Family & Friends Archives

January 15, 2009

A Special Birthday

Yes, indeed, today would have been Martin Luther King Jr.'s 80th birthday. Born in 1929, MLK died at age 39 in 1968. Such a long time ago, but his loss is still keenly felt.

The special birthday I am referring to, though, is NOT MLK's. My brother Tony was born on January 15, 1949. He was a beautiful baby - golden curls and a sweet smile. Until my Mom finally had his hair cut, everyone thought he was a girl.

Tony attended schools here in Southern California and college at UC Riverside and Univ of British Columbia. We thought he was a professional student and would never get a job!

He was a math major but then switched over to computer science for his master's degree and his doctorate. He ended up working as a professor in the computer science department of the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

His personal life took an upturn during these years too - he married Margie, a gal with two young boys. A ready-made family!

But time was not on their side. In June of 1983, Tony and Margie were riding on their tandem bicycle in the Wisconsin countryside and were hit by a drunk driver. Tony was killed instantly, and Margie was in a coma for several months and had her leg amputated. They were both 34.

Today would have been Tony's 60th birthday. Although his life was cut short at an early age, he accomplished so much, both professionally and personally. Some of his computer science papers are still published online. He made his mark, and I am proud of him!

Happy 60th Birthday, Tony!


January 28, 2009

Off to Paso Robles

It's a travel day today. Bill and I are heading to Paso Robles - even Hoochie is going along. But, there is a method to our madness. Bill is riding up with me and then we will rent a U-Haul so he can bring home my Mother's china closet and a few other items from my folks' house in Paso.

Hoochie is just along for the ride. We could have boarded her at home, but my sister will be in Paso too, and she wants to see Hoochie the Poochie. JoAnne will be retiring this year, and she is dying to have a dog, so Hoochie will be good practice.

Our goal on this trip is to sell our folks' car and give away our Mom's organ. So, I am off to CraigsList to put in ads.

Of course, I picked this particular week to make the trip because of the Slow Travel GTG there, the 3rd annual Slow Bowl. Shannon has organized this event every year (on Super Bowl weekend) and does a terrific job. We won't be able to visit the wineries this year with the rest of the group, but by next year we should have the Paso house sold and be able to participate fully. JoAnne and I will be at the Saturday night GTG - we wouldn't miss that for the world!

I hope to be able to post from there, but if I don't, I will see you on February 1st. As you can see in my sidebar, I have vowed to post each day in February, along with my compadres, the other February bloggers. Be sure to check them all out!

Bye for now!


February 2, 2009

A Busy Week(end)

Busy - yes! But fun too!

As I mentioned several days ago, Bill and I headed up to Paso Robles on Wednesday to do some work at my folks' house and to attend the Slow Travel Saturday night dinner.

Hoochie, our boxer/mastiff dog, went along with us. We had never taken her on a long trip before, and I was a little nervous about it. But, she did beautifully. She slept in the back seat of the car most of the way - and home with Bill in the U-Haul truck yesterday. She was a really good traveler and behaved herself in the Paso house. We may take her with us again! She is a great Slow Traveler!


I listed three items on CraigsList before I left home - my folks' Lincoln Towncar, a piece of furniture, and my Mom's organ. We got lots of calls for the FREE organ - go figure! We had previously tried and tried to donate the organ - to small churches, to a senior center, to anyone who would come and pick it up. So, we did succeed in sending the organ to a good home - a lady who remembered playing the exact same organ at her uncle's house when she was a child.


We also accomplished planting some roses along the driveway and some other green plants bordering the house. It makes the house look much nicer, which will hopefully help sell it later this year.

Our plan is to return to Paso in early May to sell the furniture and get the house ready to list for sale. It has only taken us three years to get to this point!

This is the boring work part of our trip. Stay tuned tomorrow for the fun part - the Slow Travel dinner.

March 3, 2009

A Neighborhood GTG

I know we always talk about Slow Travel GTG's, but I am here today to tell you about another kind of get-together - with my neighbors.

Bill and I live in the country on a dead-end street, and we are friendly with nearly all of our neighbors. For many years, we have been having GTG's two or three times a year with all of the neighbors who can come. Sometimes we order pizza, but sometimes it is a potluck. We drink lots of wine and catch up on all of the news.

Last Saturday was our latest GTG. Since it was winter, we decided that a soup event was in order. Plus appetizers plus dessert. You can be assured that no one ever goes hungry!

Our neighbors G & E were the hosts because they probably have the best place for entertaining a group, so we all converged there at about 3 p.m. We brought an appetizer (Luisa's Slow Bowl Chili Dip) and a soup (Jerry's Mexican Turkey Soup).




Our host had a new All Clad Slow Cooker with removable cooking insert, and he made Thomas Keller's (of French Laundry fame) Slow-Cooker Cassoulet. And was it ever yummy!



Here are some of the other appetizers:

A really great cheeseball and crackers:

A healthy veggie platter:

Little hot dogs in BBQ sauce:

Other soups included two kinds of chili (different and both delicious) and a slow cooked beef stew. The photos for those didn't turn out, so you will have to trust me that they were good!

By the time we had dessert, I was stuffed. But I didn't let that stop me - I sampled each and every dessert! No photos, though - sorry about that.

Last but not least was the wine. There were several white wines that we sampled. Bill and I brought a double magnum of 2002 Solaris Cabernet that we had been saving for a couple of years to have when there was a group to help drink it. And, yes, we did finish it all! Here is a photo of the bottle:

April 30, 2009

Off to Paso Robles (again)

I am starting to sound like a broken record - off to Paso Robles to have another yard sale and clean out my folks' house.

But, there is light at the end of the tunnel because this time we are going to finally sell the furniture and completely clear out the house so we can paint and put it up for sale.

Hopefully, the car will sell too.

My sister and I have been at this for several years - our Mom died in August 2005 and our Dad a year later. So, we are anxious to finish the project, but we are sad too because it is truly the end of an era.

I hope to be able to blog from there, but if I don't, I will check in when I get home next Tuesday.

May 6, 2009

I'm finally back posting again!

Sorry that I missed a few days posting while I was out of town. I thought I would be able to keep up with my blog, but there were just not enough hours in the day. Plus the fact that we sold the computer at a yard sale, so I couldn't get online after a day or so.

Anyway, I am back and will begin my regular posts tomorrow. Thank you all for sticking around!

May 25, 2009

Memorial Day Tribute


Memorial Day is a time to pay tribute to our men and women in the armed serices, who risk their lives on a daily basis to protect our country's safety. I know it is supposed to be service people who died in the service of their country, but I am saluting them all, living or dead.

My Dad was one of those men, a proud Marine through and through. He never went out of the house without his Marine cap on.

Earl Gillians was his name, and he was actually my step-dad but more of a father to me than my birth father. He joined the Marines in 1940 - I am told he lied about his age because he wasn't old enough to join.

Earl was present at both the bombing of Pearl Harbor on 12/7/41 and at the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima on 2/23/45.

Earl and his Marine compatriots were in their tents at Pearl Harbor when the attack began, and he always said that the Japanese planes were so low, they could see the whites of the pilots' eyes. Pretty scary!


In my research, I came across this website which shows some original Pearl Harbor photos, as the attack was happening.


One of the most famous military photos of WWII (or maybe most famous of all time) was the Raising the flag on Iwo Jima. The photographer won a Pulitzer Prize for his photo, and it was the basis for the USMC War Memorial statue at Arlington National Cemetery.

Photo by Joe Rosenthal - Associated Press

So, on this Memorial Day, I salute my Dad and all of the soldiers who came before and after him. Thank you all!


June 1, 2009

Happy Birthday to my friend Hap

Longtime friends are a particular joy. They know your history, and they still like you! What could be better?

My friend Hap Trout was such a friend. We met in Palm Springs in 1962 - I worked at the local newspaper (Desert Sun) and he worked at the local radio station next door (KDES). We covered some of the same events, so we got to know each other pretty well.

Here is one of those events - President John Kennedy was visiting the desert, and there was a press party attended by Pierre Salinger, the White House press secretary. And, yes, that IS me. I was about 20 at the time.


Hap wasn't his real name - he was officially Raymond Martin Trout. Part Indian, he always told everyone. He even named one of his sons Brook. He was born in Perth Amboy, NJ and attended schools there, where he was an excellent athlete. After college he joined the Air Force and was assigned to the Armed Forces Radio Service, where he worked on entertaining the troops stationed abroad. He used this broadcast experience to get work when his military service was over, and one of his first jobs was in Palm Springs, where I met him. He was the news director for KDES there and interviewed many celebrities. He was really proud of all of the autographed photos he got from those he interviewed. After his Palm Springs years, he worked at KCBQ in San Diego and at KFRC in San Francisco as general manager.

In the early 70's he moved from broadcasting to bar owner when he acquired a cocktail lounge in the Pasadena, CA area (I think it was called The Office). Then came a western roadhouse called Hap's O.K. Corral in the San Fernando Valley, CA and finally a restaurant called Crossroads in the World Trade Center in downtown Los Angeles. I did the accounting for the first two bars, so we stayed in touch.

In about 1990 he retired and moved to Grants Pass, Oregon with his wife Dawn. He continued his athletic pursuits as a member of a senior softball team, the Rogue River Relics.

An imposing figure at 6'4", Hap loved the spotlight. He was also very creative and wrote a weekly email newsletter and also "Cowboy poetry".

Thru the almost-50 years I knew him, I always sent him a birthday greeting of some kind. He got so used to getting those greetings that he got upset with me if I missed doing it. He would write and say, "Well, where is my birthday card?"

So, this is my birthday greeting today to my friend, Hap. He passed away in February (while taking a nap in his favorite chair), but I know he's watching to see if I will remember his special day.

This is my favorite photo of him back in the 60's.

June 23, 2009

Found a Good Home

Just back from Paso Robles (again) in the continuing saga of finally liquidating our folks' house and car. Even though it is a small thing, I feel like it was a major accomplishment. We finally sold the car!

It's a big car, and people are downsizing their cars rather than upsizing. So, it took just the right person to buy this car.


First of all, you have to understand that our folks just loved this car. It was their dream car, and they felt safe in it. And it was oh so comfortable. When our step-dad got ill and knew he wouldn't be driving it anymore, he wanted to know what we were going to do with it. So we kind of felt obligated to find it a good home with someone who would appreciate it like they did.

And it was kind of like serendipity (does that mean fate made it happen?). I put it back on Craigslist for the third time last Thursday, and I got a phone call Friday morning from a gal whose husband had the exact same car (1996 Lincoln Towncar). He had hit a deer the day before, and the insurance company had totaled the car. He was really depressed because he loved the car. So, they came to see it Sunday afternoon after we got to Paso Robles and both took it for a test drive. They were getting their insurance money the next morning, so we arranged to meet them at the DMV in San Luis Obispo (they were from Lompc) and took care of all of the paperwork.

The husband was SO happy to have a replacement for his beloved car. And, my sister and I were also happy that it had a new home where someone would really love and cherish it.

So, we are down to the last to-do on our Paso Robles list - sell the house. It is officially listed and being shown, so we shall see what happens. Maybe another serendipity?

July 4, 2009

Fourth of July Cherry Valley Style


It's going to be a stay-at-home holiday for us. I hate driving on holiday weekends, so we usually don't travel on most holidays.

But that doesn't mean we don't have any plans. We are having a neighborhood GTG this afternoon. Lots of good food and wine.

But, first things first. I hung my flag when I first got up.

Check back later - I will add to my post as the day progresses. I didn't want to make you wait until the day was over before I posted!

I am taking two salads to the GTG, both of which have been featured by our Sunday Salad Samplers group.

Black Bean Corn Salad was featured in week #2. I again added asparagus to the other veggies and used bell peppers in four colors. I also added some little tomatoes, a mini heirloom blend that TJ's had this week. Aren't they darling?


My second salad is this week's, which is one I chose, Blue Watermelon Salad. It is actually more like a fruit salad because it also has grapes, strawberries, and oranges in it.


We have these neighborhood GTG's every few months and, as usual, we did not go away hungry or thirsty. I didn't get a photo of the burgers and hot dogs, but take a look at:




August 5, 2009

My Mom and Dad - An Anniversary

These are my folks, Vi and Earl Gillians. This photo was taken many years ago (about 25) when they visited me in Cherry Valley for Christmas. That is the fireplace in my living room.


Earl was actually my step-father, but he was more of a Dad to me than my birth father. He and my Mom met where they worked in Riverside, CA, and they were married in 1964.

Vi and Earl moved to Paso Robles in the late 70's and lived there for more than 25 years. During the years they lived there, they saw a huge growth in population and the number of local wineries.

They both worked for the Paso Robles school district, Vi in the payroll accounting department and Earl as the head of maintenance at the PR high school. After they retired, Vi kept getting called back to the payroll department to help out, well into her 70's.

My sister JoAnne and I would always head to Paso for the Mid-State Fair in July-August. Our folks loved to have their "little girls" there. We ate way too much and talked and talked (drank some good wines too).

I have always loved Paso except in the summer when it gets to 100 degrees plus. My Mom, in particular, hated the heat. That is one reason they got a little vacation place in Pollack Pines, CA, where they could go to escape the heat. They loved it there.

Vi had the sharpest mind until the day she died at age 89. She attributed that to the fact that she did at least one crossword puzzle a day. She remembered lots of things that my sister and I could not - she was totally amazing.

But her body did not keep up with her mind at the end - she had open heart surgery at age 89 (just six weeks shy of her 90th birthday) and died after about a 10-day stay in the hospital on August 5, 2005.

Earl was pretty lost without Vi - she was the love of his life and the center of his world. He was diagnosed with lung cancer (a life-long smoker) and lived exactly one year longer. He died on August 5, 2006. We think he planned it that way because he kept asking his caregivers what the date was. I think it was a lovely romantic thing to happen, although Earl would pooh-pooh it if he were here.

So, today I am celebrating the lives of my folks, and I will drink a toast to them and to their amazing love.

October 23, 2009

Gratitude Friday - Patti's Anniversary

Gratitude Friday was started by Diana of Creative Structures to encourage us to appreciate the good things in our lives rather than dwelling on the problems.

This week I am grateful for the continuing good health of my sister's second daughter Patti. October 21st marks the 9th anniversary of Patti's heart/lung transplant at Stanford University Medical Center.

Patti was born with an inoperable congenital heart defect, and she wasn't expected to survive past her teens. She was put on the transplant list in 1998 for both heart and lungs - her lungs, which included no true pulmonary arteries, had been compromised by her failing heart. Her health was declining by 2000, and she had to carry a portable oxygen tank with her a lot of the time.

After 16 months on the waiting list, a matching heart and lungs became available on 10/21/00 and Patti's transplant surgery was performed. Here she is 30 minutes after the surgery - her sister Kathleen is watching over her.


This photo was taken in the first 24 hours - they have her up eating jello.


For two months she had to live in an apartment close to Stanford for her follow-up care. My sister stayed with her there to be the resident nurse.

This photo was taken early in 2003 and shows Patti with celebrated transplant physician Dr. Norman Shumway and Patti's own doctor, James Theodore, who was extremely proud of her progress. Both doctors have since died. Here is the story of that day.


And, miraculously, at one of the transplant gatherings, Patti even met the family of her donor. It was a bittersweet moment for all of them, but Patti has kept in contact with them and has even visited their home. Can you imagine meeting the person who has your loved one's heart?

Another miracle in this story was the fact that two years after her transplant, Patti ran in the Maui Marathon and raised over $6,000 for the benefit of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. She was never allowed to exert herself physically during her growing-up years, so this was truly unbelievable to everyone who knew her.

I am so proud of my niece - she has been through a lot and has had the courage to press on. She is my hero! And I am grateful for the heroes in my life!

Go to page 2 to read the San Jose Mercury-News story on Patti when she ran in the Maui Marathon.

Continue reading "Gratitude Friday - Patti's Anniversary" »

December 7, 2009

Pearl Harbor Day Remembered


I always think of my Dad each December 7th.

I think of him because he was at Pearl Harbor when it was attacked, a 21-year-old Marine in the service of his country.

I did another post about my Dad earlier this year.

I came across this interesting account of that "day that will live in infamy".


December 29, 2009

Holiday Brunch with Palma & Brad

It has kind of become a tradition - a holiday GTG with Palma and Brad. Two years ago we had brunch at Le Vallauris in Palm Springs - last year it was dinner at Mario's Place in Riverside and a tour of the Mission Inn to see the holiday lights.

This year we decided to have brunch at Spencer's in Palm Springs, and it was a good choice. Spencer's is located at the Tennis Club on Baristo Road right at the base of the mountainside. It brought back old memories of when I lived in Palm Springs and played tennis there. I even won a tournament trophy back in the 70's.

Anyway, we sat outdoors on the festively decorated patio. It was cool in the shade, but the outdoor heaters kept us warm.

Bill started with an appetizer, Crispy Fried Oysters, one of the chef's specialties.

Bill then surprised me by ordering Liver and Onions (I am usually the one to choose that).

The rest of us chose Eggs Benedict - Palma's was with lobster, Brad's was with smoked salmon, and mine was with crabcakes.

I shared my dessert with the others, but it was really too pretty to eat - Key Lime Tart.

And, speaking of pretty, look at these cookies that Palma brought us.

As usual, we had a wonderful time with Palma and Brad. Check out her blog photos.

January 4, 2010

A Neighborhood GTG to Celebrate the New Year


We live on a little dead-end road about one-half mile long. 18 families live on our street up in the foothills of the San Bernardino mountains. It is a pretty quiet place, partly because the road is private and pretty bumpy, so we don't have too much traffic except for the residents.

Several times a year we have a GTG for all the neighbors who can come. It's a good time to catch up on all of the new events in all of our lives and share a little good cheer.

This time it was at Bev and Web's house, right across the street from us.


As usual, there was plenty of food and lots of wine to drink. Here is some of it:







February 3, 2010

On the Road Again

I'm "On the Road Again" - heading to Paso Robles this morning and then to Santa Barbara County for a Slow Travel GTG next weekend.

My sister and I usually get together in Paso Robles after Christmas, and we try to do it on Super Bowl Weekend when the annual Slow Bowl is scheduled.

This year, because of the BIG March Slow Travel GTG in San Diego, only a small group was able to come to Slow Bowl, so it has been switched down to Santa Barbara County instead of Paso Robles. Lots of good wines there too!

My sister has been to each of the first three Slow Bowls, but she has a brand new puppy and doesn't want to drive down that far. She is bringing little Bindi with her, so I will get to meet her for the first time. I'll post some pictures later this week.

February 5, 2010

Prelude to Slow Bowl

Just thought I would check in with an update. I drove to Paso Robles on Wednesday (it's now Friday). The day was beautiful - the hills on Hwy 46 going into Paso looked like green velvet.

Decided to stop at Eberle Winery to pick up some wine I had ordered. They had some beautiful winter flowers along the driveway and by the tasting room entrance.


I met my sister in Paso, and we sneaked her new puppy into the motel. She is adorable! Bindi is her name, and she really behaved herself there.


I am heading down to Los Alamos (close to Solvang) to meet up with the Slow Travel gang (a small Slow Bowl gang this time), and I don't know if there will be any internet access there.

More later!

May 1, 2010

Tea Time in our Neighborhood

I have blogged before about the neighborhood GTG's we have on our little country road. Here is one post.

For today's event, it was ladies only - it was Tea Time!

Bev, my neighbor across the street, was the hostess, and she went all out - trying the recipes for various scones and sandwiches. She settled on two types of scones - cranberry orange and blueberry, along with orange butter, traditional clotted cream, and two homemade jams from another neighbor.


The open-faced sandwiches were curried chicken salad with grapes and herbed goat cheese with cucumber slices. Also endive with two types of cream cheese filling, one with chives and one with basil. Plus chocolate-dipped strawberries.

And tea, of course - Jasmine and Earl Grey. Being a food-a-holic, I was more interested in the food than the tea.

We picked some of the roses from Bill's garden for the tables.05-01-10a.JPG

Twelve of us attended - it was a beautiful day and the view of the mountains (even as far as Mt. San Jacinto in Palm Springs) was very picturesque.

We all ate enough that no dinner was needed. Thanks Bev.

May 9, 2010

Remembering my Mom


I can't let this day go by without remembering my Mom. I have been thinking of her all day and missing her terribly. Since I don't have any kids, the only connection I ever had to Mother's Day was thru her. Now it's just another day.

My Mom died in August of 2005 at age 89, and I still miss her every day. She is probably responsible for my love of food and cooking - she was a great cook and always loved to try new recipes. I am definitely my mother's daughter!

She would have been so excited that I started a blog and would have been one of my faithful readers, especially on the cooking challenge days.

Here's my Mom and Daddy Earl. He died in August of 2006, on exactly the same day she did a year earlier.

Continue reading "Remembering my Mom" »

August 5, 2010

Another Anniversary

Last year on this date I wrote about my Mom and Step-Dad, who both passed away on August 5th. Here is the post.

My Mom, Vi Gillians, has been gone for five years now and my Step-Dad, Earl Gillians, for four years. We miss them both each and every day.

Here they are a few years back:

And my sister and I with our folks:

September 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom!

This is my Mom, Vi Gillians. She would have been 95 today.

Love you Mom!


9/22/15 - 8/5/05

October 21, 2010

Patti's 10th Anniversary

Last year at this time I wrote about my niece Patti and the heart/lung transplant she had for a congenital heart defect.

Well, today marks the 10th anniversary of her surgery, when her life changed dramatically for the better.

Here is her story in my previous post.

Patti is such a trooper, and I am SO proud of her!

Here we are at our joint birthday celebration in 2003.


December 29, 2010

The Mission Inn - An Annual Tradition

I wrote last year about visiting the Mission Inn during the Christmas holidays with my friend Arlene. Well, we did it again last night and (as usual), it was spectacular!


We arrived about 4 p.m. after my beauty shop appointment, so it was still light outside.


The lobby looked beautiful - a huge decorated tree and fireplace.


We headed over to the wine bar, where we sampled some really good wines with our appetizers. Kind of fun - they have three different sizes of wine servings - 1.5 oz, 3.25 oz and 6.5 oz. Arlene and I each chose a white and a red - two cabs that were both great - a Jordan and BV Georges de Latour. The BV was a 1998 - they must have been cleaning out their wine cellar or something. The chardonnay that I chose was wonderful - a 2005 Simi Reserve.

Here's Arlene and me:

Continue reading "The Mission Inn - An Annual Tradition" »

January 1, 2012

New Year's Eve


In recent years New Year's Eve has just been another night - no special celebrations. I hate driving anywhere that night, so staying home was the obvious answer.

But now we have a really nice local restaurant just a few miles away, and they were offering a special New Year's Eve dinner, so two of the couples on our street decided to join us at the Grand Oak Steakhouse at Highland Springs Resort.

We had an early reservation, so early that it wasn't even dark yet.

But, first things first - the wine. Only two of us are drinkers, so I brought a bottle of 2000 cabernet to drink.

Either a 3-course or a 5-course meal was offered, with two choices for each course. To taste the maximum number of courses, Bill chose one and I chose the other, except for the entree. Here are the food photos and descriptions from the menu:

Pre-dinner snack (maybe amuse bouche?)
Cauliflower creme (smooth as silk and delicious)

Course #1

Trio of Salmon (Salmon roe on blini, tartar and olive wood smoked Balik lax with beets and fine herbes)

Twist on Waldorf Salad (Escarole, endive, candied walnuts, apples, celery root and gorgonzola cheese)

Continue reading "New Year's Eve" »

August 5, 2012

August 5th is a Sad Day

This my favorite photo of my folks - it was taken in front of the fireplace in my home many years ago.


Both Vi and Earl Gillians died on August 5th - Vi in 2005 and Earl in 2006. I miss them both every day and always will.

What I didn't realize until just recently was that August 5th was also the day that Marilyn Monroe died, and today is the 50th anniversary of her death. We were all so shocked when we heard of her passing - such a waste of beauty and talent.

Here are a couple of stories which reminisce about Marilyn and her death:,0,1930274.story

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Winelover's Wanderings in the Family & Friends category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Gratitude Friday is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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