Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bye-bye Babs

Babs, the Shabby Chic Washday Quilt

The winter season did not find me or my Etsy shop brimming with finished quilts for sale. Not a great business plan, but life caught me working a lot and spending time on the all-important sock monkey hat project.

Quite unexpectedly, my best customer ever surprised me with an order. Something tells me she got an Etsy gift card recently and decided on another themed quilt. This one is quite shabby chic with a light spring feel, so maybe that's just what she wanted in December. Bye-bye Babs, behave yourself in Texas.

That leaves one lonely quilt sitting in the cupboard, feeling like the last one to be picked for volleyball.

Ewe! The humility!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Knitting my brow while crocheting a hat

My sister Janice taught me how to crochet when I was young, and it has served me well through the years. I've made lots of blankets and throws, pot holders and cotton dishrags. I've learned through those projects that I have a rather loose crochet style. That means size is unpredictable. If I want to make a gift, I buy the yarn, read the pattern, throw the pattern to the side and do my own thing and see how big or small it turns out. The gift tag often reads:

Here is your potholder/baby blankie/couch throw/California King bedspread. 
Watch out - it may shrink/stretch.

I'm really good at square shaped projects, not very good at things that must fit on a human body. I've tried various times to make matching baby booties to go with a baby blanket, but have always ripped them out when they were getting too big for even an NBA player. 

Sock Monkey yarn - ready to roll

Why I got it into my head to make a sock monkey hat is beyond me. I didn't even know they existed until I saw one for sale on Etsy. Instead of just buying one, I figured it couldn't be that hard to make. Crocheting isn't at all scary like knitting is - with all that poking action and the threat of everything falling off the needles. The worst that can happen with crocheting is that my blunt tipped hook falls off. Big deal, I just stick it back where it belongs and keep crocheting the car cover/circus tent/tea trivet.

Molly proving that dogs can be embarrassed.
 My first attempt at crocheting a sock monkey hat was overwhelmingly successful - for a Neanderthal. I ripped it out, started with a smaller sized hook and re-read the directions. If it turns out, I have a cute new hat to wear for RBC kitchen work. If not, we have ourselves a sock monkey pool cover.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Life lessons from Chicago

When my parents got married, they decided to high tail it out of Chicago and move west. They first went to Arizona. I'm glad they didn't stay there, because I would probably have even more wrinkles than I already have. They kept on going and settled in Oakland where my brother was born. Then my Dad took a job in Sacramento and they bought their first house when my sister was a baby. They eventually had three more of us rug rats children. Arden Park was a lovely place to be born. Losing mittens in Sacramento meant you had lost a mitten, silly kitten, not that your hand would fall off from frostbite. I'm glad my parents heeded the call to Head West, young couple.

But with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins still back in Chicago, that meant family trips to the Windy City. When I was a baby, the family would take the train. My siblings have fond memories of the sleeper cars, dining cars and the domed observation deck at night. In time, the trips were on airplanes, and those are the only ones I remember. It was fun having family far away which involved big trips to visit them. We got to see all the "Chicago relatives" all at once and my parents didn't have to play favorites of who to visit when.

This past work weekend in Chicago brought back lots of memories for me. It was fr---eee---zing cold. I have to hand it to my Mom for her career girl days working downtown. Bundling up in all those clothes, taking the street car and the L to get downtown - she did it for years. I still cannot picture her in fur lined boots and a hat smashing her beautiful hair, but I'm sure she somehow stayed warm and fashionable. She married in her mid-twenties and I think moving away from all that hairdo smashing weather was a good idea for her!

Things I learned in Chicago

  • I learned at my rich Grandma's house that you grab the utensils from the outside of the place setting and work your way in. I learned about separate water glasses and how to eat a soft boiled egg from an egg cup and how to play Robber Rummy. I learned how fun it is to play in an attic and a basement, that people don't need fences around their houses and how to work a wringer washing machine.
  • I learned at my not very rich Grandma's house how to buzz in at an apartment, that a small place can be just as clean and appealing as a house with an attic and basement and that a twinkly genuine smile is the best thing to put on each morning. I learned where my Mom got her sweetness from.
  • Chicago taught me my first lessons about crime. I was in awe as a young child that the restrooms at Marshall Fields had cages on top of the stalls so people would not reach over and steal your purse. It had never occurred to me that someone would do that. The amount of locks on my Grandparent's doors was also a novel experience to a born and bred Arden Park girl. We didn't ever lock our doors and didn't know where the house keys were. Chicago was another world.
  • I learned from my step grandfather what hit-in-the-gut, jaw dropping prejudice sounds like. I have spent my life trying to undo the ugly things said by people like that. I know it's impossible, but I still try.
  • In Chicago I learned what real heat and humidity feels like. I woke up one night and asked my Mom what happened to the air? She said to just go to the window and try to breathe. Then I realized what Sacramentans mean when we say "But it's a dry heat."
  • I remember riding the L and passing right by people's apartment buildings as their curtains blew from our train car whizzing by. I knew then that I was a Have and those people were the Have Nots. I wished I could move their apartments just a few feet back so their curtains wouldn't blow as I traveled by in the train with my sweet mother and grandmother.
Proper footwear is a must
About 16 degrees at this point.

Snow angels are worth getting a devil of a cold backside.

Me and The Bean

Public Art is so wonderful. Because Earth without art is just Eh.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Taking Tree

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein

...And after a long time the boy came back again.
-"I am sorry, Boy, "said the tree, "but I have nothing left to give you — My apples are gone."
-"My teeth are too weak for apple, "said the boy.
-"My branches are gone," said the tree. "You cannot swing on them — "
-"I am too old to swing on branches" said the boy.
-"My trunk is gone," said the tree. "You cannot climb — "
-"I am too tired to climb," said the boy.
-"I am sorry" sighed the tree. "I wish that I could give you something. . . but I have nothing left. I am
just an old stump. I am sorry..."
-"I don't need very much now" said the boy. "just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired"
-"Well" said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, "well, an old stump is good for
sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down... and rest."
And the tree was happy.

The End

The trees in our yard are not so altruistic. The orange tree is amazing, no complaints there, but the rest are not much to speak of. The huge pecan in the back apparently needs a girl friend pecan tree, because his, um fruit, comes out all powdery and disgusting. There is a very crooked juniper that looks like it needs a chiropractor and a palm tree that just needs to go.

Tree-wise, the thorn in our flesh now has to be this:

The Taking Tree
According to the arborist (that's a tree guy who charges more because of the fancy name) it is a very dead, very tall, very big Modesto Ash. It straddles a fence, the property line and electrical wires. It has a certain shape of the trunk that's just ready to rip apart and only the most experienced (read $$$) should even touch it. In the business, this specimen is known as a "Widow Maker". I think what that means is that Mrs. Tree Guy is getting a really great present for Christmas and we'll be left with a stump in the yard.

But it has to go, because where the Tree of Death will fall is where our future orchard area is. Mrs. Pecan will go in here to make Mr. Pecan find his purpose.

Some day, the Garden of Eatin'

There are more projects planned after Mrs. Tree Guy gets her diamond earrings - we are fixing up and expanding the pool house! Now it looks like this:

Now, don't be getting all jealous, you should see the inside.

Why the lovely plastic tarp, you ask? We decided to go to Romania instead of fixing it this summer, and plus it adds so much ambiance. The mess all started right after we moved in - remember that wee bit of rain we got in December 2012?

Ernst playing Noah.

Get out the paddles!

So here we go with our plan, all worked out by Ernst and Adrian. First, build another pool house, right next to the first one. I know, this is where I thought What?, but hang on. When the new one is done, we'll move all the junk items from the 1st into the 2nd, creating an office for Ernst. Then they'll jack up the 1st one, What? put a new foundation under it, set it back down, re-plumb the toilet and sink and fix the outside shower which will be in a breezeway between the two now unified buildings. The old part will be a true pool house with a place to change before swimming, without having to fight the avalanche known as the Ernst Library.

Once we start the project, it'll be sure to start raining, so we look at this as doing our part to end our dry winter. Soon spring will be here, and there will be pool parties with no more embarrassing tarps in all the pictures. But if the tree comes down in the completely wrong direction, you'll be changing into your swimsuit in the orchard.

Wishing for swimming weather.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I was a secret shopper - Part Two

The ads for secret shoppers typically say that if you love to shop, secret shopping is for you. Maybe that was the problem. While grocery shopping is cart loads more enjoyable for me than any other kind, I'm a get-in and get-out kind of consumer. I'm not there to browse, compare, meander, lollygag or fritter away one more second than is required. Head down, list in hand or memory, death grip on shopping basket - let's get this done. I don't like ads or flyers or buy one get one free (BOGO), buy 15 get seven half off, it's this price today, but next week it goes up, until it goes back down. I can't stand the visual clutter of a regular grocery store caused by all the prices going up and down weekly. I love Trader Joe's transparency - this is how much we charge for this product and you can buy it if you think that is fair. It will be the same price for a long time until it goes up. I also like Raley's produce and the nice open feeling to the aisles. Things are where they ought to be in Raley's and I can get in and get out with my produce and the items I can't get at TJs. Costco fills in the blanks and short trips into other stores keeps us in rice and beans.

The fact that only about 5 other humans knew I was a secret shopper for "WaySafe" meant I had to keep the complaining to a minimum. More accurately, I had to keep my complaining funneled to a minimum of people. Those poor souls. I complained a lot. Why is secret shopping so hard? It's just shopping, right? Let me walk you through just a portion of a secret shop:

Arrive at the store during the time assigned. Check parking lot for cleanliness and loose carts. If there are more than ten loose carts, heads won't roll, but it must be reported. Grab a cart, noting the cleanliness of the entrance area. Approach first department, let's say the deli. Note the following:
Is the department clean and neat?
Are the products fresh and appealing?
Time it took to get noticed?
Name of employee? Read this discreetly while the employee is wiggling and turning every wrong way so you can't read it without looking like a stalker. (I came to really love the name Bob.)
Did Bob smile?
Did Bob greet?
(Now's the time to prompt for a sample. Not ask, prompt. Is this potato salad salty? Are these baked beans really sweet? Is the ______ crunchy? Mushy? Crispy? At this point Bob is supposed to offer a sample.)
Is Bob knowledgeable about the product?
(Now request some kind of special preparation, like packaging up in smaller quantities, putting spices on meat, halving the cabbage, slicing the bread, etc.)
(Now prompt for an escort. Where are the toothpicks? Bob can't just say they are on aisle 3, he has to offer to take the customer to the location right in front of the toothpicks and point them out. Poor Bob.)
Was there a "connection" with Bob?
Did he make a personal parting comment (such as I hope those beans don't give you gas, Ma'am!)?

Then go do all that again in Bakery, Produce, Floral, Coffee, Pharmacy, Meat and Seafood and Customer Service. Check the bathrooms for cleanliness, check each line to see how many shoppers are in each (not to exceed 4), try to get another employee to ask if you need help and escort you to a product, find a problem (such as an expired product), look to see if any carts or pallets are blocking products, check the floor for cleanliness and then proceed to check out. Get the checker's name, banter about some in-store promotion, get the bagger's name, see if your receipt is correct and if everything is bagged correctly and that they used your name and asked if you wanted help out and didn't just say good-bye but that they said something personal like I hope that cream works out for your problem, Mrs. S_______. Get out to the car, note the time and write down if the carts got collected while you were shopping. And then drive to the next If there is a third store, do it all again...again. And then get home and see you still forgot to buy toilet paper. 

The worst part was the mind numbing monotony of it all. Just about every WaySafe store is a cookie cutter version of the last one. The same ugly fake wood floor in floral and produce, the same tile in the bathrooms. It was a grocery shopping version of Groundhog Day. They are revamping a lot of stores to a newer look, but it will be the same look in all the stores. 

The best part was the traveling! I love to drive and I love to drive alone. Just me and NPR. WaySafe had me going all over Northern California. Once I got there, the stores were the same, but the drives were different and I got paid for driving and for mileage. Doing the far away shops is where I made the $$. Lodi, Pollock Pines, El Dorado Hills, Lincoln, Auburn, Chico, Paradise, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Orinda, Walnut Creek, La Fayette, Dixon, Davis, Fairfield, I went all over the place, multiple times. The farthest drive was San Francisco. Ernst went with me on that one. It was a totally jazzy and cool WaySafe near the ballpark. We got stuck in traffic on the way back and made a mint. I loved the far away shops!

The other day some young friends were asking if I had to work this week. I got to spill the beans about being a secret shopper for two and a half years! Although I hated it and I'm glad it's over, there were parts of it that were kind of fun. Did you know, that if prompted, certain WaySafe produce guys will offer you a blind taste test of organic versus conventional bananas? Did you know that the downtown Sacramento WaySafe does karaoke on Friday nights? Did you know that certain WaySafe checkers will tell you more about their love life than you ever wanted to know? Did you know the rudest WaySafe employee ever is also by far the cutest ever? Secret shopping for WaySafe - it's all out of the bag now!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Half my quilts sold on Black Friday!

Wow, what a day Friday was. Half my quilts sold! The fact that there were only four to start with? Only a minor detail. One of them, the Alexandria quilt had sat in my Etsy shop for one year. It got looks and likes, but no takers. At long last, a looker and a liker became a taker. Let the dance of joy commence.

The Emilia quilt barely got out of the dryer and sold just like that, to the same customer. More dance of joy. Now I need to pack them up nice and cozy, print out the label and go stand in line at the Post Office. If I start talking to the box, telling them not to get lost like Anastasia did, maybe I'll get invited to the front of the line?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

I was a secret shopper - Part One

There, I said it. And now I can add it was the weirdest, most stressful, completely annoying and by far the most interesting job I ever hated had. It ended. Let me write that again. IT ENDED!! I didn't quit and I didn't get fired. The whole program ended. Hundreds of secret shoppers like myself got a letter, a phone call and computer alert that said your miserable, low paying job has ended because the program was discontinued. I couldn't believe it, not because I was disappointed, I was actually overjoyed. What I couldn't believe is that it ended before I had the chance to quit in an incredibly well-written letter that made jaws drop and coffee mugs spill - a letter that threatened to tell-all on my blog. Oh well, for what it's worth, here is the tell-all.

Three years ago I lost my job - one I loved, that paid well, had a fabulous boss, was flexible and interesting. The economy was rough, especially in the construction trades, so I knew finding another job would be tough. Collecting unemployment for the first time in my life was pretty great, but I would rather work. So I polished up my resume, the same one that got me the world's perfect job, and started a Craigslist job search that went on for months. One day Ernst, the guy who finds me all my jobs, read in The Sacramento Bee that a major grocery store was looking for secret shoppers. (I think I signed a form that forbids me from divulging secrets, so all I'll say is it wasn't Raley's or Save Mart. Let's just call it WaySafe, shall we?)

It sounded sort of easy, and by then I was a bit desperate. I sent in the mini-application and was invited to a day of training at a local hotel. That is when I saw this position wasn't about shopping secretly. It was a job that combines safety inspector, actress, census taker, health checker, record keeper and all over big fat faker spy all into one underpaid position with no benefits. But seeing that the alternative was waving a sign outside a sub sandwich place for minimum wage, I signed up and became a full-fledged WaySafe employee.

I know secret shoppers have a horrible reputation for getting WaySafe employees in trouble, because a dear friend of ours who is now retired experienced this first-hand. But at the time of my hire, I didn't know anyone who worked there and I was determined to be completely fair and follow the guidelines. Although our trainer basically told us to lie during the shops, suggesting all kinds of scenarios of why we were so interested in a certain product, I never so much as fudged the truth. That was quite an accomplishment, especially in the meat and seafood departments! Not only does the smell of raw meat make me gag, can you imagine my fear of getting caught talking t-bone with the butcher? Vegans don't normally stand around asking about the marbling on a rib-eye steak, especially when they don't want to even touch the packaging or breathe its air. Somehow I managed to fool them, but I never lied. I just talked hypothetically about eating meat.

I survived the secret shopper program for a very long two and half years. I did about two shops a week, sometimes less, sometimes more. I never loved it, sometimes liked it, mostly hated it, and now it's over! I can go back to shopping as me, not looking at lane counts and floor tidiness and bathroom supplies and greets and smiles and unattended pallets. I don't have to count the "baskcarts" in the parking lot or see if the produce is fresh and appealing or if the bakery is neat and clean. I can shop like I like to shop — at Trader Joes!

Coming Soon, Part Two!

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Emilia Quilt

The Emilia Quilt on Etsy    

What if the English language had official words for all small things. Yes, we have doggy and piggy and horsey, but can you imagine taking the "y" and applying it to just about everything?

"While you're in the cupboardy, can you please grab a platey and a glassy, I'll also need a forky to go with my spoony and knify."

That is exactly what Romanian does to all sorts of words. It's really cute, if not a tad excessive. Eastern Europeans play fast and loose with their names, too. There is one family in our congregation, a big family, and there are four different versions in the spelling of their last name. One with a K, the other with a CH, the other is EA instead of an E, or is it AE? And if the women feel like being a little more Russian that day, well they just slap an A on the end for good measure. It can drive me quite batty and make me nutty while I try to learn this languagy. What is your name today and how are we spelling it this very hour? And exactly how does your brother who is from the same parents spell it? Today. Not your baby brother, your biggy brother.

When I first met little Mila, I assumed that was her name. Wrong, she told me it was really Emily. OK, Mila, Emily, close enough. But in time, as always, the real deep down name came out. Emilia, but even now I don't know if that is quite right, because she doesn't like how her mother spelled it so she decided to change it. When she was ten years old. And her parents are OK with that.

Jessica, Mila, Ina and Nina - September 2009

So Mila, Emily, Emilia, Emelia, Emilutsa, Mia - this quilt is named after you! It has stripes and checks and big flowers and teeny flowers, and all together it looks super pretty. I still can't believe you and your family with the name I don't quite know the spelling of moved to Georgia and then you went and grew to be like 10 inches taller than me. You'll always be that cute little Mila with the big brown eyes who I used to spend my Wednesday afternoons with. Just don't start talkin' all funny. Okey Dokey?

Nina, Mila, Ina and Mamica Jessica after setting up for a big party at our house.
Moldovan teenagers are simply amazing.

Viorica, Laura and Mila-Emilia-Emily-Emelia-Bo Delia

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Slowly chipping away at writer's block

There were times I wanted to pull my teeth out, but today I wrote (I hope) the last page for the dental website I've been working on. My, oh my, what I have learned about tooth loss, gum disease, orthodontia, implants and flossing vs. Waterpik. I found out, for instance, that if you want dental implants to prevent bone loss in your jaw, the dentist may (in worse-case scenarios) have to do bone grafting - from a cadaver. That's right, a plug of a dead person's bone punched right into your ol' jaw to get things in shape for metal screws to be implanted to hold in artificial teeth. Excuse me while I go floss about ten times.

My dear editor/cheerleader/best critic/worst critic/psychologist/therapist/idea bouncer-offer/great one-liner squisher Ernst kept me going through page after mind numbing page. He is tough on me though; who would've thought using a beaver analogy on the overbite section was not politically correct? Apparently, some lines are just not appropriate when it comes to dental issues. Even though I didn't mean to offend, the beaver got cut and it still hurts.

Some things I learned during this project:
  • For my blog I can write in my jeans or jammies, but for money it helps to be in semi-nice clothes. Shoes are not necessary, but the better I dress, the better I write. I wonder what I was wearing when I wrote the beaver line?
  • Writing in an upright position at a table or desk is not my thing. I write best with my laptop on top of my lap where it belongs. And my shoe-less feet must be propped up on the coffee table or tucked under my semi-nice clothes. Writing at a desk freezes my brain.
  • I can't write when I'm freezing or hot.
  • It has to be quiet. No noise but the ticking clock in the living room is the best for all involved. If my editor is talking on the phone or telling me about his day, I fake smile and stare glassy-eyed at him until he gets the hint and takes the dog outside.
  • I like writing with the dog in the room. She never talks on the phone or tells me about her day. And she always enjoys my beaver analogies.
  • I need a list to check off. I love lists, and I love checking them off. If I have a zillion pages of content to write, I can handle it if there is a list. When my editor tells me of more projects I need to do, I fake smile at him, stare glassy-eyed and tell him I need a list from him. One I can check off.
  • I can't write on vacation. I have grand plans to get lots of work done while away, but it never happens. I just tell my editor I forgot the list.
  • It doesn't work too well when I try to watch security cameras on the grave shift and write about subjects such as cadaver bone grafts. When my editor reads them, he gets glassy-eyed and stops smiling.
  • It's really amazing that a dead person's bone matter put into my jaw would regrow lost bone, but I think I'll still keep up the flossing.

photo credits:

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Princess Formerly Known as Starlet

Now, shed happens daily
When we signed up to be a foster dog family for Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue, we knew what we were in for. Dog fur everywhere. We aren't OK with that, but it does come with the territory. 

On the exciting day we went to pick "Starlet" up, she did not look much like a Golden. She was still lactating from having 9 pups, so she looked a bit "dangly" in that area. She was much scrawnier than our first dog, 90 pound Kodie, but that could be blamed on her recent motherhood as well. And her fur? It didn't look like any Golden we'd ever seen. Short and soft, like a lab just back from the groomer. I ran my fingers through her coat and nothing came off in my hand. I pulled it in disbelief and marveled - This dog does not shed!

About 30 minutes after getting her home, we were foster failures - we decided to keep her. Homeward Bound said as soon as her puppy hormones were settled down, she would look more like a Golden. Yeah right, we thought as we plunked down our "donation" for the little yellow lab we named Molly.

No more puppy hormones? Let the fur fly!

Soon she stopped lactating and started filling out a bit, topping out at about 55 pounds. And then it happened, ever so gradually over the next several months. Her coat came in. And in. And in. She began to grow a thick fox tail, with long strands of the oddest fur. When it's wet it looks as if it's been crimped, like the hair on a cheap blond doll.  It dries extremely fast and repels dirt. She has Teflon fur. Gobs and gobs of Teflon fur that sheds like mad. She is not a lab in any way. She's some kind of skunk killing, fur producing mix of Golden Retriever and Australian Shepherd - smart as a whip, stubborn, protective and healthy. 

Shedding is hard work, but someone has to do it.

And so we vacuum and dust, dust and vacuum. The battle of the fur is ongoing, and most days, even if I'm not winning the war, I put up a real good fight. We don't want to be one of those gross houses you visit in only your worst clothes, lint brush handy in the car for a quick once over after the smelly social call is paid. And that is why we absolutely, definitely, adamantly forbid Molly from getting on the couch. Or the futon. Or even the patio furniture. She knows the house rules. And rules are rules. 


*Bring Your Own Lint Brush

Art imitating life
Life imitating art

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Seeing red

The trees back East don't mess around with color. I was expecting to miss the prettiest show with my November trip to Connecticut, but the maples saved the best for last. The weather changed from Yikes warm to refreshing rain to Yikes cold in a matter of a week. It was warm enough one night to sit out by the fire with my brother and then cold enough to enjoy an indoor fire inside with my Mom.

All the critters were busy getting ready for winter. Alvin the Chipmunk was socking away the food my sister puts out for him (he hears her car drive up and waits!). The squirrels were squirreling away their winter supplies and a most annoying woodpecker was intent on putting holes in the wood siding. The feed store recommended hanging Mylar balloons to scare it away. It worked for two days, but then they got all twisted up and lost their helium and we just looked like a sad house with balloons in the bushes. I saw my first fox in my life - it ran across the road in front of the car. It was gorgeous and I was so glad the first fox I ever saw didn't become road kill.

Soon it will be cold and rainy here too and I can't wait! Winter is such a great excuse to forget what's happening in the yard and let the skies do the watering for a change. I'm ready to crank up the wood stove, make a big pot of chili and say "Yard, what yard?"

My Mom's Connecticut neighbor told me this is a Sugar Maple.
East Coast trees are serious when it comes to turning red. 

Our little maple in the front yard.
It seems to be stuck in summer with just a hint of fall.
Turn red I say!

Our oranges need some big time cold weather to sweeten up.
Last year our tree produced hundreds and hundreds.

The new azaleas are showing their stuff already.
A California critter getting ready for winter.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Spice Kid

If you grew up in a large family, one thing is certain - it doesn't feel like a large family. I have four siblings and you have to have six or more for me to think WOW, what a large family. While I'm not sure of all those birth order theories, there are definitely roles my siblings and I play.

Oldest brother - Thanks a bunch to you and C for not only having a son and then a daughter, but your son then having a son and a daughter. That gives Mom a grandson, a granddaughter, a great-grandson and a great-granddaughter. Not exactly a village of offspring, but enough that she is not too embarrassed around her friends with more prolific children. So thanks for having kids, because you're the only one that did.

Oldest sister - Thanks a billion for being the financially savvy one of the family. You are the go-to sibling when Mom has a decision involving money. I barely know the difference between a Roth IRA and a frothy IPA, so I'm happy to let you take on the money matters and make sure all the $$ stuff is locked down and solid.

Middle child sister - Much thanks for being the one who gives Mom all the spontaneity. We get postcards and emails from you two all over the East Coast - Nantucket, Cape Cod, South Hampton, South Carolina and all the Vanderbilt mansions and places on the Hudson. Since I'm not very spontaneous, I appreciate that one of us kids makes Mom's life so fun.

Youngest brother - You are half of the This Old House team who helped Mom sell her too big Carmichael home, move back to New England, and purchase and renovate the cutest little house ever. I love visiting her cozy home, cooking in the adorable kitchen and sleeping in the pretty guest room. I personally run from house renovation, so I'm glad we have a Mr. and Mrs. Fix-it in the family.

Youngest kid - That would be me. No kids, not financially savvy, not super spontaneous, and definitely not a home re-modeler. So where does that leave me? Well, someone has to be the organizing one, right? And that is what I'm up to this week. I flew out to New England to organize a fridge! My Mom had the exciting day of watching me as I rearranged cupboards and pantry, fridge and freezer. Tomorrow we whisk off to Trader Joe's to fill it up again. Mom, where would you be if you had stopped at four kids? Spice cabinets fear the No. 5 child.

It was a lovely flight, and I even saw our house in Sac from the air. E, the pool looked so clean!

The Whirlpool versus the Whirlwind.
The condiments also fear the baby of the family. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Pack for the trip you want to have

I read an interesting piece of advice last week. "Dress for the day you want to have." So I tried it. I put on my swimsuit, sandals, big floppy hat and a good layer of sunscreen. It didn't work. I most definitely didn't spend the day on a tropical beach with a fruity drink in hand as the balmy ocean breezes blew gently past. So much for that advice.

Another piece of advice we got once was to dress up nicely while traveling, because airlines like to bump well dressed people up to first class so the lowly economy class will think they all paid for the privilege to not sit like a sardine. It worked once, we got bumped up to first class on a trip to Europe. It was wonderful, and when we arrived I said "Oh, we're here already?" It hasn't worked since, but I still try. I figure if it's between me and someone in sweats and a t-shirt that says I'm with stupid, that I would be the clear and logical choice.

The great thing about traveling to visit family is that when I (ooops!) forget something, I can just raid their closet and borrow it. Ooops, forgot a heavy winter coat! Ooops, forgot to pack a bulky warm robe! Ooops forgot to pack most everything! Hey, we're family, you don't mind if I borrow something, right? And that is why I'm traveling light today and trying to dress up in clothes that will still be comfy while in the sardine can of economy class. I won't wear the swimsuit on the plane though, because even I know a trip to New England in November will not involve beach hats and fruity drinks on the beach. Borrowed coats and robes and spending time with my Mom, that's the trip I want to have. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Seven steps to a good Quick Build

First, someone has to get there very early to warm the Bunns with strong coffee.

Second, the crew needs to make a nice hot breakfast.

Third, a pretty sunrise is good to shine light on the roofers.

Fourth, this gets back to the warm Bunns.

Fifth, a nice healthy salad goes well with the lasagna lunch.

Sixth, some nutty brownies to follow up the salad and lasagna.

Seventh, you need a nice place to sleep for the early morning coffee duties.
Or not sleep because it was too quiet, take your pick.
I did enjoy the stars, the deer, the ponies and the pond.