Thursday, March 31, 2011


I know that I've been away from home for too long because the boys are starting to go crazy. Their schedules are all out of whack. Normally, our days consist mostly of writing and cleaning, cooking and crafting, or going for walks along the beach, a little exercising. Then their Papa comes home and it's a love fest, followed by dinner and a movie on the couch. These days they've been alone pretty much all day while I work. When I come home, I make dinner, go for a short walk (if their lucky), and maybe squeeze in some crafting (if I'm lucky), then bam - sleep. So yesterday, they went on strike.

Together they decided to bark ALL DAY LONG while I was working. My neighbor called it, "incessant barking." Today, I tried something that many people I know would think is utterly ridiculous. For $5.99 I bought The Adventures of Milo and Otis and I played it for them on the T.V. while I was gone. They did not bark at all today my neighbor said.

When I worked for UC Berkeley I  knew a lady named Lola who had a cat named Emiliano and she would play "cat movies" for Emiliano while she was at work. She told me that her cat loved them. "How do you know he loves them?" I asked her, and she told me that he wouldn't scratch up the furniture. If she forgot to play Emiliano his cat movies however, there would be new snags on her silk comforter and scratches on her suede couch. In truth I never really believed her story. I'm a believer now.

It makes me wonder...what have we done to make these animals so...spoiled? Then I remember all of the unconditional love they give, how they make us laugh, how they lower our blood pressure and we theirs. I think of how Sailor stands near me in the kitchen when I cook at all hours of the day without fail. How right at this moment Mick is laying on the wood floor at my feet under the table, when there is a plush rug just a few inches away.

Then I think to myself, I bet they'd love The Adventures of Lassy!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

I Wish You Love...

The other evening our neighbor's ten year old daughter came by to give us a couple of cupcakes she made that afternoon.  I have been teaching her how to crochet and gave her a skein of thick blue yarn and a big hook for beginners.  She's making a hat.  When she walked in Tony and I were sitting at the dining room table - me at the computer, writing and he next to me, drawing.  We had the dim chandelier light on, candles burning, Davis and Coltrane playing softly, and a warm fire flickering.  The boys were lying near the fire with bulging bellies, panting.  We must have made quite a picture.

As she walked over to my chair and stood next to me, I could see her face was taking everything in.  Then she asked, "Is this what you guys do every night?"  I giggled and Tony told her that sometimes we watch a movie, but we don't have T.V., so mostly we craft, paint, write, read, go for walks, talk, play with the boys, normal stuff.  As she looked around blinking peacefully, I could remember being her age and taking note of such things.  Moods. How normal couples are with each other, what they do.  It made me smile. 

I like to think that she will store that moment in the back of her developing brain and endeavor to find someone who will give her the peace she needs and the love every little girl deserves. I pray she does...

Monday, March 21, 2011

My First Car...Part Two

                                                 California Street in San Francisco..."gulp!"

My brother picked me up (for the LAST time I said to myself) in his Datsun Z and we zoomed over the Bay Bridge to purchase my new set of wings. Once we hit Angel Island, we drove around the military parking structure - lost for a while, and then I saw him, the Naval Officer. He was standing next to my car, and it was cuter than I ever imagined! An uncontrollable squeal passed through my lips. I looked at my brother excitedly, but he just said, "Rae be cool." Between his teeth.

There is a lot to be said about buying a used vehicle from a person in the Navy. This car looked virtually brand new. It was freshly waxed, paint was perfect (the benefits of a covered parking garage), the vinyl seats sparkled, none of the piping was ripped and you could practically eat off the rubber floor mats. I couldn't believe he wanted to sell her - then he proudly showed us his brand new sports car, black, with sun roof.  I remember thinking, what an odd contrast his two cars made. As I think back, he was probably about 45..."mid-life."

After my brother looked under the hood and drove around the parking lot, he gave us the thumbs-up. I stood shaking as I handed him my money, "Will you take $800?" I smiled, blinking innocently. One side of his mouth went up, "Sure. But promise to take good care of her." I nodded, afraid to speak. I could feel another squeal building up in my throat.  He took my hard earned cash, we signed the pink slip, shook hands (ouch) and he was gone. I couldn't believe how easy it was to buy such a big item.

Now, you must remember that it was my brother who test-drove around the parking lot, not me. I was busy ogling the overall splendor of my new wings, when I noticed a long stick with a ball at the end between the two front seats. "That's a strange looking E-brake," I whispered to my brother. He just gave me another wide-eyed look, which meant, "Be cool." I said no more. Now that we were alone with MY car, I sat in the drivers seat and asked, "What the heck is this stick?! And why are there THREE pedals?!"

"Dude, it's a manual transmission, a stick shift." My brother said and started laughing, wickedly. I began to sweat. My mum's Toyota was an automatic; I'd never driven a stick before. I must have turned bright red because my brother quickly said he would teach me. "Where?" I asked. "We'll drive around the City together until you feel comfortable enough to drive home alone." He said reassuringly. I was still sweating, but it was my brother who taught me how to drive a manual. Besides, how hard could it be?

After a quick lesson around the parking lot we headed onto the freeway, with no plan at all except taking the first exit off of the freeway, Fremont, and into San Francisco. All went exceedingly well and even my brother was a little impressed at how calm I was, but we were still on the freeway. As I took the Fremont exit I almost drove us into the bus terminal. I was down-shifing for the first time, grinding the gears trying to find third when my brother yelled, "Get over!" I did immediately, without looking. Thank goodness no one was there. I began to shake. "Turn left here," he said casually, so I did. It was California Street. I was beginning to feel a little uneasy about all of this stop and go clutch, brake, clutch, gas, break, clutch. Then I looked up. "Why did you tell me to turn? It's straight up!" I yelled at him, tears springing from my eyes. He started laughing, having the time of his life. "Dude, you've got to learn how to drive up and down hills using your clutch!" He was right, but this was definitely a crash course in manual driving. Peter always did like torturing me...

Like the time I was nine, sleeping peacefully in bed when I heard a muffled, "Rae. Rae, wake up." When I opened my eyes I was nose to nose with the devil's skull, or Peter wearing a Halloween skull mask complete with dark, hollow eyes, white boney features and black sackcloth. I screamed, then I fainted. He was nice enough to shake me conscience and was holding the mask in his hands when I awoke. I think he let me strike him, then he apologized and his eyes were sincere so I forgave him. He can't help it, he's a boy I thought, plus I always knew that deep down my brother truly loved me. He just had a hard time showing it in healthy now.

As I drove UP UP UP California in first gear then second, I could feel all of the weight of the car pulling me backwards, it was a horrible feeling. Also, I saw cars building up behind me, and the car directly behind me was a shiny black limousine. "PETER!" I screamed, looking in my rear view mirror. He looked back and his smile went away. Long story short, I must have burned 1/8 " of rubber off of my tires that day, but I mastered California and I became an exceptional parallel parker.

As I followed my brother back over the Bay Bridge I blinked my lights at him in gratitude. When he took his exit off of the freeway I kept going. I was alone, in my own car, destination unknown. I began to weep, then I quickly stopped because I didn't want to crash my new car. I thanked God for protecting my brother and me while we terrorized our fellow drivers.

I drove all around the beautiful city of Oakland - Piedmont, Montclair, Broadway then Jack London Square. I parked in the staff parking lot and ran into work to show my best friend, Keith, my new set of wheels. "Dude! Awesome!" He said excitedly. I told him the whole story and we both laughed.

Thus, began my life...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

My First Car...Part One

                                 The Car I Wanted...a vintage BMW 2002

     The Car I Could Afford...a 1976 Ford Fiesta Hatchback

Time has a tendency to wash away certain memories (thankfully), but I can still remember my firsts. First kiss, first fight, first boyfriend, first "time," first heart-break, first tattoo, first arrest (just kidding). These memories are a little foggy now, but I'll never forget my first car. Some people can remember their lives very early on. My nephew says he remembers when he was born! I think my life really began when I turned seventeen.

I finally graduated from High School via night school, I started wearing make-up (hooray for lipstick!), I got my very own dog "Baby" and I got my first full-time job. I was ready to start living my life. So without further adieu, I  got a job less than 3 miles from where I lived at Pier 1 Imports in Oakland's Jack London Square.  The next step was to buy my first car.

I'd already mastered the bus, BART, Amtrak trains, SF Muni, Cable Cars, and my Mum's 1981 Toyota Corolla - strictly used to pick-up groceries or to clean the 'doctors offices,' (another story for another day). But more than anything, I wanted to get out of town on my own, with my dog, in my own car. I wanted to see the world (or at least the Bay Area) without having to rely on people to take me where I wanted to go...and I wanted to park in the "staff only" parking lot at work.

Almost every one of my friends got jobs after graduation. I think two enrolled in community college and zero went away to college. We all worked for a living at Croll's Pizza, Walden Books, Burger King, Ross. Nobody thought any different, because we were all taught to be laborers, not rocket scientists. And none of us expected our parents to buy our first car for HS graduation or for our 18th birthday like they do in the movies. Nope, if you wanted a car, you had to save up and buy one yourself.

It took me eleven months to save $800 working for Pier 1. I called my brother the day I found a car in the classifieds and asked him if he would accompany me to Angel Island, where a retired Naval Officer was ready to sell me his 1976 Ford Fiesta, hatchback, new condition with low miles for $900, "firm." He'll forfeit the extra hunski as soon as he sees my winning smile, I thought.

I used to dream that my first car would be a vintage BMW called the 2002. There was an orange one parked on the other side of Alameda, where the "rich" people lived, that I would pass by to and from cleaning the offices at night. I wanted that car so much that I used to park across the street and just look at it. I would fantasize about the wonderful places I would go in that car, and how fabulous I would look. The sign in the window said $3,000.

After working for three months at Pier 1, I was promoted to Assistant Manger, making $5.50/hr from $4.25 and I saw the reality of my situation. It would take me YEARS to save for that car. Yes, it hurt as reality can, but I took it on the chin and moved on. My brother's wife had a Ford Fiesta, and I suppose I admired her because she was my brother's wife and four years older than me. I remember hearing Anne Shirley say, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery." It would be a romantic gesture, I thought.

In truth, I was ready to buy anything....

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Origins of The Bag...Part 2

    The effect of the bag on canines and homo sapiens alike!

The first time I broke out my creation was on Christmas Day, 2007. My sister grabbed it wide eyed and said, "Did you make this?!" I smiled. "I want it!" She said, holding it possessively to her bosom. I tilted my head and thought, I should give it to her. Then I realized, I couldn't part with my bag for the world. "I'll make you one." I said instead. She smiled hopefully. 

A few months later my Mum spied the bag and actually said, "Will you give this to me? I love it." Uhg! How can I say NO to the woman who bore me into this world? Somehow I squirmed my way out of giving it to her without saying no. (I finally made her one and gave it to her last Christmas.) 

Years later I was having dinner at Sodini's in North Beach with my cousin, and I didn't want to bring a purse, so I just brought the bag. It's the perfect size for my necessities: cell phone, keys, glasses, lipstick, powder, mirror, my little aspirin tin, bobby-pins, finger nail file, money, I.D. All neatly zipped up with the beautiful plump of Marilyn Monroe in a sweater. When we sat down I placed it on the table and she said almost sadly, "I have always coveted your little knit bag." "Crocheted." I softly corrected her. This is a woman who I admire to no end. She has survived so much in her 32 years, is an amazing mother to my 8 year old cousin with disabilities, and she has the most beautiful skin I have ever encountered.

"I'll make you one." I said, smiling humbly. "No you won't. You said that before." I was petrified. After a heartfelt apology, I promised that she would have one within the year. She nodded politely, but I could tell she didn't believe me. I made her a bag and gave it to her at Tony's birthday dinner last December. She squealed with delight when she opened the wrap and filled it up with items she had with her. Then we placed our bags together on the table for a photo op.

These are just a few examples of the affect my little bag has on people, and I could give many more! Like the time we were invited to a local church's spaghetti dinner, to hear comedian Mark Gungor speak. I had just taken too big a bite of my pasta (pig that I am) when a woman from across the table snatched up my bag and said, "Did you make this?!" Swallowing hard, I nodded smiling politely, with sauce on my lips. "It's cute." She said rather enviously, glancing at her heavy leather Coach bag. Then hesitantly she put my bag back where she found it. Wow I thought, even church goers are crazy for the bag. So, I decided six months ago to start my own line of G.F.M.G. bags, called Sailor Bags in honor of my boy Sailor. I'm still working on a tag/logo to go inside of each, but I've crocheted about fifteen so far and half have their zippers. It's not cheap creating these little bundles of joy, but I'm looking at it as an investment. 

I can't wait to put them on or I can sell them down at the Harbor this summer. Either way, I look forward to spreading the joy my little bag gives me, to others. And the dough wouldn't hurt either. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Origins of The Bag...Part I

                    I can't leave home without it!

It's amazing how something so small and insignificant can become such a big part of your life. My little crocheted bag for instance. I created it while working at Viansa Winery's Enoteca in San Francisco's Union Square... 

I'd just graduated from UC Berkeley and we'd just moved back home from a brief stint in Salinas - the home of Steinbeck so I needed to find a job. I told my husband I wanted a job that was completely out of the norm for me, and a friend of his just happened to be looking for someone to open and sometimes close the fancy Viansa Enoteca, a wine bar he was managing in the City. I jumped at the chance to continue my education from English Literature to vino. I knew very little about wine, other than it was fermented grape juice. Plus, if I took the job I would have a chance to face my fears, I would be serving people food and beverages. 

I've always had an enormous respect for people in the food service industry because I've seen how rude people are to servers. Still, I wasn't sure if I was cut out to take it on the cheek 8 hours a day. Luckily, this was a wine bar not an IHOP, and we only served small plates of fancy cured meats, cheeses with honey, fruits and nuts, herbed crostini and $12-$25 glasses of wine from the Viansa Winery in Carneros Valley. 

My first few months were thrilling. I was educated on the different varietals (or kinds) of wines in the world and the particular "Cali-Itali" varietals we sold. I learned which foods pair (or taste) best with which wines, an incredibly fun and valuable lesson that I cherish to this day. I was enchanted by the names of our wines: Frescolina, a sweet dessert wine that tasted of honeysuckle, apricot and peaches; Thalia, a hearty Sangiovese that filled your mouth with ripe raspberry, black cherry and spice - it was the perfect red to have with lasagna or angel-hair pasta with a heavy red sauce. 

I discovered how climate, soil and location are what make wines unique throughout the world. This is why a Pinot Noir from Napa Valley, CA is highly regarded, but a Pino Noir from the Cote d'Or region of Bourgogne, where geological factors are perfect for Pinot, is unparalleled. I thoroughly enjoyed sharing what I learned with customers. So much so, that I became "the girl" who was sent to explain our varietals to big buyers. 

We had a lot of tourists come into Viansa, so I had fun meeting big-wigs and families from all over the world. I loved using my French and the little Italian and Japanese I knew on my customers, and they seemed to appreciated my efforts and energy. At first I was surprised, then I became accustomed to receiving $20-$40 tips, which I would loyally put into our pooled tip jar throughout the day. 

The manager along with the owners of Viansa Winery were easy going and friendly people, and my fellow servers were a wonderful eclectic mix; we all worked well together. After some time I became the main opener which I didn't mind, even though it meant more cleaning, fewer customers and a lot of down-time. I like to stay busy, so after I completed my cleaning chores I would sit at the window with a wine glass of water and crochet. 

Crocheting for me is like sitting with an old, familiar, comforting. My mother taught me how when I was eleven, but it had been years since I picked up a hook and yarn. Then one cold and rainy day in November I was on my lunch break and decided to stop by Britex Fabrics, which was just around the corner from the wine bar. I ended up buying a 5.5mm hook by Clover for $12 and a skein of gorgeous steel-grey wool for $30! I wanted to rekindle an old friendship and price was no object. 

After making two scarves, one drape that I proudly gave to my mother for her birthday (it had a leather bound button at the neck), black and cream cotton fingerless gloves, leggings and two hats, people began commenting: "You're always knitting!" "Crocheting." I would correct them. "Are you pregnant?" "You must be nesting." I guess they had every right to think such things. Then one day I created...the little bag. 

I used the very last of the steel grey wool I first bought from Britex months earlier. It's triple crocheted, a mere 7x5 inches with a chunky black zipper, and I fell in love with it on the spot. I finished it up by threading black wool around the lip of the zipper and made a long chain, then tied it into a bow. I gasped...perfection.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Women Who Inspire Me...While I Knit

With all of the dissolving marriages out there in the world, I sometimes find more answers on what it means to be an exceptional wife and woman, not from family, but from characters in film. Of course I say this a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I'm not the only one who has learned valuable lessons through the passive act of watching movies. As a boy, my husband learned the art of being sexy (think young Mickey Rourke) and how to shave, from watching men on the big screen. Just as I learned it was ok to want more out of life than what I was taught, by watching Anne of Green Gables. Happily, I know women who are amazing wives, and women who are amazing mothers; some of them thrive at both (you know who you are), so I'll add their names to my three silver screen examples of women who inspire me.

First, there's Kathleen in The Dark Corner. This is a Girl Friday who knows the power of her legs, but uses her head to help solve the mystery behind her man's misery. Second, and quite possibly my favorite, is Nora Charles in The Thin Man series. She comes from money, but married "beneath her," to a man who solves crimes for a living. Nora may seem very casual about it all, but really she's the one who feeds her husband the right questions, that help him to succeed. Lastly, is Carol in The Phantom Lady. Carol or “Kansas,” as she is affectionately (or annoyingly) called by her boss, is perhaps the most daring of the three women, and since she takes more risks with her life than the others - in truth she's the real sleuth.

If you haven't seen these three women at work, do so ASAP, you will not be sorry. I have just finished watching The Dark Corner for the 10th time, while hand-sewing zippers into 4 crocheted bags I made. Hey, some people enjoy listening to music while they work; I like listening to movies. Tomorrow I'll listen to The Phantom Lady while I finish knitting my last scarf of the year. Over the years, I like to think that I am somehow putting the strong, adventurous spirit of a Girl Friday into each piece I create. This can be done with cooking - remember Like Water for Chocolate? So why not with woolen materials?

Kathleen always has the upper hand with her boss and love, Brad, but in the end she proves that she's playing for keeps. The Dark Corner, 1946.

Nora Charles, the ultimate Wife Friday has fun with her husband and doesn't sweat the small stuff. The Thin Man movies, 1934-1947

Carol, "Kansas" taps into her Doppelganger, without loosing herself, in order to help the man she loves. The Phantom Lady, 1944

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Beyond the Horizon

The Power of Encouragement

Last month I happened upon three beautiful hardbound volumes of plays by Eugene O'Neill in my husbands library. It was as if I'd stumbled upon a plate of red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting! I am completely taken in by O'Neill's descriptive playwriting style; and while his plays portray sad, stark realism, I feel so much hope and encouragement after reading them (and hungry for more). 

Last week, while I was working away on one of our units I was also reading Beyond the Horizon. On my lunch break and before I went to bed I read about the gradual decay of a successful family of farmers and how one impulsive decision ruined the entire clan. I almost stopped reading because the girl, Ruth (who is nothing like the Ruth in scripture), drove me CRAZY. At first she seemed like a good sort of girl, but she also had an "underlying, stubborn fixity of purpose," and ended up destroying the Mayo family in one fell swoop. 
As I read I realized, yet again, how important a woman's words and actions are to her partner. A good woman can help her husband out of a difficult situation by bringing hope and encouragement to their lives. While a self-centered woman has the ability to suck all hope out of her mate until he succumbs to depression and utter ruin. 

After I finished reading Beyond the Horizon I wept bitterly. While I painted walls I wept...a cord was struck in me. It was all so tragic. I found I couldn't stop weeping until I told the entire story to Tony. As we discussed why it made me so sad, we walked down dark and foggy avenues in my mind and then magically, I felt better. 

In the end, O'Neill's story filled me with a renewed desire to work harder and to be more encouraging to people, especially my husband, because I find my words have as much power as my actions. 

I am so grateful to have a partner who not only listens but helps me to discover myself on a daily basis. I never want to take that for granted. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

Wearing Sunglasses While Shopping

Photo courtesy of

 I don't think Barbara would have cared about what people thought.
     -Stanwyck and MacMurray in Double Indemnity, 1944

The other day my husband and I went to the only store in town within thirty miles; it's a monstrosity called Fred Meyer's, or, "Freddy's" by the locals. It's about the size of Costco and it sells everything like CC only not in bulk. In short, I dislike Fred Meyer's very much. For twenty years I've procured my staples from little mom & pop stores - like Encinal Market and our vegetables from Paul's produce stand, so the transition has been a little difficult.

Unfortunately, Freddy's is the closest grocery store to our little house by the sea, and there are no specialty markets in town. Still the pluses outweigh the minuses. We've replaced the hustle and bustle of city life for peace and quite, the air here is the cleanest I've ever breathed, and we're surrounded by nature. It's just what we need at this time in our lives.

Luckily, we have a tiny farmer's market at the Chetco Grange Hall, which has been hopping since 1934. It's open May thru December, so during the months the farmers are "resting" I sometimes make the 2-hour drive to Eureka and shop at the North Coast Co-Op...but I digress.

Simply put, whenever I go to Fred Meyer's I wear my shades. It's not because I think I'm too cool for school or I'm too lazy to take them off. It's the lights, they're incredibly bright, and I just think everything looks more attractive in the amber hue of my Ray Ban's. Plus, the majority of the people living in this town are 60+, which I love, but this demographic gives Freddy's the incentive to raise their in-store temperature to 70 degrees it seems. The very warmness of the place makes me feel it is rather appropriate to continue wearing my shades. I still grin and greet people as I shop, and I've even encountered a few older women wearing vintage sunglasses - little rhinestones dangling from the sides, which I always smile at admiringly.

So where's the harm in wearing my shades at Freddy's? According to my husband it's rude, and to talk to someone with sunglasses on your face is abominable. Of course I love the fact that this drives him crazy so I tend to "forget" to remove them whenever we're shopping together. He never tells me to take them off, in fact, I think he enjoys the thought that he has superior etiquette in this instance, which makes me adore him all the more.

Having worked for Macy's in San Francisco and The Limited in Oakland when I was younger, I never cared if people wore their sunglasses while shopping. In fact, I thought it was rather glamorous and mysterious whenever I spied a woman shopping with her shades on. Perhaps I was unique in this outlook.

For fun, I made an amateur study on the effect of wearing sunglasses vs. not while shopping. This is what I have come up with: If you wear your shades while shopping nobody seems to care, but you should take them off before you check out. I tested my theory a few times, once on the same woman. One time I wore my shades while she checked me out and another time I didn't. The time I wore my sunglasses she seemed as frigid as an iceberg, without, she was as friendly as a puppy. Which leads me to believe that perhaps my man is right. This wouldn't be a first...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Never Dreamt it Would Happen to Me....Never Dreamt...

"Dinner's Ready!" Sausage, Chard, and Lemon Lasagna from Martha's March 2011 Issue.  

I obtained a free year's subscription to Martha Stewart's Living magazine while shopping with my cousin at Crabtree & Evelyn, and I must say I'm sorry the year is almost up. I never thought I would like Martha's mag. My Mum used to give me her extra copies and I thought it was just O.K.  Now, I'm completely hooked! She has really good recipes that tear out nicely, her articles on gardening make me want to try my hand at vegetable gardening and she makes me want to keep creating. In fact I'm making an arsenal of bags that I hope to sell this summer, and I cook something new for dinner every night. 

We're having our neighbors over for dinner this week before I head back to the Bay Area to see OMD at the Fox Theatre. Very excited about both! So...what shall I make for my gluten free friend...and what in the world do I wear to the concert?! Should I be a mature woman dressed for today or brush off my 80s garb and go crazy!?

I'm also wondering if there are any other males out there who think Martha is "hot?" Because my husband does. He tells me he has friends who feel the same. So maybe I should pay for a subscription...