Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bread basket

When I lived in Colorado, and people asked me what part of California I was from, the easiest thing to tell them was "Bay Area" or "San Francisco." If they pushed further, I said I was from "wine country in Northern California" or "Sonoma County." Occasionally, I'd someone who would say, "Oh, Sonoma! It's like Napa!" and I would grit my teeth, nod, and smile. And secretly, I'd seethe.

Wine grapes, just before harvest. These ones were on really old vines next to the Catholic Church in Asti.

Sure, Sonoma County is known as "wine country." It's an area that grows a lot of grapes, has a lot of wineries, produces internationally award-winning wines. But it's SO MUCH MORE than just wine and grapes, and I wish there was a way to get that across in an easy shorthand.

For example, olive trees grow everywhere.

So many years of describing my home turf as "wine country" had me sort of forgetting what all else Sonoma County grows. Wine is such a convenient description, when the reality is far more complex. My years of coming all the way up here only for holiday visits didn't help matters, as I'd not had occasion to be in the area during the fall months in many years. It wasn't until I moved back here and started looking at the northern end of the county with fresh eyes that I remembered the cornucopia available just in my mom's yard.

Innards of ripe green fig, not saarlac pit.

We've had crisp and juicy yellow delicious apples, raked up tiny wrinkled past-their-prime jam plums, and I gave Dan his first-ever fresh-off-the-tree fig. There's also a peach tree, several citrus trees, and a black walnut tree next door, although those walnuts aren't really edible for anyone but the giant teasing gray squirrels that live in the yard. Walking through Healdsburg a few weeks ago while waiting for our alternator to be replaced AGAIN, we saw more apple trees, fig trees, and ancient English walnut trees, which are the kind of walnuts you buy in the baking aisle or the bulk section at the grocery store. The neighbors down the street have a pomegranate tree, as do some friends of mine with whom we visited last week, and, along with a bunch of tomatoes, they gave us one to savor. It was the best pomegranate I'd had in at least a decade.


Working on a photo project recently, Dan and I have come across quite a few typical examples of Sonoma County's bounty. Just one winery had pomegranate, persimmon, walnut, and, below, artichokes.

Persimmon, not quite ripe.

An artichoke...

is really just

a great big


I suppose it's a combination of the mild climate, with warm summers and cool, wet winters that don't really get snow, that makes this area ideal for growing food crops. When I was little, much of the land that is now given to grape vines was fruit trees or nut trees, but I guess grapes are more lucrative and so that's what everyone plants instead. I'm just glad that there are still yards and small farms and pockets of non-grape things here and there.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I made this

A reconnection with an old friend.

A move to a different state.

A bucket of flowers delivered to our house.

4 bouquets, 3 boutonnieres, 3 arrangements.

One happy bride. One happy me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Memory Lane

One of the things that we discovered when we arrived here in the 'dale is that my mom left a bunch of my stuff in the house, things she'd been keeping for me since I moved out to go to college. I spent a few hours looking through old yearbooks and old schoolwork and old literary magazines (complete with poem by Sara entitled My Hands!), through the basket of letters I received during the summer after my freshman year in college, and reading through all of the old school newspapers I'd saved for some bizarre reason. I found a VHS tape of my High School Video Yearbook that may be some time before I get to watch, since I don't know if I know anyone with a functional VHS player. And I found this stuff.

"Carlitos" was an exercise I had to do in one of my Spanish classes, though why it has someone else's name on it (on the top of the page, above the photo), I have no idea. In case you can't see what I wrote in each of the bubbles, I'll provide both the Spanish and the English translation.

Panel 2: "¿Por favor, tengo quiero usar el baño?" (Please, I have to want to use the bathroom?) (It should have been, "Por favor, ¿puedo usar el baño?", or Please, can I use the bathroom?)
Panel 3: "¡Pero es muy importante! ¡Necesito ir al baño AHORA!" (But it's very important! I have to go to the bathroom NOW!)
Panel 4: "¡Ay Caramba! Es demasiado tarde." (Oh noes! It's too late.)

Me at a dance with High School Boyfriend at his school. Perhaps Valentine's Day? I'm wearing a dress of my mom's circa 1970, a silver peace sign necklace I got at the Renaissance Faire, and awesome white low-heeled pumps! It's a photo of a photo, so not exactly the most accurate representation, but you get the idea.

From top left: Handmade doll with embroidered face, yarn hair, etc. I named Rose; Snoopy doll I got for having my birthday party at the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, the ice rink owned/operated by Charles Schultz and family; stuffed lamb sans one eye; small stuffed raccoon; baby doll that used to have a matching bonnet. I forget her name.

I could write an entire blog post on this alone, but I'll try to make a long story short. When I was first babysitting, I pretty much saved all of the money I made and used it to pay for camp in the summer. Eventually, I had made enough that I had a bit left over, and I decided to buy my very first pair of shoes myself. I was probably 13 or 14 years old, and up until that point, my parents had bought all of my clothes/shoes for me. I'd wanted a pair of Birkenstocks for a long time, and I finally had enough money to buy them for myself. So I did.

As you can see, I wore these shoes all the time. I wore them with socks when it was cold and without when it was warm, and I love love loved them, as they were the most comfortable shoes ever (and to me, paying $80 for a pair of shoes felt totally obscene, so I was determined to get my money's worth out of them). When I bought them, they were a pretty slate blue, but as the years went by they faded to a dull grayish color. I didn't care, though; I still wore them all the time. I wore down the soles and wore out the toe and the heel, and eventually they started looking pretty ratty, but I couldn't imagine giving them up.

The summer after high school graduation, my family went on our very first ever (and, it would turn out, only) family camping vacation. Our first stop was a campground someplace in the Western Sierras, and when we had the tent set up my sisters and I went for a walk down to the river, a tributary that would feed the American. Wearing my Birks, I climbed out onto a big rock to sit only to catch my right shoe on something. It fell off my foot and into the fast-moving snow melt runoff river.

I was so sad. I felt like I'd lost my best friend, something that had been with me for so much of my teenage years, something that had cost me EIGHTY DOLLARS and I just couldn't bring myself to through the unlost shoe away.

Something tells me that it has been long enough now. This is not moving with us to our next domicile.

I DID write an entire blog post about this one
. Here's the sole Piers Anthony newsletter I ever received, where I responded to the pen pal request for a certain Kent B Golden of Hamden, CT. Who knew that 16 years later I'd be attending his wedding?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Justifiable Homicide


One of the stipulations for getting to live in this big (mostly) empty house is that Dan and I agreed to help my mom out with some of the major projects that need to be accomplished to make the house sale- or rentable. Since we had no furniture, internet, or television for the first week+ we were here, we spent most of our time working on the first big project, which was to paint my sister's old bedroom. Somehow, back in the early '00s, my mom took leave of her senses and let my sister paint her bedroom red with black trim. The worst part is that the large built-in book case/desk units in the room were also black, which meant a lot of small fiddly painting, and because the room was mostly red and black, we knew that it wasn't a matter of just a simple coat of paint.


We knew it was a big job, so we decided to consult an expert. A friend of mine worked for an independent paint store for many years, and knows more about paint and the paint business than anyone else I've ever met. I sent her an email describing the situation and asking for recommendations and advice, and she wrote me a novel in response that outlined all of our options and choices, with helpful commentary. The first thing we had to do when we got here was to check how many layers of paint were on the walls, since I knew there were at least three and maybe as many as 7 or 8, depending on how many times it had been painted since the last time it was stripped. (The house is pretty old, with at least 3 owners prior to my mom, so it was possible that we'd have lots and lots of old paint to deal with.) My friend had given me a plethora of options for paint stripping, so we were prepared to have the room closed off for many days while waiting for a stripper to do its job. When we did a bit of chipping away, however, we discovered some faux wood paneling on some of the walls covered with three layers of paint, so we knew stripping wouldn't be necessary.

Giant ball of used tape!

The second thing we did was to go to the Ace Hardware in town, where my mom said was a list of all of the various paint colors she'd used in the house in the past 20-odd years she's been here. We decided to use the same color on the walls in the bedroom as in the hallway and living room ("Powdery mist", aka a light tan color) and all the trim in the same color ("linen") as the trim in the whole rest of the house. My friend had told me that if we didn't need to strip the paint, we would for sure need stain-blocking primer to help cover the black and red, and Ace was kind enough to tint it for us to match the color we'd eventually paint.

So once we'd bought the tape our friend recommended ("The green stuff is cheaper and if your project is going to last a week or less, don't bother buying the blue stuff") and taped everything off and put down plastic, we began by priming all the red walls and all the black trim. And then we started on the first black built-in. Only a few minutes into our project, it was clear that Laurel was going to have to die for her sins. Painting every surface of every cubbyhole in that built-in was absolute torture - we had to do it all by hand, sharing the same bucket of primer, Dan doing the above bits (and only getting a little bit on my head), me doing the below bits (and cursing at the tedium).

2 coats of primer on walls, one coat of primer on built-in

Trim primer'd, walls/built-ins painted

It was toward the end of the first coat of primer on the first built-in that we began to plot our revenge. And then we started on the second built-in, which has a desk and an underside that I had to lay on my back to reach, while primer dripped on my face, and the murderous fantasies began.

Walls painted, trim primer'd

We ended up doing two coats of primer on everything, to ensure we wouldn't have to use a ton of (more expensive) paint, and then we did two coats of paint. So we painted each and every one of those built-ins over and over and over and by the last time, we had all kinds of elaborate torture situations dreamed up, and decided that my mom and the friend who helped her paint deserved horrible, horrible death as well. Finally, after working on it for several hours a day together, we finished the last touch-ups on the trim five days later.


*Dan wrote the above poem using the fridge poetry. It really says everything that needs to be said about the sucketry of the paint project.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Princess Robin goes here

It took Robin 8 months to be willing to walk on the floor from one room to another in our apartment in Denver, and that stopped pretty soon after we started tearing up the house packing and organizing and getting rid of furniture and such, especially since Loki was likewise stressed out and (of course) took it out on her by chasing her and generally being a butthole. I had some hope that when we moved to a new place, one that didn't already smell strongly of Loki (and Petra) everywhere, they'd each have a chance to carve out some territory and perhaps, if not become friends, they might at least get to the point of ignoring one another.

The house we're in has a little bit of furniture (a bed and a dresser in one bedroom, a table in the kitchen) but it's mostly devoid of such and so Robin has decided that she's again not capable of walking from one room to another. Loki has already chased her a couple of times (and been admonished for it, of course) but it's understandable that he be stressed out in a strange house that probably still smells a little like my mom's cats, and there's no familiar furniture or belongings, so I can't blame him too much. Robin has taken to living on the refrigerator and has figured out how to open some of the empty kitchen cabinets and climb inside to hide from Loki/watch him from her high vantage point. We've been using the cat relax pheromone spray which I think helps some, but it's pretty funny that we essentially have to take Robin to the bathroom several times a day and close the door to allow her to use the cat box, and when she's in the bedroom with us and isn't sleeping on the bed with us, she's on the top of the dresser or exploring in the drawers.

But mostly, Princess Robin (as we call her) lives here.