Oh Ojai!

It has been a very busy and challenging (get to that in the next post) year but I finally decided to pick this blog back up and let you all know about a wonderful little oasis in California called Ojai, overlooking the beautiful Topa Topa mountains.topatopa

I needed to plan a vacation – long over due. In August I had 2 weekends in a row I had to be in LA. I decided to figure out a spot to vacation driving distance from LA for the week in between. Ojai – a very small town in the hills just south and east of Santa Barbara – is a beautiful, spiritual and quiet place to unplug. It’s also a very pet friendly place I came to find out, so the hound was THRILLED.

Stayed at the Capri Hotel, this darling renovated mid-century hotel that didn’t look like much on the outside but was a wonderful (pet friendly) surprise inside! The rooms were clean and spacious with a little patio so the dog could relax in the sun. They also have a huge grassy area off the patio that was approved for off leash fun!

grassyarea

We hiked every day and found new great trails all around the town. The main street is like a mile long… maybe 2 max. It’s filled with coffee shops, restaurants, little boutiques and parks. Stopped in for lunch at Suzanne’s Cuisine the first day and enjoyed a beautiful caprese salad and tuna crostini. The next night I tried a local mexican joint, Casa de Lago, that had fantastic margaritas! The food was fine and resulted in usual mexi-coma effect after. Then next night I walked into Osteria Monte Grappa and took a seat at the bar.

cocktail

The friendly bartender made me the special cocktail of the eve using locally grown pixie tangerines, vodka and lemon juice – I added a little basil to it for a finishing touch. Yum! Chatted with some other locals sitting next to me and enjoyed the homemade raviolis.

Ojai is great, you can do so much with so many activities so close. One afternoon I went down to the beach, about a 30 min drive, just south of Santa Barbara and met some friends and enjoyed the sand.beach

Another afternoon I had to go check out the famous Ojai Valley Inn where I took a golf lesson and enjoyed a salad in the bar afterward. Not sure I’d recommend eating there as a caesar salad and a glass of wine came out to almost $50 (including tip) but it was the experience I was paying for. The golf lesson was fantastic and well worth the cost.

Another key find was this little massage parlor just next to the hotel called the Bamboo Creek Spa. Another ‘not so much from the outside’ vibe but the massage was fantastic and cost couldn’t be beat! $60 (included tip) for 60 minutes! Unheard of!

So if you’re in California and looking for a great little weekend getaway look into Ojai – especially if you have a dog that also loves vacations…

happyhound

 

 

 

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1 year, 1 month and 1 hell of a lifestyle change

Amazing views on walks to work

Amazing views on walks to work

Alright, alright, alright… I’m finally getting used to living here. I’m happy to go to my very expensive and very SF apartment home at the end of a day. I’m seeing more and more people I know on my walks w/my dog and meeting more lovely people in the neighborhood. It’s becoming ‘home’. Car hasn’t been broken in to in the last few months. Things appear to be settling.

I’m actually quit happy about the weather. I like fog and being able to bundle up… I don’t miss the 100+ days of LA and sweating constantly. I like being to walk to so many places. I found my dry cleaner, my waxer/pedi lady, my little spot for coffee I hit on my way to work where they know me, my spot for the best deviled egg or martini. Again, settling!

Another thing you really don’t see coming is the expectation you have on your old friends that you left back in the previous city. In your old city you saw/chatted with them daily. When you move many fall to the shadows and don’t reach out again. Not sure if it’s outta sight outta mind? Or you were just the one to start those conversations and if you’re not there to do it, they become less and less. It’s a tough one to grasp at first. It was for me. Having to make friends at 40 is weird. BUT, happily, I am. Old friends reconnected, new friends to hike with, drink with, shop with and even just gab away with over wine. Some stick, some don’t… you make your way through that part of the process slowly.

There is a lot more DIY in this city…something I’m not too familiar with. But I did try to pickle some veggies. Turns out I’m not a bad DIY’er!

1234481_10151616717488176_1256978545_nGreen & yellow string beans, cauliflower, small red potatoes, radishes, beets and carrots. This recipe from the Food Network was simple and rather delicious if I might say. And the beets make it really pretty.

Another adventure along the way…about 2 months ago, I found a dog. Yes, found. In a city as dog friendly as SF, apparently people toss them aside too. I found this guy one afternoon walking my hound- no collar, no leash, nada.

photoThis scraggly little guy looked like he’d be out on his own for weeks! Hair was so long he could hardly see. Matted hair with twigs and who knows whatever else I had to cut away. No chip nor any responses to the various places I listed the little guy. As much as I fell for him, this guy needed a home. So after 3 weeks of looking and posting a fabu friend of mine couldn’t resist his face and offered to take him. After his 3rd bath and another bad hair cut to get him to this cuteness he went to his new home.

photo copyI’ve seen more abandoned dogs in SF… but at least one was taken off the streets, fed and cleaned up.

Martinis and whiskey drinks seem to be big here. I wasn’t into rye drinks before but maybe due to the chill of this SF air, the whiskey makes you a little warmer. I use to think the mixology thing was annoying and took far too long to get a drink. Now I have a bit more of an appreciation. In fact so much that I had to take a pic and tell you about the amazing bartenders at Park Tavern and their way-too-easy-to-drink-yummy manhattans.

1175199_10151615091463176_1781498195_nIt’s easy to order more than one…but not totally recommended 🙂 Enjoy!

So alright, some interesting times I’ve written about over the past year. I’m sure there’s more ahead. Exploring this part of Cali is on the list for the next few months so I’ll let ya know what I find out. More soon.

 

 

 

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The truth about San Francisco that no one ever tells you – pictures not appropriate due to the content of this post

Oh San Francisco … Crissy Field, the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Bay Bridge light installation, At&t Park, The Pink Ladies, Noe Valley, Golden Gate Park, the marina area. This is just to name a few beautiful and picturesque places people LOVE to visit and live in SF for. In fact everything in SF is practically picturesque when your chin is pointing straight out or up.

The unspoken truth of SF is revealed when you have to look down.

San Francisco is a really gross city. No seriously… I love it here, but having a dog has shown me a whole new side of this city.

There is a street fair or some event practically every weekend. With these fun events comes alcohol and a ton of young inexperienced boozers that don’t eat, don’t stop drinking and don’t mind where they vom around town. Yes, that’s out there… in quite a few places. Especially after Giants games it seems. That is ONE example of nasty human leftovers I’ve (unfortunately) come across around town which has taught me to be a much more aware dog owner.

Let me tell you about a couple more! Please enjoy.

Another fun thing some humans in SF don’t bother with is restrooms. I’ve had this lesson thrown in my face quite a few times since moving here.

Funny story. So it’s around 9:30pm and taking the hound for her end of eve stroll. A cab pulls over on the street I’m walking along and the driver jumps out while leaving a window rolled down. Thinking ‘that is not a good idea…the thieves in this city are every where!’ So being a good samaritan I holler to him “Hey! You left your window down on this side!” His response? He stops, looks at me like I’m crazy and answers with “I’m just going over here to take a leak.” And walks off to a very public bush off a busy sidewalk. Lesson learned. Again.

Now, SF does have a HUGE homeless issue and it’s impressive that the city is so tolerant. I just feel that if I’m having to yell at my dog to ‘DROP IT’ while she’s sniffed out someone’s #2 from some bush I’m casually walking by that MAYBE something could be done about this. (Side note, my dog doesn’t like/eat dog poop so I know when it’s from a 2 legged creature. So gross.) Or the guy who happened to be squatting against a wall one morning that was along a path I run. He startled me and I startled him and then he quickly tried to pants up. This is the reality of SF. This is also happening in a very nice neighborhood with many tourist attractions around. This isn’t the Tenderloin. Altho, I avoid that area for obvious reasons.

Another fun fact is with the homeless come a lot of left over food being tossed to the side. WAIT!  I shouldn’t just blame the homeless on this one. There are some SERIOUSLY inconsiderate people in this world and it seems like a lot of them live here. The amount of trash, broken bottles, gum, cig butts and lord know what ever else it is that you carefully avoid on the sidewalk is obnoxious!

As I was saying… what comes with all these inconsiderate people seems to be a lot of chicken bones. Like, seriously amazing amounts of chicken bones ALL OVER the sidewalks, lovely grassy parks, hedges in front of homes and building… chicken bones are EVERY WHERE!! It’s shocking seeing that SF is a really dog friendly city. You’d think folks would be a little more considerate and conscious about their littering. But they’re littering in the first place so… guess that says it all.

This post is not meant to deter folks from coming to this beautiful city many people have left their hearts in, it’s merely to make sure you know what the hell you should keep an eye out for.  Don’t walk barefoot for goodness sake. I saw a woman doing that last weekend and almost became one of those people to vom on the sidewalk. I hope she washed her feet when she got home.

Keep your chin up but I’d look down every so often so you don’t step in anything 🙂

 

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San Francisco hates my car.

No… seriously… it does.

I’ve had my cute little 1 series for over 3 years while I lived in LA and NEVER had a problem with it. It got me everywhere quickly and in style. It was perfect for me. Then I move to the ‘beautiful San Francisco’ and about 2 months after I start to settle in the attack on my innocent little car begins.  “Leave nothing in your car” was what everyone told me. So I make a point to clean it out every night when I park it in what is a ‘quiet, safe little neighborhood’. One morning I come out to find this happened:broken-inThere was an iPod in the secret hidden compartment in the center console… how they knew it was there I’ll never know. But they did and they got it. That’s all they got and just shattered that passenger window. I chalked this up to the SF criminal welcoming committee. Fine… the move went smooth something was bound to happen.

Then one morning a couple weeks later I walk out to my ‘safely’ parked car and sorta squint my eyes… must be a funny reflection, right?Hit1-2 Hit1-1

Nope…parked on Grant some delivery truck turned the corner too tight and side swiped it. Didn’t leave a note. Just took off. A lovely neighbor however did witness it and left his # and what he thought to be the license plate he’d tried to grab. Nothing. Cops didn’t find him or didn’t bother and insurance never said a word. Thanks jerk.

Another two weeks go by and there is a TON of construction in my neighborhood. I was warned about being VERY careful where to park, look for the signs, don’t think they won’t ticket you cause parking enforcement is insane around here. Fine. So I take extra care and make sure I’m parked behind the construction zones marked. What happens? Towed. Now I have to contest it because I was parked exactly where other cars were parked prior to and after that one particular Friday that some a-hole decided he wanted more space for his construction. Total B.S. I have pictures… they better give me my $555.50 back.

I’m not done!

Another week goes by and after work I have a hair appt in the Alamo Square area. So I park my car in a nice neighborhood spot. 2 lanes, cars parked on either side, under a light, not on a corner and no stop light near. Feeling confident I go relax and get my hair did.

As I walk up to my car chatting with my mother on the cellie… I pause and wonder why my car has been moved about 4-5 feet… now blocking someones driveway and looking a little…ummmm… lopsided. The arrow shows where my car was originally parked.Hit2-1

So I look closer and behind me and see these in the direction of my  little, again, innocent vehicle. Hit2-2

What the F???? What was this person doing and how did they hit my car that badly on a quiet little street? Hit2-3

I walk around and to my surprise there is yet another note. This time it said “this will be fully taken care of” and proceeded to leave her information and insurance number. THANK GOODNESS.

Yes, there are good people out there but seriously why does San Francisco hate my car so much? What did it ever do to you?

Long story and far too many  incidents later the result of her hit actually totaled my car. Yep, TOTALED. So you know what I did after I hung the phone with the guy at the garage? I had a long-time coming melt down right there in my office. Embarrassing but shit…moving to a new city and new job was enough stress. The holidays w/o my dad for the 2nd year had me down already… THEN THIS BULLSHIT. I know it’s a car. It’s just a thing. Neither myself nor my dog were in the car. Super thankful. But what a pain in the ass. So I say meltdown was well in order. I’m a girl for goodness sake and my emotions got the better of me.

Now I’m waiting to see what the poor gal was worth and what I do next. Get a lower end, USED small car and pay for a garage to park it in.

I want a car. I love to drive and I travel out of the city almost every weekend. It’s my reality and I’m ok with that. I just need something that can take a bit more of a beating. This post was more of a rant and a warning to those who move here with nice cars. Make sure you have a safe place to park it. SF hates new cars apparently.

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Pork shoulder. Perfect for a rainy day dinner

It’s been 5 months now and I’m very much still NOT used to this weather but I’m started to get better with it. The rain gear; umbrellas, galoshes, coats – one for running and one for walking, the dog rain gear, the towels strewn about the floor to walk on when you enter your apt sopping wet… the list goes on! And yes, I said ‘dog gear’… she gets so wet and smelly! Anything I can do to reduce wet dog smell and whatever her coat picks up as we’re walking

Hates the rain

Hates the rain

So one of the first rainy Sunday afternoons called for a good comfort food dinner. I had received an email with recipes and one for an ‘all purpose pork shoulder‘ and couldn’t resist clicking. It was great! It gave the directions for a simple and tasty pork shoulder and then 10 more recipes on what to make with it.

First I made the chili, which normally I feel is too heavy and just sits in your belly afterward but this recipe was much lighter and had a great flavor. And I might have added a few things to spruce it up a bit as well.

gathered the ingredients

gathered the ingredients

Yes, some canned goods were used, but when it’s raining and you want to hit the store once you just grab what is available.

02

Time to sautee the veggies while the meat is cooking for a few hours.

03Pictures really don’t do this justice but the smell of my apartment and the little crispy bits falling off the bone were just what I wanted out of this cooking afternoon.

04Like butter baby… just shred and pile it up.

05

Mixin it up!

I added a little wine to give it a little something extra. The portions were great as well. Made about 4 main dish servings. It had a lot of good chunks of peppers and beans and wasn’t too ‘soupy’.

06

As I stated before you make due with what’s available, but I’ll tell ya… the Safeway bakery corn bread was AWESOME. Super yummy and moist. It was a perfect little side snack with the chili. 07

I added some avocado, cheddar cheese and some green onions to top it off. A little tortilla on the side if I wanted some good scooped bites.

08

The next night I made the pasta recipe which was fine… probably my least favorite out of the three I made. Then next night I made the tacos which were awesome! I ate them so quickly that I completely blanked on taking a picture of the pretty little guys.

I loved this article the idea of taking one main ingredient and making up several different delicious meals that you can’t get tired of throughout the week.

09

tulips are out now and make any kitchen a happy kitchen… with a happy cook

Another rainy day a couple weeks later I was in the mood for soup. Now, this is not from that pork shoulder article, but from Ina’s  new Foolproof cookbook that’s out now. (This is a great gift for any cook!) I made the tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons. Seriously one of the best tomato soups I’ve had. This will be a repeat all winter long. Besides, who doesn’t love grilled cheese w/tomato soup??

10

So here’s to attempting to figure out the weather, what to eat, what to wear, what to drink (I’ve been partial to a lot of bourbon drinks lately), how to food shop and how much to buy since you most likely will have to carry it a couple blocks as well as potentially up hills.

Cheers!

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My new life in San Francisco…what a trip

San Francisco… what is there to say. People love this place. It’s foggy a lot, it’s got the Giants and the 9er’s – two teams I never cheated on while living in LA for over 20 years. It’s got a couple famous bridges, some hippies, lots of homeless, plenty of weed and within that 7×7 bubble you can find all sorts of fun new things to explore and check out… aside from the homeless. They’ll find you.

I think I brought the LA sun because with the exception of a few morning fog bits it’s been amazing and sunny. I’m sure I’ll get the real truth come Fall, but right now I’m enjoying it. Walking to work, figuring out the ‘layers layers layers’ advice that everyone has given me, sorting out the grocery shopping options, mani & pedi spots, dog friendly bars and patios, where my local haunt will be for the perfect after work martini, aside from my darling little apartment. So much to get used to. I had LA DIALED. Here, it’s small but dang… those hard to see street signs, hidden stop lights signals on the side and those freaking one-way streets, which are ever so narrow, this is NOT LA.

The move went well, no real damage and am pretty much settled now after 6 weeks here.

oops… got a little stuck there

I live in a darling little area called North Beach. It’s quaint and very ‘neighborhood’esque’. People that have lived here forever take their part of the City very seriously and care for it greatly. Italian food, bars and tourists are o-plenty. Finding that everywhere is practically dog friendly so miss four-legs is loving it. pigeons, seagulls, new smells have made her a happy tail-wagger. Tini enjoys the sand, but not the water. Which is fine… less mess for the ride home.

photo opp!

So now the logistics.

What to wear; jackets, scarves, sneakers and how many ‘layers’ to plan for in 1 day! I’ve bought 8 pairs of sneakers and have returned 6 of them. Even with the 2 I’ve kept they’re not ‘walking’ shoes for my 2.5 mile stroll to work. I don’t wanna be that ‘running trainer’ wearing person…how touristy!

a couple i’ve tried

Good’ol Zappos – I tried some Privo’s which were too wide and some Pumas which just didn’t have the support I needed. So I’m still on the hunt. I do have an old pair of Merrells which are great for my long walks but I’d like some options.

Then one must assess the perfect jacket… not to hot, not too thin. After my (I miss her so much) old neighbor got this Patagonia jacket last year and has worn it to death I figured it would probably be a good item in the closet for this cooler climate living.

the nano puff jacket

It’s super light weight and squishes down to nothing – great for packing. And layering!

The other big deal? Where to get the right coffee… shit, these people are SERIOUS about their coffee. I haven’t used my Starbuck’s app in weeks! Philz, Blue Bottle, The Creamery, Cento, Caffe Triest… all ‘very’ hip and THE places to get the good coffee. There are plenty more hot spots but these are just the ones I’ve tried. San Francisco is a coffee snob city.

SF has ‘smaller’ appliances in the dwellings… like NYC with more compact stovetops or fridges or overall apartment size. In my move I ditched my once-worked-but-not-anymore Breville espresso maker. (It gave me 3 really good years.) I realized in my new digs that that large machine had no counter space love for it. Did a little research and asked a couple coffee snobs I happen to know and netted out with this little number. The Bodum Chambord Stovetop Espresso Maker. Gotta do things a bit more for yourself in this set up so I also purchased a milk frother. That little guy froths the crap out of that milk in seconds!

i LOVE this thing!

The routine is coming together, but very very slowly. At least I have a few of the essentials down. It’ll all just take a little more time. As find more of the ‘must haves’ and must figure out I’ll let you know. For now, I’m just getting ready for Fall… and the perfect black flat knee high black boot. Frye?

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Squash Blossoms… stuff’em!

Again, I’ve been TERRIBLE at this blog stuff lately!! I can say, however, I have a really good excuse! This summer was a summer of change…in more ways than one. All for the better, but a lot at once. I quit my job in LA and took a new gig in San Francisco. So that meant moving. What a lot to keep track of! I had so many lists! Organize, pack, apartment hunt, celebrate, pack some more, celebrate some more, take in all LA has to offer before moving to the foggy city… like the farmers markets, then celebrate some more.

I’m sure SF has some great farmers markets, but even tho I was moving I still had to stock up on the amazing veggies that were arriving.

Like squash blossoms.

So pretty and so ready to have something stuffed into the blossom and fried! What to stuff them with was the question. Every recipe called for ricotta cheese which isn’t my total favorite. I looked in my fridge and had a log of feta, some fresh basil, thyme and chives. Figured that some herbed feta would work just as well. Chopped up the herbs and added a little S&P.So once you pinch out the stamen and mix up your stuffing you’re ready to rock. I sort of took the best of a few recipes for a simple beer batter for the frying part and loosely followed the Mozza technique. I love Nancy and team and all that they do. If I am looking for inspiration and wondering what to cook I pull out one of her books or look her up online for ideas. OR just head over to Osteria Mozza and grab a seat at the bar. At least I used to be able to do that before I moved 😦 I couldn’t take a picture because my hands were covered in batter, but after you dredge them through the batter you drop them into your vat of boiling oil (which happens to be my biggest fear of ways to die -in a vat of boiling oil –  super realistic! but I digress)I kept an eye on them until they looked a bit golden. About 3 minutes. I love that these had the little squash still attached. Made for a delish appetizer to eat with you fingers. As complicated  as they ‘sound’ they’re really not. A bit messy but totally worth it. Now I just have to wait another 11 months for them to come back. In the meantime I’ll hunt around my new hood for fun markets, specialty grocery stores and new foods inspired by SF to cook and blog about.

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