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The Train to Zagreb

Huge and modern Prague Train Station For the second time this trip, we caught a train. This time we headed for Zagreb in Croatia.  W...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

First Day Back at Work

Flus make me wretched and convince me that I will never ever feel normal again and that I will somehow lose my job and wind up homeless in the streets to eventually be found, eaten by wild Alsatians as in worst nightmares of Bridget Jones. I know that sounds like a joke, but as God is my witness, every freakn' time I get the flu I am convinced I am only minutes away from homelessness. Really takes the whimsy out of being ill.

On the other hand, once I've recoverd the flu has becomes a life affirming experience, as in 'Hurrah! I AM ALIVE! I DID NOT DIE!'

Yes, pathetic, silly but 100% true.

I made it past this bout of flu. Missed two days of work and did not get sacked nor was I put on bread line at Loaves & Fishes. Still feel like crap but managed to dress myself and muddle myself into my office. Screaming red welts and patches on my arms, legs and knees are nearly invisible now.

HURRAH!

Post Script: Ok, now it's after work and I can't walk on my right ankle. I didn't do anything to cause the stupid ankle any grief so WTF? I'm that pissed.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Me and My home - in Shades of Green

Have the flu. Knew there had to be a reason I was so sleepy all week. Could barely keep my eyes open at work so of course there were meetings, meetings and more meetings. Came home Friday night and eventually realized I was shivering, even after I turned off the a/c, my skin was roasting and my head was aching. Yeah - like I said, the flu.

Today was rather nice anyway. I finally broke down and bought a new couch and a recliner chair. I haven’t had my living room look so… normal… in ages. The color scheme requires a good deal of work. Everything, the walls, the couch, the picture over the couch are in shades of green; looks like everything is covered in moss; will have to improve things by getting a new rug, a picture over the couch, and throw pillows that will bring out other colors – mauves, burgundys and the like. But all that will have to wait for another time.

Spiffy Couch - mine is greener and has the two throw pillows embossed with leaves.

The couch and recliner were delivered this morning. Had to shower and dress up so delivery men would not run for their lives when I opened the door. So anyway, for today all I have done is lounge on my pretty new furniture and ache. Oh, how I ache.

Recliner - soon to be molded to the exact dimensions of my butt

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Ditzy Day

My thoughts on purchasing land in Crescent City have not diminished, but my ideas on how to carry out my plans have changed several times. Meanwhile, I have had an excessive attack of being ditzy.

Last night I ushered for a hilarious performance of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the Music Circus. I had my mind on yesterday’s brainstorm for buying a place in Crescent City and I kept making stupid errors, which happily enough, only damaged my ego.

Early this morning I went to the grocery store for eggs and when I returned, as I drove toward my house I realized I had left the garage door was wide open - GAK! I never forget to close it so I was obvious I was still operating on emergency braincells.

A short time later I stared preparing breakfast and there was a knock at the door. It was my neighbor, the good one who helped out so much when I got robbed. Anyway, he was going through the neighborhood getting sign-ups for the Neighborhood Watch. I told him I would, months ago so I did so.

I told him was considering selling the house. He recommended I wait a couple of years because the price of houses in our area is somewhat depressed just now, but ought to go back up in a couple of years! He guestimated my house is currently worth around $300K, $330K tops. Boogers! I want at around $400K for my house and not that long ago I could have gotten it!

Ok, truth to be told, the news on the local real estate prices was a bit of a relief as it gives me breathing space to get my house ready for sale, though mind, it’s in pretty damn good shape now. I won't be selling my house until the market creeps back up again.

As soon as I locked the door and headed back into the kitchen I dropped a plate, sending shards of crockery everywhere. Then I spilled some coffee all over a counter.

Yep. Lots of things on my mind.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Eternally Flaming Spotted Dick

Ok, this posting has nothing to do with any blokes. Spotted Dick is a British pudding, that is a dessert, made of sponge cake spotted with raisins and sultanas. Sultanas are also raisins but they are raisins with great PR. Anyway, while in Monterey I stopped by a British specialties shop at which I bought all sorts of Brit sweets, such as toffees, pastilles and a vacuum packed Spotted Dick.

During my last night with Barb in Monterey on August 9th, I was crabby because the wireless Internet connection was fagging out for the third day in a row and I was a tad crabby. Ok, I was a vicious, blood-sucking harpy bitch; happy? Anyway, I decided a bit of spotted dick would be a lovely way to end my day.

So I heated up the pudding and added about a ¼ of some raw blueberries. Then I warmed up about an ounce of Grand Marnier, turned out the lights, and with great flourish, lit my Spotted Dick (you there, STOP giggling!).

Nothing happened.

So, I poured on some more Grand Marnier and again tried to light the Dick and the blueberries.

Again; nothing happened. Damn!

So again I added another dousing of Grand Marnier to the Dick. Nothing happened. I rationalized that perhaps the microwaving of the liqueur had burned off the alcohol.

By this time Barbara, who had been reading, wanted the lights back on. I refused and again tried to light the Dick, this time dropping the lit match down my nightgown gaining the effect, not of flaming Spotted Dick, but flaming tit, which as far a I know may be a British delicacy, but you aren’t about to find it in any cooking books.

‘Add some more Grand Marnier!’ said Barb, wanting to get back to reading her Oprah magazine. I liberally poured some more on the Dick and the raw blueberries, which by now was in serious need of a life preserver.

I held the match to the Dick – WOOOF - the Dick went up in blue flames!

‘Oh’, suggested Barbara, ‘maybe you didn’t get the thing lighted well enough.’

No shite! The flames burned on and on. I raced for my camera to record the event and got the shot lined up, sure the flames would burn out before I was ready, then remembered there was no battery in the camera so I raced off to fetch it, which sent Barbara and me into fits of laughing hysteria.

Some five minutes, and several photos later, the Dick was still in flames! I guess Barb was right, I hadn’t quite gotten the liquor lit and bowl was heating up. I considered sending the bowl, Dick, berries and all, off to make an eternal flame for James. I know he could have appreciated all the Freudian connotations of an eternally flaming Spotted Dick.

Lo! Eventually the flames went out and I had my dessert. No surprises the raw blueberries were now nicely boiled and quite yummy.

The 'potato' in the dish surrounded by raw blueberries is the Spotted Dick, photographed here with the lights on.


Here is the Spotted Dick photographed modestly; lights out, out of focus, but with flames blazing on and on and on an the blueberries cooked to a tee!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Options, Options, and more Options

The most important bit of our drive south from Crescent City to Fort Bragg took place with me in the driver’s seat sucking down a Venti soy Mocha CafĂ©. Barb and I discussed Inez's strong intuition about Keven’s house and property feeling to her as if it is good as in vibes. I do not argue with Inez on such matters because she knows, and as I headed south through the redwoods I fussed on about the Keven’s eensie house – it was small and it was too too small for me to take seriously as a potential home.

‘No way I can live in a house that tiny! Now it would be different if it was a guest house I could see it being pretty neat…’

The horribly undersized, rough house transmogrified into a eensie sweet, adorable cottage and now it looked rather good! The previous day Barbara and I had been pleasantly surprised by some beautiful and spacious modular homes. The homes seemed well made and they are spanking new and made to order (hardwood floors for Claire instead of creepy, dust gathering nasty rugs). I have no intention of retiring to a money-pit sort of house.

We got really excited about the idea of me purchasing Keven’s property, plopping a new modular unit on it and using the house there as my office and craft space and a guest cottage. The tax implications alone are delightful! The garage is humongous and could be used to store hay and park a car and a horse trailer.
A view of the garage (my future tack room, hay storage & two car garage). The peaked roof in the background is the cottage, which is a separate building Note potential future feathered neighbor, taking her 13 babies for a stroll.

The only necessity then would be for me to put in a corral. Hey! Just dawned on me Keven’s incubator room could do well as a tack room for saddles and such.

So when we got to Fort Brag I put in a call to Keven asking him to find out if the zoning would allow for a second home on an acre property. If the zoning allows for say, only an 800 square foot granny unit, we could have Keven lop off the little back rooms off the main house.

Anyway, that is where my mind is just now; Crescent City and retirement.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Crescent City Quest


Our time in Crescent City was not what I expected – it went perfectly as usual but it had surprises for me.

We woke reluctantly at the Crescent Beach Motel which is where I always stay when I'm there - I can fall asleep there to the sound of the surf and wake up for a peek out the window at the beach.
My trips to Crescent City are to visit my friend Inez who is a dear. On this visit she decided to treat Barb & me to a day without us having to drive. We got a ride in her pretty new car which she calls Lily.

Inez picked us up at 8AM and we drove out on Highway 97. We stopped in Hiouchi for the best Mocha Coffee I’ve ever had; pure Mexican chocolate was shaved into it - yummy.
Then we drove on to Patrick’s Creek Motel where I have never stayed as a guest but where, some 5 or 6 years ago I had a Sunday Morning Brunch that could not be beat and an experience I have always wanted to repeat. Oh and repeat we ; nothing like a brunch of fresh oysters on the half shell washed down by champagne.

Barb at Brunch and an embarrassing overview of my oyster strewn breakfast.

Inez and Barb at Patrick's Creek pond

After breakfast Inez drove us to a botanical trail that has a lovely swamp patch of Darlingtonia Cobra Lilies like the ones Barb & I usually see when we drive up to Oregon. I did not know there were Cobra Lilies in California, and so conveniently located. Cobra lilies are carnivourous plants that feed on insects and are rather spooky as plants go.

Following that we drove into a redwood forest where I found some alphabet rocks on the railing of a bridge and had to leave my mark.

The eye-0pener of the day was we drove past a little one acre property and we decided we might as well have a look-see. I’ve talked about retiring in Crescent City ever since I started driving up to visit Inez back in 1999. The acre has an ancient house which Keven, the owner let us tour.

The property is slightly sloped at the foot of redwood forest and on a back road, but still only about a 15 minute drive – tops - out of Crescent City. Inez loved the house but the only thing that initially caught my eye was the brickwork in the kitchen, otherwise the house was just too eensie to consider actually living in. I mean, my own home is small, just under 1,300 ft2 and I refuse to make do with less footage, especially where the rain & fog can keep you holed up for days at a time.

The twee house on Keven's property - includes a humongous garage and enough room for a horse corral and tack room (which astoundingly enough I imagine building for myself - HA!)
Inez looking a tad startled; didn't want to block my shot of this brilliant kitchen brickwork in Keven's house
 
Also on the good side is hard wood flooring which Keven is working on. He is also working on the single bathroom (one bathroom? Yikes!).
Barb liked that the property has a humongous garage which includes what realtors like to call a ‘bonus room’. Keven uses the extra room for incubating turkey eggs. He also has four emu next door where he lives taking care of his 90 year old plus father.
The point is the property sort of kicked off a two day property hunting spree. Barbara and I checked out numerous properties in Del Norte County and found a second property too, that was zoned for horses and had a coral and a tack room but no garage (no garage? No way!). We couldn’t tour the horse property house though it looked decent from the outside.
The horse property - only a couple of miles from the beach via car, horseback or dog walk.
So, suddenly my retirement seems not so very far away at all. Decided I’ll check out my retirement options as soon as I get home. There is a distinct possibility that between the resale value of my home and the purchase property of land in Crescent City, I may be able to retire and even possibly have enough money to nurse along for vacations. Mind, I still would try find some work up there, perhaps writing grants or something else I can do via computer. I’m pretty good with grants having been on the review & award end of them for the State.
So for what it is worth, I’m thinking retirement, a pair of horses and a dog. So Barb helped me check out homes and lots on properties with a minimum of one acre to them. Will it work out? Have no idea but what the hell, might as well give the idea a go.

Fancy High Falutin' Pinky Tweaker at the Aquarium

On August 2nd, after a long day of conferencing in a froo-froo resort I felt the need for further self-indulgence. As luck would have it, conference organizers took care of that by arranging for us all to attend a short, two hour event held after hours at the world famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. The day’s workshops ended at 5:00 and we had 2 hours to boogie on over to Cannery Row where the Aquarium is located. I got there a bit early and spent my time viewing the local wildlife off the back pier of the Aquarium; red legged Pigeon Guillemots, rubber ball-headed Harbor Seals, and a very busy male Sea Otter you see in the photo above.
When the sea life thinned out I went for a short walk and discovered Shanties that are literally straight out of Cannery Row’s history. It is hard to believe only three shanties were preserved but at least there is some preservation in progress! The interiors are filled with authentic dour depression era furnishings.



Cannery Row Shanties
Inside one of the Shanties
At long last it was 7 PM and our humongous crowd was allowed to enter the Aquarium for our evening’s delight; a Dessert Social! What a treat to wander around the Monterey Bay Aquarium, gawking at fancy fishies, the sharks, African Penguins, to pet the bat rays, finger the Sea Cucumbers and watch jelly fish glooping around their tanks. All that while wolfing down tiramisu, warm blackberry crisp, pecan pie, macaroons and heaven knows what all. Yum.
Sand Dollars Alive, Alive O!
The Jelly Ballet

Hair Situation

Have spent three days not quite getting photos into my last post because the stupid Harbor Lite Motel n Fort Bragg has had spotty Internet service. That whinge completed, I have another; I have GOT to take the time and a fair amount of money, go to San Francisco and have some clever gay guy give me a decent hair cut. Am dead tired of waking up & looking like some character written up by Harriet Beecher Stowe or worse, Mark Twain, resembling some character whose name might be Topsy or Puddin' Head Norma.

Feck. My hair really needs some major work done on it.

Now I will go back to yesterday's post and try to get the photos uploaded.

Feck, feck, feck!

Am still on vacation in Fort Brag; swearing in off-isles Irish feels good.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Monterey Conference


View of Portola 'fancy shmansy' Plaza Hotel from below

The Conference is over and done already. I drove the 3.5 hours south to Monterey on July 31, checked into the Portola Plaza Hotel & the conference began the following morning. Talk about your fancy venue; the Portola is directly adjacent to the Monterey Museum & 2 skips from the renowned Fisherman’s Wharf. The conference was the best I’ve ever attended and I’ve been to loads of conferences around the state. I might add this wasn’t even my first Monterey Conference.

The highlights of the conference for me were not strictly work related. There was a pair of Saker Falcons present with their falconer. I loved the regal and adorable little raptors and admired their fancy headgear.
I told the falconers they must read The Goshawk by T.H. White, who wrote my favourite book, The Once and Future King . It was turned into Camelot and Disney’s the Sword in the Stone. I think there are at least another half dozen other books in the main tome. One of the falconers said he’d read the Sword in the Stone which unlike the Disney version did not have young King Arthur turned into a sparrow by Merlyn the Magician, but ‘the Wart’ was actually turned into a Merlyn Hawk and was put into the Mews for the night where he listened to the wise talk of the other noble birds; the Peregrine,  the Hobbies, Goshawks, and the Sparrow Hawks.

I told the Falconer he must read T.H. White’s The Goshawk which is what taught me the magic of falconry and austringry.

I was enchanted by the beautiful hoods which were hand made by the elder of the two Falconers. Their birds were regal in their hooded day wear.

The following day I took some time to visit the Monterey State Museum which was small but interesting, at least in that its building were originals dating back to the turn of the century when California was still a part of Mexico.


Spanish patio and garden at the Monterey CA State Museum

I also took a long walk along the Fisherman’s Wharf. I’ve been there several times before for dining and more notably for Pelagic birding and Whale watching trips to the deep waters off Monterey.


The second floor of the Monterey Museum has a nice collection of artifacts, regalia and baskets from various North American tribes. Here is a porcupine quill beaded parfletch bag, used by plains Indians for carrying goods around.

I must say there seemed to be end of things to do in Monterey. I took this picture at the Farmer’s Market which was one largest I’ve ever seen in California.

Ah! At last I’ve caught up with a small bit of my busy August. More tomorrow.