two cats!)

    But–if you love kitties and can make a fifteen- to twenty-year commitment (if you’re lucky, that’s how long they can live!), you might like to “audition” at your local shelter.  Sadly, Pitchford, in Long Beach, is not a no-kill.  If you start there, you may be saving a life.black and white catCloser to Seal Beach?  Seal Beach Animal Care Center is a no-kill shelter, and they’d welcome your support.  (They need volunteers, if you aren’t in a position to adopt.)

    And earlier this year, Los Angeles became the largest city to ban retail sales of non-rescue pets.  Does your city have that ban?  Here is the link to a great nonprofit–Best Friends,  the leader of the no-kill movement.  They publish a list of cities and states with retail pet sale bans. 

    You’ll find resources, ways to get involved and, of course, adoptions in your area.cat photo1

    Happy Caturday!  May you wind up with a four-legged sovereign who graciously accepts your devotion.

  • The Tracks We Leave July 16, 2016

    by Noella Noelophile®sunflowers12

    “I thought you’d want to know.   Jim passed away yesterday.”

    The Facebook message was from a friend I’ve known since grammar-school days.  It wasn’t a surprise.  But it was still a shock.

    I last saw Pastor Jim when I was seventeen.  In his early thirties, he’d been the pastor of our small-town church for about seven years.  My family lived next door to the parsonage, so we saw him, his wife Karen and their four small children frequently.

    What I remember best about Pastor Jim, is his sense of fun, and his effortless kindness.lavender flowers closeup2In the 1970s, the idea of a minister with imagination and a sense of humor still raised some eyebrows.  Pastor Jim could deliver a one-liner from the pulpit–in the middle of a well-thought-out sermon.   He obviously loved being a minister, and serving his family and his congregation.  But he seemed to see no need to be stuffy about it.

    During a church trip, Pastor Jim stepped to the front of the bus to give the congregation the day’s agenda.   “We’ll be arriving at about eleven,” he said.  “You’ll have about an hour to explore.  Then we’ll meet back at the picnic area, and have grace before lunch.”

    “Who’s she?” wisecracked one congregation member.

    Without missing a beat, Pastor Jim quipped, “She’s on the other bus!”

    Once, when his five-year-old, Jeanie, fell and scraped her knee, she ran to her father.  “Wow, I felt everything shake when you fell, Jeanie.  You must have fallen hard,” her dad said.  Wide-eyed, Jeanie forgot her tears and speculated on the impact she had made!

    Pastor Jim carried everyday compassion with him.  One day, I was outside weeding our flower bed in midsummer.  In about five minutes, the mosquitoes had decided I looked tasty–and bit accordingly.  Pastor Jim came outside as I was scratching furiously–then headed back inside.  “Kar, we got any calamine lotion?”lighthouse1After receiving the Facebook message, I emailed some old pictures and favorite memories to my friend, who passed them on to Pastor Jim’s family.  Later, she emailed me back that Karen had said, “Who knew that he/we made such an impression.”

    And, truthfully, at the time, I didn’t realize that either.  As teenagers, we take so much for granted.   Pastor Jim, Karen and their family were a reality of daily life, and our neighbors. But in my memory, Pastor Jim will forever be in his thirties, smiling, making a gentle joke and effortlessly kind and comforting.

    I wonder what indelible impressions the rest of us are making, day to day–without even realizing it.

  • Christmas Morning December 25, 2015

    by Noella Noelophile®

    poinsettiaA joyful, Merry Christmas to you!  Thank you for reading this, and for following us through the year.

    California Christmas this morning–at least in the Southern California area–is clear, bright-blue and chilly.  We have forty-nine degrees at about 8 a.m.

    We also have Christmas music, candles and family–and memories of snow-covered Christmases past.  (Thankfully, we don’t have to shovel, or scrape ice off, those!)

    This past week, a favorite friend expressed some disappointment that Christmas was “almost over”.  That’s interesting–because she said that on December 23rd.   During the Christmases I remember as a child, the glow always seemed to linger past the day itself.

    Today, it does seem that, once the turkey’s eaten and the presents are opened, we’re starting to look at Valentines.

    I’d be thrilled if Christmas season started later (yes, I harp on this a lot, but I’d prefer not to see ornaments before Halloween!).  Then, wouldn’t it be great if we kept it around up through the next week–the “Christmastide” after December 25th?  And maybe even made it last till January 6th, when we celebrated a “Little Christmas” as many European families once did?

    I don’t think I’m alone in this sentiment, as more than one person added, on social media, that they would like all the “special” of Christmas to last longer.  It’s like a golden blanket to me–and I’d love to wrap that “blanket” around everybody for the next weeks to come and keep the warmth and sparkle a lot longer, rather than packing it away with the after-Christmas sales tomorrow.

    What do you think?   (And wherever you weigh in on this, I hope today is full of warmth, love and festivity for you.)

  • The Sparkly “First” December 1, 2015

    by Noella Noelophile®candle3

    This is, very possibly, my favorite day of the year.

    After today, December seems to melt away like peppermint-cane ice cream left in a sunny window.  No matter that it’s one of the longer months on the calendar!

    But today, there is the sense of “there’s time”.morning latte 1

    I plan to give myself a Christmas gift: thirty minutes spent sitting in a favorite Long Beach coffeehouse, under the greenery and red bows that always decorate their rafters.  And just watching December arrive.

    This Christmas, my family is doing something fun.  Instead of buying and shipping gifts to one another, most of us have agreed not to buy anything. If we have the money, we’ll give a donation to an organization instead, in honor of the people we love.  (And some of us don’t have the money.  That’s okay, too, or better than okay.)

    Even though giving is a treasured part of Christmas for me, there’s part of the gift rush I won’t miss.  Do you do this, too?Christmas poinsettias

    “OK, I bought Jenny earrings worth $15.  But Susan doesn’t wear earrings, and her bracelet only cost $11.  What can I get her to even it out?  This star ornament?  Will Jenny care that Susan gets two gifts, while she only has one?  Better get one more for Jenny, maybe a smaller ornament to go with Susan’s larger one…”

    In writing, and put in as many words, that really looks ridiculous!

    The whole idea, is that Jenny and Susan are special enough to express that they are loved.  Taking time to select gifts that remind me of them, is one of many ways to communicate that.  But it’s easy to fall into the trap of somehow thinking that how much we spend, equals the amount of love!

    What I treasure about today won’t be measurable in money.  It’s a gloriously sunny day in Long Beach.  My bus will go past the marina, with its views of the ocean in the distance.  There are going to be all kinds of imaginative decorations in my favorite small business, which features the work of all kinds of independent artists.  And as the sun sets, I get to go home to someone I love.

    On top of all that, it’s Giving Tuesday–and you’re rich if you can give to someone else.

    A very Happy December first to you, and Merry Christmas!  May it be a wonderful one.

     

  • A Thanksgiving Moment November 26, 2015

    by Noella Noelophile®paper towels

    We were G-minus thirty minutes.

    “Yikes!  Snow is in the paper towels!”

    “G”, of course, stands for “guests”.   Tables had to be set, cookies had to be plated, nuts weren’t in the bowls yet.   And kitty had just expressed her displeasure at all the preparations by shredding a roll of towels, all over the carpet. ..

    “Hang on,” called my loving spouse.  “I’ll get the camera.”

    We wound up doing what any couple in their right minds would do.

    You guessed it–laughing hysterically.  Just before we cleaned up the cat-manufactured “confetti” in the living room.

    And we had a very Happy Thanksgiving.  Hope you had the same.

     

  • The Culture of “Trick or Treat!” October 31, 2015

    by Noella Noelophile®

    pumpkins1.“Trick or treat!”

    That’s something we’re looking forward to hearing, this evening. And how trick-or-treating has changed since we pulled on those rubber masks and went door-to-door, ‘way back when!

    As a kid growing up in the 1960s, if Halloween fell on a Saturday, you were golden.  Because, as soon as it was about 9 am or so, our East Coast neighborhood was fair game.

    Up and down the streets we went, ringing every doorbell.   Some people came to their doors, some didn’t–and that’s when you said, “Trick or treat!”  And you’d get anything from a mini candy bar to those chalky candy cigarettes (remember those?) to one “mean” old woman who never failed to open her door with a “Please, go away!”  (That was scary to all the kids back then.   Today, I can’t help but wonder what her story was.)

    And, once you had your bag of candy, you went home.  Who knew how many other trick-or-treaters were stopping by your house.  You gave till the candy ran out–usually, by evening, because your parents knew to buy a lot!  Then, you turned the lights off, ignored the doorbell–and prayed anyone else who came to the door didn’t have chalk.

    Because, on the East Coast, the “trick” part of “trick or treat” wasn’t just a figure of speech.  Outdoor pumpkins got smashed, eggs wound up on cars, and trick-or-treaters who didn’t get candy after dark often didn’t hesitate to draw caricatures or write unflattering assessments on your sidewalk.   (Not exactly the “good old days”!)

    So–now that we’re in candy-giving mode, on the opposite coast?  What a change.

    Our first Halloween Saturday here, we stocked up on candy, thinking we’d have a steady stream of young, costumed “customers”.  Halloween dawned sunny and pleasant, and we were up and waiting.

    And waiting–until the sun set.

    Then, we noticed, neighbors who wanted trick-or-treaters would have their porch lights on.   Outside our door, after our own porch light went on, we heard, “Trick or Treat!” before the doorbell rang.  Upon answering the door, we were greeted with about ten small hands, each trying to take two or three of the best pieces of candy.  (Some things never change!)  Meanwhile, a change we observed, that was much for the better since our own trick-or-treat days, was the tall, shadowy parental figures, waiting at the end of the walk, with virtually every group.

    And as eight o’clock approached, we looked up and down the street.  The trick-or-treaters had gone home.  Like our neighbors, we turned off our lights and went in to watch our favorite scary movies–while attempting to do something about the surplus of candy.  Our dentist will either be delighted or horrified!

    Once the porch light was off, our doorbell didn’t ring once.  The following morning, when we took a walk around our neighborhood, there were no chalk drawings, no eggs on the sidewalk, and any outdoor pumpkin decorations remained intact.

    Perhaps I’m comparing apples with oranges, when holding up twenty-first century Halloween in California to the Eastern Halloweens of my long-ago childhood.  But it seems to me Halloween has become a lot more fun, if considerably shorter.

    Happy Halloween, and BOO! to you.  And would you like some candy?  I think we bought too much.

  • Early for Christmas, BUT… October 20, 2015

    by Noella Noelophile®purple flowers 1

    Guess who bought a poinsettia today.

    As much as I grumble about the full-on onslaught of Christmas merchandise in the stores before Halloween?  Yes, I did weaken.  So, you may as well get the benefits of my experience.

    Now, it’s not a REAL poinsettia, thankfully.  I haven’t gone around the bend that far.

    But, shopping in a great artists’ area of San Juan Capistrano, I did see just the right Christmas-themed garden stake for someone on my Christmas 2015 list.  And this area is a relatively new “find” for me.  If you go to the Metrolink station in San Juan Capistrano, cross the tracks (carefully and listening for bells, of course!), you’ll find yourself headed towards historic Los Rios Street–an enchanting lane of small businesses, independently-owned restaurants and galleries.

    Hang a right if you happen to be doing early Christmas shopping (who isn’t?).  You’ll have your choice of at least five different gift shop/gallery venues.  Favorites I’ve found include The Cottage Gallery, displaying creations that include original acrylic paintings (and art prints for those of us on a blogger’s budget), fused-glass lamps, and a variety of gorgeous earrings.  The Nest is also well worth a look, with their garden and outdoor-patio gifts outside and boutique fashion accessories in the shop itself.

    But, the garden-stake poinsettias are at Las Catrinas Mexican Folk Art and Handcrafts.  And these are both festive and imaginative: red metal petals, green metal leaves and jingle-bell cyathia (or centers, if you’re less horticulturally-inclined!).  They were absolutely perfect for a certain special recipient.

    Buying one Christmas gift on a beautiful, 70-degree October afternoon  is kind of like munching on one peanut.   So my visit to Las Catrinas concluded with a bag filled with colorful Mexican pottery, to go with the poinsettia.   Las Catrinas, the proprietor said, has been open in the area for just over a year.  They are a treasure trove of tinware, silver, Mexican pottery ranging from cute mini-animals (I really liked the fox!) to breathtakingly beautiful garden ornaments, stained glass and more.

    So, OK.  If I’m going to be buying Christmas-themed items in October, at least it’s in support of a new independent establishment.  Plus, it’s a unique gift that, in all probability, will sell out long before the Thanksgiving turkey makes its appearance.

     

  • “Bad Kitty! Good Kitty!” September 22, 2015

    by Noella Noelophile®Jet1

    The morning started with a scare.  But not the fun kind.

    Getting ready to leave, I saw my cat, Snuggles, poke her head out from the curtains in the dining-room window.   That’s not unusual.

    Then, about ten minutes later, neither of us had seen her–and it was breakfast time.  And we realized we were hearing “outdoor” sounds, from…

    …that dining-room window.

    We checked the window, which we’d thought we’d closed–to find we’d left it open, AND the screen was pushed away from the bottom.  Panic mode ensued.Snuggles 3_edited-1Snuggles,has been an indoor cat all her life, and there are coyotes in our area.  Not to mention that it was six a.m.–the time all our neighbors start getting into their cars and leaving for work.  Oh, and did I mention that Tuesday’s trash day in our neighborhood?

    My husband and I grabbed cat treats and dashed out the door, circled the house calling, “Kitty, kitty,” and walked around the block with a flashlight.  (Looking for a black cat, in predawn, is really fun…not.)  There was no sign of her.

    I cancelled lunch plans with a friend.  My husband debated staying home, but really needed to be at work today.  Neighbors were alerted, local Animal Services were called (Snuggles is microchipped) and I registered us online as having a lost pet.

    Getting any work done was impossible.   Finally, I went to find some shoes and take another walk around our neighborhood–praying I wouldn’t find a huddled ball of black fur, in the wake of a tragedy.Snuggles asks for breakfast_edited-1Then…”mieuw.“.   And guess who strolled into the room, as nonchalantly as you please, requesting breakfast.

    I’ll never know how my husband and I didn’t find her in the house–OR how she didn’t jump out that open window.  Or, where her new hiding place is!  But we’re very thankful this morning, and giving our cat some extra cat treats and hugs.

    And as little as we like to do this, somebody’s going to wear a cat collar in the future.  Much as she may hate it,  losing her would be something we’d hate, even more.

     

  • “Seriously?” September 13, 2015

    by Noella Noelophile®blue table

    This morning’s brunch served as a reminder.

    Eating at one of our favorite local spots, my husband and I were reminded how one person’s attitude–good or bad–can make a difference.

    When we went into our cafe, we noticed some gritty spots and goo on the table.  Prior to ordering, I asked, with a smile, if someone could clean it for us.

    Ten minutes later, as an unfamiliar server took our order, we asked again.

    Turning to my husband, about ten minutes after that, I threatened to request a sponge and clean the table myself if we had to ask a third time.  When our food came, though, my husband had a better idea.

    Picking up the plate before it could touch the gooey table, he told our waitress (heretofore known as “Ms. A.”, for “attitude”) that we would hold our plates until the table was clean.

    Well, Ms. A. was clearly not thrilled.two cups_edited-3 mint green_edited-5She did come back with a cloth, gave the table several swipes in front of my husband (um, I was there, too?), then left.   For the remainder of our meal, her behavior indicated that she would be glad to see the backs of us.  She failied to ask the customary, “Is everything all right?”  after we’d started eating.  Nor did she return with straws for our beverages.  She did make two reappearances–once, to slam my husband’s order of toast down without a word, and once, as we finished eating, to ask, “Do you guys need anything else?”

    (I translated that to mean, “Get out of my sight!”)

    We were glad to comply–after leaving less than our normal twenty-percent tip.  Attitude is expensive!  My husband said Ms. A.’s perfunctory cleaning of the table still left grit and goo where he was sitting, and he had to bite back a, “Seriously?!?”

    Both my husband and I have worked in customer-service capacities.  We can appreciate the frustrations of dealing with the public–as well as the fact that Ms. A. had to work a full shift on a beautiful, sunny Sunday, while we could linger over breakfast.  Been there, done that!iris picture2But–while each of us was “being there and doing that”, we had to keep one thing in mind. While the customer may not “always be right”, reasonable requests and complaints aren’t the same as a personal affront.

    Ms. A.’s put-upon attitude came in sharp contrast to a great customer-service experience I had, about a year ago in San Francisco.  Taking an early flight, I arrived at my hotel hours prior to their official check-in time.  The desk clerk would have been entirely reasonable to have said, “Sorry, ma’am, check-in is four hours from now.”

    Instead, he checked me right in with a smile–and proved an invaluable resource, for the rest of my stay, with information about great restaurants in the Mission District and areas in which walking would be safe–or not.  His kindness and willingness to “go the extra mile” not only made my day, but set the tone for a fantastic trip

    We’ll come back to our cafe, where our regular server always makes us feel welcome, with a smile and the sense that he enjoys working with us.  (We’re not complete curmudgeons, after all!)   We’ll also remember the lesson Ms. A. unwittingly taught.  Her snarky attitude changed a normally-pleasant experience into one where we couldn’t wait to leave.

    Somehow, we suspect we may not be seeing much more of Ms. A. in the future.

     

  • Thanksgiving Thoughts November 27, 2014

    by Noella Noelophile®

    red flowers

    Wednesday morning had an interesting start.

    Lying in bed just after sunrise, we heard, CRASH!  CRASH!–followed by a series of metallic sounds like a giant knocking over a row of soda cans.

    Looking out the window, we saw–a car that had driven up on our neighbor’s porch!  With part of the metallic railing knocked out, it was resting on a palm tree, windshield wipers moving back and forth.

    Thankfully, no one was injured.  It was early enough in the morning that no dog walkers, joggers, bikers etc. were in the area.  The driver, looking stunned, came out of his vehicle to make a cell phone call.  Police and neighbors arrived, verified everyone was fine and left.

    And our neighbor turned to the driver who’d just driven up on his porch and asked, “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

    This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for a lot of wonderful things: my husband, our families, the great trip we just had to the Bay Area, our health, our careers and the amazing community spirit of all the artists with whom I get to speak, year-round.   But it also strikes me that getting to live in a community where, when someone gets awakened by a car on his porch just after six a.m., his first thought is to offer the driver coffee, is truly something special.

    A very Happy Thanksgiving to you!  May your Thanksgiving weekend be filled with exactly that kind of grace, hospitality and joy.

  • Ooooo…Scary October 31, 2014

    by Noella Noelophile®Boo003 - Copy

    I’m doing something scary this Halloween.

    Something completely new, that has nothing to do with haunts, costumes, candy or any of the traditional Halloween experiences.

    I’m promoting my first book.  And have no idea if you’ll like it.  BUT–

    If you would like to take a peek, tomorrow, November 1 through Monday, November 3, I’ll be offering my “Noelophile®’s Twelve Meditations of Christmas” for free download, on Amazon.

    Isn’t it funny how “firsts” are scary–and exciting at the same time?  Kind of like adventure sports, where you have that “uh-oh” moment just before you slide down the ski hill or leap off the diving board.

    Halloween is, in fact, a special anniversary for me.  More years ago than I like to tell you, it was the date I left a “make-the-rent” job for the last time, to concentrate on completing my studies for my “dream profession”.  I remember walking through the parking lot after 5 pm, looking up at the moon and thinking, “This is either the craziest thing I’ve ever done–or the sanest.”  I had no idea if things would work out, or not.

    Thank goodness–they did.

    So, a very Happy Halloween to you!  Take a look if you’d like to and if you have time, and may your “uh-oh” moments, in going for your dreams, be followed by a, “Wow!  I’m so glad I did that!”

     

  • Back to (Connected) Normal! April 27, 2014

    cat photo1

    by Noella Noelophile®

    Want to know how truly “spoiled” we are?   Try going without something we take for granted.

    This weekend, we had that opportunity.

    Our local power company shut off power, for maintenance, for twenty-four hours.  It happened on Friday night, so, in theory, should not have resulted in any problems.

    Reality was another matter.  On Saturday and Sunday, repair trucks were plying the streets of our neighborhood–as no one had any Internet service!

    So, I now have some amends to make.First of all, to the gifted and talented artisans of Handmade in the South Bay–whose first Spring Boutique I’d planned to promote.   Without even the ability to tweet, I can only tell you that it was fantastic–two rooms in El Segundo’s Joslyn Center filled with needlecrafters, soapmakers, quilters, jewelry designers and generally cool stuff.  They also held a raffle for a great cause–all their raffle proceeds went to benefit San Pedro-based Packages for Patriots.

    I look forward to telling you all about the NEXT amazing event they’ll be hosting!.

    Secondly, to the organizers of Artisanal LA.   

    This is an incredible event, held at the L.A. Mart and focusing mainly on artisan foods, but also featuring crafts by some amazing artists.   While they were kind enough to invite me to cover their Spring Show this weekend–guess who never saw the “invite”, due to the cranky Internet?

    So, I look forward to alerting you, the minute they announce the dates for their FALL show.  Save a weekend (usually in October), as well as room for some truly delectable items like freshly baked bread and hand-dipped chocolates–just for starters. 

    And, finally, to YOU–for not getting to put the word out on this incredible weekend before all of this happened.  So, I look forward to telling you all about the upcoming spring and summer craft-related events–starting right off with the Patchwork Show, which kicks off its season in Oakland on May 11th before heading to Long Beach, two weeks later!

    Internet–it’s great to have you back.

  • “What’d I Forget?” January 5, 2014

    lights2by Noella Noelophile™

    “O-kay.  What’d I forget?”

    That’s a question I always ask, when expecting guests for a Christmas celebration.

    As the platters of cookies sit waiting, beverages chill and the gifts await, I’m wondering: is there a detail we’ve overlooked, that will make something special even more fun?

    And that is the question I’d like to ask you now.

    With my Noelophile™ coverage of Christmastime events in California, is there a special, non-denominational (and preferably, free or low-cost) community event you really enjoy, about which you’d like me to know?  Maybe an every-year tradition you and your family would never dream of missing–or a resource that will be helpful to everyone when we start preparing for Christmas 2014?

    Shoot me a quick e-mail at noelophile@gmail.com and let me know–and thank you for visiting!

     

     

  • “Is That It? Already?” December 26, 2013

    pink clouds1

    By Noella Noelophile ™

    Wow.  For something that stores start pushing in mid-October–does this Christmas seem to have flown?

    The day itself was beautiful, with lots of smiling people going by with packages and wishing “Merry Christmas!”  But after Christmas breakfast, a walk and opening some cards, it just seemed to go zoom!

    It’s always a little bittersweet to see the sunset, on Christmas Day.  Once again, the festivities are over and we’re back to everyday, ordinary life.  Or, are we?

    I really love the British tradition that Christmas isn’t truly over until January 6th–Twelfth Night.  As I was growing up, one of the nearby churches gave out a calendar, with different dates marked off.  After December 25th was a line over the following week, with a beautiful word: “Christmastide”.  So, according to that calendar, each day after Christmas still maintained the glow that made Christmas special.

    In my life, I have tried to observe “Christmastide” whenever possible, and to know that Christmas, in many ways, is never truly over.

    So, from now through January first, I’ll be posting information on Christmas events happening in California, that you might enjoy, and that continue into January.  If you didn’t get a chance to see lights, go ice-skating or check out a special event, due to all the festivities happening all at once–now is your opportunity to experience them.

    Know a special, non-denominational event that celebrates Christmas anytime before Twelfth Night?  You’re welcome to e-mail, at noelophile@gmail.com!

     

  • “Before You Can Say ‘Boo’…” October 31, 2013

    another Halloween kitty2by Noella Noelophile

    ,,,guess what’s going to be here.

    It may be early, but here’s a question for you.  What would really make Christmas, 2013, the merriest, for you and the people most important in your life?

    Maybe it will be a lot like the fun part of Halloween.

    Continue reading →

  • Basic Black, Accented With Purrs October 25, 2013

    jet stretches

    by Noella Noelophile

    Believe this or not–some people still think black cats bring bad luck.  Or, that they’re boring.

    Our little one, Jet, comments: “Mieuw.”

    Loosely translated, I think she’s saying, “They’re crazy.”

    After living with her for more than two years, we can only conclude that we were very lucky to walk by her cage, in the local shelter, at the point when we were ready to adopt another cat.   We’ve been in love ever since.

    Jet has a tendency to let everyone know who’s in charge.  She won’t drink milk if it’s in a bowl on the floor.  However, just place your mug on the floor, and–

    Lick, lick, lick.   We think, perhaps, the whole “bowl” thing is just too easy for her liking.  And should you happen to have a bowl of cereal with milk, you now have a (purring) friend.)  (So far, she seems to prefer Cheerios.)

    Continue reading →

  • “You Missed the Soap Bubble!” August 24, 2013

    bubble 4

    “You missed the soap bubble!  It went right past you.”

    My husband and I had been taking a walk around our neighborhood.  It was a glorious, sunny late-summer morning, with just the right amount of coolness to make walking pleasant.

    And until he made that comment, I hadn’t realized–I was just walking through it.  My mind was chattering with about a dozen “to-do’s”–while indeed, there was someone blowing a series of soap bubbles from a back yard we’d passed.  One of the fragile, rainbow-y iridescent globes had just sailed past me, unnoticed.

    My response, of course, was, “Well, that’s why I have you.  To make me notice the soap bubbles.”  And it is–because my husband has a tendency to help me slow down and appreciate the beautiful and more “fun” things in life. Continue reading →

  • Canadian Geese April 6, 2013

    geese12by Noella Noelophile™

    “Honk!  Honk!

    That’s not a particularly uncommon sound for a  Southern California morning.  The only unusual thing was the source!

    No idea where these three came from.  Flocks of wild parrots are common in Pasadena, with one local story attributing them to a long-ago pet shop fire that resulted in escaped birds and numerous squawking descendants.   But Canadian geese? Continue reading →

  • Easter Cupcakes March 30, 2013

    Easter cupcakes 1

    by Noella Noelophile™

    “Ohhh, these just aren’t turning out right!”

    That was my thought, early this morning, while decorating these Easter cupcakes for a family get-together.

    As you see, they’re not gourmet specialties.  I’d seen the designs for them online, thought them extremely cute, and baked up a couple of boxes of cake mix.  Then, when the alarm clock rang at the un-Saturdayish hour of six this morning, the plan was to ice the cupcakes and decorate them as perfect, professional-looking bunnies, chicks and flowers.   Make them look like they belonged on a magazine cover, courtesy of a professional caterer?  Sure, no problem!

    Uh-huh. Continue reading →

  • “Break Time!” February 23, 2013

    trees in distance

    by Noella Noelophile™

    Growing up in the 1960’s, I remember the Weekly Reader.

    This was a two-page “newspaper” for grade-schoolers, with articles about current events and scientific advances.   One, that appeared in about 1966, sticks in my mind.  The general gist of this particular piece was that by the time we grew up, computers would be doing everything–and our days would be filled with leisure time.

    (Are you rolling on the floor at this point?)

    Today we’re: posting, Facebooking, tweeting, texting, e-mailing, and a variety of other social-media activities–and that’s before our workdays start!

    It seems that taking time to do something we enjoy makes us feel almost guilty!  “Lost time…if I spend the morning in the library that’s three posts I could have done...who’s going to do this…and that…and that….the clock is ticking, that deadline’s coming up…and so forth, and so on.   And somehow, when your work is in a creative field, there’s also the sense of, “This is work I love, why can’t I do it all the time?   Don’t I appreciate having this opportunity?”

    Continue reading →

  • “That Was a Mistake…” February 16, 2013

    burned cake 3

    by Noella Noelophile™

    “What were the mistakes you made, a month ago?  Do you remember them?”

    “Um…”

    “Exactly.”

    That’s a dialogue my husband and I had, just recently–and he’s right.   (Don’t tell him I said that!–Just kidding.)

    So, why are we so tough on ourselves when we do make mistakes?  Intellectually, we know they happen to everybody.  Yet, when we realize we’ve made one–large or small–we get that sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs! Continue reading →

  • Life With Felines February 9, 2013

    bad kitty 1

    by Noella Noelophile™

    The number-one way to guarantee that a cat will do something?  (One of the few?)  Two simple words:

    “No, kitty!”

    In our house, those words have preceded feline bounds onto the washing machine, small whiskered heads poking into the nearest dinner plate, and soft paws probing the computer keyboard and creatively rearranging a painstakingly-written document.

    Problem is, our two current feline supervisors have the “angel cat” routine down to a science.   We’ll return from a trip to the store to find half the draperies hanging precariously from our windows, a bowl in the middle of the floor, and our year-old black kitty, Jet, looking up at us in wide-eyed innocence.

    “Mieuw?”  (We can almost see her halo!)

    Continue reading →

  • Strolling Through Adjacent Lives January 29, 2013

    lighted trees

    by Noella Noelophile™

    When you meet her on the street, she’s always smiling.  She’s out for a brisk walk,  never fails to comment that “it’s a beautiful day!”, and gives the impression of having enjoyed every moment of her eighty-plus years.

    Just seeing her is enough to make you smile…and you  hope she’ll continue on in her vigorous, sunny way until she’s at least a hundred.

    Her name?  Her history?   Despite seeing her often, I don’t know them–and probably never will.   But what a life-brightener she is.

    We’ve all had people who changed our lives radically.   There were teachers who made us think differently about our abilities; supervisors or associates who challenged us, for good or otherwise; role models who lived a different perspective.

    But…what about the people who have an almost-accidental effect on our lives?

    One morning in Southern California’s mid-Wilshire area, we were having a torrential rain.  Commuters were climbing the stairs from the subway, fumbling with umbrellas and hunching their shoulders against the unaccustomed bad weather.    It was chilly, gray, dripping…and one man, in the midst of all of us, suddenly belted out the first line of the 1960’s song, “It’s a Beautiful Morning.”

    Smiles and laughter ensued…and suddenly, a little rain didn’t matter.

    Like it or not, everyone affects everyone else around them, all the time–for good or evil.   A stranger’s thoughtless comment on the street can devastate a shy adolescent.    A co-worker’s encouragement…or skepticism, in the break room, can determine whether someone decides his or her dreams are too risky to pursue.  A favorite clerk’s story of a great vacation may get a customer thinking, “That’s where I want to go, next summer!”

    And an author or artist you’ve never met, and may never meet, can speak to you as if you’re old friends.

    What are the ways in which others’ “everyday” actions have had an effect on you?   And in what (possibly-accidental) ways do you make a difference to others in your day-to-day life?

  • GRRRstuff…Or, One of Those Days! January 15, 2013

    morning latte 1by Noella Noelophile™

    O-kay.  Just because I’m Noelophile™…doesn’t mean there aren’t days like this.

    This morning was something less than Christmas carols and soft lights.

    A major miscommunication had happened with a colleague.   An unexpected meeting got scheduled for midday.   So, time to drop everything and commute–on my only free day prior to a deadline.  Meanwhile, we’ve just returned from a trip…which meant missing the deadline to buy a new monthly bus pass.  As a nondriver, those $1.50 fares, each time, add up pretty quickly!

    So…attempted to add value to my fare card.  Coming up a dollar short of the specified $5 block, meant putting in a bill…and having the machine spit out a quantity of $1 coins in change.  You know the type–the ones no one accepts willingly in payment, because they don’t look real! Continue reading →

  • “And…Keep It All the Year” January 6, 2013

    Christmas tree 2

    At the climactic scene of A Christmas Carol, a repentant Scrooge begs the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come for one more chance.

    “I will honor Christmas in my heart,” he sobs, “and try to keep it all the year!”

    Sound like anybody you know?

    As Noelophile™ continues, we’ll tell you some of the stories of people who have the  Christmas spirit, year-round–not just from Thanksgiving weekend till January 6th.

    And if there’s anyone whose name you’d like to suggest, feel free to send us an e-mail and tell us!

  • I Guess That’s It! Or…Is It? December 26, 2012

    candy cane 2by Noella Noelophile

    As a teenager, my least favorite time of all…was about 6 p.m. on December 25th.

    Why?  Because…on Christmas night, Christmas was as far away as it could get, all year long!

    It seemed like it all ended too fast.  Once December 26th showed up, the lovely glow was gone.  People vacuumed up tinsel, threw away wrapping paper and trudged back into everyday life.  And I just wanted to snuggle back into Christmas and draw it around me like a warm quilt!

    But…the “Twelve Days of Christmas” actually begin on December 25th!  And the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is “Christmastide” (isn’t that a beautiful word?), with Christmas technically ending on January 6th, Twelfth Night.

    With that in mind, I’ll be posting some special events here, designed to make the festive times last, through January 6th.

    Know of a special Christmas celebration in the California area, that happens after December 25th?  I’d love to know about it!

  • When Christmas Changes December 19, 2012

    “Christmas just won’t be the same without…”

    Those can be some painful words to have to say.

    I remember, growing up, how we’d always go to my grandmother’s house in Wilmington, Delaware, to spend Christmas.  The hurried trip to Penn Station, in Manhattan, was always a major production.  We’d catch the  “Pennsy” and leave New York–usually after sunset, so we’d see the Christmas lights all along the way.

    And when we heard the conductor call, “WILLLMIINNGGGTONNNN!”, and de-trained in a flurry of suitcases and shopping bags full of packages, there would be my favorite uncle, waiting on the platform to drive us to my grandmother’s.   To this day, I still feel Christmasy when I walk through a train station that’s decked out in Christmas wreaths and filled with people traveling to see their families.

    Except–when I was fourteen–things changed. Continue reading →

  • “Merry Christmas” — or “Happy Holidays?” December 16, 2012

    Christmas poinsettias

    by Noella Noelophile™

    By now, you’re probably hearing it all over the place: “Happy Holidays!”

    Except…you won’t hear it from me.

    In my opinion, “Merry Christmas” is one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language.  After all, when else do we use the word “merry” in a sentence?  And when did it get to be offensive to wish someone well, and voice a hope that that person is healthy, at a place that is peaceful in his or her life, and enjoying this beautiful season?

    To me, “Happy Holidays” sounds generic, impersonal and antiseptic.  Kind of like going to a Christmas parade–and then staying behind a thick glass wall, for fear of catching cold, having mud splashed on you, or falling victim to any other far-fetched perils.  Sure, you can see the celebration–but you’re not committing to it wholeheartedly.  To me, a wish of “Happy Holidays” loses about ninety per cent of the “festive” element! Continue reading →

  • Special for Christmas December 9, 2012

    apple Christmas ornament

    My Christmas ornament collection began the year I was twenty.

    At that point, I was in my second year of college, and looking at (someday) having a place of my own that wasn’t a dorm room.

    So on December 26th, after all the festivities, I took a shopping trip to downtown Wilmington, and walked through the pedestrian mall.  And there it was, in a gift store: a cute drummer boy with that year’s date.  It was half-price, and the thought occurred to me: “Why not?  That will be great on my Christmas tree!” Continue reading →

  • Our Festive Start December 1, 2012

    Christmas lanternThis is it!  December first!  Hooray!!!

    Don’t know about you, but I love the first of December.  It’s a completely magical time, where I can feel the enchantment of the oncoming festivities–somehow without all the “frantic.”

    Usually, my favorite thing to do on December first is go to a local coffee shop with an outdoor plaza.  I’ll sit sipping a latte as people go by, and see all kinds of fun things.  A man walks by in a Christmas tree hat, for example…or a shopper zooms past on inline skates with a dog on a leash and a bunch of packages (hey, this IS Southern California!)

    One tradition I really love, is that on December first, our decorating begins.  I put out one ornament…and that’s it.  With another one to come the next day, and the next…

    …And by December 24th, we’re pretty well decorated!  That really works well for our busy California lives, fitted around work, school, and general creative pursuits.

    What is YOUR December first like?  Hope it’s a merry one!

  • “One Bite At A Time” November 25, 2012

    "To do" list with ornamentsby Noella Noelophile™

    “Aaaaah, it’s seven twenty-two?  Eeeeeeek!

    Believe it or not, I just heard those words come out of MY mouth!  And we’re talking about seven twenty-two a.m., not p.m.!

    Then, my loving spouse contributed, “You’ll look up, and it will be Christmas!”  Thank you, dear…

    It’s amazing how busy everyone is, anyway, in everyday life.  Then, if you’re anything like me, the Christmas season “officially” arrives…and, POW!  It’s crammed full of places we blithely agreed to be, and things we need to do.  All these plans, of course, have been made for some future fictitious era when we’ll have lots of time.  And that time will, without exception, consist of hours that magically expand to accommodate us, so we can accomplish everything!

    I haven’t yet figured out how to get enough time to do all the things I’d like to, at Christmastime (or indeed, any other time!), and still have time to enjoy it all.   Here are the best tips I can offer: Continue reading →

  • 3 Ways to Give Amazing Gifts! November 21, 2012

    Santa Christmas ornament

    Okay–tomorrow is Thanksgiving!  And Black Friday is upon us…as is Small Business Saturday (my personal favorite) and a host of offerings for your Christmas gift-giving.

    Now, we know Christmas has never been about sales and buying.  But part of the fun is thinking of someone you love, and then finding something–sometimes unexpectedly–that “says that person’s name” to you.

    With that in mind, let’s talk about some of the ways to elicit the remark, “Wow, you’re a great gift giver!”  (And, more importantly, how to make your recipients happy because you love them!  Simplistic and corny, maybe–but there it is.) Continue reading →

  • Not That Far to Christmas October 31, 2012

    Two pumpkins with Christmas trimby Noella Noelophile

    Here’s something to scare you.  When you hear “Trick or Treat!” outside your door…there are fifty-five days left till Christmas Day.

    And they seem like many, many less.

    Eeeeeeeeeekkkk!

    It’s interesting to me, to see churches shy away from Halloween, calling it the “devil’s holiday.”  Growing up in the church in the 1960’s, I remember our church basement being the site of many Halloween parties.  Girl Scouts, all the Sunday School classes, and our youth group all had their chance to eat candy corn and bob for apples.  No one ever saw it as anything more than a reason to have fun and dress up in silly costumes.

    In fact, one year, one of the choir members, who was a talented actor, dressed up in a witch’s costume and made a guest appearance.  She was a big hit, coming in with a witchy “Ha ha ha ha ha!” and staying for a few minutes to talk about her cat, her broomstick, and her spells.  Her best improvisational response?  One of the children asked her if she could fly.  Thinking quickly, she responded, “Not while I’m near a church.  But once I get away from the church, I can fly!” Continue reading →


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