Thursday, December 26, 2013

Big Sur Boxing Day

The best moment of today was realizing, once again, that I live in an amazingly beautiful place - and it's beautiful inside and out. We made our annual visit to Big Sur for a Boxing Day lunch at Nepenthe which has been welcoming visitors since 1949 and was the family business of the descendants of one of the founders of Carmel. Today Nepenthe is a gathering place for not only visitors but for the Big Sur community itself. Big Sur has just gone through a devastating fire that destroyed 34 homes right before Christmas. The owners of Nepenthe opened their doors on Christmas evening for a community gathering to offer rest and comfort for the displaced families as well as the firefighters who worked so hard to save what they could and keep the fire from spreading beyond the 900 acres it scorched. It was a time for the community to draw comfort from each other.

Today they were open again for visitors and locals like us but the staff was still glowing from the "family" time the evening before which put them all in a great mood and made for a very fun visit for us. We go for the amazing view but the food is a nice draw as well. I always have the Ambrosia Burger. This is one of their biggest sellers and they put the recipe on the website so we will undoubtedly try to reproduce the Ambrosia sauce (the star of the show) at some point but nothing can compare to eating it on the back deck, overlooking the spectacular Pacific.

We started this tradition 15 years ago when we first moved to California from Virginia. We woke up the morning after Christmas and realized it was warm enough to eat outside and clear enough (no fog in winter!) to make a trip down the coast worthwhile.  For two refugees from a cold Virginia winter, this was a marvelous thought. Ok maybe we also thought it might be quite fun to send pictures to our friends back home to amuse them while they were shoveling snow. We're thoughtful that way.

Now it's just something we look forward to each year as soon as we realize the weather forecast is going to cooperate. We've missed a few years here and there because of being in Florida or rain but not this year. I think it was the best one yet!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The best part of the weekend

I recently read about someone who tries to identify the best moment of each day and shares it with her Twitter followers. I really like that idea.

What would make the top of the list for this weekend?

Starting Saturday morning at Lafayette Bakery is a delicious moment. This new French-owned bakery just opened a few months ago and already it's a local hangout spot and our favorite breakfast spot. Their Croque Monsieur is out of this world!

Every day needs a salted caramel mocha break
dinner was truly awesome on Saturday night, so awesome, I had it again on Sunday

One of my favorite stops in Carmel is The Tuck Box. It's been part of Carmel since 1926, a unique design by my favorite builder, Hugh Comstock. It's a cute little luncheon tea room and always a favorite stop when we're in town.

Sunday's lunch was a really good moment
see, it snows in California
watching my baby sleep, in his new pink sweater, was a really nice moment

but the very best moment of all was shopping for a family that we "adopted" this Christmas through a local group. We shopped for 2 kids - a 5 year old girl and an 8 year old boy. Oh my goodness, I haven't been in a toy store in a while, there are a heck of a lot of toys out there! We don't know the family and they won't know us but I already know that a highlight of Christmas morning will be picturing a happy Christmas for that little family. We'll pack it all up and deliver it to the local group tomorrow and that will probably be tomorrow's best moment. I can't wait.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween 2013

Shifu would like to wish everyone a happy and safe Halloween!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Seize the Weekend

With apologies to Laura and Duke for stealing their blog was too good to pass up!

Anyway, remember all that whining I did back in September about NEEEEEEDing a vacation? Well, I really did need one and I knew there was no way I was getting a full week, traditional vacation so I was feeling kinda desperate...until I rearranged my definition of vacation and figured out how to Seize The Weekend. I decided 2 or 3 days was way better than no days and decided to make plans for a mini-vacation.

We weren't going to be able to go far but then I remembered that with just a 3 hour drive, we could find ourselves in a whole new world.

I would love to go on an African safari one day. I've been obsessed with explorers Martin and Osa Johnson for years and I would love to travel to some of the places that they captured on film in the '20s and '30s but while that experience may be a few years down the road, luckily for me I can catch a glimpse of safari life at Safari West in Sonoma, California.

We booked the whole package - tent cabin, bbq dinner and vehicle safari the next morning. I had been dreaming about this place for a couple of years now and I was super excited to finally get to see it in person. I am happy to say that it lived up to and exceeded my every expectation. It was so much fun and I really felt like we'd wandered into another world. After 2 days, I felt refreshed and ready to get back to real life.

the view from our tent cabin

nighttime on the Sonoma Serengeti

Now, Wasn't That Fun?  Yes, indeedy!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


I. Need. A. Vacation. Seriously.

I don't see one in my future this year but that doesn't stop me from wanting one so badly that it's practically all I think about.

I just want to go somewhere warm, preferably with a beach, but I'd settle for anywhere that the air conditioning doesn't need to be fixed (or if it does, it isn't my problem) and my schedule is my own.

I'm not going to get this, I'm going to get up tomorrow morning and head off to work and keep working on the Fall Festival (from hell) event that's coming up in October. Then I'll get off work and do 2 or 3 or 20 errands on the way home until it's time to fix dinner and do laundry and clean up the kitchen. And in my spare time I'll do my duties for the 2 boards of directors that I serve on and, in addition, try to read up on Medicare so that I don't let another open enrollment period go by without getting my mother's situation straightened out and I'll waste time worrying about other things I don't control.

But all the time, I'll be wishing I could go on vacation, dreaming of a beach and maybe a tropical drink...or four.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Half way there

 We're half way there
Livin' on a prayer
Take my hand and we'll make it - I swear
Livin' on a prayer
Bon Jovi

I love the new kitchen...still hate DIY

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Art of Unpacking

There are so many blog posts and articles out there about how to pack for a trip. Clearly I need to read a couple on how to unpack.

Here is my suitcase - a full 3 weeks after returning home from Las Vegas

In my defense, these are all summery clothes which are never worn here at home so after taking out the things that really needed to be washed it was easy to put it over in a corner of my spare room and forget about it. Ok, there's really no defense for this but I figured I'd give it a shot.

I wish I could say that I emptied out the suitcase after taking this picture but that wouldn't be 100% wouldn't even be 1% truthful.  Oh well, maybe tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Signs of the Apocalypse

There used to be a running joke on '50s and '60s sitcoms about the hard-working husband coming home, late at night, and tripping over a new/moved piece of furniture in the living room because his stay-at-home wife had been redecorating...again. Apparently women like to move furniture around all the time and/or get new stuff as often as possible. It was used as a plot device on at least 3 "I Love Lucy" episodes that I can think of, probably more.

I must have been hiding behind the door of heaven when that gene was handed out because I almost never move furniture once I've placed it and I don't buy new stuff until the old stuff falls apart. So Mr. French considers it a sign of the apocalypse if I suddenly start dreaming about redecorating.

Consider yourself warned.

I blame Pinterest. After days of looking at cute living rooms, adorable kitchens and fabulous yards, I look at my own house and go "bleck." It's not that I want new furniture, it's just that I want my house to look like the pictures that I have been pinning - cozy, stylish and, I don't know, just different somehow, like the house of a grown-up.

The trick now is to take it one project at a time. I've already identified things I want to do in the living room - new cushions for the wicker couches, new rug, repaint the dining table and chairs - as well as a big re-do for the kitchen cabinets. I've even got Frenchie on board with the whole idea of starting to repaint those cabinets this coming weekend. Being a lazy sort, I've never really wanted to tackle anything like this but now I'm raring to go, wishing it were Friday already. Weird and kind of scary.

I'll take pictures of the "before" this week so that we have documentation of this once in a lifetime moment. Trust me, neither one of us are big do-it-yourself-ers so this might be a one time thing. Let's hope our enthusiasm lasts long enough to do all the cabinets.

rustic new handle

I've already taken the first step. The other day I realized that our drawer pulls were different. We had 2 that had rustic handles just like the one to the left and all the rest were booooooring (see below). I think the rustic ones are actually originals that somebody never got around to replacing with the boring ones.  Lucky for me, I LOVE the originals. They have that cottage-y look that I'm going for so I went to the local hardware store yesterday and found the one in the picture. It's an almost perfect match for the ones I have at home and Mr. F loves them too (which is unusual because we have very dissimilar taste

boring old handle
usually) so he was on board with my idea of replacing all the boring handles with these cool ones. Then HE came up with the idea of repainting all the cabinet doors white. They are orange now, well, more of a soft peach color which is also the same color as our kitchen walls...and ceiling. It's like being inside a giant pumpkin. There's just too much of it so painting the cabinet doors white would help a lot.

We're also going to look for rustic-looking hinges for the cabinets but that's the lowest priority, if we can't find that it's ok as long as we have the new handles.

Wish us luck...well, actually, wish me luck. Mr. F is a perfectionist so I know it'll look amazing and perfect when it's finished but I just hope I'm not finished right along with it. Hopefully it'll be one of those projects that goes smoothly and has us saying "why didn't we do this sooner?"

Famous last words?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Saving the best for last

Yesterday was not the most awesome day I’ve ever had. Oh sure, I was able to identify at least 3 moments, maybe more, but they all fell into a category I like to call “awesome-lite” revolving around food and the brief appearance of the sun. Our original plans didn't quite work out and we were spending the day at home. Quite frankly, I was rather bored by the afternoon, so bored that somehow cleaning up the clutter on my bathroom floor started to look like a good way to spend some time. Yeah, that’s how bored I was.

Actually, it was rather nice to clean up the assorted magazines and crap that accumulated over the weeks days. I even took the time to straighten out a couple of bathroom rugs that had ended up on top of each other, moving the purple one off of the green one and over to its rightful place in front of the sink.

After such an eventful day, it was finally time for bed…oh wait, I need to put in a little backstory here.

3 years ago Mr. French and I took an awesome trip (really, really awesome) to South Dakota. Of course we visited the Laura Ingalls stuff in DeSmet but then we drove west through the Badlands out to the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore. It was his first visit and I hadn’t been since I was a kid so it was really like seeing it for the first time.

While there I got a special gift as a souvenir of the trip. I love Black Hills Gold especially their Dakota Rose designs so when I saw these earrings, I had to have them. I have 2 holes in each ear so I’ve worn these earrings non-stop since I got them in August of 2010.

Until last week.

One day last week, finally back at home after a busy afternoon of running around Carmel at car events and work, I reached up to my right ear and discovered that one of my beloved earrings was missing. Of course I searched everywhere I’d just been in the house but couldn’t turn up the missing earring so I assumed I’d lost it while running around and that it would be gone forever. I was pretty bummed about it even though at least I still had the one.

Ok, back to my original story.

Last night I was getting ready for bed, washing my face in the bathroom and, weirdo that I am, enjoying the bareness of my floor now that it was devoid of all the magazines and books (I like to read when I’m in there, what can I say?) when I looked down at a sparkly object on the green rug…remember, the one that had been buried under the purple rug?

My heart caught in my throat…could it be? I hardly dared to hope but yes, it was my earring! It must have come out when I was towel drying my hair earlier in the week and I just hadn’t noticed. My long, lost, beloved earring had returned to the fold.

One truly awesome moment right at the end of an ordinary day.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

3 awesome moments

The other night I was watching a TV show and one of the characters said something that clicked with me. He said that he expected to have at least 3 awesome moments every day.

Wouldn't that be something, to identify 3 awesome moments of every day? I don't know about you but some days I would have trouble coming up with even 1 awesome moment. There are even times I would probably be hard put to come up with 1 awesome moment in the entire week.

But maybe that's because I'm focusing on the overall picture, which is not always to my liking, rather than paying attention to the little moments. Reading a captivating book is awesome. Eating pizza is always awesome.  Sunny days are amazingly awesome. The other day, getting the beeping fire alarm turned off was mind-bendingly awesome. Some days, just  having the annoying things stop for a little while is enough.

So I'm going to try this awesome thing for a while (just so you know, I googled whether I wanted to use awhile or a while and I'm still not completely sure I've done it right) and see if finding 3 awesome moments every day is as awesome as I think it's going to be.


I've got to say, it's easier than I thought it would be - I'm just 2 days into the awesome project and each day has had way more than 3 moments. In fact, I'd already had 3 awesome moments by 10:30 one morning so, of course, I didn't stop counting at 3.

I will also say that particular morning also had a few not so awesome moments as well but focusing on the awesome seemed to help me not mutter too many obscenities when I got caught in a traffic jam on my way home from a task I hadn't wanted to do in the first place and which wasn't nearly as uncomplicated as I had been led to believe it would be.

I'd love to tell you more about all my awesome moments but I have to go feed my dog - the ultimate awesome thing in my life.

A W E S O M E 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Vegas family moments

There's no doubt that I won the in-law lottery when I "picked" the family that I married into.  This became clear to me again when we all got together last week in Vegas. Here's a little peek at our fun weekend.

us with our adorable and very talented niece, Cameron
We celebrated Cameron and Mr. French's birthdays - the stack of presents behind Cameron are all for Mr. F...I haven't had a load of presents like that since I was a kid. I'm kind of jealous. I suggested that we all get together again in November for my birthday but nobody went for it.

he got new toys
everybody wanted to play with the hat
I made waffles one day
Voila! The perfect waffle

It was a lovely weekend full of laughter, great food and awesome memories. I can't wait to do it all November, right?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

WTF: bake it, baby

We all know how to cook corn and hard-boiled eggs, right? We stick them in water and boil, boil, boil. If you're anything like me you've over-boiled both of these things just to make sure they're fully cooked. I love corn in the summer but I haven't made any recently because I got tired of eating over-cooked, chewy ears of corn and hard-boiled eggs seemed like more trouble than they were worth if they were just going to turn out rubbery.

But no more!

Recently I discovered a new way to cook both these old favorites - baking.

It's true. I was skeptical at first too...and Mr. French remained skeptical until I put the proof right in front of his face, now he can't wait to try it himself.

Let's start with the corn. I first read about this method on one of my favorite blogs Retro Revival and meant to try it immediately but you know how that goes. I'm kicking myself now, however, because I've already missed out on a couple of weeks of delicious corn on the cob!

Start with an ordinary ear of corn, no need to shuck it or anything.

put the corn in a cold oven

then set the oven to 350
and let it bake for 30 minutes
That's it. Couldn't be easier, right?

At the end of 30 minutes you take the corn out of the oven. The husk is warm to the touch but not hot. The ear inside is hot so be careful during this next step.

cut off a little bit of the bottom end
Retro Revival's blog said that the next step is to squeeze the corn out like a tube of toothpaste. I must be toothpaste challenged because I haven't had much luck squeezing but luckily it's really easy to peel off the husk at this point and everything comes off cleanly, ready to dig in and eat!

corn mess dealt with easy peasy
On to eggs

I can't remember where I first read about this, I think it might have been Pinterest. The thought of baking hard "boiled" eggs filled me with doubt so I googled it over and over just to make sure it wasn't some sort of joke. I'm pretty sure Mr. French thought the eggs would just explode in the oven...maybe I did too. I'm happy to report that everything went perfectly and I'll be doing my eggs this way from now on.

put the eggs into muffin tins so that it's easy to take in and out of the oven
Pre-heat the oven to 325, put the eggs in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. No need to prep the eggs, just take them from the refrigerator and bake.

just out of the oven, the spots wash right off
submerge them in ice water for 10 minutes
peel and eat, it's egg perfection!
And there you have it, two old favorites presented in a new, fun and easy way. Get out the oven mitts!

Wasn't That Fun?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

good, bad & ugly

We're back from the trip! Had a great time, it's fun to hang out with family...for a few days, at least.

The Good

I'm happy to report that my packing was pretty much spot on. I didn't run out of clothes, I wore everything I packed so nothing went to waste and I was dressed appropriately for each occasion. It really helped that I brought a big purse on the plane (not technically another carry on bag so no extra charge) so that I had plenty of room for last minute odds and ends and my suitcase wasn't overstuffed.

I'm a little obsessed with giraffes so I adore this bag
At the last minute I stuffed a pair of shorts in my bag which turned out to be the best decision since I wore those shorts every day when we were just hanging out at the house and saved the skirts for when we went out. Score one for me! I can use all the encouragement I can get because...

The Bad

Despite all my meticulous planning I managed to forget a couple of things on my way out the door to the airport. I arrived in Las Vegas without any jewelry (it was sitting in its little pouch just waiting for me to put it in the suitcase) and my hat. Not my finest moment but at least it was easily remedied by a trip to Target for a couple pair of earrings and a cute, new hat...all on clearance!

Luckily I didn't forget any of the essentials like makeup and hair tools, the lack of those would have caused far more anxious moments.

The Ugly

There isn't really anything ugly, I just had to put that in there. About the only thing I can think of is that our flight home was delayed by 3 hours and the skirt and t-shirt that were perfect for the flight into Vegas were not quite enough for hours on a chilly plane and 50 degree temperatures in San Francisco.

All in all it was a successful experiment. Can't wait for the next trip!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Road Trip, part 2 - accessories are your friends

My mom is 91 and she's still the most stylish gal out there whenever we go out to eat. She taught me early that the key to pulling an outfit together is the judicious application of accessories. She always has a colorful, but tasteful, necklace and  matching earrings for every ensemble.

She would be the first to tell you that she wasn't terribly successful at shaping my political and personal views and my tastes in food are a big mystery to her but I'm totally subscribed to the idea that accessories are the essential finishing touch for every outfit. Even a plain t-shirt (V-necks only, you wouldn't catch me wearing a crew neck) and jeans dress up quite nicely with an awesome necklace or a kicky belt.

So, needless to say, I'm not going to spend 4 days being judged by visiting with the in-laws without taking a boatload of accessories.

We've got 3 pair of shoes (the hot red ones are for the family shrinking violet here), a fleet of necklaces, a couple of belts and way more earrings than I can count. In addition I have to have a bunch of those little travel toiletries for taking off my makeup every night, washing my face, moisturizing everything plus all the makeup I'll need to get through the next day. Plus I have to have shampoo and special conditioner because undoubtedly I'll have to wash and style my hair after days of swimming. And that leads to my flat iron and curling iron (and hair dryer) which I haven't even pictured here.

Let's not forget hats. As if I ever would. I adore hats (look for a blog post all about hats in the future) and I'm really lovin' the whole fedora look lately. These are that hats that I would like to take with me but hats don't pack so well. In the past ladies had a special suitcase just for hats but we're taking one of those budget airlines that charges for each piece of carry-on luggage so I imagine I'll have to narrow this down to just one hat which I'll be wearing on the plane.

And last but never, ever least - shades! I figure Las Vegas is a pretty sunny place so a girl can never have too many pairs of sunglasses...and I'm pretty happy with the way I blinged them out so I want to share that with the world.

The little doll is Amelia, my travel doll. She usually sits on my desk at work but she gets to fly when I do.

So now we're off to the neon paradise...I hope I have enough clothes and stuff.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Road Trip! Packing


You'll never guess where I am headed...well, ok, maybe I gave you a teensy-weensy hint up there.

The irony is that although we're going to Vegas, we might never make it to the Strip because we're not going to gamble or get married or see a cool show or go shopping or eat in a fabulous restaurant...we're going for a family reunion.

Luckily the in-laws live in a lovely home with a swimming pool so I plan on spending my time lounging around the cement pond while the family catch up with each other. Sun, swim, great food - I won't even miss the wedding chapels slot machines amazing shows.

I often read articles with tips on how to pack like here and here or here and one of my favorite blogs - The Daily Connoisseur - has a few helpful posts about The Art of Packing. Yes, there's inspiration everywhere but sometimes you just have to jump in and get your hands dirty to really learn how to do something.

Here I go.

Now this isn't going to be one of those preachy little posts about how I'm an expert packer and you're not, so you should just do everything I do. This is going to be more like - I'm going to pack all this stuff and when I get home I'll tell you if I scored or I totally screwed up. That's much more my style.

It is going to be a 4 day trip to a hot (150 million degrees in the shade) climate so I'm just taking a carry-on and in it I'll put:

2 skirts
3 shirts
2 swimsuits
1 swim cover-up
1 dress for family photos
And that's it, that's all I'm taking...and that scares me. What if I regret not taking more? What if an unexpected snowstorm comes through and I wish I had a sweater...or a parka...or boots? Or even worse, what if I run out of clothes before I run out of days?  And yet, I know I'd rather have too few clothes and have to wear the same thing twice rather than have to drag huge suitcases through the airport. At least that's what I keep telling myself.
Have you ever seen the scene in Titanic where Rose and Cal show up at the dock and they have an entire car full of trunks to take on the voyage? Now that's one girl who never had to worry about having enough to wear. The clothes horse in me would kinda love to travel that way but since I don't have any staff to travel with me and deal with the headaches of all that luggage, I guess I'll have to content myself with stuffing everything into this cute pink suitcase.
I read somewhere that you should roll up your clothes when you pack them, they take up less space and it cuts down on wrinkles. I agree that it seems to cut down on the amount of space used but the jury is still out on the whole wrinkle thing. I'll let you know.
rollin' rollin' rollin' - keep those clothies rollin'
All the clothes are rolled tight and packed...plenty of room for the real essentials - accessories! Tune in tomorrow!