Archive for May, 2010

May 31 2010

Walk Keys

About twelve hours after Megan and I parted ways with Lu at the Wharf, we met up at Big River.

Ligament tearing seems to be all the rage these days, since both Schatzi and Lu’s dog Marco (who can be admired here) are sidelined with the same injury. Schatzi will see Dr. Karen next week for a leg once-over. We’re still hoping to avoid the expensive and time-consuming surgery for her, but Marko and Lu’s wallet are not so lucky.

Though Marco is a mere three years old, he’s also 123 pounds of lovin’, and big dogs like that don’t self-repair in the way we’re hoping Schatzi does. So he will definitely have to face the knife and Lu will have to face the bill.

But we tried not to think about that as we set off down the path with Star and Harlow.

Once again, I failed to bring my camera, thinking that I had posted enough pictures of Big River, but I should have brought it to take pictures of Star and Harlow together. If I can make a resolution halfway through the year, I resolve to bring my camera with me whenever I leave the house.

We had a good walk. Star met a really nice older dog (rescued from horrors in Mexico) and several cyclists without getting upset or nervous. She’s really come a long way since Megan started fostering her. We’re hoping that we can bring her to the local Humane Society’s event in early July to meet some prospective parents.

Arriving back at the car, we discovered that Calamity Suzy had struck again.

Megan and I did some shopping for her belated birthday barbecue before meeting Lu, and since the provisions included beer and wine, and the parking lot at Big River was full of visitors, I thought it wise to lock the car. Unfortunately, I didn’t run this by Megan, who usually leaves her keys in the ignition. So we were locked out of the car.

It takes a Suzy.

It was especially ironic since I’d made a point of propping the doors open at my house so it wouldn’t be hot when I got home, and I had remarked to Megan that when I lived in the city, I made sure every door was locked when I was going to be out all day, whereas here I make sure they stay open.

Megan called Rob, who agreed to meet us at Frankie’s with the spare key. Lu drove us to Frankie’s, where we sat in the sunshine eating ice cream while waiting for Rob. When he arrived, he wasted no time in repo-ing Star, and drove off. Lu took us back to the car, and wisely waited while Meg made sure the key fit.

It did, and everyone was much nicer to me than I deserved.

Up next: a birthday barbecue and a haircut! Not necessarily in that order.

3 responses so far

May 29 2010

Girl Talk

Yesterday was a fabulous girl extravaganza!

Erica called and said that she and Jessica were looking at a house about three miles down the road from my place, so they’d stop by and say hello afterwards. The house won’t actually be available to look at until next week, but they had a look at the outside and grounds, and it looks good so far. I would so love it if they were my neighbors! And it will be nice for Erica to have lots of help on hand if needed, instead of being all alone on top of the mountain where she lives now, with an hour’s drive to the nearest store.

They brought birthday gifts for Megan, including a mug which reads “My dog isn’t spoiled. I’m just very well trained” or something like that. So true! We sat in Megan’s garden in the welcome sun, looking like a huge Clorox stain against the greenery. I don’t know which of us is is the palest. Jessica sat on Megan’s lap and we made plans to go to the Big Fun Fair together next weekend. It’s Jessica’s favorite day of the year.

We’re still working on the June-a-palooza to celebrate my birthday, Lu’s, Erica’s, and Monica’s. Maybe a bonfire at Lu’s with a dessert buffet by Erica…

Yesterday afternoon, the West Coast SJP dusted off her diamonds and dove into some MAC for the first time in a while. Megan and I met up with Lu and Monica at the local movie theater to see the greatly-anticipated Sex & the City 2. We had feared a line, but instead we were the first ones there, and the entire audience consisted of maybe fifteen giggling girls (including us – four friends watching four friends).

We all enjoyed it tremendously. Everything that reviewers have objected to were the very things I loved about it: the clothes, the shoes, the fairytale location in Abu Dhabi, the pure escapism and beauty. Yes, I sighed over Carrie’s closet (and regretted that she and Big let that fabulous Fifth Avenue penthouse go in the last movie) and Charlotte’s matched set of Louis Vuitton luggage. I’m glad the ugliness of the recession and the drabness of everyday life hasn’t touched our glittering girls. Sue me. It was bad enough being returned to reality after two hours.

My only complaints were that there wasn’t enough Jason Lewis, who plays the swooningly handsome Smith Jarod, and there was too much Liza Minnelli (any Liza Minnelli is too much Liza Minnelli). Oh, and I could have lived without the karaoke scene. Other than that? Escapism at its best.

After the movie, we repaired to Silver’s at the Wharf in Noyo Harbor. Megan and I figured we hadn’t been there since Mom was alive (then remarked on how our parents’ existence or otherwise is now such a milestone in our lives). Lu, who is also an EMT, said the last time she was there was responding to a call for a patron with a heart attack. She said that the rest of the diners watched like it was a floor show as the EMTs worked on him. I wondered aloud what the correct etiquette is in such a situation. Ignore it? Watch and eat? Just watch, but don’t eat? Where’s Miss Manners when we need her?

The sun was slipping into the Pacific as I sipped my mojito and nibbled my award-winning crab cakes. I also kicked myself under the table for not bringing my camera so you could see it, too. We ate and laughed and talked until we were the last table standing – well, sitting. We all agreed that we must do this again, and soon. There’s nothing like spending time with the girls.

One response so far

May 26 2010

Birthday Dinner

pieBirthday pie

Because, really, who doesn’t like pie better than cake?

I have to admit that I kind of threw together Megan’s birthday dinner. I couldn’t think of anything, but then I remembered that she likes a recipe I haven’t made for a while, and I had everything to make it except the chicken broth. So I ventured to the local store in the pouring rain, surprising a flock of ducks (and myself) on the road along the way. The ducks are new residents, and much more welcome than the pig part buffet (now vanished), though slightly more hazardous. Despite the rain, the bull in the field across from the store was in his usual spot, which is always reassuring.

While in the store, I noticed cherry pie filling and decided to make a pie, too. After all, when all you have to do is pour the filling in, it’s pretty easy. So my shopping consisted entirely of cans, which I guess is a step above shopping that consists entirely of sugar (PopTarts and SweeTarts). Sometimes I wonder what the staff at the store thinks of the shoppers. They must know everyone’s vices, since they’re the only store. There’s the guy who always gets beer and potato chips, there’s the cigarettes and cat food guy…

Back home, I put on the oven and put on Janis Joplin to keep me company as I cooked.

chickenstewPre-dumpling stew

Chicken Stew with Cornmeal Dumplings

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces
4 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
2 celery ribs, diced
3 carrots, sliced
3 potatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon dried thyme, or a couple of sprigs of fresh
Flour and water for cold flour paste (see directions)

For the dumplings:

1 cup flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup milk

Slice and dice the chicken and veggies.

Heat large pot over medium heat (my Dad always said, “Hot pan, cold oil,” so that’s the way I do it). When warm, add enough neutral oil and a piece of butter (a mixture of oil and butter browns best, I think) to just cover the bottom of the pan. Add chicken, celery, and onions and sauté.

When veggies are softened and chicken nicely browned, add chicken broth. Make sure to scrape up all the brown bits. I use mostly Swanson’s low-sodium broth and then cancel it out with a can of Campbell’s, which has the best flavor, but most of your daily requirement of salt, too. Bring to a boil.

Make a cold flour paste. I learned this from my grandmother, and I don’t know the exact measurements, but put about 3 tablespoons in a teacup and add cold water from the tap, mixing all the time until you have a thin paste. Add to broth and mix in. If it doesn’t thicken to your desired consistency, repeat.

When broth is thick enough, add carrots and potatoes (I had some frozen peas on hand, so I threw those in, too) and simmer until tender, about half an hour.

To make the dumplings, combine flour, cornmeal, salt, and baking powder. Work in butter – I use a fork, and then my fingers – until crumbly. Stir in milk.

Drop tablespoons of dumpling batter on top of stew. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until dumplings are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Serve immediately.

Note: if you have leftovers, remove the dumplings before refrigerating. Seriously! If you don’t, the dumplings will soak up all the broth overnight and then you’ll have to go to the store again.

3 responses so far

May 25 2010

Birthday Kisses

megshilohMegan gets a kiss from Shiloh, Monica’s foster puppy

It’s Megan’s birthday today. For the first time we can remember, her traditional birthday BBQ has been rained out. When we were giving Schatzi her walkette yesterday, Megan mentioned that Hooterville’s longest and most beloved resident had recently told her that one year long ago the rain had lasted until the Fourth of July. Let’s not try and break that record, ‘k?

Megan worked last night, but took the rest of the week off in honor of her birthday. She did this several months ago (both of us having a long-standing belief that working on your birthday is just wrong), before we had any idea that it could possibly still be raining. It’s supposed to stop raining on Friday, but even if it doesn’t, we will still have fun, because Monica, Lu, Megan and I have a date to see “Sex & the City 2” that night.

We’re hoping to have a combined birthday BBQ on the weekend. And at some point, we have to have a Juneapalooza, because Erica, Lu, Monica and I all have June birthdays.

Megan was supposed to be born on my birthday, but Mom’s obstetrician had a feeling something was wrong and took her out early (my brother was a Caesarean, and in those days, that meant that the next baby was one, too). Good thing, because the cord was wrapped around her neck, so she might not have made it.

Instead of being born on my birthday, she came home from the hospital on my birthday, and I couldn’t wait to peek in the bundle of blankets to see her. She was the best birthday present I ever had.

4 responses so far

May 24 2010

Dilemmas

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Weather

ficusshadowEarly morning ficus shadow against the ceiling

What’s more annoying: the cats prying the door open so a cold breeze immediately freezes you (bonus: expensively heated air wafts out at the same time!), or having to get up when you’re in the middle of something (and/or insufficiently caffeinated) to let them in or out?

I hope it stops raining one of these days so I can leave the door open.

Despite the unseasonable and unreasonable rain predicted for this week, I’m gambling that the power won’t go out. I finally emptied out the buckets of water on the back porch, which were standing by in case of an outage, but were now home to a horrifying number of mosquito larvae. I should do the same with anything water-containing in Junk Alley beside my house, but much like the cat dilemma, I can’t decide which is worse: emptying out countless pieces of junk in various stages of decomposition now, or being eaten alive by mosquitoes later.

Mosquitoes love me. I am magically delicious to them. Now, you’d think someone as bitter as I am wouldn’t make good skeeter eating, but you’d be wrong. Possibly I’m like bittersweet chocolate to them. All I know is that it’s been like this my whole life, and when I was a kid, my parents used to joke that if the mosquito kids were good, they’d get to have me for dessert. The mosquito kids must have been a lot better behaved than we kids were.

One of the great things about San Francisco is that it’s mosquito-free, for some reason. It’s basically bug-free, as I recall, though there was the occasional fly. This may be why every apartment I ever lived in or visited in San Francisco had no screens in the windows. As time goes by, my requirements for an ideal home have reduced down to basics, such as screens in the windows (and windows that open and close); closets; counter and cupboard space in the kitchen; thorough insulation; and adequate heating.

What does your dream home look like?

5 responses so far

May 23 2010

Hide & Peek

Published by under Cats

audreynookSpot the Audrey

One of the things about having no closets in your house is that you have to find different ways of storing your stuff. I have storage bags which fit under the bed and are nearly hidden by the not-quite-long-enough bedskirt, parts of which sport a bouclé effect due to Audrey’s illicit attentions. She has stopped doing this since we moved, but the damage is done, and as far as I know, there’s no Restylane for linens.

The other day, I was trying to pull one of the storage bags out from under the bed. It seemed to be stuck. I kept yanking at it and was just about to look under the bed to see if it was caught on a slat or something when it suddenly came loose. June, who had been peacefully asleep in the bag, came rolling out along with the bag. She bumped against the balcony door and sat up, blinking at me, clearly wondering what the hell had happened when she was just trying to take a nap in peace.

Audrey, now lacking in boxes to sit on, has discovered a new favorite place to look down on me. It’s an odd nook in the bathroom, situated to the left of the mirror and having no particular purpose that I can discern, other than the collection of light literature a thoughtful hostess always has on hand. But it’s a nice place for a cat to take a catnap.

Update: The secret is out!

junenook

3 responses so far

May 22 2010

Repeat

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

It’s 35 degrees outside, dark enough that I have the lights on, and it’s pouring. The cats and I are huddled by the heater, the girls in their fur coats and me in two unmatching sweaters. The calendar claims it’s May, but I think there’s been a mix-up somewhere. Or I’ve somehow found myself in Early Narnia, where it’s always winter, but never Christmas.

Everyone is saying this is the coldest and rainiest spring they can remember. “Worst May ever” comes up a lot, and I’ve noticed people eyeing me askance as they make the connection between my moving to Hooterville and the increasing crapitude of the weather. If I don’t look out, I’ll get run out of town on a rainy rail. At least it will be too wet and windy for the tar and feathers to really stick.

Megan and I took a break yesterday to walk Schatzi briefly on the headlands. She looks almost normal when she walks, though she is undoubtedly wondering why we won’t let her off the leash and why the walks are so short. It’s three more weeks of leash duty, and Dr. Karen is going to check her again next week.

cliffsign

You will be relieved to hear that I obeyed the sign. Actually, I may have jinxed myself by observing to Megan that we are almost halfway through the year and I have managed not to damage myself so far. Finally, a New Year’s resolution that lasted beyond January!

cliffs2

cliffs1

It was a very low tide, so something smelled fishy, all right. Also there was a very loud Canada Goose honking his fool head off on one of the rocks. And I thought Canadians were so polite. Maybe he picked up some native ways during his visit.

market

We ambled amble a couple of errands in the village between rain showers. We got some blueberries and lettuce at the fledgling farmers’ market – there’s not that much available this early in the season – and attempted to get the ingredients for the magical soup, planning to make it for dinner last night. But there was no joy in Mudville, since there was also no chorizo. We grumpily made shepherd’s pie with ground turkey instead, and consoled ourselves with a “Sex and the City” marathon, just in time for the movie’s release next week, thoughtfully located between my birthday and Megan’s.

I feel a girls’ night out coming on.

3 responses so far

May 21 2010

Fast-ish Food the Suzy Way

Published by under Cooking

gratinFor example…

When my friend A used to model internationally (that was before she got her PhD in pure math and a job at an investment bank in London, of course), she told me that food stylist was one of the hardest jobs in fashion. I can now see the wisdom of this since I’ve started taking pictures of Thursday dinners. Fun fact: in magazines, ice cream is usually dyed instant mashed potatoes, since they don’t melt under the lights. And turkeys have wood varnish applied to them to give them that fresh-roasted look.

This week’s dinner is from the great Jacques Pépin’s “Fast Food My Way”. “Fast” seems to be a relative term, since it took me the entire length of Iggy Pop’s “New Values” and part of Lou Reed’s “Rock & Roll Animal” to get it ready. I also made some modifications as I went along. Apparently I think I know better than a world-famous chef who has served no fewer than three French heads of state.

Pasta, Ham, and Vegetable Gratin
With apologies to Jacques Pépin

About 1 & 3/4 cups pasta shells or penne
1 & 1/2 cups diced (1/2 inch) cooked ham
3/4 cup corn kernels [I used canned]
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1 & 1/2 cups diced (1/2 inch) zucchini
3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Salt & pepper to taste

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, cool under running water, then drain again.

While the pasta was cooking, I prepped the ham and vegetables and made the sauce. I tend to clean up as I go along, but this has more to do with the fact that my only kitchen counter is three feet wide and a foot and a half deep than it does with innate tidiness.

Now, Jacques wants you to mix the veggies, pasta, ham, and cheese in a separate bowl. You can tell that he has minions to do dishes for him, whereas the only dishwasher I have ever had is Self. So I mixed the pasta, veggies, and ham in the baking dish.

I put the cheese into the sauce instead of mixing it in with the pasta, veggies, and ham. I figured this way, you get better cheese distribution. Also, I used closer to a cup of cheese. Maybe even more. I’m a well-known fromage-phile.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Jacques uses unsalted butter, which I personally do not believe in, since it pretty much tastes like Crisco, but it’s up to you. Add the flour, and mix it in with a whisk. Add milk, and bring to a boil, stirring with the whisk until the sauce thickens. Add salt and pepper. Remove from heat.

At this point, I mixed in the cheese. You’re supposed to add the cream here, but Megan was out of half & half, so I skipped it and didn’t miss it. I didn’t even add extra milk to make up for it, and it was fine.

Heat the broiler. Combine the sauce with the pasta mixture and transfer to a shallow glass baking dish. Sprinkle the Parmesan on top. Broil about four inches from heat source for 6-8 minutes, until bubbly and hot and the surface is lightly browned. Serve immediately.

5 responses so far

May 20 2010

Unenjoyable, That’s What You Are

Published by under Bullshit,Country Life

drivewayMy driveway, in all its puddled glory

Yesterday was one of those crappy days we all have, though that doesn’t make them any more enjoyable. Also, it never makes me feel better knowing that other people are having a crappy time, because, really, I only care about Me.

It was raining again, in blithe defiance of my eviction notice. Forty chilly degrees outside and fifty inside. It was one of those mornings where you have to psych yourself up to emerge from the warm cocoon of quilts into the cold morning air. Not for the first time, I considered how utterly lacking I am in the pioneer spirit and how Laura Ingalls Wilder would have smacked me upside the head if I had been one of her sisters.

After getting a load of dreary work out of the way, I decided to go to the local store to pick up a couple of missing items for tonight’s family dinner. I lurched sadly down the rough, deeply puddled driveway, contemplating the wear and tear on my car caused by the state of the road and the bushes scratching it when I ran into my brother. Not literally, fortunately: he saw me coming and backed up his red car so my red car could pass. We talked briefly through the rainy windows and he told me that he was shopping some of James’s junk piles for parts for the windmill he and Rob are hoping to build on the property.

At the store, I discovered that they did not have what I wanted. This posed a rural dilemma. I’d either have to drive to the next town in the pouring rain, or think of something else on the spot and buy it there. I opted for the drive, thinking it would be easier.

As usual, I was wrong.

I had to try two more places, and in doing so, it became obvious that I really should have remembered to change from my pale blue suede slides with no socks into more suitable footwear, as the puddles were deep and the passing cars splashed me as I trudged through the village. Will I ever figure out appropriate country footwear?

I finally tracked the final item down at the ridiculously named “workers’ collective”. By this time I was so grumpy that all sense of triumph was totally lost. Arriving damply home, I investigated the mail Rob had brought over, which consisted of the most boring edition of “Vanity Fair” ever (World Cup soccer guys on the cover in terrifying Speedos which, I’m afraid, may have made me gay) and a fill-in-the-blanks rejection note from my most recent job application. I guess that’s what I get for complaining about not getting any answers to my repeated pleas for employment.

A glance at the clock showed me that it was too early for a cocktail, so I just threw the nearest thing against the wall and burst into uncinematic tears. Putting away the hard-won groceries, I discovered that the salsa had leaked all over everything and that I had completely forgotten to get anything for that night’s dinner, being too focused on tomorrow’s (now today’s).

It was suddenly cocktail o’clock.

3 responses so far

May 19 2010

Eviction Notice

Published by under Weather

rainytreesRepeat Offender

Dear Rain,

I only use the word “dear” as a formality, since it is well-known to both of us that I do not like you, Sam I Am. Not in the day. Not at night. Not in the woods. Not leaking through my roof.

I would like to remind you that your term is long since up. You should have left at the end of March. I might have made an exception for late departure into the first week of April, but that would have extended my goodwill toward you to its outmost limit, and you might want to keep a favor in your back pocket for a rainy day. Know what I’m saying here, oh damp one?

300% of normal rainfall in April is not funny, even if you think it is.

How can I miss you when you won’t go away? You can blame it on Mother—- Nature, you can blame it on El Nino, both of whom have wicked senses of humor, if you can call it that, and neither of whom have the slightest compunction in ruining humans’ lives, preferably in a spectacular and semi-permanent manner.

In the words of the old song – and there’s a reason these things become cliches – rain, rain, go away. Now.

Very, very sincerely,

The sodden remains of Suzy

4 responses so far

May 18 2010

Animal-ated

Published by under Country Life

bluejaySteller’s Jay

Thud!

I looked up from my work to see a slightly stunned and stunning Steller’s Jay sitting on the back deck. It had flown into my sliding glass doors. He must have needed glasses, because I can tell you for a fact that they are not Windex-clean. I watched him for a little while, and he flew to a nearby bush and started yelling at somebody about something, so I figured he was OK. It’s surprising how loud a bird can be.

And how they can take up an entire lane in a two-lane road. I had to go around a turkey vulture who was feasting on Ridge roadkill the other day. He saw me, too. He merely looked up as if to say, “Can’t ya see I’m eatin’ here?” I imagined a James Cagney accent, maybe because I’ve been watching so many old movies lately.

Roadkill hasn’t been the only attraction for carrion eaters lately. I noticed that the doughnut shop had become quite popular with these types. Before you start picturing a Krispy Kreme stand in the middle of nowhere, I hasten to add that this is a local nickname for a large clearing by the side of the road where bored kids like to do doughnuts. It’s also a spot where people see fit to dump things like old trailers, recliners, and, in this case…pig parts. Apparently someone had butchered a hog and didn’t know what to do with the head and other et ceteras. Fortunately the crows and vultures were making quick work of the buffet.

When I got home, Mark was there, installing my new-ish washer and taking away the old, clothes-eating one. He said that he and his family are hosting a couple of Japanese exchange students this week. Although the two visitors don’t speak English, and Mark’s girls don’t speak Japanese, they find a way to communicate. He said they were up until 11:00 the previous night, talking and giggling. I guess girl talk is universal.

6 responses so far

May 17 2010

The Hooterville Star

Published by under Dogs,Family

starwoodsStar meets squirrel

Well, today’s a bit of a set-back. Raining outside, heater on inside…sound familiar?

Maybe I should move to Hawaii. Or Bora Bora.

Yesterday, Star met a puddle while walking on the family property. You can tell that she was kept in most of the time in her former life, since puddles and other everyday things are clearly new to her. She thought the puddle splashes were attacking her, so she kept trying to catch them, chasing herself around and around in the water. It was hilarious. Eventually she settled down to drink some of the water, which is when she noticed that breathing while having her nose in water wasn’t a great idea.

Star is starting a new class today with a behaviorist, who will temperament test her and get her used to walking around in Mendocino, where there are cars, people, and other dogs for Star to meet. She will keep going to her class on Wednesdays, too, and we’re hoping that she’ll be ready for adoption in early June.

People keep asking if my sister will want to keep Star, and I keep telling them no. The point is to foster as many dogs as possible and find them good homes. She can only foster one at a time in her teeny, 400 square foot house, so If she keeps Star, she can’t foster another dog, and that means a dog who might have been saved won’t be. This is her mission in life.

I think the same qualities that made her a great EMT for nearly a decade are the same ones that make her a great foster parent. She has compassion for the patient/dog, but not enough to upset her when the job is done. She does her best for them, and then lets them get on with their lives with no regrets. We’ll be sorry to see Star go, but we’ll also be happy that she is a happy dog moving into a loving home. And we’ll welcome the next foster dog with open arms.

2 responses so far

May 16 2010

Good News

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Schatzi

schatzibeachThe good old days

First of all, the truly important news: Schatzi does not need multi-thousand dollar surgery!

[Pause while the crowd goes wild]

Thank you, thank you. Dr. Karen said we should keep her on the anti-inflammatory for another week, but continue giving her the Chinese herbs for another six weeks. We can start taking her for a 15 minute leash walk once a day on flat surfaces. She’s a very active and fit dog, not an ounce of fat on her, and I think this is the key to her youthful, Dick Clark-style vigor. She has hate-hate-hated being cooped up in the house and not allowed to run.

To add insult to injury, this happened pretty much the minute we got Star the foster dog. We take Star out for walks, but leave poor Schatzi at home, staring at us sadly as we drive away. There are few things worse than Schatzi’s patented Sad Eyes, my friend.

And of course this had to happen in the “summer”, instead of during the rainy season, when she would have been trapped in the house anyway.

But…not having to come up with thousands of dollars and having our beloved girl suffer through surgery and its aftermath is pretty much priceless. So is Dr. Karen, who didn’t charge Megan for checking Schatzi’s leg every week. Dr. Karen’s kindness extends to people, too. A couple of young men who drove with a friend from Montreal to San Francisco and then hitch-hiked here are staying at her house indefinitely, doing odd jobs and generally enjoying the scenery. She says now that they’ve stayed with her a few days, she doesn’t like the thought of them hitch-hiking anymore.

She has also had an intriguing offer to act as the vet for a nearby nature preserve which specializes in seriously endangered hoofed African animals, such as zebras and antelope. She’d be on call and examine the animals a couple of times a year. I had no idea that this place existed. Apparently zebras are pretty mean, prone to kicking and biting. When I expressed surprise at this, Dr. Karen pointed out that dealing with lions on a daily basis will do that to you. The zebras have to be sedated with a tranquilizer dart à la Wild Kingdom before they can be looked at. Megan said she’d go with her if she took the job. Wouldn’t that be cool?

In other good news, Megan and Monica raised $1,500 for Star and Shiloh at their fundraiser yesterday. They sold cupcakes and beautiful clothes donated by local merchants. Some people even made cash donations. Not bad for a day’s work! I love how this community rallies around and supports local causes.

2 responses so far

May 15 2010

The Literary Cat

Published by under Cats,Family,Memories

Hey! For the first time this YEAR, I don’t have the heat on. OK, I am wearing a sweater, but still. I consider this a personal triumph. Bonus points since the door was slightly ajar this morning and no untoward visitors such as raccoons, skunks, or mountain lions seem to have taken advantage of that fact.

As far as I know, anyway.

I left the door slightly open, even though it’s a foggy fifty degrees outside, so I can drink coffee and blog in peace. Sometimes a girl just needs a vacation from being a cat doorman, even if it’s a drafty one.
audreybooks

Last night, as you can see above, Audrey settled in on top of my father’s books. Maybe she’s absorbing knowledge just from sitting there. In the picture, you can see one of the two antique spoon molds I bought in Paris about a zillion years ago (the other is supporting my collection of cookbooks on the shelf above). The photo is of my Dad (on the right) and his friend Brian when they were kids, playing with guns they found in a downed German plane near their houses during WWII. They were friends from the time they were babies, when their mothers met, and stayed friends all their lives. Brian was the best man at my parents’ wedding.

I wish we’d found this photo when Dad was still alive, because we could have teased him mercilessly. He was so against guns in the home that he wouldn’t let us have water pistols. I guess living through a huge war when you’re a kid will do that to you. But it would have been fun to tease him about the picture.

You can also see my one and only Barbie, a cedar candle which I’ve been meaning to use while meditating, but have actually only used in power outages, and two of the three little hand-painted metal cups Hoho brought back from France after his service in WWI.

Behind the candle is an ashtray from the Sands Hotel in Vegas, which my friend Paul gave me a few years ago. Just think: Sinatra could have used that ashtray! It gives my hippie hovel a touch of class.

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May 14 2010

Le Ragoût Suzé

Published by under Cooking

Caution: May be yummier than it appears

My unsurprisingly slapdash method of cooking makes it a little challenging to share my recipes with my adoring audience. That, and my father’s legacy of using up leftovers. Dad grew up outside London during WWII, and endured the seemingly endless rationing after it, so he never wasted food. Since I learned to cook from him, I also learned to use up leftovers.

When Dad died, my stepmother’s grandchildren remarked on how they’d miss his “snowflake soup”. No two were alike, since they were made from what was on hand and in the refrigerator on that particular day.

Making the fancily named stew on Thursday morning, I have to admit I felt slightly smug that I made it using ingredients Megan and I had on hand, right down to the parsley from her garden. I was immediately punished for this thought by breaking my nail. You may not be surprised to learn that it was the middle one.

I tried to be accurate as possible in measurements here, but keep the source in mind and adjust to your personal taste. And try to forgive the asides and editorials.

Chicken, Sausage, and Bean Ragoût

1 pound Italian sausage
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut in 1/2 inch cubes
4 cloves garlic, crushed and minced (less if it scares you)
1 onion, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon dried sage
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (bonus if you can pronounce it correctly)
One 28 oz can of crushed tomatoes
One 15 ounce can white kidney beans (cannelini)
Salt & pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

I usually cook the garlic, onion, chicken, and sausage together at once. Hope that doesn’t horrify you. I used sweet Italian turkey sausage, which I removed from its casings (ew) and squished into pieces, but you could also use smoked sausage and slice it. If you’re a fungus fan, you could chop up a few mushrooms and throw them in.

When everything is cooked, about 10-15 minutes, pour in the wine to deglaze the pan. Now, some people think you should use cheap wine to cook with, but since the alcohol cooks off and you’re left with the flavor, I don’t think you should go too cheap here. Also it’s a good excuse to finish off the already open bottle of wine, unless you’re cooking in the morning, as I was, and the smell makes you shudder.

Add lemon zest, juice, sage, and Worcestershire sauce. I threw in some fennel seeds to accentuate the fennel flavor in the sausage. Stir in tomatoes. I used a can of whole tomatoes, which I cut up over the pot of stew, and a small can of tomato sauce, as well as some chopped up, slightly dented tomatoes I had on hand. Mix in beans, salt and pepper, and simmer for half an hour or so, until flavors blend. Can be made a day ahead. Stir in parsley just before serving, maybe with a salad and some warm bread.

One response so far

May 13 2010

Help Wanted

Published by under Bullshit,Country Life

nohelp

Despite my summary rejection last year, I’m still looking for a part-time job. I have to admit that I hoped that the Rejection Company would regret their foolish decision in hiring someone other than Me and beg to get me back. After all, whoever they hired couldn’t possible be as fabulous as Self, and surely this would have become apparent by now. But either they enjoy mediocrity, or they really don’t want to hire me, astonishing as that may be to any right-thinking person.

Office jobs are in short supply here in Hooterville. I’ve been applying for what few there are, and so far, they all seem to agree with the Rejection Company.

In the halcyon days when I hired people (and had no idea that I was living in the good old days), I always sent out a letter acknowledging the receipt of the resume and telling the applicant that we’d be in touch if we wanted to set up an interview. It was a form letter, but a letter nonetheless. Apparently, these were the good old days of job applications, too, since I have yet to receive any acknowledgment from anyone. For all I know, those dozens of resumes and emails have vanished into the ether or the mysteries of the US Mail. I have decided that this is all part of our society’s general degeneration into rudeness and ignorance, but that doesn’t help me pay the Amerigas bill.

The local paper’s want ads come out on Thursday morning, and here’s a quick sampling of today’s openings:

  • Class A milk truck driver with tanker endorsement
    Milk scares me, and I can hardly stand driving a car.

  • Ranch mechanic with diesel experience
    I should have skipped that whole college thing. Ranch mechanics make $35 an hour! I have no idea what they do, though. What’s diesel experience, anyway?

  • Full time housekeeper for inn
    A dust bunny just rolled through my living room, like tumbleweed in an old Western.

  • Campground worker for upscale RV park. Must have other income. NO DRUGS.
    Isn’t “upscale RV park” an oxymoron? Also, “must have other income” is slightly ominous. And drugs would be a necessity if I had to work at an upscale RV park.

6 responses so far

May 12 2010

Lucky Lady

Published by under Cats,Country Life

junehuntingJune, the Huntress

One of the many things cats can teach us, besides parlaying cuteness into a life of idleness and how to maximize nap time while minimizing work of any kind, is patience.

Above you see the Beautiful June Bug on the prowl for mice under the back deck (a rather grandiose term for wood slats cobbled unevenly together, though it does boast an outdoor shower and a door to the indoor bathroom). This seems to be a popular mouse-hunting locale, which gives me pause about leaving the sliding glass doors open if/when the weather gets warmer. Having said that, though, and touch deck, I have yet to see a mouse since I moved in here seven months ago.

At least a live one.

This morning, I put the cats’ food in their dishes and briefly considered rearranging (well, arranging at all) the pantry/laundry room) as usual. I was surprised by the lack of response. Usually June beats me to the bowl, in addition to her feeding time reminders that are much more persistent than, say, Google Calendar’s.

I found her on the deck, patiently staring in her mouse-seeking manner. She was there for more than an hour, and then I saw her run past out of the corner of my eye. Megan said she saw June tossing something in the air the other day, so I’m assuming the hunt was effective. One less mouse for the house!

In other wildlife news, Rob is pretty sure he spotted Lucky with a herd of her friends when he went to the dump last weekend. He called her name, and she turned toward him instead of running away, as Hooterville deer tend to do, not being used to a lot of human interaction. He didn’t get a chance to check her back leg, which sports a huge and distinctive scar, before she took off with her buddies, but he’s almost sure it was Lucky. Lucky indeed if she’s been welcomed back into the fold.

3 responses so far

May 11 2010

Green Onions

Published by under Family,Memories

My grandfather (left) and a pal go for a spin

Washing the dishes this morning made me think of my grandfather. Maybe it’s because today is his birthday.

He suffered from arthritis in his hands, and found washing the dishes soothed the pain. He used to sit on one of the red leather topped stools, which usually stood ready at the breakfast bar, and sing as he worked. I loved to dry the dishes and listen to his stories. He had a million of them. In my mind’s eye, I can still see him under the warm kitchen light, our reflections mirrored in the dark glass of the windows over the sink.

Although my grandmother was the gardener in the family, tending to the flower beds (the flowers I always associate with her are lilacs – my own favorite – lilies of the valley, pansies, and forget-me-nots) and fruit trees, my grandfather, who we called Hoho because of his huge, wonderful laugh, had his vegetable garden.

This garden was beside the creek which separated my grandparents’ property from the high school, where Hoho was principal for many years until he finally retired, far too late to do my mother any good. Can you imagine your Dad being your high school principal? Especially the kind of Dad who pulled practical jokes on you when you were home late from dates, like hanging cold, wet spaghetti from the doorframe, so you’d scream and wake him up. Then he’d know exactly how late you were.

Of all the things Hoho grew in his garden patch, his favorite was early spring onions. As soon as they were ready, he’d pull them up and bring them home, eating some on the way, as sunny, careless, and happy as if he were a young boy again, back on his father’s farm.

4 responses so far

May 09 2010

Cat-chup

Thud! Splat!

That was my head exploding and falling off. It’s raining yet again. I can’t remember it raining in May since the evil El Nino winter of 1996-1997, when it rained from September until May, and rained every single goddamn day in February. I worked in a cool old brick building in downtown San Francisco in those days, and the constant deluge took its toll. Rain came down the exposed brick walls, so I had to keep a plastic hood on my computer like a grandma protecting her fresh beauty shop ‘do, and I had no fewer than three wastebaskets collecting rain around my desk.

Sitting here in my sweater by the heater in May just seems wrong. I also have that east coast feeling of “Will winter ever end?” while simultaneously lamenting the fact that the lilacs have already bloomed and gone.

It takes a Suzy.

People have been asking me how June and Audrey are doing. They don’t actually accuse me of being a negligent cat doorman or dumping them in favor of doggier pastures, but I can read between the emailed lines.

AudreyBalconyAudrey catnaps on the balcony

The girls are doing fine. Since they now have the great outdoors, they’re a lot less destructive in the small indoors. They generally come in to eat or nap, though I have seen them napping outside from time to time. I was slightly surprised by that: I thought they went outside to play and hunt, but apparently they also use it to increase their living space, much as we do.

JunePorchExcuse me, you interrupted my bath!

June spends more time inside than Audrey does. June sleeps with me most of the night, pinning down the covers so parts of my anatomy are exposed to the chill night air in her patented manner. Audrey’s in and out all night, though thanks to Rob, I’m no longer the night watchman.

It’s funny how when I first moved, I thought I could bring them in at dinner time and that would be it for the night. In retrospect, I find this hilarious.

I visit Henry at least once a week. She’s safe and cozy under the chinkapin tree. I always bring her flowers and fill her in on the latest news. I miss her so much. She was such good company. I wish we’d had more time together, though as Rob says, it’s never enough time.

Star went to her first obedience class on Wednesday. She was fearful of strangers, barked at kids, and it was generally a somewhat depressing experience. I was surprised, since she adapted so quickly to us and is so friendly and affectionate with us. She’ll go every week and hopefully will improve. We have to get her properly trained and socialized before we can even hope to find a family for her.

Schatzi seems to be doing better. Dr. Karen thought so, and will have another look at her on Friday. Keeping her still is a real challenge. I took care of her yesterday while Megan taught a CPR class, and she followed me everywhere. Finally she settled down on the couch, but you can tell she’s really depressed at being kept inside all the time. A friend of Megan’s is giving her a sort of dog playpen so she can be out on the garden but not wandering around. I’m still hoping we can avoid surgery.

4 responses so far

May 08 2010

Contest Chicken

Published by under Cooking

Megan and I had a busy day yesterday. In anticipation, I started dinner in the morning.

I know that sounds crazy, but I knew that neither one of us would want to battle our wholly inadequate kitchenettes by the time we got home, and boy, was I right. I could barely make the effort to open a bottle of wine. Oh, sommelier, where art thou?

I made a fabulous Dad recipe, which Megan always says could win a contest. Despite its hour and a half cooking time, it’s easy to make and you probably already have everything you need to make it:

Braised Honey Mustard Chicken

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, halved
1 onion, chopped (I used Vidalia)
2 tablespoons honey
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
Juice of a lemon (I used Meyer)
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Pinch of freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients except the first two in a small bowl. Put the chicken and onions into a casserole. Pour the mustard mixture over the chicken, mix well to ensure that the chicken and onions are well coated with sauce. [Note: I mixed everything but the chicken in the casserole, then put the chicken in and mixed it around to cover with the sauce. One less dish and it works fine.] Cover, ensuring lid is tight, and bake for an hour and a half at 325 degrees F. [I used a casserole which belonged to my parents when they were first married, 50 years ago.]

You’ll think that a couple of tablespoons of honey and mustard won’t cover all the chicken, but it will. And it will make enough sauce, too. You’ll see. Spray the tablespoon with cooking spray before measuring out the honey and mustard so they don’t stick.

I served this with almond rice pilaf and broccoli. We ate it all.

Oddly, though this is in the cookbooks Dad made for both Megan and me, we don’t remember making it (or eating it) when he was alive. I wish we could tell him how much we enjoy it and how we often rely on it for dinner after a busy day. If we ever enter it in a contest, he gets the credit.

2 responses so far

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