Thursday, March 31, 2011

Butterflies in Liberia

Last time my Scenic Byway took me to Liberia, I was fortunate to travel outside of Monrovia to visit Kapatawee Falls. While there I saw beautiful trees and this magical moment captured in a number of photographs I strung together into a little video (my first attempt at using iMovie). I couldn't get closer for fear of scaring them away. I've never seen a group of different variety of butterflies all hanging out together. It was fascinating to watch and the photographs barely do justice to what I saw that day. It really was a magical moment.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

American Goldfinch

Now joining carpodacus mexicanus at the bird feeder outside my window...

I guess Spring really is here. With a black and white woodpecker on the neighboring tree and a hugely fat robin on another tree, the yard is becoming quite the hotspot and providing me much entertainment as I work in my home office.

Photo courtesy of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

For more information, see

Happy Wednesday

Happy Wednesday! To help you get through the rest of your week, I present disgustingly cute photos that have recently crossed my byway. Oh, the internet. Endless source of cute tiny animal photos. What have we become?

A friend found this bunny on the road one night in the desert. It is so cute I can't stand it.

I am a bit obsessed with the Slow Loris.

I am also obsessed with hedgehogs.

This was from a ridiculous FB advertisement trying to lure me onto a site to buy things.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Himalayan Kitchen - Great Food, Friends and Apa Sherpa

Living in Washington, DC for so many years, and traveling frequently to exotic places for work, I have grown quite spoiled and used to being able to eat a lot of different ethnic foods. I love all kinds of ethnic food. I love spicy food. In DC I loved that I could have a different cuisine every day for lunch or evening for dinner if I wanted. Losing that smorgasbord of options was one worry I had about leaving WDC for Salt Lake City. I've been here in SLC now coming up on a year soon, but I haven't gone out to eat much.

We are finding some good ethnic dining options. There are a number of great Mexican restaurants here, including The Red Iguana. We even found a Belgian frites place. But Sunday night I was finally able to try a restaurant I've been excited to check out  - Himalayan Kitchen. The Himalayan Kitchen, as it's name suggests, is a Nepali restaurant.

Photo from HK website
Dear friends were in town for a visit and they had lived for almost three years in Kathmandu, Nepal before moving to Washington, DC where they are now. Moving from Nepal to WDC has been a tough transition for all of them, especially their two daughters who loved living there and really miss it. So, they were very happy to go for Nepali food, as was I. I used to travel to Nepal quite often from 2000-2004 and I always enjoyed the food. Sadly the last time I was in Nepal was probably around 2006 or so, and I was never able to visit my friends when they were living there.

The restaurant is in a convenient city center location, in an area of restaurants, so for those of you visiting SLC, it should be easy to find. The space is nice and fairly large. The staff are all very friendly and many of them are Nepali. The menu has both Indian and Nepali dishes. They have the classic momos (steamed or pan-fried dumplings). We tried both the chicken and the vegetarian and both were good. We tried several Indian and Nepali dishes and everything was excellent: butter chicken, baygan bharta, bindi, daal, etc. I can't wait to return.

We love Nepal, Switzerland and the US!
It was a wonderful meal with friends, and we even had a celebrity siting. Well, a SLC kind of celebrity siting. I still haven't seen an Osmond, and now I won't ever get to see poor Gary Coleman, but I did see Apa Sherpa. I wrote about him a few weeks ago. Paul had met him before and spotted him when he walked in and said hello. Then our friends' little girls, having lived in Nepal, were very curious and went to introduce themselves and ask some questions. Apa Sherpa, if you do not know, is a Nepali mountain climber, or sherpa. He holds the world record for the most Everest climbs. As of last year he did 20 and he is heading out this weekend to Nepal to do his next climb. The girls drew pictures of the Nepali flag (and in one case also the US and Swiss flags as they are both American and Swiss) and presented them to him and also got his autograph.

It was a great evening and I recommend this restaurant. Namaste.

Carpodacus mexicanus (House Finch)

Currently hanging around the bird feeder outside my home office window. They are very, very cute.

Photo courtesy of:

Monday, March 28, 2011

Last Week on My Scenic Byway: March 21 - 27

Actually covering both the week of March 14 - 20 and March 21 - 27...
Scenes:  Palm Springs. 29 Palms. Desert. Santa Clarita. Summerland. Santa Barbara. Los Olivos. Animal hospital. Losing pets. Trying to save someone's pet. Having friends over for dinner. Spring snow. Holi happened in Spanish Fork, but I could not make it (very sad) because I had to watch over my sick kitty.
Ingesting: Date shakes. Pinkberry. California Central Coast wines! La Super Rica Taqueria - fantastic. Arch Rock Fish - again fantastic. Mumford and Sons. Date Night. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (I enjoyed this silly movie). Tabitha's Salon Take Over (oh some seriously good bad tv. i love this take no shit woman whose plastic surgery makes her look like some kind of non-human elf or pixie and who tells people to take responsibility and clean up their salons). Nepali food at Himalayan Kitchen.
Loving: California Central Coast wines! My kitty. Tanfastic. The baby zebra at the petting zoo. Our new bird feeder outside my office window.

Memories: Mount Holyoke College days - wearing bad clothing of the 1980s and drinking really bad wine. The 15+ years my Mr. Kitty has been in my life.
Intrigues: Old abandoned buildings. Off grid living. Gadhafi's Amazonian Guard. How when we go out to dinner in Palm Springs I realize that we are among the younger in the place...because of all of the retirees there. Typically when we go out I am conscious that we are the older ones in the crowd, but not here...
Desires: A Trader Joes in SLC - oh TJ I miss you so much! It is no fun to have to go to Vegas or Palm Springs to partake of your wonderful and inexpensive sauces and wines. To see Priscilla Queen of the Desert on Broadway, even thought it is getting not very good reviews. To see The Book of Mormon, also on Broadway, but getting better reviews, although it might offend some.  My old and sick cat to pass on peacefully.

Santa Barbara Wine Tasting Weekend Part 3 - Los Olivos

Here is what my scenic byway looked like last weekend: Friday afternoon - Summerland. Friday evening - Santa Barbara. Saturday - Los Olivos.

The beautiful drive from Santa Barbara to Los Olivos.
It was my first visit to the California Central Coast wine country. Great region. Great wineries. Can't wait to return.

A website for Los Olivos lists 22 wine tasting rooms in the town, but one we visited was not on that list, so I am not certain that is an accurate number. Los Olivos is a cute little town and in addition to the tasting rooms, there are some restaurants and shops. Note: none of the wineries we visited have bathrooms. Los Olivos offers portable type public toilets in the town - one we used was very nice, the other one not so much. We tasted at four wineries: Richard Longoria, Qupe, Evans Ranch and Dragonette Cellars. We would have loved to do more, but there is only so much wine tasting one can do in a day. By the last winery I was done with wine. 

Richard Longoria: This was our first stop and my favorite winery of the trip. The best wines I tasted on the trip. Rick Longoria has been making wine for 32 years. They are one of the smallest wineries from the region, making only 3,500 cases annually. Rick's wife Diana did our tasting. She was knowledgeable, funny and nice. The other staff were great. And they have a cute dog on the premises. I bought wine: Cuvee June (rose), red wine blends (Blues Cuvee and HooDoo Red) and all of the Pinot Noirs were great. They have some whites which are probably good but they weren't part of the tastings as these wines weren't in stock. They also have a tasting room at the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. I highly recommend visiting this tasting room and buying their wines. 

Qupe: I like this winery too, although the tasting was not as good as Longoria. Longoria recommended we head here because I wanted an Alberino. The winery was founded by Robert Neil Lindquist, in the wine business since the 1970s. Qupe was started in 1982 and has focused on Syrahs and other Rhone varietals as well as Chardonnays. I bought some wine.

Evans Ranch: We did a wine and olive oil/vinegar tasting here - both tastings were great. I bought wine, vinegar and olive oil. Evans is part of the Gainy winery and business, which is quite large and has been around since the 1980s.

Dragonette Cellars: This is the only winery in Los Olivos where I did not buy wine. I wasn't crazy about these wines. To be fair, this was my fourth tasting of the day so I was getting burned out on tasting wines and I had already bought quite a bit of wine, so wasn't wanting to spend more money unless I found a really fantastic wine. We were served by one of the owners and he was a nice guy.

We ate lunch at the Corner Coffee House - great wood oven pizzas, good coffee drinks...and the only bathroom I saw in the town.

Overall it was a great day and I really liked this little town. I would highly recommend a visit. All of the tasting rooms were fun and the staff were nice. Most tastings are around $10 which I think is a pretty good price. I recall tastings in Napa/Sonoma often being pricier. What I like about this whole area is that it feels smaller and more laid back than Napa/Sonoma.

Booty in the boot...most of this wine was mine...
Los Olivos Trivia! 
  • Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch is 5 miles north of here.
  • Fess Parker's winery, featured in the movie Sideways is near here.
  • Fess Parker was the star of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett.
  • Other famous people who've lived in this area: Ronald Reagan, Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart, Bo Derek, Steven Seagal (ha!)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Love, Sweet Love

Santa Barbara Wine Tasting Weekend - Part 2 - Santa Barbara

My scenic byway took me to Santa Barbara last weekend. It is a lovely little town, and the surrounding wine country is beautiful. We stayed two nights in Santa Barbara (SB) and made it our base for visiting some of the local wineries. We left Santa Clarita on Friday, drove to Summerland Winery (Part 1) on the way and then arrived in Santa Barbara in the afternoon. We had hoped to drive up to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto (I want a t-shirt that says Wine Ghetto!!), but that is an hour drive from SB and all the tasting rooms close at 4 or 5 pm, so we were too late to make it there for this trip. The Lompoc Wine Ghetto is a warehouse with tasting rooms for 12 local wineries all in one locations. Nice, huh? A must see for next time.

Not being able to make it to the ghetto this trip, we decided to walk around SB and visit a few tasting rooms. There are a number of tasting rooms downtown. We visited two before heading out to dinner. The first one was Oreana. Fun space in an old tire shop (see photos of us lounging outside). Nice staff. The kind of place that makes you want to hang out. But the wine we tasted was not great. They look like they have fun events. The next tasting room we hit was the Santa Barbara Winery just across the street from Oreana. Not fantastic, but ok.

After those wine tastings we needed some food. Some of the staff at the Santa Barbara Winery recommended we head to Arch Rock Fish. If you are visiting SB I highly, highly recommend this place. It is in the heart of the restaurant area. The place has great food, a good wine selection, a fun atmosphere, and great happy hour food and drink specials. I would definitely go here again. You must go here!

Saturday we spent the day wine tasting in Los Olivos (posting to come). But, Saturday night we were back in SB and for dinner we had to hit La Super Rica Taqueria - Oh man oh man oh man. I cannot wait to go to this place again! I can't wait to take my husband! You must go here!

Photo courtesy of John Dickson's Santa Barbara Restaurant Guide. 
A friend heard I was going to SB and told me that I had to try this place. She told me that Julia Child loved it. I was intrigued. I read up on it online, including looking at photos of the menu items that someone had graciously posted, and I was hooked. I told my friends we had to go to this place. So on our last night in SB, in the pouring, pouring rain (a huge storm was blowing in) we drove to this little taco joint. It is a tiny place with a tiny kitchen and a tented seating area attached (thankfully with space heaters as it was chilly that night). It has a huge menu. Everything is a la carte. The prices are cheap. Everything we saw looked good. Everything we tasted was fantastic. Fresh. Real. If you don't believe how good it is hearing from me or Julia Child, read the NYT review and all the personal reviews from Yelp and other sources. Google it and find out. Its worth a trip to Santa Barbara.

Some of our food - sorry the light was bad.
The friendly guy who takes your order. 
Part of the menu.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Santa Barbara Wine Tasting Weekend Part 1 - Summerland

Last week my scenic byway took me to California to spend a weekend with two of my oldest and dearest friends. We met in college, which was far too long ago. One friend recently moved from Texas to Santa Clarita and I've been wanting to visit her. Another friend wanted a little get away from Virginia. My husband and I drove down to California, stopping first for a night in Palm Springs to stock up at Trader Joes, which unfortunately does not exist in Utah (a crime!), then went on to the Joshua Tree area where we stayed with a dear friend. I left my husband there to take care of some business in the desert and I drove west to greener pastures in Santa Clarita - our goal to meet there for a night and then head to Santa Barbara for a weekend of wine tasting.

It is about a two-hour very scenic drive from Santa Clarita to Santa Barbara, part of it on Route 1 along the Pacific ocean. Very green. Lots of orange groves. On the way we stopped in a cute little town called Summerland to visit the Summerland Winery tasting room. I had never heard of this place, but my friends wanted to stop there because they watch the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and apparently this winery gets highlighted in the show.

Summerland is a boutique winery noted for its Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. It was founded in 2002 by Nebil "Bilo" Zarif originally from Turkey.  The place in Summerland is the tasting room, which opened in 2004. Summerland Winery does not have its own stand alone winery. Instead they use over 14 different grape varietals from 9 area vineyards. They source from vineyards in the Santa Maria Valley, Edna Valley, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Ynez Valley and Paso Robles.

What I understand is that part of this multiple sourcing is due to the changing growing climate - different varietals thrive closer to the ocean and others do better on land as you travel further east into the area. So, if you are a winery producing both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, you have to source from different areas. From the wineries we visited on this trip, I learned that this seems to be a common practice in this wine area - people sharing vineyards and sourcing grapes from various places. I assume you have a similar situation in Napa/Sonoma, but my experience there was that we visited more wineries than tasting rooms and most of the wineries seemed to have their own land where they grew most of their grapes. I recall some sourcing grapes from other areas for certain wines, but that seemed secondary to their own primary source.

The Summerland tasting room space is nice. Our experience with the tasting staff was good. I think the cost was $10/tasting. We tasted some decent wines and bought a few bottles. Some of their Pinots rank in the 90s from sources such as Wine Enthusiast. The tasting room is open 11am-6 pm. It sits on a cute, small street with fun places to eat just next door and across the street such as Summerland Beach CafeThe Nugget and Stacky's Seaside, where we chose to sit outside in the sun and soak up the wine tasting with some fried crab cakes and fries before hitting the road to Santa Barbara.

Summerland is definitely a fun stop on your way through the area.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Desert Scenes

I have a lot to write about my weekend in Santa Barbara, CA spent visiting friends and oh so many lovely wineries, but I haven't had time to write about it yet. I hope to get these recommendations posted this weekend. Until then, here are a few more photos taken when we visited our land in the desert about a week ago. It was a beautiful day and we spent a lot of time scoping out sites to build a house. It is slowly looking like a reality that we will build a house there and I am very excited. Off grid living in the desert - wow!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Favorite New Word


I plan to use it often.

We found this sign on a tanning salon in Palm Springs. I think it is a brilliant play on words for a tanning salon. I love it.

Things are no longer Fantastic....they are Tanfastic.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Palm Trees and Fire Engine

I love this scene on the Byway...Palm Springs Canyon last month.

Losing Your Pet

My cat is dying. And I am reminded that often, usually, death is not pretty. It sucks. I am sure most others share my wish that all of our people and our animals could pass peacefully in their sleep - happy, with no pain and suffering. Instead too often it occurs with uncomfortable and unfamiliar hospital rooms and poking and prodding and machinery. Watching your loved one rapidly deteriorate in a pool of their own blood, vomit and excrement.

Sorry to be so graphic, but I've just spent the night on a death watch with my cat, after watching his now frail body shake everything out of his body from both ends until he was so exhausted he collapsed in his litter box and stayed. His breathing so tiny that I had to constantly check to make sure he was alive. His eyes, while they were still open, were not his eyes. They were dying eyes. The life gone.

I left him there to rest, expecting to find him dead the next time I checked. But amazingly at 6:30 this morning he moved around a little and drank a lot of water and I've even managed to get him to eat a little, without retching it all up. The best thing of all is that his eyes look so much better  - more like his old self. Better yet - he has been purring. Just lying there, sick and weak, but purring. I feel blessed. Thank you universe for this gift. That is all I wanted -  a little more time to hold him and love him and hear him purr. For any of you who have cats, you know what I mean. The purring is the best thing. Just the best. I wanted him to be in his home and have some level of comfort before he leaves this world - not to pass or have to be put down in the animal hospital. It is a very nice animal hospital with great staff, but still, not as good as being in your home around your people and your familiar surroundings. So I am so grateful that he is here even if it does mean prolonging the stress and pain for myself and my husband.

He is still so weak and I am letting him sleep. Last night I had resigned myself to the fact that I would be taking him to the animal hospital again this morning to put him to sleep - to end his suffering, but this slight improvement changes things, although only slightly. Yes, he is a little better, but I see very clearly the writing on the wall. These are his last hours. Last days if we are lucky. We will be putting him to sleep, it is only a matter of when. I can nurse him now, but only so much. His systems are out of balance and rapidly deteriorating. He is sick, but not in pain. Not yet.

And I am so grateful that today I discovered that my vet will do at home euthanasia. When it is time, we can do it here at home where he is comfortable and relaxed. He can pass on from his home. I can hold him as he passes. This is how I have always wanted it to happen. I just hope I can keep myself together and not be crying hysterically as it is happening, which would not be relaxing for my cat. I think I can do it for him. I can keep myself composed until its done.

So, for now I play nurse. Checking him every half hour or so to see what and how he is doing. I give him a little water and try to get him to eat a little. I pet his head and neck and listen to him purr. I tell him I love him and I thank him for all that he has given me for so long. He and I have been through a lot. I reminisce about him in my life over such a long period of time. All the places we've lived, the things that he has been around for in my life. I cry a little. I try not to think about how my house and my days and my routines will miss him. When you live with someone for 15 years, having them suddenly not there anymore can really rock your world and shake your existence. Even if they are a little animal.

But I accept what I have to do. That it is his time to move on. For me to let him go. It sucks. Doesn't it always? That is the kicker with pets, isn't it? They bring you so much love and fun and joy, but one day they have to leave. I guess you can say that about anyone in your life. We suffer through the loss because the time we have with them is totally worth it. And despite how much everything sucks so much right now, it has been totally worth it.

P.S....I promise happier postings in the future. As you can imagine things are kind of sucky right now and I just need to vent and write about it. I know others out there feel these same things and go through these same things.

Me and Mr. Kitty about a year ago
I will miss him hanging out with me as I work from my home office. 
And I will miss how he would always hang out with me in the bathroom. You could not take a bath without him lounging on the edge of the bathtub.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

If she was yours...I am so sorry

I wish I could find you. The owner of the big, beautiful white dog that I found on Route 38 (Pearblossom Highway) in an area called Little Rock, California. I found her in the left most lane of Pearblossom Highway heading east, right at 75th Street E. It was around 3 pm on Sunday. It was pouring rain so hard that it was difficult to drive. I am not from your area and was only passing through from visiting friends in Santa Clarita back to Barstow, CA and then on to Salt Lake City.

I was so sad to see her there in the middle of the road. I could tell she had only recently been hit. Then as I was driving by. I saw her chest move up as if she was taking a breath. That freaked me out because there were still cars coming and I was terrified that she would keep getting hit by cars. If there was a chance to save her, I wanted to do this. I was so angry that no other cars were stopping. I knew I could not drive on if there was a chance she was alive. I pulled my car over. I was freaking out and panicked over what to do. It was raining so hard and there were so many cars. I got out of my car and tried to keep more cars from running her over. I want you to know that I don't know how long she had been there, but at least I managed to keep more from running over her while I was there.

Finally I was able to get into the road. Her damages were probably all internal, as on the outside I could only see some blood on her foot. I am sorry to say that she looked gone. Beyond recovery. I saw her chest move one more time. But her body was not moving and her eyes seemed gone. I want you to know that she was not laying there suffering while I was there. I believe she was already gone or just passing and I was just seeing those last movements that the body makes involuntarily even after death. I want you to know that I was with her when she took her last breaths. She was not alone.

I picked her up - she was very heavy - and carried her to the side of the road and laid her in some grass.  I checked again to see if she could still be alive, but I do not think so. I did the only thing I could think of. I called the police. They were closed. I called 911. They connected me to the animal rescue people. I gave them the address - told them I did not think she was still alive, but could someone please come and get her. Not being from that area I had no idea where to take her or what to do. They told me not to wait as they weren't sure how long it would take to get there. So I stroked your dog's head one last time and told her to go in peace. I took this photo of her. Not to be morbid. I thought it might be needed for the police or animal rescue people or to help identify her. I also wanted to remember her. She was so beautiful, even in death. Like a big, white wolf. A beautiful animal. That whole thing seemed so raw and crazy and unreal that when I was back in the car driving I wondered if it had really happened or if I had dreamed the whole thing. I had to look at the photo to ensure it had really happened.

I mourned for your dog. I cried for her all the way to Utah. Sometimes I cried in anger over all of those cars and seeing none of them stop. It made me very angry at people and their stupid cars and their stupid carelessness and then their stupid disconnection from other people's problems. Sometimes I just cried because the death of an animal like that is just wrong. Sometimes because I knew someone had lost their pet. Sometimes because I wish I could have arrived at the scene earlier and possibly saved her. The animal people called me later to tell me they had sent an officer to the location and they could not find her. I was devastated to hear this. I know she did not get up and walk away. So someone must have stopped and picked her up. Was it you? Were you out looking for her and you found her? I hope so. So much. I am going to choose to believe this. Maybe you will find this blog entry on the internet and then you will know what happened. Maybe it will give you just a tiny bit of comfort. I want to know that she had good people who loved her and who would go out looking for her. I want to know that she was reunited with you, even if it had to be like this. Because she needed a proper passing. Which is why I could not leave her in the middle of that road to be run over again and again by horrible people who could not take the time to stop. If that was my dog I would want someone to do the same. And after this experience, I will always do the same.

I am still a wreck over the death of your dog. I have been crying writing this. But I felt that I had to write this to try to cleanse myself of her death, your loss, my experience. Seeing her, carrying her, being too late to save her. I am crushed. I am an animal lover and I can't stand to see an animal suffering. I can't stand to see people lose their pets. I am probably even more emotional right now because I am losing my cat of 15 years. I am grateful that I will have the time to say goodbye to him and send him off in comfort, in his home and with his people. I am so sorry that your pet's passing could not be the same. But please take just a tiny bit of comfort that someone who cared about her was there with her when she passed. I was there. And I cared a lot.

Desert Signs

Nice Big Pool....

I think the El Rancho Motel has seen better days...
Let's go to "Other Desert Cities"...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Guess What's New at the Gas Station Petting Zoo?

Driving back home to SLC, up Route 15, I stopped briefly at my favorite gas station petting zoo in Scipio. I was happy to see the newest little addition to the zoo. So cute!

Friday, March 18, 2011

ZZyzx Rd

You pass this sign on Route 15 in the Mojave Desert, near Baker, California, approximately 100 miles southwest of Las Vegas. This sign leads to the former site of the ZZyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa, now closed and now the site of the Desert Studies Center, a field station of California State University.

The name ZZyzx was given to the area in 1944 by Curtis Howe Springer. He pronounced it as "zy-zicks" and claimed it was the last word in the English language. He established the ZZyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa on this federal land, bottling water for travelers through the desert. In 1974 he was arrested for misuse of the land and for violation of food and drug laws. California State University took it over in 1976, establishing its Desert Studies Center.

Gusty Winds Ahead

Hold on to your hats!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Del Marcos Hotel, Palm Springs

I wrote about the Del Marcos hotel the other day. Here are some more photos. I recommend staying there. We will be back in Palm Springs the end of April and plan to stay there. Groovy place.

Desert Spring

The desert is starting to bloom. Just a little, but it is a start.