Saturday, October 18, 2008

Solving Solvang

We drove three hours there and three hours back to visit Solvang. I've heard about this little Dutch-influenced town since about the time I moved to California in 1985.

The long drive probably puts more pressure on the place to please, but I have to say, I don't get it. It seemed mostly like a lot of overpriced shops selling things you could get anywhere with different town names stitched or painted or screen printed on them. We looked for a cowboy museum that was on a map, but which didn't seem to exist any longer.

This sandwich plate Hydra ordered at Bit o' Denmark, which I later found out is the oldest restaurant in town, was nice. So was the one that Kitty ordered.

This tasted better than it looks. It wasn't made of real wax. It was pork sausage and red potatoes.

The cultural highlight of the excursion: the giant bust of Hans Christian Anderson in the museum dedicated to him which is housed in the comfortable and inviting Book Loft bookstore.

I like this painting of him very, very much.

It wasn't a large exhibit, but it told about his unrequited loves and his publishing history, and there were lots of nicely illustrated books lying open inside cases. Would love to see more of the illustrations.

We wandered into an antiques place and wow! There were more grandfather clocks in this one shop than I had seen in the whole of my life before this day. They are amazing pieces of furniture with amazing prices like on sale for $34,000.00!

I tried to open the Louis the XVI cabinet to see if there were any deals on vintage Pyrex refrigerator containers, but it was locked.


Pretty gate on one of the side streets away from the commercial streets.

The drive up there and back through the Santa Ynez Valley was very pretty. Lots of rolling grassy hills dotted with live oaks...some of my favorite California landscapes.

We stopped to have a look at Lake Cachuma, which was created in 1953 by the construction of a dam. Amazing blue in the middle of the tan hills.

Rocky and Champ Hitch a Ride

These two fellows were pretty impressive on the trail this morning. We came up over a rise and there they were.

Yeah, I'll admit to a second of expecting to see coyotes up there rather than dogs. And another second of wonderful if these two German Shepherds were friends or foes.

They made it pretty clear pretty fast that they were easy to get along with. They were a very close team. They'd trot ahead of us and then pause with their haunches together and look over their shoulders for us. When we whistled for them, they came to us.

We realized that they are really big dogs without leashes and we were walking them into our quiet little neighborhood where lots of people walk their bite-sized dogs in the morning.

So we each took one by the collar, promised them water, and let them pretty much drag us the last few hundred yards to the house. We got them some water, shut them in the garage, and Hydra called the number on Champ's collar.

We found out that they were about a mile from home and that the dogs are owned by a father and son, and the son was miffed that the dad had let them out. Apparently, he let them out to "potty" and they never came back.


They'd probably traveled about a mile. (And it probably wasn't lost on the son that they were headed toward the freeway.)

This is what it would be like all the time if we had dogs.

Hmm, have to say that happy as we were to spend a little time with these gorgeous mammals, dog breath is not something you miss a lot.

Parrots have really lovely personal habits.

I love this shot. What a beautiful day for a romp and a ride home.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Return of the Giant Bowl o' Butter

If you've been reading for a while, you may recall that this is not the Giant Bowl o' Butter's first appearance on Any Given Sundry.

In these confusing economic times, I think the Giant Bowl o' Butter is a sign of hope. Or at least, a sign of faith that a large quantity of pancakes and toast will be sold today in one diner in the middle of the San Fernando Valley.

If you're wondering what the heck is going on in the economy, let me steer you toward a couple of terrific episodes of This American Life. It's an NPR radio show that you can listen to online or download to your mp3 player.

#365: Another Frightening Show About the Economy explains in a very simple way--it has to be for me to understand it!--what they're talking about when they talk about a credit freeze. It's a follow-up to #355: The Giant Pool of Money, which explains the mortgage crisis. The two are related, as you probably guessed. But there's this whole world of high finance that I never really knew about, and it's what's behind your mutual fund investments, etc.

If you want more info on the economic situation from the folks who brought us this helpful stuff, check out the Planet Money Blog.

If you want a little fascinating escapism, check out the other episodes available on This American Life. The stories are always interesting, sometimes funny, sometimes touching.

Or check out the terrific storytelling that is going on at The Moth. I recommend Richie DiSalvo's tale of his experiences with a man named Anthony the Hat in NYC.

Another Hopeful Thing!

The candidates roasted each other at the Alfred E. Smith Catholic Charities Dinner last night.

I find it wonderful that these guys can laugh at themselves and each other. These are worth the 15 minutes each to watch.

There now. Don't you feel better?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Last Night's Debate : My 22 Cents

When I walked into Andrew's NoHo Diner this morning, this cobwebbed fellow reminded me of John McCain. There's even a reference to his military service hovering behind him.

Of course, if this were John McCain, he would be lot paler. And a lot angrier.

It became even more clear last night that John McCain has no poker face whatsoever. He keeps chastising Barack Obama for showing his cards by saying what he would or wouldn't do regarding foreign policy ("You don't say that out loud!") But seriously, McCain's furious half the time and he can't keep it off his face. Is this the man we want negotiating settlements with hostile nations?

I think not.

And stop telling me I'm angry about the country's financial meltdown. I'm--- What am I? I'm aghast. I'm bewildered. I'm a little afraid. But what does angry get you? Nothing rational.

McCain's given up trying to be rational and is just resorting to spreading rumors started by bloggers like me. (And you know you can't trust us.) He's already got his base in his pocket, what he needed to do last night was gain people who find themselves in the center politically, and I can't imagine he did that.

I agree with Barak Obama regarding abortion rights. No one wants more abortions. But I believe that it's a woman's choice and it needs to remain legal.

I understand what McCain was trying to get at when he commented on the definition of a "woman's health" being stretched to allow late term abortions to women whose lives aren't actually in danger. But an across the board ban is just wrong. As Rachel Maddow commented on the MSNB post-game show, this means you're forcing a woman to take a pregnancy to full term even if it's going to kill her. I can't agree with that.

There's no equivalent for men. There just isn't. Unless you want to say that the prostate is involved in reproduction, so if you get prostate cancer you can't treat it because of loss of potential life.

I'm excited that I might have an opportunity to opt into the same health care system that serves federal employees. As Obama said in the prior debate, John F. Kennedy didn't know how we were going to get to the moon when he set it as a goal for the end of the sixties, but you have to set your intentions if you're going to get a thing done.

I loved Barack Obama's composure. I loved that he actually answered most of the questions. It was great that he confronted McCain about the rabble rousing that Sarah Palin's been doing and which she is not responding to responsibly. McCain's claim that Obama was somehow putting down the 99% of reasonable people at the rallies where epithets have been slung--- Well, that was just a pathetic attempt to make Obama look elitist.

Guess what? I want a smart president. I want an educated, thoughtful, flexible, hopeful, inspiring president. I want the person with his or her finger on the button to at least be able to pronounce the word "nuclear."

I'll say it right out loud, I want an eloquent president.

Okay, there are probably pictures of me out there that are almost this embarrassing, but this shot from the debate last night is just too funny not to pass up. Click on the photo to see where I found it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Craaaaazy Pumpkin

A decoration that EastCoast sent us for the office.

More decor.

Who knew there were other flavors of candy corn? There are caramel and caramel apple, at least.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pumpkin Time

"I am sometimes called pumpkin. Because why?"

Only one pumpkin's going into the oven.

Freshly made broccoli mushroom soup garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds and mashed pumpkin with butter...and a little maple syrup too.

It's nice to work at home.

Monday, October 13, 2008

A Mighty Wind

It sounded like someone was throwing gravel at our bedroom all night. In the morning, there were branches down and the tomatoes were knocked over.

Well, the wind wasn't done with us.

After several big windy slams, the whole house shook...and our big shade tree broke and the top half fell on the house!

Hydra had the day off. Not so much after all. He spent most of the day on the roof, cutting up branches. The ladder kept being blown down, so he was at my mercy.

Now both the back yard and the front yard are full of branches and we're down our best shade tree. Sigh.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Randy Travis at the LPAC

We were impressed with all the instruments on stage. All of them were played!

It was a really fun evening. I don't listen to much country anymore, but I bought all his music as it came out in the 80s. It was great to hear a bunch of my old favorites, and I loved his new song "Everything That I Own Has a Dent." He had some good jokes and stories and seemed to have a great time, which is always fun to watch.

This poster in the lobby doesn't really do him justice. We bought the new CD, Around the Bend.