Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Toe

I spent a restless night worrying about Max and the soon-to-be loped off toe, so when the alarm went off it felt like I hadn't slept at all.  Whatever.  Insomnia is my middle name, after all.

Loaded the boys in the car at 6:45 and drove down the mountain to get Max to the vet before the 7:30 deadline.  He was not a happy camper when I took him into the hospital, leaving a very relieved Ozzy behind in the car.

Once Max was all checked in, I took Ozzy to the park for an earlier than usual morning walk.  Halfway around the soccer field, my phone rings.  My trusted vet is desperately ill and can't make it in for his surgeries, however, there is a replacement doctor, though one I don't know and have never met.  It's my call to either carry on, or call it off and reschedule.


Removing myself from the equation, considering only my dog, there really isn't any other choice except to trust this unknown vet. I give the go-ahead, hang up and spend the rest of the walk talking things over with Ozzy.  In the end, he convinces me Max is a tough guy and all will be well.  What?  You don't talk to your critters?

So, after the walk, knowing I'll have to be hyper-vigilant for the next couple of weeks, I go grocery shopping, hit Costco, then get the Blazer serviced.  While I'm waiting for the oil change, I hear from the vet--nice, knowledgeable and very reassuring guy--who tells me Max did great and was already recovering; come at 4:00 to pick him up.

Once I got home, put the groceries away and had lunch, I worked outside for the rest of the afternoon to keep my mind off The Toe, and to pass the time. At 3:30 I tell Oz it's time to get Max.  He didn't even hesitate.  Ran like a wild man downstairs, hopping up and down to get in the car.  No question in my mind he knew exactly what I said.

After I talk to the vet, get my instructions, and pay the shoot me now bill, they finally brought Max out.  He was so not happy with me.  Totally turned his head away and wouldn't even acknowledge me even though I was holding him in my arms.  Got him into the car, where he mind-melded with Oz about his horrible experience, and I'm positive somewhere in there I was badmouthed...deeply.

So, now the fun begins. I have to monitor the poor guy's every move, he can't go on any walks, and every three days I have to take him back to the vet so they can change his dressings.  He has to wear The Dreaded Cone at night, and anytime I don't have him in my line of sight.  However, I will be getting plenty of exercise: I have to carry the big lug down two flights of stairs several times per day, and haul him back up.  It hasn't taken me long to realize that 14 days could easily seem like close to a year by the time this is over.

But, such is life with the creatures we love.  And how could I not take care of such a pitiful wee boy?  Oh, and he's forgiven me.  After I took this photo, I sat next to him on the chair and he cuddled right in.  Nothing like some loving to make a guy feel better...

...well, that and a few more of those pain meds.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Well....Just...Holy Crap...

Maybe there was a reason for my hair standing on end this morning.  (See earlier post).

Allow me to digress...

Nearly two Thursdays ago--the day my sister arrived for the family weekend--Max sort of stumbled on our morning walk.  I thought he'd stepped on a burr or a nettle, so lifted his foot to see why he was suddenly limping and found this odd...thing...on one pad of his left foot.  It looked like a weird warty bump of some kind.  After the removal of that small cancerous tumor on his chest in January, I didn't want to ignore it and came home, called the vet, then my sister and I took him on Friday afternoon.  They tried to get a cell sample, but there was also a slight infection that skewed the reading.  The vet said this bump is either a small cut that has sealed over, leaving a bit of debris behind; or possibly another cancerous growth.  Max gets an antibiotic shot, and we have to wait ten days to try again for another sample.  Shit.

Once Max got over the horrors of the vet experience--two needles shoved into his owie and a big ol' shot--he settled down and seemed to feel better, though since that day he's hopped on three legs, rarely putting the foot down on the ground unless it's soft grass or the carpet.

So.  Fast forward.  This afternoon was his appointment to check things again, and take another cell sample.  I was a bit worried, but stayed positive and really, I was fairly confident all would be well.

I should have listened to my hair.

This Thursday, Max has to have his toe amputated.  Ah, the poor, poor wee boy.

****Eeewwwww....pant, pant.  Okay, okay, deep breaths. 
'Scuse me a sec while major squirming and gulping commence****
Sorry.  It's the visual that seems to be freaking me out...
Okay.  Better.
Now, I totally, unequivocally trust my vet.  He said he could try to cut the bump off, but because it's on a pad, it will be a) very difficult to excise a large enough area to ensure there is no more cancer and b) there won't be enough left of the area to adequately suture the wound.  The safest, easiest and best option for Max is to just remove the whole toe, pad and all.
I gotta say that I'm a bit concerned about all this. Two cancerous bumps in four months is pretty alarming, at least to me, to say nothing of putting Max through another surgery so soon after the first, though my vet assures me everything will go fine, and I trust him.

What I don't trust at the moment is my stomach.  Time for wine.  I need something to blur the images in my head...

No Explanation

Do you ever wonder what happens when you sleep? That perhaps the fairies come and steal you away to dance with wild abandon about the forest whilst Oberon and Titania smile from their bower?  Or maybe it's the Pooka, enticing you with his golden eyes until you leap on his sleek back, hold fast to his ebony mane and race into the night for a reckless, breathtaking ride.

I sleep in a regular bed, with a regular pillow.  I don't think I toss and turn much because the duvet is still there when I wake up instead of kicked into a heap on the floor; my head still rests on my cozy pillow; the boys still nestle in their spots, seemingly not bothered by any abnormal flailing on my part.

But surely something must be going on because this is how I woke up today. How did that tuft of hair get stuck straight up in the air like a rooster's tail?  How is it possible--when I lay flat on a pillow--that my hair can look like it was sucked into a vacuum hose whilst I slept?  The G-forces of alien abduction?

It's an inexplicable mystery...


And dear readers, you will notice my hair is still a scalped, princely shade of red.  It turns out, waiting for hair to grow is right up there with watching paint dry...

Monday, May 27, 2013


To my family, my friends, and the men and women who have come before and will come after...
Thank you for your service and your sacrifice.  I remember you.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Panorama Sunday

I finally got my bloody panorama program to work, and how much do I love this?  Lots. 

Took the photos early this morning off my back deck as clouds drifted across the valley in a kaleidoscope of colors and light.  The contrasts were so beautiful in person.  Some days I feel so trapped on this mountain, isolated from the vibrant energy of city living...then I wake up on a morning like this, marvel at the beauty, and can't imagine looking at buildings and structures, my head filled with noise instead of wind song.

So, between grousing, cursing and dinking with the photo program, then talking way too long with the BFF for our usual Sunday catch-up, I'm now going to take the boys for a walk before pouring myself a nice big glass of Lambrusco as I settle in to enjoy the rest of my Sunday.

Happy long weekend, peeps...

Saturday, May 25, 2013 100+ Words

Jolting awake, heart pounding, she gasped for air, felt his arms slipping away from her body as the dream melted into shadow.  Pressing a fist to her stomach at the painful stab of loss, she sat up, swung her legs over the side of the bed, then bent over until her head rested on her knees.  She could still feel the contours of his chest on her cheek, hear the steady beat of his heart in her ear, the fresh, clean scent of him lingering in her nose. 

Leaving the empty bedroom, she turned on lights, knowing from bitter experience the middle of night held the true heart of darkness.

And that sometimes she was more capable of dealing with the specter of insomnia than the phantom in her dreams.
Really tried to write 100 Words, though just couldn't pare it down, but that's okay because it says what I wanted it to say in 130...

Friday, May 24, 2013

Week 21 of the 52s...The Outline

I don't do outlines.  I hated doing them in school and I hate doing them now.  I write by the seat of my pants.  In the writing world, I am called a pantser and I'm totally fine with that.

It might seem very lame that I'm writing about a mere outline for this week, but trust me on this:  It's new, it's an experience, and I've rarely done such a thing, without coercion, in my life.  In my world, those three reasons qualify as a valid entry in the 52s.

This all came about because earlier today I was going to work on the next installment of the serial, but discovered I had too many thoughts about what was going to happen next, or should happen next, or might happen next.  It was giving me a headache.  I stood at the crossroads and looked all around me at the highways and paths, avenues and trails.  And I couldn't focus on any of them.  I was lost in the wilderness of choice.

So.  I did something I never do.  I sat at the computer this afternoon and began to sketch out where I wanted the story to go.  I dinked and deleted, changed things around then rearranged them again.  I've spent the better part of the day writing an outline that will take me nearly to the end of the story though I had to call a halt at a crucial juncture because my pantser mentality took over and made me stop.  I don't know how this story will end, and for now, I don't want to know.  I love being just as surprised as you, dear readers.

It was an interesting exercise.  I think it helped clarify a few things in my mind and there was a startling revelation that caught me off guard which was really cool.  Also, I should be able to write more consistently now that several of the next installments have been outlined and I won't have to stress about direction.  Hopefully.  In theory.

I will always be a pantser, it's just who I am and how I write.  But this was a good thing to do, and honestly?  It was kind of fun, though I don't plan to do it again anytime soon; it takes too much energy that I could actually have spent writing...

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Holy Monsoon, Batman!

The weather folks were right, for once, though at first I didn't think so...

When I got up Tuesday morning, the skies were a brilliant, flawless blue with nary a cloud to be seen.  I opened all the blinds, let the boys out in the backyard, filled their food bowls, turned on the computer and made a cup of coffee. I suppose those few things took about, I don't know, 10-15 minutes?  By the time I was ready to sit down at the laptop, it was no longer sunny and growing darker by the second.

I took my camera out on the back deck, my plan being to get a panorama shot of the rapidly approaching storm.  Unfortunately I forgot the last step--to stitch the shots together.  And crap, it would have been a really cool picture.  Ah well.  Use your imagination...

Left, center, right views of the storm (with a bit of overlap):


I don't think I've ever seen an entirely clear sky go from cloudless to storm-filled so quickly--truly in a matter of minutes.  When the first wave hit it was intense, violent and awesome...and they've been rolling across the valley in a relentless tide for the past two days.  I've nuked two umbrellas whilst walking the boys, washed a huge load of muddy, doggy towels, and been daily--hourly--reminded of the formidable power in our planet.
Because I worked so hard in the gardens over the past month, then did my household Spring cleaning, once the storms came, I found myself with nothing to do.**  And what a glorious, exciting, dance-in-the-rain sense of freedom that realization was.
By coincidence (or not), on Tuesday I stumbled across an author I hadn't read.  Her first book, in a 4-book series, caught my attention and seemed worth a read, so I downloaded it to the Kindle.  Outside it was cold, bucketing rain, the perfect scenario for an adventure to a small town in the Colorado Rockies. 
I just got back this morning.  It was a great trip--murder, mayhem and mystery.  And as the rain is still pelting down here and it's nearly 50 degrees cooler than it was two weeks ago (yes, really, 50 degrees), I'm heading back to Colorado this afternoon. In the second book, it's Spring, the wildflowers are blooming, the sun is warm and shining on the snowcapped mountains, and I have some folks to catch up with.
I'll send postcards...
**The idea of "nothing to do" is, of course, a fallacy.  I live in an older house.  There's always something to do, and I have to work on the next Scribbles installment, but whatever.  At the moment I'm going to ignore everything, and just read.  Like Scarlett said, tomorrow's another day...

Monday, May 20, 2013

Calm Before The Storm

The house seems very quiet now that things are back to normal after such a busy weekend.  The boys conked out after lunch and haven't moved since.  Ahhh, the luxury of silence.  Well, except for the snoring...

Today is very beautiful, just about perfect really, at least to me:  Clear, blue skies, gentle breeze, doors and windows open, and the temperature holding in the mid-70s.  Like I said: perfect.

However, tomorrow a bizarre weather system is supposed to hit the Northwest.  Heavy rains, snow in the higher elevations, hail, lightning, temps only reaching the mid-50s.  I think May and April changed places this year.  April was abnormally hot, now May is heading toward unseasonably cold wintery weather that is to last into next week.

So, considering the crap to come, I did some battening down, then wandered through the gardens taking photos in case things get demolished by the storms.

Oh, but first:  When we were out and about Saturday, my sister spotted this great oil painting that was exactly what I was looking for to replace the picture that hung on the wall over the staircase.  It was fairly dramatic and exciting to balance precariously on my tallest ladder, remove the old picture and hang the new without hurling down the stairs to my doom.  Thanks to Mom and my sister, I've lived to tell the tale.

I love my new painting:  Birch Trees...

Okay, now a few photos of my garden, before the imminent arrival of the violent and allegedly terrible freak storms coming tomorrow...

Looking up the back slope.  Snapdragons and blue, blue skies:

At the top of the garden, the lavender, wildflowers--mostly poppies at the moment--and my vegetables are going crazy in the sunshine.  Last week I planted squash, tomato and zucchini, one in each little raised box.  They can't be seen through the sea of poppies, but they are there and growing happily in their wee containers...

How wonderfully exotic and beautiful is this bloom?  I reminds me of Jamaica, or something from Africa...

The front of the house is more orderly, though no less flowery and has its own coolness.  I love the boulders, the wafting and ever-moving Feather grass, the rhodys, but especially the iris.

If you are a regular visitor, dear reader, you will know I often channel Georgia O'Keeffe when I photograph flowers, and have a life-long fascination for their inner lives.  Is it any wonder when you look at this?

Hopefully I won't actually lose any of these beauties, and the storm won't be as bad as expected, though I wouldn't mind a stretch of rain.  No mowing, weeding or watering.   I would most definitely vote for that little break in the routine...

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Week 20 of the 52s...Got It Covered

A whirlwind four days of la familia and many adventures.  My sister arrived early Thursday, then after walking the boys on Friday morning, we headed south to collect the Mother Ship and bring her back to my house for the weekend.  I had already forewarned them both that on the road north, I was going to stop along the way to investigate the last two covered bridges in my quest for this week's 52s.

Pick up Mom, and on the return leg of the journey, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains and glorious scenery, Mom casually asks if I noticed the signage for Sunny Valley and the covered bridge.  What?  We're still many miles from the bridges on my map, so I ask Mom to tell me where to turn when the time comes and we'll go exploring.

And damn if we didn't find the coolest little historical village, and the most beautiful...

Grave Creek covered bridge:

The windows were so unique, and Grave Creek was so pristine. There was no explanation for the name, though it doesn't take much to imagine why the early settlers would have chosen it...

Before actually crossing the bridge, there was a pioneer museum, an original log cabin and some very cool, authentic covered wagons.  In real life--as opposed to the movies--these wagons were small, cramped, and would have been a nightmare to travel in for months on end.  The pioneers don't get nearly enough credit for their resolve or perseverance...

We all pile back in the car and continue our drive north until we come to the freeway exit for the two bridges on my map.

We find the first bridge easily as it's right in the center of town, though was a real disappointment.  It looked very out of place like it had just been plopped down willy nilly at the edge of the city's park.  It goes nowhere and does nothing.  Turns out, it once lived along the beautiful McKenzie River many miles from it's current forlorn location and was bought and transported by the city fathers some time in the past.

Horse Creek covered bridge:

As we walked the dogs through the really nice park, we came across this amazing structure in the center of the complex.  It was a truly beautiful enormous stage made from many different native trees.  I took this shot across a huge expanse of lawn and imagine the whole town must come here for concerts and events...

Getting back into the car, I happened to glance behind me, and saw this totally cool trompe l'oeil painted on the side of the Community Center building.  It was very colorful and Art Deco-ish, and pretty strange to find in such an out-of-the-way tiny little town, at least to my mind...

We left the town, driving east into the wilderness, looking for the last bridge.  And what a little gem it turned out to be!  One of the smallest--as in shortest at only 42 ft--it might have been totally off the beaten track, but of the five bridges I have visited in my adventures, it's one of my absolute favorites.

Neal Lane covered bridge:

The view out the left window over Days Creek...

A closer shot of the wonderful archway.  This was just the sweetest little bridge...

Looking for the bridges was a great diversion on a long drive, with the added bonus of Mom's keen eyesight in spotting the sign for a bridge that wasn't even on my radar.

My journey to find the covered bridges of Madison Douglas County has come full circle from my first foray clear back in Week 5.  I mapped them, searched them out, and photographed them.  It's been such great fun, and though I'm a bit sad for this quest to be over, I'm looking forward to whatever the next adventure brings...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Writing and Windows

I was determined to post the latest installment on Scribbles today, no matter what, even with my sister coming on Thursday, the Mother Ship arriving Friday, and a shitload of housework to get done over the next few days. 
The morning started with the local window washing fellow--and three of his cohorts--coming to wash inside and out...including the skylights which seem to be cobweb central.  And man, the windows are shining in the sun now!  Jeremy is the nicest guy, and does an exceptional job for very reasonable rates.  Good thing too as I would never be able to reach more than half the windows if I had to wash them myself.  I'm not afraid of heights, but I draw the line at teetering on a ladder, 30 feet off the ground, balancing a bucket whilst trying to squeegee huge windows.
While the guys were working, I was jumping between writing, cleaning the bathrooms, and doing laundry.  It's amazing the places your mind will go when you're scrubbing a toilet.  Seriously.  I actually thought of a plot device while swishing.

Later tonight I have to haul my ladder to the corner of the house and try to hang a yellow jacket trap.  I was sweeping cobwebs off the underside of the eaves on Sunday and discovered a few industrious hornets were attempting to build a large apartment complex.  Since they are squatters and refuse to pay rent, they will have to move elsewhere.  It should be interesting trying to do this singlehandedly...without starting an assault on the interloper--and that would be me.
So, I finally got the next part of the story written and let me say, what a flaming relief.  The installment had to be totally rewritten--which really means I wrote it twice--and ended up being longer than expected.  Still, I'm happy because it's been bothering me for a couple of weeks and at last I'm caught up.  I really need to get back to a more regular writing schedule, and now that the yard work is basically done, with any luck at all, I shouldn't have to devote weeks of mindless torturous grueling effort again until Fall. 

At least in theory...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Sunday Stuff...

This morning I was reading about Harry, in America this week for various charity events, and to bring attention to both our soldiers and theirs. I saw a photo of him and burst out laughing.

After my hair debacle from earlier this week, I now realize I don't look like a ten year old boy after all. I look like a 28 year old prince, cut and color an exact match. I'm a bit consoled now...sort of...

My plan for the day, after talking to the BFF for our usual Sunday phone call, is to work on the next installment of the serial. I've had to let that lag over the past couple weeks due to my workload and being too hot to sit at the computer.  Then, last night I had this bizarre thought about one of the characters which was pretty startling.  I'm not sure it's a workable thought, though it would take me onto a whole new plot trail.  Such is my writing style, for good or ill.
Happy Mother's Day as well... 

My sister took this photo when she came to Scotland to visit a few years back.  We drove up into the Highlands and one afternoon we saw these wee twins.  I used to love wandering in the hills during April and May.  The lambs were everywhere, jumping and playing and so, so adorable---

Gotta go, phone's ringing...

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Week 19 of the 52s...On The Wall

Last night was the opening reception for Photo NW 2013.  This will be the third time I have used this exhibition for the 52s, though each one counts--as far as I'm concerned anyway--as a new adventure.  Week 7 was the first when I submitted three photographs to the juried exhibition; Week 12 was finding out I was one of 24 photographers chosen; and this week I actually got to see my photo hanging on the wall in the exhibit.

And can I just take a second here to say how cool that was?  A most excellent reward for trying something new, taking a chance, stepping out there.

The show was in the Red Door Gallery at the Arts Center.  As I stood on the threshold, there was my photo, first thing I laid eyes on.  I couldn't hold back the smile...or the rush of excitement.

Look!  There it is, right next to the flowers...

Ironically, here's a bad photo of my photo...

This was my pick of the show.  The colors were so vibrant, every detail so clear and sharp.  It was a wonderful photograph.  (Back glare due to bright sunshine streaming in the gallery windows...)

These black and whites, taken by two different guys, were very dramatic in person.

A funny family photo with silly poses.  I loved the color against the dark, elongated shadows...

Each photograph was interesting in its own right, and so diverse.  From Vietnamese peasants making tea to the bright green girders of a bridge; the shiny chrome of a fender to the golden hues inside a barn.  I feel very privileged to be part of it.

I had a good time at the reception.  Even without my photo in the exhibit I would have counted this as my Week 19 adventure because I did something out of my comfort zone: walking amongst strangers. There was quite a crowd; a few times I felt like a wraith floating between worlds, overhearing snatches of conversation and laughter, not included in the small town camaraderie.  I did talk to some people, and enjoyed myself, though this would have been a moment to share and I missed that.  Alan would have been beaming from ear to ear.

Ah well.  Just before I left, I stood in the doorway of the Red Door Gallery and smiled at my achievement. That's worth something.

And hey! Now I'm sharing with you, dear readers, and that's worth something too...

Friday, May 10, 2013


Took the boys to the county park this morning as it closes to dogs on May 15th for the rest of the Summer.  It was quiet, already borderline too warm, though the guys were thrilled to sniff at all the new smells, including a great deal more wildlife than they are used to at the city park.  While they peed on every blade of grass and snorted under shrubs and bushes, I took some photos.

These wild iris grow along a fenced area that divides a large field from the actual park...

I am forever fascinated by the inner world of flowers...

After walking the fence line, we crossed the road and meandered along the river.  I glanced down this slope into a thicket of scrub and saw this lone wild rose... 

With my telephoto, I could see how pretty it was.  At first I thought how sad the poor wee thing was growing by itself surrounded by choking shrubbery...but then I considered it from the natural world perspective and had to smile.  No competition when you command the whole stage...

It was a nice long trek this morning.  The boys were happy to have new smells, and I was happy to take a few photos.


The other day when I was at the store buying the Weed Eater, I also bought myself a bird.  I don't normally do garden ornaments, though this is the second one I've purchased this year--which hopefully won't lead down that slippery slope into gnomes and fake deer and gods know what else.  Still, I just couldn't resist, no matter the possible future ramifications.
My garden bird...

It makes me smile every time I look at it!  It's goofy and funny and a perfectly charming little thing to sit in my big oak barrel.


Tonight I'm doing Week 19 of the 52s.  I'm nervous, though for no real reason other than walking into a room full of strangers always does this to me.  Weird, isn't it?  I have travelled the globe, been places and seen things many folks never have or will.  And yet I get nervous about something so silly.  Go figure.

Maybe that's why I liked my little bird so much...apparently I'm just as goofy.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

It All Started With A Haircut...

Tuesday, early afternoon, I had an appointment to get my hair cut.  It was getting a bit shaggy, and it was time to do blond highlights which are easier when it's shorter.  I've had some truly awful haircuts since I've moved to this little town, but last year I found someone that pretty much does what I want, and I like her.

I tell her on Tuesday that I want it shorter than usual because it's been too hot and with all my outside work, I don't have time to mess with it.  She spins me in the chair--away from the mirror--and we chat away for half an hour about everything and nothing.

When she spins me back around, I am...speechless.  I look like a convict, on the ship to Devil's Island.  This isn't short, this is scalped.  She's all bubbly and "oh how cute" and other nonsense I don't quite hear over the roaring in my ears.  My only consolation is:  hair grows.

Home again, I think the highlighting should go really fast, considering I barely have any hair left to color.  I'm trying this new stuff that's organic, no chemicals, no ammonia, supposedly nourishing for one's hair, yada yada.  I put the stuff on my hair, wander around doing this and that until the 30 minutes are up, then pop into the shower to rinse it all off.

Huh.  I'm looking at the color as I dry off.  It looks sort of...dark. that red?  No, no, it will be fine once it's dry because it will lighten up.  Right?


I'm not sure what the frigging color is, but it most assuredly is NOT blond.  I look at the box, it says medium blond highlights.  Really?  In what universe??

Later, walking to the mail box in the early evening, I run into one of my neighbors.  She takes one look at my hair and says, "Wow, that's...spicy."  I gawp at her.  Spicy?  What does that mean exactly?  Mumbling something about hair color gone wrong, I come back home, grab my hand mirror and go outside on the deck for a real look in the natural light.  Bloody hell.  She's right.  My hair, instead of the soft honey hues I'm used to, has turned into cinnamon...cinnamon toast to be accurate.

So.  Not only do I look like an escapee from a women's prison--or a ten year old boy with wrinkles--but now I resemble a condiment.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do.  I went to the store yesterday and bought my usual hair color stuff, but I'm leery to put another product over this wretched mistaken blond-but-really-red crap.

On the other hand...this may be the solution:



While I was at the store yesterday, I also broke down and bought a Weed Eater.  I've resisted buying yet another damned garden implement, but I needed to mow down the tall grass across the road and my usual kid helper has run off to Alaska to pan for gold.  Seriously.  Oh, to be 24 again.  

(I ran off to sail the seven seas when I was 24, so can appreciate the gesture).

Anyway.  Because of the extreme fire danger--being up this mountain surrounded by pine, oak and brush--we are required to keep a fire break between the houses and the road, which means I am responsible for the verge across the road, ten feet down the slope and the length of my property.  Not that my efforts would really make a difference, but between the fire department, the county, and my insurance company, it must be done.

I start out in the late morning, overcast skies, maybe I can get this done before the sun breaks through.  Three hours later, sweat pouring down my face, shirt glued to my back, grass and weeds and bits stuck like nature's confetti to every available part of my body.  I finish the front slope, the dicey edge along one side of the house, and the whole ridgeline in the back, the entire time dragging 200-ft of heavy-duty electrical cord.  My hands have gone numb from the vibration of the machine, I itch all over from the detritus, the sun has burned every exposed bit of skin, giving me a Rudolph nose and farmers' arms.  Crap, crap, crap.

In the midst of bemoaning the work, the dirt, the extreme hard graft of hanging over ridges and cliffs to hack down grasses and weeds, I harbor a tiny glimmer of hope that my hair will miraculously have been lightened by the sun and might be turning a bit blond.  That would be great.

But no.  It's even more red.  Now my hair matches my face.

I take a cold shower, clean up, then realize I can't use my fingers or hands.  They are stiff and sore, as are my arms from holding the weed eater.  I can't even hold my paperback, let alone my Kindle.

Though, somehow, I was able to lift that wine glass.

I called my mom in the early evening last night.  She and my sister are coming next weekend to visit and to celebrate a combo Mother's Day/Mom's birthday.  I've been so busy, and tired, I haven't talked to her since last week.  

We chat, catch up, talk about next week, then I ask her if she watched Red Widow on Sunday night.  Mom and I occasionally watch the same shows, though I only watch a handful, I'd rather read.  This is one of the "filler" shows between the Winter season and Summer.  I happened to catch the first episode and totally loved it, as did Mom.  I record the show, then watch it sometime during the week so I can skip the commercials.  Sunday was the season finale and I tell Mom that I heard the show was going to be cancelled.  Mom blurts: "How can they cancel it?  You mean we'll never find out what happens now that Marta knows her father was the one who killed her husband?"
Silence on my part.  My brain is processing what she just said.  "Wait," I say, interrupting her tirade.  "WHAT?  Her father did it????"
Mom says, "Oh no.  You haven't watched it yet.  I'm so sorry I said anything!"
"I'm not saying another word." And she clams up.  No matter what I said, how I cajoled, begged, threatened, she wouldn't tell me a thing.
"I'm hanging up now," I said.  "I'll call you back in an hour."  I toss the phone into its cradle, her laughter ringing in my ears.
And yes, I sat down right that minute and watched the show.  It was incredible, the writing is so brilliant, and damn, there is just no way this series should be cancelled.
I called Mom back and we spent the next fifteen minutes doing this: 

Me:  OMG, I couldn't believe her brother--
Mom:  I know!  But what about when Luther--  
Me:  God, I nearly screamed!  And then the kid--
Mom:  Which one?  The daughter or the son--?  
Me:  And when Schiller actually killed the Russian--!
Mom:  I know!  Oh, they just can't cancel this show!  We'll never know what happened!

It's good to have diversions in life to relieve the disappointments, in a haircut gone bad, honey turning to cinnamon, wearing a brown paper bag for the next month, and accidentally hearing a startling denouement.

A busy few days up the mountain, for sure...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Elemental Magic

Yesterday the weather went sort of berserk. As the afternoon wore on, it got hotter and more humid, to the point I worried the dogs were going to expire. They were panting like they'd both just raced nonstop in the Iditarod...without the cooling influence of ice and snow. I wasn't faring any better. Just sitting perfectly still--the only movement a languid stretch of my hand for my drink and the flick of a finger to turn the page on my Kindle--had sweat running down my temples.

By early evening however, the intensity of the sun disappeared under an ominous, and very sinister looking darkness that began to creep over the blue skies. Seriously, it was like some kind of B-movie zombies-coming-over-the-hill scenario. It wasn't fluffy storm clouds either. No, this was a black wave that relentlessly covered the sky, blotting out the light, and considering these weren't really actual storm clouds, when the thunder and lightning started it was strange, and creepy.

Course, the dogs came unglued, even Max who has never been bothered by thunder before, and though the heat just kept rising--the last time I checked it had reached 94*--it was the humidity that was truly unbearable. And then came the violent winds.  This chaotic End of Days excitement went on for a couple hours and I swear I could feel the barometric pressure rising with each roll of thunder, every strike of lightning. It was like this terrible fever that burned hotter and hotter until something had to give.

And finally, with a crack of thunder that rattled the windows, it began to rain in a flash flood deluge that was epic. I couldn't hear over the drumming on the roof, the wind lashing around the corners of the house, the pounding of my heart.

It was totally magnificent. Earthy and elemental and ferociously wild. Rain poured down the windows in sheets, thunder boomed, lightning strobed across the valley. A truly breathtaking display of Nature at her most tumultuous.

Then, about half an hour later, the winds died, the rain dropped to random sprinkles, and the entire sky turned into a brilliant yellow-orange mist...

At last, the fever had broken.

I opened all the windows and doors, and let the cool air waft into the house, then I took the boys outside and while they lifted their heads and sniffed into the breeze, I closed my eyes and took in great, deep breaths of clean, fresh air...and magic at its most primeval...

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cinco de Mayo

Here's a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon in May:  Enjoying the Mexican culture with great food, cheerful music and a chilled, delicious margarita.

Out here in the wild West, Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated since the 1860s, although it's pretty global nowadays.  This event actually started in California, not Mexico, and came about because of an unexpected victory in a battle against the French that took place in Mexico on May 5th, 1862.  A small army of 4,000 Mexican soldiers defeated the vastly superior 8,000-strong French army.  When the Mexican miners working in California heard the news, they began shooting their guns, yelling, dancing and carrying on like lunatics.

And that, dear readers, is how annual festivals are born...

Even though it's still early morning here, I'm already picturing myself out on the deck later this afternoon, icy margarita sitting beside me on the little side table, gentle breeze, and my book.

Ah...Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Week 18 of the 52s...Naan

Okay.  Two observations...

First, let me say that I'm pretty much done having cooking experiences for the 52s.  Seriously.  I ruined the dog cookies in Week 14, and today I skirted the edge of ruin trying to make naan bread.

Second, how dumb am I to decide to cook something that requires a superheated cast iron pan on a day that is already abnormally hot?  Apparently, very, very dumb.

Earlier this week I was watching a cooking program on the Food Network.  One of the recipes was naan bread.  I love this bread and haven't had a good one since leaving the UK where you can get a curry and naan on every other corner.  The recipe looked easy, not many ingredients, and how cool, I could bake my own naan!

I should have known.  Really...

After the dog walk this morning, I quickly make the dough, which has to rise for 4 hours.  No problem. I do the yeast, sift the flour, knead the dough and set aside in a warm place (that would be anywhere in the nuclear furnace of the house) and go on to other chores.

Around 3:00, I figure it's been long enough.  The dough has risen, though not as high as expected.  Course, this isn't bread bread, it's Indian naan.  I knead a bit more, then I'm supposed to divide into 6 balls (loaves).  I only get 4.  That's alright, there's only one of me after all.  The dough is fluffy and slightly sticky, just as it's supposed to be...

I flatten a ball, roll it into a naan-shape and try to pick it up off the pastry mat.  It immediately stretches, rips through my fingers and drops onto the mat in a doughy heap. Huh.  I don't remember that happening on the television show.  I carefully knead the dough again, then practically fling it into the superheated cast iron pan.

At first it does exactly what it's supposed to: smokes and bubbles.  Naan traditionally has burnt spots, with big air pockets.  It cooks for one minute, gets flipped and cooks for another 30 seconds.  And here's where everything goes awry.  It has burned onto the pan's surface.  I can't get the spatula underneath to flip it, though eventually I manage.  Except the bread is burnt--in a bad way--but oddly raw inside.  Buggers.

Maybe, like making pancakes, the first one should go to the dog?  Too bad then that neither of my dogs will even come close enough to sniff the burned, mangled mess, let alone eat it.  The second one comes out the same...burnt and uncooked in the center.  They both will go over the ridge for the birds later this evening.

The temperature in the kitchen is now comparable to Chicago in August.  I am frustrated, hot and cranky.  Why isn't this working?  I have two more balls, then I'm taking a vow to never experiment with cooking again.

At last, the final dough ball.  It's the irregular shape of an authentic loaf, it's just starting to bubble, and I can slide the lip of the spatula under the edge. It's a miracle!

My Naan Bread.  It's not pretty, but it's cooked, there are numerous air pockets, it's got the good burned spots, and it tastes just right...

So, was it worth it?  Jury's still out.  I know it wasn't worth doing in this heat, for sure.  And I only got one true loaf out of what should have been six.  Plus my cast iron pan may never recover.


I did do something new this week.  And hey, as long as I'm sweaty and overheated, while I'm eating my naan with a nice salad later this evening, I'll just pretend I'm on holiday in Mumbai.  That should add a certain flavor, I think.