Monday, October 22, 2007

California Wildfires

My heart aches for the people in Southern California right now. There are over 13 wildfires raging behind winds measured up to 103 miles per hour, measured at Pt. Mugu, where John used to work. Over 98,000 acres have been destroyed or damaged so far, and around 4,900 firefighters are fighting the fires throughout six counties, with over a quarter of a million people having been evacuated today. Winds are not expected to die down for another two days. Schools are closed down, being used for shelters.

Mom and some friends in our old town have ash in their homes from the Malibu blaze, and say the skies are a bloody orange color, with the smoke a scary smell that you can't escape, a constant reminder that if the wind shifts, it might be your turn to leave your home behind and head for a shelter. It's been four years since the brush has burned. Fire season. And the pitiful fact is, they've only averaged three inches of rain all year, according to tonight's news.

Along with the feelings of a lucky escape to Colorado is a feeling of helplessness, that many of those I love may need help that I'm no longer close enough to offer. My sister and her husband had just driven to Reno on Saturday, and can't get information on their home, back in one of the canyons, being endangered by the Stevenson Ranch fire, which is approaching the back side of their canyon. Do they catch a plane home? If they do, will they be allowed back in their area? No one can answer their questions. The situation is changing too rapidly.

Those of us who no longer search the skies for the ominous dark clouds when the Santa Ana winds blow feel fortunate, if somewhat guilty, as we watch CNN for the latest developments. We just sit tight, and we pray.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Hidden Box Under the Christmas Tree

There's that little kid in all of us, sitting under the Christmas tree. Everybody has opened up all their presents, and the one thing you wanted the most wasn't there. You really expected it. You were led to believe that it would be there. You look and look, but nothing seems to be left under the tree. You keep looking. Nobody else is watching anymore. The living room is quiet except for the TV, telling about everyone else getting what they wanted.

This morning was like that. The weatherman promised snow. I left the outside deck lights on all night long, and periodically I'd get up and look to see if it had started yet. No snow. I'd go out on the deck and peek. No snow under the trees. I'd glance up into the branches. Nope. Nothing. First thing this morning I checked the digital readout on the temperature gauge:  32°.  I turned the news on and started watching all the happy people in Colorado out playing in the snow. Newscasters were doing their man in the street interviews, and people were smiling, big fat snow flakes swirling around. I felt that inner child sitting under my emotional tree, struggling to be happy with what I'd gotten, and not grieve for what I had wanted.

Dressing in my snow coat and hat, but sockless and in my sandals, since there was, after all, no snow, I wandered out to enjoy the view from my deck. That was, after all, what I do have every day. I was just really starting to cheer up, breathing deeply and feeling that inner peace that always seems to find me in my woods, when the first flakes started drifting down. I went from peaceful to joyful faster than a child finding that one last present with their name on it, lost behind the far branches of the Christmas tree, and discovering the much desired gift inside. Thank you, Lord.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I'm Cooking With Gas

Actually I've been cooking with gas for several days now, and enjoying it immensely. I had this wonderful idea, that for our first meal cooked on the new range, I'd make things like sausages and sauerkraut, served with baked beans and broccoli. John would enjoy a meal that would not only be cooked with gas, but would leave a "memory of gas." Then I realized who would be the one to suffer the most from that particular type of humor, and so I christened the new gas range by making shepherd pie. 

This morning I used the built in griddle for the first time, doing apple pancakes. It worked great. It's the first time I've used the new oval burner, and the built in griddle is a great size for us. This range was worth waiting for. 

I'll admit I'm getting spoiled. The cost of living is so much lower here that we're living a lot better on a lot less money than we ever could in So Cal. I don't know how anyone manages to retire in Southern California and maintain their lifestyle while taking a 40-60% salary decrease. Our life style has actually improved, and things will be even better once we finish the remodeling projects, which should be pretty soon. There are only a few things left that we hope to accomplish. Luckily we're in no rush. 

I guess life has always been good in many ways, but it hasn't always been this easy or this filled with beauty and nature. OK. I'm happy. Find out why. Meet us at the Denver airport, and we'll drive you up here....

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Baseball and Misspoken Words

From the time I was a little kid, I used to get laughed at for messing up words. I remember how long people laughed when I referred to the basketball players crawling around the court looking for one of the player's "contract eyeballs" that had gotten knocked out. Of course it was a contact lens, and I got the words messed up. Then there was the day that I came rushing home from school, still too young to read very well myself, excitedly telling my mother that my wonderful teacher was going to be reading to us every day from two wonderful books called "The Idiot" and "The Oddity." (Of course it was the Iliad and the Odyssey.) They still tease me about that one.

Baseball lends itself to this type of error. So many players have strange names. I just had  to finally write this one down for posterity. Not only do I find it really funny, but it wasn't my verbal error this time. This one belongs to John, and happened early in the season. If I don't write it down, who will remember to tease him when I'm old and forgetful? (OK, maybe I'm already old and forgetful.)

We were listening to a Dodger game on XM radio, and I left him to listen alone while I went into the kitchen to prepare our dinner.  John came in about fifteen minutes later and said (I swear this is accurate): "Psycho's been hurt, and they put Tonto in to pitch in his place." 

It took me awhile to stop what I was doing and figure out what was really happening. Saito had been pitching, so that part was fairly easy. But Tonto? Oh, he must mean Thomko. I went in and listened. Sure enough, that's who the pitchers were. I think that's got to be as funny as the Idiot and the Oddity. Well, almost. 

By the way, how about those Rockies?

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Gift of an Amazing Night

Music makes the world go 'round. OK. Maybe it doesn't really, but it must at least make it spin faster or something. I've always felt that a gift of music is one of those things that just keeps on giving. This week we were given third row tickets to see the Coasters and the Platters in concert. That concert was last night, and we had a ball. 

I'd like to say something about the giver of those tickets before I hit the highlights of the concert itself. You buy a house and never see your realtor again unless you have a friend you want to refer, right? Not if you buy a house from Wynn Washle. In the year and a half since he sold us our home, we've received a beautiful "Colorado ~ The Good Life" plaque, a gift card for a restaurant for our one year anniversary of buying the house, and were included in a group theatre party when Wynn and his family rented out one entire screening of Harry Potter's most recent film when it opened. That included popcorn and soda for everyone. Wynn wore his wizard garb. He's one of a kind, and a kind one at that. We got lucky when we found him.

Now, on to the concert. Knowing all the words to almost all the songs did, of course, contribute to making this such a special night, but couldn't have made it so perfect all by itself. I've been to so many concerts. Sometimes I've felt a little jaded. I've seen big stars who were a real disappointment. These guys had the voices that rocked the 50's and 60's. The backup band was incredible, even though they looked young enough to be my children. Oh, my. 

One of the things that was really great was sitting in the third row, off to the side, with nobody in front of us. It actually contributed to something very special happening. All during the show, especially with The Coasters (since I have every song they've ever recorded, as far as I know) I was quietly singing along. This one singer, since he had such a clear view of me through the empty seats, would look over often, like he was checking to see if I was still singing along. Lots of people were, but I'm not sure too many people really know all the verses — just the choruses. He'd smile. I was smiling the whole time, so obviously I was having a ball. I really didn't want their segment to end, since they're my favorites.

As luck would have it, they got called back for an encore. Someone behind me said "Charlie Brown" fairly quietly, but I heard him. I said, "Little Egypt" about the same level, but the lead singer on stage was looking right at me and said, "What? Little Egypt? You want me to sing Little Egypt for you?" And they walked right over toward me and did it a cappella. I was so stunned I didn't sing along, but I didn't stop grinning, either. If I'd had the nerve, I would have asked them to follow it up with D. W. Washburn, my all time favorite, but I'd already gotten more than I could believe. 

If anyone can follow The Coasters, it's The Platters. The words to Only You have to be among the most amazing love songs ever written. I think it's the sort of love all mothers want for the children... and for themselves, of course. Sitting with John and listening to these wonderful ballads from the 50's and 60's was, to use an old expression, simply dreamy. And suddenly we were young again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Crash, Bang, Tickle, Tinkle

I didn't do it, but I'll admit I'm glad it happened. Let's back up and take this from the beginning.

When we moved in, the one thing I said I couldn't live with was the electric range. So we were going to change to gas from the beginning, but other things needed to happen first. We also knew we had to get the roof replaced or completely re-shingled before Winter hits again because of some damage done last Winter due to ice damming. It was the original roof. We already had the damage (to the fascia boards) corrected. It was not cheap, either. So if we're putting in a roof, this is the best time to install the vent for the gas range, which must be done to comply with building and safety codes. The hole for the vent fan has to be cut through the kitchen ceiling and comes out through the roof. So we got our roofing bids, and found we could actually afford to do the range at the same time time as the roof. Whoopee. 

We did the Consumer Reports research on ranges, then did our in-town cost comparison, and wound up ordering a wonderful oven at a good price. It will come in two weeks, and I'll put a photo up then, but we were able to bring home the over-the-oven range hood (fan, lighting and vent). 

Here's where it gets interesting. All the appliances in the kitchen are black or silver except for the dishwasher and the over the stove microwave, which John had to remove to replace with the hood vent. He was going to move the old white microwave monstrosity across the room and mount it next to my beautiful platinum LG fridge. I agreed to this. It was the best solution. After all, it wouldn't have been right to just throw it down the stairs. It still worked, after all. It wasn't great, but it did still work. 

Well, praise the Lord! He dropped it! Today we found a great new one for $150. It's an LG, smaller on the outside, bigger on the inside, loaded with new features, ten years newer, and it looks great next to the fridge. I couldn't have scripted it better. And I think I was happy enough that John no longer feels so bad about dropping the old one. So — crash, bang, tinkle, tinkle, grin!