June 25, 2010

Cowboy country

Last weekend Esperando and I took a short spin over to Watsonville, a small farming community on the central coast of California just south of Santa Cruz that was featured recently in Sunset Magazine as a getaway destination for strawberry picking and its great beach.  We drove along winding roads through wooded coastal glens of sunlight and shadow to break out onto waves of rolling hilly farmland that is Watsonville. Besides major crops of strawberries, we saw row after row of lettuces waiting to be picked. I only vaguely remembered driving through Watsonville on my way to Carmel in past times. I was always so eager to get to Carmel and shop, and Watsonville was just in the way.

You will see this kind of view from any narrow road in Northern California leading to the coast once you get away from the houses.


This time Watsonville got its full due. We drove around and took photos of farm acreage, took the very photographic road to the beach lined with old Monterey pines, but turned around because we didn’t want to pay to get into the beach.

A great swooning Monterey Pine looks a bit lonely in the midst of the strawberry fields

Back in town, around the town square we saw a large Hispanic population enjoying the afternoon in the park like you would see in anywhere in Mexico. I surfed on my Blackberry phone to figure out where we might eat and we settled on a popular Mexican restaurant, El Alteño, I supposed stealing its name from ‘Alta California’ versus ‘Baja California’ but I don’t really know. I guess we needed a Mexico fix having been away from Baja now for the last 2 months. The food was so-so, but the streets were full of Hispanic cowboys wearing Stetson hats. After lunch we went next door to a western clothing store and Esperando bought a fancy shirt while I photographed the Stetson hats on their display. One hat was marked for sale for $400. I guess if you are a wealthy farmer you wear an expensive hat, not a Rolex.

This fancy hat is waiting for a home.

As we rambled along we drove by the Redman House, a beautiful old Victorian home, facing the highway, that had seen better days. It had been set up on blocks and looked like plans were afoot to move it elsewhere. A little investigation on the internet revealed an interesting history. Designed by renowned architect William Weeks, this huge home was built for James Redman in 1897. When the James Redman family died out in the 1930s, the house and property were sold to the Hiraharas, one of the first Japanese-American families to own farmland in the nation. Unlike other Japanese families, the Hiraharas managed to retain control of their property during the WWII period of internment. Only in the late 1980's was the land leased to a strawberry grower, the home abandoned and left to deteriorate. The house was added to the National Registry of Historic Places to hinder demolition while the Redman-Hirahara foundation pursued funds for preserving and restoring the property. It seems the plan was to make a small farm around it and make it a visitor’s center, leaving it in its current location. The foundation had owned the home until September 2009, when it lost it to foreclosure. Now, without access to the site, the group continues to toil, working on plans and waiting for what will come next, though it doesn’t know what or when that will be. If you are interested in donating money for a worthy cause this one certainly deserves some attention.

She greets the Pajaro Valley's visitors and passersby like a grand lady fallen on hard times. The interior of the home was finished in eastern oak, birds eye maple and natural hardwoods.

June 21, 2010

Indelible Ink

On Friday I laid down for a few moments to nap. My brother and his wife were coming to go out to dinner with us soon, and I was worn out. Esperando and I had been hustling around all day. A few minutes into my doze I realized that Lupita the Wonder Dog was lying on the floor by my bed in the sunshine, chewing on one of her chew sticks. How endearing that the little dog wanted to be near me.

I got up 30 minutes before our guests were to arrive. I looked at the floor where Lupita lay demolishing a Bic pen, not a chew stick. She had pretty much shattered it and was casting tiny bits of marigold colored plastic on the rug. I panicked. Had she eaten the ink cartridge. No, there it was, but oh dear it had been punctured in several places and ink had oozed onto the pale beige carpet in about five different spots. Oh no, oh no, oh no. Dollar signs fluttered before my eyes as I thought about the $500 pet deposit on our apartment.

First I raced to the laundry and found some Spray and Wash that I applied to one of the stains, then I used a paper towel to rub it around. The ink blossomed like a water color painting and where I had rubbed it around, the rug had taken on a 4-inch square blue sheen. I charged out of the room and sent Esperando packing to the grocery store to buy some Resolve Carpet Cleaner. Fortunately it is a short half-block walk to Safeway from where we are living now. While he was off on his mission I checked on the internet and it said, isopropyl alcohol—but blot, don’t rub. So I called him on the cell phone, he was almost home, and sent him back to the store again for alcohol.

In the meantime I went to my small personal travel supply of rubbing alcohol and carefully poured the tiniest amount onto the ink. Let me explain, as the carpet looked with only the ink stains on it before it was treated, it was though someone had drawn long blue skinny lines on it. When I poured the alcohol on the lines they feathered out into big puddles of blue ink. I kept pouring and blotting and the rug looked horrendous. Finally big pools of saturated blue covered about 12 square inches of the carpet in blotty floral patterns. When my brother and his wife arrived, I left off so we could go out to dinner. I wouldn’t be able to really tackle it until the next morning, but I had a big knot in the pit of my stomach.

The next morning I started in again in earnest. When I could not longer blot out more blue with the alcohol, I started spraying Resolve onto the carpet and more blue coloring came out. It seemed that the Resolve was pulling ink up from the bottom fibers. And so I alternated, alcohol, Resolve, alcohol, Resolve—blot, blot, blot. I went through a whole roll of paper towels. Then I waited several hours to see if it had improved. And gradually it did improve, but there were still pale but noticeable blue marks on the rug.

Esperando and I went for a drive looking for an Ace Hardware store where we could hopefully find some petroleum distillates. Back in the good old days you could buy Energine and it pretty much took any stain out. We never did find an Ace Hardware, but we found Draeger’s Market instead in Black Hawk, that gourmet foodie store you get lost in and lie down on the floor and drool yourself to death over the millions of amazing food items you will never find anywhere else; that is if you don’t get lost in their china and cookware department first and collapse over fine casserole dish.

The real heros of the day.

The really cool thing about Draeger’s is they have all the neat cleaning products that Ace does besides the cool food stuff, and that is where I found Goo Gone Citrus Power and Folex instant carpet spot remover which I never heard of before. I bought a bottle of  both. How I decided on Folex over all the other cleaning products on the shelf is only serendipitous for it was the crowning blow to the ink stains. Goo Gone did nothing. Over the next two days I kept reapplying Folex and now you would never ever know a pen leaked on the rug. It is truly truly a miracle!
Lupita developed bad habits in the hotel. She learned how to climb up on tables and get ball point pens to chew up.

June 14, 2010

You move me, baby

This past Friday was the eagerly awaited big move-in day to the new apartment. We had been living in a hotel, albeit a nice one, for the last 3 weeks. Every day we had a different maid—that seemed so strange to me that in 3 weeks I never saw the same maid maybe twice.

Our new apartment was rented sight unseen. It is difficult to rent anything when you want a short term lease and have a pet besides. We knew generally what the apartment would look like, but it is much much smaller than we had envisioned--only 800 square feet. It is across the street from Esperando’s office so he can walk to work. For me the nicest part is that we are directly over a nice shopping center featuring a Peet’s coffee shop. Although Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world with 17,133 stores in 49 countries, it is nothing compared to Peet’s. Long before Starbucks ever even thought of being the gleem in some entrepeneur’s eye back in 1971, Peet’s was pouring coffee for the denizens of Berkeley and San Francisco in the mid ‘60s. In the last couple of years, at least in the West, you can now buy Peet’s off the shelf in the grocery store. It took them a long time to start marketing their coffee very aggressively like Starbucks has but I am so glad they made the transition to at least getting it into the supermarkets. Their coffee is the best, and you can buy it on-line too. My favorite flavor is Major Dickenson’s, a very full-bodied, complex, rich, and smooth blend.

When we moved in we left Lupita overnight at Camp Bowwow, "where a dog can be a dog", so we didn’t have to juggle her and moving in besides. This was a good warmup exercise for when we go on vacation. When I delivered her there the other afternoon they put her in a small enclosure called ‘Tiny Paws’ whose only other occupant was a small Yorkie trying to take a nap on a small bed. Lupita was yap, yap, yapping, not at all happy at being left. I think Lupita thinks of herself as a small person rather than a dog.

One of the lowlights of our move was finding places to stash all the odds and ends we had collected in just 3 weeks of living. At the last moment I shoved a large bottle of Scope mouthwash into my big airplane carry-on purse which had about 15 packets of Kleenex, my passport and five Atomic Fireballs, those hard-to-find superhot cinnamon jawbreakers you remember from your childhood. By the time we manuevered the luggage cart down from the 4th floor to the car I started smelling that minty mouthwash scent. I had never checked to make sure the lid was secure on the mouthwash bottle and my apparently airtight bag was a awash in Scope. Yuck! I raced back up to our room. Fortunately my passport was undamaged as all the little Kleenex packets had soaked up much of the mouthwash. The cinnamon candies were bleeding inside their wrappers. Its going to take a long time for my purse to smell normal again, if it ever does.

June 7, 2010

You can't turn your back on them

You know this about your pets especially when they are still young--never leave them alone for too long. So what did I do? I slipped out of the room to do laundry and while I was out Lupita got a hold of my computer and started her own blog spot at http://adventureswithlupita.weebly.com/.  So far it seems to be more of a diary, but we'll see what kind of talent she develops. It must be the Northern California air getting into her blood.

June 6, 2010

How did we get to this?

I have looking for a place to board Lupita when we have to be away. This is not Baja and I don’t have those fantastic muchachas here that baby my pets there as much as I do, take them into their hearts, give them way too many treats and pamper them while we are gone.

First I called a local Yelp-recommended vet to see what they preferred for boarding in my area. They gave me the name of a traditional style kennel, Dublin Creek. I did a little research and found the high marks carried over to Yelp as well. So I called the kennel to talk to them. This is not one of those places where the doggies mingle, it is instead a confinement type thing, but with generously sized runs, and it is fastidiously clean and tidy. They beg you to come tour the facility. They charge $32 day, then if you want a 1-on-1 playtime break each day it is another $5/day. This all sounded fine and good until Esperando and I went out for dinner in Pleasanton.

When we got to downtown Pleasanton. we couldn’t help but notice that Main Street was closed for a mid-week fair. After a wonderful dinner at The Oasis Grill we strolled along the street with Lupita in tow. Downtown Pleasanton has drastically changed since I lived here 30 years ago. Main Street now has lots of beautiful leafy trees planted and many of the restaurants have sidewalk tables for serving lunch or evening meals. It makes for a very delightful ambiance. Eight blocks of the street had been cordoned off. A hodge-podge of profit and non profit local businesses were touting everything from various kinds of home improvements, local summer entertainment such as Shakespeare in the Park and ballet, food, live music, Boy scouts, and yoga—to dog boarding at Camp Bowwow. Here the doggies run free and play all day in Livermore, just 10 minutes down the highway from us. Camp Bowwow has facilities across the U.S. We have a Camp Bowwow just around the corner from us in Denver, but we have never gone there. It seems they have been featured on the national news. With all of Lupita’s energy and love of playing this seemed like an ideal solution for boarding her right now.

The next day I trotted her over to Camp Bowwow for a socialization interview. This meant that Lupita was required to spend 3 free hours at the kennel playing with other dogs so they could observe her interactions. The dogs are divided up into small dog and big dog groups, and the kennel has live webcams of all the doggie activities so you can check in on your pet while you are out of town. Camp Bowwow is pricey--$32 for doggie day care and $45 for overnight. Their literature is cleverly themed—like you are sending your child off to camp, i.e., “Our overnight campers are tucked away each night in their cozy cabins where they will sleep on cots with fleece lining. . . As the sun sets, each camper unwinds by enjoying a delicious Campfire Treat . . all day play, snooze the night away.” It seems she passed with flying colors because they sent her home with a diploma and invited her back. I am going to take her to day care this week so I can meet an old friend and go shopping without the worry of her sitting in the hot car melting. Since we are still in  a hotel, I don't want to leave her all day in case she gets into a barking jag and I am not here to curb it.