Archive for November, 2016

Nov 30 2016

The Disappointment

Published by under Bullshit,TV

You would think that the Gilmore Girls revival would be a bright spot in this darkest of Novembers, but you’d be wrong.

Within five minutes of the first episode, it was obvious that the magic was missing, and it only went downhill from there. Where was the sparkling repartee, the witty cultural references that required their own liner notes in the DVD sets?

Wherever they were, they were not in the show. There was no magic, and no escapism.

  • Why did they make Rory an aimless loser with no home of her own, drifting from couch to couch and with no career after her promising send-off at the end of the show to cover the Obama campaign?

    And would the perfectionist maker of lists really have a boyfriend she couldn’t remember (oh my GOD that shtick got old fast!) for two years and continually forget to break up with? Not to mention having casual sex with Logan, who was a) engaged; 2) dumped Rory when she wouldn’t marry him.

  • OK, Lauren Graham has had a bunch of cosmetic surgery, and not in a good, Jane Fonda way. She is virtually unrecognizable. And why on earth are she and Luke (at least she and Luke are back together) talking about having kids when they are nearly 50? And are we truly to believe that they never talked about it in the decade that they have been together?
  • Twenty, count ’em 20, valuable minutes were hideously and tediously wasted on a musical (I was truly thankful for the inventor of the fast forward button on this Thanksgiving season). A musical, people! Other than Joss Whedon’s genius “Once More with Feeling” on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, has there ever been a musical sequence in a TV show that was not gratuitous and painful in equal measure? This was no exception to the rule.
  • Why was Kirk in practically every scene? A little Kirk goes a long, long way. Especially when the writers erroneously consider that accessorizing him with a pig is cute or quaint or funny. It’s not.
  • Yes, it’s a dramedy, but we do not want or need extended scenes of Lorelai and Emily screaming at each other. We have both been there and done that. Nor do we need to be tortured by lengthy flashbacks to Richard’s funeral. While it’s important to acknowledge the huge, Richard-shaped hole in the show, stop rubbing our sobbing faces in it. Couldn’t you have just left it at the oversized portrait?
  • There was a teensy token appearance by Sookie, and somehow, some way, we managed not to learn the sex of the baby she was carrying at the end of the show. I thought I’d at least get to learn that.
  • Showing the oddly stilted and outdated cultural references that pepper the revival, Stars Hollow considers their first gay pride parade. Apparently the lack of gay residents is a hilarious problem, and one used to try and force Taylor to admit he’s gay so they will have more participants – while ignoring the fact that they continually refer to Michel’s invisible husband Frederick. Eventually they give up on the parade and Taylor stays in the closet. Or possibly armoire.
  • Speaking of invisible husbands, we get a glimpse of Mr. Kim! I always thought Mrs. Kim ate him after mating (once). Needless to say, he did not get a speaking role. It was almost a cameo, though.
  • As for those much-vaunted Last Four Words – the show creator has repeatedly said she always had them in mind – they would have been about a zillion times more effective if they had ended the original show, when Rory was 22, rather than when she was 32.

I had been looking forward to it for months, maybe even a year, and it could not have been more disappointing. Maybe you just can’t go home, or to Stars Hollow, again.

A YEAR AGO: A disappointment-free Thanksgiving.

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Nov 25 2016


There ended up being a lot of people jammed into my bijou residence for dinner, but I’m pleased to report that the evening didn’t involve stitches, handcuffs, Narcan or the Fire Department. Surveying the wreckage this morning, though, I now understand why they call it Black Friday. And wonder why I bothered cleaning at all yesterday. I probably wonder this every year.

The cats and I are sitting in bed together, procrastinating. It’s all about teamwork, my friends.

The turkey turned out great, despite sort of overflowing from its capacious roasting pan:


I am not convinced that the two day dry brining extravaganza was notably more delicious than my American grandmother’s simpler technique of rubbing the bird with butter, salt, and sage and then throwing it in the oven, but I’m glad I tried the fancy. Certainly the meat was moist, even the next day.

Here you see Jonathan making gravy while Jessica supervises:


The honey and harissa roasted Brussels sprouts with their piquant relish were a hit, even among the sprout agnostics and atheists. They vanished pretty fast, along with the cranberry-bourbon relish.

Erica and Jessica brought an exquisite version of Tarte Antoinette with them:


I think this is the fourth version of this delight: last year’s original, then the Bûche de Noël version, then the Junapalooza tartlet version, and now something that looks like a sheet cake, but is actually a pie. Sheet pie! Note that it is decorated with rose geranium leaves, which smelled divine, and sprinkles for festivity and cuteness. You can never have too much.

Jonathan brought tarts he made from huckleberries picked last summer. They tasted like a summer day:


I took a stealth photo of Jessica in her lovely thrift store dress:


Now that she is grown-up sized, I feel weird about making her pose in front of other people. She noted that it is a relief now that she can buy grown up clothes, since clothes designers seem to feel that kids have no taste.

Jarrett and Kalli joined us. It had been too long since we saw them, and it was great to catch up. They brought the irrepressible Archimedes with them, the artist formerly known as the World’s Cutest Puppy, on the fourth anniversary of his adoption.

The cats were not impressed with this canine visitor. Clyde hid in the studio, his desire for petting and admiration for the crowd warring with his dog terror, and Audrey sat on the stairs, gazing at everyone, but especially Archi, with utter disdain and disgust. It’s how she rolls.

Lichen was missing, on this, his birthday evening, but you know how he is about his birthday in particular and the holidays in general. We missed him, but we did have Clayton with us, our intrepid partner in cider making, who had ridden up here on his motorcycle from San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day. I love it that we are seeing him more often these days.

Jonathan expertly tapped the keg of our home-made cider, and we, the cider makers, toasted each other, the orchard, and the day we made that dream come true. I will always remember that day as a particularly special one.

Because everyone is always welcome at these celebrations (or any time, really – my door is literally open), some of my brother’s ham radio buddies joined us, bearing an odd selection of jumbo-sized gifts: a huge jar of marinated artichokes; a jug of cheap red wine; and a chocolate cheesecake the size of a wagon wheel, which has cornered the market on the valuable real estate in my refrigerator.

The rain held off so that the outdoor living room could be used, and after the guests left, Megan and I sat by the fire, drinking Cointreau and discussing the party. As Jessica sighed happily that evening looking around her with a plate of food on her lap, “I love my life!”

A YEAR AGO: It was T-Day eve. And things were not going according to plan.

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Nov 24 2016

Ready or Not

Ready to Go

I was planning to sleep in until it was light(ish) outside on this T-Day, but the ever-willful Audrey had other ideas, as she often does. She woke me up at 4:30 to start my doorman duties. I tried to go back to sleep, but at 5:00 am I gave up, got up, and made coffee. Since I was up anyway, I texted Megan, who was still at work, to wish her a happy Thanksgiving and she responded “Calling cops to ER! Yeah! Happy Thanksgiving!” so I guess I should not complain about wayward cats.

It’s just as well that the Audrometer went off as early as it did, though, because it’s about 1:00 pm now and I have finally had time to sit down after running around all day. As usual, I have no idea when people will show up or who will be here, but the house and I are as ready as we’re going to be. For some reason, this year I was finally able to let go of worrying about how the house looks and accept Megan’s always sage advice that the visitors are coming to see me, not the house.

I had the bright idea of dragging the wicker chairs from outside and putting them in front of the heater to dry off from the nearly 13 inches of rain we have received season to date (versus last year’s 3.5 at this time). I cleaned up a bit outside and collected cushions and blankets for those who will brave the chill to sit by the outside fireplace.

I was listening to Curtis Mayfield and working on the dressing when my brother appeared with a bucket of ice, in which he embedded the keg containing the cider we made from our apples. Then he headed home to make tarts from huckleberries he picked during the summer, while I finished off the dressing prep, scrubbed the potatoes we grew and put them in a pot, and prepped for this recipe for honey and harissa roasted Brussels sprouts with lemon relish.

Much like a couple of years ago, I experienced some turkey trauma this year. I was foiled in my attempt to try the splaying technique allowing for braised turkey legs with caramelized onions, though I carried through with the dry brining attempt. The recipe said to roast the bird at 450 degrees for half an hour, but after about 15 minutes it was alarmingly brown. I covered it with foil and managed to jam it back in the oven, though it pretty much touches the top of the oven. I turned it down dramatically and am currently hoping for the best.

After that, I preened and am wearing pearls and a Murano glass necklace bought in Venice ~mumble~ years ago. It goes perfectly with my pink blouse. I’m hoping that the rain holds off and that I will have time to put my unusually elegantly shod feet up and read about Victorian murderesses before the company arrives.

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Nov 23 2016

Thanksgiving Eve

Published by under Cooking,Friends,Special Occasions

Hello star dish, my old friend

I always say that the secret to surviving Thanksgiving is to plan ahead and delegate. Despite following my own well-meant advice, this year’s Thanksgiving celebration has already been a little on the epic side, and it’s not even here yet.

It involved several pre-work shopping expeditions (another secret: grocery shopping is much less painful, and lines are significantly shorter, when it’s done at 6:30 am) and after work tasking. My original plan was to try this intriguing recipe, but when Rob delivered the 23 pound Turkzilla on Tuesday evening, it soon became clear that even Mom’s Cadillac roasting pan was insufficiently capacious for the bird to really spread out and make itself at home. And even if it were, my bijou oven could probably not accommodate it.

The monster is jammed into the roasting pan, and after work on Tuesday, I dry brined it by rubbing Maldon salt, the zest of two Meyer lemons, and some pepper onto its enormous carcass. Afterwards, I obediently “patted” sprigs of thyme and smashed garlic all over it and then put some fresh bay leaves in the cavity after removing the grossness that always lurks in there.

I can’t say I understand how the flavor will perambulate through Turkzilla, but I am hoping for the best. After putting it into the refrigerator, I roasted and peeled chestnuts. That was all I could do that night.

Today, when I came home from work, where my productivity was severely limited by the thousands of spam emails flooding into my inbox (last count: 29,858), I set to work on making the traditional cranberry bourbon relish. The smell of Jack Daniel’s is much less unpleasant in the afternoon than in the morning.

As it bubbled away with clementine zest (I seem to be quite zesty lately), I chopped up yesterday’s chestnuts and today’s pecans, correctly pronounced “puh-cahns” by those Southerly inclined, for dressing. My dear friend and Southern belle Janice will be pleased to know that I am planning to bake it in a dish “and not in a bird’s behind, which we in the South consider to be tacky.” Erica considers baking dressing in the turkey to be a salmonella fest waiting to happen, so not doing so is made of win.

Erica had a slight culinary setback. The squash she had set aside for her truffle luxurious not pumpkin pie had exploded with mold, so her delightful and delicious Plan B is Tarte Antoinette, which Erica first unleashed on our unsuspecting tastebuds last Thanksgiving. Maybe this should become a tradition.

As the day darkened, I cut up what seemed like an endless supply of bread for said dressing, a combo of Cafe Beaujolais sunflower bread, Costeaux Bakery’s multi-grain pain de levain, and some ciabatta, so it can sit in a bowl and stalenize overnight. Tomorrow I will add the apples, celery, onions, etc. Hopefully after all this, it will not taste like Subway.

The final task du jour was making the lemon relish for the honey and harissa roasted Brussels sprouts. Everything else can wait until tomorrow.

A YEAR AGO: You guessed it! Same Bat time, same Bat station!

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Nov 20 2016


Published by under Country Life,Family

Moon Set Morning

This spectacular sky greeted me as I arrived at work one morning last week. I stopped to take a picture as I marveled at its beauty. On Monday, the super moon had been so huge and close to the ocean that there was a shining pathway of light across the rippling waters. I kept being distracted by the breathtaking sight and sneaking peeks as much as I could as I drove to work.

I wish now that I had stopped to take a photo of it, much as I wish I had taken one of the double rainbow over the ocean on my mother’s birthday a couple of years ago. It has finally occurred to me that one really does regret things one hasn’t done much more than those one has done. So I think my new year’s resolution is going to be to stop and take photos when I see something amazing, and to try and have fewer regrets about things left undone.

My resolution of spending more time with friends and family has been pretty successful. My sister texted me to meet her at Ledford House after work on a Friday night, and even though we arrived after the sun had set so we couldn’t enjoy the view, we did enjoy kirs (local champagne dashed with framboise liqueur and a twist of lemon) and hanging out. We did some Thanksgiving and Christmas plotting, and laughed at memories of Christmases past, including the one where Megan had to stitch me up at home, leaving me with a rakish scar. Hopefully this year will be a little less eventful.

A YEAR AGO: Enjoying Benedict Cumberbatch’s amazing Hamlet.

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Nov 16 2016

The Secret World of Food

Published by under Cooking,Work

Deskside Delivery

Of the many things that have surprised me about working at the clinic – and there are more than a few – one of the most unexpected is that it is a hotbed (or hot kitchen) of food. This occurred to me when I found a steaming bowl of menudo on my desk one day, a gift from one of the receptionists. It made me think back to the other culinary gifts that have turned up in my office since I started working there.

  • Panuchos, with all the accessories in little Baggies so all I had to do was put them together when I got home. Dinner’s ready!
  • Pumpkin bread: Like a deeply moist and spicy gingerbread. Delicious!
  • Freshly laid eggs – Just bring the empty carton back for more. Downside: makes Safeway eggs vary from the unappealing to the completely inedible, depending on mood.
  • Pupusas – In photo above. Corn tortillas with delicious fillings. As with panuchos, they come accessorized with little Baggies of goodness.

Of course, the leftovers from the endless meetings which all require food (there is one in particular which I am convinced most of the attendees only show up for because of the lunch catered by a certain Mexican restaurant) all end up in the kitchen, where they vanish more quickly than you would believe. Somehow, the word gets out that there’s pizza or doughnuts in the kitchen and the ravening hordes descend like a mob of real life Pac Men.

Our operations director, who moved here from Noo Yawk and has the accent to prove it (did you know “Long Island” has a hard g?) is a sugar pusher. She is always handing out candy and doughnuts. She says her philosophy is to start eating sugar around 11 am and keep going until bedtime, making her a real life Gilmore Girl*, since she might weigh 100 pounds at the most on a fat day. She often brings me cookies, including shortbread as a nod to my British heritage.

But the food fest isn’t limited to the kitchen and conference room. On any given day, you might find a variety of chips and salsa in one of the pod – I mean, team** – offices in Medical. Or random cupcakes. You just never know what you’ll find around the clinic. In more ways than one.

*Can’t wait until November 25!

**Yes, there was an actual, non catered meeting held to discuss the important topic of “pod” versus “team”. The team players won. See what I did there?

A YEAR AGO: Out on the town.

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Nov 11 2016


Published by under Calamity Suzy,Dogs

Little did I know that running screaming hand-in-hand with Jessica through the Haunted Hall of Horrors on Halloween would be the least scary thing that happened to me all that week.

I have always expected to hit a deer at some point on my lengthy commute, especially since the length of my work days cause more driving in the dark than I would prefer. I did not expect to hit a dog in broad daylight on the highway.

He came running out of nowhere, as they say. I slammed on the brakes, but not before I heard a yelp that lives in my nightmares and a flash of his belly as he rolled over. By the time I was able to get across the road, he had already run into his house. His owner came out and was super nice. She blamed herself for not leashing him and the dog for running into the street.

Needless to say, I blamed myself and still feel like a monster. The good news is that the dog is a) alive and 2) “only” has a broken leg. He does not have a mark on him. However, he was surgically repaired in Santa Rosa at vast expense, so it’s lucky for me that the owner absolved me of all blame and even gave me a big hug. We have been texting daily and it seems we both have a new friend. So maybe something good came out of something horrible.

It was a long drive home after that. When I was about half a mile from my house, a stripy kitty streaked across the Ridge in front of my car. Harmlessly, I am pleased to report.

A YEAR AGO: Just in time for Veterans’ Day, a visit from two veterans, telling war stories. Love you guys. And thank you to all veterans for your service.

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Nov 07 2016

This Is Halloween

It was a dark and stormy Halloween, but we did not let that deter us from the determined hunt for candy.

Jessica was dressed as Hel, the Norse goddess of the dishonorable dead:


Apparently the Norse afterlife is extremely complicated, with miscellaneous gods and goddesses in charge of various afterworlds. Jessica’s make-up, created by her ever-crafty mother, was suitably complex:


It was made of latex and items from Erica’s toolbox of make-up. Pretty impressive!

Our first stop on our All Hallows Mystery Tour was the Village. Jessica really wanted to go there, even though Megan expressed her doubts that much would be happening there, given the inclement weather, our late start, and light population of potential candy dispensers, but Jessica’s childhood nostalgia won out.

As Megan had predicted, there were few houses with occupants willing to give out treats, even those with lights on which turned out to be duds. After my umbrella turned inside out and my lower half got soaked, I repaired to the car to wait it out, leaving the braver souls to battle the elements. I later learned that Megan had predicted my ignominious retreat to Erica. When I said that she knows me well, she responded that she has been managing me for 45 years.

Eventually, even the intrepid duo admitted defeat, and we made our way damply to the Big Town, where we hit the candy jackpot. Look at this haul:


We also hit the decorating jackpot. Many of the houses had gone all out, with little graveyards, eyes blinking from the bushes, as well as more traditional themes. I loved these happy pumpkins:


And this walkway:


It seems Martha Stewart may have a little pied-à-terre here:


As always, I was amused at Jessica’s authoritative police style knock. It consists of five or six firm raps, often with a crescendo. I’m sure the people on the other side of the door wonder what they have done and expect someone to roar, “Open up! Police!”, only to find a svelte young girl standing daintily on their doorstep. The Police Knock is rendered even more delightful by the courtesy chaser. Once Jessica has successfully scored her swag, she thanks the donor warmly and wishes him or her a happy Halloween in a cheerful chirp.

When we could barely carry Jessica’s giant bag of candy, we made our way to the Haunted Hall of Horrors. After a long wait in the rain, we were welcomed by the infamous Madame LaLaurie*, since the theme was haunted New Orleans. The sets were just magnificent. Two of my coworkers were actors in the show, and they told me that they spend 6 weeks preparing the sets.

We wended our way through various rooms, encountering voodoo priestess Madame Laveau, going through bayous with moving bridges (where I was squirted with water by a swamp monster), through disorienting strobe lights, and a cemetery with ghouls rising from coffins. Jessica and I ran out of the door squealing, only to be greeted by someone with a chainsaw who chased us down the alley. Just when you think you’re safe…

Megan had again correctly predicted that I would scream within five minutes of going in, and I later learned that while Jessica and I were running and squeaking, Megan was calmly walking through it, observing everything with a detached eye. I guess it’s not surprising that the person who is unafraid of real life blood and guts and having actual brains in her hair is unperturbed by fake gore.

It was a great Halloween. I hope this is the beginning of a new tradition!

*Played by none other than Cinderella Wallace from our cemetery tour. She is a friend of one of my coworkers, so I was able to tell her how much we enjoyed both of her performances.

A YEAR AGO: A foggy Halloween without Jessica. Halloween is much better with Jessica!

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Nov 03 2016

Weekend Excursion

Published by under Country Life,Special Occasions

South Coast View

During a break between storms, Megan and I once again wended our way to the south coast. Coming around a corner, we found the view above to be so lovely that we stopped to take a picture. As we got back in the car, Megan observed that it looked like something out of “The Hobbit”, especially as we drove through a wind-snarled tunnel of witchy trees, bending to meet over the road. Not for the first time, I thought that I wouldn’t be surprised if a mythical creature emerged from the tulgy wood.

Arriving in Point Arena, we headed straight for Franny’s Cup & Saucer, as any right-thinking person would. Usually our forays to Point Arena are on Sundays, when Franny is resting up from her culinary endeavors, so we were happy to be there on a day when we could indulge in deliciousness and cuteness. It seems that ballets are scheduled for Sunday and plays for Saturday, though not on the same week.

Besides being a place where you can (and should) buy exquisite confections:


Franny’s is also a place where you can (and should) buy things of great cuteness:


for stocking stuffers, or just because, always the best reason for doing anything. Franny’s is where I bought the sparkly skull ring which I valiantly put in Erica’s Christmas stocking a couple of years ago, and picked up a couple of things for the Fab Girls’ stockings this year.

We also got mini vegetarian pizzas for lunch and decadent chocolate, raspberry and pistachio confections for later.

With a little time before the play began, we went to the garden and pet supply emporium across the street, where we discovered one of Dr. Karen’s vet techs at her Saturday job, along with her adorable dog Rex. It was so nice to catch up with her while shopping for food and treats for our bosses, and a welcome surprise.

The play itself, The Deep Blue Sea, was not my favorite, though the acting was good and I liked the set. The story is set in post WWII London and concerns a very neurotic woman who is married to one man while living with another who is total jerk. I couldn’t understand why she would put up with the boyfriend. I have never had a high tolerance for people who indulge their neuroses and self-destructive behavior, so I just wanted to smack the leading lady and order her to wake up and smell the coffee.

Still, it was interesting, and I am glad that we have access to the National Theater of London out here in the middle of nowhere.

After the play, we decided to go to Libby’s in Anderson Valley to pick up dinner, much like Ben figuring that if he was in Albuquerque, he might as well hit Hooterville. We were extra motivated to go to Libby’s, since we recently received the tragic news that Libby’s is closing forever on December 10. No more al pastor for us! We seriously discussed asking Libby for her recipe now that she is closing the restaurant, and whether we could get 20 orders and freeze them in the body freezer over at Jonathan’s place. These are important matters.

Unfortunately, the culinary gods were once again scowling on us, and Libby’s was defiantly closed at a time when it should have been open. We were not the only ones to drive happily into the restaurant parking lot and dejectedly out again. We added two hours to our drive time home, but it was a beautiful drive through the Valley, with the grape vines flaunting their fall foliage in gold, crimson, and ochre. The hills are already changing from summer gold to winter green, with all the early season rainfall we’ve been getting. All in all, a fun outing, if not an entirely successful one. No matter what, I always have a good time with my sister.


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