Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weekend at Home

The Barbecue Bench by suzipaw
The Barbecue Bench, a photo by suzipaw on Flickr.

It was a lovely and productive weekend. We managed to go beyond just maintenance cleaning and take care of some other chores that have been hanging over us for far too long. I can actually see everything that's in my freezer, and I'm pretty sure nothing in there is more than a year old. The dogs smell fresher. We disposed of some items in the garage that should have been settled into the dump or Goodwill cycle many hundreds of days ago. We broke down the last of the half-winebarrels that I had moved "temporarily" near a side fence a couple of years ago, which meant disposing of some redwood seedlings that had taken root and gotten much larger than we'd ever thought. That was hard. They were on their way to becoming lovely trees. We shifted the as-yet unfilled and unplanted livestock troughs into that space, which looks neater, but...in all honesty I feel a bit defeated by that project. I think my gardening eyes are much bigger than my reality stomach can...stomach. The troughs were not cheap, however, so I have a hard time letting them go.

We rewarded our hard work by taking a ride out to Lake Berryessa on Saturday. It was hard to believe that a hurricane was was threatening the East coast, it was so idyllic for us on the Left. Well, it was a tad hot, but skimming past the vineyards and golden hills, it looked a lot like paradise from the back of the Kawasaki. We vastly underestimated the number of choices to have lunch in the area, and ended up consuming overpriced sandwiches created by some interesting characters and watching bad TV at a funky little deli with a fly problem in Spanish Flat. We did go next door to a nice little collectibles shop afterwards and I picked up a cheap vintage tablecloth I'll turn into a new kitchen cafe curtain. Which hopefully will happen sooner than turning watering troughs into garden beds.

We haven't done many projects together lately, so it was high time we tackled something as a couple. For better or for worse, on Sunday afternoon we decided to build an outdoor table that would be a sort of connecting counter between the the two grills, house the hibachi as well as store the various grilling supplies. I think we did pretty well as a team--M put up with my lack of carpentry skills and I put up with his dismissing my many "helpful" suggestions--he is the tool master after all. We pushed through the project a little longer than I suspect with both wanted to in order to get it done, and in the end our marriage remained intact and the barbeque bench came out OK too. It may be oversized and rough (Uncle Lloyd, avert your eyes!), but it's functional. We suspect it will be the place we take shelter in the next earthquake.


Despite the heat during the day, it's feeling like fall already. Walking the dogs last night, the sunset warmed the sky's color, but didn't do much for the air temperature. The geese are on the wing again and I'm already missing summer.

Monday, August 22, 2011

August Activities

Iron Canyon overlook by suzipaw
Iron Canyon overlook, a photo by suzipaw on Flickr.

I continue to consider blogging, then promptly find other tasks to occupy my time. What gives?


Camping was good. Perhaps a little too good. We arrived on Sunday afternoon after much packing angst (luckily the cooler didn't upend on the dogs in the truck bed til the end of our journey), and it was one of the better outdoor experiences to date. Yahoos were at a minimum (one night of loud talking by the excited young adults and a couple of hours of modern country music during the day--really, I can't complain) as were neighboring campers. The motorized boats for the most part took off during the day to ferry fishing folk to the far reaches of the reservoir fingers, leaving us to our own devices. We cooked just enough to have fun but didn't spend too much time on it, sharing courses with Mom and Don. I somehow managed to forget my knitting needles, so couldn't start my tshirt project and was forced to read and nap and play Bananagrams with Mom instead. Don caught fish; M did not. I regretted forgetting our binoculars. I think the toughest part for me was getting a good night's sleep. I didn't find a way to insulate the air mattresses until the very last night, so spent three nights oddly chilled on my underside and overcompensatingly hot on top. The water was pretty darn cold, but there were a few instances of floating far from any shore in the perfect quite of a beautiful day.

Roxy probably had the best time of us all. Thought she got off to a rocky start, mysteriously vomiting for most of the first day, she apparently arose from that episode as a squirrel zombie and when she wasn't panting under the picnic table she was sniffing the underbrush for varmints. She spent most of her last evening ripping apart a fallen log with her jaws, the faint taunting "eep eep" of some creature inside egging her on. On our last morning, she was animatedly digging at one of the boulders lining the boat ramp; when I went over to see what she was so excited about, a chipmunk popped out and made for the blackberry brambles, Roxy in hot pursuit. I backed away at the sounds that I thought indicated an unwilling death. Roxy must have heard M's skepticism as I relayed the hunting tale--she soon passed slowly in front of us, striped quarry limp in her jaws, we assumed she was looking for a safe place to stash it for a later snack.

We ended up coming home a day earlier than planned. We resolved to find a way to bring the boat next time so we could venture out from the campground with the dogs. They were both deeply depressed for several days upon our return. It took several days to notice that Roxy was missing a tooth from her lower jaw, we assume from her log chomping exercises.

M and I kept the vacation feeling going after we got home. We went to out to breakfast, saw a movie matinee ("Cowboys and Aliens," perfectly pleasant if your expectations are low), went to a dinner party with his colleagues, and took the bike up to Clearlake to visit with Jim, Enid, and their friends on Sunday, effectively keeping my Sunday blues at bay. It was really a nice treat to seem them.

Wings over Wine Country air show, which was a lot larger than I expected it to be. We're both sunburned, and I have even more admiration for pilots and their skills.

And I've finally started my knitted tshirt project. Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Back from PDX, on to Iron Canyon

Camping! We haven't done it in years. We're going to our favorite spot, Iron Canyon, a PG&E reservoir not too far from Burney Falls. It's out of cell phone range and there's no wifi anywhere around. I've somehow spent a lot of time this past week getting ready to rough it which doesn't seem quite right, but our gear hasn't been out of boxes for so long that I didn't want to leave without making sure batteries are still juicy and everything was clean. We spent $150 at Whole Foods yesterday, so you know it's gonna be luxury camping! One thing I bought there was a "bota box" of wine (four bottles contained in one small package--lots of camping advantage there!) and they even had a picture of a tent printed on the box. I didn't make it to the library in time to check out a Dutch oven cookbook, so I'm going to have to do a little Internet based research before we take off this morning. I'm determined to make the pizza fabulous this time. I'm definitely going to use the parchment paper trick we learned with the bread--great way to get it in and out of the hot oven as well as keep it from sticking.

One of the things I'm most looking forward to on this vacation is not making any decisions or organizing anyone or any activities other than my own. It's been a long and mostly very stressful couple of weeks at work. The convention in Portland went well overall, but there were some difficult aspects, though many of them were related to it being very successful. I had a lot of parties to go to and nice to make and chats to have, which is always rewarding but exhausting for me.

As always, the highlight of my travel is the extracurricular stuff. During the conference, I got away one evening for a very fine dinner at Ned Ludd, a place that operates on one wood fired oven, and then another evening I borrowed a bike from the hotel and rode around the neighborhood. I stopped for a pint at Apex, a very bike-friendly bar. I really appreciate how cycle-centric PDX is--made me want to bike more at home, though Sonoma County is not really set up to accommodate biking the way Portland is. On the last day of our conference, the Sock Summit was getting underway in the other part of the convention center, so I stopped by their expo floor. The amount of booths selling yarn was a bit overwhelming. I did buy a couple of skeins and also took a few moments to work the world's largest sock. I didn't stay for it, but they planned a flash mob as part of their event, which I totally want to steal for our show next year. If the knitters can do it, surely the tech geeks can too.

After the conference, I spent the rest of my time in Portland with Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Jacque, which was great. Cousin Heather came down from Washington for the whole weekend, and we had fun exploring wine country on Saturday. Cousins Michelle with her whole family and Jim came over for dinner and visiting that night. I'm really grateful that they all made the time to see me! Lloyd and Jacque continue to set a high bar for hosting standards. They always make me so comfortable and welcome, and helps me decompress from the event.

One fun thing: I wore a very convincing temporary tattoo for a couple of weeks. The reactions were pretty funny. Many people I knew were surprised and relatively supportive, though comments came almost exclusively from men. I will say, if I ever wanted to pick up on young guys, getting a tattoo is definitely a great way to start a conversation.

OK, we're already running late--time to load up the gear and get off the grid!