You Win Some, You Lose Some

It’s been a less than stellar week in SuzyWorld™. To be fair, I did bring some of it on myself*, like scheduling the masochistic extravaganza of a dental cleaning and a TB test performed on my unsuspecting skin by a needle novice on the same day. The dental cleaning was as unpleasant and make-up destroying as you would expect, and the disfigurement theme continued as the needle novice caused bleeding, followed by bruising which made reading the test results challenging. For some reason, we have to have these TB tests every year**, though TB seems like a malady of the past, like smallpox. Erica tells me that they have squirrels in her ‘hood who carry the bubonic plague, so maybe it’s just as well. Come to Mendocino County! We know how to party like it’s 1299!

Other unpleasant activities this week included triaging the shopping for the dreaded Staff Day, which will inflict its loathsome self on me on Tuesday. Let’s hope we don’t experience another terrible tragedy like last year’s running out of ranch dressing. You probably saw it on the cover of the New York Post and lists of lesser disasters like the Titanic and the Hindenburg. In their infinite wisdom, the Powers That Be have decided that having ice cream sundaes is the perfect end to the perfect day. Who am I to disagree? I am, however, the person shopping like a junkie at 6:30 am, getting flats of ice cream, cans of spray whipped cream, and family sized bottles of sprinkles. Other than the still shrink-wrapped ice cream, everything was nicely distributed on the immaculate Safeway parking lot when the bag holding them broke.

I hope it’s not a sign.

I ended the week with the delightful early morning discovery that the flash heater had suddenly gone on strike in the manner of a French public servant. I took a flashlight outside and tried to persuade it to wake up, even if I couldn’t, but it stubbornly refused. There may have been a couple of snores coming out of the box around the flash heater, which is located outside rather than inside, against all common sense and manufacturer’s specification. But why bother with such details?

I alerted Megan by text – she was still at work at 5:30 am – and she said she would get Rob to fix it at a more civilized hour. I packed up the car with faux adult attire and beautification equipment and headed to the Starr Center, oddly attired in my kitty pajamas, work shoes, and a sweater. There was no way I was getting dressed twice in one morning. It appears that the lack of hot water at my house is the only reason I ever go to the gym.

At least there were no birds or unexpected appliances in the house this week, so I’m still ahead of the game.

*I hate it when I have no-one to blame but myself.

**They always try to make us have flu shots every year, despite the fact that they have a less than 10% efficacy rate. They aren’t mandatory yet, though they are at the hospital where my sister works. I am mystified as to why they have chosen to take a stand on such an ineffective vaccine for a non-fatal illness. Ah, bureaucracy!

A YEAR AGO: A day of dates.

FIVE YEARS AGO: And an unexpected guest.

Rob the Artist

Rob has been taking a ceramics class lately, and I love his new creations.

He treats assignments creatively. For example, the assignment was to make a teapot. Here’s what Rob made:

It’s a man, with a bird and a tree. It’s kind of an abstract idea of a teapot.

He also made this wonderfully textured tile:

It reminds me of MC Escher*.

This might be my favorite: Rob’s hand rising out of leaves which remind me of an Elizabethan ruff:

I may well be the most influential collector of his work, which is as useful as it is beautiful. I keep my car keys and iPod in this dish, which he patterned with a cabbage leaf:

This scalloped dish holds necessary beautifiers in the bathroom:

And at work, this holds paperclips:

He recently stopped by with a ceramic copy of the license plate from his 1960 Ford Falcon**:

It has to be the best license plate ever. And words to live by!

A YEAR AGO: A beautiful day at the Gardens.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Whole lotta movin’ going on.

*My friend Alice mentioned recently that her husband hails from the same village as Escher, and his father bought four drawings from Escher for about $50 when Escher was still unknown. He sold the drawings before Escher reached his pinnacle of fame, and they would be worth a lot of money now. At least they still have a handwritten letter from the artist.

**I have noticed a deplorable trend lately of new cars with the old black California license plates on them. It just seems wrong. They don’t belong on new cars, and they haven’t earned the right to use a 50 year old plate. I think Mammy said it best.

The Intruder

When I go to work in the morning, I leave the doors open, since I am not available to be the cat doorperson while I’m out making money to keep my feline masters in fancy, grain-free cat food and Pretty Litter*. Where’s Carlton when you need him?

Sometimes this open door policy results in finding surprise presents on the kitchen table, and sometimes it has less delightful consequences, like the recent appearance of the giant, Stalinesque refrigerator which caused an impromptu kitchen redesign. My ideal refrigerator would look something like this:

To be fair, although I still hate the look and utility of the new and unimproved appliance, it did result in a much nicer shelf over the ugly refrigerator, thanks to my ever-resourceful brother-in-law. He must consider his wife’s overly adjacent sister the “for worse” part of the vows he took 26 years ago this month.

This week, I came home from a 13 hour day to find that my open door policy had once again resulted in something unexpected.

The kitties were waiting anxiously for treats, and then supper. At stately Suzy Manor, the cats get dessert before dinner. As I distributed the treats, I glanced up at the sleeping loft and saw a large bird clinging to the screen door.

I was surprised both by the avian intruder and the fact that the cats were uninterested in its presence. They trotted off to eat dinner as I went upstairs to deal with the uninvited guest.

I expected that it would fly away from me to a place where I couldn’t reach it, but it turned out that Mr. Woodpecker was stuck in the screen door to the balcony. I had never been so close to a woodpecker before. He seemed to be stunned or scared enough to let me detach him from the opened door, and once released, he rocketed away into the trees to the relief of all concerned.

After cleaning up the miscellaneous feathers and bird poop he left behind, I went back downstairs to start my own dinner and stepped in a mini mountain of ClydeBarf™.

Welcome home!

*I am a convert to this stuff. It’s very light, mailed right to your house, and makes your house scentless.

A YEAR AGO: Meeting Rio’s daughter and having a nice dinner at the family estate.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Home at last after surviving the horrible ordeal of the Grand Jury.

A Bowl of Cherries

I stopped by the family property on my way home from work on Saturday. I found Jonathan working on a ham radio project and Megan chatting with an old friend of ours who had recently moved back to Hooterville after a stint in Willits, home of heat and Seabiscuit. It was nice to catch up with her. She is also a good friend of Lichen, who has been scarce lately, so we could catch up on news of him as well. Two for one! And all this while eating cherries:

just picked from our very own tree that very day:

Megan had just returned from a camping trip to faraway Mount Lassen with our friends Rik and Lu. Mount Lassen is an active volcano and one of the two to erupt in the Lower 48 in the 20th century, the other being Mount St. Helens. Despite this, it looks quite serene, reflected in the lake at their campsite:

It also gets the most snow of any place in California, averaging about 600 inches, or 50 feet, a year. Yes, you read that right. 50 feet. Guess I should stop complaining about the 70 inches of rain we got this season. And all that snow explains why it’s there year-round, as seen here:

Hard to believe that was taken in early July, especially when sitting in the garden on a very warm day. Jonathan said that the swamp cooler which was my Junapalooza gift was still en route, and he was somewhat annoyed given that Rio had ordered it through Amazon Prime and it should have been here by now.

When I got home, I rather regretted that it wasn’t, since it was 84F in the house, and it was still 80F when I went to bed with fans ablazing. It will be interesting to see how well the swamp cooler works when it gets here.

A YEAR AGO: Lu and Rik’s wonderful wedding.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A long, horrible trip to testify in front of the Grand Jury. Still not sure if the journey there or the testifying was the worst part.

Sleepover

It was time at last for the (too) long deferred sleepover with Jessica!

In keeping with my usual principle of scruffy entertaining (it turns out I was ahead of my time on this one), preparations for our gala soirée consisted of buying fizzy, watermelon and raspberry flavored water and various munchies. I did sweep the floor and serve the fizzy H2O in champagne flutes, however.

My minimal hostessing efforts were rewarded with what might possibly be the best hostess gift ever:

It is an almost Alexander McQueen clutch. It looks so much more real than faux! I adore it. Erica said it was meant for me so she made it happen. Jessica said, “Why aren’t you rich?” Pause. “The universe must have hiccupped.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Our glamorous movie festival kicked off with Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette”. Jessica and I were enchanted with the clothes, hair, and sets. I can picture myself in that gold leaf bed, though the embroidered initials on my satin headboard would have to change:

Jessica immediately understood the modern music and the Converse and Vans being interspersed with the period slippers in the scene where the Queen and her ladies are trying on the latest fashions. Jessica also observed that Marie’s indulgence in fashion and gambling were her way of dealing with her fears over not producing an heir, her mother’s nagging about it, and her worry about her precarious position at court, and I have to agree with her.

Up next was the thoroughly politically incorrect and delightful “How to Marry a Millionaire”, which introduced a smitten Jessica to the many charms of the one and only Marilyn Monroe. Jessica is now a fan, pronouncing Marilyn to be “a really good actress – and so cute!” I always love a movie with a fashion show in it, and I have to admit that I kind of long for the days when you could wear fur coats and not feel guilty about it. Jessica said it would be fun to live in the past for a little while, only with modern amenities, like internet, and once again I agree with her on this point.

We wrapped up the night with “Auntie Mame”, starring the inimitable Rosalind Russell. No matter how depressed you might be, “Auntie Mame”, like “Legally Blonde”, will cheer you up. We had both seen it before, but it was more fun to see it together, reveling in the gorgeous sets (once again, I could just see myself in Mame’s elegant bedroom, which would really be the perfect setting for a sleepover with Jessica):

wonderful clothes, and delightful humor. I sighed over the devastatingly handsome Roger Smith, who played grown-up Patrick in the movie and was married to the stunning Ann-Margret for more than half a century in real life. The world got less beautiful when we lost him a couple of weeks ago.

Jessica slept on the couch under my grandmother’s ancient quilt, and the next day, we headed out to meet Erica about halfway between our mutual houses, at the Navarro Store.

It turns out that the Navarro Store is famed for their open flame BBQ grill and grillmaster, who Erica has, of course, known since he was seven years old. We placed our order and went inside to get drinks, which were not up to Erica’s high standards. Fortunately, she also knows the owner and was able to provide him with a shopping list.

We enjoyed lunch together under the trees, following it up with Mexican paletas for dessert, the perfect summer finish to any meal. Then we hugged goodbye and went our separate ways. I hope we can have another sleepover soon. I am already thinking of movies…

A YEAR AGO: A busy, happy week.

FIVE YEARS AGO: On my way to testify in front of the Grand Jury. I hope that never happens again.

Jubilee


The One and Only

Today marks the 10th anniversary of Audrey’s less than benevolent reign over my household. An entire decade of being bossed around by a fuzzy, seven pound Force of Nature! Despite her diminutive size, Audrey has an outsized personality of extreme bossiness, and what she says goes.

Her hobbies include terrorizing the neighborhood dogs, sometimes accomplished by standing up on her back feet like a grizzly bear and swatting at their appalled faces, sometimes by drive by swats of disgust, and other times by the power of her Glare of Death, which is intimidating to most mortals.

She still demands to be let out in the early morning darkness, having earned the right long ago as the undisputed winner of Survivor: Hooterville, but she doesn’t stay out as long as she used to and spends more time on beauty sleep these days:

which is why she is so beautiful, of course.

She also deigns to sit on my lap when I am reading in bed at night, though she makes her displeasure known (and sometimes felt) when I relocate her in order to get my own beauty sleep. I love my grumpy Audrey, who is so perfectly balanced by my cuddly Clyde:

Today also marks the birthday of the beautiful Kalli, seen here with the handsome Jarrett:

Such a gorgeous couple! And speaking of gorgeous, today also marks the first anniversary of Rik and Lu’s glorious wedding. After 18 years together, they can finally wish each other “happy anniversary.” Here’s to many, many more!

Yesterday was Canada’s 150th anniversary and Megan and Rob’s 26th anniversary, so all in all, there’s a lot to celebrate these days.

A YEAR AGO: The kitty report.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Brightening up.

Junapalooza III

Junapalooza arrived on the heels of a week-long heat wave. I was glad that the temperature for our outdoor celebration was relatively humane, though I also wore my County Fair straw hat and hid under the canopy.

It was too hot to make future food on Friday, so I made my contribution to Junapalooza on Saturday morning before I headed off to the jobette. Our theme this year was bubbles, so I made spicy Korean meatballs with apricot-sriracha glaze. I used ground turkey instead of beef, and they were delicious. Erica suggested that we bring a couple of bags of Hawaiian rolls to transform the meatballs into sliders, which was a great idea. Erica’s meatballs were bathed in delectable barbecue sauce.

In addition to meat bubbles, we had various charcuterie and cheeses with blackberry-habanero preserves, made by Julie, who was there with her husband Darius and daughter Bella, who doubles as Jessica’s BFF. Julie also brought home-made bubble tea and home-made limoncello, along with Clyde May, the official whisky of Alabama.

Erica brought pink champagne, which I felt needed a pink straw:

and funfetti cupcakes topped with swirled caramel buttercream icing and sprinkles:

Because you always need sprinkles.

While the grown-ups chatted and drank various libations, the girls took a ride on the golf cart:

Erica took this photo and we all laughed so hard at their beautiful Addams Family faces. This is how they look when they are having fun!

Even Scout the mini cat ventured to the edges of the party:

Even though I always say Junapalooza is not about presents, somehow I still seem to get them, and very impressive ones at that. This year, my complaining about the undearly departed heatwave was rewarded by my siblings buying me a swamp cooler, which is supposed to arrive this week. It should make the sleeping loft bearable, or at least less crappy, when the next heat wave arrives. Less crappy is our goal!

As if this weren’t thoughtful enough, I was alerted to the gift via a card made by Rio:

Now, when I say “made by Rio”, I mean that she MADE THE PAPER and printed the picture on the front and her monogram on the back:

I asked her how she made the paper, completely stunned by the whole thing, and she was nonchalant but also cagy, not revealing the paper ingredients but admitting that the color of my card came from flower petals. How about that?

After dinner, we gathered around the fire pit to nibble our cupcakes and be serenaded by the girls:

who, like the rest of America, are addicted to Hamilton and are not afraid to share its joys with those of us who haven’t seen it.

Jessica once again escorted Fair Suzy to her car, and we agreed that next weekend would be the perfect time for our long-delayed sleepover. As I drove home in the gathering summer darkness, I had to agree with Erica when she leaned back on her hay bale and sighed, “This is perfection.”

On the Shelf

‘Memba how the big, blocky refrigerator appeared in my kitchen one day, causing dismay and disarray?

Well, Rob scavenged around in his magical Rob way, and found things and stuff he could make into other things and stuff to put up a new and improved shelf with its very own light. Here he is in the early stages of fixing it, when there was still a hole in the wall:

Note that the shelf has the same bevels and look as the masterpiece shelves he created:

He spent maybe $20 on materials. He found everything else, including the metal supports and the metal to support the lamp. He added the switch to the lamp. Here’s a closer look:

I am pleased to say that it says ON when it’s on, instead of NO like the other switches in the house. I asked him how he did it, and he said he soldered it on there. He also did a lot of soldering with the metal supports.

It looks about a million times better than it did before, and I love the light fixture. You can thank Clyde, who did such a great job managing the bathroom redo, once again for his excellent supervisory skills. He oversaw the project from his perch on the stairs, and his artistic influence is pretty obvious:

Just for a comparison, here’s the “before” (or possibly “during”):

I’m still not a big fan of the new and unimproved refrigerator, though. Even though it looks big on the outside, there seems to be less room on the inside. One of the things I really miss was a drawer below the top shelf which held cheese and sliced meats and things of that nature. I have been piling these things up in a box which takes up significant real estate on the other shelf, but this isn’t an ideal situation. And the crisper drawers are even shallower than I am.

Still, it met our eternal goal of “less crappy”, and in the evenings, I enjoy the friendly yellow glow of the lamp. And I am always thankful for Rob.

A YEAR AGO: At the amazing quilt show.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The horror of the Grand Jury subpoena. I hope that never happens again.

Get Together

On my way home from work on Saturday, I stopped at the Gro for cracksicles. They are delicious pomegranate and cherry popsicles, made of fruit and juice with chunks of fruit in them, and around here, the only place to get them is the Gro.

At the Gro, I discovered that they were out of cracksicles, the supply being down to undesirable flavors like banana. I also ran into yet another co-worker, who was buying beer. And beer. Also, beer. Who am I to judge? After all, I was trying (and failing) to buy cracksicles.

On the bright side, I did get a late-breaking birthday present, so it wasn’t a total loss. I seem to be having a birth month this year, and Junapalooza hasn’t even happened yet.

Arriving at the family estate, I noticed that Rob had replaced his original gate ornament, a modest, but charming pinecone, with one of his amazing sculptures:

Those are skillful casts of Rob’s skillful hands. He’s got the whole world (or at least the whole gate) in his hands.

The garden had sprouted a nice crop of tents:

Must be all that rain and all the relentless sun! Jarrett and Kalli had brought a group of their friends. They have done this camping party for the past few years, usually around Kalli’s birthday in July (which she shares with Audrey). It’s a nice tradition. It seemed like a long time since we had seen them, so it was good to sit under the shade of the canopy from Rio’s daughter’s wedding and catch up over some home-made cider.

We had a taco bar for dinner, with Megan trying her hand at al pastor in her instant pot. It was really good, but the star of the show was dessert. Jonathan made two different sorbets from fruit picked in the garden that day: strawberry and raspberry. They were both delicious, though I’d have to say the raspberry was my favorite. Jonathan thinks he can vacuum seal batches over the summer and store it stacked up in the freezer.

We were having so much fun that I forgot to take pictures, except the ones in my head. And my heart.

A YEAR AGO: The most amazing gift ever!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The many joys of the jobette. Those were the days!

When Worlds Collide

It was a wildlife extravaganza on my way to the jobette this morning.

Bunnies seemed to having a convention, hopping around and across the Ridge before vanishing into the bushes with a flick of white cotton tails. Quail twinkled across the road like the opening credits of the Partridge Family, and a pair of young stags strolled leisurely toward the firehouse, slowly enough that I could enjoy the sight of the velvet on their budding horns.

Arriving at the jobette, I discovered that the car show was once again in town, so the road was blocked off. I drove the wrong way down a one way alley to park in the alley beside the jobette, and then had to move three chairs which were firmly placed in front of the door so I could get in.

Whew.

One of the first visitors of the day was a doc from my real job. He was clearly surprised to see me out of context. The surprise wore off quickly, though, and he settled in and made himself at home on the couch, sharing videos of a clown singing Johnny Cash and the Who and sharing his unique world view with me, even as I answered the phone and talked to the visitors. He finally drifted off after an hour, and I am hoping this does not become a habit.

Later my boss and yet another co-worker stopped by to say hello. I began to wonder which Suzy I was.

My worlds are also colliding at my real job, since I basically got my sister a part-time job there. The clinic manager was saying she needed help dealing with patient charts, and I said I knew just the person. She and Megan had worked together at the hospital, so she jumped on it, called Megan, and the deal was done. So now Megan is at the clinic before she starts her night shift on Monday, and also for a few hours on Friday, doing mysterious things with charts that I do not and probably cannot understand. Sometimes she pops in on the weekend. She is doing a great job, is paid decently, appreciated by her boss, and doesn’t have to deal with patients, so it is made out of win.

It looks like she is going to guest star at the dreaded staff day next month. While I am running around setting it up, cleaning it up, and getting Ranch dressing, she will be doing practice codes with staff and showing them CPR and the joys of the crash cart. We recently had a situation where a patient collapsed and it became clear that staff did not know how to respond. The (admittedly temporary, but still) provider she had an appointment with was walking toward her, saying “I think she needs to see a real doctor.” So we need some training in emergency situations. And if we are paying someone to do it, they might as well be part of the family.

A YEAR AGO: A totally awesome Junapalooza. It’s coming up again next week!

FIVE YEARS AGO: My family’s epic garden was born! Let the parties begin!

By the Sea

After work on Saturday, I met Megan at the Gro. I got there first, so I checked my mailbox, where I discovered some late-breaking birthday cards. Yay!

I jumped into Megan’s car, noting that I may be the only person who can get a taxi in Hooterville. We set off southwards to catch the last hour of Navarro by the Sea Day, which was being held, according to the signs, “Come hell or high H20”. The H20 in the river remains high after all the rain we got all this season.

We made our way down the narrow road that leads to the Navarro Beach, where the dogs have played and where Captain Fletcher’s Inn still stands:

It was built around 1861 by Captain Fletcher, who was born on a schooner named the Wildcat and had salt water in his veins. Despite his seafaring origins, he really made his money on the mill that was then in Navarro.

I am always amazed by how there is no trace whatsoever of the bustling mills of the past. In Hooterville and Navarro, there were mills, housing, and stores to serve the hundreds of people who lived and worked there. So we are lucky to still have the historic inn, which housed millworkers, sailors dropping off logs to be milled, and some say, ladies of the evening. I guess wherever there are working men, there will be working girls.

Megan and I had peeked in the windows when we brought Star and Stella a couple of years ago, so it was really fun for us to finally see inside. There was a silent auction going on to fundraise for the inn, but you can still see the original fireplace with its original bricks and the “California closet”, which was an insulated pantry and a precursor to the icebox:

Up the steep staircase, there are twelve rooms in various states of disrepair. It is fascinating to see all the different layers of wallpaper. The rooms are very small:

but have lovely views:

We headed over to a lovely house which is probably the same size as the inn:

It was the mill superintendent’s house and is an impressive home. I wondered if it was part of the inducement to get someone to come out here to the wilds of California from civilization, the way Stanford built nice houses to get teachers to move to the Wild West 100 years ago.

I loved the windows in this house:

And this detail on a fireplace:

They are looking for someone to live there and renovate it. That would be a great job for a person with the talent and interest, though it would have its challenges.

As we walked back to the car, I looked up at the way we had come, down the steep, curvy road:

We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place with such a rich history.

A YEAR AGO: Bee wrestling. And a Memorial Day BBQ.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Erica and Jessica moved back to California. Yay!

Perfect Day (Part II)

We hopped back into Megan’s little red car and continued south on Highway One, past meadows of wildflowers dotted with cows, sheep, and horses, tall, rolling hills, tunnels of windswept cypresses, and always, the blue Pacific, its waves crashing against the rocky shore.

We drove through Point Arena, where we will hopefully be seeing more ballets and plays this winter, and as we approached the little campground at Anchor Bay, Megan suggested that we stop in and check it out. Every time we drive by it, we think of doing this, and today was the day!

It’s a charming little campground, with some permanent residents:

And other spaces for RVs and tents. There is a little store, showers, and even a fish/abalone cleaning station. The very helpful gentleman in the office told us that it has been there since 1925. He also let us go and look at the beach without paying for a day pass, and it turned out to the most beautiful beach in the county:

It looks like a southern California beach! Beaches here tend to be rocky rather than sandy. It was a delightful discovery and we will definitely go back.

Just down the road, we picked up Thai food at the ever-delicious Thai Kitchen, now with extra sparkle:

After stowing our dinners in the trunk, we picked up sandwiches and ate them at a little picnic table. Then we headed back north to Manchester State Beach.

Their website says dogs are allowed on leash, but when we got there, we discovered signs showing that they are not allowed at all. Being the only people there, we decided to ignore the signs and plead ignorance if a park ranger turned up and yelled at us.

We took a sandy path:

Past wild lupines and California poppies, to find the sea:

And a huge, unpopulated beach:

It is supposed to be four miles long, and I can believe it. Continuing our scofflaw ways, we let the dogs off their leashes, and it was a pleasure to watch them racing joyfully around the beach in the sunshine, their coats gleaming and ears flying. I love seeing them so happy.

We made our way back to the car through the tall wildflowers and headed home for Thai food and champagne. It was a perfect day, and the perfect way to spend my birthday.

A YEAR AGO: My little guy turned six.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A surprise trip to Willits!

Perfect Day (Part 1)

The great lead up to the great day culminated in a perfect birthday.

It dawned bright and shiny, as seen from my balcony:

I Marilyned* my morning by lounging in bed with the kitties, drinking coffee, reading birthday emails, and feeling blonde all over. Eventually, I got up and headed over to Megan’s house, where Rob presented me with a hanging planter he had made for me. He is looking for a drapy kind of plant to put in it and copper wire to hang it by, so stay tuned.

No one is ever as happy to see me as Star, and Stella has decided that if Star is excited to see me, she should be, too, so I felt pretty special as they jumped around me for joy.

Star always wants to drive, but Megan never lets her.

We headed for the beautiful south coast, and it was a postcard day. The sky and ocean were dazzling blue, and it was warm, but not hot. The rolling hillsides were just beginning to turn from winter’s green to summer’s “gold”, and the wildflowers have reached new depths and heights from all the rain we got this season.

On our many south coast excursions, we have always wanted to check out the cemetery in Elk, where Druids mingle with Catholics:

I suggested that it should be our first stop, which Megan found humorous. “You want to go to a cemetery? On your birthday?” To which I replied, “I’m not there yet.” Those who are there have a stunning view for all eternity:

No matter which way you looked:

We noticed that many of the gravestones noted the owner’s origins, from England, Ireland, Italy, as far away as Australia (imagine getting here in the 1800s from Australia!) and as relatively close as New York:

Many of them also commemorated the months and days of the occupant’s life span, which we didn’t remember seeing before for adults. There were beautiful stones that still looked new after more than a century’s weather:

Hands were a recurring motif:

It is just a beautiful place, almost certainly the loveliest cemetery I have ever seen. It is still in use, with some recent burials, and I noticed that someone had placed flags on all the veterans’ graves for Memorial Day, which was nice to see.

On the way back to the car, I noticed this valiant little flower growing in a gnarled old cypress tree:

There is unexpected beauty everywhere.

Up next: Beaches and Thai food!

A YEAR AGO: A happily uneventful birthday with a surprising détente.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A wonderful milestone birthday with my friends at the jobette. Those were the days!

*Marilyn once confided her daily routine, including this: “I hate to do things in a hurried, tense atmosphere, and it is virtually impossible for me to spring out of bed in the morning. On Sunday, which is my one day of total leisure, I sometimes take two hours to wake up, luxuriating in every last moment of drowsiness.”

Birthday Week


Good mail day

So far, I’m favorably impressed with the lead up to my birthday this year.

I’ve enough bad birthdays lately ($400 vet bill; 12 hour work day followed by fire-induced traffic stoppage on the way home from said 12 hour work day; power outage) to really appreciate a good one. Or even a good prequel.

A couple of days ago, I picked up the mail and was delighted to find that I had paid off Wednesday 7 months early! Not only that, I had overpaid, so a cashier’s check was included along with the beautiful pink title document. Mine, all mine!

As if that weren’t enough, there was also a check for website work and two early birthday cards from dear friends, one alerting me that a gift was on its way. I have the best friends ever!

I am coming to you from my bed at the outrageous hour of 8:00 am, with sunshine valiantly fighting its way through the fog to peer in the skylight and both kitties curled up and sleeping cutely. Is there anything cozier looking than a sleeping cat?

While still in my kitty PJs, I look pretty good, because I stopped by Angelika’s little salon in the big woods:

on my way home from work yesterday. She cut a couple of inches off my hair while we chatted and caught up. Being around Angelika is always inspiring, and I think she is as good for my spirit as she is for my hair. She also gave me a gift (unopened as yet), and a friend observed that there probably aren’t too many people who get presents from their hairdressers. But there also aren’t too many people like Angelika.

I had picked up dinner from Mayan Fusion on my way out of town last night, so dinner was ready when I got home. I have taken today and Monday off, so let the long birthday weekend begin!

A YEAR AGO: Playing post office.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A wonderful trip to the City. Chinese food, a new handbag, and the Beach Boys! What’s not to love?

Megan’s Birthday

If it’s Memorial Day weekend (and it is), I must be back at the jobette and it must be Megan’s birthday.

I started working Saturdays again yesterday. The many people who have worked there since I (more or less) left have changed things around a lot, so it looks very different while still being familiar. My old desk has been relocated to what used to be the conference room, so I sat at a different one so the visitors could find me. It was really nice to talk to them and hear how magical they find it here.

I did not find the holiday traffic magical, however. The sides of the highway were a parking lot and zombie-like abalone divers were meandering across the road in droves. Fortunately for them we were driving around 40 mph. I could drive faster on the Ridge than I could on the highway for the most part. I have never ever seen Van Damme beach so packed with cars.

Stopping at the Gro on my way home, I ran into Dave and Jennifer, my siblings’ land partners. Dave was going fishing and Jennifer was dropping him off. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them due to their having family situations to deal with, so it was great to catch up and part ways with a hug and a kiss.

Arriving at the property, the birthday girl took me for a tour of the garden. Peas, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos are flourishing. As for the orchard, I’m sorry to say that the late rains, besides depressing the pants off us and flooding everything, knocked off a lot of the apple blossoms, so it’s not looking like a great apple year.

On the other hand, the peaches are peaching nicely:

and the pears are on their way:

The strawberries have both flowers and fruit on them:

The netting is almost done over the cherry tree. It is in the corner since cherry trees do not play well with others. It too has fruit appearing on it. The elaborate netting dome is to let the birds know it’s not an all you can eat buffet:

Also flourishing is Jessica, whose hat was made just for her by her ever-creative mother:

She was very nice about letting her aged auntie take her picture, especially after I told her how fun it is to look back to posts when she was just a little kid. We are plotting sleepovers and movies for the summer. Under consideration are “Auntie Mame”, “Desk Set”, and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”. I’m also thinking “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Practical Magic”.

I forgot to take a picture of the amazing dessert Erica made. It was a napoleon with puff pastry made from scratch, strawberries, and home-made caramel drizzle. It was outstanding. It vanished too quickly for me to get a photo, though. We all sang happy birthday despite the lack of candles.

At the end of the evening, Jessica asked to “escort fair Suzy to her car” and took my arm. I do love this tradition. She enhanced the experience by curtseying at the end of it. I sure love that kid. And my family and family of friends.

A YEAR AGO: My, what an industrious day I had!

FIVE YEARS AGO: I was heading to San Francisco, and Rob was coming home after losing his Mother.

The Star Patient


The patient in happier times (last week, in the garden)

I was just settling down to watch some playoff hockey* and eat dinner when the phone rang. It was Megan, telling me that Star had had a seizure and she wanted me to meet her at the vet’s office.

I changed out of my PJs and into a strange combo of work and play clothes, shoving my bare feet into a random pair of shoes (later I would regret not putting on a better pair after hours of standing) and set off for the Village.

On the way, I wondered why she had called me, since dealing with emergencies is her specialty and falling apart at emergencies is mine. I always say, Megan is the Schatzi (brave and bold) and I am the Star (worried and pretty sure the worst is going to happen).

Arriving at the vet’s office, I saw Megan’s little red car with the back door wide open, but no sign of dog or humans. I eventually located Megan, Dr. Karen, and Star in the surgery. They seemed to have it all pretty much in hand. They had shaved Star’s forepaw and inserted a catheter, through which they dosed her with enough drugs to drop a horse.

But Star’s Star-ness did not allow her to give into the drugs, so while being doped to the ears, she still fought it and was twitchy. If it comes to fight or flight, Star is going to fight to the death. I suggested that her inherent Star-ness would not allow her to give in to the drugs while still in an environment that made her fearful even with Megan there, but Dr. Karen and her assistant wanted to wait and see how she was doing. They ran every blood test, all of which came back normal. The general consensus seems to be that she ate something to cause the seizure, though the property has been investigated three times by Megan, Rob, and Jonathan without turning up the culprit.

After about three hours of doping and testing and IV hydration (them) and standing around (me), they rolled the patient up in a blanket and put her in Megan’s car to be transported home, along with a goodie bag of injectable drugs. Of course it was pitch black by then and so foggy that constant windshield wiping was required, just for extra fun.

I followed Megan and Star home, with the understanding that if something went wrong, she would pull over. We drove slowly, partly because of Star and partly because of the weather, and I stayed a respectful distance behind so my headlights wouldn’t bother Megan. Driving in the dark is the only time I dislike having a car behind me more than I dislike having one ahead of me.

Star was very glad to get home, and as I expected, she crashed and burned upon arrival in her safe place. She was probably exhausted from the seizure itself and the subsequent twitching, as well as the boatload of drugs, so she slept a lot the rest of that night and into the following day. She now seems to be just about back to normal, to the relief of all concerned. Let’s hope it stays that way. I still don’t think that I really helped or added much to the occasion, but Megan says she was glad I was there, and that’s all that really matters, besides Star being well again.

*I’m sorry to say Ottawa won. At this point, the best case scenario is Pittsburgh winning the Cup.

A YEAR AGO: Celebrating Megan’s birthday in style.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A really lousy birthday for my wonderful sis.

Going In Style

I was chauffeured to the latest Predicta Party in the latest style. Erica and Jessica picked me up in their brand-new Hagmobile.

It was quite wonderful to relax in style in the new car smelling interior. Erica and Jessica later noted that I seemed to be enjoying myself, and also that being chauffeured (or chauffeused) seemed quite natural to me. I’m telling you, I should never have abandoned my original career aspiration of Idle Rich.

I can’t remember being in a brand new car before, unless it was my grandfather’s red Dodge Dart Swinger. I remember it was the last car he ever bought and he said he had always wanted a red car*. I was more interested in the candy he kept in his glove compartment than in the car itself, and some things never change.

Others do, though, and the Hagmobile is quite wonderful in its ability to keep you going at the same speed you were before you started driving downhill, somehow defying the laws of physics so you don’t accelerate as you go. And it has a way of lighting what is behind you on the screen in the console so you can back up in country darkness and see what you are backing into.

Arriving at Rio’s compound, we gave the girls a tour since they have never been there before. We ended at the studio/garage where we made the cider last fall, and Erica and Jessica promised to join us in cider making this fall.

Clayton arrived from San Francisco on his red motorcyle, his hair tangled by the ride and feeling chilled despite the heavy leather outerwear he (wisely) wears on the trek from the city. He settled by the fire and I poured him a glass of cider in the sun glass, the largest and warmest-looking one in the set of planet glasses I gave Jonathan for Christmas. I have to admit my favorite is the tiny (and now demoted) Pluto.

To go with our home-made cider, Erica brought home-made spice straws:

I later learned that they are pastry cut in strips and then rolled in seeds and spices. Whatever they are, they are delicious!

She also brought the pièce de résistance, pineapple upside down cake, a retro dessert for a retro evening:

It was, as you would expect, also delicious. I am looking forward to Megan’s birthday BBQ on Memorial Day weekend and Junapalooza in late June.

Jessica was thrilled with her Bookstore Day haul, and delighted by watching an ad for a 1959 Predicta on a 1959 Predicta (“TV Today from the World of Tomorrow!”). Also by Honey West and Bewitched, which she had never seen before. It’s so nice to share things you love with people you love.

*I’m glad he finally got his red car. Red was his favorite color, and I wore a red dress to his funeral just for him, despite the consternation of onlookers.

A YEAR AGO: It was hot and the power was out. What’s not to hate?

FIVE YEARS AGO: This Calamity Suzy thing is not new.

Flat Out


It really does exist

I started the week with a bang – or at least, a flat and smoking tire.

As I left the Big Town, I noticed that Wednesday was not handling the way I was used to. I thought maybe it was the wind, but as time progressed, it became clear that it was more than that.

The “low tire pressure” light came on, but being the genius that I am, I did not make the connection between that and the increasingly rough ride, despite my brother’s exasperated observation of “Suz, those lights on your dashboard aren’t just there to be pretty.” In my defense, though, that light has been known to come on when only the minorest of tweaks was actually necessary. It’s the little light that cried wolf. Unfortunately, this time it wasn’t kidding, and was, in fact, a little too understated.

I finally realized that I had to pull over, and did so just south of Road 409 near the next town. A sheriff’s car with lights blazing pulled up right behind me. Does this count as being pulled over? If so, it’s the first time in my life. I also noticed that my back tire was smoking, and not in a good way.

Getting out of the car, even I could see that my low profile tire was so low that it was, in fact, flat. Also unfixable. Being a faux adult, I didn’t know what to do, so the sheriff said to call the emergency number on the back of my insurance card, which I did. The person answering the phone either could not or would not understand that there was no cross street. He could not locate Road 409 or its alter ego Point Cabrillo Drive, and disclaimed all knowledge of mile markers. He was probably in Kansas or something.

The sheriff took the phone from me and assured the Kansas guy that the tow truck driver would know where mile marker 53.34 was. Mr. Kansas texted me the name, phone number and ETA of the tow truck, which was an entire discouraging hour away.

The sheriff saw me back to my car, told me to put on the hazards, and went on his way. I felt so lucky that he was right there when I needed him. I felt less lucky that I had, possibly for the first time in my life, forgotten to bring a book with me.

It was nerve-wracking feeling my car, otherwise immobile, rocking as cars fully equipped with four working tires swept past me. Not everyone passed by, however. Two friends stopped to check on me, as did a total stranger and the UPS guy from the jobette. It warmed my marooned heart to know that even strangers in our little corner of the world care enough to try and help someone with car trouble.

Eventually, the tow truck appeared. It was manned by an outsized guy who looked like he had recently escaped from ZZ Top without having time to shower or brush his quite remarkable beard. Star would not have enjoyed his look. He told me that the job right before mine was on the mythical Point Cabrillo Drive, so all the time I was waiting for him, he was practically there. Much like the time I required roadside assistance in Florida, after a lengthy wait it took ZZ Top about 30 seconds to change out the utterly destroyed tire for the spare one.

He warned me seriously that I could not drive above 50 miles an hour and that I could not drive far on it, though he added darkly that there were idiots who did and paid the price for their folly. I observed that my fellow drivers would object to such a majestic pace on the highway, and he thrust the middle finger of his meaty paw toward the road and exclaimed, “Fuck ‘em! It’s your life!” He then gave me a shoulder hug, saw me back to my car, and said he would watch my back and tell me when it was safe to pull out, which he did.

As I made my leisurely way home, I was thankful for ZZ Top and his rough concern, the kindness of the sheriff, and the caring of friends and strangers. Also for the 30 year old beater car which got me to work today with its assorted collection of rattles and hums, all in one piece.

A YEAR AGO: A wonderful weekend.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A trip to the DMV. Not as bad as you’d think.

Bookstore Day

It was a beautiful day to go to the bookstore, which is located right across from the street from the ocean. It has its own webcam, in case you want to see what I’m seeing.

The bookstore was celebrating Independent Bookstore Day, so we were greeted by people making stencils and selling cupcakes outside. Inside, a staff person handed us a scavenger hunt list:

and we were off!

The first and most important thing was to get the new Neil Gaiman book about Norse Mythology with the special, limited edition Bookstore Day cover for Jessica. Jessica wrote a fan letter to Neil Gaiman when she was five years old, and he sent her a handwritten letter in response, and Erica and Jessica basically ARE Norse myths. Erica recently did genetic testing and it turns out that she and Jessica are essentially Laplanders, Sami people, with a dash of other Scandinavian thrown in. So that book was the perfect gift for the kidlet.

Megan and I had a lot of fun with the scavenger hunt. Megan thought it would be fun if we chose a book blind date for each other:

The proceeds go to the local children’s fund, so it’s a win for everyone.

The prevalence of selfies had led me to believe it was an easy thing to do. It would also give me the unprecedented ability to take a photo of myself with the Great Catsby, who is usually looking down on his adoring public, both literally and figuratively.

While it was easy to find the giant Catsby:

it was less so to take the selfie, making me wonder about the popularity of these. Does everyone else have arms that are five feet long? Or is it just my usual lack of techspertise? Either way, I gave up on it after several attempts to get both Self and Catsby in the same photo. Megan offered to take it for me, but I thought that was cheating, since it was supposed to be a selfie.

We had the hardest time finding poems to read to each other and a book about our hero(ine). I finally tracked down a little volume of Zen poetry, and it was surprisingly nice to read poems to each other in a sunny bookstore. I thought I would feel like an idiot, but I actually enjoyed the words. As for heroes, we decided on a book about Winston Churchill. You may remember he has been my hero before, and of course our father pretty much worshipped him, as I imagine most boys growing up in WWII London did. I think this may still be my favorite Churchill anecdote.

We dropped off our completed scavenger lists and selected packets of mini crayons as our prize. Megan took them to work with her, since crayons have a way of disappearing from the Emergency Room waiting room. Yet another mystery. And yet another delightful outing with my sister.

A YEAR AGO: The Mystery Cat.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A busy and happy weekend.

Out & About

If you think May is too late in the year for power outages, I agree with you. But we would both be wrong.

Derby Day dawned bright and sunny, but it also dawned crazy windy. It should have dawned on me that the power might go out, but it didn’t. Imagine my surprise when I was plunged into powerlessness less than an hour before the Derby festivities. No hats, no (muddy) walk across the field, no singing of “My Old Kentucky Home”, no exciting call of “Riders, up!”, and worst of all, no race. It was enough to make a girl make a consolation julep.

Even if I could have located a sports bar that was showing the race, I couldn’t have gotten there. Reports reached me that there was a power line down on the Ridge, so I couldn’t have made it to the highway. Even if I did, I would have had to turn back to the impasse on the Ridge, because other downed power lines had caused a fire in the next town north of Hooterville and the highway was closed.

A call to our friends at PG&E told me, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before, that there were widespread outages and that they had no estimated time of restoration. The sunny skies seemed to be mocking me as I regretted my optimistic folly of emptying out the emergency water buckets a couple of weeks earlier, foolishly thinking that I would not be needing them anymore, especially since they were now breeding mosquitoes. Fortunately, I did have a few bottles of drinking water left over from the seemingly endless winter, and I had already done the dishes.

I went to bed that night with earplugs in my ears and two pillows over my head to muffle the racket of Mark’s generator, seemingly racketier than ever, but maybe that was just my envy. The power came on again about 12 hours too late for the Derby, but at least it came on again.

A YEAR AGO: A wonderful family dinner.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Clyde was feeling naughty.