Archive for May, 2016

May 30 2016

Spring Staycation

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Dogs,House

It’s 9:00 am and I have already done two loads of laundry and put them away; made pizza dough; washed a load of dishes; swept the stairs and floor; and finally filed paperwork on my desk and put the files in Rob’s amazing cabinet.

I also unpacked a box of books, including classics like The Poky Little Puppy, which used to be my favorite book as a child. My Dad read it to me so often that he used to read it with the pages facing me, his eyes closed. I never got tired of it. Other discoveries included a book on Queen Mary’s Dollhouse (as fascinating to me now as it was then) and a story John wrote about our cat Jack when she was still a kitten. She is the only surviving cat we had together and I don’t want to think about how old she is now.

While unpacking the books, I discovered a fairly sizable scorpion. Its claws freaked me out, but I swept it into the dustpan and then into the woods, where I hope it stays.

I rewarded this industriousness by going with Megan to the farmers’ market in the Village. I picked up some rhubarb and a fresh baguette:


Later, we took the dogs for a stroll in the Village. As usual, Megan took Star and I took Stella, or Stella took me. I discovered that we had many shared interests in common, since she bounded joyfully into a bar as if she were Norm on “Cheers” and went there every day, then into the ocean view bookstore, and then a jewelry store. It was challenging to remove her from these places, and the attention she got from total strangers didn’t help. Stella clearly preferred running a tab, shopping, and petting to walking on the boring sidewalk, and I can’t say I blamed her.

A YEAR AGO: Megan’s giant birthday BBQ, and Erica’s best prank ever!

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May 27 2016

Megan’s Birthday

Published by under Family,Memories,Special Occasions

My former boss gave me a very generous gift certificate to the Ledford House, where I recently met my friend Jim for a drink in the bar, and taking Megan out to dinner on her birthday seemed like the perfect use for it.

It was also a perfect day to be at the restaurant, which has a stunning view of the ocean. It looked like a postcard as we took our seats by the window. The server overheard me saying it was Megan’s birthday, and brought us complimentary birthday champagne:


Are there lovelier words in the English language than “complimentary champagne”? Well, there’s always “taxi” and “doorman”…

We toasted Megan’s birthday and I couldn’t help remembering the day she was born. I was called down to the principal’s office, walking through the empty, echoing halls. My nine year old body was full of dread and my nine year old brain was paging through the things I had done wrong and the things I could have been caught doing wrong. Arriving at the office, the motherly secretary told me that I had a baby sister. I don’t know if I was more excited about that or the fact that I hadn’t been caught at whatever mischief I had recently been perpetrating.

I skipped merrily down the hall on my way back to my classroom, where I shared the news. The girls all choroused “Yay!” while the boys chimed in with “Boo!”

Meanwhile, back in the present, my now grown up sister and I received a little white ceramic tray with spiced olives, house-made bread which was crusty on the outside and springy on the inside, and a tiny white ceramic pitcher of fruity olive oil to nibble on while we considered the menu.

I considered that since local sparkling wine made by Roederer in Anderson Valley (Roederer’s French vineyards make Cristal) was only $4 more than ordinary still wine, we should stay bubbly, my friends. With that important decision made, we turned our attention to the menu.

We shared a head of garlic, roasted whole with fresh thyme and olive oil, the top cut off to expose the caramelized cloves. We spread the cloves on wafer thin crostini and topped it with fresh chèvre. Simple but delicious.

Megan had gnocchi, which she said was the lightest she had ever tasted:


and I had mussels, on Dad’s principle of getting a dish at a restaurant which you would not cook at home:


The gnocchi were the lightest I have ever ever tasted, and the mussels were served in a complex white wine broth, garnished with a nasturtium and served with a rich, spicy aioli on the side. There was a bowl thoughtfully provided for the discarded shells. The bill came to $16 after the gift certificate was applied, and it helpfully listed what 10, 15 and 20% tips would be so no after dinner math was required. I left a $40 tip. The service was great – there when you wanted it, not when you didn’t, not too chatty and not too unctuous. And the server was probably in high school. The owner does a great job of training his staff.

I honestly cannot remember the last time I had a fine dining experience. The food and the view were great, the atmosphere was casual but refined, but most of all I think I enjoyed the feeling of being cosseted and taken care of. It was a wonderful evening.

A YEAR AGO: File under miscellaneous.

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May 21 2016

Weather or Not

Published by under Cats,Country Life,Weather

Beautiful Anderson Valley

The weather has been a combo platter this week. We came off a string of grey, cloudy days, bemoaned by most but secretly enjoyed by me, to a couple of hot days by coastal standards, and delightful rain showers this morning.

It’s amazing how quickly I get sick of the heat. I came home, got out of the car, and thought, “Well, that’s unpleasant.” In the tent-like nature of my house, it was 82 degrees both inside and outside. I sighed and put the fans on. Clyde was melted on the stairs. It was not good weather to be black and furry.

Now, people think Clyde is a doofus – and I’m not saying he isn’t – but he is also smarter than he gets credit for sometimes. He lies right where the ceiling fan sends its breezes, ruffling his overheated fur. Audrey, of course, lounges in the shade on the balcony, and just like she can come in from the rain magically dry, she also never seems to get too hot.

Whereas I hate it when I don’t need a light sweater in the day and I have to sleep blanketless at night. Clyde joins me in my love of the comforter. These days, I have been folding it at bedtime and putting it on the rocking chair my great-grandfather made for my great-grandmother, and often Clyde jumps onto it before I can even get it on the chair. Then he sleeps there all night in comforter majesty, leaving me both blanketless and Clydeless.

This morning, I woke up to the happy sound of rain pattering on the roses on the balcony and Clyde purring beside me. The house is also humming with its civilized ration of electricity, which it was not at this time yesterday.

Megan barely made it home from her fourth night shift of the week yesterday morning before the power went out. And I was lucky enough to already be at work, because someone crashed into a power pole at 7:30 am on the Ridge, shearing it off so it fell onto the road, closing it to traffic until a tow truck could come and remove the old pole and our trusty friends at PG&E could bring and install a new one.

Power pole installation is a lengthy business. They were not finished until 5:30 that afternoon.

Megan and I left our powerless houses to go to a sale at a garden center in Anderson Valley, where we failed to find the pickling cucumbers of our dreams, but I was utterly charmed by a ceramic chicken:


On our way home, we naturally stopped at Libby’s to pick up dinner. We were rewarded not only by al pastor, but by running into Dr. Sue and her husband, who were having dinner there. We had such a good time chatting, and we promised each other that we would meet up properly soon and spend some time together.

A YEAR AGO: A new hairdo and a new play with old friends.

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May 16 2016

Wonderful Weekend

Last weekend was wonderful, though it was also a busy one. Come along with me for a magical mystery tour of the county!

Friday: Met my friend Jim after work at the Ledford House. I was greeted outside by a very fluffy and friendly black cat, and inside by my friend, who had a local beer in front of him. I ordered a glass of local wine, and we settled in at the bar to admire the view and catch up with each other’s news. Even though it was overcast, the view was still spectacular. I never get tired of watching the ocean in all its moods.

The second anniversary of his husband Joel’s death is upon us, and we drank a toast to the dear departed. But we also laughed, thinking of how the royalty checks still come in from the “MacGyver” episodes Joel wrote, and remembering how he smoked pot with Allen Ginsberg when he was at Harvard. He lived a rich and wonderful life. I just wish it had been longer.

Saturday: Megan and I headed to Boonville in beautiful Anderson Valley. We were in search of tomato starts for the family garden, so we stopped at a nursery where chickens were merrily hatching:


And two yin and yang cats were playing (or was it fighting):


It turned out that the white cat in the background is the mother of the black one in the foreground. The white one was very friendly to me, but the black one needed some convincing before I could pet her.

At the farmers’ market in Boonville, we ran into Rose’s daughter Citlali, but we didn’t find the Holy Grail of tomato starts. We ended up getting Plan B tomatoes at a plant sale at the high school. As you do.

We met Erica and Jessica for lunch. We worked on plans for Junapalooza, which is basically going to be a dessert extravaganza, and entirely catered by Erica other than the cucumber sandwiches, which may be the only thing we are serving that doesn’t have sugar in it. There have to be some compensations for being a grown up, and having sugar in multifarious forms for your birthday dinner may be it.

We gave Jessica her belated birthday t-shirt, which she loved, and she gave us origami birds she had made, seen here gracing my sandwich:


I love those girls.

On our way home, we stopped at Libby’s, which was miraculously open, but which only had one order of al pastor left, because you can’t have everything, which seemed to be the theme of the day. I let Megan have the al pastor and I settled for carnitas, because that’s the kind of sister I am.

I got home in time for the Kentucky Derby. I had made simple syrup infused with mint, and bought all the other Julep necessities, including freezing the glass for it. It turns out that I am not a Julep fan, sadly. I love the idea of it and the name of it and everything but the actual taste. It is pretty intense for daytime drinking also.

Sadly, my favorite jockey, the legendary Calvin Borel, had retired just a couple of months before the Derby, and I missed him and his smile as the jockeys came out of their dressing room to mount the beautiful horses. I love the walk over and the call of “Riders, up!” and all the pageantry. The favorite, named for the legendary Detroit Red Wings player Gustav Nyquist brought a little reminder of hockey to the glamorous occasion, only appropriate during playoff season.

Sunday: It was up and at ‘em again, leaving the house by 9:00 am and not getting home until after 6. Megan and I headed over to Lichen’s house, where he cut her hair and we admired his garden and his new to him Rottweiler, Keeper. At nearly 9 years old, she isn’t very fresh, but she is very sweet, and they seem very happy together.

Our next stop was Anchor Bay Thai, where we got dinner to go at lunch time, ‘cause that’s how we roll. I always think I will try something different, but I couldn’t resist getting my favorite Massaman curry, fresh spring rolls, and cucumber salad.

With dinner taken care of, we headed to Point Arena for the last ballet of the season streamed from the historic Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. At three hours (partly because of two intermissions), it was long, but it was my favorite of the season. I loved the costumes and sets and the beauty of the dancing. Semyon Chudin, who memorably played the Mouse King in the Nutcracker, played the male lead, and he and Ekaterina Krysanova, who played his love interest, had wonderful chemistry and matched each other well. I still can’t believe they can jump so high and spin like that!

It was a wonderful experience. And it was wonderful to see something so beautiful and then drive home through such beautiful countryside.

It was a great weekend.

A YEAR AGO: I was having a lovely weekend then, too.

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May 12 2016

Mystery Cat

Published by under Cats,Country Life

Speaking of cats…

Remember the white cat who made an uninvited appearance early one morning, simultaneously driving Audrey insane and cutting short my much-needed beauty sleep? I have finally solved the Mystery of the Cat in the Night*.

One night, Mark called me to ask if I had a white cat, because there was a large one treed outside in his house and making a large fuss about the predicament he found himself in. You’d think Mark would know that my dwindling supply of cats now only includes Clyde, who is jet black and rarely leaves the manor, and Audrey, who is stripy and whose hobby is terrorizing Mark’s dogs, but apparently not.

So I disclaimed ownership of the mysterious cat in the night, while being pretty sure it was the same one who had annoyed Audrey about a week before**.

The next morning, while I was drinking my coffee and perusing the local message boards, I came across a frantic message from someone who was missing a large white cat in my neighborhood. I emailed her and told her that as of the previous evening, the cat was up at a tree at my neighbor’s house.

She replied with relief, since it turned out that she was taking care of her son’s cat while he and his wife were on vacation and she was horrified that she had lost the cat. Being a small town, it also turned out that the cat’s owner was a long-time friend of my brother’s.

I alerted Mark, gave the cat sitting mother his address and directions, and went to work. I later learned that attempts to persuade the cat out of the tree were unsuccessful, and they had to call in the services of a semi-professional cat remover, who is well versed in dislodging disobliging felines from trees. He brought a ladder and a box, and apparently of all the cats he has relocated from their arboreal perches, this is the only one who didn’t pee on him during the process, so it was considered a win all the way around.

I am pleased to say that I haven’t seen the white cat again. Hopefully he is staying a little closer to home these days.

A YEAR AGO: Trying to accept my new lot in life. Still trying!

*If this isn’t a Nancy Drew title, it should be.

**A perusal of my blog shows that this same cat was annoying Audrey almost exactly a year ago. I hope this isn’t becoming an annual tradition.

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May 09 2016

Family Style

Published by under Cooking,Family

We had the last family dinner at my house before the summer party season moves over to the family estate. Upcoming events include Junapalooza, where we will celebrate my birthday (4), Erica’s (5), and Rio’s (11). Like Jessica’s birthday this year, the celebration will take place on my actual birthday, since it is conveniently located on a Saturday, when we are all available to celebrate. Then there will be Kalli’s traditional Birthday Camping Party in July (not to mention Megan and Rob’s 25th anniversary).

There’s lots to look forward to!

On the day of our family dinner, I came home from work to the welcome sight of Megan already in my kitchenette, chopping things up. Our brother’s giant lethal weapon cast iron pan was on the stove and the cookbook Dad made me was open on the table:


I love how it’s decorated with his drawings, and his inscription to me:


Not to mention the practicality of having the recipes in plastic sleeves, which can be wiped off, unlike paper.

For the last family dinner, we made a recipe from Rio’s mother, and this time, we made one of Dad’s: paella. He always said it was just the thing for a party, and so it was.

Of course, this party consisted of opinionated cooks and picky eaters, so the following modifications were made. Peas and mussels were axed because some of us don’t like them, and the pork shoulder was deemed unnecessary since chicken, shrimp, and garlic sausage were already in the dish. Here is our father’s original recipe:


6 chicken thighs [we used boneless, skinless breasts chopped into pieces]
1 onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
6 tomatoes, skinned, seeded and chopped, or tinned chopped tomatoes work well [guess which we used?]
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
4 oz. boneless pork, chopped [we omitted this]
4 oz garlic sausage, chopped
1 & 1/2 cups white rice
4 cups chicken stock
12 mussels [omitted this]
12 prawns [we added more prawns to make up for it. Peeled them though recipe doesn’t say to]
1/4 teaspoon saffron
4 oz peas, fresh or frozen [skipped them too]

Fry the chicken in olive oil until brown. Remove to a plate. Cook onions, garlic, pepper and pork over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until onion and pepper are cooked. Stir in rice and saffron, cook for a few minutes, and add stock. Bring to a boil. Add chicken and sausage and mix. Add mussels, prawns and peas to the top of the pan, cover, and cook gently for about 20 minutes. All the liquid should be absorbed and the rice should be tender.

As I said, we didn’t use the mussels or peas, but 20 minutes seems like a long time for both of them. I don’t think we cooked the shrimp more than 10 minutes and they were perfect.

I hadn’t had it in some time, and I had some concern that the only spice being saffron, known more for its expense and color than flavor, would not be enough. But the dish was delicious and flavorful and I am sorry to say that there were no leftovers, which I secretly hoped for.

Jonathan brought a lemon tart with him, made from lemons Rio had brought back from a trip visiting her family in her native Southern California. This time, he added a little lemon juice and almond extract to the shortbread crust, which was magically delicious.

I was having so much fun that I totally forgot to document this in photos. But maybe that’s the sign of a really good time.

A YEAR AGO: Speaking of families, Stella officially joined ours.

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May 06 2016

The Artist

Published by under Family,House

Not content to create the beautiful shelving unit/cabinet (shouldn’t there be a better word for this?):


as well as the original shelving unit (aka the project that started it all):


Rob also felt that the masterpiece needed lighting, so I could see what was on the shelves and in the cabinet. He found an old light fixture dating from about 1920 among the legacy piles of James’s things and stuff (Mark has done a mighty job of getting rid of a lot of it, and organizing the remainder), and made a base to hold it:


He also found a switch of a similar vintage and repaired it. The inside is very complicated, with a sort of two part spring thing, which makes a very satisfying snap when it is turned on and off. Notice that it actually says “ON” when it’s on, rather than “NO”, like all the other switches in my house:


He even braided the wire so it looks pretty as it wends its way up the wall and to the light fixture:


No detail is too small for Rob. I wonder what he is going to make next?

A YEAR AGO: A glamorous Derby Day weekend.

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May 02 2016

It’s a Beautiful Day

Published by under Country Life,Dogs,Family

The sun came out after some late season showers. As usual, the ocean was especially pretty after the storm had passed:


It was the perfect day to stroll along the headlands with Megan and the dogs. Megan took Star and I took Stella. Stella and I like to watch the ocean and the birds surfing the thermals, whereas Megan and Star like to get on with their walk. But we had a good time together.

The wildflowers are out in force, from field of irises to the ice plants clinging to the cliffs and drifts of buttery California poppies.


After our walk, we went to see an exhibit of local quilts in a historic building in the Village. It never ceases to surprise me how many talented people live in this small community. I believe the beautiful surroundings both draw artists to the area and continue to inspire them.

This quilt had hand-sewn crystals to represent the bubbles around the fish:


And this one is a kelp forest:


This one is an embroidery rather than a quilt, but it may have been my favorite piece in the exhibit:


It represents Montgomery Woods, where the some of the tallest redwoods in the County can be found. To me, it really captures the magic of that place.

Of course, we couldn’t pass up the chance to wander around the bookstore under the watchful eye of the Great Catsby:


He likes this perch, since it gives him a panoramic view of his kingdom and the ability to avoid the more annoying attentions of his perhaps overly devoted public. A king has his dignity, you know.

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