Sunday, November 27, 2016

Emerging from the isolation booth: A slice of summer

No. Not really. I've hardly been isolated ... just so distracted by a solid series of events that I haven't come up for a blogging breathe for several weeks. [It has now dragged out into several months, but I'll take you part of the way back.]

I have managed to chronicle a few happenings from my Provence sojourn in July/August, and reflect on the act of terrorism in beautiful Nice. I still may go back for a few chunks from the trip (I always intend to do that when I get behind), but I'll move on for now with a couple of photos from the last day in Provence. 

A wine tasting at Domaine de Banneret in Châteauneuf-du-Pape is on our itinerary. It's a frequent stop for the tour, but our leaders have been unable contact the owners to set it up. Another activity is substituted, but on our way past Domaine de Banneret's neighborhood, we decide to stop in to see what's up. What's up is a major remodel.                                                               

The daughter of the family is applying blue paint to the large doors of the cave. She opens one door a bit wider so we can slide inside without brushing our clothes up against the paint. The interior of the cave has been enlarged. New wine barrels have been placed. Two men arrive with another one, rolling it inside. The father arrives and the daughter goes off to fetch bottles of wine. Before all is done, more people squeeze their way into the small lobby. The daughter puts up the paint brush, and an impromptu wine tasting gets under way. Our group buys wine, more people enter, and then more. More wine is tasted and purchased, and we make our exit and head for home. We'll be having our farewell dinner tonight on the terrasse.

But we have one more stop on our way to the villa. My traveling companions buy wine. I buy bonbons at the chocolaterie: Pralines, Rochers and Verveine candy drops. (Sorry. I sampled one before I took the picture, disturbing the symmetry.)

Apéros before the farewell dinner  

A couple of days later, I arrive home from my month-long absence to happy kitties and cat hair everywhere.

My former house cleaner gave notice before the trip, and I arranged for a new one to arrive after I get home. She appears at my door on Saturday, a bucket of cleaning supplies in hand, and digs into the chore. Now, I walk on clean carpets barefoot, taking pleasure from the scritch of berber on the soles of my feet. Baseboards and window sills sparkle. Windows don't, because I have neglected them for years. A crew with tall ladders will arrive next week to clean them inside and out, and wash the screens.

But before that, I get sucked in by a time vampire: the Republican Convention. Oh, not 24/7, just some of the keynote events, but still.

It finishes in a splurge of red, choosing The Donald as their presidential nominee.

The crew of window-washers arrives on Friday and proceeds around my house with buckets and squeegees and towels and ladders. I am so excited to see clearly through every one of my windows that I take a picture of each. I can see through bay windows and see myself reflected in the big mirrored closet doors. Sparkle sparkle for the moment. Before cat nose-prints are redeposited and paw prints from fights through the glass with the cats outdoors streak lower panes.

Some complex events take place over the next few days that are jumbled in my memory. Daughter makes two trips here (or more?) for a variety of tasks. A major one is to store some of her household goods and clothes in my basement, since she has sold her house in the city where she works and doesn't know exactly where she will live. She puts a bed in my former study to use when she visits, instead of sleeping on the couch. This will also provide more comfortable accommodations for friends who will be coming to visit in a few days.

We put up a few paintings in the new bedroom and in the living room. They've been wrapped and stashed since they were evacuated for the Rim Fire.

There is something to do with repairing her little motor home at a mechanic nearish me which requires pick up and delivery.

There is something to do with replacing the tailgate which was stolen from my truck while it was at her house in the city. This is a mini-fiasco, since the tailgate was not replaced with one with a step, which was what was ordered.

Daughter delivers her two cats to live with me while her housing arrangements are uncertain. This is Henley and Jean-Luc looking skeptical about the new arrivals.

An amazed Camino and Pacha spot their first deer. As same-sized as they look, Camino is a big rangy boy and Pacha is a little fluff ball. Pacha was actually born here, one of the ferals, and required major surgery in conjunction with her spaying. She and Mama cat went to live with Daughter when Pacha was quite young. There are still feral cats outside, so I'm reluctant to let the new insiders go out. They are wise to the ways of the city, but not to the threats from other wildlife around here.

Here's Pacha in her Halloween cat pose, just because I love her shadow.

Here's the big boy, relaxing. He is used to being the kingpin. Jean-Luc considers himself top cat. Henley is mellow. Pacha hisses when anyone gets too near. Everyone has recently been put on an anti-stress diet. Sometimes I cry when the kitties don't get along.

We are into the Democratic Convention. I've been a convention junky since I was a kid. I was home alone on the final day of the Republican Convention that nominated Eisenhower in 1952. (I had  just turned 15, the first convention I'd watched on television instead of listening to on the radio.) Ike beat out the more conservative Taft sometime in the afternoon after a long process of voting among delegates. I was overjoyed and raced outside. Whooping and barefoot, I ran down the middle of the street, searching for anyone I could share my joy with. At the intersection, I ran into the vice-principal of my school. He greeted my news with a dour expression. I was in Taft territory. My memory is a bit hazy, but some time-checking suggests this was my last election rooting for a Republican.

Now, after a few days of C-Span, I celebrate that Hillary has won the Democratic nomination for President.

Sister, thrilled that Daughter and I had started mounting paintings on the walls after all this time, arrives prepared to hang more. Lots more. Here's one wall of my bathroom, for example. The color of the photo is off. The seashell painting has pinker tones to it.

Papa made this stained glass art piece. It had been hanging in their house. Brother-in-Law gets credit for hanging it from the window frame, which does not turn out to be an easy task. I believe Papa created the glass piece based on a painting, seen below.

My friends Len and Shauna arrive in early August. They live in British Columbia and are touring the West Coast. I haven't seen them since we labored together in Saint-Victor-la-Coste, France, on castle and village restoration in 2004 at a project called La Sabranenque.

Uncertain about their arrival time, I've made late dinner reservations at The Grill, our development's eatery at the golf course. I ponder again my menu choice and select again the grilled salmon with an orange sauce. I love the crunchy tang of the sauce it's grilled im that I cannot duplicate at home. 

I persuade them that they have come this far and must visit Yosemite Valley, barely more than an hour away. It's a summer weekend;  traffic will be horrific and parking will be well nigh impossible. But I'm a local and I have a plan. To see the most of this beautiful area without getting bogged down in the traffic, I book seats for us on the Valley tourist tram and suggest an early departure from home.

It's hazy out there this morning and I ponder whether to take the time to stop for the traditional Half-Dome-in-the-distance-photo driving in. Here's Shauna with the familiar profile of Half Dome in the faraway notch. It looks tiny.

I ignore directional signs for parking areas and head for my favorite spot. I luck out, and from there we make our way to the Ahwahnee Hotel. (I refuse to use the phony names for classic Yosemite spots that have been slapped on them as a result of a lawsuit over trademarks, so Ahwahnee I call it.) It's an impressive starting point, and we can use the Valley shuttle system to Yosemite Lodge for the departure of our Tram tour.

The lawn behind the Ahwahnee Hotel
A wedding will be performed out here later today.

Overlooking the Great Lounge from the mezzanine.
The Solarium and two other rooms at the far end
are blocked off for the wedding party.

The Ahwahnee Dining Room

The Valley Tram tour is underway.

Picking my way to the edge of the Merced River
during a stop

Alas, the haze renders many pictures less than stunning. For the full experience, you must come here to see for yourself.

In the Museum
Toll Road Rates

Indian basket

The next big time-sink is the Olympics. Over two weeks' worth of swimming, volleyball, gymnastics, rowing, horse jumping, and more.

Perhaps even during the Olympics, I transition to dishwasher tending. I wake up one morning and the bottom of the dishwasher is full of water. In fact, I find water on the floor of the adjacent cabinet under the sink. I empty out the cabinet and begin to bail water out of the dishwasher.

Jean-Luc watches the commotion.

Bailing takes quite awhile and I have to keep getting up 
and down from the floor to empty  the pan out into the sink.

I'm guessing the pump isn't pumping. I ponder. Do I spend a bunch of money for a plumber to try to fix my 27-year old dishwasher, with its mineral-crusted parts and rusting racks? Or do I go for a new one?

Easy choice. But meanwhile, the bottom of the dishwasher fills again within hours, even though I turn the valve off at the water intake. I figure out how to siphon the water out a bit faster than bailing, although it takes a practice not to spill half of it on the floor.

It takes a few days for the new dishwasher to get picked up by my plumber, to get modifications to the electrical, and to complete the installation. I like my old black appliances, but  ... I don't know. I think there is a prevaiing social pressure to choose stainless over black. It is very quiet in operation, though.

And then I find out the clothes dryer isn't drying.


Saturday, November 19, 2016

Quilt Camp Crisis!

The quilters of Spring Quilt Camp

I'm early this time. I have all my quilting gear in the garage to pile into the car after dinner and will be ready to leave first thing in the morning, first time ever to arrive at Fall Quilt Camp when it opens. I have my suitcase out and need only throw a couple of changes of clothes into it. I leave all the routine stuff (toiletries, et al) in it so it won't take long. I'm making one more run into town to pick up mail and do minor shopping at the grocery store. I don't need anything for quilt camp, but it's Senior Citizen Discount Day and I want to stock up on a few essentials. Like ice cream and cookies.

It's chillier than I expect outside as I leave home and I'm wearing a tee shirt and light vest, so I shop quickly and throw my sacks into the back of my little SUV. The radio blares and my breath fogs up the windshield as I turn the key, so I put on the defroster a moment. I turn the key farther to start the engine. Everything stops. The sounds of silence. I try again. Two indicator lights flash briefly. One looks in that glimpse like a pump nozzle tipping into a gas tank. I had  60 miles to empty when I left home five miles ago.  I conclude that I have a terribly dead battery. The last time my battery balked, I needed a new one. In fact, on that same day my truck's battery also croaked. Daughter has my truck at the moment. I must alert her.

I call AAA. It's what I pay my dues for. There's ice cream in my trunk. Hurry, please. ETA is 51 minutes. Naturally I post my stuckage on Facebook. An "Oh, no" response from a friend is immediate. Her husband appears in the parking lot not long after and I think perhaps he's been sent on a rescue mission. His arrival is only coincidental, but he does stick around and lends me his jacket as I shiver there.

To shortcut the story a little, my battery is, indeed, dead. Dead dead dead. Helpful comments put doubts in my mind about other possible causes, but my gut knows it is dead. AAA loads my car onto his giant flatbed truck and delivers us into my driveway, positioned for whomever gets to tow it away tomorrow. My ice cream is soft serve now. It goes directly into the freezer in hopes of regaining its profile.

My mind is churning about options for getting to quilt camp. I have a bunch of stuff to take (my SUV's worth of stuff, in fact) and it's an arduous drive up there for the uninitiated. I can't just casually ask someone to drive me there, then expect them to find me again at the end.

After mulling options for awhile, I make Plan A: the mechanic at the auto shop in the next little town down the road will bring a battery to my house and that will fix it. Plan B, in case the mechanic can't come or a battery doesn't fix it, is back to AAA to take my car into the auto shop for repair. But I'm still without transportation. I don't think I can disguise this as something the Senior lift program is intended for.

A message on Facebook arrives from Sister, who with Hubby is at their City house. Their truck is in the garage at their Mountain house, in my Little Town, and I can use it if I can find someone to get the big TV out of the truck bed. A sense of relief washes over me that there's a fall back to Plan B, even though it has its own issues to deal with. There's not much else I can do before 8 a.m., so I finish packing the suitcase and fall into bed.

Hallelujah!  It's foggy out when I get up, but early on, Plan A is launched. The mechanic is on his way with a battery. What a welcome smiling face he arrives with, battery in hand(s).

I know it was just a battery when he tells me to get in and start it up, and the door-open chime greets me. The "what-ifs" melt away.

Driving my route regular route through ranch country makes me happy and calm. The stress drains, even as I bounce along the rural roads.

What a beautiful (late) morning with stunning skies.

I take the longer route up the hill because I've heard there will be road work on my usual route. It really is longer this way.

It gets narrower when I make the steep turn up the road that accesses the camp.

I find myself behind two buses. Just as I snap a photo of the awesome sight of big buses on this tiny road, two come down the hill and the excitement begins. Upward-bound vehicles inch slowly by. Look at the big gap between those two. While it's not a bare precipice to the right, it wouldn't be a fun roll.

I'm now more up into level with those billowy clouds and they're not looking quite so benign.

I'm not the latest arrival, but people are at work when I get to camp. I set my stuff up and take a tour of the room.

There's a cry of "It's hailing . . . "


. . . even though sun is shining. Look closely for the white streaks.

But I can't stop yawning and I go to my room for a brief pre-dinner nap. Just before cozying-in, I note that there will be a beautiful sunset. Which I will miss.

Later, after the nap, I catch a glimpse of something I recognize on the Swap Table, a picture of Mont Saint Michel. I'll be visiting there next summer.

People are busy.  Clockwise, the snack table; a cookie tin with a gorgeous pleated fabric top; a quilt top; beginnings of a hexagon piece; three intricately appliqued quilt blocks.

Almost done. I love the colors and the simple design.

Blue and white Japanese prints will be set in alternate blocks with white, one of my favorite color combos.

And I am finally starting to quilt my Shimmering Quilt, begun in Jenny Bowker's class at Empty Spools Seminars in the Spring of 2015.

So goes the first day of quilt camp.