Might as well celebrate.

The last time a birthday brought me to my knees was (about an ice age ago) when I turned 30. The sensation of youth spent and misspent, time lost, world not yet conquered. Then everything seemed to speed up and fast-forward and decades whooshed past. Birthdays faded, mercifully, into the background. Kids born, kids raised, kids gone. Whoa, where did all that time go and why are there now so many candles on my cake?

Birthdays were more fun back in the day:


I have a trusty little strategy for unpleasantness. In psychological circles it is known as “avoidance coping”.  As this rather distasteful birthday approached, I told the CE I had only one wish –  to just run away. Being the CE, he understood, of course, so we planned my escape. But also being the CE, he willingly partnered in my friend Pamela’s cloak and dagger scheme to surprise me with an exquisitely beautiful luncheon celebration before I departed. It was a week ago and I am still mostly in shock.

I remember these beautiful flowers but the rest of it was like a dream:


As Pamela reminded me that day in her remarks, we have known one another for more than thirty years. She has, with spectacularly good humor, cheered us on through raising four children and an unrelenting parade of animals.  Her daughter, Alexandra, graciously played older sibling to our boys and in turn, I introduced Pamela to her husband, Kirk.

Pamela and me, back in the day:


And a bit more recently:


Alexandra with our boys:


And at her wedding at our home a few years ago:


The one consolation of getting frightfully old is that you have the blessing of long-time friends. Pamela gathered some of the most special ones for the luncheon.

Julia, who has been a precious part of our family since her college years:



And also Elizabeth, Tammy, Marsha and dear, dear Karen, who made her prized Swedish Apple Cake for the birthday dessert:


Me (in shock!) and Elizabeth:


The group photo – that’s Pamela in front on the right, looking deservedly pleased with herself for almost giving me a heart attack of surprise:


They all said incredibly nice things about me in prepared remarks, which it will take me at least another decade to live up to, so there’s a project going forward.

And then I did run away to NYC. But instead of moping around and chanting “Woe is me” as I had originally expected, son Daniel and dear friend, Victoria, joined me for a lovely birthday dinner. Leave it to them to actually make it a happy birthday!


I will cherish this photo forever:


That’s a lot of celebrating for a birthday I was trying to escape. I am bedazzled in the wonderment of being held undeservedly dear by so many. This will buoy me through many birthdays to come!

And now you’ll have to excuse me – I have thank you notes to write…

Posted in All Things Family, Friends, Meaningful | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Two broody.

Maybe they saw Mother’s Day on the calendar. Or maybe they heard about the U.S. birth rate hitting a thirty-year low and decided to take matters into their own hands, er, feathers.

I guess it’s no surprise that Bella would want another go at it. She successfully raised June last summer.


But Pippa?

Pippa is seven years old! Not a spring chicken! When she abandoned her favorite spot in the coop and huddled on the nesting counter last week, we were prepared for the worst, but we were not prepared for a broody!

Dual broodies!


How can you tell your hen is broody? She won’t leave the nest. She hurls pterodactyl screams at you if you approach. And when you haul her, protesting loudly, off the nest, she swells up like a puffer fish.

IMG_2839 2


Chaos currently reigns in the coop because if prospective mamas ain’t happy, no one can be happy. And with those two taking up all real estate on the nesting counter, the other hens can’t get an egg in edgewise.

If left to their own devices, they will sit on their non-existent eggs for three weeks or longer, lost in a broody trance. They are aching for babies, but we are at full flock capacity and can’t give either of these girls any baby chicks this summer.

So the plan is to break the broodies by locking them out of the coop for extended periods of time. It’s not the most scientific approach, but maybe we will eventually wear them down.

So far, we have succeeded only in making Bella furious. Nothing but mama drama around the chicken yard these days.


And we are feeling, I guess you might say, a little hen-pecked…

Posted in All Things Poultry, Animal/Vegetable/Mineral, Annoyances of Life, Chicken Facts, Spoiled Pets | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The wrongs of spring.

It’s a jungle out there.

We know the rites of spring as rebirth and Disney-esque time-lapse photos of flowers blooming and birdsong and tall grass in meadows, but truthfully, there is a violence to this season AND DON’T LOOK AT THE LAST PHOTOS IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH.

It was all going well for awhile. We have a sweet little hummingbird nest the size of a tea strainer in our port cochére. Mrs. HB thrums, furious as a hornet, every time we open the kitchen door.

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And another bird – a nuthatch? A chickadee? is nesting, inexplicably, deep in a swag of fake and inexplicably bright pink bougainvillea, that has hung (inexplicably – please ask the CE what this is all about) in our garage for the twenty-five years we have lived in this house. She darts back and forth, seemingly undaunted by faux silk blooms and cars coming and going.


So far, so good, spring.

But then, the squirrels started committing suicide. What is it with squirrels and cars? The CE and I have each had to slam on our brakes this week when squirrels have thrown themselves in front of our cars. Those two survived within an inch of their bushy tails, but a walk around the neighborhood tells me we are in immediate need of some squirrel crossing guards.

But that’s not the worst of it.

That bucolic little birdbath under the oaks?


It has become, in recent weeks, a no-go zone. To be approached only with latex gloves and a bottle of bleach.

Don’t be so squeamish, you say? Well, DON’T LOOK,

but this is what I found first:



Mon dieu! Did a nestling fall from the trees? But, but, but – the decapitation? I pondered it over and over. Spring has become most unsettling.

I suspected it had something to do with the crows that have been increasingly seen loitering at the birdbath. And sure enough, a few days ago I spied one that seemed to be performing overlong ablutions there. It flew off as I approached and I was rewarded with this sight that, I AM WARNING YOU, cannot be unseen:


And all this time, I have labored under the illusion that crows eat seeds and nuts.

A bit of research reveals that a) crows delight in carrion and b) they are especially prone to presenting moistened food to their babies in order to keep the little ones hydrated. Sooooo, what looks like a horror movie to me is actually just Mother’s Day in the crow world. (Still, mon dieu!)

Perhaps now I can more fully understand why a group is a “murder” of crows and a flock of ravens is known as an “unkindness”. All in all, however, I’m ready to fast-forward to summer, because I’m finding that spring is nothing to crow about…












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And Santa Monica, briefly.

If you have enough kids and grandkids, you can be gone almost every weekend. This time it was Santa Monica. James turned ten!


He was king for the weekend.


But never forget that the CE remains emperor!


James and I had a special breakfast together. He ate ALL the pancakes!


Aunt Tina and the cousins came up to help celebrate.


She brought a cake!


And she also brought James’ favorite present!


There was fun at the hotel pool.


And we discovered that Thomas is now taller than his Auntie.


Angie and her boys:


Everyone loves Grandpa!


We drove through Malibu on the way home. Lunch at our favorite Greek place there, Taverna Tony. Too bad there was hardly any food…


Why did I not buy this t-shirt?


After a couple of weekends away, it’s good to be home. Happy to be hanging with this one this weekend.








Posted in All Things Family, Travel | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

San Francisco, briefly.

Gimps like me need not apply to leave their hearts in San Fran. Those hills, guys! But that city by the sea does have its charms.


And I would travel to the ends of the earth to buy this guy a steak. Porterhouse. And yes, he ate it all.


Speaking of food. All the times I’ve been to SF and somehow never before had lunch at the Rotunda at Neiman Marcus. So beautiful! Order the Crab Louie and a glass of champagne.



The bubbles will help prepare you for the sticker shock you’ll encounter after lunch. I know they say retail is dead but you aren’t going to have this experience on Amazon.



“I come not to praise Jeff Bezos but to bury him…”


I keep hearing that SF has become a sanctuary of the worst sort, but we just saw so much pretty. The upside, I suppose, of not being able to properly explore the city. The weather, never a strong selling point for San Fran, was exquisite that weekend. Flowers everywhere.

Formal, in the foyer of the St. Francis:


Free form near Fisherman’s Wharf:


Speaking of pretty, these two besties are still the best. But I am seriously thinking about a gofundme to get Taylor a second t-shirt for his wardrobe since he only appears to own one. What can I say; he is his father’s son…when you’re that handsome, maybe one shirt will suffice.


Easton has branched out from finance to pottery and gifted us with these beauties:


Somehow I failed to get a photo of Ming, but of course, here is Marlowe:


We had a lovely dinner at Bouche with Taylor (I was so excited to see that he owns TWO collared shirts!)  and his friend, Megan. She is a reader par excellence and introduced us to one of our favorite books EVER, Michael Ondaatje’s The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. It is a must-read!


We closed out our weekend at Farallon, which, we learned, occupies a space just off Union Square that was once an Elks Lodge swimming pool!


The coconut curry swordfish was amazing:


Then it was time to head home, but we’ll be back soon – maybe T will let us take him shirt-shopping next time…


Posted in All Things Family, Gastronomy, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Goodbye, sweet prince.

He would have had you believe he was a lion king.


But he was really just a pussycat.

enh cody july 2009

Where, oh where, did the time go?

2002 Daniel and cody kitten


Cody cat, aka Shoo Bear, was just a few days short of his sixteenth birthday when we decided we had to let him go. He had been suffering for a long time from chronic renal failure.  At the end, he struggled to eat and drink, and then, could not do either. He was searching for places to hide. It was time. So, so hard to say goodbye.

If Cody had a hashtag I think it would have been #lowkey. He was so relaxed that he spent much of his time draped like a shawl.


Sometimes, we humiliated him with a lion cut.


But it always grew out and his dignity would be restored.

Ashleigh's pic of Cody Jan 2013

His answer to everything was to purr. You could hear him purring across the room. He purred if you pet him. He really, truly, actually purred if you looked at him.

And though he struggled, he purred, right up to the end.

We will miss him forever.

me and cody june 2002


“…May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

Posted in Sad, Spoiled Pets | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

My coop runneth over.

There are no April showers in Southern California, so back in the years B.C.  (Before Chickens) I gave hardly a notice to the passage from “winter” (a euphemism where I live) to spring.

But then life went to the birds, and I discovered seasons! By the end of January and certainly February, the extra slivers of light at the beginning and ending of the day begin to add up. And light is the go signal for a hen to lay eggs. You couldn’t possibly know this if your eggs come from the grocery, from factory chickens who are subjected to long hours of artificial light to coax maximum egg production.

But here in the coop, spring is celebrated daily with lots of chatter, squabbling over nest boxes and an abundance of eggs. So many that we’ve been giving them away every day to friends and neighbors with still some to spare. I even pressed a six-pack onto our computer repair guy the other day, who was only too happy to take them off my hands. There is nothing like a fresh egg!


And yes, that is a green egg, courtesy of our Easter Egger, June. She has become quite the layer, now that she’s grown:


So my coop runneth over, with eggs and also with chicken love. Those of us who tend a flock know the fulsome pleasures that come with it. The girls are so beautiful, in their admittedly dinosaur-ish way.


A morning among them can be meditative, like an animated Zen garden, as the hens scratch methodically in the dirt.


It is comical, as they scold me for whatever perceived injustice has befallen them.

It is sweet, as they rush to follow the CE or cluster like a feathery bouquet at the door to await me. You may be surprised to learn that chickens recognize their flock keepers. Depending on their level of familiarity with you, you will be greeted with affectionate clucks, wary caution or a wide berth and perhaps fearful squawking, especially if you are a toddler who delights in seeing a chicken run away. They are not as bird-brained as you might think.


I suppose you could say there is a certain amount of drudgery involved with the keeping of chickens. But at the end of each day, as dusk falls and the girls have thumped their way up to their roosting bars in the coop (Pippa on her shelf, Bossy Nugget on the upper roost bar, Bella, June and Ava squeezed together by one window and Ginger in solitude by the other) I cannot resist the urge to step inside and bid them goodnight. They murmur their acknowledgement that I have indeed been fortunate to pass another day in their presence.


Like many of the precious mysteries of life, I cannot explain chicken love. But it is real.


Posted in All Things Poultry, Chicken Facts, Friends | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments