Archive for July, 2010

Jul 31 2010

Dream Vacations

Published by under Travel,Weather

Seems like everyone in California is complaining about the weather, except Me. The media should really be alerted to that important factoid, since it’s practically unheard-of, no matter what the season. While everyone else bewails the fog, I just smile and think how glad I am that I’m not sweltering back east. I enjoy being lightly chilled, like a fine Chablis, almost as much as, well, a fine Chablis.

Having said that, though, summer is the time to go on vacation, or, in my case, daydream about going on vacation. Surprisingly, when I made up a list of places I’d like to go, many were right here in the Golden State. These are all places I’ve never been.

Bodie: The best-preserved ghost town in the state, and possibly the country, Bodie is also subject to extreme temperatures, with winter lows dipping to 0°F, with winds up 100 mph, and summer temperatures in the 90s. I read an article about the town’s lone ranger/caretaker, and it has to be one of the loneliest jobs around.

Burlesque Hall of Fame: I’ve always been fascinated by the golden era of burlesque. Famed dancer Jennie Lee established the Burlesque Hall of Fame in the Mojave Desert to showcase her collection of burlesque memorabilia and costumes. After her death, the equally famed Dixie Evans took over, and the museum is now being moved to Las Vegas. The annual Miss Exotic World Pageant is held every year on or near my birthday – what a gift that would be!

Chandelier Drive-Through Tree is less than an hour’s drive from town. When you get there, you can, as the name suggests, drive through a giant sequoia. Because Nature is much better seen from inside. I could probably combine this with a trip to the Lost Coast (see below).

Hearst Castle: Shockingly, I have never visited one of the Suzy-est places in the state, though Megan has. Even she was impressed.

Hotel del Coronado: Where “Some Like It Hot” was filmed, this Victorian confection has been restored to its Marilyn-era glory. Not to mention being conveniently close to Catalina Island, where you can take a glass-bottom boat* to admire reefs, shipwrecks, and sea life. Catalina is also home to plants and animals found nowhere else on Earth. Bonus Marilyn connection: she and her first husband, Jim Dougherty, once lived on the island.

The Lost Coast: I really have no excuse not to do this one, since it starts about an hour’s drive north of town. This is an exceptionally unspoiled and scenic part of the state, and the only part of it not served by a state highway. We could just hook up a little red teardrop trailer and take off!

Palm Springs: Of course, the best way to tour the fabulous mid-century architecture of Palm Springs would be renting Frank Sinatra’s old pad, at a mere $2,600 a night. You can also tour Elvis and Priscilla’s wildly futuristic honeymoon house.

Santa Cruz Mystery Spot: Supposedly a place where the laws of physics and gravity don’t apply (what girl doesn’t love that?), compasses and GPS devices don’t work there, and no animals, even birds, live within the Mystery Spot. I love it that there are still places, things, and phenomena that can’t be explained away by science. Even if they can, it’s still fun to see a ball roll up hill.

Winchester Mystery House: Home of the famous gunsmiths, the last Winchester owner was Sarah, who was convinced that if she never stopped building onto her house, she wouldn’t die. Her bid for immortality failed, but her architectural legacy lives on in San Jose, where her 160 room mansion boasts stairs to nowhere and doors and windows that open onto blank walls.

Places I’d like to re-visit include Bodega Bay, where we used to spend Christmases with Dad (and I think a movie was filmed there once); Monterey Bay and its incredible aquarium; LA, which I’m supposed to despise but don’t; and Lake Tahoe. Megan and I have a fantasy about spending Christmas there with the snow. Isn’t it amazing that you can drive a few hours and be where the snow is, but not have to live with it all winter?

I always say California has everything: the ocean, lakes, rivers, mountains, deserts, ancient forests, snow, sunshine, you name it. And that’s not even including the man-made wonders. Why don’t you come up sometime, and see me?

*Parts of the Doris Day movie of the same name were filmed there. I happen to love Doris Day movies, especially “Pillow Talk” and “That Touch of Mink”.

One response so far

Jul 30 2010

And It’s Sloth by a Nose!

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Family

Proof, if any were needed, that sloth always wins out with me:

It’s about 47 foggy degrees outside, and about 55 inside. I’m wearing my morning sweater and waiting for coffee to brew, but I have the sliding glass doors slightly open, and the front door, too. Why? Because I let Audrey out at 6:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep, and I know that as soon as I get comfortable, she’ll be asking to be let in one door and out the other, so I’d rather just leave the doors open than resume doorman duty.

See? Sloth over comfort!

Part of the reason I couldn’t get back to sleep was that Audrey woke me up from a dream about June Bug. In my dream, Audrey clawing at the door to go out in real life was June clawing at the door to come in. I could see her beautiful fur through the glass panes of the door, and it all seemed so real. As usual in dreamland, it was all a big mistake. I lay there for a while, regretting my stupidity for the zillionth time, and then decided I might as well get up and get on with the day.

I can see that it’s going to be sunny here pretty soon. If I can get my work done in time for the narrow window that the farmers’ market is open, my non-slothful sis and I will venture out together for the first time in two weeks. I’m pleased to report that she drove the hour and a half home from Willits with no adverse effects, so she’s definitely on the mend. The surgeon has to sign off on her being ready to go back to work, so it looks like she’ll be back at work in early September, with lots to tell the class about what she did on her summer vacation.

One response so far

Jul 29 2010

Experimental

Published by under Cooking


Pie du jour

I seem to have been on a pie kick lately. This one was mostly because I had a big box of blueberries to use up before they went bad. I got some peaches and more Crisco and voilà! I have never made a blueberry peach pie before, so we’ll see how it tastes. At least it looks good.

While the pie was baking, I made a casserole for dinner in our long-lost Thursday tradition. Basically, it’s a Mexican-esque lasagna.Today Megan and Rob went to Willits so he could see the eye doctor, and after that, Meg is getting the finishing touches on her root canal/crown. Those crazy kids really know how to have fun!

Turkey Enchilada Casserole

1 pound ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed and minced (or more, to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained (sometimes I use leftover refried beans)
1 can red enchilada sauce (I used mild*)
12 corn tortillas (if you use flour tortillas, they’ll get mushy)
2 cups shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Sauté the turkey with the garlic and onion until thoroughly cooked. Stir in the enchilada sauce and cumin.

Meanwhile, cut tortillas in half. Spoon enchilada sauce into a casserole dish (the one I used was my parents’ and it’s actually older than I am. I love that!), sprinkle with beans and cheese, then arrange tortilla halves on top, overlapping to fit. Repeat until you’ve used everything up, ending with sauce and cheese on top.

Bake in a 400° oven until cheese is melted and casserole is hot in the center, 20 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro and enjoy!

*Because food should really come in hot, medium, mild, and Suzy.

3 responses so far

Jul 28 2010

Kneed

Published by under Family

Somehow, I had failed to realize that Megan wouldn’t really have the use of her hands as well as her legs after the knee surgery. She can crutch around, but you can’t really make dinner or do much of anything when your hands are occupied with crutches. So she did need more help than you’d think, especially in the first few days.

So it was good she had her sister around to wash dishes, make dinner, fluff up the bed and make it, and other things that need hands.

Now she can get around on one crutch. She hasn’t taken painkillers for four days now, which is where we have a philosophical parting of the ways. She dislikes the effects of the medication more than the pain, whereas I, as you remember, was horribly disappointed that the pills were not, as advertised, a sort of pain eraser. “Stoic” has never been used to describe me.

She’s still applying Motrin and ice to the wounded area, but I practically had to restrain her from driving after Jonathan and Rob worked on her car, and she keeps saying she can take the dogs for a short walk. She may be one of the few people who can’t wait to get back to work. She really did not inherit any of the sloth gene. I think I got it all.

While she’s been laid up, her boss has called to check in on her a couple of times, as well as her co-workers and her former colleagues. It’s nice to be loved!

Today Rob is driving her to physiotherapy, in the hopes that it will accelerate her recovery. She’s due to go back to work in about a month, but I think it can’t be soon enough for her.

3 responses so far

Jul 27 2010

Now Playing

Published by under Family,Movies

rattailcactus
Pink is for girls…and my sister’s rat-tail cactus

…at the All Girl Multiplex…

Actually, it’s a single screen, but most of the movies are rated NB17 (no boys). Rob came home while we were watching “Working Girl” and literally fled. Suddenly, it seemed like an excellent time to water the garden!

To be fair, we did watch all the Harry Potter movies, too, which are very boy-friendly with whizzo-zappo effects and Quidditch games, which are also an excuse for the previously mentioned w-z effects. I had only seen the first one when it came out at the theater, so the others were new to me. I’d read all the books, but have an amazing ability to forget things, so I got to be surprised a few times, as well as marvelling at the kids’ terrible haircuts and still wondering why they didn’t give Harry green eyes when they made such a big deal about it in the books.

But after the Harry Potter movies were exhausted (cheer up, Part One of the Deathly Hallows is due out in November, and the second half next year), we pretty much lapsed into utter girldom, watching the following:

How to Make an American Quilt An all-star cast (Anne Bancroft, Ellen Burstyn, Maya Angelou and more) of women tell their life stories as they make a wedding quilt for a girl (Wynona Ryder in her pre-shoplifting days) who isn’t quite sure she wants to get married. We got so involved in the stories of the past that we kind of forgot about the movie’s present. As usual, the past was more interesting.

We both screamed in horror at one scene, where Ryder wraps herself in the newly-completed quilt and walks outside, dragging it in the dirt. User reviews on IMDB confirm that we aren’t the only ones.

Wish I had that quilt. Or one like it.

13 Going on 30 Jennifer Garner is charming in this light little romp about a gawky girl whose disastrous thirteenth birthday party leads to a heartfelt wish to be thirty (if only she knew that the wait is much shorter than you’d think, or even like). She wakes up in a fabulous New York apartment and discovers that she’s thirty, dating an NHL player and is an editor at her favorite fashion magazine. But things aren’t what they seem. Garner is charming, and the movie is fun, light-weight fluff.

27 Dresses Megan’s a big “Grey’s Anatomy” fan, though I’ve never actually seen a whole episode, so it was a bonus for her to see Katherine Heigl as the movie’s heroine. She’s been a bridesmaid 27 times, but never a bride, mostly because she is secretly in love with her magazine editor boss. Her sister comes to town and immediately enchants the boss, and the “commitments” writer for the local paper covers her upcoming wedding and her sister’s bridesmaid past a little too honestly…

As for Working Girl, it was more fun than I remembered, despite the appalling theme song which plays over the opening credits and almost ruins the spectacular shots of the New York skyline*. We laughed a lot, and those 1980s clothes and make-up are hilarious. Harrison Ford looks so young in it that it makes me feel old.

*Meg observed that now we always look for the Twin Towers, whereas before they were just part of the landscape, and not a very pretty part at that. We can never go back, I guess.

2 responses so far

Jul 26 2010

Reboiled

Published by under Cooking,Country Life

cherrypie
Cherry pie moderne

The truth is that I was running out of Crisco and didn’t really have enough dough to make the traditional lattice. I like how this looks, though. And it tasted pretty good, too.

I hate running out of things. I was like that before I moved to Hooterville, where running out of things is much more serious than it is in the city. It’s more than five miles to the nearest store, and it closes at 7:00, so if you’re out of butter or wine or some other essential at 7:05, you’re also out of luck unless your sister happens to have some.

Between us, Megan and I can come up with the ingredients for most things, since she also hates running out of things and we tend to keep our pantries pretty well stocked. And Dad instilled in both of us a horror of wasting food.

Yesterday, we made one of our favorites, ribollita soup. Despite being virtuous to an almost obnoxious degree, being cheap, easy to make, and good for you, it is delicious.

Ribollita Soup

About 3 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced (we used four)
2 medium carrots, chopped into 1/2-in. pieces
2 celery stalks, chopped into 1-in. pieces
1 1/2 qts. chicken broth
1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 whole canned tomatoes, diced, plus some juice (we used a can of chopped tomatoes and most of the juice)
1 cup chopped spinach
4 cups rough-textured day-old bread (such as ciabatta), ripped into 1 1/2-in. pieces (we used Costeaux bakery’s garlic and rosemary crostini)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan cheese

Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic; cook until transparent, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and celery and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes. (We just cooked them all together at once.) Stir in broth and beans, then bring to a boil. If you have some white wine on hand that you’re willing to spare, pour some in! Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 15 minutes. Add tomatoes and simmer another 15 minutes, covered.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°. Lay bread pieces on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with remaining 2 tbsp. olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toast in oven until slightly golden, about 10 minutes. Set croutons aside. You can see why just buying crostini at the local store is much easier.

Just before serving, add spinach and cook until wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If you have some cilantro or basil, you could throw that in, too.

Divide soup among serving bowls and top each with a few warm croutons and Parmesan. Enjoy!

2 responses so far

Jul 25 2010

Wake Up Call

Published by under Cats

audreybaby
Curious Audrey, August 2007

Audrey woke me up this morning by clanging on the metal shade of the bedside lamp. She woke me up from a dream with June in it (we were buying pomegranates for something Megan was cooking*) and then just sat there, looking at me.

It was especially annoying because two hours earlier, I had gotten up and opened the door for her at dawn, leaving it open despite the chill. As I went back to bed and snuggled under the blankets, I thought how lucky I was to enjoy blankets near the end of July.

When I plodded downstairs, Audrey raced to the studio door, suggesting that she is STARVING. I ignored her and made coffee, not just because I’m a mean green bean, but because I think it’s a bad idea to feed your cat as soon as you get up. This gives them ideas and leads to less beauty sleep for you (though not for them).

Also, I knew perfectly well that there would still be food in her dish. Audrey never eats all her food, but she likes to have fresh food put in her dish at her command. She won’t eat any of the old food until new food joins it. This, like blankets in July, is a luxury she did not have when her sister was around. Even when the kittens were newborns, June was the biggest and cheerfully walked all over her tiny siblings to nurse.

Speaking of kittens…Mark and his family have two! They are little brothers, black with white paws, and one of them has a white stripe on his nose. I’d guess they are about six weeks old, and they still have blue eyes. I was so excited when Mark told me about them that I forgot my camera, but will hopefully have visual aids for you soon. To make up for this egregious oversight, I have posted a picture of Audrey at around the same age, already looking for trouble.

*In my dreams, my lost loved ones are never dead, it’s all a big misunderstanding. Also, the cats are semi-human, in that we have adventures together and can somehow communicate without actually talking. I like to think of these dreams as visits.

4 responses so far

Jul 24 2010

Coveting Marilyn

Published by under Covet: A Series

marilynpool
Marilyn Monroe’s House

Marilyn Monroe’s final home can be yours for a mere $3.6 million! This may be the Covet to end all Covets. Imagine swimming in her pool, cooking in her kitchen, walking the same tiled floors, looking in the same mirror (though not seeing the same reflection). Fortunately, it appears that the house has been little altered over the years, so I hope whoever is lucky enough to buy it keeps up the tradition of preservation.

You can see more pictures and details here, but first a warning*: this site is extremely addictive, and may take up hours of your life as you investigate the mansion from “Practical Magic”, the houses from “Gilmore Girls” and “Bewitched”, not to mention Before and After transformations. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I’ve always been fascinated by Marilyn, and felt a special connection to her. Nearly ten years ago, I paid her a visit, which I found very moving. You can see my kiss just below her plaque. Our birthdays are three days apart, she died the year I was born, we had the same middle name and unstable mothers. We battled some of the same demons. I have always been convinced that if she had real, true friends who honestly cared about her (the way mine do), she’d still be alive today.

*That reminds me of the scene in “Death Becomes Her” where Meryl Streep has just downed the magic potion and Isabella Rosselini gives her a warning about it, to which the incensed Meryl replies (with some justification) “Now a warning?!”

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Jul 23 2010

Turf Wars

Published by under Cats,Dogs

reformschoolgirl

You can take the girl out of Oakland*, but you can’t take the Oakland out of the girl…

L’il A has taken to acting like a little hoodlum lately. She probably has a tattoo lurking under her fur. Her target: the Notorious D.O.G. gang.

When Rob was helping me with the great Painting Project last week, Star showed her objections to being left home alone by breaking out and joining us. L’il A showed her objections to a rival gang member being on her turf by puffing up hugely and clawing at the unsuspecting (and surprised) Star.

I shooed Audrey away, but she hid under the house, and when Star walked by, Audrey pounced on her. Star was shocked and backed away, wondering what the hell was going on. Audrey was unrepentant.

Rob took Star home again and Audrey ran off to terrorize the local bird population for a change of pace.

Yesterday, Luna was lying on the dusty driveway, minding her own business, when L’il A pulled the puff’n’pounce on her. Luna wisely trotted home, but I have to say I’m worried about this trend. One of these days, Audrey is going to pull this crap on a dog who is less understanding than Luna or Star and she’ll be hurt or even killed. Attacking someone who is about a hundred times bigger than you are is not the greatest idea.

Any thoughts on how to reform this feline delinquent before it’s too late? Possibly a well-timed and well-aimed squirt of water? All suggestions welcome.

*News like this certainly makes me glad I did.

4 responses so far

Jul 22 2010

Ins & Outs

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Family

mistymorning
A misty morning at Woodhaven

~Yawn~

Audrey’s been pretty good about her nightly imprisonment. She generally comes in on her own before dark, settling on the bed for her beauty sleep while I watch old movies to escape the present. She usually doesn’t wake me up before dawn, though today she was determined to go out at 5:45 am, whereas I was determined to stay asleep.

Guess who won.

It’s very foggy this morning, so we compromised by letting her out at 6:05, when it was essentially light out, but the fog created a sort of faux-darkness. I even had the light on while I made coffee, as well as a sweater. It was 58 degrees in the house this morning, and as I waited for the coffee to brew, I pondered the fact that if it were winter, I’d put the heat on, instead of leaving the door open a crack to let Princess Audrey in and out.

Go figure.

Yesterday, I did three loads of laundry (light, dark, and Megan). I virtuously hung out my laundry and put Megan’s in the slightly scary dryer. About 3:00, the fog rolled in to the point where it was making the laundry wetter, not dryer, to be outside, so I ended up putting it all in the dryer, propane bill be damned.

So much for being green-ish.

While I was doing laundry, Megan and Rob were winding their way up and down the curvaceous challenges of Highway 20, on their way to visit the surgeon who operated on Meg a week ago. He took out the stitches, some of which were quite recalcitrant, and said she was doing well. She’ll see him again in late August, when he’ll give her a final check before letting her go back to work, nearly four months after the original injury, half of that spent dealing with bureaucracy and fighting to get the surgery done.

8 responses so far

Jul 20 2010

Onions & Zombies

Published by under Cooking,Family,Jessica

jesscar
Our spokesmodel is sporting a pink and white toile hat with wired brim made by her mother

Jessica stopped by Megan’s house of gimpiness yesterday (of the house’s residents, only Ramona the cat and Star the foster dog are not sidelined by some kind of injury) to bring a little sunshine and cuteness to our lives.

She’s getting taller – now “higher than my heart” – and is about the easiest kid to deal with you could ever imagine. She amused herself most of the time, picking blueberries and strawberries from the garden, reading, and playing a Mom-approved computer game with the greatest focus:

jesscomputer
Of course, she did this while wearing a head ornament, “because it’s pretty”, which is always a good reason. She also patiently explained the game to me, possibly the only person in the entire US of A who has never played a computer game or X-Box or anything like that.

While Jessica was busy killing zombies, I was preoccupied with making yet another unnecessarily elaborate dinner dish: Poulet au Beaujolais. I used to make it for my Dad, and once I started the lengthy process, I suddenly remembered why I hadn’t made it in ten years. It might be another ten before I make it again. French food is not for the lazy Susan.

While making it, I tried an alternate method of removing the skin from pearl onions. Instead of peeling them raw, I blanched them. This did make it easier, but a couple of layers of onion went along with the skin, so I think that when I make it again in 2020, I’ll just peel them the usual way.

Jessica is over her dislike of onions. I always found it funny that she didn’t like them, since she’d eat (and critique) anything from oysters to lamb tagine to eel sushi. I used to tell her I’d make her onion sandwiches for lunch and she’d run around yelling “No!” Now she’s decided they’re OK, as long as they’re cooked and there aren’t too many of them. But I didn’t make her peel the pearl onions or eat an onion sandwich. I’m not (quite) that mean, no matter what they say.

2 responses so far

Jul 19 2010

Taylor Made

Published by under Family,Jessica

elizabeth-taylor-in-1958-with-her-cartier-ruby-and-diamond-necklace-offered-in-1957-by-mike-todd-photofest
Elizabeth Taylor wearing the diamond and ruby suite I admired at the Cartier exhibit last year

I seem to be an unintentional Elizabeth Taylor fan.

Last year, I read the extremely enjoyable “How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood”. Recently, I devoured the gorgeous “My Life in Jewelry” by La Taylor (one of the Suzy-est things ever), and waiting for me at the library – if I can ever get there when it’s actually open – is “Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century”. I read about in the latest Vanity Fair and it sounds like a fun read.

Yesterday, Megan and I immersed ourselves in the spectacle of “Cleopatra”, merrily commenting on the costumes, sets, and make-up, comparing the events* to the Memoirs of Cleopatra and sighing over Liz’s beauty.

Today, we have a special guest star of our own. Jessica is making a cameo appearance while her mother visits the dentist. I think I know which of us is going to have more fun today!

*Was Mark Antony really such a loser?

2 responses so far

Jul 17 2010

On Duty

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Family

audreybath
Audrey sitting in the shower window

You can see that I’m not kidding about the window actually being in the shower, allowing for more opportunities for flashing meter readers than the average house.

In this picture, I have managed to completely avoid showing you any of this past week’s painting endeavors, though I swear I have painted the shower window white, and also the piece of wood crossing the window.

The door to the left leads to the back porch and the outdoor shower.

Today, I peeled the tape off the now-painted many-pained window on the outside and taped the inside. Still to go: the many-pained front door and the electric lime-green floor, plus et ceteras. It’s true that once you start painting, it’s hard to stop. It also makes sense that “pain” is part of “painting”.

I do have the perfect excuse for not painting, though: taking care of Megan as she recovers from her long-awaited knee surgery. This mostly entails the occasional pillow fluff or juice pouring, along with eating junk food and watching “Harry Potter” movies. Sometimes I make dinner and do the dishes. Exhausting.

Yesterday, I did make an express trip to the farmers’ market, which is open for all of two hours one day a week. With Megan’s list in hand, I zipped through the stalls in record time, mentally cursing the idiots who stand in the middle of the aisle in order to converse while taking up the maximum space possible and their buddies who meander across Main Street without bothering to look for cars or other people.

I selected nectarines, plums, blueberries, and goji berries from the controversial fruit people, off in their little corner past the pointed sign saying “Thanks for shopping LOCAL”. I’m sorry, but fruit like that doesn’t grow well on the foggy coast. And if these people, who grew it and picked it themselves, want to bring it here, I’m happy to buy it. They’re really nice people, too.

Next up was local lettuce, onions, our favorite soap from Lovers Lane Farm, a loaf of bread, and I was out of there! I also picked up some corn and tomatoes for me.

I was parked near the new hardware store beside Mendosa’s, so I popped in and asked about floor paint. The friendly and knowledgeable clerk gave me good advice and a great deal on some light grey paint. On my way back home, I stopped in at the local store. Lu had kindly dropped off an industrial ice pack for Megan. I asked the clerk about it, and she called across the store, “Hey – can you get Meg’s ice pack out of the walk-in?” Armed with an ice pack, I resumed my nursing duties and once more marveled at the marvels of small town life.

5 responses so far

Jul 16 2010

The Megan Report

Published by under Family

I’m sorry to say that my first thought when I saw the sun this morning was that the coat of paint I put on the flash heater yesterday wouldn’t be streaky from fog. I actually went out and checked before I had coffee.

Sad, no?

Before I give you the Megan Report, I’d like to wish my friend and fellow blogger Mike the happiest of birthdays. My present to him is not telling y’all how long I’ve known him. Note to Mike: we met in kindergarten, right?

Yesterday, I spent the morning – yeah, you guessed it – painting and cleaning the bathroom. Still can’t tell you which is worse, really. As I stepped out of my hard-earned and (temporarily) spider-free shower, the phone rang. It was my brother, telling me that Megan was out of surgery and they were on their way home.

My morning, however paint- and chore-filled, was a complete joy compared to my siblings’. Jonathan picked Megan up at 4:30 in the morning for the two hour drive to the hospital. His ability to leap out of bed at any time and fight fires both wild and domestic makes him ideally suited for early morning chauffeur duty.

Though Meg was asked to arrive at the hospital at 6:30 am, the surgery didn’t start until 9:00 or so. They gave her what they call “conscious sedation”, but all she remembers is her arms being strapped to the table and then waking up with her knee already wrapped and ready to go. Before the surgery, the anesthesiologist told her that he could sedate her less, so she could watch the operation on a TV screen.

She refused, and he said, “It’s not gory at all.”

“Look, I’ve had brains in my hair. Blood and guts don’t bother me. If it was your knee, I’d watch all day. But I don’t want to watch mine.”

Pause.

“Fair enough.”

Her first words on waking up were “Have you told my brother I’m OK?” He was waiting for her in the recovery room, where he called me while Megan launched her successful campaign to go home ASAP. She has an amazing ability to snap out of sedation and medication. Also, they did some kind of deep numbing of the knee, which was supposed to wear off “sometime in the evening”, but in practice wore off before 3:00 in the afternoon.

While the surgeon was in there, he took out that pesky piece of cartilage which was lodged under her kneecap and started all the trouble in the first place, six long weeks ago, and also a little cyst, some charmingly named osteophytes, some bone, some more cartilage, and a bunch of fluid.

Jonathan dropped Meg off around 1:00 in the afternoon, then with a hug and a kiss was on his way in his usual super-hero manner. I fussed with Megan’s pillows and ice packs, and made turkey chili with cornmeal muffins (thank you, Jiffy corn muffin mix! Every pantry should have some) for dinner. I checked in on her again yesterday evening, and she was doing fine.

It’s still early by our standards, but I’ll call over there soon and get an update. Thanks for all the love and hugs and good wishes, everyone. It means a lot to all of us.

One response so far

Jul 15 2010

Holding Pattern

Published by under Country Life,Family

It seems like the more I paint, the more painting there is to do…

Today I anticipate putting the final coat of paint on the hallway bathroom door and then cleaning up in there (also known as “worse than actually painting”). I still have to paint the many-paned front door and its many-paned side window, both inside and out. Maybe “many-pained” would be a better spelling.

The silvery fog sprites anointed my freshly-painted flash heater with freshly-made fog, so now it’s streaky and has to be repainted when we have a couple of sunny days. Today has started out that way, and we’re probably due for a sunny spell, so I think I can expect to have my brush in hand yet again. So far, this is the fifth day of painting in a row. It’s getting to be a bad habit.

It’s also lacking in the usual feeling of achievement, partly because of the terrible paint jobs of the past leaving daubs and splotches everywhere, which I haven’t added to but which still remain, and partly because of the ongoing problem of the electric lime green floor.

The electric lime green floor (ELGF for short), stretches from the foyer (a somewhat grandiose name for an area which is 42 inches wide and 35 inches deep) through the office nook and into the bathroom, where there used to be livid red doors for it to clash with. It’s plywood, dented, and nailed on unevenly, so it’s pretty much impossible to cover with stick-on tiles, and other flooring options would be too expensive. I’d also have to leave whatever I put there if I move, and I don’t like spending a bunch of money on a house I’m just renting.

Yet my aesthetic sensibility is wounded every day by the hideousness of the ELGF, which is also nearly impossible to clean due to all the flaws in the wood. And it shows the dirt, in a house that’s surrounded by…dirt. Or mud, depending on the season.

It looks like I’m going to have to paint it, too, some neutral shade which will hopefully look less crappy with the “distressed” (i.e. in desperate need of refinishing) wood floor in the living room. At least it’s not plywood.

In non-painting news, I’m awaiting the call from our fabulous brother telling me that our beloved sister’s knee surgery is over. I’m on hold to be her lady-in-waiting today. When she gets home, I’ll be there to fetch and carry and watch Harry Potter movies with her as she recovers.

3 responses so far

Jul 12 2010

A Painter’s Progress

Published by under Cats,Country Life

Vogue and Vanity Fair are my two luxuries. At $12 a year each, they’re affordable luxuries, even for me. However, my luxuries have been letting me down lately. First there was the Vanity Fair cover with the oily soccer guys in terrifying Speedos; then the Vogue with Oprah and Lady Gaga (a hailstorm of mediocrity – and surely one of the silliest celebrity names ever); now Vanity Fair has Angelina Jolie, the most boring celebrity ever, with her incontinent child collecting and tedious personal life; and Vogue has Gwyneth Paltrow, the former It Girl who once said “I’d rather die than let my kid eat Cup-A-Soup”. Now, there’s a girl with her priorities in the right place.

After yet another hard day of painting, my luxuries may have let me down and my patience may have run out, but there are always the consolations of a cocktail, that never-fail attitude adjustor, and petting little Audrey, seen here having a nap in a box in the yard, recently used for spray painting the flash heater’s chimney flat black:

audreynapbox

There is nothing Audrey likes better than a good box. Unless it’s a good nap.

Finally, after three days of labor, the outside wall is finished! As a reminder, here’s the “before” picture again:

wall1

And here’s the finished product, with the chimney painted, yellow electrical cord hidden, flash heater painted, and masking tape removed:

wallfinished

I think I achieved my goal of “slightly less crappy looking”, don’t you?

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Jul 11 2010

Encore

Published by under Country Life,Dogs


If only

I enjoy painting about as much as I’m good at it, but I seem to be on some kind of roll.

Today I painted the border around the window in my office nook, which is conveniently located between the bathroom and the front door. I’m going to put up a matchstick blind there, since the window faces south and tends to be blinding in the afternoon. Otherwise, there’s no need for window treatments, unless you worry about the trees peeking in at you.

In the bathroom, I painted the window inside the shower, and applied primer to the red door which leads to the back porch. Thankfully, the other side of the door is plain wood. I’m planning to paint the bathroom doors and the front door a soft blue. I tried not to despair over the terrible painting jobs of the past while trying not to add to them.

When that was done, I primered the red side of the other bathroom door (the hallway side is blue) and the doorway around it. I was slightly hampered in this by Star’s unexpected cameo, slapping her tail against the paint and bouncing all over the painter. I brought her back to Megan, who was cleaning out her car in preparation for the Jelly Bean Mechanic’s ministrations today. When you have 205,000 miles on your car, it needs a little attention.

When I came back from the dog delivery, I finished off the day’s painting chores and cleaned the brushes. At that point, I realized that I couldn’t take a shower, since the paint on the shower window is still wet. Good thing I have an alternative nearby.

4 responses so far

Jul 10 2010

Painting, Punctuated

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Dogs

wall1
Before

It’s a lovely, sunny Saturday. It seemed like a good day to paint the wall. You know, the one with the flash heater outside and strange, convoluted piping. I should have known better than to start any project during the reign of terror of the comma*, when I tend to be at my crabbiest and least patient – I should have spent the day lying on the couch, watching Marilyn movies, eating PopTarts, bemoaning the utter uselessness of ibuprophen and wondering why everyone acts as if it’s the answer to everything – but I am a) a slow learner; and b) not all that smart. Though I’m apparently the queen of lengthy sentences.

I assembled my appropriately named quart of paint, a brush, a piece of cardboard, painter’s tape, and a small step stool. I figured it would just take an hour or two, easy. In this, as in many things, I was wrong. Fortunately, Rob stopped by to point out the error of my painting ways, such as:

  • Don’t wear sandals.
  • Use a real ladder, not a step stool.
  • Don’t hold the can of paint while you’re painting. Pour some of it into something smaller, in case you Calamity Suzy it.
  • It’s a good idea to measure the wall before you buy the paint. That way you’ll actually have enough. Imagine.
  • I should have primed the wall first. Oh, well.
  • Clean off the spider webs and dirt before applying painter’s tape.
  • Yes, it is gross.

    And I thought I’d done so well in picking out a nice color and telling the guy it was for an exterior. I’m convinced that this, among many other things, is in that grown-up manual I never got.

    It soon became apparent that a quart would not be enough, especially when painting this weird chipboard stuff, which lived up to its name by chipping and peeling at every opportunity. It’s also thirstier than F. Scott Fitzgerald after a particularly grueling day of screenwriting.

    While I was swearing and daubing, Rob removed the bright aluminum thing from the top of the flash heater and is spray painting it for me. He also removed the decaying lattice over the bathroom window and rerouted and hid whatever that yellow cord was on the wood part of the wall.

    While we were doing that, Star was escaping from Rob’s backyard, bounding into the middle of the proceedings, annoying Audrey and making her puff up to about six times her size. She clawed and hissed at Star until Rob tied Star up. Audrey sat just out of range, giving Star the stinkiest stink eye you’ve ever seen. Audrey has become much more territorial in this post-June world, and now growls and claws at any dog she sees.

    I’ve used up all the paint, so I can’t post an “after” picture until I go to town and get more paint (don’t hold your breath). But here’s a “during” photo:

    wall2

    *I’m not calling it a period anymore, because that suggests an end to something. Whereas a comma suggests a series of things, possibly even an unending series of things, which is the way things seem to be going.

5 responses so far

Jul 09 2010

Injustice

Published by under Bullshit,Life in Oaktown

I’m taking a break from my regularly scheduled fluff to express my profound disappointment with yesterday’s verdict in the Johannes Meserle trial.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the case, Johannes Meserle killed Oscar Grant, an unarmed man, on the platform of my former BART station last New Year’s Day. Mr. Grant was on his stomach, helpless and handcuffed, when Mr. Meserle, then a BART policeman, shot him in the back.

Mr. Meserle has claimed that he thought he was Tasering Mr. Grant. Mr. Meserle is right-handed, and the gun was holstered on his right, the Taser on the left. And a trained police officer who can’t tell a Taser from a gun, especially when discharging the weapon, should not be on the force.

The whole incident was caught on tape, just like the Rodney King beating almost twenty years ago. And in both cases, the jurors seemed to be unable to come up with a verdict which served justice.

I guess the fact that Mr. Meserle was convicted of anything is a small victory. But it’s too small. He will be sentenced next month to five to fifteen years for “involuntary manslaughter”, though I agree with the District Attorney that his actions were nothing less than second degree murder. I find it especially heinous that it was an officer of the law committing this crime, and I also believe that there was a racial element at play, Mr. Meserle being white and Mr. Grant being African American. Racial epithets were used and caught on tape, as well as heard by eyewitnesses.

There were no African American jurors.

The justice system, like many things, mystifies me. How could Aaron Vargas, of whom I wrote recently in another break from fluffiness, been handed a sentence of nine years in San Quentin for killing the man who had sexually and emotionally abused and terrorized him since he was a young boy, while Mr. Meserle may serve as little as three years? It’s pretty clear which of these two men is a menace to society.

3 responses so far

Jul 08 2010

Left Bank

Published by under Bullshit

Dad was never that interested in the Royal Family. I was the one who dragged him to Buckingham Palace when some of the rooms were open to the public (he really enjoyed it, though), and I was on my own when it came to visiting Althorp, Princess Diana’s ancestral home.

Though he didn’t care about their scandals or public engagements, he didn’t want them ousted, either. But he also felt that the Queen could get by just fine without any of his money.

To keep Her Majesty’s regal paws off his dinero, he kept most of it in an offshore account. And to make sure that she didn’t get any after he was gone, the account was in both our names. That way, the money passed directly to me, neatly avoiding the taxman in the process. Because nothing adds to grief like subtracting nearly half of your inheritance.

After handing over my siblings’ portions, I kept mine there, where it steadily declined over many years, which is what happens when you withdraw a lot and never deposit. And then there’s currency fluctuation. I was hoping that the currency exchange would become more favorable over time, so I left it there.

About a month ago, I received a letter from them, saying that I had to provide them with a notarized copy of my passport and proof of income. Even though none of my income (which has such a brief stay in my local bank account that if you blink, you miss it) is there or ever has been, and the amount in the account is minuscule and has been there for many years.

As far as I was concerned, if they thought I was going to allow them to invade my privacy like that, not to mention the inconvenience of going all the way to town to copy the documents and have them notarized at my expense and then mailing them registered overseas, again at my expense, they were crazy as well as nosy.

I told them as much, and they told me that if they didn’t receive a written letter from me requesting that they close my account – no fax or email allowed – by the end of June, they’d put a block on my account so I’d have to submit all the documentation before receiving my money.

Nice.

I sent them an express mail letter which cost nearly $30, but couldn’t get them to confirm that they had received it. The USPS site said “received abroad, June 16, 6:11 pm” for days, without saying where and who had signed for it.

Finally, I realized that I could just transfer it on line. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, true, but it’s hard to think when you’re traumatized by bank bullshit. And only have two brain cells.

There’s about a dollar left in that account. I hope they enjoy it.

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