Suzy Says
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November 1st, 2018 by suzy in Country Life,Family 1 Comment

We were long overdue for a family dinner. The last one may have been for Dad’s birthday, way back in March. I was too sick to attend Megan’s birthday BBQ, and the tragedy of losing Erica’s mother so suddenly and horribly removed any festive feelings for the rest of the summer, preempting Junapalooza and any other celebrations.

We had the dinner at Rio’s house. When I arrived bearing wine, she already had a plate of delightful appetizers set out. They were rice crackers topped with Cheddar and neat squares of roasted red peppers:

My industrious siblings had a bumper crop of peppers this year, and had roasted them over apple wood and then preserved them in olive oil. I admire (but do not emulate) their near-constant garden labor. It seems to me that they are either watering and weeding or picking and preserving. They are probably glad when winter rolls around and they can take a break from endless garden duty.

The homegrown theme continued. Jonathan was in the kitchen making what he and Megan affectionately refer to as “garden slop”, which is pasta sauce made from tomatoes, peppers, basil, and anything else from the garden that looks good and can be tossed in, like delicata squash:

Despite its unlovely name, garden slop is delicious and never quite the same. We had it with pasta and freshly grated Parmesan, along with garlic bread. The garden crew cleverly made a big batch of garlic butter from the garlic they grew and froze it in individually wrapped, flattened patties which are the perfect size for a loaf of bread. So making garlic bread is practically instant.

For the first time in recorded history, my brother’s pastry didn’t work out. He had to consign it to the compost pile and instead made apple crisp from apples he and the team had just picked. There were more than enough left over for the upcoming cider pressing:

Plan B tasted as good as Plan A would have, and it was a great evening. I was glad we were all together at last.

A YEAR AGO: Trick or treating with Jessica. Little did I know it would be the last time. Here’s how she looked this year:

Note the terrifying neck makeup!

FIVE YEARS AGO: A happy Halloween.

TEN YEARS AGO: A happy ending for everyone!

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October 28th, 2018 by suzy in Country Life 1 Comment

Megan and I were not in a hurry to get home that sunny Saturday afternoon.

We had often driven past The Madrones, but never stopped in. We decided this was the day.

The Madrones, named for the tree, includes lodging, a spa, a charming shop or two, and a delightful restaurant, all located around a lovely courtyard:

In fact, it looks quite a lot like Italy:

The restaurant is in fact the same one that provided the sleepover pizza with its gossamer thin crust baked in a wood-fired oven. And because it’s the smallest of small towns, its owner and chef is the father of a friend’s child, which I learned afterwards. I’d love to have that pizza again.

Up next in our “always wanted to go there” tour was The Bewildered Pig. My epicurean friend and world traveler Richard recommended a gift certificate from there for Dr. Sue when she retired from the clinic, and we thought we could stop and have a look at the menu.

It turned out that the menu was not posted, but we were stunned by the beauty of the courtyard that welcomed us:

It just kept getting more beautiful as we looked around:

When I reached the wine barrel fountain:

I found Megan deep in conversation with a man in overalls, who turned out to be one of the owners and the creator of the fountains and the entire garden. He invited us into his office/workshop area, governed by two brother cats named Smith and Wesson and presided over by a bottle tree:

There was a gate made from vintage chains:

And an outdoor shower for when the day’s art and sculpture were done:

He let us into the restaurant and showed us a menu, telling us that the kitchen staff was all women. They use as much local food and wine as possible. In the evenings, the fire ring in the courtyard blazes with aromatic woods like cedar and Applewood, the perfect place for a glass of wine or two under the twinkling lights.

Before going on his way in a vintage truck, he snipped a Lady Emma Hamilton rose, removed its thorns, and handed it to me, asking us to return soon. I can’t wait. And it made my house smell divine for over a week!

A YEAR AGO: A look around another lovely garden a little closer to home.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Multi-tasking at the jobette: talking a walk and working at the same time!

TEN YEARS AGO: A surprising wake-up call.

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October 23rd, 2018 by suzy in Country Life,Family,Friends,Jessica 1 Comment

Beautiful Downtown Boonville

When I woke up the next day, it gladdened my Grinchy heart to peek over the driftwood railings at Jessica, sleeping peacefully on the couch in her fuzzy skeleton PJs. I sneakily fed the cats and made coffee, following my usual weekend routine of drinking coffee in bed with the cats while reading and answering my fan mail.

Jessica awoke in due course, packed up her things and slipped into a little black dress:

She got it at a thrift shop – I think it’s a Calvin Klein. She is accessorized by a little black cat. Clyde goes with everything.

Megan, Erica, and I conferred by text and decided to meet up at Julie and Darius’ lovely emporium in the heart of Boonville for lunch. In my case, it was a BLT made with local bacon, greens, and heirloom tomatoes along with spicy sweet potato fries:

It was nice to sit in the shade at the wooden picnic table while enjoying the view:

After lunch, we poked around the shops. I was charmed by these shoes in an antique shop:

Unfortunately, they were too small to fit my wicked stepsister sized feet, and as usual, my head was too giant for the charming hats, once again making me wonder how my head can be so big when it only has to house two underemployed brain cells.

It was nice to meander around town together, and I have to admit it made me sad when we parted ways, knowing that the final parting is looming next month. I can feel the beating of its black wings.

A YEAR AGO: Storing the potatoes we grew. The storage did not turn out exactly as expected, due to the buckets of sand strongly resembling litterboxes in a house full of cats. Lesson learned.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Back home after a lovely trip to LA.

TEN YEARS AGO: Watching the catspat.

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October 16th, 2018 by suzy in Country Life 1 Comment

The first thing when planning a successful sleepover is to get the right assortment of snacks:

Salt and vinegar chips, Pringles, Starburst, Almond Roca thins (did you know those existed? If not, go and get some. You can thank me later) and Jessica’s favorite Whoppers pretty much covered all the bases as far as I was concerned.

I was planning to leave work a little early to pick up a pizza in the Village, but Erica said she would bring it from Stone & Embers in the Valley. She also brought some salad greens and a pear, so we had a lovely salad along with our delicious pizza:

Erica headed off after dinner, blasting K-pop in the Hagmobile since Jessica was staying overnight at Stately Suzy Manor. Jessica has a limited tolerance for really loud K-pop. Sometimes it seems like their roles are reversed, with Erica being the rebellious teenager and Jessica the tolerant mom. This usually happens much later in life, but Jessica has always been precocious.

I asked Jessica which movie she would like to watch from my vast library, and she asked for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, saying, “I’ve never seen it, but I have a feeling it’s so you!” And so it is. We were enchanted with the legendary Audrey’s hair and wardrobe, as well as the vintage New York scenes. I would love a sleep mask and tasseled earplugs like Holly’s! During the party scene in Holly’s apartment, Jessica observed, “It looks like your place at Christmas or Thanksgiving!” She added that she would have preferred it if Holly did not have a romance with her neighbor, and I told her that was not in the book. She said, “I’ll have to read the book.” I am looking forward to introducing her to the inimitable Truman Capote and his remarkable way with words.

After that, we watched “Legally Blonde”. I have to admit that it’s one of my favorite movies and I consider it to be perfection of its kind. I never get tired of watching it, and like “Auntie Mame”, it always cheers me up.

Megan headed home after the second of our double features. It’s still weird that she no longer walks to her house through the secret path through the woods, but drives down the Ridge instead.

Jessica and I watched a couple of episodes of “Daria” after Megan left. I love Daria and her hilarious cynicism. I agree with Jessica that her mom is just like Jane Lane. And we both have a crush on Trent.

Eventually I made up a bed for Jessica on the couch, where she was joined by Clyde as she drew that day’s Inktober drawing before drifting off to sleep under the ancient quilt her mother had restored for me. Clyde is an excellent muse and sleeping companion. Those are hard to come by.

A YEAR AGO: Fires and quakes. All right here in our County.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lots of travel. Those were the days.

TEN YEARS AGO: A close brush with jury duty.

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October 10th, 2018 by suzy in Country Life,Friends 1 Comment

One day as I stepped out of the shower*, my pearls slipped from around my neck to the bathroom floor.

After nearly 30 years of dedicated service, the string of pearls John gave me for my 30th birthday** had broken. It was time to get them restrung, but it’s times like this when you realize some of the drawbacks in living somewhere quite as Hootervillian as Hooterville.

I tried a couple of places and they couldn’t do it. I was beginning to consider Fed Exing the pearls to John in Civilization to see if he could get them restrung when I suddenly remembered our old family friend Chris, who has a jewelry shop in the Village. I texted him and he said that he and/or his wife could restring the pearls and add a new clasp.

So after work one day, I stopped by with my broken pearls. The shop is right above the bookstore, so the view is quite lovely:

and The Great Catsby occasionally deigns to pay a visit, bask in the sun, and allow himself to be admired.

It was great to see Chris again and catch up with each other’s news. We reminisced about the long ago days when my brother had croquet parties at his house and Jed the Wonder Dog was still with us. I realize we have known each other quite a long time.

So I left the pearls in good hands and headed home to the kitties, who were waiting for their treats and pets. Sadly for them, I am as bad a cat maid as I would have been a mother, because I fed them and then heartlessly vanished again.

Our favorite seaside bar was about to close for a month, so Megan and I decided that we should squeeze in another drink or two there while we could. We were warmly greeted by the wonderful bartender, and it was a beautiful sunset:

made all the more beautiful by the addition of a lavender lemon drop:

We are so lucky to have such a wonderful place right in our backyard.

*Pearls enjoy being worn in the shower. It’s good for their luster.

**And to think I thought I was old then! Also, John had good taste in jewelry. I still wear a lot of the pieces he gave me over the 15 years of our marriage. Like the fabulous Zsa Zsa, I lost the guy but kept the bling.

A YEAR AGO: The terrible wildfires were blazing. It was a terrifying time.

FIVE YEARS AGO: An adventurous trip to the vet with the Imperious Audrey. Is there any other kind?

TEN YEARS AGO: Back to reality after the glamorous joys of staying at a grand hotel in Pasadena.

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October 6th, 2018 by suzy in Calamity Suzy,Cats,Country Life 1 Comment

Other than the Case of the Missing Landlord* and the plumbing mutiny, here’s what’s been happening in and around Stately Suzy Manor.

The Epic Dental Safari: I went to see my dentist after the hell of the root canal. It was supposed to be for a minor surface filling and to get the night guard**, but he decided to permanently seal the root canaled tooth first. As I now know, it’s never good when they talk about opening up the tooth and get that fascinated look on their faces. Also there is not enough nitrous oxide in the world to make it less unpleasant. Basically it was a mini root canal, as he took out the temporary filling and posts (who knew?) and replaced them with permanent versions while complimenting his colleague’s work. I will still have to get a crown in the new year when I get a whole new batch of dental benefits.

Speaking of which, the HR person was able to reduce my root canal bill by $200, which was a delightful surprise. Also, I learned that the pharmacy had been charging me incorrectly for the past few years, apparently not realizing that I have insurance. So I got a refund for the difference in cost for the antibiotics this month and will only have to pay $15 a pop going forward. So things are looking up in the dental and medical departments.

Dodge City: Little Dodge is flourishing. He now has a complete covering of fur all over his body, including his no longer rat-like but still very long tail. He is significantly less skeletal as well. He is enjoying his new lifestyle of constantly available food and water, daily treats, and lounging on the bed, which is his favorite place. He is both handsome and happy, which gladdens my Grinchy little heart. Here he is, hanging out on top of the armoire (aka Audrey’s throne):

I’m still keeping him inside. He doesn’t seem to have much interest in the Wide World. Perhaps, like Henry Etta, he knows that no good comes of it and being inside is safer, warmer, and an all-around better place to be. Clyde continues his lack of interest in playing outside, and even the imperious Audrey hasn’t bothered with her early morning constitutional lately. Maybe Dodge will just stay an inside cat. I can revisit it when the weather warms up next year. By then, he will definitely know where he lives.

Dodge and Clyde have started playing together. I have seen them touch noses and even give each other little baths:

so they are on the road to friendship. Naturally, Audrey regards them both with the same disdain she applies to everyone. The empress is egalitarian that way.

*Where’s Nancy Drew and her blue convertible when you need her? As Marilyn approvingly observed in “:Northern Exposure”, “She’s competent.” Unlike me.

**He did have time to do those things, too. So far I have not been able to get used to the night guard, which makes me nauseous in addition to its general lack of comfort.

A YEAR AGO: A peek at the eccentric local message boards.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Heading home from San Francisco.

TEN YEARS AGO: Hanging out in Pasadena.

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October 2nd, 2018 by suzy in House 2 Comments

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always broken up with (or been broken up with) in person. Maybe it’s old school, but there’s never been a Post-It or ghosting involved.

Until now.

One day, I discovered that my landlord Mark and his wife Citlali had suddenly decamped to Southern California somewhere. They took everything in their greenhouses, but left their dogs behind with Citlali’s sister, Catrin, and her husband, Zac, who live in my brother’s former abode at the very end of the property. The dogs and I have greeted this somewhat shocking development with equal enthusiasm, though there was less barking in my case. At least on the outside.

Of course, pretty much the minute there was no landlord on the premises, things started Going Wrong.

I came home one day to find that the toilet had gone on strike in the sudden and definitive manner of French civil servants. I gazed at the errant fixture with dismay and trepidation before calling my long-suffering brother-in-law Rob, who has undoubtedly begun to feel that he and Megan did not move far enough away.

Rob turned up almost immediately and coaxed the commode into working order once more. But this wasn’t the end of the plumbing adventures.

Last weekend, no water came out of the taps. This was surprising, since our well has never run out of water, no matter how droughty the drought got. The guy who has moved into Megan and Rob’s house investigated all day to no avail, leaving the pump turned off overnight and notifying me that the 2,000 gallon water tank was unaccountably empty.

There’s nothing like not having water to peel off the thin veneer of civilization in a hurry. Dishes piled up in the sink, grooming was a challenge (OK, it was non-existent), and I was thankful that I had buckets of water to flush the non-operational facilities.

The next day, there was no further news or information, so once again I resorted to Dial-A-Rob, with its excellent service. It didn’t take him long to discover that the problem was that whoever was working on the front house renovation left the hose going and that had drained the tank. While stupid, it was also the easiest possible fix. Rob turned it off and before long, both water and my slightly shopworn veneer of ersatz civilization were restored. I really don’t know what I’d do without Rob, though I bet he’d like to know.

We have been getting some early season rain over the past few days, and I was sorry to see that it was not staying outside. I seem to have new leaks this year, including one over the couch. I wonder if I can get someone other than Rob to fix it?

A YEAR AGO: Mark was still around and working on the property. Those were the days.

FIVE YEARS AGO: My divorce became final. Also the legendary Tom Petty died a year ago today. Such a festive time of year.

TEN YEARS AGO: I had plumbing problems then, too.

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September 26th, 2018 by suzy in Country Life 1 Comment

But it hasn’t been all dental nightmares. At least, not entirely.

Megan and I intended to meet Erica and Jessica at the Fair that Friday, but fate and dental issues had other plans. That was the day I went to the walk in clinic, and by the time I was seen and picked up my second prescription for antibiotics, I was done for the day. Unfortunately, it was likely the last Fair we will share with Erica and Jessica, since they are planning to move to beautiful British Columbia in the very near future. Even more unfortunately for Erica, she spent the last Fair parrying questions and comments about her mother’s sudden and tragic death at the location of her memorial service. No wonder she is ready to get the hell out of here.

By Saturday afternoon, however, I had recovered sufficiently to venture to the Fair. Megan found yet another great parking space, and it was a delightful and humane 73 degrees instead of blasting us with oven-like heat as it usually does on Fair day. I wore my pink straw Fair hat just in case, though.

Once we were through the gates, we were immediately taken with some lovely outdoor lanterns. I wasted no time in buying one, even though I had to carry it around, purse-like, for the rest of the day. I’m looking forward to installing it outside next summer.

After we equipped ourselves with delicious, icy tropical drinks, complete with little paper umbrellas, we strolled among the farm animals, enjoying the antics of the goats and sheep in the hay-scented cool of the barn before heading over to admire the bunnies and exotic birds.

This guy was the coolest bunny at the Fair. Or maybe anywhere:

This turkey was quite magnificent:

And I love the curly plumage on this lovely pigeon:

The theme for the flower displays this year was love. So of course there had to be a kissing booth:

Plant one here! 🙂

Though the biggest pumpkins were a bit on the modest side:

I was delighted by the potato pigs and egg chickens:

So cute!

There are always such interesting ways of arranging flowers. I would never have thought of putting carrots in a vase like this:

So simple, but yet so striking.

All in all, it was a great time. Spending time with my sister at our little country fair is one of the great joys in life.

A YEAR AGO: A lovely evening at Rio’s place with dear friends.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A memorable and magical visit to the amazing B. Bryan Preserve.

TEN YEARS AGO: The ever-amazing Jessica was amazing even at the age of five. Some things never change.

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September 22nd, 2018 by suzy in Bullshit,Calamity Suzy 1 Comment

When we last saw our heroine, the right side of her formerly lovely face was swollen up like the Great Pumpkin. She figured she should give the antibiotics time to work, and the swelling would go away. As so often happens, she was wrong about this, because the swelling mutated overnight and started creeping under her lip.

Of course, it was a Friday, and rather than the prospect of the weekend being a happy one, it was a frightening abyss of no available dental services other than the dreaded and expensive ER. Dr. Megan nagged her resistant sister into going to the walk-in clinic at the clinic where she works. The doctor examined her with that fascinated look on his face that doctors get when something is really horrible*, and prescribed another antibiotic to join the first one. This is not the kind of cocktail our heroine enjoys. He left the room with the cheery news that the itchy indignity of a yeast infection would almost certainly ensue**.

Hoping that the pharmacy staff didn’t suspect her of having a particularly resistant STD, our heroine picked up the second antibiotic. The pharmacist suggested applying ibuprophen instead of ineffective opiates to attempt to dull the pain, and this suggestion was actually helpful in dealing with the astronomical pain, though taking 2 antibiotics and 4 ibuprophen every 6 hours is suboptimal and not without its unpleasant side effects.

On Thursday, the dreaded endodontist appointment rolled around, the fifth dental appointment in two weeks, a personal best (or worst). It was 96 degrees in the County seat, versus 63 at the coast. The endodontist’s office was quite fancy, and staffed by girls with giant false eyelashes***. Sadly for our heroine, the Valium she had taken did nothing to allay her quite reasonable fears. It was hard not to cry as the endodontist spoke cheerfully about opening up the tooth. Or the fact that the procedure would take about an hour or more.

Despite the application of nitrous oxide, our heroine remained inconsolable as the operation proceeded, with its alarming noises, smells, and the sight of smoke rising before her horrified eyes****. That horror, however, was nothing compared to the bill. The Eyelashed One expected nearly $700 to be paid immediately. She expressed surprise that no one had informed our hapless heroine of this term and condition.

The solution was to get Care Credit. The charges would go on that account and have to be paid off within a designated number of months in order to avoid the 30% interest that would ensue. Other unwelcome news was that a crown was required to cover the root canaled tooth, and I seem to remember from the last time that this was in the Beverly Hills neighborhood of $900. Oh, and this is WITH dental insurance. Though mathiness is not our heroine’s strong suit, this means that she has to come up with around $1,500 while spending half of her monthly pittance on rent. It’s hard to see how this is economically feasible. It is not surprising that the long withheld tears were finally indulged in once the sanctuary of the car was reached.

There are still at least two dental appointments to come, so it’s not over yet.

*I will never forget visiting my ex-boyfriend, who was hospitalized for a raging case of meningitis, and going up in the elevator with two doctors. One said to the other, “You have to check out that meningitis case. All the classic symptoms! You gotta see it before he dies.” He didn’t die, but it was close.

**So far, the plague has not descended. That’s something to be thankful for.

***What is it with dental assistants and their false eyelashes? They are sported to a cartoonish degree among the dental assistants and receptionists where I work, too.

****When I mentioned this to Megan, she said, “Yeah…I didn’t want to tell you about that.”

A YEAR AGO: At the County Fair with our beloved Ben.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A triumphant Fair for Erica.

TEN YEARS AGO: The thrill of the sheepdog trials at the County Fair.

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September 14th, 2018 by suzy in Calamity Suzy 3 Comments

I’m coming to you from Dental Hell. I’ve been here since Sunday, and I really don’t recommend it. Stay away if you can!

On Sunday, the right, lower side of my mouth was bothering me. This was the site of the last filling, which took an hour and a half to complete, and which I thought was bad until I arrived in Dental Hell. The filling was a mere preview. I was up all night with the incredible pain on Sunday night. On Monday, I went to the dentist. They did x-rays and various tests. Although they could see that a different filling had popped off, they could also see that it wasn’t infected and was innocent of decay. They opined that I was grinding my teeth in my sleep and that’s what caused the filling to pop off.

They made an appointment for me to get impressions done for the indignity of a mouth guard, an unwelcome return to the retainer of my youth, and another for the filling. I began to wonder if they were going to charge me rent on top of my ever-escalating dental bills. They also gave me a prescription for painkillers, even though one of my recent life lessons was that despite their name, they do not in fact kill pain.

By the time the first appointment rolled around on Wednesday, it was clear that something was really wrong. Not only did the pain laugh merrily at the application of its would-be assassins, it had escalated to the point of being totally unbearable. If I ever wondered about my ability to stand up to torture, I no longer do. The right side of my face is swollen up like a seasonable Halloween pumpkin. Trick or treat!

I kept the appointment for the impressions. It is proof of how dreadful the pain was that the gagging and grossosity of the impressions process just seemed like nothing compared to the agony of what I now know is an infected tooth. The dentist prescribed a strong antibiotic and is going to refer me to an endodontist, who is of course located in the County Seat, which is a three hour round trip drive. So I get to look forward to doing that at least twice, once for a consultation and once for – gulp! – a root canal. If I weren’t in so much pain, I’d be horrified.

A YEAR AGO: Being a cat servant can be challenging.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Giving away dear Schatzi’s things. I still miss her.

TEN YEARS AGO: Ah, the strange dreams swirling through my head!

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September 10th, 2018 by suzy in Cats 1 Comment

There were some breakthroughs in Kitty World this weekend.

First of all, they were all on the bed at the same time on Sunday morning:

On the weekends, I like to take my laptop back to bed with my coffee, and the cats decided to join me. Of course, they only do this kind of cute thing when the bed isn’t made. During this temporary Sabbath détente, Dodge gave Clyde a bath. Well, he licked Clyde’s neck about three times and Clyde let him. Roscoe used to do this, and I always found it endearing. I wonder if Clyde was reminded of his long-lost brother or if cats just don’t think like that.

Lately I have been wondering what Clyde is thinking more than usual. A couple of weeks ago, a guy with a big, noisy truck came to take away scrap metal at Megan and Rob’s. It definitely made a racket, in addition to breaking the (old, disused, and graffiti-covered) water tower at the turn off to their house along with a couple of trees here and there.

Clyde was out playing at the time, and hours later, had not come home. Needless to say, I was panicking as darkness fell. I put on the outside lights and kept calling him, even though he knows perfectly well where his house is and calling him makes no difference. He showed up around 9:30, to my immense relief.

Ever since then, he has been pretty much uninterested in going outside. I am keeping Dodge in while he gets used to his new home*, but Audrey is being let in and out by doorman services. Clyde goes out and either turns right around and comes back in, or comes back in about 10 minutes later. He is hanging out in his clubhouse a lot (aka the storage space over the bathroom), but otherwise seems normal. I’d love to know if it’s because of the truck trauma or if he is trying to make a point of establishing his territory now that Dodge is in it. Maybe it’s something else entirely.

Whatever the reason, I think they were playing yesterday, chasing each other around the house. No growling, hissing, or spitting involved. Audrey does still growl at Dodge, but interestingly, he simply sits there peacefully and gazes at her with his big blue eyes. He doesn’t hiss or growl, but he doesn’t back down, either.

Dodge also learned how to use the cat door which separates the house from the studio/cat cafeteria/cat salle de bains. I’m pretty sure he had never seen one before and he definitely seemed to find it weird, but he figured it out. Such a clever boy! It seems the vet was right about him being smart and curious.

*This is a whole new worry: how and when to introduce Dodge to the Wide World. He is used to living on the streets in town, not in the woods. Part of me wishes I could just keep him in forever.

A YEAR AGO: A lovely evening at a historic inn, both past and present.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Nothing like having a subpoena home delivered. I’d rather have pizza, thanks.

TEN YEARS AGO: At the gym in unsuitable footwear. And on a stranger’s lap.

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September 6th, 2018 by suzy in Cats,Family,Friends,Memories 1 Comment

I took a couple of days off around the Labor Day weekend, and I am pleased to announce that nothing horrible happened for a change. Faithful readers may remember that when I took time off last Labor Day, it was about 5,000 degrees every day, and when I went to Eureka over the Christmas holidays to meet up with friends, I got the Flu from Hell.

So I was a little worried about what might happen on this long weekend – being a worrier – but nothing untoward occurred, unless you count going through the two blanket chests from Megan’s house which supposedly contained Depression glass, but in fact contained 100% junk. It reminded me of when my brother and I cleaned out Mom’s storage in Santa Rosa and found that it was mostly junk, including a phone book from 1982 and an empty answering machine box. It did not make me happy to know I had been paying for years to store Mom’s crap collection.

I have admit that I was hoping for some of Nana’s square, emerald green plates and dishes, like these:

And in my heart of hearts, I was also hoping that maybe, just maybe, there might be a couple of the miniature creamers decorated with rabbits which we used to pour milk on our cereal at her house. Even though I never use milk. Such is the triumph of nostalgia over practicality.

Megan and Rob are out of their house and into their new home. It’s still hard to believe that they aren’t just down the secret path through the woods and huckleberry bushes. They are now in the throes of figuring out where to put everything. Unpacking is almost as much fun as packing when it comes to moving.

Our friend Carrie came up for the weekend with her daughter Miranda. It had been a whole year since they were here last! Erica and Jessica came by for a BBQ one night, full of plans to sell their property and move to British Columbia as soon as possible. I will miss them if they do move. At least we’ll see them at the Fair in a couple of weeks.

Clyde and Audrey are coexisting with Dodge. I think Dodge would like to play with Clyde, but it’s going to take a little more time. Audrey will continue to disdain the interloper like she does everyone else. As long as there are no fights and the older cats are happy, I’m happy.

Included in the adoption fee was a free exam at any local vet, so Dodge got the once-over from Dr. Susan*, Dr. Karen’s partner. She said in 30 years of veterinary practice, she had never seen a cat with markings like Dodge’s. She believes he is a pure-bred Siamese, and that he is very smart and curious. Here he is, exploring his new home:

She was also impressed by how friendly and affectionate he is. So other than needing his fur to grow back and to put on weight, he is in good shape. She agrees that he is around two years old. I wonder what his story is. I guess we’ll never know, but it has a happy ending.

*He’s lucky he didn’t end up being a boy named Sue, considering all the Susans in his life: the one that found him, the one that adopted him, and the one who gave him a check-up.

A YEAR AGO: Having a great time with family and friends.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lounging in the fabulous spa in Reno.

TEN YEARS AGO: Oh, Ray. I think I miss you most of all. In fact, you may be the only thing I miss about Oaktown.

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August 29th, 2018 by suzy in Cats 1 Comment

I am pleased to announce there is a new member of the family. Meet Dodge!

A stray cat followed my coworker Susan* home from the Dodge dealership. He was so friendly that he chased after her like a dog, and she eventually picked up and carried him for a couple of blocks to her house. She couldn’t keep him, so she took him to the shelter.

At the shelter, they found that he had no microchip. He was skinny and starved, and had lost a lot of fur due to fleas and a violent, Audrey-style flea allergy, but was otherwise OK. They guessed he was about two years old.

I called them to let them know I was interested in meeting him. They told me that they had found his owner. I said I was glad for him, which I was, though I was also a little disappointed. I told myself that it wasn’t meant to be.

The shelter called back not 15 minutes later to tell me that they made a mistake and he was still available. I went to meet him, and after much debating with myself, I decided to adopt him. Mostly I was concerned about making eight year old Clyde and eleven year old imperious Audrey upset. Also, and I know this sounds a little crazy, it was like admitting that my adored Roscoe was really, truly gone. Putting out Roscoe’s old dish made me burst into tears unexpectedly.

While I was having my little meltdown, Dodge was hiding somewhere in the studio. But he didn’t hide for long. He is the most affectionate and friendly cat I have ever met. He has a way of jumping against you while rubbing against you that I find endearing. Here he is in the studio:

He now likes sleeping between the pillows and hanging out on the bed upstairs.
Audrey looks at him in disdain like she does everyone else. I am hopeful that Dodge and Clyde might be friends and playmates one day. They have touched noses and sniffed each other without hissing or growling. There’s still a long way to go, but I think it will work out in the end.

*There are a lot of us, but I have noticed that Susans tend to be what the French call “a certain age”. We are probably going extinct, since they aren’t making new ones.

A YEAR AGO: The horror of the worst heatwave ever.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Jim and Joel’s beautiful, inspiring wedding.

TEN YEARS AGO: Back from visiting my sister….where I now live.

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August 22nd, 2018 by suzy in Family,Friends,Special Occasions 1 Comment

The old man himself at Point Reyes, New year’s Day, 2000

I spent the morning of the Evil Eighteenth cooking, as I often do. Something about Dad’s birthday and deathday seem to inspire me to cook, wishing he was there with me. We never got in each other’s way in the kitchen, which is a rare gift. I always liked the fact that we knew where everything was in each other’s kitchens, and where to shop for dinner ingredients, whether in London or San Francisco.

That evening, Megan and I met Lu and her daughter at the theater to see “Becky’s New Car”. You may recall that our last outing was a little less than successful due to the rather unpleasant subject matter. I am pleased to report that this play was both funny and delightful, and that the cast was wonderful.

The special drink for this production was an unusual and delicious mixture of pomegranate schnapps, ginger bitters (both new ingredients to me), fresh orange juice, and champagne. We toasted Dad with this delightful confection, saying “The old man wasn’t so bad”. I think Dad would have approved of the way we spent that day and remembered him.

We had toasted the old man the evening before as well.

Megan’s new home arrived earlier than expected, and was moved to its permanent location after camping out on the (fortunately wide and capacious) driveway on the property for about a week. Our brother cobbled together enough electricity to pop out the pop outs and power the lights.

Megan also popped out the champagne – Roederer, no less – that evening when Lu and I arrived to toast her new home as well as the old man. The dogs are already feeling pretty much at home, though the household is in the awkward phase of being between here and there. Star and Stella were happy to flop on the couch:

Dad would be happy about that, too. Maybe we will start to think of this time of year being about happy new beginnings as well as sad endings. As the years go by, I feel less anger and sadness about losing Dad and more happiness that I had such a remarkable father who was also my best friend. The good memories tend to come to mind more than the sad ones. Though I will always miss him, I was lucky to have had him at all.

A YEAR AGO: Enjoying a drink and the view at my favorite seaside bar.

FIVE YEARS AGO: How to make the world’s most expensive peach pie.

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One Week
August 17th, 2018 by suzy in Bullshit,Weather,Work 1 Comment

Darkness is creeping back again. If it weren’t so foggy in the mornings this week, I would have put the high beams on. I am always glad to see the fog, though this summer, it hasn’t been as cool as I would like even when it is foggy. I can’t remember the last time I slept without the fans on. It’s not that it is exceptionally hot, just that it hasn’t been as cool as usual for the coast and never gets really cold at night the way it used to. Maybe it’s an anomaly and maybe it’s the new normal. Did you ever notice that anytime it’s a “new normal” it’s never good?

Hopefully this Fogust will not give way to a hellacious heat wave the way it did last year.

It’s been a long and dreary week for our heroine. It kicked off with a dental appointment, which is never a good way to start the week. No cavities this time, but unenjoyable nonetheless, especially since they insist on making an appointment for six months later before you leave, so you don’t even get to enjoy what Gilbert and Sullivan called “the gratifying feeling that our duty has been done.” It’s already hanging over you even though it’s next year, and you can’t really feel like you’ve checked it off your ever-expanding to do list.

Dental duty was followed by two long days. One had 4 hours of meetings in its 12 hours, and the other had setting up for and attending a work-related party/reception in its mere 10 hours. I’m not sure which of these was worse, but I do know when I got in the car 11 hours after I had gotten out of it, it all seemed a little too familiar.

Add in looking after my boss with some health issues and a Board meeting at the library and you have a week you are glad to see end.

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Moving Along
August 13th, 2018 by suzy in Country Life 1 Comment

As everyone who has ever moved knows, part of the whole lengthy and unpleasant process is going through all your stuff, discarding some and packing others. Megan and Rob are in the throes of this right now.

One of the things they no longer have space for is this charming tilt top table:

A friend of mine is a former antiques dealer (among other things; he also managed the households of the president of Princeton University and the American Embassy in Moscow), so I turned to him for help. He identified it as a reproduction of a Federal style of table, probably made in the late 1920s or early 1930s, used for playing cards or for a butler to serve tea in the glory days when one had a butler. He gave me a relatively modest value for it and agreed that the Kelley House Museum, where he volunteers, would likely be interested in taking it.

He connected me with the curator, and we agreed to meet at the Kelley House at 10:00 on Saturday morning. We arrived just about on time, but the Village was bustling with summer visitors, so Megan dropped me and the table off and went to park. I knocked on both the front and back doors, but got no response. We decided to wait with the table on the porch, admiring the view of the ocean, the pond, and the lovely gardens:

The museum opened at 11:00, and Megan asked the staff where we could find the curator. The answer was in the research office, the one door we had not knocked on. The curator emerged, saying “I thought you were sufficiently local to know I’d be in the research office.” Apparently I am below expectations in that regard, and likely many others. It’s probably in the public’s best interests that I no longer work at the local tourism board.

Megan got the tax receipt and we bid farewell to the little table. I hope we will see it again at an exhibit at the Kelley House. It is a lovely little piece, and a nice reminder of a more gracious and gentler time.

We took our insufficiently local selves to the bookstore, where The Great Catsby was taking a nap in the sun in one of the shop’s window seats. He now has a warning label*:

Catsby prefers the public’s adulation to be kept at a distance.

After the bookstore, we picked up some wood-fired pizzas, along with a delightful salad of local Baby Gem lettuce, wild blackberries, croutons, and shards of Parmesan with creamy garlic dressing. It was delicious and I am hoping to reproduce it at home.

Our next antique adventure will be unearthing our grandmother’s collection of Depression glass, currently stored in two blanket chests at Megan’s house. I suspect that it has been there since Nana died, 40 years ago. Stay tuned for the continuing adventures of Megan’s Big Move!

*It reads “Hi! I am a Grumpy Cat. Pet me at your own risk.” Maybe I should get one for my desk.

A YEAR AGO: Adventures in plumbing.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spending some time with my sister’s beautiful dog Star. And missing the unforgettable Schatzi.

TEN YEARS AGO: Sneaking out of work to see a cool art exhibit.

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Moving On
August 8th, 2018 by suzy in Country Life,Family,Memories 1 Comment

Every morning now I check the progress of the wildfires on the Cal Fire website. Overall, containment is up, but it seems that the Ranch part of the Mendocino Complex fire keeps losing containment. It’s down to 20% today. Overall, containment is at 46%. Full containment was originally projected for mid August but has been moved to September 1.

Today the air was smoky as well as foggy. Surprisingly, it’s the first time it’s been smoky since the wildfires began in late July. The forecast calls for a shift in the wind tomorrow to clear out the smoke. The Mendocino Complex is now the largest wildfire in recorded California history. My heart aches for our inland neighbors, going through this yet again after just a few short months.

So far, we are safe here on the coast. We are all working together to get Megan and Rob ready to move – next Saturday! Even though their current home is on the small side, there are many things that will not fit in their new abode and are being rehomed. One of these was a rather battered dresser which had been Megan’s since she was a kid:

It was worse enough for wear that she decided to give it away. I listed it on the local message boards and it was snapped up in about an hour by a guy who lived right down the Ridge. When he came to pick it up, he told me that he had helped James to bend the redwood to make my house’s distinctive shape.

Despite the diminutive size of Megan’s house, there seems to be a lot of stuff be sorted and disposed of. That’s what happens when you live in one place for 20 years. Megan observed that this is the only house she has lived in as an adult. She went from living with me during high school to living on a boat at Pier 39 to living in this house.

This is also the last of our homes where our parents spent any time. Dad visited there often, including the time he had a stroke between Megan’s house and what was then Jonathan’s house. He recovered, but died nine months later in London of medical malpractice. Megan’s house is where our mother spent the last few years of her courageous battle against breast cancer. We celebrated many Thanksgivings and Christmases there. When Megan closes that narrow front door for the last time, she will be closing the door on a long chapter of her life and many memories.

A YEAR AGO: A visit from our friend Carrie and a passel of quite excellent teens. They are coming back for Labor Day weekend!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Clyde’s encounter with the slobber monster. He seems to have avoided it ever since, and it had better stay that way. The fur where the injury was is notably white against his black fur.

TEN YEARS AGO: The walk in pharmacy and other Oaktown delights. I do miss Ray the Safeway guy, though.

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August 4th, 2018 by suzy in Country Life,Family 1 Comment

Megan is moving! And she’s moving soon.

Our good friends and my siblings’ land partners, Dave and Jennifer, found a fabulous mobile home for sale down in the Bay Area, where Dave works during the week. They went to check it out with Megan and Rob one weekend and everyone liked what they saw. Dave, the expert negotiator, got a great deal on it which included delivery all the way to Hooterville.

However, delivery is slated for the 17th anniversary of Dad’s untimely death on August 18. This short time frame kicked preparations into high gear as Megan and Rob divest their tiny house of 20 years’ worth of things and stuff. Don’t forget that every time Rob went to the dump, he acquired a project or two, so that’s a lot of stuff over two decades. It is surprising how much stuff one little 450 square foot house can contain. Also how much you can get of rid of and still have more stuff to deal with. I think I noticed this same unlovely phenomenon when I escaped from Oakhampton several years ago.

It will all be worth it, though, since the new place is lovely. Here’s the living room:

And a peek at the kitchen:

Sadly, the kitchen is just about as low on counter space as their current home, but they are used to that and Rob has some clever ideas of how to work around it.

The bedroom has closets! I have heard of these mythical things, but my sister and brother-in-law will actually have one:

The bathroom even has a tub:

They may find they have a semi-permanent guest who lounges in their bathtub and luxuriates in the central heat and air conditioning. Air conditioning! My dream come true!

A YEAR AGO: Coming home to a couple of surprises.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A lovely day in the Village.

TEN YEARS AGO: Remembering wonderful summers in Maine. Those were the days!

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July 29th, 2018 by suzy in Country Life 1 Comment

It’s not looking good

It was a tough week. With prep for the annual staff day, the day itself, and the aftermath, I logged too many hours of overtime this week, all of it while still in the throes of my my aching back. I was very glad when Friday evening finally arrived. Just as I was settling down to watch Armored Car Robbery, starring the luckless William Talman*, my own luck ran out when the power did.

Usually the power goes out during winter storms, when wind and rain wreak havoc on power lines. But it was the dead of summer, with blue skies. Possibly an overserved driver had an unexpected meeting with a power pole. Whatever caused it, my admittedly modest plans for a fun Friday evening were cancelled.

I dug out one of the solar powered lanterns and immersed myself in Convenience Store Woman to wait it out. Erica texted me that the power was out from Yorkville to Albion, not a good sign. I was thrilled when the power came back on after a few hours, even though it was too late to watch the movie.

Imagine my surprise and displeasure when it went out again last night, waking me up shortly after I had drifted off to sleep. I called my buddies at PG&E’s outage line, and was unsurprised but still disheartened to learn that I was the first one to report it. Erica’s was out, too.

I slept fitfully, tossing and turning with the kind of dozing you do on planes, where you are aware of what’s going on around you. The power came back on after 3:00 am, and later I learned from the local message boards that “50,000 customers in Mendocino and Lake Counties were out of power beginning at about 10:30 Saturday night. The outage was caused by heavy smoke around transmission lines, such heavy smoke that it became a conductor of electricity, shorting out
transmission lines.”

Note that the entire population of Mendocino County is about 90,000. As you can see from the map above, California is basically on fire. We have two in our County, the River Fire and the Ranch Fire. They are each only about 5% contained and there have been evacuations. There are and have been a lot of fires this early in the season and it’s hard not to feel that climate change played a part. Also that as scary as it is now, it will only get scarier.

*Not only did Talman play the ever-losing Hamilton Burger on “Perry Mason”, he lost that job when police raided a drug-laden party at which Talman and the other guests were nude. He was also arrested as a teenager when he crashed a car he didn’t know was stolen, killing his passenger. Talman died of lung cancer at a mere 53 years old.

A YEAR AGO: Surviving the annual Hell Day at work. Now all I have to dread is the holiday party.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Helping Jim and Joel plan their wedding.

TEN YEARS AGO: Getting lost in the wilds of Berkeley.

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July 23rd, 2018 by suzy in Country Life,Special Occasions 1 Comment

Step right up!

I was glad to see the red and white striped tent appear in the Village, since it could only mean one thing: Flynn Creek Circus was back in town!

Megan and I had bought tickets well in advance, and when the day arrived, we were both in somewhat bad moods after a long week and unpleasant financial news for both of us (if you think you can’t be any more broke than you already are, surprise! You can!), so to tell the truth we didn’t really feel like going. But I’m glad we did, because the wonders of these artistes banished all our cares and blew what was left of our minds.

Megan’s parking karma held as we parked nearby in a location from which we would later make a quick getaway while others were struggling to make their way onto the highway. As an added bonus, her headlights worked, so we didn’t have to annoy our neighbors by driving home with high beams.

The tent was crowded, and in the way of small towns, one of my co-workers was sitting in front of us, and the latest in the long series of CEOs of the jobette was seated behind us. He didn’t know that I knew who he was. Unfortunately, he was with a posse of his rich, entitled friends, and they proceeded to talk through the entire performance, with Mr. CEO constantly screaming “Woo!” and “Yeah!” into my aching ear. If the show hadn’t been sold out, we would have moved to escape the endless audio onslaught.

Despite that annoyance, we focused on the show, a new one which took placed on a ship captained by a sparkly mermaid:

It started with graceful knife throwing and juggling, followed by a girl who balanced a hula hoop on her head while spinning others on her arms and body. It’s like the laws of gravity do not apply to Flynn Creek Circus.

The Daring Jones Duo did their amazing trapeze act:

If you’re wondering about the feathers, they were dressed as seabirds visiting the ship. And this sparkling artist performed aerial stunts far above us:

Possibly the most amazing part of all the amazing acts was the guy who was not content to merely walk a tightrope. He also did somersaults, flipped backwards, and spun in the air, then landed on the narrow rope. I found a brief video to give you an idea of the wonders.

There were also three gravity-defying artists who sort of bounced sideways off a rubber wall and landed on top of it, or seemed to sort of be suspended in space, or bounced mind-bogglingly high. It’s hard to explain but was enthralling to watch. You can see a little bit of that in the video, too.

When the magic was over, the artists formed a receiving line at the exit so we could shake their hands and tell them how amazing the show was. It was a nice personal touch. All in all, yet another wonderful evening at the unforgettable Flynn Creek Circus.

A YEAR AGO: A less than stellar day.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The results of Schatzi’s DNA test. 50% pit bull, 100% wonderful. I still miss that girl.

TEN YEARS AGO: The glamorous lives of the wealthy (in novels). Not me (in real life).

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