Monthly Archives: December 2017

The Genuine Article

Donna and I usually don’t make a big deal about or keep secrets regarding Christmas presents. This year we both splurged a bit though – but it wasn’t secret. I had  pair of western equestrian style boots from Lucchese made to order for Donna. To do this, I had to trace her feet and take measurements – more about that later. Donna bought a new Euro-recliner chair and ottoman for me. Both of these items are leather, so I want to start this post with some information about leather.

I’m going to talk about cowhide or calfskin leather. The tanned hide of a cow is thick – in some areas it can be half an inch or more. The thick hide isn’t homogeneous – the properties vary. The area on the outside where the hair was removed is smooth and has the tightest grain structure and the greatest strength. The part that is closest to the muscle tissue is rough  and has a more horizontal grain structure that is the weaker. Tanneries split the thick hide – they run it through a machine that cuts the outer, stronger layer from the inner, weaker layer.

When asked what type of leather is most desirable – full grain, top grain or genuine leather – many people pick genuine leather. That’s a marketing ploy – genuine leather sounds like it’s the genuine article. But when we’re discussing the types of leather, full grain is the most desirable for most items like furniture, foot wear or upholstery. Full grain is the outermost layer of the hide and is the strongest, most durable and takes dye well. The downside for some people is the fact that cow hide comes from an animal that may have had scars from rubbing against various objects or branding and of course it’s costly.

Top grain is similar to full grain, except it has been sanded to remove any imperfections, removing a millimeter or two of the strongest surface. Usually a coating is applied to top grain leather. It’s commonly found in furniture and handbags and some lower quality footwear.

Genuine leather comes from the bottom half of the hide – the weakest part closest to the muscle tissue. This is also where suede comes from. It’s not a very desirable leather if durability is important. There’s another type called bonded leather – this is low grade leather mixed with a synthetic binder and leather scraps that have been ground. It’s the leather equivalent of particle board.

Okay, enough about leather. Wednesday a package arrived at Mission Bay RV Resort for us. It was the boots I had made for Donna. They were beautiful full grain calfskin. I had Donna try them on. Uh-oh. Either I messed up when I made the tracings of her foot or Lucchese made them too big. They didn’t fit her feet – they were too loose in the vamp and heel.

I repackaged them and sent them back after talking to Lucchese customer service. It was as hassle-free as something like this can be. I dropped them at the Fed Ex store in Pacific Beach. Meanwhile, Lucchese is making another pair for Donna, but it’ll be weeks before she can have them.

Another delivery was dropped off at our site. It was large box containing the Euro-recliner chair and ottoman she bought for me. Some assembly was required. The parts were well-packed and all of the hardware was present. I unpacked everything, then decided to get our old chair out of the coach and assemble the new one inside so I wouldn’t have to wrestle a fully assembled 70-pound chair through the door and up the steps.

Assembly wasn’t that difficult, but the instruction manual would have been useless without exploded drawings. The written instructions were nonsense. Here’s a quote from the instruction manual:

Attach the back cushion to the left & right the aggregation of arm wood frame base with seat cushion...”

The chair is made of top grain cow hide on all of the contact surfaces – the seat cushion top surface, the backrest front surface and arm rests. The bottom of the seat cushion and rear portion of the backrest are bonded leather to keep costs down. I think this is a reasonable compromise to provide quality leather on the contact areas.

New Euro-recliner and ottoman – color isn’t true to life in the photo

I also received another pair of Tecovas boots. I ordered another pair of Cartwright calfskin boots in desert tan. I know, it’s getting a little out of control. I have six pair of boots now – three Lucchese and three Tecovas. Two of the Lucchese boots are ostrich and one is crocodile. Two of the Tecovas are calfskin and one is lizard.

Tecovas desert tan Cartwright boots

Tuesday night Donna made another new dish for me. She knows that I often cook Marie Callendar pot pies when she’s away. So, she made a chicken pot pie from scratch in a skillet. She said she’s sure it’s much more nutritious and healthy than a pre-made one. It was great – and it was large enough to have leftovers for lunch the next day.

Chicken pot pie baked in a skillet

We’re into our last week here in San Diego. Two months flew by, but I’m ready to roll. We’ll spend the remainder of the winter in Mesa, Arizona. It’s been fantastic as usual. We won’t be back in San Diego again until next September.


Party in the Park

The wind diminished over the weekend here at Mission Bay. The mountains east of San Diego and areas of the north county still had high winds though. The north county fire – called the Lilac fire –  near Bonsall destroyed homes and swept through the San Luis Downs horse-training facility killing at least 35 thoroughbred horses. The wind drove the fire westward causing more evacuations around Oceanside. The fire is 75% contained now and the evacuation order has been lifted.

Someone at the RV park stores their kayaks under a canopy on the beach at De Anza Cove. They have the kayaks locked with a cable to secure them. The canopy didn’t fare too well with the high winds though.

Canopies don’t hold up to Santa Ana winds

I was at a gas station on Morena Boulevard Friday when I heard the unmistakable sound of a radical V8 engine. An old school ’55 Chevy pulled up to the pumps. It was a bit ratty looking, but I knew it had a hot motor. It was old school down to the straight front axle, Halibrand magnesium wheels and cheater slicks. I shot a photo of it.

’55 Chevy Bel Air

The owner of the car saw me taking the picture and asked me if I wanted a look under the hood. Of course I did. It had a supercharged small block with dual Carter carburetors and fender well headers.

Small block Chevy

There wasn’t anything ratty about the engine. Then he opened the driver’s door so I could take a look inside. It was upholstered in diamond stitched naugahyde including the headliner and had a roll bar. You wouldn’t guess that by looking at the paint job!

Diamond stitched naugahyde

Headliner and roll bar

The guy told me he had owned the car for about 30 years. He said he also had a ’32 Ford Coupe and a ’39 Willys. He said they were set up similar to the ’55 Chevy – no fancy paint but killer drive trains and nice interiors.

On Friday night Sini joined Donna and I to listen to live music at Fast Times Bar and Grill up the hill on Clairemont Drive. John January is the brother of my friend, Joe. John is a very talented guitarist and was performing with his girlfriend, Linda Berry. John is an inductee of the San Diego Blues Hall of Fame. They were performing as a duet – they also front a complete band sometimes. John has the skills to fill out the sound with his sense of timing, bass lines, chord inversions and riffs. It was almost hard to believe that just two people and one guitar could sound that good.

John January and Linda Berry

By the way – the name of the bar was taken from the title of the 1982 movie Fast Times at Ridgemont High starring Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sean Penn. The screenplay was written by Cameron Crowe after he supposedly spent a semester posing as a student at Clairemont High School – my alma mater – to develop the characters.

On Saturday, I took the Traeger wood pellet fired smoker grill out of the trailer. I was about to drag it through the lot to our site when our neighbor called out to me. Larry is from Louisiana and his rig is in the site behind us. He was at the overflow lot retrieving something from his van. He said, “How about we put that grill in the van and drive to your site?” Good idea! Thanks, Larry!

I needed the Traeger to smoke a couple of racks of baby back ribs I bought at Costco on Friday. The ribs weren’t the pre-packaged Swift Premium they sell – they were cut right there at the Morena store. The butchers there did a really nice job trimming the ribs. I prepped the ribs with dry rub and cooked them Memphis-style.

We had a potluck dinner planned for Saturday night at Sini’s site. Donna planned to grill chicken drumsticks and make a beer and bourbon cheese fondue. To marinate the chicken drumsticks she needed liquid smoke. I told her I saw liquid smoke at Siesel’s meat market. I rode the Spyder over to Siesel’s to get it. I looked through the aisle where I thought I saw it before, but couldn’t find it. A woman asked me if I needed help. I told her what I was looking for and she said, “It’s right here…oh, I guess we’re out of it.” Then she called out to one of the butchers behind the meat counter and asked if they had any liquid smoke. He said he had a gallon of hickory liquid smoke. I said I only needed a couple of ounces. He disappeared for a couple of minutes, then returned and gave me a small plastic container with about half a cup of liquid smoke and said “You’re all set.” Nice!

Everyone gathered at Sini’s place around 5pm. We had an extra picnic table the park provided plus a couple of folding tables for the food buffet. Five couples from inside the RV park were there plus a few of our friends that live in the area. Gary Stemple and Mona Sojot came along with Mona’s friend, Berdine.

Potluck food and drink time

Everyone enjoyed the food and drink and we talked the night away. Before I knew it, it was 10pm.

We only have 10 more days here at Mission Bay RV Resort before we leave San Diego. The time has flown by. The weather forecast for the next 10 days looks good – daily highs in the 70s with no rain. We’ll be heading east to Arizona to spend the rest of winter in a warm climate.



Moon Turn the Tides

Every blog post needs a title. Sometimes I struggle with that. You may have noticed that I’ll steal the name of a song or partial lyrics for my title from time to time. Today’s title comes from Jimi Hendrix’s third album, Electric Ladyland, released in 1968. I chose it because the full moon last weekend was a super moon.

Super moons occur when the full moon coincides with the moon’s closest distance to the earth as it travels on its elliptical apogee in the sky above. This makes the full moon appear larger than normal. The gravitational forces of the moon’s proximity were very apparent in the tides on Mission Bay. I shot a photo of low tide in the morning at De Anza Cove, then took another photo at high tide in the afternoon. Notice the dock resting in the mud at low tide, then it’s floating nearly horizontal in the afternoon.

Low tide at De Anza Cove

The same dock at high tide

Mother Nature unleashed another southern California phenomenon this week – Santa Ana winds. Santa Ana winds originate from high pressure over the inland desert basin. Hot, dry wind blows over the coastal range and offshore. These dry winds bring warmer than usual temperatures and low humidity – often less than 10%. They increase the risk of wildfires and the strong winds can fan the fires which move quickly and grow in size.

The Santa Ana hit areas to the north on Monday – up near Ventura. Wildfires burned along the coast up there. The winds really picked up in San Diego County on Thursday. Wind speed was clocked at 61 mph at Crestwood on I-8 in east county Thursday morning. A 38-foot fifth-wheel RV trailer was blown over on I-8, then they closed high-profile vehicle travel on the interstate. San Diego Gas and Electric shut down power in portions of east county to prevent sparks starting fires from any power lines that might blow down.

Fires raged all over southern California. Homes were destroyed in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. San Diego County had wildfires in the north county near I-15. The winds whipped the fires and they jumped the interstate in some areas. We heard that some neighborhoods near Temecula were evacuated. The fire danger warnings are in effect here until Saturday afternoon. When fire warnings are issued, no outdoor fires such as campfires or brush burning, are allowed.

We didn’t have any issues with fire here at Mission Bay RV Resort, but a few people had damage from the wind. There were two unoccupied travel trailers in the row across from us that had their awnings out. The people had left in the morning and didn’t retract their awnings. I knocked on the door of one of the trailers and looked to see if I could put their awning away. No one was there and the awning was an electric power unit – I couldn’t do anything. Later someone strapped the extended awning to the picnic table to keep it from flapping in the wind. We heard that others weren’t so lucky – a couple of rigs suffered damage when their awnings were torn away by the gusty wind. I don’t leave our awning out when we are away from the coach. Wind gusts can come up unexpectedly at any time.

On Wednesday evening, Donna grilled chicken thighs and served it with a new-to-me side of butternut squash brown rice pilaf with dried cranberries and toasted pepitas.

Grilled chicken with butternut squash brown rice pilaf

Tomorrow we’re planning to have a potluck gathering at Sini’s site. Donna made up flyers to invite some of our neighbors. She plans to grill chicken and I’ll smoke baby back ribs on the Traeger wood pellet-fired smoker grill.

The winds have calmed down along the coast but are still strong in the mountains. We should have a few clouds with the temperature reaching the upper 70s tomorrow.


Boating and the Barefoot Bar

We were blessed with another fine weekend in San Diego. We’d made plans to meet up with friends and go out on a pontoon boat that Gary Stemple had reserved at Freedom Boat Club. Gary is a club member and has taken us out on a variety of boats.

Donna prepared for the boat ride by taking the Spyder over to Pacific Beach where she bought bagels and cream cheese and Bloody Mary fixings. We planned to meet Gary here in De Anza Cove at the boat dock near the RV park overflow parking lot. Donna and I carried our gear to the dock and saw Gary approaching around 10am. We found a gate on the dock which was locked – we hadn’t noticed this before – we’ve used the dock in the past. It appears the city decided to block access rather than maintain the dock.

Gary beached the boat next to the dock and we boarded. We expected to have seven or eight people, but a couple of people bailed out due to other activities. The three of us crossed Mission Bay and went back to Dana Landing where the boat club is located. We picked up Howard and Johnna Brutschy there. Along the way we cruised past a small island that we always referred to as Horsehoe Island back when we were growing up here – I see on Google maps the official name is West Ski Island. We reminisced about keg parties on the island back in the day. I saw a group with traditional Hawaiian style outrigger canoes beached there.

Horseshoe Island – look closely for a group with canoes (click to enlarge)

We picked up Howard and Johnna and began a leisurely cruise around the bay. The day was warming up nicely. As you can see from the photos, the ski was clear and the slight haze cleared by afternoon. The temperature reached the mid-70s – warmer than expected.

We cruised past Perez Cove to the southeast part of the bay, on the south side of Fiesta Island. There’s an area there called Hidden Anchorage. This inlet is restricted for use by the San Diego Ski Team members. To enter the inlet you need to obtain a permit from the San Diego Lifeguard Station. The permits are free, but you need to prove you’re a member of the club. The club practices for slalom competitions and ski jumping there. We drifted outside of the restricted area and since it was nearly noon, we made Bloody Marys.

Ski Club area at Hidden Anchorage

We slowly cruised past Sea World. Gary commented how his dad used to bring the family down there on his boat when he was young. They could watch the Shamu and dolphin shows from the bay near the water stadium.

Sea World

From there we picked up speed and circled around Fiesta Island and made our way to the dock behind the Hilton Hotel on East Mission Bay.

Gary, Howard, Johnna and Donna cruising the bay

We docked briefly for a comfort break there, then headed back out. We were just cruising and seeing the sights while we enjoyed the weather. We cruised out the Entrance Channel along the jetty and into the Pacific Ocean. We didn’t venture far from the Entrance Channel – the pontoon boat wasn’t really an ocean-going vessel. We spun around in lazy circles and took in the sights.

View to the north from the Entrance Channel. The jetty on the right is the north side of the channel and the boundary of Mission Beach. That’s La Jolla to the north in the distance.

Looking east toward the bay and Quivera Basin. The Hyatt Hotel can be seen on the left

We came back through the channel – the San Diego River and Dog Beach (Ocean Beach) were on the other side of the jetty on our right. We cruised past Quivera Basin, under the West Mission Bay bridge, then docked across from Ventura Cove at the Barefoot Bar and Grill. We ordered appetizers for lunch there and enjoyed the ambiance and view.

View from our table at the Barefoot Bar and Grill

There’s a pond – actually more like a moat – surrounding the seating area at the Barefoot Bar. They pump bay water into it and local fish swim around in it – including leopard sharks. The sharks we saw in the water were only about three feet long, but the average length of an adult leopard shark is close to five feet long and yes, they are found in Mission Bay.

Gary and Donna at our table – waterfall into the pond in the background.

That sums up an enjoyable, relaxing day on the bay. We returned the boat to Dana Landing around 3pm and Gary dropped us off back at Mission Bay RV Resort.

Sunday was overcast and cooler – the temperature only reached the high 60s. Hans Kohls had invited us to join him and Lisa at an event near Balboa Park – it was the SoNo Fest and Chili Cook-Off. We didn’t go though. Donna wanted to pick up some groceries and take a bike ride and I wanted to watch the Chargers game and see if their playoff hopes were real. They are at this point!

It was a great day for chili though. So Donna made her white chicken chili recipe – it’s delicious.

White chicken chili topped with crumbled tortilla chips, shredded Monterey jack cheese, avocado cubes and cilantro

The forecast for today is partly cloudy with a high in the upper 60s. We should have sunny weather and temperatures in the 70s for the week ahead. Donna hit her boot camp workout early this morning. I’ll head over to Ocean Beach Recreation Center to play pickleball and work off some of the beer and chili.



The Neighborhood Mom

Yesterday I put on a suit and tie for the first time in about five years – with good reason. Donna and I borrowed Sini’s car and went to a memorial service at the Pacific Beach Chapel. The service was a celebration of life for someone that was very dear to me and important to me during my teenage years and beyond. Donna M. Brutschy passed away November 5, 2017 at the age of 90. I wore a suit out of respect for her.

I can clearly remember meeting Donna when I was 14 years old. It was 1970 and I had become best buddies with her son, Howard. Howard and I had just spent the night camping out near Miramar. We had ridden dirt bikes there. At that time, we could ride dirt bikes a couple of blocks on the street from their house in Clairemont and get to Geddes Canyon. From there we could reach Rose Canyon, then ride to San Clemente Canyon which would take us to the mesa near Miramar. In those days there were no houses out there, just sage brush on the mesa with small canyons here and there all the way to Poway. The Miramesa neighborhood didn’t exist.

After our night out, we returned to the Brutschy’s house in the morning. Donna Brutschy immediately asked us if we were hungry. Howard answered in the affirmative. Donna asked me if I liked scrambled eggs. I said, “Yes.” Then she asked, “Do you like them wet or dry?” I was 14 years old and didn’t know how to answer – no one had ever asked me that question before. I just mumbled, “I guess I’ll just have them regular, ma’am.” That was my introduction to the nurturing character that was Donna Brustchy.

Howard and I were tight and we were almost always doing things together through our high school years and beyond. His sister Vicki, Donna’s youngest daughter, was my high school sweetheart for a couple of years. The Brutschy’s door was always open and Donna was the neighborhood mom. A few of my friends had known her for years as she was their Cub Scout den mother.

Donna had a way with words. In 1986, I took a promotion and moved my family to the company headquarters in Michigan for a few years – a move I would repeat more than 20 years later.  Before we moved away, I was an avid bicyclist and stayed in good physical condition. After a year of driving a desk and getting through a Michigan winter, I had gained about 20 pounds. I came back to southern California on a business trip and stopped at the Brustchy’s house. Donna looked at my ample proportions and said, “You’re looking…prosperous.” That was her way of telling me I was fat! When I went back to Michigan, I joined a gym and started working out and got myself back in shape.

The memorial service was well attended. Donna had touched many lives and several people were compelled to speak and tell their stories of times with Donna. I wasn’t prepared so I didn’t share any stories there.

Respectfully dressed

After the service we went to the Brustchy house off of Moraga Avenue in Clairemont. The Brutschys have owned this house since it was built in the 1950s. It’s been remodeled several times and the landscaping is nothing like it was back in the ’70s. We had food and drink and milled about telling each other stories about our connections to the family. Donna’s extended family including her three children – Christine, Howard and Vicki – and her nine grandchildren and seven great-grand children were there. Many of my old buddies from our high school years were there as well. It was a nice tribute to a lady who was the neighborhood mom.

It looks like the weather will remain relatively cool over the weekend – highs in the upper 60s. We’ve been invited to go boating on the bay with Gary Stemple and a few friends tomorrow.