Day #1 in Tehachapi...

I arrived in town before my dear college girlfriend, Leslie, finished her day of teaching.  I came to explore this quaint town and learn more about its incredible past.  It's a familiar history with tales of Native Americans, mining, homesteading, and the railroad.

I spent my afternoon in three different museums, discovering new information and enjoying Tehachapi even more.  I'm intrigued by its past.  The photo of the train track is the famous "Loop", an engineering phenomenon that continues to amaze me.

The railroad construction brought world-renowned engineering fame to the Tehachapi area during construction of "The Loop". While laying tracks from Bakersfield to Mojave, engineers needed to develop a plan to traverse the mountains at higher elevations and to devise a method for safely slowing the momentum of east bound trains as they carefully chugged down the mountain to Bakersfield.

The solution was to bring in thousands of workers (3000 from China alone) using picks, shovels and dynamite to create 18 tunnels as well as "The Loop". The Loop is a flat, graded area where an average 4000 foot long train will circle over itself, on both eastbound and westbound routes. Today, nearly 40 trains a day utilize this route in enabling the delivery of tons of product to all areas of California and throughout the Nation.

I am writing this post while delighting in pie at The Apple Shed.  My Tehachapi traditions are alive and well.  I'm a content traveler.

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Dutch baby, way yummy...

Mark and Carol help at a B & B in Paso and at times have tried out "new" dishes for their guests.  Today, we were introduced to a Dutch baby.

A Dutch baby pancake is a sweet popover that is normally served for breakfast. It is derived from the German pfannkuchen. It is made with eggs, flour, sugar and milk, and usually seasoned with vanilla and cinnamon. It is baked in a metal pan and falls soon after being removed from the oven. It is generally served with fresh squeezed lemon, butter, and powdered sugar, fruit toppings or syrup (complete with bacon bits).
According to Sunset magazine, Dutch babies were introduced in the first half of the 1900s at Manca's Cafe, a family-run restaurant, owned by Victor Manca. While these pancakes are derived from the German pancake dish, it is said that the name Dutch baby was coined by one of Victor Manca's daughters, Manca's Cafe owned the trademark for Dutch babies, although the cafe later closed in the 1950s.
We are happy to be recipients of any experimental cuisine we are offered.

It's easy to impress me. I don't need a fancy party to be happy.
Just good friends, good food, and good laughs. I'm happy. I'm satisfied. I'm content.

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By the sea...Cindy & me

When my girlfriend, Cindy, moved to San Clemente, I was given the good fortune of having a friend by the sea!  A visit with her is full of some of my favorite things:  giggles, food and shopping.

We strolled to a sidewalk café for great conversation and scrumptious Monte Cristo sandwiches while gazing at the spectacular horizon.

Warm sand between my toes and my feet being caressed by the Pacific Ocean, provided the best dessert.  Thrift store shopping for unique trinkets gave us many things to laugh about and a few items, as tangible reminders, of our fun day together.

The sea, once it casts its spell,
holds one in its net of wonder forever.
-Jacques Yves Cousteau

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Lincoln: the movie...

Prior to relocating to Tahoe, I was a real filmophile and frequented the movie theater many times a month.  I heard glowing reviews about Lincoln and today seemed an ideal time to go.

Covering the last four months of President Lincoln's life and focusing on his efforts to get the 13th amendment passed, I was moved by his devotion to ending slavery.  Steve, his folks, and I were given a history lesson told via incredible cinematography and believable acting.

For almost three hours, I believed I was in the presence of the great man himself (Daniel Day-Lewis was Lincoln).  I had always liked our 16th president and now admire him so much more. Wow!
              "Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery,
            I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally."
                                               -Lincoln

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French Toast Casserole...délicieux!

My morning was spent with friends, Scott, Lynne and Bill, where we are lovingly called the "Quirky Group 4".  My contribution was my new favorite brunch dish- French Toast Casserole.  I thought you'd like the recipe. Bon appetit!

Hands-on Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes (plus overnight chilling)
Serves: 12

This cross between French toast and bread pudding is a treat worthy of a special occasion, yet it's so easy to make kids can do many of the steps themselves: slicing the bread, chopping the nuts, whisking the eggs, and more. As a bonus, it can be assembled the night before, so there's no morning scramble or cleanup.

Ingredients
challah* or other firm white bread, cut into 1" cubes
1/3 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon or to taste
8 large eggs
1 3/4 cups milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
maple syrup, for serving

Instructions
-Generously grease a 13- by 9-inch glass baking dish with softened butter.
-In a small bowl, combine the brown sugar, cinnamon,and chopped nuts.
-Arrange half the bread in a single layer in the prepared dish, then sprinkle half the sugar mixture evenly over the top. Add a second layer with the remaining bread and the sugar mixture.
-In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs. Add the milk and vanilla extract, until well blended.
-Starting from the sides of the dish and working toward the center, pour the egg mixture evenly over the bread. With a spatula, gently press down on the bread to coat it with the egg mixture. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and refrigerate overnight or at least 4 hours.
-Heat the oven to 350°. Bake the casserole covered for 20 minutes, then remove the foil and continue baking until the casserole turns a light golden brown and looks slightly puffed, about 30 minutes more. Serve the casserole warm with maple syrup.

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Friends & Food...

We love being with Keri and her family.  We are delighted by her kids and time with them all is a special treat.
Russ's barbecued brats are some of the best we've ever.  It seems that food has been a big part of our visit south.  I guess that J.R.R. Tolkien knows best...
“If more of us valued food and cheer above hoarded gold,
it would be a much merrier world.”

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Off to the beach...

In lieu of presents, we've decided "presence" is the greater gift.  Today, we spent the afternoon in the delightful town of Encinitas for an Italian lunch with Steve's brother and sister-in-law.  Our favorite restaurant was worth the 50 mile drive.

We have loved Trattoria i Trulli for years and this gorgeous "summer like" day was a beguiling way to enjoy our Saturday.  Their cuisine is southern Italian, with lasagne delizioso e saporito!
For me, no trip to this beach town is complete without seeing the "Boathouses".  The buildings are prime examples of what's called vernacular architecture, local historians say. That architectural category includes sweet shops shaped like giant ice cream cones and Mexican fast food places in the shape of a taco.  And I absolutely love the thought of them.
Miles Kellogg, an architect whose father was a sea captain, built his ship-shaped structures in the late 1920s using old timber from the Moonlight Beach dance house (1919). That once-famous local night spot failed to survive the dry years of Prohibition.
Shopping, dining, sightseeing and just enjoying being with family... what a gift!

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Fuoco & Friends in Fullerton...

Our afternoon stroll from Annie and Bob's home, to downtown Fullerton, had us arriving at Fuoco Pizzeria Napoletana, a newly open restaurant owned by true Italians.

The Ceccarelli family may be new to Fullerton, but they certainly aren't new to pizza. In fact, some might say they bleed marinara. With the opening of their new restaurant, they hope to change the way North Orange County thinks of the traditional Italian dish.

We spoke a little Italian.  We dined on delicious, thin crust pizza.  And we enjoyed the time with our old friends in a new place.

Non si vive di solo pane.

Translation: One does not live by bread alone.

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Thanksgiving with the Cousins...

We were extended a wonderful invitation to join John and Renee's Thanksgiving festivities, and since our boys were celebrating, together, in Santa Rosa, we were excited to be included.

This branch of the Haerrs, the San Diego cousins, are a family of seven children, and with their children, it was a grand gathering of wonderful relatives.
John and Renee are the hosts with the mosts.  The theme of the day was "being British" due to the fact that all of these cousins just received dual citizenship with England.
Nothing says British than funny mustaches. Célina, Greta and I felt quite festive!
We are thankful for this day of reconnecting with all the cousins.  It was "bloody marvellous".

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Brady's #32...

We joined Brady and Fred for a delicious birthday dinner and highly humorous Scrabble game.  It was a nice way to spend her special day.
Birthdays are good for you.
Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest.
~Larry Lorenzoni

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Fezziwig's Brewing Company...

Dan, the proprietor of  Fezziwig's Brewing Company is our daughter-in-law's brother and he happens to make great beer.  We met a group of very fun partakers, for an afternoon of fun.

The theme of Fezziwig's is based on the character, of the same name, in Charles Dickens' novela A Christmas Carol.  Mr. Fezziwig was created as a contrast to Ebenezer Scrooge.  He represents everything that Scrooge is not.  He is giving, jovial and well liked... just like Dan's beer!
"He was a wise man who invented beer."
-Plato

"Friendship is like standing on wet cement. The longer you stay, the harder it's to leave, and you can never go without leaving your footprints behind."

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Kids in Temecula...

Kegan had an interview in LA so he and Monica visited us, in Temecula, for one fun night.  Thrift store shopping, great catching up and wonderful family time.  The perfect way to begin our So Cal visit.

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Decorating the Grand Hall at Valhalla

Valhalla's Grand Hall was originally the summer home of the pioneer Heller family dating back to the 1920s, and is now a place we have come to really appreciate, a place for concerts, weddings, and coming up this weekend, the 17th Annual Valhalla Holiday Faire.

We spent most of our morning, along with other enthusiastic volunteers, decorating the hall and adorning the biggest tree I have ever had the pleasure to festoon.  With Christmas Carols playing, ornaments abounding and the smell of pine permeating the air, it felt very festive and put us in an early holiday moodWe can't wait to see it at night... It will be magical.

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Hoop Skirts & History Lessons...

We attended the Lake Tahoe Historical Society's presentation of Paulette Grune's "Victorian Ladies, Their Manners and Morals".

Paulette's history lesson was told through the pieces of clothing she put on.  In the 1830's, the corset was thought of as a medical necessity. It was believed that a woman was very fragile, and needed assistance from some form of stay to hold her up.  Paulette's husband had to lend a helping hand.  This was quite comical to watch.

Even the men in the audience enjoyed the show.
We learned of the dangers of the hoop skirt (fire, snagging on to moving buggies) and the elegant way to sit in one.
Paulette and her purse called a reticule, a play on the word- ridicule, the French word for ridiculous, due to their very small, somewhat impractical size.  However, we learned they held what was truly necessary:  "snuff-boxes, handkerchiefs, fans, prayer books, Bon-Bons, visiting tickets.”
To quote an eloquently spoken man, Freddy Mercury, "I want to lead the Victorian life, surrounded by exquisite clutter."  Paulette introduced us to a way of life that we hadn't really known, in a most exquisite way!

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