Suzy Says
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Culinary
September 10th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life No Comments


A Beautiful Day on the Coast

Sunday was another beautiful day. It seemed like a good day for a trip to the South Coast, especially since the inimitable Franny of Franny’s Cup & Saucer was guest chef-ing at the Garcia Guild breakfast in Manchester. It was a New Orleans breakfast, with white cheddar grits, sautéed greens with andouille sausage, scrambled eggs, nectarine, blackberry and mint fruit salad, biscuits with preserves, custard donuts, and orange juice.

Sounds good, right? However, the reality, as so often happens, did not live up to the expectations. Though I arrived a little more than an hour after the breakfast started, I soon learned that they were out of: coffee, orange juice, fruit salad, donuts, and preserves, with no plans to replace them. Each person at this allegedly all you can eat breakfast was limited to one single two inch square biscuit, which was of course the best part of the breakfast.

I knew that I was unlikely to change my long-held opinion that grits were gross, and this in fact did meet expectations. I couldn’t taste any cheese in the two bites I took of it, which only confirmed my dim view on grits. I left most of the breakfast behind in disgust along with my $10 (the entry fee was not reduced despite the fact that about half of the advertised items were not available). Never doing that again. Lesson learned! Stick to the Hooterville Grange.

My cloud of disappointment vanished immediately when I noticed that Franny’s was uncharacteristically open on a Sunday. I went in and got an almond croissant, sea salt caramel pecan brownie, and a slice of plum and frangipane tart. These were all fabulous.

I continued down the coast:

going from sun to fog and back again. Arriving at Anchor Bay Thai, I saw that they had painted a new mural on the back wall:

Really striking, and I love peacocks. With my to go order safely stowed, I headed to Gualala, where I looked around the bookstore and admired the ocean:

before heading back home in my delicacy-laden car. That evening, I watched the very enjoyable “Sudden Fear” with the one and only Joan Crawford chewing up the scenery and the sultry Gloria Grahame slinking through it as they battle over the affections of the charismatic Jack Palance. Bonus fun was seeing San Francisco in 1952 and mentally comparing the past and present. You can have a peek at the locations then and now here if you’re curious.

A YEAR AGO: Clyde and Dodge were getting closer. Now none of the cats goes outside if I can help it. Whatever scared Clyde that day has reduced or eliminated his interest in the Wide World, which is just fine with me.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful evening at the theater with Megan and Lu. We are overdue for a girls’ night out!

TEN YEARS AGO: Remembering my grandparents’ long and happy marriages.

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Books
September 6th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life No Comments

It wasn’t all sloth on this long weekend, however. I found time to help set up the library book sale, along with countless other volunteers, young and old alike. My high level task was to haul handcarts of books through the alley behind the library to the Veterans’ Hall across the street.

We had a pretty good system going. One of the volunteers pushed boxes of books down a chute to a loading area, where another volunteer stacked the boxes onto the handcarts so they could be dragged across the street, up the ramps, and into the Hall.

There other volunteers decanted the books onto tables set up by genre, arguably a less appealing task than the book haulage itself. Having said that, though, each load seemed to get heavier, and I began to feel about 90 years ago. At last, we got to the “special price” books, the last to go. These only had to moved around the corner into the room where the Board meetings are.

It looked great when everything was set up:

And I am pleased to report that the library made close to $9,000 from the book sale. How’s that for teamwork?

A YEAR AGO: Dodge gets the thumbs up from the vet.

FIVE YEARS AGO: My computer was brand new. And somewhat shinier.

TEN YEARS AGO: Still love those Chanel rain boots. And I rarely use an umbrella now that I live in the country. Mostly it’s just a hat. And non Chanel boots.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Art on the streets of San Francisco.

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Off
August 31st, 2019 by suzy in Country Life No Comments

I gave myself the gift of an extra long weekend by taking the Friday and Tuesday off around Labor Day. Five glorious days of not getting up in the dark and driving to work in the glare of oncoming traffic (I’m already tired of it, and it’s barely September) or putting on faux adult armor. Yess!

I slept in until after daybreak on Friday, aided in my slothitude by the cats, who are always up for a day of underachieving. Dodge slept against my legs – he always has to be touching me when he sleeps – Clyde was cuddled up to me, and Audrey was glaring from my pillows, hating the Whos from the top of Mount Crumpet.

I realized that I would be able to attend the Farmers’ Market in the Village, which is only open for a couple of hours and only on Fridays in the summer. I took an unnecessarily long shower, enjoying the rain shower showerhead and the lack of hurry. I did not apply makeup or hair products or blow dry my hair, and left the house with my hair wet, heedless of who I might meet in my unadorned state (spoiler alert: I actually did not meet anyone I knew. Bonus!).

It was a beautiful day, bright with sunshine but not hot, even at my house, and with a nice little breeze. Arriving at the Village, I found a parking spot just steps from the market:

One thing about my siblings having such an epic garden is that they basically already grow everything you can buy in a local farmers’ market. But it was nice to wander in the sunshine, taste olive oil, and other people’s fruit and vegetables. I did buy some sausage and plum jam with cardamom from Petit Teton, located in beautiful Anderson Valley:

as well as some lemongrass cocktail mix for later.

Conveniently for me, the two hours the market was open coincided neatly with the three hours the wood-fired brick oven pizza place is open:

There were some interesting choices:

but this time, I had to try the spicy salami. It was fantastic:

Megan and I are plotting a girl night starring that pizza, some wine, and silly movies if/when our schedules ever allow.

Back home, I made some delightful cocktails with the lemongrass cocktail mix and some sparkling pink wine:

Here’s to an extra-long weekend!

A YEAR AGO: Welcome home, little Dodge! What did we ever do without you?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Shopping for doorknobs.

TEN YEARS AGO: I sold my incredible diamond ring. I regret this now. I imagine the people who bought the house I was renting then high and sold it low regret that now, too, especially since it’s now worth $200,000 more than they sold it for.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Yup. I still feel the exact same way about the Olympics and politics.

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Cooking
August 27th, 2019 by suzy in Cats,Cooking No Comments

Sometimes when I actually get around to cooking on the weekends, I begin to feel that I may have been overly ambitious in formulating my culinary plans.

Sitting in bed with a cup of coffee and the kitties in various relaxing attitudes, getting up, getting dressed, and starting to cook doesn’t seem all that appealing. Cats are very demotivating.

Most of the time, they just stay in bed while I start cooking and tidying up. Cats quite rightly despise housework and avoid at all costs, wisely leaving it the help.

This weekend, I had the delusion that I could make my own Montreal bagels, despite not having a wood-fired oven and being about 3,000 miles away from Montreal. As I started to assemble the ingredients – one of the drawbacks of my house is that the food is stored in a separate area from the kitchenette – it occurred to me that I could use up some leftover mint and some cucumber by making spa water:

I often have mint left over, and this turned out to be a delicious and refreshing way to use the leftovers.

With spa water at hand and kitties snoring upstairs, I started the bagel construction process. It is lengthy and, to be honest with you, something of a hassle. I used this recipe from the New York Times, and the irony was not lost on me, since Montreal bagels are a very different style from the bready New York ones. They are mostly hole, resembling a bracelet, and are chewy and slightly sweet from being boiled in honey water, just one part of the lengthy process.

My oven is an overachiever – faithful readers may recall how I inadvertently quick roasted a turkey one Thanksgiving – so I overcooked the bagels a bit. Still, not bad for a first attempt:

The oven was quite busy that day, cooking apple crumble to use up the four or five aging apples in the fruit bowl and my Dad’s honey-mustard chicken. Maybe my underachieving is really overachieving!

A YEAR AGO: Dodge joined the family! I am pleased to report that he is now 100% plush and 100% happy.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Hanging out on the couch.

TEN YEARS AGO: Hating the heat. I always have, and I always will.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A little on the sleepy side.

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Drinks
August 22nd, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,Family,Friends No Comments

After a week like that, it was time for an adult beverage or two. Or maybe more!

Our friend Monica joined Megan and me at our favorite seaside bar, where we were greeted by the amazing bartender. She had some fresh apricots on hand, so she invented a sort of apricot kamikaze, muddling fresh apricots with lime juice, vodka, and peach schnapps, and shaking it with ice. It tasted as good as it looked:

Having the drinks in hand softened the blow when she told us that she is moving inland. She will still be bartending here on the coast, but only on Wednesday nights, so we will have to adjust our schedules accordingly. I am really going to miss her. I think she makes that bar and is an integral part of how fun it is to go there.

As usual, it was very busy with a diverse crowd of people. Some clearly visitors, some dressed up for a special occasion dinner, some clearly locals. Everyone from the oldest to the youngest was having a good time.

After the apricot libations, we moved on to the classic cerise noire, where brandy soaked cherries meet black cherry vodka and sparkling wine:

What’s not to love?

The sun slipped toward the ocean as we chatted and caught up. Monica recently won an award for her store window designs, and also has adopted a new dog called Sugar, so there was happy news to toast along with our annual toast to Dad on the eve of the day we lost him, eighteen years ago. Sometimes it seems like it was just yesterday, and sometimes it seems like a million years ago. One thing that never changes is how much I love him and miss him.

ONE YEAR AGO: Much to celebrate on the Evil Eighteenth. And Dad would have enjoyed all of it.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Fate might truly be inescapable.

TEN YEARS AGO: Considering moving to the country. One of the best decisions I ever made. I still love my old house, flaws and all. Isn’t that what love is all about?

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Brought to you by the letter O.

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Dark
August 16th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,Memories,Work No Comments

The Naked Ladies are flaunting their pink, leafless blooms by the side of the road, and you know what that means: high beams have made their unwelcome return to my morning commute. I need a flashlight to get to the car, and I am extra vigilant looking for the wildlife hanging out or meandering on the Ridge in the early morning darkness.

This morning, I wondered what that mysterious light through the trees was. It turned out to be the nearly full moon once I emerged from the redwoods. The moon kept me beaming company all the way down the Ridge and yet was also hanging over the pastel ocean once I arrived there.

It reminded me of when I was a young girl and my mother’s father, the inimitable (and much missed) HoHo, had me convinced that he put the moon up every night, using a long ladder. Once the moon landing happened, I asked him what he did about the astronauts, those men on the moon. He explained that he used a catapult for that. Remembering this half a century later still made me smile as I drove down the beautifully empty highway. Is there anything lovelier than a two lane highway beside the ocean with no other cars in sight on a clear summer morning?

Work has been a crazy thing lately. Or crazier than usual. I worked 35 hours in three days this week, as the Feds examined the operations at the clinic where I work. Weeks of planning, data gathering, and fretting were involved, and there was of course a last minute scramble for documentation, and you know how I love that. In the end, we got 88 out of 93, and have a certain amount of time to fix the 5 things we did not pass. The graders themselves said it was “excellent”, but somehow I just feel let down and not all celebratory like my boss and my coworkers. Maybe because the fix involves having yet another board meeting this month, which means yet another twelve hour day for me.

I have to admit that I’m a bit worn down. I feel like I have been running a marathon. First the move in June, then the dreaded annual staff day and 25th anniversary party in one week in July, then the Feds in August, and now the annual audit is looming in September. I also have to find time to help set up the library’s annual book sale, since I am now the board president, and have been knee deep in dealing with contracts for the library expansion, a thing I know nothing about. Not that this has ever stopped me.

In other library news, yet another board member has passed away, making a total of three this year. To be fair, she was 94, but it’s still a sad loss. She was much loved by the community and still very active on the board. So I am attending her funeral next week and hoping that I will not find myself shoveling dirt onto a coffin again.

I keep thinking, “Once this is over, I can relax”, but it doesn’t seem to work that way.

A YEAR AGO: Yup, the darkness was coming back in. And the new normal does seem to be the norm, since I am sleeping with fans again and can’t remember the last time I didn’t. I miss having the screen door open in the bedroom at the old house. If I have the windows open here, Dodge pushes the screens out.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Under construction!

TEN YEARS AGO: The sudden, unheralded appearance of my landlords. Yet another good reason to move.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Summering in the Hamptons, darling!

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Movie
August 10th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,Movies No Comments

It’s been a long time since I went to the movies. I wanted to see Rocketman, but unless it’s a Harry Potter movie or a blockbuster action movie, movies are only at the local theater for a week, and it’s often hard to fit it into my schedule, what with meetings at work and the library and other obligations. So I missed that one, but I was determined to see the new Tarantino movie.

I planned carefully and was able to escape work in time to attend the 4:30 showing of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, along with maybe a dozen other people. Because this town is so small, I knew at least one of them, and had in fact recently given her a ride home when she locked her keys in her car at the gas station so she could pick up her spare set of keys, and then drove her back to the gas station. I waited to make sure that her car started and she drove off before I headed back to work that day.

I enjoyed the movie very much. It looked beautiful, wonderful shots of vintage Los Angeles (inside and out) and car porn galore. I loved the relationship between Brad Pitt and Leonardo Di Caprio. I also enjoyed how they made fun of themselves and did not take themselves seriously despite their remarkable beauty.

Speaking of beauty, Margot Robbie did not look like Sharon Tate, and indeed when you see footage of a film with the actual Sharon Tate within this movie, you are amazed by how exquisite (and funny) she was. To be fair, she was one of the most beautiful women who ever lived, so it’s a pretty high bar for any actress.

I liked Tarantino’s willingness to subvert expectations, though many have objected to this. And yes, there is gore and violence, because it is, after all, a Tarantino movie. My one objection is the depiction of Pitt’s pit bull as a deadly attack dog. I am the proud aunt of two pit bulls and know that theirs is a loving breed, the polar opposite of how they are depicted in the media, including this movie, and it concerns me that it may give uneducated viewers the belief that these are dangerous dogs. Having said that, I’m glad that the dog survived, since most dogs in movies do not, no matter what their breed is. All in all, I enjoyed it very much and I hope you do, too.

A YEAR AGO: Working on Megan and Rob’s move.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Rob the handyman strikes again.

TEN YEARS AGO: The horrors of summer. Some things never change…

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Neighborly
August 5th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,Friends No Comments

I had a fun Sunday without ever leaving Hooterville. I drove down my current Ridge a few miles to the Grange, where there is a pancake breakfast once a month. It was a beautiful day, and a beautiful setting:

Inside, it was packed with neighbors, some known to me (Doug from the good old days at the Gro – he does not miss the store – and the lady who does wildlife rescue) and others unknown (pretty much everyone else). I noticed that all ages were well represented at the long tables in the hall, though the servers and cooks were definitely what the French call “of a certain age”. I have to wonder if succeeding generations will be as interested in community service as this generation is, and if this kind of community event will eventually become a thing of the past.

I pulled up a chair and was served with a Dixie cup (They still make Dixie cups! Who knew?) of orange juice and gave my order to the genial, aproned waitress. I could have had coffee, but as you all know, I only have my one cup a day and always before I leave the house. I am mystified by people who can get themselves together and dressed and actually drive to their workplace without benefit of caffeine.

I had fluffy pancakes with homemade berry syrup:

And they were delicious! I could also have had ham and eggs with it, and all of it was all you can eat. For $8! The proceeds go to help the local volunteer fire department, which was another plus in a series of pluses. It was like stepping back in time there, and I really enjoyed that feeling. It may have been my first visit to the Grange, but it won’t be the last.

Back at home, I was watching the Blue Jays game when I got a text from Dave and Jennifer, inviting me to a BBQ that evening. Even though it was a school night, I was happy to say yes and head over to the family estate.

This time, I kept going, all the way down to Dave and Jennifer’s place at the very end, making sure to close the gate behind me so the horses and ponies could not escape. It had been a while since I was there, and there were improvements to see, such as solar panels and an outdoor shower. Now that Dave has retired from his job working for the City of San Francisco, they are going to start building their house. They are also planning to sell their house in Grass Valley, so they have a lot on their plates.

We all had a lot on our plates: Dave barbecued marinated pork and salmon he and Jennifer had just caught, and served it up with salad, garlic bread, grilled vegetables, and wild rice. All this was topped off with tarts my brother made from raspberries he had picked that day. Joining us for dinner were our good friend Lu, Megan, Rob, Jonathan, Rio, and Dave and Jennifer’s former neighbors from Grass Valley, Stephanie and Peter. Stephanie and Peter originally hailed from Manchester, but have lived in many places. Peter was in television engineering and holds several patents, while Stephanie was a nurse, mostly in the ER, giving her lots in common with Lu and Megan. We had such a good time talking that I got to bed much later than I intended, but it was a day full of happiness.

A YEAR AGO: Megan and Rob moved onto the property. It was never the same without them, and eventually I moved too.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A day full of surprises.

TEN YEARS AGO: No matter who the kitties are, they are always naughty. Audrey’s fondness for chicken has no diminished over the past decade. I found her nibbling on a cooked chicken breast cooling on the counter this week.

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Ridge
July 31st, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,Moving No Comments


Morning on the Ridge

I’m getting to know my new road and my new commute. You have probably figured out that I am enraptured by my new house, so it’s probably not all that surprising that I am totally charmed by my new ridge as well. To my eyes, it is prettier than the old one and seems a little more upscale, if such things are possible in the depths of the country. I love the archways of trees:

as well as the stately redwoods.

The road starts (or ends, depending on how you look at it), at the ocean, with a spectacular view:

And a warning:

I have to admit I have not driven the entire length of the road, so when it actually ends or disappears remains a mystery.

I can’t drive this ridge as fast as I drove the old one, partly because I don’t know it as well – I have driven the old one, I realize, for about 25 years despite only living here for 10 – and partly because of things like this one lane redwood bridge:

I’m always afraid I’m going to meet someone on it and have to back up. I’m not great at backing up at the best of times, and backing up onto a narrow road running along a ridge with an elevation of close to 700 feet above sea level is not a fun prospect. It reminds me of when my brother and sister lived on boats at Pier 39 and I asked them if they had ever fallen in the water. Their opinion was, “There’s them that have and them that will.” I’m afraid this is also the case here.

The new Ridge seems both higher and narrower than the old one. There are country hazards:

And I live past the “pavement ends” sign:

I’ll tell you a secret: the pavement doesn’t really end. Or at least I haven’t found where it does. Yet.

A YEAR AGO: The whole county was on fire.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Catching up on this and that.

TEN YEARS AGO: I sold my beautiful diamond ring out of economic necessity. Really regret that now.

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House
July 26th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,House,Moving No Comments

I am pleased to announce that The Mess has been vanquished and The Unpacking is (mostly) complete!

Here’s the living room:

I do have distant plans for this room. I would like to get a bigger area rug. Also my good friend Alice thinks I should get a pink velvet sofa and chair, since cats (allegedly) don’t claw velvet and pink is my signature color. It would also go nicely with my beaded elephant pillow and the vintage, hand-made suzani Alice gave me:

Here’s the kitchen. You can see that the painting does balance out the wall with the grandfather clock:

Here’s another angle:

I mentioned to Danielle that I couldn’t seem to get the broiler or the front right burner of the stove to work. She investigated and decided that it would cost $400 to get someone in to fix the stove, so she bought a new one and had it delivered the next day.

This is not how Mark thought. He would have jimmied something with a piece of wire and string and told me he’d fix it later. That later would never come, yet I would expect it to and be surprised when it didn’t.

While Danielle was looking at the stove, I also told her that the light in the bedroom closet didn’t work and she is getting an electrician to look at it next week. I could get used to this.

Here’s how the bedroom looks, complete with Clyde:

And the bathroom:

Here’s the back of the house, with the Chinese stools and porcelain flowers from the old house. The stairs lead down to the fenced in garden, where foxes, ravens, and hummingbirds like to play:

I can still hardly believe that I actually live here.

A YEAR AGO: The joys of the always amazing Flynn Creek Circus.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Making faux (but delicious) pho.

TEN YEARS AGO: Of BBQs and hay bales.

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Hello
July 21st, 2019 by suzy in Family,Work No Comments


Here’s to me!

Well, hello there!

I have not, as you may have suspected, fallen off the edge of the earth, which is perilously nearby. But I was swept away by a work tsunami, which we all know is the worst kind. We had two events in one week, so in addition to those days, there were two days of preparations. People never think about how things get set up for these shindigs, or how they get cleaned up afterwards, either. Suffice it to say that I do not have Jeannie-like powers and have to do it all the Darren-approved Samantha way. Also that I worked 13 hours of overtime in one week.

I was scheduled to attend a fundraiser in the distant county seat on Saturday after this long and crazy week. Though for a very worthy cause, I found myself unequal to the three hour round trip drive and donated money instead of my beleaguered presence. I felt guilty but also relieved as I mixed up a batch of Cosmos and watched A Crooked Somebody surrounded by sleepy cats.

I had recovered enough by Sunday morning to head over to Rio’s house:

for breakfast with the visiting Jarrett and Kalli. Jonathan made huckleberry pancakes, served with huckleberry sauce and real maple syrup:

.

They were as delicious as they looked.

Kalli and Jarrett had big news to share: they are planning to get married on the family estate in the spring of 2021! We are very excited about that and looking forward to the big day. I am so happy for them!

A YEAR AGO: Farewell to my wonderful former mother-in-law. I was so lucky to have had her and Ed in my life. I will always miss them.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Kalli’s birthday party at the family property/wedding venue to be!

TEN YEARS AGO: A lovely stroll around Little River Cemetery.

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Circus
July 10th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,Special Occasions No Comments


Step right up!

I took two days off around the Fourth of July holiday, and I am pleased to announce that it was not boiling hot and I was not sick or injured, as often seems to happen when I have the temerity to take a day off.

It was nice not to get up in the dark to the tyranny of the alarm, to not drive to the Big Town, and not apply faux adult armor. I sat in bed in the morning with the boys, catching up on my fan mail while drinking coffee and contemplating getting up. It was nice to have the feeling of having time, though like most time off, it sped by too quickly.

The circus was in town – the Flynn Creek Circus, that is – and Megan arranged to go to work late that night so we could go together. That night’s show was a benefit for the local library, of which I am now Board Chair. Megan asked me why I didn’t get free front row seats, which I thought was a good question. Also, where was my limo?

I forgot about these questions as soon as the show started. It was a new one, featuring a rabbit who escaped from a magician’s hat, rabbit revolutionaries, and some very talented humans, to whom the laws of physics did not seem to apply:

The jugglers were phenomenal. They bounced ping pong balls off their arms and did things with hats that had to be seen to be believed:

Even though I saw them, I couldn’t believe my own eyes. I spent the whole show gasping with amazement, filled with wonder and delight. It was like being a child again.

At the end of the show, the artists lined up outside the tent and we had an opportunity to tell them how wonderful they and the show were, which I really appreciated. I was especially happy to tell the jugglers how amazing their act was.

They are doing another show in the Big Town next month, and I’m thinking we should go again. Encore!

A YEAR AGO: The annual quilt show, which I missed this year due to Megan’s changed work schedule.

FIVE YEARS AGO: My scenic drive to work in the Big Town.

TEN YEARS AGO: Surprisingly few of you wanted to swap housing with me back when I lived in Oakhampton. Moving there was not one of my better decisions. Moving away was.

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Wild
July 3rd, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,House No Comments

I finally felt an earthquake! I was watching Bohemian Rhapsody at the time, and despite the music, I heard the quake before I felt it, as I usually do. It was on the sharp side, but much quicker than they would have you believe on movies and TV. I didn’t notice any immediate damage, but the next day I did notice that a tree branch had fallen on the driveway, partly obscuring the exit, though I’m not sure if the two were related. As I expected, my ever-vigilant new landlord had removed it by the time I got home from work.

In addition to the inside and outside cat population, the new house seems to have its fair share of wildlife. A fox has come up on the back porch and the little deck outside the sliding doors in the kitchen, peeking in the windows. He is very cute. It may just be a drive by on his way to the compost pit, where I have seen his tail flying like a flag.

The compost is also a favored location for ravens, who swoop through the garden past the redwoods and into the compost. Hummingbirds buzz around the azaleas and jasmine, and I also saw a woodpecker last week. Steller’s Jays flash their vivid wings in the sun, and I saw a young deer, still with velvet on his antlers, stroll casually down the driveway.

There’s a certain spot on the new Ridge where wild turkeys like to hang out. They tend to congregate in the road and are unwilling to move for silly things like cars and humans, which do not interest or frighten them in the least. Quail also run across the road like little wind-up toys. It’s nice to see all the animals and feel like I’m at home amid all the nature.

A YEAR AGO: Yup, I am the whitest person ever. We are the Wonderbread family! And Mom’s origins remain a mystery.

FIVE YEARS AGO: There was much to celebrate. In the “some things never change” department, I texted Megan to wish her a happy anniversary on Monday and she had, yes, forgotten.

TEN YEARS AGO: Shopping: it’s all in how you look at it. Really glad I sent that fan letter to Karl Malden, though.

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Windows
June 29th, 2019 by suzy in Cats,House No Comments

Well, that didn’t take long!

I heard a thump one morning while I was applying my faux adult armor and looked in the bedroom, where the sound seemed to originate. I saw the window screen was torn. Looking out the window, I also saw Dodge standing on the driveway. I closed the window and tried to get Dodge to come back in the house. One thing I have learned about him is you can’t pick him up outside. He will claw you to death and he is one strong boy! It must be all part of his street survival multi pack of skills. So you have to wait until he’s ready to come back in, even if it’s 2 am.

I happened to be lucky that day and got him to come back inside before I left for work, but I was worried about the torn screen. I felt like I had just moved into the house and I had already trashed it. Also my landlord drives past my house any time she goes anywhere or goes home, so I was afraid she’d notice.

I managed to get it taped up until Rob could come by and take a look at the situation. He showed me that it hadn’t actually torn – it was pulled out of the frame and the string that holds it in (you can tell I have a 100% perfect grasp of the inner workings of window screens) was also intact. So he managed to make it look as good as new, which was a huge relief, and also put the errant screen back in its place without a giant ladder, making my house look like nothing had happened when in fact plenty had.

I made another unwelcome discovery while getting ready for work this morning. The cats had in fact snapped off a part of one of the bathroom window blinds and bent another one. Goodbye, $1,000 security deposit! I thought as I applied plum colored mascara. I’m wondering if I can super glue them together or maybe Rob can come up with something. I guess my worst case scenario is replacing the blinds when I move out. They will (I hope) be a lot cheaper than $1,000. In the meantime, I have rolled up the blinds to hide the damaged part.

Those kitties! What will I do with them?

A YEAR AGO: Heatwaves, bunnies, and birds!

FIVE YEARS AGO: A reading at the bookstore.

TEN YEARS AGO: A rude awakening.

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Cats
June 24th, 2019 by suzy in Cats,Country Life,House,Moving No Comments


A Rare Show of Togetherness

The cats seem as happy in their new home as the Staff is. They staked out their territory early. Audrey is Queen of the Couch, rarely, if ever, venturing upstairs, which is Boys Town. While she lounges on the couch, the boys lounge (and generally cuddle) on the bed. Much like human boys, they are happy with an unmade bed, but their Staff prefers the bed to be made and things to be tidy.

I placed two food dishes and a water dish in the spacious bathroom, along with the litterbox, which I cleverly concealed in the shelving unit there. I was surprised one day to note that both Dodge and Clyde were in the box at the same time, which seemed a little excessive in the way of togetherness.

Audrey’s dish and water are downstairs in her kingdom. It was soon brought to my attention that she did not care to go upstairs to use the facilities, so she now has her own inside the downstairs closet. I don’t love leaving the closet door ajar at all times, but it beats the alternative. Like I always say, compromise means nobody’s happy, though in this case, I’m pretty sure Audrey is.

The front door of the house is mostly glass, as is the sliding door in the kitchen and the door to the back porch, so I expected the cats to use those to look outside. Unfortunately for me, they prefer to sit in the windows, most of which have blinds which they walk through and disarrange. Fortunately, all of the windows also have screens.

However…I did not admit to the actual cat population when interviewing for the house. I only told my landlord about Audrey, who I expected to be the most visible and who might go outside eventually. Even to the owner of three cats, three cats sounds perilously close to crazy cat lady territory, and I didn’t want to jeopardize getting the house by admitting to it. So now I’m worried that she will notice them sitting in the windows and I’m not sure how to respond to that if it happens. I realize I should have told the truth in the first place and I brought it all on myself, but still.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that the landlord’s cat has been stopping by to visit (and, on occasion, leaving dead birds on the front porch). She is a beautiful cat, slim and white, with grey patches and extra toes, making her slim legs look even thinner with the big, bunchy paws.

She is friendly and likes to be petted. However, Clyde and Audrey do not appreciate her visits. They both hiss and growl at her. I am always a bit shocked when Clyde does it, since he is usually such a cuddlebug. Dodge is completely uninterested in the visitor. Maybe he developed this laissez faire attitude while living on the mean streets of Fort Bragg during his formative years.

Maybe I’m worrying about nothing, though worrying is what I do. I’m (in)famous for it. Even seven year olds can tell!

A YEAR AGO: Some minor mysteries on the Ridge.

FIVE YEARS AGO: An eventful memorial service.

TEN YEARS AGO: Those naughty kitties!

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Appliances
June 18th, 2019 by suzy in House,Moving No Comments

My new appliances and I are getting to know each other. My lifelong record of having no dishwasher other than myself remains unblemished, but the new house has nice, deep double sinks and even one of those sprayers which are so great.

It took me a few minutes to figure out how to turn the oven on. The stove in the old place, which was a charming, apartment-sized old Wedgewood – lit with a match, but the new one is not so straightforward. Eventually I figured out which buttons to push to turn it on and set the temperature. Later, it beeped to tell me that the oven was at the correct temperature.

While the oven was warming up and stretching, I turned my attention to the somewhat intimidating washer and dryer. They look like you need to be a pilot to operate them, or at least have more than two brain cells.

Fortunately, they were up to this particular task, and I successfully got a load of laundry washed and dried, though not put away since the closet is still in chaos. It is a front loading washer and it seemed to take almost an hour to complete a load of laundry, which seemed like a long time.

In addition to the new appliances, I am also enjoying the novelty of having a house key* for the first time in over a decade:

I have gone from having 5 doors with no keys to having three doors with keys. Even the sliding door in the kitchen has a lock. I find it quite satisfying to lock them before I go to bed at night, even though I’m sure I’m as safe, or safer, than I was at the old place. There is also a gate to the property which opens with a remote control or a key pad, which still kind of feels like magic and makes me feel even safer. So far, I am loving my new house.

*It’s lurking somewhere under all the bling and my post office box key.

A YEAR AGO: Feeling grateful for things big and small. I note that I wore the bracelet today.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Car pooling and Stella smiles.

TEN YEARS AGO: Ghosts in the machines.

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Clock
June 13th, 2019 by suzy in House,Moving,Sports,Weather No Comments

I was really glad to see the fog this morning after four days of above 90 temperatures. Granted, the new house is much cooler than the old one, which had no insulation and a peaked ceiling which trapped the heat, but after baking in high temperatures day after day and not really cooling off at night, there’s only so much you can expect. It was strangely still with no breeze, and it didn’t cool off at night. This is unusual for us.

I was also pleased to see St. Louis win the Stanley Cup last night. Hooray! It’s their first win of the illustrious Cup, and also had the pleasant side effect of snatching it from the evil Boston Bruins, who defeated the Leafs in the first round of the playoffs to my dismay and consternation. Just looking at the ice on TV was nice, too.

But most of all, I was happy to see my brother and brother in law arrive to unbox the ancient grandfather clock and get it set up in its new home. It’s off center because that’s where the wall stud is:

It’s also better for the clock to be as far from the heater (at right) as possible. I’m hoping to balance it out visually by hanging my big painting “Russian Hill” between the clock and the painting:

We took the Styrofoam and coffin pieces upstairs, where Rob put a ladder to access the storage space around the water tank on the third floor of the house. There was a light so Rob could see what he was doing, and the first thing he noticed was how cool it was, probably due to the water tank. Then he said that there was “enough room for a family of five” in there. Unfortunately, the front and back of the clock coffin were too wide for the doorway/hatch, so the boys ended up stowing them under the house until the next time I move, which I hope is never.

With the clock relocated, Rob’s bookcase was moved next to the sliding glass doors and my few remaining books placed in it:

When I discovered that there was space left over, I regretted some of the books I had given away, but I should try to look forward instead of back. And focus on not accumulating more stuff. Lessons have been learned. The hard way, as usual.

Jonathan put my bed together while Rob was disassembling the clock coffin. An esoteric piece of hardware was lost in the moving process and could not be replaced locally, so Rob made one. I am lucky to have such handy brothers who are willing to help me out. It was nice to get the bed off the floor. I was also pleased to note that it’s much easier to sit up in bed now that I don’t have to position myself oddly in order not to hit my head on the curved wall/ceiling. Rio observed that living at my old house was living in an art project, and I think she was right.

So things are coming together at the new place.

A YEAR AGO: Wednesday and I weren’t feeling too well.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Wednesday was not at her best then, either.

TEN YEARS AGO: Life in Oakhampton was not very exciting.

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Unpacking
June 10th, 2019 by suzy in Cats,House,Moving No Comments

The day after I moved, there was The Mess to contend with. I kept fretting over where on earth I would put everything, even though I had given and thrown away tons of things and stuff.

The cats woke me up at 2:30 am one Sunday night, or early one Monday morning, depending on how you look at it, breaking a glass I had unwisely left on the bathroom counter. I discovered this by stepping on broken glass in bare feet. After I pulled the glass out, applied the non fun kind of alcohol to the wound, cleaned up the breakage without benefit of broom and dust pan, which were still at the old house, I tried to go back to sleep. You will be unsurprised to learn that this did not work. I decided to just get up and attack the reason I couldn’t sleep.

Thinking that I might just unpack a few boxes and then go back to bed, I started to work without benefit of caffeine, putting away the kitchen things first. It was nice to see my Dean & Deluca spice containers again, and the peppercorns my good friend Alice sends me when she goes to Cambodia and Thailand. Also the little ceramic blueberry jam jar I bought in Maine as a kid. These are the kinds of things that make a girl feel like she’s home.

Pretty soon I was stashing the 200 year old Wedgwood carefully in an appropriately wedge shaped cabinet and the familiar canteens of Grammie’s ivory handled silver above the cabinets. I had found a place for all the kitchen pots, pans, and et ceteras! There were quite a few et ceteras. I will probably have to tweak it as I use it and figure out what works and what doesn’t, but it looked a little better after my late night adventure:

Note the curious Dodge surveying the new improvements.

Encouraged by this success (though daunted by the rapidly accumulating pile of empty boxes), I started stowing food in the closet under the stairs. This space has some storage, room to hang coats and the washer and dryer, as well as a shelf which is now stacked with cans and dry goods:

Given the limitations of storage space, I should try to be more minimalist and less survivalist when it comes to stockpiling pasta, rice, coffee, tea, and canned goods.

By this time, the sun was up and the cats were interested in breakfast. I made a well-deserved cup of coffee and started going through the boxes of books. The only place I have to put them is Rob’s beautiful book shelf, so I sacrificed still more books – another 6 boxes. All my Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Richard Ford, Raymond Carver, Evelyn Waugh…everything I can get from the library if I want to re-read it. I kept some sentimental favorites, my Dad’s books, and some cookbooks along with a coffee table book or two.

While difficult on the emotions, it did make an even more serious dent in The Mess:

Once the boys have time to set up the grandfather clock and switch its location with the book shelf, the room will be mostly done and I will finished with most of the boxes. I am hoping that we can unearth the old cherry table we used to have in our dining room when we were kids. It might need some work from Rob, and it will certainly need chairs, but it would be nice to use it again.

All in all, a lot of progress in just two days!

A YEAR AGO: Some delightful discoveries in the Village.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Rob’s amazing bathroom makeover (supervised by Clyde, of course).

TEN YEARS AGO: Wonderful in white.

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Birthday
June 5th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life No Comments

My birthday dawned bright and beautiful, shining with hope that I would get the best birthday present of all: internet in my house!

Getting internet when you live in what my late, lamented stepmother used to call “the back of beyond” in her rich, plummy voice with an accent like the Queen’s, is not a simple thing. You don’t just call the internet company and get it switched on. Here’s what you do (or at least what I did):

  1. Make appointment for internet guy to come out and see if there is a good tree to house the receptor.
  2. Get stood up by guy after waiting for two hours.
  3. Make another date and hope he shows up.
  4. Guy shows up on second try. I am favorably impressed by this, and he is favorably impressed by the size and quality of the redwoods surrounding my new house.
  5. Call a couple of tree climbers. Find one who is available on the same day as the internet guy, which happens to be my birthday. Fortunately I had already taken that day and the following day off from work.

My new landlord Danielle was also interested in getting the internet service, which is far superior to and less expensive than the satellite service she was currently suffering. Satellite internet in my experience is both expensive and crappy. What’s not to hate?

When the guys arrived, she pretty much took over. It’s her place and I could see she was used to running the show. The guys chose a tree and the climber went up to place the internet receptor. I later asked him how high he had to go and he said 120 feet, observing that that after 50 feet you’re going to die if you fall anyway so it doesn’t really matter how high you go after that.

The internet guy got Danielle hooked up first and then me. So I was back in touch with the outside world in time for dinner, which was bruschetta, salad, and penne alla vodka from Luna, along with some pink champagne in a pretty glass. It was a great birthday.

A YEAR AGO: A sad and tragic birthday.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Another birthday tinged with the shadow of loss. I just realized I will never see Yellow Dog again now that I moved. I will miss his sweet, old face. I still think he misses Schatzi. We all do.

TEN YEARS AGO: A pretty good birthday average.

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It wasn’t just moving day, it was Megan’s birthday. So I left the cats and The Mess behind to go and celebrate at the family estate. After a long day of moving all my worldly goods, my brother was making burgers and Rio was making salad. Jonathan had already made a lemon tart the day before, so everything was ready to celebrate. When we all had a glass of our homemade cider in hand, I made a toast:

“Forty-eight years ago today, I was called down to the office at school. When I got to the office, the principal told me I had a little sister. I skipped back to my classroom and announced, “I have a little sister!” All the girls went, “Yay!” and all the boys went “Boo!!”

Our brother laughed, saying that he wasn’t happy at the time to have yet another sister, but he certainly doesn’t feel that way now. I am nine years and nine days older than my sister, who was supposed to be born on my birthday. Instead, she came home from the hospital on my birthday. She’s still the best present I ever had. Here’s a picture of us the year I turned 21 and she turned 12:

After dinner, we took a look around the garden. The late rains did not seem to harm the orchard, where pies are in progress:

There are tons of cherries on the tree in the carefully netted cathedral, more than we’ve ever had before:

It should be a good pie year.

There’s a new Meyer lemon tree in the greenhouse (far right):

We’ll see how that does. It would be great if we can make it happy there. I love Meyer lemons.

It was a long day, but a good one. And I am thankful for my family and friends, even more than I usually am.

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