Archive for February, 2014

Feb 28 2014

Out at Home

Published by under Country Life,Weather

It’s raining, it’s pouring

Woke up about 3:00 am to the oppressive and depressing silence of a power outage – other than the howling of the wind and pounding of the rain. I miss the comforting hum, light, and warmth of civilization pretty much immediately. Fortunately, there is a little emergency light beside the sliding glass doors in the kitchen, giving a beam of hope in the darkness of the night, so I was able to make my way downstairs to my cell phone* (I generally leave it plugged in when I’m at home, since the lack of cell service makes it keep looking for a signal, which in turn runs down the battery).

I called the familiar PG&E Outage Line – one of the most important of my contacts – and heard the even more depressing news that I was the first to report the outage. As I write, it’s about 7:15 am, and the house is still discouragingly dark. Fortunately, I was able to boil water on the gas stove and make coffee with the pre-ground coffee I bring on trips to the city (the coffee grinder being out of commission) and make coffee in my trusty French press, which doesn’t care about the power or the lack of it.

Welcome to the first power outage of the season and the year!

Update, 10:00 am: Power (obviously) back on. Immediately washed dishes, filled Brita pitcher and kettle and other water-related activities. Fingers crossed it stays on. Thousands are without power in the Bay Area.

*After more than a year, the iPhone has failed to ruin my life or obsess me, as some people warned. Maybe this is due to the aforementioned lack of service in the county.** I recently updated the IOS and wish I hadn’t, since I dislike the Disneyfied cartoon look of the icons and the apparent impossibility of dismissing incoming calls, which is essential when you have two jobs. At least I can run the Secret app.

**The major complaint of tourists, followed by the curviness of the roads and the insane price of gas in the Village – about twice what it costs in the Big Town, ten minutes away.

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Feb 27 2014


Published by under Covet: A Series,Garden

The other day, I spent a lot of time on the phone. More than I was expecting, though I did get a lot done.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t sit still when I’m on the phone. I’m always pacing around, and the lengthy phone time gave me a chance to discover a few things in the garden. Care to come along?

I was really surprised to see this stealth orchid in bloom. It has never bloomed before, and it managed to escape the frost death meted out to the orchid which usually blooms every year.

This sneaky plant sent its flower spike between a pipe and the wall of the house, coming into bloom right under the electric meter. When it finishes blooming – months from now – I will move it out so I can see it better next year. And make sure to bring both orchids in during cold snaps.

Directly under the stealth orchid is this plant with purple flowers. It may be an African daisy. You’d think I hadn’t been introduced to my garden, since I know so few of the plants’ names! Maybe I should ask Lichen to get us reacquainted. Name tags may be required.

There are a couple of volunteer plants who have moved in. I have no idea how they got there, but I’m glad they did. There is a hyacinth under the Japanese maple:

It smells intoxicating and I love the color.

Some shy violets have moved in with a mystery plant that looks like some kind of succulent. They also smell wonderful and have a beautiful color:

The camellias are in bloom now:

I’m glad I got different colors, and can’t wait until they are big bushes like the one I had in Oakland. It will be great to have some color in the winter.

Camellias were Coco Chanel’s favorite flower, and a motif that often appeared in her designs. The house of Chanel has kept up the tradition, and I love the rain boots:

They’d be sort of practical for muddy, rainy Hooterville winters, right?

The dual time zone watch on the other hand…

Definitely not.

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Feb 24 2014

Visiting Friends

Published by under Country Life,Friends,Jessica

Open At Last!

In addition to our evening out, Megan and I took the time to go and visit Erica and Jessica. Being the country mice that we are, we also decided to enjoy the sights of the other towns along the way, stopping at the farm stand for fresh walnuts and looking around the shops. It was a beautiful day and the town was full of tourists, now immediately recognizable to me (unlike when I was one). The area has been getting some good press lately, so that and the lovely weather were probably why it was so busy.

We passed the museum on our way, and were astonished to see that it was open. In all the years I have visited here, and the few I have lived here, it has never, ever been open. So we had to stop in and look around. We were warmly welcomed:

The main building, whose bell tower I cut off in the first picture*, was the schoolhouse, and still has some of the small, old fashioned desks with inkwells. There is an exhibit of artifacts from the Pomo tribe, and a map showing that they used to live in this entire county, before the fort was built and the natives displaced with almost no sign of their lost, ancient civilization. The baskets and arrowheads that had survived were beautiful, though, and I’m glad that they have been preserved.

Megan and I didn’t realize that the museum also had a couple of buildings behind the former schoolhouse, one housing ancient farm equipment like this:

It was made at 427 Market Street in San Francisco, which looks like this now:

I’m pretty sure it looked very different then.

The last building housed artifacts from the original country store, saddles and cider presses and antique clothes, including an actual leopardskin coat. There was a picture of the coat’s owner, a beloved local lady, and her husband on their wedding day in the 1920s as well as a picture of them on their 50th wedding anniversary, wearing the very same wedding clothes. So sweet!

We would have liked to have spent more time, but we were late for our date with Erica and Jessica. Erica had made incredible Indian food** for a late lunch, and while she put on the finishing touches, Jessica and I sat at the table in the kitchen, which had placemats showing different areas of the world. I had Asia, and Jessica had Africa. She suggested that we play a game where we quizzed each other on the country capitals on each other’s placemats. When you got one wrong, it was the other person’s turn to ask.

Me: So…it’s like, “Work, work, work…feel stupid?”

Jessica (shaking her head): You think really differently than we do.

You would, too, if you were as bad at guessing/knowing African capitals as I am. I think I only got Cairo. Jessica, on the other hand, even knew what the capitals of the endless -Stans were.

In addition to making her aged Auntie look bad, Jessica is writing a play in which twins find out that one sister is Death and the other is Life. It’s pretty good so far. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that she’s only 10, though she is beginning to look as if she is closer to womanhood than girlhood as her 11th birthday fast approaches in April.

It was a great visit and I promise myself to see them again before Jessica is 11. Can she do it? Easier than learning African capitals. Right?

*I lent my brother my camera to document the new well he’s digging at the family property. I’m getting better at using my iPhone for pictures…except for this one!

**When I told a friend about the amazing Indian food, she asked me, “Was it dot or feather?” Lunch was dot and the museum was feather. 🙂

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Feb 19 2014

Evening Out

Published by under Country Life,Family

Megan finally took some much-needed time off. It seems that her staycations are never free of dog drama, but this one was much better than the last one, even though it did involve the Star Incident. Are dogs just naturally more dramatic than cats?

We took advantage of the unaccustomed time off to spend some quality girl time together. I shared my addiction to gel manicures* with her a long time ago, but our schedules rarely allow us to get our nails done at the same time, so it was really fun to go to the salon together. With our nails all shiny and sparkly, we went to the library to pick up this week’s batch of books, and then repaired to the local pizza parlor for a pre-movie dinner.

We sat at a cozy booth and shared a mini pizza, which was three slices each and made deliciously to order. After dinner, we made our way to the movie theater to see Dallas Buyers Club. Starring Matthew McConaughey, going back to his Texan roots, and Jared Leto, it tells the true story of a Dallas man who is blindsided by an AIDS diagnosis in 1985. McConaughey’s performance is powerful and riveting, driving the whole movie. You can’t take your eyes off him, except when he’s sharing the screen with his co-star. Jared Leto is heartbreakingly radiant in his vulnerability and beauty as a transgendered woman who partners with McConaughey in helping other AIDS patients in those dark days. These two deserve their Oscar nods, and if you haven’t seen the movie, you really should.

As we drove home – In the dark! On a school night**! – I thought of how lucky I am to have a sister who is also my best friend. Both the good things and the bad things are better with her there.

*It’s gel nail polish that goes on your real nails (not to be confused with scary, fake, toxic ones) and miraculously lasts three weeks or even longer, even when doing dishes or gardening. It’s like magic!

**I managed to get up after six hours of sleep and go to the pool for 7:30 the next morning, too. Can’t let a little thing like work get in the way of fun!

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Feb 16 2014

Signs of Hope

Published by under Country Life,Garden

We did get a little more rain – a peek at the rain gauge shows about an inch, and a peek at the weekly paper shows about 13 inches for the season, which is half of what we had at the same time last year. The so called heavy rain predicted for yesterday never did come true.

I woke up to a chilly house this morning, which I knew meant it would be clear today, with the duvet of clouds removed, and so it is. The frogs are singing joyfully in their appreciation of the rain, which I love to hear.

I swept up a passel of feathers which had mysteriously appeared under the stairs, though there was no sign of their (former?) owner. How did that happen? When I went out to toss the feathers into the woods, I noticed that there are some signs of hope in the garden, despite the destruction of the frost and the drought.

The honeysuckle by the kitchen door is beginning to sprout little green leaves, sparkling with rain:

I cut back the Red Dragon plant outside the “front” door only to discover new leaves growing deep inside:

I cleared away the fallen pine needles, pine cones, and other debris to encourage the little leaves. The state of my usually cheerful geraniums was particularly depressing – black, rotted leaves and spongy stems – but apparently if the roots are healthy, they will come back in the spring. I hope so.

On my way back into the house, I noticed that the camellia bush is budding and should be flowering soon:

Here’s hoping for more rain, and more flowers!

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Feb 11 2014

Rain at Last

It’s raining petals

We got about six inches of rain since I last checked in with you. It was wonderful to hear the rain pattering against the roof/walls in my little house. You could practically hear the garden saying “Aaahhh….”, even though it still looks pretty terrible*. The power even stayed on!

The kitties were less delighted than I was, coming home soaked to the skin with their fur all spiky, except, of course, for Audrey, who has the ability to come in out of the pouring rain with magically dry fur. Roscoe got bored with the rain and napped, whereas Clyde perched on the porch and watched the weather for a while before giving up and joining his brother in a rainy day snooze.

The dogs hated the rain even more than the cats. And Stella finds the rain even more objectionable than Star does, which I didn’t think was possible. Megan literally had to drag them outside. As far as they were concerned, the call of nature could stay on hold or go straight to voicemail. I still remember how Schatzi actually pretended to pee once when I was taking care of her one stormy winter night in San Francisco so that she could go back inside.

Unlike the cats, the dogs were bored out of their minds, while refusing to go outside and play. Megan took advantage of breaks in the downpour to take them out, but another storm is slated to move in tonight or tomorrow and last for a few days. I don’t think Star and Stella will greet the next downpour with the same enthusiasm as their Staff.

*Basically whatever the bitter cold snap didn’t ruin, the drought did. When the County is asking everyone to cut back on water usage by 20%, you can’t really justify watering your garden, no matter how sad it looks. I was planning to do more in the garden this year, but it looks like that will have to be on hold unless the weather changes dramatically.

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Feb 07 2014

Miss Adventure

Published by under Bullshit,Dogs,Family

The former hostage, relaxing at home

Being a dog parent, on the other hand…

Megan and Rob took Star with them to the city. She does get a bit bored on the drive home – don’t forget, it’s about four hours each way – and expresses this by yawning loudly and shifting around in the backseat so the Staff knows she’s discontented and that the chauffeur should step on it, traffic and twisty roads be damned.

She is pretty patient in general with the car, though, because she knows that for every stay in the Safeway parking lot, there is the potential for a walk or a visit with her BFF Harlow. And even if it really is all parking lots, she still gets to be with her pack, most importantly Megan.

Arriving in the City by the Bay, they could not find parking. The parking lots near the hospital were full, and the valet spoke just just enough English to refuse a car with a dog in it (and it’s more likely that Star would refuse a strange man getting in HER car anyway). I well remember the frustration of driving those one way streets in the city looking desperately for a parking space – the main reason for selling my Mustang convertible all those years ago.

Time ticked relentlessly toward Rob’s appointment with the neurosurgeon, and they finally found a parking space, locked Star in the car, and ran inside. The surgeon said that he could work on Rob’s pain with an injection into his spine, but apparently Science, however Neurological, has no cure for Rob’s spasming and ever more claw-like hands.

You’d think this would be the bad news of the day, but you’d be wrong.

Leaving the hospital, they walked to the car only to find it wasn’t there. Needless to say, neither was Star.

They then noticed the sign saying it was a tow away zone after 3:00. The appointment had been at 2:45. Megan’s amazing cab catching abilities swung into action as she managed to snag one, in rush hour on Nob Hill, no less. She and Rob jumped in and explained the situation to the sympathetic cab driver, who sped crazily through the city on his mission of mercy.

Arriving at the car jail, Megan was relieved to learn that Star was still in the car and not taken off to the pound, where she may or may not have been alive, partly due to her breed and partly due to her attitude toward strangers trying to haul her out of her car. Star was much calmer than her Staff at this point, and Megan persuaded the car jailers to let her rescue Star from the car while she went to get the ransom from the nearest bank.

Megan had texted me about it: (“My car was towed with Star inside! I am losing my mind!”) while I was in the Village dropping off some jobette materials. I called her and hadn’t heard her so upset in years. When I knew everything was OK, I picked up a bottle of wine for her before getting Stella from camp. Fortunately, I had already bought burritos for them to warm up for dinner when they got home, which ended up being around 9:00 pm rather than the expected 7:00 pm.

I’m sorry to say that the whole escapade cost a whopping $600 between the towing charges and the parking ticket and whatever else the Powers that Be could dream up. But the main thing is that Star is safe. I’m guessing that she’ll be joining Stella at camp the next time!

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Feb 04 2014

Shopping with Stella

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family

Daffodils in the Village

Being a dog aunt is pretty good. Much like being a human aunt, it’s all of the fun but none of the responsibility. Well, hardly any.

Today, for example, I picked up Stella and her many accessories (cozy bed; chew toys; kong stuffed with peanut butter and goodies; etc.) and took her to day camp near the Village. She was welcomed by a really nice guy who she took to at once. Stella is a big old flirt and loves male attention and flattery. As Wednesday and I drove off into the morning sunshine, her newest admirer was taking Stella for a walk. She was completely unconcerned by my departure, though I imagine she will be excited to see me this afternoon. Dogs’ total joy at seeing you even when they’ve seen you five minutes before must be one of the main reasons for having one. A daily ego boost! What’s not to love?

I will pick her up after work, take her for a walk in vain hopes of tiring her out (I wish I had half of her boundless energy) and then bring her home. Megan, Rob and Star are in San Francisco today for Rob’s neurosurgery consultation. It looks like there may be more surgery lurking on the horizon for my valiant brother in law.

In preparation for her stay at camp, we stopped in at Dr. Karen’s office last week to get proof of vaccinations. As Megan walked into the office, leaving Stella in the car, Stella took the opportunity to practice The Sad Eyes:

The Sad Eyes vanished as soon as Megan reappeared. After the vet’s, we took Stella for a walk on the headlands, where she was mesmerized by a hawk, wheeling low over the fields, and the timeless ocean waves. I have never seen a dog enjoy watching the ocean so much before.

Since we are all girls, we took the opportunity of window shopping in the Village:

It turns out that Stella is a well-known and well-loved visitor to the shops, including a jewelry shop and the book shop, where the staff greeted her by name and gave her a cookie or two. Stella basked in the attention and helped Megan to choose a book:

Sorry for the sun glare in the photo. I’m using my iPhone for pictures these days since I lent my camera to my brother to document his progress in digging a new well. I think I’m getting a little better at using it.

We had a good time shopping. I always have fun with my sister. And the dogs are just icing on the cake. I’m already looking forward to seeing Stella tonight.

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