Sunday, November 23, 2008

Eh? What?

People can be wonderful. Most everyone I have regular contact with is very understanding about the hearing problem and they circle around me so they can speak in the good ear. Casual contacts are another story. In stores, when you ask people to repeat themselves they are usually annoyed as would I be. In certain stores or restaurants, I can't hear people at all - because of the tinnitus and hyperacuity combination. The choice is between smiling and nodding or asking for a repeat. In social situations, I opt for the smiling and nodding sometimes with disastrous results. I'm learning to avoid loud places, "live" acoustics and things like cocktail parties or other gatherings where there are many voices at once. The book club is even becoming difficult to hear.
I'm looking into hearing aids that might work for AN.

Singapore and PhuQuoc

A two week break from the house in Singapore and PhuQuoc. In Singapore we did the usual things, mostly walked around and ate very well. We stayed at the Scarlet, in Chinatown which was very nice but we like the location of the Swiss Hotel better. On Tiger Airlines we flew to HCMC. Tiger uses the new budget terminal in Singapore which was very efficient although bare bones. In HCMC, we shopped and ate - had eyeglasses made, bought some fake watches and knick-knacks. Only managed one good meal because I was under the weather for much of the time - acute indigestion and my ear was really bothering me. Once we got to PhuQuoc, the ear calmed down immediately as the ocean sounds cancels out the tinnitus. Our resort, La Veranda was beautiful and the ocean was bath-water warm. Everyday we read, cavorted in the waves, ate lunch at the beach shack next door and slept a lot. A most restorative and relaxing time to forget about everything. It was interesting to be out of the country for the election results. Everyone we spoke to was happy about Barack, except the republicans. However most republicans know the party needs a shake-up and a redefinition. This four year period will give them a chance to regroup and rebuild the party back to its basics.

Today the news is breaking that Hillary will be taking the job as Sec of State. Disappointing to those who really expected big changes in the way this administration runs the country. Bill Clinton is now Husband of the Sec of State. Nice job.

Sprinkler system

Turns out that we do have to install a sprinkler system, even though we are under the square footage requirement and even though we are a remodel. Another $6500 expense. Last week we got the driveway jack-hammered out, Gail finished most of the wiring and the dry wall was delivered. The drywall delivery truck arrived at 3:00 and didn't get the load off until 6:00 - pitch black and they had to use the fork lift light to see what they were doing. After they left, the truck pitched off the fork lift on a turn and one of the men ended up with a broken leg. We didn't see this accident as it occured further down on Daily Road. Really unfortunate, but it was so dangerous to be working with this kind of equipment in the dark.

Our doors were all delivered and look very nice but many of them don't fit or have problems. DixieLine is coming up Tuesday to decide what to do with them. A couple have to be returned - one is badly warped.

I'm disappointed with the landscape designer. The plan for the front is very good but the back lacks imagination. We may not continue to the next phase with this group and instead just hire one of the other landscapers to finish it up.

Central vacuum system is installed. This was the easiest of all the subs - he came, he installed, he went home. No muss or fuss.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Recipes for the Girls

The Banar gals invited me to do two recipes for them. Poor Vicki is swamped. I'm doing a Coconut Panna Cotta and a Tropical Fruit Tart. Not too hard. I submitted the ideas to them for the concept. They will get back with approvals of one or the other

Meanwhile Shari is trying to sort out some requests of BB. One was for her to create recipes that will match two photos that the agency had shot. They are supposed to be simple and one of them - a spinach salad should be. The other is a taco that the agency has made very complicated by adding too many ingredients and now they want a simple recipe. Furthermore the photo contains a couple of unbelievable faux pas - a toothpick has been left sticking out of one tortilla and you can see a slice of bread sticking out from under the tortilla..they used it as a prop. Ouch.

I will help Shari with her photos next week for two days. This week she's on her own.

This week I will try to get the bathroom cabinets designed and finish up the kitchen with necessary modifications. I have been suffering with a cold and am just getting over it. Perhaps I'll feel a little more with it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008


We had to choose an ironing "center" today. A built-in unit for the master bathroom. We chose one with a swivel board and a timer and a spot light. The iron can be plugged in at all times and you only have to turn on a timer to get started. Once done, you put the iron in the rack provided and close the door. It will turn off at the designated time. This is supposed to eliminate the "left the iron on" anxiety that we have all suffered. We'll order the iron tomorrow along with the steam shower - a Thermasol. Once again we are having to learn more than we'd like about all the options. 10 years ago there was only one hide-an-iron called Hide a Board. Now there are about 10. It must be a lucrative business because there is not much to them and the price is high.

We cleaned the rancho today...drywall and crap everywhere. The workers are just throwing their empty food containers and bottles off the roof to wherever. I carried drywall and insulation and will probably get asbestosis now on top of my other problems. Richard worked on filling the dumpster. He picked flowers for me which were in the car when I left with Pinkie. Buster stayed at the rancho on the watch with a Kangaroo Rat, flushed out of one of the closets. He was mesmerized.

Beautiful day today..about as good as it gets. Are we lucky to be living in this marvelous climate. And the bail-out bill was restructured and should pass tomorrow. Does that mean happy times will be here again?

Note to myself: watch out for the ruskies. I think they are on the move again, big time.

Pork tenderloin, baby zucchini, baked potato and a nice salad with hand made croutons for dinner. Life is good.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Big Bail out

Today congress passed the big 700 billion dollar bail out. We have reached a disgraceful place in this country. What a mess. The government blames greedy lenders when the problems rooted in the congressional meddling in the whole process to make fair housing available to the poor and needy. Right.

House-wise, we are getting stucco bids. Lots of plumbing going on...laying pipes and running wires. The roof is stacked with tiles and the felt is on. The upper deck has been water proofed and tomorrow Ken and the boys will be over to hand the big slider and to build the roof ridges, the shower framing and lower the roof in the bedroom. I have a cold and am experiencing some anxiety over the tumor. I'll be happy to have my meeting with the neurologist over with so that I know what I have to deal with. Daily I think my buzzing is getting worse and hearing worse..but I don't know if it's my imagination.

I'm busy with cabinets, appliances and have to make tiles and counter choices. More shopping.

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Stress this week with the arrival of the big beams from Vintage. Instead of 400 pounds which they claimed the big beam was, we estimated closer to 800 pounds. Five guys could hardly budge it. We decided to cut it in half and use half of it on the underside of our arches when you walk in the house. Things are starting to look hunting lodge like but we like it. The massive fireplace and beams are a nice contrast to the La Cantina door. Once it was up, I wished we had bought another for upstairs.
The whole wall looks like glass.

Ken was very shocked at the size of the beams. He thought we meant small beams and got lost in my changing back and forth from fake to real. I only bought the beams because he assured me he could set them. If I ever did something like that again, I would make sure the contractor knew what I was talking about.

The sliding doors were set, the beams raised and the bathroom prepared for the new walk-in shower. We decided on a glass brick wall for the guest shower/steam shower and on the jacuzzi bath tub for upstairs. I have to decide on whether we will wax the beam or not. I know I have to get some stain to touch up a few spots on the wood which are just too stained to be really nice.

Today we have to cover the thresholds and the door edges so the "animals" don't wreck them - that would be the stucco, dry wall and roofers...everybody who comes stomping through.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My New Reality

In Lowe's today, looking at outdoor lights, a man walked past me and I heard, "mumble, mumble, grumble." I asked him, "Are you speaking to me?". He replied, "Mumble, mumble, mumble." I said, "I'm sorry could you repeat that?" and moved closer - again, a mumble. So I told him I couldn't hear in one ear. A look passed over his face and he said "I LIKE YOUR SANDALS!" in a big, loud voice. I laughed at the reaction because it's becoming familiar. Why wouldn't somebody be frustrated after repeating an innocent little compliment three times until it's importance is blown all out of proportion? People run out of patience very quickly. So do I when someone dares not to hear me!!!

I'm thinking of getting earrings that say on one side, good ear and on the other, bad ear.

Goodbye Jaime

Richard had a trying day. Jaime finally just stopped working. Oddly, he slashed his time sheet to ribbons and then went off to sleep in the grove. When Richard confronted him, Jaime cursed at him and flashed his knife. Richard calmly told Jaime he was fired and to leave. There was an outburst of profanity and name calling to Richard, who warily kept his distance and remained calm. Jaime left only to come back because he had left his cell phone behind.

Jaime was a good worker in that he did a job, any job, very well. He completed jobs including clean and putting tools away. he had become more trouble than he was worth - in summary, Richard's complaints:
Jaime at one point, virtually lived in the truck..he would do his laundry and hang it in the garage. The truck stank of Jaimes stinky clothes He never worked 8 hours. It was 7 1/2, then 7 then 6. He was arriving later and later and much of his time was unaccounted for; Richard found that he was coming to work, signing in and then taking off to collect cans around the neighborhood. Somehow, Jaime expected Richard to be benificent, bestowing money on Jaime just because he asked for it. He stole fruit from the grove a bit of a time and then became profligate about it taking as much as 50 pounds a day. We believe he was siphoning gas out of the truck - the tank emptied out awfully fast. He always had his own agenda. He preferred for example working with the construction guys and at one point was acting more like Ken's laborer than ours.

His parting shot was to slash up Richard's little tomato bush - we don't know everything he did - Richard will find out what was stolen and what ruined over the next few days. Richard believes Jaime to be insane or at least out of control. We are relieved to be done with him.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Equal and Cedar Rapids

Shari and I went to Cedar Rapids this week to do a presentation at Swank for Equal. We were not well prepared as neither of us were particularly into it. Our contact at Equal is gone, replaced by an unknown quantity and so our work there is probably over. I guess that's the reason we were so unenthusiastic. However, Shari and I enjoyed ourselves in first class both there and back which made the travel much easier.

Our little presentation went OK but I felt we were faking and dodging most of the questions. I particularly can't get behind the product at the moment because of my own anxiety about my AN. This may be distracting me in a bigger way than I acknowledge. I find if I keep really busy I don't notice the buzz so much. Coming down in the aircraft to Minneapolis, my buzz turned into applause for a while which was scary but it settled down in a little bit.

Shari and I shared a pork tenderloin sandwich and we also ordered cheese balls which were deep fried. Not exactly the most nutritious meals you could experience. Pork rules in Iowa.


This week marked the completion of the fireplace stoning and we picked up the mantle from Vintage Timer and appied the stain. It looks pretty good, full of character. The fireplace also turned out as expected. Now we are stuck waiting for the plumber to give us a price on jack hammering out the bathroom shower floor to replace it with the correct pitch for drain so that our shower can be a walk-in one. Gary is a nice guy but a lousy communicator - he simply does not return my calls and I have to ask Dan to intervene whenever I want him.

The roof is progressing and some of the paper is already on. They will load the tiles sometime during the week. We have one stucco bid but require a few more. I've decided against Cats Paw as I think it will be too busy with the wrought iron and our ultra fancy roof. Just too much going on. Now to convince Richard.

Our Anderson windows have been checked out by the Dixieline rep. He was surprised that some were as bad as they were. One has to be replaced completely. He repaired the latches that fell off immediately after coming out of the boxes.

In Bali they are working on our stair railings and should finish up this week. The whole order will then be shipped and will arrive within two months.

Gail continues to work on the electrical and has many questions..all good ones and all of which will help us get some really good lighting installed. Both Richard and I like well-lit houses so this part is fun.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Framing Finished

Ken and company have almost completed the framing. They have yet to do a few things and install the beams. Most of this should be completed next week. Jerry made a very nice arch for over the bedroom door and he added some bumps to the chimneys, finishing them off.

The foreman from Dan's roofing has been by and is planning to put the felt on next week. We have a lot of under belly stuff to do this week before we move forward again. Hot mop on the deck, before the sliders can be installed; shower pan to be resolved, before more plumbing can be done; a steam shower to purchase and a bathtub for upstairs.

Elbow gave us a reduced bid for the front wall. $7500.00. The partnership between him and Oscar has fallen apart and Elbow now wishes to pretend that we are paying him by the hour for future jobs to cut out his mordita to Oscar. Another construction politics - Ken fired Jeff off the job. Rob fired Dan. Are we bad luck or is this just the way it goes?

My left ear

My ear problem turns out to be more than expected. An MRI revealed an acoustic neuroma, a benign growth sitting on the vestibular nerve. These neuromas occur when a certain protein, effective against tumor growth and controlled by a gene on chromosome 22, ceases to be generated. It is a genetic mutation. Schwamma cells, a thin layer which sheaths the nerve start to grow. Eventually they form a mass...mine is the size of a BB at the moment. They are unpredictable..some grow slow, some fast. Some grow fast for a while and then slow down. Some grow fast and then slow and some disappear.

I've had a few days of gathering information to the point of overload so now I'll just leave it alone until I see the neurologist and get the info straight from the horse's mouth. For now I'll bet I get put into the W & W group - watch and wait. From my reading the treatment I'd select would be radiation knife. Risks abound no matter what path you choose.

Bottom line is the tinnitus is with me forever so I get used to it.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Goodbye Infiniti

The end of an era. Richard owned the Infiniti for 13 years and he sold it yesterday to a very tall chap from Escondido. He bought it for his son who crashed his car. We advertised it on Craig's list
with no result and finally he put it in the Penny Saver which yielded some results this week. He also lowered the price from the original $5000, to $3000. It was sold for $2750.00.

What a great little car! It took us to the airport inumberable times and waited for us patiently to return enduring all the indignities of public parking lots - sometimes even bearing inclement weather when parked outside. Never failing significantly, the only problems I had with it were purely operator error..forgetting to turn the lights off on two occasions. I loved the car - it was a "don't care" car and I could park wherever I wanted and not worry about door dings or renegade shopping carts or rock dings. Of course, little happened to the car no matter where it
was put.

I hope it likes it's new home and the young man who will operate it will be careful with it and get another 100,000 miles of service.

Friday night and a movie

We seem to have little time available for recreation now. I can't say we aren't having fun with the Rancho but it's very demanding and eats up all of our time. In a rush, we left the Rancho together and got down to the auto repair place where Richard had left the SUV for removal of over-spray. Side bar: Jaime damaged the truck one day while working on the stream. Oscar knew of a cheap auto repair place in town. Meanwhile Richard backed the SUV into the truck and further damaged it plus made $5,000 worth of damage to the SUV (conventinal estimate). SUV was repaired via the Mexican underground economy for about $2000 while truck repairs were about $1500 - $1000 our damage and $500 Jaime's.

Car transfers were made and it was 4:45 when we ran out of here to Temecula for the 5:00 movie. We made it by 5:20 and missed a bit of the movie opening. Traitor, starring Don Cheadle. I liked it very much except for another sappy ending. Nobody seems to be able to write a script with a satisfying, not sappy, conclusion. Plot was fast-paced, very current (Muslim terrorists)and chilling. The essence of the plot was an attempt by terrorists to have 50 suicide bombers on 50 buses right in the heartland of the US and they chose
Thanksgiving Day for the show. There's a good twist in that Cheadle puts the bombers all unknown to each other, on the same bus!!

After the movie we ate a good dinner at a Japanese Teppanyaki House in the Bellagio shopping center. We entered with some reservation, not knowing what to expect. The restaurant has a bar up front and a passageway into the place which follows a large stream. At the end of the walk, the restaurant opens into a large noisy hall, with about 12 teppanyaki stations each seating about 20 people. All tables seemed full. We ate in the dining room and ordered off the menu - calamari, gyoza, eggplant, 10 ingredient fried rice, Richard (one unagi). Food was excellent - piping hot, right out of the fryer/oven whatever. Service was excellent - our little waitress was appropriately pleasant and just personal enough (telling us that she doesn't eat raw food) to make you relax and trust her - this is quite a trick. She brought the food quickly, checked back on us a few times, cleared the plates away swiftly. It was a good experience and we will go back. A nice surprise and a good evening out together and leaving El Rancho behind for a while.

Down by the old Mill Stream

The stream project is moving toward completion. Oscar and Elbow (aka Abel) have completed the following work: cleaned out the whole length of the stream; laid the first half with our concrete chunks rescued from demolition; built up the culvert at the beginning of the property - poured footings and directed the water; concreted in the beginning of the stream; repaired the road holes at all over passes; built a drain to dry out the wet spot in the grove; removed all the tires and shored up the sides with concrete bags; built new gates with nifty wheel operation for two spots and also built a grate for one spot in the fence. I picked out rocks at Southwest Boulder and will send Oscar over to actually select rocks that he and the crew can move. We will get one ton of the largest rocks they can manage, then one ton of large cobbles (15" across) and one or two tons of medium sized rocks. Scattering them along the stream should improve appearance and make it look pretty good. Planting will be a challenge because so many weeds want to grow's wet and really fertilized.

It's satisfying to have this job done. The "stream" had become a dirty ditch and now is an attractive feature of the grove. Between this improvement and Jaime's work shoring up branches and keeping order, the grove looks really good. I hope we will be ablet to keep it all up. There's a lot of investment made but the Rancho will be our permanent and last home, so it should be good looking and comfortable.

My Left Ear

I made an appointment with an ENT because my buzzing Left ear does not seem to be improving, in fact I think it's getting worse. Difficulty hearing things on the phone and a distorted perception of music are the final, intolerable symptoms driving me to seek out help.

The audiologists test revealed that I have 40% hearing loss, particularly in the higher range of sound in my left ear. Right Ear is functioning well. Using Ron's finger rubbing technique, it's quite obvious, the difference in the two ears. A separate trip to the ENT resulted in a cursory diagnosis of nerve damage due to viral infection. This is an uncommon occurrence; nor is it uncommon to have hearing loss accompanied by tinnitus. The ENT ordered an MRI to rule out the possibility of an auditory tumor. Blood work was also ordered which revealed a small under-performance of my thyroid gland which can be corrected and under-performing thyroid is related to tinnitus. Plot thickens.

The distortion of sound is annoying but compared to deafness, I can't complain. Sound is not what it used to be. Sometimes the buzzing drives me mad - makes me cranky and a little panicked that I can't get away from it. Makes you want to rip your ear off. I do look forward to losing consciousness at night and escaping for a while. On the construction site, when the compressor is running or the nail guns are firing off, I can't hear anything. I just tell people I can't hear them and wait for quiet, then resume conversation. Most people are understanding about this. Poor Richard bears the brunt of constantly repeating himself.

Richard also visited the doctor this week to see about the lingering severe pain that resulted from his fall off the bike. He has three cracked ribs and a bruised lung (likely). At the same visit he had several small skin thingies removed and now has scabs on face and neck. He will be having the skin peel done soon - he calls this the "crab boil".

I guess I could ask Sharon to pray for my Left Ear. Seems terribly trivial compared to 2 million people flooded out in India. I wonder if they have a prayer value rating scale?

I should have listened to more music while I could.

Windows and Fireplace

At week's end, two big accomplishments: windows are installed and the fireplace covering with Canyon Rock has started. Windows latches and controls are disappointing. Two windows aren't working properly and the latches are falling apart. We've called DixieLine to get some attention to these problems. The windows do look good however.

The Rock looks really, really good. After so much agonizing, I'm pleased with the result. I don't think Tony the mason is so pleased as he probably underbid the job. His guys accidentally browncoated our beehive fireplace - it's being stuccoed and the stucco people s should do it.

we are working on kitchen, bathrooms, lighting, plumbing and some roofing issues. Nothing goes smoothly at all..there is always something to unravel. Another good thing this week is that we received pictures of the door made in Bali along with photos of gate and railings and it all looks wonderful. They will be shipping it all out soon.

Buster and Pink: Just a note to remember..the boys are getting pretty big. Buster 11 pounds and Pinkie (Inkie Stinky Pinky) is 7 pounds - much slighter and tinier. They eat together and Pinkie still gets all he wants to eat. Buster pins him down for clean-up from time to time. Pinkie caught a rabbit, they've gotten several mice and love running around at the Rancho. After the workers leave, the cats move into the house and climb all over the rafters and everywhere they can squeeze themselves into.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Saturday with Jim

Jim needs new flooring because of a leak in his kitchen. All the flooring on the kitchen, TV room, family room, living room and piano room will be replaced. We visited a carpet/flooring store in Yorba Linda and looked at some samples. The salesman was the classic glad-handed, "We'll take good care of you Mr. Ryckenbosch" type. At some points, my jaw was hanging open, the guy was so corny. Jim has confidence in them because they did a good job of refinishing his floors which now will have to be removed. This chap had a "smoking hot" deal on hand scraped flooring from China, $10.00 per foot installed.

We had lunch at Jim's neighbors who were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. She had her wedding albums out and on display and it was very interesting to read them. She was a debutante and raised in Westwood, a UCLA graduate. He apparently was a very smart, nobody as his lineage was not on the record. They stayed at the Santa Barbara Biltmore on their honeymoon and the second night at none other than "Tickle Pink" which was $16.00 per night. How funny. I asked him if they were going up to Tickle Pink again in the near future and he said it was very difficult to pry her out of the house. 50 years will do that to a person. Big congratulations to anyone who can last together for that long.

Sadness still overcomes me when I visit Alta Drive. I miss Eilleen and keep waiting for her to appear to make a sandwich or open a bag of treats from Trader Joe. It's still hard for me to believe that she's dead sometimes. It all seems to be a bad dream.

Jim has a new Lexus! Very nice car and it suits him well. He likes driving it so far.

Summer is running away from us fast. I wish we had summer for 9 more months 'til the house is finished. It would be so nice to have the long days and the warm weather as the rancho is so nice this time of year.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Saturday and getting a slow start. Thursday and Friday the heating and air conditioning people came and did a lot of engineering. The metallic arms are crawling all over the house and look like a MRI of the house guts. The ducts take up more space than they should and we are having to give up some storage space to accomodate them. Meanwhile the framers continue to slog along trying to repair the miscalculation on the upstairs trusses. I've taken everything to the architect and am waiting to hear back from them.

Also pressing is the selection of stone (I'm having an awful time), electrical matters - Richard has very strong ideas about lighting, and finally finishing up the Bali things. I may make a last ditch effort at the stair railing...the risk is about $1200. Buying the railing here and installing it will be over $5,000.00 which is ridiculous for 8 stairs.

The plumber should be starting next week and the fireplace extension will be installed. The only thing preventing the mason from getting in and doing the fireplace is my stone selection. The other thing pressing is selection of someone to install the exterior doors.

Meanwhile the stream is coming along. Oscar feels the prep will be completed this weekend and they will concrete it all in next weekend. I've asked for a price on Elbow digging out the front courtyard and building the short wall at the front.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

August 9

The roof sheeting is coming along. Most of the eaves have been framed in. A chimney was added late on Friday. The turret looks very good and adds a lot to the house.

Richard completed the roofing documents and we sent them in on Friday. Windows have arrived at Dixieline and the heating and air conditioning people are being held up by the framers. We have a problem with the roof line to the upstairs deck that has to be solved tomorrow (architects). Also we have to get the new engineering drawings for cutting into the trusses to make room for the heating and air conditioning.

Several visitors (Pam, Ina and Sharon) to the house have helped with choosing the stone for the fireplace and I think we are almost there. We have the plate for the front and the new electrical connection kit is waiting for pick up at Hennings.

Very busy at the moment. We'll have to find installers for the exterior doors - UBuildIt wants to make a bid. As usual it's a big deal when they get involved. They are more trouble at this point than they are worth.

Richard and I went to see Brideshead Revisited on Saturday night and enjoyed it. Had Osso Bucco next door at the Italian wasn't very good - dry and overcooked. Came home and watched some of the Olympics which were very entertaining and exciting. The opening ceremony was splendid.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

House progress and recipes

Since the last entry, we've had our turret roof framed, gotten serious about the roof tiles, selected an HVAC system and acquired the flange for our fireplace insert. The mason has filled in the fireplaces and is ready to move forward. We are holding him up at the moment.

Today I met with Banar designs, Vicki and Jody to prepare for a year's worth of work on some mailing recipe cards - a serial offer. It's all about baking and should be fun. Jody has loads of experience and Vicki is an excellent cook and a thorough conscientious person, so I'm sure it will be fun.

We will be testing recipes and also creating new ones. 12 a week, 8 will be re-writes and 4 will be new.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Trusses and Cusses

Today the trusses went up on the house. Lots of cursing and swearing accompanied the trusses as they were hoisted up off the road, over the orange trees and onto the roof. About 10:00 the truss monkeys arrived on the scene and clambered onto the roof with hammers, triangles and hardware. They began raising, placing and nailing the trusses into place. Meanwhile the truss calcs did not arrive with the trusses and so we are waiting for them to arrive via email.

US Tile brought a trailer over with tile samples so that we could pick out colors. We have four blends on the trailer; rustic madera, carmel and rustic newport. The roof is boosted double here and there and boosted triple in a couple of spots. The small sample looks very good.

Cats are having fun with a dead mouse they found and are throwing around. One gets hold of the tail and then flips it in the air while the other watches. The flipper is mostly Buster with Pinkie watching closely.

Right now we are waiting for Rusty with WC heating to come over and talk to us again about our heating needs. This has been almost as difficult as windows. I guess in the end, everything is hard.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Lunch Surprise

Sharon and Gail brought us a surprise lunch today. Tuna salad with crackers, orange slices and cashews. She even brought a jug of iced tea! It was so kind of her and so delicious. We lingered over the tasty food and Gail told us a funny story.

In his hippy days of yore, he lived on a mining claim in Oregon, on the banks of stream. The stream was fairly wide and could be fast moving, in fact he said they could often hear the rumble of big boulders being pushed along the bottom by the current. Bothered by mice, but being concerned about preserving life, Gail would set "have a heart" traps to catch the pests. Mice, being primarily nocturnal, would spring the traps at night and Gail, after hearing the trap, would get up, catch hold of the offender, step outside and fling it across the stream to the other side, where the pesky rodent wouldn't be able to get back into their cupboards. One day, the trap was sprung at dawn and there was plenty of light to see. Gail flung the mouse over the stream and then watched in amazement as the critter plunged into the stream and swam across, getting back to the house faster than Gail!!!

He told the story well and we could see the hilarious event unfold. We chuckled over this all evening.

Raise High the Roof Beam Carpenters!

J. D. Salinger would be pleased at our progress on Friday. The lift for beams and trusses arrived and we loaded two big permalam beams into place. The truss truck had to travel backward up the road to the house as there wasn't enough room for turnaround; well-equipped with special mechanism for tipping and rolling the big triangles, the truck was pretty nifty. The young man who drove it, cap on backward, with a ready smile, was pleased with himself for getting to the rancho at all.

Ken operated the lift while Jeff and his helper manipulated the beams into place. They rotate slowly in their fabric sling as they are moved and the framers had to grab at them with hammer claws to pull them into position, then guide them into place.

Jeff, a determined smoker, kept a cigarette dangling on his lower lip throughout the process. No amount of nagging, cajoling, wheedling or reason has convinced him to quit, or so he tells me. Like all smokers, he cites his grandmother and other lived smoking relatives as examples of those who are apparently cancer resistant. Lots of luck!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Chimney flanges

Our new friend Tony the mason appeared today with a couple of people and quickly installed the flanges for the fireplace extensions. This means we can have Cheryl and gang at Hennings Fireplaces come over and add on the necessary pieces to give us a chimney the right length. Tony seems to work fast and efficiently. So far, so good. I have to go tomorrow morning and pick out the stone from the vast array at El Dorado. Richard and I have pre-screened them so the final selection shouldn't be hard.

Finally we completed the epoxy job and installation of anchor bolts aka earthquake proofing around the whole house. Today, Richard had to leave and run down to Pine Tree Lumber to get some bolts they were short...turned out they didn't have enough at Pine Tree and I had to pick up ten additional pieces at Home Depot. The inspector was a nice guy, jovial and chatty. He did in fact inspect the installation of each and every bolt and charged us $575.00 for the privelege. And people wonder how the price of houses has risen. Even the inspector wonders about the value of all he stated, how many houses built before this reg have actually fallen down. We know the chimneys used to go, but the number of bolts we installed...over 70 seems like overkill. It's added about $1500.00 to the cost of the house in bolts and the inspector. If you add in Jeff's labor to drill the holes and then do the epoxy, you'd probably have to say it cost more like $2500.00. Yikes.

Three D!

In this case the letters should stand for Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest. Journey to the Center of the Earth. We were lured to this movie by the prospect of the 3D which was very good indeed. The technology appears to be the same - and you get the glasses to wear. At first I found the effects to be startling and wanted to duck when projectiles of various kinds came your way. After a short time either my vision or brain adapted and I didn't see them as much anymore. Maybe because the story was so brain numbingly stupid that all senses turned off.

Yes, it's a ridiculous fantasy story, but it has been turned into a pitiful parody of action films, Disney family schlock and stupidity. I gaped in disbelief that a script could be sooooo bad.

Here's a kicker. Our local theatre offers a lower price ticket early in the day WITHOUT 3D. What insanity! You'd have to be crazy to pay a dime to see this mess without the 3d which is the only redeeming feature of the thing.

After eating we went to Chinese restaurant next door and ate well.

July 15th

Progress is slow at the moment. Getting the anchor plates and hold downs ready for the special inspector, has been a problem. The framing crew seems to have fallen apart yesterday in a hail of accusations and anger. Four times the special inspector has been delayed because the crew either didn't have the holes drilled, then they didn't have the right drill bits and finally yesterday they discovered they didn't have the right bolts. We drove around trying to the get the materials they needed and meanwhile the inspector was cancelled yet again.

Obviously there is a problem in management and we think Ken, our framer, has taken his eye off the ball due to the discovery of his critically high blood pressure. Fortunately his numbers are now under control and perhaps he can get back to concentrating on our job.

Meanwhile we have placed our order to Bali and the work will take 7 to 8 weeks to complete and then 4 - 6 weeks on the water. We won't have it until about Nov. 1st. I called the stucco people to ask if this would be a problem. While it isn't ideal, they can work around it.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Joe Bfstplk - alive and well?

Ken, the framer, found out he has very high blood pressure and was put on medication and told to immediately change his life style. For Ken this means, no more fast food, beer and more exercise. His job requires that he spend far too much time in his truck driving from job to job. Currently he is working on an animal hospital near Oxnard and our job. He's bidding on a few jobs down south of San Diego. In this economy, he is willing to go wherever he can find work, but it has it's price.

Ken, musing about what he might do to change things, was telling us stories about his construction experiences. He told a funny tale about a guy that he worked with who just couldn't do anything right. As an example, he told about a day when the boss left and told Ken and the other framers to keep an eye on this fellow and not to let him touch any equipment. No sooner had the truck pulled away from the site than the fellow picks up a brand new broom - snap! The handle was broken within minutes. Later, they saw him getting on an elevator device that's used to haul lumber upstairs...he was trying to get lumber loaded on it when it crashed, fell and broke a water pipe located just under the threshold of the supervisor's trailer. And so on....a Joe Bftsplk or a "cooler". Ken said that despite the guy's curse, his friends kept him on working with them for years. You wonder if it was a case of "the devil you know."

July 4th

Framing has been going along at a good speed. We have had two or
three people working every day. Ken comes by once or twice a day to check progress. The second story floor is almost complete and some of the walls are closed in. Every day there are questions about doing something. We call the architect every two or three days.

Now we are working on heating and air conditioning and trying to decide between various brands and sizes of units. Looks like we will need two of each - two heat pumps and two heaters. Between these two and the fireplace insert we should be warm. We found a mason we like, Tony...actually Ken ran into him at a gas station in Fallbrook and gave us his phone number.

I took down the window shutters in spare bedroom to save them from further destruction. They have to be removed before installing the new slider and before stuccoing anyway. A good clean-up job is in store for them and then stowing someplace safe until construction is over.

We had a scare as we were leaving for home about 4:00. Pinky was no where to be found and we searched high and low for him. We walked along every road, calling his name. We looked in every possible hidey hole - the pipes, up in the trees and in all his favorite places. Each of us kept going back to places he might have gotten closed inside - the tool shed, the garage, cupboards in the casita.
At 6:45, Richard, nearly starving drove into Fallbrook and brought us back KFC. About five minutes before he returned, I spied Pinkie running back to the casita from the front gate direction, little mouth agape and panting. He ran inside and went directly under the sofa. Buster went to him and started licking his face. I was so relieved and so was Richard, when he pulled in and I was able to give him a big thumbs up!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

No Ribs Night

All week we were anticipating ribs at the Fallbrook Cafe with Ross. We checked the "specials" board on our way in and were horrified to see that ribs were not listed. As it happened the cafe owner was on duty and we asked him about the ribs. He rushed into the kitchen and emerged to tell us that their meat supplier had neglected to deliver them.

Boo hoo! We were all salivating for ribs and the beef stroganoff I ordered was no substitute. In fact, it was hardly edible. Richard opted for the gyros and found it quite acceptable. Ross had the sandwich special - a chicken salad sandwich too big to eat. He requested the cafe business card so he could call ahead next time so as to avoid disappointment.

The week prior we all chose the catfish which was an excellent choice. Ross told a story about back in Missouri when the alcoholic father of Helen, Ross's wife, caught an enormous catfish. While landing the fish, he put his arm in the gill and the catfish thrashing around, nearly drowned him. He had to be rescued!! Once landed the mammoth catfish was strung up like a marlin and then sliced into steaks. Ross says the whole town joined in the catfish fry.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Swiss and Syrian Visit

Some wonderful house guests spent a few days with us. Roger, Maguy and Stefanie who have just completed a year in the US - Roger at War College, Stefanie at a public school and Maguy enjoying Washington DC. We had a full day together which we spent visiting the rancho - Maguy enjoyed picking fruit and filled a bag with plums, apriocts, nectarines, lemons a grapefruit and some oranges.

We ate a late lunch in Old Town and did an olive oil tasting there. Then on to wine country to the South Coast Winery where we endured a wine tasting. Awful...the place was crowded and understaffed. The staff they did have were surly and paid no attention to ordinary details, like rinsing the wine glasses between white and red. You had to hunt for spit buckets, hunt for the tasting menus and fight for a spot at the bar. Decidedly unsatisfying experience and if we go wine tasting in that area again, we will skip South Coast.

An unlikely coincidence was the high point of the visit. When Maguy arrived and mentioned that she was from Allepo, Richard told her about Zouka, Joey's mother-in-law....Maguy said quickly, "Yes, I know Zouka" - she lived in the same neighborhood. After further discussion it became more apparent that she really did know our Zouka. Near the end of the day, we connected the two by telephone and they chatted away in French for about half and hour, reconnecting. Maguy loved it and it was so much fun to hear her laughing and talking a mile a minute. After she hung up, she told us that ZouZou's family was one of the best in Allepo - her father, a doctor, was a cultured man and the family was well known in Allepo. Maguy and ZouZou went to the same school, although ZouZou is older by about 15 years than Maguy, she is close in age to Maguy's older sister.

We have pledged now to arrange to visit Allepo when Maguy is there probably next year in September. What fun it will be to see the sights with Maguy and Stefanie!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Second floor coming up

Yesterday our consultant Dan visited our site and gave us a thumbs up so far. Progress yesterday included completion of floor joists for second floor. A huge beam was hoisted in place for the division between deck and office. Now our hallway is closed in and we can see our light. The pantry is framed in the kitchen and our bathroom is pretty well shaped.

Today the second story walls go up - had to make a decision this morning about flooring material on the deck upstairs and decided on tile. One of our windows has to be changed - I'm hoping we can catch the window order at Andersen.

Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Monday, June 23, 2008

June 23rd

We had pasta with scallops and a good arugula salad. All washed down with Tin Roof Merlot, a wine we enjoyed with Ina and Jerry a week or so ago.

Most of the day was spent puzzling out our fireplaces and figuring out what to do. We had one mason, Tony over who seemed like a practical guy. He advised us to get some flue people involved.

Stairs were completed and we were able to clearly see our office view for the first time. Nice. They also put the window frames in the turret.

Jaime cleaned up the dirt mounded up around the house. He moved it around evenly and raked it smooth. The job site now looks more ship-shape and organized. We have a little more pick-up around the garage to do and things will be in good shape.

Richard bought a new car yesterday and tomorrow we go to pick it up. BMW 650 - something he's really wanted. Lots of engine and a nice driving machine. I get the old Beamer.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

June 21st A Hot Summer Night

Summer came in on a heat wave! We went to a concert performance of the Fallbrook Chorale with a special guest performance of the Fallbrook Youth Orchestra. The chorale was pretty good on some numbers particularly American the Beautiful. The Youth Orchestra played the Beach Boys number, Fun, Fun, Fun - it was so bad that my
back teeth were aching but they get an A for effort. Most are beginning violin students and they are able to saw out a couple of notes and I mean "saw". Even if the kids learned to draw a bow across the strings properly they'd turn out a better sound. As Richard says, the charm lay in the "small town" character of the event. At intermission for $2.00 you could buy a plate of cookies and other goodies, probably baked by the chorale members. While milling around the food, we heard one woman exclaim that it was 106 in San Marcos.

After the concert, we decided to go to a movie and ended up in Temecula. We headed out for Oceanside first but it looked like everyone in Fallbrook was headed for the beach, so we turned around and beat it over to Temecula. Good hamburgers at Ruby's and then Sex and the City. As they say, you go see it for the clothes - they are fabulous. The movie is endless and stupid, but a fashion lover's treat. When we left Temecula at 9:00 it was 96 degrees - but down to 80 by the time we got to Fallbrook.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Women crushed by hot dog stand in Baja

I ran into Beth downtown. She was in England recently visiting one of her wind-surfing friends from her former life in Baja. She told me a hilarious story about riding to a party in a truck with a hot dog stand. Apparently she and her friend were invited to a party at a house which stood six miles down a piece of dirt road. They were waiting on the corner for a ride which had apparently forgotten about them. Suddenly a truck appeared, hauling the hot dog stand from town, which no one even realized was portable. Beth and friend asked the drivers where they were going and it turned out they were all headed to the same place. The hostess had hired the hot dog stand for the party. Beth and friend jumped into the back of the truck with the hot dog stand and proceeded to bump down the dusty, curving road. The hot dog stand was no small proposition and every time they went around a curve the stand would tip in one direction or the other threatening to crush either Beth or her friend depending on the turn. For the duration of the ride the two women were alternating between laughing at the crazy situation and being terrified the stand would crush one of them.

Beth says that after it was over, she never laughed harder in her life. "What a way to go!" she said..."I can see it on my tombstone..."crushed to death by a hot dog stand"

June 21st - First summer day 2008

The second story is going on the house. Stairs are being crafted and the turret is under construction. Temperatures reaching almost 100 degrees in the afternoon are not slowing anything down. The "faces are down" and the hammers keep pounding.

Yesterday there was a big crew on the scene. 6 trucks were parked in the driveway alongside a new delivery of wood from DixieLine. The floor joists were being hoisted when we arrived about 8:00.

"Saving the beehive" is our latest challenge. We require a 2" clearance between the back of the fireplace and the framing. Even though Nick and Fran's old plan shows a two inch clearance on the blueprint, there is only a one inch clearance in reality. After considering several possibilities...shaving off a inch from the back, adding on several courses so the fireplace sticks out...we decided on Ken's solution which is to attach some rebar and fold it out and around to support an extra inch or so, re-framing it. We've had a couple of masons up to look at the thing and opine on what to do and are waiting for bids.

Heating/ac and roofing are our next trades.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Concrete Pouring Day

June 12th. We passed our inspection yesterday. It was our first on-site inspection and I was nervous as a cat on a hot tin roof...worried that the pool would be a problem, the fireplaces would be a problem, the set-back would be measured and that he would notice the casita. After I worried over that list, I had a secondary back-up list to worry about, just in case I ran out of anxiety.

The only item the inspector requested was one more piece of rebar in a trench. If he's on the job to the end, we're on easy street at last.

Last night three cars full of people came to look over the concrete job and brought up a pump. The truck will sit in front of the house and the pump will push the concrete into the forms. It's a family of people doing the work. Chevo is still messing around in the trenchs doing little things. The plumber was here at 8:10 all alone, but he complete what was necessary.

DixieLine is providing the lumber and we had a bit of a conflict between Ken's lumber guy at Dixie and Mike Kerr who usually does business with UBuildIt. There seems to be little cooperation between people as they work on commission.

Richard is at Costco with Dion buying the little storage shed..Dione will assemble it today as well and we can move everything in. No Jaime today.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Week two ends with a lot of digging

June 6th. Demolition was complete June 5th and the demo guys finally left with their truck filled to the brim, the bobcat lashed to the trailer and three guys jammed into the cab, tired and anxious to get home. We were relieved to see the end of the smash and crash period and to get started CONstruction. Ken Webb, our framer and concrete guy, arrived with a crew at 7:30 and they started measuring and digging immediately. About 1 hour in, they discovered the existing footings extended down 24" instead of 12" as anticipated. We had to call the architect for new instructions which were to dig down underneath the existing footings and add still more concrete.

Gail came over and saved our low voltage wiring set-up by covering some of it with a sleeve. It runs through a footing now and we're hoping the inspector lets us leave it in again. Thursday was a digging day. Friday the plumbers arrived and started their installations of major plumbing lines. They didn't estimate placement of the main properly and so they had to jack-hammer out a lot more concrete.

Jaime showed up and was able to work on re-routing the irrigation pipes so that a footing could be poured. The footing was right on the same spot as the irrigation pipe. Jaime is very helpful as he can translate for us when necessary. He understands enough English to comprehend what we want and to communicate it for us. My "Spanish on the Job" booklet is still unused.

Lots going on. At this point, we have to stand back and let the experts do their business. I continue to do what I do best - worry about over-looked details and my all-consuming window order which has bogged down again.

Spending days out in the grove is lovely. The cats re-visited on Friday and enjoyed a lot of romping about, catching lizards and trotting back and forth behind us. They don't like the sun and run from shade patch to shade patch. After running a short stretch, exhausted and panting, they flop into the leaf litter to cool down.

La Casita was beautified yesterday by Richard with the addition at the doorway of two pots full of New Zealand Impatiens with some blue and pink lobelia for trim.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Week two of demolition

Monday and the crews were to be on hand at 8:30 - framer, demo guys to mark the spots for the saw cuts into the concrete. At 9:15 the framer showed and the demo guys rolled in around 12:00, saying they'd had a flat tire with the big rig. They brought the bob cat with attachments and the saws, 2 guys and Angel the bobcat operator. They got straight to work breaking up the remaining concrete on the back patio, former patio and broke one of the main pipes in the process. We didn't know it was built into the concrete. A major flood ensued filling up the patio space where the new kitchen is to be located. Now everything is muddy and a mess. The whole place is littered from end to end and it seems we have the two worst workers Dirt Cheap Demo has on the staff. The bobcat operator gets things done but the others are just foot draggers. On top of this. they can't operate the concrete saw without water so they have been filling pop bottles all day to cool the device.

Progress Monday and Tuesday: All areas marked for saw cuts. All large areas of concrete are chopped up. Today we dumped one load by our stream and one load on Gails property. Gail came over to hook up the electrical to the garage but I told him it wasn't necessary. The two bozos knocked down the one wall remaining on the garage side.

I left at 2:30 leaving Richard still looking for a solution for the water problem and got a hair cut in Temecula. It was such a relief to be away from the chaos.

We did meet with a young, energetic and articulate landscape designer today with whom we were very impressed. His name is Gio Leonardo, how artistic is that.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Friday morning when we arrived at the house, the crew had scooped up most of the debris and piled it in the dumpster. Soon after the tiles were scraped up and we had to scurry to find something to put them in. Richard set out on an avocado bin hunt and came back with a couple which we half filled. The bobcat took them out to our construction storage area which is now looking like a construction yard with all the roof tiles and floor tiles.

I cut a deal with Lalo to pay him on Friday and he promised to come back on Monday with two guys to do the rest - as he put it, anything you want!! We want you to be happy. We'll see.

Saturday we waited half the day for the plumber who decided not to come. Gail came down to hook us up some power for Monday.

Sunday we arranged to meet the plumber Gary Kelly at 9:00...he showed about 9:30 and had to dissamble the gate to get it in. Say what?? He didn't notice the key pad. Duh. Thankfully he brought along a trusty helper who seems to be on the ball and will likely do most of the work. It really doesn't seem to be so much of a plumbing job, but maybe by the time we're finished I'll be able to see where the money has gone.

I shoveled out the guest bathroom from debris in order to give the plumbers access and so that they could see the connections. Raised a blister on one hand. Richard and I decided to use the broken concrete to "pave" the rose bed area. Tomorrow we'll have the dump truck move the pieces to a spot fairly accesible so we don't have to cart the stuff too far.

It was another beautiful day at the rancho and the cats had an excellent time, chasing things. At one point Buster ran over the boards crossing the pool and he took them like a hurdler, jumping over and over, over and under. They get very focused when they hunt!!

We took the rest of the day off spending a couple of hours in Escondido at the BMW dealer looking at the 600 series car and the new 353 coupe. The 600 is a beauty according to Richard. The back seat is not a good experience as it's claustrophobic and there is no air conditioning. The car only has one drink cup and no handle grips on the ceiling. It's really a one person sports vehicle although it's not small. Richard is looking for a 06 model which should run much cheaper. I hope he can find a color combo he likes. After
car time we had a late lunch at the French cafe on Grand Avenue....the charcuterie plate of pate, ham, turkey, potato salad, gherkins, Nicoise olives, tomato, grainy mustard and brie. Served with a basket of French rolls, it was perfect to stave off hunger - no dinner now.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Big Bobcat eats entire house!

Day three and there is a giant pile of debris in the middle of the house. The bobcat is now picking up great jawfuls of stuff and moving it into the dumpster. The machine eats like a pig, but gets most of each clump into the target. Two guys are working their way around the walls still standing and removing stucco. The bins can only carry about a half full bin of stucco or they exceed weight limits.

The guys (this is a technical construction term for a crew) have a fire lit in the fireplace and so now it stands alone, burning away. Strange sight.

We decided to pitch out the pots and plants that lived on the enclosed patio. They are half rotted and root bound and more trouble than they are worth. We thought about keeping them but realized we'd just be moving them and moving them again and they aren't worth it.

Tomorrow we'll be down to just three people, stripping off the floor tiles and continuing the clean up. The guys that get to go home will be happy to see their families...they don't like being away very much at all.

Smash and Crash

Day two of house destruction. Walls crumbled and windows smashed. The house has imploded. Late last night we went back to show Ross Dailey the mess and a bobcat was at work bringing down the front wall. The cat was tearing off chunks about 10 x 10. Unfortunately, they broke a pipe in the process so we will have some repairs to do. Also they have snapped off some of the irrigation heads in front where the lumber is piled. The biggest gaffe of the day is a hole in the utility room roof where they got over enthusiastic. This part of the roof is to stay....I guess we'll be able to patch it.

The boys have set up an HQ in the guest bedroom, using my gas burner for cooking and the microwave we loaned them from our HQ. They've got eggs, tortillas and a myriad of snacks to eat. The foreman told me that they had it the fireplace and played cards the night before. Lots of coyote noise bothered them a bit but otherwise they say they slept well. Who wouldn't after driving up from the border, working about 10 hours - hard physical abor? The crew was down to 9 yesterday and today will only be about three. Mostly they will be picking up and putting everything in the trash, moving our roof tiles to the creek and placing our beams where we want them. Today they tear down the little garden house too...they've decided it can't be moved.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bringing down the house

Big day today! At 8:00 am, Dirt Cheap Demolition rolled in with trucks, crowbars and 12 guys all ready to roll. One call to Fallbrook refuse and a big dumpster was here in about an hour. Lalo, our crew chief, has the magic words I guess. It took us a month to get a dumpster - and site visits and deposits.

Like locusts, the guys swarmed over the roof, removing tiles and stacking them in piles, then throwing them down to a man standing by pallets. He caught and piled the tiles. 7 pallets filled up in no time and Lalo ran to Fallbrook for 6 more. About the half the tiles are off. Half the crew moved to the patio cover and started removing that while the other half started ripping the roof off the master bedroom and bath. Another worker went around the house making cuts in the stucco so they could pull it off.

At noon they stopped for chicken and tortillas and all ate heartily. The laughter and teasing rang round the grove - they had a good time. Lalo told me that he would remove the little tool house in exchange for a chicken lunch. They also agreed to take the antenna away - somebody would want it.

I sat with them for a few minutes and talked near the end of the day. The house is about 1/3 down and the two lead men were very happy with their progress. I asked them if they liked what they do and they both said "We love it!!". Probably because they really do something - at the end of the day you can clearly see the result of your work.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull

We joined the throngs at the local movie theatre to see Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull on the second day of its release on a long weekend, Saturday night. You'd think this would be a recipe for disaster but we got fairly good seats and although the theatre was full of kids, they were quiet and attentive. The movie is set in the 50's and in one scene Indiana stumbles across a fake neighborhood populated with mannequins. When he hears a countdown being broadcast in a loud voice, he jumps into a refrigerator clearly marked "LEAD LINED" just before a blast blows the fridge and the town to Kingdom come. He staggers out of the fridge just in time to see a mushroom shaped cloud arise on the horizon. This is the closest to food we get in the entire movie.

After, we went to the Peking Wok next door to eat. Sizzling Rice Soup, YuShiang Pork, Lemon Chicken and Hot Braised Shrimp. The food was very good and the YuShiang Pork a flavor surprise containing Chinese 5 spice. Although the Sizzling Rice Soup was quite different than that served in LA Chinatown (no pea pods, no water chestnuts), it was pleasant. It felt good to eat after all the Indie action.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Our book club read The Wind, by . A mystery story set in Barcelona and full of twists and turns. The clever author has a great web site on which he has posted music he composed to go along with the book. What talent.

The food was good. Vickie brought beautifully grilled shrimp wrapped in bacon..the shrimp was cooked but tender and the bacon was cooked perfectly. A real tour de force. She also brought a "tortilla" - large potato omelet. Lori brought marinated grilled chicken with grilled fennel and onions all arrayed on a platter garnished with edible flowers. Delicious. I brought Spanish potato salad and shrimp ala the pintxos in San Sebastian. Vicki also brought some excellent Spanish chocolate flavored with orange and Lori made a custard tart piled high with Roxanne's berries. Overall, the eating was about as good as it gets, thanks to the great cooks and readers in the club.

We all enjoyed the book and spent time discussing who could play which role in the movie version. Antonio Banderas got a lot of votes as did Pamela Cruz. The book must have 500 scenes in it, which would make it difficult to turn into a manageable script but the twisty, turny plot would make engaging viewing. Somebody clever will likely manage it.

Monday, May 19, 2008


The drive up to Solheim to see Richard's mother is long and can be ardurous if the traffic is bad. To reward ourselves we usually try to eat at some place new or different while we are up there. This Sunday we tried Oinkster located just a few blocks away from Solheim. Upscale fast food, the pulled pork is the big star of the show. We found it disappointing - dry and tasteless. The Carolina barbecue sauce wasn't much help. Belgian Fries were limp. The pastrami was excellent although sliced too thickly to get the maximum flavor. It was however fatty and peppered beautifully. Oinksters house mustard is a perfect complement. Desserts had no visual appeal so we skipped those, partly because they didn't look good and mostly because the music was too loud and the place couldn't be more uncomfortable. Tables wobble and tip - wads of paper are squished under most of the legs. We sat at a two-top where our table had been wedged over the neighboring two-top in an attempt to get some stability. Passing through the tables is like walking down a plane aisle - you have to turn sideways, dodge and weave. You can't wait to get out of there.

Once was enough for the Oinkster.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Vaseline on your tortillas

I learned a new trick from Shari - you can teach an old dog, if you are patient enough. She was doing a photo shoot for Bumble Bee and I played assistant. One of the shots was a wrap made with a large spinach tortilla. She plunked down a jar of Vaseline and we rubbed it into the tortillas to keep them flexible, help hold the filling in and make them sealable. It worked like a charm and this little trick made the whole wrap thing fairly easy.

Three shots went along briskly - the digitalization of food photography makes the whole process much easier. Need more red pepper? - use the cloning device and add some more in - click, click, click. Our client thought the rosemary in one shot looked like hair. Huh?? That photo got a digital shave, using the erase device - the photographer just rubbed it off. Gone are the bad old days of doing things over and over - now,once you have the basics you can go a long way with digital adjustment.

All three shots turned out great - they are colorful, simple and should sell tuna.

Richard, the photographer ,is an artist and has done a series of tapestries depicting "downtowns", mostly downtown LA. He showed us his portfolio with interpretations of city hall, the Disney Concert Hall, the LA Cathedral, Little Tokyo and the Ahmenson theatre. They reminded me of what you see in a kaleidoscope.

As we left the studio a New York photographer and his entourage came in to scout things out. They've rented the studio for Friday (3 people all the way from New York) to photograph a hospital bed!! They looked kind of grim and the one person I talked to didn't show much sense of humor. I think we had more fun with the tuna than they are going to have between, over, under or on the sheets.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

A Dawg Fairy Tale

This morning it's Richard's 69th birthday and we're having Dutch Babies and bacon for breakfast. Dutch Babies are an old friend. One of my first product development jobs was working on a frozen Dutch Baby batter for Van de Kamps. We never did sell it as it took too long to thaw and bake. The product brings back memories of working in the VDK lab in some house trailers the company rented for our R and D work. Although San Fernando Road was not the most glamorous place to work, the trailers were fitted out nicely. We used the kitchens, our offices were in the bedrooms, the dining rooms were great for conferences and product showings ; the living room was used for meetings.

A stray dog took up residence under the trailers because our garbage cans were always filled with primo test products. The picking were good! Dawg, a lovable creature, started sneaking in the trailer if we weren't watching closely. One thing led to another and soon the dog was sitting in somebody's office for most of the day, curled up at his or her feet. We'd gone too far and finally one of the execs said that the dog had to go. Devastated we tried to find him a home, asking everyone we knew about possibilities and finally one of the girls made a great connection. Her mother worked for Kay Spreckles, Clark Gable's widow who had a big property in the San Fernando Valley. JoAnne's Mom told Kay about Dawg and Kay said she would take him as a ranch dog. Fortune smiled on our poor mutt because when he went home with Kay, her son - Clark Gable's son, fell in love with him and so Dawg, moved into the house and lived happily ever after, just like a movie star.

Richard enjoyed his fancy breakfast with orange juice in wine glasses, our best embroidered napkins and his mother's silver.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

The Old Crab

Shari and I had a good time in Wash DC. We were able to pull the flavor school together by 10:20 the night before which translates to about 4 1/2 hours solid work. In the morning it took us about 1 1/2 hours to lay it out and get the handouts together. The Unilever guys took care of the video, which posed the usual problems but ended up being just fine. Our audience was attentive although smaller than anticipated. We had about 34 people instead of the 50 person estimate. Dick our host seemed pleased.

After our work was done, we went over to Wegmans for lunch and had crab sandwiches carefully and meticulously prepared by the "Old Crab". Old indeed, he looked about 75 and had a sandwich set-up at the end of the fish section. His crab cakes were simmering in an electric frying pan and he had a large mixing bowl full of coleslaw which looked particularly colorful and appetizing with large pieces of carrot and cucumber blended into the shredded cabbage. There was a constant line of people waiting for his sandwiches, chatting away with him. He seemed to be popular and I imagine a bit of an icon.

He'd prepare a bun by scooping out one side and slathering it with a kind of thousand island dressing. The bottom of the bun was placed on the plate and topped with a generous portion of mixed greens topped with 4 thick tomato slices, then the crab cake was perched on top. The top of the bun with the thousand island was balanced against the side of the sandwich. A generous cupful of coleslaw was added to the plate along with a couple of lemon slices. He gave us a big smile and a couple of words as he passed the sandwich over. Shari and I enjoyed ours at the tables upstairs in the cafe area above the market. The crab cake consisted of large pieces of crab, held together with a little mayo. It was rolled in a very fine crumb and then cooked. Even though mine was almost cold it was still delicious - crab quality was excellent.

Wegmans was a wonder. Beautifully lit, the interior is warm, inviting and gets your appetite going immediately. The main entrance takes you right into a huge produce section. The first thing we saw was a pile of gorgeous artichokes and bin after bin of high quality produce spread out ahead. They claim to offer more than 700 items from 800 suppliers. In the produce section, a woman was serving samples of a tostada consisting of the usual ingredients but the base was a pita bread instead of the usual tortilla. The sample was a generous portion and the woman, warm and engaging. A recipe was available and this "What's cooking?" station operates everyday to give shoppers ideas for easy meals they can create in minutes. Moving on to the bread section, we watched workers making a loaf called Marco Polo which was a yeasty smelling round loaf that they dipped in a mixture of rice flour, water, yeast and sugar, then put it in the oven. The finished loaves were dark brown, crispy looking and gorgeous. A Chinese baker gave us a cup with samples of two artisan loaves; a ciabbata and sour dough. Munching on our bread, we continued on past the ovens and proof boxes to the sweet section of the bakery and admired fruit tarts, chocolate bombs and all kind of beautifully decorated cakes. Next up was the meat section - yards and yards of beautiful meat and poultry both regular cuts and partially prepared products like shish-kebabs. Rib eye and filet steaks, as large as 4 inches thick were sitting in trays. Tiny racks of lamb riblets nestled between pans of chicken breasts, some stuffed and wrapped, other layered with ingredients or marinated. The cheese section was amazing with four or five islands, 15 feet long, filled with cheeses from all over the world. Huge wheels and tiny slices were available. A charcuterie/deli offered every conceivable variety of cured meat, hams, sausages and salamis. Amazingly all this food was well priced. Next to or adjacent to all these displays, compatible or complimentary items were displayed such as basting oils, marinades, sauces, rubs and sprinkles or serving utensils and cooking equipment. Next to the meat section, an island held barbecue accessories such as a set of spatulas, forks, scrapers all shaped like golf clubs or curved skewers for extra pretty kabobs. Next to the fish section there were many cooking accessories - one was a dredge which was basically seasoned flour for dredging fish. An olive bar was at least 15 feet long and held 30 or 40 kinds of olives and a couple of gardinieras. You could mix and match with a fixed price per pound. Gone would be the 10 or so half-filled jars of olives that permanently dwell in my refrigerator, most of unknown age and questionable quality. Oh to be able to purchase just a few of each, fresh on each market visit. Oh to have a Wegmans in the neighborhood.

As would be expected, there was a large wine section with a tasting bar and a chalk board announcing when tastings were scheduled. I was surprised to find no Wine Spectator ratings or tasting notes posted on the wines. The wines were however very well priced - the wines I know and buy were priced similarly to what I pay at Trader Joes or BevMore.

Perhaps 30 - 40% of the market space was dedicated to food service. A long display case held 40 or 50 steam table inserts full of entrees like cedar planked salmon, pastas, sushi, vegetable and potato items which could be purchased by the pint or the pound. Another station served sandwiches in a carvery set-up with a piece of roast beef and a ham under warming lights. There was a long Chinese buffet which held 30 or 40 items. Pizza could be purchased and a variety of soups were ready for to-go. The food was fresh looking and these buffet lines/display cases were clean and obviously well tended.

Check out at the market was fast, friendly and efficient. They offer help loading your car and offer an escort in case you have
fears at any time but I would suppose this would be popular after late night shopping.

Hanging out at Wegmans...a huge and delightful surprise bonus to this trip!!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008


The end of April and the end of an era. Shari and I leave tonight for Wash DC to do the last flavor school for the Lawry's brand. Unilever has sold it to McCormick who will take over on July 1st. This will be my last show certainly for Lawry's...I can't imagine that McCormick would care to continue as they have many shows/productions of their own.

Shari and I have been upgraded on Northwest and so we will benefit by having a breakfast served en route to Minneapolis and likely some kind of dinner between Minni and Wash. Enough to hold us through our marathon pouring exercise tonight. Pouring and capping 750 + samples takes some time - likely about 4 hours. We should finish around 11:00 sleep fast; get up at 5:30 to be ready and at Costco at 7:00. We'll be tired on Friday.

Shari is working hard on Bumble Bee projects and I'm trying to do a test for ampm. What happened to retirement????

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eating with Junot Diaz

Our book club read "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz. The authors name should be Junot dazzling because the book is itself - wondrous. Diaz writes without a care about his audience - I had the feeling he writes entirely for his own pleasure and writes exactly as a educated, erudite, hip DR would speak. I was consulting Wikipedia for much of the reading translating the Spanglish and the many literary and gaming references - sci fi, D&D and other Japanese comic books. About halfway through the book and after 50 translations or so, I began to realize that DR Spanish relates to regular Spanish like Australian English compares to our English. The DR's use a lot of baby talk, for lack of a better word, like the Aussies, with their shortened words and plethora of diminutives. The book is joyous to read for a word person and a puzzler.

So what to eat during the discussion? I settled on Jerked Chicken Wings because I think poor Oscar might have liked them. I'm using Lawry's marinade on Chicken drumettes so they are appetizer- sized and easy to handle for the group to eat and for me to tranport. There's black bean soup on the menu as well...I'm using Bush's black beans as they are a favorite of mine after visiting with their R & D gang and doing a flavor school for them. For dessert I made little sorbets - a combination of coconut and mango. A tiny treat for the finale. I'm hoping somebody will bring Mojitos or something like that.

This book made almost no mention of food other than placing some action in the Chinese restaurant and the bakery La Inca operated; in fact there are so few food references that I wonder if Junot cares at all about what he eats. The sci fi types seem always to hold out hope that some day we will all be sucking down soylent green or some other nutritious goo out of a tap on the wall. Functional food- and that would be that. I remember at DisneyLand in Tomorrow Land, the kitchen of tomorrow, circa 1969 was organized around serving mostly straight nutrition. Ha, nothing could be farther from the reality we have today where we can get almost anything to eat here right in Fallbrook and also in such unlikely places as Pierre South Dakota - mangoes, crepe mix, vichysoisse, avocados.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


On February 4th, the family had a small gathering to remember Eilleen our sister, wife, mother, friend. The day was stunningly beautiful with bright blue skies and due to the recent rain, we could see all the mountains covered with snow. Right where Eilleen's niche is located, there's a pear tree which was in full bloom. All the white flowers that Eilleen loved so much. We took her some dainty pink roses, lit an incense stick like the Asians do and Dan and Aida brought some fruit from the garden she loved. We all said a few words and Jim said a few prayers. At the cemetery we paid our respects to Scott and Shirley Smart and to Dan's first wife. Afterwards, we went back to the house and had croissant sandwiches from Ralphs along with potato salad and coleslaw. It was nice to spend the time together and just talk and catch up.

Jennifer is doing volunteer work on two fronts - she works on-line trying to catch child predators and she is also a coach/consultant for the La Leche league. She told us a funny story about how she gets her sites going for the child predator work - she has a couple of identities on My Space and while she's chatting and waiting for responses, she answers the on-line questions that come up from the La Leche group. Quite a funny vignette to think about this young mother, taking care of her little brood and at the same time trapping perverts and helping mothers with breast feeding problems. She calls herself the ultimate multi-tasker.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fifty Dollar port

Beth sent me an email about a study where respondents were tested when they knew the prices of wine and when they didn't know. The so-called pleasure centers in the brain were monitored. We had dinner with her last night and she told us with a laugh about the fifty dollar port she was serving. It worked!! We really enjoyed it.

Our dinner companions were a lively pair of South Africans, Beth's neighbors. They know and love Babotie and we had a discussion about the recipes and how to make it. I was recalling formulating Babotie mix on San Fernando Road in LA, when the intended audience was Zimbabwean. None of us had any idea what it should be like and the whole project was clearly to justify a boondoggle on the part of R&D management in Amsterdam. Oh well, it was fun and we loved to have Babotie meetings - drums beating and bones in noses.

Beth made chicken piccata, bow tie pasta and carrots. It was excellent and we enjoyed it very much.

We also got to see Buster's home, meet Tucker and spend some time with the excellent Teddy, their Australian Shepherd... a really beautiful animal and obviously the source of great joy.

Charlie is busy putting together a water-cooled computer, complete with a radiator and other exotic paraphenalia. What a project - an interesting one.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Book Club Goodies

For December, our book club read Isabelle Allende's "Ines of my Soul". Spanish food was the logical choice and some very nice vittles showed up. There was a marvelous Sangria contributed by Beth made with some cointreau to assist the orange flavor. Vicki, the chef supremo brought a pumpkin soup which was excellent and cookies with pistachios and chunks of chocolate. I couldn't stop eating the cookies and made a pig of myself. I contributed a salad of greens, blood oranges, pistachios, red onion and a lemon olive oil-white balsamic vinegar dressing.

Most readers didn't like the book which surprised me because I enjoyed it immensely. They thought it was too obviously written with a screen play adaptation in mind. They are right - it would make a good movie as the story is action packed with battles, sex and a fantastic female heroine.

"Three cups of Tea" is next month's book. Afghanistani food - that will be a challenge.

Book Club

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The Society of the Flagon and Trencher

What a great group! You have to be descended from an inn keeper who was plying his or her craft, before 1776. There is a chance that Richard has such a relative. Most of his ancient descendants were rather snooty types so perhaps not. I looked up the geaneology and found Browne's but no Killeens or Fortiers (fat chance).

Watching Jeeves and Wooster tapes over the holidays generated some interested in P.G. Wodehouse, of course. Richard found a website and there is a society which has annual meetings. One of the events is a costume party where the attendees dress as an item of food mentioned in a P.G. Wodehouse book. Although it sounds like a good time is had by all, one has to wonder about people who have this much time on their hands!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Ross night

Wednesday night is "Ross" night. Ross is our 92 year old neighbor, widowed about 2 years and lonely. People in the neighborhood take him out to eat on a regular basis. We take him on Wednesday nights. He has a date 5 days a week.

Richard picks him up at 4:30 and Ross is always standing in the doorway waiting. They come by to get me near 5 and we decide which of the three restaurants Ross likes, that we'll go to: Fallbrook Cafe, Denny's or El Jardin. Tonight will be the Fallbrook cafe. The place has zero ambience - not even decent "diner" ambience. The owner/host is surly. The waitresses are pretty good and service is OK. The unimaginative menu yields the occasional surprise and gradually we've found a few edible entrees we enjoy. Ross eats like a bird - most of what he orders goes home in a doggy bag.

We enjoy hearing his stories of Fallbrook in days of youre. He is a fount of information.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Gails wonderful New Year's Pork

New Year's Day and we ate the traditional "Good Luck" roast pork and sauerkraut meal at Gail and Bud's in Palm Springs. No black eyed peas however which are also considered good luck to eat on New Year's day.

The Southern tradition of eating black-eyed peas on New Years day to bring good luck for the coming year, dates back to the U.S. Civil War. Union troops, especially in areas targeted by General Sherman, would typically strip the countryside of all stored food, crops, and livestock and destroy whatever they couldn't carry away. At that time, Northerners considered "field peas" and corn suitable only for animal food, and as a result didn't steal or destroy these foods. Many Southerners survived as a result of this.

Many people put a dime in the pot with the black eyed peas. Whoever gets the serving with the dime has special good luck for the year...and if worse comes to worse, they are at least a dime richer!

At our gathering most people brought an appetizer and we had an array of crackers and delicious spreads: Diana's Velveeta chile walnut roll, a cilantro avocado artichoke spread, smoked salmon with sour cream. The usual dips and chips were in abundance. Plenty of food and excellent company.

Crab and Champagne

New Year's Eve at last. The door closes on a year filled with extreme pain and many pleasures. Bring on 2008 - It's great to be alive!

Alaska Crab legs and champagne. Doug and Jan gave us a bottle of Jefferson Street reserved which paired well with the giant crab legs. The three cats were very interested in the crab and the little guys were attacking the garbage can trying to pull out the shells. One shell was dragged around for a while but then they lost interest. We spent a few contemplative moments being thankful for all that we have - in particular, each other, to enjoy during these later years of life.

10:00 found us in bed, watching Wooster and Jeeves - more inanity from the now familiar cast of characters. Richard found the P. G. Wodehouse society website and we enjoyed hearing about society meetings where people dress in costumes from the various books. One costume event consisted of food items from the books and people came as cabbages, shrimp cocktail, martinis etc. These are people with too much time on their hands!

Off today to Palm Springs to watch the games and enjoy Gails annual repast of roasted pork. We're going to be blown all the way as the wind is really kicking up this morning.