Hi! Here’s what’s been happening the past few days.

Work has been getting in the way of writing, and I expect this to continue for about another month. I am still working six days a week, leaving only one day to get ready for the next six and to accomplish miscellaneous Cinderella chores around the house as well as squeezing in a little time for R&R. And we are up against two audits at work, one the annual financial one and one from our friends at the Feds, who provide a lot of funding. As always, stakes are high when the Feds come to town, and so is the stress.

I must have been showing the pressure, because Megan turned up one day with a beautiful surprise for me:


She said it was to give me something beautiful, and to remind me that she is always there for me. She really is the best sister ever. And it’s like having a little sunset in my office. When things get crazy, I can look at it and think how beautiful it is and how lucky I am to have such an amazing sister.

I met Monica after work one day at a new restaurant in the harbor:


I wish there was an “unglare” feature in iPhoto, to deal with those overly sunny California days. Such a terrible problem.

The restaurant has a big, rustic wooden deck overlooking the harbor, where we watched the fishermen come in with that day’s catch on their boats as the sun began to set. We had a great time and promised each other to meet up more often. Monica is always so inspiring.

On a less delightful note, my Mac fell ill with a virus or TEN. I started getting pop up ads all over and new tabs resulted in something unpleasant called Chumsearch with Bing. Bing! I tried disk utility and restarting to no avail. I emailed a former co-worker at the jobette, who is a genius, and he recommended software with a free trial. It took almost four hours, but it found and ate nearly a dozen viruses and things are back to normal. I hope.

You expect this kind of thing with PCs, but not with Macs. I still have no idea how I got it, but as always, I am thankful for my family and my family of friends.

A YEAR AGO: It was a busy time of year in the garden.

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Dad’s Flowers

Every year, we plant sweetpeas in honor of our father. They were his favorite flowers.

We had a little bouquet of them at his memorial service, along with a photo of Dad and his beloved dog, Jesse. Our wonderful stepmother Margaret later scattered Dad’s ashes with Jesse’s on the Common where they loved to walk together. It comforts me to know that a boy and his dog are together always.

And it comforted me that our beloved Lu chose to carry some of Dad’s sweetpeas in her bouquet and her lovely hair when she married her best friend Rik this summer. It made me feel like Dad was there, and I was glad to think of him and his special flowers on a happy occasion.

No matter how long I am without him, I will always miss him. And I will forever cherish the treasure of his love and friendship.

A YEAR AGO: Brian Wilson said it best.

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Family Dinner

After work last Saturday, I stopped by the family estate for a small, impromptu BBQ with my siblings.

Summer is not only high season for tourists, it’s also high season for friends to brave the drive, isolation and lack of cell phone service to visit us. So most summer get togethers have guest stars, and it was nice for it to just be me, Megan, Jonathan, and Rio.

Summer is of course high season for the garden, too, and my siblings are firmly in the canning and preserving part of the year. They had also picked 24 pounds of wild blackberries the day before, some of which can be seen here with my brother:


and some of which ended up as jam:


The part that didn’t end up as jam ended up as cobbler, which ended up in our stomachs, along with chicken burgers which were seasoned with basil grown on the property and grilled by our brother, the expert grillmaster:


and garnished with relish made from cucumbers grown on the property and made that very day.

It was relaxing to sit under the tent with my feet up on a cooler of hard cider to rest my aching back (it is slowly getting better, but still hated me on that day) and catch up with my family. Even little Scout made an appearance. She does seem to have gotten more friendly lately. We made a concerted effort to get her inside at night for a few days after Jonathan saw a very pushy mountain lion strolling around. My brother kept his rifle loaded and ready, but the monster seems to have moved on and Scout is unharmed. I know she is a survivor, but it was hard not to worry about that little cat who has such a big place in our lives.

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Are there time-released bad omens? If so, I think that Steller’s Jay was one…

It’s been another crazy week, and it’s far from over. It seems that no matter how hard I work, it’s not enough. I am fighting serious headwinds of feeling both overwhelmed and inadequate, which is a spectacularly unenjoyable combo platter, especially when garnished with a preview of (possibly inaccurate) old age and infirmity.

What I thought was a mere spat between my back and me has devolved into a lover’s quarrel at best and a complete breakdown in our formerly friendly relationship at the worst. Despite applications of ibuprofen, the heating pad, and unnecessarily long, hot, and drought-defying showers, it remains adamantly angry and is not afraid to express its annoyance, usually at the most annoying times. I don’t know whether to be proud or sad that no one at work seems to have noticed that I have been walking around in pain for a week.

In the midst of decrepitude and despair, I woke up to an email from my ex John, telling me that the last cat we had together, the irrepressible Jack, had died in his arms. She was almost 17.

August being the Official Month of Death, she died on the same day we lost Schatzi (three years ago! How is that possible?). And it was also three years ago that my divorce from John became final. Somehow, losing the last cat we had together makes the divorce seem more final.

Much like Jack came into our lives with a bang as the World’s Naughtiest Kitten, she shook it up when she left with a 5.1 earthquake.

Goodbye, little Jack. You will always be in my heart, where loved ones live and naughty kittens play.

A YEAR AGO: A hole in my head instead of my heart.

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Bad Omen

There hasn’t been much time for anything but work this week.

I have been leaving the house at 6:00 am in a mostly vain attempt to get everything done in time, blasting down the Ridge with Weezer to wake me up. I was amused to pull up to the clinic one day as they were singing Do You Wanna Get High?, a cheery little tune about the joys of opiate addiction.

I should have known that it was going to be a crazy week. The weekend that preceded it foretold doom to come, at least in my ever-superstitious opinion.

A Steller’s Jay got in the house and flew up to the skylight. All of the doors were open, so I hoped that my feathered visitor would escape unscathed, but unfortunately it thought that the highest window in the house was the way to go and made for it at full speed. It smashed into the glass with a horrifying thud and fell to the floor. I ran downstairs, but it was clearly an ex Jay.

Oddly, the cats were totally uninterested. Maybe if it doesn’t move, it’s not fun. I told a friend about the Incident of the Jay in the House:

Me: I think it’s a bad omen.
Him: Maybe if you live in a teepee.
Me, looking at the pointy ceiling: I kind of do.

I was less than thrilled to come home from work and discover that a friend of mine had stopped by my house with another friend. The house was not in my opinion visitor ready. Admittedly it rarely is now that I am out of it (in more ways than one) for 12 hours a day, but I would have appreciated the opportunity to pretend to be more civilized than I really am. And of course, the friend in question has made a pile of money in real estate in the Bay Area*.

I later learned that they claimed to love the house and thought it was really cool. As Erica observed, the house is basically a man cave, so maybe they did. And it was all over before I could do anything about it anyway.

The bad omen really kicked in a couple of days later, when my back went out on strike, making getting dressed and in and out of the car more of an adventure than I’d like. Ever since, I have been unwilling to risk the stairs so I have been sleeping on the couch with my grandmother’s restored quilt over me and Clyde beside me.

A YEAR AGO: My fairy godmother stopped by. One of these days, I should try being home when I have company. Though maybe it’s better this way.

*The few people I still know from long-ago high school days are all annoyingly successful. Richard and his pile of real estate money; my ex boyfriend Andrew, who is a vice president at NBC-Universal in London; and my dear friend Alice, who got a PhD in pure math in her 4th language after she finished her modeling career. She is now a vice president at Barclay’s Capital in London. Call me underachieving…

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Local Notes

Since you all enjoyed the peek at our local message board a few months ago, I thought you might like another one. As you can see, we’ve been keeping Hooterville weird, and that’s the way we like it.

1. Of bears and garbage:

If you’re about 5 miles out X Rd & the bear hauled off a large bag of your garbage it’s in the middle of the road. The garbage that is, imagine the bear has moved on for the week.

2. Tinder and OK Cupid aren’t just for humans, you know. All bipeds can use a little help in the dating department:

We have one lonely but healthy male quail named Charlie who is about 8 weeks old. We hatched him in an incubator along with his siblings. The siblings ran off but Charlie stayed in the coop. He needs to find his people. Is there anyone out there who could use another quail?

3. We believe in the separation of church and state. Well, some of us do:

Two women put up a rack of religious tracts on the entrance to the North Headlands Trail. I requested that they remove them and respect our separation of church and state, since it is a public space. They refused, and when I asked again on my way out, they asked me to respect their freedom of speech. I complained to City Hall (yes they are violating a city ordinance); if you’re heading to the Trail this morning, please request that they remove the rack and literature, and please call City Hall.

I wonder who won that battle?

4. You will be relieved to know that a cushion lost at the Music Festival and its rightful owner were reunited at last:

Just now the cushion was returned to me by a cellist who said the cushion “appeared” on her chair some time ago (today? yesterday? last week?) and she came by and handed it to me.

5. Wondering what the extra stripe was on the highway:

I saw that it originated at X road, based on the arc of material from said road to the Southbound lane of 1. Another respondent reported seeing a substance draining from ‘an old wooden tank.’Another respondent noted seeing the material in the road up past middle ridge (hence past the transfer station, likely ruling out a dump run).

So a reasonable, harmless?, although not definitive conclusion; a salvaged wood tank made a trip from somewhere on Andiron Lodge road to somewhere out the ridge, giving up the last of its contents along the way.No harms or fouls, just a bit of spilled muddy water.

A YEAR AGO: it was a fiery summer.

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Annual Ordeal

I got up so early on Hell Day – I mean Staff Day – that Clyde just stayed in bed, like a sane person. Audrey of course bustled out to take on the world and show it who’s boss while I drank coffee and tried to mentally prepare for the day ahead.

I was saddened to note that I was already getting up in the dark again. Hello, darkness, my old enemy…

Picking up the bagels for breakfast, I found that instead of getting the 60 bagels I had ordered, I got a paltry 3 dozen. I had ordered them the week before and called the day before to confirm. This kind of set the tone for the whole day, as I would soon discover.

Arriving at the clinic, I saw that the ever-elusive Facilities Guy had failed to open the wall between the two conference rooms and to set it up, as we had discussed numerous times. The set up includes taking all the tables out and putting in as many rows of chairs as possible. Chairs from both reception areas are pressed into service, so after dropping off my inadequate bagel supply in the kitchen, I headed over to Medical to start dragging chairs to the conference room.

I texted Facilities Guy, and he said he’d be there in a few minutes. It took more minutes than there were bagels, giving me time to do most of the chair hauling. I was washing and displaying the breakfast fruit beside the bagel boxes and cream cheese by the time he arrived.

Other duties included meeting the caterer – we had yellow “caution” tape strung across the driveway to stop people from driving/meandering in – and helping her to set up the quite splendid salad bar, which included mixed greens, grilled chicken, sliced hard-boiled eggs, cheese, sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, bacon, croutons, and five different kinds of dressing, along with focaccia rolls. There was water infused with watermelon and mint, lemonade, iced tea and iced green tea. All this was topped off with bite-sized cream puffs and lemon bars, including a small tray of gluten free versions.

You’d think they’d be happy with this, but you’d be wrong. There were complaints that the tea was sweetened, and worse than that, we ran out of ranch dressing. You probably already heard about this on CNN. “Horror in a small town!” Even though there were four other kinds of dressing, I was sent to the store to buy more ranch*. When I came back, I had barely gotten out of the car and triumphantly brought the ranch dressing to the masses before I was informed that we had run out of salad greens. Way to kill the buzz, peeps.

I called the caterer and she arrived on her mission of mercy, bearing additional salad greens. Needless to say, I never got to eat any of the lunch, though I did get to clean it up. The festivities concluded at about 3:30. Most people took off, but I left around 5:00 after – you guessed it – cleaning up after more than 100 people.

I went home hating the Whos and applied wine as an attitude adjustor. Now all I have to worry about is the new boss starting on Monday and the Open House on August 13.

Where’s that corkscrew?

*What the hell IS it, anyway?

A YEAR AGO: Ah, future dishes! You are still in my present.

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Date Day

Thursday was date day! I met my friend Randy for lunch and after work, I had Friday eve drinks with my friend Jim.

Randy used to own a lovely antique store in the Village. He still handles some consignments, but is mostly retired. He has had a very interesting life so far, having worked at Princeton University and the American embassy in Moscow, among other places. I never get tired of hearing his stories. He happens to be a neighbor of my friend Richard, another of my frequent date companions (though I hasten to add that they have both been happily married for many years to their lovely wives). Richard recently bought the house he has been renting for some time, so they are officially neighbors now.

It was great to take a break from the madness of work and spend it with civilized conversation and good food. I hope we can meet up again soon.

Needless to say, I was running late leaving work to meet Jim at our usual spot. I tried to text him, but it wouldn’t go, so I emailed him in desperation to let him know I’d be fashionably late. I had doubts that he’d be checking his email, but as it happened, his phone binged with the email as he was passing his neighbor’s house (it seems this neighbor has an open wife connection, probably thinking no one would be using it way out here in the boonies), so he did know I’d be late.

When I arrived, Jim was comfortably ensconced at the bar, which has a stunning view of the ocean:


I ordered a glass of local sparkling wine and settled in to catch up with my friend. Jim was delighted to hear about the couple using Joel’s memorial bench at the Gardens, as I knew he would be. He said that was exactly what he hoped for. I still think we picked the best location, a secluded area overlooking a rushing stream.

While we were talking, my phone binged with a text. It was Megan, asking where I was. When I told her, she responded “I’m on my way!”

While we waited for Megan to join us, I asked the bartender what drink she was mixing. It didn’t have a name (suggestions, anyone?), but she muddled cucumber and lime, added ice, Collins mix, Hawaiian white ginger gin, and elderflower cordial and shook it up, topping it with a spritz of cold soda water. She gave me a small glass to taste, and as soon as Megan tasted it, she ordered one of these nameless, delicious concoctions:


We had a great time catching up with each other, and Megan and Jim are planning to walk their dogs together soon. As we headed back to our cars, we promised each other we would do this again soon. I love my family and friends!

A YEAR AGO: A camping party!

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Garden Girls

Enjoying the View

Saturday was a postcard day, one to gladden the hearts of tourists from anywhere – and they are from anywhere and everywhere. On my way to work that day, I saw plates from Alaska, Utah, Texas, Maine and Wisconsin, as well as the usual Oregon, Washington, and Nevada. There was even a lumbering RV from Ontario, which, my (un)usually polite Canadian friends, I’m sorry to tell you failed to pull over.

Megan picked me up from the jobette, and together we locked up the shop and then jumped into her little red car, where I was instantly swarmed by Star and Stella. Stella never gets too excited about anything, except food, glorious food, but she has seen Star go crazy over me so many times that she has decided that she should, too. There must be a reason for it if Star does it*. Just like if Star smells something carefully, Stella must also investigate it. And since no one is ever as happy to see me as Star is, there was a lot of wagging and petting and trying to climb into the front seat before we could set off to the beautiful Botanical Gardens.

I happened to have two free tickets, so we went right in and headed for the café, where they very kindly give canine visitors a spoonful of locally made ice cream. This policy was greeted with an enthusiastic two paws up from both dogs. When they had finished their ice cream – it’s always treats first in my world – we started down the path, admiring the dahlias:


And the gate that Rob would love:


We crossed a little stream:


which wends past my late friend Joel’s memorial bench. Among his many talents, Joel was a Master Gardener and spent a lot of time in these Gardens. I helped his widower Jim choose the site for the bench after Joel’s sudden death, and I intended to take a picture of it, but we found that an older couple was resting on it with their dog at their feet, so I didn’t. But this is exactly what Jim and I hoped would happen, and I am looking forward to telling him about it when I see him next.

We meandered through the woods:


and arrived at the ocean, which was looking its best that day:


At the jobette, I was always told that our Gardens were one of two in the entire country that had ocean access. I don’t know what the other one is, but I am glad this one is here. One of the nice things about the jobette is that the visitors remind me of what a beautiful and magical place I live in. Why, it even has a dragon:

There's even a dragon.

Though you aren’t allowed to sit on the dragon, you can pet him:


As we made our way back to the car, we promised each other that we would visit again soon. The dogs agreed.


*I was charmed to see that at one point when Stella was sniffing something, she lifted her right paw daintily and held it there, just like Schatzi used to. Star copied Schatzi and Stella copied her, and it’s nice to see that Schatzi still lives on in that way, at least.

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One morning, I heard a text while I was getting ready for work. Usually, texts at 6:00 am are from my sister, who is still at work after her long night shift. So early morning texts do not scare me the way late night phone calls still do*.

I went to see what was up, and it turned out to be my boss, letting me know that the power was out at the clinic. A flurry of texts ensued from other staff members with updates as I applied mascara and lip gloss and headed out the door. Since the power had gone out at about 3:00 am, I figured it would be up and running by the time I got to work around 7:00.

This prediction was correct, but although there were lights and power, the servers were still down, rendering our computers useless plastic boxes, at least temporarily.

While the IT guys worked away at the computer issues, I caught up on my filing and other things that did not require computers. It was a good feeling to get that stuff done. I always wonder why I don’t keep up with it on an ongoing basis. I have the same thoughts after cleaning the house, but with the same (lack of) results.

Speaking of electricity, Jonathan and Rio acquired a fantastic vintage TV set (delightfully) called a Predicta:


Like the computers at work, the Predicta is temporarily non-operational, but I have faith that my brother can get it back in working order. If he could make a temporarily non-working very vintage telescope into a NASA-worthy contraption, he can do the same for the Predicta.

While he scouts for parts, we are amusing ourselves by thinking of appropriately retro TV shows to watch on it, like The Munsters and Peter Gunn and Perry Mason. And we are always going to refer to it as The Predicta.

A YEAR AGO: Dinner and a movie.

* I still think “Mom” when the phone rings, even though she has been gone for so long. And I always think it will be bad news.

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Family Style

I didn’t love being woken up at 5:30 on a Sunday morning, aka the only day of the week I can sleep in.

Audrey, however, is uninterested in the sloth of Staff, and in fact deplores it. There are standards to be kept up and doors to be opened, and Her Majesty does not appreciate waiting.

On the other hand, it gave me time to blog while my detoxing face mask worked on the wine I drank the night before and the sun glowed golden through the dark trees.

Thanks, Audrey?

I headed over to the family estate after work* on Saturday. Rio’s daughter Paloma was visiting from LA, and this was the first time any of us had met her. When I arrived, the guest of honor had not, and it turned out that Rio had given her daughter the wrong address, which made it hard for her to find us.

Find us she did, though, and even Scout the mini cat came out to say hello:


Scout surprised me by hanging around much more than usual. She is generally skittish around humans, especially in the great outdoors. She is hard to photograph because she tends to run away when approached, so this is the best I could do:


Jonathan was grilling onions and peppers while Megan picked plums and zucchini for me:


and remonstrated with me for not shopping at the family vegetable emporium more often.

As I peeled the peppers and Jonathan chopped them up, he realized that he hadn’t grilled the chicken yet. So he did that while Megan and I chatted and drank wine with Rio and Paloma. Finally, dinner was served at the giant picnic table Jonathan built. With the grilled chicken and veggies, we had black beans and fresh basil grown on the property, all wrapped up in tortillas. It was delicious, and we all had a wonderful time. It was a great end to the day – and the week.

*My favorite visitors that day were a young couple from Connecticut with their three year old, curly haired daughter Lucy. They had just come from Montgomery Woods, where some of the tallest and most magnificent redwoods can be found. Lucy excitedly told me that they were taller than her father (who was quite tall himself), and her father said that he was still in awe of what he had seen there. “I had to wonder if I was a good enough person to have seen it,” he said. It’s a magical place.

A YEAR AGO: Unexpected showers and traffic incidents. You never know what you’ll find on the Hooterville back roads!

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Wonderful Wedding

Lu & Rik’s Wedding Invitation

The invitation definitely set the tone for Lu and Rik’s wedding. Drawn by Rik’s daughter Rachel, it invited us to a “BBQ bash and wedding celebration” and “a glorious time with family and friends”. It was all that and more.

When I arrived at Rik and Lu’s home after work on Saturday, it was a perfect sunny summer day. You could tell it was Rik and Lu’s wedding from all the EMS and search and rescue stickers on the guests’ cars. They have been EMTs for many years, so naturally most of their friends are in the same line of work. As I observed to Megan, the guests could not have been in better hands in case of any possible emergency.

The carport was transformed into a buffet, decorated with flowers, where there would later be a taco bar and cake. The outdoor clawfoot tub was the bar, filled with ice holding beer, wine, soda, and water. Next to that was spiked strawberry lemonade and mojitos in big glass jars.

Friends were playing music:


as we gathered on the lawn (you can glimpse the groom and bride at the bar behind the musicians in the photo). Kids and dogs, including Rik and Lu’s dogs Harlow and Sweetpea (seen under the hammock on the wedding invitation with their ever-present ball) were running around and playing together. There were hay bales arranged in front of the deck where the ceremony would take place, covered with colorful cloths. The deck was beautifully decorated:


Rik built it himself over 36 hours. It must be very satisfying to build the place where you will be married with your own hands.

Lu carried flowers from our family garden in her bouquet and in her hair, including some of the sweetpeas we plant every year in Dad’s memory. She had cut her dress, but not as much as Megan and I had feared, and Lu thought it was still too long in the back, though I said it was like a train. She wore sparkly red sandals and no make up. She looked like our beautiful Lu, only more radiant and joyful than I had ever seen her before.

When it was time for the ceremony, the bride and groom came out of their front door hand in hand, accompanied by the Justice of the Peace who officiated. Rik jumped the gun a little by kissing his bride before the vows, to the crowd’s laughter. He looked like had won the lottery during their simple, yet deeply moving vows:


They exchanged rings made of gold they had panned themselves on trips to California’s gold country. They love to travel, and have had many adventures over the seventeen years they have spent together, with many more to come.

At last Rik was allowed to kiss his new wife:


as the crowd went wild, including Jonathan, Megan, Rio, Rob and me. I love how the whole wedding was so them: warm, unpretentious, loving. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to share the love and joy of these two beloved friends with my beloved family. It was a day I will never forget.

Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Davis! Here’s to the new chapter in the story of your love.

A YEAR AGO: Erica’s brilliance. Do I have amazing friends, or what?

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Whirlwind Week

It was a busy week, full of friends, family, and work!

I had lunch with a dear friend on Tuesday. She is scaling back at work since her father was just diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and she wants to spend as much time as she can with him. I really admire her for doing this. So far, both she and her Dad are in good spirits and enjoying every day. I learned that the brain does not feel pain, so he is not suffering, and also that cancer doesn’t spread anywhere else from the brain. He is more interested in reading in his garden and petting his cats than going on heroic adventures, and I’m glad that he is able to do just that, with his daughter at his side.

I met up with my irrepressible friend Richard for a glass of wine after work on Wednesday. He chose the resort from the movie “Same Time Next Year”, and we enjoyed the view:


along with a glass of local wine. Richard filled me in on his latest adventures, which included dog sledding in Alaska (“I was literally covered in ice!”) and visiting an ancient Roman amphitheater in Lyon. Up next: Australia and New Zealand.

He also convinced me to work at the jobette at First Friday, which meant I left the house at 6:15 am that morning and got home around 8:45 that night. The shops and art galleries in the Big Town stay open late on the first Friday of each month, dispensing nibbles and in some cases, wine to the public.

At the jobette, we were featuring a photographer from the magical South Coast, who was there to meet the public and talk about his work and inspiration while I poured (but, sadly, did not drink) local sparkling wine, chatted with the visitors, and sold his artwork.

When I walked out to the car again about 12 hours after getting home, it all felt so familiar…

Saturday was busy at the jobette, with visitors asking about Fourth of July events* and other things of a tourist nature. The time flew by, and soon it was time to head over to Lu and Rik’s house for their wedding, which I will tell you about next time. It definitely deserves its own post.

*My father always used to say that England should be the one to celebrate the 4th of July, since as of that date in 1776 they were no longer responsible for America and its many problems, which have certainly not decreased over the last 240 years.

A YEAR AGO: Megan and I were enjoying the fabulous Flynn Creek Circus.

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The Kitty Report

Birthday Girl

It’s the ninth anniversary of Audrey arriving on the planet and showing it who’s boss this Saturday. She shows no signs of slowing down or becoming less obnoxious with age. She still terrorizes Mark’s dogs and bosses Clyde and me around. Clyde and I are equal recipients of Audrey’s patented stink eye and passing swipes.

She continues to have her special privileges, such as going out first thing in the morning, when it’s dark and scary out. Possibly the Monsters are also afraid of her. When she comes back in, which is pretty soon these days, she hops up on the table for her welcome home treats. Clyde gets his on the floor, and Audrey will not eat hers if she is on the same level as Clyde. Nor will she come in a door if he is there. I usually have to pick him up so she will come in when she returns in the mornings, even though Clyde squirms like crazy for fear of missing the impending welcome home treats.

Lately, Audrey has been usurping Clyde’s favored spots. I have found her sitting on my desk and looking outside, and also sleeping on the armoire, usually Clyde’s favored napping spot:


unless it’s too hot, in which case he dozes on the stairs in the pathway of the fan’s breeze.

It’s been a pretty warm summer so far, so it’s good that Clyde has successfully overcome his fear of ice cubes:


because there is ice in my drinks more often than not these days. At least he avoids the adult beverages.

It’s a particularly festive weekend for Audrey’s birthday this year. It’s a holiday weekend, which of course it should be, but it also marks Megan and Rob’s 25th anniversary (today!) and Lu and Rik’s wedding (tomorrow!).

All you need is love. And cats.

A YEAR AGO: Things were on the stinky side at Suzy Manor. Much, much later – and not reported in these pages – the true source of the Smell was discovered. It was the remains of an extremely dead rat housed in the grandfather clock. Still don’t know how it got in there and closed the door behind itself, or why it didn’t just push the door open and get out. Yet another mystery for Nancy Drew! This one will remain unsolved, though. ~shudder~

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Quilt Show

Our quilt theme continued with a visit to the annual quilting show.

Megan met me after work on Saturday. She and the dogs had taken a lovely walk on the bluffs overlooking the ocean in the Big Town. You can see that both Stella (left) and Star gave it two paws up:


I think Stella looks hilarious in that picture. Those girls are so happy together.

Megan had brought the fragile old quilt that inspired my birthday gift with her, hoping that some of the quilters might know who to repair it. Fortunately for us, Cindi Jo was there. She examined the quilt and agreed it was made in the 1930s and that she could repair it for a reasonable price. Not only that, she told us that her friend has vintage fabric for sale at her shop, including some from the 1930s which Cindi Jo thought would be a perfect match. We will buy the fabric and then bring it and the quilt to Cindi Jo to work her magic.

Mission accomplished, we went on to admire more than 100 quilts, some of which had wonderful stories.

This one was made by a woman on her covered wagon journey in the 1860s from Indiana to the Big Town, where she and her family settled on the site of our friend Monica’s flooring shop!


They say that parts of the original home still remain there.

This one is an “opportunity” quilt, made as a fundraising raffle prize in Colorado in the 1930s. The winner was a bachelor who left the quilt to his landlady’s family after many years of boarding with them. I love the scalloped edges.


Both of these quilts look as good as new. And what stories they could tell!

This one was made by a local woman who started a tradition of making a quilt for each grandchild at a milestone in their lives. When her granddaughter’s younger sister received a quilt as a wedding gift, she said, “I’m 27, I don’t have a boyfriend, I dropped out of college…I’ll never be able to afford a house. And I’ll never get a Grandma quilt!” So her Grandma made this for her. According to Grandma, “In no time at all, she got married, had a baby daughter, and bought a house. I call this Grandma Magic!”


There’s something about grandmothers and quilts.

This one was Megan’s favorite. It’s called “Circle of Life”.


I love the colors and how dynamic the design is. It almost seems to move.

This one is called “Flutterbye”, the maker’s granddaughter’s name for butterflies. It is oh so Suzy!


Once again, I was amazed by the talent and artistry in our little corner of the world.

A YEAR AGO: I was also hanging out with my sis.

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How to Make an American Quilt

Gifts are not a big part of Junapalooza, but the gifts this year were definitely sentimental in nature.

Rio, whose birthday it was, asked Megan, Erica, and me to each choose a number from a little bag. Then she produced a basket lined with greenery and filled with delightful, locally produced things: candles, cider vinegar, jam, and chocolates. Rio gave the basket to Megan, who chose number 1, and she chose something from the basket. Then it was Erica’s turn, and then it was mine. We kept passing the basket around until all of the goodies were gone. So fun!

Erica had asked for a Spirograph. Apparently she had always wanted one. When it arrived, the giant box (why?) it came in was badly dented, and so was the tin the Spirograph was housed in. I brought this to the seller’s attention, and they shipped me a new one and said to keep the damaged one. Rob was delighted to get the dented one (needless to say, he has already undented the tin). Two for one Spirographs: what’s not to love?

Megan made Rio her very own Mouse. You may recall that Megan started making Mice when she was a very small child for our father to keep him safe on his many travels. Later she made Mice for Jonathan and for me. I carry mine every day I drive to the Big Town, and I only recently learned that Jonathan does, too. Our Mice have never failed any of us.

Rio is a native southern Californian, and most of her family lives there. The rest lives in Oregon, so she travels a lot. Megan thought Rio needed her own Mouse, both to keep her safe on her many journeys but also to let her know she is part of the family and that we love her very much.

It’s safe to say that mission was accomplished on all counts. She was delighted.

As for my gift…

A few months ago, Megan was cleaning out her bedroom and came across a fragile old quilt that our mother’s mother, Nana, had made. She showed it to me excitedly, and I’m sorry to say that I burst into tears, surprising both of us. Nearly 40 years after Nana’s death, seeing something of hers so unexpectedly affected me more strongly than I would have thought.

While this was not exactly the reaction Megan anticipated*, it gave her an idea.

She also found a quilt Nana had made but never backed. So Megan, Erica, and Jessica all worked together to find fabric, quilt it, and bind it to the nearly 80 year old quilt. They chose a black and white backing to be neutral:


compared to the bright pink quilt and its colorful pieces. I know that some of the fabric Nana used in it came from Mom’s baby/child clothes, some from Nana’s aprons, and some from Hoho’s (our grandfather’s) ties:


It took a superhuman effort not to cry in front of all of those people, but it was one of the most wonderful gifts I have ever received. I like to think of subsequent generations working on my grandmother’s quilt, and of her never-still hands stitching it, choosing which pieces to use in her pattern. I’m glad that it has finally been finished and restored and can be used again.
Thank you, Nana. And thank you to my sister, my chosen sister, and the daughter she had for me. I love you all.

*A few years after my grandparents died, I came home from college for Thanksgiving and took my grandmother’s hand crocheted tablecloth out of the sideboard to use for dinner. I was sobbing over it when Megan, who was about 12 at the time, walked by and snapped, “At least you have something to cry about.” She was 6 when they died and knows she missed out on something pretty great. Also? I did stop crying. Even at that early age, she had the skills that would stand her in good stead in the ER and on the ambulance.

A YEAR AGO: Remembering vacations past. Is there any other kind?

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Summer Job

It’s a sunny Saturday morning, and I’m back to my old tricks again, working at the jobette.

Like last year, I will be working six days a week this summer, until Labor Day or until I can’t take it anymore, whichever comes first.

So when I got home from work on Friday, I started making future food while Rob put in a load of Megan’s laundry. It seems that insanity runs in the family, since she is working as a medic at a festival* in Anderson Valley Saturday and part of Sunday, then heading home for her usual night shifts in the ER. It’s how we roll.

Future food for the week included all’amatriciana sauce and sweet and spicy grilled chicken breasts, which I rubbed with the spice mixture to let it sit overnight and made the dipping sauce.

After I delivered Megan’s laundry, I made a Moscow Mule (ginger beer; lime; vodka) in one of my fox glasses and sat back to watch The Americans, a TV show about Soviet spies posing as an American family in 1980s Washington DC. Theme night! I am pleased to report that it was a much more successful cocktail outing than the mint julep experiment on Derby Day, though I wished I had the traditional copper cup for the Mule. Maybe a pretty silver cup would have improved my julep?

*She texted me from the festival: “70 year old men should not wear skin tight marijuana printed bike shorts. Splattered brains don’t scare me as much!”

A YEAR AGO: Unexpected wildlife visitors, inside and out.

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Junapalooza II

Jessica’s birthday card to Erica

Well, this year’s Junapalooza was awesome.

Erica decided long ago that she wanted it to be a fancy high tea. I had my doubts, because fanciness and high tea are not what you usually think about when you think about the family estate. But being Erica, she made it happen. When will I ever stop having doubts? Always trust the Erica.

Erica arrived dressed in a sassy little flowered dress, with a flowered clip in her hair and red Fluevogs on her feet. She wasted no time in covering the Waltons-sized picnic table with a length of sage green (washable) fabric and setting it with teapots, a wide variety of teas, and cake stands/plates. It was bring your own mug.

For those of us (like Self) who are not so tea inclined, Jonathan made some limeade (seen at the end of the panoply of delicacies):


Erica invited her friends Julie and Darius, who own the delightful café where we plotted Junapalooza over lunch, and whose daughter Bella is Jessica’s best friend. Being professional deliciousness purveyors, they brought little pasties filled with sausages, peas and potatoes, accompanied by a little pot of mustard, as well as tiny cucumber sandwiches (crustless, of course) and perfect little rhubarb and strawberry galettes:


Erica had made: miniature palmiers; asiago and scallion scones; lemon bars; sausage rolls sliced to look like spirals; mini chocolate bundt cakes brushed with coffee-rum syrup; and tartes Antoinette, which you may remember was the hit of Thanksgiving dinner last year. They are tarts filled with quince paste Erica made from her own fruit, topped with vanilla cream and then whipped cream. So Marie! And so delicious.

Add in my brother’s home-made cherry tarts and you have the high tea to ends all high teas on your hands.

Dave and Jennifer, my siblings’ land partners and our partners in ballet, were there, and Lichen also made an appearance with his sweet dog Keeper, who found a perfect spot in the wildflowers where she could rest and observe:


Jessica looked adorable:


An outfit of Jack Skellington t-shirt and a flowered bonnet pretty much sums Jessica up. I am hoping that she and Erica can join Megan and me for a sleepover/movie marathon this summer. I want Jessica to learn the joys of John Hughes movies and she wants me to learn the joys of Full Metal Alchemist. We’ll see how that works out!

As for Junapalooza, it was the best one ever. I’m already looking forward to next year!

A YEAR AGO: Doing wild, wild life.

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Memorial Day Weekend

Bee swarm

Jonathan and Rob kicked off Memorial Day weekend by wrestling a muzzle of bees, as you can see above. Our bees had swarmed and were hanging out in a nearby tree, considering their options, when the boys made their decision for them. They cut the branch holding the bees so that most of them went into the bucket. Then they covered the bucket and took the swarm to its new home.

Unbeknownst to the bees, their new home was right next door to their old home. So far, they are staying put, which is great.

Once the bees were taken care of, we turned our attention to our guests for the weekend. Our friend Carrie had come up from Oakhampton with her teenage daughter and entourage of other people’s teenage daughters. I was afraid that they would be bored up here in Hooterville, but as it turned out, they gloried in the unaccustomed freedom. In Oakland, you can’t let your lovely, tall teenage daughter roam free, but in Hooterville, you can and do leave her and her friends at the pond and expect them to make their way home after swimming. They had a little taste of our childhood, when our parents wanted us to stay out of their hair and the ER as much as possible (pretty much in that order). The rest was up to us.

While the kids were playing in the woods, we started dinner. Jonathan grilled up chicken breasts, onions, and peppers, including a few jalapeños*. When they were ready, I put them into a plastic bag so the steam would help in removing the skins and then cut them up while Jonathan was cutting up the chicken. It all went into his giant, weapon-sized cast iron pan, which also housed the paella and Moroccan chicken at family dinners recently:


In the meantime, Megan was grilling raw tortillas left over from Rio’s daughter’s wedding the week before:


She married into a family with Native and Mexican heritage, and the older ladies in the family made these tortillas (and much, much more) for the wedding dinner. Jonathan said it was pretty obvious they had cooked for crowds many times before and made it look so easy. I had never had fresh tortillas before, and I have to say they were a revelation compared to the store bought ones: flaky, light, blistered.

We stuffed the tortillas with the chicken mixture and salsa verde made last fall from ingredients grown in the family estate, as well as estate-grown black beans. While we stuffed ourselves, Jonathan told us the provenance of the giant cast iron pan.

Long ago and far away, he worked on historic ships in San Francisco. He has often deplored how these great sailing vessels were treated and (not) preserved versus the way they are cared for on the east coast in places like Mystic. In this particular case, parts of the ship and her equipment were stowed in leaking warehouses, which led to their inevitable decay, destruction and discarding. One day, he noticed this pan and decided to salvage it, rather than waiting for it to rust and be thrown away. So the pan holding our dinner was doing what it had done for more than a century. It was fun to know that, and good to know that it didn’t end up in landfill somewhere, unknown and unappreciated. Perhaps it could be considered a small act of piracy, but I don’t think anyone would make him walk the plank over it.

*Wiser people than I would wear gloves for that part. The jalapenos stayed in my skin for a couple of days despite repeated handwashing and showers.

A YEAR AGO: The first, but not the last, Junapalooza! A tradition is born.

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Birthday Boy

My Baby Boy

I am pleased to say that Clyde’s birthday yesterday was also (mostly) uneventful. The same day my little guy turned 6 years old, I came home to find a mostly intact but decidedly ex baby bird on the carpet.

As I disposed sobbily of the sad little unfledged body (to be fair, he likely fell from the nest and Clyde just delivered him to the house) in the woods, it occurred to me that the body count has dropped severely since Roscoe disappeared. It’s been months since I came home to a deconstructed bird or a former squirrel, or was woken up by a midnight mouse chase.

I would happily clean up bodies with the regularity of a Manhattan morgue worker if it meant I got Roscoe back. Clyde’s birthday will always be bittersweet since Roscoe is no longer here to share it with him.

Six months after losing the Mysterious Mr. Roscoe, I still miss his stealthy but remarkable presence in my life. Slinking through the house, always taking the route under the stairs. Sleeping on my pillow. The unique and delicious scent of his rough, yet soft fur: cold woods, a touch of pine resin, fresh air and warm Roscoe. How he had a white heart pattern on his chest and loved to stretch out extravagantly and have his narrow little belly rubbed, the only undignified thing he ever did.

It does make me realize though that Roscoe had a wilder nature than Clyde. He spent a lot of time in the woods and his love of hunting probably led to his loss, but perhaps he died the way he lived, much like our beloved Schatzi when she decided to leave us.

As for the birthday boy, he too has been changed by the loss of his brother. He spends more time at home and needs more cuddling than ever. He can often be found sitting on my desk, staring off into the woods, even when the doors are wide open and he could go into the woods himself. I believe he saw what happened to Roscoe or somehow knows. At a minimum, he misses the twin he shared the first five years of his life with.

I am thankful that Clyde is staying closer to home, and thankful for his sweetness to balance Audrey’s spiciness. He will always be my baby boy.

A YEAR AGO: I was limpy.

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