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Mostar, across the Neretva River Enjoyed a hearty breakfast this morning while listening to Lulu belting out 'To Sir with Love' ...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Cruising on the Levy

The Sacramento River under lovely poofy clouds
I woke this morning, so excited - I remembered where I was to take Gene & Joann! The Delta, the Sacramento River. Wooo hooo, my remaining functioning brain cells downloaded the correct input to RAM!

We totally lucked out. There is hot weather coming soon, but for today the forcast, surprisingly, was overcast and drizzles, which beats dry roasting in one's skin, I can tell you. We headed out late morning for a drive along the Sacramento River to relax and view the orchards and farms on one side of the levy, and the River on the other.


We had big fat clouds all day long and the breeze was a heavenly mix of moisture and wild grasses. From time to time kept thinking, 'is that anise in the air?' Nope! The heavenly scent, floating my way was Joann's breath - my girlie-friend enjoys that salty black German licorice. Really, that stuff ought to be a perfume.

In adventure mode, we drove off the levy & down into the eensie town of Locke where we discovered probably one of California's smallest 'China Towns'. It was barely a city block in length, but there were loads of shops and even a Chinese Apothecary.

China Section of the tiny town of Locke
A little practitioner of traditional Chinese Medicine in Locke
We also drove into Courtland, where the annual Pear Festival is held. We admired the gorgeous little homes along the tiny streets.

Cute little Dentist's office/home in tiny town of Courtland
After crossing a couple of the river bridges - which are the kind that open so bridges can pass underneath - we stopped for lunch at a little cafe in the river town of Walnut Grove. There, in the sleepy little cafe, Gene and I had yummy A-1 bacon layered cheese burgers which were ace. Joann's Caesar chicken salad - not so much. As Joann commented, "When in town, stick with the house specialty."  Well, amen to that!





I drove up and down searching for the tiny river ferry I once took to Riley Island in search of an owl. Now, try as I might, I couldn't find the correct road. I gave up and we left the Delta driving on Twin Cites Road where we stopped by the Consumnes Refuge to see what waterfowl are currently in residence. Most notable was a lone Snow Goose that didn't seem ill, but why didn't it fly north with its bretherin? I figured must be a hermit like me.


Parent Goose lecturing its goslings

All along Desmond Road by the refuge, there were lots of waterfowl, most notably many families of Canada Geese with their fuzzy gray goslings, some barely out of the nest, and others looking like gawky teenagers.

Last, after a drive past the Rancho Seco former nuclear plant, I decided to take Gene & Joann for some four wheeling along Michigan Bar Road. There were baby cottontails and wild California Quail along the drive in to the bridge, and even a few late season wildflowers. It is always a jiggly ride but looking back at the Consumnes River and the barn on the far shore is always worth any bumps.
 
Gene preserving the sights


Jo & Gene were tickled by the beauty of the dry expanses of oak woodlands and grasslands. There are some interesting rock outcroppings along the route I drive through there. We found a few end-of-season wildflowers.

By the time we got back to Chez Claire, we were all a little tired so we collapsed in the living room & vegged out to the holiday NCIS marathon on the telly before we all crashed for the night. Not bad for a fun day out, eh?

This morning we were all up early for breakfast and to say goodbye. Our visit, as always, ended too soon. Safe driving my San Diegan homies!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Who's That at the Door!

Gene & Joann on the Fair Oaks Bridge

Gene & Joann were up from San Diego this week. They graced me with their company for a couple of days and we had a blast. Sunday afternoon we lit out for dinner at Carmelita's, a locally famous and popular Mexican food restaurant. I asked the waiter a question that bothered me for ages - why did Carmelita's tear the old restaurant down and build a newer, fancier one with a similar layout? Turns the old place burned down! Should have asked about it ages ago. Suffice to say we made short work of our dinners - yum!

Any outing in Old Fair Oaks requires a quick drive through the center of the village for some feral chicken watching. Then I decided why not show off the also locally famous Fair Oaks Bridge? Soon we were parked near the bridge and out walking 2 stories above the American River. Below us by the river kids and adults splashed in the river, and on the bridge we greeted lots of walkers, taking time to pet their pups.



There was a park on the other side of the bridge and I was curious as to what park it is, but all the people we asked, had no clue either. As we chatted, a local I had never taken Gene or Joann to came to my mind for tomorrow. Soon we meandered back to the car, where Gene noticed I'd parked in a NO PARKING AT ANY TIME zone... oops.  There was no ticket on the windshield so we stole away like happy thieves... no, make that lucky thieves in the night.


Tom Turkey showing off for us




Our next stop is now a happy tradition when Gene & Jo visit - we went 'deer hunting' in Sunrise Park. We don't load muskets and take aim, we load our cameras and pray for enough light to take fair to middlin' photographs. We appreciate any wildlife we see, and tonight we did just fine.


Two does and a yearling buck with budding horns
Even a few wildflowers in view - these are Parentucellia
At the end of the day try as I might, I can't remember where it was I planned to take them tomorrow. Racking my brain to no avail. where the heck...? Oh well! Where ever we go, we're sure to have a good time.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Take Off Your Shoes, Mahalo!

Chez Claire is undergoing a bit of renovation. On Wednesday I had a new kitchen floor installed. Now it is time for the living room to get its due. Behind all the flooring work is, if I sell Chez Claire next year, I don't want to be the sort that does all the cool renovations just days before vacating the premises. I want to enjoy the renovations for a bit. 

Chez Claire is 100% hardwood floors, but the wood is covered by carpet in the living room and hallway. When I bought the house, I wasn't thrilled about its room-darkening, brown carpet. I vowed to tear up the rug and restore the hard wood beneath. Those plans never materialized, because of the logistics, but mostly because I waffled between 'buy a new rug' or 'renovate the underlying hardwood'. So, after more than a decade of waffling, I opted for a new rug. The old rug is dark brown, raggedy and stained so badly, that cleaning it only gave the dirt spots a better opinion of themselves.

Trust me - the old brown carpet looks better in this photo, than in person
When I was picking out the kitchen floor, I also chose my carpeting. I decided to be daring, and I got a pale, barely beige tone, to brighten up the room. It was a crew of two that showed up for the work. They pulled the furniture into the hard wood floored side of my 'great room'. Then they went to work, first pulling up the old creepy carpet.

The carpet half removed, showing aged foam underneath
Under the yellowed foam is more foam, in black
I already knew what was under the carpet, as it was loose in numerous spots. I knew there is hardwood under the carpeting, but the biggest reason I didn't just rip up the carpet & have floors varnished & finished is a nasty black foam that is glued to the unfinished wood. I had no idea how that was going to be removed, but I found out. The instillation me just scraped it up with weird scrappy tools (seen in photo above).

Most, but not all of the black foam scraped up from the hardwood floor
And down went the new carpet cushioning
I was as pleased with the carpeting men, as I was with the kitchen floor installer. They gave me all sorts of carpet tips as they worked, & when necessary asked for my input. I totally love it when installers just do stuff and I find out later it might have been done better had they only asked me. You know, that's how companies earn repeat customers.

TADA! New living room and hall carpeting
Totally in love with new carpeting. Plush cush under the toes, makes the entire house feel brand new. In honor of its new flooring, Chez Claire now takes a page from many Hawaiian homes. From now on all will be asked to  remove their shoes before venturing into my queendom.

Speaking of setting foot in Chez Claire,  the new flooring are completed just in the a nick of time; I am having a lot of company in the next two weeks. First Gene & Joann will be up from San Diego for a visit. Next it will be Barbara and her Aunt Judy for a few days. I am totally looking forward to seeing everyone and can't wait to kindly say to them, "Welcome dear friends, now, take off those shoes, Mahalo!"


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

What's New and Improved at Chez Claire

Walk here, but don't look down!

Time for some home improvement. My kitchen is pretty much where I want it now. I love the cabinets, adore the fridge (in oh so many ways) and the granite counter tops are deh bomb. Then, there is the creepy, dirt dimpled, yellowing linoleum floor. It was fine when it was spanking new, but over the years it grew dingy, yellow and frankly, it was never properly installed in the first place. The edges curl up like under the counter bottoms like the toes of Persian slippers.


A nasty bit, where the old fridge used to sit

The kitchen floor was in such a state of 'high ugly', I always feel guilty when serving food to company. I mean, would you want to eat food prepared in a place with a filthy kitchen floor? Yes, I am hard on myself. However, there was a pretty easy solution - a new floor.

So I scurried over to my local hardware store and made my decisions - I wanted flooring  to either look like tile or stone. I ended up choosing a dark Pergo laminate, that looks like rough slate.

I was surprised when only one guy showed up to install the laminate. I do have a small kitchen, but I wondered how the guy would get the fridge out of the way. No problem, the guy, who was very nice, had no trouble at all. I think if I'd had a dead blue whale in the kitchen he could have easily removed it too.

The old linoleum stays put and a leveling compound was smeared on
In goes the laminate over the floor cushioning pink mat

I was pleased that I was asked for input at many steps along the way, For example instead of just squaring off the tiles, the guy asked if I wanted the tiles laid so 4 corners met on the tiles, or instead have them offset. I went with offset, which is just more pleasing to the Sheldon side of my brain.

Before I knew it, I had a lovely new kitchen floor, with laminate that met under the counters nice and flat, dark enough to not drive me mad with every dropped onion skin, and pleasing enough for my eyes at least.  Behold the very-nearly-almost-new kitchen!

TADA!