Archive for January, 2015

Jan 31 2015

Road Trip!

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family,Travel

Megan and I went on a little adventure to the south coast on Sunday. We could not have had a nicer day for it. The sky was a clear, cloudless blue, and it must have been at least 70 degrees. No jacket required.

It was an all girl road trip, with Star and Stella in the back seat and Megan and me in the front. Megan drove, so I could enjoy the scenery, which was spectacular. The ocean was showing off, as were the whales and dolphins frolicking in it. Calla lilies unfurled their white flags by the side of the road, and drifts of yellow daffodils nodded in fields. The road meanders through hills, some steep and some rolling, dotted with cows and sheep on one side, and a precipitous cliff overlooking the ocean on the other, fringed with dark trees twisted by years of wind.

Our first stop – first things first, you know! – was the fabulous Thai restaurant in the tiny town of Anchor Bay:


We ordered take-out for dinner, and while it was being prepared, wandered with the dogs through a small, secluded ocean view cemetery:


The ground was starred with wild irises:


and gravestones ranging from the ancient:


to the modern:


I loved how this couple had their wedding date and rings engraved between their names, and that his side reads “Gone fishing” while hers reads “Gone dancing”. Somehow I feel that their love lives on.

We stowed the dogs and the Thai food in the car and set off for the quirky little city of Point Arena. We went to the pier and found a rough wooden table on the deck of the chowder house. As we waited for lunch to arrive, we admired the view:


and the intrepid surfers. As Megan said, they must be experts to risk the rocks as well as the waves. While surfer watching, we moved away from the table, and a giant seagull made his move on our unprotected lunches. He only managed to knock over my nearly empty lemonade glass, which must have been a huge disappointment to him.

After lunch, we took the dogs to the Stornetta Public Lands, which recently became the newest part of the California Coastal National Monument, thanks in part to efforts at the jobette, along with many others. You may recall that my boss actually met the President when the lands were signed into protected status, something that still totally thrills me.

The dogs, however, were more thrilled by the sights, sounds, and smells of this new playground, especially cow fan Star. It soon became apparent that the lands are still in use by the Stornetta family for grazing their justly famous dairy cows*, so we divided our time between admiring the scenery:


and keeping an eye out for cow calling cards, as well as keeping Star from rolling in them. I also began to worry about getting a sunburn. In January.

Somehow, the day was almost over, and as we headed back to the car, I stopped to watch the waves crashing against the rocky cliffs in the last, golden light of day, thinking of how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place with such a wonderful family, including Star and Stella.

*The brand name is Clover Stornetta, and I have to admit that their billboards always make me laugh.

A YEAR AGO: Driving, and lots of it – also to the beautiful south coast.

3 responses so far

Jan 27 2015


Published by under Cooking

I spent a couple of days making bread last week.

Yes, a couple of days.

It’s all my fault for failing to read the recipe through properly (or reading it and failing to retain it). I was making sourdough and didn’t realize that the starter took 8-12 hours to not only start, but finish. So I made that and got on with my life while it got on with its own.

My brother had called me to congratulate me on the new job (30 seconds) and advise me on correct bread making procedures (5 minutes). He believes it’s preferable to do it all by hand, rather than using the Kitchen Aid mixer with its dough hook (which, ironically enough, he gave me many years ago for Christmas when I still lived in San Francisco), so I mixed the starter with the flour and salt and put it in my unlit oven (which has a pilot light), hoping for the best.

When I checked on it a couple of loads of laundry later, it had risen about as much as Roscoe on a rainy day, and with approximately the same level of enthusiasm, so I resorted to a trick from my grandmother. I boiled water, put in a metal pan on the bottom of the oven and closed the oven door. That worked, and when I took it out to knead the dough, I lit the oven, set it at low for a few minutes, then turned it off, so it would be a more hospitable rising environment.

My loaf looked like this after it rose:


And like this after I baked it:


I borrowed Megan’s pizza stone and baked it on that. It turned out crusty on the outside and with a nice, fine grain on the inside. It could have used a little more salt and been more sour, but on the whole, I’d give my first attempt at sourdough a solid B. Maybe even a B plus.

Now I’m left with a bowl of starter in the refrigerator, and confusing instructions about how to feed and preserve it from various places on the interwebs. I should call Erica, the Seer of the Kitchen*, and ask her. After all, we should be planning our February get together.

*I think it’s safe to assume that she has never had to resort to Nana tricks to make her dough rise.

A YEAR AGO: Driving Miss Stella

One response so far

Jan 24 2015

New Job

Published by under Friends,Work

I have a new job!

Sort of.

Remember the county job I interviewed for, way back before Christmas? Apparently I did not blow the interview after all. They called me to (a) tell me I’m still in the running for the permanent job in the Big Town; and (2) ask me if I’d be willing to work in a sort of temp job in the same department.

The temp job will go on indefinitely, maybe forever, and I’d be working with the same people as in the permanent job. These people will also compose the interview panel, so hopefully I can impress them with my fabulous work ethic before the interview takes place. Also, I now know what to expect, and will have some time to think up kickass answers to “tell me about yourself”. All suggestions, advice, and opinions gratefully accepted.

So I took the temp job, contingent on my passing fingerprinting on Monday in the county seat. Let’s hope my prints don’t somehow match those of a career criminal. So far, my run-ins with the law have been limited to Grand Jury testifying, getting divorced, and trying to help out my neighbors, so I should be OK here.

Given the fact that my old job’s paychecks give out at the end of February, and the possibility of shopping for a cardboard box big enough to live in and/or pitching a tent over at my brother’s place were a little too real for comfort, you’d think I’d be elated. And I was excited when I was talking to the county. But when I hung up and realized I had to quit the jobette, I felt really sad.

Quitting was so hard. My last day is three days after the fourth anniversary of my first day there. I am going to miss seeing my friends there almost every day. They have all been so kind and supportive of me, and I know we will still be friends and stay in each other’s lives. As one of them emailed me, “There is a lot of joy to be had in that job. But I hope your coming work is incredibly fulfilling, and full of its own little joys that make it an integral part of your life. I know you’ll do amazingly at it!”

Update: I have an interview set up on Thursday, February 5 at 9:30 am. Wish me luck!

A YEAR AGO: A welcome visit from an old friend.

5 responses so far

Jan 18 2015

Family Dinner

Published by under Cooking,Family,Friends

In the spirit of keeping my new year’s resolutions (if I can’t be part of the 1%, I can at least be part of the 8% who actually keep their resolutions), we had a family dinner on Saturday night.

Like the best things in life, it was something of a communal effort. Megan bought the ingredients after her daily dog walk on Friday, bringing them (the ingredients, not the dogs) to my house along with her bigger than mine pot. Megan tends to have kitchen equipment which is on the epic side due to the endless preservation of garden produce after the endless work of producing it. She also appears to have a wider latitude in chili production as well, since she asked me if I wanted to put in broccoli and/or zucchini, the mere suggestion of which I found surprising.

So I made chili ordinaire on Friday afternoon: ground turkey; crushed tomatoes; black, pinto, and kidney beans; garlic; onions; red bell pepper; chili powder and cumin. Oh, and a dash of sugar – it brings out the tomato flavor. I also took some butter out of the freezer to thaw for garlic bread.

On Saturday, I was driving home from the jobette in the misty rain when I felt my phone buzz in my pocket. I waited until I had pulled into the driveway and gotten out of the way of any incoming neighbors to check it, and I had a text from Megan asking if I wanted her to come over and start on the garlic bread.

Arriving at my humble abode, I found Megan in the kitchen peeling garlic and the chili (original typo here was “child”. Hee!) slowly warming up on the stove. I try not to think about how many days/weeks/years of my life I have spent peeling garlic, and it was nice to be spared the peeling and chopping. Megan was displeased by the job she did cutting the loaf of bread for garlic bread, reminding me of how my paternal grandfather always declared that women could not cut bread. It was good enough for me, though, and apparently for everyone else, too.

Dave and Jennifer, my sibs’ land partners, arrived shortly before Jonathan did, and even Rob made a special guest appearance. We all enjoyed the chili and garlic bread while catching up on each other’s lives and discussing the news. Audrey deigned to be petted while Clyde made his displeasure clear when his dinner failed to appear. Roscoe failed to appear until all the guests had left and the cats’ dinner was served, which is what he usually does. He’s not much for parties.

Jonathan’s new year’s resolution is to get us better prepared for an earthquake. He feels we are overdue for one, and if we all invest a little money, he can store enough food and water to keep us going for a couple of weeks. He has a “Seal a Meal” thing which can be used to seal food like rice and pasta while it’s still in boxes and/or plastic bags, and then put them in 50 gallon drums for safe keeping. There’s a well and water storage tank over at the property, and the electricity there is all off the grid, so we should be able to get by.

Not to be a crazy survivalist or anything, but it’s good to be ready just in case. I’ll be glad to help him keep his resolution. And so far, everyone is glad to help me keep mine.

A YEAR AGO: Stella makes a (temporary) break for it.

2 responses so far

Jan 14 2015

Paying a Call

Published by under Country Life,Friends,Jessica

It was cloudy at the coast, but sunny in the valley as Megan and I wended our way to Erica’s house. I always forget how terrifying Erica’s driveway is until I’m actually on it. It makes our driveway look like the 101 freeway. It’s one muddy, rutted lane, with ancient tree roots acting as speed bumps and a frightening drop on one side. The drop is tree studded, so I’m not sure how far down it goes, but I’m pretty sure if you found out in your car you’d never be seen again. At least in one piece. The thought of Jessica driving it fills me with horror, though Megan pointed out that Erica has been doing it her whole life without incident.

I am, after all, a worrier.

We arrived at their house without incident (guess who was driving?), and were greeted by the fabulous girls. Jessica was thrilled with the belated Christmas stocking gift of conductive thread (I’m still not sure what it is), and Erica set about curing the headache I had woken up with. She gave me some evening primrose and a mysterious herbal concoction, which I sniffed suspiciously. Erica’s Momness kicked in, and she told me to drink it down and then I could have a cookie*. I honestly think if she’d lived a couple of centuries ago, she’d be considered a witch. That strange lady living out in the woods, foraging and making strange things and dosing people with concoctions…

The cookies were delicious. They were Russian tea cookies, made by Jessica herself. They were accompanied by “gingerbread of doom”, made by Erica with fresh and ground ginger, and cheese and crackers. Of course, one of the cheeses was caramelized, and Erica made the crackers by making rye bread dough and putting it through a pasta machine so it came out in lasagna-sized and -shaped pieces, then baking it. Only Erica would think of doing that.

Tea was served in delicate floral china cups and saucers, peppermint for Jessica and me and full on caffeine for Erica and Megan (who, as we know, is composed of at least 75% caffeine at all times). Erica collects vintage Jell-O molds, and told us that she is planning to make an entire Jell-O dinner using the molds. She just might do it, too.

After tea, Jessica showed me her fashion designs, which were as beautiful and intricate as you’d imagine, and we watched a couple of episodes of Daria together. We both adore its cynical humor. Sometimes it’s hard to believe she’s only 11.

When it was time to go, we talked a little about our next meeting – maybe in Point Arena on the beautiful south coast. Maybe the key to keeping your new year’s resolutions is to make them fun. Oh, and my headache was completely gone.

A YEAR AGO: Recovering from the flu with kitten aid.

*Jessica often says, “My mama says ‘Suck it up and deal'”. Words to live by!

2 responses so far

Jan 11 2015

Dynamic Duo

Published by under Friends,Jessica

Plans for World Domination

Doesn’t every 11 year old have a plan for world domination? Here’s Jessica’s:

  1. Become the head of a major corporation
  2. Become president of the US
  3. Get a large army
  4. Work on charisma skills
  5. Amass several hundred quintillion dollars
  6. Conquer, persuade, or buy every country on earth

Sounds like a sound plan to me. Maybe if I’d had the forethought to make a plan when I was 11, I would have taken over the world by now. And it would be a sparklier and prettier place.

In the interests of keeping my new year’s resolution to spend more time with family and friends, Megan and I are heading out to visit the Dynamic Duo in their native habitat this afternoon. While we’re doing that, I’ll leave you with some conversations Erica has posted recently on Facebook. Enjoy!

Erica: I shouldn’t be doing this.
Jessica: So when has that ever stopped you?

Jessica: Mom, you’re too cool to be from here.
Erica: Well, I have travelled a lot.
Jessica: No, I mean from Earth.

Jessica: So what exactly are aristocratic features?
Erica: Inbred white people.

Jessica: Why is it the sacred duty of all parents to be so annoying?
Erica: Why are all children so annoying?
Jessica: We can’t help it!
Erica: (bursting into laughter)

I think my favorite was when Erica posted that she “totally busted Jessica using her iPad as a flashlight to read a book.” A girl after my own heart – and I’m a girl who used to read under the covers, too.

A YEAR AGO: Recovering from the flu with kitten aid.

4 responses so far

Jan 08 2015

Surreal World

Published by under Bullshit

Nothing like ending a week off with a shot of clinic followed by a work chaser.

My annual check up was on Monday morning, and when I reported to the clinic with my extremely expensive health insurance card in hand, the receptionist ran the card, and told me there was a problem with my coverage.

I called Anthem, and spent the next 20 minutes on hold. I was still on hold when they took my blood pressure, which probably didn’t make it lower. I finally talked to someone when I was in the exam room waiting for Dr. Sue. The Anthem representative told me that my account was a) inactive; and 2) in a “grace period” since the January bill hadn’t been paid. I pointed out that grace periods were usually more than 5 days long, and I was just getting a check up, for which I had already paid $45 (it was $50 when I didn’t have insurance). She said to have the receptionist call them and they would give the clinic the approval, but that I needed to call Covered California to renew my insurance for 2015.

Dr. Sue gave me the thumbs up on my own health, and I was on my way to the jobette.

I called Covered CA when I got home from work last night, and the rep who looked up my account said that I had been dramatically overcharged for the past 9 months, to the tune of more than $200 a month. She told me to call Anthem, the insurance provider, and alert them to this before making any changes to the account.

I did, and Anthem told me that they can only bill what Covered CA tells them to – CC is a sort of marketplace giving users the option of various healthcare providers (in theory; in practice, it’s Anthem Blue Cross or nothing), so, yes, they told me to call Covered CA. Again.

So it was another call to my friends at Covered CA, who told me that my account was never inactive, and yes, it did appear that I had been overcharged, but I should get the money back in tax credits (which I find hard to believe, but we’ll see). They enrolled me in a plan which is now about $125 a month, versus the $350 a month I had been paying. Guess what? My check up co pay would have been $3 instead of $45 if I was being billed correctly all along. At least it’s fixed now – assuming that the last person I spoke to there gave me correct information, and that seems like a big “if” after all these calls and the overcharges.

One good thing about all the stress and pressure of impending joblessness and penury is that things like this just don’t seem like that big of a deal anymore. I actually laughed when I hung up the phone. Maybe it was like Lincoln’s “I laugh that I may not weep”, but it was a laugh all the same.

A YEAR AGO: In which malls and flu do not mix.

2 responses so far

Jan 05 2015

Birthday Celebration

Published by under Family,Special Occasions

I put away all the Christmas decorations yesterday, and now the house looks sad. Bigger, but sad. Sundays are always melancholy, but the one when you put away the holiday glitz and start getting ready to go back to work after a week off is definitely the winner (or possibly the loser, depending on how you look at it).

I considered leaving the white lights glittering on the banister, but decided it really had to be all or nothing, so nothing it was. However, I did move the orchid with the flower spikes beside the sliding glass doors in the living room where the Christmas tree used to be. It can get sunshine to make it bloom, while not freezing its buds off.

As I cleaned up all signs of the dear, departed holiday, it occurred to me that not only does Jarrett get the dreaded combo gift for his birthday, he doesn’t even get a blog post from me about his birthday dinner. I will try and make up for this shocking oversight now.

After our sparkling visit to the Botanical Gardens to admire the lights display, we repaired to a little Italian restaurant to celebrate Jarrett’s birthday.

We had a plate of calamari to start, and it was incredibly light, crispy, and tender – my brother thought this was because it had never been frozen. It didn’t even need the dipping sauce! Megan and Jonathan both had light as air gnocchi with pesto, which they both pronounced delicious. I had a delightful penne alla vodka. Of course, we had a bottle of wine to share as well.

We needed it to toast the fact that Jarrett’s mother has a new job this new year. She is going to move to LA to practice her sushi-making art at some high end restaurant, who wooed her and convinced her to move there from San Francisco.

Even though she doesn’t drive.

I’m sure she will love it, though, and her new bosses have found her a house within walking distance of the restaurant. Something tells me she’ll be having visitors…

After dinner, the server asked if we would like coffee. My brother remarked that he’d love a brandy with his, but the restaurant only has a license for beer and wine. The server returned to our table with a tray of small glasses and said, “I can’t sell this to you, but I can give it to you,” and distributed Limoncello to all of us. We were both surprised and delighted and wasted no time in toasting Jarrett’s birthday.

The attentive server apparently took note of our toast, since she returned to the table with a big meatball with a lit candle stuck in it, along with the owner/chef and the entire staff, who gathered around to sing “Happy Birthday” to Jarrett with his family and the rest of the restaurant’s guests. It was a wonderful small town moment, and the perfect end to a perfect evening.

A YEAR AGO: An equally wonderful, but very different, birthday celebration.

2 responses so far

Jan 02 2015

Inside & Out

Published by under Country Life,Family,House,Rita,Weather

Frosty Fern

Happy new year, y’all! It started out a frosty one here, -2C outside and +4 inside, which is not that much of a plus. Ever notice that everything is worse in metric? Temperatures are colder and distances are further (though bra sizes are stupendous).

My brother was working a 72 hour shift, so I went over to his place to make sure the pipes had not burst in the sub-freezing temperatures. Though it’s only about a quarter of a mile away, it’s also about 5 Fahrenheit degrees colder over there in the winter, so the entire garden was heavily frosted, sparkling in the sun.

No pipes were harmed during the cold night, but I left his tap dripping, just in case. And fed Scout, the mini cat whose tiny body contains the loudest meows known to catdom. Since we were inside, I could pet her silky fur – not even Jonathan can pet her outside. Her youth spent as a stray cat is too deeply imprinted, and she must be very clever to have escaped the many predators for as long as she did – she was at least a year old when she turned up on my brother’s doorstep one day.

Back at home, I continued my tidying up activities. I had the week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and I decided to use the gift of time to try and create a little order from chaos, especially in the studio/storage room. There’s still a long way to go, but I’ve made significant inroads. And there were a couple of unexpected rewards (in addition to unusual virtue). I found the lovely Rita’s ID tag:


I have put it carefully away in my jewelry box, remembering the happy times I spent with that beautiful, wonderful girl, the star of the neighborhood.

I also came across an “At Home” card my maternal grandparents sent out after their wedding in 1924:


The only wedding picture I have of them shows them in a field with a grumpy preacher and one attendant each, so I get the impression that this was not a conventional wedding, and might even have been an elopement, given that my grandmother left home in order to go to high school*. I always think my grandfather looks like he won the lottery:


The card still smelled faintly of my grandmother’s lily of the valley perfume, even though she’s been gone for almost 40 years. I am lucky to have so many wonderful memories.

My delightful co-worker Erin gifted me with a lovely red clock for Christmas. It was out of the box for less than two minutes before it found itself on the wall, looking perfect:


I also organized the books by color:


Pretty, no? A good start to the new year so far, I’d say!

A YEAR AGO: Back home from the last trip of the year to San Francisco.

*She moved in with her scandalous Aunt Luella, who got married in a pink dress and wore the dress to parties afterwards, bobbed her hair, and went to teacher’s college. She taught at the same high school where my grandfather was the principal – and my mother was a student.

2 responses so far