Saturday, June 23, 2012

From Father's Day to Lonestar

I have some catching up to do.  There are times when it feels like there's nothing new in my world and the days run together in their routine monotony.  There's really nothing monotonous about life, as each sunrise brings something new and beautiful to my life.  They just aren't always something to write about.

For Father's Day, we headed to Novato to visit with my parents and honor Dad.  I am so blessed to have such warm, intelligent, funny and generous parents.  We had a great visit with them and family, and left midday to carpool home - me and my three daughters.  I felt like I wanted to show them my old high school, and asked if they felt up to taking a walk through campus.  They were all game.  We found our way to the parking lot, discussing whether we should take staff parking during the summer on a Sunday or not.  It's funny how that seems like such a huge no-no, even if the school is closed for the day.

We got out of the car and started walking into the school campus.  As we walked past a brightly painted mural with hornets all over it (the school mascot), I said to Mandi, "Watch out!  Hornets!"  She reacted immediately, as she's allergic to bee stings, and then playfully smacked me on the arm when she saw the joke.  We wandered through the corridors, past classrooms that I spent time in with favorite teachers.  Their "ghosts" were there - whether they're still living or not - and it was a strange sense of coming home.  We headed to what used to be the "smoking pit."  The kids are still skeptical when I tell them that students were allowed to smoke on campus in this specific area.  The area has been cleared, no benches or anything at all left in the center of what really looks like a pit now.  There was a yard duty stationed nearby, not to check IDs, even though most were under the legal age to be able to purchase cigarettes, but to make sure nothing caught fire, or left the area still lit, and to prevent the smoking of "wacky tobaccy."

We wandered in a circular fashion around the campus, passing the area where most of my classes were - business courses such as shorthand, accounting, typing, taught by two of my favorite teachers, now deceased.  We peeked into the open lockers, some painted, some covered in contact paper or graffiti, others containing rotting food.  The kids were surprised that we had a pool, and envious.  I told them about first period PE and how cold it was to have to take swimming your sophomore year.  (NHS was 10-12 grades then.  What are called "middle schools" now were junior high, 7-9.)

We found our way to the front of the school where the kids wanted to take my picture at the iconic sign on the lawn.  No, I'm not sharing the results.  After that, we walked to the car.  Jessica asked if we could do donuts in the parking lot before we left.  Baaaad!  I gave a cautious yes, and halfway through the first turn asked her to stop because I was already getting dizzy!  We laughed so hard on our way out of the parking lot, as I told them about the morning I drove my siblings to school, had to stop in the line into the parking lot on the inclined driveway in a stick shift Datsun pickup, and rolled it into the car behind me.  A teacher's car.  Oops!

Becca had some adjusting to do in her freshman year in such a different environment as high school, so she started summer school on Monday.  This will be our routine for the next five weeks.  Bette and I were able to get the cucumbers into the ground finally.  They are doing well.  Next we need to finish the prep and get the rest of the seedlings in the ground, along with the corn and peanuts.  It will be interesting to see if peanuts work in this climate.

Tuesday's news to note involved small, slimy creatures.  I have a sprinkler system set up for most of the potted garden plants in the back of the house, but there are a few that need hand watering.  I headed over to the sunny part of the yard to take care of those plants in the morning and suddenly felt something cold, rubbery and wet under the center of my foot.  I immediately stepped back and scolded the banana slug that had decided it was going to travel the deck at that time.  They are more prevalent here than any other place I've lived, and I've mostly gotten used to them.  Except when I step on them.  In the evening I grabbed the watering can to take care of the plants that needed a boost after a hot summer day, and was surprised to see a tiny frog jump from the can as I tipped it to start watering.  I was grateful that it didn't land on me.

I'm still looking for a good job, and was happy to find two that I could apply for on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Becca and I decided it was time to inaugurate the barbecue for the summer.  I had taken the cover off a few weeks earlier, so it was dusty and touched by cobwebs.  I also needed to reattach the propane tank and new regulator, as we've been temporarily using those for hot water until the big propane tank is replaced.  We took all the webs off, scrubbed down the grill, and got it started up.  After making sure that it worked, we turned it off and went inside to prepare chicken and pineapple kabobs for dinner.  Becca made a delicious sweet and spicy honey barbecue sauce to use for them, and we brought everything outside to get things started again.  I noticed I'd missed a few cobwebs underneath the grill and got down to the ground to take a closer look and clear them.  Then noticed the small hornets nest attached underneath.  It appeared empty and I hoped it was abandoned, so I knocked it to the ground.  We were a little unnerved when the creature building it showed up soon thereafter, obviously confused at not finding what it had just left.  I started the grill to encourage it to go elsewhere, and it did.

The kabobs were delicious!  Afterward, Becca surprised me by making ice cream sundaes with fudge sauce, fresh garden ripe strawberries, and banana slices.  Perfect end to a fun evening with her.

Friday night we had something special planned.  We regretfully did not make it to family dinner, as Lonestar was playing at the local SonoMarin (Sonoma and Marin) Fair in Petaluma.  What I love about this fair is that all of the attractions are included in the price of admission.  Yes, it's a little more, but all concerts are available to everyone at the fairgrounds, and the rides are all free, too.  We met Amanda and Anthony and their friends at the fair, and because we got started a little later than we'd expected and the lines were long, didn't have a chance for the kids to go on the rides (I generally don't do them at county fairs).  We got some food (the egg rolls on a stick are half the size that they used to be!), wandered the shops and carnival area, and then headed to the concert pavilion to grab a beer (OMG - something with Shark in the name and it was soooo good!) just as the band started.

I normally stay back or find a seat on the bleachers, but Mandi and Anthony took us to the front of the stage, where we stood and had a blast watching a band that is still going strong at their 20th anniversary year.  Energy, humor, and a tremendous amount of talent.  Along with their standards, every now and then they'd break into a mainstream hit from an earlier era, just a few lines, which puzzled some of the youngsters and made us older folk laugh with joy.  We had a ball, listening to all of their old hits, plus some new music.  I had to sit down for a little bit, because my feet hurt.  (I've been having problems with plantar faciitis.  New gel insoles were helping with that, but I'd forgotten the new cowboy boots weren't 100% broken in yet.  Not a good choice for walking the fair.)

At the end of the show, the crowd applauded and whistled loudly, but didn't ask for an encore as enthusiastically.  It took the band coming back on stage to wake them up again.  I was really puzzled.  Was it the crowd, or have people become so accustomed to encores that they just expect them without feeling like they need to ask for one?  It felt awkward for a few moments.  The drummer started a beat and we were invited to clap along.  It felt familiar.  Then the guitarist started playing and I turned in shock and delight to Amanda.  "Ohmygoodness.  They're playing Pink Floyd!"  It took several bars and the rest of the band joining in for the crowd to recognize what was coming, and the energy shot to the stars again.  The band went through a medley of about five or six similar songs, Beatles, a little AC/DC, and ended on a KISS classic, "I Wanna Rock and Roll All Night."  I didn't expect that, which I guess made it more fun.  These guys are amazing musicians, and it was great fun for me to be able to watch their performance and skill.

Becca stayed with her sister and brother-in-law to end the evening on the carnival rides, while I hobbled to the car and home to milk goats and get everyone settled in for the night.  On the drive home, I felt the car pulled slightly to the left and though maybe I'd lost a balancing weight when I went barreling down the driveway earlier and hit a bump too hard.  Der - I wasn't thinking clearly, because a balancing weight wouldn't have caused that sensation.  I took it easy going home, did the chores, and then drove to town to meet up with Amanda and bring Becca home.  They'd had a good time on the rides and playing carnival games, and it was about 1:00 am when I picked her up.  I had a bit of trouble with bicyclists, of all things, at 1:00 in the morning on Westside.  I thought there were two cars close to each other with their high beams on, and they weren't turning them down as I approached.  I flashed mine to get them to knock down the light volume as it was really blinding me, and I slowed to a crawl.  As we passed, I noticed they were bicyclists in their reflective spandex gear and was shocked anyone would ride at that time of night.  I suppose everyone likes a midnight ride now and then, but it seemed even more unsafe on what's already a treacherous road to ride on.

We got home and settled in finally about 1:30 am.  Saturday morning, when I woke up and took the dogs out to do their thing, I saw why the car was pulling.  Um, I had a flat tire.  Not completely, but significant.  It was time to clean out the trunk anyway, and time to get new tires for the front.  I suppose I can't put it off any longer.

The next section of the 2006 road trip log will include several photos, so since this is a rather long post I'll wait to add that until next time.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Windsor Town Green Concert and Good News About the Propane Situation

Wednesday was nothing to write home about.  Or blog about.  We were able to go to Kohl's to spend the "Kohl's cash" from Becca's earlier shopping trip, courtesy of our friend who treated Becca to summer clothes.  I was able to get some cool clothes for myself.  Otherwise, we just tried to stay out of the heat as much as possible.

The town of Windsor has a fun tradition of summer evening entertainment at the Town Green, a great community gathering place.  There are free movies outside on the lawn on Tuesdays, and a free live concert featuring various local bands on Thursdays.  This Thursday was the first concert, and Becca and I decided to go check it out.  We've slid through one previously when we stopped at the farmers market to pick up veggies, but didn't stay for the band that time.  We arrived early to get a good parking spot and found a park bench to sit on near the stage.  People had set out their chairs and blankets on the lawn to save their spots, and we watched as they filtered in, found their places, and greeted friends. 

We sat near a restaurant valet stand, which I'd never seen before and is such a good idea.  People come up and place their orders for food.  They pay for it, and take a numbered sign on a long pole with them to their seats, sticking it into the lawn near them.  When the food is ready, it is delivered to their location.  There were no huge lines of people waiting to get food, and it allowed everyone to relax and enjoy the concert.

As we were waiting for the band to begin, we saw this dog walk up with his family.  How do I know it was a "he"?  He was intact.  He was also one of the ugliest dogs I've ever seen.

My friend Ann thinks he's an English Bull Terrier, and that sounds right to me.  Becca called him "The Target Dog."  He has one black spot around his right eye.  I recoiled when I saw him initially.  His head was oddly shaped - not just straight from forehead to tip of nose, but curved in a reptilian fashion.  His eyes were tiny and pink rimmed.  I had a hard time looking at him for a while. 

Then I watched him interact with people.  Friends of his family would come up to greet them, and he calmed waited for attention.  When he got it, his tail wagged rapidly and he was excited and happy.  He didn't bark at other dogs, and he was calm as he relaxed near the chairs.  I have to say that as a representative of his breed, he provided a stellar example.  I have a better understanding of why someone would want to have him as part of their pack.  I still don't understand not neutering him, though.

When the band started, I was happy to hear that they knew what they were doing.  This was a country band, and a good one.  I quietly sang along, trying not to change the lyrics as my friends once did in their country band...  "Oooo I'm drivin' my life away."  I looked to see if anyone was dancing, and saw the first four of what would become a larger crowd in front of the bandstand.  They were skinny women in shorts and revealing tops, with cheap straw "cowboy" hats from the county fair, all with long white or grey hair.  One woman stood out, as she wore a pink brassiere clearly visible underneath her sheer, white shirt.  Ooooookay.  It takes all kinds, and this is Sonoma County, after all.

My eyes were drawn, of course, to the only couple doing a two-step, modified to dance up and down the walkway rather than in a circle.  The skinny grey bearded male counterpart of the couple became known to us as "Sparkly Man" because of his shimmering lamé and sequin encrusted gold long-sleeved shirt, which he wore with a pair of shorts.  He was flamboyant and obviously thought a great deal of himself, as he strutted and gestured gracefully with his partner, bald head gleaming in the sunlight over the grey fringe around the edges.  We tried to get some pictures of him, but I'd forgotten the good camera and my phone camera does not do well at all with distance shots.  I'm sure that you get the mental picture.  He danced every song and never had the same partner.  It seemed as if he'd brought a group of women with him who admired his ability, and he was taking full advantage of it.  It was clear that he and women he was with were having a great time.  I wished that Tammy was with me so that we could join in the dancing. 

We had left the chicks out, so needed to leave by about 7:00 pm so we could get them indoors before dark.  Next time, we'll be able to stay longer.  It was a lot of fun!

Friday morning, I followed up again on telephone conversations I'd had on Wednesday with the propane company that delivers our gas.  Last year I contacted them because I was smelling propane near the tank and believed there was a leak.  I asked them to come out and check it out.  They did, with a young driver I'd never seen before.  He tested the lines and the tank and told me that the leak was in the underground piping.  He said that the metal pipes deteriorate over time and that we should replace them with plastic.  He locked the tank and "red tagged" it.  I asked him a lot of questions, really questioning his diagnosis.  I believed strongly that the leak was from the tank, but even after talking with the owner at the company later, I had to conclude that this was what it was and we'd have to deal with it.  I helped Bette arrange for an estimate to replace the pipe.  Because the current line goes under concrete and the deck, it was less expensive to trench a new line to the other end of the house.  Less expensive doesn't mean not expensive.  It was horribly expensive.  In the meantime, she helped me set up a temporary system of using portable propane tanks to take care of things until the larger issue could be resolved.

Over the months since the tank was locked I've smelled propane from time to time, but never took the time to call again to ask them to come out.  There's a minimum fee of $50, and I figured they would probably poo-pooh my concerns again.  Over the last few days, the smell has been extremely strong, so I went to look at the gauge on the tank to see if it had lost any propane over the last 9 months.  I was shocked to see that it was nearly empty.  Was this confirmation that I'd been right all along?  Or was the tank now leaking but we still had a problem underground?  In any event, it needed to be taken care of.

I got the typical reaction when I asked the woman answering the phone to see if someone more experienced could come do the inspection.  "All of our drivers are trained."  I stifled a sigh.  I don't understand why people are so defensive when it comes to understanding that training and education or certification don't mean anything in the field.  It often takes experience to understand the nuances of a given situation.  It doesn't mean that the young man wasn't qualified or didn't know what he was doing, but perhaps he didn't know what to look for.  I ran into the same argument when a doctor at my daughter's orthodontist's office told me that we should go to a free or sliding scale clinic to have some work done for Becca.  It took us a long time to find a good dentist, and if we have to put off some minor work to make sure that she doesn't have a bad experience or deal with poor quality work, then we will do that.  She argued that California standards are so high that there are "no bad dentists" in California.  I beg to differ.  Passing a test does not mean that you will do quality work when on your own.  I've had horrible experiences with "free" or "low cost" clinics in the past, and won't subject my daughter to them.  The last time I tried a low cost clinic, I ended up at an oral surgeon's office to fix the mistakes made.

I was able to talk to the head honcho at the propane company, who said that he would talk to the driver, look at the file, and call me back that day.  That was Wednesday.  I gave him until Friday morning before I followed up.  When he called me back, I was able to have someone scheduled to come out the same day to look at the tank.  I was so relieved when the driver turned out to be someone obviously experienced and confident in what he was doing.  I explained what was happening, the gas loss, showed him where everything connected to the house, and he started carefully doing his work.  It was a sweltering hot day, so I made sure that he was supplied with plenty of ice water, too. 

After a few minutes, he came back to tell me that all of our lines, underground and in the house, tested 100% fine.  There was a leak at the valve in the tank.  He tried to tighten it, but it was not working.  He had already called the owner and insisted on the following:  We are getting a new tank as soon as possible, I will be credited for the propane lost to the leak, plus extra propane to help make up for the inconvenience of the last 9 months.  Within the hour of his leaving, he called to let me know when they could deliver the new tank.  He made special arrangements so that he will be present with another experienced employee in between their scheduled vacations.

I am so excited that we will finally be off this small tank rotation, and I am so relieved that we didn't go ahead with the new pipe lines!  That would have been a horrible mistake and unnecessary expense.

Experience does matter!

Before I close this post, the next day's entry on our trip to Indiana.

Day 3 - May 18, 2006
Kingman, AZ to Albuquerque, NM

The sun rises hot, and though it was wonderful at 6:00 am, by 8:00 am you can feel the heat building.  After turning back to see if I left my hematite necklace in the motel room, we were on the road by 9:00 am, 8:50 to be exact.

Music helps with Becca's poor attitude about doing her school work.  Mom and Dad didn't want to have the radio on, so I pulled out my Walkman.  That made me feel better and calmer again.  Becca is back to work, which helps.

Looking out the windows it is clear we are in Arizona.  There is nothing like this landscape.  Slowly we watched as rock formations started to rise out of the hills, growing ever taller and more prominent.  There is a stark beauty to Arizona that doesn't require green in order to be beautiful.

As we climb up in altitude toward Flagstaff, the terrain changes yet again.  The dry earth and rock formations shift into mountain beauty.  We are now surrounded by pines, and the signs tell us to look out for deer.  We are hoping to change our route on the way home so we can see the Grand Canyon.  Out of all the people in this van, I am the only one who has seen it.

Outside Flagstaff, the pines begin to disappear.  Suddenly, we are surrounded by nothing but flat, yellow earth.  It almost looks like Kansas, except for the mountains in the distance.  We are approaching the meteor crater now.

We saw the crater.  The cost to get in was highway robbery, but I am glad we got to see it.  Becca slipped and skinned her knee in front of the Apollo Lander.  We got some pictures and souvenirs.

We stopped at "THE INDIAN VILLAGE" with an "authentic hogan."  It had a sign over it that said, "HOGAN."  Typical tourist goods for sale.  Seed bead earrings were only $3.98.  It's far too little for all the work that goes into them.

Albuquerque is beautiful in its own way.  The bluffs are back and gorgeous.  The Motel 6 sucked.  The pool had trash and slime in it.  The room was so small that our bed was against the air conditioner.  I didn't sleep well, but still woke up feeling good.

At a rest stop today a group of Vietnam veteran bikers stopped, too.  One of the riders came up behind me in the store, touched the tattoo on my shoulder and drawled, "Somebody's been drawin' on you."

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

At Least This Week Wasn't as Hot as Bakersfield in May 2006

We got a late start on Sunday and missed some of our favorite vendors at the farmers market.  Some were out of what we were looking for.  At one stand I asked if they had anymore garlic/cheddar bread, and they had sold out.  But!  They had a free sample loaf for me.  Another stand gave me a discount on my purchases.  It's a mixed bag at the end of market day.  You might not find what you wanted, but you can get great deals, and sometimes freebies, by being there as the tables are being cleared and unsold merchandise packed.  I was happy with what we brought home.  I'd forgotten Tierra Farm was closed on Sunday, so we missed out on the strawberries, but after dropping Bex off to visit at her sister's solo for a while, I picked up a ton of fresh produce to fill in the gaps at the grocery market.  I love shopping around the edges of the store, diving in just a bit to grab TP and coffee.  You can't get those at the farmers market.  Yet?

It was the perfect time to clean out the fridge, adding all that produce, and the great thing was that I didn't have a lot of "lost" food in there.  We are doing much better at eating fresh and using what we have, so no waste.

After a bit of time listening to music, I headed back to Jessi's to visit for a while.  They had just installed a new mister while I was there earlier, so on my way home I picked one up for our house, too.  I know it will help Breezy stay cool when she's outside, and it's going to be a great addition for our summer barbecues.  Becca and I made a great and filling spinach salad for dinner.  Now I'm wishing I'd planted spinach this year!

Monday was just too hot to write about.  We did make a trip to town and were able to take advantage of air conditioning.  Bex and I had a blast putting together a pasta dish without a recipe, tossing in fresh herbs and veggies and cutting fruit as a cool dessert.

Tuesday was cooler, but that's not saying a lot.  It was still hot.  On top of that, we had lots of wind.  The strong breezes cool us down a little bit, but they blow dust and leaves all over and make us nervous about fire danger.  We haven't had a day yet where we were going to be able to stay home to be available if the chicks peck each other too much, so the Rhodies and Chilly are still going in and out of the house.  When I put the chicks in their outside pen, I tip the box on its side to air out and be available.  It also provides some added shade in the late afternoon.  We put the chicks back into the box Tuesday evening, and I carried it inside.  Becca had Chilly on her head as she refilled their water.  When she came back in the room she said, "Watch out!"  I didn't know what she was talking about.  Just as I put my foot down on something on the ground, she said, "There's a lizard in the house!"  Oh my goodness.  I yanked my foot back and a small grey lizard moved away.  It had lost its tail somewhere.  Thankfully it froze as we tried to figure out how to get it outside.  I don't mind lizards much.  I definitely do mind them being indoors!  It must have hitched a ride somehow in the box we brought from outside.

Becca grabbed a shoe box, and I dropped it over the lizard.  Now to figure out how to get it back outside.  I didn't think it would work, but Becca wanted me to angle the lid underneath to pick it up.  My instincts said I needed something flat, but I humored her.  I thought I had nudged the lizard onto the lid, so lifted the end of the box to cover the top of the box completely ... and screamed when I saw the lizard still on the carpet.  I never scream.  I can't remember the last time I screamed.  That had us laughing hysterically as we found something flat to slide underneath and successfully take the lizard outside to release it.  As we passed by the now unused terrarium we borrowed from Jessica, Becca suggested we keep it.  Nope.  Not going to do that.  So that was my adrenaline rush for the week.  That's enough.

While clearing some boxes I discovered a journal that I'd started during our trip cross country with my parents to visit family in Indiana.  I had such a fun time re-reading and reliving this that I thought I'd share a little with you now and then.  Unfortunately, I neglected to write in the journal on the way home, but it recalls some fun moments and reminds me of how much I love being on the road.  (I took Becca out of school for this trip, but she did have homework scheduled and was required to keep a trip log as we traveled.  She was 8 years old at the time.)

May 16, 2006
Day 1
Novato to Bakersfield, CA

Even though Rebecca and I were running 1/2 hour late, we left only 15 minutes behind schedule, at 9:15 am.  After stopping at McDonald's and Starbucks, however, Dad remembered he hadn't packed the food.  After we went back to the house for the food, Rebecca's trip log accurately states we departed at 10:00 am.

She started off strong and willing, but soon Rebecca grew tired of school work.  What could have ended at 11:00 am went on past lunch. We stopped at Albertson's for lunch supplies and enjoyed turkey sandwiches, chips and yogurt.

By the time we stopped in Fresno, the air conditioner fan for the rear AC was loud.  Luckily, we were near the Sportsmobile dealer, who checked it out.  Unfortunately, he didn't have the part we need, so no rear AC.  It's okay for travel, but too hot for Mom at night.  (2012 side note - the part was ordered and shipped to our destination in Indiana.)

We arrived in Bakersfield hot and tired and hungry at 7:00 pm.  The KOA "Kabin" has no power, so it's dark and we need flashlights to find things.  We ate salad with chicken on it, turkey sandwiches and more yogurt at the picnic table with gnats and small flies.  Not too bad, but the air was humid and sticky, and they seemed to stick to our skin.

The Kabin was hot and dusty and situated next to the road, with a lot of traffic.  Top that off with a small airport nearby, and it was noisy and hot hot hot.  We slept without covers after our showers, and sweated all over again.

It seems like tour in a way.  So typical to have mechanical problems the first day out.  This time we didn't break down on the highway and it wasn't a major problem.

I am writing this the next morning, sitting by the pool while Becca splashes at 7:30 am.  The air is warm and comfortable, smells good, and birds are singing all around.  We are getting ready for Day 2 of our adventure.

May 17, 2006
Day 2
Bakersfield to Kingman, AZ

Somewhere between Barstow and God Knows Where, you begin to wonder why you decided to take this drive.  The air is hot, the ground rocky, and water is the best thing around.  The last rest stop before Needles has signs warning of rattlesnakes.  The best thing to do is watch the shadows of the clouds and wait for them to pass over you.  Any shade is good.

Just when you think there is nothing good at all in this dry, hot place, a vanilla ice cream cone from Dairy Queen makes everything sweeter and lightens the mood.  All feels well, despite the fact that they charge $3.99 a gallon for regular gasoline!

Motel 6 in Kingman tonight.  Mom needs the AC.  After checking in, Dad and I made a run to the grocery store.  We ate salad and turkey sandwiches again tonight.  Still tastes good.

The AC in the motel room was louder than the trains running through blowing whistles all night, but we got a good night's sleep anyway.  Max (2012 note: Mom's poodle) wasn't feeling well, but did better after rest in the room.  Lots of dogs at the motel, and friendly people.

Watched American Idol, then went to sleep.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Flying High and Falling Safely

Thursday evening I received a text from Bette that the fox is still hanging around.  She's caught him near Hope's pen, and walking up the hill near her other goats.  He might be after the feed?  She also caught sight of a rabbit, which looked to be possibly a domesticated breed.  Perhaps someone lost their bunny or it escaped and survived?  We are really happy to see the rabbits closer to home this year, though the fox is a bit unnerving to me.  As long as he leaves my chickens alone, I'll be okay with him hanging around.  He seems to not bother the goats at all.

Friday night we got to drive to Novato and visit with my parents for family dinner night.  It's been a couple weeks since we've been able to make it, and it was great to be able to catch up and relax and visit together.  Mom was able to cook one of our favorite dishes, but unfortunately it took a lot out of her to be on her feet so long.  I was really happy to see that she was able to get up and about again, though!  It's been a long time since she's been able to do much in the kitchen.

On the way home, we drove past the old Novato Muffler and Brake shop that my friend, John, used to own and operate.  I was shocked to see a new sign there that started with the words "CATALYSTIC CONVERTERS."  What is happening in our world where people who work in an industry don't know how to spell the parts that they use?  Because it's easier explained in writing than over the telephone, I looked up their web site and discovered that it's no longer functioning, so I couldn't even send an e-mail to let them know.  The following day I saw a chicken meal advertised by signage at a Mexican market.  It came with "beans, rise and salsa." 

Saturday dawned bright and hot, and we had an afternoon of adventure planned.  Well, we weren't going to necessarily be a part of this adventure, but witnesses to the event.  My niece, Kaila, received a special gift for her high school graduation.  She was going skydiving.  I've always said that I don't believe in jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, but some people do enjoy this.  As a child, her family picnicked at the local airport and she'd watch the parachutes come down and always wanted to try this.  Today was the day.

The sky was bright blue with a light breeze as we pulled down the dusty road to the Cloverdale Airport.  Airport is a bit of an exaggeration, but it does have hangers and pilots and a runway for small planes.  We saw a bright green and gold parachute land as we made the turn into the parking lot, and knew that this would be a fun afternoon.  Becca and I rode with Kaila and Amanda, and we met other family and friends there for the event.  Most everyone went inside the building to take a look at the video that Kaila needed to watch before her jump.  You know, the one that says that she's risking Death by participating in this adventure.  My dad said that the man speaking in the video had a long, grey ZZ Top beard.  Dad was trying to figure out if the man was Hatfield or McCoy.

Here's dad outside the building where the video was shown.  He's always good about stopping to let me take a photo when he sees the camera up.

I love this picture of Mom.  She looks relaxed and beautiful in her straw hat.

Our friend, Kyla, was able to make it to watch the event.  She brought her two beautiful labs, too.

Animals will always draw Becca to them.

Kaila went over to the hangers to get outfitted for her jump, and they started the videotape.  The whole adventure was taped and photos taken from start to finish.  She looks confident, doesn't she?

I'm ready!  Then it was time to go to the plane and receive some last-minute instructions.

That's one tiny plane!  There was barely enough room for the four people inside.

OMG.  Am I really going to do this?  Then the plane began to taxi for take-off...

We waited for what seemed like forever, losing sight of the plane completely.  Then one of the ground crew members said that he saw them.  "See that white dot up there?  They're free falling."  We watched two white dots come screaming toward the ground, and then saw the divers reaching behind their backs.  Suddenly, two brilliant chutes opened and their descent slowed.

I swear I saw Kaila's chute spin and go upside down, but I didn't get a shot of it.  They came closer and closer, and the guy she was riding with was able to grab some air and really give her a long ride.

 Kaila landed like a PRO.  The girl we'd seen land before her had fallen on landing.  It looked like Kaila had been doing this forever.

She said her legs were shaky at first.

 Mission accomplished!

She said that her favorite part was the plane ride.  She doesn't want to jump again.  Maybe a pilot's license is in her future?  During free fall she had a hard time breathing, but after that it was fun.  We were able to go to Jessica's house and watch the video that the crew had taken for her, and it was something else.  We had fun being able to virtually share the flight and free fall and hear about her experience as we watched.  Congrats, Kaila!  Check that one off the bucket list.

It was still hot when we got home around 5:00, and I started the grilled chicken with herbs and farfalle for dinner.  Such a good meal, and because the recipe is so big it lasts us a long time.  We're looking forward to Sunday's farmers market and to see what good finds we'll be able to pick up!

Friday, June 8, 2012

We're Talkin' Cake

I decided that we would stay home on Thursday.  We would not get in the car all day.  It is so rare that I am able to do this, to just stay put.  We did it!  It was a hot day with a nice breeze, which meant that it was much more pleasant outside than in.  Especially since I decided that we would bake.

We made the pound cake, and it was just as good as I remembered from when we made it the first time.  I discovered this recipe when Becca needed to bring food to her English class.  Her class had just finished reading To Kill a Mockingbird, and each student was asked to bring a food item that was mentioned in the book.  I thought this was a really fun way to bring this era to life for the students.  We decided to make Cracklin' Bread and Pound Cake.  The Cracklin' Bread was corn bread with BACON added to it.  I think that bacon should be a food group.  It is probably one of my most favorite foods in the world.  Not only was bacon added to the corn bread mixture, but the grease was left in the iron skillet, the batter poured into that, and the whole concoction was baked in the iron skillet.  The bacon grease sizzled around the edges of the batter, making it super crisp and light.  Yum.  Decadent.  Probably Not Healthy At All, especially if one isn't doing hard physical work every day like people did back then.

I digress.  On to the pound cake.  Did you know that the name "pound cake" originated in the early 18th century?  It was so named because the original recipe called for a pound of each of the ingredients:  butter, sugar, flour, and eggs.  That tells you how rich this is.  It is also moist, perfectly dense, and delicious.  You have not experienced pound cake properly if all you have tasted is the store-bought cardboard loaves from the supermarket.  When we were searching for the best way to make this, I knew that the Queen of Butter, Paula Deen, would be the one to have the best recipe, and I was right.  Her recipe can be found here, and at the bottom of this post.  Be sure to check your stock of ingredients, because you might not have 5 eggs left in your carton, or a half pound of butter!

You might be concerned about the shortening called for in this recipe.  Yes, you can find organic shortening and avoid the potential GMO contamination.  Hurrah!

We put fresh blueberries in half of the cake, but they didn't really add anything to it.  I think what I should have done was save those berries to put on TOP of the cake.  This is something that would hold up well for a strawberry shortcake, or be awesome served with any type of berries.

We also made the black bean and corn salad.  We had run out of tomatoes (and I was not making a trip to the store for anything that day!) so we used canned diced tomatoes we had on hand.  They were an adequate substitute, but I wouldn't recommend it.  Not if you love fresh the way that I do.  (Come on, tomatoes, start ripening faster in the garden, okay?)

Here's Paula's recipe.  Remember it takes 1 1/2 hours to bake, so plan ahead and enjoy!

Mama's Pound Cake
Paula Deen

Prep Time:  15 minutes
Cook Time:  1 hour, 30 minutes
Serves:  16 to 20

1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, plus more for pan
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3 cups sugar
5 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
1/2 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

With a mixer, cream butter and shortening together. Add sugar, a little at a time. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl and add to mixer alternately with milk, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Mix in vanilla. Pour into a greased and floured tube pan and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Cats, Raccoons and BATS, Oh My!

It was Sunday night, and I stepped out onto the front porch in the dark, looking at the bright moonlight and the moon shadows all around.  Then I heard this odd squealing and squeaking, an animal in distress.  I asked Becca to hurry outside with me to check on the Americaunas, because the sound came from that direction.  The chickens were fine.  I looked around, but could see nothing moving.  Becca said she saw eyes gleaming in the garden area.  A large animal.  I started over to see what might be there, but she was frightened, because she said it was big - possibly a coyote.  I turned and came inside.  She later heard scratching at the outside of the house, and I figured it was raccoons or Star Kitty.  Monday morning, I discovered I was right.  It was raccoons.  They'd found a trash bag I'd stashed outside to take down to the can the next day and tore into it, in addition to pulling the cover off of the compost bin again.  Wednesday night, I saw one jump out of the compost bin when I came outside.  I'm not too worried about that.  I can easily put the lid back on in the morning, and they don't make a mess in there.

Monday dawned cold and windy, and surprised me with a little bit of rain as I started the morning routine.  I decided to make the pound cake and put two sticks of butter on the counter top to soften so we could make it.  It was well away from the edge, but when we came back inside from evening chores, I noticed one was missing.  There's only one thing that could do that, and apparently Breezy was in such a hurry she even ate the paper on it!  That was the last of the butter, so we had to wait to make the cake until after we went to the store next.

Star Kitty is getting mischievous in his old age.  He's about 10 years old and rules the outside of the house.

He doesn't like dogs much, having had Breezy chase him the same day we brought her home.  (I hate it when people tell me a dog gets along well with cats, and then have that not be true!)  The only time Star has had a recent problem with Breezy was when he sneaked inside the house and she went after him.  I pulled Breezy off, Star ran back outside without any injury, and Breezy's face looked like a pincushion.  Breezy is always on leash outside because she likes to run off.  Duncan is better behaved, so he gets to go outside without his leash.  This means that when Star knows Duncan is coming out, he hides.  Duncan likes to chase cats, too.

Duncan is another dog that I was assured got along well with cats.  I saw him interact with the family cat before we brought him home.  Apparently that cat was grown when Duncan was a puppy, and liked to beat up on him.  So Duncan respected that cat.  He probably developed a resentment toward cats, because he would really prefer to chase them!  He does that every chance he gets, but Star is too fast for him to catch.

Star has started messing around with Breezy when I take her outside.  He used to stroll around about 10 feet away as she did her business, and just watch her.  This drove Breezy crazy and sometimes she wouldn't do what she was supposed to because she was so distracted by the cat.  Recently, Star has started coming closer to Breezy.  Sometimes he'll walk right up to her and touch noses.  Breezy stands there all tense, wanting to chase after him, but knowing that she can't get anywhere.  Wednesday morning, Star did this again.  He walked up to Breezy, touched noses with her, and then walked away.  What he did next had me laughing out loud.  Star walked back up to Breezy, and ... tapped her on the side of the face with his right paw before walking away!  He also likes to taunt her when she's in her outside crate, making her crash against the side and bark loudly, then sauntering away.

Wednesday afternoon, we had plans to meet with a dear friend of mine for lunch and a shopping trip.  I've known her for 22 years, first professionally as staff at opposing counsel's office, and we grew to be friends.  I haven't gotten to see her often enough, and am so happy for our recent reconnection.  She invited us to her beautiful home for lunch and wanted to take Becca on a shopping trip to get new summer clothes.  Since I am still unemployed, she knew that I wouldn't be able to do anything to help Becca this year.  We had a wonderful lunch together, visiting and laughing and cuddling with her sweet cats.  The shopping trip was a blast, and Becca found some really cute clothes that will take her well into school, as well.  Between the two of us, we were able to combine sales with senior discount and a coupon and the total savings was well over 50%.  It was a magical day, and we are so blessed to have her in our lives.  I am really looking forward to seeing her again.  It seems that I always leave wanting more time to talk!

When we got home, Becca hopped out of the car to get the mail.  As I waited for her, I heard a scream.  Sometimes she messes with me, but this time she came running back to the car.  "There is a BAT at the mailbox!!  It hissed at me!!"  I was confused.  A bat?  She was afraid to go back.  I asked her if it was inside the mailbox, and she said no, it's on the ground.  She didn't see it, and accidentally touched it with her foot, and it moved and hissed at her.  I think I would have screamed, too!  I went over to take a closer look, and sure enough, this huge bat was spread-eagled on the ground in front of the mailbox.  It must have been injured, perhaps by a car.  I snapped this picture while Becca pleaded with me not to get too close.

I am making the picture larger so you can see it better.  I've never seen such a large bat in Sonoma County, and it is at least three or four times as big as the little one we found inside our old house.  I very carefully reached around to get the mail out of the box, and texted Bette to warn her so she wasn't surprised when she got her mail.

The garden continues to grow beautifully, and it's exciting to see the tomatoes start to bear fruit.  It was especially exciting to see a glimpse of orange Wednesday night, and know that we'll soon be able to eat these!

Thursday morning was bright and sunny, with the nearly full moon still hanging clearly in the sky.  Lily, the LaMancha goat, has been a real pistol the last few weeks.  While she normally waits for me to pick up her leash after I put Salsa on the milk stand, she has been nibbling at greens and then running away just as I get close to her.  She runs into the large pen with the dwarf goats and then plays keep-away.  Thursday morning was the worst by far.  She was running full speed and playing with Moonshine.  This meant that all four goats were running madly around, jumping up to head butt each other, and then running away from me while I was trying to remove leashes and grab Lily to put her in the other pen.  I eventually got hold of her, but she was such a pill that when I untied the gate, she knocked the post out of my hands.  That meant a section of the fence was flat on the ground, and Moonshine decided that it would be fun to walk out.  So now I have Lily on leash and Moonshine loose.  Because Lily is so much bigger and harder to handle, I decide to put her away and then catch the silly little wether.  By the time I get Lily in, I see that Moony is standing on his hind legs, with his head inside the grain bucket attached to the milk stand in front of Salsa.  I always worry about this because if Salsa tries to head butt him and knocks the milk stand over, she could be seriously injured or killed.  I ran to them to get him away.  He took off running, though luckily toward his pen.  He looked like he was about to take off, so I squatted down and stuck my hand out as if I had something in it.  He came close enough for me to catch, and I was able to put him back inside.  Because the goats are so full of energy, I may go ahead and put them all in the larger pen together today.  Hopefully I can get some video of their antics to share.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Plants & Critters, Music, Another Failed Recipe, and a Broken Ice Cream Maker

Just a few things of note this weekend, which overall was pretty quiet.

Friday morning, as I walked through and watered the potted plants, I noticed several odd-looking mushrooms had sprouted in the pot containing the peppercorn plant, literally overnight.  Here's what they looked like.

You can see there's still a little dirt on top of them.  By 11:00 am, the tops were bent over, like they were wilting.  We left to see a movie with Amanda, and by the time we got home, the mushrooms were completely crumpled and wilted.  None of the other plants had these in them at the time.  I bought three plants from the same nursery, planted them in pots at the same time, using the same bag of soil, so this one seemed to be unique.

After the movie (MIB3 - a fun one), we came home to a kitchen horror.  A tiny drop of something had been left on the counter top, and that invited in a massive, and I mean MASSIVE, swarm of black ants.  I've never seen so many, and once they found that one spot they mobilized and went to every vulnerable spot in the room.  The cereal box - outside into the garbage.  Granola bars sealed in ziplocs, even.  Gone.  The garbage can.  Out.  These ants were the fastest I have ever seen.  They seemed to be on meth, or to have little jet propulsion packs strapped to their backs.  It took 24 hyper vigilant hours for them to be gone.

No, there are no photos of this disaster!

Saturday morning, I was surprised to see two mushrooms in the tea tree pot.  Again, they sprouted overnight and were gone by afternoon.  This plant is from the same group as the peppercorn, so I'm not sure if the spores came from the nursery or the soil.  Interestingly, the wild ginger plant seems to be immune to this, as nothing has shown up in that one at all.  They haven't came back in the other two plants, either.

Becca was treated to her first big concert by her sisters on Saturday.  It was called BFD and featured many of her favorite bands.  This was an opportunity for her to do something Major as a teen, and she was so excited the night before that she couldn't sleep.  I brought her to Jessi's house in the morning, and reiterated that she was to stick close to her sisters!!  I even offered to send the magician's handcuffs that Becca has with them, but they didn't want to do that.  With promises that they would check in regularly by text, I left for over 24 hours to myself.  A rarity.

I found a potential job listing and worked on the application packet for most of the morning.  It's such a different world these days, a far cry from when I used to submit a resume or fill out a single-page application.  The screening process is like a final exam, with the attendant attention to detail and focus on doing your very best.  You know that you won't get a "passing grade" unless you are able to get through this written exam and then pass the oral.  I took my time and got it all right, printing the packet for delivery on Monday.

It was HOT in the house by the time I finished, and I wanted ice cream.  There's nothing better than homemade ice cream on a hot day, so I decided that I'd use the electric mixer because it's smaller and I didn't have someone to help me crank the other.  We haven't used this since we acquired the antique hand crank a couple years ago, but I knew where it was and the canister was frozen, so I pulled it out and got it started.  About 20 minutes later, I noticed it had mysteriously stopped cranking.  I worried that it had frozen too quickly and had jammed, but it was still barely frozen.  I pulled it apart and checked, trying to get it started again.  The motor wasn't working, and I couldn't figure out how to fix it.  Well, I guess that means hand crank from here on out.  I put the canister and mixing blade into the freezer and set the timer so I'd check and stir it by hand every 10 minutes.  Eventually, I was able to finish the ice cream, and regretfully tossed the old mixer.

I felt guilty making ice cream without Becca, but know we'll have a chance to do more together.  She was having fun at the concert, so I didn't feel too bad.  I wondered if I should write about this in my blog, and decided to go ahead and do it, because she doesn't read my blog.

As the weather cooled, I decided to try a new cake recipe.  This one sounded good - Vanilla Blueberry Butter Cake!  I had fresh blueberries and wanted to give this a go.  Unfortunately, it turned out dense and flat, the best part being the blueberries.  Normally I'd tell you where I found the recipe, but I only do that if it's good.  Not only because I want you to have a good experience, but I don't want to trash-talk other bloggers.  It might have been a mistake in the recipe.  I noticed there was no salt or baking soda included in the ingredients, and that might be the problem.  In any event, I learned something from the experience.  I now know how to make my favorite pound cake with blueberries in it.  Now THAT is something to look forward to!  When I make it, I'll be sure to share the recipe.  We made pound cake for Becca's English class last year, and it was da bomb.

I had the house to myself.  I didn't have to go anywhere.  I could do anything I wanted to, and I decided to do something that I rarely allow time for.  Piano.  I have a beautiful Baldwin Hamilton that I love to pieces.  It as a story behind it that I may share at another time.  I think it'd been a year and a half since I played, and even then it was at the request of the kids at Christmas time, without having played for a long time before that.  I love the sound of this piano, and there's something special about the "real thing."  I just don't get along well with electronics.  I've often thought it would be nice to have a standard-looking piano that was digital, so that I could plug headphones in and play whenever I want to, but I just don't want to get rid of this one, and ... there's a connection to the instrument emotionally that you don't get with something that's plugged in.  I can't explain it, but perhaps if you play, you know how that feels.  I pulled out the music for some old favorites.  I looked hard at the music, familiarizing myself again with the sharps, flats, where the keys were.  I was surprised that it was more difficult this time.  I stumbled through the first page, and then felt my hands becoming more confident.  By the time I was finished with the song, I felt an incredible happiness as my muscle memory took over and I played as if I'd been doing it all along.  Each song was like that, but I went through them several times, and left the keyboard feeling as if I had accomplished something special, looking forward to the next time with my old friend.  (Then went straight to the computer to find a local piano tuner!)

The kids didn't get home from the concert until 2:00 am Sunday morning.  Becca spent the night at her sister's house in Windsor, and they both texted to let me know they were home safe.  They slept in and took their time Sunday morning, and Jessi brought Bex home that afternoon.  It was fun to hear their stories and their experience at the concert.  Becca had a blast, and is looking forward to doing this again with her sisters.

As we were moving the chicks into their box for the night, I asked Becca if we should try integrating the flock again the next day.  She said yes.  Then after a couple of moments, she said that she read my blog.  I asked which one, and she said the last one, about Memorial Day week. "You know, the one where you said I freaked out."  I was worried she'd be upset that I wrote about her, but she was fine with that.  She told me that reading that and my explanation about the chicks helped her understand the situation better, and that she was ready to help them make that transition.  Wow - what a great feeling!  I felt so connected with her, was so proud of her maturity and ability to communicate with me.  It seemed as if that, plus her experience going to the concert, had brought a new maturity to her, and we had a good evening together.  She's growing into a really incredible young woman.

You know what that means though, right?  I thought I could talk about the ice cream and broken appliance without her knowing about it.  She might read this blog post.  If she does, here's what I have to say.

Hi, Becca.  I'm sorry about the ice cream maker. Do you want to hand crank some with me?  I love you very much, and am so very proud of you!!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Memorial Day Week

Monday was the Memorial Day holiday.  We flew the flag.  We meditated on what it all means.  Well, although I was mindful of the reason, meditation meant that one of us slept in, and the other ended up taking a nap on the couch in the afternoon.  You guess who did what.  It was a lazy and relaxing day, with just the usual things that needed to be done.

We made up for things on Tuesday.  After Bex got up I said it was time to put the chicks outside, and suggested that we integrate the flock today.  As usual, Chilly was on Becca's shoulder and was going to go in last.  I put the first Rhodie in with the Americaunas, and Zeus immediately started making noise and chasing it around.  I had expected this and knew that the four new chicks "against" the two - or possibly even just Zeus - would work things out.  Becca Freaked Out.  She was so upset and uptight that I decided to wait and educate her further on what was going to happen, and how I expected it to play out.  I reminded her that she was upset when Lily and Salsa fought as kids, and she said, "Salsa is STILL mean to Lily!"  Yes, but they've worked it out.  This is going to take more time for Becca than I think it will for the chicks.  I may have to do this on my own when she's away with a friend, or when she's with her sisters for an upcoming concert.

Yes, you might say I am a pushover.  But I know how to pick my battles, and this was one that wasn't worth "winning," and wouldn't have taught anyone anything.  I think it's as important to the chicks that we be calm and confident as it is for Becca to have that same calm confidence.  Anxiety and fear is contagious.  That's the last thing animals need when adjusting to a new situation.

The next thing on the agenda was to shave Duncan.  Well, not exactly shave him, but take the clippers and trim his long Scottie locks.  He's recently started pulling his hair out again, and because his diet is stable I don't think it's allergies, but perhaps the heat.  We put him on the milk stand (just as a table, we didn't put his head in - his legs are too short!), and took the shears to him.  He is such a good boy about grooming, having obviously had regular experience before becoming a country dog who isn't pampered as much.  I'd share a picture of him, but the bald spots on his sides are too hideous to preserve for posterity.  Let's just say that I didn't butcher him badly, everything looked close enough to even, and he seems happier.

We then took a run to Sebastopol to help my brother out with some gas.  It's hard to deal with a holiday weekend when you've lost your job, the unemployment check is a day late, and you have a job interview but not enough gas to make it.  I'm not in much better shape, but had a little more wiggle room and could lend him a hand.  Isn't that what family is all about?  We take care of each other.  While we were in Sebastopol, I discovered that the Frizelle-Enos feed store had organic chicken feed for much less than I've been paying elsewhere, so we picked some up.  We also took a run by the grocery store and then headed back home for more ranch adventures.

No wildlife on the driveway this time, though we did see a turkey take flight and then glide across the driveway ahead of us as we left.

Becca bathed the dogs.  She did it outside.  They were not so thrilled with the cold shower, though I'm sure it made them feel better overall.  At least I hope it did!

Luna got her head caught in the fence again, so while Becca got her out I installed the new battery.  There's lots of oomph in that fence now, so I noticed all of the goats were staying well away.  Good goaties.  For those who don't know, that electric fence doesn't zap like a horse fence would (and those are scary), but it's more like a strong static SNAP.  Since goats explore first with their noses, it does tend to get them to stay away.

We took the 25 pound bag of chicken feed and put the contents into its container.  I asked Becca to throw the large brown paper bag away while I fed the chickens, and she decided to ... put it on her head like a hat and make the dwarf goats run around.  I love watching the goats run, especially Moonshine, who bounds like a deer.  At one point she asked if I had scissors handy, and I said I didn't.  Then I told her about the Unknown Comic, who used to wear a bag over his head with holes cut out for the eyes and mouth.  She said, "That's what I wanted to do!"  Ah, the simple pleasures of life.  The things those with a youthful spirit can do with a paper sack ... or box ... or anything that just requires a little imagination and joy.

We had too much scheduled on Wednesday (Becca got to visit with a friend for the afternoon) to integrate the chicks, though I wanted to - soon!  I want to be home for the entire first day so I can intervene if any of them get hurt.  We will probably do it this weekend.  Even though they are only in the house overnight (for their safety), that is still too much.

Thursday morning, bright and early, I started to move the chicks outside and discovered that they had dumped their water overnight, soaking the bottom of the cardboard box.  I needed to transfer them to another box before taking them outside.  At this point, I am REALLY looking forward to flock integration!

We had a big afternoon planned for Thursday - my niece's high school graduation at Analy High School in Sebastopol.  We left early and were able to get there in plenty of time to find a good parking spot.  It was close to the wire when my oldest daughter and her husband arrived, but they were able to find a spot near us.  And near the livestock.  I've mentioned Analy before, but I am always happy to visit there.  The solar panels over the student parking lot are a reminder of how forward-thinking this school and district is, and I love the livestock area where students keep sheep, pigs, chickens, goats, and even a calf.  The calf spent a lot of time "talking" loudly as we stood near the pen and watched the animals.

The ceremony was what you would expect.  I was surprised that there wasn't much new offered in the way of speeches.  I suppose the high school experience hasn't changed much, or maybe tradition dictates what people talk about at these events.  The band was good, and the choir amazing.  I was very impressed, and it made me want to be in a choir again!  The students tossed tortillas and pitas like Frisbees from their seats during the event, as well as beach balls and, yes, the inflatable doll.  Overall, it was a fun time and we were happy to see Kaila through this rite of passage.

We'd realized while we were at Analy that we'd forgotten to put the chicks inside before we left.  Their pen is not very secure and I don't feel comfortable leaving them outside after dark.  I would hate to come home to see feathers everywhere and the carnage that would be waiting within if that happened.  Chilly also has this bad habit of sticking her head through the fencing to peck outside the enclosure.  We had 1 1/2 hours to get home, take care of business, and then get over to Santa Rosa for dinner reservations at a Japanese steak house style restaurant.

We took the back roads from Sebastopol, through Forestville, to home.  There's a bridge built in 1902 on the way - one way traffic only - named Wohler Bridge that crosses the Russian Ruver.  It is a picturesque spot, and my own daughter and her then fiance (now hubby) took some of their engagement photos on it.  They walked out onto the bridge and moved over when vehicles needed to cross.  Now let me tell you what happened Thursday.

We pulled up to the bridge and paused to check for traffic before going across.  There was a truck on the bridge.  It was slowing.  A woman was walking from a nearby parked car, camera in hand, onto the bridge.  It's a classic pickup truck, totally restored, cherry red and white.  Out from the driver's side comes a man in a tux, salt and pepper hair and beard.  Out from the passenger side comes a woman in an ivory lace wedding dress. Probably a second wedding, congratulations.  Hurry and get your shot, and have a good life.  They strolled to the front of what is probably the groom's pride and joy.  The photographer took her sweet time, taking shots, walking over to them to show them the shots, then taking more.  They started walking and I thought, "Good.  They're done."  They walked past the truck doors and beyond the truck to mid-span of the bridge.  Now I'm getting annoyed.

A convertible blue Mustang pulls up behind me with two men in it.  Okay, now the pressure is on as traffic is building.  I can see another vehicle on the other side of the bridge wanting to cross.  The Mustang pulls up next to me and I explain they're taking wedding photos.  These guys had NO patience.

BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAST goes the Mustang's horn.  BEEP BEEP BEEEEEEEEEP!  "Come on!  If you want to stop traffic, get a Sheriff!"  BEEP BEEP BEEEEEEP!  The groom smiles and waves.

Then the couple starts walking again.  "Good.  They're done."  They walk to the OTHER side of the bridge and the groom sits on the railing.  We are 10 minutes into this at this point.  This makes the guys go ballistic.  Curse words start flying from the Mustang and threats to "f--- something up if I have to come out there."

Two more cars pull up behind us.

I am thinking it would be kinda funny if the groom fell off into the river, but then his truck would still be blocking the roadway.

He gets off the railing and promptly trips over his bride's train.  I giggle a little.  I can't help myself.

"Good.  They're done."

They walk to the front of the truck for more shots there.  OMG!  We are 15 minutes and counting.  My time to get to Santa Rosa is seriously dwindling.

They FINALLY get into the truck and pull most of the way off the bridge.  Groom leans out the window, smiles and says, "We just got married.  Thanks for waiting."  I grit my teeth as I think, "It's not like you gave us any choice," and have to squeeze my way by him to get onto the bridge.  The vehicle on the other side isn't waiting, and he doesn't enter the roadway until I'm mid-span, so we have to squeeze by each other on the one-way.  The Mustang is behind me, and they turn left onto Westside while I turn right - we both wave as we leave.

We had serious problems getting everything done in time to make it to dinner for our reservations, and we just couldn't move fast enough to make up the lost time.  While we're on the freeway, my mom calls Becca to find out what we want to order.  Thank goodness I'd checked out the menu beforehand, so I knew - and she was able to place our order for us.  We finally arrived at Kimuri, which is a Japanese steak house type of restaurant, where the focus is the food prep at the table.  The two men preparing the meals were entertaining and funny.  We had a great time celebrating Kaila and Shane's graduation, and Kaila and Timothy's 18th birthdays.  Everything worked out after all!