On-board The Coast Starlight Train

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I am so impressed with this picture taken from my train window!

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I know it’s blurry, but I was on a train taking a photo of the railroad crossing sign…fun!

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Love the rows of green…love California!

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It was nice to leave the driving to someone else this time!

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Madonna and Bishop Peaks…I’m almost there!

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Time to toast the Cal Poly 2018 Graduates!

 

Dear Reader:

Amtrak’s Coast Starlight runs daily from Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California, via the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s a convenient option for me as it makes a stop in Salinas, which is less than 20 miles from my home.

I just need a ride to the station and I’m off! The kid in me seems to come out as I stand on the platform waiting for my train. I can’t help it. First, I see it, and then as it gets closer, I hear the great rumbling sound of the beast that will deliver me to San Luis Obispo.

For an additional twenty dollars, I’ve upgraded to a business class ticket so I’ve got a large seat with plenty of space to stretch out. Upon boarding, I settle in and unpack my brown bag lunch and prepare to just sit…and do nothing more than marvel at the beauty of my beloved state.

As the train leaves the station, it makes a steadily increasing chugging sound and the whistle sounds. I’m on my way to celebrate the graduation of one of my daughter’s friends from Cal Poly.

As a business class traveler, I’m entitled to free WiFi, but I know that perk is really no perk at all because most of the area between Salinas and Paso Robles is so remote that it’s without service. I find it oddly comforting to know that there are vast stretches of my state that remain undeveloped or sparsely populated and agricultural. So for three and a half hours, I sat back, relaxed and snapped photos on my iPhone to share with you.

Shortly after arriving, I continued to enjoy my day with a glass of local wine made from the grapes I saw from my train window.

Cheers,

Michele

 

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Dear Reader:

My favorite people are the people who begin conversations with a question…this question: “How’s Natalie?” This gives me the opportunity to communicate straight from the depths of my heart. And, it immediately puts a smile on my face, because my daughter is my favorite topic.

I remember a strange encounter at Noah’s Bagels when Natalie was about four years old. I noticed a man at a nearby table watching us enjoy our cream cheese covered  indulgence. On his way out, he looked at me and said he thought it was nice to see a mother and daughter so obviously enjoying each other’s company.

“Oh, she’s my greatest joy, ” I remember answering.

He corrected me. “Well, your husband must be your greatest joy or you wouldn’t have her.”

If I ran into that man today, I’d tell him the same thing. Indeed, I love my husband, still. But as Alice Thomas Ellis so succinctly put it:

“There is no reciprocity. Men love women. Women love children. Children love hamsters*. Hamsters don’t love anyone; it is quite hopeless.”

Being a mother is, at once, both the most humbling and the most rewarding experience of my life. I will never consider it anything less than a miracle. It will always be the choice I am most proud of. It will always be the responsibility that drives me to be the best person that I can be.

It’s so easy to go on and on about what makes my daughter special, but I’ll just say that, despite all of her accomplishments, it is her kindness and generosity that I am most proud of. As I’ve watched her grow into an adult, I am so comforted to see her display a quiet, resolute strength and a deep understanding and acceptance of herself and those closest to her. She is a young woman who I both enjoy and admire.

I’d like to thank her for letting me “drop by” to enjoy a donut with her and her roommates. There is no place I’d rather be today than sitting across the table from my girl at SLODOCO dipping a maple bar into my latte.

Happy Mother’s Day, dear readers!

Michele

* When I repeat this quote, I change hamster to dog. Kids loves dogs and dogs DO love them back!

Creativity Calls

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      Even the garages in Carmel are cute!

Dear Reader:

This cute little garage is attached to a cute little house in a cute little neighborhood in a cute little town. Sorry… couldn’t resist being so cute! But, seriously, I think “Paws Awhile” is good advice. No matter how much one enjoys an activity (or a person, for that matter), a little break can be a good thing.

I didn’t blog/write much during the holidays, but I did express my creativity in other ways. Our home was decorated top to bottom, the presents were wrapped in grand style, the gingerbread houses were sweet pieces of art, the table was set with my beloved collection of china and our doors were open to family and friends.

Today, I’ve returned to the page after having a restless night immersed in ridiculous, but unsettling nightmares. In one vivid scene, I can see myself frantically searching for my site. From the pink shed has disappeared. It is gone, because I have neglected it! 

I’d say that is a very good sign that I should return to the shed to enjoy the creative adventure that is my blog.

I’ll talk to you again soon!

Michele

The Weather Outside is Frightful!

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Winnie is a very curious puppy and this is her first fire; she can not stay away!

Dear Reader:

The weather outside is frightful, showers and 59 degrees Fahrenheit, but the fire is so delightful! Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain. Winter on the Central Coast of California is easy, just like the livin’!

Best wishes to you for a cozy evening, too.

Michele

One Veteran’s Story

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Mike enjoying the view from the porch

Dear Reader:

My husband and I had just finished watching Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War the week before I visited the Avila Valley Barn with my daughter and her college friends. I passed a man in a baseball cap that read: Vietnam Veteran as I entered the property.

I looked at him and said, “Nice cap,” and gave him a thumbs up. It was, I suppose, a rather awkward way of acknowledging his service, but he responded with an open smile.

After I shopped for fresh produce, sampled apple pie and selected pumpkins for my seasonal table, I felt compelled to join the veteran on the porch. I sat down in the rocking chair next to him and said hello. Mike and I began an easy conversation about the fine weather and pleasures of Avila Beach.

Then I began the conversation that I really wanted to have with him by asking if he’d seen the Burns’ documentary. He had not, but he readily shared his story with me. He had just entered high school when the war began, but he said he somehow knew that he would end up in Vietnam.

After graduation, he received a scholarship and attended The Boston Conservatory of Music. Mike was an opera singer for two years… until he was drafted. He was discharged a year later after he witnessed the death of two others standing very near to him. His injuries, both physical and emotional, remain with him. It seems the after effects of Agent Orange have been the most troublesome to his well-being.

“The folks at the VA keep telling me I’m not long for this world,” he told me. “But, I don’t put a lot of stock into what the government says.”

His distrust seems justified.

“My wife and I just settled into the home of our dreams,” he continued. “It’s a small house with a huge garden that my wife loves. And, I’ve finally found some peace.”

I asked what had become of his musical career and he answered that it was another “casualty of war.” After many years of struggling with life on a daily basis, Mike discovered that he had the patience and skill needed to work with disabled children.

“I’d have never known I could help so many kids if I hadn’t served,” he concluded.

I left the barn that day with tears spilling from beneath my sunglasses. My thoughts turned to Mike again this weekend as we celebrated Veteran’s Day. I certainly hope the VA doctors are wrong; I hope Mike has many years to enjoy life in his new home and garden.

Michele

The Comfort of October

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“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”

—L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Dear Reader:

There’s something so comfortable about October. It’s a month to simply enjoy. It doesn’t ask much of us, unlike November and December that bring with them expectations and responsibilities.

This month I’ve enjoyed:

  • artichokes in balsamic with sun-dried tomato aioli (bubbles on the side)
  • a visit to a pumpkin patch with three lovely Cal Poly students
  • hot chocolate with whipped cream on top
  • cozy sweaters, warm socks and dachshunds in my lap
  • pumpkin bread, pumpkin lattes, pumpkin everything

I  ask only a couple of things of myself every October:

  1. I begin my holiday shopping! It gives me such pleasure to find the perfect gift for everyone on my list. (My daughter’s birthday is December 20th, so I get to buy twice as much for her!)
  2. I fill up bags of food and warm clothing to donate at my local food bank and homeless shelter. It is somehow even more rewarding to help others as the holidays approach.

And every year I find myself, quite unconsciously at first, reflecting on the year that is drawing to a close and the year ahead of me. The chill in the air and my plans for the future exhilarate me in a way that the month of January does not. I love October!

Hope you’ve had a wonderful month, too.

Michele 

A Competition of Elegance

Dear Reader:

The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance (French, literally a competition of elegance) is ten years older than me and considered to be the most prestigious event of its kind. It is a charitable automotive show open to both prewar and postwar collector cars in which they are judged for authenticity, function, history and style.  Only the 200 best collector cars in the world roll onto the celebrated 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links where one will be awarded Best in Show.

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2017 Winner: 1929 Mercedes-Benz S Barker Tourer

 

But the Concours is only the finale of Monterey Car Week held annually in my home town every August. The entire week is packed with events celebrating the classic automobile. Most of those events come with a high ticket price, but if you have the resources you won’t be disappointed and you’ll be contributing to a good cause. Last year, over 2 million dollars was raised for various children’ charities.

I remember the first August we spent on the peninsula; I vowed to never do it again.

“Let’s just leave!” I told my husband.

I’d had a bad day. It took me 45 minutes to get to the grocery store. The parking lot in front of my favorite restaurant had been reserved for show cars and I missed my lunch date. The town was packed and I was crabby. Then… I saw a lipstick red Ferrari that took my breath away! I truly admire beautiful things of any kind… including cars. My father had been a vintage car collector and I’d spent hours watching him toil in the garage of my childhood home restoring several Model T’s and a gorgeous 1929 maroon Ford Phaeton. Cars are in my blood.

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Look what I found on the streets of Carmel: a Triumph TR6

I’ve learned to appreciate and look forward to car week. I’ve only attended one official event, but I enjoy the spectacle each year. There are so many opportunities to view cars all over Monterey County…  no ticket necessary. I enjoy getting dressed up throughout the week and strolling the tiny streets of Carmel hand in hand with my husband. We point and ogle and marvel at what we see drive by and occasionally we stop to sneak a photo! It’s fun, despite the disruption to our quiet lives!

Michele

 

 

Take Me Out to the Ballgame!

Dear Reader:

Baseball is seductive. I have not always been a fan, but it didn’t take long for me to surrender to its charms. My husband introduced me to the game about ten years ago and I’ve loved it ever since. I’m in the enviable position of being a San Francisco Giants fan. We grabbed the title in 2010, 2012 and 2014. We play in AT&T Park. With its expansive arcade bordering the San Francisco Bay, it’s one of the most beautiful ballparks in the country. There’s no better place to be when we’re winning.

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But, alas, baseball is like life:  you win some; you lose some.  There hasn’t been a lot of winning this year. So, my expectations were low when we showed up last week to watch our boys battle the Chicago Cubs. I figured we’d lose badly, but enjoy ourselves nonetheless. After all, being at AT&T allows one the opportunity to enjoy the sites and flavors of being in the city by the Bay. And, my husband and I were being joined by my daughter and her friend, so it was sure to be a good time.

First stop for me at the park is always the Farmer’s Market Stand where I order a Crazy Crab Sandwich and glass of Cabernet (organic, of course)! My younger companions had other priorities, and who can argue that the Ghiradelli hot fudge sundae is not worth the calories?!

 

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Suzie Katz and my girl…one sundae, two spoons!

 

I prefer a bit more “grown-up” dessert myself. I wait until the sun has set and the air is cool to enjoy another San Francisco treat:  the Irish coffee. Tourists have flocked to San Francisco’s Buena Vista Cafe ever since 1952 when Americans were introduced to the Irish coffee. Bartenders, wearing white jackets and black ties, make nearly 2000 warm, sweet frothy drinks a day. The parks version compares well, despite the fact that the bartenders are a bit under-dressed by comparison!

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Mmmmm…Irish coffee!

 

So, as you can see, we enjoyed the flavors of the park. But, as in baseball and life, one can be surprised. And, we were. We saw two well-played games…we won two well-played games! We felt the old familiar glory…for a couple of days.

I don’t care if I ever get back,

Michele

 

P.S. If the Giants win, the crowd is treated to the sounds of Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” That never gets old.

I Remember a Tree

“People don’t remember each tree in a park but all of us benefit from the trees. And in a way, artists are like trees in a park.”

Yoko Ono

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Carmel Valley Ranch

Dear Reader:

There once was a tree. I remember it well…a large oak, in the center of a parking lot, that regularly shaded my car. Unfortunately, the beautiful oak reached the end of its life a few months ago. I remember the day; the entire property looked different without its grand  presence.

The tree is once again part of the landscape in the form of a bench. I’ll remember a particular tree every time I pass by or stop to rest on a particular bench.

Michele