Good Fortune and A Lot of Racket!

There’s no getting around the fact that I am a very fortunate person. I’d like to try being very wealthy sometime, but that doesn’t seem to be on my horizon. Luckily I spend time every year with Catalina on my horizon, even when it isn’t sharply visible.

As you may know, decades ago a husband of mine introduced me to a former girlfriend of his, and the best friendship between Mary and myself was born. We still love regaling people with that story. And since she lives in San Pedro (aka The Port of Los Angeles), I have the benefit of a wonderful place to visit even when we STILL can’t go back to Italy.

The day after I arrived last month, we headed to the Torrance Farmers’ Market to buy our fill of fresh things to eat. It’s a pretty big market by my standards, so I took a photo of the place where walked in to make it easier to find the place to walk out. Let the buying begin!

Nothing like an area the size of a city block that smells like peaches. There’s also an area that smells like food from many countries cooking, and kettle corn, and the best tamales I have ever eaten. But first, berries.

Doesn’t that look like an embroidery?

Peaches, plums, an array of green things, and then tomatoes.

You can’t help yourself from thinking grateful thoughts toward all the people who work so hard to provide such abundance: the growers, the harvesters, the people who load up and drive all that magnificence to market. And gratitude that it’s all available, and that we can afford to buy what we want of it.

I think my head has become very tired of negativity.

To top this shopping spree off, there was a lovely young man from Abruzzi who sold us the most amazing ricotta I have ever tasted. It was gratifying to hear him pronounce the name just as my east coast Italian peeps do: ri-gawt, with that final “t” not quite pronounced but somehow heard.

Of course, all love goes to the flower growers, too.

After a couple of weeks of indolence, Mary and I forced ourselves to confront the sad, peeling exterior of her house. We did the grown-up thing of entertaining three bids, and then did the Lucy and Ethel thing of choosing the highest bidder because we liked him so much and he liked us.

If you’ve never had to have a house painted, you might want to know that the top number one ideal nirvana dream of having a house painted is hiring a crew that will do a decent prep job and not just spray a primer-paint combo on and call it a day. Well, no good dream goes unpunished, as they say.

Picture yourself, then, in a little 100-year-old bungalow (uninsulated, of course, because California) with a crew scraping and sanding every square inch of wood bare. It was like camping out in your dentist’s office from 8-4 every day for two solid weeks. There was dancing in the streets when the racket ended and every single board was caulked, every gap filled, every popped nail set and caulked, and work with the nice quiet rollers (!) commenced. We stayed home for most of the noisy part so sweet kitty Max wouldn’t be terrified that the world was coming to an end; now and then we’d make a break for it. I biked, Mary walked, and on a few days we treated ourselves to burritos from the taco truck.

We spent a lot of time going back and forth on Paseo del Mar, and if I thought I had a sidewalk garden! This one made me want to turn in my badge.

The lady whose yard it is was out working in it, so I had the chance to tell her what a beautiful garden she had created. People are always complimentary about my sidewalk garden, and it’s nice to be able to pass praise along. Not that we garden for accolades, but I like thinking that people derive pleasure from the colors, bees, butterflies, and all a garden entails besides a sore back.

This year more peacocks and their girlfriends were hanging out on Paseo than I’ve ever seen down there. So fancy!

Meanwhile, back at no-insulation house, even closed windows were letting in prodigious quantities of paint dust. I sort of hoped I’d be around long enough to help Mary with the interior clean-up, but alas…

On this trip, as has become our habit since Rona took over, we mostly ate at home on the back porch. Food was very comforting, especially when that handmade ricotta was involved. If this doesn’t look like summer, I don’t know what does.

More than once we enjoyed the tempeh fajitas from A Beautiful Mess ( If you’ve ever been curious about tempeh, this would be a great introduction. Here it has a very pleasant nutty flavor in that spicy chipotle sauce. Mary prepped it the day before for maximum marination magic, and it was all kinds of wow.

Not to be left out of the home rehab action, Mary and I took on the decrepit front screen door and its hardware. It must have taken eight coats of gel paint stripper to get through the decades of paint so I could even unscrew the hinges to take the door down. We spent hours at the back porch table stripping and scraping the hardware. I would have painted the hinges black, but Mary preferred them bare, with only a clear coat.

We also stripped, scraped, and sanded the door, inspired by the music the painting crew favored even if it did make us crave even more burritos. At one point I texted Floyd a question about my screwdriver bits, and he expressed envy toward my adorable little Makita set. I asked him whether he envied my palm sander:

Not so much, he replied.

At long last we were able to put on the new screening and molding, and the paint boss painted the door. Mary and I somehow managed to re-hang it, and we were inordinately proud of our work.

We think the house and its little garage came out looking beautiful.

I had to leave before everything was quite finished, but I’m glad to have at least some idea of what it must look like now. Guess I’ll have to hurry back.

One of the most gratifying parts of the door project was that Max, who must remain indoors for his own health and safety, now has a secure front door from which he can watch the world go by. It’s too bad Mary’s up-to-the-minute air conditioner occupies so much of this photo, but you get the idea.

Oh, Max!

I’ll own up to the fact that I was glad to return to my spouse & my house & all the mod cons. I’ll really be glad if my weather app lives up to its promise of cooler days and nights in the 50s later this week (eeeeeee! Open windows!). There’s a considerable amount of work to be done in my own yard, but who cares? The worst of summer is over and I was lucky enough to be by the ocean for five whole weeks of it.

Every gardener reading this will know what I mean when I say I’m already thinking about what I’ll put in next spring. As you know I cannot grow food, and don’t love things like kale and chard enough to do a winter garden. So I’m thinking about zinnias and dahlias and varieties of basil (one edible I can grow). I’m pretty sure these daydreams are merely a defense against thinking about the monumental tasks of late autumn, when my life is made of fallen leaves and cutting everything back as the cold moves in.

Maybe I’ll plant bulbs.

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