Friday, September 19, 2014

Harvest 2014: The Good, the Bad, and the Muy Feo.

"How's harvest going?," everyone asks.

"Good," I answer lamely.

I don't know what else to say. On one hand harvest time in the wine country is more blissful than a goddamn Maxfield Parrish painting. On the other hand I smell as bad as I look and I miss my family.

I recently caught a glimpse of myself in the rear view mirror while either driving to or from work. I can't remember which because the sun is on the horizon both ways these days (cue violins). Regardless, it was a rough sight that needed help. That night I scheduled a haircut, did laundry, and put myself to bed early, but not before capturing a snapshot of my harvest induced splendor.

For reference, here's me a month ago:

And here's me today:

There are a number of things to note:

#1 - The hair. I've tried going ungroomed before with dreams of looking like Eddie Vedder in MTV's Unplugged, but I always just end up looking like a tall, oily Frodo Baggins

#2 - The eyes. Yikes. Is it the sleeplessness or the wine? It's both. I'm used to going days on little sleep, just not this many days. As for the wine consumption, it's not what you think. We do a lot of taste-as-you-go winemaking, and even when you spit (which believe it or not, we all do) you end up swallowing a half teaspoon or so every time and it adds up over the course of 12 hours. It's not enough at once to get you drunk, just enough to make you look like you woke up on the bathroom floor.

Also there's something weird about drinking fermenting wine, I think. The yeast are macro-biotic and the alcohol is anti-biotic and the war that rages within leaves its mark.

#3 - The scruff. I kinda dig it. Hey stranger.

#4 - The complexion. Nothing like acne to make you feel young again. The cause of this is the stress. I've done harvests before but they've never been stressful like this one because this is the first time I'm in charge of a crew of seven cellar workers all recently from Mexico.

(needle scratch?)

Hang on! I'm not being racist, hear me out. People recently from Mexico tend to speak Spanish. I think that's a fair generalization. If you take TWO people recently from Mexico, and find them in the throes of a heated and bitter argument because they're tired and frustrated after 3 weeks without a day off, they will only speak Spanish (rapidly and at a high volume) and it's my job now to manage their conflict.

My Spanish is coming along, but it is no where near the level of expressing nuanced concepts such as "active listening" and "cooperative peace building". When on the spot, the best I can muddle together are things like, "I understand, but your work is very good and all the people are sleepy". Not exactly inspiring. Being desperate to communicate and useless at it at the same time is impossibly frustrating ("Yeah? No shit." - Liam)

So to answer your question, yes...harvest is good, but don't come calling until I've had twelve hours sleep and as many beers.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Amanda Tries Crafts. Tears Ensue.

Last week was kind of a stressful one and I found myself needing to decompress just a wee bit. I decided that the best way to do this was to give myself a break from studying while at work, and to do some fun crafting instead!

I'd been wanting to make a fancier receptacle in which to collect the money we save throughout the year for our travels. I had a pickle jar, some old maps, and several one-dollar bills so I figured hot damn, I had myself a project!

That was a mistake.

Photo courtesy of someone who knew what they were doing
Now, a quick internet search would have directed me to actual directions on how to carry out my plan. Much like the search I literally did one second ago for the sake of proving my point, which got me to this website, where I found a picture of basically what I would have liked my jar to look like (shown left).

But I didn't do that search. Oh no, I didn't.

Instead I decided to just wing it because hey, how hard could it be to put a piece of paper on a jar and then just glop on some modpodge?! HOW HARD COULD IT BE???

Turns out it's kind of hard. Hm! Who knew?! Apparently lots and lots of people all over the world, if Pinterest is any indicator (yep, just did another quick internet search. Lots of instructions, everywhere) know how 'decoupage' works. Showoffs. No one can say I didn't try, at least...

Kinda lumpy

As you can see, I had some problems right from the start. Gaps and rolling valleys of map paper, all over the damn place! I decided that rather than panic, I should focus on one area at a time.

Kinda stupid and crappy

I tried to fix the above weird overlapping thing that I hadn't planned for at all in the only way I could think of that made any sense:

I added a weird skirt thing on top to 'hide' my mess
That didn't work.

I realized that I was about to cry and, possibly, throw the whole thing into the recycling bin, and so needed some positive reinforcement. I texted the only friend who I knew would humor me - my oldest bestie Jessica. I tried using sarcasm so it would be clear what I was looking for.

She didn't answer right away, so I got more specific about what my needs were. Aaaaaaand, when she still didn't answer me, I knew that could only mean one thing: my project was a complete disaster (which I already knew goddammit!) and she was staring at her phone somewhere, doubled over in laughter and just waiting for me to send her another example of my incompetence. 

I suppose I could have sent her this one...

Finally I heard back, and to my relief she'd gotten my message loud and clear and was generous with her fake compliments and support.

Unfortunately I'd already laughed and cried so much by that point I was ready to give up and just settle for a completely ridiculous preschool-looking vacation-saving jar. 

Mission Accomplished

The end. Finally.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Women in My Life

It's harvest in the wine country. It's been years since that meant something to me. Working the last four years in bottling quality control for an enormous factory of a winery meant that I missed out on the party that is harvest. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing since I got to be home with the boys while they were babies. The timing of it all was pretty perfect.

The only reason I'm able to even have this job now, the job I've been working toward my whole career, is because of the women in my life. Without them I simply could not afford the time harvest demands.

This weekend was my weekend with the boys and I had to work long hours all weekend so Jodee stepped up and offered to take care of them. First she painted a door in chalkboard paint and taught Liam how to write a lowercase "a".

Then she crafted a menu (gourmet baloney exists?) and planned out an entire weekend of activities including a trip to the Children's Museum of Sonoma County. She only took Liam (because Finn is horrible) but she hired the adorable 14-year-old neighbor girl to watch Finn so he was just fiiiiine staying home.

Jodee was kind enough to send me pictures, so it was like I was there being a good father.

Clearly she's better at this than I am. I expected to come home to a harried girlfriend and two traumatized boys riddled with separation anxiety, but all that met me at the door were contented smiles. The boys may have even seemed a little too content. There was an air of "Oh! You're back?"

She is truly amazing.

The other woman in my life that makes this all possible is, of course, Erin. Today is actually our first "official" day as a divorced couple since it's exactly six months to the day since we filed. Erin jokingly asked what I was going to do to celebrate:

So there's that. I think I may have to celebrate after all. I am truly the luckiest guy on earth.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Dear Camping: I Miss You

Oh, woe is me. It's only a few weeks in to the school year, and already we're dreaming about next summer's camping trip.

Jonah's birthday always falls exactly within a 3-day window of school starting, so we try to celebrate it beforehand. This year, he wanted to go camping (yay!). We'd done this two years ago, also for his birthday, and I was pleased that his memories of that time were good enough to warrant a request for a repeat. *high five, me!*

Jonah also requested that his friend Zeke come along, which meant that I had to drag Zeke's parents out into the woods, too, because HELLO?! Chillin' with our homies in nature, amiright?! We had a super kick-ass time.

The first thing we did, of course, was give the boys some hatchets.

And then we put them to work. 

Once they'd chopped enough wood, we told them to set up their tent. When they said "we don't know how!" we said "meh, you'll figure it out." 

Once they had, in fact, figured it out, we let them go off for some good old-fashioned woodsy exploring! They interpreted this to mean it was now time to go and loot abandoned campsites for goods. It was awesome!! They scored us a rustic cutting board (aka a piece of wood), some rope, a plastic mug and a couple of bottles of water, which was especially rad considering Paul and I had forgotten to bring, erm, water.

Everybody knows that the best part about camping is trying to prove that you know how to cook at all, let alone over an open fire. Unfortunately, kids don't pay too much attention to stuff like this, so you have to be extra impressive for the other adults around. 

Our friends suggested we just roast up some weenies, but Jonah is not a fan of hot dogs. We suggested frying up some grilled cheese sandwiches, but Zeke is not a fan of grilled cheese. Psh, too bad, kid!!

3 cheeses, tomatoes, avocado, and broccoli

While our amaaaaazing sandwiches cooked on the griddle, the boys ate their hobo dinners - Jonah settled on a "grilled pita and cheese" and Zeke ate...a can of beans. Yes, a can of beans. Love that kid!

Those kids totally missed some amazing amazingness. Check out this business:


Later that night, we told some campfire stories which, despite the fact that I worked at a youth camp for years, I am usually pretty lame at due to my short-term memory. Luckily I was able to remember one that, if I may say so myself, SCARED THE SHIT OUT OF EVERYONE!! Woo hooooooo! In fact, it was so good that the boys asked me to tell it to their friends then next morning. Let's face it - this is a true sign of both storytelling and parental success. 

See that kid on the left? He's totally scared. 

Then we had to eat again.

Jonah had listed 'Pancakes for Breakfast' on his birthday wish list, and since this was his birthday camping trip, Zeke's parents were happy to comply. *side note - I don't think they actually knew about that request. But they brought pancake mix so I called it a wish fulfilled, and there you go*

Check out this sweet-ass camping stove! Zeke's folks rock.

Because Paulie is such a show-off, he whipped up a lil' fruit compote to go with the pancakes. Translation: Paulie had prepared all of this fruit for a dessert a couple of nights prior, but then forgot to make it. So we had a bunch of cut-up fruit to get rid of, fast!

Sunset Magazine has nothin' on us

Sadly, we eventually had to pack it up and leave our perfect campsite. Happily, this meant it was time to spend the next several hours playing in the river. 

Floating with my homegirl Suzanne

Next summer can't get here fast enough. Come onnnnnnnnn, summer vacation, we're ready and waiting!