Sunday Driver

Ok, I’ll own up to doing a classic old guy thing: a couple years ago, at age of 58, needing a commute car and no longer having a full passel of kids to haul – I got a convertible. A 2010 VW Eos. Didn’t spend the retirement money or anything -6 year old car. Low miles, super well maintained. I can pretend to justify it, but – nah. Whim.

Well. Old balding guy with a slightly girlish hardtop convertible (our 20 year old daughter puts way more miles on it than I do, when she’s in from college – it looks good on her.). Trouble is, with a 10-15 minute commute and busy weekends, when do my girl and I get to tool around with the top down, wind in what’s left our hair, looking cool?

Last Sunday, we were surprised to find that we actually had a few hours in the afternoon unbooked. It was 70F outside, sunshine, and the recent rains followed by a couple weeks of sun had turned the Brown Golden State green.  We headed out to a road that winds around the far side of Mt. Diablo.

Mt Diablo
From Concord, we take Clayton Road past Clayton, then Marsh Creek Road out through Morgan Territory. Turn around and head back.

On the map, the roads all show as tidy white lines. On earth, once you get a couple miles in on Marsh Creek Road, you’re on a single lane of bumpy paved road that tends to get washed out in places in rainy years. Two cars can squeeze past each other in many places; in many places not.  It gets wider and better paved at Morgan Territory Regional Preserve, then drops down to Livermore Valley from there.

Mt. Diablo is pretty dramatic. We, however, were winding about its flanks and foothills, so the beauty was more subtle.

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Looking back toward the mountain from the Morgan Territory Regional Preserve

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Windy roads. Sun-dappled and all.

It was fun. Didn’t feel like a kid again or anything, but it was fun driving with my sweetheart.

Onward: We had discussed doing beans and rice for Lent as a family this year. Now, cooking at the Casa de Moore typically runs from pretty good to excellent, so beans and rice are not exactly likely to be much of a sacrifice. The Caboose, soon to be 14, wanted to be involved. I said we should do a batch or two before Lent so he can get the hang of it.

Cajun Red Beans and Rice:

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It was good, especially for a kid’s first try.

Enough. I’ve got a bunch of reviews to write, and politics and science and Science! provide endless hours of terrifying amusement. Back in the saddle.

 

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Redwoods & Moss – Year End Getaway

Elim Grove is a B&B in Cazadero, a tiny town along Austin Creek among the redwoods, ferns, and moss about 6 miles from the Russian River and the coastal town of Jenner. 

My wife and I come back here whenever we can get away because it feels like another world even though it’s only 2 hours from the Moore Compound/House of Lost Play.

There are a couple of 1,000 year old redwoods on the property that the loggers somehow missed, but even the second growth pups are huge – it’s been maybe 75-100 years since the redwoods were logged in this area, they’ve had time to grow back. 

The only day we could get away this year was yesterday, and Mark, the innkeeper, had one cabin with exactly that night free – otherwise, booked up in either temporal direction. 

It was lovely:

Ancient redwoods out front

Moss-covered bridge over Austin Creek

Not uncommon in tourist areas to find a small church building with a larger outdoor arrangement – the crowds come when the weather is nice anyway, so you don’t need to heat a big building when the weather turns colder.

Had a lovely time. Now doing the California yuppie tourist thing and stopping at boutique bakery and cheese shop to pay ridiculous prices for some snacks. They are very yummy, though. 

Happy St Sylvester Day and Feast of Fools! Still 6 days of Christmas to go! 

Merry Christmas! 

May God bless you and yours with good cheer and peace on this holy day! 

Preparing a feast for 35-odd people (insert obligatory in laws joke here) and, having been on my feet for pretty much 3 days straight of shopping, prepping and cooking (40 lbs of pork butt and about 60-70 ciabatta rolls for pulled pork sandwiches, among other things), taking a break before rallying once more into the breach. 

Something like that. 

So, midnight mass, then Home to put the pork in the oven and bake the last couple batches of rolls, and in bed by 3:00. My beloved, who is part vampire or at least can get by on remarkably small amounts of sleep, maybe came to bed later – I wouldn’t know, as I was out cold and she was already up by the time I woke. 

We made coffee and tea, and the 8 of us – 4 kids, g-ma, aunt Clare in from Baltimore, my wife and I – gathered round the table to see what we got in our stockings.

My beloved commanded that I take pictures. She wasn’t any more specific. 

A rag I grabbed to wipe up some coffee I’d spilt on my laptop and shirt. It’s kind of like shorthand for all of Dickens
A close up of the water picture immediately in front of me. What may at first appear to be a lack of focus is, instead, an ironic existential cry of terminal ennui. That’s my story.
Still life with butter knives.

Some people are so hard to please.

Freak Leeks

I don’t cook with leeks a lot, but I’ve cut up at least dozens of leeks in my life – this is the first time I’ve come across this:

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Setting aside the immediate thought: are leeks evolving into or devolving from onions RIGHT BEFORE MY VERY EYES? was struck by the beauty of it all. Details of this, and the next also fascinating if less dramatic leek I cut into:

leek details 1

Leek details 2

After stopping to admire and photograph these beautiful vegetables, chopped them into bite-size pieces, mixed with halved Brussels sprouts, added a little olive oil, liberally salted and peppered them, spread them on a baking sheet, as roasted them in the oven. Earlier, had done the same to potatoes, yams, beets, and carrots, added whole garlic cloves, added thyme and rosemary and roasted separately – they take longer. Then mixed them all together and brought them to a post-caroling pot luck.

Several older couples attended -older than me, even. Imagine. A couple of people told me to tell my wife (who was off at the airport picking up incoming offspring) how good the vegetables were.

I smiled, and said I surely would.

Pre-Thanksgiving Southern Instance

Most years for the last decade, we Northern Moores have headed south the weekend before Thanksgiving to visit my little brothers and their families. Turns out, it’s generally cheaper – and a lot more fun – to rent a Newport Beach beach house at off-season rates than to put 6-7 people up in a Motel.

So, this year, we had 3 of the 4 extant children, grandma and a houseguest friend in a house at the north end of the beach one block off the sand. It’s been fun. Had the brothers ( and our elder daughter’s boyfriend – a first ‘family meets the boyfriend moment! He is a very nice young man) over for dinner yesterday.

Right now, the 5 of us left went to the Balboa Fun Zone for ice cream, then took the ferry over to Balboa Island from which we watched the sunset: 



Catching the return ferry back to the van, then to the house where there’s chicken to barbecue. Head home tomorrow.

Life is good.

The Pizza Has Landed!

Finally. It’s really only been 15 months since I started this project, it just seems like forever. Anyway, not *done* done – still need a door and a roof and to install the Mexican tiles, but: we made pizza tonight in our very own brick oven!

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The Caboose with the first pizza from the oven!

When we last left our intrepid yet reckless home improvement maniac, we had just put the first coat of stucco on over the ceramic insulation batting and chicken wire. The next day, the Caboose and I got up early and threw that second coat on before heading off to Sunday Mass:

Then, this morning, we put on the finish coat:

Since we were done well before noon, figured a new pizza oven needed an epic pizza peel, so I gathered scraps and drug out the table saw and clamps:

Around 6:00, we started the fire:

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The dough was on its second rising:

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Let the coals burn on the area where we’d be putting the pizzas for about 20 minutes, then shoved them to the back, swept the ash to the back as well (more or less) then started in with the pizzas:

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That’s mine – made the crust far too thin, got wadded up getting it off the peel. Tasted good, though.

We ended up making 4 medium-small pizzas, which proved plenty for five people. Things I learned:

  1. Should have let the coals burn longer on the spot we’d be cooking. As it was, by the 4th pizza cook time had more than doubled. Maybe need to heat with coals for 30 – 45 minutes? Maybe allow 1.5 to two hours of total heat time?
  2. No super-thin crusts unless you’re going small.
  3. Got to make a door. Helps keep the smoke out of your eyes.

Way fun.

 

More Home Improvement Updates: Bricks, Trees and the Heat of Hell

Will review Riverworld, the novella, when I get a minute. I picked it up from Half Priced Books the other day as it is listed on John C. Wright’s list of essential SciFi reading, but I suspect he probably meant to include some or all of the 5 novels set in Riverworld, not just this one story. In the meantime:

Took Thursday and Friday off after we returned from our epic eclipse trip, mostly to work on the Brick Oven of Doom! In the last episode, I’d gotten the more or less decorative clay brick arch done, complete with a hand-cut stone keystone, and was feeling pretty good.

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Next step: install ceramic insulation, chicken wire and 2-3 coats of stucco. On a roll…..

Weeeell, seems I miscalculated, mismeasured, or maybe used inside instead of outside dimensions, or something – because I came up a couple feet short! AHHHH!

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What you see is a nice 2″ thick layer of high temp ceramic fiber insulation coming up short. What to do, what to do? Had some perlite left over from an earlier stage, sooooo – mixed it with a little Portland cement (5 to 1 perlite to cement ratio) built a little form, and cast a 2″ thick, 6″ high wall of insulation around the base. Don’t think perlite has anything like the R-rating as the ceramic fiber insulation, but I’m not ordering more since it takes a week and money to get it.

Effectively lost a day. Then, yesterday, tried to continue – and temps hit 105F. Even I, a madman, am not working in the sun under those conditions. Today, more of the same. So my dream of finishing this frustrating project this weekend died. I only need 2-3 days more!

On the other hand, my little orchard I planted end of winter/early spring is doing great:

And a couple of our 4 avocados:

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Avocados

13 trees in total. 2 of the 4 avocados are doing great; the other 2, planted in winter, are showing signs of recovering after looking so sad I almost yanked them up.

Following close planting – 18″ between related trees in a single bed, maybe 7′ between beds – because I don’t want big trees, I want small trees, and close planting (and relentless pruning!) gets you there.

Sigh. Maybe next weekend will be cooler?