Archive for January, 2010

Jan 31 2010


Published by under Cats,Family,Henry,Jessica,San Francisco

Dazzled with glittery splendidness, I headed to 19th Avenue to start the trip home.

As I sped through the retro tunnel on Park Presidio, I tried (and failed) to remember the last time I had approached the Golden Gate Bridge this way. It was fun to take a different route, though it was sad to bid farewell to the beautiful city, gleaming in the pale, watery winter sunshine.

I have to say that it is so much easier and faster to go from Hooterville to San Francisco than it is to Oakland. Going to the East Bay adds anything from half an hour to an hour to the trip. And it’s much less scenic.

I stopped off in Boonville to give Erica and Jessica their long-delayed Christmas stockings and presents. Being Me, I managed forget my own gift for Jessica. Yes, the one I finally did a good wrapping job on. But she hardly noticed in the blizzard of gifts from Megan and Rob, Jonathan, and Lu. I noticed that she opened each one, spent some time looking at it and showing it to her friends who happened to be on hand, and then went on to the next one.

She also asked her mother if she could have a chocolate coin from her stocking, and then shared the remainder with her friends.

Their schedules are so hectic these days that it’s hard for them to visit. Meg and I are planning on going to get Jessica and keep her for a weekend soon.

Hugged and kissed, I went on my way. I noticed that it was not yet dark at 5:00, and that there were daffodils in the grass by the side of the road. The river had definitely receded.

When I got home, I was disappointed at the lack of greeting committee. Henry Etta didn’t bother getting up, and June and Audrey were nowhere to be seen (they didn’t reappear until 10:00 that night). I called Meg to tell her I was home, and of course her greeting and Rob’s made up for the cats’ lack thereof. Humans: picking up cat slack for thousands of years and counting!

We all enjoyed the extreme pizza delivery extremely. I think I’ll try and do that every time I go to the city.

4 responses so far

Jan 30 2010


Published by under San Francisco

View from the Legion of Honor, January 28

With my trunk full of pizza, I headed west, young lady.

West to the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, to give it its proper (long) name. It’s one of my favorite places in San Francisco, perched in a beautiful setting overlooking the Marin headlands (and the good bridge), and having a small, yet exquisite collection.

But the lure for me that day was the special exhibit Cartier and America, celebrating the jeweler to the stars’ century on these shores. And what a celebration!

The exhibit was arranged chronologically, starting with the fabulous tiaras worn by American heiresses while shopping for titled husbands in England in the early part of the 20th century. An elderly lady saw me admiring an emerald and diamond necklace belonging to Lady Granard (born plain old Beatrice Mills in San Francisco), and asked me if I’d ever wear it. “Absolutely!” I replied, without thinking, and she burst out laughing. I would, too. After all, it might as well have stayed in the ground if it’s never going to see the light of day.

Jewelry was made to be worn. And worn it was. By Gloria Swanson (the diamond bracelets from “Sunset Boulevard”, no less). By Grace Kelly (her elegant, 10.47 carat diamond engagement ring, worn in her final film, “High Society”). By Elizabeth Taylor (a set of diamond and ruby earrings and necklace, given to her by then husband, Mike Todd). By the Duchess of Windsor (her famous panther bracelet, and equally famed flamingo brooch, its first public showing ever). By Vanderbilts, Barbara Hutton, and Marjorie Merriweather Post. There was even a wristwatch belonging to Al Jolson.

I wandered from room to room, gasping at the splendor and occasionally moaning with covetousness. You can see some of the pieces here.

It was the Suziest thing ever. If I can, I’ll go back and see it again before it ends in mid-April.

3 responses so far

Jan 29 2010


Published by under Memories,San Francisco

When I first moved to San Francisco many years ago, I found an apartment in Russian Hill (not coincidentally, the same ‘hood featured in my beloved Tales of the City series). It was in a pre-1906 Quake building, and on the top floor, reached by a spiral staircase. When I think about the clawfoot tub, hardwood floors, formal dining room and wood-burning fireplace all at a now laughably low rent, I feel very lucky to have lived there.

Megan and Rob, who lived on a boat at Pier 39 in those days, helped me to paint the place before John arrived with the furniture and our fabulous cat, Buddy. We were starving by lunchtime, so I headed out to Polk Street in search of food. After a couple of blocks, I smelled something utterly delicious. Following my nose, I found myself at Victor’s Pizza.

I brought the pie back to the apartment, and an addiction was born. I always lived within the Victor’s delivery area when I lived in San Francisco (indeed, the apartment we bought a few years later was only five blocks from that first place on Jackson Street), and back when I used to work 50-60 hour weeks, would often have Victor’s and champagne on a Friday night.

Victor’s is more than just pizza, though. When Dad used to visit, we’d have at least one dinner there, in its dark little dining room with wooden booths, decorated with grape-shaped lamps. The service was always wonderful – Victor’s has career waiters, and delivery boys are often promoted to waiters – and it was a delightfully comfortable atmosphere. Every meal comes with soup or salad and house made rolls, and we always had to get a box to take home the leftovers.

When I lived in Oakland, I’d get Victor’s every chance I got, so this visit to the city was no exception. On my way to the Legion of Honor yesterday morning, I was lucky enough to get a parking space right out front. I went in to collect the order I had phoned in earlier, and as the cashier made out the sales slip – by hand – I told him that the pizza was going all the way to Mendocino.

He put down his pen and gazed at me in amazement. “You’re not serious!” he exclaimed. “Yes, I am,” I told him, handing over the money. I told him how I used to live in the neighborhood and still missed the place. “Don’t they have good pizza up there?” he asked, making change. “Not like yours,” I said, putting it away. “Thank you so much, ” he said, holding the door open for me. “Wait ’til I tell the guys.”

5 responses so far

Jan 27 2010


Published by under Calamity Suzy,San Francisco

By the time I escaped from the conference, the skies had cleared. Sun! I didn’t even mind taking public transit for the second time that day, even though it’s now $2 each way. Still not as much of a fan as John Waters apparently is (who knew?).

I got off the bus a few stops early so I could stroll down Polk Street. It was fun to see which stores were still there and which weren’t, and I have to admit that I did in fact do a teeny little bit of shopping. Oh, and I got a cheap and fabulous manicure at the still-there Merry Manicures. It did make me merry.

As for shopping: a birthday card and giftlet for my dear friend Patrisha; a stop in at La Boulange de Polk for cannelés de Bordeaux, a treasured indulgence; and a near-set of espresso cups from the wonderful Molte Cose (see above). I’m sorry to say that my beautiful Swedish cup has broken*, as predicted, and I can’t find another one. Good thing there aren’t any cup actuaries.

There are five espresso cups (and saucers!) in the set, one having been stolen, so I got the remaining five and its adorable box for less than half price. So if I break one – and I will – I have four more to go.

Shopping bag in hand, I was heading back to the hotel when I passed a mother holding her son’s hand. He had a halo of blond curls and was looking up at his mother earnestly, saying “Mommy, I love the whole world.”

*Though Rob might be able to glue it back together with special ceramic glue.

5 responses so far

Jan 26 2010


Last night, I was sure that my dreams of the city would be washed away in the rain that pounded away at my roof as I prepared for a possible power outage and anxiously scanned the National Weather Service advisories.

When I went to bed, the power was still on, and the rain had stopped.

When I woke up, it still wasn’t raining! I called Caltrans and learned that the road was open. I threw a few things in a bag, did a conference call, and just after noon, I was on my way.

The road was still dotted with yellow FLOODED signs (probably staying nearby to be ready for the next one), and the Navarro river was pretty darn high. The brown, muddy waters reached high up the tree trunks on its banks. But the sun actually peeked out, and traffic was a breeze: I made the trip in three hours.

I have to admit that I enjoyed crossing the good bridge. Also that I feel like much less of a loser coming in from the country than I did from the suburbs. I’m now safely ensconced in a modest motel about a block from my old apartment (is it weird/sad/pathetic that I always stay in my old neighborhood?), enjoying the lightning-fast WiFi, Thai delivery menu at hand.

I called Meg to tell her that the Mouse had done its job and I had arrived safely. This is another of our family traditions, like waving until the departing person is out of sight. If one of us goes to the city, or, rarely, ventures further afield, we always call when we arrive.

Now neither of us has a thing to worry about. When I lived in Oakland, I was always worried about someone breaking in when I was away, in addition to worrying about the kitties. Now Rob is hanging out at my place during the day while Megan is sleeping. He can watch TV, play guitar, and listen to music with no fear of waking his sleeping wife. The cats have company, and so does Schatzi, since she goes with him. It makes me happy to know that Rob can enjoy himself there, since he does so much for me.

4 responses so far

Jan 25 2010


Published by under Country Life,Family,Movies,Weather

Yesterday, Megan, Rob and I braved the wind and rain to attend the Fourth Sunday Breakfast at the Caspar Community Center.

We met up with Lu, still limping from her recent ankle injury at work (she’s an EMT), and her boyfriend Rick. Despite the pain, Lu couldn’t resist the book sale across the hall from the room where breakfast was being served. It was an interesting selection of books, and Megan snared one on spicy sauces and dips, which will have to be toned down for me. I always say that food should be hot, medium, mild, and Suzy.

The breakfast room had long tables covered with bright table cloths. You collect your silverware at the door, find space at one of the tables – a challenge for a party of five – and a server takes your order. We had huevos rancheros made with organic, local ingredients and a basket of “bread”, which was really tiny corn muffins, banana muffins, currant scones, and cranberry scones. I had a thimbleful of local organic apple cider, too.

It was nice to catch up with Rick and Lu, and we stayed talking until the servers started to roll up the table cloths and give us meaningful looks.

In the parking lot, a man was playing with his dog. He bent over with his arms making an “O”, and the dog jumped through! I was so delighted that I asked him to do it again, and he did. We laughed all the way to the car.

On the way home, I noticed that the cherry trees are beginning to blossom.

When we got home, Megan brought her laundry over and got that done while we watched “Gone with the Wind”. It was the perfect thing for a rainy Sunday afternoon. No matter how many times I see it, I get swept up in the epic story, Vivien Leigh’s exquisite beauty, and the tragic romance. I always get choked up at the end, and tried to hide it by going to put on the porch light to light my brother’s way when he came over for dinner that night.

When he did, he arrived with cloverleaf dinner rolls he’d invented and made. Meg and I made macaroni and cheese and a salad of spring greens and curly endive. It was a particularly cozy evening, with the rain pouring down outside and the light and warmth inside.

As I write, the rain is still pouring down, and I’m hoping that the one road which leads to the city won’t be closed again tomorrow. I’m planning to go to San Francisco tomorrow and attend to business on Wednesday. Of course, being me, I’m also planning to take in one of the films at the Noir Festival and the Cartier and America exhibit.

We’ll see!

3 responses so far

Jan 23 2010


Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Schatzi,Weather

Yesterday, we had a break from the week of storms. I almost didn’t recognize my old friend the sun when she peeped shyly from the spectacular clouds.

I went over to Megan’s and said, “Quick! Before it rains again!” We bundled Miss Schatzi into the car and took off for Mendocino. Needless to say, the Schatz was thrilled. She’s enjoyed being stuck inside all week even less than we humans have.

We went to a different part of the headlands, at the north part of town. There is a spectacular clearing with trees fallen from long-ago winter storms:


I once came across a wedding there – what a beautiful setting:


Everything is so green from the rain!

Past the clearing and down a narrow path past wind-bent trees, we came upon the ocean:


It was considerably calmer than the 27 foot waves earlier this week, but it was still pretty spectacular:


As my sister says, “A pissed-off ocean is a beautiful thing.”

Schatzi wasn’t ready to leave, but we had run out of paths. She waited patiently in the car as we picked up groceries from Mendosa’s (we made chicken enchiladas for dinner last night). Her patience was rewarded by a second walk, in a place that was new to me.

Across from Gordon Lane is a vast expanse of hilly fields leading to the ocean. This was originally farmland, but is now fallow:


The dreaded Scotch Broom is in bloom now, and the huckleberry bushes have the tiniest of buds. The pine trees are beginning to make new pine cones:


It was encouraging to see some early signs of the spring to come, and to lift our faces to the sunlight. And it gladdened our hearts to watch Schatzi, sniffing gopher holes and the sea air, trotting happily through the fields, looking back at us to make sure her pack was still with her.

5 responses so far

Jan 22 2010


Published by under Cats,Cooking,Henry

Exhibit A

Thursday night is my turn to make dinner.

Megan finishes her three, 12 hour night shifts on Thursday morning, so she’s too tired to dream up or whip up dinner. I have to say I’m really glad to take that small burden from her.

I usually start thinking about what to make on Thursday on Sunday afternoon. I look through my collection of recipes and my Dad’s, and if I don’t find inspiration there, I turn to Sunset and Epicurious. I love Sunset because it’s written for a Western audience and knows what’s in season here. And Epicurious has recipes from many magazines, including Gourmet and Bon Appetit, all in one place.

Yesterday’s inspiration for shrimp chowder came from Epicurious, and you can find the recipe here. I left out the fennel seeds, thinking it would be too much, and added the red pepper flakes. I substituted half and half for the heavy cream. It was a big hit. I served it with a simple salad of curly endive and radicchio (in the newly-rediscovered wooden salad bowl my parents used when I was a kid) along with a salad dressing I made with garlic, seedy mustard, olive oil, red wine vinegar, black pepper, and tarragon. Add in a loaf of ciabatta from Costeaux bakery, and dinner’s ready!

As good as dinner was, it was what happened after dinner that was really wonderful.

Audrey climbed up onto my sister’s lap, put her arms around Megan’s neck, and fell asleep with her face cuddled up to Megan’s. She stayed there for at least an hour. In the meantime, Henry Etta had curled up* next to me and fallen asleep. Audrey slowly drooped down my sister’s arm while she slept, her face eventually coming to rest against Henry’s back. She stayed like that for a while, then got up, stretched, and curled up next to Henry Etta (see above). They were actually touching!

This is a first, and I hope it’s not the last. Henry Etta is always cold, and it would be nice for her fragile old bones to cuddle up to warm, strong Audrey.

And speaking of old cats: you’ll be glad to hear that Gertie has moved in with Rose’s daughter and is doing well.

*This is a big step forward. She used to just huddle anxiously, even in her sleep, ready for takeoff if anything happened. Also I can now pet her in her sleep without getting clawed.

5 responses so far

Jan 21 2010


Published by under Country Life,Weather

Just as Megan left for work last night, another thunderstorm started. I’ve lost track by now, but I think that makes around 9,000 of them over the past week. I’ve endured more thunderstorms here in the past few days than I ever did in all the years that I lived in the Bay Area. It’s amazing how different the weather is, considering it’s only 150 miles away.

Not that you could drive there now, since the one road that goes there is flooded and closed.

I’m in serious danger of turning into a mushroom. And you know how I feel about mushrooms.

About an hour after Megan left for work, I was cowering through the roar of the thunder, the clatter of the hail, and the battering of the rain when the phone rang.

One of the other unexpected things about the power outage earlier this week is that cordless phones don’t work. Fortunately, Rose left behind a truly hideous brown corded phone. And because it’s corded, I always know where it is, unlike the cordless ones which I leave all over the place and then have to search for when they ring.

I answered the phone, and a weird man’s voice asked for me.

I cautiously admitted it was me, wondering who it was.

It was Rob, and he burst out laughing at the tone of my voice. He called to say that Meg had arrived safely at work, and that if the power went out again, he’d come over and get the generator going for me.

Isn’t that nice? On the other hand, he characterized the storm that was freaking me out as “not that bad”, making me wonder what would be considered bad. Hmmm.

Before I went to bed, I made sure the coffee was ground (so I could use the French press) and filled a couple of pots with water (so I could boil it for coffee) and the dishes done. I have jugs of water and a couple of buckets full for bathroom purposes, and a flashlight by the bed, so I was as prepared as I could be. Fortunately, it turned out that I didn’t need any of it, since the power valiantly stayed on.

As I write, it’s still dark and rainy, and the future looks as gloomy as the present. At least according to the weather forecasters. I think they’re the only ones enjoying this.

4 responses so far

Jan 20 2010


Published by under Country Life,Henry,Weather

Good morning!


I woke up at 5:30 yesterday morning. Not because of the Audrometer, who was adorably cuddled up to her big sister June, but because of the silence. And darkness.

Yes, the depths of the country are pitch-black at night, and almost oppressively silent, but I still sport my Marilyn Monroe sleep mask and ear plugs. The ear plugs are to ward off Audrey’s early morning pleas for escape, and the sleep mask is because the satellite internet doodads are located in the sleeping loft (for now; I’m hoping to persuade the long-suffering Rob to relocate them for me) and their weird blue light bothers me when I’m trying to sleep*.

Taking off the sleep mask, I immediately noticed that it was completely unnecessary, because the power was out. My battery-powered clock informed me that it was 5:30, so I went back to sleep for a while. When I got up, it was still dark. I had thoughtfully provided myself with an LED lamp on my bedside table, but I had neglected to observe where the power switch was, so I ended up creeping carefully downstairs in the dark anyway.

I’m pleased to report that I’m still injury-free!

Letting the girls out, I noticed that the top of a cypress tree had relocated to my front porch, yanking the jerry-rigged (Or is it jury-rigged? Discuss. And while you’re at it, is it “Not by a long shot” or “Not by a long chalk”?) electric line with it (see above).

Inside, I discovered that I couldn’t make coffee (fortunately, I’m sufficiently degenerate to drink yesterday’s coffee cold) and also that you need electricity to make water come out of your tap or shower and to flush the toilet. Who knew?

I plugged the heater into the car battery thingie devised by the boys last month, and turned it on, to Henry’s immense relief. She had been huddling against it, looking at me pleadingly as if to ask where the hell the heat was.

As the chill began to lift (though not from my coffee) and the storm continued to batter the house, I reflected on how people always say how great it is to get away from modern conveniences and rediscover nature, etc. I disagree entirely. Not only am I already surrounded by Nature, but my view is that now we’ve emerged from caves, why go back? While finding cellphones and reality TV deplorable, I don’t want to go back to pounding my laundry on a rock and chopping my own wood. I missed the modern conveniences pretty much instantly.

Fortunately for me, the Super Brothers were on hand to rescue me after just a few hours of darkness and cold. Rob and Jonathan appeared with a generator, which they placed under the little deck outside the laundry room, running the power cord under the door:


and then putting a très expensive extension cord/outlet device in the living room, so I could plug in my laptop (oh, joy!), refrigerator, lights, and other necessities:

Then they flew away to rescue other damsels in distress. Or check on Jonathan’s solar panels. I’m not sure which.

The power came back on after several hours, and it’s nice to know that I have everything ready for the next outage. And that I have the best brothers in the whole wide world.

*Basically I’m the same as my father, who grew up with total blackout conditions during WWII and also had to sleep in total darkness. Oddly, I used to be afraid of the dark until a few years ago, when I slept in a tent in my sister’s garden for a month and finally got over it. Being Me, of course I had to go to the opposite extreme.

3 responses so far

Jan 18 2010

Rain Tree County

Published by under Country Life,Weather

It wasn’t the Audrometer that woke me up this morning, though at first I thought it was. It turned out to be rain pounding on the roof. Audrey was innocently asleep on my pillows.

It’s still so dark that I have the light on. I hate having lights on during the daytime. It looks so…sordid, somehow. As I look out of the glass doors in the living room at the pouring rain and trees tossing their heads in the wind, I think: a) Thank Rob the doors are all sealed up; and 2) I just know the power is going to go out this week.

I dread the inevitable power outage with all the fear of a dilettante completely lacking in the pioneer spirit. I mean, how long will my computer battery work? Can I live without blogging and, more importantly, how will you all survive being summarily cut off from my words of wisdom? I shudder just thinking about it. I have to admit that the thought of huddling over an LED light and reading in the dark silence is pretty damn unappealing.

On the other hand, I’d have a great excuse not to work.

San Francisco is slated to get eight inches of rain this week, so that means we’ll get more. If I were a betting girl, I’d wager that 128, the only road out of here, is going to flood this week. And I’d further bet that even though the weather forecasters* are calling for endless supplies of rain for the foreseeable future, everyone will still be wringing their hands and bemoaning the drought.

Personally, I love a good drought. Bring it on, I say!

*I have an irrational hatred of their constant winter refrain of “The storm door is open”. i’d like to slam it shut.

4 responses so far

Jan 17 2010


Published by under Country Life

Lately, I’ve been feeling like the house is ganging up on me, with things that either don’t work, or sort of work. Can a gas stove actually gaslight you?

Things that sort of work in my house:

  • The porch light. It won’t stay on unless you jam a piece of paper in beside the switch. Problem solved! By the way: almost all of my light switches turn on by flipping them down. When they’re on, they say “NO”.
  • The flash heater. It’s mounted outside, so it’s easier for the pilot light to go out and the pipes to freeze during cold snaps. I’m always dreading it going out while I’m in the shower. You know, the one with the window in it and the shower curtain rod fastened across part of the window so the shower curtain is almost long enough. And the one which never quite drains and is nearly impossible to get the pine needles/bugs/dirt out of.
  • The stove. Sometimes the burners light, and sometimes they don’t. It’s a new adventure every time! And speaking of adventures, the oven has to be lit with a match, a horrifying ordeal that could be avoided completely if only there was restaurant delivery. So every time I use it, I light a match first, and then turn on the gas. Then I stick the match into the little hole and hope for the best. Often, the match goes out, and then I turn off the gas and wait a bit before trying again, reasoning that if I try again right away the whole house might explode. It can take a few tries. This may be what really happened to Sylvia Plath.
  • The toaster. It had a temper tantrum recently, and now the handle won’t stay down, which means that my toast refuses to toast. Sometimes, if I hold the handle down for a while, it stays down, but otherwise, I have to stand there and hold it down. Since the alternative is toasting it in the broiler, requiring the match and gas routine described above, holding it down seems eminently reasonable. Bonus: if the handle does stay down, it doesn’t pop up again by itself, so if I get distracted, my toast gets burned.
  • The washer and dryer. The washer has a bad habit of tossing off the agitator (if that’s what you call that thing sticking up in the middle) at some point during some loads of wash. It makes a truly alarming noise as it rackets around in there. Bonus: excellent at making holes in clothes and liberating underwires from bras. The dryer has a hole in the front so you can admire the oh so pricy propane burning away your money. It can also melt your clothes if they are synthetic fibers and you aren’t keeping your eye on things.

On the other hand, Rob is a one man, free home improvement handyman. Yesterday he magically appeared and sealed up the drafty leaks in the pantry door, also installing a draft blocking thingie on the bottom of the door. It will also keep out the rain scheduled for the next TEN DAYS. I feel convinced that this is the one that will take out the power.

He also caulked the loose panes of glass on the balcony door and fixed it so it actually closes and stays closed. It used to blow open in the wind, so I put a bag of clothes (still unpacked) in front of it. But this is better. Also it will make the Audrometer quieter. I hope.

6 responses so far

Jan 16 2010


Published by under Calamity Suzy,Cats

Well, my new year’s resolutions, like so many people’s, didn’t last long.

This morning, I tripped over June, who was milling around under my sleepy feet as I came downstairs. This is June’s way of reminding me that she’s ready for breakfast, even if it’s an hour or more before the appointed hour of 9:00, when breakfast is served.

Fortunately, I was only two steps from the bottom of the stairs, so damage to Self was minimal. I’ll probably have a bruised elbow, but that’s it. In the interests of honesty, though, this probably means I’m back to square one on trying not to damage Self. I went half a month injury-free, though, so yay me!

As I fed the cats, which entails stepping carefully onto a little wooden chest, then onto the studio floor, then up a step into the laundry room/pantry/cat dining room, it occurred to me that this is the first time I’ve lived in a house with stairs since I left my parents’ house. Maybe practice makes perfect and I need more stair experience and less experiments in gravity.

4 responses so far

Jan 15 2010


Published by under Cats,Country Life,Henry

The Audrometer failed to go off this morning.

It was confusing to wake up in daylight, at the civilized hour of 8:30, without the usual 4:30 wake-up call. June followed me downstairs, and Henry Etta was peacefully ensconced in her nest on the couch (until I put up the heat and she abandoned the couch to hug the heater). No sign of Audrey.

I went outside and called her, thinking that somehow she must have escaped her nightly prison and thus not needed to wake up the warden. No answer, though June came with me to help.

No sign of Audrey.

I went back inside to make coffee – yes, I was worried enough about Audrey to look for her before making coffee – and while the coffee was brewing, went to get a sweater to ward off the morning chill. When I opened the drawer, there was Audrey, blinking and surprised, though not as surprised as I was. How had she gotten in there and closed the drawer behind her?

Last night, she burst through the cat door with a mouse in her mouth. I chased her into the bathroom and shut the door, then went out to open the other bathroom door, which opens from the back porch (this has proved to be more useful than I originally thought), so she and her prey could go back outside. No mouse in my house, is my motto.

It was a bad day for vermin yesterday. Henry Etta made one of her rare forays into the equally rare sun, and barely five minutes later was happily lunching on a mouse on the sunny bench. I think she ate the whole thing, since I didn’t find any leftovers. Cat sushi.

On my way back into the house, I noticed a dead mole. They are really weird-looking creatures, and apparently there’s something weird about their fur, too, and cats don’t eat them. So that means I get to add “mole remover” to my duties as cat doorman.

I’m beginning to think that I might as well get a cat door that goes from the outside to the inside, as well as the one going from the studio to the main house. I’ll lock it when I go to bed and hope for the best. As my brother says, rather grandly: “I don’t open doors for cats.”

2 responses so far

Jan 14 2010


Published by under Country Life

The other day, I went to unite my compost with my sister’s, and discovered that there’s no room at the inn.


It seems that two’s company, and three’s a crowd when it comes to compost, too. So I’ll have to come up with an alternative arrangement. Like either getting old or dying (incredibly, our only choices), neither is all that appealing.

Possibility One: Get my own compost.

Pros: Closer to my house. Less annoying to Megan and Rob when I put in things that don’t belong there, like citrus peels and eggshells. I’m having a hard time training myself not to put things like that in the compost after years of merrily tossing them into my ginormous green bin in Oakland. You could put bones in there, too, which you can’t do here, for fear of marauding animals.

Cons: Gross. And disgusting. Not sure I could convince Rob to deal with it on my behalf, at least not all the time. Did I mention the ick factor? Also, it would almost certainly attract skunks and raccoons, well-known for their mess-making abilities, and possibly bears.

Not loving this option.

Possibility Two: Just throw it in the trash.

Pros: I won’t have to haul it over to Megan’s. No dealing with the hideous bug life in the compost box or shoveling it around, or hoeing it, whatever it takes to maintain it/make it into compost from a big pile of leftovers and assorted ickiness.

I don’t need compost anyway, since my garden is an all you can eat buffet for Lucky and her friends and I won’t be tending flower beds in a gentlewomanly manner. Also I could barely deal with window boxes when I had them. Why is gardening supposed to be fun, when it’s just manicure-destroying dirt with worms and bugs? Gardening, like housecleaning, is an activity best left to the pros.

Cons: My sister claims it makes the garbage extra stinky, and it’s already stinky enough. And you have to pay to dispose of garbage, so why add to that?

Not loving this stinky option, either.

Any suggestions?

7 responses so far

Jan 13 2010


Published by under Country Life,Memories,Weather

There was a thunderstorm last night.

I hate thunderstorms.

Fortunately, we don’t get them very often, and when we do, they don’t have the verve and ferocity of East Coast storms. I still remember the storms we had during the summers in Maine when I was a kid: lightning smashing a tree in half right outside our cottage (conveniently located on a pond, for extra lightning attraction); lightning crackling out of the outlets in the walls; the house shaking with the might of thunder.

I shook right along with it, but my father and brother would count the time between the thunder and lightning, calculating how far away the storm was and when it was (thankfully) going to bother someone else.

Here in my little house surrounded by trees threatening to blow down in the storm and crush roof, car, or Self, it’s impossible to escape the storm. The living room has big sliding glass doors, a window above them, and from the couch I can also see the glass-paned front door and the skylight in the bedroom. In the bedroom, there’s the shaky balcony door, which blows open in the wind, and the afore-mentioned skylight. Since it’s a loft, I can also see the glass doors and living room window, even when I’m in bed. It’s like living in a fishbowl, especially when you’re trying to avoid the sightning of lightning and the rumbling of thunder.

It’s not a completely unreasonable fear. I mean, people do get struck by lightning. My grandmother once told me the story of a relative who was engaged to a man with a crotchety old mother. Apparently, he couldn’t get married until the old lady had shaken off this mortal coil, and she took her time about it. Eventually he was free to marry, though the parties involved were no longer young. But before they could make it to the altar, she was hit by lightning when crossing a field and died an old maid. The horror! I’m not sure if it’s a true story or an Awful Warning meant to keep silly girls from venturing out in thunder storms, but considering that I still remember it after more than 30 years suggests that it made an impression.

The storm seems to passed during the night, and I was happy to wake up and find that the power hadn’t been knocked out. Every time it’s rainy and windy I worry about that. Megan and Rob have had two trees fall in their garden so far this winter, but both of them fell politely away from the house and damage was avoided. For now.

6 responses so far

Jan 11 2010


Published by under Cats,Country Life,Henry

Whoever set the Audrometer to go off at 4:30 – enough already!

This seems to be her favorite time to get up in the morning, even though it’s pitch black out and makes me really crabby. Now I don’t even bother to put on my glasses. I just lurch out of bed, open the door, and crawl back into bed, swearing. June sleeps through the whole thing (on the bed) and so does Henry Etta (on the duvet on the couch).

This morning, I let Audrey out on time and went back to sleep until 8:00 or so. I went downstairs to make coffee, and while I was in the middle of it, I heard the balcony door rattling and squeaking upstairs as Audrey demanded to be let in. I finished the coffeemaking process and went outside to the porch to call her, hoping that she’d come downstairs instead of my having to go back upstairs (this is why I never make a new year’s resolution to be less slothful. Never going to happen, my friend).

Of course she didn’t, since Audrey’s goal is never to make my life easier. While I was calling her, I felt something cold and damp poke my butt. Turning around in surprise, I looked into Lucky’s huge brown eyes. I moved away quickly before she could start eating my pajamas, remembering how she ate the futon filling with evident enjoyment.

I went back into the house and upstairs to let Audrey in.

I have to admit that I’m getting pretty tired of being a cat doorman. The pay is terrible, and they never tip me, even at Christmas. I’ve been thinking about putting in a cat door to the outside – the one I have is between the house and the cold storage – but then the cats could bring in mice and birds during the day, though I’d lock it at night. I saw June catch a mouse today and spend ages playing with the hapless creature*. Needless to say, I was repulsed by the whole thing, and when I told my sister about it, she trumped me as usual. One of her cats had left a dead and dismembered bird right by the bed.

That’s worse than being woken up by the Audrometer.

*It’s a lot easier to feel sorry for mice when they are outside and behind glass. Or in a Beatrix Potter story, wearing little hats and waistcoats.

5 responses so far

Jan 10 2010


Published by under Cooking,Country Life,Henry

In the night garden

On Friday night, Megan made her famous Chicken Makhani (Indian butter chicken) and naan (finally using the pizza stone). If you want Indian food up here, you have to make it yourself, and Megan has it down pat. I helped her as best I could, but I mostly got in the way. I was useful for opening wine, though.

After dinner, we left Rob happily watching the original Star Trek*, undoubtedly enjoying the peace and quiet after the gabbling girls decamped to my garden.

It was still mysteriously warm, so we sat by the chiminea with our glasses of wine under a galaxy of stars. We left the sliding glass doors open so we could listen to music outside. The cats were thrilled to be allowed out – much like little kids staying up late on special occasions – and we had the outside lights on at the back and side of the house. We figured they’d be safe with the fire, lights and music.

When we were ready to go in, I lured them in with treats. It was the first time they’d had them since we moved, and they went nuts, especially Henry Etta. Lately I’ve been letting them out after dinner if they want to, as long as they’re back by bedtime. You know how kids need curfews. I’ve also started letting Audrey out when she wakes me up and then going back to bed. Today it was 4:30 am. She didn’t come back until after 9:00. I have a feeling that I’m not going to see her much once summer comes.

*Having now seen a couple of episodes, I finally understand the appeal for high school nerd boys. There seems to be an endless supply of babes in tight and/or revealing outfits with fabulous hairdos. What’s not to love?

2 responses so far

Jan 09 2010


Published by under Country Life

There was an earthquake about half an hour ago. It lasted about half a minute, which seems like a really long time when you’re listening to the characteristic rumble and watching your house shake around you. I have to admit that I have more safety concerns in my hippie hovel than I did in my gracious Pacific Heights apartment, but the house and I are fine.

The cats were completely unperturbed, and both Lucky and Luna wandered by a few minutes afterwards, so no ill effects were felt and nothing seems to have broken or fallen down.

Rob stopped by a few minutes ago and said that they were fine, too. We agreed that it was the strongest we’d felt in a long time. Preliminary reports say that it measured 6.5 on the Richter scale, which is considered “strong”. In comparison, the 1906 quake that destroyed so much of San Francisco was 7.2, but keep in mind that a quake measuring 7.0 is ten times stronger than one measuring 6.0.

Just a little reminder that we’re living on a fault line.
Update: We were lucky here. 18,000 people in Eureka, near the epicenter, lost power and there was damage. Residents also commented on the sharpness as I did.

3 responses so far

Jan 09 2010


Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Schatzi

Schatzi takes the air

Yesterday morning started out with the sudden death of my adorable little coffee cup and skittered rapidly downhill in a landslide of work and financial problems. Note to New Year: if you don’t start getting it together pretty soon, you’re going to be in the same class as 2009, and that’s not somewhere you want to be. Aren’t you better than that?

So I was in a more bitter mood than usual (my mood tending to range from bittersweet to unsweetened) when my sister called and asked if I wanted to walk Schatzi with her. My initial reaction was not to go, since I didn’t want to inflict my bad mood on my sister (my mood having little or no effect on the dog), but in the end, I decided to accompany them.

I’m glad I did, because it turned out to be a mysteriously beautiful day, the clouds clearing to reveal rain-washed skies and the temperature hovering in the 60s. We took Schatzi to a little-known area called Pomo Bluffs. It’s not far from the main street of Fort Bragg, but is somehow off the beaten path, despite its spectacular ocean views:

The bluffs can be crumbly on the edges, hence this sign:

Also known as the international sign for Suzy. You will be glad to hear that I managed not to fall in the ocean, and am resolutely keeping my resolution to be injury free this year. Eight days and counting!

We let Schatzi off the leash in the meadow part of bluffs, where she pranced around and generally enjoyed herself while I admired the scenery:

A turkey vulture sailed overhead, sunlight glinting on his feathers. He hung in the air for a moment, so close I could almost touch him, and then, with a flap of his majestic wings, flew out to sea.

3 responses so far

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