Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Catching Up: Livermore Visit

There's been a bit of craziness going on these last couple of weeks but I think we're getting things back under control. Here's what we've been up to...

A couple of weekends ago, we took advantage of an opportunity to sneak away for a long weekend. We'd been trying to get up to Livermore for a visit and thought it would be a good time to catch their Thursday Farmers' Market before it closed for the season, and to do some wine-tasting and restock our cellars. We also planned to celebrate his birthday a few days early.

Anyway, we'd taken my car in to the shop for a little tune-up the day before our trip. Jon was hesitant to sign off on any non-urgent or unnecessary work in case it upset the delicate balance of my aging car and caused something else to malfunction while we were away from home. We decided to do the few routine things the mechanic recommended and when I picked her up, she drove just like the day I bought her eleven years ago.

We loaded everything and everyone (baby AND kitties) into the car and hit the road later than we intended. We made a quick stop mid-Grapevine to clean up the kitty carrier, (Marceline suffers notoriously from car sickness). And then shortly thereafter, we made another quick stop at Laval Road for a diaper check and a coffee run. We then vowed no more stops until Livermore. Or lunch. Whichever came first.

Traffic was nice and light which makes driving more pleasant than the usual bottleneck of bad drivers and brake lights, but unfortunately also means that the California Highway Patrol is looking for things to do. So, while my coffee was still hot, I got to stop again for a quick roadside chat with one such officer. The rest of the drive was extra tedious at our extra-conservative, please-don't-pull-me-over-again pace. If you've never driven down the middle of the state, from Northern to Southern California or vice versa, it is an extremely boring stretch of highway (see below), especially with the current lack of green agriculture to break up the landscape. I rather like it, but it's at it's best when I can drive quickly and purposefully (but not unsafely) through it...
I-5, as captured by greg z.
We had to stop again for lunch and then again to refuel just 20 or so miles outside of town, right in the middle of a lightning storm! Whatever the mechanic did to my car clearly affected my gas mileage, as I used to be able to get from door-to-door on one tank of gas. At some point in the drive, a semi truck launched a stray rock in my direction but we didn't think much about it at the time.

Anyway, the lightning storm chased us into town and then blew over just in time for us to hit up the Farmers' Market. My mom sent me along with a list and we loaded our bags with everything on it until we were laden with beautiful produce. The rain (and cold!) kept lots of people away so the farmers were extra happy to load us up. I'm mad that I forgot to take photos of all the gorgeous veggies, including the purple carrots and cauliflower I went home with. I realized that I love the purple variety of any veggie. If I'd seen the purple potatoes before I bought boring white and red ones, I would have snagged them too. I also gave in and bought a box of figs. They've been teasing me all season with their beautiful, juicy plumpness and I couldn't stand it anymore; I was going to learn to cook with and appreciate figs, no matter what.

We ogled the booth with incredibly delicious-looking desserts and treats fighting for space on every surface. We sampled tasty masalas and asian pears. We did laps around the market and debated whether we wanted sausages or crepes for dinner, until we stopped at the East & West Gourmet Food booth. The Concord-based company sells Afghan food and I couldn't help but think of Khaled Hosseini's Afghani immigrant characters in The Kite Runner living in the East/South Bay. The nice young guy behind the table was an artist, painting his flavors on little pieces of bolani and we were happy to eat up whatever he offered. We took home some spinach bolani and hummus, cilantro pesto, and sweet jalapeno jelly and painted our own bolanis for dinner.

On Saturday, we got in my car to go wine tasting and noticed a big crack in the windshield. We surmised that the errant rock hit us harder than we thought, and just right, and then the cold overnight temps finished the job. Awesome. We pressed on though and headed off to visit some of our favorite vintners so we could restock the Senge cellars.

I forgot to pack the Ergo carrier, so I chased Alice all around Les ChĂȘnes, Charles R., Cedar Mountain, and Eckert while Jon headed up the sampling along with my sister and her gentleman-friend. Luckily for me, Jon shared some sips so I could help with the buying decisions. We came away with a good haul that should get us through the winter, including some of Les ChĂȘnes' delicious mustard. Yum!

luscious grapes.

We also got to visit with some of our very favorite people in the world and continue trying to ignite the spark between Alice and their adorable little guy. Alice should get in on the ground floor, if you know what I'm saying - that kid is too cute!! They bonded over a Halloween greeting card that played "Ghostbusters." I'm calling it as their first dance with Eli grooving exclusively with his upper body and Alice doing a little sit-down shimmy.

silly kids, with their Halloween cards... Alice was in her jammies, how embarrassing for her (and semi-scandalous!)
Our friends took us on a tour of their future house on a former dairy farm, showing us the in-progress renovation of their home and a few of the other farm buildings and houses in various states of completed renovation. It was such a cool and unusual little place, I was enchanted by the rustic, peaceful setting and the novelty of living on a farm - even if it is non-operational. Everyone kept calling the old buildings the "scary dairy" since it looks a bit abandoned and neglected, but I didn't get any scary vibes at all. On the contrary, the whole place seemed imbued with cows' calm and relaxed pace of life. Except for the one chilling moment when we pried open a heavy door to a refrigerated vault-type room and found a child's doll just sitting at the forefront of the debris... Hopefully, that's just someone's idea of a scary joke!

(left) a little reminder of the property's past. (right) this is not their house but another of the buildings nearby.
(left) charming and rustic view. (right) the old drive-up dairy window.
scary dairy? one terrifying doll in a vault. yikes.
On Sunday, after we'd wrapped up all our produce shopping and eating, wine tasting/buying, and visiting, we loaded everything and everyone (including kitties) BACK into the car. We packed and tucked and buckled, waved to my parents on the sidewalk, turned the key...and nothing. My car made some pathetic grinding/clicking noise and didn't start. I tried again. Just clicking. No starting. 

Jon and my dad looked under the hood, Jon was certain it was the starter motor. Despite our reservations about having work done on the car, this was totally unrelated, totally unpredictable, definitely the starter motor. No way to repair it on a Sunday afternoon. Jon asked if I needed to be back in the office on Monday. Uh, kinda, yeah. 

I stood around, annoyed and bewildered, weighing our options. We finally decided to take my parents up on their offer to loan us a car. They were even kind enough to offer to drive my car back to me and trade it for theirs. So we repacked all our stuff, our kitties and our kid into my dad's Honda Accord. Miraculously, it all fit. We left a few things in my car that we wouldn't need right away, like our umbrella stroller. And then, an hour later than we planned, we were on our way back home. But the story doesn't end there.

My dad kindly offered to arrange for my car to be repaired and have the cracked windshield replaced. He called to report that the problem WASN'T the starter motor but the battery. How lame. But worse was the news that the six-year old tires were worn and cracking and unsafe to drive, especially on a long drive back down the state. He urged me to replace the tires but we were really reluctant to put more money into the car since we've been getting ready to sell it. He said he wouldn't drive it back without new tires. I said, fine, let's keep it there and sell it now. He offered to do the hard work and I accepted gladly, knowing his excellent track record selling our family's cars over the years. I realized that after talking about it all year, we might actually be buying a new car soon. But when I realized that I might never see my trusty old 4Runner again, I started crying. Like, weeping. At the office. It was ridiculous.

So it was kind of a cursed weekend for driving, but it certainly could have been worse. We spent all last week making decisions and arrangements and trying to get all of our ducks in a row. And then what happened? I'll have more on that soon. Tomorrow? Soon.


  1. Whirlwind is right. My parent's sold our previous 4Runner up north this last June when we came across a van (via Craigslist) that was too good to pass up. We had been looking for a van, and everything ended up working out perfectly. No tears on our end, although we didn't have a connection with our 4Runner :)

    I love going to Livermore, you guys do all the same things we love to do too. Downtown is so wonderful now, we spend a lot of time down there as well.

    And I have to ask, what kind of camera do you shoot with? Do you use any editing software? I am very much a beginner when it comes to photography, but I've been looking into taking a workshop or two to learn how to use my DSLR. You guys seem to know what you're doing behind the camera.

    AND...Alice looks like such a big girl!

  2. Leah, Alice is such a little kid, I can hardly believe it!!

    I wish Downtown had been that nice when we were growing up! We also hit up the Ale House (of course) and my mom took me into the quilt/fabric shop while we were waiting. I almost cried, it was so glorious!!

    Anyway. I learned the basics of photography in high school (with Mr. Peterson? I don't have a yearbook handy...), and I have a film degree so I have a good foundation to work with. But I think it's really easy for anyone to learn the basics, especially with a DSLR since you can see and correct your mistakes without having to develop a roll of film! There are so many great resources online, and tons of great (and free!) tutorials.

    I got a used Canon Rebel XS with a kit lens about 5 or 6 years ago. We bought a really great, really versatile zoom lens that I started using all the time. Right after Alice was born, that camera bit the dust. I found a really good deal on the Rebel XSi, for only a bit more than it would have cost to repair the old camera, so I've been using that since last summer. And then Jon bought me this lens (link below) for Christmas, which is an AMAZING value. I especially love it because we have so little natural light in our house, I wouldn't be able to take photos indoors without it!

    I don't edit any of the photos I post, because I'm still learning photoshop and it's hard enough for me to get the photos up as it is! I try to take photos that don't need editing, but I know even the best photos benefit from a little sweetening. That's next on my list to conquer!

    Good luck playing with your camera!


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