Feb 23 2024

Stormy

Published by under Bullshit,Weather

I still hadn’t recovered from the horrors of the five day power outage immediately following Clyde’s death when I started hearing reports of still more storms heading our way.

Needless to say, they were scheduled to arrive over the long Presidents’ Day weekend, because long weekends are reserved for storms, heatwaves, and other disasters, not for recovering from the hamster wheel from hell that is working five days a week and still always being broke.

So I spent the weekend tensed up waiting for disaster, as the flowering tree outside my bedroom window blew sideways and the redwoods, which are hundreds of feet tall and alarmingly close to my crushable house, waved around in the gale force winds.

Astonishingly, the power stayed on that weekend, maybe because I kept all my devices plugged in, especially my phone, which is my alarm clock. I woke up to heavy rain on Tuesday morning, sighing as I headed to work, tired of driving in bad weather and living in fear of it. A couple of times on the long drive to town, I considered pulling over to wait for the rain to slow down, but decided to just get it over with.

I made it to work, but I also got an alert saying that the power was out at home yet again. Unsurprisingly, the cause was listed as “weather”, but surprisingly, the power was back on by time I got home. I am ready for winter to be over. Bring on spring!

A YEAR AGO: It was a snowy wonderland.

TEN YEARS AGO: A fun visit with Erica and Jessica, who now reside in the elegant environs of Pasadena.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A lovely visit to Golden Gate Park.

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Feb 15 2024

Aftermath

Published by under Cats


Dodge and Clyde, late December 2023

Two weeks after the loss of Clyde, I am still struggling to come to terms with it. Most days, I weep my way down the Ridge on my way home, knowing that he will not come running out to meet me along with Dodge, the way they used to. The whole house feels different without his sweet presence. I kind of didn’t realize that he was the heart of our home until he was gone.

I also didn’t realize how much Dodge needed Clyde. It was obvious that Dodge’s sunny, loving, fearless presence helped sensitive Clyde to recover from his brother’s death in the woods, and made him feel much safer and happier. Clyde bloomed with Dodge in his life, but Dodge also relied on Clyde’s love and companionship. As soon as I brought Dodge home, he took one look at Clyde and decided he would be his friend, and it didn’t take long to make that happen. Clyde spent the rest of his life playing, cuddling, napping, and hanging out with Dodge, and for that, I am grateful.

Dodge is clearly having a hard time without Clyde. He keeps going back to the spot where Clyde died, sniffing it, and then sitting there. Sometimes he wanders around in there meowing. He definitely needs more attention, and he’s not going to get it from Audrey. Audrey is splendidly unmoved by Clyde’s loss. Her thoughts probably run along the lines of, “Thought he’d never leave! What took him so long?” Her routines are unchanged. She is still the grumpy empress of Suzytown.

A YEAR AGO: Winter’s chill.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Our heroine was under the weather.

TEN YEARS AGO: Some signs of spring.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Attracting the neighborhood cats

TWENTY YEARS AGO: I was invited to the first (and so far, last) bar mitzvah of my life. It was a deeply moving and beautiful experience. The kid in question is now a human rights lawyer who just bought a house with his long-time girlfriend, who is also an attorney.

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Feb 10 2024

Dark

Published by under Bullshit,Country Life,Family,Weather

The day after we buried our beloved Clyde, a huge storm blew in, with torrential rains and high winds. It didn’t take long for the power to go out. And stay out.

On Monday, despite the still-bad weather, I attempted to go to work. The Ridge was carpeted in several inches of debris: twigs, leaves, bark, branches, small trees, pine needles, etc. A couple of times, I got out of the car to move small trees. There were several inches of debris, and I should probably not have driven over it, especially with a low-riding car.

I made it to the Albion River Inn in the pouring rain, only to find a PG&E truck across the road. The worker told me that many trees and power lines were down and that the road would be closed for some time. I made my way back to my cold, dark, Clydeless house, getting a branch stuck under my car as I did so. I was finally able to remove it when I got home, but it made a really loud and unsettling noise while it was stuck.

There’s no heat when there’s no power, and I was just dreading the long, dark night. I made it to work the next day, where I recharged all my devices, if not Self. I stopped by Megan and Rob’s place on my way home for a shower. It felt really good, and it was nice to shower under the skylight. I forgot to bring a hair dryer with me, though, so the total effect was not all it could have been, but at least I was clean.

The power outage dragged on. On the fourth day, I just sat on the couch and cried. I was so tired of the cold and dark and not being able to cook, and by then, the water in the water tank had run out, so things were a little more on the third world side than I was really comfortable with.

The lights finally came back on after five days of being out, and I ran around cleaning up and basking in the joy of heat and light. The next day, I was at the grocery store in town, chatting with an employee I know about how long our power had been out. When I told him that mine had come on the night before and explained where I live, a guy passing by said that he worked for PG&E and that he was the one who had gotten our power restored. So I was able to thank him in person.

We are supposed to get another storm next weekend. I really hope it’s not as bad as this one was. I am so worn out by the loss of Clyde and the stress of the last outage. I don’t think my solstice dumplings did a damn thing.

A YEAR AGO: Things were getting a little brighter.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some snow days.

TEN YEARS AGO: Getting some rain.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Traveling by train.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: My first visit to Florida.

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Feb 03 2024

Clyde

Published by under Cats


June 8, 2010 – February 1, 2024

Clyde is gone.

My beloved, adorable, beautiful, sweet boy.

On the last weekend in January, I noticed that he wasn’t feeling well. He wasn’t eating, and he was sitting on the floor in the office outside the bedroom instead of cuddling with me, looking like an uncomfortable loaf of bread.

I made an appointment for him to see the vet on Wednesday, and Megan and I braved the storms to bring him in. Tests revealed that my sweet Clyde had a mass on his liver and/or spleen. They gave him some antibiotics, in the last ditch hope that it might be an infection, and put time-release painkiller on his neck that would last 48 hours in case he was in pain. We made an appointment for Friday to see how he was doing.

On Thursday morning, I was putting on my coat when I realized that I had forgotten to brush my hair. I went back upstairs, brushed my hair, and took the opportunity to pet Clyde one last time. He pushed his head into my hand and purred, and I dared to hope he might be getting better.

When I came home, I found Clyde dead in the office. He was lying on his side, front paws crossed, tail neatly curved. There were no bodily fluids and no sign of distress. I think he died peacefully in his sleep.

It was too late to bury him then, so I had one last night with my sweet boy. The next day, we had a break in the storms, and the sun shone as I carried my beloved Clyde to the car. All the way to the family estate, I had one hand on the wheel and one on Clyde, and I talked to him.

Arriving at the property, I spent some time with him in the sun. His fur was still plush and beautiful, and he still looked beautiful and not at all old. He still smelled like Clyde. Finally, we wrapped him up carefully and carried him to the chinquapin tree. I kissed him one last time and told him how much I love him. Then we laid him to rest.

I hope he is with his brother Roscoe now.

John said that the fact that Clyde died out in the open meant he felt safe and was not scared or in pain. He was in familiar surroundings, with the sights and smells of his home around him. It does seem that it was quick and painless for him. But it is painful for those of us left behind.

Dodge misses his beloved friend. He keeps going to the spot where Clyde died, sniffing it and then sitting there. He is sleeping with me more often and definitely needs more petting.

Audrey, of course, is magnificently unconcerned and exactly the same. I saw both Audrey and Dodge sniffing Clyde, so they know what happened, and I think that is good for them, too.

I miss Clyde more than I can say. His sweet, loving presence was the heart of our home. I miss him running out to see me when I come home from work, his joy at spending time with me on the weekends and in the evenings. He was always a mama’s boy.

I love you, baby boy. Always and forever.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Thinking about the past.

TEN YEARS AGO: Shopping with Stella. We both enjoy jewelry stores, book stores, and bars.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Rob’s spinal surgery was successful.

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Jan 24 2024

Safeway

Published by under Random Thoughts

You never know what’s going to happen when you go to the Safeway. Maybe it’s because I tend to go before work, when the store is lightly populated, and much like when I worked market hours in San Francisco, the denizens tend to be those heading to early morning jobs or those heading home from late night partying.

Recently, I came into the brightly lit Safeway from the rainy darkness, wearing my coat and the hat I bought long ago at the County Fair, which is my official winter hat. As I looked over the lychees*, a youngish guy walked by and told me, “You look adorable today!” It was a nice way to start the day. And just like when the guy tried to pick me up at the gas station a couple of years ago, I had to wonder if it was the last time that I would get a random compliment from a stranger. So I enjoyed it while I could.

My bank has a branch inside the local Safeway, which is very convenient. One day, I went in to take out some cash, and there was an older woman with a shopping cart standing in front of the ATM, but apparently working on her checkbook. I asked if she was using the ATM, and she said she wasn’t, moving her cart out of the way and saying, “I always feel like I’m in the way.” I got my cash and on my way out, apologized for disturbing her. She looked at me and said, “Every human interaction is a gift.” That made me stop and think. All day, I came back to that thought.

It made me think of Safeway Ray, the store employee who used to dance with me when I shopped there and made existing in Oaktown just a little more tolerable.

*I love lychees. They always remind me of my dear friend A and how we used to eat them walking down the street when we were young, feeling waifish. Also, they are delicious.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Seemingly endless power outages.

TEN YEARS AGO: A welcome visit from an old friend.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Random food-related thoughts.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The ugly truth about cosmetic surgery.

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Jan 18 2024

Cheers

Published by under Country Life,Friends

I met my local friend Richard (not to be confused with my San Francisco-based friend Richard, who has been my friend since we were in high school) at Ledford House. It was after work on a Friday, so I was relegated to the overflow parking lot. At least the view was nice, even on a rainy day:

I arrived to find Richard perched at the end of the bar, where Megan and I usually sit. Here’s the view from my bar stool:

Despite the chilly rain outside and the rapidly departing sun, it was warm and cozy in the bar, and as always, everyone seemed happy. I could feel myself relax and thought, “This is the real happiest place on earth!”

Richard sipped a glass of local pinot noir, and I had a delicious blood orange mocktail since I still had a 6 mile drive ahead of me. Even though Richard lives in the Village and I live in Hooterville, our drives home from the bar take about the same amount of time. It takes me about 10 minutes to get from my house to the highway.

It was great to catch up with Richard. At 76, he is still working and very successful. He has 5 trade shows lined up for this year, along with some personal trips. He took his grandsons to South Africa last year for a working vacation on a farm. He is very active on the local land trust board, and is still seeking new challenges. He is a force of Nature, so positive. He inspires me about life and also about aging. Time has not slowed him down, that’s for sure.

I really enjoyed spending time with Richard, and I smiled all the way home.

A YEAR AGO: Taking shelter from the storm(s).

FIVE YEARS AGO: Taking shelter from the storm(s) at my sister’s place. I’m noticing a theme here.

TEN YEARS AGO: Random thoughts about wandering dogs

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The joy of Inauguration Day.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: My apartment in San Francisco had its own time zones

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Jan 12 2024

Drive

Published by under Country Life

Though I don’t live in, or anywhere near, a city, and I don’t spend hours in gridlocked traffic, I do spend a fair amount of time commuting. It takes me about 10 minutes to get from my house to the highway, and that’s assuming it’s not pouring or foggy or both, or being trapped behind someone driving at a pace that would make a particularly underachieving snail impatient. It takes me close to 40 minutes to get to work.

It’s a beautiful drive, but it can be challenging, especially in the dark, which in my case, is most of the year, since I start work at 7 am and I have a long drive.

I’m used to keeping an eye out for deer, rabbits, foxes, and skunks, but I was surprised one morning to come across a couple of humans walking eastwards in the early morning darkness near the one lane redwood bridge. I stopped and asked them if they were okay, and they replied that they were going to watch the sunrise and they were fine. Not sure where they were expecting to see the dawn’s early light or how they got there, since I didn’t see a car. Just another mystery!

I have to admit that I usually drive down the middle of the Ridge, since it’s narrow. This technique also avoids some of the most egregious potholes, which blossom with the winter rains. They were getting pretty bad, but the County came by recently when I was at work and applied asphalt bandaids to most of the problem areas west of the redwood bridge. It was nice to not have to drive around them as best I could and/or flinch when I missed. Sometimes I cringe for my tires on the rough roads around here.

Heading to work, I look forward to seeing the lights at the historic Little River Inn, which is extra sparkly over the holidays, and the beacon of the red martini glass at Dick’s Place in the Village, the only neon sign allowed there, and likely the only one that ever will be. I also look for the flash of the actual beacon at the lighthouse.

On my way home, I look for the deer that often gather at Mallory House, where there is grass to nibble on, verdant green in the winter rains. And on the Ridge, I am always happy to see the wild turkey family:

I’m lucky to live somewhere so beautiful.

A YEAR AGO: Horrible dental pain, as the Bad Year got off to a terrible start.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spending some time with the kitties. I am pleased to say that Dodge still does his hopping/rubbing against me quirk. I love it.

TEN YEARS AGO: I was under the weather.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: My genius idea for bathing suit shopping.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Random fire thoughts.

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Jan 04 2024

New

Published by under Country Life,Special Occasions


First Day of the Year

I was glad to see the end of the old year. It couldn’t get out of here fast enough as far as I was concerned. It sucked from start to finish, with lots of horrible things in between. I am hoping that the successful completion of my dumpling strategy will help to make sure the new year is kinder to our heroine than the old one was.

The last night of the year was rainy and dark, but it was cozy inside:

I made my annual tourtière, and it turned out wonderfully:

I watched the ball drop in New York, greeting the arrival of the New Year with Paul Anka, who looked and sounded wonderful, wearing an elegant coat. I toasted the New Year:

I even stayed awake to welcome the New Year on both coasts, which doesn’t always happen. I am hoping for an uneventful year. As you can see, the first day of the year was beautiful. Maybe it’s a good sign?

A YEAR AGO: Things started out shitty. And they stayed that way.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful evening.

TEN YEARS AGO: Arriving home from the City to enjoy the arrival of the New Year.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Christmas trees and kittens do not get along.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Nurse Suzy is a scary thing!

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Dec 31 2023

2023

Published by under Country Life,Family

The death of Her Majesty the Queen darkened the end of 2022. The shadow deepened with the sudden and untimely death of my beloved friend Melanie on a beautiful, bright May day. Just as 2022 will forever be the year we lost The Queen, 2023 will forever be the year we lost Melanie.

It’s also the year that Megan had surgery for her thyroid cancer. Her life changed forever that day. Recovery has been longer and more painful than either of us would like, and I can’t help being concerned that there were not clean margins. It seems super unfair that she should be going through this at the young age of 52.

On the bright side, Jonathan and Rio had some fabulous adventures on their first (but not last) trip to Alaska.

It was a long, cold, stormy winter, with lots of power outages, including New Year’s Eve, five days in January across two outages, two days in February, one in March, and a late-breaking outage in May, caused by a human driving into a power pole instead of the weather. We even got some snow this year, and for the first time I can remember since I have lived in California, it lasted a day or two. So weird to drive on snow!

I watched some great TV shows this year, including: Daisy Jones & the Six; Your Honor; Poker Face; Florida Man; The Last Thing He Told Me; and Beef. Perry Mason Season 2 and Bosch Legacy Season 2 were also excellent.

I read 124 books this year, beating last year’s 110 and my previous record of 118 in 2010. Standouts included: Anne Boleyn & Elizabeth I: The Mother and Daughter Who Changed History by Tracy Borman; Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane; The Lie Maker by Linwood Barclay; The Forever Witness: How Genetic Genealogy Solved a Cold Case Double Murder by Edward Humes; Desert Star by Michael Connelly; and Somebody’s Fool, by Richard Russo.

January: The crappy year started out appropriately crappily, with a power outage and a staggering rent increase. Unhappy New Year to Me! The hits keep coming, with giant storm after giant storm, including one that prevented me from getting home. They inspired me to stay in town for the dreaded monthly board meeting. A delightfully social weekend.

February: Winter was beginning to lose its grip. But it was still chilly. And winter wasn’t done with us yet.

March: Snow gave way to hail. Is there such a thing as torrential hail? The loss of yet another Queen, as Queenie closed her fabulous restaurant. This development did make me up my weekend breakfast game, though. My eggs Benedict and skillets are restaurant-worthy. A terrifying drive home in yet another storm. I never want to hear the words “atmospheric river” again. Celebrating Dad’s 92nd birthday with my family. A break in the seemingly endless storms inspired me to take a drive down the beautiful South Coast.

April: Celebrating some milestones in the middle of the week. A beautiful trip to Anderson Valley. My blog turned 22. Another lovely visit to the Valley.

May: My longtime friend Richard adopted a kitten! It was love at first sight for both of them. And we lost beloved Scout, Jonathan’s adorable mini cat. Truly, this was a year (and month) of loss. Melanie died on a bright, beautiful afternoon, just three weeks after being diagnosed with lung cancer. She left on her own terms, in her own way, and I am thankful for that. We will carry her bright spirit with us always.

June: Jarrett and Kalli got married at the family property. Megan had her surgery. The 13th seemed particularly unlucky this year. Megan started the long (and so far, not all that successful) recovery process. Jonathan and Rio enjoyed their Alaska adventures.

July: The Imperious Empress Audrey turned a less than sweet sixteen. Long may she reign. A heat wave for the long weekend. Visiting the local farmers’ market.

August: Real estate stalking is extremely unwise. Some miscellaneous updates. Missing Dad on the anniversary of his death. Getting my hair cut, and having some fun with Megan.

September: Garden goodness. My annual peach pie. Enjoying the County Fair. Attending a vineyard wedding.

October: A lovely staycation and dinner in town. Kitty updates, and a kitty intruder.

November: Megan’s and my outing did not go as planned. But we still had fun. I missed the annual family cider pressing. Megan and I shared a lovely evening. A quiet Thanksgiving.

December: Getting ready for Christmas. And getting prettier. Attempting to stave off woeful misfortune in 2024. I really, really, really hope it works. A quiet Christmas.

This year, I survived. Next year, I want to live.

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Dec 27 2023

Christmas

Published by under Cooking,Country Life

It was a quiet Christmas at Chez Suzy this year. After everything that happened this year, I wasn’t feeling particularly festive, despite the sparkling tree and a four day weekend (almost long enough!). I did manage to make a wonderful Christmas dinner, though.

I tried a new recipe for ham. You roast some clementines with the ham for about half an hour, then puree them whole and mix with brown sugar, mustard powder, mustard, and olive oil. You apply this to the ham, which you have studded with cloves, and bake for a couple of hours until the glaze is sticky and fabulous.

I made my annual cheese biscuits to go with the ham:

I learned that you can’t reuse parchment paper. The second batch stuck to the previously enjoyed parchment paper, and the whole point of parchment paper is that it stops things from sticking. Lesson learned on that one.

I also made a salad of bitter greens with roasted pears and a dressing of shallot, honey, cider vinegar, and olive oil:

It was a wonderful mixture of flavors. And just to make things extra festive, my medical provider (and co-worker, and my brother’s girlfriend’s tenant, among other things) made me this beautiful seasonal arrangement:

It even got the Dodge seal of approval. It was nice of her to think of me.

A YEAR AGO: A south coast Christmas.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A chilly and not particularly festive Christmas.

TEN YEARS AGO: A wonderful Christmas.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A merry Christmas.

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Dec 22 2023

Dumplings

Published by under Calamity Suzy,Cooking


Solstice on the Ridge

As early as January 3, it was clear to me that 2023 was going to be a hell year, kicking off with a 25% rent increase out of the blue and having to mortgage my shopworn soul to buy a car due to the sudden demise of my earlier car. I had no idea of the nightmares I would be facing as the year progressed (thankfully), but I was already determined to stave off woeful misfortune in 2024 by making and eating dumplings on the Solstice.

I briefly considered making said dumplings the weekend before and eating them on the Solstice, but I decided that might be considered cheating and allow for misfortune to swamp me yet again, so I started the dumpling endeavors after a full day of work, suboptimal conditions for any cooking project. I also toyed with the notion of just making one kind of dumpling, but again feared this as a potential loophole for doom, so I resigned myself to making both har gao:

and chive and pork dumplings:

I also made dipping sauce (3 parts soy sauce, 2 parts mirin, white sugar to taste) and cucumber salad. Why not?

I had the Leafs game on while I cooked, and they lost spectacularly to Buffalo as I mixed, chopped, pleated, and steamed. I am pleased to say that the dumplings turned out well. Dare I hope that this is an auspicious omen for 2024?

A YEAR AGO: Enjoying saeson 3 of Emily in Paris. It’s going to be forever until season 4!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The delights of the Festival of Lights. I missed it this year and last year, a bad habit I need to break.

TEN YEARS AGO: Working hard? Or hardly working?

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Ah, life in Oaktown! That, I do not miss. I do miss my Henry, though.

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Dec 15 2023

Shine

Published by under Country Life,Friends


Little Salon in the Big Woods

It was way back in the long-ago summer that I had my hair cut by the incomparable Angelika. It was in the spring that I had my highlights, so I was overdue for some primping.

I allocated some of my Christmas bonus for beautification, and left work early to head to Angelika’s little salon in the big woods. Getting my hair done is a lengthy process, partly because my hair is lengthy and partly because Angelika takes very small sections of hair for highlights, the secret to it growing out so well that you can get away with getting it highlighted twice a year without looking like you have several inches of dark roots.

It was so great to see Angelika and catch up on her news. Being Angelika and living up to her name, she gave me a bag of Christmas gifts when I left. I felt bad that I didn’t give her a gift, but I hadn’t thought of it and money has been tight since I had to get the new (to me) car and my rent went up by 25%. Sigh. I don’t think she minded, though. The bag is under my tree, waiting for Christmas Day. And in the meantime, I am thankful for the gift of friendship.

A YEAR AGO: Having to get a new car and a new phone did not make me happy. At least they are still both working! So far…

FIVE YEARS AGO: Dodge impersonated Houdini.

TEN YEARS AGO: The twelve dogs of Christmas.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A Christmas memory.

TWENTY YEARS AGO:

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Dec 06 2023

Sparkle

Published by under Country Life,House

I’ll admit it: I didn’t wait until the first Saturday in December to put up my Christmas tree. I put it up the Saturday after Thanksgiving. At least I didn’t do it the day after Thanksgiving. I just felt in desperate need of need of sparkle and some light in the darkness.

So I plunged into the depths of the Closet of Doom, which, in my current mood of confessing my many sins, is almost certainly never, ever going to be organized.

I managed to extricate the tree and my box of ornaments, and set to work. I applied the lights first, and this turned out to be a good thing, because they had retired at some point between last Christmas and this Thanksgiving, and remained resolutely unlit. I removed the dead lights, buried them unceremoniously in the trash, and headed to the Albion hardware store, where I cornered the market on Christmas lights. I heartlessly bought the last three boxes of lights and headed back home, trying not to snicker Grinchily.

I am pleased to say that the Albion hardware lights worked just fine:

They are LEDs, so I can feel good about them using a little less electricity. It was so fun to rediscover my ornaments, from the plastic snowflakes to the glass icicles to the Eiffel Tower:

and my special ornate S and the Wedgwood acorn:

I put the wreath on the door and I was done! Every day, I am enjoying the beauty and sparkle. I wish the holidays were just a little bit longer. It’s such a magical time of year.

TEN YEARS AGO: A busy day.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Getting ready for Christmas. I still use that same wreath!

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Nov 25 2023

T-Day

Published by under Cooking,Country Life

It was a pretty quiet Thanksgiving at Chez Suzy this year. Jonathan and Megan were elsewhere, and the really big celebrations we used to have came to an end when Erica and Jessica moved away (they are now living very happily in Pasadena, where I have fantasies of one day visiting them). But whether you are expecting a merry band of misfits, ex cons, and kindergartners, or an elite group of one or two, the key to surviving Thanksgiving, or any holiday, really, is to Plan Ahead.

Before I headed to work in the predawn darkness on Tuesday, I put the turkey breast in the refrigerator to start thawing, and cut up baguette and Austrian sunflower seed bread, placing the cubes in a locally made hand-painted bowl to start the stalenization process. I tossed the bread cubes with my hands a few times a day, so they were ready for the big day.

I skipped the Jack Daniel’s this year, and just made simple cranberries, with a little sugar and water, clementine zest, and a squeeze of fresh clementine juice. I made the turkey Nana-style, which I think is still the best. I’ve tried brining and a million different fancy things, but the Nana way is the best way:

My good friend Alice is pretty much the undisputed queen of kitchen hacks, and after my complaining about the horrors of peeling self-roasted chestnuts, alerted me to the fact that one can, and should, purchase vacuum sealed packets of roasted and peeled chestnuts. So that made the creation of stuffing (or dressing, as my Southern friends would say) much easier:

Needless to say, it tasted just like Subway!

This year, I attempted butter tarts for the first, but not the last time:

They turned out great, and I was happy to have a little Canadian touch at dinner. I have to say, I think the Canadians are smart to have Thanksgiving in October instead of November. It allows for turkey at both Thanksgiving and Christmas, whereas in the US, having it twice within a month is too much. And it just seems like a gigantic holiday stress fest from Thanksgiving to New Year.

All in all, it was a great dinner and a nice, though quiet, celebration.

A YEAR AGO: A quiet Thanksgiving.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Thanksgiving at Rio’s place.

TEN YEARS AGO: Some little treats.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Heading to my family’s place for Thanksgiving.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A lot was going on.

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Nov 18 2023

Dinner

Published by under Country Life,Family

Megan and I decided it was high time we had dinner at our favorite seaside bar. Though we go there for drinks, we don’t often have dinner there.

It was gloomy outside, but bright and cheerful inside. The perfect weather to sit by the fire:

Megan was already there when I arrived, chatting with Tony, the genial owner and maître d’. I really believe he sets the tone for the restaurant, making everyone feel comfortable, welcome, and cared for, whether you’re a trucker, someone celebrating an anniversary, or someone who needs a drink after a long day of work. Come as you are and you will feel happy and at ease.

Tony made sure Megan’s knee was as comfortable as it could be. Her formerly good knee has been demoted to evil twin, and will likely be the cause of yet more surgery in the new year. It has been barking pretty loudly as of late, and the other knee is trying to keep up, so it seems that my sister is going to be on the wrong end of the gurney more often than she would like in the very near future.

We tried to put away all thoughts of surgery and the other bad things that happened this year or are hovering on the horizon. A beautiful cocktail of sparkling wine, raspberries, and limoncello helped:

We pondered the menu, and Megan decided on a rustic tart with tomatoes and cheese to start. I had mussels steamed in white wine with aioli on the side for dipping. They were both absolutely delicious, and in keeping with Dad’s principle of restaurant ordering, which is to get something you wouldn’t make at home. Speaking of fathers and daughters, we ordered a glass of local Fathers and Daughters Rosé to go with dinner. It was so good that it turned into a bottle, and it was the perfect accompaniment to our starters as well as our shared entrée of feather-light gnocchi with brown butter and fresh sage. Again, not something I would attempt to create in my kitchenette at home.

Since we were going all out, we decided to get not one, but two desserts: a perfect crème brûlée and a flawless dark chocolate pot de crème, accompanied by Cointreau. I don’t know which dessert was more delicious, but I do know we had a wonderful time!

A YEAR AGO: The sudden demise of my car.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Remembering my grandfathers’ valiant service on the battlefields on the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day.

TEN YEARS AGO: Appreciating friends and the beautiful place I live in.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The joys of Jessica. I miss that kid! I mean, uh, woman.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Farewell to my beautiful Mustang, Josephine. I still miss her, too.

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Nov 09 2023

Pressing

Published by under Country Life,Family,Garden

It’s that time of year when the garden work changes from watering and weeding to preserving and canning as my hard-working siblings get ready to put the garden to bed for the winter. Everything over there, from the garden to the orchard, seems to be on an epic scale. Here you see peppers they grew, before:

and after they were canned:

They canned 15 pints!

Once the peppers were squared away, it was time to start working on cider. Here you see Rob examining the apples after they were picked:

Because of Megan’s crazy schedule, cider pressing occurred during the work week instead of on the weekend, so our heroine could not join her family in this annual tradition. But my coworker and medical provider was there. Cider Day happened to mark the one year anniversary of her moving into Rio’s guest cottage. When we were pressing cider last year, she came by to check out the cottage. This year, she was part of the pressing. She says that we are like a second family to her. I love my family, in all its forms!

A YEAR AGO: A beautiful day in the Valley.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The air was smoky and scary from wildfires, with no rain in sight.

TEN YEARS AGO: A long trip home from Atlanta.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: My walk home from work. Bummer that the photos did not survive!

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Nov 03 2023

Outing

Published by under Country Life

Megan and I really enjoyed a magical history tour through the Village cemetery*, so we were excited to learn that there would be a Haunted Mendocino walking tour the Saturday before Halloween, led by a friend of Megan’s who also works at the local bookstore.

Alas, it was not to be. The tour was sold out – I didn’t realize that walking tours could be sold out, but there you are – and Megan’s buddy was unable to sneak in two extra people. They were doing another walking tour on Halloween, but Megan was working that night, so we will have to hope for another time.

It was a beautiful afternoon, though:

and surprisingly warm for that time of year. We looked around the shops and I reminded Megan about the time I was walking Stella and discovered that we had the same priorities when Stella went into a jewelry store, the bookstore, a chocolate shop, and a bar. She was greeted warmly at all locations.

On our way home, we decided to stop in at the Albion River Inn. I hadn’t been there since my friend sold it earlier this year. It has a beautiful view. Here it is, looking toward the ocean:

And looking toward the iconic Albion Bridge:

The bar was uncrowded, so Megan had room to stretch out her leg. I am sorry to say that there is knee surgery and more knee surgery in her immediate future. The one that used to bother her occasionally is now throwing Ramona-style Great Big Noisy Fusses on a daily basis and waking Megan up at night and can no longer be ignored. And we all know how ignorance is bliss. The other knee took its cue from the Ramona knee and is also fussing, though not as mightily. They will both have to be hoovered out in order to shut them up, about the last thing my sister would like to do as she is not yet really recovered from thyroid surgery five months ago.

We tried to put all surgery thoughts behind us and enjoy a drink together:

admiring the beautiful view and enjoying being together.

The bartender forgot to give us the locals’ discount, so she gave us two passes for breakfast instead. We are looking forward to trying those out.

*I was a little shocked to see how long ago that was. Oddly, the gentleman who played the undertaker died not long after the tour, joining the character he portrayed.

A YEAR AGO: Stormy weather to start off an epic winter.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delicious and delightful family dinner.

TEN YEARS AGO: A happy Halloween with our favorite kidlet.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: It was stormy then, too. Glad I decided not to brace the elements.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Some numbers are scarier than others.

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Oct 26 2023

Peppy

Published by under Cats

Speaking of cats…

There appears to be a new kid in town.

I was on a Zoom meeting when I heard the ominous sound of a cat fight brewing. It is a sound which, once heard, is never forgotten. I excused myself from the meeting and ran over to the sliding glass doors in the kitchen.

I was relieved to see that my cats were inside looking out, and I closed the door immediately. At first glance, I thought the interloper was my landlord Danielle’s cat, Kiki. Closer inspection showed that the intruder was lacking Kiki’s characteristic extra toes and was white and tabby, rather than white and grey. This was a relief, because I live in fear of my cats getting into a territorial dispute with Kiki, thus angering her staff and possibly causing my cats and myself to become unhoused. It’s a little scary, being at the mercy of someone who is not particularly merciful.

I went back to the meeting, simultaneously relieved and disturbed. Glad it wasn’t Kiki, but worried that this cat, like the evil white cat who battled with Dodge, would fight with and possibly harm my much-loved kitties. Also, the new cat and Kiki are really cute, and I don’t like shooing them away, even though I have to, for the good of all concerned.

New Cat showed up a couple of other times. Once, he knocked on the front door’s glass a few times, visibly disappointed that I didn’t let him in. The next time, his owner came looking for him. I’m not sure how he traced him to my place, but he said that New Cat had been left behind when someone moved and he fell in love with New Cat and kept him. New Cat’s name is Peppy, or possibly Pepe, despite not looking like a skunk or having any Le Pew that I could discern.

The owner said that Peppy was not neutered, and he was having a hard time finding someone with an open appointment to do that deed. I had heard that non neutered cats will travel miles looking for a date, and so it was in this case, though the date pickings are pretty slim on our property, with all resident cats being neutered and Audrey being permanently grumpy. Hopefully Peppy can get neutered soon and stay closer to home.

A YEAR AGO: Cider time!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Delightful explorations.

TEN YEARS AGO: A virtual walk with Megan and our beloved Star.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Apparently this is cat fight season.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: All about boredom.

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Oct 20 2023

Feline

Published by under Cats

Here are some updates from Feline World. Or Planet Cat. You know, the place where the cats are in charge and I am merely the help. It’s not just me; this seems to be pretty common for anyone who is lucky enough to share their lives with cats.

Audrey turned Sour Sixteen this year. No sweetness for the Empress, though she often curls up next to me as I drift off to sleep at night. She mills around before settling into the correct spot beside my pillow, and then I put my arm around her and we go to sleep. I hope her dreams are less weird than mine.

She remains healthy and sassy. Her mama, who died a couple of years ago, was deaf and blind for some time before her demise, though she was a mere 9 months older than her kittens. Audrey has long been the only survivor of her litter.

She is definitely looking elderly these days, though. Her fur is less sleek, she might be even slimmer than in her youth, and she is more careful about jumping on and off of furniture, but other than that, the Empress is still in charge of her realm. Here she is, supervising my morning make-up:

The boys are still happy little companions:

Clyde is 13 and sleeps a fair bit, though he also enjoys playing with Dodge and being outside. He makes sure I know if there is a tragic bare spot in his dish:

and he always sleeps with me at night. He loves it when I’m home and is by my side more often than not on the weekend.

As for Dodge, he continues to be wonderful. Loving, happy, beautiful, grooving on life, doing everything 100%, whether it’s sleeping:

or playing, or purring. He has a new routine which delights me. He sits beside me purring while I drink my coffee in the morning before work. It started a few weeks ago. He was milling around and vocalizing while I was getting coffee ready, and I thought he wanted to go out, which is not allowed when it’s dark outside. But when I sat down to drink it, he jumped up next to me and asked to be petted. So I petted him and he purred. This happened for a few days in a row, and now he just expects it, and so do I. I really look forward to it, and I think he does, too.

A YEAR AGO: A delicious and delightful visit to the South Coast.

TEN YEARS AGO: Having a fabulous time in Hollywood.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Catfight!

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Oct 12 2023

Dinner

Published by under Country Life

In addition to treating myself to a hotel room, I also treated myself to dinner in town.

This was not as easy as it sounds. I first drove to the harbor, at the other end of town from the hotel, planning to eat at the Wharf. But I learned they were closed on Wednesdays. My next stop was Casa del Sol, which was open when I pulled up, but closed by the time I parked and walked to the door. I should have known: this town rolls up the sidewalks pretty early.

My next stop was Mayan Fusion, which was not only open, but was beautiful inside:

I love the doors leading to “the rest of the world”:

I had never been in the dining room, though I had often picked up to go orders there. Seated in the dining room, I realized that it used to be a much-loved local institution, The Restaurant. And because this town is so small, the daughter of The Restaurant’s owners had just started working at the same clinic where I work.

I was warmly welcomed by the staff, and the food was wonderful. I had crab cakes with green onion coulis and chipotle aioli:

and wild prawns grilled on a sprig of rosemary and served with a mango-pineapple salsa:

The food was delicious, the service attentive, and it was a wonderful evening.

A YEAR AGO: A lovely visit to the South Coast.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Getting my pearls restrung.

TEN YEARS AGO: Taking Audrey to the vet is always an adventure.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: My mail had a theme.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: How to see your ex.

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