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.

Grilled

My (now older) brother’s birthday fell during the Worst Long Weekend Ever. His birthday, near or on Labor Day, (allegedly) ends the summer, and my sister’s, on or near Memorial Day, starts it, their birthdays bracketing the tourist season.

It was still about a zillion degrees as I headed to the family estate, driving really slowly so I could bask in Wednesday’s blasting air conditioning during the quarter mile drive. The canopies were up, but they were no match for the Evil Death Star. I packed my county fair straw hat with ice and put it on my head, but really, nothing could help.

As I write, it’s foggy but still not cool. Like 100+ degree temperatures, I have never experienced this before. I may have been scarred for life. I am still obsessively checking the weather forecast and am appalled to see that they are calling for highs of 76 on Sunday, which is probably code for 96. Why does it always have to be hot as hell on the weekends? And when is this heat going to go back to hell, where it belongs?

As for the party, it was well-attended, with its many guests spanning several generations. Even though it was his birthday, my brother still manned the grill, turning out turkey burgers, hamburgers, and sausages to go with garden salad:

Jessica and I took our plates to a shady spot, where we were joined by Scout, Jonathan’s mini cat:

You can gauge something of her diminutive size by comparing her to the folded napkin beside her. Here you see Jessica feeding Scout hamburger morsels, which may have had something to do with the world’s most skittish cat hanging out with us:

I also convinced Jessica to pose for a picture, wearing my ice-less hat:

I’m sure these days are rapidly coming to an end since she is 14, so we will have to enjoy them while we can.

While Jessica was visiting over the weekend, we hid in the relative cool of Megan’s house (it is so shaded by trees that it is always cool; nice during a heatwave, not so nice in the winter) and had a mini 80s movie festival, watching “Working Girl” and “Desperately Seeking Susan”. Jessica found the 80s fashions hilarious, though she loved Madonna’s style in “Susan” and pronounced her “super pretty”. I agree – that is my favorite era of Madonna’s looks. Jessica coveted the pyramid jacket while I still covet the skull hatbox/suitcase and the glittery boots. And we all sighed over Harrison Ford and Aidan Quinn.

All in all, it was a fun evening. Now if the weather would start behaving itself…

A YEAR AGO: At the circus.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The jobette moved uptown, among other things.

Sleepover

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t have put it better myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: A busy, happy week.

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

Megan’s Birthday

If it’s Memorial Day weekend (and it is), I must be back at the jobette and it must be Megan’s birthday.

I started working Saturdays again yesterday. The many people who have worked there since I (more or less) left have changed things around a lot, so it looks very different while still being familiar. My old desk has been relocated to what used to be the conference room, so I sat at a different one so the visitors could find me. It was really nice to talk to them and hear how magical they find it here.

I did not find the holiday traffic magical, however. The sides of the highway were a parking lot and zombie-like abalone divers were meandering across the road in droves. Fortunately for them we were driving around 40 mph. I could drive faster on the Ridge than I could on the highway for the most part. I have never ever seen Van Damme beach so packed with cars.

Stopping at the Gro on my way home, I ran into Dave and Jennifer, my siblings’ land partners. Dave was going fishing and Jennifer was dropping him off. It’s been a while since I’ve seen them due to their having family situations to deal with, so it was great to catch up and part ways with a hug and a kiss.

Arriving at the property, the birthday girl took me for a tour of the garden. Peas, onions, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, and tomatillos are flourishing. As for the orchard, I’m sorry to say that the late rains, besides depressing the pants off us and flooding everything, knocked off a lot of the apple blossoms, so it’s not looking like a great apple year.

On the other hand, the peaches are peaching nicely:

and the pears are on their way:

The strawberries have both flowers and fruit on them:

The netting is almost done over the cherry tree. It is in the corner since cherry trees do not play well with others. It too has fruit appearing on it. The elaborate netting dome is to let the birds know it’s not an all you can eat buffet:

Also flourishing is Jessica, whose hat was made just for her by her ever-creative mother:

She was very nice about letting her aged auntie take her picture, especially after I told her how fun it is to look back to posts when she was just a little kid. We are plotting sleepovers and movies for the summer. Under consideration are “Auntie Mame”, “Desk Set”, and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”. I’m also thinking “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “Practical Magic”.

I forgot to take a picture of the amazing dessert Erica made. It was a napoleon with puff pastry made from scratch, strawberries, and home-made caramel drizzle. It was outstanding. It vanished too quickly for me to get a photo, though. We all sang happy birthday despite the lack of candles.

At the end of the evening, Jessica asked to “escort fair Suzy to her car” and took my arm. I do love this tradition. She enhanced the experience by curtseying at the end of it. I sure love that kid. And my family and family of friends.

A YEAR AGO: My, what an industrious day I had!

FIVE YEARS AGO: I was heading to San Francisco, and Rob was coming home after losing his Mother.

Jessica’s Birthday


Birthday Girl

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

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

Erica and Jessica turned up in a fancy new car:


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


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

Of course Erica had made a spectacular cake:

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

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

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

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

And I sure love that kidlet.

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

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

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

Serendipity

All in all, it was a pretty good day.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Is Halloween

It was a dark and stormy Halloween, but we did not let that deter us from the determined hunt for candy.

Jessica was dressed as Hel, the Norse goddess of the dishonorable dead:

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Apparently the Norse afterlife is extremely complicated, with miscellaneous gods and goddesses in charge of various afterworlds. Jessica’s make-up, created by her ever-crafty mother, was suitably complex:

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It was made of latex and items from Erica’s toolbox of make-up. Pretty impressive!

Our first stop on our All Hallows Mystery Tour was the Village. Jessica really wanted to go there, even though Megan expressed her doubts that much would be happening there, given the inclement weather, our late start, and light population of potential candy dispensers, but Jessica’s childhood nostalgia won out.

As Megan had predicted, there were few houses with occupants willing to give out treats, even those with lights on which turned out to be duds. After my umbrella turned inside out and my lower half got soaked, I repaired to the car to wait it out, leaving the braver souls to battle the elements. I later learned that Megan had predicted my ignominious retreat to Erica. When I said that she knows me well, she responded that she has been managing me for 45 years.

Eventually, even the intrepid duo admitted defeat, and we made our way damply to the Big Town, where we hit the candy jackpot. Look at this haul:

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We also hit the decorating jackpot. Many of the houses had gone all out, with little graveyards, eyes blinking from the bushes, as well as more traditional themes. I loved these happy pumpkins:

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And this walkway:

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It seems Martha Stewart may have a little pied-à-terre here:

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As always, I was amused at Jessica’s authoritative police style knock. It consists of five or six firm raps, often with a crescendo. I’m sure the people on the other side of the door wonder what they have done and expect someone to roar, “Open up! Police!”, only to find a svelte young girl standing daintily on their doorstep. The Police Knock is rendered even more delightful by the courtesy chaser. Once Jessica has successfully scored her swag, she thanks the donor warmly and wishes him or her a happy Halloween in a cheerful chirp.

When we could barely carry Jessica’s giant bag of candy, we made our way to the Haunted Hall of Horrors. After a long wait in the rain, we were welcomed by the infamous Madame LaLaurie*, since the theme was haunted New Orleans. The sets were just magnificent. Two of my coworkers were actors in the show, and they told me that they spend 6 weeks preparing the sets.

We wended our way through various rooms, encountering voodoo priestess Madame Laveau, going through bayous with moving bridges (where I was squirted with water by a swamp monster), through disorienting strobe lights, and a cemetery with ghouls rising from coffins. Jessica and I ran out of the door squealing, only to be greeted by someone with a chainsaw who chased us down the alley. Just when you think you’re safe…

Megan had again correctly predicted that I would scream within five minutes of going in, and I later learned that while Jessica and I were running and squeaking, Megan was calmly walking through it, observing everything with a detached eye. I guess it’s not surprising that the person who is unafraid of real life blood and guts and having actual brains in her hair is unperturbed by fake gore.

It was a great Halloween. I hope this is the beginning of a new tradition!

*Played by none other than Cinderella Wallace from our cemetery tour. She is a friend of one of my coworkers, so I was able to tell her how much we enjoyed both of her performances.

A YEAR AGO: A foggy Halloween without Jessica. Halloween is much better with Jessica!

Jess at Thirteen

jess13
Birthday Girl

You guys! Jessica is a teenager!

Of course you know that Jessica’s birthday is every April 15, but this one was particularly momentous, since she turned 13. We were able to celebrate on her actual birthday, since it was conveniently located on a Friday. Above is the birthday girl, wearing a hat her mother made.

We all convened over at the family estate for the birthday party, which was also the first party there this year. Jessica and I perched on a hay bale while she showed me her sketchbook, full of wonderful drawings and ideas. She opined that my name did not suit me, being “far too practical”. She thought I was more of a Fleur than a Susan, and I have to agree. Sorry, Mom and Dad, but I have always felt that I deserved a more glamorous name.

We unintentionally ended up with something of a theme birthday. Jessica is into manga and anime these days, including one called Totoro. Erica made a fantastic Totoro themed cake:

totorocake

which was deep, dark chocolate and somehow managed to be both rich and light. The filling was dulce de leche and the frosting was buttercream. The characters on the cake are Totoro (you may remember Jessica wearing her Totoro fleece PJs at Christmas a couple of years ago) and soot sprites, with rainbow sprinkles, since that is apparently what soot sprites eat.

jesstotoro

Megan ordered a wonderful t-shirt for Jessica, which hadn’t arrived on time, so we gave her a picture of it:

tororo shirt

I’m pleased to say that she was wearing the “Four More Pages” shirt that I had made for her last Christmas. I gave her three pairs of socks from Pippi’s: math themed; Alice in Wonderland; and Japanese looking cherry blossoms:

socks

She seemed very pleased with both the socks and the shirt to be. There was squealing involved. 🙂

Dinner was pulled pork made by Jonathan, grill bread with spiced dipping oil made by Megan, and mayonnaise-free* coleslaw made by Erica, all at the birthday girl’s request. We perched at the Waltons-sized picnic table and enjoyed eating and talking together, telling stories of when Jessica was a little kid, which seemed to amuse her more than embarrass her. I’m happy that she still wants to spend her birthday with us. Every year, I think it will be the last one. Maybe it never will be.

Happy birthday, kidlet. We love you.

*Because my sibs hate it. This was the basis of Erica’s best prank ever a couple of years ago.

A YEAR AGO: Farewell to a gentle giant.

2015

It was a year of change for me. Maybe too much in too short a time. I lost my job at the end of 2014 and jumped into the hell job in February, jumping ship for a less hellish job in March, and interviewing for a job I was lucky not to get in late summer. I have interviewed more over the past year than in the previous 20 years. I still kept up with the jobette, though, working Saturdays over the summer. Working six days a week was an interesting experience, and taught me a lot about time management.

The year ended on a tragic note, with the staggering loss of my beloved Roscoe. I can’t believe I will never see him again, hear his mournful meow, pet his rough, yet soft fur or his rakish torn ear. His loss leaves a hole in my heart and home which will never be filled.

Trips to San Francisco: 0! For the first time since moving to Hooterville, not one single trip to civilization. That’s what happens when you lose the job that paid for the trips.

Season rainfall (late 2014 through May 2015): 40.43 inches. Better than 2014’s 32.75 inches, but not enough to make a dent in the drought. Let’s hope the El Niño forecast for the 2015-16 winter is accurate, though not too floody.

Power Outages: Three, but they were epic, each time.

All that working made the merest dent in my reading, though, coming in at a count of 93 versus 2014’s 100. Favorite books read this year were all true stories. What Stands in a Storm was both inspiring and harrowing. It follows the lives of several Alabamans during a “superstorm” in 2011. I was so caught up in the lives and experiences of those who survived and those who didn’t that I was reading it with tears pouring down my face and my hands shaking. The Residence tells the fascinating story of the White House servants from the Kennedys to the Obamas. Many of the staff continue to serve the First Families well into their 70s and 80s, and become almost part of the family. Life After Murder follows the lives of men who were paroled after serving long prison sentences, the joys and challenges of adapting to life outside prison walls after decades inside. I learned a lot about California’s alarmingly arbitrary parole system, as well as human nature.

As for my little corner of the world:

January: My New Year’s clean up unearthed some treasures. A great celebration of Jarrett’s birthday. The Covered California madness continues. The many joys of Erica and Jessica. And visiting the dynamic duo in their Batcave/Palace.

February: A dream sparks a childhood memory. It’s nice to meander down memory lane sometimes. Stormageddon blasts into town, taking the power with it. And the weather just keeps getting scarier. I say farewell to my dear co-workers at the jobette. ~Sob~ The beginning of my new job. I love my handyman and my pen pal.

March: It’s Erin to the rescue when a propane leak stops me from getting home after a long day at work. I have such great friends! Why go jump in a lake when you can jump in an icy cold river? For charity? My brother is always my hero. And I have the best ex-husband ever. I also have a new job. Again. Remembering my father and best friend on his birthday. He was the best Dad ever. And speaking of family: it’s always fun to meet more! A trip to the South Coast to revel in a theater production all the way from London. And some spring cleaning at home.

April: A peek at the past, starring Me. In which my veins are found wanting. An evening at the theater. Learning about Hooterville’s past. My blog’s 14th birthday, and a very memorable 12th birthday for a very memorable girl. Saying goodbye
to Lu’s dog Marco, a gentle giant and a gentleman. Sleep well, sweet boy.

May: The Derby and a new ‘do – what’s not to love? It’s official! Stella joins the family. Trying to adjust to my new lot in life. More successfully on some days than others. A lovely evening at the theater. Megan’s wonderful birthday barbecue.

June: The extremeness of Audrey knows no bounds. She really is the Audreyest Audrey ever, from stripy head to expensive toe. A less than stellar birthday for our heroine this year. This was entirely made up for by the utter awesomeness of Junapalooza. Midnight adventures. Remembering a long ago Paris vacation. Megan and I take a day off together.

July: The midnight intruder left quite an impression. A wonderful time at the circus. Erica’s cleverness and creativity know no bounds. The unexpected leads to some unexpected road incidents. Dinner and a movie. The wonderful Kalli’s wonderful annual birthday party. Working six days a week presents some challenges. The retro balcony garden.

August: Fierce wildfires burn in neighboring Lake County, which was brutally hit again a month later by the even worse Valley Fire, whose burn scars could be seen from space. The fourteenth anniversary of Dad’s death. I will never stop missing and loving him. As time passes, I find I think more about how lucky I was to have him than how sad I am at losing him, though the sorrow is always there in my heart and my blood, like the bassline to a song. Of dentists, dogs, and James Dean. An an encounter with a deer. I hope I never have a close(r) encounter, though part of me fears that hitting a deer is pretty much inevitable.

September: Started the month out right with dinner and a play. Musings on cars. My younger, I mean, older brother is now 50! He is one of the most amazing people I know, and one of the best things in my life. Health insurance of any kind is just plain ridiculous, at least in this country. The pleasures of the County Fair. And the displeasure of the time change (even though it hasn’t happened yet. I’m pre-complaining here. It’s all about time management!).

October: Just another Manic Monday. A wonderful visit with a wonderful friend. And my friends can pretty much get me through anything. Taking a little break from it all. Vertigo suddenly rears its ugly head in my pretty one, and refuses to leave. Getting up close and personal with my old friend the moon.

November: Roscoe the hunter (and cuddler). A Jessica-free, but not fun-free Halloween. Our good friend Paul stops by while on a cross-country road trip with his 90 year father. A magical trip to the South Coast (is there any other kind?) to see Benedict Cumberbatch in “Hamlet”. And pick up some Thai food, of course. In which our heroine attempts to become less of a dizzy blonde. Thanksgiving preparations do not go as planned. But a good time was had by all.

December: The joy of the Festival of Lights at the Botanical Gardens. And the agony of losing my beloved cat Roscoe. Oh, Roscoe…

Let there be lights in the darkness. And a soul-soothing mini break, right here in town. And the beauty of the Bolshoi Ballet. A slightly neurotic and busy Christmas Eve, followed by a wonderful Christmas.

I did an OK-ish job of keeping my new year’s resolution to spend more time with friends and family. There’s room for improvement, though in my defense, I do work between 50 and 60 hours a week, which severely cuts into fun time. I would still like to spend more time hanging out with my brother when it’s not related to my car.

As for you, Dear Reader: I wish you health and happiness in this coming new year, and always. Thank you for always being there for me and sharing your wit and wisdom.

A YEAR AGO: A look back at 2014.

Christmas Recap

Christmas Day dawned both beautiful and cold:

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which felt quite seasonal and festive but also meant that it was too cold to sit outside, even with the outdoor fireplace and a stack of wood chopped by my brother and kept dry on the porch. Somehow, we all packed into my little hippie hovel. Here’s Clayton, squeezed by the door to the studio with a glass of red wine to keep him company and keep him warm:

clayton

The table was set with all the heirlooms: my English grandmother’s ivory-handled silver and Wedgwood biscuit barrel (with my world-famous cheese biscuits) and salad dish with matching servers, dating from about 1830, and my American grandmother’s wineglasses and glass “Remembrance” platter:

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Erica brought not one, but two Bûches de Noël, one a sinful chocolate and the other an Antoinette, based on the Tarte Antoinette (quince membrillo with vanilla chiffon) which was such a huge hit at Thanksgiving:

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Jessica brought a Christmas drawing for each of us:

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I love mine. And I love that kidlet. She and Jonathan did a spectacular job as always at the traditional reading of “Red Ranger Came Calling” after dinner, alternating pages and outdoing each other with showmanship:

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You will notice that this is the first year she is too big to sit on Jonathan’s lap. Also that she is wearing fuzzy skeleton PJs.

It was great to share all our holiday traditions with old friends and new, and my house was overflowing with love and joy that night. It may have been cold outside, but it sure was warm and wonderful inside.

A YEAR AGO: A merry Christmas.

Christmas Morning

amaryllis

Merry Christmas, everyone! The amaryllis greeted the day with brand-new holiday blooms.

Here in Hooterville, it dawned bright and sunny, and you know what that means: it’s cold! Clyde and I are sitting by the heater and watching the Queen’s Speech together. I always find it inspiring, but this year I was particularly touched by her saying, “Christmas is a good time to be thankful for for all that brings light to our lives.”

Last night’s festivities were delightful. I can’t tell you how it gladdened my heart to see our old friend Clayton coming through my door with his beautiful smile and his friend John in tow. John also lives in San Francisco, but he hails from Birmingham, and he is a total hoot. It was nice to have an English voice at our celebrations again after all these years.

Clyde took one look at the visitors and fled, like Roscoe used to do, and hid in the studio until the evening was over, also like Roscoe. He used to be the life of the party, strolling among the guests for pets and admiration. Audrey joined him there and they both only emerged when the coast was finally clear. Maybe my cats are no longer party animals.

Everyone else was, though, and more wine was drunk and food was eaten than I expected, and a good time was had by all.

As for today, I will make cheese biscuits and get the garlic mashed potatoes ready to go. The salad and dressing are ready, and Jonathan is in charge of the ham. Megan is going to take Clayton and John for a walk with the dogs somewhere scenic, and Erica is going to take them mushroom hunting in the early afternoon. One of the many prizes she won at the County Fair this year was for wool dyed with mushrooms she foraged on the family property.

And that means…I will have an afternoon with Jessica! When she returned from her most recent visit with her deadbeat dad, she told Erica, “Thank you for saving me from the gaping maw of normalcy.” Is it any wonder she is my favorite kid on the planet?

Merry Christmas to all of you from all of us!

T-Day Recap

It was 44 festive degrees in my house this morning. The boys and I huddled by the heater while the intrepid Audrey went out to explore in the chilly sunshine. I hear that it’s colder here lately than in parts of Alaska, which just seems wrong. Hooterville: putting the “North” in “Northern California”!

With the big chill, we went through most of the wood that my brother brought over for the outdoor fireplace. I had thoughtfully equipped the outdoor living room with throw blankets, but they remained unused (though commented upon), unlike the pillows, candles and an ashtray or two.

Erica and Jessica arrived first, replete with boxes of delicacies: wild mushroom tartlet appetizers; caramelized Brussels sprouts; a truffle-rich pie made from a squash grown on our family property, and Tarte Antoinette, made with a layer of home grown quince transformed into membrillo and then layered with vanilla chiffon. Even by Erica’s extremely high standards, it may have been the most delicious thing she has ever made:

pies

Jessica was sporting the world’s most fabulous (and possibly Suzy-est) hat and fingerless gloves ever:

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Needless to say, the ensemble, like Jessica herself, is an Erica original. Jessica returned the string of jade beads she had borrowed from the jewelry library last year, selecting a new item for this year. I noticed that all the items she has borrowed so far were given to me by my father.

Lichen still hasn’t realized that Thanksgiving (which is two days after his own birthday) isn’t a gift-giving occasion, so he brought a golden gift bag with artisan root beer for Jessica (“I’m obsessed with root beer!” she exclaimed happily). The root beer had a string of garnets fastened around its neck just for added Lichen-ness.

Jarrett and Kalli arrived with Kalli’s (very little) sister, who is five, and their dog, Archimedes, who was the World’s Cutest Puppy just three years ago, when he posed adorably on my couch. The cats did not find Archi adorable at all. Roscoe vanished for the remainder of the evening, while Clyde and Audrey repaired to the relative safety of the sleeping loft, where they could keep an eye on the intruder. The stairs did not, however, stop the kindergartener, who quickly and accurately assessed the situation: “That stripy cat is mean! But the black one is nice.”

Although she also opined that the dressing I made with the torturous chestnuts and Café Beaujolais Austrian sunflower seed bread “tasted like Subway”, dinner was great. In addition to Subway stuffing and Erica’s caramelized Brussels sprouts, there were mashed potatoes, carrots roasted with cumin and turmeric, fresh-pressed cider from the family orchard, freshly picked huckleberry tarts made by my brother, and cranberry bourbon relish. Jonathan sliced up the turkey after making a wonderful gravy:

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We used every single piece of my grandmother’s ivory handled silver and every single plate in the house. Once again, some how, some way, I pulled off dinner for 15 people in my tiny house, and everyone, from the kindergartener to Me (why am I always the oldest?) had a great time. It fills my heart with joy to have my house overflowing with family and friends.

After the guests left, Megan and I put on some music and sat by the dying fire with that bottle of Cointreau, talking about the evening and the Thanksgivings past as the moon shone down on us and the stars sparkled. Life is good.

A YEAR AGO: Post Thanksgiving post.

Foggy Halloween

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On Halloween, I donned the kitty ears Erica gave me last year (they are quite becoming), and Megan draped her light up skull necklace around her neck, and we headed to the Village on a foggy Halloween afternoon.

Our first stop, as it often is, was the bookstore, where the Great Catsby was ensconced on a windowseat getting some beauty sleep. The public’s adoration can be exhausting, and I took his tail twitching, even in his sleep, to mean that he was not in the market for more pets and fussing, so I left him to his cat nap. We had fun perusing the shelves and admiring the trick or treaters, especially the little kids dressed as fuzzy turtles and ladybugs. I noticed that devil costumes were popular this year, both among the grown-ups and the kids.

Jessica partied with her entourage instead of her auntourage this year, but Erica sent me a snap of her dressed as Draco Malfoy’s dead sister:

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My guess was the wraith of Yves Saint Laurent. Doesn’t she look so YSL?

After the bookstore, we made our way over to the street party, where the local circus troupe was putting on a performance of aerial silks. As the fog intensified, we watched the amazing athleticism and beauty of the performers:

aerial

I was equally impressed by their strength, daring, and how it’s like ballet up in the air.

It was pretty much fogging by the time we headed back to Megan’s little house in the big woods. That’s when you can’t tell if it’s very heavy fog or very light rain, but you’re soaking wet. Fortunately, Megan had the foresight to make ribollita soup beforehand, so we enjoyed a hot bowl of home-made soup (made with some veggies from the epic family garden) along with an episode or two of “Orange Is the New Black”. Because orange and black are Halloween colors. And there may have been candy for dessert.

A YEAR AGO: A busy post-time change day.

Fair Suzy

It’s the middle of September, and you know what that means: time for the County Fair!

I left work early on Friday afternoon, picked up Megan, and set off fairwards. It was a postcard day, with not even a wisp of Karl the Fog* over the shining blue Pacific as we wended our way through the eternal redwoods and into sunny Anderson Valley.

When we lived in San Francisco, one of Megan’s many gifts was being able to get a taxi anywhere, any time. This talent has been modified over many years of country living to always being able to find a parking spot** (and a sort of ESP when it comes to California Highway Patrol, an ability that has undoubtedly saved her many tickets over the years). Fair Day was no exception, as she neatly parked Wednesday about a block from the fairgrounds.

We texted Erica on arrival and found that she was also there, so we happily met up in the floral building, where there was a Suzy theme going on, including pinkness and whimsy:

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accessorized by glittery silver shoes. On a silver platter, no less!

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The glamor theme continued in the livestock area, with fashion forward fowl whose outfit I coveted:

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and glamorous goats with glitter signs. We even got to pet the world’s softest bunny, belonging to a very young and very poised 4-H girl.

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In the agriculture building, it soon became clear that both the wildfires and the drought had taken a serious toll. The “biggest” pumpkin in the weigh off this year was a mere 200 pounds:

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compared to last year’s 700 pounder. There was very little produce on display at all, other than apples and grapes. I wonder if this is the beginning of a new era.

It was a new era Jessica-wise as well. This was the first year she spent most of her time with her friends instead of her auntourage. In case you’re wondering: I chose not to embarrass Jessica by taking her picture when she was with her posse. I know this is the way it should be, but it makes me a little wistful about time passing and how she is no longer a little girl. Indeed, her curves are kicking in, despite her model slimness, and it was alarming to observe the effect she had on the male population. To be fair, she was wearing sunglasses, so they couldn’t know how young she was, but yikes. Fortunately, she has a good head on her shoulders and a smart mama.

Megan and I enjoyed strolling around the fair with Jessica’s smart mama. She has recently acquired two cattens (not quite cats; not quite kittens), a long-haired black female named Hecate and a short-haired grey male named Man Ray. They are rescued litter mates. I must go and meet them as soon as I stop working on Saturdays.

So it was kind of a skimpy fair this year, but we still had fun. I always have fun with Megan, Erica and Jessica.

*As I write, it’s 86 heinous degrees in my living room. I think Karl needs a nice, relaxing visit to the Mendocino Coast. He can be seen here hanging out in my old ‘hood:

karl

**Sometimes this has backfired on her, though.

A YEAR AGO: At the Fair, of course!

Junapalooza

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Jessica in a shawl made by her mother

Erica and I are almost birthday twins, with mine being the day before hers, though come to think of it, several years ahead, too. So maybe we aren’t birthday twins, but we decided to celebrate our June birthdays together with a Junapalooza at the family property on Saturday.

I’m both pleased and embarrassed to report that I didn’t do a thing but show up. In my defense, though, I’m the only one who works at least five days a week (and complains eight days a week about it), and Erica actually enjoys cooking (it’s become a tyrannical chore for me. See the five days a week thing). Sometimes I picture her cackling over her cauldron like a fairytale character.

Erica’s fairytale basket was filled with scented dal and chutney made from her own figs and quinces. She also brought a deeply chocolatey three layer cake covered with Swiss buttercream and sprinkles, which, as Erica said, tasted exactly like ice cream, so it was like having cake and ice cream all at once.

cake

As if that weren’t enough, she also bought a flask of high quality gin, a bottle of pink grapefruit juice, and a jar of handmade lavender syrup, which were all whirled into delightful pink cocktails with the addition of ice:

drink

For those of you who want to try making your own lavender syrup at home, be careful to only put in the flowers, since the stems can make the syrup bitter. Other than that, it’s just water and sugar. We need to come up with a name for this delightful confection. It’s the perfect thing for a summer evening.

When Lichen appeared, he brought his own libation ingredients. He set to work zesting limes (he brought his own zester), and made frozen strawberry margaritas, the glasses rimmed with sea salt, which he also brought. We could drink pink as well as think pink*!

The pink theme continued with a raspberry pie made from raspberries grown on the property and picked that very day, which may be why it was mostly demolished before I got a photo opp:

pie

The pie and cake were preceded by the dal and chutney, as well as butter chicken. Jonathan grilled the chicken on the BBQ before putting it in the sauce Megan made. We also had forbidden rice and Megan’s home-made naan with cilantro and shallots. The garlic and onions in the butter chicken sauce came from the property, as did the cilantro and shallots in the naan. It was all delicious, and it was nice to sit by the fire and talk after dinner, replete with deliciousness.

Jessica and I fantasized about an alternate reality, in which we lived in a mansion within walking distance of a charming village with bookstores, cafes, chocolatier, patisserie, cheese shop, charcuterie, and other essentials. The village would be far enough away that we couldn’t see it or hear it, but we wouldn’t have to drive there. Rain would be “plentiful”, as Jessica put it, and there would occasionally be snow, enough to make snowmen and play in. It would never be hotter than 85 degrees F (Erica and Jessica had just suffered through a day of 104 degree heat – and baked a cake in it). Erica would be the chatelaine and run everything. It would be heavenly! A girl can dream.

A YEAR AGO: Around the house.

*I was shocked to learn that Erica and Jessica hadn’t seen Funny Face, starring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn, with Kay Thompson, the immortal author of the immortal Eloise books (how I love them!) as a Diana Vreeland character admonishing everyone to “Think pink!” It also has some of the first supermodels from the days when they were stunning: Suzy Parker, Dovima, Sunny Harnett. I think a communal viewing is in order, pink drinks non-optional.

Birthday BBQ

On Saturday, I made a special appearance at the jobette. It was Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial opening of the summer tourist season, and I decided to go in and help out, partly because I’m still on probation at the new job, so I didn’t get paid for Memorial Day, and partly to help out my former work family.

It was good to be back. I took down all the expired event postings in the lobby, refreshed the supply of visitor guides and other tourism materials, added up all the sales and visitor sheets, balanced the cash, updated the database, took out the trash, watered the inside and outside plants (which I suspect has not been done since I left), and washed the dishes. Oh, and turned off the heat, which was blasting when I arrived.

I had a great time chatting with the visitors, and sold $160 worth of art. I imagine my former employers were pleased when they arrived at the office on Tuesday.

I went home and collected the al pastor which I had put in the slow cooker on Friday night. It was my first attempt at making this, and I think from now on I will just leave it to Libby’s, even if they are almost never open. It turned out to be atomically spicy, despite the fact that I only added a teeny can of chipotles in adobo sauce to a 5 pound roast, along with an entire pineapple, a bottle of beer, some red onion, and a couple of tablespoons of chili powder.

To be fair, I have a low spiciness tolerance and believe that food should come in hot, medium, mild and Suzy. But still. I texted Erica in a panic, and she suggested that I drain off the sauce and put in a can of tomato sauce. I didn’t have any tomato sauce – all I had was an extremely unhelpful jar of spicy red pepper sauce – so I went over to Megan’s, even though it was early, since I had to deal with it before heading to the jobette.

Fortunately, she had a can, so I swapped the sauces, and I think it worked just fine. Rob helped me to load the giant slow cooker into the car and we headed over to the family property, where Megan’s birthday BBQ was in full swing:

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Erica and Jessica were there, as well as Jarrett and Kalli and Dave and Jennifer. Jarrett had invited his dog Archi’s brother (and his owners), and I couldn’t get over how alike they look:

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Lichen also came, bearing rose lemonade for Jessica, and all together, there were nearly 20 people. Erica fried up samosas she had made in a special pot outside by the Waltons-sized picnic table:

samosas

They were, of course, delicious.

Erica had also brought a giant, industrial sized jar of mayonnaise:

mayo

It turned out to be an elaborate practical joke. Megan hates mayonnaise (we are a family of picky eaters), but Erica bet her that she would be digging into this one. Megan was horrified until she discovered that the jar actually contained vanilla bean-bourbon vanilla pudding, chocolate espresso cookie crumbs, and sea salted caramel sauce, all made from scratch by Erica the Evil Genius. It was insanely delicious.

Erica said it was the hardest dessert she had ever made, since she had to hide the cookie crumbs and sauce inside the pudding, so it still looked convincingly like mayonnaise. Only Erica!

Meanwhile, I was discussing designers with Jessica, saying that I love it that she actually knows who Charles James, Schiaparelli, Claire McCardell, and Madame Grès are (she has all these and more on her Pinterest boards). She said that sometimes it seems like designers are playing a practical joke to see if people will actually wear their crazy clothes. “It’s like, ‘Go home, fashion, you’re drunk!’” Jessica said, referring to some of the more outrageous confections at Fashion Week.

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When it was time to go home, Jessica once again offered her arm and asked if she could escort “Fair Suzy” to her car. I love this tradition!

A YEAR AGO: Celebrating Megan’s birthday, of course!

Perfect Day

Birthday girl.Birthday Girl

As you know, Jessica’s twelfth birthday was April 15, but we celebrated it a couple of days later, on a Saturday – about the only day of the week we can all get together now. And celebrate it we did! We started off by meeting at Franny’s Cup & Saucer in beautiful downtown Point Arena. Jonathan joined us, adding an uncle to the auntourage, and there wasn’t enough room in Franny’s teacup sized establishment to fit us all at once as we perused the pastries and chocolates in the glass case.

Eventually, we repaired with our choices to the bench outside and shared them while chatting. I observed to Jessica that she wouldn’t want to do this kind of thing much longer since she was growing up, and she replied “Hormones don’t make you stupid!” Thinking of some beaux in my distant past, I said, “Oh yes, they do, “ and she said, “Not that stupid! You will always be fabulous!” accompanied by a hug.

We had enough time to stop by the pier at Point Arena and watch the surfers skimming over the waves:

surfer

I was amazed by their skill in maneuvering through the rough waters and avoiding the many jagged rocks in the bay.

We made our way to the B. Bryan Preserve, where we were joined by two fair sized groups. It soon became clear that this was a much fancier deal than it was nearly two years ago, when Megan and I had our magical safari together: just us and Frank, the curmudgeonly guide. I’m glad for their success, but I’m also glad that Megan and I have that special enchanted memory together.

After the mini talk about the Preserve’s mission to save and breed these beautiful, endangered animals, we loaded into a 1967 Range Rover, equipped with a canvas roof and apparently not equipped with shocks, which were plenty as we jounced over the rough terrain.

Jessica feeding a giraffe from the Land Rover.

Unlike our earlier trip, we stayed in the Range Rover for most of the tour, though we also drove right into the vast, fenced fields where the zebra and antelope played. Also unlike last time, when Frank admonished us that this wasn’t a petting zoo (it still isn’t), we could actually pet a few month old Grevy’s zebra, little Karen Sue:

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Her mother died giving birth to her, and Karen Sue was saved by none other than our dear vet, Dr. Karen – hence her name. Since Karen Sue was hand raised, you can pet her, but those days will end when she joins the regular herd in the next few months. So this was a special treat. And those teddy bear ears are as soft as they look. I imagine I am one of the very few people who has stroked a live Grevy’s zebra.

We ended at the Rothschild giraffes, where Sonny, Buster and Jagger (my favorite from last time) have been joined by two more brothers. In fact, Frank was on his way to pick up the “new” boys after our last tour. Like Megan and me, Jessica was charmed by feeding the giraffes. There really is nothing like seeing one swooping down toward you, their huge, soulful eyes, fake looking lashes, and black tongues. You really haven’t lived until you’ve kissed a giraffe.

jagger

At the end of the tour, Jessica pronounced it “Totally awesome” while jumping up and down. We then headed to Anchor Bay, where some of the best Thai food ever is to be found and enjoyed. Just like the Preserve, Megan and I were the only ones in our party to have been there before, and we couldn’t wait to share its joys.

Just like the Preserve, everyone was delighted and impressed. We shared our dishes and still had enough to take home and enjoy another night. We kissed Erica and Jessica goodbye and headed home as the sun set over the glorious Pacific. The immortal Lou Reed put it best when he sang, “Oh, it’s such a perfect day/I’m glad I spent it with you.”

A YEAR AGO: Meetings and manicures.

In Vein

Poor Change! No-one loves you, including Me.

Especially when it includes working eight five days a week. It’s been fifteen years or so since I did that, meaning that I was younger and, as Jessica put it when she herself was much younger, “fresher*”. I also did not have to drive more than an hour a day to do it (in fact, my car problem then consisted mostly of finding parking for my 1966 Mustang convertible, Josephine). And I had a wonderful cleaning lady who came every other week and cost a mere $50 a pop.

Alas, none of these things are still the case, so I’m leaving the house around 7 am and getting back around 5, if I’m lucky. Unfortunately, the person I now work for is a night owl and tends to get to work around 10, whereas my preference is to get in early and get it over with, so I’m hoping we can find something that works for both of us.

Having said that, though, she is very nice, and I actually have an office again, though it is a mess:

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I am hoping that I can bring some order to the chaos and prettify it soon.

One of the things about working at a medical facility, even in administration, is that you have to be up to date on your immunizations. They scheduled me for a series that is required for all women under 40, and when I revealed the Awful Truth, they revised it to a blood test to make sure that I was immune to whatever these things are.

So I went over to get my blood taken, but the Calamity Suzy Factor made sure that it did not go as planned. It turns out that my veins are the only things about me that are not shallow, so the poor nurse spent a lot of time prospecting for a useful one with no result, much like a botched execution. Also? Those tourniquet things hurt. I don’t know how junkies do it.

As the search continued, I began to feel a little light headed and then nauseous, so the search was called off. The nurse gave me juice and peanut butter crackers and sat me by an open window until I felt better. To be fair, I hadn’t eaten in about 16 hours, but it was still a little on the embarrassing side. She was really nice about it, and apparently we will try again another day. Wish me luck!

*When Jessica was small, she noticed the difference in the energy level between Schatzi and my mother’s much older dog. Megan explained that Schatzi was younger, and Jessica nodded, saying, “Schatzi is much fresher!”

A YEAR AGO: An evening at the theater.

One Thing & Another

When the storms blew through here earlier this month, they not surprisingly wrenched the tarpaper off the former bathroom window:

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which was, as Mark puts it, “cancelled” when Rob fixed up the bathroom last year. I don’t think I ever showed you the toilet paper holder he made from copper pipe to match the shower curtain rod which he also made:

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He also covered the outlet/light switch with copper to match:

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It was Rob to the rescue as usual, just like Mighty Mouse. Come to think of it, he kind of is Mighty Mouse. Small in size, big on help. Only without the tights. He turned up one day to fix the window before the next storm gets here. He gathered some old wood planks from James’ collection of things and stuff, and voilà:

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So I’m all set in case it ever rains again. Which it doesn’t seem it ever will. It’s been in the 60s and sunny every day since the storm went away, while the rest of the country has been freezing its collective butt off.

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letters

Rob’s repair delivery wasn’t the only pleasant surprise I received over the past few days. The mail* contained a letter from Jessica! It read as follows:

Dear Suzy,

How are you? I am recovering from a cold, but other than that, I am doing fine. What’s new? Are you doing anything for valentine’s day? I am planning a valentine’s party! Might not happen though. 🙁

What’s the weather like over there? It’s raining over here. Yay! I hope that you get lots of rain.

Sincerely,

Jessica

XO XO

The “sincerely” part was my favorite. I wasted no time in writing her back, as you can see above, and also acquiring more stationery, so I can keep writing to her.

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So far, I’m doing a decent job in keeping my new year’s resolution to spend more time with family and friends. We’ve been having family dinners about once a month. This month’s was at my brother’s place, and we had barbecued chicken and salad by the fire. A friend of my siblings’ was there from the Bay Area. They have known each other since the long ago days when they lived on boats at Pier 39. Though I don’t remember meeting him back then, I probably did, and somewhat awkwardly, it turned out that he helped my siblings to move my stuff out of the apartment when John and I broke up.

Despite that slight weirdness, we had a great time and I really liked him a lot. He was completely wowed by the beauty of the area and the garden, and by the blanket of stars in the sky. Both Venus and Mars blazed beside the crescent moon. He’s planning to come back up with his son this summer, if not before. Old friends, new friends, your family, and old and new memories – what could be better?

*As Jerry Seinfeld put it, “Without bills, magazines and junk mail, there is no mail.” I’m always delighted when there’s an exception to this rule, which is followed far too strictly for my taste.

A YEAR AGO: Visiting Erica and Jessica. And a peek at the local museum.

Paying a Call

It was cloudy at the coast, but sunny in the valley as Megan and I wended our way to Erica’s house. I always forget how terrifying Erica’s driveway is until I’m actually on it. It makes our driveway look like the 101 freeway. It’s one muddy, rutted lane, with ancient tree roots acting as speed bumps and a frightening drop on one side. The drop is tree studded, so I’m not sure how far down it goes, but I’m pretty sure if you found out in your car you’d never be seen again. At least in one piece. The thought of Jessica driving it fills me with horror, though Megan pointed out that Erica has been doing it her whole life without incident.

I am, after all, a worrier.

We arrived at their house without incident (guess who was driving?), and were greeted by the fabulous girls. Jessica was thrilled with the belated Christmas stocking gift of conductive thread (I’m still not sure what it is), and Erica set about curing the headache I had woken up with. She gave me some evening primrose and a mysterious herbal concoction, which I sniffed suspiciously. Erica’s Momness kicked in, and she told me to drink it down and then I could have a cookie*. I honestly think if she’d lived a couple of centuries ago, she’d be considered a witch. That strange lady living out in the woods, foraging and making strange things and dosing people with concoctions…

The cookies were delicious. They were Russian tea cookies, made by Jessica herself. They were accompanied by “gingerbread of doom”, made by Erica with fresh and ground ginger, and cheese and crackers. Of course, one of the cheeses was caramelized, and Erica made the crackers by making rye bread dough and putting it through a pasta machine so it came out in lasagna-sized and -shaped pieces, then baking it. Only Erica would think of doing that.

Tea was served in delicate floral china cups and saucers, peppermint for Jessica and me and full on caffeine for Erica and Megan (who, as we know, is composed of at least 75% caffeine at all times). Erica collects vintage Jell-O molds, and told us that she is planning to make an entire Jell-O dinner using the molds. She just might do it, too.

After tea, Jessica showed me her fashion designs, which were as beautiful and intricate as you’d imagine, and we watched a couple of episodes of Daria together. We both adore its cynical humor. Sometimes it’s hard to believe she’s only 11.

When it was time to go, we talked a little about our next meeting – maybe in Point Arena on the beautiful south coast. Maybe the key to keeping your new year’s resolutions is to make them fun. Oh, and my headache was completely gone.

A YEAR AGO: Recovering from the flu with kitten aid.

*Jessica often says, “My mama says ‘Suck it up and deal'”. Words to live by!