Archive for the 'Family' Category

Dec 31 2017

2017

Surveying the hellscape of 2017, I can’t say I’m sorry to see it end. Including a nightmarish government, a seemingly endless plague of disasters, natural and otherwise, and the deaths of those too young to die, it was just one bad thing after another. The word “apocalypse” crossed my mind more than once.

In the midst of all this despair, there were bright spots, like a visit from our beloved Ben.

I failed to note it in these pages, but this October marked the 8th anniversary of my move to Hooterville. It’s one of the few good decisions I have ever made.

I read 114 books, surpassing last year’s 103. Standouts included Richard Russo’s Trajectory, a collection of short stories set in a small town, where Russo’s gifts for language and storytelling shine; The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, about a dysfunctional family in Montreal which manages to be funny, heart-breaking, gritty, and poetic all at once; The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery, which uses a combination of old and new technology and logic to unveil the identity of a man who murdered his way across America in the early years of the 20th century; Little Fires Everywhere, an engrossing and beautiful novel about families and how choices we make can have far-reaching and unforeseen effects; Sargent’s Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas, showcasing the fascinating and sometimes tragic lives of the women who inspired some of his great work; Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption, a haunting book about a wrongly convicted man who never gave up trying to prove his innocence from the depths of prison; and the truly astonishing Blood In the Water: The Attica Prison Riot of 1971 and Its Aftermath. I couldn’t put it down, and it haunted me for weeks afterwards. I will just say this: the riot was the least of what happened there.

Standouts in TV shows ranged from the regal (Victoria and The Crown) to the retro (The Deuce and Feud) and the truly excellent Ozark.

Power outages: I lost track. One of them lasted for days, and we were still having them in May. May, my friends! The same goes for rain, though it was around 70 inches. Or more than 6 feet. I thought we had the drought on the run until this season’s paltry 10 inches so far. If only we could get the hideous heat waves on the (permanent) run. I don’t think I will ever really recover from The Worst Long Weekend Ever. I may be one heat wave away from moving to Alaska. Look out, Tim! And keep your bail money handy.

January:

The new year arrived with a bang. Day One of a lengthy power outage. Overcoming the annual bummer of Twelfth Night with a new hairdo and an old fashioned party. A civilized break in the work week. Enjoying the beauty at the fine woodworking show. It was too floody to go and see the Bolshoi’s “Sleeping Beauty”, to my everlasting regret. I once more survived the horror of the annual fundraiser.

February: I came home from work to find a new refrigerator had taken up residence. Meeting the girls at the bookstore. A delightful (though rainy) Valentine’s Day. Guess what? Yes, the power was out again. A strange, but memorable baptism.

March: Time for the Polar Plunge! Feeling under the weather in still more bad weather. Possibly the world’s cutest new neighbor. A hail storm. Why not? Celebrating Dad’s 86th birthday. A delightful surprise encounter with Erica and Jessica.

April: A fun evening at the theater with Megan and Lu. Remembering Mom on her birthday. Family dinner with Clayton. Buying tires again for Wednesday. Jessica’s birthday, and my blog’s. I actually remembered this year! The joys of taking a day off.

May: A very sad, and upsetting memorial service. A sense of place. Yet another power outage made it impossible for me to revel in the glamorous joys of the Kentucky Derby. A fun outing on Bookstore Day. The adventure of the flat tire. Going in style and in good company to family dinner. The adventure of the dog in the night.

June: A good start to my birthday week. A completely perfect birthday, part one and part two. A peek into the past, my favorite place. It was hard to tell one job from the other one Saturday. A wonderful visit with Jarrett and Kalli. It’s Rob to the rescue yet again, adding a new shelf to the kitchen when the old one is displaced by the sudden appearance of a new and unimproved refrigerator. The month ended with a perfect Junapalooza.

July: There was much to celebrate. At last! A sleepover with Jessica! An unexpected visitor after a long day at work. Rob the artist. A less than stellar week. A summer Saturday. The annual horrorshow. But hey, I survived!

August: My Junapalooza gift appears, along with a former Jay (hint: Not Alex Rios). A lovely visit with our friend Carrie, her daughter, and her oldies- singin’ posse. The sudden loss of a coworker. I still miss her smile. Plumbing problems. The anniversary of Dad’s death rolls around again. I will never stop loving and missing him. A lovely sunset drink. My brother’s eclipse adventure. The beginning of the hellish heat wave.

September Celebrating my last working Saturday with a delicious dinner at Rio’s place. The Worst Long Weekend Ever will live on infamy. My brother’s birthday party. A visit from our beloved Ben. At the County Fair, no less! Playing tour guide. We all enjoyed seeing Ben again. I hope this becomes an annual tradition.

October: The eternal trenching project rears its interminable head again. The local message boards are as eccentric as ever. Awakening to find the worst wildfire in California history was raging, in our County and our neighboring counties. Devastating and heartbreaking. As always, our community reached to help the evacuees, but it’s going to be a long recovery. A couple of reasons to celebrate in these dark days. A look at some lovely gardens. The ballet season begins.

November: Halloween with our favorite kidlet and her precocious BFF. A chilly day for cider pressing. You can’t go home again. Or at least you shouldn’t. Car problems, which preoccupy my limited brain space when I should be worrying about Thanksgiving prep. An unexpected Thanksgiving without Erica and Jessica. Thanksgiving II: the sequel. Christmas – or at least Christmas decorations – arrived a little early.

December: Enjoying the always spectacular (though not very Christmassy) Festival of Lights. File under miscellaneous: lingering car malaise; the endless project; and hanging out with friends. Another delightful annual tradition: Candlelight Shopping Night. A successful office party. And a little mini-break was the perfect thing after all the party work. A very odd version of Peter Pan. And a very happy Christmas. A trip north to Eureka did not turn out exactly as planned. But it was still fun.

No resolutions have sprung to my shallow, sparkly mind for the new year, which I hope will be kinder to all of us. Thanks for coming along on the ride this year!

A YEAR AGO: A look back at 2016.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Reviewing 2012.

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Dec 30 2017

Heading Home

Published by under Family,Friends,Travel

It’s 4:30 am and I am drinking bad in room coffee and waiting for daylight. I’m sorry to say that the cold or whatever it is has not improved and I felt too miserable to sleep. It is going to be a long way home. Well, it would be anyway!

Jarrett picked me up yesterday and took me on a tour of Eureka, where he has lived for several years. Like Fort Bragg, it began with logging and fishing, and all that entails, like robber barons and brothels. But Eureka, a much bigger city still, boasted an opera house (the building still stands) and a Chinatown, populated with the people who built roads, did the logging camps’ cooking and laundry and basically kept to themselves until they were all deported to San Francisco in 1885.

1885 is also when this breathtaking mansion was built for lumber baron William Carson:

It is utterly magnificent and may be the finest Victorian home I have ever seen, even after living in San Francisco for so many years. It is now a private club, which is whispered about among locals, much as the Bohemian Club is in San Francisco. Though we peasants cannot enter its splendid interior, you can revel in its elegant excess here.

Right across the street is the fantastic pink house which William Carson built for his son:

Love the color and the stained glass.

We walked around the historic downtown, and I really liked the combination of old and new. The town feels vital and young, not precious like the Village at home. I really enjoyed our look around. We also stopped in at the local history museum, which has a great collection of Native artifacts and pioneer quilts. Needless to say the native people, like the Chinese, were also driven out by Europeans, just as they were in Fort Bragg. The age old story, I’m afraid.

We headed out to dinner with Jarrett’s beautiful girlfriend Kalli at one of their favorite spots. It was so wonderful to catch up on their news and spend some time together. I love those kids. I’d have to say: despite the cold or whatever it is and the long drive ahead of me, I’m glad I came.

Update: Left in the rainy darkness about 6:45 am. Stopped at the gas station and then headed straight for home. No traffic that early, though I did have to drive around two large, shaggy elk on Highway One. Arrived home a little after 10 am. Whew!

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Dec 25 2017

Merry Happy

Published by under Family,Friends,Special Occasions


Christmas Jessica (with Jonathan in the background)

Merry Christmas! Y’all are a day behind us, since we celebrated yesterday. And celebrate we did!

I spent most of the morning making about a thousand of my world famous cheese biscuits, with an eye to bringing some to Jarrett later in the week. It’s a good thing I set some aside for him, since in spite of my Herculean efforts, I only have about half a dozen left.

After the baking blitz, I put out the Christmas crackers:

and set out the heirloom Wedgwood and silver:

as the tree twinkled merrily with its stockings beneath. Jonathan and Rio arrived with the ham glazed with his secret glaze and smoked for hours in the BBQ, a wild huckleberry pie and a keg of cider, and Erica and Jessica brought a stunning Bûche de Noël:

It was frosted with vanilla buttercream to match my ancient tree, and inside it was ginger cake with a butterscotch salted caramel filling. Needless to say, it was amazing.

So were the stockings this year. I think everyone was really pleased. Mine included a new electric toothbrush that looks like jewelry, glittery pens, and a gift certificate for Angelika’s indispensable services. What’s not to love?

In addition to all that, we had salad with roasted pears and fresh pomegranate along with shallot and honey dressing, our own garden potatoes mashed up with our garlic, the cheese biscuits, and Vietnamese pickled carrots and cucumbers. This was my first attempt at these and it was a hit. I will definitely make them again.

After dinner, we enjoyed the annual ritual of Jonathan and Jessica reading “Red Ranger Came Calling” out loud. I wish I could post the movie clips here, but they are on Facebook for your viewing and listening pleasure. I really don’t know which of them does a better job. And just a few days ago, Jessica’s BFF Bella was on Vachon Island at the very location of the tree!

After everyone else left, Megan and I sat back with a bottle of Limoncello and talked about the evening. We agreed, it had been a great one. Merry Christmas to you and yours from all of us!

A YEAR AGO: A merry Christmas.

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Dec 05 2017

Sparkling

Megan and I enjoyed our annual tradition of the Festival of Lights at the Botanical Gardens. As usual, the parking gods smiled on Megan, and we got a parking space right out front. This year, we could buy tickets on line, and I added a small donation in honor of my late friend Joel, who was a Master Gardener there. And instead of waiting in line, we could breeze right in.

The Gardens are one of the loveliest places on the coast, and they are particularly magical when they are all dressed up in sparkling lights. Megan pointed out that they are not particularly Christmassy, with dragons and swans:

Somehow I had never noticed that before, though there is a star or two. The elephant was new, peering cutely out of the bushes:

He was a safe distance away from the erupting volcano:

I always love the jellyfish, floating magically in the air:

And the sailing ship, accessorized with a whale:

It makes me feel like a kid again, with the wonder of the holidays, delighted by the lights in the darkness.

And what better way to follow up sparkling lights than a sparkling drink?

We toasted our lovely evening and the holidays past, present, and future. Cheers!

A YEAR AGO: Some random notes.

FIVE YEARS AGO: It was stormin’ up a storm!

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Nov 27 2017

Encore

Published by under Cooking,Family

As you know, I hate dealing with the post Thanksgiving turkey carcass. It’s unwieldy, icky, and makes it impossible for me to escape the unpleasant fact that I ate a formerly live creature as I dismember its bones. In my typical hypocritical way, however, this does not stop me from cooking and eating it in the first place. At least we buy free range, organic birds.

So I was delighted when Jonathan took the avian remains off my hands the day after Thanksgiving. He made it into soup and invited us over for dinner that night at Rio’s compound, where we had turkey soup with garlic bread and followed up Thanksgiving II with leftover cherry and huckleberry pies.

While the garlic bread was baking, Rio and Jonathan showed us the progress they had made with restoring the Christmas Village. Rio’s father was a famous artist who made record album covers, Time magazine covers, and posters for Broadway plays. To amuse Rio as a child, he made a little Victorian village of painted cardboard. Over the years, some of it disappeared and some of it deteriorated seriously, but after Rio bought the compound, she thought it would be fun to restore the Village.

It currently resides in the studio part of the studio/garage combo where we made the cider. Now that Jonathan is involved, a train track with trains that really run has been added:

They have also added some historical figures, like Winston Churchill and Charles Dickens, and various cows for the fields. Some of the houses have little chandeliers and paintings inside. It’s quite something, and it’s not even finished yet.

Back in the house, we had dinner by the light of this amazing Swedish contraption, also from Rio’s childhood:

It’s a wooden carousel with a wooden propeller at the top and candles at the sides. The heat from the candles makes the propeller spin the carousel around. The top layer seems to be angels, the middle a shepherd and his flock and the lowest level is Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and the three wise men, one of whom is inexplicably black while everyone else is white. Go figure.

It is a charming and delightful object, and I also liked the patterns it made on the ceiling:

After dinner, we watched The Avengers on the 1959 Predicta. It is a pretty weird show. To my mind, it seemed quite surreal. Coincidentally, it also featured trains, though there was no Christmas Village. It was a lovely evening, like another little Thanksgiving together.

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Nov 26 2017

Thanksgiving

It was a quieter than usual Thanksgiving at stately Suzy Manor. I had the house ready well before noon:

and the outdoor livingroom was ready as well:

Rob brought some firewood over, but we didn’t need it. It has been oddly warm all week. I have even been sleeping with the balcony door open.

Erica and Jessica could not join us for Thanksgiving after all. Megan said it was the first time in Jessica’s life that she wasn’t with our family at Thanksgiving. We really missed them. Without them, it was more like an elaborate family dinner than anything else, though there’s nothing wrong with that!

Everything turned out well, from the turkey, roasted Nana-style:

to the maple and harissa roasted carrots, potatoes expertly whipped by Jonathan, who also made a wonderful gravy, and the stuffing/dressing, which as usual I forgot about, but which happened to be perfectly done when I did remember. Jonathan and Rio brought a wild huckleberry pie (in a pie dish made by Rob), and a pie from the cherries we grew. It was quite a spread:

Jonathan brought some of last year’s cider, and we toasted Thanksgiving and the many things we are grateful for with the cider in Nana’s wine glasses.

A YEAR AGO: A much busier Thanksgiving.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A fun and festive Thanksgiving.

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Nov 03 2017

Boo!

Jessica has not yet aged out of trick or treating with her auntourage. I have to say I am surprised that we have not yet become embarrassing, I would have thought that once the double digits raised their ugly head that our auntourage days would be numbered in single digits, but as always, Jessica surprised me. She has yet to turn into a surly teenager. Maybe she will skip those unlovely phases and segue straight into lovely young womanhood. So far, so good.

Megan and I met up with Erica, Julie, and Darius at the Gro, where the new owners have apparently taken over. Erica was delighted to learn that they are Punjabi and that we can expect Punjabi delicacies in the near future. Jessica and her BFF Bella were decanted into Megan’s car, while their elegantly costumed parents returned to the Hagmobile from whence they came to go and have a civilized dinner together.

I was unable to recognize what the girls’ costumes represented:

Jessica (left) is Bill Cipher from the TV show Gravity Falls. In my defense, I have never seen it, it’s a Disney show, and on researching the matter later I discovered that he is essentially a villainous yellow triangle with a penchant for top hats. Bella (right) is Quicksilver, apparently an X Men or something. Jessica may not have aged out of Halloween, but her auntourage has aged out of understanding the costumes.

We headed to the haunted house first. Bella and I decided that it was too scary for us (perhaps it is not a coincidence that Bella and I also find everything to be too spicy for us) and waited outside for the intrepid Megan and Jessica. The haunted house has both security staff outside and actors who scare the waiting hordes. Since we were early, there was no line to speak of and one of the security guards made the mistake of telling Bella that her goggles were steampunk instead of New Wave, rashly opining that Bella did not know the difference.

She was in the midst of setting the misguided security guard straight when the scarer attempted to scare her. Without even looking at him, she said, “Go away, I’m talking” in such an authoritative tone that he did. He didn’t give up on the scaring attempts, but Bella ended up scaring him by suddenly looming up from behind a pillar, making him jump a mile. He sheepishly admitted that she had gotten him and gave up after that.

Our brave adventurers enjoyed the haunted house, and we all piled into Megan’s car to start the trick or treating portion of the evening. Megan and I had asked around for the best trick or treating locales in the Big Town, and armed with that knowledge, we set out for the most desirable areas first.

Police cars closed off the street, which was awash in trick or treaters and their escorts. I loved these ghost lights (strings of little Caspers!):

and this creative use of a garage basketball hoop:

One of the houses had their own little haunted house to go through to get the candy. When the girls emerged, I asked them if it was scary. Jessica said that the owners had clearly seen “It”, and that there were clowns. I asked, “What could be scarier than clowns?” and Bella replied matter-of-factly, “Crippling debt,” before scampering off to get more candy. She is 12, right?

This town being as small as it is, we naturally came across Jonathan and Rio handing out candy. I think we were more surprised than they were!

The drawbacks of the popular spot was that there were crowds of people, and the kids had to line up at some houses to get the candy. There was also no opportunity for Jessica to show off her signature police knock until we ventured off the beaten path. It still makes me laugh to hear it, especially combined with her girlish and dainty, “Thank you! Happy Halloween!”

Eventually the bags got so heavy that the girls began to complain about toting their weight around the darkened streets, so we headed back to the Village to return our charges to their rightful owners. A good time was had by all.

A YEAR AGO: a trip to the South Coast to see a play and pick up a few delicacies.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Trick or treating with Jessica when she was truly a kidlet.

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Sep 24 2017

Evening

Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends

We left the Fair as the sun began to set, casting a rosy golden glow over the Valley:

I love the look of the rolling golden hills, dotted with the deep pools of shade from gnarled live oaks, and the vines, still heavy with grapes at this time of year:

Soon the vine leaves will begin to turn scarlet and gold, which is our version of fall colors. There are almost a hundred vineyards in the beautiful Valley, most of them family owned and operated.

We wended our way through the redwoods to the ocean. We met up with Ben and Erica at the Gro* so we could guide them up and down the twisty roads to Rio’s compound.

Rio and Jonathan had just finished working on the interior of her guest cabin:

So Ben and Erica were the first guests to stay there in its finished state. Rio and Jonathan still have to build a little roof over the front door for the rainy season, and are planning to paint the outside, but it is more or less finished and it is just charming, so pretty and cozy inside. They could not have had a nicer place to stay while exploring our little corner of the world.

Rio had everything set up so we could make our own sandwiches after we arrived at her house, sliced chicken, cheese, and everything else you could think of to put on a variety of breads, including peach habanero jam, which was delicious. We ate our sandwiches while listening to vinyl records with covers designed by Rio’s father. He was a very well-known illustrator, and his work is in the Met and the Smithsonian, among others. He designed record covers for everyone from Miles Davis to Billie Holiday to Harry Belafonte, as well as Time magazine covers and Broadway posters.

Rio’s stepfather was an actor, starring in the Donna Reed Show and acting in many others, like Perry Mason and Mission Impossible. Rio said that her parents tried to keep her from being one of “those Hollywood kids” by not letting her go on set very often. On one of those rare occasions, her stepfather was shot with a blank and was injured, and that was the last time she went to a movie set. Her parents were close friends of Carroll O’Connor and his wife. You will be relieved to hear that he was nothing like Archie Bunker in real life, though he did have a big personality and tended to be the center of attention.

Dessert was a big bowl of strawberries from the family estate, which were something of a revelation to our visitors. There is nothing like strawberries you grow yourself. It was the perfect ending to a wonderful day.

*Big local news: Doug has sold the Gro! I am sad to see him go, but glad for him and his wife. They have been working 12-14 hours a day, 7 days a week, for way too long. Time for them to relax and enjoy themselves. I hope the new owners keep up their legacy and that the Gro remains the heart of our quirky little town.

A YEAR AGO: I may have lost the jobette, but I had a nice Saturday. And I did get the jobette back in the end, at least for the summer. You never know…

FIVE YEARS AGO: Thinking about the past and what might have been.

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Sep 20 2017

Fun Fair

I left work early on Friday. I went home, got changed, and hopped into Megan’s little red car to go to the County Fair.

This year’s Fair had a special guest star: Ben, whose visit last year was one of its greatest joys. And this time, he had brought his girlfriend Erica along. They had spent the week in San Francisco, their first visit there, but I think not their last, since they were both smitten with my former hometown. Here they are enjoying their very first Giants game:

We met up at the funnel cake stand and exchanged hugs. Then we set off to the livestock area, where we watched the 4-H kids showing their goats and winning their ribbons. I love seeing those little kids in their impractical white outfits and jaunty green scarves. They are remarkably poised for their youth.

We meandered in the barn with the cows, goats, and snack-size sheep before checking out the more exotic animals. Unfortunately for my ever-enquiring mind, the labels on the exotica were extremely information deficient, merely noting the sex and age of the birds without disclosing what the heck they were, which is what sprung to mind when seeing this:

Chicken on stilts? And this:

Some kind of pigeon? Note the feathered feet!

Replete with weirdness, we headed to the Agriculture building, where we met up with our Erica and the beautiful Jessica, who was wearing a modish, mod outfit:

We apple tasted:

The apples were all so different and all so delicious, all of them grown in the same valley where the Fair is held. I was underwhelmed by this year’s biggest pumpkin, though:

The Great Pumpkin is not all that great up close. At least Charlie Brown was spared that disappointment.

The quilts, however, did not disappoint. I was very taken with this one:

While admiring it with Ben and his Erica, who were also fans, a gentleman told us that he was the maker’s husband and that his very talented wife had made it for their nephew. Lucky kid! We also loved this very different quilt:

Our Erica observed that none of the panels were the same. The colors are just lovely. It deserved to win first place.

This was my favorite flower arrangement:

And appropriately enough since our two visitors had just crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, there was this charming arrangement:

There was even water beneath the bridge!

We all had such a great time. I always love the Fair. Especially with family and friends.

A YEAR AGO: At the Fair, of course!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Stop me if you’ve heard this before.

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Sep 01 2017

Delicious

Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends

I worked my last Saturday last week. It was nice to share the magic of this place with the visitors and make a little extra money, but I am glad to only have to drive to the Big Town for five days a week instead of 6.

I celebrated by heading over to Rio’s place with Megan for dinner. We were joined by a few other people, including Blake’s father Chris, who is still coming to terms with the tragic loss of his son just a few short months ago. He was in the mood to talk about Blake, so I just went along with it. I figure if he brings it up and wants to talk about it, then we should follow his lead. It seemed to help, though we all know it is a lengthy, day by day process. At least Chris knows we are there for him and he has the support of his friends.

On a brighter note, I heard all about the eclipse of the century from Jonathan and Rio, who actually saw it. They followed my friend C’s advice and just took along telescopes and binoculars and did not try to take photos. It sounds like it was an incredible experience. Rio did take this wonderful photo of Jonathan at the cedar creek near their campsite:

Does he look happy, or what?

We sat out on the deck and drank wine while the kids ran around. Dinner was made almost entirely from the family garden. Pasta with pesto made from garlic and basil we grew; a salad of garden goodness; and garlic bread made with our garlic:

It was delicious, and there is something satisfying about eating food you grew. Or that your siblings grew.

The pièce de la résistance was dessert, a flight of sorbets made from fruit either picked wild or grown on the family estate (Megan recently told me that the fenced in garden and orchard is now an entire acre). Clockwise from upper left: huckleberry, blackberry, raspberry, and peach:

I can recommend estate grown dessert, though I can’t tell you which sorbet was the best. The sorbet process seems to really intensify the fruit flavors. A perfect way to end the evening!

A YEAR AGO: A delightful visitor. I am pleased to say that he is making a return appearance later this month, and this time, he is bringing his girlfriend!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The money fairy stopped by. Much better than the tooth fairy!

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Aug 28 2017

Melting

Published by under Country Life,Family,Weather

Come back, Fogust!

Both of my brain cells may have melted yesterday. I didn’t dare to consult the thermometer outside, but it was still 86 in my house when I went to bed last night. My house is so unreasonable. Rob came by to correctly position my Junapalooza swamp cooler gift and attempt to explain the laws of physics to me. It sort of sounded like the Charlie Brown grownups to my non-sciency mind, though.

He turned off all the fans, closed up the house other than the screen door to the balcony in the sleeping loft, and placed the swamp cooler in the open door between the studio and the house, reasoning that blowing air from the coolest part of the house with a concrete floor would help to cool the rest of it. He added in stuff about air layers and other things I couldn’t get, but I was not put here on earth to get it.

I’m sorry to say that it is supposed to be hot’n’heinous™ for the rest of the week, so Rob is going to add attempted climate control duties to cat doorman duties, it now being too dark to leave the doors open for them when I go to work, with the arrival of high beams season. Somehow it seems spectacularly unfair that it’s both hot and dark.

Hope he is successful, especially since this heat wave is slated to go until Saturday or so.

[Later]

Hm. It was 78 in the house and about 80 outside when I got home, despite Rob’s ministrations. Yesterday it was about 90 outside and 86 in. Maybe the eccentricities of my house make the swamp cooler of limited effectiveness. It feels cooler outside than in, so I think I’ll turn off the swamp cooler, open the doors, and put on a couple of fans. Old school.

A YEAR AGO: Well, at least melting in the heat is better than an obnoxious mountain lion. Isn’t it?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Yet another car misadventure that ended up being more life-affirming than disastrous.

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Aug 21 2017

Sunset Slipper

Published by under Country Life,Family

A week of fog lifted, and Megan and I decided it was a good time to go to the Ledford House again. Although it is conveniently located right across the highway from beautiful downtown Hooterville, we don’t go as often as we should (or as we’d like).

We were warmly greeted by the beautiful and accomplished bartender, who made us each a beautiful and delicious drink:

Megan’s (left) was a nameless but delightful concoction of fresh raspberries, Limoncello, and sparkling wine, and mine was the charmingly named Sunset Slipper, made of Campari, fresh lemon and lime juice, and sparkling wine, finished with a twist of orange, its oils released into the rosy drink. Unlike me, Megan doesn’t like Campari, but she loved the Sunset Slipper. So did I.

We repaired to the sunny and deserted deck:

with its breathtaking view of the sunset:

where we enjoyed our libations with the attentions of the handsome restaurant cat:

He and his tortoiseshell sister just showed up one day, and the owners took them in. They appear to be quite well-fed on gourmet leftovers from the restaurant’s wonderful kitchen, and to be replete with attentions of the restaurant’s patrons. Of course, he spotted a sucker as soon as he saw one, and wasted no time ensconcing himself by my chair and graciously accepting my petting and compliments. Clearly he accurately assessed Megan as being a dog-lover.

Swallows had built a nest in the eaves of the building, and the parents fluttered back and forth, bringing food to the peeping young in the nest. An occasional raven swooped over the ocean. It was so nice to sit on the lovely deck, as the twinkle lights glowed brighter and the sun slipped into the sea. It is amazing how quickly it vanishes once it gets started. It was a lovely evening.

A YEAR AGO: An unexpected gift, and an unexpected curse.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farewell to Digit, the adorable office cat. She is still being adored by her (no longer) new family. All’s well that ends well.

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Aug 18 2017

Sixteen

Published by under Family,Memories

It’s been 16 years since that fateful early morning phone call when my sister told me our father was gone and our lives changed forever.

It was 6 am in San Francisco, which is 2 in the afternoon in London, so my sister had already lived with the knowledge that he was gone for almost an entire day. Her gift to me was those last few hours of not knowing, when she already knew.

I will never forget the overwhelming grief when I finally grasped what she was telling me; or the stricken look on my brother’s face as he seized my hand in his strong, work-roughened one and said, “Let’s do it” as we walked together to the plane that would carry us to London; or the undertakers in full morning dress who handled our father’s coffin with such respect and tenderness, doffing their black silk top hats and bowing to him on his last journey.

I think of my father every day, and when I do, it’s more often the happy memories than the sad ones. Similarly, when I dream of him, he is always alive. Sometimes he tells me it was all a mistake, but mostly, it’s as if nothing ever happened and of course we are cooking together or having adventures, as we did so often in real life.

When I look back over the years, I think of Dad coming home from work in his white lab coat, smelling of chemicals when he was a young scientist and I was a young girl, and how he’d roll around on the floor with us before dinner. I think of climbing Mount Cadillac in Maine, to be the first on the eastern seaboard to see the sun rise that day, his blazing blue eyes gazing out over the Atlantic. I think of him reading stories to us as children – and adults. I think of him walking his beloved dog Jesse on Wimbledon Common, just a handful of miles from where Dad used to walk with own beloved father. Dad and Jesse were not parted for long, since their ashes are scattered together on the Common. Somewhere, a boy and his dog will always be playing.

A YEAR AGO: Missing Dad.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Remembering Dad.

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Aug 07 2017

Teen Time

Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends

Our long-time friend Carrie came up to visit from Oakhampton, with her 15 year old daughter Miranda and Miranda’s posse of besties. I was pleased to learn that Carrie asked the kids where they wanted to go within driving distance, and they chose Hooterville.

They were rewarded with the kind of freedom we experienced as kids and which is no longer available to those growing up in cities. They swam at the swimming hole in the river, where there is a rope swing, and in the secret pond known only to locals. They helped Jonathan make adobe bricks from clay dug up on the family estate, destined to make an outdoor pizza oven. There is already water and power in the giant, fenced in garden, and the plan is to make an outdoor kitchen there one of these faraway days.

They hiked in the majestic redwoods and rode our friends David and Jennifer’s (my siblings’ land partners) horses Bella and Charlie, and got in some driving practice, since getting their licenses is not as far off on the horizon as making our outdoor kitchen. They were thrilled to pick berries, just as we had during those long-ago summers in Maine. I have never again had blueberries that tasted anything like those small, dark berries, warm from the sun. They learned to make huckleberry pie under Jonathan’s tutelage, in the pie pan Rob made for Rio’s birthday.

On the Friday night, we had dinner at Rio’s place, which has acquired the name of The Marches. Rio said it’s an old word for wilderness, though I think her compound is quite civilized. As Rio and Jonathan made dinner (Rio’s special deconstructed chile relleno casserole and chicken enchiladas made with onions and salsa grown at the property), my brother put on a record, observing that the young ones would not know what it was. He was wrong about this, since one of them correctly recognized it as Herb Alpert’s classic “Whipped Cream” after the first two notes, adding that she herself owned it, also on vinyl.

I thought that was surprising until these 21st century girls started singing as they did the dinner dishes. They sang John Denver’s “Country Roads” and Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” perfectly. Clearly they have retro leanings. They were completely enthralled with the Predicta and with “Honey West”, with its glamorous costumes, cool cars, and beautiful, kickass heroine. I have to wonder why “Honey West” is not a cultural touchstone like “Bewitched” or “The Avengers”. Also, 1965, the year of my brother’s birth, was a pretty good one, since both “Honey West” and “Whipped Cream” made their debuts along with him.

On Saturday night, we had a BBQ over at the property, and on Sunday, our guests headed back to the city after a breakfast of huckleberry pancakes made on the outdoor gas hob. It was a good visit.

A YEAR AGO: A bad omen?

FIVE YEARS AGO: A good day at the pool.

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Jul 26 2017

Summer Saturday

Published by under Family,Friends,Work

Megan drove me to work on Saturday. As you know, I love being chauffeured or chauffeused, and it was nice to relax in Megan’s little red car while she steered us toward the Big Town in the summer traffic. As we drove, she told me that one of her coworkers was stuck in a long line of cars driving 25 mph behind someone who refused to pull over for most of the duration of Highway 20. The drivers stranded behind him were honking, flashing their lights, and throwing garbage at the miscreant, who blithely ignored these signs of his fellow motorists’ displeasure.

Fortunately, no honking or trash throwing was involved in our commute, though there may have been a little trash talking. As Megan dropped me off at the jobette, I noticed a guy standing in the street singing, and I thought, I hope he isn’t crazy and he leaves me alone. This wish was granted.

Megan headed off to the clinic to work on her second job, while I unlocked the doors to start on my own second job.

Our plan was that she would pick me up and we’d go to the library, stop by Monica’s shop, and then meet Rob in the Village to see a woodworking exhibit and walk the dogs on the headlands, but we were only partially successful.

We did make it to the library, where my haul included the sequel to the book Jessica lent me at our sleepover. I was reminded of going to the library on Saturdays when I was a girl, with Miss Opal the librarian telling us tales of the past, and in the splendid library in Maine, the librarians always let us take out extra book since we were lab kids. Library expeditions were usually followed by a trip to the Victory Market (New York) or the Shop’n’Save (Maine). I now wonder why Dad dragged us all along on these Saturday expeditions, but years later, Megan and I are keeping up the tradition.

We had so much fun talking with Monica that we lost track of the time, and before we knew it, it was time for her to close the shop and we had missed the woodworking show. Megan texted Rob to let him know, and we headed home, where we took a bottle of wine outside in my garden and chatted some more, watching Clyde and Audrey play. It was a good day. Sometimes it’s nice when things don’t go according to plan.

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Jul 18 2017

Rob the Artist

Published by under Family

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

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

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

He also made this wonderfully textured tile:

It reminds me of MC Escher*.

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

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

This scalloped dish holds necessary beautifiers in the bathroom:

And at work, this holds paperclips:

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

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

A YEAR AGO: A beautiful day at the Gardens.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Whole lotta movin’ going on.

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

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

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Jul 10 2017

A Bowl of Cherries

Published by under Family,Friends

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

just picked from our very own tree that very day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jul 02 2017

Jubilee


The One and Only

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

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

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

which is why she is so beautiful, of course.

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: The kitty report.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Brightening up.

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Jun 30 2017

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.”

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Jun 21 2017

Get Together

Published by under Family,Friends,Work

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

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

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

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

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

The garden had sprouted a nice crop of tents:

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: The most amazing gift ever!

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

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