Apr 11 2024


Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends

Although Monica closed her shop a couple of years ago, she still holds pop-up events now and then. One of them coincided with a time that both Megan and I were available, something that happens all too rarely, given her ever-changing night shifts and my never-ending day shifts.

Monica has recently been partnering with a friend who has access to unique vintage items, which are artfully mixed in with new things. Monica has not lost her touch in arranging things beautifully and creating a welcoming and comfortable space that inspires one to linger:

In the back, she set up a little bar, with infused water and delicious wines from the winery where she now works:

Since Megan was driving, I got to taste the wine, and it was really good. Megan and I are beginning to plot a trip to Monica’s winery and a couple of others inland in the next few weeks, before it gets boiling hot. Stay tuned on that.

I was unable to resist a little turquoise ceramic bird, which is quite at home at my office:

and a little pine-scented candle for home, because you know how I am about scented candles.

We had a wonderful time before heading back to Megan’s place for pizza and GirlTV(TM). It seemed like a long time since we had hung out, and we enjoyed every moment.

A YEAR AGO: A wonderful trip to the Valley.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The horrors of being crowned.

TEN YEARS AGO: A busy and fun weekend.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: An Easter care package.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Judging the rather degenerate contents of my recycling bin.

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Apr 05 2024


Published by under Cats,Country Life


This little guy or girl (while I am excellent at detecting the actual sex of humans, despite their outward appearance, I am notoriously bad at determining the sex of cats, where I am consistently incorrect) just appeared one day recently.

In all the years I have lived in Hooterville, I have never had a stray cat show up at my house. It seems odd that about six weeks after losing Clyde, a cat turned up.

He or she is fluffy and pretty:

and a little shy, though s/he has an endearing habit of rolling around on his/her back, which also suggests a certain lack of fear. Dodge seems to welcome the newcomer. I have seen them sniff each other and touch noses, and Dodge will sit quite near the Mystery Cat:

Dodge clearly misses Clyde, and I think he would welcome a companion. He seems to like the interloper. But I’m not sure I want to take on another cat. It seems too soon after losing Clyde, and I just assumed that Dodge would be my last cat. I don’t want my cats to outlive me. Also, I’m sure my landlord does not want me to adopt this cat. Or any cat, for that matter.

You will not be surprised to learn that I have started to feed the visitor, who is very hungry. I am hoping be able to catch him/her and go to the Humane Society, where I can learn if he or she is microchipped or listed as missing. I have put out notices on the local listserv and Facebook with no response.

So we’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I will keep Mystery Cat supplied with food and water and hope that he or she can stay safe out there.

A YEAR AGO: A mid-week celebration.

FIVE YEARS AGO: An unexpected funeral.

TEN YEARS AGO: The horror of bureaucracy.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The horrors of house hunting. And traffic.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The horrors of maintenance. They never end!

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Mar 29 2024


Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends


Megan and I decided to head to Ledford House after our wine tasting. It was the perfect evening for our favorite seaside bar, and the weather was nice enough that we could sit out in the garden and enjoy the last of the sunshine along with the view:

and our drinks, of course:

It was peaceful in the garden, and the waiter was wonderfully attentive. Monica joined us after her hostessing duties were over, and we had a great time catching up. We also talked about Dad a bit, since it was his birthday weekend. Monica asked us what things we each inherited from Dad, but I had to tell her Megan’s and Megan had to tell her mine. We were both correct and didn’t even have to think about our answers. For Megan, it was her science/medical mind, and for me, it was a love of art and literature. It was fun to think about and share our memories.

When we got to Megan’s car, she put her hands on the wheel and realized that her wedding ring was gone. She ran back into the bar and looked through all the paper towels in the restroom trash before going back to our table. There was her ring, glittering in the gravel in the last of the sun’s rays. Whew! She put it her pocket and is going to get it sized as soon as possible. So lucky she found it!

A YEAR AGO: A beautiful drive to the South Coast. Is there any other kind?

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farewell to our beloved Erica and Jessica. I miss them so much!

TEN YEARS AGO: A local production of The Breakfast Club.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Thinking about moving.

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Mar 20 2024


Published by under Country Life,Family,Friends

Dad’s birthday weekend dawned sunny and surprisingly warm. It was the first really nice day of the year, and especially welcome after what seemed like a pretty tough winter, full of storms, power outages, and cold temperatures.

It happened that our friend Monica was hosting a wine tasting at a lovely inn in the Village:

Because this town so is small – sometimes, its teeniness can still surprise me – the inn used to belong to my friend Richard (the local one, not the San Francisco one*), but I hadn’t been there since the current owners took it over.

We were greeted graciously by Monica and the couple who I later learned owned the inn, and supplied with a glass of wine to go with an exquisite charcuterie platter:

I don’t think I had ever seen a salami rose before.

We headed to the beautiful garden:

which had a charming gazebo:

and enjoyed the wine and the sunshine and the view. We toasted Dad as he had asked us to, long ago: “The old man wasn’t so bad.” He wasn’t. And he would have loved to sit in the garden with us and feel the sun while enjoying a glass of wine. At least we have the memories, and he is always in our hearts.

*Though SF Richard is an older friend in terms of years of friendship, local Richard is older in years.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Celebrating Dad’s birthday.

TEN YEARS AGO: Enjoying time with friends.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The battle of the boxes.

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Mar 15 2024


Published by under Cats,Dogs

This week marked the third anniversary of the day we lost Star, the Horrible Event of 2021 (to be followed by the Horrible Event of 2022, losing Her Majesty the Queen, and the Horrible Event of 2023, losing Melanie, and I think we all know what the Horrible Event of 2024 was/is). I still miss her, and Megan and Rob’s place has never been the same without her, just as my place is not the same without Clyde.

In addition to their losses changing their homes (and Staff) forever, Star and Clyde had a lot in common.

  • Total mama’s boy/girl. Followed us around as much as possible, and cuddled up to us on the couch or in bed.
  • Suspicious of strangers and unlikely to hang around to find out how right or wrong they were. In Star’s case, she had zero tolerance for anyone who was drugged or drunk or had a ZZ Top beard, all quite reasonable prejudices.
  • Black and shiny fur which stayed beautiful to the end.
  • Mystery cancer.
  • Died suddenly, but peacefully, at home.
  • Died aged 13.
  • We thought we’d have more time together. Even a few more days.
  • A YEAR AGO: A scary drive home. I have become afraid of the expression “atmospheric river”.

    FIVE YEARS AGO: The horror of the time change and an unpleasant week.

    TEN YEARS AGO: Oh, Clyde! I would do anything to enjoy your naughtiness once again.

    FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Enjoying a mini noir-fest.

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Mar 07 2024


Published by under Work

While I no longer have periods anymore* (hooray!), I do have monthly Board meetings. They are almost as much fun as periods were, and unlike periods, they have no end. Sometimes, I survey the endless road of Board meetings stretching into infinity and am overwhelmed by despair, especially when I consider that this particular infinity is my best case scenario, since I will need to work until I die, and possibly after it**, and if I lost my job, the almost immediate result would be camping forever on the family property.

Much like the late, unlamented periods, I am either preparing for or having or recovering from the monthly Board meetings. Since the plague hit a few years ago, we have been having these meetings via Zoom, which enables me to get the 40 minute drive home out of the way during daylight hours, even in winter, get into my PJs, and take minutes unseen and (mostly) unheard, a big improvement over staying at work for 12 hours in makeup and faux adult armor, having to be nice, and driving home in the dark after cleaning up after the meeting.

Unfortunately, it was decided that this month’s meeting would be in person. So I booked a hotel room via a friend who manages some hotels in town, and made plans to have dinner with another friend after the meeting.

My best-laid plans gang aft agley, as the poet Burns would say, and as the meeting dragged on, I texted my friend to update her. Eventually, she texted me to say she couldn’t wait any longer and we would have to reschedule.

When the meeting finally broke up and I had cleaned up, it was about 13 hours since I had started work. I grabbed a burrito at a nearby restaurant and drove to the hotel. The room was lovely:

with a gas fireplace and a soaking tub:

It was too dark when I arrived and when I left to enjoy the view of the estuary from the balcony.

Even though I was exhausted, I slept really badly, and the bed felt really hard after my memory foam mattress with its pillowy topper. Also, I missed the cats. But I was really glad that I didn’t have to drive home.

*It’s been 7 years since I had one, but for some reason, I still have a tin of tampons in my desk drawer. Also, it still seems like not that long ago that I was still having them. The entire system is ridiculous, in my opinion. Also undignified.

**I’m about 99% sure that Dead Like Me is correct and I will also have to work after I’m dead. And pay rent.

A YEAR AGO: Some updates.

TEN YEARS AGO: Jonathan takes a Polar Plunge!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Things were not fun.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A house call for my computer.

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Feb 29 2024


Published by under Cats,Family,Friends

It’s been a month since Clyde’s sudden death, and I can’t say I feel any better. Dodge is still sad and going back to that spot in the office, which I can see from my bed. Sometimes it’s a stab in the heart, sometimes it’s a comfort. I don’t think I’ll ever see that room without thinking of Clyde.

Sometimes, I think I see him out of the corner of my eye, even though I know perfectly well that he’s gone forever. Forever is a really long time.

Most days, I start crying on the Ridge when driving home from work, knowing that Dodge and Clyde will not be running out to meet me, the way they used to and the way they should and the way they never will again.

Dodge hasn’t been running out to see me, either, though he is very happy to see me and get his treats. He is more interested in food, treats, and petting than he was before. Maybe he is trying to enjoy every happy thing as much as he can? He also sleeps with me more than used to, often in the place Clyde used to, right next to my legs.

I am lucky that I have co-workers who understand the immensity and intensity of my loss, bringing me cards and flowers, hugs and kind words.

Megan is going to plant daffodils on Clyde’s resting place. They will bloom every year around the time we lost him. She’s also thinking of a plant I can put in a shiny black container with his name on it. I will put the container on the back deck, where he used to love to sit in the sun and watch the birds. It will be nice to honor him and feel like Clyde is still with us in a way.

A YEAR AGO: A delightful hotel stay.

FIVE YEARS AGO: How housework leads to more housework.

TEN YEARS AGO: The power was out.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Technical difficulties.

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Feb 23 2024


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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.


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Dec 06 2023


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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