Annual Ordeal

I got up so early on Hell Day – I mean Staff Day – that Clyde just stayed in bed, like a sane person. Audrey of course bustled out to take on the world and show it who’s boss while I drank coffee and tried to mentally prepare for the day ahead.

I was saddened to note that I was already getting up in the dark again. Hello, darkness, my old enemy…

Picking up the bagels for breakfast, I found that instead of getting the 60 bagels I had ordered, I got a paltry 3 dozen. I had ordered them the week before and called the day before to confirm. This kind of set the tone for the whole day, as I would soon discover.

Arriving at the clinic, I saw that the ever-elusive Facilities Guy had failed to open the wall between the two conference rooms and to set it up, as we had discussed numerous times. The set up includes taking all the tables out and putting in as many rows of chairs as possible. Chairs from both reception areas are pressed into service, so after dropping off my inadequate bagel supply in the kitchen, I headed over to Medical to start dragging chairs to the conference room.

I texted Facilities Guy, and he said he’d be there in a few minutes. It took more minutes than there were bagels, giving me time to do most of the chair hauling. I was washing and displaying the breakfast fruit beside the bagel boxes and cream cheese by the time he arrived.

Other duties included meeting the caterer – we had yellow “caution” tape strung across the driveway to stop people from driving/meandering in – and helping her to set up the quite splendid salad bar, which included mixed greens, grilled chicken, sliced hard-boiled eggs, cheese, sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots, bacon, croutons, and five different kinds of dressing, along with focaccia rolls. There was water infused with watermelon and mint, lemonade, iced tea and iced green tea. All this was topped off with bite-sized cream puffs and lemon bars, including a small tray of gluten free versions.

You’d think they’d be happy with this, but you’d be wrong. There were complaints that the tea was sweetened, and worse than that, we ran out of ranch dressing. You probably already heard about this on CNN. “Horror in a small town!” Even though there were four other kinds of dressing, I was sent to the store to buy more ranch*. When I came back, I had barely gotten out of the car and triumphantly brought the ranch dressing to the masses before I was informed that we had run out of salad greens. Way to kill the buzz, peeps.

I called the caterer and she arrived on her mission of mercy, bearing additional salad greens. Needless to say, I never got to eat any of the lunch, though I did get to clean it up. The festivities concluded at about 3:30. Most people took off, but I left around 5:00 after – you guessed it – cleaning up after more than 100 people.

I went home hating the Whos and applied wine as an attitude adjustor. Now all I have to worry about is the new boss starting on Monday and the Open House on August 13.

Where’s that corkscrew?

*What the hell IS it, anyway?

A YEAR AGO: Ah, future dishes! You are still in my present.

Date Day

Thursday was date day! I met my friend Randy for lunch and after work, I had Friday eve drinks with my friend Jim.

Randy used to own a lovely antique store in the Village. He still handles some consignments, but is mostly retired. He has had a very interesting life so far, having worked at Princeton University and the American embassy in Moscow, among other places. I never get tired of hearing his stories. He happens to be a neighbor of my friend Richard, another of my frequent date companions (though I hasten to add that they have both been happily married for many years to their lovely wives). Richard recently bought the house he has been renting for some time, so they are officially neighbors now.

It was great to take a break from the madness of work and spend it with civilized conversation and good food. I hope we can meet up again soon.

Needless to say, I was running late leaving work to meet Jim at our usual spot. I tried to text him, but it wouldn’t go, so I emailed him in desperation to let him know I’d be fashionably late. I had doubts that he’d be checking his email, but as it happened, his phone binged with the email as he was passing his neighbor’s house (it seems this neighbor has an open wifi connection, probably thinking no one would be using it way out here in the boonies), so he did know I’d be late.

When I arrived, Jim was comfortably ensconced at the bar, which has a stunning view of the ocean:

ledford

I ordered a glass of local sparkling wine and settled in to catch up with my friend. Jim was delighted to hear about the couple using Joel’s memorial bench at the Gardens, as I knew he would be. He said that was exactly what he hoped for. I still think we picked the best location, a secluded area overlooking a rushing stream.

While we were talking, my phone binged with a text. It was Megan, asking where I was. When I told her, she responded “I’m on my way!”

While we waited for Megan to join us, I asked the bartender what drink she was mixing. It didn’t have a name (suggestions, anyone?), but she muddled cucumber and lime, added ice, Collins mix, Hawaiian white ginger gin, and elderflower cordial and shook it up, topping it with a spritz of cold soda water. She gave me a small glass to taste, and as soon as Megan tasted it, she ordered one of these nameless, delicious concoctions:

drink

We had a great time catching up with each other, and Megan and Jim are planning to walk their dogs together soon. As we headed back to our cars, we promised each other we would do this again soon. I love my family and friends!

A YEAR AGO: A camping party!

Garden Girls

dogsgarden
Enjoying the View

Saturday was a postcard day, one to gladden the hearts of tourists from anywhere – and they are from anywhere and everywhere. On my way to work that day, I saw plates from Alaska, Utah, Texas, Maine and Wisconsin, as well as the usual Oregon, Washington, and Nevada. There was even a lumbering RV from Ontario, which, my (un)usually polite Canadian friends, I’m sorry to tell you failed to pull over.

Megan picked me up from the jobette, and together we locked up the shop and then jumped into her little red car, where I was instantly swarmed by Star and Stella. Stella never gets too excited about anything, except food, glorious food, but she has seen Star go crazy over me so many times that she has decided that she should, too. There must be a reason for it if Star does it*. Just like if Star smells something carefully, Stella must also investigate it. And since no one is ever as happy to see me as Star is, there was a lot of wagging and petting and trying to climb into the front seat before we could set off to the beautiful Botanical Gardens.

I happened to have two free tickets, so we went right in and headed for the café, where they very kindly give canine visitors a spoonful of locally made ice cream. This policy was greeted with an enthusiastic two paws up from both dogs. When they had finished their ice cream – it’s always treats first in my world – we started down the path, admiring the dahlias:

dahlia

And the gate that Rob would love:

gate

We crossed a little stream:

stream

which wends past my late friend Joel’s memorial bench. Among his many talents, Joel was a Master Gardener and spent a lot of time in these Gardens. I helped his widower Jim choose the site for the bench after Joel’s sudden death, and I intended to take a picture of it, but we found that an older couple was resting on it with their dog at their feet, so I didn’t. But this is exactly what Jim and I hoped would happen, and I am looking forward to telling him about it when I see him next.

We meandered through the woods:

woods

and arrived at the ocean, which was looking its best that day:

ocean

At the jobette, I was always told that our Gardens were one of two in the entire country that had ocean access. I don’t know what the other one is, but I am glad this one is here. One of the nice things about the jobette is that the visitors remind me of what a beautiful and magical place I live in. Why, it even has a dragon:

There's even a dragon.

Though you aren’t allowed to sit on the dragon, you can pet him:

sign

As we made our way back to the car, we promised each other that we would visit again soon. The dogs agreed.

A YEAR AGO: Sigh.

*I was charmed to see that at one point when Stella was sniffing something, she lifted her right paw daintily and held it there, just like Schatzi used to. Star copied Schatzi and Stella copied her, and it’s nice to see that Schatzi still lives on in that way, at least.

Predicta-ment

One morning, I heard a text while I was getting ready for work. Usually, texts at 6:00 am are from my sister, who is still at work after her long night shift. So early morning texts do not scare me the way late night phone calls still do*.

I went to see what was up, and it turned out to be my boss, letting me know that the power was out at the clinic. A flurry of texts ensued from other staff members with updates as I applied mascara and lip gloss and headed out the door. Since the power had gone out at about 3:00 am, I figured it would be up and running by the time I got to work around 7:00.

This prediction was correct, but although there were lights and power, the servers were still down, rendering our computers useless plastic boxes, at least temporarily.

While the IT guys worked away at the computer issues, I caught up on my filing and other things that did not require computers. It was a good feeling to get that stuff done. I always wonder why I don’t keep up with it on an ongoing basis. I have the same thoughts after cleaning the house, but with the same (lack of) results.

Speaking of electricity, Jonathan and Rio acquired a fantastic vintage TV set (delightfully) called a Predicta:

predicta

Like the computers at work, the Predicta is temporarily non-operational, but I have faith that my brother can get it back in working order. If he could make a temporarily non-working very vintage telescope into a NASA-worthy contraption, he can do the same for the Predicta.

While he scouts for parts, we are amusing ourselves by thinking of appropriately retro TV shows to watch on it, like The Munsters and Peter Gunn and Perry Mason. And we are always going to refer to it as The Predicta.

A YEAR AGO: Dinner and a movie.

* I still think “Mom” when the phone rings, even though she has been gone for so long. And I always think it will be bad news.

Family Style

I didn’t love being woken up at 5:30 on a Sunday morning, aka the only day of the week I can sleep in.

Audrey, however, is uninterested in the sloth of Staff, and in fact deplores it. There are standards to be kept up and doors to be opened, and Her Majesty does not appreciate waiting.

On the other hand, it gave me time to blog while my detoxing face mask worked on the wine I drank the night before and the sun glowed golden through the dark trees.

Thanks, Audrey?

I headed over to the family estate after work* on Saturday. Rio’s daughter Paloma was visiting from LA, and this was the first time any of us had met her. When I arrived, the guest of honor had not, and it turned out that Rio had given her daughter the wrong address, which made it hard for her to find us.

Find us she did, though, and even Scout the mini cat came out to say hello:

scout1

Scout surprised me by hanging around much more than usual. She is generally skittish around humans, especially in the great outdoors. She is hard to photograph because she tends to run away when approached, so this is the best I could do:

scout2

Jonathan was grilling onions and peppers while Megan picked plums and zucchini for me:

zukes

and remonstrated with me for not shopping at the family vegetable emporium more often.

As I peeled the peppers and Jonathan chopped them up, he realized that he hadn’t grilled the chicken yet. So he did that while Megan and I chatted and drank wine with Rio and Paloma. Finally, dinner was served at the giant picnic table Jonathan built. With the grilled chicken and veggies, we had black beans and fresh basil grown on the property, all wrapped up in tortillas. It was delicious, and we all had a wonderful time. It was a great end to the day – and the week.

*My favorite visitors that day were a young couple from Connecticut with their three year old, curly haired daughter Lucy. They had just come from Montgomery Woods, where some of the tallest and most magnificent redwoods can be found. Lucy excitedly told me that they were taller than her father (who was quite tall himself), and her father said that he was still in awe of what he had seen there. “I had to wonder if I was a good enough person to have seen it,” he said. It’s a magical place.

A YEAR AGO: Unexpected showers and traffic incidents. You never know what you’ll find on the Hooterville back roads!

Wonderful Wedding

invitation
Lu & Rik’s Wedding Invitation

The invitation definitely set the tone for Lu and Rik’s wedding. Drawn by Rik’s daughter Rachel, it invited us to a “BBQ bash and wedding celebration” and “a glorious time with family and friends”. It was all that and more.

When I arrived at Rik and Lu’s home after work on Saturday, it was a perfect sunny summer day. You could tell it was Rik and Lu’s wedding from all the EMS and search and rescue stickers on the guests’ cars. They have been EMTs for many years, so naturally most of their friends are in the same line of work. As I observed to Megan, the guests could not have been in better hands in case of any possible emergency.

The carport was transformed into a buffet, decorated with flowers, where there would later be a taco bar and cake. The outdoor clawfoot tub was the bar, filled with ice holding beer, wine, soda, and water. Next to that was spiked strawberry lemonade and mojitos in big glass jars.

Friends were playing music:

musicians

as we gathered on the lawn (you can glimpse the groom and bride at the bar behind the musicians in the photo). Kids and dogs, including Rik and Lu’s dogs Harlow and Sweetpea (seen under the hammock on the wedding invitation with their ever-present ball) were running around and playing together. There were hay bales arranged in front of the deck where the ceremony would take place, covered with colorful cloths. The deck was beautifully decorated:

deck

Rik built it himself over 36 hours. It must be very satisfying to build the place where you will be married with your own hands.

Lu carried flowers from our family garden in her bouquet and in her hair, including some of the sweetpeas we plant every year in Dad’s memory. She had cut her dress, but not as much as Megan and I had feared, and Lu thought it was still too long in the back, though I said it was like a train. She wore sparkly red sandals and no make up. She looked like our beautiful Lu, only more radiant and joyful than I had ever seen her before.

When it was time for the ceremony, the bride and groom came out of their front door hand in hand, accompanied by the Justice of the Peace who officiated. Rik jumped the gun a little by kissing his bride before the vows, to the crowd’s laughter. He looked like had won the lottery during their simple, yet deeply moving vows:

vows

They exchanged rings made of gold they had panned themselves on trips to California’s gold country. They love to travel, and have had many adventures over the seventeen years they have spent together, with many more to come.

At last Rik was allowed to kiss his new wife:

kiss

as the crowd went wild, including Jonathan, Megan, Rio, Rob and me. I love how the whole wedding was so them: warm, unpretentious, loving. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to share the love and joy of these two beloved friends with my beloved family. It was a day I will never forget.

Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Davis! Here’s to the new chapter in the story of your love.

A YEAR AGO: Erica’s brilliance. Do I have amazing friends, or what?

Whirlwind Week

It was a busy week, full of friends, family, and work!

I had lunch with a dear friend on Tuesday. She is scaling back at work since her father was just diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and she wants to spend as much time as she can with him. I really admire her for doing this. So far, both she and her Dad are in good spirits and enjoying every day. I learned that the brain does not feel pain, so he is not suffering, and also that cancer doesn’t spread anywhere else from the brain. He is more interested in reading in his garden and petting his cats than going on heroic adventures, and I’m glad that he is able to do just that, with his daughter at his side.

I met up with my irrepressible friend Richard for a glass of wine after work on Wednesday. He chose the resort from the movie “Same Time Next Year”, and we enjoyed the view:

IMG_2952

along with a glass of local wine. Richard filled me in on his latest adventures, which included dog sledding in Alaska (“I was literally covered in ice!”) and visiting an ancient Roman amphitheater in Lyon. Up next: Australia and New Zealand.

He also convinced me to work at the jobette at First Friday, which meant I left the house at 6:15 am that morning and got home around 8:45 that night. The shops and art galleries in the Big Town stay open late on the first Friday of each month, dispensing nibbles and in some cases, wine to the public.

At the jobette, we were featuring a photographer from the magical South Coast, who was there to meet the public and talk about his work and inspiration while I poured (but, sadly, did not drink) local sparkling wine, chatted with the visitors, and sold his artwork.

When I walked out to the car again about 12 hours after getting home, it all felt so familiar…

Saturday was busy at the jobette, with visitors asking about Fourth of July events* and other things of a tourist nature. The time flew by, and soon it was time to head over to Lu and Rik’s house for their wedding, which I will tell you about next time. It definitely deserves its own post.

*My father always used to say that England should be the one to celebrate the 4th of July, since as of that date in 1776 they were no longer responsible for America and its many problems, which have certainly not decreased over the last 240 years.

A YEAR AGO: Megan and I were enjoying the fabulous Flynn Creek Circus.

The Kitty Report

audrey
Birthday Girl

It’s the ninth anniversary of Audrey arriving on the planet and showing it who’s boss this Saturday. She shows no signs of slowing down or becoming less obnoxious with age. She still terrorizes Mark’s dogs and bosses Clyde and me around. Clyde and I are equal recipients of Audrey’s patented stink eye and passing swipes.

She continues to have her special privileges, such as going out first thing in the morning, when it’s dark and scary out. Possibly the Monsters are also afraid of her. When she comes back in, which is pretty soon these days, she hops up on the table for her welcome home treats. Clyde gets his on the floor, and Audrey will not eat hers if she is on the same level as Clyde. Nor will she come in a door if he is there. I usually have to pick him up so she will come in when she returns in the mornings, even though Clyde squirms like crazy for fear of missing the impending welcome home treats.

Lately, Audrey has been usurping Clyde’s favored spots. I have found her sitting on my desk and looking outside, and also sleeping on the armoire, usually Clyde’s favored napping spot:

clydenap

unless it’s too hot, in which case he dozes on the stairs in the pathway of the fan’s breeze.

It’s been a pretty warm summer so far, so it’s good that Clyde has successfully overcome his fear of ice cubes:

clydedrink

because there is ice in my drinks more often than not these days. At least he avoids the adult beverages.

It’s a particularly festive weekend for Audrey’s birthday this year. It’s a holiday weekend, which of course it should be, but it also marks Megan and Rob’s 25th anniversary (today!) and Lu and Rik’s wedding (tomorrow!).

All you need is love. And cats.

A YEAR AGO: Things were on the stinky side at Suzy Manor. Much, much later – and not reported in these pages – the true source of the Smell was discovered. It was the remains of an extremely dead rat housed in the grandfather clock. Still don’t know how it got in there and closed the door behind itself, or why it didn’t just push the door open and get out. Yet another mystery for Nancy Drew! This one will remain unsolved, though. ~shudder~