Tag Archives: california

Road Trip from California to Florida

19 Aug

These are some snapshots from my 3 day road trip from Hanford, California to Pensacola, Florida with my dad, my dog and my five cats. We crossed through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama on our way to my new home. We were hauling a little 5×8 Uhaul trailer behind us stuffed with as many of my belongings as we could cram into the tiny space, so we were puttering across the countryside at a roaring 55mph the entire trip. Even with our trailer-induced slow pace, we made the nearly 2500 mile trip in good time… we left at 9am on Tuesday August 13th (my birthday!) and arrived at midnight on Thursday August 15th.

The majority of these pictures were snapped through the dirty windshield of my little Ford Escape. We really did not take the time to stop and sightsee. My animals did amazing on the drive, with my cats being happy, playful and purring each night we smuggled them into the Extended Stay hotels we stopped at.

The most stressful portion of the trip was my fear that my cage of cats would be spotted and we’d be hotel-less for the night. Extended Stay hotels allow animals, but with a limit of two per room. Whenever you ask management, “Hey, can I bring five cats and a dog into your facility?” The answer is always a very quick and oftentimes bitchy, “Hell no.” Since my cats are amazingly well behaved, socially adjusted and clean little buggers – and because they stayed in the crate the whole time and were only let out in the bathroom for a quick cuddle and playtime – I didn’t see the harm in making sure the coast was clear and then carting my cage of cats through the exit doors at 1am for our 8 hour stays. So I can now add, “Smuggler of Cats” onto my growing list of random things I’ve accomplished in my life.

While it got long, boring, redundant and stressful at times, I had a blast on this road trip with my daddy. I know I could not have made this drive at 8 months pregnant all by my lonesome. Since we arrived in Pensacola we’ve been busy beyond belief, and I’ve only now just found a chance to upload these photos and find some free WiFi at a local Starbucks. But I’ll be sure to update with more of my travel / moving in weekend when I get the chance!

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On The Road to Pensacola

13 Aug

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The fortune cookie has spoken.

I’ve been rather silent the last few days – and will be silent for the rest of the week because!… Tomorrow morning I embark on my cross country road trip from California to Florida to join my husband in Pensacola!

Our little 5×8 foot uHaul trailer is filled to brimming with my bare essentials (and maybe just a couple little luxury items, too).

My SUV is loaded up with roadtrippy goodness for me, my dad and my furry babies.

Oh! And tomorrow is my birthday.

I’ve been a broken record on this blog about how my life is about to undergo many, many changes… and tomorrow is definitely one of the major ones. Keep me, my dad and my unborn daughter Tessa in your travel prayers?

I’ll be back to blogging sometime next week!

Packing Up The Apartment

10 Aug

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THE KITCHEN BEFORE

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THE KITCHEN AFTER

Despite the universe throwing every conceivable road block in my way – the car breaking and needing serious work in the shop, my edema acting up and making standing for more than 15 minutes at a time painful, the cost of moving mounting up to unbelievable proportions, etc. etc. – I am defying the world and packing up our 400 square foot studio apartment in Hanford, California to embark on a cross country road trip to Pensacola, Florida. That’s 2,261 miles. At 8 months pregnant. With a car full of cats. And a retarded moose dog. Who says I don’t have adventures?

My dad is going with me so I won’t be alone, but it’s still a daunting task. I’ve spent the last few days slowly packing up the apartment with the barest of essentials. And the more I pack the more I think “essentials” includes things like my antique phonograph horn (otherwise, how could I listen to turn of the century Al Bowlly music in the mornings on the porch with my cup of coffee..?) and my various carvings of cats and cougars.

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The prospect of leaving so many of my precious collectables behind wrankles me. Oh. And I HATE touching cardboard. Hate hate hate hate it. It’s like nails on chalkboard to my fingertips. It ripples through my nervous system like a sour high note at a demon opera. So needless to say, I am one cranky bitch these days.

But I’m excited to be living – if not WITH my honey right away – at least near him. Until he is released to live off of the base, I will be carving out our little nest solo and preparing our home for baby Tessa. But it brings us one step closer to being reunited as a family under one roof again. Only this time, it’s 15 minutes from the beach and a day trip to New Orleans. I’ll take that.

Well, I better get back to packing. Just the living room and bedroom left!

The Allan Herschell Carousel in Hanford, CA

22 Jul

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When I was a little girl, my poppa and I would go on “Daddy Daughter Dates”, where he’d let me pick anywhere I wanted to go. Anywhere on the WHOLE planet. And whatever I wanted to do, we’d do it. (I usually wanted to go water the weeds growing up through the cracks in the asphalt behind the local Wienerschnitzel or catch tadpoles down by the canal.)

Our Daddy Daughter Dates have been an on-going tradition for well over two decades now. Yesterday? I wanted to go ride on the Hanford Carousel.

I was born and raised in Hanford, and growing up I never realized how lucky I was to have a real, old fashioned carousel in my own back yard. Didn’t every kid have this innocent pastime at their fingertips? One summer, when I was about eight or so, my mom volunteered to work the carousel on the weekends, and we would spend the day riding around and around and around, never tiring of the delightful monotony. I must have ridden on every single horse a dozen times each in my lifetime. I have so many fond memories with this turn of the century amusement.

This historic 1939 Allan Herschell Company Carousel is one of the true jewels of our tiny town, a centrally located pride and joy. Aesthetically and mechanically, it is a masterpiece. Here are a few fast facts on the carousel:

– From the early 1800’s to the 1940’s, an estimated 6,000 classic wooden carousels were constructed in North America. The Hanford Carousel is one of only 213 surviving and currently operating classic wooden carousels from that time period.

– Of the Allan Herschell Company all wood carousels, the Hanford Carousel is one of only 49 surviving and currently operating carousels in North America.

– The carousel was constructed for travel and designed to be portable. It features 3 rows of horses, with 30 classic horse “jumpers” (all legs off the ground) and 2 chariots.

– The period of the Hanford Carousels construction was during the Art Deco era, and the design greatly reflects that. The inside panels feature art deco lighting and classic mirror panels.

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Yesterday was another Central Valley scorcher, with temperatures well over 100 degrees, so when my poppa and I arrived it was empty and we had the carousel all to ourselves. I picked out my favorite horse (“I want a white one! Here dad, you ride on a white one too!”) and my dad, who will always be my daddy no matter how old I am, insisted he help me up and buckle me in. (“The buckles are for children, dad!”)

While we were spinning around, sharing small talk and me being overly excited over the ride, my dad kept nervously reaching over to keep his hand on my shoulder and steady me as I snapped pictures or talked with my hands. “Keep both of your hands on the pole.” “Dad, I’m not going to fall. I’m pushing 30. I think I can stay on a carousel horse.” “You’re going to fall.” So around we rode, with my dad holding onto my shoulder, and me hands-free and giggling, like nothing has changed at all over the past 25 years.

I don’t know if it’s the timeless appeal of the carousel that’s got me feeling nostalgic or if it’s my pregnancy hormone addled brain – or maybe a mixture of both? – but our little outing has me feeling emotional and sentimental. When my dad said I would always be his little girl, I didn’t know it would be so… literal! And it’s crazy to think – I have a daughter in my belly. This was Tessa’s first carousel ride and she got to share it with her Grandpa! The first of many Grandpa Granddaughter Dates to come, perhaps?

Rodger Brasel, the Carousel Operator, was kind enough to let me wander around the horses after the ride, snapping pictures and inspecting the hand paintings on each horse close up. Every single horse is unique. We wove in and out among the horses, my dad and Rodger sharing small talk and discussing memories of Hanford while I snapped pictures at random, until a family with small children wandered over from an ice cream date at Superior Dairy. The little girl ran over to one of my favorite horses, and exclaimed to me, “I like this one!” I smiled and said, “I know, me too!” And as she was scrambling up the horse she said, “I just had ice cream over there!” I told her, “Really? I love getting ice cream over there!” While she was struggling to climb up, her dad came over to steady her and I couldn’t help thinking, holy goodness… this is my childhood that I’m looking at right here. Does this little girl know that one day she is going to look back on this lazy Sunday afternoon and treasure it?

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Rodger with some very excited children about to ride the carousel! The little boy was telling Rodger, “This horse has some purple!”

Rodger was a dear and took a photo of me and my dad, and then I snapped a couple of pictures of Rodger interacting with the sweet little kids and then we took off. It was a fun day and a perfect Daddy Daughter Date!

As long as I am waxing poetic about the carousel, I should note that this Herschell masterpiece in located at the Civic Center Park in Hanford and is open on the weekends in summer. It is only $1 a ride, and if you show your military ID you ride free!

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Me and my poppa… and baby Tessa in my belly!

Thursday Night Farmers Market in Hanford

20 Jul

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Hanford has a pretty awesome Farmers Market. Being in the heart of the agricultural community, the fruits and veggies are all local and fresh. The event started as a small local farmers shindig with ratty booths overloaded with veggies, and that was about it, but over the years it has quickly expanded to include weekly art displays, bounce houses, mini petting zoos, face painting, live music and so on and so on. It’s all kind of fun.

I still usually go just for the fresh fruits and veggies. (And I won’t lie, and for the occasional Merry Go Round ride.) I went this last Thursday with my friends Amber (Crafty Book Goddess) and Devin, and their kids. We wandered around, I avoided people I knew (because obligatory small talk is boring), and I bought some catnip for my kitties. I also bought $5 worth of figs and ate them. All of them. Immediately. Didn’t even stop to wash them. Then I got really sick.

While trying to not hurl into every trash can or bush that I passed due to fresh fig overdose, I noticed that everything I do – everything I’ve been doing – these past few weeks has smacked of a bittersweet farewell. Impending Navy life has got me living in a perpetual state of uncertainty. I may never live in Hanford, California again. I may never go to another Hanford Thursday night Farmers Market as a local. This is my hometown. My stomping grounds.

I’m glad I’ve got this blog to dump my thoughts and rag tag photos onto. I suck at scrapbooking. But pinning a visual and verbal thought gumbo onto an online journal? That, I can do. And I know down the road these will be treasured memories. ^_^

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Yosemite Renaissance at the Kings Art Center in Hanford, CA

19 Jul

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Like I said in a previous post, when it comes to the Central Valley, a “cultural experience” usually entails risking food poisoning at roadside taco trucks and haggling over wilted vegetables at the weekly swap meets. While I am no art critic, (my inner artist only extends as far as photography, cosplay crafts and the occasion doddering attempt at literary works) I do enjoy immersing myself in the atmosphere of art galleries. The creativity, the intrigue, the skill, the craft and the passion that goes into the art world is one that I love to visit. I got rather spoiled when I was living in Southern California and could visit the monthly LA Art Hop, jumping from gallery to gallery along Spring Street and 1st, sampling wine and cheeses, enjoying and envying the amazing art… and laughing at the travesties masquerading as art. (A dead bird smeared with cat poo? Okay, LA, whatever.)

So while I miss the chaos and hoity toity yupperyof the LA art scene, I’m not completely deprived of the gallery experience in Hanford. We’re not completely without fine art in the Central Valley – though it usually does require some digging to find anything worthwhile. The Kings Art Center has been doing a fantastic job making art readily available to the public and the local community with their free galleries open all week long.

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A couple of days ago I stopped by to visit the current exhibit, Yosemite Renaissance. This is the 28th year of this annual exhibit. The display features 46 paintings, photographs, prints and sculptures from the representational to the abstract, all interpreting the majesty of the Yosemite and the Sierra Nevadas.

Being a sucker for the Sierra Nevada (I am partial to the Sequoias, but do have a deep love for Yosemite as well), I found this exhibit to be thoroughly enjoyable. I was impressed with the variety of mediums displayed, and I would even go so far as to say that this is the best display I have seen at the Kings Art Center to date. It was hard to choose a favorite piece. I am usually predisposed toward the photography works, but I would have to say the piece that riveted my attention the most was the acrylic on canvas painting by Stacey Best, “The Western Redbud in the Sierra”. (Pictured below.)

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The prole, member-of-the-unwashed-masses side of me usually finds a piece of art or two that I scoff at and think, “This is art? Really?” But I didn’t find anything on display that was overly abstract or surreal or irrelevant to invoke my inner critic. Everything was a gorgeous representation of the familiar Yosemite scenes, whether in color, texture or feel. So my art happy? Officially filled up. ^_^

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Top 10 Places to Eat In and Around Lemoore, California

18 Jul

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This blog is primarily for the Navy wives and families that find themselves stationed at NAS Lemoore and are scoping out their new stomping grounds. When I started trolling the web for details on my husbands A School in Pensacola, Florida, I was relieved to see a number of “local favorites” guides by fellow Navy wives. But then it dawned on me that there aren’t any similar posts for the Lemoore area. So I thought I’d step up and remedy that. And I figure finding great places to eat is always a wonderful place to start!

First off, I was born and raised in this area, so the Central Valley holds a very special place in my heart. But I have been told by many Navy families that their arrival to this area was, shall we say, less than a joyous occasion. Lemoore can be a bit of a shock for those who heard they’d be stationed in California and pictured in their minds eye touristy snapshots of Los Angeles, or miles of gorgeous beaches and coastline. While these attractions aren’t *too* far away, the fact is that Lemoore is right in the dead center of an agricultural community. So you’ll be passing miles of crops, orchards and dairies on the way to your new Home Sweet Home. And that can be kind of scary (and can smell kind of rank at times).

But don’t get too freaked out. It’s a lovely community. It has all the charm and qualities of a small town (making for tight knit groups, easy connections and old fashioned family life fun), while big cities are only a day trip away. And we are ringed by any nature scene you could crave – forests, oceans, desserts, foothills – all are accessible for an easy weekend getaway. But I digress. I was going to talk about places to eat!

Compiling a top ten list of places to eat was a lot harder than I thought it would be. The list kept growing, and I kept wanting to throw more surrounding towns into the mix. To make things easier, the criteria I used for making it into the top ten are 1) My personal favorites; 2) Eateries in either Lemoore, Armona or Hanford (the three closest towns to the Navy Base) and lastly; 3) Hole in the wall places and hidden treasures that you would not otherwise find or try unless a local told you about it.

So without further ado, here’s my list of Top Ten Places to Eat In and Around Lemoore, California!

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Ethel Reds Chophouse

850 E D St in Lemoore

My friends would not shut up about this place. The food was so good! The portions are so huge! The prices are so amazing! Steakhouse food for fast food prices! Sometimes even cheaper than fast food when they run specials! I was like, yeah yeah yeah, sure. Then a friend dragged me out to the restaurant. And OMG. It’s like I’ve been infected by the Ethel Reds foodie zombies, and now I am one of the moaning horde, going after everyone I know to go eat at this place. The food *is* AMAZING. The portions *are* HUGE. The décor and atmosphere is homespun and high class. And my favorite? It really is as cheap as eating fast food. Cheaper, in fact, if you order the 5 lunches for $20 special. That’s right. Five people can eat at a steakhouse for $20. That includes 5 burgers, 5 steak fries and 5 drinks. You have to see it (and taste it) to believe it. I recommend the Bacon Burger!

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The Vineyard Restaurant

819 E Bush St in Lemoore

Right across the street from Ethel Reds, this American cuisine restaurant is relaxed enough for a casual meal, yet elegant enough for special occasions. Covered in beautiful landscaping, vineyard antiques and gorgeous murals and fountains, it’s a great place to sit out on the patio with a glass of wine. The owners are feline friendly and there’s usually stray cats out and about, sometimes begging for love and food in the outdoor dining areas, which being the crazy cat lady, I love. I recommend the Mushroom Patty Melt. Soooo good!

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Reyna’s Restaurant

333 E St in Lemoore

The best Mexican food in Lemoore, though given the choice I would personally wait for a weekend and eat at Tacos El Chilango at the Swap Meets in Hanford (more on that below!). But if you simply can’t wait and need Mexican food now, this would be the place. This little restaurant is a comfortable walking distance from the movie theater in Downtown Lemoore, so it’s a great choice for a dinner and movie date night. Sauces are yummy, they are generous with their cheeses, but be warned! Service can sometimes be lacking if they are really busy. I recommend the Carne Asada Burrito.

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Ravens Deli

10856 14th Ave in Armona

This is the first hole in the wall joint that is in a little hovel of a town. It’s kind of a running joke that Armona is the hillbilly town of the Central Valley, so don’t be daunted on your way to this deli. Yes, it’s a gross little street surrounded by gross little houses in a gross little community. But the food is fantastic. The best prepared meats by the pound you’ll find anywhere in the Valley. Also, Raven’s is kind of a local culinary celebrity around here. Their special seasonings and spices are sold at all major super markets, and is distributed state and nationwide. Go to any local BBQ and they’re most likely using Raven’s products on their meat. I especially liked stopping by this deli when I was doing the South Beach Diet. I’d buy Shredded Turkey and a Green Salad and top it with tons of the complimentary cheeses they offer. SO GOOD!

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Thai Kitchen

122 N 11th Ave in Hanford

This is my favorite favorite FAVORITE place to eat in Central California. It’s another hole in the wall joint, but it is THE best Thai food in the area. Authentic, (run by a family from Thailand), warm, friendly, and amazing cuisine. This is the place my husband and I go most often. They’ll see us getting out of the car and will start our food for us before we sit down, lol! While the entire menu is delicious (and yes, I have tried almost every single offering!) we always end up falling back on the Pad Kee Mao. The flat noodles are cooked to perfection here. Also, this is one of the only places that take you seriously when you ask for something “super spicy”! They also offer an assortment of complimentary thai chilis so you can tweak your dish to your liking spice-wise. My husband is also partial to the Thai Teas they serve here. If you like Thai food, expect to be one of the new regulars!

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Tacos El Chilango

801 10th Ave in Hanford on Saturdays and Sundays – 9am to 1pm

8967 Lacey Blvd in Hanford on Mondays – 9am to 1pm

This is THE BEST taco truck in the Valley. The truck is based out of Tulare, California but makes regular appearances at the Kings County Fair Grounds Swap Meet on the weekends, and at Alma’s Swap Meet on Mondays – both in Hanford. The truck is run by a wonderful family (the daughter is especially adorable… so young and already quite the little business woman!) and the portions are HUGE. The meat is always of a high quality – no excess fat or gristle like you get with other trucks – and everything is marinated in their signature family recipes, so it’s something unique and different than every other truck in the Valley. I recommend the Chorizo and Carne Asada Tacos. Oh, and did I forget to mention? Tacos are only $1, and a burrito that can feed two, is only $4! Their homemade salsa is also delicious and super hot. When you go, tell them the girl with the camera sent you.

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Hong Kong Chop Suey

481 E 7th St in Hanford

When it comes to eating Chinese food, I am a glutton for variety. So I usually opt for all you can eat joints, where the quality tends to go down by virtue of the mass production buffet style kitchen. That said, this is the only Chinese food restaurant that is NOT a buffet that I enjoy eating at for it’s variety and quality combined. The prices are so low, that you can afford to order multiple selections, eat your fill, and then take the rest home. We always plan on over ordering here so we can take a few boxes home, the food reheats nicely. The atmosphere is great, the tea is yummy, all the selections are flavorful (I am partial to the Egg Foo Yong and Kung Pao Chicken) and it is right across the street from the Historical China Alley in Downtown Hanford, so you can finish your meal with a stroll through some gorgeous turn of the century Chinese architecture and maybe stop by the refurbished L.T. Sue Company Tea Room and Emporium for some artisan Chinese teas.

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Superior Dairy

325 N Douty in Hanford

Growing up in Hanford, whenever people would ask me where I’m from and I’d mention my little town, if they recognized it at all it would be by saying, “Oh! That’s the town with the really good ice cream, right?!” People make regular excursions from across the state to come visit Superior Dairy. That’s not an exaggeration. This is quite literally the best, the freshest and the cheapest ice cream you will ever eat in your entire life, ever. I’m pretty sure you can do YouTube searches on Superior Dairy and find videos of people freaking out over the huge portions in the 1950’s style diner. My favorite is the SOS, that easily feeds 5-6 people for only $12. They also serve lunch (hence why it is on the “places to eat” list) but it’s main draw is the ice cream! I recommend the Chocolate Chip and Maplenut Ice Cream. With warm hot fudge and melted caramel and marshmellow… mmmmmm.

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Old Hanford Cantina

301 N Douty St in Hanford

Situated in the heart of Downtown Hanford, this little Mexican food restaurant is all about atmosphere, and is nestled into one of the original historic Hanford buildings from the turn of the century. Lots of antiques and memorabilia line the walls, and as a child I’ve always loved putting quarters into the self-playing piano. (I’m 28 and I still ask my dad for a quarter so I can go make it play!) It’s also right next door to some great sprawling antique shops – a great location for treasure hunting and lunch! My favorites are the Steak and Chicken Fajitas that come out on a still sizzling pan, and the Cheesy Stuffed Potato Skins. So good!

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La Fiesta Restaurant

106 N Green St in Hanford

One of the best sit down Mexican food restaurants in the area. When it comes to the food, I’d recommend it above the Old Hanford Cantina and Reyna’s listed above, but it’s sunk to the bottom of my list simply because the service has drastically gone down over the years. Don’t expect refills and prompt service (unless you demand them, they’re receptive to increasingly cranky patrons, haha). But the food really IS good enough to brave the shoddy service – and surprisingly the busier it is, the better the service. If you go when it’s empty, the staff gets lazy. But do check it out! Their complimentary fresh and homemade chips are delicious. As are their Shredded Beef Crunchy Tacos. The price is fantastic too!

So that’s it for my Top Ten Places to Eat In and Around Lemoore! There are tons and tons and tons of runners up, but these should be a good start to getting your feet wet in the Central California food scene. If you are looking for exceptionally fine dining, you’ll have to travel to Visalia or Fresno. The Central Valley does have a few restaurants that can compete on a statewide level for five star cuisine. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line!