Saturday, March 31, 2012

High Tea

I made High Tea for a friend today........for her birthday.





All birthdays are precious reminders of our birth and our lives and a great time to reflect on the year past and to look ahead.

My friend nearly didn't make this birthday.

She had an Aortic Anuerysm one month ago.....and it's every bit as scary as it sounds.

And on her long journey back to full health we took a rest stop at High Tea today to celebrate not only her survival but what she means to me as a friend, a business partner, a mentor.....and her birthday.

We had a lovely, laughter-filled, story-filled hour with some tasty snacks and good tea!

Happy Birthday my dear friend.

May the year ahead bring full health and restoration and many good times, good travels and good laughs.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Affirmation

One of the things that really impressed us at Hilltop Children's Centre  was how humble they were about their work but also how they affirmed one another as colleagues. 

At lunchtime on the day of the conference the lead Curriculum person asked me if I would give an affirmation to one of the staff, Joel, who would be presenting in the afternoon.  I was honoured to offer Joel an affirmation for his presentation and for his work with the children.

My colleague Jennifer was planning a Team Building event for the Staff at her centre and in her careful and creative thinking about what she wanted to accomplish that evening, she asked me if I would write an affirmation for the staff.  I offered to write them personal, individual affirmations....all 13 of them!  Of course the event was a couple of days after my vacation so I took the list of names with me and gave careful thought to what I might say to each one.

I have known some of them for 11 years and some for only 11 months so it was challenging to be personal and professional and meaningful...on a 4x6 card!  But I really enjoyed the exercise of visualizing each of the staff and their uniqueness and the work they do and who they are as people.  It was a long but good process and as I sealed each one in an envelope I felt good.

This week Jennifer hosted the Game Show that was competitive and hilarious by all accounts.  She then did a personal verbal affirmation to each staff present, each staff did an affirmation for someone on their team and read it to them and then they opened the ones from me.....I gather after all that there were alot of tears and hugging.

And since then as the week has gone on (and on and on....why does the first week back after a break drag on so?).  I have received some lovely words and cards back from the staff that have greatly warmed my heart and renewed my spirit.

It didn't cost a penny to make those affirmations but I doubt there is anything more meaningful that I could have purchased or would have had as much of an impact.

Affirm someone today!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Fallen

My personal motto is "If it's worth doing it's worth doing well". 

This works well in most areas of my life.

But while no less true, it is slightly less of an esteemed goal when it comes to falling down.

On the ground.

I tend to major in spectacular falls. 

Fortunately not often.



But I have had three memorable falls downs stairs.

Once with a baby in arms, Once down an icy/snowy flight of stairs outside and once on the stairs in our house in which I broke my arm in 5 places and caused quite a scene.

Today was my second public sidewalk spill as an adult.......a good 8 on the spectacu-fall-o-meter with extra points for making no noise and saving my phone!  I did the embarrassed pop-up "I am fine I am fine" thing to which the onlookers and kind helpers begged to differ and suggested I sit a moment.  They could see the rip in the knee of my jeans and the mud all down my right side, even splattered on to my face.  I thanked then and smiled bravely and got to my car and home as the first waves of nausea from shock set in.  My Mom and I were supposed to have lunch but she came over and made tea instead.

Tea has such restorative properties.

I went back to work in clean clothes and with a big gauze patch on my knee.  Stiff and sore and bruised tonight but hopefully a good sleep and some good meds and all will be well.

But really if you have to fall......going down in style is the way to go....at least you get a story out of it!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesdays - Signs of the Times

Groan

Clever but they didn't serve MaiTai's??

Mr. Toots....

On a staircase leading into Santa Cruz Bay


YES!
Because New Faith is so last year....

Yummy was missing?



DO not google this without parental controls on!

Anyone want to be the Mayor?

Of course Easy St and Shamrock Rd are together

Yes

Thank goodness they labelled this!
"Back to Basics"

On Pjamas in Walmart

Finally the perfect pet....a helium dog

Monday, March 26, 2012

The story of Comfort Food (on the road)

Anyone who knows us knows this....we love food.  We love to source it locally and organically as much as possible, cook it fresh and tasty and enjoy good, wholesome, healthy meals.

I don't know about you but that kind of eating is hard to find on the road....away from home.....in the USA.....on our budget....

We have tried many differing approaches to food on vacation and you all know how much I love to research any destination to death so it's not for lack of knowledge that we struggle.  Finding Trader Joes supermarkets close to our destination has certainly helped as even with a small microwave you can prepare decent, wholesome food quite easily and you can picnic with organic ingredients for lunches.  I often bring all the utensils, plates, cutlery (corkscrew) even tablecloths when we travel.

And yet after a week away I am SO done with eating out.

Maybe we are picky but one restaurant looks pretty much like another and the current US trend to list the caloric value of each item may be helpful for some it's pretty much a joy killer if you have any clue about what your personal daily caloric intake should be. "Bread and water for me thanks"!

So in desperation on this trip (ok maybe desperation is over stating things) we crossed our fingers and headed for comfort food.  For us. Especially our children this must include rice.....not "white people rice" but good sticky chopstick hugging rice and preferably asian food.  It makes us laugh at how much they love Asian food and their utter disgust when they are offered a fork instead of chopsticks! SO we had our first foray into a PF Changs.....I know it's a chain...I know we should have sought some hole-in-the-wall place the locals frequent but frankly we were tired and hungry so PF Changs it was.  And it was so good. Food cooked after it is ordered and lots of vegetables.  The rice was a "fail" as it was "white peoples rice" and did not pass the children's chopsticks test.

We really enjoyed it and while it cost a bit more than many of our other meals it was so much tastier and wholesome.

And all of this was completely trumped when we got to the Burtons in Grants Pass where Chef Guy rescued us from food blah-dom and cooked up a BBQ (= Braaivleis) the likes of which we haven't had in ages.  He and I deciphered how to grill artichokes on the BBQ (we brought them from Gilroy California - Artichoke Capital of the World- no less)



 And then .....(Insert drumroll)....... Guy made his invention of Boerie Burgers - this deconstructed sausage made into a burger patty is my all time favourite food item discovered in the last 10 years and if I could only get Guy to make them in sufficient quantity I would make us both rich! (and if you add Dutch Brothers Coffee to that empire we could buy Bill Gates house).

I sat in my own little bubble of happiness eating my boerie burger (I have no photos - that's how all consuming my passion for the burger is!). I am indebted to Guy for indulging my boerie burger craving.

And all weekend we have been cooking (and by we I mean Lindsay and Allan) 2 new recipes tried, tested, tasted and given A+ ratings and one other comfort food that was as good as always.

Lindsay's amazing and quick quiches 


Glad to be home for many reasons - not least of which is good food.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The story of the Weather

You say California and everyone thinks......warm and sunny.

We knew that was unlikely given how early our March break was and while we certainly didn't expect to be warm we were craving the sunshine.

As the days counted down the 7 day forecast got worse and worse for Monterey - even the optimistic forecast looked iffy.  I have to say I was disappointed.

But there is truly nothing I could do....no amount of research and planning and worrying was going to change the weather.....or the surf conditions.....I was forced to just go with what Mother Nature was throwing our way.

In years past I would have had a hard time with this but age/maturity/wisdom have finally kicked in.

So we embraced the ever changing weather outside our window (truck or hotel or RV) and made the most of it. 

The weather did not define our vacation....it added to it.

There was wind......
It was cold.......
It rained.........

And there was sun........
Lots of sun.......


And good surf........
And even snow on the way home........

And we were grateful for it all......honestly!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The story of the Ducky Dames

It was clear from the second day at our hotel that there was something afoot.....a certain feeling in the air and  a definite purple and red hue to the lobby.......it didn't take long to realise the Red Hat Ladies were in the house hotel!



 We observed them at first and then one evening as we were sitting in the Lobby having a glass of wine the ladies started to arrive dressed to the nines.....I couldn't stand it anymore and I approached one of them and asked her to tell me about the whole thing.

She told me that the Red Hat Society is purely for women over 50 to have fun......she said "We have raised our kids, run the bake sales, managed the soccer teams, worked hard and now it's our time to play."

Their website puts it like this:
 
"The Red Hat Society began as a result of a few women deciding to greet middle age with verve, humor and elan. We believe silliness is the comedy relief of life, and since we are all in it together, we might as well join red-gloved hands and go for the gusto together. Underneath the frivolity, we share a bond of affection, forged by common life experiences and a genuine enthusiasm for wherever life takes us next."
- Sue Ellen Cooper, Queen Mother
If you start a chapter you are the "Queen" and you can have a Vice-Queen and then you gather a group of friends and have fun.  

That evening was the ball....It was "Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend" and they were to come as their favourite Diva.......and my.oh.my..... did they ever dress-up!!  We watched such a parade of dazzling outfits it was incredible.

Even the ultimate Diva, Miss Piggy, showed up to the amusement of our teenage girls!
As we watched the passing parade we got chatting to a few of the Red Hats - they were the Ducky Dames from Elk Grove California and such lovely and interesting women!  We had the best chat to them about their clothes and the things they did together (some had been to a New Years Day parade in London UK and some were off to New York and then to cruise the Panama Canal) and the obvious close friendships they enjoyed.  Some were divorced, some widowed and some just had understanding husbands!

We so enjoyed out chat with the Ducky Dames that the girls suggested we write them notes and put them under their door for after the Ball.  We knew which room was theirs because the Red Hatters had a hotel door decorating competition and the Ducky Dames were easy to spot on the 6th floor! 

We missed them at their pyjama breakfast the next morning but we caught up with the Dames the next evening as they arrived for their dinner dressed magnificently in their red and purple and had another lovely chat.  


It's encounters like these that make great vacation memories.  

We were so glad to meet these Ducky Dames and I, for one, have my eye out for a fetching red hat to wear a few years from now and I wouldn't be the least surprised if Lindsay and Maxine start a chapter of their own one day!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Stories

We're baaaaaack.........from a great vacation.  Not exotic by many standards but full of lots of the right ingredients for a memorable time.  And for me, the Mom, the trip organizer and coordinator, it is all about the memories made together as a family.

We have stories to tell......stories about:

1. The 4 days in the truck (aka The Rolling Blue Thunder)....... being hauled in at the Border, the singing, the car dance,snacks, the napping, the never-ending I5.......
2. Being a family of 5.......having 2 14 year old girls.......new dynamics but lots of fun.....and a great diversion at the return border stop so they didn't ask about the wine.!
3. Surfing......USA.......freezing cold water but good waves, good Pauls (both surf instructors where named.....Paul) and loads of fun.
4. Retail and Food.......we shopped, especially the girls.....and we ate way too much.....some of it good....some not so much......watch for a post on what we turn to for comfort food on the road!
5. New places..... I LOVE discovering new places and Monterey, Carmel, Capitola, Santa Cruz, Jacksonville did not disappoint.....and revisiting San Fran, Napa and Grants Pass all great too.
6. Friends and Family......fun to reconnect with our OC friends in Monterey briefly....and to have some good times with the Oregon cousins...and our new friends the Ducky Dames who will feature in a post of their own.
7.  Ocean views, the sound of the surf, sea lions, beaches.......all so good for my soul......and I was a happy camper with camera in hand to record it all........watch for a couple Wordless Wednesdays' coming up........
8. A change of pace and a change of place....... a good vacation had by all.

And so lovely to be home...to be just 4 again (although we miss you Max!).....to shower in our own shower and to fall happily tired into my own bed tonight.

Blessed to be home safe after a few thousand miles on the road. 

And another epic Spring Break in the history books.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Life is a highway..........

Or it will be for the next two days.

Am I ready......???? The lists written and crossed off....???

No sireee, not at all.

I am still at work and when I get home Allan will have left for class at Trinity so we will rendezvous in the front hallway at 4:30am tomorrow morning with sleepy teens, load up the "Rolling Blue Thunder", check for passports and cross our fingers and head south!

There is a certain freedom in flying by the seat of your pants in this fashion.....I am SURE that is not the reason I was awake at 4:30am this morning mentally running lists and disaster scenarios....... couldn't be.

The fact that we are taking the truck means I need to care just a little less about precision packing as we have loads of cargo space.  Allan would hasten to add he has no desire to pack ten thousand small bags into the truck and would prefer, at least, organised packing.  Yes well...about that.

the cab of the truck is a bit of a different story with 3 in the back seat.....it's going to be cozy and they all want their own pillow and blanket and idevice, books, games, snacks, water bottles..... we have coffee cups, GPS and snacks up front too.  There is no way we arrive elegantly in either Grants Pass or Monterey.....I can see the valet parking guys at the hotel drawing straws to see who has to deal with "those people".

Oh well.......life is like this sometimes. We need the break and if that means less than perfect packing and a less than Martha Stewart arrival so be it.

Here's to sun (or at least an optimistic forecast), surf, friendly border guards, singing in the car, new sights, old friends, chocolate covered peanuts (thanks Jen),family visits, good food, great photos (with or without a tripod), a glass of wine (or two) and sand between my toes.

Happy Spring Break Friends.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chicken Dinner

Well the theme of the weekend seems to be my Elders. 

I made roast chicken with roast potatoes for dinner tonight.

I did not eat this dinner made by my mother.  It's not her recipe.  She did not teach me to make it.

My other mother did. 

Julia
Julia and the Walker boys

Julia was our domestic worker while we were growing up in South Africa.  She worked for friends, the Walkers, before they left to live in New Zealand and then she came to rule our universe! 

She was a loving yet formidable presence in our lives.  My parents gave her full authority to parent us.  She refused to clean our rooms if they were messy, she told us off if we were rude or badly behaved and she told on us if we did something "verboten".  She had the "evil eye" look that could leave you quaking in your shoes but also a large pillowy bosom that was the perfect place to lay your head when a hug was needed.

Julia cooked our evening meal most nights.  She wasn't Julia Childs but she had some meals that she just rocked and one of them was roast chicken with roast potatoes.  She also knew it was my absolute favourite.

When I got married she bought me a gift.

It was a roasting pan.

My parents moved to Canada two weeks after my wedding and Julia had moved on to work for another family but I stayed in close contact with her.  She went to church every Thursday afternoon which was traditionally Domestic Workers afternoon off  (and a boon to local restaurants) and I used to meet her after the service to chat and catch up.  I  had her over to Allan and my apartment for dinner one night.

I was terrified. 

And she refused to help me.  She pulled up a chair to the kitchen table and watched me.  It was more nerve-wracking than my final Home Economics exam. And more fool I I had decided to make.....roast chicken and roast potatoes with the roasting pan she gave me.  She had a ball watching me race around the kitchen sweating while she drank her rooibos tea.

She was gracious about the meal......it was nowhere near as good as hers.

She is in Heaven now and I hope she saw that I have improved in my chicken dinner skills tonight.

And I look forward to a pillowy hug in Heaven one day. 

Thanks for everything JuJu.  I miss you.