A place for family and friends to see what I'm up to. Visitors welcome here.

Hail Guest, we ask not what thou art.
If Friend, we greet thee, hand and heart.
If Stranger, such no longer be.
If Foe, our love will conquer thee.
-Old Welsh Door Verse

Monday, November 09, 2015

Pamper Thyself, Self.

Had a perfect weekend with Mom this weekend and want to capture it here, but first to the ending.  When I got home from work this afternoon, this was waiting in the mailbox.  Bummed that my camera felt inclined to 'correct' the color from its true gorgeous teal green to this color.  Pretty as it is, it isn't as yummy as the teal.

I ordered this last week.  It's a checkbook cover by Oberon Designs.  I saw it in another company's catalog for $52 and talked myself out of it.  I mean, I don't even carry checks.

The biggest nightmare in dealing with my late husband's financial mess was that he did everything online - mostly autodraw - and I didn't have the passwords to get in and stop it.  Fortunately, with the exception of the LA Times lady, everyone I was able to track down for corrections was sympathetic and helpful.  I'd heard horror stories about Verizon, and they were the most wonderful.  The collections agency lady was lovely (although after our first conversation I followed my probate lawyer's advice and ignored their calls) and even the IRS rep ended up being gracious.  Eventually I had all the internet stuff switched to paper statements and paper checks.  I have a simple though slightly time-consuming book keeping system, my files are organized.

I make my bill-paying like a monthly spa ritual for myself.  I take my shower, moisturize, flannelize and take up residence at the rolltop desk my parents had given me as a gift years ago.  I fire up the ipod and gather the goods.  I buy commemorative stamps (there are three versions of LOVE stamps out right now, although this month I used the Japan/America cherry blossom friendship stamps with a few Paul Newman's in the mix) and use a pretty pen.  It is a happy time, for all the issues have been resolved and while not wealthy by any means,  there is an abundance by my past standards.

I had filed for divorce before his death, and for the several years leading up to that step the butterfly was a symbol of the me I was learning to know.  I also have been gradually transforming my yard into a haven for Monarchs as well as other varieties of butterflies.  So, this piece really spoke to me.  After a few weeks of waffling between lust and sensibility, lust finally won.  A leather checkbook cover for someone who doesn't carry a checkbook is a luxury, but with so little wear and tear it will last a lifetime and be the perfect holder for my butterfly checks during my monthly parties of financial congratulations.  I managed to track down the manufacturer and was delighted to find the price directly from them considerably less than the other catalog price.  As I noted, it was in the mailbox when I got home today, handsomer than the picture and accompanied by a delightful "thank you" silver butterfly charm.  I'm looking forward to my next purchase.  I wonder what I need.


So, my Mom's an awesome mom.  Maybe the most awesome mom of all momdom.  And she's going through a rough time right now.  She'll be 84 in March.  Heart failure.  My sister (and her son) moved in with her as my sister divorced and the adjustment has been difficult on Mom (who, like me, is pretty much an introvert and a loner).  I try to take her to her favorite getaway - Disneyland - once a month, and I let her take me to dinner at our favorite restaurant once a week.  But it's just not getting her AWAY from her environment.  It dawned on me last month that I should bring her to my house and maybe a little ride up the coast to a favorite quilt shop.

So, we did.  Dinner in her town Friday night, then home to mine for the night, then to Carpenteria for shopping, then home for the afternoon and night.  The next day we holed up in my sewing room, then returned to her town for another dinner before I dropped her at her house.  It went so well I wanted to expand it this month.

It was perfect.  Even the not perfect parts turned out to be perfect.

As before, I picked her up at her house, then we went to dinner before coming to my house.  We spent the night here, then prepared to leave early the next morning.  I headed for the car to load my suitcase and was greeted by a beautiful sight.

November 7, 2015  Sunrise with the Moon and Venus still visiting.
I have a condition called BET (Benign Essential Tremor).  It usually doesn't affect my life in any way, but I cannot get a picture of the moon at all, especially using the telephoto lens.  But the picture serves to remind of that beautiful morning.  Just the hint of an incoming Santa Ana wind condition that meant the trip up would be crystal clear.

And it was.  After breakfast at Denny's, we headed up the coast.  We could see every island off the coast all the way from Ventura to Gaviota Pass.

Traffic was light and we made good time.  We stopped in the tiny Old Town Orcutt at the most delightful quilt shop of our trip.  Bright and happy and full of fabrics to please the little kid in all of us.  After a couple of hours on the 101 we stopped at the second shop of the day in Atascadero, then across the freeway for a lunch of ice cream sundaes before hitting the more boring leg to Salinas.  After a quick tour fly through Spreckles we found the 68 to our ultimate destination, Pacific Grove.

After a scenic tour around Asilomar we found out way to our motel and checked in at the Monarch Resort.  They had done a great job of accommodating Mom's needs.  A handicapped slot right in front of the elevator entrance and the room only a handful of doors down the hallway.  I loved the planters of live plants in the hallway and the fireplace loaded with a duraflame log in the room.  Our ice cream sundaes had worn off by then, but neither of us was really up to the ordeal of a meal, so I tucked mom in for a while and went for a short walk up a steep hill to the Monarch butterfly sanctuary.  I was so excited that I remembered my camera and phone, but forgot my glasses and after the trek (damn, I'm out of shape again) it turned out I couldn't see a thing.  I just kind of pointed my camera where everyone else was and hoped.)  I got back to the room just as the sun was setting.  Mom and I looked at magazines and catalogs and generally just wound off the road hum, crawling into bed very early.

Well rested, we were up and loading the car by 7:00 and back to the sanctuary.  Mom stayed in the car while I took a few minutes to explore the sanctuary WITH my glasses on this time.  I heard from another guest that the butterflies were high up in the trees, but I couldn't see them in the lower areas of the sanctuary.  My eye still hasn't completely recovered full vision after my retinal detachment (more surgery after the first of the year will help).  I have seen Monarchs roost before.  With their wings closed, they blend right into the eucalyptus leaves they hang on.  But that's not to say I didn't see anything worth the visit.



When I returned to the gate where I had started, I went over to the tree that I had blindly photographed the evening before.  This beautiful morning - WITH my glasses on - I could see the butterflies almost close enough to touch.


Another crappy telephoto picture, but you can get an idea.  When they are closed like this, you aren't knocked over by their beauty.  Just more in awe of how far they've come and how they tuck in for the winter just like this.

At this point the trip took a funny turn.  I had mapped my route out of Pacific Grove, trying to avoid the weekend Cannery Row madness of Monterey.  But as I drove, just about where my street should have been, I ran into road closure markers.  There was a parade that morning (on the street I wanted to drive out on, as it turned out) and we ended up taking a scenic tour of the wonderful homes of Pacific Grove and Monterey after all.  In fact, we were just one block from the Bay and I could see the familiar Cannery Row landmarks and Fisherman's Wharf as we passed by them.  Eventually we made our way out of the city onto the Pacific Coast Highway (1) and in my best tour guide voice said to Mom, "And that concludes our tour of historic Monterey, first capitol of the state of California, home to Del Monte Foods Corporate Headquarters and research headquarters of Dr. Ed Ricketts, model for the main character of Doc in John Steinbeck's legendary Cannery Row series."  Mom said, "Really?  I didn't know that."  

And we giggled.

In Carmel I had done my homework and headed to the (wonderful) Barnyard for breakfast at a breakfast restaurant called From Scratch.  Their website had made a big deal about their handicapped accessibility, but when we got there it turned out that it was only accessible to the handicapped who could climb two flights of stairs.  Instead we headed over to the Crossroads where we had a delicious breakfast at a stunning, fun cafe called Cafe Stravaganza.  I can highly recommend it.  I had wanted to drive a little ways down Carmel Valley Road to a nursery I had visited last year, but I was disappointed and we returned to the coast highway in short order.

And so began the best part of the weekend for me.  My dad had driven my mom north on this road for a band event in Pacific Grove (and he had even taken her to a fabric store he had found), but as you know if you have ever driven the 1 northbound, the passenger can't see anything of the view except the mountainside rather close to the side of the car for over seventy miles.  This was the first time Mom had ever seen the Big Sur Coast.

A school of Flying Fish.  They make these squiggly lines with their tails as they "fly".   I don't know if it was a large school by Flying Fish standards, but it practically filled the smallish bay so seemed huge to me.


Mom loved this road.  I wasn't sure, as she has been carsick on less challenging roads in the past.  But she couldn't believe how beautiful it was.  "I've never seen anything like this before," she exclaimed.  "The beaches here are much more interesting than the ones down by us."  And I almost cried when she said, "I'm sorry you have to drive.  You're missing how beautiful this all is."

I think that will go down in my personal history as one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.  To take my spectacular mother to see my favorite spot on the planet, a place she has never seen before, and to see it impress her so spectacularly.  I felt like I had given one of the people I love most in my life a very special gift, one she might never have seen in her lifetime if not for this weekend.

Mom said this cloud looks like Fiberfill.  Only a quilter...

The Pampas Grass covered the hillsides with blooms. 

Once we were off the mountain coast portion of the ride and back on the flats we stopped at the Elephant Seal view point.  She'd had no idea.  Again, her handicapped hanger got us a parking space a very easy walk to the railing where she could see the seals.  "Oh, my gosh!"  She had the same reaction I had had last year.  It takes a few moments to realize they aren't rocks or driftwood washed up on the beach.  We didn't stay long, just long enough for her to be delighted.

In Morro Bay (another favorite place of mine) we stopped at another quilt shop.  It wasn't our favorite of the trip, but I was delighted to find several pieces of fabric (including a special batik showing Morro Rock) to round out my sea theme collection.  I also got the Morro Bay Row-By-Row kit and think that finishes what I need to do one of these fun row quilts.  Just wish I could put my hands on the pattern for seagulls and happy fishes by Paper Panache.  I'll have to buy it again, I guess.

By the time we left Morro Bay it was well past lunch time (closer to dinner) and we were starving.  Neither of us had ever eaten at the famous Madonna Inn,  so that's where I headed.  Again (as for the whole trip) we got the best handicapped parking spaces and the most pleasant service.  My burger was mediocre but Mom was pleased with her turkey sandwich and her pumpkin pie for dessert. 

A quick trip to one of their famous restrooms and we were ready to complete our trip home.  At her request we listened to Christmas music during this trip, and my Christmas CarTunes mix was oddly appropriate.

"Christmas day is in our grasp, so long as we have hands to clasp...  Christmas day will always be, just so long as we have we."

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