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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: Looking back at another bad year.

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

TEN YEARS AGO: Adjusting to life in Oaktown.

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe next year will be different.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TEN YEARS AGO: A good mail day.

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

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

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

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

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

The jellyfish seem to float in the air:

I loved the dramatic lighting on the succulent garden:

The erupting volcano was complete with smoke:

The sailing ship was complete with whale tail:

It was a magical, glittering evening.

A YEAR AGO: Surviving the office Christmas party.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A surprise birthday for Jarrett.

TEN YEARS AGO: A Christmas memory.

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

The Fugitive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR AGO: The delights of candlelight shopping.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Seasonal chill.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and a charming little mosaic frog:

He must have been glad to see the rain.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FIVE YEARS AGO: Celebrating Thanksgiving.

TEN YEARS AGO: Enough with the Thanksgiving already!

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November 24th, 2018 by suzy in Country Life,Family,Weather 1 Comment

Rain finally made its welcome appearance. When I drove to work the day before Thanksgiving, the Ridge was littered with red needles glowing against the mirror black road in the light of the high beams. I was glad I had replaced my wiper blades.

The office had a ghost town quality that day. I got some filing done, though not all of it. And even though I was not hosting Thanksgiving for once, I left work a little early anyway.

It was still raining as I made my way to Rio’s house on Thanksgiving evening, literally going over the (Albion) river and through the woods to Rio’s house (and she is, in fact, a grandmother). According to the local message boards, we have received about 2.5 inches over the past three days. That’s something to be thankful for, as is finding two errors on the same page in a recent issue of “The New Yorker”. My petty little heart rejoiced.

Arriving at Rio’s house, I met her son, his wife, and their son. Rio has picked up our reproductive slack by having four children and three grandchildren. Erica and Jessica arrived shortly after I did, with tales of packing and moving misdaventures. I think I would have given up on the whole thing, but they are made of stronger stuff, and as of tomorrow, they will be on their way to their new home. I am having a hard time coming to terms with this. My heart is an even slower learner than my head.

Dinner was well in hand: organic turkey, gravy, potatoes, carrots, and delicata squash from the garden. Dessert was wild huckleberry tarts and pie from our own apples. Needles to say, it was all accompanied by the cider we just pressed a few days ago. It’s satisfying to have a mostly home-grown Thanksgiving.

I am pleased to say that I did not burst into tears when saying goodbye to Erica and Jessica. I did hug them a little longer than usual, though, and I already miss them.

A YEAR AGO: Getting ready for Thanksgiving.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some little treats to brighten up the day.

TEN YEARS AGO: My beautiful girls. I will never stop missing the incredible June.

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November 19th, 2018 by suzy in Family 1 Comment

The 100th anniversary of Armistice Day made me think about my grandfathers more than usual.

Both the Ernests fought in World War I in France. They may have even been on some of the same battlefields.

My mother’s father, Ernest Raymond, was a farm boy from New York state. I recently came across this photo of him in his uniform, setting off to fight in the war:

He looks like a kid to me, and he also looks like he is off on adventure. He clearly has no idea what’s in store for him. He told me that he saw his boyhood friends blown to pieces in front of his eyes, and that his feet rotted in the trenches. When the war was over, he got shipped back home as if nothing ever happened. It must have been surreal to go from the battlefield back to the farm. He survived it all, though, becoming a high school principal and having a long and happy marriage, living into his 80s.

I don’t have a photo of Ernest Victor from wartime. He was a tough young lad from a tough part of London, Southwark, which would be heavily bombed during the next World War. I happened to make a journey there to see his old neighborhood on what would have been his 100th birthday. It was pretty sketchy, with boarded up council housing, buildings with broken windows, and the old, disused railway stable. I’m sure both the council housing and stables are now multi-million pound condos. Gentrification is rampant and there are no bad neighborhoods now in central London.

Ernest Victor’s early life is something of a mystery, and will remain so since everyone who knows anything about it, including him, is long gone. His birth was registered by his mother, which was odd at the time, and was done long after his birth, also unusual. He never spoke to anyone in his family after WWI, except for his sister Elsie, who was very dear to Dad and to me. I have no idea why he cut them off like this.

He was gassed in the war and suffered from depression for the rest of his long life. He became an international banker at Lloyds of London, taking the train to the City from his home in Surrey. He too was very happily married for more than half a century and died on Christmas Eve, 1977, waiting in his special chair for his beloved wife to make him a cup of tea. Victorian gentlemen did not make their own tea.

They both went through a lot, survived it all, and rarely spoke about war and its horrors. I am thankful they survived and for their service, but sorry for all the young men lost in that war and the many to come.

A YEAR AGO: Car problems did not make me feel very thankful.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A late season BBQ with family and friends.

TEN YEARS AGO: Five year old Jessica already knew what to do in almost any situation.

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November 15th, 2018 by suzy in Bullshit,Cats,House,Weather 1 Comment


The Camp fire, located 200 miles away, is only 35% contained. The Woolsey fire is doing a little better at around 45%. It still amazes me that we are having such huge fires so late in the season. Maybe we will start having fires year round instead of a fire season. How scary is that? I am surprised that a fire 200 miles away made the air so unbreathable while smoke from fires that were only 50 miles away didn’t come anywhere near us. I am also perturbed by the fire raging all the way to the ocean in Malibu. I always thought that we were safer here on the coast due to topography and proximity to water, but apparently I was wrong about that, as I am about so many things.


Speaking of water, we do have it, at least for now. I still don’t understand what the problem is. It may have something to do with the underground pump or the electricity or something else that is beyond my limited means of understanding. My fear is that it is also beyond the people who are dealing with it, and that they don’t know enough to know they don’t know enough. I am pretty sure we will have to call out the cavalry in the form of Rob, even though they keep saying they don’t need his help. The fact that Rob lived on the property for 20 years and used to maintain the well along with my brother suggests otherwise, as does Rob’s general mechanical ability. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m keeping my buckets loaded and my fingers crossed.


Audrey has been scarce lately. She no longer asks to go out in the morning, and most days I don’t even see her before I go to work to make money for cat food and litter. She has a mystery spot somewhere. She does still sit on her throne (aka the armoire) sometimes so she can look down on everyone both literally and figuratively. She still hates Dodge and is not shy about letting him know this. Dodge is unconcerned by her disdain. He just looks at her when she growls at him, and maybe this infuriates her even more. Clyde on the other hand has been completely won over by Dodge. They play together and give each other baths. Clyde even shares his quilt with Dodge:

And they often sleep together. Dodge is coming out of his shell and is spending more time downstairs with the rest of the family instead of hanging out on the bed, where he could be comfortable but also have a vantage point to keep an eye out for possible enemies. He slept a lot when I first got him. I imagine living on the streets was very stressful. He was terribly thin and missing a lot of fur when I first adopted him, but now his fur is plush and he has filled out. I think he’s beginning to feel safe and comfortable. Both boys are staying in all the time now, and I’m not sure if that will ever change. It’s nice not to worry about them. Audrey, as the undisputed winner of Survivor: Hooterville, still has outside privileges, but she doesn’t use them all that much.


Basically, they are not happening. The pre-conversion Grinch would be proud. We are having Thanksgiving at Rio’s this year. I have to admit I am rather disappointed that we will not have one last Thanksgiving with Erica and Jessica at my house. They will be leaving the day after Thanksgiving and they will probably never be back for Thanksgiving ever again. They may be able to come for Christmas next year, but who knows? It’s a long way from Nanaimo to darkest Hooterville.

On the other hand, Thanksgiving is next week and I have not had to plan, shop, cook, or clean. Nor will my house be a FEMA worthy disaster on Black Friday, so score.

Due to my siblings’ work schedules and the depressing lack of Erica and Jessica, Christmas has effectively been cancelled. I am not sending out cards or putting up the tree or decorations. This may make Twelfth Night much less depressing. Or it might just maintain the current level of depressingness. As my one concession to the holidays, I have set out the two amaryllis plants from last year, and will be interested to see if once again one is the overachiever and one is the underachiever.

A YEAR AGO: Unwilling to get ready for winter.


TEN YEARS AGO: Libraries past and present. Tomorrow I’m heading to a library Board meeting.

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November 9th, 2018 by suzy in Country Life,Weather 1 Comment

It’s not looking good. And this is November!

A long string of sunny days came to a crashing halt yesterday with a sudden and terrifying pall of smoke from the fire in the Sierra foothills, 200 miles away. The sky darkened and looked bruised, the sun a frightening, livid orange:

We are so used to clean air and the wind from the ocean that it was especially shocking. My eyes are running and you can taste the air. The smoke is still with us, and there is no sign of rain in the forecast:

It’s late in the season for fires and for there to be no rain. Other than the surprise shower in September, there has not been a drop. This is also frightening. I really do not know how the climate change disbelievers can look at all the evidence in the environment and not think it’s real or that we have a real problem.

There are continuing issues with the well on the property where I live. There was no water yesterday, and I am hoping that there will be when I get home. Just in case, I got several more bottles of water on my way to work today. I should anyway, to be prepared for the winter power outages – assuming we ever get rain, let alone storms.

I was glad that I kept a couple of buckets of water on hand because of the ongoing issues with the well, so I could at least wash my face (in icy water) and flush the toilet, though the sink is full of dishes, which offends my tidy soul.

The guy who moved into Megan and Rob’s house is going to try and fix the well today, so maybe there will be water when I get home.

Update: There wasn’t.

More Updates: Water back on for now, though I don’t know how long it will be. It sounds like the root cause of the issue is going to require expert intervention. Stay tuned…

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November 6th, 2018 by suzy in Country Life,Family,Friends 2 Comments

Cider pressing day dawned fair for a change. For the first year, it was rainy; last year, it was cold enough to move all operations other than the actual pressing inside Rio’s house.

When I pulled up at Rio’s estate, the boys were hard at work setting up the new (to us) press. Instead of borrowing our friend and neighbor’s apple press, this year my brother Jonathan invested in a 30 year old press. It’s still a hand-operated press, but this one has separate parts for grinding the apples and for pressing them.

Rob washed our organic apples:

Megan, Rio, and I halved or quartered them, depending on size:

It felt like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. No matter how many apples we chopped, there was always more. Here they are in the hopper of the grinder, which was mostly manned by Jonathan, but also manned by Rob and Clayton:

Clayton mostly worked on the pressing part:

You can see Jonathan valiantly grinding the apples in the background.

We went through several wheelbarrows of “pomace”, or crushed apples, which all had to be wheeled to the compost pile.

We took a break for lunch, which was corn chips and salsa made almost entirely from our garden-gown ingredients, including cherry tomatoes, jalapenos, and apples. Apples are great in salsa! Fun fact: the bowl was made by Clayton himself. He’s not just a master painter and apple presser!

Then it was back to work. Jonathan estimates that we made about 40 gallons of cider, or twice what we made last year when we and the rest of the coast had such a poor apple crop.

When we were finally done, we cleaned up and toasted another successful cider pressing. Dinner was garden slop and pasta with garlic bread, followed by raspberry sorbet made from raspberries my siblings grew:

I can’t describe the intense berry taste of sorbet that only has two ingredients: raspberries and sugar. It was the perfect end to a lovely dinner and a hard-working day.

A YEAR AGO: A chilly day for cider prep and pressing.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A busy and action-packed trip to Atlanta. Those were the days, though I didn’t know it then.

TEN YEARS AGO: Voting day, and it was a nerve-wracking nail biter. Again, those were the days and I didn’t know it then. I’m sensing a theme here.

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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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