Archive for April, 2011

Apr 27 2011

Kitty Update

Published by under Cats

Roscoe and Audrey on the lookout

It was a chilly 48 degrees in the house when I got up this morning. A cautious peek at the thermometer revealed a mere 36 degrees outside – as far as I could tell, with food-crazed kittens milling around my slippered feet. Oddly, Clyde makes just as much fuss about getting fed when there is still kibble in their bowls (which there usually is) as when the bowls are empty. Go figure.

Roscoe is more the strong, silent type. He also has a beefier, more manly build than Clyde, who is still the smallest and slimmest despite his food mania. I am sorry to say that as they approach the 11 months old mark, I still have trouble telling them apart.

They also don’t seem to mind getting wet, which I always thought cats hated. Audrey is clever about avoiding the worst of the rainfall, even when it’s storming, but the boys come in soaked to the skin, with their fur all in points. I towel them off and then they sit by the heater, having a bath. Apparently licking your fur dries it off more quickly.

Roscoe is also more adventurous than Clyde. At least, he’s harder to get in at night. He usually goes out after dinner and stays out until at least 9:00. And he’s stubborn. If he doesn’t want to come in, forget it. You can’t even lure him in with treats. All that happens is Clyde appears, going nuts, and there’s no sign of Roscoe until he’s good and ready. Once he’s in, though, he likes to sleep with me.

Yesterday, I came home from work and noticed a black tail peeking out from under the couch. I called “Kitty?”, and there was a sort of flattened struggle, but no sound, which suggested it was Roscoe. Also Clyde is probably too small to get stuck under the couch. I lifted it (carefully, with my legs, to avoid a Calamity Suzy incident), and Roscoe slithered out. Other than being embarrassingly dusty, he was fine, and ran off to play. I wonder how long he was under there?

2 responses so far

Apr 22 2011

Sad Day

Published by under Dogs,Family,Friends,Schatzi

Star meets Padawan, June 2010

Yesterday morning, I saw Schatzi go tearing past my house. Alarmed, yet impressed with her speed given her state of decrepitude, I hurried outside to make sure she was OK. Calling her is pointless at this point, yet I persist in doing it. I clapped my hands a few times and Star came bounding up, but no Schatz.

I accompanied Star back to her rightful residence, despite the fact that I was wearing PJs and slippers and the driveway was full of puddles. Somehow, the speeding Schatzi had beaten me there.

Megan was still up. And something was up. I guess a speeding dog can be an omen, just like a shooting star or a meteor.

When L cut our hair a couple of weeks ago, Megan thought his dog, Padawan, looked pretty bad. She was having trouble walking, and was panting, though it wasn’t hot. She persuaded L to take Padawan to the vet. It was nice Dr. Carl, and he had to tell L that Padawan had cancer in her leg. She is an 11 year old Rottweiler, and even if her leg was amputated, the cancer had spread, and was a particularly nasty and fast-moving one.

It moved faster than we expected. L asked Megan to call Dr. Karen and make arrangements. She waited until it was late enough to call – keep in mind that she had just come home from her 12 hour night shift – and got an appointment for 4:30. She relayed this to L, who said it would have to be sooner. So we settled on 11:00.

Megan took L and Padawan to the vet. Poor Pad yelped on the way there – it was definitely time. Dr. Karen came out to the car, parked beside the garden at the back of her office, and released Padawan from all that pain and suffering. She was very kind and gentle.

When it was over, Megan called Jonathan and me, and we met them at L’s house. The EMS workers efficiently and lovingly transferred Pad’s body to a wheelbarrow for her last journey. Jonathan took charge and I carried the tools. We made our way down the steep path to the spot L had chosen, overlooking his house, bowered in ancient trees.

It was hard work, but as I thought when we laid little Henry to rest this same time last year, it is somehow therapeutic to do this last thing with your own hands for a loved one. Padawan rested in the spring sunshine as we worked. We all bade her a final farewell as the birds sang and the water rushed by far below.

L asked to be left alone, and we all hugged him goodbye. It was hard to leave him there, but I know he is not really alone, and neither is Padawan. They will always be together.

3 responses so far

Apr 21 2011

Weekend Wrapup

Published by under Country Life,Family

My brother’s cat Twilley guarding the premises

Fortunately, the skunk smell vanished as suddenly as it arrived. I left the doors open when Megan and I ran errands on Saturday, and by the time I got home, it was magically gone. I’m lucky that the skunk didn’t decide to take up residence under the house, or otherwise makes its presence pungently known.

I’ve seen skunks a few times, out in the garden at night, and they are very striking with their black and white fur and dramatic tails. I also find their funny, trundling walk kind of cute. But that’s about as far as I go with them.

My left hand is recovering nicely from the burn. Those burn bandages seem to be magic, because you can certainly see where I got burned, but my fingers aren’t blistered and they don’t hurt any more (unlike my right hand). So yay for Megan and emergency services on demand.

On Saturday evening, my brother convinced me to come over for a barbecue. I was tired from three full days at the jobette, plus twelve hours of conference calls in two days, followed by Jessica’s birthday lunch and a half day of errands on Saturday (the three hour tour). I really just wanted to collapse on the couch and watch that new mini series of Mildred Pierce starring Kate Winslet, but it takes more energy to argue with my brother than it does to just give in and go there, so that is what I did.

David and Jennifer, who jointly own the property with my siblings, but live elsewhere, were here visiting, and it was nice catching up with them. It was a little on the foggy side, but it was warm by the fire. This may have been the first barbecue of the year, now that I think about it. We had purple potatoes (in the foil packets) and skewers of red onion, zucchini, sausage, and chicken:

It was delicious. We had a great time. They were here until Tuesday, but I missed them due to work. Hopefully they will come back more often, now that the weather is (supposedly) getting nicer. Maybe next time they’ll bring their horses!

2 responses so far

Apr 20 2011


Published by under Special Occasions

Well, dear readers, today marks the tenth anniversary of my blog. Can you believe it?

Ten years ago, my life was different. I was married. I lived in San Francisco. Both of my parents were alive. I went to Europe at least once a year. I worked at a big corporation in a big building. John and I owned a lovely condo in one of the nicest neighborhoods in San Francisco. I love that city still, and my heart I think it will always be “home”. That is how I thought of it when I first saw it, way back in the 1980s.

Now…John and I live a couple of hundred miles apart, though we still haven’t gotten around to getting divorced. He kept the cats when we split up, though only one of them is left, other than, incredibly, my late mother’s cat. We have gone through the losses together, the most recent one in January, and I’m glad we can always be there for each other when it matters. Sometimes I think that being married for 15 years counts as a success, even if in the end you break up. Especially if you stay friends.

Now…I live in the depth (or heart!) of the country, where my doors don’t have locks and my cats roam freely, except at night. My passport lies neglected in a drawer, though it hasn’t expired yet, so there’s still hope. I work for a very small company – well, two very small companies, if you count the jobette – and I make a lot less money than I did at the big corporation. But I’m not mired in bureaucracy and bullshit and office politics. Some things money can’t buy.

Now…my parents are both gone, and in checking my archives, I see that my mother’s unspeakable second husband left her penniless a day after I started blogging. It was all downhill from there, with her cancer diagnosis and her long, valiant fight, which ended at the hospital where my sister still works. I think we three “kids” did our best for her, and I’m glad that I came to help as often as I did. I feel a hard-won peace about my relationship with my mother. My father, as you know, is a different story, and I will love him and miss him until it’s my turn to find out who’s right and who’s wrong about the afterlife.

Now…I rent an eccentric house which is slowly endearing itself to me. Sure, it’s completely uninsulated, cold and drafty in the winter, hot in the summer, and hard to keep clean. But it’s unusual and peaceful and I appreciate that. I’m glad to be closer to my family in every way, and on the whole, I think I’m lucky.

Thanks to all of you who have come along for the ride. Over the years, I have made some great friends and been so thankful for your love and support. I appreciate your friendship and readership. Here’s to the next ten years!

10 responses so far

Apr 18 2011

Birthday Girl!

Published by under Jessica

A very glamorous birthday girl

As the well-informed are well-aware, every April 15th is Jessica’s birthday, a day to be celebrated by all. The world would be a much less amusing and sparkly place without Miss J in it.

This year, she and her best friend Greta got their nails done:

and then had their hair curled. Jessica has not yet realized that her hair will never hold a curl. Having said that, it took me until I was nearly 30 to figure that one out. The last attempt I made was when attending a fancy wedding. I had my hair put in curlers, under the old school dryer and everything. The curls didn’t even make it to the reception.

They also had a streak of glittery ribbon and a streak of feathers sewn in their hair – you can just about see the pink feather strand in Jessica’s hair in the photo above – and I want to try that, too. Who needs curls when you can have glitter and feathers?

In keeping with the fancy theme, Erica took Jessica, Megan, Greta, Greta’s mother, and me to lunch at an elegant restaurant in the village. It is so fancy that I haven’t eaten there since my father took me to dinner more than a decade ago. I still remember that I had duck with huckleberry sauce and it was amazing. This time, I had crab cakes and Jessica had a quiche with wild mushrooms, bacon, and Gruyère. I toasted the birthday girl with a fabulous cocktail of Roederer sparkling wine, local peach syrup, and bitters. It was pink and fizzy, just like Jessica.

Erica made her own version of petits fours per Jessica’s request:

The bottom layer is chocolate génoise, the top vanilla génoise, and the filling is strawberry buttercream. The icing is vanilla buttercream, topped with sugar roses flavored with orange water and rose water. Erica put eight white candles on the cakes and lit them while we (quietly) sang the birthday song. Jessica closed her eyes tightly, and took so long deciding on a wish – you have to make it count – that Erica had to tell her to hurry up before the candles burned down. I hope it comes true.

I thanked Jessica for inviting me to her birthday lunch, and she said “I didn’t want a big party. Just a select group.”

I’ve finally made the A list. Though Jessica did confide in me during lunch, “Suzy, you are the silliest of all my aunties.” I don’t expect that to change anytime soon, if ever.

Happy birthday, princess. We love you!

2 responses so far

Apr 16 2011


Published by under Calamity Suzy,Cats,Country Life

As I write, the air in my little hippie hovel is delicately scented with eau de skunk. So glamorous!

I woke up around 2:00 to the distinctive smell. I knew all the cats were in for the night, but wondered if an intruder had made his stripy, stinky way into my humble abode without any of us noticing. This seemed unlikely, but I got up and checked the house anyway. The smell was there, but Mr. Le Pew was not.

I went back to bed, and the Audrometer went off around 4:30. I didn’t want to let Audrey out into the darkness, in case the skunk was still there, so I meanly made her wait until 1) it was light out*; and b) I had checked the perimeter.

The good news is that the outside smelled like rain and fresh air, and the area appeared to be skunk-free. The bad news is that it’s too cold and wet to air out the house. So Roscoe and I are sitting by the heater in the stinkiness and hoping for sun, while Audrey and Clyde are playing in the woods somewhere. By the way, Clyde’s paw is much better.

Mine is not.

You may remember that I managed to fall off a log as my own special way of celebrating the new year. Well, that hand has never been the same. The middle finger and ring finger can’t straighten out, and they are oddly swollen and arthritis-y looking, which is painful for the aesthetically inclined. Also it makes it impossible to wear some of my favorite rings on my right hand. And amazingly, it still kind of hurts when I press on those fingers.

Megan thought at the time that I broke something in there, but I don’t have health insurance and can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars to have my fingers x-rayed and what have you. So I’ve just been living with it.

My left hand now temporarily matches my right hand. I made Jacques Pépin’s mustard-crusted chicken** the other night. When I took the skillet out of my little oven I used my very cute red potholders, and set it on top of the stove. Just a few minutes later, I grabbed the skillet handle with my left hand to move it, apparently having forgotten that it had just spent an hour in a 400 degree oven.

I let go pretty fast, let me tell you. I ran cold water over my hand for a while before calling Megan, who arrived with burn bandages and painkillers. The burn bandages look like a second skin and contain lidocaine or some other kind of surface pain deadener. She also lent me one of her ice packs from her knee surgery last summer, so I was all set for a bad night’s sleep.

Nothing like having EMS living on the premises. Practically a necessity when you’re Calamity Suzy.

*Stupid, stupid daylight savings time.
**A quick search of my archives reveals that I have never shared this recipe with you. Will remedy this shocking omission in the near future.

One response so far

Apr 12 2011

Patients, Patience

Published by under Cats,Friends

Clyde and Audrey take a nap

Cats find the funniest places to nap. This is behind my bed in the sleeping loft. As you can see, part of the curved wall is made of corrugated plastic, which makes it warm for napping kitties, but makes rain noisier and is, as you can see, almost impossible to clean. Sometimes it’s so obvious that this house was built by and for a boy.

Clyde has been limping for the past couple of days. I’ve tried to keep him in more often, but it seems really mean to keep a 10 month old kitten in the house on a beautiful spring day, especially when his brother frolics around in plain sight through the sliding glass door.

Megan checked out both his front legs and paws – it seems to be the left front that’s the problem – and couldn’t detect any signs of breakage or injury. He didn’t cry out or anything, so we think he may have fallen out of a tree and landed awkwardly, or something like that. I’m keeping an eye on him, and he seems to be slowly improving.

Also slowly improving is A! She is now in a regular hospital ward, sharing her space with a 38 year old methadone addict with cirrhosis of the liver and a kid in jail and an ancient lady whose only means of communication is howling like a banshee. I imagine A has to keep reminding herself that this is better than Intensive Care, where she spent so many weeks.

I have been calling her once a week now, in addition to my regular silly emails which C prints out and brings her. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to hear her voice. She still has no feeling in her hands and feet, and is learning to walk again with the help of physiotherapists and a walker. She is hoping to be moved to a rehab facility soon. Apparently, it’s like applying to college, with your first, second, and third choices, hoping that the one you really want will accept you. The one she wants is near Sylvia Plath’s final home, though we shouldn’t take that as an omen.

A says she is covered in scars from the tracheotomy, dialysis and so on, and that she bruises very easily now. It seems that spending three months in the hospital is not a beauty treatment. Also, she has lost huge amounts of time. She doesn’t remember anything at all from C calling the ambulance on January 7 to waking up in the hospital around the middle of March. Nothing. Medical comas will do that to you.

She’s in remarkably good spirits, though, and determined to get back to work this summer, maybe working from home starting in June, half a year after her ordeal began. I can still hardly believe it, and she feels the same way. I am so thankful she is alive and has no brain damage. I need to save up my pennies and get over there and hug her!

3 responses so far

Apr 10 2011


Published by under Country Life

Little salon in the big woods

I don’t know if this happens to the boys among you, but when we girls wake up one day and want to get our hair cut, there is no stopping us until the mission is accomplished. No matter what you do with it, you hate your hair, and lament the fact that you wasted all that time going to college/touring the world/having perfect children, or whatever else you did instead of attending beauty college. Then you could cut your own hair anytime you wanted.

If you live in a city, you generally have to wait weeks, sometimes longer, to get an appointment with the coiffeur (or coiffeuse) of the moment. In Hooterville, we don’t have that particular problem. At least Megan and I don’t.

We call our friend L and find out when he has a few minutes to practice his past art on our hopeful heads. You see, L used to be hairdresser to the stars in Beverly Hills back in the day, before he moved to Hooterville and became hairstylist to the Peakall girls. I have tried without success to get him to dish on the bad old Beverly Hills days, but he is not one for looking back. Also, it makes him shudder.

Unlike city girls, who can hop in a cab or an outfit-destroying subway* and be at their salon in mere minutes, our salon requires a little more work.

You drive down the road for a couple of miles and then turn left. This road may in fact be even bumpier and more pot-holed than the one you just left. You pass llama farms and eccentric housing, and see a sign that reads “Road Narrows”. You think it must be some kind of joke, but it’s not. After a while, you’re down to one lane, driving veeeery slooooowly in case there is oncoming traffic coming around the bend.

Eventually, it degenerates into little more than a dirt track, and you suddenly feel like you’re driving a semi. When you finally arrive at the parking place far above Salon L, you are so relieved to get out of the car that you practically beg your laughing sister to drive you home.

We ignored the slightly forbidding gate:

and began our descent among the ancient redwood trees and peeping frogs. Not for the first time, I wondered how on earth L’s house was ever built, when everything had to be hauled down this same narrow, slippery path to a building site far below, perched precariously over a seasonal stream and waterfall.

I stopped to admire this shell of a once-mighty tree:

And, to be honest, to catch my breath while trying not to think about climbing back up in just a couple of hours.

Eventually we arrived, to be greeted happily by L and his adorable dog. We spent some time chatting and catching up as well as coiffing, and a good time was had by all until it was time climb back up the muddy Stairmaster through the rapidly darkening woods. Nothing like combining cardio with coiffage, I (never) say!

*My boss was in New York last week, bemoaning the traffic and the meanness of Manhattan drivers. He swears he will never complain about Bay Area traffic ever again. We’ll see.

3 responses so far

Apr 09 2011

Cause & Effect

Published by under Country Life,Weather

Two webs are better than one

It was 44 degrees (or 6 degrees, depending on whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist) in the house this morning. A cautious peek at the thermometer outside revealed a discouraging 35 degrees (or 2 even more discouraging degrees). Not for the first time, I reflected that living in my house really is quite a lot like living in a huge, overturned rowboat. Or a tent.

The reason for the big chill was that I had turned off the propane heater the night before. Why, you ask? Well, it’s complicated. Go and get some coffee and I’ll meet you back here in a few minutes.

Are you ready?

Last weekend, there was a power outage. By my count, that’s the third of the season, and hopefully the last. In the optimist column, none of them lasted overnight. In the pessimist column, there were three of them, it wasn’t raining, and it was April, for Pete’s sake.

It was, however, very windy, and wind, knocking trees and bushes into power lines, is what usually leads to power outages. As I heard the wind chimes jangling in the garden, I thought, “Uh oh. Wind chimes: the cheery harbingers of power outages.” This is one occasion where I didn’t actually want to be right, but I was anyway.

I called the PG&E power outage line, which is, sadly, programmed into my cell phone, and reported the outage. Then it was time to wait and hope it didn’t get too cold. The only heater in my house, though it burns platinum propane, needs electricity to be turned on and off and maintain its thermometer. So in a power outage, it becomes an expensive hunk of pointless plastic mocking me.

Eventually power was restored, but the light, clock, and heater displays kept flickering on and off. I called Mark, and he checked it with a little hand-held meter and said we were only getting 90 watts instead of 120, or something like that. He would call PG&E.

I called my brother, who inspected it and said the electricity was fine. The flickering continued, though, and it got scary enough that I just turned everything off that night before I went to bed and hoped for the best.

So far, it seems to be back to its old self. I don’t know if PG&E did something, or Mark did something, or it just happened, but I’m glad to sit by the heater with my coffee and enjoy the sunshine. Whatever temperature it may be outside, it’s warmer inside. The way it should be.

3 responses so far

Apr 07 2011

Kitty Mysteries

Published by under Cats

The kitties let me sleep in until nearly 8:00 this morning! That’s right, Audrey didn’t demand to be let outside at 4 am, Clyde didn’t climb on my head, and Roscoe didn’t bite my nose. I woke from dreams of envelopes* to find that it was raining, though the sky was blue. Audrey was sitting regally on her throne (also known as the rocking chair my great-grandfather made for my great-grandmother, cushioned with her favorite throw blanket), Roscoe was cuddled up next to me, and Clyde was sitting by the heater.

The heater was on, even though I set it for 52 degrees before going to bed. The mystery was solved when I went to feed the ravening hordes. The laundry room/pantry/cat dining room door was slightly open, letting in the 40 degree air. Though this explained the chill in the air, it made it more mysterious that the cats, especially Audrey, were still inside.

The ways of cats are inscrutable, my friends.

Clyde’s painting assault days seem to be over. I came home from work one day and had barely put my Hello Kitty bag down on the table and greeted the cats when Rob came by. I’m sorry to say that he actually had to point out to me that he had (a) re-hung the giant painting, which had been leaning sadly against the stairs – mere inches from where I was standing – and (2) removed the shelf under it, which Clyde had been using as a launching pad to get inside and on top of the painting.

This is why I would make a terrible crime witness.

I miss the shelf, and displaying my RobCo collection on it, but it’s been effective in Clyde deterrence. The first couple of days, he tried to jump on it and was clearly surprised to find it was no longer there. You could practically see him thinking, “I know there was something here before. Where the hell did it go?” as he fell backwards onto the couch. Now he seems to have given up on it entirely and is looking for trouble elsewhere. Compromise: a noun meaning no-one is happy with the solution to a problem.

*I’ve been stuffing, sealing, and stamping envelopes at the jobette for the past two days. I may take Joy up on her offer to give me helpful hints.

2 responses so far

Apr 03 2011

Boxing Days

Published by under Cats,Weather

The beautiful weather lately has led to some beautiful sunsets, as you see above. And the adage “Red at night, Suzy’s delight” has so far proved to be true. We’re even planning to have a barbecue at our brother’s place this evening. How’s that for daring?

I’ve also been using the break in the weather to try and convince the boys that one of the great things about being a boy of whatever species is that the world is your salle de bains. Clyde and Roscoe, however, come racing inside frantically to use the litter box and then run outside again.

In contrast, as soon as I let June and Audrey outside after we moved to Hooterville, they never went near the litter box again. I’ve heard that toilet training human boys is harder than it is with human girls, so maybe we’re back to the male of the species again.

Or not.

For the past few days, I’ve been putting the litter box outside, hoping that they boys will get the idea of doing their thing outside.

But Clyde seems to have mistaken it for a sandbox:

Or something that must be fiercely guarded:

I guess time will tell!

4 responses so far

Apr 01 2011

Ins & Outs

Published by under Cats,Weather

Audrey enjoys the sun

The beautiful spring weather has not gone unnoticed by the cats.

After weeks of having to choose between the boredom of being inside, or the cold and wet of being outside, the sun is shining and birds are just asking to be chased, trees to be climbed.

Earlier this week, I could not get Audrey in at night. Audrey does not respond to being called, even if she’s in the house. She shows up if and when she’s good and ready, and not a moment before. Of course, this had to happen on a school work night. I left all three outdoor lights on and went to bed, reminding myself that Audrey knows what she’s doing, that dogs bark and cars drive down the driveway and the lights are on, all of which should repel possible predators, but the loss of the Beautiful June Bug less than a year ago was a deeply traumatic event for me.

I kind of half-slept, the way you do on planes or when you are waiting for your beloved little sister to come home from a high school date when she lives with you. Finally, I heard the musical, welcome sounds of claws on glass. Audrey! I leaped out bed and yanked the balcony door open in about a millisecond. I didn’t even bother to put my glasses on. It was almost 1:00.

I was pretty tired at work the next day, but I told myself to try and be more pitbull and less poodle.

I sort of succeeded.

A couple of nights ago, I couldn’t get any of the cats in, and it was after 9:00. I finally managed to lure them in with treats, but both Audrey and Roscoe can usually take treats or leave them. They’re the same way about food – Clyde, the smallest and loudest, is the only one who demands food. So it’s easy to get him in at night. Mr. and Miss Stubborn are another matter.

I tried a friend’s advice of feeding the cats dinner much later. This partially worked. Audrey and Clyde ate dinner at the European hour of 8:00, but Roscoe was nowhere to be seen. When I was ready to go to bed, I went out and called him about 900 times. I saw him slink around but couldn’t convince him that inside was preferable to outside. In the end, I went to bed with the outside lights on again (at least they’re the energy-saving kind). Every time I woke up, I looked for him. Finally, when I let Audrey out at 5:00, I let Roscoe in. He headed straight for the food, then came to bed and cuddled up with me before biting the hand that fed him.

The life of a kitty servant is not an easy one.

2 responses so far