Yesterday, a realtor called asking if she could show our house. Normally, that would be fine, but yesterday was my morning to take everything apart and clean behind, under and inside of them rather than the periphery. Consequently, our living room, bedrooms, halls and bathrooms looked as if were hosting an indoor garage sale.
To add to the fun, our pool seems to have developed a chemical imbalance (I believe I’m not far behind) and despite adding gallons of chlorine, has turned a lovely shade of baby poop green. Standing over it I suggested throwing a few lily pads on top, say it’s a frog pond, and tell them we’re harvesting tadpoles to supplement our income. My other half did not see the humor in this remark.
No sooner did I suggest with these latest developments we’d probably filled our quota in Murphy’s books for the week, a large red pickup pulled up out front. Turning off the engine, a burly gentlemen of some stature stepped out. I immediately noticed the insignia on his polo shirt which read Environmental Health Department. In an effort to still the mosquito situation in the area, we were told, a helicopter flies surveillance over the foothills checking for green water. Today, the first day of our green infusion, was that day. Sometimes lately I feel if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any luck at all. Explaining to him that we’d loaded the pool with chemicals several times in the past week, and this was a new situation, he opted to test the water before writing a citation. Finding nothing, thankfully, he offered a few suggestions on correcting the problem and went on his way. I’m not complaining. I’m glad they’re on their toes. Timing, possibly, wasn’t the best for showing a house. The only thing that would have made it more special would have been if the pest control people with the rat on their roof could have pulled in next to him accompanied by the roofers and an A/C repair truck.
A pool specialist came out earlier in the week and also tested the water. According to him a pool can become “sick” if the water isn’t changed regularly. Diligent about maintaining the water chemically, we had not known it was necessary to completely change out the water periodically, and our pool, according to the the “pool doctor” was on his critical list. Although chemicals will keep the bugs in abeyance, it will not “cure” the pool. The pool needs to be drained, scrubbed and treated, and refilled with fresh water. Bollocks, say the British.
Draining the pool is another issue. You cannot just release thousands of gallons of water down a hillside and go out for a nice lunch and enjoy a leisurely margarita. Neighbors, particularly those directly below you, might take umbrage with this, as their family room slowly floats on down towards the lake.
In order to drain a pool, because of the chemicals, you need to get some sort of permit to drain it in a particular drain. Apparently this comes under the jurisdiction of the city water department, and undoubtedly they’re not throwing in the use of said drain in without monies being exchanged. Money Pit, part deux.
In the middle of all this, Mouse the cat, annoying on her best days, went out and had herself a good roll in the dirt. Our soil has a high concentration of clay. When she came in to show off her handiwork her white spots were the color of adobe brick. It was also coating her paws. Prancing across the white carpet she left a trail even Inspector Clouseau could follow.
Thankfully, we’re heading down to visit my mother in the Bay Area for a few days. I need a break. Brain overload, if you will. Cannery Row in Monterey is calling my name and my need to see the ocean grows with each day. For those of you who have visited the Monterey Peninsula, you might well understand how Steinbeck was compelled to put pen to paper in such a place. Above the canneries, clouds of gulls clamor searching for a meal. Artists, writers and free spirits are prolific in the area, making it a haven for the creative being. My camera will be snapping often as photo opportunities are endless. I could live there I believe, though summer is more like a perpetual spring with the coastal fog lingering which might make me meloncholy. All this, is part of the natural charm in a city well blessed with it with it’s banks of trees hovering at the lip of the sand and the seals bark on the rocks just beyond the breakers.
When I married my children’s father we took our honeymoon in Carmel, Monterey’s somewhat tonier neighbor. The hotel, at the time called Del Monte Lodge, today the Lodge at Pebble Beach, was fabulous. Known both then and now for it’s celebrity golf tournaments, beautiful coastal views and luxurious rooms. I found the original check we wrote for our two night stay, $158.00. These days, that probably wouldn’t cover your dinner tab. Funny how you remember small details of a full life, we had rack of lamb with the most delicate and delicious mint sauce and potatoes cooked by the roast with baby carrots in the dining room on our first night. I wasn’t old enough to drink so we toasted with a Shirley Temple for me and a soda for my new husband. Time does tend to pass by quickly. As I look back, it seems as if I can still see the otters. In pairs they were for the most part, floating on their backs entertaining the tourists madly clicking pictures. Almost human, in the way they manipulated their flippers or paws to crack open the abalone shells and suck out the sweet meat inside.
Murphy is getting locked in the closet while we’re gone and I’m going to do the three R’s, read, relax, and recline. I need refreshing like the computer, I feel, finding myself being uncharacteristically grumpy and running amok.
This salad is among my other half’s favorites. The roasted cumin seeds are the best. Don’t overdo as they have a distinct and pungent flavor and will remind you have done.
Greek Salad with Toasted Cumin Seeds and Artisan Croutons
1 Tbsp. cumin seeds
10 cocktail tomatoes (Cribari or med. sized tomatoes), quartered
1 avocado, diced
1 English cucumber, chopped
1 red onion, thinly sliced and quartered
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 cup Kalamata olives, sliced
1/2 cup cubed Greek Feta
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup red wine vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Whisk together all ingredients and chill until ready to use.
Chop all vegetables into large bowl (add avocado last or sprinkle with lemon juice). Add cubed cheese. Add freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste (watch the salt as Feta will bring a salty taste to the salad). Seal and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Roasted Cumin Seeds
Place seeds in small skillet. Brown over med. heat stirring constantly until slightly darker color and fragrant. Remove from heat. Cover and reserve.
1 1/2 cups cubed slightly stale Artisan bread (Pugilese, olive, garlic especially good)
1-2 Tbsp. Olive oil, plus added if necessary
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. Garlic salt blend with parsley (Lawry’s is excellent)
Salt and pepper to taste
Place bread cubes, cheese, garlic salt, and olive oil (start with 1 Tbsp.) in large bowl with lid. Put lid on and shake vigorously until evenly distributed.
As a side note: This feta is absolutely addicting if you can find it in your area. Perfectly blended and not too salty.
Cover cookie sheet with tin foil. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place coated bread cubes in single layer on cookie sheet and sprinkle with an additional oil if needed.
Bake until cubes are a nice golden brown on all sides, turning often (15-20 mins.)
Toss as many croutons as desired with salad just before adding dressing (remainder can be stored in resealable plastic bag in refrigerator). Sprinkle lightly with roasted cumin seeds (store remainder in resealable plastic bag). Toss with dressing.