Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ten Reasons to Be Thankful Even if I Was Worried about the End of the World

1. California Decembers are still clement enough for geraniums to bloom. Red and green at Christmastime are apropos.

2. Even if the Fiscal Cliff thing were to come to pass, our lifestyle has put us outside the grid. We'd have little impact on our way of life, if any.

3. Our two favorite supermarkets have begun carrying potato chips cooked in olive oil -- this means I can eat them. (I can't eat the ones cooked in sunflower or canola oil, as they make me unpleasantly ill. ) Merry Christmas or Armageddon, I have had potato chips to snack on in the evening!

4. The longest night of the year will shortly be a thing of the past until a year from now. (Daylight Savings Time should be adopted year round. Night-time at 5pm is just stupid.)

5. In seven weeks, I'll be buying tomato plants for the garden. (God willing and the creek don't rise.)

6. My 6-month-old grand-daughter smiles broadly when she sees me, and she just cut her first tooth.

7. My 10-year-old grand-daughter is creative, well-spoken, and a welcome guest in other people's houses. And respectful, and loving.

8. We're getting lots of glorious rain this winter so far. Everything feels damp, but I can live with that. Fill those reservoirs! Max that Sierra snow-pack!

9. Our household is stable, and at peace with one another. Three generations living together can't always say that, but we can. We're a team, and it makes us strong.

10. The "Perfect Ten" is my marriage to Bernie. We've just celebrated 38 years since he asked me to marry him. I still remember how the world changed that day, and how I knew that I would never again feel alone, that I would always have him at my side, that we could conquer anything that life threw at us.

It was a kind of innocent assumption ... we never know how long we'll have with anyone, not really. But on the other hand, for 38 years, we were right.

Happy End of the Mayan Calendar!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Sleepy One

A chilly December evening, and on my side of the bed is my dog Howie, soundly asleep, nose curled underneath him, tail keeping his hind legs warm, his stripes not at all clashing with the purple flowers on my pillowcase.

He's confident about taking over my half of the bed; he knows that when Muvver beds down for the night, she won't order him off. Why not, when he has his own cushy pillow bed beside the dresser?

In one of those weirdo old age phases, for some unknown reason, I've begun having painful back and shoulder issues when I sleep. Painful enough that I wasn't sleeping well at all. I'd shift from right to left, rearrange my pillows, move my legs ... and then fall back to sleep only to awaken again with a numb left arm and a burning ache of muscle spasms from the base of my skull to mid back.

Of course, the less I would sleep, the more tense I would get, and the worse the symptoms. Feh. What was more, I was keeping Bernie awake with my shifting and sighing in the night.

Fed up with disturbing Bernie's sleep, one night last week I hoicked myself out of bed in the dark, found a thick throw blanket, which I threw on the floor. I found (by touch) a sheet and a couple extra blankets, and curled up on the carpet beside the bed.

The next morning I felt better rested than I had in weeks.

On subsequent nights, I added another thick throw to make my sleeping pad, and I am in absolute bliss. My dreams are better, more peaceful. I wake with energy and no pain. My arm doesn't fall asleep. The muscle spasms have stopped. And I find it easier and less old-woman-achey to get up from the floor than I did from the bed.

Muvver now sleeps on a mat beside the bed. Why shouldn't Howie curl up on the bed to keep his Daddeh company? At least while Daddeh naps. At night, Howie returns to his cushion on the floor, too. Maybe he has the same achey issues as I do. Who knows? We just find solutions when we can.

The picture above is Howie curled on my pillows, rendered in Paint program.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Hey, This Was Fun!

Yes, this was what I had in mind when I came up with my next idea for a 15-minute art project challenge.

I went out into the pouring rain and found five eucalyptus leaves (unmunched by leaf-cutter bees) and a sycamore leaf. Howie assisted by snatching leaves out of the gutter-full of rainwater and tearing them to bits -- that's his idea of gathering autumn leaves. I was simply looking for a few that were flat.

I slathered thick white watercolor paint on them, put them paint-side down on various papers, and then weighted them down with cardboard panels and cans of beans. Not crushed pineapple, not sauerkraut, beans. Butter beans and garbanzo beans, if you like specificity.

That was enough for one day.

The following day, I peeled the leaves off the paper to find lovely ghostly leaf prints. And over the next couple days, I added touches of pastel pencil to each.

There were three of these little projects: one was on cheap black construction paper, one on a not-quite-as-cheap gray craft paper, and the pictured one on Aquabee Bogus Rough Sketch, an unbleached paper that always disappoints me with its uneven tooth. You can see all three at my Flickr gallery.

I don't think I've had so much enjoyment from an art project in decades. It was simple, it produced a charming result, and it was FOR NO REASON. Cheap paint, on very cheap paper. Is that a waste? No, I guess not.

Today we took a walk, and on the way back, I collected another handful of variously-shaped leaves. Guess what I'm going to do with them!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

15-Minute Art Challenge

A grand idea. Take 15 minutes and do something creative. Just 15, that's all. And not counting prep time, either, which was a good rule because I spent nearly half an hour getting tape residue off my watercolor board, the result of my being too lazy to untape the last watercolor I did.

Goo Gone works well for that.

And then, while I was waiting for the Goo Gone to work, I noticed that the pantry shelves (my studio is right beside the pantry) were untidy, so I scuffled through them for a while. And started some laundry.

Eventually the goo was gone, and my implements prepared. (Incidentally, if you use cheap tube watercolors, use them up, otherwise they clog like my little tube of Lamp Black there in the pic.)

I soaked the paper on both sides, wanting a really juicy variegated wash. I mixed some of the Chinese White with the Lamp Black to make a gray, and slopped those pigments onto the paper. Black first, then gray, then white. I had to re-wet the paper several times, in spite of the damp from today's rain.

Once it's dry, I'll take a better picture.

When the paper is soaked on both sides, it lies flat on the board, which is nice.

And possibly the best result of this exercise was that I woke up thinking about what I wanted to do -- and while I was doing it, suddenly knew what I want to do on the next 15-minute stint.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Day Before the Day Before Rain

There was fog today. Not the can't-see-across-the-street fog, but it was pretty substantial. The morning temps were in the mid-30s.

My studio has no heat, except for a small radiant heater that warms up the heater-side of me and not a lot else. But I did re-discover my winter riding boots, and let me tell you, those things are so insulated you can't tell if you're standing in snow or on cement in a studio. I dusted them off (how many years had they been on a shelf, unused?) and have been wearing them on chilly mornings in the studio. Perfection. Add my NaNoWriMo extra-large hoodie and fingerless gloves, and I'm good to go.

I've been trying to learn how to manage the Piker Press Forums ... I want to clean them up so that they better suit the tastes of the people that actually use them. Not a lot of people -- as one Piker recently put it, "Forums are so 80s." Still, it's nice to have them to leave a message for others: "Can't be there online tonight, my dog's on fire" or such. Or a silly writing game. Anyway, it's been yet another learning experience. I thought I was done with learning experiences for a while, but maybe it's part of adulthood, realizing that the learning experiences just don't ever really stop heading your way.

Tomorrow is supposed to be the last clement day for a week; I myself am looking forward to a bunch of rainy gray days, during which I can catch up on Press work and maybe even get some prime writing time.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A Sun-Kissed Autumn Evening

Generous warmth from Old Man Sun
Showers down on everyone.
Glowing photons form the hugs
For people, plants and even bugs.

That's right, all those little dots dancing in the late evening sunset are gnats. Cool, aren't they? Glad they were across the street.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Viva Teeny Eggs!

In today's American culture, bigger is better. A soda at the gas station should be at least a quart. A sub sandwich should be a foot long. A family car should be an SUV. A starlet should have C-cup boobs, even if she only weighs about 105 pounds.

I don't agree with "bigger is better," especially as I have grown older. Having to get bigger pants is downright annoying!

Now see that big brown egg? That's a Jumbo Organic Brown egg, and we purchased two flats of them at the poultry farm down the road from us. Their hens were laying so many Jumbo Browns that we got two flats for $5 -- 40 eggs. In a store, for Large Organic Brown eggs, we'd be paying between $3.99 and $4.99 a dozen for them. And at the poultry farm, they're so fresh and healthy and delicious ... well, we don't buy eggs at the store any more.

Delicious as that Jumbo brown egg will be over corned beef hash, it doesn't hold a candle to the teeny egg beside it.

A good friend of ours has a big back yard, and she's been raising Bantam Silkie chickens. She and her family came to dinner at our house last weekend, and she brought us a dozen of her flock's beautiful, ivory-colored little eggs.

What a treasure! What a fine gift! The flavor and texture of the Silkie eggs far surpasses any other egg I have ever had. The yolks are intensely orange, and so delicious that eating even the poultry farm's good eggs seems like a punishment.

Now I do get a kick out of occasionally buying Super-Jumbo eggs, which are almost comically huge, but from now on, my heart belongs to Teeny.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Autumn Arrangement

Some filthy gophers killed John's artichoke plant this summer, but not before it bloomed. The dried heads are beautiful, though, retaining their purple color. Beside them sits an old tequila bottle with fern bracken in it. An autumn display.

I thought it would make a nice composition, but it really didn't. I don't know if the fern pine was too distracting, with its bluey-greens, or if it was just too "staged."

'Tis okay to fail with compositions, though. Not every photo op works out well. (Look at the pics of starlets at openings and events -- argh.) The main thing is to just keep trying. The more you try, the closer you get to what you want to present.

There is a photographer/writer I know, whose pictures are always inspiring, and when she doesn't keep uploading pics to her gallery, I feel the lack deeply. I want to shout at her to take more pictures, good, bad, indifferent, just get them up there and let me see she still has the passion.

Yeah, I need to do that, too.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Dia de los Muertos, 2012

Today is the feast day of All Souls.

Or Day of the Dead. Dia de los Muertos.

My mother never would have considered honoring the day, except to say that we should pray for those who have died; if she could have hidden from the general public that she was Mexican, I'm sure she would have. However, in Central Pennsylvania, which was in her time so very white and genetically homogenous, her dark-tanning skin and classic Aztec-ian features stood out so that she might as well have carried a billboard on her grand broad shoulders that said "FOREIGNER!!!"

Culturally Mexican (though without the benefit of the secret language) and outwardly white (my cousin Susu and I were the only ones in our generation who turned out with reddish-blonde hair and freckles) I can totally sympathize with people who have a hard time identifying themselves within their populations. I never felt "at home" in Pennsylvania, and when we moved to California, and I began attending Mass in Spanish, I cried, because everybody looked like my cousins.

In spite of Mom's denial of her lineage, Alex and I cling to what Mexican customs we can. Today, Alex decorated the hearth in honor of the day, and it's truly beautiful.

We had the neighbor's kid in the house until evening, and Bernie and I were seeing the first showing of a movie in order to do a review, so we didn't get around to dedicating our midday meal to one or another dead relative. We'll get around to that, in the not-too-distant future.

But in the mean time ... Mom, I read a cartoon strip series last week that had the son begging his mother not to show up to talk to his creative writing class. His mom's friend says to her, "Would you have wanted your parents in one of your high school classes?" The mom answers, "No -- of course not!" Huh, really? Mom, I would never have said that. You were one hell of an entrepreneur, and though we butted heads from time to time, you had my back, and made me confident, and I would have loved to have you in my high school classes. You were da bomb.

Dad ... I miss you so. I miss all the stuff I wanted to wheedle out of you about your childhood, your family, your military service. I wish I could have wandered around the mountains with you more, I wish you could have snuck down to the river with me to fish and catch crayfish.

Jan, you taught me so much in the last weeks of your life. I have this memory, when we had to remove you from Mom's house, because she was forgetting to feed you, of you telling the staff of the group home (in a commanding voice) that you were working for the CIA. They thought that was just cute, but I knew you were telling them that you were not a person to be messed with. You were right. They didn't understand. You were epic.

I love you all, my dear beloved dead. Rest well, pray for me. See you when my time has come.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Halloween, of course.

After an hour and 45 minute ride this morning, I was too tired to do anything really elaborate for Halloween, especially since Bernie and I had the afternoon slated for playing with hot oil and potatoes. Sounds fun, yes?

The ride was great, the horses moving briskly, engaging us riders and affording some entertainment as horse and I chased some ill-behaved and illegally loose little dogs that attempted to threaten us.

The slivers of potato I tossed into the fry oil in seconds produced some really tasty experimental potato chips, and then, with Bernie's tutelage, we made french fries, not the hit-or-miss taters that my mom occasionally tried, not the mealy mess that restaurants usually serve, but delectable treats so luscious that Lillian and a friend could not keep their hands off them, and we ended up sending them outside with a pile of them so that the friend's brothers could have a taste, too.

While I was checking email after that yummy midday meal, I found myself thinking about last Sunday's NFL game between the Washington Redskins and the Pittsburgh Steelers, and how the really ugly striped "retro" uniforms probably contributed to the Steelers' win, either because their uniforms were so ugly that the Redskins couldn't look at them without wanting to puke, or because the stripes broke up the Steelers' visual appearance so that they were hard to see, hard to identify. What would stripes do to one's face?

The first stripe, down the center of my nose, was unremarkable; two more stripes made a part of my face seem to -- disappear. Viva stripes!

Over the course of the Halloweening hours, I had many compliments from kids about my face. The best compliment was from a toddler, who waddled up to me, pacifier in his mouth, and reached out to try to grab my stripes.

I've washed them off, ready for bedtime, but I dunno ... I think I like the look.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


So we've been experimenting with cheap cuts of beef lately, because we don't have a lot of excess money. The latest experiment has been with cross-rib chuck, which at times can be on sale for $1.99 - $2.99 a pound, cheaper than hamburger.

The first cross-rib chuck roast we got was okay roasted, but a bit tough. Nevertheless, it was tasty, and at sale price, induced us to go back to the store and buy another. We figured we could always make it into chili.

Bernie, however, with his intrepid internet explorations, found a cooking method that was a bit different.

We slathered the roast (and it was insanely big, I don't know what we were thinking) with a paste of garlic and olive oil, seasoned further with salt, cumin, and black pepper. Then threw the 5+ pound thing into a 500-degree oven for 25 minutes. Then, with Bernie's through-the-door meat thermometer, cooked the roast at 250; we'd had the roast on a bed of sliced onions, and added water to a depth of 1/4 inch in the pan, basting the roast now and then with that juice, until the center measured 140 degrees.

We let it "rest" wrapped in foil for another 20 minutes.

The result: so tender you could cut the thin slices with a fork. The crust (fat side up, of course) was savory, the done-ness ... perfect. John got his "done" pieces from the ends, and Alex and I got our "rare" bits in the center. The onions were really tasty, sweet and lusciously done, and the "jus" liquid was exquisite, though the meat wasn't at all dry.

Cheap -- DELICIOUS!!!!! -- WIN!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Countin' down now, with these blog posts. Three to go for NaNoBlogMo.

This is a picture of a candle on my work table. We sit out in my garage studio sometimes at night, when the weather is clement and the wind is right, and when NFL football isn't on TV.

The candle is nestled in the curve of a broken conch shell I found on a beach on Hatteras Island, nearly thirty years ago.

I loved that place; there I could lose myself in the sound and vibration of the earth. The surf crashed when I would hit the beach at five am, and the sound sustained me, water washing around my legs as I fished, until ten, when I would break for some sort of breakfast. Then I would hurry back down to the surf, cast in, and fish until mid-day, maybe with a nap, lying in the sand. At five in the evening, I'd rejoin the family to either cook the fish I had caught, or go to dinner if I'd come up empty.

I never look at that beaten conch shell without remembering the beauty and peace of those days.

I hope Hatteras Island hasn't taken too big a beating from Hurricane Sandy.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Landmark Day

Shh! The baby is asleep!

Joan Maria fell asleep during a walk, which is no wonder, after such a monumental day.

Today, while her mother was giving her cuddles and pretend-bites, Joan emitted her first real laugh.

We'd been getting proto-chuckles this past week, little gusts of gasp-and-expulsion, in response to flurries of kisses.

Later in the day, I got a few chuckles from her by putting my lips against her ear and making buzzing noises.

Such a cheerful baby, and oh, you should see those amazingly blue eyes.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Where Did The Day Go?

Busy day.

One of the things they don't tell you about making foods fresh is how much time you can spend prepping them.

Yes, everything, for the most part, is better fresh. But fresh takes time. Today I bailed out of the horseback trail ride with glee, because I needed time to make a quart of ranch dressing, a half-pint of chimichurri, and more of my lemon chicken soup for my lunch. Add in clean-up, and laundry, and you've got your full day in.

Wait, I also took the old dog for a walk.

I got no Piker Press work done at all, which means that tomorrow, my erstwhile "Day of Rest," will be conflicted as I watch football with my laptop in my lap.

Fiddling with the Press will be more recreational than watching shitty football match-ups,  so I should be grateful.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dead Body

Under the bright lights of my work table, I take a morgue photograph of Dragonfly, who was found dead on my husband's work bench.

Time of Death: Unknown. Bernie's work bench has been a shameful landfill since the last time he shoveled everyone else's detritus off it, which would have been about the time of our kitchen remodel (could that only have been a mere year and some ago??) -- unfortunately, the work bench is right outside the door to the garage, and whatever doesn't fit in the house ends up piled on. My work table is along the wall in another area of the garage, and since I am known to be annoyed (go freakin' ballistic) if stuff is plopped in my work area, Bernie and his bench and his mild, sweet ways get the random dumps.

Anyway, how long had Dragonfly been there? Don't know.

Cause of Death: Unknown. Aside from deterioration of the wings, which could have been caused by having detritus piled on top of the body, or battering against a solid object, the cadaver is intact. No bites have been taken out of it; no breakage of vital exoskeleton is evident. It was not, then, caught by a large praying mantis, which would have chewed the head off, or a crow, which would have eaten the whole bug.

Place of Death: Uncertain. In 15 years of residency in this house, we have never had a dragonfly zoom into the house or garage. Did Dragonfly sneak in to make his death a last statement of ferocity, so that when he was found on the workbench behind some burnt-out lightbulbs and jars of long-collected miscellaneous nails and screws, he would make the hairs on the back of Bernie's neck jump up in startlement? Or was it more likely that any ambulatory member of this family might have brought dead Dragonfly in for a closer examination on a whim, forgetting where Dragonfly's remains were temporarily interred? (I say "ambulatory" so as to completely exonerate baby Joan of any complicity in Dragonfly's demise.)

Even in death, the head and abdomen preserve a remarkable gloss, as though polished and buffed, even in this dusty clime; even after months, if not a year, the framework and seemingly fragile panes of much of the wings are intact.

If Dragonfly were a vintage car, the joints of the wings on the thorax might have been detailed and waxed at a high class car wash only hours before the discovery of his corpse.

The leading edge of the wing is reinforced, but what shall we make of that single dark pane? Identification? A distance gauge?

My father used to aggravate my mother to near apoplexy now and again, by telling her that when he died, he was going back into the earth like a dead dog, that he neither expected nor hoped for any afterlife at all. I don't actually know what he really believed, because Mom would never have tolerated an open religious discussion. The best I can do is argue with him from a distance of years ... and death ... and say, "Well, Dad, this is just a damn bug, and I still admire the life that was in it. Don't you think that I still wish I could hear you buzz and get into things and hear your crazy wild laugh?"

Dragonfly, find my dad and bite him on the nose and tell him it's from me.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Out of the Ordinary

Nothing today was out of the ordinary ... well, yes, there was one thing, but you'll have to wait to the end of this post to see what it was.

I led a ride out through the orchards -- nice, the almond harvest is done, no heavy scary machinery about to spook the horses -- and it was good. The air was cool, the sun warm. No explosive horse things.

Bernie and I occupied the kitchen after I came home, him making chicken fritters (you'll have to wait for him to blog for that recipe) and I using up some leftover ground beef to make meatballs. (For which I have no recipe, making them by eyeball and texture and smell.) We had fun, trashed the kitchen, cleaned up together, glommed on our respective culinary creations, especially junking out on his homemade pasta.

We sat outside in ideal weather until football came on ...

And then Tampa Bay beat the Vikings.

Now that was out of the ordinary.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lemony Chicken Soup

Yesterday (Why do so many of my posts begin with "yesterday?" Sounds like a personal problem to me) I became obsessed with a recipe I looked at a couple weeks ago, involving chicken and lemon juice.

Some of the ingredients were plain old yuck, others were too much and one or two that's not enough to satisfy a gnat. So naturally I didn't follow the recipe. The results, however, were fine enough that Alex announced that she had been served her new favorite soup, and that I hadn't made enough of it to suit her. Next time, I'll remedy that. In the mean time ...

Lemon Chicken Soup

  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced thin
  • 2 cloves of garlic chopped thin
  • 1/2 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 12 ounces boneless skinless chicken breast, cut into small chunks
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup tiny pasta
  • 3 medium mushrooms, very thinly sliced
  • juice of one lemon (about 1/3 cup)

Process: Heat olive oil in a medium-sized saucepan; cook celery, garlic and onion until they are translucent. Add chicken, pepper and salt, cook through. Add broth, making sure to get any browning mixed in. Add tiny pasta; cook 8 minutes or per instructions on the pasta box. Stir in mushrooms, cook until just done. Add lemon juice and serve immediately.

This makes about four servings, unless you're Alex, in which case it makes two. We served it alongside Bernie's delectable toasted cheese sandwiches, and it made for a delicious and hearty meal.

I strongly recommend tasting the soup before the lemon juice is added, then again right after the lemon juice is added -- just for the sensory kick in the slats it affords. Wow!

Oh, the pasta. Bernie found those adorable tiny stars in the Mexican foods section of the grocery store. They were very delicate when cooked. Next time he promises he's making his own pasta ...

Monday, October 22, 2012

Yesterday I was poised to use this photo and bounce my entry off it, but one of the photos I took (in a series of seven) crashed and burned on my computer, saying that it was a file of an unknown type and couldn't be opened.

This scared me so I didn't want to even use my computer. WTF???

Once I found that my files were intact this morning, and that my computer was free of virus buggies, I thought about what I had wanted to say yesterday, and found that the picture of the eucalyptus leaves against the autumn sky was more apropos than I had thought.

I had been remembering my mother. She said, on numerous occasions, that her mother had been a great story-teller, sitting on the front stoop of their apartment building, telling tales to a small group of neighborhood kids who hung on her every word.

Hmm. What stories, Mom? What did she tell stories about?

I know she must have told stories of La Llorona, the weeping ghost seeking her drowned kids, because my mother told it to me. What hispanic kid never shivered in the night, hearing crying sounds on the air, wondering if La Llorona was coming to claim them to replace her dead children?


How many Mexican kids were in that tenement block in Bethlehem, PA, in the 1930s, to cluster around to listen to Josefa Palos tell stories? My mother never mentioned any other Mexican families living there. Mom mentioned Irish and Slovak families, racial epithets tossed as the immigrants sought a balance and foothold in America. But not other Mexicans. How could my grandmother have garnered an audience of non-hispanics, when she didn't speak English?

I know she didn't, because we (very infrequently) visited Uncle Buddy's house, where resided my uncle and Aunt Lucy, three of my cousins, and my grandmother Palos. She did not speak to me or to my sister, or my father; she spoke only to my mother, in low, nearly-whispered tones, in Spanish.

My mother claimed all her lucid life that she learned Spanish in school, because her mother insisted that she and her brothers all spoke English exclusively, to moor them in the country they had been brought to.

I studied enough of language and linguistics to know that was a lie, because even when my mother's mind began to fail, she was fluent in Spanish. In my high school years, she would not speak Spanish to me, saying that I had the accent of a Cuban. I took four years of Spanish in high school, acing every class, and another class or two in college, having exempted out of all the basic courses. Yet by the time I was twenty-five, disuse had paralyzed my ability to communicate in that language. Mom's disuse had no affect on her, ever. She was a native speaker.

See those chewed-up leaves on the tree? Our memories are subject to chewing, the mandibles of regret and remorse and denial munching up the files of what we think we remember. The leaves on that eucalyptus tree don't remember the leaf-cutter bees that snipped at them to make their nests; by and large, most of us have missing chunks of our memories that we don't know are gone, and sometimes, even when we have a visceral knowledge that they are gone, our mighty intellects furnish an alternative memory that seems to make sense.

Some day, I hope to actually meet my grandmother, and give her huge hugs, and jangle all her stories from her, unhindered by language. She will probably think that I am a pest, but then we will mount our horses, she upon her horse Liston, I upon Crow, and we will ride off on the hillsides to gossip about my mother's weirdness, and bridge the long chasm between our lives.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Golden Season

At this time of year, except for the dust in the air from the almond harvesting, California is so beautiful that I almost feel guilty for living here.

The depth of blue in the sky, the cool sweetness of the fall breeze, the still-warm sun sliding in low-angled beams that enhance the colors of every flower and lawn -- I can't think of any other place I'd rather be.

These are flowers of a palm tree. I think the golden and deep blue sum up the flavor of the season.

Yesterday morning, the marine layer (fog-like clouds) came in all the way from the Bay Area into the Valley, making Ripon look more like Santa Cruz in the morning. We pretended that we were in Santa Cruz again, having breakfast at Gilda's on the pier (we were really in my garage studio with the door open to the gray sky) and a bit later, we pretended to take a walk along West Cliff Drive in Santa Cruz. (This time we were on Ripon's beautiful bike trail with its dwarf bottlebrush bushes, society garlic, and sycamore plantings.) By the time we returned to the house, the marine layer was burning off in spots, revealing a brilliant blue sky.

By mid-day, the sun was shining brightly; by nightfall, the air was clement enough to allow us to sit out in the open studio again, with candles and drinks and our dog keeping watch beside us.

Yeah. Guilty. Riiiiiggghhhht.

Friday, October 19, 2012

A New Dog?

Yesterday was warm, nearly 85 degrees. We decided that Howie needed a bath.

I wanted to give him a bath on a warm day because I had started to become concerned about his health. He is, after all, eleven years old, and I know our time left with him is short. His normally soft and lustrous fur was looking grayish, and felt coarse to the touch -- not Howie-pelt.  I pulled out a big galvanized tub, and filled it with warm water from my bathtub. If Howie was starting to get ill, the last thing he'd need is cold water.

He played in the hose until he was soaked, then obligingly lay down and stretched out while we soaped him and massaged him, one side and then the other.

Handfuls of hair came loose as we lathered him.

The big tub of warm water we used to rinse him off, then let him play in the spray of the hose for a few minutes. When we rubbed him semi-dry with towels, another raft of hair came loose on the nap. A walk around the block was in order in the hot sun so that he could dry a bit better.

He looked horrible, like a walking example of terminal mange. Some of his fur was still lying flat, many tufts stood out, gray and matted from the scrubbing.

Brush time.

A large-tined brush broke up the worst of the mats; a rake loosened some of the undercoat that was thick and slowly coming loose. A slicker brush picked up the hair, over and over again ... Something like a bushel basket of fur was shed off the dog, leaving behind a clean striped coat.

Now to be fair to us, Bernie and I both had at Howie with brushes a few days before, and got a huge pile of hair off him. And I'd done it a week before, combing out another mountain of hair.

The warm and soothing bath blew that dog's undercoat right off his skin.

Today his fur is silky and shining, soft and sweet-smelling (and I don't mean perfumed.) Nothing about that gorgeous striped coat says "Old dog" or "Ailing dog."

Nothing like a warm bath at the end of summer's undercoat season.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Anothers Weirdos!

This is a Western race fox sparrow.

He distracted us while we were supposed to be preparing breakfast; never having seen this bird before, we were glued to the windows, trying to figure out who he was.

Not only did this bird's visit to our back patio make this a memorable date, but also, in the late evening, after sundown, Bernie and I were sitting in the garage (the garage door open) and saw a fireball race across the sky, golden tail and red sparks and bluish tints around the white-gold center. Wow! Never seen anything like that before in my life.

It exploded and burnt out before it hit the ground, as far as we know.



Nice, memorable day.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Not Yer Average October


We should have been seeing this in May, or June, but unexpectedly, our water lily bloomed today.

Wonderful things happen when we least expect them, and I should have kept that in mind before being crabby in previous posts.

What needs to get done will be done, and if not, well, Fate and the angels know what agenda to follow.

Pity you can't eat water lilies. They look absolutely delicious.

Monday, October 15, 2012


That's me, contemplating my work load.

Not only am I supposed to exercise the horse three times a week (and those are trail rides, not 45-minute workouts in the arena), and do laundry, and contribute to the household cooking, but also I must do all the correspondence, reading of submissions, art work (except on rare occasions), uploading of acceptable works, yada yada yada for the Piker Press.

I want to take more photos, and upload them to Flickr. I want to draw, and paint in both oils and watercolor, and do papier mache. I want to walk by the river with my husband and my dog. I want to fiddle with my tomatoes' end of season.

And I want to finish my neglected unfinished novels!

Waking in the morning, I feel like there's a pile of rocks hovering over me, waiting to drop. There reside all the things that I have to get done that I haven't got done yet; prioritizing has to become the first thing my muddled mind undertakes.

Ah well. It's better to be busy than bored.

And I'm NOT shaving my legs until I can wear shorts again.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Saturday, Oct 13: Chicken Three Ways

After the morning horse exercising (in which said horse was doing some misbehaving, but that's another post) I came home and confronted food choices for the day.

One family member wanted fried chicken, though he was willing to settle for braised. Bernie and I thought chicken was fine, but we wanted piccata. Another family member craved rosemary chicken.

Rosemary Chicken Person turned traitor at the thought of piccata, but still, when I took over the kitchen, I did some of the chicken so that it could, if RCP wanted, be turned into rosemary chicken.

The chicken was rather fun to do, employing multiple techniques and hogging the stove. The real revelation came with the black rice.

"Forbidden Rice," as this black variety is called, calls for nearly 45 minutes of cooking and resting time. The flavor is faintly nutty, the aroma pleasant but nothing you'd write home about. Nevertheless, it is kickass with piccata sauce and chicken.

Lillian tasted a pea-sized portion, and declined to have more (although she's at a truly picky stage);  I loved the nuttiness and the chewy texture. Bernie liked it with the piccata sauce. Alex thought it was interesting; John chose the path of embracing a bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy with his chicken.

In the end, all the piccata chicken was swallowed; two thighs of braised chicken remained; and one lightly-floured and sauteed slice of chicken breast huddled into storage with the thighs. Good food.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Where's That Razor??

Remember back in the day when in movies or cartoons, a character would lift a skirt above the knee and waggle it to get picked up as a hitch-hiker? (I did not say "she" because Bugs Bunny was known to employ this device.)

This is what happens when the weather turns chilly and I stop shaving my legs.

Unlikely I'll be getting a ride soon.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October Rain

The high today was supposed to be 73 degrees, but I don't think we got there.

Partly cloudy and cool as I prepared to go riding, the weather dictated the first delve into the winter clothes bin for a flannel shirt to wear over a heavy t-shirt. I figured that once I was in the sun and warmed up, I could tie the flannel shirt around my waist and be comfortable.

But by the time we were saddled up, the clouds had moved in, and the air felt chill. By about noon it was 68 degrees, and then it began to drizzle rain and the temps dropped to 63.

This evening I wish I had a long flannel nightgown to wear, but have to content myself with fluffy slippers for my feet, and freshly-cooked chicken wings to warm my belly as I watch very lousy football.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Nitpick Worries

Lots of challenges these days.

Having been officially given ownership of the Piker Press, I find there are a lot of things that ought to be done: revamping of the Forums, a long, cold look at the "Swag" page, a purging of articles that make no sense without the pictures that once accompanied them, back at the very beginning in 2002 and two webhosts ago.

And that's just maintenance. There are submissions to be read, accepted things to edit; there are emails from contributors that need to be answered, and contacts to keep up because I love the authors.

Every contract I mail out costs me at least $1.50; our webhost costs $20/month. Printer cartridges -- well, you know they are not cheap; with no income, every dollar counts, and I wish I had the acumen to make even a teensy profit. But I don't.

Between horse, house, and homelife, and the Piker Press, I don't really have any excess time. (Unless I give up my Sundays and NFL Football, of course, but I think I do need at least one day OFF a week.) That means that the hours for painting, or writing, or the papier mache masks I was poised to do in August ... all fall by the wayside.

I'm not really complaining. It's cool to have all kinds of things to occupy one's time.

It's just ... having no income, and running out of time, daily and in life-span ... why, there's so many things I still wish I could do.

Here in the Central Valley, pansies are winter color. I need to stop clinging to the passing of summer and look forward to the rains of winter. I need to stop worrying about the dollars going out the door and look ahead to a chance to write, paint, draw, create.


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Migration Season

 White-crowned sparrows arrived this past week, the first scouts, making sure the winter campgrounds were still available.

I could hear their characteristic "Chip" noises even before I saw them. Tonight, they arrived in full force, and laid claim to the eucalyptus in front of our house with repeated calls of territorial song.

Definitely Autumn.

The almond harvest is almost done, and we are so ready for a rain to knock the dust out of the air. Everything is covered with a fine beige layer -- but we don't have the worst of it, being on the north side of the Central Valley. Alex and John and the girls went to Bakersfield in the south this past weekend, and reported on their return that the air down there was thick and filthy. Yes, with winds out of the northwest, that's where a lot of our almond harvest dust ends up.

We've got our dusty season, our foggy season, our over-the-top pollen season, and then insanely perfect summer ... I love them all; I love California.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Gratuitously Fruitful

Look at the pomegranates on that one!

This year, our pomegranate tree decided to set more fruit on the shaded eastern side than on any other side. Six of them there, hovering about chest-height in front of the gate, making going to and from the back yard from the driveway an obstacle course.

I think I want to eat this squad before Bernie gets into full pomegranate jelly-making mode.

Oh, and though I would not at all want to tread on the NFL's toes by posting  "descriptions of the game," the Jets did not suck as badly against the Texans as they did against the 49er's last week.

Go Jets ... sort of.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Sunday, October 7: Well, That's Different

Only a week ago, the temperature in the afternoon topped 100 degrees.

It was a bit late for a heat wave like that; usually the last of the stinking hot weather arrives in mid-September. Fortunately, it was nice and cool in the mornings, so the oppressive heat only lasted a couple hours each day.

When we woke at 6:30 this morning, we weren't very eager to throw off the blankets, and when we got ready for church, I dug to the bottom of my dresser for my favorite black sweater.

I changed after church -- wouldn't want to glurk green chimichurri down the front of that gorgeous sweater -- into a black t-shirt with a flannel shirt over it.

By three in the afternoon, I was able to lose the flannel shirt.

Which had chimichurri glurked down the front of it.

Saturday, October 6: Noms

About every two weeks, I declare an ironing day.

I can't wear anything with spandex, so my wardrobe is pretty much 100% cotton. That means ironing.

And while I iron, I watch the Food Network. Well, hell, how else can you stay at task with ironing? And thus, when you iron and watch Food Network, you find new recipes you want to try. And when you try new recipes, you come up with something -- if not completely -- different.

Today Bernie and I cooked together. He made a fabulous fruit salad of kiwi, orange, strawberry, pear, and the Holiday variety of grapes you can only get at Bel-Air or Raley's. I whomped up my version of Food Network Giada's pasta dish.

Her dish is good, make no mistake.

However, we like this version better:

8 oz. rotelli pasta
1 and 1/2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. (1/8 cup.)
10 oz by weight (if not more) of fresh baby spinach, stemmed and chopped a bit
1 HEAPING teaspoon of black pepper
garlic powder
3/4 cup freshly grated pecorino romano cheese
1/2 cup of cream cheese, brought to room temperature

Boil the pasta according to package directions. While that's cooking, heat the olive oil in a LARGE skillet. When the pasta is about 2 minutes away from being done, sizzle the spinach and pepper. The spinach will wilt and reduce in volume; when it begins to wilt, add garlic powder to taste. I use a lot, because we love garlic.

Dip about half a cup of the pasta water out and mix it with the cream cheese.

Remove the skillet from heat. Drain the pasta and add it to the skillet, tossing with the spinach and romano cheese. Gently stir in the cream cheese and water mixture.

Serves four.

I actually served this to our family of five a week or so ago, and it was an adequate side dish, but people were grumpy because they didn't get as much as they wanted. Today Bernie and I were on our own ... there's not a lot left.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Wherefore Art Thou, Cuisinart?

I can't remember how long ago we bought our first Cuisinart food processor.

Neither can I recall why we bought it, as usually we have a specific reason for buying things. Why did we spend the money?

The beast can grate a pound of extra sharp white cheddar in under a minute. In 45 seconds, it can produce perfectly mixed tortilla dough. In less time than it takes to laugh heartily at such a wonder, it can slice a cucumber, or a summer sausage.

With it, we make butter and buttermilk, chimichurri or pesto, pizza dough or whipped cream, banana ice cream or chopped nuts.

It was the chimichurri that ended the life of the bowl this past week. Chimichurri is a paste of parsley, garlic, olive oil, and red wine vinegar that elevates a fine fresh warm loaf of French bread to divine heights. My intention was to make some chimichurri, wash the bowl, and then make some butter and buttermilk from heavy cream to construct a new batch of ranch dressing.

Alas, when I began to dry the washed bowl, its locking mechanism simply fell apart.

Easily enough ordered online, the part shipped today. In the meantime, we missed making pizza dough for Thursday night football, missed shredding block mozzarella cheese for the store-bought pizza dough, the aforementioned heavy cream to buttermilk process ... and the raisin-chopping for oatmeal cookies this morning.

When I was a new wife, I had never heard of a food processor. When I was a wife of 20 years, I would have sneered at the thought of needing a food processor -- because I had no idea how useful a tool it would be. As a wife of 37 years, not having a food processor is like having a bucket over my head in the kitchen; I keep reaching for it, and it's not there.

Store-bought pizza dough ... not bad, but what we can make with the food processor -- priceless, as they say. I hope the USPS hustles that new bowl, or else I will go nuts.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

R.I.P. Rusty

I've posted this picture in this blog long ago, but it bears revisiting.

From left to right, there's my horse's butt, me, Dink, Rusty, and Cathy the Mad Horsewoman.

That day we made a ride from the ranch where we boarded our horses all the way to my house in town, where we made Bernie bring us icewater, and let the horses graze on the front lawn.

The horse Rusty died yesterday morning, quite unexpectedly, at the age of 13, which is nothing for a horse. (Dink is currently 22.) No one knows why. He just staggered suddenly and fell; then he got up, had a bit of breakfast -- and fell again, and died within minutes.

Cathy the Mad is devastated, as any rider can understand. Long hours in the saddle make a horse far more than a beast of burden; horse and rider become partners on their travels.

My favorite memory of Rusty is how he felt compelled to stick his head into trash bins and dumpsters to see what was in them. He never took anything out of them, but they were an endless source of fascination for him.

Good night, Rusty.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Damn Right I Love My Dog

Here he is, bemusedly enjoying my new carpet in the studio. Howie, my good little dog.

Yesterday morning I was hosing down the front of the house, and the porch, walk, and driveway, getting the accumulated dust washed away. The dust is from the almond harvest, which begins in August and runs through October. The air is heavy with dust; hanging about fifty feet above the ground is a yellowish curtain that looks like smog, and coats your skin, throat, nose, screens, and everything else around.

Howie helped me with the hose. He bit the jet of water, leaped through it, barked loudly if the water wasn't spraying him. He dove for the jet, roaring a growl, danced when I made the water nip his toes.

I let him play until he started falling down; his hindquarters get tired long before his sense of fun does. After I dried him off (mostly), he plowed onto my new carpet and had a luxurious rub. The amount of exercise he got was sufficient to make him sleepy for the rest of the day.

In the evening, I rubbed along the sides of his spine with a massaging motion. He seemed surprised, and when I stopped, he backed up against my legs for more. How I wish I had thought of doing that before! I'll be glad to massage him again tonight -- anything I can do to alleviate his stiffness is wonderful.

He turned eleven last March. This poem is for him.

This Dog Follows Me

This dog follows me
perfectly at heel
through the whole house
kitchen to bedroom
from breakfast to bedtime

This dog follows me
ears interested
in what I do
front yard to back yard
gardening to sweeping

This dog follows me
with his sharp focus
with friendly smile
eager for kisses
with wide wags of his tail

Will my dog follow
when I leave this earth
will my spirit
find his doggy soul
on life's new next address

This dog follows me
as I carry him
to the next life
this dog is my friend
pressed against me in trust

This dog follows me
his mortal essence
if I can only
believe God loves me so

Even so much as I love this dog

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

The Studio Project

There it is, the new carpet, with the pad beneath it. It's not really blue, it's closer to charcoal, with the name "Banker's Soul." Oddly enough, it closely matches the trim on the front of the house, which I did not realize.

You can see stuff piled in the driveway, on the worktable, on the lawn. Tomorrow I hope to get things completely squared away. The lawn and driveway stuff are done, at least.

In the shuffling of "stuff" to get the floor of the studio clear, I found two canvases that had been missing, and two very nice glassed frames that would be wonderful for some pastels. Once the weather cools down from our heat wave, I'm going to want to spend some time in this new and improved studio.

Monday, October 01, 2012


 Today's cover story for the Piker Press was an anxiety-producing short story called "For Sale."

No you won't see the pic there until next week -- it only appears on the cover until October 8th, then I'll move it to accompany the story in the archives. Hey, I didn't set up the system, I just try to work with it.

Anyway, I took this photo of a for-sale sign, and then brought it home to play with Photoshop.

I changed the colors a tad, adding yellows and dimming agents to the whites, darkening the overall picture a little.

And then I really began to have fun with it -- I erased the logo and real lettering and made up my own stuff to put on the sign.

For several weeks in a row now, I've known in advance what I wanted to do with a cover image, and was able to carry out my plan adequately. That's some progress for me. Having a plan that works shaves some five hours of work off each effort.

I'm feeling a renewed interest in art work -- could it be that the weather is more conducive to hours in the studio? So much more interest is percolating that I wanted to find a carpet for my cement garage studio floor. (Standing on cement kind of gets painful on the old feet.) Today Bernie took me to a flooring liquidation store, and we came home with an inexpensive carpet piece that will be easy to clean and has a carpet pad for added cushioning. I can hardly wait to install it, and see how it changes the look of the studio.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

One morning last week I was putting away the dishes, and noted that the light was catching my largest stainless steel bowl -- just so.

I can remember buying it -- it's huge, and I use it when I toss two torn loaves of bread with simmered celery and onions for turkey stuffing; Bernie uses it when he makes meatloaf; we employ it when we pick grapes or pomegranates.

None of those scratches were there when it came to our house. Each silvery line, each dark line represents the touch of a potato masher, a fork, a wide spoon, a mixing blade. Thirty-five years or so of beloved use.

Far from accenting marring marks, the light made the bowl more beautiful, made me remember all the many delightful foods that had collected in its embraces.

All of us, in aging, have these scratches and mars. We get scraped in life, we get used for work at jobs and at home, we sprain muscles and find ourselves so tired some days that we tremble ourselves to sleep.  We think ourselves wretched, but in reality, every wrinkle, age spot, ache and lameness, we're being made into something even more beautiful, more unique, than that spotless stainless steel bowl.

To be useful, to be used for good -- what higher calling could anyone ask?

I want to be like this bowl.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

This is not the way a morning in early September is supposed to look in the Central Valley.

Nevertheless, it was highly entertaining to awaken to thunder and a cloud-clotted sky yesterday morning. Howie and I scrambled from the tent, and I shouted for Bernie (who had been up a bit earlier than I) to pull the cover over the mesh roof.

After donning sweaters, we retired with coffee and tea to the garage studio, door open, to watch the lightning and clouds drift across the sky until just before lunchtime.

There was more rain than I thought there would be, but not so much as to endanger local crops. And it was truly a comedy that while rain poured down, and thunder boomed, that the weather service online claimed we had clear skies.

Eyeballs can be good tools when ascertaining the current weather conditions.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Change of Season

Just as in the Spring, before it is nominally Spring, the season clicks over from Winter to Spring, so too has Autumn arrived, even though the calendar doesn't say so.

The light is different, the air is different, and in spite of the late heat wave, the nights are now suddenly CHILLY, as in You need a comforter, dum-dum. Yes, that chilly.

Tonight's low is supposed to be 56 degrees, but as it is already 59, I think that we may see 40's by daybreak, which is good snuggly-together weather, but will stop tomato production in its tracks.

I feel that I'm seeing too many clouds sweeping through at this time of year, as seen in the photo. Makes me uneasy, though God knows we were too dry last year.

May the Life That Guides the World give us what we need this coming Winter season.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Tired But Happy

That's the heat for the coming winter.

My riding buddy, Cathy the Mad Horsewoman, lent me her truck so that we didn't have to use the Vibe and the Corolla to pick up two cords of wood. You can load the two cars with 1/4 cord -- we've done it before, and it's ugly and messy, but do-able. With the truck, it took four trips only.

256 cubic feet of wood.

I stacked a little on Saturday, just to define the length of the stack, Monday Alex stacked some, and then on Tuesday, Alex and I went at it in earnest, working quietly side by side, not too fast, enjoying each little zing of satisfaction when a piece of wood fits just where it should, making an anchor for the chunks around it. Little Joan Maria dozed in her stroller nearby, seemingly soothed by the musical clunks of the wood.

There is no doubt that my arms and back and legs were tired by the time we quit for the morning, but I had no soreness today, and Bernie and I were able to finish stacking the wood by 9am. Work goes a little quicker with him; he's not into the meditative part of wood-stacking, he just wants to get it done. The less-measured pace is more tiring, but the task IS done, which is a good thing.

Here's a detail of the right end, where the wood is carefully built into a structure that keeps the rest of the chunks from tumbling off.

It felt so good to work so hard. I haven't been able to do that in a while, and though some may find it odd, I missed being able to exert myself to the limits of my ability, even though wood-stacking is pretty dirty work. You can shower off the dust and spiders, but nothing is going to wash away the rich feeling of satisfaction. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Look At the 'Maters on That One!

These Marglobe variety tomatoes are undoubtedly the most beautiful tomatoes I have ever grown.

Far from being in full sunlight, as the seed packet suggests, these have only limited sunlight over the course of a day, a bit in the afternoon, and then shade the rest of the day, morning and evening. Each of these lovelies weighs more than half a pound, with the biggest at .75 pounds.

Marglobes don't have the *BANG!!* taste that the wild tomatoes do -- they're a bit mild. But for consistency of later-producing fruit and prolific production, wow, I love them.

There are two other Marglobe plants, seeded at the very same time, in the garden on the north bank. They are weedy and feeble-looking. Unlike the producers of these huge tomatoes, they are in full sun. Will they produce this year? I doubt it very much. My corner garden by the fence is too much full sun, too hot, not enough ventilation.

Live and learn. Next year all my tomatoes will have shade in the afternoon.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

"Take It Out and Shoot It," I Instructed.

Last Friday night, my glitzy Bosch high-efficiency washing machine decided it was too good to run spin cycles any more. Apparently it felt that three and a half years was long enough to suffer through the annoyance of wringing dirty water out of clothes.

We called the preferred repairman early Saturday morning, but after looking at the last repair bill for the Bosch dishwasher when it crashed, I had to ask myself: Do I want to spend that much money to repair a machine that I actually hate?

The high-efficiency machine uses less water, they say, and less electricity, making it a bargain in the long run. The high purchase cost will be offset over the life of the machine in energy and water reduction. Indeed, the little tags say that the HE machine costs about $18/year in electricity, while an agitator washer costs about $52.

Yeah, right.

What they didn't bother to mention was that if you don't use a chlorine bleach cycle, your clothes smell like dirty socks after about two weeks of use of the machine. And that if you do use a chlorine bleach cycle (only good for bleachable whites, of course), the wash cycle takes well over an hour.

Now if you don't want to bleach everything, and you don't want your clothes to smell like dirty socks, you have two options: you can use a heavily perfumed detergent (not an option in this household) or you can buy a "high efficiency washer cleaner" to use every three weeks at $8 a box. (A box contains three uses.) So instead of $18/year to use, we're up to $36, or more depending on how many bleach cycles you have to use, and we can now add in the cost of the bleach, because EVERY white load has to be bleached if it isn't going to turn out brownish-gray-tinted.

And even with the "high efficiency washer cleaner," the clothes still don't smell "clean," even if they don't smell like dirty sweaty feet. You wear them half a day, sweat a little, and wow, stinko. Wash the clothes more often, more energy cost.

The Bosch front-loader HE machine also insisted on full loads of clothes. There was no setting for Small, Medium, or Large loads. All of them had to be Big-Ass loads, or else the machine would not spin the water out, requiring extra spin cycles ... at an added energy cost, of course.

So when I saw that a new GE agitator model would cost only about $200 more than a repair of the Bosch (if we were lucky on the Bosch repairs), I poured out my heartfelt venom about the Bosch to Bernie, and we scoped out some reviews, and then went an bought a GE agitator, which matches my GE dryer perfectly, in looks and capacity.

Amazingly, most of the five-out-of-five star reviews of the GE were from people who were replacing their greatly-hated HE machines. When a friend of ours heard that we'd gone back to an agitator, he envied us. "I wish ours (an HE) would break down. I hate it. Nothing ever gets really clean."

Tonight, five days of laundry have been done since the installation of the machine at noon (and that's with time off to sit in the mister for a couple hours.) OMG, every batch smells so good! The basket holds more than the HE did, and I am able to adjust the water level to the size of the loads. The spin cycle drives out MUCH more water than the HE, which reduces drying time.  (Hmm, that's less energy use, isn't it?)

Now I have heard that the top-loader HE machines work much better, but they're fairly pricey, and I'm not willing to take that chance. I do know that the GE agitator model I bought is selling like hotcakes, and serendipitously, Home Depot had a sale on, so I was able to get the machine I wanted for less than I was willing to pay, and got a 4-year warranty for the price of a 2-year plan.

When the delivery man asked me if I wanted him to haul away the Bosch, I said, "I want you to take it out and shoot it somewhere."

I'm a happy little laundress tonight.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Surfing Time's Curl

In the evening sunlight, this year's red dragonfly perches on a bamboo stick over my Goliath tomato.

He doesn't worry about how many days he has left -- by the time winter gets here, he'll be toes up in some shrub, his life drifted away in some shallow respirations at the end of his mating season. He doesn't care. He lives, eats, flies, mates, eats, flies, lands on his stick to survey his kingdom. That's good enough for him.

I know that I don't have all that many years left (or days, truth be told) and I want to get to that dragonfly's mentality.

I don't want to worry about the future; that leads to broken sleep and miserable nights.

And in the time that remains, while the wave is still sweet and strong and carries me and my board to exhilarating speeds, I want to live, write, eat, write some more, play with the Press, and hold my newest grand-daughter. Then write some more.

Yet I see the ceiling of water hovering over me, and fret.

Lord, make for me a dragonfly heart.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Morning of the Day She Did It

Last Friday, while I sat in the garage studio with the door open, letting the amazingly cool air into the house, I watched Lillian play on the sidewalks.

It was significant: the day before, while I was out at the reservoir riding the horse, Lil took her bike out ... and began to ride it.

She had a teeny bike years ago, tried it, didn't figure out the dynamic, ignored it. Then this bike, a couple years ago, same thing.

I'm not sure what made her leap out in intuition, but she got her bike out and declared she would learn to ride it. And she did.

On Friday morning, she was wheeling it like a scooter up and down the sidewalk, when suddenly I heard her call, "Hah! Gran, I'm riding my bicycle." And so she was.

A bit later, the little girl from next door popped over, and I heard these beautiful words from Lil: "You want to ride bikes together?"

In the course of their morning zooming, they visited a yard sale down the street. Lil, in red, assists Kendra in securing a purchased plush pig to her handlebars.

Bernie thinks that me helping Lil learn to ride Dink made a difference. I think so; riding without stirrups probably helped her gain that sense of balance she needed. And now, riding the bike will help her learn how to adjust for speed when the horse trots.

Truly amazing, truly wonderful.

Friday, July 20, 2012


This crawling piece of crap was not on any of my tomato plants, a circumstance for which I am truly grateful. 

Instead, it was on my experimental potato plant in a garbage can -- in the late spring, I'd put several sprouty russet potatoes in a garbage can, covered them with a few inches of dirt, and have been adding decorative bark to the growing stems.

It's a failed experiment -- the stems showed little or no interest in making tubers. I may have started the experiment too late for success. Perhaps I'll try again next year.

Odd that this hornworm chose the potatoes instead of the tomatoes, but I'm glad it did. My ire was much less. How I wished that I had a chicken to eat this bug! But since it was on a worthless potato project, I merely clipped off the stem and put it in the City garden stuff recycle bin, where it can be fertilizer for one of the many excellent City compost utilizations in the future.

Haha, hornworm, you lose.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Past the Hotness

The heat wave has rolled past, off to trouble the Mid-West, no doubt.

Last night, we shivered as the cool night air poured in the bedroom windows, snuggling close to stay warm. The mattress topper and the comforter were stacked by the closet while the hot weather made the nights miserable, but we didn't try to use them because Howie was sleeping on top of them.

"Just tell the damn dog to move," one might say, but Howie isn't a "damn dog." He's a sweet old gent at 11 and we don't want to trouble him. Today I washed the comforter, but wrapped the mattress topper in an old, clean king-sized sheet, and put Howie's clean travel blanket on top of it.

We're not going to need the mattress topper until probably November, so How can rest his creaky old bones on it. He's not a stinky dog, and has no fleas, so no worries.

Tomorrow we go to a family party for a six-year-old (six in the pic, see?) at which there will be limited seating and much heat. I plan on taking a couple of our folding quad chairs and a spray bottle of water to mist myself down at intervals.

The comforter is clean -- I hope tonight is as chilly.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hundred Degrees Days

When the air outside is as hot as a bad fever, and what you can afford to air condition indoors is still too stuffily hot, and your front lawn (such as it is) is dying from dehydration, The Thing is what you want to efficiently cool your body, gently water your lawn, and make the heat wave a Resort Experience.

It can be a hundred and five, and when that mist hits you, your hair on your arms will stand straight up in total coolness-plus.

You will gasp, and your lawn will thank you.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why This Blog Is So Sparse These Days

Joan Maria, sleeping in Dziadzy's arms.

Born on June 14, seven pounds, seven ounces, she has a faint drift of reddish-brown hair; her eye color is still indeterminate. She has the most graceful little fingernails I have ever seen.

When she and her mother came home from the hospital, Sebastian was all a-tremble with curiosity and concern. He very carefully had some quality sniffing time -- matching up Joan's scent with the strange smell that had been on John's shirt after his visits to his wife and newborn daughter. Now Sebastian parks himself by the baby's little sling-chair when Alex brings her out to doze among the bustling rest of the family, and he has a different look in his eye than he's had before; I would heartily advise strangers not to approach that baby too flippantly.

Howie was really intrigued by the carefully-held bundle that was brought into his house, too. Did they bring a cat in? Another dog? He sniffed her, and his expression changed from What is this? to what looked like a big goofy grin. Aw, it's a Baby! Howie has explained in no uncertain terms to the cat that The Cat is not allowed near The Baby.

Now while John and Alex have their hours full with Joan's care, and Lillian can hardly bear to be off doing her own thing in favor of helping with the baby, the household is really not all that disrupted. Joan is amazingly peaceful, still mostly eating and sleeping, only squalling when her diaper is changed.

So then, why is this blog so sparsely posted these days?

Simple. My friend Cathy the Mad Horsewoman has got herself a trusty little steed again, so I've been riding with her three times a week, and it's wearing this old woman right out. So much so that as I looked at the weather this morning, and saw that the temperatures for the next three or four days were going to be well over a hundred degrees, I was relieved that it would be too hot for riding.

I can stay home and snuggle the baby!

P.S. "Dziadzy" is Polish for "Grandfather" and is pronounced judgie.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Thing

Over a decade ago,  I worked at a big hardware; I was rummaging through the hose fittings on my break, looking for a way to make the north side of my house look less like the barren desert that it was. And as it was coming on to summer, I had also in mind the little pvc stand misters that were so wonderful for keeping one's personal space cool on hot dry days.

Then I saw this.


After work, I bought it with my employee discount, and took it home to try it out. Unlike the sweet little pvc stand mister, this fiend put out a four-foot high geyser of drenchiness -- too vigorous for the back patio.

But I reasoned that the output might drift along on our prevailing west wind and soften the hardpack clay soil of the north side of the house. Using some wire, a hose, and a tomato cage, I built a rig to float that mist about three feet off the ground.

Unfortunately, the pressure acted like a jet and kept knocking the tomato cage over, and there was the problem with eddies of wind gusting the spray onto the windows (the water is so hard here that water splotches on the windows are verboten.) Also, the dog, though he loved water and being sprayed by the hose, was not at all amused by a high-pressure cloud of soaking mist. Failed experiment.

The Super-Mister Thing was put away in the shed and subsequently lost under piles of junk. I even forgot where I put it, until we had a spate of 100+ degree days last year. I began looking for it as we cleaned the garage, got rid of tools we no longer used, cleaned out the accumulation of dusty junk in the shed ... and there it was, coated by gunk that had leaked out of some can above it. I scrubbed it up and put it away in a safe place, and forgot where that safe place was.

We found it again this spring (it had been carefully tucked into a basket of miscellaneous art supplies,) and when the temps spiraled up to 106, we put that Thing on the end of the hose, draped the hose across the top of our Stanley sawhorse, and put our chairs about twelve feet downwind. While the rest of town roasted in a convection oven climate, we were cool and refreshed -- and the dry spot on the front lawn got some badly-needed water.

Home Depot, Lowes, Ace, Orchard Supply -- none of those hardwares carry it any more. But I did find it here. And I'm not going to misplace the Thing again.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Although Flickr has entered a sucksome phase, new-and-improving itself into suckicity, I uploaded pictures of flies today.

Fly Portraits (which didn't work as a set in my Flickr gallery because of a lack of instructions for the new-and-improved suckicity) was inspired by Pete McArdle's cover story for the Piker Press this week, "Shoo Fly." I love Pete. He's so warped that my own weird penchants seem mild by comparison.

I don't know why flies are funny. I remember being about giggled to death over Gary Hockenberry's capture of a fly in seventh or eighth grade; he pulled one wing off (not the capital crime it is nowadays) and named the fly "Charley the Diving Fly" because he'd allow the fly to climb up his fingers and then take off, only to land abruptly on the floor by Gary's desk. I think Charley lasted through two classes, both American History and Math.

And of course there was my mother's take on faith formation during the Canon during Mass at church when I was young and impressionable: a fly landed on the pages of our hymnal, and she snapped the book shut on the insect with a loud retort, squishing it between the pages, her facial expression unmoved like a deadpan statue of an Aztec bystander. Did the priest notice the sound, or the tears of hilarity that poured down my face in lieu of laughter? I never knew.

Leap forward thirty years, and imagine with me the flies of Manteca, California, where we lived for eleven years. I swear to you, and don't even care if you believe it, the flies in that area would land in front of you, and do this really rude hoocha-hoocha thing with their legs, rising and falling in a dance that never failed to enrage my emotions. Why did they make me so angry? Why did they dance like that when the flies we have here in Ripon, only six miles south, do not?

I had as much fun photographing flies on the back patio as I did snapping pics of "Things on the back of trucks."

Yes. I am easily amused at times.