Party


My Glorious Cake

It was a milestone birthday for Megan last year (50!) and for me this year (60!), so we decided to celebrate together, like we did when we were kids. Here we were, celebrating Megan’s 12th birthday and my 21st:

A lot has changed since then, but it’s still fun to celebrate our birthdays together.

Despite the fact that it was a shared celebration, Megan did most of the work, and the pile of presents was mostly for me:

The glorious cake was from Franny’s Cup & Saucer, and the flowers are from Franny’s garden, dried and pressed by her. The cake was lemon with lemon mousse and fresh berries, iced in lemon buttercream. It was as divine as it looks and sounds.

Getting the cake was a bit of an adventure, though. A propane truck overturned on the highway just a few yards from my road on the day Megan, Rob, and the dogs set off to Point Arena to pick up the cake and play on the beach:

There is no alternative route, so traffic backed up pretty fast. And although it happened in the morning, traffic was still bad when I was heading home around 4:00. I turned off the car and kept listening to Tom Petty while I texted Megan, knowing she had gotten home past the overturned truck. I asked her how long she thought the wait would be. She said they had waited half an hour, and added that they were trying to get the truck back onto its wheels about an hour earlier so it could be towed. As I read the text, the truck was towed past my open car window.

Traffic started moving after that, and it took me about 5 minutes to get onto my road after sitting on the highway for half an hour. An adventure!

A YEAR AGO: A milestone birthday for Megan.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Working at my Saturday job and celebrating Megan’s birthday.

TEN YEARS AGO: Things were weird. And I was in San Francisco.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: We lost our beloved Jed, the Wonder Dog. Never forgotten, always loved, never, ever equalled.

21

My blog turns 21 today! I guess that should mean it’s an adult now, ready to do responsible things, but like its author, I think my blog will never grow up. But at least we have a reason to celebrate!

A YEAR AGO Happy 20th!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Sweet 16.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Then we were six.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: My blog’s very first birthday. Little did I suspect I’d still be doing this 20 years later.

Show

I decanted the car contents into the motel room, and then ordered my very first Uber to take me to the Palace of Fine Arts Theater. Uber is magic. It showed up in about two minutes, swept me to my destination, and went away. It’s the next best thing to having a chauffeur at my beck and call. What’s not to love?

The theater looked beautiful in the evening light:

The line was long, and although vaccines were supposedly required, no one checked vaccine cards. They did, however, use one of those airport style wands on everyone and looked in everyone’s handbags, so go figure. I found it a little unnerving to be in the crowd, and claustrophobic to be in the middle of the theater, though the seats were great and so was the view of the star, Lindsey Buckingham:

He is a local (or at least local-ish, hailing from nearby Palo Alto, home of Stanford University), so it was a hometown crowd welcoming him home with great enthusiasm. The evening felt very intimate, since his band was so small and part of the show was just Lindsey and his guitar. He is so charming and unaffected, and his voice has not diminished at all over the years. I was happy that he played some songs from his new album, which I have been listening to and enjoying recently. It was a really special evening.

A YEAR AGO: Some animal updates.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spring was pretty wintery.

TEN YEARS AGO: A busy day in the City.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: What I missed.

Preserve

It had been a long time since I visited B. Bryan Preserve. Longer than I thought, since paging through my dusty archives revealed that it had in fact been 7 years, back when Jessica was a mere 12 years old. Now she is on the verge of 19. How did that happen? Especially since I myself have not aged a minute?

Visiting the Preserve has become even more popular than it was the last time I was there. There was quite a crowd, requiring three vehicles, and they have dispensed entirely with the educational session before boarding the vehicles. Frank the owner was nowhere to be seen, and I appeared to be 1) the only local on the tour; and 2. the only person who had visited before. I was more grateful than ever that Megan and I had had that magical one on one tour with Frank the owner almost 10 years ago. Those days are clearly over. While I am glad for their success, I do regret the loss of those special days.

And of course, the animals were as utterly magnificent as ever. We saw all three kinds of zebra: plains, mountain, and my personal favorite, the Grevy’s, with their round, fuzzy, teddy bear ears:

It is so amazing to see these beautiful, wild animals in real life. For those who worry about their feeling the chill of our foggy northern clime: they were born here, so in fact they would not be able to cope with the African climate. Like the rest of us fogeaters, they think it’s unbearably hot if it’s over 70 degrees.

Here are the Kudu, known as the Grey Ghost of Africa. They blend into their surroundings to avoid their predators:

Interestingly, they can jump really high, and if they wanted to, they could easily jump out of their enclosure. So they must be happy where they are, safe, admired, and fed well.

The roan antelope were feeling shy that day and just hung out by their barn. You can see them from afar:

As always, the giraffe were the highlight of the visit. They are no longer fed with acacia branches, but rather with lettuce. They are as weird and wonderful as ever, these 18 foot high, prehistoric-looking creatures:

swooping down to say hello and maybe give the tiny humans a kiss:

Seeing these beautiful creatures filled me with a child-like sense of awe and wonder. That is a wonderful gift. It was a special day.

A YEAR AGO: Some light-hearted fun from the local message boards.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A chilly Polar Plunge.

TEN YEARS AGO: Rob the handyman.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Sometimes, the city can seem like a small town.

Hotel

It was time for a little adventure, so I headed to the beautiful south coast. I decided to stay at a hotel right on the ocean. It was beautiful, and I loved the room:

The floors had radiant heat, so it was quite lovely to walk on them. Also, my house tends to be chilly, which is great in the summer, but less than fabulous the rest of the year. It was nice not to be bundled up.

There was also a fireplace, but no log. The only thing missing from the lovely bathroom was soap:

There was a rainfall shower head, and also a handheld shower. I have often wished for both of those things.

When I went down to the office to notify them of these absences, they asked if anything else was missing. Like it was normal for things to be missing. At least I had the log so I could enjoy a fire later, which I did. There was a balcony overlooking the ocean, where I enjoyed the sunset, along with a glass or two of sparkling wine.

The light through the window as the sun set was really beautiful:

Another small pleasure was realizing that I had forgotten to bring a couple of things, and I could walk to the store next door to get them! It made me feel like I was in a city again, even though all I could hear was the roar of the ocean. The closest store to my house is more than 6 miles away, not exactly walking distance. So it was a super fun novelty. You’re probably laughing about how exciting I found this right about now. I can’t help it. I’m a hick!

In the morning, I had coffee overlooking the ocean, enjoying every moment before hitting the road for an adventure.

Up next: giraffes and zebras!

FIVE YEARS AGO: I was at church. Yes. Really.

TEN YEARS AGO: A surprise wedding. Not mine, I hasten to add.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A good year.

Baby


It’s a Girl!

Babies are rare in our family. The most recent ones were born nearly 40 years ago, and they are showing no signs of reproducing themselves, so babies may well be extinct in our family. No wonder our family tree is more like a twig.

So it was extra exciting when our beloved Ben told us that he and his fiancée Erica were expecting a baby girl for Christmas.

As girls often are, this little lady was a little late, probably putting on some finishing touches for her debut, which coincided with the year’s debut. She arrived on New Year’s Day, sporting a full head of dramatic hair and capturing the hearts of her entire family. Here she is with her adoring father:

It took Ben and Erica a little while to choose the baby’s name. They wanted to get to know her a little first. They finally decided on Anna, in honor of Ben’s great aunts, one on his mother’s side and one on his father’s sides. These ladies meant a lot to Ben and had passed recently, the great-aunt on his paternal side at the amazing age of 102. It’s nice to know that she has a family name that is meaningful to her parents and hopefully will be to her as well. I like it that it’s classic and easily spelled and will not limit her possibilities in life.

Ben gets five weeks of paternity leave, and he loving being with Anna. He is already listening to music with her and enjoying every moment. I am so happy for all of them!

A YEAR AGO: The annual library meeting.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Cheers to the sunset, even though it was a school night.

TEN YEARS AGO: Why I’m here.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: My alphabet.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: My in-laws were planning their first visit to San Francisco.

Eve


The Last Evening of the Year

The last day of the year dawned rainy and misty. I am pleased to say that we have gotten around 29 inches of rain so far this season, with more to come, though we are running out of rainy months, with only the rest of January, February, and March (the secret winter month) to go.

I had the day off, and I headed to the beautiful South Coast, enjoying the winter beauty:

and the sun shining through the clouds over the ocean:

The ocean is beautiful in all its seasons and moods, just in different ways. In some ways, I think the crashing, silvery winter ocean is more beautiful than the calmer blue summer one.

It was a beautiful drive:

When I got home, I made a tourtière:

That’s supposed to be a star in the middle. I always cut designs into my pies, because that’s what my American grandmother did. As I made this pie, I realized that I was taught to cook (and to iron clothes) by two Victorians, since both of my grandmothers were born during Queen Victoria’s reign. It’s nice to think that they live on in me*, and to feel that link to history.

I watched the ball drop in Times Square, along with an attentive Dodge. Maybe it’s because I was born in New York state, but I always think that the New York New Year is the “real” one, even though I have lived in California most of my adult life. I don’t think any west coast celebrations can touch the New York one.

And so we bid farewell to the old year, and greet the new one, which so far bears a striking resemblance to the old one. We shall see what it brings. Happy New Year from me to you!

*As I write this, I am wearing my America grandmother’s gold bracelet, which is etched with her maiden name initials, EFH. It probably dates to around 1914 or so. I wear it often and think of her.

A YEAR AGO: A few plumbing issues to start the year.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Oh, Clyde! I still miss the ornament he broke.

TEN YEARS AGO: Fantasy hockey, Suzy-style. Go Leafs!

TWENTY YEARS AGO: I was less than thrilled with the rain. Well, we got more of it in those days. I note that I watched “Beautiful Girls” a couple of days ago. Still love it.

2021

This was a year of milestones. Jessica turned 18; Jarrett turned 40; my blog turned 20; Megan turned 50; she and Rob celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, and we mourned the 20th anniversary of our father’s death.

We also mourned the devastating loss of Megan and Rob’s beloved dog, Star. We knew she was sick, but the end was sudden. She has left a huge hole in their household, and we still miss her. But a new dog, Millie, brought joy to our lives in late summer, especially to Stella, who was missing Star much more than we expected. Stella and Millie love playing together, and it’s heart-warming to see how happy they are together.

I read 110 books this year, an improvement over last year’s paltry 86 (assuming my record-keeping was accurate that year), but falling short of the record high of 118 in 2010. I seem to have developed a love for Canadian graphic novels. I devoured all of “Clyde Fans” and every Michel Rabagliati book I could get my hands on.

This was also a year of successful culinary experimentation, in which I learned how to make my own Canelés de Bordeaux, Chinese BBQ pork, lemon chicken, har gao (shrimp dumplings), and pork and chive crystal dumplings.

Here’s all the news I saw fit to print this year:

January: The New Year begins. Come along on my commute. It’s a pretty one. I stepped down from my high office (or possibly my high horse) as the library board Chair, though I remain on the Board. High office is not for the likes of me. Also, it was completely perk-free, as far as I could see. I might be persuaded to try it again if a tiara and a limo were involved. Getting to work was an adventure. Swooning over Frank from afar, and remembering the inimitable Buddy, my first cat love. Frank is still doing well and is his fighty and adorable self. A magical encounter on my way to work. A friend told me that she thinks it was Dad checking in with me. I hope she’s right. And I hope he’s wrong and I see him again one day.

February: John’s rescued kittens. My proudest achievement. Thinking about love. Such an unusual thing to do around Valentine’s Day! A fun trip to the South Coast. I always love it there.

March: The heart-breaking news of our beloved Star’s terminal illness. Jonathan and Rio were off having adventures. When I heard how long they were going to be gone, I knew they would not be here to say goodbye to Star. Unfortunately, I was correct in this. Despite knowing she was ill, her death was sudden, merciful for our darling Star, but hard for those she left behind, including Stella. I still miss our beautiful Star. Megan’s place is not the same without her. I had not realized that she was the heart of their household until she was gone. Dad’s 90th birthday came on the heels of Star’s death.

April: Kitty updates. Getting my hair done and getting an Easter basket cheered me up. My blog turned 20! Can you believe it? And Jessica turned 18! Can you believe that, too? Remembering a wonderful visit with my beloved friend A at her home in Amsterdam in 1994. This month’s theme seems to be the swift passage of time and what we lose along the way.

May: Things were a little too exciting for Dodge. But it didn’t stop him from enjoying his 5th birthday. Making Tourtière from a friend’s family recipe. The joys of a beautiful spring. Megan turned 50, a reason to celebrate! A lot of milestones this year.

June: Enjoying some time off. An excellent birthday, including getting my hair cut and colored and a little trip to the beautiful South Coast. I looked around the small, but scenic, cemetery while I was in Anchor Bay. Summer crowds were out in force in the Village. An expensive flat tire. A lovely, but hot, trip to the beautiful Valley.

July: Orange is the new pink at my house. I love my house. The always amazing Flynn Creek Circus. Another milestone on this milestone-studded year: Megan and Rob’s 30th anniversary! A visit to the Valley, where you can taste cider under the very trees the cider apples grew on. A trip to Bodega Bay, to scope out locations from “The Birds” and remember family Christmases there with Dad. A glamorous stay at the Flamingo in Santa Rosa. The joy of a concert at the Music Festival.

August: My first attempt at making Canelés de Bordeaux was surprisingly successful. I fell i love with a giant ceramic apple (yes, you read that right!) and bought it for the garden. I love it. Some extreme (and extreemly delicious) take-out. Conventional wisdom seems to be wrong when it comes to my unconventional cats. A new deck and a new dog at Megan and Rob’s place! Remembering our much-loved father 20 years after his sudden and untimely death. I will never stop loving and missing him. Ever. Getting contact lenses again. Checking out some beautiful artwork around town.

September: Another successful cooking experiment: Chinese BBQ pork. Meet Millie, Megan and Rob’s new dog! She and Stella are so happy together! I seem to have been out of control with the make your own delicacies. This time: dim sum! A really fun family dinner in the garden. A horrifying (and horrifying expensive) root canal. Just one little thing can make a big difference in a room.

October: I admit it. I’m a scented candle addict. Rainy day baking. Some mid-week sparkles with a friend, and end of week Eggs Benedict at the amazing Queenie’s. Some small-town crimes, a little too close to home for comfort. And in the miscellaneous department…

November: John stepped up his rescue activities with caring for a batch of abandoned, newborn kittens. He had to get up every two hours to feed them for weeks. I am pleased to say they all made it and were safely given to a local rescue for adoption. Yay, John! He’s my hero. Redbeard was finally caught! And Suzy’s Dim Sum Palace was open for business. Yet another crown for my collection, and not the fun, sparkly kind, either. A drink with a side of view. A quietly thankful Thanksgiving.

December: A quiet, but delicious Thanksgiving dinner. The incredible sparkly beauty of the Festival of Lights. In which I learn to make my own lemon chicken while the Chinese restaurant is closed, and enjoy a drink or two with my sister at our local bar. Finally tackling the Closet of Doom. Putting up the Christmas tree. An unnerving earthquake on Solstice Eve. A pretty Christmas Eve and a quiet Christmas Day. Having fun watching Emily in Paris with my sister.

I have no idea what next year will bring, but as this year ends, I am grateful for my family, my friends, my cats, my health, my lovely house, my meaningful work, the beautiful place I live, and the small, special moments in life that are there every day.

A YEAR AGO: A look back at 2020.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Reviewing 2016.

TEN YEARS AGO: What happened in 2011.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The year of the dog.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The last day of the last year of my father’s life.

Emily

Megan I had long been awaiting the return of the delightful and delightfully frivolous Emily in Paris. It is escapism at its finest, and we were ready to escape.

I took an extra day off over the holidays so we could watch all the Emilys at one sitting, and it was so worth it!

Arriving at Megan and Rob’s place, I was greeted by Stella and Millie. Millie is still horrified by humanity other than Megan, and occasionally Rob, but she feels better when she is cuddled up with Stella:

Stella has not lost her Mom skills, and clearly loves taking care of Millie.

The deck is now complete, and there is a gravel path leading to it, to cut down on the dust and mud:

Here’s another look at the path, leading away from their place:

Once inside, I discovered that our friend Monica had left me a gorgeous Christmas gift, wrapped in vintage ribbon and including a clear glass ornament with a feather in it, and a sparkly mushroom ornament:

Megan was well-prepared for our Emily Day. She invested in a cocktail shaker so she could make Midori Illusions, and it was worth it:

They are magical concoctions of Midori melon liqueur, vodka, Cointreau, lemon juice, and pineapple juice.

Rob imported pizzas from the Big Town. It was surprisingly difficult to acquire a pizza that day, both of the pizza places in the Village being chiuso in the Italian manner. We were lucky that he was willing to not only drive the pizzas home, but also me, and it was after midnight by the time I left. Season Two of Emily may have been even more delightful than Season One. We had such a great time!

A YEAR AGO: Christmas at the beach.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Happy Hannukah!

TEN YEARS AGO: Christmas aftermath.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Christmas nightmare.

Christmas


Happy holidays to you!

There was no company on Christmas Day, but it was still festive at Chez Suzy. The Christmas tree sparkled, and outside it was raining, with the frogs peeping merrily. It was the perfect weather for making cheese biscuits:

and for glazing ham:

While not up to my brother’s very high standards, it was delicious. I quartered a clementine and squeezed the juice over the ham before glazing it, and then left the orange quarters in the pan. The glaze I made was simple, just maple syrup, brown sugar, and Dijon mustard, but I glazed it every 15 minutes or so, and it was worth the effort.

Of course, I also made our traditional Christmas salad, with roasted pears, honey-shallot dressing, and fresh pomegranate seeds:

I had sparkling, pink, local-ish (made in neighboring Sonoma County) wine with dinner, and enjoyed the candlelight, the peace, and the purring presence of my three beloved cats, Audrey, Clyde, and Dodge.

After dinner, I watched Charlie Brown and the Grinch and opened my presents. It was a really nice Christmas.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A merry Christmas.

TEN YEARS AGO: A happy Christmas

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Not surprisingly, we were not celebrating.

Eve

On Christmas Eve, I stopped by the Village to pick up a few things. It was pouring as I headed down the Ridge, and I wondered whether I really needed the things I was planning to buy. By the time I reached the grocery store in the Village, it had stopped raining.

I ran into my friend Erin in the store. She, too, was shopping for last minute groceries. It was nice to take a couple of minutes to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. I like living in a place where I can randomly run into friends and neighbors, even if I am not wearing make-up and/or am oddly attired, as sometimes happens on last-minute store runs.

As I headed back to the car, the weather reminded me that in any situation, it’s all in how you look at things, whether you look on the stormy side:

or the bright side:

I took these photos at the same place, the cloudy ones looking west toward the sea and the Village photos looking east. It makes me happy to know that the Village looks much as it did 100 years ago, and to think of the generations that have celebrated together in this beautiful place.

A YEAR AGO: Christmas memories.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Getting ready.

TEN YEARS AGO: Unexpected Christmas guests.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Christmas sparkle never goes out of style.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Our 11th anniversary. Nice to see Dad’s notes and those photos. And to know that 20 years later, John and I are still there for each other and always will be.

Tree

I didn’t wait for the first Saturday in December to put up my Christmas tree. I did it the first Friday in December as soon as I got home. I didn’t remove any of the faux adult armor or anything first. I excavated the tree and the lone box of ornaments and got to work.

I was sorry to discover that the colored lights no longer worked and were destined for the dump, where they are undoubtedly being entertained by the comic stylings of the attendant there. My Plan B was a string of clear lights, which work well with the glass icicles and clear plastic snowflakes. Not to mention the glittery white glass birds in honor of Dad:

and the mercury glass acorns, including the giant one displayed in the middle of the tree:

and a beautiful apple:

I also have sparkly glass mushrooms clipped to the ersatz branches, and a glittery star at the top of the tree:

It looks really pretty:

Somewhat surprisingly, the cats, who never agree on anything else other than the fact that feeding times are too late too far between, and there is a distressingly permanent treat drought, are united in ignoring the tree so far. The only post-tree change in their behavior is that Dodge has taken up his winter position on the dining room chair in front of the heater:

In this location, he’s in the direct line of any warmth coming out of the heater. He certainly looks cozy. The rest of the year, he lounges on top of the heater, where he can enjoy the warmth of the pilot light. He’s not just handsome, he’s smart, too.

A YEAR AGO: How Dodge won Clyde’s heart. They are still the best of friends.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Decorating for the season at the old house.

TEN YEARS AGO: You guessed it.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A little less than jolly.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The pros and cons of buying a carport. Fun fact: the carport I bought then is still in use over at the family estate, where it houses a mechanic’s pit, the washer and dryer, the body freezer, and other essentials of life. It turned out to be a good investment.

Sparkle

Darkness is upon us, and I am trying to embrace it, with scented candles, herbal tea in my beautiful mug from Monica, and cozy evenings with the cats, and watching Ellery Queen, wondering if I will ever solve the mysteries (I got one out of 24!). Lately, I seem to have a taste for comfort TV. I loved Ellery Queen, and have recently discovered the joys of The Andy Griffith Show, which I amazingly had never seen before now. I find it incredibly charming.

A bright spot in the darkness of winter, both literally and figuratively, is the Festival of Lights at the Botanical Gardens. Every year, they fill the beautiful Gardens with amazing lights, and there is always something new to discover.

This year, the tickets were timed, and I arrived at 6:00 pm. I was greeted by a breathtaking array of light sculptures:

Illuminated tunnels led the way to even more wonders:

Like an erupting volcano:

And jellyfish, floating ethereally among the trees:

The sea monster:

fortunately didn’t get too close to the pirate ship and whale:

It is such a beautiful spectacle, and it gives me the gift of child-like wonder, an experience that happens all too rarely as an adult, even one as faux as I am.

A YEAR AGO: A quick fix for the kitchen sink.

FIVE YEARS AGO: File under miscellaneous.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Dogs, drunks, and movies. You know, just a day in this girl’s life.

Dinner


Cheers to Thanksgiving!

Making Thanksgiving dinner is a fair amount of work, even when you don’t have company. This year, I didn’t bother with Grammie’s ivory-handled silver or Wedgwood or Nana’s wineglasses. I used the 1940s Ringware bowls I got from Monica’s store for the cranberry-bourbon relish:

and the orange-ginger glazed carrots:

Here you can see the bowls a bit better:

I really enjoy using them.

This year, I roasted the turkey Nana-style, rubbing it with butter and sage and sprinkling it with Maldon salt and freshly ground pepper. I have tried fancier and more time-consuming methods, brining and all that, but the fancy methods were not notably better than my American farm girl grandmother’s simple method, so back to the basics I went. And the turkey turned out perfect:

Even the leftovers were moist. I made gravy from the pan juices, and this year, I got a package of pre-roasted and pre-peeled chestnuts for the stuffing/dressing, thus relieving me of the worst Thanksgiving chore of all. It was a real process improvement.

So that was my simple dinner, along with the pink méthode champenoise seen above in my rhinestone-studded glass, by the light of the deliciously scented Hearth candle. I have so much to be thankful for: my family, my friends, my cats, my health, my job, all the love that surrounds me.

A YEAR AGO: It was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

TEN YEARS AGO: Decorating for the holidays.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Remembering the past.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Things were sad inside and out.

Thanksgiving

I woke up to the sun peeking coyly through the redwoods outside my bedroom window on Thanksgiving morning, the sunlight missing its usual PJs of fog and mist. I love waking up when it’s light out, instead of in night-like darkness, as I do for the majority of the year.

I don’t love being woken by Clyde walking all over me and patting my face with his paw, though. Like many of us, Clyde seems to be under the illusion that he is much smaller and lighter than he actually is, though fortunately for him, he is even more beautiful and adorable than he thinks. He is not, however, a tiny kitten.

I accepted the inevitable and got up, enjoying the feel of bare feet on the smooth wood floors and the soft rug in the bathroom. I reminded myself that I was lucky that all three of my cats are happy and healthy, and that one day, I would be missing them and wish they were here, waking me up and annoying me. My boss lost her beloved kitten Peanut a couple of weeks ago, to something horrible called FIP, which I had never heard of before and wish I never had. Peanut was only 10 months old, and she was devastated to lose him so young. It reminded me to be thankful for having three cats, ages 14, 11, and 5, all safe and healthy.

After feeding and caring for the cats, which is the first thing I do every day – before coffee, my friends – I went downstairs to make coffee and text my siblings, who are working, to wish them a happy Thanksgiving. I hope we can have dinner soon.

While I waited for the coffee to be ready in the stainless steel – Suzy proof! – French press, I tossed the stalenizing bread for stuffing, or dressing, as my Southern friends call it, which I cut up after work on Tuesday to start it drying out. Even when you aren’t having company, there’s a certain amount of labor involved in a Thanksgiving dinner.

I had ordered a turkey breast two weeks earlier, in preparation for my modest celebration, and went to pick it up after work on Thanksgiving Eve. Imagine my surprise when none of the three Susans on the list at the butcher counter were this particular Susan. Fortunately, the kindly butcher was able to find a turkey breast for this great-granddaughter of a butcher, and dinner was saved.

A YEAR AGO: My alter ego?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving aftermath.

TEN YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving wrap up.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Some chaos in my life.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Picking up my repaired diamond watch. I still love it. I still have the raw opal studs and I still wear them.

30


30 Years!

Megan and Rob tend not to make a fuss about things like birthdays and anniversaries, but this year marked not only Megan’s 50th birthday, but Megan and Rob’s 30th wedding anniversary. Our schedules didn’t match up to have a celebration of Megan’s first birthday in the 50s and mine, the last of the 50s, but we made sure to celebrate Megan and Rob’s milestone anniversary.

I’m sure this is a common experience for those of us barely hanging onto our 50s, but it amazes me that someone whose diapers I used to change (sorry, Megan!*) is now half a century old. And married for three decades of those 5 decades.

Even the most math-challenged among us can see that Megan married young. She had only been 20 for a few weeks when she took the leap to marry Rob, who at that point was not in a happy place in his life. I will be honest and tell y’all that I was not happy about it. But I will also add here that Rob won me over pretty quickly and I have stayed that way ever since. And whatever my misgivings were in July of 1991, Megan and Rob have proved me wrong. I am long divorced, and they have gone the distance. Megan always says that whatever life throws at them, they just take each other’s hands and walk through it. I think all of the joys and challenges they have faced together over the years have brought them closer together, and that they love each other more deeply and truly now than they did on their wedding day.

Being Megan, she ended up planning and making most of the dinner, though Jonathan and I did help where we could. Jonathan is always the grill master, and you can see why:

After the chicken was barbecued to perfection, it was sliced up and dressed with lemon slices that had also been grilled, and a mix of fresh lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil, as well as green olives. It was delicious. There was also a couscous salad, made with mint and arugula from the property and Parmesan instead of the feat the recipe called for (none of us are feta fans). For dessert, we had the first cherries of the season from Jonathan’s Awesome Cherry Tree**:

With dinner, we had some sparkling local wine to go with our sparkling conversation. After Jonathan headed back to his place, just a short walk away, Megan and I shared some limoncello, so I was lucky that Rob had volunteered to be my chauffeur, especially now that it’s a 20 minute drive to my place, instead of 2 minute drive. It was a happy celebration of a very happy occasion. Here’s to the next 30 years!

*Megan hates it when I talk about her babyhood and childhood. Interestingly, Jessica always enjoyed those stories about herself.

**When Megan finally nagged convinced Jonathan that they should add a cherry tree to the orchard, it was decided that if the cherry tree worked out (apparently cherry trees do not play well with other trees and have to be netted to keep the birds at bay, so they are a lot of work – ours lives in its own little netted cathedral in the corner of the garden), it would be Jonathan’s Awesome Cherry Tree, but if not, it would be Megan’s Stupid Idea. So far, it has been all Awesome, all the time.

A YEAR AGO: Getting shady.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lu and Rik’s wonderful wedding.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: An interesting weekend.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Visiting the farmers’ market at the Ferry Building. I’d love to do that again one of these days.

Circus

It’s that magical time of year when Flynn Creek Circus’ striped tent makes its appearance in the Village.

I bought tickets to their new show, Fairytale, as soon as they went on sale on May 2. I enjoyed the anticipation over the next couple of months, even more when I heard that all the shows were sold out.

Megan came by to pick me up around 12:30, to give us time to get to the Village and find parking among the maddening hordes of tourists who have descended upon us in their annual plague. Of course, the parking goddesses smiled on Megan as they usually do, and we found a spot under a tree not far from the circus tent. We arrived at the door at 1:07, and learned that the show did not start at 1:30, as I had thought, but rather, at 1:00. So I was glad that we had given ourselves lots of time and arrived (allegedly) early. I gave a moment’s thought to how awful it would be if we had missed an entire half hour of the magic before settling in to enjoy it.

Every show Flynn Creek Circus does is different each year, but they are all magical and gravity-defying. I enjoyed the fairy tale theme, with a sparkly fairy as our MC:

She is Tinkerbell’s slightly disgruntled older sister, who calls her famous sibling “Stinkerbell” and eventually gets to duke (or duchess) it out with the family star later in the show. She explained the mythical storyline, which involved unicorns, fairies, Prince Charming, and ravens:

Whatever the story line, the acrobatics and aerials:

were as amazing as ever. An artiste did the splits on what seemed like a teeny piece of string, people somersaulted and leapt through hula hoops, and juggled 6 or 8 pins at a time while jumping through hoops, sometimes backwards. I think my favorite thing about seeing Flynn Creek Circus is how it gives me a sense of awe and wonder that brings me back to childhood. And you are really living in the moment when you are at the Circus. Each moment is more enchanting than the last.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A busy week for our heroine.

TEN YEARS AGO: A look around the neighborhood. I now live on the same road as the former stagecoach stop, and the restaurant is the location of our favorite seaside bar.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Some feminine musings.

Birthday


Cheers to Me!

With the way Memorial Day fell – closer to my birthday than my sister’s, where it is usually located – I felt like I was hardly working for a little while there. I took time off over the Memorial Day weekend, and my birthday fell conveniently on a Friday, so I took that off, too. Why not?

Also, I am just opposed to working on my birthday, unless I absolutely have to. I figure it’s the one day a year when I should get what I want, no questions asked*. I even left early on my birthday eve, and stopped by Angelika’s place to get my hair cut. It was lovely to sit in her little salon and watch the hummingbirds at the feeder:

And the little quails walking by like little wind-up toys, the plumes on their heads waving in the breeze. I loved my hair:

I always feel better both inside and out after visiting Angelika. There is something about her and the lovely place she lives and works that is just healing to one’s spirit.

On the great day itself, I got up after the sun did – usually I am far ahead of lazy old Sol, though he tends to catch up with me during the summer months – made some coffee, and went back to bed with the coffee and the cats for a while, reading my fan mail and enjoying the peaceful quiet of my house and the beauty of the late spring day unfolding through the many windows.

I set off southwards – I noticed that during my time off, I headed south rather than north, toward the Big Town – and my first stop was at Franny’s Cup & Saucer:

where I got a champagne cupcake with blackberry icing, decorated with rose petals, and a flawless cannelé de Bordeaux. Up next was the Surf Market in Gualala, where I picked up a sandwich and an Orangina to enjoy overlooking the ocean:

Last but not least was Anchor Bay Thai:

Where I picked up the perfect dinner: fresh spring rolls, chicken satay, and Massaman curry. I waited on the patio, which has just a few tables and fairy lights strung around the trees. I have to come back and have dinner there one evening. But on this evening, I brought my fabulous dinner home and enjoyed it with some sparkling pink wine and the sparkling Rear Window. It was a great birthday.

*Of course, I feel that way the other 364 days of the year, but it’s harder to enforce then.

A YEAR AGO: A happy birthday.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Clyde’s birthday. My baby boy.

TEN YEARS AGO: The boys turned one!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Door to door godliness.

Celebrate

A milestone birthday like 50 deserves some recognition! Fortunately, Megan’s one Saturday off in May was the one right before her big day. So she picked me up that sunny Saturday afternoon and we headed to our favorite seaside bar.

It was the perfect day for a cocktail by the ocean:

The restaurant’s garden was looking lovely:

and the beautiful, long-haired black cat who lives at the restaurant wasted no time in allowing us to pet and admire him. He is a very handsome boy, and he must have a great life, living on fabulous fine dining leftovers and being admired by locals and tourists alike. He basked in the sun, blinking his big green eyes and keeping us company as we enjoyed our drinks and chatted.

On our way to Megan’s place, we stopped for a moment to admire the ocean. Megan said how lucky we are that this is our backyard, and that this wonderful, beautiful place is our local bar. I have to agree.
I took a quick look around the garden at the family estate, picking some arugula and admiring the future pies:

We celebrated with some local sparkling wine and some fabulous pizza from Café Beaujolais, thoughtfully picked up by Rob, who was also my designated driver and tolerant of the girl movie fiesta that went with the pizza. He is the best.

Monica took Megan out for dinner on her actual birthday, so all in all, she had a great 50th birthday. I’m hoping that we can figure out a day to have a family party as well. It’s challenging with our schedules being so different, but it’s a pretty special occasion and deserves to be celebrated. The more celebration, the better!

A YEAR AGO: We lost The Beautiful Harriet. She is still missed.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some enjoyable time off.

TEN YEARS AGO: A little on the grumpy side.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Enjoying The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. It’s one of my all-time favorite bad movies.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Thinking of my grandfathers on Memorial Day.

50


Birthday Girl

Today is my sister Megan’s 50th birthday.

It’s hard for me to believe that the little baby who came home from the hospital on my 9th birthday is half a century old on this day. I still remember being called to the office on that bright spring day. I felt so small as I walked down the empty, echoing school hallways*, reviewing my recent crimes in my head and then sorting them by the ones I thought I could have been caught at. I had reached no conclusion by the time I reached the principal’s office.

My criminal musings were ended by the school secretary cheerfully informing me that I had a baby sister. I skipped back to my classroom, slammed the door open, and announced the happy news, which was greeted by “Yay!” from the girls and “Boo!” from the boys.

My first glimpse of my sister was when our parents brought her home from the hospital on my birthday. She was wrapped in white blankets, and was so small! It seemed I had to dig around in the blankets for a while before I found the baby. We were excited that she was a brunette after the rest of us were blonde.

Despite my youth, I took care of Megan as a baby, giving her bottles (she was allergic to formula, and drank soy milk) and changing her and doing the laundry. I was surprised that the smallest person in the family had the most laundry. All those cloth diapers and onesies! I remember the first time she laughed. She was in her playpen, watching the snowball bush outside the window dancing in the breeze.

Megan lived with me during high school, and I had to make decisions about her boyfriend** staying over, how late she could be out, birth control, and minor things of that nature. Don’t forget that I was a mere 9 years older and in my early 20s at the time. There’s a reason that Nature generally does not allow parents to be so young. Looking back, I think I did a pretty good job of fake parenting, and I like to think that I had a little something to do with Megan becoming the amazing person she is today***.

I am so proud of her for living her life with integrity, humor, and love. She has worked in emergency medical services for almost 20 years, and if the shit is hitting the fan, if you have been in a car accident or your loved one is dying or you are giving birth, she is the one you want to have there. She is the best person to be there on your worst day. She is calm, decisive, and commanding, whether driving the ambulance or working in the ER. She takes no nonsense, but she treats patients with respect and compassion. She is beloved by her team at work, where they are like a family. Facing the drama and the long, dark nights together, when things tend to happen, brings you close, like being in battle. And in a way, they are.

She has been married to Rob, our brother’s best friend, for 30 of her 50 years****, and they have grown and supported each other together over the years. The good times and the bad times have just made them closer. As Megan says, whatever life throws at them, they just hold each other’s hands and walk through it together.

With our brother, Megan and Rob have homesteaded their property, living off the grid, digging their own wells, and creating a beautiful vegetable garden, flower garden, and orchard out of inhospitable pygmy. My sister has achieved a lot in her half century on this planet, and I for one can’t wait to see what the next 50 years bring. I am so proud of you, baby sis! And I love you with all my heart.

*Years later, when Megan was in high school and living with me, I would find going to her “parent”-teacher conferences equally intimidating. I always felt like they were going to make me go back to school, since I was clearly impersonating a responsible adult.

**Still my friend!

**When asked in job interviews what my greatest achievement is, I always think, “Megan”. Though I never say that. Now you know the truth!

****And without our beloved father for 20 of her 50 years. She was out of parents before she was 35. Have you called yours lately?

A YEAR AGO: I know a lot of secrets.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Celebrating Megan’s birthday in style.

TEN YEARS AGO: A rainy birthday for Megan. I see I did not not note it was her 40th.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The joys of almost dog ownership. I still miss the Lovely (and dignified) Rita.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Feeling proud of Megan on her 30th birthday.