Archive for the 'Friends' Category

Sep 15 2023

Paul

Published by under Friends

I met up with my longtime friend Paul for lunch.

I realize we have known Paul a long time. I think I was in my 20s when we met. He was living on a boat in Pier 39, like my brother and sister. I stayed with him one winter many years ago (I was a bit shocked to see how long ago it was). He’s been a part of our lives for a long time.

You never know when he’s going to turn up, and you never know what he’s going to be up to, but you know he’s going to be up to something. He always has a scheme or a plan afoot. This time, it’s driving pilot cars for construction crews. This is based in Washington state and is supposed to start next spring or summer.

In the meantime, he’s heading to San Francisco for his uncle’s memorial service and to see his grandson, who is studying fashion there. After that, he’s going to Pasadena to see his daughter and will then start making his way back to Florida via various friends’ houses. Instead of a girl in every port, Paul has a friend in every port. I’m about 98% sure he has a friend in every state of the union.

He is very comfortable with being a nomad, more than anyone I know. After he and his wife split up, he didn’t have a place of his own for years. He just couch surfed through New York City, his hometown. And that was just fine with him. A realtor friend of his in Florida has a guest room where Paul stays when he’s in Florida. She sold his place for him, and they share expenses. Paul is on the road a lot and the realtor works a lot, so it works out well for both of them. Paul estimates he spends about $3,000 a year to have this pied-à-terre.

Paul’s 98 year dad is still going strong. He just renewed his Viagra prescription. The last time I saw him, he kept getting calls from women throughout our entire lunch. I guess some things never change.

A YEAR AGO: Moving on after the death of The Queen. Still so grateful for her lifetime of service and dignity.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Dental pain is the worst! I hope I can keep my resolution to stay the hell out of dental hell. Forever.

TEN YEARS AGO: Giving away Schatzi’s things after she left us.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A long-ago childhood memory.

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Aug 24 2023

Fun

Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends

Does it ever happen to you that you wake up one day and you just have to have your hair cut? It was fine the day before, but that day, your hair is suddenly unacceptable. Well, that happened to me. I texted Angelika, and she was able to fit me in that week. Yay!

I left work early and headed to her little studio in the big woods. It was definitely time to get my hair cut, since I had last had it done in March.

This time, I just had it cut. I’ll save up to get the color done soon. In the meantime, Angelika told me about her trip to Germany to see her parents, and I met her friend Marion, who was visiting from Germany. They have been friends since they were three! There’s nothing like really good, long-term friends. And there’s nothing like a good haircut to cheer a girl up. I will spare you my terrible selfie attempts this time. You will just have to take my word for it that my hair looks great.

*******

I left work early one Friday, went home and changed out of my faux adult armor, and Megan came by to pick me up. We headed to the Valley, enjoying the gorgeous scenery along the way: the ocean, the redwoods, the deep green of the vines over the rolling hills as harvest time approaches. We got a fabulous pizza at Offspring:

and headed back to the family estate, where we toasted the weekend with kir royales:

In the background, you can just about glimpse some of the sweet peas we grow for Dad every year.

Megan had somehow managed to find real creme de cassis from France, and the drinks were fabulous. We really enjoyed hanging out in the garden, enjoying our drinks in the sunshine and catching up. I am lucky to have a sister who is also my best friend.

A YEAR AGO: My annual peach pie.

TEN YEARS AGO: A recap of what was going on in and around my house.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Back in the City after a prolonged camping trip at my sister’s house to help take care of our dying mom.

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Aug 10 2023

Miscellaneous

Published by under Country Life,Friends,Technology,Work

We have a summer intern at work. One of her tasks was helping me to catch up on the filing that fell by the wayside during the Plague Years. She is a lovely and clever girl, who is going to nursing school this fall, and she did a great job. But I was surprised to discover that I was kind of uncomfortable having a helper.

All this time, I thought my slothful self would love having servants to do all the boring and icky things in life, but apparently not. I was embarrassed and self-conscious instead of relieved and carefree. Maybe it’s just as well that I will remain maid-free for the rest of my natural-born life (and presumably after, especially if there is an afterlife, and if it is, as I suspect it to be, like Dead Like Me and require that I still work for a living. Or a deading).

One day, a colleague stopped by my office while the intern was there, and in conversation, it turned out that the colleague and Intern’s mom had gone to high school together. They are both 42. Intern asked if I had also gone to high school with them.

Me: No, I’m a lot older than they are.

Her: How much older?

Me: I’m 61.

The intern looked shocked. She stared at me for a minute with her mouth open and then asked me if I was sure. I said that no one admits to being 61 unless they are. She stared at me a little longer and then asked very earnestly, “What do you wash your face with?”

***********

I think we all know that kitties are luxury items. Also that they have absolutely no problem having help/servants, and that they appreciate the benefits of a nap. One day, my kitties woke up from a nap and somehow managed to send my laptop crashing from the bedside table to the wooden floor below.

I heard the crash from downstairs, and on going upstairs to investigate, I was disheartened to learn that the edge of my MacBook screen was cracked and that some of the plastic had crumbled off, exposing some disturbing gold-toned metal and making about half an inch of the screen useless, since it was occupied with blurry, multi-colored lines. Being Me, I didn’t deal with it until the day that the entire screen was suddenly unusable, being as black as my soul.

A friend took it to Santa Rosa for me, and left it there to be repaired. I was surprised that it was fixed the next day and already shipped. I was a bit discouraged to learn that it was shipped to Memphis (home of Elvis and the Ancient Greeks), and still expected to arrive in the depths of Hooterville the following day. I’m guessing that my laptop didn’t bother to visit Graceland or confer with Aristotle, because it really did arrive the very next day. I love it when things work. Especially if they’re not Me.

A YEAR AGO: A lovely visit to the Valley.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Megan and Rob got ready to move.

TEN YEARS AGO: We lost our Schatzi. We still miss her.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Life without health insurance. It’s as glamorous as you’d think.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Camping out at Megan’s house during Mom’s battle against breast cancer.

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May 20 2023

Gone

Published by under Friends


Melanie

A friend I have had since we were both in our teens was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer about a month ago. The cancer spread to her bones and lymph system, and she deteriorated rapidly, much more rapidly than the doctors expected. The first week after her diagnosis, she was thinking of a trip to Greece. The second week, it was a road trip with her beloved son, and the third week, she could hardly walk up the stairs.

Melanie is a planner, so immediately after receiving her diagnosis and the doctors’ opinions that she had about three months to live, she swung into action, contacting her wide network of friends and family, settling her financial and business affairs, meeting with hospice workers and doctors about how to exit this life with dignity, and deciding where her ashes should rest.

On the day she chose, she gathered together her ex husband (the father of her twins), her ex boyfriend, her twins, and her much-loved dog, Piper. She had a glass of wine and a last cigarette, made final phone calls to friends who could not be there, and then the doctors asked if she was ready. She said, “I’ve had a good life. I’m ready,” and as they played Stairway to Heaven (she loved Led Zeppelin), Melanie left us and went on to her next adventure. It was swift and peaceful.

Melanie handled this situation with so much grace and dignity. It is both inspiring and humbling. She lived her life with integrity, courage, curiosity, and an unstoppable sense of adventure. Everything she did, she did with her whole heart. I will carry my friend and her memory in my heart.

A YEAR AGO: Some miscellaneous news.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sudden and tragic deaths. Is May the new Official Month of Death?

TEN YEARS AGO: A delightful dinner with friends.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Packing procrastination.

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May 04 2023

Kitten

Published by under Cats,Friends

My long-serving friend Richard K in San Francisco (not to be confused with my friend Richard S, who lives here in the boonies when he’s not out trotting the globe) recently acquired a kitten! So I get to enjoy her kitteny cuteness from a distance. Here is Richard and his new best friend:

Richard is a big hockey fan, both playing it and watching it, and he asked me for some hockey-related names for his new kitten. I came up with what I thought were two great ideas:

1. Lemieux (or Lemew – get it?), in honor of the great Canadian hockey player Mario Lemieux. Lemieux is also French for “the best”, which this kitten clearly is.

2. Rocket, for the legendary hockey player Maurice “Rocket” Richard. The kitten is known for rocketing around Richard’s apartment like Richard used to skate around the rink.

Bonus: both of these legends were born in Montreal, as was Richard.

Clever, non?

Richard seemed to find these ideas less brilliant than I did, since he settled on Harriet, which to me is not an obviously hockey-related name. But he says that the nickname for Harriet is Hattie and that’s close to hat trick, so there you have it. A kitten by any name is still as cute.

A YEAR AGO: A delightful day.

TEN YEARS AGO: The beautiful fine woodworking show.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Traveling to Florida.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Recovering from the groping incident.

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Apr 05 2023

Celebrate

Published by under Country Life,Friends

Just because it’s a Wednesday doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate.

My friend Alison finished working for good on what happened to be the ninth anniversary of the day I started working at the Clinic, so we decided to meet at our favorite local bar to celebrate these important milestones, along with belatedly toasting Alison’s birthday, which was the month before.

It was a beautiful day:

and it was lovely to be greeted by the bar’s owner and staff. To me, celebrating means champagne, or at least sparkling wine, so I ordered a kir royale:

and Alison and I toasted our futures, hers without work and mine still with it. I am really happy for her.

We caught up on our news and watched the whales go by. Our friend Flurry, the proprietor of the bar, restaurant, and inn down the road, came in, pulled up a stool next to us, ordered a tequila, and paid for our drinks. He called me “young lady”, which he always does, and which I always love (likes sales clerks and waitresses calling me “hon”). He said that he sold his establishment and that escrow closed today, and that was what he was celebrating. More to celebrate!

It was so nice to celebrate with my friends and hear their good news. On my way home, I stopped to admire the view:

It was a good day.

A YEAR AGO: Remembering my mother on her 90th birthday.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spring had sprung.

TEN YEARS AGO: A delightful breakfast in a delightful place. I really miss Queenie’s.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A less than fabulous day.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The challenges of public transport.

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Mar 09 2023

Updates

Published by under Cooking,Country Life,Friends

I was saddened to learn that the fabulous Queenie had hung up her apron for good, retiring from making the best breakfasts on the coast and closing her happy, friendly restaurant. I don’t think she ever really recovered from her physical and emotional injuries last year, and I hope that she can relax and enjoy her well-deserved retirement. I’m sad for all of us who enjoyed her cooking for so many years, but happy for the Queen that she can get some rest at last.

With Queenie’s closed, I have had to up my breakfast game, and I think I have risen to the challenge, with excellent Eggs Benedict:

and an equally delicious skillet, made with chorizo, onions, peppers, potatoes, and cheddar along with eggs:

Almost up to the Queen’s standards!

I took a Friday afternoon off and finally went to have my hair cut and highlighted. I was originally planning to have it done back in November, but when my car suddenly died and I was faced with the giant expense of getting a new to me car, I couldn’t afford to do both, so I canceled my appointment.

I think Angelika is psychic, because she texted me to ask if I had canceled because of financial reasons, adding that I could get my hair done now and pay for it later or in installments, or both, which is an incredibly generous offer, and not surprising, considering her kindness and shining soul. She has a mortgage and other expenses, so I didn’t think it was fair to her and decided to wait until I got my tax return, so I could allocate some funds toward my beautification.

In the meantime, Megan went to get her hair cut and very sweetly prepaid my hair color, so I only had to pay for the cut, which was so sweet of my sister. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that she did that, but I was, and also delighted.

I headed to Angelika’s place on a rainy day (is there any other kind?), and I wondered if I had ever been there when it was raining:

It was warm and cozy inside Angelika’s studio, and it was great to catch up with each other’s news. She is planning to visit her family in Germany in late May, and i can’t wait to hear all about it when she gets back. I thoroughly enjoyed her adventures the last time she was there. I am glad she still has her mom and dad.

I loved my hair! I am not skilled in the art of selfies, so you will have to remember that I am much cuter in real life, but I had to show you how fabulous my new haircut is:

I love the color, too. Maybe I always say/think this, but I think it’s my best hair ever.

A YEAR AGO: Snowflake soup.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Enjoying the ballet. I really miss it.

TEN YEARS AGO: Getting divorced is hard.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Nothing worked.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A series of incredibly delicious meals.

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Dec 31 2022

2022

Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends

It’s hard to think of 2022 as anything other than the year we lost The Queen. Three months after losing her calm, wise presence, it’s still hard to believe she is truly gone. She has been my Queen my whole life, and knowing her steady hand is no longer on the tiller makes me feel both unmoored and unnerved. It’s like living under a different sky.

I went to the City more this year (twice!) than I did in the last 10 years (once!). I think I’m done with it for the next little while, though I probably won’t wait for another decade to visit. It’s both familiar and strange at the same time.

I turned 60 this year, and Mom would have been 90. My blog turned 21. A lot of milestones this year. I found I was excited about turning 60. I feel like every day I wake up and I’m still breathing is a good one.

Books read: 110, more than last year’s 106. The most since 2017’s 111, and close to my personal best of 118 in 2010.

Here’s what happened in my world this year:

January: Happy New Year! Dodge lives up to his name. He is an Artful Dodger, indeed. Dental pain: not a good way to start the year. But a new baby is, especially when she is born on New Year’s Day. Especially when she’s Anna. In which we learn that Frank is a con man.

February: The Sex & the City reboot had its pluses and minuses. What should have been. Cheers to some unexpected nice weather! Getting my wisdom teeth out still had some glamor. And the whole thing went much better than I expected. Spending the night in style.

March: A delightful visit to the B. Bryan Preserve. The anniversary of losing our beloved Star. And our beloved father’s birthday. I will never stop missing either of them. Lilac time. And time to get a new computer, among other things.

April: My mom’s 90th birthday. First trip to the City in many years, to see a concert. Of course, I visited Swan’s while I was there. My blog turned 21. We both remain resolutely immature, and our grown-upness is quite faux. Don’t be fooled by the (somewhat alarming) numbers. A look around the family garden, and some updates on my beloved cats.

May: A super computer, after my old one became unusable. It’s how I roll. A guy actually tried to pick me up at the gas station, and Dodge hurt his paw. Happy birthday to Megan and me!

June: My second trip to the city in 6 week’s time. Making up for lost time! A look around the old neighborhood. The City was fun, but it was good to be home. It’s official: Jarrett and Kalli are engaged! Celebrating in style.

July: The Imperious Empress Audrey turned 15, outliving her mother Quince, who died just a few days before Audrey’s birthday. We estimate that Quince was about 9 months old when Audrey was born. Audrey is the only survivor of her litter, and has been for some time. Fleeing the usually beloved Circus. I hope next year’s performance is more fun and less painful. The delights of the Symphony. I got a beautiful new bed, put together with my family’s help.

August: Packing a lot of fun into one day. A delightful trip to the Valley. Marking 21 years since we lost Dad. I will never stop loving and missing him. My annual peach pie. Catfight! I am pleased to announce that Dodge was the winner, and also that there has not (to my knowledge) been an encore performance.

September: Uh oh. Car problems. In retrospect, I realize this was also the beginning of the end of Wednesday. The sudden and shocking loss of Her Majesty The Queen rocked my world and sent me into mourning for the rest of the year. But she would have wanted us to get on with it, and we did, working on wedding plans as a family. Tallying up the bridges I cross to get to work. Some early season rain.

October: Finally! Megan and I went to the County Fair. A visit to Point Arena, and a fabulous dinner at Gama. Another finally: we pressed cider together.

November: November came in like a lion. A lovely trip to the Valley. It’s beautiful at any time of year. The demise of my car was sudden and shocking. And Thanksgiving was modest.

December: Decorating for Christmas. Candlelit shopping was rained out for us, but we still found a way to have some fun. Finding new and unenjoyable ways to spend money. Christmas celebrations.

It’s a stormy end to the year. Trying not to think of it as an omen.

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Sep 15 2022

Plans

Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jonathan grilled up some burgers for us:

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

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

and the lanterns:

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

A YEAR AGO: Another happy family dinner.

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

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

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Spending some time in Devon.

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Aug 04 2022

Fun

Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: Acquiring a beautiful apple.

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

TEN YEARS AGO: A magical microclimate mystery tour.

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

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Jun 30 2022

Cheers

Published by under Country Life,Friends,Garden

When I last saw Angelika in May, we talked about getting together with Megan at Ledford House. It’s not easy to get our schedules to match, but one afternoon, the stars aligned, and we met up on the beautiful deck overlooking the ocean:

We had much to celebrate: Megan’s birthday, mine, and the successful purchase at last of the property where Angelika and Elijah live. Hurray! Elijah himself stopped by to say hello on the way home, so we could congratulate him, too. We had a wonderful time, and I hope we can do it again soon.

We headed over to Megan’s place, where I did some shopping in the family garden:

I got some arugula, raspberries (red and golden), and snap peas. I love shopping in the family garden.

After picking the produce, we settled in to watch the new Downton Abbey movie, and I am pleased to report that it was as good as the first one. As soon as I heard the opening notes of the theme music, I could feel myself relax.

All in all, it was a great day.

A YEAR AGO: Doing research can be fun.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A fabulous Junapalooza.

TEN YEARS AGO: Being subpoenaed is nerve-wracking.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Megan started her ER career.

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May 04 2022

Fun

Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Apr 30 2021

Amsterdam

Published by under Friends,Memories,Travel


Alice and me at her home in Amsterdam, 1991

I recently came across a box full of my travel diaries, including one with an account of a visit to my best friend, Alice, at her home in Amsterdam in 1991. It is shocking to think that this was 30 years ago. On the other hand, it’s delightful to know that we are still best friends and email each other pretty much every day. In fact, an email notification from her just flashed across my screen as I typed this.

So hop in the time machine and let’s go to Amsterdam, circa 1991!

March 22, 1991

I arrived at Gatwick at 11:10 and thought that I would have a lot of time to kill until the 12:15 boarding time [those were the days!], but by the time I had lined up for a boarding pass, passport control, and security, I had about 10 minutes to wait.

It was worthwhile getting a window seat, because I got to see a lot of England as we flew over – an impossible green divided by roads, hedges, and rivers – the Channel, and some of the Dutch coast and brilliantly blooming tulip fields. Met by Alice at the airport and we were so happy to see each other that we held hands all the way to the train station.

Alice and Claudie’s house is close to the central station in the old (that’s what the “O.Z.” stands for in their address) part of Amsterdam. It is also in the heart of the famous Red Light District, so I got a good view of the girls sitting in the windows.

The house’s foundation is from 1490, but the part where Alice and Claudie live is only from the 18th century. There are heavy wooden beams and many windows. Because of the height of the houses and the narrowness of the staircases, each house has a tall, wide window in front with a hook for a pulley, to lift furniture in and out of the house.

Alice and I went to the famous flower market and bought 40 beautiful tulips for about $9, lipstick pink at the ends and white near the stem. We went for dinner at a local bar and then drank and walked our way through downtown, a real walk on the wild side. We stayed up talking until 2 am. We are so very glad to see each other again!

March 23, 1991

Alice and I spent the day shopping and window shopping. We bought dinner ingredients and for the first time in our long friendship, we made dinner together. Alice was always so unapologetically undomestic when we were younger that it was odd to see her cook. [Now we are constantly exchanging recipes and she is an amazing cook and one of the top restaurant reviewers on London’s Zomato.] We made pasta with pesto and Thai beef salad.

Amsterdam is like a toy town, with narrow streets, sidewalks that are mere suggestions, tall, narrow buildings leaning at odd angles due to extreme age, canals everywhere.

March 24, 1991

Time to head back to London. At about 6:30, Alice suggested we check to see if my flight was on time. It was; I wasn’t. I was convinced for some reason that my flight was at 8:45 pm when it was actually at 7:45 pm. Panic!

We rushed to Central Station and caught the train for Schiphol [The name of the airport; it means “ship’s hold”. The airport is below sea level, at about the level of a sailing ship’s hold.]. Thankful for Dutch efficiency; imagine being in that situation in Italy!

So I did make my plane. I went through the “nothing to declare” line at Gatwick and was stopped. This guy looked through everything. He looked inside each blossom of my light up tulips, shredded a tampon, and noticed that my coat lining had been resewn (by Margaret [my stepmother], mending a tear in my coat before I left), asked where I stayed, how I met Alice, and examined my ticket. It was a really embarrassing experience and I actually felt guilty.

Margaret and Dad think it was because I was coming alone with just a carry on back from a weekend in the drug capital of Europe, but it was hard not to take it personally. I guess it’s all part of the experience.

A YEAR AGO: Weekend cooking.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Jessica became a teenager. It happens to the best of us. Still can’t believe she is now 18!

TEN YEARS AGO: An update on the kitties.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A little culinary showing off.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Sunday morning coffee on the roof deck of my building in San Francisco, overlooking the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Apr 16 2021

Brighter

Published by under Country Life,Friends

At our non-existent Christmas, Megan gave me a gift certificate to get my hair highlighted, and I finally got around to cashing it in.

It was a glorious spring day as Wednesday and I headed Angelika-ward. Lately, I seem to be enjoying spring more than usual, even though it means that summer and its attendant heat are on the way. The trees on the curves in Little River are sporting their new spring leaves, an almost achingly beautiful shade of transparent green they only have this time of year. I don’t know what these trees are, but I look forward to their showing off their spring finery every year. It’s our version of Fashion Week.

Cherry blossoms, camellias, daffodils and calla lilies are gone, replaced by bright flags of California poppies and the heady fragrance and exquisite blossoms of my favorite flowers, lilacs. The ocean was a deep, postcard blue, accented by lacy white caps as the water dashed eternally against the dark rocks of the shore. A raven’s dark wings glinted in the sun as he swooped over the Big River bridge, that mystical post where the river meets the sea.

Angelika greeted me with a hug, and we spent the next few hours with the door to her little salon:

open to her beautiful garden:

I brought Angelika a little succulent in a pink egg planter with a little silver bunny for Easter. It just looked so her. I am pleased to say she loved it, and it looked right at home right away:

Her neighbor’s dog Cookie came in for pets. She is white, but has the cutest light brown freckles on her ultra soft ears. It was fun to have her company while Angelika made my hair blonder and better. Maybe I always say this, but I think this was the best color ever. I always feel happier when my hair is brighter. And I always love spending time with Angelika. We have such great conversations, and being around her positive energy is healing to my soul. I will go back soon to get my hair cut.

I went on my way new and improved. My boss asked me to stop by work, and she admired my hair as soon as she saw me. She also gifted me with an adorable Easter basket. Haven’t I always said that grown ups should be the ones to get Easter baskets? It was so thoughtful of her. I am so lucky to have such an amazing boss and such good friends in my life.

A YEAR AGO: Enjoying the beauty around me.

FIVE YEARS AGO: And still more beauty, inside and out.

TEN YEARS AGO: The arrival of spring.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Even errands were more fun with the Lovely Rita by my side.

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Dec 31 2020

2020

Looking back on the year with 2020 vision…or 2020 hindsight.

I made a decision to keep this space free of politics and other unpleasantness. As usual, with any decision I have ever made, I am not sure I made the right one. I work at a medical clinic and could have written about what it was/is like to work in a medical clinic during a pandemic, but I don’t want to write about work and I am too frivolous for such serious topics. Also, I like keeping everything ugly at bay. This is my safe (and sparkly) space, for better or for worse, for shallower or shallower.

Despite enjoying escapist fare such as children’s books (the wonderful E.L. Konigsberg and E. Nesbit) and Agatha Christies, as well as re-reading classics like The Catcher in the Rye and the works of the divine Jane when there was no library access, the total of books read by the local library chairperson was a paltry 86, not much of an improvement over the embarrassing 82 recorded in 2019. I greatly enjoyed Elton John’s memoir, Peter Swanson’s Eight Perfect Murders, Ruth Ware’s One by One, Connie Schultz’s The Daughters of Erietown, and Alex North’s The Whisper Man. As usual, Stephen King with If It Bleeds and Michael Connelly with Fair Warning and The Law of Innocence did not disappoint.

In addition to comfort viewing (The Rockford Files and Columbo), there were some amazing TV shows brightening my screen on these dark days: City on a Hill, Succession, Escape at Dannemora, Russian Doll, Unbelievable, Perry Mason (the new one; not the classic, which is also wonderful, but very different), The Morning Show, Dead to Me, Dash & Lily, Ozark, Bad Blood, Little Fires Everywhere, Better Call Saul, Emily in Paris, and Get Shorty. If you haven’t seen any of these, check them out. You’ll thank me later.

Other than that, here’s all the news I saw fit to print:

January: A quiet beginning to the new year, with no hangover and no particular plans. My beautiful commute. It still amazes me and reveals new joys. A seemingly endless supply of meetings.

February: The gift of a new cell phone from my sister, who was tired of not being able to text me at home. It took three visits to the Verizon Store to sort of get my data transferred. The nightmare of the kitties. A long story which was entirely my fault, and you know how much I love that. The kitchen sink was full of sewage again, and the power was out. Good times. Sunny days outside and pretty inside. A lovely day. And a lovely dinner.

March: An update on my bosses, the cats. Ignoring the ignominious time change with a look around the family garden. Close encounters with wildlife. In my case, the hare (thankfully) won the race. Remembering my beloved father on his birthday. A night in town. Of tires and take-out. Michelin-starred, no less. the take-out, not the tires (though they could have been Michelins). I was shocked and saddened to hear of my former brother-in-law Mike’s death, but thankful it was a peaceful one at home. Rest in peace, dear Mike. You were a wonderful man and will always be loved and remembered with joy.

April: Michelin starred take-out 2.0. Is it conceited that I prefer my own cooking? Maybe the starriness doesn’t translate well to the take-out genre. Mom? Is that you? The tale of the grandfather clock, more than 250 years and counting (the hours and minutes). Beauty is all around me. My blog turned 19! The differences between my weekday and weekend routines. Adventures in cooking.

May: Welcoming spring. I really enjoyed spring this year. It was so beautiful. The beauty of the season was darkened by the sudden and shocking death of a dear and long-time friend. Randy, I will never forget you or your smile that lit up a room. Some reflections on Mother’s Day from someone who will never be one and who had a complicated relationship with her own. There may be a connection here. Celebrating Dodge’s fourth (or so) birthday. He is such a beautiful, affectionate little guy. Never a dull moment for Megan, at work in the ER. The month ended with the end of the Beautiful Harriet, Megan and Rob’s much-loved 19 year old cat, just two days after Megan’s birthday. Harriet (then called Olivia) made her first appearance on my blog in December, 2001. She was part of our family for a long time and will always be missed.

June: Things were flourishing in the family garden. Of haircuts and hardware stores. A happy birthday for me…and for my beloved Clyde, who turned 10. A nice addition to the bedroom. Remembering the unforgettable Ginger, our childhood dog.

July: Celebrating the Fourth of July and both sides of my heritage. Also Megan and Rob’s 29th anniversary. Here’s to the next 29! Things were shady over at the family estate. Adjusting to a Kindle. I’m still a paper book girl at heart. Rob’s beautiful garden art. A delightful breakfast at the delightful Queenie’s. Some kitty adventures.

August: Things were rocking and rolling in the family garden. I think I did a better job of using produce this year. An unexpected operation for Stella. I’m glad to report she is fine. A lot of sadness in a short period of time in our little town. Time to start cooking with all that produce. The Evil Eighteenth rolled around for the nineteenth time. I was angry this year. I will never get over losing Dad like that. A heatwave, and remembering past summers. Trying to cool down with some icy adult beverages beside the ocean. Hello, darkness, my old enemy.

September: Rearranging the kitchen after my microwave gave up the ghost, as my appliances tend to do. Audrey being Audrey. Rob: always there to make my life better. Happy birthday to my amazing brother, Jonathan. The horror of wildfires. Getting my MacBook fixed, with all the fun that entails. And getting Wednesday repaired. Attacking the Closet of Doom, with Rob’s help.

October: Rob was working hard on the Closet of Doom. It’s still a work in progress. Summer seemed to be endless. A delightful visit with a friend. I hope we can do that again soon. Yet another crown for our princess. My ex John adopted a pregnant stray cat. Meet Willow, Peach, and Daisy (I named Daisy)! Doing some project cooking.

November: A road trip to beautiful Anderson Valley. Problems with the heater. Megan started an exciting new side gig at prestigious Stanford University! An update on Willow and her kittens. Getting my third crown was about as fun as you’d expect. I hope it’s the last one, but fear it won’t be. What would I be like if I had a different name? Trying to find the right blanket was harder than you’d expect.

December: The Christmas tree went up a little early this year. And the kitchen sink needed a minor procedure. Some lights in the darkness. Best friends. Memories of Christmas past. A quiet Christmas.

Thank you for coming along with me on this journey for another year, or staying with me for another year. Here’s to a brighter New Year for all of us!

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Oct 15 2020

Visit

Published by under Friends,Weather

One good thing about seemingly endless summer – not, I hasten to add, the upcoming forecast* – and keep in mind, these are coastal temperatures, so add 15 degrees for my house:

– is that it does make it possible to sit outside, even with only two months of the year left and the current month being well past the autumn solstice. Trees are not bursting into color here, though the vines that escaped the fires are, and apples are ripe in the family orchard. That woodsmoke smell is more likely to be wildfires than keeping the home fires burning. We aren’t embracing the woolen wear and pumpkin spice that much of the country is. I personally am dreading yet another heat wave, with ominous threats of record-breaking heat. “Sweater weather” has a whole different meaning here.

But the unseasonable temperatures do mean that I could join my friend for a drink at her lovely little house. I hadn’t been there since she first moved in, so we were overdue for a visit. It is a charming home, probably built in the 1920s, with a sort of Craftsman cottage feel. It is likely all redwood, and old redwood at that, though much of it is painted, making everything lighter and brighter. The dining room still has the redwood paneling and built ins. There is an actual mud room, something that is common back east (like window screens and insulation), but not so common here in California. It makes sense to take off our muddy boots in the winter, especially when, as at my friend’s house, the washer and dryer are right there.

No boots or mud were to be seen that day. My friend M is an excellent hostess, bringing a tray of nibbles along with a bottle of chilled rosé out to her porch, where we spent a delightful couple of hours together. She lives in the Big Town, so there was the novelty of sidewalks, people walking down the street, and even street lights. Imagine!

On the way home. I stopped in at Luna Trattoria, where I was greeted by a very friendly young cat:

He was soft and even allowed me to pick him up after twining himself around my legs. He clearly lives nearby, since he looks quite healthy and well cared for.

I got some of their wonderful penne alla vodka to take home. I have tried unsuccessfully to reproduce it at home. I think part of this is due to the high quality, chunky pancetta and some of it because they make their own pasta. Sometimes it’s good to just stand back and let the experts take over.

All in all, it was a lovely evening, and one I hope to repeat soon.

*There seems to be as little accountability as a weather prognosticator as there is in the highest office in the land. When I was a kid, I thought the weather reporters ordered the weather, like food off a menu. “I’ll have some partly sunny skies with a side of early morning fog”. Maybe I was right about that, after all. And while I note that they are often incorrect when calling for rain, they are never, ever wrong when calling for excessive heat. Why is that?

A YEAR AGO: Adventures at the gas station. I’m sorry to say that the Bear is still around and making his/her presence known in a most unsanitary fashion.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spending an evening in town.

TEN YEARS AGO: The elusive Audrey.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: More songs about buildings and boobs.

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Jul 16 2020

Books

Published by under Friends,Technology

I tend to be technology resistant.

The polar opposite of the people who wait in line overnight for the latest iPhone, I tend to use things until they no longer work. I view software updates with suspicion, knowing that good rarely (if ever) comes of them. I used my old iPhone 5S until it no longer held a charge and exasperated my sister so much that she bought me a refurbished 7, along with screen protector and case. I am writing this on a MacBook Pro hailing from 2012, and the iPod I listen to during my daily commute is more than 10 years old:

I think it’s really cute, and I dread the day it gives up the iGhost and I have to buy a new one, since they are so hideous and giant now. It seems all you can get is the “Touch” ones. I just want the tiny, sparkly, jewel-like one I have, which only plays music and looks cute doing it. Is that too much to ask?

So you probably won’t be surprised that I didn’t embrace the Kindle’s appearance in my life. I named it Ethel, a nice, old-fashioned name for a 21st century device, and wasted no time in getting rid of the obnoxious and ubiquitous ads, which were not less annoying because they were in black and white.

Over time, I began to appreciate Ethel’s good qualities, like her lightness in my handbag so I could read at lunch time, and her lit screen so I could read in bed without the light on. A lot of the books I wanted from the library were not available in Ethel format, though.

One day this week, one of the receptionists at work called me to say someone had dropped something off for me. I was delighted by this mini mystery, especially since it arrived in a plain brown bag. Inside, I found two library books, including the excellent Eight Perfect Mysteries, delivered by the kind-hearted local librarian. Finally: a perk of being the library board president!

Just a couple of days later, My good friend Erin dropped off a couple of books for me which she had really enjoyed. Desk side book delivery, twice in one week! You have to love that.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A South Coast adventure.

TEN YEARS AGO: Knee surgery for my brave little sis.

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Jun 05 2020

Happy

Published by under Country Life,Friends

I gave myself a lovely gift for my birthday: a couple of days off. Really two and half, since I left early on my birthday eve to spend some time with Angelika.

It was a flawless late spring day, the kind of day when even someone as grumpy and jaded as Audrey* feels glad to be alive. The sky was the deep blue that you only see in California, the ocean looked tropical, and the sides of the road were alive with multicolored wildflowers and fluttering butterflies. It was a beautiful drive to Angelika’s place. The sign outside her little salon sums up Angelika’s philosophy:

It was blissful indeed to sit in her chair and catch up on each other’s news. I didn’t have enough cut off when I had the color done in March, so I decided to cut three inches off. Daring! It is still about an inch below my collarbone, but it feels much thicker and healthier. Angelika cut some long layers into my hair for movement. Megan got the good Mom hair** and I got the less glorious Dad hair.

While Angelika worked, she had the door to her salon open. It’s a converted pump house, just the right size for one sink and one chair and two friends. Through the door, we could see birds taking baths and getting refreshing sips of water in the fountain:

When I left, Angelika gave me a beautiful card, a succulent in a pretty pot, and a tube of conditioner to keep my hair pretty. She is such a wonderful friend!

There is no cell reception at Angelika’s house, so when I got to where there was reception, I pulled over to check my texts. I was expecting some time sensitive info about a work thing (which I got and took care of), but also had a text from Megan saying that Rob’s car had broken down at one of the hardware and lumber stores in town.
I suggested that I pick him up, and she was thrilled, since it was the only day that week she didn’t have to go town herself. I was really happy to finally do something for them; they do so much for me.

Arriving at the store, I failed to find Rob. I texted and called him with no result. I texted Megan and she suggested he might be at the car parts store. I headed there, but partway there, Megan texted me to say he was in the lumber part of the first store. I started back to Point A, but had reckoned without the weekly farmers’ market, blocking off the street I needed. Fortunately, I know secret alleys and byways, so I took that way, noting this unexpected piece of art along the way:

This time, I was successful in finding Rob. He showed me the defective part, which looked like some kind of hose contraption to my untutored eye. He had arranged with the store to leave his car there overnight. We went to order a new part, and it was set to arrive by 8:00 the following morning. We had a nice drive home together. I was so glad I could help him out. It was a great beginning to my birthday celebrations.

*My friend Patrisha is Staff to Audrey’s mother, Quince, and describes her in her rich Scots accent as “a huffy miss”. Though mother and daughter may be far apart in miles, they are close in age and temperament.
**Despite her many cancer treatments, Mom never lost all her hair. She just got regular person hair. When she died of breast cancer at the age of 73, she still had very little grey in her hair.

A YEAR AGO: I got internet for my birthday! The best birthday present ever!

FIVE YEARS AGO: A bad birthday.

TEN YEARS AGO: A really bad birthday, losing my beautiful cat June on my birthday night. I still miss her. She was so beautiful.

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May 06 2020

Randy

Published by under Friends,Memories

My happiness at seeing an email from Cammy, a friend of many years, quickly turned to sadness when I saw that she was alerting me to the untimely and unexpected death of a mutual friend, Randy. I literally gasped out loud when I read the news.

Randy wasn’t much older than I am, and we were just joking around together on Facebook a couple of weeks earlier about the unseasonable, and to Randy’s mind, unreasonable, snow he was still getting where he lived in Chicago. I have noticed over the years as my expertise in the field of death has unfortunately grown* that people always say, “But I just saw him” as if that made the fact of their being gone forever impossible. It does make it more surreal and unbelievable.

When I wished him happy birthday at the end of March, I had no idea it would be his last, and from what he said, it doesn’t sound like he did, either: “Thanks for the birthday wishes. The best present would be for all to be around for many more. Let’s hope this craziness passes quickly and we can all celebrate together.”

I learned from his wife that Randy had died within ten days of being diagnosed with mesothelioma. Like my former brother-in-law, Mike, it seems that Randy died quickly (and hopefully peacefully) of something that can be a lingering and horrible, suffocating end. His family was with him and I hope he slipped away easily and without fear.

For those of us left behind, it’s hard to imagine that we will never again see those blazing blue, twinkling blue eyes, ask him for advice, hear his infectious laugh, or get one of his comforting hugs. Randy loved his family with all of his heart, and in our friendship, there was something fatherly as well.

I am lucky to have known and loved him, and to have had Randy touch my life. He will always be in my heart and my memories.

*People always unhelpfully inform me that you have to expect increasing visits from the Reaper as time goes on, but a) I’m not that old, still in my 50s; and 2) This Reaper bullshit started with me when I was 15. I lost all my grandparents within one year, and both of my grandfathers within three weeks. I was barely 16 when they were gone.

A YEAR AGO: I may have missed the Derby (gasp), but I did make it to a fabulous BBQ at Rio’s place.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A new Royal Princess, a new ‘do, and the Derby – what more could a girl want?

TEN YEARS AGO: Dad’s amazing Honey-Mustard Chicken. Try it, you’ll like it!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Plumbing problems

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Mar 30 2020

Mike

Published by under Friends,Memories

I was shocked and saddened to receive an email from my ex-husband John saying that his brother Mike had died an hour earlier that day. He had pulmonary fibrosis and had not shared this news with John until last week, when they did a FaceTime call. Apparently, this is a family trait, since John’s Dad also kept from him that he had various ailments that John felt he should have known about.

Despite Mike’s terrible semi-secret illness, he died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family. I’m not sure how this happened, considering that deaths from that illness are generally gruesome, but am so thankful that this was the case. John said that Mike knew the house was paid off, so his wife of more than 40 years (they married at 18 and were grandparents before they were 40) would be OK, and that his three boys were all fine, so he had no fears or regrets.

And you may remember that John’s Dad dropped dead on his way to the car with his wife Marj, as they were going on a routine shopping trip, at the same time I was watching a lunar eclipse and a shooting star that I still think was his farewell to us. In both cases I am glad it was swift and they were not scared or in pain, and that they had their loved ones with them.

The last time I saw Mike was long ago, when John and I were still married and we had dinner at Mike and Charmaine’s house. We laughed a lot and had a great evening together. They were a very caring couple. During the bad ice storm in Ottawa back in the 1990s, they had power for some reason when their neighbors didn’t, and they had everyone at their house, eating and staying and keeping warm until their power came back on. That’s the kind of people they were.

Losing Mike hit John pretty hard, and I’m trying to be there for him as best I can. I am thankful that when John and I broke up, his family continued to care for me, and that John and I found our way – or perhaps are still finding our way – to be supportive and caring for each other. We have helped each other through a lot of things over the past few years and I am glad he is part of my life.

A YEAR AGO: A last supper with Erica and Jessica before they moved away, apparently forever.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A busy week before I started my new job. A lot has happened there in the past five years.

TEN YEARS AGO: A hell of a hailstorm!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Farewell to Florida!

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