Wednesday, April 8, 2015

One drop...two drops...three drops...more?

What does a person who loves rain do during a drought? She waits. 
What does a person who loves rain but hates to wait do during a drought? She complains. A lot.

This dry spell has been super hard on me. It seems like it has rained all of four times here in Sacramento this season. And for one of those times I wasn't even in the state. It's been one long dry parched disappointing year. They keep saying nothing will help at this point, any rain we get won't do much good. Too little. Too late. 

Here's to the Too Little Too Late Mini Storm of April 2015, because it felt really good, even if I wasn't there for it. We went up to our friend's cabin in Iowa Hill, a little town out of Colfax CA on a steep and winding road with hairpin turns that makes your hair no longer need pins. It was supposed to rain some while we were there, which was going to be wonderful for this lover of water falling from the sky. 

We went. And we waited. For the rain. We crossed our fingers and paws, waiting for the rain. And it didn't come. It never came. The rain was a washout. Again.

Crossing all four paws.
For the rain.

It didn't rain.
Because it snowed!

First it was a little dusting.

Then it got a bit more exciting.

It was enough to collect on the little branches.
I just love when that happens.

It was very wet and sloppy snow.
Sierra Slush.
It was terrific.

Driving back yesterday, we left the wet winter wonderland at 2800 feet and drove right back into the greenest green of a California spring in the foothills. The poppies and wildflowers are blooming, the hills are vibrant and the air is clean. The rain gauge in our Sacramento yard said one inch. Even though the paper said that's a drop in the bucket, any drop in this dry bucket is appreciated. Let's put up a big ol' thank you card for the drops, a banner that reads "Thanks drops, you did good, send your friends, we love drops."

We came home to a fresh and clean front yard - our Kill the Lawn mulch was wet and dark and looking good. The second set of irises are blooming, the lavender is doing its thing, the neglected roses are looking pampered and happy, and the trees got their roots soaked. No more rain in the forecast, but when it's this dry, every drop really does count. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Five Steps of Dog Vomit Mold Rehabilitation

Just the other day I said to my husband, "Hey, we haven't had any dog vomit mold in the yard this spring." (These are the kind of statements that keep a marriage strong and vibrant, it's in all the manuals.) And then it rained. Not enough to help out the drought one tiny dust particle of good, but it was just enough to bring up that weird phenomenon known as Dog Vomit Mold. These are the basic principles of the Dog Vomit Mold Five Step Program, often called Al-a-Mold.

First, you see the problem. 

But you are in disbelief. This can't be happening in your garden. Again.

You hope it goes away, but it doesn't.

You try to see the humor in the situation. You make barf jokes. But it's so not funny.

Finally, there is acceptance. Things will get better, it just takes time. Someday when your garden is covered in beautiful plants and flowers and the weeds are under control, this will be a distant memory. A really ugly distant memory.

And you focus on the positive. Bee Positive.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Three Quilts, Three Days

The mailing tape dispenser was working overtime last week. In three days I got orders for three quilts. It was in the middle of Allergy Season Central around here. Since for me that means about a 20% decrease in functioning brain cells, it was a nice diversion and one I could handle.

1. Find quilt.
2. Make sure it's the right one.
3. Trim off any errant stringy fuzz.
4. Find custom gift tag.
5. Make sure it's the right one.
6. Find a proper box.
7. Add dog treats for customers with dogs.
8. Print out postage and spell everything right, including my own name.
9. Drop off at post office.
10. I hope that was it, because I'm out of steps.

Etsy, in cahoots now with the United States Postal Service, makes mailing a package easy enough for a trained chimp. Even a chimp with hay fever. 

The Rose Quilt, photographed with my new props, some old shutters I found in the trash. 

I prefer candlelight personally, but quilts photograph best in the morning.

All rolled up and ready to go!

A nice lady in Maryland with two cute dogs bought the Digger quilt. Molly sent treats.

Dog quilts look even cuter in the morning too.

My amazing and talented friend Jill from Washington sent me these fabrics.

They are for a custom baby quilt and include some denim fabric from her son Andrew's jeans.

More shabby chic shutter photos, more morning light and my first baby quilt with a binkie pocket. 
If I could just stay home and sew quilts with my head stuffed in a binkie pocket, I may survive this spring.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

I don't pull any punches

There was just enough time for me to swing by the Goodwill drop-off right around the corner from our house, and then race drive to make my meeting at 9:30. There is such a great feeling of dropping off junk gently-used items for others to enjoy. It's almost as good as losing 2 to 3 pounds. Almost.

That little detour was what put me in the perfect position to witness a pretty bad fender-smasher. A girl in a small car (Girl in Small Car) was slowing down to turn right into a fairly empty parking lot, and a guy in an old truck (Old Truck Dude) was about to slam right into her. He swerved to his left and caught the left rear of her car pretty good. Her car is probably totaled, but at least she didn't get much of a body slam. I figured it was a pretty simple case of OTD hits GSC and so I continued on to make my 9:30 meeting. Then I thought, What if I was GSC? Wouldn't I appreciate someone coming back to say they witnessed it, and it was completely not her fault?

So I turned around, and by then they were in the parking lot of our local boxing club. (Yes, I would love to insert Hot Pilates Spa, but this is my neighborhood, and it's on the grittier side of things.) I drove up to see her talking to some ladies in pink boxing gloves who came out to see what had happened. GSC was teary eyed, and I told her I had seen it all, quickly gave her my business card just in case she needed it and drove off.

When I was driving to my meeting, I kept thinking of her standing there all weepy and shook up, and since OTD looked a bit rough, I wished I had waited around a bit longer. Having just studied Monday night about the Good Samaritan and that the focus was not on who received the kindness, but who showed the kindness, I was feeling like my drive-by act of kindness was on the wimpy side. So I got to the hall, grabbed my friend Anastasia to spend the morning with me and we raced drove back to the accident scene.

GSC was sitting in her car, crying and being consoled by her boyfriend. OTD was talking to a sheriff's deputy. GSC was so happy to see me come back. Seems the guy in the truck (who was completely at fault) had made up some ridiculous story that the girl had been backing her car out of the parking lot (not true and would be stupid and unnecessary because it was almost empty). It was the most satisfying feeling to march over to the deputy and say that Truck Dude was lying. He looked at Weepy Girl and said, "It looks like you have a good witness here." Just wait until they see this totally professional drawing of what I saw.

I saw it all Truck Dude.
I don't have pink boxing gloves, but I believe it's called a TKO.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Garden Grumblings

This spring is way too dry and much too warm, but it is glorious. Things are blooming early and abundantly, and me trying to stick my head in our clay soil is not going to make it change. It's time to get out there and get some watering done (as pathetic as that is in March), do a little weeding and assess the progress of the Great Garden Plan.

Plants are a lot like clothes in the closet - you remember exactly how much you paid for the cheap ones you got at the thrift store, but you conveniently forget the price of the costlier items. "This dress? Why, I found it at a garage sale for A DOLLAR!" "Oh, these shoes? Hmm, where DID I get, is that a hornet in your ear?" If I were handed the sum total of what we have spent on our yards, front and back, in the last two and half years, I would have to cheer myself up with some shoe shopping at Nordstroms.

I do try to be thrifty. I buy plants in the smallest size buckets, even though the plants in the bigger buckets are snickering at their puny cousins, mocking the size of their root balls. I measure out exactly how big the tag says it will get and plan accordingly, never buying more plants than the space warrants. I check religiously the Sunset's Western Garden book for the correct variety and color and planting zone. In spring I've been known to keep both my Bible and the garden book on my nightstand for quick reference.

With all that, we have experienced the sad fact of plants pooping out, bushes bailing, flowers failing and shrubs shriveling. And those were the ones I investigated and really gave some thought. Here is a short list of plants that are no longer gracing our garden:

  • The very first things we planted out front were azaleas. They were not happy one bit, so I transferred them out back to a shadier location. I hoped they would thrive, but they died. Dead azaleas are not pretty. They got yanked and added to the Green Waste Bin of Plant Despair.
  • We planted gardenias under the window, because I dreamed of the glorious scent of gardenias wafting into the windows which I never open. But they got anemic looking and I transferred them to pots of the front porch. One is growing well, one is barely hanging on.
  • I had planted a camellia out front, along with the azaleas and gardenias. I wonder...could this all be because I felt spending money on a soil analysis would be too costly? Instead, I just sprinkled in something (more $ of course) to build up the acid in the area. And as if on an acid trip, the camellia got wasted. It didn't help that our house is a light color and our house paint has light reflectors added to help reduce fading. All that bright reflection cooked our pretty camellia bush and one day all I found was a dead brown stick. And how much had I paid for that bush?, is that a hornet in your ear?
  • The last really bad decision out front came in a cheap package. On sale for $5 each were some end-of-the-season creeping shrub roses. They actually have done quite well, thrived in fact. I love them, except for the blasted Bermuda grass that grows underneath. And there is no way to get the blasted weeds pulled because of the blasted thorns and the fact that the blasted bush grows in a creeping formation that gives the blasted weeds such a great place to thrive. Can you tell what joy and happiness these lovely plants give me?

This is what I want, this is all I want. To plant stuff in the right place, at the right time, at the right height, with the correct spacing, in the ideal soil, that doesn't need a lot of water, in pleasing colors that compliment each other, that discourage weeds and encourage butterflies and hummingbirds. 

Disclaimer - This is not our front yard. But a girl can dream.

As you can see, I like mounding...


...friendly shaped plants.
And blue, I love blue and purple.
Back to the garden center. How much will I spend?
Yikes, is that a hornet in your ear?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

February is brought to you by the color yellow

When my friend Myra gave me a big box of iris rhizomes from her Great Grandma Rosie, I had every intension of planting them right away. But we were busy painting the house yellow, so I put them aside. Then we got busy painting the inside of the house a color that was supposed to be a soft shade of creamy loveliness, but it ended up yellow as well. The irises sat in a box, for a year, out behind our yellow house. 

When I finally got around to planting them, I remember thinking "I would be so very happy if these came up blue, or white, or purple, or pink. ANYTHING but yellow." Nature is so funny! 

Meet our yellow irises, lots of them! 

Our weeds are yellow too.

And so are the daffodils, of course. 

The orange cider Ernst brewed came out a nice orangy yellow, which bubbled over in the fermenting process in the corner of the living room, which was lapped up by our...

...Golden Retriever, who got a little mellow.

This month I discovered the medicinal properties of fresh turmeric, which turned my cutting board and fingers, you guessed it, yellow. Come to think of it, they look a lot like iris rhizomes. 

Hello yellow!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

From where I sit

Having my editor living under the same roof has its advantages. I can yell out stuff like "What's another word for stupid that sounds more intelligent?" and other pressing questions. Tonight we had some work to pound out, literally. We had to make up some time we lost because of the little bitty issue with the heart attack last week. It's not easy typing with all those IVs in the way, and if he's going to take some time off, his trusty assistant deserved a little break too.

Usually my writing process goes something like this. Ernst tells me about a new project we have coming up, or reminds me of an assignment I have that's due. I whine and fuss and complain, curl up in a figurative ball and act like a three year old in the canned soup aisle. Yes, I throw writing tantrums. But once I sit down and start tackling a big project, the words start flowing and I really do enjoy it. I send it off to Ernst, who is usually sitting across the room and he says he'll get to it. That is when I find out there are deadlines and there are deadlines. After all that inner wrestling, to have my hard work sit in his in box is more than a bit annoying. But it feels good to get it out of my head and onto the page and done.

Then he reads it. Most times he needs to tweek it a bit, massage the words into place, and often he tells me I'm writing once again in the passive voice. What, he wants aggressive? I'm still trying to figure out once and for all time what the passive voice is so I can avoid it, but it just won't stick. Or stick it won't? The voice, it is passive? And the problem, what is it?

Then comes his editing my attempts at humor. We write almost exclusively for dental websites. (For dental websites we mostly write.) So, very often, as he's editing my work, he will yell out "You can't SAY that" about dentures, or implants, or missing teeth or drooling or spitting or all the other amusing dental realities. I begrudgingly agree, and all the funny jokes, puns and double meanings get cut, never to be enjoyed. Until now.

My latest project, still involving dentistry, is taking about 120 dental themed cartoons, adding a catchy and punchy caption to each one, and then finding the perfect link to our client's webpage. It's about teeth and I'm SUPPOSED to be funny! I can joke, I can make puns, I can be irreverent. It's like a dream come true, except the nightmare part. There are 120 of them. That's a lot of pressure. And some of them are a bit too funny, and "dentally off-color". Now it's me who's yelling across the room "We have to cut this one, I mean, You can't SAY that about teeth." (It is about teeth for which these things you cannot say?)

Ernst writes sitting up, at a table, feet on the floor. Seriously.

I write sitting on the couch, laptop on lap, feet on coffee table. Whining.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Audrey the Puffy Quilt rides the Pineapple Express

The forecast said we would wake up to rain, lots of it. So I went to bed very happy. All night long I woke up and listened, no precip. We woke up, no precip. I guess the Pineapple Express, the big atmospheric river the size of the Miississippi River was taking its sweet time in arriving to our parched Northern California.
Upon checking my email, I saw there was an Etsy conversation waiting a response, someone interested in one of my puffy quilts. That woke me up, and soon I was dragging the quilt out to get an accurate measurement to answer the inquiry. Measuring a puffy quilt is like measuring a moving hippo, so it came down to an estimate. There were some more questions and a photo of a pillow was sent to see if I thought it would match an existing decor. Looked good to me! We had ourselves a sale, after a bit of a dry spell on Etsy. Fortunately I had already made a pretty gift tag, so all that was needed was to find a box.
By now it was raining, and all the hippo-sized boxes were out in the pool house/office/man cave/storage area soon to be torn down and rebuilt. Note to self: don't make any more puffy quilts, they don't want to be contained. Ernst helped me choose an acceptable price and delivery time balance, because I now know that promising to mail a zoo animal-sized craft across the US in a timely fashion takes a bit of cash. She really needs it by next Friday, let's hope the prevailing winds help get this package where it needs to be. I promised Ernst from now on I will weigh, pre-box and measure the girth of any more future bohemoths before committing to a shipping price. Except for those times I forget to do this, or am too lazy, or just want to shove the beast in the cupboard, I totally will do that. Every. Time. 

Does this box make my puffs look fat?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Wistful Wednesday, Thankful Thursday and TGIF

...a continuation of the Ernst Chronicles...

Seven years ago when Ernst had his first heart attack, the Place to have any heart procedure in Sacramento was Mercy General, the one in midtown by the Fabulous Forties. They had (and still do) a top notch cardiovascular team that handled a huge load of heart patients. That's where Kaiser sent all of their heart surgeries, including angiograms (which are now referred to as catheterizations, or caths). The Catholic hospital with the receptionist nuns did the caths, I guess that was appropriate. When Ernst was in the ER last week and they started talking about doing his cath at Kaiser Roseville or South Sac, I about had an internal meltdown. It had been ingrained in my head, GO TO MERCY FOR THE HEART.

What a difference seven years makes. Kaiser doctors now work part-time at Mercy, Mercy doctors do rotations at the Kaiser Cath Lab (which I kept wanting to call the Meth Lab) and all this mixing around is good. When Ernst was transferred to the Kaiser South Sac facility, he came to be in wonderful hands and we experienced the best hospital experience I have yet to see first-hand.

I arrived to the hospital fresh from a shower and sporting clean clothes, I was still pretty shook up but glad we would be getting some answers. One of the questions was, why are all these medical professionals so young looking?? His nurse in the cath lab, Eli looked extremely capable, but on the young side. He said the doctor doing the cath would be Dr. Skipper, and wow did he look young too. Turns out it's spelled Schipper, which reassured me, oddly enough. But the most reassuring thing of the entire experience was learning that 9 out of 10 times they go through the arm now, not the femoral artery. Why they don't make public service announcements about this is beyond me. Stents - They Don't Have to Freak You Out Anymore!! No more visions of a pregnant nurse climbing on top of my husband to stop the bleeding from his femoral artery, like what happened at the hospital with the nuns. About 83% of my worries went away instantly. We went out to the waiting room and I was able to calm down enough to read the paper that had been so abruptly interrupted that morning by a zillion firefighters in our living room.

The procedure went well, they were surprised to find his 3 old stents free and clear. We would like to thank all the plants in the world for that. Thank you plants, we will keep eating you in abundance. What they did find were two areas of new blockages. I'm going to use some technical terms here, so hang in there. Seems like a few areas of old gunk broke off, and when stuff breaks off in your heart, a bunch of sticky activity takes place and causes blobs of yuck that can block blood flow. These needed to be sucked out by the vacuum cleaner attachment they stuck up his wrist all the way into his heart - like a Dyson for humans. Then they shoved up two stents that look like the little springs in a ball point pen to keep the arteries nice and expanded. He was awake and got to watch. With each suction and placement of stents, he felt better and, like a miracle, his back pain went away. OK, I'll stop using technical terms now.

Linda and Jeff went up the ICU with me to see Ernst. We did something really dumb and didn't know it until later. We got to the locked doors of the ICU and failed to see the call button and camera off to the right. How do we get in, we wondered? Being the pioneers we are, Jeff gave a good old fashioned knock on the doors to the Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits beat. A person came and opened it up, looking a bit perplexed, but we were in and it was terrific to see Ernst looking fabulous. He was in great spirits, happy and healthy again. The room had a big window, lots of room, and I was glad I hadn't pitched a fit about not going to Mercy.

There's more than one way
to make a meal vegan. Poultry theft!
They brought in a bed/chair contraption with pillows and bed linens so I could spend the night. Our night nurse was amazing. The procedure for undoing the wrist artery contraption (sorry, I'm getting all technical again) compared to seven years ago with the femoral artery is like comparing a hovel to Buckingham Palace. The night nurse, Lindsey, sat in a chair next to Ernst for about an hour, slowly releasing air from his wrist apparatus, watching for bleeding. They talked about climbing Mt. Whitney, hiking the Sierras, her hometown Chicago and regional accents. No bleeding, no drama, no trauma. Lindsey came in through the night to check on his wrist, but she was quiet and we both slept.

So much hospital staff came into that ICU room in the next two days, it almost became comical. Of course there is the guy who draws blood at 5 am. They must clone him because it's always at 5 am, like how Santa Claus is able to visit all those houses in one night. A hospital mystery. There were cardiologists, Eli the Nurse Guy from the cath lab, nurses Roxanne, Lindsey, Casey and Sherri, regular doctors, the head of the nursing dept. for ICU, the ICU director, the discharge doctor with the title "Hospitalist", the room sanitizers, the nutritionist who arranged some nice vegan meals, the team of giggly girls who were skin checkers (I have no technical term for this, they came in and checked his skin) and others whose specific roles now escape me. Let's just say Ernst was well cared for.

Little did we know there was an Ebola scare happening in the ER the day we arrived. I'm so glad we didn't know, it turned out to be nothing. But after the initial medical concern is over, it hits you - You are in a building full of really sick people. The nurses called Ernst a Walkie/Talkie/Easy/Peasy because he was so relatively healthy although assigned to the ICU. We kept the door to his room closed as much as possible to keep him that way. As he got more and more IVs removed from his arm and he was only tethered up to the heart monitor, he became like an astronaut on a space walk, and he wanted to go home! Poor Jeff came down with a nasty case of the Flu From He!! a few days later, but after an Ebola scare, we will all count our blessings. I honestly don't know what I would have done without Jeff there, he is a rock. A really funny rock.

What does the future hold? More plants and lots of them! If I could speak to the old plaques in Ernst's arteries I would say "Let's just keep calm here. Hands up against the wall. Stay put. Don't move a muscle." If they only could invent something like super hold hairspray for artery walls, he would be fine. But for now, emergency averted and we go on. Whew! Thank you all for your visits, calls, emails, Instagrams, hugs, texts, prayers and calming reassurances. We love you.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Worrisome Wednesday

...a continuation of the Ernst Chronicles...

It was a gorgeous day weather-wise, I will give it that. It made the parking process, the hustling into the ER and the numerous trips outside to make shaky voiced phone calls comfortable, if not exactly pleasant. When my neighbor Linda and I arrived, we joined our friends Jeff and Myra in the waiting room, waiting, of all things, for Ernst to get officially checked in and given a bed. Having Jeff, Myra and Linda there for support was like having the Royal Canadian Mounted Brigade of Calmness, Practicality and Organization, also known as the RCMBCPO. They had bags and pockets and hidden containers from which they would pull out incredibly useful items, such as hot tea, granola bars, and eventually our phone book from home. How the RCMBCPO pulled that one off is still a mystery, but they did and it was oh so useful. If you're going to switch phones, and your phone is going to suddenly stop cooperating and only allow you to text some of the people some of the time, try to not let this happen with a family member in the ER.

Ernst checked out fine in the hospital. EKG was normal. BP was normal. Heart rate, normal. Blood enzyme test showed no heart attack in the past day. Normal, normal, normal. Except that morphine was not touching the extreme discomfort in his chest. Second dose, the same. That is when they started talking heart procedures. Noooooooooo! This can't be his heart! It's just back pain. We are low-fat, plant-based, plant-centered, go hug your local piglet vegans!!! This can't be his heart. No!!! We pushed for less invasive tests, we knew there were less invasive tests. Each doctor that came in said, if this was happening to them, they would want the angiogram because if a problem is discovered, the problem can be fixed right then. It was all so maddening and unfair and scary. To top it all off, there was a guy retching in the waiting room and a woman down the hall needed two security guards because she was screaming obscenities at the medical personnel trying to assist her, and frankly all you need is a vomiting man and a violent, foul mouthed woman to make it extremely difficult to make a proper medical decision.

It finally came down to the pain, Ernst was exhausted and ready to find out if it really could be his heart after all. We talked it over with Team RCMBCPO, and the plan was set. Jeff would once again drive down to accompany Ernst, who of course would transfer to Kaiser South by ambulance. I would go back to the house and get out of the really awful choice of footwear I had on, take a quick shower and put on a better Meet the Doctor Who Will Send A Catheter Up My Husband's Heart outfit. Linda would race home to put more amazingly practical things in her bag of tricks, and Myra would go off to take care of her son while putting together a bag of food that ended up getting me through to the next day.

More to come...