Suzy Says

Radio Nowhere

   Jan 31

Luna-cy

My friend the Moon has been showing off this week!

Yesterday, she was huge and golden, beaming down on the black trees and the quiet ocean. I could almost hear her laughing, and I gasped with shock and delight at my first sight of her as I drove down the Ridge in the early morning darkness.

Today, I got up at the peak of the eclipse, and watched for a while in the cold stillness, remembering that other lunar eclipse a few years ago when my much loved ex father-in-law left this earth and bade farewell with a shooting star. As I drove workwards, the Moon kept slipping out from the eclipse’s shadow, bathing the dark, calm ocean with a luminous path, growing larger every moment, surrounded by a dazzle of glittering stars.

Winter is beginning to give way to spring. It’s not here yet, but the vivid green grass at the side of the road is starred with daffodils and calla lilies unfurling their flags. And my camellias are blooming at last! Well, one bush is anyway:

As for me, I once again made it through the hell of the annual fundraiser, somehow staying afloat on a sea of last minute tasks, stupidity, and minor and major emergencies. It was a battle at times, and a lengthy one, but I prevailed.

Megan worked at the Clinic on the first day of the fundraiser, which conveniently fell on the last day of the week, and offered to take me out for a drink if/when my work day ended. I went home, fed the kitties, put on some lights, and headed over to Megan’s place.

We reached our favorite watering hole just in time to catch a last glimpse of sunset:

before pulling up stools at the bar and ordering a Lavender Lemon Drop:

It was as delicious as it was beautiful, and it was medicinal as well, having a magically tonic effect on my previously bad attitude. I felt the civilization suffuse my being as I enjoyed chatting with my sister, the wonderful bartender, and some fellow locals as the sun slipped into the sea and the lights twinkled in the bar.

It was a two drink kind of night, and when the bartender gave us the bill, she said that the first round was on her. We of course protested, but she insisted, and I have to say that it was a first for me, having a bartender buy me a drink. It’s a lovely experience, too. The perfect end to a crazy week!

A YEAR AGO: You guessed it: the horror of the annual fundraiser. Is anything annual ever fun?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Nothing like a game of heirloom lost and found, I always say.

TEN YEARS AGO: Enjoying the film noir festival in San Francisco.

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   Jan 28

Surfin’ Safari

After my garden tour on Sunday, I went over to Megan’s house, where I admired and petted the magic pelt of the beautiful (and ancient, at 17) Harriet. Harriet the Spy sightings are rare, but always welcome.

We were headed to the ballet in Point Arena, and this time we had a special guest with us, our brother Jonathan’s girlfriend Rio. We hopped into Rio’s car and off we went. Being liberated from her designated chauffeur duties allowed Megan to enjoy the scenery for once. The ocean was a pale aqua that day, contrasting with the electric green of the fields and hills. Rio said, “Ireland has nothing on us!” Yellow acacia flamed among the dark, wind-swept cypresses.

Our first stop was Anchor Bay Thai, where we all ordered dinner to go. I for one would be very glad of this later, since we didn’t get home until nearly 6 pm, after leaving the house at 11 am. Arriving back in Point Arena, we had a little time before the ballet started, so we headed down to the pier, where we got sandwiches and watched the intrepid surfers in the cove. They wear wetsuits in our chilly clime, and it is a joy to watch them skim over the mighty, curling waves as they sweep toward the rocky shore.

There are no visual aids because true to the old adage “Red in the morning, sailors take warning”, the beautiful dawn had given way to rain. It didn’t seem to bother the surfers at all, but I was disinclined to venture out in the rain to take pictures of them.

We ran back to the car and headed to the movie theater, where we found our favorite balcony seats were available. We even had an escape route available, not that we needed it this time. It was a beautiful production, from the costumes to the sword fights to the romantic pas de deux, and of course, the tragic finale.

Megan took over driving duties on the way home. After many years of night shifts, she doesn’t mind driving in the dark, even with rain blowing sideways, as it was that night. On our way home, she regaled us with tales from her ambulance days, which are always fun. It was so nice to have Rio share our pleasure in the ballet, and I hope she will come with us to see the last two of the season.

A YEAR AGO: Plans to see the ballet were foiled by the weather.

FIVE YEARS AGO: File under miscellaneous.

TEN YEARS AGO: Attending the SF Noir Festival.

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   Jan 24

A Look Around

Sunday morning dawned quite beautiful, as you see above. I took advantage of the rare situation of being home in daylight to take a look around the garden.

I planted the tulips in a more timely manner, I think around Thanksgiving. They are sprouting up, but my plan to have flowers in February seems to be foiled again, looking at the size of them so far:

Maybe I need to plant closer to Halloween than Thanksgiving to make my floral dreams come true.

The orchid is doing just fine without my intervention, with at least two flower spikes that should blossom soon:

And the volunteer daffodils in the jasmine planter in the front of the house are right on schedule:

And the overachieving amaryllis is about to pop into flower:

At the rate it’s going, the underachieving one will blossom around my birthday. Again, I thought I planted them early enough, but apparently not. I was hoping for flowers at Christmas, or at least in time for the Saddest Day of the Year.

As I took the coffee grounds out to the compost, robins were hopping around cheerfully, and frogs were peeping, both sure signs of winter. I never did get the water buckets filled this year. It’s like I was in denial about winter – welcome after the heat waves last fall – and power outages, since there were so many last year and lasted so long. So far, we haven’t had any major storms this season, or much rain for that matter, at about 14 inches. I’m hoping I can get through the rest of the winter with the power on and no need for buckets. A girl can dream!

A YEAR AGO: The muddy beginning of the Great Trenching Project, yet to be concluded.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some random notes.

TEN YEARS AGO: Meet the neighbors! Or not…

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   Jan 21

Back Up

It took me three tries to get home on Friday night.

Wednesday and I had turned onto the long driveway, with its astonishing collection of water filled craters (or super puddles), and I was looking forward to an adult beverage after a long and crazy week at work of preparing for the annual fundraiser, among other things*. Not so fast, missy!

The driveway is also only wide enough for one car, so when Mark’s wife Citlali came down the driveway headed straight for me, I had to back up. Now, backing up is not one of my special skills. Instantly knowing whether someone is a guy or a girl? You bet. Guessing which piece is the most expensive in “New Yorker” jewelry ads? Absolutely! Choose the perfect wine for dinner? I am your girl. But backing up? Not so much.

My lack of talent in this arena is exacerbated, or possibly enhanced, by Wednesday’s infamous gangsta dark windows. In the spirit of full disclosure here, I will just say that I long ago ceased using my rearview mirror and rely solely on the side ones. So I backed up slowly, hoping that I wouldn’t hear the distinctive sound of huckleberry bushes and rhododendrons scratching Wednesday’s paint. Or, you know, hit a tree.

Whew. I made it to the loop in front of the Front House, and then started drinkward once again. Another car came down the driveway toward me. I said out loud, “Are you kidding me?” and retraced my steps, or tracks. I didn’t realize it was Megan until she was already past me.

I figured I must be through with backing up practice, hopefully for the rest of the year, but as usual, I was wrong. An unknown grey car was the next one to get between me and a now necessary cocktail. I backed into the loop for the third time, and when the coast was clear, drove as fast as I could to Stately Suzy Manor, where Kovu greeted me with a plastic Santa in his mouth. Much like Me, the Santa had seen much better days, but Kovu was very proud of it anyway. I petted him and told him what a good boy he was, and he trotted off to show someone else his prize.

Welcome home!

*One of the “other things” was rodential in nature, if not in Nature. One of the doctors and a couple of the staff had noticed the presence of a rat in the courtyard, and did not welcome the new neighbor. We set a trap, and the new neighbor was smart enough to get the bait without being trapped. But rats don’t seem to have as many lives as cats, and at the end of the day on Friday, I discovered it was also the end of the rat’s days.

I asked Facilities Guy if he could dispose of the undearly departed, after apologizing for the poor timing of the request. He had just returned from his 108 year old great aunt’s graveside service. He laughed and said, “Two funerals in one day!”

A YEAR AGO: The wonders of the fine woodworking show.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The delights of Drybar.

TEN YEARS AGO: The joys of a new library card.

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   Jan 16

More Cats & Dogs

I think I can safely say that I survived The Plague. I was laughing at myself when I was running around cleaning my bathroom before getting ready for work on Friday. I figured I must be feeling better if I actually cared what the house looked like. When I was sick, I could not care less and anything and everything seemed like a giant effort, from getting dressed to breathing. For some reason, I had a fervent fantasy that day of coming home to a tidy house. I love it when my fantasies come true.

The next day I had a cooking marathon, including Ottolenghi’s mejadra and All’Amatriciana sauce for pasta, so you know I’m back.

Mark’s dogs were back in force yesterday. I was too slow getting out of the car for Kovu’s taste, and he leaped in joyfully. Fortunately for the health and welfare of my work wardrobe, the muddy paw damage was confined to my winter coat.

Usually, they trot off homewards after telling me how glad they are that I have returned, but yesterday, they decided to hang around. They apparently wanted to come in the house, since the whole herd hung out on the back porch, some of them barking, which drew Audrey’s irate attention. She was incandescent with rage that they dared to be on her turf, and she was growling louder than they were barking. She puffed herself up and kept flinging her small but furious body against the sliding glass doors, making them shake. Here she is preparing for another assault:

Note the puffy tail and air of fury.

Clyde withdrew to the stairs, his eyes huge, where he could watch Audrey take on the interlopers while yet being safe. He is a lover, not a fighter*, and of course he is an excellent supervisor. I decided to close the rarely used drapes, thinking that out of sight might be out of mind. This ploy eventually worked, and Audrey depuffed after stalking around the house and looking carefully out of all the windows and doors before going huffily off to take a nap.

*Having said that, I recently noticed that his left ear is slightly shredded. Audrey strikes again? I didn’t mind Roscoe’s torn ear – it seemed in keeping with his wildness – but I don’t love seeing the baby boy with a battle scarred ear. I hope he doesn’t secretly have a tattoo under his fur.

A YEAR AGO: A civilized break in the work week.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The glories of my favorite San Francisco museum.

TEN YEARS AGO: Hockey and Devo. It’s how I roll.

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   Jan 10

Cats & Dogs

The Plague is finally beginning to lose its death grip on our heroine, but after all this time, I am still not fully restored to health and sanity, though of course I am back at work, having burned through 42 hours of paid time off without the advantages of having fun, getting rest, or restoring my severely depleted batteries.

I also failed to enjoy the short weeks over the holidays, being fully occupied with being sick, and now I’m back to the five day a week grind, staring down the barrel of a 12 hour day yesterday and the ordeal of the annual fundraiser, which is of course this month. Basically I am still living on Vernors ginger ale and Jacob’s Cream Crackers.

Plague: 5,042 Suzy: 0

I haven’t seen Mark yet this new year, but I see his dogs every day when I get home from work, and they greet me with outsized and muddy enthusiasm. The current dramatis personae is sweet old Luna; pretty Lupe; cute little Blue; and super bouncy Kovu. This is Kovu:

For some reason, Kovu used to be horrified by me, but he got way over that stage, and now he has the enthusiasm of the converted. If I don’t get out of the car fast enough to suit him, he climbs muddily in, to the detriment of Wednesday’s upholstery and my work wardrobe. I think he would like to move in with me. I might like that too, but Queen Audrey would object and little Clyde would be scared, so for now, all Kovu petting has to take place outside.

As for inside…I went to dig out some potatoes from the buckets in the studio the other day and discovered that potatoes were not all that was in the buckets.

It appeared that Audrey decided that the potato buckets were her personal litter boxes. Undoubtedly, she considered it very thoughtful of the Staff to have so many of them available for her exclusive use, since Clyde has never thought outside the box in his life.

The Staff, however, was less thrilled. An informal survey revealed that Audrey’s contributions were more than surface deep, so I ended up hauling all the buckets outside in the rain, with plans to empty them into the woods if/when I feel up to it or can persuade the long-suffering Rob to do so for me.

A YEAR AGO: The power was on an extended vacation amidst stormy weather.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Be careful what you wish for.

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   Jan 06

Stasis

It’s a good thing I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions, since I have not done a thing this entire new year except Be Sick. Either I am really good at it, or really bad at it, since I have been plague-stricken for over a week now, with no signs of the malady’s departure.

So, yes, I was sick the entire time I was off work, and even when I returned to work, I failed to work one entire day all week, leaving early for two days and finally taking yesterday off in the desperate hope that I would be restored to humanity today, but once again my hopes were dashed by whatever the Plague is.

Despite my apparently eternal illness, at some point I will have to get out of bed and get on with the Saddest Day of the Year, when all the Christmas ornaments are stowed away and the bleak winter house is stripped of its temporary sparkle and finery, just when we need it most.

So far, not a great start to the new year.

A YEAR AGO: The power was out on the Saddest Day of the Year. Things can be worse!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Back home with the kitties.

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   Jan 01

Happy New Year

Happy New Year!

It dawned sunny and beautiful here in Hooterville, though I’m sorry to say I am still suffering from the plague. At this point it appears that I will spend all the time I took off from work being sick. Come to think of it, the last time I took time off was the Worst Long Weekend Ever. Maybe taking time off is not a good idea for me.

Despite the Malady’s inexorable presence, I celebrated the departure of 2017 with champagne. It’s medicinal, you know. Vogue even touted its champagne diet back in the 1960s, in which the dieter had a glass of champagne with each meal. If only the pictured Harry Winston diamonds came with the sparkle in the glass!

And I managed to stay up to see the new year in on each coast. I have to admit that I consider the New York ball drop the “real” new year, despite having spent most of my adult life on the west coast. The fireworks over the Ferry Building just aren’t as impressive to me as the ball dropping in a frigid, thronged Times Square as the immortal Frank sings “New York, New York”.

And it wouldn’t be New Year’s Day without the Winter Classic. I am curled up on the couch under my grandmother’s quilt, watching the Rangers play the Sabres. The Rangers won in overtime, keeping their unblemished record of winning every outdoor game they have played. I love watching outdoor hockey, and enjoy the gentlemanly tradition of the teams forming a line to shake hands – or hug – with their opponents after a hard-fought game.

A YEAR AGO: I managed to see in the new year on both coasts last year, too. I did not manage to replace the ornament Clyde accidentally broke and still regret it.

FIVE YEARS AGO: I started the year in San Francisco. My old apartment had just sold for half a million dollars. A month ago, it sold for $1.2 million. There’s a slightly bigger regret.

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   Dec 31

2017

Surveying the hellscape of 2017, I can’t say I’m sorry to see it end. Including a nightmarish government, a seemingly endless plague of disasters, natural and otherwise, and the deaths of those too young to die, it was just one bad thing after another. The word “apocalypse” crossed my mind more than once.

In the midst of all this despair, there were bright spots, like a visit from our beloved Ben.

I failed to note it in these pages, but this October marked the 8th anniversary of my move to Hooterville. It’s one of the few good decisions I have ever made.

I read 114 books, surpassing last year’s 103. Standouts included Richard Russo’s Trajectory, a collection of short stories set in a small town, where Russo’s gifts for language and storytelling shine; The Girl Who Was Saturday Night, about a dysfunctional family in Montreal which manages to be funny, heart-breaking, gritty, and poetic all at once; The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery, which uses a combination of old and new technology and logic to unveil the identity of a man who murdered his way across America in the early years of the 20th century; Little Fires Everywhere, an engrossing and beautiful novel about families and how choices we make can have far-reaching and unforeseen effects; Sargent’s Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas, showcasing the fascinating and sometimes tragic lives of the women who inspired some of his great work; Ghost of the Innocent Man: A True Story of Trial and Redemption, a haunting book about a wrongly convicted man who never gave up trying to prove his innocence from the depths of prison; and the truly astonishing Blood In the Water: The Attica Prison Riot of 1971 and Its Aftermath. I couldn’t put it down, and it haunted me for weeks afterwards. I will just say this: the riot was the least of what happened there.

Standouts in TV shows ranged from the regal (Victoria and The Crown) to the retro (The Deuce and Feud) and the truly excellent Ozark.

Power outages: I lost track. One of them lasted for days, and we were still having them in May. May, my friends! The same goes for rain, though it was around 70 inches. Or more than 6 feet. I thought we had the drought on the run until this season’s paltry 10 inches so far. If only we could get the hideous heat waves on the (permanent) run. I don’t think I will ever really recover from The Worst Long Weekend Ever. I may be one heat wave away from moving to Alaska. Look out, Tim! And keep your bail money handy.

January:

The new year arrived with a bang. Day One of a lengthy power outage. Overcoming the annual bummer of Twelfth Night with a new hairdo and an old fashioned party. A civilized break in the work week. Enjoying the beauty at the fine woodworking show. It was too floody to go and see the Bolshoi’s “Sleeping Beauty”, to my everlasting regret. I once more survived the horror of the annual fundraiser.

February: I came home from work to find a new refrigerator had taken up residence. Meeting the girls at the bookstore. A delightful (though rainy) Valentine’s Day. Guess what? Yes, the power was out again. A strange, but memorable baptism.

March: Time for the Polar Plunge! Feeling under the weather in still more bad weather. Possibly the world’s cutest new neighbor. A hail storm. Why not? Celebrating Dad’s 86th birthday. A delightful surprise encounter with Erica and Jessica.

April: A fun evening at the theater with Megan and Lu. Remembering Mom on her birthday. Family dinner with Clayton. Buying tires again for Wednesday. Jessica’s birthday, and my blog’s. I actually remembered this year! The joys of taking a day off.

May: A very sad, and upsetting memorial service. A sense of place. Yet another power outage made it impossible for me to revel in the glamorous joys of the Kentucky Derby. A fun outing on Bookstore Day. The adventure of the flat tire. Going in style and in good company to family dinner. The adventure of the dog in the night.

June: A good start to my birthday week. A completely perfect birthday, part one and part two. A peek into the past, my favorite place. It was hard to tell one job from the other one Saturday. A wonderful visit with Jarrett and Kalli. It’s Rob to the rescue yet again, adding a new shelf to the kitchen when the old one is displaced by the sudden appearance of a new and unimproved refrigerator. The month ended with a perfect Junapalooza.

July: There was much to celebrate. At last! A sleepover with Jessica! An unexpected visitor after a long day at work. Rob the artist. A less than stellar week. A summer Saturday. The annual horrorshow. But hey, I survived!

August: My Junapalooza gift appears, along with a former Jay (hint: Not Alex Rios). A lovely visit with our friend Carrie, her daughter, and her oldies- singin’ posse. The sudden loss of a coworker. I still miss her smile. Plumbing problems. The anniversary of Dad’s death rolls around again. I will never stop loving and missing him. A lovely sunset drink. My brother’s eclipse adventure. The beginning of the hellish heat wave.

September Celebrating my last working Saturday with a delicious dinner at Rio’s place. The Worst Long Weekend Ever will live on infamy. My brother’s birthday party. A visit from our beloved Ben. At the County Fair, no less! Playing tour guide. We all enjoyed seeing Ben again. I hope this becomes an annual tradition.

October: The eternal trenching project rears its interminable head again. The local message boards are as eccentric as ever. Awakening to find the worst wildfire in California history was raging, in our County and our neighboring counties. Devastating and heartbreaking. As always, our community reached to help the evacuees, but it’s going to be a long recovery. A couple of reasons to celebrate in these dark days. A look at some lovely gardens. The ballet season begins.

November: Halloween with our favorite kidlet and her precocious BFF. A chilly day for cider pressing. You can’t go home again. Or at least you shouldn’t. Car problems, which preoccupy my limited brain space when I should be worrying about Thanksgiving prep. An unexpected Thanksgiving without Erica and Jessica. Thanksgiving II: the sequel. Christmas – or at least Christmas decorations – arrived a little early.

December: Enjoying the always spectacular (though not very Christmassy) Festival of Lights. File under miscellaneous: lingering car malaise; the endless project; and hanging out with friends. Another delightful annual tradition: Candlelight Shopping Night. A successful office party. And a little mini-break was the perfect thing after all the party work. A very odd version of Peter Pan. And a very happy Christmas. A trip north to Eureka did not turn out exactly as planned. But it was still fun.

No resolutions have sprung to my shallow, sparkly mind for the new year, which I hope will be kinder to all of us. Thanks for coming along on the ride this year!

A YEAR AGO: A look back at 2016.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Reviewing 2012.

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   Dec 30

Heading Home

It’s 4:30 am and I am drinking bad in room coffee and waiting for daylight. I’m sorry to say that the cold or whatever it is has not improved and I felt too miserable to sleep. It is going to be a long way home. Well, it would be anyway!

Jarrett picked me up yesterday and took me on a tour of Eureka, where he has lived for several years. Like Fort Bragg, it began with logging and fishing, and all that entails, like robber barons and brothels. But Eureka, a much bigger city still, boasted an opera house (the building still stands) and a Chinatown, populated with the people who built roads, did the logging camps’ cooking and laundry and basically kept to themselves until they were all deported to San Francisco in 1885.

1885 is also when this breathtaking mansion was built for lumber baron William Carson:

It is utterly magnificent and may be the finest Victorian home I have ever seen, even after living in San Francisco for so many years. It is now a private club, which is whispered about among locals, much as the Bohemian Club is in San Francisco. Though we peasants cannot enter its splendid interior, you can revel in its elegant excess here.

Right across the street is the fantastic pink house which William Carson built for his son:

Love the color and the stained glass.

We walked around the historic downtown, and I really liked the combination of old and new. The town feels vital and young, not precious like the Village at home. I really enjoyed our look around. We also stopped in at the local history museum, which has a great collection of Native artifacts and pioneer quilts. Needless to say the native people, like the Chinese, were also driven out by Europeans, just as they were in Fort Bragg. The age old story, I’m afraid.

We headed out to dinner with Jarrett’s beautiful girlfriend Kalli at one of their favorite spots. It was so wonderful to catch up on their news and spend some time together. I love those kids. I’d have to say: despite the cold or whatever it is and the long drive ahead of me, I’m glad I came.

Update: Left in the rainy darkness about 6:45 am. Stopped at the gas station and then headed straight for home. No traffic that early, though I did have to drive around two large, shaggy elk on Highway One. Arrived home a little after 10 am. Whew!

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   Dec 29

Eureka


Home away from home

Hi! I’m coming to you from Eureka! Eureka is what I said when I finally got here, too.

I thought I was mentally prepared for the long and winding road that is Highway One, but as usual, I was wrong about that. By the time I had reached Westport, I felt like admitting defeat, turning around, and going back home to the kitties. But I pressed on, and when I finally emerged from the horrors of Highway One and its bipolar ups and downs and curves so crazy they are signposted at 15 miles an hour, I was crushed to discover that I had another 90 miles to go.

Sigh.

I shouldn’t have been surprised, though. All signs had pointed toward Things Going Wrong. Megan woke up sick the day before we were slated to go, so instead of her capably driving while I was the passenger, the way Nature intended, I was demoted to driver, with no company and an increasing paranoia about the ever present engine light and lack of cell service.

My friend Janice’s son-in-law had unexpected surgery, so her daughter Julie could not join us at dinner, and once again I was demoted to chauffeur in a strange land. As I headed out in the near zero visibility night time fog, it soon became clear that I too was sick, or getting there. Why not? I tried not to look at the kitties’ lovely parting gift to me as a bad omen:

I did my best to ignore my body’s rebellion and thoroughly enjoyed a European length dinner with my dear friend Janice at one of her favorite local restaurants over a bottle of local wine. We had a lot to catch up on. She had a very challenging year, though she met one disaster after another with grace and strength and her head held high (and of course, her hair and make-up done). It was wonderful to just be with her, listening to her deep, lilting Southern accent, her vivacious laugh, and her astonishing anecdotes. Her friendship is a wonderful gift.

As for today, I am pleased to announce that I am not driving. Jarrett is going to play tour guide today and show me around his town, and tonight we are having dinner with his girlfriend, the beautiful Kalli, at their favorite local restaurant. And I will think about the drive home tomorrow…tomorrow.

A YEAR AGO: A post Christmas celebration.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A winter wonderland.

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   Dec 27

Aftermath

While the rest of you were celebrating your Christmas, I was cleaning up after ours.

Every year I tell myself not to bother cleaning up before hand, and every year, I ignore my own well-meant advice and am annoyed/horrified by having to re-clean everything I had cleaned the day before. This year, of course, was no exception, and by the time I had emptied out the somewhat disgraceful recycling, washed the heirlooms and put them carefully away (nothing broke!), re-vacuumed, and done a couple of loads of laundry, it was afternoon, and I was thankful that I had at least had the sense to take the day after Christmas off from work, both domestic and unpaid.

Arriving at work today, I discovered a plague of ants had taken up residence in my absence. I wiped them to a rapid and sanitary death with the atomic wipes they use in Medical, but the super ants were not deterred or their friends did not get the message that Doom awaited them in my office. Facilities Guy provided me with a gooey ant trap, which I have set on my windowsill for the unwary ants and which he assures me are more effective than the germicidal wipes of doom.

I was planning to work tomorrow, but Megan got sick last night and is unable to drive to Eureka with me tomorrow. The original plan was that she would pick me up at work in the late afternoon after she woke up from her last night shift of the week, but if I am doing all the driving on the sinuous and scenic Highway 1, I do not want to be doing it in the dark. I conferred with my boss and she decided that I should just take the day off and drive up in the morning, so that is now my new plan. Gotta love a one day work week!

I am going to see my friend Janice, who you may remember visited me a few years back with her lovely daughter Julie, and also our nephew Jarrett and his beautiful girlfriend Kalli. So the next time I check in with you will be from a whole new county! Wish me an uneventful journey.

A YEAR AGO:Cleaning up after a lovely celebration.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A warm and wonderful Christmas. Jessica looks like a baby!

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   Dec 25

Merry Happy


Christmas Jessica (with Jonathan in the background)

Merry Christmas! Y’all are a day behind us, since we celebrated yesterday. And celebrate we did!

I spent most of the morning making about a thousand of my world famous cheese biscuits, with an eye to bringing some to Jarrett later in the week. It’s a good thing I set some aside for him, since in spite of my Herculean efforts, I only have about half a dozen left.

After the baking blitz, I put out the Christmas crackers:

and set out the heirloom Wedgwood and silver:

as the tree twinkled merrily with its stockings beneath. Jonathan and Rio arrived with the ham glazed with his secret glaze and smoked for hours in the BBQ, a wild huckleberry pie and a keg of cider, and Erica and Jessica brought a stunning Bûche de Noël:

It was frosted with vanilla buttercream to match my ancient tree, and inside it was ginger cake with a butterscotch salted caramel filling. Needless to say, it was amazing.

So were the stockings this year. I think everyone was really pleased. Mine included a new electric toothbrush that looks like jewelry, glittery pens, and a gift certificate for Angelika’s indispensable services. What’s not to love?

In addition to all that, we had salad with roasted pears and fresh pomegranate along with shallot and honey dressing, our own garden potatoes mashed up with our garlic, the cheese biscuits, and Vietnamese pickled carrots and cucumbers. This was my first attempt at these and it was a hit. I will definitely make them again.

After dinner, we enjoyed the annual ritual of Jonathan and Jessica reading “Red Ranger Came Calling” out loud. I wish I could post the movie clips here, but they are on Facebook for your viewing and listening pleasure. I really don’t know which of them does a better job. And just a few days ago, Jessica’s BFF Bella was on Vachon Island at the very location of the tree!

After everyone else left, Megan and I sat back with a bottle of Limoncello and talked about the evening. We agreed, it had been a great one. Merry Christmas to you and yours from all of us!

A YEAR AGO: A merry Christmas.

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   Dec 24

Peter Panned

Yesterday Megan and I both enjoyed getting up after the sun did, putting the heat on in our frigid houses, and scampering back to bed with coffee and our neatly paired animal companions (two dogs for her; two cats for me) for more than an hour. How luxurious is that?

Eventually, we got up and got dressed. I headed over to Megan’s place and we then made our way to our brother’s place with a bag of mesquite, the Christmas ham, stockings for him and Rio to stuff, and a mason jar of Jack Daniel’s, an integral part of Jonathan’s masterful ham glaze.

We had a brief discussion about Wednesday’s ailments, and had independently arrived at the conclusion that he should buy the expensive parts and fix the non threatening emissions issue, on the grounds that one day the ever-on engine light might mean something is really wrong and I would ignore it, thinking it wasn’t, until Something Bad happened, like permanent stoppage of said car. So he will order the parts and we’ll get that particular show on the road. Wish Santa shopped at Napa.

After that, Megan turned her little red car toward the magical south coast. As we wended our way past the lavender ocean and the wind-twisted trees, we talked about how we hadn’t seen Lichen in ages. For both of us, the most recent interaction was texts on his birthday last month. Passing through Elk, Megan spied Lichen himself at the side of the road, with his sweet dog, Keeper. She stopped immediately and raced across the road shouting his birth name so he’d know he was in trouble. By the time I caught up, we were hugging and laughing and being introduced to the guy with him.

This town being as minute as it is, the guy turned out to be a neighbor of my friend Alison, who I had just met for a drink this week (and said drink was interrupted by the appearance of my old boss, my current boss, the event coordinator from work, and others). He was supposed to look after Alison’s dog over the holidays, but she got the flu and her plans changed at the last minute.

As for Lichen, he has been training as a massage therapist and now has his own little studio! So that’s what he’s been up to instead of hanging out with us. It was good to catch up with him, but we had a schedule to keep, so we continued south.

Arriving in Point Arena, we went straight for Franny’s, as any right-thinking person does, where we equipped ourselves with delicacies before going even further south to acquire still more delicacies for dinner at Anchor Bay Thai.

We were worried about being late for the play, but we made it back to the theater in time to wade through throngs of kids and into balcony seats right by the wall, a decision we would come to regret in about 10 minutes.

The play was a production of “Peter Pan”, streamed from the National Theatre in London, and our Sleeping Beauty deprived hearts were looking forward to it. Our hopes were dashed almost immediately by the weirdness of the production, in which everyone looked about 45, Nana the dog was played by a guy wearing white ruffled pantalettes, and Tinker Bell by a squat gent with lights on his bicycle helmet and a speech impediment. Also there were songs, which we had not been warned about, and all the magic had been removed.

We wanted to remove ourselves, but were trapped at the wall end of the row. I was all for pushing past everyone and hightailing it out of there, but Megan thought it was too rude. I felt that it would be a momentary inconvenience for people we would never see again, but she won out and we spent the rest of our sentence wondering if we could get over the railing in front of us without undue damage to Self. When the welcome release of intermission finally arrived, I raced out of there so fast I forgot my coat (with my phone in the pocket), which Megan grabbed and then chased me down the stairs.

As we peeled out of the parking lot, I observed that we had finally found something that was not fun to do together. It took us a while, but we did it!

A YEAR AGO: Merry Christmas to us!

TEN YEARS AGO: A somewhat dizzy Christmas.

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   Dec 22

Frosty Solstice

I’m sitting in bed with the heater and Audrey purring away (Clyde has been Adventure Boy lately, spending more time in the woods than I personally enjoy). I got up when it was actually light out, turned the heater on, made coffee, and took it back to bed. I love doing that.

It’s been pretty chilly lately. The house is about 42F when I get up, and it’s been hovering around the 32F or lower outside overnight. On solstice morning, I discovered that Wednesday’s windows were iced up hard. The door creaked when I opened it. I left the car running for about 10 minutes before heading out to the Ridge, which was a winter wonderland, sparkling with frost. That’s about the closest I have ever gotten to driving on snow*, and I’m happy to keep it that way.

The shortest and darkest day of the year also happens to be my boss’s birthday, much to her displeasure. Besides those two disadvantages, her birthday has historically resulted in the dreaded combo gift, and when she was in school, everyone was always on break, so she never got the little school parties with her classmates, either.

We tried to make it up to her by taking her out to lunch at a restaurant overlooking the harbor. It was a sunny, postcard day, and fishing boats chugged in and out while seals played in the frigid water. I am pleased to report that she was showered with gifts by coworkers (including me). One came in to drop off flowers on his way to a hunting trip, and her husband sent an arrangement that was so beautiful that another colleague took one look and called the florist to order the exact same arrangement to be delivered that day to his own wife.

I left work after lunch, stopped by Monica’s shop to exchange gifts, dropped off library books (sadly, there were none to pick up, though I am observing my own sort of advent by re-reading “The Box of Delights”, timing its 12 chapters to end on Christmas Day. Dad used to read it out loud to us in that manner), and made one last stop at the post office, where I was overwhelmed by a tide of cards and presents to the point that Darlene helped me to carry it all to the car.

Let the holidays – and the celebrating – begin!

*I learned to drive in San Francisco, in the beautiful Presidio.

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   Dec 21

Taking a Break

To recover from the crazy week, I took a little staycation at the same lovely hotel where I took some refuge after the devastating loss of the one and only Roscoe, who I will never stop missing. Or loving, for that matter. This time, the hotel manager very generously gave me a free room, which turned out to be an apartment, complete with living room:

and a lovely kitchen. I coveted the side by side refrigerator with its capacious freezer drawer. It even makes ice automatically from filtered water! Wonder if the kindly hotel manager would consider a trade for my new-ish, Stalinesque appliance?

Probably not.

There was a balcony overlooking the estuary:

where I could watch the sun set:

and the stars come out from the comfort of the capacious hot tub. Thoughtfully, the balcony and hot tub can be accessed from the bedroom as well as the living room. The bedroom had a desk and a walk in closet with a light! This was very exciting for a girl whose house has no closets whatsoever and whose clothes are stored in bags under the bed. I’m pretty sure the closet was bigger than my bathroom at home.

I realized how long I had been a bumpkin when I was so delighted with having central heating and not having to wear a sweater inside, or experience the microclimates of my house with its unheated bathroom and drafts, the relative warmth of the propane heater stopping about three feet from its epicenter*.

And I kind of burned myself on the hot water in the sink and bathroom, since I’m so used to having the facet turned to the hottest possible and not adding cold water at all in a vain attempt to make it warm enough to wash Self or dishes. Here the water was instantly super hot. Surprise!

I had pizza and watched Hitchcock’s “Family Plot”, which I hadn’t seen in many years and enjoyed very much. In the morning, I had coffee on the balcony, watching the water birds at play in the sunshine. I ran a couple of Christmas errands and then headed home to cuddle the kitties. It was a great break, and I am so thankful for that gift!

A YEAR AGO: A sparkly outing with the inimitable Jessica.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Getting ready for Christmas. With a cameo by our beloved Schatzi. We miss you, sweet girl.

*Speaking of which, I slept through an earthquake last week which freaked out one of the temporary docs who is working here for a few months. She called Facilities Guy in a panic, thinking that a wild animal was in her oven, crashing around (how?). She was not at all relieved to hear that it was only an earthquake.

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   Dec 17

The Party

I survived the office holiday party!

It was a marathon, though, with days of planning and decorating and blasting down the Ridge in the early morning darkness. This may well be the perfect song to listen to when driving winding roads under a blanket of stars and beside the moonlit ocean.

This year, the person who used to do the decorating moved away, so that left me to do it. You know, the person whose present-wrapping skills are on par with a particularly inept and possibly thumbless five year old. Which makes it even more amusing that I Christo-ed up the tables in the conference room for the party. I regretted this decision at more than one stage in the process, but it looked great when it was done:

My vision was to wrap the tables in brown paper and have centerpieces of freshly cut greenery. My dream came true with holly, cedar, eucalyptus, bay and mystery red berries which were probably poisonous, but whatever! I added glittery pine cones and sparkly mini succulents:

It wouldn’t be Me if it wasn’t sparkly. I also found an unopened box of glittery snowflakes in the store room, so I borrowed an industrial size box of dental floss from the dental clinic and hung them from the ceiling, as you can see in the first photo. I added white lights around the whole room, and it looked warm and welcoming when the room was lit only by those lights:

I was later told that there had never been Christmas lights in the room before, an egregious omission and one that will not recur during my sparkly reign.

I somehow managed to squeeze seating for 85 people in a room whose official capacity is 68 (all that practice making and hosting Thanksgiving for 14 people in my undersized residence came in handy), and I was pleased to note that people hung out and seemed to be enjoying themselves. Most years, they eat and run, since they get paid for the rest of the day, so it was especially nice to see the party continue.

Unfortunately for me, though, I had a Board meeting to set up and take minutes at, so I had to leave the festivities. But I was delighted to receive nothing but compliments, a couple of the doctors going so far as to email all the staff about how great the party was and how well I did, both embarrassing and delightful at the same time.

A YEAR AGO: At the Candlelight Shopping Night.

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   Dec 13

Candlelight

Another annual tradition this time of year is the Candlelight Shopping Night in the Village:

It looks so magical!

As we headed down the Ridge, we noticed Rob at the (closed) dump. Unlike most people, Rob finds going to the dump to be a two way experience. He not only drops things off, he also picks things up, which is why we call it “the mall”. Megan stopped to find out if he had fed the dogs, who were waiting patiently at home*.

It turned out that he was actually in the market for a jumpstart rather than projects to take home and fix, so Megan hooked him up and soon he was ready to head home and take care of the girls.

As we arrived at the Village, the sun was setting beautifully:

And the one bar in town was looking festive:

Nothing like seeing a glowing martini glass against a dark sky!

Outside the shops, candles flickered in mason jars:

And inside, all was merry and bright and everything was on sale. Megan picked up a couple of books for Jessica in the bookstore. She always knows just the right books to get Jessica, and it will be nice for her to have something to unwrap.

After shopping, we headed back to Ledford House, which is conveniently on the way home. It was long after sunset, when the view is the most spectacular, but it was cozy and charming, and we were warmly greeted as always by the wonderful bartender.

The special of the day was a seasonal cranberry margarita:

Which was delicious and about the size of a swimming pool. It was served with tiny spoons, like a grown-up slushie.

As we were enjoying our adult beverages, I was surprised by a hug from my friend Alison. It was the first time I had seen her since the wildfires. Her house survived, so she and her husband are renting it to a displaced neighbor and staying at their house in Hooterville for now. We made plans to catch up for a drink later this month.

As we left, we petted one of the resident kitties, the handsome black one seen here, and overheard a couple saying how they couldn’t believe how many stars there were and how bright they are. Megan and I smiled at each other and when we got in the car, we both said how lucky we are to live here. And we are.

*I got to Megan’s house before she did that evening. The dogs were thrilled to see me, and were climbing all over me with joy until they heard Megan’s car arrive. They jumped off me instantly and raced to the door. Auntie’s OK to kill time, but Mama’s the best!

A YEAR AGO: You have to love a day that starts at the beach and ends in the ancient redwoods.

FIVE YEARS AGO: An evening of seasonal song.

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   Dec 09

Miscellaneous

Wondering what’s been happening in SuzyWorld™?

Well, lots of nothing mostly.

The car thing is dragging on into its millionth year. There has been a certain amount of progress, however. The slowdown/lack of power thing has not reared its ugly head again after my brother reset the car’s computer brain (if only he could do that for his now younger sister’s brain!), and I learned that the slowdown thing is linked to the wrench light, not the engine light. Apparently the wrench light is to be feared much more than the engine light.

And the engine light is on again, or still. It seems to have something to do with air hoses or emissions or something not tragic. Jonathan and Rob are supposed to look at it again this weekend and order the necessary parts. I am still waiting for them to change the brake pads and do the oil change, since they want to do everything at once, which is understandable, but also slightly frustrating. In the meantime, Wednesday is still going and stopping, which is all I really require of a car.

The inspectors came out to inspect Mark’s trenching project about a week ago. He said he would fill it in and apply gravel so it’s not a mud bath around my house, but you may not be surprised to hear that nothing has happened. We are going on a year now, and I have to change shoes to take out the garbage or go to the compost pile, and then change them back again, which has gotten pretty old. Needless to say, the driveway is a potholed and puddled nightmare again. Or still…

I have been trying to spend time with my friends in an effort to through off the nebulous malaise, the worry about the car, and the impending doom of the holiday party and annual fundraiser at work. Jim and I met for drinks at Ledford House and enjoyed the sunset, which happens so fast this time of year, like a curtain dropping:

His parents have sold their house in Palm Springs and are moving into a smaller apartment, so he has been helping them go through their things and downsize. So many people I know have aging parents, and some have both aging parents and challenging teenagers, a difficult barbell to balance.

I saw Angelika both professionally and personally. She brightened up my hair one day and we met for lunch on another. She is so positive and inspiring! I am really glad we have expanded our relationship past the professional. Her friendship is a gift.

I met up with the owners of the dog I hit with the car last year – last year! – and we had lunch together. I am pleased to report that the dog is just fine, and you can hardly even see the scar, though it is sprinkled with white hairs, much in the way Clyde’s neck is from where the Slobber Monster tried to kill him a few years ago. It was great to spend some time together under better circumstances, and we have plans to walk my recovered victim in the Botanical Gardens.

And Erin and I finally found time to hang out together over a glass of wine at her lovely house. She got a “new” job a couple of months ago (when I turned down an offer for her old one, which I have had cause to regret from time to time ever since), and this was the first chance we had to catch up and talk about it. Erin’s Mom was there, too, the glamorous Carol. We had a wonderful time and we promised each other to meet up soon. There’s nothing like spending some time with friends to throw off the mysterious malaise.

A YEAR AGO: A day at the beach in beautiful Elk.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Stormy weather.

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   Dec 05

Sparkling

Megan and I enjoyed our annual tradition of the Festival of Lights at the Botanical Gardens. As usual, the parking gods smiled on Megan, and we got a parking space right out front. This year, we could buy tickets on line, and I added a small donation in honor of my late friend Joel, who was a Master Gardener there. And instead of waiting in line, we could breeze right in.

The Gardens are one of the loveliest places on the coast, and they are particularly magical when they are all dressed up in sparkling lights. Megan pointed out that they are not particularly Christmassy, with dragons and swans:

Somehow I had never noticed that before, though there is a star or two. The elephant was new, peering cutely out of the bushes:

He was a safe distance away from the erupting volcano:

I always love the jellyfish, floating magically in the air:

And the sailing ship, accessorized with a whale:

It makes me feel like a kid again, with the wonder of the holidays, delighted by the lights in the darkness.

And what better way to follow up sparkling lights than a sparkling drink?

We toasted our lovely evening and the holidays past, present, and future. Cheers!

A YEAR AGO: Some random notes.

FIVE YEARS AGO: It was stormin’ up a storm!

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