Archive for September, 2013

Sep 29 2013

Deliciously Delightful

Published by under Country Life,Special Occasions

After our safari adventure, we spent a little time looking around Point Arena, which, with a population of less than 500 people, is one of California’s smallest cities, if not the smallest city.

Here’s a look at the main street:

On the right, you can see the Arena Theater, one of the few remaining independent theaters in the county – and the state. It dates from 1929 and in addition to showing movies, also shows opera and theater performances from around the world.

Across the street from the movie theater is Franny’s Cup & Saucer, home all things delicious and the home of all things cute. The pre-safari mocha Megan got there (cinnamon scented!) was so good that she got another one afterwards. It gave us time to look around and pick up a few early Christmas stocking stuffers. Who doesn’t need a bendy drinking straw that looks like a giant multi-colored worm? Or a matchbook full of sharp pencils? Or a sparkly skull ring? I have to admit that it might be hard to part with the ring, even for Jessica.

It’s a tiny space, but chock full of delicacies and delights, all made on the premises. You have to see the pastries and chocolates to believe them.

Right down the road is the Druids Hall and Seniors’ Center:

Can’t have one without the other! An even more unlikely combination is the druid cemetery being right next to the Catholic cemetery, just up the road. Near both final resting places is a hill top bar that’s only open when the owner feels like it. He lights the beacon when he’s ready to receive guests.

We stopped for lunch at a little Thai restaurant. You know that Thai is one of my favorites, and this may be my favorite Thai food ever. The restaurant is small and cute, and we had the nicest waiter I have ever met. He took us through the menu telling us what he liked best and why, as well as what sells most. He was spectacularly patient with our indecision, request for separate checks, and requests for separate take out orders to take with us.

The food was completely amazing – incredibly fresh and nuanced. When we paid, we asked the waiter to tell the chef how great everything was. He was delighted and said that the chef is his girlfriend – and that they are co-owners! So the nicest waiter in the world was also the owner. That was a new experience. We’ll definitely be back. It can’t be soon enough.

3 responses so far

Sep 25 2013

South Coast Safari

I am always amazed by how many wonderful places and things there are in our County. A beach made of glass. Another that looks like bowling balls. Lighthouses. The City of 10,000 Buddhas, a working monastery which is open to the public (and has peacocks wandering around its gardens). And the B Bryan Preserve, which is dedicated to preserving and breeding endangered African hooved animals.

Megan and I made our way to the beautiful south coast, which you may remember I really enjoyed visiting earlier this year. We soon found ourselves at the Preserve, and met Frank, one of the owners, in the lovely barn:

Here Frank gave us an overview of what they do and why they do it. The animals they are trying to save have been hunted to near extinction in their native Africa, and Frank and his wife are working hard to breed and preserve these rare creatures.

We hopped in Frank’s truck and were off to meet them. Here’s Bonnie, the shy Mountain Zebra, peeking around the corner of the barn:

There are now only three types of zebra left in the world: the common, the mountain, and Grevy’s. Grevys are notable for what Frank describes as their “teddy bear ears”. As you can see, they are more graceful and less stocky than the common zebra:

That’s 7 month old Lester in front, staying close to his mama. Zebra develop the black color of their stripes as they mature.

Up next were the antelope. These are Roan Antelope, considered the most beautiful antelope in the world. There is a five year waiting list to get one of these! The alpha male and female of the herd are the largest and darkest due to their hormones. Mabel, the alpha female, had recently given birth to a new baby (left):

Apparently the baby already thinks she’s special since her mother is the queen of the herd, and she just butts in for food among all the adults. All the other babies, whether they were zebra or antelope, held back until the adults had started to eat. And the babies stayed close to their mothers.

Across from the antelope are the Kudu, called the “Gray Ghost of Africa”. You can see they blend into their surroundings. Frank has tried to replicate their native habitat:

Last but tallest, we visited the Rothschild giraffes. I can’t tell you what it’s like to have these enormously tall creatures swoop their long necks down to look you in the eye:

Incredibly, these boys are not finished growing. They are expected to grow another five feet!

Megan held up an acacia branch, which was soon devoured by Jagger (right) and Sonny:

They have long, black tongues that curl around the leaves, then they snap the leaves off, leaving the branch behind. We also fed them carrots. It’s amazing to look them in their huge eyes and have them kiss you as they eat the carrots. It was the experience of a lifetime!

5 responses so far

Sep 22 2013

County Fair

Published by under Country Life,Special Occasions

Apple Jack Welcomes You!

The County Fair is definitely one of the highlights of the year for me. Megan and I headed out of the coastal fog and into the warm sun of the valley. We parked in Megan’s secret spot and headed for the gates, where we were met by Apple Jack and had our hands stamped with an apple (what else?).

First stop as always was to enter the quilt drawing (which we never win) and for Megan to pick up her annual t-shirt from the Yorkville Ladies’ Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society. There really is a Yorkville (population 70) LSC, and they work to support their volunteer fire department. Gotta support your local volunteer firefighters!

We had planned to meet Erica and Jessica, but they had an unexpected and lengthy trip to the county seat to see the doctor (they are both fine) and were too tired to traipse around the Fair after their adventures. In their absence, we checked out Erica’s many entries in the wool barn.

I imagine Erica’s fellow contestants bemoan her return from Portland, since Megan and I lost track of the ribbons and awards. Best in show, best in division, first prize – they were showered on her work. Sometimes all three at once, as you see here on an exquisite, gossamer shawl:

I believe she spun all the wool herself as well as designing and knitting or crocheting the pieces. I really think the only the thing Erica can’t make really is a piano*.

After enjoying Erica’s triumph(s), we went to admire the quilts:

After that, we tasted some apples and Megan got some advice from an expert about the orchard on the property. Of course, we also had to check out the enormous pumpkins. This year’s biggest was 606 pounds! How does a pumpkin get that big?

Our last stop was the floriculture building. This was my favorite exhibit:

There’s something magical about it, don’t you think?

As we left the Fair, the lights were beginning to come on and the crowds to thicken. I really think Friday late afternoon is the perfect time to go to the Fair.

The sun was setting over the hills, such a breathtaking sight that Megan pulled over so I could take a picture:

As you can see, we were heading home into the fog:

It had been a wonderful day.

*When Jessica was small, she visited a friend whose parents had a piano. She was very taken with it, and on getting home, asked Erica if she could make her one. She was astonished when Erica said she couldn’t. It was the first time in Jessica’s life that her mother actually couldn’t make something.

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Sep 18 2013

Driving Me Crazy

Published by under Bullshit,Country Life

You guys know that I’m not too crazy about driving, right? My chief objections are that it’s both too fast and slow, while being simultaneously boring and terrifying. My siblings’ years of EMS experience have taught me that the faster you drive, the worse the outcome if you crash, but of course you want to get where you’re going – and get out of the car! – as quickly as possible. So it’s too fast if something bad happens, and too slow because it takes forever to get anywhere. There you have the boring/terrifying dilemma.

I do realize that a girl with this kind of automotive attitude should not have moved to a place where a car is an evil necessity, or a necessary evil. And public transit is not an option. It’s more than five miles to the store, where the bus leaves once a day and takes more than an hour to get to the Big Town, and one bus coming home. I don’t think even the most pioneer-spirited among you would want to trudge 11 miles a day, especially with groceries in hand on the trip home, and even more so in the pouring winter rains.

Having said that, it is a nice, though long, drive to the jobette, beside the mighty Pacific – I still love the part where I come out of the trees on the Ridge and get my first sight of it, spread below me in all its glory – through trees, past little villages and meadows. The worst part is being behind people going under the speed limit who refuse to, or don’t know enough, to pull over. I have suggested that we include this vital information in the visitor guide, but it doesn’t seem likely.

The other day, I was on my way to work when I was faced with a long line of traffic on the road by the store and post office (and the happy cows in their giant field). I waited a long time before finally turning onto the highway. There I was confronted with the unlovely sight of a line of cars recently released from the stop light governing the work on the next bridge south, waiting at the Hooterville bridge light, governing its epic repair/restoration project.

Normally, I’m all for the Hooterville bridge project. It’s the only remaining wooden bridge on the entire long length of beautiful Highway 1 and deserves to be preserved. But this was a perfect traffic storm, and I was on my way to work. There was no cell service to text or email my boss from the gridlock, so I just had to hope for the best.

When the light finally turned green, we started slowly on our way. I was probably the 20th car in line, many of which sported the dreaded out of state plates, so I knew I was doomed. Indeed, we proceeded at a pace so glacial that I have literally driven in funeral processions that were faster.

When we finally got to the Village, where there are two welcome lanes – your one and only opportunity to get past the snails who have been stymying you for the past several miles – everyone kept up their glacial pace of 30 in a 55 zone. I soon discovered that midway in the cortege was a CHP car, so we all made our sadly majestic way to the Big Town.

I was only a few minutes late after all.

4 responses so far

Sep 15 2013

Last Things

Published by under Dogs,Family,Schatzi

Megan decided that the time had come to give away Schatzi’s remaining meds. They were very expensive, and some of them were liquid and wouldn’t keep. Dr. Karen gives these donated meds to clients who can’t afford them. We did the same thing when our mother died. At least something good can come out of something really sad.

I offered to take the drugs in for Megan, but she wanted to do it. Perhaps she felt it was the last thing she could do for her beloved old friend. Needless to say, I could not let her go alone, so we packed up Star and headed to the Village.

Despite our sad errand, I couldn’t help smiling at the sign in the vet’s parking lot:

In the office, the lovely receptionist accepted Megan’s gift and gave her a huge, affectionate hug. She remarked that Schatzi was very much beloved among the entire staff and that she was missed. I am proud to say that my sister maintained her dignity and poise – at least, on the outside. We are lucky to have such genuinely caring people taking care of the animals in our lives.

I think that it was actually a relief to my sister to get this final thing done.

With this over, we turned our attention to the remaining dog, little Miss Star, who was more than ready for a walk on the headlands. On our way there, she was very good about meeting new dogs, though a little less good on the “heel” side of things.

In keeping with the mood of the day, it was overcast, but I still think the Village is beautiful no matter what the weather:

I never get tired of watching the waves crash against the rocks:

We came across the remains of a pier clinging to the rocky cliffs:

It is still a somewhat isolated place, requiring a long drive to get here and with limited cell phone service and no big box stores when you do, but visitors in the 1800s had to be especially intrepid, coming ashore in a perilous manner (scroll down the page to see). Not for the first time, I reflected on the courage and fortitude of pioneers, especially women. And of my sister’s brave act that day, and the difficult steps she has taken to move forward, despite her heavy heart. I wish there was something I could do to ease her burden, but I know that only time can do that – and not fast enough.

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Sep 13 2013

Small Town

Published by under Country Life

I was perched on the couch (my usual, non-ergonomic workplace) working on a project* when there was a hello at the door.

This time of year is when we get our summer weather – less fog, more sun – and all the doors were open, so knocking wasn’t necessary. Even if the doors had been closed, they are all glass, so visitors can (and do) look (and walk) right in. The fact that this one didn’t meant that it wasn’t someone I knew.

It turned out to be a county sheriff, delivering yet another copy of the subpoena in person. I tried not to think about the fact that I was still in my pink flowered PJs and bare feet as we talked on the porch. He filled out a form and gave me yet another copy of the subpoena. I pointed out that I had received one by mail and sent back the required form, signed. This time I didn’t have to sign anything, so I asked why he had to do this in person. He said that everyone asks that, but he had no answer.

Seems like a giant waste of time and money to me, but what do I know? I’m still hoping that the whole thing will be settled before the court date later on this month, even though I should know better. The thought of being a witness yet again fills me with horror, though of a different kind than last year’s ordeal. It was daunting being questioned by the US Attorney’s office, but I never had to see him again (so far), and I will have to see the people I am testifying against, since we all live in a very small town.

Trying not to think about it, I set off for the post office, restoring my mental health by petting the postmistress’ adorable dog Ginger and getting glossy magazines in my mailbox. In the store, I ran into Lichen, and caught up with him. The clerk asked after Megan, wondering how she was doing in her grief. As I drove home, I thought of how lucky I am to live in a little community that really cares about each other. The up side more than makes up for the down side.

Most of the time.

*A friend is developing a smartphone app where you can search for an unfamiliar food term when at a restaurant. I’m writing up the definitions and he’s doing the coding. Each according to his abilities…

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Sep 08 2013

Home Again

Published by under Travel

Heavenly Hooterville

Once again, I managed to leave a hotbed of gambling without actually gambling. Even though I had $15 in slot machine credit as part of the gift certificate package.

The casino part of the sprawling hotel complex was super depressing to me. It was dark, smoky, and the ceilings seemed really low, even though I am not known for my tallness. It was populated by a lot of older folks, many equipped with walkers and even oxygen tanks (!), sitting in front of slot machines like zombies. I know casinos are supposedly orchestrated to make you want to stay there, but it made me want to flee.

Outside, it was very hot and other than the historic district, it seemed to be a maze of well-maintained highways without much traffic, and lots of malls, ditto. The setting is lovely, surrounded by mountains and desert, but the city itself is definitely not. It doesn’t even have the kitschy glamor of its big sister, Las Vegas. There’s probably a good reason that I went more than 25 years between visits.

It did make me appreciate Hooterville more, though. After three days in the air conditioning, I just wanted to open a window and breathe fresh air. I was so happy to sleep with the balcony door open (and the screen door closed) on my first night back. Not to mention rolling down the car window when I reached the redwoods on 128 and the first glimpse of the ocean.

There’s no place like home.

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Sep 05 2013


Published by under Travel

Good morning, Reno!

This morning, I trekked down to the lobby to get a coffee which turned out to be maybe 50% better than the alarming in room coffee. Maybe it’s something in the water. I miss my French press.

I returned to the room with the coffee and an almond croissant (Why not? I’m on vacation! Sort of) and opened the gold curtains to unveil the sight you see above. How’s that for a good start to the day?

Yesterday, I took a cab to the meetings, which went well. The guys I met with were really nice and have some great ideas about how they can help to make our workflow more efficient. They also had a professional lead for me and the names of good Thai restaurants in the area. They did not seem to notice the disgraceful condition of my nails, and drove me back to the hotel as well. On the way, they told me that Reno is at 5,000 feet above sea level, about the same as Denver, and has 300 sunny days a year. They also get about two weeks of snow a year. The rest of the winter, it stays on the mountains for skiing.

Back at the hotel, I called the spa to see about repairing the manicure situation. They had an appointment that afternoon. I reported to the spa, which was lovely and luxurious, and ended up hanging out there all afternoon, before and after the much-needed nail beautification (they are now a lovely, luminous shade called Vexatious Violet and have stopped frightening children and small animals).

The spa is on several floors. The first has the reception area and separate men’s and women’s areas. You are equipped with an incredible plush robe and slippers, and there are lockers (with welcome dark chocolate) and showers, replete with shampoo, conditioner, and just about anything else you can think of. The water cascades from the ceiling and the walls. There are lounge chairs, a jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, and cold plunge. Also glossy magazines to flip through idly, and internet access so you can email your sister while lying on your lounge chair.

The next floor has the treatment rooms, and the top floor has a fountain pool heated to about 90 degrees, hot and cold jacuzzis:

and a wonderful area called The Secret Garden, with tropical plants and reclining massage chairs equipped with iPods and noise canceling headphones. There are juices, water infused with citrus, coffee, and Tea Forte to drink, along with fruit, snacks, and iced cucumber slices for your eyes. The staff told me that you can also order room service to be delivered here, though they warned that it will take half an hour to arrive. When it does, it comes on a silver tray carried by a uniformed waiter. Of course.

This room leads out to a sun deck:

where you can lounge in the sun or the shade, and look down on the people in the pool:

You know how I love looking down on the little people. 🙂

After you shower in luxury, you can blow dry your hair in comfort in this little room:

They will bring you brushes, curling irons, even make-up. Primp away!

It was an incredible experience. I just wished that Megan was there to share it with me.

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Sep 04 2013

In Reno

Published by under Travel

Reno Sunset

Wow, this bad in room coffee is even worse than usual. It has a strange, chemical edge that is slightly alarming. Not that I’ll stop drinking it, since the alternative is to (gasp!) get dressed and find my way through the vast, smoky casino to find a coffee place.

Yes, I’m coming to you from Reno, which is pretty much the antithesis of Hooterville.

It was an epic drive. I took Highway 20 the whole way, which is mostly a two lane road. Left the house about 10:15 and got here just before 5:30. I stopped off for lunch in Colusa, where Megan and I rescued Star three years ago, and gassed up Miss Scarlett once, and, OK, yes, I got slightly lost once, but still. Come on! I’m hoping there is a speedier route home, while simultaneously pushing the thought of the drive home from my mind with the big janitorial broom I keep for the purpose.

It is amazing how long you can drive and still be in California. I didn’t reach Nevada until the last 15 minutes of the drive, though I unaccountably passed signs saying Nevada County no fewer than three times, all on the same road. Passed the Donner Pass and thought about the doomed Donner Party and that amazing book* I read about it a few years ago, and also how my furniture got stuck there when I moved to Oakland. There were lots and lots of signs about tire chains (required in the snowy winter), and it was a little surreal to see ski lifts idle on the “golden” hills.

Got a glimpse of blue Lake Tahoe before coming into Reno and passing under the iconic arch. I haven’t been here since the 1980s, when I saw Frank Sinatra at Harrah’s, and had forgotten the arch has a sparkly thing on top, like its own tiara. I’m all for the sparkle.

Arriving (finally!) at the hotel, it was impossible to figure out where the hotel entrance was, though it was, oddly, very clear where the casino entrance was. I went in and asked where registration was, and was met by a wall of smoke. I asked if people smoked everywhere and the employee said, “Not in the lobby and the restaurants.” So, like, everywhere.

I checked in and decanted my bags in my smoke-free, Liberace style room. Even the TV has a gilt frame and there are mirrors everywhere. I went to the spa to try and get my peeling manicure replaced, but they were out of appointments and there’s no time to get it done this morning, since the spa opens at 9:00 and I have to be at my meeting at 10:00. Hopefully they will not notice the state of my nails, since they are guys.

On the bright side, they emailed me this morning to say that they are very casual at the office and wear shorts, so that takes about an hour off of getting ready time, and I can leave the dress up clothes in the suitcase. Once the meeting is over, it’s time for fun!

*It’s called “The Indifferent Stars Above” and is a fascinating read.

2 responses so far

Sep 03 2013

Birthday Boy

Published by under Family,Friends,Special Occasions

Happy birthday to my amazing brother, he who runs into burning buildings to save strangers, fights wildfires, rescues people who fall off cliffs, and plunges into the frigid winter Pacific for charity. He who works on his sisters’ cars because he doesn’t trust anyone else to make sure they’re safe. He who lives entirely off the grid and can make a robot, dig a well, and is a Number One Groover on Life.

Since we’ll either be working (my sibs) or traveling (me), we decided to celebrate my brother’s birthday with a BBQ on Saturday. Erica and Jessica joined us for the occasion, Jessica modeling her ski boot cast and walking around with no crutches:

Megan and I are planning to sleep over at their place the night before the sheep dog trials at the county fair later this month. It’s good to know we have plans to get together soon. I think my new year’s resolution should be to see Erica at least once a month.

Jarrett also came to visit, with his lovely girlfriend Cally and Archi, who is almost a year old now, so he’s no longer the world’s cutest puppy. He’s 60 pounds and has long legs and gorgeous eyes. It was hard to get him to pose for me, so this is the best I could do:

He is such a beautiful, happy dog.

Erica also made a fabulous cake, chocolate with butterscotch filling. Here’s the birthday boy with the cake, moments before it was cut into and enjoyed:

Jessica asked for milk with her cake, and Cally told her that Cally’s father liked to have cake in a bowl with milk right in it. Jessica said, “Why is it always men who are disgusting?” which brought down the house. She also estimates my mental age to be somewhere around three – maybe 6 on a good day. Interestingly, she considers Jonathan to be sillier than me. I would have lost that bet.

We all had a great time together. I feel so lucky to have such wonderful family and friends.

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