Archive for March, 2016

Mar 30 2016

Saturday Errands

Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends,Memories

It was a sunny Saturday morning. My sister texted me that she was teaching a CPR class that day, but was not looking forward to the long drive to town. Even though I was still slowly caffeinating in my PJs, I decided to join her and keep her company.

I tossed some chicken in the slow cooker and threw on some clothes. Even while I was dressing sketchily and leaving the house with no makeup on, I reflected that I would almost certainly run into someone I knew, which proved to be the case.

Megan’s car was preloaded with the dummies and equipment which I had picked up from our friends Lu and Rik on my way home from work the night before, so we jumped in and set off. As you know, I would always rather be driven than drive, and it was nice to be able to admire the ocean and the wild flowers by the side of the road.

Leaving Megan to her class, I took her car to the Company Store, which used to be exactly that: the store where loggers and millworkers bought the necessities of life from their employers:

company store

The outside hasn’t changed much, but on the inside, there is free and fast internet to delight the heart of an impatient girl doomed to the slow yet exorbitant horrors of satellite internet at home. In fact, I was so delighted that I failed to notice my brother’s girlfriend Rio until she came over and hugged me. She was accompanied by her daughter, who is getting married here in May. The two ladies had appointments to taste cake, consider flower arrangements and other pleasant wedding-related duties that day. It was nice to see them, and Rio’s daughter will make a beautiful bride.

Next stop was the library, where I both picked up and dropped off books for everyone and paid their fines, because that’s the kind of sister I am. 🙂 Next to me, a little girl was checking out a stack of books, and it reminded me of the long-ago summer Saturdays when we would go to the beautiful library in Bar Harbor:


As lab kids and constant summer residents, we were allowed to take out extra books, which was a privilege we always enjoyed. I overheard the same little girl say to her mother, “Of course you can’t see her. She’s in my head,” with a look on her face that clearly said, “Silly grownups”. As Antoine de St ExupĂ©ry observed, grownups always need to have things explained. And they usually think an elephant eaten by a boa constrictor is a hat.

After that, it was the feed store for the cats and then the feed store for the humans, where I naturally ran into some people from work. Fortunately they were also makeup free and dressed with extreme casualness.

I met Megan at her class, where she had been annoyed by Scenario Guy (“What if someone has a seizure in the middle of the road? Do you treat them or go get help?” along with dozens of other what ifs) and Know It All Guy, trying to share his wisdom with the class. At least it was over. We returned the dummies and returned home, where we made chicken enchiladas for dinner from black beans grown on the property and salsa verde made with ingredients also grown there, and the chicken I had thrown in the Crock Pot that morning.

We baked the enchiladas in Megan’s new to her stove:


which had been a family affair. Megan’s old stove was pretty dysfunctional, with only one working burner, so when I saw a free stove advertised on the local message boards, I immediately notified the family, who swung into action. Rob borrowed Mark’s truck, and he and Jonathan went to inspect the stove, which looked fine to them. They brought it home and installed it, and I am pleased to report that all the burners and the oven work! Less crappy, my friends.

A YEAR AGO: Some time off before starting my new job. I’ve been there a year today!

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Mar 26 2016

Tick Tock

Published by under Family,Memories

When my father died, I inherited a 250 year old grandfather clock which has been in our family since it was first made by John Jullion of Brentford. Fun fact: the oldest clock still on public display in Australia was made by the same gentleman in 1770. Rob unpacked our clock after I moved to Hooterville, but it was decorative rather than functional.

At Christmas, Jonathan said that he wanted to get the grandfather clock running again this year. I’m not sure if that counts as a New Year’s resolution, but he (and Rob) can check it off their lists.

Rob shimmed it so it was as straight and true as possible given the irregularity of my house in general and the floor in particular. When the clock was stored, the (very) heavy lead weights, pendulum, winding key, etc. were all carefully stowed inside, so the guys had all they needed to get the old man alive and ticking.

They lifted off the top and got to work:


It was nice to watch these two, brothers-in-law for 25 years and friends for more than 40, working together. And soon the clock was ticking the seconds away majestically. They did not install the bell, though. My house is really small and the bell is really loud. When I lived in San Francisco and the clock lived in the hallway and I had a bedroom door to close, it would still wake me up sometimes, so I think I’ll settle for the ticking for now. It’s nice to hear it, reminding me of how it used to make the same sound in my grandparents’ dining room and my parents’ living room.

Before that, the clock lived above my great-grandfather Sydney Smith’s butcher shop in Chiswick. Here he is with my great-grandmother, the redoubtable Elizabeth Harriet*, outside the shop:


The name was still over the door when I visited it in the Silver Jubilee year of 1977, though it was no longer a butcher shop. Some of the lovely tilework from the interior:


also remained then, though I’m guessing it’s all gone by now. The clock has outlived them all! And it’s gone from a very urban setting to a very rural one. I wonder what other changes it has seen in its long life – and what changes are to come?

*Sydney was a charmer and adopted a laissez-faire attitude towards bill payment by friends and neighbors, so it was up to Elizabeth Harriet to make sure the receivables were received. And she did.

A YEAR AGO: A play from London and a burrito from the Valley.

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Mar 22 2016


Published by under Cooking,Country Life,Family,Memories

Dad in Kings Canyon, 1980s

This may be the first year I did not write a post about Dad on his birthday.

I had a hard time with his birthday this year, probably because of losing my Roscoe so recently. I am still struggling with Roscoe’s loss on a daily basis, so I guess thinking of someone else I loved greatly and lost suddenly didn’t help with keeping the flood of sadness at bay.

It would have been Dad’s 85th birthday, a milestone one. I’m not sure if that played into it too. But somehow, I got through the day at work, surrounded by the usual St. Patrick’s Day crap the day always brings, me with my heart aching and everyone else all cheerful. Good thing I’m good at faking it at work.

Thanks to Jonathan’s girlfriend Rio, we had dinner together the day after Dad’s birthday to honor him. When Jonathan checked out my car before I headed to Monterey, I said, “Let’s have dinner soon.” He agreed, and Rio pulled out her calendar, saying “Let’s pick a date, or it will never happen.” So we looked, saw the day after Dad’s birthday was a Friday, and a date was born.

When I came home from work that evening, Lupe and Luna came running up to greet me as usual, and Rio’s car was in the driveway. Inside, I found Rio and Jonathan already cooking in my kitchen(ette), a welcome sight indeed. They had brought everything needed to make Moroccan chicken, a recipe of Rio’s late mother (I’m sorry to say she is now a member of our sad No Parents Club). My brother’s giant cast iron pan was heating on my tiny stove, and he was browning chicken while Rio chopped kumquats.

I put my hair up, opened a bottle of wine, and got out my grandmother Nana’s wineglasses so we could toast Dad and Rio’s lovely mother Gloria. I set to work cutting up apples in the style of that same grandmother (carving pieces off until arriving at the core) to be made into crumble for dessert. I washed dishes while Jonathan made the crumble part, in which the secret ingredient is cardamon. He also puts in a pinch of cloves.

As Jonathan observed, having such a small space to cook in keeps you honest, since you have to clean up to make room to work in. Washing the dishes reminded me of doing the dishes with my much-loved grandfather Hoho* (husband of Nana). He had arthritic hands, and washing the dishes felt good to him. I used to dry, and he’d tell me stories:


These were special moments which I will always treasure.

Rob was already there, working hard at a new shelving extravaganza, and Megan came by after her 14 hour shift with coffee in hand. She has a magical ability to switch from coffee to wine in the afternoon which I admire but couldn’t emulate.

Rio asked to see some family photos. She especially liked this one of Jonathan and Megan in Maine. I’m guessing Jonathan was about 10, which would make Megan 4:


We got so far down memory lane that I almost (but not quite) forgot the crumble, pulling it out of my Easy Bake sized oven just in time. The Moroccan chicken was quite magnificent:


If I made it again, I’d use apricots instead of prunes, and maybe toss in a handful of toasted almonds for crunch, but it was delicious, and we were glad to remember Rio’s Mom along with our Dad. It made me happy to have my house full of the people I love most, all sharing food we cooked together:


It was a wonderful evening.

*So called because of his booming, distinctive laugh. You can read more about him here. He was really something.

A YEAR AGO: Wine and wild turkeys.

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Mar 18 2016

Unhappy Feet

It was a dark and stormy morning. I started it off on the wrong foot by putting my bare one into an alarmingly big (and remarkably cold) puddle by the table in the kitchen. That’s what I get for running around barefoot. My late, lamented stepmother found this habit deplorable. To her, only poor people went around with no shoes and it was utterly shameful.

Unfortunately for all of us, she was not around to see me get my comeuppance, or to notice the other big puddle near the sliding glass doors. Feeling like my house was falling apart around me, I went to feed the kitties, only to discover a large and slimy banana slug* in Clyde’s dish. I’m not sure which of us was more concerned. Clyde looked at it in horror (maybe it had bare feet) while I threw caution and the slug to the winds by grabbing it in my bare hands and chucking it into the woods. Why should my feet have all the fun?

The fun was just beginning. When I turned on the water in the shower, the water stayed persistently cold. It normally takes a while to warm up, and in the winter, I don’t have to add cold water to the hot, but it soon became clear that the pilot light in the flash heater was out.

As you would only expect in a house as eccentric as mine, where the light switches say “NO” when they’re on and you turn them off by flipping them up, the flash heater is located outside. Yes, where they keep the wind and the rain.

I pulled my coat, hat and flowered rain boots on over my PJs and deplorably bare feet and went out to investigate with a flashlight. It’s at moments like this when you realize that no matter how faux, you are in fact a grown up, and no one else is going to fix your flash heater in the early morning rainy darkness. I thought longingly of my brother-in-law Rob, sleeping innocently just yards away, and his ability to fix everything**. He could take care of this in less time than it took me to put on my coat and hat.

I couldn’t make it light by pushing the igniting button, so I went back inside and got one of those barbecue lighters. Then I pressed the gas button with one hand and, leaning back as far as possible, applied the lighter through the hole in the front and hoped for the best. I am pleased to report that nothing exploded and I lived to tell the tale. Also that the flash heater lit and stayed lit, much like F. Scott Fitzgerald.

On the other hand, my bare feet also discovered that Clyde had thrown up on the bathmat. At least it was on the way into the shower.

*When I still lived in the city, I came up here to visit my sister. Her bathroom is off the front porch, and when I went to use it late one night, I discovered a banana slug had wrapped itself around the doorknob by wrapping my hand around the banana slug. I shrieked with horror and I still think I could hear my brother-in-law snickering.

**He’s building more shelves for me! Stay tuned!

A YEAR AGO: Remembering my beloved father on his birthday.

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Mar 14 2016

Into the Past

Published by under Country Life

Megan and I decided to take a break from the rainy present to visit the stormy past.

The Kelley House museum in the Village had an exhibit on local shipwrecks, of which there have been many. There were more than 160 between 1850 and 1900. It’s less surprising to me that there were so many wrecks on these rocky shores than that people attempted to sail them at all. And those who did and chose to come ashore here did so on a sort of Victorian zip line:


It’s also surprising to me that this area, still so rural and isolated, was one of California’s original counties and that the Village was settled shortly after the Gold Rush, in 1850.

One of these many wrecks was the Frolic, a clipper ship loaded with luxurious cargo from China, including porcelain (Megan was wearing a necklace set with a piece of patterned porcelain recovered from the wreck of the Frolic), silk, gold jewelry, ivory napkin rings and thousands of bottles of Edinburgh ale, which had already traveled two-thirds of the way around the globe from the British Isles via India. She ran aground near what is now Point Cabrillo* in the (undoubtedly foggy) summer of 1850.

The crew, including Captain Faucon, immortalized by Richard Dana as the good captain in “Two Years Before the Mast”, abandoned ship, and in salvaging the wreck, the redwood forests on shore were discovered. An industry was born.

The owner of the Kelley House was no stranger to ocean travel. He convinced his reluctant bride in Prince Edward Island to join him in the wilds of Mendocino by promising to build her a nice house, which he did:


It still has a stunning view of both the ocean and the Village. He ran the mercantile next door, where his strict Baptist wife once chopped open a barrel with a hatchet, thinking it contained liquor, when it in fact contained molasses.

To avoid further messy confrontations, he built his wife her very own church, which can be glimpsed in the photo above. Mrs. Kelley’s piety was not shared by her son and heir, who had his own son and heir with the family’s maid, marrying her two years after the baby’s birth. The fact that the maid was Catholic was apparently more horrifying to the elder Mrs. Kelley than the rather shocking circumstances of her grandchild’s birth.

We thoroughly enjoyed our little trip into the past. As we left the lovely house and the friendly docents, we passed the duck pond, where it seems the whale watching season has begun:


In the background on the right hand side, you can see Mrs. Kelley’s red church and part of the octagonal privy she insisted on using for her entire long life (she lived to be 90), considering indoor plumbing unhygienic. The very fancy house**:


Mr. Kelley built for his beautiful daughter Daisy’s:


wedding present in 1879 was between the Kelley House and the church, and featured not only indoor plumbing but “sprinkles”, or showers.

*It would be nearly 60 years before the lighthouse would be built there. I wonder if the Frolic could have been saved if the lighthouse was there on that long ago summer night?

**I happened to be there when I got Megan’s frantic call about Star being towed in Megan’s car in San Francisco. I was delivering a gift basket to Aaron Paul, my crush from “Breaking Bad”. It’s probably just as well for both of us that he wasn’t there.

A YEAR AGO: Some nice surprises in the mail.

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Mar 10 2016

The Bee’s Knees

Published by under Friends,Special Occasions

Monica’s Shop

My friend Monica is always inspiring and creative. Her store is full of things both beautiful and practical, and the atmosphere is somehow both peaceful and exciting, because you never know what you’ll find.

Monica put her own twist on the First Friday tradition, by opening early instead of staying open late. She was surprised by the enthusiasm of the response: people were lined up fifteen minutes before the store was scheduled to open!

Inside, Monica was celebrating the bees, serving local roastery Thanksgiving’s Bee Bold blend coffee (a percentage of sales goes toward saving bees through Friends of the Earth) along with hand-made apple-ginger scones accompanied by honey-cinnamon butter. To go with the coffee, there was lavender sugar, and for non coffee drinkers, there was fresh spring water infused with berries, which was delicious.

Near the refreshments were displays of honeycombs, beeswax, and how bees produce honey as well as bee friendly plants to encourage local gardeners to attract and feed our endangered apian friends.

The artwork was by local children and was absolutely charming:


I was sorry that this delightful piece was sold, because I would have bought it immediately:


As it was, I settled for a handmade and sparkly bee pin:


You know how I love the sparkle.

A YEAR AGO: A trip into the past.

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Mar 06 2016

Early Morning Rain

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Garden,Weather

Hi! It’s 4:30 am! Want to take one guess why I’m up at this ridiculous hour?

You’re right. Of course it’s Audrey.

I tried to ignore her relentless pounding at the balcony door and the scritch of her claws against the glass of the sliding doors downstairs, but eventually, as she knew I would, I got up, put the outside lights on (go away, monsters!) and let her out in the storm that’s been battering the house since yesterday*, hoping that her stripy, featherweight body wouldn’t blow away. Possibly the wind wouldn’t dare to mess with her, though.

As I turned on the coffeemaker and the heater, I was thankful for the power still being on, a bet I would have lost. The winds were furious and the rain was slashing yesterday afternoon and into the evening. My friend and neighbor Jim said that one of his inside doors had slammed shut because of wind blasting through a dog door. Yikes.

So I went to bed resigned to waking up in the cold and dark, which I did, but not in the way I expected.

Um…thanks for the extra-long Sunday, Audrey?

There’s still a chance of a power outage as another storm is set to rage through here today, but I hope not. March has come in like a lion!

Stormy Ocean

My house has sprung a couple of new leaks, which I will have to tell Mark about. One upstairs, and one downstairs. The exact location of leaks can be complicated by the curved walls/roof.

Outside, the orchid has begun to bloom:


We are a little concerned about the orchard over at the family estate, though. There are blossoms on all the trees, so if the rain and wind blow them off, there will be a lot less fruit this summer. Hopefully our bees have been busy pollinating.

*Just emptied four inches of rain out of the gauge!

A YEAR AGO: March madness, in the hated form of Daylight Savings Time. Maybe all my complaining is finally paying off, because a San Jose assemblyman is planning to introduce a bill to Congress to end the madness. As the Beach Boys would say, wouldn’t it be nice?

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Mar 03 2016

Our Little Corner of the World

Published by under Country Life

You know you live in the country – and a rather eccentric part of the country – when things like this appear on the local message boards.

  1. Wondering who the new kid in town is:

    Anyone know who the new “man on the street” is?

    The fellow on the motorized unicycle wearing a long black coat and carrying a Red Cross bag?

    Responses were as follows:

    “I think it is Dr. Doolittle. He is now working for the Red Cross as an “Emissary on Wheels”. I understand that he can “talk to the animals”! Listen in on his conversations with the stray cats in the neighborhood. Very meowing. “

    “Mystery solved!

    He is a healer using many modalities, (hence the Red Cross bag) and lives in several different countries. He is visiting here for a few days to enjoy our “Scotland-like weather”.

    That’s the report from downtown!”

  2. Another mystery involved the owner of the local bookstore:

    When I arrived this morning and unlocked the store, there was a friendly German Shepherd inside. He’s hanging with me now. So … did anyone forget their dog here last night?

  3. Chicken giveaways (though you have provide your own housing – maybe there is no such thing as a free hen):

    4 chickens free to good home or stomach. We can eat’em, cause they were our pets. Just finished molt, so they aren’t laying right now, but when they do, we would get 4/day. They are free range. We are keeping their coop.

  4. An attempted pig giveaway (or at least, attempted pig owner location):

    Three not so little pigs are in my fenced pasture, about a mile up X Rd. I think they spent the night in a neighbor’s yard. One black, one black and white and another smaller black one.

    Anyone lose 3 pigs?

While I don’t know if the pigs were ever reunited with their rightful owner or if the chickens found a new home (hopefully vegetarian), I do know that I came to work one day and found that my coworker had gifted me with a dozen eggs which she had collected from her hens that morning:


You can’t get fresher than that. It was a nice surprise.

A YEAR AGO: A less nice surprise.

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