Thursday, December 31, 2009

Au Revoir 2009

It's a drop dead gorgeous day today. Yesterday's rain washed the gunk out of the air and visibility today must be 15 miles. We can see snow on the mountains and the colors of the trees and hillsides are vivid.

I dispatched a few problems - things I was simply not capable of yesterday -feeling too wobbly and confused. The electrician and I ran over some last minute changes he has to make before cabinets go in.I met with William at the cabinet shop -nobody was there; no saws screaming. I could him and he could hear me! Not something that happens often. He chatted with me a bit and belied his republican leanings.

My second last stop was Lowes where I purchased a couple of towel bars and some faucets for the master bedroom. I also bought different lamp shades for one of our light fixtures. Final stop was at the fountain nursery on the corner to look once again at fountains and colors. Richard and I can go together to pick one out - they will deliver it along with some large pots we need for the courtyard.

Richard was picking up his car from service today. He stopped and had a hot dog, something he never does. I guess he was ringing out the old year with a splurge.

Overall, it was a productive day for the last one of the year! On one of the blogs I read the writer had suggested we all give the finger to 2009 - because of so much world- wide suffering from the economic woes. We're down to a handful of retailers on Main Street..more than half have gone out of business. Plenty of "for sale" and "for rent" signs around here. 2010's got to be better...Happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

%^&%^&%^&% jacuzzi tub

I wish I'd never seen the jacuzzi tub at Lowes. While we were framing, I noticed a sale at Lowes of bath tubs and wandered in the department to take a look, even though we had no plans for a tub. The small jacuzzi tub was on sale for around $800. I took note of the measurements and went back to the rancho to speak to the framer. Yes, he said - we could squeeze it in.

Since then we've spent at least twice as much and probably more working and re-working the space. The first plumber gave us bad advice about access. We put the access underneath the tub, from the closet below..that was how he thought it should be done. Plumber #2 said he was crazy and there should be access from the tile/room side. We ended up with a hole for the tub that is too small, an access hole that is unaccessible and another 3 trips from the plumber all to end in failure. It's been a curse and it will likely continue to haunt. Richard's solution at the moment is to install the thing with a regular electrical switch to prevent it switching itself off. I think this is an OK idea because I doubt that it will be used very frequently. Meanwhile, we have to get a tile guy to come over and recut the hole in the tile. Yikes.

Braving the elements

Out into the drizzle this afternoon, to the nursery to buy a succulent arrangement. Myrtle Creek nursery has terrific Christmas decorations and I thought there might be some on sale. They had been cleaned out!! A few scraggly unmatched things were left. I was almost alone there because of the rain. It was a light drizzle - the kind of rain that Washingtonians ignore altogether, but Southern Californians view in a peculiar way. Most native Californians love the rain (it's different), light their fireplaces (even if it's 60 degrees), drag out the rain gear (umbrellas, raincoats, gloves and hats) and think of themselves as "braving the elements". After living in the Pacific Northwest for a couple of years where light rain falls almost everyday - you don't give it a thought. I rarely even used the umbrella when I lived in Olympia - too much trouble, too cumbersome, too dangerous (you could poke someone in the eye).

I stopped at Hanks hardware to see if they had Christmas stuff on sale. Their left-overs were even more pitiful than the nursery. On a folding table near the entrance was a HodgePodge pile of faucets, cheap tools, cupboard handles, everything in torn or absent packaging. The assortment reminded me of Kiev when Bob and I went there to the Ukrainian equivalent of a home improvement store.

Swordfish, green beans and mashed potatoes for dinner. For wine, we opened one of the bottles Rhonda sent for Christmas - a chenin blanc that was very much like a Riesling and almost effervescent. Delicious.

Earlier in the day I made a marinade for green olives: fresh tarragon, orange peel, garlic, fennel seeds and blood orange olive oil. I'll take this to Ina and Jerry's tomorrow - they already have far too much food.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Somethings finished

The sidewalks were finished today - the stones are all down. Next week, they will be sealed and then we can call the job finished. Rochas wants $700 for sealing the caps on the retaining walls. Think I will do that job myself.

Today, I met with the plumber who is supposed to finish installing the tub and last toilet today as well as the water softener. The handyman finished most of the work in the small bathroom. I ran down to the cabinet shop again..still picking out knobs. They are planning to deliver the cabinets starting next week which means the week after. Tomorrow I have to get on the appliance people to get everything there. Also do some electrical modifications.

The handyman, Brad is giving me a price on creating a wooden arch for our little hallway.

I had a small accident today, banging the rear view mirror off my car. I hit the gate as it was closing. I bent down to pick up an avocado and didn't realize the gate was closing. Bango, Slamo - off ripped the mirror and it made a scratch on the door as it flew off. Darn.

Richard and I are going out for Mexican food tonight. Too lazy to cook.

Monday, December 28, 2009


Sidewalks almost finished on house. The stone guys have yet to clean up everything and seal stones and tiles. They may be finished at the end of the week. Cabinets are now set for next week (ha). I've been on the phone all day with roofer, cabinet guys, granite installers, appliance people. Richard on the phone all day with medical and dental plans - we have until the end of the year to make changes.

Not in work clothes today! Yay.

Sunday, December 27, 2009


Cruising up to the rancho at a good clip, I enjoyed seeing the sun on slopes. I pretend I don't see the wire fencing along the road that has giant holes in it from crashes. The mountains in the distance were back lit, blue and moody looking. Will I ever get accustomed to Christmas without the cold part?

After the deck was completed, the lazy workmen threw all the small bits over the edge and there was pieces of wood scattered all over. Once I arrived, I realized I didn't have a wheelbarrow or something to collect the wood scraps in so I turned the SUV into a dump truck, filling up the back with pieces of lumber, driving up to the trash bin, emptying it and driving back. Because challenging my sense of balance helps me get my brain reset, I actually enjoy this kind of work. Yes, I stumble, fall and slide but I'm working on the grove floor which is piled up with 20 years of leaf litter, like a deep, fluffy blanket. The falls aren't serious.

Pinko kept me company, resting between bouts of lizard chasing. It turned out to be a nice day for working hard. Not too warm and not cold enough that it was uncomfortable. After 1/2 hour of work, I took off my jacket and worked in a sweat shirt.

We worked until about 3:30, Pinko chasing lizards, Richard spraying and me picking up junk. At home, we had our turkey soup, a nice salad including pomegranate seeds from the garden, an Asian pear, onions and arugula and Shari's garlic bread made from Pillsbury biscuits.

1 large can regular biscuits
1 cup Parmesan cheese kraft
2 tablespoons garlic powder or granulated garlic
1 teaspoon - optional add herbs ( rosemary) or (basil, oregano)
¾ stick of butter, melted

Directions: Cut biscuits into quarters (1/4ths). Set aside. In small bowl or ziplock bag, combine Parmesan cheese and garlic. Toss biscuit pieces into Parmesan garlic mixture to coat surface completely.. Place coated biscuit pieces in prepared bundt pan (lightly spray with nonstick Pam). Layer biscuits into pan and then pour melted butter over top. Bake for 30 minutes at 350° F.

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Blast from the Past

Len Vopynfjord emailed me from Palm Springs. I had sent Henry, Lorraines widower, a photo of Lorraine, Eilleen and me playing in the yard at 1251. Henry was in Paraguay but sent the email on to Len. We live in wonderful times for communication. Len in turn sent me a picture of himself Lottie and Axel when Len was about 13.

When Len was about 4 Lottie and Axle had to go somewhere and they left Lennie with us for the day. Mother asked him what he liked to eat for dinner. He answered "wolf meat". My parents thought this was hilarious and they used to say this to each other for years after..if one was hungry they'd say "how about a little wolf meat?".

I have another memory of him on a car ride somewhere. He sang "Alfalfa Hay" all 100 refrains. I think we all ended up singing along - my parents with their eyes rolling of course. I guess he always sang.

We had short email exchange and he will be visiting on his way from San Diego back to Palm Springs at the end of the month. I'm looking forward to seeing him.

He asked if I had seen "My Winnipeg" - I had of course and loved it. He informed me that Guy Madden was Ross Maddens brother. Ross and I and Len car pooled together for a couple of years to the U of M.


Another gorgeous day in Fallbrook. Bright and sunny but only 48 degrees. It'll warm up fast. I'm off to the rancho to clean up the deck scraps. Why am I doing this...because it forces me to climb up and down a hill and work on my balance. These challenges are very helpful. I also need the distraction as the tumor is swelling and bothering me - that is giving me the wonkies. I either go to bed or get active.

Last night we ate turkey leftovers in the form of hot turkey sandwiches. Tonight we have soup made from the carcass and we have plenty of salad stuff left. We watched the only available episode of Mad Men last night. The series is terrific and such a blast from the past. They were taking cigarettes out of a contraption that sort of flipped the cigarettes up when you opened it. I think the Wiebes had one of these. Everything on the sets is so authentic. After the episode was over, I actually felt like smoking - something I haven't given a thought to for 20 years at least. On New Years day it will be 34 years since I quit.

For the soup, I bought 2 lbs. of carrots at the Mexican market for a whopping $.49. Richard said 10 lbs of potatoes were on sale at the market for $.98. If worse comes to worse, we'll be able to afford soup. Speaking of which I won an easy battle with social security to have my portion of Medicaid payments reduced to 1/4 what they were charging me. They based my assessment on one income tax return for the year I sold a house and had a lot of income? Now the payment is down to $98.00. Incidentally you get penalized if you are married filing separately...a much higher assessment. They like to fine you for this as they want you to combine incomes and pay a higher they ding you wherever they can.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Slippers dangereuse

Boxing day! I have nice memories of this day back home in Canada. Many people would hold Open Houses. These "parties" were very casual and usually included left-overs from the Christmas celebrations - pickled eggs, stuffed eggs, boxed chocolates, nuts, Christmas cookies, Christmas cake (yuck) and booze. Presents would be on display - clothing in the boxes with the wrapping paper still partially on. You'd look at the presents and ooh and aaahh and then eat a little bit, have a drink and go on to the next Open House.

Richard gave me a pair of Beatrix Ong slippers - they are beautiful, hand made and expensive, but don't fit at all. He is hoping I can get inserts that will make them fit but I fear the gap is too large in every sense. If they were just a pair of regular slippers, I'd fake it to make him happy, but these are tres chere and he ordered them from a boutique in London. I'd love to wear them, but they fall off my feet with every step and I can walk out of them. With my wobbliness, they are actually dangerous. But they would be perfect for an Open House display.

I checked the Winnipeg weather and found out it's -8 centigrade but feels like -14 centigrade. According to the Free Press people actually stayed up all night, waiting for retail stores to open with their fantastic Boxing Day sales. So, this is a different kind of day than I remember. Boxing day was definitely a holiday; nothing was open and that is probably why people had the parties. It's likely another lost tradition.

Here, the day after Christmas is the day many people, who I believe are crazy, go to the stores to return gifts. The lines are endless, it's frustrating and totally ridiculous - if you don't have to go on this particular day, why would you do it? Most of the stores give you a month at least for returns. Penney's gives you six months. Nevertheless, you can be sure the return counters have long lines snaking out the door. Particularly at places like Coles. Ugh.

I on the other hand will be scraping floors today. What a joy! After the floor scraping, I'll move back on the window cleaning which is half finished (a specialty of mine). The carpeting people looked at the closet floor and said that every bump on the floor would be perceptible under the carpet. I pointed out the bumps because I hoped they would offer to scrape them off with some kind of fancy scraping device. No such luck.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Jim and Paula came for dinner. We had the usual: roast turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts. Made a new stuffing
recipe from Good Housekeeping magazine which incorporated wild rice, squash, bread, cranberries, cream and eggs. For desserts we had rosemary lemon cookies and a nut bar, both from Sunset magazine and both very good.

Now we flop on the bed to watch "A Christmas Story", one of my all-time favorites.

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Courtyard finished

One more task completed. The courtyard has been covered with pavers. They are working on the walkway. It's cool today but
sunny - a good day for hard work. Here are the pavers.

The paving contractor Mr. Rochas is a funny guy. Every time I show up, he seems to be selling me yet again. The contract is signed and he's getting paid, so I don't why he continues to sell. Probably a translation problem - maybe he's selling future work..I'm not sure. He certainly is getting the job done and is clean and fast.

They were playing Mexican music loud yesterday when I got there. I did a dance for Mr. Rochas on the new pavers. He laughed uncomfortably. I sure he thinks I'm a little crazy. I'm just so happy to get rid of all the dirt and chaos that's been out there for the past months.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Major Visit

Today, Jennifer and her kids came out to visit for the afternoon. We had a good time walking through the grove picking up avocados and filling a couple of bags. They enjoyed running around in the leaves, picking up sticks, walking across the stream..all the little things that kids do outdoors. We picked three bags full. Everyone brought a toy truck along and they enjoyed letting the trucks roll down the hills and of course, crashing into fences, flipping over and other exciting mishaps.

After a couple of hours everyone was cold and we went back to the Fallbrook house to warm up. Another couple of hours was spent chatting - the kids wanted to see the cats who went into deep hiding mode. I had no idea where they were and they wouldn't respond to calls.

Jennifer put Brad in my arms for a while and he felt really good to hold...such a warm little bundle. He's very sweet and didn't cry once. She carries him around strapped to her front with a kind of bandeaux thing that reminds me of what the Guatemalan women use. Very practical and simple.

It was a great day.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Our neighbor is a donkey

The only news we seem to have relates to the construction at the moment. Yesterday I did take an hour or so to walk through the grove, gathering up some of the avocados that fell during the wind and rain 10 days ago. The leaves are building up on the road so it's noisy when you prowl around. Pinkie accompanied me - he enjoys running a little ahead and then waiting for me to catch up. They love it when you root around in the leaves for avocados because the occasional critter gets stirred up.

They had an exciting day last week when the donkey from next door decided to come close to the fence. I confess that I've been feeding him bits of my energy bar (lunch) and he really, really likes the treat. The cats seem fascinated by him even though he's so big. Sometimes I think the cats don't really have any sense of size - only assessing whether they can jump on something and eat it or not.

Still cleaning - it took me a day to do the avocado door and a day yesterday on the bedroom slider where the concrete was splashed on the window. It will take another day's work to get it finished because the only thing that removes that stuff is elbow grease.

Tomorrow we take our friend Fran over to Quail Gardens to see the lights and to have dinner right on the ocean. She enjoys getting out and we enjoy it because it forces us to get away from the rancho.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Work Day at the Rancho

Rancho day. I'm hanging up cupboard doors and doing some measuring. I'm going to try to get Marie to come up for help with the carpeting color and cabinet tops in some furniture ideas. Tomorrow Brad comes to drill the bathtub and hopefully the plumbers can follow and install the toilet and tub upstairs and the water softener. Richard is busy with gas connections and getting line up for our final inspections. We have to bundle up because it's pretty cold out there in the mornings.

Meanwhile Rochase should start installing the pavers this afternoon.

I will work on cleanup of the house in the areas that I can.

Higinio gave us a $3200 bid on the railing. It's dropping like a rock. I will design precisely what the railing should be today to make sure we are talking about the same thing.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Patty passed on

Today around 3:30 Patty passed on. We have all said our goodbyes many times over the past month or so, thinking at each visit that we'd never see her again. She fooled us and kept on fooling everyone. On an IV drip for three weeks, she seemed to be doing fine. Under advisement from the hospice care team, we took her off the drip earlier this week which hastened her demise. For the last four days she was semi-conscious and wasn't responsive. I saw her on Thursday and didn't think she'd last very long.

Richard is busy now sending emails to the family members and he's planning to go up to Solheim tomorrow to take care of the disposition of her few belongings. Everything Solheim will take, they are welcome to. Jim will likely keep all the family photos.

The picture is of Brini (2007)during her brief stay here. She had a tough life and at the end she had to share with Buster and Pink. I would put her food on the dining room table because if it was on the ground she'd have to fight for it with the boys. They loved her and would purr when she was near but she couldn't stand them. She got out and probably got eaten by a coyote. I don't know if it was suicide but I hope not. We never told Patty about Brini and she didn't ask.

We'll miss Patty.

Strange Deat

Have I been living under a rock? I read an article in one of the food magazines excoriating the general public for buying wines based on critics ratings. Guilty as charged. Most of my wine is purchased from Costco and I concentrate on wines rated 90 and above which are reasonably priced. What other than these ratings are we supposed to use? To update myself on the current status of wine marketing (outside Costco and Trader Joe's) I walked around the wine section of Major Market looking for clues on bottles as to the quality and value of the wine inside. Have I been missing something? Apparently so...sometimes in the past couple of years, wine makers have taken to extreme measures to get attention in the clutter and clamor of the typical wine retail display.

Label art appears to be the big deal in selling wine. Either you have a big, established name which sells a lot of wine, or you get clever. I noticed that many of the wineries have taken to using unexpected names. "Bitch" is one of these that leaped off the shelf - bright pink label. Now I thought - would I ever buy this? Can't think of one reason why. Do I expect that this wine would be particularly good? No, I'd think it was a mediocre wine that some marketing person thought they could foist off with a unique label or name. I wouldn't buy it for the same reasons I wouldn't buy a wine called "Get Fat" or "You're Fat", although I wouldn't be surprised to see such a thing. Could you give "Bitch" to someone, anyone, as a Christmas present? Or would you just want to keep it for yourself to affirm your self-loathing every time you open the refrigerator. I had very negative feelings about another wine with artful graphics called Plungerhead. Call me a stick in the mud, but references to plungers or plumbing accessories do not belong on the same label as something you are going to consume.

There was a whole array of wines with names reminiscent of state of mind or mood. Permutations, Temptation, Earthquake, Horseplay, Layer Cake.

Another label-marketing technique appears to be the writing of a back story on the reverse side. One such bottle with eye-catching graphics was called "hey mambo". Copy on the back label was musing by an imaginary someone sitting in a cafe listening to a singer and sipping presumably, this wine. With 5 lines of copy they are attempting to be so entrancing that you will overcome with the desire to duplicate the mood and buying the wine. Tall order. Probably the most honest name was "Educated Guess". They admit on the reverse label they have no idea what label graphic elements translate into purchases and that they've made an educated guess and hope they are right.

An aside: If I ever worked for a big company again, I'd encourage them to beta test all labels because I've seen odd mistakes in food labeling - some just as peculiar as wine labels. When I worked at Lawry's we produced for foodservice a spaghetti sauce with mushrooms. For school foodservice customers, they began making the same sauce without mushrooms. Guess what they called it? Spaghetti sauce without mushrooms! What? If it's going to be called "without" something, why not make it more interesting than mushrooms. Another product had been packaged with a baking bag. When Lawry's removed the bag (the cooking fad passed), they added a button bug to the front saying, "Use your own pot or pan!" Big deal. And while I was at Denny's and we devised the Grand Slam Special, the ad guys insisted on putting in copy referring to using a pan "just the right size". Again I ask, does the consumer care? Crazy mistakes made by insiders who know the whole story and do not see how ridiculous this appears to the outsider.

After I finished walking down the aisles I was no more enlightened than when I began. Reviewing the labels gave me little or no insight into the quality of the wine inside. If they bore detailed descriptions of anything about their process: the grapes, the climate, the method of production, the personality quirks of the wine maker - that information would convey some facts related to price - hand picked versus machine harvested for example. That said, would any of this information really tell me whether I would like the flavor of the wine or not? No. I don't have the expertise to relate one method of crushing versus another to a finished flavor. In the final analysis, the cuter the name, the fancier the label and the wittier the copy, the more suspicious I became of the contents.

Bottom line is that I'm sticking with the ratings for making choices and to hell with the critics.

Another aside: on one of the little flaps hanging on the wine shelf, someone had written that a wine was "Taylor made" for fish and salads. Can you get more insider than that. Who's Taylor...why should I care? Later that night on the news broadcast about a "strange death" the background graphics read "strange deat". Once you start picking nits, goodbye happiness. 

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Patios Tiled

Our patios are almost tiled. The largest one is complete except for the wash off of the grout. The front step stoop and the front small dining room patio have yet to be grouted. Perhaps Mannie will finish this week.

The blue glass sink and tap are into the guest bedroom and cabinets up on the walls. Tomorrow I'll attach the cabinets, do a big cleaning inside them and call it a day for now. Mannie will have to do the back splash, we hang a mirror and have the glass guys come next week to finish it off.

We are going to be crowded into the rancho and it'll take a bit of time to get used to the smaller space. Office wise we are OK but everyplace else is tight. We have much more outdoor space of course and I'm looking forward to that. Particularly to sitting outside with coffee. I have the spot picked out that gets morning sun pretty well all winter and it's cool in the summer.

I decided on a little diamond shape for the two front pillars and am ordering extra tiles so that Mannie can do this next time he's up.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Patty's Hospice Care

Richard was notified Saturday night that his mother was increasingly uncomfortable with the hydration IV. Once again Patty has beaten the odds and she lives on. The hospice nurse suggested that the hydration should be stopped and assured Richard that she wouldn't be uncomfortable and it would hasten her demise. Sadly, Richard told them today to remove the IV. "Pulling the plug" was hard on him; he choked up on the phone with me today.

Even though you know when this kind of thing is coming, it's still hard at the end. The realization that everyone dies alone is a cruel one and can be very distressing. No matter how many time you think it, with the death of your mother, the only human who loves you in that particular way, you feel the lonliness acutely.

The Christmas tree got lugged out of it's resting place in the garage. Both cats participated in the decorating. I hate to complain about early darkness and cooler temperatures because we are so lucky to be living where the winter is mild. Nevertheless, the Christmas tree lit up for a month really helps add a dimension to the season.

Rain started early this morning and we woke up to a leak in the piano room. The usual leaky space in the garage didn't leak this time. I can never figure that out.

I had a tooth cleaning this morning and they checked gum pockets. Mine are fine, hooray. No gum disease on the horizon. I remember when my Mom had to have her teeth out. She made sure nothing was happening that would require her to leave the house for a week until she got her dentures. As luck would have it, an uncle died - throwing Mom into a tizzy. I came home from school and she was trying to pull the teeth out of a pair of dentures Dad had discarded. I guess she thought the dentists implanted the teeth in artificial gums. Fortunately she abandoned all notions of "doing it herself" and just stayed home for the uncle's ceremony.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Near a celebrity

On a red eye coming back from New York, decades ago, I sat across the aisle from Rudolph Nureyev's masseur. The man had just resigned the job and was leaving New York in his rear view mirror - ready to start anew on the left coast. For a couple of hours he told me horror stories about Nureyev. Apparently he was a monster to work for. Horribly demanding and totally inconsiderate of people's time and schedule. If he wanted a massage in the middle of the night, his masseur had to come running or risk being fired on the spot. In the presence of others, he'd order the masseur around like a dog, speak to him disrepectfully and jerk his chain. The poor man poured out all these complaints in half-whisper in the dark, while most of our fellow passengers were sleeping.

Every time I saw Nureyev after that encounter, I couldn't enjoy his dancing nearly as much as formerly, when I saw him sans personality as a blank page with fantastic jumps.

My expensive sink redux

I was at the wholesale appliance store yesterday talking to the plumbing guy. I told him about my sink - paying so much to have plumbing and electrical to the island and feeling I should invest in a fancy sink. When I told him about the $1200 job I was considering he was sort of smirking. So I asked - "what's funny?" And he said - "you wanna see expensive sinks?" And he handed me a catalog full of incredible sinks. They were pieces of art and surely people don't really use them to wash dishes and such ordinary tasks. Some were beautifully etched, unusual shapes, some with precious stones. $1200 would be "entry level", as they put it, in the sink game.

I visited William at the cabinet shop yet again. We are drawing closer to the finish line.

Another celebrity encounter

It was a cold, clear night at Mammoth Mountain. Several days prior, we'd seen hand bills posted around town that Gordon Lightfoot , the Canadian folk singer was going to perform. We snapped up 8 or 9 tickets and were really excited to be able see him in such an unlikely place. The venue was a large pizzeria that they'd cleared out of tables and arranged several hundred chairs to accommodate as large a crowd as possible. We arrived about 1/2 hour before concert time to be polite and also to secure our seats. The room quickly filled up, concert time came and went and although there was plenty of action on-stage - tuning, arranging and testing speakers, tuning the piano endlessly, concert time didn't seem close. After about an hour, Eilleen and I went outside for a breath of air and were standing there admiring the night sky when a man I'd seen moving things around on stage comes out for a cigarette. We chat about snow conditions, skiing etc and I ask him, "What's with all the tuning and re-tuning and on and on when the audience has been sitting waiting around for so long". He replies, "Lightfoot is kind of an asshole about that stuff. He's a perfectionist and won't get started until everythings the way he likes it." Hmmm. I said...the audience will probably walk out pretty soon if he doesn't get his act together". He stomps out his cigarette and says, "See you later". I walk back in and about 15 minutes later, guess who takes the microphone in hand to start his show, but the guy from the parking lot. The picture posted of Lightfoot looked nothing like the man on stage.

Gordon gave a great performance and we enjoyed it immensely though I felt really embarrassed about the complaining I'd done. The next morning, we're having breakfast in a coffee shop and he walks in, sees me and comes straight over for a laugh. He thought it was pretty funny and admitted to doing that same scene more than once.

I just googled Gordon and found out that we share the same Nov. 17th birthday. He's four years older than me and still alive!!

Majority Whip

Yesterday on a long boring ride up to LA, I had one of those flashbacks to another time. The year was 1972 and Vern won a trip to New Orleans for the Super Bowl game to be played there. A gang from Xerox went and an all-out week of drunkeness and parties ensued. We had brunches with Bloody Maries and Mimosa's at places like Brennans and The Court of Two Sisters. Group dinners were held at the many revered dining spots in the city but the dinner at Antoines sticks out most clearly in my memory.At the next table were members of Nixon's staff and cabinet. John Mitchell, Romney, Jeb McGruder, John Dean and Erlichman were faces most of us recognized. They were being hosted by military equipment manufacturers and huge construction companies. The wine and food were flowing heavily and their dinner put ours (which was amazing to me) to shame.

Later that night, we were all at Pat O'Brians still drinking and by this time singing Irish songs. I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to look into the beefy red face and watery blue eyes of Tip O"Niell, the democratic majority whip. He said, "Baby, baby - wanna go to an orgy?" and shoved one of his cards into my hand. I stammered for an answer and finally said something like - no my husband wouldn't be interested. He turned back to his companions, singing and swilling.

It was the only orgy I was ever invited to and I was "chosen" for the invitation because of the seating. I happened to be in the chair directly behind the man who I doubt was very discriminating at that time of night/morning. Too much beer and partying! In one of my many moves, I lost the card. Too bad.

It's hard for me to imagine even surviving a week like that one again in my life.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

My expensive sink

The cabinet maker talked me into putting a sink in the island. At this point, it's an expensive correction involving plumbing, jackhammering through concrete, electrical circuits. However, we decided he was right and went forward. Now that we've invested in all the infrastructure I decided to splurge on a fancy sink. We chose a Swiss stainless steel sink which comes with a lot of accessories. I hope we will like it after all the hassle getting it in.

Finally we have someone to do our pavers. Sal Rochas will start in 2 weeks; unfortunately it's supposed to start raining next week so they will be working in a mud bath. Our sprinkler system is also complete at last and we can get our inspection. I'm busy selecting carpet for the office and ordering the appliances. The end is in sight.

I've ordered a touch sensitive kitchen faucet. It turns on and off when you touch the thing either on the spigot or the handle. When your hands are gunky you don't have to get the handle all gunky too.

Pictures are of the Swiss sink for the island, the touch sensitive faucet and my tool chest.

Richard's mother was conscious when we visited and she was fairly responsive - tried to laugh, and rolled her eyes at some remark one of us made. They are keeping her comfortable with morphine and the attendants are in and out of there keeping an eye on her. The minister dropped by to say hello while we were there. I didn't think she would live over the long weekend but she did and we visited again on the way back. Once again she was conscious...asleep when we walked in but woke up to the sound of our voices. She moved one finger to point as she has done before. She seems to be pointing at the TV which we have adjusted and tried to figure out what she wants us to do with it.

Driving up to Benicia was uneventful other than the usual maniacs on the road cutting in and out. At one point, I looked at the speedometer and noticed that Richard was driving at 90. Gulp. He pulled back some after that but he is a very fast driver - I can't watch and instead try to read and just leave it to him. Everything came to a halt over the grapevine because of CalTrans. Watching the side of the road, I spotted the usual array of junkola which has fallen from cars: a plaid shirt and a pair of running shoes, large sheets of plywood, blue tyvek, tons of fast food packaging and car parts - bumpers, headlights, tires. They must pick up tons of stuff when they clean it up.

Everyone was fine at the Thursday night gathering. I particularly enjoyed the company of Colette, now 4 and clearly in charge of her family. We played house and she showed me how good she was at writing words. She grasps her little pencil in her fist and writes out: Colette, Khalil, Joey, Karim. She's very bright and does the letters well. Not a bit shy, she looks you right in the eyes and says clearly what she wants.

Bill and Shell were full of news about their respective work, GoCharmz their business and the new home. They acquired a new computer and a new big flat screen TV which Bill was setting up. He got a Blu Ray player in the thing which I guess is the latest thing. Luke demonstrated his skill at playing a hand held football game. The little guy is bright, curious and loves guns, the military and every kind of conflict you can imagine.

The turkey was near perfect, roasted on a high rack according to Mike Roy's low temp formula. Doug and Jan purchased a pre-brined turkey from Trader Joe's and it delivered on every level. Kimo made Brussels Sprouts chiffonaded and flavored with pancetta. There was mashed potatoes and Jans special sherbet. An apple pie, pumpkin pie and a sweet potato cheesecake finished us all off. Jan, the energy bundle was working all day and all night but still found time to sit with Shell for a bit and give her advice about her dinner which she was preparing on Friday for her Philippino family.

Friday we drove to Sacramento to meet Meg. She had sandwiches and 5 kinds of pie!! What a terrific woman. Rand is lucky to have found her. After we got back to Benicia, we left immediately for San Ramon and the Phillipino celebration. Had a good time and left just as they were getting out the mah jong tiles. Bill said they would play until 2 or 3 in the morning. We drove
on to Chowchilla where we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express which was quite comfortable. In the morning we hit the road and drove without slowing down to Richard's Mom and then on to Fallbrook without incident. Cats were glad to see us.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One of those days

Another one of those days yesterday. Plumbing is wrong, welder didn't show up and on my 4th trip to the cabinet shop for the finishes, he still doesn't have it right. Last time there I gave him something to match and he seems to have ignored it and come up with something entirely different. My computer had to go into the shop and the sprinklers at the rancho are all screwed up. Yikes.

Today we leave for Benecia in Northern California for Thanksgiving. Hopefully we'll be ahead of the crowds and we're staying in Fresno. Tomorrow we can take a more leisurely ride to complete the trip. On the way up we'll visit with Pat. She is mostly unconcious now and it simply waiting for her last breath. I'm surprised that they are not giving her drugs. For all the time she was in the nursing home, they gave her anti-depressants and morphine. Now when you'd think she'd need it most, they are giving her nothing.

I will read all day in the car with my ear mufflers on which is the only way I can stand the road noise for the long run.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Bateman Building

Is this building cursed? I wonder. The first bar owner murdered his wife. A series of strange incidents happened over the years. Since we owned it, the bar owner was convicted of manslaughter and served time in jail. His wife, suffering from advanced MS "fell down" the stairs in their home and died, I guess, under suspicious circumstances. Copious amounts of alcohol were involved.

About the building:

Bateman Building (1949) 303-311 W. Kennewick Ave. This picture is pretty old and the building looks much better now.

Bateman building, July 2000 The Bateman building was built upon the site of the old Hotel Kennewick (built 1906) that burned down the year before, in 1948. The following article appeared about the building a 1949 issue of the Kennewick Courier-Reporter newspaper:

A new departure in architecture in the Northwest has been employed in the construction of the new Bateman Building at Kennewick Avenue and Cascade. This is the front of the building facing Kennewick Avenue which is known as a "splayed" front.

Designed by Robert H. Goss, Kennewick designer, the front serves a useful function. When the building is completed a second floor "corridor" shop will be included in that section of the building. The indented front affords an opportunity through the use of windows that reach to the floor to provide display space. In addition, the front makes possible a unique and effective lighting for the front of the building.

"The building is of functional design," Goss said, "planned for the fullest use of all space."

He added that there is "nothing fancy" about it. Plenty of strength has been provided though the use of masonry and reinforced concrete walls with mill construction.

Roman brick, an old and popular material, has been employed in the east wing. This brick will be combined with limestone in the front of the building.

When completed, the building will provide 28,000 square feet of space to make it the largest commercial structure in Kennewick. Throughout, the building has been designed for the greatest possible fire safety. A fire hose system is being installed in all parts of the structure.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Meeting Eisenhower

Fran told us a story today as we were pulling into Palm Springs. Years ago a friend of her mother-in-law went to school with Mamie Eisenhower. Dwight and Mamie wintered in Palm Springs and on one occasion Fran and Nick got invited along with her mother-in-law to a lunch they attended. Fran described them as the most down to earth people you could imagine and said that Dwight particularly liked Nick - no surprise. Eisenhower told them a few stories and they had a lunch - Fran remembered the lunch consisted of two items out of cans...she couldn't remember what they were, but they were canned things! One of them was some kind of pasta. Oh the food thrills of the 50's.

At some later date, Mamie asked Nick's mother for a recipe (I hope it wasn't for the canned pasta) and Nick drove over to the Eisenhowers to deliver it. As soon as he got out of the car a swarm of secret service people were all over them. Nick, terrified kept saying over and over, "My mother sent me over with this recipe!".

Palm Desert

We had a great day with Fran visiting Ed and Diana at their new home in PGA West. The home is gorgeous with a beautiful view and they have tastefully decorated with unique furniture and art. After visiting a while we had lunch at The Stuft Pizza. I had mahi mahi, Fran - a Cobb Salad, Richard had Poke with a slice of pizza and Ed and Diana had the calamari salad and greek pizza. Everything was very good.

The drive over on highway 79 was so much more interesting than the freeway. Traffic was light and we made very good time there and back.

The Palm Springs area looks pretty good despite the recession. Ed and Diana report that many of the golf courses are suffering although the PGA course that they see through their large view windows is still pretty crowded. I'd forgotten how lush and beautiful the PS golf courses are.

Fran told us her new mantra is that she was born in the depression and she's probably going to die in a recession. An interesting thought.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

My birthday and Patty's hospice

Five therapy sessions are completed as of today. The "girls" shook my head until it felt like it would fly off my neck. They are forcing me to focus on letters while my head is spinning. There are immediate benefits from this and once the shaking stops, the world is more stable for me. Even though our session was only 45 minutes, it was exhausting.

At the pharmacy when I stopped to pick up a prescription, they ask for your birthdate. When I told her the date, she burst into a big smile and said, "It's your birthday!". As I was leaving she shouted out - "Have a great birthday." We are going to the Elephant Bar in Vista for dinner.

As a treat for myself, I bought Margaret Atwood's new book and started to read it. Another piece of fascinating science fiction, Margaret weaves a tale which immediately pulls you into its web. A post-apocolyptic tale, this time earth has been stuck with a "waterless flood". The first character we are introduced to is alone, a survivor assessing her resources and remembering times past.

Sadly Richard was notified today that his mother has been sent back to Solheim the nursing home and is in hospice. She has her intravenous tube set-up but they will be only giving her liquids. At the longest she will live 2 weeks, but considering her age and condition I don't expect that she will live past the weekend. We will go up tomorrow and basically say our goodbyes. Oddly they are not medicating her now - you would think this would be the time to give her plenty of morphine and ativan. Patty will be happy that she is finally slipping the surly bonds of earth...she has felt that she's being punished for her sins by staying alive for so long.

Monday, November 16, 2009

LIttle Mexican Tiles

Today I ordered little Mexican tiles or "dots" as the tile guys call them. Eight designs, 10 of each will be incorporated into the outdoor patios. First I looked through all the available 2" tiles and chose a dozen designs which I printed from the web site. I cut them into 2" x 2" squares and took them up to the rancho, laying them out on the large 17" x 17" slate-like tiles at the back. Once we picked the designs, I calculated how many we would need for the pattern and placed the order. Two day turn around will get them here for Friday, when Mannie will start laying them in.

I could only post 4 designs so I guess they limit the amount you can put on your blog.

Richard and I love this type of colorful Mexican tile. Once the house is complete, I hope to mosaic the risers on our outdoor concrete stairs and maybe do a couple of pots. I enjoy piecing together the broken parts into some sort of eye-pleasing arrangement. Hard on the knees, everything seems to ache and you have to crouch over the work so it's back-breaking but rather satisfying once done.

Now when I recall Pompeii and other ancient sites when mosaic artists were commissioned to coat so many surfaces, I can better appreciate the artistic effort and the physical effort this craft requires.

The tiles are "Talevera". The designs originated in Talevera Spain, but have been copied in Mexico for so many years that they are now known world-wide as Mexican tiles.

Book Club meeting

Woman in White: Everyone liked the book and the discussion was lively. Most were impressed with Wilkie Collins' life and his experiences and how he incorporated some of them in the book. There's a Wilkie Collins web site loaded with interesting information about the man...pdf files of most of his works including commentaries he wrote on various subjects - marriage, friends etc. I can't believe how much he wrote considering that they were using nib pens, ink and writing by candlelight in tiny script to save on paper. Think of what he could have done with a word processor?

Barbara had some documents from the same era, 1860, which she purchased in England.. one of them was a probate document for a spinster's will. It's written on sheepskin and in that beautiful penmanship that most educated people used - it was so interesting to see it and imagine the clerks in a law office on high stools scratching away creating public records. The advent of the typewriter must have thrown tons of people out of work. The documents added to the discussion of that time in history.

Women's rights issues were discussed and the fact that women were thrown into insane asylums when they caused "problems" - well I guess they are still doing that in India. Wilkie apparently was particularly sensitive to this and of course, incorporated many interesting and unusual (for the times) women into this story. He modeled Marion, after his good friend George Sands.

The menu: Stuffed shells, short ribs, crackers and cheese, pumpkin cakes and Halloween cupcakes. Kathy brought an interesting wine named, Pee no Evil.

The girls told another one of their hilarious stories. They were talking about being drunk in Mexico city and how someone fell out of the car onto the median in the road. They were trying to remember who it was, when one of them remembered that it was their mother!!! Apparently she was having some sort of mid-life crisis...and ended up going off that evening with an architect. I've got to hear more about her.

Vickie picked for January and besides the book we chose, Half Broke Horses - Jeanette Walls new effort, she had four others she'd picked- two of which I thought I might read: Baking Cakes in Kilangali (Rwanda) and The Lacuna, Barbara Kingsolver's new book.

We are going to donate collectively to a charity (Susan has been collecting information) for Christmas and the meeting will be at Roxanne's house again - this will be her third year as hostess.