Posts Tagged ‘Living in California’


Years ago, hubby and I drove up to Monterey and stayed at the Martine Inn in Pacific Grove. 
The inn is a charming bed and breakfast on the coast of California. 
Our room was wonderful, with a sitting room area that overlooked the ocean. 

Finally this was a trip where we could stop frequently, and did.  Unlike when we traveled in “Clustr Maps:  Connect the Dots!” 
We spent several hours in Morro Bay, CA.  
We visited a sea lion rescue center, had lunch, wandered in and out of souvenir shops and antique stores.  But we were anxious to get to the Martine Inn.  We had planned lots of excursions for our three day stay on the coast…

While in Monterey we visited the aquarium, 17 mile drive, walked along the ocean, watched otters eating seafood al fresco at sunset. 
Every afternoon our hosts had wine and cheese for us in the parlour over looking the ocean. 
A few times we were lucky enough to spot a whale.  Well, I thought it was a whale…could have been a guy in a wet suit on a surf board. 
Our dinner we planned for the first evening was at Hammerheads. 
I have looked in vain on line for Hammerheads Restaurant in Monterey.  I am afraid the only hammerheads you will find now are swimming in the ocean.  The eatery must have closed in the last 25 years. 

The restaurant was set in a lovely old fire station, sadly I did not take any photos. 
The food was delicious, we both had steaks with all the extras. 
But what had really drawn us to the restaurant was their famous Chocoholic Dessert Bar
Yes, a dessert bar with all things chocolate.  Anything you can think of that was chocolate they had.  Chocolate pie to candy bars. 
I admit, some of it was rather uninspired.  But they did have a decadent cake covered with chocolate. 
Over the years I have seen recipes for it with different names, Chocolate Suicide Cake, Better Than Sex Cake….(highly unlikely)…or as I call it, simply –

Chocolate Ganache Cake

1 box devils food cake…I like to use Betty Crocker’s Triple Chocolate Fudge cake mix
Eggs, water and oil as directed on the box
16 ounces semisweet chocolate – see cook’s notes
1 1/3 cups heavy whipping cream
4 tablespoons real butter

Prepare cake as directed on the box.  Bake in a 13×9 according to  package directions.  Cool completely. 
Line the bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan with waxed paper. 

To make the ganache:  In a glass mixing bowl, microwave cream and butter just until the mixture begins to boil.  Remove and immediately add the broken up chocolate; let sit 1-2 minutes.  Stir until chocolate is completely melted.  You might need to rewarm in the microwave for a few seconds.  Cool slightly. 

Cut the cooled cake into small pieces and place in a large bowl.  Pour about half of the cooled ganache mixture over the cake and mix well.  While you are mixing , you may have flashbacks to childhood days of mud pies – but this will be WAY better.  Use a spatula to thoroughly mix the cake and chocolate together.  Scape mixture into the prepared spring form pan, smooth the top and place in freezer for about an hour. 
It is okay to leave the bowl of the remaining ganache on the counter until the cake is cooled.  Try not to sample it. 

To unmold the cake:  Carefully run a knife around the edge of the springform pan.  Remove ring. 
Taste any morsels of cake that may remain on the ring, as this is the cook’s privilege. 
Place the serving plate on top of the cake and flip.  Remove the bottom plate and carefully peel off the waxed paper.  Pour the ganache over the top of the cake; spread smooth.  The ganache will drip down the sides of the cake.  Store in the refrigerator until serving time; cover and refrigerate any leftovers.  The cake can be stored up to one week in the refrigerator, but trust me, there will be no leftovers. 

Because it is so rich, I serve thin wedges of the cake.  If you are feeling extra fancy you can drizzle a little chocolate sauce on the dessert plate place the cake on top, adding a few strawberries or raspberries on the side.          STARBUCKS%20Milk%20Chocolate%20Signature%20Bar%20-%203%20ozbars_intense_twilight_lg

Re: the chocolate for the ganache.  You can make this cake very inexpensively, or you can spend more money on quality chocolate.  I have made this just using Semi-Sweet Chocolate morsels, but the consistency was not pleasing.  It also took more ‘zaps’ in the microwave to become smooth. 
When I make this, I like to use a good quality chocolate.  I often use 3 packages of Ghirardelli Intense Dark, Twilight Delight 72% cacao bars, at 3.5 oz a package.  And, 2 packages of Starbucks Milk Chocolate, 3 oz each package. 
The recipe calls for 16 oz of chocolate, these bars will give you 16.5. 
What are you going to do with that extra 1/2 ounce? 
I say, eat it!


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I love maps; I studied geography in college, not as part of my career goals, but just because it was interesting. 

When my friend and blogging buddy told me about ClustrMaps and I saw the link info on her site, it looked like fun. 
I like seeing where the people who visit my blog come from.  It makes me feel connected to the world, and chances are I will never visit some of the far flung places in the world that drop by my blog for a visit.  Welcome.  Stay and have a cup of tea while you read.   Someday I hope to get to Europe & stay in a castle, any castle will do.  (I know they are drafty…I will bring a sweater.) We have plans for an Alaskan cruise in 2010….but I’m afraid that my long desired trip to the Holy Land will have to wait.

When I was growing up, my family travelled cross-country…three times…from coast to coast…by car.  When we lived in the east, there were trips to Georgia, Florida and the east coast…New York, New England, Canada and our nation’s capital. 
I was always in charge of the AAA Trip-tick on these adventures.  I read aloud from the appropriate tour book that listed the hotels and points of interest along the way. 

I know what you’re thinking…..”Oh how romantic and fun that must have been!”…..traveling by car, learning about the United States, meeting interesting people…visiting national parks, monuments, historic cities…seeing America up close…Yes, that would have been fun. 
Let me clarify…
I would have enjoyed the maps, the traveling and the history much more, if my father was the kind of person that actually pulled over to enjoy the scenic outlooks that the tour books boasted about. 

Rather, our stops were fast…fill the car up with gas and a potty break for the occupants…including the dog.  Sometimes the stops were just to let the dog out for a quick pee and maybe  a poop.  Teddy got really good at holding it in for…..hours.  She was the only dog I have ever seen who could cross her legs.  Since she also had motion sickness, we had to give her Dramamine.  I still have a vivid memory of her vomiting on the edge of a mountain road on the way to Big Bear, CA.  Poodle puke is not pretty. 
Sad face. 


Some of these cross country road trips also included my 70-ish year old grandmother.  
While having three generations trapped in a vehicle is great for family togetherness & bonding….one member of our family was not thrilled.  You see, my dog HATED the sound of my grandma’s voice. 
So we had to medicate her during the trips….the dog…not my grandmother.   

Fortunately for Teddy, the Dramamine helped her sleep…again, the dog slept…. not my grandmother.
Oh no!  Grandma did not sleep, maybe briefly doze off perhaps, but never a good long nap…filling the car with peaceful quiet….
Those brief ‘cat naps’ (sorry Teddy) gave Grandma the energy to talk, a lot.  Grandma had opinions to force upon you share; people to gossip talk about…

My grandmother did not approve of the music selections, restaurant choices (she wasn’t paying), conversation topics, or the level of the air conditioning.  She was not afraid of loudly voicing her opinions and Grandma’s opinions were many. 
During her lectures, Teddy would have her head buried in my mom’s armpit, even the Dramamine didn’t help. 
Sometimes she would whimper….(yes, the dog.) 
There were times during the trips that I’m sure my dad wished he could slip her a ‘little something’…in this case…his mother…not the dog.

As far as the music selections, don’t get excited.  We had approximately a dozen 8 Track tapes…remember those?  Montavanni & His Orchestra, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Doc Severinsen (from Tonight Show fame), Nat King Cole….(I heard Mona Lisa so many times that I could probably re-write an arrangement  of it today, myself – from memory.)  Then, there was the very jazzy 8 track tape that came with the car.  I can’t remember all the performers, but every time I hear Carlos Santana’s “Oye como va“, I am transported to a long stretch of deserted highway somewhere in the continental US. 
I actually have the music playing “as we speak”…it’s giving me, my inspiration.


While Grandma claimed to not like the the uptempo numbers, she kept time by tapping on the passenger window….for miles……(she really liked the Carlos Santana piece.)  Sometimes we could get a smile out of Grandma by singing a chorus of “Sweet Hour of Prayer” along with Tennessee Ernie Ford in Donald Duck voices.  And they call this…talent. 
There were other artists, but I can’t remember the titles now…the tapes have long since been donated to the Smithsonian. 
(Although Manilow’s “Even Now ” 8 track is still around here somewhere.  Notice:  Any snotty anti-Barry Manilow comments will earn you an immediate place of dishonor in the Spam folder.)

During one rather eventful trip, my mom was seated behind my grandmother.  Mom was in the direct line air conditioning for hours;  she had a serious case of bronchitis/pneumonia by the time we reached our destination.  Luckily, hospitals are also listed in the AAA tour books.

I saw the Grand Canyon as a ‘tween.’  My father parked the car, we got out, walked to edge, stared out and took a photo.  I still have the pic of me and Teddy in a photo album…acid free of course.  My dad said “that’s the Grand Canyon.”  We got back in the car.  The little tour had taken away 10 minutes from our valuable drive time. 

Teddy was not without her colorful moments.  Once in Canada after the Olympics in Montreal, a lovely Canadian with a French accent asked if he could pet Teddy.   I did not understand, “Does she bite?  in French….fortunately he moved his hand before she tried to give him a nip.   She was an adorable dog, and the fact that she wore her security ‘blanket’ sweater even in the summer made her even cuter.  I apologized profusely for my dog, I must have had the gene for diplomacy even then.  The gentleman was very kind and accepted my regrets for the behavior of my medicated poodle.  Turned out he was some sort of Canadian diplomat….good thing Teddy did not start an international incident. 

My husband’s traveling experiences were similar to mine. 
His family made approximately 15 trips between CA and the Midwest during his childhood. 
My in-laws had two weeks vacation each year and they did not want to spend all of it driving.  Hubby’s father and mother would take turns at the wheel, stopping only for potty breaks until they reached their destination.  Hubby’s CA grandma would make sandwiches for the trip….
Hubby says they had to hope the food would last and not spoil….luckily Coleman coolers had been invented by then…..

His family would always begin their journeys late at night or in the wee morning hours…to get through the desert while it was cool. 
Of course this meant the first leg of the trip was in the dark….making it difficult to see the beautiful scenery. 
There were often conversations like the following –
“Hey Kids!  Here’s Yosemite….But Dad, it’s 3 am – it’s kinda dark!” 
“Oh look!  That was an indian reservation!…Really? Where?” 
It’s a wonder when we were growing up that neither one of us had whiplash from watching the scenery zoom past. 

Hubby is willing to share some personal anecdotes of travelling with his family: 
One trip all the children had coloring books.  They kept the new crayons in a coffee can…never put a coffee can filled with crayons in the back window of an Oldsmobile on a hot August morning…..

There was the time in Arizona….on a indian reservation…surprisingly enough during daylight hours…when Father-in-law bought fireworks.  “FIL” thought he was purchasing the tiny ‘lady fingers’ fireworks, when what he actually bought were full fledged firecrackers.  “FIL” thought it would be funny to light one off in the car…..I mean, light a firework in the car…don’t EVEN get me started on personal emissions.  After the blast rocked the station wagon, I’m surprised they all didn’t lose their hearing.  Could this be why sometimes Hubby says “Huh?” when I ask him a question?   

…Then there was the time that the brakes went out on the Oldsmobile, coming down out of Loveland Pass in Colorado…wheee…Rocky Mountain Higgggggggggh!  My mother-in-law nearly had a nervous breakdown from the joy ride down the mountain road. 

I don’t think I can tell you what happened in Yosemite…I’ll check to see if there’s a statute of limitations on flowers before my next post on Clustr Maps.  So – between hubby and I, we’d seen lots of the country by car…at 60 – 70  miles an hour or whatever….speed that our fathers could get by with…the speed limit allowed…often in the dark.

Coming in Part II – Stories from the Road when you take the time to stop and “Smell (Don’t pick) the Flowers!”

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About 8 pm tonight we had an earthquake in CA. The cats didn’t act any stranger than usual…in fact, I thought the shaking/rolling motion was caused by one of them rummaging under the love seat for a stray cat toy.

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