Tag Archives: California

A Pyramid of Kindness

pyramidHello and welcome to 2015. As you are well aware, long ago I resolved never to make any New Year’s resolutions which is why I have once again this year, not resolved to write this blog more frequently. Hence the delay in getting back to you. Suffice to say, having recently escaped the bitter cold of my home town for unfortunately, a rather briefer than usual sojourn at the sea, my fingers have thawed sufficiently to begin again. And while what I want to tell you about might surprise you just a little bit, it solidifies my contention that being shallow doesn’t preclude being nice, or kind or really just about anything else “other” people profess to be. Except, perhaps, deep. I’m not sure one soul can be shallow and deep at the same time although I might have to do a little more thinking about that. In the meantime, here’s the thing.

I’m not sure how this all happened but sometime between Christmas and New Years I got myself involved in a Ponzi scheme, of sorts. I know! How, you ask, could someone with so much insight into the human condition find herself lock, stock and barrel in the midst of what anyone who knows anything, can only be a game of fools? Was it the result of too much turkey and merriment? Perhaps one too many rum balls? Could she have been blinded by all of those lights? Or did she just get caught up in the season of giving? Well, my friends, if I can be so bold as to call you that, it was none of those. Let me explain.

I’ll just take a moment here to refresh your memories. You’ll recall that not so long ago I extolled my appreciation for Facebook, a place where “everyone knows your name” even if they don’t really know you. To tell the truth, and that’s something I almost always do, I visit my Facebook page several times a day to see what my friends are doing, where they are travelling, who and what they like, what restaurant they are eating at, play or concert they are going to, who they might have just met and what they are doing with their new friends which, as I write this, is beginning to sound a tad creepy. But nonetheless, I do find out a lot stuff and once in a while, something that is even interesting. And so it was in Facebook, that one day, one of my friends posted this:

“This world needs as much kindness as it can get. I’m participating in this “Pay It Forward” initiative: The first five people who comment on this status with “I’m in” will receive a surprise from me at some point during the year–anything from a book, a ticket, something home-grown, homemade, a postcard, absolutely any surprise! There will be no warning and it will happen when the mood comes over me and I find something that I believe would suit you and make you happy. These five people must make the same offer on their Facebook status. Once my first five have commented “I’m in” I will forward this message to you privately, so that you can copy and paste it, and put it on your status, (don’t share it) so that we can form a web of connection of kindness. Let’s do more nice and loving things in 2015, without any reason other than to make each other. smile and show that we think of each other. Here’s to a more enjoyable, friendly, and love filled year!”

Well, there’s nothing I like more than a challenge so I jumped high onto this bandwagon and before you could say “Jack Robinson”, I was saying “I’m in!” and there I was, copying and pasting this very same message on my wall or newsfeed or whatever it is Facebook has all of us doing now. It wasn’t long, although it was longer than I thought it should have been, that five of my very own friends also proclaimed their commitment to this act of kindness and that’s when it occurred to me. I had just found myself right smack dab in the middle of a pyramid scheme. A pyramid of kindness. A pyramid that’s been turned on it’s end. Because in this one, I’m at the bottom since I’ll receive one act of kindness for the five that I dish out myself. You know, I’ve always professed to “give” but now I’m going to give and give and give and give and give. I’ll let you know what happens.

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Here We Go Again

suitcasesAnother year, another 18 bucks and I’m back. Back from the beach and back to the blog. I know. You thought I was dead and I’m not. Just recovering from the shock of returning to the cold and snow. It’s not that I haven’t been thinking because I have. Mostly about all of the things I learned I like about being down south. It’s true. I have a very strong preference for warm weather over cold. And I like walking on the beach much more than I like walking on the treadmill, which is what I have to do now because it’s so cold. I like sitting outside at Starbucks better than inside and I relish the concept of being able to order cold drinks all year round. Not that I would. But I could. I like Sunday street markets where I can buy strawberries and avocados picked locally the day before. And they taste the way strawberries and avocados should taste. I really like being able to stay up as late as I want and not having to worry about getting up in the morning for work. Although it’s not as if I don’t stay up as late as I want every night. So I suppose it’s the “not getting up in the morning” that’s the best part of that “like”. But what I like more than anything else is that I can wear jeans, T-shirts and flip flops all of the time. Which quite surprisingly leads me to something I didn’t learn. Apparently, I didn’t learn how to pack light. And I say this with some confidence having lugged two “almost overweight” bags along with a “more than regulation weight” carry-on around several airports.

It’s not that I haven’t been around this block before. In fact, this year was my third sojourn to the sea so it would be fair to say I have a pretty good idea about what’s what. Let’s face it. The beach is a casual place where fashion takes a back seat to comfort. I’m pretty sure that people there are single handedly keeping LuLuLemon above water. And while I continue to find the “boots thing” somewhat bewildering I completely understand the penchant for amphibious footwear. On the “101” you’re likely to find yourself walking behind a group of rather svelte surfer dudes sporting the latest in wetsuit couture, which although practical given the circumstances, I don’t actually recommend unless you have a body mass index hovering in the 15 – 18 range. Overall it’s pretty much a “come as you are” kind of place and you would think that as a shallow person I would have this one in the bag…so to speak. I mean, I know for 100% sure that each morning I’m going to get up and pull on my jeans and a “T” because last time I looked, Starbucks hadn’t instituted a dress code. For goodness sakes! I’m on the beach. Even Auntie Fannie would be ok with my wardrobe choice. So, as you can see, I know exactly what I need and what I don’t. This is a “no brainer”. At least on paper it is.

But here’s the rub. For some reason still unbeknownst to me, each and every year I pack an inordinate amount of clothes which, from the get go, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to wear. It all starts out ok. The cases come out and in go the jeans and T-shirts, along with all that other necessary “goes without saying”, stuff. Next come the accessories, and while for some 6 pairs of shoes, 5 watches, and 8 belts may sound a tad excessive for a beach vacay, you can chalk it up to that matching obsession of mine. Throw in some shorts (I won’t wear them but who goes south without shorts) and a bathing suit, and you would think I could call it a wrap. You would think! But nope! It’s right about now that those nasty little voices in my head start egging me on. It goes something like this:

Voice: You’re going away without your favourite shirt?!
Me: It will be here when I get back. Ok, I’ll take it.
Voice: What if you decide to go to a fancy restaurant? You’re going to wear jeans and a T?
Me: I don’t go to fancy restaurants. Ok, I better take something just in case.
Voice: What if you accidentally spill something?
Me: There’s a washing machine. Ok, one more pair of jeans ‘cause you never know.

You get the picture. Before I can say Jack Robinson I’m looking down at two, large red suitcases chock full of a whole lot of duds that I “might” but probably will not wear. It just happens but as Mr. Nicholson would say, “something’s gotta give”. So next year I’m going to learn from my mistakes. Next year I’m going to stick to my guns. As a matter of fact I’ve already decided what I’m not going to bring. And you can be sure I won’t be sharing that information with the little voice in my head.

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It’s Been A Slice

pizzaHard to believe that our sojourn at the beach is almost over and in about a week of sleeps we’ll be trading our walks on the sand for the icy sidewalks of my home town.  Well as Dorothy says, “there’s no place like home” even if it is a little blustery. But before we go, a promise is a promise, so I’m here to share with you what I have learned while at the sea. About pizza that is. Since I seem to have eaten my share of it this visit. And this year, unlike last, when the purveyors of donuts remained anonymous, I’m going to name names which I’m guessing might be somewhat more helpful should you ever find yourself down here longing for a slice. Because there are a whole lot of pizza joints in this neck of the woods, each and every one of them professing to be the best. But that’s not possible, is it.

Before I continue I have a couple of things to say, as this whole “review” thing is a bit of a departure for the Shallow Gal. The first is that pizza is my favourite food so I’m usually happy when I’m eating it. The second is, as you may have read in one of my “get to know me better” posts of the past, my relationship with food is somewhat pedestrian and I pretty much like whatever other people cook for me. And since other people always cook pizza for me there’s a good chance that I’m not only going to eat it, I’m probably going to like it. So, as you read this review you may discover that I’m not as discerning as some of those “Yelpers” you rely on to guide you through your dining deliberations. As a matter of fact, I myself employed their expertise to determine where to start and which shops to eliminate at the get go. I mean, let’s face it, there’s only so much ‘za you can eat without undoing the benefits of the long walks on the beach, not to mention the hours of tedious pounding on the treadmill to lose those extra few pounds that anyone my age knows are persistent, to say the least. There they are, the caveats. Now, for better or worse, here are my thoughts on a rather small but discerning sample of the local pies, in chronological order.

Our initial tasting, ironically enough, occurred the moment we arrived in our temporary home. You know what it’s like. You’ve been travelling for the better part of a day and the last thing you want to do is cook, especially when to do so, you’re going to have to stop by the local grocer and since you’re already hungry, you’ll likely fill your basket with a bunch of stuff you know you shouldn’t eat, but will. So instead, we stopped by Urban Pi, an eatery we had passed by many a time last year but never had a chance to visit. At least we knew it had been around awhile. I’m going to lump this one together with Blaze (surely you’ve seen that review) as they have a lot in common. It’s a great concept. Pies made right before your eyes. You walk down the line, choose from an array of fresh ingredients, and shortly after you find a table, your piping hot, wood-fired, thin and crispy crust pizza arrives. And here’s the kicker. Regardless of how many toppings you pick, and let me tell you, there are plenty, this pie’s going to cost you 8 bucks. No “extra cost premiums” in this place. You want “shaved organic carrot”? It’s yours. “Jidori free range chicken breast”? Just ask. Red sauce or white, this one’s worth a try. Lots of salads, soups and “sweetie pi” desserts to round things out. The downside. In an effort to get more bang for your 8 bucks you’ll be tempted to add one too many toppings. Remember, this is thin crust, and like the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, add too much and you’re bound to find a pile of marinated artichokes smack in the middle of your lap.

Another night, another Zumba class and, for the sake of all, I need to take-out. We decide to stop by Bongiorno, which earns a consistent 4-5 star rating by the local food pundits, securing their place at the top of the pizza parlour heap. Like New York style pizza? Yearning for a slice you can fold? Then this is your place. Nestled in a rather nondescript strip mall, this gem shines and but won’t need me to tell you this. These are thin crust, oven-baked pizzas that will have you coming back for more. You’ve got some options here. Not famished? In true “big apple” style you can grab yourself a slice or two for the road. Hungrier? Build the pie of your choice and watch them pop it into the oven. Takes a little longer but worth the wait. Only medium and large here but it’s a no brainer. Go for the gusto. For an extra 2 bucks you’ll have lunch the next day. Just a few blocks from the beach this is an immaculately clean, retro diner (black and white checkerboard floor, red chairs, the whole kit and Kaboodle) that will make you think you are in California, back in the day.

Let me tell you, one of the problems with reviewing multiple eateries in one post is coming up with a variety of ways to refer to them. Our next “peatery” (my new term for a pizza eatery) was a direct result of reading the reviews in our quest for the best. A little down the road from us in Leucadia is Pandora Pizza, and even though we have driven by it many a time in our travels on Hwy. 101, this was our first time through the front door. To be fair, it is well liked by the locals so, just because it wasn’t my favourite doesn’t mean it isn’t worth a try. Thin crust, wood-fired pies with both “in and out of the box” options (their terms and I suspect a nod to their namesake Pandora) that include toppings like duck confit, are named after a fine selection of Greek and Roman gods. Now I’m no expert on mythology but when Jupiter offers me avocado, cherry tomatoes, lemon zest and sea salt, I gotta say that’s my kind of pie. Unfortunately it was also my pie for a couple of hours after I ate it which reminded me that sea salt just isn’t the same without the chocolate.

Ok, we thought we were done. I mean how much pizza can a person eat? And yet, we found ourselves pulled, compelled actually, to make a final stop at what is perhaps the most iconic “grub and grog” stop in our little beach town, the Pizza Port. Where else will a “Laguna” come with olives, mushrooms, onions and artichoke hearts? Add a zesty tomato sauce and lots of mozza and you have yourself one heck of a meal. No fine dining here. You order at the counter, find a seat at one of the picnic tables and wait until they blast out your name over the loudspeaker. If you want the quintessential beach experience, and the chance to meet some really gnarly surfer dudes and dudettes while munching on a great piece of pie, this is the place for you. Oh yeah. Did I mention the fine selection of local brews to wash it all down? Just remember to brush the sand off your feet before you jump into bed at night.

So that’s it. We’re on our way home and it’s been a slice. Next year FroYo, or burgers, maybe bagels. You never really know, do you.

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What are the Chances?

freeSome things just happen. This might be hard to believe but as a shallow gal I’m not much of a believer in “other worldly” phenomenon. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I have never used “karma” or “kismet” in a sentence, until now that is. But even a non-believer like me has to give their head a shake every once in a while. Because there are times when a series of events are simply unexplainable without at least considering the possibility that there does, in fact, exist a mysterious force with a preconceived plan for us. Some might call it “fate” and as fate would have it, this just might be one of those times. I’m guessing you’ve figured out by now I have a story to tell so sit down and get comfy ‘cause you’re gonna need to let this one sink in.

But first, let’s take a few steps back. You’ll recall that not more than a week ago I had a decision to make and in an effort to meet the needs of my readers I asked you to determine whether I should focus my efforts on finding the best pizza or fro-yo in SoCal. Well in what can only be described as an overwhelming majority, pizza emerged as the clear winner. I should mention that the outcome surprised me just a little bit but, as my Mother would say, there’s no accounting for tastes. And so, at the behest of my readers and because it’s the right and only thing to do, I embarked on developing a strategy for determining the best pizzerias in the area and how and when to visit them. Well perhaps not so much a strategy, but I did start to try to figure out where the heck people eat pizza around here. And as most of you know, it’s not that hard these days since all you have to do is tell Siri what you want and she’ll locate it for you. Just a couple of cautions here. Speak very clearly or you’ll find yourself taking quite a long drive to where she “thinks” you should go for a slice. And, remember not to fall in love with her even though she appears to be the “perfect woman” having all the answers to all your questions. But that’s not really about pizza at all. Anyway, a list was made, order of preference determined and schedule created so we were “all set” as they say here in the U.S. of A. Or so we thought.

Fast forward one day. We’re booked to volunteer at an upcoming run but, since it was on the way, we decide to do a little outlet shopping at the local mall. Doesn’t take long for us to decide it’s time for our “free ones” (yes it’s still January so the drinks are on the house) so we make our way to the, requisite in any mall, Starbucks. As we approach we can’t help but notice the incredibly long line and while it’s a nice, sunny day, there’s no time to dawdle so we’re starting to think the free one will have to wait. On closer examination however, we realize that the line up is not for the coffee house but rather for the joint next door. Which, you guessed it, specializes in none other than pizza. We’re thinking what you’re thinking. All these people can’t be wrong so this pie must be really good!

Turns out it’s a big promotion and today, of all days, everyone gets a free pizza. Now you’re thinking this can’t possibly turn out as good as it sounds because everyone knows there’s no such thing as a free lunch, or dinner. I mean, what are the chances? But it does. Long story short. We come back after a hard day of handing out T-Shirts, get into line and wait. Come on people! It’s free pizza. And if you’re anything like me (and you might or might not be) you’re gonna take this opportunity to make new friends. Friends you might even eat that pizza with. So of course it’s worth the wait. Because once you get through the door, in just 180 seconds these people will hand you a great tasting, thin crust, wood-fired pizza with anything you want on it. That’s right…anything! Feeling creative? Design your own. Decisioned-out? Just pick one of theirs. And if you were paying, which I may have mentioned we were not, the whole kit and kaboodle would cost you 7.65 U.S. which right now for us Canadians is about 10 beans. But the best thing, and I mean the very best, were the people. These kids (well that’s just about anyone to me) worked their behinds off serving free pizzas all day long and each and everyone of them did it with a smile. Free pizzas with a smile. Someone somewhere is looking out for us.

I know. This is not really a “comparison” but when the shallow gal has a story to tell she just has to tell it. Before you go: Pizza recommendation #1. Blaze Pizza in the Carlsbad Outlet Mall. Hope they don’t mind getting a thumbs up in the shallow blog.

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questionsStill not dead. But I have relocated to my little oasis by the sea which could, but really doesn’t, explain my rather extended absence. The problem is it’s rather laid back here by the beach so one can get just a tad complacent. The nice thing is that there’s no sign of the polar vortex which is probably good since it appears that the blame for it is falling smack on the Canadians and being one, I would hate to be held accountable. Besides, how would I explain it? What would I say? “I’m sorry. Somehow our cold managed to get through your border. Where’s the NSA when you really need them?” Probably best for me to just stay out of this one. You see, I like it here and I want to sit back and relax for awhile. Which is mostly what I do except when there are decisions to be made.

It’s not that making decisions is foreign to me. I spend a good deal of my waking hours deciding between one thing and another and, if I have to say so myself, I’m not half bad at it. Of course most of those decisions take place at work where, as important as they may be, they rarely have a direct impact on my life. But here, each day I find myself faced with one personal dilemma after another. Imagine, if you can, having to decide which way to turn when you step on the beach. If you decide to go South it’s only going to take you 40 minutes to walk to the Starbucks. But along the way you’ll have to navigate through dozens of frolicking dogs (perhaps the happiest dogs in the world) who at times will momentarily mistake you for their owner, coming dangerously close as they rid themselves of the excess seawater they have acquired chasing their ball into the waves. However, if you go North you will walk along one of the most beautiful and peaceful stretches of sand this side of the Rockies. Unfortunately, it’s going to be round about an hour and a half before you find yourself sipping that latte and, if your timing is off and you hit high tide, there are going to be some shoes to dry when you get home. So there’s decision number one.

Now normally when I walk into my local coffee haunt the words “nonfat, no foam latte” roll off my tongue. No thinking, no wondering. It’s just that simple. But once in a while something happens that puts a chink in the armour. This year, in the United States of America only, (could it be that polar vortex?) I managed to secure a mug that allows me to get free espresso drinks for the month of January. But while I’m saving a bundle there is a cost because there are decisions to be made at the end of this road. So many choices when it’s all free. Do I want caramel? Hazelnut? Perhaps a splash of vanilla? Is this the day to try the new drink of the month? And if I go for one of these concoctions do I really need the whip cream that comes on top? What used to be so easy has become a complex problem. A conundrum of sorts. I’m beginning to think I need a decision-making matrix just to get a drink.

So by now you’ll understand why I am “decisioned out” and turning to you to help me fulfill a promise I perhaps prematurely made to you last year. If you recall, having completed the environmental scan of the local donut shops I committed upon my return to focus my attentions on the “froyo”* establishments. That wouldn’t have been a problem had it not been that, no sooner had we arrived at our temporary abode we found ourselves enjoying perhaps one of the best pizzas I’ve tasted in a long time. I probably have never mentioned this but pizza happens to be my favourite food. So much so that it was all I craved when having my second son who, perhaps not surprisingly, followed in his Mother’s footsteps and could not only eat, but also spell “pizza” before his first birthday. But I digress. While munching on what can only be described as an upscale, health conscious pie, my partner in crime suggested that we spend the remainder of our time sampling the various pizza joints in town in a quest to determine the best. Not a bad idea if it wasn’t for the fact that of late I have managed, through much hard work, to reach my target weight and there is no amount of exercise that will allow me to sustain that while ingesting copious amounts of froyo and pizza. I can do one but not the other. So I’m leaving this one up to you. Decisions…decisions! Next time you visit sunny SoCal do you want the inside scoop on pizza or froyo? The ball is in your court.

*For those of you who don’t get out much “froyo” stands for Frozen Yogurt. For this purpose we are talking about the recent phenomenon that has resulted in a multitude of franchises and independents offering up this frozen delight topped with everything from fruit to nuts…literally.

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