A Birthday to Remember


Birthday Girl

It was a postcard day as Megan and I headed to the beautiful Valley to pick up the equally beautiful Jessica for her birthday dinner. It had been a long time since we had driven in that part of the county, so we took our time admiring the springtime scenery. The rolling hills were still green with the winter’s rains, and wildflowers were everywhere: frilly pink rhododendrons, fiery orange California poppies, waxy white calla lilies, and lavender lilacs. The air was bright with birdsong and the vines hazed with new green leaves. Baby lambs and calves played in the meadows. Spring is a beautiful time of year here.

The destination for our somewhat belated celebration of Jessica’s 15th birthday was a charming inn perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, allowing for spectacular views:

The restaurant itself is in a little corner of the inn’s lobby, overlooking the sea:

It is called Chez Marie, and you truly feel that you are chez Marie. Marie does the cooking and also acts as hostess, so you feel as if you are visiting her home. She is from Normandy, and her cooking shows her origins in the most delightful way.

I like how the menu tells you that they do not accommodate vegans (“sad rabbit food”, according to Jessica), gluten-free or other crazy diets. The gluten free loons would be missing out here, since freshly baked bread arrived at our table still hot, accompanied by fresh butter.

Megan and I started with the delicious French onion soup:

followed by delectable pork tenderloin in sauce Normandie, which included Calvados:

I have never had such tender pork. The sauce was delicious and not at all heavy. Marie says it’s because she doesn’t use flour. Jessica was delighted with her duck leg confit accompanied by cassoulet.

Marie gave us a dish of escargots in delicate phyllo cups in honor of Jessica’s birthday:

Both Jessica and Megan had never had escargots before, and both agreed that this was the perfect place to try them. They were replete with butter and garlic, and the correct texture and size. So often they are huge and rubbery. The phyllo cups were positively lacy.

All this was accompanied by what the menu calls two glasses of local wine, but which was really the server pouring wine all through the meal as soon as our glasses got a little low. Megan had to cut them off since she was driving. Jessica had apple cider instead, Marie observing that in France Jessica would have wine, but here…

We finished this memorable meal with profiteroles, Jessica’s adorned with a lit birthday candle. She considered her wish very carefully before blowing it out. If her wish was to return to Chez Marie on her next birthday, I’m pretty sure it will come true.

A YEAR AGO: Taking a day off.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful day in the Village, followed by a delightful evening at the theater.

TEN YEARS AGO: Apparently I was being coerced to go to Florida.

Cheers

Replete with local history, we headed to the bookstore, where rumor had it that there had been an expansion. The building looked the same from the outside, but on the inside, we discovered some new rooms:

It was nice to have a little more room to move around, though it’s also nice to have the mild complaint that your local bookshop tends to be crowded.

We did some shopping for Jessica’s birthday, even though we knew we wouldn’t see her until after the great day itself. Erica has picked up a cooking gig that requires her attendance on weekends, and between that and the busy schedules of my siblings, there was no family party this year. I hasten to add that Jessica’s auntourage is taking her out to a fancy French dinner which will be followed by silly movies and a sleepover, and that there will be presents.

Our shopping was supervised by The Great Catsby himself:

The Great Catsby is approaching the venerable stage in his life, but like many of us in that situation, he still considers himself to be a kid, at least inside. And cats hide their age remarkably well. I have never seen one in need of Botox or plastic surgery.

After the bookstore, we looked around in the Village shops, getting some cute socks for Jessica (and me), and a beautiful bracelet for Megan. I valiantly resisted this set of champagne flutes:

even though they are the Suziest thing ever, and also some sparkly earrings. My birthday is coming up, though, and Megan can hook you up if you’re in a giving mood.

By then, it just happened to be opening time at our favorite seaside bar, conveniently located close to home. The drink du jour was berry vodka Collins:

It consisted of fresh strawberries muddled by the best mixologist in the world, blueberry vodka from a Van Gogh decorated bottle, some lemon-lime, a spritz of soda water, and ice. It’s springtime in a glass!

We toasted our happy day and the successful adjustment of my attitude, along with our little corner of the world and how lucky we are to live in it.

A YEAR AGO: Insomnia and extra work. For the first time in years, I am officially not working on Saturdays this summer.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A very welcome welcome home. I am often very thankful for that screen door!

TEN YEARS AGO: Reading over a slice of life in downtown Oakhampton, I have to wonder what the hell I was thinking when I moved there. Decision making is really not my strong suit.

Happy Birthday

Happy birthday to my blog! It turns 17 today. Kind of hard to believe I’ve been writing it that long.

Things have certainly changed since I first started. Back then, I lived in beautiful San Francisco, I was married, I owned a lovely apartment in the best neighborhood in town, and both of my parents were alive. I went to Europe at least once a year and had what is known of as “disposable income.” 17 years ago appears to have been the good old days.

Now none of those things is true and my life is very different. But I still have my siblings and I still have my blog. Thanks for coming along for the ride so far and sharing all the changes and surprises with me along this journey.

Here’s to the next year!

What’s Cookin’?

I was in dire need of an attitude adjustment. And some sister time.

Fortunately for me, the sun was shining after some late season rain, and Megan was available for an adventure. The ocean was sparkly and beautiful, accessorized with frilly white waves, and everything was swept clean by the recent storms. Rhododendrons were flaunting their pink and red blossoms, lilacs waved their heavy heads, and trees were hazed with new, translucent green leaves. Wildflowers drifted through the grass in the springtime sunshine.

The parking gods were smiling on Megan as they often do, and she pulled up right in front of the beautiful Kelley House:

There was a pop up exhibit of cookbooks, for that weekend only, and we were delighted to be able to see it. They ranged from the vintage:

to the modern:

I was entertained by the title of this one:

Megan pointed out that in those days, cookbooks also informed women how to run their households and treat illnesses. They had the cure for the common cold back then. You hold your feet to the fire. “If done soon enough, this will prevent any cold.” Good to know.

For those who didn’t get to the fire soon enough, or had more exotic ailments, there were more exotic remedies:

Many of these included delightful ingredients like morphine and cocaine. The docent, Ray, mentioned that his family owned the apothecary in town when the Kelley House was built. Some of the bottles (and the remedies themselves) came from his family’s shop.

Ray told us that Dick’s, the bar on Main Street right near the Kelley House, is the oldest continuously operating bar on the West Coast. He said others are older, but they shut down during Prohibition. Dick’s* stayed open, serving cough syrup that was 40% alcohol and supplied by Ray’s helpful ancestors.

Megan and I were enraptured by Ray’s tales of the past, which is his family’s history, too. His forefathers were original settlers, along with the Kelleys, and his family has lived here ever since, a rare distinction.

He told us that the beautiful Daisy Kelley, whose cookbook is seen above and whose gorgeous nearby home is now a lovely inn, was the first non-Asian woman to set foot in Japan. She inconveniently fell in love with her father’s bookkeeper, who, as a tradesman, was not considered a suitable spouse for her. So her parents shipped her off on a round the world tour, where she was allowed to visit the closed country of Japan.

The Kelley family was no stranger to scandalous marriages, their son having married one of the maids. Surprisingly, the fact that she was Irish and Catholic was more objectionable to his parents than the fact that she was a) the help; and 2) already pregnant.

On her return home, the headstrong Daisy married her bookkeeper, and they had a long and happy marriage. At home, Daisy taught women to read and write in the Women’s Study Club (still in existence today!), and abroad, she was present at the opening of King Tut’s tomb. For all her travels, Daisy always returned here, “the most beautiful spot on God’s green earth”. She should know!

*That same day, Dick’s was also the venue for an informal wake for the wonderful Marty Simpson, who passed away recently at an unseemly age. He led us on a memorable cemetery tour recently as JD Johnson, the Victorian contractor (and undertaker) and was a treasure house of local knowledge and lore. A real loss for our little community.

A YEAR AGO: Celebrating our beloved Jessica’s birthday.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some ups and downs in San Francisco.

Finally

I am pleased to report that the mattress nightmare is finally over!

Like particularly capricious dates, they kept standing me up at the last minute. This happened twice. The day and time was set, and then the night before, I’d get a call saying something had come up and they couldn’t make it after all. Each time, they would defer the fictitious pick up to the following week.

The first time this happened, I was annoyed. The second time it happened, I was enraged. Like the great Ramona Quimby*, I made a great big noisy fuss (though unlike Ramona, I did it via email rather than in person). I didn’t expect anything to come of it other than relieving my feelings, so imagine my surprise when they contacted me to tell me that the pick up was going to theoretically happen a mere two days after it was supposed to, instead of ten days. They also refunded all the money on the spot, which may have been the most surprising thing of all.

The date selected was Saturday, which also happened to be the day after the giant storm, or “atmospheric river”, as the weather men call it. So that made me even more dubious that they would show up.

I went about my regularly scheduled cooking marathon (braised chicken with goguchang; smothered pork chops; curried chickpeas), and much like lighting a cigarette at a bus stop, they turned up in the midst of it all, announced by Mark’s herd of canine doormen. Once again I had to convince the delivery men that the dogs were all bark and no bite.

It didn’t take them long to remove the mattress and be on their rainy way. I felt like a curse had been lifted from the house. I temporarily abandoned cooking operations and went upstairs to unfurl the new and hopefully improved mattress and leave it to puff up and recover while I finished the cooking.

Later, I went back upstairs and made the bed. I discovered that what I thought was a pair of pillow shams was in fact only one, so I ordered another one and used the old ones for now. I also discovered that they new sheets I ordered were not quite the same green as the new comforter set, but that’s the hazard of ordering online. They are 800 thread count, so they feel great, and with the bed all made up, you can’t really tell that they aren’t the right shade:

The new mattress also feels great, being a pillow top memory foam. It has the cloud of bliss feeling I was looking for. Thanks to all of you who recommended memory foam. I should have asked you in the first place, instead of relying on my ever unreliable judgment. It does make me wonder, though, how one mattress can possibly be worth about a billion dollars more than another. In this case, the cheap one felt a billion times better than the super expensive one. Maybe I’m just a cheap date.

*I am delighted to note that Ramona’s creator, Beverly Cleary, just turned 102 yesterday!

A YEAR AGO: A rather wintery spring.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A busy but happy Saturday.

TEN YEARS AGO: Meetings and music.

Le Deluge

The calendar may say April, but the weather says otherwise. On Friday, I made my way to work through the government-mandated darkness in what was probably the worst storm of the season. The car-eating ditches bordering the Ridge had long since flooded the roadway, so I drove at an extremely sedate pace down the middle.

Visibility was pretty poor, so I kept to a snail’s pace even after reaching the highway. This turned out to be a good decision, since I came around one of the many curves to find a rock slide and what appeared to be the root end of part or all of a tree in the road. Some of the rocks were positively boulder-sized.

It didn’t take long for the Road to Civilization to flood and close. No more tourists for a while!

The local message boards were abuzz with rainfall totals over the 24 hour period, ranging from 5.5 to more than 6 inches. And it just kept coming. My hippie hovel sprang a couple of new leaks, and the Lone Tulip of the Apocalypse was unable to weather the storm:

I can’t remember the last time it rained this hard for this long, especially so late in the season. Surprisingly, the power has not gone out at home all winter (though it did at work, and if I had to pick, that would be my choice). I also can’t remember the last time that happened, if it ever did.

We are slated to get still more rain this week. It seems the Groundhog was correct and then some!

A YEAR AGO: Family dinner with a special guest star.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Something beautiful for everyone.

TEN YEARS AGO: Musical legends and legendary friends.

Sprung

Spring has definitely sprung. The overachiever is flaunting what is probably its final flower of the season:

as the outdoor garden tries to catch up. I noticed that the jasmine is budding, if not blooming just yet, and that the peony bush is making an appearance. I should probably get out there and do some fertilizing and maybe even some watering, though we are due for rain later this week. I guess I can’t always rely on the Almighty to do my chores for me.

There have been a couple of warm days already, including a couple where the temperatures were in the 70s when I got home, so they were probably around 80 degrees during the day. I had the balcony door open on those nights, and on one of them, I must not have closed it completely, since I woke up to a suspiciously quiet house.

The unusual quiet was due to the house being temporarily cat-less. They had sneaked out at some point during the night. When I turned on the back porch lights, there they were. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to see them, especially Clyde. Though Audrey is the undisputed winner of Survivor: Hooterville, I will likely never get over the loss of Clyde’s brother Roscoe and I never want to go through that again.

My recent carelessness was not limited to the home front. At work, I went to put my library book* in the car. I tossed my bag onto the passenger seat and closed the door, leaving me holding the book and realizing that I had locked my handbag in the car, since my habit is to press the door button rather than the zillion dollar key fob in the hopes of not having to replace it.

So there I was, holding the book instead of the bag.

Fortunately for me, EMS is always close at hand. Even more fortunately, EMS was at our friend Lu’s nearby house, hanging out before her night shift. She was kind enough to bring me a spare key. I was on a conference call, and Megan dropped the key on my desk, observing, “Dork”, before getting back to her regularly scheduled life.

Sad, but true. It may or may not be a coincidence that I drove the 30 year old heap today. Even I can’t lock the keys in it, since it needs a key to lock the door from the outside. Sometimes you have to Suzy-proof your life.

*I have been asked to attend the next library Board meeting with a view to joining the Board. They seem to be fooled by my faux adult exterior, at least so far.

A YEAR AGO: Remembering Mom on her 85th birthday. Miss you, Mom!

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful breakfast at Queenie’s. There is no other kind.

TEN YEARS AGO: Yet another Calamity Suzy day. This year’s looks pretty good by comparison, actually. At least I no longer have to wear nylons.