Plans

The Queen would want us to get on with it, and I have, but I continue to mourn her and wear mourning. My thoughts are with her. I will take the day off on September 19 to watch Her Majesty’s funeral and grieve along with the many millions who loved and admired her.

Even when a Queen dies, life goes on, and even in the darkness, there are bright spots. Jarrett and Kalli, grieving their own loss of their beloved dog Archimedes, came to visit and so some wedding planning. Did I tell you? I’m getting a wedding for my birthday next year.

I arranged with one of my coworkers to rent tables and chairs for 50-60 people. We will use the chairs for the ceremony and then bring them back to Megan and Rob’s place, where the tables will be set up. We need to look into getting a tent and a dance floor. There are so many things to think of, even for a small wedding.

Jonathan brought a bowl of garden-grown, home-made salsa to inspire us:

Also a bottle of garden-grown, home-made raspberry wine:

It was surprisingly not at all sweet, though it smells like summer. Really delicious. It took 5 pounds of raspberries to make that one bottle. That’s a lot of picking. We toasted The Queen and our gratitude for her long reign.

Jonathan said he was experimenting with plum brandy this year, and had also acquired a cider press that did not require cutting up the apples. Yay!

Jonathan grilled up some burgers for us:

Some were turkey, and some were local, grass-fed beef from right here in Hooterville. Jonathan had repaired a neighbor’s machinery and was paid in local beef. Gotta love that.

As the evening went on, the twinkle lights came on:

and the lanterns:

It was a happy time for all of us, especially knowing we have more to look forward to.

A YEAR AGO: Another happy family dinner.

FIVE YEARS AGO: When you have cats, you are not in charge.

TEN YEARS AGO: The loss of two much-loved dogs. And some naughtiness from my cats.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Spending some time in Devon.

21


Dad and his beloved dog Jesse on Wimbledon Common

Today marks 21 years since Dad’s sudden death. Has my grief matured, at the ripe old age of 21? I would have to say no, much as I have not matured, at the ripe old age of 60. I still think of Dad every day, and I still miss him every day. While I am no longer throwing myself on the floor and howling or having strange experiences like not remembering what my name is when signing a check, or suddenly finding myself at Grace Cathedral with no memory of leaving my apartment, locking the door, and walking up Franklin Street and down California Street, I find I am very sad today.

I soon learned after Dad died that grief is not linear. I thought I would feel a little better each day, but it doesn’t work that way. At all. Some days, you feel OK, and the next day, you feel terrible. Just because today was an OK day doesn’t mean tomorrow will be, and this is also true of bad days. You have no control over this, and it’s scary. Some days you remember the happy memories, and some days you are really sad about your loss and the fact that your life will never be the same again. There’s before, and there’s after, and there’s no return to before or escape from after.

This year is a sad year, and I will just have to accept that and try to comfort myself with the knowledge that, much like in the picture above, Dad and Jesse are together and they always will be. Both of their ashes were scattered on Wimbledon Common, their favorite place to walk together. I like knowing they are keeping each other company. I hope they are watching over me, and I hope that Dad was wrong about their being no after life and that I can tell him so one day.

I love you, Dad. You are always loved, always missed. Thank you for being my best friend and confidant, and for always loving me, no matter what. I was lucky to have you in my life. I just wish we had you around a little longer.

Valley


Down in the Valley

Megan and I headed to the Valley on a beautiful summer weekend.

It was lovely to drive through the redwoods, with the sunlight flickering through the trees, and to emerge into the Valley, with the rolling hills covered with vineyards and deep pools of live oaks.

We went to the furthest point first, beautiful downtown Boonville:

We looked around the pretty shops. I loved a candle called Coastal Trail, lavender, geranium, lemongrass. It smelled amazing. I didn’t buy it, though, and of course, I regretted it on the way home. How could I forget the Suzy Rule that you only regret not buying things? I may have to make another excursion to Boonville…

We stopped in at the teeny patisserie, where I acquired some brownies, Canelés de Bordeaux, and a cone of orange-cardamom ice cream, which was fantastic. I love cardamom. Megan got an iced mocha, and we sat at a table outside and enjoyed the view and people watching along with our icy treats on a hot afternoon.

We headed back to Philo. I have wanted to try the cider tasting at Gowan’s, and so did Megan. It turned out this was the day to finally do it! It was delightful to try the cider under the very trees where the apples were grown:

We tried a flight of six or so, along with a bonus frozé made from the rosé cider. We decided to get a case and split it, six bottles each, and the cost of the tasting flight was refunded. What’s not to love?

We ended the happy day at our favorite seaside bar, with limoncello spritzers:

They are a lovely mix of limoncello, champagne, and a dash of lemon-lime soda. Summer in a glass!

A YEAR AGO: The quirks of my cats.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A loss. After all, August is the Official Month of Death.

TEN YEARS AGO: My 2,000th post.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Working for a living is just too much…work.

Fun

Have you been wondering how much fun one girl can pack into one summer Friday? Well, I’ll tell you: a lot.

My friend Richard picked me up in his fancy Tesla and chauffeured me to a lovely restaurant overlooking the river and harbor:

It was lovely to watch the boats come and go as we enjoyed our lunch and our conversation:

Richard is 77 years old, but he has not slowed down in the slightest. He is still working, but he lives to travel. Future plans include visits to Spain, Portugal, and South Africa. He is such a positive, life-affirming person.

And his car is so fancy. I can’t get over how quiet it is, not to mention delightful features like being able to set it to cool while we were still at the restaurant, to avoid having to get into an annoyingly hot car. Also, I love being chauffeured.

After work that day, I picked up a pizza from Cafe Beaujolais, discovering that you can get it half-baked to finish at home, and also some adult beverages. Megan and I had a craving for Appletinis, but alas, no apple schnapps were to be found, so we had to make do with vodka and raspberry lemonade, and a couple of cocktails at our favorite seaside bar:

We had the pizza with a side of Emily in Paris, which makes everything more delicious, and when it was time to go home, Rob drove me, so I was chauffeured for the second time in one day. Gotta love that.

A YEAR AGO: Acquiring a beautiful apple.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Finding a couple surprises on arriving home.

TEN YEARS AGO: A magical microclimate mystery tour.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A surprise visit from Jonathan and Jed the Wonder Dog. Note: Squat and Gobble is right where I left it 20 years ago. Still open after all these years! And Clayton still lives in/above the Garage Mahal.

Bed

‘Memba the bed I unwillingly bought from Wal-Mart all those years ago? You know, in the bad old days in bad old Oakhampton? It had been growing steadily more and more unreliable over the years, being cheaply made, despite not being particularly cheaply priced, and moving from my old house to my new(ish) one did not improve matters. Some bits and pieces did not survive the move, and lately, the bed tended to sort of fall apart, which tended to be disturbing for its many occupants, including Me.

As usual, I basically waited until it irretrievably broke down or no longer worked, much as I do with computers and phones. It is the Suzy Way. This time, I ordered the bed online. It arrived sooner than I expected, and of course it was unexpectedly rainy and muddy that day, and the box was slightly damaged. It took about all I had to drag it into the house, where it reposed in front of the ancient grandfather clock.

I called in the cavalry in the form of Megan and Rob, and left work early one day to meet them at Chez Suzy. I had already removed the mattress and box spring when they arrived, and the slats, and the zippered bags from under the bed. While Rob took the old bed apart, Megan and I opened up the box with the new one and took the pieces upstairs. Then we took the old bed pieces downstairs.

I knew that Rob was about the handiest person around, but I was surprised by how good Megan was at putting things together with the aid of pictograms and without the aid of her reading glasses. She put the drawers together while Rob worked on the bed frame. I sort of helped.

It didn’t take long before the bed frame and the drawers were ready:

We decided I no longer needed the box spring, and somehow Megan and Rob managed to get it down the stairs despite the beams and slanting ceiling, and set it outside. I’m going to need someone with a truck to drag the box spring and the old bed bits to the dump, but I’ll Scarlett O’Hara that for now.

The new bed looks beautiful:

It’s upholstered in beige linen. I love how clean the upholstery looks (and it is, after I spot cleaned the parts that got muddied in transit), and the drawers will be a huge improvement over the zippered bags under the bed. No more bed skirt to try and hide them! Hooray! I am also pleased to report that it is super comfortable and I am really happy with it.

I don’t know what I would do without my family. I hope I never find out.

A YEAR AGO: Extra fun in an extra-long weekend.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A happy summer Saturday.

TEN YEARS AGO: Filling in various holes, inside and out.

Engaged

You guys! Jarrett and Kalli are engaged!

While yes, they were already engaged, Jarrett had not yet given Kalli the ring. He spent a lot of time getting just the right ring, and he wanted to give it to her at the family estate, where they are planning to get married next year.

I wondered how he was going to surprise Kalli with the ring, and here’s how he did it. They decided to visit us from Eureka, where they live, to select just the right spot for the wedding. We knew it would be down where my siblings’ land partners, Dave and Jennifer, live, so we piled into the golf cart and headed down there, with Jarrett hiding the ring in his pocket.

Option A was what we call the Vista Viewpoint*, where there is a little fence and a slightly obstructed view over the redwoods towards the neighboring ridge. Option B was the place where Dave and Jennifer will eventually build their house. It has a sweeping view, flat land big enough for 50 or more chairs for wedding guests, and trees that create a natural altar for vow taking:

As soon as Kalli saw it, she said, “This is it! This is the place!”

She and Jarrett sealed their choice with a kiss, and then Jarrett got down on one knee and said:

“Kalli, I love you so much. You enrich my life, and every day that you’re with me, you inspire me to be a better man. I look so forward to living our lives together. Will you marry me?”

Kalli’s response: “Oh fuck yeah, I will! Get that ring on me!”

Here is the ring:

It’s a natural ruby, which is Kalli’s birthstone, adorned with champagne diamonds. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but the band looks like a twig. I’ve never seen anything quite like it, and it suits Kalli perfectly.

We celebrated with champagne and a family barbecue followed by a pie Jonathan made from home-grown raspberries:

As the sun began to set and the twinkle lights came on:

I looked around at all the happy, beloved faces around me, the dogs playing together and laughter in the air as we celebrated the past, present, and future together.

*Always reminds me of the Vista Cruiser in “That 70s Show”.

A YEAR AGO: A flat tire is never good.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A camping party.

TEN YEARS AGO: Touring some local artists’ studios.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Mammograms are never fun.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A visit to the County Fair.

Party


My Glorious Cake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: A milestone birthday for Megan.

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

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

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

Fun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garden

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

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

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

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

Strawberries are on the way:

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

admiring the blossoms on the trees:

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

April in Hooterville is pretty good, too.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some bad habits.

TEN YEARS AGO: The office cat at the jobette.

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

90


Mom

Today is my mother’s 90th birthday.

I think it’s still your birthday, even if you aren’t here to celebrate it. Looking back over these pages, I see that Mom was not here to see most of my entries about her birthday, since she died after a mere 73 years on the planet, after a long and courageous battle against breast cancer.

She was tough, and she was a survivor. Life dealt her a pretty rough hand from the get go. Her birth mother abandoned her on the orphanage steps as a newborn. She suffered from mental health issues her entire life and never got it under control. I think she had serious post-partum after my sister Megan was born. She spent the whole summer in bed, which at the time (I was 9 years old), I thought was what happened when you had a baby. Dad left her* after 25 or so years of marriage, and her second husband, a complete jerk who was about half her age, also left her after he spent all her money. She ended up on welfare, living in a trailer on my sister’s property.

I see a pattern of abandonment in her life which must have been really painful for her. I wonder if she had been born later if there would be better psych drugs and treatment available to her to make her life happier and healthier. Maybe she shouldn’t have had children or gotten married. Maybe she should have had more freedom in her life and her life choices.

We always had a complicated relationship. I don’t think she was that crazy about me, and I am OK with that. Like John always says, if you have one good parent, you’ll be OK. Now that I’m older, I understand that this was about her, not me. She always seemed kind of distant to me. If she was awake when we went to school, she was having black coffee and a cigarette. It was never suggested that she drive us to school or even to the school bus stop, a good half mile away, a long walk in the snow, when we would follow the path we had made the day before. Dad did the cooking, read to us, and took us grocery shopping and to the library on Saturdays. Mom was kind of a ghost in our house.

I wish she had experienced more joy in her life. I wish her death had not been so long and painful and terrible. I’m glad I took care of her at the end and did everything I could do for her. I do love her, and I do remember her smile, her love of music and appreciation for beauty. We share our green eyes. There are good memories, too.

Happy birthday, Mom. I wish you were here to celebrate with us.

*Fun, Jerry Springer style fact: he left my mother for my boyfriend’s mother. Extra credit: boyfriend’s mother is still alive and well at 90 years of age and we are good friends. We email each other often.

A YEAR AGO: My brother Jonathan’s road trip adventure.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Mom’s 85th birthday.

TEN YEARS AGO: Mom’s 80th birthday.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: I still hate the heat. Pretty sure I always will.

Remembering


Dad and Me

Dad’s birthday this year found me feeling sad. Some years, I remember all the happy times, and others, I feel sad or even angry at how long he’s been gone and how senseless his death was. Sometimes I think that he was spared the indignities of getting old and losing his intellectual abilities, which he prized so highly, or his physical abilities, and having to be vulnerable and helpless in front of others, whether they were us or paid help. That’s about the only positive thing I have been able to come up with in the nearly 21 years he has been gone, and it’s not much.

I soon learned after Dad died that most fathers were not like mine, and that most people were not close to their fathers. It made me feel even more alienated and alone in my grief, since nearly everyone I knew still had their fathers and most of them didn’t really want to hang out with them. Whereas for me, my trips to England to visit Dad were the high point of my life, and no one has ever known me or loved me like him. We knew all the worst things about each other and we loved each other anyway. That is a rare gift, and one I am grateful for when I am not mourning the loss of it. I don’t know if it’s worse to have it and lose it, or never have it at all.

I do know that I love my father as much now as when he was alive, and that I will miss him until I follow him into the darkness. I hope he’s wrong and he is there to greet me, reaching out to hug me on arrival, like he used to do at the airport.

A YEAR AGO: Dad’s 90th birthday.

TEN YEARS AGO: Dad’s 81st birthday.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Remembering Dad on his birthday.

Anniversary


Our Beloved Star

A year ago, we lost our shining Star. The photo above was one of the last ever taken of her, just four days before her death. Doesn’t she look beautiful, shiny, and healthy? She always looked beautiful on the outside, whatever was happening on the inside.

Her death was expected, but unexpected, sudden, but a process. We knew she had cancer (though we did not know exactly where, and we will never know), and we knew her days were numbered, but we were still surprised when the day came. Maybe that’s the nature of death and how we humans deal with it.

On the last night of her life, Star seemed a little tired, but she was as overjoyed to see me as ever, and walked me to my car with Megan, where I watched them in my side mirror until they were out of sight, and they watched me.

Star died in the garden around 1:00 in the afternoon on the next day. It was swift and merciful for her. I don’t think she knew what happened. She was lying peacefully on the grass and in the sun, in a place she loved, with Stella close by and Rob working near her. She felt safe and happy and I bet the sun felt good on her fur. Stella started barking, Rob took a look at Star, saw the blood coming from her mouth, and ran for Megan, who was sleeping after her third 12 hour night shift of the week. By the time they returned to the garden, Star was gone.

Losing her was the most significant event of 2021 for me. A year after losing her, I am still a little surprised by how huge a hole she has left in our lives. I never realized quite how much she meant to me until she was gone. I took her beauty and love and joy in seeing me for granted. She was part of the fabric of my life, woven into the heart of it. I regret not appreciating her meaning in my life more while she was still here. She was the heart of Megan and Rob’s household, and it will never be the same. I think we will always miss Star’s presence. I still look for her to come running up to me joyfully when I visit. We were lucky to have her as long as we did.

Thankfully, we still have Stella, with her adorable goofiness, and Stella is very happy with her companion Millie, the playmate she always dreamed of. Millie is still nervous around humans other than Megan and Rob, but she has no reticence at all about playing with Stella or climbing all over her or sleeping with her, all of which Stella loves. Stella was so sad without Star that it was utterly heart-breaking to see, so it’s wonderful to see her so happy with Millie. They are a very cute matched set:

It’s so sweet to see them together and see them so happy.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Weather was variable.

TEN YEARS AGO: Miscellaneous news.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Escape from New York was not easy.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A day in my life in San Francisco.

Soup

Our good friend Lu mentioned to Megan the other day that she was going to make “snowflake soup”. This delighted us both more than you would expect for such a simple phrase. It’s because it reminded us both of Dad, and also that Lu knew and loved Dad, too. She even wore his sweetpeas at her wedding, so he was there in a way.

Growing up in WWII London and living with rationed food from the age of 9 to the age of 23, Dad had a horror of wasting food, which he passed on to his children. It’s alive and well in us. One of his habits – and ours – was to use up vegetables and miscellaneous food in the refrigerator by making it into soup. Since the leftovers varied and two soups were ever the same, we called it “snowflake soup”. So it was fun to hear someone outside our family use that expression. As time goes by, I realize there are very few people left who remember my parents, so I really treasure it when I can share those memories.

As for me, I recently made an appropriately spring green, though non-snowflake, soup:

It’s chickpeas, spinach, shallots, garlic, and ginger whirled together with vegetable broth and garnished with a squeeze of fresh lime, a drizzle of curry oil, and a shower of fresh mint. Springtime in a bowl!

A YEAR AGO: The beginning of the end for our beloved Star. Her loss is a great one.

FIVE YEARS AGO: More news about cats and dogs.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A clean bill of health for our cats.

Cheers

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

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

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

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

and the lights began to twinkle on the deck:

It was a beautiful end to a beautiful day.

A YEAR AGO: Some thoughts on love.

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

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

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Farewell to the glamorous Princess Margaret.

2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: A look back at 2020.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Reviewing 2016.

TEN YEARS AGO: What happened in 2011.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The year of the dog.

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

Emily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: Christmas at the beach.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Happy Hannukah!

TEN YEARS AGO: Christmas aftermath.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Christmas nightmare.

Updates

Cooking:

I did follow my plan of making har gao, chive and pork dumplings, and lumpia Shanghai. They turned out amazing. These are the pork and chive dumplings (triangle) and har gao (little bundles):

Here are the lumpia Shanghai:

When I sent these pictures to A, she responded, “Totally impressed by your dim sum spread. Suzy’s Dim Sum Palace.” I love thinking of my house as Suzy’s Dim Sum Palace.

I have already had to order more of the tapioca flour and wheat starch so I can make them again. They were definitely a big success. The pork and chive dumplings are easier to shape than the har gao, and they are both delicious. Cooking win!

Crime:

I am pleased to announce that Redbeard has finally been caught! I am less pleased to announce that he was caught in the environs of the family estate, which is the first driveway after the “doughnut shop” referred to in the press. For fans of Krispy Kremes and Dunkin’ Donuts, don’t get too excited. Rather than a pastry emporium, the Doughnut Shop in Hooterville is actually a big pull out where kids do doughnuts in their cars. It’s also a favored place for miscreants to deposit their heavily-used RVs and furniture, instead of taking said objects to the dump*. So maybe it makes sense that he was caught at or near such a hotbed of local crime. I’m just glad that he was not caught on the family property itself, and that no one was hurt. I hope we can go back to our sleepy, low-to-no-crime existence again.

*Speaking of the dump, the guy who works there posts some hilarious stuff about his job there on Facebook. You’re welcome.

A YEAR AGO: Heater problems. Appliances hate me. I am pleased to announce that the heater is still working. So far.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A happy Halloween with Jessica. I miss those days, and I miss her.

TEN YEARS AGO: A country Saturday.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: City scenes.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: I have never been a fan of this twice yearly time change nonsense.

Stolen

Our little corner of the world, while not crime-free, is pretty close to it. At the old house, I used to leave the doors open when I went to work, and none of the doors had locks. My current house does have locks, but they are unused. We leave the keys in the car at home (though not in town). Generally, it’s not something I worry about day to day. So it was big news that there was someone breaking into empty vacation rentals around here* and stealing food, booze, and miscellaneous items.

The miscreant was identified, and generally referred to as the “Red-Bearded Burglar” or “Redbeard”. There were sightings and incidents from Elk (home of Queenie’s and the fabulous Eggs Benedict) to Albion (home of Self and entire family). Redbeard shot at law enforcement, and was caught on camera entering houses with a camera in one hand and a flashlight in the other. Although he started his one-man crime spree in May, and has been within sight (and shooting distance) of law enforcement, he remains uncaught.

Not long ago, my sister told me that someone had gone through all the mail in their mailbox, but had left it there. She suggested that I ask on the message boards if anyone else had experienced that problem. It appeared that no one had. A couple of people unhelpfully (and somewhat snottily) suggested that we get a post office box, which we have had for decades, but no one admitted to any malfeasance in their mailbox.

Soon after that, our brother noticed that there were odd arrangements of stones and twigs on the pathway that goes between the property driveway and the haul road, like crazy art installations.

And a little later after the discovery of the impromptu al fresco art exhibit, Redbeard hit.

He took cigarettes and candy from the cars, and canned and preserved food from our brother’s van, which Jonathan was readying for a road trip. He also took Jonathan’s silk long underwear, Smartwool socks, and nearly all of the pesto, chicken, and garlic butter from the body freezer in the carport where the mechanic’s pit and washer and dryer are.

So it seems that he started by digging through the mailbox, then presumably watched for a while, and then struck. It’s scary to think of him spying on my family, especially knowing that he is armed and has used a weapon against the sheriff’s office. It seems that he is very comfortable in the woods, and gets around on a bike. So I guess he had quite a feast in the woods with all our food. The pesto is irreplaceable at this time of year. No more until next year.

My siblings called the sheriff’s office, and they responded in force, an unusual sight:

This is probably half the law enforcement on the coast. They put up cameras, but didn’t catch him. So far, he has yet to return, and I hope he never does. I’m beginning to wonder if they will ever catch him. I would feel a lot better if he were behind bars.

*Of which there are many. There has been a debate raging on the local message boards lately about how there are so many vacation homes here but so few rentals available to locals.

A YEAR AGO: The weather said summer, even if the calendar said fall.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Road Trip!

TEN YEARS AGO: Celebrating my second anniversary in Hootervile with my sister and our beloved Schatzi. I miss her and Star so much.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The Lovely Rita was busy charming all and sundry. It was her superpower. I miss her, too. Side note: I notice all my past dogs are girls.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Missing my Sunday morning emails from Dad.

Dinner

We were overdue for a family dinner, so on a sunny Saturday afternoon, we assembled in Megan’s garden, where things were looking lovely and welcoming:

Rob is nearly finished staining the deck and installing a fancy handrail, so I’ll share photos with you when it’s done. It’s darker than they expected, but that just gives it a luxe, mahogany look. Next up before the rains start is to lay down some pea gravel to go between the deck and the garden gate, to cut down on the summer’s dust and the winter’s mud.

Millie has no problem getting in and out of the house using the deck, and it’s definitely a huge improvement over the old metal stairs.

Megan had acquired a box of pre-made watermelon-tinis and a bottle of Midori melon liqueur on the way home from her night shift. What with our opposite schedules, we both find ourselves buying booze in the early morning hours, me on my way to work and Megan on her way home. There does seem to be something semi-disgraceful about buying liquor at 6:30 am.

It didn’t seem all disgraceful at 6:30 pm, however, and we added some Midori to the previously pink ‘tinis, turning them into a strange sort of green. They were delicious no matter what they looked like, and it was nice to sit in the garden and sip our drinks and chatted.

Millie was still nervous, but not shaking. She stuck pretty close to Megan – like Star, she seems to be a mama’s girl – but, as I pointed out to Megan, Millie could easily have hidden, but she chose to stay with the people. She had open crates inside and out, and could have stayed on the bed or the sofa, which are the safe spots for her. She even sort of napped a bit, so I think she is adjusting. It was nice to have her there, and Stella is definitely happy to have another dog around the place.

Lately, I have been watching “The Streets of San Francisco”, and enjoying it very much. It’s really fun to see the City, which is basically the third co-star of the show, along with Karl Malden and Michael Douglas (four, if you count Michael Douglas’ hair). I told Rio that I saw her stepfather, Carl Betz, in an episode just the other day, and he was great in it. She said that it was one of his favorite roles and that he was really proud of his performance. She added that she had met Karl Malden and that he was a really nice guy, or as she put it, “a mensch and a half”. I was extra glad that I had sent him that fan letter years ago.

Megan made chicken tacos using her trusty Insta Pot for the filling, and I think it also used some salsa verde from the garden. With it, we had salsa made from mostly garden ingredients, and home-grown black beans. It was an easy and festive dinner.

As the sun left the stage to make way for its co-star, the moon, the solar lights on the shade palace winked into view:

These were left over from Megan and Rob’s 30th anniversary celebration this year, and they are a lovely addition to the garden. It was a delightful end to a delightful evening.

A YEAR AGO: Scary, scarily near-by fires.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farewell to our dear Ben.

TEN YEARS AGO: Planting the twin palms. I cried when I had to leave them behind when I moved.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A fun visit with Dad in London, circa 1991.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Aftermath.

Millie


Millie

Faithful readers may remember how depressed the usually irrepressible Stella was after Star’s sudden death back in March. She kept returning to the spot where Star died for days afterwards, and she lost her bounce.

The unbouncedness of Stella caused Megan and Rob to start looking for a companion for Stella long before they were really ready to do so. Stella’s sadness just added to the hole in the household left by Star. I have to admit that until she was gone, I didn’t realize that she was so very much the heart of their home.

It’s just as well that they started the search when they did, because it took a very long time to find the right dog and then to get through the lengthy adoption process. The winner was a 2 year old mini Stella named Millie. Millie was staying with a foster family in distant and sweltering Sacramento, so Rob, Megan, and Stella all made the trek to meet Millie in the 110 degree heat.

Despite the journey and the unreasonable weather, everyone decided that Millie was the perfect addition to the family. There were just a few (dozen) formalities and hoops to jump through, ranging from paperwork to insurance to home improvements, but finally the day arrived when Millie was to arrive at her new home. Mille’s chauffeur was supposed to inspect the premises and make sure they were up to standards before finalizing the adoption, so Megan made snacks, tidied up, and had fresh flowers and a sign ready to greet the new arrival:

However, the chauffeur made the mistake that people often do by underestimating the drive and relying on technology that does not work out here in what my stepmother used to call “the back of beyond”, where cellphones often don’t work and GPS sends you on strange routes that go everywhere except where you actually want to go.

They were supposed to arrive at 4:00, but at 7:30 they had not arrived. They finally contacted Megan from Navarro, and she met them at the Hooterville store after dark. So much for the grand tour of the property, the garden, the snacks, and everything else.

But Millie had arrived!

Millie was/is a super shy dog, and so far, Stella’s dreams of playing with her have gone unfulfilled, at least for now. But they both sleep in the bed, and if Millie isn’t ready to play with Stella yet, she is happy to lounge on her new sister:

Millie is adjusting to her new life. She enjoys the dog beds in the garden and is beginning to explore a little. I really think she has made a lot of progress in the short time they have had her. Stella’s calm and affectionate nature made Star feel much happier and safer, and I think she will have the same effect on Millie.

Welcome to the family, Millie!

A YEAR AGO: Audrey: 1. Suzy: 0.

FIVE YEARS AGO At the circus with our beloved ben. Guess what? Ben is set to become a father around Christmas!

TEN YEARS AGO A midnight call.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Newsflash: detox is not fun! Bet you’re surprised.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The Rufus Report.