Lunch overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Rocky Point Restaurant

Visit Carmel for the Holidays

Lunch overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Rocky Point Restaurant, south of Carmel-by-the-Sea

Amalfi Coast? No. Lunch on the patio of Rocky Point Restaurant, just a few minutes south of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

We love visiting Carmel for the holidays. It is a seaside town that got a taste of stardom when Clint “Dirty Harry” Eastwood became mayor for a short time in the mid-80’s. We stay at Doris Day’s Cypress Inn, and bring our dog. Bring holiday guests or come on your own, the natural beauty will blow everyone away.

Visit Carmel for the Holidays

Cypress Inn with Holiday lights.

Visit Carmel for the Holidays

The Cypress Inn’s lounge is complete with a fireplace, a Christmas tree and cozy (dog-friendly) couches.

We’ve been going to Carmel for many years, and more recently, it has become “our little spot” for Thanksgiving. We love the beach, the peace and quiet, the art galleries, and the dog-friendly attitude that pervades the town. This year, amidst the kick-off of our Christmas shopping, we explored beyond the little Carmel hamlet and found a few new spots that we loved.

Rocky Point Restaurant is located on a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean. The day after Thanksgiving, we headed south on Hwy 1 and made the brief ten mile drive to this spot that opened as a roadside lunch spot in 1947. The weather could not have been better, so we sat outside on the patio.

The view from Rocky Point Restaurant, minutes south of Carmel-by-the-Sea

After our lunch, we hiked out to the rocky cliffs below the restaurant along an easy path. Hikers report that dolphins and whales are often spotted from the path, but we they didn’t appear on the day we were there. Another reason to return!

The hiking path below Rocky Point Restaurant, south of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

The trail below Rocky Point Restaurant is easy and beyond picturesque. Can you see all the folks fishing?

Big Sur, California, just a few minutes south of Carmel-by-the-Sea

On our way back from Rocky Point, we stopped to tour Carmel’s Mission. Founded in 1770 by Father Junipero Serra, the mission was the headquarters of the Alta California missions. As all California 4th graders can tell you, there are 21 Spanish missions, or religious outposts dotting the state from San Diego to Sonoma. The Missions were established by Spanish Catholic priests between 1769 and 1833, to expand Christianity among the Native Americans northwards into what we now know as California. Simple, peaceful and full of interesting exhibits in five small museums, the Carmel Mission boasts a beautiful stone church, as well as the surprisingly bare room in which Father Serra lived and died. It was well worth the visit.

The edifice of the Carmel Mission in Carmel-by-the-Sea

The edifice of the Carmel Mission.

Interior of the Carmel Mission's Basilica, in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Interior of the Carmel Mission’s Basilica.

Our Lady of Bethlehem statue in the Carmel Mission, in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Our Lady of Bethlehem statue , which was given to the Spanish explorers by the Archbishop of Mexico City in 1770. She has resided in Carmel since then.

Are you on Instagram? (Follow me: I started using because I love keeping up with what interests my 14-year-old nieces, but now I do it because it is fun and inspiring. I follow Kim of northerncalstyle, and she recommended a stop at Tancredi & Morgen, which we did on our way out of town on Sunday. It’s adorable and full of holiday decorations and gifts!

Tancredi & Morgen, just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

The front of Tancredi & Morgen, located just off Carmel Valley Road.

This little shop is located in one of the sole remaining buildings from a ranch that was once located on the spot. We met Roger Alldis, who, along with his wife, established the business. Roger hails from South Africa and loves traveling to France and Turkey among other spots to find the treasures that fill the store. We found an array of Christmas decorations, old hotel silver, handmade pillows, copper pots, textiles, antiques, furniture and clothing to name just a few items.

Tancredi & Morgen, located just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea

I didn’t wind up buying anything, as I’d already purchased several items from downtown Carmel shops.

A lovely holiday decoration from Tancredi & Morgen, located just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea

Next time, I’ll be sure I visit Tancredi Morgen early in my visit!

Tancredi & Morgen, located just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Of course, my favorite moments were those I spent on Ocean Beach, the doggiest beach in the world, with my darling husband and our rescue dog, Mia. She is ten now, and slowing down a bit, but few things make her eyes sparkle as much as chasing tennis balls at full speed.

Our dog Mia on dog-friendly Ocean Beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Seeing her so happy makes my heart soar.

Our dog Mia on Ocean Beach in Carmel.


Selfie with me and my girl.

Watching the sunsets on the beach is a spiritual experience.

Ocean Beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea





A few links I hope you will enjoy:

Last year’s post from Carmel, and a trip to Carmel with a friend.

The Myth of Quality Time.

The anatomy of a scene: Amy. I hope you’ll see the movie.

A photographer imagines herself as her mother’s childhood friend.

I’m loving  “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having.” Check it out!

Meet: the kitten nanny.

Oscar winner Julianne Moore acts for tips.

“Beautiful, gross, strong, thin, fat, pretty, ugly, sexy, disgusting, flawless, woman.” How do you respond to Amy Schumer in the new Pirelli calendar.

Finally, I write as I listen to the news about the mass shooting in San Bernadino. This just after the attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. Which was just after an attack at Umpqua Community College. Which was just after eight people killed in a home outside Houston. Which was just after the shooting during a prayer meeting in Charleston. Which was just after a shootout in Waco.

This was the 355th mass shooting this year. We must come together to change our gun laws. Enough. Enough. Enough.



Grandson with our pet chicken

Mother Nature’s Lessons

Our grandsons with one of our Nankin hens. Trueheartgal.

Two of our grandsons visited us for the week, and it’s been full of fun and adventures, but there have also been some difficult lessons about life with animals.

Each grandson was allowed to select and name one of the young hens from our flock. Hill, six years old, gave his pullet the name “Hi” and his brother Braden, eight years old, chose to name his “Dear.”

Grandson with our pet chicken

Giving them names created a special connection from each boy to their little hen. The boys wanted to let his hen out in the morning, feed her treats of bananas and dried meal worms during the day, look for her free-ranging throughout the day and hold her before we locked them up in the coop for the night.

Two years ago, Braden named one of our little white roosters “Frosty.” He has had a special connection with Frosty since that day. The little rooster grew up to be our favorite. He was the tamest and smartest. The low rooster on the totem pole, he waited outside the coop every night, waiting for us to  come out to put him in for the night. We opened the door to the nursery – the side of the coop reserved for new mommies and their chicks. Frosty hopped in gratefully to enjoy his peace and quiet, away from the higher ranking roosters, Sylvester and Banjo, who would chase him and attack him if he came close to the hens. He trusted us, and we adored and appreciated him and his unique personality.

A few days ago, my husband (Grandpa) noticed that Frosty wasn’t feeling right. By this morning, he was dying. We took him to the vet and had him put out to sleep.

We are so sad, and so are the boys. Braden took solace in the idea that Frosty wasn’t suffering anymore and that we’d done the right thing by our favorite little rooster.

Our beautiful Nankin bantam rooster. Trueheartgal

The good news was that we saved a chicken today as well. I was out checking on Frosty in the coop when I heard a hen cackling incessantly in the courtyard. I found her beneath a lemon tree, inches away from a snake that was coiled around her eggs.

I cannot tell a rattler from a python from a garter snake. I freaked and called Grandpa, who was out with the boys, buying supplies for a lemonade stand we are doing tomorrow to raise money for our local animal shelter, Pets Lifeline. I waited and kept the hen away from the snake while the guys sped home.

Grandpa identified the snake as a good gopher snake. He picked it up just as it was trying to swallow one of the eggs. The boys (and our dog Mia) went wild with curiosity, and were eager to touch the snake and look at it up close. Grandpa let it loose out in the vineyard, and within moments, the happy and fierce little hen was back on her nest.


Our little hen is happily back on her nest after taking on a bull snake that wanted her eggs. Trueheartgal.

I write as though I’m accustomed to Mother Nature’s sublime miracles, random violence and loss, but I’m not. I mourn every death, worry more than I should and work to anticipate every danger.

It’s hard watching our kind, animal-loving young grandsons learn Mother Nature’s hard lessons, but I hope they keep loving with their hearts wide open. I hope they continue to name every chicken, even though it means their hearts may break. But sometimes, it might also mean they save a brave little hen and her eggs and they will walk inside with heroes hearts and new names for the yet to be hatched chicks swirling in their heads.


Peaches for Trueheartgal jam.

Peach Jam

Peaches for Trueheartgal jam.

Peach season is here (my favorite time of year!), and I thought I’d share a easy, delicious recipe for turning those little orbs of summer sunlight into jam. Once again, I contacted my friend Julie – Sonoma’s Queen of Jam – to help me out.

You will need:

14.5 cups peaches
2.5 cups sugar
2 or 3 lemons
Pomona’s Universal Pectin (Julie loves this brand because it has no dextrose or preservatives. It’s jelling power comes from calcium, not sugar. Most pectins require jam or jelly to have high levels of sugar to set up.)
Unsalted butter

For equipment, you will need:

several half-pint jam jars with two-part lids
four salad plates
rubber tongs
a wide funnel
a ladle (Julie uses a ladle with a hook on the end so it can rest on the edge of the pot without falling into the hot jam, and it makes things much easier)

1. Set oven to 250 degrees and place your jars on a cookie tray in the oven to warm and disinfect.

2. Put the jar lids in water in a small pan over low heat. Warm them for three minutes. Be sure to put the first layer of lids bottom side up to protect the rubber seals.

3. Put three or four salad plates in the freezer for use later.

4. Rinse and slice fruit into equally sized quarters or pieces.

Rinse your peaches. IMG_0916

5. To determine how much sugar to use in the fruit, tally up how many cups of fruit you have. We had 14 cups of sliced peaches. Divide your total by six. For us that meant approximately 2.25 = cups of sugar. Of course, as Julie says, “you are working with Mother Nature, and she can throw you a curve, so if your fruit is very ripe, you might use a bit less sugar, or if it is underripe, you might use a tad more.”

(Note: Standard store-bought jam is usually a one-to-one ratio of fruit to sugar. Cheaper brands use even more because sugar is a cheap commodity. And, because most brands are not using ripe fruit, they add dyes to make the jam look good. Don’t you feel even better about making your own?)

6. Add one cup of sugar to your sliced fruit, stir and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Pat the wrap right onto your fruit to keep it from oxidizing and turning brown. Let macerate for 30 – 60 minutes.

7. After macerating, divide the fruit into two non-reactive pots.

(Hint: If you are making a small batch, less than 10 cups, you can use one pan. But 10 – 12 cups of fruit is the maximum you’ll want in one pot. If you put too much fruit in one pan, it will take too long on the stove, and the goal is to get it off the stove as quickly as possible.)

8. Cook the fruit over the highest heat possible (medium-high) without scorching. Stand over the pot and stir. Bring the fruit to a boil.

(If the fruit starts to foam as it boils, as mine did, add 2 teaspoons of unsalted butter and stir until the foam breaks down.)

Making peach jam by Trueheartgal.

9. Add remaining sugar and bring mixture back to a boil, and vigorously boil for 20 – 30 minutes.

10. At 20 minutes, test the fruit on a plate by spooning about a teaspoon on to one of the salad plates you put in the freezer earlier. Put the plate back in the freezer for a few moments to cool.

Testing the peach jam by Trueheartgal.

Take it out and look to see if the mixture is thick by drawing your finger through the juicy stuff and if it maintains a little trough for a bit, it’s done. Taste the mixture and add sugar if you think it needs it. My jam tasted great and didn’t need any additional sugar. It did, however, need a little pectin to help it hold together better and make it less runny. We added one tablespooon of Pomona’s Universal Pectin. We also thought the flavors needed to brighten up a bit, so we added two tablespoons of lemon juice and a bit of zest.

We boiled the mixture for another few minutes and did another test on to a fresh plate from the freezer. The fruit maintained a little trough on the second try. Turn off the heat.

11. Use an immersion blender to smooth out the larger chunks in your jam. I still like texture in mine, so I left some smaller chunks remaining.

Use an immersion blender to smooth out your peach jam. Trueheartgal.

11. Drain the jar lids you’ve had in the warm water, and put them in a bowl. Using your tongs, grab a warm jar from the oven, and fill it up to very near the top with hot jam using the ladle and funnel. Be sure not to get any jam on the rim of the jar, and use a moist paper towel to wipe away any drips.

12. If you wind up with any jars that are not completely filled, use them quickly, as they will not keep long. Put them in the refrigerator and treat the jar as already open.

11. Be sure to avoid jostling the jars for about 24 hours after canning.

12. ENJOY!!

A few links from the web I hope you’ll find interesting:

The best peach cobbler ever.

The small, happy life.

Six words you should say today.

I don’t speak French, but I still adore this long-sleeved t-shirt.

With more grandkids visiting this summer, cinnamon rolls might be a perfect cooking project.

Roasted broccoli rabe with lemon vinaigrette and grilled chicken = perfect dinner? Yes.

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