Otay Farms Market

I’ve wondered what would bring me back to my blog.  I should have known it would be a good food experience.

I went to Otay Farms Market today.  I’ve driven past it a few times a month since I was a little girl, perusing the thrift stores with my dad, but I’ve never gone in.

I’m not even sure why.  I knew the minute I walked through the door, that it was the kind of place my dad would have loved.

The fruit and veggies are plentiful and well priced and there’s an intoxicating aroma of fresh baked goods coming from the back.

Along the way to the bakery shelves, there is a Mexican style deli complete with fresh guacamole, a variety of salsas, spicy jalapeno carrots, and a selection of other interesting lunch fixings.

I will definitely go back for a meal from there one day soon.

Today however, I only grabbed some pears, a bag of plums and a tall, sticky-looking coconut macaroon.

And tortillas.

Fresh, piping-hot-off-the-stone tortillas.  (Insert glee over upcoming food deliciousness here.)

The bag of them was so hot in fact, that I couldn’t hold it in the palm of my hand.  Instead, I had to dangle it from my fingers by the teeny bit of plastic above the twist tie.

After a quick glance at the rest of the store, I paid and left.  I tossed the tortilla bag on the seat next to me and was all set to drive away, but those tortillas had already filled the van with an amazing aroma.  I had to eat one right then, in the parking lot.  Isn’t that the rule with fresh food?  Eat it on the spot?

I ripped open the bag, rolled one quickly to avoid burning my fingers, and then took a bite.  It was really good.  So good.   So fresh.

I started my car, left the lot and headed home.  But that aroma was still there.

I grabbed another tortilla from the bag.

I was about to take a bite when I remembered the See’s Candies Dark Chocolate Almond bar in my purse.  I ripped open one end, broke off a square and tossed it inside my rolled up tortilla.

The chocolate started to melt on contact – just enough to easily eat, but not enough to make a mess.

I took a bite and immediately felt happy.  And then quickly sad, because no one was there to share that amazing moment.

Fresh, hot tortilla with See’s Chocolate?  If I go to Heaven one day, that’s what I will eat there.

Absolutely.

And I probably won’t ever buy tortillas at the supermarket again.

I am changed.

♥♥

Renegade Craft Fair & Fun With Friends

I met a couple of friends in Los Angeles yesterday.  They rode the train in from the desert and I drove up to Union Station to meet them.

We started our morning with some coffee and Mexican pastries on Olvera Street.  We sat and chatted while the sleepy storekeepers unfurled their goods, then we shopped a bit before walking back to my van for a quick ride to our main destination.  We were headed to the annual Renegade Craft Fair at Los Angeles State Historic Park.

Renegade is an annual gathering of etsy.com artists and local food trucks.  The off-road parking is dry and dirty, the bottles of water are overpriced, and shade is in short supply, but the art is worth the inconveniences!

I think the best thing about this event is that everyone has a web presence.  If you spend all your money before you get to the end of the first row, you can still have fun walking through and gathering business cards for future purchases.  All of the vendors sell items online.

Another great thing about Renegade is that it’s not gigantic.  You can actually see everything.  Twice.  And you still have time for some other adventures in your day.  That’s a boon for me, since I don’t live in the area.

We headed to Atwater Village next.  After a quick peek into the Out of the Closet thrift store, we had veggie burgers at the very teeny Atwater Grill.  I was pretty hungry when we got there, but even with that bias, I think I can say that was one of the best veggie burgers I’ve ever eaten.  It came with huge, delicious onion rings too.  Yum!

Ever the fiend for something chocolate immediately after a meal, I shuffled my friends down the street to a little bakery called Sweets for the Soul.

Honestly, I wasn’t impressed when we walked in the door.  The cashier was a bit aloof and there was a stressful vibe in the air.  Odd.  Or maybe we were.  I don’t know.

Nothing in the display cases appealed to me particularly.  I really sort of wanted to leave, but my manners got me.  I chose a salted caramel shot, just to be polite.  I paid a few dollars and thoughtlessly tossed the container into my bag as we walked out the door.

It wasn’t until I had parted company with my friends a few hours later that I found the box and decided to eat the little cake inside.

OH MY!  What a surprise of heavenly goodness!  Small wonder this place has gotten rave reviews.

The “shot” was something in between a brownie and a small cake.  It was dense, but with a good crumb texture.  And it was moist, not like the dry muffin I’d had hours before on Olvera Street.

It was very chocolate, but neither too bitter nor too sweet.  And the salted caramel on top?  It had melted slightly in the box – a happy accident, if you ask me.

The whole thing was just three teeny bites of yummy.  I wish I had another one right this minute.  Sigh.

I’m in chocolate love and MUST go back to Sweets for the Soul.  ♥

This experience taught me a lesson.  I think I’ve concluded that small sweets need to be eaten within mere steps of their source.  If you have to get another one, you’ll need to be right there.

Going forward, I will make my purchase respectfully, but with a fib about saving it for later, then I will duck around the nearest corner and enjoy it at once!

From there, we headed to Potted in Los Feliz.  I love this store!  Love!  My friend had been there before and she described it only as “inspiring.”  I have to agree.  Potted is serene and beautiful, but interesting, just the way a garden ought to be.  I saw many, many things I would love to own from this place.  I will definitely go back the next time I am in the area.

On West Magnolia Boulevard in Burbank, we went to Mindfulnest Contemporary Artisan Gallery.  Over 70% of the merchandise in the shop is made by local artisans, including the line of Klean Spa bath products blended on site in the back of the space.  I bought a small bottle of cream in the Lemon Love scent.  I think I might even like it more than my old favorite J.R. Watkins Shea Butter Lemon Cream!  THAT is HUGE.

Somewhere along the way to all of these destinations, we also hit a few other thrift stores.  I did the driving, but with my friends along, I was blissfully freed from navigation responsibilities.  Yeah, so don’t ask me how to find any of these places again, okay?  In fact, I will confess, I started our day by forgetting where my car was parked at Union Station.  That was a good 45 minutes of frustrated social anxiety.  Sorry, ladies!!  😳

Anyhoo, this is what I have to show for my day of fun.  Not a lot, but enough for me.  🙂

On Olvera Street, I bought a few more teeny chickens for my collection…

and a guatemalan wallet/glasses case.

At the Renegade Craft Fair, I found this whimsical soap dish by Catherine Reece:

and a very heavy weight, well made tote (with long handles like I love!!) by Dutch Door Press

At Mindfulnest/Klean Spa…

and from Leighann, my beautiful friend who always brings me the greatest stuff –

a very fun drawstring Maneki-neko bag – so freakin’ cute –

a pack of bright orange rick rack – not even opened – love!

and a very pretty batik stamp…

I agree – the little curlicue at the top is the sweetest part of the design!

And from one of the thrift stores, I bought a book for Thomas –

because who can resist those crazy Berenstain Bears?

and because I can’t leave my house without buying a book, right?

Right!

That’s it for my day in L.A.

Happy Afternoon!

P.S.  What did you do this weekend?

♥♥

Pasadena Shops, Rose Bowl Flea Market & South Pasadena

Husband pulled some solo parenting duty this weekend.  I escaped to Pasadena  to meet a friend.

I needed this little break so much.  Thank you, husband!

Pasadena Shops

I arrived late Saturday afternoon, checked into the Courtyard Marriott on Fair Oaks, then dashed down the street to hit a few of my favorite little shops.

I made it to Maude Woods with ten minutes to browse before they shut the door.  This shop is a little pricey, but it’s beautiful and serene and I thoroughly enjoyed the quick walk-through.  It’s an interesting mixture of home and garden and other little wacky things.  This was my first visit to the store and I didn’t really have time to find a treasure I couldn’t live without, so I moved on.

Next on the list was Mignon, thankfully open until 7:00 p.m!  I love this chocolate shop and I go to it every time I’m in Pasadena.  It’s an interesting departure from the See’s I am used to.  Mignon has a rich and fascinating family business history too.  Go to the Mignon website to check it out and then go to the shop to eat the chocolate!

Lula Mae was open the latest of the three, so I went there last.  It’s a teeny place with a ton of stuff.  I always wish I had a lot more time and a lot more money to spend in Lula Mae.  There’s a whole bunch of cuteness in there!

I bought a bag of sea salt caramels and a little glittery chickadee for my friend.  Yum.  Sweet.

I bought this amazing dyed silk ribbon for myself:

It looks great with orange paper too…

I love Lula Mae.  ♥  I want to go back there right now.

Rose Bowl Flea Market Finds & A Celebrity Sighting

On Sunday morning, I raced to the Rose Bowl to join my friend for a day of wandering and lunch.

This is what I bought:

an antique French butter mold

a small car with wind-up key

a little painted plaster duck (can’t get a good pic of this for some reason)

Friendly Hen print

another color plate of animal drawings (I have two others already framed from the same book)

and a small potted plant watering bird

On the way out of the Market, I spotted Joy Bryant, who plays Jasmine on Parenthood, one of my favorite shows.  She was just coming in with her friends.  She is even more beautiful in person than she is on t.v.

Happy shopping, Joy!

South Pasadena

After the Flea Market, we headed to Zinnia in South Pasadena.  Oh. My. Gosh. I. Love. This. Store. And. The. Giant. Pretty. Kitty. Who. Lives. There.

I bought a funny flat paper donkey, some beautiful yarn and a pile of teeny felt balls.  Love.

I also bought two jumbo sized fuzzy pipe cleaners for my son…I’m not sure why…they just made me think of him for some reason!  😀

We skipped across the street to Hodgson’s Antiques too.  There is so much to look at in this shop that I was overwhelmed.  I would love to return to Hodgson’s on a weekday and take my time looking.  It is full of unbelievable treasures, but my claustrophobia kicked in a bit when we were there.

We had lunch on the patio at Mike & Anne’s, where a shortage of sourdough proved lucky for me.  A delicious cinnamon walnut raisin bread was substituted and it absolutely made my grilled Swiss cheese, tomato and carmelized onion sandwich.  Garlicky mayonnaise and a pile of sweet potato fries were a great side dish.  The place was packed, so it’s surely a local favorite.

Unfortunately, my friend didn’t fare as well with the bread substitution.  Her pesto didn’t really go with cinnamon and raisins.  😦  That aside, we enjoyed an hour on the patio and had a nice conversation with our waiter about where to go for dessert.  He didn’t have a clue, but he was funny.  (Do you have a clue where to go in South Pasadena for an exquisite dessert?  Please let me know!)

We left and headed for Marz, Rue de Mimo, Camille Frances de Pedrini and the Dinosaur Farm toy store on Mission Street.  Marz was my favorite.  It’s a wacky gift shop that has a little bit of everything.  It is connected inside to Mimo and Camille, both of which have beautiful clothing and jewelry.  The Dinosaur Farm reminded me of Geppetto’s.  I enjoyed it a lot, but I didn’t really see anything I hadn’t seen before.

Somewhere in this very full schedule, we also went to Out of The Closet Thrift on Fair Oaks.  In the back of the store, I found an amusing, hideous animal drawing marked $10.  I picked it up in disbelief and promptly dropped it, shattering the glass to pieces.  The whole incident knocked me off my game, so it was probably good that the day was almost over.  I paid for the ugly painting and we left.

And that, my friends, was a wonderful, lovely weekend!

Thanks to beautiful Leighann for spending the day with me and for giving me a huge bolt of gorgeous upholstery fabric and this amazing Mr. Bunny chocolate mold:

Happy Monday!

What did you do this weekend?

♥♥

Chocolate Book Collection & The Gilded Bee

Chocolate Cookbook Collection

If you recall that I am a cookbook collector and that I have recently resolved to focus only on books about chocolate, then you will understand my shock and awe and utter joy over the Christmas present I just received from my brother.

He brought over a big box today and all of these were inside:

Amazingly, I had only one of them already in my collection and it was a paperback in poor condition.  The new one is a hardcover.  A nice hardcover.

My brother is far more skilled and patient in preservation than I, so he swaddled each one of these in a clear cover for me.

Thank you, thank you, thank you sooooo much, Billy!

I love you for doing this.

You rock!

The Gilded Bee

Remember that pretty ribbon I found last week?

It comes in other dreamy colors.  Swoon.

I like that it’s called Chess Pie Ribbon.  So charming.

The minute I found it and browsed the rest of The Gilded Bee’s etsy shop, I caved to frilly, girly weakness and ordered this and this too.

Happy.  Smiley.  Ribbony.  Lovely.

And then there’s this:

Have a great weekend!

♥♥

Flowers and Jars and Other Good Things

Just some little things today…

Flowers and Jelly Jars

We go through a lot of strawberry jelly in our house.  The jars make the sweetest give-away vases for flowers from our yard.  This little bunch went to the teacher at open house last night.  The chocolate mint tucked between the roses is the happiest “mistake” in our yard.  It smells soooo good.

Bamboo

On Saturday, I went to Ranch 99 to get a new sun hat for our beach day with the boy.  I had no cash in my wallet and the hat didn’t cost enough to meet the minimum charge amount, so I came home with three stalks of bamboo too.

The bamboo focused my Monday thrift store visits to a search for the perfect jar.  This is the one I chose.  It’s huge.  HUGE.

Batik Stamp Bonanza

A few years ago, I discovered this beautiful batik stamp in a box of my husband’s collectibles.  At the time, I had no idea what it was.  I only knew that I loved it.

Husband isn’t completely sure just where it came from – maybe something from his departed grandmother – but it started an obsession for me.

I look for reasonably priced ($8 to $12) batik stamps wherever I go.  I’ve been lucky enough to find a couple at the Rose Bowl Flea Market and to receive a few others from a friend.  I also have two from Anthropologie.

There are plenty of very high-priced batik stamps in the world, but half the fun for me is stumbling onto a bargain.  Maybe that’s why it filled me with such joy to find an entire lot of them priced together in a clearance sale on etsy.  Woohoooooo!  Now I just have to figure out how best to display them.  For the moment, they occupy a big wooden bowl on my table.  I think my favorite is that curvy floral on the top right.

 

Ooo la la buttercream…

I am so excited by the arrival of my latest purchase from The Good Cook book club.  Meg Ray is my new hero.  Cake for breakfast – I love this woman!  Can’t wait to visit one of her shops in person someday.  I’m aiming for the Ferry Building location in San Francisco.  Wanna go with me?

Corner Cupcakes

Speaking of sweets…

I finally caught up with the Corner Cupcakes truck.  Yippee!

I ordered a chocolate cupcake with vanilla frosting and another called a “full house,” which was the most divine combination of lemon cake, lemon curd, and lemon buttercream laced with toasted coconut.  There was coconut somewhere else in there too.  I’m sure of it!  Deeeeeelicious.  And kind of melty.  It was hot yesterday.

The chocolate cake was very good, but I am not a huge fan of the extra strong vanilla flavor in the buttercream I chose.  I prefer a mere hint of vanilla or none at all, so next time I will just order a different frosting!  There will be a next time because there is much taste bud joy in that truck.  I am excited to try other flavor combos.

All of this reminds me to ask if you are as happy-dancing-footed as I am over the pending arrival of Nothing Bundt Cakes in Mission Valley.  Yes?  Yes!  It will be nice to have one closer than Del Mar or Poway.  Maybe we can all go together on opening day.

What little things are cheering your life this week?

I hope you’re having a Happy Wednesday!

♥♥

Jonesin’ for the Jig

The little boy is enamored of arms.  For months now, he has been fascinated with freckles and veins and moles and anything that sets an arm apart from the one next to it.  He likes to study these things.

Mostly, it’s kind of charming.  He is gentle and sweet and genuinely interested in the differences between us and himself.

Sometimes though, it’s sort of annoying.  My arms are not my best feature, you know?  I don’t really want him to point them out in public, much less unexpectedly reach his hand up my sleeve and shake them.  😐

To combat this unwanted activity, I started pulling him close and threatening “if you jiggle me, then I tickle you!”  It stopped him about three times. 

Now he has, in fact, used the word “jiggle” to nickname my arm.  And his dad’s arm too. (Though dad’s doesn’t actually jiggle.)

Funny, right?

Um…well…no.  No.

Okay, it’s a little funny.

A few weeks ago he came up to me, his eyes full of love for my fleshy underarm, and he said “Thomas hug the jig?”

Seriously?  I don’t even get the rest of the word, now?

My husband and I both laughed, but I don’t know.  It just sounds wrong or something, doesn’t it?

Well, whatever, that’s what he says now.  My arm is “the jig.”  More specifically, the squishy, unfit, underside of my upper arm is called “the jig.”

Oh, and “tickle puff.”  Sometimes he just calls it “tickle puff.”

The thing is…

the boy has eyes for other arms too.

He just likes to hug people, you know?  He sees their bare skin and he smiles.  He is fascinated and wants to wrap himself around them and just hug.

Most of the teachers and aides who know him at school are fine with his latest obsession.  None of them seem to mind this extra attention from my smiling boy.

The other parents?  Well, I’m not so sure about them.  I don’t think any of them would be troubled by an accidental nudge from a stray kid, but fawning adoration of a specific body part?  I don’t think they would be too welcoming of that.  They don’t know him.  They don’t know that he’s harmless and sweet.

Every morning as we stand in the line for his classroom, my son eyeballs the arriving parents.

It’s hot in August and all those mamas have on tank tops and spaghetti straps and short sleeves.

My son is fascinated.  He smiles, he laughs, he looks, he really wants to hug.

Today, one of the moms I’ve never met (and whom I’m a little put off by, actually 😐 ) showed up in a strapless sundress.  Oy.  She sat at the picnic tables with the kids who were eating breakfast.

Nothing happened, but only because I never took my eyes off of my son.

He skipped up to the tables, deftly weaved between the other kids and was standing next to strapless mama in about two seconds flat.

Her back was to him, so she never knew that she almost got an arm squeeze.

I called him back before he did it and tried to explain that he couldn’t hug just any jiggling arm.

I don’t know if my words made sense to him or not.  I’m guessing not, since I’ve told him this same information every day for several weeks and nothing has changed.

We get to school, we stand in line, and the boy starts jonesin’ for some jig.

Watch this space…

Next month, he’ll have a new obsession.

Sweet potato.  🙂

As I typed this, he wouldn’t leave my arm alone.  Just now he asked me “Thomas hug the jiggy?”

Thank goodness!

I got some letters back.  😀

P.S.  Those pix above are from our weekly IHOP visit.

P. P.S. Husband is making little changes in the yard this week.  I’ll post a few pix in the next day or two.  For now, look what I brought in to put on the counter.  I love, love, love the bright orange.

Happy Tuesday!

♥♥

9th Birthday Pictures

The Doll

The boy was very excited about his new doll.  He held her sweetly and seemed proud to pose with her.

These two pix are my favorites:

It pretty much went downhill from there.

The Cake

The boy chose a Happy New Year theme.  He liked the clock and all the colors.

It has only taken me nine years to figure out exactly what kind of cake to order:

1/4 sheet of chocolate AND
a 1/4 sheet of white,
both with white buttercream filling,
frosted & decorated together as a single cake.

It’s not as pretty later in the day, but both halves taste really good.

The final improvement over last year’s version was the omission of the fruity filling.  The sliced strawberries do that sliced strawberry thing and look kinda scary the next morning.  Blech.  😕  They had to go this time.

This year, his name was even spelled correctly.  Thank you, Vons bakery manager lady!

There’s a ton of it left in the kitchen.  Wanna come by and have a slice?

The Helium Balloons

I can’t tell you how heartbreaking it is to me that we didn’t get a single photo of the helium balloons.  😦  I thought they were magical.

Our front room has a 24-foot ceiling.  Sounds grand, but it’s really more problematic than anything else.

Every year, the balloons head up there and are impossible to get down when the kids want to play with them.  I’ve never really liked tying the balloons to chairs or anchoring them with toys or weights, so this year I paid extra to have twenty-foot ribbons.

The balloons floated skyward as usual, but the long ribbons (two dozen of them) dangled down and made a little rainbow ribbon forest that we could walk through.  It was very festive and I am determined to do it every year from now on.

The floral department was NOT pleased with my request.  Right from the start, I even offered to pay more and they still gave me crap.  Then they called me at home to give me more crap.  World ribbon shortage or something.  Annoying.  Small minded.  Not service oriented.  Whatever.

It’s funny to me that the skills I’ve built advocating for my kid spill over to stuff like this.  Heh heh.

The Other Balloons

The husband blew up a zillion extra balloons to leave outside the boy’s door the night before the party.  This is what he woke up to:

The front door was like a vacuum.  Every time we opened it for a new guest, the balloons were sucked out at lightening speed.   The scramble to retrieve them was funny, but rather unsuccessful.  Many met their ends on the porch or lawn.  It was kind of a nice icebreaker for our friends and family though!  😀

Miscellaneous Other Birthday Photos

Happy Birthday Party, Little Boy!!

P.S…

Dumbest thing I did at the party?

Putting the pizza boxes on top of the piano.

The “protective” towels made it worse.

Jenifer, don’t look.  😦

Anybody know a good piano restoration service?  😐

♥♥