Now We Are Three

Happy Birthday, little G!
She turned a big THREE years old yesterday, amidst much hurrahs and general celebration (aka cupcakes and birthday crowns.) This Saturday will be the finale in the week-long birthday festivities-a fancy dress do...........based on an old-timey popular children's song which is full of that delightful creepiness that songs of that time period evoked. Should be fun!


Laurie King speaking at Bookshop Santa Cruz

Is anyone else looking forward to this? I'll be there with me mum, old copies of Justice Hall in tow. I have eagerly devoured each of her Holmes and Russell novels, chronicling the cases of Sherlock Holmes, in 'early retirement', living in Sussex, placidly keeping bees and doing 'experiments' and the much younger and feistier Mary Russell, who is first an apprentice detective and then colleague and then wife. Curiously, it works. Each novel is set after WWI, and display dazzling plot twists, historical accuracy and good Holmesian logic puzzles. I think my favourite is Justice Hall, and O, Jerusalem, set in Israel.
I first encountered King's detective series when we were living in Scotland, and I was ransacking the local West Kilbride library for something to read/listen to in order to stay sane on all those long dark drizzly winter nights (sunset: 3:45pm !) I found the first in her Holmes and Russell series, The Beekeeper's Apprentice. It was recorded onto CD, and read by a right proper old English matron. I listened to it at night as I knitted B's Dr. Who scarf (stripey and miles long, but it turned out more after the style of Mrs. Weasley....) I downed copious cups of tea, ate way too many Hob Nobs ("One nibble and you're nobbled".) The rain pounded against the lead-paned windows, the sideways wind howled and sent the escallonia outside knocking and clattering against the side of the thick stone walls. All very Atmospheric, and British and all that.
The Plot Thickens
Except, as I discovered a few years later, Laurie King is from Watsonville, California; which comprises the southern part of Santa Cruz county! Very agricultural and Mexican-influenced, more quincenera than ceillidh, definitely more Grapes of Wrath (Steinbeck grew up in the next county) than Hounds of the Baskervilles. I was staggered. Not only because Laurie King is an American, but because I've probably run into her somewhere around town, like the Cabrillo farmer's market or ordering burritos at one of Watsonville's many taquerias. Or at Bookshop Santa Cruz this Saturday night, January 26th. At 7:30. B.Y.O.P.A.S.H. (Bring your own pipe and silly hat.)


Rosa's Poetry Archives:: Thesaurus by Billy Collins

Billy Collins

It could be the name of a prehistoric beast

that roamed the Paleozoic earth, rising up
on its hind legs to show off its large vocabulary,
or some lover in a myth who is metamorphosed into a book.

It means treasury, but it is just a place
where words congregate with their relatives,
a big park where hundreds of family reunions
are always being held,
house, home, abode, dwelling, lodgings, and digs,
all sharing the same picnic basket and thermos;
hairy, hirsute, woolly, furry, fleecy, and shaggy
all running a sack race or throwing horseshoes,
inert, static, motionless, fixed and immobile
standing and kneeling in rows for a group photograph.

Here father is next to sire and brother close
to sibling, separated only by fine shades of meaning.
And every group has its odd cousin, the one
who traveled the farthest to be here:
astereognosis, polydipsia, or some eleven
syllable, unpronounceable substitute for the word tool.
Even their own relatives have to squint at their name tags.

I can see my own copy up on a high shelf.
I rarely open it, because I know there is no
such thing as a synonym and because I get nervous
around people who always assemble with their own kind,
forming clubs and nailing signs to closed front doors
while others huddle alone in the dark streets.

I would rather see words out on their own, away
from their families and the warehouse of Roget,
wandering the world where they sometimes fall
in love with a completely different word.
Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever
next to each other on the same line inside a poem,
a small chapel where weddings like these,
between perfect strangers, can take place.

(And thanks to the Molly for sharing this one.)


Penance, Remorse and The Sweetness of Late

Bless me, Father, for I have been snotty.......
about the Catholics. I like them, really I do. It's not like that.......

(Soundtrack: Beautiful Change by the Innocence Mission)
There has been felt something on the wind in the last few days, borne up by sudden soft gusts of air, lifting my hair in gentle remonstrations, scolding me for my lack of faith. I weary of the cold and the death of leaves and plant tissue, and the incessant dampness that invades my home and my hearth. I've forgotten to tell myself the signs, like Jill, only my outlook is more Puddleglum than Pole. I've tramped past stands of my most favoritest flower in the known botanical universe, helleborus orientalis, in all it's winter-flowering glory, with nary a glance; only a grim set to my jaw as I frown and fret over my little life, the very Chestertonian "tiny and tawdry theatre where my life's plot is played out." I need to slow down and stop fretting, and work in my garden. I think all this vague unsettledness comes from the fact that winter will be gone soon and I am not ready for the spring. I still have lots of winter tidying to do: pruning (my favorite garden job) and Perennial Musical Chairs, especially because I bought some hostas and need to carve out a spot for them (all 12 of them! What can I say- I got them at Costco!) I need to put down the Edith Wharton novel (The Buccaneers, thanks Mum, it's really good) and get out there and give everything a good whack. And pick some hellebores to gaze upon their loveliness, if only for a moment.

(photo credit: geraldine pennicot)


Bella the Movie & Why I Am Not A Catholic Groupie

I can't say enough about Bella-it was just so, so great. I see movies in the theatre pretty rarely, a combination of MacFrugal-ness and a general dearth of films that interest me, I guess. Also, there's the thought that everything I see will be filed away somewhere on my hard drive-and do I really want to carry around National Treasure 2 for the rest of my life?
But, Lisa called and invited me, and suddenly I found myself sitting at the Del Mar Theatre (site of one of my favorite Mcjobs-I think I brought new meaning to the word slacker that summer (remember, Contessa?) Anyway, as I sat there in the dark,with the story unfolding before me, I suddenly realized that I couldn't stop weeping. I chewed on my thumbnail, trying not to make any sound. I was coming off an emotionally draining week, and had been looking forward to a few hours without the B.T. (beloved toddler) getting tangled up in my legs as if I was trying to tread water in a kelp forest.
Bella is dazzling: life-affirming, hope-filled & joyous; I left the film wanting to see my daughter, to hug her, to watch her jump and dance to B's ukulele.
I was going to download the trailer from You Tube to post here, but I have a general aversion to You Tube blog posts-they take too long to download, and I'm liable to get antsy enough to actually begin the task from which I am procrastinating in the first place. So go look it up yourself.
I went to the only showing of it in Santa Cruz county last weekend; a benefit for the Siena House, a Catholic maternity home in the old nunnery between Holy Cross Church and the old Santa Cruz Mission. I have volunteered for the Siena House in the past, working in their walled garden, at least I did until I completely flaked on them. It's been nearly 3 years, but I still slink down in my seat a little bit when I drive past. I would like to resume work in their garden, but I am afraid I will only let them down again.
Why I Am Not A Catholic Groupie, After All: Tales from the Catholic Steak House
I had to go to the local Catholic bookstore to buy the tix, presumably because it was a benefit. I began to nose around the back of the store and after a while I realized I'd broken one of my cardinal (hehe) rules when it comes to the Catholics: don't look too closely. I'm sorry to say it, but it's true. I always get enamored of the holidays, traditions, poetry, writers (Chesterton, Tolkien, etc) architecture, art, music, acts of mercy and incarnational living; but eventually I come up against one wee little thing: their decidedly wacky theology. I ended up guffawing loudly in the children's section at the Catechism flash cards and a book called The Prenatal Christ that featured drawings of Mary's glowing belly and a voice coming out of it saying,"I am the zygote Jesus, and I have gestated for approximately 3 weeks." I had to leave the store. But not before I bought a cool little book of Francis Thompson's "Hound of Heaven"; (I'm sort of related to him, and it's a fabulous poem.) But see what I mean? Where else would I find that poem, illustrated so groovy, for only $4?
Angus D
So go visit this place: 'Agnus Dei Bookstore'; (that's 'Lamb of God' for all those Germanic language speakers out there)-situated in all it's papist glory right downtown, in the old mortuary building on the corner of Walnut and Cedar Sts. Some time back at a local parade it was mistakenly announced as the 'Angus D', and it's been known in our circle as the Catholic Steak House every since.


Rosa's Poetry Archives

by Kay Ryan

From the Greek for
woven or plaited
which quickly translated
to basket. Whence the verb
crib, which meant "to filch"
under cover of wicker
anything-some liquor
a cutlet.
For we want to make off
with things that are not
our own. There is a pleasure
theft brings, a vitality
to the home.
Cribbed objects or answers
keep thier guilty shimmer
forever, have you noticed?
Yet religions downplay this.
Note for instance, in our
annual rehearsals of innocence,
the substitution of manger for crib-
as if we ever deserved that baby,
or thought we did.



Tonight my friend called me to tell me that her mom died this morning. She had cancer. I heard a few hours before that this had happened and I wasn't sure if I should call or not, I didn't want to bother her. And I didn't know what to say. So, she called me instead, crying. I burst into tears and we just sort of sat there on the phone, breathing back and forth in big shaky gasps to each other. I guess that was what needed to happen. Please pray for her.


Epiphany Fun::Why I am a Catholic Groupie

This weekend was Epiphany and we celebrated in high style at the Adler Manse. The lovely Mrs. Adler is responsible for first bringing this holiday to my attention a few years ago and I owe her unending thanks; at the very least, a new copy of her Madeline L'Engle poetry that G felt must be mutilated with an ink pen. (She definitely has the courage of her convictions.)
Low-Church Upbringing
In former times, (I sound like an ESL German person) I thought Advent was the name of a kind of calendar, and I thought epiphanies were merely synonymous with "eureka!", with vague religious overtones. I grew up pretty low-church, meeting in a school gym, with a rickety overhead projector that featured songs written in transparency marker, the guitar chords usually included. It was like camp, but I didn't know that then. It was just church. I liked it. All the essentials were there, and I managed to walk away, more or less, from my church upbringing with 4 important ideas:
1) Everything (in the created order) is amazing & beautiful.
2) God made everything.
3)God knows who I am
4)He loves me anyway,( and very much.)
And it was these 4 things that worked on me and changed me intrinsically when I first moved away from home. I was living in Hawai'i: 18 years old, bored, desperately homesick, and away from any Christian influence for the first time. Also I was- finally- a licensed driver. So I drove around, alone, and quiet (this was a first too) and over time the above 4 points worked their way into me through the blue sky and green sea, the red dirt and jagged mountain outlines of Kaua'i. I was undone. I am still undone.
Since then I have added things to the scaffold of my faith-things I've found while nosing around in old books, old churches, and old friends. A lot of hymns and poetry (thank you John Donne) mainly, plus some different types of worship, not to mention indulgences, hair shirts, foot-washing and snake-wrangling.
High Holy Day
It feels a bit like I've tried to squeeze everything I can out of Christmas; it's all feasting and revelry and bells and smells and then it's gone. And I resent any little bit of time that all the other stuff (the cultural parts of Christmas) takes from my feasting....("Excuse me? You want us to go to your Candy Cane Fairy Queen Light Parade? Do you know that this is our High Holy Feast Day of the year?".....like I'd really say that. But still.) By the time Epiphany comes around, things have died down a little, I'm casting around for something to do and I am glad to take up Epiphany or 'Little Christmas', as the Irish call it.
The holiday is officially on January 6, and Twelfth Night is actually Epiphany Eve, that is, twelve days after Christmas Eve. The word 'epiphany' really means manifestation and some churches celebrate Jesus' first miracle, or his baptism. However, for most churches around the world Epiphany refers to his revelation to the Magi, and so to the Gentile world (that's me!)
It's such a mellower version of Christmas, and it's totally under the radar of the Christmas Machine. So you can actually just celebrate it without any pressure from the shops to buy their Telly Tubby Wise Men, or Bratz Epiphany Slut-Queens.
This holiday has strong Mexican Catholic influences, and since SC (and California in general) has such a strong Mexican American presence, we had a deep well to draw from, including an enormous King Cake, which is a Mexican cake with little plastic baby Jesus' baked in (baked-in Goodness!) Our little babies were white and pot-bellied, sort of swollen-bellied aliens, victims of some horrible Martian famine......
We made crowns, read poetry and sang all 300 verses of 'We Three Kings', and ate lots of Turkish Delight ("Full of Eastern Promise!"). Erin couldn't resist buying Milky Way bars and Starburst-the party was star-themed, as well as vaguely Middle-Eastern. What fun. I love my friends, now even more that they are willing to wear goofy hats and celebrate obscure holidays. I just can't wait for Maundy Thursday!


Rosa, Thrift Maven: A Thrift Store Primer

I don't know if it's nature or nurture; but somehow I ended up a complete and utter scrounge. I have little shame. I trawl through favorite thrift store haunts, am the first to queue up for a church jumble sale or car boot sale when on holiday, and never pass up a Sally's or GW in a foreign town. I got my fabulous 50's prom dress from a church rummage sale (All Saint's Episcopal, Carmel).G's chrome-edged yellow formica table (50's era-it's gorgeous), came from the preschool where I teach. In Ghana, when I was there with YWAM, I traded a boy for his incredibly cool Jolly Green Giant T-shirt. (He was very excited about my baseball hat from Lake Lure, NC.) B & I slow down for garage sales and give each other a certain look whilst driving past free furniture on the street. We used to frequent the local discount grocery store affectionately known as 'Gross Me Outlet' in order to stock up on cheap supplies and to have a laugh at the Tang printed in Cyrillic and the cans of knock-off SPAM called TREET.
And here's the one I'm not altogether proud of: In 1992 I was living with my dad on the Hawaiian island of Kaua'i. In September, Hurricane Iniki swept through and ravaged the island. (It was ten tons of spine-tingling fun, really. I recommend hurricanes. Especially if you want to go without running water and electricity for a week and have all your family on the mainland think you're dead. Nothing like it!)And afterwards, when the Red Cross set up disaster relief stations across the island, guess who was culling through the clothing donations on her way to botany class at Kauai Community College? Your favorite hurricane refugee/scrounge-me! Shameless.
Scrooge MacDuck
I am Scottish. And the world has a million and one jokes about the stingy, money-grubbing Scotsman kneeling on the street corner trying to pick up a shilling that's been glued to the cobblestones. And then there's my favorite racist store name; MacFrugal's. Which B pointed out would never had been acceptable if it had been called Frugalstein's, or Frugalberg's.... but I digress.
So I lived in Scotland for a year. And all those same jokes that people make about the Scots and their tight-erm, fistedness, is made by the Scots about people from Aberdeen in Northern Scotland. And where do my family hail from? You guessed it, the Granite City-Aberdonians all.
I first went to thrift stores with my mom when I was in junior high. And my very cool older brother used to take me all over creation to search for things out of which to make art. There was the bowling ball phase, when he had a dream of a public sculpture reconstructing the DNA double helix out of bowling balls and pipe. We got a lot of bowling balls, most of which ended up in our garden.
I think thrift store hunting keeps your brain flexible, you have to be willing to suspend expectation, and develop an eye for a diamond in the rough. This is also known as the Thrift Store Spidey-Sense, and it is something that must be carefully honed, with many trips to some key stores.......
A List
So here you go, my favorite spots. I hesitate to reveal such valuable information, but-it's just you, right? And you wouldn't tell anyone, would you?

Santa Cruz

Family Thrift Center, River Street: it's a bit grotty, but the deals are good-especially on half-off days, of which there are many. You know you are hard-core when you shop the half-off days at a thrift store.

Salvation Army, Pacific Ave: This place can be a boon, usually because across the street are a few hipster vintage stores, and I think Sally's ends up with a lot of their cast-offs. Even better is to go there on a Saturday afternoon after a Mike's Mess from Zachary's across the street. We used to hike the train tracks down from our house to Santa Cruz and eat at Zachary's before collapsing on the dusty gold couches at Sally's, bellies distended. However, there is a 'Quality Loft' which is totally bogus and lame; don't waste your time up there. It's baking hot most of the time, and the last thing you want to smell is a hot thrift store, believe me. (Think: The Great Unwashed.)
Goodwill, Union Street: Right across the street from Mum's office (stop in and say hi & get your teeth cleaned too!) This Goodwill was the scene of an important milestone in my life: my first job. In 1990, I got paid $4.75 an hour to color-coordinate rows of shirts and sweater vests. It was horrible, particularly because my boss was what is known as a Very Mean Person. (I think that's the technical expression.) I only did $4.25 quality work, so I think I came out on top.....
This Goodwill isn't stellar, but it is a consistent workhorse of SC thrift stores, and B and I often drop by.
Abbott's Thrift, Highway 9, Felton: Abbott's has the distinction of being both in an old bowling alley, and run by the Orthodox Church next door.* (SLV has a big Orthie presence.) It's funky and not very clean, lots of dust bunnies a-scurrying, and you can still see the marks from the lanes in the aisles between clothes racks. We think this is a draw. Being Orthodox, I guess, the amount of dowdy homeschool denim jumpers is staggering. The Large and Lovely Dress Corner is...ample. Tuesdays everything except furniture is half-off. We've gotten some good stuff here: like our early sixties coffee table which we scored for $15 last month. Check it out! The staff tend to yell, so just don't step out of line.
*editor's note: I have since been made aware that Abbot's Thrift is a  privately owned enterprise, and NOT owned/run by the Orthodox Church. I stand corrected! Thanks for writing in!


Bargain Barn, Pioneer St., (From River St., left on Encinal, right on Post, right on Pioneer): BB is the last stop for Goodwill's junk before it goes to the tip, or is shot into space, or whatever happens to thrift store junk when it dies. The thing with BB is it's a totally scuzzy, grotty warehouse filled with bins of junk. The guy behind the register who is playing endless Skynard albums & looks like he has been there since the albums first came out? Well, he has. Bring your hand sanitizer and leave your purse in the car. But, the great thing about the Bargain Barn is that everything is around $5 a bag. It used to be better-everything (except books) were sold by the pound; you got great stuff regardless of it's worth. But in those days it was a lot dirtier, and I was once trapped there when the register broke down and I was forced to listen to an entire Grateful Dead album. (whimper) It was quite traumatic, & I still cringe and twitch when I hear that "Sunshine Daydreams" song.....
But the BB has given me many cherished possessions: My flame-toed Mary Jane's, our turquoise bread box, my owl notebook, brown suede jacket and the gaudy gold mirror hanging in our bedroom.

Over There
Happy Dragon, Los Gatos: This place is awesome, and full of that special ingredient that separates the good from the great; I'm talking about the L.O.L.s-Little Old Ladies.
Yep, legions of Happy Dragon volunteer grannies are just waiting to sell you great old stuff at a tiny fraction of what it's worth, all very carefully folded and arranged-complete with price tags written in shaky handwriting. So endearing. So cheap. But a warning: These are not nice L.O.L's. I've seen them get downright cut-throat over prices ("No, honey, those napkin rings are $2.75, NOT $2.50! Didn't you see the sign?! Edith, did you forget to put out the sign? Take this lady back to look at the sign, and then slap her hands. Go on! And don't come back until she weeps!")
Also, the hours can be erratic.
Way Over There
If you are ever visiting Kauai, or any of the Hawaiian islands, take some time from doing the Hukilau and go exploring at some of these hidden gems. They are really really great. Unrivaled, in my opinion. I've spent a lot of time alone in dusty corners of Quonset huts, flipping through old record albums and pristine 50's Hawaiian shirts, listening to the rain on the metal roofs and the wild chickens outside.......
So there you go.


Helleborus niger: Miss January

I think we could all do with a laugh.

It Came Upon A Midnight Weird: Cavalcade of Bad Nativities I & II.

Tell 'em Rosa sent you.

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.