Artfully

I met Megan and Rob after work one evening. They were accompanied by the ever-adorable Star and Stella. In fact, Stella was walking Megan as I came out of the door. Stella was quite interested in going in and seeing what my workplace was all about, but we eventually persuaded her that nothing fun ever happens there.

We stopped at the library for the near-weekly book exchange, and I noticed that it was not pitch dark at 5:30 pm anymore. 5:30 am could learn a lot from 5:30 pm.

In keeping with her former taxi and current parking locating abilities, Megan found a spot just a few steps from Town Hall, where this year’s crop of students were showing their mid-year designs at the Fine Woodworking Show.

We met up with Dave and Jennifer and a maddening crowd. I had never seen the show so crowded. Part of the problem was that it was the opening night reception, and the tables of food were set right inside the doors, creating a traffic flow problem worthy of LA at rush hour.

It was worth fighting through the throngs to see the wonderful art within and talk to the artists. This chair was not only gorgeous, but comfortable:

chair

The artist said that anyone who sits in it, whatever their height and size, says that it’s comfortable. The color of the upholstery was inspired by the sails of the ship which carried her grandfather from China to California many years ago.

This piece looked like a plain box, until it opened to reveal the asymmetric wonder within:

box

I really enjoyed being with Rob, who knows so much about woodworking and who notices things that no one else does.

We all went out dinner after the show, with the rain sluicing down the windows like a waterfall as we enjoyed our burritos and shouted over the loud music. The food and the company were great, though.

When I got home, I stayed up late reading and was rewarded by a storm-induced power outage. The next morning, I had my phone in my hand to call PG&E for an update on the outage when the power came back on. I rushed around washing dishes and doing laundry while the power shone and the frogs cheerily sang about the rain.

A YEAR AGO: A trip down Memory Lane. One of my favorite places.

Powerless

windchimes
Look Out!

I woke up this morning to the wind chimes singing a warning, that cheery harbinger of uncheery power outages to come. I put on the heat while I could and went back to bed, watching the wind toss the trees and rain around through the skylight and waiting for the inevitable.

Although the sole source of heat in the house burns propane, it needs electricity to make it blow the feeble breaths of warmth that reach about a two foot radius from the heater, completely ignoring most of the house, especially the bathroom. A power outage renders the heater a giant, useless plastic box. It’s beyond me why James installed that rather than a wood stove or fireplace when power outages happen every winter, sometimes for days at a time, in a place where the temperatures can (and do) dip below freezing overnight.

Of course, he’s the same guy who built a house without closets or insulation, where the light switches say NO when you turn them on, and devoted a whopping three feet to counter space in the kitchen, so I shouldn’t be surprised. You do a lot of drugs, Miller? Back in the hippie days?

The power went out as expected at about 10:30 in the morning, ruining my last day of freedom before the soul crushing five days a week grind starts up again tomorrow. It seems to be a universal truth that the more time you have off, the harder it is to go back to work, and this Monday will be Mondayer than usual after a long weekend and with the start of the new boss’ reign. I have never switched bosses while having the same job before. New year, new boss!

The new year, however, has the same old bad habit of power outages. The cold and silence are punctuated by the howling wind, tinkling chimes, and my landlord’s cacophonous generator, which usually starts up about .00010 seconds after the power goes out. People say the shortest measurable time is that between the light turning green and someone honking, but I beg to differ. I’m not sure if the generator racket is more nerve-wracking than the total lack of heat and light, or vice versa.

We are slated to have rain and storms all week, so I’d better get used to those wind chimes.

2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

As for my little corner of the world:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: A look back at 2014.

With a Bang

I was at work making copies when there was a huge bang and the building shook. Before my two brain cells had processed the Big Bang, the power went out and we were cast into darkness.

Emerging shocked from the copy room, I heard the generator kick on and saw the pale emergency lights activated. Walking back toward my office, I saw a staff member entering the building, shaking. I asked her what happened, and she said that lightning struck a house right across the street. The force of the lightning had thrown her against our building. An hour later, she said she could still feel the lightning on her back*.

We rarely get thunderstorms here in our little corner of Northern California, and when we do, there’s a rumbling of thunder in the distance and a warning while it rubs its hands and gets ready to get down to work. This time, it just slammed the door open and yelled “I’m here!” It was soon joined by its good time buddies Torrential Rain and Quarter-Sized Hail, and they partied merrily for a while with Thunderstorm.

When it subsided, the sun came out, as if it were all a huge, celestial joke, and I headed home during the break in the storm, since the power was out indefinitely at work and I was powerless to work while powerless.

Sadly, I discovered that the power was also out at home, 25 miles from work. I later learned that lightning got bored and left the party in the Big Town to strike a transformer on the road where my friend Jim lives, scaring him and his dogs and casting Hooterville into darkness.

I had buckets of water ready as well as drinking water, and various lanterns and flashlights on hand. Both Clyde and Audrey were inside, thankfully, and I could heat up dinner on the gas stove. I could not, however, heat up the house, since the propane heater requires electricity to work, and the post-storm temperature had dropped by more than 10 degrees. So I put on a couple of sweaters and washed my face in icy rainwater and settled down with the latest (and last) Ruth Rendell.

The power came on that night at my house, and I was delighted with the warmth and light. The next day, I checked the outage at work online and discovered that it hadn’t been fixed yet, so I texted my bosses to say I would stay home until the power was back up. Of course, that was a couple of hours later. Arriving at work, I soon learned that computers were working, copiers weren’t (did I do something?) and there was no internet. I still got through the day, though, and from the looks of the ocean, it ain’t over yet.

A YEAR AGO: What do you know? Another storm. Though the power stayed on that time.

*When she got home, her husband asked her if she she wanted a drink. She said, “Do you have to ask?”

Showered

I was both surprised and delighted by the gentle rain that started falling in the early afternoon on Thursday. It was still raining when I drove home, and I made a point of driving more slowly than usual, remembering that the first rain after a long drought makes the roads extra slippery. And they are already extra curvy. The summer tourist traffic helped in this effort, and I reminded myself to be thankful that the visitors kept me driving below the speed limit.

Traffic slowed dramatically as I approached the sharp curve leading to a state beach, and I thought that perhaps the time had finally come that I could take a picture of my favorite view on the coast, even though it would be in the rain. But I couldn’t get my phone out in time, and soon learned that the cause of the slowdown was a car accident. Two cars heading in opposite directions had ended up in the southbound lane (the side I was on). It must have happened recently, since there were no flares or emergency services on scene. We just drove carefully around the crashed cars.

I thought the excitement was over, but I was wrong. Along about my friend Jim’s road, traffic on the Ridge was crawling along as far as my eye could see:

IMG_1795

I passed a blue PG&E truck at the next road, which made me worry that the power was out. I texted Megan, but she was in the Big Town hanging out with Lu, so she had no idea what was going on in Hooterville. As I crept along the Ridge at less than 5 miles an hour, I wondered if I would be able to get home at all, or if I’d have to turn around and head over to my friend Erin’s place again, especially when traffic ground to a halt.

Just as I was about to turn the car off, it started inching along again. Arriving at the road where our friend lives whose skills and heavy machinery made the garden at the family property possible, I saw two Highway Patrol trucks, and let a third one turn off to join them. They all had their lights flashing, but I couldn’t see any crashed or stopped cars, or any sign of anything other than the CHP trucks themselves.

For some mysterious reason, traffic eased up after that, and the rest of the way home was uneventful. The power was on, the garden and its resident frogs were overjoyed about the rain, and the cats were napping. All was right with the world.

A YEAR AGO: Of cats and carpentry.

Get Back

flowersFlowers Outside My Office Door

It’s been so long since it rained that when the pattering on the roof woke me up last night, I was unable to identify the sound at first. Eventually, my sleep-fogged mind realized it was a light shower. By the time the alarm went off, the showers had departed, leaving confused yet happy birds and frogs behind. Needless to say, it wasn’t enough to really water the garden or do any good, though it made the cats curious.

Speaking of cats, the boys turned 5 on Monday! Audrey is slated to turn 8 next month, and has recovered completely from her vet adventures, though my wallet may never recover. As for me, my back is still unhappy and not shy about letting me know. The irony is not lost on me that I’m limping around a medical facility like Igor, though there really isn’t anything anyone can do about it except stone me out on drugs, which a) I hate; and 2) would make it impossible for me to work. And work I have: I worked an eleven and a half hour day on Tuesday and so far this week have packed more than 30 hours into three days.

Today I finally had the sense to bring the small feather pillow from my couch as well as the heating pad to work, so I was able to sit in relative comfort at my sunny desk* during my long day. I tried to do as much as possible when trekking to the other side of the building – making it count! I still have no idea what I did to displease my dorsal region, and am displeased in turn that it’s still bothering me so much. Hopefully it will be better in time for Saturday’s celebration of Erica’s and my birthdays, so I can perch on a hay bale in reasonable comfort and sip gin cocktails. I may really need Jessica to escort me to my car that evening!

*My office has a window overlooking a courtyard landscaped with plants and flowers, like the one you see above. It’s a nice view. I usually don’t need artificial light, which is great.

A YEAR AGO: More car madness. You know, the usual.

What’s for Lunch?

sleepyclydeSleepy Clyde

On Friday night, I was enjoying a cocktail or three (sometimes my moderation tends to be on the immoderate side) while reading in bed with all three cats when I heard an unfamiliar sound. It was the pitter patter of little raindrops! This morning, I was delighted to find half an inch of the rain in the rain gauge. Especially because now I don’t have to choose between feeling guilty about watering (the drought!) or not watering (the plants!).

I was less delighted by the sight of Roscoe throwing up his breakfast, though at least I was able to get him off my beautiful new rug and onto the much easier to clean distressed wood floor. He is still recovering from the scratch on his head and another one on his throat. He really has to stop being so careless of his beauty. As I write, he is curled up asleep on the bed, which I made around him. There is nothing cozier than a sleeping Roscoe, and somehow he manages to look dignified when he’s asleep. And scratched up.

While Roscoe enjoyed his beauty sleep, I made some lunches for during the week. Thinking up something to make for lunch for every day is almost as challenging as coming up with professional looking outfits for every day. I made some curried chicken salad with apple, celery, and raisins, and tried a new recipe for:

Roasted Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad With Mango Balsamic Vinaigrette

For the salad:

1 small sweet potato, unpeeled, diced into bite-sized pieces
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 cup black beans
1/4 red pepper, diced
2 cups salad greens
1 tablespoon dried cranberries
1 tablespoon salted sunflower seeds

For the dressing:

1/4 cup mango, fresh or frozen
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Place the sweet potatoes in a bowl, add oil, and stir to coat. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a pan, and roast for 20 or so minutes, stirring a couple times, until the potatoes are soft.

Place the quinoa and half a cup of water in a covered pot on high. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the liquid is all soaked up and the quinoa is tender.

Puree the mango with the balsamic vinegar and water, and set aside.

Allow the roasted potatoes and quinoa to cool to room temperature. Mix with the black beans, red bell pepper, dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds. Toss with dressing and greens when ready to eat.

A YEAR AGO: A visit to the de Young Museum.

Wild Weather

Stormageddon III blew into town on Sunday night, taking the power with it. In keeping with the truism that sequels get progressively worse, III was much worse than II. The wind was a fearsome gale, shaking the sliding glass doors and howling around my hippie hovel, sounding much like I imagine a hurricane. I tried not to look out the skylight, where the trees were tossed wildly in the wind as the light faded.

It was a scary night and I didn’t sleep much. Megan texted me that she heard trees falling in her garden. One of them just barely missed Megan’s car and the house – in fact some of it is actually touching the porch roof:

trees1

Another one took down another tree:

trees2

And a third tore some jasmine and passion flower vines from the side of Megan and Rob’s house, while smashing into a tree which had fallen earlier. At my house, a tree broke off, but house, car, kitties and Self were unscathed.

On Monday morning, I got up in the cold, dark house and boiled water on the gas stove to make coffee in my little French press. Then I set off for the jobette.

The Ridge was scattered with branches and debris, not to mention five fallen trees. I was able to negotiate my way around them, and I may have driven over some fallen power lines, remembering how Dad always said that tires ground your car and make it perfectly safe during a thunderstorm. Storm damage was everywhere, and the ocean was wild and crazy. Little River had definitely gotten the brunt of the storm, with a shattered power pole and several big trees down by the side of the highway.

The traffic lights were blinking as I entered the Big Town, my first clue that all was not well. I pulled into the hotel parking lot (I had left my hat there), and checked in with the owner, who gave me my hat and the fun news that the entire Big Town was out of power.

I still went to the jobette, though, just to make sure, and sure enough, there was no power. I put a sign on the door saying we were closed until the power came back on, and took out the trash and recycling (I’m assuming the power outage won’t stop Waste Management from its appointed rounds).
So I drove all the way to the jobette for nothing. It’s really been a weird few days, with the interview on Thursday, the scary, stormy drive to the jobette on Friday (again, for no reason, really), the seemingly endless power outage, more storms, more power outages. I’m sensing a theme here.

As I write on Tuesday morning, power is still out in Hooterville and might, just might, be back on around 7:00 pm, which I’m pretty sure you all know is located after dark. And darkness is the enemy. I am so tired of the dark and the cold. I can see my breath in my living room, which is just wrong. It’s been five days of cold and dark with just one little break of heat and light. I miss civilization!

Update: Came home to find power and civilization restored! Celebrated with lights, heat, and a glass of wine.

A YEAR AGO: It was raining then, too.

Stormy Weather

As sequels usually are, Stormageddon II was much worse than Stormageddon I, which did not live up to the hype. II didn’t get the hype, but it packed the punch.

The power went out at my house at 9:30 am on Friday morning. I made sure all the kitties were in, equipped with food and water, and that the many doors were as secure as possible before heading out to the Big Town for my special guest appearance at the jobette. It was an alarming drive, with heavy rain, high winds, and roads scattered with tree bits, pine needles, nascent rock- and mud-slides, and the deep ditches close to overflowing.

I planned ahead, though, and checked in at the harborside hotel which is my home away from home in the Big Town. I figured I would not want to drive back to Hooverville in the stormy dark at 8:30 pm, and the hotel owner gave me a great deal on the room.

The rain was blowing sideways as First Friday began. On the first Friday of each month, shops and art galleries in the Big Town stay open late, pouring wine and serving nibbles as people mingle and shop. In the jobette’s case, we also have the artist on hand to meet the public and answer questions. But with the weather being so bad, the public mostly stayed home, so I was sent home earlier than expected.

I was glad that I only had to drive a few blocks in the driving rain and then dash to my cozy hotel room, where I could have a hot bath with a cold glass of wine and then lounge in bed watching “Gilmore Girls”. Alas, this heaven of civilization came to a crashing halt when the power went out around 10:00 pm.

I soon heard a generator start up, but it soon became clear that the generator was only powering the office, not the guest rooms. So I was in the unlovely position of being kept up all night by generator noise which was not doing me one iota of good. Even ear plugs and a feather pillow couldn’t block it out, and I was unable to convince myself that it was white noise and should be soothing.

The power came back on right before check out time, when I learned that PG&E had booked 20 rooms for repair personnel. I wasn’t sure if this was a good sign or a bad sign.

It was a much easier drive home, during a break from the rain, though the power was still out when I got there. There was 5 inches of rain in the gauge, which is its maximum, so there may have been more. Later, Mark went to the Big Town to rent a generator so we could all have water, which was great. I wasted no time in washing dishes and filling up pots with water. Living in one smallish room with the kitchen at one end and only three feet of counter space means that dishes pile up quickly and look terrible really fast.

Megan had put together a macaroni and cheese casserole on Friday, but didn’t have time to bake it before the power went out (her oven like my heater, needs electricity to light, so both are totally useless in the inevitable power outages). So she brought it over and put it in my oven (which lights with a match), and we played Clue by candle and lantern (she and Rob have nice oil lanterns) light until dinner was ready.

The power finally came back at 11:00 pm last night, so this morning I had a quick shower and did a load of laundry before the power could go out again. It’s raining and windy again, Round 2 of Stormageddon 2. I really hope the power stays on and it blows over quickly.

A YEAR AGO: A trip the city gets a little too exciting for all concerned.

Round Two

So I had the interview for the permanent job yesterday.

Fortunately, it was only in the Big Town, aka my usual commute, so I was spared trekking to the county seat. Luck was with me, since the forecasters were predicting another Stormageddon, and I feared the effect on my hair and make-up, but there were just a few sprinkles and my beauty remained intact. We haven’t had a drop of rain since the Christmas Eve storm with its power outage, and it was the driest January in recorded California history, so we need it, but it seems to be feast or famine this winter: pouring or nothing.

I arrived early for the interview, and was surprised that they also started the interview early. This time, I knew that it would be a panel interview, so I was better prepared, and I had spent some time thinking about my answers to the questions that had stymied me last time. At least I didn’t blush this time!

I was so relieved when it was over that I totally forgot to ask what the next steps were and when they might reach a decision. There are two jobs, so I’m hoping that will increase my chances of getting one of them. I have the indefinite temp job starting on the 17th, so I do have a fall back position and money coming in while I wait for or find a permanent job.

As I write, it’s pouring and windy out, and I feel as if we’re trembling on the verge of a power outage. The cats ran out and ran back in this morning, soaked and indignant.

Will our heroine get a job? Will the drought end? Will the cats wreck the house out of total boredom? Stay tuned ’til next time for As the Suzy Turns…

A YEAR AGO: Shopping with the lovely Miss Stella.

Inside & Out

fern
Frosty Fern

Happy new year, y’all! It started out a frosty one here, -2C outside and +4 inside, which is not that much of a plus. Ever notice that everything is worse in metric? Temperatures are colder and distances are further (though bra sizes are stupendous).

My brother was working a 72 hour shift, so I went over to his place to make sure the pipes had not burst in the sub-freezing temperatures. Though it’s only about a quarter of a mile away, it’s also about 5 Fahrenheit degrees colder over there in the winter, so the entire garden was heavily frosted, sparkling in the sun.

No pipes were harmed during the cold night, but I left his tap dripping, just in case. And fed Scout, the mini cat whose tiny body contains the loudest meows known to catdom. Since we were inside, I could pet her silky fur – not even Jonathan can pet her outside. Her youth spent as a stray cat is too deeply imprinted, and she must be very clever to have escaped the many predators for as long as she did – she was at least a year old when she turned up on my brother’s doorstep one day.

Back at home, I continued my tidying up activities. I had the week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and I decided to use the gift of time to try and create a little order from chaos, especially in the studio/storage room. There’s still a long way to go, but I’ve made significant inroads. And there were a couple of unexpected rewards (in addition to unusual virtue). I found the lovely Rita’s ID tag:

ritatag

I have put it carefully away in my jewelry box, remembering the happy times I spent with that beautiful, wonderful girl, the star of the neighborhood.

I also came across an “At Home” card my maternal grandparents sent out after their wedding in 1924:

athome

The only wedding picture I have of them shows them in a field with a grumpy preacher and one attendant each, so I get the impression that this was not a conventional wedding, and might even have been an elopement, given that my grandmother left home in order to go to high school*. I always think my grandfather looks like he won the lottery:

nanahohowedding

The card still smelled faintly of my grandmother’s lily of the valley perfume, even though she’s been gone for almost 40 years. I am lucky to have so many wonderful memories.

My delightful co-worker Erin gifted me with a lovely red clock for Christmas. It was out of the box for less than two minutes before it found itself on the wall, looking perfect:

clock

I also organized the books by color:

books

Pretty, no? A good start to the new year so far, I’d say!

A YEAR AGO: Back home from the last trip of the year to San Francisco.

*She moved in with her scandalous Aunt Luella, who got married in a pink dress and wore the dress to parties afterwards, bobbed her hair, and went to teacher’s college. She taught at the same high school where my grandfather was the principal – and my mother was a student.

Making Christmas

It’s a wild and stormy Christmas Eve. Reports are that the power is out at home, and a call to my friends at the PG&E Outage Line gave me the sad information that it may be “extended” due to many outages. So far this seems to be worse than the storm that wasn’t, though it’s supposed to pass through quickly. Maybe it was speeding.

Fortunately, my oven is gas, and my brother is smoking the ham over the BBQ all day tomorrow, so we can still have Christmas dinner. On my way to the jobette yesterday, I stopped at the grocery store in the Village and bought two pieces of Gruyere. Nothing more, nothing less. The clerk looked at me quizzically and asked “Having a craving?” I explained that I needed it for cheese biscuits and that there was no substitute, and there isn’t.

Last night, I put all the Christmas stockings together, an undertaking that required a glass or two of wine, a realization I came to after completing the first one. Stockings always have a quarter and a tangerine in the toe and a candy cane at the top, and contain a couple of little gifts – like the guitar pick made from a quarter and a gift card for the coffee shop in the Village for Rob* – and this year I had the bright idea of wrapping these, which made the process longer. The rest is candy and silly things like cap guns. We exchange Christmas stockings instead of gifts, and I love that tradition.

Tomorrow, even if the power is out, I will roast the pears for the salad and make the dressing for the salad, and make my world famous cheese biscuits. At some point before noon, I will bring the ham, a bottle of cider and one of Jack Daniel’s to my brother’s place, where he will make his fabulous glaze for the ham and smoke it all day over apple wood.

Erica and Jessica were planning to come over early in the day to watch Christmas movies and the Rockettes, but it may be board games and sparkling conversation instead. Stay tuned!

Update: Power is back on, the sun is shining, and all systems are go! Merry Christmas to all of you!

*I have no concerns about him reading this, since he has never had an email address or belonged to Facebook or done anything on line other than look for tools.

A YEAR AGO: Working hard? Or hardly working?

Aftermath

Looks like we have weathered the storm! Power stayed on at my house – undoubtedly because Mark lent me his generator before taking his family to Mexico for a month – no trees crushed anything or anyone and nothing leaked. Apparently the rest of the country is mocking us for freaking out about the storm, since they have real weather. Sometimes I think the best thing about winter is watching it on TV from California, so maybe we deserve the teasing. Much was made about our rushing to make sure our various electronic devices were charged (true in my case) and debating over what to call the storm (less so). Rainpocalypse? Stormageddon? Hellastorm?

Tweets included:

“Is that the sound of a light sprinkle or is it just the east coast laughing at us?”

“Portland is laughing at you.”

“#BayAreaStorm warning: you may see small droplets of water falling from the sky. They are dangerous. Do NOT approach.”

You can see more here.

Meanwhile, back in Hooterville, it was a wild and windy night. I was awake during the worst of it, from 2 to 5 am (the worst part of any night, really), listening to the torrential rain and howling winds. I kept expecting the power to go out, but it didn’t, even as lightning flashed across the skylight. Clyde was sleeping happily against my legs, Audrey on my bedside table (her latest and most inconvenient spot yet, tending to scatter library books and alarm clock with abandon), and Roscoe was curled against me, trying to keep me calm. Storms make me nervous.

In the morning, the rain gauge was filled to capacity, which is 5 inches, so there may have been even more rain than that. The purple honeysuckle on the side of the house had blown over as usual, but nothing else in the garden seemed to be damaged.

The river flooded and closed the highway to the city, as you can see in the picture above. Even after the waters had receded, it remained closed as crews removed river slime and downed trees. There were a few mud or rock slides and power did go out in some places in the area, but on the whole, it wasn’t as bad as predicted, and I’m fine with that.

A YEAR AGO: ‘Tis the season.

Seasonal

Gloomy morning to you! It’s the calm before the storm.

The weather seers are calling for the worst storm in a decade, with high winds and torrential amounts of rain (6 to 8 inches in a 24 hour period). It even has its own hashtag on Facebook. The National Weather Service is predicting that the highway will flood this afternoon and cause the powers that be to close it. Speaking of power, we may not have any a few hours from now, which is why I have the Christmas tree on and sparkling while I can:

Also it’s cheery in the gloom.

I wasn’t intending to put the tree up this year. It’s 65 years old or more (time to retire?), very sheddy, and a little on the Charlie Brown side, as you can see. I was going to get some branches of greenery, put the ornaments on them, and put it on the table, but I realized that table space is at a premium, and I need somewhere to put the stockings.

So I hauled the tree down from the storage loft and put it up, then wound lights along the banister:

I went with non twinkling white lights this year, and I really like the look and the glow. The colored lights went out on the balcony:

Christmas lights look better with a palm tree:

And finally, the wreath that matches the tree went on the door:

So the house is as ready for the holidays and the storm as I can get.

When I was driving to and from the jobette yesterday, it was hard not to be both mesmerized and terrified by the ocean, which was spectacular with crashing waves and high surf, but that terrible beauty usually heralds a storm and a half. Stay tuned!

A YEAR AGO: It was a lot colder, with frozen pipes and water buckets.

Between Storms

Of the many delights of finally getting some real rain (not having to water the garden; not feeling guilty about either watering or not watering the garden; frogs singing; making a dent in the drought), driving and walking dogs are not among them.

As you all know, I’m not one of Nature’s drivers, even in the best of circumstances, and I think we can all agree that pouring rain on rough and curvy roads are not the best of circumstances. Visibility was poor enough and the rain was pouring enough the other day that my back was aching from tension by the time I got home from the jobette. On the bright side, though: no power outages yet.

At Megan’s house, the dogs were bored out of their minds, while yet not wanting to go outside into the suboptimal weather. Megan had to drag them outside for necessary business, and they tried to get back inside as soon as possible. Once inside, they immediately expressed their boredom by sighing, getting in the way as much as caninely possible, and generally making a nuisance of themselves until Megan gave them bones to chew, which is the dog equivalent of sitting your kid in front of the TV.

We took advantage of a break between storms to get the dogs out of the house and hopefully get some of the naughtiness out of the dogs. We headed for the Headlands, overlooked by the village:

Ravens wheeled lazily over the ocean:

I love to watch them waft lightly in the air currents, like they’re surfing on the air.

Stella watched them with me. One of the surprising things about Stella, who does everything 150%, 150% of the time, is that she likes to watch birds, butterflies, and the ocean:

We enjoyed watching the waves together, and I enjoyed watching Stella gaze at the scenery with her golden eyes. We caught up with Megan and Star, and watched a little girl fly a kite with her father before heading back to the car.

At Megan’s house, we attacked the carcass of Turkzilla together, removing the remaining meat and breaking it up to make broth. While the broth was brothing, we made a turkey pot pie, Megan making the roux and sauce while I cut things it up. It was nice to be cooking together in her little kitchen with the fire roaring, the rain falling outside, and the dogs napping on the couch. It was a great day, full of simple pleasures.

A YEAR AGO:

A long day heading home from San Francisco.

Nearly Done

We were gifted with another inch and a half of rain! It’s very early in the season, and it’s making me hopeful for a rainy winter.

During the rainfall, I realized that I did not have any sauce for the pasta I was planning to make for dinner. So I pulled on my little flowered rain boots and the hat I bought at the fair one year, and skipped through the puddles to my sister’s house, where she was getting ready for work.

The dogs were more excited than usual to see me, and that’s pretty excited. I don’t think anyone in the world is ever happier to see me than Star. Even my Dad made less fuss when I flew halfway around the world in coach to see him. The dogs were bored out of their minds in the way dogs are when it rains. They went out to pee, but couldn’t wait to get back in the house and out of the wetness. If possible, Stella actually hates the rain more than Star. So they are bored, but don’t want to go out and play. An appearance by Auntie Suzy just brightens up the dullness of their day.

Fortunately for me, Megan had some tomato sauce, and also tomatoes from the epic family garden which are due to be made into sauce any day. I also used onions, garlic and peppers from the family estate to make the sauce.

While I was at Megan’s, Rob showed me that he had done some work in their bathroom, repainting and planning to replace their sink with a better one he found somewhere, as Rob does. So he’s been cheating on my bathroom with his own bathroom. 🙂

There’s really not much left to do in my bathroom. Rob came by last night and put on a coat of primer. There’s just the walls to be painted white and the door to be painted black, along with installing the new door knob set. Here’s how it looked before the primer went on:

And here’s how it looked before Rob made it beautiful:

Amazing difference, isn’t it? Rob suggested taking down that shelf and it makes the whole room look bigger. I love how Rob was so creative in finding and using things. It’s been so fun spending more time with him. And of course, Clyde did an excellent job of supervising.

In & Out

I have to say, it’s been fun coming home and finding Rob here. The way he thinks is both unique and entertaining. Also it’s fun to see the developments on the bathroom front.

Yesterday, I arrived just as Rob was installing the shower pan. The new drain hole was in a different spot than the old one, so Rob cut a new hole and put the cut out piece in the old hole to seal it. Or as he put it, “I put the new hole in the old hole!” After installing the shower pan, he created a confection of towels and wood to clamp it in place as it dried overnight:

As you can see in the background, Rob has cancelled the window, as Mark puts it, by sheetrocking over it. He also removed the peeling green wallpaper from around the shower and painted over it, ready to tile. Here’s the cancelled window from the outside:

Yes, having a drafty window in my shower was a little odd, and the wood was rotten, but it always makes me sad to see windows boarded up and know that no-one will ever look out of them again. Also the bathroom is a dark cave without a window, so Rob is trying to figure out if he can cut one in the door to the back porch or maybe put a narrow one beside the shower, or both. Stay tuned.

We’re on Day Three of the latest heatwave, which broke records in downtown San Francisco yesterday by hitting 90 degrees, and it was about the same here in Hooterville. Today is supposed to be the final day of this hellacious weather – for now, they always come back in my bitter experience – and it was the perfect time to enjoy the outdoor shower on the back porch:

It’s a relic from the good old (or possibly bad old) days when there was no bathroom at all, simply an outhouse and an outdoor shower, both of which must have been uncomfortable when it was below freezing in the winter. But on a warm morning like this, it was delightful to shower outside and admire the view:

It’s close to high noon and the temperatures are inching up inexorably. Audrey is lounging in a lounge chair on the balcony and the boys are puddles of melted fur in front of the floor fan. Let’s hope Karl the Fog comes riding in on his silvery mist to save us all soon.

Happy Summer?


Rhododendrons in my garden this evening

The calendar may say April – just – but summer has come to Hooterville.

In the usual way of summer, it made a dramatic entrance, hitting its unsuspecting audience over the head with a sledgehammer of heat while giggling wickedly. When I came home from the cool climes of the jobette yesterday evening, I was surprised to discover that it was 80 degrees both inside and outside my house.

Before removing work wear, accessories and make-up, usually the first things I do, I dragged out all the fans – the upstairs, the downstairs, and the portable one which can be positioned to blow air directly on Self – and placed them throughout the house, as well as turning on the ceiling fan, even though it’s really more of a whisk stirring the hot air around than anything else. As usual, the outside cooled down long before the inside, and I slept with the balcony door open and the screen door closed, sadly coated in a sheet and dreaming of blankets.

That was once I got to bed, though. On the first warm night of the year, Roscoe was scarce. I kept calling him, even though I knew it to be pointless. He finally swanned in just after midnight, had a fashionably late dinner, and then went to bed.

We were all awakened at 6:30 by Mark’s rooster crowing loudly and repeatedly. I gave up and got up, releasing the cats into the garden, not to appear again until dinner time.

I had quarterly calls scheduled all day today (and tomorrow, and all of Friday morning), and I did them in the shady parts of the garden, moving my chair as the sun shifted. It gave me time to notice the damage done by Mark’s rabbit, Changa (it means “monkey”) on her frequent visits. It occurred to me that the rabbit ornament on my “front” door may in fact be a secret sign to rabbits everywhere that there’s an all you can eat buffet on the premises, much as hobos used to leave coded symbols scratched on people’s front doors during the Great Depression.

So really, I may have brought it on myself.

The Breakfast Club

The rain is really trying to make it up to us. According to my friend and neighbor Jim, we got more than three inches of rain yesterday, and I emptied more than five out of the rain gauge this morning, and five is as high as the rain gauge goes.

I can believe it – it was pouring last night when I drove home from the Village. I went to see a play of the beloved film The Breakfast Club, which made its début thirty years ago this week.

This production was my friends’ daughter Maya’s senior year project. She wrote the play script based on the movie, designed the set, chose the actors, acted in it, and directed. Did I mention that she is sixteen and is going to college in the Fall?

Maya did a great job. I was surprised that the minimal set worked so well and that Maya was able to effectively capture scenes like the chase in the hallway and the dance in the library. I really enjoyed it, and on my way out, I told the kid who played Bender what a great job he did. He ducked his head with embarrassment and thanked me.

I ran to the car, but was soaked anyway. When I got home, the kitties greeted me happily. This morning, though, they didn’t care that I got to bed late. Audrey insisted on going out at 6:30, and I fed the insistent Clyde and went back to bed. Clyde had other ideas, though, and kept making his distinctive ClydeSounds™ while walking all over me. I gave up and got up and let him out into the rain. I guess the cats have their own Breakfast Club.

Out at Home


It’s raining, it’s pouring

Woke up about 3:00 am to the oppressive and depressing silence of a power outage – other than the howling of the wind and pounding of the rain. I miss the comforting hum, light, and warmth of civilization pretty much immediately. Fortunately, there is a little emergency light beside the sliding glass doors in the kitchen, giving a beam of hope in the darkness of the night, so I was able to make my way downstairs to my cell phone* (I generally leave it plugged in when I’m at home, since the lack of cell service makes it keep looking for a signal, which in turn runs down the battery).

I called the familiar PG&E Outage Line – one of the most important of my contacts – and heard the even more depressing news that I was the first to report the outage. As I write, it’s about 7:15 am, and the house is still discouragingly dark. Fortunately, I was able to boil water on the gas stove and make coffee with the pre-ground coffee I bring on trips to the city (the coffee grinder being out of commission) and make coffee in my trusty French press, which doesn’t care about the power or the lack of it.

Welcome to the first power outage of the season and the year!

Update, 10:00 am: Power (obviously) back on. Immediately washed dishes, filled Brita pitcher and kettle and other water-related activities. Fingers crossed it stays on. Thousands are without power in the Bay Area.

*After more than a year, the iPhone has failed to ruin my life or obsess me, as some people warned. Maybe this is due to the aforementioned lack of service in the county.** I recently updated the IOS and wish I hadn’t, since I dislike the Disneyfied cartoon look of the icons and the apparent impossibility of dismissing incoming calls, which is essential when you have two jobs. At least I can run the Secret app.

**The major complaint of tourists, followed by the curviness of the roads and the insane price of gas in the Village – about twice what it costs in the Big Town, ten minutes away.