Teardrop Trailer Camping

Teardrop Trailers are super easy to tow and place in the campsite

Teardrop Trailers are super easy to tow and place in the campsite

Teardrop trailers are a new concept to me.  Ernie and I were raised tent-camping and loved it.  However with age comes the need for a bit more comfort than what the hard ground offers, and when a friend bought a teardrop trailer and showed it to us, we were sold.  We bought a Little Guy Teardrop trailer in San Diego and started attending Teardrop and Vintage Trailer group camping or Rallies.

I had no idea of the world I was about to enter.  Teardrop trailer enthusiasts run the gamut from home-built to sleek, tricked out super modern.  Teardrop trailers come in many shapes and sizes and reflect their owners unique personality.

Lake Perris 2014 Teardrop Camping (119)

Roly’s handmade stealth fighter teardrop trailer.

Roly is a man who has built at least two teardrop trailers that I am aware of.  He has a Woody that has its own wooden satellite dish and toaster, amongst other things.  But to this year’s Teardrop group camping he brought his newest creation…the Stealth Fighter teardrop.  Roly had no scematics nor plan but as always managed to pull off something unique.

Trailorboat. Yes, really. A trailer, and a boat all in one!

Trailorboat. Yes, really. A trailer, and a boat all in one!

Then there’s the Trailerboat. That’s not a mis-spelling. These trailers were made in San Rafael, CA from 1961-1963.  Approximately 300 were made, mostly in white. There was both a white and a custom-painted yellow trailorboat at this Teardrop rally.  Trailorboats originally came with a small boat on the roof. It slept 2 and there is a roof under the boat so you  can enjoy the boat and trailer simultaneiously. There are only about 30 Trailorboats around today. The white Trailorboat was attached to a vintage Zombie VW wagon, complete with zombie hula dancer on the dashboard.  Love it!

Here's the Yellow TrailORboat

Here’s the Yellow TrailORboat

Redneck trailer...includes gun turrets, outdoor shower...

Redneck trailer…includes gun turrets, outdoor shower…

I also saw my first Scad-A-bout, which were originally made in Pacoima, CA. There were several in varying stages of restoration, but this one was the best. I loved the bright tourquoise paint and loved hearing that her current owner bought it because she had loved camping in one as a kid. Teardrop trailers catch hold of your heart.

Teardrop trailer ice chest stroller

Teardrop trailer ice chest stroller

Vintage teardrop trailer and auto

Vintage teardrop trailer and auto

Several people had vintage autos to go with their vintage teardrops. One of my favorites is owned by Deborah and Dan. They pull their dark green teardrop with a 1950’s Chevrolet. Both are in beautiful condition.

On the complete opposite end is Richard and Anna Woods’ home-build Redneck Teardrop.  Remininscint of a military Humvee, it boasts a hot water tank and outside shower amongst it’s unique features. Next door was TearDropOne, an experimental craft pulled by an equally star-painted VW Bug.

Teardrop 1

Teardrop 1

The owner has over 30 themes, and this year was the 1960s.  From the overly-endowed, afro boasting female mannequin to her 5 o’clock shadow hippie friend, I think this was the most extreme and fun theme there.  I especially liked the ‘bug guard’ he has on his vintage VW and his Haight-Ashbury street sign pole.

Hippy teardrop

Hippy teardrop

Not to be outdone, Normal and Callo rocked the Tiki Hut theme, complete with tiki torches, hula girls and a grass skirt for their teardrop trailer.

Tikki Hut teardrop trailer

Tikki Hut teardrop trailer

Saturday night is the dutch oven potluck.  I learned you can cook anything in a dutch oven.  Deborah made insanely moist carrot cake.  She told me that to get to 350 degrees you put 3 charcoal briquettes under the dutch oven, and then 6 briquettes on either side of the Dutch oven.  She likes to use parchment paper to line the Dutch oven to keep the food from sticking. Yum! She’s also a Dodger and UCLA fan so she’s one of Ernie’s favorite people to talk to.

Designer dog

photo courtesy of www.mysticcreekpuppies.com Morkie puppy

Many people brought their pets.  I had Maggie, Molly and LeeLee with me.  Maggie and Molly walked with us; poor LeeLee is getting so old that she had to wait behind because we forgot to pack her stroller.  Many dogs were rescues, which warms my heart.  However, the worlds newest cutest dog (sorry Molly!) had to be a Morkie….a Maltese Yorkie mix.  Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of this beautiful cinnamon-furred bundle of love, so I had to grab a photo of the internet.  This photo does not even begin to show how cute that puppy was.

Now it’s Your Turn! What’s your favorite part of Teardrop camping?




San Diego Vintage Flea Market

San Diego Vintage Craft Faire has furniture, jewelry, soaps, and ephemera

San Diego Vintage Craft Faire has furniture, jewelry, soaps, and ephemera

I had the chance to go to the San Diego Vintage Flea Market in North Park and was pleasantly surprised by the variety and pricing of the merchandise.  Vintage pieces ranged from 1950s magazines, 1960s ashtrays and Tikki cups, vintage clothing, to Parisian inspired shabby chic.

Several vendors said they got their vintage pieces from garage sales, antique stores and estate sales.  They were all passionate about what their vintage goods were and very friendly.  The atmosphere was flea market meets craft faire.

My Lucky Dragon soaps at the San Diego Vintage Craft Faire

My Lucky Dragon soaps at the San Diego Vintage Craft Faire

I spoke to Christi, the owner and artist behind Lucky Dragon soaps.  She has had a successful online store and has been selling at craft fair booths for 2 years.  Her whimsical cupcakes, mud soap bars and bath fizzy balls are all organic and locally made in San Diego. I can’t say that her products are vintage, but they did fit in with the funky-fun atmosphere of the Vintage flea market.

There were vendors selling every type of earrings and necklaces, next to repurposed typewriter key and pocket watch jewelry.  There were booths that reminded me of swap meet vendors —- product haphazardly displayed—-to vignettes that screamed Parisian chic.  I saw many things that my mother in law had that we had given either to other family members or thrift store donations.  I heard people over and over saying “I remember having this!” or “My grandmother used to have one of these!”

There were large glass grape clusters, fiesta ware, typewriters, vintage clothing, home décor.  Each vendor seemed to have an era or style they gravitated to; 1950s, 1970s, vintage Parisian flea market.  All the vendors were happy to answer questions about their merchandise and several advised that prices were negotiable.

I promised this paper mache angel would have a good home

I promised this paper mache angel would have a good home

I bought a fun angel and a couple pairs of earrings.  I’m at the stage in my life where I want experiences instead of more items for my home, so just being there and soaking in the sights and sounds of the vintage flea market were enough for me.

I had a chance to meet the owner of Bad Madge, Tanya McArea,  who I referenced in my blog about the Fall South Park walkabout. She is a vivacious extrovert who has a great sense of style.  I can’t wait to interview her on my blogtalk radio program WOMEN HELPING WOMEN.

Ooh La La! Fun tableau at the San Diego Vintage Flea Market

Ooh La La! Fun tableau at the San Diego Vintage Flea Market

This particular market was held in North Park in the parking lot behind the historic Birch Theatre on University.  Parking in North Park can be challenging now that this neighborhood has transformed itself from scruffy to trendy, but if you are willing to pay for parking, there is a multi-story parking lot at University and 29th.  I know a lot of San Diegan’s don’t like to pay for parking, but for me to not have to stress, I’m happy to pay a few dollars to not have to circle the block and then try to wedge myself in between cars, or try to parallel park on a busy street.  The parking was $3 for 3 hours; well worth it..

You can learn about upcoming events for the San Diego Vintage Flea Market by “Liking” their page on Facebook.  That’s how I ended up at this fun, funky, vintage inspired market in North Park.  Their location changes so to keep up to date with them go to: https://www.facebook.com/SDVintageFleaMarket

I enjoyed the San Diego Vintage Flea Market, and will definitely go again.

Now it’s Your Turn! What is your favorite flea market in San Diego?

Best Affordable Rosarito Vet

I live in San Diego, and have recently started travelling south of the border to Rosarito for fun, but also for veterinarian visits. It takes about 45 minutes to get to Rosarito from San Diego, so it’s a easy drive, with an ocean view the entire way.

I asked some ex-pat friends for a referral and they sent me to  Dr. Paola of Albeitar Clinica. She is on the free road just off the Cuota (Toll Road). Take the HUGE OXXO station “exit”.  Turn left and she is down the street on the right before the purple-and-pink hotel. She is just south of the main Rosarito shopping area so parking is really easy.

Grumpy LeeLee before Rosarito vet visits

Grumpy LeeLee

Why is Dr. Paola the best Rosarito vet?  Because in the USA I was told by several vets that my rescue dog LeeLee had a myriad of diseases, with the worst prognosis being Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia. This is essentially a death sentence for a dog….but you can treat it with weekly blood tests, possible blood infusions, and medication. When I asked several USA vets the cost for this procedure….oh, a minimum of $200 a month. This diagnosis was given because she one day toppled over without warning. With this treatment I would have to take her weekly for blood tests. Which meant every week I had to force her to be put into a cage and abandoned (in her eyes) which would have terrified her as she is my little dog-limpet.

Rosarito vet

Dr. Paola Diaz and her husband have a modern, clean clinic in Rosarito


Enter Dr. Paola, Rosarito vet.  She did some blood work and advised me that LeeLee does not have Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia, but she does have a tumor under her tongue.  Dr. Paola advised me that the only treatment for this is to remove the dog’s tongue. She told me she refuses to do this to a dog.  Thank you!

Dr. Paola then looked inside LeeLee’s ears and said she has masses of hair clumped deep inside her ears, and a yeast/ear infection. This infection was affecting her entire body and was the cause of LeeLee’s horrible smell.  We scheduled a follow up visit where Dr. Paola cleaned her teeth, her ears, and also her eye ducts, plus medication….for about $110.00.  To have LeeLee’s teeth cleaned by an American vet? $400-$500. Rosarito vet pricing is much easier on my wallet and allows me to take my three rescue dogs in to get the care they need.leelee vet 3

Rosarito Vet Dr. Paola Diaz

LeeLee now gets monthly ear trimming. Cost? $18 including visit. Can’t get to a US vet for less than $35 office visit

Dr. Paola then determined through a blood test that LeeLee has hypothyroidism and prescribed dog Levothroid. She told me that it would take a few weeks for the medicine to kick in, but LeeLee should lose weight and become more active.

Oh yeah! LeeLee is a brand new dog! She no longer smells (yeast infection), she has lost 800 gms of chubbiness, and has suddenly developed a zest for life! Before this treatment I had to haul her down the stairs every morning, she growled at everyone, and picked at her food.  Now she trots downstairs and upstairs faster than I can, has bright eyes, is thoroughly interested in the world, and everyone who knows her from before cannot believe that this is the same dog!happy leelee 1

One month after her thyroid meds, LeeLee is doing something she NEVER did in the last four years....jumping up!

One month after her thyroid meds, LeeLee is doing something she NEVER did in the last four years….jumping up!

What I love about Dr. Paola is I can trust her, and that LeeLee’s veterinary care is not going to be either a car or house payment, the way it is in the US. When did pet health care before more expensive than people’s health care?

I think LeeLee toppled over because her ears were plugged and she had no balance. Her grumpiness was from not feeling well.  Now she is frisky and for the first time actually gets up on her hind feet to beg treats (We did not teach her that!). She no longer growls at our other dogs and is a happier dog.

This is why I say Dr. Paola is the best Rosarito vet!

You can see my other post on Dr. Paola’s operation on Maggie….which again was about one-fourth of what it would have been in the USA.

Now it’s Your Turn: Who do you think is the best Mexico vet? Have you used Dr. Paola?


Knitting and Learning Left Handed in a Right Handed World 2

This post was inspired by my attempts to learn a new cast-on stitch for knitting called the “Disappearing Loop Cast On” or “Emily Ocker’s Magic Casst On” for a project in the round that I am working on. There are a ton of videos out there, some better than others.  Two that are the best for me are https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRqhHaRR00E by Miriam Felton using knitting needles, and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Vkpqdea-6o by Liat Gat using crochet hooks.

So what’s the challenge? Well, I’m left-handed, and it is seemingly impossible to find video tutorials done by Lefties. So I’m stuck with first learning as a right handed person, getting the skill locked in my synaptic pathways…and then figuring out how to do the same thing as a left-handed person.

This has been a challenge my entire life.  When I was in grade school, I was given left-handed scissors…which had rounted edges, not nice sharp edges.  When I complained, the teacher said I had to use those as they were safer. Already a smart-ass in the 1st grade, I retorted “I’m left handed, not stupid.” Needless to say, that was the last time I used left-handed scissors.  For those of you who follow my my serious blog www.HealingJourneyBlog.com you understand my terror of not fitting in and being noticed. That was


Tijuana Cultural Center


Tijuana Cultural Center

Every time I go to Mexico I learn something new and gain a deeper understanding of the community and culture. So when Carolyn St Claire asked me to attend an art reception in Tijuana at the Cultural Center I jumped at the chance.

Her friend Roberto Pacheco Martinez, www.robertopachecom.blogspot.com who is an architect turned professional watercolorist, was showing his work and she had promised to attend.Robert Pacheco watercolor

She met him and his wife Monica at a water color society he had started (Facebook: Sociedad de Acuarelistas), and he is now teaching aspiring artists how to improve their craft.  We walked around the cultural center and I was amazed at this beautiful space dedicated to art and community. There were high ceilings, large open spaces and the soothing music of water fountains.Tijuana Cultural Center

Robert Pacheco watercolor

Robert Pacheco watercolor at Tijuana Cultural Center

Roberto had two of his beautiful watercolors displayed. They look like photographs until you get closer and can see the brushstrokes. His focus is Realism in Watercolor. He currently has a painting displayed at the Watercolor Society in Liberty Station,  the former military training base (NTC) turned into a combination art colony and shopping center.

Several students were displaying their work and I was drawn to one where an owl’s head floated above a backdrop of inky black trees set along a country road. I liked the juxtaposition of the softy drawn feathers of the owl’s head against the hard lines of the trees. The owl’s eyes draw you into the painting. I saw a young man standing nearby and asked him if he was the artist. With a smile he said yes and explained it was his first attempt at painting.huber owl

Huber Castaneda

Huber Castaneda

His name is Huber Castaneda and he is a part time tattoo artist, which explains his attention to detail.   He told me that painting the tiny branches on the trees was a nerve wracking experience.  He only had one chance to get it right as water color is a very non-forgiving medium. He said he had to hold his wrist while he carefully used an incredibly tiny brush for the smaller branches, and even then he had to use only the tip of the paintbrush. He said it’s hard but not as hard as working on a person’s skin because if he messes up a tattoo there is no do-over. He also said that tattoos are like working with water color as the tattoo ink is diluted with water. I asked him about other mediums, and he said he had the opportunity to work in acrylics, with chalk and colored pencils. Acrylic is the hardest medium for him.

Huber's brother

Huber Castaneda’s brother, wife and to-be-born child

I asked him about other work he has in progress, and he showed me an intricately drawn picture of his younger brother with his wife and baby. He was drawing a tree growing out of the baby’s knit cap. The ultrasound was drawn in one of the lenses of his brother’s glasses. It is a beautiful and moving tribute to his brother.

He also showed me another work in progress of an eye with a leaf coming out of it. I’m not doing it justice with my words, As you can see it is wonderful.

Huber kindly let me grab this from his Facebook page

Huber kindly let me grab this from his Facebook page

I complimented him on his work and look forward to seeing his work in the future. I found him to be articulate and passionate about his work. I spoke with his instructor Carlos and he said that Huber listens carefully and is willing to be guided. The results are evident.

La Chapa watercolor

I love this watercolor by La Chapa

I also enjoyed the painting by Alan Torre Hernandez titled “La Chapa”.

La Chapa full view

La Chapa full view at Tijuana Cultural Center

Ernie commented that it looks like the kind of picture I take.

I love macro photography and paintings. I did not have the opportunity to speak to this artist in person to compliment his work.  I admire the ability to paint like these two young men and I am thankful that places such as the Cultural Center exist to provide them a place to learn and grow as artists.IMG_4374IMG_4385String Quartet

I love experiencing Mexico as a weekend ex-patriot.

Rosarito Mexico Veterinarian

My dog Maggie had an enormous fat tumor on her chest. It was a disgusting cold lump that hung down from her body between her front legs. Maggie's canine fat tumor IMG_4300For about a year it stayed about the size of a golf ball. We took her to two American vets who confirmed that it was benign. Since it wasn’t impeding her ability to walk, we could leave it be. And at the heart-dropping price of $400+, we weren’t going to do anything about it, especially as friends who have done this say they sometimes grow back! The price of vet bills has gone through the roof.

Oh, and she needs her teeth cleaned…

We had a similar experience with our dog Lee Lee, who was suddenly toppling over for no apparent reason. We took her to the vet, to be told that they believed she had a life-threatening illness which would require weekly blood tests and steroids. The cost? At least $200 a month, without the prescription costs! I asked what would happen if we started her on steroids and had to take her off them if economics changed.  She would probably die. Lovely…the cure was as bad as the disease. We decided not to do “heroic measures” as we won’t do that for ourselves. Plus Lee Lee is already a terrified dog (we are her 5th home) so to me it was a quality of life issue. I couldn’t see dropping her off every week and having her wait in a cage to have her blood drawn. I told the vet I would take the round of antibiotics but not the steroids. The vet said to me “So you’ll let her die from benign neglect?” Really? Did she really just say that to me?

Oh, and she needs her teeth cleaned…

Every time we take our dogs to the vet these days, we are told that they need their teeth cleaned and that will be another $400+.  I know it’s now the norm for vets to suggest this but I’ve never had a dog lose its teeth no matter how old it got. Plus I have a really hard time with my dog’s teeth cleaning costing four times what mine does!  The rationale the last vet we spoke with used was “As long as we have her under we should clean her teeth. That will only be another $400.00.”

As a result we did nothing for another year. But the fat tumor suddenly started getting bigger, to about the size of a lemon. It got to the point where I didn’t want to give Maggie pats or pick her up, which doesn’t work when she wants to be on your lap. Blech. I really wasn’t looking forward to shelling out a car payment, but it seemed inevitable.Heading to the Rosarito Vet

We had recently started going to Rosarito Mexico and I asked some of the American expatriates who they use for a vet. I was given Dr. Paola Picos Diaz as a referral and emailed her. She asked me to email her a picture of the tumor so she could give me a general estimate. She estimated the surgery would cost about $127.00. This I could do.Dr. Diaz Clinic

We took Maggie down to Dr Diaz on a Friday for an evaluation. Her office is on the free road just past the big Pemex at the south end of Rosrito….just before the garish purple and pink hotel. (Carretera Libre Tijuana-Ensenada #742)  Dr. Diaz took a sample and tested it right in front of us and confirmed it was only a fat tumor. She checked Maggie’s vitals and said she was very healthy.Clean modern Vet office I dropped Maggie off the next day and picked her up at 3pm. Maggie was happy to see us and was alert. Dr. Picos said she was very happy with how the surgery went and gave us antibiotics. Total cost of meds and surgery? $107.00.Reception area

I asked Dr. Picos about her background and she said she is originally from Guadalajara and had relocated to Baja California four months ago to open her practice. She has been a vet for four years. Her clinic is clean and modern and she speaks English very well, which is a huge bonus for us.IMG_4367

She did say Maggie needs her teeth cleaned…and it would cost 600 pesos…or about $50. I think I can swing that. But Lee Lee first. She has the worst dog breath ever. Plus I am curious to see what Dr. Diaz has to say about her life-threatening disease…which never manifested again after the round of antibiotics.

Dr. Paola Picos Diaz, Universidad de Guadalajara CED Prof 6947143

Mexico #s: Telephone 661-120-2480 or Cel 661-850-5278


Happy Cats Rescue San Diego

I recently had the pleasure of meeting Makena, a beautiful 12 year old who has been rescuing ‘incorrigible’ cats since she was 7 years old.  I met her through my contact Linda Septon at the Chula Vista Animal Shelter when I told Linda I needed outdoor cats for a friend who has a horse rescue in Mexico.  Other rescues I had approached did not want to adopt out cats who would then be outside, and I understood that.  Linda has known me for several years; I have three rescue dogs and 2 rescue cats of my own, and have helped her place various animals over the years.  She said what I needed were ‘barn cats’ and she knew just the person to connect me with.

Founder and CEO of Happy Cats San Diego.

Founder and CEO of Happy Cats San Diego.

Friesens are my bar non hand's down absolutely favorite horse breed.  They are so beautiful and magnificent.

Friesens are my bar non hand’s down absolutely favorite horse breed. They are so beautiful and magnificent.

Thus started an email exchange where we negotiated how many cats, what my adoption donation could be, and how I could come to get the cats, borrow carriers, and all the other sundry logistics involved with rescues.

I had no idea Makena was a young girl.  In the emails she came across as an adult.  I asked her how she got started rescuing cats at such a young age and what was her inspiration.  She told me that she had gone with her mother Cate, who runs Shelter Dogs to Dream Dogs, an official 501(c)3 non-profit where she trains shelter dogs to become therapy dogs. Contact Cate at  619-813-1252 or k9andk8@gmail.com.  One day Makena went with her mother to the shelter and was happy to see that the 30 cats that had been there before, were no longer there.  She commented on this to her mother, and her mother told her that no, they had unfortunately had to be destroyed.  This broke Makena’s heart, and she decided then to do something about it.  Thus, Happy Cats Rescue, a rescue within a rescue was born.

Here's a view of Makena's cat house.  Look how well made it is and how large and airy.

Here’s a view of Makena’s cat house. Look how well made it is and how large and airy.

here's another view. Look at all the things for the cats to crawl on and play on.

here’s another view. Look at all the things for the cats to crawl on and play on.

Makena is responsible for choosing which cats she can save (always a very hard decision), saving the money to adopt the cats, rehabilitating the cats, deciding if they are purely barn cats and afraid of people, or ‘social’ barn cats who like people but don’t want to live inside. She says on average she is able to rescue and adopt out 3-4 cats a month.  I adopted Lily, a brown and white tabby, Madison, a full brown tabby, Madison’s friend Captain, a white and orange tabby, and shy little Hannah, a black and white kitten whose fur almost looked like a pinto pony’s.IMG_3951

As you can see, shy little Hanna is getting a LOT of attention at her new home!

As you can see, shy little Hanna is getting a LOT of attention at her new home!

I was followed to the Cat-House by a rowdy group of Rhode Island Reds, Barred Rocks, Bantams and sundry mixed-breed hens, plus an absolutely gorgeous rooster Makena said had been a prize-winner at the Fair.

I had all these types of chickens as pets as a girl, which brough back bittersweet memories

I had all these types of chickens as pets as a girl, which brough back bittersweet memories

(Sadly he was no longer needed and abandoned).  Makena’s mom asked me if I knew anyone who wanted roosters…..can’t in San Diego proper, so it’s hard to find them a home.

Here is the beautiful, prize-winning rooster...who outlived his usefulness. Look at the spurs on that bird!

Here is the beautiful, prize-winning rooster…who outlived his usefulness. Look at the spurs on that bird!

Makena’s friends had constructed her a sturdy Cat-House that looked part cat play-pen and part aviary.  Very nice, clean, and large.  This is a girl who understands her cats and wants them to be well-taken care of.

The chickens are having a good time laughing at the cats who can't get to them as they are caged.

The chickens are having a good time laughing at the cats who can’t get to them as they are caged.

The chickens are taunting the cats as they can't get out of their cages to grab them!

The chickens are taunting the cats as they can’t get out of their cages to grab them!

I am so impressed by Makena. She proves that with just a little encouragement and guidance, that a young person can move mountains. I have seen adults who have done much, much less with their lives.  Makena is a shining beam of sunshine and hope.

I now know that when my two cats have moved on in the fullness of their lives, that some of Makena’s barn cats will have a new home.


San Diego North Park Farmers Market

Today I had the opportunity to browse though San Diego’s North Park Farmers Market, located at University Blvd, just West of 32nd Street, on Herman Street between University and North Park Way and behind CVS. Parking can be a challenge, but I was lucky and parked right across the street.  I think you can park at CVS during the farmers market, and I saw signs for $1 parking at the CVS lot. The North Park farmers market is held on Thursdays between 3 and 7 pm.

It had the normal farmers market offerings; vegetables, gluten-free offerings, honey, nuts, Middle Eastern food and beautiful flowers.  There was live music by a local artist providing a nice soundtrack to a vivacious, energetic market.  Locals browsed for heirloom tomatoes (including chocolate ones….got to try that!), squash blossoms and fresh herbs while chatting with their neighbors.  It is a very dog-friendly market and I saw breeds from little Chihuahua mixes to well-behaved pit bulls.  Vendors chatted with customers and helped them pick out the perfect vegetables fresh from local farms.

heirloom tomatoes 2

vine ripened heirloom tomatoes.

vine ripened heirloom tomatoes.

I had a chance to chat with Misty Birchall, who makes moist, delicious pub cakes.  These are cupcakes made with locally brewed beer and are very flavorful.  Misty apparently had a store in the past but has found she enjoys farmers markets much better. I sampled The Portzilla, which is flavored with Stone smoked porter, coffee ganache and caramalized coconut.  Yum! Misty told me the Portzilla is always available, and the others vary by season and what beers are available.

Beer and cupcakes together, what’s not to like?

I also had the opportunity to sample another vendor’s homemade rub for chicken and salmon.  It was a maple-pepper infusion, and unfortunately for me, it was way too heavy on the pepper.  I almost choked from the pepper.  The gentleman who owns the company very kindly gave me some basil-infused tomato sauce to cleanse my palate, which I promptly spilled on my shirt, so I wasn’t happy about that.  For those of you who prefer heat, you would probably be in heaven.  I like to taste my food, and when there is too much spice/pepper it ruins the meal for me as all I can taste is the pepper or spice.  I know, borrrrrinng.

I bought some lovely vine-ripened tomatoes and plump corn.  I passed on the squash blossoms at $5.99 a pound as I have masses of squash plants overtaking my backyard.  I also stopped to smell the tuberoses, which were intoxicating.

I stopped at Baba Foods and got some divine Tzatziki, which is a delicious yogurt/mint/dill dip popular in Middle Eastern cuisine.  Now, I am a Tzatziki connoisseur, and that is some of the best Tzatziki I have had. $5 a tub or three for $11 (?) I think.  Don’t hold me to the “3 for” deal.The Best Tzatziki!

Last but certainly not least I picked up a marzipan stollen, which is a German dessert for $7.75.  I commented that it looked like an authentic stollen, not an American pastry masquerading as a Stollen, and the gentleman asked me if I was German.  Austrian descent, so I know my Germanic pastries.  Too bad they didn’t have strudel, which is my hands-down favorite Germanic dessert.


Sage Cake in Clairemont Mesa

I had coffee with a girlfriend today and we decided to try Sage Cake as it is equal distance from each of our offices.  I checked out the YELP reviews and saw they were mixed, but we decided to give it a try.


Sage Cake

Well, it’s pretty sterile inside.  Plain decor, nothing intimate.  White walls….color anyone? The server took several minutes to come out and he didn’t seem too interested in helping us. I don’t know if he’s the owner or the baker or both?

Sage Cake Clairmont

When I went to get my coffee and asked for cream, he brought a small metal jug of it out, and when I finished using it he put it back away behind the counter. There were coffee carafes so I could have had another cup, but that was a bit off-putting. Plus, the coffee tasted like it had been sitting for a while.  My girlfriend chose the smarter choice—-fresh jasmine tea.

Another off-putting thing? They have no bathrooms.  I asked and he said to go to the grocery store next door, they have ‘public bathrooms’.  Okay, odd, but not a problem…until I went into the market and they told me that the bathrooms were NOT public.  I asked if I could use them anyway, said their neighbor had directed me that way, and in the end they agreed.  Strike Two!

I tried the Elby cake, and it is like a chocolate tiramisu.  Chocolate sponge cake layered with a milk chocolate mousse layer and a white chocolate (there is no such thing as white chocolate BTW, that’s all marketing!) layer and a thin dark chocolate ganache on top.  It was nice, but nothing to write home about.  Pretty bland. Perhaps the challenge is that I like a more flavorful dessert…the yelp reviews that raved about the place said that the pastry is not supposed to be very flavorful….should be light and delicate? I get that, but a little more ‘punch’ in the flavoring (not sweet) would have been nice. I might have liked it better if the service had been better. And it was served with a white plastic fork.  Really? I mean, Really?

Elby Cake

We were there today at 2 PM, and we were pretty much the only ones in the place.  That was nice in that we were able to talk and laugh for about two hours and they didn’t rush us out.

The location is pretty utilitarian—a strip mall with the aformentioned Asian market, plus a goldfish store next door, and a couple other restaurants.  Definitely not a place to bring a date! If you like their pastries, order them to go.

Sage Cake Parking Lot


On the plus side, there was nice jazz music playing in the background. And apparantly if you like Japanese-style versus American-style pastries, this place is the bomb!

I was more affected by the server’s attitude, the bathroom fiasco, and the sterility of the location than by the quality or flavor of the desserts.

Garden Sanctuary

It can get cold at night as we are so close to the ocean. The fire is mesmerizing

It can get cold at night as we are so close to the ocean. The fire is mesmerizing

they are aggressive but so beautiful

they are aggressive but so beautiful

This week I have been dealing with my father’s death.  For those of you who follow my other blog www.HealingJourneyBlog.com, you know that I had a very abusive relationship with both my parents.  I created this blog to celebrate the joy, happiness and vibrancy of life after healing.  My father’s death in a way was both a closure and a new beginning.

Some of my favorite flowers

Some of my favorite flowers

I walked away from my family after my mother died.  Her funeral was a free-for-all, and her betrayal, fed by my sister, sent me into a tailspin that took years to recover from.  However, I know I have recovered from it, when I see how short the mourning period was for my father.  2 days.  Yep, 2 days.  I don’t have pain from his death.  Now, this is not to say that grief might not sneak up behind me in an unguarded moment and swamp me, but I already know that it’s not going to hit me like my mother’s death.

My beloved Ernie

My beloved Ernie

I have realized that I wasn’t only grieving my mother’s death and betrayal when it happened 17 years ago.  I was grieving over betrayal, a final admission of abuse and abandonment, anger issues and losing my family.  It was not a pretty time for me, but I have to say going through this process has made my life much lighter.  It is easier for me to laugh, easier for me to be the authentic Susy I was never allowed to be.

These violets are from my parents' house in Woodland Hills from 1976.  They are older than that, that's just when we moved in.

These violets are from my parents’ house in Woodland Hills from 1976. They are older than that, that’s just when we moved in.

So what does all this have to do with Garden Sanctuaries?  Well, it has everything to do with them.

garden irises

This is right when we got Molly and her leg was broken and pinned.  She has recovered completely

This is right when we got Molly and her leg was broken and pinned. She has recovered completely

My father was a farmer originally, and to him a garden had one purpose, and one purpose only.  Food production.  Not that we needed it…the man had two Mercedes in the driveway at a time when you could either buy a Mercedes or a house for $15,000.  No, what he liked was control.  So we grew vegetables and fruits, and only he was allowed to pick them.  For many years the sight of a brussel sprout would send me running.  They were always huge and overgrown and pithy.  I didn’t know brussel sprouts actually tasted good until a few years ago!

I am always finding brightly colored caterpillars in the yard. This one ate my entire parsley plant in 2 days.  I don't mind.  It grew back, and it nourished him.

I am always finding brightly colored caterpillars in the yard. This one ate my entire parsley plant in 2 days. I don’t mind. It grew back, and it nourished him.

Well, the lovely thing about being an adult and being free of family grief is you make choices for yourself.

So my garden is filled with what I want — lovely, ‘useless’ flowers.  Lots and lots of flowers and color everywhere.  Flowers for bouquets. Flowers and plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.  I love hummingbirds, but I have learned that they are very aggressive, territorial little buggers.  They’ve even dive-bombed me when I’m refilling their feeders.  I know, really?  Oh well.  They add color, movement and sound to the garden.  There are tons of house finches and goldfinches fighting over their feeders.  I have a waterfall that provides lovely background sound as well. We lounge in my favorite type of backyard chair—Aiderondacks with foot stools—while we watch flames in our firepit and drink wine on a summer evening.

Ernie and I call these flowers "Alice Tromerias"

Ernie and I call these flowers “Alice Tromerias”

I have created a small space out of time where I can be completely relaxed, joyous.  I only work in my garden when I want to.  I pick flowers as I want to.  My garden is a riot of color.  Ernie calls it California Cottage.

Maggie loves to lie down in the cool of my flowers. These are in the front, and I am happy to let her lay there.

Maggie loves to lie down in the cool of my flowers. These are in the front, and I am happy to let her lay there.

Ernie has built me a small raised bed garden, and I have grown zuchinni, green beans, carrots, cukes and radishes.  I have onion sets started.

When we first got LeeLee she loved to explore the garden. She doesn't move so well nowadays but still loves to lay out

When we first got LeeLee she loved to explore the garden. She doesn’t move so well nowadays but still loves to lay out

It’s still too early to sit outside at night, but every day we are gaining a minute of daylight, and I can’t wait.  But in the meantime, as my garden slumbers in a California winter (rain), I have the memories of flowers and I can go outside and see the promise of flowers.  Soon there will be freesias with their heady, heavy honey scent.  It’s all green now, but soon it will be colorful, like the life I have chosen to create.

LeeLee loves to soak up the sun on the warm cement

LeeLee loves to soak up the sun on the warm cement…and you can see my flamingos in the background