Monday, December 31, 2012


It's that time of year again, time to end one year and start another. Last year I couldn't wait to hurry the old year out the door. While 2012 didn't start out so great, the 2nd half of 2012 has been much, MUCH better and so I find myself able to look back fondly on the year as a whole. This December 31st finds me content and happy and looking forward to the future in a way I haven't in a long time. I have so many projects that I want to complete in the coming year, so many roads to explore.

Apparently I don't write much when I'm happy as I totally crapped out on blog posts since September so here are a few snapshots of the last few months.

a new job steeped in history

My view each day

autumn brings sunshine and fleeting warmth to our coast

Carmel's own Hugh Comstock, the focus for me in 2013

time for the Halloween parade

spontaneous getaway #1

15+ years of friendship

spontaneous getaway #2

spontaneous getaway #3 - birthday surprise

and finally, here's a little taste of our Christmas

I may not have been able to attend Laurapalooza this year but at least I scored a set of her canisters

And so, a fond farewell to 2012 and a happy hello to 2013. I can hardly wait to see what you bring to the party!

Thursday, September 13, 2012


A couple of years ago I visited my mother in Florida to celebrate her birthday and I took a couple of extra days by myself to soak up the sunshine and relax. You know how sometimes you look back on a time in life and realize it was magical but you didn't appreciate it at the time? This isn't the case here. I loved every minute of those 2 days, I was so happy, relaxed and carefree. When I returned from that trip I pulled into the driveway and thanked God for all the blessings in my life.

And that was pretty much the last carefree moment I've had in the past 2 years. Just a few days later life started changing and those blessings started dropping like flies. Good thing I didn't get too specific with names of people I love in that prayer or they might not be around today.

Safe to say the last couple of years have not been the best of my life. I have a lot of questions and doubts and I've spent more than a few hours feeling sorry for myself.

But today something happened to change my perspective. I spent time with 2 people who are each losing a loved one - 1 woman is losing a daughter to lung disease and a man I work for is losing his wife to cancer. Each have been fighting for some time but both have been told it's only a matter of time.

I feel so helpless watching this man come to terms with the fact that he's probably losing his wife of 30 years and if I feel helpless, I can only imagine what he's feeling.

I was thinking about all of this on my drive home from work today and suddenly I had a revelation - I am sick of feeling sorry for myself. Life changes and sometimes it's crappy but it's all we have and there's no time to waste feeling bad about things that can't be changed. It doesn't really matter what life was like 2 years ago or that I've missed out on events that meant a lot to me. I had no control over that but if I miss out on happy moments from here on out just because I'm wallowing in self pity then shame on me. I may not have complete control over destiny but I do control how I respond.

So from here on out life is a magical gift...except for Monday mornings. All the positive self-talk in the world is never going to make me like Monday mornings. ;-)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


This is why I wear an apron when I cook

stroganoff explosion
It was all worth it though, the new stroganoff recipe I found was delicious!

Monday, July 16, 2012


I really don't like phones - don't like making calls, talking to people, answering them. Yuck. I avoid them at all costs even though sometimes they're necessary. But I really do like retro-looking stuff. If I see something that is similar to something I've seen in a 1940s movie, especially if it's a little kitschy, I go wild. So perfect solution - disguise something I hate (phone) with something retro (handset) and suddenly I'm looking for people to call. Make it pink and I'm in retro heaven.

my new handset

Besides being super cute, it actually makes me enjoy talking on the least for a few minutes. The sound is pretty good and it keeps the screen from getting dirty plus it keeps the cell phone away from my head in case they eventually discover it really does cause health problems.

If you want one for yourself (it comes in several colors although why someone wouldn't want pink is beyond me) then skedaddle on over here and pick one up for yourself!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


always in my heart

Friday, July 6, 2012


Today it's been exactly 6 months since we met a scared little dog at the vet's office and brought him home with us. Of course it was only supposed to be temporary while he recovered from kennel cough and couldn't be around other dogs. I think that temporary thing lasted all of one day, maybe not even that. We both knew when we saw the intelligence and concern in his eyes that he was going to spend the rest of his life with us. I don't think there's been one day since we brought him home that he hasn't made us laugh with his antics, he's a little goofball and so sweet and loving. It's been fun to watch him blossom, to see the fear leave his eyes to be replaced with love...especially when we have pizza.

Happy 6 month dogiversary Shifu Peanut, you've found a forever home and yes, we're having pizza for dinner to celebrate.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

I scream, you scream

We all scream for ice cream!

What's a national holiday without homemade ice cream? I wouldn't know because freshly churned homemade ice cream has been a part of every summer holiday since before I was born and I'm not about to break the tradition now so we had to have ice cream today as part of our 4th of July celebration.

 Of course, all traditions can be improved upon so I'm very glad that today's ice cream makers are so much easier than the old wooden bucket with the ice and salt.

my adorable Mickey ice cream maker
 Another modern invention that makes ice cream making super easy these days is the pre-packaged ice cream starter. Yes, I know that it's probably better to make everything from scratch but bite me, it's easier to buy a package and get all sorts of fun flavors without the extra work. Today's flavor was salted caramel...yum!

You just need 3 ingredients - starter mix, whole milk and heavy cream. Actually you can do it with just milk and starter but it's creamier if you substitute half of the milk with cream. Mix it all together, pour it into the container (which has been sitting in the freezer overnight) and press the start button. The hardest part is waiting the 25 minutes.

Don't forget to set the timer

yes, I have a Mickey timer too
 The top of the ice cream maker is clear so you can tell when it's done, no more big surprises when you pop the top off. Of course the best part of ice cream making is the soft stage when you can clean up the paddle.

 And then the hardest part of the day, putting all that salted caramel goodness into the freezer and waiting until it's ready to eat.

Happy 4th of July!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy 100th

It's a big day here at Jasper's Cottage, the 100th post! Hard to imagine I've been doing this since 2008; it's been an interesting few years. The last two years have not been my favorites but I have high hopes for the future.
Today is also our 26th wedding anniversary and in honor of that we took a little trip over the weekend to a favorite spot where we used to go often with Jasper. As you can imagine, it was a little bittersweet to be back there but it turned out to be very relaxing and we had a fantastic time. Shifu (who is also known as Peanut these days) is shaping up to be a good traveler. He was a little subdued when we first got to the hotel because it was a scary new experience but he was soon walking around as if he owned the place. Just like any good adventurer, he has his own suitcase.

Peanut's suitcase has little airplanes on it
 No trip would be complete without some great food and we got to visit two favorites Wild Ginger Cafe and The Tea Cozy. Enjoy the food porn from the Tea Cozy. (Wild Ginger pictures later this week.)

tea in the garden

Corn chowder with a unique presentation

British pasty

the fruit and cheese plate was not only delicious, it was a work of art

Peanut enjoyed tea in the garden

Saturday, June 30, 2012


This lovely rock used to belong to a dear friend of mine. She was an amazing lady and I only wish we'd known each other longer. She was a journalist for our local paper when I knew her but had lived a rich and creative life in all parts of the world long before we met . This rock used to sit outside her apartment and her daughter (also a dear friend) gave it to me both as a way to remember her mother and as a promise for my future.

The rock has been sitting in my bedroom for the last year and a half. I look at it every day - sometimes it fills me with energy and other times it mocks me a little. I think I'm trying to make myself worthy of having received such a gift.

The big creative projects that I'm currently working on are still works in progress and I'm not sure I've made much progress recently which can get discouraging so sometimes creativity needs a little instant gratification which explains my kitchen beautification project.

I'm not particularly fond of my kitchen cabinets. The cabinets themselves are plain and they are painted orange...the walls of the kitchen are painted orange too. Not that I'm not fond of orange...well, actually, I'm not. I know that it's some people's favorite color but it's not mine. Oh, it goes well with the green accents in the other parts of the house (I do like green) but there's just a little too much orange for me so I've decided to liven it up a bit without having to repaint the whole kitchen.

A few days ago I got the creative idea to stencil something onto the cabinets to work with the orange but also draw my attention away from it. I wish I could paint freehand but my art always looks like a 3 year old did it so that's out of the question. Stenciling, however, is something I can do. I once stenciled a rose border in our master bedroom in Virginia and it looked lovely. It had better have looked lovely, it took days to do and my arms were really sore plus I'm not really fond of ladders.

Of course that bedroom thing was almost 20 years ago (when I was 5) and stencils don't seem to be as popular now as they were then. I had a heck of a time finding something but finally good old Martha Stewart came to the rescue.

Projects are always more involved than you think they will be when you conceive the idea but at least this one only required some paint and a couple of sponge brushes. I decided to get fancy and use 2 different shades of green for the stem and leaves.

And here's the final result

Well, it's not the final final result because there's a whole lot more cabinet to paint and there are at least 10 more cabinet doors in the kitchen but this was my test run to see if I liked the idea on the cabinet as much as I did in my head and guess what - I do! I think it adds that extra something that the plain doors are missing while giving the kitchen that 1930s cottage look I love.

Today I made my rock proud.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Small steps in the right direction

“It is better to take many small steps in the right direction than to make a great leap forward only to stumble backward.” ~Old Chinese Proverb

Sometimes I think it's possible to take many small steps before you even realize you're going in a particular direction. That's what happened to me recently.

A year ago I started a research project for no reason other than that it was a subject in which I'd always had an interest. Well, not always but at least for the last 15 years. I wanted to learn everything I could about a local architect, Hugh Comstock, who achieved minor fame by building cute little cottages that look like they stepped off the pages of a book of fairytales. The fairytale cottages were built in the 1920s. He went on to build other styles of houses and commercial buildings throughout the '30s and '40s but it's his storybook cottages that bring the tourists in these days and it could be argued that they've set the tone for the whole village.

Shortly after I started the research two big things happened - the local history library closed and Jasper died. It was hard to do specific research without the resources of the history library but I desperately needed the research to distract me so I turned to the only resource open to me in the main library - I started reading microfilm copies of the local newspaper. Comstock came to town in 1924 so I started reading the 1923 paper and just kept going. Pretty soon I found myself obsessed with the 1920s in Carmel. It was a period of much building and expansion of the business district, some amazing examples of Spanish-California Revival architecture

 and even a Comstock fairytale cottage that's been a restaurant since it opened in 1926 even though it was built to be an art shop.

The Tuck Box, the building that made me fall in love with Carmel 20 years ago
 After spending so much time in the 1920s the next small step just seemed obvious - start my own historic walking tour. Ok, maybe it wasn't an obvious step but the opportunity presented itself and I went for it. I came up with a business name, started a website, joined the chamber of commerce and put together a 90 minute, 1-mile tour of the business district with a slight detour up a really steep hill to see the fairytale cottages. The tour was easy to put together, my months of newspaper research had provided me with all the information that I needed including specific details that had previously been lost to time and legend. Now to be perfectly honest, while the tour came together easily, refining it took a bit of work. The first version of the tour lasted well over 2 hours and even I was cranky and bored by the end of it. Luckily the only other participant was T and with his suggestions I reworked the tour just in time to take my first customers around the town. They asked great questions and didn't run away screaming at the end so I think it was a success.

Like the beginnings of any business there are ups and downs. Competition that I didn't think would be an issue when I came up with the idea, has indeed become an issue. My ability to do adequate marketing is currently more restricted than I would like which limits my reach into the customer base. But inside every obstacle is an opportunity and recently I've reworked my business model and my historic focus so that I'm really meeting the interests of the typical visitor...which leads me right back to my favorite architect. That new focus is starting to lead me down an interesting new path that could change my business once again and spawn side projects.

Small steps in the right direction...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I've got to admit, this is the beginning of a hard month for me. It was exactly a year ago that the first signs of Jasper's illness started to show up. Oh, to be fair, there were signs there before - mostly weight loss - but he was still in the "healthy" weight range according to the vet so it was chalked up to a normal aging process. I guess that's true anyway, kidney failure is bound to happen at his age.

But a year ago today, he stopped eating his dog food. Flat out stopped. He'd become a picky eater for a few months (only of dog food, he ADORED all people food) so I'd been getting creative, adding more and more high calorie canned food to his kibble until we had a 80/20 ratio and that was working until last June.

It started off so innocently, he stopped eating dog food so we started making our own dog food. He went to the vet for a normal check up and we talked to him about how to do it. We took Jasper along with us that day when we went out to lunch and everything was so normal, he was complimented by the other diners on how beautiful he was and how well behaved. We had a fun time at lunch. It's a nice memory of the last normal day.

We came home that day, took him for an evening walk and he was sick. He continued to be sick over the weekend so we called the vet on Monday and he said it was to be expected when switching diets. I needed to go to Florida to celebrate my mom's birthday with her and was then going to stay out there for our 25th anniversary party. I flew away with misgivings because my boy was not feeling well but things seemed to be getting better (even though my initial thought when this all started was - this is not going to end well.)

I love being in Florida and so I flew out a couple of days before I was really scheduled to be there just to have a few precious moments to myself in a beloved place. The year before I had spent a few wonderful days by myself after my mom's birthday and they turned out to be the last carefree days I'd had in a year so I was desperately hoping to find that peace and happiness again.

Unfortunately it wasn't to be, I had one wonderful night of sleep, got up the next morning looking forward to a relaxing day by the pool until I got a phone call from T that he'd spent the night in the emergency vet, Jasper had kidney failure and was currently at our vet on IVs. I needed to come home immediately and even then it might be too late. And that was the beginning of the end. I flew back right away, didn't even get to see my mother and had to cancel our anniversary party. Jasper made it through the next couple of weeks but he wasn't the same dog I had left when I flew to Florida. His body was there but his spirit was already out of the door except for a couple of tantalizing flickers that were apparently designed to get our hopes up before crushing them forever.

There's something almost comforting about being able to think to yourself "this time last year we were together." Comforting until you get to this part, the part where your memories stop being sweet and start hurting, when you only have the bad parts to recall.

So I'm not looking forward to my memories for the next month. Luckily there are plenty of things going on to distract me, the ongoing (and emotionally draining) search for jobs, my mother's upcoming 90th birthday which has been its own roller coaster of drama, the Laura Ingalls Wilder conference I've been working on for the past year which is coming down to the wire and requires more of my time and attention than I actually have at my disposal.

Wow, when I look at that list, I desperately need something fun to look forward to. I'm going to have to work on that!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Memorial Day tradition

I sometimes wonder how people perceive me based on my blogs and status updates. We live in a world where people seem to be more open than ever before about their daily lives and yet appearances can be deceiving.

Take food for example. I may post all sorts of pictures of delicious looking food which may give the impression that I eat out all the time. So not true. The reality is that I'd love to eat out every day and I used to eat out a lot more than I do now but for the past year or so most of my meals are eaten right here at home. I do, however, know every spot on the peninsula where you can get a meal for under $5 so if I post a picture of a wonderful meal, it was either cooked and photographed by T, who makes everything look professionally done, or it was one of my budget specials. 

I'm also blessed to live in a tourist heaven. Drive 5 miles in any direction and you come upon scenery that looks like I've flown away to paradise for the weekend. Since I only feel like taking pictures when there's blue sky and sun, you also don't ever get to experience the days of clouds and fog that are so typical  here in the summer. I don't belong to the Chamber of Commerce for nothing!

It may also look like we always seem to be attending some event but that's because we live in a place that is brimming with free events and we take advantage of every one we can find. Food truck festivals, Italian festivals, BBQ cook-off festivals, concerts - you name it, we're there if the admission is FREE. I like to experience life, I enjoy learning new things and indulging my passions. For me, it's important to make the most of our time and live life to the fullest no matter what. And that brings me to today's were curious where I was going with all this, weren't you?

The granddaddy of all the free events here on the peninsula has got to be the Memorial Day open house and concert at NPS. We go just about every year and it's the perfect way to kick off summer.

The concert is held on the grounds of the Naval Postgraduate School which is usually not open to the public (not since 2001) so just being allowed on the property is a big deal. And why would we care about getting onto the NPS property? Because it used to be a fabulous and famous hotel!

This was the first Hotel Del Monte from the 1880s and it looked like this (give or take a fire or two) until it finally burned down completely in 1924. Well not completely, the two wings on either side were saved and are still around today. The hotel was built by railroad pioneer Charles Crocker to give people an incentive to purchase a ticket all the way out to California. It was an instant success, the center of social life on the Monterey peninsula for visitors and locals alike.

In 1924 there was a terrible fire and they had to blow up the main building in order to stop the fire from spreading to the wings. They immediately started to rebuild but this time they chose a design in the new Spanish Revival architecture that was so popular in the 20s. The new building was concrete rather than wooden which made it fireproof, something probably very important after 2 major fires.

The new hotel was even more popular (truth be told the old Victorian hotel was getting a little passe for the Roaring 20s crowd) and soon became the weekend home to several celebrities of the day including Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Ginger Rogers, Clark Gable and Jean Harlow. Other notable guests included Charles Lindgergh and Amelia Earhart, Walt Disney and Salvador Dali.

Knowing how much I adore history from the 20s and 30s, you can imagine how much I love roaming these grounds. The Navy has done a wonderful job keeping the interior and exterior in prime condition so it's not hard to imagine what it would have been like to be there back in the Golden Age.

The Navy took over the property in the 40s for a flight school and bought it outright in 1951 so that they could move their graduate school there from Annapolis so it hasn't been a hotel in a very long time. I used to be sad about that but now I've realized that it probably would have fallen into disrepair like so manygrand hotels and could have been demolished and the property sold to developers long ago. We are blessed to still have it around all in one piece and it's such a thrill so see it every year.

Oh yeah, there's a concert too but I must admit that's not the priority for me. Actually, we tend to set up our chairs on the other side of the hotel, across from the reflecting pool and near the rose garden. In other words, away from the crowd.

The pool is new this year, new and old. There always was a pool there in the hotel days and even after the Navy moved in but eventually they filled it with sand for some reason so whenever we'd visit the tour guide would say "just imagine that this sand pit is a delightful Roman Plunge pool" and it was always kind of hard to imagine, even for someone like me, with an excellent imagination! Now it's nice to really see it. Apparently the pool was a big hangout for celebrities. The tour guides always like to mention that Jean Harlow used to skinny dip there.

There's a fantastic Art Deco ballroom that's now the scene of fancy weddings and military balls. In the 30s I imagine it saw a lot of multi-course dinners and fabulous parties with dancing and music till the wee hours.

When we go to NPS on Memorial Day we spend the whole day. We are there when the gates open at 9, stake out a place for our chairs and we stay until they kick us out. There's a special poignancy to the day since you know you won't be able to see any of it again until next year. I soak up all the atmosphere I can stand and linger as long as the scary, uniformed soldiers will let me. Au revoir Hotel Del Monte, can't wait to step in my time machine for a visit again next year!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


I have a new love. We do a lot of our grocery shopping at a big, new-ish Latino supermarket in the next town, called Mi Pueblo. Since going there we've discovered a lot of new brands and I've discovered a whole new world of snack cakes.

Pinguinos have become one of my favorites. They are similar to the Hostess cupcakes I loved as a kid but they are lower in calories and less sweet, I think, so I can fit them into my daily routine without causing a diet meltdown. Not that I eat them every day...mostly.

Besides, who could resist cupcakes that are named after cute, little penguins? Not me, that's for sure. Time for a pinguino break!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Trooper update

Trooper had a rough first evening (or maybe it was us who had the rough time) and I'm pretty sure he was depressed for most of the next day. Who wouldn't be? He's missing the one constant in his life and is stuck in an unfamiliar place. But I'm happy to report that he seems to be settling in and more responsive. He was pretty out of it the first couple of days but now he looks for us when he gets inside, has started wagging his tail and is finally eating his food. He seems to prefer to be outside rather than in (it's all that fur, he's probably hot and it's always cooler outside) but he's happy enough to hang out inside with us after the sun goes down.

He's such an easy dog to take care of, not demanding at all, mostly sleeps and never, ever makes a sound. He's big and strong, if he didn't want to move you couldn't make him, but he's so easy going that all you have to do it tug on his collar and he moves wherever you want him to. Everybody seems to focus on the fact that he's blind but his blindness is so not a problem, he's already learned the yard and that he has to step down off the stoop to get out of the house. He can navigate our yard with no problem (and it's not an easy yard to get around in, no grass and lots of statuary and plants,) he has a natural grace so he never knocks anything down.

We got his blood work results today and he has low thyroid, anemia and the beginnings of kidney problems. The last part is scary because that's what happened to Jasper so we know how that goes. We had to give Jasper IV fluid twice a day the last few weeks which didn't end up solving the problem and caused all sorts of new ones. The thought of having to go through that again makes me sick to my stomach. Hopefully Trooper isn't at that point yet, I don't know what the future holds. Hopefully next week it holds a bath, tooth cleaning and a few other procedures at the vet. Well, *I* say hopefully, Trooper might have a different take on that.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Super Trooper

As I mentioned before, we got Shifu through a wonderful organization called Peace of Mind Dog Rescue. They have a unique mission, they specialize in helping elderly owners find homes for their pets when they can no longer care for them as well as helping place senior dogs in homes as they are less likely to be adopted at the local shelter.

Now that we've adopted Shifu, we're on their mailing list so last week an email went out about a 15 year old St. Bernard mix named Trooper who had been living with his elderly person in a van for the last 2 years. The person was being placed in county housing and would not be able to take Trooper so POMDR was trying to find a foster home for him. Oh yeah, I should mention that Trooper is not only 15 but also blind and has arthritis. There probably weren't going to be people lining up for him.

I was taken in by his face right away, he had a Jasper look, and I mentioned him to T, who was willing to take him. But then I chickened out, we really aren't in a position to take on a new responsibility right now. I actually didn't give him another thought but apparently T did.

Fast forward to last night when another email came out about Trooper saying that no one had responded and he needed a home right away as his person was going into housing the next day. I didn't actually receive the email (sometimes the POMDR emails get rejected by my server) but T did get it (he is a volunteer photographer for POMDR) and he said something. I re-read the original Trooper email and burst into tears at the thought of this gentle dog having to be sent to the shelter when we could offer him a place to rest. But I was scared too. Let's face it, a 15 year old dog is going to break your heart sooner rather than later and my heart is barely holding together as it is. However sometimes you just KNOW what you have to do even if it doesn't make any sense.

We arrived at the drop off point earlier today and there was the owner waiting with Trooper. It was the hardest thing to have to watch this man say goodbye to the friend he had raised from a puppy. My heart broke for the obvious anguish he was going through and my tears flowed even more than his did. Hopefully it helped him to realize that his baby was getting a loving and caring home...and he didn't think I was some crybaby nutjob.

It's not going to be the easiest of transitions. Trooper is missing his person, wondering why everything familiar in his life has suddenly disappeared. He's blind in a brand new house and yard, that has to be slightly terrifying. But he's settling in and starting, slowly, to learn his way around our house and yard.

Shifu is not particularly happy about this turn of events, he was not a very gracious host at their first meeting, in fact, he was not very nice at all. Trooper, luckily, is the gentlest of souls and that has allowed Shifu an opportunity to calm down so that there is only a little growling from time to time now. Hopefully they will eventually become good friends.

The vet was surprised to hear that Trooper's age was 15 and said that by observing him and his energy level, he'd place him nearer to 10 so who knows how old he really is. He has bad arthritis in his front legs and needs to lose weight. He needs a teeth cleaning and a few other procedures. We'll get the results of his blood work back tomorrow and have a clearer picture of the next few weeks/months. We're just fostering him so all health decisions will be made by the rescue group.

We're thrilled that he's here and hope to give him a happy home for as long as we can. I certainly wasn't expecting this turn in my life and it is definitely not the least bit practical in our lives right now and yet, I know it's what we're supposed to be doing.

As I write this, both my fur-boys are sleeping soundly and peace reigns for the moment.

Yeah, I spoke too soon, had a little bit of an incident. Life isn't going to be boring.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


A local church sponsored a Blessing of the Animals today and Shifu felt like we could use a little of that so he made us take him over there. It was a really sweet time, lots of lovely stories of animals and their people. The event was to benefit Peace of Mind Dog Rescue, the organization from which we adopted Shifu, so we're always happy to help them.

Afterwards the dogs got a certificate stating that they were officially blessed. I think it's always nice to have confirmation of these things.

I guess God was smiling on all of us today because we couldn't have ordered more perfect weather. Thanks Pastor Norm and POMDR!