Woe! It’s Wednesday: California History

I was born and raised in California and it’s only in the last few years that I’ve had the opportunity to travel much and visit other states. I didn’t realize that much of the country doesn’t know or understand the impact the early Spanish missionaries had on our state.

There are 21 missions surviving. I have always believed/heard/thought that the missions were built a day’s journey from each other. It makes sense, but I don’t know if I really did learn that or if it’s just something I heard once and figured it had to be true.

Carmel Mission
Carmel Mission

When our girls were in school, we visited many of the missions. San Gabriel, San Fernando. Carmel. Santa Barbara, Santa Ines.

This week we’re going to take our grand-daughter on her own mission tour. We’ll concentrate on Central Coast missions this time. We’re planning to visit San Juan Bautista, Carmel, San Miguel, San Luis Obispo, and La Purisma in Lompoc.

When you visit the east coast of our country, as I did for the first time in 2011, you get a feel for what youngsters we are in California. When the Declaration of Independence was being signed, California was a great unknown territory. Actually, everything west of the Mississippi was pretty much unknown.

Missions weren’t unique to California. Stud Muffin and I got to visit the Alamo in San Antonio last summer. The Alamo began life as a mission. It felt very familiar, with its adobe construction and grounds.

We’ll soon add a few more missions to our visited list. After this trip, we’ll only have Soledad and the six most northern left to visit. Santa Cruz, San Rafael, San Francisco, Santa Clara, San Jose, and Solano. Maybe this summer …

Book Talk Tuesday: Finding Me

It’s here! I finally got my hands on this baby Friday. I started reading and didn’t put it down until I finished it.

Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman
Finding Me by Kathryn Cushman

It officially releases on April 7th, but Amazon says its available today! I highly recommend you pop over and snap it up.

I’ve loved everything Katie Cushman has written but this one may be her best yet.

Kelli Huddleston’s world has imploded. Her father and step-mother were recently killed in an accident and as Kelli cleans out her father’s things, she discovers that everything she believed about herself and her father is a lie.

How do you go on after that?

For a women’s fiction book, this one was full of suspense. I had to keep turning the pages to see if Kelli was going to spill her secret to anyone.

The story begins in Santa Barbara then Kelli travels to Tennessee on a journey to find some answers. Along the way, she finds herself. And a whole lot more.

I love this one and recommend it enthusiastically!

Media Monday: Yours and Mine

Some people are Chevy folks. Others believe it has to be a Ford.

Same thing for Toyota vs. Honda.

Some people love McDonalds.  Others will only go to Burger King.

yinIt’s weird/funny/bizarre how we get set on these paths. But there has to be a reason for it.

Some people love Google. Others swear by Bing. I’m a Google girl, myself.

I’ve been a happy Pandora listener for years. Between Pandora, Soundrown while online, and XM radio, my listening needs are nicely satisfied.

But a few people have been telling me to check out I <3 Radio. I tried it a year or so ago and switched back to Pandora pretty quickly. Apparently Taylor Swift had a new album out, and literally every. other. song. was from her new album. It didn’t matter that “my” station was Contemporary Christian Music or that I hit Thumbs Down on every song, she still kept popping up every three to four minutes. I went back to Pandora and never looked back. I don’t have anything against Taylor Swift. In fact, I like a lot of her music, but I didn’t want to listen to her just then. So I didn’t.

Stud Muffin has started listening to I <3 Radio. But invariably, he gets frustrated because the songs being played aren’t what he wants to hear. When he’s busy, I go and change the station to Pandora, tell the app what he wants to listen to, and pretty soon he’ll say something like, “That’s better. Why did they have to play that other stuff before getting to the good stuff.”

;-) It’s our secret.

He thinks he’s an I <3 Radio guy, but really he’s a Pandora dude.

Food Talk Friday: Zippy’s on Maui

I thought we were going to Da Kitchen as soon as we landed in Maui, but instead we ended up at Zippy’s.

Zippys in Kahului
Zippys in Kahului

We found Zippy’s on our last trip. It’s kind of like a Denny’s on the mainland. Part diner. But there’s also a counter service to get food to go. And a bakery (malasadas, anyone?).

It’s near the airport. It has a large menu. American dishes. Asian food. Hawaiian favorites. You name it, you can probably get it at Zippys.

I had fried chicken which Stud Muffin denigrated, saying I could get that at home at any KFC. But the chicken was nicely seasoned and just the right amount of crispiness. A couple of our party got Loco Mocos, the rice, hamburger, egg, and gravy dish. A new arrival to the island ordered the turkey club sandwich and swooned as she ate it.

The food isn’t fancy. It isn’t gourmet. It’s plain, unadorned, filling, generous, and tasty.

In other words, just as we like it.

Woe! It’s Wednesday: Home Again

We’re home!

We had a whirlwind week in Maui.

Ocean view from our lanai!
Ocean view from our lanai!

A wedding. Swimming. Meltdowns. Beach. Whales. Food. Sand. Leis.

All of the above were part of our week, but none of them does justice to our time there.

We hit the ground running and didn’t stop for several days. We did go to the beach after about three days and it was heavenly.

I’m not normally a morning person, but for some reason, I can wake up early in Hawaii and enjoy it. I know it’s probably the time change, but even after a few days, I was falling asleep at 11:00 instead of 8:00 but still waking up around 6. I love that about me in Hawaii.

At this time of year, the humpback whales are in Hawaii to give birth view 3and breed. We love being on the water and watching them. We love sitting on the beach and watching them. We love sitting on the lanai and watching them. Basically, anytime we have an ocean view, we’re looking for whales.

To the right is a picture I shot from the deck of the boat on which we took a whale-watching excursion. It’s a calf, about to try to breach (when the whale throws him/herself out of the water, spins, and lands). We saw many of these baby breaches and a few large breaches.

We came home happy and exhausted. And looking forward to our next trip. Whenever it may be.

Book Talk Tuesday: Calling Me Home

Between the time I wrote last week’s Book Talk Tuesday post and our trip to Maui, I did read this one. It’s excellent.

CALLING ME HOME is told in two points of view. Isabelle McAllister is 90-years-old and wants to travel from Texas to Cincinnati for a funeral. Dorrie Curtis is Isabelle’s hair dresser and a friend. Dorrie is in her 30s, a single mother, and is African-

CALLING ME HOME by Julie Kibler
CALLING ME HOME by Julie Kibler

American.

The unlikely pair sets out from Texas and Isabelle spins a story from her youth. She tells Dorrie about her first love, a young black man whose mother worked for Isabelle’s family.

Isabelle grew up protected. Robert grew up with the reality that he couldn’t be seen on the streets of town after dark without being beaten, arrested, or killed.

Their story is spooled out during Isabelle and Dorrie’s drive cross-country and is interspersed with Dorrie’s own story of a looming problem with her teenage son and the man she’s dating.

The identity of the deceased whose funeral Isabelle is heading toward is hinted at nicely. I figured out who it was (not Robert) pretty early on, but it was still gratifying to be right when it was revealed at nearly the end of the book.

The writing is lovely, the story is simple and tragic at the same time.

It’s inevitable that CALLING ME HOME will be compared to THE HELP. There are some similarities, but they are completely different stories. I believe CALLING ME HOME is in development to be made into a movie. More comparisons will follow, I’m sure. But this is an excellent book and it deserves to stand on its own. I recommend it.

Media Monday: McFarland USA

McFarland USA could have been just another “poor kids make good,” movie.

It is that, but it’s a lot more, too.

McFarland, USA
McFarland, USA

Set in 1987, McFarland USA is the story of Coach Jim White who takes a job as an assistant football coach in a dusty and dreary spot in the middle of California. If you’ve driven Highway 99 between Bakersfield and Fresno, you’ve driven through McFarland. You probably didn’t stop though. It’s a small town, populated by mostly migrant farmworkers. The people work hard and barely make ends meet. Education is sometimes sacrificed to the need to eat and put food on the table.

Coach White has … ummm … “anger management,” issues and he knows McFarland is his last stop before he has to find another way to support his family, other than coaching. Sure enough, he crosses the head football coach and is relieved of his coaching duties. He can still stay and teach, but he wants to do more. He’s a coach. Some people are born singers, or whittlers, or bakers. White is a coach.

He notices that several of the kids in his PE class can run. They carb load on rice and beans all day, they work in the fields before school, and then they run. White proposes a cross country team to the principal.

Because McFarland USA is billed as a feel-good sports movie, you can pretty much figure out the rest of the story. They start running. They place and win some meets. Then they make it to the state cross country championships.

The movie is well-written, well-cast, and well-acted. There were a few cringe-ish moments, but overall, it’s not sentimental, it applauds hard work, both in the field and on the track. Stud Muffin did not like the quinceañera scene, but I was okay with it. He’s right, it was nothing like a real quinceañera, but in the movie, it was a gringo celebration, so it didn’t bother me.

Kevin Costner hit the right notes as a man who knows he’s staring unemployment in the face if he can’t figure out how to get out of his own way. He respects the kids and their parents and the hard life they live without complaint. Maria Bello is excellent as his wife, with a nice mix of exasperation and devotion to her husband.

Our beautiful bride daughter works in McFarland and her building has a small part in the movie. The market and taco shop which are featured heavily, are across the street from her office. Filming was a big deal for the town and its residents. They are justly proud of their cross country team, their coach, and now, their story.

Food Talk Friday: Javier’s

Fresno and the Central Valley is full of great Mexican food. You can’t swing a stuffed tamale without hitting a taco truck, fast food Mexican, or a sit down restaurant.

Javier's, from Yelp.com
Javier’s, from Yelp.com

Stud Muffin first took me to Javier’s years ago when he worked in Fresno. I loved it from the first bite. I don’t get there very often because it’s as far from me as it can be and still be in Fresno.

Last week we went to lunch and I requested Javier’s. Stud Muffin knows I love it, but he didn’t feel as strongly about their food as I did. Until yesterday. He kept saying, “This is better than I remember.” I kept sighing and eating.

The chips are light and crispy, thinner than any other tortilla chips I’ve had. The salsa isn’t hot but it has spice and flavor and is delicious. The tacos were amazing. The tortilla is thicker than what the chips are made out of, so it stands up to each bite and doesn’t fall apart. The ground beef enchiladas tasted rich and beefy. Stud Muffin said they tasted like they were made with shredded beef instead of ground.

Yes, it’s “Americanized” Mexican food. Stud Muffin’s standard is if there is lingua on the menu. And there’s not. But he enjoyed his food anyway, so that’s a ringing endorsement.

I’m so glad that he loved last week’s lunch. Maybe I’ll get to go back more often than every two to three years.

Woe! It’s Wednesday: Vacations and Birthdays and Weddings

I’m writing this before we head to Maui for a week. While there, we’ll be celebrating a daughter’s wedding, a grand-daughter’s birthday, Saint Patrick’s Day, and try to cram in some relaxing.

The view from the church yard where Charles Lindbergh is buried.
The view from the church yard where Charles Lindbergh is buried.

We love being on the water. We love watching whales at this time of year. We love hanging by the pool. We love trying new restaurants. We love just driving around the island. We love being tourists. But we love knowing some of the local hangouts and secrets for life on the island.

It took a couple of trips, but when we were last on Maui in 2013, I finally found and visited Charles Lindbergh’s final resting place near Hana.

Each trip has seemed to focus on something. Finding the Seven Sacred Pools. Finding the graveyard. Whales. Turtles.

This may be the first trip with no “must do” or “must see.”

Other than getting a daughter married. That’s the primary focus of this trip. That and then we’ll concentrate on relaxing.

We’ve had some hard news in our family recently and we’re ready for a brief respite from real life.

Where do you like to go to escape from real life?