The Garden

These past few years have had my gardening gene a tad stifled and confined to containers on the deck. It has not been ideal for someone who views plants and flowers as one of her favorite palettes.

So I was very, very pleased with the possibilities just beyond the back door of my new home ~ a lovely, natural canvas of green just waiting for a touch of color to be woven through it.

Of course, that natural canvas also includes deer, squirrels, deer, wild turkeys, deer, raccoons, deer and geese. 

Minor challenge.

I purchased a boatload of deep blue iris bulbs, bright yellow daffodil bulbs, rich purple lavender and an assortment of colorful mums, all of which were deer resistant according to the memos attached to the containers.

uh huh.

Everything was planted in the next day or two, the hundreds of bulbs snuggled in the cool, damp soil and awaiting spring’s warmth, the mums and lavender dancing in the light rain that had begun falling. And I was content, smiling over my deer resistant flower beds.

Evidently, the deer had neglected to read the memos.

Within twenty minutes, a herd of deer were happily munching on the plants.  A few minutes after that, the squirrels were digging up the bulbs.

Sigh.

I’m now officially on watch patrol, chasing away deer and squirrels.  The turkeys have not yet made an appearance and the raccoons are far more interested in my neighbor’s garbage can. The geese are just loud and make a mess.

It reminds me of a time a few years back when I was in a relationship with a man who lived on a couple of acres of similarly natural landscape.  He had installed a beautiful hardscape of small patios and paths nestled among spreading oaks and towering redwoods before a California drought halted everything.

Finally, the winter rains came once again, so that spring we enthusiastically started on the garden, which meant I designed and planted flowers while he designed and installed multiple obstacles in hopes of thwarting the deer and squirrels.

The magic began as spring edged towards summer. Flowers bloomed, birds made themselves at home and the garden was a delight, except for one very sunny, barren area. I started looking for ideas to remedy the problem area.

I found an article in Sunset Magazine detailing a design for a copper spiral that started low on the outside and got to about four feet in height at the center. The spiral was probably eight to ten feet in diameter, filled with soil and planted with herbs and vegetables.  It was unique, beautiful and functional. It was perfect.

The fresh veggies and herbs would also be an ideal complement to a new kitchen even though cooking was not on either of our top ten lists. But, it was still the perfect addition for a very sunny area, so I showed him the article.

He reviewed the proposed project with a critical eye.

Ah yes. he smiled.  It is perfect.  And the deer will love it. They won’t have to bend over to eat the plants.

img_0597
Read the memo, dammit!
img_0598
Through my office window, I watch the enemy that lies in wait just beyond a struggling flower bed…

Beginner Bridge

trumpsIt all started a few years ago, when a good friend took me by the hand and said, You’re retired. Time to learn Bridge.  And golf.

Good grief.  I had avoided both my entire life, and here I was, face to face with a petite blonde retiree, another teacher, with an iron will.

I sighed and asked, can we start with Bridge?  It was winter, raining cats and dogs at the time, and probably 40 degrees below zero, which was admittedly a bit unusual for California Bay Area weather.

So we started with Bridge.  She had done her prep work and was prepared with all kinds of handouts and notes for me.  She didn’t realize I was functioning at the lowest possible remedial level, with no math skills whatsoever, but she had all kinds of expectations for what I could eventually do.

Eventually being the critical word.

I struggled to hold the definition of a “Trick” while “Trump” was mystifying long before politics ever entered the picture.

But, she was incredibly patient and would repeat explanations without flinching. Nothing much helped.

Then I moved.  I wouldn’t exactly call it payback, but before the movers showed up, I nominated my friend for a county board position and now she’s an officer, which probably cuts into her Bridge and golf time.  I do feel marginally guilty about that, even though she’s doing an exceptional job.

It wasn’t long after the move, that another dear woman and new friend — actually, another petite blonde woman with a similar iron will — said she was teaching a beginner Bridge group and needed a fourth.  Thursdays, 12:3o. 

She was also well prepared with notes, a book, and cards that were pre-set so the three of us would get a lot of practice on the lesson of the day.  The other two women have also been incredibly patient, being more experience beginners than I.

That was almost eight months ago, before a more or less permanent sub was needed for yet another beginner Bridge group.  Tuesdays, 1:00.

Bridge has also become almost fun, albeit challenging, though not as enjoyable as the talking and laughter shared afterwards in the Sports Lounge.

I think I’m beginning to figure out the game.  Kind of.  The bidding process remains a constant challenge and scoring is still a mystery. 

But, now, I can confidently share that I actually understand the definition of a “Trick.”  I even get “Trump” but only as it applies to card games.

It’s probably the only thing about the Trump that I understand.

A Creek Runs Through It…

When I first lookeimg_0854-1d at this house, now my new home, one of the things that caught my attention, other than the spectacular views, was a dry creek bed meandering through the property. It wandered down from the golf course on the knoll above the back yard, worked its way around the house and decks, under a delightful bridge and through a large culvert under the street to the lake just beyond.

It was bone dry.  Neither the realtor nor I could figure out why it was so dry, other than it was the height of summer and a drought, but the other man-made creeks in the area regularly ran in order to keep the lake filled.

I thought perhaps it had something  to due with the upgrading at the small park across the street, so the next time I was down by the administration building I stopped in to ask about “turning the water back on.”

The ladies looked at one another, not knowing the answer, and then said, We need to get Sean. As it turned out, Sean was just down the hall and was more than happy to answer my question.

Ah.  You have a real creek.  It will run all winter.  He could barely contain a grin.

Good thing I don’t embarrass easily.

Sean was right. Now, a few months later, the rains have come — hopefully for more than a few days — and the creek runs full. 

It’s another unexpected delight, watching the water splash its way over river rocks and under the bridge on its journey from the hillside to the lake.

It also brings back unexpected and fond memories from childhood.  There was a creek at the end of our road, owned by a gruff, weathered old man whom we all knew as Mr. Scrabo, one of four Serbian brothers who settled in the rural valley and planted orchards.  There was an old road that ran along one side of his apple orchard and a wide creek that bordered the other side.

I don’t think he had any children of his own, other than the orchard that was, indeed, his child.  Mr. Scrabo would only allow children on his property, he’d say with a wink to the adults out walking. He hired the young neighborhood boys to help pick apples for a quarter an hour and all the rotten apples they wanted for after-work rotten apple fights. Girls were not supposed to do hard labor or fight.

But, Mr. Scrabo gave all of us access to the creek, even helping by clearing a wide path down its banks to a large clearing where the creek lazily snaked around a generous hairpin turn.  We spent many hot summer afternoons wading in the cool waters or fishing with with strainers from our moms’ kitchens, occasionally catching minnows and tadpoles while having great fun away from the eyes of any intruding parents.

The creek was gentle and babbling in the summer with waters so cool and clear you could see bugs and minnows alike, but, come the winter storms, the creek became swollen with water and part of the adventure of walking to school and having to cross the creek by balancing on a large fallen oak limb that, at the time, seemed oh-so-high above the raging waters below. 

When it was my young children’s turn to grow up in their mother’s childhood home, it was a gift to watch them relive many of my memories at the creek at the end of our road.

Of course, by then, Mr. Scrabo was another memory, too, the old road widened and paved over, and his prized orchard sold for homes, although Mr. Scrabo had made certain that a path, deeded in perpetuity, allowed the neighborhood children access to the creek and all the adventures that awaited them.

Sweet memories.  Sweeter man. 

I think I’ll get a mug of hot, spiced tea and sit by the window for a while, watching the rain and the creek, and see what other memories are waiting to be found.

Un Pied-à-Terre

lake cottageThose of you who either know me, or have been following my writing, probably remember that I have been living the life of a gypsy, sans the bright billowing skirts and heavy eye makeup, in trying on new homes and landscapes. 

More than once, I’ve been accused of collecting new homes like some women collect new shoes.

Homes are a lot more fun.

I am now nearing the end of my current lease and have been in search of a new home, although, for the first time in almost thirty years, I know exactly where I want to live and am just waiting for my new home to find me.  I really feel part of this community — the lake, the landscape, my new friends and neighbors.

My friends have all been looking for what at times seems to be an illusive rental and I’ve followed up on all their leads.  I’ve even run a small “wanting to rent” ad that has actually gotten a few responses.

I know from experience that the universe will bring me the perfect home. She always does.  I can always count on the perfect home, at the perfect time, in the perfect location.

In fact, a friend had told me of one such possible rental, nestled among tall redwood and wide oak trees. The house itself is admittedly vanilla, without much spark or personality. But, it does back onto the golf course and is directly across the street from a small park that sits on our lake….all of which means both coveted golf course and lake views as well as easy lake access for grandkids and kayaks.

My realtor has been working to connect the owner, a lease and me.

So it came as a bit of a surprise last weekend, when I received an unexpected email in response to my ad.

We have a charming lakefront rental…

Lakefront?  Lakefront?  The extremely impossible to find lakefront rental?

Panoramic lake views from every room…Two bedrooms, a library, great room with kitchen and dining, large bonus room, two full baths — one with a spa tub — and additional half baths. Three sets of french doors onto the deck and the lake beyond.

Be still, my heart.

and, if you have a boat, there’s a dock included.

I don’t have a boat, but the rental was well within my budget.

I started packing.

Then, I saw the house, which was really more of a small cottage. It was charming.  Definitely charming. Even enchanting. Exposed beams, french doors and panoramic views. Light and breezy.  For a brief moment, I thought I was in the south of France. 

I immediately started envisioning living in this romantic, storybook cottage and how I could possibly fit my furniture into the small space.

Alas, there were also some challenges. A lot of the owner’s furniture needed to stay, leaving minimal room for my belongings. That included the books already taking up every nook and cranny in the small library.  Sigh.

Parking was difficult as was the staircase leading down to the rental. The great room was actually a small room, which may have been workable for me, but not if I had friends or family visiting. And, truth be told, there were numerous remodeling needs that, despite being hidden by wall hangings, had not, and would not, be addressed.  Deep Sigh.

The views were spectacular until speedboats, complete with screaming motors, skiers and passengers, shattered the quiet. And access to the water was difficult.  It was an immediate deep drop, so getting in and out with the kayak would be near impossible. Deeper sigh.

ah, reality. On the other hand, it seems like the universe does have the perfect home in mind…not lakefront, but lake view which may be even more perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where there’s smoke…

…there’s usually fire.

I could well be talking politics.

Hillary, the server, the emails, the FBI, the DOJ and the GOP.  If the GOP is so adamant that her actions constituted criminal behavior, I wonder if they will also include former Secretaries of State Powell and Rice for identical indiscretions.

The Donald, white supremacists and the relatively few GOP members willing to say “The Trump has no clothes.” I sent an email to thank Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, South Carolina) for his critical words. I also need to thank Gov. Romney. 

But, it’s still all a worry.  Fire, smoke or as an old friend noted, I’m beginning to worry that we won’t pass our national IQ test in November.

Today, however, I’m really writing about fire.  Actual fire. Forest fire. Thousands of acres in flames and thick dark smoke in the middle of a very oppressive June heatwave.

It made for a lot of indoor time, if only to protect one’s lungs.

The options for entertainment were relatively few, after rejecting cable news or house cleaning.  The resident cat wasn’t even much of a distraction, given that he spent most of his time sprawled on his back atop of his favorite bed and under the breeze of a spinning ceiling fan.

Left to my own devices, I pulled out the sewing machine and began piecing new quilts for our local Linus group.

The quilts are actually getting better — although an experienced eye will note there are no triangles, circles, hexagons or other assorted geometric shapes showing up.  But, the squares and rectangles are getting straighter and better aligned and I’m growing more confident with color and design.

Regardless of the quality of my work, I figure the teens and preteens who will be receiving these quilts won’t be that critical…

which might well say something about the differing outlooks of youth and adults…

and that gives me reason to smile, despite the heat, the fire and the smoke, all of which are now fading into a June memory, and the politics, which are just now heating up for an anticipated autumn inferno.

 

 

 

The Bocce and the Ball

About a month or so Bocceback, I was invited to join a couples Bocce Ball team.

It’s what I love, in addition to the lake, the quiet and the views, about this community.  Being half of a couple is not a detriment to much of anything.

Still, I hesitated.  I had never played the game and, even in my salad days, athletics were never a strong suit.

Then I learned the name of the team: Debocceries…and that they had landed in last place last season, and probably the seasons before that.  No one could actually remember and didn’t really care.

Could work.

I agreed to attend a wine ‘n cheese strategy meeting prior to the season opening.  Introductions all around, a glass or two or three of wine, lively converstion and then the strategy from our captain.

I’ll be handing out calendars as soon as I get them.  I’m not making reminder calls.  You are on your own.  Just show up when we’re scheduled.

More wine. More stories.

Yep, this could work.

The first match — three games — came a few weeks later. My next door neighbor was playing on the adjoining court and sauntered over to both greet and reprimand me before our games began.

You’re drinking water?  It’s illegal.  You need a drink.  Or two. And what are you doing on their team and not ours?  

You didn’t ask me. 

You should have known.  There aren’t that many Italians around.

I’m not Italian. You are.  I’m Spanish.

Latin.  Close enough.

With that, the games began. My partner went first while I watched.

Then I picked up one of the two rather hefty balls, walked up to the line, eyed the little white target ball that we were supposed to get as close to as possible and rolled the ball down the green.  Both of the darn balls just snuggled right up to the target Pallino, looked back at me and winked.

Hot damn.

In one of the first times in Deboccery memory — remembering, of course, the consumption of wine, beer and other assorted libations — we won the match.

Our captain declared me a ringer. I wasn’t so sure; beginner’s luck and all.

Last night, we played our second match against a much younger team. It was 50 degrees — an unexpected cold snap — and we were all freezing.

Once I warmed up a bit, my cute little bocce balls just seemed to weave their way through all the others to get as close as possible to the Pallino.

They were probably freezing and just seeking warmth from huddling with one another. Nonetheless, they added to our score.

My youthful opponent, a young man with flowing blonde hair, kept looking at me and demanding, How do you do that? That’s impossible to do. Tell me how you do that.

I finally relented. 

Practice from years of throwing erasers at students.

He believed me. Never batted an eye.

English teacher?

Yep.

We English teachers must have some reputation.

Although it makes for a good story, I’ve never thrown anything at a student, tempting though it may have been. I opted more for the long, silent mom-glare, which meant that within seconds, everyone in the class was staring at the offender, who became very attentive, very quickly.

Better than coating the room in a cloud of chalk dust.

 

 

Recipes for a Summer’s Day Re-Post

IMG_0811

Mixed Bricks Quilt

Mix together one summer afternoon with an old rocking chair and one well-worn quilt.  Add a breezy summer novel, a lazy overhead fan and tall chilled glass of freshly squeezed lemonade. Enjoy!

IMG_0814

Basket Weave Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Gently scatter two or three teenage girls (or women who are young at heart) over one  well-loved quilt. Place at  the base of a meandering moss-covered stone staircase. Mix in blue skies, a couple wispy clouds and one large shade tree.  Marinate well.  Watch dreams take flight.

IMG_0804

Scrappy Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Add one large friendly quilt to a park bench at the edge of a well worn path. Settle in one retired gentleman with his morning cup of coffee. Newspaper optional. A perfect start to any new day!

IMG_0800

Nine Patch Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Begin with one vintage quilt. Add deep plum colored geraniums.  Top with a trotting horse weather-vane.  Allow to simmer until one large black cat settles in for an afternoon nap.  Yawn…

IMG_0799

Disappearing Nine Square Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Mix one well-tended herb garden, one clay pot overflowing with hot pink geraniums and a bird bath filled with sparkling clear water.  Add a dash of a bright charm pack quilt to spice a lazy summer morning.  Yummy!

IMG_0819

Disappearing Nine Square Baby Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Carefully stir one child’s antique red rocking chair with a well-traveled carousel horse and slowly add baby’s first quilt. Season sweetly to create wonder-filled memories.

IMG_0822

Log Cabin Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Gently blend two little girls, one small tea set and a rag doll with a country quilt. Slowly simmer for an afternoon filled with make-believe delight.

IMG_0820 (2)

Block Quilt (a Project Linus quilt*)

Thoroughly mix one lake, three teenage boys and their tube floats.  Carefully spread over a quilt of Hawaiian surfboard and outrigger prints. Marinate well so plans will season. 

IMG_0816 (1)

Sixteen Patch Quilt

Gather one warm summer evening, a lake, a picnic table and large quilt.  Top with a basket of cold crispy chicken, green salad and crusty sour dough french bread. Serve with chilled white wine, ice tea or lemonade. Homemade apple pie or strawberry shortcake optional.

 

* The Project Linus Quilts were all made from donated scrap fabric provided through the Auburn CA/Whistle Stop Project Linus group.  The handmade quilts are being donated to the Sacramento Chapter of Project Linus, a member of the national non-profit, and will be distributed, along with other homemade blankets, to children in need ~ in hospitals, in foster care, homeless, or just going through a difficult time. 

See www.sacprojectlinus.org and projectlinus.org for more information.