Friday, June 28, 2013


The President at the Door of No Return, Goree Island, Senegal

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Downton in the rain

It's cool and wet here in the valley today.  A good day to stay indoors.  I brewed a big cup of Red Zinger tea, tucked myself up in bed, turned on the laptop and watched the first three installments of Season Three of Downton Abbey.   Still as good as it was when it burst on the TV scene three years ago.  Now I'll have to wait two days for the next installments.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

summer in the garden

It's summer up here in the valley.  That means, along with the heat, riotously blooming gardens.  For your weekend enjoyment, a look into ours.

Crepe Myrtle

Trumpet vine that drapes over the back fence

Purple Butterfly bush

Shasta daisies

Red yarrow, yellow coreopsis



Oleanders that surround the back garden

We thought this rose was dead but a little TLC brought it back to life

Friday, June 21, 2013

lunch on the river

I met my friend Diane for lunch at Scott's on the River, a lovely, cool spot along the Sacramento River. We sat outside on the terrace and, along with a delicious meal, solved all of the problems we could think of.   Di is a semi-retired travel agent whose passport probably has some of those extra pages all covered with stamps from exotic places.  She recently went to Cuba and I wanted to hear all about it.  Next stops on her itinerary:  France, then Burma, then the Northwest Passage.  She gets around.

But to the menu.  She had a bowl of Summer Vegetables soup, and even though this is a seafood spot, I had a hamburger, medium rare and perfect. We shared some sweet potato fries and both had a glass of our favorite, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.   A lovely catch-up lunch.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

surprising film

I watched this film tonight and liked it very much.  It's brilliantly acted by Helen Hunt as a surrogate sex therapist, John Hawkes as a man confined to an iron lung from childhood polio and William H. Macy as an almost too curious Catholic priest.  Very funny, moving and ultimately triumphant.  It's a dramatization of a biographical piece written by Mark O'Brien.  Two tissues.  Highly recommended.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

who rules the world?

I rarely spend much time in malls.  What we have in town are really micro-malls. One has Trader Joe's, a Starbucks, a couple of low key restaurants, a Forever 21 and some other small businesses.  One has a Whole Foods, a Gap, a Body Works.  There is a Target at the opposite end of town, and that's about it.  So I don't get much mall experience.  However, yesterday I had two or three hours to kill (I'll explain later) and decided to check out the Galleria up in Roseville.  This is a gigantic two-story cathedral of commerce with all the name shops under one roof.  A couple of years ago it suffered a severe fire but, like the Phoenix, came back better than ever.  I walked from one end to the other on the ground floor, checking out both sides, then went upstairs and did the same thing.  It took most of my allotted time and I was exhausted.  But here's what I learned.  We've all heard that Wall Street controls the economy of the country, that our national wealth is based on manufacturing, agribusiness, dot coms, and other forms of entrepreneurial efforts.  Not so.  What keeps the economy going is teenage spending.  Hundreds of teenagers, newly freed from the onus of school,  swarmed through this monument to consumption buying up everything they possibly could carry.  I was so astonished I had to sit down and watch the parade.  In the midst of all of this, three boys, probably about 17, sat down next to me and were chatting about their purchases, whom they ran into, what their plans were for the evening, and so on.  They were so animated, so funny, completely unselfconscious, and all very cute, especially the one with the purple hair.  Yep, they definitely rule the world.

I actually did see one parent  in the swarm of kids.  I went to a store to get Mr. C some new T-shirts to replace the faded and frayed ones that make up the majority of his wardrobe.   A boy of about 14 or 15 was shopping with his (gasp!) mother, trying on those dreadful long shorts boys wear slung low on the hips.  While I was combing the pile of T-shirts, the boy came out of the dressing room in the shorts.  The mother said, "OK, pull up your shirt.  Now turn around and bend over.  NOPE!  No butt crack for you.  Take them off."  I almost applauded.  The poor young man was deeply embarrassed at having to perform this humiliating exercise, but he didn't argue and turned around and went back into the dressing room.  The mom saw me watching, shook her head ruefully and said, "What is he thinking??"

This reminded me of my friend Diane Nelson who was at boarding school with me but only during our freshman year.  She was from Tucson and I went to visit her during the Christmas holidays a couple of times.  She had a very, VERY strict father who controlled every aspect of her life.  One year when I was there we went shopping for a party dress.  She fell in love with one, brought it home for inspection, and modeled it for her father.  He did the same thing:  "Let me see the back.  Now let me see the front.  Now bend over.  No, too low.  Take it back."  Diane burst into tears but he was not moved. As I recall the dress had a pretty high neckline; I had no idea what the objection was but back it went.

Here's why I was at the mall in the first place.  Mr. C had a little surgery on his left eye at the Kaiser hospital in Roseville.  He had what's called a macular pucker that was giving him a dead spot in the center of his vision.  So yesterday he went under the knife to repair this problem.  He came through the procedure just fine, everybody seemed to think it was a total success.  But now his vision is very blurry and will be for a few weeks.  There is no consensus on whether or not his vision will be perfectly restored.  It will take some time before he'll know.  He went back for a post-op exam today and all is well.  Now he waits.

New book recommended by MSMAS at No More Commas Period over there on the left:  By Blood by Ellen Ullman.  A real can't-put-it-down'er.  It is set in San Francisco in the early 80's and concerns a man who overhears a therapy session through the wall of his adjoining office.  Many thanks, MAS.  This is the second book I've read by Ullman.  The first was The Bug, a novel about, among other things, obsessions of all sorts, including ones that end up taking over your life.  I think I like this book better; it's a little more "human" than The Bug.  But ultimately it, too, is about obsession. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

birdsong at 2 am

We have a resident mockingbird that shows up in the trees around our house at around midnight almost every night.  He serenades us steadily and until around 4 AM, when he quits and goes off in search of either another perch or his breakfast.  Mr. C is not particularly thrilled by this musical interlude.  He goes out into the front terrace, turns on the hose and sprays the tree so the offending bird will move on to a different neighborhood.  The songster was back this morning but was out of reach of the water.  I think he finally quit at 3:30, or at least that's when I went back to sleep.  Mr. C reports that all was quiet at 4:30 when he got up.

I watched this movie yesterday and, once again, am filled with admiration at the acting skills of Phillip Seymour Hoffman.  He makes it all look so easy.  But all of the cast ~ Hoffman, Christopher Walken, Catherine Keenan, and Mark Ivanir, with a cameo by Wallace Shawn ~ is splendid.  I recommend it highly.  The music is gorgeous, too.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

new read

I started this book today and so far, excellent.  The author also wrote  the novel "Augustus" which won the National Book Award in 1972.  I read it some years ago and it, too, is excellent.  I'm happy to recommend them both.

Cooler today, fortunately.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

107º in the shade

The valley is sweltering in blistering heat this weekend, although the report is for temperatures at least 15º degrees cooler tomorrow.  That means only about 92º.  Much cooler, wouldn't you agree?

It's really too hot to go outside in the mid-afternoon so I watched this documentary in the dim coolness of the house.

Anyone who has the slightest interest in fashion and over-the-top personalities should see this film.  By all accounts, she was a fascinating person.

Now that we have most of our when-we-get-home projects taken care of and our fall trip is all planned, it's time to think about reupholstering the couch in the den.  It has looked like this for about a dozen years and I'm getting very tired of it.  In addition, I had the room repainted last year and I want something a bit more, oh, I don't know, zippy, I guess.

I brought home some fabric samples and we both decided they looked like possibilities for the waiting room of a high-end psychiatrist.  Boring.  Way too calming.  I went on a hunt for something completely different and found these two samples.

I love the colors, the design and the look, but this piece has a few disadvantages; it's only 48" wide and it has no stain or fade protection.  Since it's so narrow I would need probably 35 yards!

This Ikat print is absolutely gorgeous (I just noticed that I have the print going in the wrong direction!) and it looks great in the room.  It's 54" wide, has both fade and stain protection, and is ON SALE.  Mr. C loves it.  So I think this will be it.  The recover will take about 5 weeks so if I get it all together in the next few days we could get it back just as we're getting ready to go to Europe.  But the room will look superb in our absence.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

the weekend report

The main purpose of the weekend trip was to attend the memorial for Miss Larmour (aka Mrs. Loomis/Rosamond) that was held on the school campus.  You can tell by the photo that it was grey and overcast and, in fact, that was the weather story the whole time.

This is the quad, looking west toward the chapel and the tower, El Mirador. 

This window, the one to the right of the bow, is where I lived during my senior year in Bentham Hall.  I had a view of the quad and the old library across the way.

The celebration started with a service in our beautiful little chapel. 

"Little" is the operative word here.  The current student body could not all fit in the chapel now, but in my years there, it was the heart of the school.  We started every morning with Matins complete with a "thought for the day" sermonette.  Boarding students had Evensong on Tuesdays and Thursdays, then choir practice on Saturday mornings and THREE services on Sunday, two of which were mandatory. 

The service was absolutely perfect, with words and music chosen by Miss Larmour.  The music included this beautiful anthem "Calling My Children Home" sung by a splendid quartet.  There are several versions on YouTube but I liked this one because you can understand the words.  Chanticleer does one but it's unintelligible.

After the service it was meet and greet and a luncheon on the lower quad in front of the new Manchester Library, about ten times the size of the original.  Many guests offered up remembrances and funny stories about Miss Larmour; she seems to have had a better sense of humor than I remember!  There was only one other member of my class but lots of others who looked vaguely familiar.  It was a very nice and fitting farewell to a quite remarkable woman.

The rest of the weekend, both before and after Saturday's event, was delightful.  We had lunch with one other of our classmates who didn't attend the memorial, strolled Girard as we always do, ate some delicious meals, drank some delicious prosecco, walked the dogs, and talked until we were almost hoarse.  The visit was all it should have been.

Monday, June 3, 2013

back from the coast

It was cool and damp and overcast most of the weekend, but a fine time was had by all.  I'm back in the heat of the valley ~ it's supposed to be 107º by the end of the week ~ and will fill in all travel blanks tomorrow.