Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Last Saturday we carved pumpkins. My mom, Roy, and Lori came over to carve pumpkins too. The table was set with carving tools, templates, paper towels, and pumpkin gut bowls. After some drinks and chips and salsa we eagerly got to work on our pumpkins.

Mom is free-handing a skull template.

Joe puts on the finishing touches to his pumpkin.

These ears look just right.

Joe & his pumpkin.

Lori bought the craziest pumpkin. It refused to come clean inside. She was scrapping the walls forever. When it was finally cleaned out, the pumpkin was lopsided and would roll over. To adjust the weight his little pumpkin topper had to be set askew.

Voila! Pierre Lumiere. Please notice his fabulous beret.

Tank was patiently waiting for a lap to sit in while the carving was going on. That would be my lap in particular because there were other laps at her disposal. When I finally sat down, Tank helped me put the finishing touches on my zombie pumpkin.

After the carving was done, the table was cleared and we grilled up some dinner and ate while anxiously waiting for it to get dark so we could officially light up the jack-o-lanterns.

Here is the Parade of Pumpkins.

Happy Halloween!
May your pillowcases be full of sweet treats & your jack-o-lanterns burn bright tonight!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Stitch n Witch 2009

Last night was our annual Stitch n Witch Halloween Party.

We always have a costume contest for the most original, the best use of yarn, and a category that changes every year. This year was Vampires! Vampires are tres chic right now.

This year I made Sock Skellies for the prize bag. Ellen, my co-conspirator of fun, stuffs the prizes bags full of yarn, DVDs, and a vintage pattern magazine. Go to Ellen's blog to see tons more pictures by her and, our official WeHo SnB photographer, Mr. Larry, Ellen's talented and adorable husband.

Check out my skellie fellas.

These guys are a hoot, don't ya think? Easy to make too.

You can find the how to on the Sock Skeletons here on Martha Stewart.

The Skellies come from Robert Mahar of Mahar Drygoods, "an online emporium of vintage and artisan crafted curiosities for children".

Now we have another fabulous Halloween party under our belts, which means Halloween is almost over. *sniffsniff*

Thanks everyone for being so danged creative & fun from the tops of your heads down to your toenails. You are all what makes our SnB community so special. Love you all! MWAH!!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


The vacation recap has been interrupted by a toothache.

Wednesday I noticed that my teeth were super sensitive to hot and cold, but just went about my business. However, later that night I was reading Her Fearful Symmetry and one of the characters had a toothache and I realized that my teeth kind of hurt. Do I have a toothache? It doesn't feel like just one tooth. For an hour, I had questions running around in my head and a dull ache in my teeth and I couldn't go to sleep. Finally I got up and took some Tylenol and went back to bed.

When I woke up the dull ache was still there, but never having had a toothache before I still wasn't sure this was a toothache. Again, I went about my day but after running errands all day I decided I better call the dentist. Unfortunately, I called the dentist right after they closed for the day and they are not in on Fridays. (Nice schedule. Kids go into dentistry!) I decided I could tough it out for the weekend.

After consulting with my personal pharmaceutical rep, I learned that Tylenol doesn't do crap all for pain and I needed Advil. So Friday morning I was off to Target. The toothache had ramped up over night from a dull ache to Hell-O you have a bonfide toothache ache. In the middle of Target I was ripping open the Advil and taking taking a dose right in the aisle. Yeah, you know where this is going.

Saturday AM - like 3:30am - I am in some kind of seven circle of hell. The Advil dosage goes up, but doesn't last 8 hours. Agony.

Sunday AM - like 5:30am - I have sunk to a deeper level of hell. The Advil dosage goes up again and I spend the entire day with ice on my face. The pain has drained any ounce of energy from my body and I sleep on and off on the couch all day long. During the day I did manage to leave a message for the dentist begging them to call me and get me in on Monday. I am at the end of my rope.

Monday morning 7:15am the dentist calls and asks if I can come in at 10:30am. Uh, yes, I will be there.

I was there at 10:10am. No traffic, weird, but I am thankful. Toothaches cause road rage.

11am - It is confirmed I need a root canal. It is in a tricky molar that may have a fourth canal. I need a specialist. They call the endodontist for me and I am scheduled for 12:30pm

12:15pm I arrive at the endodontist.

First it's the cold & hot test to find the culprit tooth. Ahhh, yeah that's the one! Number 14 on the upper left side. They then drill me open, find the elusive fourth canal, root out the roots, fill them in with what looks like pink pencil erasers, and fill in the hole. Voila! I am done. My first root canal.

Okay it wasn't really that easy breezy but mostly because I really had to pee the entire time. When I say I had to pee I mean in that urgent all you can think about is you have to pee and don't make me laugh kind of way, not that you would have a chance of laughing while small medieval dental instruments are poking around in your wide open, to the point of unhinged, mouth. They take a lot of x-rays during the process so I was able to finally go to the bathroom while they were processing the x-ray. In the bathroom I got to check out the umbrella apparatus they had sticking out of my mouth. In addition to the umbrella sticking out of my mouth I was drooling all over myself. Lovely.

The relief was immediate. The toothache was gone. I could have hugged the endodontist.

Some observations: Dentists smell soap and water good. They smell laundry fresh good. They are like the cleanest smelling people on earth. I have never had a smelly dentist and I sure hope know one else has. In all my years, I now realize, my dentists have all smelled fresh and clean. Maybe all doctors smell this way but since dentists are up in your face you notice it. Or maybe because they are up in your face they do something extra that makes them just out of the shower fresh.

Now my other observation or question is, why do they call it a toothache? It's really a teethache. I could not have told you specifically which tooth hurt. In fact, I had what is called referred pain and it was another tooth that was reacting to hot and cold and not the actual tooth that was the cause. By the time I got to the dentist all my teeth hurt on the upper left as well as my jaw and some of my facial bones. This is the kind of pain I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. It was terrible.

When I got home yesterday, I was exhausted and again just dozed on the couch. Finally I just went to bed early. This morning I am happy to report there is no more toothache. There is some tenderness and I have to chew on the other side of my mouth for a week or so, but other than that I feel 90% better. Pain is exhausting. It makes me grateful for my good health and the willingness to try and maintain my health.

Now it's time to get ready for Halloween, the most wonderful time of the year!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Under the Sea

When it started raining in Big Sur, I mean, it started pouring. It was a hard and relentless rain when we woke up Tuesday morning. The night before we figured for a rainy day the Monterey Bay Aquarium was the ticket.

The drive was dark, wet and rainy. The first thing we did when we got to Monterey was to buy the biggest umbrella we could find at a local pharmacy. You know it's really raining when you have to go out of your way to find an umbrella. This was no little sprinkle you could run through and shake off. This was drenching rain. Armed & ready we found our way to the aquarium.

Right after we arrived it was feeding time for the sea otters. Usually they feed the animals from the top deck, but since it was raining so hard, the otters were fed from several different feeding tubed within the exhibit.

This beautiful otter snatched up a bit of squid as she swam by. These are amazing animals and just so darned cute you cannot stand it. They are so gracefully and balletic while swimming through the water and there is a playful quality to them. I could have stood there all day, but the hubby encouraged me to move on to the next exhibit.

What is it about jellyfish that are so fascinating? They are so ethereal and captivating to the point of hypnosis.

These are called egg yolk jellyfish

Breathtaking creatures

Next was the big tank with super fast fishies & sharks (reefs, hammerheads, and a baby great white). It was feeding time for the fast fish. The sharks are well fed but at a separate time. They steer clear of the fast fish during the feeding frenzy.

School of sardines



During the feeding you get to hear a little bit about sustainable fishing and in the end they pass out a seafood watch guide. You can learn more about which fish are the more sustainable choices to eat here.

Seahorses are another stunning creature.

The kelp forest

We saw amazing sea life at the aquarium. It is astounding at how intricate and colorful and diverse life is on this planet. The world that exists underwater is so fascinating and foreign to me.

Some years back I went snorkeling for the first time in Mexico. Standing in about waist high water, I put on my mask and snorkel and plunged my face under the water. I screamed. There were fish all around me. Like right next to me. It was shocking, and truly naive, but I really had no idea the fish were right there. I figured a big ole human comes splashing around your habitat that everyone swims away. Oh the hubris. With the naked eye above the water I couldn't see that anything was swimming around me, but they were there and they are there. Now I have much more respect when I go splashing around for my own pleasure in the waters. Really, in this world, I am just a guest on the fringes of realms I barely know or understand and its greatness is awesome.

Before we left the aquarium I wanted to say good bye to the otters. This time from the upstairs portion of the exhibit. You can tell that it is pouring rain outside by the surface of the water.

Do you think she would like it to stop raining into her eyeballs?

There are only a little more than 2000 of these sea otters in existence

"Sea otters once thrived from Baja California to the Pacific Northwest of North America through Alaskan and Russian waters and into Japan before hunters nearly exterminated them in the 1700s and 1800s. The California population has grown from a group of about 50 survivors off Big Sur in 1938 to just over 2000 today. Although their numbers have increased, sea otters still face serious risks: oil from a single tanker spill near San Francisco or off the central coast could wipe out the entire California sea otter population.

The Aquarium partners with state, federal and academic researchers to study otters in the wild. The more we learn about otter behavior, biology and health, the better we can protect these threatened animals".

You can learn more about sea otters on the Aquarium website and saving the sea otter. They even have a live webcam, although for some reason I can't get it to work on my computer. I hope you can check them out. You just want to take one home.

Bye Bye sea otter!

After leaving the aquarium it was really windy and rainy. We soon came to the realization that much of the city of Monterey was completely dark due to power outages caused by the storm. On the way back to Big Sur we stopped by Carmel. Carmel was also completely dark. All the power outages and road crews out told us it was time to get back to the cabin. It was a white knuckler of a ride home. The wind was fierce. You could see the rain zig zagging across the pavement. It was blowing so hard that sometimes we thought we were going to be blown off the cliffs and plunged into the black and roiling sea below. Sometimes the sheer mountains would block the wind and then you would turn a corner and BLAM-O the car would be buffeted by wind and rain. It was scary and a little bit thrilling to tell the truth.

When we got back to the campground, the power was out there too. The generators were on until 10pm. We ate leftover Beef Stew and hunkered down over the Scrabble board. We played until it was lights out.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Go chase waterfalls

A storm was a-coming.

On the Monday of our trip, we decided to get out early before the rains started. The first stop was Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into the trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves" ~ John Muir

Coast redwoods

Pfeiffer Falls

Julie Pfeiffer Burn State Park

Snake & poison oak

For color on a gray day go to the Spirit Garden

a nesting place

We had a wonderful day hiking and taking in the breathtaking beauty of Big Sur. Before we left our cabin that morning we got the crock-pot going for dinner. Beef Burgundy*. It had started to rain by the time we got home in the late afternoon. We opened the door to the cabin and it smelled amazing. We did some last minute prep to add to the stew and boiled some potatoes to serve it over. Dinner was hearty and delicious.

Snuggled up, warm, dry and well fed, we feel asleep to the sound of pouring rain on the roof.

*The recipe we used for Beef Burgundy in a Slow Cooker can be found on the America's Test Kitchen website. You have to register (it's free) to view the recipe.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sunday Hiking

On our first official day in Big Sur we scrambled up a big breakfast and then headed to Andrew Molera State Park (not to be confused with Alfred Molina, which is what we called it. I blame it on our proximity to Hollywood).

First and foremost for hiking...put on your shoes.

Get on trail and take off shoes. Huh?

At the trail head there was a river. It was knee deep in the middle and 10 or so feet wide. According to some other hikers, who were crossing back over, there was a bridge over the river that morning but the rangers took it away in anticipation of the coming storm. Onward ho, we took off our shoes and waded across.

Brrrrr, that was toe curling cold.

The trail is about a mile through scrubby meadow.

Watch out for poison oak! It was everywhere in a beautiful autumnal warning of reds. Why I didn't take a picture of its profusion is a mystery. Well, really I was just trying to avoid making any kind of contact. One time my mom sat in poison oak during Topanga Days when I was a kid. She had a terrible reaction to the medication they put her on. The meds made her have heart palpitations so she taught me and my brother CPR, just in case she went into cardiac arrest. Needless to say, that scared the crap out of me and has been imprinted in my memory banks. So now I make a wide berth around "leaves of three" and "let them be" as the saying goes.

At the end of the trail you come to the beach.

The last time we saw sunshine was in Cayucos and it would remain that way until the storm passed through. The grayness of the day was perfectly suited for this mostly deserted beach.

Time to explore






Kelp composition in nature #1

Kelp composition in nature #2

Rocks in tide

Found object...a burnt piece of driftwood that looks like a duck.

After our explorations we headed back to the trail. Again, we took off our shoes, crossed the river, put back on our shoes and headed home.

For dinner we made Macaroni & Cheese with Broccoli
(adapted from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2007)

2 heads of broccoli

4 cups uncooked medium elbow macaroni

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

1 ¼ non-fat milk

¼ cup (2 ounces) cream cheese, softened

2 teaspoons Spicy Brown mustard

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

½ teaspoon minced garlic

1 ¼ cups (5 ounces) Cheddar Cheese & Gouda

  1. Cook broccoli. Put in ice bath. Drain & set aside.
  2. Cook pasta in same water as broccoli. Drain & set aside.
  3. While pasta cooks, place flour, salt and pepper in a large saucepan. Add milk, stirring with a whisk until well blended. Drop cream cheese by teaspoonfuls into milk mixture; bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; simmer 2 minutes or until thick and cream cheese melts, stirring occasionally. Stir in mustard, Worcestershire, and garlic; simmer 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add cheddar cheese, stirring until cheese melts. Combine pasta and cheese sauce in a large bowl; toss well. Add broccoli.

Other modifications to the recipe. At the market I couldn't find elbow macaroni (I know, weird) so I used cavatappi, which is basically a double elbow and even better in the end because it has ridges that hold the sauce to the pasta. In packing for the trip I forgot flour. This is essential for making the roux. It was time to improvise so we threw in 3 tablespoons of Pancake Mix. At first the roux smelled and tasted like pancake batter but in the end after all the cheese went in you couldn't taste it at all. The cabin was pretty well equipped but it didn't have measuring spoons so we improvised on those measurements too. The original recipe called for Light Cream Cheese and Dijon mustard, I opted for regular cream cheese and spicy brown mustard. The original recipe also called for just cheddar cheese and that just wouldn't do, so I added Gouda to the mix. There was only one liquid measuring cup so we guesstimated on the amount of cheese as well. Really can you have too much cheese in your macs n cheese? I don't think so. The broccoli was added to get our veggies in. I like peas in my macs n cheese too. How do you do your macs n cheese?

The hubby was a little sad that I didn't have a baked recipe but I went for stove top because it was easier. It was homey and delicious and the recipe was very easy. After dinner we realized we didn't have any storage containers to fit in our dorm size refrigerator that was packed to the hilt. In shopping for snacks, I bought Trader Joe's Triple Ginger Cookies. A light bulb went off for the hubby and we emptied the cookies into the baggie the cheese was in and put the leftover macs n cheese into the cookie container. Ingenious! We had a great day that ended with a very tasty dinner and a flash of brilliance.