Party


My Glorious Cake

It was a milestone birthday for Megan last year (50!) and for me this year (60!), so we decided to celebrate together, like we did when we were kids. Here we were, celebrating Megan’s 12th birthday and my 21st:

A lot has changed since then, but it’s still fun to celebrate our birthdays together.

Despite the fact that it was a shared celebration, Megan did most of the work, and the pile of presents was mostly for me:

The glorious cake was from Franny’s Cup & Saucer, and the flowers are from Franny’s garden, dried and pressed by her. The cake was lemon with lemon mousse and fresh berries, iced in lemon buttercream. It was as divine as it looks and sounds.

Getting the cake was a bit of an adventure, though. A propane truck overturned on the highway just a few yards from my road on the day Megan, Rob, and the dogs set off to Point Arena to pick up the cake and play on the beach:

There is no alternative route, so traffic backed up pretty fast. And although it happened in the morning, traffic was still bad when I was heading home around 4:00. I turned off the car and kept listening to Tom Petty while I texted Megan, knowing she had gotten home past the overturned truck. I asked her how long she thought the wait would be. She said they had waited half an hour, and added that they were trying to get the truck back onto its wheels about an hour earlier so it could be towed. As I read the text, the truck was towed past my open car window.

Traffic started moving after that, and it took me about 5 minutes to get onto my road after sitting on the highway for half an hour. An adventure!

A YEAR AGO: A milestone birthday for Megan.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Working at my Saturday job and celebrating Megan’s birthday.

TEN YEARS AGO: Things were weird. And I was in San Francisco.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: We lost our beloved Jed, the Wonder Dog. Never forgotten, always loved, never, ever equalled.

Tied

You win some, you lose some…

The beautiful spring weather invited me to take a drive to the lovely South Coast. I was happy to see on Facebook that Anchor Bay Thai was reopening for lunch, so its hours would coincide conveniently with Franny’s Cup and Saucer. On my last trip to the South Coast in late February, I was disappointed when I stopped by Franny’s on the way home only to discover that they were basically sold out of everything. So I called ahead on Saturday, only to learn that they were sold out yet again, so I ordered everything for pick up on Sunday.

On my way to Franny’s, I stopped at Queenie’s for breakfast, hoping to get Eggs Benedict. But they, too, were sold out, despite the Specials board proclaiming that they were a possibility. I still don’t understand how they can be sold out, unless they run out of Hollandaise or maybe the fresh herb biscuits they are built on. I settled for less glamorous eggs with chicken apple sausage and rye toast, always my favorite toast. The server turned out to be the same person who often waited on me at a shop in the Big Town, so it was fun to chat with her.

Arriving at Franny’s, I was surprised to find the door locked, but ajar. It turned out they close at noon on Sundays, instead of the usual 2:00. Oops. I was half an hour late. Fortunately, they held the order for me and let me in to retrieve it.

The last stop was the Thai restaurant, which was unaccountably closed. Oh, well. I had made lumpia Shanghai and dipping sauce and char siu the day before, so I had those for dinner along with cucumber salad and some truly magnificent orange and caramel cake. All’s well that ends well.

A YEAR AGO: My baby sister turned 50!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Our beloved Star was under the weather. Spoiler alert: She recovered completely. Whew.

TEN YEARS AGO: It was quite an adventure for Rob to visit his ailing Mother.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Celebrating Megan’s birthday.

Etc.


Hooterville Morning

I took this at the Hooterville post office this morning. I generally go to the post office on my way to work, long before it actually opens. For some reason, going to the post office after work feels like going out of my way. I retrieved my package from the parcel locker, and when I got back to the car, I was delighted by the dawn breaking over the Hooterville hills. That dot in the sky is a guest appearance by my friend the moon.

You can’t tell from this dawnscape, but it’s been really windy lately. I’m still wearing my coat and having the heat on in the car in the morning. Yesterday evening, the wind blew a tree down in a strategic spot and took out the power in the Big Town and environs, all the way to the Village. Fortunately (she said selfishly), my power stayed on, and it was restored to the temporarily powerless by 7:30 pm, so it was only out for about three hours. This morning, the Ridge was covered with fallen twigs and leaves, which looked odd on the dry road.

*****

A guy tried to pick me up at the gas station this morning, while I was in the midst of spending $61 on gas for Wednesday. My lipstick must be even more fabulous than I thought. He was a really nice guy named Lucio. As my 60th birthday approaches, I have to wonder if it’s the last time this will happen. It sent me on my way to work with a smile.

*****

Little Dodge has hurt his front right paw. He was fine when I left for work yesterday morning, but he was not putting weight on it when I came home that evening. He is still eating and drinking normally, and he is also jumping on and off the bed, table, and the heater where he likes to lounge:

He likes the warmth of the pilot light, pretty much year-round.

I checked the problem paw, and couldn’t see any wounds or foreign objects. I wonder if he sprained it jumping off furniture or playing with Clyde. I hope he recovers soon, and that I can avoid another gigantic vet bill. Fingers (and paws) crossed!

A YEAR AGO: The joys of spring.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A fabulous evening with family and friends.

TEN YEARS AGO: A really fun weekend.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A rainy start to the day.

Queenie’s

Queenie’s opened a little late this year, at end of April instead of the middle of February. Usually, she opens her doors to her fans around Valentine’s Day, but this year, the Queen had broken her ankle and had her heart broken when she lost her sister in a tragic accident on my old Ridge. So she needed a little time to recover before she went back in the kitchen to work her magic.

I wasn’t the only one who sought an audience with the Queen on Opening Day, so I was lucky to get a seat at the bar. From there, one can peek into the behind the scenes action in the kitchen. I had never sat there before, and it was fun to see the staff at work in their small space, much like it is at Swan’s. Except Queenie’s is country and all female staff, and Swan’s is about as city as you can get and all male staff. Either way, it’s fun to watch while waiting for your fabulous food.

And fabulous it was:

Eggs Benedict with spinach and Canadian bacon on a freshly-baked herb biscuit. It was delicious, and it was so nice to be back at Queenie’s and see her once again in action.

Leaving the restaurant, I enjoyed the view:

It was a lovely drive home on a beautiful spring day. I love our little corner of the world.

A YEAR AGO: Remembering a long-ago visit to Florence. I still wonder how we got “Florence” out of “Firenze”, and how there can be alternate names for the same city. Shouldn’t it just be Firenze?

FIVE YEARS AGO: The power was out. No Derby for me!

TEN YEARS AGO: Clyde was feeling naughty. As his twelfth birthday approaches, he has not grown out of it.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Plumbing problems.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Getting a doctor’s appointment was much harder than it should have been, in my humble opinion.

Fun

On a lovely spring day, I left work early and headed for the Village, where my first stop was the Brickery at Cafe Beaujolais:

where I ordered pizza and waited in the beautiful garden until it was ready:

This is the spicy salami pizza, with capers, olives, red onion, and Calabrian chilis. It is delicious.

Next, I headed to Angelika’s little studio in the big woods, to get my hair and my outlook brightened:

I hadn’t seen her since December, so it was great to catch up with each other’s news. I love spending the afternoon with Angelika, talking about everything under the sun. It’s almost like getting the amazing highlights and haircut are incidental to the fun of hanging out. Almost. We are hoping to meet up with Megan for a drink at Ledford House soon.

I took my newly shiny hair to Chez Megan, where there were magical cocktails in beautiful glasses awaiting:

They were basically Cosmos, but made with limoncello instead of triple sec. Yum!

We had the pizza, the cocktails, and watched our favorite movie, “Legally Blonde”. It was the perfect end to a really fun day. And the beginning of a summer of fun.

A YEAR AGO: Dodge’s secret nocturnal adventure shook us both up, at least temporarily.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Remembering the houses of my childhood. The house I grew up in now only exists in my memories.

TEN YEARS AGO: Getting a new couch. Well, new to me, anyway. I still like it.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: My beloved stepmother’s 80th birthday. She was a class act. I will always miss her.

Garden

I was glad to be back in Hooterville, where I was enthusiastically greeted by the cats. The thrill of me wore off pretty quickly, though, and was almost immediately replaced by the wish to go outside and play, which they did.

I stayed inside, to unpack my things and stuff before tackling the litter box and feeding and watering the cats. The litter box looked like the Andes after my two day absence.

Once everything was restored to order, I headed over to the family estate to say hi to Megan and Rob (Jonathan was off on an adventure). Things are rocking and rolling over there. There are new fruit trees, including a second cherry tree now sharing the net palace with the original cherry tree:

You can see the original cherry tree in the background here, behind the rows of raspberries:

Strawberries are on the way:

It was a beautiful day to wander around the growing orchard:

admiring the blossoms on the trees:

Megan picked a bouquet for me of my favorite lilacs and the sweet peas we grow every year for Dad. These are called April in Paris:

April in Hooterville is pretty good, too.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some bad habits.

TEN YEARS AGO: The office cat at the jobette.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The eternal debate of time vs. money.

Miscellaneous

It’s the last day of March. The month flew by quickly, and spring is making its presence known. Somehow, the bear-attracting apple tree has blossomed without my noticing the bud stage at all:

and the trees in the long curves at Caspar and Little River are misted with leaves of that heart-breaking, almost electric green that they only have when newborn.

******

When I leave for work in the morning, I give the cats treats to distract them, and before I go out the door, I always take a look back at the house:

It always seems like the most beautiful place when I’m about to venture out into the Wide World. And we all know no good ever comes of doing that.

******

I’m getting a new computer. My current model is from 2012. The trackpad no longer works, and the black plastic connecting the screen to the rest of it is badly frayed and missing entirely in some places.

I had trackpad problems a couple of years ago, which were expensively resolved. Or resolved-ish, since they have reared their ugly heads again. I brought the ailing laptop to someone else this time, and he said the battery was swollen and had to be replaced, and that the swelling was what made the trackpad refuse to click. He relieved me of $150 for taking the battery out of another laptop and putting it in mine.

When I got home, I discovered that not only did it not click, I couldn’t drag anything. I thought about getting another technician to look at it, but it’s 10 years old and I have already put more than enough money into it. It’s time to get a new to me laptop. And ask if I can give back the battery and get a refund.

******

I stopped at the post office on my way to work this morning, my usual time for this chore. I came across a young homeless guy in there, and he asked me if I knew what time it was. I didn’t, because I had left my phone in the car*, but I gave him my best guess, based on when I left the house. He said, “Thank you, sweetheart”. He was probably in his 20s, so I found it unusual that he would call me that, though I enjoyed it as much as I always do. He also asked me when the Gro opened, which I could tell him, and as I left the post office, he said cheerfully, “Have a good day, sweetheart!” It was a nice start to the day.

I seem to be encountering homeless guys a fair bit recently. There is one who often sleeps under the tent at work where we do COVID shots and testing. I say hello to him in the morning if he’s awake, and try not to wake him up if he’s not. He works at McDonalds, but still doesn’t have a place to live. I think we both like seeing each other in the morning. I’m hoping he can get back on his feet soon.

*My cute pink iPod died a few weeks ago, so I’m now using Apple Music. Still figuring it out. It has a lot of drawbacks compared to the iPod. I really am not a fan of change, especially in technology.

A YEAR AGO: My brother was off on an adventure

FIVE YEARS AGO: Enjoying the ballet.

TEN YEARS AGO: A surprise gift.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Some coincidences.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: My favorite flowers bring back some happy memories.

Seasons


This year’s lilacs

Spring has definitely sprung in Hooterville. The air is softer and full of birdsong, and fruit trees are foamy with blossoms and buzzing with busy bees. Lilacs, irises, and California poppies are blooming. I am still wearing a coat to work, buttoned up in the morning and unbuttoned* in the evening, and in the mornings, I have the heat on in the car, while in the evenings, I have the car window open. Seasons here are a little more subtle than in most of the country.

I have found over the past few years that I appreciate spring more and more. At this point, I would rate the seasons from best to worst as: spring, fall, winter, and summer. If I still lived back East, I think fall would come out on top, because of the glorious leaf colors and the delightful, cool respite from the horror of summer, always my least favorite season. I hate the heat. I always have.

When I was a kid, we were lucky enough to escape the muggy and buggy summers in upstate New York by fleeing to Maine the minute the school year dragged to an end. There we enjoyed the cool, foggy summers, much like the summers in the Big Town on the Mendocino Coast. Very often, the Big Town is fogged in all of my working day, while back home in Hooterville, it is sunny and bright. The sunshine comes at a cost, though, making it up to 20 degrees warmer than it is on the foggy coast.

Fortunately, my current abode is insulated and less of an art project than my previous Hooterville home of many years, which was like living in a tent. It was freezing cold in the winter and boiling hot in the summer, especially up in the sleeping loft, where the heat went to party and after party. Despite the quirks of the house, and the beauty of the house I live in now, I still miss the old house. There were a lot of great memories there, and it was such a cool and unusual place.

I do enjoy the winter, with the sound of rain and peeping frogs and the bright breasts of robins, who winter here, and the dramatic spouts of passing whales. It’s nice to read with a cup of tea and a scented candle, cuddled up with the cats. I enjoy the coziness and feeling safe. When I was a child back East, I loved skiing and playing in the snow and the violet shadows of the trees on winter afternoons and the distinctive, white light in the house after a snowfall. I have always loved Christmas, with its sparkliness and joy.

As for summer…well, it’s something to be endured. I used to love the long summers in Maine when I was a kid, that glorious feeling of freedom with three school-free months stretching ahead. I’m glad I enjoyed those days when I had them. And I do still enjoy the changing seasons, no matter how subtle.

*Also the name of my current favorite lip gloss, which I’m wearing right now while eating Lifesavers for breakfast.

A YEAR AGO: Some updates.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some happy encounters.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A bad mail day.

Dark


Happy Solstice!

We are well and truly into the madness of the spring time change, aka the hard one, when they steal an hour of sleep from you and plunge you back into darkness, just when there’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon in the morning. It makes me indignant every year, especially when facing the seemingly endless barrage of oncoming traffic, most of whom can’t seem to grasp the concept of turning off their high beams to avoid blinding other motorists.

A few years ago, Californians voted overwhelmingly in favor of stopping this senseless ritual. No one knows why it started or why it persists. Even if it’s entirely apocryphal, I love the story that Native Americans say, “Only the white man would cut a strip from the bottom of a blanket and sew it to the top of the blanket and think that makes it longer”, or something like that. But for some reason, the banishment of Daylight Saving Time has stalled somewhere in the lawmaking machinery, and we are stuck with the craziness and feeling jet lagged for days. Thanks, politicians!

The renewal of the morning darkness makes me appreciate even more the moonlight on the ocean, Venus beaming in the east, and the fact that Ledford House has kept an outside tree lit up long past the holiday season, where it can spark a little joy as I drive by on my way to work on a dark spring morning.

Little River Inn has kept its roofline lights aglow, a welcome sight as I crest the hill into Little River. And I look forward to the handful of scattered lights in the Village and the beams of light from the Point Cabrillo light station. Light in the darkness is especially beautiful this time of year.

A YEAR AGO: Jonathan and Rio’s desert adventures.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Remembering Dad.

TEN YEARS AGO: A look around my springtime garden.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Waiting for the cable guy. And waiting. And waiting…

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Brush with fame! A brief encounter with my former neighbor, Nicolas Cage.

Preserve

It had been a long time since I visited B. Bryan Preserve. Longer than I thought, since paging through my dusty archives revealed that it had in fact been 7 years, back when Jessica was a mere 12 years old. Now she is on the verge of 19. How did that happen? Especially since I myself have not aged a minute?

Visiting the Preserve has become even more popular than it was the last time I was there. There was quite a crowd, requiring three vehicles, and they have dispensed entirely with the educational session before boarding the vehicles. Frank the owner was nowhere to be seen, and I appeared to be 1) the only local on the tour; and 2. the only person who had visited before. I was more grateful than ever that Megan and I had had that magical one on one tour with Frank the owner almost 10 years ago. Those days are clearly over. While I am glad for their success, I do regret the loss of those special days.

And of course, the animals were as utterly magnificent as ever. We saw all three kinds of zebra: plains, mountain, and my personal favorite, the Grevy’s, with their round, fuzzy, teddy bear ears:

It is so amazing to see these beautiful, wild animals in real life. For those who worry about their feeling the chill of our foggy northern clime: they were born here, so in fact they would not be able to cope with the African climate. Like the rest of us fogeaters, they think it’s unbearably hot if it’s over 70 degrees.

Here are the Kudu, known as the Grey Ghost of Africa. They blend into their surroundings to avoid their predators:

Interestingly, they can jump really high, and if they wanted to, they could easily jump out of their enclosure. So they must be happy where they are, safe, admired, and fed well.

The roan antelope were feeling shy that day and just hung out by their barn. You can see them from afar:

As always, the giraffe were the highlight of the visit. They are no longer fed with acacia branches, but rather with lettuce. They are as weird and wonderful as ever, these 18 foot high, prehistoric-looking creatures:

swooping down to say hello and maybe give the tiny humans a kiss:

Seeing these beautiful creatures filled me with a child-like sense of awe and wonder. That is a wonderful gift. It was a special day.

A YEAR AGO: Some light-hearted fun from the local message boards.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A chilly Polar Plunge.

TEN YEARS AGO: Rob the handyman.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Sometimes, the city can seem like a small town.

Hotel

It was time for a little adventure, so I headed to the beautiful south coast. I decided to stay at a hotel right on the ocean. It was beautiful, and I loved the room:

The floors had radiant heat, so it was quite lovely to walk on them. Also, my house tends to be chilly, which is great in the summer, but less than fabulous the rest of the year. It was nice not to be bundled up.

There was also a fireplace, but no log. The only thing missing from the lovely bathroom was soap:

There was a rainfall shower head, and also a handheld shower. I have often wished for both of those things.

When I went down to the office to notify them of these absences, they asked if anything else was missing. Like it was normal for things to be missing. At least I had the log so I could enjoy a fire later, which I did. There was a balcony overlooking the ocean, where I enjoyed the sunset, along with a glass or two of sparkling wine.

The light through the window as the sun set was really beautiful:

Another small pleasure was realizing that I had forgotten to bring a couple of things, and I could walk to the store next door to get them! It made me feel like I was in a city again, even though all I could hear was the roar of the ocean. The closest store to my house is more than 6 miles away, not exactly walking distance. So it was a super fun novelty. You’re probably laughing about how exciting I found this right about now. I can’t help it. I’m a hick!

In the morning, I had coffee overlooking the ocean, enjoying every moment before hitting the road for an adventure.

Up next: giraffes and zebras!

FIVE YEARS AGO: I was at church. Yes. Really.

TEN YEARS AGO: A surprise wedding. Not mine, I hasten to add.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A good year.

Cheers

You know how sometimes we get Junuary, when the weather is more like summer than winter even though it’s January? We had that in February, though I can’t come up with a clever portmanteau for that one. There were record highs in southern California that weekend, and possibly here, too. Certainly, it was warm enough to venture out without a sweater or jacket of any kind, and that is a rare thing here any time of year. You get kind of programmed to have a sweater or jacket with you at all times. The last time I went to LA, I brought my sweater with me everywhere and I never needed it. Not once.

Not only was it suddenly (though temporarily) summer, Megan actually had a Saturday off for once. Pressing Rob into service, we headed to our favorite seaside bar, where we sat at a little table in the garden at a comfortable distance from the madd(en)ing crowds:

We enjoyed the always excellent company of a Mandarin Blossom Cosmo (me) and a Buddha’s Hand Lemon Drop (Megan), as well as the beautiful view:

As the sun set into the Pacific, the moon rose over restaurant:

and the lights began to twinkle on the deck:

It was a beautiful end to a beautiful day.

A YEAR AGO: Some thoughts on love.

FIVE YEARS AGO: It was raining water outside and love inside.

TEN YEARS AGO: Remembering my much-loved American grandfather. I will miss him 45 years after his death. I think I always will.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Farewell to the glamorous Princess Margaret.

Pizza

Daria would be proud of me. My determination to acquire the pizza of my dreams actually led to my overcoming my impatience (Waiting in line! Waiting in general!) and laziness (Making an extra stop on my way home from work!). Needless to say, the keepers of the wood-fired brick oven failed to answer their phone, but I decided that I would not let that stop me.

Friday afternoon seemed like the best time to push my patience and laziness to their limited limits. It was an alarmingly lovely day. I can’t remember the last time it rained, and the 29 inches of precipitation we had received by the end of December was looking pretty paltry by the end of January. No rain in the immediate future, either:

Our short winter is almost over, and there aren’t many rainy day opportunities left. On the bright side, though, it made the waiting in line and waiting in general much more pleasant:

It was nice to hang out in the herb garden and admire the honor farm stand:

As waiting went, it was pretty good, though of course it was also longer than predicted. It’s the Mendo way. And the pizza was worth the wait. This one is House-made Fennel Sausage, Sliced Red Onion, Pickled Fresno Chiles, Oregano, Cured Black Olives, Mozzarella, and San Marzano Tomatoes:

This one is Calabrese Pepperoni, Artichoke Hearts, San Marzano Tomato Sauce, and Mozzarella:

They were both delicious. I should be patient more often!

A YEAR AGO: My proudest achievement.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A busy Saturday.

TEN YEARS AGO: A power outage.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Visiting birds.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The unpredictability of the weather.

Reboot

Of course the “Sex & the City” reboot called for a Girl Night!

Getting the requisite pizza was once again more complicated than you’d expect. Our first choice, the fabulous wood-fired brick oven baked pizzas from the Village, were not available because they were not answering their phone, and I was not prepared to go there, wait in line, order, and wait again. Impatience is (or should be) my middle name (and it wouldn’t be notably worse than my actual middle name). I didn’t have enough cash for my second choice, which is a cash-only establishment, so it was door number three, the winner because they not only answered their phone, but cheerfully accepted my debit card.

Suitably armed with pizza, I went home and fed the cats (not pizza), and was ready for Megan to pick me up. We stopped in at the post office and the Gro on our way to our family estate, to check for fan mail and get some snacks. A girl cannot live on pizza alone, though she might like to try. As Daria so wisely put it, “And there is no aspect, no facet, no moment of life that can’t be improved with pizza”.

Arriving at Megan’s place, it took Millie about .00002 seconds to be horrified by me and try to hide from my awfulness behind the safety of Megan. Millie may be horrified by humans in even less time than it took my former landlord Mark to fire up his generator when the power went out, previously held to be the shortest measurable time known to man.

Despite her visible horror at my appearance in her home, Millie chose to sit on the very same couch that I did, separated, of course, by the safety zone of Megan. Stella was naturally uninterested in any of this drama, being far too interested in wedging herself into the place that was the most inconvenient and uncomfortable for me, and being as snack-adjacent as caninely possible. Having her own dinner did not of course lower her interest in participating in mine.

We binged on all six episodes that were available at that time, so beware of spoilers below if you have not already binged it yourself, or rationed it out like the responsible adult HBO clearly thinks you are, since they released an episode a week and I think the last one finally airs this week.

I was delighted to see that while they referred to recent unpleasant events, in the SATC world, the unpleasantness was over and one could merrily bare one’s face to the elements and hug one’s friends. I greatly missed Kim Cattrall as the witty and wonderful Samantha, whose absence was inadequately explained, and, after his untimely death in real life, the inimitable Willie Garson as the unforgettable Stanford Blatch. Again, his absence was inadequately explained on the show, but they couldn’t kill off two characters.

The show’s attempt to be inclusive was cringeworthy to me, and felt forced and fake. The story arc with Miranda was particularly far-fetched and unlike her character, unless she was having a late in life crisis. I did not like how she dismissed her husband Steve, a good man who has always loved her and appreciated her prickly qualities, seeing the vulnerability beneath the exterior. It was especially hard to watch after their separation and reunion in the earlier movie.

All the men get short shrift in the reboot, though of course the show has always been all about the girls (again, unlike real life). The clothes are still fabulous, the writing still witty, and their world is still beautiful and gracious, separate from mere ordinary mortals, and that’s the way I like it. The very things that people criticized in the movies were the things I loved. I don’t want to see reality. I want escapism, preferably in fabulous apartments and exotic locales.

All in all, it was fun escapism and a delightful evening for everyone but Millie, and possibly Rob, who got to chauffeur me home.

A YEAR AGO: The delights of John’s kittens.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Surprise! A new, giant, blocky refrigerator is your new roommate!

TEN YEARS AGO: Encounters with law enforcement.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Arriving in Florida.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Indoor and outdoor coffee.

Moon

Me and the moon…we go way back. Our most dramatic encounter was a few years back, and it has never ceased to affect me. I even bought this ring:

to remember that occasion, and every time I wear it (like today), I think of that breath-taking moment with the eclipse and the shooting star, and my beloved former father-in-law.

Even though I’m a morning person, I still have a strong bond with what the Moody Blues called the “cold-hearted orb that rules the night”. I don’t think of her as cold-hearted; I think of her as beautiful. And although I’m a morning person, it is generally dark when I get up and still dark when I go to work. I start by 7 am, and for years, when I lived in San Francisco, I got to work by 6 am, in time for the stock market opening in New York.

Even on weekends, I’m generally up and about by 6 am or 6:30. Go ahead and hate me. At least I’m not perky and/or chatty at that hour. I don’t want anyone, even the cats, talking to me that early. I am unable to deal with anyone or anything until I have had my one cup of black coffee out of my starry mug:

And when I walk to the car, I take a moment to look at the stars blazing in the blackness, and to admire the moon, if she is beaming down. Then I head into my day, toward the ocean, where I often see the moon through the dark, ancient redwoods. Sometimes she is huge and orange, sometimes she is a sliver of silver, but she is always beautiful.

As I wend my way down the curvy Ridge, the Lady is sometimes on my left, and sometimes on my right, and it reminds me of how I believed my grandfather put up the moon at night with a long ladder. When I asked him about its ability to move from one side of the road to the other, he explained that the moon was on a spring. I bet you didn’t know that. Or that the astronauts got up there when my grandfather shot them out of a catapult.

By far my favorite moon view is when I first see the ocean, when the Ridge meets storied Highway One, and that is what I attempted to capture in the photo above. I love it when there is a wide, silvery path of moonlight on the black ocean. It is so magical.

A YEAR AGO: Meet my new love, Frank. Loving from afar is still love, you know. I’m pleased to say that Frank remains his tough, lovable self and makes regular appearances at John’s place for food and petting. Just the essentials.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Rain flooded the roads and prevented us from going to the ballet. I wish we were getting more rain this year.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Sunlight and shadow.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Some baby photos.

Flowers

I noticed on my home yesterday that the first daffodils of the year were in bloom:

They looked so bright and sunny against the dark tree trunk and the cloudy sky, a reminder that our short California winter is moving slowly toward the spring, with the solstice a month behind us.

This also means that we are running out of rainy season. We started off pretty well, and have gotten about 29 inches so far, but it’s been a while since we had any rain, and I don’t see any in the immediate forecast:

It’s beautiful, but also a little concerning, since the less rain we get now, the more our wildfire risk is later.

Arriving home, I noticed that the orchid on the back porch has a flower spike:

It looks like this when it blooms:

It used to always bloom in February, but over the last few years, it can be as late as March, no matter when the buds appear. Whenever it decides to bloom, it’s something to look forward to, and a sign that spring is on its way.

A YEAR AGO: Getting to work was a bit of an adventure.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Enjoying the fine wood-working show.

TEN YEARS AGO: Power outages and other things.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Yup, I’m lazy. What can I say? Idle rich really would have been my perfect career.

Out


Who, Me?

Dodge got a jump on celebrating New Year’s Eve. Why stay up all night on December 31 when you can stay up all night on December 30?

When I went downstairs on last day of the year, I was happy to see the light and sparkle of the Christmas tree, but surprised not to see Dodge. He is always interested in getting his spoonful of wet cat food, whereas Clyde, careless of the drought, is interested in drinking from the tap and Audrey, who disdains us all, doesn’t bother to come downstairs, knowing that she will get room service. She has trained me well.

I didn’t see him anywhere. I peeked into the Closet of Doom, where, terrible cat parent that I am, I have accidentally shut in the cats from time to time, and he was conspicuous by his absence. I finally opened the door to the back porch, and Dodge shot into the house like he had been shot from a cannon. He was up the stairs before I was really sure what had happened. He was a cartoon-esque blur.

Somehow, he had sneaked past me at some point and then spent the whole night outside in the dark with the monsters. He is aptly named, our Artful Dodger*, dodging past me even when I’m looking for him to do it. He is a habitual sneakyboots. Lately he has had an insatiable lust for going outside, even though the weather could hardly be less appealing. I have no idea why this is, but in the battle of wills between me and this small Siamese cat, I am rarely the winner. I only let him out in the daytime when I’m home, or at least that’s the only time I knowingly let him out.

I have already begun to try and steel myself against the possibility of his not coming home, like the beloved Roscoe. But I think, if I could tell Dodge or Roscoe that if they stayed in the house, they would be safe, but going outside is fraught with dangers up to and including death, they would still choose to go out. They are both Adventure Boys. Sometimes I think that Roscoe died doing what he loved, and that he loved his time in the woods. I just hope the end was swift and merciful**. I still miss him every day.

Dodge eventually came downstairs for his breakfast, though he kept doing that bobblehead thing he did when I first adopted him and which he does when he is nervous, He kept looking at the back door. I expected him to stay home and sleep all day, but in his resilient, Dodge-like way, he was his old happy self before noon, and, yes, asking to go out again. Request denied.

*The same day I wrote this, I watched an episode of Perry Mason called “The Case of the Artful Dodger”.

**When I moved, I felt really sad about leaving him there alone, even though I had no idea where he was. I’m not known for my logic.

A YEAR AGO: My morning drive.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The saddest day of the year.

TEN YEARS AGO: Propane problems.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Shopping in the neighborhood.

Eve


The Last Evening of the Year

The last day of the year dawned rainy and misty. I am pleased to say that we have gotten around 29 inches of rain so far this season, with more to come, though we are running out of rainy months, with only the rest of January, February, and March (the secret winter month) to go.

I had the day off, and I headed to the beautiful South Coast, enjoying the winter beauty:

and the sun shining through the clouds over the ocean:

The ocean is beautiful in all its seasons and moods, just in different ways. In some ways, I think the crashing, silvery winter ocean is more beautiful than the calmer blue summer one.

It was a beautiful drive:

When I got home, I made a tourtière:

That’s supposed to be a star in the middle. I always cut designs into my pies, because that’s what my American grandmother did. As I made this pie, I realized that I was taught to cook (and to iron clothes) by two Victorians, since both of my grandmothers were born during Queen Victoria’s reign. It’s nice to think that they live on in me*, and to feel that link to history.

I watched the ball drop in Times Square, along with an attentive Dodge. Maybe it’s because I was born in New York state, but I always think that the New York New Year is the “real” one, even though I have lived in California most of my adult life. I don’t think any west coast celebrations can touch the New York one.

And so we bid farewell to the old year, and greet the new one, which so far bears a striking resemblance to the old one. We shall see what it brings. Happy New Year from me to you!

*As I write this, I am wearing my America grandmother’s gold bracelet, which is etched with her maiden name initials, EFH. It probably dates to around 1914 or so. I wear it often and think of her.

A YEAR AGO: A few plumbing issues to start the year.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Oh, Clyde! I still miss the ornament he broke.

TEN YEARS AGO: Fantasy hockey, Suzy-style. Go Leafs!

TWENTY YEARS AGO: I was less than thrilled with the rain. Well, we got more of it in those days. I note that I watched “Beautiful Girls” a couple of days ago. Still love it.

2021

This was a year of milestones. Jessica turned 18; Jarrett turned 40; my blog turned 20; Megan turned 50; she and Rob celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, and we mourned the 20th anniversary of our father’s death.

We also mourned the devastating loss of Megan and Rob’s beloved dog, Star. We knew she was sick, but the end was sudden. She has left a huge hole in their household, and we still miss her. But a new dog, Millie, brought joy to our lives in late summer, especially to Stella, who was missing Star much more than we expected. Stella and Millie love playing together, and it’s heart-warming to see how happy they are together.

I read 110 books this year, an improvement over last year’s paltry 86 (assuming my record-keeping was accurate that year), but falling short of the record high of 118 in 2010. I seem to have developed a love for Canadian graphic novels. I devoured all of “Clyde Fans” and every Michel Rabagliati book I could get my hands on.

This was also a year of successful culinary experimentation, in which I learned how to make my own Canelés de Bordeaux, Chinese BBQ pork, lemon chicken, har gao (shrimp dumplings), and pork and chive crystal dumplings.

Here’s all the news I saw fit to print this year:

January: The New Year begins. Come along on my commute. It’s a pretty one. I stepped down from my high office (or possibly my high horse) as the library board Chair, though I remain on the Board. High office is not for the likes of me. Also, it was completely perk-free, as far as I could see. I might be persuaded to try it again if a tiara and a limo were involved. Getting to work was an adventure. Swooning over Frank from afar, and remembering the inimitable Buddy, my first cat love. Frank is still doing well and is his fighty and adorable self. A magical encounter on my way to work. A friend told me that she thinks it was Dad checking in with me. I hope she’s right. And I hope he’s wrong and I see him again one day.

February: John’s rescued kittens. My proudest achievement. Thinking about love. Such an unusual thing to do around Valentine’s Day! A fun trip to the South Coast. I always love it there.

March: The heart-breaking news of our beloved Star’s terminal illness. Jonathan and Rio were off having adventures. When I heard how long they were going to be gone, I knew they would not be here to say goodbye to Star. Unfortunately, I was correct in this. Despite knowing she was ill, her death was sudden, merciful for our darling Star, but hard for those she left behind, including Stella. I still miss our beautiful Star. Megan’s place is not the same without her. I had not realized that she was the heart of their household until she was gone. Dad’s 90th birthday came on the heels of Star’s death.

April: Kitty updates. Getting my hair done and getting an Easter basket cheered me up. My blog turned 20! Can you believe it? And Jessica turned 18! Can you believe that, too? Remembering a wonderful visit with my beloved friend A at her home in Amsterdam in 1994. This month’s theme seems to be the swift passage of time and what we lose along the way.

May: Things were a little too exciting for Dodge. But it didn’t stop him from enjoying his 5th birthday. Making Tourtière from a friend’s family recipe. The joys of a beautiful spring. Megan turned 50, a reason to celebrate! A lot of milestones this year.

June: Enjoying some time off. An excellent birthday, including getting my hair cut and colored and a little trip to the beautiful South Coast. I looked around the small, but scenic, cemetery while I was in Anchor Bay. Summer crowds were out in force in the Village. An expensive flat tire. A lovely, but hot, trip to the beautiful Valley.

July: Orange is the new pink at my house. I love my house. The always amazing Flynn Creek Circus. Another milestone on this milestone-studded year: Megan and Rob’s 30th anniversary! A visit to the Valley, where you can taste cider under the very trees the cider apples grew on. A trip to Bodega Bay, to scope out locations from “The Birds” and remember family Christmases there with Dad. A glamorous stay at the Flamingo in Santa Rosa. The joy of a concert at the Music Festival.

August: My first attempt at making Canelés de Bordeaux was surprisingly successful. I fell i love with a giant ceramic apple (yes, you read that right!) and bought it for the garden. I love it. Some extreme (and extreemly delicious) take-out. Conventional wisdom seems to be wrong when it comes to my unconventional cats. A new deck and a new dog at Megan and Rob’s place! Remembering our much-loved father 20 years after his sudden and untimely death. I will never stop loving and missing him. Ever. Getting contact lenses again. Checking out some beautiful artwork around town.

September: Another successful cooking experiment: Chinese BBQ pork. Meet Millie, Megan and Rob’s new dog! She and Stella are so happy together! I seem to have been out of control with the make your own delicacies. This time: dim sum! A really fun family dinner in the garden. A horrifying (and horrifying expensive) root canal. Just one little thing can make a big difference in a room.

October: I admit it. I’m a scented candle addict. Rainy day baking. Some mid-week sparkles with a friend, and end of week Eggs Benedict at the amazing Queenie’s. Some small-town crimes, a little too close to home for comfort. And in the miscellaneous department…

November: John stepped up his rescue activities with caring for a batch of abandoned, newborn kittens. He had to get up every two hours to feed them for weeks. I am pleased to say they all made it and were safely given to a local rescue for adoption. Yay, John! He’s my hero. Redbeard was finally caught! And Suzy’s Dim Sum Palace was open for business. Yet another crown for my collection, and not the fun, sparkly kind, either. A drink with a side of view. A quietly thankful Thanksgiving.

December: A quiet, but delicious Thanksgiving dinner. The incredible sparkly beauty of the Festival of Lights. In which I learn to make my own lemon chicken while the Chinese restaurant is closed, and enjoy a drink or two with my sister at our local bar. Finally tackling the Closet of Doom. Putting up the Christmas tree. An unnerving earthquake on Solstice Eve. A pretty Christmas Eve and a quiet Christmas Day. Having fun watching Emily in Paris with my sister.

I have no idea what next year will bring, but as this year ends, I am grateful for my family, my friends, my cats, my health, my lovely house, my meaningful work, the beautiful place I live, and the small, special moments in life that are there every day.

A YEAR AGO: A look back at 2020.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Reviewing 2016.

TEN YEARS AGO: What happened in 2011.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The year of the dog.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The last day of the last year of my father’s life.

Emily

Megan I had long been awaiting the return of the delightful and delightfully frivolous Emily in Paris. It is escapism at its finest, and we were ready to escape.

I took an extra day off over the holidays so we could watch all the Emilys at one sitting, and it was so worth it!

Arriving at Megan and Rob’s place, I was greeted by Stella and Millie. Millie is still horrified by humanity other than Megan, and occasionally Rob, but she feels better when she is cuddled up with Stella:

Stella has not lost her Mom skills, and clearly loves taking care of Millie.

The deck is now complete, and there is a gravel path leading to it, to cut down on the dust and mud:

Here’s another look at the path, leading away from their place:

Once inside, I discovered that our friend Monica had left me a gorgeous Christmas gift, wrapped in vintage ribbon and including a clear glass ornament with a feather in it, and a sparkly mushroom ornament:

Megan was well-prepared for our Emily Day. She invested in a cocktail shaker so she could make Midori Illusions, and it was worth it:

They are magical concoctions of Midori melon liqueur, vodka, Cointreau, lemon juice, and pineapple juice.

Rob imported pizzas from the Big Town. It was surprisingly difficult to acquire a pizza that day, both of the pizza places in the Village being chiuso in the Italian manner. We were lucky that he was willing to not only drive the pizzas home, but also me, and it was after midnight by the time I left. Season Two of Emily may have been even more delightful than Season One. We had such a great time!

A YEAR AGO: Christmas at the beach.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Happy Hannukah!

TEN YEARS AGO: Christmas aftermath.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Christmas nightmare.