Spring in full swing

I know most of the world is just getting tiny glimpses of the joys of spring time right about now…we’ve had spring’ish weather since…well, since mid-January, actually.  Every so often, it’s interrupted by a coastal winter storm that drops a few inches of rain in a day and results in panic of residents living near the Station Fire burn area, crossing their fingers that a mudslide doesn’t take their house away.  But in general…very pleasant weather.  I’m just thrilled we’re not in the mid-80’s yet – that’s when you know there is no turning back…summer’s a comin’.

These are located in our front yard.  I’m unsure what exactly they are, (thought…?) but they amaze me as they grown right up through a small hedge seemingly out of nowhere.

On the weekends, Cleo’s favorite activity is to become a ‘solar dog’ as we call it.  As soon as there is sunshine on the patio, she can be found lounging, flopped against the tile and stucco.  Warmer days require that she rotate between the living room – cool and soft, and the deck.  She gets very warm, especially her brown patch and comes in smelling very doggy.

Big yawn.

From this look, you might assume that we never feed her, and that she has no friends, and never gets to play outside, go for walks and chase squirrels.  But I assure you, this is not the case.  This pathetic  and guilt-inducing look happens on cloudy/rainy weekend days, when becoming a solar dog is just not an option.

And I know, Easter was almost a month ago…but due to circumstances beyond my control (home internet finicky, lost camera cord and misplaced SD card reader)…I just barely imported a whole month of photos from my camera.  We dyed eggs.  I wanted really vibrant colors.  I may or may not have used almost half a bottle of food coloring + a dye tablet.  I think they turned out nicely.  Woody was not thrilled – something about blue and pink-tinged deviled eggs just doesn’t seem right.  Next time, I think I’ll focus on 2 or 3 colors and play around with different shades.

Hope you’re enjoying spring in your neck of the woods!

Farmer’s Market Season

It’s that time of year again…farmer’s market season.  Okay, that first sentence was for the benefit of all those who live in a geographical location that includes 4 seasons; ’cause way out west here in California…well, it’s always farmer’s market season.  Yes, we should not announce this so boldly and rub it in, and we should not take it for granted either…but, admittedly, sometimes we do.  And sometimes, I hear myself complain that running out to the farmer’s market is too early an activity for my Saturday (although I haven’t had this complaint since the arrival of Cleo – the earliest rising dog is the entire world).

We actually have multiple farmer’s markets to choose from during the week.  Our favorite and the largest is near Pasadena High School and is every Saturday morning.  But, say you were free on a Tuesday morning between the hours of 9 am to 1 pm – you could stop by the Villa Farmer’s Market.  Or you find yourself leaving work at a reasonable hour on Thursday, you could drop by the South Pasadena farmer’s market, which is conveniently located next to Nicole’s Gourmet Foods (a previous place of employment of mine).  A glass of wine, croque monsieur AND all your fresh market finds…all in one place…?  Who could ask for more.  Really, who could ask for more?

Where is your closest farmer’s market?  How often do you go?  What is your favorite item?

Dive Bar + Pasadena = Impossible…I think not!

What comes to mind when you think of Pasadena…?  Caltech, “little old lady from Pasadena” – Beach Boys, palm trees, Rose Bowl, JPL?  All of these are correct.  Bars and more specifically dive bars…nope.  That is not what popped into your head, is it?

Moving here from Boston, with little idea of where I was moving to (I was a little surprised there were tall mountains right next door) – I thought…’at least it is sort of a college town.’  Wrong again.  Caltech does not have ‘college students’ in the typical definition of the term.  There are few crazy parties, no frats or sororities, in fact, most of the time you don’t even see students around campus.  This is partially due to the top-heavy type of institution that Caltech is – 800 or so undergraduates, maybe double that number in post-doc’s and half again as many faculty and researchers.  Undergrads tend to be a little (or a lot) socially awkward, video-game focused and therefore inside a lot, hygienically-challenged, have high-intellects and are frequently barefoot – I can’t explain this last one.

Still, one would think there must be some standard place grad students go to grab a beer…right?  Nope!  My research has shown the following:  this place serves Long Island Iced Teas that are very strong and somewhere in the $2.00 range – but the food is borderline sketchy…or this place is a hip, hidden small bar with quality upscale eats, a magnolia tree in the middle of the bar and drinks that can be upwards of $13.00.  Pasadena lacks a standby, good but reasonably-priced bar for the sake of being a bar without pretensions of being anything other than a bar.  A bar, nothing fancy, a place to hang out, a place where you don’t feel like you have to check your checking account balance before you go in.  And then we found it.

Tucked away in an alley with no signage on the street or parking, lies a bar by the name T. Boyle’s Tavern.  Open space, dark without feeling dangerous, pretzels are free, 20 + beers on tap – PBR to Rogue Dead Guy, and a limited, small menu.  I can hardly even call it a menu.  To me…it is more of an emergency menu…as in…I’ve been having such a great time here, how many pitchers have we had…?…whoooeeee! – I should probably eat something…thank goodness they have_________ (fill in the blank).  Options include and are limited to:

  • Sausage Sandwich
  • Pulled-Pork Sandwich
  • Pickled Eggs
  • Nachos
  • Hebrew National Hot Dog

The essentials are there – meats and breads.  And pickled eggs (not sure about who drinks…and then says…”ya know what I’m craving…a pickled egg!”  This is no gastro-pub.  Nachos are like cheap nachos…squeezable/pourable shelf-stable cheese glop.  There is no garnish to the plates, no piece of green lettuce…in fact, I doubt they keep any produce on hand.  This in fact makes T. Boyles all that much better.  It is what it is.

I should also mention they have the most fantastic bar game ever.  Shuffle board with cornmeal.  I’m sure there is an official name for this…all I know…is I’m good at it.  It involves, sliding a round disk pm a board coated with a dusting of loose cornmeal from end to end trying to land your puck in the scoring area and knocking out your competitors pucks into the alley.  A little like curling without ice and on a small table.

I should also mention that my first experience with T. Boyle’s was around 4 pm on a Saturday afternoon and as I approached the bar…heard quite a crowd inside.  This place must really be popular to be so crowded mid-afternoon…no, no, it was just 2 sweaty local rugby teams.  Many things that I observed that afternoon/evening should not be written about in such a public forum…there might just be some youngsters out there whose innocence  is still in tact.  But if you’ve spent any time around college rugby teams…you’re probably well aware of their shenanigans, and we certainly observed some hazing of the rookies, and many, many shenanigans.

We’re happy to have found such a place and are not afraid to order the pork sandwich.  Cheers!

Mini, mini, mini-vacation!

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to have a visit from Carrie – altogether too short – less than 24 hours really…but so needed in so many ways.  We were so busy talking, catching up and having a good time…that I’ve only got photos from our walk on the beach.  Here’s the short story – Carrie flew in to Burbank…I picked her up, and we headed to Pasadena, stopped by my work briefly, grabbed some lunch, stopped by the house, wrestled Cleo a bit, grabbed a few things and then drove down to Newport Beach.  We pricelined a hotel…and ended up with a nice room at the Hyatt for under $100 and after checking in, headed directly to the beach.  Carrie had just come from early morning sleet and snow in Utah…so walking on the beach barefoot in 70 degree sunshine was the best.

We enjoyed wine back at our hotel and finally settled on a place for dinner – seafood!  Since Carrie’s real reason for being in town was work, including a meeting the next morning…we ordered room service for breakfast.  It has been a long time since I’ve stayed at a hotel nice enough to have room service…and although it was nothing spectacular…I’m pretty sure my tomato juice was fresh squeezed.  Way too short…but it makes you remember how important the people in your life are.