Suzy Says
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Dad’s birthday dawned sunny and beautiful. He probably would have approved that I spent the morning doing some cooking for the week: my friend Alice’s recipe for dak dori tang (spicy braised chicken) and Ottolenghi’s recipe for mejadra. It was Suzy’s international kitchen!

Megan and Rob hosted the party this year. I arrived to find that the appetizers were ready:

set by a photo we call “American Dad”:

It shows Dad in Cloverdale, wearing Jonathan’s straw hat and holding a slushy from the no longer extant Foster Freeze. He’s standing next to Jonathan’s old car, Grandma. Among Grandma’s eccentricities was the need to operate the windshield wipers by hand, using a string. I love that photo.

The appetizer was baguette with melted cheese and peppers my siblings grew and roasted over mesquite. It was delicious.

We headed to the greenhouse to snip some salad for dinner:

I got some extra to take home. The latest resident of the greenhouse is a Meyer lemon tree, which is something of an experiment. We are hoping it will work, since it would be great to have our own lemons.

Walking back to Megan’s place through the garden, I really felt like the seasons had changed from winter to spring. The plum tree agreed:

I know we are still slated to get more rain, but I think winter has lost its grip on us for now.

Back at Megan’s place, we toasted Dad with the cider we made last fall: “The old man wasn’t so bad!” Megan made spaghetti carbonara to go with the salad, and dessert was two sorbets: one made of wild blackberries and the other from raspberries my siblings grew. They were intense and delicious. After dinner, we watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train, this time catching the Master’s cameo and enjoying the film very much.

I think Dad would have approved of his party.

A YEAR AGO: Celebrating Dad’s birthday.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A boy and his dog.

TEN YEARS AGO: Remembering a vintage birthday.

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Madness
March 16th, 2019 by suzy in Bullshit 1 Comment

The time changed in the night, Edward said
and now it is different instead
Is it early or late?
Should I hurry or wait?
Perhaps I should go back to bed
— Edward Gorey

The dreaded spring time change hit me with a vengeance this year. Surveying my calendar, I realized that the day after Black Monday included a 12 hour work day and a dental appointment. Why not pack all the bad stuff into one day?

The appointment was with a new dentist. My former dentist retired rather suddenly, sending me a $740 bill as a farewell gift. It was not itemized, and since I hadn’t been there since September or October, I was mystified as well as horrified. I called and asked for an itemization, which I received, and for my records to be sent to the new dentist, which they were not. They only sent my most recent x-rays.

The giant bill included some things that were rejected by the insurance company, and my boss is going to try to get them to see reason. Stay tuned…

In the meantime, I went to meet the new dentist, filled with fear that he’d find something (or somethings) wrong and worried about the tooth that was so expensively and wretchedly root canaled in the fall. Former Dentist had put a temporary filling on it which is supposed to last a year. New Dentist said he normally does a permanent cap within six weeks of a root canal. Fortunately, everything looks OK in there and I am scheduled to have the permanent cap done in early April. Unfortunately, it is scheduled to take an hour and a half, just like the root canal, so I’m pre=worrying, despite a prescription for Valium to soften the blow. I should get another one to go with the bill.

I also had a library meeting on Friday, so it was a long and busy week for a girl who lost an hour of beauty sleep the night before it all started. I was under the impression that Californians had voted to stop the madness of daylight saving time in the last election, but apparently we only voted that someone could introduce the necessary legislation that could then be ratified by Congress or whoever runs these things, which really would stop it. I don’t know which one they would decide on as the permanent time, but I just wish they’d pick one and go with it.

A YEAR AGO: The beginning of the mattress débâcle. That lesson is learned. Still love the comforter set.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Oh, that Clyde! So naughty, and yet so cute!

TEN YEARS AGO: Some valuable lessons learned from film noir. Don’t pick up a crazed killer. Or let one give you a ride.

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Fashion
March 11th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,The Arts 1 Comment

Megan and I took advantage of a break in the weather for a trip to the Village. Our first stop was to see if our favorite wood-fired, brick oven pizzas were available in the winter. The scent greeting us as we made our way there suggested that they were:

They are indeed open year-round, which was good to know. The garden was still beautiful, even in the depths of winter, as was the pizza:

With dinner squared away before noon, we headed for the Kelley House to see a special exhibit on vintage fashion. Did you know that wedding gowns were not always white? This one dates from 1860s:

We were entranced by the beautiful gowns on display:

Here are some details:

There’s even an M for Megan:

It’s hard to imagine my tomboy sister in one of these getups, but you’d have to be a pretty tough women to survive living here in the Victorian era. Don’t forget there was no Golden Gate Bridge or paved roads, so to get here from San Francisco involved taking a ferry across the Bay and then stagecoach or carriage. Or you could do the whole thing by water and have to take a Victorian style zipline to the rocky Mendocino shore:

In fact, Megan noticed that there was a framed, matted version of a similar photo for sale for a mere $40. She was unable to resist, and I think it was a very good purchase. You can still see the remains of the zipline on the headlands to this day.

Children wore exquisite little gowns as well:

I think this elegant black velvet cocktail dress from the 1940s could be worn now:

Some fashion is timeless. Fortunately, corsets and crinoline are not!

We were fascinated by a film in which a modern-day girl got dressed in 1860s and 1880s style, all by herself. To be fair, she already had foundation garments on, but it still didn’t take as long as we thought it would, even with buttoning boots and petticoats and lacing her own corset. She even showed us how a lady relieved herself in the days when skirts and undergarments weighed several pounds. The secret is the open pantaloons and facing the wall, the opposite of the way modern women do. The Victorian way allowed bustles and crinolines to billow out of the way of the business at hand.

It was fun to take a look at the past, but I’m glad that I live in the present!

A YEAR AGO: It was still winter-y, but the ballet was fabulous.

FIVE YEARS AGO: This and that, things and stuff.

TEN YEARS AGO: From being robbed at the DMV to seeing priceless jewels. Just another day in Oaktown.

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Break
March 3rd, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,Travel,Weather 1 Comment

It was dark and stormy last week. We got about 10 inches of rain in a week, 6 of it over the course of two or three days. I later learned that this unenjoyable weather is called an “atmospheric river”. I think this is the California version of the polar vortex that afflicts the east coast in the winter. Also that the Groundhog had no idea what he was talking about.

The ocean was brown from the churned up rivers emptying into it, the road to Civilization was under 14 feet of water, and there was widespread flooding in the inland parts of the county. Even the schools were closed. It seemed like a good time to spend the night in town and check out an inn that recently opened overlooking the harbor.

I was disheartened to receive an LED lantern upon check in, since this meant that they either had no generator or only had one to power their office, as I experienced a few years ago when I stayed in town on a stormy night, only to be kept awake by a generator blasting all night that did not do anything for me. I could have had that experience at home for free, since it was back in the days when Mark was still here and started up his generator the second the power went out, possibly before calling PG&E to notify them of the outage.

Even though it was raining sideways, I dared to hope that the power wouldn’t go out. The room was quite lovely:

overlooking the busy harbor, where I could watch the boats go in and out and hear the characteristic sounds of sea lions and fog horns, which always remind me of San Francisco.

There was a sitting area overlooking the little balcony and harbor, complete with a gas fireplace:

And a giant tub with the same view:

It was thoughtfully provided with a hand shower, the thickest towels I have ever seen, and a comfortable, warm robe with a towel lining.

The inn has a restaurant on site, and I thought it would be a good idea to have dinner there and just walk back to my room. It turned out that this was not the best idea I ever had, and not (just) because I walked there and back in the driving rain and was soaked (though that didn’t help, either).

The restaurant is very pretty, and I later learned that a friend of mine had collaborated with the architect to create the restaurant and bar area. My table overlooked the river, and I could see there was outside seating for when the atmospheric river wasn’t soaking everything in sight. It would be a nice view.

Despite the fact that there were maybe four other people in the restaurant, it took 20 minutes before the pretty hostess took pity on me and asked if I’d like to order a drink. I ordered some wine, which arrived quickly, and then I waited some more. Finally the server arrived and asked if I was ready to order. I asked her what the specials were, which may be a first in restaurant history. I placed the order and had yet another long wait.

When it eventually arrived, the sole Meunière looked very nice:

But there was no sign of the crab it allegedly contained, not to mention the Meyer lemon reduction. It was bland, disappointing, and very expensive. A friend later pointed out that hotel food is often this way, and I will keep that in mind going forward.

On the (literally) brighter side, the power stayed on, and I was able to enjoy some wine by the fire, watching the harbor lights and listening to music. In the morning, I headed to the ever-awesome Eggheads for eggs Benedict, starring the world’s best Champagne Hollandaise sauce. Since it was a winter Wednesday, there was no line and a booth was available. The server was just a delight, and though much younger than the server at the hotel restaurant, she could have taught her a thing or two about good service. And the food was as wonderful as always. On the whole, it was a nice break.

A YEAR AGO: A look at Rob’s amazing artwork.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Angelika worked her magic. I am due to see her this coming weekend, too!

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Better
February 28th, 2019 by suzy in Calamity Suzy,House 1 Comment

The doc really did fix me up as promised. The Cough has gone on to find someone else to torture and I am no longer exhausted. It took longer than I expected to regain my normal voice, and I sounded like Peppermint Patty for a while. Laughter led to coughing during those Peppermint Patty days, but my natural frivolity was impossible to restrain as usual.

Once I stopped my sickness cycle of work-bed-work, I realized that the house needed some attention. One thing about cats is they never do housework. They create it, but leave the Staff to take care of it. So when the Staff is unavailable, housework does not get done. They quite rightly flee at the sight of the vacuum cleaner. Clyde also abandons ship at the sound of glass cleaner being sprayed. No manual (or paw) labor for him!

Cleaning up led to more cleaning up. When putting away dishes, I noticed that the shelves needed cleaning. So I ended up hauling everything out and washing the shelves. Looking at all the things and stuff that had been stored there, I decided that the rarely used things should be relegated to the studio, and that the stuff that was no longer useful or being used should be thrown out or rehomed.

I also got rid of all the Tupperware which didn’t have lids, which was remarkably satisfying. It also led to some online shopping for esoteric items not readily available in the environs of Hooterville, such as a pot lid organizer (instead of having a jumble of them and never being able to find the right one) and another organizer for frying pans of varying shapes and sizes.

So the simple “let’s put the dishes away” became an hours-long extravaganza. Eventually, the cats’ – or at least the boys’ – curiosity won out over their disdain for housework, as Clyde showed Dodge how to supervise projects. As you know, he is an excellent project supervisor with a flawless track record, so Dodge is learning from the best. Audrey just looked at us all with disdain from her throne, as befits the empress she is.

A YEAR AGO: Taking a civilized little break in town.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Storms and power outages. What else is new?

TEN YEARS AGO: A little film noir festival at home.

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Groundhog
February 17th, 2019 by suzy in Calamity Suzy 1 Comment

It’s a week later, and I’m still sick. It’s still raining, and the power has been out repeatedly, both at home and at work. I feel like I’m in an endless loop, like Bill Murray in “Groundhog Day”. Every day I go to work and get through the day in a daze, then go home and go to bed. My voice is an unfamiliar croak. Sometimes I eat dinner and sometimes I don’t. Food is still spectacularly unappealing to me.

Earlier this week, I was taking minutes in the doctors’ meeting, and my cough was there, too. After the meeting, one of the docs took me aside and said, “Come and see me and I’ll fix you up.” I made an appointment for the afternoon, but half an hour after the meeting ended, one of the medical assistants came to tell me that the doc had a no show and sent her to find me. Clearly she was on a mission!

The doc listened to my lungs, with their familiar ripping lace sound, and said I have bronchitis. She then gave me a breathing treatment, which I have never had before. It’s kind of like a little hand-held vaporizer that you breathe in. It also looked a bit like something out of a mad scientist’s laboratory in an old horror movie, with its pale, visible vapor bubbling out and wreathing away mysteriously.

After that, she prescribed me a 5 pack of antibiotics, an inhaler, and some codeine cough syrup to wrestle the Cough from Hell into submission at night so our heroine could get some much-needed sleep. We are beyond beauty sleep at this point, my friends.

The inhaler was also a new experience for me, and I’m still not convinced I’m using it correctly, but hopefully it’s helping. I’m supposed to use it for another week after I feel better, if this ever happens, to make sure my lungs are operating properly again. I’m still drinking hippie tea, too, so my bases are covered.

Of course, this is a long weekend. You know how extra time off always leads to some kind of Calamity Suzy episode! My goal is to feel less crappy when I return to work on Tuesday. Can she do it? Stay tuned…

A YEAR AGO: A visit to the past, my favorite place.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Showers bringing flowers.

TEN YEARS AGO: Flowering plums and Meyer lemons.

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Ugh
February 10th, 2019 by suzy in Calamity Suzy,Weather 1 Comment

I’m sorry to report that our heroine has been under the weather. And snowy weather at that. Yes, snow. On the jasmine:

On the huckleberry bushes:

It’s everywhere! It’s beautiful. Audrey likes it. I think it reminds her of her Canadian roots.

As you know, I am a snow fan and am not blaming the literal weather for the figurative weather I’m under. For the past week, I have been subject to an apparently endless compulsive and convulsive cough, which makes both my throat and my stomach ache. Both of my brain cells have gone on strike, and it sounds like ripping rotting lace when I breathe. Add in endless nausea, chills, and burning up and you have quite the cocktail of misery.

I took three days off from work, even though our sick days and vacation days are all the same thing. At the end of the three days, I didn’t feel any better, but I was tired of bleeding precious time off, so I returned to work, where everything seemed like a horrible dream and a million details had piled up on my desk.

Remembering Eddie Murphy’s instruction in “Raw” that Tussin can fix anything, I got some on my way to work. I wanted a totalitarian regime that would suppress any cough or even ideas of coughs.

My Tussin hopes turned out to be as unrealistic as my painkiller hopes. The Tussin was unequal to the admittedly Herculean task of repressing The Cough from Hell, much as the broken rib pain chortled merrily at the very idea of the painkiller loosing its agonizing grip.

My co-worker convinced me to get seen by one of my other co-workers. I said that she would tell me that it was a virus, there was nothing they could do, and please pay your co-pay on your way back to your desk. This is exactly what happened. Personally, I am convinced that they tell you it’s a virus when they don’t know what the hell it is.

I gave up on the Tussin days ago and am drinking a tea made of Meyer lemon slices, turmeric root, fresh ginger, and a spoonful of local honey, which I realize makes me sound like a gigantic hippie. Maybe I am. There’s a lot of evidence against me, including the fact that I live in Mendocino County, pretty much the official home of the hippie, my family has an organic garden and orchard, and I live in a hippie hovel, so…guilty as charged?

A YEAR AGO: The smallest of small town days.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Growing up Archi! Still Jarrett’s BFF.

TEN YEARS AGO: A civilized train ride. Is there any other kind?

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Past
February 3rd, 2019 by suzy in Family,Memories 1 Comment


Wartime Dad on His Way to School

A friend noted recently that they had never seen such a family for cleaning our plates as ours. Thinking about the observation, I realized that this was true, and also that our behavior has its roots in WWII.

Our father grew up during WWII, being bombed and having food rationed, and the effects never left him. I believe that it also started him on the path to becoming a research scientist. His childhood home was heated by coal, and by the age of 9, he was experimenting with the coal dust at the bottom of the bin, seeing how much he could mix with other substances and still get some heat from the adulterated briquettes he made.

Rationing went on for about 10 years after the war ended and Dad stopped sleeping in a bomb shelter under the watchful eye of his hero, Winston Churchill, whose photo Dad had cut out of the paper. The photo was still there when I visited my grandparents in 1977, the year of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. My grandmother used to tell the story of having to live with powdered eggs for years and finally getting a ration of fresh eggs, one per person. On the way back from getting the precious eggs, bombing began and my grandmother hid under a bus with her children and her eggs. She prayed for the safety of the eggs.

I am pleased to report that everyone, including the eggs, survived. But so did the effects of rationing, and they live on in this new (though not necessarily improved) century and from generation to generation. Like Dad, I am incapable of wasting food or leaving a light on in a room when I leave it. I sleep in darkness like he did after years of black outs and turn the heat off at night.

When I cook, I sometimes think of how I come from a long line of good cooks and how I still do things the same way my father and Victorian grandmothers did. I learned to cook from them and I still miss cooking with my father. I loved that we both knew each other’s kitchens so well and that we never got in each other’s way. Of course, having a glass of wine (or two) at hand inspires the cook, as Dad used to say. It’s nice to think that in some ways, they live on in me.

A YEAR AGO: Surprises at the post office.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Being a dog aunt is fun!

TEN YEARS AGO: Rob’s hospital stay ended well (though not as soon as he would have liked).

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Brighter
January 27th, 2019 by suzy in Country Life,The Arts 2 Comments

The lights stayed on the rest of the week, the sun is out, and the event hell is behind me for another few months*, so things are brighter, both literally and figuratively.

Megan and I headed to the South Coast for another of our cultural outings. The first stop, as it often is, was Anchor Bay Thai, where we are now so well-known that the lovely young server puts takeout menus on the bar for us on sight, and writes our names on the bills before we give her our credit cards. We were unable to resist the special fresh spring rolls of the day, made with coconut shrimp and fresh pineapple. So good!

We arrived at the theater in Point Arena in time to get balcony seats and enjoy the wonders of “La Sylphide”. It is one of the oldest ballets still being performed, and according to Katerina, the one that introduced dancing en pointe and started the celebrity of ballerinas, way back in 1836.

I am surprised it’s not better known today. It is beautiful to watch, with a wonderful, romantic story and a tragic ending. It is set in Scotland, where James (played by Semyon Chudin, who so memorably played the Mouse King a few years ago) naps by the fire in his mansion. He is awakened by a kiss from a sylph, who enchants him by fluttering and seeming to float as she dances around the room. As James reaches for her, she flies up the chimney and vanishes.

Unfortunately for James, it is not only his wedding day, but his groomsmen think he’s crazy when he describes his close encounter with this fantastic being. Eventually, James pursues the sylph into the enchanted forest where she and her sister sylphs dance an exquisite dance. He manages to capture the sylph and kiss her passionately, but this causes her wings to fall off and the beautiful creature dies in his arms.

I think it’s one of my favorites of all the ballets we have seen over the past few years. I’m looking forward to the next one, “La Bayadère”, in March.

*Though the actual event is next January, tickets go on sale and the madness starts in October. So the break from the horror is nowhere near as long as this girl would like.

A YEAR AGO: We were at the ballet then, too.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Hanging out with Megan’s dog Stella.

TEN YEARS AGO: Fighting the ghosts of the past and the tears of the present.

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Update
January 22nd, 2019 by suzy in Bullshit,Country Life,Weather 1 Comment


Here it comes!

I am glad to say that the power came back on Friday night, after three powerless days. It was nice to have light, not see my breath in the living room, and be able to flush the toilet. I was planning to go home and watch an old movie with a couple of adult beverages to celebrate the long-awaited return of civilization to my humble abode, but I ended up going to bed after one drink and not even messaging a distant friend as I had intended. Have I lost the will to drink?

I’m sorry to report that the power went out yet again on Saturday night, plunging me once more into darkness and despair. I called my friends at PG&E to report it and was saddened to hear that their recording still related to the outage which ended on Saturday. So I couldn’t report the new one. I hung up, hoping that one of my neighbors would eventually be able to report it. It appeared that someone did, since it came back on about six hours later.

For some reason, I have been finding all these outages hard to take. Maybe my nerves are overtaxed with the horror of the annual fundraiser. I am in the throes of it right now, along with my regularly scheduled job and all the irregularities that go along with that. I keep telling myself, it’s all over on Saturday and I can make it if I take it day by day.

We are back to sunny days and I hope the power outage chances are minimal, at least for now.

Update: Well, that didn’t last long. Power out AGAIN Monday morning at 8 am. Third one in a week. On a sunny, clear, windless day.

Another Update: Power is back on. We’ll see how long it lasts this time. Is it really even worth setting all the clocks?

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Storm
January 18th, 2019 by suzy in Family,Weather 2 Comments

Well, the New Year didn’t waste much time in getting down to business and racking up the power outages.

I took a day off, which as you all know inevitably leads to disaster. When will I learn? I had a package to mail to England, and with the day off, I could actually get to the post office, which is closed when I go to work, closed when I get home, and closed for lunch. Notice a theme here? So getting to the post office during their extensive work hours is quite a challenge.

Imagine my surprise when I arrived there to find the power was out. Somehow I thought post offices would have generators, but at least in Hooterville, they don’t. I was able to pick up a Customs form, so it wasn’t a total loss, but I think I’ve been trying to mail that package for about two weeks.

Arriving home, I called my friends at PG&E, and received the disheartening news that they had no idea when the power would be back on. I am now on Day Three of the power outage, and I’m here to tell you that power outage days are like dog years. It seems like forever since I had light or heat or could flush the toilet. This makes me very sad.

I am also sorry to say that the kid living next door was blasting his generator all night, making it impossible for me to sleep. When I left for work at 6 am, it was still going. I was so sleep-deprived that I felt drunk. My hands were shaking and my eyes felt like they had been sandpapered.

My kindly sister offered to let me sleep at her place last night. She and Jonathan are off the grid, so they laugh at power outages. I brought all my faux adult armor with me, and settled in bed with a book and Megan’s 18 year old cat, the Beautiful Harriet:

after Meg went to work. I fell asleep by 9:00 pm and didn’t wake up until 2:15 am, which was great. I went back to sleep until a little before 5, when I normally wake up. As you all know, a good night’s sleep makes a huge difference, and I feel ready to face the day, though not to face yet another dark, cold evening.

A YEAR AGO: Feeling better at last.

FIVE YERAS AGO: Interesting to see a patient’s eye view of the clinic now that I work there. Little did I imagine that would happen!

TEN YEARS AGO: Those were the days!

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Boys
January 10th, 2019 by suzy in Cats,Family 1 Comment

I have definitely been spending too much time working and not enough time with the kitties or with you, for that matter.

The kitties have rewarded my excess workage by stepping up the naughtiness factor. Really it’s the boys being boys. When I (finally) get home, they greet me with enthusiasm and set to work getting underfoot as the Staff distributes treats and food. Dodge has learned from the best, and his getting in the way skills are almost as good as Clyde’s.

Audrey, of course, disdains this type of behavior and those who are doing the (mis)behaving. She now gets room service treats on her throne, as befits an Empress. Unfortunately for her, a Canadian brought up with the respect due the monarchy, she is forced to share quarters with rabble-rousing California revolutionaries who seem to feel that the French had the right idea back in the 1700s.

During the time I had off over the holidays, I noticed that the boys have developed a disturbing tendency to gang up on Audrey, chasing her all over the house. Maybe I’m putting a negative connotation on their antics and they are just playing with her. To be fair, Dodge and Clyde play by chasing each other and roughhousing in a way that looks like fighting. But Audrey hates it and is pretty vocal about it. Also she has been scarce, hiding under the bed or on her throne atop the armoire, rarely sitting on my lap as she used to. I guess some people might think it’s karma for her terrorizing any dog who ventured into her realm as well as Clyde. Personally, I don’t know what to think, but I rarely do.

The boys were on their best behavior when Megan came by to spend an evening with me recently, showing their cute and cuddly side instead of their Bastille storming one. Dodge did his charming quirk of jumping while rubbing against Megan’s leg and displaying his power purr. I never get tired of that and find it incredibly cute. I hope he never stops doing it.

Megan and I had wine and watched girl movies, pausing frequently for chatting and laughter. We did our laundry at the same time, because that’s the kind of glamor girls we are.

A YEAR AGO: When is a bucket of sand not a bucket of sand?

FIVE YEARS AGO: A seasonal malady.

TEN YEARS AGO: A surprisingly warm day.

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Evening
January 5th, 2019 by suzy in Family,The Arts 1 Comment

The Nutcracker was the last ballet of the old year. I thought it would be the same one we saw a couple of years ago, but it was a different production, with choreography from 1966 and the 92 year old choreographer himself in the audience at the beautiful and historic Bolshoi Theater.

It was very different from the earlier production. This one had a glittery deep blue curtain with the guests going to the party (and leaving it, against the same backdrop), which we liked. We also liked the 18th century inspired costumes. But we were less taken with the principal dancers, especially Marie, who seemed to cry a lot, and had no chemistry with the Prince. The godfather who gifted Marie with the nutcracker seemed to be some kind of evil magician and also seemed to conjure up the Mouse King and his army, which seemed a little odd. Some of the dances were longer and others were shorter. All in all, it was fun and interesting, but on the whole, Megan and I both preferred the early production.

We were also glad that there was only one intermission, so it was still light out as we headed home with a car full of Thai food. We went to Megan’s place, where we were joined by Jonathan and Rob. It was the first time I had hung out there since they first moved in. Everything is put away and it looks lovely. While they have to be on the frugal side with electricity until they buy new batteries to store the solar power, it was warm enough to just wear a t-shirt in the house, which was an enjoyable novelty for someone who usually wears at least one sweater in her house and sometimes more. Sometimes even a hat*. To be fair, Megan and Rob’s old house used to be colder than mine is, so they really appreciate the warmth and insulation of their new home.

We enjoyed our fabulous Thai food with some local wine and Alfred Hitchcock’s “Shadow of a Doubt”, filmed in nearby Santa Rosa. Hitchcock chose the location because Santa Rosa was the quintessential small town, hard to believe 75 years later when it’s nothing but concrete and malls. The house where most of the action took place is still there, as is the train station, but the lovely library is no more, and the Til Two bar is gone, too. We agreed that we’d love to have the sign and/or the doors from that place:

We all enjoyed the movie and we all managed to miss the cameo, which I later learned was here about 15 minutes in.

It was a happy evening.

*Yesterday morning, I woke up to discover that the dish soap was frozen. To be fair, there was only a couple of inches in a glass bottle, but still. That’s cold.

A YEAR AGO: Sickly New Year to me!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Home again from San Francisco.

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2018
December 31st, 2018 by suzy in Bullshit,Cats,Country Life,Family,Friends 1 Comment

When I was a kid, my Dad used to jokingly say, “When things were bad, they told me, ‘Cheer up! Things could get worse!’ So I cheered up, and sure enough, things got worse!” Well, I never did cheer up from the effects of 2017, but 2018 was even worse. I really can’t see it end soon enough.

Besides the horrors nationally and globally, Erica’s mother died suddenly and horribly just days before the equally sudden and unexpected death of the best man at my long-ago wedding. The effects of these losses continue to echo, most notably with Erica and Jessica fleeing not just the county, but the country. There was no Junapalooza this year and there never may be again without the assistance and inimitable presence of my near birthday twin and aesthetic soulmate.

Megan and Rob moved away, too, leaving me the last one standing at the property our brother first moved to 25 years ago. They lived in that little house for 20 years – the only house they ever lived in, in fact. Before that, they lived on a boat at Pier 39, and before that, Megan lived in an apartment with me. Mom spent the last few years of her life in that house, and Dad visited us there, including the Thanksgiving when he had a stroke on the driveway. And don’t forget my Christmas concussion in Megan’s living room! There are a lot of memories in that tiny place. Megan and Rob live just down the road now, but I miss having them here. Another ending.

Add in some expensive and agonizing dental hell and seemingly endless problems and drama on the property where I live, and you have the kind of year where a girl who loves Christmas doesn’t have any decorations up and in fact ignored the whole thing. I didn’t send any cards out this year, so if you didn’t get one from me, it’s not you, it’s me.

It’s probably not surprising in this underperforming year that I read only 102 books versus last year’s 114, and we have only received a paltry 10 inches of rain so far this season.

On the bright side (though not as far as Audrey is concerned), I adopted a little Siamese cat named Dodge, and he’s still alive so far, defying the odds.

Here’s to a less crappy New Year. I don’t think I can take it if I’m back here a year from now, telling you how 2018 looks like the good times.

January: I still had the plague from the old year. Not a good way to start the new one. When is a potato bucket not a potato bucket? When it’s a cat latrine, of course. Watching the surfers and ballerinas in Point Arena. The beauty of the lunar eclipse – and a perfect cocktail or two.

February: Both the weather and the mail were delightfully surprising. It was the Mondayest of Mondays and the smallest of small town days. I note that Wednesday’s engine light is still on, a full year later. A power outage at work, but not at home. Thankfully.

March: Rob’s amazing ceramic art. The most unpleasant time change of the year, and a delightful visit to Angelika’s little salon in the big woods. The beginning of the dreaded mattress saga. Not one of my finer decision-making moments. Celebrating Dad’s birthday. Stormy weather and the continuing mattress saga. Mark repaired some problems at my house. I note that he mentioned then that he was planning to move, and he eventually did.

April: Spring arrived, along with more silliness on my part than usual. Spring fever? A huge storm dumped a bunch of rain on us. Amazingly, the power stayed on. The horror of the mattress saga finally ended. Enjoying some local history and scandal. My blog turned 17 and Jessica turned 15.

May: Considering joining the library Board. A delightful dinner, a creepy play, and the debut of Lu and Rik’s first grandchild. A road trip to Willits to buy plants for the garden, and Star’s 10 birthday! Two sudden and unspeakably tragic deaths in one week.

June: A memorial service right before Erica’s and my birthdays inspired us to skip the celebrations. There was no Junapalooza either. I had taken time off for my birthday and was rewarded by getting the flu again less than six months after having it. The welcome discovery of wood-fired pizza in the Village. Despite everything, I’m grateful for the love and support around me.

July: My DNA test results. The beauty of the annual quilt show. A delightful outing to Point Arena, replete with delicacies from Franny’s and a play streamed from London. Both my back and my heart ached with the news of my former mother-in-law’s death. Rest in peace, dear Marj. The breathtaking Flynn Creek Circus and the terrifying wildfires.

August: Megan and Rob get ready to move from their home of 20 years onto the family estate. Giving away the things that wouldn’t fit in their new place. The seventeenth anniversary of Dad’s untimely and unnecessary death. I will never stop loving or missing him. The arrival of little Dodge, the beautiful little Siamese cat.

September: Megan and Rob were all moved in to their new place, and Dodge was finding his place in his new family. The beginning of Dental Hell, leading to my first (and hopefully last) root canal. The delights of the Fair.

October: The case of the disappearing landlord. Catching you up on some details. A trip to the hospital for my string of pearls. The last sleepover with Jessica. A lovely lunch and an enchanting garden.

November: The annual cider pressing. Swamped in smoke from distant, late season wildfires. In November! More updates about various things around the Manor. Hint: Not many of them are good. Remembering my grandfathers on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day. Sometimes I feel like John and I are the only people in California who wear poppies for Remembrance Day.

December: A memorable version of King Lear with the amazing Sir Ian McKellen. The great escape. The always delightful festival of lights. A lovely evening, including a live (and lively) 1940s style radio play. The Christmas that wasn’t.

A YEAR AGO: Looking back at another bad year.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lots of trips to San Francisco, a shiny new divorce, a new car, and the arrival of Stella, among other good things.

TEN YEARS AGO: Adjusting to life in Oaktown.

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Ex-mas
December 26th, 2018 by suzy in Cats,Country Life 1 Comment

Christmas Day dawned bright and sunny after a night of heavy rain. It may have been the loudest and heaviest rain I remember hearing here. It was a little scary, and I’m pretty sure even Rudolph couldn’t have made it through that storm. I also acquired a new leak, in the foyer, which I discovered by stepping into the icy puddle in my habitually bare feet. Because when it’s sunny or starry in the winter, it’s cold, since the insulating layer of clouds are gone.

I could see my breath in the house, and the cats approved my decision to put the heater on, Dodge sitting on top of it and Clyde right in front of it, Audrey remaining in her mystery spot™. She has been scarce these days, either nowhere to be seen or scowling from her throne.

It was a hot water only shower on Christmas Day, and even then the water was perched perilously on the edge of acceptability. But at least there was water. Ever since my brother took over managing the well, we have not run out of water. A girl could get used to this.

I had meant to watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and the Grinch, but when it came down to it, I didn’t want to. I also didn’t do my annual reading of “The Box of Delights”, watch NORAD’s Santa Tracker or the Queen’s Speech, or any other Christmas traditions. It was too depressing, especially since I had to work the next day, and who can truly enjoy the day before work? Especially in your chilly and resolutely undecorated house all by yourself.

Maybe next year will be different.

A YEAR AGO: Little did I know this would be our last Christmas together.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A sunny and delightful Christmas. With Gucci shoes, yet.

TEN YEARS AGO: Christmas at Megan’s old house. Those were the days.

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Magic
December 24th, 2018 by suzy in Country Life,Special Occasions 3 Comments

Even though I’m skipping Christmas this year, I was still delighted to learn that the local theater was putting on a holiday show.

Megan and I decided to have a pre-theater dinner at Luna Trattoria since we enjoyed our last dinner there so much. This time was just as delicious. I couldn’t resist having the penne alla vodka again, and Megan had fettucine with grilled prawns. They make their own pasta and it’s perfection.

After dinner, we made our way to the theater. We were somewhat disappointed to learn that there was not a special, festive drink for the holiday show. Visions of something pepperminty or maybe pomegranate or cranberry based, garnished with holly or something, had been dancing in my head. I tried to keep my dismay to myself, and settled for a drink from a previous production.

Even more disappointing than the lack of theme drink was having seats in the next to last row instead of the first row. When I saw the notice of the play on Facebook, I tried to buy tickets online, only to get an error message. I called the box office the next day, only to discover that it was mostly sold out and we’d have to settle for suboptimal seats.

Despite these minor inconveniences, the play itself was delightful. It was a 1940s radio play version of “Miracle on 34th Street”, complete with retro microphones and a guy on stage doing sound effects. There were ads and jingles for Lux soap, the sponsor of the show, and memorably, the Andrews Sisters, played by three charmers from the local high school. They effortlessly and adorably sang this very complex tune, as well as their hit Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy, and were poised and charming when interviewed on the radio. It was a wonderful evening.

A YEAR AGO: Did you know Peter Pan was a horror movie? Well, it is. Or at least this particular production was. It has entered family parlance as something really bad happening now being called “getting Peter Panned”.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A very enjoyable day at work. I miss the golden years of the jobette.

TEN YEARS AGO: A good mail day.

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Lights
December 19th, 2018 by suzy in Country Life,Special Occasions 1 Comment

Just because you’re a pre-conversion Grinch who doesn’t have a single decoration up at your house or even one Christmas card in the outbound mail doesn’t mean that you’re immune to the magic of the Festival of Lights.

Despite the fact that we are skipping Christmas this year, Megan and I were looking forward to the Festival of Lights at the Botanical Gardens. Even though we arrived on the early side, the regular parking lot was already full and we had to settle for the overflow parking lot next door. Fortunately for us, the overflow lot was close to the entrance for those of us with prepaid tickets, so it all worked out well.

Once inside, we were delighted by a dragon, flamingoes, and other exotic creatures:

Somehow, the windswept cypress trees reminded me of the giraffes’ native Africa:

The jellyfish seem to float in the air:

I loved the dramatic lighting on the succulent garden:

The erupting volcano was complete with smoke:

The sailing ship was complete with whale tail:

It was a magical, glittering evening.

A YEAR AGO: Surviving the office Christmas party.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A surprise birthday for Jarrett.

TEN YEARS AGO: A Christmas memory.

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Escape
December 13th, 2018 by suzy in Cats,Country Life 2 Comments

The Fugitive

Little Dodge managed to sneak out of the house when the help wasn’t looking. The help was horrified to discover this in the early morning darkness. Clyde was also visibly dismayed, going from door to window to door and peering outside anxiously. I wouldn’t be the worrier I am if I didn’t think, “Clyde can’t go through this again”, fearing that Dodge, after a mere four months in my incompetent hands, had vanished into the woods like the incomparable Roscoe and the gorgeous June. Cats have about the same survival rate in my house as Victorian infants.

Audrey, of course, was smirking from her throne, clearly thinking, “Thought he’d never leave!”

I went out into the darkness and called Dodge, shaking treats and trying to convince him to come home. He had never been outside since I brought him home, and when he was outside before, it was on city streets, which have different dangers than the woods, so this just ratcheted up the worry.

Eventually, I heard his characteristic meow and caught a glimpse of his distinctive fur in the beam of the flashlight. But he vanished under the stairs. Attempts to get Dodge to emerge from his hiding place were severely hampered by the appearance of Mark’s herd of dogs, who were overly interested and trying to be helpful. I shooed them away, but Dodge stayed hidden.

I later learned that cats often do this: continue to hide even though they can hear their owners’ voices and the gladsome sound of treats. Apparently, some kind of survival mode kicks in and they just stay as still as possible until they think the danger has passed. Also they generally stay in the immediate radius of their house, unless scared away by a dog or car or something like that.

All these things were true, since Dodge remained hidden under the house for most of the day. I began to worry about his being out there in the dark yet again as the day went by. Eventually, the little rascal emerged from his hiding place long enough for me to scoop him up and bring him triumphantly into the house.

Clyde wasted no time in carefully examining and sniffing his wayward companion, finally giving him a welcome home bath while Audrey glowered. Curses! Foiled again!

Dodge busied himself with treats and food, and then curled up on the couch with Clyde as if nothing had ever happened.

A YEAR AGO: The delights of candlelight shopping.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Seasonal chill.

TEN YEARS AGO: It was hailing like crazy. And Henry and I were getting closer.

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Lear
December 9th, 2018 by suzy in Country Life,Special Occasions 1 Comment

This is my first post for December! That’s pretty bad, even by my low standards. You can probably guess that this means things have not been going well in Suzy World, and you would be correct. I won’t bore you with the dreary details*, but suffice it to say that things are crazy at work and at home and it has (temporarily, I hope) sucked the frivolity out of our heroine.

I took a break from the madness to head to the south coast with my sister during a break in the rain. So far, this year’s rain has been a Lebowski level slacker, with barely 6 inches to date and only about 4 months to get more. Despite the lack of rain, the road to civilization was closed. This was because the sandbar at the mouth of the river had failed to breach, making the river overrun its banks. Fortunately for us, we were taking that left at Albuquerque the bridge to the south coast.

Our first stop was Franny’s Cup & Saucer, where we provisioned ourselves with delicacies, some for lunch and some for later. Among these were a fruit slipper, puff pastry wrapped around lemon custard with apple and berries, and a lemon-blackberry cupcake with a jaunty toasted meringue cap. Picking up dinner at Anchor Bay Thai Kitchen concluded our extreme takeout efforts.

Replete with deliciousness, we arrived at the Art Deco theater in Point Arena, where “King Lear” was being streamed from London with Ian McKellen in the title role. He is clearly a big draw, much like Benedict Cumberbatch was a few years ago. This wasn’t standing room only, but it was pretty full, and we were saddened to discover that the balcony was occupied and we had to sit in the main part of the theater. Don’t they know who we are?

This minor annoyance soon vanished as the play began and we were swept into the drama. Sir Ian may be nearly 80, but he gave a powerhouse performance. You couldn’t keep your eyes off him, whether he was being the imperious ruler or the grief-stricken father or a man who might be suffering from dementia or madness. He made you feel his vulnerability and see why his loyal friends remained loyal to him. It was a performance we won’t soon forget.

A YEAR AGO: I see my mental state left something to be desired then, too.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Frozen pipes and Christmas trees. ‘Twas the season! Still ’tis, but I’m ignoring it.

TEN YEARS AGO: The peacocks on the Christmas tree looked pretty as long as they lasted. Which wasn’t long.

*If you’re really curious, as I tend to be, email me at sjpeakallATgmail.com and I’ll share the unenjoyable facts of my life with you.

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Evening
November 29th, 2018 by suzy in Country Life,Family,Special Occasions 1 Comment

It was nice having four days off in a row. On one of them, I slept until 10:30 am. I can’t remember the last time I did that. I also went to bed at 8:30 pm that same day and slept through to 6:30 am the following day. Life has been exhausting lately.

Megan and I packed a lot of fun into one of the days off, though. We started off at the crafts fair at the Arts Center in the Village. We arrived at the last hour of the last day, and it was refreshingly uncrowded. We were greeted by some outsize, outside tomatoes:

and a charming little mosaic frog:


He must have been glad to see the rain.

I bought a charming little bird to keep my father the ornithologist company:

and Megan and I both bought hairpins embellished with antique buttons. I put mine on immediately.

Our next stop was Luna Trattoria, where we found a quiet table in the gracious surroundings and were looked after wonderfully. Fresh bread arrived with olive oil in a moon decanter and balsamic vinegar in a star decanter:

Our wine arrived with a standing ice bucket, replete with a napkin for catching drips. Not that we had to pour any wine – the owner and the server saw to such mundane details. We started our lovely dinner with a perfect bruschetta:

It had just enough garlic, and the basil and tomatoes were fresh and flavorful. I followed this up with penne alla vodka with pancetta:

It, too, was just perfect, a great balance of flavors.

We enjoyed a leisurely dinner while catching up with each other’s lives. Our schedules are so far off now that we don’t see each other as much as you’d think, especially since we no longer live on the same property.

After dinner, we headed to the theater and its welcoming little bar:

The bartender creates a special drink for every play, and was kind enough to make Megan the drink from the last play, which featured Crème Yvette (a new ingredient to us) and blue Curaçao. I had this play’s drink, called Heaven Fruit cocktail. It is composed of gin, pomegranate juice, ginger beer, and lime. They were both delicious.

The play was three one act plays by Thornton Wilder, perhaps best-known for “Our Town”, though I also admire his screenplay for one of my favorite Hitchcock movies, “Shadow of a Doubt” (filmed in nearby Santa Rosa). If you know “Our Town” – and most former high school students do – you may not be surprised to hear that all three had a recurring motif of mortality. They were clever and we enjoyed the performance. It was another great evening for the sisters!

A YEAR AGO: I was feeling a LOT more festive.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Celebrating Thanksgiving.

TEN YEARS AGO: Enough with the Thanksgiving already!

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