Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Things are looking up

(OMG- This was written on Saturday & I seriously thought I had published, but evidently it was just saved!)

Ahhh! Another 3-day weekend & few commitments; sometimes it is good to be me Smile

I had to go into work for a couple of hours today to take care of some filing & records storage, however I was done & home by noon. The guys have taken my car for the afternoon, so I “have” to stay around the house- oh, darn! My book & knitting are calling to me, but they will have to wait for a bit while I gab with my friends.

Chris has taken Sam out for some driving practice; he will be completing Driver’s Ed in 2 weeks, & then will be enrolling in a driving school for the behind the wheel portion (required by the State of California.) Today’s adventure is part of a new program in our area; it all came about after a tragedy that occurred one year ago tomorrow. I’ve written about the accident that killed a local teen & the community support that has flowed around the boy who was driving; I also mentioned how Ken Ucci, father of the boy who died, started a chapter of “Get Real Behind the Wheel”, a safe teen-driving program. Over the past few months, there have been several educational events at schools, community outreach, & fundraising events (at the West High homecoming game, “Get Real” presented the school with a new scoreboard in the gym, as a memorial to Mike, a basketball player), all culminating in a partnership with Altamont Motorsports Park, located 5 miles west of Tracy. Twice a month, the track opens up to local teens & their parents, so they can practice driving under several controlled conditions (the grand opening charged parents, but now each event is free). Nothing fully takes that niggling of fear away when I think about Sam driving alone, but I know we have done all we can to help him be prepared.

Tomorrow is “Date Day”; Chris & I have tickets to see Chris Botti in concert at Yoshi’s Jazz Club in San Francisco. I got the tickets when I renewed my PBS membership (last year I got tickets to see “Celtic Women”, & the year before, we saw Benice in Oakland), & since the concert doesn’t start until 9:00 pm, we’re going to make an afternoon out of it. If the weather cooperates, I’m going to take Chris on his very first cable-car ride- the man was born in the Bay Area, & has never ridden on one- & if it’s stormy (which looks pretty likely), we’ll head to one of the museums. Dinner will be whatever appeals at the time & then off to listen to some seriously talented lips! Because we probably won’t be home before 1:00 am, we’re both taking a vacation day on Monday- you know, the old folks don’t bounce back too quickly anymore Tongue out

Well, I’m off to my book (Emma by Jane Austen &/or Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery), my cuppa (Citron Green from Adagio), & some cranberry scones; yes, it is pretty good to be me today Rainbow

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Insult to Injury

All right. Enough of this sweetness & light that’s been hanging around here lately; folks are going to begin to think I’m not a real person! High time for good old “Gripe Session”; buckle your seat belts.

+   First of all, getting old bites. Yes, I will admit it- I am middle aged & I feel every one of those 45 years hanging on me. The symphony of crackles, creaks, grinding & groaning first thing in the morning rankles the nerves of everyone present; Poppy has taken to giving me dirty looks for disturbing her royal slumber & stalks off to sulk in the corner. The cold, wet weather has aggravated all the normally moderate aches & pains we live with- between my hands & Chris’ knees, we’re going through a bottle of ibuprofen (100 caps) a week.

+   I have been playing “Clothing Roulette” with my soon-to-be 17 year old son- you know, the one who is normally pretty easy going & malleable. Here’s how you play:

o       Mom does the laundry (drag downstairs, wash, & dry), then asks the boy to fold & put away the clean clothes.

o       The boy heaves enormous sigh of oppression, before stomping upstairs to get a basket, where he is promptly distracted by: (a) cell phone, (b) video game, (c) the patterns on the ceiling over his bed.

o       Mom notices an hour later that the clothes are still in the dryer, & reminds the boy- who is now sitting on the sofa watching TV- that the clothes still need to be folded & put away.

o       The boy rolls his eyes, mutters something resembling “If it bugs you so much, do it yourself”, stomps back upstairs for the basket he forgot earlier, & precedes to roll it down the stairs or drag it behind him- Thump-Thump-Thump

o       Thirty minutes later, Mom walks through the living room to see the empty laundry basket on the sofa & the boy sitting in the recliner, eating an orange & dropping the peel on the floor.

o       In reply to the query “Are the clothes put away yet?” the boy states he was hungry & he’ll do it when he’s done; having been told that he is done & pick up that blasted peel, the boy removes clothes from dryer & drops them on the floor- next to the basket- & begins rolling them in balls & tossing them into the basket, Michael Jordan style.

o       Mom comes back through the living room later & spots the basket of wadded clothing sitting on the sofa, instructs the boy- who is now practicing with his kendo sword right below the ceiling fan- to re-fold the clothes & take them upstairs.... now!

o       Dad now enters the game- he trips over the basket of clothing in the upstairs hallway & calls for the boy to finish what he was told to do

o       The boy deposits the basket of clothes on parents’ bed

o       Mom deposits the basket of clothes in front of boy’s bedroom door

o       The boy moves the basket of clothes back into the hallway to get through the door

o       Dad picks up the basket of clothes & dumps contents on the boy’s bed

o       The boy goes to bed, dropping the folded clothing on the floor

o       The next morning, Mom picks the clothes up off the floor, puts them back on the boy’s bed, & tells the boy to put them away before he leaves for school

o       The boy stashes the clothes on his closet floor, before bolting out the door for Driver’s Ed class

o       Mom goes in search of her socks & sees the clothes on the floor; since she is in her underwear, she can’t charge out the door after the boy, so she puts the clothes back on his bed, murmuring obsenities

o       In the evening, while boy is taking his second shower of the day, Mom flushes the toilet, & when boy leans out the stall door to yell at whoever did it, she grabs his earlobe, frog marches him- starkers & dripping- into his room, & watches while he puts the clothing away.

This game is played roughly once a week- I sincerely hope the boy’s brain cells start sparking again soon.

+   After six years of being clean-shaven, Chris has decided to grow one of those Vandyke beards. I don’t know why; he’s not normally one to follow the crowd (hence, the full head of hair in a community of shaved heads), so part of me is slightly apprehensive & the rest is just plain annoyed. Chris is a natural blond, with nary a grey hair on his head that I’ve been able to spot (blast his 46 year old hide); this new venture is sporting a calico flair- the mustache coming in a dark blond & the beard pure black, with two bright white stripes running down the chin- similar to a skunk’s markings. The current length & texture is that of a cheap nylon nail brush; forget whisker burn- I’m being punctured each evening during his lemon-sucking-lip-pucker jab my direction as he heads to bed. Yep- unfortunately, we are back to “ships passing in the night”- refer to #1 in this post ...*sigh*

+   I had to go back to the doctor on Friday. Not to worry- nothing serious & my foot is still feeling pretty good, all things considered. No, I’ve developed my first ever yeast infection.

In my armpit.

Yes, you read that correctly; apparently, the cortisone shot I had last month (also a first) suppressed my immune system enough for the ever-present fungus to blossom into full smelly, itchy, burning glory under both arms. Two weeks of no shaving or deodorant, & daily doses of Lama*sil- same stuff they use for j*ck-itch. Boy, am I a class act or what?

Well, that’s it for now; I have to put in some hours at my desk, preparing year-end reports & hopefully rack up some overtime hours; Chris has been put on 4-day weeks for the next month unless enough people leave (always a possibility on short hours) or bookings pick-up. The timing could not have been worse- we are scheduled to go on vacation in March & I’ve already purchased the non-refundable tickets; unless the tax return arrives promptly, we may be camping out in Washington, DC for Spring Break. Now that would be an adventure.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Lemon or cream?

After a quiet Sunday at home

Fall 2007 210

the evening turns cold and windy

A good time for some nesting

A fire burns in the grate

Winter 2007 218

Candles cast a gentle glow

Winter 2007 216

Meg has been busy in the kitchen

Winter 2007 224

with Lemon Poppyseed scones

with cream and jam

Winter 2007 229

Gala and Granny Smith apples

Winter 2007 228

some favorite sweets

Winter 2007 225

Egg Salad and Chedder/Olive sandwiches

There is soup on the stove

and Wild Berry tea in the pot

Winter 2007 221

so, please, have a seat and let me pour you a cup.






Thursday, January 17, 2008

In celebration of all things Austen

Which Jane Austen Character are You?


 elizabeth bennet

You are Eliza Bennett from Pride and Prejudice! Yay, you! Perhaps the brightest and best character in all of English literature, you are intelligent, lively, lovely-- in short, you are the best of company. Your only foibles are that you stick with your first impressions... and your family is quite intolerable.

(Take this quiz)

I have always loved to read; books have been my companions through all the stages & seasons of my life. In my early teens, I discovered a love of period fiction; my first dip into writings about a gentler age was with the Betsy & Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace. It was as an adult that I first read “Little Women” (& several subsequent books by Louisa May Alcott), “Jane Eyre” (a little dark for my taste), & “War & Peace” (entirely too ponderous!)

In my early 30’s, I met Jane Austen & a fast friendship was formed; while her wit, intelligence, & sense of irony satisfied my intellect, it was her pleasure in the simplicity of the everyday that struck a chord in my own soul. Although the snobbery of the class system & the utter lack of self-determination for women during this period grates against my 21st century sensibilities, I was charmed & changed by Jane’s word craft; the politeness & propriety of social interactions, the genuine enjoyment of gentle pastimes, & the invocative imagery of the natural surroundings.

Therefore, along with the thousands of fellow Janites (or Austenians), I have been looking forward to this first part of the Masterpiece Theater season, where they are presenting adaptations of all six of Jane Austen’s published novels. The first installment- Persuasion- was this past Sunday; while I was not absolutely thrilled with this rendering of my second favorite novel, (some very strange staging choices, over-the-top characterizations by actors, overall dark tone, & several very period-inappropriate actions, such as the couple kissing in public & a lady running through town without a hat!), it was infinitely better then wasting my evening on the current drivel being televised. 

This upcoming Sunday is Northanger Abbey, a great bit of light fun, even by Jane’s standards, & my hopes are high that it will be a pleasing interpretation. I was planning to host a “Virtual Tea Party” for last week’s broadcast- inspired by my friend Junie Moon’s talk of baking scones- but returned home from my duties at Ravenswood too late to put it together properly. So, providing all the stars align, the landlord takes himself in good time (he’s bringing an appraiser over as part of his efforts to refinance at a better rate), & no one is called away unexpectedly, I would like to extend an invitation for the honor of your presence at high tea on Sunday evening (gloves & hat are strictly optional)


Monday, January 14, 2008

Ravenswood: Part One

Picture 004


You have heard me blether on about Ravenswood, & the time I spend there each month as a docent, for a number of months now. Since the opportunity to take one of my tours is remote for most of you (although you are more than welcome should the urge ever strike on the 2nd or 4th Sunday of each month) it occurred to me that some of my regular visitors, as well as some new friends who have drifted into my little world, might be interested to learn about the property & its history. (Besides, it will give me a well to draw from when things are a little dry around here, inspiration-wise!)

So, in the immortal words of Julie Andrews (as Maria Von Trapp), “Let’s start at the very beginning; it’s a very good place to start.”

Ravenswood Historic Site is a house museum, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a State of California Point of Interest, and a City of Livermore Preservation Landmark Site. What is a “house museum”? It is a dwelling, once used as a residence, which has been preserved because of its historic, architectural, or regional importance, & is in itself an artifact, a living snapshot of another era. House museums come in all shapes & sizes, from the humblest of sod shanties to grandest mansions; a few notable examples would be The Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, The Hermitage in Tennessee, & Hearst Castle in California.

Ravenswood is not in the same league as these grand ladies; it was a relatively small property- around 100 acres- purchased in 1885 by a now almost forgotten businessman & political figure by the name of Christopher A. Buckley. It was developed first as a summer retreat for his family, with a small Queen Anne style cottage for the family, a tank house/kitchen, a carriage barn; later, a larger “Main House” was completed in 1891, along with buildings for a winery & brandy distillery.

Ravenswood remained in the hands of the Buckley family until shortly after Mrs. Buckley’s death in 1925; the property was then sold to Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, known as the Redemptorist Fathers. The Order renamed it Villa Saint Clement, & used it as a religious retreat & training center for the next 30 years, while a neighbor & local vintner cared for the vines & orchards. When the Fathers left Livermore in the mid 1960’s, the property was purchased by a local developer, who in turn deeded 33 acres, including the structures, to the City of Livermore.

Over the next several years, a series of tenants & caretakers lived at Ravenswood, but the buildings suffered from neglect & vandalism. At one point in the late 1970’s, the buildings were slated to be burned as firefighter training; fortunately, a local woman, Janet Newton, took up the battle cry & urged the City to restore the property as an historic park. This is when the Ravenswood Preservation League (RPL) was formed & LARPD (Livermore Area Regional Parks District) took over management of the grounds & buildings. It took a number of years, vigorous fundraising, as well as generous individual donations, & innumerable hours of volunteer labor to bring Ravenswood back from the brink of ruin. Today, it is a popular place to have weddings & receptions (which helps keep it a self-supporting entity) & is opened to the public for free tours twice a month. With the exception of the LARPD employees who do the maintenance, Ravenswood is run entirely by a group of dedicated volunteers; there are volunteers from local wineries who have replanted & care for the heirloom vineyard, people who serves as RPL board members (which I may be joining in the near future as Treasurer), costumed docents who conduct tours & run the gift shop, & members would give their time working in the gardens, acting as ambassadors on the croquet team, & serving at fundraising events. I am quite proud of my involvement with this lovely property & these generous people; but most of all, I am pleased to see my son’s growing love of history & appreciation of the value of preserving our history. This, I hope, will be one of my legacies to my family.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Have you seen my window screens?

Our journey into 2008 has begun, & I find myself sincerely hoping that the past five days are not indicative of the coming year.

Work continues to take up entirely too much of my time & energy; today, I was up early to get my hair cut, before heading to the office to play catch up with my general ledgers & filing. The only saving grace was that the weather is so abysmal, that I’m not missing out on any fun activities, like a trip up to the snow (not recommended at this time.) I am making progress, & I anticipate having the chaos tamed into submission by the end of the month.

 Paper Work 

Or maybe the end of next month.

Or the end of the year.


 I Don't Know 

Chris, on the other hand, has been enjoying some well-deserved, extended time away from work; since he returned from Florida on last month, he has only worked 7 of the past 24 days. The upside is it has all been paid- either vacation or holiday pay. The downside- the one day he went in the week before Christmas (for his company party) he caught the virus that has been circulating in the office, so he has been hacking & snotty for the past week & a half.

Yeah, fun.  Sickly 

Speaking of the weather, we are currently in the grip of a series of winter storms that has been wreaking havoc throughout the state. While the higher elevations are seeing heavy snow, here in the Valley, we are being buffeted by high winds, driving rain, & threats of floods from the over-taxed levy system. Fortunately for us, our town is more than 50 feet above sea level & 10 miles from the nearest levy or river, so the likelihood of flooding is remote; but we are dealing with a number of uprooted trees, falling branches, & flying debris. 




While I was working today, Chris was clearing up the mess in our yard, settling the rabbit into the laundry room, & helping our neighbor reattach his roof shingles. I had planned on writing about my new cold frames that Chris devised while he was on vacation & doing a photo tour of my vegetables.

Winter 2007 172

The vinyl panels double as overnight frost protection, as well as creating a greenhouse atmosphere, raising the interior temperature by 15˚F during the day. Everything is doing well & we’ve been enjoying a modest weekly harvest;

Winter 2007 169 

Winter 2007 175

but right now, it all looks pretty bedraggled after the wind-beating the garden has been taking. While the wood frames are in good shape, the vinyl sheets have been almost shredded, so we are brainstorming some other type of protective casing to use during inclement weather.

AlpacaMerino Scarf 003AlpacaMerino Scarf 001AlpacaMerino Scarf 004


Well, I need to get back to my knitting; I’ve finished only one bandage so far for Junie Moon’s Bandage Brigade, & I need to get them mailed out by the 15th, so other knitting is on the back burner for the time being. Too bad, because I have some fun projects in my queue:

J   I’m in another read & knit along on Ravelry- this one is with the “Austentacious” group, & we are reading Jane Austen’s Emma over the next 12 weeks, while creating items with a “Made for Each Other” theme (things that go together);

J   I’ve had a special request from a blogging friend for some “surprise” fingerless mittens (I think you’ll like what I picked out, Becca);

J   I’m on the last month of the “Anne of Green Gables” read & knit along, so the bandages will be my final project;

J   A friend gave me a gorgeous pattern for cabled kilt hose, which I am itching to start- I have the yarn & needles, & just need the time to begin (this will be a long term project- at least a year);

J   I’m considering joining another read & knit along next month (when “Anne” is done)- the group will be reading three of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries over as many months, & doing a themed “mystery” scarf swap

Book Club

The good news is that PBS Masterpiece Theater is presenting adaptations of all six of Jane Austen’s novels- lots of dedicated knitting time! 



Tuesday, January 01, 2008


A guid New Year to ane an' a' and mony may ye see!




Here is a traditional New Year’s toast to greet my friends & welcome you to the adventures of the next twelve months. Sentiment runs high thru Blogland this time of year, but I would like to add my own simple & sincere thanks to the old friends who have shared this journey with me, & to the new friends who I have been privileged to meet along the way. No one knows what is in store for us in 2008, but I am glad to know that I have you, my friends, to turn to no matter what the wind blows into our lives.


Meg Red rose