Tuesday, December 30, 2008

How to Spend Your Time Off Work - Tuesday 12/30/2008

I started the day with a telephone writing date with my sister in Indiana. We catch up a little, decide what we're going to write about and hang up. One of us sets a timer for an hour and calls the other after we've written for an hour. Then we talk about how it went and maybe give each other a little feedback.

It went well for me today. I expanded a scene that has conflict and sets up more conflict. Anyway, right now it feels like a good day's work.

Went to Barnes & Noble where I sat drinking an iced tea with a shot of melon syrup and auditioned a pile of books. Skimmed F. Scott Fitzgerald's short story, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," which has very little to do with the current film version. But it's okay. The short story reminds me of Gogol short stories, like "The Nose." Meant to be imagined, not filmed.

Went to the gym for an hour of cardio and weight machines. Did this yesterday with addition of a dip in the whirlpool. Oh, Tomasina, it's way over-chlorinated and nothing as sweet as the one at Burke-Williams. Sigh.

Called my mother and talked with her for about an hour. When I arrived home there was a UPS package from my nephew. One of his amazing Indiana photos, framed!

We called to thank him and ended up talking for an hour or so.

Wonderful to be in touch with my family. They are good, creative people.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Killing Your Own Food and a Giant Spool of String - Monday 12/29/2008

Wrote in the morning. Went to the dentist to have a permanent crown installed.

Had a very interesting conversation with the tech about killing and eating one's own food. He is going to Arizona for New Year's Eve. They'll hunt and kill a wild boar and eat it.

I just talked to my brother, Texaco, a couple of days ago. He and his wife live in an area of Texas where there are few regulations on how you can use the land. They have about 8 acres now and are looking to add more. They're going to raise chickens for eggs and meat, rabbits and maybe goats.

I was going to say that I have complicated feelings about all this, but when I really think about it, I don't guess they're all that complicated after all. Although I was a vegetarian for about 5 years in my thirties, I grew up in a farming area where my grandmother butchered her own chickens and one of our neighbors butchered a hog in his front yard every year. My brother bow hunts and gets a deer every year, which they use for food.

Killing simply for sport is abhorrent to me, but I can't really fault people hunting for food. I think one of the reasons we overuse meat in the U.S. is that we don't really pay attention to the consequences, or think about where it came from. It seems a lot more honest than picking up a package at the meat counter in the grocery.

Anyway, it was an interesting conversation and I think he gave me the framework of a little story I can use in my novel.

What about the giant spool of string? That's what Hydra spent his afternoon hunting. He uses it to fix part of Dodger's playset, which Dodger promptly destroys. We couldn't find a small ball of it in the grocery stores. They had it at Smart & Final though! Wow.

Hmm, turns out the photo is mildly relevant since people use this culinary grade string to tie up roasts.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Return to Unurban - Sunday 12/28/2008

I think every time I visit the Unurban Cafe, which is on the easternmost border of Santa Monica, on Pico Boulevard, I have raved about it afterward. Hydra wanted to go check out guitars down the street at McCabe's, so I hung out and wrote a bit and listened to the music.

This place has a very homey feel. So homey that it resurrects those wild ideas that sometimes grab me and make me think I could be happy spending hours and hours owning and operating a coffee house.


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Helpful - Saturday 12/27/2008

It's time to take down the notes I posted on the fridge that helped me time out Christmas dinner. Not really complicated, but it's best to write these things down.

In pencil.

So you can adjust them when something puts you off by 15 minutes.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Yet More About Food - Friday 12/26/2008

Royal Riviera pear courtesy of Mishegoss. Perfectly cored fruit courtesy of Kitty. The melon baller works perfectly for this.

A few seconds later I scattered bleu cheese over one of the pears. Mmmm.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Day - Thursday 12/25/2008

Another overexposed photo of a Christmas tree! I'll bet the Internet is just buzzing with these right now.

Next year, maybe I'll think to set up a tripod rather than settle for another shot like this. The cousins arrived from Orange and San Diego counties bearing gifts.

The roast beef was tender and delicious, the salmon--which I poached in the microwave--surprised and impressed the diners, and these simple cheese crisps--which were requested--were a hit again at least amongst the women-folk.

It was a good day. They arrived around 11 am and stayed until almost 6pm. It rained a little and gusted a lot, which kept us from our traditional walk between dinner and dessert, but it was a very nice day inside.

Hmm. There's an awful lot about food here around the build-up to and celebration of this holiday. I love cooking for people.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve - Wednesday 12/24/2008

Hydra sneaks past with some last minute gift wrapping.

I prep the rib roast for tomorrow's feast. It pleases me wildly that I can step out my kitchen door and snip fresh rosemary from my herb garden.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Prelude to a Bliss - Monday 12/22/2008

I went to Tomasina's house before our writing group's Christmas celebration and walked with her and her dogs in Arroyo Seco near her house. She tells me that California plein-air artists have been painting here for years.

And they still are! Check out the work of Paul Chamberlain and others here.

This is Biscuit the wire-haired Dachshund. She toddles along behind while Tory the rescued chocolate lab surges forward. But when tomasina offers to pick her up, the fifteen-year-old scampers along like a pup.

"Uh-uh. You're not carrying me. I can do it!"

The hillside is insanely green after the recent rains.

Tory would like to be immortalized in a plein air painting, but all I have with me is this Nikon D80.

Biscuit finally allows Tomasina the pleasure of escorting her along part of the trail. I got to carry her a little, too. She's a sweet dog, even if she is a little opinionated.

We met up with Braveheart at Tomasina's nearby home, and then went to Burke-Williams where Tomasina treated us to relaxation massages! We enjoyed the steam room and whirlpool prior to the massages. I was barely able to walk after my rub down. It really gets me out of my head.

We picked up Thai food from the fabulous Saladang on the way home. Chili beef, yellow curry chicken, green curry eggplant, pad Thai and Thai BBQ chicken. Yum. We know how to order a mean meal.

Back at T's place, we enjoyed the meal, exchanged gifts, I read a little of something I'm working on, and we made commitments for 2009.

Lucky us!

Christmas Eve Eve Dinner - Tuesday 12/23/2008

We have this tradition of having live lobster--or lately the more affordable King Crab--for Christmas Eve dinner. It started many many moons ago with our friend Mishegoss, who has since returned to the land of Spartans and Wolverines.

But we were out and about a day early, hunting and gathering supplies for the Christmas Day meal we're hosting and we thought we might as well spread the feasting out a bit more.

It was made more festive by the butterlights and shellfish tools that Mishegoss sent us a few years ago. It's a little like sharing the meal with him, minus the good humor and wonderful foodie color commentary he brings to the table.

Sigh. That's the bittersweetness of the holidays. The good memories, the new traditions, the old traditions, the homesickness for people and times of our lives.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Remains of the Day - Sunday 12/21/2008

One of the last snowy places in our neighborhood is our yard! I guess we get a lot of shade from the pine tree on one end and the cypresses on the other.

The road's pretty clear, but there's still a little snow on the other side of the valley, where it really belongs.

We drove into Palmdale for lunch and errand-running. On the way back we saw probably a hundred cars parked along Sierra Highway near the Pearblossom Highway turnoff, and dozens of people scattered up the hillside, sledding!

This isn't that mountain. My camera was in my backpack, out of reach at the rear of the car. But we've seen that before--people coming from down below to sled further up into the mountains. I love that Acton got to be that place this time: the place the kids are going to remember as an amazing day.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wreathiness - Saturday 12/20/2008

Ooh! Hearth and Lights sent us a beautiful L.L. Bean wreath for Christmas. It dresses up our gate nicely.

These two stood up with us at our wedding, and in the past couple of years we've attended their sons' weddings. It's good to have old friends, even if you live 2,000 miles apart. (sniffle.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

All Winter in a Day (or Two) - Friday 12/19/2008

A touch of cabin fever may have helped to inspire me to drive down to Toluca Lake to work today. The road in front of my house was still a bit icy as I started off.

The holiday party was postponed because I wasn't there. Nice of them. I wanted to see my coworkers before the break.

Stopped at the post office to (at last!) get my packages in the mail. I was already behind before the snow storm.

I love the Acton Post Office. There were only a few people in line, but we were all swapping snow stories. The P.O. was closed yesterday!

Amazing. There's still snow all around my neighborhood, but just 10 miles away, on the 14 near Agua Dulce the only sign of snow is on the roof of that SUV up there.

Nice day at work. Finished up what I had on my plate and helped a couple of my coworkers with theirs. Was behind this person with multiple Trader Joe's bags on his arm. Um. I'm not sure you're getting home with those full, buddy.

Ahh! This is about 5 miles from home sweet home. I am still digging the snow. (But thank goodness, not literally anymore. Yesterday's bout with the 10-inch-deep driveway after the hike left me fairly sore.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Hydra Dances While Rome Becomes Snowbound - Thu. 12/18/2008

The suspenseful buildup.

The promising first act.

The titillating second act, wherein the conflict deepens.

The triumphant finale!

The crowd goes wild!

There's Got to be a Morning After - Thursday 12/18/2008

Ooh! It's still here! Usually when we get snow, it's gone the same day. This is the view from the bedroom window. Wow!

The full effect in the back yard.

Papyrus with snow.

Not sure what the temperature actually is because this daity garden thermometer is frozen in place.

It's just lucky that I'm not homicidal, huh? Because the perfect weapon is hanging from the eaves of my house.

Or...? Um...? Have I read a few dozen too many episodes of crime procedurals and murder movie scripts?

We have not only snow, but drifts! Gorgeous drifts around the 4 foot high peach tree. The steps are nowhere to be seen, so we'll start our hike elsewhere!

Down the road in front of our house we go. Adventure!

Intrepididity - Thursday 12/18/2008

As we ended our hike, we passed a couple of kids heading out. With a laundry basket as a make-shift sled.


Hydra told them that we'd scared off the polar bears.

The little one looked at us, and the hill, and home and said, "I'm going back!"

His big brother soldiered on. Though I think he'd have done better sliding on a garbage bag.

The Morning After Hike - Thursday 12/18/2008

Our neighborhood nestled in the snow, from Hydra's mountain.

Fire and ice. Remnants of a yucca burned in the last fire.

It was so amazingly quiet with a blanket of snow over everything, that when this snow plow came along on the 14, we could hear it grumbling along for quite a distance. It was amazing to see the 14 empty, but it was closed for about 20 miles west of us and 40 miles east of us.

Since moving to California I've missed how everything gears down a little in the winter, but this year I'm getting a good taste of it.

Bunny highway.

We've read that amongst birds, only parrots have two front-facing toes and two back-facing toes (other's have three forward, one back), so we were concerned when we saw these tracks in the snow. We followed them for yards and yards, to a juniper bush where they paused.

Coyote tracks approached the juniper, circled it, and then went on. The bird tracks went in another direction. We picked them up, wondering if there could be a little grey lost out there somewhere.

Down around the side of a hill we plunged, up to our knees in snow.

Finally, Hydra saw it nestled in some scrub at our feet! It was a roadrunner!

As soon as I lifted my camera, it bolted and flew down the hill. We had no idea we were really that close behind it.

There was a lot of tracking drama up there... bunnies and jacks crisscrossing with coyotes.

And us!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Snow Day - Part 2 -Wednesday 12/17/2008

As evening approaches, the snow's still falling and the front yard is filling with snow. You can see just a little of the brick wall on the right that is 20 inches tall...I think we got about 9 inches, but it drifted.

Hydra dutifully shoveled the snow from the walk between the house and garage. Sundry provides her usual respectful color commentary!

While Hydra diligently shovels, Sundry busies herself with the important work of a snow day: building a snow something. Can you see it? It's a snow bird!

The tree in front of the house looks verrry Christmassy now.

Snow's still falling after dark, but the lantern outside the back door has accumulated about as much as it can handle.

Snow Day - Part 1 - Wednesday 12/17/2008

I went out as soon as there was even a little light to get photos of the snow in case it didn't accumulate much or last long. Boy, was I in for a surprise!

The yard outside our front door and the wall Hydra built a few years ago, dusted in snow around 7 a.m.

Hydra is about to free skiiing bear of some of its snow.

The power went off around noon and stayed off for a couple of hours, so we went out to the garage and brought in all the dry firewood. This is from the inside of the garage looking out through a little drift that I knocked with my foot on my way in.

We walk down to the mailbox where--surprise!--there's mail! I'm a little excited about the snow.

Back in the house, our Internet connection does not return when the power comes back on. Sundry is frustrated not only in her attempts to telecommute but--more importantly--to upload photos to her blog!

We continue our walk...with video! (In which it is confirmed that Sundry will never stop sounding like a Midwesterner. Hoosier pride!)