Jess at Thirteen

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Birthday Girl

You guys! Jessica is a teenager!

Of course you know that Jessica’s birthday is every April 15, but this one was particularly momentous, since she turned 13. We were able to celebrate on her actual birthday, since it was conveniently located on a Friday. Above is the birthday girl, wearing a hat her mother made.

We all convened over at the family estate for the birthday party, which was also the first party there this year. Jessica and I perched on a hay bale while she showed me her sketchbook, full of wonderful drawings and ideas. She opined that my name did not suit me, being “far too practical”. She thought I was more of a Fleur than a Susan, and I have to agree. Sorry, Mom and Dad, but I have always felt that I deserved a more glamorous name.

We unintentionally ended up with something of a theme birthday. Jessica is into manga and anime these days, including one called Totoro. Erica made a fantastic Totoro themed cake:

totorocake

which was deep, dark chocolate and somehow managed to be both rich and light. The filling was dulce de leche and the frosting was buttercream. The characters on the cake are Totoro (you may remember Jessica wearing her Totoro fleece PJs at Christmas a couple of years ago) and soot sprites, with rainbow sprinkles, since that is apparently what soot sprites eat.

jesstotoro

Megan ordered a wonderful t-shirt for Jessica, which hadn’t arrived on time, so we gave her a picture of it:

tororo shirt

I’m pleased to say that she was wearing the “Four More Pages” shirt that I had made for her last Christmas. I gave her three pairs of socks from Pippi’s: math themed; Alice in Wonderland; and Japanese looking cherry blossoms:

socks

She seemed very pleased with both the socks and the shirt to be. There was squealing involved. 🙂

Dinner was pulled pork made by Jonathan, grill bread with spiced dipping oil made by Megan, and mayonnaise-free* coleslaw made by Erica, all at the birthday girl’s request. We perched at the Waltons-sized picnic table and enjoyed eating and talking together, telling stories of when Jessica was a little kid, which seemed to amuse her more than embarrass her. I’m happy that she still wants to spend her birthday with us. Every year, I think it will be the last one. Maybe it never will be.

Happy birthday, kidlet. We love you.

*Because my sibs hate it. This was the basis of Erica’s best prank ever a couple of years ago.

A YEAR AGO: Farewell to a gentle giant.

Cut Off

So, yeah. Still no internet at Suzy Manor as of Saturday morning.

The technician did not show up on my blog’s birthday/anniversary last week. I called them three times that day. The first time, they said that the technician would call me back in 15 minutes. He didn’t. The second time, they said they would call me back with an update. They didn’t. The third time, they told me that the appointment had been double booked somehow and the two appointments, like a double negative, had cancelled each other out.

This was despite the fact that I had called them the evening before to confirm the appointment and was told that it was a priority appointment since the internet had then been out for over a week.
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They made another appointment for that Friday. The same evening, I received a call from the local (or possibly local-ish) dispatch guy, who informed me that:

  • There was no technician in my area on Friday, so the Friday appointment was not going to happen.
  • The earliest a technician would/could be there was Tuesday the 26th.
  • The folks who answer the 800 number, which I called three times on the day of Appointment One, do not have the capability of contacting the technicians, so the technician was never going to call me that day. Nor was the Friday appointment ever going to happen. And they knew it.

That’s a lot of lying in a relatively short time frame. By the time service is restored – assuming it actually does happen on Appointment Three (three times the charm?) it will have been out for two weeks.

I will have to call them again at some point and ask that they prorate the bill, but I just can’t deal with it now. Also my faith that they will do so is hovering at about the same level as my belief that they will show up on Tuesday, which is to say, Not At All.

UPDATE: I am pleased to report that as of Tuesday afternoon, the internet is reportedly working at my hippie hovel! Apparently the problem was something to do with a connection problem inside the modem and a faulty cable. Or something. Insert Charlie Brown teacher voice here. It only took two weeks and six phone calls!

A YEAR AGO: A perfect day.

Merry Anniversary

I’m celebrating my blog’s 15th(!) anniversary (birthday?) by hopefully getting internet service restored at my hippie hovel.

It’s been out for about a week – undoubtedly the ever-exorbitant bill will not be prorated, due to the ever-useful small print – and my blog’s birthday was the earliest the technician could get there. I’m hoping that he does in fact show up and is able to find my house. Also that he can both diagnose and correct the problem.

In the meantime, I’ve been taking my laptop to work so I can at least check my email when I’m on a break. My neighbor’s spotty and unsecured wifi has occasionally let me hitch a ride, but mostly it shows up as working while not allowing webpages to go or email to come and go. Cell phone service is so bad at my house that I am forced to have a landline, and needless to say, that also means no using your cell phone as a hot spot or getting email on it.

Thanks for your company on this long and bumpy ride. It’s been an adventure!

Update: As of 3:30, the technician hasn’t shown up. Maybe it’s a 420 thing. Or maybe just a Mendo thing.

A YEAR AGO: My blog was 14.

Up & At ‘Em

evilgenius
Thanks, Evil Genius!

You can get a LOT done by 8:00 am if your cat wakes you up at 4:30 on a Sunday morning. Not that I am recommending this particular method of efficiency. Still, I have already: cooked for the week; done the cooking-induced dishes; done the laundry and put it away; taken out the garbage, compost, and recycling; and put out my clothes and accessories for the work week, a remarkable achievement on four hours’ sleep after a crazy work week. You know who to thank/blame…

I woke to the distinctive and distinctly unsettling sound of two cats growling at each other, making preparatory “You want a piece of me?” fight noises. Audrey was at the sliding glass doors in the living room, and I flipped on the outside light.

I have to admit that part of me was hoping it might be Roscoe, even though Audrey probably wouldn’t growl at him. However, instead of being a slim black cat, it was a large, fluffy white cat. The interloper was standing on the back porch (my grandiose term for a bunch of two foot wide boards hammered together) peeking in. He clearly belongs to someone, being both well fed and clean, but was in no particular hurry to return to his home, wherever it was.

Audrey flung her little stripy body against the glass, shaking it in its runners as her tail puffed up and her growl got louder. Clyde got out of bed to see what all the fuss was about, watching the proceedings from the safety of the stairs:

clydestairs

When Audrey began clawing at the glass as well as growling her loudest, he made a few little growls of his own.

I had never heard the baby boy growl before, and I have to say the results were more cute than intimidating. Eventually, the white cat wandered off, waving his plumy tail with disdain that only made Audrey more incensed. When the show was over, Clyde went back to bed, but Audrey remained on Orange Alert at her post, even though I turned off the lights. I’m pretty sure White Cat won’t be back. Also that it may be time for a nap.

A YEAR AGO: Sigh.

Unexpected Beauty

This morning, as I emerged from the dark woods on the Ridge for my first view of the Pacific, there was a lone fishing boat with all its lights on, alone on the wide ocean in the early morning greyness, looking like a fallen star. There can be unexpected beauty in the world.

I planted the tulips too late last year, around Christmas (or maybe even New Year’s) instead of before Thanksgiving, so they bloomed in March instead of February, and bloomed long after lilacs, daffodils and magnolias, which just seemed wrong. And when they started to poke their green shoots up in their containers, I felt that I had planted them wrong, because one of the containers housed a single bloom:

tulips

But when it flowered, it was so beautiful that I realized it was perfect, just as it was, all on its own:

tulip

And speaking of perfect, Rob has done it again, creating a companion piece to his original shelves:

shelves

The cornices at the top match the original piece, as do the beveled edges of the shelves. I love how he used the speckly pieces of wood for the center of the sliding doors in the cabinet at the bottom. The whole thing has been sanded to a silky finish and waxed by hand. It may be the nicest thing in the house after the 250 year old grandfather clock.

I would stack up Rob’s work against any of the artists at the fine woodworking show we attended a couple of months ago (and which may have inspired him). He is a true artist.

I may be the world’s leading collector of his work. On my desk at work is a little ceramic purple box he made, which holds paperclips, and the dish in which I put my car keys and iPod when I come home from work is also a Rob original, as is the lovely fluted tray in the bathroom which holds the lotions and potions a girl needs to put her best face forward. Come to think of it, the entire bathroom, from its black and white tiled floor to its copper shower curtain is a Rob original, too.

A YEAR AGO A peek into Hooterville’s past.

Dinner’s Ready

I had dinner made for me by cute teenage boys on Friday evening. That’s not something that happens often enough.

The high school was having a $10 a plate (or Styrofoam container) fundraising dinner to support the sports teams. For your $10, you got BBQ chicken, baked beans, corn, and a roll*:

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The kids were manning (or boying, to my aged eyes) the BBQ:

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as I pulled up into the arena parking lot, and they brought dinner to my window with a smile, like a drive-through. What’s not to love?

With dinner taken care of, I headed to Safeway, where I found most of the population of the Big Town. I was buying one bottle of wine to go with the dinner Megan made for our brother and his girlfriend, who were expected home from their road trip to Oregon. You can’t use self check out for booze, though you used to be able to, so I was doomed to the inaccurately named express line. At least the girl ahead of me was half my age and buying a six pack of wine.

Megan made enough lasagna to bring some over to Jonathan’s to be ready when he and Rio got home. So they would find dinner and a bottle of wine waiting. I also added some TV shows and movies to his hard drive, and we wrote a little note saying “Welcome home! We missed you! Love from the PIA [Pain in the Ass] Sisters!” Megan also put the heat on and made sure that Scout the mini cat was inside. I think Scout missed Jonathan most of all.

He texted us:

“Dinner was delicious and the wine was fabulous. Far better than both was savoring the love and caring from my sisters. I love you both so much.”

I love my family. All for one and one for all! ♥

*It turned out there was enough food for two dinners. That was a good investment.

A YEAR AGO: Being Gaslighted. But in a good way.

Field Trip

Megan and I set off on a sunny Saturday morning for a road trip to Willits. Willits is best known, if it is known at all, as the home of the racehorse Seabiscuit*. It also has a more modest arch sign made by the same folks as those who made Reno’s, donated by the city of Reno:

arch

and has the oldest continuous rodeo in California. But we were headed that way for non horse related reasons. Our destination was the garden supply store, for unglamorous things like deer fencing for the pea prisons and iron (or possibly copper) for the orchard trees.

As we wended our way up and down and around and around the curvaceous highway, I thought of how it had been a covered wagon track and how hard it must have been for the horses dragging those loads, or the kids walking behind them, if the Little House books are to be believed.

Our brother was on a road trip of his own, a much more ambitious one heading to Oregon. We always text each other from the road, those of us at home with pet updates and those of us away with what we are seeing and doing. While we sent Jonathan a photo of our view from the apex of Highway 20:

view

He sent us his of a vertiginous view:

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which quite rightly had a sign telling visitors to keep their dogs in their cars to keep them safe. I can see why.

We arrived safely in Willits as Jonathan and Rio arrived at Belknap Hot Springs (which he gave two giant thumbs up). While they soaked, we shopped, getting garden necessities and, in my case, being charmed by a little wooden bear:

bear

Necessities out of the way, we poked around a bookstore, where I picked up a couple of things for Christmas stockings (I know, I know, and it seems particularly absurd since it’s an unseasonable and unreasonable 80 degrees as I write, but I will be glad I did when December rolls around), ordered dinner to go, and stopped in at a mysterious store where we bought: dog food; a pair of shoes; and iced coffee from the soda fountain/bakery section of the store. I have never seen such an unusual mix of items in the same store. Only in Mendocino! All in all, it was a successful field trip.

A YEAR AGO: An unsuccessful (attempted) blood-letting at work.

*I tried and failed to read that book.

Car Surgery

‘Memba the cheerful orange engine light that appeared on Wednesday’s console, striking terror into my heart and bank account? My brother reset it, and I drove around engine light free for a couple of weeks, but it reared its alarming head again before I had even left the County on my way to Monterey (that’ll learn me for having the nerve to venture so far afield). I knew it wasn’t anything urgent, but it’s still concerning to keep seeing that engine light. Especially when you thought it had gone away for good.

When I got home – unscathed, thanks for asking – he took another look, groveling around in the cee-ment pit he and Rob built for this exact purpose when they put up the carport:

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It’s a huge improvement over groveling around in a muddy ditch with the car perched overhead. And there’s even room for a washer, dryer, and body-sized freezer, all solar powered, since my brother lives entirely off the grid.

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My unpaid mechanic’s considered opinion was that the car needed a new thermostat. The engine has not been getting hot enough, which is better than it getting too hot, but is still not good over the long run. He called the parts store, and they needed Wednesday’s VIN to decide which part was needed. I texted the VIN to my brother, but they still couldn’t tell. The possibilities were Part A, at $160, and Part B, at $40. My brother suggested that we buy both and then take back the one we didn’t need, but the parts store owner said that Ford only buys parts back every three months from them, so it might be a while before we could get the money back. He then volunteered to call Ford himself to find out which was the winning part. I would have lost the bet, because it was the $40 part. Yay!

I dropped Wednesday off on Wednesday evening on my way home (how appropriate is that?) and my brother operated on Thursday while I drove The Beater to work, enjoying its Waltony rattles and hums. Hopefully the surgery will be successful AND the patient will survive.

Speaking of surviving: I’m lucky I survived the drive home the other night. I noticed headlights coming toward me – in my lane of the two lane highway. He was rocketing toward me, clearly trying to pass the RV and car ahead of him. In my opinion, there was not enough space between the RV and car for Mr. Maniac to slot in, so maybe his crazed plan was to pass both of them. I pulled over to the shoulder just in time as he jammed past me, making Wednesday and me rock like we were in an earthquake. I was thankful that the shoulder was there – many, many miles of Highway One do not have one – and that I got out of Mr. Maniac’s way in time. It was time for a glass of wine – or two – when I got home. At least I got there in one piece!

A YEAR AGO: All Suzy, all the time.