Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Waking Up in Montreal was Bliss

By Cal Orey
My fear of flying didn't exist with big aircraft, first class
It's been more than one long week since I've returned from my trip to Quebec.  While I anticipated challenges, including "rough air" to staying in a hotel room on a high floor and riding a train to a French-speaking city and dining alone in a restaurant--I passed each fear factor, one after the other. It was like I got in a time machine and went back in time to when I was 21--a wanderlust without worries. It was bliss. I had no anxieties, no phobias. I was ready for adventure--any kind.
Montreal's Cathédrale Marie-Reine-du-Monde--
the green building--is Quebec's third largest church 

Waking up in Montreal:  After the sobering grilling in the Canada Customs room; and grabbing a cab to downtown with a cabbie who drove 100 mph, I was exhausted from getting up at 1:30 AM, PST and arriving in the province at 2:00 AM EST. Once in my hotel room on the 28th floor at the Marriott, I felt that part of my trip was accomplished. After all, I made it: One cab, a shuttle bus to Reno-Tahoe International Airport, Salt Lake City, Atlanta, and to my destination--Canada. So we're talking 3000 miles in a day. Yes, in many ways it was easier than hitchhiking across the country with a dog. My canines were safe in a kennel with pampering. Missing my fur boys--two dogs and a cat--whom I sleep with every night, I plopped onto the cold bed and fell asleep.

The city streets differ from rural roads in
the sierras
Jet Lag to French Greetings. At home my dogs awake me at 5:00 AM to be fed and do their business. On Wednesday morning I slept in until 11:45 A.M. Instead of staggering out into the kitchen to brew a pot of coffee, I grabbed the phone and called room service. It was my fantasy to order blueberry waffles but I decided on a grilled cheese on whole wheat bread with tomatoes (the first time they were AWOL on my fave comfort food wherever I am) French fries, and coffee. It was lunch time. I never had experienced "jet lag" so I discovered it is real. But it wasn't too bad even though I was all alone in a big, strange city.

In the late afternoon I left my room and took a walk to a large drugstore to purchase things I didn't have on hand. (i.e., My reading glasses broke on the Utah flight. The passenger next to me--an attorney from Georgia--taped them for me, a nice gesture but his gift for gab was more welcome. In Atlanta at one of the largest airports in the nation I purchased a new pricey pair--not the correct strength. Note to self: Always bring two pair of glasses.)  
Living in a mountain town for 15 years, I forgot about fashion. Women in Montreal much like San Francisco (where I went to school) are fashionable and quickly I pondered a French manicure, playing up my smoky eye make-up, learning how to really wear a scarf, and happy that my skinny jeans, over-sized sweater, and combat boots didn't look out of place. Being called "madam" was refreshing and flirty Frenchmen and cold Frenchwomen were amid my new environment. It wasn't too long before I learned the game and gained a harder shell. The younger females were warm and friendly; it is mostly the older women with a masculine edge that seemed to sport attitude. No wonder the men (all ages) had wandering eyes.

The Pool:  I missed the resort swimming pool I swim at and sauntered into the pool room at the hotel. The hot tub was down but the pool was up. I was too tired to think laps but I engaged in a conversation with a young Italian lifeguard. She was fun, intelligent, and made me feel at home. 
I should have swam but the vibe was off, not like
my hometown resort pool at 7:30 am

After chatting the jet lag was overwhelming (coffee lattes became my best friends) so I returned to my room with a promise to be normal on Thursday. When I turned on the TV (I broke the promise of going off the grid), it was surreal. The picture of the Northern California King Fire just 100 miles from my home at Lake Tahoe greeted me. Here, I was looking for adventure but it was happening on the West Coast. And folks in Quebec seemed out of touch like my burning Golden State was a foreign planet.

Chocolate befriended me at the mall
From Underground to Up in My Room: Watching the news, cuddling up on the bed and missing my home I felt homesick but happy--craving to be on the West Coast in California, sort of, yet excited to be on the East Coast in Canada. Thursday my mind and body would be back on track...It would be the day I'd visit the train station to get my ticket for Quebec City on Friday; the perfect time to do mingle with the people at Montreal's Underground City (officially RÉSO or La Ville Souterraine in French) including shopping malls. 
When I came to Montreal decades ago, the underground city frightened me. This time around it was elating. It felt good to be alone, away from day-to-day pesky worries and woes. I had gone back in time. I was the carefree hippie chick on my own in a faraway place--and it made me feel free and disconnected. Happiness.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Coffee and Scones in Canada to the Sierras

Autumn Scones 
from Montreal to LakeTahoe

By Cal Orey

It’s the first week of fall and change is in the morning air around the South Shore at Lake Tahoe. Recently, I returned from a trip to Canada.  Ten degree mornings and pumpkins lined up in front of shops on cobbled streets greeted me as I walked up and down the streets in Quebec City.  I admit a horse and carriage took me for the longer walk.  It was all a sign that autumn--my favorite season at Lake Tahoe--was waiting for me as well as cooking and baking fall foods, especially breakfast fare. 
A carafe of coffee each a.m. via room service to afternoon
lattes boosted my mood and energy and zapped jet lag

On the way home I didn’t have time to savor a Mediterranean breakfast in bed due to an early morning flight.  After an easy go of it through U.S. Customs in Montréal–Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Canada (unlike the 1:00 A.M. sobering interrogation via Immigration coming into Quebec) I made a stop at a coffee shop for a continental breakfast—popular in Europe--which often includes coffee and a croissant.

Going home to Calif.  U.S. Customs was quick

This time around, when coming into the province brimming over with French Canadians at 1:00 A.M. EST, I was stereotyped as a West Coast hungry hippie chick. Clad in skinny jeans with holes (thanks to Victoria's Secret), a vintage gray tee-shirt, combat boots, and minimal make-up, I suppose I looked like a NorCal independent Tom boy as I did back when I was 21 in Quebec... 
Welcomed by a feminine looking redheaded young, cold Canadian Customs Officer with a  strong masculine edge, she darted and repeated her first words, "Do you have any marijuana?"  I did not. No smiles for her nor me. Sleep deprived I submitted to the grueling grilling which took over an hour with absurd questions, including "Are you here for our healthcare?" to "Do you have any friends or family here?"  The last punch hit hard. I noted I am an author whom writes about food with an underlying European theme. The woman mumbled, "There isn't Mediterranean cuisine here!"  But even the hotel I was booked at flaunted in their online description "Highlighting French and Mediterranean flavors, Restaurant Samuel de Champlain offers savory Continental Cuisine."  
I was craving my reserved city view room not a
Canadian Customs interrogation
During the ordeal, I sat down cross-legged on the floor, too tired to toss sarcastic rebuttals. The bullying interrogator scrutinized my itineraries and seemed dumbfounded that my booked train ride to Quebec City didn't include the time--just the day--of returning. Then, she called the hotel --the one with my reserved city view room with decor and food of France and Italy that the gracious French Canadian manager was holding for me. I yearned to plop onto the bed, look out the window and fall asleep after being up since 1:30 A.M. PST... Eventually, the immigration agent settled down. Ironically the probing was no different decades ago for me except it was male agents doing the poking. I had my loyal Lhaso apso with me. I was penniless with no I.D., passport, hotel room or itineraries. Older and wiser, this time I had my papers (and dogs kenneled) in a row but was still barked at... Wondering if they will smile (a bit) if I pack my bags, bring my two dogs, one cat, fish and come back: The Goal: Apply for Canadian citizenship? 
At the airport en route back to my Golden State, I ordered a coffee latte (I enjoyed a lot of these during my adventure) and a large and lovely looking cinnamon scone—a cake-like semi-sweet quick bread (glazed or plain served with butter). The caffeine fix could do no wrong but the pastry was not my cup of tea.  It was sweet enough and big enough but the texture was too hard. It was in one of those big glass jars. The cafe owner told me it was fresh and yummy. I, the California fussy scone girl, thought, “Ah, but she hasn’t tasted my sweet scones.”  I vowed to whip up a fresh batch of homemade pumpkin scones when I returned home to my cozy cabin.
My warm Calif. scones would make Canadians smile


2 3/4 cups 100 percent all-purpose flour
1⁄4 cup white or organic brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1⁄2 teaspoons cinnamon (extra for sprinkling on frosting)
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
1⁄4 cup European style butter (cold cubes)
1 brown egg
1⁄3 cup raw honey
1⁄2 cup 2 percent half and half milk (extra for brushing on top of pre-baked scones)
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Raw sugar (for topping on scones)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and spice. Add chunks of butter, sliced in small squares. In another bowl, combine egg, milk, pumpkin, honey, and vanilla. Combine wet ingredients with dry. Stir until a dough-like mixture forms.  On a floured cutting board, form dough into two circles. Brush with milk and raw sugar. Place in freezer for about 15 minutes to firm.  Take out and cut circles (like a pie) into 8 large triangles or 12 smaller ones. Place onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes till firm and golden brown on edges and bottoms of scones.

Frosting: Mix approximately 1 cup confectioners' sugar, 1 teaspoon melted butter, 3 to 4 tablespoons  milk, 1 capful vanilla extract, and 1 capful almond or maple extract. Swirl a spoonful of glaze-like frosting on scones when warm. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Serves 8-12 scones.

On Wednesday morning my kitchen smelled like a bakery after I baked my first batch of scones for the season. The scent of pumpkin and warm spices filled the air. My first bite of the scone was crisp on the edges and chewy. The raw sugar gives these edible treasures a crunch. The nut flavored glaze is full of deliciousness. Pair with hot coffee latte and you’ll soar into breakfast heaven. The warm scones welcomed me to a new season with promise of colorful hues, fun activities, and cooler climate around the lake. It’s good to be home. Coffee and scone, anyone?

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Author Anticipating Road Trip--Edgy and Excited

By Cal Orey

Yes, I'll be passing out the new
cover of my olive oil book while
en route
So, the time is nearing for me to relive the past. Funny, I took my blood pressure this a.m. 122/70 but I'm still feeling anxious. Going out of a comfort zone, leaving my fur kids, and returning to a foreign place is spooky like Dorothy going to Oz without Toto. I wish I could take my Brittany or Aussie or calming kitty Zen. But that's not in the plan... 
Seismically sensitive Simon senses
change and has attitude

Fun-loving Skye doesn't know the plan

Ironically, as I snuggle up to my three kids I'm hearing the sound of a plane at Tahoe. Actually, planes fly in and out often to this small mountain town. Now, it's my turn to go but instead of rural I'm going back to the city. I'm sensing my heart will connect with Quebec City which promises more of a rural, earthy feel to it. And the train ride I've got booked? It's so strange. But I've experienced this recurring dream for years where I'm doing just this...on a train, trees, northeast. It's a sign and I've toyed with fate to bring this image to fruition. 
My goal, a vow I made decades ago

Yesterday when I called the airline to finalize plans I was told that people fly every day. Nobody is nervous. What planet is that rep from, anyhow? He needs to watch "French Kiss" or "Cast Away"... I read 40 percent of people who fly have some sort of anxiety. It's normal. The way I see it, I will pretend I'm in the dentist chair, having a procedure done, and take myself to that Zen Zone (God, I wish I could take my cat!)

So, there is still time to get my ducks and dogs in order. Filling out the kennel papers is tedious but I must be thorough. I was going to pack too much. I read whatever you pack--cut in half. So back to the suitcase(s). When I was 21, I had so little and felt so secure. I want to be that hippie girl. I'm talking jeans, t-shirts,  bare essentials. I want to take my canine companion(s) and I admit I am a bit gun-shy to travel alone nearly 6000 miles. 

Flashback from the Past
As an intuitive I often sense if someone has a fear it comes from the past. Today, I am getting flashbacks of my hitchhiking travels from yesteryear. While I was young, carefree, and happy--sometimes not so happy things did happen. One night I found myself in Lexington, Kentucky. I ended up at a hotel parking lot. My eyes fixed on a black truck with an open bed. Assuming the owner was spending the night at the hotel, I placed my knapsack (full of my worldly possessions, like peanut butter and a pair of jeans) and sleeping bag into it. The thought was, "I'll go wash up (sneak me and my best friend into the hotel bathroom) and come back out clean, sleep under the stars. If lucky I could get a ride northbound in the morning." 
Once back in the parking lot I didn't see the truck. At first I thought I wasn't looking at the right parking spot--but then it was an easy read. The vehicle was gone. I was left with the clothes on my back and dear companion--my black Lab.  I felt lost in the middle of the U.S.--until it hit me that's all that mattered. If my dog was AWOL I'd be crushed. We had each other. We traveled on through the night. We were okay.

Trying to toy with destiny, the flight plan from hell has been changed for better or worse--if  Hurricane "Ed" doesn't strike off the Atlantic coast.  (Yes, I did consider this but I chose the risk over flying in a CRJ900 amid dark skies.) No need to stress over making a 31 minute plane connection in 15 minutes. But getting up early is the penance. Layovers?  By the time I return I should have a French accent with a tad of the Deep South drawal. It's time to get a grip on reality now in the 21st century.  I've flown before. Hawaii, Seattle, Los Angeles, BC, S.F.--and I hitchhiked across America, Canada, and south of the border to Mexico. Note to self: Stop analyzing. Feel life. Just go. It's time to face my fears, one by one.  But if I could have a do over I'd take one of my fur boys-a Sophie's Choice moment.  But this time around on the road I'm on my own. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Flying Solo to Canada: A bag of mixed emotions

By Cal Orey

Last night I turned on a TV movie to forget my worries of travel. Too funny. "French Kiss" with Meg Ryan playing a neurotic female who sports a fear of flying greets me. She was taking a class to rid of her plane phobia. While I laughed out loud my inner voice keeps repeating, "You have flown before, many times--just not as far." As Ryan's character said, "You can do this" and she jumps at any sound of the airplane.  I wish I drank wine like the French do--but I don't.

The time is nearing when I pack my bags, kennel my dogs, trust Zen kitty with sibling--and go. Recently, I read people are happy while planning a vacation but when they return they are unhappy going back to the daily grind. I'm not in that group of folks. Instead, I've purposely made a list of things to enjoy when I come back to the mountains. And I find the preliminary hassle of preparing for a long journey very stressful!
Passport, itineraries, Canadian cash, How to speak French book, confusing Quebec City and Montreal travel guide, packing, cleaning the house, paying bills, taxes to come home to, went to the dentist and doctor (secretly wishing they would find a secret illness so I would have to cancel)...filling out papers for my two canines and so on. It's never ending. 

A Blast from the Past...
Today, it came to me. At 21, I was happy hitchhiking to Montreal because it was a spontaneous decision. It was me and my dog--no responsibilities. Now things are different. True, I am much older and thoughts of mortality and not being invincible are with me. 
So, maybe I cannot recapture yesteryear. This is a rude awakening. I've been planning, thinking of consequences, and that makes me feel not young.  Note to self:  Be more spontaneous! What's really bothering me, though, is that I'm not taking my dog(s). They are part of me and I will feel incomplete without my canine companion(s) and my beloved Siamese.

Hello Autumn, West and East Coast...  I'm gearing up for enjoying fall on the East Coast but the West is not out of my mind by any means. I'm trying to set up an order of firewood and anticipating hearing the heater click on for the first time. I'm saving one of the chime clocks to turn on when I come back home. Earth toned blinds for the living room will be en route and the first fire are something I can look forward to as I snuggle up to my dog duo and cat. 
That's another trip glitch. I miss my boys and I haven't even left. While I'm having a difficult time knowing I'll be separated from my fur kids I sense it will be okay. All three--are healthy and happy.  My fur children will be well taken care of and while the novelty and absence of us may be troublesome I believe we will survive.

California Mediterranean Cuisine... This morning my editor allowed me to make a final tweak or two on the book cover for our new book due out the end of December. The Healing Powers of Olive Oil, Revised and Updated is in the final stages of production. I'm taking covers with me on my trip to Quebec City and a zillion states in the U.S. due to my flight plan from hell. During layovers on my "road trip" I'm sure I will make friends and they will ask me, "What do you do?" and "What do you write?" and then BAM! they will have a book cover with the inside revealing the Healing Powers Series.
As I think of French fare, it's almost time to sing, "I'm leaving on a jet plane"... So the trip--not France or Italy but should suffice--which I began planning in June is just around the corner. I will make my departure (I have gone through all the hoops, one after another) and leave the West Coast--fly solo into the unknown and my world of what ifs (but most of these do not happen). 
I want to learn how to be more serene, laid-back, easygoing but I find myself still controlling, trying to capture perfection. This trip is in the works to face my demons and morph like a butterfly, older but wiser. I sense there will be challenges but when I return my experiences will continue to rejuvenate my mind, body, and spirit. It's called living life and embracing imperfection in an imperfect world. Inhale, exhale. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mountain Author Pondering City Trip

By Cal Orey

Feeling edgy leaving my slow-paced mountain lifestyle
This week has been one filled with days  that have been uneventful leading up to a big trip to Eastern Canada. In the near future I'll be leaving on a jet plane to the unknown. I have a mixed bag of emotions, including excitement and fear. But I sense it's all the preliminary hassle of planning a journey out of the country. If I could do a re-do a vacation to the coast seems more my style, somewhere rural in northern California...

Quebec by the shore
City Trip--What was I Thinking? But I'm sticking to the flight plan from hell and determined to go to Quebec City as my final destination. We're talking shuttle bus, large aircraft to small aircraft, and several states. It's a road trip without my dog(s) or cat. Flying solo. A lot of what ifs haunt me but probably most if not all will not take place.

Commitment-Phobic Chime Clock: As I focus on getting my dogs in a row, I did order a watch. It arrived new and scratched. Back it went to the seller. I realized there isn't a clock in the house so I ordered a chime mantel clock. I was hooked at first chime. 
But within three hours the charmer came with glitches like a new man. It began to make strange sounds. It began to chime on its own schedule. It didn't keep time. It was late. That darn clock that is supposed to chime every 15 minutes and on every hour started to miss its schedule. It has mega commitment issues. Haunting me throughout the night, chiming in slow motion. It's off. So, a replacement clock will arrive tomorrow and this quirky one is going back to its maker. I was infatuated in the beginning. Maybe the new, improved clock will keep time. I do love it when it works...

Train Ride, Recurring Dream...During Labor Day weekend I booked a train trip from Montreal to Quebec City. This seems full of novelty. Odd doing it alone but I believe I can amuse myself. Vegan meals (this is a big step for a vegetarian) both ways. Funny, this trip is supposed to be a vacation but it's turning out to be a go-girl type of adventure. I miss the sofa spud-author I've become with bursts of energy to walk the dogs and swim at the resort pools in between penning  books, articles and reading for people on the networks who want to know what the future holds. And yes, the Pet Horoscopes for a major online site did go out...There goes the off chime clock...Late, sounds sad. Maybe it's a defective battery. Too many problems. No wonder I like being single.

My Bags Are Packed (or will be)... Time to get acquainted with the French language (almost 100 percent of the locals in Quebec City are French), pack and unpack (promised I would take less than more), learn how to use a digital camera...

Each day I look at my Aussie and Brittany. The time I'm away will allow them to bond more. This is a good thing. Simon will get his teeth cleaned. Boys will get their nails trimmed. Baths when I return. I don't want to think about my separation anxiety from the Siamese...he is my sleep partner, my lap dog-cat that keeps my blood pressure below normal. I adore my Zen and he loves me. But that's the deal. I'm off to live life (like when I was fearless back in my twenties) and find my own balance.