Dinner

December 2nd, 2021


Cheers to Thanksgiving!

Making Thanksgiving dinner is a fair amount of work, even when you don’t have company. This year, I didn’t bother with Grammie’s ivory-handled silver or Wedgwood or Nana’s wineglasses. I used the 1940s Ringware bowls I got from Monica’s store for the cranberry-bourbon relish:

and the orange-ginger glazed carrots:

Here you can see the bowls a bit better:

I really enjoy using them.

This year, I roasted the turkey Nana-style, rubbing it with butter and sage and sprinkling it with Maldon salt and freshly ground pepper. I have tried fancier and more time-consuming methods, brining and all that, but the fancy methods were not notably better than my American farm girl grandmother’s simple method, so back to the basics I went. And the turkey turned out perfect:

Even the leftovers were moist. I made gravy from the pan juices, and this year, I got a package of pre-roasted and pre-peeled chestnuts for the stuffing/dressing, thus relieving me of the worst Thanksgiving chore of all. It was a real process improvement.

So that was my simple dinner, along with the pink méthode champenoise seen above in my rhinestone-studded glass, by the light of the deliciously scented Hearth candle. I have so much to be thankful for: my family, my friends, my cats, my health, my job, all the love that surrounds me.

A YEAR AGO: It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

TEN YEARS AGO: Decorating for the holidays.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Remembering the past.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Things were sad inside and out.

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Thanksgiving

November 28th, 2021

I woke up to the sun peeking coyly through the redwoods outside my bedroom window on Thanksgiving morning, the sunlight missing its usual PJs of fog and mist. I love waking up when it’s light out, instead of in night-like darkness, as I do for the majority of the year.

I don’t love being woken by Clyde walking all over me and patting my face with his paw, though. Like many of us, Clyde seems to be under the illusion that he is much smaller and lighter than he actually is, though fortunately for him, he is even more beautiful and adorable than he thinks. He is not, however, a tiny kitten.

I accepted the inevitable and got up, enjoying the feel of bare feet on the smooth wood floors and the soft rug in the bathroom. I reminded myself that I was lucky that all three of my cats are happy and healthy, and that one day, I would be missing them and wish they were here, waking me up and annoying me. My boss lost her beloved kitten Peanut a couple of weeks ago, to something horrible called FIP, which I had never heard of before and wish I never had. Peanut was only 10 months old, and she was devastated to lose him so young. It reminded me to be thankful for having three cats, ages 14, 11, and 5, all safe and healthy.

After feeding and caring for the cats, which is the first thing I do every day – before coffee, my friends – I went downstairs to make coffee and text my siblings, who are working, to wish them a happy Thanksgiving. I hope we can have dinner soon.

While I waited for the coffee to be ready in the stainless steel – Suzy proof! – French press, I tossed the stalenizing bread for stuffing, or dressing, as my Southern friends call it, which I cut up after work on Tuesday to start it drying out. Even when you aren’t having company, there’s a certain amount of labor involved in a Thanksgiving dinner.

I had ordered a turkey breast two weeks earlier, in preparation for my modest celebration, and went to pick it up after work on Thanksgiving Eve. Imagine my surprise when none of the three Susans on the list at the butcher counter were this particular Susan. Fortunately, the kindly butcher was able to find a turkey breast for this great-granddaughter of a butcher, and dinner was saved.

A YEAR AGO: My alter ego?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving aftermath.

TEN YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving wrap up.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Some chaos in my life.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Picking up my repaired diamond watch. I still love it. I still have the raw opal studs and I still wear them.

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Growing

November 24th, 2021

The kittens John rescued earlier this month are continuing to grow and thrive. He is still being like their mom, feeding them every few hours, and stimulating them to poop and pee, and then tidying that up. I don’t know how he has done this for the last few weeks. He is so dedicated! He did say, “It’s going to be hard to let them go, because caring for them is bonding, and I need them used to people, so it’s lots of contact all the time.”

They recently started walking, a big milestone. Hopefully soon John can start getting a little rest. I am so proud of him for all his hard work with these little guys. Not too many people would be willing to do this for weeks while working a full-time job. Glad he is working at home and can do this. I bet the kittens take up more time than the actual job does.

As Thanksgiving approaches, I am thankful that John is making a difference and helping the cats in his neighborhood. I am thankful that we are still a part of each other’s lives and that we always will be. I am thankful for my family and friends and to be breathing and walking on this beautiful planet we call home.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Getting ready for Thanksgiving.

TEN YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving prep.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving in New York.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Surviving our first Thanksgiving without Dad.

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Cheers

November 19th, 2021


Here’s to you!

Our favorite local bar closes for about three weeks every October. In the past, they used to do delightful things like visit vineyards in Tuscany or France, coming home with wonderful memories and stories. This year, they still closed, though with no trips abroad. We were still glad when they reopened, though, and Megan and I met up there to celebrate that and the beginning of the weekend.

The drink shown above is called “Raspberry Gin Buck”, and after you take a picture of it, you mix it up with a spoon. It’s delicious, not too sweet, and garnished with a red carnation. When I showed the picture above to a friend, he said, “That special moment when your drink is prettier than the view!”

The view is definitely pretty:

No matter how long I live here – and I hope I never have to move – I will never stop being in awe of the beauty around me. It kind of amazes me that this is essentially my back yard. Every day when I drive to work, it’s past ancient redwoods and beside the beautiful, ever-changing ocean, and I never get tired of the view. Every day, there is something to delight me, whether it’s a fishing boat setting out to sea:

or the light of the setting sun on an old barn on the Ridge:

or that first view of the ocean:

There’s always something new, and something beautiful. I feel so lucky to live here.

A YEAR AGO: John’s kittens were growing up.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Thinking about some regrets.

TEN YEARS AGO: An adventurous evening.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Home improvement is never easy.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Happiness is a pile of books. This is still true.

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Glue

November 15th, 2021


The Bathmat Boys

Here you see Clyde (left) and Dodge, watching me get ready to go to work. Not pictured: Audrey sitting on the windowsill, giving the Bathmat Boys the Laser Glare of Death, which they are calmly ignoring. I think Audrey dreams of a boy-free life.

Later that morning, with the cats fed and treated and my faux adult armor dutifully applied, I set off on the long drive to work. It’s like driving through a horror movie, and it seems pretty long these days. I am driving more slowly than my speedy nature enjoys on the dark, foggy roads, fearing the appearance of unexpected deer in the headlights. I managed to avoid hitting two of them on this particular morning, and I was also completely charmed by the sight of a frog leaping gracefully across the Ridge in the pool of light from my high beams. This time of year, the frogs are singing joyfully to welcome the annual rains. I love sitting in my bed on a weekend morning and listening to their song. It’s like the winter version of summer crickets.

My plans for weekend cooking went awry, and I am blaming Amazon for it.

I wanted to make more har gao and chive dumplings, so I ordered the necessary starches from Amazon. They were due to arrive on Friday, and I had them sent to the house instead of the post office box, so I could get cooking on Saturday morning. The box was waiting when I got home from work on Friday night, and I thought all cooking systems were go.

Imagine my surprise when I opened up the box and discovered…a tube of epoxy glue.

Nothing more, nothing less.

Even inexperienced cooks can see that glue is not an effective substitute for wheat starch or tapioca starch, or any kind of starch, really. Nor is glue a helpful ingredient in dim sum. I took a dim view of this.

I ventured to the Village the next day to see if I could locate the necessary ingredients, without much hope, and in this, I was sorry for once to be right. I couldn’t find them anywhere, so I reordered from Amazon after getting a refund for the original order. I tried to shop local!

I picked up a pizza for dinner instead, and hopefully I will be making deferred dim sum next weekend.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Food is love, even at work.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Have a seat.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Selecting Beaujolais Nouveau for Thanksgiving.

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News

November 11th, 2021

Some more updates in our heroine’s life.

Dental:

I finally got the crown on the tooth with the outrageously expensive, out of town root canal. I’d say the worst parts were the shots and the drilling that vibrated my whole head and possibly scrambled my two remaining brain cells. That might have been needed to install the post to support the crown. The dentist has a magic machine that makes the crown right there, so there’s no need for a temporary crown and two appointments. It took an hour and a half, but I did it at the end of the day and just went straight home afterwards. It was already getting dark and raining when I got home. Time for tea and my favorite scented candle, along with an episode of Ellery Queen. I can never guess who did it, even before my brain cells got scrambled.

Rain:

We are getting more of it. The night of the crown installation was stormy, with pouring rain and blowing winds, so I sadly took out the power outage box from the resolutely untidied Closet of Doom, preparing for the power to go out, which seemed inevitable at that point. I am pleased to report that the power stayed bravely on, possibly because I had prepared for it.

It was still raining when I set off to work in the foggy darkness, and I had to get out of the car twice to move trees out of the way. The Ridge was covered with pine needles, lichen, and fallen twigs, and I drove pretty slowly. Megan told me that before that storm, we had already gotten 14 inches, so that’s good. The storms can keep coming, even if they take the power with them.

A YEAR AGO: Megan started her job at Stanford. Still going strong and doing well!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The horror of hitting a dog with my car. He is still doing great. He and his owner recently moved to a farm, where they are very happy.

TEN YEARS AGO: A country Saturday.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Fun in the <City.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A delightful evening with the delightful Brian. He and his wife Candi are so wonderful. Can’t believe we have known each other so long!

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Updates

November 6th, 2021

Cooking:

I did follow my plan of making har gao, chive and pork dumplings, and lumpia Shanghai. They turned out amazing. These are the pork and chive dumplings (triangle) and har gao (little bundles):

Here are the lumpia Shanghai:

When I sent these pictures to A, she responded, “Totally impressed by your dim sum spread. Suzy’s Dim Sum Palace.” I love thinking of my house as Suzy’s Dim Sum Palace.

I have already had to order more of the tapioca flour and wheat starch so I can make them again. They were definitely a big success. The pork and chive dumplings are easier to shape than the har gao, and they are both delicious. Cooking win!

Crime:

I am pleased to announce that Redbeard has finally been caught! I am less pleased to announce that he was caught in the environs of the family estate, which is the first driveway after the “doughnut shop” referred to in the press. For fans of Krispy Kremes and Dunkin’ Donuts, don’t get too excited. Rather than a pastry emporium, the Doughnut Shop in Hooterville is actually a big pull out where kids do doughnuts in their cars. It’s also a favored place for miscreants to deposit their heavily-used RVs and furniture, instead of taking said objects to the dump*. So maybe it makes sense that he was caught at or near such a hotbed of local crime. I’m just glad that he was not caught on the family property itself, and that no one was hurt. I hope we can go back to our sleepy, low-to-no-crime existence again.

*Speaking of the dump, the guy who works there posts some hilarious stuff about his job there on Facebook. You’re welcome.

A YEAR AGO: Heater problems. Appliances hate me. I am pleased to announce that the heater is still working. So far.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A happy Halloween with Jessica. I miss those days, and I miss her.

TEN YEARS AGO: A country Saturday.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: City scenes.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: I have never been a fan of this twice yearly time change nonsense.

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Tiny

November 2nd, 2021

John and I never had kids, for which we are both eternally grateful, but lately he has been conducting his very own experiment in sleep deprivation. Because of babies. Baby cats, that is. Because you know that’s how John rolls.

For some reason, the Home Depot in Hayward, where John lives, is also Cat Depot. People seem to think this is the perfect place to drop off cats and kittens, and left to their own devices, they have been merrily (in)breeding ever since. John has valiantly trapped, neutered and released many of these cats, and has also fostered and adopted out more than a dozen kittens. Faithful readers may recall how he rescued pregnant Willow and saved her life, along with the two live kittens, Daisy and Peach (two other kittens did not survive and had to be surgically removed). All of them would have certainly died if John had not taken them in.

He feeds and waters the colony cats daily, and has set up shelters for them as well. He recently came across some kittens that were barely days old. A consultation with his local vet established that the kittens would not survive on their own, and that it was unlikely that their mother was going to come back for them, assuming she was around and it wasn’t just some fiend in human form that abandoned the babies to their fate.

So John took them in, and has been feeding them with special kitten food in a dropper ever since:

He also has to stimulate them to poop and pee, since they don’t know how and this is something their mother would do. Apparently cotton balls are needed for this process. They also need to be burped, much like human babies.

Despite their bad beginning in life, these little kittens are fighters, so John named them all after characters in “Rocky”. This is Rocky:

This is Apollo:

This is Adrian:

and this is Pauly:

Note teeniness of kittens next to John’s hand and the feeding syringe.

They have a fighting chance at a good life since being rescued by a good man. I hope they make it, and I hope they find the loving homes they deserve.

Bonus: Here’s my boyfriend Frank, looking happy after dinner the other night:

Frank is still his lovably fighty, tough guy self, showing up with scratches occasionally, but lately sleeping in a cozy bed on John’s porch:

His fighty nature (note healing wound on his handsome forehead) makes it impossible for him to live inside, but at least he’s getting fed and has a safe and warm place to sleep. I am so thankful to John for helping the cats in his neighborhood.

A YEAR AGO: A beautiful day in the Valley.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A visit to the South Coast.

TEN YEARS AGO: A swimming snag.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Having fun in Detroit.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Weight loss can be a problem.

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Cooking

October 29th, 2021

Whether the power is off or on – and it has been staying on since the last weekend outage* – it’s been good cooking weather lately.

My current kitchen is much more functional than the one in the old house, which had maybe three feet of counter space. Yet I managed to make some memorable feasts in that teeny kitchenette. And even though my “new” house is so beautiful and much more reasonable than the old house, I still retain a nostalgia for the old house in all its craziness. I realize this makes no sense, but although I am many things, sensible is not one of them.

The new house has a big window in the kitchen, so I can watch the passing wildlife and birds while I cook. I especially enjoy looking out the window while doing things like making bagels or rolling the dough for har gao.

Speaking of har gao (as one often does), I might be making more this weekend. My good friend A recently sent me a recipe for pork and chive dumplings, using the same dough as har gao. She mentioned that she had a fair bit of filling left over. So my tentative plan for this weekend is to make half the pork filling and use the batch of dough to make some har gao and some pork and chive dumplings. I’ll use the rest of the ground pork to make lumpia Shanghai. This may seem like a less appealing prospect when Saturday actually rolls around.

Suzy’s Asian Kitchen has been open for business lately. I made a great batch of faux pho:

Instead of beef, I used chicken, and I poached it in Campbell’s broth with a bunch of spices. I strained it, took out the chicken and sliced it up, and served the soup with garlic-chili-sesame oil, bean sprouts, cilantro, green onions, and lime.

On the whole, I think Asian or Asian-ish food might be my favorite. It’s certainly been my default lately.

Last weekend, I made a Porchetta style pork roast. You make a paste of lemon zest, garlic, olive oil, fennel seeds, sage, and rosemary, score the skin of the pork roast, and then rub the paste in. Let it sit overnight and then roast it at high heat for half an hour and then at low heat for a couple of hours more, and it comes out like this:

I had it with mashed potatoes and a salad dressed with home-made maple balsamic vinaigrette, and it was delicious if I do say so myself.

As the great Jacques Pépin would say, “Happy cooking”!

*When power outages happen on the weekend, I always feel like some of my valuable time off got stolen.

A YEAR AGO: Haha! The power was off and I was project cooking then, too. ‘Tis teh season?

FIVE YEARS AGO: The joys of Thai food and ballet.

TEN YEARS AGO: A beautiful Fall.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The unforgettable Hotel Hell in Detroit. ~Shudder~

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Feeling sleepy.

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Etc.

October 25th, 2021

That always reminds me of Rhoda’s apartment, which I thought was just about the coolest place ever. I still do. I would love to have that place with the terrace and the Franklin stove in New York City. I also think Rhoda had such great style. But then, you all know that I’ve always been Team Rhoda.

You can file this entry under “Miscellaneous” (though I don’t have a “Miscellaneous” section on this blog. Of course, I don’t file very often, either, other than my nails. I was looking something in my file pile the other day, and discovered that there are some documents in the teetering stack that date back to 2019), since it’s just some random things and stuff that have happened lately.

Rain:

While we were all pretty excited to see the rain, its novelty was swept away in another atmospheric river, which also swept away my power early on Sunday morning, when it still looked pretty much like nighttime, no matter what the clock said. And when the power went out, the clock wasn’t saying much of anything.

Ever since the ordeal of the PSPS, I have found that power outages get old fast, with their coldness and darkness. I definitely feel more sadness and reaction to outages than I used to. I seem to be somewhat in denial, too, since I found I was a little unprepared. I could only find one lantern in the Closet of Doom (spoiler alert: I still haven’t cleaned it out or organized it), and it needed new batteries. At least I could find my book light and it was still functional, allowing me to finish reading Alice Feeney’s twisty and suspenseful Rock Paper Scissors in the dark and silent house.

Outside, it was simply tipping it down, as my stepmother used to say. Megan was keeping track of the rainfall:

As you can see, we got more than six inches (!) in one day, and we are already at more than 12 inches for the season. The good news is that we are at about 300% of whatever “normal” is for this time of year. I’m hoping for a rainy winter, but not more power outages.

Car:

I was leaving work one day when I noticed a sort of scrapy sound as I exited the parking lot. Arriving home, I investigated Wednesday for the source of the noise, and discovered that something had come unstuck or unpinned or something on her undercarriage:

I texted the photo to Megan so she could consult with Rob. His opinion was that he could fix it, so I headed to the property after work one day. On my way, I stopped in at the post office, and on going back to my car, I was stopped by a kindly woman who alerted me to the unseemly fact that Wednesday’s underwear was hanging out. I thanked her and explained that I was on my way to my brother-in-law’s place to get it repaired. I feel lucky to live in a place where people care enough to tell me that something’s wrong with my car.

Rob set to work on Wednesday while Megan and I hung out in the garden and watched Stella and Millie play together. Millie has come a long way since her arrival a couple of months ago. She now plays with Stella, but is still basically horrified by every human other than Megan, and as a Plan B, Rob. The rest of us she eyes with deep suspicion. Not sure if or when she will get over that, but at least Stella finally has the playmate of her dreams. Star didn’t play with Stella, so she’s been waiting for someone to play with for a long time. Star’s absence is still felt strongly, but it’s good to see Stella happy and her goofy self again.

Crime:

So far, no more sightings of Redbeard, unless you count this Halloween decoration on the Ridge:

Let’s hope it stays that way. The police cameras are still active, and there’s also a Ring camera. I wonder if passing deer and other wildlife will cause more Ring notifications than they’d like, but hopefully it help to keep the miscreant away, too.

A YEAR AGO: John’s cat Willow and her kittens! Kittens Daisy and Peach are all grown up now, but as cuddly as ever. John continues his rescue work, neutering and fostering, getting homeless cats adopted as much as he can.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Making cider from our very own apples.

TEN YEARS AGO: My newest neighbor was a horse.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Curious about my readers. It was one of those posts where the comments rapidly devolved into something else. Sometimes, I miss allowing comments.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Getting my beautiful diamond watch repaired. Amazingly, the photo links still work, though they are on the teeny side. Note to Self: I should wear it more often. It’s gorgeous.

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Stolen

October 20th, 2021

Our little corner of the world, while not crime-free, is pretty close to it. At the old house, I used to leave the doors open when I went to work, and none of the doors had locks. My current house does have locks, but they are unused. We leave the keys in the car at home (though not in town). Generally, it’s not something I worry about day to day. So it was big news that there was someone breaking into empty vacation rentals around here* and stealing food, booze, and miscellaneous items.

The miscreant was identified, and generally referred to as the “Red-Bearded Burglar” or “Redbeard”. There were sightings and incidents from Elk (home of Queenie’s and the fabulous Eggs Benedict) to Albion (home of Self and entire family). Redbeard shot at law enforcement, and was caught on camera entering houses with a camera in one hand and a flashlight in the other. Although he started his one-man crime spree in May, and has been within sight (and shooting distance) of law enforcement, he remains uncaught.

Not long ago, my sister told me that someone had gone through all the mail in their mailbox, but had left it there. She suggested that I ask on the message boards if anyone else had experienced that problem. It appeared that no one had. A couple of people unhelpfully (and somewhat snottily) suggested that we get a post office box, which we have had for decades, but no one admitted to any malfeasance in their mailbox.

Soon after that, our brother noticed that there were odd arrangements of stones and twigs on the pathway that goes between the property driveway and the haul road, like crazy art installations.

And a little later after the discovery of the impromptu al fresco art exhibit, Redbeard hit.

He took cigarettes and candy from the cars, and canned and preserved food from our brother’s van, which Jonathan was readying for a road trip. He also took Jonathan’s silk long underwear, Smartwool socks, and nearly all of the pesto, chicken, and garlic butter from the body freezer in the carport where the mechanic’s pit and washer and dryer are.

So it seems that he started by digging through the mailbox, then presumably watched for a while, and then struck. It’s scary to think of him spying on my family, especially knowing that he is armed and has used a weapon against the sheriff’s office. It seems that he is very comfortable in the woods, and gets around on a bike. So I guess he had quite a feast in the woods with all our food. The pesto is irreplaceable at this time of year. No more until next year.

My siblings called the sheriff’s office, and they responded in force, an unusual sight:

This is probably half the law enforcement on the coast. They put up cameras, but didn’t catch him. So far, he has yet to return, and I hope he never does. I’m beginning to wonder if they will ever catch him. I would feel a lot better if he were behind bars.

*Of which there are many. There has been a debate raging on the local message boards lately about how there are so many vacation homes here but so few rentals available to locals.

A YEAR AGO: The weather said summer, even if the calendar said fall.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Road Trip!

TEN YEARS AGO: Celebrating my second anniversary in Hootervile with my sister and our beloved Schatzi. I miss her and Star so much.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The Lovely Rita was busy charming all and sundry. It was her superpower. I miss her, too. Side note: I notice all my past dogs are girls.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Missing my Sunday morning emails from Dad.

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Out

October 16th, 2021


Cheers!

There’s nothing like a glass of champagne (well, sparkling wine) to lift a girl’s spirits any time, but it is especially welcome at mid-week. I met a friend at our favorite seaside bar on a Wednesday afternoon, bringing some sparkle to the middle of the week. I was warmly greeted by the wonderful bartender, and we spent a little time catching up as I waited for my friend to join us. I always enjoy our conversations, and I think her combination of mixology skills, graceful efficiency, and charming personality make the ambiance of the bar. She is one of those people who lights up a room.

It was a beautiful afternoon, the sun heading toward the horizon, with a flock of pelicans skimming the water in the glowing sunbeams. Watching the ocean is a peaceful end to the day, but it’s definitely made better by the company of a friend and a glass of sparkling local wine.

At the end of the week – or the beginning, depending on how you look at it – I headed the other way for Sunday brunch, for the long-awaited Eggs Benedict at Queenie’s.

I have wanted to try them for a long time, but something always seemed to get in my way. It was raining, they were closed, there were no tables, I was too lazy to leave the house – let me count the ways. Finally, the day had come, and it was a lovely one.

It was one of those days when the ocean was a deep, vivid blue, accented with creamy white waves. It was a postcard view, and I laughed out loud when I passed the pull out for this view:

And saw that it was completely full of cars, as people took pictures.

Arriving at Queenie’s, I found a table outside where I could admire the view from across the road:

And when the Eggs Benedict arrived, they were a thing of beauty:

They were as delicious as they looked. I had freshly-squeezed orange juice, and it was a truly wonderful and memorable meal. As I headed home, I thought of how lucky I am to live somewhere so beautiful with so many special places so close by.

strong>A YEAR AGO: Visiting a friend.

FIVE YEARS AGO: ‘Tis the season: for rain, Halloween, and scares.

TEN YEARS AGO: A plague of fleas.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Going to the dentist is never fun, even when they have the good magazines.

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Rainy

October 11th, 2021

I’m excited to announce that we actually got some rain!

I was thrilled to hear the soft sound of the rain pattering on the house. It sounds much more subtle in this house than in the old one, where the curved roof/walls seemed to amplify the sound of every drop, and with all the windows and skylights, I felt like I was in the middle of storms, with treetops tossing their heads, the wind howling, and the rain slashing.

Here it is much more gentle experience, and sometimes I can’t even tell whether it’s raining or not until I go outside. This is also true of hot weather; the house is usually pretty cool, and I have been surprised by how warm it is when I step outside.

It was so nice to see the rain on the deck:

accessorized by seasonal fallen leaves. It was the perfect weather for reading and enjoying my scented candle addiction. We got about an inch, and I’m hoping for a rainy winter. We need it. Some people in the Village have been trucking in water since April. So far, our well has kept going, and I’m thankful for that. I’m always glad to hear the water tank on the third floor filling.

The rainy weather inspired me to make Montreal-style bagels

They turned out pretty well, considering I’m thousands of miles (or kilometers) from Montreal, in another country, and do not possess a wood-fired oven. Next time, I will bake at a slightly lower temperature, and put the dough on parchment paper for ease of removal after baking. I think my next cooking adventure will attempting to make my own poppadums. Stay tuned on that, and while you’re waiting, send your rain our way! It will receive a warm welcome.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful walk in the village cemetery, with some ghost stories and local history thrown in.

TEN YEARS AGO: Car sharing and car problems.

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Phobia

October 7th, 2021

I switched from my spring/summer citrusy perfume to my fall/winter cedary one. One morning, it just seems time to switch the seasonal scents. I don’t know what prompts it, but I always know when it’s time. The same day, I paused at my car door to enjoy the beauty of the crescent moon and the blazing stars in the black sky as I headed off to work in the early morning darkness.

As I drove down Deer Alley, I realized that, much like I did when I lived in San Francisco, I leave for work at the mysterious hour when night meets day, and the nocturnal creatures are heading home and the daylight ones are heading out. Now, instead of sex workers and their clients*, the night guy at the mortuary sneaking a cigarette, weary cops grabbing a cup of coffee at an all-night coffee shop, and partiers staggering home as the night met the dawn, there are deer, skunks trundling along comically, possums blinking in the headlights, owls swooping overhead, foxes slinking by, raccoons, and rabbits. It would make a fun movie split screen.

I have become somewhat deer phobic since I hit one recently. Although the deer ran away and there was no visible car damage, it shook me up, and now I’m convinced that a more serious deer accident is inevitable. When my siblings lived on boats at Pier 39, my brother used to say of falling in the water, “There’s them that has and them that will,” and I fear this is also true of hitting a deer. I drive about 250 miles a week just to get to work and back, and much or most of it is on roads bordered by deer-infested woods, so I feel that the odds are not with me on this one.

I’m already tired of driving in the dark and being blinded by the oncoming traffic, and there are months of it ahead of me. I am already pre-resenting the spring time change, when I get plunged back into weeks more of darkness just when it starts being light in the morning. I actually welcome having a car in front of me on these early morning drives, reasoning that they will meet the deer before I do.

Deer are beautiful and graceful, and I am charmed to see them bouncing down the driveway like they are on springs, or hopping up gracefully to nibble apples, or when they come up on the front porch and peer through the front door, which is mostly glass. But they are also a daily concern when I drive to work. I have been driving more slowly these days, and it certainly makes the trek to the Big Town seem a lot longer. But hopefully, it’s a little safer, too.

*I was surprised by how many besuited guys on their way to the Financial District would pick up girls on their way to work, much like they would pick up coffee. I wonder if this still happens. I still think it’s a little odd, but even after all these years and all these relationships, the ways of men are mysterious to me.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Adventures in real estate.

TEN YEARS AGO: The ordeal of swimming lessons.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A delightful visit with Dad, circa 1991. Those were the days!

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Cocktail

October 3rd, 2021

Sadly for the fabulousness level of our little corner of the world, Monica is closing her shop of eternal cuteness and selling the building that all too briefly housed it. She has not yet decided on her next adventure, but whatever it is, I know it will be creative and fabulous, like Monica herself. Though excited for Monica, I am sad for Self and all of us who enjoyed shopping in her civilized oasis of adorableness. On the bright side, it allowed me to acquire some fantastic things at a serious discount, including this Camp Cocktail kit:

This pretty Mason jar was the clever idea of someone who wanted to be able to enjoy cocktails while camping. You add alcohol and let it steep for a few days. If you are the kit’s creator, you then strap on your boots, put it in your backpack, and stride mightily off into the wilderness. If you’re Me, you put on your kitty PJ’s and mix it with San Pellegrino pomegranate and black currant* flavored water in a glass accented with rhinestones:

Because you can never have too much sparkle, inside or outside your glass.

I also got some delicious scented candles from Chez Monica, including City of Night. I didn’t know what the scent was at first; all I knew was it smelled mysterious and delightful. I later learned that it was inspired by Jim Morrison and included notes of cypress, fir, charred vetiver and black pepper. I am now hopelessly addicted to having a scented candle burning in the evening. Another favorite is the locally made Hearth, which pretty much smells the way it sounds and is my total favorite. I find it really comforting to have that flickering light as the evening darkness falls.

*Black currant is one of my all-time favorite flavors. It is sadly underrepresented in the Land of the Free, though readily available all over Europe the last time I looked. I personally have enjoyed black currant flavored codeine throat pastilles, bought over the counter in Paris, where I also acquired penicillin throat spray without the need of a prescription. Throat spray was resolutely unflavored, though that was its only drawback.

A YEAR AGO: Rob’s shelves for the Closet of Doom. You will be amazed to hear that the closet remains totally disorganized. One of these days…

FIVE YEARS AGO A look around the garden at the old house. I still miss it there.

TEN YEARS AGO Cars are an expensive habit.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Cuteness.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A late, but beautiful start to the day.

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Fluff

September 29th, 2021

Sometimes a small thing can make a big difference. In this case, the “small” thing is 9 feet long, though it’s a positively svelte 2 feet wide:

It is not just beautiful, it’s so soft! It’s a pleasure to walk on in bare feet, especially in the middle of the night. I love how the pattern ties together the other patterns in the bathroom, on the shower curtain and laundry hamper and bath mat. Here’s a close up of the pattern:

There is a pop of color in the room in the form of a very large, orange poster for the Hitchcock masterpiece “Vertigo”:

And of course there’s my pink electric toothbrush and the scalloped turquoise tray Rob made me. Sometimes, it really is just the little things that mean a lot.

A YEAR AGO: The Closet of Doom began a much-needed makeover.

FIVE YEARS AGO A lovely evening.

TEN YEARS AGO It takes a family to deal with my car problems!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A visit with my family.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A different kind of movie criticism.

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Birthday

September 24th, 2021

I got an email from John the other day, telling me that Peach and Daisy were now a year old. I can’t believe that it was a whole year ago that he rescued the pregnant and nervous Willow, who would certainly have died, since Peach and Daisy’s littermates died before they could be born and had to be surgically removed.

But Peach and Daisy are alive and well and happy. They still cuddle up together, and John sent me two delightful movies, which I will share with you here. I can’t improve on his descriptions:

In the first video, first-born Peach is already nursing, and Daisy is squeaking loudly for food. She still does that today. She’s never missed a meal in her life and she’s always crying like she’s starving. She’s a complete drama queen.

The second Video_1 is breakfast this morning. Note that Willow is still wary of what I might do to her.

It makes me happy to see the rescued cats so happy. John mentioned lately that he has rescued and rehomed around 35 cats so far, including 13 kittens that he has fostered and (amazingly) gotten adopted (instead of keeping them). He’s really making a difference.

A YEAR AGO: Car problems.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The joys of the County Fair.

TEN YEARS AGO: Clyde was recovering from his chin abscess, despite my benign neglect. I guess the parenting apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Allergies are not a beauty treatment.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Trying to focus on the positive.

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Pain

September 19th, 2021

And suffering…

I once again had dental pain, though no swelling. I went to the dentist, where they took an x-ray and things looked suspicious. The suspect in question is a tooth that already has a crown on, which I naively thought meant it was sealed off from further dental horrors, but I was, as is so often the case, incorrect about this.

They gave me a prescription for antibiotics, and maybe it was all in my head in more ways than one, because I began to feel better after the first dose. I took them for the prescribed week. But a week after I finished the pills, the pain woke me up in the middle of the night*.

I got another prescription and the sad news that I needed yet another root canal, and you know how much I enjoyed the first one. The further bad news was that my dentist could not do it until October 28, and the even further news was that the dentist he referred me to was in distant Santa Rosa, meaning 5 hours of driving on top of the lengthy procedure. Also? Santa Rosa Dentist is super expensive.

What’s not to hate?

But I had no choice. It was a glorious day as I drove through the redwoods and the idyllic wine country. It would have been lovely if I weren’t scared out of my mind.

At the dentist’s office, I was greeted by the sad and shocking news that I would have to pay $1,700. Yes, you read that correctly and it’s not in some strange foreign currency where 1,700 actually means $5. It took everything in me not to cry.

The procedure was as grueling and unpleasant as you would suspect. You’d think for those Cadillac (Rolls Royce? Bentley?) prices, they’d render you unconscious, but alas, this was not the case. I tried to focus on my breathing and think about being in Maine when I was little.

Eventually, it was all over, and I was given my third prescription for antibiotics this month, this time to be taken three times a day, along with a prescription for Motrin. I took it to the nearby pharmacy, a little mom and pop shop called Tuttle’s, where the pharmacist asked, “Are you really from all the way up there in Albion**?” I admitted that I was, and he said how much he enjoyed going to Ledford House, so it seems that Megan and I are not the only ones who enjoy going there.

Sadly, I will need a new crown, since the old one was destroyed in the root canal process. Why can’t I collect the sparkly diamond kind of crowns instead of the painful dental ones? They cost the same.

*Why does dental pain always strike at night and/or on the weekends?

**Which he pronounced “Al-bee-YON”.

A YEAR AGO: Getting some computer repairs.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Audits are so fun! Also, happy birthday to Rob!

TEN YEARS AGO Little Clyde was a little under the weather. And the weather was hot.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The joys of air travel. ~Shudder~

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Sleep mysteries in a world gone mad.

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Dinner

September 15th, 2021

We were overdue for a family dinner, so on a sunny Saturday afternoon, we assembled in Megan’s garden, where things were looking lovely and welcoming:

Rob is nearly finished staining the deck and installing a fancy handrail, so I’ll share photos with you when it’s done. It’s darker than they expected, but that just gives it a luxe, mahogany look. Next up before the rains start is to lay down some pea gravel to go between the deck and the garden gate, to cut down on the summer’s dust and the winter’s mud.

Millie has no problem getting in and out of the house using the deck, and it’s definitely a huge improvement over the old metal stairs.

Megan had acquired a box of pre-made watermelon-tinis and a bottle of Midori melon liqueur on the way home from her night shift. What with our opposite schedules, we both find ourselves buying booze in the early morning hours, me on my way to work and Megan on her way home. There does seem to be something semi-disgraceful about buying liquor at 6:30 am.

It didn’t seem all disgraceful at 6:30 pm, however, and we added some Midori to the previously pink ‘tinis, turning them into a strange sort of green. They were delicious no matter what they looked like, and it was nice to sit in the garden and sip our drinks and chatted.

Millie was still nervous, but not shaking. She stuck pretty close to Megan – like Star, she seems to be a mama’s girl – but, as I pointed out to Megan, Millie could easily have hidden, but she chose to stay with the people. She had open crates inside and out, and could have stayed on the bed or the sofa, which are the safe spots for her. She even sort of napped a bit, so I think she is adjusting. It was nice to have her there, and Stella is definitely happy to have another dog around the place.

Lately, I have been watching “The Streets of San Francisco”, and enjoying it very much. It’s really fun to see the City, which is basically the third co-star of the show, along with Karl Malden and Michael Douglas (four, if you count Michael Douglas’ hair). I told Rio that I saw her stepfather, Carl Betz, in an episode just the other day, and he was great in it. She said that it was one of his favorite roles and that he was really proud of his performance. She added that she had met Karl Malden and that he was a really nice guy, or as she put it, “a mensch and a half”. I was extra glad that I had sent him that fan letter years ago.

Megan made chicken tacos using her trusty Insta Pot for the filling, and I think it also used some salsa verde from the garden. With it, we had salsa made from mostly garden ingredients, and home-grown black beans. It was an easy and festive dinner.

As the sun left the stage to make way for its co-star, the moon, the solar lights on the shade palace winked into view:

These were left over from Megan and Rob’s 30th anniversary celebration this year, and they are a lovely addition to the garden. It was a delightful end to a delightful evening.

A YEAR AGO: Scary, scarily near-by fires.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farewell to our dear Ben.

TEN YEARS AGO: Planting the twin palms. I cried when I had to leave them behind when I moved.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A fun visit with Dad in London, circa 1991.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Aftermath.

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Dumplings

September 10th, 2021


Cheers to the long weekend!

I celebrated the long weekend with a new cooking adventure: making har gao. They are my favorite dim sum, and after my success making char siu, I was emboldened to try my hand at har gao, especially since the closest place to get them is Santa Rosa, and even I draw the line at driving 5 hours round-trip to get dim sum. I’m willing to drive over 2 hours round-trip for Thai food, but even my extreme takeout has its limits.

Fortunately, I had acquired a very nice bamboo steamer and silicone mat inserts during my trip to Santa Rosa, and I had frozen shrimp on hand, so all I had to get was wheat starch (not flour) and tapioca starch.

I was bemused by the recipes I saw that included bamboo shoots and other things that I considered to be extraneous and unnecessary. The point of har gao, I thought, was to let the shrimp shine. I consulted A, who in addition to being an excellent cook and amateur food critic, was also born and partly raised in China. She agreed with me that all it really needed for a filling was shrimp, white pepper, and a bit of salt. Maybe a dash of sesame oil.

So that’s what I did. I chopped the shrimp roughly, added about a spoonful of sesame oil, dusted it with flaky Maldon salt and white pepper, and mixed it up. I was both surprised and pleased by how easy the dough was to work with. I rolled it into a log, cut it in golf ball sized pieces, and then rolled out each piece and filled them.

They steamed for 6 minutes, and they came out great:

They were delicious, and the filling was exactly the way I wanted it. I also made another batch of char siu:

This time, I cut the pork more evenly, so it had better contact with the marinade.

I also made fried won tons. They were great, though next time I will be careful not to brown them quite so much:

I also made Thai chicken soup for the first time, though I neglected to take a picture of it. It came out really well. I loved the combination of lemongrass, coconut milk, ginger, and lime. I wonder what my next adventure should be?

A YEAR AGO: What would I do without Rob? I hope I never find out.

FIVE YEARS AGO A delightful BBQ at the family estate.

TEN YEARS AGO Garden improvements.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Walking Miss Rita.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Suzy’s guide to surviving air travel.

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