Archive for December, 2010

Dec 31 2010

A Country Year

Published by under Country Life

Festive shelf in my living room. Megan gave me the lit-up wax bird, and Monica gave me the snowflake ornament.

My first complete calendar year in the country. It was a year characterized by loss and sadness, not just for me, but for nearly everyone I know and love. Here’s hoping the new year is kinder to all of us.

This year also marks the first full calendar year of tracking the books I read. I read 140 books this year.

And I started tracking rainfall for this winter. So far this season, which started early, in September, rainfall totals are 29.21 inches in Hooterville through the last storm. Yesterday the flooded Highway 128 (aka the Road to Civilization) opened after being closed for a day due to flooding. This happens every year, usually more than once, making us even more isolated than usual.

As for my resolutions for this year, I’d give myself a C. I tried to keep up with my emails, but mostly didn’t. I only had one Calamity Suzy incident, and it was pretty minor, compared to last year’s rib-breaking fall from the loft. As for unpacking and organizing, also nearly complete. Everything is unpacked, but the studio and pantry are still in need of organization. I’ve been good about categorizing blog posts.

Even though we all break our resolutions, I’m going to try and worry about the cats less (and walk the dogs more). I will try and be more positive, though overcoming my native pessimism, especially in the face of continued bad luck for the past decade, may prove too challenging for the slothful dilettante. Also work on the “garden” to make it a better outdoor living space.

Here’s a recap of the year that was. Wishing you all a happy and healthy 2011!


January: The New Year starts off with a sob at the death of the Lovely Rita. I learn the terrible truth about Key lime pie. An earthquake reminds me who’s boss. So does a thunderstorm. The disgusting Compost Conundrum rears its stinky head. My house’s, uh, eccentricities. The first power outage of the year. Fourth Sunday breakfast (and book sale)! Escape to the City. Extreme take-out. The glitz and glory that is Cartier.

February: Dr. Karen opens her new office. The ailing Henry Etta. Banking bullshit. The haunting Gene Clark. A day at the Citrus Fair. Another power outage. The charitable yard sale. A successful adoption.

March: An evening of music and magic. Bee boots. Rain and storms, and lots of ’em. Dad’s birthday. A taste of summer. The beginning of the end for Henry Etta. New cat door. A tea party. hail storm. Henry’s last picture.

April: A sudden loss. Saying goodbye. A quick trip to San Francisco. A walk at Big River. The story of Henry. Suzy the criminal. My blog turns nine. Accidental activism. The great Dog Rescue adventure. The writer.

May: Birthday covets. Schatzi’s injury. Endless winter. Megan’s birthday. Girls’ night out.

June: My annual haircut. Megan’s knee injury. The terrible loss of the Beautiful June Bug on my birthday. Disastrous triplette to Santa Rosa to try and lift my spirits. Local bees take over our hive. The big driveway remodel.

July: The painting project begins. Megan’s knee surgery. A visit from Jessica. Ribollita soup. The slow recovery. Turkey enchilada casserole. Dream vacations substitute for real ones.

August: A room with a view. The driveway project is complete. Rhubarb and berry crumble. The high price of housework. New window. Unexpected visits. The arrival of the kittens! Naming the kittens. First vet visit.

September: Home improvement. Chicken Pilau. Megan is back at work. My house: before and after. Another visit from Jessica. New camera. A tour of my house.

October: New carpet! New plants! North Indian Style Spinach Chicken. Checking on the bees. Beautiful Audrey. Be Afraid. Kittens at play. The floor painting adventure. Anniversary. Audrey and Clyde get closer. More home improvements.

November: Halloween. The Giants’ World Series Champions Victory Parade. Day of the Dead. Solar panels at my brother’s place. Sausage and Bean Casserole. A breakthrough for Star. A trip to the city. An evening at the theater with Erica and Jessica. World’s most expensive sneakers. Back home. New Harry Potter movie. Hailstorm. The Thanksgiving that wasn’t. Thai Chicken Soup. A visit from Jarrett.

December: Holiday lights and storm prep. Meatloaf Suzy Style. Christmas decorations. New hose and rain gauge. The boys turn six months old. Curried Lentils. Sunlight and shadow. Un-Christmas presents. Paul comes to visit. Vertigo. The death of the phone. Parsnip Vichyssoise. Christmas.

3 responses so far

Dec 26 2010

Scenes from a Christmas

Published by under Jessica,Special Occasions

The stockings were hung – well, piled – by the “tree”. I bought it from an artist in Mexico many years ago.

Christmas crackers on my maternal grandmother’s platter. They didn’t pop very well, but they had good prizes (a tiny metal yoyo, a keychain with a faux diamond) and shiny metal crowns to wear during dinner.

My paternal grandmother’s ivory-handled silver and star dish, and my maternal grandmother’s wine glasses.

My world-famous cheese biscuits.

Erica’s amazing Yule Log. The mushrooms are meringue. Finally, a mushroom this family will eat!

Jessica opening the Lily Munster* doll I gave her…

…and dancing** to her new favorite song, “Airship Pilot” by Abney Park:

*Jessica first fell in love with La Lily this Halloween.

**I thought I took a movie of her dance moves, but alas, there were technical (read: user) difficulties.

5 responses so far

Dec 24 2010


Published by under Bullshit,Special Occasions,Weather


You will (not) be amazed to learn that the phone phixers phailed to call me, or show up. At about 6:30, I called their repair number to ask for an update, and was on hold through the entire length of “Sick, Sad World” (also known as the news). After about 45 minutes, I hung up in frustration. Cell phones do not slam down in anger as satisfyingly as the heavy old fashioned dial phones of my youth.

AT&T called a couple of days ago to say that they had “remotely” checked the phone and it was fine. I told them it wasn’t, and spent some valuable time confirming the appointment with them. Possibly I should ask Santa to put a lump of coal in their stockings when he water skis out of here, along with a clear definition of “customer service”.

I think the decision has been made for me – by them! – and they are getting the axe ASAP. Spotty and sometimes non-existent cell phone service is looking pretty good to me right about now.

It’s a gloomy Christmas Eve here in Hooterville, and the trees are tossing their heads in a way that always makes me think “power outage”. It’s usually the wind toppling trees into power lines that causes it. We’re slated to get rain for the rest of the year, to add to our already impressive total of 24.71 inches for the season.

I really shouldn’t complain compared to muddy and floody SoCal, who bore the brunt of the last storm, and where Paul is spending Christmas with his only child, her husband, and their two children. Yay for grandchildren on Christmas Day! They live in beautiful Pasadena, and Paul described his drive down there as “hellish”, and he is not a man given to overstatement about anything. He might come back up here for a short visit before he returns to the sunny shores of Florida. I apologized for the bad weather while he was here, and he said, “I’m here for the company, not the weather.”

The dizziness has, sadly, not abated. It has made cooking a little unnerving. Kneeling to light the oven, and cocking my head to see where I was applying the match, made me frighteningly dizzy, as did reaching down a box of chicken broth from a high shelf. So looking up too far or leaning down too far are as bad as turning on my side in bed. Got it. Maybe I should try applying a couple of Christmas cocktails and see if they cancel it out.

Yesterday, Meg told me that Lu had this for about a month. It was a virus, so there was nothing to do but wait it out. Even if I wanted to spend $75 and half a day going to the clinic, they would probably just take my money and say the same thing. So I’ll wait it out, and be careful in the meantime. I’ve managed to be pretty much Calamity Suzy-free this year. I have an image to protect, as well as Self.

Other than that, I really don’t have much holiday stress. The presents are wrapped, as you see above. The tree is from Mexico and has a candle inside. It’s the best I can do this year. Megan and I will put the stockings together today and hope for the kitten best. I’ll tidy up the house a little this afternoon or tomorrow morning. We’ll have dinner around 6:30 or 7:00 on Christmas Day*, and since my brother is dealing with the ham, all I’ll have to do is make mashes potatoes, steam green beans, and make my famous cheese biscuits. Erica is bringing a Yule Log she made for dessert, so the most exhausting thing I’ll have to do as hostess is open wine and decant my grandmother’s ivory-handled silverware from its velvet-lined chest.

I think I can handle it.

*I have never understood people who have Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner at some ungodly hour in the afternoon.

2 responses so far

Dec 23 2010

Christmas Eve’s Eve

Published by under Cooking,Family,Special Occasions

Kitten proof Christmas tree!

Yesterday morning, I heard the pantry door close and went to investigate. It was around 8:00 in the morning, so I figured it was Rob. But it was Megan, bearing bags of Christmas groceries. We divided up the list on Monday, and on Tuesday I braved the crowds to get my part on a day when all the other shoppers appeared to have had their brains removed or somehow become zombies while simultaneously equipping themselves with an outsize number of screaming kids. Megan shopped at 6:30 in the morning, when there are few shoppers, but the shelves are being stocked and there are huge carts and stockers everywhere you want to be. Also she was shopping after twelve hours of work.

I think I know who had the worse shopping experience.

While I was decanting bags in the pantry and feeding the cats, Megan put the gel tree you see above on the sliding glass doors in the living room to surprise me. “Now you finally have a tree the cats can’t mess with,” she said.

I have the best sister ever.

In the spirit of Doing Things Ahead, which I firmly believe is the key to surviving the holidays with a modicum of sanity left, I made Thursday night’s turkey chili on Wednesday (chili is always better the next day) and am starting the lengthy process of Christmas Eve’s parsnip vichyssoise today. We have had this soup for Christmas Eve dinner for many years, going way back to the halcyon days when Dad spent every other Christmas with us. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do.

Parsnip Vichyssoise

2 large leeks, white part only, halved lengthwise and sliced crosswise, 1/2 inch thick
2 & 1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled and cut into two inch chunks
3 medium boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into two inch chunks
8 garlic gloves, peeled and lightly crushed
1 onion, halved and sliced thinly
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
6 cups chicken broth
4 ounces butter, cut into small pieces
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
3 cups milk
2 cups cream (I use half and half)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
12 whole chives, plus 2 tablespoons, snipped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large, shallow roasting pan, combine the leeks, parsnips, potatoes, garlic, and onion. Sprinkle with cardamom and brown sugar and stir to combine. Pour two cups of stock over the vegetables and dot with the butter. Cover tightly with foil and bake for two hours, until the vegetables are very tender, stirring occasionally during cooking.

Transfer the vegetables and any liquid to a large saucepan. Add the remaining 4 cups of stock and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.

Working in small batches, transfer the vegetables and liquid to food processor and puree until smooth (I like it a little chunky). The soup can be prepared to this point up to two days ahead. Let cool, cover, and refrigerate. It may be necessary to thin the soup with a little stock before reheating.

To finish the soup, add the milk and cream and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until warmed through. Do not boil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with whole chives and snipped chives for garnish.

One response so far

Dec 22 2010


Published by under Country Life

The other thing that happened on Weird Sunday was that the phone line expired. Or quit. Or went on strike.

Anyway, the phone didn’t work.

When Megan called me, it just rang and rang, so she came over to investigate and found me in the previously mentioned dizzy state. The power was already out, so she tried the Bat Phone (the see-through corded one I have for the inevitable power outages every winter), but got no dial tone.

She sent Rob over, and he spent some time checking things and stuff outside and inside, before finally saying that whatever was wrong was beyond his considerable abilities. This both surprised me and made me realize that I finally have the ideal phone: one that never rings.

So I fired up my cell phone, and have been using it ever since. The down side to this is leaving it on all the time, instead of checking it a couple of times a day for messages. It has a distressing propensity for ringing, usually at inopportune moments, since it’s my work phone. But at least I’m not totally incommunicada.

Someone is coming out to check on/fix the phone tomorrow, sometime between 8 am and 8 pm. If they get here during the latter part of the twelve hour picture window they have allotted themselves, they’re going to have a really hard time seeing anything out there in the country style darkness. Also, I hope they call me for directions, since there’s more than one house at this address.

At this point, though, I’m kind of wondering why I’m having it repaired at all. I haven’t really missed it, and it would save me $35 a month if I just cancelled it. And cell phones allow you to send a call straight to voicemail, unlike regular phones (why is that?). Does anyone really need both a cell phone and a landline?

One response so far

Dec 21 2010

Dizzy Broad

Published by under Weather

For once, the lack of posting lately wasn’t because of SuzySlothâ„¢, but because I was truly powerless to write (or at least post).

On Sunday, the power was out nearly all day. It was also out yesterday, and when it came back on, I hurried to get the laundry and dishes done and take a shower while I could. I guess if the power was out for a longer time period, I’d end up boiling water from the buckets on the back porch on my gas stove and doing these chores Little House on the Prairie style (like many books, much more fun to read about than experience in real life. The Long Winter springs to mind).

When the power is out here, there’s an eerie silence. I know I should be enjoying the sound of the rain and wind, Nature’s symphony, and all that crap, but to quote Katharine Hepburn in “The African Queen”, “Nature, Mr. Alnutt, is what we are put in this world to rise above.” Notice that even cave men had caves to avoid living outside, and that progressive generations have gotten as far away from Ma Nature and her evil sense of humor as possible. So when the power goes out, all I want is a return of heat and light and civilization, the sooner the better.

Sunday was a weird day anyway, because I woke up with an attack of vertigo. Clyde was smothering me as usual, and in pushing him off my face, I turned my head quickly. The room spun around me as if I’d spent the night drinking with Keith Richards in Tijuana instead of having the usual assortment of bad dreams and nightmares which make me question my sanity once I wake up.

I sat up carefully, and waited for the room to stop dancing around. It did, and I carefully made my way downstairs. I felt too weird to drink coffee, so that may well have contributed to the lightheadedness for the rest of the day. I spent most of the day in bed with three sweaters on, flipping through the latest Vogue and Pamflet and reading Ann Beattie’s New Yorker Stories while wishing the power would come back on and trying not to get too creeped out by the silence and darkness.

Eventually, it turned out that the dizziness only appears when I am lying down and turn over, or put my head down too much, as when wrapping my head in a towel after a shower. Megan thinks it may well be the head congestion caused by my ever-present allergies making my inner ear wonky, so I’ve been taking non drowsy Sudafed for the past couple of days and hoping for the best.

2 responses so far

Dec 18 2010


Published by under Special Occasions

Yesterday’s crop of mail was quite outstanding. A “New Yorker” (the subscription was the gift of a friend) and a batch of Christmas cards, including one from some friends who have known us since we were kids, one from a fan of my blog (love that!), and one from my dear friend Patrisha.

Patrisha always makes her own cards, and they are always wonderful. I love her drawing style, and thought I’d share it with you this year. So Patrisha’s gift to me is now my gift to you. How’s that for recycling? 🙂

Patrisha with her dog Hamish and her cat Quince, who is Audrey’s mother. You can see the resemblance.

The cupcake tree.

The wearable wreath.

2 responses so far

Dec 17 2010

Thursday Dinner: A Catered Affair

Published by under Cooking,Special Occasions,Weather

A winter scene: fallen leaves, sprouting mushrooms beside my house

Mushrooms are as much a sign of winter around here as the advent of robins. Most of them are not as scenic as this one, which is rumored to be poisonous or possibly merely hallucinogenic. I left it alone after I took its picture. We’re slated to get five inches of rain this weekend, so the stage is set for winter, even though it technically isn’t here yet.

We may get rain from today through Christmas. Does Santa have a jet ski? Or at least a pair of really cute rain shoes?

But you don’t need Santa Claus when you have Santa Paul. I think I speak for many girls when I say I’d much prefer a white-haired, blue-eyed gent sweeping into my kitchen and making me a fabulous dinner than some degenerate old housebreaker leaving me tatty gifts and expecting me to make him cookies.

Since Paul lived here before me, he knew that he was up against in my kitchenette: three feet of counter space, a petite ovenette with one shelf, and no dishwasher. Still, he was able to produce the following:

  1. He boned a turkey breast, glazed it with maple syrup, Dijon mustard, and crushed black peppercorms, and roasted it on a bed of celery, onions, carrots, and fresh tarragon. The “bed” was later strained and the pan juices used to make gravy.
  2. Oven-roasted potatoes, parsnips, and sweet potatoes.
  3. Zucchini fritters, as requested by Megan. Secret ingredient: matzo meal!
  4. Green beans.
  5. Pear and apple galette, served with fresh blueberries.

Santa Paul also has a well-trained elf who made sure I didn’t end up with a sink full of dishes.

It was the best Thursday night dinner ever!

2 responses so far

Dec 16 2010


Published by under Cooking,Country Life



It took me over a year, but I finally have country-appropriate footwear. At least for winter.

In the second image, you can see my hard-won sneakers which cost as much as my beautiful Manolo Blahniks (in the first image) did in a consignment shop about 10 years ago. I just bought some pull-on rain boots, also in the second picture, which are just the thing to slip into to run over to Megan’s or check on the bees. Notice how I was able to find cute rain shoes.

I think we can all agree that the shoes from my city life are really not appropriate for my country life.

So, wearing my appropriate sneakers and my one fleece, Paul and I are heading to town today to get the materials for a splendid Thursday night dinner, which has the outstanding characteristic of Not Being Cooked by Me. It’s great when your visiting friend just happens to be a professional cook who caters to the stars in the Hamptons in the summer.

Last night, I was trying to get some dish from him on his celebrity clientele. Here’s what I got. He catered a fashion shoot for one of the Olsen twins, but couldn’t remember which one it was. He also did an event for Jerry Seinfeld.

Me: Did you meet him?

Paul: Yeah.

Me: What was he like? Was he nice?

Paul: Sure. He seemed pretty nice.

Me: (still trying) Was he funny?

Paul: Well, he didn’t give me his opinions on world events or confide in me or anything.

At this point, I realized I wasn’t going to get anything good, though you’ll be pleased to hear that Jerry is a good tipper. I promise you will, however, hear all about tonight’s dinner in all its glorious detail. Maybe even tomorrow.

3 responses so far

Dec 13 2010

Un-Christmas Presents

Published by under Family

If, as Lewis Carroll says, there are 364 days a year to receive un-birthday presents, the same goes for un-Christmas presents. And they may be even more delightful.

Rob has been taking a ceramics course a couple of nights a week, a birthday present from our thoughtful Erica. So my unbirthday presents arose from a birthday present.

Exhibit A is this bowl:

He molded it from cabbage leaves, fired it, and glazed it with both green and blue:

I know I could eat a salad out of it, or even cabbage, but so far, it remains an objet d’art on the shelf above my sofa, along with this beautiful little box:

I thought Rob made the texture by pressing grass into the clay, but he actually achieved this bucolic effect by wrapping an empty plastic bottle with crinkled plastic wrap. However he got there, I love the look and shape of it. It also happens to look perfect with a string of hand-carved amethyst beads:

On a more practical note, while still being both decorative and delightful, Erica made me a hat. Which doubles as a scarf/neckwarmer:

I can wrap it around my head, kerchief style, and button it in place so my hair sort of cascades out the back. Or I can wear it around my neck. It’s incredibly soft and luxurious, and comforting to wear inside my drafty house or outside in the wind.

I’m so lucky to have such great friends. And speaking of friends: Paul arrives tomorrow!

5 responses so far

Dec 12 2010

Sunlight & Shadow

Published by under Country Life

Lately, I’ve been trying to capture the look of sunlight and shadow at different times of day.

Maybe it’s human nature, or maybe it’s Suzy nature, but having a better camera has made me want a much better camera. Getting closer to catching a moment makes me really want to be able to get it. Maybe one of these days. In the meantime, step into my laboratory and have a peek.

Afternoon sunlight on my front door. I liked the texture of the wood and the patina of the doorknob in this light. Also the lacy look of the shadows against the rough wood.

The side of the house looks kind of magical in this light.

The reflection of the shade at my desk on the bathroom door.

Morning light on the sleeping loft (before I put my beautiful lamp away in a kitten-induced huff).

6 responses so far

Dec 10 2010

Thursday Dinner: Curried Lentils

Published by under Cooking

We’re up to 20.5 inches of rain for the season. See above!

After last week’s meatapalooza, I went vegetarian – and possibly even vegan – this week, with:

Curried Lentils

1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon finely chopped peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric*
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry powder or paste
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils (10 oz)
1 (13- to 14-oz) can unsweetened coconut milk
1 lb zucchini (2 medium), cut into 1/4-inch dice

Cook onion in oil in a 3 1/2- to 4-quart heavy pot over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until edges are golden, about 6 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add cumin, coriander, turmeric, salt, and curry powder or paste, and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Stir in water, lentils, and coconut milk, then simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini and simmer, covered, until lentils and zucchini are tender, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and serve with cilantro sprigs scattered on top.

Notes: As usual, I upped the garlic and cumin. You could use chicken or vegetable broth in place of the water. Supposedly, this serves 6-8 people, but we ate the whole thing. Served it with brown rice.

*Question: does turmeric do anything besides stain everything yellow? Enquiring minds want to know.

One response so far

Dec 09 2010

Foiled Again

Published by under Cats

I’m not the problem

It seems to have actually gotten darker out since I got up this morning.

This is getting up, Part III. Part I was letting Audrey out at 5 am (more or less), to do whatever it is she absolutely, totally, must do at that dark hour. Part II was letting the boys out a couple of hours later so I could sleep a little more and hopefully not dream. My dreams have been so weird for the past week that I wish I could climb up inside my head and clean it out. There’s obviously a lot of junk in there which needs to be gotten rid of once and for all.

When I finally got up for real-real, as Jessica would say, none of the cats were in sight, so I figured this would be my opportunity to set out the boys’ food without being harassed and mewed at, and to fill Audrey’s dish and put it away until she deigned to show up. Then I could drink coffee and read my fan mail in peace while thinking of something entertaining to write about.

Needless to say, it did not work out like that.

Clyde, who has turned out to be the howler and yowler around feeding time, was at the glass doors, peering in. I let him in and he raced to the dishes. I put Roscoe’s away, and went out and called the kitties. Nothing. I poured a cup of coffee and sat down. A few seconds later, Roscoe appeared, with a mangled bird in his mouth. I hate it when the cats kill birds. I know, I know, Nature and everything and it’s my fault for letting the cats out, but still.

Then Audrey joined him. For once, no growling as she inspected his handiwork. There was no way I was letting Roscoe in with that thing, but I couldn’t let Audrey in without letting Roscoe in.

This was too much thinking before coffee, especially since my brain remains cluttered and uncleaned.

I finished the coffee and let Clyde out the side door. Audrey came in and I put away the kittens’ food and put hers out. While she ate – she has a way of pushing her dish across the floor as she eats – I answered some work emails and completed the caffeination process. Then I let Audrey out and the kittens back in, putting their dishes out one more time. Part III, or Part CXI?

It’s been a busy morning.

7 responses so far

Dec 08 2010

Now We Are Six (Months)

Published by under Cats

It’s getting a little crowded. Clyde is on the top.

Roscoe and Clyde are six months old today! As you can see in the picture above, they are bigger than ever. I wonder how much longer they will both fit in Henry Etta’s old bed.

The other day, I caught all three of them sleeping on my bed. I’m willing to bet that Audrey was there first, and the kittens came up after she was asleep. She still growls at them several times a day and probably spends a lot of time plotting their demise. Not that you can tell from this:

It’s hard to tell that the boys are both there, unless you count ears, so here’s another angle:

When they are asleep, it’s hard to believe that they are as naughty as they are when they’re awake. Last night, I woke up to a crinkling noise. At first I thought that it was the kittens playing with the Christmas lights on the banister, but a bleary closer inspection revealed that they had somehow managed to open the drawer with the treats in it and bite the bag open. I had to remove them from the drawer no fewer than four times while relocating the treats to an undisclosed location. I have to admit I kind of admired their ingenuity and tenacity, though.

They still come racing into the house to use the litterbox, even though the whole outdoors is their salle de bains. I think they are still too young to get through the night without it, though. And it’s going to be hard to wean them off it when it’s cold and wet outside. I would like to be free of it, though. I had to keep it for Henry after we moved (since she rarely went outside) and then had to start it all over again when I got the boys. I think we all know who’s in charge here, and it’s not the humans.

I wrote this whole entry with my right hand, since Clyde is curled up purring with my left arm around him. I don’t think Clyde will ever be too grown-up to cuddle me. And I hope the boys don’t outgrow sleeping and playing together.

6 responses so far

Dec 07 2010

Water World

Published by under Country Life,Weather

You know your life is thrilling when you’re excited about getting a new garden hose. And a rain gauge.

The old hose was suffering from leakage, including the rotted out area where it connected to the faucet. Using the hose was much like revisiting the garden sprinkler of my youth, but it was much less delightful when fully clothed and with temperatures hovering around the freezing mark (you will find this is true of many things).

Buying a new hose was on my To Do list for a while, so it was especially satisfying to finally get one.

I unscrewed the old one and dragged it to the pile of things and stuff which Mark keeps promising to haul to the dump for me. It was surprisingly heavy. Also, I hope we really do get the things and stuff hauled to the dump before Paul gets here. Everyone likes to act as if they live much more elegantly than they really do when they have company.

I attached the new one and turned on the faucet. Alas, it still squirted me. Hmmm. I took it off and put it on again (the hose equivalent of rebooting your computer) and tried to tighten it again, but the results were still much wetter than I wanted. Rob has one more thing on his endless To Do list. Little does he know!

More successful was the rain gauge. I wanted to get one so I could complain accurately about all the rain we get. For once, it turns out that I am not wrong. Hooterville got fully six inches more rain than the big town with the Safeway in the same time period.

As you can see, the rain gauge only goes up to five inches, so it will give me the opportunity to practice my rusty math. I installed the rain gauge on the balcony, making sure that there were no trees nearby to block precipitation. The other night, we got about .75 inches. According to last week’s paper, Hooterville had received 17.3 inches for the season to date, so that brings me up to 18.05 if my math is correct.

Given that it’s supposed to rain for the rest of the week, I should get lots of practice in basic math skills. And I won’t need the hose.

2 responses so far

Dec 05 2010

Merry and Bright(er)

Published by under Special Occasions

It was bright and sunny when I woke up this morning, filling my pretty little head with thoughts of taking the dogs to the beach, especially after noting that it was already 50 degrees. But after a couple of cups of coffee and a peek at PostSecret, the clouds seem to be taking over.

Good thing I put up the Christmas lights inside and the wreath on the door to cheer things up:

I like the “Batman” angle.

There’s no way I can have a tree with the Bad News Boys around, so this will have to do.

It should be a pretty merry Christmas. Erica and Jessica will be with us (and I think they’ll be pleased with their stockings), and our good friend Paul is joining us, all the way from Florida. You may remember that Paul actually lived in my house about ten years ago, and was also my host in the Hamptons and in Florida, so it’s about time we hosted him for a change. He always has a million stories, and he always makes me laugh. I can’t wait to see him.

5 responses so far

Dec 03 2010


Published by under Cooking,Family

Well, the meatloaf was a big hit. “Three thumbs up” from my sister. I’m definitely adding it to my repertoire.

Last night’s dinner featured a guest star, our brother. He usually has fire meetings on Thursdays, but decided to duck out on this one to have dinner with us and bring us up to date on the firehouse gossip, or as he calls it, “As the Hose Blows”. There’s a surprising amount of drama in a small town. He also brought banana bread for dessert, and I couldn’t stop laughing when I realized that dinner and dessert looked nearly identical.

I’m easily amused that way. I also laugh for miles after seeing the dairy company Clover Stornetta’s billboards on my way through Santa Rosa. My favorite is a cow dressed up like Dirty Harry with the slogan “Clo ahead, milk my day”. And I don’t even like milk.

Speaking of not liking things, the meatloaf did a great job of dealing with all the phood phobias, though it did contain an egg and I never told them that I put in Heinz chili sauce instead of ketchup, which they don’t like. I’d like to mention here that Rob is not at all picky and would cheerfully eat any and all of the food outlawed by his in-laws.

Old Fashioned Meatloaf, Suzy Style

Half a large onion
3 garlic cloves
1 stalk celery
4 green onions
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (I used a little more)
2/3 cup ketchup (I used chili sauce instead)
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound turkey sausage, casings removed
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup parsley leaves (stolen from my sister’s garden)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

The original recipe says to mince the vegetables. I threw then all in a food processor so they were finely chopped, then sautéed them for about ten minutes. The recipe says to use 2 tablespoons of butter for this (!), but I just sprayed the pan with Pam and it was fine.

Stir in salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and 1/3 cup ketchup, and cook, stirring, for one minute.

I let the veggie mixture cool while beating the egg with a whisk in a large bowl. Then I mixed the meat into it (note: the recipe calls for 1 & 1/2 pounds of ground chuck and 3/4 pound of ground pork). I ran the bread and parsley together in the food processor and then tossed that in the bowl, along with the cooled vegetable mixture I mixed it together with my hands, but you could use a big spoon instead.

I would have put the other 1/3 cup of chili sauce on top if the food police hadn’t been there. I packed it all into a loaf pan and covered it with foil for half an hour, leaving it uncovered for the remaining half hour of cooking time.

We had mashed Yukon Gold potatoes and steamed green beans with it, and it was just the thing on a cold, rainy evening. When I walked home, I was happy to see the warm lights of my house glowing through the dark, rainy trees, and the balcony Christmas lights were an added pleasure. I stood there in the rain for a minute, enjoying the bright colors in the darkness.

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Dec 02 2010


Published by under Cooking,Family

Mushrooms and art in my garden

Mushrooms are as much a sign of winter around here as the appearance of robins. The poor saps come here for the winter, if you can believe it. The wiser whales, however, have already begun their majestic migration to Mexico. Guess which species has the bigger brain?

Today I tested the waterproofness of my new sneakers by sneaking over to my sister’s place in the rain. I pulled my hat down over my forehead and zipped my jacket up to my ears. Halfway there, I realized that I was not carrying an umbrella. Am I turning into a country girl? Oh, the humanity!

At Megan’s, I went in through the garden gate and slinked over to the parsley section, where I picked as much as I needed for tonight’s dinner. The fresh smell of parsley was delightful in the rain-washed air. Back home, undetected, I went in through the laundry/pantry/cat diningroom door. The floor there is cement, and equipped with a drain, making it useful when the cats spill their water (a nearly daily occurrence). I recently moved the coat tree in there, too, so I had a place to hang up my wet things and slip into slippers.

Tonight, I’m attempting meatloaf for the first time I can remember. I’ll use ground turkey, since none of us eats beef*, and hope for the best. I’ll also make mashed potatoes and green beans for the full Mad Men era effect. If only I had the long-suffering Carla to clean up after me!

*It’s not easy to come up with a dinner once a week for 4 or 5 people who are picky eaters. Outlawed foods include beef, pork, lamb, fish, eggs, mustard, raisins, yogurt, mayonnaise, and others too numerous to mention. Making us – or attempting to make us – eat everything on our plates when we were kids seems to have backfired.

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Dec 01 2010

A Start

“You know, deck them halls and all that stuff.” — Lucy Van Pelt

Today the traditional three hour tour took four. And I still didn’t get everything done.

At the feed store, my order of kitten food and cat food were tantalizingly on the truck, which had not yet been unloaded. They weren’t sure when the unloading would take place, so I gave up on that and went across the street to buy a hose and an emergency light. I’ve lost one, and want to replace it before it’s needed. They looked at me like I was nuts and kept trying to sell me a flashlight. I have two flashlights, and I know where they are. I want a lantern-type battery powered lamp to read by when the power goes out.

And yes, I do know the difference between a flashlight and a lamp.

On to the hardware store, where I found a passable lamp, and bought Megan and Rob a coffeemaker on sale. Not for Christmas, for now. Rob came over this morning with the sad newses that the coffeemaker had irrevocably broken (and when Rob says that, you know it’s true) and that one of his ceramic projects had also been irrevocably broken. I had just admired it yesterday. He was putting it up on a shelf to keep it out of harm’s way when it fell to the floor and shattered. Sigh.

So I figured he wouldn’t want to wake up to no coffee tomorrow, and that Megan wouldn’t want to wake up to no coffee this afternoon. I got home around 1:00, so I was home well before she’d need caffeination. Though it also meant that the pharmacy was closed for lunch (it closes between 12:30 and 1:15, and the post office closes from 12:00 to 12:30), so I’ll have to try again another day.

I did, however, manage to buy some outside lights for the balcony, and put them up as soon as I got home. I love how the rain looks like snow in the picture – so festive!

If I can get over myself – and I think we can all agree that this is the hardest kind of recovery there is – I’ll risk climbing up the ladder to the weird storage space above the bathroom to get the wreath for the front door and the lights for the banister. I’m not even daring to think about a Christmas tree this year, though we could take bets on how long it takes to knock it over and which kitten does it first.

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