Archive for August, 2010

Aug 31 2010

Vet Visit

Published by under Cats

Back view of the vet office

On our way to the vet’s office, I observed to Megan that it seemed early for the Naked Ladies by the side of the road to be in bloom. “They don’t usually bloom until fall,” I said.

“Uh, Suz…it’s September in two days.”


I was a little concerned that the kittens would react to the car trip to the vet in the same way they did to the car trip home, and about halfway there, it became obvious that my fears were well-founded. Inspecting the carrier after we arrived, it appeared that there was no damage to the kittens, and only minor damage to the towel inside, which was quickly disposed of by the cheerful technician, Cathy, and inspected by the kittens:


Dr. Karen was amazed by how identical they are. I have to admit I often have a hard time telling them apart. The main difference is Clyde’s bow tie (vs. Roscoe’s dash of white). It turns out that the roof of Roscoe’s mouth is adorably polka dotted and Clyde’s isn’t, but that’s not a lot of help at a distance. They even weigh the same: 3.3 pounds.

Here’s Roscoe examining the examination table:


I was really proud of how good they were. Dr. Karen said they were exceptionally happy and well-adjusted kittens. And yes, their purrs are in fact very, very loud.

It was great having Megan there to hold the kittens and help with the shots, temperature taking, etc. It’s always good to bring along your own EMT to any medical appointment.

The boys took a nap while we wrapped things up with Dr. Karen (she had finally found time to use the massage gift certificate we gave her when she opened the office and loved it):


We’ll be back in a couple of weeks for the next set of the shots. Apparently the entire vaccination process goes on for quite a while, so I’m supposed to keep them inside for the next three months. Can she do it?

3 responses so far

Aug 30 2010

Personal Ads

Published by under Cats


Name: Clyde
Nickname: The Cuddlebug
Likes: Food; fighting with my brother; cuddling with the girl; taking it one day at a time.
Dislikes: Being picked up just when things get interesting; having to stay inside.
Personal Ambition: To be friends with the big cat. And world peace, of course.
Quote: “Least I ain’t a liar.”
Fun Facts: Clyde sports a bow tie, and Clyde Barrow was very particular about his appearance, even when on the run. The only cars I have ever owned have been Fords, and Barrow was such a fan that he supposedly wrote Mr. Ford a letter about how great his cars were. To steal, but still.


Name: Roscoe
Nickname: The Rascal
Likes: Food; getting in the girl’s way; chewing on people’s eyeglasses (and hands); finding new ways to get in trouble.
Dislikes: Being stopped from getting in trouble; having to stay inside.
Personal Ambition: To go outside and play. Be all that I can be.
Quote: “A good laugh…is the most worthwhile thing in life.”
Fun Facts: I asked my brother what I should name him, and almost without thinking, he said “Roscoe”. Which I had already told my sister was the name I was thinking of. We couldn’t stop laughing. Also, “roscoe” is apparently old-time gangster slang for a gun. Who knew?

7 responses so far

Aug 29 2010

Feeding Time at the Zoo

Published by under Cats


It’s 8:30 am, and I’m ready for a nap.

Audrey started demanding to go out at about 4:30. Despite the earplugs, it was almost impossible to ignore her clawing at the door, especially since it was accompanied by howling. Now with extra noise! There was no way I was letting her out in the darkness, especially since my brother’s cat, Twilley, has twice been chased home by a bobcat. My brother’s gun was loaded, but he didn’t get a clear shot, so the bobcat(s) are still out there somewhere.

As if the howling and clawing weren’t enough, the rowdies decided to play/fight all over me, with breaks for chewing on my hands. No matter how many times I pushed them off me, they boomeranged back. Those boys walk all over me – literally. When one of them clawed my lip, I gave up and got up.

After I stopped it from bleeding and retreated to the couch to drink coffee and read my email, they both curled up on my chest, purring and trying to chew my glasses. It made it pretty much impossible to do anything, including writing my near-daily postcards from the depths of obscurity.

I am continuing with my policy of not feeding them when I first get dragged out of bed – especially when it’s due to their naughtiness – so when Audrey slinked home around 8:00, I was almost psychologically prepared for the feeding time fiasco. Almost.

Unfortunately, the boys have figured out that the food is in the pantry. So every time I go there, they immediately stampede underfoot to try and beat me to it. You can imagine how enjoyable this is when making dinner, calling for several pantry trips, or laundry.

Audrey was also there, so they fought and growled and got underfoot. I put Audrey’s food in her dish, and put them both on top of the washer. Audrey hates being picked up* in front of the kittens. She must think it’s undignified.

Then I got the kittens’ food and put it in their dishes, which are currently adding to my living room’s décor, along with the litter box. They came running, and immediately started eating out of the same dish (see above), which is what they always do. They jam their faces into it, then realize they don’t fit, and start taking turns, completely ignoring the other dish until I pick one of them up and put him in front of it.

Then they rush back to the pantry to try and scam some of Audrey’s food. Audrey is far too ladylike to bolt her food, so she always leaves some and comes back to nibble on it later.

Can you imagine what feeding time will be like when they’re big enough to jump up on the washer?

*Actually, she never likes being picked up, even at the best of times. Maybe it’s always beneath her dignity.

3 responses so far

Aug 28 2010

The Great Escape

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Jessica


The boys managed to escape when I let Audrey in for the night. You try and find two black cats in the darkness. And country darkness at that. That’s the darkest kind, you know. It’s the French Roast of night.

I went and got one of the emergency lights I keep on hand for the inevitable winter power outages, along with some kitten food and treats. One of them had raced off into the bushes, and the other was under the house, despite the fact that everyone told me they wouldn’t venture far at this age and would stay close to me.


Eventually, I caught them one by one and trapped them in the bathroom while luring Audrey in. I let her eat her treats in peace for once, and then released the rowdies, who were unperturbed by their evening adventure. Whereas I needed an immediate cocktail.

In non-kitten news, Jessica is now enrolled at the excellent school just down the road. She and her mother completed enrollment yesterday and then came by for a little visit. Apparently Jessica’s reading level is now at eighth grade, though she is just entering second grade. While Erica and the teacher were discussing this, Jessica piped up, saying “Spelling isn’t my strong suit.” You have to manage people’s expectations.

Erica is going to have a mighty long list of people who can pick Jessica up from school. I’m looking forward to spending more time with her.

5 responses so far

Aug 27 2010

Growing Pains

Published by under Cats

Playing in the ficus tree is always held in high regard

As I write, one of the kittens is curled up on my left shoulder. They may be the cuddliest kittens ever. They are always climbing up on me and purring. They are also equipped with deluxe power purr.

They are growing up fast. Or my expectations were totally wrong. Or both.

When I first got them, I thought they were too small to get up the stairs. Wrong. They did it the first day. They love playing in the ficus tree on the landing (see above), even when I’ve just watered it. Then they can spray mud and leaves everywhere instead of dirt and leaves. Extra fun! They also walk along the railings as if they were walking across the living room floor.

Last night, I went upstairs to close the balcony door, and arrived just in time to see one of the kittens scale the baby gate and leap onto the balcony. Eeek! I chased him, and caught him as he hovered on the edge, looking down into the garden. So that means no more opening the balcony door until we can come up with some means of keeping the boys in. Fortunately, the fog is back, so it won’t be suffocatingly hot, at least in the immediate future.

This morning, I went to feed Audrey and closed the studio door behind me, foolishly thinking that this would keep the kittens out of her food (needless to say, they are more interested in Audrey’s food than theirs, and vice-versa). One of them shot through the cat flap and raced to her dish. Surprisingly, Audrey just let him eat it until I scooped him up and took him back to his dish. Feeding time just got a lot more challenging.

3 responses so far

Aug 26 2010

A Simple Plan

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family

Yesterday, Megan came up with a bright idea. She had a physio appointment in town, so she suggested that I accompany her to our friend Lu’s house and work there.

Lu’s house has the advantage of being significantly cooler, since it’s closer to the ocean, and also boasts high speed internet (sigh*) which (gasp) actually works. Lu and Rik were at work, so I’d have the place to myself. What’s not to love?

I packed up my laptop and overdue work, and Megan packed up the dogs. They love going to Lu’s, where there are two fenced acres to play on, and (usually) two dogs to play with. It was nice for them to get away from the heat and be able to play, even though their buddies Harlow and Marco weren’t home that day.

Megan made sure I was all set up before she left. It was delightful to sit in Lu’s sunny, spacious kitchen (a delicious 68 degrees, and proof that yes, it can be sunny and not be hot – I’m talking to you, Ma Nature!) and enjoy the speed of the interwebs. I’m used to waiting for things to load in our on-line database, but it was practically instant. I was amazed by how much I got done, and how quickly.

Occasionally, Star wandered in for pets and then wandered out again. I checked on the dogs occasionally, but they were busy doing their own thing, Schatzi hunting gophers and Star foraging for leftover pancakes in the compost. By the time Megan came back, I was finished and much more relaxed. As my father used to say, quoting the immortal Gilbert & Sullivan: “Oh! philosophers may sing/ Of the troubles of a king/ But of pleasures there are many and of troubles there are none/ And the culminating pleasure/ Which we treasure beyond measure Is the satisfying feeling that our duty has been done.”

When we got home, it was getting noticeably cooler. We had a couple of Mike’s raspberry Margaritas while making chicken Caesar salad wraps for dinner. No cooking required!

*Megan says that when I’m stressed or upset, I sigh a lot. I had no idea. I didn’t even know I was doing it. Apparently my sighing on Tuesday was so bad that it inspired her to come up with the Lu’s house scheme. So if you hear me sigh, look out.

4 responses so far

Aug 25 2010


Published by under Cats,Dogs

Yesterday was a really frustrating day.

I had a ton of work to do – which is supposed to be finished by the end of today – but I was frustrated at every turn by the perfect storm of my internet service provider’s failure to do same, and the “upgrade” of our on-line database, which meant, as upgrades usually do, that nothing worked. I lost track of how many times I called tech support for each provider.

I got nothing done by early afternoon, despite expending a lot of effort.

In addition to these frustrations, and despite Rob’s best efforts, it was 94 degrees in my house. Mother Nature certainly has a wicked sense of humor, what with natural disasters, bugs, and that whole gravity thing. All that complaining about the coldest summer since 1975 inspired her to say, “You want summer? I’ll give you summer!” The temperatures skyrocketed 40 degrees overnight, and smashed records all over the Bay Area.

The boys wilted on the floor, and Audrey was nowhere to be seen, presumably hiding under the house or in the woods.

Megan called to say that she was back from seeing the surgeon in Willits, and was cleared for takeoff on September 1, when she will resume her duties three months to the day after injuring her knee. She suggested that I take a break from my suffocating house and futile work efforts and go with her to walk the dogs on the beach. I opined that it would be just as hot there, and she laughed and said to trust her.

She was right, of course, and the sea breeze was refreshing. Star especially enjoyed frolicking in the water. I’m pleased to report that Schatzi’s leg is completely recovered, though she needs more exercise to restore her splendid musculature. You really would not believe that she is 10 years old.

I checked on the boys before camping out in Megan’s significantly cooler house. Her house is surrounded by trees, so it’s somewhat dark inside and never gets hot. On the other hand, she has to worry about trees hitting her house during winter storms. She and Rob lost six trees this past winter, and one just grazed the edge of the house.

Later, we went to sit in the garden and drink wine. Our brother came by, and we finally had the first barbecue of the waning year where we did not have to wear sweaters. Also, it’s the first time we’ve had dinner together in months. All’s well that ends well.

One response so far

Aug 24 2010

Rude Awakening

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Weather

A simple solution

Yikes. Audrey woke me up around 6:00 this morning, making a really scary howling noise (not to be mistaken for her “get lost, boys” growl, which I am hearing right now as I type this). I came downstairs and found her in front of the sliding glass doors in the living room, her fur and tail all puffed out.

I turned on the outside light, but couldn’t see anything out there, so I went out to see for myself. I expected at least a raccoon, but nothing. In the back of my mind, I hoped it would be June Bug and Audrey was trying to alert me to her return in a cinematic fashion, but once again, real life turned out to be disappointingly unlike the movies.

The boys were concerned (or curious), and kept approaching her, despite the constant rebuffs. Audrey was determined to go out, and I was determined to keep her in, even though her fur had deflated by this time.

I know it’s slightly irrational, and mountain lions and other predators don’t punch their time cards and clock out at 6:30, but I have to wait until it’s fairly light outside before I allow Audrey out.

Imagine how much fun it’s going to be keeping three of them in the house all night.

It’s already bad enough keeping the boys in during the day. About two days after their adoption and baptisms, the weather abruptly changed from silvery and cool to sunny and hot. Most people have been referring to this summer as “the summer that never was”, whereas to me it’s been close to an ideal summer, not least because it has kept the wildfires down and my brother out of danger.

One of the many eccentricities of James’s eccentric architectural style is the almost complete lack of windows that actually open. In my house, the only one that opens is in the shower, where, you know, you don’t really need it, especially in winter. The windows in Megan’s house and Jonathan’s former abode don’t open at all. To get any ventilation in our houses, we have to leave the doors open, which is not conducive to keeping cats in. So while I have six doors in the house, I couldn’t open them. Water, water everywhere, but nary a drop to drink!

Needless to say, it was Rob to the rescue.

He came over bearing a wooden baby gate, which he placed in the balcony door, facing west. A couple of minutes later, he appeared at the sliding glass doors of the living room (facing east), and put a metal grid in it (see above). The metal grid used to be outside the pantry door, to scrape boots on in the winter, but it makes a great screen. He then got a ladder and turned the switch on the ceiling fan so it supposedly cools the air*. He found the baby gate at the dump, so everything was free! Also, I hadn’t said a word to him about it, but I guess it all comes of his knowing me for most of his life.

*I can’t tell the difference, but I also couldn’t tell that it drew the warm air up in the winter, so maybe it’s Me. Where there’s no sense, there’s no feeling, as my grandmother used to say.

2 responses so far

Aug 23 2010

Let’s Hear It for the Boys

Published by under Cats,Henry


Meet the boys!

Well, the Evil Eighteenth was harder for me this year than it has been in a while. Grief is a strange thing. It can be nine years since you lost someone, and you can feel just as terrible as when you first got the news.

It’s probably because I lost both Henry Etta and June over such a short period of time this year, and my emotions were pretty raw. June’s death was as senseless and sudden as Dad’s was, and I think it reawakened a lot of those feelings.

It took some time to work through them. Fortunately, work has been very busy lately, which is great, since it occupies the surface of my mind (and in my case, surface is pretty much all there is) and helped me get through the days.

While I was busy working, the local Animal Care and Control was busy shutting down. In their infinite wisdom, the authorities decided to move everything to the county seat, a two hour drive away, for those who have a car. That means there’s no-one here to take care of lost or stray animals, or to deal with animal cruelty cases. Not to mention the loss of local jobs.

With the closure of the ACC shelter, the remaining Humane Society shelter was overwhelmed. They had more kittens than they knew what to do with, and I thought Audrey might like some company, so I went to see them with the intention of window-shopping. But I was taken with two little black kittens, who snuggled under my chin and purred so loudly that I thought the neighbors might complain.

The shelter worker told me that no-one wanted the black kittens, so they were two for the price of one. One of the kittens jammed his purring nose into my ear, and I knew I had two new family members.

As I filled out the paperwork, the kittens’ mother was being adopted! The shelter workers said that she was a wonderful mother, and that the kittens were the happiest and most affectionate they could remember having.

It soon became apparent that they shared Audrey’s distaste (and mine, for that matter) for traveling by car, and used the same method of expressing it. As soon as I got them home, I had to bathe them in the sink and apply Nature’s Miracle to the car’s upholstery. I might have to burn the carrier they came in.

Amazingly, they purred through the baths and were notably less upset by their sudden wetness than they were by the car ride. Here you see one of them asleep in the towel:


He looks a lot like a bat.

Audrey was not impressed with her bargain basement roommates. Here you see her giving them the stink eye:


Also, she is now making up for all the hissing and growling she didn’t do when Henry Etta moved in. But June and Audrey have always been great at adapting to circumstances, and they’ve been through so much in their lives, so I’m hoping that in time, she’ll accept them and maybe even like them. In the meantime, she can teach them how to be a wonderful cat.

By the way: I’m open to suggestions for names for these little boys!

7 responses so far

Aug 13 2010

Random Notes

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Family,Henry

People complain these days, and maybe rightly, about the downside of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, but there are good things about it, too.

Just this morning, I learned the following on Facebook:

  • A friend and his girlfriend became first-time parents;
  • A friend’s beloved only brother returned safely home from serving in Afghanistan;
  • A friend’s sister had successful surgery for cancer, with a very positive outlook for the future;
  • A friend arrived safely in his native country, to which he is returning after many years abroad, and where he and his long-time partner are building a new home and new life together.

That’s a lot of good news for one day, from all over the world. Way to start Friday the 13th!

Meanwhile, back in Suzy world…

I’m getting swampéed with emails from money managers. One of the trade rags published an article saying that one of our clients might possibly be looking for a new money manager sometime, maybe, and listed my name and email address. Après moi, le déluge. Also, they all seemed to miss the fact that it’s only a possibility, and may or may not happen. No matter how many I answer, there are still more. It’s the Sorcerer’s Apprentice of email!

To escape my inbox, I went to town yesterday. It was still pretty early, thanks to Audrey and the still-invisible mouse, so the Safeway was delightfully unpopulated. You would be surprised by how busy it usually is, considering the town only has 5,000 residents.

I was trying vainly to reach something on an upper shelf, and someone actually came over and helped me. Imagine. I have to admit that I’m not above being a helpless girl when it suits my purposes. I might as well enjoy it, since my cuteness has a rapidly-approaching expiration date of its own.

When I got in line, there was only one person ahead of me. Behind me there was a pushy broad with a giant bottle of Pepsi. Why she didn’t use the express lane, which was wide open and unpopulated at that early hour, is beyond me. Same goes for why she kept shoving her cart into me, including when I was trying to pay for my hard-won groceries. I get extra credit for not saying a thing.

On the way home, I stopped in to see my brother. I had a bunch of mail for him – we all share one mailbox – and I wanted to see how the water heater replacement was coming along. Slowly, it turned out, but hopefully he’ll get it fixed soon. While I was there, I visited Henry, who is sleeping peacefully under her tree, and checked on the bees.

I could see where the phrase “busy as a bee” comes from*, since the bees were very active. You should have heard the happy humming coming from the hive! The returning bees were so loaded down with pollen that they could hardly fly. My brother has given them a little bucket of water with a screen in it, so they can drink without drowning. They seem to be thriving. Now all we have to do is decide how to treat them to prevent mites this winter: the organic way, or the chemical way. We’re leaning toward organic. Though we may lose more, the ones that survive will be stronger. Darwinism in our own backyard.

*Turns out it’s Chaucer! So it’s a very old phrase. I guess bees haven’t changed their ways much over the past 700 years.

4 responses so far

Aug 12 2010


Published by under Calamity Suzy,Cats,Family

Spot the Audrey!

Here you see Audrey perched on the bureau in the sleeping loft. She has the opposite of acrophobia. She has love of heights. Only an empty box makes her happier than being as high up as possible. She must enjoy looking down on me.

I heard her racketing around downstairs this morning at about 5:00. I came down to investigate, and discovered her chasing a mouse. I screamed and fled in the traditional girl manner, retreating to my bed. Needless to say, I was unable to sleep, so I just got up again about twenty minutes later.

The intruder was nowhere to be seen. I put on three lights in the living room, instead of my usual one, and am now looking around in horror, trying to decide whether it would be worse to find a live mouse or a dead one. Audrey is acting like nothing ever happened, waiting for it to be light enough to be allowed outside, whereas I am so nervous that coffee is probably superfluous at this point.

It’s probably a good time to resume the laundry project interrupted by the Back Débâcle this weekend. It seems to have recovered, but I’m being extra-careful and trying to remember to lift with my legs, not my back. It’s astonishing how many times a girl bends in a day. You only notice it when you can’t do it. When I was taking care of Megan after her knee surgery, I felt like I was flaunting my bendiness around her. Maybe this is karma?

3 responses so far

Aug 11 2010


Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family

I was walking by my front door this morning when I glanced outside and noticed Schatzi. I went outside, and before I could even pet her, she was joined by the always bouncy Star. I don’t think anyone has ever been as happy to see me as that dog is, even though I don’t live with her or feed her or anything. She can’t stop jumping on me and kissing me. Maybe Megan should keep her, just for my ego’s sake.

With the dogs prancing around me, I returned them to Megan’s house. On the way, I regretted wearing my amethyst velvet slippers and kitty PJs, since the huckleberry bushes were soaked with dew, or fog, or both.

Will I ever have appropriate country footwear on for any occasion?

After I delivered the dogs, I went back home and got back to work. I had a conference call with my far-flung co-workers, and during the call I pondered the fact that I will wear my PJs during team calls, but not when I’m talking to anyone outside the firm. Even though no-one can see me.

Go figure.

Fortunately, I was dressed when the sheriff showed up. I heard a car pull up and then a knock at the door. No-one ever knocks around here, from dogs to people, so I knew it would be a stranger. I didn’t expect it to be law enforcement, asking for my sister. She was in town getting physio, and I couldn’t reach her by cell phone, so I asked him if I could help.

He said that Megan is a witness in an animal cruelty case, and he has to give her the paperwork in person. I took his phone number and he went on his way. It’s surprising how unnerving a visit from the Law can be, even when they look about 18* and you are, relatively speaking, law-abiding.

Later, I was talking on the phone to Erica, about the kinds of things girls do (school; kids; the power of cleavage) when I saw my brother’s car pull up. I don’t see him as often as you’d think, mostly because of his hectic schedule of working and being a firefighter, so it was a nice surprise. He borrowed a couple of movies and headed home to get some much-needed rest.

He spent 26 straight hours looking for the missing woman over the weekend, and when he got home from that, discovered that his hot water heater had exploded, drenching all his camping gear. My brother used to be a serious camper, even camping in the Sierras in the winter, so his gear is good and was quite an investment. He was able to hang it out to dry, but now he’s living (hopefully temporarily) without hot water. No good deed goes unpunished!

*His obvious youth reminded me of how my father used to say “The bottles get smaller and smaller, and the policemen look like little boys.” I now realize that he was not, in fact, kidding.

2 responses so far

Aug 10 2010

Lost & Found

Published by under Country Life



Notice anything different?

While I was marooned on the couch with my backache this weekend, Mark and a friend of his put a window in my house! It sheds some much-needed light on the studio and the many things which still need to be organized and put away in there. One good thing about being incapacitated is you have a great excuse not to do anything. On the other hand, all that laundry and tidying is just waiting there for me when I feel better.

Time is not on my side.

While the window was being installed, my brother and his fellow firefighters were searching for an elderly woman who went missing while walking her dog. She suffers from Alzheimer’s disease, and this is not the first time she has wandered off. I have to say I was surprised by the hue and cry, though. The local search and rescue personnel were supplemented by local civilians and officials from outside the county.

Helicopters barely skimmed the tops of the trees, and it sounded like a war zone out there. Or Oakland. You’d think they were looking for the Lindbergh baby.

I’m pleased to report that both the woman and her dog were found after two days of searching, alive and as well as could be expected under the circumstances.

Never a dull moment around here!

5 responses so far

Aug 09 2010

Bringin’ Calamity Back

Published by under Calamity Suzy

Note to Self: housework is very bad for you, and should be avoided at all costs. A cleaning lady is a perfectly legitimate healthcare expense in your case.

On Saturday, I waxed the floor in a bout of temporary insanity. I knew that it would still look semi-bad, since it desperately needs refinishing, and, like everywhere else in the house, sports splotches of paint from previous bad paint jobs. One of the more depressing aspects of attempting to clean my hippie hovel is that you can work on it for hours and it still looks crappy. Whether it’s painting or cleaning, the result is never better than slightly less crappy.

I knew all this, and yet, I persisted in waxing the floor.

On Sunday, I went to do some laundry, and carelessly bent over to pick up the basket. I soon discovered that:

a. I couldn’t stand back up again; and
2. It hurt like hell.

Abandoning the laundry project, I hobbled swearingly to the phone and called a medic. As you do.

My sister hobbled over with drugs and settled me on the couch with the heating pad. You know you’re pathetic when your sister has to crutch over to take care of you. I guess it was my turn, after taking care of her for the past couple of weeks, but still. Also the irony is not lost on me that I managed to mess myself up almost immediately following getting a clean-ish and expensive-ish bill of health from the clinic.

As I write, a postcard and its magnet have fallen off the face of the refrigerator, and are lying on my waxed floor, mocking me. It’s driving me crazy that I can’t pick them up. But I can’t stop looking at them, either.

4 responses so far

Aug 07 2010


Published by under Bullshit,Country Life,Dogs

Yesterday, the shower only turned icy cold twice. And I wasn’t shaving my armpits or trying to rinse off conditioner (a near-impossible feat in cold water), so, you know, score!

As I stood away from the frigid trickle, choosing the cold air over the cold water, I tried not to think about all the water I was wasting waiting for it to get warm again, and instead wondered what the hell was up with it. This has been a problem ever since Mark overhauled the water system on the property. I mentioned it to him, and he said to call him when it happens. But even if I had a phone in my bathroom, I think I’d refrain for both our sakes.

Megan, Rob, the dogs and I carpooled greenly to town as my hair dried. I felt like a kid in the back seat, while Megan and Rob discussed car repairs and other grown-up topics in the front seat. Even though I’m older than they are. Schatzi curled up in her dainty fashion, while Star took up most of the seat and sprawled all over me. She is under the illusion that she is a lap dog. Also, I think the person who comes up with a way to train dogs not to lick you all the time would make a million billion dollars.

Megan and I checked out the local pool, which is new and fancy. It even has a bathing suit wringing machine in the ladies’ locker room. How’s that for modern science? Their pricing info runs to two pages, so I will have to study it carefully before I can figure out if I can afford it or not.

Although the library emailed me yesterday to tell me that I have several items waiting for me there, they were closed at the time, so I couldn’t pick them up. I imagine my annoyance at this is equalled by the librarians’, who have Friday and Monday off, but not Saturday.

Megan dropped Rob off and then me, while she went to hang out with Monica and talk about dogs. I unfortunately had to have a check-up, which meant wasting valuable hours of what’s left of my life, first in a waiting room equipped with hunting and fishing magazines, along with “American Cheerleader” (“Your best pep rally ever!”), which failed to cheer me in the slightest, and then in a hot little examining room. Fortunately, I didn’t have to wear one of those dignity-destroying little people wrappers.

One of my many high school boyfriends* had a father who was a doctor, and he told me that however many exam rooms they have is how many patients they book for that time, hence the endless waits at the doctor’s office. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I certainly had enough time to consider that and how you truly realize how downwardly mobile you are when you have to go to a clinic with all the other uninsured dregs of society. I looked back on my days of doctors, dentists and specialists with elegant offices and glossy magazines in their tasteful San Francisco waiting rooms and could barely hold back the tears.

One thing I have learned the hard and expensive way is that when you don’t have money, that means you have to pay more. Can’t pay the entire, enormous Amerigas bill? You get to pay additional service charges as you pay it off! Don’t have health insurance and can’t afford to get any? You get to pay $70 for sitting around the clinic surrounded by howling babies and homeless people. Yay! Because you make too much money to get a discount. You make too much money for anything like that, though mysteriously, not enough to pay all your bills and rent. Just another of life’s bitter little mysteries.

*I may have taken him to the curb prematurely. His parents had two Rolls Royces and invitations to every coronation from Queen Victoria onward. Also, he now works at NBC-Universal in London.

One response so far

Aug 04 2010


Published by under Cooking

I seem to have been assigning myself a lot of dessert homework lately, for some reason. It might be the advent of the Official Month of Death, since its arrival often seems to send me into a cooking frenzy.

I got some rhubarb and strawberries at the farmers’ market, so naturally it was time to make…


Rhubarb and Berry Crumble
With thanks to Jacques Pépin

3/4 lb rhubarb, cut into 2 inch pieces (about 3 cups) [Note: I cut it smaller]
3/4 lb strawberries, hulled and sliced (about 2 & 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup sugar
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup granola
5 tablespoons butter, room temperature

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Once again, Jacques wants you to mix things in a separate bowl before putting them in the casserole. Since I don’t have minions on staff to wash dishes (or a dishwasher, for that matter), I just mixed everything in the baking dish. He also wants you to add 24 fresh spearmint or peppermint leaves, but it sounds weird to me. If it sounds good to you, though, have at it and let me know how it turns out.

Another thing Jacques and I disagree on is the amount of sugar in the fruit and the granola. I think the rhubarb needs more than 1/4 cup of sugar, and the granola doesn’t need any. But he says to divide the sugar between the fruit and the granola. I put 1/3 cup sugar in the fruit and left the granola alone.


Mix the fruit with the sugar, two tablespoons of the flour and mint leaves if that’s your thing. Place in a baking dish.

Mix the granola with sugar, if you’re using it, the other two tablespoons of flour, and the butter until crumbly. I added a handful of chopped pecans. Sprinkle over the fruit and bake for about 35 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is browned. Jacques wants you to serve it with sour cream or crème fraîche. If you aren’t as selective* as I am about dairy products, you might like it Jacques-style, too.

*Basically, it’s butter and some kinds of cheese and that’s it.

3 responses so far

Aug 03 2010

Hooterville Safari

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Dogs

The mostly dead wisteria vine

And today, on Wild Kingdom…

When I took the coffeepot out to fill it with water, a little moth fluttered in. I had to persuade it to leave. If it had stayed, it probably could have flown to the moon unaided, since the coffee I made was totally atomic. I accidentally bought ground coffee, and was unwilling to drive for over an hour to correct the error. Unfortunately, it has been so long since I dealt with pre-ground coffee that I have no idea how much to put in the filter. Nor am I inclined to overthink this in a pre-caffeinated state.

My usual MO is to fill up my trusty coffee grinder with beans. However much that is turns out to be the exact right amount, as is so often the case when I cook. Half an onion? Exactly what I needed! Some leftover cilantro? The perfect addition to burritos! However, this was not the case with the ground coffee. A coffee grinder full is too much. The coffee was so strong that I actually had to water it down, making my very own, teeny little Americano.

While I was still waking up, Star came bursting through the front door, left open for my and Audrey’s mutual convenience. She raced across the room, kissed my surprised nose, and then jumped up on the couch next to me and curled up, settling in as if she lived here. It was super cute, and took less time to happen than for you to read about it.

Then the phone rang. You know how parents always ruin your fun. They came and got her before we had a chance to do each other’s nails.

After Star went home, I went to feed Audrey, only to see a lizard scuttling under the washing machine. I thoughtfully left the door open for him, considering not for the first time how blurred the line is between indoors and outdoors here. In fact, there may well be no line at all.

It turned out that Audrey was otherwise occupied anyway. She came trotting into the yard outside the sliding glass doors with a snake writhing in her mouth. I know that the snakes around here are harmless, but that doesn’t make them any less gross, or unwelcome in my house, whether alive and sliming or dead and flaccid. She played with it for a while, and then got bored and went to do something else.

It wasn’t just to keep the snake where it belonged that I shut the sliding glass doors. Really. It was because of the hummingbird which was feeding off the honeysuckle right outside them. He kept buzzing perilously near the open door, and I don’t know about you, but I didn’t want to try and catch something that can fly 30 mph (and dive at 60). It was fun to watch him zooming around and hovering, though.

Later, I caught myself brushing a spiderweb* off the (mostly) dead wisteria outside and wondered if the crazy gene has finally caught up with me. Megan and Rob both assure me that it’s not really dead and there’s new growth coming along, but it sure looks dead to me. I’d like to get a cutting of the jasmine that covers part of their house and train it up the dead(ish) vine. Imagine how great the honeysuckle and jasmine would smell together!

*Sometimes I wonder what would happen if I just gave up on my constant spiderweb removal. How long would it take until this looked like the Addams’ Family’s vacation home?

3 responses so far

Aug 02 2010

The Finish Line

Published by under Country Life

Remember the great driveway project?

Looks like it’s finally complete.

Today, a giant blue truck came rumbling down the dusty driveway, merrily snapping the power line and depositing gravel as it went. Mark temporarily fixed the electrical line, which was draped precariously from my house into the trees, as a tractor came by to smooth out the gravel:


Here’s a “before” picture:


And here’s the “after”:


It looks nice, doesn’t it? I’m so glad that the crazy potholes, leaking water pipes, summer puff dust (which coats the inside and outside of your car) and winter mud are all a thing of the past.

2 responses so far

Aug 01 2010


Published by under Country Life

While reading in bed this morning (the spooky and engrossing The Little Stranger, by Sarah Waters), it occurred to me that I have quite nice views from the comfort of my bed. Let’s see if you agree:


The skylight at the foot of my bed. Ironically, the sunlight pouring through it makes the room look dark in the picture, though not in real life. Go figure.


Looking to the right from my bed. The skylight is at the far left of the picture. The sleeping loft looks down on the living area.


The door to the balcony at the front of the house is to the left.

Not a bad place to be on a sunny Sunday morning.

5 responses so far