Monday, August 1

Summer in the Southland

We had an almost week-long string of parties and events last week. It started off with going to the Pacific Amphitheater to see Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Now, Frankie et al was never one of my favorite bands in the 60s, but we were invited by a friend to celebrate his birthday. So I had low expectations. Boy, was I wrong.

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Frankie still has a good voice which doesn’t sound much different from 50 years ago. Can you believe it has been that long? They actually sound better now, because of the band and more modern instruments, and the four young new Seasons, who are incredibly talented. Valli is 83 years old. I don’t know how he keeps up with his schedule. Of course everyone knows the words to Sherry Baby, and he invited us to sing along. They put on a great show.

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The next day our good pals Alan & Cheryl came for our annual golf-and-ponies thing. We kicked off the fun by dining al fresco at Arroyo Trabuco, where I play golf. The band was pretty good and being outside at night is always magical.

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Friday we played golf at beautiful Tijeras Creek. Man, it was way too hot out there. 90° at least. It was my first time to play since I hurt my shoulder four months ago. (FOUR MONTHS!) I did okay, and Cheryl and I both scored about the same. No damage to the shoulder as far as I could tell, but my golf clothes shrunk in my closet! But it was great to be out on the course and I’ve already signed up to play with the girlfriends next week. I’m BACK!!

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Below is the #10 par 4 over water. I hate this hole—it’s short, but really hard. I didn’t play all the holes, I sat out the long ones, partly because I was being careful of my shoulder and partly because it was just too bloody hot.

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Saturday we went to the track at Del Mar. I don’t know why I bother going, I never bet (thus I never lose) but I enjoy the pageantry and looking at the horses in the paddock.

It was seriously hot and humid in the grandstand—no air at all. We were glistening in the heat.

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We took some peeps with us. From left to right are Alan, Holly, Savannah, Chris, and Michelle. Steve, Holly’s beau, was recovering from surgery and couldn’t join us.

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After the races we went to dinner at Red Tracton’s. It was way too expensive and huge portions. We shared a meal and still were stuffed to the gunnels.

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Sunday we made breakfast and bloody Marys for Alan & Cheryl, and sent them on their way back to Los Angeles. A few hours later we had the D’s—Don & Danielle—over to play bridge.

I found I had to be careful telling the difference between the black suits. A reality check that’s troubling.

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Today we are resting. Doing nothing. Thanks Cheryl, for the FB pics.

Wednesday, July 20

Lazy Days of Summer

I have been decidedly unproductive lately. I had intended to return to golf today but my shoulders are still iffy and one more week won’t hurt. If they don’t get better I may give up golf altogether. Yes, the thought has crossed my mind and, to my surprise, I am really okay with it. It has been hot—and playing in the searing summer heat is not my idea of a good time. I know I used to complain about too-early tee times, but here we tee off around 10, so we are out there in the midday sun in summer. That’s a headache waiting to happen. So I can wait.

I was at book club yesterday and, looking out the window, I saw this magnificent arbor of Palo Verde trees. I had to go get my camera. Aren’t they beautiful.

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Palo verde translates from Spanish to “Green Stick.” The branches of these trees are green year-round. “What is that, Father?” “Why Son, that is a Green Stick Tree.”

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I walked beneath the arbor to get some more photos and it was a hive of activity. Bees everywhere—hundreds, if not thousands. I thought about my mother, who was so deathly afraid of bees. I have no fear of bees. I tried to capture some bees in a photo but they were moving way too fast.

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See any bees? Maybe one, but you could sure hear them.

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The ground below is littered with tiny yellow petals. We had one of these trees many years ago and it was a mess to clean up every summer. I could see it from the front window—glorious. It was the centerpiece in a cactus garden, and cleaning up the yellow petals from the prickly cactus was impossible. So we didn’t.

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Here is one of our clubhouses. That tree is a Jacaranda. They are beautiful in spring, but they have lost most of their purple flowers by now. There is one at the end of every street in our section of the community.

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This is the book we read in July, The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende. We all liked it. It’s hard to say what it’s about because it is about so many different things. It covered WWII, Japanese internment camps, forbidden love, and weed-smoking seniors in a retirement community. It was a real chop suey of a story.

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Tuesday, July 12

Fire

Everyone knows Southern California has wildfires. It’s a fact of life here, just like earthquakes and El Niño winters, although the latter hasn’t produced much rain in a very long time, and we’re in a serious drought, so it’s tinder-dry out there. All over the state.

This is the view outside my front door. We live in what is considered a “high-risk fire area.” No lie. Just look how dry those hills are. The nearest hill, there are sprinklers to keep the drought-tolerant plants alive to prevent landslides should we actually get rain someday, but those dun-colored hills beyond? Quietly waiting for a spark. Plus it’s fairly windy up here.

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Yesterday I was doing housework and smelled smoke. Sniff sniff, yep that’s smoke. I went outside to see the source and saw smoke in the sky. Just a little, so I went to the back and this is what I saw—smoke, and the wind was blowing this way.

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I called 911. They were already on it.

A few minutes later it was bearing down on the neighbors’ houses, and it was coming right at us. You could hear it as it gobbled up the dry grass.

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Here comes the OCFA helicopter to drop fire retardant. If there are swimming pools nearby, the copter can suck up water from them, or from the ocean, by way of that spout thing hanging down. We have a pool at the club but it’s not chopper-accessible. The copter circled round and round for hours, going and returning with retardant. This was a small fire, but in a major fire they bring in commercial jets to drop massive amounts of retardant.

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The firefighters have arrived and they are chasing the fire up the hill, away from the houses.

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The OCFA copter comes in for another drop.

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You can see the firefighters on the ridge. This was a very small fire by comparison, but you never know—even devastating fires start small and, if they get hot enough, create their own wind and can consume whole neighborhoods faster than a speeding bullet. You can only watch and hope for the best.

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It’s only a matter of time before these hills burn. But a three-truck fire station is less than a half-mile away, and there are fire breaks up there that you can’t see from here. I hiked up the hill this morning and saw them—I hadn’t noticed before. They had this fire out in three hours and it didn’t even make the five o’clock news. But it makes you grateful and thankful for firefighters.

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And our house has no exposed beams. It’s completely sealed. And we have a whole-house sprinkler system.

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When the devastating Laguna Beach fire happened in 1993, they learned what a good idea that was.

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Sunday, July 10

Epiretinal Membrane

I have recently been diagnosed with Epiretinal Membrane, or Macular Pucker. It’s not a happy thing, but the good news is I don’t have Macular Degeneration, which is what I was initially diagnosed with…whew, that was depressing!

So what is this thing? It’s a film, or tissue, that grows over the retina like Saran Wrap. Like used, wrinkled Saran Wrap. What causes it? Age, mostly. Genetics probably plays a part. Everything’s genetic nowadays. Hey—you live long enough, stuff goes south.

I googled it to try to get some pictures to show you what it looks like from my point of view, but I didn’t have much luck. This is kinda close, I do see things in pixels a little like the picture below. I have it in both eyes., but my right eye is way better than my left.

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But that doesn’t really capture it. So I Photoshopped some pictures to show you.

The wrinkles aren’t laid out in a grid pattern like below, they’re more like random tree branches, but the idea is the same.

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Looking at vertical lines is really difficult—I can’t stand to look at my stainless steel refrigerator, it makes me crazy. The lines are broken.

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Thank goodness for my good eye!

The first time I noticed something was wrong, I could not see the green and white rope on the golf course. I couldn’t see it to step over it and almost did a face-plant on the fairway. I was bitching about why don’t they just make it solid white so you could see it, and my playing partner suggested I get my eyes checked.

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Okay, so now what. They can do surgery and pull it off, but that’s some scary stuff—me not think so!

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Enough about that! I am fine, and I am making excellent progress with my shoulder and my golf swing. 98%! I was going to play this week but decided to give it an extra week while I practice, practice, practice! Today I finished the whole bucket [small] and even used my driver. A milestone! How do I feel? I ache and I’m tired. But I’m not in pain.

We are going to a paver party tonight. What’s a paver party you ask? Well, down in the flats (as opposed to the hillside where we are) five houses are built around small cul-de-sacs, and the shared driveway/courtyard is covered with pavers. So one pod (I call ‘em pods because I don’t know the proper term) of five houses take turns hosting the other pods. JJ’s bridge partner lives in the host pod and we are invited. It’s a pot-luck and we are taking little meatballs in grape jelly and BBQ sauce. Weather promises to be postcard-perfect.

Saturday, July 2

Working My Way Back

I went to the driving range yesterday for the first time since I injured my shoulder in early April. I was feeling pretty good and it was a cool, cloudy morning so I got out there early and bought a small bucket ($7). I can’t lift my bag [frowny face] so I only took a few irons to work with.

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I took it real easy and only took half-swings. I don’t want to reinjure my shoulders—they both hurt now, I don’t know why—but I have to start working my way back.

I hit some decent shots, at least shots that made my heart feel good, but it hurt and I couldn’t finish the bucket. It made me sad to have to leave a dozen balls in the tray because I couldn’t hit them all. I didn’t want to push it; my shoulders were on fire and starting to swell. So I took a couple Alleve and a Vicodin, and I iced my shoulders and watched Mr. Selfridge on Amazon Prime. I am a little stiff today, but no real pain. Whew!

The shoulder joint is a very complicated thing.

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I am also working on my stamina by walking around the hood every day. Golf is a bit of an endurance sport, it may look easy running around in those little carts, but it takes four-plus hours to play and you need stamina to hang in there for 18 holes. I have been sitting on my can for too long because even walking hurt. No more excuses, I’ve got an important game coming up at the end of the month and I want to give Cheryl a run for her money!

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We have no plans for the Nation’s birthday this weekend, but we have several neighborhood parties and barbecues on the calendar in July. Tonight we are meeting friends for dinner in the Harbor.

As if living here wasn’t perfect enough, THISImage result for down arrow is just ten minutes away.

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That’s all the news. Eat a hot dog for me!

Monday, June 27

Life is Good

Quilting has been pushed to the back burner once again. But just for a little while. I can start practicing golf this week to see how my shoulders hold up. My right shoulder is now unhappy because it has been doing extra work.

Our Dallas friends, the ones we met on the South Pacific cruise last year, found a great deal on a transatlantic crossing and asked us if we wanted to go. We had said NO to travel this year because we wanted to spend our discretionary dollars on a few things for the house, like the new TV and bed and some other accoutrements. But travel is not only fun to do, it is also fun (uh, necessary) to have something exciting to look forward to. So we said yes and sprang into action Sunday to get it booked because it is almost sold out.

This is a repositioning cruise, which is why it’s so cheap reasonable. It goes from Southampton to Boston, New York City, and down the coast to Miami. The cruise lines send their ships south in the winter and they offer great deals to go along for the ride. We enjoy days at sea, and there are a lot of them! We will play bridge with our friends every day, and not have to make the bed or cook a meal for two whole weeks.

We have not been very diligent with our diets lately, in fact we have been downright sloppy and our clothes are getting tight. Being that today is Monday I took a deep breath and stepped on the scale. It wasn’t terrible, but I have to get back on a very-low-carb diet NOW!

Saturday’s party went very well. I’d say it was a success, people really enjoyed the wine and food. We liked the format but it was a lot of work and a mountain of dishes to do! 40 glasses and 30 plates, plus the serving dishes. JJ did most of the cleanup.

It was a beautiful evening, the weather could not have been more perfect, and we sat outside.
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JJ plays bridge every Friday with the guy on his right (below). The people flanking them are in their mid-80s and still like to socialize and drink fine wine. They are the sweetest people ever, I just love ’em. And not just because they went gaga over my quilts.
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Marilyn (below, right) invited me to join Tijeras Creek Women’s Golf Club. I just might! Marilyn plays in the low 90s, which is a little daunting. She’s a pistol. I like her style.
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Everything went according to plan and on schedule, but when it was time to do the meat course I got behind and pressed a guest into service to carve up the lamb, which he did happily.
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While he did this I had a moment to snap a photo. The lamb was delicious, by the way.
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The next day our neighbors invited us out to dinner and we went willingly. There are a lot of sweet little neighborhood gems in San Juan Capistrano, which is all of five miles away, and six of us gather once a month to try a new one. This is an actual winery. We ate outside and listened to a terrific guitar player who played all our favorites from the 60s-70s. And they have a GF menu! Hot diggity!
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Life is good.

Saturday, June 25

Wine Pairing Dinner

One thing JJ and I have going for us is JJ likes to open and share his fine wines (with thems that appreciate them), and I’m a pretty good cook. Well, maybe not such a good cook as the fact I that used to be in the restaurant business and I can cook for a crowd with no fear.

The stage is set. All we need are people. Happy people. Ten hungry, thirsty people.

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Here’s what the menu says. It falls somewhere between a fancy sit-down dinner and an appetizer buffet.

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We’ve never done a dinner party quite like this, it’s experimental. If it’s successful (i.e. worth the effort), we may do it often. In theory it sounds great but I do have to keep my wits about me and pay attention to the clock, at least until the lamb is on the platter and then I’m done. All the prep work was done yesterday. Nothing to do today but read my book and write this blog.

I don’t know that I’ll have time to snap photos of the food when it’s served up, it’s probably going to be pretty chaotic, so here’s what we’re having: Four courses—First course is shrimp cocktail and a cheese plate. Second course is stuffed mushrooms and bacon-wrapped water chestnuts. Third course is rack of lamb, stir-fried steak bites, and asparagus. Yes, it’s labor intensive. But nothing’s too good for my sweetie, who wants to entertain his bridge friends. The fourth and final course is stilton cheese, dark chocolate, and fresh raspberries.

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