Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tables of Content

When KY and I went to the coast last weekend, I dragged him to the Sylvia Beach Hotel's restaurant Tables of Content.  I had read about it online and almost all of the reviews raved about it. It has a book theme. The dinners are presented in chapters. It's food. How could I not want to go? How could he say no to something I wanted so badly?

Sylvia Beach Hotel is located in Nye Beach in Newport. The hotel faces the ocean, with steps right down to the beach. Each room has a book theme - there is the Tolkein room, Dr. Seuss, and Steinbeck, among others. One of our dining companions let us in on a little secret that the rooms are left open after they are cleaned and can be toured in the afternoon before the next guests check in. I wanted so badly to do this but we ran out of time.

The restaurant is located on the bottom floor of the hotel, also facing the ocean. We had the most incredible sunset views as we were being seated. The room is small with just a few tables that seat 6-8 people. If you are a party of less than 6-8 people, you are seated at a table with others. We were seated with three other couples. I knew this going in, and was a little worried that we'd have to sit with the balding, purple-haired guy milling around the lobby. Nope, we got the gay couple. Score! We were also the youngest and right next to the most adorable miniature version of Colonel Sanders. Loved him.

The whole idea is to mix and mingle and get to know your fellow diners. Two of the other couples had been previously so they let us in on the little secrets and how it all worked. The third couple at our table were the parents of the chef. She warned us ahead of time not to make any negative comments about the food.

Once we were all seated and served drinks, we were instructed to play Two Truths and a Lie at our respective tables. This is where you tell two true things and one lie about yourself and the others at your table can ask you questions about them in order to guess which is the lie. As I was telling my stories, Chef's mom remarked what an excellent liar I am. This isn't really the thing you want your boyfriend to hear about you. These were my stories -

1. At my fourth birthday party, my cat killed a snake on our back patio.
2. I once owned a tarantula.
3. In my current home, I have found no less than 15 black widows.

I was a good enough liar that there was no consensus on one single story, they were all mixed up. See if  you can guess for yourself. If you have read maybe 5% of my blogs, you'll know for sure which one of them is true.

When the first course arrived, I was worried about Chef's mom's warning. It was roasted cauliflower soup. Not a fan of cauliflower. But it was delicious! So smooth and creamy and totally un-cauliflower-like. The bread was perfectly soft and crusted with sesame seeds, adding a nutty flavor. Next came the salad, fresh greens with a grapefruit vinaigrette. Yep, pretty much hate grapefruit. However, the arugula was the freshest I've ever had and the dressing was just light and refreshing, with none of that bitter aftertaste that I don't like.

When making the reservation, I was required to pre-order our entree. Each night there is a choice for meat, chicken, fish, or vegetarian. I chose the rack of lamb and KY opted for the chicken Marsala. My lamb was so soft and flavorful and perfectly cooked. I wanted more than my allotted portion. KY's Marsala was perfect to me, although he found the sherry flavoring a little too strong. I snuck the extra mushrooms left over on the center plate. (All dishes are served family style so they're passed around the table.)

The accompanying sides to the entree were a lentil salad and steamed leeks. Guess what? Yep, don't like either one of them. Or at least I didn't. They were both so much better than anything I'd ever had them in before. I would have had seconds of both if I weren't saving room for dessert.

Oh, dessert. How I love you so. Chef's parents were celebrating their anniversary so she made the dessert especially for them. Lucky, lucky us. We were served a chocolate torte with orange zest and freshly whipped cream. It wasn't light, but the orange zest took away some of the richness and made for a completely perfect ending to our meal.

Our other couples were also completely lovely. We learned about community art projects, life on a military base in Afghanistan, talked about classic cars and books about food, and shared stories about Shaman weddings and cake decorating. We were introduced to Chef, who was absolutely delightful and I didn't have to lie to her one bit about anything presented to our table.

I will definitely visit Tables of Content again. I loved everything about it. The pictures on the walls, the views, the food, the company. It wasn't just a dinner, it was an experience. In all the years I've been going to the coast, it's a shame I've missed this little gem.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How the Avon Lady Killed Our Cat

When I was in jr. high school, (and my freshman year of high school), we lived in Chino Hills. As the name implies, it was a very hilly area. We lived in the specific area of Carbon Canyon which I wasn't allowed to tell anyone. I was only supposed to say that I lived in Chino so that I wouldn't sound like an over-privileged white girl who came down from her mountaintop to visit with the peasants.

Our driveway had the steepest incline known to the western world. And it was long. Like maybe a quarter of a mile. Sometimes it seemed like half a mile. After walking up and down that driveway to and from the bus stop every day, I was finally able to complete the required running in P.E. tests. If I had that driveway now, well, first it would be impossible where it snows, but second of all I would probably be in the shape of my life. People would stop hiking the butte and just show up at my driveway.

My friends' parents refused to go up it. They would drop me off at the bottom and just let me walk up. I guess they just assumed that I made it to the house okay. I was like 75 pounds, who would worry about a kid like that? Since it was windy, they couldn't even see the end. I could have been attacked by a lizard or a coyote on the way up.

For some reason, there was a gate at the top of the driveway. There was a fence around the whole property instead of just the back yard and the gate could be locked. I seriously worry about the people that lived there before us that they thought they needed an obstacle course and layers of security to get onto the property. I really don't think the peacocks on one side or the 70-year-olds on the other side posed any kind of threat.

The only time we closed the gate was when we were gone to keep the dogs inside. The rest of the time it was open because we had English bulldogs and they're not really highly motivated to wander off if they know their food provider is nearby.

Remember how nobody but us drove up it? Or my parents, since I was 12 and didn't drive, and really, thank goodness I didn't learn to drive on that driveway because I probably would have killed us all. Well, the one person who ever drove up was the Avon lady. She must have really, really wanted that pink Cadillac to risk the Most Treacherous Driveway Known to Man.

Now, our dogs were no longer used to seeing anyone but us since nobody but us ever made the trek. Also, they could probably smell her desperation. So they barked at her. I can imagine she was frightened because most people have an irrational fear of bulldogs, but by golly, she was going to get that pink Cadillac even if she needed an artificial leg to drive it with.

By the time she got to the door the dogs were in a near frenzy. They didn't trust her, they didn't like her, they wanted her to roll herself back down the hill. So when my mom opened the front door and our kitten went darting out, George, the only boy dog, grabbed the kitten in his mouth to defend her from the evil Avon lady who obviously would stop at nothing to get to us with her overrated makeup and cheap perfume.

Bulldogs were originally bred to fight. They were bred to fight bulls, hence the name. They were designed to clamp down on the neck of a bull and hold on until they brought the bull down. It all sounds very violent and ugly and inhumane, but this is the strength that came down on our poor little kitten. And I'm sure it looked very violent. The Avon lady screamed. My mom screamed at her to leave. The Avon lady screamed and said she was sorry (because she knew it was her fault). My mother told her that the best thing she could do would be to vacate our property immediately as she had done enough damage and to never, ever return again.

Of course as soon as she was gone, George released the kitten. He was only protecting it from her. The poor boy didn't realize what he had really done because he didn't realize how strong he was. He just reacted. With the best of intentions, of course. His jaws of steel crushed our poor little kitten and we lost her in a matter of minutes. The damage was too great, there wasn't even time to rush her to the vet.

George was not reprimanded. We cried because it was sad, but we knew he was only trying to protect his family. There was nothing even to forgive him for. Besides, he was never the smart one and it was clear that he was confused by our deep sadness. He was sure that he had done a Good Thing like a Good Boy.

I have never bought anything from Avon. I never will. I've never been friends with anyone affiliated with Avon, as far as I know. We blamed that woman for her stupidity and her insensitivity. We blamed her for the death of our little kitten.

I wasn't sure what the moral of that story was until recently. For the longest time it was just that Avon and stupid Avon ladies aren't to be trusted. But I think if that incident happened today, there would have been far more serious consequences for us and for George. Sure, she ignored a steep driveway and stepped onto a property despite the warning barks of dogs, but I bet today George would be blamed for what happened that day. In today's world he would be seen as a vicious animal and vicious animals are removed from their homes. We would have been devastated had he been taken from us. We loved our dumb George. And we knew that he was only protecting us, his family.

And this is what happens in the vast majority of the cases we hear about. Dogs are being dogs. Protecting their families, their territory, acting out of a sense of responsibility and often fear. We need to remember this. Respect a dog that's barking. Respect his boundaries and pay attention to his body language. Dogs can't talk to us in our language, but they are yelling at us to get our attention in theirs.

Still, I think the second moral of the story is that if you sell Avon, bad things will happen to you.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

How to Make People Think You Have a Mental Health Issue

You might think the title of this post refers to me. Surprisingly, it doesn't. Except in the respect that I was so disturbed by what I am about to tell you that my mental stability was at risk.

The wife and I went to breakfast yesterday. It's getting to be a regular Saturday routine, which makes me feel like a Sex and the City character, only we don't need four women, just two because the two of us make enough trouble for four people.

I digress.

When I walked to my table I saw a small baby in a high chair right next to us. It was abnormally tiny and not moving. It was also not dressed appropriately for the weather. That's because it wasn't a real baby. Silly me for assuming that restaurant high chairs are reserved for real babies. Duh. Especially in crowded restaurants where there's not enough space to start with. Yeah, let's waste it on a piece of plastic.

So that's not even the weird part. Or the real asshole part. It gets worse.

The dad had to go to the bathroom. The high chair was in his way. He very carefully slid it back so as not to disturb Fake Baby. And then he removed books from the book shelf behind him so that Fake Baby could see over the table. First it was just a few but I guess that wasn't enough. He put a whole freaking stack in the chair. For Fake Baby. And he didn't lift her up by her head, he gently asked his daughter hold her so he could get it just right. Like he didn't want to upset Fake Baby.

Okay. So maybe it was really sweet that he was showing his daughter's doll such tenderness in helping to care for her. But I really think that he believed the doll was real. It was weird. It was disturbing. And distracting. And really just fucking freaky.

I might have nightmares. Chucky has nothing on that Fake Baby bitch.

Lessons Learned at the Oregon Coast

I went on a little couple's retreat to the coast over the weekend. Actually it was kind of a family retreat since the puppies went along and left little room in the bed for us. Whatever. It's my favorite way to sleep.

Here are a few things I learned while I was there.

1. Rocks can be slippery and it hurts when one falls on them. However, I didn't bruise. Maybe I just don't have anymore blood.

2. Sea lions look like they're all best buddies when they're curled up together but they're constantly growling and biting at each other. They're nasty.

3. An excellent breakfast can't be duplicated when you order a different meal the next day. How are eggs and potatoes supposed to measure up to the best burrito ever? Also, it's good to get the one thing on the menu that sounds weird as a breakfast item. Like ham and asparagus crepes. Yum. With brandy sauce. Extra yum.

4. Ruby cares much more about her brother than she lets on. Remy wasn't feeling well after drinking salt water (duh) and spent the drive home shaking and acting pathetic. We covered him with a blanket but Ruby snuggled right up next to him to help keep him warm and comforted. She wouldn't even leave him to come snuggle with me.

5. Tables of Content is the best place for dinner on the coast. More on that later.

6. Not all clam chowders are created equal. Some of them aren't even any good. At all.

7. Traveling with dogs is awesome. They have the joy of discovery like small children without the whining or dirty diapers.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Baby Snuggles and New Beginnings

I told you about a special family in December. I've kept in touch with Mom since then and, even though I am incredibly lame and haven't yet finished Princess's armoir that I started three months ago, she invited me to come visit and see Baby Boy.

You guys, he is the sweetest little boy in the world! He just snuggled and sighed and melted my heart. And he is so healthy! He's a big boy at the 90th percentile. Mom is doing such a good job with him and, by the way, looks incredible. It's funny meeting someone at the height of pregnancy and puffiness and then discovering what they look like under all of that. She's beautiful.

Princess is doing so well. Her room was organized and filled with Barbies and movies and cleaned up so nicely. However, she assured me that it would soon be messy again because "that's what kids do." She is an absolute delight and I was so secretly thrilled to see that she was wearing the shoes that I had bought for her.

They had another reason for me to come over. They'd made up a thank you card for my office, for everyone who had helped them get their new start in life. Princess had colored and decorated it (she showed me specifically what she did) and Mom added pictures she had taken Christmas morning. There is so much happiness and love in that card. And it's huge! It's now hanging on our bulletin board in the hall.

I think a lot of times when we help someone it's in the short-term or it's anonymous or part of a huge effort such as hurricane relief. We don't get to see if our efforts truly matter. We don't know if we've made a difference. Which isn't the point, really. Giving comes from the heart and shouldn't expect anything in return.

Still, it's nice to see the difference for a change. It's heartwarming to see this family settled into their home with all of the things we take for granted. Furniture. A toaster. A bathmat. It's nice to know that a little girl has warm clothes to wear to school and a baby boy who likes to snuggle has soft blankets to cozy into at night. And that a mom can breathe a little easier with some of the burden off of her shoulders. She can take a break and think about her options. Because she has them now. She can think about returning to school because she doesn't have to worry about whether or not her daughter is going to have a bed to sleep in. She's strong and smart and just needed a little bit of help.

I'm grateful to have been a small part of that. If she's inspired to pay it forward, wonderful. If it stops with her and her children, I'm okay with that too. Because she's not out of the clear yet, she needs to figure out how to take care of her children in the long-term. It's not easy to start over and it's especially not easy as a single mom with an infant. I know she can do it. She's come so far already.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013


Last night D and I went to dinner. She was needing some mom time, I was needing some bread. I really needed to put myself into a coma after the craptastic day I had, but I settled for empty carbs.

When it came time to pay the bill, I had a small heart attack. Actually, it was just another crappy thing to add to my crappy day. See, during the day I had to take my ID out for the life exam lady and when I put my wallet away, I just threw it in the drawer on top of my purse. The stupid thing did not magically put itself away inside of my purse. Of course I forgot until I needed it. On the other end of town. After I had eaten my grilled chicken and D had her fill of shrimp pasta.

While images of washing dishes in shame flashed through my head, D calmly said, "Don't worry Mom, I can drive home. I have my ID." Because that is the first thing she thought of as a teenager who wants desperately to drive everywhere herself and only wishes she could do it alone. She wasn't thinking about doing dishes next to me.

Luckily, I use my debit card enough that I have the number memorized. When I tried to explain this to our waitress, she immediately called a manager over. As if I had grown horns and fangs since the last time she stopped by our table. Her reaction was reflected in her tip.

D did get to drive home. She came within an inch of hitting a camper, took the extra long way out of the parking lot, and nearly parked on top of the bikes in the garage, but didn't kill anyone. At least it was a good reminder to not forget my wallet again.

Friday, February 01, 2013

The Story of Kelsha

The first day that I met Kelsha was also the first day that I met KY's mom and his best friend. All of the important women in his life. He said his dog didn't like many people but she immediately ambled up to me on her short little legs and greeted me with a smile.

The second time I saw Kelsha she was having leg problems and was unable to get herself around. Even in her discomfort she wasn't displeased with me. I saw her a handful of times after that when she was outside and I was walking up to the house. Always friendly, always accepting of a pat on the head or scratch behind the ear.

This is not a long story because Kelsha is in her last chapter. She's slowing down and nearing the last few pages. I've been fortunate to be able to spend this last week with her. I didn't know her as a puppy or adult, but I am getting to know her senior self.

Kelsha is wonderful. In the way that only old dogs can be. She's sweet and has mastered the art of looking adorable by laying her head just so. She gently nudges my hand when I stop petting her and tolerates being covered under a blanket. Her head smells like a little cow and so that is what I call her now. Little Cow. I have fallen in love with her.

She no longer wants to eat. She might patiently take a bite or two of what's offered, but no more than that. Her back legs betray her and she often needs help getting back up. Some days she just wants to be carried. She's covered in benign tumors which can't feel good. It takes forever for her to walk anywhere and most of the time she just wants to lie down on her bed and sleep.

KY is endlessly patient with her. If I didn't love him already, this would be the way to my heart. He's so gentle and caring in a way that I haven't seen before. I think dogs have a way of bringing out our best in ways that we can't do for each other.

I may have missed the first 13 years of her life, but I'm grateful for the time I have had to get to know her. I feel privileged that they both have allowed me to spend this time together. There is now a special piece in my heart with Kelsha's name on it and in some way I will be a better person having had this precious experience.

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