Along for the ride:

Monday, April 20, 2015

Building Characters

Our Dream Playhouse Project is uniting a mixed bunch of craftsmen, laborers, artists and artisans. The architect and contractor had never worked together before, both talked into this by yours truly. I'm treading lightly to see how exposed the egos are around here, especially those of people used to being sole "Leaders of the Parade", who are now playing nice in a sandbox that is costing all of us money and time.
A builder friend of our architect, came up with some old weathered planks and fabricated the barn doors. He went a little medieval with the hammered metal and round nail heads but we can't be too controlling in this situation and it's an interesting lesson in letting go and having faith in the end result.

 I brought in a painter, who has the ability to create any finish that can be imagined. I wanted to go over what he was going to do where, but he told me that he knew what he was going to do and didn't need to go over it. He's not much of a communicator but the results are showing great promise.

 The front entrance to the house is arched and cut into a Dutch door.
 The texture of the wood shows beautifully through the worn finish treatment and the door knob is just perfect.
 Three of our trades have postponed from today until tomorrow. They're going to be on top of one another, vying for elbow room, in the morning. The wooden ramp, that will make our house accessible to all, is almost done. I've been working on the design of the stone threshold so that it meets the wood floor on one side and the ramp on the other, without any insurmountable bumps in the road.
Our house looks a naked, for now but I'm expecting my next post to have finished walls and roof.
Fingers crossed on that!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Construction Management-A Game of Pick-up-Sticks!

Having lit a few fires under people regarding lack of action and time running out on our Playhouse project, the last week has been a blur of deliveries, hammering and sawing and problem solving.
I already had a full and varied schedule planned out, then I took it upon myself to drop in on our builder and forcefully remind him that we only have a few weeks to complete our Dream House.
 Next thing I know, my schedule was like a handful of Pick-up-Sticks, which had been tossed skyward, mixed with someone else's Pick-up-Sticks bundle and blown around by a strong gust of wind prior to landing where it may. Cancel this, move that, check a measurement, try to earn a living....
 Suddenly things started to take shape.

 Not always the perfect shape! The blue prints were from an earlier phase and didn't reflect an important change, that had been discussed at group project-launching dinner meeting. Luckily, the project is taking shape right next to my office, in our warehouse. The Foreman had outlined the door, per the plans, prior to cutting out the opening.
 We grabbed some photos to show him what we wanted and he got it right away. He will also be making the front door for us, as the size and scale are not available off the shelf. He went home with his template today.
A house looks much happier with an opening that will become a doorway.
 We've drilled attachment holes in the reclaimed, antique roof-tiles we'll be using to clad the roof. I always wonder what the Artisans who hand shaped these tiles, a hundred or more years ago, would have thought of the journey they would be destined to take. Do you think they would have believed it, if someone told them?
Taken down in Provence to sail for a month over the ocean to California; nailed and hooked on, because of potential earthquakes and, in this case, turned into what used to be called a "Folly" in someone's garden.

One of our "Finishers" brought his plaster and color sample board by just now, for the exterior walls. It's darn near perfection. He was paying attention when we showed him what we wanted and he has the skills to reproduce that very nicely. I'm signing off on this from my point of view. The architect will be here on Monday and can speak her mind. I don't expect anything but a positive reaction.
As I'm writing this, the electrician is doing his part. He was a bit delayed and has a couple of hours of work still to complete. I cancelled my Friday evening riding lesson. This takes precedence, for now. I'm looking forward to riding on Sunday morning, possibly in the rain. The forecast is predicting some minute amounts of moisture and hail. We'll take whatever nature gives us. The hills are already turning from green to brown and there is no snow-pack waiting to melt and feed our reservoirs. I just suggested to my Landlord, who has promised us a back lawn, since before we moved in, a year ago, that Astra Turf is the more responsible choice at this time.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Knees and Damn Knees!

I think it's obnoxious of a Doctor, who has just seen my x-rays, to enter the consulting room saying: "Wait! Don't tell me. Let me guess where it hurts". In reality, it is something I might do, were the roles reversed. I have bone rubbing on bone, arthritis in one knee, certainly exacerbated by having a young and active foster dog, in need of miles of walks each day. I'd been hobbling around for a week or two, hoping it would get better on its own, but no luck.  My smartass Orthopedic doctor gave me a shot of cortisone and advised some rest; especially no hills. Hmm? 
I've been sitting out several weekends of cancelled rides, due to my knee, as well as work projects that were time sensitive and ate up whole Sundays. Some were creative, such as working through a huge set of blue-prints, tweaking and making design suggestions for carved stone elements, such as door surrounds and fireplace mantels, on a client's new project near Santa Barbara. Some were deadly serious and laborious, such as searching for receipts and justifying papers to answer a tax audit. I swear that the four hours standing in front of the copy machine were probably as bad for my knee as anything else I've done lately.
I tried to ride last week. Our Friday evening lessons have been reinstated since the clocks changed, giving us daylight. I made it down the hill to the arena, groomed and tacked up Dublin, then found I couldn't do much once in the saddle. I had to lengthen my stirrups to take out the bend in my leg and just walk around, like a kid on a pony ride. Even that felt weird. 
Yesterday's attempt went much better. They brought a horse in for me so I wouldn't have to hike out through the pasture. Apples was a cooperative partener and I was thrilled to be functioning at a reasonable percentage of normal. I did quit before the other riders but am happy to report no ill-effects in the knee department. I'm riding again tomorrow morning.
Not to be outdone, The Artistic One had also been complaining about knee pain. His is an ongoing and worsening problem and he'll have knee replacement sometime soon, now that he's wrapped his head around the idea of one more surgery. 
On Thursday morning at 5am, TAO woke up in a lot of pain, with a knee that was red and swollen to the size of a large cantelope. It hurt to move it in any way and it took some maneuvering to get him to the bathroom, as his other leg is significantly shorter and not weight bearing. I got him back to bed, gave him a pain pill and called the 24 hour line for an appointment at 9:30am. We go to medical offices near our work, as we are there more often than at home. The morning commute is an hour so TAO had some time to rest and I fed the cat, made coffee and did two scale drawings that I'd promised to a client. I also pulled my car around, as close to the door as possible.
Getting TAO out of bed, dressed and into the car took forever, punctuated with groans and sharp intakes of breath. We have both crutches and a walker from previous unremembered incidents, but neither were a real solution to help him ambulate. Thank goodness our house is all on one level now. Reaching the car was fraught with the danger of a fall and getting his legs inside caused him more pain. 
I commandeered a wheel-chair on arrival at the hospital and got TAO to his appointment with his usual doctor. Dr S. asked about any recent injury and pondered the possibility of gout or an infection. TAO has had three cortisone shots in that knee, in a few short months, which is a lot. She sent us over to the orthopedic department to have fluid drawn from that offending knee, to relieve pressure and to analyze it. The Ortho doctor warned it was a big bore needle for this, then he was visibly shocked when the fluid he was withdrawing was dark red blood, not clear liquid, as expected. 
70cc's of blood removed helped reduce the pressure so TAO was feeling better. I asked Ortho Doc how far out they were scheduling knee replacement surgeries and he replied that TAO was off that list until he got sorted out with the coumadin clinic to better regulate his blood thinners. 
For now, Ortho says that it can't be the knee causing the bleed and the coumadin clinic say that it can't be due to the level of blood thinners. We have slightly diminished his dosage for now.
Did I forget to mention that we already had another appointment on the schedule that day with a pulmonologist? TAO has extreme sleep apnea, which, although we first found out about it when he zoned out while driving, crossed two lanes of traffic and hit the center divide on the freeway, is a good diagnosis. I have a husband who has had deteriorating memory and concentration and who has to lie down and sleep in the middle of the day. We now have an explanation (other than Alzheimers) and there are things we can do to fix this. Yay us!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Old Broads' Trail Ride

February trail ride in T-shirt weather. Who would complain? Western saddles and a nice young guide, who's career aspirations are "Cowboy". He's worked on a cattle ranch in Ohio and tried bull-ring riding on Portuguese horses. He's taking reining and cutting lessons and is set to buy the horse he's been riding on the trail. He started out as a farrier.
My friend Karen is a Collie rescue connection. She and I often chat about horses as well as dogs. She was raised in these hills and had her own horse for decades. She hadn't ridden since her horse passed away of old age, some eight years ago.
The biggest hurdles to get over are often in our minds. Karen was worried that she was out of shape, too old, wouldn't know what to do, etc. (I know for sure that I'm out of shape and "too" old, but who cares? When I'm on horseback, I'm mentally a teenager). We took it slowly to begin with and then she found herself greatly relieved to be having fun, back in the saddle and loving revisiting her old stomping grounds.
I have the feeling it won't be as long this time, before she takes to the hills again.

Monday, February 16, 2015

February Flowers

Freesias were my Mother's favorite flowers. I often used to buy a slender bunch for her, "just because". Their distinctive spring perfume still makes me smile. Now I grow them myself.
Orchids are an accidental success. These are repeat bloomers from a plant I bought at a flea market a few years back, for next to nothing.
As the orchids in the previous photo seem so happy in this spot, I dug a hole and put the new plant, below, right into the ground.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Pirates and Dancing Girls

 After a couple of hours on the beach, this morning, and a last dip in the Caribbean Ocean, we met our friends for  lunch. The Waikiki Beach Restaurant on St Martin's, has been renovated since the Cyclone that tore through the area a few months ago. It's more modern and open than the version we visited two years ago. The view of the blue waves and passing boats is part of the experience. We're fascinated by the para-sailing and the skills of the tow-boats as they reel in the humans, hanging from a thread, and land them on the back of their craft, without getting their feet wet.
Sunday Brunch is a large affair, with Jet-Skis ferrying visiting yacht passengers ashore, and much celebration at tables ordering jeroboams of Tattinger and Moet.

There was a fashion show of bikinis, cover-ups and resort wear, from the adjoining Boutique, after which the music intensified and "Cue Pirate"; welcome eye-candy for those of us not drooling over the female Models. Our Pirate was on roller skates and got the dancing started right away. 
The Models returned, transformed into dancers, and encouraged Brunch guests to join them, on and off the tables. Those who cry foul when a furry cat paw dares to cross a table, seem to have no problem accepting humans in stilettos tramping around between the plates and glasses.
Our Pirate and his Hench-women twirled and Vogued and smiled for photos with the smitten.They danced vigorously for a long time.
The highlight of the whole experience, for me, was the Maitre d' firmly grasping the ear of an annoying little boy to remove him from the pathway of the servers. I had watched the boy earlier, on the beach, slyly kicking out at the family dog. If he'd done it one more time, it could well have been my hand on his ear.
We're headed back to the real world tomorrow. We hear it's been raining in California.
Post script: The rain and wind caused our flight home to be cancelled so we were stuck for an extra day in Paradise. We had to unpack our bathing suits and subject ourselves to one last evening of Old Rum, flavored with vanilla beans and home grown bananas. Life can be so hard sometimes:)

Saturday, February 7, 2015


The Owl Butterfly fends off potential predators by pretending it is a big-eyed bird. The other side of the wings are blue as the sky, to avoid detection from those who fly higher.
Taking photos of stationary butterflies, as they feed from flowers at the butterfly farm, is one thing. Catching them in flight is a skill I need to work on. I have dozens of "where a butterfly once was" shots on my camera roll.

"Some kind of swallow-tail" would be the scientific term for these two beauties.

This one looks like something a jeweler would create.
Blogger won't let me center the photos, but you get the idea.