Evening

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fun Fair

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

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

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

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

Chicken on stilts? And this:

Some kind of pigeon? Note the feathered feet!

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

We apple tasted:

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

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

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

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

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

This was my favorite flower arrangement:

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

There was even water beneath the bridge!

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

A YEAR AGO: At the Fair, of course!

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

Near and Far

I met up with my former boss and a mutual friend at the bar of a historic oceanfront inn for a drink and to catch up on their traveling adventures. They had been as far away as New Zealand and Portugal, so it was nice to travel vicariously. No baggage fees or cramped seats for me!

The bar used to be the living room of the current innkeeper’s grandparents’ home, back in the days when there were no keys to any of the rooms and the inn had not yet expanded to its current size. The grandfather, Ole, eventually persuaded his wife to make the living room a bar, which has a spectacular view of the ocean and is a lovely place to perch at the bar with a glass of wine and watch the whales go by in season, which is why it is now called Ole’s Whale Watch Bar.

This isn’t whale watching season (that’s winter), but the current innkeeper was there with a hug and a smile. She is the fifth generation of her family to own and operate this historic inn. Now there are keys to all the rooms, a spa, restaurant, and golf course, but you can imagine that James Dean would still feel at home here, as he was during the filming of “East of Eden”.

He stayed at the inn during filming, and horrified Ole by wearing a t-shirt with no shirt over it, putting his boots up on the bar, and swearing. It was Dean’s first major film role, and the only one completed in his brief, bright lifetime, as well as the only one he ever saw in its entirety.

This time, our County stood in for Monterey rather than New England, as it usually does. Having been to Monterey again recently, I have to say that they do not look very much alike. But that’s Hollywood for you!

A YEAR AGO: A BBQ party at the property with Ben. We’re planning a repeat on Saturday!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Jobs of the present and the past.

Delicious

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

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

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

Does he look happy, or what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eyewitness

I’m sorry to report that high beams* season is already upon us, as the encroaching darkness starts its long slide into winter, when I will be driving in darkness both ways, instead of just one. Months without driving in darkness (two?) are as short as a Canadian summer and just as welcome.

In addition to the unwelcome return of my perennial enemy, we have been experiencing a true Fogust this year. This is fine with me, but it did make viewing of the eclipse of the century impossible. We should have seen about 80% in the Big Town, but all I saw was a darker shade of pale.

Jonathan and Rio, on the other hand, left the Wednesday before to road trip to a secret spot where there was totality. I mentioned this to my friend C, who is a professional photographer, and this was his reply:

I just hope they are not going to spend those 2 or 3 minutes just to make photos or videos only and not experience the event really. The next day there will be a zillion of that stuff available online anyway. Copy and paste.

My advice: be somewhere where you can see it coming, this is very important, you have to be high up, facing the right direction, have your high quality glasses, and filters for binoculars/telescopes etc. Lie on your back and enjoy.

Make sure just to enjoy the event I would say, unless you work for the National Geographic or so.

He would approve of their methods, I think. They headed out to a secret spot in Oregon on the Wednesday before the eclipse. Not surprisingly for someone who restored a 1958 Predicta and hooked up a DVD player to it, he figured out a way to send emails through his ham radio to keep us apprised of what was happening:

August 19

Another lovely day here in the Aldrich Mountains. By watching the sun during the critical times here at camp we determined that we can see the entire eclipse right here from camp.

We took a hike through the Cedar Grove Botanical Area and found (you guessed it!) a small grove of cedars amidst all the fir and pine. At the center of the grove is a brook with cold, clear water cascading over small rocks, with a baby cedar tree growing right in the middle. We will be returning to that idyllic spot tomorrow with a picnic lunch, our water filter, and bathing items and we still have our sweet little spot to ourselves.

August 20

Well, just another day in paradise here. We hiked back to the creek we found yesterday to bathe and have lunch along the way. Yikes was it fuhreeeeezing! But it sure felt great to clean up after four days on the rough. Such a perfect little stream, with cedars and ferns growing in it and all sort of other wildflowers. Sadly, most of them are long done for the year but must be quite a sight in spring.

We have selected a spot to watch from and will be heading out early in the AM. There were some clouds today that were worrisome but the weather report is still promising clear skies and the smoke has cleared up completely.

So wish us clear skies! I can’t wait for the moment we can take OFF our eclipse glasses and gaze up into the dark skies during daytime. They say it will be a little darker than a bright full moonlight night. We can’t wait!

August 21

Well, the long awaited day and time finally arrived. The day was clear and the spot we were in was perfect. It is a cliché, but words truly do fail me to describe totality. Up until over 80% coverage very little change could be seen. One was sort of asking oneself “is it really getting dimmer or am I imagining it?”. Even at 95% it seemed to still be pretty bright out and it was dimming very slowly.

Then suddenly, in a rush, it got dark. The stars came out, we could see Jupiter and the summer triangle. There was a 360 degree sunset all around us. Light seemed to rise up from the horizon un-refracted. Above this band of brightness was a band of sunset color, and above that the sky was deep blue and purple.

We were in the moon’s shadow, but with a view so wide that we could see beyond the darkness.And the corona around the moon was spectacular! We were with a small group of folks and we were all whooping and exclaiming and pointing things out to each other. Then, as suddenly as it had darkened, day returned.

Wowser, truly amazing and I must say that if you saw even a 98% eclipse you still haven’t seen one. I can understand why some chase them around the globe and am already thinking about 2024!

I am so glad they had such an amazing experience and got to share it together. I am looking forward to hearing about at our next family dinner – maybe on Saturday!

*High beams, which are of limited help in inky black country darkness, are a major disappointment in my adult life, along with painkillers, which do not, as the name suggests, actually kill the pain. Why am I surprised? Adult life itself has been a major disappointment. While it’s true there is no homework, when you’ve said that, you’ve said it all.

A YEAR AGO: Friends, camping, pie. And yes, early morning darkness.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sigh. You can see the white heart on my beloved Roscoe’s chest. I miss you, my little wild one.

Teen Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: A bad omen?

FIVE YEARS AGO: A good day at the pool.

Summer Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Sleepover

It was time at last for the (too) long deferred sleepover with Jessica!

In keeping with my usual principle of scruffy entertaining (it turns out I was ahead of my time on this one), preparations for our gala soirée consisted of buying fizzy, watermelon and raspberry flavored water and various munchies. I did sweep the floor and serve the fizzy H2O in champagne flutes, however.

My minimal hostessing efforts were rewarded with what might possibly be the best hostess gift ever:

It is an almost Alexander McQueen clutch. It looks so much more real than faux! I adore it. Erica said it was meant for me so she made it happen. Jessica said, “Why aren’t you rich?” Pause. “The universe must have hiccupped.”

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Our glamorous movie festival kicked off with Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette”. Jessica and I were enchanted with the clothes, hair, and sets. I can picture myself in that gold leaf bed, though the embroidered initials on my satin headboard would have to change:

Jessica immediately understood the modern music and the Converse and Vans being interspersed with the period slippers in the scene where the Queen and her ladies are trying on the latest fashions. Jessica also observed that Marie’s indulgence in fashion and gambling were her way of dealing with her fears over not producing an heir, her mother’s nagging about it, and her worry about her precarious position at court, and I have to agree with her.

Up next was the thoroughly politically incorrect and delightful “How to Marry a Millionaire”, which introduced a smitten Jessica to the many charms of the one and only Marilyn Monroe. Jessica is now a fan, pronouncing Marilyn to be “a really good actress – and so cute!” I always love a movie with a fashion show in it, and I have to admit that I kind of long for the days when you could wear fur coats and not feel guilty about it. Jessica said it would be fun to live in the past for a little while, only with modern amenities, like internet, and once again I agree with her on this point.

We wrapped up the night with “Auntie Mame”, starring the inimitable Rosalind Russell. No matter how depressed you might be, “Auntie Mame”, like “Legally Blonde”, will cheer you up. We had both seen it before, but it was more fun to see it together, reveling in the gorgeous sets (once again, I could just see myself in Mame’s elegant bedroom, which would really be the perfect setting for a sleepover with Jessica):

wonderful clothes, and delightful humor. I sighed over the devastatingly handsome Roger Smith, who played grown-up Patrick in the movie and was married to the stunning Ann-Margret for more than half a century in real life. The world got less beautiful when we lost him a couple of weeks ago.

Jessica slept on the couch under my grandmother’s ancient quilt, and the next day, we headed out to meet Erica about halfway between our mutual houses, at the Navarro Store.

It turns out that the Navarro Store is famed for their open flame BBQ grill and grillmaster, who Erica has, of course, known since he was seven years old. We placed our order and went inside to get drinks, which were not up to Erica’s high standards. Fortunately, she also knows the owner and was able to provide him with a shopping list.

We enjoyed lunch together under the trees, following it up with Mexican paletas for dessert, the perfect summer finish to any meal. Then we hugged goodbye and went our separate ways. I hope we can have another sleepover soon. I am already thinking of movies…

A YEAR AGO: A busy, happy week.

FIVE YEARS AGO: On my way to testify in front of the Grand Jury. I hope that never happens again.

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!

Birthday Week


Good mail day

So far, I’m favorably impressed with the lead up to my birthday this year.

I’ve enough bad birthdays lately ($400 vet bill; 12 hour work day followed by fire-induced traffic stoppage on the way home from said 12 hour work day; power outage) to really appreciate a good one. Or even a good prequel.

A couple of days ago, I picked up the mail and was delighted to find that I had paid off Wednesday 7 months early! Not only that, I had overpaid, so a cashier’s check was included along with the beautiful pink title document. Mine, all mine!

As if that weren’t enough, there was also a check for website work and two early birthday cards from dear friends, one alerting me that a gift was on its way. I have the best friends ever!

I am coming to you from my bed at the outrageous hour of 8:00 am, with sunshine valiantly fighting its way through the fog to peer in the skylight and both kitties curled up and sleeping cutely. Is there anything cozier looking than a sleeping cat?

While still in my kitty PJs, I look pretty good, because I stopped by Angelika’s little salon in the big woods:

on my way home from work yesterday. She cut a couple of inches off my hair while we chatted and caught up. Being around Angelika is always inspiring, and I think she is as good for my spirit as she is for my hair. She also gave me a gift (unopened as yet), and a friend observed that there probably aren’t too many people who get presents from their hairdressers. But there also aren’t too many people like Angelika.

I had picked up dinner from Mayan Fusion on my way out of town last night, so dinner was ready when I got home. I have taken today and Monday off, so let the long birthday weekend begin!

A YEAR AGO: Playing post office.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A wonderful trip to the City. Chinese food, a new handbag, and the Beach Boys! What’s not to love?

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.

Freedom Friday


A beautiful day on the coast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sob!

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.

Sisters and Friends

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


The stage is set

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

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


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

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

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

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

Serendipity

All in all, it was a pretty good day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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