Rained In

Megan and I had grand plans to see the Bolshoi Ballet performing “Sleeping Beauty”, but Mother Nature had other plans.

The appointed day dawned dark and dreary, and as the day went on, it got rainier and rainier. We already knew that the Road to Civilization was flooded and closed:

and that it was very likely that the river over which the Road to the South Coast passes would flood, too, effectively stranding us on the South Coast if we made it that far. We speculated on how we might possibly get home if we were marooned, and decided that we’d have to keep going south to Jenner until we could find a road to take us to 101, then to 20, then from the Big Town back to Hooterville.

Since this winding route would take several hours and Megan was scheduled to work that night, we decided to stay home, missing both the glories of a beautiful ballet and the joys of Thai food.

We aren’t imagining that we’ve gotten a lot of rain this winter. Our friends at PG&E, those fearless repairers of power outages, say it’s been the wettest January in 20 years ’round these parts. The local message boards say we have received 16 inches of rain in January so far. I well remember the winter of 1996-1997, when it rained every single day in January and February. I worked in an old building in downtown San Francisco with exposed brick walls, and the rain ran down the walls – inside. I had clear plastic draped over my computer to cover it from the inside rainfall.

I still have inside rainfall. The laundry room has flooded as per usual, and the usual leaks have sprung to life. On the bright side, though, the drought is definitely on the run for now.

With no Thai food on the menu for dinner, I started rummaging around the freezer for a Plan B. While in the midst of this icy exploration, Rob came by to hang up a picture for me. Hanging up pictures on curved walls takes expertise and patience that are far beyond my mortal abilities, but are no problem for Super Rob:

After he hung up the picture, Rob also investigated why my vacuum cleaner’s performance had been suboptimal lately, and discovered a clog in the hose, which he removed, allowing me to vacuum up cat hair and pine needles with abandon.

With the house in order and the rain falling outside (and in), I curled up on the couch with a Patricia Highsmith novel under my grandmother’s ancient quilt, a cozy way to spend a winter afternoon.

A YEAR AGO: Adventures in cooking. It takes a special talent to need three takes in making mashed potatoes.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Rob was fixing things up around here then, too. I wonder how often he regrets his ridiculous sister-in-law moving to Hooterville.

Muddy

I finally got around to clearing up the worst of the storm damage around my house.

Several good-sized limbs had been removed from trees, and a couple of smallish trees were uprooted. I dragged the corpses out of the way and into the remaining woods. I didn’t rake up all the smaller fallen pieces, though, because we all know that there are more storms and more mess to come.

Speaking of mess, the clean up process was rendered messier and more challenging by Mark’s latest project. For reasons unknown to me, but presumably known to Mark, he decided to dig trenches to bury the electrical lines:

in the rainiest part of the year. This does not seem like a great idea to me, but then my knowledge of both trench digging and electrical systems is limited at best.

Burying the electrical wires that festoon our houses and surrounding trees does seem like a good idea, though, since they a) look terrible and 2) are more likely to come down in a storm, leading to further power outages. So I am willing to put up with the extra muddiness:

for now. Hopefully the mud will be graveled over when the project is finished.

While I was out there, I took a peek at the rest of the garden. The daffodils are beginning to poke through the soil:

as are the tulips:

I think I planted the tulips too late again – I should have done it around Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. I always want them to bloom in February along with the daffodils, but they really show up around March. Though March is the secret winter month no-one ever talks about.

The camellias still don’t have flower buds. They have never bloomed. I must be doing something wrong here. The main point of having them is to have flowers in the winter. I should ask Lichen about this. On the bright side, though, both of the orchids have flower spikes:

so they should be blooming pretty soon.

All in all, the garden came through the storms pretty well. Hopefully the rest of the winter won’t be too bad.

A YEAR AGO: A couple of coincidences.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Gorgeous shoes to covet.

Fine

On a sunny Saturday morning, Megan and I headed to the Big Town to see the fine woodworking show. Rob, who is a pretty fine woodworker himself, was unable to accompany us due to other pressing wood-related matters, like gathering more firewood before it started to pour again. I missed his insight and perspective – he has a unique way of looking at wood, and the world – but Megan and I had fun together, as we always do.

Last year, we made the mistake of going on the opening night reception, and it was severely overpopulated, to the point that Megan took one look and fled to the car, and Rob and I were barely able to move around. Also, whoever set it up thought it would be a good idea to stage the booze and food at the entrance, thus creating an instant traffic jam. It wasn’t.

This year, however, we had the place to ourselves and were able to meander freely among the lovely pieces on display. People come from all over the world to join the fine woodworking program here, and it is a highly demanding program, both in time and dedication. But the results are worth it.
This lovely cabinet has a wonderful wave shape, perhaps a little hard to tell from the photo:

This one was like a magic box:

Revealing layer upon layer:

I loved the texture of the wood on this shelf, looking rustic while being satin smooth and catching the light:

This rendering of a vintage radio was so clever:

It was so nice to enjoy the beauty of these pieces in the light and bright space. It is amazing how talented these artists are. They look at a piece of work and see an art form instead of a piece of tree. Michelangelo used to say that he released statues from marble, and maybe these artists feel the same about wood.

A YEAR AGO: Things were a little on the absurd side.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Power outages and a PC for work. Which is worse?

Sun & Moon


Cheers!

Megan wakes up after her long night shifts on Thursday afternoons, and I get home from my day shift just a little later than that, so we decided to head out to the Ledford House to enjoy the sunset together, even though it was a school night for me and Megan had just finished her coffee. One of her super powers is the magic ability to switch effortlessly from coffee to wine.

The bar was bustling. Apparently many of our neighbors and visitors (I heard French and Russian being spoken) also didn’t care that it was a school night. Or maybe they were just glad that the days-long power outage was over. Megan and I decided to try a “Cerise Noir”, which you see above.

To make this delicious libation, the delightful bartender spoons some house-macerated dark cherries into a champagne flute, then adds cherry vodka (who knew?) and tops it off with local sparkling wine. It is a sunset drink to sip while watching the sun set over the ocean:

I’m afraid its deliciousness inspired us to have another one, which inspired us to order a little food to go with that second cocktail. Just being a responsible adult, you understand. We ordered a cheese and charcuterie plate:

It consisted of Dad’s favorite Stilton, Brie, and Manchego cheeses, along with salami, coppa, and prosciutto (auto corrected to “prosecution” – I didn’t go that crazy on a school night), served with house made Meyer lemon marmalade and spicy mustard, along with spiced olives and house made bread. It was all so good, and the marmalade was to die for. The owner makes it, and I told him he could sell it. He laughed and said, “I just did!”

It was a delightfully civilized break in the work week. On the way home, the full moon was blazing, so we got to enjoy both the sun setting and the moon rising.

A YEAR AGO: First engine light appearance of the new year! And cameo appearances by Bobbie Gentry and my old Mustang Josephine.

FIVE YEARS AGO: It was cold and hadn’t rained since Thanksgiving. We have more than made up for it now.

Old & New

Twelfth Night fell on a Friday. I left work early that day to go to Angelika’s little salon in the big woods. Among my Christmas gifts this year was a gift certificate to get my hair highlighted, so off I went to get both my hair and my spirit refreshed.

Not only does Angelika do an amazing job, applying utterly natural looking highlights and cutting my hair so well that it never loses its shape, even after months, but she is an inspiring person to be around. She is always so positive that I kind of bask in the glow of her presence.

Even though she only colored in the front part of my hair, the whole process took about three and a half hours. She is a perfectionist. And I actually had somewhere to go and show off my new and improved ‘do.

I went home, fed the kitties, turned on some lights, and headed out to Rio’s place in the rainy darkness. The traditional Twelfth Night Christmas ornament removal would have to wait.

Arriving at her house, I found my siblings, Rob, and our dear friend Lu, back from her adventures fighting the good fight at Standing Rock. I also found a pot of my brother’s split pea soup on the stove. It is almost as famous as my cheese biscuits, and rightly so. To make it, he had to cut the Hamzilla bone in half with a hacksaw before making the broth. Like my hair, it is a lengthy but worthwhile process in the hands of a true artist.

With the soup, we had our hard cider, now approaching a perfect balance of apple-ness and dryness, and garlic bread. There was a fire burning merrily in the Franklin stove as we ate dinner together.

After dinner, we gathered around the 1950 Philco Predicta. You may remember that my brother got it in non working condition, but a guy who also made a non working NASA worthy telescope work had no doubts that he could also make a nearly 60 year old TV set work. And he did:

Somehow, he also managed to hook up a modern DVD player to the antique TV set, so we were able to watch a delightful retro program of Honey West, The Outer Limits:



and a chaser of Peter Gunn while we ate ice cream topped with strawberries from the garden that Jonathan had made into a sauce. It was nice to have a taste of summer in the depths of winter. And it was a wonderful evening.

A YEAR AGO: Consulting the experts.

FIVE YEARS AGO: You just never know where you’ll find Rob’s artwork!

Tempestuous

It was sleep in your sweater night at stately Suzy Manor last night!

I accessorized my sleep sweater with the latest in sleep hats. It is so wrong to see your own breath in your own house.

The power obdurately continues to be out. We are solidly in Day Three now. Not only that, but we are also in the throes of Giant Storm II: the Sequel, with rain and wind bashing away relentlessly at the roof/walls even while we are still suffering the aftereffects of Giant Storm I. It’s like déjà vu all over again!

I don’t know when I will be able to post this, but I am writing it on Tuesday morning, when I should be at work. I took one look at the storm and texted my boss that I would not be braving the elements today. I’m not the only one. Yesterday, the local schools announced they would be closed today, and we moved our regularly scheduled Board meeting to next week. The Sheriff asked residents to stay home and off the roads if at all possible.

So I am sitting in bed under all the covers, wearing the hat, two sweaters, and two pairs of socks while my delicate pale breaths wreathe my delicate pale features.

I did make it to work on Monday despite the many downed trees on the Ridge, delightful surprises in the early morning darkness. I headed straight to the gym, where I took a hot shower and applied makeup and the other accoutrements of the convincingly faux adult. I guess we know what it takes to get me to go to the gym.

Even though I left home at 5:30 am, I didn’t get to work until after 7:00 am, so I clearly underestimated the amount of time needed to complete the grownupization process.

Our friends at PG&E have steadfastly declined to give an estimated time of restoration since long ago Day One, even while my coworkers all have power and I have seen on the local message boards the lights wink on across the county, just not in Hooterville. I think we are low priority, since we don’t have essential things like Safeway and the DMV like the Big Town does, and we aren’t a tourist attraction, like the Village. Also, so few people filled out their census forms last time that the official population of our town is 169. The PG&E map shows that 78 people are out of power in Hooterville, but I’m guessing it’s more like 1,000 or at least several hundred. When I drove home last night, the only lights I saw were on at the Gro.

At least I did a lot of cooking on Saturday and can heat up food on my (thankfully) gas stove, and spend some time with the cats and library books. Anyone want to make a bet on when/if the power will come back on, and whether it will remain that way once it does?

[Update: Power finally back on Wednesday morning. Hello, heat and light!]

A YEAR AGO: Consulting on Rob’s crumbling spine.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The technology problems continue. Rob gets a date for his disability hearing at last.

Put a Bird on It

Stormy Saturday to you! The wind is howling, the glass wind chimes are tinkling frantically, the frogs are peeping with joy at the pouring rain, and I’m waiting for the power to go out. It has already blinked off and on again twice, so I’m writing on borrowed time.

[Update: Power went out at 6 am. No estimated time of restoration as of Monday at 7:30 am.]

Today is the saddest day of the year: the one when I take down the Christmas ornaments and lights, leaving the house looking stripped and dreary after a month of sparkle and shine. There should be another winter festival that calls for lights and fun in the depths of darkness. Ideas, anyone?

I had one less ornament to put away, since Clyde smashed the glittery heart shaped ornament to welcome the New Year. I went to the shop where it was bought to see if I could replace it, but like me (and Clyde), it’s one of a kind. I looked around the shop to see if I could find something else I liked as much*, but I couldn’t. As I left the shop, though, I saw whales spouting in the ocean on their annual migration to Mexico, and I wouldn’t have seen them if Clyde hadn’t broken my heart.

I wasn’t really intending to put the heart ornament away, but now I had a hanger with no ornament. I decided to hang the little bird ornament on it**:

If Dad’s bird can be on the eternal Christmas in Dark Gulch all year, surely the matching one I got can be on display in my house most of the year. I will move it to the tree when I put it up eleven months from now***.

A YEAR AGO: Appreciating the magic moments.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Technical problems reared their ugly heads.

*I told the giver about my failed attempt to replace her lost gift, and she said that although the shop had lots of lovely ornaments, that one was the only one that looked like me. And she was right.

**The little card with it says “Bonne Année”, or “Happy New Year”, so I don’t have to put it away just yet.

***With Rob’s help. He worked on the tree after I took off the adornments, so that all the branches will fit on it and it will look much better.

New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day arrived with a bang at Suzy Manor – literally.

Clyde was exploring the impressive collection of Christmas cards on the shelves by the tree, and in his excitement, he managed to knock off and smash the beautiful little ornament which was one of the gifts I saved to open on Christmas evening:

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I vacuumed it up sadly. Clyde, of course, had no idea that he had upset the help along with the ornament. I will ask the giver where she got it and see if I can replace it. Not a great way to start the new year. I hope it’s not an omen or anything.

On the bright side, I failed to have a hangover, despite my best efforts on New Year’s Eve. Megan came by and we drank champagne and Cointreau as we watched “The Princess Bride”. It had been a long time since I’d seen it, and it was as delightful as ever.

We paused the movie to watch the ball drop in New York, marveling at the crowds, the utter lack of restroom facilities in Times Square, and the ugliness of the official hats. We also watched the new year arrive in San Francisco, with fireworks over the Bay. It’s been a while since I stayed up late enough to see the new year in on both coasts.

A YEAR AGO: I was much more industrious than I was this year.

2016

The sadness of losing my much-loved Roscoe at the end of the old year carried into the new year. A year later, I still can’t believe that his remarkable presence has been extinguished and that I will never have the joy of sharing my life with him again. I have yet to wash or dispose of his dish. I just can’t. A little spark of hope deep in my heart will never truly be doused, no matter what Logic decrees. I have never been a fan of Logic.

But there was light as well as shadow this year. I attended a beautiful wedding, some of my friends bought homes, and an unexpected visitor brought a lot of happiness with him on his epic road trip. I made a couple of little road trips myself, one south and one north.

Rainfall for the 2015-16 season was 55 inches. Rain started early for the 2016-17 season, beginning in September with a storm that dropped two inches in four days. Maybe this is a good sign for a wet winter. We can use every drop, a fact I must remind myself of when driving through it, especially in the ubiquitous winter darkness. So far for the 2016-17 season, we have received 23.4 inches, a good start.

Somehow, I managed to read more books than I did last year (103 vs. 85), despite working six days a week for most of it. Standouts included Sweetbitter, Dodgers, The Curse of Beauty, Everybody’s Fool, The Wicked Boy, The Wrong Side of Goodbye, and The Harder They Come.

Power Outages: I think we had three, which seems to be par for the course, but they seemed to occur more in the summer than the winter. What’s up with that?

Other than that, here’s what happened to our heroine this year:

January: I started the year off on a tidy note. It didn’t take long for the first power outage of the year to rear its ugly head. Same goes for Wednesday’s engine light. Some delightful coincidences. And some (mis)adventures in cooking. Trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to get everything done at work.

February: The wonderful woodworking show. A little preview of spring. A delightful day on the South Coast, with ballet and other pleasures. The first theater reading I have ever attended, though hopefully not the last. Our heroine finally leaves the County after a year and a half, heading to beautiful Monterey, where I visited the breathtaking Aquarium. Also beaches and farm stands.

March: A peek at our (eccentric) little corner of the world. And a delightful peek into its past. Not the most enjoyable morning ever. Family dinner to celebrate Dad’s birthday. The boys get the old grandfather clock running. Saturdays past and present.

April: Wednesday’s successful surgery. Road trips for everyone! Beauty inside and out. An early wake up call. Having the internet out for over a week is not the most festive way of celebrating my blogs 15th anniversary. Especially since the technician failed to show up. Our beloved Jessica turns 13! The kidlet is now a teenager. How did that happen?

May: Quilts, books, cats and dogs – just a perfect day in the Village. Rob’s incredible masterpiece. The last family dinner at Suzy Manor before they move to the family estate for the summer. The mystery of the cat in the night. A busy, but delightful, weekend. Out of season power outage. Celebrating Megan’s birthday in style.

June: An uneventful birthday for our heroine. Better than an eventful one! And the baby boy turns six, all by himself. Memorial Day BBQ with a side of bees. The joys of Junapalooza, showcasing the talents of the amazing Erica.

July: The ninth anniversary of Audrey’s reign. Lu and Rik’s beautiful, moving, wonderful wedding. It was such a joy to share that day with them and my family. I will always treasure that memory. A BBQ at the family estate with our extended family. A magical visit to the Botanical Gardens.

August: A bad omen, perhaps? Farewell to Jack, who first appeared in these pages as a dollar bill sized kitten. She was almost 17 and the last of the cats John and I had together. Much like when we lost Schatzi, it felt like Mom was really gone, losing Jack made me feel like our marriage was really over. Told you Logic and I don’t see eye to eye. Celebrating summer’s bounty with jam and a BBQ. Marking the 15th anniversary of losing my father and best friend. I will always love you, Dad. Thank you for always loving me, no matter what. A visit from our dear friend Clayton, garnished with a power outage. The two events were not connected. An obnoxious mountain lion made things a little scary for a while. He has since moved on – permanently, we hope.

September: September kicked off with a surprise visit that turned out to be utterly delightful. We had a great time going to the circus together, and having a BBQ at my brother’s place on his birthday. We sent our visitor on his way after giving his car a quick check up. Here’s to many happy returns! An exhausting visit from the Feds at work was followed by a delightful day at the Fair. As the month drew to an end, so did my jobette, for real-real this time. Lu, Megan, and I enjoyed dinner and a play together.

October: A look around my rather neglected garden, which still looks surprisingly good despite my lack of attention. It was a banner year for real estate for several of my friends. Megan and I enjoyed a cemetery tour in the Village. ‘Tis the season for scariness, but thinking I had lost my beloved Clyde was a little too scary. Fortunately, I was wrong. I love being wrong sometimes. Enjoying the rare gift of a day off. And a road trip north to the Drive Thru Tree and the One Log House. It was short, but sweet.

November: A trip to the magical South Coast for a play and some delicacies. A happy (and terrifying) Halloween. Speaking of terrifying, I hit a dog with the car. For the rest of my life, I will be a dog maimer. At least I wasn’t a dog murderer. My victim is recovering well and due back home from rehab on January 1. Regrets. I’ve had a few. Let the countdown to T-Day begin! Thanksgiving started a little earlier than I would have liked, but it was wonderful.

December: The traditional post-Thanksgiving craft fair. Going from the beach to the redwoods in one day. A candlelight shopping trip. Time to put up the vintage faux tree again! Taking Jessica to the Festival of Lights at the Gardens for the first time, but not the last. Getting ready for the big day. A merry Christmas celebrated on Christmas Eve, followed by a quiet Christmas Day.

A YEAR AGO: Remembering 2015.

Happy Hannukah

Well, Christmas may be over, but Hannukah is just beginning.

A co-worker invited me and some of the other people we work with to her home on what is Boxing Day or St. Stephen’s Day in other parts of the world. Here there are no boxes or wrens (or, thankfully, the beating of female servants with a holly branch – between being the cat maid at home and the maid of all work at work, I would be in trouble), but there was a lovely spread of Jewish food, like latkes. Our hostess is Jewish, and it was fun to share her heritage food with her. She always says food is love.

It was also fun to hang out with my colleagues outside of work, talking about real life and laughing together. I was so pleased she asked me.

Her house probably dates from the 1920s. It has a lot of cute period details, like archways between rooms and crown molding. The kitchen cupboards look to me like they were original but have been painted and the handles replaced, as well as having the ubiquitous granite counter tops applied. Sometimes I think I am the only girl in the entire US of A who does not like granite countertops. I think they’re ugly and too prone to breaking wine glasses, but then, I have a wood countertop painted with chipping white paint, so I probably shouldn’t throw aspersions. There are French doors out to the nice little fenced yard, too. It’s a really cute place.

As I headed home in the brilliant sunlight, I felt so glad that I work with such great people and that we had such a good time outside of work, too.

Christmas Day

The stockings were a great success this year. Megan and I may have set the standard too high for next year. But I’ll think about that later. Maybe a year from now?

Jonathan got a little extra this year. I couldn’t resist this set of planetary glasses for the guy with the NASA worthy telescope, and he was delighted with them, especially by the fact that the sun was a little bigger than the rest and Pluto much smaller.

He was even more delighted with Megan’s gift of a drill bit sharpener, which will come in handy over at the family estate. I could tell that Jonathan kind of wanted to test it out right away. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!

As for Jessica, she received a fabulous fabric bag patterned with cats which was full of delightful things, including a gift certificate from the local bookstore and her favorite Whoppers. She was wearing the bag everywhere before she and Erica went home.

Christmas Day itself was pretty quiet. Megan the Christmas elf* had done most of the dishes, so all I really had to do was put away the heirlooms without breaking any of them and put away the wicker chairs outside before it starts raining again. I could have vacuumed, but I didn’t.

Megan came by before her night shift and we attacked the remains of Hamzilla together, slicing off seemly endless slices and then dividing them into portions to eat now and freezing some for later. We also froze the ham bone to make into soup later. Dad would be proud. His inability to waste food and ability to make soup out of anything live on.

After dinner, I poured myself a glass of wine, using the one of the beautiful glasses Monica gave me last year:

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and opened the presents from my friends. I saved them all instead of opening them as I received them. I am really glad I waited until Christmas. I felt so loved and happy! I am so thankful for my friends and family.

*Maybe it’s her status as the youngest of the family, but she always gets to (has to?) be the elf and hand out the stockings. When she’s not doing that, though, she is the matriarch of the family. Go figure.

A YEAR AGO: Chilly Christmas to us!

Merry Christmas

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Christmas Jessica

Merry Christmas, y’all! Hope you are having a wonderful, festive day!

We had a wonderful, festive evening yesterday, though a much smaller gathering than at Thanksgiving. My brother’s girlfriend Rio was in Portland with her brand-new grandson; Clayton had to stay in the city to finish up a painting job; and Lichen scorned Christmas like an unreformed Grinch, as he had promised.

But Erica and Jessica swept in, bearing a silver platter of incredible truffles: dark chocolate with whipped white chocolate and peppermint filling, adorned with crushed candy cane:

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They were so good that I forgot to take a picture until they were nearly gone.

Jonathan arrived with Hamzilla, Turkzilla’s only slightly smaller cousin:

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He also brought a keg of our hard cider and a bottle of applejack, made by freeze distilling the hard cider. Jonathan reminded me that Hoho, our wonderful grandfather, used to make it using the plentifully available snow around his house in New York state. I had forgotten about that.

Along with Hamzilla, we had salad with roasted pears and fresh pomegranate, mashed potatoes from the garden, Erica’s refreshing salad of fennel and oranges, and of course, cheese biscuits:

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After dinner, we had the traditional reading of “Red Ranger Came Calling”, with Jonathan and Jessica alternating pages:

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I think Jessica would make an excellent actress. She is utterly poised and confident, and her reading is so expressive. She packs a lot of showmanship into her reading.

Jonathan had invited a couple of friends, and this posed something of a dilemma to us, since we did not have stockings for them. We had planned to open ours before they arrived, but this plan was foiled by their timing. We feared that we would have to be rude and open ours in front of them, but we procrastinated long enough that they left before we could open the stockings. As they left, they said to Jonathan, “You really undersold this evening!”

A YEAR AGO: A wonderful Christmas

Christmas Eve Day

Merry Christmas to us!

And Merry Christmas Eve to everyone else!

I am pleased to say that yesterday’s pouring rain is just so yesterday. Today dawned bright and clear, so we will be able to use the outdoor living room during, and more importantly, after the party, when Megan and I like to sit by the fire and talk about the evening after everyone else has gone home.

I was spectacularly unmotivated yesterday, and it took a while for me to leave the comforts of my cat-strewn bed to start Christmas-related chores. I first went over to my brother’s place with the remains of the Jack Daniel’s left over from Thanksgiving’s cranberries. JD will be using the JD to glaze the Christmas ham, combining it with huckleberries we picked this summer and honey from our bees, then smoking it all day over apple wood from our trees.

Arriving back at the house, I lit the oven and started making pastry for the mincemeat tarts. I was up to my elbows in flour when there was a knock at the door. It was Jennifer, one of my siblings’ land partners, bearing an enormous bag of mandarins:

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They were the last of the harvest from her former neighbor’s farm in Grass Valley. They are organic, though not certified so (it’s a huge hassle getting certified). Jennifer also brought a little gift for me and one for the cats: a hand-knit, organic (certified) wool catnip toy*. She is so thoughtful! She went on her way with a hug and a kiss. I love my friends.

While the tarts were baking, I figured I might as well prep the pears for the salad and roast them in the oven after the tarts were done, which I did. And since I already had the cutting board out, why not mince up the shallots and make the dressing?

While I was slicing and dicing, Megan and Rob were retrieving his car from the Big Town and bringing it to our brother’s place for repairs. Good thing they built that mechanic’s pit over there!

Last night, Megan came over and we put the stockings together:

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We think we did a creditable job this year. Our brother is getting the large gifts you see under the tree. Someone always gets something extra each year, and this year, it’s his turn. We left a couple of empty boxes out for the cats to sit in.

After the stockings were done, we watched the Sex & the City movies and drank wine until 1:00 am, even though I knew I had to get up and get the house and Self ready for tonight’s party, not to mention making cheese biscuits. It was so fun!

*Audrey went insane with the catnip toy. She came to sit on my lap and was soaking wet from drool, all over her neck and head. Gross! Everything she does is extreme. Clyde, on the other hand, ignored the catnip toy in favor of climbing on Megan’s shoulder and lying there as he does with me. He has never done this before. He purred and slept his way through the movies.

A YEAR AGO: Getting ready!

Christmas Eve Eve

It’s 6:00 am. Do you know where your Suzy is?

She is sitting in bed with the cats in attendance, a cup of black coffee already drained to its silty lees sitting on the bedside table. The Christmas lights are on and the heater is doing its Sisyphean task in what Wilco calls the bible black pre-dawn.

My plans for sleeping in until it was light out on this day off were foiled not by the cats, as they usually are, but by a loud and mysterious crash. I went downstairs to investigate, and all of the things and stuff for the stocking stuffing remain on the table. The tininess of my house makes investigations like this extremely efficient, and within less than a minute it was pretty obvious that nothing was amiss, other than my being awake.

I am wondering if it wasn’t a miscreant getting into the garbage cans outside, but not enough to go out into the pouring rain and darkness to find out.

Today’s plans include making mincemeat tarts, doing as little housework as I can get away with, bringing my brother some Jack Daniel’s for the ham glaze, and a stocking stuffing party with Megan, for tomorrow we party!

We intended to have StuffFest 2016 last night, but Fate, as it so often did, had other plans.

Megan woke up in the afternoon after the third of her night shifts. She had the last appointment of the day with Dr. Sue, which always means a long wait since all the other delays of the day have snowballed into one big delay. After her appointment, Megan went to buy the last few Christmas dinner and stocking items, and got home around 8:00 pm. Within minutes of arriving home, she learned that Rob’s car had given up the ghost and that he needed a ride home from the Big Town – where she had just come from.

She alerted me that our stocking party was postponed and got back in her car to return from whence she came and then drive home again. Hopefully today will go a little smoother and the stockings will be stuffed and laid by the tree with care, ready for tomorrow.

Sparkling

On Saturday, Megan and I went to pick up Jessica at the Navarro General Store for our long-awaited trip to the Festival of Lights. We got there first, giving us time to admire Santa in his huge (moving!) snow globe:

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I enjoyed watching Santa in the seasonably cold weather, though Jessica commented that “It’s not like the Navarro Store is a cultural cornerstone.” This is true. It is also a scary place to boy shop, being almost entirely populated by the dentally challenged and overalls enthusiasts. Megan and I have had many enjoyable games of “I’ll fight you for him” there.

On our way to the Gardens, we decided to put Dad’s ornament on the tree near Dark Gulch:

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Here’s a closer look at the ornaments:

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Jessica considered carefully where to locate the bird ornament:

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I wish Dad had known her. He would have loved her. Here’s the ornament in its new home:

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It’s nice to know it’s there. Somehow it makes me feel that Dad is part of Christmas this year.

Arriving at the Gardens, Megan’s parking karma held, as she pulled neatly into the last space available, which was also right out front. This year, there were parking attendants sending dejected cars to the “event parking” far, far away. I imagine that when we left, our spot was filled in about .000003 seconds.

The Gardens are always beautiful, but they are especially magical when they are dressed in holiday lights:

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I loved the smoking volcano:

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And the ship with a whale:

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We stopped to roast marshmallows and warm up a little by the fire:

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You will be unsurprised to hear that both my marshmallow toasting and eating techniques left much to be desired. They also left marshmallow in my hair.

When we got home, we had a fun movie extravaganza: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Legally Blonde, and The Devil Wears Prada. Clyde always loves company, and even Audrey was slightly less disdainful than usual. Jessica observed, “Cats are so easy to spoil. And there are no consequences.” This is true, unlike with kids and dogs. At some point in the evening, Audrey was meowing and I asked her what she wanted. Jessica said, “She’s not going to tell you. She’s a cat. And you’re an inferior human. It’s how cats think.”

Later, when I was writing out a shopping list for Megan – we split up the final Christmas shopping this week – Jessica remarked that “Handwriting is the written equivalent of the sound of someone’s voice. Isn’t it cool how we all learn to write the same letters and numbers, but we all do it in our own way?” Yes, and you are the most amazing kid ever.

It was so fun to hang out with her and finally have our sleepover. I hope there are more to come. It’s good to know we’ll be seeing her (and the inimitable Erica) this Saturday, too!

A YEAR AGO: Making Christmas.

Festive

Going to the craft fair to admire Lichen’s beautiful work had a sort of reverse domino effect, with me doing things earlier in the week that I would normally have done on that Saturday.

On Thursday, I came home, started chicken broth bubbling on the stove, ready for Friday’s after work cooking fiesta, and then hauled the old white faux tree and its accessories out of the storage loft. I set it up with minimal fuss and shedding. It has not become less Charlie Brown-ish over the years (I showed a photo of it to a co-worker, who pronounced it the saddest tree she had ever seen), but I would like to think we both have a certain vintage charm:

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This year, its vintage charm was enhanced with mercury glass bells, which actually ring, mercury glass pinecones, clear glass icicles, and clear plastic snowflakes, as well as a few glittery silver balls. And the new bird ornament, in honor of Dad:

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Surprisingly, the cats seem to be uninterested in the tree. They are more interested in sitting on or by the heater or on my lap, all of which are fine with me. Last night, Clyde was sleeping on the heater and snoring peacefully. I find his snore both adorable and hilarious, much like Clyde himself.

I wound colored lights up the driftwood banister:

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and added another string of white lights outside, this time in the honeysuckle bush by the back porch, so it’s extra festive outside:

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The weather forecast for Christmas Eve, when we will be celebrating, looks hopeful for sitting outside by the fire, so hopefully we can enjoy the extra sparkle. You can never have too much.

On the bookshelves, I have a cute reindeer and a growing collection of Christmas cards:

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To top it all off, there is mistletoe from a young admirer hanging over the sliding doors. You never know…

A YEAR AGO: A little staycation.

On the Town

Our plans to go to the Festival of Lights with Erica and Jessica went awry. It was pouring all day, so we postponed the sparkle to a less rainy day. A rain check!

Later in the afternoon, the rain let up and Megan persuaded me to go with her to the Village for the Candlelight Shopping Night. The Village looked festive and magical in its holiday finery:

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Shops stayed open late and were dressed in holiday lights, as well as having flickering candles in Mason jars at their doors, making a chain of winking lights along Main Street.

We picked up two little white, glittery bird ornaments, one to go on my ancient white Christmas tree, and the other to go on the permanent Christmas tree near Dark Gulch. Someone decided to put ornaments on this tree a couple of years ago, and the holiday look is there year round. We thought we’d like to add an ornament to this eternal Christmas tree in honor of our father. A bird ornament seemed just right for an ornithologist. Here’s mine on my vintage tree:

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Also I like the idea that we both have one. It makes me feel connected and like we are sharing something.

We also picked up a couple of little things for Jessica’s stocking. And of course, we stopped by the bookstore, where the Great Catsby sat atop the greeting card carousel looking down disdainfully at the throngs who had the temerity to crowd his territory. Don’t even think of petting me, his face said clearly.

No one shared Catsby’s annoyance, though, as the bookstore filled with the sound of carolers singing and booksellers passing homemade cookies and authors signing books. Replete with bookishness and holiday songs, we headed back to the car. As we neared the historic hotel in the middle of town, Megan proposed that we stop in for a drink. Why not? And what could be more festive than a holiday cocktail:

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I ordered the raspberry lemon drop martini and Megan got the pomegranate martini. Hers was definitely better, but they were both pretty and delicious. It was so nice to sit at a little table in the window, watching the people go by and the holiday lights shine.

A YEAR AGO: The holiday lights were shining.

…To the Redwoods

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The Ancient Trees

Instead of taking the left turn off the bridge which connects Highways 1 and 128, we went right, toward Anderson Valley, where the vines were sleeping their winter sleep and the surrounding hills were just beginning to turn green from their summer gold:

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Our first stop was our beloved Libby’s, to pick up our last supper:

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In keeping with our frequent Libby’s experience, they were sold out of our favorite al pastor, but at least they weren’t unexpectedly closed. The parking lot was so full that we had to park almost a block away, and the modest dining room was full. We sat at the bar for the last time, waiting for our orders and remembering the many happy times and delightful dinners we had had there:

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Libby’s closed forever on December 10, when Libby and her husband started their well-deserved retirement. I’m glad for them, but sad for us.

With our Libby’s delicacies safely stowed, we once again turned our attention to some fun for the girls, who had been patiently waiting in the car. We made our way to Hendy Woods, a grove of old growth redwoods in the Valley. Some of the trees are more than 300 feet tall, and it is estimated that many are 1,000 years old. It has never been logged.

We headed into the woods with the curious dogs. The woods were hushed and mysterious:

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There were fields of clover and fountains of ferns under the green canopy. As always when I am in the redwoods, I feel a kind of awe, and also that I would not be surprised to see a dinosaur come lumbering out of the ancient woods. Or some kind of magical creature. The trees’ presence is both peaceful and powerful.

Look up. Way up:

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Some of the fallen trees’ trunks look like sculptures:

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It was wonderful to walk the quiet trails with the happy dogs. The trail ended at the Navarro River, fringed with weeping willows:

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As Megan observed, we are so lucky to live where we can go from the beach to the redwoods to the river, all in one day!

A YEAR AGO: A wild storm and power outages for everyone!

From the Beach…

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It was a beautiful day in Elk

Here it is this weekend, and I still haven’t written about last weekend!

In my defense, though, I had to stage the giant office Christmas End of Year Celebration and clean it up, along with myriad other meetings and drama. The week ended with a birthday party for my boss and a scary drive home in the stormy late night darkness, but I survived it all!

It is still raining hard this morning, making me feel that we are going to have to cancel or at least postpone our plans for going to the Festival of Lights at the Botanical Gardens, followed by the Candlelight Shopping Night in the Village with Erica and Jessica. It is not good weather for strolling around outside, though it seems to be good weather for Clyde to lounge on my shoulder and impede my typing to the best of his fuzzy ability.

Last weekend was a completely different story, though. It was sunny and beautiful. Megan and I hopped in her little red car along with Star and Stella and headed for the little town of Elk. Our first stop was the ever-delicious Queenie’s:

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It had been years since I was there – a search of the dusty archives shows my last visit was three years ago! – so it was long overdue. We sat at a table by the window and ordered. The fact that there were only about 6 other patrons gave us hope that the wait for delicacies would not be as long as usual, but this hope turned out to be in vain. It took about 40 minutes to get our lovely breakfast, prompting Megan to wonder whether they were growing the potatoes.

Still, it was up to the usual high standard when it finally arrived at our table, and, as always, worth the wait. There are worse things than chatting with your sister while waiting for someone else to cook for you, not to mention clean it up afterwards.

Our next stop was the community center, where our dear friend Lichen was showing his beautiful cement casts of leaves. It was a Christmas craft fair, and to my (possibly biased) eye, Lichen’s work really stood out among the gnomes and tree decorations:

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He had already sold four of them by the time we got there! Despite the holiday atmosphere, Lichen was as undelighted by the prospect of Christmas as ever, so it’s unlikely that he will show up this year. You never know, though!

At this point, we decided that it was time that the dogs had some fun, having been marooned in the car all day so far. We took them to Greenwood State Beach.

It took us a while to climb down to it (and even longer to climb back up – there may have been some complaining by some of us), but the ocean was spectacular when we got there:

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Despite the wind, we didn’t really need our jackets. It was hard to believe it was December! The dogs played happily on the beach while we admired the scenery. Here you see the girls posing on the beach in their cheerful bandannas:

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Some of us think it’s an invasive weed, but I think pampas grass is pretty, with its lovely plumes:

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I also like dandelions, though, and most people think they’re an invasive weed, too.

After our arduous (to me) trek, we stopped in at the Elk Store for black cherry limeade to refresh us for Part Two of our day, which took us to Anderson Valley, the redwoods, and the river.

A YEAR AGO: Heartbreak.

Random Notes

Random snacks which magically appeared on my desk this week: Tamales (chicken with green (tomatillo) sauce (labeled “Palo Verde”); a little bag of cinnamon graham crackers in the shape of the characters from “Frozen” (do I really want to bite off Elsa’s head?) and some very out of season raspberries and blueberries.

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In the misandry department:

At the gas station, a man was messing around with the windshield washing squeegee and making jokes while his annoyed wife or girlfriend put gas in the car. Finally, she grabbed the squeegee from him, snapping, “That’s enough from the penis gallery!”

At the post office, the girl ahead of me in line was shipping a really big box. Thinking it was a Christmas present, I said, “Someone will be happy to get that!” She said, “It’s a break up box. I’m sending him everything he ever gave me, all the love letters, everything. If I’m lucky the girl he was cheating on me with will open it.”

I told her I was proud of her and that it was a brave gesture. Also that guys like that don’t change, so really, she had won. The time will come when that guy cheats on the latest girl too. Liars and cheaters don’t change. Darlene, the postal clerk, chimed in with some war stories of her own. Before we went our separate ways, the shipper gave me a big hug. I hope she is doing OK.

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Poor Megan accidentally overbooked herself, and probably wished she could duplicate herself like Homer on “The Simpsons”, though with less disastrous results. Her boss texted Megan to remind her that she was working on Thursday night, and Megan realized that she had agreed to teach a CPR class for our friend Rik at 1:00 on Friday afternoon, barely giving herself enough time for 4 hours of sleep after four 12 hour night shifts in a row.

Rik and his wife Lu, who are both EMTs, have gone to Standing Rock to help out, and Megan took over the CPR classes they were scheduled to teach so they could go. She figured it was her way to help since she couldn’t go.

In the end, the class was rescheduled, so she could collapse into bed with the dogs and get some sleep, but I am always proud of my sister, The Little Megan That Could.

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In happier news, Jonathan’s girlfriend Rio became a grandmother for the third time on November 30 when her son’s wife gave birth to Leo at 10:51 am Pacific time. Not so little Leo, who weighed 9 pounds 2 ounces, joins his big brother Henry, who is a little more than 2, like Cindy Lou Who. It will be a merry Christmas in their home!