Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Yum!

We have a fig tree in our back yard and the fruit is starting to ripen.  Luckily, this year, it's ripening a bit at a time instead of all at once.  We usually lose most of them because we just can't eat them fast enough.  And, even though we like them, we don't love them.  I was going to try something new this year, dehydrating.  I gave it a whirl yesterday and filled a couple trays in the dehydrator.  They were finished this morning and....WOW!  They're SO yummy!  This is officially my favorite way to eat figs!


I tried a method I'd seen online....drop whole figs into boiling water for 30 seconds to weaken the skin so moisture can get through while dehydrating.  Remove them from the water and immediately dunk them into an ice bath.  I dried and cut them in half and put them on the trays.  They've been drying for almost 24 hours.  A little less time might have been better.  But, they sure are tasty and they have a crispiness from the seeds that seems to add to the fun of eating them.  I can't wait for more to ripen!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day Trippin' - Los Angeles and the Renegade Craft Fair

On Saturday, a friend of mine and I did a little day trippin' to Los Angeles.  Our main destination was the Renegade Craft Fair being held at Grand Park in downtown.  And, of course, there's always other things to find and explore in L.A.  We were excited about the fair and what else we might find.

We headed out fairly early in the morning with a stop at Starbucks for our morning elixir.  Then, we hit the freeways and made our way through traffic in time for the fair to begin.  We parked under the Music Center which was right across the street from the park.  Wow...there were eight stories of parking below ground!  We were on the fifth level down.  Only $9 for all day parking...not bad!

Grand Park runs across a couple of blocks.  There's a big fountain at the end where we entered...


It was an unusually HOT day for L.A. and people were enjoying the refreshing water below the fountain.  I was VERY tempted to join in on the fun.  Especially, later, when there was someone with a microphone leading people to jump up and down and dance in the water.  However, I had regular shoes and socks on and I was carrying my good camera with me.  Oh well, maybe next time!


The park was filled with visitors and activity.  The Renegade Craft Fair was being held at one end and the Dizzy Feet Foundation had the National Dance Day event going on at the other end.  And, look who was being interviewed by ABC as we walked through...Nigel Lithgoe from the show, "So You Think You Can Dance"!  I like that show a lot!  So, it was fun to see Nigel in person.  Unfortunately, we seemed to have missed the dance performances.


After hanging out in the shade of a tree for a bit to check out the dance event, we headed over to the craft fair.  There were rows of vendors set up, filling the north end of the park.


I had planned to take a lot of photos but the heat was really getting to both of us.  It kind of melted our enthusiasm, mood for shopping, and interest in taking pictures.  We walked through a couple of rows and then took a few minutes to try to cool off in the shade.  Then, we'd head back out for another couple of rows and go back to the shade.  We repeated this system until we made it through all of the vendor aisles.  Oy!  It was SO hot and humid!

There were lots of different types of things being sold...from printed art, to creams and soaps, to signs and jewelry.  A few of my favorites were:  Painted Bird with their cute and colorful crocheted shoes; Di Palermo Body with beautifully scented body scrubs and soaps; a vendor that I failed to get a card for that had suitcases filled with blank journals made from the covers of old books...everything from Dr. Seuss to old medical books to antique books with beautiful covers; and Bunny Butt Apothecary because of the name...they had lots of great soaps and stuff too. 

This is the only vendor photo I got...some fun scarves made from suit jacket lapels...


There were food trucks there.
I took pictures of a few that I liked the look or name of...

Baby's Badass Burgers...


A little Airstream trailer and Luckdish Curry...


Schmuck with a Truck...


There were even a couple of vendors with trucks.  One sold books and the other is my all time favorite, the "Yarnover Truck".  I rarely visit them without leaving with some gorgeous yarn.  Yesterday was no exception!  Look what came home with me....beautiful blues, turquoise and dark charcoal hues that are deep and chocolaty and with tints of green.


It's a gorgeous, 870 yard skein of "Squishy Lace" by "Dragonfly Fibers".
The colorway is called, "Rocky Top".  It reminds me of the rocky, Northern California Coast.  Beautiful!  I'm SO excited about how much yardage is in this skein!


Since it was so hot, we didn't stay very long.  We were anxious to find a place to cool down.  We needed food because it was already around 1:00 p.m.  We also wanted to see a yarn shop in the downtown area.  So, we drove over to the area it was in and found a place to park to find the yarn shop and a place to eat.

As we walked over to the yarn shop, we saw this face on the side of a big building.
It's interesting how parts of the face area are etched into the brick of the building.


As in most big cities, there are a lot of old and interesting buildings.
There were big Griffins all around this building...


The yarn shop we went to see was inside an old book store, The Last Bookstore.


How cool and how fun this book store would have been if the day was cooler and we'd eaten.
I think I need to go back someday...a cooler day!


There were artistic vignettes all through the store.
Here's one of them...


The yarn shop, Gather DTLA (Downtown L.A.), was on the second floor.
Their sign and the big, artistic use of crochet was breathtaking!...


Crochet love!


The store was tiny but how nice to have one downtown for people who work there and for visitors.  They had a small but nice selection of yarn and supplies.  And, they were friendly.  Best of all, for yesterday....they had a powerful fan that felt oh-so-good!



For lunch, we found a great little cafe, "Crepes Sans Frontieres", inside the Spring Arcade Building.  We found it because of a little chalkboard sign sitting at one of the entrances to the arcade/corridor.


What a find it was!  It turned out to be one of the best parts of the day.  It was cool, peaceful, the people were nice, and the food was delicious!  I had a gluten free/buckwheat gallette (crepe) with chicken, caramelized onions, mushrooms and tomatoes.  There was a small, mixed greens salad with a Dijon vinaigrette dressing included.  It was all delicious!  I also had an interesting and tasty version of lemonade...it had ginger in it.  We sat, relaxed, cooled off and enjoyed some time to chat.


After our mid-afternoon lunch, it was time to head back to the car and home.  We were parked in one of the many downtown lots.  I don't like graffiti but I thought this did make for an interesting photo...


I've always had a curiosity about Los Angeles.  It's far enough away to not go often yet close enough to go explore from time to time.  I know there are a lot of hidden and wonderful things to find within it's boundaries.  It was fun to go and spend a day discovering some of them.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Morning Knitting

I'm having fun with my new, spinning yarn holder!
It even works with a ball of Sugar 'n Cream yarn.
The yarn pulls out easily and doesn't get tangled or roll around.


This is a pretty ball of yarn from my stash.  The color is, "Barnwood Twist".  I love that name!  I started a dishcloth yesterday afternoon and had it finished by last night.  I started another one at breakfast.  It looked so pretty with my red placemat and even the strawberries in my oatmeal.  I just had to post it on Instagram and I thought I'd share it here too.  :-)

I've made so many of these over the years.  I love making them and I love using them.  And, I love that I can get exactly two from a two ounce ball of yarn.  I cast 36 stitches onto size eight needles and knit five rows.  Then, on wrong side rows, I knit the first three, purl across, and knit the last three.  On right side rows, I knit all the way across.  When the center, stockinette part, is equal in width and height, I knit four rows (I'll double check that on this one) and then bind off to get three ridges on the top to match the three at the bottom.  I know I've done it right when the new cloth weighs about an ounce and so does what's left on the ball.  :-)

Road Trip Wrap Up

The three week long road trip I took with my daughter was amazing!  We're so fortunate to have been able to do that!  And, I'm so blessed to have such an amazing daughter to have done it with!  We had a ton of fun, saw a lot of new places and things, and we even grew closer.  She's not only my daughter but she's also my best friend...and even more so now!  I love her so much!

Here's a picture she snapped just before we headed home on the final day of our trip...


I thought it might be fun to figure out some stats and make some lists about our trip.
I thought it might be fun to share them too.  Here it goes...

We drove almost 5,000 miles!  I'm so glad we shared the driving!

We drove 65-70 hours, total!
Yup....SO glad we shared the driving!

We visited 10 states (not counting our home state):  Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma.

We stayed at 13 different places in 13 different cities.

We visited at least 10 different Starbucks.

I took over 1,500 photos.  My daughter took a lot of photos too.

It rained on 14 of the 20 days we were gone. We saw some of the most incredible lightning we've ever seen.  And, we probably saw more rain fall on our trip than we've seen in at least five years in California!  We loved it!

We saw some critters:  Buzzards, Grackles, Blue Jays, Bluebirds, Cardinals, squirrels, Armadillos (dead on the road), raccoons (also dead on the road), an alligator (on side of the freeway), elk, deer, bunnies, dragonflies, lightning bugs, Canadian Geese, fish (jumping out of the water in the lake my aunt lives at), bats (in the darkness), coyote, Cactus Wrens, doves, pigeons, and assorted other birds.

The hottest day was in Tucson on the first day...106'.

The coldest day was early morning in Dodge City, Kansas.  
I don't remember the temp but we wore jeans and jackets.

Our three favorite hotels/inns that we stayed were: Hacienda Del Sol in Tucson, Arizona (also the cheapest); Dansereau House in Thibodaux, Louisiana; and Holiday Inn in Fredericksburg, Texas.

The three worst hotels/inns were:  Astor Crown Plaza in New Orleans (dirty), Holiday Inn in Memphis (noisy and the carpet was wet by the bathroom), and Boot Hill Bed and Breakfast in Dodge City (just not appealing at all...dirty, dated, and we didn't get the room we'd reserved)

Lodging lesson learned:  Expensive doesn't guarantee a good hotel because some of the most expensive were disappointing.  And...cheap doesn't mean it'll be bad.  One of our favorites (Hacienda Del Sol in Tucson) was the cheapest one of the whole trip...only $90 a night.  It was super clean, staff were extremely professional, and we had a wonderful stay.

Our favorite meals (besides the delicious food served up by family) were:  Iron Works in Memphis; Stanley in New Orleans; Applebees in Dodge City; La Cueva for Mexican food in Taos; and the cafe in Grand Canyon National Park.

Another lesson:  Expensive and fancy restaurants aren't necessarily better.
Some of our better meals were cheaper ones.

We found and visited eight fiber/yarn/weaving shops.
I bought things in three of them.

I finished two projects...a knitted cowl and a crocheted cowl.

I posted 59 times on Instagram during the trip.

We got gas at 21 different gas stations.  We stopped often to avoid running out.  That's not including all the ones we stopped at for a break, restroom, or something to drink.

We got 35 miles per gallon in our little Toyota Matrix.

We tried BBQ in three places that are famous for it...Texas, Memphis and Kansas City.
Texas was our hands down favorite!  Yum!

Best part of the trip...sharing it with my daughter!

Here's one last picture from our trip.  It wasn't included in a previous post as I didn't see it until we got home.  My daughter took this at the Texas Capitol building in Austin.  That's me standing under those windows.  This picture blew us away to see how tiny we were in this huge and amazing place.  When we were there, we were so busy snapping photos and ooohing and ahhhing that we didn't notice that.  


A HUGE thank you to all of you who followed along on our journey and left so many wonderful comments.  You have no idea how much each and every one of them means to me.  They were fun to read and brightened my day each time I got one.  I almost felt like ya'll were on the trip with us.  I loved that!  And, I love that you enjoyed my posts.  Thank you so much!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Road Trip, Days 19 and 20 - Grand Canyon

The last two days of our road trip began early in Taos, New Mexico.  We were up and on the road before sunrise.  We stopped in Santa Fe, New Mexico for some coffee and hot water to mix up our instant oatmeal and we were back on the road.  It was one of the longest driving days of our trip but we enjoyed seeing the desert landscape.  The drive got exciting when, in the distance, we spotted the mountains by Flagstaff, Arizona.  That meant we were getting close to our final stop, Grand Canyon!

We arrived in the town of Tusayan, just outside of the main entrance to Grand Canyon National Park, in the early afternoon.  We checked into our hotel, the Red Feather Lodge, dropped our stuff off and headed into the National Park.  This was my third visit to the Grand Canyon but my daughter's first.  I was excited to take her for her first visit and to see her reaction to how big and grand it is.

It turned out to be even more grand than I remembered!  Wow!
And, of course, it's MUCH more amazing in person than in pictures!




Click any of the photos to see them larger...especially this panoramic photo...


There are shuttle buses that run from town into the park and to various lookouts and places within the park.  There are paved hiking trails along the rim for easy access to the view.  And, you can even bring or rent a bike to ride to the various stops.  I like the idea of having a bike there.  No waiting for crowded buses, freedom to come and go to various lookouts, and fun!  They rent everything from mountain bikes to adult three wheelers and even baby trailers.


We made sure to stop in the visitor center.  It's small and doesn't have much but look at this map!
Notice the yellow words that say, "you are here".  It gives an idea of the enormity of the canyon!


This was in the visitor center too....  Such a beautiful Mountain Lion!


The "Hopi House" is a gift shop in the park, located near the famous El Tovar Lodge.  It turns out that it never was a Native American home.  It was built for the park to resemble a home the Hopi would have lived in.  They sell Native American jewelry, rugs, baskets, and other items inside.


I love the painted rug on the wood floor inside.


The wood beams were exposed on the ceiling inside with branches running crosswise.


I'd heard about the train in the nearby town of Williams and how it goes to the Grand Canyon.  However, I didn't realize it actually went into the National Park.  There's a train station in the park that's right next to the El Tovar Lodge.  I didn't get any good pictures of the lodge as there were always shuttle vans in front of it.  But, here's the train station...


I'm not sure if this is one of the working trains or if it's just for display.
It was next to the train station.


After seeing a few sights in the park, we went into a park cafe to get a bite to eat.  We'd expected it to have a limited selection of sandwiches, salad and snacks.  Boy, were we surprised!  They had a lot of different things to choose from...grilled fish, roasted chicken, soup, BBQ, sandwiches, salads, and so much more!  We chose the roasted chicken dinners with veggies and rice or mashed potatoes.  It really hit the spot!  We were tired of restaurants and missing home cooked food.  This was much more like homemade than a restaurant.  We really enjoyed it!  And, look at the view we had while we ate.  So nice!  Our tummies were happy and so were we!


Afterwards, we went into the gift shop in the same building.  My daughter picked up a long sleeved t-shirt for a souvenir and to be warm on that cool evening.  They had all kinds of fun stuff.  I snapped a picture of this adorable toddler sized ranger outfit.  So cute!


Our afternoon went by quickly and sunset was quickly approaching.  We didn't want to miss it!  We quickly hit the paved trail that leads from the village we ate at to the rim to find a good spot to watch.


Gorgeous scenery all around!!!


Magic was happening!  Rain was falling over the canyon
and the setting sun was turning the raindrops into curtains of gold!  Wow!


We found a great spot to sit where there was only one other person.  The rain fell over us for a while...great big wonderful drops that were pushed into our backs by the wind.  The backs of our shirts were almost soaked but dried quickly from the wind.  We leaned over our cameras to keep them dry, snapping photos when we could.  When the rain stopped, it was hard to stop taking photos!  The scenery was changing by the minute and so incredible that we wanted to capture every bit of it that we could!  Pure, amazing, incredible, magic!






What an amazing place!  I think I could sit out and watch the sunset every night there and it would never get old or boring!  Wow!  Wow!  Wow!  And, what a spectacular end to our amazing road trip!

We headed back to our hotel with the windows down and the sunroof open, enjoying the incredibly perfect weather.  After a good night of sleep, we were up early to hit the road for home.  We rolled our luggage out the door and were greeted with the most amazing smell ever!  We were both breathing in big, slow breaths over and over and savoring that magical smell!  We quickly had to start breathing normal again as we were getting a bit light headed.  If only we could capture some of that smell in a jar to keep forever!  I think it had rained overnight.  So, the smell of fresh rain mixed with pine, sage, and whatever else was beyond words...amazing!

We went to eat breakfast at the neighboring restaurant but they weren't all the way open yet and it didn't smell good.  So, we decided to go across the road to McDonalds.  We normally don't eat at McDonalds but there weren't a lot of choices that early.  That happened on another day of the trip and it worked out ok.  My daughter was able to get an Egg McMuffin meal, minus the muffin and hash brown to eat gluten free.  Our two meals with large OJ's instead of coffee came to about $11 at the previous stop.  This McDonalds is known for being expensive.  We paid almost $20 for the same food but with smaller OJ's!  That seems wrong to me to take advantage of people like that.  I bet the supplies/ingredients don't cost any more for that McDonalds to get than the one an hour down the road.  We stopped at that one later to use the restroom and the same meals were a lot cheaper.

We decided to go back into the park to see the canyon one more time before heading home.  As we pulled out of the parking lot, we noticed elk in a neighboring lot and pulled in for some pictures...


A few other people had spotted them and were getting photos too.  I wouldn't have been so brave/crazy to get that close!  We stayed in our car as my daughter stood up through the sunroof for some pictures.  Wow!  The antlers were amazing!


We enjoyed seeing some other animals too.
A deer munching at the side of the road...


An adorable baby squirrel running on the rocks at the edge of the canyon...


Even some Blue Jays...


This big bush was buzzing with bees.  The flowers are so pretty.


It was fun to walk around by the visitor center and rim paths with hardly anyone there.
It was so peaceful and beautiful along with that magical feeling of early morning.

I like the signs in the parking lot to help remember where you park.
Each area had a number and an animal.


There was a bit of rain as we headed home.
We hoped it would follow us all the way to bring much needed rain to California.


However, as we neared the border, there was a line in the sky where the clouds ended.
We joked that it was right over the border.  Luckily, the clouds and rain did follow us.  Flash flooding just started as we left our lunch stop in Barstow, California.  We had to use the windshield wipers for just a few minutes before we were out of it.  But, we later heard on the news that there was some flooding out there in the desert.  The deserts and mountains got a bit of rain here and there for a few more days.  We'll take whatever we can get here!


We got home late in the afternoon.  My dear hubby was so happy to see us!  He had food prepared and ready to cook for a welcome home dinner.  He even made us some delicious margaritas to celebrate.  I think he missed us!  We missed him too!  It was weird to travel without him but he just couldn't get that much time off right now.

My daughter and I had an incredible trip!  A trip of a lifetime that we'll never forget.  I cherish all the time I had with her, all the memories we made, and all the amazing things we saw.  I feel so lucky and blessed that we got to do this!