Monday, June 30, 2008

65 x 365

Because I don't waste enough time on the Internet already, I started a new project. I stumbled across this accidentally, checking out someone's blog in my Google reader. I saw entry titles like...

50x365 #278: Raven
50x365 #280: L.D.W.
50x365 #281: Milo

...each of which seemed to be a very short blog entry. My checking back led me to a site called *x365, started by a guy named Dan Weber, on the occasion of his turning 40, who says he wanted to "mark the occasion in some positive fashion." So he got the idea of writing 40 words a day ("no more, no less") every day for a year, each day about a person who had touched his life. It had to be someone he had met, someone whose name he remembered.

As these things do, the idea quickly "went viral" and all sorts of people took up the idea. Some followed his lead and wrote x number of words, depending on their age when they started it, some decided to write each entry in haiku, some just wrote a bit about a person, in whatever length.

It sounded like an interesting project so I decided to do it and "Bev's 65x365" was born. It's linked over there in the left hand column, at the bottom.

I decided to go with the word limit and, being 65, have made it 65 words about each person. I like the challenge of writing to a word limit. I'm also trying to make it about people that don't appear in this journal regularly. I suppose that when I start scrambling about for names to put on the list, you'll read about people like Char and Gilbert and Peggy and Ashley and all the "regulars" here, but for now, I'm plumbing the depths and thinking of people who stand out in my life, for no other reason but that I remember them, for one reason or another. I think I picked the perfect person to show the kind of person I want to start mentioning.

And you know me. I'm obsessive, so there will be an entry a day. If you're interested, just keep clicking on the link at the left when you happen to think about it. Also check out the list of the other people who are doing this. It's kind of fun to see the way they've handled the project and the sorts of people they talk about (there is a long list of participants in the right hand column of Bev's 65x365).

Patspic.jpg (38396 bytes)The second semi-irregular meeting of the Pinata Women took place yesterday, lasting to about noon today, at the home of Jeri's godmother, Jeri D. We didn't play cards this time and we really didn't drink very much. We just talked.

We all agreed that it was nice to have the leisure to just sit and chat. A note I received from Jeri D. when I got home says, "I figure we talked about 12½ hours…not many can do that."

The fun thing is that we didn't talk about anything specific. Someone says we should have kept notes so we could remember, but the fun is NOT having an agenda but just letting it all flow...and letting the silences be for awhile too.

We have all known each other nearly 50 years and our lives have intertwined during all that time. I guess the older you get the more important it is to maintain those long-term connections. It's really nice when you can say something that requires "historical memory," and not have to explain yourself, because we were all there when the incident to which you are referring took place.

We have all shared with each other the happy times (weddings and births), sad times (deaths and funerals), fun times (camping trips together) and crazy times (any time you went anywhere with Char and Mike). Three of us all wore the same wedding veil when we got married. We have all buried parents together, two of us have buried children together, one buried a spouse.

Michele wasn't part of the group for fifty years, but for about forty, and she attended the last slumber party we all had, so it was sad that she wasn't there--and we drank a toast to her memory.

Sadly, during the course of the evening one in the group had a telephone call from her daughter confirming the worst fears--the doctor says the daughter has breast cancer, so that will be a new chapter we will all be starting together, but we have all been supportive of each other for nearly fifty years and there is no reason to suspect that we won't continue to be until the last one is gone.

For me, being able to sleep all night was an added bonus. For some reason, I couldn't get to sleep the previous night until 5 a.m., so I was working on 2 hours for sleep. But I had 5 recliners and three couches from which to choose. I started out on one couch, switched to a more comfortable one, and ended up in a recliner, but I wasn't awake more than 5-10 minutes during the night and woke with the sun coming in the window, just a few minutes before Char and Pat got up. No dogs sleeping on me. Bliss.

We all left around noon. Char and I dropped Pat off at her house and stayed to pick blueberries from their garden to take home with us.

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Our next get-together won't be until December, because Jeri will be out of town, but we are already looking forward to it!

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Pat - Jeri - Me - Char - Audrey

Sunday, June 29, 2008

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Family Reunion

Look who has returned.

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This is Scooby-Doo, Scrappy's brother. Apparently his placement didn't work out and he's back again.

Scrappy has had a difficult time here, because he seems to really be afraid of Walt. He's fine when Walt is gone, but when Walt comes home, he gets all weird again. He's gotten better, but whenever he sees Walt he barks and barks and barks. Apparently something happened to these two guys at the hand of a bearded man with glases because Scooby's (failed) new home had a man with a beard who wore glasses and Scooby couldn't warm up to him either (though Scooby seems OK with Walt, now that he is settling in here again).

In any event, he was returned and Scrappy seems very happy to see him. Interestingly, when the two of them were here, Scooby was the leader and Scrappy was the timid one. I notice that their roles, at least this first day, seem to be reversed. Scrappy is much more at home here and Scooby is sometimes slinking around, trying to get his bearings. He does, however, seem happy to be back with his brother again.

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But Gizmo is the prize winner. With that high-pitched, sharp bark, she is definitely the most annoying, not matter how cute she is.

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(I don't think Sheila is speaking to me!)

Ashley asked if Scooby could stay here "for a day and then we'll re-assess. Well, heck...we're going to be gone most of next week and Ashley is going to be living here, so the work of having an extra dog will be her problem, not mine!

Today was "beauty shop" day for the puppies. Before I took Gizmo and Scrappy up to Petco, I gave them both baths (see video). Gizmo gets baths fairly regularly because of her skin condition, but I had been reluctant to give one to Scrappy, since I didn't want to freak him out, but he actually handled it quite well.

Then, when we picked them up at 4 p.m., Ashley asked me about bringing Scooby home with us. I feel like I'm walking through a herd of sheep whenever I walk across the room. But they are all really sweet and I love having them here. Temporarily.

Tomorrow's entry will be late because we're having our second Pinata Women sleepover. It will be sad to have it without Michele, but we're determined to stay in closer contact with each other, perhaps because of Michele. But anyway, I won't be posting until Monday afternoon.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Oh, Johnny Boy...

Well, I know nobody is surprised, but Senator McCain has finally actually said the words:

"I support the efforts of the people of California to recognize marriage as a unique institution between a man and a woman, just as we did in my home state of Arizona. I do not believe judges should be making these decisions."

Having just spent the better part of the week basking in the glow of the happiness of Ellen and Shelly, who fought for 34 years for the right to be treated, legally, like everyone else, this was like being hit with a bucket of cold water, though, as I said, not surprising.

I hope everyone who has NOT seen Ellen and Shelly's wedding reception video will now watch it with the idea in mind that there are people who want to prevent people in love from having equal rights as their straight neighbors. "There is something very powerful about knowing that the government of the state where you live considers your union as legitimate as anyone else's," said one couple.

Who, looking at the happy faces -- no. JOYOUS faces -- of these newly married couples celebrating with Shelly and Ellen, would deny them this right?

Well...John McCain, for one.

The problem with marriage is that so many people see it in some sort of religious context, despite the fact that gay people have said time and time again that this is not at all about religion, this is about civil rights. Still, people can't see beyond "marriage" as being some sort of God-invented institution that should not be tampered with or it will bring about the fall of civilization as we know it.

But marriage, while it may come with all the blessings of God and a church or synagog or mosque, is at its core, a legal contract between two people. You can be married by a person with a justice-of-the-peace-for-a-day license (as Jeri and Phil will be) and still be married. It doesn't have to involve God or religion at all.

I can't believe that three Republican judges who voted to allow gay marriage in California are in any way actually in favor of marriage between same sex couples, but thank goodness someone still values civil rights in this country of ours.

The court's ruling was about EQUALITY, not about gay marriage. Marriage is contract law, and as such, is governed by those rules. You cannot have a contract that two people can enter into and then say two other people can’t enter into the same contract because of some reason like race, religion or sexual orientation. It’s discrimination under the Equal Protection clause. The Supreme Court that legalized same sex marriage in California boiled it down to logic. Logically, under the law, either gays must be allowed to marry, or no one should be allowed to marry. Equal treatment for everyone.

This is no waltz down the garden path for same sex couples, either. Think of the complication of filling out tax forms, for starters. They can file as a married couple in California, but since your federal tax is partially based on your state tax that means the newly married couples also need to calculate their taxes as single people too, in order to fill out the federal forms.

Conservatives are always talking about this lifestyle that gay people "choose." They talk about indoctrination and fear that someone is going to "recruit."

Let's be honest here. Who, in their right mind, would CHOOSE to be gay? Gay children are often ridiculed, often beaten up. The suicide rate for gay kids is higher than for straight kids. Gay kids are often rejected by their families, turned out onto the streets. Gay people are often passed over for jobs, denied housing, condemned by their churches. They cannot serve their country unless they lie about their sexual orientation. They cannot marry the person they love (except in Massachusetts and, for the moment, California). They hesitate to put photos of their "family" on their desk at work for fear someone will guess their secret. Who looks at the prospects for the rest of their lives and says "Oh goodie! I want to live like that!" ?

Read Leslie Jordan's autobiography, "My Trip Down the Pink Carpet." He knew long before puberty that he was "different." He just didn't have a word for it, and he certainly never acted upon it at age 11. You hear that over and over again from people who "knew" as very young children. My friend David traces his "knowing he was different" back to age 5.

Do all gay people want to marry? Of course not, no more than all straight people do. But gay people must have the same rights as straight people to form that legal contract with their partner of choice. If some clergyperson wants to marry then, fine. But at the very least, let them stand up in front of an officer of the court, as Shelly and Ellen did, and make that legal commitment to each other.

If the people trying to change the Constitution to ban gay marriage have their way, they will be saying that some people deserve certain rights, and some other people don't deserve those same rights. If the same sex marriages going on right now will be nullified by the Constitutional amendment, that involves taking away rights that gay people now enjoy. That's like saying to a slave, "Yes, I know you were once emancipated, but it's now time for you to return to the plantation." or to a woman "Yes, you once had the right to vote, but now we've changed our minds." or telling Heidi Klum, "Yes, I know you and Seal have a happy marriage, but I'm sorry--white people can't be married to black people any more."

It's not fair, it's not right. It's all or nothing. ALL people get certain rights, or NONE of the people get those rights. The freedoms we have held dear until the idiot in the White House started ignoring them, include that all people are created equal and if all people are created equal, they all deserve nothing less than the same rights, even if current presidential candidates would work to ensure that they don't get them.

(And yes, I will say the same thing if Obama comes out with a statement like McCain's)

Friday, June 27, 2008

At the Risk of Offending Feminists...'s nice to have a man around the house again. Within the first hour of Walt's return from Santa Barbara, he had the garbage disposal fixed. It only took a few seconds. In truth, I knew what the problem was. It just needed to be cleaned out, but I have these big fat-lady hands and they won't fit down the hole of the garbage disposal. Walt's hands fit just fine, so once again I have a working garbage disposal.

If the timing works out right, we'll go dishwasher shopping tomorrow, and maybe he can even figure out the VCR/DVD recording thingy. (I actually could probably do that myself, but just haven't taken the time to sit and study it.)

annivcard.jpg (39681 bytes)Yes, he managed to actually get back into town while it was still our anniversary. The sentiment with which we hold these events is obvious from the kinds of cards we give each other. Walt's to me is over there on the left. Mine to him was remarkably similar, only it was two old farts partying.

And then there was the romantic "I guess we should go out to dinner, huh?" he said to me. I was in the process of preparing a romantic anniversary dinner (i.e., I was heating the oven to put to frozen Marie Callendar chicken pot pies in to cook).

Yeah--this just isn't the year for romance, I fear. Just too much going on.

But we had a lovely dinner at the Thai place which is next door to Walt's old office. They know him there and the owner, seeing that we were being led to a table for two, took over and moved us to the more spacious table for four. She brought us tea we didn't order and then after our meal, presented us with complimentary coconut ice cream and banana fritters, without even knowing it was our anniversary.

I, of course (Peggy will love this), distinguished myself by going to divide the ice cream and fritters in half and dropping one of the fritters on the floor. Not once, but twice. I told Walt there was a lot more fiber in it from the carpet remnants. (Of course I ate it! You don't think I'm going to pass up a free dessert just because it fell on the floor, do you? I used the 5-second rule.)

We didn't talk much during dinner because Walt had a call from his sister about their mother. The news is good and not as good, I guess. She was finally moved to a convalescent hospital today. Her roommate is actually the woman who lives across the hall from her in the Assisted Living facillity, which I thought was very nice for the two of them until I learned that the roommate is not expected to live.

The "not as good" part is that Alice was exhausted tonight, which worries her daughter, but which seems pretty logical. She's been essentially in bed for the past two weeks and naturally she's suffering from muscle weakness and it's not surprising that since exhaustion was one of the things that put her in the hospital in the first place, without any significant movement at all for two weeks, the activity of moving from hospital to convalescent hospital (which involved getting dressed) would wear her out.

We're just all hopeful that the fact that she's able to move out of the hospital is a good sign and that her determination to stick around long enough to see Jeri married will keep her going.

But it's nice to have Walt home for a few days. We both drive back to Santa Barbara for Tom's big BBQ next week, then he will stay down so that his sister can get away for a few days; I'll drive back home alone. I've been hitting for books on tape to listen to in the car!

While he's home we're going to have to make sure that the back fence is secure. I went to get in the car to go down to the bus station tonight and when I turned around, Scrappy was right behind me. I was afraid he had managed to squeeze out the back fence. On further inspection after we came home, I think he just followed me out the door when I thought I had locked him in the house, but I want to make sure he really can't get out the back fence before I trust leaving the dogs in the house again. It wouldn't surprise me if the thing weren't ready to come loose any day now, with the amount of jumping Lizzie does at it,

After our dinner tonight, I spent time working on the video I took at Ellen and Shelly's reception Saturday night. The full video is 10 minutes long, and I made a copy for the two of them, but then I cut it down to 3 minutes and 20 seconds to post on YouTube and then cut it again to 1 minute 28 seconds for Flickr (since 1 minute 30 seconds is the maximum length for a Flickr video).

I think you pretty much get the emotion of the event in the You Tube video, so I hope you click on that link and watch it.

This is unbelievable

Thursday, June 26, 2008

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Still Cooking After All These Years

There was a time when I subscribed to Gourmet magazine and dreamed of becoming a gourmet cook. I remember finding a picture of a perfectly round, deeply orange orange on a perfectly matched plate, with a juicy looking, deep red strawberry balanced on top of it. I proudly showed it to Walt and told him that was the kind of thing I wanted to begin serving as a new bride.

He glowed. And married me, 43 years ago today. My wedding gift from my groom was a monogrammed set of of Gourmet magazine cookbooks.

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We left the reception in Walt's 1953 Rambler (the car that hated me), and drove it to a location where our "real" car was hidden.

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Our honeymoon was a trip to Canada. I don't remember how long it took us to get there, but there were obviously no opportunities to do any cooking. We stayed at a different motel a night, ending with a several-day stay at a cabin in Jasper National Park.

It was a strange cabin, which had a stove but no electrical outlet in what was supposedly the "kitchen" area, so while we had a toaster, we had to plug it into a socket on the mantle of the fireplace.

There was no refrigerator, so we didn't want to get foods that had to be kept cold. I was ticked to find canned bacon. How perfect! I could still cook bacon and use the grease to cook eggs, but we didn't have to deal with how to keep a slab of bacon cold.

So came the morning of my first breakfast cooked for my new husband. I went to turn on the stove and found that it didn't work, so Walt went and got the coleman stove from the car and we put that on top of the regular stove.

Then I discovered that canned bacon doesn't appear to have much grease. In fact, canned bacon may be one of the most vile things ever. It kind of glopped in the pan, never crisped and what was left to cook the eggs in was some sort of grey amorphous substance. You couldn't fry them because there wasn't enough "grease" (quotes used because I'm not convinced it was real grease or not!) so I scrambled them (Walt prefers fried eggs).

The eggs picked up the color of the cooking medium, so on the plate I had this yucky bacon-like stuff and grey scrambled eggs.

toaster.gif (25617 bytes)The only thing which worked in the kitchen was the toaster. It was one of those old fashioned kinds with the sides which flopped down to put in the bread. Then it toasted one side, you opened it up, turned the bread over and toasted the second side.

This was the world's fastest toaster. I swear, it toasted a piece of bread in literally seconds, which I didn't realize until I'd burned the toast. (I can't remember if I eventually got a decent piece of toast out of it, or if I just scrapped off the burned part and served it that way; for some reason I suspect the latter--we must not have had that much bread with us.

So there we were, the first meal of our married lives and I've served this totally inedible glop - gelatinous bacon, grey eggs and burned toast.

The only consolation was that Walt already knew I was a decent cook. I met him when I became the cook for the house he was living in and I had cooked a lot for him during the year we were engaged.

But our very first home cooked meal as a married couple was probably the worst meal I ever cooked in my life. I guess it didn't discourage him, because 43 years later, he's still eating my cooking!

Happy Anniversary, Dear...wherever you are at the moment! I hope you're eating something well-cooked. (He is returning from Santa Barbara today, briefly, returning in a few days for Tom's annual barbeque.)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

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The OTHER Party

There was so much to say about the wedding reception and the events surrounding scattering Michele's ashes that I never did say much about Peach and Bob's 50th anniversary party, which was sandwiched in between angst about Ellen & Shelly's wedding cake and then their reception itself.

The anniversary party was a Hawaiian theme and I actually managed to unearth a muu muu I bought at Hilo Hattie's on one of our two trips to Hawaii. I can't remember the last time I wore a dress or a skirt, but after all, this was for Peach and Bob.

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The party was to start at 4, but I was a little late because of the cake not being picked up until late, but I got there just in time. Their kids had rented a limousine to pick them up, driving them around Sacramento to all the spots that had been important in their lives and then drop them off at the party. I arrived just as the limo was pulling up and whipped out my camera.

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I don't know how many people were there, but a lot. There was a "cousins table" that we all gravitated to since we knew each other, but not most of the other guests.

Their son-in-law had put together a nice slide show about their 50 years together. (The hair part was particularly good, seeing how the styles have changed--radically!-- through the years!)

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I wasn't able to see the show all that well, for the crowd, so I saw it in a later showing. A woman sitting near me, whom I didn't know, was determined to let me know that she had known my cousin for a very. long. time. I think she was a little deflated when I pointed to their wedding photo and showed her that I was in the wedding party. I explained that I was Peach's cousin. That kind of ended the "trying to one-up you" part of the interaction!

Their son-in-law is Mexican so this was billed as a "mexican luau," and they had a huge spread of food (so much that when I went to Shelly & Ellen's reception later, with an enormous buffet, I didn't eat a thing because I was so stuffed from the party).

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After food there were heartfelt speeches by all 3 of their kids, and by Bob and Peach too.

I couldn't stay too long because I had to get home, feed the dogs, change my clothes, and get to the wedding reception, but this anniversary party, like the reception, was a real feel-good event and I'm glad that I was able to make it to both parties.

Given my "problems" recently, I made this sign to go on the front seat of the car...and made it home without having to turn around and drive back to get the cameras!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

In the Garden

Not surprisingly, it was a rough night. I just don't do well in beds. This time I had two beds, 8 pillows, and I still couldn't sleep. The chairs were not comfortable to prop myself up and I kept squishing pillows to prop various parts of my body, but I woke up every 2 hours to have to rearrange. I finally got up at 5 or so.

The biggest disappointment was the non-working wi fi. Perhaps if I understood wi fi better I could have gotten it to work, but it read a signal; it just couldn't connect and the office was of no help whatsoever. Char had told me there was a computer in the office for use by guests, so I went down there and was finally able to send a note through yahoogroups, telling people on the mailing list that I would have to post the entry for the 23rd when I got home. It was a very strange computer, tho. Char had tried to get her e-mail and it would connect to Comcast, but not to her e-mail. I could connect to DCN and I could actually pull up a list of my mail, but it wouldn't open any. It wouldn't connect to either G-mail or Twitter. But by that time I had resigned myself to have a computer-less day and didn't stress out about it.

We all had breakfast, checked out and then drove a few miles to the Mendocino Botanical Garden. What a lovely place! They had a big sign up about the heirloom roses in bloom and when we paid our admission, they gave us a map which showed how the trail is kind of a figure 8, which took us through gardens, woods, a vegetable garden, and out to an overlook of the ocean and then back again. The total trail was a mile, so I'm able to update my miles to nowhere, even though I wasn't on the treadmill. And it was an up and down trail too, not just all on the flat.

As you come out the office building it is to this beautifully groomed garden.

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Then through a rose covered arch into the herloom rose garden.

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It was smaller than I expected and the roses were mostly past their prime, but they all smelled lucious and there were a few that were very pretty.

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The path wended through a wooded area (I expected the Cowardly Lion to pop out from behind a tree at any moment)...

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...and all the way out to the cliff overlooking the ocean.

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What was even better, it was cold was I loved it! The others were bundled up in sweatshirts and I was reveling in the cold ocean wind.

We said goodbye at the garden. Rich and Pat headed home, Mike and Char headed to do some wine tasting, and I, too, headed for home. As I left the shore and drove up the mountain, the cool, foggy air was replaced by hot smokey air. There are wildfires in lots of spots in California and the smoke travels a long way. When I got off the freeway in Ukiah, it was quite thick.

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I stopped here for lunch. The place was a brew pub and restaurant and I was a little hesitant to go in, because of the guys hanging around the front, but it looked like a lot of disreputable clubs Lawsuit used to play in (and also had a small stage). I was the only woman in the place when I first got there. But the staff was very nice, the food was very good (though garlic cheese fries don't taste as good as they sound), and I had a long chat with my waiter, who dislocated his arm two days ago.

Then back on the road again, doing fine until I hit the last leg before hitting I-80 and then I met rush hour traffic.

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But I wasn't in any hurry, I was listening to a good book on tape (Kirk Douglas' "Let's Face It") so I really didn't mind the snail's pace and once it opened up, it was clear sailing all the way home.

Still, it was very good to get home again. It's a long way to Mendocino. It was very nice to be with everyone for an extended period of time, but it would have been a lot more fun if Michele had been with us.

Ashes just aren't the same as the real thing.

Finally, I'm sure everyone will understand my compulsion to end this entry with the following: "Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, CockSucker, MotherFucker, and Tits"

We'll miss ya, George.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Final Goodbye to Michele

Today we said a final goodbye to our friend Michele, who died last November. The plan had been to scatter her ashes on the property she and her husband owned in Mendocino County, but November was too wet to "scatter," and also Tim, Char's oldest son, who lives in Maryland, wanted to be here, so we waited for better weather--and for Tim.

Sadly, Walt was not able to make it, as he is still with his mother, so I went and represented the family. I drove to Cloverdale, 15 or so miles north of Santa Rosa, and met Michele's son Eric and his wife there. Eric rode with me in the car and we caravanned up to the property--about an hour's drive, often on very winding mountain roads.

About 20 of us, young and old, met at the roadside entrance to the property and then hiked down to where we all used to camp all those years ago, when the kids were little, when they put on skits on an improvised stage, where Jeri "married" Cam, with Tim officiating, where Richard made gin fizzes by hooking his blender to the battery of his car, where the outhouse was a 2-seater open air building (no door) that looked out all over Anderson Valley. When you needed to use the facilities, you raised a wooden warning for others to stay away...but the view was glorious.

(I think we stopped using the outhouse when they started logging below the property and you might run into a workman!)

It was also the property where we gathered around the table and played cards and other games. We all gathered huckleberries each year and did "quality control" so we could have sourdough pancakes the following morning (made from Char's starter, which she took to bed with her to keep at body temperature so it would grow during the night).

There was no better place for Michele's ashes to be scattered.

Jenny's daughter, Haley, who, Grandma Char says, has never had an unexpressed thought (we're sure she's going to be an attorney when she grows up) announced after 2 minutes that she was bored, that there was nothing to do, and that "nature was boring."

No such problem for her cousin, Katie, who had come from Maryland with her father Tim (and mom Juliet and brother Jonathan) Grandpa Mike found a banana slug and told the kids all about them, including giving the thing a kiss.

Katie appeared to be enchanted, and went about cleaning up the slug, learning about it, watching how its eyes went in and out of their sockets, etc. Katie won't be a lawyer, but will make a fantastic scientist some day.

Eric's wife, Nan, broke out the crackers and cheese (Michele's favorite brie) along with grapes and brownies, made from Michele's recipe.

Richard opened several bottles of champagne and we all drank a toast to Michele. Then Eric brought out the ashes and each person took one or more handfuls and decided where they wanted to scatter their particular bit of ashes.

Not surprisingly, all of us who had been at the property with Michele over the years chose to find huckleberry bushes to "fertilize." We are sure there is going to be a bumper crop of berries next year.

When we had finally finished, we packed everything up to go back to the highway (Mike, Richard and I claimed "old and fat" as an excuse to get a ride!)

Then we headed for the town of Mendocino, where Nan had made reservations for lunch at the lovely Mendocino Cafe, where we sat overlooking a gorgeous garden and, beyond it, the ocean.

I had a lovely crabcake caesar salad and we all shared the 2 desserts that were brought for 3 birthday people (one of whom was Richard, who just turned 78 last week).

Then we wandered around in a toy store and the kids liked to play dress up. I took this picture of Haley.

When she looked at it she said, "Yep...I look good."

We moved north to Fort Bragg and the Quality Inn, chosen because it has wi fi. They lie. Nobody can get it. Char can connect, but it won't hold a connection; I can't even connect. They tell me I have to contact my internet provider. I don't think so! So I'm writing this in the room, but it will have to be posted tomorrow, from home.

All in all, though, it's been a lovely day, despite the sad nature of the reason why we are all here.

Tim scattering Michele's ashes over the spot where he first found huckleberries many, many years ago.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Diary of Making a Cake, Part 2

I was unpleasantly awakened this morning by a cramp in my thigh. I hate those. You can walk out a cramp in your calf, but one in the thigh is more painful and harder to get rid of. As I stretched my leg out to try to "fix" it, my foot cramped and then right after, my calf. I've never, ever had a triple cramp. Not the most pleasant way to wake up, but a very effective alarm clock.

By the time I had hobbled out to the kitchen, I realized that I had a pounding headache as well, so I set the timer on the stove and decided to just get into the recliner and get myself relaxed for an hour. That's when Sheila decided 6 a.m. was a wonderful time to bark outside. So that meant getting up and feeding the dogs so I could lock them all in the house.

I went to empty the very full garbage bag, filled with remnants of cake-decorating stuff, and the bag started to break. Force Flex may hold a piano, but the drawstring part is crap. Fortunately, I was able to get all the garbage out to the big garbage can without spilling it all over the driveway.

It is time to continue the cake and I'm realizing that the thought of it makes me sick to my stomach. You know, I decorated cakes for ten years. I made and sold expensive, very beautiful wedding cakes. I was always nervous about transporting them, but never, ever have I reacted to making a cake like I have to this one. I simply don't understand it, except that it's important that it turn out well and I'm terrified that it won't.

* * *

Well, we weathered adding the top layer and it doesn't look bad. My nausea has subsided.

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Now to start making roses and adding them to the cake.

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Well, that turned out just fine. But when I made several of them and went to make leaves to put on them (what "makes" a cake for me), I discovered I had no green food coloring. I have red. I have lots of blue. But no green (not even any yellow to mix with the blue).

I'm making a trip to either Save Mart for coloring, or Cost Plus for silver and/or gold fabric leaves.

The frosting also seems to be "softening" again, though I've never ever had a problem with melting frosting using shortening, which is why I use it instead of butter. Let's just hope it's only my imagination. But the cake is now too tall to fit in the refrigerator.

* * *

Would you believe you can't buy food coloring in the supermarket any more? At least not at Save Mart. So I tried going to Cost Plus to get realistic looking leaves, or golden leaves and they had neither. The best I could get, at Save Mart, was "cake icing" in a tube, which I will try mixing with the butter cream and hope it works.

* * *

It does. At 11:30 a.m., I pronounce it finished

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AND I talked with the woman who is taking it to the vets to see if she has a car where we can load the cake in flat, rather than lifting it up and over the edge and down into the trunk She does. So she is going to come and pick it up.

Assuming it goes into her car OK, it will be a surprise to see if it is actually up at the reception when I get there at 8 p.m. tonight.

* * *

Ack!!! I totally forgot to take the puppies to Petco! Damn. I called Ashley and she said it was oK--it's so hot they're closing early and the family that will probably adopt Scrappy can't come until next week anyway, so to just forget it. But I feel bad about it now.

* * *

The cake is gone and it made it to Melissa's car without falling apart. It is now out of my hands and I can go shower and get to Peach & Bob's anniversary party. Whew.

* * *

I will report on the anniversary party separately, but suffice to say I got to the wedding reception at 7:45 and the first thing I saw was flowers all over the cake. I knew immediately what had happened. Melissa said that it was so hot that it just started sinking. They put in her fridge but the ride and the move to the Vets made it worse, so the caterer helped them cover the cracks with flowers and you really can't tell that it wasn't designed that way.

The only thing I didn't notice until I went to put the Photo of the Day on this page is that all the roses I made are on the BACK side of this cake. They put it on the table backwards. All the time I spent making roses and the TWO trips out to find something to use for leaves and nobody ever saw that part!

Owell. Nobody really noticed and I guess it went over all right. I left as soon as the cake was cut because I have to get ready to leave around 6 a.m. tomorrow to drive the 4 hrs to Mendocino to scatter Michele's ashes.

HOWEVER, if you want feel good wedding receptions this was the place to be. I took mostly video, which I will put together after I get home from Mendocino because I just really want a stress-less sleep tonight. But the Vets was full. People from all aspects of Ellen and Shelly's life. I sat with Cindy (who is also their dentist) and Pat, with whom I've worked the prize table at Gay Pride day. Betty from PFLAG was there, as well as Linda, another member of PFLAG that I remembered from my days there. Jerry, the attorney whose daughter just married her partner a couple of days ago was there. Davis Community Network was well represented. And my friend Liz, who adopted one of the Rainbow puppies a long time ago was there with her daughter. She said she didn't know anybody, so I introduced her to Pat.

More than one person mentioned having been following the saga of the cake here on Funny the World!

water.jpg (32974 bytes)There was a groaning board of food and a wine and "spirits" bar. I was so full from dinner at the anniversary party that I didn't eat a single thing. But I did take a couple of bottles of water.

They thanked everyone for coming and for being supportive and then asked everyone who has either gotten married or plans to get married to come and join them. They filled the front of the room, to great cheers and applause from the remainder of the room.

They danced the "first dance" (after their 34 year engagement) to a song sung by their daughter Laura and then later they were seranaded by Laura and her brother.

It was what it should have been--the celebration of the commitment of two people to each other, and the legal recognition of their union as a real "marriage."

I would like to have stayed longer, but I knew that I have to be out of the house at the crack of dawn tomorrow, that I have a long drive ahead of me, and that I had hardly any sleep last night, which is why I'm not even going to try to deal with photos or videos until I get back from Mendocino on Monday night.

As for the cake, the worst of my fears came to pass and the people who had to deal with it were so competent that I'm sure most folks didn't even realize it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Diary of Making a Cake

When I heard the weather predictions for today (mid to high 90s), I was VERY glad that I had baked all the cakes yesterday, when it was (a little bit) cooler.

I really, really didn't want to drive back to Dixon today to get a larger board for the cake, but I did it. The woman who owns the cake store and I comiserated about how cake decorating is really something you do when you are young, or for your grandchildren. She says she is "pushing 50" and gave up cake decorating a year ago. I understand. I really wanted this cake to be wonderful for Ellen & Shelly, but I realized as I was decorating it how much stress I was under and what fear I was feeling that I was going to screw up.

I frosted the middle layer first and it has a crack in it. The same crack that appeared in my friend Lynn's wedding cake before it fell apart (though not nearly as big or as deep).

Next, I put the largest layer on the new board I saw some waxed paper peeking out from the bottom of it. I started to pull on it, thinking I'd left a bit in place. I hadn't left "a bit" in place--I hadn't taken off the waxed paper from the bottom of the cake at all. Fortunately I found out in time.

I finally got all three tiers frosted with the first layer (you put on two layers of frosting, the first to pick up and paste down the crumbs, the second to be the "smooth layer") and I marveled at how much more difficult it was than I remembered. The muscles are out of shape and I also don't have the magic turntable that I had before, but have to pick up and rotate the cake each time I need to move to a new spot. A 2 layer 16" cake with frosting and filling is heavy! The bottom layer got frosted and slants significantly.

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I have wooden dowels to insert into that cake to hold the weight of the middle tier and that should help me be able to fill the "slant" with frosting (those who love frosting have to figure out which side of the cake to eat!), but do I have something to cut the dowels with...?

I'm also out of milk. I'm so reluctant to go to the store when it's this hot, but it must be done.

* * *

I found a hacksaw out in the garage, measured the dowels very carefully, cut them with the saw, put them in the cake and they are waaay too short. Damn. How to get them out, now...

* * *

Went to the store. Met a guy who runs the Winters Community Theater and had a good chat with him, got a great idea for a feature story for next month. oh yeah--and I remembered to get milk -- and tweezers for removing the dowels.

Cut new dowels. These seem to work fine. (Aside: If I had to make a living sawing things, I'd be dead in a week.) Also did the final frosting on the bottom and top tiers and actually made the bottom tier look level. er.

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I'd say I'm proud of myself for managing to keep the counter clean as I work, but really, cleaning, scrubbing, doing loads of dishes, etc, is just another way of procrastinating. I've now done everything except the thing I've most afraid of -- putting the middle tier on the bottom tier. It will be the first moment of truth. There will be so many moments of truth, but this will be the first. Will the bottom tier fall apart? Will the middle tier crack? I'm so terrified that I keep finding a bazillion other things to do before biting the bullet.

[Was I always this terrified when making wedding cakes? This goes beyond nerves. This is real terror. I just keep seeing my friend Lynn's wedding cake and how I destroyed it!]

* * *

Finally did it. Tier 2 is on top of tier 1 and nothing bad has happened. Yet. Next step is to go out into the laundry room and get all the cake decorating supplies. But the light in the laundry room, which was on two hours ago, has burned out. to change the light bulb requires balance and LIGHT, so there's nothing I can do but fumble around in the dark. Fortunately the fashlight I used when the power went out yesterday and the day before was right at hand. But I took it as a bad omen.

* * *

I finally took the plunge. So far so good.

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* * *

Catastrophy. The cloth bag that I use for frosting split, making it impossible to use.

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I may have another one,but without a light in the laundry room, there is no way I can even start looking for it. Thank god I do have parchment paper triangles, but the cloth bag is so much more convenient.

* * *

I'm calling it a night. I've put the bottom two tiers (now with border on both top and bottom of each) in the fridge and I'll finish first thing in the morning. The problem is that the kitchen is so hot, the frosting is softening in my hands and I can't work with it. I have the a/c cranked down to about 76 and overnight it will cool off, so if I get up at 6:30, I'll have plenty of time to finish. So far it's all holding together well and it weighs a ton. I don't know how I'm going to carry it to the car.

Stay tuned to see what happens tomorrow!

(and no, I did not walk on the treadmill, but I've been on my feet most of the day!)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Off Again, On Again

So in yesterday's entry, I was bemoaning the fact that I had procrastinated starting to bake the cake. At 9-something p.m., I was very glad that I had.

That's when the power went out.

At first I was furious. Just what I needed. How unlucky for me that the power was out. But then I realized that if I had started making the cake earlier in the evening, the power would have gone out in the middle of baking it, would have ruined it, and I would have had to start all over again. So my procrastination was actually a good thing. (That's my story and I'm sticking to it).

Also, just before the power went out, I discovered, through Google, that there is a cake supply place just 10 miles from here--not on the other side of Sacramento, where I didn't want to drive--so my procrastination ensured that I could get all the supplies I needed rather than trying to "make do" with what I had. This is called "looking on the bright side."

When the power went out, I contacted PG&E to see if there was an estimate on when it would be on again. They said about 2 hrs. It was too early to go to sleep, and it was still kind of hot in the house, so I decided to go to Baker's Square and have some coffee and wait out the two hours.

But when I came home, the power was still out, so the dogs and I settled in for the night, and just as I was falling asleep, a PG&E truck pulled up across the street, with lights flashing. That set Lizzie off. (It also was comforting to know that if someone tried to break into the house, she would set up a ruckus and get all the other dogs going too!) I got up and sat outside watching to see if I could get a clue as to what they were doing, and to be there in case they needed to check this house. But they eventually left and the power was still off. I finally went to sleep.

I woke up at 1:30 and made my mid-night move to the recliner, where I slept until 3-something, when the power was still out and I called PG&E to see if there was a new estimate of when the power would be back on. They now said that the power would be back on around 7 a.m. I was just starting to go back to sleep again at 4:37, when the power came on, and with it all the lights.

I was now wide awake, so I just got up, reset the clocks, checked what I'd been missing on the Internet, and got everything arranged so I could begin the baking marathon (the kitchen counter was now covered again, but in cake-making stuff).

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At 8:30, I took Gizmo to meet the person who was going to take her to the vet to have her reproductive organs removed, then came home to start baking cakes.

I got the first two layers and then it was late enough to drive off to Dixon, about 10 miles away, to check out the cake store I had found on line. I bought all the supplies I needed to finish the cake, after a lengthy discussion with the proprietor about which size board I needed. We settled on the 16" board, because I assured her I had a 14" cake pan.

It was nearing noon when I was headed home, so I decided to stop at Chevy's for lunch and had some lovely flautas.

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These should have been crisp, but wer soggy
but the jalapeno jelly in the middle was yummy

I got home and checked and of course had a 16" pan, not at 14", so I have to go back tomorrow and get an 18" board. Sigh. (This is called "plan ahead"!!!) But I made the next two layers and then decided that it was lunacy to keep the house baking things when the temps were rising into the mid-90s, so I decided to bake the last two layers (this is a 3-tier cake, each tier 2 layers) after the sun went down.

That would give me time to take a nap to make up for some of that sleep I didn't get last night.

[I should add here another little glitch. I haven't baked/decorated cakes in a very long time and definitely not since the Pergo was installed. Well, apparently when they put the stove back after installing the floor, they neglected to level it. So the cakes, which went into the oven flat, have come out sloped. I'm hoping that by matching slopes when I frost them I will compensate for that fact. (Frosting covers a multitude of sins)]

Scrappy and I settled into the recliner, with the air conditioner humming and the TV on and I fell asleep instantly. What woke me up was the sound of all the power going off again and dogs barking all over the place. Fortunately it wasn't off for several hours this time.

Gizmo came back from her surgery, VERY much in pain and, as Ashley says, "a screamer." It was no surprise to me that she was being overly melodramatic. Ashley doubled up on the pain meds an she immediately headed off to the living room where she could curl up in a ball somewhere and be by herself. The other dogs seemed concerned, solicitous, and respectful of her need to be by herself. (Or maybe they just weren't interested because she was asleep!)

I finished out the day by baking the last two layers for the cake and then blockading all of the layers so Lizzie couldn't get to them. This means that the clean counter is twice as cluttered was it was before I cleaned it up.

Easy come, easy go.

Thursday, June 19, 2008



Mobile post sent by basykes using Utterzreply-count Replies.  mp3

Under the Gun

My plan yesterday was to drive to the cake decorating store in Sacramento to get supplies for Ellen & Shelly's wedding cake, which I'm making for their reception on Saturday. But it was hot. Very hot. And gas is now $4.70 a gallon and I started thinking about what I really needed and did I have to drive all the way into Sacramento to get supplies. I decided that I'd find a work around, and get most of the baking supplies at the supermarket. The problem is the boards that the cakes go on, but I'm hoping to throw myself on the mercy of the local bakery and hope that they will sell me boards.

So the plan was to clean off the kitchen counter (a major undertaking) before I went to sleep last night, but dammit, I decided to read "just a little" of the book I was reading, Tess Gerritsen's "Vanish," the fourth book in her Jane Rizzoli / Maura Iles series.

At about 2:30 a.m., I simply HAD to put the book down or I'd never get any sleep.

I slept until 6:30, got up, sat back in my chair, picked up the book and, except for feeding the dogs, I didn't move until about 9, when I finally finished it. It was definitely the most gripping of her books that I have read.

But that meant I didn't go shopping, and I hadn't cleaned off the kitchen counter yet.

Life is complicated further by the fact that the dishwasher died before Walt went to Boston and there was no time to go dishwasher shopping before he left for Santa Barbara, which ordinarily wouldn't be more than a minor inconvenience, but I'm going to be doing heavy-duty bowl/pan dirtying between now and Friday night. Also, our garbage disposal apparently communed with the dishwasher and realized that Walt is out of town, so it has stopped working. I reset it so that the motor will turn on, and give me a nice hum--but the blades don't work. There is stuff in it, and I've cleaned out as much as I can but whatever is left is causing the water to drain slower than usual.

Needless to say, my enthusiasm for doing this cake was rapidly diminishing!!! Especially when I discovered Lizzie licking off the remains left on my dinner plate last night and I realized that there was NOWHERE I could put the cake layers as I finished them that would be doggie-safe--so I must also clean out the freezer in the garage before I finish frosting the first layer.

I'm trying to remember when Pa went off with the kids and left Ma at home alone for a couple of days on Little House on the Prairie. She got an infection on her leg and was about to cut her own leg off with a kitchen knife when the doctor arrived in time to save her. Compared to that, a couple of broken appliances don't seem all that bad.

I did take time out to watch the Tim Russert memorial, which was very moving. I only used half a box of Kleenex.

Then I rushed the dogs off to the dog park, stopped by the supermarket to get supplies (the kitchen counter finally having been cleaned, all the dishes washed, dried, and put away, awaiting all those bowls that I will accumulate making the cake).

I should also mention, in passing, that not only does the dishwasher not work and the garbage disposal not work, but the light has gone out over my recliner. This is not a simple matter of just changing the lightbulb. It's a theatrical light and has to be purchased at a theatrical supply place in Sacramento and, knowing myself all too well, I would not trust me to put the light into the socket or I'll end up killing myself by falling off the ladder.

AND, my DVR is over 50% full of news reports about Ellen & Shelly, who have asked me to make copies for them. I can't clear the programs off because my DVR is not set up for me to record from TV to DVD. I could probably figure out how to do that myself, but just haven't had time because I've been cleaning off the kitchen counter so I can make the wedding cake. But suffice to say, I can't record much on my DVR until I can get the damn news programs off (I think there are about 8 of them--and you can't record just 5 minutes; if you set up the recorder, it records the entire program!)

Finally, the family in Santa Barbara was waiting for the results of a sputum test that they gave Walt's mother a day or so ago. She has MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a common infection in hospital patients and highly contageous, which is why she's been kept in isolation and why everyone has to gown up to visit her. She can't leave isolation until the infection is cured, when they can move her to regular intensive care, and then, hopefully, to a convalescent hospital.

But, the test came back positive, so they have to continue to treat her for MRSA before she can move. Walt plans to stay in Santa Barbara until they can move her into the convalescent home.

This means that I will probably be driving to Mendocino on Sunday to scatter Michele's ashes by myself. Everyone else is going on Saturday, but I have to stay here to attend Peach & Bob's 50th anniversary and Ellen & Shelly's wedding reception.

I haven't been up to the property in Mendocino in about 20 years. It's just a small road off another small road and you can easily miss it unless you know what you're looking for and I'm convinced I will never find it. And cell phone reception is not good there so I won't even be able to call to let people know if I get lost.

This is not turning out to be the best week ever. But it's a better week than Tim Russert's family is having, and a better week than Walt's mother and my mother are having, a better week than Walt, his sister and brother are having, so I guess I won't complain.

At least I don't have to chop off my leg with the kitchen knife.