Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Great Flood

California + August = heatstroke.

It was the summer of  '15--hot and dry as a cow bone. We were in the fourth year of a drought when something amazing happened. The flood hit! A flood of "water", you say? Heck no. Tomatoes!

Back in May I'd bought four scrawny plants of the "Early Girl" variety. In my garden patch I dug four holes, plunked a tomato plant in each one, added some water and chicken poop then waited. One plant died. But soon the other three plants shot up and sprouted petite yellow flowers. Each bloom became a green fruit, which ripened into a red orb or lusciousness.

Then less than the prescribed 90 days after planting, the three plants--over five feet tall!--were weighted down with their bounty. The only thing I could do was pick the fruit and and eat it.

Wow! These tomatoes were delicious! Correction: Are delicious because we are still eating them. I've put these tomatoes to work in salads with feta cheese and cucumbers, on BLTs, in omelets, in pasta dishes, on toast, in grill cheese sandwiches, in ratatouille, beside steak, next to potatoes, on top of noodles, rice, bulgar and quinoa. Yet no matter how many tomatoes I use the three jumbo plants kept flooding us with fruit!

I've given bags of tomatoes to neighbors, friends, a random lawyer, my dentist and all 16 of his dental hygienists. The latter loved them because tomatoes don't cause tooth decay, which is very important to dental workers.

The Great Tomato Flood is still happening and I'm enjoying being awash in summer's finest fruity-vegetable. I'm riding this wave as long as it lasts.

California + August = Culinary Happiness!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Summer Trips: Highlights

A picture is worth a thousand words. Or at least 250 of 'em. To share how great my trips were this summer, here are some of my favorite photographs. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

One of the highlights of going to San Francisco this time was having lunch at the the famed Cliff House restaurant. The atmosphere was classy, the crab sandwich was delicious and the view of the Pacific Ocean from the dining room was awe-inspiring.

With its grape vines and sunshine, Sonoma County is one of my happy places and this return trip did not disappoint!

We also attended the Sonoma-Marin Counties Fair where I saw plenty of fowl at the Poultry Palace, the porkers run in the Pig Races and the Beach Boys perform (minus Brian Wilson) "Help Me Rhonda". All for $15--it was money well spent! After seeing the Pig Races I wondered how had I reached this point in my life without ever having seen a Pig Race?! I highly recommend this fair and Pig Races!

We spent some time on San Francisco Bay in a boat. I appreciated the simplicity of boat living. Fewer rooms to care for and fix up, quiet neighbors. But I sure would miss my garden and I bet Harold would miss me. Okay, maybe he wouldn't but that's still okay.

Sequoia National Park is so majestic with its massive Sequoia trees. Walking among the giants put things into perspective for me. Basically: The trees are huge and I am small but I still need to protect them.

We also visited Moro Rock which has a trail going up its spine for a splendid view of the valley far, far, FAR below. In the photo below, the "bumps" on the rock behind us are people (!). It is simultaneously the most exhilarating and scariest hike in a National Park. Hands down.

I even became a tourist in my home city of Los Angeles when I visited the La Brea Tar Pits again. The museum has added an excellent CG movie illustrating life 11,000 years ago in Hollywood for Saber Tooth Tigers, Dire Wolves and Woolly Mammoths. This site remains an active archaeological site and is the world's largest archeological dig site in a large metropolitan area. Who knew?

I also met the skull of a Saber Tooth Tiger up close and personal.

Mr. Wonderful and I had great trips this summer and feel refreshed to start work again on the house. Although... maybe we'll stretch summer out and start the DIY work AFTER Labor Day.

Happy summer to you! What did you do? Where did you go? Tell me where in the comments!

Friday, August 14, 2015

What Happened To You?

“What a great trip,” I said tossing the dirty laundry into the hamper with a bandage on my finger.
“Yes,” Mr. Wonderful said stowing the empty suitcases in the closet.
“I loved seeing the sights.”
“Eating great meals.”
“And laughing with my awesome family and friends.”
“Yes,” he nodded. “…So, let’s get working on the house again.”

When we bought our fixer-upper House I was thrilled. Finally we had a place to call our own; a place to live in; a place to love in; a place to lounge around in our pajamas ’til noon in. I was so happy with The House that I didn’t want to travel overseas, go away for the weekend, even go out for coffee. I just wanted to encase myself in The House forever like a caterpillar in its sticky, sweet cocoon.

That was until the DIY work dragged on and the DIY monster within Mr. Wonderful awakened. For months he had led the attack as we redid the living room, the bedrooms, the hallways, the kitchen (twice), the pool, the front garden and the back garden. We would have redone the roof garden but (thankfully) we didn’t have one. A “roof garden” that is, we did have a “roof”. Although Mr. Wonderful keeps repeating: “We’ll have to redo the roof sometime,” while shaking his head, which makes me shake in my boots.

So finally after working nonstop on The House, Mr. Wonderful and I broke out of its cocoon coziness like two young butterflies off to explore the wider world. I felt refreshed and recharged because like my spouse, the travel was wonderful.

But now we were back home.

“Mail,” the postal carrier said walking up the driveway.
“Thanks,” I said receiving a bundle of advertisements with my bandaged finger.
“You still live here?”
“Ha-ha! We were just gone for a while taking a fabulous vacation to Wine Country, San Francisco and the National Park—”
“What happened to your finger?”
I raised the bandaged digit and shrugged. “I sliced into it while cooking.”
“Wow,” he said with eyes growing large. “Did you cut it off?” 
Here I was visibly blooming with beautiful vacation stories and all he wanted to do was talk about my bloody finger. 
“I still have it,” I said waving him off with my unbandaged hand.

But as I wandered my front garden I wondered about his question in particular and people in general. When confronted with good news and bad, do people prefer discussing the bad? I shook my head. To be fair, I didn’t know this postal carrier well. I rarely saw him so maybe it's just strangers who focus on the bad as a form of chit-chat. I mean, how many times have I been in an elevator when a complete stranger revealed dark family secrets that never should have seen the light of day? Too. Many. Times. 
No, I thought, not all people wanted to hear bad news, just the strangers in our life.

“Where have you been?” said our neighbor with the bright blue eyes. 
“Thanks for asking, Norma,” I said with a wave. “Actually, where haven’t we been? We went to delicious Napa and Sonoma Counties, beautiful Sequoia National Park and fun San Francisco where we saw my—
“What happened to you?” she said shielding her baby blues from the bright sun.
“This?” I raised my hand revealing the bandage on my ring finger. She nodded. “I cut myself while cooking.”
“It looks serious.”
“Did you hit the bone? Did you lose the tip?” she said peering at my digit with a laser-like gaze as if her vision alone could heal it—or cut it off. “Was there a lot of blood?” 
Why did this 85 year-old woman get excited by bloody, chopped body parts? I’m friendly with Norma, so why didn’t she want to know about my very happy trip rather that the shock value of did I decapitate my finger? 

Answer: She was just like the postal carrier who didn’t know me at all. Didn’t anybody I knew want to know how my trip was?

“So you're not dead,” my 86 year-old neighbor said exiting the garage with a broom. 
“I’m alive and kicking, Harold!” I beamed at the neighbor I saw the most. If anyone cared about my trip, it would be him. How many hours of conversation had we shared from our respective driveways, over the fence and in his wood-paneled family room? You could count them in weeks. No, months! Years, I say! “So Harold, we drove up to San Francisco and went on a boat docked in the bay—”
“Did you sail around?”
Harold was asking me questions about the content of my trip! How thrilling! He cared more about me than my chopped finger! Hooray!
“No, we had drinks and then slept on the boat. The next morning we woke up to the sound of lapping water and barking sea lions. It was magnificent!”
“You didn’t sail the bay?”
“No but—”
“I guess you couldn’t sail anything with a chopped-off finger.” He peered at me through his eyeglasses, which magnified his eyes ten fold. “So how did you cut it off? Was there a lot of blood? Did you hit the bone? Go to the hospital? Call 911—”

When I entered The House I still heard him asking questions. For the record: I had a great time in Wine Country, San Francisco and Sequoia National Park. It was FABULOUS, I say! 

P.S. And my finger is healing well, too.