Monday, 31 October 2011


They arrived in pairs, in groups and even individually.

Some were tall, like this high school boy, dressed as Snow White with a posse of pretty girls identified as Bashful and Dopey and so on.

A little chef rang the doorbell. 

Later some condiments showed up.

The age range was extreme.

Our first trick-or-treater never made it to the door. She tottered a few steps and then screamed for her Mommy to pick her up and carry her home.

A handful of adults, in costume, requested candy (is this a new trend?).

My favorites are the littlest ones. A miniature dinosaur, who couldn't have been more than three, was costumed from head to tail with only his round face and chubby cheeks exposed. He roared and told us that he liked football. We thought about inviting him in to watch the Charger game but it was getting close to his bedtime.

I told these siblings that they were oh-so-cute and the proud brother immediately threw his arm around his sister and waited till we got out the camera!

One middle-schooler was covered in nothing but green paint (from the torso up) and made an impressive Green Lantern.

There were robots and werewolves and eyes that glowed.

Our plastic cauldron is empty of Butterfingers, Hershey Bars, Snickers, Nestle Crunch, Baby Ruth and Heath Bars.

There were 145 trick-or-treaters at our door tonight.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

A Year of Observations

365 days ago, in a London flat, I was raring to share adventures from across the pond.

And a tiny bit of myself.

So I did.

Two hundred and twenty-seven times (so far).

With umpteen photos.

And a bit more of myself than originally planned...

Friday, 28 October 2011

Beach Buddies

Most young kids will play with others at the seashore, jump in the waves, share their plastic shovels and think nothing of spontaneously making a new friend.

That mindset often wanes with age.

Sure we will chat casually and smile at strangers but that is usually the limit.

This summer I had a beach buddy.

Okay, we did not meet in the sand and share shovels but we evolved into beach buddies all the same.

In the Spring, a couple from Germany moved here to San Diego for 6 months. Our husbands worked together which was the catalyst for our friendship. And I certainly remembered living in a foreign country years ago and not knowing a soul.

So she and I got together on a regular basis.

We walked the local beaches, Del Mar, Solana Beach and La Jolla Shores (her favorite). Barefoot, swapping stories for hours. No pretense. No awkward silences. Not afraid to share.

We discussed aspirations, how to make meatballs and what craziness had ensued during the week.

Sometimes we practiced words (she had a bit of difficulty with those starting with the letter ‘v’).

Many times I would interpret the slang that she heard but didn’t quite understand.

“Why do Americans always say they have issues?”

One day she surprised me by saying, “People are laughing at me. It happened more than once and they won’t tell me why.”

Turns out she had been ordering Veggie burgers as she is a very healthy gal and likes to eat nutritional meals.

Which is fine.

Except she was asking for a “wedgie burger”.

I mimicked how kids could give each other a wedgie, by pulling up my pants as high as they would go, and she got the joke.

We both burst out laughing.

I found her range of interests fascinating, from the accent reduction seminar to surfing classes and later the Brain Gym.

Last week it was time to say good-bye. They flew back to Germany.

I will miss our conversations along the coast.

But am inspired to be more spontaneous.

Knowing that grown-ups can have beach buddies too.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Starting From Scratch

Recently, in a well-equipped kitchen in Olivenhain, I had the opportunity to learn some tips for making delicious bread.

From not one, but two, experienced bakers.

We made the healthy kind.

And except for the fact that we did not actually harvest the grain, we started from the very beginning.

Grinding the wheat into flour (yes, we GROUND the wheat).

We used a heavy-duty Bosch bread mixer to combine the ingredients (yeast and oil and oats and honey and ground wheat).

Tip #1 -- Determine the right amount of flour…just enough so that the dough pulls away from the side of the mixer. You will have the elasticity but not the stickiness.

After the dough was dumped onto the counter, we kneaded a bit more.

Tip #2 -- Squeeze out all the air bubbles (use all ten fingers to push down while simultaneously rolling like a tootsie roll).

Tip #3 -- Flip the dough upside down into the pan to get that nice smooth top.

The dough sat on the counter until it doubled in size.

And how is this for an odd step.

Tip #4 -- Place the bread pans into a cold oven. Turn the temperature to 350 degrees. After 40 minutes you will have perfectly baked bread.

Tip #5 -- Slip baked bread into a brown paper bag for transporting. This allows the steam to escape.

There is nothing better than starting from scratch.

With experienced bakers.

Simple, healthy ingredients.

And all the advantages of modern appliances!

Recipe for Wheat Bread

Place in Glass Measuring cup:

   2/3 cup oil
   2/3 cup honey
   2 Tablespoons salt

Place in another Measuring cup:

   ½ cup warm water (baby bath water warm)
   1 Tablespoon sugar
   2 Tablespoons yeast

MIX in Bosch bowl w/lid:    

   5 cups hot tap water (not scorching hot)
   7 cups whole wheat flour
   1 cup oatmeal
   1 cup powdered milk

Then Add:

   Oil, honey and salt mixture; mix well.

Then Add:

   Yeast mixture (yeast should be nice & bubbly & rising in cup)
   Mix well.


5-6 more cups flour (wheat if you want whole wheat or white if you want half wheat/half white). Knead for 3 minutes, then check to see if the mixture is pulling away from the bowl. If not, add ½ cup more flour at a time until it is pulling away from the sides of the bowl.


For 10 more minutes.

Dump out onto lightly oiled surface and let dough rest for 5-10 minutes.

Oil hands and form into 5 loaves (or 10 small). Let rise in pans until doubled in size. Put in cold oven. Then turn oven onto 350 and bake for 35-40 minutes. Immediately turn out on rack to cool.

NOTE: This dough can also be used for dinner rolls, pizza dough, cinnamon rolls, scones and bagels.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Sidewalk Sculpture

On a busy corner in North Park.

Sits a bicycle.

With no lock. 

No chain. 

And no chance of getting stolen.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Eclipse Chocolat

This is drinking chocolate.

$4.50 per cup.

Not to be confused with a mug of cocoa.

Because this is lavender sea-salted caramel drinking chocolate.

And even though I walked in thinking that I wanted to try their cupcakes or brownies or candies or caramels it was more than satisfying to drink my chocolate.

Of course, I brought home a cupcake and caramels and some candies.

I’m not stupid.

Got to chat with the friendly knowledgeable owner. They are opening a second location soon.

Asked about their packaged sets of drinking chocolate with homemade marshmallows – could I recreate the same experience at home?

Turns out that a battery operated milk-frothing tool would be helpful.

Who knew?

Perhaps I could get my husband to wear one of the store t-shirts when he serves me.

Or maybe we should just come back for Sunday brunch and try one of the dark chocolate salted croissants.

And watch the masters at work.

Because this is definitely an experience worth repeating.

Monday, 24 October 2011


Have you had one?

It is a Lebanese wrap.

There is a funky eatery in North Park called Mama's Bakery.

Which is a bit of a misnomer as you will not find a case filled with treats when you walk through the door.

But it doesn’t matter.

Lunch is so filling you won’t have room for dessert.

The flatbread is homemade, grilled with a wonderful smoky flavor. They use it for their wraps.

The roasted eggplant shawarma beat out the chicken version in our unofficial taste test but they were both delicious.

The hummus (in the vegetarian plate) was one of the best I have tasted.

Stuffed grape leaves were a treat.

Off the main drag of El Cajon Boulevard.

Canopy seating.

Mama's – a fun place for lunch.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Mountain Valley Ranch

This is my favorite pumpkin patch.

It is in Ramona.

On the way to Julian.

They even sell hay bales.

A fun accessory item this time of year.

And the place is filled with old farm equipment.

White pumpkins are available for baking.

Brightly colored, oddly-shaped gourds...

and dried corn can be used for decorating your holiday table.

Creepy fellas appear around the corner.

Outside are the activities.

Like the petting zoo.

This baby buffalo never came close enough to touch but his fur seemed luxurious.

An amazing goat maze.

Goats were just hanging out.

It was so stinkin’ hot they probably had no energy to make use of their playground structure.

The mountains provided a scenic backdrop.

A corn cannon kept the kids amused.

Cob was selected.

Stuffed and then tamped into the tube.

Young man in charge quickly got out of the way while children aimed and fired into the field.

Photo ops dotted the landscape.

Shrieks could be heard from inside the corn maze.

Little ones came tearing out.

Delighted to have found the exit.

Can’t imagine a better place to pick a pumpkin.

In San Diego County.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Antique Boutique in Julian

Although we head to Julian for many reasons, most of which start with a hankering to pick apples (in the Fall), drink apple cider or eat apple pie (any time of year), we almost always stop here while we are in town.

Years ago we got a spectacular deal on a chaise lounge we refer to as the fainter. As in ‘please dear guest make yourself comfortable and relax on our fainter’.

When we found it at Antique Boutique it was scratched up and covered in faded pink flowered fabric. The stuffing was popping out in various places. Hmmm, all the sudden I am thinking 'spectacular deal' was an overstatement.

Still, it had good bones (architecturally speaking).

We hauled it south to Tijuana and a recommended furniture craftsman did the re-upholstery, shined up and stained the wood and gave it back to us in pristine condition.

So I have warm feelings when I walk into this shop.

Look past the hodgepodge displays, step over Jake (the 13-year old dog that usually parks himself near the front) and admire all the old stuff.

From scales.

To a chip and dip bowl, I think.

A vacuum.

And some type of cooking appliance that the owner said could handle a small turkey.

We walked out with a set of six delicate glasses from the 1940’s. In perfect condition. Meant for sipping sherry.

Perhaps they can be updated. 

And used for limoncello!