Thursday, January 28, 2016

Crash landed in the tall grass

Today is the 30th anniversary of the explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger, a sad date of remembrance but a lifetime ago for most of us. For me, it was a date that, more than any other, changed the course of my life and sent it into a completely different direction than it had been going in.

At the time of the Challenger disaster, I was an astrophysics student, going to classes and working at a local observatory and plugging my way through electromagnetism, physics, astronomy, and chemistry coursework.  My hope was to someday enter the space program, ideally as as astronaut candidate, less ideally (but still acceptably) in some behind-the-scenes research or technical capacity.

73 seconds into what was thought to be a very routine launch that morning, there was an explosion which brought those dreams crashing to the ground, just as surely as The Challenger itself crashed back to earth.

In the days and months that followed the explosion of Challenger, there was a lot of talk in the aerospace community (which I was on the edges of) about the future of space travel. There was no question it would be at least a couple of years before another launch happened -- maybe. It was also speculated the entire program might be scrapped. 

Friends I knew, who were already working on various science payloads scheduled to go up on future shuttle flights, had been laid off indefinitely. There was even talk that NASA would phase out manned spaceflight altogether as it was just too dangerous (both from a physical as well as a public relations perspective). And that they'd never again launch a non-military, civilian type astronaut into space, as it was just too risky if something went wrong. (This, on the idea that sworn military servicemen and women vow to give their lives, if required, in service to their country. Teachers, scientists, and journalists take no such vow.)

It's ironic that in the end none of those dire scenarios happened, but you know, talk is talk and these future predictions seemed rooted in reality at the time.

And so, anyway, in light of all those things, I did what any self-respecting third year astrophysics student would do, which was leave school, take a year off and backpack around Europe in order to give myself time to reassess my priorities and decide what to do next. It was actually less expensive than staying in school and graduating with no hope of employment would have been.

When I got back eight months later, I knew what I needed to do. I changed my major to journalism in the hopes of becoming a science writer. And 30 years later, I've been done science writing,  and in addition, been a science and writing school teacher. Ultimately it was my love for science that led me towards discovering a more healthful way of eating and living, which led me to be interested in our ecosystem and how we can live lightly within it, and led me to investigate new ways of doing that. Or, long story short, homesteading.

And it occurs to me that every glory and tragedy has the power to affect not just the principal players involved, but also has a ripple effect that changes outcomes for those on the edges of the event as well. Were the Challenger accident never to have happened, I can honestly tell you I don't think my life would be where it is now. And so today I not only remember the seven lives lost on that cold January morning, but also remember everyone, either in the space industry at the time or who were slated to go into it, who ended up in places they never would have thought possible then.

I landed in the tall grass in the years after Challenger -- literally -- and I hope for the same, in some way, for everyone who experiences a moment when everything changes and the compass suddenly swings in a whole different direction. 

This is a poem I wrote soon after the accident, which was published in "Under The Stars" magazine, a division of Jason Scientific, as I began my new career in writing:


Once we had a bird, white
edged in black around her wings
and nose
who cut the breeze
gracefully, and without fanfare
Our bird
flew between the stars 
known as one of them
My friends and I thought the bird was ours
and would wait for her to fly over at night
in the company of those close,
comforting stars
and we would watch when, with a booming double-cry
she would gleefully return to us at dawn
the newspapermen took pictures
others waved flags
but we know, really, that she had returned for us alone.

a twisted treasury of morning flame
she rests, emptied of dreams
in waters heavy with
history and gravity
The newspapermen took pictures
others talked about it
but we knew we'd never see her fly
again, with nose pointed true towards
whatever most reachable and infinite

Tonight the breeze, undisturbed
flutters leaves aloft
stars rise rank and file behind them
alone, as we are
now separated from them by parsecs
which seem much greater tonight
unable to comfort
even the closest of them.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

January spring

It's early spring here on the homestead. Around the central coast, we generally get a long spring and long summer, and late January is generally when we start seeing our first hints of spring. Fall and winter are both extremely brief, which people either love or hate, depending on their general temperament. I'm in between, loving the long spring but hating the long summers. And missing a good fall every year. Someday we will retire and do something about that, but for now, there is plenty here to love. And it seems appropriate to have a lot of green inside, too, to match what's outside.

Anyway, even though the first almond blossoms are starting to appear and the hills are turning emerald green, you don't dare plant anything yet, as frosts and even freezes are still probable.

If summer is the time to be inside in the air conditioning (while all you midwesterners and easterners are outside loving the sunshine and your garden) then late January and February is the time of year for us to be out and about outdoors. It's cool enough to work (65 degrees F this week as a high temperature), sunny enough to be pleasant, and a great time to get things done before the heat comes. Because it's coming. Of that there is no doubt.

Today I pondered what's going to go into my big raised stone flowerbed, other than irises and milkweed. Such endless possibilities! Building this wall was very easy. Now we just have to add the back and fill it up with good soil.

I added some beach pebbles to the metal agave plants and their colorful pots. Decided the gazing ball belonged with its similarly colored siblings, the pots. So now I have some color and interest where I needed some but did not want to add any more plants.

Found this Enrico Coveri scarf at Goodwill for $1.75. Score. Wore it to work last week at the winery and got tons of compliments on it.

We have salads galore and have been using a dressing of Mandarin Orange Oil and Fig White Balsamic to go on them from our local olive oil company, Olivas de Oro. So delicious and refreshing. I planted some more lettuce and spinach this week to keep the greens coming.

All in all, it's been a lovely January spring so far.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Another brick in the wall

Today we are working on the raised bed which will house my irises, milkweed and assorted annuals. This is going to be a focal point of color in the back yard, and we've therefore decided to build a raised bed for it all, using blocks. In the pic above (to the right), you can see the poor irises and some agapanthus struggling in the crappy soil that is our hilltop.

Big Ag is doing the first level, which involves the kind of precise leveling I do not have the willpower for ("it looks close enough" is pretty much the grand theme of my life), but after the first level of blocks is finished, I will be able to do the rest myself. 

I'm excited to get the irises out of the place I stuck them when I moved. It has very poor soil and is under constant threat from gophers as well, so getting them into a secure garden bed (there will be chicken wire under the planter) will bring a good feeling, and of course with spring coming planting some annual color will be fun.

Garden Art, for art's sake.

We've also invested in some pottery and I snagged two metal agave plants at the last auction, planning on using them in the yard. These are the kinds of finishing touches that are always the most fun to do, and I'm really looking forward to adding some interest to the landscape by the pottery elements and annual color.

I'm thinking of putting this big ball in the center of the raised bed. What do you think?

The voice in my head (our marker for the septic tank) said it wanted its own ball. Who am I to argue.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Balsamic Government

I could drink it!
Just typed, "how to make your own white balsamic vinegar" into that magic, invisible university known as Google and discovered there are some things that cannot be easily DIY'd...white balsamic vinegar being one of them. Unless, of course you have access to grapes from the Modena region of Italy, along with master-level winemaking skills.

While I do have the winemaking equipment and posses a novice-level skill at making it, I don't have the grapes or the time. And one out of three ain't good enough in this case.

Daunting to think, however (referencing my previous post) that in the wake of the Collapse of Everything we may have to do without our beloved white balsamic vinegar. How will we eat our post-apocalyptic homegrown watermelons and salads? That alone seems a good enough reason to keep our democracy and basic infrastructure going. So back off, Doomers.

Who would best support continued importing of white balsamic vinegar?
I do make my own laundry detergent, soap, cleaning products and a fair amount of "basics" kind of food, such as tomato paste. But other things are just not worth the time, equipment cost and skill level they take to produce on an individual basis, for one household.

So I probably can't make white balsamic...But I can start using my copious supply of eggs to make my own mayonnaise (very easy) and making ketchup from a jar or two from the store of canned tomatoes (also easy) I have put aside, so those will be projects in the weeks to come.

I'm always looking for ways to make things from scratch using basic ingredients, but the key to success is sometimes to know what do make yourself and what to buy.

And of course support the infrastructure that supports the products you can't live without. I'm willing to put up with a lot of political and governmental crap in order to keep my First World need for chocolate, white balsamic vinegar, bananas and the occasional bar of Halvah coming into the nation.

My vote goes to whomever supports that. And universal healthcare, of course.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A small helping of TEOTWAWKI*, anyone?

New lettuce and spinach are in the ground today here at the homestead, and with the warm El Ninó weather blowing in, it feels a little more like spring than winter around here. 

I spent the morning planting and pruning our roses, and after finishing that, was reading a blog I enjoy. It referenced another blog (one I wasn't familiar with) whose authors have stopped writing due to their belief that a cataclysmic meltdown of society is imminent. The author of the original blog I was reading stated she was also very nervous about things right now, which I took to mean an impending collapse of society, the enforcing of martial law, city types fleeing for rural areas, post-collapse danger, etc.

What some people wish for.

This was a person who, up until today, I considered reasonable -- a fun read on basic homesteading activities. Sometimes you have to wonder where people get these ideas, and what kind of world they live in that leads them to these sorts of conclusions. What could it be? 

I know in some cases it's religious fundamentalism and the belief that we are living in the End Times. The problem with that is, even in Jesus' time, people thought they were living in the End Times. So did folks in the 1800's. So did people during WWII (which I kind of get). 

Honestly,  I think it's a huge warning sign of living a too-small life. I wish I could snatch those doomsday people up for an afternoon and take them to a café on the palazzo in Verona, Italy for some pasta, wine and gelato. People in Europe have an advantage over us in that they can look around them and see 1,800 or more years' worth of evidence of human life in architecture, roads, and art. And  there, subliminally, is the message: life, does in fact go on. Even what seems like the end of the world tends not to be, when it's all said and done.

I also think people sometimes enjoy believing they are living in critical times because it makes them feel more important than being just a blip on the radar screen at the beginning of a very slow and somewhat inevitable decline most civilizations eventually go through. "Not with a bang but with a whimper" and all that, or so the saying goes. It gives their lives  a larger and more immediate purpose to believe they are present at the first shot of a great conflict that quickly destroys everything we are familiar with.

What I wish for.

And so I say, live a rural life, live a quiet life, but also live a balanced life. If you feel like America is headed for some kind of crash, then get outside America and see that despite terrorism, crime and religious extremism, most of the world is still going about their lives as usual, and short of a killer asteroid and combined nuclear strike, the world and indeed our nation will go on as usual, tomorrow, next year, and the day after you die.

TEOTWAWKI? More like COLAWKI (Continuance of Life As We Know It). Have some gelato and rest assured that the sun will probably still come up tomorrow, beginning a day that will probably not be all that different from yesterday or last week, especially if you're on a homestead.

* TEOTWAWKI stands for "the end of the world as we know it."

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Last of the Wine

Last night I opened the last bottle of the Dandelion Wine I made back in 2011. Since moving here to wine country I have not made a single batch of wine, mainly because between my job at the winery and the fruits of Big Ag's labor (he grows wine grapes), we need more wine like we need a hole in the head.

But dandelion, carrot, pear and other "country" wine is substantially different from commercially-processed grape wine in a couple of ways. Home fermenting and aging is more imperfect, and therefore country wine tends to be sweeter, with less alcohol. It's probably more like the wine our ancestors would have had on their dinner table. And it's a completely different taste. Rather like a full-bodied brandy, but with much less alcohol and therefore lacking that familiar alcohol "bite" brandy has to it. It's probably closer to a Maneshewitz-type wine, which will either thrill or revolt you, depending on your taste buds and preferences.

There are advantages to a lower-alcohol wine, the most important being that you can have a couple of glasses with dinner and not be under the table. Since I also add the bare minimum of sulfites, it's also much less likely to give you a stuffy nose. And the full and slightly sweet flavor really does pair well with an lot of different foods.

And you haven't tasted heaven until you've had pears poached in actual pear wine, I'm tellin' ya.

And so I've decided that this year I'm getting back into the home wine-making business, even if it's just a dozen or so bottles. I should have a good enough pear crop to make wine from, possibly even ollalieberries (I made some raspberry wine several years ago that was amazing, so I'm thinking this will be similar) and the cream of the crop, carrot wine, which tastes like the most amazing pinot grigio you've ever had....but at the same time, doesn't.

In vino, veritas is an old saying. In wine, life, whether it's cabernet or carrot. 

End of the Dandelion Wine. *sniffle*

Friday, January 15, 2016

The salvation of country life

I recently re-activated my subscription to and have once again been spending time with those who came before me. This time around I'm focusing on my U.K. ancestors, since I am a first generation American on that side and have a lot of family over there, past and present.

I came across a heartbreaking story of my third maternal great-grandmother, a lady named Elizabeth Aylward. Her whole branch of the family originally lived their lives in the rural hamlet of Suffolk, England, as well as Essex County. (I've actually been to Suffolk a few times and it's beautiful.) But when the Industrial Revolution began to gain traction, like thousands of others, Elizabeth made her way to London to live in the city and find work.

Over the years, through census documents, I saw her working as a boot-mender, a silk weaver, and as she grew older and presumably less dexterous, a laundress.

Her life went on in what must have been a dreary and difficult way, earning barely enough to survive and, along with her husband, supporting a family. But it was what happened after her children were gone and her husband died that really got me. 

Elizabeth's "Poor Law" removal and resettlement document.

1881 Census for her section of Bethnel Green Work House. The age of most women there was between 50 - 70.

Elizabeth Aylward ended up at age 70 in one of London's most notorious workhouses -- Bethnal Green -- where she lived out her days doing menial labor until she died.

As I read the sad story of her life, I couldn't help wondering if she ever regretted leaving the clean air and green fields of Suffolk. I can't help but feel that somehow, if she could just have stayed in the country, her life would have been far different. There would have been a community to care for her in her old age (no workhouses were needed in the farm communities, it was a city phenomenon) and life might not have been such a struggle.

But I could be wrong. It could be that she left Suffolk for London partly because she needed to find work that would support her.  In the end I will never know, of course, what choices could have changed her life. But I know when I lived in Los Angeles, I was very familiar with the sensation of how it felt to spend everything you have on rent to a point where you're broke at the end of each and every month with no emergency fund and no savings. And while there are no more work houses, there is certainly economic uncertainty for people who live their lives in cities and spend all of what they earn, month after month, year after year. The cities of the world are, in some spots, glamorous and cosmopolitan, but they extract a high price from those who want to live in them.

For me, my salvation came not from a journey into the city, but a journey out of it. And somehow, I feel that if Elizabeth could just have found her way back to the small town she started in, her life might have ended in a rocking chair by a window under a thatched roof somewhere instead of a brick factory work house, being fed crumbs and living in filth while working until the day she finally dropped dead. 

Elizabeth's greatest challenge, in my opinion, was something that was not her fault at all -- she was born into the era that valued the man-made and technological, the brick and the concrete, over a simple country life, considered by most to be antique and passé in the face of the Machine Era.  And it led her away from that country life to a hardscrabble existence in East London, where at the end of that life she had nothing to show for it -- no savings, no home, and no close-knit community to depend on.

I don't know where the soul of Elizabeth Aylward resides today but I only hope that there are a lot of green trees, fragrant flowers, soft breezes and most importantly, eternal and blissful rest. 

God knows she earned it.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

The new "kid" in town

New baby.

Our neighbors' Dorper ewe had her lamb last night, and I feel just slightly less proud than they do right now, because I am the one who gets to watch and feed these guys when their owners are away on vacation. So I've of course developed something of an attachment, and watched this pregnancy as it has developed. 

I headed down to their pasture as soon as I got the call about the new lamb, and just stood around enjoying watching the new mother and her little one together for awhile. The weather has been mild and so this has been a perfect time for this ewe to lamb; a few weeks ago it was so cold I think it would have been a lot harder on everyone because the nighttime temperatures were so cold. 

Proud mama.

Not sure if they are going to keep him/her or not, but we've offered to buy it (and another one which is due later this week) so we will see what happens. I would love to have a couple of sheep down in our pasture for brush control and general bucolic cuteness. Here's a pic of the little one, standing up and looking good! 

It's always a happy thing when new life comes into the world, and so I can truly say today's a good day in the neighborhood! 

Dad wanted his pic taken, too, so I obliged.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Wandered far afield

That's a term one of my old bosses used in management meetings when he and the two under-managers he supervised (one of whom was me) would find some topic related to work, but not actually pertaining to work directly, and happily chat about it for a half-hour or so before finding our way back to business.

"Well, we've wandered far afield..." he would say, and that was our cue that we needed to get back to the real business at hand.

And it's a term I've rediscovered in these first days of 2016, as it applies to myself and the life I've been living.

One of the ways hit home yesterday, when there was a power outage at about 8 a.m. The house was cold and dark, and because we chose an electrically-driven pellet stove instead of a wood stove the house hadn't warmed up yet, and now would have no chance of doing so. We have a central heating system we use for back-up, but of course it doesn't work without electricity either. 

So as the temperature dropped inside and I bundled up, I reviewed that choice. Did I ever.

So I sat in the cold and read my Kindle, played music on my iPod and checked Facebook and email on my phone until those devices all died. At that point I decided to head into town to run some errands (thank God I had gas), where at least I'd be in some warm buildings and I could use the car to charge all my devices and run the heater while driving around, which felt SO delicious after being in a cold house for several hours, let me tell you.

Where I feel like I am.

One ironic thing is that the book I was reading before my Kindle died was one called "Patient Heal Thyself" about a young man who discovers healing of his Crone's disease through eating a diet identical to what our biblical ancestors would have eaten 2,000 years or more ago. Yes, I was reading a book about the diet of the 20 BC man on a 21st century Kindle. Boggles the mind, no? If it had been on papyrus I could have at least kept reading without fear of a battery dying.

Anyway, the book reminded me of a time when I adhered to a similar diet just through making healthy food choices and refusing to buy into the industrial food system of feedlot beef, trans-fats, refined sugar, and over-processed bleached white flour. While I haven't backslid all the way (you will not find me in line at McDonald's when McRib returns, for instance) I have cut corners as life got more busy and complex and food still needed to be served. 

So to review, I cut corners by getting a pellet stove instead of a wood stove and I cut corners by just accepting what the regular supermarket thought I should be eating. It's an uncomfortable truth that sometimes we know what the right thing is to do and still do something else anyway. And when we do that, we wander far afield from the selves we want to be.

The solution for the pellet stove is a simple one -- we can buy a small generator for the house or a back-up battery for the stove itself. And the solution to the food issue is there as well. We're already growing a lot of what we eat, but the fact is, even if we had 10 times as many acres we would probably still not grow everything we consume. And so the choice then becomes to purchase those things at the health food store, expensively, or drive an hour's south to the local Whole Foods Market and get it there.

And since I've committed to getting back to those things that matter most to me in 2016, perhaps you'll notice something of a course correction as we get farther into the year. It will be a homecoming of sorts. I've wandered far afield, and it's time to get back on the road I most want to be on -- gardening, planting, conscious food-buying, and healthy living.  It doesn't so much mean giving up on any good things as much as taking the time for different good things that aren't necessarily as easy to come by. 

One thing is for sure: When you wander far afield, eventually the road that leads home will call you back to it, if you're willing to listen. I'm listening, road. I'm listening.

Where I want to be.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Almost done now

We moved a full 10 yards of bark this weekend, in order to finish up on our backyard project. Moving bark is not difficult as its not particularly heavy, but there can be a little stress and strain from doing repetitive activities like shoveling and wheelbarrowing anything for three days. Luckily, with ibuprofen, anything is possible.

I'm thrilled with how it all came out! We'll finish up planting in a week or two and then all we have to do is construct a brick container in front of the gazebo to house my bulbs. 

Now we just need some nice weather so we can go outside and enjoy it all, but with our area in such severe drought, I won't ask for the rain to stop just yet.

Even the side yard where our chickens are housed got a spruce up with some extra bark and flagstones!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Wild weather

Yes, that is snow!

After a couple of crazy Pacific storms, we awoke to sunshine this morning as the ground gradually dries out and  the songbirds emerge to sing again. As the skies cleared, we even noticed there was snow on some of the highest peaks of the Coast Range, probably in southern Big Sir.

We Californians are a tender lot (as far as weather goes; in earthquakes, we are storm troopers) and an inch of rain in 24 hours is a very big deal for us. But this time, in addition to the scary, wet stuff falling from the sky, we actually did have some damaging winds which took out a couple of residences, several garden sheds, and even a huge water tank.

And while it was no polar vortex or Hurricane Katrina, we did wake to strong thunderstorms which rained, hailed and generally blew us around most of yesterday.

This little sparrow seems glad it's stopped raining.

One thing is for sure, we needed the water, and honestly, we need about 15 more storms just like it to even begin to make a dent in the drought.

While I don't hope for any more damage to property, I certainly would like to see another 15 inches of rain. And since snow in the high hills equals water in our reservoirs, I say bring on the white stuff, too.

Sputnik demonstrates appropriate anti-hypothermia techniques for stormy weather.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Otis the Egg-Eater

Locked out of paradise.

This is Otis, the last of the brood that Ellen hatched out last spring. As you can see, he's turned into a fine looking bantam rooster. I did not necessarily want a rooster, but when you hatch a clutch of eggs, you get what you get. Just my luck, I ended up with three roosters and one hen, and was damn lucky to find homes for two out of the three roos. Otis was the last, and so I kept him.

Being a bantam, Otis is too small for those folks who would buy a rooster to make chicken stew from. So he's no good for butchering. But on the positive side, his crow is not overly-loud and obnoxious because he's so small, and he doesn't hassle (a.k.a. rape) the hens because he's just not big enough to mount them, and so in some ways, he's been a pretty easy keep for a rooster.

Up until now, Otis has lived the life of a Napoleonic complexed, hen-pecked husband with six wives who boss him around constantly. But now he's developed a habit that I cannot abide or live with: he's become an egg eater.

I discovered this last week when I went in to collect eggs and found him next to the evidence...a broken egg, contents leaking all over the nesting box...and there was Otis, so innocently standing around right at the scene of the crime.  He got one pass, as I figured it might have been a hen who pecked her own egg, and the henpecked husband was just caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Then I caught him a second, and the next day a third time. So there was no mistaking Otis as the culprit. When you google "egg-eating chicken" on the internet, one of the things the chicken websites tell you to look for is incriminating egg residue on the offending chicken's beak, but I went more on "means, motive and opportunity" as my methods of discovery.

And so now Otis must free-range during the day, in order that he does not have access to the nest boxes. He doesn't seem to mind too much, right now, except when it's raining or windy (he does have places to get out of the weather, but chooses not to use them). I would imagine that as the days get longer I will have him free-range 24/7, to minimize having to go outside every morning and evening to relocate him. 

It's a hard life for male animals on the homestead, no question. A farm is possibly the one place where being born female has a distinct advantage -- you reproduce, therefore you're more valuable and can often expect to live a long life, cared for and loved. 

But Otis The Egg-Eater must now live the life of a bachelor frontiersman, out in the yard. He's just lucky he's not big enough to eat, I suppose. And while I do worry he may become food for a hawk or other raptor, it's a fear I'll have to live with and a risk Otis will have to take. Because his only other option is becoming part of a one-portion, bite sized stew.

P.S. Since relocating him to free-range all day, not a single egg has been eaten. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016


Pfft. Let it rain...

So the weather forecast this week is predicting more rain than we've seen in a long time...possibly three inches by the week's end. It's been so long since we've seen precipitation like this I'm quite skeptical it's going to happen. Everybody in California is talking about the Mighty El Nino Effect, but I'm seeing it more in the midwest than here on the coast.

Nonetheless, if it does happen to end up raining a good amount, I've made sure we don't have to be out in it doing anything non-essential. I'm doing the last of the laundry to hang outside right now, we have plenty of food stocked up, and everything we might need to do in town has been done.

And the final series of Downton Abbey starts tonight, so I predict we'll be snug by the fire watching the adventures of Lady Mary, the Dowager, and Anna and Bates as the first of the storms rolls on in.

Fingers crossed for water and safety to all if we end up getting deluged!

I'm off to the manor with Lady Mary and the Earl of Grantham.

Friday, January 1, 2016

New Year's Eve and I: Still Broken Up

Last night Big Ag and I headed into town for 6 p.m. reservations at a very nice Italian restaurant we always visit on New Year's Eve. My goal each New Year's Eve is to be in bed by 10 p.m. and wake up, hangover-free, feeling fresh and bright on New Year's Day.

New Year's Eve and I broke up many years ago and I have no regrets about ending the relationship.

This year, our dinner featured some great wine and appetizers, plus angel hair pasta with tomato fillets and olive oil, ravioli with scallops and mushrooms in a saffron sauce, and chocolate torté for dessert. It was a grand meal, after which we came home and watched a little of the New Year's specials on television before nodding off to sleep at 10:30 or so.

In the 1980's my New Year's Eve adventures (before we broke up) could have been titled, "A Series of Unfortunate Events." There were relationship breakups and arguments, awful parties and drinking to the point of throwing up. Once I gave up on those "fun" things I and decided to volunteer to work every New Year's Eve at the Observatory, we had bomb threats to the building, ruined fireworks galas and bad accidents on the street leading up to where the building itself was.

Eventually I decided the only prudent thing to do was to break things off completely with  New Year's Eve and never look back. When the kids were little, we'd always make a restaurant run in the late afternoon and bring in lots of good food, and the kids would stay up while I, as per tradition, turned in at 10 p.m. to avoid my "holiday ex."

And so, our breakup has become a permanent thing, and that's a happy thing for me. New Year's Day and I are still going strong as a couple, so with a clear head and bright eyes I wish you all a very happy 2016. 

May you know, or learn, what days to take a chance on (for me, Jan.1) and what to steer clear of (Dec. 31st).