Archive for the 'Special Occasions' Category

Jan 28 2018

Surfin’ Safari

After my garden tour on Sunday, I went over to Megan’s house, where I admired and petted the magic pelt of the beautiful (and ancient, at 17) Harriet. Harriet the Spy sightings are rare, but always welcome.

We were headed to the ballet in Point Arena, and this time we had a special guest with us, our brother Jonathan’s girlfriend Rio. We hopped into Rio’s car and off we went. Being liberated from her designated chauffeur duties allowed Megan to enjoy the scenery for once. The ocean was a pale aqua that day, contrasting with the electric green of the fields and hills. Rio said, “Ireland has nothing on us!” Yellow acacia flamed among the dark, wind-swept cypresses.

Our first stop was Anchor Bay Thai, where we all ordered dinner to go. I for one would be very glad of this later, since we didn’t get home until nearly 6 pm, after leaving the house at 11 am. Arriving back in Point Arena, we had a little time before the ballet started, so we headed down to the pier, where we got sandwiches and watched the intrepid surfers in the cove. They wear wetsuits in our chilly clime, and it is a joy to watch them skim over the mighty, curling waves as they sweep toward the rocky shore.

There are no visual aids because true to the old adage “Red in the morning, sailors take warning”, the beautiful dawn had given way to rain. It didn’t seem to bother the surfers at all, but I was disinclined to venture out in the rain to take pictures of them.

We ran back to the car and headed to the movie theater, where we found our favorite balcony seats were available. We even had an escape route available, not that we needed it this time. It was a beautiful production, from the costumes to the sword fights to the romantic pas de deux, and of course, the tragic finale.

Megan took over driving duties on the way home. After many years of night shifts, she doesn’t mind driving in the dark, even with rain blowing sideways, as it was that night. On our way home, she regaled us with tales from her ambulance days, which are always fun. It was so nice to have Rio share our pleasure in the ballet, and I hope she will come with us to see the last two of the season.

A YEAR AGO: Plans to see the ballet were foiled by the weather.

FIVE YEARS AGO: File under miscellaneous.

TEN YEARS AGO: Attending the SF Noir Festival.

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Jan 01 2018

Happy New Year

Published by under Country Life,Special Occasions

Happy New Year!

It dawned sunny and beautiful here in Hooterville, though I’m sorry to say I am still suffering from the plague. At this point it appears that I will spend all the time I took off from work being sick. Come to think of it, the last time I took time off was the Worst Long Weekend Ever. Maybe taking time off is not a good idea for me.

Despite the Malady’s inexorable presence, I celebrated the departure of 2017 with champagne. It’s medicinal, you know. Vogue even touted its champagne diet back in the 1960s, in which the dieter had a glass of champagne with each meal. If only the pictured Harry Winston diamonds came with the sparkle in the glass!

And I managed to stay up to see the new year in on each coast. I have to admit that I consider the New York ball drop the “real” new year, despite having spent most of my adult life on the west coast. The fireworks over the Ferry Building just aren’t as impressive to me as the ball dropping in a frigid, thronged Times Square as the immortal Frank sings “New York, New York”.

And it wouldn’t be New Year’s Day without the Winter Classic. I am curled up on the couch under my grandmother’s quilt, watching the Rangers play the Sabres. The Rangers won in overtime, keeping their unblemished record of winning every outdoor game they have played. I love watching outdoor hockey, and enjoy the gentlemanly tradition of the teams forming a line to shake hands – or hug – with their opponents after a hard-fought game.

A YEAR AGO: I managed to see in the new year on both coasts last year, too. I did not manage to replace the ornament Clyde accidentally broke and still regret it.

FIVE YEARS AGO: I started the year in San Francisco. My old apartment had just sold for half a million dollars. A month ago, it sold for $1.2 million. There’s a slightly bigger regret.

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Dec 31 2017

2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

January:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: A look back at 2016.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Reviewing 2012.

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Dec 27 2017

Aftermath

Published by under Special Occasions,Travel,Work

While the rest of you were celebrating your Christmas, I was cleaning up after ours.

Every year I tell myself not to bother cleaning up before hand, and every year, I ignore my own well-meant advice and am annoyed/horrified by having to re-clean everything I had cleaned the day before. This year, of course, was no exception, and by the time I had emptied out the somewhat disgraceful recycling, washed the heirlooms and put them carefully away (nothing broke!), re-vacuumed, and done a couple of loads of laundry, it was afternoon, and I was thankful that I had at least had the sense to take the day after Christmas off from work, both domestic and unpaid.

Arriving at work today, I discovered a plague of ants had taken up residence in my absence. I wiped them to a rapid and sanitary death with the atomic wipes they use in Medical, but the super ants were not deterred or their friends did not get the message that Doom awaited them in my office. Facilities Guy provided me with a gooey ant trap, which I have set on my windowsill for the unwary ants and which he assures me are more effective than the germicidal wipes of doom.

I was planning to work tomorrow, but Megan got sick last night and is unable to drive to Eureka with me tomorrow. The original plan was that she would pick me up at work in the late afternoon after she woke up from her last night shift of the week, but if I am doing all the driving on the sinuous and scenic Highway 1, I do not want to be doing it in the dark. I conferred with my boss and she decided that I should just take the day off and drive up in the morning, so that is now my new plan. Gotta love a one day work week!

I am going to see my friend Janice, who you may remember visited me a few years back with her lovely daughter Julie, and also our nephew Jarrett and his beautiful girlfriend Kalli. So the next time I check in with you will be from a whole new county! Wish me an uneventful journey.

A YEAR AGO:Cleaning up after a lovely celebration.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A warm and wonderful Christmas. Jessica looks like a baby!

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Dec 25 2017

Merry Happy

Published by under Family,Friends,Special Occasions


Christmas Jessica (with Jonathan in the background)

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

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

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

and set out the heirloom Wedgwood and silver:

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: A merry Christmas.

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Dec 24 2017

Peter Panned

Published by under Bullshit,Car,Special Occasions

Yesterday Megan and I both enjoyed getting up after the sun did, putting the heat on in our frigid houses, and scampering back to bed with coffee and our neatly paired animal companions (two dogs for her; two cats for me) for more than an hour. How luxurious is that?

Eventually, we got up and got dressed. I headed over to Megan’s place and we then made our way to our brother’s place with a bag of mesquite, the Christmas ham, stockings for him and Rio to stuff, and a mason jar of Jack Daniel’s, an integral part of Jonathan’s masterful ham glaze.

We had a brief discussion about Wednesday’s ailments, and had independently arrived at the conclusion that he should buy the expensive parts and fix the non threatening emissions issue, on the grounds that one day the ever-on engine light might mean something is really wrong and I would ignore it, thinking it wasn’t, until Something Bad happened, like permanent stoppage of said car. So he will order the parts and we’ll get that particular show on the road. Wish Santa shopped at Napa.

After that, Megan turned her little red car toward the magical south coast. As we wended our way past the lavender ocean and the wind-twisted trees, we talked about how we hadn’t seen Lichen in ages. For both of us, the most recent interaction was texts on his birthday last month. Passing through Elk, Megan spied Lichen himself at the side of the road, with his sweet dog, Keeper. She stopped immediately and raced across the road shouting his birth name so he’d know he was in trouble. By the time I caught up, we were hugging and laughing and being introduced to the guy with him.

This town being as minute as it is, the guy turned out to be a neighbor of my friend Alison, who I had just met for a drink this week (and said drink was interrupted by the appearance of my old boss, my current boss, the event coordinator from work, and others). He was supposed to look after Alison’s dog over the holidays, but she got the flu and her plans changed at the last minute.

As for Lichen, he has been training as a massage therapist and now has his own little studio! So that’s what he’s been up to instead of hanging out with us. It was good to catch up with him, but we had a schedule to keep, so we continued south.

Arriving in Point Arena, we went straight for Franny’s, as any right-thinking person does, where we equipped ourselves with delicacies before going even further south to acquire still more delicacies for dinner at Anchor Bay Thai.

We were worried about being late for the play, but we made it back to the theater in time to wade through throngs of kids and into balcony seats right by the wall, a decision we would come to regret in about 10 minutes.

The play was a production of “Peter Pan”, streamed from the National Theatre in London, and our Sleeping Beauty deprived hearts were looking forward to it. Our hopes were dashed almost immediately by the weirdness of the production, in which everyone looked about 45, Nana the dog was played by a guy wearing white ruffled pantalettes, and Tinker Bell by a squat gent with lights on his bicycle helmet and a speech impediment. Also there were songs, which we had not been warned about, and all the magic had been removed.

We wanted to remove ourselves, but were trapped at the wall end of the row. I was all for pushing past everyone and hightailing it out of there, but Megan thought it was too rude. I felt that it would be a momentary inconvenience for people we would never see again, but she won out and we spent the rest of our sentence wondering if we could get over the railing in front of us without undue damage to Self. When the welcome release of intermission finally arrived, I raced out of there so fast I forgot my coat (with my phone in the pocket), which Megan grabbed and then chased me down the stairs.

As we peeled out of the parking lot, I observed that we had finally found something that was not fun to do together. It took us a while, but we did it!

A YEAR AGO: Merry Christmas to us!

TEN YEARS AGO: A somewhat dizzy Christmas.

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Dec 21 2017

Taking a Break

Published by under Special Occasions

To recover from the crazy week, I took a little staycation at the same lovely hotel where I took some refuge after the devastating loss of the one and only Roscoe, who I will never stop missing. Or loving, for that matter. This time, the hotel manager very generously gave me a free room, which turned out to be an apartment, complete with living room:

and a lovely kitchen. I coveted the side by side refrigerator with its capacious freezer drawer. It even makes ice automatically from filtered water! Wonder if the kindly hotel manager would consider a trade for my new-ish, Stalinesque appliance?

Probably not.

There was a balcony overlooking the estuary:

where I could watch the sun set:

and the stars come out from the comfort of the capacious hot tub. Thoughtfully, the balcony and hot tub can be accessed from the bedroom as well as the living room. The bedroom had a desk and a walk in closet with a light! This was very exciting for a girl whose house has no closets whatsoever and whose clothes are stored in bags under the bed. I’m pretty sure the closet was bigger than my bathroom at home.

I realized how long I had been a bumpkin when I was so delighted with having central heating and not having to wear a sweater inside, or experience the microclimates of my house with its unheated bathroom and drafts, the relative warmth of the propane heater stopping about three feet from its epicenter*.

And I kind of burned myself on the hot water in the sink and bathroom, since I’m so used to having the facet turned to the hottest possible and not adding cold water at all in a vain attempt to make it warm enough to wash Self or dishes. Here the water was instantly super hot. Surprise!

I had pizza and watched Hitchcock’s “Family Plot”, which I hadn’t seen in many years and enjoyed very much. In the morning, I had coffee on the balcony, watching the water birds at play in the sunshine. I ran a couple of Christmas errands and then headed home to cuddle the kitties. It was a great break, and I am so thankful for that gift!

A YEAR AGO: A sparkly outing with the inimitable Jessica.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Getting ready for Christmas. With a cameo by our beloved Schatzi. We miss you, sweet girl.

*Speaking of which, I slept through an earthquake last week which freaked out one of the temporary docs who is working here for a few months. She called Facilities Guy in a panic, thinking that a wild animal was in her oven, crashing around (how?). She was not at all relieved to hear that it was only an earthquake.

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Dec 13 2017

Candlelight

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

It looks so magical!

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

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

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

And the one bar in town was looking festive:

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

Outside the shops, candles flickered in mason jars:

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

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

The special of the day was a seasonal cranberry margarita:

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

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

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

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

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

FIVE YEARS AGO: An evening of seasonal song.

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Dec 05 2017

Sparkling

Megan and I enjoyed our annual tradition of the Festival of Lights at the Botanical Gardens. As usual, the parking gods smiled on Megan, and we got a parking space right out front. This year, we could buy tickets on line, and I added a small donation in honor of my late friend Joel, who was a Master Gardener there. And instead of waiting in line, we could breeze right in.

The Gardens are one of the loveliest places on the coast, and they are particularly magical when they are all dressed up in sparkling lights. Megan pointed out that they are not particularly Christmassy, with dragons and swans:

Somehow I had never noticed that before, though there is a star or two. The elephant was new, peering cutely out of the bushes:

He was a safe distance away from the erupting volcano:

I always love the jellyfish, floating magically in the air:

And the sailing ship, accessorized with a whale:

It makes me feel like a kid again, with the wonder of the holidays, delighted by the lights in the darkness.

And what better way to follow up sparkling lights than a sparkling drink?

We toasted our lovely evening and the holidays past, present, and future. Cheers!

A YEAR AGO: Some random notes.

FIVE YEARS AGO: It was stormin’ up a storm!

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Nov 30 2017

Let the Holidays Begin!

Published by under House,Special Occasions

Christmas came early to stately Suzy Manor this year. The mental malaise I have been battling lately made me long for lights and sparkliness. Of course Dr. Suzy’s prescription for almost anything is glitter.

But it’s not just Me, you know. Apparently Science agrees with Dr. Suzy for once, saying that putting up your ornaments earlier may make you happier.

I put away the Halloween/Thanksgiving pumpkins, and added a wreath to the front door:

and some LED snowflake lights:

That was the easy part. Putting lights on the banister was surprisingly difficult this year. I tested a string of colored lights by plugging them into an outlet downstairs, where they lit obediently. After I wound them around the banister and fought my way past the ficus, plugging them into the extension cord, they refused to light. They also refused to light when plugged directly into an outlet upstairs.

Back to the box of decorations for another string of lights. This time, I tried them in the extension cord upstairs and they appeared to light. I started from the top and when I reached the bottom, I discovered that maybe a third of the lights were on, around the middle of the string.

Sigh.

I undid it yet again and selected a new set of lights. These finally worked:

Here’s another view:

and yes, they did make me happy.

Rob came by to help me with my ancient Charlie Brown tree, drilling a couple of extra holes and helping me to distribute the fake limbs as best we could.

This is always the first ornament on the tree:

followed by the mercury glass bells and the glittery mushrooms. Here’s how it looked when I was finished that evening:

and in daylight:

Let the holidays begin!

A YEAR AGO: The crushing disappointment of the Gilmore Girls reboot. May the new Will & Grace not follow in these horrible footsteps.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Jarrett adopted Archimedes, aka Archi, aka the World’s Cutest Puppy. And their lives changed (for the better) forever.

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Nov 26 2017

Thanksgiving

It was a quieter than usual Thanksgiving at stately Suzy Manor. I had the house ready well before noon:

and the outdoor livingroom was ready as well:

Rob brought some firewood over, but we didn’t need it. It has been oddly warm all week. I have even been sleeping with the balcony door open.

Erica and Jessica could not join us for Thanksgiving after all. Megan said it was the first time in Jessica’s life that she wasn’t with our family at Thanksgiving. We really missed them. Without them, it was more like an elaborate family dinner than anything else, though there’s nothing wrong with that!

Everything turned out well, from the turkey, roasted Nana-style:

to the maple and harissa roasted carrots, potatoes expertly whipped by Jonathan, who also made a wonderful gravy, and the stuffing/dressing, which as usual I forgot about, but which happened to be perfectly done when I did remember. Jonathan and Rio brought a wild huckleberry pie (in a pie dish made by Rob), and a pie from the cherries we grew. It was quite a spread:

Jonathan brought some of last year’s cider, and we toasted Thanksgiving and the many things we are grateful for with the cider in Nana’s wine glasses.

A YEAR AGO: A much busier Thanksgiving.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A fun and festive Thanksgiving.

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Nov 21 2017

Cars & Turkeys

Published by under Bullshit,Car,Special Occasions

Unlike most people this time of year, I am more preoccupied with things automotive than things culinary. Outsourcing most of the T Day operations helps in this regard, a secret I learned long ago.

I’m afraid Erica and Jessica got the holiday shaft this year, committed to bringing a truffle-rich pie made of delicata squash; fennel and orange salad; and some kind of stuffing/dressing (call it what you will) which includes chestnuts (not peeled by Me) and I think Erica might have mentioned wild boar sausage. There may also be shrub. Jonathan is making a pie from the cherries we grew and there has been talk of a wild huckleberry pie, which may push us into pie-a-palooza territory at three pies.

Megan bought a 14 pound turkey and stashed it at Rio’s house. Rio has not only begun the defrosting process (per my Nana’s rule of 1 day for every 4 pounds), but has promised to deliver it on Thursday, which is Thanksgiving for the rest of you, but merely Thanksgiving Eve for us, due to Megan’s crazy work schedule*. As for me, I will be making cranberry-bourbon relish; garlic mashed potatoes from garlic and potatoes we grew; and maple-roasted harissa carrots using carrots we grew; and roasting the turkey.

Since we eat at a civilized hour, I won’t have to put it in the ovenette until noon or later. And though I have tried many fancy things over the years, dry brining and brining and so on, I do not think that any of them were any better than the way Nana did it: rub the turkey with butter, sprinkle with salt, pepper, and sage, and roast, basting occasionally. I am planning to let Erica and/or Jonathan make the gravy.

So all I really have to do around the house is tidy up, get the silver out of its velvet-lined chest, check the weather forecast and get some wood ready for the outdoor fire if it doesn’t rain. It’s been a rainy week so far and 128, the road to the city, is already closed, so I am hoping that the chance of rain forecast for Friday is so slight as to barely exist. I have more than a dozen bottles of wine on hand, always the most important part of any dinner menu.

So I’m not all that worried about the great day itself, though it is hampering the lengthy repair process. Of course I get car problems right before Thanksgiving, just like I needed a crownright before the 4th of July.

Jonathan located the part we need. The good news is that it is at the lower, $200 end of the scale, and that Jonathan can install it. The bad news is that it will take 4-5 business days to reach us, and adding in the Thursday holiday and the possible Friday holiday, that could possibly mean “not until late next week”.

The car keys have to be programmed to match the car’s new brain, or new brain module, or it will refuse to go in the belief that it is being stolen. Wednesday is a very paranoid individual, what with that and the auto lock feature which I have been unable to disable. I had thought that I could Fed Ex the car keys to the brain trust and have them program the keys to match Wednesday’s shiny new intellect, but they do not provide that service. So far, I have been not been able to find anyone locally who does. The place that *may* be able to do it is closed until Monday. The holiday strikes again! If they can’t do it, I’m not sure where that leaves me, other than permanently in Park.

*Made even crazier this week by an 8 hour advanced cardio-vascular life support class on Sunday and again on Monday. After the 8 hour class on Monday, she stopped in at the clinic to work for a couple of hours before that night’s 12 hour shift, which would be followed by three more. She will wake up sometime on Friday afternoon after working 48 hours and taking 16 hours of classes in one week. She is my hero, though she may in fact be insane.

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Nov 03 2017

Boo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and this creative use of a garage basketball hoop:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Oct 30 2017

Season Openers

Published by under Country Life,Special Occasions

On Sunday morning, I went over to Megan’s house. I was pleased to see a big pile of wood in the driveway:

Jonathan and I had ordered a cord of wood for Megan and Rob for Christmas, and it had been delivered just a couple of days earlier. It wouldn’t fit in their stockings, and it couldn’t be a surprise, but I think they were glad to get it. They suffered through last winter without wood, so I wanted to make sure they would be comfortable this winter. And you can’t wait until Christmas to order wood – it should be ordered in August. I ordered in September and they were already backordered.

It’s been unseasonably warm this week, so they haven’t needed the wood just yet and it has given Rob time to stack it in the shed. I had put away the fans in a fit of optimism last week, and had to haul them out again when I discovered it was 80 degrees in my house when I got home from work. I may be one heat wave away from moving to Alaska.

I hadn’t gone over there to inspect the wood, though. Megan and I were off to see the first ballet of the new season, Le Corsaire. Based on a poem by Lord Byron, it featured pirates, a harem, a pasha, anda dramatic shipwreck. The costumes and sets were beautiful:

and of course the dancing was wonderful.

We are glad that the ballet was saved after last season’s alarming announcement that the theater might not be able to afford showing the ballets this year. Some generous donors stepped forward to underwrite the expense, and the season was saved. I was able to assist in choosing the program for this year, which I enjoyed very much. We will see Romeo & Juliet, The Flames of Paris, and Coppelia. Still no Sleeping Beauty, but maybe next season.

A YEAR AGO: What do you know? We were at the ballet.

FIVE YEARS AGO: On the other hand, the Giants had won the World Series, whereas this season they were terrible. Rebuilding mode, right?

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Oct 18 2017

Celebrations

People are beginning to return to their homes if they still have them, and the long cleaning process is starting. Much of what remains is toxic and will have to be removed by CalFire. Rain is expected later this week and the fires may be out by Friday. I used to love the smell of woodsmoke, but now it horrifies me. People always think earthquakes are the dangerous thing about living in California, but it’s really wildfires.

My friends in Redwood Valley all survived, though one lost her house and everything in it. They are beginning the lengthy clean up and recovery process. The one person I know who lived in Santa Rosa until last month would have been evacuated. He and his family are in Anaheim for a year, since he is working on a project for Disney. And they were evacuated in the Anaheim fires. They are all OK, though.

After such a terrible week, it seemed like a good time to do some celebrating. And what better way to start than a party for a cat at a bookstore?

The Great Catsby arrived 5 years ago and has been ruling the bookstore with a disdainful paw ever since. He is a very handsome cat:

And perhaps being the guest of honor had a good effect on his usual grumpiness, since he tolerated the attention and mingled with his guests, waving his tail and accepting pets and compliments.

There was a wheel to spin for prizes:

I won some notecards and Megan won a cat sticker. Someone had already won the grand prize of feeding Catsby a can of tuna by the time we got there (as you can see to the left of the wheel), but we could still color in Catsby ears to wear on our heads, decorate cupcakes, and buy books.

After the party, we stopped by a local inn for a drink. We parked next to a beautiful, shiny, vintage black El Camino, and I mentioned to Megan how much I love those cars, despite their lack of practicality. I will almost always choose form over function. We also noticed that the lights were on, so we notified the hostess and she started asking the bar’s patrons if the car was there. A well-dressed gentleman sitting next to us turned out to be the owner, and he ran out to turn off the lights and then toasted us with his martini on his return.

We had blackberry martinis:

They were made of vodka, fresh blackberries, lemon juice, and Chambord, garnished with three fresh blackberries. It was a nice end to a crazy week. You can imagine how busy Megan was at work this past week with the fires, and she worked an extra shift.

The next day, I went to a friend’s 70th birthday party on the beach at Big River. Big River is just south of the Village and the beach is where the river empties into the ocean. Big River’s name refers to the size of the redwoods that grow on its shores rather than the river itself. And yes, there is a Little River, the next town south of Mendocino. There the soil is acidic and hard, as it is at our house, and there the redwoods are much smaller, hence Little River and the Pygmy Forest.

I expected it to be cold and windy, but was pleasantly surprised to find it warm and sunny. Some of the kids were even swimming in the river! There were lots of people and lots of food, and it was nice to be together and celebrate after this dark week.

A YEAR AGO: Storms and Halloween décor, at work and at home. ‘Tis the season.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lots of unexpected gifts.

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Sep 20 2017

Fun Fair

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

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

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

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

Chicken on stilts? And this:

Some kind of pigeon? Note the feathered feet!

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

We apple tasted:

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

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

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

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

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

This was my favorite flower arrangement:

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

There was even water beneath the bridge!

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

A YEAR AGO: At the Fair, of course!

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

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Sep 07 2017

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.

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Aug 24 2017

Eyewitness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 19

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

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

August 20

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

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

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

August 21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jul 02 2017

Jubilee


The One and Only

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

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

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

which is why she is so beautiful, of course.

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: The kitty report.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Brightening up.

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Jun 30 2017

Junapalooza III

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

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

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

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

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

Because you always need sprinkles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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