Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Big Day Coming

"Tomorrow's the big day," I said setting the breakfast plates on the table. 
"Today is," Mr Wonderful said slicing the bread.
"No, tomorrow's the big day because that's when my book will be available on Amazon."
"But today the plumber's coming." 

It had devolved to this. I was excited about publishing a wine book of my own and my spouse was thrilled to have a stranger roam our property discussing water pipe widths. After several years of couplehood, clearly our interests had diverged. 

Actually one part of me couldn't blame Mr. Wonderful. It was my life--not his--that had been consumed by writing, editing and publishing this wine book, so naturally he'd have different thoughts about it, if he had any thoughts about it at all, which he clearly didn't. But the other part of me thought he'd gone off the deep end with the never-ending DIY project that is The House.

Case in point: this month for his birthday I bought Mr. Wonderful gifts so classy the Three Magi wished they'd given them to baby Jesus, plus I got reservations at a hard-to-get-into sushi restaurant and I made a special dessert. But all he wanted was a reliable plumber. Our interests had met at the altar but now were going in opposite directions. 

Maybe the problem was with me? After all we had bought this fixer-upper together and we had both promised to love, honor and DIY The House until death do us part. Mr. Wonderful was still doing exactly what he'd promised. Thus it must be me who had changed. Maybe I was replacing my enthusiasm for improving The House together with my husband with my happiness about writing a book.

Something had to change. Someone had to compromise or else--

The door bell rang. I let the plumber in and together Mr. Wonderful and I showed him the work we wanted done on The House. Actually I was standing there but the two men were doing all the talking. The plumber monologued about the benefits of using a 1 inch pipe over a 3/4 inch one, how great the pipes were on his last job and the beauty of natural gas. Then Mr. Wonderful explained where the pipes needed to go, how we'd pull the permit, and that his wife--me!--would dig the two foot deep trench for the pipes. The plumber smiled and promised us an estimate within the hour.  Mr. Wonderful beamed; he had fallen in love with this plumber. The love fest was so hot and heavy fireworks were going off in the background.

"That went well," Mr. Wonderful said closing the door on the workman. His big day with the plumber had been officially made.

Although I didn't do the talking during the plumbing chitchat love fest,  I was tasked with following up with the plumber. Before lunch there wasn't an estimate. So after lunch I called the plumber and left a message about needing the estimate. By 7:30 PM I'd left two more messages. Over dinner with Mr. Wonderful I told him the plumber had dropped out of phone contact and we did not have the promised estimate. 

"He didn't seem like that kind of... plumber," my spouse said disappointment dripping from his words. But was the disappointment from the plumber's inaction or his own naïve belief in a workman's promise? I'd say both.

We ate dinner silently. 
"Hey, don't you have a big day tomorrow?" he said with a sudden realization. "Something about a wine book being published?" I smiled. And boom! Our interests made a U-turn and met, just like old times. And there were fireworks. Big ones that lit up the night sky!

P.S. My book, Evolution of a Wine Drinker, is now available on!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Dog Gone Names

"Harold's calling," Mr. Wonderful said holding the phone toward me.
"We never talk on the phone. Why is he calling?" I said unloading the dishwasher. 
"I don't know.
"Is everything okay with him? And Norma?"
"I don't know."
"It would be horrible if they had a problem--"
"Why don't you just ask him?"

When Mr. Wonderful and I first moved into The House we'd exchanged emails with our 86 year-old neighbor and his wife. A week later we exchanged phone numbers. When Harold asked for my Skype address, I put my foot down. Yet despite having several modes of communication, all of us just preferred to walk next door and ask each other a question. It was old fashioned but I liked it.

But now Harold was calling us. Calling me. For what? To arrange lunch? A movie date? A poker night?  

"Talk to him," Mr. Wonderful said passing me the phone. But before I could say "hello", Norma was knocking on our side door. What was going on with our neighbors? Did they have a quarrel? A fistfight? A mud wrestling match?

"The dog's loose," Norma said her panicky blue eyes the color of a stormy sea. 
"You got a dog? Congratulations," I said. She waved me quiet.
"It's the neighbors' dog. It's loose."
"Jerry's dog?"
"The other neighbors' dog."

This seemed rather fishy to me. Norma and Harold were older than our neighborhood. In fact they were here when the railroad came through, the Pony Express rode in and Columbus discovered America . Why didn't they know which neighbor's dog it was? 

"Harold's on the phone," I said showing her the phone.
"Hang up. You need to get the dog, it's running around in the street." 

I did as the lady ordered and trotted outside to see Jerry in his front yard of roses waving his arms toward Charles and Stephen's house. Across the street I saw Harold herding a black and white dog toward the house very unsuccessfully. 

"Hi Harold."
"This dog belongs to the neighbors," he said. "And they're not home."
"It's Gordo. Hi, Gordo!" The dog looked up at me with an open mouth that resembled a smile. "Gordo means "fat" in Spanish." 
Harold looked at the black and white fur ball and nodded. "He is fat. But what are their names?"
"Gordo's owners?" I furred my brow. "Charles and Stephen, of course."

While Harold nodded his head, I dialed Charles on my phone, told them about Gordo's escape then helped the little sausage return to the fold. Since they were about to enter a movie screening, Charles gave profuse thanks for saving their dog and their evening out.

With Gordo safe and the neighborhood back to normal I thought about Harold not knowing our neighbors' names. Harold's brain was as sharp as a buzz saw, so his lack of knowing their names was not an Alzheimer's blip, stoke blip or uh… whatever else they call memory loss thingys. Nope, it must mean something else. 

Charles and Stephen bought their house two years before us. And in our yard we had spoken to Charles and Stephen with Harold and Norma several times. Then it hit me. Perhaps the four of them had never had been properly introduced, the good old fashioned way, with names and handshakes. That seemed wrong in our neighborhood.

The next day I saw Charles and Stephen walking back from the store at the same time that Harold and Norma were taking down the flag for the day. I seized my chance.

"Harold, Norma, have you ever met Charles and Stephen?"
"They're Gordo's owners."
Harold and Norman stopped in their yard where Charles and Stephen met them with thanks, handshakes and smiles.

Yes, it was old fashioned but I sure liked it. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Abdication Coronation

"What do you want to do when you abdicate?" I said grabbing two bottles of Stella Artois. 
"People don't abdicate," Mr. Wonderful said pouring the beer. "They retire." 

First the Pope. Then the Dutch Queen. Now the Belgian King. Everyone's doing it. And by "it" I mean abdicating. King Albert of Belgium abdicated yesterday from the Belgian throne citing his old age and saying that it was time for a younger generation to lead the country, namely his 53 year-old son Phillippe. I personally don't think 79 is old. When my grandmother was 90 she was still still kicking around causing trouble, which means my family's genes don't come with a high profile, well-paying job but they do go the distance in high heels.

"Why do they call it a 'coronation' when the new king didn't receive a crown on his head?" I said watching the computer screen's live feed of yesterday's coronation of King Phillippe.
"Belgium's monarchy is low key," Mr. Wonderful said sipping a beer. 

Low-key? This was the understatement of the year. Not only was the monarchy low-key but the entire country was so laid back you needed to take its pulse to see if it was still alive. 
"Doctor, Belgium's heartbeat is 35 beats a minute."
"It's alive--barely--but it's alive!"

Belgium's Constitutional Monarchy has a democratically-elected government, a Prime Minister and a booming industry in royal be-decked stethoscopes. Two years ago Belgium almost split into two countries--a northern Dutch-speaking apart and a southern French-speaking part. King Albert was widely regarded as single-handedly keeping the country from dividing and putting it on life support.

Sitting on the sofa watching the palace balcony where the new King Phillippe and his wife Queen Matilde and their four children were waving to the crowds, I said.
"You met Phillippe in Los Angeles last month. Maybe you should send him a congratulations gift?"
"What do you buy a king?" Mr. Wonderful said with a shrug.

As the head of the royal family of Belgium, Phillippe has a palace in Brussels, a palace in the countryside and his face on postage stamps. What else could a new king want?

Belgium is a bilingual country where 6 million people speak Dutch and 4.5 million people speak French. Many of the Dutch speakers would like to abolish the monarchy altogether and become a Republic, while the francophones want the country and its monarchy to stay just as it is. Maybe the best thing we can give King Phillippe and Queen Matilde is the confidence to lead a nearly-dead, laid-back country that makes great beer, chocolate and diamonds into further prosperity and stability.

Even though I'm a commoner who will never abdicate, confidence seems like a gift he and his queen could really use. Or maybe a good pair of high heels to kick up in when they're 90.

Veel Geluk! Et Bonne Chance!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Big News

Other people buy a new kitten, marry or get promoted. 

I adopted a five year-old persnickety cat, I'm already hitched and I have the same job. I like change and I'd like to change, but Change, well it's not too big on me. Yet.

But wait! Something is new! 

And I'm talking about it here!

Thanks for clicking, reading and for just being you!


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Getting a Facelift

It wasn't pretty. When I looked closely I could see lines, cracks and a faded glow. Ugh. These were the warning signs that it was time for a facelift. Of my pool.

On the sly, I called several pool professionals for estimates of doing the work. They quoted me prices that would have paid for a German car. Brand new.

When the professionals failed me, I knew Mr. Wonderful and I would give up several of our weekends to home repair. Again.

I was hesitant about the work but Mr. Wonderful dove into this latest DIY project. While he drained the pool I noticed there was a spring in his step and he whistled while he worked, like one of Snow White's dwarves. Doc.

I realized I'd be assisting the doctor on this massive procedure, so I spent hours studying how to give a pool facelift. Then I re-studied it because a crucial step included "spraying the pool with acid". Acid?! 

It was long, hard and it stank. But we sucked out the bad and replaced it with new. Professionals. 

Here are the steps to our pool's facelift:
Drain the water:

Power wash the walls and pool bottom:

Acid wash the interior to remove any excess paint or dirt:

Compare the difference between the acid-washed wall (left) and the non acid-washed wall (right). Gross, right?

Drain the pool of the acid and water. Let the surfaces dry out completely, which in Los Angeles takes 2.6 seconds.

Tape off the tiles to prevent painting them:

Paint the surfaces of the pool:

Let the first coat of paint dry out completely:

Paint a second coat: 

Fill the bad boy up and jump in!

I'm glad it's done. The paint company said this work will last for 10-20 years. But after that we'll have to give our lady another facelift. Oh... yippee.

At last, our lady looks like new again. Brand new. I wonder if anyone will notice?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Le 14 Juillet

Today is the 14th of July or as they say in France--la baguette eiffel escargot. On this day in 1789 the French people broke into the draconian Bastille Prison to free its inmates--all seven of them--and in doing so started a movement that freed themselves from royalty, gold furniture and white powdered wigs.

In honor of French freedom and independence, today I will eat cake. Long live Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité! 

Happy Bastille Day!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pool or Spa? That is the Question

"It's summer," I said grabbing my beach towel with a grin.
"Yep," Mr. Wonderful said pulling on his work boots.
"The sun is hot and the sky is blue."
"A perfect day to swim in the pool."

Mr. Wonderful was an enigma. He worked at the studio, he worked on The House, he even worked eating ice cream. In fact he worked very hard eating ice cream. With all the rich words in the English language, only one word could describe him and I don't mean: determined, committed, stubborn, irascible, bullish, pig-headed, or un-freakin'-believable. Nope, the one word that described him was: workaholic. Now at the height of summer when we should be enjoying our pool, hosting barbecues and winning Pétanque championships he wanted to work on the pool. 

One word: workaholic.

Granted, when we bought The House the pool's paint was chipping so we knew from day one that we'd have to repaint it sometime. After starting with fixing up the master bedroom, we'd worked our way from inside the House out in concentric circles until now we were forced to repaint the pool by sheer geometry and lack of circles--concentric or otherwise--because it just needed it. The last time the pool had been painted was during the Civil War. In other words, when Harold was middle aged.

"I painted it back in '62," our 86 year-old neighbor said scratching his nearly bald pate. "Or was it '63?" 
"You painted the pool alone?" I said surprised Harold could do such a huge job solo.
"Hell no. I did it with my father-in-law. Painting it alone? Only workaholics do that." I saw Mr. Wonderful's ears prick up at that one word then I watched his brain gears spin.

Now as I wanted to swim and my spouse laced his work boots he made an announcement.
"I'm going to repaint the pool alone."
"Don't be ridiculous," I said swapping my beach towel for shoes.
"I mean it. I'll do it and you, go to the spa, get your nails done, do what you want." To be honest I paused to think about this. The pause stretched into minutes while I imagined booking an appointment at Burke-Williams and having 14 people scrub, wash, clean, and color me beautiful. I imagined resting in the wet Hammam spa like Cleopatra, then going into the dry Swedish spa like Thor--or maybe I was joining Thor in the dry spa? I pictured myself plunging into the hot tub and relaxing my aching muscles--

But how achey could they be if I were in the spa being fed red grapes and my spouse was repainting the pool alone?  

One word: guilty. 

It took my brain and conscience some time--16 hours, to be exact--but eventually I told him that of course I would not, could not go to the spa while he worked on the pool. I insisted that he and I would repaint the pool together. Like Scheherazade who told her husband a story every night to prolong her life one more day, I decided to toil with my workaholic husband to prolong my marriage one more day. 

One word: smart.

"So where do we start?" I said swapping my bikini for work clothes and my spa daydreams for a brush.
"Before painting we have to drain the pool," he said sinking a pocket-sized sub-pump into our watering hole.
"That will take days," I said looking from the tiny pump to our pacific pool.
"Which means we have time to go to the spa. Together," he said removing his work boots.

One word: brilliant! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cooling Off

"What do you want for breakfast?" Mr. Wonderful asked entering the kitchen.
"Just ice," I said standing under the spinning ceiling fan.
"You want coffee?" 
"Just ice."
"How about tea?"
"Just ice!"

Here are some facts about Southern California: 1) It's always sunny; 2) It never rains; 3) Sun block is considered clothing. Every day I see people walking around with shorty shorts and tiny tanks and lathered in sun block. See, they wear it like clothing. 

A SoCal fact you may not know is that lately it's been hot. I don't mean 85 degrees F hot. I mean, you have entered hell, your face is melting and your body is a huge puddle of oil. In other words, 105 on the thermometer and zero humidity.

To deal with the heat I've noticed each of our neighbors has his own method. Harold rushes out at 5:00 AM to get the paper and hoist his flag. Then he and Norma disappear into their house and sit in front of their air conditioner. All day. 

Charles and Stephen avoid their house altogether. In the morning they go to work and sit in their air conditioned offices, afterwards they eat dinner in an air-conditioned restaurant, they end the night at an air conditioned club where they dance like Burning Man participants until 3 AM.

As for me, I get in the pool and swim. Before work, after work, during work--day dreaming here. The pool is my heat refuge. 

Evidently I'm not the only one.

After my ice breakfast, Mr. Wonderful and I made the rounds we looked at: Our withering tomato crop; Our dry cacti; The lizard in our pool--


Sure enough a Southern California Alligator Lizard was floating in our swimming pool. 
"He's not moving," Mr. Wonderful said.
"Maybe he's dead."
"He's a lizard, they like water."
"He's from Southern California, he's never seen water!"

Mr. Wonderful grabbed the pool net and scooped the lizard out. He set the net with the lizard on the sun-warmed red bricks and we stepped back. Was it dead?

I inched closer and the animal opened its mouth and hissed at me. Actually it didn't hiss, but if it could have hissed, it would have been the biggest roar-hiss ever. Instead it just opened its toothless mouth. Was it trying to scare me? Was it trying to cool down? Did it want some of my ice?

Maybe not. We left it alone and went to work. When we came home the net was right where Mr. Wonderful had left it but the lizard was gone. 

Whew! The lizard hadn't died. The lizard was alive. And the lizard was back in its lizard home eating its own supply of lizard ice. Definitely. 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer Games

The Fourth of July is over, the sun umbrella is up and the thermometer just passed 100 F. These are just some of the signs that summer is full on--scorching us with its sunshiny heat and making this summer-loving, suburban dweller very, muchisimo happy.  

Thus far the highlight of the summer has been a nail-biter of a sports competition; and I don't mean Wimbledon, the US Open or that sport where you sink white balls into gopher holes. I'm talking a real sport, folks. I'm talking Pétanque.

Yes, after eliminating the competition in earlier rounds (namely, our dinner guests), the final match came down Mr. Wonderful and me. I wouldn't say we had a home-court advantage, but considering we played on the court we both made, which is located at our home, I'll let you say we had home court advantage. Although, what advantage is it when the two people playing in the final both have home-court advantage?


It came down to just the perfect athletic skill, to just the right flick of the wrist, to just the right amount of Sauvignon Blanc in the player's wineglass. As the afternoon game played out Mr. Wonderful pulled ahead 4 points to 2. Then I bounced ahead with 8 points to his 4. Always a fighter, he clawed back to tie me 8 points to 8 points. Then with my final two balls I smeared him for a final match score of my 10 points to his 8! (Insert crowd roar here!)

It was magnificent, thrilling and relaxed. Just like summer is. Long live Summer!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Alien Bricks

We'd painted the whole House. 
We'd redone the entire garden. 
We'd built a landing pad for NASA spaceships. 

In short, we had done all the big jobs on The House that you can do without losing your wallet, patience or sanity. Actually, buying a fixer-upper house and fixing it up ourselves proved I never had any sanity in the first place.

So after months and months of work--finally!--we had a day where there wasn't any work to do on the "time and money sucker" I mean, "my beautiful House". When the thermometer hit 95 degrees I jumped in the pool for some freestyle, some back stroke and some butterfly stroke which looked more like a "sick moth with influenza" stroke. Out of breath I grabbed a hold of the side of the pool and gasped twice. Once to get air into my lungs, once at seeing the sagging bricks. 

Were the bricks too heavy? Was our pool caving in? Were aliens arriving on our NASA landing pad? I leapt out of the pool and got the tools: a shovel, a bucket of Decomposed Granite and a beach towel to mop up my tears at not having had one vacation day from fixing work. 

Digging up the bricks I discovered a dead tree root where the bricks had sagged. I ripped it out, filled in the area with DG and refilled the area with the bricks brushing DG into the crevices. It turned out okay.

Then I did what any insane person would do--I jumped back in the pool and swam more laps. I wanted to be underwater and wet then the aliens landed because maybe it would make them want to help us fix up The House. Nah... They're too sane to do that.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

Growing up, the Fourth of July meant a picnic, pickles and power volleyball. However the real meaning is about some brave people wanting independence, some smart men making a plan and a couple excellent writers who wrote a Declaration of Independence.

Every year I reread this Declaration document to remember their vision, leadership and sacrifice.

Here it is:
July 4, 1776
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good... [They then identify a long list of wrongs the King has done.]
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

I get shivers on that last line every time I read it. Wow. Now it's time for that picnic, pickles and power volleyball!

Wishing you a happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Battle of the Flags

"We need a flag," I said noting this on my To Do list.
"For flag football?" Mr. Wonderful said sipping his espresso.
"No, a U.S. flag to fly."
"What about the football?" 

Since moving into The House, I'd noticed that everything had its season. Football's ran every weekend from September to January, basketball's from January to May and soccer's 365 freakin' days a year. Flags too had a season. They came out on Memorial Day, returned for Flag Day on June 14 and reigned supreme on Independence Day. I had to get a flag.  

Why the sudden flag pressure? The neighbors. Every day Harold hoisted his flag and every afternoon he took it down again. As a veteran of the War of 1812, he should fly a flag every day. Every veteran should. And as a stay at home retiree he had the time to hoist and unhoist a flag every day. But on Old Glory's special days, he went flag overboard by pushing 100 mini flags among the petunias in his garden beds and along his driveway like a special landing strip for Air Force One. I had to get a flag. 

I went to the big box store and scoured their flag department. They had oodles of flags that were so cheap the promotion read: "Buy one flag get 115 flags FREE!" How could they make flags so cheaply? Looking at the label I realized they'd been made in the United States of China. Hmmm. Although I could have out-flagged Harold with a couple multi packs of these China-made flags, I wanted my flag made in America. I had to get a flag.

I headed to the mall and found a pop-up specialty shop just for flag season. They had all sorts of American-made flags. They had big ones, little ones, tall ones, small ones. All of them were mounted on a pole and were red, white and blue but they were missing something. What made a flag one that would outpace Harold's? It was the little ornament on top of the flag's pole like what had been in every classroom at my grade school. A superior flag needed a hood ornament. I had to get a flag.

I jumped in the car and it drove me--autopilot--to the hardware store--again. Among the nuts, bolts and toilet bowl plungers I found the flags--all of them were American, red, white and blue and topped with an eagle hood ornament. That's it! Now I will beat Harold with the finest flag in the neighborhood! I'd gotten a flag!

At home I hoisted the flag by slipping its pole into the holder. The flag flapped in the gentle breeze, the colors glowed, the eagle on top gleamed. I had the best flag! I won!

"Looks like you're keeping up with the Joneses," Mr. Wonderful said pointing out the flags hoisted outside the houses of Harold, Jerry, Charles and Stephen. All were the same size as ours, mounted on a pole and topped with an eagle. Everyone had gotten the same flag! Ours wasn't special. Ours didn't outpace Harold's or Jerry's or Charles and Stephen's. But maybe that's the point. The Fourth of July is not about having the best flag or even being the best. It's about all of us being equal and free in this country we share.

In my neighborhood we're equally ready to celebrate flag season!