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!

Monday, October 24, 2011

meet alternate juror #2

I was unable to dodge. The bullet hit me dead on. For the next four weeks I will be in a civil trial in Yolo County Superior Court. Not many girls can be that lucky. I'll tell you all about it when it's over. Meanwhile, my lips are sealed.

A day of complete rest, lots of tea and chicken broth, and a couple of books returned me to perfect health yesterday. My neighbor, her sister and their two dogs and I went out for a beautiful long walk in the early morning sun. The leaves are falling, the chrysanthemums are blooming in all the gardens. There are clusters of brilliant pink and ruby cyclamen that light up winter gardens. When we were living in Italy in 2004 we bought many pots of them to put out on our balcony to brighten up the dreary, gray winter days.

Early walk tomorrow morning to stir up the blood and get me ready for several hours of legalese. I have a zillion things to do before leaving for Mexico, but duty calls.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday blahs

Woke up with sore throat and stuffy head. Don't know where this germ may have come from. But I have to report for jury duty on Monday. That may have something to do with it. Fall cold? Hope not. Had to cancel both my walk and my massage. Bummer. Spent the day mostly in bed reading; Russell Hoban's Ridley Walker. One of the most clever, inventive, imaginative books ever. Post-apocalypse society and our hero, Ridley's account of it.

Gorgeous weather holding as I could see from my sick bed. Maybe better tomorrow so I can get outside for a nice morning walk.

Go Cardinals. Given tonight's score, are they playing football?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

to cable or not to cable . . .

Let me state right from the start that we do not have cable TV delivery in our home. Or I should say, for complete disclosure, we do not PAY for cable delivery. It's a long story but one year when we returned from the beach, the person who had been house sitting for us had installed cable for her use. She was here for only two months, moved out and, presumably, canceled cable service. However, the company did not discontinue its service so when we returned we had this fantastic buffet of TV choices. This went on for three years until one morning, we couldn't get half of the cable channels but still got what might be called low-down-basic channels. This technological delivery did not come with any bill. We were sucking off cablevision without paying for it.

Last evening I ambled out to the den and turned on the TV for the news. Nothing but one of those rainbow test patterns. All the stations were dead with a message to contact the cable provider for its latest translation boxes if I wanted to continue to receive the signal. What? All I wanted was KQED or KVIE for the News Hour. I called immediately but was told it might be several hours before I got a Service Representative since the call load was very heavy. I bet it was!

So I logged on to my computer and watched the news. But this would not work for long. This morning I decided to go to the cable provider's local office and find out what the problem was. However, I needed to be very careful here. I was getting cable but was not paying for it. Who was? I had no idea. I didn't want to be slapped with a bill for 5 years of unpaid cable use to the tune of several thousands of dollars.

No problem. Yes, the provider had changed its requirements in the middle of the night and no problem that you are not a subscriber. Take this little magic box, follow the instructions, pay $10 for a month and you'll get what you want. Very basic. Network, PBS, a few extras. Sounds good. I returned home clutching the magic box, the instructions and a list of channels we would get for the rock-bottom, no-frills cable membership. Mr. C wrestled with it for a time, couldn't get it to work. I called the help line for advice. Another example of fantastic and patient help. Do you have the box plugged in with the power cord? Ooops. Once we did that and waited for the operator to send the signal we were in the land of cable watchers.

All of this for one month's service. We'll probably actually get cable legitimately when we get back from the beach. Right now we have what 's called "Limited Basic." For next year I'm eying Starter; it has MSNBC. That means Rachel. It's an election year. Essential!

Monday, October 17, 2011

another unintelligible mystery

Last night's presentation of Kate Atkinson's Case Histories was a big disappointment. I very much liked the book, the way she set up three incidents from the past (including one from our hero's own life that's never fully explained) and then brought it all together in the present. Jason Isaacs is the perfect Jackson Brodie, the ex-policeman with the messy life who can out-think everyone and solve any case.

That said, if I hadn't read the book I would have been completely baffled by what I saw on the screen. Too many threads to keep neatly woven, and no chance to flip back a few pages to double check on a name or a fact. And way too much mumbling. I think the English must hear differently than I do. Half the dialogue was lost. That's the same complaint I had about Ken Branaugh and the Kurt Wallender mysteries. This group needs a better sound editor.

Will I tune in for One Good Turn, the next episode, on October 23? Of course.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

it might as well be spring

The weather is so gorgeous right now it's hard to remember that we've been in autumn for almost a month. Balmy is what it is.

Meanwhile, down at the beach folks are still cleaning up after a good dousing. Dago lost about half his beach and restaurant seating area.

The side fence and the seaside cooking and prep areas are gone, although the beach shower is still standing.

You can see it just at the tip of the umbrella. It used to be surrounded by the grill area. I'm sure he'll have it all put back together by the time we get there.

Looking southeast on the malecón on the seaside are great piles of what were once puestos. I don't think Fernando's place got ruined; at least, I haven't heard anything about that. Most of the rubble and sand have been swept away but there's obviously still a lot of work to be done.

My run-ins with the DMV and AT&T took several hours out of three days. I have to renew my driver's license before we leave for the beach since it expires in April and driving in Mexico without a license is probably not a good idea. Over the course of three days I managed to fill in the paperwork, present medical certificates (for eyes), take a driving test and pass it. Now I wait for the new (and apparently newly designed) license. As for AT&T, what I wanted to do was, it seemed to me, very simple: arrange to have my bills paid automatically. Oh, easy! Alas, not so. Several years ago, the woman who stayed in our house did that very thing and although she certainly no longer pays the bill, her name is on the account and there can be ONLY one name. An hour and a quarter at the store here, with three people working on it, did not solve the problem. The next day I tried getting it done by phone. The delightful and very competent Paula and I wrestled with the issue for another hour. We finally got rid of the other person's name on the account and, if Paula is to be believed, the account is now straightened out. It will either get paid monthly, or I will have a huge bill when I return, or the whole thing will be cut off. I must add, too, that Paula was actually in the USA; in Tucson. No linguistic gymnastics required.

By the way, when I was at the AT&T store I asked if they had any phones that plugged into the wall. They looked at me in amazement as if I were asking if they sold dinosaur kibble. I actually need one for the beach; the one I took down a few years ago is about shot. They suggested the drug store as a good place to find one.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

adios Jova

I heard from Jack this morning that Jova has moved northeast, leaving a trail of death and destruction, but not in our village. Gale-force winds, 12" of rain, some downed palm trees, some flooding, but no structural damage to our house. Yes, the palapa is still there. I don't know whether those neighbors who left for higher ground have been able to return. We are mighty thankful that it wasn't any worse. Barra de Navidad and Puerto Vallerta were badly damaged; terrible structural damage, many dead.

Now it's time to move on and write about something else. Tomorrow, all the grim details about dealing with two of our favorite bureaucracies: AT&T and the DMV.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

latest from the storm zone

This is a photo taken in Barra de Navidad on Monday. I think I know where this is; the big building in the back is a hotel, the destroyed building in the foreground was a seaside restaurant.

This was taken on the outskirts of Manzanillo, about 35 miles north of us. I have heard via the internet that many people evacuated our village and now can't get back in because of flooding. No electricity or phone contact. I'll try to call Jack tomorrow but I'm not optimistic that I can reach him. I am sure that if our house had sustained any serious damage Fernando would have let us now somehow so I am operating on the "no news is good news" theory. There are only a few real treasures in the house, things that could not be replaced. Everything else is just stuff. As long as all of our friends are safe, that's what is the most important thing.

Monday, October 10, 2011

who is Jova?

I hate to tell you but Jova is the Category 3 hurricane headed for the Mexican Pacific coast. From the northern end of the state of Michoacan to the southern end of the state of Jalisco, and the entire coast of the state of Colima there is a hurricane watch. That swath is in Jova's path. She is expected to make landfall in Barra de Navidad sometime tomorrow morning. The port of Manzanillo is closed, the airport is on watch due to high winds. Puerto Vallerta is buttoning up. Tourists in both Barra and nearby Melaque have to decide whether to stick it out or flee. I talked to Jack this afternoon to check on how things are in our village. No rain yet but it's getting progressively more windy. I heard via email from others in town that they are either leaving or hunkering down to ride it out. I am only really concerned about two things in our house; the palapa roof on the third floor and the big glass sliding doors on the second. But Fernando will keep an eye on things. Jack said he'd let us know as things progress. I'm not sure he'll be able to do that since the first thing to go in even the wimpiest storm is the electricity. Next are the telephone lines. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

getting into the sauce

During one of his early-morning trolls of the internet Mr. C found a recipe for The World's Best Meatballs. It calls for 12 cups of rich tomato sauce. Admittedly, the recipe makes enough for 12 people, but I needed to replenish my store of sauce anyway, so Saturday was the day.

I started with a trip up to the Saturday Farmer's Market for all the fresh ingredients.

I particularly like these end-of-season tomatoes; big and juicy and very acidic. Red and green peppers in abundance. A big jalapeño for a little snap. Piles of yellow onions. A head of garlic. Half a bunch of basil. Olive oil, salt, pepper, a few red pepper flakes, some dried Italian herbs.

Next I found the big pot I always use, even though this batch is not going to be as big as my usual 30 quart endeavor.

I used to make enough to last us two or three years, pouring the sauce into jars, putting them into a water bath for half an hour, then vacuum sealing them. Not this time. Maybe the extra will go into the freezer.

Then I got out my favorite tools.

These are a sturdy chopping block, three good, sharp knives, and my food processor. Makes it all so easy. All the chopped veggies go into the pot, simmer for three house, and I'm ready for the meatballs. But first the sauce has to sit a couple of days to "ferment" and meld the flavors. The meatballs will come when the rain does.

Well, the rain came and so did the meatballs. Four meats (beef, pork, turkey, bacon), herbs, onions, garlic, parsley, cheese, eggs, bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Mush it all together, let it sit for a few hours, then make the meatballs. Half a cup each, more or less. Brown them first, then put them into a casserole dish, cover with the (now nicely seasoned) tomato sauce, bake an hour and a half.

Then it's time to serve them up with crisp veggies and a hunk of sourdough bread to sop up the ambrosial sauce. Pour a little Zin. A meal sure to keep the cold and wet at bay.

After dinner I watched the first couple of episodes of The State Within, a chilling BBC political thriller with a fine cast that includes Jason Issacs as the British Ambassador to Washington and Sharon Gless as the Secretary of Defense. There are enough twists and turns in this series to satisfy the pickiest of conspiracy theorists. Several thumbs up.

I just caught sight of the announcement that Steve Jobs has died. I have never owned anything except an Apple. Never will. RIP, you amazing genius.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

and the rains came

Yesterday afternoon it got overcast and cool and then the rains came. They're still here. That means an indoor day with books, hot tea, a nap, perhaps a movie. And a fire.  Hard farings, I know.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

bring it on!

Steve Sims and his merry men delivered our wood yesterday. Two-year old seasoned almond; burns hot, has little smoke. Doesn't look like much but it's enough for us. Next week is forecast to bring us rain, wind and cold, starting either Monday night or Tuesday. We're ready.