"Someday's gonna be a busy day..."

Friday, 26 September 2008

Melon-collie at Someday Farm

Upon returning from our sojurn in California, I wandered down to see how my garden had fared in my absence. The racoons had decimated the corn, but I'd expected that. What I didn't expect was the plump, beautiful watermelon that was waiting patiently for me. I could just hear it saying, "Hey! You're back! Finally. Now, are you just gonna stare at me or are you gonna pick me?"

I'd planted the melons from seed, like most of the things I grew this year. My beans and peas were a great success, but D was skeptical about the melons.

"They'll never mature," he said, condescendingly, I thought, for someone who's never tried to grow much of anything besides corn. "You planted 'em too late."

Secretly, I agreed with him, but didn't want to admit it. So when I saw this big green baby waiting for me amidst all its fuzzy leaves, I did a little victory dance. D's favourite food is watermelon, and I couldn't wait to see his face when I served him a juicy pink slice for dessert that night.

When I proudly carried my green melon into the kitchen, where both C and D were waiting, they started to laugh. "Are you sure that thing's ripe, Kimmy?" said C.

"Of course it's ripe!" I knocked it with my knuckles. "Hear that nice hollow sound?"

"I don't think she's ripe," said D.

"Just you wait," I said, and got out the giant knife reserved soely for watermelons and pumpkin carving. I handed it to D, who always does the honours. "It's gonna be delicious."

D obediently dug the knife in to the hilt and thumped the handle a few times. We all watched breathlessly as the melon separated and fell in two pieces onto the cutting board.

Not only was my plump green treasure totally unripe, it had a big rotten spot in it too! The horror! The shame!! The teasing that ensued!!!

My only consolation is that Neko enjoyed every bite. AND I have three more green treasures ripening in the garden, waiting for their turn. Maybe I should find some MiracleGro...

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Ventura County - land of bounty

Driving through Ventura county, it's not hard to see why dining out in California is such a pleasant experience. There are lush valleys of fresh produce everywhere! We drove through orange groves (there is something so bizarre about seeing an orange actually growing on a tree), avodaco groves and almond groves. We passed endless fields of green and red lettuce growing in neat rows, and marvelled at the enormous open backed trucks filled to the brim with shiny red tomatoes. D even pulled over at one point so I could pick a cotton ball out of a cotton field, and took me on an impromptu (and uninvited) tour of a roadside almond factory.

The only troublesome thing about all this lovely food is the amount of water it takes to irrigate it. Thousands of acres must be regularly sprinkled in order to keep them from turning into their crusty brown cousins - the stark, burnt-looking hills that lie just to the west of all the farmland. Every hotel or restaurant we visited from Monterey onwards had little signs saying "water is precious" or "water shortage," and urged us to conserve by not ordering a glass of water unless we really wanted it, or to reuse our towels until they got unbearable.

A bit of a paradox, and one I'm not sure how to reconcile, especially since I ate my fill of heirloom tomatoes and gorged on avocadoes the whole time I was in California.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Muir Woods: the silent forest

My boss told me that she'd taken her son to Muir Woods because it was the place where Return of the Jedi had been filmed. I groaned inwardly, thinking, oh great - a forest full of majestic redwoods, desecrated by Ewoky marketing crap. But we went anyway. We needed some respite from the craziness of SF.

D and I braved an hour of hairpin, butt-clenching mountain roads to get there. I stepped out of the car in the parking lot and was amazed to see a puff of my breath cloud the air. The temperature in SF had hovered around 18 degrees; in Muir Woods, it was 9! On went a pair of pants under my new dress; on went the touristy San Francisco wind breaker D bought me at Fisherman's Wharf; on went my pink socks and running shoes. Only Ewoks would see me, right?

I'm happy to report that Muir woods remains blissfully Lucas-free. The only advertisement I saw was a sign strictly forbidding the feeding of baby chimpmunks ("We know they're cute, but please don't feed them.") There are dozens of trails you can take, most of which meander through the never-ending cathedral of towering redwoods or past trickling streams.

The air was crisp and pure. I felt as though I was drinking in gallons of oxygen - my city-starved lungs seemed to stretch open to twice their size.

I wish I could describe the silence of those woods to you. We felt we had to whisper most of the time. D tried speaking loudly, but the woods swallowed up his voice as though he'd spoken in a vaccum. I half expected to see something mythical coming towards me through the waist-deep ferns - a unicorn or one of those elves from LOTR. Instead, we met an assortment of hikers and tourists, all of whom greeted us in their native language. Muir woods was the only place we visited on our vacation where that happened. I don't know all redwood forests lend themselves to a sense of community and friendliness among strangers. If they do, we should all spend a couple of hours there at least once a week.

Next: oranges and avodados and cotton, oh my!

Alcatraz: What DID happen to those three guys?

We took a boat ride to Alcatraz on Wednesday night to celebrate the end of D's conference (you know, out of one prison, into another).

Alcatraz is one creepy place. It looms out of the choppy water like a jagged rock as you approach and your first thought is, "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea." After being sternly herded off the boat ("You must choose the LEFT or the RIGHT gangplank only. Do NOT pause on the gangplank."), we were treated to a ten minute tirade about where not to wander by a park ranger (Alcatraz is actually part of a national park) who had the most horrific voice I've ever heard - kind of a cross between Patty & Selma from the Simpsons and Joey's agent from Friends.

D and I snuck away before our eardrums started to bleed and joined the line to tour the facility. We were handed headphones with a marvellous 40 minute-long guided tour, featuring the voices of former inmates, guards, wardens and even the daughter of one of the wardens who lived on the island for three years as a child. It was like listening to a really high quality radio drama. Totally worth the lineups and screechy park ranger.

But my favourite part? The story of the three guys who managed to escape in a dinghy and were never heard of again. They dug through their cement cell walls with SPOONS, for Heaven's sake. And they cleverly tricked the guards by creating dummies of themselves out of paper mache - using real hair they'd saved from their hairbrushes! That's innovation. I wonder if they made it. Some speculate they went to South America and started new lives. In a way, I kind of hope that's true. I know they were bank robbers and kidnappers, but hey, anyone with enough brains & guts to escape from Alcatraz deserves a second chance, don't you think?

Next: Muir Woods, land of Ewoks

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Beverley Hills: Home of more crabby drivers

D wanted to drive through Beverley Hills on Saturday night for kicks. I made him go down Rodeo drive to see the glizy shops (we even drove by the Entertainment Weekly pre-Emmy party!). He hesitated for a few seconds at a green light to consult the wretched GPS, and someone in a giant SUV HONNNNKed at us to get moving.

At the next intersection, the aforesaid SUV pulled up next to us. Its window ominously buzzed down. D politely rolled his down to see a sour looking blonde glaring at us. "What, are you all alone in the world or something?" she snarked before squealing her SUV around the corner.

I guess she was late for her botox appointment.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

SF - City of Random Singing and Grumpy Sea Lions

SF is a busy, hectic city. The crush of people here can be overwhelming. But one nice thing is that a lot of them sing while they plummet down steep sidewalks and dash in front of trolley cars. Some have i-Pods jammed into their ears, but others just sing random tunes without any ear-budded accompaniment.

Take the business-suited Hawaiian guy walking behind me on Market street yesterday. He scatted an impressive ladder of notes, jogged to catch up to me and said, "Hey beautiful, like my singing?" I had to admit that I did. Once he'd quickly determined my marital status and given me his website ("I write all my own music, s'true!"), he cheerfully skedaddled. But my favourite singer was the little Asian guy in the wheelchair going up an impossibly steep hill outside of Chinatown at 10pm last night. His voice was as high pitched as one of those Chinese erhu thingies, which is funny, because they say the erhu can sound like a human voice. Anyway, his lament pierced both my eardrums and my heart.

Speaking of Chinatown, I had a chance to explore it for a few hours on foot yesterday. What a boisterous, shiny, colourful, crowded, gaudy bit of over stimulation it is. I found the perfect Kuan Yin statue, something I've been searching for, and the shop keeper directed me to the Washington Restaurant to try their "very delicious" won tons. You know you're probably in a decent Chinese place when you're the only white person there. (Although the "noodles with hot dog and tomato sauce" wasn't my idea of authentic Chinese food) The crispy won tons were so delicious that I forgave the grim-faced waitress for giving me a fork instead of chopsticks.

On the less than melodic side, we stumbled on the famous sea lions of Pier 39 on our waterfront crawl. Talk about a cantankerous group of creatures: barking and biting and whacking each other with flippers. And the stink! It was almost like being back in Bruce County at manure-spreading time...or watching the tourists vie for room at Station Beach on the long weekend.

Finally, let me say that the sushi here is absolutely the best I've ever had. Heaven = San Francisco rolls, a rich combo of toro (fatty tuna belly) and California avocado. Washing them down with chilled Cherry Blossom sake, I found my happy place. God bless whoever invented sushi.

They say SF is the city of "foodies," and tonight I intend to drag a reluctant D to a fine eatery to test this theory further. So far, I haven't been disappointed.

Up next: eatin', drinkin', dancin'...and Alcatraz.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

San Fran - City of irritable drivers part II

I'm sitting in my hotel room, testing UAT plans like the diligent insurance jockey that I am, when I hear a steady HONK HONK HONK eight floors below. If I were back at Someday Farm, I'd chalk it up to migrating geese, but since I'm in the city of brotherly love (HA) I realize it's yet another irate driver. The bouncy honking suddenly turns to one prolonged HOOOONNNNNNNKKKKK....which lasts 17 seconds (I counted).

That may not seem like a long time, but try saying "HOONNNKKK" for 17 seconds and see what kind of mood it puts you in. I can only hope that someone clubbed the driver and the prolonged honk was his/her head thunking forward onto the horn and staying there until s/he regained consciousness and drove meekly home.

Brotherly love, my ass.

Monday, 15 September 2008

San Fran - city of irritable drivers and chilly fogs

D had an opportunity to come to San Francisco this week for a work-related conference. His boss kindly advised him to "take his wife," so I've tagged along like so much pretty luggage. You should see our hotel: fancy schmancy.

I'll post snippets of our experience in SF instead of inflicting big rambly posts on you, dear reader.

First, let me say that it is cold here. Cold and windy. So much for my whole California dreamin' notion of sunny skies and temperate climes. My mother whisked my sister and I to L.A. back in '88 and it was deliciously warm the whole time. With that happy memory in mind, I packed flimsy summer dresses, sandals and tank tops. And one pair of jeans. Thank heavens I packed my all-purpose Reading Festival hippy scarf! When I knot it around my goose-pimply self, it helps stave off the damp air shooting up from the wharf; it also warms me to know that wearing a scarf jauntily around one's throat seems to be in keeping with the local style.

When I complained about the weather here to my friend from Vancouver, she said, "September is sweater weather on the West coast, Kim." (I could almost hear her mentally adding, "You dingbat" but she's too sweet to actually say it.) So I scurried out after work yesterday and bought D and myself sweaters. We went on a boat cruise last night with his conference buddies, and I was glad for my wool/acrylic blend - salty sea winds are nice in theory but killer in practice.

The only other thing that's made an instant impression on me is how nasty San Fran drivers are. I mean, NASTY - honking if you hesitate for a second at a light (HONK! "Is this New Montgomery street?" HONK HONK! "How should I know? You're the one with the GPS!" HONNNNK!), cutting you off mercilessly on the freeway, refusing to let you in, trying their best to run you over as you wander across the street. Maybe I've been putt-putting along in Bruce county for too long, but I don't remember Toronto - or even Montreal - drivers being so gosh-darn rude. D and I felt like country mice in a big ol' city full of feline drivers. We have decided to walk as much as possible.

Coming up next: the best tuna belly God ever made, my search for Kuan Yin in Chinatown and the Hawaiian guy who wanted to marry me.