Archive for December, 2009

Dec 31 2009


Published by under Memories,Special Occasions

I’m not sorry to see this year end, characterized as it was by violence, financial disasters, physical injuries, and general bitterness. It wasn’t all bad, though: I did get out of Oakland, and somewhere along the way I started blogging nearly every day, instead of at my usual languid pace.

As Adrian Monk would say, here’s what happened:

January: President Obama’s inauguration. My first ever participation in the annual Day of Service (but not my last). Captain Sully’s triumphant return to his native Bay Area. The beginning of the great storage clean-out. Rob’s emergency neurosurgery.

February: Rob’s surgery successful (thankfully). Conference in Sacramento starring Madeleine Albright. A visit to the Academy of Sciences with a visiting friend. Mini film noir festival.

March: Gorgeousness at the Legion of Honor. Start to look around for somewhere to live other than Oakland. Remembering Dad’s birthday.

Started tracking books read. Between March and December, I read 125 books.

April: Consider selling jewelry. Another conference, but a local one. Jessica’s birthday. A year of Henry. My blog turns eight. Heat wave. Finish clearing out the family storage.

May: Police standoff starring gas-coated neighbor. The company audit begins. Cat-caused eye injury for my sis (happy birthday!).

June: Visiting with Jessica. Birthday wishes. Cat tips and Covets. Broken teapot. Heat wave.

July: The girls turn two. Attempted life swap. Silly shoes, sunburns, and scenic cemetery. A slimy encounter. Farmers’ market and hay bale haircut. Erica’s gifts. More Coveting. A garbage encounter. My beautiful diamond ring finally sells. ~sob~

August: Another heat wave. My Mustang is sold. Bill bummers. Loss of shopping ability. Thoughts of moving. Landlord invasion. Eighth anniversary of Dad’s death. A decision is made. New teapot. Why I don’t Twitter. Puppies!

September: Yet another heat wave. Packing. A happy anniversary. Yet another landlord invasion. Champagne software. Beating the heat. A day at the beach. The funeral fiesta.

October: The interview. Terrifying drive. Spa day. Packing. My sister’s 15 minutes of fame (Yay, Megan!!). Escape from Oakland. Henry moves in. Knee injury. Fall from sleeping loft. Learning the truth about painkillers. Job rejection. Rob’s continuous glucometer. A new library card. Free bees!

November: Suzy proofing. Cat flap, but no cat fights. Memories. Junk world. Bookstore and bees. A Thanksgiving to remember.

December: Internet annoyances. Well digging. Henry’s secrets. Quick trip to Berkeley. Henna tattoos. Cold snap. The horror of Nature. Christmas decorations and cookies. Bear proofing the bees. A quiet Christmas.

Things I have learned this year:

  • Gravity can be dangerous.
  • Painkillers do not actually kill pain, as previously thought.
  • My brother and brother-in-law can do almost anything with almost nothing.
  • Country life is a constant battle against dirt. And you ain’t gonna win.
  • How to feed bees.
  • You can’t always get what you want.

New Year’s Resolutions:

  • Avoid damaging Self further.
  • Finish unpacking and organizing.
  • Answer emails,both work and personal, within 48 hours of receiving them.
  • Categorize blog posts from now on.

3 responses so far

Dec 30 2009


Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Schatzi

On the days Megan works, I try to take Schatzi for a walk. I figure it’s good for all parties concerned: Schatzi gets some exercise (Cesar says exercise is more important than even love is for a dog), so do I, and Meg feels a little less guilty about her dog being bored.

I got rained out yesterday, but today I went and got the leash out of Megan’s car and the dog out of the garden. I wish I didn’t have to keep her on the leash, but she doesn’t always come when I call her, and if she sees a deer or a rabbit, all bets are off. She can run faster than a greyhound. And if I lost her, I’d have to change my name and leave the country.

Luna being even more at large than usual is problematic. She horns in on our walks, and prances around in front of Schatzi, highlighting the fact that she doesn’t have a leash on and can do whatever she wants. Today it was business as usual, with Luna bouncing around and Schatzi pulling on the leash.

However, when sniffing and exploring the bushes by the logging road, she forgot about Luna and the leash for extended periods of time. Dogs really know how to live in the moment. When Schatzi was sniffing with particular alacrity, I had to be on red alert, since that often signals a roll in other animals’ calling cards. Nothing makes that dog happier. I can recognize deer, mountain lion, and bear, but today’s leavings were a mystery, and I made sure to keep our girl as far away as possible.

The sandy logging road is dotted with all kinds of mushrooms this time of year, from modest little brown ones to ruffled, neon orange to the classic fairy tale red with white spots. In the picture above, you can see huckleberry bushes growing in and on a burned out redwood stump. Redwoods actually need to burn during their growth cycle, which makes them perfect for our climate: wildfires in the summer, rain in the winter. They also need fog to take in water, being so tall, so if a realtor tries to sell you a sunny location among the redwoods s/he is telling you a tall tale.

Later on, the road got so muddy that I could have used those Chanel rain boots for real-real, as Jessica would say. As it was, I thought my sneakers might get stuck in the mud. They are currently out on the porch drying off, being too grubby to come in the house. Dirt is a constant, unwelcome visitor, just like bugs, and they both refuse to leave.

3 responses so far

Dec 29 2009


Published by under Cats,Memories

It’s that feral cat again*.

Here’s Henrietta, relaxing on the duvet in the sunlight. The only thing better than the heater is sunlight in her world. Even when it’s cold outside, the California sun has its warmth.

This evening, she was cuddled up to me, and I petted her as I watched the final, heart-wrenching episode of the latest season of “Mad Men”. I wondered if she had ever dreamed of sleeping safely on a duvet on a couch, with the heater on and petting on demand, and a limitless supply of food. Or did she, in the dark, scary Oakland nights, wish for nothing but safety and warmth, and not sweat the small stuff?

When our journey started, I never imagined that she’d ever sit on my lap, or be so trusting. She’s come a long way in the mere two months that we’ve lived together.

On Christmas Eve, I spotted her sitting on a bench, basking in the sunlight. I rushed out to take a blurry picture of her before she moved:

I was so glad to see her feeling safe enough to go outside and enjoy the sun. As I watched her, I remembered how my father loved to feel the sun when he visited us from England, and recalled one particular Christmas Eve when it was warm enough to have a picnic on the beach at Point Reyes. Somewhere in The Boxes is one of my favorite pictures of Dad, taken that day as he strolled in the surf laughing, lifting his face up to the sun.

*I overheard one vet technician tell another one that when I brought Henrietta in the second time.

6 responses so far

Dec 28 2009


Published by under Cats,Country Life

A day of naughtiness really takes it out of you.

Audrey has expanded her repertoire of victims to include birds now. By the time I saw her with it, it was too late, and all I could do was shudder and pity the poor creature. Nature, as my stepmother used to point out in her rich, golden voice, is red in tooth and claw, but I can’t change this Nature channel.

If the early bird gets the worm, the early cat presumably gets the early bird. And mice. So Audrey, after about twelve hours of beauty sleep, is ready to go out and hunt in the dark, pre-dawn hours. She alerts me to her schedule by clawing the glass in the balcony door.

I have considerably less enthusiasm for getting up in the dark than Audrey does, and I figure if I get up and let her out, it will only encourage her (not that encouragement appears to be necessary). So last night, I equipped my otherwise elegant bedside table with an ugly plastic spray bottle filled with water. When the inevitable Audrey alarm went off, I grabbed the bottle and squirted in her general direction.





I subsided into my pillows, tensely waiting. Nothing happened, so I tried to go back to sleep. I had reckoned without my annoyance and the cloud of swear words hovering over my sleepy, yet awake head. Sigh.

As I lay there in the dark, debating getting up, I heard Audrey clawing the hand-carved redwood banisters. After I yelled at her, getting up was inevitable.

It was still dark, so there was no way I was letting her outside. Also, I clung to the faint hope that if she gets me out of bed and doesn’t get to go out immediately, she’ll give up on the whole project. She did keep going to the front door and clawing it, though, despite my verbal discouragement.

Around 7:30, I let Audrey and June outside, Henrietta being far too old and wise to leave the comfort of the heater.

Audrey: 532. Suzy: 0.

3 responses so far

Dec 27 2009


My sister’s tree

Christmas Day dawned bright and sunny. I know, because Audrey woke me up so I could see for myself.

The first order of business was taking Schatzi for a walk. We went over to our brother’s place, checked on the bees, and let Schatzi run and roam to her heart’s content. It was warm enough that Megan and I took off our sweaters, enjoying the sun on our skin. When it was time to leave, Schatzi was nowhere to be seen. We called her and Megan whistled loud enough to summon a New York taxi, but no dog. Megan was ready to leave without her, but I freaked out, so we gave it one more try. She finally showed up then, covered with mud. Including her nose.

Merry Christmas!

After that, it was time to start on the feast, which somehow took up most of the rest of the day. Rob pruned an apple tree so he had wood to smoke the ham, which was basted for hours with maple-bourbon glaze invented years ago by our brother, a formerly professional cook. While Rob tended the barbecue, I made my famous cheese biscuits and gratuitous stuffing (at Megan’s request). I invented the stuffing and it turned out great: cornbread, multi-grain bread, pecans, apples, celery, onion, herbs from the garden, leftover wine, chicken stock, and butter.

I also made an unnecessarily complicated side dish of cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and red onions with a seedy mustard vinaigrette. Add in my apple pie and Megan’s pumpkin pie, both adorned with stars in the pastry, and you have a festive dinner!

Unfortunately, Erica was too sick to attend, so that meant no Jessica, either. However, their presents and stockings are still under the tree, so we can have another celebration later.

Jonathan got off work early, so dinner was still hot when he arrived around 7. After dinner, we all opened our stockings. It’s so fun to see the person whose stocking you made opening it. I got Megan again this year, and a couple of weeks ago, she brought* a box from Sephora to my house, commenting that she wished it was for her. It actually was, containing a travel size skincare kit, and I was delighted to finally tell her that. We couldn’t stop laughing.

While we were opening our stockings, the cats were playing outside under the stars. Audrey showed up at the sliding glass doors with a live mouse in her mouth, clearly proud of her hunting prowess. Needless to say, I was horrified, and my sibs were amused at my horror. “Just wait until they figure out how to eat them!” they said gleefully, adding that cats don’t eat the legs or tail, so there’s always leftovers. Yay! I tried not to think about Audrey sitting on my lap later, licking my hand with her mouse tongue and kissing me with her mouse breath.

I didn’t let the cats back in until there was no sign of that mouse, or any other mouse, for that matter.

*We all share a post office box, so we’re always picking up each other’s mail. Also, all the Fed Ex and UPS packages for everyone on the property are dropped off at a little shelter near the road, and whoever sees the package first brings it to its recipient. It’s not unusual to come home and find a package on your table.

3 responses so far

Dec 26 2009


Published by under Uncategorized

I lost another post, thanks to the terrible internet service. Gah!!!

So you’ll have to wait until I finish throwing a temper tantrum to read my reconstituted post about Christmas.


3 responses so far

Dec 23 2009


Published by under Cats,Jessica,Special Occasions

Improved tree

I’ve always been terrible at wrapping presents. You’d think I’d be good at it, given my expertise in applying make-up, love of all things sparkly, and generally trivial mindset, but no. The ends bunch up, the paper is unevenly cut and/or is too big or too small for the package, there’s tape all over the damn place, and the ribbons are knotted and bedraggled. I’m the anti-Martha Stewart.

This is another reason why our Christmas stocking tradition is so very kick-ass. Cheap; non-stressful; fun; and nothing to wrap.

Yesterday, I put together Megan’s Christmas stocking, which was made by Erica. Hence its awesomeness:

I’m pleased to report that it is jam packed with goodies. I actually had candy left over (for now).

The only present I had to wrap was for Jessica, and it’s the best wrapping job I have ever done:


I should get extra credit for valiantly giving her the fluffy snowman pen, especially because it lights up, and the snowflake pin, especially since it’s sparkly and would have looked excellent in my hair. Also festive. Don’t say I never did anything for you, kid.

I smugly put the elegantly-wrapped present and stuffed stocking under the tree. About five minutes later, it was brought to my attention that this was an idea worthy of International Stupidity Day. All the cats converged on the present and started playing with the snowman fluff. Sighing, I removed both items and hid them in the laundry room/pantry*. Oh, Nanny, where art thou?

Speaking of the tree, I ended up excavating a string of lights for it. This just encouraged me, so I added candy canes (in a classic flavor). The iridescent tree topper was half-price the last time I was in Rite Aid, so I had to get it. A little out of proportion to a Charlie Brown sized tree, perhaps, but so are showgirls’ headdresses.

*The washer is still leaking, but Rob put up my “Vertigo” poster, so at least it’s well-decorated. A girl must have some standards, you know.

4 responses so far

Dec 23 2009


Published by under Bullshit,Country Life

Winter skies

Ring, ring!

I open my eyes. It’s still dark. Even the cats aren’t asking to go out.

Ring, ring!

Rob! Something must have happened*. Looking at the clock, it’s around 6:00 am, so maybe Meg came home and found Rob in low sugar hell. Grab phone and answer anxiously.

It’s not Megan. It’s someone asking if I’m Megan.

“No. Who is this?!”

It turns out to be the internet people, asking about billing.

“Are you kidding? It’s 6 am!”

“I’m sorry, I thought you were on the east coast.”

If they were anywhere near the US of A, they’d know that California has never been located on the east coast, nor will it ever be.

If they knew anything about their jobs, they’d know that I don’t get the bills. They go to our IT person in San Francisco.

I explain this to them, and hang up. Despite the early hour, I am so annoyed that getting up is inevitable and coffee is optional.

While I’m in the shower, the PG&E meter reader passes by the window, which is located right in the shower and gives a splendid view of the garden. Or a surprised blonde, depending on your point of view. I don’t know which of us was more taken aback. After he fled, Lucky peered in to see what all the excitement was about, and then wandered away, bored.

I was heading to town to run some errands, so I called my brother to ask him if he needed anything. Since it’s an hour’s drive round-trip, we try to spare our sibs an extra trip if possible.

I called him on my cell, because if I call him on my landline, it’s long distance. Even though he lives less than a quarter of a mile away. The problem is that the sibs’ cell phone numbers are registered in Boonville, about a 45 minute drive from here. So even though it’s the same area code and county, it’s long distance. Go figure.

But we have the same cell service provider, so if I call them on my cell, it’s free. However, the cell service at my house is horrible, so the call cut out. I called him back on the cell, and it happened again, so he called my landline and begged me to never call him on my cell again, for fear of an aneurysm.

He needed five gallons of gas, so it was good that we were finally able to talk. Cheap at the price. Note: if you ever have a plastic container of gas in your back seat, you will be amazed by how your car smells like gas, even after the container is gone.

Before I could leave the house, my cell rang again. I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be my brother, and it wasn’t. It was the credit card company, telling me that my account was overdue.

“Uh…I just got an email telling me that payment was due on January 10.”

“Oh.” Pause. “Let me check our records.”

Because, really – why check your records before you call people and harass them a couple of days before Christmas?

It turned out that I was right and they were wrong. I hung up during the apology.

Was it International Stupidity Day and nobody told me?

When I finally got home from my errands, I found a message for Megan on my phone number from my friends at the internet service provider, asking me to call them and confirm that I should be added to the account, despite the fact that I did that THREE WEEKS AGO:

I handed the whole mess over to our IT person. Merry Christmas! Enjoy!

Despite my new year’s resolution, this one defies categorization.

*It used to be that if the phone rang in the dark, I immediately thought “Mom!” Now I think “Rob!”

4 responses so far

Dec 22 2009


Published by under Country Life,Dogs


Wherever I am, there’s always Pooh,
There’s always Pooh and Me.
Whatever I do, he wants to do,
“Where are you going today?” says Pooh:
“Well, that’s very odd ‘cos I was too.
Let’s go together,” says Pooh, says he.
“Let’s go together,” says Pooh.

— “Us Two”, by A.A. Milne

The poem could have been written for Lucky the deer and Luna the dog. You rarely, if ever, see one without the other. Luna’s family took Lucky in when she was a tiny, orphaned fawn, and dog and deer have been together ever since. Luna is very protective of Lucky – I think she thinks Lucky is her baby – and if she doesn’t know you, will try and herd you away. “Step away from the deer!”

Luna’s family is in Mexico for the next few weeks, and Luna seems to miss them. She’s barking more than usual (she sounds like the Hound of the Baskervilles. If you didn’t know better, you’d be scared of her) and is often hanging around my house. Ever since they left, I’ve made an effort to spend a little time with Luna each day, petting her, talking to her, and throwing the stick. She’s really happy to fetch, but unclear on the concept of dropping the stick afterwards, so we go through a lot of sticks.

Good thing we live in the woods.

A couple of days ago, I came back from a rainy trip to town with a trunk full of groceries. As I decanted them, both Lucky and Luna stuck their heads into the trunk, sniffing curiously. It was pouring, but I took a minute to pet them, and as I looked into their big, trusting eyes, I felt that I was the lucky one.

4 responses so far

Dec 21 2009


Published by under Cats

Nanny for three naughty cats. One older, but not mellower, the other two young and willful.

Duties include feeding and watering; letting cats in and out of house on demand several times a day; cleaning litter box; breaking up fights; discouraging cats from jumping on counters and/or in the sink; stopping furniture clawing; and occasional visits to vet. Some tidying up after cat-induced mishaps, such as knocking over Christmas tree or breaking valuables, and trips to the Feed and Pet for cat food. Speaking of cat food, the older cat tends to bulimia, usually on the rug, so that will also need cleaning up.

Any and all attempts to teach manners and good behavior are welcome.

Days may start early due to pre-dawn doorperson duties.

Must enjoy country life and minimal wages. Bonus paid for an incident-free week.

Contact sjpeakall at

4 responses so far

Dec 20 2009


Published by under Cats,Jessica

I was awakened this morning by Miss Audrey, the dawn alarm clock. I think she’s figured out that I won’t let her out until there’s some light in the sky, so the minute blackness turns to grey, it’s time to wake up the doorgirl and start her day.

She does this by clawing at the door to the balcony. Cat claws on glass = nails on a blackboard. Eeeyagh! It would be better to have Dad yanking off the covers while yelling, “Wakey-wakey, rise and shine!”, his preferred method for awakening slumbering teenagers (parents take note – this is particularly effective in cold climates).

I let Audrey out without even putting my glasses on, and June went racing past as I fumbled for them in my sleepy, semi-blind state.

Like all my family, once I’m up, I’m up, no matter how unfortunate the hour or whether it’s the weekend or a work day, so I went downstairs to make coffee and start my day.

Henrietta wasn’t on the couch or by the heater. I looked around for her and found her sitting under the tree like a little present.

Yesterday, the guilt of the uncategorized became too much for me. The holiday layout makes it blatantly obvious that I haven’t bothered to categorize my immortal writings, so I’ve started to do so. However, I probably won’t go back and categorize eight years’ worth of drivel, but rather, try to categorize from now on. It can be my new year’s resolution, along with trying to be injury-free.

Anyway, I have categorized all the Jessica-related posts, for example, so you can easily read about your favorite girl. I still haven’t bothered with tags, because I really don’t understand them. So you’ll have to settle for categories for now.

One response so far

Dec 19 2009


Published by under Cooking,Family

Yesterday Megan had a long day, so I volunteered to make dinner. I decided to make a couple of recipes I picked up in Florence: chicken breasts with fresh sage* and lemon-herb risotto, because we had most of the ingredients on hand. I commissioned Meg to pick up the others: mint and Parmesan.

Around 5:30 I headed over to her house, flashlight in hand. The heavy fog danced in the light beam as I walked down the dirt driveway. As I approached a curve, I saw headlights coming toward me and stood back against the bushes. It turned out to be Megan coming home, and I thought it was funny that we met up like that. She thought I had heard or seen her car and then started over, but it was just a coincidence.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I hadn’t made the recipes for a while, so I had completely forgotten how long it takes to make risotto (which is Italian for “delicious”). Of course I had to pick the slowest possible recipe to make for people who were tired and hungry. I really should have started sooner. I’ll remember next time.

Or not.

*It’s always satisfying to go out and pick herbs from the garden. You can pick as much as you like and not waste any. I can never use up the giant bouquets of herbs from the grocery store before they wilt or rot, and always feel guilty, even when I put the leftovers in the compost.

3 responses so far

Dec 18 2009


Published by under Memories


The other day, I spent hours polishing my grandmother’s silver.

It belonged to my father’s mother, and I imagine it was one of her most treasured possessions, as it is one of mine. Above you can see it, along with a couple of other treasures from Dad’s family: a Wedgwood salad bowl and servers and a biscuit barrel, dating from the early-mid 1800s.

There is a big wooden chest with service for twelve, and a small one with a fish set serving a more modest six. The fish set may be more modest on the outside, but the knife blades are ornately chased and lovely, and there’s a special surprise: a note my grandfather wrote my grandmother. The fish set was a gift from him to her the Christmas before they were married, and it is signed “from your loving husband-to-be, Ernest*”. The note has been in that box for about 85 years, but you can still feel the pride and joy with which he wrote those words.

I read the note every time I open the box, and it always makes me happy, especially since they were devoted to each other for the half century of their marriage. They really did live happily ever after.

The silver all has politically incorrect ivory handles, but after so many years, it’s hard to feel guilty about it.

My views on housework are well-known, and polishing silver is messy and manicure-damaging, but there’s also something really satisfying about it. I feel the same way about ironing, which I do about as often as I polish silver. In fact my ironing board is leaning against the house under the side deck.

My father’s mother taught me how to iron, and Dad used to save up his shirts for me when I was away at college. When I came home, I’d iron them, and the motions were kind of zen. It was satisfying to see the wrinkled pile diminish and the army of ironed shirts on hangers grow. Clearly this is some kind of control thing for me, even though I generally seem to live in some degree of chaos these days.

As I polished, I wondered if I would ever actually require service for twelve. Our Christmas guest list seems to be diminishing. One friend may not come because of pressure from his family; another because of his complicated love life; and it looks like Jonathan may well have to work that day. But it will still be fun, and I’ll still use the silver, and think of Christmases past, present, and future. May they all be merry and bright.

And polished.

*Coincidentally, both of my grandfathers were named Ernest. And they both fought at some of the same battles during WWI.

3 responses so far

Dec 17 2009


Published by under Cats,Henry

When Henrietta was still living in the backyard in Oakland (I wonder if she still remembers that?), I used to always call out “Goodnight, Henry!” when I closed and locked* the back door for the night. Now I put an old duvet on the couch and make it into a little nest for her at night. She is either:

  1. Sitting on the couch;
  2. Sitting on my lap;
  3. Sitting in front of the heater.

She reminds me of my sister’s late cat Agnes, who used to sit so close to the heater that her fur would singe. She’d have to be moved before she caught on fire. I think Henrietta would climb right into the heater if she could.

When I went up to bed last night, Henrietta was curled into a ball, fast asleep. I always pet her and tell her goodnight, so I did so. I startled her out of her sleep, and she clawed my hand good and hard. I was shocked at first, but then I realized that I had been given a little glimpse into her former life. The only way she could have slept outside, alone and tiny in Oakland, would be to go on the attack if someone or something woke her up.

Needless to say, this morning she wasted no time in climbing onto my lap.

*On the news today, they had a piece on what to do if you lose your keys and lock yourself out of your house. I no longer have to worry about this. My doors don’t lock and the car keys are usually in the ignition.

3 responses so far

Dec 16 2009


Published by under Country Life

Rain on pampas grass

Pampas grass can cut you like you wouldn’t believe – until it does. And it will, if you aren’t careful. I learned that one the hard way. Pampas grass fools you into thinking it’s nice and pretty, with its plumy tops and fountainy looking grass, and then – wham! If you’ve ever dated, you’ll have had a similar experience at some point. In both cases, you learn your lesson pretty fast.

Apparently pampas grass is nothing more or less than a weed, despite its pretty appearance. My sister uproots little ones ruthlessly if they dare to be in her path. Maybe they try to cut her in revenge.

Another supposedly pestilential plant here is Scotch broom. It has dark leaves and grows in witchy hedges, starred with bright yellow blooms. Like pampas, it spreads like crazy and crowds out native plants and animals. It has clearly fallen into disrepute since it was the emblem of Charles VI of France back in the 14th century.

I seem to have a soft spot for weeds. I love dandelions, both the cheerful yellow and the fluffy “clocks”, and the greens are delicious. I have a paperweight with a real dandelion clock magically captured in its depths, and I treasure a little painting of dandelions which used to belong to my mother:

I never want to admit to my sister that I think these plants are pretty. As an avid gardener, she deplores weeds and deer alike, and their cuteness holds no sway with her. So when we walk the dog together, and the sun shines on the bright broom and the pampas sways in the wind, I keep my thoughts to myself. Maybe peskiness is in the eye of the beholder.

5 responses so far

Dec 15 2009


Published by under Country Life,Moving

Part of my current frugality is that I don’t have caller ID anymore, or call waiting, which is not only retro of me, but it makes the identity of every phone caller a little mystery.

Usually when the phone* rings first thing in the morning, it’s either my brother or my boss, neither of whom tend to call me just to chat. So I figured it was one of them with a question or a request when the phone rang this morning, but it was someone asking for Rose.

This has happened a few times since I moved into her home and kept her phone number. It’s always people trying to sell her things or charities to which she has donated in the past. I say, “I’m, sorry, she passed away a few months ago,” they say they’re sorry back (with varying degrees of surprise and concern) and that’s it.

Today’s caller turned out to be a friend of Rose’s, who had no idea her friend was gone.

She gasped and asked me what happened, so I told her to the best of my ability, and answered her questions as best I could, while eyeing the coffee grinder longingly.

It turned out that she used to live in my sister’s house about ten years ago, so that made her the person who refused to move out, forcing my sister and brother-in-law to camp with my brother, leaving all their furniture, etc., in his driveway until she could finally be ousted. On moving in, my sister discovered that the previous tenant had left her cat there, so she and her husband adopted her.

I kept these thoughts (and others) to myself as I condoled with her and attempted to get her off the phone. She seemed to want to talk to anyone, mostly about death, which is a subject that also takes up far too much of my time, though I generally try to keep that to myself. Eventually, I promised to pass on her to message to Rose’s family and thankfully hung up the phone.

It was a lot to deal with before coffee.

*I can’t tell you how annoyed I was to discover that calling my sibs’ cell phones from my landline is long distance. Even though my sister lives a few hundred feet away and my brother less than a quarter of a mile. Apparently, their cell phone numbers are registered in Boonville, an hour’s drive from here. But if I call them on my cell, which has an Oakland area code, it’s free. Go figure. If only the cell reception wasn’t so lousy at my house.

3 responses so far

Dec 14 2009


Published by under Country Life,Family,Schatzi

When I came downstairs this morning, Lucky the deer was attempting to eat the Chico bag I had hung outside to dry yesterday. It probably tastes better than ancient futon filler, but I took it away before she could make a meal of it. Mark and his family are visiting family in Mexico for a month, so I expect more visits from Luna and Lucky while they’re away.

It was so sunny and cloudless today that it was hard to believe it had rained so hard the day (and night) before. Megan and I took Schatzi for a walk after checking in with the boys. They’re working on something to do with lawnmowers which will make it possible for me to run the internet (I can hear you all sighing with relief) and the refrigerator in addition to the heater if the power goes out, mainitaining, as my brother put it, “some level of civility”.

I didn’t ask them to, and am really touched that they thought of doing it and are spending what little free time they have to work on it.

In addition to creating an oasis of civility for me, they’ve capped off the well (Rob added the year):

and made the bee hive bear-resistant with electrical fencing and a little gate. Apparently actual bear proofing is a very difficult and expensive undertaking, so we’re hoping that the first encounter with the electrified fence will be unenjoyable enough that the bear will go elsewhere for a less hazardous and easier snack:

Interestingly, the bears are more interested in the baby bees (grubs) than they are in the honey. Winnie the Pooh led me astray on that one.

Jonathan explained to us how to turn off the electric fence, and hopefully I’ll be better at remembering that than I am at how to reset the pilot light on my flash heater, which is perched precariously on the side of my house so it’s easier for the pipes to freeze during cold snaps and the pilot light to blow out when it’s breezy.

Sometimes I worry that the whole house will just explode one day, what with the unpredictable gas stove, the propane heater in the living room, and the back-up car batteries in the studio. Not to mention the open area on the front of the dryer so you can see the flames of the propane hard at work. All that expensive gas all around me does make me nervous, though it’s undoubtedly irrational, since I had a gas furnace and stove in Oakland, too. Not that being irrational has ever stopped me from worrying.

2 responses so far

Dec 13 2009


Published by under Cooking,Family,Special Occasions

Christmas cookies

Wow. It’s pouring out there. It’s raining so hard I can hardly hear myself try to think. Between the glass roof on the back porch and the skylight in the bedroom, I feel like I’m under a waterfall.

It’s dark enough to have a light on, and I’ve lit the Christmas lights on the banister:

Here’s my little tree. I thought lights on the tree and the banister above it would be too much, so I just settled for ornaments. Now I kind of wish I’d gotten the lights, and also the light up star shaped topper which was on sale at Rite Aid, but still seemed too expensive at the time.

This is my wreath. I put the ornaments on it and I think it’s cute. It’s on the side/front door.

Yesterday, I helped Megan decorate her tree. It’s a living one, and lives outside, so Rob dragged it over near the sliding glass door* of their living room, so we can see it from inside the house. We put on lights and hopefully rain-resistant ornaments, and it’s beautiful. Pretty soon we’re going to have to haul it to the property and plant it in a place of honor. I think I’ll get a living tree next year, too. At least up here I won’t have to see the depressing sight of trees unceremoniously dumped at the curb the day after Christmas.

We also made Christmas cookies. I can’t even remember the last time I made cookies, but it probably wasn’t during this decade. I found a couple of recipes in the Chronicle which looked intriguing: Russian tea cakes and molasses-black pepper cookies. It was a butterpalooza, I tell you what. Megan made calzones from scratch during the baking process, so the house was toasty and warm.

Later Jonathan came by after work, and we all ate calzones for dinner and enjoyed the sparkling tree, glowing in the darkness.

*It doesn’t actually slide – the house has settled too much. Not that it’s scary or anything. Also it will be really hard to get their furniture out when they move, since the only other door is about half the width of a regular door. And purple.

4 responses so far

Dec 12 2009


Published by under Cats,Country Life

I thought that when we moved to the country, the kittens’ naughtiness would be confined to the great outdoors. After all, they have trees to climb and claw, birds and bugs to chase, and plenty of room to chase each other and the neighbor cats who come by for a visit.

So I bought a little three foot high tree. I didn’t realize until later that I probably could have gone out into the woods and cut one down myself, but given the rate of accidents since I moved to Hooterville, I probably would have cut myself down instead.

I still don’t have a tree stand after all these years, and I couldn’t figure out how to get the wooden X stand off the tree. Rob came over to take care of the cats while Megan and I were in Berkeley, and took the X off the tree and placed it in a clear glass vase, filling it with colored pebbles, glass beads, and water. How’s that for an elegant solution (and a full service cat sitter)?

Even if I knew where my beautiful peacock ornaments are, I wouldn’t have risked putting them on the tree, especially after June showed up with a bird in her mouth the other day. She burst through the cat door with the poor bird in her mouth. I screamed, and she let the bird go. It flew up to the high ceiling, and then unwisely fluttered down within June’s reach. She grabbed the hapless creature again and I called Megan:


“June caught a bird! It’s in the house! Oh my GOD!!”


Megan came over in her bathrobe and got the bird away from June, putting the horrified avian in a patch of sun. Later, it was gone, so hopefully it flew away and stayed away from cats from then on,

So I knew bird ornaments were out.

I figured a birdless tree would not attract the attention of June and Audrey after they’d been playing outside all day.


They’ve knocked it over three times so far, and I’ve caught them playing with it more times than I can count. So much for that theory.

June also enjoys chewing on the Christmas lights, especially when they’re on, and they both like to claw the banisters and furniture, even though they have an entire woods full of trees for manicuring. Last night, Henriettta smashed one of my favorite teacups:

by jumping up on the forbidden counter.

Maybe naughtiness is catching.

3 responses so far

Dec 11 2009


Published by under Country Life

I found a not completely dead mouse on the living room rug this morning.

This kind of discovery nearly precludes the need for coffee.

Henrietta was sitting a few inches away from the intruder, totally ignoring it. June was at the door, so I grabbed her and sat her right in front of it. She was as interested as Henrietta.

This is the kind of thing that makes you realize that you’re a grown-up. No-one else is going to get rid of the mouse in the living room. I have to admit that I considered calling Dial-A-Rob, but a glance at the clock told me that the service was closed.

I swept it into a dustpan, screaming when it squealed, and tossed it into the woods.


After the mouse removal, the next item on the agenda was to do something about the fact that it was 45 degrees in the house, as opposed to 43 outside (I told you it was like camping in here). The cold snap seems to have snapped, so it’s rainy and bleak outside, but at least the pipes aren’t frozen. Winter weather in Hooterville is either sunny and ass-freezing cold, requiring all day heat which makes me envision dollars flying out the window as the propane burns, or somewhat warmer and rainy, which means the power could go out. So you’re depressed by the rainy gloom and in constant terror of blackouts and no heat.

Yesterday, the boys came over with car batteries and some other thing which they attached to an extension cord and then the heater. The heater turned on obediently, and I ran it from the car batteries from noon yesterday until sometime between 3:30 this morning (when it was on) and 6:30 (when it wasn’t). So I know I can run the heater for at least 12 hours if the power goes out, and maybe a little more. I also have a couple of LED lights and some candles, so I guess I’m as prepared as I’ll ever be.

I don’t know what I’d do without those guys!

6 responses so far

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