The Front Door: Week 15 of 2020

Taking a Break from “Covad-19”

While fiddling with photos, I am listening to the original soundtrack of “Evita.” Mandy Patankin-such a voice. Personally, I like this Lloyd-Webber musical much better than “Phantom of the Opera.” To my ear, the P of O music was a bit “tum-te-tum.” Furthermore Tim Rice was no part of the team a lyricist, and Sarah Brightman sounded a bit thin in the upper registers. I am partial to women singers that have a metallic sound in the high notes.

Week 13 of 2020

Photo to illustrate trees in bloom
naval orange tree in bloom

Spring in Sonoma

It’s true, housing costs are sky-high, traffic is dreadful during commute times, drivers are insane, and the fire season has been disastrous the last two years yada, yada, yada. Still and all, Sonoma County is one of the most beautiful places west of the Mississippi.

From the middle of February through the end of March, it is breathtaking. Under turquoise skies, the hills are covered with green velvet and blanketed with acres of brilliant yellow mustard. The almond trees and the stone fruit trees are covered with pink or white blossoms. Navel orange trees are budding and tossing fragrance on the breeze.

The vineyards are waking from their winter sleep. For the next two or three weeks, they will be filled with grazing ewes and their new lambs. Since the county banned chemical weed killer two years ago, the vineyard owners run flocks through the vines to clear the weeds.  If you are lucky you can watch Border Collies rounding up the sheep and herding them up the ramp into the truck that will take them to the next field.

Half a mile down the road is a pasture filled with Clydesdales; a foal or two will be showing up next month. There is a horse, a cow, a pair of goats, or a flock of chickens every other block. A strange blend of down-home country folk and Euro/Arab/Russian multimillionaires.

Lots of problems in this huge county that reaches to the ocean, but for now I am lucky to live here.

New Month, New Year, New Decade

The Name is the Same BUT Who Were These People?

I was going through my box of old photos which I have bagged and dragged with me for years. At long last, I am sorting them, scanning them and saving them to my photo storage on Amazon.

Naturally, there were some pictures of myself. It was strange looking at those photos as they seemed to be of people who looked familiar, but with whom I had the faintest of nodding acquaintances.

It seems to me that once I lost the chubby cheeks of the toddler, my face has aged but the basic structure has stayed the same. If you knew me at twenty-four, would you have known me at seventy-three?


The Aldinger girls: Ethel, Norma, and Hazel circa 1915

Hundred Year Old Photos

The Aldinger girls of Titonka Iowa

Here I am looking at photos that have survived at least one hundred years. The toddler in the high-button boots and the expression of a bull calf is my mother (Hazel). Ethel, the oldest girl is on the left. Norma is in the center; she departed this life when she was 16.

Gertie Frank Aldinger

Gertie Aldinger, my grandmother was the mother of the girls above. Three other children arrived later. George, the first boy was next, followed by Lois, then Edwin.

Back to the Janssens

Jansssens: Wallace, Gordon, and Eleanor (Belinda)

This is the only photo I have of Aunt Eleanor. To me, she was a shadowy figure, as she made her home far away in New York City. She made one visit to our home when I was six. She nearly six feet tall, and had long, long nails enameled red. The boys grew up at a time when boys were kept in skirts until they were about five or six: at which point they “breeched” and dressed in their first pair of pants.

Through the Front Door Week 37 of 2019

Purpose of the image is looking backwards into the history of my family
Reflections of Family History. My father and my uncles circa 1927

The Burden of Old Photos

For years the question of old photos has weighed down my mind. I have toted a box of loose photos with me from place to place for decades. “To keep or to pitch, that has been the question.” Looking at pictures of those who once were and now are no longer creates a strange and unnameable feeling: is it nostalgia?

At any rate, the photos have taken up space in my closets for decades. It’s been on again and off again about what to do with them. Finally I have decided to store them with Amazon Pictures “in the cloud.” For a while I will be inflicting photos on readers of the Front Door. So take pour yourself a stiff drink, or take two aspirin and take a nap because the photos are here.

The Janssen Sons and Daughters of Lorraine Kansas

The above photo is of my father and his brothers. Although they are not in the photo, two girls “bookended” the boys. Belinda (who later used the name Eleanor) was the first child; Evelyn was the last. She was the unexpected afterthought and grew up as an only child with six siblings.

My grandmother was well educated for a farmer’s daughter from Kansas. She was an avid reader and something of a romantic because she named her sons after famous writers of the day. My father Wallace was named after Lew Wallace of Ben Hur fame. Gordon was named after the poet George Gordon, Lord Byron. Paul was named after the prolific writer of Gospels. Leigh was named after the poet and essayist, Leigh Hunt, and Homer, of course, was named for the poet of the Illiad and Odyssey.

For whom (or for what) the daughters were named is mere speculation. Belinda was the central figure in Alexander Pope’s satirical narrative poem “The Rape of the Lock.” Belinda is also the gentle and kind protagonist of the novel “Belinda” written by Maria Edgeworth. On the other hand, Belinda is also a kind-hearted sow who speaks pig Latin. As she is a Disney character she is far too young to have been my aunt’s namesake.

You have been introduced to one side of the family. For now I am out of photos. Excuse me while I scan some more on the world’s slowest scanner.

Through the Front Door Week 34 of 2019

Three-Digit Fahrenheit

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday going outside as the sun goes down in order to water the frazzled plants. Once upon a time, if you lived in the Bay Area, there was no central air in in the houses. After all, Mark Twain said, ” the coldest winter I ever spent was summer in San Francisco.”

The “City by the Bay” is grousing about the heat, as are the denizens of the in land counties of Napa, Sonoma, and Mendicino. The Sonoma vineyards are in whatever stage of life that requires men and women to be working among the vines. All the workers wear hats with big brims to cover their neck and tie water soaked kerchiefs around their necks.

Tomato plant

Summer of the Sad Tomatoes

My tomato crop is sad this year; the plants were puny. The Early Girls are the size of cherry tomatoes, instead of normal tomato size good for making bacon and tomato sandwiches. The cherry tomatoes are sized right but lack flavor. The grape tomatoes are growing all their fruit on a single stem. Conversations with my sister, who is a master grower of tomatoes, diagnosed insufficient fertilizer, and lack of water. I watered faithfully, but just realized it was just draining away to water the guest parking spaces instead of staying in the soil to nourish the roots. On the other hand, the basil is thriving. Time to try my hand at pesto sauce.

Game Day Sunday

Had a lot of fun playing that grand old classic: Clue. Professor Plum, did it in the hall with a wrench!

Though Sybal’s Front Door Week 33 of 2019

Fall of the Mighty Agave

Many of my friends know this story already, but it’s been a slow week sans events. For twelve years a very large agave occupied the corner of the lot next to the driveway. I lurked and bided its time waiting for chances to inflicted deep scratches on unwary passers by.

After a winter and spring of torrential rains, a ten foot stalk shot up overnight one week in April. Like Jack’s beanstalk, it grew and it grew and it grew about the height of a three story building. It put out stalks, and blossomed and bloomed. Last Sunday evening the 60 mph gusts were too strong for its shallow root system, and over it went.

In spite of its weight, the only damage was a small dent in the roof of the carport. However, it exercised the maintenance crew who needed almost three hours to remove it. Rest in peace aggravating agave!