Photo of the month

Roni puts in some quality time with our new Nikon D5100 on Dec. 31. Having a good camera at last is exciting, but figuring out how to get the most out of it takes a bit of practice. Photo by Glenn.

January 2012

We took our new camera to the Big Break Regional Shoreline on Dec. 28 to test it out, and to check out the progress on the new visitor center. Roni had hoped that this would eventually become the home to the Delta Science Center, but plans for that recently fell through. Photo by Glenn.

Brown is the dominant color along the Delta this time of year. A couple of thistles stubbornly cling to their stems at the Big Break shoreline. Photo by Glenn.

Three cormorants find a convenient perch in the form of some old dredging equipment rusting away in Big Break. Photo by Glenn.

Scarecrow? Grim Reaper? Wayward fashion statement? Whatever it is, it stands out amid the Delta scenery. Photo by Glenn.

This is an owl box, which park district personnel built to encourage the owls to nest. They are great for keeping rodents under control. This is just a mile from our home, and we keep hoping that the owls will find their way to us and take care of our gopher population. Photo by Roni.

It's New Year's Eve. Anyone up for a party? Perhaps if it weren't so cold. Roni bundles up on the sofa within arm's reach of the hors d'oeuvres. Photo by Glenn.

Just a few of the goodies we lined up for the evening. Battered jumbo shrimp and mini quiches. Photo by Glenn.

Roni and Ben exchange New Year greetings via text message, right at the stroke of midnight. Photo by Glenn.

We pour the bubbly and drink a toast to what we hope will be a good 2012. Photo by Glenn.

As per tradition, Glenn prepares to take his first bite of the ceremonial sour cream herring. It's a mighty huge piece. Photo by Roni.

Mmmmmm, so good. Photo by Roni.

As is plain to see, this is Uncle Sam. We've had him enduring the elements for a little more than 3-1/2 years and he's looking rather tired. We're going to create a new one from scratch. Photo by Glenn.

After tracing Uncle Sam in Photoshop we prepare to transfer the pattern to a sheet of 3/4-inch plywood. This is a bit of scrap leftover from Roni's Christmas gift. Photo by Glenn.

What cat doesn't like to be above it all? Katy perches atop some of the boxes containing this year's Delta Science Center calendar. Photo by Glenn.

No, this is not Katy. This neighborhood cat does bear a close similarity to our little girl and visits our yard frequently. We've nicknamed it "Fake Katy." Photo by Glenn.

This is Ben sporting his blue 'do. It's been a few days since the dye went in, so it's not quite as impressive as it looked on day one, but you can still see the blue highlights. Photo by Roni.

We always enjoy hearing from our visitors. We welcome your comments.

The jar isn't half-empty, it's half-full

January 26, 2012

We knew that the old year couldn’t last forever, and perhaps that is a good thing, given that it was about a 50-50 split between highs and lows. But as ready as we were for 2012 to begin, we weren’t quite so prepared for it.

It has been a rare event to have all our family together on New Year’s Eve. We aren’t much the party animals, and Glenn for the past few years has had to work that night, often slipping through the door minutes before the stroke of midnight. Time for a sip of champagne and to listen to the fireworks before settling in to watch Dick Clark or his protégé, Ryan Seacrest, introduce the latest pop stars for the post ball-drop party. But with New Year’s weekend falling on Saturday and Sunday for a change, we looked forward to the three of us spending the evening together forgetting our auld acquaintances over chips, dip, video games and Law & Order marathons.

Well, perhaps some other year.

It is sometimes easy to forget that Ben is 17, rapidly approaching manhood, and the idea of hanging out with your nerdy parents on New Year’s Eve at that age pales when compared to an invitation to hang out with your girlfriend and her nerdy parents. (Oh wait, the girlfriend’s parents are cool.) So instead of the three of us partying it up till the stroke of midnight, it was frozen breaded jumbo shimps and potato skins for the two of us while across town, Ben was treated to cupcakes and movies at the home of his girlfriend Alexis’s uncle. It was, as Ben later described it, everything he dreamed it would be.

As for us, we celebrated like the old married couple we are and bundled up on the sofa to ward away the cold while chowing down on our hors d’oeuvres. Really, that’s about all New Year’s Eve is good for, one last excuse to cram in a few more carbs and calories before having to start your January diet. We had plenty of leftover Christmas goodies to polish off, so it wasn’t like we were going to starve without the crackers, cheese, sour cream, buffalo wings and mini quiches we bought to add to the collection, but some things are simply a tradition.

Like sour cream herring. There is some sort of legend that it will bring you good luck if it is the first thing you consume in the new year. Not quite sure how that legend got started, because it hasn’t much helped with the luck factor the past few years, but ah well. We stubbornly cling to the idea that no New Year’s Eve feast is complete without that all-important jar of sour cream herring, so we always attempt to buy it a few days before the big night, just to make sure we have time to track it down if it’s not available at our better grocer. In Oakley, that would be Raley’s. For years we have bought our herring there and not had to worry. But for whatever reason this year, someone there decided that sour cream herring wasn’t in high enough demand and didn’t order any. You could get all the pickled herring you want, but forget any of the variety we prefer, slathered in sour cream and onions.

Unfortunately we didn’t discover this situation until about 6 p.m. on Dec. 31, and so it was that we turned to Plan B — also known as Lucky. In a town with two chain grocery stores, one of them surely recognized the importance of sour cream herring. We decided to brave the last-minute shoppers there to find out. The place was a zoo. It looked more like Christmas Eve with the lines that stretched halfway down the aisles. But indeed they came through with the coveted small jar of sour cream herring. At $4.99, we were actually able to pay in cash at the quick-check lane and still have a whole penny in change. The copper alone could be worth the purchase price. We rushed home with our treasure, ready to commence with the night’s food festivities.

When it came to midnight, Roni did what at least 300 million other Americans did and hopped onto her iPhone to send a New Year’s greeting. We upped our cell phone contract just before Christmas to provide Ben with a gift of unlimited texting, so she texted him exactly when the ball in Times Square dropped — or at least when it dropped in three-hour tape delay for West Coast viewers. The neighbors, as always, lit up an arsenal of fireworks they’d probably been stockpiling since July. We twisted the screw top on our year-old single-serve bottle of Cook’s spumante and made a toast to… whatever. Then we opened our jar of creamy seafood heaven.

Normally we can stick a fork in and come up with a good-sized chunk of fish. But this jar seemed more sour cream than herring. Actually, we each had one piece and discovered much to our dismay that all that was left were onions. Really? A five-buck bottle of product that is mostly filler? Yes, food prices have been going up and manufacturers continue to cut corners, but just who do they think they’re fooling here? Oh right, us.

If the sour cream herring is supposed to bring good luck, then what does it say about the year ahead when we weren’t even lucky enough to purchase a jar that contained a full serving of sour cream herring? This can’t be good. Need further proof? We bought a Super Lotto ticket that same night good for five draws, and not one of them paid off. This could be a coincidence, but it smacks of something much more sinister, we think.

* * * * *

Bad luck. It starts out simple, such as with a deficient jar of sour cream herring, and then spreads. Just ask Glenn, who saw his two-year reign as champion of the brotherly football picks competition come to an end Jan. 1, losing the perpetual trophy to his younger brother, Sean. Or ask the San Francisco 49ers, whose magical journey to the Super Bowl ended with a muffed punt in the rain in overtime Jan. 22, leading to a 20-17 loss to the New York Giants and disappointing Bay Area fans. Or ask Roni… well, maybe you don’t want to ask her. We’ll just tell you.

Roni is quite excited about our new Nikon digital camera that we opened on Christmas, and it was our goal to spend some time this month touring about in search of good photo locations. We made it out only to Lodi and then Big Break Regional Shoreline before Roni developed a mysterious pain in her knee that progressed to the point where she could barely stand without severe discomfort. So much for our idea of climbing the hills of Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, for a while. She feared it might be arthritis, but her doctor told her it was likely just a muscle strain and to ice it down and stay off it as much as possible. So she did, and as of this writing things are looking up, although she still isn’t feeling 100 percent. The photo trips will keep for a few more weeks.

While the knee injury was painful, it didn’t smart quite as much as the news she received early in the month that the site the Delta Science Center had its eyes on for future office space wouldn’t be available after all. The DSC thought it had worked out a deal with the local park district to share a space inside the new visitor center being built at the Big Break Regional Shoreline. The building has been under construction since early fall and is scheduled to open sometime this spring, but changes in its design mean there won’t be room to house the DSC’s desk or a representative. The turn of events was a deep disappointment for the DSC board, which has been working for the past two decades to bring a science center to Oakley. Negotiations are continuing, however, and there is hope that something else can be arranged.

Meanwhile, Roni and her DSC team have been occupied with distributing the 7,500 copies of the 2012 Delta calendar that had been sitting in our entryway since before Christmas. The calendars are distributed to all the fifth graders in eastern Contra Costa County and schools along the Highway 160 corridor between Rio Vista and Clarksburg. We made the rounds of Brentwood’s seven elementaries last week, and she drafted our nephew Robert into driving a truckload of boxes to the Pittsburg Unified School District. The calendars include a lesson plan teachers can follow between now and the end of the school year; Roni has been hard at work assembling the program, which teachers will be able to download from the DSC’s website.

* * * * *

Ben has been feeling adventurous in the new year. He really wanted to attend the winter SacAnime convention that was held the weekend of Jan. 14-15, but he didn’t preorder his ticket and then couldn’t find anyone willing to drive him to Sacramento. It is the first convention he hasn’t attended since he started going regularly in 2009. He had even bought items from Goodwill to use for a costume before he found out he wasn’t going, but he’s hanging onto them until September, when he plans to attend the summer SacAnime event by himself as his first post-high school graduation weekend away from home on his own.

Meanwhile, Ben has found other ways to express his independence. He may not have gotten to go to Sacramento, but that same weekend he instead visited his girlfriend’s house where she helped him dye his hair blue. If you have to ask why then clearly you don’t understand the cult that is Japanese manga, where unusual hair colors, styles and outlandish outfits are the norm. First Ben bleached his hair nearly blond, then they applied the blue coloring. It wasn’t a perfect job, but Ben was happy just to try it out for a few days. Now he is thinking about dying it black.

That’s about it for this month. If the rain clouds behave as they have been doing most of this winter up to now, next month hopefully we’ll have blossom pictures to share. Fingers crossed!

Glenn, Roni and Ben

This page was last updated on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 01:19 hrs.

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