Lately

Well, it’s certainly been a skimpy month around here blog-wise. And you know what that means: I’ve been working a lot. Work is not only time-consuming, but it’s no fun to write about in the time that hasn’t been consumed, and the workosity drains the fun out of you and makes you just want to have an adult beverage and forget about work.

As Red Forman put it on That ’70s Show: “Work’s not about fun, it’s about work! It’s about seeing how much you can take…and then taking some more.”

I have to admit that I enjoy work the most when watching other people do it.

Speaking of work, Rob’s been hard at work on the extractor fan. It wasn’t as simple as just putting in the fan. He had to cut a hole in the loft and then the side of the house and add a Bender-like hose thing for the steam to exit the house. And being Rob, he also added a little copper shelter to the side of the house so it looks nice, too. ‘Cause that’s how he rolls.

While Rob is working on my house, Megan’s in the next county at the Reggae on the River Festival. She’s not so much getting her Marley on as she is helping out our dear friends Lu and Rik with their Emergency Medical Services endeavors at the festival. Lu and Rik intrepidly spend most of the summer providing medical services to festival goers. It’s about 104 F there (40 C), so Megan is maintaining her night shift hours and hiding on the shade during the daylight, like a vampire. To paraphrase Barbara Harris in Peggy Sue Got Married*: “Megan, you know what the sun is? Stay away from it!”

As soon as Megan gets back, I’m heading to San Francisco for some meetings. Well, two days later, but still. The trip is not made less stressful by the fact that Wednesday is acting up again. It seems to be the same problem as before, so it looks like there is more time and money in her future and mine. My brother is sure I can get to the city and back unscathed, since I probably do not have time to get it dealt with before, but I can’t say this makes me too happy.

To quote the immortal (and some would say, immoral) Scarlett O’Hara: “I can’t think about that right now. If I do, I’ll go crazy. I’ll think about that tomorrow.”

*Filmed not far away in Petaluma, like “American Graffiti”. Features a very early role by Jim Carrey. And Barbara Harris was quite wonderful in Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot, filmed partly in San Francisco.

Faux Pho

I came home from a long day at the jobette on Tuesday to find Rob and his power tools hard at work in the bathroom, installing the extractor fan. In order for him to do that, I had to move things around in the storage loft above the bathroom, and remove a box of my father’s letters.

I made the mistake of glancing at one or two of them, dated just weeks before his sudden death, and was overwhelmed with emotion and choked up with tears. I stowed the box under the stairs, marvelling that thirteen years after we lost him, the grief can still be so fresh. Audrey promptly sat on the box, perhaps saving me from myself.

In a Dad-like manner, I turned my attention to dinner, trying out a new recipe for pho, a Vietnamese soup.

Needless to say, I took serious liberties with the original recipe, partly because it uses beef, which I don’t eat, and partly because that’s just the way I am.

Here’s the original recipe. I skipped the first part and substituted two cans of Campbell’s chicken broth (there is no substitute for Campbell’s, though it is a little salty) and two cans of water. I poached two boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the broth along with the spices. I cut down on the cinnamon and skipped the star anise. Also left out the salt due to the Campbell”s, and used about a teaspoonful of brown sugar in place of rock sugar.

As for the garlic-chili oil, I used about a quarter teaspoon of red pepper flakes, since food should come in hot, medium, mild, and Suzy, and stepped up the sesame oil, because I love it.

I poured the soup through a colander into a smaller pot, then cut up the chicken and returned it to the broth. I brought the broth up to a simmer and added the rice noodles instead of pre-soaking, etc., and cooked for about 15 minutes. I served it with lime wedges, chopped cilantro, bean sprouts, and chopped green onions.

It was magically delicious.

Birthday Party


Birthday Girl

So it’s this weekend, and I still haven’t written about last weekend! After work, I stopped by the family property for Kalli’s birthday party and BBQ. Jarrett’s beautiful girlfriend celebrated her 21st birthday* on a beautiful day, surrounded by friends and family.

Being from Willits, where, as you know, they usually keep the heat which occasionally escapes out to the Coast for a vacation, she came prepared with a wonderful canopy (we all immediately decided that we should look into getting one) for shade:

as well as lots of coolers (stocked with ice and beverages), tons of food, and tents. She and Jarrett and their friends had plenty of room to camp in the huge garden.

Jonathan manned the grill as usual, producing pulled pork, chicken, and vegetarian options for burritos, garnished with onions from the garden and peppers from somewhere else (the garden ones are not quite ready yet, though there are green beans, peas, summer squash, and strawberries galore).

After dinner, there were pies. The one on the left is a blackberry pie, made from blackberries picked that day, and the other is cherry, both made from scratch, though the cherries were picked by someone other than us:

Dave and Jennifer joined us. They are digging a new well down at their place, and getting started on preparations for building their house there. It was great to see them and catch up on their news. I feel so lucky to have such great friends, family, and family who are also friends – not to mention friends who are family!

*Like many other beautiful girls, including my niece Cat and my cat Audrey, her birthday is July 2.

Cats and Carpentry

I was on my way home from the jobette last night when my phone rang. I don’t usually answer the phone in the car*, but I was stopped at a light, and far enough back that I knew it wouldn’t be my turn to turn onto the highway before the light turned red again (hello, summer!). Also it was Rob, who rarely calls.

Rob was at the hardware store a mere two blocks away, shopping for wiring for the bathroom fan and other sundries, so I met him there. We divided the labor by the socialist principles of “Each according to his need; each according to his ability”, meaning that Rob picked stuff out and I paid for it. It worked out well, since I still have no idea what the difference is between finishing nails and escutcheon pins (though I enjoyed saying “escutcheon”) or what kind of wiring we needed. The little basket of sundries cost about $60, but it’s still cheap at the price.

It was fun to spend time in the hardware store with Rob (and spend time we did – there was a fair amount of meandering involved), and I’ve really enjoyed working on this project with him. I think he is having fun using his manual skills and his creative, design skills. Also I love him.

We went our separate ways from there. I stopped off at the post office and UPS on jobette related issues, then went to my coworker and friend’s house:

to let her cats back into the house and feed them. She is on vacation so I am cat sitting. Her cats are the total opposite of mine: I had to physically eject one of them, and she tried to get back in. When I arrived that evening, they were sitting sadly on the front porch, looking as if I were late picking them up from school. I bet Megan wishes my cats were more like these cats!

*Well, it’s illegal. But it’s mostly because I hate talking on the phone. I consider the lack of cell service around here to be a plus, rather than a minus.

Another Bathroom Update

I’m pleased to announce that the floor is done in the bathroom:

So much nicer than lime green plywood! Here’s what it looked like in progress:

Rob did it bit by bit, partly because the tiles are not self stick and needed some kind of goop to be applied and then set for a day or two before being walked on, and partly so I was still able to use the bathroom while the floor was being worked on. When I couldn’t use the sink (the stage above), I realized that other than the bathroom, I only have one mirror in the house (upstairs on the side of the armoire/cat perch), a shocking oversight on the part of the frivolous and vain.

Still on the to do list:

  • Install the extractor fan to help minimize dampness. Mark has allegedly ordered it, and even when it does arrive, wiring and switches are involved, so it won’t be quick.
  • Take out the current towel rods and install the glass one with copper ends which Rob rescued and renovated.
  • Repair the medicine cabinet. Ironically, this was the catalyst for the bathroom project and remains undone. The existing one had the mirror/cover hinges screwed into plastic, and surprise! They broke. It now hangs by a thread and at a dejected angle. Rob is thinking of expanding it and making it work with his Robness, but again this will not be a quick fix. I bet it will be cool when it’s done, though.

Rob thinks the whole room should be repainted (or painted at all, since it’s apparently just primer on there now), but I can’t say the project fills me with enthusiasm.

What I am enthusiastic about is the new door. Rob and I went to visit our neighbor who sold us the screen door for the sleeping loft’s balcony (for which I am thankful more than half of the year) to find one for the bathroom.

We wanted one that was narrower than the existing door, so it could actually clear the shower pan when opened, and had glass panes to let in light. We found one that was a little narrower (24 inches wide) than we wanted (though still wider than Megan and Rob’s front door, a mere 18 inches), but really beautiful:

The door needed accessories, like hinges and a beautiful vintage doorknob set:

I may well be a doorknob, because the door and its accoutrements were far and away the most expensive items at about $200 total (the tiles cost $6 total, and the light fixtures and towel rods were free other than refurbishing supplies), and also totally unnecessary. I could have just kept the door I had, but it makes the bathroom really dark, even in the summer. Let there be light, I say.

As soon as Rob and I got back to my house, we looked at the other bathroom door, with its cheap, shiny knob, and Rob said, “That’s gotta go.” I agreed, thinking of the many other lovely sets at the neighbor’s place. I could get one that’s less expensive, right? That’s what always happens: you fix one thing, and everything else looks terrible. Good thing the labor costs are so low!

Getting There

Back when I lived in San Francisco, I wrote a post about my walk home from work. It was a beautiful walk through a beautiful city. Sometimes I still miss living there, but it’s more like I can’t believe I ever lived there than wanting to live there now. Even if I did, I’m priced out of the market: the average one bedroom apartment rents for $3,500 a month. And you can pay up to $50,000. A month.

I thought it might be fun for you to come along with me on my long drive to the Big Town. So settle back into Wednesday’s lovely leather seats, pray that no lights appear on the dashboard, get ready for some tunes, and let’s go!

Yes, the dirt/gravel driveway is in horrible shape, and you can feel the wheels cringe as you bounce and jolt your way down it. On the bright side, there is currently a tree covered with a cloud of white flowers arching over it in a splendidly bowery manner.

The Ridge is slightly better, especially once you pass the firehouse and get to the part that was paved in honor of Jim and Joel’s wedding last summer. Coming around a curve, the trees part, and you have a panoramic view of the Pacific. I never get tired of this reveal, and it’s where I try to gauge the weather for the day: white caps heralding storms, how far out to sea the fog is, etc. Sometimes you’ll see a migrating whale or a fishing boat. In any season and in all weathers, it’s always beautiful and always changing:

On your left is a field with happy cows and horses grazing peacefully among the elegant barn buildings. Yes, a barn can be elegant! At sunset, the field is suffused with pink. Across the street is beautiful downtown Hooterville, home of the post office, hardware store, and the Gro, its beating heart.

When you reach Highway 1, you turn left to go to the city and right to go to the Big Town. You cross the iconic Hooterville bridge:

the first of many – and pass a field of llamas across from a fancy inn, over a hill and you’re at Dark Gulch, where the trees provide eternal shade. You follow the curves past a resort and reach one of my favorite parts of the drive: a steep curve bordered by tall eucalyptus trees, which create a magical golden light when it’s sunny. There’s a peek of ocean beyond.

More curves and you pass the lovely cemetery with its walk to the ocean – not a bad place to spend eternity. Then the little town with the deli and inn (celebrating 75 years this year) with the bar which Megan and I enjoy so much. Around another curve is a beach beloved by kayakers and divers. Coming home, the descent to that beach is my absolutely favorite view, and on the way to work, I keep peeking at the view in the rearview mirror.

The highway more or less straightens out after that. You pass a beautiful Victorian house, now draped with wisteria, across from another field bordering the ocean, and soon you’ll get your first sight of the Village, perched dramatically on a long rocky finger jutting into the ocean. It looks like a postcard:

You arrive at the first traffic light of the drive, the last one before you arrive in the Big Town, home of the jobette, the Safeway, DMV, and other necessary but non-scenic places. I often think of it as the Ellsworth to the Village’s Bar Harbor.

On the way home, I often pass the Cal Trans prisoner work crews heading back to prison. I always wave at them, even though it’s not very likely they can see me behind the barred windows. But I’m thankful for their work clearing brush and other wildfire dangers from the sides of the highway, and I think it’s a great idea to give the prisoners a meaningful job to do as well as getting them outside for a few hours. Win-win as far as I’m concerned.

And there you have it! Maybe it’s a little long, but it’s a lot better than gridlocked traffic on a freeway. As a visiting writer for the Village Voice put it, “If I had guts, I would move to Mendocino County, California…During the summer, tourists flock to the wineries and the town serves as a popular seaside retreat. When winter arrives, it feels as empty as an abandoned fishing village off the coast of Newfoundland. It takes guts to survive, but the lifestyle payoff is enormous.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Festive

Today is the birthday of fabulous girls: Audrey, the queen of my house, has been bossing me around for seven years now; it’s my niece’s birthday in far off Australia (though maybe it was yesterday, or tomorrow, or last week since she is on the other side of the world), and Jarrett’s lovely girlfriend Kalli is also celebrating a birthday, though her official party will be held next weekend at the family property. Happy birthday, beautiful girls!

Yesterday was the jobette’s birthday. It was founded five years ago, and since I have worked there for three and a half years now, I like to think I’m part of its success. We got lunch from The Q, turned the sign to “Closed”, and drank local sparkling wine (voted best in the state at the California State Fair), followed by cake. It was really fun, and I love the people I work with.

After the celebration, it was back to business as usual, including my yearly performance review, which went well. It’s nice to be appreciated.

Of course, it was also Canada Day, and Megan and Rob’s 23rd anniversary. I passed Rob in the driveway and wished him a happy anniversary. He looked confused, and then said it was the 27th and he still had a few days. He looked horrified to learn that he was wrong on this point. Later, I texted Megan to wish her a happy anniversary and she had also forgotten. So they were even.