Over


View from my bedroom

I am pleased to say that the Dental Doom was much less doomish than expected. In fact, it wasn’t doomish at all.

I was greeted warmly at the oral surgeon’s office, and was soon ensconced in a comfortable chair in a pretty office, with the sun shining through the window. The assistant covered me with a soft, heavy fleece blanket, which was very comforting as well as warm. I told them that I have had nausea after anesthesia in the past, so they put some anti-nausea drugs in my IV before doing anything else.

And that, my friends, is all I remember until I woke up. I don’t remember being put to sleep, and they didn’t freeze me until after I was asleep, so I didn’t even have to deal with the needles.

They did freeze the heck out of me, though. I stayed frozen all day. I picked up what I hope is my last antibiotic prescription of the year, along with pain pills and prescription ibuprofen (one giant pill for mankind, instead of 4 little ones), and grabbed some dim sum from Hang Ah on my way out of town.

Arriving home, I took a nap, and after that, I was pretty much back to new, waking up to the pretty view you see above from my bedroom window. Other than the blood taste in my mouth, and the quite enjoyable post-anesthesia stoned feeling, I would never know anything had happened to me. There was no pain or swelling, and almost a week later, I am pretty sure that nothing bad is going to happen from the surgery. One of my co-workers in our dental department checked in with me to see how it went, and took a look in my mouth. She said it looked “perfect”, and that she would need a mirror to see the indents where the teeth used to be. Fun fact: it can take up to 10 months for the bones to grow back and fill in those indents. I didn’t know that happened.

All in all, I was really lucky. The procedure I feared the most turned out to be the best. And I am hoping that it marks the end of my dental problems, at least fior the immediate future.

A YEAR AGO: A little trip to the South Coast.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A stormy start to the week.

TEN YEARS AGO: The Audreyness of Audrey knows no bounds.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: I was bitten by a parrot. Seriously.

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Flamingo

It appears that the only reason I ever leave the County is to have expensive and painful dental procedures. The last time I ventured to Santa Rosa was for a root canal, and it’s debatable which was worse: the procedure or the shocking cost of the procedure, which I am still slowly and painfully paying off.

This time, it was to have my lower wisdom* teeth removed. The one on the right has been causing me all kinds of hell lately, and though I am very grateful for my sister’s ability to magically produce antibiotics and pain meds in the middle of the night, living on them is not a sustainable lifestyle, though I have certainly given it a serious try.

I refused to even contemplate such a horrifying procedure while conscious, so I had to go to an oral surgeon, and the closest one was in Santa Rosa. All the knock out appointments are in the morning, so I drove down the night before. If you have to worry about dental problems, why not do it in style? So off I went to the Flamingo, with its glamorous lobby:

It’s quite magical at night:

My room was lovely:

Here’s the seating area:

And the lovely bathroom:

I got Indian food delivered and watched a hockey game before going to sleep. I slept surprisingly well, considering the impending doom. All that glamor definitely helped.

*They should really be named Trouble Teeth or something that is more descriptive and more accurate. They should also hurry up and evolve into non-existence.

A YEAR AGO: File under miscellaneous.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Of rain, cats, and dogs.

TEN YEARS AGO: Rob finally got his permanent disability.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A good deed. And a very good dog.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: My wonderful in-laws were visiting us in San Francisco. It was a great time.

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Cheers

You know how sometimes we get Junuary, when the weather is more like summer than winter even though it’s January? We had that in February, though I can’t come up with a clever portmanteau for that one. There were record highs in southern California that weekend, and possibly here, too. Certainly, it was warm enough to venture out without a sweater or jacket of any kind, and that is a rare thing here any time of year. You get kind of programmed to have a sweater or jacket with you at all times. The last time I went to LA, I brought my sweater with me everywhere and I never needed it. Not once.

Not only was it suddenly (though temporarily) summer, Megan actually had a Saturday off for once. Pressing Rob into service, we headed to our favorite seaside bar, where we sat at a little table in the garden at a comfortable distance from the madd(en)ing crowds:

We enjoyed the always excellent company of a Mandarin Blossom Cosmo (me) and a Buddha’s Hand Lemon Drop (Megan), as well as the beautiful view:

As the sun set into the Pacific, the moon rose over restaurant:

and the lights began to twinkle on the deck:

It was a beautiful end to a beautiful day.

A YEAR AGO: Some thoughts on love.

FIVE YEARS AGO: It was raining water outside and love inside.

TEN YEARS AGO: Remembering my much-loved American grandfather. I will miss him 45 years after his death. I think I always will.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Farewell to the glamorous Princess Margaret.

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Aspirational

I was reading a New Yorker article today where they mentioned that someone was “comically wealthy”, and I thought, “That’s exactly what I should be.” If only I had followed my original career choice of Idle Rich, perhaps I would have achieved a comic level of wealth by now.

When I was in 5th or 6th grade, we had a career fair. We were supposed to write down what we wanted to be when we grew up. I now look back at this with astonishment. Nearly half a century later, I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up, and I’m beginning to suspect that I will in fact never grow up. If I haven’t grown up by now, with my 60th birthday looming on the horizon (less than 5 shopping months left, Suzy fans!), is there really any hope that I will?

Also, how did the alleged grownups who were running that particular show think that 12 year olds had any idea of what they could or should be doing in their distant grown-up futures? And imagine being held to a decision you made at that age, when you probably thought your name should be Princess Sparkle and you wanted to eat pizza every night and stay up late with your friends?

OK, to be fair, I still want to do most of those things, and while I wouldn’t actually call myself a sparkly princess, inside I feel like I am one.

At this career fair, I wrote down “Idle Rich” as my career aspiration. I got in trouble for this, the Powers that Be thinking that I was making a mockery of this preteen career decision-making, when in fact, I was 100% serious. I was indignant that I was so misunderstood and that the grownups once again failed to understand me. It was a Ramona moment.

I really think I would be an excellent idle rich person. I would never be bored, and my days would be filled with glamor and beauty. I would be a wonderful patroness of the arts. Maybe in my next life…

A YEAR AGO: Winter was not very wintry. It’s been conspicuous by its absence this year, too.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Stormy weather.

TEN YEARS AGO: Rob’s ongoing neck issues were a real pain in the neck.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Sometimes an Oreo can be a madeleine.

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Pizza

Daria would be proud of me. My determination to acquire the pizza of my dreams actually led to my overcoming my impatience (Waiting in line! Waiting in general!) and laziness (Making an extra stop on my way home from work!). Needless to say, the keepers of the wood-fired brick oven failed to answer their phone, but I decided that I would not let that stop me.

Friday afternoon seemed like the best time to push my patience and laziness to their limited limits. It was an alarmingly lovely day. I can’t remember the last time it rained, and the 29 inches of precipitation we had received by the end of December was looking pretty paltry by the end of January. No rain in the immediate future, either:

Our short winter is almost over, and there aren’t many rainy day opportunities left. On the bright side, though, it made the waiting in line and waiting in general much more pleasant:

It was nice to hang out in the herb garden and admire the honor farm stand:

As waiting went, it was pretty good, though of course it was also longer than predicted. It’s the Mendo way. And the pizza was worth the wait. This one is House-made Fennel Sausage, Sliced Red Onion, Pickled Fresno Chiles, Oregano, Cured Black Olives, Mozzarella, and San Marzano Tomatoes:

This one is Calabrese Pepperoni, Artichoke Hearts, San Marzano Tomato Sauce, and Mozzarella:

They were both delicious. I should be patient more often!

A YEAR AGO: My proudest achievement.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A busy Saturday.

TEN YEARS AGO: A power outage.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Visiting birds.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The unpredictability of the weather.

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Reboot

Of course the “Sex & the City” reboot called for a Girl Night!

Getting the requisite pizza was once again more complicated than you’d expect. Our first choice, the fabulous wood-fired brick oven baked pizzas from the Village, were not available because they were not answering their phone, and I was not prepared to go there, wait in line, order, and wait again. Impatience is (or should be) my middle name (and it wouldn’t be notably worse than my actual middle name). I didn’t have enough cash for my second choice, which is a cash-only establishment, so it was door number three, the winner because they not only answered their phone, but cheerfully accepted my debit card.

Suitably armed with pizza, I went home and fed the cats (not pizza), and was ready for Megan to pick me up. We stopped in at the post office and the Gro on our way to our family estate, to check for fan mail and get some snacks. A girl cannot live on pizza alone, though she might like to try. As Daria so wisely put it, “And there is no aspect, no facet, no moment of life that can’t be improved with pizza”.

Arriving at Megan’s place, it took Millie about .00002 seconds to be horrified by me and try to hide from my awfulness behind the safety of Megan. Millie may be horrified by humans in even less time than it took my former landlord Mark to fire up his generator when the power went out, previously held to be the shortest measurable time known to man.

Despite her visible horror at my appearance in her home, Millie chose to sit on the very same couch that I did, separated, of course, by the safety zone of Megan. Stella was naturally uninterested in any of this drama, being far too interested in wedging herself into the place that was the most inconvenient and uncomfortable for me, and being as snack-adjacent as caninely possible. Having her own dinner did not of course lower her interest in participating in mine.

We binged on all six episodes that were available at that time, so beware of spoilers below if you have not already binged it yourself, or rationed it out like the responsible adult HBO clearly thinks you are, since they released an episode a week and I think the last one finally airs this week.

I was delighted to see that while they referred to recent unpleasant events, in the SATC world, the unpleasantness was over and one could merrily bare one’s face to the elements and hug one’s friends. I greatly missed Kim Cattrall as the witty and wonderful Samantha, whose absence was inadequately explained, and, after his untimely death in real life, the inimitable Willie Garson as the unforgettable Stanford Blatch. Again, his absence was inadequately explained on the show, but they couldn’t kill off two characters.

The show’s attempt to be inclusive was cringeworthy to me, and felt forced and fake. The story arc with Miranda was particularly far-fetched and unlike her character, unless she was having a late in life crisis. I did not like how she dismissed her husband Steve, a good man who has always loved her and appreciated her prickly qualities, seeing the vulnerability beneath the exterior. It was especially hard to watch after their separation and reunion in the earlier movie.

All the men get short shrift in the reboot, though of course the show has always been all about the girls (again, unlike real life). The clothes are still fabulous, the writing still witty, and their world is still beautiful and gracious, separate from mere ordinary mortals, and that’s the way I like it. The very things that people criticized in the movies were the things I loved. I don’t want to see reality. I want escapism, preferably in fabulous apartments and exotic locales.

All in all, it was fun escapism and a delightful evening for everyone but Millie, and possibly Rob, who got to chauffeur me home.

A YEAR AGO: The delights of John’s kittens.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Surprise! A new, giant, blocky refrigerator is your new roommate!

TEN YEARS AGO: Encounters with law enforcement.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Arriving in Florida.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Indoor and outdoor coffee.

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Con


Frank

Faithful readers may remember how I fell in love from afar with a gorgeous, if pugnacious, flame point Siamese cat named Frank. Frank started hanging around John’s place, looking adorable and acting hungry, and of course John started taking care of him, as he does all the strays who cross his path.

I have enjoyed the Frank news, videos, and photos John sent me. Frank often showed up with scars and wounds, as befits a tough guy who is a street fighting man. John tended to the wounds, and eventually Frank warmed up enough to be petted. His territorial and fighty nature made it impossible for him to join John’s cat family, but as it turned out, John told me a couple of days ago that:

Frank is a goddamned con artist!

He eats an average of two cans of Fancy Feast every day. Those dinky little cans of fancy feast are the most expensive cat food I buy.

Frank’s real name is Olaf. His owner is a dude named Leo, who lives a few streets over. I just spent about 45 minutes chatting with the guy. He’s my age, lives in a mobile home with his daughter.

Frank — who will always be Frank to me — is inside safe and sound every single night. Leo said that Frank has some kind of a heart issue and he probably won’t live very long, but I’m not too sure about that because Frank is so robust. During a conversation I must’ve mentioned 20 different ways that he could create a really rich environment in his house to keep Frank indoors. And I specifically mentioned the times that I’ve been putting Neosporin on fight wounds that Frank has had.

Anyhow, I look forward to more visits from Frank and I will always feed him, but it is an unbelievable relief to know that he is microchipped, gets his annual shots, and is safe and warm at night.

Here’s Frank from yesterday, with my expensive food on his nose. (That’s the photo above)

He’ll always be Frank to me, too. Olaf is a pretty bad name. Knowing that Frank is a con artist only makes me love him more. It’s a total relief knowing he has a home and is cared for. I wonder how many other people are feeding him and thinking he’s a homeless waif?

Never change, Frank.

A YEAR AGO: A magical encounter with a deer. I told a friend about it, and she said it was Dad checking in on me. I love that thought.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The horrors of the annual fundraiser.

TEN YEARS AGO: Storms, and some great dump scores.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Snow days, San Francisco style.

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Moon

Me and the moon…we go way back. Our most dramatic encounter was a few years back, and it has never ceased to affect me. I even bought this ring:

to remember that occasion, and every time I wear it (like today), I think of that breath-taking moment with the eclipse and the shooting star, and my beloved former father-in-law.

Even though I’m a morning person, I still have a strong bond with what the Moody Blues called the “cold-hearted orb that rules the night”. I don’t think of her as cold-hearted; I think of her as beautiful. And although I’m a morning person, it is generally dark when I get up and still dark when I go to work. I start by 7 am, and for years, when I lived in San Francisco, I got to work by 6 am, in time for the stock market opening in New York.

Even on weekends, I’m generally up and about by 6 am or 6:30. Go ahead and hate me. At least I’m not perky and/or chatty at that hour. I don’t want anyone, even the cats, talking to me that early. I am unable to deal with anyone or anything until I have had my one cup of black coffee out of my starry mug:

And when I walk to the car, I take a moment to look at the stars blazing in the blackness, and to admire the moon, if she is beaming down. Then I head into my day, toward the ocean, where I often see the moon through the dark, ancient redwoods. Sometimes she is huge and orange, sometimes she is a sliver of silver, but she is always beautiful.

As I wend my way down the curvy Ridge, the Lady is sometimes on my left, and sometimes on my right, and it reminds me of how I believed my grandfather put up the moon at night with a long ladder. When I asked him about its ability to move from one side of the road to the other, he explained that the moon was on a spring. I bet you didn’t know that. Or that the astronauts got up there when my grandfather shot them out of a catapult.

By far my favorite moon view is when I first see the ocean, when the Ridge meets storied Highway One, and that is what I attempted to capture in the photo above. I love it when there is a wide, silvery path of moonlight on the black ocean. It is so magical.

A YEAR AGO: Meet my new love, Frank. Loving from afar is still love, you know. I’m pleased to say that Frank remains his tough, lovable self and makes regular appearances at John’s place for food and petting. Just the essentials.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Rain flooded the roads and prevented us from going to the ballet. I wish we were getting more rain this year.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Sunlight and shadow.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Some baby photos.

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Flowers

I noticed on my home yesterday that the first daffodils of the year were in bloom:

They looked so bright and sunny against the dark tree trunk and the cloudy sky, a reminder that our short California winter is moving slowly toward the spring, with the solstice a month behind us.

This also means that we are running out of rainy season. We started off pretty well, and have gotten about 29 inches so far, but it’s been a while since we had any rain, and I don’t see any in the immediate forecast:

It’s beautiful, but also a little concerning, since the less rain we get now, the more our wildfire risk is later.

Arriving home, I noticed that the orchid on the back porch has a flower spike:

It looks like this when it blooms:

It used to always bloom in February, but over the last few years, it can be as late as March, no matter when the buds appear. Whenever it decides to bloom, it’s something to look forward to, and a sign that spring is on its way.

A YEAR AGO: Getting to work was a bit of an adventure.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Enjoying the fine wood-working show.

TEN YEARS AGO: Power outages and other things.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Yup, I’m lazy. What can I say? Idle rich really would have been my perfect career.

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Baby


It’s a Girl!

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: The annual library meeting.

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

TEN YEARS AGO: Why I’m here.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: My alphabet.

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

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Ow


Still Standing

I may have been early in putting up my tree, but I am late in taking it down. Twelfth Night, aka The Saddest Day of the Year, has come and gone, but the tree is still standing, and I am still enjoying its comforting glow when I come downstairs on these dark winter mornings and during the long winter evenings*.

I was planning to take it down late, anyway, but it’s a longer reprieve than I expected. My plan was to take it down on the 8th, and at the same time do at least some preliminary organization in the Closet of Doom, starting with putting the holiday ornaments in the back, under the stairs, the least accessible part, and then assessing where the rest of the stuff should go and what could go up in the water tower.

Instead, I ended up in dental hell, where they are going to start charging me rent if I don’t look out.

Late on Friday afternoon, it started to feel like something was brewing on the right side of my mouth, the side most popular for crowns and root canals. Do I have any undoctored teeth left there? Apparently I do, because by the time I got home, it was screaming. I had taken Advil when I first felt the grumblings, but unlike during my other dental (mis)adventures, the pain just laughed at it and suggested it try again later.

Liver be damned, I took more Advil, but the pain was undefeated. At this point, I was actually crying with the pain. I texted my doctor, who responded that she would call in a prescription for antibiotics, but since the pharmacy was closed, I would not be able to get it until Saturday, aka the day I was planning to deal with the Tree and the Closet.

I texted Megan, who magically, somehow, came up with antibiotics and pain reducers (I know know that painkillers do not in fact kill pain, only reduce it, which is one of the major disappointments of my adult life), and went to meet her in town outside the ER to get them. Knowing her sister’s silliness, she also provided me with written instructions and the advice to eat something and get some ginger ale in order to keep all the pills swimming in my stomach.

It was a long night with the terrible pain – worse, somehow, than when my face was giant – but after the second dose of antibiotics, I began to feel semi-human again. A trip to the dentist revealed that the culprit was my wisdom tooth, which apparently needs to be evicted, a horrifying prospect. Stay tuned for more on that.

So far, I am unimpressed with the New Year. It needs to try harder.

*I have noticed that it’s not pitch dark at 5:30 anymore. We are returning to the light!

A YEAR AGO: An unappreciated visitor.

FIVE YEARS AGO: In the midst of a long and cold power outage.

TEN YEARS AGO: Some technical difficulties.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Carrie’s new baby. Who I now realize is, uh, a grown-up.

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Out


Who, Me?

Dodge got a jump on celebrating New Year’s Eve. Why stay up all night on December 31 when you can stay up all night on December 30?

When I went downstairs on last day of the year, I was happy to see the light and sparkle of the Christmas tree, but surprised not to see Dodge. He is always interested in getting his spoonful of wet cat food, whereas Clyde, careless of the drought, is interested in drinking from the tap and Audrey, who disdains us all, doesn’t bother to come downstairs, knowing that she will get room service. She has trained me well.

I didn’t see him anywhere. I peeked into the Closet of Doom, where, terrible cat parent that I am, I have accidentally shut in the cats from time to time, and he was conspicuous by his absence. I finally opened the door to the back porch, and Dodge shot into the house like he had been shot from a cannon. He was up the stairs before I was really sure what had happened. He was a cartoon-esque blur.

Somehow, he had sneaked past me at some point and then spent the whole night outside in the dark with the monsters. He is aptly named, our Artful Dodger*, dodging past me even when I’m looking for him to do it. He is a habitual sneakyboots. Lately he has had an insatiable lust for going outside, even though the weather could hardly be less appealing. I have no idea why this is, but in the battle of wills between me and this small Siamese cat, I am rarely the winner. I only let him out in the daytime when I’m home, or at least that’s the only time I knowingly let him out.

I have already begun to try and steel myself against the possibility of his not coming home, like the beloved Roscoe. But I think, if I could tell Dodge or Roscoe that if they stayed in the house, they would be safe, but going outside is fraught with dangers up to and including death, they would still choose to go out. They are both Adventure Boys. Sometimes I think that Roscoe died doing what he loved, and that he loved his time in the woods. I just hope the end was swift and merciful**. I still miss him every day.

Dodge eventually came downstairs for his breakfast, though he kept doing that bobblehead thing he did when I first adopted him and which he does when he is nervous, He kept looking at the back door. I expected him to stay home and sleep all day, but in his resilient, Dodge-like way, he was his old happy self before noon, and, yes, asking to go out again. Request denied.

*The same day I wrote this, I watched an episode of Perry Mason called “The Case of the Artful Dodger”.

**When I moved, I felt really sad about leaving him there alone, even though I had no idea where he was. I’m not known for my logic.

A YEAR AGO: My morning drive.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The saddest day of the year.

TEN YEARS AGO: Propane problems.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Shopping in the neighborhood.

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Eve


The Last Evening of the Year

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

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

and the sun shining through the clouds over the ocean:

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

It was a beautiful drive:

When I got home, I made a tourtière:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: A look back at 2020.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Reviewing 2016.

TEN YEARS AGO: What happened in 2011.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The year of the dog.

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

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Emily

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: Christmas at the beach.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Happy Hannukah!

TEN YEARS AGO: Christmas aftermath.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Christmas nightmare.

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Christmas


Happy holidays to you!

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

and for glazing ham:

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

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

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

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

FIVE YEARS AGO: A merry Christmas.

TEN YEARS AGO: A happy Christmas

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

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Eve

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

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

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

or the bright side:

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

A YEAR AGO: Christmas memories.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Getting ready.

TEN YEARS AGO: Unexpected Christmas guests.

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

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

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Rumble


Solstice on the Ridge

I took the photo above on my way home on the winter solstice. It was the shortest day of the year, but it was also beautiful.

It’s nice to think that we are moving back into the light, even though I know perfectly well that as soon as I get a glimmer of hope light in the mornings, it will be cruelly snatched away from me by the Powers That Be, condemning me to weeks more of completely unnecessary darkness, driving in Danger of Deer.

But I won’t think about that now. I won’t even think about it tomorrow, no matter what Scarlett O’Hara says. I’ll think about it in a couple of months. In the meantime, I’ll be thankful to be alive and breathing after the earthquake we had on Solstice Eve.

Megan and my work friend Michelle happened to be in my office around noon that day when I got an alert on my phone saying, “Earthquake activity has been detected in your area”. I had barely finished reading it before I heard the rumble and felt the strong roll beneath me. The clinic ceiling creaked, and the rocking and rolling seemed to go on for a long time.

I usually sleep through earthquakes or fail to notice them, but this one was impossible for even the most oblivious (Me!) to ignore, registering an extremely healthy 6.2 on the Richter scale, and located about 45 miles off the coast of Eureka in Humboldt, our neighboring county. It was unnerving. It was the strongest one I had felt in years. Maybe Santa was feeling a little Grinchy this year and sent us a Christmas earthquake?

A YEAR AGO: My boys.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Things were sparkly.

TEN YEARS AGO: Kittens + Christmas Tree = mess.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Enough with the crazies already!

TWENTY YEARS AGO: All the kitty news that’s fit to print.

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Tree

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

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

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

and a beautiful apple:

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

It looks really pretty:

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

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

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

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

TEN YEARS AGO: You guessed it.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A little less than jolly.

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

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Organizing

I was surprised that the drink consumption, especially merrily mixing varieties of alcohol, did not result in a head-crushing hangover the next day. In fact, I actually felt well enough to tackle the Closet of Doom! Alert the media!

It’s a little embarrassing to admit that more than a year after Rob installed shelves in the Closet of Doom, it remained a chaotic and overwhelming mess. You know how it is. You look at the mess, it’s horrifying, and you think, “I’ll just deal with it later.”

Later finally arrived, though in the mysterious way of all huge cleaning projects, it caused more mess on the way to cleaning up. I hauled a lot of stuff out of the Closet of Doom, leading to that coveted “just moved in” look for the rest of the house. I threw some stuff out, and grouped things together: teas; canned goods; baking supplies; Asian cooking ingredients; pasta; cat supplies, etc.

At least I can actually walk in there now:

There is more work to do, of course. I still need to haul stuff out from under the stair part of the closet and assess what’s there and will end up being stored there. I’m thinking things like my Dad’s letters and the box of family photos could go near the back, since I don’t need to access them all the time. I need to find good places for things like the vacuum cleaner and the power outage box, which I (sadly) need to access more often. I’m planning to group things like cleaning supplies, automotive supplies, laundry supplies, etc., and put them in trays on the floor under the bottom shelves. Hopefully it won’t take me another year to get those things done!

A YEAR AGO: Lights in the darkness.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The delights of Candlelight Shopping.

TEN YEARS AGO: Roadside assistance.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Glimpses of city life.

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