Art


Kelley House

It seemed like a long time since Megan and I had been to the beautiful Kelley House, so we were glad to go and see their newest exhibit, a collection of locally made quilts showcasing some of the iconic landmark buildings in the Village. They were beautiful, and I was impressed by the skill of the artists who made them.

This one shows the Village, perched on its peninsula jutting into the ocean. I wonder if any other town looks like this one:

This is the Kelley House itself. William Kelley was one of the early settlers here and built the house to lure his bride from the civilization of Prince Edward Island to the wilds of Mendocino. It is still one of the loveliest houses in this lovely village. Also pictured is one of the characteristic water towers:

This is the venerable Mendocino Hotel, right in the middle of Main Street:

It also shows what used to be the Highlight Gallery, which has now moved to the former Oddfellows Hall:

In fact, after we saw the quilts, we stopped in at the relocated Highlight Gallery and admired the wide array of beautiful artwork on sale, including some really stunning handmade wooden pieces, like this desk:

And this cabinet:

It also boasts a stunning view from its upper level:

This bowl reminded me of my friend Guy, who is a shaman and whose spirit animal is the raven:

We thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful work made by our talented neighbors. The only thing more beautiful than this place is the artwork it inspires.

A YEAR AGO: Recovering from the week at our local bar.

FIVE YEARS AGO Darkness was back. But so was our friend Clayton.

TEN YEARS AGO Seeing the great Brian Wilson in concert.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A really fun visit to Motown.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A post from John.

Seeing

It had been a long time since I got contact lenses. I hadn’t been to the eye doctor in five years. In the meantime, she had moved offices so she was within easy walking distance of my current job. I walked over there one day to see about getting contact lenses again.

I can’t remember why I stopped wearing them. Maybe they just seemed like too much trouble. Or too expensive. For whatever reason I stopped, it seemed like a good time to start again. Call it the whim of a whimsical girl.

The doctor tested my eyes again. She asked if I were 50 yet, flattering when a girl is nearly 60. Apparently, one’s vision tends to change after hitting the half century mark. It didn’t seem like mine had, perhaps because it was already so bad to begin with. I have had glasses since I was 5, and I probably needed them from birth. I still remember my surprise at learning that the world did not, as I had previously believed, look like an Impressionist painting. I also drove my parents crazy, reading out every sign I saw on the way home wearing my new glasses.

So there wasn’t much change in my prescription, if any. Given my allergies and astigmatism, the eye doctor thought that daily disposables were the best choice for me. She ordered some for me to try out, and when I got them, it was weird to drive home in them. I would say that my vision is not as sharp with contacts as it is with glasses, and the eye doctor confirmed that this is usually the case. Also reading and texting are more…challenging with contacts than with glasses. Maybe I just need time to adjust.

The first day I wore them to work, I hit a deer with my car. I’m not saying the two were related, but I’m also not saying they’re not. It will be interesting to see how I do driving with lenses in the dark. At least I was driving pretty slowly. I was on the Ridge, near the turn off onto the highway. The deer ran right out in front of me. He also ran away, and there was no damage to Wednesday, so I’m hoping there was also no damage to the deer. I figure his being able to run off immediately after I hit him was probably a good sign. I know that with the amount I drive and the number of deer around, it was inevitable, but I still feel terrible about it.

I have been bringing my glasses to work with me every day, and I have an extra set of lenses in my desk drawer just in case.

TEN YEARS AGO Catching up while working 6 (or was it 8?) days a week.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: John took over writing my blog while I was in England, dealing with Dad’s death. You can imagine things were just a little different around here then!

20


Dad

It’s been 20 years since we lost Dad.

I look at that statement on the page and it shocks me almost as much as hearing the words from my sister on that early morning phone call.

Two decades.

I knew this would be a hard day to face, but I was even more sad than I expected. It didn’t help that the sky was hazy and the light was eerie and creepy from the Dixie Fire, 200 miles away near Chico. It felt doomy and apocalyptic. Maybe that was appropriate.

On Tuesday, I found a single perfect raven feather in the courtyard at work. I picked it up and wondered if it was a sign from him, even though I know he would laugh at that. I hope he was wrong and there is an afterlife. If there is, he is probably laughing at his daughter’s superstition.

On the morning of the Evil Eighteenth, I started reading “The New Yorker”, and the article I picked up happened to be about how a bird seen only in Australia somehow appeared in an Italian Renaissance painting from the 15th century. I thought how Dad would have enjoyed that article, combining his love of birds, art, and a good mystery, and that if he were still alive, I would have shared it with him. Again, this felt like a sign from him or about him. I admit it, I’m superstitious! He would have laughed at my silliness. I miss that, too.

That evening, Megan and I went to Ledford House. Our favorite bartender was working that night, and it seemed like the perfect place to toast Dad as he had suggested: “The old man wasn’t so bad.”

A YEAR AGO: Thinking of Dad.

FIVE YEARS AGO Dad’s favorite flowers.

TEN YEARS AGO The tenth anniversary of the Evil Eighteenth.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Miscellaneous thoughts.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Dad’s sudden and untimely death.

Deck

Things are changing over at Megan and Rob’s place.

They always wanted to change out the stairs they had, which were metal and hard for Megan’s reconstructed knee to deal with, as well as being slippery when wet, but they hadn’t gotten around to it until recently. They had extra motivation to get it done now – more about that later.

Rob and Jonathan made a design, measured, and acquired the wood and other essential building materials, like cement. Stain and sealant are yet to arrive, and Rob is still plotting the handrail, but all in all, it is basically done:

It makes such a huge difference! It is beautiful, for one thing, and it makes it much easier to get in and out of their place. There are plans to put a little bench to the left of the door, where one can put down groceries or one’s handbag, or even put on or take off shoes. As you can see, that part is under an awning, and will stay dry during the winter rains (hopefully we will get our share and more this upcoming season).

They would also like to add a little path to the gate, to minimize the mud/dust being tracked inside. Maybe gravel, maybe paving stones.

It is an exciting development, as is the reason for the acceleration of the project. Megan and Rob are getting a new dog!

Her name is Millie. She is two years old, and Megan, Rob, and Stella all went to meet her in distant Sacramento recently. Sacramento is about 4 hours’ drive and 40 degrees hotter than it is on the coast. During their get acquainted visit, the temperature was consistently over 100 degrees, which is pretty much intolerable to us coastal dwellers. It’s not surprising that we get heat refugees from Sacramento and environs every summer.

The purpose of the trip was to make sure that Stella and Millie got along and that Megan and Rob felt that Millie was the right dog to join their family. Stella has been very sad since Star’s sudden and untimely death. While she no longer goes back every day to the spot where Star died, she has definitely lost her bounce and joyfulness. It’s very clear that she needs a friend and companion.

Every time I’m over there, I realize how huge Star’s absence is. She was truly the heart of their household. And if I feel that way, it must be really hard for Stella. Star was already there when Stella arrived, and they spent every day and night together for many years. That’s a huge loss.

It’s probably just as well that it took so long to find Millie. Megan and Rob weren’t really ready for a new dog when they started looking, but they felt so bad for Stella that they did it anyway. They finally came across Millie, and after a rigorous adoption process, they have almost officially adopted her!

Millie will arrive the last week of August. The adoption team will bring her and take a look around to make sure everything looks good before Millie officially joins the family.

Millie was born without one of her leg bones, as you can see in this photo:

So she could not have managed the old steps, or at least, it would not have been easy. This way, she will easily be able to go in and out. And as you can see, she is a mini Stella, so they will be an adorable matched set.

We are all looking forward to Millie’s arrival!

A YEAR AGO: ‘Tis the season. For naked ladies and peaches.

FIVE YEARS AGO Enjoying family dinner together. And the fruit of the season.

TEN YEARS AGO File under miscellaneous.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: An unusual reunion

Cattitude

People say cats are aloof, but mine aren’t.

Even Audrey, who is rightfully known for her general grumposity and imperious cattitude, cuddles up to me when I read in bed at night or lounge around reading my fan mail on the weekends. She sits right next to me, purring. Sometimes she butts her head against me, which is Audrey for “Pet me, silly human”. She also supervises me when I get ready for work in the morning. After all, her eyeliner is always perfect.

Lately, Dodge has decided that I need supervision in the morning, too. Unfortunately, his version of helping is not all that helpful. He plants himself firmly in front of the Rob-made ceramic tray which holds all my potions and elixirs which need to be applied to my face before the make-up goes on:

It makes it hard to reach them, and sometimes Dodge bats at me as I reach over him or into the bathroom cabinet behind him.

Thanks for the assist, Dodge.

He makes up for this with his endearing habit of jumping while simultaneously rubbing against me, which is as cute as it sounds. He also requires a minimum daily amount of petting.

As for my Clyde, he always greets me at the door when I come home. It makes my heart leap to see his little face peering through the glass when I finally get home from work. Around 7:00 every evening, he comes downstairs and sits next to me on the couch, even if what I’m watching on TV is not appropriate for baby boys.

Clyde has continued his recent quirk of patting my face with his paw if he needs attention, and of course he still climbs up onto my left shoulder (always the left) to be cuddled as needed. All three of them sleep on the bed with me every night, and it makes me happy to spend the weekend mornings in bed together. They are such good company. And while they may be many things – cute, naughty, annoying, soft, curious – they are never aloof.

A YEAR AGO: A lot of sadness for one little town.

FIVE YEARS AGO A lot of sadness on one day.

TEN YEARS AGO A wake up call from Audrey.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A cat rescue.

Restaurants

Last weekend, I had a craving for Thai food. When you live in Hooterville, or, in my case, on the distant outskirts of Hooterville, fulfilling your Thai food craving is not as simple as calling the restaurant and having them deliver it. It means about three hours of driving. But it’s a beautiful drive, and it was a beautiful day, so off Wednesday and I went.

Even as I drove down the Ridge:

I wondered if I was really going to do this and if I was out of my mind to go so far just to get dinner. I am such a bad decision-maker. Even when my course is set and it’s too late to change my mind, I’m still wondering if I made the right decision.

The ocean was feeling pretty that day:

It was a lovely drive, with trees arching over the roadway:

Cows grazed peacefully in meadows full of wildflowers, and horses’ fur shone in the sun. Three little spotted fawns stood by the side of the road with their mother. They were incredibly cute.

As I drove, I thought of our long drives to Maine in my childhood summers. It was about 600 miles and took more than 10 hours. I realize that the drive to Maine was one of the rare occasions when we actually went to restaurants as kids. We’d usually stop at a Howard Johnson’s on the way. I still remember the orange roofs. And the fried clams and rainbow sherbet. Once in Maine, we would get popovers at Jordan Pond House – still a delicious Island tradition – and lobster rolls at Beal’s (ditto). But back in upstate New York, we did not go out to restaurants. In fact, I can’t even think of one in the little village of Dryden, where we lived then.

We certainly did not eat Thai food when I was a kid. I wonder what I would have thought of it back then. Present-day Suzy was quite pleased to arrive at the restaurant right when it opened, first in line to order. As I waited, I admired the décor:

It wasn’t long before I was headed back home, with fresh spring rolls, Massaman curry, and crispy cashew prawns. It was a delightful drive and a delightful dinner.

A YEAR AGO: A beautiful tree to remember The Beautiful Harriet.

FIVE YEARS AGO Some bad omens.

TEN YEARS AGO Things were unglamorous.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Construction criticism.

Apple

It was an adventure in microclimates one Saturday morning. It was foggy all the way from my house – where, I’m sorry to say, the Bear is once more an uninvited guest* – to the coast. It stayed with me all the way to Navarro and even beyond.

Eventually, the mists cleared, and I was in sunny Anderson Valley:

The vines are flourishing, dreaming of harvests to come. I have always loved this fence, and today I made time to stop and take a picture:

I stopped in at Gowan’s, as you do. I got some fresh raspberries, almonds, and walnuts. Just down the highway was the main purpose of this little weekend jaunt.

When I was in the Valley a couple of weeks ago, I stopped by the farm supply store, where I noticed a large and very beautiful ceramic apple for sale. I assumed that it would be far out of my price range, but discovered that it was actually quite reasonable. But with my usual lack of decision-making skills, I couldn’t decide whether to get it or not. I didn’t need it, but I certainly wanted it. I thought about it for a couple of days, and finally called them and bought it over the phone. It took me a few more days to get there and pick it up, and when I did, it was even prettier than I remembered.

A nice young man carried it to the car and stowed it carefully in Wednesday’s back seat for the curvaceous ride back to Hooterville. I still need to plant around it, but I think the apple looks adorable next to my front porch:

It’s even bear proof!

*I don’t remember him stopping by during the summer before, but he has made his presence known in a messy and annoying way all summer. Now that the apples are getting ripe, I think I can expect further visits. I have been spraying the trash cans with ammonia and hoping for the best.

A YEAR AGO: Some surgery for Stella. I am glad to say she is healthy and happy now!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some bad omens.

TEN YEARS AGO: Car stuff is never fun. Or cheap.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Rita and I were both grumpy.

Canelés

I love canelés de Bordeaux. When I lived in San Francisco, I used to buy them at the French bakery on Polk Street, a charming place with little green metal tables on the sidewalk under a striped awning and delicious delicacies inside. Of course, this delightful place is long gone, along with the French lingerie shop, Polk-Vallejo Market, and the combination shoe repair and tailoring establishment run by an elderly Italian couple who used to have lunch together at a table on the sidewalk every day, complete with a glass of wine and their dog napping peacefully at their feet. They are part of the San Francisco I loved, now lost to time and encroaching soullessness. I feel lucky that I lived in the City when the neighborhoods had distinct characters and it wasn’t all rich people and Starbucks.

Here in distant Hooterville, the closest place to get a canelé fix is at Franny’s Cup & Saucer, an hour’s drive from Chez Suzy, and they don’t always have them. I did pick some up on my way to Bodega Bay recently, and as I enjoyed its distinctive crust and creamy interior, I began to wonder if I could make them myself.

Locating a recipe on the ever-helpful interwebs, it didn’t look very difficult, though special equipment was required, including the pan and food-grade beeswax, which is apparently essential for getting the dark, crispy outer shell. Once I obtained these items, I ventured on my first batch ever of canelés.

I used my prettiest kitchen equipment to inspire me:

The trophy measuring cups were actually useful as well as pretty, especially since I used the smallest one to pour the batter into the molds. Before long, the house was filled with the distinctive scent of canelés. As I took them out of the oven, I thought, “They look pretty convincing”:

The recipe said to unmold them while they were hot to keep the crust crisp. If you leave them in the molds while they cool, they will sort of steam and become soft. They unmolded easily:

When I was ready to test one, I was pleased to see that the inside was appropriately custardy, while the outside was crispy and caramelized:

The hardest part was dealing with the beeswax and butter mixture, which is used to brush the molds before pouring in the batter. You have to do it quickly, before it hardens, and then cleaning the pan you melted it in, the pastry brush, and eventually, the pan you baked the canelés in is not easy. Getting buttery wax off dishes is challenging. But it was all worth it.

A YEAR AGO: Things were rocking and rolling in the family garden.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Another look at the local message boards.

TEN YEARS AGO: My attempts at gardening.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: It’s here. The official Month of Death.