Showing posts from October, 2011

Now, With More Hellishness

... I just had to share one more photo of what the neighbor kids are calling "The Devil House." Trick or treating did not disappoint. The kids were all adorable, shockingly polite, and a bit awed by the whole experience. I do think that some of the littlest ones were as excited about ringing our doorbell as they were about getting free candy. It was really fun, listening to them chatting as they came up our stairs. I was charmed by the kids who earnestly told us "we're inside of a MOUTH." This really is my favorite holiday.

Happy Birthday to Lisa!

It's Lisa Appreciation Day around here. She's the beautiful, talented girl with the many-tentacled curiosity and an irrepressible joy for life...and I'm lucky to have her in mine.

Step on a Crack, Break Your Lover's Back.

... Like the sculpture? It's by artist Maskull Lasserre. Just about a year ago, Robb -- who was already injured from a spinal cord injury -- slipped and fell and broke his back for the second time. At the time, we just "toughed our way through it." But I'll say it now. I never want to have this happen again. Robb is an incredibly resilient person, but he doesn't need anything else to deal with.

Best Petting Zoo, Ever!

... Although they went away for the afternoon on Monday, the goats were back on Tuesday. I borrowed a pair of scissors from work, and spent part of my lunch hour, cutting down fennel and feeding it to my inquisitive goat friends. I cannot tell you how many people stopped their cars, and got out to smile at the goats. This brought me a great deal of joy. The found dog is apparently reunited with its people. As soon as my coworkers walked through the door of the animal shelter, they were told that that a distraught owner had been calling all day, hoping that someone had found their dog. This is the best possible outcome. As for the sweater, I ripped out the sleeve and started again. I'll be knitting both sleeves at once, so that I can hopefully keep them matching. Robb bought a red light for the porch, and an outdoor spotlight to illuminate our hellmouth. We're still trying to focus the spotlight, so that it shows off the painting without blinding people as they walk down

Lonely Goatherd

... Anyone who works for me knows that I'll call a temporary break from work for a Really Good Nature Sighting. When I worked at Glimmerglass Opera in rural central New York, my poor co-workers were forced to stop work to consider the lives of bald eagles, egg-laying snapping turtles, yellow-bellied sap suckers, and gigantic salamanders. Today the " stop the car! stop the car " moment was a herd of over a hundred goats, two blocks from our studio. I've written before about the local fire-suppression goats and weed-eating sheep , but I'd never seen them in action among the warehouses of North Berkeley. There's a weed and trash filled lot near where I work. It takes up an entire city block and has been for sale the entire time that I've lived in the Bay Area. Today the formerly waist-high weeds were gone, and the lot was filled with over a hundred goats. The goats were frolicking and head-butting each other, while a Border Collie ran around, looking ind

Random Garden Chatter

... Robb and I had hoped to go to an event with our letterboxing friends today, but unfortunately today was one of the days where Robb's legs just weren't cooperating. Some days are harder than others, and today was a day where his legs were particularly weak. Thankfully, we love our little house and garden, so staying home is never a bad thing. Robb noticed this clump of mushrooms, near the Gloriana beehive. How odd. We've never seen this variety of mushrooms in our yard, and it really hasn't rained much this fall. For those blog readers outside of California, it helps to know that around here we pretty much have two seasons: the warm months, when there's no rain AT ALL , and the cooler rainy season. We've had rain twice this fall. Prior to that, there has been no rain since the spring. The mushrooms were huge. Having consulted my super-huge mushroom book , I think that these mushrooms are in the agaricus genus. Of course, I know next-to-nothing about mushr

Living in the Jaws of Hell

... Halloween is kind of a big deal on our block. We have one of those neighborhoods which attracts carloads of parents and kids from other parts of town for trick-or-treating. Usually, everyone on the street does some kind of decorating. Not everyone goes as crazy as the house up the street which has a tableau of silhouettes enacting a slasher movie scene in the windows (complete with crime scene tape), a skull-faced ghost mannequin over the front door and enough fake cobwebs to trap all the fake flies in Oakland. This year, we wanted to do more than just plunking the obligatory pumpkin on the front stoop. I was thinking of the above image which shows the entrance to the Hell Cafe -- a bar in Paris about a hundred years ago. After a little slap-dash photoshopping, I had a plan for using the hell-mouth image on our front porch. Fortunately, I happen to live with a brilliant scenic artist with a macabre sense of humor and a love for the spooky. Lisa painted this over a couple of lu

A Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On!

... Oh my! We had not one , but two earthquakes today. Oddly enough, the Bay Area was scheduled to have an earthquake preparedness drill , this very morning. Both were centered in Berkeley, and both had a magnitude of about 4, which in the scheme of things, are very mild indeed. This first quake was about 2:30 in the afternoon. I was at the shop, and while everyone felt and heard the tremor, nothing seemed to have been knocked over. We have good shelving for a seismic area, but I really would not not want to be standing next to a huge rack filled with steel or lumber when the "Big One" happens. The girls in the prop shop were upstairs, where our "hand prop" storage is, and apparently the contents of the shelves were really swaying and rattling. Everyone in our building checked in with each other, and once we regained our composure, we all went back to work. I spent some time wondering how (or if) birds in flight experienced earthquakes. Robb was at home, and

The Cats Love it When I'm Sick

... Linguine is in Nap Heaven Can I just say that I'm tired of having the World's Most Hyperactive Immune System? I'm sick of my chronic sinus illnesses. I had opera tickets last night, but stayed home with a cold and blinding sinus-headache. What a depressing waste of money. While I'm grumping away, I need to express my bafflement at the whole neti pot phenomenon. I have sort of managed to get the thing to work. It still feels like water-boarding. I don't see what's so amazing about it. Unlike what many people report, I'm not liberating tons of disgusting material. If anything, my sinuses are too dry. I suspect that there's not a lot to dislodge. According to my ear-nose-and-throat doctor, I'm supposed to use this peculiar torture device three times a day. Other than the freaky gross-out factor of getting water to squirt into one nostril and out the other, I really don't see what the objective is. Why would any adult person want to do

Hop Question

Bubbaloo M. asks: Are hops good for anything else besides beer?... Some people will eat the tender, young leaves either cooked or in a salad. I have tried this and, coming from someone who has eaten and enjoyed stinging nettle salad, I can tell you it's about as flavorful as any random green leaf you chewed on when you were 6. I know that hops are used as an herbal medicinal. Hop tea is supposed to have a relaxing effect. The stuff is so bitter, though, that the amount of sugar I had to add to make it drinkable just left me wired. Traditionally, sleeping on a pillow filled with hops was supposed to ensure sweet dreams. (Not sure about this one. Depending on your frame of mind, hops can smell like good beer or cat urine.) Many people grow it decoratively. It grows so fast (a couple of inches a day in early summer) that it can provide significant shade by August. In the fall it dies back to the ground. You just cut it down and it starts all over again in the spring. One of the

Hop To It!

... For the past two years, we've been growing hops. Our intention is to use our own hops for flavoring home-brewed beer. We started with twiggy rhizomes, ordered from The Thyme Garden . It really is hard to imagine how huge these unassuming things proto-plants become. We had read that we would not see much in the way of growth on our first year, but this was a filthy lie. Last year, the hops almost engulfed our garage. It was comical to see the rate of growth. Robb kept having to add on more structures for the continued growth. This time around, Robb built an improved system on which to grow the hops, involving good support, and rather shaggy ropes. The plants grew at markedly different rate, and back in September, we harvested our first hops, from the Sterling plant. The hop cones were still green, but had dried enough to harvest. If you read much about hop-growing, or if you lurk around living history museums, you'll come across the much reported "fact" that


I was struck by a line I came across today. It's an unattributed quote which seems to be an self-help aphorism about life in general. It goes, "Pain is inevitable; suffering is optional." I was chewing this one over and it finally came to me that this is really the response I was always looking for when people asked about my condition. {This is Robb writing, by the way} In a medical setting, I got used to being asked about my pain level and was trained to give an answer on a one to ten scale. I remember deliberately never allowing myself a "ten" or even a "nine," thinking, "It could be worse." Here's the thing, though: once you get to seven or eight, is it really fair to call one or two or three "pain?" Instead I just started calling my usual day-to-day flare ups, "discomfort." The overall message I wanted to convey was, "I'm fine." Now, I feel like I can articulate this point so much better by sayin

There's an "ear wax" joke in here, somewhere...

... On Saturday, Robb was raking up some leaves in the back yard and got stung on the ear by a bee. The swelling was truly impressive. He took an antihistamine, which totally knocked him out. Oddly, it was the lethargy from the drugs that did the most harm. When Robb doesn't keep moving, he suffers. Also, he get confused, and starts wearing deviled eggs as jewelry. (Do any of you recognize this image?)


... I've been sick since the day of the BORP ride. A nagging head cold won't release its grip on me. I finally got an appointment with the Ear, Nose and Throat doctor, who refused to wave his magic wand over my poor aching body. As we both already knew, my chronic allergies make me particularly susceptible to respiratory ailments. Of course, I've still been going into work at the theater. The show must go on, after all. ******************* This photo has nothing to do with anything. I thought it was interesting to see how the wasps and ants (look closely) clean up the dead (and, I suspect, dying) bees. I think that this young fuzzy bee was affected by varroa mites. Her wings look messed-up, which is a sure sign of varroa infestation.

Monarch on Milkweed!

... Although we've had some fly-overs, this is the first time in the two years that we've been here that a monarch butterfly actually noticed the milkweed that I planted. Much of our garden plants were selected to feed someone, either me and Robb, or the native wildlife. The milkweeds have gone largely un-noticed by anyone except aphids until this past weekend. I never noticed that monarch butterflies have polka-dotted bodies, until now. How wonderfully odd!