Rob the Artist

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

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

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

He also made this wonderfully textured tile:

It reminds me of MC Escher*.

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

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

This scalloped dish holds necessary beautifiers in the bathroom:

And at work, this holds paperclips:

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

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

A YEAR AGO: A beautiful day at the Gardens.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Whole lotta movin’ going on.

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

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

A Bowl of Cherries

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

just picked from our very own tree that very day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jubilee


The One and Only

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

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

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

which is why she is so beautiful, of course.

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: The kitty report.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Brightening up.

Junapalooza III

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

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

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

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

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

Because you always need sprinkles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get Together

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

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

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

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

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

The garden had sprouted a nice crop of tents:

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: The most amazing gift ever!

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

By the Sea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

but have lovely views:

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

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

I loved the windows in this house:

And this detail on a fireplace:

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

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

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

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

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

Perfect Day (Part II)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We took a sandy path:

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

And a huge, unpopulated beach:

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

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

A YEAR AGO: My little guy turned six.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A surprise trip to Willits!

Going In Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Farewell

Blake

It’s been a difficult couple of weeks. I don’t usually write here about dark things, since this place is my refuge and I can banish the unpleasantness of the outside world from here, but as you know, from time to time, these things have to be faced. Fortunately, I have my brother and sister to face things with me, and we faced the memorial service for Blake together.

Blake and his father have been guests at our family gatherings, and we were all shocked and saddened to learn that Blake had died at the age of 20.

The day of the memorial service dawned bright and beautiful, a spring day when everything is coming back to life, with flowers blooming and birds singing as they build their nests and their families, fresh leaves bursting forth from the trees. It seemed so wrong to be commemorating the terrible loss of someone so young, who was himself only in the spring of his short life.

Blake’s parents belong to an evangelical religion which was started the same year my brother was born. I have to admit I was hoping that at least there would be tradition and ceremony to bring us some comfort, as there was at the long-ago and very moving bar mitzvah I attended. However, that was not the case. This particular religion is pretty adamant that if you don’t belong to it, you are going to hell, and that is that. I have never heard the word “wretch” so often in such a short time, and I am sorry to tell y’all that those of us who are not born again are “down in the mud with the pigs.” The service – for this lovely boy who died so young – concluded with the preacher trying to get extra converts to their religion and inviting us to consult with him about joining their cult after the service. Maybe it’s being brought up by atheist parents, but I found this unseemly, especially after being berated about my sinfulness. Weren’t we supposed to be remembering Blake?

Despite these religious oddities, there were some really nice moments. There was a montage of photos of Blake’s life, and a charming video of his catching a fish almost as large as he was when he was a young boy (and then releasing it). His two best friends, who had known Blake all his life, gave touching speeches. The chapel was full, with hundreds of people in attendance. I wonder if he would have been surprised to know how loved he is. I hope he knows he is.

Jessica’s Birthday


Birthday Girl

In keeping with our Endless Winter theme* (always winter and never Christmas!), Jessica’s 14th birthday dawned chilly. A committee of my siblings decided that it was too cold to celebrate at the family estate, instead relocating the festivities to stately Suzy Manor.

I was less than delighted by the implementation of Plan B, partly because I had had a pretty bad week at work and did not feel very hostessy, and partly because my desire to clean up the house was why they invented negative numbers. In the end, I didn’t bother cleaning up the house and I don’t think anyone noticed or cared. Sorry, Martha Stewart!

Erica and Jessica turned up in a fancy new car:


It’s not just new to them, it is utterly new. It has new car smell and is luxurious inside. It is like Wednesday’s more glamorous cousin:


You can’t tell from the picture, but Erica’s car has secret plum sparkles in the black paint which are revealed on the rare occasions when the sun shines. She wants to get personalized plates that read HAGMOBILE. Ha!

Of course Erica had made a spectacular cake:

The buttercream icing is vanilla and both flavored and colored with raspberries. I love the ombre effect. But wait, there’s more! The icing on the inside has chopped up dark chocolate with dried raspberries in it:

Jessica blew out all her candles with one mighty breath, and we decided to have dinner backwards, starting with dessert. After the cake, Jessica opened her gifts, delighting in each one. She is such a wonderful kid.

While all this was going on, Megan was making pulled pork in her instant pot. She is obsessed with the instant pot. We had the pulled pork with fresh tortillas which Megan cooked on her cast iron griddle, along with black beans, salsa, cheese, and fresh lime wedges. It was delicious!

We invited Erica and Jessica to the next Predicta Party, which will be in mid May. We will let Jessica choose the shows for that night, though we also want to introduce her to the joys of Honey West, which we are sure she will love.

And I sure love that kidlet.

*At this point, I’m pretty sure we are just going to go from rain and cold to 80 degrees, transforming my hippie hovel into an oven. I’m sure I will miss winter then.

A YEAR AGO: Audrey the alarm clock. All part of the service!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The kidlet turned nine. I was thinking pink.

Family Dinner

This month marked what is probably the last inside family dinner for a few months. We had it at Rio’s compound, and the weather was nice enough for us to sit on the front deck in the sunshine with a keg of the cider we made last fall, laughing and talking. Appropriately enough, we were joined by our fellow cider maker and good friend Clayton:

who had ridden his red motorcycle up from San Francisco to join us, across the Golden Gate Bridge, through the wine country and redwoods and beside the ocean. Over the ocean and through the woods to Rio’s house we go!

Rio had the door open so we could enjoy vinyl records played on her turntable inside the house. Some of the records had album covers designed by Rio’s father*, who was a quite celebrated album cover artist, designing for greats like Miles Davis and Billie Holiday.

We had lasagna for dinner, followed by chocolate ice cream with a warm cherry sauce made by my brother:

he also threw in a handful of M&Ms. Why not?

After dinner, we gathered around the Predicta:

to enjoy vintage television together. This evening’s entertainment had a beautiful blonde theme, starting off with an episode of “Bewitched”, starring the bewitchingly lovely Elizabeth Montgomery, followed by “Honey West”, with the equally lovely Anne Francis. Honey West featured an early cameo by Maureen McCormick, later and better known as Marcia Brady.

It was a delightful evening.

*Coincidentally, both of our fathers were named David.

A YEAR AGO: A road trip to Willits for us and one to Oregon for Rio and Jonathan.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spring planting in the garden.

85


Mom and her father

Today would have been my mother’s 85th birthday.

Sometimes I am surprised by how much time has gone by since we were orphaned. In some ways, it seems like it just happened, and in others that it was so long ago. With the unpredictable elasticity of grief, some anniversaries of births or deaths make you feel almost as bereft as you did when it first happened, and on others, you remember more happy memories. And it’s pretty much impossible to say why or know how you’ll feel until it happens.

My mother has not figured in these pages as much as my father. We did not always have the easiest relationship, and it is only now that I have begun to understand her better. She had a difficult life, there is no doubt about it. She was abandoned on the steps of an orphanage as a baby, my father left her, she married a man half her age who spent all her money and left her on welfare to fight a valiant battle against cancer. Hers was a long and terrible death, which she fought bravely to the end.

But she was also loved. Her parents adopted her when she was about three, picking her out at the orphanage like a puppy at the pound. We do not know anything about her birth parents, though there were rumors that her father was a doctor and her mother a patient. My mother didn’t care, though. Her parents told her that they chose her out of all the children in all the world, and other parents just have to take what they get.

Dad met Mom at a wedding and was charmed with her looks and joie de vivre. He was finishing his PhD in England and she lived in New York State. While he finished his degree, and when he took his round the world tour afterwards, he wrote her constantly, and I still have the wonderful love letters in their blue airmail envelopes, with drawings and photos and descriptions of the many wonders he had seen and how he missed her.

They definitely loved each other, though they were very different. Dad was scientific, Mom was artistic. She loved music, he was tone deaf. She was utterly American, he was English to the core. In retrospect, it’s probably not surprising that the marriage didn’t last, though like mine, it did last a long time.

I just wish Mom had found the happy ending Dad did. And I wish I could tell her that I love her and miss her. When I think of her, I think of her sparkling green eyes, beautiful, thick, golden-brown hair (which Megan inherited), her pleasure in beautiful things, from music to jewelry, her laugh. I think about sitting in bed with her – she was a night owl – watching “Saturday Night Live” back in the 1970s together. She was delighted by Devo’s avant garde version of “Satisfaction” on that show. I think of how she welcomed Gilbert, Dad’s graduate student from Tanzania, into our family for a few years when his family couldn’t get money out of the country to him. I think of her driving fast with music on loud in the car, the way I do now, the bracelets I now wear jingling on her wrist, shining in the sun.

She was strong. She was brave. She was unique. I am glad she was my mother.

The Arts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

86

Dad’s birthday dawned sunny and beautiful, but it was a sad one for me this year. Some years I am filled with how lucky I was to have such a wonderful father and friend, and other years it just makes me so sad he is gone. This was one of those years.

To make things worse, I ran over a dead deer on my way to work in the evil darkness that morning. I had no choice, since there was too much oncoming traffic for me to go around it by driving in the other lane of the two lane highway, and there was no shoulder of the road, either. I felt like a monster, since humans had already killed the poor creature and now I was desecrating its body.

I was relieved to notice that someone had removed the evidence of my callousness on my way home from work that day. I got changed and ready to go out again, since Megan and I had plans, but I was not feeling festive. I went out one door as she came in another, but we found each other and laughed. We jumped in her little red car and set off for the Village, passing the eternal Christmas tree where Dad’s bird ornament winked in the sun.

Unlike me, Megan was having a good Dad’s birthday. She had worked in the garden that day, honoring Dad’s legacy as an excellent gardener, restoring the sweetpeas we plant for him every year as well as fertilizing the fruit trees and caring for the lavender. And she was looking forward to our plans to celebrate Dad that evening.

The bookstore in the Village was having a sale, and that seemed like a perfect way to honor the man who read to us and gave us our love of reading. You can see the Great Catsby in his favorite spot:

Megan bought two instant pot cookbooks, even though she did not actually have an instant pot (she rectified this later by ordering one on her phone at my house, since she does not have internet at hers). I weirdly ended up getting deeply discounted but sparkly Christmas cards as well as some stocking stuffers. I got something for Erica’s stocking last month. I am unable to explain this extremely premature holiday shopping.

We then headed to the beautiful Ledford House, where the view was wonderful:

We toasted Dad with Red Queens, a divine concoction made of gin, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and cranberry, garnished with a sugar rim with hibiscus and dark chocolate:

and swapped some of our favorite Dad stories over dinner. I think he would have liked that, and also approved of our choices, both of us ordering according to his rule of getting something you would not (or could not) make at home. Megan had incredibly light gnocchi with Gorgonzola and walnuts:

and I had petrale sole with passionfruit beurre blanc, served with mashed potatoes and asparagus with infused herb oil:

It was a good way to celebrate our father, and by the time we headed back home, I just felt glad we had him in our lives. He will always be in our hearts. We love you, Dad.

A YEAR AGO: Not a great start to the day.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A date with my family.

Chilly

I missed the Polar Plunge last year since I was in Monterey, being dazzled by the amazing Aquarium and delighting in the sandy beaches and farmstands. So I made sure to be there this year.

It was a cold and windy day as Megan and I pulled up behind the ambulance. Our good friend Lu was standing next to the ambulance with her work partner. I had never met him before, so I’m pretty sure the enthusiastic hug he gave me was mostly due to the fact that I had just gotten out of Megan’s toasty car.

Lu usually works on the beautiful South Coast, but she fills in on the ambulance in the Big Town from time to time, and this was one of those times. She was in good company with the whole emergency team:

including some in wetsuits with jet skis waiting in case something untoward happened. Spoiler alert: it didn’t. But it’s always good to know that EMS is on hand and ready. There were so many emergency workers at Lu and Rik’s wedding that they outnumbered the potential patients. I had to laugh when I arrived that summer day last year, seeing all the EMS stickers on the guests’ cars.

Every year, my brother’s team comes up with a concept and a song to sing before leaping into the frigid waters. One year it was the Soggy Bottom Boys from “Oh Brother, Where Are Thou?” and another year it was dressing as rubber duckies while singing the Rubber Duckie song from Sesame Street. This year, it was Yellow Submarine:

I am amazed to report that Rio drew the submarine freehand on three different pieces of cardboard before coloring it in. This is probably a talent that comes in useful when you have four children and a growing collection of grandchildren. I think it looks great. Their singing the song was a hoot. Jonathan was a ham as usual. I love my brother.

He was coming down with a cold, which made his jumping into the freezing water inadvisable, but Rio had no such qualms as she bravely dashed into the chilly river’s embrace:

She even ducked her head under and swam a little. She is my hero. I didn’t even want to take my coat off, let alone my clothes! I held her towel as is our Polar Plunge tradition, and Megan and I both hugged her to help her dry off and warm up when she was back on soggy land.

Lu had never been to a Polar Plunge before, but she had so much fun that she will join us next year, whether she is on the ambulance or not. It’s nice to know all the money raised is going to support Special Olympics, right here on the Coast.

A YEAR AGO: The eccentricities of the local message boards.

FIVE YEARS AGO: I was sick, the house was a mess, and Rob was fixing things. You know, the usual.

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!

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.

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 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.