I’m not actually very handy. I’m not good at minor home or auto repairs and anything that involves tools tends to be experimental for me. But Suzanne had surgery on her other eye this week, so I got to continue my trend of being useful by driving her down to Santa Rosa, and then around Santa Rosa once we were there.

And also my trend of finding us excellent places to eat. Because of the Celiac’s, I generally have to put more effort into restaurant selection than your average tourist. I can’t just wing it and hope that I’ll find something both gluten-free and delicious. (Well, I could, but generally what happens when I do so is that I wind up hungry, cranky, disappointed, and worried about getting sick. So I don’t.)

On our first trip to Santa Rosa, we went to:

  • Sazon – excellent Peruvian food, with a really terrific GF fried seafood appetizer.
  • Dierks – for our post-surgery brunch, I had Sonoma duck confit, which was delicious. I don’t remember what Suzanne had and I bet she doesn’t either.
  • Bird & The Bottle – Tapas! The beet salad was fantastic. The rest — well, the GF menu was very limited, so I wouldn’t eat there again, but I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to someone who could eat gluten.
  • Avid Coffee – The best GF pumpkin spice muffin ever.

On this trip, we went back to Sazon and back to Avid, but we also tried:

  • Boon eat + drink – TripAdvisor’s favorite restaurant in Guerneville, and totally deserving of their love. Their truffle fries were probably the best fries I’ve had since I stopped eating gluten and the chimichurri was so much better than my own that I whimpered when I tasted it.
  • Schat’s Bakery & Cafe – The minute we walked in I knew I was taking a serious risk: this is a real bakery, so plenty of wheat-based flour in the air. But I ate there 48 hours ago and I’m not sick yet, so kudos to them for making me a delicious chicken sandwich that managed not to be contaminated. The GF bread was probably not as good as the bread that the sandwich was supposed to be on, but it was a lot better than the usual GF squishy stuff. I bought a loaf and brought it home to make avocado toast.
  • Bia Cafe – Our surprise win was the cafe next to our hotel. We wandered over early Thursday morning, hoping for coffee. The front desk guy at the hotel had already told us that the menu there would be whatever the proprietor felt like cooking that day, and there’s no link on the name because she doesn’t appear to have a website. But she did have gluten-free muffins and scones, so I had one of each.

We again had fun on the trip and not just food-related fun. We brought all the dogs with us, which turns every day into a search for places to let them romp. We had a great river stop on the way south and another in Monte Rio, a long hike around Spring Lake, a stroll around downtown Guerneville — lots of movement, lots of outside time. I’ve got to admit, though, that perhaps my favorite time was back at the hotel, Casa Secoya. My “room” was actually a cabin with a deck, a kitchen, and a gas fireplace, (it’s pictured on the front page of their site) and the weather was exactly right for turning on the fireplace and reading a good book while cuddling with a puppy. Or two, while Suzanne was recovering from the anesthesia.

In other news, I finally did something I’ve been thinking about/wanting to do for months. Maybe years, even. I re-designed all the covers of the Tassamara books. I was motivated because the narrators of the audiobook for Ghosts are currently working on Thought and soon to be working on Time and eventually to be working on Grace. I knew I had to make a decision about audiobook covers, and my decision was to make my own.

Four Audiobook covers

These are the draft versions of the audiobooks, but the final versions will be very similar. Versions of those covers for the ebook and print versions are already up on Amazon.

Along the way, I read both Ghosts and Grace. It was oddly fun. Grace, in particular, lives in my memory a certain way and the reading experience was not at all what I expected it to be. I amused myself more, confused myself less, and surprised myself with the cohesiveness of the storyline. But I suspect the lesson I should learn is to stop trying to do specific things and just write. I was trying to write a romance in Grace: it doesn’t work. Also, Sophia’s too bitter (literally — I need to delete about three uses of the word “bitterly”); Misam’s too bubbly (not sure how to fix that); and Noah’s either too stubborn or not stubborn enough. Maybe both. But I would hang out with those characters anytime. All quite fun to be with.

Still I remember obsessing about making the details fit together just so, and really, who pays that much attention? In fact, if a reader is paying that much attention, I’ve lost already because the story isn’t holding them the way it should. But I’m feeling more enthusiasm for future Tassamara stories than I’ve felt in a long time. I started a couple that dead-ended and I think I’m going to be trying to make my way out of those dead ends sometime soon. But definitely not trying to write “romance” — just trying to write stories that maybe wind up with happy endings where good people who like one another end up looking toward the future together.

But that writing will not be tomorrow, because we’re heading back to Santa Rosa for Suzanne’s post-surgery eye exam. The drive’s getting a little too familiar, but fortunately, it is mostly extremely beautiful. And with every expectation of delicious food and fun play with puppies along the way!