Archive for the 'Friends' Category

Dec 31 2017

2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

January:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: A look back at 2016.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Reviewing 2012.

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Dec 30 2017

Heading Home

Published by under Family,Friends,Travel

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

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

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

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

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

Love the color and the stained glass.

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

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

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

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Dec 29 2017

Eureka

Published by under Friends,Travel


Home away from home

Hi! I’m coming to you from Eureka! Eureka is what I said when I finally got here, too.

I thought I was mentally prepared for the long and winding road that is Highway One, but as usual, I was wrong about that. By the time I had reached Westport, I felt like admitting defeat, turning around, and going back home to the kitties. But I pressed on, and when I finally emerged from the horrors of Highway One and its bipolar ups and downs and curves so crazy they are signposted at 15 miles an hour, I was crushed to discover that I had another 90 miles to go.

Sigh.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. All signs had pointed toward Things Going Wrong. Megan woke up sick the day before we were slated to go, so instead of her capably driving while I was the passenger, the way Nature intended, I was demoted to driver, with no company and an increasing paranoia about the ever present engine light and lack of cell service.

My friend Janice’s son-in-law had unexpected surgery, so her daughter Julie could not join us at dinner, and once again I was demoted to chauffeur in a strange land. As I headed out in the near zero visibility night time fog, it soon became clear that I too was sick, or getting there. Why not? I tried not to look at the kitties’ lovely parting gift to me as a bad omen:

I did my best to ignore my body’s rebellion and thoroughly enjoyed a European length dinner with my dear friend Janice at one of her favorite local restaurants over a bottle of local wine. We had a lot to catch up on. She had a very challenging year, though she met one disaster after another with grace and strength and her head held high (and of course, her hair and make-up done). It was wonderful to just be with her, listening to her deep, lilting Southern accent, her vivacious laugh, and her astonishing anecdotes. Her friendship is a wonderful gift.

As for today, I am pleased to announce that I am not driving. Jarrett is going to play tour guide today and show me around his town, and tonight we are having dinner with his girlfriend, the beautiful Kalli, at their favorite local restaurant. And I will think about the drive home tomorrow…tomorrow.

A YEAR AGO: A post Christmas celebration.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A winter wonderland.

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Dec 25 2017

Merry Happy

Published by under Family,Friends,Special Occasions


Christmas Jessica (with Jonathan in the background)

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

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

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

and set out the heirloom Wedgwood and silver:

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: A merry Christmas.

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Dec 13 2017

Candlelight

Another annual tradition this time of year is the Candlelight Shopping Night in the Village:

It looks so magical!

As we headed down the Ridge, we noticed Rob at the (closed) dump. Unlike most people, Rob finds going to the dump to be a two way experience. He not only drops things off, he also picks things up, which is why we call it “the mall”. Megan stopped to find out if he had fed the dogs, who were waiting patiently at home*.

It turned out that he was actually in the market for a jumpstart rather than projects to take home and fix, so Megan hooked him up and soon he was ready to head home and take care of the girls.

As we arrived at the Village, the sun was setting beautifully:

And the one bar in town was looking festive:

Nothing like seeing a glowing martini glass against a dark sky!

Outside the shops, candles flickered in mason jars:

And inside, all was merry and bright and everything was on sale. Megan picked up a couple of books for Jessica in the bookstore. She always knows just the right books to get Jessica, and it will be nice for her to have something to unwrap.

After shopping, we headed back to Ledford House, which is conveniently on the way home. It was long after sunset, when the view is the most spectacular, but it was cozy and charming, and we were warmly greeted as always by the wonderful bartender.

The special of the day was a seasonal cranberry margarita:

Which was delicious and about the size of a swimming pool. It was served with tiny spoons, like a grown-up slushie.

As we were enjoying our adult beverages, I was surprised by a hug from my friend Alison. It was the first time I had seen her since the wildfires. Her house survived, so she and her husband are renting it to a displaced neighbor and staying at their house in Hooterville for now. We made plans to catch up for a drink later this month.

As we left, we petted one of the resident kitties, the handsome black one seen here, and overheard a couple saying how they couldn’t believe how many stars there were and how bright they are. Megan and I smiled at each other and when we got in the car, we both said how lucky we are to live here. And we are.

*I got to Megan’s house before she did that evening. The dogs were thrilled to see me, and were climbing all over me with joy until they heard Megan’s car arrive. They jumped off me instantly and raced to the door. Auntie’s OK to kill time, but Mama’s the best!

A YEAR AGO: You have to love a day that starts at the beach and ends in the ancient redwoods.

FIVE YEARS AGO: An evening of seasonal song.

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Dec 09 2017

Miscellaneous

Published by under Car,Dogs,Friends

Wondering what’s been happening in SuzyWorld™?

Well, lots of nothing mostly.

The car thing is dragging on into its millionth year. There has been a certain amount of progress, however. The slowdown/lack of power thing has not reared its ugly head again after my brother reset the car’s computer brain (if only he could do that for his now younger sister’s brain!), and I learned that the slowdown thing is linked to the wrench light, not the engine light. Apparently the wrench light is to be feared much more than the engine light.

And the engine light is on again, or still. It seems to have something to do with air hoses or emissions or something not tragic. Jonathan and Rob are supposed to look at it again this weekend and order the necessary parts. I am still waiting for them to change the brake pads and do the oil change, since they want to do everything at once, which is understandable, but also slightly frustrating. In the meantime, Wednesday is still going and stopping, which is all I really require of a car.

The inspectors came out to inspect Mark’s trenching project about a week ago. He said he would fill it in and apply gravel so it’s not a mud bath around my house, but you may not be surprised to hear that nothing has happened. We are going on a year now, and I have to change shoes to take out the garbage or go to the compost pile, and then change them back again, which has gotten pretty old. Needless to say, the driveway is a potholed and puddled nightmare again. Or still…

I have been trying to spend time with my friends in an effort to through off the nebulous malaise, the worry about the car, and the impending doom of the holiday party and annual fundraiser at work. Jim and I met for drinks at Ledford House and enjoyed the sunset, which happens so fast this time of year, like a curtain dropping:

His parents have sold their house in Palm Springs and are moving into a smaller apartment, so he has been helping them go through their things and downsize. So many people I know have aging parents, and some have both aging parents and challenging teenagers, a difficult barbell to balance.

I saw Angelika both professionally and personally. She brightened up my hair one day and we met for lunch on another. She is so positive and inspiring! I am really glad we have expanded our relationship past the professional. Her friendship is a gift.

I met up with the owners of the dog I hit with the car last year – last year! – and we had lunch together. I am pleased to report that the dog is just fine, and you can hardly even see the scar, though it is sprinkled with white hairs, much in the way Clyde’s neck is from where the Slobber Monster tried to kill him a few years ago. It was great to spend some time together under better circumstances, and we have plans to walk my recovered victim in the Botanical Gardens.

And Erin and I finally found time to hang out together over a glass of wine at her lovely house. She got a “new” job a couple of months ago (when I turned down an offer for her old one, which I have had cause to regret from time to time ever since), and this was the first chance we had to catch up and talk about it. Erin’s Mom was there, too, the glamorous Carol. We had a wonderful time and we promised each other to meet up soon. There’s nothing like spending some time with friends to throw off the mysterious malaise.

A YEAR AGO: A day at the beach in beautiful Elk.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Stormy weather.

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Nov 03 2017

Boo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and this creative use of a garage basketball hoop:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sep 28 2017

Touring

Published by under Country Life,Friends

I put on my tour guide hat the next day and took our visitors to the Village.

The entire village is on the National Register of Historic Places, and appears like a dream, its white Victorian houses and distinctive church steeple spilling over the rocky headland which juts into the ocean like something out of a fairytale:

All power lines and other signs of modernity (other than cars) have been buried or banned, to allow for the illusion of a beautiful village untouched by time. As we went through the village, I gave them a little history lesson how this area was settled by those seeking the rich cargo of the sunken ship “Frolic”, but who found their riches in the redwoods instead, starting a lumber industry that flourished here for many years. Our local redwood rebuilt San Francisco after the Great Quake and Fire of 1906.

The village was built by settlers from New England and the Maritimes, which is why it shares the architectural style of those places and so often stands in for those places in television shows and movies, being much closer to Hollywood than the real thing. The Kelley House, which still has a commanding view in the center of town, was built to entice a young bride from Nova Scotia to brave the perilous journey around the Horn and live in this remote, newly settled place. It is still isolated now, and I can’t imagine how isolated it would have been when it was first settled in 1852, long before the Golden Gate Bridge, highways, and cars.

We took a walk along the edge of the headlands, watching the sea birds and the abalone divers. The Pacific was living up to its name that day, being calm and clear:

In the distance, we could see the winking of the Point Cabrillo Lighthouse’s great Fresnel lens, and that was our next stop:

Movie fans may recognize this as a location in the Jim Carrey movie “The Majestic”, which also filmed at the Skunk Train Depot and Big River Beach here. The path to the lighthouse is bordered by three houses for the head lighthouse keeper and two assistant keepers, who had to keep the oil lamp lit by hand night and day, always watching over the light to keep the ships at sea safe.

Two of the houses are vacation rentals, and the third is a museum, giving a glimpse into the lives of the keepers and their families. The houses are quite modest on the inside, though they have lovely redwood paneling. It seems that it would have been a tough life for both the keepers and their families, with lots of hard physical labor in a remote (though beautiful) area.

We headed back to the Village for lunch at Frankie’s, the place we favor for pre-theater dinners and any time ice cream. I snagged a table in the garden while Ben and Erica went inside and ordered. Of course I ran into my former boss at the jobette while waiting for them, since this is nothing if not a small town.

We enjoyed our lunch in the sunshine among the flowers, watching the people walk by. After lunch, I stopped in at the coffee shop to get a gift card for Rob’s birthday. He just wouldn’t be Rob if he didn’t have a cup of coffee in his hand, and it might as well be a good one. My fellow Rob fans will be happy to hear that he is taking another ceramics class, so there will be more wonderful creations coming our way.

Later in the afternoon, we headed to the family estate. Since it was Erica’s first visit, Jonathan took her and Ben on the grand tour. They are both engineers, and they were impressed by the solar panels and storage battery set up in the shipping container, and the fact that the entire place is off the grid, everything from the satellite internet to the body freezer running on sun power. Not to mention exempt from the perpetual winter power outages that plague his (now) younger sisters.

The bees were quiet that evening, but Jonathan explained how during the Worst Long Weekend Ever there were double rows of bees at the entrance to each hive, beating their wings to create a breeze to cool the colonies within. Bees are amazing.

Back at the Waltons-sized picnic table under the canopy left over from Rio’s daughter’s wedding (best leftover ever!), we had corn chips and salsa made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, Asian pears, cilantro, and jalapenos grown in the garden:

Dinner was chicken tacos, made in Megan’s magical instant pot and served with corn tortillas, garden salsa, guacamole made by Rio (one of her specialties), shredded cheese, and lettuce. We happily ate while hearing about the kids’ plans for the rest of their California visit, including Yosemite and Monterey, where I had such a lovely visit last year.

Dessert was pie made from wild huckleberries picked that day:

The next morning, I stopped by early to say goodbye to our visitors, who were heading to Yosemite with a stop in Oakland for a football game. I’m always sad to see Ben leave, but glad that he is already talking about coming back next year. I hope this becomes a tradition!

A YEAR AGO: Dinner and a play with Megan and Lu.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Oh, my Roscoe. I will never stop loving and missing him. He was extraordinary.

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Sep 24 2017

Evening

Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sep 20 2017

Fun Fair

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

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

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

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

Chicken on stilts? And this:

Some kind of pigeon? Note the feathered feet!

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

We apple tasted:

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

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

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

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

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

This was my favorite flower arrangement:

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

There was even water beneath the bridge!

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

A YEAR AGO: At the Fair, of course!

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

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Sep 12 2017

Near and Far

Published by under Country Life,Friends

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.

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Sep 01 2017

Delicious

Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends

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

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

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

Does he look happy, or what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Aug 24 2017

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.

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Aug 07 2017

Teen Time

Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: A bad omen?

FIVE YEARS AGO: A good day at the pool.

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Jul 26 2017

Summer Saturday

Published by under Family,Friends,Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jul 10 2017

A Bowl of Cherries

Published by under Family,Friends

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

just picked from our very own tree that very day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jul 06 2017

Sleepover

Published by under Friends,Jessica

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.

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Jul 02 2017

Jubilee


The One and Only

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

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

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

which is why she is so beautiful, of course.

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: The kitty report.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Brightening up.

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Jun 30 2017

Junapalooza III

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

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

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

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

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

Because you always need sprinkles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jun 21 2017

Get Together

Published by under Family,Friends,Work

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

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

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

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

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

The garden had sprouted a nice crop of tents:

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: The most amazing gift ever!

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

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