Freedom Friday


A beautiful day on the coast

One good thing about my current inability to sleep is that it gave me an extra long Freedom Friday last week. I had time to cook, do laundry, vacuum, wash the sheets and hang them out in the sunshine. Sheets that have been washed in Caldrea’s neroli and sea salt laundry soap and dried in the some of the cleanest air in the nation smell fantastic. Maybe that will help me sleep. One of these nights.

With the house in order, I hopped into Wednesday’s gangsta dark interior, put on some Tito Puente (including my favorite Ran Kan Kan), and set off for the beautiful South Coast, stopping at the Hooterville post office on the way. I was rewarded by a surprise magazine and card from a dear friend in Alabama, a sweet card from Lu*, and a brand new driver’s license.

The ocean was at its prettiest, turquoise and active, and the hills and trees are still lushly green. They are so green it’s almost loud. Not the slightest hint of the “golden”, and there are carpets of wildflowers everywhere, our very own super bloom. The river is full, and I saw a couple of young whales playing where the river meets the ocean. It was so nice to finally see the sun after all the rain we’ve been having.

I arrived at Queenie’s, a former garage turned deliciousness emporium:

It’s “open daily”, other than Tuesday and Wednesday. I found the dining room lightly populated, and settled in with the New York Times to await brunch, which arrived much more quickly than I anticipated, especially since it took about 40 minutes to get breakfast on my last visit. I had freshly squeezed orange juice and an omelette with broccoli, caramelized balsamic onions, chicken-apple sausage, and sharp white Cheddar. It was delicious!

Arriving home, I found Audrey relaxing in the sun on the back “porch”:

Nothing looks cozier than a cat in the sun. Clyde came running out to meet me, as he often does, and it was good to be home, especially on a week day. Ah, the joys of a day off!

*I love how she sends cards for no reason. This one said, Thank you for including me in sister nights at the theater. ♥ I love hanging out with you and enjoying fun times. ♥ Love you very much my friend. ♥

A YEAR AGO: Jessica’s 13th birthday. Our kidlet is a teenager!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sob!

The Bad Habit

Well, this is becoming a bad habit. Get up early, go to sleep late, have a series of nightmares that wake me up throughout the night. On Thursday, I got up at 4:30 am, when Clyde joyfully leaped onto my unsuspecting stomach. It is a very effective wake up call, though more enjoyable for the leaper than the landing pad.

Since I took Friday off as a mental health day, I had an adult beverage or two after work on Thursday night while watching playoff hockey and staying up until 11:00 pm, fueled by fantasies of the Maple Leafs David beating the Goliath Washington Capitals. I know all the odds are against it, but a girl can hope.

I figured I’d sleep in until it was light outside on Freedom Friday, but I was as wrong about that as I probably am about the Maple Leafs. After a restless night of bad dreams, I finally gave up on the whole thing before 5:00 am.

After the requisite caffeination and cat duties, I threw in a load of laundry and did some cooking for during the week, including this delicious recipe. I left out the cilantro, upped the ginger, and used half sweet paprika and half smoked paprika, and threw the olives in near the end of the cooking instead of boiling them separately (Why? Why?). While things were cooking and cleaning, I finished a data entry project for my friends at the former jobette and emailed it over to them.

The jobette may not be so former after all. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but I am once again considering working Saturdays this summer.

You may recall that after a change in leadership at the jobette last year, the New Guy decided to close on Saturdays, among other unpopular decisions that ended up costing him his entire staff. After wreaking havoc in just a few short months, he quit and went back from whence he came, to the relief of all.

The current CEO seems very nice. We had a good meeting where he asked if I would consider doing data entry, blog writing, and working on Saturdays. He is willing to pay me more than I make at my real job, so it’s hard to say no, though I am a little worried about getting burned out. Decision-making, as you know, is not among my few talents. Maybe if/when I make a decision, I can finally start sleeping better.

A YEAR AGO: It was an internet-free zone at stately Suzy Manor. And there was quite the liestorm to go with it.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Meet the jobette’s newest employee, the office cat!

Jessica’s Birthday


Birthday Girl

In keeping with our Endless Winter theme* (always winter and never Christmas!), Jessica’s 14th birthday dawned chilly. A committee of my siblings decided that it was too cold to celebrate at the family estate, instead relocating the festivities to stately Suzy Manor.

I was less than delighted by the implementation of Plan B, partly because I had had a pretty bad week at work and did not feel very hostessy, and partly because my desire to clean up the house was why they invented negative numbers. In the end, I didn’t bother cleaning up the house and I don’t think anyone noticed or cared. Sorry, Martha Stewart!

Erica and Jessica turned up in a fancy new car:


It’s not just new to them, it is utterly new. It has new car smell and is luxurious inside. It is like Wednesday’s more glamorous cousin:


You can’t tell from the picture, but Erica’s car has secret plum sparkles in the black paint which are revealed on the rare occasions when the sun shines. She wants to get personalized plates that read HAGMOBILE. Ha!

Of course Erica had made a spectacular cake:

The buttercream icing is vanilla and both flavored and colored with raspberries. I love the ombre effect. But wait, there’s more! The icing on the inside has chopped up dark chocolate with dried raspberries in it:

Jessica blew out all her candles with one mighty breath, and we decided to have dinner backwards, starting with dessert. After the cake, Jessica opened her gifts, delighting in each one. She is such a wonderful kid.

While all this was going on, Megan was making pulled pork in her instant pot. She is obsessed with the instant pot. We had the pulled pork with fresh tortillas which Megan cooked on her cast iron griddle, along with black beans, salsa, cheese, and fresh lime wedges. It was delicious!

We invited Erica and Jessica to the next Predicta Party, which will be in mid May. We will let Jessica choose the shows for that night, though we also want to introduce her to the joys of Honey West, which we are sure she will love.

And I sure love that kidlet.

*At this point, I’m pretty sure we are just going to go from rain and cold to 80 degrees, transforming my hippie hovel into an oven. I’m sure I will miss winter then.

A YEAR AGO: Audrey the alarm clock. All part of the service!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The kidlet turned nine. I was thinking pink.

Tire-d

Dear Winter,
How can I miss you when you won’t go away?
Love,
Suzy

It seems that I was overly optimistic about the arrival of spring and the departure of winter. Lilacs notwithstanding, the weather has been doing a pretty good imitation of winter. It was 38F outside and 46F inside this past weekend, and we had a strong storm with high winds and heavy rains which led to me having to get out of the car three times on my way to work the following day to remove fallen branches on the drive way and the Ridge. The air smelled like Christmas trees and the roads were covered with twigs and needles as if it were December. So last season!

Spring being a tease and having to drive (again or still) in winter weather conditions makes me at least grudgingly glad that I invested my last paycheck in four new tires, an alignment, and an oil change for Wednesday. Unfortunately for both me and my modest paycheck, Wednesday requires low profile, high price tires, something of which I was unaware when picking her out at the car pound in faraway Modesto.

I bought two new tires on my really excellent birthday two years ago, and amused the mechanics when I asked if I could just buy four regular tires instead. To their credit (and my debit), they explained with a straight face that those pesky laws of physics don’t allow for that, regular tires being too fat or too high to fit in Wednesday’s sleek wheel wells. I guess two years is about all you can expect of your tires when you persist in driving them on unpaved and semi-paved roads which are usually accessorized with the latest in potholes and suffering from unbenign neglect when it comes to repairs.

I realize this means I have so far bought tires twice for a car which is not yet paid off.

In other winter news, it appears that all the rain has been wreaking havoc on our well. I came home one day this week to discover that the water coming out of the tap was a little more colorful than I would have liked. I asked Mark about it, and he hadn’t noticed (though you’d think at least one of three girls he lives with would have). He investigated, and said that all the rain had flushed the surrounding red clay (the red earth of Tara!) into the well and we would have to wait for it to settle down, which did not really settle me down at all. Nor did his cheerful assertion that it’s “clean” dirt, being natural instead of man-made and (presumably) not toxic.

Fortunately, I still have bottled water left over from the winter supply, but I am hoping that Mark can put a filter on the pipe that leads from the storage tank to the houses on the property to decruddify it sooner rather than later.

A YEAR AGO: Rob unveils his masterpiece.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Things were beautiful in San Francisco.

Family Dinner

This month marked what is probably the last inside family dinner for a few months. We had it at Rio’s compound, and the weather was nice enough for us to sit on the front deck in the sunshine with a keg of the cider we made last fall, laughing and talking. Appropriately enough, we were joined by our fellow cider maker and good friend Clayton:

who had ridden his red motorcycle up from San Francisco to join us, across the Golden Gate Bridge, through the wine country and redwoods and beside the ocean. Over the ocean and through the woods to Rio’s house we go!

Rio had the door open so we could enjoy vinyl records played on her turntable inside the house. Some of the records had album covers designed by Rio’s father*, who was a quite celebrated album cover artist, designing for greats like Miles Davis and Billie Holiday.

We had lasagna for dinner, followed by chocolate ice cream with a warm cherry sauce made by my brother:

he also threw in a handful of M&Ms. Why not?

After dinner, we gathered around the Predicta:

to enjoy vintage television together. This evening’s entertainment had a beautiful blonde theme, starting off with an episode of “Bewitched”, starring the bewitchingly lovely Elizabeth Montgomery, followed by “Honey West”, with the equally lovely Anne Francis. Honey West featured an early cameo by Maureen McCormick, later and better known as Marcia Brady.

It was a delightful evening.

*Coincidentally, both of our fathers were named David.

A YEAR AGO: A road trip to Willits for us and one to Oregon for Rio and Jonathan.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spring planting in the garden.

85


Mom and her father

Today would have been my mother’s 85th birthday.

Sometimes I am surprised by how much time has gone by since we were orphaned. In some ways, it seems like it just happened, and in others that it was so long ago. With the unpredictable elasticity of grief, some anniversaries of births or deaths make you feel almost as bereft as you did when it first happened, and on others, you remember more happy memories. And it’s pretty much impossible to say why or know how you’ll feel until it happens.

My mother has not figured in these pages as much as my father. We did not always have the easiest relationship, and it is only now that I have begun to understand her better. She had a difficult life, there is no doubt about it. She was abandoned on the steps of an orphanage as a baby, my father left her, she married a man half her age who spent all her money and left her on welfare to fight a valiant battle against cancer. Hers was a long and terrible death, which she fought bravely to the end.

But she was also loved. Her parents adopted her when she was about three, picking her out at the orphanage like a puppy at the pound. We do not know anything about her birth parents, though there were rumors that her father was a doctor and her mother a patient. My mother didn’t care, though. Her parents told her that they chose her out of all the children in all the world, and other parents just have to take what they get.

Dad met Mom at a wedding and was charmed with her looks and joie de vivre. He was finishing his PhD in England and she lived in New York State. While he finished his degree, and when he took his round the world tour afterwards, he wrote her constantly, and I still have the wonderful love letters in their blue airmail envelopes, with drawings and photos and descriptions of the many wonders he had seen and how he missed her.

They definitely loved each other, though they were very different. Dad was scientific, Mom was artistic. She loved music, he was tone deaf. She was utterly American, he was English to the core. In retrospect, it’s probably not surprising that the marriage didn’t last, though like mine, it did last a long time.

I just wish Mom had found the happy ending Dad did. And I wish I could tell her that I love her and miss her. When I think of her, I think of her sparkling green eyes, beautiful, thick, golden-brown hair (which Megan inherited), her pleasure in beautiful things, from music to jewelry, her laugh. I think about sitting in bed with her – she was a night owl – watching “Saturday Night Live” back in the 1970s together. She was delighted by Devo’s avant garde version of “Satisfaction” on that show. I think of how she welcomed Gilbert, Dad’s graduate student from Tanzania, into our family for a few years when his family couldn’t get money out of the country to him. I think of her driving fast with music on loud in the car, the way I do now, the bracelets I now wear jingling on her wrist, shining in the sun.

She was strong. She was brave. She was unique. I am glad she was my mother.

Sisters and Friends

The ballet season has ended, but the play season is just beginning.


The stage is set

Megan, our good friend Lu and I went to see a play at the local theater in the village on Saturday night. It was called “Morning’s at Seven”, and even knowing that the title comes from Robert Browning’s “Pippa Passes” doesn’t make the punctuation look any better to me. The play was written in the 1930s and is about four elderly sisters living in the mid west. This doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, but we spent the whole production either laughing or gasping in shock. It was very entertaining indeed.

The theater has a little bar in the lobby, and the bartender makes a special drink for each production. This one was called the Four Sisters, and was made of Four Roses bourbon, ginger ale, a dash of bitters, and a twist of lemon:


I’m not much of a bourbon drinker, but it was quite refreshing. The bartender confided that the four ingredients in the drink were inspired by the four sisters in the play, and invited me to guess which sister inspired which ingredient at the intermission. I only got half of them right, but it was still fun to guess.

After the play, we made our way to our cars and stood there chatting for a few minutes under a glittering blanket of stars. It was a great evening, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.

A YEAR AGO: My brother to Wednesday’s rescue. This year, she needs new tires. Sadly, none of these are April Fool’s Day jokes.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A late season storm. And a new (to Megan) car!