Archive for June, 2015

Jun 28 2015

Day Off

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Family

Megan and I pass each other in our cars most days. One of us is on her way to work, and the other one is on her way home. I always look for her, much as I used to listen for her coming home at night when she lived with me as a teenager, and it always makes me happy to see her and exchange waves. Even in the brief time I see her, I have some idea of how her night shift went. If we meet up closer to town, she left late, and if her windows are open all the way, she’s tired and the cool air is helping to keep her alert on the long drive home.

On Friday, I was delighted by the sight of a fawn so young that she still had her spots. So Bambi! She was in the company of another young deer, and as I waited for them to cross the highway – they had chosen a deeply curved area with a 15 mph speed limit – Megan came around the curve just in time to see them and be delighted in turn. I enjoyed sharing that special moment with her, even in passing, though as she observed later, we both hoped they found a better place to hang out than the highway.

We decided that we had to stop meeting like this, so we took Saturday off from chores and work and everything else, even (gasp!) dog walking, and headed to the Big Town for a plant sale. We brought along treats for the nursery owner’s dog, Rusty, who expects such things from us. Rusty had just had a bath and was super soft and fluffy, as well as super appreciative of the treats.

We enjoyed browsing the real flowers and the faux ones:

flowers

If I could afford it, I’d have a grove of these faux ones. No drought guilt, and they are fabulous!

I bought a few plants for home and one for my office, which is slowly undergoing a beautification project. On our way home, we stopped off in the Village, which was packed with visitors. I swear this has been the busiest summer for tourists since I moved here.

Traffic was heavy in the oceanfront bookstore, exhausting Catsby, the bookstore cat, who napped on one of the many cushioned window seats after an overdose of attention:

kitty

It was fun to browse, even though cat petting was out of the question, and I even picked up a couple of early stocking stuffers for Jessica which were too cute to resist and made me feel efficient, an unaccustomed, yet delightful emotion.

Arriving back at Megan’s house, we made nachos and watched GirlTV™. It was a lovely end to a lovely day.

A YEAR AGO: Coincidentally, I was at the very same bookstore!

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Jun 24 2015

Summer Vacation

Published by under Memories,Travel

A look at a summer trip to Paris.

Paris, France
Friday, August 23, 1991

Sitting in the open window of my room at the Hôtel des Batignolles, in a part of Paris which is new to me. The room is quite nice for 290 francs a night: a double bed, clean bathroom with pretty grey tiles, and a window looking over a courtyard where children play and neighbors chat. It is not at all touristy.

The hotel is close to Montmartre, and has a post office, corner store, and many cafés all nearby. At the end of the street is a lovely, quiet square. The hotel was recommended by Margaret’s hairdresser, Philip*, and I have been very well taken care of so far.

After checking in, I walked to the rue de Rome, full of music stores, to the Gare St-Lazare. I bought a return ticket to Vernon, to go to Giverny tomorrow. Then I walked down to the Champs Elysées and had an omelette and a glass of wine while watching the people go by. It is magical to be in Paris again.

Saturday, August 24, 1991

Slept well on my down pillows. Walked to the train station through the quiet streets (it was early, Saturday, and August, the traditional month for holidays). There are no direct trains to Vernon on Saturdays or Sundays, so I took an almost empty train to Mantes-La-Jolie and then changed to a train to Vernon. You can take a bus from Vernon station to Monet’s house, but of course I took a taxi**. The taxi driver was very kind and arranged to pick me up a few hours later to take me back to the station. He pointed out a few things en route – a 400 year old mill, barges on the Seine – and said that Monsieur Monet had been beloved in the village. His coffin was driven to his grave on a humble wooden cart, “like one of us”, the driver told me.

I was surprised by how uncrowded the museum was. Entrance to the house and gardens was 30 francs (about $5). I was enchanted by the beauty of the gardens. They are separated by pink gravel paths and often have vine-covered archways, but the general effect is wild and uncultivated. A slim black cat lounged Cleopatra-like on a stone bench, disdaining the passers-by. The garden was a riot of color, filled with roses, geraniums, hydrangeas, black-eyed Susans, sunflowers, and countless others. The waterlily pond looks exactly as it was painted, and it was amazing to stand on that bridge and look at those flowers:

giverny

After touring the gardens, I had to find a quiet spot to soak it all in and think.

The house was truly charming. All the Monet paintings in the house are reproductions, and most of the pretty pink stucco house with green shutters is decorated with Japanese prints and drawings. I was especially taken with the cozy yellow dining room and the blue tiled kitchen. The house is very unpretentious and livable. By the time I left, the place was packed and there was a long line to get in. I had timed my pilgrimage well.

When I arrived back in Paris, I visited the Square des Batignolles:

batignolles

It is delightful, with waterfalls, duck ponds, and a carousel. I am enjoying my temporary neighborhood. I felt quite at home reading the newspaper on a green park bench in the early summer evening. Once again, I marvel at the many people who say Parisians are rude or unkind. Everyone has been quite the opposite to me, from the elderly lady who was amused that we were reading the same newspaper to the man who invited me to admire his little dog. No-one has refused to help me when I asked for directions or information (such as where to buy stamps on a Saturday) and some people (such as the man on the train from Mantes to St-Lazare) are even too friendly. I think it’s all in your own attitude.

*Philip was fantastic. He used to come to Margaret’s house and do her hair every week. He was very flamboyant and very funny, and I always loved talking to him.

**Some things never change.

A YEAR AGO: A loving farewell to a very special man.

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Jun 19 2015

Wild, Wild Life

Published by under Cats,Country Life

Audrey was not my favorite cat when she woke me up before the alarm clock yesterday morning, but the Evil Genius doesn’t worry her stripy little head about such mundane things. Audrey always keeps her big, green eyes on the prize: whatever she happens to want at the moment. Letting Her Majesty out the balcony door, I noticed that the sky was an amazing confection of pink and lavender, much like the Pink Drinks we had at Junapalooza:

sunrise

I told Erica we should call the magical pink cocktails “Garden Parties”, and this inspired her to start plotting a high tea for next year’s Junapalooza, though we may do it sooner. As the Beach Boys put it, we can’t wait for June.

Meanwhile, Clyde spent his morning catching a squirrel which was almost as big as he was. He dragged it into the house and up the stairs to show me, which horrified me in so many ways, not least of which is the fact that squirrels, while cute in Beatrix Potter drawings, should really stay there. They are undeniably rodential, and their tails are quite rat-like under the fluff. Also they never have waistcoats or gowns like they do in Beatrix Potter tales. This one was completely devoid of accessories.

I induced Clyde to drop the uninvited guest, who wasted no time in heading for the same balcony I let Audrey onto earlier that day, but unfortunately for all of us, the screen door was closed. The squirrel promptly jumped onto the banister, where he found an attentive audience consisting of three extremely focused cats sitting below him. I opened the balcony door, shooed away the would-be predators, and the squirrel made a break for it, racing onto the balcony and out of sight.

Later that day, Rose’s daughter Citlali called me to alert me to the fact that she had just seen a bear lumbering across the Ridge at our driveway. I had arrived home a few minutes before, so I was surprised that I missed this exciting event (in fact, I have yet to see a bear in real life, which is just fine with me. I can stay a bear virgin for the rest of my life as far as I’m concerned). I’m pretty sure that bears are vegetarians, but I wasted no time in getting the cats inside anyway.

About midnight, I woke to a strange scratching sound. I checked to see if one of the cats had closed themselves into a drawer or the armoire, but that wasn’t it. The sound seemed to be coming from downstairs, so I went to investigate. It seemed to be under the stairs, where the box of my Dad’s letters has reposed since Rob started the great bathroom adventure last summer. Audrey sometimes wedges herself in there, but she was asleep upstairs, and I wondered if the squirrel had somehow squirreled himself away in there.

Moments like these are when you realize you’re a grown up. No one else is going to open up the box which may contain a fugitive rodent, or retrieve the pearl earring you dropped in the toilet. I gingerly opened a flap, but it was a rodent-free zone. It turned out that the culprit was the Mysterious Mr. Roscoe, clawing enigmatically at the box for reasons which are unfathomable to me but perfectly logical to a cat. Being Cat Staff can be a little challenging – and sleep depriving.

A YEAR AGO: Cars and dogs – what else is there?

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Jun 15 2015

Junapalooza

jesssahawl
Jessica in a shawl made by her mother

Erica and I are almost birthday twins, with mine being the day before hers, though come to think of it, several years ahead, too. So maybe we aren’t birthday twins, but we decided to celebrate our June birthdays together with a Junapalooza at the family property on Saturday.

I’m both pleased and embarrassed to report that I didn’t do a thing but show up. In my defense, though, I’m the only one who works at least five days a week (and complains eight days a week about it), and Erica actually enjoys cooking (it’s become a tyrannical chore for me. See the five days a week thing). Sometimes I picture her cackling over her cauldron like a fairytale character.

Erica’s fairytale basket was filled with scented dal and chutney made from her own figs and quinces. She also brought a deeply chocolatey three layer cake covered with Swiss buttercream and sprinkles, which, as Erica said, tasted exactly like ice cream, so it was like having cake and ice cream all at once.

cake

As if that weren’t enough, she also bought a flask of high quality gin, a bottle of pink grapefruit juice, and a jar of handmade lavender syrup, which were all whirled into delightful pink cocktails with the addition of ice:

drink

For those of you who want to try making your own lavender syrup at home, be careful to only put in the flowers, since the stems can make the syrup bitter. Other than that, it’s just water and sugar. We need to come up with a name for this delightful confection. It’s the perfect thing for a summer evening.

When Lichen appeared, he brought his own libation ingredients. He set to work zesting limes (he brought his own zester), and made frozen strawberry margaritas, the glasses rimmed with sea salt, which he also brought. We could drink pink as well as think pink*!

The pink theme continued with a raspberry pie made from raspberries grown on the property and picked that very day, which may be why it was mostly demolished before I got a photo opp:

pie

The pie and cake were preceded by the dal and chutney, as well as butter chicken. Jonathan grilled the chicken on the BBQ before putting it in the sauce Megan made. We also had forbidden rice and Megan’s home-made naan with cilantro and shallots. The garlic and onions in the butter chicken sauce came from the property, as did the cilantro and shallots in the naan. It was all delicious, and it was nice to sit by the fire and talk after dinner, replete with deliciousness.

Jessica and I fantasized about an alternate reality, in which we lived in a mansion within walking distance of a charming village with bookstores, cafes, chocolatier, patisserie, cheese shop, charcuterie, and other essentials. The village would be far enough away that we couldn’t see it or hear it, but we wouldn’t have to drive there. Rain would be “plentiful”, as Jessica put it, and there would occasionally be snow, enough to make snowmen and play in. It would never be hotter than 85 degrees F (Erica and Jessica had just suffered through a day of 104 degree heat – and baked a cake in it). Erica would be the chatelaine and run everything. It would be heavenly! A girl can dream.

A YEAR AGO: Around the house.

*I was shocked to learn that Erica and Jessica hadn’t seen Funny Face, starring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn, with Kay Thompson, the immortal author of the immortal Eloise books (how I love them!) as a Diana Vreeland character admonishing everyone to “Think pink!” It also has some of the first supermodels from the days when they were stunning: Suzy Parker, Dovima, Sunny Harnett. I think a communal viewing is in order, pink drinks non-optional.

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Jun 10 2015

Get Back

Published by under Calamity Suzy,Cats,Weather,Work

flowersFlowers Outside My Office Door

It’s been so long since it rained that when the pattering on the roof woke me up last night, I was unable to identify the sound at first. Eventually, my sleep-fogged mind realized it was a light shower. By the time the alarm went off, the showers had departed, leaving confused yet happy birds and frogs behind. Needless to say, it wasn’t enough to really water the garden or do any good, though it made the cats curious.

Speaking of cats, the boys turned 5 on Monday! Audrey is slated to turn 8 next month, and has recovered completely from her vet adventures, though my wallet may never recover. As for me, my back is still unhappy and not shy about letting me know. The irony is not lost on me that I’m limping around a medical facility like Igor, though there really isn’t anything anyone can do about it except stone me out on drugs, which a) I hate; and 2) would make it impossible for me to work. And work I have: I worked an eleven and a half hour day on Tuesday and so far this week have packed more than 30 hours into three days.

Today I finally had the sense to bring the small feather pillow from my couch as well as the heating pad to work, so I was able to sit in relative comfort at my sunny desk* during my long day. I tried to do as much as possible when trekking to the other side of the building – making it count! I still have no idea what I did to displease my dorsal region, and am displeased in turn that it’s still bothering me so much. Hopefully it will be better in time for Saturday’s celebration of Erica’s and my birthdays, so I can perch on a hay bale in reasonable comfort and sip gin cocktails. I may really need Jessica to escort me to my car that evening!

*My office has a window overlooking a courtyard landscaped with plants and flowers, like the one you see above. It’s a nice view. I usually don’t need artificial light, which is great.

A YEAR AGO: More car madness. You know, the usual.

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Jun 07 2015

Bad Birthday

I was not too impressed with my birthday week this year. It kicked off with a pricy vet visit (is there any other kind?) and ended with a pricy tire change (is there any other kind?). I also worked on my birthday for the first time in decades, thus violating one of my few principles: Never Work on Your Birthday.

On Thursday, I wasted a perfectly good birthday by working for 11 hours and getting the front two tires replaced on Wednesday (Jessica named my car for her favorite Addams Family character). Between the tires and the alignment, it was close to another $500, which begs the question of why I can come up with $1,000 for vet bills and tires, but not for, say, a trip to Hawaii.

There was a fire south of the scenic cemetery in Little River on my birthday afternoon, and even close to 7 pm, it was a one lane road with a line of cars inching along. When I finally got home, I found a check from the jobette and a bill for my car registration, which exactly canceled each other out.

I woke up on Saturday morning with spasming lower back pain that continues to torture me even as I write, while giving me a preview of the old age I am rapidly hurtling toward. Talk about adding injury to insult!

There’s always next year.

A YEAR AGO: The birthday disaster last year was an out of season power outage.

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Jun 02 2015

Ailing Audrey

Published by under Cats,Family

audreybed
The Evil Genius Recovering

Maybe I should have put a camera on Audrey. She came home on Saturday hopping like a bunny, not using her back left leg. It didn’t seem broken or dislocated, but she was definitely in pain. She kept growling, even when sitting on my lap. She was no better on Sunday, so on Monday, Megan took Audrey to the vet.

As you know, Audrey does not take kindly to the indignity of the cat carrier or the curviness of the road, so she pooped, threw up, and howled the entire way. As usual, we delivered a foamy furious feline to the unsuspecting vet staff. They x-rayed her leg and took blood tests, and all looked fine. It seemed the problem was one of her toes, though there was no puncture wound or cut or anything.

Dr. Carl gave her shots for pain, nausea, and inflammation, and I wish he could have given them to me, too, because the bill was almost $500. Audrey is back to her old self today, able to walk on all fours and demanding whatever it is she happens to want at the time. Dr. Carl called her “a fierce little woman” , and that about sums it up.

Megan multi-tasked by taking her dogs for a walk while Audrey was being treated, and took the patient home as well, where she closed her inside for a nap. I worried that I overreacted in sending Audrey to the vet, but Dr. Carl said that if your animal can’t walk to 24 hours, he or she needs to be seen. I’m just glad that Audrey is OK and that I have a sister who is kind enough to be a cat taxi.

A YEAR AGO: Car problems instead of cat problems. Why not?

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