the grass IS greener

umbrella burgers
the gentle side of el niño–having to grill under a beach umbrella

We’ve lived in California almost two years now, but we haven’t been here long enough to separate legit weather concerns from TV weatherman hype. In Houston, every storm system in the Gulf presented the opportunity for SEVERE WEATHER graphics and ominous music, even if said storm posed no threat to the area. So I wasn’t sure what to think about reports of a pending “super el niño.” The local newscast is refreshingly down-home and lacking in hyperbole, but still.

Well, el niño is here, and it’s on track to be one of the strongest on record (records only going back about 50 years). There have already been massive mudslides in southern California and a huge rockslide closed the entrance to Yosemite a few days ago. A boulder fell on a car in Big Sur last week, and there was even an earthquake four miles north of Big Sur early this morning. (Okay, not sure that’s related to el niño, but it’s the first time there’s been a quake close enough for us to feel it–though we didn’t since we were sleeping.)

asdf
before the recent rains, this yard was half dirt, half thinning grass–now it’s grass and clover, with a little trail Dali made to the corner of the yard so she can bark at people walking down the street

The main impact on us so far is rain cramping our outdoors style and greening our yard. For the latter, I’m very grateful. So are the dogs. The former issue kind of blows, but we did enjoy some brilliantly clear days in Big Sur before the rain arrived.

it's rare to see
we’re talking REALLY CLEAR days
traffic
bringing shitloads of traffic

It hasn’t been foggy here in what seems like months. We vacillate between clear blue and soggy gray. I really miss the fog. It’s mystical. One cool thing: the waves accompanying the storms have been big and loud, easy to hear from our front porch at night. Maybe I need to shift my mindset from taking beautiful pictures on hikes to taking interesting pictures of weather and waves since that’s what we have more of right now.

Oh, and I saw a whale today. First sighting of 2016. Dig it.

 

the view from here

 

christmas tree reflectionMorning breaks on Christmas Eve. December 24. Just like last year.

James and the dogs are still sleeping. The only sounds are the clicking of my keyboard, our whirring refrigerator and seabirds passing overhead. I might also be slurping my coffee a little since no one’s within earshot.

Our weather, cold and rainy, reminds me of winters past in Houston (though today, Houston is expected to reach 80 degrees). El Niño has arrived in central California, and the rain comes often. The brown, crunchy land has turned green again, a contented sigh of oxygen coming from the earth. It’s soothing to look at the thick grass and clover covering our yard, and the dogs are enjoying a soft carpet underfoot on which to make their morning deposits.

At night, the ocean is loud. We can hear the waves pounding rocks at the shore. The sound makes me want to run down the hill to the coast, camera in hand, but I never do. Too cold. Too dark. Too drunk.

James and I are off for 11 days, today through January 3. A vacation in the place where we’d travel on vacation if we still lived in Houston. Assuming the rain stays away, we’ll do some hiking in Big Sur. Maybe drive up to San Francisco. Work in the yard, removing the beautiful clover that threatens to overtake our drought-tolerant plants. Read books. Watch TV. Try new restaurants. Go for drives. Take naps. A bit of soul rejuvenation at the end of the year.

Tomorrow is Christmas, our first without family. We knew the dark side of the bargain when we made this move. It sometimes means not being there when you want to be. It often means not being there when you want to be. But our people are a phone call away, and the gifts we’ve exchanged are a tangible connection. And I’m coming home for a visit in less than three months. Time moves so fast now, three months will feel more like three weeks.

The dude abides, and so do I.

However and whatever you’re celebrating as we close out 2015, cheers friend.

 

going home

Most things about this move have been wonderful. The one major black fly in my chardonnay is being so far away from my peeps. So a week ago, I went home to visit my family. James stayed here and held down the fort (that being the dogs, since we’re incapable of putting them in a GD kennel for a few days). I didn’t make it to Houston on this trip, but I still managed to eat queso four times (not kidding).

I flew from San Francisco to Austin. If we’d managed to work in a layover in Portland, it would have been the most hipster flight ever. My plane was diverted to San Antonio because the Austin airport was closed due to bad weather, and we didn’t have enough gas to circle waiting for it to reopen. Didn’t get upset because a) what can you do and b) my parents, brother and Tex-Mex were waiting for me once I actually made it to Austin, only 1.5 hours late.

We spent our visit talking, laughing, eating, drinking and chilling on the back porch watching it rain. It was perfect.

asdf
An adorable two year old was seated two rows in front of me. He was incredibly well-behaved, entertaining those of us in the back of the bus the whole flight. He didn’t fuss when we unexpectedly landed in San Antonio or when we took off (again) for Austin. As we began our descent into Austin, for real this time, he Exorcist-puked–all over himself, his father, his father’s backpack, the aisle–and started wailing. Since we were back in the baby section (yay), the parents of the 15 other crying babies started passing the father wet wipes and towels. Interesting fact for us non-parents: the smell of baby puke is fairly indistinguishable from the smell of a fat hairy biker’s puke on 10-cent wing night. Once we landed, a flight attendant came out in a face shield and hazmat suit to clean things up. It was all very dramatic, but since I was traveling alone there was no one to receive my eye rolls. Unacknowledged eye rolls are the saddest eye rolls.
We took evening rides on my parents' mule (not to be confused with the animals two shots above) and were treated to deer, rabbits, raccoons, raptors and lightning bugs.
Each evening, we took a Mule ride (the four-wheeler, not the four-legged conveyance) on the back roads and were treated to deer, rabbits, raccoons, raptors and lightning bugs. Lightning bugs! I hadn’t seen those since I was a kid and thought they had gone the way of the dodo.
asdf
It took me maybe 100 shots, but I managed to capture an image of one in my parents’ back 40. See center of picture.
;lkajdsf
The front of my parents’ house at night. It’s not blurry in reality. Ends up, I don’t make a very good tripod.
Mom downstairs at the job site. Dad and Tohner (Artisan Builders) are building a 10,000 square foot house.
We checked out a couple of Dad and Tohner’s (Artisan Builders) projects. This house is the biggest mofo house I’ve ever seen. Literally 12 of the house I live in could fit inside.
;lkjasdf
A close-up of one of Tohner’s art pieces. Who knew Martinelli’s apple juice bottles would make for such cool light fixtures? This piece has four. At night, the ridges on the bottom of the bottles make cool designs on the wall.
While Rowan just wanted to drive.
Rowan, ready to drive. We talked about Star Wars. He asked how old I was when the first movie came out (a year older than he is now). He hasn’t seen the first one yet–when he does, I want to know how the scene in the bar holds up for today’s six or seven year old. It was always my favorite part.
But it was still a good idea to check for cars in the rearview mirror. Molly was mostly checking out how awesome she looks in sunglasses.
Molly was supposed to use the mirror to check for cars, but she mostly used it to check out how awesome she looks in sunglasses.
Folks in Brenham are astir about the Blue Bell ice cream shut down.
To say Blue Bell Creameries is a major employer in Brenham would be an understatement. These signs are in practically every fourth or fifth yard.
asdf
I turn to her and say: Texas. She says: What?
;lkjasd
I said: Texas. She says: What.
They've got big long roads out there.
They’ve got big long roads out there.
And donkeys.
And donkeys. Or maybe burros.
And wee rabbits.
And wee rabbits.
Last meal in Texas. Surprisingly decent queso at Bergstrom Airport's fancy Earl Campbell's Sports Bar.
Oh, and queso. Liquid gold. Texas cheese. This fine specimen came from Earl Campbell’s Sports Bar in the Austin airport. The chips were straight out of a Tostitos bag, but the queso was surprisingly good. Or maybe it’s just that there’s no more legit queso until the next trip home. Some day I shall crack the code of restaurant queso (the special ingredient is plastic!), and the West Coast will be mine.