Along for the ride:

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Definitely not the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady

With a bra resembling a crow's nest, full of twigs and scratchy leaves of  a black oak tree, and a shoe containing millet and other assorted bird seeds, by lunch time today, I  was ready for a shower. 
The Black Oak is an untidy evergreen, overhanging our front patio and part of our driveway. It's shade is welcome but it has dangling branchlets that scratch the top of taller vehicles on one side and had spread over the top of a Japanese Maple on the other.
When we first moved in, just over a year ago, the landlord had instructed someone to trim these trees. It being easier to decimate a lithe and supple young Maple than a rugged, rough-barked oak, the poor little maple was chopped and slashed to within an inch of its life. It's been fighting its way back; stretching out one limb after another, in graceful arabesque, cloaked in innumerable multifingered leaves that tremble with every breath of air. 
Promises were made that the oak would be tidied and the maple freed to grow into a flame colored glory in the autumn. Today was the day that the tall step ladder behind the garage and my trusty hedge trimmer connected in my brain and, as the day was not as furnace hot as previous weekends have been, I decided to Lone Ranger it and get the job done.
Mind you, I have been limping and gimping on my advanced osteo-arthritis knee, pending a visit with the ortho surgeon and the last time I "trimmed" the morning glory I slashed through our cable TV line (Amazingly, they come out and fix that for free!) so the outcome was uncertain.
The big step-ladder is much more stable than any I've used before. I was careful to climb slowly and very vigilant against any shifting, leaning or sinking into the dirt and I thought through my moves as I reached out and up with one-handed swipes of the electric trimmer blade to get every last offending twig.
There are large piles of oak cuttings waiting for the lazy gardener to deal with. Gardening is like eating an artichoke, there's more stuff lying around afterwards than when you started, or that's how it is when I do it. Now my maple has some space to flutter and wriggle in the breeze and the flower beds beneath have been returned to a state of filtered sunlight rather than dark shadow. 
I filled the bird feeder, which I hadn't had time to do for a while and the busy chirpers came back in a flash. We enjoy lunch on the patio with the animation of birds coming and going and even from inside the house, we can still hear their conversations.

Sunday, July 26, 2015


When you have a friend who has everything she needs and who is diligently decluttering her home and life, it's a challenge to find a birthday gift that will not obligate a politely feigned delight. What none of us have is enough time together to just chat and share of ourselves. Knowing this person since she and I were crazy girls on ponies, although she no longer follows that passion, she used to introduce herself to strangers with all of her many middle names and insert "Tiddlywinks", her pony's name, into the mix before finishing with her surname. She's turning fifty-six, catching up with me, as happens each year.
I'm giving her the gift of an appointment with a Unicorn. She can hug him, groom him, ride him or simply make a wish. Sarge is the oldster at the barn and a favorite with the kids. He's pure white, except when they paint him with flowers and rainbows. He is the heart horse of the riding school owner and instructor. On special occasions he turns into a magical beast.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Life alternates between resembling a bowl of cherries and being anongoing game of whack-a-mole!

He who will be turning eighty years old, in a few days, if his behavior doesn't bring about a spontaneous (wife instigated) demise, is now banned from eating cherries in my car. He has slunk away to take a nap; saved by an incoming phone call.
Whilst on the phone, with the Architect calling about a new client, I managed to sponge down the collie colored cloth seat and matching beige interior of the passenger door, as well as fish a squishy, overripe cherry from the recess in the armrest.
The cherries were purchased from a street vendor, less than a block away from our home. The mayhem was perpetrated with unbelievable alacrity. I had stopped because cherries are one of  TAO's favorite things and they've been scarce so far this year.
I suspect that a large part of the appeal of cherries is the spit-out-pits exit strategy required of little boys and their immature elders. Unfortunately, lack of accuracy, combined with spitting from a semi-reclining position; adopted due to various arthritic parts, combines with shot-gun spittle; as opposed to sniper precision, resulting in a scatter-shot effect on the interior of the car, looking much like blood spatter at a crime scene.
One more skill-set gone down hill with age.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Auction

Sold, to the highest bidder! Our Dream Playhouse Project is over and La Maison de mes Reves will be on its way to its new home in a few days. 
The evening was a blast. One (young) couple sat in the front row and bid on three houses. Did I say "bid on"? I mean purchased. Do they have three homes? Are they old enough to have three kids? Are they good souls who wish to contribute to the cause, as well as being fiercely competitive, with a desire to come in first at everything? Gossip will out in the coming week, I expect. 
The first house on the list, was designed by Frank Ghery, well known architect, who was the creator of Facebook's, recently completed, new world headquarters. His playhouse was sculptural; more work of art than kid friendly, but original and in keeping with his design ethic. During the bidding on that "Tours en l'air" it was made known that the whatever the winning bid, it would be matched by an anonymous donor.
The funds raised last night will provide a large percentage of the budget of Rebuilding Together. The organization helps low income families with home repairs at no charge. They add ramps to homes for those in wheelchairs, rennovate kitchens, baths and replace leaky roofs. Thus people are able to remain in their homes and live with dignity. Rebuilding Together was the brain child of one of our local builder/ developers, who wanted to give back to his community. He has done that, and more. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Perfect Imperfections

Suddenly, our "moving moment" was upon us. The big questions were answered as our remarkable next-door Fork-lift company put one of their big guns in play and skillfully moved our completed playhouse out of the confines of our workshop (Yay! it fit through the door) and onto the waiting truck.

Amazing truck driver brought the perfect Low-Boy, eighteen wheeler rig, to keep our house below power lines and pass snugly under one freeway overpass and one bridge.
I was hanging back, anxious to see if we'd shed antique roof-tiles like dragon scales to the wind drag on the way to our destination. We arrived, not only in one piece, but first in.
There were some scary moments during unloading. The driver of the rental forklift was less experienced than our "A"-Team member who had loaded us up and, once delivered, it was no longer our option to intervene. The forklift forks were not really long enough and our house is pretty heavy. There was a moment when our house was tilted at a 45 degree angle, with one edge being dragged along the floor. It was almost a ruin but was finally set safely down in the staging area of the parking lot to await positioning the next morning.
We had to get everything in and set up before shoppers arrived at the Mall on Saturday. We were there at 5:30 am. There were three forklifts to move four playhouses each.
The sky was beginning to lighten as "La maison de mes reves" trundled along past the peripheral stores. It had to go all the way around three sides of the newly built Bloomingdale's. At this stage, I went to sit in my car, as I could do nothing to help and the potential for disaster was high.
The driver was entirely guided by his colleagues. He couldn't see around his load.
Our Team Architect phoned me to say "Our Eagle has Landed" and I rejoined the group.
Window boxes were attached and filled with lavender. The ramp went back on one side and the barrel on the other. Paintings were hung on the interior walls, curtains draped and then plexiglass was screwed in place over the openings, to allow people to see inside but not enter.
The sun was barely up when I was finally able to get a shot of the rear climbing wall. It had been too close to the wall of our building and further crowded by scaffolding, during construction. Once the climbers get up the wall and inside onto a little mezzanine platform, they have the choice between a rustic wood ladder or a dangling rope, to take them down again.
The lucky find of a wild hare door knocker, turned out well. I ordered it online, on a wing and a prayer, It showed up on time, was a great bronze quality and ideal size. (Why don't advertisers think we need to know sizes?). We'd had to adapt from our original idea of the little peekaboo door with ironwork. The ready made ones were all huge, in proportion to the door and custom ordering would have been time consuming and expensive.
The front door was hand made; templated to fit the arched opening. It was wobbly at first, until the structural pieces were added to the back. They add so much character to the look. They're perfect.

The light sconces are engineered out of antique roof tiles and reclaimed copper from a local scrap metal dealer.

The Artistic One's paintings are there for the duration but not included in the sale of the house. 
The rustic ceiling beams were on the point of being returned to the supplier, as our builder was not pleased with their imperfections. The lumber supplier had greatly discounted the wood in honor of our project and had, fortuitously, sent us some slightly knarly stock.
Throughout the project I had to keep explaining to all of our great workers that this was supposed to have an organic, authentic aged simplicity. Most of them are used to working for clients who are very picky (anal) about everything being straight and, their version of "perfect". I found the best description I could keep repeating, in order to get what I wanted was "It's supposed to look like the farmer did it, after a beer or two".
If I were forced to choose my favorite aspect of our playhouse, I'd have to go for the barrel that hinges to be a secret exit. For any child to be able to be seen entering a house and then be nowhere to be found inside, is empowering. 
I love the lettering our painter did. The French words are supposed to provoke conversations of other lands and languages.
The finish on these windows belies the fact that they are store bought metal frame windows, stacked sideways to make an ensemble that is to the scale of the house. The wooden headers are left over sections of the framing wood, wire brushed and stained, with a little touch of English Brown wiped on and off again, by very talented and experienced hands.
The exterior wall finish is an integral plaster treatment, combining the three colors on the sample board. The finisher mixed three separate colors of plaster and used a big plastering trowel to run wide swathes of color over and around one another, until the house glowed with a lived in warmth.
I had him sign and date the card. "Play House Colors" may well end up as a framed art piece.
The following three photos were taken by the marketing personnel and displayed on the Face Book page of The Shopping Mall. These pictures capture a lot more of the colors and textures than my little snap shots.
We've been taking turns at watering the plants every couple of days.
Now it's all about the upcoming Party, June 6th.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

What's for Lunch?

Having been woken and re-awoken this morning, from 5:30 am onwards, by our relentlessly hungry cat, I ended up ready to go to the barn even earlier than usual. As I drove alongside the fifty acre paddock, which is a rolling hillside terrain studded with mature oaks, I saw a half dozen happy horses relaxing in the morning sun. One was laying full out on his side, with the rest all serenely dozing with their legs tucked beneath them.
As I parked my car, I noticed Roger, the resident coyote, trot over to the herd, roll deliciously in something and then settle down right next to the horses. Was he there because they're friends? Was he there because that's the best darn spot in the fifty acre field? Or was he being Wily Coyote, immersing himself in horse scent and expecting an unsuspecting rabbit to present itself for his breakfast?
My riding lesson was empowering and the camaradery of  the usual gang of riders is a large part of  the experience. We all want to know more and everyone is supportive of one anothers' small achievements. Some of us can remember the planned course we should be taking and some of us get so swept up in riding the moment that it's a rare day without bursts of laughter and missed poles. A new rider joined us recently and her reputation is worse than mine. We decided today to work together and call ourselves "Team Lost".
I made it back home by noon to find a salad prepared and a weeks supply cauldron of vegetable soup bubbling away on the stove. TAO had been working in the kitchen but had not planned beyond the salad for our lunch. I turned away from the quick shower I had hoped to take before setting the table and started looking for a possible menu improvisation.
Butter, garlic and sliced zucchini heating in a pan; oven turned on in anticipation. I threw some frozen green lip mussels in an oven to table pottery dish with a lid, added broth from the soup, saffron, fennel and salt and pepper. I plucked a few leaves of basil and parsely from my garden and chopped them before adding them, white wine and whipping cream to the mix. Covered and shoved in the oven to bake, I tossed some rice and water in with the zucchini, which I also covered on the stove and was able to take my shower and set the table before serving our impromptu feast.
I admit to being drawn to the lazy luxury of a nap this afternoon. The cat was kind enough to snooze on the bedroom chair, rather than glue herself to my side like the nocturnal heat magnet she really is. I'm refreshed now post-nap and I only had to stop writing once to feed the beast.

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!