Sunday, June 28, 2009

A farewell BBQ in the heat

Yesterday we had a BBQ for a couple that are moving to Mexico. It was only fitting then that the day was one of the hottest of the year. Officially, it got up to 100 degrees, but there were times it felt much hotter during the day while setting things up.

The good news though is that by the early evening our backyard is bathed in shade, and sitting at tables on the lawn was fairly comfortable, especially with a frosty beverage and an occasional breeze.

I began cooking the meat before people started showing up. Note the stylish shirt (the same one I made at the treehouse place).

The main meat was a small turkey that I cut up like a chicken. I precooked the legs and wings by boiling them in seasoned water before grilling them. I take the thigh and breast meat and cut it up into strips that are marinated and then grilled. The fun bit though is to remove most of the skin and grill it up on its own.

There are two kinds of people - those who wrinkle their nose in disgust at the crunchy turkey skin (the vast minority) and those that nearly do a dance when they taste it.

This is all the grilled meat, just before people started in on it.

The gathering was a pot luck, and I'm not sure there is anything better. I love the variety of dishes that turn up, even the token salads. I never ate any of the grilled meat and instead focused on the other dishes, especially those with beans (long story).

Here is a partial view of the group sitting in the shady back yard. Idiot Dog Teddy loves these events since it always means there will be scraps and unwatched plates that need to be cleaned up. We ended up with around 40 people, and almost none of them walked away hungry.

This is a blueberry cream pie that Mrs Notthat made for the event. There were other wonderful desserts as well, but I was too full to think about them and this is the only dessert-related picture we have.

The Boy showed up a bit late since he had to work, but after eating he was pressed into service to enter a phone number into Ve's (not her real name) cell phone. Note his stylish new glasses. It's been almost a week and he still has them!

There weren't many little kids, but those that did make it loved playing with the grandkid's toys. Tears were shed when they saw the big swing but were not able to use due to all the tables and such in the way. Here, Nylecoj (not her real name of course) tries to work out how to pick the flowers without getting into trouble.

Mrs Notthat and I posed for a picture with the guests of honor, Egroeg and Annod, who have decided to move to Puerto Vallarta Mexico. The main reason is the reduced cost of living - it is tough for normal people to live in the Bay Area after retirement. Mrs Notthat and others are already planning trips to visit them down there.

Once it started to get dark, most of the people left and a core of us hung around a candle-lit table (it had really cooled off by this point, so the candles did not seem as out of place as they would have an hour earlier - the best things about our really hot days is that it always cools off very nicely once it gets dark).

This morning Mrs and I took down and put away all the tables and chairs and started rounding up the various things left behind. Like all these sunglasses.

The evening went very well in spite of the heat. Today is supposed to be nearly as hot, so my plan is to stay indoors and hunker down in front of a fan.

And do some grazing on the many left over dishes that are currently filling the fridge. In fact, right about now that chili sounds really good.

That's it - eat along...

Friday, June 26, 2009

It's almost like living in a Starbucks...

...well, except for the lack of tasty pastries and having to deal with a pimply faced youth with multiple odd piercings and a talent for misspelling your name.

Mrs Notthat loves her coffee flavors, which is great since it means the actual quality of the coffee does not matter that much. She is always experimenting with different combinations of the flavors, so I never know which to use on those occasions when I get to make her coffee for a "breakfast in bed" morning.

So I just do what I grew up calling a "suicide" - as kids, when we got to fill our own soda cups we would put in a bit of all of the flavors. Mrs always smiles when I make her coffee and I ask how it is. "It's wonderful!" she'll say, which probably says more about her need for caffeine than the actual flavor.

Lately she's been surprising me by not sleeping in on those mornings when she normally would. Surely it has nothing to do with my adventurous coffee flavoring skills.

Could it?

That's it - move along...

PS: I don't drink coffee at all. The Boy sometimes drinks a cup but I'm pretty sure he ignores the flavors.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

It's Saturday so it must be time for a garage sale

Somebody on our street loves to have garage sales. They have organized "block sales" several times in the last year. Of course this is music to Mrs Notthat's ears. She loves this sort of thing, and is really good at it.

I, on the other hand, do not enjoy hosting garage sales. (I don't mind being a customer at garage sales, however.) They are a LOT of work and consume a LOT of time for little monetary gain. But Mrs enjoys the social aspects as much as anything else, and she does get to meet and interact with the neighbors. Even Idiot Dog Teddy got to meet a neighbor dog.

IDT has even worse social skills than I do when it comes to other dogs, so it was amazing to see him be so calm around this little ball of fluff.

The two neighbor kids love to play with IDT, but IDT had some stiff competition today - an old electric typewriter. I suspect this is the first time either of them have seen one, and they were fascinated with it. There is something about the physicalness of it; the noise, the metal keys pounding the paper, the metal keys all jamming together - who needs video games?

The most amazing thing was that Mrs Notthat almost sold the thing. The wise potential buyer asked to see it work. For a line or two, it did. And then it failed. I think she got it working later, long after the potential buyer had left, so it is going to end up being donated to a local charity, along with most of the other stuff that didn't sell (which is most of the other stuff she started with).

I had minimal involvement in today's garage sale - I hauled tables back and forth and securely mounted the clothes racks to the fence and that's about it. I had my long walk this morning (ten miles!) and got to watch a bit of the US Open before the rain started up again.

That's it - move along...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A sandwich, gown, some trees, and a snake

This post is to catch up on a wide variety of things. It is not suitable for the squeamish. (I'm closing my eyes while typing most of it.)

While Mrs Notthat and I were touring the rain forests of southern Oregon and northern California, The Boy stayed home. There is little danger of him starving though. Here is a typical sandwich that he likes to make.

 This has been an interesting week for the grandkids. (As loyal readers should know by now, "interesting" almost always involves a hospital and maybe something worse.)

Riley spent two nights in the hospital last week. Darci spent Tuesday night at our house (we made cherry pancakes for breakfast!). Riley was released on Thursday, along with some new medications to hopefully make him more resistant to all these bugs that tend to trigger his asthma. Thursday night he started having stomach issues, and began a series of "cookie tossing" episodes. 

Friday, Darci graduated from preschool (she starts kindergarten in September!). I volunteered to watch Riley while Mrs Notthat, WHM and NCN all went to the graduation, but I was told not to worry - Riley would be fine with them. Two kids before Darci got her diploma (no word on her grade point average), Riley again did the cookie thing, and WHM ended up leaving early. 

Riley's doctor feels that the cookie problems are not related to the new medications, but that he has caught a stomach flu that's going around. Like I said, an "interesting" week. 

Saturday Mrs Notthat and I unwrapped the cherry tree and picked all the remaining cherries. We ended up with a total of about two gallons of cherries - not a huge amount (they will be gone quickly), but WAY more than we've ever harvested in other years. And they are really good. Even IDT tried really hard to get at the cherries through the netting.

Today I spent a few hours trimming our bottle brush tree. This is not my favorite task, but I like it when it is done, so I don't mind too much working on this thing. Just once I'm going to leave it with a mohawk or a mullet.

The most alarming event of the week was that The Boy now shares his room with this thing. It is actually from the grandkid's house - they are letting us borrow it to see if The Boy really wants to have one of his own and will take care of it, and whether I can deal with having this thing in the house. So far it has not been a problem on either front, although today when I took this picture was the first time I actually saw it. I thought it was a tiny little thing, but it isn't. IDT should be a bit more nervous than he is about it. It needs a bigger enclosure, and the plan (in my mind anyway) is for The Boy and I to try to build something suitable for it.

Something VERY escape-proof.

That's it - move along...

Monday, June 8, 2009

Volcano and Treehouse Trip: Heading Home

Our original plan was to make it home by Saturday night, but we did a quick clothing and medicine survey and decided to extend the trip to Sunday. Friday we checked out of the treehouse place and headed south to Crescent City.

One last treehouse to show. I had not seen this until we were wandering around touring all of the empty treehouses. This place, Out 'n About, was a bit pricey and can be challenging to get a reservation at, especially on summer weekends, but was great fun and we have a better idea of which treehouses we want to try for next time.

The drive to Crescent City CA is not long, but it is infested with very large redwood trees.

And beaches.

And shopping opportunities if you are in the market for redwood-based knickknacks. We were not even vaguely in the market for such things, but this is how the back window of our car looked after we left one of these places.

When we enter a store like this, I typically head one way and Mrs Notthat another. When we met up later, I mentioned that I had seen the coolest thing - she said she had too, and it turned out that we were bizarrely talking about the same work of wooden art. I asked for naming suggestions and an ex-coworker (Thanks Deerc - not his real name) came up with Mickey. Mickey Moose.

Once we got to Crescent City we chose a nice quiet motel called the Curly Redwood Lodge. It was nearly empty and had WiFi, so we were set. Shortly after we checked in, a group of motorcycles pulled in and ended up with rooms on either side of ours.

At dinner we found out that there was a motorcycle rally scheduled for the next morning. The good news was that the rally was set to head the direction we just came from, so they would not affect our trip south. The other good news was that they had to be at the starting point fairly early, so the bikers actually quieted down early (for bikers - I think we were up later than them). The bad news is that they had to be at the starting point fairly early, which meant they were up early, and there is no such thing as a quiet Harley.

Our goal the next day was to get to Willits or Leggit - somewhere around 200 miles further south. As it turned out, there were many shopping opportunities in Crescent City, so we were pretty late leaving town, and in the end only made it about 85 miles to Eureka.

Along the way there were many beaches and redwoods (and redwood-based shopping opportunities, which we wisely avoided since Mickey Moose was already a bit cramped for space) and a field with a herd of wild elk that calmly grazed while we gawked at them.

The night in Eureka was uneventful, but left us with a fairly long drive on Sunday to get home. However, I could not resist driving down a road called the Avenue of the Giants.

Unfortunately, there was nothing along this road but a massive number of huge redwood trees - there was no evidence of the Giants anywhere. Not even a plaque for Willie Mays or Will Clark.

The biggest surprise of the trip was this sight when we reached San Francisco - a completely fog free Golden Gate Bridge (this was at about 6 PM).

And we finally made it home. Mickey is currently guarding the front porch, but his final location has not been decided. He seems comfortable enough here where he is protected from Idiot Dog Teddy and can guard the cherry tree from ruthless squirrels (the cherries appear nice and ripe - hopefully we will get to harvest them today).

This was a great trip that even lots of rain, large snow drifts, a noisy group of 8th graders, and a motorcycle gang could not dampen. Now it's back to the real world of work and grandkids. 

Which is not that bad of a deal.

That's it - move along...

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Volcano and Treehouse Trip: Day Four

Another shot of some typical treehouses. These we found out later have a toilet and sink (one even has a shower), so midnight runs to the bathroom do not require navigating the swinging walkways of death.

We woke to rain. Lots of rain. We had signed up for the "Poultry" zip line course (as in the zip line course for chickens, although it was much more advanced than they let on) at 11 and a tie-dye thing at 2. (We did not sign up for any horseback riding since there is a weight limit that I violated by a little bit. The horses seemed happy that I didn't push it.) 

At 9:30 or so they called off all the morning zip line events since the zip lines get a bit dangerous when wet (it is much harder to stop without doing the George of the Jungle thing and smacking into a tree).

Then the rain stopped (mostly). The zip dudes went out and dried off the Poultry course lines and decided to try it. And at 11, Mrs Notthat and I got suited up.

Mrs was not convinced that the rain was done, so she left her raincoat on.

I was convinced it was done, so I took mine off. Plus there was this whole macho thing.

The first line is really a chicken line, just a few feet off the ground. They teach you to steer (who knew that wildly waving your arms was not the best way to keep control?) and to brake without smacking into the tree at the other end. Little kids could play on this line when classes weren't going on.

The zip dudes were great and patient and funny. One went out ahead of the others with a machete to clear branches that we might run into. (We still managed to run into a number of smaller ones, which added to the thrill - or terror.)

Once we mastered the basics, we headed up to the first real run. This picture gives you an idea of how high we were up. I hate heights, so this was very challenging for me. Mrs Notthat likes scary things, and she loved it.

The next run took us through some trees and had the added challenge of ending up on a platform instead of on the ground. If you look hard you can see me zipping through the woods (like nature NEVER intended).

From that platform we took our final line back to the ground. I was done at that point, but since the rain had stayed stopped, they decided to do the DOA course. Mrs happily joined that  group. This picture gives you an idea of how high one of the platforms was. (That's Mrs coasting to a prefect stop at the platform, which was much harder to do than it looks. She was a natural.)

Sadly, my camera battery died so I did not get a shot of the final step in the DOA course, which involved rappelling down a tree. Mrs Notthat then wanted to do the Tarzan Swing (the above picture shows her getting into the harness). 

For this insane thing, they use a golf cart to pull you way up using pulleys and two hand grips that the rider holds on to. If you look hard, you can see Mrs about 50 feet in the air, just before she let go. She loved this a lot. There was no chance of getting me up there though.

Finally, an adventure activity that I could handle. 

Sunshine, in orange with bright yellow hair (she got the name in the 60s in the Haight-Ashbury part of San Francisco), was our tie dye teacher.

Here are the sample shirts she brought to show us. I'm showing this mostly because I wanted to prove that my final result was really intentional, matching the one on the left. Sort of.

Here are all the shirts, tied, dyed, and resting while the dye sets. It's really hard at this point to believe that anything useful will result from this, and it's even harder to not open them up to see what you've got.

Four hours later we were able to open them up and rinse out the excess dye and see what we had. Mrs came out perfect - amazingly nice. Mine also came out perfect, although there were a lot of "Hmmmm"s and "Ahhhhh"s. People tried to see horses, dragons, and unicorns in mine. It really isn't meant to be an ink blot test, but it works pretty well for that.

Sunshine came back after dark to see the shirts and to perform a fire dance for us. She was really amazing - she was turning 60 the next day, but she swung these heavy fireballs like they were nothing, and never caught herself or any of the dogs on fire.

And that was it. After a rainy morning we ended up with a fairly nice day. The teenagers spent the day rafting, giving us some peace and quiet until they returned in the evening. Even then, they quieted down when it was time to go to bed.

This was our last night there - tomorrow we pack up and head to Crescent City Ca. And a motel room with its own bathroom. And peace and quiet. (HA!)

That's it - move along...

Friday, June 5, 2009

Volcano and Treehouse Trip: Day Three

We checked out of the St Bernard Lodge and headed north to Oregon, home of the treehouses.

Along the way, we stopped in Redding to see the world famous (at least in Redding) Sundial Bridge. It was designed by the same guy that designed the Athens Olympics stuff (no, I don't remember what they looked like either). This was very cool looking though.

It goes across the Sacramento river, which is a major salmon spawning river. So the deck of the bridge is mostly made of glass to reduce the shadow it puts on the river, and it is a suspension bridge so that they did not have to put and supports in the river (I guess salmon aren't smart enough to swim around them).

Even better, the bridge is an extremely accurate sundial (one day a year - we were a few days too early for the June 21 Accuracy Day, continuing the theme of pushing the summer season). In the above picture, the brass circles are times of the day. The shadow is a bit after 12:00, which amazingly, it was.

Finally, after navigating a wide variety of backroads in the Takilma Oregon area, we found the treehouse place. It was very moist, but not raining and a fire was going, so it looked very inviting. Halfway through the tour a downpour broke out, putting out the fire and stranding us about 100 feet from our treehouse (pictured above) with our raincoats safely staying dry in the car. After getting bored trying to wait the storm out, we made a dash for the treehouse. Yes, we got very wet.

Eventually the rain stopped and we were able to venture out a bit.

The best looking treehouses look like this. These are also the ones that are booked very early. We will try very hard to get one of these next time. These swinging rope bridges are all over the place. For me they are harrowing to walk on, but cool enough to take the chance.

It turns out that the seniors from some private K-12 school in Marin chose this week to stay here for their senior trip. I cannot believe that I acted like that when I was their age, but suspect I may be mis-remembering. They did manage to quiet down around 10 PM and so the impact was minimal.

The night was filled with farm sounds. There are horses just outside our house, a variety of dogs that protect us from squirrels and raccoons and such, and a rooster that makes sure we don't sleep too late. And the sound of chainsaws off in the distance (I haven't seen logging trucks, but I suspect this is still logging country). 

We signed up for a zip line class and a tie dye class for tomorrow. I have no idea if these work in the rain.

That's it - move along...