Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Fall Feast

I have joked that orange and black are my favorite fall colors. But baseball aside, I neglect to mention how much I actually like my home at this time of year. Although there's more than enough orange and black to go around, there are all kinds of other colors too.
My mother may complain that liquid ambar trees are a menace to society, but I'm inclined to keep them just for this.

In my house, this time of year is also known for pies. The weekend before Thanksgiving, mommieN and I decided to conduct some experiments with pie crust to decide which recipe turned out best. The winner? Making pie crust with vodka. It was some of the flakiest crust I've ever had.

When it came to Thanksgiving, I thought I'd try a new pie this year. I found a recipe for pumpkin pie with a pecan crust. Sounded yummy. And the finished product looked lovely, if I do say so myself.

I also made my trademark apple/cranberry pie. It almost always looks good, but it looked extra good with the vodka crust.
For good measure...and because I had a good feeling that my family might not appreciate my experimentation with their beloved pumpkin pie, I made a couple of pumpkin pies using the regular ol' recipe on the Libby's label. This one turned out great. Dunno just what happened to the crust though.
My mother hosted Thanksgiving this year...which was just as well since my oven was dead. You may have noticed that there are two ovens to my range. The second one is a "roasting oven" and is really flaky about maintaining its temperature. I used it for a couple of pies, but I didn't really trust it. I made the others in a generous neighbor's oven.
We had drinks and watched football, then sat down to a fabulous feast.
As expected, the experimental pumpkin pie wasn't particularly popular. But the regular one was GONE. I guess that's what experiments are all about, huh? I'll have to find something more creative for next year.

You Thought the Stores Were Bad

O.K., I admit it. I took the kids' Christmas photos before Thanksgiving this year. It's not like I played Christmas carols while I did it or anything. And I had an ulterior motive. Mam's orthodontist has her fitted with a palette expander and I wanted to get these pictures in before the gap between her front teeth got too much bigger.

It wasn't really a big production either. I think they're old enough now that they know that cooperating will make it a much shorter ordeal.

That doesn't mean they didn't have any fun, of course. Hey, they got mom's approval to go climb up a tree, after all.
And they had some fun with each other too. Can you imagine trying to take their photos every year if it was all totally serious? I can't. And thank goodness. I usually use the "pretty" ones on the Christmas cards, but I admit that sometimes the silly ones are my favorite.

I'm undoubtedly biased, but I think they're still a couple of pretty good-looking kids. And I was ever so grateful that they were so cooperative and we didn't have to stay out there for long.

Crash and Burn

I don't know what it's been with the last month or so. Everything in my house seems to be falling apart for one reason or another. I won't deny that I've played a part in some of this, but piling on the stress isn't going to help me out here, universe!

It all started with my back fence, which has been in poor shape for years now.
One day, I noticed that one of the trees growing along said fence had a branch growing straight into the fencing. It was clearly not helping the fence stay up. The remedy was clear, I thought. So, out came a saw and down came the branch...right on top of the fence. Duh. Now it really needs repairing, but I haven't been particularly motivated to go talk to the neighbors behind me. I have a suspicion they don't have the money to repair such things. And that's O.K., but it makes for an awkward conversation.
Then, a couple of weeks ago, I was roasting a chicken for a nice weeknight dinner, when the light suddenly came on in the oven. Wait. What? My oven light hasn't worked since we moved in here 7 years ago. Oh, that's not a light. That's a fire. *sigh* I hate my oven. I often say it's a lovely kitchen decoration, but it's always sucked. Now it sucks more. The heating coil had failed spectacularly and caught on fire.
This has happened before, so I ordered the part from England and waited about a week for it to arrive.
In the meantime the thermostat for the house decided to take a vacation. It apparently likes tropical locations where the weekday temperatures are consistently 90 degrees, it doesn't need to keep track of time and insists that it's always the weekend, although it couldn't decide whether it was Saturday or Sunday, so displayed both...every day of the week.

My new heating coil arrived for the oven.
Very pretty, huh?

I installed it myself, only to have everything short out and melt the wiring. It was pretty spectacular, like someone set off a firework in the oven. Smunch eagerly diagnosed the problem while I slumped to the floor in defeat. It was pretty humbling. The range is dead. I need a replacement. It's gonna be expensive to fill the danged hole it'll leave and wouldn't you know it? The busted range is not a standard size, so I have to find someone to cut down the granite countertop too. Lovely.

Oh yeah, and somewhere in there I sideswiped a parked SUV on my way to a yoga class downtown. I don't know how my distance judgement got so bad. I've never actually hit another car before. (Lots of other things, sure.) I did the honorable thing and left a note on the windshield. The owner of the SUV was super understanding. I think she was mostly relieved that someone was nice enough to leave a note. Although, I made a mess out of the corner of her bumper, I naturally made a bigger mess of the mommymobile, scratching at least three different panels as I scraped along her bumper. Nice. Not at all stressful, that.

You'll notice a significant lack of male help in all these descriptions, although I admit my dad installed a new thermostat for me (as he had a spare one in his garage?!) and attempted to help me with the oven.

I don't talk about it much because it's awkward, I don't enjoy discussing it and I'm muddling along pretty well, but I've been living on my own for a year now. The kids are here a lot, so I'm hardly lonely. I've learned that I have great friends and great neighbors and that this house that I love is mighty big for one person and a lot to take care of. But I'm capable. I'm really, really capable of handling everything on my own. It's just kinda stressful and keeps me far too busy.

So, apologies to anyone learning about my marital woes via my blog. If I've seen you only in a group setting or not seen you at all, I almost certainly haven't mentioned it. By way of answering most of your burning questions, here are the answers to the FAQs of my life:

  • No. I don't want to talk about what got me here. It's a long, long, convoluted, confusing story.
  • Yes. I have a therapist.
  • Yes. I've thought about the kids. I do little else. Honestly, they're doing really, really well. Despite everything else, both their parents are crazy about them and are doing everything possible to support them. 
  • Their dad has them in the evenings every other week and every other weekend.
  • I still go to all their sporting events, except when Smunch's baseball team continuously reschedules things and I've booked myself on a yoga retreat that should've fallen nicely between tournaments. 
  • Sometimes I'm lonely, but time to myself isn't all bad. I prefer having the kids here, but I enjoy them so much more when I get to miss them a little bit. I can honestly say I feel like a better mom when I try to do less.
  • Yes. We've tried counseling.
  • It wasn't anyone's idea. I don't think this kind of thing is ever in someone's plans.
  • No one has filed for divorce and we're still on friendly/civil terms most of the time, but yeah, a whole year is a ridiculous amount of time for a separation.

So, the car has been repaired...and I'll recommend Magnussen Car West without any reservation. If you have State Farm, they'll even give you a free rental car if the repairs are over $1000. They returned the mommymobile on time (early, in fact), looking great, washed and vacuumed. I was very happy.

My house is now the appropriate temperature on the appropriate days. Thanks, Dad.

The range is still dead. Cooking pies in a neighbor's oven for Thanksgiving was a real pain in the rear. (At least she was out of town). A new range will be installed after the granite countertops are cut tomorrow. It's slightly used, which means it was deeply discounted and that rocks. I'll be sorry to lose the cool-looking black oven, but I'm hoping the new stainless one will work a lot better. And it won't have this:

Why, yes! That is the oven control. Oh, you're worried that my oven only went up to 230 degrees? That's centigrade! And the fact that I won't have that means that I can take this off my wall too.
It's been taped there for seven and a half years now.

And the fence? Well...I could just wait for it to fall down and claim it on my insurance. Or, I could walk around the block to pay a visit to the neighbors. Guess I'll have to do that regardless. Gotta focus on that oven thingy first though. There are Christmas cookies to bake in the foreseeable future!

Monday, November 19, 2012


Wikipedia definition: A Yogini is the sacred feminine force made incarnate

Wikipedia also says that a yogini is a female master practitioner of yoga. In truth, I don't know that I'll ever qualify as a "master practitioner", but I've found that yoga is a really good practice for me. I make it to a class at least weekly. I'd love to go more often, but it's hard to fit it in with everything else.
This photo displays some incredibly poor form, but you try doing yoga in jeans and heeled boots in the middle of a meadow. Dare you. The photo idea was cute anyway...

I have a few favorite teachers. These are women I really enjoy. I get something out of their classes every time I go. One of my favorites is Rebecca.

Rebecca does a "yoga retreat" on the coast every year. I missed it last year. I just didn't sign up in time. But since then, she's changed her weekly class schedule such that I can't go...and that made me extra motivated to get to her retreat at Costanoa Lodge this year.

I booked myself a little tent cabin. By tent cabin standards, this one was very nice. Electricity, queen bed, a couple chairs and, importantly, an electric blanket. Didn't manage to think about the fact that it might be COLD in November, especially in a canvas-sided cabin!
It was. It was very cold, but it looks cozy enough, doesn't it?

I arrived at Costanoa around 11:30 in the morning. Yoga didn't start until noon, so I checked in super early and wandered around a bit. We had two hours of yoga, then took a group walk to the beach, then another two hours of yoga before dinner.

Too bad I didn't take pictures of the yoga itself, but that would have been weird.

I dined with a couple of women I had seen before. I'd met one of them briefly, at a baseball meeting. The other, I'd seen at yoga classes before. It was a nice time. The restaurant was warm and the food was good. The local cats wandered in and out at will, which was kinda entertaining.

I slept with my electric blanket on all night long, but after all that yoga and walking, I slept really well. In the morning, I had a nice, quiet breakfast, packed the mommymobile and headed out to do some real exploring.

Turns out, Costanoa is really close to a state park I'd been wanting to check out, so I took a short drive to Butano State Park and set out on its "grand loop".

It was a beautiful day and this is a really beautiful park on a day like that.

I have a hiking book that highly recommended this loop, but it also said it would take me six hours to complete. It was 11 miles. I scoffed. Six hours seemed like an awfully long time for a solo hiker in pretty good shape who isn't planning to stop for a picnic. The trail I set out on was steep and it was steep for a good, long ways. I figured it was a loop and I'd have to get to the top and start going down at some point, but I kept looking at the map, in case I wimped out and needed a shortcut back. There were plenty.
Something about knowing there are plenty of options for ditching your plans makes it easier to stay on track, at least for me. The weather was sunny, but cool. There were banana slugs everywhere. I couldn't help thinking how much Mam would have enjoyed trying to count every one of them. I even saw a newt making its way across the trail. Apparently, it's the season for that.
There were surprisingly few people out on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I think I ran into five...and one of them was a toddler, so make that 4.5. They were all friendly and happy. I chatted with several of them as we passed each other.

It's easy for me to pass the time thinking and walking. It was amazing that the fern-filled canyons were so deep and the autumn sun so low that hiking through them made me worry I was running out of daylight.

I wasn't. It was only mid-afternoon.
It was a great hike. There were tall stands of redwoods, sycamores dropping their leaves and spanish moss that glowed in the sunlight.
I made the entire loop in almost exactly four hours. Those people who write books? They walk awfully slowly, apparently! I was pretty disappointed to learn that my ankle still isn't 100 percent since being sprained on that trip to Alamere Falls. It was stiff and sore by the time I got back to the van.

But it was just 3 o'clock, giving me just enough time to visit a beach before heading back home. The coast itself was breezy and chilly, but I was reminded that I don't spend nearly enough time at the beach in the fall, even though I know it's one of the most beautiful times of the year along the Northern California coastline.

The beach was nearly deserted as well, so I hung out for a while, taking pictures, getting perfectly windblown and appreciating my time away, before making tracks towards home.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Halloween 2012

Wow, well, after all that lead up to Halloween...what with the parties and the Giants winning the World Series and all...the main event was just another in a series of things going on. But I have to post pictures, right? Who doesn't post pictures of their kids in their costumes? I admit I'm having fun with their costumes these days..especially because Mam is so excited to have me put makeup on her.
This year, Mam chose to be a flamenco dancer. No, of course she doesn't know what a flamenco dancer is. But she saw the red, crushed velvet and black lace at TJ Maxx and was smitten. Sold.

Smunch was a medieval knight. Unfortunately, no one thought to have him try on his costume until Halloween rolled around. And it was significantly too small. Just getting him into it was a huge, painful struggle...both at school and at home. And that put him in a foul mood...just like last year.

It was a good-looking costume though. Of course, Smunch wasn't much for posing for pictures. Mam, was an entirely different story, hamming it up like I couldn't quite believe.
As always, there was a big candy haul and happy kids returned home from their evening of trick-or-treating.

Oh yeah, we had a lot of normal Halloween stuff too...like regular ol' carved pumpkins and our own little front yard graveyard...all sort of hastily arranged, but festive nonetheless...

Can't believe Thanksgiving is less than a month away already. It'd be O.K. with me if life just slowed down a little about now. But I've got damsels to rescue, apparently...

Sergio Romo's Fire

Unlike the last time the San Francisco Giants went to the World Series, baseball was all wrapped up before Halloween. At a baseball tournament the weekend prior, someone asked me what I was planning to carve for a pumpkin this year. I'm starting to have a reputation, apparently. I hadn't decided. I thought about Posey or Scutaro or Cain, but all of them seemed a little too clean cut for this project.

When it came to me, however, I knew it had to be Sergio Romo. Sergio Romo, erstwhile setup man and now super popular closer for the World Series Champion San Francisco Giants. I've met him before too. He's a super nice guy. He was part of the team of "beards" in the bullpen in 2010 and signed a baseball for Smunch with the inscription "Fear It!" on it. Funny guy.

Anyway, Romo has a great roar he lets out when he successfully closes a game and I wanted to carve that. So here goes...

I chose this picture.
Blew it up nice and big to use as a stencil on a nice, big pumpkin. I freehanded the lettering.
Spent a cool few hours carving and giving myself a blister.
And then I enjoyed watching people notice it as they came to the door. That's the most fun of all...unless I get to go give a picture of it to Sergio Romo. Now THAT would be a blast!