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When we decided to buy an inn, I had no idea we’d see or hear so many really unusual, weird and scary things. On several occasions I’ve found myself saying, “now I’ve seen it all,” only to realize that I was in fact mistaken. Just about the time I think it can’t get any weirder, sure enough, it does. (more…)

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forgetting stuff memeSo another week is upon us and I find myself wondering: what left behind items am I going to find today? Last week was epic for people forgetting stuff. We hit the Mother Lode of things forgotten. Every day we came upon some poor item left behind in one of the guest rooms.

Oh sure, we’ve found items before now, but nothing of significance. Quite a few times I find little pills on the floor or on the bathroom vanity or even in the bed. I’ve often wondered if I should call the departed guest to let them know that someone forgot to take their medicine (I’d hate for someone to have a heart attack because they failed to take their preventative pill). But then I follow that up with, “what if an extra pill just dropped out of the bottle and if I call them, they’ll panic and take an extra one and have a heart attack or something because I’ve frightened them?” It’s such a quandary.

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Photo courtesy Google Images

Photo courtesy Google Images

So we’re getting ready to hit the road; going to caravan about 2,100 miles with a 26′ U-Haul truck, towing a car, following another car, with a 75-year-old man who loves to nap and a 70 pound, 11-year-old Labrador Retriever, across the Mojave Desert, Arizona and Northern Texas during July. What could possibly go wrong?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, moving is a hassle. And I’m not just talking about the packing part, I’m talking about every single thing you have to remember to do. Like turning off all utilities, forwarding mail, remembering what gets auto deposited or debited into or out of a bank account that you’ve now closed. Stuff like that. Pain in the ass.

But with moving, comes excitement and anticipation of starting out new and fresh somewhere else. Finding new homes for your things, learning new routines, exploring new places. Fun, fun, fun.

Sad to leave friends I’ve had for 45 years and the town I grew up in and know like the back of my hand, but happy to discover new friends and new places.

Here’s a list I’ve compiled (in no particular order) of things that I am in NO way going to miss:

Photo courtesy Google Images

Photo courtesy Google Images

1 – the 45-minute commute to work;

2 – the 45-minute drive home from work;

3 – wearing business professional clothes, heels and up-do’s every single day;

4 – being someone else’s employee;

5 – rationing water;

6 – the fear of a forest fire burning down my house;

7 – exorbitant taxes;

8 – extremist political leaders;

9 – everyone thinking you live in Hollywood or near the beach just because you live in California;

10 – everyone thinking you’re wealthy just because you live in California.

11 – not having to bring my own grocery bags to the store;

12 – the penchant to litigate everything.

Things I’m definitely GOING TO miss:

1 – Too many friends to mention by name;

Photo courtesy Google Images

Photo courtesy Google Images

2 – Disneyland;

3 – the weather;

4 – my local chapter of Romance Writers of America;

5 – my nieces and nephews;

6 – the ocean;

7 – Lake Tahoe;

8 – knowing all of the short-cuts and secret passages around town;

9 – being just 45 minutes from awesome snow skiing;

10 – some of the best wine in the entire world;

11 – The Olde Town Grill;

12 – my zumba class.

Tell me loyal subjects – uh, I mean followers, what would you miss most about your home town? What special “secret” things do you cherish about where you live? Would you travel across the desert in the heart of summer?

Word of the Day: Uncinate

Fun fact about me: I’m a planner; down to the smallest details. Yet, I love being spontaneous. Go figure.

Original post by Jansen Schmidt, July 2015. Photos courtesy Google Images.

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Photo courtesy Google Images

Photo courtesy Google Images

Today’s post is all about eating. Let me preface this post by saying that I completely understand that there are many, many people out there with legitimate food allergies, some of them pretty dang scary as the ultimate result could be death. I am in no way poking fun at anyone with food allergies. I have food allergies myself and do my best to steer clear of any dishes containing the offending foods.

But, sometimes it seems to me, that society today is experiencing a new “craze;” one where it is cool to have, not just a food allergy, but a whole litany of food allergies. I get the impression that these folks think of themselves as the ultimate health conscious consumers because they are allergic to – oh I don’t know – EVERYTHING!

Believe me, I get it – we’re all trying to eat cleaner and healthier. But, there are limits people. Taking the clean and healthy living to the extreme is fine, but, here’s how it sounds to me when I dine with one of these very special, and over-the-top sensitive, people: (I’ve color-coded the conversation for ease of reference – waiter is green, I’m purple, my hyper sensitive companion is black (not Negro, the font color).)

Can I start you off with something to drink?

Just water for me, thank you.

Okay, and how about you?

Is it tap water or bottled water?

We have both.

Is the bottled water, spring water or filtered water?

I’m not sure, spring water I think.

Do you know which spring it comes from?

I’m sorry I don’t.

Well, I’ll try it, but it may be contaminated if it comes from certain springs high in the mountains of (pick your poisoned place).

I’m pretty sure it’s American water. It’s bottled in the US.

Great.

Do you know what you’d like to eat?

Tell me about the catch of the day, is it farmed?

No, it’s from the ocean.

Do you know where approximately in the ocean? Was it from anywhere where there has been a previous oil spill or other toxic waste dump?

I really have no idea.

Well, I better not risk that. Mercury poisoning is more common than you think. I’ll have a migraine for sure. Our oceans are so poisonous with all of the waste dumped into them. How about the beef, is it grass fed?

It’s all organic.

Oh good. Do you know if the grass was in any way genetically modified?

I really don’t know. It’s organic, so probably not.

Well, I get horrible stomach cramps if the beef isn’t completely one hundred percent organic.

Well, we have some really good free range chicken.

Okay, how is that prepared?

It’s pan seared with a sea salt and a wine reduction sauce.

Pan seared? Do you know what kind of oil the chef uses for the searing?

I can find out, but I’m pretty sure it’s olive oil.

Extra virgin olive oil?

I’ll have to ask.

And the sea salt, do you know from which sea it was mined?

No.

Hmmm. You know not all sea salt is healthy. Some of the sea salt now is being imported from the (pick the toxic sea of your choice) and it’s not properly processed so there’s a chance there’s bacteria floating around in it.

I wasn’t aware of that but I can ask the chef to keep it out if you’d like.

Yes, no salt please. And how about the wine, is it from a local winery?

I think so. We feature mostly local wines in the restaurant.

Well do you know if the bottle has an old-fashioned cork or was it one of those new styrofoam type corks?

I’m pretty sure it’s probably the old-fashioned cork.

Oh, well I better skip the chicken then. Those corks are not properly sanitized before bottling and bacteria can grow when the wine touches it. I’ll be sick all night if I have that. I’ll just have the chop salad.

Okay, what kind of dressing would you like?

I can’t have anything with eggs or dairy. I will swell up like a balloon if I eat eggs or dairy. Do you have a vinaigrette of some kind?

We have a balsamic.

Is the vinegar aged in a barrel?

Uh . . . probably.

Do you know what kind of a barrel? Was it American oak or French oak?

I’d have no way of knowing that.

Some barrels manufactured in America are made from a certain kind of oak that has a toxin in the tannins that leach into the vinegar as it ages. I’d better not risk getting a rash. How about just some fresh lemon juice then?

Okay, so chopped salad with lemon juice?

Fresh lemons. Not juice from a bottle.

I’ll bring you some lemon wedges and you can squeeze it yourself. And for you?

I’ll have the number four.

Okay. I’ll get that started for you and I’ll be right back with your water and some bread.

Oh no, no, no. No bread. I’m highly allergic to gluten. I don’t want any bread near my table. If I even touch bread I’ll get a horrible headache and my throat swells shut. Please – no bread.

Okay. I’ll be back with your water.

Photo courtesy Google Images

Photo courtesy Google Images

You see how ridiculous this all sounds? I know I’m going a bit over the top, but really, that’s how I feel when I dine with someone who is a health zealot. It’s embarrassing and takes forever. I want to say, “just bring her a stalk of celery.” People, if you are this crazy, wigged out about contaminating your body, stay inside your recycled plastic bubble where it’s safe.

I often get hives and a rash if I eat salmon. You know what I do? I don’t order salmon. I probably won’t even order anything with fish in it, just in case. You don’t need to make a big deal about your allergies and there’s no need to have an hour-long discussion about them. Ask for clarification – sure. Ask if the item contains dairy or nuts – fine. But, all of your outrageous madness is NOT cool. It’s annoying.

Please don’t misunderstand me dear readers, if you have a food allergy, I am so very sorry that you have to contend with always asking questions. I feel bad for all those moms to have to read every single line of fine print on food labels so their kid won’t go into Anaphylaxis shock if they accidentally ingest a nano-gram of peanut oil. I really do feel for you. And I am ever so thankful that I don’t have to worry about that.

What I’m talking about here are the extremists, the people who jump on the allergy band wagon because they coincidentally get a headache after eating some kind of food or maybe got stomach cramps after eating at a new restaurant. Here’s a thought, maybe it’s not a food allergy at all, maybe it’s just your crazy over-active hypochondriac imagination having some fun with you. Just saying.

So readers, do you have any food allergies? Does it bother you when your dining companions make a big deal about their food allergies? Inquiring minds want to know.

Image courtesy Google Images

Image courtesy Google Images

Word of the day: Macadam

Fun fact about me: I’m not always very tolerant. (Shame on me.)

Original post by Jansen Schmidt, May 2015. Photos courtesy Google Images.

 

 

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Photo courtesy Google Images

Photo courtesy Google Images

As some of you know, I live in wine country. El Dorado County is becoming quite famous for it’s area wines. Because I’m a big supporter of buying local, supporting small business (hey, it’s a good argument), and because eighty percent of the area wineries still pour without charging a fee, I do a lot of wine tasting. I’d like to think I’m becoming quite the aficionado, but I think it’s more correct to say, I’m becoming quite the wine-o.

Photo courtesy Google Images

White wine grapes.
Photo courtesy Google Images

Let’s face it, with so many wineries to visit, each one having a different line-up, it’s hard not to become familiar with the product and the associated lingo. Remember when wine drinkers had two choices – Chablis and Burgandy? That’s right, you had your red (Burgandy) or your white (Chablis). In my house, Ernest and Julio Gallo started the whole red/white choice thing. Unless of course, you count the Blue Nun Gewürztraminer or the Boone’s Farm Tickle Pink as red or white.

Then along comes a product known as Vin Rose. Remember this hip new trend? Everyone was wanting the rose. My parents were big on the new rose wine. But then, someone bottled a new-fangled white wine called Chardonnay. Not to be outdone, the red wine makers soon offered Merlot and Zinfandel. Wow, the choices!

Nowadays, it would take you a full month to try every wine available at the wineries in my area. The whites include Viognier, Pinot Grigio,  Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato, Riesling, and Semillon, among others.

Red wine drinkers can still enjoy the Merlots and Zinfancels but are now also offered such wonders as Pinot Noir, Barbara, Primitivo, Syrah, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Alicante Bouuschet, Nebbiolo, Gamay and Mourvedre.

Photo courtesy Google Images

Red wine grapes.
Photo courtesy Google Images

Let’s not forget the folks still stuck on the rose bandwagon. Today they can enjoy Grenache, White Zinfandel or some kind of red/white blend. Of course, if you’re my dad, you still order the Vin Rose. Yes, every waitress in town gives him the same quizzical look, and yes, I still clue them in that he wants a “pink,” wine.

In addition to the abundant varitals, there are dozens of blends, each winery famous for a specific one. In my neck of the woods, its blends like “Rocket Dog,” “Rattler Red,” “Foreplay,” “Pammy’s Couve,” and the like.  On top of that, in a lot of places you can taste multiple years of the same varitals and blends. And, in case that’s not enough, there’s also the sparkling wines, the dessert wines and the ports. You can taste from the bottle. You can taste from the barrel. I’m telling you, a person needs weeks to try them all. And, because I’m no quitter, I plan on sampling them. All of them. Like I said, I’m a big supporter of local businesses. And I’ll probably have to do it more than once because, by the time I get done with the first round, the new releases will be out and it’ll be time to do it all over again.

And let’s take a minute to talk about those cute little flavor descriptions they type up for each wine. You know the ones. They tell you what you’re supposed to experience before, during and after you sip. They usually say something like, “a crisp, full-bodied wine with notes of licorice and smoke. Finishes with hints of aged oak and vanilla.” You know what those descriptions NEVER say? They never say the wine will taste like grapes. My description for every single one of those bad boys would be, “it tastes like squashed purple grapes with faint notes of stem and vine.” I mean, I’m no expert, but let’s call a spade a spade here folks. You’re drinking grape juice, it should taste like grapes. Sheesh.

But it’s not just the wines themselves I’m becoming familiar with, it’s the jargon, too. Terms like “full-bodied,” and “oaky” (not to be confused with Okies, who have their own distinct flavor), are easily understood even by novice samplers. Some terms make perfect sense, like “up front,” or “notes of,” but others are just silly. Like, “it has a nice round taste.” Round? Can a person taste a shape? Could it be said that a sandwich has a nice square flavor? That’s like saying, “it smells pink,” or “it feels like yellow.”  I suppose I’ll have to keep tasting until I figure that one out. Like I said, I’m no quitter.

How about you? Are you a wine-0 aficionado? Do you like red or white? Or are you like my dad and still enjoy the once-trendy “pink” wines? If you’re not a wine drinker, do you support local small business? Inquiring minds want to know.

Word of the day:  Plimsoll

Fun face about me: I like to drink milk. (That’s right. I don’t always drink wine.)

Original post by Jansen Schmidt. Photos courtesy Google Images.

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For the past couple of weeks (I’ve been shamelessly keeping him to myself for far too long), Thor has been a distinguished guest in my home up here in the Sierra Nevada foothills. I had such high expectations, but things quickly went awry.

To my dismay, he arrived completely worn out from his escapades in South Carolina, but he wasn’t too weary to notice Superman keeping watch over the abode.

Superman keeping watch. Original photo by P. Rickrode

Superman keeping watch.
Original photo by P. Rickrode

Yes, that is my McDonald’s happy meal toy, don’t judge me.

At first, Thor was a little upset that another superhero would be dwelling under the same roof. Until . . . he saw the bull riders. His fascination was immediate.

Thor meets the bulls. Original photo by P. Rickrode

Thor meets the bulls.
Original photo by P. Rickrode

“I wish to conquer these great bronze beasts,” exclaimed Thor.

Naturally, Thor being Thor, decided that he would ride the biggest, baddest bull in the pen – Bodacious, the PRCA bucking bull of the year two years running (1994 & 1995).

“Thor,” I said, “you cannot ride a bull without there being a bull fighter present. They may look like rodeo clowns, but they serve a very valuable purpose.”

Intent on his mission, but aware of the danger, Thor decided to rouse the resident bull fighter, Juan Eduardo Jose Frederico Miguel Bernardo Jesus Pablo Rafeal Jones from his afternoon siesta.

Juan Eduardo Jose Frederico Miguel Bernardo Jesus Pablo Rafael Jones. Original photo by P. Rickrode

Juan Eduardo Jose Frederico Miguel Bernardo Jesus Pablo Rafael Jones.
Original photo by P. Rickrode

When Mr. Jones was ready, Thor mounted the snorting beast and called for the chute to be opened.

Thor rides Bodacious Original photo by P. Rickrode

Thor rides Bodacious
Original photo by P. Rickrode

Thor completed the 8 second ride, however, because he failed to have the bull rope in his hand, he was disqualified. The judges declined to pay the prize money, but did allow him to keep the buckle.

The winning buckle Original photo by P. Rickrode

The winning buckle
Original photo by P. Rickrode

Disheartened by his bull riding experience, Thor decided that perhaps instead of riding the bucking bulls, he’d fight them like Juan Eduardo Jose Frederico Miguel Bernardo Jesus Pablo Rafael Jones.

“How hard can that be?” Thor questioned. “They look a lot bigger when you’re on their back.”

"This bull fighting - how hard can it be?" Original photo by P. Rickrode

“This bull fighting – how hard can it be?”
Original photo by P. Rickrode

I explained to Thor that bulls come in many shapes and sizes, but he remained firm in his resolve to be a bull fighter. Until he saw the entire bull pen bearing down on him.

The bull pen Original photo by P. Rickrode

The bull pen
Original photo by P. Rickrode

Exhausted from his hasty retreat over the arena fence, Thor proclaimed that it he now understood why Juan Eduardo Jose Frederico Miguel Bernardo Jesus Pablo Rafael Jones needed a siesta. I suggested that he climb to the top of the Great Tide Basin waterfall and do a bit of yoga or meditation to relax a bit.

“Yes,” said Thor, “I shall climb and meditate.”

The great Tide Basin Falls. Original photo by P. Rickrode

The great Tide Basin Falls.
Original photo by P. Rickrode

After his siesta, meditation, I thought Thor might enjoy a bit of our natural surroundings. We ventured deep into bear country.

“I’ve wrestled many a bear in my life,” said Thor with great gusto as we roamed through the woods.

But, when he saw the bears, he seemed eager to turn tail and run.

Welcome to bear country. Original photo by P. Rickrode

Welcome to bear country.
Original photo by P. Rickrode

“You could have warned me that the bears were so huge!”

Thor was not having a good day at all, so I suggested that for the rest of his stay, he stick close to Sherlock for protection.

Sherlock - the mighty proetctor. Original photo by P. Rickrode

Sherlock – the mighty protector.
Original photo by P. Rickrode

When I was finally able to coax him away from his mighty protector, I told him that often when I’m feeling a bit fluxumed I sit and play the piano for a while. It usually calms me.

“Yes,” agreed Thor, “I will play this piano you are so fond of.”

Thor the one-note wonder. Original post by P. Rickrode

Thor the one-note wonder.
Original post by P. Rickrode

Unfortunately, Thor’s attempt at the Moonlight Sonata sounded more like the one-note sonata so I begged him to stop. He only agreed to cease the madness when I offered alcohol as an incentive. I gave him a glass of local wine, but when Thor spotted the Bushmils on the top shelf of the liquor cabinet, he demanded whiskey or threatened to entertain me again by tickling the ivories.

Needless to say, I let him have his fill, which he did, but he slept for a week afterward. Seems Thor can’t handle his whiskey. Or perhaps it was the alcohol coupled with the altitude that wiped him out. Either way, he’s really quite a wimp when it comes to drinking games. Not that I minded. Seems Thor was quite taken with the piano and I feared if he awakened he might bang on it play it again.

I had many other exciting things planned for Thor, but his liquor-induced coma kept him away from the gold panning in Coloma, the very spot where James Marshall discovered gold in 1848, picking out pumpkins from the local pumpkin patch, and a round of wine tasting here in the foothills. I thought I might even take him to Tahoe in my husband’s new car, but I was afraid he might puke on the way so didn’t even suggest it.

My advice to anyone who hosts Thor in their home – hide the booze.

If you want to read more about Thor’s journeys and adventures, check it out here: http://www.debrakristi.com/thors-world-tour/

Thanks Debra Kristi for sending Thor my way and sorry I kept him so long (really it was his own fault for drinking all that whiskey).

Word of the day: Meliorism

Fun fact about me: I am hopelessly lost when it comes to technology.

Original post by Jansen Schmidt 2013. Original photos by P. Rickrode.

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