Saturday, December 31, 2011

the quiche was just OK

The Thursday night dinner party was thoroughly enjoyable even though the menu fell short of my expectations. The evening was mild and still which meant we could dine out on the terrazzo without being either chilled or blown off by the wind. We watched the sunset from up on the 3rd floor (still without the twinkle lights; gotta get to that today), then came downstairs to sup. I didn't think the quiche measured up to my usual standards; it wasn't as creamy and custard-y as I like. But the crust was excellent! The ice cream was, too. I'll do better next time.

The big aloe plant out on the balcony has begun its annual bloom.

The colorful kiskadee birds will be here any minute to mine the blossoms for their nectar and seeds.

We see them sitting up on the telephone wires eying the tall stalks, waiting until it's all clear, then making a mad dash for a quick sip and then darting back to their perches. They're only around for about a week and then gone for another year.

And speaking of another year, Happy New Year to all. There will be fireworks and a big open-air dance on the malecón this evening. Will we be there? If this year is like all the past New Year's Eves we've spent here, probably not. But we'll be able to hear all the festivities loud and clear! One of Neighbor Nelson's J Boys has built a huge pile of driftwood on the beach for a late night bonfire. I might be tempted to stroll down and watch.

Almost time for today's opera, a rebroadcast of a January, 1951 performance of die Fledermaus, conducted by Eugene Ormandy with Marguerite Piazza as Rosalinda. From what I can find out about her, that was the only Met role of her career. So with that little bit of history, happy listening.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

easy Wednesday

With the excitement of the trust issue behind us, today was much more tranquil. I finally got to one of the clothing storage boxes I had packed in May when we left. When I opened it, the smell was of damp mold. But when I took out my T-shirts and shorts, they were absolutely pristine. With a couple of hours on the line in the sun they will be good as new. I always like this process; it's sort of like Christmas. I open the box and, Look! Shorts I haven't seen in a year! Shirts I had forgotten about! A few items will need a good washing tomorrow, especially the darks. But it is all in remarkably good condition.

This afternoon I went down to play a round of dominoes with Charlotte, the absolute doyenne of the gringo community. She is a stunningly beautiful woman who is about to turn 85 years very, very young. Sharp of mind, sassy of mouth, a treasure to be around. Best Charlotte comment of the afternoon: "I was a virgin until I was 26 and nobody seemed to notice." That's a line to save for my book about this insane place.

Mr. C went up to the jardin this morning and bought shredded beef b-b-q from Pepe for our dinner. It was delicious. Finished "Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" today; I recommended it to Charlotte who lived and worked in Africa for many years. Now reading "The Street" by Ann Petry. Set in 1940's Harlen. A gem.

Dinner party tomorrow night. Serving quiche, salad, cantaloupe with Mr. C's vanilla ice cream. Can't wait.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

the third time is the charm

It was off to Tecoman this morning to try, once again, to pay the trust. We arrived at the bank at 9:40; it was virtually empty. We got to the window at 9:45. It took 30 minutes and five bank employees, including the branch manager, to figure out what to do. But at 10:15 we exited the bank with our receipts stamped and signed and we're good for another year. I can't figure out why nobody knows how to do this. There are dozens and dozens of non-Mexicans in this area who are bound by the trust laws. These folks ought to be able to do this in 10 minutes without consulting everybody who works in the bank. One of the persons who appeared was the young woman who did our trust last year in record time. She peered over the shoulder of the woman trying to do the job, murmured something to her, pointed out a few things on the screen, and the next thing we knew the printer was belching out our receipts. We'll definitely look for her first next year.

Tecoman chores included going to the other bank we use, checking on the fate of our CD player which is in the shop for repairs ~ they need to order a part ~ then checking to see if the computer store repairs HP printers ~ ours just doesn't want to print ~ and then on to the paint store to check on colors. We need to repaint the entire house this year because of the damage Hurricane Jova did to the exterior. It basically washed away the paint. Fernando tried to patch it but, unfortunately, used the wrong color. Then to the Bodega for some non-tianguis shopping (incandescent light bulbs for one thing). To Armeria for fish at la tienda del suegro de Dago, a bag of the world's best chips, then home. All this shopping and choring is exhausting.

A lovely dinner, a quiet evening, an early to-bed. Tomorrow it's time to put up the lights on the third floor and, at last, finish unpacking. It's going to be time to go home before I get around to it.

Monday, December 26, 2011

holiday weekend wrap-up

The Christmas Eve party at Luly and Ed's was one of the nicest they've hosted. There were about 30 of us seated at round tables in the back garden next to the pool. The buffet was laden with good things to eat; turkey, dressing, cranberry relish, bean salad, carrots (they were a hit), potatoes and gravy, and a big green salad (a must for me!). Mr. C made his pumpkin pie, someone else made a mocha cheesecake that I heard was divine. I brought my big baggie of leftover turkey back home with me. It has provided dinner for two nights. It was nice to see everyone out of flip-flops and into their best ironed shorts! We were home by 9 o'clock. But some surrounding folk were still hard at the holiday festivities until 2 AM. The day dawned clear, sunny, not humid, just perfect. We had Christmas music on all day. Grandson Andrew Skyped us from Milwaukee where he is spending the holidays with his girlfriend Cara and her family. Later on a fast game of dominoes with Marie. Then one of Mr. C's famous frosty margaritas to toast the season.

Tianguis this morning had several wonderful treats. First, the avocado harvest has begun and the price was half what it had been last week: $20 pesos ($1.50 kilo). Great piles of them in every stall.

The tomatoes were particularly good this week, too. $10 pesos kilo (70¢). True, they are the Roma variety, not very juicy and only vaguely tasting like a real tomato, but they make the very best sauce.

Moving down the line to the fruit vendor, these were his berries; sweet and juicy. I'm going to ask Mr. C to make some strawberry ice cream.

And way down at the far end of the market in a stall I don't patronize regularly, I saw these beauties warming their bottoms in the sun just waiting for a good home. The smell was enough to make me want to buy one but I resisted and bought a cantaloupe instead.

Tomorrow is another trip to the bank in Tecoman to pay the trust. If it fails again we will have to resort to dealing with the bank in Puerto Vallarta although I am hoping that won't be necessary. We have four more days to get this done. Let's hope somebody has had a quick lesson on how this all works.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas to All

Dinner at Dago's was a small affair last night; just three of us. But we were joined by one of Neighbor Nelson's "J" sons ~ he has four boys (men?) all of whose names begin with "J" ~ so it made a jolly foursome. My shrimp were, as usual, perfect. I saved half for my "opera salad" today. I set up the speaker system and, first thing this morning, listened to 9 Lessons and Carols from King's College, Cambridge. Absolute heaven! Then followed the Met. Lawrence Brownell, the brilliant tenor singing Tonio, hit all his notes right on! Every time I hear the aria, Ah mes amis I first get astonishment, then chills, then tears. He is a fitting rival to Juan Diego Florez, another bel canto star. When he sang Tonio at the Met some years ago the ovation was so tumultuous that he sang that signature piece a second time just to get the crowd to shut up!

I have just finished cooking my to-die-for carrots for our Christmas Eve dinner party down at Luly and Ed's. Mr. C made his always-a-hit rum pumpkin pie. There will be about 30 for dinner; she's cooking two turkeys so I am taking along a big Ziploc® bag for some leftovers.

I've been listening to all my favorite Christmas music, some traditional tunes, some hymns, some random stuff I have on my iPod. But THIS ONE was my father's very favorite song every year. He used to laugh all the way through it. Enjoy!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Sheila

Sheila and Peter are residents of our little beach community from Washington. They bought the house that's the very last one at the south end of the colonia. The house itself is not terribly large and sits tucked on one corner of a huge double lot. The rest of the space is taken up with a pool and a fabulous party space with a big b-b-q, an outdoor bar, lovely plantings, and a platform perfect for a stage.

We went down at sunset for cocktails, saw lots of folk we hadn't yet seen this season, and met the new dog in their life, Flint, a Sheltie that replaced BoBo who met with a fatal accident during the summer. The terrazzo looked festive ~ lots of lights and Christmas decorations.

Peter had engaged a caterer to provide a fine Mexican menu of all sorts of goodies. I stuck to chicken flautas, carne asada tacos, refried beans and some very spicy rice. We sat at round tables set up at the end of the garden opposite the bar (above) ~ this place goes on and on!

After dinner there was good music and a great singer, dancing, more conversation. We left a bit early and were home by 10 PM.

We didn't know if we would have lights in the house when we came back since the electric company had been working on the lines all day. The juice went off around 11 this morning, after we had taken off for Armeria for our chores. I went out this afternoon to ask when we'd get electricity and was told that it would be at 6 PM. When we left for the party we still had no lights, but by the time we returned the place was it up like Las Vegas. The phone lines had been interrupted, too, but they were restored so the internet was up and running. I was hoping the new electric lines would be underground as they now are in some parts of town but, alas, no. They are still strung from pole to pole, ugly as ever.

It's Friday so that means Dago's tonight. Tomorrow is the Met at noon (our time). La Fille du Régiment by Donizetti. Listen for the tenor's nine high C's and be thrilled!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

the tropical blahs

I think this seasonal disorder has descended on me. I got up this morning and the only thing I could think of was how soon I could take a siesta. Mr. C went in to Tecoman this morning to pay the bank trust (second try). I, on the other hand, changed the sheets and fell back in exhaustion. It seems to me this happens every year; the heat, the change of diet (more avocado, more beer), or just the general lassitude that comes with the tropical lifestyle. He got home about noon with the following story. It took him only a few minutes to get up to the service window. That's when the trouble began. The first person he dealt with had no idea what he wanted. We go to this same bank every year but there's always someone who figures out what's needed. So he was passed to a second person. He, too, had no idea what to do. After 40 minutes of discussion, consultation, research and general futzing around, the young man asked Mr. C to indeed write out the checks for the trusts. Then he had no idea what to do with them. He suggested he come back tomorrow. Meanwhile he would research how to complete this transaction. Here's what's so mysterious about all of this confusion. Any non-Mexican with property less than 50 km. from the federal beach zone holds a trust that has to be paid annually, before December 31. And the bank doesn't know how to do it?!?

After lunch I read for awhile, "Then We Came to the End" by Joshua Ferris, an hilarious account of an advertising agency in the era of downsizing. I'd post a pix of the cover but my mouse is dead and I can't copy stuff onto the desktop and then post. Sorry. After about an hour, I fell asleep and slept for 2 1/2 hours. I wonder what tonight will be like?

Tomorrow we have to go in to Armeria to consult with Raul, the window man, about our screen sliders. The wheels have rusted out and frozen and the doors won't slide. Plus we need a new screen door on the downstairs small bedroom. Mr. C wants to get a haircut, too. 'Tis the party season and he wants to look his best. We have a big birthday party to go to tomorrow evening at a home way down in the colonia. In fact, it's the very last house on the ocean road. Lands End, one could say. I'm taking my camera.

Meanwhile, we now have to decide how long it's going to take the bank employees to figure out how to process a trust payment. Probably until next week.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

two giants are gone

Our world has lost two ringing voices: Vaclav Hável and Christopher Hitchens, two powerful public intellectuals.

Havel was the patriot, poet, philosopher, politician, and the voice of the Velvet Revolution.

Hitchens was the iconoclastic writer, editor, essayist and critic whose targets ranged from God and Mother Teresa to Henry Kissinger. He was a sharp-tongued polemicist who wrote for, among others, Vanity Fair. I always looked for his contributions when I got my hands on that publication.

Two loud and clear interpreters of contemporary life are stilled. RIP.

Monday, December 19, 2011

as though I'd never been gone

Tianguis was as always full of good things to eat, friendly people, bargains galore for used clothing. It was as though I had been there just last week. That was the good news. The bad news was that we saw heavily armed police patrolling up and down, something we have never seen before. One of the cops, Lalo, is also the chap who grills chicken and zips around the town on his moto on the weekends selling his delicious dinners. He commented that things are, alas, not what they used to be. I have never seen any police presence at the market unless they were buying goods. Times, they have changed, and changed seriously. I am not at all happy about this. I want to preserve the innocence and peace of the last several years, but I suppose, being realistic, that it is irretrievably lost.

But what's not lost is the beautiful produce brought to marked by farmers.

This grand pile of radishes glowed in the shade of the overhang. Makes me want to make a vat of potato salad or some posole soup. This is my favorite stand, the place I go to first for whatever I might want. When I showed up this morning this charming chap smiled and waved. He knows he has a faithful customer for the next few month.

After an hour of trolling up and down the stalls Marie and I went to the Jacaranda for our traditional first-tianguis-of-the-season bean tacos and beer. We'll do it again in May. Actually, the end of March; she's going home a month early this year. Boo. We got caught up on our summers (she lives in Bull Shoals, Arkansas) and our plans for our winter stay. New paint job this year? Maybe. Are we going to fire up the big oven for a fiesta? Maybe. Expecting visitors this year? For me, yes. For her, no.

Tomorrow we go back to Tecoman to go to the bank and pay the fiedecomisario (our trust agreement with the Mexican government to lease the land on which our house sits) for the two properties, do some more shopping, go to the bank (again), get a haircut for Mr. C. Out to dinner with friends tomorrow evening. Once we get here, the social whirl starts in earnest. I love it. Mr. C has a different opinion.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tepic to Cuyutlán to Sunday

This is the first chance I've had to use the internet since our arrival last Wednesday. We're here, we're safe, we're still getting settled. The entire trip was completely uneventful, just the way we planned. Now let's return to the news.

Here's the promised shot of a bit of Pyramid Lake where we lunched lo these many days ago. Much nicer than the rest stop in Lebec.

Next, here's the stormy sky on Monday morning in San Carlos. I've never seen it like that; it's usually bright and sunny when we leave. These grey clouds followed us all the way to Topolobampo.

On Wednesday morning we left Tepic for Cuyutlán at daybreak. Easy drive into Guadalajara. Made a supplies stop at CostCo and Mega (a giant upscale WalMart-style market that has a good liquor section and excellent meat). Then on to the beach, the temperature rising as we went. There is a lot of road construction going on in this last stretch, widening the toll road from two lanes to four in many places, or three in other spots. It will speed up the trip by at least a half hour, and make it much safer.

Arrived at the house in the 84º afternoon about 1:30. Fernando and Chuy had opened up the doors, made the bed, put out the towels, and set up the furniture in the living room and on the terrazzo. Welcome Home! First thing we did was open the fridge for a nice cold beer. But (a) no beer, (b) no electricity and (c) mold. This was not good, especially (b) and (c); (a) we could deal with eventually. Electricity was out all over town for some kind of construction. I hope it is laying those ugly lines underground but nobody seemed to be sure. The garden looks fabulous; the gardeners built me a new garden area in the back; photos to come. I am delighted by their work.

Mr. C went up town and bought beer and we started unpacking. Dinner was already prepared; Chuy made chiles picadillo and they were waiting on the stove. The electricity finally came on around 6, after I had set up candles and flashlights. But the 'fridge did not spring into life. We had this same problem last year; the freon gas had leaked out. It was too late to do anything about it; mañana I will call Tonio. We still had some ice packs left from the road, so we jammed the most important stuff into one cooler, turned out the light and hit the hay.

Thursday morning first thing I called Tonio, the fellow who repaired the fridge last year. His wife said he could come on Friday morning. Not the greatest news but OK. We put some things in a 'fridge over at Jack's and headed to Tecoman for chores. Take the CD player to the repair shop, go to the bank, go to Telmex to get our internet connection (not yet; maybe later today or tomorrow. I'm in the local cybercafe.), and hit the Bodega for dry goods. Then to Armeria on the way home for a bag of deep fried, greasy, heavenly tortilla chips and to gas up the car with $2.67 a gallon Pemex! We were invited out to dinner, a lovely treat. A nice evening with friends at their home with a fine view of the sea and the sunset.

Friday was more unpacking while waiting for Tonio. I decided it was time to do a load of laundry. Mr. C went downstairs to check things out, then called up that I should not come down yet. Why? Dead mice in the washing machine. An hour later I got the all clear. Yes, I could smell traces of their late, lamented demise. But the machine worked just fine. Let me add that this was not the first livestock issue that confronted us. When Mr. C moved the fridge to plug it in, that was a large dead critter behind it. Probably a possum. It had been there for so long that there was no stench left. Like the trooper that he is, he got right to the chore of scraping it up off the tiles, depositing it in the garbage, and cleaning up the mess. He tells the story of his childhood assignment of cleaning out the potato bins in the cellar in preparation for the new crop; if you can get through that job you can do anything!

The repair man never made it. I called several times; no answer. More unpacking. More phone calls. We finally gave up, took showers and headed down to Dago's for Friday night shrimp and conversation. Dago has lost more than 25 yards of beach front where he had tables and umbrellas, thanks to the fury of hurricane Jova. It really did a number on our beach, washing away big dunes that acted as protection from tidal surges. I don't know if he'll ever get that back. But a fine dinner and lovely evening nonetheless.

Saturday I finally reached Tonio's wife and she had no idea where he was and couldn't reach him by phone either. So I called a different chap, Ramiro. I think I woke him up, but he said he'd come between 11 - 11:30. Fine. At 12:30 he arrived with his son. He gave the 'fridge the once-over, agreed it was the freon, went to Armeria for parts, came back and had it running just fine in an hour. For all of this: 1,500 pesos or about $130 at today's exchange rate. While he was fiddling around in the kitchen I was at Marie's playing a killer round of dominoes and catching up on local gossip. She arrived a week ago and it doesn't take long before the grapevine is up and running. Even Neighbor Nelson, still languishing up in El Norte called to check on the evening's events, a.k.a. Who was There, at Dago's!

Since it's Sunday I got my first glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice, still a bit tart because the oranges aren't at their full ripeness, but so delicious. Then more cleaning; there is mold on everything from the very wet and humid summer. But it will all wash away and we'll be ready for what the winter season brings. Fernando came by this morning with a bag of fresh dorado caught by his brother, a fisherman in Manzanillo. It's fish for dinner. I have to stop by Baby's on the way home to look over her selection of veggies. Then back home for more unpacking, rearranging, putting up the lights on the 3rd floor for the official opening of the season.

Tomorrow being Monday means tianguis. I guess we're here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Topolobampo to Tepic

Couldn't post yesterday from Topo. Monday's travel from San Carlos to Topo was completely uneventful, except for a smattering of rain now and then. Overcast skies; cool. Likewise, today's travel from Topo to Tepic was fast and easy. Left our somewhat down-at-heels hotel (the only one in town but we've come to love it and it did seem cleaner this year) at 6:25. Sped through the dread armed camp of Culiacan without looking left or right. A big part of the new "go around" for Mazatlán is finished which means we avoided the horrendous traffic (among other things) that plagues that place. It's been a long, long day and it's very nice to be in a good hotel; plenty of hot water, fluffy towels, good internet connection. There's even a TV but no channels worth watching except the "artes" channel that is broadcasting Mozart. We'll have dinner in the hotel's remodeled dining room tonight ~ something a la Mexicana. Tomorrow afternoon we'll be at the beach. No internet right away; Thursday we'll go into Tecoman to shop and stop at Telmex to sign up for our service. So I'll stop by one of the cyber cafés in town and post a quick update.

Hasta mañana!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Sunday in San Carlos

What used to take about 20 minutes at the border took 2 hours this morning. New importation rules for cars. Stand in line. Did you check this car out of Mexico when you left in May? No, the new rules were not in effect and I have an FM3 that allows me to come in and out without checking with immigration. Sorry, you have to go over there and check the car out. Done. Here are my documents. No, I need more records. Get records. No, I need copies of these records. Get copies. Finally we got new permits, put the sticker on the windshield, got through the aduana without setting off the alarm, and we were on our way by 10:15. We had left Tucson at 6:45 and made the first border check on the US side by 8 AM. Fortunately I had serious caffeine this morning and stayed awake through the entire ordeal.

As we were leaving I stepped into the ladies' and came in on the middle of a tale being told by a very distraught Mexican woman. She and her fellow travelers were accosted in the city of Culiacan, robbed and generally terrorized. This happened yesterday at 6 PM on the cuota (toll) route. That city has a very bad reputation and we never even slow down. Perps were disguised as cops. Not what I wanted to hear. We don't hit Culiacan until Tuesday morning. I'll be extra vigilant.

Now in San Carlos. The hotel is showing signs of serious neglect which is really too bad because it is in a prime location with gorgeous views. But I guess we all tend to get a little shabby over time. We hit the bar for hamburgers and the first Mexican beer of the season. Now it's time to unpack, go into town to get gas and bottled water ~ the hotel used to provide this but no longer ~ then perhaps a siesta or some reading. We'll go to the dining room this evening for some of their wonderful soup, then get a good night's sleep in preparation for the drive to Topolobampo.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Saturday afternoon in Tucson

We've made it safely so far. I slept most of the way from La Jolla to here. Our hostess served decaf coffee this morning and I didn't realize how dependent I am on caffeine to get me through my life. I'm trying to listen to "The Lord of Misrule" and I kept dozing off. Not the book's fault.

Dinner with boarding school classmates tonight. Then good night's sleep so we'll be ready to face the border issues tomorrow morning. The Mexican government has changed the rules about bringing a car into the country; we have to pay a hefty bond to insure we'll take it home again and not dump it on the used car market. As if. Allegedly we get the money back when we leave.

Next stop: San Carlos. With no delays at the border we should be there by 1 PM in time for lunch.

Friday, December 9, 2011

to heck with Lebec

We got away yesterday morning at 7 AM sharp. Easy drive all the way; very little traffic. While Mr. C acted as pilot, I listened to the last few chapters of a book on tape and took in the scenery. Our usual pre-lunch stopping spot at a rest stop in Lebec was closed for repairs. Now what? We have made that stop every trip down the state for as many years as I can recall. The pilot suggested we press on and try the Visitors' Center at Pyramid Lake. What a great idea that was. Not crowded, beautiful grounds, spanking clean facilities, all with a view of the sparkling lake. We pulled under a tree, ate lunch, walked through the museum-like displays and agreed to scratch Lebec from the "good places to stop" list. (I took pictures but can't use my Mac here ~ no WiFi, only cable ~ so I'll post tomorrow.

We arrived in La Jolla at 3 o'clock after another fast and easy stretch, made so partly because from the junction of I-5 and 405 it's carpool lane all the way. The sun was shining and I had to shed one of the four layers I had left home in. Time to relax and visit with our hostess, then she went off to a function in San Diego and we joined friends for dinner here in La Jolla. Lots of good conversation got us caught up. Early evening; we were home and in bed asleep by 9 PM. It was a long day.

In fact we've had long days since coming home from Bozeman, getting everything ready to leave so spending today doing mostly nothing has been a blessing. Long and lovely walk this morning with the dogs (strolled by Mitt Romney's pile on the beach), lazy morning, delicious lunch with friends at one of our new favorite restaurants here (Whisk 'n Ladle), quick laundry, dining in tonight. Early morning departure for Tucson. Tomorrow's post from there.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

shutting down for now

This will be my last posting from the Dew Drop Inn here in the valley. The bags and the car are packed, the Flix@ and the Times have been suspended, the coffee delivery service canceled, the last few loads of laundry are dried and stowed away for the duration of our absence. The big iMac is going to be shut down and packed away. My wardrobe has gone through several additions and subtractions; dinner party in La Jolla, lunch party, another dinner in Tucson, then the gradual climate warming as we head south. I always pack too much for the road trip and end up wearing almost the same thing every day. I am breaking in a new pair of huarache sandals; I wear these shoes constantly and some years ago when some catalog was having a 50% off sale I bought several pair as a stockpile. Last night's 'fridge dinner turned out to be not too bad. I'm still here, aren't I? Tonight's will be the last of the frozen shrimp with enough leftover to take in the car for lunch on the other side of the Grapevine. Did the Trader Joe's snack run for crackers, to the bank for some traveling cash. I hugged Dorothy goodbye. I think we're ready. If not, we're going anyway.

DINING NOTE: Re: yesterday's post about Andrew's birthday celebration. He "went to a tiny sushi place in Bernal Heights that was awesome." End of review.

The LapMac is packed and ready to travel. Next post from La Jolla.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


The most important news for the day is that beloved grandson Andrew turns 23. He is living in San Francisco so I am hoping he and his nearest and dearest have gone to some splendid eatery/drinkery to celebrate.

As for us old folks here in the valley, to mark his day I had a glorious massage. Thanks, Andrew.

Still packing. Mr. C cleaned out the 'fridge; we're having his discoveries for dinner tonight.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

getting ready

One of the reasons I don't like this "getting ready to go" business is that it reminds me what a poor housekeeper I am for the seven months I am here. We make this grand push to dust, vacuum, rearrange, purge, straighten-up, and I think, "How did everything get so dusty, messy, misfiled since I got home?" I think it's one of those "seven deadlies" that makes it happen. Sloth. Sloth is one of my personal bugaboos. Mr. C is not a sinner in this category. He is up and doing early, urging himself on while I malinger in bed, doing the NYT crossword, sipping coffee, making mental lists, contemplating the day's events. By the time I am up he has dressed, read his internet sources, had coffee, leafed through the daily paper, and is already thinking about what he wants for lunch. For me, there is no keeping up with this insane schedule. But he did comment this evening that we are ahead of schedule for our Thursday departure. The car is more than half packed, the shelves, furniture and floors are dusted and waxed, closets and drawers emptied, bathrooms scrubbed and ready for a bacterial test. There may even be time for a Flix® movie or an out-to-dinner. Or a trip to IKEA® for another package of tea lights.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

getting closer

If these two can't keep China in line, nobody can.

It took me all day to clean up my office and get things put away. I don't know why it all gets so messy, but it's a good thing to have a house sitter pay a call. It's amazing how much clutter meets the recycle bin.

So Herman Cain has cashed it in ~ for now. How did Bill Clinton escape the same fate in '92?

Friday, December 2, 2011

(un)controlled chaos

It's that time again when we pull the house apart, clean where no one has gone in a year, all in an attempt to ready the place for our winter tenant. Yes, we leave for Mexico in 6 days and by the look of things you would never guess we'd meet that deadline. But we will! The car is already half packed, my closet is empty and the leftovers stored in Mr. C's space (the anti-clothes horse has plenty of room). The books are packed, all the can't-live-without-it food items such as peanut butter, Dijon mustard, #40 Penne, powdered buttermilk are stuffed into big plastic boxes. I bought a new, bigger duffel bag this year and it's completely full. I swear, in the spring I'm going to leave half this stuff at the beach so I won't need to do this again. Is that an echo I hear? The house sitter comes Sunday for a final tour and to meet the neighbors. I canceled my $$$ haircut on Monday so I could get a $ haircut in Tecoman. Tuesday is a massage, Wednesday a manicure, Thursday it's too late if I've forgotten anything. I've heard from some of the beach dwellers that the weather is perfect. It has been foggy, windy and cold here in he valley so it's time to go!

Just a few more notes on our Bozeman Thanksgiving. Mr. C woke up with a bad sore throat so spent most of the day in bed. The rest of us bustled around preparing the feast; peeling, chopping, mixing, measuring, sampling (food and wine). Around 3 PM on Thursday we lost electricity. The TV went blank, the lights went off, and, most importantly, the thermostat in the oven went off, thus rendering the mighty Viking useless for the turkey. Always quick on the pick-up, Mike moved the turkey outside to spend its final three hours baking in the grill. Meanwhile, other preparations went ahead since the stove top (gas) was working fine. It was getting darker and darker so Mike pulled out his headlamp and continued to run his kitchen without a hitch.

We heard that a transformer on their street went out and Bozeman Electric (or whatever it's called) was on the job and it wouldn't be long. Cait lit many candles and the whole scene was absolutely beautiful.

The turkey was done to perfection, the dressing a delicious Sunset recipe with sausage, chopped squash and other vegetables, sautéd brussel sprouts with capers, a zingy carrot dish I made using cumin, red pepper flakes and paprika (a keeper recipe), a big mound of steaming mashed potatoes.

For dessert, you could choose a rum pumpkin pie (Mr. C's world class recipe), a cranberry walnut tart (my WC recipe) or Mike's pecan pie (his WC recipe). Oh, and don't forget the refreshing tossed greens before these indulgences.

Still no electricity. With Cait's headlamp, candles and flashlights, we got the kitchen back in order when, Presto! the electricity came back on and it was time to drag out the board games (and others). We played Taboo, Bananagram, a few rounds of Mexican Train dominoes, and Scatagories. It was an all around fine day.

Friday morning Mike made these fabulous cinnamon rolls in case we had not had enough to eat the night before. The house was filled with the delicious odors of baking.

When I looked outside I saw that it was beginning to snow. Everything that had lost its white dusting over the past couple of mild (40ºs) was once again covered in snow.

This is the front decking after a few minutes.

For a Californian who spends winters in the tropics, this was quite magical. However, for those who live with it for months, the novelty wears off fast. Mr. C was still very much under the weather and again spent the entire day in bed, sipping soup and dozing. He wanted to be as well as possible for the next day's flight home. While others went in to town or up to Big Sky, I babysat and watched a terrific movie, "Paris was a Woman", a documentary about women artists and writers in Paris between the world wars. Narrated by Juliet Stevenson, one of my favorite actresses. It's on the Flix® instant play.

Once again, our thanks to Cait and Mike, Zeke and Huck, for a memorable Thanksgiving celebration. I don't know about everybody else but I'm planning to go again next year!

We flew home Saturday faced with the prospect of getting ourselves out of town in 12 days. Little by little. Bit by bit. We're almost there. Mr. C is still coughing and snorting but I think by next week he'll be well. So far, so good for me.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

all together now

It is so wonderful to have everyone together for this holiday. Yes, again, I am very thankful.

The Jordan contingent arrived at 3 o'clock yesterday afternoon, then Cara (Andrew's lovely girlfriend) landed about 5:00, so by 6:00 we were gathered together in the kitchen, getting caught up.

Mr. C served up steaming bowls of onion soup with cheese toasts, all made by his own hand. After dinner came the dog walk, out into the cold, clear night. Beneath all of this fur is our sweet Emily.

This morning, Mr. C is still abed with a bad sore throat and Cait has a tummy upset. Nonetheless there is much bustling about in the kitchen. The turkey will go into the oven in an hour, Alex and Andrew are putting together the dressing using Mike's cornbread, Em is still asleep, Cara is reading her Kindle, Peter is "supervising" in the kitchen, Zeke and Huck are Hoovering the kitchen floor for any dropped goodies. The sun is out, the meadow is sparkling in its white mantle. It's time for me to stir around and get the carrots and brussel sprouts ready. The big Viking oven is getting quite a workout.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

from beautiful Bozeman

We arrived on Monday night to be greeted by a beautiful snow-covered city. This is what the back meadow looked like when I got up on Tuesday morning.

It's not as cold as it has been; in fact, this morning it's hovering around 45º. We could have stayed home for that kind of weather. So perhaps a picnic is in order?

Perhaps not. No more snow is expected until perhaps tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day.

We spent most of yesterday shopping, laying in the stores for our Thanksgiving feast. Cait had already bought a turkey from the Hutterite community nearby. It is now sitting in the kitchen defrosting. Everything else we gathered from one store or another. We actually made pretty good time; got the whole thing done in about 2 hours. After lunch Cait brought out a jigsaw puzzle she bought for our group enjoyment. 2000 pieces. Devilish. After three people worked for two hours, this is what we had to show for our efforts.

Jigsaws were a traditional part of our Thanksgiving gatherings so it's nice to be reminded once again of those bygone celebrations. We even talked about not going out to Ted's for dinner last night. Instead, we'd just stay in, eat leftovers and work on the puzzle. But the thought of bison short ribs (Mike and I), bison pot roast (Cait), and bison meatloaf (Mr. C) won out.

Today begins the great pre-feast cook off. Mr. C's pumpkin pie is in the oven as I write this. Next will be my cranberry walnut tart and Mike's bourbon pecan pie. Then Mr. C will start on his onion soup to be served for dinner tonight. We want to get as much done before the rest of the crowd arrives this afternoon: Alex, Peter, Emily, Andrew, and Cara. It will be a full house with all my loved ones around the table. I couldn't possibly be more thankful.

The granddogs are thankful, too. More walks, more ear scratching, more laps to try to climb into. Each of these dogs now tips the scales at 80 lbs. This is Zeke, the more "Golden Retriever" of the two; calm, sweet natured, long haired. He has the most soulful eyes and beautiful facial markings.

His brother, Huck, is more Blue Heeler; a bit less sociable, shorter hair, more wiry body, with a true herding instinct.

The beautiful new kitchen is a-bustle with cooks and dogs. I think I'll go join in the fun. I wish all of you a beautiful Thanksgiving celebration.

Friday, November 18, 2011

the verdict is in

The jury reached its verdict late Thursday afternoon. Even though I was not in the jury room and could not add to the deliberations, my fellow jurors did the right thing.

THE FACTS (as we know them)
In the early hours of a February morning in 2008, a bus carrying passengers from the Cache Creek Casino to Woodland went off the road, struck a telephone pole, and came to rest in a ditch. The driver, shortly before the accident, had screamed in pain and clutched his head, taking his hands off the wheel. When the bus came to a stop he was ejected out of the driver's front window and landed on the ground in front of the bus. He was not wearing a seat belt. No one on the bus was injured as he was traveling at only about 10 MPH. It took awhile for the passengers to get out of the bus ~ maybe 10 minutes ~ because of the angle at which the bus came to rest. One of the passengers, who knew the driver, went to check on him. He was "lying on his back" alive but groaning. She spoke to him told him not to move, that emergency assistance was on its way. She went to the rear of the bus to check on the rest of the passengers. When she return to the driver he had somehow re-situated himself, had done a 180º flip and was now on his face with his head under the front bumper of the bus. Firemen were the first emergency team on the scene. Soon came an ambulance with EMT personnel. A life-flight had been called to airlift the injured man to UCDMC trauma center. Several people worked on the driver, trying to get a definite airway, checking on his vitals, etc. In about 15 minutes the flight nurses arrived by helicopter. They also worked over the driver, trying to intubate him so get his breathing stabilized. Nothing worked so they decided to perform a cricothyrotomy to get an airway. They felt an obstruction and were unable to establish an airway. So they all jumped into the ambulance and took the driver to Woodland Memorial Hospital, not a trauma center but the closest medical facility. He was seen by the ER doc, by other docs, but they were unable to help him and he died. The family ~ common law wife, daughter, step-son, were seeking damages against the flight nurses and their company. The job for the jury? To decide if the flight nurse caused his death because of negligence.

There was a lot of conflicting testimony that the jury had to sort through. The forensic pathologist testifying for the plaintiffs said that the flight nurse had made an incision for the crico that was too deep. An anatomist testifying for the defendant said that when the driver was ejected he suffered probably fatal injuries when he hit the ground FACE DOWN. Hey, wait a minute. The first witness said he was on his back when she found him. The defense theory: the trajectory when he left the bus was such that he landed on his face. The torque was such that he would have rolled over almost immediately, not the least because it's a natural response to get your face out of the mud so you can breathe. My own theory is that's probably what happened, then he tried to get up and fell over. There were witnesses on both sides who were plausible, but more on the defense side than on the plaintiff's. The defendant was an excellent witness; calm, deliberate, knowledgeable . The opposing counsel was unable to rattle or shake him, and believe me, he tried. I now know more about the larynx, esophagus, venus plexis, and could probably perform a crico if I had to. After 15 days of testimony, countless gory pictures, especially of the autopsy (I think I'll skip this class when I go to medical school; too messy), charts and graphs, the defense's and the plaintiff's attorneys rested. Tuesday morning we heard final arguments. I didn't think either one of them did a good job; the plaintiff's attorney was insulting to the defendant and just plain mad. The defense attorney struggled to pin the death on one of the other responders. The jury got the case on Tuesday afternoon at about 2:30. I was excused and went home to wait. The jury went to work.

The jury was tasked with finding whether it was negligence on the part of the flight nurses that caused the driver's death. In a civil case there only needs to be nine jurors in agreement, one way or the other. On Thursday I got a call from the clerk that the jury had reached a verdict and would I please come back. So I tore over to Woodland and sat in the courtroom until all the various players were present. The jury came in, I took my place in the alternate's chair and waited. The foreman gave the results to the judge who read them, then passed the paper to the clerk. She read the verdict: "Question: Did Mr. Thomas Zoltansky, a flight nurse for CalStar, contribute to the death of Mr. XX through his negligence of care? Answer: No." The jury was polled; 10 - 2. I would have voted "no" also.

The first thing that happened was the plaintiffs erupted in screaming and swearing. The judge looked utterly appalled, as did the defense and most of the jurors. The judge banged his gavel, the bailiff was up in a flash, muttering into the little microphone on his shoulder, moving toward the family. He got them out of the courtroom with the help of two other sheriff deputies who came from down the hall. The jury was kept in the courtroom until the family was out of the building and out of the parking lot. We were then taken back to the jury room while the building was secured. The defendant and his lawyer came in to talk to us. It was then that we learned that the defendant had already gone through this ordeal twice; once by his company's insurance carrier, once by the state licensing bureau. Both times he had been completely exonerated. So for him, it's finally completely over.

It became increasingly clear that all the family was after was money. I wouldn't really call this a frivolous suit, but the family knew the flight nurse had been cleared, TWICE, of any culpability in the driver's death. Perhaps they though the third time would be a charm and they'd strike gold. Alas, it didn't happened.

After about half an hour the jurors were escorted out of the building by the sheriffs, seen to their cars, and directed out of the parking lot. I met with a couple of them later on to talk about how the deliberations had gone. Slowly but steadily. I think they came to the right conclusion.

So there you have it. Now it's on to Bozeman tomorrow for a week of family, food, dogs, snow and whatever else is in store for us. The rest of the group arrives on Wednesday. Then the fun will really get started. Until then, it will be getting to know the new kitchen (Jim) and playing with the dogs (that would be me!).

Here's a little taste of our gorgeous fall foliage here in the valley.

I'm taking the LapMac with me, and the camera. Next shots will be of, I would guess, snow.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

gut(ter) reaction

At 7:30 Monday morning, this big truck pulled up in front of the house bringing our new gutters. Five beefy guys got out and immediately started ripping the old gutters off the house. It sounded like they were ripping off the roof and tearing into the walls. But not, it was only the old, rusted gutters and drainpipes that came off.

Meanwhile, I was bustling around getting ready for another day in court. We finished at noon due to other judicial business so I was home by 12:30. By then, the workmen had installed these beautiful gutters and snazzy downspouts, cleaned up their mess, and gone on to the next job. So I took myself off to CostCo to begin the Great Shopping Expedition in preparation for the Mexico trip. I took with me one of my Mexican Freida bags, put it in the cart, and began my methodical up-and-down the aisles. Wouldn't you know it that while my back was turned, someone unseen by me helped him/herself to my wonderful bag. It will cost all of $3 to replace but it could have been the Hope Diamond I was so angry. Fortunately I had thought twice about putting my wallet into the bag so all that was safe. But the very idea! At CostCo, no less. I don't know why I think that institution, and its shoppers, should not have to suffer such invasions. I reported it to the Membership desk, assuring them that neither they nor I could do anything about it. I just wanted them to know. And what really made me mad was that we had done the gutters through CostCo.

Tuesday's court business was the last witness, the instructions to the jury, and the recess of the jury to begin deliberations. Where was I? Sent home. Since I'm the alternate I get locked out. They will call me back when the verdict is rendered. No matter which way it goes I'll be interested to learn how they got there.

Today was spent pawing through sweaters and other warm garments anticipating the cold in Bozeman (it was 20º today). I found the silk underwear I wore during our winter sojourn in Europe in 2004-05. It will come in mighty handy. Cait has said they have all kinds of wool, cashmere, fleece, down, etc. so not to worry. The weather pattern looks pretty good, though. Clear and cold M-W, then rain and snow on Thanksgiving Day and Friday. We come home on Saturday. Then we have the heat of Mexico to contemplate as we pack shorts and T-shirts. I like that better.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

germ warfare

We have on our jury a gentleman who has been sick almost the entire time. Coughing, blowing, etc. Well, guess who is now coughing and blowing? Just what I need as we wrap up this trial and I get ready for Bozeman. So I am taking it very easy this weekend, except for the Indian dinner tonight, to try to ward off any further germs. I am determined to be well for the Thanksgiving festivities. I'll stick close to the chicken broth, the Kleenex®, some old New Yorkers that need to be read, probably take a nap. I should be fit and ready for some nice hot curry by evening.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

he got a job!

The answer to every Mother's prayer: "My son has a job!" Yes, grandson Andrew, a proud graduate of Claremont McKenna, landed a job at Twillo in San Francisco. I have no idea what he is going to be doing; something with internet and computers and communications and who know what else. But as of November 28 he will be gainfully employed. He has said that over the Thanksgiving holiday, when we are all together in Bozeman, he will give his assembled family clanspersons a tutorial on what his work is all about. Meanwhile, if you want to check it out, this is what I'm talking about.

Today was the last jury day for the week. We have completed week three and are released until Monday. The judge has said we are right on track, time-wise. So perhaps the case will go to the jury early next week. Despite the fact that I am an alternate, I think I have to be in the court room every day until the "real" jury reaches a verdict. I'll bring a good book while I wait for my fellow jurors to do the right thing. I can't tell you what I think that is just yet. I doubt if I'll get to deliberate; everyone seems pretty healthy as of now.

The weekend will be spent doing some preliminary packing for the beach, some CostCo shopping for "must haves" and yet more list-making. Tomorrow night I am meeting women friends for dinner at a local Thai restaurant. Saturday night Mr. C and I are joining a group for an Indian dinner that is a fund-raiser for a local non-profit. Sunday will be spent with more packing and getting the exterior ready for the installation of new gutters on Monday, compliments of Leaf Guard. There is no rest, is there?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

another day in court

This was a rather difficult day in court with some testimony that was not easy to listen to. But the jury is a group of really great people; I think we all felt the same. More tomorrow, then a day off on Friday for Veteran's Day, and a nice long weekend that will give us all a breather. I can't tell if it's about to wrap up, testimony-wise, but I think so.

I get home from court, kick off my shoes, check email, have a spot of dinner and fall into bed. It's like having a job, for heaven's sake! I am distracting myself with two books; "Lucky Jim" by Kingsley Amis, which I've already read a couple of times but nonetheless am enjoying, and "The Debt to Pleasure" by John Lanchester. It is a wonderfully evil little cookbook and a wickedly funny account of the life of a loquacious Englishman named Tarquin Winot, revealed through his thoughts on cuisine as he undertakes a mysterious journey around France. The revelations become more and more shocking as the truth about the narrator becomes apparent. He is a monster, and yet an appealing and erudite villain. I sit in the courthouse parking lot during the noon break listening with total delight to this hilarious book. It elevates my mood for an afternoon of depressing revelations before the bar.

Monday, November 7, 2011

the wheels of justice

Day one of week three. Characters in court today sent from Central Casting. Wish I could tell you more but it will have to wait. Let it be said that it was a great day. I don't know who finds these people but he/she did a great job! I have been mulling over a question I needed to have answered by a witness in order to clarify something that's been keeping me up at night. I was hoping for someone to show up who could set my mind at ease. Today that happened. A good night's sleep is in order.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

it's been a long week

Week two of my jury service is over; week three begins tomorrow. At the rate things are going I'm not sure it will be over before I leave for Bozeman. I can only remind the judge that, ab initio I let him know that the 18th is my last possible date of service. Well, let's see what this coming week brings, and it's only four days since the 11th is a holiday.

The plumber came on Monday to inspect the faucet problem we were having. The culprit turned out to be the lining of the flexible hose; it had come loose and jammed the head so no water was coming out. Mr. C exercised his discriminating taste and managed to buy the most expensive set-up the plumber had to offer. That, plus the hourly charge for his services totaled a tidy sum. But the water is once again gushing into the sink.

It has turned cold here, down into the 50ºs. Even a smattering of rain. Morning walks are ultra invigorating, but I need it to keep me alert in the court room. Heard from Cait that it was 19º and "snowing like crazy" so I mustn't complain. I've been working my way through my sweater drawer and coat closet trying to find enough warm clothing for the Thanksgiving trip. I don't own enough layers for such weather.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween is for dogs!

Toby (across the street) and Zeke (Bozeman resident) are dressing up for Trick or Treat. Toby put on his bumble bee costume this morning and posed for me. Does he look like he's having fun? I think not.

Zeke looks a bit like Brenda Starr, Girl Reporter, except I don't remember her nose being so big or her face so hirsute. But the red hair is a dead give-away. Zeke is the more placid, easy-going of the pair. Huck was having none of it.

I believe I have commented in these pages that Halloween is my very least favorite celebration in the year. I never have liked it, even as a child. I was not allowed to eat anything I brought home so saw no point in the whole effort. I didn't like dressing up, didn't like going door-to-door. What a drip. Our neighborhood is almost empty of children now; they've all grown up and moved away but the parents have stayed here. It will be quiet tomorrow night. I think we had one trick-or-treater last year.

Meanwhile, we are without water in the kitchen. We think the faucet has failed. I don't think it's the piping in the house as the dishwasher gets water. Mr. C tried taking it apart, got only so far and without the investment of several hundred dollars in plumber's tools, is stymied. The plumber comes tomorrow. If it can be fixed, fine. If not, we'll have to buy a whole new faucet set-up and then get the plumber back to install it. I, of course, will be wiling away my time in court during all of this. One week down, three to go.

Friday, October 28, 2011

bears in the neighborhood

Living in a city we all are plagued by pests. You know, ants, mosquitoes, sometimes pesky cucaraches and even mice. How's this for an annoyance:

Due to a recent bear sighting by our neighbor (on her front porch!), Mike took it upon himself to clear our apple tree of any "bear temptations." We have had a bumper crop of apples this year--very juicy and sweet! We've already made a giant vat of apple sauce, and I made an apple cake last night for my Book Group. On the menu for breakfast this morning is oatmeal with diced apples. And today is coring/peeling/slicing/ziploc bagging for freezing. If any of our Thanksgiving recipes call for apples, rest assured!

This is from Cait in the wilds of Bozeman. No more whining about bugs, hear?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

the long arm of the law

I can tell you this; jury duty, especially in this case, is not a restful duty. I came home from today's session absolutely exhausted. Although the actual time in the courtroom is not long, it is very intense. One has to pay close attention to every question, every statement, every nuance, every inflection of both question and answer. We are now through day four of a possible 18 ~ two days off because of the holiday on the 11th and the judge's conflict on the 4th. I'm going to try to get a massage on both of those days. I'll need it.

I remember (barely) when Mr. C was still practicing and how tense it was around here when he was in trial. Early to bed, early to rise, no socializing as long as it all lasted, little conversation. Total immersion. Now I truly understand the stress and the concentration. And I'm just an alternate who will, in the end, have no say about anything.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

other people's lives

Since I can't tell you anything about what's going on with me, except that I'm in a room with 13 other jurors, a judge, a couple of attorneys, some witnesses, and a charming bailiff named Jason, for several hours a day, I'll give you a taste of how others are living.

These are photos sent by daughter Caitlin from Bozeman, MT. Fall has definitely arrived and, with it, all the gorgeous tricks Mother Nature has. These are pictures Cait took on her walk yesterday. Enjoy!

This is the meadow behind Cait and Mike's house.

There is a big barn across the road from their house with these golden aspen trees.

At the end of their street there are some houses around a lovely little pond.

We'll be there in a month to celebrate Thanksgiving with them and the rest of the family. By then there will most likely be snow on the ground and in the mountains. Can't wait!