Jan 10 2018

Cats & Dogs

Published by under Calamity Suzy,Dogs,Work

The Plague is finally beginning to lose its death grip on our heroine, but after all this time, I am still not fully restored to health and sanity, though of course I am back at work, having burned through 42 hours of paid time off without the advantages of having fun, getting rest, or restoring my severely depleted batteries.

I also failed to enjoy the short weeks over the holidays, being fully occupied with being sick, and now I’m back to the five day a week grind, staring down the barrel of a 12 hour day yesterday and the ordeal of the annual fundraiser, which is of course this month. Basically I am still living on Vernors ginger ale and Jacob’s Cream Crackers.

Plague: 5,042 Suzy: 0

I haven’t seen Mark yet this new year, but I see his dogs every day when I get home from work, and they greet me with outsized and muddy enthusiasm. The current dramatis personae is sweet old Luna; pretty Lupe; cute little Blue; and super bouncy Kovu. This is Kovu:

For some reason, Kovu used to be horrified by me, but he got way over that stage, and now he has the enthusiasm of the converted. If I don’t get out of the car fast enough to suit him, he climbs muddily in, to the detriment of Wednesday’s upholstery and my work wardrobe. I think he would like to move in with me. I might like that too, but Queen Audrey would object and little Clyde would be scared, so for now, all Kovu petting has to take place outside.

As for inside…I went to dig out some potatoes from the buckets in the studio the other day and discovered that potatoes were not all that was in the buckets.

It appeared that Audrey decided that the potato buckets were her personal litter boxes. Undoubtedly, she considered it very thoughtful of the Staff to have so many of them available for her exclusive use, since Clyde has never thought outside the box in his life.

The Staff, however, was less thrilled. An informal survey revealed that Audrey’s contributions were more than surface deep, so I ended up hauling all the buckets outside in the rain, with plans to empty them into the woods if/when I feel up to it or can persuade the long-suffering Rob to do so for me.

A YEAR AGO: The power was on an extended vacation amidst stormy weather.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Be careful what you wish for.

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Jan 06 2018

Stasis

Published by under Bullshit,Calamity Suzy

It’s a good thing I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions, since I have not done a thing this entire new year except Be Sick. Either I am really good at it, or really bad at it, since I have been plague-stricken for over a week now, with no signs of the malady’s departure.

So, yes, I was sick the entire time I was off work, and even when I returned to work, I failed to work one entire day all week, leaving early for two days and finally taking yesterday off in the desperate hope that I would be restored to humanity today, but once again my hopes were dashed by whatever the Plague is.

Despite my apparently eternal illness, at some point I will have to get out of bed and get on with the Saddest Day of the Year, when all the Christmas ornaments are stowed away and the bleak winter house is stripped of its temporary sparkle and finery, just when we need it most.

So far, not a great start to the new year.

A YEAR AGO: The power was out on the Saddest Day of the Year. Things can be worse!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Back home with the kitties.

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Jan 01 2018

Happy New Year

Published by under Country Life,Special Occasions

Happy New Year!

It dawned sunny and beautiful here in Hooterville, though I’m sorry to say I am still suffering from the plague. At this point it appears that I will spend all the time I took off from work being sick. Come to think of it, the last time I took time off was the Worst Long Weekend Ever. Maybe taking time off is not a good idea for me.

Despite the Malady’s inexorable presence, I celebrated the departure of 2017 with champagne. It’s medicinal, you know. Vogue even touted its champagne diet back in the 1960s, in which the dieter had a glass of champagne with each meal. If only the pictured Harry Winston diamonds came with the sparkle in the glass!

And I managed to stay up to see the new year in on each coast. I have to admit that I consider the New York ball drop the “real” new year, despite having spent most of my adult life on the west coast. The fireworks over the Ferry Building just aren’t as impressive to me as the ball dropping in a frigid, thronged Times Square as the immortal Frank sings “New York, New York”.

And it wouldn’t be New Year’s Day without the Winter Classic. I am curled up on the couch under my grandmother’s quilt, watching the Rangers play the Sabres. The Rangers won in overtime, keeping their unblemished record of winning every outdoor game they have played. I love watching outdoor hockey, and enjoy the gentlemanly tradition of the teams forming a line to shake hands – or hug – with their opponents after a hard-fought game.

A YEAR AGO: I managed to see in the new year on both coasts last year, too. I did not manage to replace the ornament Clyde accidentally broke and still regret it.

FIVE YEARS AGO: I started the year in San Francisco. My old apartment had just sold for half a million dollars. A month ago, it sold for $1.2 million. There’s a slightly bigger regret.

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Dec 31 2017

2017

Surveying the hellscape of 2017, I can’t say I’m sorry to see it end. Including a nightmarish government, a seemingly endless plague of disasters, natural and otherwise, and the deaths of those too young to die, it was just one bad thing after another. The word “apocalypse” crossed my mind more than once.

In the midst of all this despair, there were bright spots, like a visit from our beloved Ben.

I failed to note it in these pages, but this October marked the 8th anniversary of my move to Hooterville. It’s one of the few good decisions I have ever made.

I read 114 books, surpassing last year’s 103. Standouts included Richard Russo’s Trajectory, a collection of short stories set in a small town, where Russo’s gifts for language and storytelling shine; The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, about a dysfunctional family in Montreal which manages to be funny, heart-breaking, gritty, and poetic all at once; The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery, which uses a combination of old and new technology and logic to unveil the identity of a man who murdered his way across America in the early years of the 20th century; Little Fires Everywhere, an engrossing and beautiful novel about families and how choices we make can have far-reaching and unforeseen effects; Sargent’s Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas, showcasing the fascinating and sometimes tragic lives of the women who inspired some of his great work; Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption, a haunting book about a wrongly convicted man who never gave up trying to prove his innocence from the depths of prison; and the truly astonishing Blood In the Water: The Attica Prison Riot of 1971 and Its Aftermath. I couldn’t put it down, and it haunted me for weeks afterwards. I will just say this: the riot was the least of what happened there.

Standouts in TV shows ranged from the regal (Victoria and The Crown) to the retro (The Deuce and Feud) and the truly excellent Ozark.

Power outages: I lost track. One of them lasted for days, and we were still having them in May. May, my friends! The same goes for rain, though it was around 70 inches. Or more than 6 feet. I thought we had the drought on the run until this season’s paltry 10 inches so far. If only we could get the hideous heat waves on the (permanent) run. I don’t think I will ever really recover from The Worst Long Weekend Ever. I may be one heat wave away from moving to Alaska. Look out, Tim! And keep your bail money handy.

January:

The new year arrived with a bang. Day One of a lengthy power outage. Overcoming the annual bummer of Twelfth Night with a new hairdo and an old fashioned party. A civilized break in the work week. Enjoying the beauty at the fine woodworking show. It was too floody to go and see the Bolshoi’s “Sleeping Beauty”, to my everlasting regret. I once more survived the horror of the annual fundraiser.

February: I came home from work to find a new refrigerator had taken up residence. Meeting the girls at the bookstore. A delightful (though rainy) Valentine’s Day. Guess what? Yes, the power was out again. A strange, but memorable baptism.

March: Time for the Polar Plunge! Feeling under the weather in still more bad weather. Possibly the world’s cutest new neighbor. A hail storm. Why not? Celebrating Dad’s 86th birthday. A delightful surprise encounter with Erica and Jessica.

April: A fun evening at the theater with Megan and Lu. Remembering Mom on her birthday. Family dinner with Clayton. Buying tires again for Wednesday. Jessica’s birthday, and my blog’s. I actually remembered this year! The joys of taking a day off.

May: A very sad, and upsetting memorial service. A sense of place. Yet another power outage made it impossible for me to revel in the glamorous joys of the Kentucky Derby. A fun outing on Bookstore Day. The adventure of the flat tire. Going in style and in good company to family dinner. The adventure of the dog in the night.

June: A good start to my birthday week. A completely perfect birthday, part one and part two. A peek into the past, my favorite place. It was hard to tell one job from the other one Saturday. A wonderful visit with Jarrett and Kalli. It’s Rob to the rescue yet again, adding a new shelf to the kitchen when the old one is displaced by the sudden appearance of a new and unimproved refrigerator. The month ended with a perfect Junapalooza.

July: There was much to celebrate. At last! A sleepover with Jessica! An unexpected visitor after a long day at work. Rob the artist. A less than stellar week. A summer Saturday. The annual horrorshow. But hey, I survived!

August: My Junapalooza gift appears, along with a former Jay (hint: Not Alex Rios). A lovely visit with our friend Carrie, her daughter, and her oldies- singin’ posse. The sudden loss of a coworker. I still miss her smile. Plumbing problems. The anniversary of Dad’s death rolls around again. I will never stop loving and missing him. A lovely sunset drink. My brother’s eclipse adventure. The beginning of the hellish heat wave.

September Celebrating my last working Saturday with a delicious dinner at Rio’s place. The Worst Long Weekend Ever will live on infamy. My brother’s birthday party. A visit from our beloved Ben. At the County Fair, no less! Playing tour guide. We all enjoyed seeing Ben again. I hope this becomes an annual tradition.

October: The eternal trenching project rears its interminable head again. The local message boards are as eccentric as ever. Awakening to find the worst wildfire in California history was raging, in our County and our neighboring counties. Devastating and heartbreaking. As always, our community reached to help the evacuees, but it’s going to be a long recovery. A couple of reasons to celebrate in these dark days. A look at some lovely gardens. The ballet season begins.

November: Halloween with our favorite kidlet and her precocious BFF. A chilly day for cider pressing. You can’t go home again. Or at least you shouldn’t. Car problems, which preoccupy my limited brain space when I should be worrying about Thanksgiving prep. An unexpected Thanksgiving without Erica and Jessica. Thanksgiving II: the sequel. Christmas – or at least Christmas decorations – arrived a little early.

December: Enjoying the always spectacular (though not very Christmassy) Festival of Lights. File under miscellaneous: lingering car malaise; the endless project; and hanging out with friends. Another delightful annual tradition: Candlelight Shopping Night. A successful office party. And a little mini-break was the perfect thing after all the party work. A very odd version of Peter Pan. And a very happy Christmas. A trip north to Eureka did not turn out exactly as planned. But it was still fun.

No resolutions have sprung to my shallow, sparkly mind for the new year, which I hope will be kinder to all of us. Thanks for coming along on the ride this year!

A YEAR AGO: A look back at 2016.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Reviewing 2012.

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Dec 30 2017

Heading Home

Published by under Family,Friends,Travel

It’s 4:30 am and I am drinking bad in room coffee and waiting for daylight. I’m sorry to say that the cold or whatever it is has not improved and I felt too miserable to sleep. It is going to be a long way home. Well, it would be anyway!

Jarrett picked me up yesterday and took me on a tour of Eureka, where he has lived for several years. Like Fort Bragg, it began with logging and fishing, and all that entails, like robber barons and brothels. But Eureka, a much bigger city still, boasted an opera house (the building still stands) and a Chinatown, populated with the people who built roads, did the logging camps’ cooking and laundry and basically kept to themselves until they were all deported to San Francisco in 1885.

1885 is also when this breathtaking mansion was built for lumber baron William Carson:

It is utterly magnificent and may be the finest Victorian home I have ever seen, even after living in San Francisco for so many years. It is now a private club, which is whispered about among locals, much as the Bohemian Club is in San Francisco. Though we peasants cannot enter its splendid interior, you can revel in its elegant excess here.

Right across the street is the fantastic pink house which William Carson built for his son:

Love the color and the stained glass.

We walked around the historic downtown, and I really liked the combination of old and new. The town feels vital and young, not precious like the Village at home. I really enjoyed our look around. We also stopped in at the local history museum, which has a great collection of Native artifacts and pioneer quilts. Needless to say the native people, like the Chinese, were also driven out by Europeans, just as they were in Fort Bragg. The age old story, I’m afraid.

We headed out to dinner with Jarrett’s beautiful girlfriend Kalli at one of their favorite spots. It was so wonderful to catch up on their news and spend some time together. I love those kids. I’d have to say: despite the cold or whatever it is and the long drive ahead of me, I’m glad I came.

Update: Left in the rainy darkness about 6:45 am. Stopped at the gas station and then headed straight for home. No traffic that early, though I did have to drive around two large, shaggy elk on Highway One. Arrived home a little after 10 am. Whew!

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Dec 29 2017

Eureka

Published by under Friends,Travel


Home away from home

Hi! I’m coming to you from Eureka! Eureka is what I said when I finally got here, too.

I thought I was mentally prepared for the long and winding road that is Highway One, but as usual, I was wrong about that. By the time I had reached Westport, I felt like admitting defeat, turning around, and going back home to the kitties. But I pressed on, and when I finally emerged from the horrors of Highway One and its bipolar ups and downs and curves so crazy they are signposted at 15 miles an hour, I was crushed to discover that I had another 90 miles to go.

Sigh.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. All signs had pointed toward Things Going Wrong. Megan woke up sick the day before we were slated to go, so instead of her capably driving while I was the passenger, the way Nature intended, I was demoted to driver, with no company and an increasing paranoia about the ever present engine light and lack of cell service.

My friend Janice’s son-in-law had unexpected surgery, so her daughter Julie could not join us at dinner, and once again I was demoted to chauffeur in a strange land. As I headed out in the near zero visibility night time fog, it soon became clear that I too was sick, or getting there. Why not? I tried not to look at the kitties’ lovely parting gift to me as a bad omen:

I did my best to ignore my body’s rebellion and thoroughly enjoyed a European length dinner with my dear friend Janice at one of her favorite local restaurants over a bottle of local wine. We had a lot to catch up on. She had a very challenging year, though she met one disaster after another with grace and strength and her head held high (and of course, her hair and make-up done). It was wonderful to just be with her, listening to her deep, lilting Southern accent, her vivacious laugh, and her astonishing anecdotes. Her friendship is a wonderful gift.

As for today, I am pleased to announce that I am not driving. Jarrett is going to play tour guide today and show me around his town, and tonight we are having dinner with his girlfriend, the beautiful Kalli, at their favorite local restaurant. And I will think about the drive home tomorrow…tomorrow.

A YEAR AGO: A post Christmas celebration.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A winter wonderland.

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Dec 27 2017

Aftermath

Published by under Special Occasions,Travel,Work

While the rest of you were celebrating your Christmas, I was cleaning up after ours.

Every year I tell myself not to bother cleaning up before hand, and every year, I ignore my own well-meant advice and am annoyed/horrified by having to re-clean everything I had cleaned the day before. This year, of course, was no exception, and by the time I had emptied out the somewhat disgraceful recycling, washed the heirlooms and put them carefully away (nothing broke!), re-vacuumed, and done a couple of loads of laundry, it was afternoon, and I was thankful that I had at least had the sense to take the day after Christmas off from work, both domestic and unpaid.

Arriving at work today, I discovered a plague of ants had taken up residence in my absence. I wiped them to a rapid and sanitary death with the atomic wipes they use in Medical, but the super ants were not deterred or their friends did not get the message that Doom awaited them in my office. Facilities Guy provided me with a gooey ant trap, which I have set on my windowsill for the unwary ants and which he assures me are more effective than the germicidal wipes of doom.

I was planning to work tomorrow, but Megan got sick last night and is unable to drive to Eureka with me tomorrow. The original plan was that she would pick me up at work in the late afternoon after she woke up from her last night shift of the week, but if I am doing all the driving on the sinuous and scenic Highway 1, I do not want to be doing it in the dark. I conferred with my boss and she decided that I should just take the day off and drive up in the morning, so that is now my new plan. Gotta love a one day work week!

I am going to see my friend Janice, who you may remember visited me a few years back with her lovely daughter Julie, and also our nephew Jarrett and his beautiful girlfriend Kalli. So the next time I check in with you will be from a whole new county! Wish me an uneventful journey.

A YEAR AGO:Cleaning up after a lovely celebration.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A warm and wonderful Christmas. Jessica looks like a baby!

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Dec 25 2017

Merry Happy

Published by under Family,Friends,Special Occasions


Christmas Jessica (with Jonathan in the background)

Merry Christmas! Y’all are a day behind us, since we celebrated yesterday. And celebrate we did!

I spent most of the morning making about a thousand of my world famous cheese biscuits, with an eye to bringing some to Jarrett later in the week. It’s a good thing I set some aside for him, since in spite of my Herculean efforts, I only have about half a dozen left.

After the baking blitz, I put out the Christmas crackers:

and set out the heirloom Wedgwood and silver:

as the tree twinkled merrily with its stockings beneath. Jonathan and Rio arrived with the ham glazed with his secret glaze and smoked for hours in the BBQ, a wild huckleberry pie and a keg of cider, and Erica and Jessica brought a stunning Bûche de Noël:

It was frosted with vanilla buttercream to match my ancient tree, and inside it was ginger cake with a butterscotch salted caramel filling. Needless to say, it was amazing.

So were the stockings this year. I think everyone was really pleased. Mine included a new electric toothbrush that looks like jewelry, glittery pens, and a gift certificate for Angelika’s indispensable services. What’s not to love?

In addition to all that, we had salad with roasted pears and fresh pomegranate along with shallot and honey dressing, our own garden potatoes mashed up with our garlic, the cheese biscuits, and Vietnamese pickled carrots and cucumbers. This was my first attempt at these and it was a hit. I will definitely make them again.

After dinner, we enjoyed the annual ritual of Jonathan and Jessica reading “Red Ranger Came Calling” out loud. I wish I could post the movie clips here, but they are on Facebook for your viewing and listening pleasure. I really don’t know which of them does a better job. And just a few days ago, Jessica’s BFF Bella was on Vachon Island at the very location of the tree!

After everyone else left, Megan and I sat back with a bottle of Limoncello and talked about the evening. We agreed, it had been a great one. Merry Christmas to you and yours from all of us!

A YEAR AGO: A merry Christmas.

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Dec 24 2017

Peter Panned

Published by under Bullshit,Car,Special Occasions

Yesterday Megan and I both enjoyed getting up after the sun did, putting the heat on in our frigid houses, and scampering back to bed with coffee and our neatly paired animal companions (two dogs for her; two cats for me) for more than an hour. How luxurious is that?

Eventually, we got up and got dressed. I headed over to Megan’s place and we then made our way to our brother’s place with a bag of mesquite, the Christmas ham, stockings for him and Rio to stuff, and a mason jar of Jack Daniel’s, an integral part of Jonathan’s masterful ham glaze.

We had a brief discussion about Wednesday’s ailments, and had independently arrived at the conclusion that he should buy the expensive parts and fix the non threatening emissions issue, on the grounds that one day the ever-on engine light might mean something is really wrong and I would ignore it, thinking it wasn’t, until Something Bad happened, like permanent stoppage of said car. So he will order the parts and we’ll get that particular show on the road. Wish Santa shopped at Napa.

After that, Megan turned her little red car toward the magical south coast. As we wended our way past the lavender ocean and the wind-twisted trees, we talked about how we hadn’t seen Lichen in ages. For both of us, the most recent interaction was texts on his birthday last month. Passing through Elk, Megan spied Lichen himself at the side of the road, with his sweet dog, Keeper. She stopped immediately and raced across the road shouting his birth name so he’d know he was in trouble. By the time I caught up, we were hugging and laughing and being introduced to the guy with him.

This town being as minute as it is, the guy turned out to be a neighbor of my friend Alison, who I had just met for a drink this week (and said drink was interrupted by the appearance of my old boss, my current boss, the event coordinator from work, and others). He was supposed to look after Alison’s dog over the holidays, but she got the flu and her plans changed at the last minute.

As for Lichen, he has been training as a massage therapist and now has his own little studio! So that’s what he’s been up to instead of hanging out with us. It was good to catch up with him, but we had a schedule to keep, so we continued south.

Arriving in Point Arena, we went straight for Franny’s, as any right-thinking person does, where we equipped ourselves with delicacies before going even further south to acquire still more delicacies for dinner at Anchor Bay Thai.

We were worried about being late for the play, but we made it back to the theater in time to wade through throngs of kids and into balcony seats right by the wall, a decision we would come to regret in about 10 minutes.

The play was a production of “Peter Pan”, streamed from the National Theatre in London, and our Sleeping Beauty deprived hearts were looking forward to it. Our hopes were dashed almost immediately by the weirdness of the production, in which everyone looked about 45, Nana the dog was played by a guy wearing white ruffled pantalettes, and Tinker Bell by a squat gent with lights on his bicycle helmet and a speech impediment. Also there were songs, which we had not been warned about, and all the magic had been removed.

We wanted to remove ourselves, but were trapped at the wall end of the row. I was all for pushing past everyone and hightailing it out of there, but Megan thought it was too rude. I felt that it would be a momentary inconvenience for people we would never see again, but she won out and we spent the rest of our sentence wondering if we could get over the railing in front of us without undue damage to Self. When the welcome release of intermission finally arrived, I raced out of there so fast I forgot my coat (with my phone in the pocket), which Megan grabbed and then chased me down the stairs.

As we peeled out of the parking lot, I observed that we had finally found something that was not fun to do together. It took us a while, but we did it!

A YEAR AGO: Merry Christmas to us!

TEN YEARS AGO: A somewhat dizzy Christmas.

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Dec 22 2017

Frosty Solstice

Published by under Country Life,Weather,Work

I’m sitting in bed with the heater and Audrey purring away (Clyde has been Adventure Boy lately, spending more time in the woods than I personally enjoy). I got up when it was actually light out, turned the heater on, made coffee, and took it back to bed. I love doing that.

It’s been pretty chilly lately. The house is about 42F when I get up, and it’s been hovering around the 32F or lower outside overnight. On solstice morning, I discovered that Wednesday’s windows were iced up hard. The door creaked when I opened it. I left the car running for about 10 minutes before heading out to the Ridge, which was a winter wonderland, sparkling with frost. That’s about the closest I have ever gotten to driving on snow*, and I’m happy to keep it that way.

The shortest and darkest day of the year also happens to be my boss’s birthday, much to her displeasure. Besides those two disadvantages, her birthday has historically resulted in the dreaded combo gift, and when she was in school, everyone was always on break, so she never got the little school parties with her classmates, either.

We tried to make it up to her by taking her out to lunch at a restaurant overlooking the harbor. It was a sunny, postcard day, and fishing boats chugged in and out while seals played in the frigid water. I am pleased to report that she was showered with gifts by coworkers (including me). One came in to drop off flowers on his way to a hunting trip, and her husband sent an arrangement that was so beautiful that another colleague took one look and called the florist to order the exact same arrangement to be delivered that day to his own wife.

I left work after lunch, stopped by Monica’s shop to exchange gifts, dropped off library books (sadly, there were none to pick up, though I am observing my own sort of advent by re-reading “The Box of Delights”, timing its 12 chapters to end on Christmas Day. Dad used to read it out loud to us in that manner), and made one last stop at the post office, where I was overwhelmed by a tide of cards and presents to the point that Darlene helped me to carry it all to the car.

Let the holidays – and the celebrating – begin!

*I learned to drive in San Francisco, in the beautiful Presidio.

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Dec 21 2017

Taking a Break

Published by under Special Occasions

To recover from the crazy week, I took a little staycation at the same lovely hotel where I took some refuge after the devastating loss of the one and only Roscoe, who I will never stop missing. Or loving, for that matter. This time, the hotel manager very generously gave me a free room, which turned out to be an apartment, complete with living room:

and a lovely kitchen. I coveted the side by side refrigerator with its capacious freezer drawer. It even makes ice automatically from filtered water! Wonder if the kindly hotel manager would consider a trade for my new-ish, Stalinesque appliance?

Probably not.

There was a balcony overlooking the estuary:

where I could watch the sun set:

and the stars come out from the comfort of the capacious hot tub. Thoughtfully, the balcony and hot tub can be accessed from the bedroom as well as the living room. The bedroom had a desk and a walk in closet with a light! This was very exciting for a girl whose house has no closets whatsoever and whose clothes are stored in bags under the bed. I’m pretty sure the closet was bigger than my bathroom at home.

I realized how long I had been a bumpkin when I was so delighted with having central heating and not having to wear a sweater inside, or experience the microclimates of my house with its unheated bathroom and drafts, the relative warmth of the propane heater stopping about three feet from its epicenter*.

And I kind of burned myself on the hot water in the sink and bathroom, since I’m so used to having the facet turned to the hottest possible and not adding cold water at all in a vain attempt to make it warm enough to wash Self or dishes. Here the water was instantly super hot. Surprise!

I had pizza and watched Hitchcock’s “Family Plot”, which I hadn’t seen in many years and enjoyed very much. In the morning, I had coffee on the balcony, watching the water birds at play in the sunshine. I ran a couple of Christmas errands and then headed home to cuddle the kitties. It was a great break, and I am so thankful for that gift!

A YEAR AGO: A sparkly outing with the inimitable Jessica.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Getting ready for Christmas. With a cameo by our beloved Schatzi. We miss you, sweet girl.

*Speaking of which, I slept through an earthquake last week which freaked out one of the temporary docs who is working here for a few months. She called Facilities Guy in a panic, thinking that a wild animal was in her oven, crashing around (how?). She was not at all relieved to hear that it was only an earthquake.

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Dec 17 2017

The Party

Published by under Work

I survived the office holiday party!

It was a marathon, though, with days of planning and decorating and blasting down the Ridge in the early morning darkness. This may well be the perfect song to listen to when driving winding roads under a blanket of stars and beside the moonlit ocean.

This year, the person who used to do the decorating moved away, so that left me to do it. You know, the person whose present-wrapping skills are on par with a particularly inept and possibly thumbless five year old. Which makes it even more amusing that I Christo-ed up the tables in the conference room for the party. I regretted this decision at more than one stage in the process, but it looked great when it was done:

My vision was to wrap the tables in brown paper and have centerpieces of freshly cut greenery. My dream came true with holly, cedar, eucalyptus, bay and mystery red berries which were probably poisonous, but whatever! I added glittery pine cones and sparkly mini succulents:

It wouldn’t be Me if it wasn’t sparkly. I also found an unopened box of glittery snowflakes in the store room, so I borrowed an industrial size box of dental floss from the dental clinic and hung them from the ceiling, as you can see in the first photo. I added white lights around the whole room, and it looked warm and welcoming when the room was lit only by those lights:

I was later told that there had never been Christmas lights in the room before, an egregious omission and one that will not recur during my sparkly reign.

I somehow managed to squeeze seating for 85 people in a room whose official capacity is 68 (all that practice making and hosting Thanksgiving for 14 people in my undersized residence came in handy), and I was pleased to note that people hung out and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Most years, they eat and run, since they get paid for the rest of the day, so it was especially nice to see the party continue.

Unfortunately for me, though, I had a Board meeting to set up and take minutes at, so I had to leave the festivities. But I was delighted to receive nothing but compliments, a couple of the doctors going so far as to email all the staff about how great the party was and how well I did, both embarrassing and delightful at the same time.

A YEAR AGO: At the Candlelight Shopping Night.

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Dec 13 2017

Candlelight

Another annual tradition this time of year is the Candlelight Shopping Night in the Village:

It looks so magical!

As we headed down the Ridge, we noticed Rob at the (closed) dump. Unlike most people, Rob finds going to the dump to be a two way experience. He not only drops things off, he also picks things up, which is why we call it “the mall”. Megan stopped to find out if he had fed the dogs, who were waiting patiently at home*.

It turned out that he was actually in the market for a jumpstart rather than projects to take home and fix, so Megan hooked him up and soon he was ready to head home and take care of the girls.

As we arrived at the Village, the sun was setting beautifully:

And the one bar in town was looking festive:

Nothing like seeing a glowing martini glass against a dark sky!

Outside the shops, candles flickered in mason jars:

And inside, all was merry and bright and everything was on sale. Megan picked up a couple of books for Jessica in the bookstore. She always knows just the right books to get Jessica, and it will be nice for her to have something to unwrap.

After shopping, we headed back to Ledford House, which is conveniently on the way home. It was long after sunset, when the view is the most spectacular, but it was cozy and charming, and we were warmly greeted as always by the wonderful bartender.

The special of the day was a seasonal cranberry margarita:

Which was delicious and about the size of a swimming pool. It was served with tiny spoons, like a grown-up slushie.

As we were enjoying our adult beverages, I was surprised by a hug from my friend Alison. It was the first time I had seen her since the wildfires. Her house survived, so she and her husband are renting it to a displaced neighbor and staying at their house in Hooterville for now. We made plans to catch up for a drink later this month.

As we left, we petted one of the resident kitties, the handsome black one seen here, and overheard a couple saying how they couldn’t believe how many stars there were and how bright they are. Megan and I smiled at each other and when we got in the car, we both said how lucky we are to live here. And we are.

*I got to Megan’s house before she did that evening. The dogs were thrilled to see me, and were climbing all over me with joy until they heard Megan’s car arrive. They jumped off me instantly and raced to the door. Auntie’s OK to kill time, but Mama’s the best!

A YEAR AGO: You have to love a day that starts at the beach and ends in the ancient redwoods.

FIVE YEARS AGO: An evening of seasonal song.

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Dec 09 2017

Miscellaneous

Published by under Car,Dogs,Friends

Wondering what’s been happening in SuzyWorld™?

Well, lots of nothing mostly.

The car thing is dragging on into its millionth year. There has been a certain amount of progress, however. The slowdown/lack of power thing has not reared its ugly head again after my brother reset the car’s computer brain (if only he could do that for his now younger sister’s brain!), and I learned that the slowdown thing is linked to the wrench light, not the engine light. Apparently the wrench light is to be feared much more than the engine light.

And the engine light is on again, or still. It seems to have something to do with air hoses or emissions or something not tragic. Jonathan and Rob are supposed to look at it again this weekend and order the necessary parts. I am still waiting for them to change the brake pads and do the oil change, since they want to do everything at once, which is understandable, but also slightly frustrating. In the meantime, Wednesday is still going and stopping, which is all I really require of a car.

The inspectors came out to inspect Mark’s trenching project about a week ago. He said he would fill it in and apply gravel so it’s not a mud bath around my house, but you may not be surprised to hear that nothing has happened. We are going on a year now, and I have to change shoes to take out the garbage or go to the compost pile, and then change them back again, which has gotten pretty old. Needless to say, the driveway is a potholed and puddled nightmare again. Or still…

I have been trying to spend time with my friends in an effort to through off the nebulous malaise, the worry about the car, and the impending doom of the holiday party and annual fundraiser at work. Jim and I met for drinks at Ledford House and enjoyed the sunset, which happens so fast this time of year, like a curtain dropping:

His parents have sold their house in Palm Springs and are moving into a smaller apartment, so he has been helping them go through their things and downsize. So many people I know have aging parents, and some have both aging parents and challenging teenagers, a difficult barbell to balance.

I saw Angelika both professionally and personally. She brightened up my hair one day and we met for lunch on another. She is so positive and inspiring! I am really glad we have expanded our relationship past the professional. Her friendship is a gift.

I met up with the owners of the dog I hit with the car last year – last year! – and we had lunch together. I am pleased to report that the dog is just fine, and you can hardly even see the scar, though it is sprinkled with white hairs, much in the way Clyde’s neck is from where the Slobber Monster tried to kill him a few years ago. It was great to spend some time together under better circumstances, and we have plans to walk my recovered victim in the Botanical Gardens.

And Erin and I finally found time to hang out together over a glass of wine at her lovely house. She got a “new” job a couple of months ago (when I turned down an offer for her old one, which I have had cause to regret from time to time ever since), and this was the first chance we had to catch up and talk about it. Erin’s Mom was there, too, the glamorous Carol. We had a wonderful time and we promised each other to meet up soon. There’s nothing like spending some time with friends to throw off the mysterious malaise.

A YEAR AGO: A day at the beach in beautiful Elk.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Stormy weather.

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Dec 05 2017

Sparkling

Megan and I enjoyed our annual tradition of the Festival of Lights at the Botanical Gardens. As usual, the parking gods smiled on Megan, and we got a parking space right out front. This year, we could buy tickets on line, and I added a small donation in honor of my late friend Joel, who was a Master Gardener there. And instead of waiting in line, we could breeze right in.

The Gardens are one of the loveliest places on the coast, and they are particularly magical when they are all dressed up in sparkling lights. Megan pointed out that they are not particularly Christmassy, with dragons and swans:

Somehow I had never noticed that before, though there is a star or two. The elephant was new, peering cutely out of the bushes:

He was a safe distance away from the erupting volcano:

I always love the jellyfish, floating magically in the air:

And the sailing ship, accessorized with a whale:

It makes me feel like a kid again, with the wonder of the holidays, delighted by the lights in the darkness.

And what better way to follow up sparkling lights than a sparkling drink?

We toasted our lovely evening and the holidays past, present, and future. Cheers!

A YEAR AGO: Some random notes.

FIVE YEARS AGO: It was stormin’ up a storm!

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Nov 30 2017

Let the Holidays Begin!

Published by under House,Special Occasions

Christmas came early to stately Suzy Manor this year. The mental malaise I have been battling lately made me long for lights and sparkliness. Of course Dr. Suzy’s prescription for almost anything is glitter.

But it’s not just Me, you know. Apparently Science agrees with Dr. Suzy for once, saying that putting up your ornaments earlier may make you happier.

I put away the Halloween/Thanksgiving pumpkins, and added a wreath to the front door:

and some LED snowflake lights:

That was the easy part. Putting lights on the banister was surprisingly difficult this year. I tested a string of colored lights by plugging them into an outlet downstairs, where they lit obediently. After I wound them around the banister and fought my way past the ficus, plugging them into the extension cord, they refused to light. They also refused to light when plugged directly into an outlet upstairs.

Back to the box of decorations for another string of lights. This time, I tried them in the extension cord upstairs and they appeared to light. I started from the top and when I reached the bottom, I discovered that maybe a third of the lights were on, around the middle of the string.

Sigh.

I undid it yet again and selected a new set of lights. These finally worked:

Here’s another view:

and yes, they did make me happy.

Rob came by to help me with my ancient Charlie Brown tree, drilling a couple of extra holes and helping me to distribute the fake limbs as best we could.

This is always the first ornament on the tree:

followed by the mercury glass bells and the glittery mushrooms. Here’s how it looked when I was finished that evening:

and in daylight:

Let the holidays begin!

A YEAR AGO: The crushing disappointment of the Gilmore Girls reboot. May the new Will & Grace not follow in these horrible footsteps.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Jarrett adopted Archimedes, aka Archi, aka the World’s Cutest Puppy. And their lives changed (for the better) forever.

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Nov 27 2017

Encore

Published by under Cooking,Family

As you know, I hate dealing with the post Thanksgiving turkey carcass. It’s unwieldy, icky, and makes it impossible for me to escape the unpleasant fact that I ate a formerly live creature as I dismember its bones. In my typical hypocritical way, however, this does not stop me from cooking and eating it in the first place. At least we buy free range, organic birds.

So I was delighted when Jonathan took the avian remains off my hands the day after Thanksgiving. He made it into soup and invited us over for dinner that night at Rio’s compound, where we had turkey soup with garlic bread and followed up Thanksgiving II with leftover cherry and huckleberry pies.

While the garlic bread was baking, Rio and Jonathan showed us the progress they had made with restoring the Christmas Village. Rio’s father was a famous artist who made record album covers, Time magazine covers, and posters for Broadway plays. To amuse Rio as a child, he made a little Victorian village of painted cardboard. Over the years, some of it disappeared and some of it deteriorated seriously, but after Rio bought the compound, she thought it would be fun to restore the Village.

It currently resides in the studio part of the studio/garage combo where we made the cider. Now that Jonathan is involved, a train track with trains that really run has been added:

They have also added some historical figures, like Winston Churchill and Charles Dickens, and various cows for the fields. Some of the houses have little chandeliers and paintings inside. It’s quite something, and it’s not even finished yet.

Back in the house, we had dinner by the light of this amazing Swedish contraption, also from Rio’s childhood:

It’s a wooden carousel with a wooden propeller at the top and candles at the sides. The heat from the candles makes the propeller spin the carousel around. The top layer seems to be angels, the middle a shepherd and his flock and the lowest level is Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and the three wise men, one of whom is inexplicably black while everyone else is white. Go figure.

It is a charming and delightful object, and I also liked the patterns it made on the ceiling:

After dinner, we watched The Avengers on the 1959 Predicta. It is a pretty weird show. To my mind, it seemed quite surreal. Coincidentally, it also featured trains, though there was no Christmas Village. It was a lovely evening, like another little Thanksgiving together.

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Nov 26 2017

Thanksgiving

It was a quieter than usual Thanksgiving at stately Suzy Manor. I had the house ready well before noon:

and the outdoor livingroom was ready as well:

Rob brought some firewood over, but we didn’t need it. It has been oddly warm all week. I have even been sleeping with the balcony door open.

Erica and Jessica could not join us for Thanksgiving after all. Megan said it was the first time in Jessica’s life that she wasn’t with our family at Thanksgiving. We really missed them. Without them, it was more like an elaborate family dinner than anything else, though there’s nothing wrong with that!

Everything turned out well, from the turkey, roasted Nana-style:

to the maple and harissa roasted carrots, potatoes expertly whipped by Jonathan, who also made a wonderful gravy, and the stuffing/dressing, which as usual I forgot about, but which happened to be perfectly done when I did remember. Jonathan and Rio brought a wild huckleberry pie (in a pie dish made by Rob), and a pie from the cherries we grew. It was quite a spread:

Jonathan brought some of last year’s cider, and we toasted Thanksgiving and the many things we are grateful for with the cider in Nana’s wine glasses.

A YEAR AGO: A much busier Thanksgiving.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A fun and festive Thanksgiving.

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Nov 23 2017

Getting Ready

Published by under Cooking,Country Life

Well, today was Thanksgiving Eve for us. Despite an unwise consumption of adult beverages the night before, while listening to music and watching “The Partridge Family” in honor of my childhood crush, the spectacular David Cassidy, I managed to wake up before the 6 am alarm call.

Why so early on the Eve, you ask? Erica texted me saying that she was ill and may not be able to grace us with her presence, Jessica’s, and the many dishes she was planning to bring. I conferred with Megan, who opined that the best thing to do was for her to stop by the store on her way home from work and pick up the ingredients we would need to make up for the possibly missing dishes.

I wanted to be caffeinated and ready before Meg texted me at 6:30, and I was ready. She got two different kinds of bread, some apples, and some pecans for stuffing/dressing (I couldn’t deal with chestnuts this year, much as I love them), and some mixed greens for salad. She dropped them off on her way home from night shift three out of four, the last one of the week being tonight.

I put the Jack Daniel’s on to simmer with tangerine zest, sugar, and shallots while I started chopping up bread to stalenize during the day and overnight. I tossed in some chopped up pecans and then made salad dressing with honey, shallots, olive oil, and cider vinegar. By then, it was time to put the cranberries into the simmering sauce and unearth potatoes from their buckets of sand:

.

Everything from the garden always seems extra dirty*. I also had a bucket of rainbow carrots to scrub and prep for maple and harissa roasted carrots:

They are resting comfortably in my American grandmother’s glass platter which reads “In Remembrance”, ready for tomorrow. After that, I decanted the cranberries into my English grandmother’s star dish:

I wish I knew what happened to the little dishes that matched it. They are lost in the mists of time.

Rio stopped by with the turkey, a relatively modest 14 pounds compared to last year’s monster. She had started defrosting it on Monday, which we had actually feared was too early, but it was still partly frozen. I may have to just cook it a little longer.

After Rio left, I cleaned up the house and then settled down on the couch with the cats to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, which I had thoughtfully taped so I could fast forward through the boring parts and enjoy the delights of the Rockettes, the giant balloons, and the floats, along with the appearance of Santa and memories of being in New York for Thanksgiving years ago.

*I was telling one of my co-workers that we were going to have carrots and potatoes we had grown ourselves. She said, “Wouldn’t it be easier to just grab it off the grocery store shelves?” I said, “Yes. Yes, it would.” I didn’t add that it would probably be cheaper too.

A YEAR AGO: It was Thanksgiving Eve.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Getting ready for T-Day!

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Nov 21 2017

Cars & Turkeys

Published by under Bullshit,Car,Special Occasions

Unlike most people this time of year, I am more preoccupied with things automotive than things culinary. Outsourcing most of the T Day operations helps in this regard, a secret I learned long ago.

I’m afraid Erica and Jessica got the holiday shaft this year, committed to bringing a truffle-rich pie made of delicata squash; fennel and orange salad; and some kind of stuffing/dressing (call it what you will) which includes chestnuts (not peeled by Me) and I think Erica might have mentioned wild boar sausage. There may also be shrub. Jonathan is making a pie from the cherries we grew and there has been talk of a wild huckleberry pie, which may push us into pie-a-palooza territory at three pies.

Megan bought a 14 pound turkey and stashed it at Rio’s house. Rio has not only begun the defrosting process (per my Nana’s rule of 1 day for every 4 pounds), but has promised to deliver it on Thursday, which is Thanksgiving for the rest of you, but merely Thanksgiving Eve for us, due to Megan’s crazy work schedule*. As for me, I will be making cranberry-bourbon relish; garlic mashed potatoes from garlic and potatoes we grew; and maple-roasted harissa carrots using carrots we grew; and roasting the turkey.

Since we eat at a civilized hour, I won’t have to put it in the ovenette until noon or later. And though I have tried many fancy things over the years, dry brining and brining and so on, I do not think that any of them were any better than the way Nana did it: rub the turkey with butter, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and sage, and roast, basting occasionally. I am planning to let Erica and/or Jonathan make the gravy.

So all I really have to do around the house is tidy up, get the silver out of its velvet-lined chest, check the weather forecast and get some wood ready for the outdoor fire if it doesn’t rain. It’s been a rainy week so far and 128, the road to the city, is already closed, so I am hoping that the chance of rain forecast for Friday is so slight as to barely exist. I have more than a dozen bottles of wine on hand, always the most important part of any dinner menu.

So I’m not all that worried about the great day itself, though it is hampering the lengthy repair process. Of course I get car problems right before Thanksgiving, just like I needed a crownright before the 4th of July.

Jonathan located the part we need. The good news is that it is at the lower, $200 end of the scale, and that Jonathan can install it. The bad news is that it will take 4-5 business days to reach us, and adding in the Thursday holiday and the possible Friday holiday, that could possibly mean “not until late next week”.

The car keys have to be programmed to match the car’s new brain, or new brain module, or it will refuse to go in the belief that it is being stolen. Wednesday is a very paranoid individual, what with that and the auto lock feature which I have been unable to disable. I had thought that I could Fed Ex the car keys to the brain trust and have them program the keys to match Wednesday’s shiny new intellect, but they do not provide that service. So far, I have been not been able to find anyone locally who does. The place that *may* be able to do it is closed until Monday. The holiday strikes again! If they can’t do it, I’m not sure where that leaves me, other than permanently in Park.

*Made even crazier this week by an 8 hour advanced cardio-vascular life support class on Sunday and again on Monday. After the 8 hour class on Monday, she stopped in at the clinic to work for a couple of hours before that night’s 12 hour shift, which would be followed by three more. She will wake up sometime on Friday afternoon after working 48 hours and taking 16 hours of classes in one week. She is my hero, though she may in fact be insane.

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