Fluff

Sometimes a small thing can make a big difference. In this case, the “small” thing is 9 feet long, though it’s a positively svelte 2 feet wide:

It is not just beautiful, it’s so soft! It’s a pleasure to walk on in bare feet, especially in the middle of the night. I love how the pattern ties together the other patterns in the bathroom, on the shower curtain and laundry hamper and bath mat. Here’s a close up of the pattern:

There is a pop of color in the room in the form of a very large, orange poster for the Hitchcock masterpiece “Vertigo”:

And of course there’s my pink electric toothbrush and the scalloped turquoise tray Rob made me. Sometimes, it really is just the little things that mean a lot.

A YEAR AGO: The Closet of Doom began a much-needed makeover.

FIVE YEARS AGO A lovely evening.

TEN YEARS AGO It takes a family to deal with my car problems!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A visit with my family.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A different kind of movie criticism.

Birthday

I got an email from John the other day, telling me that Peach and Daisy were now a year old. I can’t believe that it was a whole year ago that he rescued the pregnant and nervous Willow, who would certainly have died, since Peach and Daisy’s littermates died before they could be born and had to be surgically removed.

But Peach and Daisy are alive and well and happy. They still cuddle up together, and John sent me two delightful movies, which I will share with you here. I can’t improve on his descriptions:

In the first video, first-born Peach is already nursing, and Daisy is squeaking loudly for food. She still does that today. She’s never missed a meal in her life and she’s always crying like she’s starving. She’s a complete drama queen.

The second Video_1 is breakfast this morning. Note that Willow is still wary of what I might do to her.

It makes me happy to see the rescued cats so happy. John mentioned lately that he has rescued and rehomed around 35 cats so far, including 13 kittens that he has fostered and (amazingly) gotten adopted (instead of keeping them). He’s really making a difference.

A YEAR AGO: Car problems.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The joys of the County Fair.

TEN YEARS AGO: Clyde was recovering from his chin abscess, despite my benign neglect. I guess the parenting apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Allergies are not a beauty treatment.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Trying to focus on the positive.

Pain

And suffering…

I once again had dental pain, though no swelling. I went to the dentist, where they took an x-ray and things looked suspicious. The suspect in question is a tooth that already has a crown on, which I naively thought meant it was sealed off from further dental horrors, but I was, as is so often the case, incorrect about this.

They gave me a prescription for antibiotics, and maybe it was all in my head in more ways than one, because I began to feel better after the first dose. I took them for the prescribed week. But a week after I finished the pills, the pain woke me up in the middle of the night*.

I got another prescription and the sad news that I needed yet another root canal, and you know how much I enjoyed the first one. The further bad news was that my dentist could not do it until October 28, and the even further news was that the dentist he referred me to was in distant Santa Rosa, meaning 5 hours of driving on top of the lengthy procedure. Also? Santa Rosa Dentist is super expensive.

What’s not to hate?

But I had no choice. It was a glorious day as I drove through the redwoods and the idyllic wine country. It would have been lovely if I weren’t scared out of my mind.

At the dentist’s office, I was greeted by the sad and shocking news that I would have to pay $1,700. Yes, you read that correctly and it’s not in some strange foreign currency where 1,700 actually means $5. It took everything in me not to cry.

The procedure was as grueling and unpleasant as you would suspect. You’d think for those Cadillac (Rolls Royce? Bentley?) prices, they’d render you unconscious, but alas, this was not the case. I tried to focus on my breathing and think about being in Maine when I was little.

Eventually, it was all over, and I was given my third prescription for antibiotics this month, this time to be taken three times a day, along with a prescription for Motrin. I took it to the nearby pharmacy, a little mom and pop shop called Tuttle’s, where the pharmacist asked, “Are you really from all the way up there in Albion**?” I admitted that I was, and he said how much he enjoyed going to Ledford House, so it seems that Megan and I are not the only ones who enjoy going there.

Sadly, I will need a new crown, since the old one was destroyed in the root canal process. Why can’t I collect the sparkly diamond kind of crowns instead of the painful dental ones? They cost the same.

*Why does dental pain always strike at night and/or on the weekends?

**Which he pronounced “Al-bee-YON”.

A YEAR AGO: Getting some computer repairs.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Audits are so fun! Also, happy birthday to Rob!

TEN YEARS AGO Little Clyde was a little under the weather. And the weather was hot.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The joys of air travel. ~Shudder~

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Sleep mysteries in a world gone mad.

Dinner

We were overdue for a family dinner, so on a sunny Saturday afternoon, we assembled in Megan’s garden, where things were looking lovely and welcoming:

Rob is nearly finished staining the deck and installing a fancy handrail, so I’ll share photos with you when it’s done. It’s darker than they expected, but that just gives it a luxe, mahogany look. Next up before the rains start is to lay down some pea gravel to go between the deck and the garden gate, to cut down on the summer’s dust and the winter’s mud.

Millie has no problem getting in and out of the house using the deck, and it’s definitely a huge improvement over the old metal stairs.

Megan had acquired a box of pre-made watermelon-tinis and a bottle of Midori melon liqueur on the way home from her night shift. What with our opposite schedules, we both find ourselves buying booze in the early morning hours, me on my way to work and Megan on her way home. There does seem to be something semi-disgraceful about buying liquor at 6:30 am.

It didn’t seem all disgraceful at 6:30 pm, however, and we added some Midori to the previously pink ‘tinis, turning them into a strange sort of green. They were delicious no matter what they looked like, and it was nice to sit in the garden and sip our drinks and chatted.

Millie was still nervous, but not shaking. She stuck pretty close to Megan – like Star, she seems to be a mama’s girl – but, as I pointed out to Megan, Millie could easily have hidden, but she chose to stay with the people. She had open crates inside and out, and could have stayed on the bed or the sofa, which are the safe spots for her. She even sort of napped a bit, so I think she is adjusting. It was nice to have her there, and Stella is definitely happy to have another dog around the place.

Lately, I have been watching “The Streets of San Francisco”, and enjoying it very much. It’s really fun to see the City, which is basically the third co-star of the show, along with Karl Malden and Michael Douglas (four, if you count Michael Douglas’ hair). I told Rio that I saw her stepfather, Carl Betz, in an episode just the other day, and he was great in it. She said that it was one of his favorite roles and that he was really proud of his performance. She added that she had met Karl Malden and that he was a really nice guy, or as she put it, “a mensch and a half”. I was extra glad that I had sent him that fan letter years ago.

Megan made chicken tacos using her trusty Insta Pot for the filling, and I think it also used some salsa verde from the garden. With it, we had salsa made from mostly garden ingredients, and home-grown black beans. It was an easy and festive dinner.

As the sun left the stage to make way for its co-star, the moon, the solar lights on the shade palace winked into view:

These were left over from Megan and Rob’s 30th anniversary celebration this year, and they are a lovely addition to the garden. It was a delightful end to a delightful evening.

A YEAR AGO: Scary, scarily near-by fires.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Farewell to our dear Ben.

TEN YEARS AGO: Planting the twin palms. I cried when I had to leave them behind when I moved.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A fun visit with Dad in London, circa 1991.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Aftermath.

Dumplings


Cheers to the long weekend!

I celebrated the long weekend with a new cooking adventure: making har gao. They are my favorite dim sum, and after my success making char siu, I was emboldened to try my hand at har gao, especially since the closest place to get them is Santa Rosa, and even I draw the line at driving 5 hours round-trip to get dim sum. I’m willing to drive over 2 hours round-trip for Thai food, but even my extreme takeout has its limits.

Fortunately, I had acquired a very nice bamboo steamer and silicone mat inserts during my trip to Santa Rosa, and I had frozen shrimp on hand, so all I had to get was wheat starch (not flour) and tapioca starch.

I was bemused by the recipes I saw that included bamboo shoots and other things that I considered to be extraneous and unnecessary. The point of har gao, I thought, was to let the shrimp shine. I consulted A, who in addition to being an excellent cook and amateur food critic, was also born and partly raised in China. She agreed with me that all it really needed for a filling was shrimp, white pepper, and a bit of salt. Maybe a dash of sesame oil.

So that’s what I did. I chopped the shrimp roughly, added about a spoonful of sesame oil, dusted it with flaky Maldon salt and white pepper, and mixed it up. I was both surprised and pleased by how easy the dough was to work with. I rolled it into a log, cut it in golf ball sized pieces, and then rolled out each piece and filled them.

They steamed for 6 minutes, and they came out great:

They were delicious, and the filling was exactly the way I wanted it. I also made another batch of char siu:

This time, I cut the pork more evenly, so it had better contact with the marinade.

I also made fried won tons. They were great, though next time I will be careful not to brown them quite so much:

I also made Thai chicken soup for the first time, though I neglected to take a picture of it. It came out really well. I loved the combination of lemongrass, coconut milk, ginger, and lime. I wonder what my next adventure should be?

A YEAR AGO: What would I do without Rob? I hope I never find out.

FIVE YEARS AGO A delightful BBQ at the family estate.

TEN YEARS AGO Garden improvements.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Walking Miss Rita.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Suzy’s guide to surviving air travel.

Millie


Millie

Faithful readers may remember how depressed the usually irrepressible Stella was after Star’s sudden death back in March. She kept returning to the spot where Star died for days afterwards, and she lost her bounce.

The unbouncedness of Stella caused Megan and Rob to start looking for a companion for Stella long before they were really ready to do so. Stella’s sadness just added to the hole in the household left by Star. I have to admit that until she was gone, I didn’t realize that she was so very much the heart of their home.

It’s just as well that they started the search when they did, because it took a very long time to find the right dog and then to get through the lengthy adoption process. The winner was a 2 year old mini Stella named Millie. Millie was staying with a foster family in distant and sweltering Sacramento, so Rob, Megan, and Stella all made the trek to meet Millie in the 110 degree heat.

Despite the journey and the unreasonable weather, everyone decided that Millie was the perfect addition to the family. There were just a few (dozen) formalities and hoops to jump through, ranging from paperwork to insurance to home improvements, but finally the day arrived when Millie was to arrive at her new home. Mille’s chauffeur was supposed to inspect the premises and make sure they were up to standards before finalizing the adoption, so Megan made snacks, tidied up, and had fresh flowers and a sign ready to greet the new arrival:

However, the chauffeur made the mistake that people often do by underestimating the drive and relying on technology that does not work out here in what my stepmother used to call “the back of beyond”, where cellphones often don’t work and GPS sends you on strange routes that go everywhere except where you actually want to go.

They were supposed to arrive at 4:00, but at 7:30 they had not arrived. They finally contacted Megan from Navarro, and she met them at the Hooterville store after dark. So much for the grand tour of the property, the garden, the snacks, and everything else.

But Millie had arrived!

Millie was/is a super shy dog, and so far, Stella’s dreams of playing with her have gone unfulfilled, at least for now. But they both sleep in the bed, and if Millie isn’t ready to play with Stella yet, she is happy to lounge on her new sister:

Millie is adjusting to her new life. She enjoys the dog beds in the garden and is beginning to explore a little. I really think she has made a lot of progress in the short time they have had her. Stella’s calm and affectionate nature made Star feel much happier and safer, and I think she will have the same effect on Millie.

Welcome to the family, Millie!

A YEAR AGO: Audrey: 1. Suzy: 0.

FIVE YEARS AGO At the circus with our beloved ben. Guess what? Ben is set to become a father around Christmas!

TEN YEARS AGO A midnight call.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Newsflash: detox is not fun! Bet you’re surprised.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The Rufus Report.

Recipe

Flush with my success in making canelés de Bordeaux, I decided to try my hand at char siu, or Chinese BBQ pork. It’s one of my favorites, and always order it when I get Chinese food. Much like I learned to read at the age of three so I could get stories when Dad wasn’t around to read them to me, I decided I would see if I could make my own char siu so I could have it without going to a Chinese restaurant near (25 miles) or far (2 ½ hours’ drive) away.

First, I had to procure a couple of things, like a roasting pan with a rack in it. The rack has also come in handy for things like cooling off canelés de Bordeaux while maintaining their crispy shell. I also got some five spice powder, red food dye, and molasses. I had pretty much everything else on hand.

I wavered over the red food dye for a while. At first I thought, It’s carcinogenic! And then I thought, It was almost certainly in every other order of char siu I have ever eaten, and it will make it look more authentic, so I decided to just go for it. You only use a little bit, anyway.

Here’s the recipe I used. I have to say it turned out very well:

And it was utterly delicious. Even my best friend A was impressed, and she is Chinese. She immediately wanted the recipe.

I made egg rolls to go with the char siu, though I failed to take photos of the egg rolls. I enjoyed rolling them as I watched the deer and butterflies go past the kitchen window. I had ponzu dipping sauce imported from the Asian grocery in Santa Rosa for the egg rolls, and I also made salad from cucumbers my sister gave me, tossing them with sesame oil, sesame seeds, and rice vinegar. All in all, a successful foray in cooking.

A YEAR AGO: Rearranging the kitchen.

FIVE YEARS AGO A visit from our beloved Ben. I am pleased to announce he is set to get married next year and is expecting a baby for Christmas with his fiancee Erica.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: A visit with Dad, circa 1991. Even back then, those were the day.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: I was heading home to San Francisco after my father’s funeral in London.