Wednesday, January 30, 2013


This morning Hubby proclaimed today a vacation day. We enjoyed breakfast at a favorite eatery. Driving west, we were able to see, even through the rain, progress in recovery from Katrina among our neighboring coastal communities. The enjoyment was bittersweet as vacant lots, empty slabs and lonely pilings often bracketed new residential and commercial construction.

We did a windshield tour of Bay St. Louis on the western side of Mississippi’s coast. As rain continued to fall, we drove the restored street that follows the St. Louis Bay shoreline and fronts the Old Town.

Lunch was our first time at Roberto and Tony’s Canella International Creperie.
Roberto and Tony

They serve German and Italian dishes prepared fresh. I had the pork loin cutlet with mushroom gravy and mashed potatoes. That wasn’t the name of the dish, but I don’t remember the exact word.

A fellow diner recommended the selection as authentic, not Americanized. He said it was a good introduction to real German fare. Hubby ordered the manicotti stuffed with several kinds of cheeses.

Reviews I read online praised the authenticity of both the German and Italian dishes. I don’t know about that. I lack “authentic” experience. I do know that everything we ordered tasted wonderful. And a plus for me was that none of it seemed as salty as what is available in other restaurants.

The item that created tastebud ecstasy, though, was the dessert crepe with chocolate and fresh strawberries.

Roberto kept adding swirls of dark chocolate, then white chocolate, a sprinkle of cinnamon, caramel and powdered sugar. Roberto added the finishing touch, a generous application of whipped cream. I thought , “Oh no, this is going to be way too sweet.”

 Roberto starts finishing touch.

But no. It was perfect.

West Coast travel: Farmer’s Market

I appreciated the abundant and colorful fresh produce that was available during our West Coast travel. On Day 3 of the October trip, husband Walter and I happened upon a farmer’s market.

One block of downtown Eureka was filled with live music, vendors offering hand woven fabrics, preserves, cheeses, freshly picked veggies and colorful fruit. We joined shoppers with a taste for food, fresh, locally produced and organic. Enjoying the energy and good will of this homegrown event was to us great touristing.
Music to shop by

Appealing greens . . . and purples

Dean of Earth N Hands Farm answered my “What is that?” questions about produce I had never seen before. He was patient and even offered me my first taste of Mexican sour gherkins and ground cherries.

The one- and two-inch cucumbers looked like mini-watermelons. They even had a hint of the flavor I sometimes taste when I take a bite of cold watermelon close to the rind. And was it possible I also detected a little lime flavor? It was an unusual combination of tiny explosions of flavor and crunchy texture.
Mexican sour gherkins

When Dean released a ground cherry from its parchment-like jacket for me to sample, I discovered another new taste I liked.
Ground cherries

What we bought, though, was a carton of delicious raspberries.
Organic raspberries

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


My new word today is “trenchant.” I have seen this word before, but when I am reading I just tend to glean meaning from context and plow ahead without pausing to go to my computer for online enlightenment or my unabridged dictionary for old-timey info.

Yes, I still have one of those heavy dictionaries, and I still use it on occasion. Mostly, though, its spells of loneliness are broken by occasional visits from the older grands, now 10, 8 and 7. They periodically cluster around the old dictionary stand, intent on the color plates of flora, fauna and other things that they evidently find interesting.

Writing is the usual catalyst for my word forays both virtual or out-of-date. I often type a word and wonder once it appears on my screen, “Does this word really work in the context here?”

That question popped into my head as I was entering a comment on a blog this morning. The definition I found for the word in question included “trenchant.” I gleefully expanded my search. “Trenchant,” from Merriam

1: keen, sharp
2: vigorously effective and articulate: also:  caustic

3 a : sharply perceptive : penetrating

Goodness, that search was so satisfying. I do love words. But I am proud to say I managed to squelch the urge to use “trenchant” in the comment I was writing. Yes, I know. I haven’t managed to refrain from posting about my word trip.

Have a great day!

Monday, January 28, 2013

West Coast travel: Port Orford, Oregon

Port Orford wasn’t part of any planned itinerary for our drive south on Day 3 of our West Coast trip in October. But it was an interesting section of Oregon’s southern coast. Our first stop in the area of the City of Port Orford was the port. Perhaps the appeal was a port with “port” appearing twice in its name. We made the turn that took us down the hill to the Port of Port Orford.

The first curiosity I noticed was that there were no boats floating secure in a harbor such as we see in our northern Gulf of Mexico region. Instead a bunch of boats were lined up side by side, all on land.

According to the port’s Web site, the port is a “dolly dock.” A huge crane plucks commercial fishing boats and recreational boats straight out of the Pacific and sets them down on custom boat trailers. The trailers can be moved around on the dock by pickup truck—one boat to one trailer. I borrowed the photo below from the port’s Web site.
Port of Port Orford crane in operation

A little farther down the highway, we spotted the City of Port Orford Visitor’s Center. About 40 minutes earlier and 26 miles north, I had been shivering, in spite of my heavy jacket, while I took the photo below.
Scenic Coquille Point, Oregon; cold and windy

Now after a bit of walking around outside at the visitor’s center I was shedding the jacket.

Thanks to Wikipedia I later learned that the warmer temperatures were not an abrupt coastwide weather change. Port Orford is at the northern end of what coastal Oregonians call the Banana Belt, because the weather from Port Orford south is warmer than the weather north of nearby Cape Blanco, especially in the wintertime.

 Hand-crafted gift to the City of Port Orford
The visitor center door above, open to the almost balmy breezes, was a testament to the pride that Port Orford residents have in their town. The artist who crafted the door donated both the exotic woods he used and his craftsmanship.

The lady staffing the modest information center was a recent and happy transplant from Sacramento. She sparked twinges of envy in me. She worked with huge windows on two sides that gave her a spectacular view of the Pacific. My twinges intensified as she mentioned how much she enjoyed watching the whales, weather and sea birds.

 Visitor center’s “green” drainage and teaching tool
In my former professional life I worked with dynamic marine educators who were dedicated to spreading to individuals of all ages the knowledge of natural ocean and coastal environments, plants and animals. 

And they had a passion for preserving those environments. They would have approved the “bioswale” that absorbed the water from the drain and naturally filtered it. They would also have appreciated the colorfully presented information explaining how the bioswale works.

As I worked on this post I realized we never did visit the Port Orford town center. Maybe next time.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hometown Mardi Gras 2013

Faces of Mardi Gras
Husband Walter and I are not enamored with crowds, but we attended the Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Mardi Gras parade this afternoon for the first time in a long while. When we returned home I was trying to remember when the local Elks Lodge launched the annual event.

Was it as much as a decade ago? Regardless of when it first rolled, we enjoyed the family-friendly, hometown celebration today.
Young spectators get acquainted with Izzy Bell before the parade.

I went online to check how long the Elks have been giving our town its own parade. A local online news article noted this was Ocean Springs’ 38th Mardi Gras parade.

Yikes. Several decades slipped past pretty fast there.

From where I sit, behind the crowd
Weather was warm and sunny, so Walter set up our camping chairs in the shade of a large live oak. That put us behind the crowds, but the face-painting vendor in front of us drew a swarm of parents and kids that made people watching an entertainment smorgasbord.
Mom and daughter capture a Mardi Gras memory.

A parade perch in a crepe myrtle

Friday, January 25, 2013


Husband Walter returned from a doctor’s appointment today with an early February date for laparoscopic surgery. 

The surgeon will remove Hubby’s gallbladder and thus the three-centimeter gallstone that gave him so much pain for about four days around Christmas.

My partner in this retirement journey noted that aging has not only brought retirement. It has also meant that we spend a hefty part of that retirement in doctors’ offices. The good news is that he has not had a recurrence of the pain caused by the stone moving.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Oregon gets it right

Common-sense safety measure
If you are passionate about gun control please forgive the next few sentences. But it is true: Governments are often susceptible to the decision process of “load, fire, aim.”

But three little reflectors on a short metal post in front of a giant redwood close to a highway we were traveling during October made me think that Oregon got it right on one thing. The reflectors are apparently a practical, simple, fiscally responsible way to alert drivers to avoid crashing into that substantial tree occupying the shoulder of the road. We saw a number of those giants close to the edge of the pavement, and the little reflectors announced each one.

Although I love the redwoods, I am glad those ancient trees are not along any highways in my state. I base that opinion on the fate of the wide median of a highway I traveled frequently at one time. I was driving at least once a week the 90 miles to my mother’s to visit or to take her to doctors’ appointments. I enjoyed the calming beauty and variety--pine trees interspersed with dogwoods, cypress, red maples, the occasional wild plum tree, pecan trees and other species.

Then one day heavy equipment was bulldozing the trees and scraping the median bare. An outcry did save a small grove of live oaks planted many years ago.

I still don’t know what the highway department powers that be had against woods and the critters dependent on that vegetation. But the few news reports I saw never mentioned any consideration of simpler, less drastic actions. The trees that added such color and grace to that drive were gone. Arggghhhhh.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

California breakfast

Hubby’s "vacation day" breakfast this morning at McElroy’s Harbor House in Biloxi, Mississippi, was mostly Southern with eggs, grits and toast. Southern is usually synonymous with salt, which I crave, but now must limit. 

I still miss the biscuits and the cup of grits served up at McElroy’s. It is as near perfection as any I have encountered. Today I enjoyed the more geographically generic oatmeal.

Even Husband Walter with his consistently low blood pressure now usually eliminates biscuits from his breakfast choices. His problem wasn’t the salt, but indigestion. Age does affect eating habits.

Geography does, too. On a day well into our October West Coast trip, breakfast was a chocolate pop tart from the complimentary snack basket in our suite along with hot tea and coffee. We were at Shelter Cove during the slow season in which the few eateries at the remote seaside community opened on weekends only.
My first ever pop tart

Once we were fortified by the make-do breakfast, the high tide and a problem with my Bioness footdrop system thwarted our intent to explore the shore and tide pools. Walking is so much more doable when the Bioness is zapping the nerves and muscles of my left leg in all the right places. Hubby performed a successful adjustment on the Bioness, and it was time to brave the Shelter Cove Road.

We departed the coast in search of a “real” breakfast. That pop tart hadn’t lasted long! We wound up in Garbersville, California.
Eel River Café
There we joined a crowd at Eel River Café.  It was 11 a.m., and we were ready to tank up on breakfast for lunch. The cafe was a long-standing community gathering place. It offered generous portions of both food and conversation. Size of booths in the small establishment were generous, too.
Super-sized booth

There was also a black and white cow theme throughout the interior. With the tight spaces and customers coming and going, I wasn't confident I could keep my balance for a safe look at the cafe's collection of black and white cow items. 

A fellow diner gave me an up close glimpse of one smile-inducing item. She brought a black-and-white cow-patterned hand-held vacuum cleaner over to show her husband in the booth adjacent to ours.
Cow monitors café activity from the ceiling.

Our waitress Shirley delivered menus that boasted a wide variety of breakfast choices, including “The Southern Breakfast.”

“Were grits included with that Southern breakfast?” we inquired. Shirley had never heard of grits. I assume that “southern” referred to Southern California.
Shirley looks after us in Eel River Cafe.

Customers ranged from older and middle-aged adults, both local and passing through, to young adults, some in uniforms and on a lunch break from work and others with knit caps, backpacks and occasionally an impressive set of dreadlocks. Garbersville seemed to be a launching point for hiking expeditions and other recreational pursuits in the Eel River region.  
Shirley shares recommendations for touring the giant redwoods.

An amiable Shirley also volunteered to snap this photo of the well-fed couple below.
Hubby and me.

Visiting well-known sights is a pleasure, but simple slices of life of individuals and communities exhibiting unselfconscious exuberance is also among the joys of travel. For me, Eel River Café definitely served up a satisfying California breakfast and a tasty side of good memories.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

It’s a vacation day!

The final three months of 2012 passed in a speedy blur. I am determined to catch up on recording experiences that I don't want to forget. Recently, I found this account of a breakfast experience. It was in a draft that I had written in December. 

It made me laugh because today Hubby made a similar announcement. So I hope we will be enjoying breakfast tomorrow, overlooking Mississippi Sound as we celebrate another "vacation day." 

*   *   *
From the December file:
Husband Walter indulges in breakfast at McElroy’s Harbor House.
My husband is enjoying his “second” retirement as of Oct. 6, 2012. I woke up one morning earlier this week to Hubby’s announcement that the day would be a “vacation day.”

He had the day planned, and we started our day with a morning meal at one of our favorite spots for breakfast.

Christmas decor saltwater style
Christmas decorations included marine critters at the waterfront restaurant.

A mix of peace and intense activity--that's retirement
We have been having quite a few vacation days lately. I, too, am enjoying Hubby’s retirement. 

We started those vacation days with a flight to the West Coast the day after Hubby’s final day driving a school bus. On our eight-night West Coast trip we revisited good memories of earlier trips and made new memories. 

Hubby posted here about a memorable stop at a quirky coffee shop we had visited several decades ago. The new owner, a delightful young entrepreneur, presented us with sunflowers when she learned we had celebrated 45 years of marriage.
Hubby models anniversary posies at a Montara, California, coffee shop.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Resolutions for 2013

I am slowly catching up with blogging friends since my repaired computer came home and since Husband Walter has gradually started feeling better after a painful and scary introduction to gallbladder issues the Friday before Christmas.

Today I visited Freda’s blog What’s the Story in Dalamory and encountered the Jan. 12 post Twelve Resolutions. Her chronicles and photos of the terrain and natural environment she encounters around her home in Scotland are a source of pleasurable armchair travel.

But her observations on the emotional, spiritual and ethical terrain of the human heart always make me examine the condition of some aspect of my own interior life. Today she had me pondering the fact that today is Jan. 19. It is 19 days into the new year. And what about my 2013 resolutions?

I have not even thought about resolutions. Freda’s 12 were admirable and inspiring, and I appreciate her willingness to share them. The best and most needed one I should make is to Do It Now, instead of procrastinating. 

Alas, it is already Jan. 19, so I think I will probably put that resolution off till 2014. So I guess resolution #1 is to consider procrastination an art and to further develop my natural talent.

Several months ago, at my occupational therapist's urging, I started keeping a list of new ways I involve my stroke-affected left hand in daily activities. Resolution #2 will be to continue adding to that list as a way to celebrate life’s small triumphs, comedies and wonders.

As a variation of my late mother’s daily to-do lists, such a list will also serve as a reminder of the creativity and humor Mother exercised in her joyful approach to life. She had always impressed me with her ability to check off every single item on her day's to-do list by the end of the day. It wasn't until I was nearing 60 that she shared her secret. She would write a specific item down on her list only after she had accomplished it. Then she would check it off.

May all your resolutions bring joy and satisfaction to you and those you care about. Wishing a belated but sincere happy 2013 to all!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Celebrating life

Stitches of love

Early December 2012 Husband Walter, his mother and I traveled to visit Grandma Sugar’s youngest sister and her family in Kentucky. On trip included a number of stops along the way. One was a night with our oldest son Walt and his family in Marietta, Georgia.

Dec. 6, the morning we were to resume our journey, marked a year since my mother passed away at age 92. My day was filled with good memories and special people who shared memories of my mother.

That morning as our three oldest Georgia grands wrapped up preparations for catching their school bus, daughter-in-law Sarah and I sat at her kitchen table. Conversation with my lovely and lively daughters-in-law is always a treat and today the conversation Sarah and I shared included reminiscing about Mother.

What a blessing to have two special women with me on this day—Sarah and Grandma Sugar. My mother-in-law had never before visited Walt’s family since they had moved to Georgia. Sarah gave her the grand tour of their new home before we left for our next destination--Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

A surprise awaited on a chest of drawers in Sarah’s walk-in closet. A stuffed bear and a beautiful little Indian doll greeted us. Both were reminders of love in action. The bear combined the skills of two women who never met each other but who both loved my mother. 

My mother’s own mother made the quilt that supplied the raw material for the bear. The patchwork quilt included scraps from the once colorful material that she had used to sew dresses for her daughters.

Decades later, a rambunctious and aerially precocious puppy shredded a large section of the quilt Mother had hung outside on a clothesline. My sister-in-law Lila, who had become well acquainted with Mother, turned what remained of the quilt into stuffed bears for Mother, my brother, me and our children.
 A special Christmas doll
The doll keeping the bear company was a creative work of love for Sarah by her mother. A little five-year-old Sarah had developed a fascination about Native Americans. For Christmas, no Native Amercan doll was to be found. Sarah’s mom did find a beautiful little African American doll. This determined mom created the iconic fringed attire and long braided hairstyle. Sarah still cherishes her mother’s gift.

Oh, and the tiara the bear is wearing is Sarah’s from her reign as high school homecoming queen.

Later that day, I visited by phone with Mike, my brother and only sibling. Mother would have relished our conversation. Mike caught me up on the latest travel adventures he and my sister-in-law Sonya are planning with their two college-aged daughters Amanda and Becky and their son Matthew after Matthew’s high school graduation in May.

One other thing: Mother’s departure from this life on Dec. 6 added another date to a string of consecutive and significant December dates. 

My father had received his draft notice earlier in 1941, and the couple had planned a simple wedding for Christmas Day. Then the Pearl Harbor attack occurred on Dec. 7. His notice to report for duty arrived on Dec. 8, and he and my mom moved their wedding ceremony to Dec. 9.

I am thankful for the blessings and comfort in many forms that filled the first anniversary of Mother's death: people, shared memories, a phone call, even a bear and a doll.

Monday, January 14, 2013

My laptop is healed!

My MacBook Pro is back from the Apple hospital. So far so good, but it will take awhile for me to get back to engaging in computer time.

Saturday, Dec. 29, our Christmas celebration eased to an enjoyable end. Hubby and I, along with oldest son, our daughter-in-law and their youngsters, breakfasted at McElroy’s on the Bayou.

Youngest son and family had departed the morning before as work responsibilities beckoned. Even though they were not physically with us, I savored the knowledge that they love the McElroy’s breakfast tradition as much as the rest of us do.

We ended our leisurely breakfast with the Georgia Fab Four posing underneath a little oval plaque. It marks the level of Katrina’s storm surge that filled the Ocean Springs, Mississippi, restaurant August 29, 2005.
 Grands pose underwater, at least under where water was.

Still below Katrina’s storm surge level

Then they were on their way home to Georgia, and I was sopping up tears. Baboo and I returned to a quiet house and collapsed for awhile before we started preparing for the arrival the next day of my brother and his family from Virginia who helped us welcome the new year with love and laughter.