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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.

A Sense of Place

Margaret: It makes one feel so unstable, impermanent, with all the houses being torn down on all sides. Including, in the foreseeable future, ours.

Ruth: Are you having to leave Wickham Place?

Margaret: Yes. In 18 months when the lease expires.

Ruth: Have you been there long?

Margaret: All our lives. We were born there.

Ruth: That is monstrous! I pity you from the bottom of my heart…

Margaret: Of course, we are fond of the house. But it is an ordinary London house. We shall easily find another.

Ruth: No, not in this world. Not the house you were born in. You’ll never find that again.

Howards End, 1992

A friend of mine recently learned that her childhood home is slated for demolition. Although she no longer lives in the house, she and her sister are devastated at the thought of its being devastated. She wrote a very eloquent and emotional letter in protest, which you can read here. It is probably a vain hope, since not one home has been saved from destruction in the name of Progress in that area, no matter how many people objected, but at least she was able to express her feelings. She makes some wonderful points about how heritage buildings should not survive in a vacuum, museum pieces to be looked at and forgotten about, but rather be part of the fabric of our everyday lives, a connection to the past that lives on.

It made me think about how the places we live shape us and become part of who we are, even after we leave them.

The house I grew up in predates the Civil War, and its stone foundations are much older than that. The cellar used to flood every spring as the snow melted, so Dad built a sort of raised walkway so we could avoid being soaked while walking around down there. The cellar still had the slanted doors where coal was delivered long ago.

The house was called Fox Hill, named for the foxes who lived in the wooded hills around our house. Legend had it that the five acre parcel our house was set in was payment to a Revolutionary War soldier for his service. I don’t know if that’s true, but I have many happy memories of growing up in that old house, and although I have not been there for decades, I can still walk through it in my mind, from the red front door to the fireplace in the living room, the stairs where our dog Ginger slept on the landing when Dad was home (and across the front door when he wasn’t), to my room under the eaves with the window seat Dad built.

I have equally treasured memories of my grandparents’ house, about an hour and a half’s drive from Fox Hill. It was a grand home, built by the town sheriff for his daughter when she married. The windows on the ground floor were seven feet high and the ceilings twelve feet. I made the mistake of stalking the house online and was appalled by how it was changed. The barn is unrecognizable inside, and a hideous deck has been added off the kitchen, which is as unrecognizable and ugly as the barn is now. The stained glass windows are missing, though thankfully the built-ins, fireplaces, and wraparound porch remain. Maybe it’s better not to go back.

My current house is quirky to say the least, and its faults, like my own, are neither small nor few, but I never want to leave it or this area. I have grown to love our little community and how we look out for one another. At Fox Hill, our driveway was unpaved and about a quarter of a mile long. We were often snowed in during the winter, and our nearest neighbors were farmers and their homes could not be seen from our house. I still can’t see my closest neighbors, my driveway is still long and unpaved, and we are often cut off from civilization when the road to the city floods. So in a way, I have come full circle, from one side of the country to the other. I have come home.

A YEAR AGO: Finding beauty in the Village.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Miscellaneous.

Freedom Friday


A beautiful day on the coast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sob!

Sisters and Friends

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


The stage is set

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

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


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

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

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

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

The Arts

As winter (allegedly) comes to a close and (allegedly) makes way for spring*, so does the ballet season. Megan and I headed to the beautiful South Coast on a grey and overcast day. At least it wasn’t raining and none of the roads were closed or had closing potential, as they did the weekend we couldn’t get to see Sleeping Beauty, a regret that continues to haunt both of us.

As usual, our first stop was Anchor Bay Thai, where we were served by the charming owner. After the one disappointing dinner we had there, the owners have been especially solicitous when we come in, which is nice. I don’t know if I ever told you that the person who was responsible for the disappointing dinner was fired. I hasten to add that it wasn’t just because of my complaint. There has been several, and he also apparently had anger issues to the point that he fought with the owners about being fired. Ever since his departure, the food has been up to its exquisite standard, and I am pleased to report that this dinner was no exception.

With dinner stowed in the car, we headed to the Surf Market to pick up lunch. First things first. I always forget how to get into the market’s parking lot, and also how long it takes to get a sandwich there. This time, I noticed that you can text your order ahead, so assuming I can get service, I will try it next time.

After lunch, we went back to Point Arena, home of the historic Arena Theater which shows the ballets, and Franny’s Cup & Saucer, which is resolutely closed on Sundays, when the ballet is shown. We noticed that Franny produces a monthly brunch and dinner at the restaurant next door, so we will keep an eye open for those.

We were horrified to read in the program that the ballets are losing money and there may not be another season. Before the ballet started, a gentleman spoke to the audience and said they need help to keep the program going. The financial shortfall is a relatively modest $200-300, and they also need someone to choose the ballets! After I got home, I exchanged emails with the person in charge, offering to help. So Megan and I may be choosing the ballets later this year. Sleeping Beauty, here we come!

As for this last ballet of the season, it was too modern for our tastes. One of them was about insects and the other about the seasons, but I couldn’t tell what was going on or what they were supposed to be. We still enjoyed the artistry and strength of the dancers, though. It will be interesting to see what the next season brings – especially if it’s produced by us!

I still say March is the secret winter month no-one talks about. It may have the first day of spring in it, but it still looks (and feels) like winter, whatever coast you’re on.

A YEAR AGO: A day in town, featuring CPR, a bride, and a new (to Megan) stove. I see I have been at my “new” job for two years this week.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Screwing up in ways major and minor.

Serendipity

All in all, it was a pretty good day.

‘Memba the giant bottle of cheap red wine that appeared at Thanksgiving? I used some of it to make black bean soup, but that barely put a dent in the ocean of inferior oenological product. I decided to leave it at the Gro, where I imagine some of the habitués (the kind Star doesn’t like) would greet it with enthusiasm, like an Easter bunny for winos. My good deed was rewarded by a snack-size bottle of good sparkling wine appearing on my desk that same morning, a reward from my wonderful boss for doing what I thought was just my job but was apparently a little above and beyond.

Also bringing some sparkle to my day was taking a break to meet Monica at the coastal trail for a walk and chat. She was accompanied by Stella’s son Joey, who has the most expressive ears. The only thing Stella about him is his joie de vivre and his enthusiasm for greeting me. Otherwise he looks like a German Shepherd with really long legs and goofy ears. If I didn’t know for a fact that Stella was his mother, I would never believe it. He doesn’t look a thing like her.

While Joey bounded around and sniffed things on his leash, Monica and I talked about my writing a blog for her store and working on a website for it, which I think will be a fun project. She wants to pay me for it, which makes me feel a little weird, but she says my time is valuable. We’ll see how it goes. It will be fun to start something new.

On my way home, a car pulled out from the Main Street exit of the village. I was pretty sure it was Erica, and closer inspection (of her One Bad Apple bumper sticker) showed that it was. I waved, but she was too busy driving, so as we approached the steep descent to the state beach, I honked and waved. She pulled over in the capacious turnout which is sadly underutilized by visitors who happen to be in my way, and I parked behind her.

Erica and Jessica (wearing, I was pleased to note, the Totoro shirt we gave her for her birthday last year) jumped out of their car and much hugging and squee-ing ensued. They were on their way to visit the yarn store, which apparently now resides in the quaint, family-owned inn where I have been known to enjoy the view and an adult beverage. Who knew?

They had been to Glass Beach that day and were taken aback by the number of tourists there, especially mid week. It seems a little early for the annual influx. As Jessica wondered, “If it’s tourist season, why can’t I shoot them?” I have often thought the same thing while creeping along behind the dreaded out of state plate.

Jessica’s birthday* – every April 15, as you know – falls conveniently on a Saturday, so she requested to spend it over at the family estate. We are still trying to come up with a theme for this year’s Junapalooza. We have had a cocktail party and a high tea. Jessica suggested that we set up a group board in Pinterest to find awesome party ideas. If nothing else, it will be fun. I think Erica is hoping to sneak in some Jell-O somewhere, probably spiked. And we are also plotting for another girl movie night this summer. So there’s a lot to look forward to.

We parted with hugs and I smiled the rest of the way home. I passed Megan as I neared our driveway, and we exchanged waves, which always makes me happy. Reaching the driveway, I was delighted to find that Mark had applied a layer of gravel over the enormous potholes and gigantic mud swamp the driveway had become this winter. Jonathan, who has 25 years’ worth of experience with this particular driveway, said he has never seen it in worse shape. Driving it at literally 2 miles an hour, I was still tossed around my car. So I was thrilled to whiz along serenely at a speedy 5 miles an hour.

*Megan and I were equally horrified to realize that Jessica is turning 14 this year. How is this possible?

A YEAR AGO: Getting the old grandfather clock running again.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A look around the garden. I see I was tired of the rain then, too. March really is the secret winter month no one talks about.

Random Notes

I avoid the news now like the plague it is, but I keep abreast of important matters on the local message boards. We have had an avian theme lately:

Predators have reduced our small flock to one lonely hen. Anyone in a similar situation? You take my 2 year old hen into your flock, or I’ll adopt one or two hens you no longer want to keep her company?

There was a great deal of concern over an injured owl:

The Great Horned Owl reported by X was picked up by Fish & Wildlife and arrived at Woodlands Wildlife. A quick assessment shows no obvious broken wings or legs. It is semi-alert if disturbed, but quickly sits down and lapses into unconsciousness. Probably a concussion–which can cause the brain to swell for up to 48 hours, so the next few days are critical. He is very thin, so he will be force fed.

Normally, I do not go out and get things. Almost 100% of the time when I have done that in the past, the animal or bird has already left the scene, or the directions are wrong. It’s actually where the expression “wild goose chase” came from (hunters chasing after an injured but not dead goose). I’m at an age where I don’t go romping through meadows or clambering down rocky hillsides chasing things.

I am pleased to report that the owl recovered and was released back to the wild in the area he was found, flying off “strongly” as the sun set.

A resident pigeon was in a piteous plight:

I have a rock dove (aka Pigeon) that needs a better home than I can currently provide. I found him as a little pink squab in a construction site, and raised him to maturity by hand. I care for him deeply however since moving here I have to work everyday for long hours. I feel it isn’t fair to keep him caged up for that long. Before we moved here he was able to free fly and we had a suitable outdoor roost that he began to live in when he became mature. I really want better for my little friend. If anyone has a flock, or experience with bird keeping, or knows anyone who does please contact me!!!!

You will be relieved to hear that even the lowly pigeon found a happier life:

Woodlands Wildlife can prepare your pigeon for freedom and life as a normal bird. We would put it in a large aviary so it could exercise and build up its flight muscles, teach it what its normal food in the wild should be, and release it near other pigeons.

There’s a risk that it might not be able to learn all that, in which case we have a local man who has a large (40 feet) aviary of various pigeon types, and we often place non-releasable birds with him for long term care. I’ll be in the office after 10 tomorrow if you want to call and we can discuss it.

A newcomer to our community experienced a disastrous loss:

I lost approx $550 cash (mostly $100 bills) after registering my car at DMV around 2:40pm today. It’s my social security money my son and I need to live on this month. If found, please call R at [telephone number]. Offering $50 reward, plus a free conscience, if the cash is returned.

The cash wasn’t returned, but our community sprang into action, contributing small amounts until we raised enough to cover the missing money. Here is the response from the guy who lost the money:

Aloha and Mahalo to the Coast community- You have made us whole….and so much more!
We share a love of the ‘aina which connects us all to each other. *E ho‘omaika‘i ana no ke aloha kekahi i kekahi* – E and I are grateful for the love the members of this community have for one another.

I love our town.

A YEAR AGO: Victorian ziplining. Who knew?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Wild weather. And wildlife.

Whether

“I’m the Whether Man, not the Weather Man, for after all it’s more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be.” — The Whether Man, “The Phantom Tollbooth”

Well, our whether has varied widely over the past week.

Last weekend, it hailed up a storm – about half a dozen of them on the same day. Inside the house, the light had that eerie whiteness I associate with snowfalls back east, and I had the heater on all day (despite the horror of the $355 bill to fill the propane tank just days before). The cats were fascinated by the sound of it against the roof/walls, and I was fascinated by the look of it against the glass ceiling of the back “porch”:

dusting the scenic path to the compost pile:

and piled up in the potted plants by the side of the house:

It was almost as exciting as when it snowed a few years ago. When I went to bed that night, it was still piled up in the terra cotta pot.

Whereas this weekend, I have all the doors open in my little house and the sun is shining. The cats are scarce. I did a cursory inspection of the garden, and both the orchids and the tulips are budding, but not in bloom. Once again my tulip efforts can be rated a fail. I promise myself that I will plant them again in November to get flowers in February. Usually the orchids start blooming in February, so I have no idea why they are such slackers. Same goes for the camellias, which have steadfastly refused to bloom at all.

I will enjoy the sunshine and the break from the seemingly endless rain and try not to think about the horror of the time change. It was nice driving to work in the light while it lasted.

A YEAR AGO: A delightful bee-themed event at my friend Monica’s delightful shop.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful visit from my friend and neighbor, Jim.

Stormy Monday

Monday was a holiday, and while it was nice to have a long weekend, it was (of course) a stormy one. The wind howled around the house, and watching the trees toss their heads, I told myself to accept the fact that the power was going to go out.

As usual, I ignored my well-meant advice, and neglected to fill the pot with water to boil the noodles for the spicy stir fried noodles I was planning to make for dinner and to do the dishes that had accumulated from the prep for said dinner. The power went out at 6:00 pm as the sky darkened for the evening*, and I sadly went to get the flashlight and lantern from Rob’s magnificent cabinet (I now have a box inside it with power outage equipment, making it easy to find in the darkness).

Cooking by flashlight was as problematic as you’d expect, though the recipe was delicious. I skipped the eggs and salt (isn’t soy sauce basically salt?) and will increase the amount of sauce next time. I will probably scatter some chopped scallions on top along with the peanuts.

Also as usual, Mark fired up his generator a split second after the blackness descended. I was still on the phone reporting the outage to our friends at PG&E when I heard the racket start. Conventional wisdom holds that the shortest amount of time is between the light turning green and someone honking, but I’m pretty sure it’s between the power going out and Mark starting up his generator.

Much like snoring, where the noise is deeply annoying to those trying to sleep, hearing the noise of a generator next door making sure they have heat and light when you have neither of these things is also unenjoyable, especially since it deprives you of your much-needed beauty sleep on a school night.
I soon realized that I could not sleep upstairs, with just the balcony door between me and the Dreadful Rauw, even with earplugs and a pillow over my head. I tossed bedding over the balcony where I once tossed myself, and went grumpily downstairs to sleep on the couch. There I had the door to the studio closed as well as the studio and its outside door to shield me against the Awful Dynne.

It was hard to sleep, what with the grumpitude, curious cats, and the storm raging all around the house. I tried not to think about trees falling on the house. When the power came back on, the house blazed to life, waking me up just a couple of hours before it was time to get up for good. Or bad.

The rain is taking a break today, which means that it’s really cold with no clouds to insulate us. I could hardly yank my car door open this morning since it was frozen, and it took a while to warm up as a sliver of moon smiled down at us.

*This week, I noticed that it is no longer pitch dark when I drive to work, which means that the time change can’t be far away. As soon as there is a glimmer of light and hope in the morning, it is snatched away. It took me a while to realize that the entire point of the time change is to make sure it’s dark in the morning and that there are only two or three months of the year that I don’t get up in utter blackness. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

A YEAR AGO: Flea-O-Rama! Again!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Audreyness of Audrey. Also? It was 65 degrees!