Sorry for the long delay between posts. Each morning (afternoon?) when I wake up I have to ask myself, "Where am I?"
First of all, I have decided to withhold judgment about President Obama. Let's face it, he inherited a mess, and it is going to take time and BI-PARTISAN cooperation to even begin to fix this mess we're in. People outside the Beltway seem to be giving him some breathing room, which is a good thing. We didn't get in this mess overnight. It isn't going to go away overnight, either. I just wish there was some way to stop the bleeding. I made the mistake of opening my 401K statement (up until now I have avoided looking), and almost cried. The deflated value of real estate values coupled with the disaster, also know as our pensions, is enough to send me to drink. One amusing side note on the budget mess I'd like to share. In late January, I received a notice from the California Franchise Board (their version of the IRS) telling me I owed almost $5400 for 2005. When I called to find out what was going on, I was told that the State just assumed I must have hidden income since I am making my mortgage payments on time! After I stopped laughing, I asked the gentleman if this was one of Arnold's ideas to go along with IOU's. Just go after anyone, and see who is dumb enough to pay. Hopefully, Clarence (my contact) will get this sorted before they try and take Peregrine. If the California legislature and local mayors are smart they'll spend some of their energy collecting from real tax offenders.
OK, so what have we been up to? Our dear friend, Nancy McClellan, lost her 18 year old dog, Honey, so Jeffrey and Emma did what they could to distract her. Nancy was kind enough to watch them while Stewart and I flew to Palm Springs for my mother-in-law's 75th birthday. My brother-in-law, Lenny, took most of the pictures, so I will have to wait until he sends them to add some here. I do have one, however of Stewart with his mom on his lap. The apple didn't fall far from that tree! I wonder how much it is worth to her NOT to post this.... Ginger's party was great fun, and it was wonderful spending time with my three remarkable sisters-in-law. Tavia, Tara and Tonia are as different from each other as my sisters and I are from one another, however, each brings light into any room they enter. I know just how blessed I am in the in-law department. Let's face it, when you marry a man, you also marry his family. Unfortunately, his brother, Mark, was unable to make it.
While we were back in SoCal, we met up with my dear friend, Peter Wolff. He is presently in LA working on a project using music for pain management and other therapies. I cannot wait to see how it turns out. He promised to let Stewart and I be his guinea pigs. Since we were all the way in Palm Springs, Peter took a train to Claremont where we met for a nice chat and an early dinner so he could catch the last train back to LA. When the three of us get to sharing ideas, and wine is added into the mix (Pepsi for Stewart), there was little chance of Peter making his train. We ended up eating at this wonderful little place called La Piccoletta Ristorante. The cioppino was so delicious that had they not had bread to sop up the broth, I would have drunk it with a straw! After dinner, we kidnapped Peter back to the desert and had a slumber party. Of course, when we looked at the train schedule for the morning, we failed to notice it only runs twice a week, so we had a nice chat back down towards Claremont.
After returning to Dallas, we spent one more week seeing friends and getting in the rest of my favorite restaurants. S&D Oyster Bar and Highland Park Pharmacy were both squeezed into one day (sort of like me and my jeans!). I had told Stewart that the seafood gumbo, oysters on the half shell, and bread pudding with whiskey sauce are some of the best he'd ever have anywhere. I am proud to say I was three for three. Unfortunately, Celebration was closed when we went so the staff could watch the Super Bowl. Real Texans will always put football first.
I do feel it is important to mention the place we stayed in Dallas. When I first booked Staybridge Suites I thought it would be gross. It was way further north than I would normally go, and it was on the tollway. It couldn't have been better. The people were so nice, free laundry, breakfast, fitness room, free faxes (!), I could go on and on. When we went to Palm Springs, they allowed us to leave Peregrine in the parking lot, and gave us the same upgraded suite across the hall when we got back. Five cornstalks to them.
My birthday was on 4 February, and I really wanted to spend it in New Orleans, so we drove down the day before, and just walked the French Quarter that night. It was my first trip back post-Katrina, and I wasn't sure what to expect. It looked very much the same, but the feel was very different. Not as many homeless in doorways, less celebrants in general. Bourbon St. was still dirty and filled with the over-served, but there was a forced feel to the place. Breakfast at Cafe du Monde did wonders for my general happiness, though. Is there another place on earth that can do so much with powdered sugar, batter (beignets) and coffee? They are is still delicious and just as messy.
On the way to Cafe du Monde, we came across a very cool little store on Chartres called Dashka Roth. She makes wonderful jewelry and Judaica. I got a very cool pair of earrings for my birthday. She has the cutest little Maltese who is very happy to help out. If you have a few minutes, read her Katrina story on her website.
Late that day, we ate at Desire Oyster Bar on Bourbon St. Stewart had had my version of a po'boy, but I felt it was only fair he taste the real thing. Of course, now he'll never look at mine the same. He swears he will, but I know better. Just a little tip, order the combo po'boy, and don't eat the bread. It is about the same amount as food as the platter, but a lot cheaper. When we left, a walk was definitely in order. Plus, we only had one full day as we were leaving for Miami the 5th. We found this really cool store, Road Kill. I saw these awesome boots in the window, and just had to have them. I bet I'm the only one with rubber cowboy boots like these. They should be a hit fishing.
We went to hear this very talented band, The Bridge that night at Blue Nile. We got there a little early, so we went around the corner to Igor's Checkpoint Charlie to listen to some music and shoot some pool. We met a nice guy from Pennsylvania, Tom Klich, who went with us over to hear The Bridge. The Big Easy is that way. Go where the mood takes you.
After New Orleans, we headed to Miami. Going through Mississippi, it was clear that there had been damage from Katrina, but not nearly to the extent in New Orleans. No levies broke in MS. That first night, we spent the night in Ocala, FL, which was experiencing the coldest temperatures on record. It was 26 degrees when we checked into our hotel. V-v-v-very cold! Nevertheless, we made it through the night, and headed down to south Florida in time to pick up my sister, Nancy and her significant other, Russ from the airport.
When we got to the condos I had booked at 8200 Byron in Miami, there were some initial problems, but eventually things were fine. Adam is the owner, and obviously new at the entire vacation rental thing. No sheets, no toilet paper, no soap.... Adam did do his best to make things right, and I am sure with time and experience, he will be great at vacation rentals. I would stay there again. Here is a picture I took out of the living room window with my phone.
The four of us fit as much into a few days together as possible. Nancy loves, loves to shop. so we walked through the shops of South Beach. The first night, though, they took me out to celebrate my birthday to this really great place, called Sushi Siam. The sushi was fresh, and the ambiance was wonderful. The sake was awesome, too.
My cousin, Fran and her husband Ron Sevcik hosted a family gathering for my birthday, combined with a going away party for our cousin, Stacy Schwatz, who moved back to DC. Cousins Brad and Freddie Ross came down, along with Freddie's love, Cecily. My Aunts Dell and Dottie are still rockin' their 80's, and Uncle Zay is still amazing. I wish I could see them more often. The next night, the four of us (at Ron's urging) headed down to Joe's Stone Crab. Very expensive, but VERY awesome. Great sweet potato fries to go with the stone crabs. Old fashioned waiters in tuxedos. Very cool.
After Nancy and Russ headed back to freezing St. Louis, Stewart and I spent some time with my cousin, Alysson (Fran and Ron's daughter) before heading for the Keys. She is actually more like a niece. What a sweetheart. She took us to a very cool Cuban tapas bar, and a Jewish deli - not at the same time. While at the tapas bar, I received a phone call letting me know that once again, I am a grandma. Kellan Vessie Robinson was born 9 February. I hope to see him soon. Vessie, was Buck and his father's real name.
We have been in the Keys now for over a week, and have no idea when we are leaving. Life here is easy. Get up, fish a little, take the dogs to the beach, read, hang out, read some more. Of course, eat! After how crazy our pace has been since closing on the Colorado house Halloween, we are really enjoying the slower pace. No plans yet where to go next. Stewart wants to head up the west coast of Florida next. I'm more for a trip up to Hilton Head first. I'll let you know which way the wind blows.
Now, for the saga of Jeffrey and Emma. First, Emma got sick staying with Nancy. Nancy spoiled her with treats. Way too many treats. Unfortunately, Emma was allergic, so once again chewed the hair off her legs. They had so much fun with her, though. Nancy let them climb all over her and the furniture. She said she's going to get two Wheatens and name them Emma and Jeffrey. Too funny.
Everywhere we go people are surprised that we are able to travel so simply with two mid-size (sounds like a car!) dogs. The worst part is when they get into sticker bushes, or one decides to get sick in the back seat of the car. It is really no different than traveling with kids, except we don't have to get a sitter. Just zip them into their kennels. It is a bit of a problem, though, because Emma is a bit of an escape artist. She has figured out how to unzip the kennel door, so now she is in her kennel attached to a leash attached to Peregrine's wheel. Jeffrey, always the perfect gentleman, is content to wait for an invitation to exit his kennel. Stewart groomed them both this week, and they are looking lovely. Now at least, Emma's legs match the rest of her.
Oh, that reminds me, I found the Jeffrey (person) for whom, my Jeffrey is named. An old friend, Jeffrey Shapiro, is a drummer from LA, and when I was around town while he traveled, I watched his Wheaten, David. I fell so in love with David, that I swore if I ever got another dog, I would get a Wheaten and name him Jeffrey. Jeffrey, the person, is still drumming, and can be heard in various tribute bands. Check out his Myspace page if you get a chance. I don't know if he still uses it, but back in the day I redid his drum face for a show at the Troubadour in West Hollywood.
Let's talk ethanol, E85. It is more difficult to find than I had anticipated in certain states. For example, the nearest station to New Orleans is Baton Rouge. Not exactly around the corner. Also, since the E85 pump is frequently leased by an independent at a national station, the price can be greatly inflated. It is still cheaper than regular gasoline, but the savings is reduced by the station middleman (or woman).
The mileage is not a real problem. There doesn't seem to be too much difference between gas and ethanol with or without Peregrine. The new spark plugs are great. It has definitely narrowed the miles per gallon, but gas is still leading in mpg. Actually, half a tank of each seems to be the winning combination. Obviously, this is not so simple when there is a huge distance between E85 locations. I do wish we were more efficient when towing, though. At least we are trying to do our part to help the environment and get off foreign oil.
A suggestion: Someone should come up with a user-friendly iPhone application to find alternative fuels using the built-in GPS. There is one for regular stations, but no way to tell which carry E85. All the web-based applications for E85 require that you know the zipcode - not something you're likely to do in the middle of nowhere.
After having spent some time in campgrounds now, I feel just fine about what we are doing. It amazes me to see motorhomes towing SUV's. These folks bring all the comforts of home with them on the road. At the end of the day, they don't have much more than we do with a little imagination and effort. OK, so a toilet and shower would be nice, but we have a TV tuner with a built-in DVR on our laptop, WiFi, a comfortable queen bed, seating, a table to eat at, book shelves. What more does a person really need?!
It is now clear to me that I have waited entirely too long in between updates. Please forgive me if this is too boring. There were just too many things to cram into one post. I will not be waiting so long in the future! If you have any suggestions for where to go next, please let me know. One last thing, we put Peregrine's awning up for the first time (top picture). Doesn't it remind you of your grandmother's table cloth?! Be well.