Category Archives: travel

Dear Tom, it’s been a helluva ride!

No, not leaving yet, but I’m about to close up shop temporarily.

We’re moving to Montana! I’ve dreamed of this for five years. Oscar saw the light… at last! As his job has become more and more untenable/onerous and California has become an increasingly challenging place to live.

All I can say is~ yes.

About damn time.

We recently returned from a ten day visit to the ranch. We babysat the cows, horses and dogs. Split and stacked two years worth of wood for our daughter and son-in-law, and met with a real estate agent in Bozeman. We put in an offer on a house and lo and behold… it was accepted right off! (Although my husband pulled a Chip Gaines and tried to fool me into thinking the offer had been rejected! Shiplap ho!)

Thus begins the hard work. I have to get our house on the market. Fingers crossed, it will sell ASAP. We had the hardwood floors refinished while we were away. Lookin’ good, I tells ya!

Yes, I do have two twenty-ish kids here, one of whom is pretty flummoxed at the idea of her parents moving. We are leaving the only home she’s ever known. Even though she doesn’t live with us, the idea of us gives her roots. I get it. My kids are the sole reason I’ve stayed.

But, all things must change. Seems like everyone I know is transitioning in one way or another. We wish us all the best!

In the meantime, enjoy the view from my new backyard! I know Jake will!

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The Bridgers from our new backyard!

XOXO! Julia

 

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Dear Tom, I fed the piggies and I returned home to a mystery.

Went to Montana to visit my daughter and son-in-law. As you know they live an amazing life. Eight thousand acres at the foot of the Crazies.

in the shadow of the Crazies

Looking toward The Crazies from the back of the calving shed.

Six hundred head of cattle. It’s near the end of calving season– I always go during calving to help with the new yearling bulls and the bottle calves. This time I had four bottle calves to feed (one calf each from four sets of twins) and two piglets. The piglets are hilarious. You’ve never ever seen two animals so excited about food, not ever, not once in your entire life. They pretty much turn somersaults when someone shows up with the slop bucket. (They do have an automatic feeder in their enclosure.)

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Yummy food scraps!

Pity they’ll be bacon at the end of the season but in the meantime they lead a terrific life!

As do the cows. It’s a great life for a cow. A rancher lives and dies for his/her cattle. They come first- always. Plus what’s not to like about roaming eight thousand green grassy  acres? And if you are a cow, as in a girl, you are likely to live out your life on said eight thousand acres. And the occasional steer, like my sweet boy Hank of last year.

Hank

My little steer.

This year I got to teach a premie to nurse- sat her on my lap. She was the cutest thing ever! But it was challenging to feed four babies at once. They spend a whole lot of time butting each other. I could feed two at a time– brought the new cattle dog, Nip, into the calving shed with me to occupy the other two.

Plus it was my birthday. I got to Montana every birthday since the year before my daughter got married. She took time out of her insane calving schedule to bake me a luscious cake.

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Lemon cake with homemade lemon curd and raspberry jam filling and marscapone frosting.

But I returned home to a mystery. How did one of Jake’s old backyard toys end up in the lavender patch in the front yard? Remember, both our gates are padlocked and our fences are six feet high.

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The mysterious moving stuffed elephant.

Was it dropped by an owl? Did a bobcat decide it wanted to play with a stuffed elephant? Was it, oh, I don’t know… Bigfoot? A youthful Bigfoot?

Seriously– How did the elephant end up in a patch of lavender in the front yard? The elephant has been in the backyard since Jake was a puppy. He neither destroys nor loses his toys.

I have got to order that game camera. Oh, and Jake still smells skunky.

XOXO! Julia

Dear Tom, I missed your face!

Last time Oscar and I flew to Heathrow, well, there you and Ish were, waiting for us. I recognized you instantly even though we’d never met. It was your big toothy grin and her sweet smile that won my heart on the spot. Terminal 5, Heathrow. BFFs.

This time there was no Tom, no Ishbel. But we walked past the point where you’d stood and I swear you stood there still. I saw you clear as day.

But we had to get on to Gatwick and board a plane to Bordeaux so there was no time to chat. Besides, I didn’t want any Brits rolling their eyes at one more crazy American.

We made our flight to Bordeaux with time to spare. (The return trip was another story altogether!) Oh, Tom, the adventures we had! I can’t wait to tell you all about it. You would have loved our host, Stephane, in St. Emillion and (his) My French Heaven and the house we rented in La Roque Gageac. And the food the food the food. You would have loved the food.

So over the next few days or weeks or whenever I feel a little less jet-lagged, I’ll tell you all about it. In the meantime, here’s a photo Stephane sent of our group. We are all together except for our son. He could not leave work for eleven days. But our son-in-law, the rancher, made the trip. (He was a big hit in France!)

Love you! Talk later! XOXO Julia

From left to right, Julia, daughter J, Oscar, son-in-law N, daughter S.

From left to right, Julia, daughter J, Oscar, son-in-law N, daughter S.

Dear Tom, Holy frakkin’ shite has my week been insane!

So first my youngest breaks up with her fiance. Which is traumatic to say the least. But the issue is that we are leaving for France in a few days… Did I say a few days? And he was supposed to come along. So now Mom, i.e., me, is rearranging everyone’s travel because the youngest wants to head to Europe early for some rest and relaxation (and a little alone-time) in Spain. She’s never been to Spain or to Europe on her own, for that matter. But at least she speaks Spanish. She spent a year in Costa Rica. Regardless, her plans are freaking me out! My mom radar only stretches so far before it enters panic mode. I ran to T-Mobile and put us on an international phone plan today.

Oh, to make matters worse, she left her passport at the ex-fiance’s house. Why? Oh why?

All I can say is this – God Bless the amazing customer service representatives at British Airways. If not for their calm kind cool demeanor and competence, I would be a bloody raving lunatic!

The other daughter and her husband are rushing to get their winter wheat planted and the fencing finished (keeps the cows from running amok) before they leave, and my poor 6’5″ rancher son-in-law could not get extended Coach, or whatever cabin it is that offers more leg room, for the trip. I’d mention the name of the airline but that’s bad karma.

I just learned that Oscar and I must transfer from Heathrow to Gatwick in order to catch our flight from London to Bordeaux. Pain in the ass! if I’d known I would have flown to Paris and caught the train to Bordeaux. Sorry, Tom. I refuse to bother anyone for a ride. I believe we can catch a shuttle. And by the way, I plan on returning to London a year from now so get ready! London first then a hike through Cornwall.

My cousin just had an emergency triple bypass and finally admitted his wife is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s after she crashed her car, head-on, into a family of five. Thank God everyone walked away without a scratch. Yes, her keys have been taken away.

My youngest sister and her husband are in the midst of a legal/financial nightmare related to the horrible flooding in Boulder, CO, the year before last. Really awful. They may have to give up their house because of continued problems. Guess they’ll be moving in with me… I’m not too excited about their dog. He eats poop. Jake would never eat poop.

Oscar is working his ass off. He seems to have no end of work. He leaves at 7 a.m. and doesn’t get home until 10 p.m. and then starts all over again the next day, and he works almost every Saturday. He’s so distracted he forgot we were leaving on the 3rd and scheduled himself to work. I straightened him out quick. Meanwhile Jake is stressed because he sees me piling shoes up in my study. When I pile up shoes, boots actually, he knows that means a stay at the kennel.

My son is sick with pneumonia. Started antibiotics yesterday. Fortunately he’s not coming to France. He can’t leave work and his dog for ten days. Besides… pneumonia.

If it wasn’t for bacon and tomatoes I don’t think I’d eat at all.

bacon

Then I remind myself – it’s not always about me. Right? I can only fix what I can fix. I’m praying, let my son be all right. Keep my youngest safe. Don’t let Jake lose too much weight at the kennel. Please don’t let us miss our flight out of Gatwick. Help my sister and her family and my cousins. I pray for world peace and, dear Lord, keep the bacon coming.

Oh, Tom, what would I do without you?

XOXO! Julia

Dear Tom, We’ll call this past week The Week of Loss. Oh yeah, tomorrow is the 4th…

Not a fitting post for the Fourth of July but what the hey… I’m not feeling all that festive.

Mr. Robin vanished. Oh, I know well enough what happened to him. The neighbor’s cat happened to him, that’s what. Now his wife is left alone with four mouths to feed. Yes, nature (and cats) can be cruel, but still I am sad. Mr. Robin and his wife have been living in my yard for four years now. He was unique. Determined. Single-minded. I always recognized him with his silly macho Mohawk head-feathers. He was our alarm clock, welcoming the sun from the top of our highest redwood tree every single morning. The saddest part? The mournful chirps from his wife– two days of crying. I could hear every single chirp. She cried as she cared for the babies. Broke my heart.

Mr. Robin

Mr. Robin

Dear Mr. Robin, you are missed.

In one week, three people died– two of my childhood friends- one from previously undiagnosed cancer, one from a heart attack, and just yesterday my husband’s cousin died. All three died young, but due to lifestyle they’d aged well before their time. I mean, in one case when I heard the news I said, “Wait a sec… I thought he was already dead. I thought he died of a heroin overdose twenty years ago.” As you can see I hadn’t kept in touch, but my cousin had– She’d remained friends with both gentlemen. (This is what I get for avoiding Facebook. Never know who’s dead and who’s alive.)

My husband has a small family. There are only six cousins on his mother’s side of the family so to lose one of them is a huge deal. But it was not unexpected. The last time I saw his cousin was at a wedding eighteen months ago. To claim the man was in ill health would be an understatement.

He said to me, “I’m waiting for the big one. My life is shit. I am miserable. I’m in pain. I just want to die.”

My husband asked if his cousin seemed depressed. I said, “No, more like resigned, frustrated, unhappy. But no, not depressed.”

Well, he had the big one, a cardiac arrest in the field. Unfortunately he had no advance directive and when the paramedics arrived on the scene they resuscitated him. He was without oxygen for fifteen minutes before CPR. He never regained consciousness. Was on a ventilator. Again, unfortunately, the doctor treating him was very aggressive. Despite the fact that the man was DEAD he took him to surgery to unblock his coronary arteries, then he took him back into surgery to graft some vessels into his legs because there was no circulation (DEAD), and he wanted to begin dialysis because, obviously, if you’re DEAD, your kidneys aren’t functioning. Thank God he suffered another cardiac arrest twelve hours after the first and his son overruled the doctor and said, “Don’t do anything. Let him go.”

It was a difficult death because he was not a nice man and he’d been pretty much estranged from his son and from most of the rest of the family for years. But, you know better than I, death is the great equalizer. Happens to good and bad alike. We are very close with his son– my kids think of him as a big brother, so my husband and son are heading to the funeral tomorrow. They’ll mourn his cousin and celebrate the Fourth of July with family down in Orange County. I’ll stay home with the two dogs and keep an eye on Mrs. Robin.

Last week was a blur– we canceled a trip at the very last minute due to family insanity. My family. We were supposed to fly to Colorado for a family reunion but the hostess of said reunion had a major meltdown and I decided a cooling off period was required. Sometimes words/actions have consequences. The consequence in this case was a canceled trip. However, it was for the best as our youngest needed help making some life-altering decisions. She was supposed to fly to Colorado with us. Instead we spent five days dealing with some pretty emotional stuff.

Isn’t that always the way it is with kids? I can’t remember ever being drama-free. I know you know this, Tom. You too have three children. But I’m good with it. You know the poor young woman who was gunned down on the waterfront in San Francisco? Exactly one week ago my husband and our daughter were standing in that exact spot. They stopped there on the way to a San Francisco Giant’s game. This is why I say I’m good with it. I can accept drama.

Really bad things happen in this world, Tom. Oscar is pretty upset. It takes a lot to upset him, but the thought of a father losing his daughter like that? And knowing it could have been him? He’s not himself today. I’ll tell him you called me a ‘git’ and maybe that will cheer him up!

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Anyway, since it is the Fourth of July, or will be tomorrow, and since you’re English and I’m American, I shall stick it to you and quote some of the Declaration of Independence:

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government.

Words to live by, Tom. Words to live by. Love you! Julia

Charm City is, well, charming.

When my youngest moved to Baltimore, she made me promise I would not watch The Wire. She’s been there for six years now and I’ve kept my promise. Now she’s finished grad school. I just made my 6th visit to a city I love, a city from whence my ancestors came.

The city, Baltimore, is charming, especially on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. We were the recipients of charming free beers. We ate charming free food. We met charming Uber drivers.

St. Paddy's Day 5K and Marathon.

St. Paddy’s Day 5K and Marathon.

There is so much to love about Baltimore:

1. The pride. Residents of Baltimore are proud of their city. They are proud to live in Baltimore, to be from Baltimore. The friendliness. People smile. They say hello, good mornin’, how ya doin’, wassup. People in Baltimore are happy to chat with complete strangers.

Baltimore skyline from Federal Hill Park.

Baltimore skyline from Federal Hill Park.

2. It’s real. It’s gritty. If you want high-falutin’ go to trendy preppy D.C. Baltimore is as down to earth as it gets.

The Inner Harbor.

The Inner Harbor.

3. Federal Hill Park.

Oscar mans the cannon on Federal Hill.

Oscar mans the cannon on Federal Hill.

4. Ft. McHenry, Francis Scott Keyes and The Star Spangled Banner.

Fort McHenry.

Fort McHenry.

5. Camden Yards.

Camden Yards.

Camden Yards.

6. Fells Point (my daughter lives in Fells Point) and the Admiral Fell Inn and the ghosts.

Fells Point.

Fells Point.

Admiral Fell Inn.

Admiral Fell Inn.

7. Resurrection Beer.

Resurrection.

Resurrection.

8. The to-die-for food at Peter’s Inn. Worth the wait. Seriously good eats. One of the best meals we’ve ever had.

Peter's Inn.

Peter’s Inn.

9. The Captain Crunch French Toast at Blue Moon Cafe.

Blue Moon Cafe.

Blue Moon Cafe.

10. The old synagogues and the Jewish Museum.

Lloyd Street Synagogue, 1845.

Lloyd Street Synagogue, 1845.

B'nai Israel, the Ark, Lloyd and Lombard.

B’nai Israel, the Ark, Lloyd and Lombard. 1876.

Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Jewish Museum of Maryland.

11. Random Hebrew placards marking former synagogues near Patterson Park.

1899.

1899.

1936.

1936.

12. The American Visionary Art Museum. (Do not miss. Best museum ever.)

American Visionary Art Museum.

American Visionary Art Museum.

13. The Mad Hatter.

The Mad Hatter in Fells Point.

The Mad Hatter in Fells Point.

14. Art Gallery of Fells Point, an Artist Coop– Check out Maury Dickson and his steampunk art.

Artist Coop.

Artist Coop.

15. Pitango Gelato, Fells Point. Try the afogado with chocolate-hazelnut gelato.

Pitango Gelato.

Pitango Gelato.

My daughter will be in Baltimore for another couple weeks. Then I get to watch The Wire.

Oh… while I was there checking out records I learned my great-grandmother was the daughter of a famous rabbi. Funny.