What a Lovely Weekend

I spent last night alone at the Marriott in Pasadena.

I drove up by myself, walked all over Old Town, popped into a few little shops, and took myself out to Il Fornaio too.

I had forgotten how much I enjoy eating all by myself in a nice restaurant.

It’s so fun to people watch, and somehow, the solitude makes you really savor the textures, colors and flavors of your food.

I started with a Caesar salad.  It was very fresh and just the right size, but I was not a fan of the croutons.  There were only three and they were almost too crunchy to eat.

The bread that came with the meal was similarly crunchy and also difficult to eat.  The olive oil and balsamic vinegar helped.

Next, I enjoyed ravioli filled with butternut squash and walnuts.  It was served with brown butter, tomato sauce, and crispy sage.

The sage was great.  It was actually dipped in something a little denser than a tempura batter and then fried.  It was unusual and a very welcome addition to the plate.

My only disappointment with the entree was the amount of the tomato sauce.  The ravioli needed a little more oomph, but there wasn’t a lot of that sauce to do it.  The flavors were all wonderful, just not quite proportioned properly.

Of course, none of that stopped me from cleaning my plate. 😀

I got dessert too.  I ordered by sight from the cart and really didn’t know what I was in for.  To say I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement.  It was possibly the best chocolate mousse I’ve ever eaten.  It included a layer of fresh raspberries and it came in a pool of cream fraiche and raspberry coulis.  Another raspberry sat on top.  Delicious.

The entire day was delightful.

And long overdue.

I haven’t needed a break that badly in quite a while.  😐

This morning I got up early, ate some cereal in my room, then drove to the Rose Bowl to meet a friend for the monthly flea market.

We both had some cash to burn this time, so it was a lot of fun.

When our feet could take no more, we drove back into town, bought a couple of teeny bird figurines at  Goldbug, ate a very pleasant, leisurely meal at Mi Piace, and then looked at every single item in Lula Mae.  I LOVE that place.  So sweet.

We parted company around 4:00 p.m.

On the way home, I stopped at Cost Plus World Market to finish out my fun.

Now, I am exhausted and ready to hibernate.

I’ll post pictures of my new treasures in a couple of days.

I hope you had a good weekend too!

Happy Sunday!

♥♥

This and that…

Husband left the house at 5:30 a.m.

He was headed down to County Supervisor Ron Roberts’ Eleventh Annual Lawnmower Trade-in event.

I thought 5:30 was so early, but Mr. Roberts tweeted that person number 100 got in line at 5:15!

Never thought I’d care about someone’s tweets!  😀

The event starts at 8:00 a.m.

Sure hope hubby gets a mower.

I hate the gas-powered monster that we bought when we moved into the house ten years ago.

I’ve never used it.

I am 100% girl when it comes to that thing – it’s icky, you know?

The new one will be clean and purrrrty.

Had lunch with my brothers yesterday.

I rarely get to do that.

I love listening to the two of them talk shop.

One works for the city and the other for a large commercial plumbing company, so their careers overlap in some interesting places.

I always hear something from them that I never knew before.

I took my son along, since he was home from school again yesterday.  (Insert heavy sigh.)  It wasn’t ideal, but we managed.

My brother likes Prime Rib, so we went to The Butcher Shop, kind of a gentleman’s dimly lit steakhouse.

I felt very mom-ish in there.

The service was excellent and the onions rings were tasty.  😀  I had them with a Caesar salad.

The little boy ate a pack of peanut butter crackers and a couple of croutons.

He was a little bit squirmy, but he’s had a few rough weeks.

Today, I met a few girlfriends for lunch at The Cheesecake Factory.

I think I figured out that it has been over two years since I last saw these ladies.

Not gonna wait that long again in the future!

We blabbed for two and half hours before one of us looked at the time & realized we all had to go.

Except for an odd and somewhat incapacitating allergic response that lodged itself in the right side of my face for the duration of the meal, it was a lot of fun!

Achoo!  Blink, blink, achoo!  😐

It was great to see you, ladies!

Husband is now outside doing some yard work and waiting for the new cordless lawn mower to charge up.

As predicted, it’s beautiful.  Can you be in love with a lawn mower?

Well, I love my husband for getting up and making that his mission today.

Now I can mow too!

He’s ripping up the yard quite seriously this week.

I’m not exactly sure what’s going on, but it makes him happy and there are flowers everywhere, so I’m on board.

The little boy is sitting here next to me and playing Galaga, an old style arcade game from my childhood!

I remember hanging out at the SpeeDee Mart a few blocks from our house and playing Asteroids on a stand alone machine when I was his age.

My brothers were better at it than I was.  Ha!

So funny that my kid likes it too.

Maybe he will grow up to be like them.

That would be okay with me.

There’s not much else to tell you.

Kind of quiet Saturday afternoon.

I’m sure there will be some foggy storm to report come Monday morning.

See you then!

P.S.  Some things I really love…

this soup

this hand cream

this Ben & Jerry’s flavor

and this:

♥♥

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Fajitas suck.  A lot.  😦

I don’t mean that they taste bad or that they shouldn’t be on the menu of every Mexican restaurant in town.

I mean that they suck the oxygen from the dining room because they are brought to the table in a pan still sizzling with charred meat and vegetables!

Does the word acrid mean anything to you?

I am sick of that smell.  It ruins an otherwise likable lunch for me.

Please urge your favorite restaurants to plate fajitas in the kitchen instead of at the table.

When waiters walk through the restaurant with a trail of pepper smoke behind them, we’re engulfed in that.  😐

It isn’t appetizing.  It’s rude, especially to patrons who didn’t order such a smoky delight.

When I pay for a pleasant dining experience, I don’t want to go home with an irritated throat, red eyes and hair that smells like a dirty cast iron skillet.

I know that fajitas are here to stay.   Honestly, I enjoy a vegetarian version myself, but the service traditionally associated with fajitas has got to go.

We have all been shocked and awed – since the 80’s, right?  The novelty is gone.

It’s time to put the skillets back in the kitchen and some art back into plating.

When I want smoke with my entree, I will buy something from a street vendor.  😀

At least I can turn my head and get some fresh air that way!

P.S. to Chevy’s – This one’s for you!  Liked my food, hated having to eat it through a cloud of fajita doom from the next table.  😦

♥♥

A snail, a tooth, a bump in the road

I stepped on a snail this morning.

It was on my friend’s front porch.

I used a piece of bark to flick most of it into the bushes afterward.  Couldn’t leave it for my friend.

Years have passed since I last felt that squish under my shoe, but it was familiar just the same.

Close your eyes!  Don’t you remember exactly what that’s like?

Crack!  Sploootch.  Rubber sticky.  Blech.  Ooze.  Buh-bye.

Now I have that phantom snail imprint on my foot.

I recalled it perfectly when I was eating lunch.

I contemplated removing my tennies and socks, scrubbing my foot and trying to get rid of the feeling.

But I don’t actually want to touch my shoe yet.

So the snail impression stays.

Yesterday, my son smiled up at me with a new hole in his mouth.

He had parted with a tooth when I wasn’t looking.

I asked him where he put it and he started looking in earnest on the floor near his computer.

Clearly he had dropped it there at some point earlier in the day.

I spent the better part of an hour crouched under the table sorting through dust bunnies to find it.

The little boy seemed relieved when I finally picked it up and gave a triumphant cheer.

We zipped it into a plastic bag and later put it under his pillow.

And then the tooth fairy forgot to come.

Nice, huh?

It was a tough weekend.

The husband and I had a weird disagreement on Saturday.

The details aren’t important because we worked them out like we always do.

Unfortunately, the price for our little detour from bliss was a lot of anxiety and missed sleep.

I’m functioning on about half power right now.

That’s not quite enough to charge my fairy wings or hone my peripheral snail-avoidance vision.

Oh well.

Snails die and fairies come back, right?

I need chocolate.

Speaking of chocolate, I met my mom and Lou at Karen Krasne’s Extraordinary Desserts on Friday.

Every time I go, I am reminded that I should go more often.  So should you.

Here is a blurry photo of my breakfast pastry.

Happy Monday!

♥♥

Scones and Scarecrow

I had yesterday all to myself!

Thank you, husband.  🙂

I left at 8:00 a.m. and didn’t return until almost 10:30 p.m.

It was a long, but lovely day!

First, I drove to San Juan Capistrano to meet a friend for brunch at The Tea House.

If you’re a fan of traditional English style tea service, you simply have to go.

The food is fabulous and the atmosphere (an old creeky house) is charming.

It’s easy to get to and it also has its own parking lot, a huge plus in such a bustling tourist town.  If there are more than two of you on a weekend, I recommend making reservations.

It was a little bit cool, but we sat outside and were warmed by pots of hot tea, an overhead heater and the rising sun.  It was perfect.

I ordered a crumpet and enjoyed it immensely, but I’ve been to The Crumpet Shop in Seattle, so my expectations were extremely high.  This crumpet was not quite as good as those, but the rich homemade jam and fresh churned butter more than made up the difference.

And the scones!  Oh, the scones!  My friend ordered one with currants.  It was huge, fluffy and shaped like a heart.  Delightful.

It came with cream, of course, and some of the same homemade jam.  I am not a scone person, but I definitely had scone envy in that moment.

My friend was kind enough to share a big chunk with all the trimmings.  Yum!  I will order that next time.  🙂

For my entree, I went with the veggie frittata.  I was skeptical because I’m not a huge fan of eggs, but the waiter talked me into it and I’m so glad he did.  It was really good.  It came with potatoes, fruit and a small bowl of sweet, spicy salsa.  Delicious.

After we ate, I switched to iced tea and we stayed to talk a while.  It was such a pleasant place to sit and chat and the waiter was top notch, filling our drinks and checking with us frequently right until we left.  Although it was getting quite busy, he never made us feel like it was time to give up the table.

Afterward, we walked across the road to a little garden shop.  Though neither of us purchased anything there, I probably will next time.

There were lots of little metal birds and pretty pots and happy plants with funny tags.  There were also hand felted wool purses and tiled mosaic bowls.

Most charming of all, there were cats everywhere.  The biggest, a fluffy black fellow with a huge swishy tail, let me pick him up and snuggle him for a good two minutes.  🙂

Very pleasant morning and it was great to see my friend after almost ten years!

The only low point in my day came when we parted company.  I was disappointed we didn’t have more time together, but we both had other places to be.  She joked about clearing our schedules enough to eat two meals at The Tea House next time we meet.  Sounds like a fine idea!

I went to two thrift stores on my out of town, St. Vincent de Paul and Mission Thrift ‘n Gift.  St. Vincent is a decent sized store with a wide variety of items and reasonable prices.  The Mission Thrift is also large and has a wide variety, but its prices are much less fair.  I really enjoy the Old Barn Antique Mall too, but I didn’t have time for it on this trip.

If you want to make a day of San Juan Capistrano, there are plenty of things to do.  The Mission itself is right in the center of town and within walking distance of historic Los Rios district and The Tea House.  There are also plenty of shops and other restaurants nearby.  My brother and his family enjoyed Sun Dried Tomato Cafe last weekend.

To finish out my day, I met another friend and my family to see The Wizard of Oz at my old high school.  You may remember how proud I am of my niece for her acting talents there.

This production is the antithesis of her last.  That performance put her in a dark dress, on a spare stage, with little more than lighting to hide the evening’s foibles.  My niece was superb, but for the Wizard of Oz, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I knew she would put everything into her role as the Scarecrow, but I didn’t know how, or if, it would work.

The school spent a lot of money for the rights to the music, story, sets and costumes.  It’s a major production, with a huge cast and crew and a lot of special effects.

Just so you won’t think me blinded by my auntie pride, I will tell you that the show isn’t perfect.  There were problems.

Some of the actors did not have microphones and could not speak loudly enough to carry their scenes.  Others had microphones that cut in and out and were distracting.

There were also a few little glitches with the technology and even one instance when a computer error message was projected on the large screen at the back of the stage.

The pacing was also a little slow.  For the eight-year-old boy sitting next to me, it was not easy to sit through the whole thing.

However, all that said, I will tell you that this show is wonderful!

Dorothy can sing!  The Lion has courage!  The Tin Man has heart!  And the Scarecrow?  What a brain!!  What a smart performance!

My niece is amazing.  She simply is the Scarecrow.  She has the physical mannerisms, the voice, the smarts, the wide-eyed wonder, everything.  Always!  She was in character from start to finish (even in the post-show photos :)), no matter who was on stage, no matter who was talking, or singing or dropping things.  She is the Scarecrow, through and through!

My pride in my niece is constant, but last night?  Last night, I got teary watching her up there.  She’s just dazzling to me.  What a way to end my day!

Good job, beautiful niece.  You’re a star!

♥♥

Chinese Brownie

Grandpa Lou went to the swapmeet on Sunday.

Wish I’d gone too.

Look what he found for the little boy:

A child’s accordion!!

It came in this super cute box:

It sounds great too, very sweet and old fashioned, not too loud.  Lovely.

Thank you, Grandpa Lou!

I finally saw Dances With Wolves/Lord of the Rings/Tarzan/Phantom Menace, I mean Avatar, the other day.

I liked it a lot and now I want to be blue too.  And really tall and in tune with trees.  Maybe next week.

Husband and I actually had a date.  Wahoo!

We left our son at Grandma’s, saw the movie and even had time for a veggie burger at Island’s before retrieving him.  It was very pleasant.  🙂

Of course, now the little boy is sick and home from school today, but you can’t have all the stars line up at once, right?

Good weekend except for that.

I had lunch with an old friend at The Mission yesterday.  Love, love, love that place.

I know I’ve posted about it before, but it’s worth mentioning again.

The Veggie Wrap is delicious.

It’s really just a bunch of crispy julienne veggies and some noodles wrapped in a flavored tortilla, but it’s served with this spicy Thai peanut sauce that is really good.  Really good.  So good.  It’s the heartiest lunch ever.  Doesn’t even come with fries.  Doesn’t need them.

They gave me one those little paper chow mein boxes to take home the rest of the massive (and very good) brownie I ordered for dessert.

When we got outside, a strange guy on the street lunged at me suggesting in a loud voice that I share “that Chinese food.”

I had do a weird little jig around a bus bench to escape his eager advances.

A few minutes later, we passed him again and this time his friend spoke.  “Come on, let’s eat that Chinese food!”

I said “it’s a brownie” and kept on walking.

I wonder about people who approach me on the street.

I mean, I’m not petite, I don’t smile and yesterday I was with a friend who is six foot four.

What was that guy thinking?  Did he really just want my lunch?  Maybe he did.  I guess next time I will give him the brownie.

Happy Tuesday. 🙂

♥♥