Along for the ride:

Monday, January 26, 2015


Our weekend couldn't have distanced us further from the daily grind, even if it had a magic wand.
Friday had TAO responding to an invitation to present his work to a Foundation for the Arts, that recently opened in San Francisco. This group originated in France and are based in the hills that rise up behind Nice and Cannes, on the road to St Paul de Vence.
I volunteered to drive TAO and drop him off by the door of the Gallery as his knee is barely functioning now and it would be impossible for him to park and walk anywhere on his own. The fact that these are French speaking Gallery folks meant that I didn't have to go with him to translate and TAO could call my cell phone to be collected, when he was done. I do feel a bit like The Country Mouse when I have to broach the City. I had upgraded my look to include "interesting shoes" and a clean T-shirt, which is about as fashion forward as I can go.
How many posts have I written without mentioning hide, hair, nor hoof of a horse? I have finally carved out some acceptance, from those around me, of the fact that I need equestrian interaction on a semi-regular basis, if I am to fake it through the rest of life.
Initially more a case of recognition of this being one of my "Line in the Sand" moments that no amount of guilt tripping and sulking would change, we have reached the stage where TAO will tag along and enjoy the beauty that often surrounds horsy pursuits.
On Saturday morning we drove for an hour to reach a private ranch where Lusitano horses are bred and raised for Dressage competition. These big, beautiful Portuguese horses are often Grey with huge intelligent eyes and flowing manes. I was allowed to ride Leon, who is black. He's retired from competition and is the schoolmaster on which the owner of the horses can check out new riders without endangering her horses, or the humans who beg to ride them.
I was nervous the night before, worried in case I would not make the grade. They only take on pupils who are realistic about their own abilities and open to learning more of the science and art that is dressage. I had been warned that they did not take on beginners.
The young woman who worked with me and others who work full time nurturing and schooling these gorgeous beasts, are imports from Austria and Germany. The horses have stable areas with vibrating floors, heat lamps etc. and the hoses with which to wash them have warm water options.
The owner of the Ranch came out to meet us, with her flock of mismatched rescue dogs. She was extraordinarily kind to TAO and took him on a tour in her golf-cart. She brought him into the arena while I rode. There are huge, plush-cushioned seats and couches in and around the ring. One of the goats, that wander freely, pulled a cushion onto the floor and very nearly peed on it, but missed. A young Dromedary was enjoying the sun in a nearby paddock and a couple of Zebras' braying added to the impression of having passed through the looking glass.
Apart from a couple of involuntary Piaffes, when I was supposed to be asking for canter, Leon and I got along just fine. I could probably ride him for years and still have things that he could teach me. I am to be permitted to return to this magic kingdom to repeat the experience and even ride other steeds in the future.
As we drove away afterwards, I tried to explain to TAO the feeling that I have rejoined my Tribe, after a long absence, and I have been made welcome. 
We were done with the horse experience before noon and (having changed into clean clothes at the roadside) headed out towards the coast . We had lunch in Davenport, where the food is good. I had a leek and artichoke lasagna and TAO had the fish stew. We also allowed ourselves most of a bottle of a crisp Rose wine. I left my vehicle parked for a couple of hours and visited the beach after lunch, while TAO snoozed in the sun-slathered car.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sorry, Sorry, Sorry!

I almost asked our waiter to take a snapshot of us at lunch, but decided it would be too cruel to post. Patio dining, under the palm trees, bathed in sunlight. This is not a vacation, just a beautiful warm day to order lobster tacos, crab and mango salad and imbibe a margarita. Admittedly, at the side of a busy road and we did have to return to work afterwards, but a nice moment to take a breather.
I had to apologize yesterday, also, to the man whose car I slightly scraped. It was my fault. I didn't see him. It's a bummer for both of us and annoying to have tarnished my spotless record. I'm insured. His car will get fixed. No one was even slightly hurt, at all of three miles per hour. My "victim" had a hard time being gracious. He really wanted to whine more but I wasn't arguing back. He's obviously an accident virgin and a beginner at the school of hard knocks. May his life continue to be so protected.
I went to a construction site meeting this morning at a home in the hills. Many of my clients have main house and pool house, or guest house. More and more have compounds that include a building in which to entertain large parties. Only a few also build a guard house at the gate. Fingers crossed that this job will lead to future referrals to other sporty connections. Sorry that I can't tell you more. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Stone Trees, Bent Bikes and Dream Playhouses.

Doesn't everyone have, or want, a stone apple tree? This is the first of  The Artistic One's series "Forest of the Giants".
The same Artistic (scatterbrain) talents ran the forklift over his bicycle. Whilst the resulting shapes are pleasing to the eye, they greatly reduce the efficacy of the bike as a mobility tool. TAO walks with a cane, if he can't completely avoid the struggle of walking. Traversing our 10,000 sqft warehouse from one end to the other, was painful to watch, so the bike search was urgent.
No point in buying a new bike, as it often gets left outside and would be stolen the first week. I had a few phone conversations with quirkily named bike shops. It seemed simple to ask for a used bike, as undesirable as possible, that no normal client would want. That quest was a non-starter. Next call was to a local thrift store. "Come on over" they said. "We have several adult bikes". Innocents that we are, we drove into town and visited the thrift store. Bikes are, of course, at the far end of the store and up a steep stairway. TAO dragged himself along up the stairs and we found only a couple of little kids bikes.
Next stop, I reconnoitered in advance of having the star of our cycling team get out of my car. There was a motorized wheelchair, without a control stick, a nice iron head-board that almost sucked me in, but no adult bikes. We went back to work, vowing to visit one more store on our way home.
A bike was found for $17.99 after senior discount. It needed a clean-up and air in one tire. TAO is, once again, mobile.
Kodie, The Forest Pup, was with us for the past couple of months. He and his brother had been abandoned in a National Forest, far from human habitation. The dogs were skinny, full of worms and had never been on a leash or in a house before. Young and vigorous, despite that, Kodie came to us for evaluation and socialization. Whilst initially worried and skittish about meeting new humans, Kodie had an inherent self-confidence with other dogs. A great asset that colored all of his play times at the dog park. He was great fun to watch, impossible to offend and could outrun any potential trouble, smiling all the way.
Mingling with other human-friendly dogs and their people, as well as coming to work every day with me, had Kodie quickly catching on that people are a good thing. He'd like to be a lap dog, if allowed. Kodie needs a knowledgeable and active home, with ongoing training, but he'll do fine. He's a very happy boy. I handed him off to our rescue group president last week, as we were, supposedly, leaving on vacation.
Pictures of the Caribbean Vacation, that wasn't, may still be forthcoming in the near future. We haven't given up (yet). Thank goodness the tickets we had to cancel were inexpensive. Life has been full of highs and lows lately. I can't put my finger on any highs to mention right now and I don't want to empower the lows, which is partially why I haven't been posting.
I have had Kodie as exercise partner ( a tired dog being the best kind of dog to have around) and I've had some creative outlets. A local newspaper recently published an article about us. I had to supply a bio and pull-quotes, which I always enjoy.
One other creative validation has come from acceptance of my concept for a Dreams Happen Playhouse. A dozen playhouses are created by builders and architects (and me), displayed at major high end shopping mall for several weeks, then auctioned at a Gala Event as fundraisers for a non-profit that helps fix up run down homes for old, sick or poor people, enabling them to stay independent in their own homes.
I have wanted to participate in this for years. It's for a great cause and a great showcase for the skills and products of the selected participating teams. Our concept is Provencal.
La Maison de mes Reves is simple, with authentic materials and finishes. We have an 8 x 10ft footprint size allowance and both height and weight limits.  The houses will be delivered by trucks and cranes and must be able to be lifted over some homes to get them in. Costly delivery subtracts from the fundraising results at the end of the day.
The houses must be kid friendly but attractive enough for the parent to want one in their back yard. As children grow up, there's the possibility of the Playhouse evolving into an office, art studio or yoga space, in the future.
The barn doors on the side can be opened to our California sunshine and also serve to make the Playhouse accessible to any child, or family member, in a wheelchair.
The rear of the house has a climbing wall to a small loft with a rope and a ladder that go down inside. The rain barrel on the side swings open as a secret door.
We plan to have soft stencilled letters naming "La Porte" and "La Fenetre" and some sort of climbing vines to soften the corners. It's always a nice surprise when TAO agrees to a project that I am promoting. No subterfuge required this time.

Monday, October 6, 2014


It's hard to believe we're several days into October. Although the days have shortened, whilst the sun is up we've been wilting through an ongoing heat wave. It's 99 degrees Fahrenheit at four in the afternoon, in my shady covered patio that serves as home office, entertaining space and general happy place.

This is how it looked before we move in, in July. We liked the house and its potential but wondered at the absence of birds and squirrels, that we're so used to having around.

A couple of months later and our jungle is softening the hard edges already. The cat and I just got a very rude talking to from a squirrel who was headed in to feast on the grains that fall from the bird feeder. Slinkie left her lounging post on the table, where she makes the most of the breeze, and took a step or two towards Mr. Squirrel. He found himself taking refuge in a tree that can't have been to his liking and was very clear about sharing his opinion.

I wish I could share the perfume of the Hawaiian Ginger with you. The flowers unfurl discreetly. I always discover a new blossoming by head-turning scent at first. They sometimes continue flowering into January, if we don't get a cold snap. The trellis behind the Ginger supports a Persian Jasmine, which has doubled in size since we've been here.
Although only a dozen, or so miles away from our last home, we've left the proximity to the coastal range, where Nature's air conditioner, Fog, rolls inland in the evenings and where clouds catch and break open in normal rainy seasons.
The heat is much more challenging when there's no respite as dark falls. Fans are our new found friends. If the air is moving, you can fool yourself into pretending it's cool.
We've christened our space with a get together of twenty two friends and family members. That maxed out the space. We'll have to set the tables on the lawn, if we increase our guest numbers next time.
I took TAO's daughter, who was visiting from France, on a trail ride in the tree shaded hills around the barn where I usually ride in the arena. She'd never met a Palomino horse before. It's a very Western Movie kind of thing. On the way back, galloping up to the top of the big pasture, there was a Bald Eagle flying low enough for us to clearly see his white head and enormous dark wingspan. I'm still in awe.
I'm putting my drafting skills to work to capture a design for a fireplace, for a designer/friend I met with yesterday. She's purchased a coastal getaway home in Cambria. I drove three and a half hours each way yesterday. We had planned to spend the weekend relaxing and sight seeing but TAO had eaten something that didn't agree with him and didn't feel he was safe to leave the house. "The Trots" was a term my Father used to use, and has nothing to do with equitation. Poor TAO!
I swooped along in freewheeling solitary pleasure. Much appreciated after all the carpooling we've been doing since we moved. Radio and air-conditioning set to my preferences and beautiful effects of sideways sun-shortening shadows, making the creases and canyons disappear from the landscape, as the day got up. It was a reverse-commute direction, both going and coming. (Thanks be to Heaven!). The one small slowdown was due to trucks having to navigate around an S model Tesla, limping along with it's hazard warning lights on. Someone must have miscalculated their battery life or forgot to charge up before heading out into the boonies. Maybe they thought there were charging stations scattered between here and Los Angeles. Same planet, different worlds. There were only old Spanish Missions, National Guard gun ranges and the slow nod of the wellheads, competing to suck the earth dry of crude oil.
South of Paso Robles, the road out to the Pacific winds past a multitude of wineries, each named and designed for a different fantasy. It was still early and the only vehicle in sight was an old pick-up truck, in my rear view mirror. Suddenly, the pastoral view gave way to a sweeping Ocean-scape and twenty minutes later I was at my appointment. It was fun to catch up with their goings on. We haven't seen one another for a while. We fit easily into our professional groove and it wasn't hard to pin down what they wanted and see how to make it happen. 
My clients took me to lunch at Indego Moon in Cambria. I had a leek and crusted goat cheese tart with a salad and a glass of white wine. Leeks are the secret weapon of flavoring. It was just right, crunchy over soft and tasty as can be. I then went off to show my face (and ID and credit card) at the little motel where we had reservations. It was too last minute to cancel our reservation and I'd called a friend who needed a break, knowing it was her favorite destination. She and her husband said "Yes" immediately and would be there to make use of the room, which I had to pay for anyway. I'd much rather see someone get some pleasure out of it than have it go to waste.
Back home by dinner time, I cooked rice and hard boiled eggs to get TAO back on track. I'd cancelled my riding for the weekend, thinking we'd be gone, and so have had some time on my hands today. I started the morning topping up the seeds for the finches and renewing the sugar water mix for the Humming birds. I've not had a Humming bird feeder before. I chose a deep red antique glass bottle design as I know they like red flowers. I measured out the powdered sucrose mix and used warm water this time to melt it together more easily. As soon as I hung it back up, there was the buzzing of wings and the flash of green-glinting neck plumage. A short aerial battle ensued as Hummers are quite territorial. One gained priority but the other wasn't far away and hovered until he had supped his share.

Monday, September 15, 2014


This is the feel-good part of animal rescue!
Ruly has a family and he knows it.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

(Un)-Ruly and a Rescue the Size of Texas

I have a card that says "Someone please stop me from volunteering again". The new clown dog, who has taken up temporary residence with us, is Ruly.
Our Collie Rescue Group doesn't take on mixes, except when they do:) Ruly was out of time at the shelter and is obviously part smooth collie. The rest of his DNA probably involved some hound, but it's anybody's guess.
Ruly was called Max, as are half the dogs in this world, and he went to join the 9 collies at our area coordinator's farm. A couple are hers, the rest are returning guests as she dog-sits for prior rescues. Max/Ruly was described as exhausting; wearing out the patience of the older dogs with his relentless rough play and lack of manners.
I stayed quiet on the sidelines of the email-group discussion about him, keeping my twitchy trigger-finger away from the buttons that would draw attention to me. We still have a lot going on after our move, not to mention having a business to run.
The gal who originally signed me up to foster, many Dog-Moons ago, is no fool. She innocently wrote to Ruly's beleaguered temporary guardian: "Doesn't so-and-so specialize in The Unruly?". Sideways compliment or baited trap? I jumped in and said that I'd take him on for a few weeks, if I could have naming rights and give him the aspirational name of Ruly.
Ruly is in his third week with us. He's learned to walk on the leash, improve his meet and greet skills with other dogs and make the most of relaxing in front of  the office fan. He relaxes a lot, as my biggest and best rule of dog-training is to keep them as tired as possible.
Ruly's good with cats and kids and a great companion in the car. He's been deemed adoptable and his picture is on Facebook and on the rescue website. Unfortunately, he's being eclipsed by a story from Texas. A woman there had a history of hoarding; breeding collies but never relinquishing them to homes. The initial count of undernourished dogs seized from backyard cages was over ninety. Two pregnant bitches have whelped thirteen and ten pups respectively, over the weekend. Four frightened dogs who've been hiding in the back of their igloos were finally spotted and counted, bringing the total to 120.
There was a hearing earlier today and a judge signed them all over to be cared for and adopted out by Houston Collie Rescue, which is great news. Sometimes dogs can be in legal limbo for months or years before they get a chance at a normal life in a loving home.
At the hearing, it came to light that there are an additional three dozen collies that were hidden at the hoarder's father's house, then transferred back to her since. Concerned neighbors had called in to say that they could still hear dogs barking at her home.
For once an animal abuser was taken away in handcuffs. She had done this before in 2007. Fifty five dogs were taken from her at that time. The current numbers were produced from the ten dogs she hid and kept back then.
Many rescue organizations have reached out to share this load. The financial outlay so far is close to $50,000. The Collie Club of America has donated $10,000 and some pet-food companies have sent supplies. Pilots for Paws are waiting to schedule flights, as needed, to transport dogs across the country. Vets are vaccinating, evaluating and treating all the dogs. Every one has been bathed, micro-chipped and given a name.
We don't yet know how many of these dogs will be allocated to California. If they do come, I've signed up to take two.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

A Collie Colored Interior

TThe car shenanigans have continued with a broken down rental car, that took Hertz four hours to retrieve, and a "roadside assistance phone operator" who told me it was too early in the day and I'd have to call around myself to find a replacement vehicle.
After a wasted morning, I had a friend drive me forty miles to get a car. I must say that the real humans at the rental offiice tried hard to make up for the inconvenience, offering me peaches from their parking lot tree and giving me a 2015 model car, so new it still has the bar-coded delivery stickers on it.

This enormous project, is the kind of thing that occupies me, when I'm not dealing with every day problems. 
When it all comes together, this is what this back yard fountain will look like. These spillways will lead to a vertical drop. The sheet of water will surge and sparkle over custom blue glass mosaic tiles and enhance the view from the basement levels and from the master bedroom balconies.
The design criteria are that this walk the fine line between modern and traditional, to appeal to the target buyer, the 35 to 45 year old techie, multi-millionaire.
The on-site photo shows safety railings that were installed last week, immediately after a young roofing contractor plummeted off a two storey roof, onto hard dirt. He is going to make it. He had surgery on his broken leg. It could have been so much worse. 
I was meeting with the home owner and we rounded a corner of his substantial construction project, to see three guys standing, conversing with a fourth, who was stretched full length on the ground. It looked like it was break time and one was resting, until we saw the blood that had run down from his head wound. When he fell, his hammer followed and bashed him on the way down. 
The buddies were calling their boss and wanted to load him in their car, to drive to the hospital, to avoid ambulance fees and accident reports, surely. We nixed that idea and the homeowner called 911 while I wiped the blood out of the victims eyes and repeatedly insisted that he stay still, fearing for spinal injuries etc. Their story was that he had slipped off the lower, balcony section, not the two storey roof. Relative to where he was lying, the young man must have taken quite a flying jump to make the tale true. 
The next day on the jobsite was all hard hats and safety harnesses. Nothing is ever learned for free but it was really the best outcome for the situation.
My new (to me) car is a Ford Escape. It only has 27,000 miles on it. That's a hundred thousand less than the car that went to the scrap heap in the sky. 

The thing that sold me on this vehicle, other than being a nice, lively drive, is the Collie colored interior. No more black seats covered alternately with white stone dust and beige dog hair. Yes!
It is a great shame that it's not halloween. I might have won prizes for the most gross eye. I was in front of a mirror yesterday afternoon, to pull my hair into a poneytail before riding. This is what I noticed. I couldn't make this stuff up, if I tried. 
My head did not explode. I can still see and I had a nice ride, although it was104 degrees. My eye got worse over night so I did call my health care provider. The advice nurse asked a lot of questions and thinks I'll live, although it's still going to be ugly for a week or two.