Monday, September 29, 2014

Too Fast...

My sister arrived safe and sound early Friday afternoon.  As always it's great to have her here...and the boys are so happy to see their favorite "auntie."  She comes bearing gifts:

For them...

And for me, including this old-fashioned harvest bucket filled with cool squash and crisp juicy apples, pumpkin seed brittle, my favorite Italian cookies, and a rare tea blend with blue Bergamot flowers that I will savor in the chilly days ahead...

Then for dinner we made the Roasted Garlic soup and Asiago crostini (here's a link to the recipe if you want to check it out.)  We had a great time making the soup together and an even better time eating it with a good bottle of red wine.

Six heads of garlic, roasted for about 1-1/2 hours until soft and sweet...

After adding the other ingredients, making the crostini, and about half an hour later...

The soup was creamy and nutty, sweet and garlicky...the crostini had a little bite (from the paprika--see recipe) and was deliciously crunchy and cheesy. We didn't talk much, it was mostly ummm and yum and omg.

Next day though, when we got to Mom's and did the big hugs and kisses stuff, Mom reeled back after hugging my sister and said, "What in the world have you been eating?" Apparently the side effects to the soup could kill a vampire at twenty paces.  Since my sister and I had eaten the same dinner, we couldn't smell the garlic at all.  It seems that garlic is stronger than toothpaste and Listerine.  Good to know.

In spite of our garlic-ness, we had a nice day with Mom, went out to lunch, talked and laughed and had a really nice drive through the mountains both going down and coming back.

Yesterday, after taking the boys for a long walk in the morning, we drove several miles out into the valley to the monastery cafe/store and bought organic, fresh out of the brick oven bread, and gooey, caramel/pecan sticky buns and almond biscotti--mostly for my sister to take home for her husband. And okay, yeah, I had a sticky bun, too and it was worth every calorie and carb.

We stayed up too late, ate way too much food, talked until we were hoarse.  The boys are now conked out, exhausted from all the excitement, and I'm reminded once again that I live far away from the people who know me best.  Ah well.  It just makes me appreciate them all the more when I do get to see them...

Thanks for the great weekend, sis...

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fun Ahead

Gloomy, foggy day.  That is not a's a smile-inducing observation.  The past few days have been cloudy, a bit chilly even, and I couldn't be happier.  Seriously.  The Gates of Hell have closed once again.

Walking the boys to the mailbox last evening, I passed one of my neighbors as she was working out in her garden.  She waved, then said, "We lived through another Summer!" See peeps?  It's not just me...

My sister is coming this afternoon.  She's making her last trip of the year before the mountain passes become...well...unpassable.  Saturday we're heading down south to visit the Mothership, taking Mom to lunch, visiting and catching up. It will be a good weekend.

I took the sunflower photo yesterday--a bright gleam of color in an otherwise dreary day. It's amazing how those two little seedlings have grown in just a few weeks.  This is Ted and he's lookin' good. Survival of the fittest...Darwin would be proud.

So, housecleaning this morning, then my sister arrives, followed by a new recipe for dinner (Roasted Garlic Soup with Asiago Crostini), and at least two adventures--or maybe three--over the next couple of days.

Last weekend in September, dear readers.  Enjoy...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Oh yeah...

I woke up this morning--on this second day of Autumn--to lashing rain and wind.  I couldn't believe my eyes...or ears as the rain pounded the roof.

The dogs got soaked on our walk, I got drenched running across the parking lot to the grocery store, even more loading the car after shopping.  I had rain cascading down my face; I relished each and every drop like it was ambrosia.

It's still pouring and now I'm home and dry, totally enjoying the crazy-wild of the first great storm of Autumn.  It's glorious and wonderful and cool and refreshing and ohmygod exactly what I've been dreaming about for weeks.

So, my word for the day?  Bliss.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Colors of Change

Along the river walk this morning

I love this:  Poetic, evocative, the words still echo down the long centuries. And that first line?  Plots and stories swirl in my head...

A good season for staying is autumn,
there is work then for everyone before the 
very short days.

Dappled fawns from amongst the hinds,
the red clumps of the bracken shelter them;
stags run from the knolls at the belling of 
the deer herd.

Sweet acorns in the wide woods,
stubble around the wheatfields over the expanse 
of brown earth.

There are thornbushes and prickly brambles
by the midst of the ruined court;
the hard ground is covered with heavy fruit.
Hazelnuts of good crop fall from the huge old
   trees on dykes.

                                                     Irish, Eleventh Century

Yes, I love this, but I love even more that it's the first day of Autumn...

Monday, September 22, 2014

Dancing on the Deck...

...well, when it dries.

Early this morning, hair sticking out every which way, barely dressed, Jack (gardener/handy guy) pulls in the drive.  He's ready to help with staining the back deck.  I nearly fall over from surprise, and lack of coffee.  It's

Before, all bare wood and clean:

(The sun was just coming over the rise behind me--that's the lighter strip in the bottom left of the photo above. Seriously, the dude came before sunrise!)

But at last, ta da, one deck done!

It took about four hours--one hour spent driving back to Lowe's for another can of stain--and though that seems like the project took awhile, there's another section of deck to the left that wraps around the house to the back door, plus two sets of stairs that aren't in the photos.  And frankly, I wouldn't have cared if it took all day as long as it was finished. And it was!

There'll be celebrations down the pub tonight, dear readers.  No matter the pub is the kitchen cupboard where I keep my favorite whiskey...

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Saturday Stuffage...

I was out in the backyard doing some gardening chores this morning, making a mental list of things that will need to get done soon because, although it doesn't seem like it--100 degree days and all--things really are winding down.  Well, except for two sunflowers that suddenly sprouted on the slope a few weeks ago.  I debated about pulling them out, but then my internal Darwin said to leave them be. Good thing, too.  Today I figure Bill and Ted are about four feet tall and have cute little sunflower heads.

My fence looks weird, doesn't it?  Like a snow break/fence. Interesting effect of the blazing sun and harsh shadow.


I did a little test strip on the deck--one whole step actually--so I can see how the new stain is going to look.  And whew!  I really like it.  Now, if I could just find the Goldilocks Moment: not too hot, not too cold, I might actually feel like progress is being made.

After checking out the stain, I straightened my prayer flags, a task I do every day.  It's sort of become a ritual for me.  Because the flags are silk, very wispy and wonderful, it hardly takes a breath of air to move them, which means they're often wound around and around the cloth tape they're attached to.  I unfurl each flag, spend a moment thinking of peace, compassion, love, wisdom, strength--whichever flag I'm touching--and imagine those prayers and mantras floating on the wind.

Today I see that the green flag has a long rent, and a few others are showing wear after two years of sun and wind, rain and storms, though overall they're holding up pretty good. Besides, that's the point of the flags really: as they fade and get tattered by the elements, they become part of the universe.

The green flag represents water.  I find it a bit startling that the first flag to show such wear and tear is the green when the entire region--southern Oregon/northern California--is struggling through unprecedented heat and a severe drought.  There are 400 mantras on each flag...I wonder how many have been used up after such a summer?


I have a bird bath in the front yard that I've had to fill way more than seems necessary of late. Course, it's in full sun during the hottest part of the day, so for weeks I've been thinking it's just nuclear-intense evaporation.


As I'm writing this post, I catch movement through the half-closed blinds that look over the front garden.  I should have known...

Very crappy photo, through the blinds, the window, the deck rail and twenty feet down the yard. The Evaporators...Mom and little spotted kidlet...

When I took this shot, it was just wafting over the 99* mark on my thermometer.  Click on the photo and you'll see how hot the deck rails are; the heat waves are rippling over the metal like liquid.

Okay, I'm heading for a nice, cold glass of Lambrusco now, peeps.  I've got a new book, a full bottle of vino, two napping dogs and most of the weekend ahead.  That totally works for me...

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Irony, A Geek and Brian Bosworth

Yesterday afternoon I went to Lowe's and finally settled on the color for the deck stain. The back deck has been power washed and though the front still needs to be cleaned, I decided to forge ahead with staining the back since the temps were supposed to be in the low 80s for a few days. My plan was to start this next phase of the project on Friday, when my gardener/helper, Jack comes.  I was really looking forward to getting part of this epic chore out of the way.

Do I find it ironic then that I woke up this morning to find there had been a most ferocious rain storm during the night?  The first rain in weeks?  A storm that nobody saw coming? My deck is now soaked. It will be at least four days before I can again attempt to stain the wood. By the weekend it's to be back into the 90s.  Too hot to stain.

And on that note...August was the hottest month in recorded history, across the globe. On Sunday it was 101.5* in my part of the world.  In mid-September. I'm so deeply, seriously, agonizingly sick of the heat and humidity.  Worst Summer ever.  I definitely need to head north.  Far, far north.  Igloos and icebergs and snow-capped mountains sound about right.


The printer guy came this afternoon.  Just prior to his arrival--because what could be more fraught?--I was on the internet when suddenly I lost the connection. I fiddled with the internet access button, then rebooted the router.  Twice.  Nothing.  After a few more tries, I disconnect everything: router, modem, computer, everything.  I'm on the edge of hysterical laughter because the guy is coming any minute and I have no working machines. More dinking, no internet, no connection, but just as he pulls into my driveway, it all miraculously comes back online.

Holy crap.  I can't take the drama, people, I really can't.

After I explain the last two days of my printer issues, he sits down, taps a couple keys, and the frigging printer kicks out a printed page.  My jaw drops.  I begin sputtering in utter disbelief. Turns out I most likely fixed the problem myself when I disconnected all the electronics. Ken said sometimes the router will glitch, or the modem will forget how to talk to the internet, or stuff just gets scrambled and all it takes is a total reset to get Tron back into the game.  He set me up with a separate IP for the laptop/printer so they can talk even if there's an internet issue, which I thought was cool.  Or, wait.  Maybe it was the printer/modem?


I got my flu shot earlier this week.  I was in Walgreen's and as they were very quiet and no one was at the pharmacy counter, I decided to get it over with.  As some of you know, dear readers, I have an absolute phobia for needles.  If I think about getting a flu shot, I never will. However, if I can trick the inner fearful kid and just do it, spur of the moment, I can get the deed done with a minimum of fainting, nausea and/or making a spectacle of myself in public.

The pharmacist is Brian Bosworth.  Or his doppelganger.  A giant of a guy who could have been Bosworth's twin. I'm tall, he towered, all muscles and hugeness.  The syringe in his hand looked like a small toy.  I follow him into the It's Gonna Hurt room, sit down and try to relax as he swabs my arm. He's commenting on my shoulder tattoo, chatting about the different strains of flu, until finally I can't bear it.  If he's trying to calm me, the opposite is happening.  The wait is killing me.  I'm all tense, expecting the jab at any moment, but no, on and on he talks.  Finally I say, "Oh man, just get it over with!" and he stabs me in the upper arm like he's just harpooned Moby Dick. I flinch, squeak and feel the burn shoot down my arm. I'm pretty sure the guy doesn't know his own strength, but at least the pain helped me to focus: didn't faint or throw up, though I might have staggered a bit when I left...


The sun is beating in the windows now, rain clouds long diffused, leaving behind a hot, sticky mugginess.  It's so hard to imagine chilly air, visible puffs of breath, a cold nose, while still under the influence of that wretched orb.

Ah well.  This too shall pass.  Right...?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014


Yeah, photo just about says it all.  I think yesterday afternoon I looked exactly like this, and my hair-pulling shrieks of exasperation were no doubt heard in San Francisco.

Monday, for no known reason except the gods were apparently in the mood to mess with me, my printer stopped working.  Right in the middle of a project.  Between one photo and the connection.

Though I love my photo printer, I have had some issues over the past couple of years. Sometimes the scanner won't work, sometimes my laptop says I don't have a printer installed.  **sigh**  I dig out the software CD, uninstall, reinstall and usually the printer comes back online.

Except. On Monday I spent four hours, peeps.  Yes, truly.  4 hours of my time, energy and mental stability trying to make the frigging printer work.  After jumping through all the hoops, thinking--for the tenth time--that everything was good to go, I would get an error message.  No explanation, no definitive reason,  Just...error.  I finally gave up and figured a new printer was in order.  Damn and blast.

So, yesterday I went to Staples and bought one.  It's much like the original--same brand, same photo printing capabilities, just newer--therefore familiar.  I get everything out of the box, set things up, all is well, this is totally easy, I'm making plans to finish my project as I install the software.  I print out the test sheet.

And get a message.  The same message.  Error.

Uninstall, reinstall, my frustration level rising, my curses getting more colorful, threats hurling skyward, heedlessly courting the wrath of the gods, those bastards.

In the end, nothing has worked and I have the sinking feeling I've just purchased a printer I didn't need. I call Staples and talk to a very nice techie named George.  We go around and around, try all kinds of tricks, spend an hour on the no avail.

End result of two bloody wasted days?  A guy has to come to the house. It's going to cost me $140 just to have him pull into my driveway.  *sigh*  But, if all goes well, they'll take back the new printer and that's a good thing.  It will help pay for the house call.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


A while back I started to notice that my mattress was just not as comfortable.  With the new mattresses, you can only rotate them top to bottom, not totally flip them over like the old style. Greed is a factor here for the manufacturers, I'm sure.  After all, no sense in making a mattress that can be used for twice as long is there?  So, because my mattress was a good one, and bloody expensive, I wasn't in the mood to replace it after just a few years.

Then I remembered sleeping on a most excellent mattress at a hotel in Dublin--London, too; same hotel chain--and it was all due to the mattress topper.  So.  Rather than buy a new mattress, I began the search.  Which took me nearly a month.  I went to all the shops in my area, then went online. The disparity in fabric, stuffing, price, was astounding, and made it difficult to make a decision.

Ultimately, after hands-on research (stores) and reading recommendations and endorsements (online), I finally settled on a company back East. Everything is made in America, and the reviews from actual buyers were pretty much straight across the board exceptional.

I bought the Extra Plush Double Thick, which looks like this:

It arrived yesterday.  I'd kinda been stewing about the purchase--would it really be well-made?  Really be soft and cozy like the European hotel version?  I got it out of its ginormous box and spread it across my bed to get the full-on puff effect.  Wow.

Quickly stripping my bed, and remaking it with the topper, fresh sheets and pillows, it was all I could do not to crawl right in. The siren call was almost irresistible, though I forced myself to wait until it was time for bed.

Holy Hallelujah Chorus, peeps.  It was like being enveloped in a warm embrace, having a cuddle that encompassed my entire body, like being drugged with a taste of Nirvana.  I couldn't even concentrate on reading my book, the lure of snuggling was too enticing.

I woke up this morning at 9:30.  9:30.  I haven't slept that late since...well, since I don't know how long.  Surprisingly, the dogs didn't wake me either.  Or, maybe they tried and I was so far away in la-la land that I didn't hear them.

All I know?  Right up there with a sizzling kiss, a great book, whiskey neat and the love of a good man, I'm adding my mattress topper to the Best Things In Life list...

Friday, September 12, 2014


On Sunday afternoons I watch a show called Capture, on the Ovation channel.  It's hosted by photographer Mark Seliger.  He interviews two people per session--one of the world's best photographers and an amateur, usually an actor--to discuss their work.  It's an amazing half hour that I often wish were longer.

I recorded last Sunday's program, then sat down last night to catch up.  I was beyond excited that the professional was Mary Ellen Mark, one of the people who set me on the path to want more than just a "picture" from my camera.

It was an excellent show, Mary Ellen was just mesmerizing, even more so at 74, and I was glued to every word she said.  Then. Toward the end of the program, Mark was rifling through some of her celebrity black & white shots when suddenly I caught just a glimmer of...something...before he set the photos down.  I backed up, replayed, backed up, replayed and there it was.

The memory...

Somewhere in the mid-90s.  The BFF and I are at Seattle's Pike Place Market on a crispy autumn Saturday.  On the lower level there were wonderful shops of vintage clothing, prints and posters, antiques.  This part of the market is removed from the bustling tourist stuff above where the fish, food and restaurants are.  We went there at least once a month for the cool clothes, but on this particular day we were headed for the poster shop where you could get just about anything ever photographed.

J wanted a particular shot of this goth guy, with tattoos and spiky hair, that she'd seen in a magazine. She's talking to the owner and I'm browsing around when I turned a corner...and had one of those life-changing moments.  I actually felt it sear through me, for two reasons.

Reason One:
At first, I thought the photographer had to be Annie Leibovitz because it was a celebrity shot, in black and white, and sort of her style. On closer inspection however, I knew it wasn't her work, but then, who's was it?  The owner of the shop clued me in. Mary Ellen Mark.  And I fell totally, utterly, forever under her spell.  I did research at the library, talked to art gallery people, bought her photography books (this was before the internet, Wiki, Google) and began to look through my camera lens in an entirely different way.

Reason Two:
Hanging on the wall was her photograph of my ideal man. I was completely lost in the vision. It was like someone had probed my brain, finding all the bits and pieces, and here was the result. I still feel that way--hence the total body rush last night at that little glimpse in Mark Seliger's hands as he shuffled through Mary Ellen's photographs.

I give you a man in his prime. 42 years old, incredibly great hair, ruggedly handsome, tattoo, abs and low-slung jeans.  It transports me, peeps.  It did back then, it does right now.  A stunning photograph.

Jeff Bridges, 1993
photo by Mary Ellen Mark

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

A World Unto Itself...

I live in a foreign land. Sometimes I understand the language and feel at home, other times I wander, clueless and alone.

The geography runs the gamut from harsh, frozen tundra, to parched desert sands.  In between are lush hidden valleys; snow-capped peaks reflected in deep pools; untrammeled forest, not yet felled by axe.  And although there are still jewel-bright glades and shining stars, there are also rivers, sluggish with the weight of pollution; stagnant lakes and pockets of toxic poisons, and seas that rage against the despair.

The lives within my country, like the landscape, are diverse: kind, loving, intelligent, caring…also rude and thoughtless, ignorant and fiercely angry at times.  There is pain and sorrow, but often laughter and joy.  Balance is hard won, acceptance harder.

There are many stories here. Layer upon layer of seemingly endless stories that echo from past voices, and make my heart yearn for future tales.  Every day is new and I treasure each unveiling, even if I don't comprehend the meaning.

What is the name of this place, you ask?


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Alaska Might Be Calling Me Home...

Yesterday afternoon, after chores and dog stuff and whatnot, I plopped down into my comfy reading chair, new book in hand.  I had barely read the first chapter when the dogs started doing this odd throat-clearing, hacking thing.  Distracting, but whatever. Until I started doing it and then smelled smoke.  Strong, acrid, shit-the-house-is-on-fire smoke.

I jumped to my feet, trying to follow the scent like a drug dog at airport security.  The smell completely permeated the house, giving me one of those prickly rushes of anxiety, coupled with a frantic desire to find the frigging flames before the house was engulfed.

Where was it coming from?

I calmed down after a minute or two when I realized the entire valley below me was filled with smoke, not just my house. Thick and strong, it made breathing difficult; the sky tainted with a sickly pinkish hue. Somewhere a forest fire was raging.

Yesterday afternoon...

I turned on the Northwest News channel, and sure enough.  Three separate, out-of-control fires to the north, east and west of me with evacuations, homes in jeopardy, acres of trees burning to ash in the tinder-dry forests.

Smoke, like water, is impossible to keep out.  I could almost see it wafting under the door, sneaking in the windows, creeping up the stairs.  Last night sleeping was a misery, not just from the smell, but the residual heat from the blasted sun. It's still in the mid-90s, still no rain in sight, still no ease from one of the worst droughts on record.

Early this morning... 

Have you ever wondered what you would save, dear readers, in a scenario of "grab it and go?"  Are you prepared for an emergency?  I know that many folks around the LA area, during the Santa Ana winds and fires, keep what they want to save in their cars so all they have to do is get in and drive away. Last night I wondered what I would snag on my way out.  I wandered through the house, mentally discarding this, grabbing that, questioning myself over importance, what I could live without.

Bottom line?  I figure I could be out of the house in under 30 seconds. Purse, phone, camera, two dogs.  Toss everything in the car and hit the road.  Stuff doesn't matter in the whole scheme of things really, does it?  But living to fight another day sure does...

Thursday, September 4, 2014

A Beauty and a Perfect Fit...

The other day I was at Michael's (the craft place) to find a frame for a photo I took of the BFF's very sweet dog, Lucky.  Whilst on the Idaho trip last month, we were sitting in her backyard at the picnic table when Lucky leaped onto the top like a gazelle--a very large gazelle--to join in the girl talk.  I had my camera close at hand because we were heading out on one of our excursions and in a most serendipitous moment, just as I raised my camera, she turned...

Lucky, the Chesapeake/Chocolate Lab beauty queen:

I'm going to send the shot to J, as a surprise, so was rummaging around in the frames and matts at Michael's looking for the right combination of colors and style.  I found the perfect frame, but the matt is still eluding me. Hopefully this idea won't end up being a Christmas present!

After my semi-success at Michael's, I went next door to Pier 1, just to see the cool Fall stuff.

In the Hallowe'en section, I spied this totally cool decorative piece that just called my name, and actually made me laugh out loud. When I got home and set it on the counter while I decided where to put it, I could hear Alan in my head, winding me up as he loved to do...

"What do you think?" I would say.
"Nice colors," he would respond, blue eyes twinkling. "Matches your broom."

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Musings On An Elevator

Yesterday I was reading a short story--well, more like a novella--that was so clever and thought-provoking, I mulled over the plot well after I'd finished the story.  This isn't a book review, but let me give you the gist, dear readers:

Guy is in the elevator, girl shouts to hold the door.  As she rushes in, she drops her phone, her purse slips, her hair covers her face, the elevator door closes.  Neither person has gotten any kind of look at the other and as the elevator starts to drop, it abruptly jerks to a halt and everything goes pitch dark. The kicker?  The guy is afraid of the dark. Course, over the hours they're stuck, we learn why he's claustrophobic, but I loved the twist that she was the calming influence.

Basically, the whole tale takes place in the dark, in the elevator.  They told each other things that normally--in the light of day--they never would have revealed; secrets and fears, sadness and joy. And all without knowing what the other person looked like; no preconceived notions based on what they could see--just two voices in the small, enclosed space. It was a great premise. And a really good story.

So, after I was done reading, I couldn't stop thinking about how this couple got to know each other, sight unseen, when most likely they never would have met or had a conversation otherwise.  She was sort of high-powered exec, he was an EMT, but tattooed and pierced, and yet they had so many things in common.

How often do people disregard or judge others based on how they look?  All. The. Time. Every single moment.  Imagine the people we don't get to know, the stories we never share, the lives that will never touch ours...because of what we see in another--or think we see.


On an entirely separate note, though still elevator-related, a memory was brought back to life by the story...

When I was a senior in high school, I had a most vivid and horrifying nightmare.  I can recall it just as clearly now:

I was going to the dentist.  His office was downtown, on the twelfth floor (as in real life). I got into the elevator with a woman and a baby in a stroller.  We got to the tenth floor and the elevator slammed to a stop, jolted up and down, then began to fall.  I will never forget that feeling, or the look of shock and terror on that woman's face.  I woke up just before the crash, my stomach in my throat, my body in a lurching arrhythmia of imminent death.

Two months later, I had a dentist appointment.  I stared at that elevator door.  When it opened, I couldn't force myself to step in.  Shaking, I turned away and took the stairs.  For years after--truly, years--I refused to take an elevator beyond the tenth floor.

In the world of dream interpretation, I still haven't figured that one out...