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.

Worst Long Weekend Ever


Welcome to hell! You’ll hate it here!

I was rewarded for having the temerity to take two days off after working six days a week all summer by a heat tsunami. Nothing as benign as a heat wave – this is a heat tsunami, crushing everything in its path, including me.

I actually left the County on Thursday for the first time in ages, going to Santa Rosa, which involves one of my least favorite things: driving on freeways. However, the traffic was better than I expected and I completed my errands quickly despite (or because of) the bone-crushing 106 degree heat. I was home again about six hours after I left, making the unpleasant discovery that the hideous heat had hitched a ride with me.

Now, it’s not unusual for Santa Rosa to be 100 degrees or more. But when that happens, it is typically 75 to 80 on the coast. Not 100. And unlike Santa Rosans, our bodies and houses are not equipped to handle the heat. My house in particular. It’s uninsulated wood, covered with tar paper, and basically it’s like living in a tent. The upside down rowboat shape traps all the heat, and none of the windows open. As Jessica puts it, “Megan’s house is stupid, but your house is really stupid.”

Its deficiencies and stupidities became glaringly obvious as the glaring heat wore on and wore me out. Day after day of 100+ outside and 90+ inside. Even with all the curtains drawn and fans blasting, along with the swamp cooler, it only brought the indoor temperature down to 90F downstairs. I can’t imagine what it is upstairs, even with a box fan facing out to allegedly pull out the hot air, according to my former fire fighter brother. I wished I was in my air conditioned office instead of my overheated hippie hut as I took cold showers and repeatedly threw cold water on my face, arms and poitrine.

Megan persuaded me to go to the Village with her and Jessica, reasoning that it would be cooler at the coast. It was 90 or more. A scantily clad visitor was staring aghast at her phone and saying, “It say’s it 64! No way it’s 64!” I told her it always says it’s 64. It’s remarkably hard to get an accurate weather forecast for this part of the world*. Even though it never got any better, I kept obsessively checking the forecast over the past few days.

I feel like I’m under siege, hiding from the Evil Death Star. I am nauseous and drinking as much ice water as I can while feeling light-headed and weird. It’s too hot to do anything inside or outside of the house, though I did water the garden in the early morning hours the past two days. The fuchsias, those Suziest of flowers, being both shade-loving and flashy, looked like I felt, being wilted and perhaps partly dead. I fear that both of us may never completely recover. I actually wept with despair at one point during the hell of the last few days. If there was someone I could surrender to in order to make it stop, I would. I freely admit I can’t take it anymore. You win, Evil Death Star!

Guess when temperatures are going to return to normal? Yeah, you guessed it: my first day back at work after the Worst Long Weekend Ever.

*As Robin Williams put it in “Good Morning Vietnam”: “You got a window? Open it!” In fact, his entire weather report is sadly accurate. It is hotter than a snake’s ass in a wagon rut.

Melting

Come back, Fogust!

Both of my brain cells may have melted yesterday. I didn’t dare to consult the thermometer outside, but it was still 86 in my house when I went to bed last night. My house is so unreasonable. Rob came by to correctly position my Junapalooza swamp cooler gift and attempt to explain the laws of physics to me. It sort of sounded like the Charlie Brown grownups to my non-sciency mind, though.

He turned off all the fans, closed up the house other than the screen door to the balcony in the sleeping loft, and placed the swamp cooler in the open door between the studio and the house, reasoning that blowing air from the coolest part of the house with a concrete floor would help to cool the rest of it. He added in stuff about air layers and other things I couldn’t get, but I was not put here on earth to get it.

I’m sorry to say that it is supposed to be hot’n’heinous™ for the rest of the week, so Rob is going to add attempted climate control duties to cat doorman duties, it now being too dark to leave the doors open for them when I go to work, with the arrival of high beams season. Somehow it seems spectacularly unfair that it’s both hot and dark.

Hope he is successful, especially since this heat wave is slated to go until Saturday or so.

[Later]

Hm. It was 78 in the house and about 80 outside when I got home, despite Rob’s ministrations. Yesterday it was about 90 outside and 86 in. Maybe the eccentricities of my house make the swamp cooler of limited effectiveness. It feels cooler outside than in, so I think I’ll turn off the swamp cooler, open the doors, and put on a couple of fans. Old school.

A YEAR AGO: Well, at least melting in the heat is better than an obnoxious mountain lion. Isn’t it?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Yet another car misadventure that ended up being more life-affirming than disastrous.

Out & About

If you think May is too late in the year for power outages, I agree with you. But we would both be wrong.

Derby Day dawned bright and sunny, but it also dawned crazy windy. It should have dawned on me that the power might go out, but it didn’t. Imagine my surprise when I was plunged into powerlessness less than an hour before the Derby festivities. No hats, no (muddy) walk across the field, no singing of “My Old Kentucky Home”, no exciting call of “Riders, up!”, and worst of all, no race. It was enough to make a girl make a consolation julep.

Even if I could have located a sports bar that was showing the race, I couldn’t have gotten there. Reports reached me that there was a power line down on the Ridge, so I couldn’t have made it to the highway. Even if I did, I would have had to turn back to the impasse on the Ridge, because other downed power lines had caused a fire in the next town north of Hooterville and the highway was closed.

A call to our friends at PG&E told me, and stop me if you’ve heard this one before, that there were widespread outages and that they had no estimated time of restoration. The sunny skies seemed to be mocking me as I regretted my optimistic folly of emptying out the emergency water buckets a couple of weeks earlier, foolishly thinking that I would not be needing them anymore, especially since they were now breeding mosquitoes. Fortunately, I did have a few bottles of drinking water left over from the seemingly endless winter, and I had already done the dishes.

I went to bed that night with earplugs in my ears and two pillows over my head to muffle the racket of Mark’s generator, seemingly racketier than ever, but maybe that was just my envy. The power came on again about 12 hours too late for the Derby, but at least it came on again.

A YEAR AGO: A wonderful family dinner.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Clyde was feeling naughty.

Tire-d

Dear Winter,
How can I miss you when you won’t go away?
Love,
Suzy

It seems that I was overly optimistic about the arrival of spring and the departure of winter. Lilacs notwithstanding, the weather has been doing a pretty good imitation of winter. It was 38F outside and 46F inside this past weekend, and we had a strong storm with high winds and heavy rains which led to me having to get out of the car three times on my way to work the following day to remove fallen branches on the drive way and the Ridge. The air smelled like Christmas trees and the roads were covered with twigs and needles as if it were December. So last season!

Spring being a tease and having to drive (again or still) in winter weather conditions makes me at least grudgingly glad that I invested my last paycheck in four new tires, an alignment, and an oil change for Wednesday. Unfortunately for both me and my modest paycheck, Wednesday requires low profile, high price tires, something of which I was unaware when picking her out at the car pound in faraway Modesto.

I bought two new tires on my really excellent birthday two years ago, and amused the mechanics when I asked if I could just buy four regular tires instead. To their credit (and my debit), they explained with a straight face that those pesky laws of physics don’t allow for that, regular tires being too fat or too high to fit in Wednesday’s sleek wheel wells. I guess two years is about all you can expect of your tires when you persist in driving them on unpaved and semi-paved roads which are usually accessorized with the latest in potholes and suffering from unbenign neglect when it comes to repairs.

I realize this means I have so far bought tires twice for a car which is not yet paid off.

In other winter news, it appears that all the rain has been wreaking havoc on our well. I came home one day this week to discover that the water coming out of the tap was a little more colorful than I would have liked. I asked Mark about it, and he hadn’t noticed (though you’d think at least one of three girls he lives with would have). He investigated, and said that all the rain had flushed the surrounding red clay (the red earth of Tara!) into the well and we would have to wait for it to settle down, which did not really settle me down at all. Nor did his cheerful assertion that it’s “clean” dirt, being natural instead of man-made and (presumably) not toxic.

Fortunately, I still have bottled water left over from the winter supply, but I am hoping that Mark can put a filter on the pipe that leads from the storage tank to the houses on the property to decruddify it sooner rather than later.

A YEAR AGO: Rob unveils his masterpiece.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Things were beautiful in San Francisco.

Whether

“I’m the Whether Man, not the Weather Man, for after all it’s more important to know whether there will be weather than what the weather will be.” — The Whether Man, “The Phantom Tollbooth”

Well, our whether has varied widely over the past week.

Last weekend, it hailed up a storm – about half a dozen of them on the same day. Inside the house, the light had that eerie whiteness I associate with snowfalls back east, and I had the heater on all day (despite the horror of the $355 bill to fill the propane tank just days before). The cats were fascinated by the sound of it against the roof/walls, and I was fascinated by the look of it against the glass ceiling of the back “porch”:

dusting the scenic path to the compost pile:

and piled up in the potted plants by the side of the house:

It was almost as exciting as when it snowed a few years ago. When I went to bed that night, it was still piled up in the terra cotta pot.

Whereas this weekend, I have all the doors open in my little house and the sun is shining. The cats are scarce. I did a cursory inspection of the garden, and both the orchids and the tulips are budding, but not in bloom. Once again my tulip efforts can be rated a fail. I promise myself that I will plant them again in November to get flowers in February. Usually the orchids start blooming in February, so I have no idea why they are such slackers. Same goes for the camellias, which have steadfastly refused to bloom at all.

I will enjoy the sunshine and the break from the seemingly endless rain and try not to think about the horror of the time change. It was nice driving to work in the light while it lasted.

A YEAR AGO: A delightful bee-themed event at my friend Monica’s delightful shop.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful visit from my friend and neighbor, Jim.

Stormy Monday

Monday was a holiday, and while it was nice to have a long weekend, it was (of course) a stormy one. The wind howled around the house, and watching the trees toss their heads, I told myself to accept the fact that the power was going to go out.

As usual, I ignored my well-meant advice, and neglected to fill the pot with water to boil the noodles for the spicy stir fried noodles I was planning to make for dinner and to do the dishes that had accumulated from the prep for said dinner. The power went out at 6:00 pm as the sky darkened for the evening*, and I sadly went to get the flashlight and lantern from Rob’s magnificent cabinet (I now have a box inside it with power outage equipment, making it easy to find in the darkness).

Cooking by flashlight was as problematic as you’d expect, though the recipe was delicious. I skipped the eggs and salt (isn’t soy sauce basically salt?) and will increase the amount of sauce next time. I will probably scatter some chopped scallions on top along with the peanuts.

Also as usual, Mark fired up his generator a split second after the blackness descended. I was still on the phone reporting the outage to our friends at PG&E when I heard the racket start. Conventional wisdom holds that the shortest amount of time is between the light turning green and someone honking, but I’m pretty sure it’s between the power going out and Mark starting up his generator.

Much like snoring, where the noise is deeply annoying to those trying to sleep, hearing the noise of a generator next door making sure they have heat and light when you have neither of these things is also unenjoyable, especially since it deprives you of your much-needed beauty sleep on a school night.
I soon realized that I could not sleep upstairs, with just the balcony door between me and the Dreadful Rauw, even with earplugs and a pillow over my head. I tossed bedding over the balcony where I once tossed myself, and went grumpily downstairs to sleep on the couch. There I had the door to the studio closed as well as the studio and its outside door to shield me against the Awful Dynne.

It was hard to sleep, what with the grumpitude, curious cats, and the storm raging all around the house. I tried not to think about trees falling on the house. When the power came back on, the house blazed to life, waking me up just a couple of hours before it was time to get up for good. Or bad.

The rain is taking a break today, which means that it’s really cold with no clouds to insulate us. I could hardly yank my car door open this morning since it was frozen, and it took a while to warm up as a sliver of moon smiled down at us.

*This week, I noticed that it is no longer pitch dark when I drive to work, which means that the time change can’t be far away. As soon as there is a glimmer of light and hope in the morning, it is snatched away. It took me a while to realize that the entire point of the time change is to make sure it’s dark in the morning and that there are only two or three months of the year that I don’t get up in utter blackness. Not that I’m bitter or anything.

A YEAR AGO: Flea-O-Rama! Again!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Audreyness of Audrey. Also? It was 65 degrees!

Flooded

Guess what? It’s raining! Y’all can stop your rain dances or waltzes or twerking, we’re good for now, especially in Oroville, wherever that is. I was touched at the international concern for my safety following the news of the Oroville Dam overflow. I still don’t know where it is, but I do know that the only flooding around here is the usual suspects (the Road to Civilization and the car eating ditches that border the Ridge). Cheerful yellow “Flooded” signs are popping up, along with their cousins, “Slide”. It’s late winter in California!

Calla lilies are also popping up by the side of the road, along with drifts of sunshiny daffodils in the rain. Cherry trees are hazed with pink blossoms, always a sure sign of February. This morning, I noticed that the air smells different, more like spring and less like winter, and this week I realized that it was no longer night dark at 5:30 pm. 5:30 am should take its cue from 5:30 pm instead of doing such an excellent impersonation of 12:00 am.

Valentine’s Day saw my desk flooded with love:

Inside the bag is home-made salsa and sugar facial scrub, among other delights. More cupcakes and even orchids arrived after the photo opp, making up for the fact that it was an extremely unromantic 12 hour Valentine’s Day. When I finally got home, I had some of the delicious salsa on a take-out burrito and watched an episode of “Victoria” before collapsing into bed surrounded by kitties.

It wasn’t all work this week, though. I made time to meet a friend at the charming seaside bar where Megan and I first made the delightful acquaintance of the cerise noir. The lovely bartender remembered that was what I had last time and set about making another for me, since she had already made an impeccable Negroni for my friend.

She hails from England, near where my father grew up, and we enjoyed talking about some of our favo(u)rite places there. The bar’s owner chimed in about a recent visit there. He and his wife found it an enchanting place. I have to say that there are few things more beautiful than a perfect summer day in England.

Of course, sitting in a pretty room with your friends, drink in hand, watching the sun set over the ocean isn’t bad, either. Despite the week of rain and the slate grey skies and sea, the clouds thinned just enough to allow us a peek of radiant pink sky as the sun slipped away, a wonderful parting gift.

A YEAR AGO: Enjoying being chauffeured.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Remembering my grandfather. Love you and miss you, Hoho.

Stormy


Stormy Seas

On Fridays, it makes me happy to know that my siblings are happily asleep as I jolt workwards down the muddy driveway in the early morning darkness. The driveway is puddlier than ever thanks to the stormy visitors we have had lately. I am beginning to think that whoever did those rain dances to end the drought may have overdone it. The driveway is either dust or mud, depending on the time of year, and its muddiness has reached new heights (or depths, depending on how you look at it) this winter. I don’t think it’s ever been as potholed and puddled as it is now. I flinch for Wednesday as I am tossed around the car, even at less than five miles an hour.

Thursday’s storm was particularly intense, with heavy rains and high winds. We had already received five inches of rain this week before that storm. I hate to admit it, but I’m kind of done with the rain. At this point, everything is saturated and it’s just causing landslides and fallen trees, which in turn cause power outages.

We had a power outage at work this week. Oddly, it was calm and not raining when it happened, and it affected the entire Big Town and the Village while leaving Hooterville untouched for once. The generator kicked on to power the lights in the clinic area, and patients were still seen, using paper charts. The receptionists print out schedules ahead of time during stormy weeks. I used the time to catch up on my filing, which I had not done for a couple of months due to fundraiser madness and human nature’s* general dislike of filing.

I did enjoy the unaccustomed feeling of virtue, though, and the lights came back on shortly after I completed the filing so I could get back to work on computer-related tasks.

This morning dawned clear and bright. I was momentarily confused when I woke up and saw the moonlight, wondering what it was in my precaffeinated state. I will enjoy the lightness and brightness while it lasts. We are due to get more storms next week. The calm before the storm…

*Among my filing were some old personnel records, one of which included a resignation letter saying that working at the clinic had made this person grow as a professional and “a human been.”

A YEAR AGO: A delightful day with surfers, ballet and Thai food. What more could a girl want?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Poor Rob. And his pain in the neck.

Rained In

Megan and I had grand plans to see the Bolshoi Ballet performing “Sleeping Beauty”, but Mother Nature had other plans.

The appointed day dawned dark and dreary, and as the day went on, it got rainier and rainier. We already knew that the Road to Civilization was flooded and closed:

and that it was very likely that the river over which the Road to the South Coast passes would flood, too, effectively stranding us on the South Coast if we made it that far. We speculated on how we might possibly get home if we were marooned, and decided that we’d have to keep going south to Jenner until we could find a road to take us to 101, then to 20, then from the Big Town back to Hooterville.

Since this winding route would take several hours and Megan was scheduled to work that night, we decided to stay home, missing both the glories of a beautiful ballet and the joys of Thai food.

We aren’t imagining that we’ve gotten a lot of rain this winter. Our friends at PG&E, those fearless repairers of power outages, say it’s been the wettest January in 20 years ’round these parts. The local message boards say we have received 16 inches of rain in January so far. I well remember the winter of 1996-1997, when it rained every single day in January and February. I worked in an old building in downtown San Francisco with exposed brick walls, and the rain ran down the walls – inside. I had clear plastic draped over my computer to cover it from the inside rainfall.

I still have inside rainfall. The laundry room has flooded as per usual, and the usual leaks have sprung to life. On the bright side, though, the drought is definitely on the run for now.

With no Thai food on the menu for dinner, I started rummaging around the freezer for a Plan B. While in the midst of this icy exploration, Rob came by to hang up a picture for me. Hanging up pictures on curved walls takes expertise and patience that are far beyond my mortal abilities, but are no problem for Super Rob:

After he hung up the picture, Rob also investigated why my vacuum cleaner’s performance had been suboptimal lately, and discovered a clog in the hose, which he removed, allowing me to vacuum up cat hair and pine needles with abandon.

With the house in order and the rain falling outside (and in), I curled up on the couch with a Patricia Highsmith novel under my grandmother’s ancient quilt, a cozy way to spend a winter afternoon.

A YEAR AGO: Adventures in cooking. It takes a special talent to need three takes in making mashed potatoes.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Rob was fixing things up around here then, too. I wonder how often he regrets his ridiculous sister-in-law moving to Hooterville.

Tempestuous

It was sleep in your sweater night at stately Suzy Manor last night!

I accessorized my sleep sweater with the latest in sleep hats. It is so wrong to see your own breath in your own house.

The power obdurately continues to be out. We are solidly in Day Three now. Not only that, but we are also in the throes of Giant Storm II: the Sequel, with rain and wind bashing away relentlessly at the roof/walls even while we are still suffering the aftereffects of Giant Storm I. It’s like déjà vu all over again!

I don’t know when I will be able to post this, but I am writing it on Tuesday morning, when I should be at work. I took one look at the storm and texted my boss that I would not be braving the elements today. I’m not the only one. Yesterday, the local schools announced they would be closed today, and we moved our regularly scheduled Board meeting to next week. The Sheriff asked residents to stay home and off the roads if at all possible.

So I am sitting in bed under all the covers, wearing the hat, two sweaters, and two pairs of socks while my delicate pale breaths wreathe my delicate pale features.

I did make it to work on Monday despite the many downed trees on the Ridge, delightful surprises in the early morning darkness. I headed straight to the gym, where I took a hot shower and applied makeup and the other accoutrements of the convincingly faux adult. I guess we know what it takes to get me to go to the gym.

Even though I left home at 5:30 am, I didn’t get to work until after 7:00 am, so I clearly underestimated the amount of time needed to complete the grownupization process.

Our friends at PG&E have steadfastly declined to give an estimated time of restoration since long ago Day One, even while my coworkers all have power and I have seen on the local message boards the lights wink on across the county, just not in Hooterville. I think we are low priority, since we don’t have essential things like Safeway and the DMV like the Big Town does, and we aren’t a tourist attraction, like the Village. Also, so few people filled out their census forms last time that the official population of our town is 169. The PG&E map shows that 78 people are out of power in Hooterville, but I’m guessing it’s more like 1,000 or at least several hundred. When I drove home last night, the only lights I saw were on at the Gro.

At least I did a lot of cooking on Saturday and can heat up food on my (thankfully) gas stove, and spend some time with the cats and library books. Anyone want to make a bet on when/if the power will come back on, and whether it will remain that way once it does?

[Update: Power finally back on Wednesday morning. Hello, heat and light!]

A YEAR AGO: Consulting on Rob’s crumbling spine.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The technology problems continue. Rob gets a date for his disability hearing at last.

Put a Bird on It

Stormy Saturday to you! The wind is howling, the glass wind chimes are tinkling frantically, the frogs are peeping with joy at the pouring rain, and I’m waiting for the power to go out. It has already blinked off and on again twice, so I’m writing on borrowed time.

[Update: Power went out at 6 am. No estimated time of restoration as of Monday at 7:30 am.]

Today is the saddest day of the year: the one when I take down the Christmas ornaments and lights, leaving the house looking stripped and dreary after a month of sparkle and shine. There should be another winter festival that calls for lights and fun in the depths of darkness. Ideas, anyone?

I had one less ornament to put away, since Clyde smashed the glittery heart shaped ornament to welcome the New Year. I went to the shop where it was bought to see if I could replace it, but like me (and Clyde), it’s one of a kind. I looked around the shop to see if I could find something else I liked as much*, but I couldn’t. As I left the shop, though, I saw whales spouting in the ocean on their annual migration to Mexico, and I wouldn’t have seen them if Clyde hadn’t broken my heart.

I wasn’t really intending to put the heart ornament away, but now I had a hanger with no ornament. I decided to hang the little bird ornament on it**:

If Dad’s bird can be on the eternal Christmas in Dark Gulch all year, surely the matching one I got can be on display in my house most of the year. I will move it to the tree when I put it up eleven months from now***.

A YEAR AGO: Appreciating the magic moments.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Technical problems reared their ugly heads.

*I told the giver about my failed attempt to replace her lost gift, and she said that although the shop had lots of lovely ornaments, that one was the only one that looked like me. And she was right.

**The little card with it says “Bonne Année”, or “Happy New Year”, so I don’t have to put it away just yet.

***With Rob’s help. He worked on the tree after I took off the adornments, so that all the branches will fit on it and it will look much better.

2016

The sadness of losing my much-loved Roscoe at the end of the old year carried into the new year. A year later, I still can’t believe that his remarkable presence has been extinguished and that I will never have the joy of sharing my life with him again. I have yet to wash or dispose of his dish. I just can’t. A little spark of hope deep in my heart will never truly be doused, no matter what Logic decrees. I have never been a fan of Logic.

But there was light as well as shadow this year. I attended a beautiful wedding, some of my friends bought homes, and an unexpected visitor brought a lot of happiness with him on his epic road trip. I made a couple of little road trips myself, one south and one north.

Rainfall for the 2015-16 season was 55 inches. Rain started early for the 2016-17 season, beginning in September with a storm that dropped two inches in four days. Maybe this is a good sign for a wet winter. We can use every drop, a fact I must remind myself of when driving through it, especially in the ubiquitous winter darkness. So far for the 2016-17 season, we have received 23.4 inches, a good start.

Somehow, I managed to read more books than I did last year (103 vs. 85), despite working six days a week for most of it. Standouts included Sweetbitter, Dodgers, The Curse of Beauty, Everybody’s Fool, The Wicked Boy, The Wrong Side of Goodbye, and The Harder They Come.

Power Outages: I think we had three, which seems to be par for the course, but they seemed to occur more in the summer than the winter. What’s up with that?

Other than that, here’s what happened to our heroine this year:

January: I started the year off on a tidy note. It didn’t take long for the first power outage of the year to rear its ugly head. Same goes for Wednesday’s engine light. Some delightful coincidences. And some (mis)adventures in cooking. Trying (mostly unsuccessfully) to get everything done at work.

February: The wonderful woodworking show. A little preview of spring. A delightful day on the South Coast, with ballet and other pleasures. The first theater reading I have ever attended, though hopefully not the last. Our heroine finally leaves the County after a year and a half, heading to beautiful Monterey, where I visited the breathtaking Aquarium. Also beaches and farm stands.

March: A peek at our (eccentric) little corner of the world. And a delightful peek into its past. Not the most enjoyable morning ever. Family dinner to celebrate Dad’s birthday. The boys get the old grandfather clock running. Saturdays past and present.

April: Wednesday’s successful surgery. Road trips for everyone! Beauty inside and out. An early wake up call. Having the internet out for over a week is not the most festive way of celebrating my blogs 15th anniversary. Especially since the technician failed to show up. Our beloved Jessica turns 13! The kidlet is now a teenager. How did that happen?

May: Quilts, books, cats and dogs – just a perfect day in the Village. Rob’s incredible masterpiece. The last family dinner at Suzy Manor before they move to the family estate for the summer. The mystery of the cat in the night. A busy, but delightful, weekend. Out of season power outage. Celebrating Megan’s birthday in style.

June: An uneventful birthday for our heroine. Better than an eventful one! And the baby boy turns six, all by himself. Memorial Day BBQ with a side of bees. The joys of Junapalooza, showcasing the talents of the amazing Erica.

July: The ninth anniversary of Audrey’s reign. Lu and Rik’s beautiful, moving, wonderful wedding. It was such a joy to share that day with them and my family. I will always treasure that memory. A BBQ at the family estate with our extended family. A magical visit to the Botanical Gardens.

August: A bad omen, perhaps? Farewell to Jack, who first appeared in these pages as a dollar bill sized kitten. She was almost 17 and the last of the cats John and I had together. Much like when we lost Schatzi, it felt like Mom was really gone, losing Jack made me feel like our marriage was really over. Told you Logic and I don’t see eye to eye. Celebrating summer’s bounty with jam and a BBQ. Marking the 15th anniversary of losing my father and best friend. I will always love you, Dad. Thank you for always loving me, no matter what. A visit from our dear friend Clayton, garnished with a power outage. The two events were not connected. An obnoxious mountain lion made things a little scary for a while. He has since moved on – permanently, we hope.

September: September kicked off with a surprise visit that turned out to be utterly delightful. We had a great time going to the circus together, and having a BBQ at my brother’s place on his birthday. We sent our visitor on his way after giving his car a quick check up. Here’s to many happy returns! An exhausting visit from the Feds at work was followed by a delightful day at the Fair. As the month drew to an end, so did my jobette, for real-real this time. Lu, Megan, and I enjoyed dinner and a play together.

October: A look around my rather neglected garden, which still looks surprisingly good despite my lack of attention. It was a banner year for real estate for several of my friends. Megan and I enjoyed a cemetery tour in the Village. ‘Tis the season for scariness, but thinking I had lost my beloved Clyde was a little too scary. Fortunately, I was wrong. I love being wrong sometimes. Enjoying the rare gift of a day off. And a road trip north to the Drive Thru Tree and the One Log House. It was short, but sweet.

November: A trip to the magical South Coast for a play and some delicacies. A happy (and terrifying) Halloween. Speaking of terrifying, I hit a dog with the car. For the rest of my life, I will be a dog maimer. At least I wasn’t a dog murderer. My victim is recovering well and due back home from rehab on January 1. Regrets. I’ve had a few. Let the countdown to T-Day begin! Thanksgiving started a little earlier than I would have liked, but it was wonderful.

December: The traditional post-Thanksgiving craft fair. Going from the beach to the redwoods in one day. A candlelight shopping trip. Time to put up the vintage faux tree again! Taking Jessica to the Festival of Lights at the Gardens for the first time, but not the last. Getting ready for the big day. A merry Christmas celebrated on Christmas Eve, followed by a quiet Christmas Day.

A YEAR AGO: Remembering 2015.

‘Tis the Season

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My old friend the moon was blasting this morning, looking suitably Halloween-y and illuminating the road and the ocean the whole way to work in the early morning darkness. It was a welcome change from the conditions I faced last week.

The first storm of the season made an early and dramatic appearance, rocking and rolling all night and leaving a frat party sized mess in its wake. The Ridge was covered with fallen red needles from redwood trees, which are very slippery, and they completely hid both the center line of the road and the edge of it, not to mention the car-eating ditches on each side.

It was still raining and windy, and fog ghosts threw themselves suicidally in front of my car as I drove at a grandmotherly rate through the dark and stormy morning. I blasted KISS and AC DC full tilt to distract me from the horror. I guess it’s not exactly a spoiler to tell you that I survived the drive.

At work, I discovered that my office had become festive overnight:

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I couldn’t help wondering if it was a compliment or an insult to find a witch on my office door. Are you trying to tell me something?

Meanwhile, back at my house, things were also festive:

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All it needs to complete the Halloween effect is a black cat. You can’t tell from the photo, but in fact there was a black cat loitering in the hallway and peering through the glass in the blue door when I took the picture. Clyde has been spending a lot more time inside lately. A couple of weeks ago, he was not there when I came home, and repeatedly calling him did not result in his appearance.

Panicking as the sky began to darken, I drove out to the Ridge, where I left the car to see if he had been hit by a car and to check the haul road behind the house where he likes to play and roll in the dust. I made the unpleasant discovery that the gate is now locked, making unauthorized human entrance impossible.

I went back to the house and kept looking and calling until it was dark. I was completely sure that my adored and adorable Clyde had joined his beloved brother Roscoe in oblivion and that Audrey was truly the winner of Survivor: Hooterville. Imagine my surprise and delight when he magically appeared at the sliding glass doors around 9:30 as if nothing had happened.

He was undoubtedly mystified when I picked him up and cried into his fur, kissing and hugging him and generally making a complete fool of myself. Clyde was far more interested in the traditional welcome home treats and dinner than he was in being fussed over. You could practically see a thought balloon over his head saying, “What the hell, lady?”

I’m sorry to say that I kept him inside for the next two days, though he undoubtedly didn’t make the connection between his night on the town and his sudden incarceration any more than dogs understand that playing with skunks inevitably leads to a bath. Fortunately, Clyde would make a pretty good house cat and doesn’t seem to mind that there’s been less recess these days.

A YEAR AGO: A long and daunting week came to a happy end.

Uneventful Birthday

I am pleased to announce that my birthday this year was uneventful. Maybe it’s getting older, or maybe it’s because my birthdays have been on the disastrous side over the last few years (a roadside fire; a power outage; losing the Beautiful June Bug). No news is definitely good news.

I was gifted with the welcome sight of silvery fog misting through the redwoods on my birthday morning after a week of miserable 80+ degree days. The tent-like inside of my house being 84 degrees or more every day when I got home from work made me sad. Especially when it cooled down outside and stayed resolutely hot and blanketless inside. I am already sick of summer, and it’s barely June.

In addition to the loveliness of fog, I enjoyed the sight of a Steller’s Jay flicking its electric blue plumage on the fan palm in the backyard, as well as the astonishing sight of Clyde and Audrey actually sitting near each other on purpose! While awake!

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Here’s another view of the astonishing détente:

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I don’t think I have ever seen this before. Audrey mostly ignores Clyde, or swipes at him casually in passing, mostly because she’s Audrey. Oddly, Audrey will absolutely not come in the house if Clyde is anywhere near the door. Since Audrey’s return home often heralds the arrival of treats, Clyde is eager for her to come in and hovers anxiously by the door, much as he hovers under my feet at feeding time. So I have to pick him up in order for Her Majesty to deign to come in. I think we all know who is in charge at my house, and it ain’t Me.

Clyde turns 6 this week, and next month marks the 9th year of Audrey’s reign. I wish many happy returns for all of us, all together.

A YEAR AGO: Not the best birthday ever.

Weather or Not

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Beautiful Anderson Valley

The weather has been a combo platter this week. We came off a string of grey, cloudy days, bemoaned by most but secretly enjoyed by me, to a couple of hot days by coastal standards, and delightful rain showers this morning.

It’s amazing how quickly I get sick of the heat. I came home, got out of the car, and thought, “Well, that’s unpleasant.” In the tent-like nature of my house, it was 82 degrees both inside and outside. I sighed and put the fans on. Clyde was melted on the stairs. It was not good weather to be black and furry.

Now, people think Clyde is a doofus – and I’m not saying he isn’t – but he is also smarter than he gets credit for sometimes. He lies right where the ceiling fan sends its breezes, ruffling his overheated fur. Audrey, of course, lounges in the shade on the balcony, and just like she can come in from the rain magically dry, she also never seems to get too hot.

Whereas I hate it when I don’t need a light sweater in the day and I have to sleep blanketless at night. Clyde joins me in my love of the comforter. These days, I have been folding it at bedtime and putting it on the rocking chair my great-grandfather made for my great-grandmother, and often Clyde jumps onto it before I can even get it on the chair. Then he sleeps there all night in comforter majesty, leaving me both blanketless and Clydeless.

This morning, I woke up to the happy sound of rain pattering on the roses on the balcony and Clyde purring beside me. The house is also humming with its civilized ration of electricity, which it was not at this time yesterday.

Megan barely made it home from her fourth night shift of the week yesterday morning before the power went out. And I was lucky enough to already be at work, because someone crashed into a power pole at 7:30 am on the Ridge, shearing it off so it fell onto the road, closing it to traffic until a tow truck could come and remove the old pole and our trusty friends at PG&E could bring and install a new one.

Power pole installation is a lengthy business. They were not finished until 5:30 that afternoon.

Megan and I left our powerless houses to go to a sale at a garden center in Anderson Valley, where we failed to find the pickling cucumbers of our dreams, but I was utterly charmed by a ceramic chicken:

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On our way home, we naturally stopped at Libby’s to pick up dinner. We were rewarded not only by al pastor, but by running into Dr. Sue and her husband, who were having dinner there. We had such a good time chatting, and we promised each other that we would meet up properly soon and spend some time together.

A YEAR AGO: A new hairdo and a new play with old friends.

Unhappy Feet

It was a dark and stormy morning. I started it off on the wrong foot by putting my bare one into an alarmingly big (and remarkably cold) puddle by the table in the kitchen. That’s what I get for running around barefoot. My late, lamented stepmother found this habit deplorable. To her, only poor people went around with no shoes and it was utterly shameful.

Unfortunately for all of us, she was not around to see me get my comeuppance, or to notice the other big puddle near the sliding glass doors. Feeling like my house was falling apart around me, I went to feed the kitties, only to discover a large and slimy banana slug* in Clyde’s dish. I’m not sure which of us was more concerned. Clyde looked at it in horror (maybe it had bare feet) while I threw caution and the slug to the winds by grabbing it in my bare hands and chucking it into the woods. Why should my feet have all the fun?

The fun was just beginning. When I turned on the water in the shower, the water stayed persistently cold. It normally takes a while to warm up, and in the winter, I don’t have to add cold water to the hot, but it soon became clear that the pilot light in the flash heater was out.

As you would only expect in a house as eccentric as mine, where the light switches say “NO” when they’re on and you turn them off by flipping them up, the flash heater is located outside. Yes, where they keep the wind and the rain.

I pulled my coat, hat and flowered rain boots on over my PJs and deplorably bare feet and went out to investigate with a flashlight. It’s at moments like this when you realize that no matter how faux, you are in fact a grown up, and no one else is going to fix your flash heater in the early morning rainy darkness. I thought longingly of my brother-in-law Rob, sleeping innocently just yards away, and his ability to fix everything**. He could take care of this in less time than it took me to put on my coat and hat.

I couldn’t make it light by pushing the igniting button, so I went back inside and got one of those barbecue lighters. Then I pressed the gas button with one hand and, leaning back as far as possible, applied the lighter through the hole in the front and hoped for the best. I am pleased to report that nothing exploded and I lived to tell the tale. Also that the flash heater lit and stayed lit, much like F. Scott Fitzgerald.

On the other hand, my bare feet also discovered that Clyde had thrown up on the bathmat. At least it was on the way into the shower.

*When I still lived in the city, I came up here to visit my sister. Her bathroom is off the front porch, and when I went to use it late one night, I discovered a banana slug had wrapped itself around the doorknob by wrapping my hand around the banana slug. I shrieked with horror and I still think I could hear my brother-in-law snickering.

**He’s building more shelves for me! Stay tuned!

A YEAR AGO: Remembering my beloved father on his birthday.

Early Morning Rain

Hi! It’s 4:30 am! Want to take one guess why I’m up at this ridiculous hour?

You’re right. Of course it’s Audrey.

I tried to ignore her relentless pounding at the balcony door and the scritch of her claws against the glass of the sliding doors downstairs, but eventually, as she knew I would, I got up, put the outside lights on (go away, monsters!) and let her out in the storm that’s been battering the house since yesterday*, hoping that her stripy, featherweight body wouldn’t blow away. Possibly the wind wouldn’t dare to mess with her, though.

As I turned on the coffeemaker and the heater, I was thankful for the power still being on, a bet I would have lost. The winds were furious and the rain was slashing yesterday afternoon and into the evening. My friend and neighbor Jim said that one of his inside doors had slammed shut because of wind blasting through a dog door. Yikes.

So I went to bed resigned to waking up in the cold and dark, which I did, but not in the way I expected.

Um…thanks for the extra-long Sunday, Audrey?

There’s still a chance of a power outage as another storm is set to rage through here today, but I hope not. March has come in like a lion!

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Stormy Ocean

My house has sprung a couple of new leaks, which I will have to tell Mark about. One upstairs, and one downstairs. The exact location of leaks can be complicated by the curved walls/roof.

Outside, the orchid has begun to bloom:

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We are a little concerned about the orchard over at the family estate, though. There are blossoms on all the trees, so if the rain and wind blow them off, there will be a lot less fruit this summer. Hopefully our bees have been busy pollinating.

*Just emptied four inches of rain out of the gauge!

A YEAR AGO: March madness, in the hated form of Daylight Savings Time. Maybe all my complaining is finally paying off, because a San Jose assemblyman is planning to introduce a bill to Congress to end the madness. As the Beach Boys would say, wouldn’t it be nice?

Friends

The kitties and I were yanked out of our (in my case) much-needed beauty sleep last night by a wild and crazy storm. At times like this, I wish my house was not quite so well equipped with acres of glass and skylights, since I felt like I was right in the middle of the storm, with the thunder shaking the house, rain and hail blasting the roof/walls and lightning flashing every which where. The ocean was pretty active this morning, dashing itself spectacularly against the rocks, so I don’t think we’re out of the woods (or storms) just yet.

It’s a dramatic change from the past few days, when it’s been close to 70 degrees F (around 20C), warm enough to leave the doors open. Cherry and pear trees are in full bloom, and there are drifts of calla lilies* and daffodils on the side of the road. Spring has definitely begun to spring.

I went to pick up some work from my old friends at the jobette (they have had a difficult time successfully replacing me, so I have picked up some of my old duties on the side), and as I was heading back to my car, I heard a voice call out, “Is that my friend?” It was Monica, heading home from work with Stella’s son Joey sitting in the passenger seat, his distinctive and ever-comic ears streaming happily in the wind as they drove past.

On my way home, I stopped by Erin’s house to admire her plush new carpet and have a glass of wine (which I managed not to spill on the new carpet). It was great to catch up with her and her family. Her son is learning to play the piano, so he provided some music as well as making me an origami Yoda. He also gave me the mistletoe this past Christmas.

As I headed home, I thought of how lucky I am to live here, surrounded by friends and family and, well, love.

*For some reason, I associate calla lilies with funerals. Also carnations. Calla lilies grow like weeds here.

A YEAR AGO: Laying Megan and Rob’s sweet kitty Ramona to rest under the pet tree. She is resting in peace in very good company.

Spring Preview

You guys! It was 70 degrees in Hooterville today!

It was warm enough to have the doors open(!), and the cats went out to play. In keeping with Clyde’s New Deal, he didn’t venture that far from the house, preferring to bask in the sun on the balcony or just outside the kitchen door, which suited his paranoid Staff just fine.

I took the opportunity to clear way some storm debris (I recently had to stop my car on the muddy driveway in the rainy darkness to clear a fallen tree so I could get to work) and fallen pine needles, and to look around and see what was going on. Usually, it’s dark when I leave for work and dark when I get home, so I don’t have a lot of opportunity to observe. On the other hand, this makes for some nice surprises.

The daffodils in the jasmine plant are blooming:

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It’s nice that they just keep coming back each year without me having to do anything, just like the rhododendrons.

The orchids have new flower spikes, in addition to the buds they already have:

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Every year, I mean to take them out of the pots they have clearly outgrown, pull them apart, and discard the dead parts, but I never do, and they seem to bloom more every year and thrive on benign neglect, like the daffodils and the geraniums:

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The jasmine outside the kitchen door is beginning to leaf out, too. On a day like this, it’s easy to believe that spring is just around the corner. And since the groundhog didn’t see his shadow* this year, winter’s days (or weeks) are numbered.

* Love the outfits, especially the hats.

A YEAR AGO: The weather was a lot different. Stormageddon rolled through town, leaving a giant mess and powerlessness in its wake.