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Thankful
December 4th, 2019 by suzy in Cooking,Family,Special Occasions No Comments

The week leading up to Thanksgiving was a stormy one. The Ridge was covered with redwood needles, fallen twigs, branches, and general debris. One night driving home from work, it was so foggy and stormy that I could barely see the road. In fact, I couldn’t see the turn off from the highway to the Ridge, so I guessed. I was close: I ended up in the pullout at the foot of the Ridge. I drove down the middle of the road at 20 miles an hour, hoping for the best. I wanted to drive faster and get the hell off the road, but the visibility made even 20 about as fast as I could safely go. I was so glad to get home!

We were hoping that Clayton could join us from the City, but the weather was too bad for that four hour drive, especially on a motorcycle.

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Saturday, so I had some extra time to get things ready. Over the years, I have learned that the key to surviving the holidays is to do as much in advance as possible. So I made the cranberry sauce, dressing and roasted pears for the salad, cut up the bread to get stale for dressing/stuffing, and roasted and peeled the chestnuts:

Like every year, I forgot how horrible it is to peel chestnuts until I was actually doing it, even though I let them steam in a tea towel for fifteen minutes after roasting, which is supposed to make it easier.

It doesn’t.

Oddly, I never seem to have trouble peeling chestnuts I buy from street vendors in Paris, served in a paper cone. Maybe it’s being in Paris.

The house was pretty clean, so I didn’t worry about that, either. I did trap the boys in the bachelor pad (Megan’s old dog crate, fitted out with a comfy quilt) and close the bedroom doors to keep Audrey in. Audrey disdains company, but I didn’t want to take any chances on an escape attempt happening while people were going in and out.

On the day itself, I was putting the turkey breasts into the oven and thinking how lucky I was that my guests were almost entirely very capable cooks, ready to spring into action if something went wrong in the kitchen. Jonathan made the gravy while Rob mashed the potatoes. Everything was ready:

when the power went out. Sighing, I headed to the closet to get the power outage box with its lanterns and headlights. Bu the time I had it all set up, the power was back on again. We kept the lanterns out just in case, but I’m pleased to say we didn’t need them.

Dinner was fabulous. I was too busy eating and talking to take many photos. We had last year’s cider:

This year’s model wasn’t ready yet. Jonathan is planning to make vinegar and applejack from cider this winter, so stay tuned.

We finished off dinner with wild huckleberry tarts and a pie made from butternut squash we grew:

It was a wonderful evening. I’m very thankful for my family. No matter what life throws at me, they are always there for me.

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Girl Night™
November 28th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,Family,Frivolity No Comments


Ready to go!

It was definitely time for girl night!

Unfortunately for Megan, she had to teach a CPR class that day, so I ventured to the Village to pick up a pizza from Café Beaujolais, where they create amazing pizzas in their wood-fired brick oven. Keeping in mind the line that defeated me a few weeks ago, I got there right as they opened, ordering a pizza with salami, capers, and red onions. I sat in the sun in the beautiful garden as I waited, and noted that there was an alarming line by about noon. So the secret seems to be out and the pizza place is apparently going to be the new Swan Oyster Depot, a place of legendary lines.

When Megan’s class was over, she came by and picked me up. We stopped in at the Gro to get caramel ice cream and ginger cookies, and then headed to Megan’s place, where I was enthusiastically greeted by Star, who I am convinced remembers that I was there the day she was rescued, and Stella, who I am convinced is just copying Star’s enthusiasm because it is clearly the thing to do.

As you can see in the photo, Megan had equipped us with a bottle of strawberry infused vodka for Girl Night™. Fortunately for us, there was also a freezer full of strawberries from the garden. Megan blitzed frozen strawberries with some lemonade, then poured it into a pitcher with the vodka and more lemonade:

It was magically delicious, and I think we now have the official cocktail of Girl Night™. It needs a good name, though. The Elle Woods? It is her signature color, after all.

We thoroughly enjoyed our girl-o-rama double feature of Sweet Home Alabama and 13 Going on 30, probably more than Rob did, though he is remarkably tolerant of the silly movies, giggling, and driving his sister-in-law home after a few Elle Woods, especially now this is 12 miles one way instead of a few hundred feet or a quarter of a mile, the way it was in the old days.

I’m already planning the next double feature: a somewhat more Rob friendly combo of One for the Money and My Cousin Vinny.

A YEAR AGO: What do you know? A fun evening with my sister!

FIVE YEARS AGO: A wonderful Thanksgiving.

TEN YEARS AGO: Baby Jessica! Even then, we shared a deep love of glamor.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving with Mom. In the hospital. It would be her last Thanksgiving. Miss you, Mom.

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Symphony
November 24th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,The Arts No Comments


Tuning Up

Usually the arts seem to all be located on the magical south coast. This time, instead of heading south, I went north to the Big Town one fine Sunday afternoon (is it ever going to rain?). I arrived at the lovely auditorium, which was featured in these pages a few years ago*, a few minutes late for the pre-concert lecture. Being a small town, they told me to take a seat and come back later to pay for the concert.

I enjoyed the lecture, which gave a background on the musicians who wrote the music we were about to hear, as well as some history on the music itself. It was fascinating to learn all this right before hearing the music. The program included Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, Schumann’s Violin Concerto in D minor, and Mendelssohn’s Symphony #3 in A minor, Opus 56 “Scottish”.
When the lecture was over, I went out and paid for my ticket, got a program, and went back to my seat to read it before the show started. The musicians were a mixture of local and guest musicians, and they were wonderful. I especially enjoyed the performance of a young guest violinist, who plays violin made in 1761 and whose performance had been described to me as “fiery”. I have to agree that is the perfect description. It was a joy to hear and see him.

The whole thing was a joy, really. It was wonderful to sit in a hall filled with my neighbors and friends and have the magnificent music wash over me. I really felt in the moment.

The orchestra received the standing ovation they deserved at the end of the performance. As I was driving away, I passed several of the musicians loading their instruments into their cars and waved at them, yet another little bit of applause from a very thankful recipient of their gifts. I am already looking forward to the next concert in February.

*In reading this, I realize that Flynn Creek Circus did not have their distinctive red and white striped tent then. This may be the only time I have seen them somewhere other than the tent. Who knew?

A YEAR AGO: Thanksgiving at Rio’s house. And a farewell to our much-loved Erica and Jessica. I still miss them. And life is a lot less festive without them.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Somehow Thanksgiving sneaked up on me while I was in San Francisco.

TEN YEARS AGO: Getting ready for T Day.

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Hula
November 19th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,The Arts No Comments

I noticed on the local message boards that there was a series of six hula classes being given at the Caspar Community Center at 4:00 on Thursday. I checked my schedule and decided that I could get there in time – Caspar is the next town south from the Big Town where I work, so it’s on the way home – and off I went in the darkening evening.

Arriving at the community center, I found the three teachers, who are all native Hawaiians, a few kids, and about 10 other grown-ups. Clearly, I was the only one coming from work, and I felt a bit silly in my faux adult attire, especially since everyone else was wearing pretty skirts. Not to worry, though. One of the teachers wrapped me in a colorful batik scarf. I took off my shoes, and we all stood in a circle holding hands. Pretty much everyone but me knew the chants that followed, but I just listened with my eyes closed, feeling my feet grounded and the warm presence of the other dancers as they praised their higher power and asked for guidance.

We started by learning a dance about shells. The kids joined in this one. I was interested to learn that every gesture has a meaning: shell; shore; island; flower; ocean, etc. Before starting the second dance, we learned some history about its origins and the place it was written so we could understand the story we were telling. I loved learning all the history. The dancing is harder than you would think by looking at it, but I did the best I could, with the encouragement of the teachers and the other dancers. I really enjoyed it, and it gave me the gift of really being in the moment.

At the end, we did the circle again, and I felt enfolded in the warmth of my sister dancers and the stories we had told together. I am looking forward to the next classes.

A YEAR AGO: The 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. Thank you to all who served and continue to serve.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Attempting to run errands in San Francisco, with varying degrees of success.

TEN YEARS AGO: Feeling like Sanford & Son.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A cold. And a piano.

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Relativity
November 15th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life No Comments


It’s not really a garage. It’s Queenie’s.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning, and it seemed like a perfect day to have breakfast at Queenie’s. As I walked out to the car, I noticed that the quality of the light and the air were somehow different than it is in the summer. It’s hard to explain exactly how, but seasons are more subtle here than they are back east. Having said that, I was delighted to discover that the leaves on the tree next to the kitchen deck have changed from green to gold in a quite eastern manner:

Not many trees have color changing leaves here where temperature changes are too modest to inspire the annual display of brilliance found in places where it’s unbearably hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter. It rarely gets down to 32F/0C in the winter, and while we get the occasional heat wave in the summer, it’s not usually excessively hot, either, and it generally cools off at night.The seasons are more like: rain; no rain; fog; rain again.

We were in a no rain period when I headed to the beautiful south coast. It was one of those postcard days, with the blue waves crashing into white foam against the dark rocks, the sun sparkling on the water. Arriving at Queenie’s, I was lucky enough to get a window table. Next to me was a table of four white-haired gentlemen, who were having breakfast together and enjoying an animated discussion. It was nice to see people hanging out together and enjoying each other’s company instead of being on their phones. I had the impression that this was a long-standing tradition for these friends. After they finished eating, they all loaded into one pick up truck and drove off laughing, with the windows down.

My breakfast was fabulous: potatoes with sautéed onions, roasted garlic, green chilis, and smoked Gouda, topped with two eggs. Queenie herself came out to say hello – we are acquaintances from the Ledford House bar* – and I was surprised she remembered my name. She said, “Thank you for enjoying the food!” and I said, “Thank you for cooking it!” It was nice to see her. And breakfast was excellent.

As I left, I couldn’t help noticing the beautiful view across the street:

I headed to the Village after breakfast, with the intention of getting a pizza from the ever-delicious Café Beaujolais. By the time I got there, it was 1:00 in the afternoon, and I really should have known better. There were 6-8 people in line, which I knew meant over an hour to wait for the pizza, maybe an hour and a half. So I went back to the car. On my way home, I thought how funny it was that 6 people in line here makes me give up on the whole thing, whereas in the city – say, at Swan Oyster Depot – I would be thrilled to find only 6 or 8 people in front of me. I would feel like I won the lottery. It’s all relative, I guess.

*That sounded kind of bad, didn’t it?

A YEAR AGO: Some updates. And not feeling too festive.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A lovely dinner with friends.

TEN YEARS AGO: A lack of enthusiasm for library book annotations.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Feeling a little under the weather.

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Ugh
November 11th, 2019 by suzy in Bullshit,Country Life,House No Comments

As soon as the power came back on, I ran around hiding all the signs that it was ever out, madly washing dishes and putting away the lanterns. More than a week after the whole thing ended, I am still recovering from it emotionally. It’s not at all like losing power because of a storm, which is nature and an expected part of each winter. Having it wrested away from you for an extended period of time because of greed and negligence and having absolutely no recourse is not. And it’s super upsetting.

So it was in a state of emotional fragility that I woke up last Saturday morning and went downstairs to make coffee only to find both of the kitchen sinks full of raw sewage. Yes, the power was back on, but the septic system was on strike.

I let my landlord Danielle know, and while I was waiting for her arrival, discovered that the seepage was also in the closet where the washer and dryer are. I pulled everything out of there, and Danielle arrived with cloths to sop up the closet, along with a very long snake and an industrial Shop Vac to deal with the septic situation. Her son Alex, who lives in the house next to me, joined her on this mucky and unpleasant operation. They were both remarkably cheerful about it.

It took a while to deal with it, and Danielle told me that the issue is that the septic was put in many years ago, and now the redwood roots are beginning to encroach on it. Eventually it will need an overhaul, but hopefully not in the immediate future.

Once everything was done, Danielle scattered a lot of wood ash outside and I started bleaching and cleaning inside. I was very thankful that there were no dishes in or even near the sink. Everything was thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed. By that time, I was both hungry and disinclined to cook anything, so I jumped in the car and headed for Queenie’s, where I had a wonderful grilled Reuben sandwich on rye bread made just for Queenie’s. It was everything a Reuben should be.

The clocks went back an hour that night, just adding to the weekend’s weirdness. And making my sister, who had the bad luck to be working that night, have to work an extra hour.

A YEAR AGO: The state was burning up. It was scary.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The horror of looking for a job.

TEN YEARS AGO: My deer neighbor.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Viva Las Vegas!

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Out(r)age
November 5th, 2019 by suzy in Bullshit,Weather No Comments

Hi! I’m back! You may have heard about a little something they’re calling the Public Safety Power Shut Off (PSPS), which was inflicted on the unsuspecting residents of our huge, underpopulated and underfunded County by Their Satanic Majesties, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

Now that you’re up on your California-related acronyms, let’s talk power outage, or outrage, as the local message boards quite appropriately call it.

Out of the literally clear blue sky, PG&E decided that they would cut off the power to millions of people with very little notice or time to prepare. Nor did they deign to tell people which counties or cities would be affected. They did not update their online maps or website (which crashed anyway), or realize that having a website be your prime source of alleged information when there is no power or internet is ridiculous.

Also ridiculous is my landlord receiving a call THREE DAYS after the power went out telling her that there “might” be an outage.

We had no idea how long it would last as it dragged on day after dark, cold day. I had no heat – and the temperature was below freezing on some of the days – and no light on these short days. I was so tired of the cold and dark. I went over to the family estate to shower, recharge my laptop and phone, and use the internet in a vain attempt to find out if or when the outage would ever end. My siblings are wise enough to live off the grid and rely on sun power and their own ingenuity.

Supposedly, the power was shut off because of high winds creating fire risk, but there wasn’t a breath of wind on the Coast and we were nowhere near the places that did have high winds. So there was no reason to do this to us. And the fires that did occur were once again caused by PG&E, just like the ones last year and the year before. They chose to give their shareholders $4.5 billion (yes, that’s “billion”, with a “b”) instead of maintaining equipment, cutting back brush, and burying power lines as they were supposed to do.

Basically, they chose to spend money on executive salaries and bonuses instead of maintaining their equipment and keeping the public safe. They cost the homes and lives of people who lost everything in the fires PG&E caused. Again. They cost us on the Coast thousands of dollars in lost wages, food that rotted in refrigerators, businesses that didn’t have a generator and couldn’t stay open. My cell phone doesn’t work at my house and the landline didn’t work as it usually does in a power outage, so I had no way to communicate with the outside world. If I needed to call 911, I was out of luck.

One of the therapists at the clinic where I work told me that knowledge being withheld and the knowledge that information is being withheld is very traumatic for human beings. And I can honestly say that it is. I was relieved to hear that it wasn’t just me who was traumatized by the ordeal of five days without power.

I still can’t believe it happened. And I think we are all still recovering from it in many ways. Something has to change.

A YEAR AGO: There was power. And family dinner.

FIVE YEARS AGO: There was power. And the Giants were world champions!

TEN YEARS AGO: There was power. Rob Suzy proofed the house after I fell off the sleeping loft. Thank you, Rob!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The power was on. And I was a bad hostess.

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Ten
October 22nd, 2019 by suzy in Cats,Country Life,Dogs,Family,Friends No Comments

Today marks a decade since I moved to Hooterville! Can you believe it? So much has happened since the day my brothers drove the truck full of my things and stuff up the highway and the curving roads while I followed with a howling and indignant Audrey. It was a long drive.

It was a big adjustment, going from city life to country life, and it was hard at first. But now I wouldn’t move back to San Francisco, even if I were the zillionaire such a move would require. I love living in the woods, with the loudest sound the wind in the trees and bird songs. And the San Francisco I knew and loved is gone.

A lot has changed in the past ten years. I lost no fewer than three beloved cats: the exquisite June (Audrey’s sister); ancient, scrappy little Henry Etta, who I brought with me from Oakhampton; and the irreplaceable Roscoe (Clyde’s brother). It’s no coincidence that my current feline line up of Audrey, Clyde, and Dodge are not allowed outside. That’s where the monsters are, and I am avoiding them like the plague they are.

During the time I have been here, my sister lost her beloved Schatzi, our last link to our mother, and her sweet cat Ramona. She still has Ramona’s sister, the beautiful Harriet, going strong at 18 years old. Along the way, we trekked to Colusa to rescue her dog Star, whom Megan ending up adopting, who was later joined by the inimitable Stella. Star is always so happy to see me that I am secretly convinced that she remembers I was there with Megan on the day she was saved and her perfect life began.

My sister moved away from the property we both lived on to the one where our brother lives. Things were never quite the same. My former landlord moved away without letting me know, and I moved a few months later. I love my new, beautiful, and let’s face it, improved house, but I will always have a soft spot in my heart for my quirky old place, despite all its eccentricities, even though I am much happier at the new place. It still seems like a dream after five months of living there.

My brother adopted his adorable and fierce mini cat, Scout, and fell in love with his lovely girlfriend Rio. He is happier with her than I have ever seen him. And she makes up for our lack of reproducing by having four adult kids and three small grandchildren.

Wells were dug at the family estate, and an epic garden and orchard, now an acre in size, were built and fenced (and then electrified to bear proof it) on the inhospitable pygmy soil. It is now a thing of beauty and a wonder to behold.

Erica and Jessica moved away following a family tragedy, and I miss them every day. The good news is that they are in the process of moving a little closer, to Portland, so I’m hoping to see them at least once a year. I miss them.

I finally got divorced after a long separation. I believe that now John and I have been apart longer than we were married. But he still means a great deal to me and I will always love him. We are in touch nearly every day. I am trying to support him as best I can through cancer treatments for one of his beloved cats. And if he called me at 2 am and needed bail, help burying a body, or a ride somewhere I’d grab my keys and be out the door. I don’t consider our relationship to be a failure.

I got a new (to me) car, which carries me to the Big Town nearly every day. I estimate I drive 250 miles a week, just to work and back. I also have a less new job, of nearly five years’ standing, which I acquired when the business my partner and I built and poured all our time, dedication, and money into disappeared, taking my livelihood and career with it. It was hard to recover from that devastation, and in some ways I am still working on it, but I am grateful I found this job when I needed it. Before the job, I had the jobette, which is sadly long gone now, but the friendships I made there remain.

I wonder what the next ten years will bring? Whatever it is, it will be unexpected. Some of it will be great, some of it will be horrible, and through it all, I will have my family and my friends.

A YEAR AGO: A sleepover with Jessica.

FIVE YEARS AGO: My fifth anniversary in beautiful Hooterville.

TEN YEARS AGO: I think you know.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Getting a call from the dry cleaner. Now I live where there is no dry cleaner.

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Cushion
October 19th, 2019 by suzy in Bullshit,House No Comments

It might surprise you that a girl who is as much of a sparkly princess as I am doesn’t live in a Jayne Mansfield style glory of pink and glitter. My décor is actually quite neutral. I mentioned to my long-time friend A, whose hobbies include interior design and restaurant reviewing, that the cats* were taking their toll on the beige linen upholstery on the living room chair, and she suggested that I switch out both the couch and the chair for blush velvet ones. She says blush velvet can read as neutral with the right accessories and would provide a welcome note of luxe in my country abode. Also that cats do not enjoy clawing velvet.

A did a lot of research on couches and chairs, and we narrowed down her selection to the dream couch and chair, but they will have to remain a dream for the moment, since I recently made a major investment in car repairs and have no budget for furniture or other frivolities at the moment.

So while I wait for my ever-tenuous finances to recover – if they do – I have been adding new cushions to the couch, which will be compatible with pink velvet if it ever occurs. A gave me the beautiful vintage hand-made suzani which is draped over the back of the couch, and also the hand-embroidered turquoise cushion on the left. I added the white, purple and pink embroidered cushion on the right. Allergy sufferers, beware: all the pillows in my house are feather.

My plan was to replace the dark, beaded pillows on the ends. I still like them, but they don’t work so well with the new color scheme. I’m planning to see if Megan wants them, since she has no couch cushions and a nice, dark leather couch.

I consulted with A and we chose a pretty cushion on line, thinking that if I liked it enough, I’d get another one to match it. I ordered it two weeks ago and it has yet to arrive. The tracking number said it had arrived last Monday. I checked my post office box on Tuesday on my way to work. I picked up a box, which upon opening, revealed itself to be full of little bottles**, which I had not ordered. A look at the mailing label revealed that it was addressed to my brother, who has a PO box he shares with our sister. Megan checked their PO box in case my package was delivered there instead. Nope.

I checked with the shipper, who told me to wait a couple of days in case it turned up. I did and it didn’t. I contacted them again and they traced the package. Apparently, it was delivered to my old street address. Note that this does not mean it went to my old house. Deliveries to the old address went to a sort of decaying shed at the front of the property. Sometimes, they went to the front door of the rarely occupied front house. I am guessing this is what happened on this occasion. Fed Ex told me that the driver went to see what happened to the package and whoever is currently living in the front house kept screaming at him that she was not me and he should get out of there, which he eventually did. I’m guessing the screamer kept the cushion.

Fed Ex said it was their fault for not verifying my address. I pointed out that the shipper should not have allowed me to enter a PO box address if they were planning to ship by Fed Ex. Fed Ex also said that I might be surprised by the amount of fraud that goes on around missing packages. She gave an example of someone who said she never received her treadmill. When Fed Ex said they would have to send the sheriff around to investigate, she “found” it in her garage.

Anyway, it’s been a lot of fuss for a $20 cushion and I hope I love it if/when it ever gets here.

*To be fair, none of them goes outside anymore. But even when they did, they tended to claw indoor items or the house itself rather than the giant outdoor scratching posts, which you and I refer to as “trees” or “the woods”.

[Update: It never arrived. I got a refund and have officially given up on ordering from those people ever again.]

**For home-made hot sauce, made from the peppers they grew this summer.

A YEAR AGO: A wonderful sleepover with the wonderful Jessica!

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful evening with Megan and Lu.

TEN YEARS AGO: Getting ready to leave Oakhampton. And not a moment too soon.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A few updates.

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Gas
October 15th, 2019 by suzy in Bullshit,Country Life No Comments

Spraying the garbage cans with ammonia and water seems to have deterred Mr. (or Ms.) Bear, at least so far. Either I am no longer on the regular buffet route, or he or she has started hibernating, if in fact they do hibernate here. I have no idea if they do or what causes it if so, since we don’t get snow* and don’t even get a dramatic enough temperature change to change the leaves in most cases. Maybe it is daylight (or lack of it), though. I have had a few days where it’s been dark when I went to work and dark when I went home. Winter’s here!

I am pleased to report that I managed to avoid being “de-energized”, as our frenemies at PG&E call it. The lights stayed on at work and at home, and the threat of being powerless made me revisit my power outage capabilities at home, making sure I have water and lanterns. I was concerned that I would not be able to use my stove, since it uses electricity to ignite, but a friend told me that I could use a match. He suggested a long one, I will try it out before it becomes a total necessity. At least, that’s my intention. Hopefully the threat of not being able to have coffee or cook will motivate me to actually do it.

It also made me fill up my car sooner than my designated day of Friday, even though the gas tank was close to half full. It was soon overflowing. I usually set the pump to fill and then go and put my wallet away in the car, and this time, when I turned around, gas was spurting out of the side of my car at an alarming rate. I hastily yanked out the spout and replaced it, trying to avoid dousing myself and walking in the spilled gas any more than was strictly necessary.

I went and told the gas station cashier and she put a red “out of order” sleeve on the spout and said she’d clean up the spilled gas. I washed off the side of the car and the bottoms of my shoes with the windshield wiper squeegee thoughtfully provided, but I was sure my car smelled like gas and wondered if I had gotten it on my clothes, too. I’m pretty sure some of the $41 I spent on gas was for spillage, not Wednesday.

After work, I went to pick up many barbecued pork dinners at the high school. It was a fundraiser for the school’s agriculture program, and young men don’t cook dinner for me as often as I’d like. I picked up dinner for myself, my sister, and my boss and her husband, retracing my steps to deliver the dinners to the ER to await my sister’s arrival and to my boss to take home if/when she ever left work that evening. On the way home, I wondered if my car smelled more like barbecue or gasoline.

*What, never? No, never! What, Never? Hardly ever!

A YEAR AGO: Pearls and cocktails. What could be Suzier than that?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sick and tired.

TEN YEARS AGO: Polished.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Eeek! A mouse!

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I’m still not exactly sure how I became the President of the library board. It’s strange for an impostor like me to run meetings and sign official documents, even though I sign all the checks at work. When Megan was living with me* while she was in high school, I went to all her parent-teacher interviews as her “parent”, and every time I went, I half expected them to tell me that I had to go back to high school since I wasn’t a real grown-up**.

There are more events than I expected when I joined the library board, and it can be hard to fit them into my long and busy work days, but as President, I feel I have to go. Recently, a thank you dinner for library volunteers was held at the beautiful Guest House Museum in the heart of the Big Town. I love it that this lovely home, built in 1892, is still the tallest building in town:

I was less than delighted to learn that I was expected to make a speech at the volunteer thank you dinner. Other than speaking at my father’s funeral nearly 20 years ago, I don’t remember having to speak in public. I could happily have gone another twenty years to forever without doing so. Here’s what I said:

It’s been an eventful year for the Friends of the Fort Bragg Library. We have started to make some real progress in dismantling the Whipple Street house, a meaningful step toward the future of expanding our library. Thank you to Daniel Z— for providing invaluable technical advice and support as we move forward with this project.

We lost three beloved Board members over the course of this year: Carol L—, Jennifer W—, and Jane V—, all long-serving and dedicated Friends who are dearly missed and will never be forgotten. If you seek their memorial, look around you. We are fortunate to have some new Board members who bring fresh ideas and expertise with them, and who have already made some very valuable contributions to the Board.

Thanks to Sandra F—’s wonderful “Thousand Dollar Club” idea and advocacy, funds continue to roll in towards making the dream of a bigger and better library come true. Fundraising events have been very successful this year, thanks to our dedicated volunteers, some new and some of many years’ standing. Thank you to all of you who contribute your time, your ideas, your perspiration, and your inspiration to helping your local library and community. We couldn’t do it without you. Here’s to you!

It went pretty well, though, judging by the applause. I don’t think public speaking is going to become a favorite hobby or anything. But I am proud of the work we are doing at the library and how much it means to our little community.

*I never really thought about how weird this situation was until a couple of years ago. Looking back, I can’t believe that a 23 year old was expected to parent a 14 year old. It all worked out in the end, though.

**Someone recently pointed out to me that actual grown ups do not refer to themselves or others of their ilk as “grown ups”. They use the term “adult”. Apparently, my use of the term “grown up” is just one of the many signs that I am not one.

A YEAR AGO: Some things were better. And some weren’t.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A trip to the south coast. And an unexpected cow.

TEN YEARS AGO: An impending job interview. Bonus: Baby Jessica!! Oh, the cuteosity!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Eeek! A mouse!

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Bearly
October 3rd, 2019 by suzy in Country Life No Comments

My siblings have had a trying summer with wildlife invaders in the garden. First, there was a fox who ate all the strawberries – and there are a LOT of strawberries, so he was an overachiever in this area – and who successfully eluded the Hav-A-Hart trap for some time before eventually being caught. He expressed his disapproval of this entrapment by hissing and snarling in the trap. Rob found a nice new neighborhood for him, several miles away, with both food and water nearby.

However, as so often happens with wildlife, whether they are in your house or outside it, there was Not Just One. My siblings soon became experts at trapping and relocating foxes, as a total of four went into the Fox Relocation Program with their assistance.

As if that weren’t enough, a bear somehow got in. I don’t know if you have ever had a bear in your garden, but they tend to be messy and destructive. When I lived at the old house, my then neighbor across the Ridge had a bear sit in her apple tree and eat all the fruit while merrily breaking the branches of her century old tree. Once they know there’s food somewhere, they tend to make more repeat appearances than Barbra Streisand on a farewell tour.

It was decided that the fence enclosing the garden should be electrified, like the fence around the beehives. But the beehive fence is much more modest than the garden fence, which encircles an entire acre. Not for the first time, my siblings must have wondered why they made the garden so damn big. I know the thought has crossed my lazy mind. It seems to me like they are either watering and weeding or canning and preserving on an epic scale. I guess they just think bigger than I do.

Electrifying the fence was further complicated by the fact that all the brush and bushes anywhere near the fence had to be removed to minimize fire risk. So the boys were pretty busy for a while, removing vegetation and bear proofing the fence. When it is turned on at night, it ticks and apparently you get a quite shocking shock if you are silly enough to touch it. You will not be surprised to hear that the bear has been pretty scarce ever since.

He may have moved over to my house, though this is probably unlikely since I now live about 11 miles away (though still in Hooterville) instead of a quarter mile away. Yet a bear has definitely been visiting Chez Suzy.

I first became aware of his visits when I discovered that one of the garbage cans was knocked over and had deep and alarming claw and bite marks around the rim of the can and the lid. Also there was garbage everywhere. On later visits, he seemed to drag the entire bag into the meadow/orchard area next to the house to go through it at his leisure. There wasn’t really any food in it. Vegetable and fruit trimmings go into the compost pit, and I am pretty sure they are removed by the foxes and ravens. Also the bear seems to be ignoring my apple trees as far as I can see.

Apparently, you are supposed to keep your garbage cans in your shed or garage. Unfortunately, I have neither – I don’t even have a shed to store motor oil and things of that nature. I realize that while putting up with the endless barking at my old house was annoying, it also kept the wildlife at bay. I never had bear problems there.

I have to admit that I am rather nervous getting to the car in the morning, especially since it’s now totally dark when I leave in the mornings, and although I have the porch light on and use my phone’s flashlight to get to the car, I am always worried that there is a monster in the darkness. One of my coworkers told me that bears can open doors, so I have actually started locking them, even though I can’t imagine a bear actually strolling into my living room. Or can I?

Consulting with those better versed in the ways of wildlife than I am, I learned that bears have a very sensitive sense of smell, and spraying the garbage cans and even the bags with ammonia or Windex should deter them. I have tried that, and so far, Mr. Bear has not been back to visit. Yet. Stay tuned.

A YEAR AGO: The beginning of the end. Though I didn’t know it at the time.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The actual end.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Feeling the sloth. And the cold.

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Tire-d
September 29th, 2019 by suzy in Car No Comments

Or unhappy Wednesday, as the case may be…

One day as I was driving home from work, I noticed that Wednesday was making an alarming creaking sound. I got more alarmed the creakier it got. I called my brother and he said to drive her on over that weekend for him to take a look (or listen). He thought it might be the bushings (whatever they are), and suggested that I take Wednesday to the place I buy tires to get a front end and brake inspection. He also thought I needed new tires, and while I might be able to get away with only getting two new ones, it was probably better to get all four.

Unfortunately for me and my ever-tenuous resources, my tires were considered “marginal” by the tire experts. My brother was correct about the bushings (whatever they are), since they were “torn and broken”. Besides having no idea what they are, I have no idea how I tore and broke them, which sounds pretty violent and also memorable. Oh, and I had 10% left on my rear brakes. At least I still had 85% on the front ones, which do most of the work.

I was presented with a truly alarming estimate for the work needed to correct all these mysterious problems, as well as all four tires. I gave it to my brother, hoping he and Rob could do the work. I had a hard time reaching him, and in the meantime was driving around on my marginal tires with my 10% rear brakes, which was almost as alarming as the estimate for fixing them. Eventually my brother and I caught up with each other, and basically he said he would not have time to do the work in the foreseeable future.

So I went back to the tire place and signed over my paycheck to them in return for all this, as well as an alignment and maybe some other stuff. The last time I bought tires was in April of 2017, and considering the state of the rough country roads I drive on and the fact that I drive about 250 miles a week just to work and back, it’s probably about as much as I could expect to get from the tires. I am careful about checking the tire pressure and getting them rotated in the hopes of making them last as long as possible. At least I can be confident that I can stop the car, which, as my brother says, is the most important thing a car can do. And I have new tires before the rain starts up again.

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I felt Erica’s and Jessica’s absence keenly at the Fair, and I couldn’t bring myself to go into the Fiber building, which did not contain any of Erica’s miraculous confections. However, I had no such misgivings about the quilts, which were quite wonderful this year. There were a couple of charming wildlife themed quilts:

But this one may have been my favorite:

You can’t really tell from the photo, but it was sparked here and there with rhinestones, giving it an unexpected glitter. Here’s a close up:

You know how I love the sparkle.

I was charmed by this embroidered Winnie the Pooh blanket, which also had a lovely little trail of bees:

And the blue line on this adorable Dr. Seuss pillow is the top of a pocket, built right in to hold a favorite book:

I don’t know what this was, but Rob would love it:

There were some beautiful floral displays. This won best in show, and I would love to have it at my house:

I was charmed by this display with the cute little pigs:

And I loved the path showing the names of the little towns in our big county:

Such a clever idea! As were these displays:

I am not creative in that way, but I sure appreciate the creativity in others.

The sun was setting as we left the Fair, the hills aglow with pink and gold and a light breeze cooling the air as we walked back to the car. It was another wonderful Fair. I love feeling like I’m in “Charlotte’s Web”.

A YEAR AGO: A wonderful day at the Fair.

FIVE YEARS AGO: My bathroom renovation was nearly done. Rob did an amazing job. I hope whoever lives there now appreciates it as much as I did. In a way, I miss my old house, despite all its quirks.

TEN YEARS AGO: Walking dear Schatzi at Big River. I sure miss that sweet girl.

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Fair, Part 1
September 20th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,Special Occasions No Comments

I took so many photos at the Fair this year that it will take two posts to share them all with you.

As always, it was a beautiful day. This year, we arrived around 5:00 on Saturday evening. It was still warm, and I was still glad to have my official Fair hat, but there was also a light breeze. We started out with a Surf’s Up, a delicious frozen mixture of pineapple, coconut, and watermelon, appropriately accessorized with a paper umbrella:

It was like a vacation in a glass! Appropriately armed, we strolled through the sunshine to inspect the exhibits. The biggest pumpkins were not the prettiest I’ve ever seen, but they were definitely sizable:

We stopped and tasted apples:

After all, it is the County Fair and Apple Show. There were so many delicious varieties, and Megan took notes for a couple of potential additions to the family cider apple orchard.

These were entertaining additions to the vegetable displays:

This was my favorite bunny:

Besides being totally adorable, he was very playful, sitting up on his hind legs, rolling his ball around, and generally being cute as a button. Or a bunny.

I was very taken with these watercolors, one of downtown Philo:

And one of the winding road to the Gowan’s farm stand, which has been an Anderson Valley landmark for generations:

The artist is a dear friend of Erica’s who I have met a couple of times, so I have reached out to tell her a) how much I love her work; and 2) that I’m interested in buying one or maybe both of them. It’s been a while since I bought art, and these two really speak to me. It will be nice to have local art in my house, too.

A YEAR AGO: The horror!

FIVE YEARS AGO: It was actually raining!

TEN YEARS AGO: Getting ready to move.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Candy! It’s what’s for breakfast!

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Heater
September 14th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,House No Comments

One of the things I have been getting used to in the new house is that it has a hot water heater instead of a flash heater, which the old house had. With a flash heater, you get on demand hot water and, as the name suggests, pretty much right away. With the water tank, I find I have to run the water for quite a while before it warms up. One Saturday, it never got above tepid.

I went outside and looked in the little storage shed attached to the house, where the water tank lives. Its pilot light was out. I was able to successfully relight it, which made me all proud of myself until it went out again. I followed the instructions, not wanting to bother Danielle yet again.

Eventually I had to, though, and she came over to investigate. The hot water heater was only five years old, but she thought it needed to be replaced. She put a call in to the guy who deals with such things and went to work. I started making alternative plans to take a shower and wash the dishes.

Being Danielle, she came home with a new water tank and had somehow persuaded Water Tank Guy to come over even though he had worked seven days in a row and undoubtedly his enthusiasm for this weekend project was why they invented negative numbers. He agreed that the tank needed to be replaced, so he set about draining the old one and putting the new one in place.

She said that she put in a hot water tank instead of a flash heater because then there was hot (or at least warm) water for a while when the power went out. Apparently flash heaters need power, which I never knew because I never had water when the power went out, since it meant that the well pump didn’t work. Here I will have water at least for a while when the power goes out, since there is the big water storage tank on the third floor of the house.

It occurred to me that so far Danielle has not made a lot of money from renting the house to me. Also that I might be some kind of appliance jinx. First the heater needed a new thermo coupler, involving an expensive visit from the Gas Guy. Then my stove was replaced, since Danielle decided it was cheaper to just buy a new one rather than have the old one fixed (the broiler and one burner didn’t work. This is the kind of thing that I would have just lived with at the old place). Then the outlets and closet light in the bedroom weren’t working, necessitating a visit from Electrician. Now this. She also mentioned that she was going to have to buy a new refrigerator for her own house. Hopefully my refrigerator will continue to keep things cold while the water heater continues to (eventually) produce hot water. I don’t think this is the time to mention that I can’t change the dryer controls and instead have to run it two or three times on the cycle it’s stuck on.

ONE YEAR AGO: The beginning of Dental Hell. I do not recommend visiting it.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some miscellaneous updates.

TEN YEARS AGO: Getting ready to get the hell out of Oakhampton. Note to Self: What is with your landlords turning up wth no notice, wherever you live?

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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,Library 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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