Seasons


This year’s lilacs

Spring has definitely sprung in Hooterville. The air is softer and full of birdsong, and fruit trees are foamy with blossoms and buzzing with busy bees. Lilacs, irises, and California poppies are blooming. I am still wearing a coat to work, buttoned up in the morning and unbuttoned* in the evening, and in the mornings, I have the heat on in the car, while in the evenings, I have the car window open. Seasons here are a little more subtle than in most of the country.

I have found over the past few years that I appreciate spring more and more. At this point, I would rate the seasons from best to worst as: spring, fall, winter, and summer. If I still lived back East, I think fall would come out on top, because of the glorious leaf colors and the delightful, cool respite from the horror of summer, always my least favorite season. I hate the heat. I always have.

When I was a kid, we were lucky enough to escape the muggy and buggy summers in upstate New York by fleeing to Maine the minute the school year dragged to an end. There we enjoyed the cool, foggy summers, much like the summers in the Big Town on the Mendocino Coast. Very often, the Big Town is fogged in all of my working day, while back home in Hooterville, it is sunny and bright. The sunshine comes at a cost, though, making it up to 20 degrees warmer than it is on the foggy coast.

Fortunately, my current abode is insulated and less of an art project than my previous Hooterville home of many years, which was like living in a tent. It was freezing cold in the winter and boiling hot in the summer, especially up in the sleeping loft, where the heat went to party and after party. Despite the quirks of the house, and the beauty of the house I live in now, I still miss the old house. There were a lot of great memories there, and it was such a cool and unusual place.

I do enjoy the winter, with the sound of rain and peeping frogs and the bright breasts of robins, who winter here, and the dramatic spouts of passing whales. It’s nice to read with a cup of tea and a scented candle, cuddled up with the cats. I enjoy the coziness and feeling safe. When I was a child back East, I loved skiing and playing in the snow and the violet shadows of the trees on winter afternoons and the distinctive, white light in the house after a snowfall. I have always loved Christmas, with its sparkliness and joy.

As for summer…well, it’s something to be endured. I used to love the long summers in Maine when I was a kid, that glorious feeling of freedom with three school-free months stretching ahead. I’m glad I enjoyed those days when I had them. And I do still enjoy the changing seasons, no matter how subtle.

*Also the name of my current favorite lip gloss, which I’m wearing right now while eating Lifesavers for breakfast.

A YEAR AGO: Some updates.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Some happy encounters.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A bad mail day.

Cheers

You know how sometimes we get Junuary, when the weather is more like summer than winter even though it’s January? We had that in February, though I can’t come up with a clever portmanteau for that one. There were record highs in southern California that weekend, and possibly here, too. Certainly, it was warm enough to venture out without a sweater or jacket of any kind, and that is a rare thing here any time of year. You get kind of programmed to have a sweater or jacket with you at all times. The last time I went to LA, I brought my sweater with me everywhere and I never needed it. Not once.

Not only was it suddenly (though temporarily) summer, Megan actually had a Saturday off for once. Pressing Rob into service, we headed to our favorite seaside bar, where we sat at a little table in the garden at a comfortable distance from the madd(en)ing crowds:

We enjoyed the always excellent company of a Mandarin Blossom Cosmo (me) and a Buddha’s Hand Lemon Drop (Megan), as well as the beautiful view:

As the sun set into the Pacific, the moon rose over restaurant:

and the lights began to twinkle on the deck:

It was a beautiful end to a beautiful day.

A YEAR AGO: Some thoughts on love.

FIVE YEARS AGO: It was raining water outside and love inside.

TEN YEARS AGO: Remembering my much-loved American grandfather. I will miss him 45 years after his death. I think I always will.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Farewell to the glamorous Princess Margaret.

2021

This was a year of milestones. Jessica turned 18; Jarrett turned 40; my blog turned 20; Megan turned 50; she and Rob celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, and we mourned the 20th anniversary of our father’s death.

We also mourned the devastating loss of Megan and Rob’s beloved dog, Star. We knew she was sick, but the end was sudden. She has left a huge hole in their household, and we still miss her. But a new dog, Millie, brought joy to our lives in late summer, especially to Stella, who was missing Star much more than we expected. Stella and Millie love playing together, and it’s heart-warming to see how happy they are together.

I read 110 books this year, an improvement over last year’s paltry 86 (assuming my record-keeping was accurate that year), but falling short of the record high of 118 in 2010. I seem to have developed a love for Canadian graphic novels. I devoured all of “Clyde Fans” and every Michel Rabagliati book I could get my hands on.

This was also a year of successful culinary experimentation, in which I learned how to make my own Canelés de Bordeaux, Chinese BBQ pork, lemon chicken, har gao (shrimp dumplings), and pork and chive crystal dumplings.

Here’s all the news I saw fit to print this year:

January: The New Year begins. Come along on my commute. It’s a pretty one. I stepped down from my high office (or possibly my high horse) as the library board Chair, though I remain on the Board. High office is not for the likes of me. Also, it was completely perk-free, as far as I could see. I might be persuaded to try it again if a tiara and a limo were involved. Getting to work was an adventure. Swooning over Frank from afar, and remembering the inimitable Buddy, my first cat love. Frank is still doing well and is his fighty and adorable self. A magical encounter on my way to work. A friend told me that she thinks it was Dad checking in with me. I hope she’s right. And I hope he’s wrong and I see him again one day.

February: John’s rescued kittens. My proudest achievement. Thinking about love. Such an unusual thing to do around Valentine’s Day! A fun trip to the South Coast. I always love it there.

March: The heart-breaking news of our beloved Star’s terminal illness. Jonathan and Rio were off having adventures. When I heard how long they were going to be gone, I knew they would not be here to say goodbye to Star. Unfortunately, I was correct in this. Despite knowing she was ill, her death was sudden, merciful for our darling Star, but hard for those she left behind, including Stella. I still miss our beautiful Star. Megan’s place is not the same without her. I had not realized that she was the heart of their household until she was gone. Dad’s 90th birthday came on the heels of Star’s death.

April: Kitty updates. Getting my hair done and getting an Easter basket cheered me up. My blog turned 20! Can you believe it? And Jessica turned 18! Can you believe that, too? Remembering a wonderful visit with my beloved friend A at her home in Amsterdam in 1994. This month’s theme seems to be the swift passage of time and what we lose along the way.

May: Things were a little too exciting for Dodge. But it didn’t stop him from enjoying his 5th birthday. Making Tourtière from a friend’s family recipe. The joys of a beautiful spring. Megan turned 50, a reason to celebrate! A lot of milestones this year.

June: Enjoying some time off. An excellent birthday, including getting my hair cut and colored and a little trip to the beautiful South Coast. I looked around the small, but scenic, cemetery while I was in Anchor Bay. Summer crowds were out in force in the Village. An expensive flat tire. A lovely, but hot, trip to the beautiful Valley.

July: Orange is the new pink at my house. I love my house. The always amazing Flynn Creek Circus. Another milestone on this milestone-studded year: Megan and Rob’s 30th anniversary! A visit to the Valley, where you can taste cider under the very trees the cider apples grew on. A trip to Bodega Bay, to scope out locations from “The Birds” and remember family Christmases there with Dad. A glamorous stay at the Flamingo in Santa Rosa. The joy of a concert at the Music Festival.

August: My first attempt at making Canelés de Bordeaux was surprisingly successful. I fell i love with a giant ceramic apple (yes, you read that right!) and bought it for the garden. I love it. Some extreme (and extreemly delicious) take-out. Conventional wisdom seems to be wrong when it comes to my unconventional cats. A new deck and a new dog at Megan and Rob’s place! Remembering our much-loved father 20 years after his sudden and untimely death. I will never stop loving and missing him. Ever. Getting contact lenses again. Checking out some beautiful artwork around town.

September: Another successful cooking experiment: Chinese BBQ pork. Meet Millie, Megan and Rob’s new dog! She and Stella are so happy together! I seem to have been out of control with the make your own delicacies. This time: dim sum! A really fun family dinner in the garden. A horrifying (and horrifying expensive) root canal. Just one little thing can make a big difference in a room.

October: I admit it. I’m a scented candle addict. Rainy day baking. Some mid-week sparkles with a friend, and end of week Eggs Benedict at the amazing Queenie’s. Some small-town crimes, a little too close to home for comfort. And in the miscellaneous department…

November: John stepped up his rescue activities with caring for a batch of abandoned, newborn kittens. He had to get up every two hours to feed them for weeks. I am pleased to say they all made it and were safely given to a local rescue for adoption. Yay, John! He’s my hero. Redbeard was finally caught! And Suzy’s Dim Sum Palace was open for business. Yet another crown for my collection, and not the fun, sparkly kind, either. A drink with a side of view. A quietly thankful Thanksgiving.

December: A quiet, but delicious Thanksgiving dinner. The incredible sparkly beauty of the Festival of Lights. In which I learn to make my own lemon chicken while the Chinese restaurant is closed, and enjoy a drink or two with my sister at our local bar. Finally tackling the Closet of Doom. Putting up the Christmas tree. An unnerving earthquake on Solstice Eve. A pretty Christmas Eve and a quiet Christmas Day. Having fun watching Emily in Paris with my sister.

I have no idea what next year will bring, but as this year ends, I am grateful for my family, my friends, my cats, my health, my lovely house, my meaningful work, the beautiful place I live, and the small, special moments in life that are there every day.

A YEAR AGO: A look back at 2020.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Reviewing 2016.

TEN YEARS AGO: What happened in 2011.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The year of the dog.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: The last day of the last year of my father’s life.

Eve

On Christmas Eve, I stopped by the Village to pick up a few things. It was pouring as I headed down the Ridge, and I wondered whether I really needed the things I was planning to buy. By the time I reached the grocery store in the Village, it had stopped raining.

I ran into my friend Erin in the store. She, too, was shopping for last minute groceries. It was nice to take a couple of minutes to catch up and enjoy each other’s company. I like living in a place where I can randomly run into friends and neighbors, even if I am not wearing make-up and/or am oddly attired, as sometimes happens on last-minute store runs.

As I headed back to the car, the weather reminded me that in any situation, it’s all in how you look at things, whether you look on the stormy side:

or the bright side:

I took these photos at the same place, the cloudy ones looking west toward the sea and the Village photos looking east. It makes me happy to know that the Village looks much as it did 100 years ago, and to think of the generations that have celebrated together in this beautiful place.

A YEAR AGO: Christmas memories.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Getting ready.

TEN YEARS AGO: Unexpected Christmas guests.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Christmas sparkle never goes out of style.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Our 11th anniversary. Nice to see Dad’s notes and those photos. And to know that 20 years later, John and I are still there for each other and always will be.

Rumble


Solstice on the Ridge

I took the photo above on my way home on the winter solstice. It was the shortest day of the year, but it was also beautiful.

It’s nice to think that we are moving back into the light, even though I know perfectly well that as soon as I get a glimmer of hope light in the mornings, it will be cruelly snatched away from me by the Powers That Be, condemning me to weeks more of completely unnecessary darkness, driving in Danger of Deer.

But I won’t think about that now. I won’t even think about it tomorrow, no matter what Scarlett O’Hara says. I’ll think about it in a couple of months. In the meantime, I’ll be thankful to be alive and breathing after the earthquake we had on Solstice Eve.

Megan and my work friend Michelle happened to be in my office around noon that day when I got an alert on my phone saying, “Earthquake activity has been detected in your area”. I had barely finished reading it before I heard the rumble and felt the strong roll beneath me. The clinic ceiling creaked, and the rocking and rolling seemed to go on for a long time.

I usually sleep through earthquakes or fail to notice them, but this one was impossible for even the most oblivious (Me!) to ignore, registering an extremely healthy 6.2 on the Richter scale, and located about 45 miles off the coast of Eureka in Humboldt, our neighboring county. It was unnerving. It was the strongest one I had felt in years. Maybe Santa was feeling a little Grinchy this year and sent us a Christmas earthquake?

A YEAR AGO: My boys.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Things were sparkly.

TEN YEARS AGO: Kittens + Christmas Tree = mess.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Enough with the crazies already!

TWENTY YEARS AGO: All the kitty news that’s fit to print.

News

Some more updates in our heroine’s life.

Dental:

I finally got the crown on the tooth with the outrageously expensive, out of town root canal. I’d say the worst parts were the shots and the drilling that vibrated my whole head and possibly scrambled my two remaining brain cells. That might have been needed to install the post to support the crown. The dentist has a magic machine that makes the crown right there, so there’s no need for a temporary crown and two appointments. It took an hour and a half, but I did it at the end of the day and just went straight home afterwards. It was already getting dark and raining when I got home. Time for tea and my favorite scented candle, along with an episode of Ellery Queen. I can never guess who did it, even before my brain cells got scrambled.

Rain:

We are getting more of it. The night of the crown installation was stormy, with pouring rain and blowing winds, so I sadly took out the power outage box from the resolutely untidied Closet of Doom, preparing for the power to go out, which seemed inevitable at that point. I am pleased to report that the power stayed bravely on, possibly because I had prepared for it.

It was still raining when I set off to work in the foggy darkness, and I had to get out of the car twice to move trees out of the way. The Ridge was covered with pine needles, lichen, and fallen twigs, and I drove pretty slowly. Megan told me that before that storm, we had already gotten 14 inches, so that’s good. The storms can keep coming, even if they take the power with them.

A YEAR AGO: Megan started her job at Stanford. Still going strong and doing well!

FIVE YEARS AGO: The horror of hitting a dog with my car. He is still doing great. He and his owner recently moved to a farm, where they are very happy.

TEN YEARS AGO: A country Saturday.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Fun in the <City.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: A delightful evening with the delightful Brian. He and his wife Candi are so wonderful. Can’t believe we have known each other so long!

Etc.

That always reminds me of Rhoda’s apartment, which I thought was just about the coolest place ever. I still do. I would love to have that place with the terrace and the Franklin stove in New York City. I also think Rhoda had such great style. But then, you all know that I’ve always been Team Rhoda.

You can file this entry under “Miscellaneous” (though I don’t have a “Miscellaneous” section on this blog. Of course, I don’t file very often, either, other than my nails. I was looking something in my file pile the other day, and discovered that there are some documents in the teetering stack that date back to 2019), since it’s just some random things and stuff that have happened lately.

Rain:

While we were all pretty excited to see the rain, its novelty was swept away in another atmospheric river, which also swept away my power early on Sunday morning, when it still looked pretty much like nighttime, no matter what the clock said. And when the power went out, the clock wasn’t saying much of anything.

Ever since the ordeal of the PSPS, I have found that power outages get old fast, with their coldness and darkness. I definitely feel more sadness and reaction to outages than I used to. I seem to be somewhat in denial, too, since I found I was a little unprepared. I could only find one lantern in the Closet of Doom (spoiler alert: I still haven’t cleaned it out or organized it), and it needed new batteries. At least I could find my book light and it was still functional, allowing me to finish reading Alice Feeney’s twisty and suspenseful Rock Paper Scissors in the dark and silent house.

Outside, it was simply tipping it down, as my stepmother used to say. Megan was keeping track of the rainfall:

As you can see, we got more than six inches (!) in one day, and we are already at more than 12 inches for the season. The good news is that we are at about 300% of whatever “normal” is for this time of year. I’m hoping for a rainy winter, but not more power outages.

Car:

I was leaving work one day when I noticed a sort of scrapy sound as I exited the parking lot. Arriving home, I investigated Wednesday for the source of the noise, and discovered that something had come unstuck or unpinned or something on her undercarriage:

I texted the photo to Megan so she could consult with Rob. His opinion was that he could fix it, so I headed to the property after work one day. On my way, I stopped in at the post office, and on going back to my car, I was stopped by a kindly woman who alerted me to the unseemly fact that Wednesday’s underwear was hanging out. I thanked her and explained that I was on my way to my brother-in-law’s place to get it repaired. I feel lucky to live in a place where people care enough to tell me that something’s wrong with my car.

Rob set to work on Wednesday while Megan and I hung out in the garden and watched Stella and Millie play together. Millie has come a long way since her arrival a couple of months ago. She now plays with Stella, but is still basically horrified by every human other than Megan, and as a Plan B, Rob. The rest of us she eyes with deep suspicion. Not sure if or when she will get over that, but at least Stella finally has the playmate of her dreams. Star didn’t play with Stella, so she’s been waiting for someone to play with for a long time. Star’s absence is still felt strongly, but it’s good to see Stella happy and her goofy self again.

Crime:

So far, no more sightings of Redbeard, unless you count this Halloween decoration on the Ridge:

Let’s hope it stays that way. The police cameras are still active, and there’s also a Ring camera. I wonder if passing deer and other wildlife will cause more Ring notifications than they’d like, but hopefully it help to keep the miscreant away, too.

A YEAR AGO: John’s cat Willow and her kittens! Kittens Daisy and Peach are all grown up now, but as cuddly as ever. John continues his rescue work, neutering and fostering, getting homeless cats adopted as much as he can.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Making cider from our very own apples.

TEN YEARS AGO: My newest neighbor was a horse.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Curious about my readers. It was one of those posts where the comments rapidly devolved into something else. Sometimes, I miss allowing comments.

TWENTY YEARS AGO: Getting my beautiful diamond watch repaired. Amazingly, the photo links still work, though they are on the teeny side. Note to Self: I should wear it more often. It’s gorgeous.

Rainy

I’m excited to announce that we actually got some rain!

I was thrilled to hear the soft sound of the rain pattering on the house. It sounds much more subtle in this house than in the old one, where the curved roof/walls seemed to amplify the sound of every drop, and with all the windows and skylights, I felt like I was in the middle of storms, with treetops tossing their heads, the wind howling, and the rain slashing.

Here it is much more gentle experience, and sometimes I can’t even tell whether it’s raining or not until I go outside. This is also true of hot weather; the house is usually pretty cool, and I have been surprised by how warm it is when I step outside.

It was so nice to see the rain on the deck:

accessorized by seasonal fallen leaves. It was the perfect weather for reading and enjoying my scented candle addiction. We got about an inch, and I’m hoping for a rainy winter. We need it. Some people in the Village have been trucking in water since April. So far, our well has kept going, and I’m thankful for that. I’m always glad to hear the water tank on the third floor filling.

The rainy weather inspired me to make Montreal-style bagels

They turned out pretty well, considering I’m thousands of miles (or kilometers) from Montreal, in another country, and do not possess a wood-fired oven. Next time, I will bake at a slightly lower temperature, and put the dough on parchment paper for ease of removal after baking. I think my next cooking adventure will attempting to make my own poppadums. Stay tuned on that, and while you’re waiting, send your rain our way! It will receive a warm welcome.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful walk in the village cemetery, with some ghost stories and local history thrown in.

TEN YEARS AGO: Car sharing and car problems.

Wintry?

I noticed this morning that I could actually see the ocean as I drove past Van Damme, so the madness of the twice-yearly time change can’t be that far off. It took me a while to realize that the entire goal of said time change is to plunge me back into morning darkness at the first sign of a ray of hope of morning light.

It also makes me realize that despite what the Groundhog says about the winter (maybe his predictions only apply to his neighborhood), there isn’t that much left, and our rain opportunities are running out. Cherry trees are in full pink bloom, calla lilies have begun to unfurl their waxy white blossoms by the side of the road, and spiky iris leaves have joined the happy yellow daffodils.

So far, we have only received about 14 inches of rain this season. Some of the fields have not completely changed from their “golden” summer coast to their green winter wear. Not that I’m complaining, but we haven’t had any power outages so far this season, since there haven’t really been any storms. I am not in the correct mental state to face a power outage – that PSPS seems to have scarred me for life – but I am also worried about the lack of rain and what it means for the upcoming fire season. We should get more like 50 inches of rain in a winter, and I don’t think we are going to make it up in what remains of the winter, even if the Groundhog is right in his predictions.

A YEAR AGO: A confession.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A delightful day in Point Arena with good friends.

TEN YEARS AGO: The first week at the jobette.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: You have been warned.

Off

There’s finally a nip in the air, and I no longer have the fan on in the bedroom at night. In fact, there was a frost warning for the coast and a hard freeze warning inland overnight. The warnings didn’t stop there. Our frenemies at PG&E once again announced that they were planning to cut off power again, just like they did around this time last year.

This time, just like the last time, there wasn’t a breath of wind on the coast and it was chilly, despite the forecast “wind event” and “extremely high temperatures”. At least this time, they only shut off some of the high risk inland areas instead of plunging our entire county into darkness. Even though we only have about 90,000 people, our county is the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, a large area. And the inland part is very different from the coast in weather and terrain. Fire risk is much higher inland, with its routine triple digit temperatures in the summer versus the coast’s typical 60-65 degrees.

With power at my disposal* over the weekend, I did some project cooking, which was like a little armchair (or ovenside) trip to distant and cosmopolitan Montreal. I made a tourti?re, using a recipe our beloved Ben (born and raised in Montreal) sent me:

And a batch of Montreal-style bagels. They look pretty convincing to me, despite hailing from 3,000 miles away, the wrong country, and not having a wood-fired brick oven:

My boss loves them, so it was nice to bring her some when I headed back to work.

I had originally planned to take a mini trip to Anderson Valley since the weather had finally cooled off, but when the time came, I found I really just wanted to enjoy the small pleasures at home, like sleeping in until it’s light out, drinking coffee in bed with all three cats, and doing some cooking. It was so fun that I’m planning to take this Friday off, too.

*Although it’s a gas oven, powered by platinum propane, it needs electricity to start. The same goes for the only source of heat for the house. See a theme (and a problem) here, in a place where it’s “when” not “if” the power will go out?

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Food Fairy stopped by, bearing a wide array of canned goods.

TEN YEARS AGO: Cold and rainy.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Interesting times in the building I lived in back then, a suitably seasonal Victorian coffin factory.

Visit

One good thing about seemingly endless summer – not, I hasten to add, the upcoming forecast* – and keep in mind, these are coastal temperatures, so add 15 degrees for my house:

– is that it does make it possible to sit outside, even with only two months of the year left and the current month being well past the autumn solstice. Trees are not bursting into color here, though the vines that escaped the fires are, and apples are ripe in the family orchard. That woodsmoke smell is more likely to be wildfires than keeping the home fires burning. We aren’t embracing the woolen wear and pumpkin spice that much of the country is. I personally am dreading yet another heat wave, with ominous threats of record-breaking heat. “Sweater weather” has a whole different meaning here.

But the unseasonable temperatures do mean that I could join my friend for a drink at her lovely little house. I hadn’t been there since she first moved in, so we were overdue for a visit. It is a charming home, probably built in the 1920s, with a sort of Craftsman cottage feel. It is likely all redwood, and old redwood at that, though much of it is painted, making everything lighter and brighter. The dining room still has the redwood paneling and built ins. There is an actual mud room, something that is common back east (like window screens and insulation), but not so common here in California. It makes sense to take off our muddy boots in the winter, especially when, as at my friend’s house, the washer and dryer are right there.

No boots or mud were to be seen that day. My friend M is an excellent hostess, bringing a tray of nibbles along with a bottle of chilled rosé out to her porch, where we spent a delightful couple of hours together. She lives in the Big Town, so there was the novelty of sidewalks, people walking down the street, and even street lights. Imagine!

On the way home. I stopped in at Luna Trattoria, where I was greeted by a very friendly young cat:

He was soft and even allowed me to pick him up after twining himself around my legs. He clearly lives nearby, since he looks quite healthy and well cared for.

I got some of their wonderful penne alla vodka to take home. I have tried unsuccessfully to reproduce it at home. I think part of this is due to the high quality, chunky pancetta and some of it because they make their own pasta. Sometimes it’s good to just stand back and let the experts take over.

All in all, it was a lovely evening, and one I hope to repeat soon.

*There seems to be as little accountability as a weather prognosticator as there is in the highest office in the land. When I was a kid, I thought the weather reporters ordered the weather, like food off a menu. “I’ll have some partly sunny skies with a side of early morning fog”. Maybe I was right about that, after all. And while I note that they are often incorrect when calling for rain, they are never, ever wrong when calling for excessive heat. Why is that?

A YEAR AGO: Adventures at the gas station. I’m sorry to say that the Bear is still around and making his/her presence known in a most unsanitary fashion.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Spending an evening in town.

TEN YEARS AGO: The elusive Audrey.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: More songs about buildings and boobs.

Warmly

Summer has been holding on longer than I would like, even into October, when others are flaunting their sweater weather and flaming leaves, and here it’s still sweating weather and flaming forest fires. Even at the Coast, it’s been close to 10 degrees warmer than it should be, even on days that start out with heavy fog. Looking into the long-range forecast, I was disheartened to note an 80 degree forecast for later this week, which, let’s be clear, is the middle of October.

What better way to deal with unseasonable and unreasonable temperatures than a drink with your sister at your favorite seaside bar, where there’s always a breeze and it’s always civilized?

I may have had more than one as we sat on the deck and caught up with each other’s news.

Eventually, we went back to Megan and Rob’s place, where we had wine from her friend’s vineyard:

Appropriately enough, the wine was called Gemini, being a mix of Semillon, not commonly seen here, and sauvignon blanc. It was a smooth, slightly floral blend, and enjoyable to drink. The friend has been evacuated twice during the recent fires, and Megan and another friend made a flying visit to see her, bringing food and hugs. It’s good to have friends.

We sat under the shade sails, quite possibly one of the best investments Megan ever made:

as the sunset gave way to moonrise:

Maybe an endless summer isn’t so bad after all.

A YEAR AGO: My adult impersonation now includes giving speeches.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Hanging out with Lichen.

TEN YEARS AGO: A mini adventure for little Clyde.

Fiery

The monthly Board meetings at work always mean around a twelve hour day for our heroine, so it was both disappointing and ironic in equal measure that this month’s arrived the day after Labor Day. I have started doing them from home, which is a process improvement for me. I leave work around 3:15 pm and get the long drive out of the way in daylight, instead of hitting the long and winding road in the 7:00 pm darkness. And when the meeting is over, I’m already home.

As I drove down the Ridge that afternoon, I could see where the fog at the coast met the smoke from the Oak Fire in Willits, about 30 miles to the east:

My house is nearly 6 miles east of the highway, so I was basically driving toward the fire and smoke, even though the fire was unlikely to reach us through the intervening mountainous terrain. By the time I was set up for the meeting, the light outside was an eerie dark orange. Here’s how it looked from my back door:

Clyde did not like it. During the meeting, he kept going from door to door, looking to see if it looked any less disturbing. It kept getting darker, even though sunset was still hours away. Clyde did not approve of this. He is a sensitive boy, and seemed as perturbed as he did during the moving process last year. He enjoyed the chaos as much as I did, and we were both stressed out by it.

I could hardly wait for it to get dark so I could stop looking at the creepy orange light and get some semblance of normalcy. As the days wore on, the fire was thankfully contained, but the air remained smoky and terrible-smelling. You could see the ash and particulates in the air. We are used to such clean air here, and it was a dramatic and distressing change. The skies stayed orange or brown, dark in the daytime, to the point that I had to have both lights on in my office. I longed to see the sky after a week of not seeing it.

Still, we were the lucky ones, not being evacuated or under immediate threat. This time. I can’t help wondering if it’s like falling off the dock was when my siblings lived on boats at Pier 39, or hitting a deer when you live in the depths of the country: There’s them that has, and them that will. I wonder when it will be our turn to flee for our lives and hope our house isn’t burning to the ground behind us.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The absurdity of “insurance”.

TEN YEARS AGO: Pantry invaders!

Drinks

Megan got very little sleep during the blistering hot plague. It’s particularly difficult to sleep during the day when your bedroom is likes its very own little oven, even when you have just worked twelve fun-filled hours in the ER.

Megan got maybe three hours of sleep, and decided that she was too impaired by lack of sleep to go to work that night. She agreed to be on call, hoping that nothing would happen. Of course, something happened.

A car turning off the highway was rear-ended, and the force of the rear-ending pushed it into oncoming traffic, with predictably unpleasant results. One of the people involved was flown out from the scene and another was brought to the ER to be packaged up and flown out in turn. There was blood and chaos. The road was closed for some time as well.

Fortunately, that was Megan’s last shift of the week, and the next day, she suggested that we go to our favorite seaside bar for a well-earned drink or two.
We sat at the shadiest possible table, right outside the restaurant door, hiding under an umbrella. I was wearing SPF 100, just in case. I’m like a vampire. It’s surprising that I don’t burst into flames upon exposure to the sun. We still had a lovely view of the ocean, though I am sorry to report that it was a completely unreasonable 83 degrees. By the ocean, people. Where it should be 65 with a sweater-requiring breeze.

Although we’re not normally bourbon drinkers, we were unable to resist the blackberry bourbon smash:

It was inspired by the abundance of local wild blackberries. They are muddled and then bourbon is poured over them. The mixture infuses for four days, and when it’s cocktail time, simple syrup, a dash of lemon, and some soda is added. Garnish with mint leaves. It was delicious. I would like to try making it with vodka. Maybe even berry vodka! We could also throw in some of the raspberries from the garden. The cocktail shaker awaits!

FIVE YEARS AGO: Everyone needs a drink after a visit to the dentist. Maybe before, too.

TEN YEARS AGO: It was hot and heinous.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Riding the bus was educational, to say the least.

Nostalgic

I took a couple of days off, and you know what that means! That’s right: a searing heat wave! There was an extreme heat warning for Friday and Saturday. And extreme it was. It hit 100 at the family estate and was probably in the 90s at my place, though I don’t have a thermometer or the room temperature readout on the heater like I did at the old place. Sometimes, you’d rather not know.

Despite having an irrational fondness for the old place – In spite of its faults and quirks, it will always have a special place in my heart – I was glad I wasn’t still living there. Its total lack of insulation meant that it was a nightmarish oven, particularly in the sleeping loft, where the heat gathered and loitered with intent. The new house is well insulated and has a water tower on top, which helps to insulate further. So it was (relatively) cool inside while the onslaught of heinous heat raged outside.

I did venture to the Village on Sun Stroke Saturday, though. Usually, I try to avoid shopping on weekends, but sometimes it’s inevitable, and this was one of those times. As I stepped outside, I noticed it was definitely warmer than I would like at 9:00 am, and also that it smelled like summers in Maine, with the sun heating up the pines and scenting the air with the distinctive scent of sap and sun-warmed forest. This was further reinforced as I got closer to the ocean and could smell low tide, which always makes me think of Maine, no matter what the time of year.

Arriving at the rather old-fashioned grocery store, I was lucky enough to park right out front and find that the store itself was delightfully uncrowded. I didn’t even have to wait in line. My shopping style tends to be grabbing what I need and getting the hell out. I later regretted not getting those tangerine popsicles, though. Note to Self: Popsicles are always a good idea. Especially during a heat wave.

As I drove home with surprisingly few cars impeding my summertime progress, I thought of how this shop was quite similar to the Don’s Shop’n Save* in Bar Harbor. Also that the summers that I was nostalgically recalling were half a century in the past.

*It is no longer the Shop’n Save, having been bought out by a chain called Hannaford, but I am pleased to say that Don himself is still around.

A YEAR AGO:Drinks with the girls at our favorite watering hole.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Harvest time.

Sunny


No Change In Sight

We have had a long string of sunny days, with temperatures in the 50s, and even dipping a hesitant toe into the 60s. It’s a little eerie. We have only had about 20 inches of rain this season, and at this point, I can’t believe we are going to get anything significant.

On the bright side, the endless brightness means that Megan and Jonathan can do laundry and vacuum whenever they want, since they rely on sun power for all their power. When the sun is not sunny, they can’t do power-intensive things like laundry and vacuuming, since such activities deplete the batteries too quickly. An excellent excuse to avoid housework!

The weather also makes for ideal driving conditions: dry roads with few tourists. It’s a little too early for visitors who drive fifteen to twenty miles under the speed limit in their shiny, clean, expensive cars, so I can zip to work in the dark mornings and drive home in the still light evenings with a minimum of frustration.

The fact that it’s usually light when I get home means that the madness (and maddeningness) of the time change can’t be far away. I wish the politicians would hurry up and ratify the time change stoppage that Californians overwhelmingly voted for last year, but then I wish politicians would do a lot of things.

Speaking of home, there has been progress on the septic system surgery, as I can see:

I’m not sure what is going on there, but something is. Whatever needs to be done to keep the sewage going in the right direction and firmly diverted away from my kitchen sink is fine with me. It seems that the septic surgeons don’t need access to my house to do whatever they need to do, and they are only here when I’m not, so that’s about all the information I have for now.

Back in the house, I have added a new element to the decor. I fell in love with this shiny object:

I think it looks perfect with the mid century-ish decor:

So far none of the cats have knocked it off the table, which is a plus. After all, if the world was flat, cats would have pushed everything off it by now.

Plans

I had a busy weekend planned, but Fate had other plans…

We were going to have family dinner on Saturday at Rio’s place. It would be the first time we had gotten together since our belated Thanksgiving, and the first time this new-ish year. But Megan picked up a virus at work – the hazards of working in an emergency room, with all those sick people* – and didn’t want to share her cooties with us. The weather chimed in, smacking us with a storm which made the prospect of driving over the rivers and through the woods to Rio’s** house both unappealing and inadvisable. So we called off family dinner, or at least rescheduled it, probably until the first weekend in February.

Coincidentally, the cancelled night would have been Burns’ Night, and I had a poem all ready to take with me and have my brother read out loud. It was especially perfect since it was January. Given the drive, we wouldn’t be sipping whiskey with our poetry, but we would have had handmade cider, which is a British tradition and could be an acceptable substitute. If we do have family dinner on the first Saturday in February, we can celebrate Laura Ingalls Wilder’s birthday instead of Robbie Burns’, and homegrown, home-made food and cider will be just as appropriate for that.

It’s harder for me to tell how rainy it is outside when I’m inside the house now. My old place had no insulation, and its Quonset hut shape made the roof and the walls the same thing, so the rain was everywhere and it was really loud. It was also, like a horror movie villain, inside the house. When I look back, I’m a little surprised by how I just took it in stride that there was a merry little brook in the laundry room/pantry in the winter, the puddle by the Christmas tree, the one in the foyer, etc. Here I have stepped outside and been shocked by the fact that it’s hot outside or pouring with rain.

So when Megan texted me on Sunday to say that it was raining so hard that the roads would probably flood and close that day, we decided it would be wiser not to go to Point Arena to see the ballet. We were both disappointed, since we were looking forward to it so much. It was Raymonda, a grand ballet from the 19th century which we had never seen before (and still haven’t). The next one is in March and is Giselle. I think we made the right decision, but we were both sorry to have missed it.

It also meant that I had no Sunday dinner, since I was naturally planning to get Thai food in Anchor Bay. I always have pizza dough in the freezer, so I thawed that and looked around in the refrigerator, where I found salami, an onion, and capers to substitute for the olives I didn’t have. I also always have a tube of Italian tomato paste in the refrigerator, so I put that on the dough first, then everything else. Finished it with Asiago and parmesan, and it was very good indeed. Not as glamorous as ballet and Thai food, but still good.

*Years of this have given her a kick ass immune system. It takes a particularly nasty bug to make her sick. I appreciate her not sharing with us. Sometimes not sharing is caring.
**She is, and always will be, the only grandmother among us. Grandson Number 4 is scheduled to arrive on March 10!

A YEAR AGO: We actually made it to the ballet. And it was wonderful.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Making bread.

TEN YEARS AGO: Glitz and glamor at the Legion of Honor museum.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Getting ready for a road trip to Florida. Or at least thinking about getting ready.

Out(r)age

Hi! I’m back! You may have heard about a little something they’re calling the Public Safety Power Shut Off (PSPS), which was inflicted on the unsuspecting residents of our huge, underpopulated and underfunded County by Their Satanic Majesties, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E).

Now that you’re up on your California-related acronyms, let’s talk power outage, or outrage, as the local message boards quite appropriately call it.

Out of the literally clear blue sky, PG&E decided that they would cut off the power to millions of people with very little notice or time to prepare. Nor did they deign to tell people which counties or cities would be affected. They did not update their online maps or website (which crashed anyway), or realize that having a website be your prime source of alleged information when there is no power or internet is ridiculous.

Also ridiculous is my landlord receiving a call THREE DAYS after the power went out telling her that there “might” be an outage.

We had no idea how long it would last as it dragged on day after dark, cold day. I had no heat – and the temperature was below freezing on some of the days – and no light on these short days. I was so tired of the cold and dark. I went over to the family estate to shower, recharge my laptop and phone, and use the internet in a vain attempt to find out if or when the outage would ever end. My siblings are wise enough to live off the grid and rely on sun power and their own ingenuity.

Supposedly, the power was shut off because of high winds creating fire risk, but there wasn’t a breath of wind on the Coast and we were nowhere near the places that did have high winds. So there was no reason to do this to us. And the fires that did occur were once again caused by PG&E, just like the ones last year and the year before. They chose to give their shareholders $4.5 billion (yes, that’s “billion”, with a “b”) instead of maintaining equipment, cutting back brush, and burying power lines as they were supposed to do.

Basically, they chose to spend money on executive salaries and bonuses instead of maintaining their equipment and keeping the public safe. They cost the homes and lives of people who lost everything in the fires PG&E caused. Again. They cost us on the Coast thousands of dollars in lost wages, food that rotted in refrigerators, businesses that didn’t have a generator and couldn’t stay open. My cell phone doesn’t work at my house and the landline didn’t work as it usually does in a power outage, so I had no way to communicate with the outside world. If I needed to call 911, I was out of luck.

One of the therapists at the clinic where I work told me that knowledge being withheld and the knowledge that information is being withheld is very traumatic for human beings. And I can honestly say that it is. I was relieved to hear that it wasn’t just me who was traumatized by the ordeal of five days without power.

I still can’t believe it happened. And I think we are all still recovering from it in many ways. Something has to change.

A YEAR AGO: There was power. And family dinner.

FIVE YEARS AGO: There was power. And the Giants were world champions!

TEN YEARS AGO: There was power. Rob Suzy proofed the house after I fell off the sleeping loft. Thank you, Rob!

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: The power was on. And I was a bad hostess.

Clock

I was really glad to see the fog this morning after four days of above 90 temperatures. Granted, the new house is much cooler than the old one, which had no insulation and a peaked ceiling which trapped the heat, but after baking in high temperatures day after day and not really cooling off at night, there’s only so much you can expect. It was strangely still with no breeze, and it didn’t cool off at night. This is unusual for us.

I was also pleased to see St. Louis win the Stanley Cup last night. Hooray! It’s their first win of the illustrious Cup, and also had the pleasant side effect of snatching it from the evil Boston Bruins, who defeated the Leafs in the first round of the playoffs to my dismay and consternation. Just looking at the ice on TV was nice, too.

But most of all, I was happy to see my brother and brother in law arrive to unbox the ancient grandfather clock and get it set up in its new home. It’s off center because that’s where the wall stud is:

It’s also better for the clock to be as far from the heater (at right) as possible. I’m hoping to balance it out visually by hanging my big painting “Russian Hill” between the clock and the painting:

We took the Styrofoam and coffin pieces upstairs, where Rob put a ladder to access the storage space around the water tank on the third floor of the house. There was a light so Rob could see what he was doing, and the first thing he noticed was how cool it was, probably due to the water tank. Then he said that there was “enough room for a family of five” in there. Unfortunately, the front and back of the clock coffin were too wide for the doorway/hatch, so the boys ended up stowing them under the house until the next time I move, which I hope is never.

With the clock relocated, Rob’s bookcase was moved next to the sliding glass doors and my few remaining books placed in it:

When I discovered that there was space left over, I regretted some of the books I had given away, but I should try to look forward instead of back. And focus on not accumulating more stuff. Lessons have been learned. The hard way, as usual.

Jonathan put my bed together while Rob was disassembling the clock coffin. An esoteric piece of hardware was lost in the moving process and could not be replaced locally, so Rob made one. I am lucky to have such handy brothers who are willing to help me out. It was nice to get the bed off the floor. I was also pleased to note that it’s much easier to sit up in bed now that I don’t have to position myself oddly in order not to hit my head on the curved wall/ceiling. Rio observed that living at my old house was living in an art project, and I think she was right.

So things are coming together at the new place.

A YEAR AGO: Wednesday and I weren’t feeling too well.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Wednesday was not at her best then, either.

TEN YEARS AGO: Life in Oakhampton was not very exciting.

Water

When I first started the lengthy and horrifying moving process, I thought, “At least it won’t be raining”, but apparently I was wrong about that, as I am about so many things. It has been pouring since yesterday and rain is supposed to continue on and off until WEDNESDAY. I can’t remember when we have gotten this much rain this late. The radio cheerfully informed me that it will also be windy, with gusts up to 50 miles an hour, so I am just waiting for the power to go out. The fact that I was unable to close up my battered umbrella once I got to the office makes me fear even more bad luck as it drips into the carpet.

Also for the leaks to start in my house, which has been on the damp side anyway lately. Rob came over last weekend to remove some artwork, including the amazing vintage Toronto streetcar sign which I am selling on eBay*:

This required a large and heavy extension ladder, probably suitable for fighting fires, since the ceilings are so high. It was a lengthy and delicate procedure. When it was finally over, I asked Rob what was the strange hissing noise was that I could hear in the kitchen.

Rob’s opinion was that it was a water leak. He investigated under the house and under the kitchen cabinets, but finally had to cut a hole in the sheetrock under the sink, where it was revealed that due to the cheapness of the pipes James put in, there was a split in the pipes.

The bathroom, which is about 7 feet by 5 feet, promptly flooded as I watched in horror. Rob went to turn off the water to the house, while I grabbed a broom and swept the water out of the bathroom door which leads to the back porch. It was not the first time I was grateful for that odd, but useful feature. Then I mopped up the floor with towels and called Mark.

He got someone to come and fix it, but they came accompanied by dogs which they allowed to run into my house without asking me first, terrifying both me and the boys. I put the boys in the bachelor pad and banished the dogs. The fixers were notably Not Rob, since they were not only hillbilly looking, but took three trips to the store to buy parts and spent all day working on it. They still have to come back and replace the sheetrock.

As Rob said, I have picked a good time to move.

*A really nice guy who lives in the Annex area of Toronto bought it. Nice to know it’s heading back home!>