Saturday, December 31, 2011

don't let the door hit you on the way out

It's the last day of 2011!

2011 is not a year on which I will look back with undiluted pleasure. 
100 points to anybody that can identify the source of that (paraphrased) quote!

So, no undiluted pleasure but no undiluted despair either.  There were many sweet moments, lots of laughs and memorable experiences.  Undoubtedly there were lessons learned, or at least lessons that will be learned when I mature enough to figure out what they were.

Normally I view the new year as a time for reflection but I don't really want to look back on this year.  I'd rather look forward.  It's a time to begin new projects, redefine goals, clear out the cobwebs and figure out what's out there for me.  As my best friend from high school recently said - Resolution #1 of many: Take action to make 2012 memorable for GOOD things. Enough with the mundane and negative!

There are lots of good things on the horizon - Laurapalooza 2012 is coming up in July and it's not going to plan itself.  I imagine it's going to take up a good deal of my time (and the time of everyone else on the Board and committees) between now and July.  Then there's the do-over that T and I want for our 25th anniversary even if we end up with several small celebrations in different parts of the country to make sure we get to celebrate with everybody that we love.  Having several small parties and multiple new dresses *will* be a hardship for me, of course, but it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for my friends. ;-)
And most important, I want to take some time to try to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.  I feel like the answer is shimmering out there in front of me but I just can't quite seem to catch hold of it yet.  Maybe I'll try a few different things this year, maybe I'll make some false starts.  That's ok, I just want to put some quality time into the search.
One project I plan to start tomorrow is to take a picture each day and post it with a short description of why it's a part of my story that day.  I'm sure some days will be more prosaic than others but that's kind of how life goes, isn't it?
So let's enjoy each moment of the last day of 2011...and then let's kick it in the butt as it's going out the door!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Pithy saying # 1

I was shopping in town yesterday and dropped by the hat store which is run by this lovely couple although the wife is...hmm, how shall I put this....slightly intense.  I must admit I kind of prefer it when only the husband is working, the wife scares me a little although I really do like her.

They were both working yesterday, and I found the most darling little hat as a late Christmas present to me, and when I took the hat up to the counter the wife exclaimed over its cuteness and then took my hands in hers and said something like "let's vow right now that next year will be the best one ever."  Yeah, ok, the hat WAS cute but I don't think it's going to change my life.  But then she said something that got me thinking - "It's not enough just to make a vow, I'm a firm believer that change only happens when we act on our vow.  We've got to MAKE next year the best one ever."

I feel like 2011 happened to me, I just laid down and let it run over me without doing anything to stop it.  I want things to change but I haven't been acting to make it happen, I've just been waiting for stuff to happen to me.  That's got to change, I feel like I wasted a whole year, like I put things in motion in January and then dropped the ball.

So today I picked up a month's worth of accumulated mail and there was one of those catalogs that they send out at Christmas time with all sorts of plaques with pithy sayings.  A few of them spoke to me, things I want to keep in mind next year so that I don't waste another 365 days.  Here's one for today:

I cannot prevent the birds of sorrow from passing over my head but I can keep them from building a nest in my hair.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

 To you and all your family
Your neighbors and your friends
May all your days be happy
With a joy that never ends
May peace and love surround you
At Christmastime and all the whole year through

It says so in my Christmas card to you

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Golden hugs

Guess what we did last week?

We VISITED puppies.

Or, at least, that was the intention.  Well no, the intention was to visit dogs.  We'd been missing the feeling of petting and hugging a big, golden dog.  Luckily we know a great breeder that was nice enough to tell us that we could come out and pet dogs to our hearts content...and that's what we did.

It was very satisfying to pet a bunch of happy dogs.  They were so excited to see us but so well behaved that we never heard a bark the entire time we were there. Just a bunch of wriggling golden bodies with the occasional kiss.

And, of course, there were puppies although we didn't really get to play with them because they were too little.  Golden retriever puppies have got to be one of the cutest things on Earth and you can't help but want to take one home.

So we went home and really thought about putting our name in for one of the upcoming litters.  Really thought long and hard.  It was oh so tempting.

But in the end we knew we weren't ready yet.  The minute we admitted that to each other, we knew it was the right decision...for now.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What would Laura bake?

In keeping with yesterday's theme, I decided to do a little baking today.  Rather than jump right into sourdough starter or salt rising bread, I went with a tried and true favorite - gingerbread.

Laura's gingerbread recipe is a perfect example of something that is a more closely linked to adult Laura rather than Little House Laura.  Laura became well-known for her gingerbread when the favorite recipe was included in the Laura Ingalls Wilder issue of The Horn Book in 1953.  I've made the recipe many times and it really is delicious gingerbread, more like a cake than a cookie.

1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup molasses

2 teaspoons baking soda
mixed into 1 cup boiling water

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon each:
ginger, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 beaten eggs

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Grease a 9x9 baking pan
2.  Blend the sugar and the shortening and mix in the molasses
3.  Add the baking soda to the boiling water and mix well
4.  Combine the flour and the spices.  Combine the sugar-molasses mixture with the flour mixture and the baking soda-water liquid.  Lastly, add the eggs.  Mix ingredients well and pour into prepared pan.
5.  Bake for 30-45 minutes or until toothpick  inserted in the center of the gingerbread comes out clean.

I've learned from painful experience that it's really important not to skip the toothpick tester thingy.  Trust me.

If all goes well, you should end up with something like this

Laura suggested that raisins and/or candied fruit could be added and that chocolate frosting "adds to the goodness" but I prefer my gingerbread pure, untouched by these extras.

Rose Wilder Lane, Laura's daughter, wrote about a time when she made the gingerbread as a pre-teen but used cayenne pepper by mistake, instead of ginger.  I actually think a little cayenne pepper might add an interesting side note...maybe next time.

Friday, December 2, 2011

What Would Laura Eat...for Christmas

I've been feeling rather domestic lately and quite Little House-y, which is actually kind of unusual for me.  As much as I enjoy learning about Laura Ingalls Wilder - reading her books and researching her real life - I am most interested in the grown up Laura that lived in the 20th century, more than the 19th century pioneer girl.  I have little interest in dressing up in a prairie dress and sunbonnet or learning traditional 19th century cooking techniques and crafts.  I went through that pioneer phase in my teens and rarely feel the need to revisit.

Christmas time is different.  Christmas just seems right for Little House traditions and so tonight I've surrounded myself with my Little House and Laura cookbooks, trying to plan the perfect Christmas menu.

I'm intrigued by the recipes for Roasted Stuffed Goose and Stewed Jackrabbit and Dumplings but I think I should probably start with something a bit less frontier.  Now, we'll be traveling on Christmas day but I'm thinking about oyster soup for Christmas eve dinner, which is also a family tradition from my childhood although I didn't like oysters back then.

I also want to try molded cranberry jelly, Swedish crackers, dried apple and raisin pie and fried apples 'n onions.  I might even have another whack at sourdough starter for bread and biscuits.  I tried it as a teenager with rather disappointing (and smelly) results.  Time to try again!

Of course, my Little House-ness only goes so far; no wood burning stoves or campfires for me.  I intend to indulge my inner Laura with modern appliances.  Let's not go crazy or anything.  And no, I'm still not wearing a sunbonnet.

Have you been admiring my cookbook?  It's an original edition from  1979 and one of my prized possessions.  I was lucky enough to meet the author a few years ago and she was surprised to see such a vintage edition.  Apparently it has had a different cover for, oh about 20 years now.

Anybody have other Little House Christmas menu suggestions for me?  How about Pot Roast of Ox?  Oh, I know - Blackbird Pie!

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. ~Native American Saying

There are a log of things I'm thankful for this Thanksgiving but the biggest one is hope.  I wake up each morning to a day filled with possibilities and for that, I am grateful.  I know that my prayers will be answered even if I'm not completely thrilled with the timing these days.  The unknown blessings are out there, of that I am sure.

I pray that each of you is enjoying a wonderful Thanksgiving with the people that you love.  In spirit, I am with my family even though it's been many years since we've shared Thanksgiving together.  Maybe next year.


Friday, November 11, 2011


I hate craft stores.'s not actually hate, it's more like I'm really intimidated by craft stores.  It's genetics.  The crafty gene in my family diminishes from generation to generation so by the time it got down to me, there was barely a speck left.

At least that's what I tell myself to make me feel better but it can't really be true because EVERY woman in my family, older than me, is really crafty...some, like my sister, to the point of being damned artistic.  My only consolation is that my niece (who is more like a younger sister - don't ask, too complicated) seems to be as un-crafty as I am.  That's how I know I wasn't a changeling.

That's why today's blog post is about a very unusual subject for me.  I found a craft project that I like!  I willingly, without force or threat of violence, drove myself to a craft store, walked in and actually bought raw materials to turn into a usable and attractive object!  I can barely believe it myself.

I took these raw materials

and made this sweater clip!
 Apparently sweater clips are somewhat trendy again because of the character of Emma Pillsbury on Glee.  Apparently you can find them all over Etsy.  Apparently I didn't know any of this before I  decided to go the DIY route and willingly walked into that craft store.  At least my sweater clips are going to be unique because I had to use whatever I could find at my local store and they didn't have any actual sweater clip bottoms (probably not the technical term) so I improvised with badge clips.

I like to wear cardigans, it's always sweater weather here in Fogville.  I don't like to button them up but they slip off my shoulders when I leave them open so enter a staple of the 50s (resurrected again in the 80s) - the sweater clip.  I have an old one but I wanted other styles and colors and somehow, before I knew what was happening, I got the bright idea to try to make my own.  The interesting thing is, I enjoyed making this first one and already have ideas for several more designs.

And just like that, I'm crafty like the rest of the women in my family!  Hmmm, now I'm starting to wonder about my niece.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


We had a really great Halloween this year.  It's not a holiday that we've celebrated much over the years.  Of course I LOVED Halloween  as a kid back in Chicago but once my family moved to a very rural area of Virginia, the Halloween fun stopped. 

When I got married, Halloween was more inconvenience than fun - trying to keep dogs in and kids out.  Jasper never really enjoyed Halloween.  It was too much commotion for a puppy with issues and he never understood why so many people were showing up at our front door and not one of them was delivering pizza!

When we moved to California we were out in the boonies on a gated property with a long, dark, uphill driveway.  No parent with a brain would have let their kid walk up that driveway especially since the house was buried back in the woods, not even visible from the gate so we just locked our gate each October 31 and ate all the candy ourselves forgot all about Halloween.

We moved to our present house in 2007 and I got all excited about being able to enjoy Halloween again.  We were finally living in town, in a neighborhood with short driveways and SIDEWALKS!  We even had the cutest little front yard with a white picket fence, the perfect setting for a spooky graveyard.  I bought a few decorations and spent October turning my house into the scariest on the block.  Then Halloween night came and we discovered we had a problem because we couldn't keep our porch light on. It's a motion sensor light and kept going off so parents and kids probably weren't sure we were home. I kept opening the front door to turn it back on but we only had 5 kids stop by. So for the next few years, we just gave up on Halloween and tried to be away from home on that night.

This year I was determined to enjoy Halloween once again.  If everything in my life is different this year -some of it because of questionable decisions, some of it out of my control - it became very important to me to have at least one of the differences be something good.

I gave T the task of figuring out how to keep the light on all the time. There were 2 little buttons on the light fixture itself and he figured out what combination to push. He also found the switch in the garage that worked the lights at the end of our driveway.  I'd been looking for that switch for 4 years. :-/

Once the light was fixed, I got busy decorating the yard with all the decorations from 2007.  I had  big plans to buy even more things, tombstones and bones, but all the good stuff was gone by the time the light was fixed so I guess that'll have to wait for next year.

I love the bloody hands!

Pooh didn't go with the graveyard theme but he was too cute to pass up.

At first it got dark and nobody stopped by, a little disappointing, but then the kids started coming. I was happy with 10...but they kept coming. I actually stopped counting around 25 but I estimate we ended up with over 40. I wasn't worried about running out of candy but they did go through most of it. We kept the light on till 8:30 but we had our last kids around 8:15. It was so much fun, can't wait for next year; we've got big plans for graveyard expansion.

As much as we enjoyed Halloween, we're not really celebrating the other two big holidays this year.  We don't plan to be home for either Thanksgiving or Christmas.  We don't want to be "home" in Florida either, too many memories of our perfect Christmas there last year.  We're going to be moving targets, on the road both days - off for adventure and a little denial.  I will go celebrate early with my mother but I don't plan on doing anything traditional on December 25.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Howloween!

Trick or Treat!  Got any pizza?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Home Alone

For most of the 25 years of my married life my husband has traveled...a lot.  Because a lot of his traveling has been halfway around the world, he would often be gone for 2 weeks at a time just to maximize his time there.  My mother, projecting her own feelings on me, would often try to commiserate with me over my loneliness but, as I always told her, I was never lonely.

As an introvert I get my energy recharged from being alone so I have to admit that I kind of looked forward to the trips.  I really need to have time by myself or I become exhausted and overwhelmed.  I love being in the house by myself, being in charge of my own schedule, eating whatever and whenever I want.  I like watching sappy movies at night without someone making comments or rolling his eyes whenever someone on screen bursts out into song.  I really am a loner at heart and although I do enjoy being part of a pair, I need my space, man!

Besides, I was never really alone...before.

You see, that's the secret of how to be a loner without turning into a hermit - get a dog.  Whenever T was on one of his trips, I had the best company in the world to keep me from getting lonely.  When I ate junk food, Jasper was there to save me from eating too much.  When I burst into song along with the sappy movie, Jasper was there to howl in sympathy.  When I wanted to run out to the store at 2 in the afternoon just to get out of the house, Jasper was either ready to come along or waiting to joyfully welcome me back home.  Who could be lonely with the perfect companion around?

So, as the time got closer for T to take his first trip since July I wondered how I would do, being really and truly on my own for the first time.  I admit I haven't done so well when T has been gone for day trips the past couple of months so I figured I'd really lose it when the first overnight trip came along.

Surprisingly, I'm 3 days into it and still doing fine.  I really figured I'd spend the whole first day in tears, letting out all the feelings I keep bottled up (as much as possible) when I'm not alone.  I also figured the first night I walked down the hall by myself would be awful and that I'd toss and turn all night but that hasn't been the case at all.  In fact, I think I've slept better this week than I have in 3 months. 

One fun thing about being home alone is that I can leave my shoes wherever I want.  I haven't been able to leave shoes out for 15 years.  Jasper was an excellent retriever and he loved to nose around our bedroom to find things to bring to me.  He especially loved bringing out shoes so they always had to be locked behind a closet door or else I'd end up with a big pile of shoes in the living room.  Actually, come to think of it, this week I'm creating my own pile of shoes in the living room all by myself.  I'd like to think it's an homage to Jasper but I suspect it's just because I'm too lazy to put things away.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Saturday Stuff - Thank you!

Yeah, yeah, I know it's not Saturday.  I'm a little behind but I didn't want to wait till next week to give a big, public thank you to my friend Laura!

A couple of weeks ago I received a little package in the mail from Michigan.  You'll never guess what it was - an apron!  Now I have an official collection, I'm so thrilled.  And this isn't just any apron, it's a PARTY apron! 

Aprons are really hot right now, I've been seeing them in the stores all over town and my favorites are the little half aprons that you would wear if you were having a dinner party in your home.  You know the type, they only cover the bottom half of you and they look too pretty to ever want to spill anything on them.  They're usually frilly and girly and I love them and now I have one of my very own!

It's sheer pale pinky lilac with white rick-rack all around the edges, even around the cute little pocket. It makes me want to throw a dinner party right away.

Laura is a dear friend that I met through our mutual interest in Laura Ingalls Wilder.  She and her husband, Jim, live in Michigan and make the best maple syrup every year.  We were lucky enough to share a dorm suite at Laurapalooza last year and are looking forward to hanging out in Minnesota again next year.  I wish she lived closer, I think we'd have a lot of fun running around town together.

Be sure to read her blog, A Simple Happy Life.  Her dog, Duke, posts on Saturdays and he's had lots of adventures.

Thank you Laura, your sweet gift made my summer.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Saturday Stuff: Chuck It!

I throw like a girl.
Actually, that's insulting to girls.
I throw badly.  I used to take Jasper out in the backyard and try to throw the tennis ball.  Ever the optimist, he would stand on the far side of the yard and wait for the ball to come hurtling towards him, ready to catch it.  You can only imagine the mixed pity and disgust on his face when I would let go of the ball and it would fall mere inches from my own feet.  No wonder he would head back to the house after only a few attempts.
Then I found The Chuck It and it changed everything; it's like having a bionic arm!  Suddenly I could throw and the ball goes FAR.  The first few times it went further than Jasper could anticipate so he had to go running into the trees.  His look of surprise was everything I could have hoped for.
Not only did the Chuck It revolutionize our games of fetch, I never had to touch a slimy tennis ball again.  That alone was worth the purchase price.  It's a good value too, we used ours for many years including several fetch sessions just earlier this year.   If you love a dog, you need one of these!

Thursday, September 1, 2011


I stand corrected - I do not just have 1 reader, I think I have at least 3 and their names are  Laurie, Laura and Lauri.  And my favorite author is Laura Ingalls Wilder.  Coincidence or not?

I just need to find a Lori and I'll be all set.

New Beginnings

Well hello!  Here it is, September 1st already.  Bet you were wondering where I disappeared in the last half of August, didn't you?  Actually, you probably didn't since I think only 1 person is still reading this blog...hi Laurie!

I had to take a little break from writing because I was having trouble maintaining a sunny outlook.  They say there are 5 stages of grief:

1.  Denial & Isolation
2.  Anger
3.  Bargaining
4.  Depression
5.  Acceptance

I've not really experienced bargaining (what the heck would I bargain for, it's not like the situation is going to change.) but I think I'm going through numbers 1, 2 and 4 simultaneously.  Or at least I bounce from one to the other on any given day.

I've truly never experienced anything like this.  I've never been so sad for so long.  I've lost dogs before and I've lost people that I loved dearly before and yet this experience is knocking all the wind out of my sails like NEVER before.  Not that you'd know if you saw me in person, I'm good at hiding my feelings.  My own mother hasn't even noticed that anything is wrong with me...but maybe that's not the best example. ;-)

It's been almost 2 months now and last week I really believed I was sailing into the harbor of acceptance.  I finally stopped crying every single day and I was starting to look forward to future plans.  I suppose it helped a lot that another situation in our lives looked like it was finally going to change.  This week, however, the situation still hasn't been resolved and I'm slipping back out to sea.

I think I'll stop wallowing, however, and not post about it anymore.  I'm usually a stiff upper lip sort, not the kind to moan to others about my difficulties and I find I'm annoying even myself.  I wouldn't want to do that to my readers Laurie.  September has always been about new beginnings for me and I'm ready to make one.  September is going to be a happy posting month...after today, of course.  It's not like I've been sitting around staring at the walls for the last few weeks.  I've traveled, learned how to make preserves and spent time exploring new places and I've got pictures to share so watch this space!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Saturday Stuff - Victorian Trading Company

Victorian Trading Company

As I mentioned yesterday, I was obsessed for a while with Avonlea, a show set during the Victorian period.  But I must confess that I wasn't only obsessed with the TV show, I was obsessed with the whole Victorian period.  I loved the clothes, hair, music and decorating style...especially the decorating style. 

It wasn't just me, there was a whole Victorian revival in the '80s and '90s so there were a lot of stores and catalogs that acted as enablers for my Victorian habit.  I even found the perfect nouveau Victorian white wicker sofas and chairs to create the perfect Victorian living room on a budget.

One of these catalog companies still entices me from time to time even though my Victorian obsession has passed, although the wicker remains.  They have some truly lovely merchandise, so romantic, whimsical and just plain unique.  I'm getting this pair of boots even though I'm not sure I'd ever wear them in public.

autumn wellingtons  <br/><img src=/ebaydav/images/bestsellertag.jpg alt=”bestseller tag”>
aren't they beautiful?!
Meet the Victorian Trading Company - enjoy!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Jasper Tails - What's In a Name

I knew Jasper was Jasper before there was a Jasper.

Wow, reading that makes my head hurt.  But it's true.  In the 1990s I was kind of obsessed with a TV series that was based on Lucy Maud Montgomery's books The Story Girl and The Golden Road.  The series was set on Prince Edward Island (although not filmed there) and featured memorable characters - like Jasper Dale.

But no, I didn't name Jasper after a TV character...I named him after a book character too.

In The Golden Road Jasper Dale was described as the Awkward Man, a painfully shy old bachelor who kept to himself until he finally found the love of his life.  You can read the love story of the awkward man here.

I fell in love with the character of Jasper Dale in the book and was so happy that they brought him to life perfectly on the small screen in Avonlea.

Mag Ruffman and R. H. Thompson played Olivia and Jasper Dale
 So I knew I wanted to have a dog named Jasper one day.  I even confided this to my friend Mary Evelyn weeks before we found our Jasper.  She knew Jasper before there was a Jasper too.

What I didn't know was how perfect the name would be.  As we were to find out within the first few days after bringing Jasper home, he shared more than just a name with Jasper Dale.  Our little Jasper was indeed, The Awkward Man.

More next week!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10 reasons

Top Ten Reasons I'd Rather Be In Florida

Number 10 - Martin
And just who is Martin, you ask?  Get your minds out of the gutter, I'm not confessing to anything...yet. ;-)  No, Martin is my gator friend.  You don't have a gator friend? You don't know what you're missing.  I love Martin.

He was purchased in a shop in Carmel that was going out of business.  I'd had my eye on him for years but wasn't really tempted until he was 40% off, then I knew he had to be mine.  And, of course, he would eventually belong in Florida, being a gator and all.  He got his chance to travel last December when we drove across country for Christmas.  Now he's a permanent resident in Florida and I look forward to seeing his smiling face each time I visit.  Maybe you're wondering why he's called Martin?  It's in honor of my favorite explorer from the 1920s and 1930s Martin Johnson.

Number 9 - outdoor furniture
The last time I was in Florida I got some really great Adirondack chairs in fun colors.  I'd been coveting them ever since I saw these in Pepin, Wisconsin last summer
chairs outside Harbor View Cafe in Pepin

I spent the whole meal trying to figure out how I could smuggle a couple of those chairs on the plane so I was thrilled to find similar ones in Florida and now I have my very own.

Number 8 - On Demand TV
Our Florida cable system has this On Demand thing for primetime shows and old movies - it's awesome!  I never have to worry about having forgotten to DVR something because it's probably going to show up in On Demand the next day and stay there for a few weeks.  Not that I'm a couch potato addicted to TV or anything. 

Moving on...

Number 7 - Sweet Tomatoes
My friends Cliff and Mary Evelyn introduced me to this place earlier this year and now I'm hooked, I love their salad bar, flatbreads and soups.  They took me to the one in LBV but just before we came back to California in May, they started building a new one just down the street from us.  I can't wait to try it out!

Number 6 - Flip Flops
I grew up running barefoot everywhere.  Even as a teenager I would walk up our long gravel driveway with no shoes...boy I was glad when my dad finally got it paved!  I love wearing strappy sandals and flip flops in the summer because that's as close to barefoot as I can get and not be kicked out of shops and restaurants.  But my part of California is a no flip flop zone.  Not because there's a law, it's because your feet would freeze, turn blue and fall off.  Summer along the central coast is foggy, damp and chilly.  Not the refreshing kind of chilly that most of the country dreams about in the summer but the feel it deep in your bones kind of chill that makes you want to crawl under a blanket and not come out until fall, which is our "summer"...except it's often foggy and chilly then too but nobody wants to admit it.

Now there are beautiful, spectacular days in CA that make you wonder why you'd ever live anywhere else but more often than not it's more jacket weather than flip flops.  So a trip to Florida is a chance to throw away the jackets and break out the flip flops.  I have a lovely collection in Florida and I long to wear them again.

Number 5 -  Dine In Theater
Dinner and a movie?  How about dinner WITH your movie?  The local movie theater has a new offering called Fork and Screen.  I'll be blogging about it next week but lets just say - it's wonderful.  I don't think I'll be able to go back to the regular theater after trying it.

time to order lunch before the movie starts

Number 4 - Uncle Leslie cookies

You probably know them as sugar wafers.  I don't care what you call them, they mean FLORIDA to me.  Yes, I know that they are not specific to Florida and can be bought anywhere but the fact is, I *only* buy them in Florida.  It started years ago when I was shopping in Publix.  They must have had this wafer box prominently displayed on the end of the aisle...where they try to entice the kiddies with junk food.  It worked and I've been picking up a box (or two) on each trip ever since.  It wouldn't be a Florida vacation without Uncle Leslie cookies.

Number 3 - Warm Summer Evenings
It's not always chilly in California.  On days when the sun is shining it can get downright toasty...although toasty in CA is around 70 which would be kinda chilly in Florida, it's the darndest thing.  Anyway, during the day, it can be awfully nice but no matter what time of year, when the sun goes down for the day it's COLD.  There are no twilight walks, no al  fresco evening dinners, no sitting out to watch the stars.  At least not without a heavy jacket and some mittens.

Summer evenings in Florida remind me of my childhood in Illinois, of late night talks with T on the deck of our first house in Virginia, of evening strolls on the beach during vacations.  Warm summer evenings speak of happiness and contentment.  No jackets required.

Number 2 - No Sad Memories
Jasper spent a lot of time in Florida - a Christmas trip in 2003, living there from 2006-2007 and another few months in 2011 (a time we now call Camelot) so the house is filled with his memory.  He was always happy and well in this house, there are no sad memories like there are now in California.  It's a restful place for my mind.

Number 1 - THE POOL!
I can't stress this enough - I love my pool.  LOVE, love, l*o*v*e my pool!  I always wanted a house with a pool so the house in Florida is my house of dreams.  Whenever I daydream about being there, I am always in the pool.  I have gone there on trips when it was too cold to swim, I swam anyway.
As you can see, Jasper was not a fan of the pool

Tug is one of my pool buddies
So there you have it, my top ten reasons.  Now excuse me if I blog and run, I have a plane to catch!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Sunday Drive - Monterey Turkish Festival

One of the nicest things about the Monterey peninsula is the number of festivals that go on throughout the year.  It seems like at least once a month there's this group or that organization putting together a festival on the Custom House Plaza.  They all follow about the same pattern - music, food and vendors.  I can never decide which part I like best...probably the food.

Recently we attended the Turkish Festival, which is one of my favorites.  I will admit that I don't know as much about Turkey as I should but I do know that I love the food!

Welcome to the 2011 Turkish Festival!
festival grounds at the Custom House Plaza
Some of the great food offered at this festival
One of our favorite vendors, we love this market with all its unique products from around the world.

Ok, this is really our favorite booth.  They always bring 3 or 4 of their dogs, so sweet!

This is Luna, she was a puppy at the festival last year and now she's a sweet 15 month old!
 And now the part you've all been waiting for - LUNCH!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Saturday Stuff - World Market

Cost Plus World Market Logo

It's no secret that I love to shop but you're never going to find me waxing poetic about high end clothing stores or way too expensive purses and shoes being hawked by the latest celebutart.  I'm not that kind of a shopper.  I love exotic and unique stuff (even if it's an "exotic" chain store) and it's even better if it's cheap a good value.  My favorite Saturday afternoon activity is to find a store full of stuff to poke around in for hours, hopefully coming home with some small treasure.

One of my favorite stores is World Market which reminds me of Pier One meets an international grocery store meets a wine store meets Crate and Barrel.  It's one of those places we go when we're bored, with no particular item in mind and we invariably come out with some new food product or a great gadget/plate/pan/thingy for the kitchen.  They have cute aprons too!

Not too long ago we were hanging out in World Market and found a great wok.  We had an old wok that worked ok but we could immediately see that this one was better quality, more manageable size and, best of all, it was cheap a good value!

Now that he has his new wok, T loves to stir fry things, I think he must spend his free time thinking up new combinations of ingredients and spices and they always come out looking amazing, smelling wonderful and tasting totally delicious.

The Eiffel Tower bottles in the background are from World Market too.

The wok we bought is the natural finish version which means there's no non-stick coating, just pure carbon steel.  It takes a little extra work when you get home, a little elbow grease with some steel wool, but the results are totally worth it and you end up with a perfectly seasoned wok which should last for years and years.  Apparently the natural finish wok can handle higher temperatures than the non-stick version.  Considering that the smoke alarm routinely goes off when T is wokking, this is probably a good thing.

So run, don't wok, down to World Market and pick up one for yourself!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Jasper Tails - Let's Start at the Very Beginning

A very good place to start!

Except, if we're really going to tell this story correctly we need to start before the beginning...with Bear.

Meet Bear, who came to live with us during our first year of marriage.  Bear was, without a doubt, my very best friend.  He was sweet and gentle, unless you were the guys building our deck once. He threw himself at our sliding glass door so hard, barking furiously the whole time, and I (and the guys) really thought he was going to break the glass so that he could get at them.  Later I took him for a walk out back while they were still working and he was so quiet and friendly that they didn't think it could possibly be the same dog.

Bear was a Golden Retriever/German Shepherd mix.  In temperament he was very much like a Golden except for one thing - he wouldn't retrieve.  He would get all excited about the idea of retrieving, he always acted like he wanted to join in when Allie, the lab next door, was chasing after the ball so I would try throwing the ball for him.  I would throw the ball and he would look at me as if to say, "you threw it, YOU go get it!"  And then I'd go get it.

Bear died unexpectedly when he was only 9 years old, much, much too soon.  I was devastated and while I was at the vet's office a big Golden turned and looked at me with such understanding that I knew at once I wanted to have a big golden dog to hug.  It kind of became an obsession over the next few weeks while I was grieving over losing my best friend.  With how I feel now, I couldn't even imagine looking for another dog after only a few weeks but I can't say it wasn't right back then because it led us to Jasper.

Easter weekend 1996.  I had been checking the local paper for Golden puppies and decided to visit a local pet store on a whim.  They said they didn't buy from puppy mills but only got dogs from local breeders.  I was disappointed that there weren't any Goldens but there was the cutest Miniature Pinscher that I watched for quite a while because he had an adorable personality.  For some unknown reason, I wanted T to see this Pinscher even though I wasn't the least bit interested in getting it and he had no interest in Pinschers.  But the feeling was strong and so we headed back to the store the next day.

T has always maintained that he woke up that morning and knew that his dog was waiting out there for him although he didn't mention it to me until after we had Jasper, so he was surprised when I told him there weren't any Goldens at the store.  We went anyway and he immediately scanned the store for his puppy.  He was disappointed to find out I was right, there were no Golden puppies...except, what was that bit of yellow fur sticking out underneath that pile of puppies?

Yes, our first sight of Jasper was at the bottom of a bunch of sleeping puppies who all had to be dislodged so that we could see if he was a Golden.  Once the other puppies were out of the way and the gate was opened, Jasper saw his chance for escape and ran under a nearby shelf trying to make himself very small so that nobody would see him.  We probably should have known he was a little "different" at that point.

He hadn't been in the store when I had visited the day before, he had come in later that day so he hadn't even spent a full day there and was probably pretty puzzled about how life kept changing on him.

We brought him home, a little bundle of yellow, with a pig's ear that was bigger than he was.  He was a serious little puppy.

His eyes were wide and open, we soon realized that he knew nothing about life and we needed to teach him everything.  He weighed barely more than a feather, I would sling him over my shoulder to head down to the basement to take him out because he was too little to navigate the stairs.

We noticed right away that every time he was confronted with something new that he didn't understand, he would sit down and get a cute little wrinkle on the top of his head while he appeared to be thinking about this new development.  We called it his frowny face.

It didn't take long, however, until he started enjoying himself and decided that we weren't so bad, especially if we kept giving him fun things like rawhide chips to chew on!

Yep, Jasper decided we were ok and the house was a fun place to play, but what about that big, wide world out there?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Life lesson #2432

Before you add cayenne pepper to your guacamole, measure out the amount rather than just shake it into the avocado or else you'll end up inventing NitroGuac.  Oh wait, you can't invent it, I already did!

Two minutes after I snapped the picture this mixture was orange rather than green.  I had to throw half of it down the sink and even then, it still has quite a kick.  It's pretty yummy actually, I think I'll do it again next time!

So here's a new life lesson - take a risk once in a while and disregard the rules, you may like it...or you may need to run out to the store to buy a new avocado and start all over again.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sunday Drive: Pacific Grove

One of our favorite places to visit is Pacific Grove which is also known as Butterfly Town, USA because of the thousands of Monarch butterflies that return to the town each October to spend the winter.

To be honest, I've never seen any Monarchs there, the one time we went to the butterfly sanctuary was the year the Monarchs decided to winter somewhere else but I've heard they were plentiful last year so we'll try again this fall and hope for better results.

Pacific Grove was founded in 1875 as a Methodist summer camp and by 1879 was a part of the nationwide Chautauqua circuit.    By the turn of the century Pacific Grove, like nearby Carmel, because a haven for artists.  Many of the Victorian cottages in town date from the turn of the century and sport plaques on the front with the name of the original owner.
I read somewhere that PG boasts the most Victorian houses per capita than anywhere else in the US.  I don't know if it's true but they do have some pretty ones.
They also have some quirky, non-Victorians

Pacific Grove, when the sun in shining, is one of the most charming, magical places you could ever visit.  Yesterday's weather didn't quite cooperate (sun, what's that?) but we still managed to have a wonderful time at the annual Feast of Lanterns festival at Lover's Point.

The first Feast of Lanterns was held in Pacific Grove in 1905 as the closing ceremony to the Chautauqua Assembly. The current version of the festival was revived in 1957 and the legend of the Blue Willow was added, the PG version was first told in 1958.  In the original Chinese version of the legend the star-crossed lovers fly away as PG they fly away as Monarch butterflies and return every Fall.

Many houses in PG are decorated with Chinese lanterns for the week long festivities. It's nice to see the whole town participating.

Some people have their own way of participating, this house is celebrating the Feast of Flashlights

The big event takes place on Saturday starting with a festival in the park.  It's mostly for kids with bouncy houses and contests.  The park is right on the coast and boasts amazing views.

The view is even nicer when the sun is shining

For us, the best part of any festival is the food, naturally.  We especially love a local food truck called 
Babaloo which was making its first appearance at the Feast of Lanterns.  Gladys' cuban sandwiches are amazing and I really needed a Babaloo fix since it's been a few weeks since the truck's schedule and mine have blended.

Her truck fit so nicely into the park atmosphere, it's very colorful.

There are many new choices but I stuck with my favorite - the Lucy Lucy, while T got a Ricky Ricardo.

We loved our visit to Pacific Grove and the Feast of Lanterns even if this was the closest we got to a butterfly