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

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday Stuff: Retro Revival

Retro Revival

Today we have the very first edition of   Saturday Stuff   where I send a shout out to people and companies that I like.  Think of it as Oprah's Jonni's Favorite Things!

I'd like to introduce you to Retro Revival - chic handmade accessories and gifts. 

I first ran across this company when they were vendors at the Pie Festival in Celebration, FL this past April.  Sooooo many adorable aprons!  She has even more great handmade products on her website (shower caps, table runners, curling iron travel cases) and a fun blog to keep up with.  I'm so glad they have a website because I can order anytime rather than just hope I see them again at a future festival.  Her designs look fantastic with so many fun fabrics to choose from.  It's retrotastic!

Just in case you were wondering, I'm still looking for someone to send me a third apron so that I have an official collection! ;-)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Jasper Tails - There will be tears

So we've made it through the third week.  It hasn't all been sad, there are long periods of time when our minds are occupied with other thoughts.  House problems have dominated a huge portion of the last three weeks, unfortunately.  Then, without warning, while doing something innocent like eating, the memories come and punch me in the gut.  There's no one to share pizza (french fries, potato chips, marshmallows, bacon, sandwiches, pop-tarts, peanut butter, bagels, steak, ribs, cookies) with.  There's no one to take out first thing in the morning or last thing at night.  There's no one to greet me when I come home from the store.  There's no one to make me feel guilty when I go out to the store.  There's no one sleeping on my side of the bed or couch.  There's no one looking straight at me while climbing up on my side of the bed or couch.

It's heartbreaking.  I can honestly say there hasn't been a day in over a month that I haven't cried. Believe me, this does nothing for the skin, my under-eye area looks like a buffalo wallow.  Sometimes I can go the whole day without tears (ok, that's only happened once) but before I fall asleep, the thoughts take over.  I am helpless as my mind goes over the last few weeks, second guessing every decision.  What if I had zigged instead of zagged?  Would the outcome have been different?  Did we wait too long or didn't we wait long enough?  I can put most of these to rest because I know we did everything we could but it takes all my strength to think of other things long enough to go to sleep.  And I hate crying myself to sleep because it makes it hard to breathe.

It's different living without a dog. I've not been dog-less since the age of 6 and considering how ancient I am now, that's a really long time! Well meaning people have suggested that we go out and get another dog but I've always known that there wouldn't be any more dogs after Jasper, at least not for a good long while. L.M. Montgomery put it best in Anne's House of Dreams when Capt. Jim said,
"I had a dog once.  I thought so much of him that when he died I couldn't bear the thought of getting another in his place.  He was a friend - you understand, Mistress Blythe? Matey (cat) is only a pal...but I loved my dog."
Or when Leslie said,
"Not just now, thank you, Anne.  I don't feel like having another dog yet.  I don't seem to have any affection left for another.  Perhaps - in time - I'll let you give me one...but there was something almost human about Carlo -- it wouldn't be decent to fill his place too hurriedly, dear old fellow."
Being dog-less has only one advantage (that I can see right now), it allows us to travel without restriction.  We do love travel and it's not like we stayed home for 15 years but we were always very aware that trips couldn't last too long and we missed Jasper like crazy.  The last couple of years we've made sure we didn't stay away too long because he wouldn't eat well when we weren't home.  Now, there's no reason to rush home.

And so, travel is probably on the immediate horizon for us.  I can accompany T for business and we can spend a little longer in the pool whenever we're down in Florida.  We can even start thinking of that 2 week Med. cruise or the 15 day cruise to Hawaii we've never been able to contemplate before.  It's good, but it's bittersweet.

Since I never like to end things on a negative note, here's a fun picture to make you smile.

Jasper with his BFF Hedgie

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Anybody know what this is?  Yep, you got it - it's the car charger for my cell phone.

The very same car charger that has been missing for months.  The same car charger that I spent hours looking for before we headed across country in December.  The car charger I kind of told T was packed in my suitcase on that trip.  The missing charger that caused me to make a quick, sneaky trip to Walmart to purchase a new one so that I wouldn't have to admit that I'd somehow lost the original.  That car charger.

Apparently playing with aprons yesterday brought my retro housewife out in full force and she freaked out a little when she saw the pile of stuff in the corner of the bedroom and forced me to clean it up.  She can be such a nag.  Of course, right there on the bottom of the pile was the missing car charger, minding its own business.  There actually was a lot of interesting stuff in the pile, things that had been missing for almost a year (like my library card) and things I didn't even remember I had.  It was a little like an achaeological dig.

So now that the prodigal car charger has turned up from who knows where (because you'll never get me to believe it was right in the bedroom, under my nose the whole time) what am I going to do with two chargers?  Oh wait, I could always have one here and keep one in Florida so that I don't have to travel with one all the time.  Yeah, that's the perfect solution.  That was the plan all along!  I'm freakin' brilliant!

Now, if only I can come up with a good reason for having two library cards...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Tie the apron strings

I don't really know why I like aprons, it's not like I'm a great cook or anything.  I'm not even sure I like to cook, I've done so little of it the last few years.  Somewhere along the line T started doing more and more of the cooking and I let him.  I figured, I did it for the first 15 years of our marriage, now it's his turn.

So cooking is not my thing but I just love aprons.  I think they beckon to the retro housewife buried deep inside me...really deep inside because it's not like housework is my thing either.  I do love to bake and I'd do more of it if I had people around to eat the finished product.  I'm a little klutzy in the kitchen so that's probably why I first became attracted to aprons, for the practicality of it.  Then I fell in love with the beauty.

I am drawn to the past especially the 30s and 40s.  I love vintage fabrics - the soft colors, the florals, the kitchy little touches like big bunches of cherries or faces on embroidered teapots.  Luckily for me, all these things have gotten very popular in the past few years so it's not too hard to find really cute aprons in the stores.  Unluckily for me, they cost money, more money than I usually want to spend so up until now, my love for aprons has mostly been from afar. 

Monday, however, I was in Carmel waiting for the library to open at 1 (darned budget cuts) and I wandered into a kitchen store that had cute aprons on sale...WAY on sale, sale prices that even I couldn't pass up.  So I now am on my way to a collection of aprons.  I bought 2 and I've always heard that 3 of anything is a collection so I'm not quite there yet.  If anybody wants to send me an apron made out of vintage reproduction fabric, feel free. ;-)

Actually, the aprons I bought probably aren't all that vintage looking but they were too adorable to pass up.

My first apron features a blue background with tropical drinks and umbrellas.  The straps are my favorite shade of pink.

The second apron features flip flops.  I love to wear flip flops but rarely get to wear them in California so it's pretty much my only footwear when I touch down in the sunshine state. .
I will really enjoy wearing this around the house in Florida, I always feel more like cooking there, not sure why especially since T really considers that *his* kitchen and rarely gives me a chance to cook in there.  Trust me, I'm not complaining but sometimes even I want to putter around in the kitchen.  I think it must be all that sunshine, gives me energy.

So there you have it, the beginnings of my apron collection.  I look forward to adding to it and maybe even actually using some of them.

Have you been admiring my lovely model?  His name is Lance, short for Lancelot, of course.  He is a valued member of the family and usually hangs out in our living room.  He's about 5'2" and really light so it was no trouble bringing him out to the backyard to model the aprons.  Here's what he looks like when he's not living like a supermodel.
He's one gorgeous hunk o'tin!

Monday, July 25, 2011

When It's Time To Change

When it's time to change, then it's time to change

Don't fight the tide, come along for the ride, don't you see

When it's time to change, you've got to rearrange

who you are into what you're gonna be.
That's the song that has been running through my head today.  It's from The Brady Bunch, in case you don't recognize the words...the episode where Peter's voice started to change just as they were about to sing on TV...normal, everyday stuff that happened to all of us in the '70s.

For the last year or so, change has been thrust upon me without my permission and definitely without my approval.  It's not anybody's fault, it's life and circomstances and all that crap.  But for someone that likes stability and routine and fun, it's been hard and awful and yucky and I'm damned tired of it.

So today I decided to roll with the tide and make another change, one that's totally within my control.

Ok, it might be a little hard to tell from this picture but I'm not blonde anymore...I'm strawberry blonde!  Actually, it looks downright red in the mirror but I have a feeling it'll be strawberry in the sunlight.  I've been thinking about doing it for a while now and I decided today was the day.  Somehow this one little change makes me feel like I could conquer the world.

So, now that I'm now in control of the changes, I can't wait to see what I come up with next.  Maybe I'll take up jogging, maybe I'll bake an award winning recipe, maybe I'll clean up my spare room and turn it into a studio where I get all creative and come up with a product that people will pay millions for!  Ok, that was probably a little over the top.  Me clean up the spare room?  Yeah, right.,

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sunday Drive

I know the rest of the country will find this very hard to imagine but it gets awfully cold here in the summer.  When everybody else is dealing with the 100+ degree heatwave, we're barely getting out of the 50s and we haven't seen the sun in days.  Don't be envious, there's nothing nice about cold, clammy fog.

So on those days when we just can't take another day of chilly, damp weather, we head inland in search of sun.  One of our favorite sun-day drives (ha, I crack myself up with cleverness) is to a little town called San Juan Bautista, one of the original 21 California missions.  It's the cutest little town, looks just like the set of a western movie.

Most of the time it's a quiet, sleepy town except for 4 times a year when the arts & crafts/antique fairs come a callin'.  Today, however, it was quiet and sunny and warm and wonderful.

SJB has a lot of little restaurants.  We have only tried a few of them because we like those so much, we never want to waste a visit there by trying something new that we might not like as well as our favorites.  For the longest time we only ate at JJ's Burgers (which is awesome) but on our last visit we decided to throw caution to the wind and try the Orient Express.

Let me start by saying that we are Chinese restaurant snobs, so many of them are mediocre, so I'm thrilled to say that we love Orient Express!  Although they don't have my personal favorite, Hunan Beef, I have found new favorites in their Crispy Shrimp or Crispy Beef with Spicy, Tangy Sauce.  Today I went for the beef and had to fight with myself not to eat the whole platter.  Luckily, I won the battle (or did I lose?) and managed to stop while there was still enough to box up for another meal.  The crispy part is tempura batter wrapped around tender beef chunks, smothered with a rich sauce that's not too spicy or tangy but just right.
The restaurant decor is kind of country rustic meets Chinatown which sounds odd but it really works especially in a rustic town like SJB.  I love the hanging basket lamps.  I'll try to remember to take a picture of them next time.

No visit to SJB would be complete without a stop at Margot's Ice Cream Parlour which serves wonderful Lapperts ice cream from Hawaii.  My favorite flavor is Banana Caramel Chocolate Chip...don't knock it till you've tried it.  I can only show you the empty cup because from the moment they gave it to me until it was finished my only thought was of eating, not taking pictures.
If you'd like, I'll go back tomorrow and have more just so that I can get a picture.  Anything to accommodate my readers, don't you know.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

j is for jasper

Yep, I'm going to talk about jasper again...but it's not what you think.  Did you know there's a gemstone called jasper?  I had a vague knowledge of it until a couple of weeks ago and then it suddenly took on a new importance for me so I did a little research.  I thought it might be nice to have a stone or piece of jewelry so that I could always carry a little piece of jasper with me.

Then I learned a really amazing fact - there are many types of jasper found in the world including a variety called...wait for it....RED JASPER!  My Jasper was a Golden Retriever but he wasn't yellow, he was a shade of red that pretty well matches the stone color so it seemed perfect. 


Even more perfect was the description of the 'meaning" of red jasper.
A strong protection gemstone, red jasper is known to protect against hazards of the night.  Jasper is one of the oldest known gemstones. It is mentioned in the Bible several times. Jasper is a strong securing gemstone. It is a stability gemstone. It is a powerful protection against things that are not good for you and it eases emotional stresses, making it a wonderful gemstone to have in your home.

Jasper gives one the courage to speak out and have personal independence. It also protects from fears in the night. Red jasper is thought to help balance the energy in the body. All jaspers help balance the emotional energy in the body.
After reading that, I had to have a piece of red jasper.  I guess I wasn't the only one, when I told T about this, he choked out the words, "how can I get a piece?"

Thank goodness for the Internet, it led us to a rock shop just a few miles away and within the hour we were holding our very own pieces of red jasper.  I don't know if I believe in the healing powers of gemstones or not but I do know that having something symbolic that we can touch and carry with us every day has been healing for both of us. 

I've learned a very valuable lesson - if I ever get another pet, I'm naming it Tiffany!
It won't hurt so much always, Anne.
The thought that it may stop hurting sometimes hurts me worse than all else, Marilla.
And that's where I am right now.  Saying goodbye to Jasper has left a hole inside my soul and left me feeling a little (ok, maybe a lot) lost.  Because he was a big part of each day for the last 15 1/2 years, his loss hurts more than any loss I've experienced thus far.  He was not my "dog", he was my child.  I raised him from a tiny baby to an experienced "man" of the world.  I helped him learn right from wrong.  I spent many sleepless nights worrying about him.  I cleaned up after him, nurtured him, laughed with him and shed a few tears over the years.  He made me feel like something I'd never been before - a mom.

So yeah, it hurts.

And yet, like Anne of Green Gables, the thought that one day it won't hurt so much anymore makes me sad.  I know it'll happen but it somehow seems like a betrayal, like I will be forgetting him and happily going on with my life.

Logically I know that I'll never forget Jasper and that it's natural to go on with my life without him.  I'm not really one to wallow around in misery and self-pity so it's not likely that I'd want to be sad for too long anyway but I'm just not there yet.  I'm going to let myself feel what I'm feeling for as long as I need to.  I'm still lost but eventually I'll stumble back onto the right path.  I'm sure of it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hello from the Road...
by Jasper Ngo

My name is Jasper Ngo.

I am the Travelin' and Eatin' Dog. Ricky Nelson could have written a song about me.

In my 15.5 years, I have lived in three states (VA, CA and FL) and visited AZ, NM, TX, LO, MS and AL. I have flown across the country. I have taken 6 road trips between CA and FL. I have seen Route 66 and stood on a corner in Winslow, AZ. I went to many beaches, mountains, deserts, countless towns and cities. I traveled so much, I had my own suitcase. I got really excited when it came out because it meant Adventure Time was here. My favorite beach is Carmel Beach where I can run. My favorite town is, of course, Carmel-by-the-sea and eating at the Tuck Box or The Forge in the Forest or Casanova or getting a drink from a silver bucket at Porta Bella. It was also a lot of fun spending a weekend at the Happy Landing Inn or having Afternoon Tea at the Cypress Inn. Although I liked Carmel, going on long weekends to San Simeon, having lunch at the Main Street Grill with my Mommy and Daddy gave me lots of fun memories. The irony in my life was, I lived by the sea but I was not fond of the water or the swimming pool. I have been to Yosemite Park and walked up to Bridal Veil Falls under the admiring eyes of the many tourists. My favorite desert is the Mojave desert, where I stood facing into the cool desert wind inhaling all the sweeping scents as if I was reading a doggy world newspaper.

Since I never bark, I have successfully sneaked in and out of many motels but never made a single mistake in them!

I am pretty sure, I have seen more places and traveled more than some people.

As for food, I have snacked (now a verb) my way through life. I have loved eating with my family even though I am sure that, at times, they would have preferred not to share their food. I became a Master at "Sad Eyes" when it came to food. Just to let you know, the family phrase "Daddy does not share food!" did not apply to me, that's how good I was. Since I was never quite sure if it was easier with Mommy or Daddy, I got food from both!

My favorite foods? Pizza, Cheerios, Hot Dogs (National Hebrew), Marshmallows, Daddy's Special BBQ Ribs, Lucky Dog Bakery Cookies and the occasional popcorn.

I have indulged my Mommy with her hat fetish. So many embarrassing pictures of me in hats for various occasions. One of the best is winning a trophy in the very First Reindoggy Parade held in Carmel in Dec 2005. At least in that contest, Mommy and Daddy had to wear silly hats as well.

Let's not forget that I am famous. I was featured in the Carmel Pine Cone newspaper in October 2008! I was "interviewed" for the Sandy Claws column by Margot Nichols after my Mommy figured out who we needed to meet to get interviewed!

So you see, I have led a life full of love and fun adventures. I made a lot of memories with my little family.

Alas, all things do come to a close, always too early, even after many years of a good life. I am thankful to have had a wonderful, happy, long healthy life with my Mommy and Daddy. Together, we grew, we walked, we played ball, we played the "slippers" game, we went to work together, we went for car rides, we traveled, we ate good food, we laughed, we explored, we had fun quiet times and most importantly we LOVE each other. Together, I was never afraid of Life and learned that Adventure is out there. They were my little family and I was their World. For over 15 years life was a wonderful adventure, now it is time for them to have their own adventures and me to have mine... It will be very hard but they gave me the courage to do so, I will always carry their love and a part of them in my heart where ever I go... I know they will do the same.

With unending love for my Mommy and Daddy and until we meet again.