Community Quilt 133

29 03 2014

I’ve never done a ‘whole cloth’ quilt before, though I’ve admired those I’ve seen. For those not familiar with the term, a whole cloth quilt is created from one piece of fabric for the top — no piecing, no blocks sewn together, no applique. Typically, the single piece of fabric is one colour with no pattern in it, often a light colour like cream or white, though I have seen some stunning whole cloth quilts done in black. The decoration comes from the quilting.

My challenge with this quilt was to take someone’s whole cloth top that they had carefully marked (the blue lines) in 12″ squares and a 4″ (?) border, and make something of it. Instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, I followed the markings the creator had made, then added fills where I thought they were necessary. I didn’t do ANY ruler work in this piece — all the ‘straight’ lines are either deliberately wonky, or are done by ‘eyeballing’ an imaginary straight line.

The centre square was the only one that didn’t have any markings, so I found a picture of a square Celtic knot and printed it out then marked it up with orange chalk.

The person who marked up this quilt did an awesome job in the ‘borders’ as she segued from one design to another in a seamless manner.

I REALLY REALLY hope that when this quilt gets washed before it gets given away that the marks come out! That said, the back looks pretty stunning too! ๐Ÿ˜‰

(Some of the photos weren’t as good as I’d like — it was pretty windy outside and rain was threatening)

(Click on a photo to view it larger)


Some of the designs after I had only stitched the marked lines:



And then I quilted each square….

I started with this one, as I figured that 1/8″ straight lines creating a checkerboard effect of about 1″ diamonds would suit the markings:









With the central Celtic knot design, I did some very tight scribble stitching inside the background areas, then less and less tight stitching heading out to the edge to the 12″ square. I was really pleased with how it came out, as my original intention was to do tight scribble stitching for the entire square. However, I thought it might pull the quilt out of shape if I did that, so I changed tack and made the outer areas far less tight, though it’s still scribble stitching.


Detail of some of the border designs:






And this is the back:


Time taken: About 6 hours or so (maybe 10??? — I wasn’t keeping track…)

Threads used:

  • Top: Fil-Tec ‘Glide’ (40 wt trilobal polyester, Cream, colour 20001)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Glide pre-wound bobbin (white)


Community Quilt 132

23 03 2014

This was quite a traditional snowball block quilt, with lots of small floral fabrics used in all the scrappy squares.

I stitched in the ditch around all the blocks first, then did the cathedral windows/orange peel motif in all the blocks of little squares (each scrap square was about 1.5 inches square),with a half flower in the half square triangles setting off the snowballs. In each snowball, I did a single loopy spine and bulbous feathers. All stitching was done in the same variegated pastels (pink, yellow, green, blue, and cream) thread. In the black floral border, I did flames all the way along. I didn’t stitch the pink border.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)


quilt132_02ย  quilt132_04


Threads used:

  • Top: Fil-Tec ‘Harmony’ (‘Spring’, colour 14062; 40 wt cotton)
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec ‘Glide’ pre-wound bobbin in white


Community Quilt 131

23 03 2014

I liked this bright scrappy quilt! The crisp white set it off perfectly. I think this pattern was used ( or a variation of it.

How to quilt it? First I stitched in the ditch around all the blocks to stabilise the quilt. My next thought was ‘modern’ with lots of straight lines, but then I decided to just do the straight lines in the centres of the sashing and border strips, using white thread. Once that was all stitched, I tackled the small squares. This time I decided to do the cathedral windows/orange peel motif as it’s quick, easy, and gives a great effect of circles and/or flowers. I used a variegated red, yellow, blue, and green thread for these sections. And I finished off the sashing/borders with the scrappy squares using the cathedral windows motif, but in white thread.

(Click on a photo to view it larger)




Threads used:

  • Top: Confession: ANCIENT cotton overlocker thread in both white and a variegated red, yellow, blue and green! Using up my thread stash…
  • Bottom: Fil-Tec Glide pre-wound bobbin in white


Designs, signs, and other oddities

14 03 2014

This post is full of miscellaneous signs, oddities, patterns/designs, I came across in the US.


I’m starting to see patterns/designs everywhere — maybe it’s my quilting eye? Here are a few:


Layered acrylic pieces in black, white, grey. I can see this as a quilt…


More quilty goodness — licorice allsorts, anyone?


This is DEFINITELY a free motion quilting pattern in the making!


More potential quilty goodness…


These circles look like alien spacecraft when looking at them at an angle up the hotel corridor. The centre section looks like another quilt… I like the ‘borders’ too.



Weird signs


I guess no-one told the crow about the restricted parking.


I don’t know how you can report a mountain lion that doesn’t retreat to the Park Headquarters when it is threatening you!


Other than the need to reword this sign (I’m always editing!), I have to wonder WHAT made them put it up… Not something I want to think about for too long…


Two things — 3199 people is a very specific number. Why not 3200? Will an extra person cause the courtyard to collapse? Secondly, ‘adult in attendance’ is not going to help children under 14. There could be 3198 adults in attendance, but it doesn’t mean that any one of them is watching out for a child under 14. I think they meant an adult with a supervisory/parenting/guardianship role over their children under 14.


Again, what prompted the hotel to put up this sign a few inches from the ceiling? Did someone once hang their clothes on the room’s fire sprinkler? The sign says ‘Contact with sprinkler will cause flooding’.

Oddities and bits and pieces


Yes, seriously! Two people were parading their dogs advertising their doggie sunglasses business. This one had these chic red sunglasses on, and was wearing a little dress (with a frilled skirt!) in a pink and cherry pattern. Only in Palm Springs… or Venice Beach!


‘How humiliating!’


I know it doesn’t rain very often in Palm Springs, but from the size of this downpipe outlet, I suspect when it does, it rains VERY heavily and for a short duration. That outlet could sure push out a large volume of water very quickly.


Love the rustiness and flaky paint on this fire hydrant and the one below, but I wonder if they are still active?


Feeling mortal

14 03 2014

You coast through life, not thinking too much about death and the fact that your time on earth will come to an end at some point. Then a few things start to get a little too close for comfort and you’re staring down the face of your own mortality.

So it was for me this trip to the US.

Later this year I have a ‘zero’ birthday, so that’s always a time for reflection. And a time to realise that I have fewer years left on this earth than I’ve lived. At 25, 30, and even 40 you don’t really feel that, but there comes a point where it’s bleeding obvious. And so I’ve made the decision that if I really want to do something I will — life really is too short.

But back to my latest US trip. During my two weeks there (and in the months beforehand), these things happened to people close to me:

  • A friend in Vancouver, Canada was diagnosed with breast cancer and is currently undergoing chemo. Like the friend below, she is asking for and getting help from friends, acquaintances, etc. and not trying to tough it out herself, strong though she is. (Update: Six days after writing this post, my friend passed away [21 March 2014, aged 58]. She took a turn for the worse during the week, was admitted to hospital overnight with a cough she couldn’t get rid of, then to the ICU as her immune system had broken down with the chemo, then, after catastrophic organ failure, her family made the decision to turn off her life support — as per her wishes. She slipped away within a few minutes. Fly free, Emma! You had guts, determination, balls, a HUGE heart, said what you thought, and you lived life to the fullest, grabbing each day by the hands and wringing out every drop. You will be missed by a legion of friends and family around the world. And by your beloved kittehs.)
  • A friend in California is losing her husband to a tumour on the spine. The prognosis is that even with chemo drugs etc. he maybe has another two years, but the reality is that they might have another six months or five years together — no-one knows. No matter what, whatever happens from here on in will only get harder — both the caregiving and the reality of his death. She is being very realistic and is asking for help, but I wonder how much of her realistic attitude is just her brave front to the world? She now can’t work much outside the home, and travelling to other states to work is out of the question (she’s a freelancer/contractor, so that curtails her earning potential right at a time of her life when she needs it most; however, she is the ‘poster child’ for ‘Obamacare’ as she says that without it for his treatment and pain meds she was staring down the barrel of losing their house and declaring bankruptcy just a few months ago). (Update: Her husband passed away peacefully at home, 30 April 2016.)
  • Another friend and his family in California lost their beautiful 19-year-old daughter and sister in a car crash; she was a passenger in a car being driven by a drunk/drugged driver. The driverย has been sentenced to 10 years’ jail, but that doesn’t bring back their beloved daughter. I can’t imagine their pain.
  • In the past 18 months or so, a dear friend in California has lost her father, has had to put her mother into care and is now sorting out her parents’ accumulated possessions gathered over a lifetime together, is losing her husband to the ravages of Alzheimer’s, and has lost her 40-year-old son to suicide. She’s also getting a shadow on her lung investigated… How she copes is beyond me. Her strength is amazing, though it doesn’t take much to break through that fragile crust.
  • Another dear friend is getting old and it’s showing. He’s in his mid-70s now and is still working, but is finally talking of retirement, though I’ll believe it when I see it. I had the pleasure of catching up with one of his sons at my friend’s house… and worked out that the son is now older than the father was when I met him. That was scary.
  • My 82-year-old uncle in Michigan has cancer and has undergone treatment. (Update: He passed away peacefully at home, 30 April 2016)
  • But the worst is my 90-year-old uncle, whom I haven’t seen in a few years. He has gone from being a strong, vibrant, energetic man, to a shadow of his former self. He still lives at home, but in my opinion, he needs full-time, not part-time care. He can’t do much for himself anymore, and what he does do is dangerous — like leaving on the stove after cooking his eggs in the morning, and driving! He’s having difficulty breathing, is incontinent, bruises and tears his skin for any tiny little touch. As he said to me a few times while I was there: “Getting old is no fun.” Based on the current state of his health, I doubt I’ll ever see him again. [Update:ย Bill passed away 7 June 2014, a couple of months after I wrote this.]

So, I’m feeling mortal.

On a more positive note, my parents (both in their 80s now) are both still hale and hearty and fit and healthy. They celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary last year, and are still travelling (they’re on another trip somewhere at the moment — I can’t keep up!). And I was privileged to have the company of all four of my grandparents until I was well into my 20s, when the first one passed. My final grandparent passed when I was 40 and he was 97. I was so lucky to have that experience as so many people don’t get blessed with even knowing one grandparent, let alone all four. I just wish I’d appreciated them a bit more, and had asked them a lot more questions about their lives growing up, but when you’re young, you don’t think about such things and they aren’t very important in the context of your ‘exciting’ and busy life.

Social duty

14 03 2014

I’m sure we’ve all been there. Social function. Lots of people. And you know no-one.

So you sit/stand off to the side by yourself, holding onto your drink, checking your phone for ANYTHING, and wondering at what point you can slip away. After all, no-one will notice, will they? They haven’t noticed you yet…

Everyone seems to know everyone else, and there’s lots of laughter and fun being had. But you’ve come to this event knowing none of these happy people. You thought there’d be some connection because you all work in the same industry, and this is a conference of like-minded people, and it IS an official conference event you’re attending. But the groups all seem well-established. How do you break in? DO you break in?

Do you just sip on your free drink and assess the situation, then quietly disappear? Or do you try to break into a group that seems to be impenetrable? What if you have nothing to say? What if they don’t like you? Or worse, what if they ignore you?

I’ve been there. And it’s not pretty. It’s not a nice situation, and can be really damaging to your mental health and feelings of self-worth.

So when I saw a chap sitting off to the side of our conference group, but part of our party, I watched him for a couple of minutes to make sure he wasn’t with anyone. He wasn’t. He was just observing people, and sipping on his martini. And he was obviously alone and knew no-one. The group I was with have all known each other for ages, and we were having a nice time. But I kept getting drawn to ‘lone martini man’.

Then I did something I’ve seen others do, but have never done myself. I excused myself from my jolly group, grabbed my drink and went and sat down beside him. I introduced myself (his name was Eric), said how I’d noticed he was by himself and asked he wanted some company. I then initiated a conversation with him, and he was very grateful as he was going to leave after that one and only drink. He’d come down from the San Francisco area and this was his first time at one of these conferences, and no, he didn’t know anyone. He’d been people-watching, which was the excuse I used to use when I was in such a situation.

After a few minutes’ conversation, I found out that Eric has rescue greyhounds! How serendipitous!!! A friend of mine (Hamish, one of the other Australians at this conference) is also involved in greyhound rescue. So when I spotted Hamish, I called him over and introduced him to Eric. Within seconds they were sharing their pictures of their respective greyhounds and exchanging business cards and details on their dogs.

My work here was done! ๐Ÿ˜‰

(Actually, it wasn’t quite done… I spotted Eric at the conference a couple more times over the next two days, and he had a great big smile and hello for me, and he seemed to be actively participating in the conference social activities. I hope in some way I helped break the ice for him. If nothing else, he now has a friend on the other side of the world who he can talk to about his greyhound pets. It’s all about listening, asking the right questions, then putting people with common interests together. And doing your social duty to another human being.)

Qantas First Class

13 03 2014

Back story: Last year while we were driving to Perth Airport for me to catch my first flight on my annual trek to the US I got a text message from Qantas telling me that my Frequent Flyer points upgrade from Business Class to First Class had been approved for the long flight the following day from Melbourne to Los Angeles. I was SO excited! So excited that I Tweeted about it, Facebooked it, etc. Others online were equally as excited for me, and one friend, who has travelled First Class on Qantas to the US told me about the First Class lounge at the airport and its spa treatments for passengers prior to take-off. I was very much looking forward to what might be my one and only First Class experience. However, it was not to be. When I got to the check-in counter, the upgrade no longer applied (there are no guarantees, even with a text message displayed to the counter staff). With my tail between my legs, I had to announce to the world that I wouldn’t taste this rarified atmosphere.

Massive A380 being taken somewhere

Massive A380 being taken somewhere

This year: Ever the optimist, when I booked my flights to the US last June for this Feb/March, I also put in a points upgrade request. And every few weeks I’d check if it was through. Then as the departure date got closer, I’d check online more often, including even more often at the T-80 point. There was a glimmer of hope the night before my flight from Sydney to Los Angeles when I saw that I was waitlisted for First for that leg, but by the next morning that had disappeared from screen. And it didn’t happen. Again.

Coming back home, I checked online until I got back to LAX, then checked with the check-in counter as I knew there was still one First Class sear available (thanks to The check-in guy said that it hadn’t been allocated yet, and I’d only know if I had it if they called me in the lounge or if I beeped when putting my boarding pass through at the gate (i.e. the very last minute!). He did say that anyone who was a Gold, Platinum, or Platinum Plus Frequent Flyer would have priority over me (a lowly Silver!).

There were no lounge announcements calling my name, so imagine how surprised I was when I handed in my boarding pass to get on my flight from LAX to SYD and the system beeped! I had to go over to the counter where I asked the girl if I’d got my upgrade — and I had! I think she was as excited for me as I was ๐Ÿ˜‰

My flight was on the A380, so instead of going upstairs for Business and Premium Economy, I was downstairs at the pointy end. I was going to make the most of it, as it’s likely the one and only time I’ll fly First Class. (For my American readers, what you call ‘First Class’ on your domestic routes is no more than ‘Premium Economy’ on Qantas international routes. Qantas has two further steps up from Premium Economy — a true Business Class with lay-flat beds, and First Class of course, with all the associated pampering and treatment you get with both. There is no comparison between ‘First Class’ on a US domestic airline and ‘First Class’ in international on an A380 or 747.)

So, what was it like? I’ll list the good, the indifferent, and the bad (no, just kidding, there’s NO bad… except if you’re paying, in which case the bad is the cost!). And at the end are some photos I took — I didn’t want to seem all agog that I was in First, so I tried to take the photos surreptitiously and without a flash, therefore I couldn’t get any overall shots of the First Class cabin — you know, like from standing on my chair! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The good

  • There are only 14 seats (sorry, ‘suites’) in First Class on the A380. Each ‘suite’ is a self-contained unit separated from fellow passengers. Each suite has access to the aisle, and those along the sides also have two windows. There’s a spare seat in each suite in case you have a partner with you and want to share a meal together. You don’t sit together on the flight, but you can sit together to chat or have a meal.
  • The suites have half-size ‘walls’ so you’re fairly private in your little cocoon.
  • There are two to three staff just for these 14 passengers, so you are treated VERY well. However, this is Qantas so they are typically down to earth flight attendants, which was refreshing — I thought they might be a bit hoity toity.
  • There are two toilets for 14 passengers, so there’s never a wait. And the toilets seem to be cleaned by the staff after every use as I didn’t notice any drops of water left in or around the sink.
  • The PJs are roomier than those in Business Class and are dark grey, instead of the Business Class light grey ‘prison garb’.
  • The seats are MUCH roomier than in Business. They are wider for starters, they swivel to face the spare seat/TV, the arms go down when the bed is made up for sleeping, and there’s a full control panel of all the seat functions (and other functions such as lights). The seats also have in-built massage components.
  • The staff make up your bed when you are ready. And it’s as close to a real bed as you’ll get in an aircraft. There’s a thick woollen padded mattress thing, covered with a fitted white sheet and more padding, a top white sheet/doona, and white pillows (with the Qantas kangaroo embroidered on them!)
  • I could sleep! This is really big for me, as even in the Business Class lay-flat beds I have trouble sleeping (even with drugs). One issue I have is the constant drone/hum/vibration of the aircraft, even though the A380 is much quieter than the 747. I just can’t get over that constant noise/vibration even with ear plugs in and noise-cancelling headphones on. The other issue is that I’m a front-facing sleeper — I sleep on my belly in the ‘coma’ position that first aiders put someone into. So a lay-flat bed with arms in not good for me as I can’t sleep in my normal position. If you’re someone who sleeps on your back or even your side, you should have no trouble sleeping on a lay-flat bed. So with the wider seat (bed base), the woollen ‘mattress’ and the fact that the seat arms were out of the way, I could sleep on my belly… and thus I slept! I didn’t sleep for long — about 3 hours with about another 3 hours of cat napping, but I did sleep. That’s a huge achievement for me on a long-haul flight.
  • It’s a really little thing, but there was a very handy little hook on which you could hang your headphones when you needed to get up. Too often, headphones get sat on, fall off the centre console, or fall on the floor when you have to go to the bathroom and you have to rummage around in the dark to find them again.

The indifferent

  • The toilet facilities seemed to be no bigger or much different from those in Business Class. I sort of expected them to be a little more capacious, although I didn’t expect a shower (no, there wasn’t one). The main difference is that the toilet has a window! And no you can’t see in from the outside when you’re pulled up at the gate — I asked!
  • The food and drinks weren’t much different to that served in Business Class. Yes, there was a welcoming glass of champagne and some dip and fancy crackers on getting to your suite, but you get the champagne option in Business too. While the food and drink options may have been a step up from Business (and the steak sandwich and the lamb rack were EXCELLENT), the food and drink offerings in Business aren’t anything to sneeze at.
  • The toiletries bag didn’t have much in it and was very little different to that you get in Business Class. I didn’t recognise the cosmetics brand, but then I’m not big on fancy cosmetics, so I’m sure it was expensive. While the bag looked like it was leather, I think it was fake leather.
  • The entertainment offerings were the same as in Business Class and were exactly the same as on the flight over, even though I travelled in a different month. It used to be that Qantas changed the entertainment offerings each month, but from what one of the flight attendants told me, she thinks it’s now every two months (part of cost cutting, I suspect). So the movies, TV shows, etc. on the PVR were the same as the previous month, the same as Business Class (and I suspect the same as Economy and Premium Economy too as all seats have a PVR). Aside: The movies I watched on my four flights were all light and mostly fluffy: Enough Said, The Butler, About Time, We’re the Millers, Last Vegas.
  • In-seat power/USB connections were the same as Business Class, though it was a little easier to get to. I think on the A380 many Economy/Premium Economy seats also have in-seat power, so that’s not the differentiator it used to be a few years ago.
  • There’s no special treatment for First Class passengers when you get off the aircraft. Yes, you get an Express pass for the immigration lines, but you get that as a Business passenger too. The bags didn’t seem to come off any earlier than Business bags, though I couldn’t say if they came off earlier than the Economy bags. There are no ‘private’ lines for First Class — you’re all treated the same at immigration, baggage claim, and customs.

The bad

Well, there’s the cost. First Class is NOT cheap. In fact, it’s VERY expensive. Even on points it’s expensive, as it ‘cost’ me 45,000 points to upgrade from my Business Class fare to First for a single, albeit long, leg. But as I have close to 700,000 points, I figured that blowing 45,000 on a once-in-a-lifetime experience was probably worth it.

Bottom line: Would I do it again?

Yes, but on points only. I wouldn’t pay for a First Class ticket (unless I had unlimited funds from a REALLY BIG Lotto win, as as I rarely play Lotto, that’s not going to happen!). The differences between Business and First aren’t enough, in my opinion, to justify the massive increase in cost. But that sleep was good! ๐Ÿ˜‰


Part of the First Class cabin — the backs of two ‘suites’ you see here are those in the middle of the cabin.



The BIG seat, facing the front — it swivels about 45 degrees towards the window and the TV screen/spare seat in front. Note the sash seatbelt too — you get a lap/sash arrangement like in a car.


From the seat looking to the spare seat and the TV. There are places (such as small drawers) on the left to put your stuff, including a ledge for things like pillows. Hand luggage can go above or under the spare seat.


Slightly different angle showing the spare seat (has the pillow on it), TV, and back of the suite in front, which is where the small trays are for drinks etc.



The oh-so-yummy steak sandwich



The superbly cooked lamb cutlets on a pearl barley mix


And then there’s dessert! A chocolate something or other with cherries, and very nice


The ledge has a place for your water bottle (or bottle of Champers?) and other bits and pieces. The tray table (double size to accommodate another person) folds out from the angled bit, and like Inspector Gadget, opens out to be nearly as big as a small card table.


See that funny angled thing at the base of the window, with the green light arrows on it? That’s the manual control for the window shades, but I used the automated control on the touch panel instead.


And this is the window shades down — they (yes, there are two of them) are inside the window panes and you can’t touch them.


Kicking back in my PJs!


Good morning, sunshine!


These last photos are from the Skycam on the top of the A380’s tail fin. I started taking photos of the video stream as we saw Australia and started coming in to land, right until we were taxiing to our gate. Pretty cool! (Nothing special about this for First Class, as the Skycam option is available to everyone on the entertainment system.)












2014 US trip: Last days in California

13 03 2014

After I left Asilomar at Pacific Grove, I spent the night in Monterey, then, because it was stormy, I headed to Bakersfield and then on the Palm Springs on the Sunday. My conference started on the Monday, so having Sunday to drive for just a few hours, pop into the outlet mall near Palm Springs for a few things, check in, unpack, catch up with a few friends I spotted in the lobby when checking in to the conference hotel, was nice and relaxing.


Some of my impressions from the second week (the conference notes are on my other blog, so I won’t repeat them here) include:

  • Californian radio is pretty awful, especially when you’re on a long drive and don’t have your own music to listen to. No doubt Australian radio is as bad or worse, but as I have my own car and my own music in that car, I never have to listen to it! In California, searching the radio stations takes you through a vast array of mariachi-type music, Bible-thumping preachers or ‘uplifting’ gospel songs, (c)rap music, heavy rock, a little bit of classical, maybe some country (I like country!), or perhaps some classic rock or ‘yacht rock’. Latino and evangelistic stations seem to dominate the airwaves.
  • Californian traffic is fast and furious. Well, not so much furious, but it is fast. You have to keep up with the traffic more so than obey the speed limit, otherwise you’ll get squashed between trucks. US drivers are polite and let you in, though some (mostly on LA freeways) weave in and out of lanes for no apparent betterment in position. There’s also a lot of tailgating — not malicious ‘get out of my way’ tailgating, but just driving too close to other cars for the conditions. That’s a bit scary. And when it rains, as it did for the first time in months while I was there, the drivers going over the passes on the I5 north of LA didn’t slow down from their 70+ mph speed while going down steep hills in heavy cloud and slick rain — I white-knuckled it through that section, wondering if a truck or car in front of me would slip in the conditions and go out of control, causing a pile-up. Leave some space between you and the next vehicle… don’t see it as an opportunity to slip in and fill it as the other driver might be deliberately trying to stay a safe distance from the car/truck in front.
  • Palm Springs was hot (85-90F) at the time I was there (early March). I’d hate to be there in summer. There were LOTS of people in and by the pool at the hotel, some of whom were getting very burnt as they’d likely flown in from a snowy state and were wearing no sun protection. The nights were balmy and cooler than the days, but definitely not cold. The hot climate plants were growing well — e.g. the palms of course, bougainvillea, cacti, aloes, etc.
  • The Palm Springs VillageFest markets (held every Thursday night in the main street) are pretty awesome and very big! Fresh produce, gourmet foods, arts and crafts, buskers, street food, and thousands of people all behaving well. The restaurants are all very busy on the night. If you go and you like BBQ beef, do yourself a favour and spend $8 on a Tri-tip BBQ brisket in a toasted bun from the CVBBQ food stall. Delicious!
  • The TSA rules on taking off your shoes might work better if someone actually checked the area for potentially dangerous things that can poke into your bare feet! I was at LAX going through the TSA screening area, and had got to the other side ready to grab my shoes and bags when a small and very sharp screw pierced my heel. It hurt like hell! I squealed a bit, hobbled around, and another passenger asked if I was OK. I pulled the embedded screw out of my bare heel pad and hopped over to the TSA agent and handed the screw to him…. and got absolutely NO response. Not even a question asking me if I was OK.



Yes, it does rain in California

2 03 2014

After several months of no rain (unusual for winter in California), the heavens have opened. It rained in much of California most of Wednesday and Friday this week just gone, all night Friday night and much of Saturday. As another storm front was coming in I changed my plans and decided to leave Monterey today (Saturday) instead of Sunday. And I’m glad I did.


Storm clouds inland from Monterey on Hwy 101

It took me just under 4 hours to drive from Monterey to Bakersfield, which is perhaps half way to Palm Springs, my ultimate destination tomorrow. Had I left it to Sunday I’d be driving 7 to 8 hours in possibly horrible conditions.

As it was, driving today wasn’t exactly a piece of cake. There were strong winds, heavy rain in patches, steady rain the rest of the time, some minor rock falls on the shoulders (though if you’d hit one of those small rocks with your car tires, you’d know all about it), and reasonably steady and moderate density traffic. Lots of trucks on Hwy 46, and very bad surface for some of that highway too.

Some more observations on this drive:

  • Many of the groves of nut trees (almonds? pecans?) were covered in white/pale pink flowers, which looked like light snow on the ground.
  • At the ends of some rows of nut trees are bee hives. I’m not sure if they are there to fertilize the trees or to collect pollen and make honey from the flowers of these trees, but it looked like a win-win for the orchardists and the apiarists.
  • Tumbling tumbleweeds have almost become fences in their own right when they’ve got caught in the fences on the side of Hwy 46.
  • Lost Hills isn’t a town so much as a paddock full of oil wells (donkeys; see the photo at the end of this post). There are hundreds in a very small area of land. There are quite a few by the Alvarado River, north of Paso Robles too.
  • Close to Bakersfield there are oil donkeys in the middle of fields of crops,ย  which seemed a bit odd.
  • Bakersfield looks pretty dry and dusty and very much a workers’ town, at least the bit I saw coming in from the I5 on Hwy 58.


Amazing mac and cheese

2 03 2014

A friend and I had another dinner at Hula’s Island Grill in Monterey last night. We’d gone there last Saturday too and the food was so good we went back!

We shared a small bowl of their Poblano mac and cheese, and it was SOOOOO good!

I had the Kalbi (Korean style BBQ beef) for my main meal, which was also excellent, but I could’ve eaten that mac and cheese all night!

The owner shared with us what was in it when we asked, so here’s how I remember it: Jack, cream, and parmesan cheeses in the mixture, along with mashed up Poblano chili and elbow macaroni of course, topped with Jarlsberg cheese and popped under the griller for the cheese to melt and form a golden crust. It was SOOOOO yummy! And so simple.