Tuesday, 30 September 2008

All correct at the check outI could not believe my eyes this morning, when I saw this sign (above) in the Trader Joe's supermarket in Encinitas. Yee ha! Must be the only one in the world to get that right!
If you don't believe your eyes either, click on the pic for a bigger image — yup! That's what it says! Big ticks.
I was shopping for bits and pieces for my Christmas cake recipe, and later found myself at Ralph's, our huge, friendly supermarket just up the road. And look what I found there ...
Gen-yoo-wine Australian banksia flowers.Gorgeous. And only $10 a stem. Oh — that's my bag of Australian navel oranges there. I'm doing my bit!
:: Talking of cooking, which I was, sort of, I was flipping through a new US cookbook, looking for a pumpkin soup recipe. I found one, and it sounded great — until I clapped eyes on the last ingredient: "One fifteen-ounce can of pumpkin." Yup — it comes all mushy in cans here, ready for pumpkin pie etc.
I was stunned: if you're going to open a can of pumpkin mush to make soup, why not simply open a can of pumpkin soup and be done with it?

:: Just check out this funny but alarming video compilation about the venerable McCain, which I found on Anna Banana's blog and couldn't resist sharing with yall. And has everyone creased with laughter over Tina Fey's Sarah Palin take-offs from Saturday Night Live? Just brilliant.
I bet Governor Palin's being firmly tutored and coached and spoken to very intensely this week as she prepares for the vice-presidential debate on Thursday night. Looking forward to it.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Bladework I've been admiring paper-cut silhouettes for a while now, seen in galleries while I was away and in blogland. Cuban artist Elsa Mora does amazing things with the technique, and can work on a really small scale, which must require a confident hand. I'm a great fan of her work.
Lily's boyfriend Nick has a real beauty hanging over his drawing table, so I was able to study it up close. I love silhouette pictures, and, done well, these can look really effective and a lot of fun.
With a few kiddies' birthdays looming over the next few months, I thought I'd give it a whirl (a) to see how tricky it is and (b) to make some birthday prezzies.
It took me a while to get the right thickness and weight of paper, that would cut easily, without tearing, and allow me to cut curved lines. And at the same time I had to find the right sort of blade for the knife, and then the right support.
I ended up cutting on the reverse side of the mat I use to cut my patchwork. It was hard on the eyes, concentrating on a cut line, but as with everything, practice will help.
So this was my first attempt, once I'd sorted out all the above.
I wanted to make a tree full of birds for dear little Elle, who turns one next month. I worked from the top down and got quite a bit more comfortable with the blade as I got towards the bottom branches.
There was quite a bit of accidental defoliation and deliberate swearing, until I got a system worked out and also left more substantial twigs and branches.
I'm happy with the birds and leaves, but don't think Elle's name works at all. So we'll see how we get on with the next effort!

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Snippets:: This (above) is the grand Victorian hotel, the Empress, in Victoria, British Columbia, where Lily mis-stepped on the lobby stairs and buggered her ankle.
:: The dishwasher has gone belly-up, so there has been a lot of washing up today. So much fun.
:: David is feeling a little bit delicate after watching Hawthorn defeat Geelong in the Grand Final at the Bondi last night. So he's spent a very comfy hour or two on the couch reading guides to Santa Fe and New Mexico, where we're off to in just a couple of weeks. I'm so looking forward to it. And apparently we're visiting at the absolutely best time of the year, having missed the heat and well before the real cold hits. Perfect.
:: The new series of Grey's Anatomy started this week. This is one soapie/TV drama I love to watch. Lord knows why. The LA Times today said ratings were down compared to last year's season premiere, but they've still got me hooked.
Last year, Barnes and Noble, for some weird reason, stocked piles and piles of the real Grey's Anatomy. I was baffled, as I don't believe we have that many medical students living in this neck of the woods. I mentioned this to the woman at the check-out.
'Do you get a lot of people thinking that's the book of the TV series?' I asked, nodding towards the pile of text books.
'Isn't it?' she answered, following my gaze. Sigh..

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Post-blahFeeling on top of the world today — there's just no accounting for the moods. I had a good, thorough clean-up at home, which entailed even moving the furniture to wash the floor beneath. Serious stuff.
I also embarked on a new knitting project (a tardy PIF gift), and after lunch I listened/watched a couple of my saved-up vodcasts of Jennifer Byrne and the First Tuesday Book Club, from ABC-TV, which was the perfect accompaniment.
:: David has gone to the Bondi, which is Aussie Rules central this evening for the Grand Final. We are booked out. I'm not inclined to support or even like either team generally, but will go for the Hawks just this once for the sake of our exec chef, Rhy, who's gold and brown through and through.
:: I had been planning a quiet night at home with last night's yummy leftovers for dinner, and the first of the great debates between McCain and Obama on the telly. But then Will and two of his mates all declared they were going to watch the debate with me here. So that's even better.
Poor old Duffer McCain tried SO hard to get out of it, with all his twaddling and twiddling about calling off the campaign to sort out the country's finances. Yeah, right!
:: Thanks for all the hints and advice about the hair, by the way. I shall persevere and aim for Rapunzel. Actually, with a jolly headband on today and a skirt beneath my house-cleaning pinny, I felt very French today in a very spooky old sort of a way. Weird!

Friday, 26 September 2008

I think it's the weather. Isn't it a cruel joke that of all the places in all the world where I could've ended up — me, a summer-hating, temperate-zone kinda girl who wants to shrivel up in humidity and who longs to hear the rain — I've ended up in Southern California where there is so little rain we don't even have gutters on our houses.
Or maybe it's the hair. I'm trying to grow it — against the sage advice of darling Maggie, into whose keeping I entrusted it seventeen years ago, and who has kept it looking wonderful for almost all that time, even when I'm over here.
She told me I'd hate doing this. She'll be saying 'I told you so!' as she reads this. And laughing.
I've had short hair for yearsnyears and now — in a sudden post-menopausal, let's-live-a-little-before-I-become-totally-invisible-and late-middle-aged kind of rebellion — I've decided to let it grow. Just shoulder length. I just fancy being able to swoosh it into a ponytail or up into a loose knot.
So I'm at that suicidal stage with it right now. It's horrendous. I have to wear a headband to keep it out of my eyes. Very daggy. It's not long enough to tie back, but it's too long to stay where I want it. It's driving me completely nuts and Maggie, who is now wagging her finger at me, told me this was exactly what I'd be putting up with.
And should I keep colouring it? I'm about three-quarters grey, and in my former life I was really dark brown. So if I grew out the seasonal adjustments, I'd be salt and pepperish which is not good. Especially when it's blotchy.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

No killer whalesI thought Orcas Island (the large, vaguely horseshoe-shaped island visible on the map of the San Juans, below) had been named because the region is well-known for its killer whales. But it's not as simple as that — oh no. It's a shortened part of the glorious name of Juan Vicente de Guemes Padilla Horcasitas y Aguayo, who sent an exploratory expedition this way in the 1790s when he was viceroy of Mexico. Must have been a bit chilly up there for the Spaniards — they liked their colonies hot.
Anyway, it's just gorgeous.
I'd love to show you the house we stayed in, but it's a private family home — suffice to say it was an extraordinary edifice of three storeys built entirely of wood, and it was spacious, luxurious ... and out of this world.
There are no bears on Orcas, but I woke up one night to an owl screeching in the trees, and on another to a deer's loud chewing outside the bedroom window, and heard its footfall on the wooden verandah steps. Or perhaps its antlers brushed the verandah post. It was magical.

We had four heavenly days there, walking, canoeing, playing cards, doing jigsaws and even, one evening, fishing in the lake, which is so full of trout that they leap out of the water all around you.This is our car on the ferry. We were first out when we arrived at the island, seen dead ahead.
It was a fifty-minute ferry ride from Anacortes, north of Seattle. The water's like a millpond; it's smooth enough all year, in fact, for there to be many little seaplanes buzzing back and forth between islands and the mainland.
I imagine the plane ride over the islands must be spectacular — this is the view we got from the highest point on Orcas, on top of Mt Constitution. You could see Seattle in one direction and Vancouver the other.
One of the island's many beaches and bays is a repository of driftwood. I've never seen so much. Apparently it's a bit of a tradition, if you spend any time at all on this beach, to build a fort, which you leave to be added to or cannibalised by other Robinson Crusoes. I've brought a huge bag full of the stuff back to San Diego — I can envisage icon-like paintings ... or maybe not!

Monday, 22 September 2008

So here we are again, back in the bottom left-hand corner of the country, adjusting to a landscape of thisand thisafter a few weeks of thisand this!Well, I'm being overly dramatic, but you know what I mean!
It's such an enormous country, and so very beautiful everywhere you go, especially from central California up into the Pacific North-West, which is where we went.
We stayed at a couple of places on the way up the coast to Portland. We spent a few days with Lily in Olympia, then with her and Nick on one of the San Juan islands between the US and Canada, before a few wonderful days with family in Canada itself.

We drove about 3500 miles (over 5500 km). Driving time is great time for conversation, good music, appreciating the luxury of cruise control, and taking in the view as the landscape changes. Oh, and lots and lots of daggy photographs of trucks. I love 'em!My Dave looked after me so well. Every day's drive was planned, every night's bed was booked, and every morning, when I got in the car, he had a freshly chilled bottle of Perrier waiting for me. He took me to some wonderful places — Mendocino, of course ... hushed groves of giant redwood ... an inn at the mouth of the Klamath River, in northern California, where from our bedroom window we watched Indian fishermen and sea lions competing for salmon as night fell ... deserted, rocky beaches ... and the world's biggest bookstore — you have to see it to believe it.
We've seen pine-covered islands ...
and totem poles ...And there were snow-topped volcanoes in all directions. Lucky, huh?

Thursday, 18 September 2008

That's better!
Lily is now in a hi-tech 'walking cast', thanks to the magic of Velcro, plastic and wetsuit material! The cast is light and supremely comfortable, and best of all, she can take it off to have a bath and give her lower leg a breather. Review due in six weeks.
So no more boring stuff about doctors.
I'm staying up here in beautiful Olympia until Friday arvo, when I'll drive south to Portland in Oregon, and meet David at the airport. Then we'll continue our adventures homewards.

:: Sign-ups are open for NaNoWriMo 2008 — National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that you join this incredible international online community and settle yourself down to write a 50,000-word novel in the thirty days of November. Over 100,000 people did it in 2007.
I took part for the first time last year and even got to 50,000 words! I can't wait to get stuck into it this year. My effort last year was rambling crap, of course, but the point is purely to get your writing juices flowing, and to promote the wonders (and strains, and knackering effort) of creative writing. Let me know if you come along for the fun!

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Breaking news
That's a pun.
Lily and I fortified ourselves with a good brekkie (cooked by Nick) yesterday morning then set off to experience the utter ridiculousness of the American health care system.

We'd called the Canadian doctor, who told her the X-ray showed a small fracture and that Lily needed a cast as soon as possible. Despite our having been told at the hospital in Canada that there was no visible break.
So Lily tried to get an appointment with a GP in Olympia (from the list of our health insurance company's 'approved' GPs, but no-one was taking any new patients. If she wanted to be considered as a new patient, she had to go to the office, fill out all the paperwork (doubtless for a fee) which would then be reviewed by the GP to see if he or she fancied taking Lily on as a patient (another fee).
We went, therefore, to a walk-in 'urgent care clinic', where we were told that Lily needed to see an orthopaedic specialist to get treatment. So we sat in the waiting room and rang all the ortho clinics in Olympia: no appointments possible until next Monday, and even then she'd have to go through the same process as to see a GP. So there was no guarantee an ortho doc would even feel like considering taking on Lily's case.
Lily, by now, was in tears. She knew she had a fractured bone in her foot, and all she wanted was someone to look at it and help her get it into a cast.
Finally we went to the ER of a local hospital. They are all private, remember. We watched a woman with a bandaged foot get turned away at reception (where the first question is 'What health insurance do you have?') because she had no insurance and was unable to pay up front. She couldn't even get a voucher for a taxi home.
We waited in the entry waiting room to get into the ER's waiting room, where a nurse gave us the fifth degree about (health insurance and) what had happened to Lily, and then told us that she'd be reviewed by the ER doctor here (for a fee, separate from the hospital's own fee)), possibly X-rayed again (for a fee), made comfortable with a splint (for a fee), or rather, was allowed to, and then sent to an ortho doctor for a cast (yet another fee).
None of the doctors at the ER of this hospital could put on a cast. We were astounded, at this point, and then more so when the nurse told us that this was for reasons of legal liability.
Eventually we saw a wonderfuly sympathetic doctor, who X-rayed Lil's foot and told her in no uncertain terms that the break was in fact quite bad, and that the ortho doc may need to do an MRI to ensure the joint was okay. They splinted and bandaged her entire lower leg, prescribed some non-codeine ainkillers and then sent us home. We had to make our own ortho doctor's appointment, but managed to get an appointment for today with a friend of the ER doctor (they had a deal: the ER doctor wouldn't ever page her ortho friend, and in return the ortho agreed to see the ER doc's patients as early as possible.
So we're off to the ortho clinic this morning. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Checking in
Lily, Nick and I finally started the long trek southwards yesterday, leaving Cobble Hill, on Vancouver Island, in beautiful, beautiful British Columbia, to catch the ferry from Victoria, Canada, to Anacortes in the US. Now it's Monday morning and we're in Lily's home in Olympia.
David had to fly home to San Diego on Saturday for a big few days at the Bondi, and — horror of horrors — the day before, Lily fell on the stairs in the glorious old Empress Hotel in Victoria, injuring her ankle. And the codeine-based painkillers the doctor prescribed have made her throw up, so she's really been in the wars.
So she and Nick will stay in Olympia. I will too, until Wednesday, when David will fly up to join me for the drive home. I've been contemplating driving home alone, but on the big interstate freeway it's over 1600 (fast, straight and boring) kilometres, which is a long way!
But apart from poor old Lil, we've had a brilliant time. Such a beautiful part of the world.
More later!