Monday, November 30, 2009

Station Fire - Still Coping

We are still dealing with the afterglow of the Station Fire. I've joked in recent posts about renaming Sunland "Ashville." What follows is more evidence to make my case.

A fine gray ash covers everything. But when our winds kick off, Mt. Lukens becomes a dark, gray cloud. That cloud then dumps on everything here in our little valley.

I typically wash off my porch twice a year...that's enough. But last week, after a windy night, I realized I'm going to need to wash it off a lot this year.

If you like it, write your name in it!

I swept a tiny section of my porch...

And this is the pile of dirt I got:

It's over an inch deep and filled a dustpan!

This is what I found in the driveway:

Hood of the car:

This is the windowsill of the jeep:
And this is what happens when you turn on the windshield wipers:
And even if you car is somehow clean in all of this, when you drive these dusty roads, you can see dust trails flying over your hood and off your tires.

Don't even ask me about the pool...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Canine Funeral

I was reading a post of Janet's a while back and it gave me the idea for this entry ... and then I kept forgetting to take a pic to go with it!

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my BFF's part time dog, Bart.

Before Bart came along, his owners had another dog named Loco... a HUGE German Shepherd. When I first moved here, before I discovered our creek, I would walk along our southernmost mountain road with my rottie, Maggie May. The first time I took that road toward my BFF's house, I stumbled upon Loco, laying in this driveway.

At the time, they had a large bed for him by the right gate. Leery of a large dog I didn't know, I hugged the other side of the street for the longest time and was even shocked that the big dog followed us for some distance. I thought it was the strangest canine slow speed "chase" I had ever witnessed.

Somewhat frightened by this encounter, I started asking other dog walkers about this shepherd. I soon learned that he was old and well loved and a roamer. His folks gave up on keeping him in but he had mellowed a bit in his old age, hence the bed. Every dog walker in town knew his name and assured me he was super friendly. They also encouraged me to ask him if he would like to join Maggie and I on our walk.

"What if don't want to walk back by his house? I like to vary my route..."

I was assured that when Loco felt he was too far from home or tired, he would simply turn and go home.

So the next time I passed, I nervously introduced myself to this big furry shepherd and to my surprise, he was every bit as friendly as promised. I asked if he wanted to join us and he did! This time he stayed with us until we turned on my BFF's street.

From then on, whenever we walked that way, we asked Loco to pack up with us. He was so low - key and sweet.

Often when I was driving home that way, I would see him on his bed and I would stop and tell him hi.

And then, Maggie and I returned from a trip to Louisiana and didn't see Loco. We missed him for several days when I finally asked another dog person. Loco had passed away.

Apparently the word had spread throughout the neighborhood and all the dogs and people who loved him gathered at his bed in his driveway. They shared stories about him and had a good collective cry.

It's certainly one funeral I'm sorry to have missed.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Somebody Has a Boyfriend!!!

No! It's certainly not ME! It's Mabel!!!

Yes, for most of her 7 1/2 years with me, I even dared think my girl was gay! She actually seems to like girls way better than boys. And she will have nothing to do with any male that dares to mount her, quickly putting him in his place with a sharp, shrill bark and even a nip!

And while there are males she tolerates: She loves the rottie twins Gizmo and Bart but they are running mates. 'tilla is a hunting buddy and Hank, well Hank behaves more like a girl anyway!

But this is something much different. And - he's a much younger man. If they were humans, I'd be hiding a fugitive child molester!

Maximus a/k/a Maxi is his name and he's a lab. They run and frolic and he licks and kisses her all over. (Mounting is still not allowed! And both dogs are "fixed" anyway.) They simply adore each other. I can't get a photo of them together...they run too fast! But this is Maxi:

But I didn't realize how serious this was until we were hiking with 'tilla and ran into Maxi. 'tilla normally flushes rabbits for Mabel to chase but once he saw Maxi with Mabel, a strange kind of jealousy ensued. It's as if 'tilla realized that Mabel and Max have a very different relationship. He jumped and pitched, trying desperately to get between the two lovebirds but they shunned him at every turn!

Then, a few days later, we were hiking with Maxi near the infamous deer bone (see yesterday's post), when Mabel shocked me by taking Maxi over and showing him her treasure! When we hike near that spot with 'tilla, she does everything to keep him from her secret... but she took Maxi here and practically pointed it out to him. He sniffed around especially the exposed hoof and she stood there smiling.

This is even more serious than I realized! My girl is in love!!!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Dead Deer

After the fires, a baby deer died in the creek bed. No one is certain if he lost his mom and starved or was attacked. We just found his body...

I avoided the area for weeks, until there was no smell, and only then did Mabel get to explore. On one such adventure, we were with 'tilla who was suddenly afraid Mabel would take the deer! So he stole a leg and disappeared with it.

Weeks later, Mabel and I were hiking alone and I noticed her chewing at the sand. Afraid she was trying to eat horse poop, I shooed her away. Curious, I kicked at the spot she was chewing... and found 'tilla's leg!

Mabel took it, ran up a hillside and started burying it! Watching her was a thing of beauty. I stood there mentally criticizing her: That's not wide enough. It's not going to work....OMG! She's scraping in sand from two feet behind her!

She kept scraping more sand with her nose, sniffing, pawing it back and redirecting it with her snout! She covered all but the very tip of the hoof! She periodically checks it from when we hike near there.

{Photos below are not for the squeamish!}

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Grateful, Humble...and Hopeful

I have lots to be grateful for this year.

First and foremost: the shear miracle that I still own my house...for a few more months at least. Every day on the trail, I'm so grateful that this is still a place we visit and not the place we have to call home. And this makes me deeply grateful for the roof over my head and warm bed I sleep in.

I am so grateful for the family that loves me in spite of my need to live 2,000 miles away from them. I'm grateful for the friends that love me in spite of my need to be near them.

I am grateful for my health and am always full of thanks for every step I take without the aid of a walker or cane.

I'm so blessed to have my Mabel Lou to take care of me. Every day, she makes sure I exercise, get some fresh air, eat something yummy and lowers my blood pressure by reminding me I need to pet her. And she makes me laugh...I'm always grateful for giggles!

And while this year has been a humbling experience - the fruitless, endless searching and searching for work. I have to be hopeful. I HAVE TO! I still have faith that it WILL get better.

I hope your Thanksgiving was....good to the last drop!

Copyright 2009 Isabelle Thompson

Happy Thanksgiving from Creekhiker & Mabel Lou!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Getting Ready....

There's some mighty good smells coming from the kitchen. I think Mom's cooking a feast for me! Photo Copyright 2009 Isabelle Thompson

I can't wait!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

'tilla Boy!

We've met some new hiking buddies on the trails this year. Maxi is a new lab pup who will get his own introduction really soon.

But our most frequent new hiking buddy is Atilla who belongs to my pool genie (All pool men are hereby elevated to the status of genie in this age of Ashville!).

The name Atilla doesn't really suit him...he's just too sweet. So we call him 'tilla or 'tilla boy!

'tilla is an Aussie shepherd with a really high prey drive. He loves flushing rabbits so Mabel can chase them!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Movie Money Ain't What It Used to Be

I was telling the BFF how I've cut down my movie going this year. In flush times, I LOVE to see a movie a week (except when there's nothing good out. This happens right before summer blockbuster season and in the lull before Oscar contenders come out in the winter). But nowadays, it's more like one every few months.

The BFF told me that, as a kid, she and her sister went to the movies constantly. They'd jump on the bus near their home south of Hollywood and ride the bus to the Wiltern (now more famous as a concert hall) and then on up to all the theaters on Hollywood Blvd.

Which somehow led us to the cost of movie tickets. In 1970, movie tickets cost .75 and minimum wage was $1.65 (I'm using the assumption that teenagers, most of whom make minimum wage, made up the majority of the frequent movie going audience.) Back then, someone making minimum wage would have to work around 27 minutes to pay for the movie. Compare that to today. The minimum wage is $8.50 and it costs $12.00 for admission, meaning that a person today would have to work almost an hour and a half to see the same movie.

Movie theaters claim to subsidize 25% of the cost of movie admission because they know they will make it up on popcorn sales. I find this questionable because my local theater chain (AMC) offers free popcorn to members of its Movie Watcher club. The other thing that this chain used to do that I found unusual was allowing in outside food. This summer I packed a goumet picnic to see the movie Julie and Julia. This has been the norm for years and years and this fall, it stopped.

Now AMC has turned into the nasty jerks like at other theaters. Say you've been out to a pricey dinner, are stuffed to the gills but you're not going to leave the left overs. Good luck getting them in the movies, even if you have no intention of eating them. Recently, I had gone to Costco and had a quarter ham. It was hot out; I wasn't going to leave it in the car. They actually tried to stop me from carrying it in! Like what was I supposed to eat it with??? Good grief!

The other day at the movie, I had a little tickle in my throat and thought I would treat myself to a coke, something I rarely drink. I stood there in shock when I realized the cheapest one was 4.50!!! For a COKE???? I asked for a courtesy cup and got free water!

When you realize that with a coke and popcorn, a movie can cost over $20 per person, I have to wonder if we are turning a generation of potential movie fans into video junkies who will never understand the great experience of seeing a movie in a theater. And for me, the die-hard theather afficiando??? I'm in the market for a much bigger purse!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Only Fun Stuff Today!

Mabel Lou here. I don't really like my mom blogging every day. This November blog crap is for the squirrels!

I forbid her from coming near the computer cause it's Sunday and there's lots of fun stuff for her to do today.

She needs to take me out to breakfast.

She can play with me.

She loves to brush me.

She relishes running in the mud with me.

Copyright 2009 Isabelle Thompson.

Oh and it's my Auntie's birthday - the one that took this picture. (HAPPY BIRTHDAY AUNTIE!!!! I LOVE YOU!!! )

It's a great day; what are YOU doing on the computer??? Don't you have a doggie to love???

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Shopping with Mama Nobucks

Maybe it's my underemployment and inability to find a job. Maybe it's that I'm always suspicious of retailers. Maybe it's that my ridiculously high property tax bill is due in a matter of weeks. Whatever the reason, my Holiday Spirit has been kidnapped!

I decided to give myself the day off on Friday. I took the girl for a serious hike, so deep into the creek, I got lost for the first time in years! My dog mom duties over, I went into Burbank.

My first stop was at the new mini-mall by the airport. When I worked in this neighborhood (2001), They had just opened Lowe's and Target and none of the restaurants were open. This particular mini-mall did not exist. You either had to bring your lunch or plan to spend 20 minutes of your lunch hour driving.

I had shrimp at the Fish Dish. I should say I had rubber shrimp. Maybe I'm just homesick for some tender succulent shrimp from Mike Anderson's or Brunet's. So much for lunch.

I headed to the movie theater and stopped in Barnes & Noble to pick up book I want for a Christmas Gift. I picked out a few beading magazines and the book. I almost freaked when they told me the book was $26! For that price, I would expect it to be printed on gold... or at least silver! I passed on the book, knowing I could get it for $14 on Amazon, paid for my magazines and left.

I got to the movie theater and had some time to kill so I opened my bag from the bookstore. I realized my three bead mags had cost me a whopping $35! WTH??? I really enjoyed the movie (The Blind Side) and saw another (Precious) but I wish I had seen them in the reverse is an upper and the other is a downer. Both are Oscar worthy and the high point of my day!

But the whole time, I kept thinking $35 for magazines?? I planned on having Thai spring rolls and red velvet cake at CPK after doing a little shopping. I hit Bath and Body works... always great for stocking stuffers and several of my friends love their lotions.

But as I browsed the store, everything just looked the same. The same old stuff from years before; same old candles, same old lotions and potions. Sure they did have some new fragrances and some old favorites. You would think they would bring back the best seller from a few years back, Tuberose but no. This year they have Butterfly and I Love You.

Um, 'scuse me Mr. Butterfly, could you hold still so I can see what you smell like??? And just what should I Love You smell like??? Is it all candles and roses or raw sex??? Really, you could go in any direction with that...but I like names that mean something in my lotions and potions. Coconut, Waterlily, Lemon...those are fragrances!

My personal favorite was the candle named Moonlight Woods. Can you say "lawsuit?" The visit was good for a few laughs but I left empty handed. Ran smack into a glass jewelry counter..."Everything $5!" Yep, imported glass from China. ICK!

My tour of Macy's was just as fruitless. They were having a big sale - 25% off but it felt like all the prices were about 25% too high to begin with... like there was a mark up to compensate for the mark down.

Next stop, the Ikea holiday tent. I love to pick up wrapping paper or cute little ornaments. But this year, they've put a big red heart on everything! And not even a cute heart...they've tried to make it look like a bell or something. I just stood there, wondering if it was Valentine's Day. I get it...'Christmas is LOVE!' but I don't want my decorations to look like another holiday! Come on!

By this point, the $35 I had spent on magazines was killing me. I went back to the bookstore and got a refund and left without getting dinner. After this shopping trip, a cup of soup and a grilled ham and cheese just felt more to my liking.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Yep, Ashville

More evidence in my case for renaming the town. These are my pool filters being washed. The above ones are clean and the lower ones are still dirty.

They are normally covered with diatomaceous earth which is a pale gray. Since the Station Fire, there is so much blowing soot and ash...well you can see what it's done to the pool filters. And while diatomaceous earth allows water to pass through, thus filtering the pool, ash does not! My filters, which typically get taken apart and cleaned once a year have been cleaned twice now in 2 1/2 months. It's going to be a challenging winter.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


That hike I wrote of yesterday turned into bliss because of the unexpected water find! We've had a hot and dry November but last weekend, clouds and wind blew in and there was a chill in the daytime air. It was clear there was a storm somewhere.

But here in Sunland, there was just blowing ash and soot. I was driving along the mountain road to the south of town looking at Mt. Luken's and declared, "We don't live in Sunland anymore. This place needs to be called 'Ashville.'"

All that wind drove the storm further east a few miles and the folks in La Canada got over an inch in 15 minutes. Some parts got over 2" in an hour! There were mudslides and quite a bit of damage near the fire line. But that was completely out of mind on Monday.

I had energy to burn. Since our favorite trail is closed thanks to the Station Fire and probably will be until Spring, I suggested we start our hike with our larger pack in Hahamonga Park, thinking that would make a much longer hike to the point of the fire closure.

After 30 minutes, I was thinking it was a bad plan. The dogs were hot and we had no water. Suddenly all four girls got so excited and took off with Kat and I chasing. And then I heard it: WATER!

I remembered the deluge from the weekend and realized, the mountain still had runoff! Within seconds, Mabel and Linguini were frolicking with the little pups looking for a less steep entrance to the stream. I was amazed at how black the water was...yep, Ashville!

The girls were having the best time and Kat and I were slipping and sliding in the mud - and laughing so hard. And then I remembered that this stream is fed by the stream in the shady canyon we love so! I implored the girls to get a move on so we could make it to their favorite swimming hole before dark.

I love this photo of Mabel playing in the dark muddy water.

I know it will be a long, long time before our stream runs clear again but for now, just having the water back is glorious!
All photos copyright 2009 Isabelle Thompson.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Photo by Isabelle Thompson

Monday, after all the chaos and drama from my weekend, I found myself needing an escape. Kat and her pack are always my favorite cohorts in crime because Mabel can join in on the fun.

The humans had sandwiches and the canines shared a cup of creme. We wrapped it up with a fabulous hike and went home so happy, we're all still a little high from it!

Flu Shots in the Information Age

I admit it. I'm a queasy, uneasy traveler. I slam Airborne and Immunocomp before and after any plane ride. And my impending trip to Baton Rouge, being cooped in a tin can for strangers for hours on end is making me extra nervous with all the Swine* flu and the regular flu being so bad this year. I've had several friends hospitalized with one or the other variety and my little cousins in Denham Springs, LA have the Swine.

I got my flu shot back in September but have been really upset over the lack of Swine shots available here. When you could find them, the lines were 8 hours long! Not with my feet! Plus standing line with that many people is enough make you sick!

Then the other day, I heard on Good Morning America that Google was working with health departments across the country to help people locate whichever type of shot they required. The doctor on the show used California and Arkansas as an example. California communicates well with Google and there are lots of locations and information online. Arkansas does not...

So I tried the link and was amazed to fine a Swine flu shot clinic in the park nearby last weekend. I called and yes, it was happening.

I decided to try and find one for my mom in Baton Rouge. I googled her zipcode and there was one going on that day...for another 54 minutes!I got on the office phone and told Mom where to go and used the home phone to find out what info she needed and how much, etc. She needed her doctor's address and I phoned her in the store and she got her shot. Whew!

My experience here in town on Saturday was not so pleasant. I somehow got it in my head it was at the Senior Center. I drove there and parked in front, noticing lots of cars around the park. As I got out of the car, I noticed the line across the park at the rec center... It went down the center of the park and wrapped about 50 feet down the sidewalk toward the post office! NO FREAKING WAY! I left.

After a long coffee with the BFF, I drove back by. The line was maybe 10 feet shorter. So I ran some errands...and it was 30 feet shorter. I came home, worked on the pool (forever out of something since the Station fire!), ate lunch and fell asleep on the sofa. I awoke with a start around 1:20. I sat straight up and yelled at myself, "GO NOW!!!"

The line was maybe 10 feet long and moving fast! I was amazed at the operation the LA County Health Department had put on... people directing traffic throughout the park. Several handing out the forms to fill out. A table of 20 or so that double checked the forms, another table of 20 making sure people understood their forms. Lots of hand sanitizer everywhere. More people directing us to one of 20 nurses stations filled with the Swine injection and nasal spray, band aids, alcohol, cotton balls and sharps containers. Wipe, prick, band aid, done!

My left arm did hurt the rest of the day...never had that reaction before. But it was fine on Sunday.

So, I'm de-swined and ready to travel.

*Note to the Federal Government: If you want to change the name of something...make sure the new name is no longer than the old name! Economy of words, people!!! H1N1 is FOUR times longer than the word swine in conversation.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Wind In Her Ear

It's been a really rough week. Stomach flu, my back is out, crazy customer who emailed with some problem..but wouldn't check her email for another 24 hours making me deal with her every. single. day. Crazy vendor / owner that I need to run my business hung up on me. Twice. And then started emailing every few minutes me once I asked a sales rep there if she was OK. And last, but never least, there are the people who think my life is created to serve them. That I should drop everything because they need something. RIGHTNOW. Yes, the bastards are getting me down.

This year feels like a punch in the gut that won't go away. I really doubt I will find a job in the remainder of 2009 and some part of me is so ready for it to be over. I'm exhausted. I'm at some crossroads that I feel I've been at for years...waiting for something to push me in one direction or another. I just need to get on with...something. And some part of me feels like packing it all in and heading for Baton Rouge. But I can't bring Mabel. The airlines have made it so difficult and expensive to travel a large dog. It costs $1000! So Mabel will be staying here when I finally do head home. And that breaks my heart but, I so need a trip out of LA and I don't have the $$$ to go anywhere else but home. So until I leave in December, I'll just keep fantasizing about what was the best day of 2009....Mabel's day at the ocean:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Raising a Dog the Easy Way

My BFF always looks for the easy way to do anything. I admire this quality in her. And while pets have been a part of her household ever since I've known her, she's finally found an easy way to have a dog.

Meet Bart, her part time dog:

Bart lives around the corner from the BFF. His people work long hours. Bart gets lonely. Bart knows how to escape. And he somehow figured out that:
a) The BFF works at home
b) Her house has a doggie door
c) She's always glad to see a canine friend or
d) All of the above.

If you guessed d... you're spot on!

So, the BFF has a dog. He often bounds in the doggie door and on into their bedroom before she and the Sportsman hubby are out of bed. He gets fed raw carrots while she and the Sportsman have coffee. She's trained all of her canine friends that stop by for visits to like them...Mabel would be her only failure in this!

Later, in her office, Bart curls up under her desk. If it's a pleasant day and she leaves the front door open, Bart stands guard sleeps under her baby grand in the living room. After supper, he curls up on the sofa between her and the Sportsman (so both of them can love him up at once).

He is very protective of her. He doesn't like anyone, human or canine, too close to her. This prompted a he-male, alpha-dog stare down between Bart and the Sportsman. Bart lost and has been much better ever since. Should the BFF need to run errands, Bart jumps in her car and goes along. If she tries to leave him, he chases her car to the big boulevard! She doesn't leave him ever, now.

Late in the evening, after he is sure his people are home, Bart takes off. Some nights he stays rather late though and the BFF and the Sportsman walk him home. He's always happy to see his people. But he's always back the next day.

And the best part??? The BFF doesn't have to pay to feed or groom him or take him to the vet. His people do all that...and they drop off food at her house from time to time!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Breaks My Heart Every Time...

This girl... she has a new habit. It's about six months since this started. Every time I leave her, Mabel simply ignores her sunny bed on the back porch where she can keep all our critter-visitors at bay. She disdains the bed just inside the back door with the view of the porch. And her downstairs bed, the one she favors when I'm cooking or doing laundry, ceases to exist. So do her beds in my office, art studio and bedroom. Never mind that my own queen-sized bed, that she allows me a tiny portion of, is under a fan or near the heating vent. She abandons all of her creature comforts that I've given her.

Instead, she prefers to lie alone in the dark, damp workshop, amongst my tools, tons of rubber stamps and tanks of propane, sometimes for hours on end... waiting for me. This is as close as she can get to where I park my car, the point of my exit from her. It is there she keeps vigil until I return.

Friday, November 13, 2009

I'm Afraid I'm Going to Kill Your Kid...

If not me, then surely someone else. While I'm referring to the kids of Sunland, California, I have no doubt this scene plays out in towns everywhere: pedestrian kids with no respect for motor vehicles.

I understand parents are busy. But shouldn't somebody teach your not-so-little ones about common physics? That the human body is no match for a 2000# SUV? And to respect themselves enough by doing the most basic thing: obeying basic traffic rules.

It's true, teenagers do really stupid things but if you don't think your teen / tween could be this stupid, I challenge you to park at the corner of Woodward and Foothill just after school lets out. This intersection is so well-known for it's short traffic light on the Woodward side, it made the national news.

I promise you will see kids crossing against the light, in front of oncoming traffic, without so much as a glance in the direction of the car that could have plowed them down.

It's bad enough they do this at a crosswalk but there are others up in the neighborhoods that step out into the street mid-block with no regard for my large SUV doing the speed limit less than 20 feet away. They laugh at the fear on my face as I slam on my brakes.

But the absolute most reckless ones around here are the skateboard boys over on Oro Vista. They are perpetually riding downhill from the church to Hillrose. Heaven help you if you are driving South at dusk. These daredevils weave into your lane and they are doing it so fast, they over-ride the can barely see them! I'm not sure if they are playing chicken with my car or if they are just trying to scare me. But it's too close for slip, one fall and these boys could be dead!

They may not care about their own lives, but I do. I tried to follow some of these boys home - determined to let ONE of their mother's know about their dangerous game, but the skateboards were no match for my SUV. And once I found the right neighborhood, there were no parents in sight...only more kids.

I really fear it's going to take a tragedy before parents around here wake up and realize that their kids have so little regard for their own lives. And you can bet, they will place the blame on the driver and not their precious, innocent offspring.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Still Cheating...

OK, I got sidetracked by a stomach bug, and my good name is being slandered. It's been a darn stressful week!

Sunset in October:

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I Love Fall

Don't You?

Blogger deleted most of my post for today - that's what I get for having two google accounts and confusing the computer Gods! So, I took the easy way out!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

15 in 15

I've been tagged in Facebook Meme and, since I'm blogging everyday here on Creekhiker, I thought I would take advantage and just do it here. Directions below are from Facebook:

Here are the rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen movies you've seen that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. Tag fifteen friends, including me because I'm interested in seeing what movies my friends choose. (To do this, go to your Notes tab on your profile page, paste rules in a new note, cast your fifteen picks, and tag people in the note -- upper right hand side.)

1) It's a Wonderful Life (Ok - so I'm a sad sap who believes in angels)

2) Harvey (And invisible rabbits!)

3) Rope (Maybe I'm just secretly in love with Jimmy Stewart!)

4) The Commitments (I saw #4,5 &6 in a three week period. I was afraid to go to the movies again... I thought each of these was moving, breathtaking. Each for different reasons. See the Commitments for the music and the uplifting story.)

5) The Fischer King (Amazing story, Jeff Bridges and Robin Williams are top notch. See it for the heartache both men suffer. See it for the tale of healing and friendship. See it just to watch Robin Williams describe the elation of a really good poop!)

6) Dead Again (A whodunit where you don't see what's coming next and keeping track of the reincarnation of the lead characters through several lifetimes is dizzying. One of Kenneth Branagh's best as actor and director. His then wife Emma Thompson is spot on, as usual.)

7) Smoky and the Bandit (First film I ever saw multiple times)

8) The Hangover (Last film I saw multiple times)

9) Sharkey's Machine (First film I thought was too violent and doing the body count in my head for days.)

10) Amityville Horror (1st horror film and the reason I really don't enjoy them.)

11) Forrest Gump (1st hit I ever worked on)

12) Wired (1st big studio film I worked on that I KNEW would be a piece of crap!)

13) Say Anything (Who doesn't love Cusack?)

14) High Fidelity (Who doesn't love Cusack all grown up?)

15) The Usual Suspects - (I cannot stumble across this without watching to the very end)

Honorable Mentions:
16) Con Air (Cusack again,with Nick Cage in a terrible Southern accent, Malkovich as a badddd assss, and a plane full of tough actors, most of whom I worked with on another big studio piece of crap called Blood In, Blood Out. Really sweet guys and funny too. But, it's a plane wreck of a movie and another I can't pass up when it's on!)

17) Being John Malkovich (Malkcovich and Cusack together again in one of the strangest pieces of fiction ever written by Charlie Kaufman. And Cameron Diaz is unrecognizable in her ugly makeup! It's a hoot to keep up with the body switching!)

18) Adaptation (Charlie Kaufman also wrote this and it's so amazing to see and hear how writers THINK. I felt like the guy was in my brain!)

19) The Wizard of Oz (I starting watching this movie when I was WAY too young for it. I always managed to be home alone when it was on and I would literally lay with my face in the sofa, legs kicking at imaginary gargoyles, too afraid to go toward the tv and change the channel! I was terrified of this. Yet, every year, I'd watch it again, certain that I was "big girl" enough to handle it. I finally gave up around 10 and haven't sat through more than 20 minutes of it since!)

Monday, November 09, 2009

Gone to the Dogs

I thought I would share a few videos of my "God-dogter," Twinkie. I'm sort of amazed to have fallen so deeply for this tiny little dog and the odd thing is...she's as nuts about me as I am about her! And she's so bossy, Mabel knows she has to take a back seat when Twink is around!

In this video, I am holding her...that's ME she's staring at like that!

And I've previously shared a video of the four canine girlfriends sharing a cup of cream at a coffee shop.... Alison??? Are you reading this??? This is all YOUR fault! Our dogs now expect cream when we go for coffee!

Anyway, Kat turned a recent excursion into a whole production! So here's Mabel Lou, Twinkie Twinkerson, Frankie Weenie, and Daisy Eatsalot* enjoying their cream:

*I should mention Daisy is Linguini a/k/a 'Guini's REAL given name. The name NEVER suited her. She was such a strange and quiet dog who, constantly wiggled like a wet noodle, hence her nickname. But Kat** has recently written a book about Twinkie. Since it is a children's book, she feared kids would have a hard time with the name Linguini. And so, publicly, 'Guini is called "Daisy."

**I've always felt the need to protect my friends' privacy on this blog. Now with the advent of Facebook and the fact that both of my close friend have very public careers, I'm not sure if I should drop their pseudonyms or keep them... Sounds like a good excuse to get together for coffee! And cream!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

And the Fan Saga Continues

With the temps here in the mid-eighties last Monday, I was all over my fan issue. I called the company who explained the fans are older and there are no wiring diagrams, yet the person on the phone knew exactly how to wire it...couldn't they just mail out the info they read from? Or post it online? Wouldn't that be cheaper and paying someone to sit on the phone and read it?

I got it wired and called the Hiking Buddy to help me hoist it in the air. She brought the two pups and I'm in the middle of packing bead kits for my jewelry classes so all three dogs were locked out on the porch. So while we're hanging in the air trying to get the fan up - it wasn't fitting into the housing, Hank was scratching my back door to bits which was freaking me out and making me yell. And it was getting dark... More frustration.

Thinking it was a physical strength thing, I asked my neighbor to come over. He decides the metal housing is warped and proceeds to bend it to pieces, we finally got the fan together and ... the light didn't work. ARGH!

So Tuesday, I called again and sat on the phone with fan motor in my lap and verified brown wire to #2 in the junction box, purple wire to #4, three white wires spliced. And I was good to go again. I spent the next two days trying to get the motor back in the housing. (My neighbor was supposed to come back and didn't.) I called my godson who wasn't available until after dark... with the power off, that wouldn't work. So he agreed to come on Wednesday.

20 minutes after he was to be here, he called, upset. His dog was near death and needed to be put down and he had been dealing with that all morning. This was really upsetting - the second canine buddy I had lost in two days! Tommy used to run away from home when I first adopted Mabel. He would stand on my front porch at 2 am and bark and bark. I would let him in, he would get in bed with us and we'd all go to sleep and I'd drive him home the next morning. He will be missed!

That afternoon, my godson and I got the fan back together and ... it still didn't work. And I was just DONE. I called my electrician; he was available after 4. I drove to LOWE'S, bought a fan and my electrician came and installed it. When he took the old one down, the white splice had come loose. It was salvageable...

I had desperately wanted to fix the old one because, I don't have money to spare AT ALL. But I needed my overhead light to pack my kits for class and with the heat, Mabel and I both were missing the fan.

And true to my luck, Thursday, the temps were in the sixties!

Saturday, November 07, 2009

I Still Hate Home Crapot!

My town's battle with the big box giant Home Crapot is well documented in parts of this blog as well as on Sunland - Tujunga's own website. And yes, we've won that battle. But I still can't bring myself to shop there.

Yes, the battle has something to do with the way I feel - It's hard to get over a corporation calling me a racist when the real issue is that I simply didn't want to hear trucks idling, loading and unloading in my back yard 24/7.

But my newest reason to hate them has to do with the ceiling fans they make. Hampton Bay is an exclusive Home Crapot line (something I bought in 03, long before our battle). And yes, they do come with a lifetime warranty but OY! the frustration of cashing that in!

I found my model number and looked up a phone number on the Internet. Wrong number but they gave me the right one. Easy. I called, gave my info and they told me I needed a capacitor (whatever that is), asked for my address and one arrived a week later. Easy.

I opened it. No directions included. Not so easy. I had set aside Sunday to deal with electrical issues as all the clocks would need resetting anyway. I phone the toll free number... no one was in.

I spent an hour looking for instructions on the Internet. Very frustrating. I called Home Crapot. No one could help me til tomorrow...More frustration. They suggested I call some local stores because they all have electricians on staff. I called three before I found out...they never work on know, when people might actually need them. Extremely frustrating.

I studied my fan and couldn't even begin to guess how to take it apart. Even more frustrating because I'm usually good at that. I called an engineer I know, he's disabled and can't stand on ladders but he came over, sat on my sofa and gave me a few directions. I had the fan on the floor in under a minute. Joy!

The new capcitor has more wires than my old one. Frustration. The old capcitor is wired into a gizmo that has no screws; it's held together by pins that don't budge. Anger.

I check the internet again. No wiring diagrams, No directions on how to open up the fan, no easy to find anything. Super Angry!

Hampton Bay is a HUGE name, widely known. WHY wouldn't Home Crapot use this as a marketing tool??? Why don't they put up PDF files of all the Hampton Bay fans? Why don't they put up wiring diagrams? Why, if they are a store that's supposed to make it easy for the do-it-yourselfer, don't they actually use the Internet to do exactly that?

While job hunting, I was snooping around a website for a phone number for a company that had a position I was interested in. The company's site said in big bold letters: Absolutely no phone calls! The Internet is your Friend, USE IT!

Home Crapot, please heed that advice.

Friday, November 06, 2009

The Neutral Answer

Almost a full month after I asked "the neutral question, " I've finally gotten an answer. The question was, when in a runaway vehicle, why couldn't you simply move your transmission into neutral, slow the vehicle and come to a stop?

Yesterday, ABC News reported that, yes, that is the proper and safest way to stop a runaway car. The reporter encouraged viewers to practice, saying it wasn't that easy. Having practiced this since getting my permit at the age of 14, I can say, it's not that difficult either.

They also advised stomping on the brake and not letting up.

So there....keep it in mind if you ever find yourself in a runaway car.


Thursday, November 05, 2009

Two Sides of the Same Valley

Our recent full moon made for some amazing Sunset / Moonrises.

These were taken at within a minute of each other in the valley at the bottom of the Big Tujunga Creek.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Last Day to Vote!

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Fire Divas are having a Breast Cancer Awareness Challenge! Several of our members have made wonderful pieces for YOU to vote on and voting ends tonight at 6pm PST. First, you can feast your eyes on these beauties in big, clear pictures. When you're done savoring them, please vote for your favorite in bite-sized images on the right side of the Fire Divas' blog (link below). The winner will receive a really cool prize!

So please take a moment and encourage the artisans participating. Go vote on the Fire Divas Blog.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Trader Joe's - It's a Love / Hate Thing

Trader Joe's is grocery chain that is very popular here in California. They are German owned and privately held ( I would buy stock with my last two cents if I could!) and are slowly spreading across this great land. Whenever, I consider moving to another state, I always check if they have a Trader Joe's!

For years, I drove within feet of the one in Tarzana every time I got off the freeway and I would never shop there. The sign said "Gourmet" and I was certain I couldn't afford it so I never went in!

And then someone told me that, yes TJ's had gourmet goods but they were exceptionally kind on the pocketbook. As a production manager in television commercials, I was forever needing a spread to impress someone. I had the price of fancy cheeses filed away in the back of my brain. I was in awe when I first went into Trader Joe's. Cheese I was paying 4.99 / lb. (20 years ago) were 2.99 at TJ's! I became a fan!

I loved the quality and I loved the price even better. To this day, if I can't get to TJ's for milk, I don't drink milk. The price is that much cheaper!

And of course, I came to love the new products they brought in. If something is trendy in food, they have it. Same thing goes for the vitamins and health foods they stock. A few years ago, my nutritionist suggested that soy protein was not as good as whey protein... and yep, Trader Joe's had made the switch!

But at the same time, I've come to realize, for a small grocery store to keep stocking new things, some things have to be let go. It's always made me a little sad when a favorite is taken away.

One recent removal was their Hot and Sweet Mustard. I loved it, but my mom simply adored it! She claimed it was the reason people raved over her deviled eggs. She gave my local store manager an earful on her recent trip about it being discontinued. The last time I flew to Baton Rouge (two years ago), I took Mom three jars only to have the TSA confiscate it - apparently too much liquid, although one could argue that mustard is NOT a liquid. It made us both so mad and I do hope that someone at the airport got to take that home! It was that good! I can't stand the thought of it being thrown away.

But the other day, I found out my favorite soup is discontinued. I always felt that it would be... I found the packaging a little stupid - a waste of shelf space. But I had hoped it would be replaced with a different can, not discontinued altogether.

They did replace the French Onion with a frozen version. You get 10 oz for $4.79 as opposed to a 28 oz can for 2.69...really? That's an improvement??

So, I'm mad at my favorite grocery store...until I run out of milk.

Monday, November 02, 2009

A Tale of Two Sisters

We are as different as can be. She is the sunny side of life to my dark side of the moon; a babbling stream to my dark, still waters; the eagle opposite my fish.

She is people smart. Her compassion towards others and interest in them abounds. She often asks questions that make me cringe. And people find her endearing for it. And so do I.

I am book smart - the kid who would take the toaster apart to see how it works and successfully put it back together. She once looked at me in wonder and asked, "How do you know all the stuff you know?"

She values appearances; I value substance. She can tell you that one leg of your pants is 1/4 inch shorter 20 paces out. Every picture and curtain in her home is hung to level. Every picture in my home is crooked - I blame it on earthquakes. My hair is curly, impossible to comb so I let it do what it likes. I rarely think about whether my clothes match. I'm certain I embarrass her.

I sometimes wonder why she spent 22 years hoping for a baby sister, especially one that turned out to be me. Surely, she must have had it a lot easier before I came along.

She is God in the details to my big picture. She makes every little thing perfect while I look for ways to make it easy and functional.

In high school, she was pretty and popular, the latest trend. She was Twiggy. I was none of that.

I march to the beat of my own weird drummer. She is forever marching to the beat of someone else's; her time rarely her own and yet she never complains.

She loves wholly and completely, unquestioning. I question. I hold at arm's length.

Her smile is quick and ready.
Mine is not; my anger and frustration are easily evident.

The photographer had asked me to smile. I thought I had been!

Yet, we are alike in so many ways. We are both stubborn and pig-headed and unyielding when we are certain we are right. We both love to laugh and have made one another giggle to the point of peeing our pants.

We are both way too generous; me with my time; her with her money. She would give you her last dollar and ask if you needed any change. Oh, but her real gift is ... gifting. She is forever searching for a gift for someone. She remembers every birthday, every special occaision, every anniversary of loss. If shopping for a perfect gift were an Olympic sport, she'd take the gold every time by a mile.

I used to think I was the brave one - venturing 3000 miles from home. New state, new friends, new everything. Now, I think she is far braver for staying put. Running away, seeking adventure is easy. To do the same thing, to deal with a fate you know, is hard.

Once, when I told her how my best friend was the first person that I felt loved me unconditionally, she apologized for not loving me the way I needed. That moment made me realize how much she does love me and that it is unconditional. I just couldn't see it when I was younger.

She is a warrior goddess, battling cancer down twice. Each time, I have seen her go deep within herself and find strength enough to sustain all of us. We all rally around her, take care of her, feed her, make her laugh. But it is she who supports us. It is she who wins war after war, battle after battle. It is she who is my hero.

Happy Birthday Sis! I love you more than you will ever know!

Sunday, November 01, 2009

On Grief

It's November and I am once again recommitting to blogging every day this month. I'm actually participating "officially" this year with NaBloPlMo.

Years ago, I belonged to a cooking group and it was my job to host on Halloween. Researching ideas for a menu, I ended up studying the holiday and was amazed to learn what I thought of as a pagan holiday actually has some deep religious connotations in many cultures, especially in Spain and Mexico.

It is believed the end of harvest signals the end of one year and the beginning of the next and, as we transition from one to the other, there is an opening between heaven and earth and souls are allowed to come back to visit their loved ones.

I've written about my own experience with spirits and I must admit, I find this thought comforting.

I guess that was on my mind this week when I read about the yearly women's conference hosted by our first lady for women to come together and... It always makes the news because of the speakers that they book.

This year, there was a panel on grief. It was lead by First Lady Maria Shriver - her mother had recently passed away; Elizabeth Edwards who lost a teenaged son, Wade; Susan St. James who also lost a young son, Teddy, in a plane crash; and Lisa Niemi, wife of Patrick Swayze.

A local reporter commented that a woman, trying to comfort St. James after the loss of her son, told her that she knew how she felt because she had just lost her dog.

Immediately, my heart is aching for this woman (and St. James)... and then I heard the reporter's snarky comments. Apparently this had put St. James off too.

I understand that people say dumb things at funerals and I'm not trying to compare the life of an animal to the life of a person. BUT... come on! Grief is grief.

The longest short story I've written to date is about all the deaths that I dealt with as a child - loved ones and good friends and even a parent lost at such a young age. Just off of the top of my head, I can think of eleven deaths that impacted my childhood.

And I've lost two dogs in my adult life... one was terribly tragic, the other terribly sudden.

I tell you this so that it is clear: I know a thing or two about grief.

Grief is ugly. It races into disbelieving ears and heads straight for the gut where it sucker-punches you and takes the breath right out of you. Your face contorts into the "ugly cry" only, because you have no breath, no sound escapes. Your chest burns, searching, gasping for air until you feel as if it is you who has died and, at the last possible moment, you suck in some air and let out a wail. There are angry tears, hurt tears, sad tears, tears of disbelief, tears of consolation, tears that fall even when you think there are no more. Your body wants to run and collapse all at the same time. And that's all in the first five minutes.

The next days are full of shock, tears, hugs, loving people, stupid people, nosey people, decisions and more tears. Sleep is elusive, then deep; then you wake up crying.

Months / Years go by and you find that Grief still is not done with you. A smell, a sound, a memory can take you right back to that ugly place.

And it is absolutely no different if you are given some warning that death is dancing on the doorstep of your heart. I was given this warning with both my grandmother and my uncle (a father-figure to me). While it did give me time to say goodbye, the emptiness, the pain, the ache of grief is no less with preparation.

I live alone and share all my time with a dog. I have issues... I don't let people in. But dogs - they get me. They are what I spend my time loving. My grief when my girls passed was devastating. And I would bet that is the case for that woman who tried to comfort Ms. St. James.

Grief chases all of us. It impacts us all. No one here gets out alive. I guess I just wish we were all a bit more patient and loving with one another, no matter what we choose to spend our time loving and allowing to love us.