Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Whys on Wandering

I often have folks visiting the garden who remark about the off the wall stuff we do around here on the weekends. Many ask if I’m hyperactive or simply driven to be “on the go” all the time (uh, no – I’ve talked about my true nature here); others wonder where I come up with this stuff. I will agree that we are pretty fortunate to live where we do; within 2 hours, we can be at the ocean, in the mountains, or one of many destinations that people travel long distances to visit. But really, with very few exceptions, by putting in a little effort, anyone can find seasonal & regional events, state parks, festivals, museums, or the like in their own areas. My biggest resource is the newspaper; I get two daily papers & look not only in the community events calendar, I read the little ads in the margins promoting boutiques or special events, & the lifestyle sections, noting interesting places that might allow visitors. I also peruse magazines, especially regional or family ones, like Sunset, VIA, or Better Homes, for places of interest or special promotions.

That addresses the “how”, but not the “why”. I am by nature a homebody, content with my books, garden, & crafts; but a lesson I took away from my first marriage is that keeping your life & interests very narrow, keeps your personality very narrow. It is a bit of a cliché, but if you stop growing, there is nothing left but to die; quiet appeals to me, boredom does not. So I look out for new experiences, fresh vistas, something to anticipate- that is what makes the day-to-day grind of work foolishness, chores, & obligations bearable. I want to see a love of the arts, music, culture, heritage, & history grow in every member of my family- this was the best legacy given me by my upbringing. Besides, as is typical of most people, there are many places in my state I have never seen. We didn’t travel much in California when I was growing up; therefore, my first visit to Disneyland was at age 30, Yosemite Valley at 38, Lake Tahoe & Mt Shasta just 2 years ago, & I’m slowly making my way around to most of the Spanish Missions.

There is another, equally compelling reason- I want to create shared interests & memories with my family, things we can look back on in years to come, or stories that my children will share with their own children. You see, although we had the advantages of a upper middle class upbringing, my family was rather scattered, slightly troubled,  & emotionally distant, so I don’t have much in the way of “warm & fuzzy” memories of time spent together; the only family traditions I brought to my marriage was sparkling cider at Thanksgiving & taking obscene numbers of photographs at every event. I envied my husband’s (both of them) memories of family trips, holiday traditions, & silly rituals; it is especially poignant to hear Chris’ reminisces, since his father died a year before we first met. The regret over what they missed sharing over the past 30 years is enough to break my heart if I think about it too long; so I make a conscious effort to bank up treasure troves of memories for all of us, just in case. Some of the saddest words I know are ones of regret- “We thought about it, but never got around to it”, “Dad would have loved this”, “We’re all so busy- we just don’t have time together”.

Okay, the sermon is over; now get out there & make your own memories- this is the best time of year to find something new & interesting where you live.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Sugar Plum Fairy dropped by...

Since the twitch in my eye has subsided (for the most part) & I’ve discerned a wisp of Christmas cheer, I believe myself fit for polite company again.

The office move went more smoothly than I expected; I supervised the installation of the new cubicles (which were naturally missing components) Tuesday, the computers on Wednesday, & finally the moving of our files & cabinets from the old office space will happen tomorrow morning. I have about 65% of my desk set up; the rest will stay in boxes until the missing cabinets arrive in a few weeks.

I hope you each had an enjoyable Thanksgiving; ours was blessedly undemanding & restful. Wednesday night turned cold, so I had a pleasant lie-in snuggled under a down comforter before easing into the day. Chris & I worked in the garden for a while after breakfast, setting up some temporary frames for draping frost protection & stringing up Christmas lights around them, to help keep the plants warm overnight. The girls looked a bit askance at the whole set-up, but it is rather effective & I think Fred is enjoying his personal holiday light display.

We chose to go a non-traditional route this year, since it was just the three of us; baked ham, mashed sweet potatoes, a pan of dressing, salad, & spiced cranberry/peach chutney, served with wine & sparkling cider, & followed with pumpkin pie. While the ham & dressing were cooking, we all went for a walk before setting the table & dishing up the meal. Following the requisite nap in the recliner while listening to music, we watched a fun made-for-tv movie I picked out at Net*flix The Librarian: Quest for the Spear with Noah Wylie, Bob Newhart, & Jane Curtain.

Chris had to work on Friday, since he will be leaving on Tuesday & is in the midst of training 2 new employees, & Sam had plans with friends, so I spent the day by myself. I went up to the fabric store to use my 50% off coupon (I’m making a new dress to wear at Ravenswood), stopped at Son*ic for a burger, onion rings, & soda, then took myself over to the little zoo at Micke Grove Park to walk around. I made it home about the same time as the guys, so as soon as they were cleaned up, we went over to the church to look for a Christmas tree. We’ve had an artificial one since Sam was an infant; last winter I donated it to a non-profit group our company supports to decorate for a fundraiser & I haven’t found a replacement yet. Our youth pastor decided to try a tree lot this year to raise funds for Snow Camp & Children’s Ministries, so I wanted to give them shot at our business; we found a reasonably priced Douglas fir, which smells absolutely divine, & purchased a new tree stand. Sam also decided to volunteer to work the lot over the next few weeks; the more money they raise, the less he’ll have to shell out for camp in January- besides, the kids have a great time together.

So Saturday morning, Chris & I dropped Sam off at the tree lot, & then drove into San Francisco to attend the Dickens Christmas Fair. Although we don’t go every year, usually due to other commitments, we always have a wonderful time. I was hoping to find a bonnet to wear at Ravenswood; I didn’t find anything in my budget that would work (the period really isn’t right- about 40 years too early style-wise) but had a great time exploring regardless. This year, we spent most of our time with the entertainment- we saw “Pirates of Penzance”, listened to sailor’s shanties & Mad Sal’s revue, sat in on a recitation by Rudyard Kipling & Annie Oakley, & attended the doings at Fezziwig’s Warehouse.

Well, I’d best wrap this up & get to work on my dress; I’d like to have it ready by the Yuletide Celebration on December 9th, but I need to do some adjustments on the pattern to give myself a little more room in the bodice, a little less fullness in the back of the skirt & the lower sleeve, & shorten it enough to be functional. I believe that after the first of the year, I’m going to start a recurring series on Ravenswood & the work we do there- I foresee my role there being expanded in the very near future, so naturally I would like to share it with each of you. Ta-ta!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

Hello dear friends & visitors.

I will be otherwise occupied for the next few days, whilst I watch my professional world being tumbled ass over teakettle & attempt to right it again.

I sincerely hope to be back in humor by this weekend, as we embark on our holiday rambles toward Christmas, since Chris will be leaving again for Florida on Monday night.

If you are of a praying bent, I would greatly appreciate some petitions for the return of the family equilibrium, along with my sanity & a modicum of holiday spirit; I am feeling particularly “Scrooge-ish” at the moment & it simply won’t do for my first Christmas at home in 3 years.

Cat Haiku

(Author Unknown)

The dog wags his tail,

Seeking approval. See mine?

Different message.


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cooking Fun?


An old man was lying on his death bed, wishing for one more pleasure out of life. Suddenly, he smelled the scent of cookies coming from the kitchen. With all the strength left in him, he made his way to the kitchen, where his wife was busy baking. It took all he had to reach out for a cookie. Just when he got his hands on one, his wife slapped him on the wrist. "Leave those alone," she said. "They're for the funeral." Wink

This office move is testing the limits of my composure.

Somehow, in the course of a week, I- possibly the least thrilled person in this company in terms of the relocation- have ended up as project supervisor for this fiasco, mostly be default since my boss has decided to take the next week off Baring teeth 

It has reached the point that whenever anyone mentions the word m-o-v-e, my upper right eyelid begins to twitch so violently that it appears I am winking at everyone; either they are attempting to figure what the joke is or considering bring me up on harrassment charges.

I need chocolate.

The saving grace is that it will all be completed in 10 days, & 6 of those days are weekend/Thanksgiving. That, & the fact that my vacation starts in four weeks, just in time for the problems that weren't considered to pop up.

I will not be answering my phone. Period.

I've had some requests for the recipes I mentioned this past week. Aways happy to oblige my adoring public, here they are- quick, simple, & tasty, which is the only way I will submit to the tyanny of the kitchen Tongue out

Spiced Cranberry/Peach Chutney

3/4 cup of water

3/4 cup of brown sugar

1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice

12 to 16 oz of fresh or frozen whole cranberries

1 can of unsweetened peach slices, drained & chopped

(Optional- 1 cup coarse chopped pecans)

Combine first three items in a saucepan & bring to a boil, stirring frequently to dissolve sugar; add the cranberries & bring back to a boil; lower heat to medium & simmer for 10 minutes with the lid on, but cracked to let out steam; set aside to cool until ready to serve; just before serving, stir in drained peaches & optional nuts.

Curried Olive Dip

2 cups shredded medium cheddar cheese

1 can chopped black olives

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 green onions, finely chopped (or 2 tbsp of dried minced onion)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3/4 tsp of curry powder

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly; cover & store in the fridge for 4 to 12 hours; serve with crostini or wheat thins.

Cat Haiku

(author unknown)

Tiny can, dumped in

Plastic bowl. Presentation,

One star; service, none.
Cat face



Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Hostess with the Mostest

You know how you look forward to an event, planning & preparing, only to have things fall flat?

Well, that is not what happened this weekend!

The carpets turned out well; not brand-new by any means, but definitely an improvement. Chris did a great job with his list- the walls were clean, the windows sparkling, & not a speck of dust to be found (at least not downstairs.) He even took the initiative & cleared off the shelves in the laundry room, hung a wreath on the front door, & recreated a votive log he saw in a catalog to put in the fireplace (which is more decorative than functional.)

Since everything was done, we all slept in Saturday morning, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, & then drove into Livermore for the decorating party at Ravenswood. As we drove down Arroyo towards the house, we were treated to an amazing sight. In this part of town, the city of Livermore has flanked the road with conservancy lots, an acre deep & planted with olives, fruit trees, & in the area across from Ravenswood, grapevines which mirror our own heirloom vineyard. Imagine our surprise when we were greeted by this sight:

Turkey Vultures

There had to have been at least 50 of these turkey vultures, each 3 foot tall with a wingspan of 6 feet, perched on the ends of every row & lining the fence between the vineyard & the bike/walking path. Everyone traveling down the road, either by vehicle or by foot, came to a stop at the spectacle & we saw several people return with their cameras.

We had about 10 people turn out to help & we completed the decorating within 2 hours, even with frequent breaks for tea, coffee, & carrot cake or apple crisp. I was told that the ornamentation was scaled way back from previous years, mostly because of the lack of hand-on volunteers to do the work; but I was pleased with the understated results, which didn’t compete with the artifacts in the house & the wonderful scaled miniatures of the Cottage, Main House, & the Pleasanton Hotel being showcased.

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While we were finishing up, the president of the Ravenswood Progress League (aka RPL) & my tour-day partner, told us about a flock of wild turkeys that hang out at the Veterans’ Hospital just down the road from the house museum, so we decided to see if we could find them before driving back home. The property is quite extensive, almost park-like, with plenty of trees, trails, & ponds scattered around; sure enough, after only 10 minutes, we were greeted by several groups of toms & hens- most of whom are camera shy- & got a few shots before being driven off by some truly insufferable peacocks screaming just for the heck of it.

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We were home by noon, had the potatoes & chutney prepared before 2:30, & even had time for a little snooze with the girls before it was time to do a last minute wipe down, set the table, & start the ribs on the grill. It began to sprinkle as the guests arrived, but our back porch is covered, so everyone milled around inside & out, enjoying cider & Curried Olive Dip, & chatting. I had chosen to honor Martinmas, or the Feast of St Martin, (who was the patron saint of the homeless, the destitute, & beggars) by asking everyone to bring some non-perishable food to be donated to Interfaith Ministry, which provides food, clothing, & shelter to people in need. After dinner (which turned out great), instead of playing games or watching movies like we have before, everyone gathered around the table to put together gift jars- layered soup mix or cookie mix in one-quart glass containers. I wasn’t certain how well this would go over, especially with the guys, but everyone seemed to have a great time, putting together 2 or 3 jars apiece, decorating them with circles of fabric & ribbon. We sat around chatting while we had coffee & dessert (cheesecake, which was awesome with the chutney on top) & called it a night around 9:30, the latest any of these evenings have lasted.

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It stormed & blew all night, & Sunday dawned cloudy & cool. The guys headed off to church & I drove back over to Ravenswood for what I figured would be a day of sitting, since most people don’t come out in the rain. As I pulled into the property (the vultures were gone), the sun broke thru the clouds & I was treated to a sight that stirs my heart:

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This place is my personal playground; I dress in my Victorian finery & wander around the grounds,

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drinking in the silence, searching for hidden treasures in the herb & flower beds, & imagining myself as mistress of the manor. I only gave two tours that afternoon, but they were the kind I enjoy- just a couple of people, who are interested in what I have to say & ask lots of questions about the family history, the house & the grounds, & appreciate the work of preservation we are trying to do here. The rest of the day was spent here,

Powder Puff 2007 004

quietly knitting,

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& enjoying the views spread in front of me.

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It is a good life & I am blessed.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Friday, November 09, 2007


No, there are no men in my tub- at least not at this moment; it is my semi-annual “Let’s scour everything that doesn’t move & a few things that do, just in case” turn out of the family homestead. This it the time of year that I feel the itch to blow out the cobwebs & sterilize everything before winter weather sets in; add to that the upcoming House to House dinner at our home & you end up with a 10-day long festival of tidying. 


This all began with the desire to have the carpets cleaned downstairs; this is a different group of people- who seem to be much better behaved then Saint C- but why risk any more insults to my dingy carpets? Having the carpets done necessitates moving the furniture & breakables out of the rooms, which naturally must be preceded by removing the piles from said furniture- papers, books, fabric, sewing paraphernalia, & assorted random crap. Being a good FlyBaby (okay, okay- a marginal one), we have taking on one small area each evening- sorting, tossing, relocating, & finally cleaning with my favorite orange En*dust- which left only the big stuff to move last night. It took the guys maybe an hour to remove everything into the garage or out to the back porch, leaving a couple of chairs & a lamp for us to use until bedtime.

 Chair  Couch  Lamp  Books  

We were then treated to a floorshow, courtesy of our furry friends; just as each human in our family has their own personality & quirks, the cats will show their individuality when faced with change. Confronted by this empty room, their reactions were varied; Daisy parked her carcass on the throw rug in the kitchen, refusing to budge regardless of the constant flow of traffic over & around her; Poppy, after hiding in the laundry room during the action, took an entire 15 minutes to belly-crawl through the area- flinching at every sound, shadow, & imaginary bug- & has been ensconced in the bathroom sink upstairs ever since. Dahlia, true to her rebel form, has been having a grand time; tail held high like a frisky horse, she has been galloping around, exploring hitherto unseen corners, running laps around the room, & joyfully playing with the pile of toys that were unearthed from under the sofa & microwave cart. Here is a shot of her cache:

 Dahlia's Cache

If you are wondering about those pieces of paper, well...she has a number of traditional cat toys- mostly gifts- that she will consent to play with on occasion, but given the contrary nature of the feline, Dahlia’s favorite plaything is wadded up paper- a cough drop wrapper, tissue paper from a package, or- to my mortification- the paper strip from a panty liner. She will fish these treasures out of the trash can in the bathroom & bat them around the house, carrying them from room to room in her mouth, & dropping them at someone’s feet. She is such a dog-cat!

 Dog 21 

Anyway, the carpets are done & drying; the furniture will be moved back in tonight or tomorrow morning; Chris is on vacation until Monday & has been armed with a list (short, really- only half a page) of little things to do before Saturday morning. It isn’t a wholesale, exhaustive cleaning, worthy of a hospital ward or a nesting mother; it’s just a bunch of small things that I’ve noticed- usually sitting on the pot, ala Wiemie & The Wallpaper Stripping- that would be obvious to my guests. You know the kind of thing; the grayish-brown areas around the door handles, jams, light switches, & the corner of every wall in my house; one light bulb burned out in a two-bulb fixture; the built up grime on the burner drip pans, that smokes whenever anyone cooks & sets off the alarm. There is a two-fold reason behind this strategy; it will keep him occupied while he’s off (I’ve already told you, the man does not know how to relax) so I should only receive 3 or 4 phone calls from him per day, & the myriad of grime spots will be dealt with be the creator (him), instead of by the only person who seems to see these things (me).


Well, I’m off to the grocery store before choir practice tonight; on the menu for Saturday is Barbequed Pork Ribs, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, my infamous Spiced Cranberry/Peach Chutney, as well as Hot Cider & assorted beverages- the others are bringing salad, bread, & dessert. It will be one of those weekends; Saturday morning, we’ll be decorating for Christmas at Ravenswood & then the party in the evening; Sunday will be spent giving tours at the Cottage & then taking Sam out to a long ago promised movie- he got first quarter grades & nothing lower than a “C”, even in English, his weak subject. Monday is holiday for us, so I plan doing my impression of a root vegetable for the day; just call me Marrow Meg & poke me with a fork to make sure I’m done. 

 Couch Potato 


Cat Haiku

(author unknown)

My brain: walnut sized.
Yours: largest among primates.

Yet, who leaves for work?

 Kitty 3 

Monday, November 05, 2007

It's a Manic Monday

I have my friend Gail to thank for helping me find something to contribute today~ I’m not functionally creative today & original thoughts seem to be difficult to come by. I think I’m due for a vacation, one with absolutely nothing to do but sleep in, putter around the house, & maybe do a little local shopping or visiting. At least, that is the plan for five weeks from now- but then, you know what they say about plans...

Describe yourself in one word:  Contented
What is your favorite kitchen utensil and why?  Silicone spatulas. I love how flexible & heat resistant they are- I mix, scrape, & cook with them; plus, they make a great noise when smacking an errant hand or tush that gets in my way!
What is the one thing that frightens you the most about growing old?  I don’t really fear anything about growing old- I have a family history of long-lived, healthy, & active seniors- though I am concerned about having enough income to retire & remain independent. I know my boys would gladly care for us if the need arose, but of course I’d prefer that they didn’t have to make those decisions.

And now, the return of...

Cat Haiku

The rule for today:
Touch my tail, I shred your hand.
New rule tomorrow.

Cat face