Friday, October 31, 2014

The Undressed Cake for Halloween

By Cal Orey 

'Tis Time for Comfort Food to Feed Your Spirit

It’s Oct. 31 — the week of Halloween activities including decorating, carving pumpkins into Jack-o’-lanterns, apple bobbing, haunted houses, and watching horror movies. Trick-or-treating is also traditional celebration for kids on this special night, a time when little ones dress up in costume and trek through a neighborhood, house to house, asking for candy by asking, “Trick-or-treat?”
Rustic Gingerbread Cake in cute ramekins for that
European look paired with pumpkin spice coffee
In my childhood this big day was a big deal. Throughout the years in the suburbs, I morphed into a cat, scarecrow, farm girl, and beatnik. My mom would purchase different types of candy, including mini chocolate bars and candy corn. And if the day fell on a weekend we were sure to get baked goodies, too — that included homemade gingerbread but we called it “gingerbread cake” and it was drizzled with warm lemon sauce.
Gingerbread is a semi-dense single-layer sweet cake that calls for syrupy molasses, brown sugar, and a myriad of spices. History tells us that it has a popular European history that goes back centuries. It made its way to America and is still a winner, especially during the holiday season. While it’s often served for Christmas and New Year’s Day for good luck, its dark color and sweet and savory flavor makes it an ideal goodie for autumn (with its brown and orange hues of falling leaves) and Halloween with black, orange and white as prominent colors, thanks to pumpkins, ghosts, witches, and black cats.
Store bought or homemade whipped cream
sprinkled with nutmeg or cinnamon
Last year on Halloween Eve, I was on deadline working on my olive oil health-cookbook. I baked gingerbread (but it was semi-homemade since I used a box mix and added my own ingredients). Instead of turning on the porch light, and dishing out candies to children, I played a trick. I turned off the lights and went to the cozy bedroom with my fur kids. Instead of having them bark at every knock on the door — it was calm. I watched sci-films, sipped hot herbal tea, and enjoyed a piece (okay two) of gingerbread cake sprinkled with powdered sugar. And this week it will be a sequel. But note, I made gingerbread cake from scratch. My mother would be proud.
Rustic Gingerbread Cake
• ¾ cup dark brown sugar
• ¾ cup molasses
• ½ cup European-style butter (1 stick), melted (save a tablespoon for greasing baking dish)
• 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
• 2 organic brown eggs
• 2 tablespoons European-style butter, melted
• 2 teaspoons baking soda
• 1 tablespoon ground ginger
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon allspice
• 1 cup hot water
In a large mixing bowl, combine sugar, molasses, butter, and eggs. Stir until smooth. Set aside. In a medium-sized bowl, mix flour, baking soda, and spices. Combine dry and wet ingredients. Add water. Mix thoroughly. Using the unused butter, grease an 8” by 8” square baking dish. Pour batter into it and spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees for about 50 minutes or till the top is firm. Cool. Makes approximately 12 servings. Garnish with a dollop of store bought whipped cream (or make your own by using heavy whipping cream and sugar and beat until creamy). Sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg.
Dress it up with cream cheese frosting

Once I put the gingerbread cake into the oven and turned on the light I knew this recipe was easy as pie. It’s quick to make. It’s an easy recipe. It’s a keeper. When it was done, I sliced a small square without cooling it and it came out perfectly. The thing about this cake is that it’s versatile. It can be dressed up or down. Eating it plain, with whipped cream, or topped with fresh berries drizzled with honey is festive. Also, frosted with cream cheese frosting (mix two cups confectioners’ sugar with 1 cup cream cheese, and a capful of pure vanilla extract) decorated with candy corn pumpkin candies, chopped walnuts, or crystalized ginger pieces can make it a sublime Halloween treat dressed right for kids and adults.

California #Author-Intuitive Sees Seattle-B.C.

By Cal Orey

As an author-intuitive I believe in signs, whether it be a dream, gut instinct or image. Last week when I was booked at the Seattle/Bellevue Barnes and Noble bookstore for a reading/signing of my forthcoming book The Healing Powers of Olive Oil, Revised and Updated (and other Healing Powers Series books), I sensed it was a cue to prepare an itinerary to go farther north into Canada. And that is what I'm in the middle of doing.
Challenging to plan trip when
getting over cold-
contemplating flu shot

One night, one day in Seattle

IT IS SEATTLE TO VANCOUVER, B.C... Today, on Halloween, the days of spooky spirits, I woke up early, thanks to my early rising fur kids, and realized: "I'll only have a few long days in Vancouver! Not enough." So, I called the airline people and added one more day. While holding on the phone for the switch a catchy song played:  "Best Day of My Life" -- it was a message to me that I was meant to extend this business-vacation trip for another day. And I did just that. 
Vancouver Sky Train is for me

After the Bellevue book signing on January 10, 2015 it will be early evening. It may be worth it to check out of the nearby hotel near downtown Seattle and take an Amtrak night train ride to Canada.  It sounds romantic, sort of. This way, I can savor Vancouver for three whole days--Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. Come Wednesday I can take an afternoon delight train back to Seattle and do the city for the night--Pike Place Market as I visited in 2006 after the downtown Barnes and Noble signing with geologist Jim Berkland. Then, it's up early to catch an early flight back to Northern California, my native home.

As noted in my last blog post, I nixed the B.C. ferry winter ride due to potential rough air and choppy water to avoid "Sea Sick City" and stay warm and healthy. Instead, experiencing sub-Mediterranean climate in Vancouver without rushing to get to a chilly island via water seems right for me right now.  But Vancouver Aquarium is a must-see for me--since the first time I went wasn't long enough. 
Used to writr for Tropical Fish Hobbyist
Definitely I will revisit VA

A visit to Stanley Park, making my way to Commercial Drive with its shops and restaurants, checking out Chinatown and Gastown, to hitting Davie and Denman streets are all on my excitement list.  Coffee, gourmet chocolate, and food--fresh and Mediterranean eats are not to be ignored.
More B.C. streets to walk

NOT AS FOREIGN AS QUEBEC CITY... Ironically, another signal came to me in September while en route to Quebec. When I got off the plane from Salt Lake City to Atlanta, I realized in the airport I left something important on the plane. "I left my books behind: The guides on French Sayings and Montreal/Quebec City Sites" are gone." At first I felt I was lost. But it was meant to be. So, I winged speaking French and followed my animal-like sixth sense for finding sites rather than using a structured plan or tour guide.

This time around in Canada, ideas of where to go and what to see will suffice, too. I do like excitement of getting off the grid (takes me back to when I was young and hitchhiking across America and through Canada) in a foreign city. I'm sensing that crossing the border via Amtrak will be a cake walk in contrast to the dealing with the mean-spirited French Canadian Customs Agent who grilled me, the California girl. Note to self: Find something spontaneous to do to add the wow factor to this PNW trip.  

Dec. 2 is Skye's 2nd B-Day;
Groundhog Day is when we met
He was 12 lbs. vs 50 lbs.

LAKE TAHOE, AUTUMN TO WINTER... And this weekend we fall back and turn our clocks back, while tomorrow is November 1 and a new month greets us. That means there's less than two and a half months before my departure to the Pacific Northwest. So far, two more Barnes and Noble book signings--one in Sacramento mid-November and the other in Reno, a week before Seattle--will proceed the trip to Seattle/Canada.
It's time to chill, enjoy autumn at Lake Tahoe: A first snowfall promised tonight, fire in the fireplace, going back to my swims at the resort pool, and promoting the upcoming release of OLIVE OIL and its counterparts (Vinegar, Chocolate, Honey, and Coffee) for the holiday season. Canada and novelty will be there for me in January, the first month of 2015. I see some weather challenges and lots of adventure en route and throughout the trip. 

UPDATE: I did go to Seattle/Canada twice after this post. Most likely in the upcoming months I will return to British Columbia and go to Victoria.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Author's Winter Getaway: Seattle to Vancouver Canada

Saturday with onset symptoms of  a
By Cal Orey

Seattle is my first and foremost stop
Decided no way am I taking a ferry to Victoria in the Pacific Northwest winter! After talking to locals on the phone, they're telling me grueling tales of choppy water to storms tagged "Seasick City"!  Plan B, a turboprop was off my table of viable modes of transporation to Victoria after a quick online search to verify my gut instincts about small aircraft in the wintertime. This fall-cold bug is a kick of reality and blessing in disguise. Yep, I will go to Seattle for the book signing; and the next day take the train to Vancouver, Canada--done. I made up my mind during this bout of a cold. I will pass on nightmare-ish plane and boat rides.  

On Saturday night I felt feverish and my throat was raspy. Come Sunday the aches from head to toe hit. A cold-flu paid me a visit. Was it getting up in the early morning every day to feed the cat and let my dog duo do their business and enjoy their breakfast? Or perhaps it was the weekend neighbors who left their flood light on all night, forcing me to play the character in that film "Insomnia" trying to barricade the windows for needed darkness to sleep. Maybe I didn't wash my hands after store runs. And there is always the chance it was our temps plummeting to 28 degrees and soaring to the upper 60s in the day.  Welcome to cold season--it's a sign.

Vancouver Canada is a fine destination
What was I thinking? On the weekend in between sneezing and drinking herbal tea and honey for my sore throat, using a heating pad for my aching back, I booked a flight and hotel for my trip to Seattle in January. At first, I announced it would be a Barnes and Noble reading/signings in Bellevue, then onto Vancouver via train. In my mind and to friends, I didn't stop. I boasted that I was going to hop onto the chartered bus for 1 1/2 hours to catch a B.C. ferry and in another hour or two be on an island--Victoria.  Then, a few days later, it would be back on the cold, choppy winter waters (providing they didn't shut down due to poor windy conditions)  to catch the bus, train, and two plane rides, shuttle bus, cab to my cozy warm home. Am I crazy? Do I want to work hard to land on a strange island when I live in paradise?

Why in the world would I bundle up and bundle all this traveling in the wintertime? Maybe if I didn't get this cold I'd feel more adventurous. I sense this pesky bug is a cue from the weather gods whispering to me: "You are not 21! Yes, you are normally healthy and have energy but be sensible!" So, I negotiated in my mind: "The flight plan will include a cab to the shuttle bus onto Reno for a flight to Utah then onto Seattle...another cab ride to Bellevue. A few days in Washington, then a cab to the train and four hours later in Canada. That is a long, long trek. Done!"
Back to SLC Airport is just the
tip of the journey

After all, I vowed to revisit B.C. all by myself, not with an incompatible travel mate. I will revisit Vancouver Aquarium as well as enjoy the diversity of the city, organic food markets, and swim at the hotel in a foreign city. No need to get onto a ferry and weather the elements to get onto an island. Water will be all around me. I live in the mountains with a cold climate in the winter that includes shoveling snow and making fires. Why do I want to work harder than I have to during a business-vacation? 

People travel to Tahoe in the winter...   I won't be gone for long
Why would I go to Whistler when I have snow here
Saving Victoria and the fickle ferry for a fall time getaway. Gosh, dealing with a cold-flu virus is not fun. It would be easier with one cat. True, my dogs give me so much but at times, like now when I don't feel my energetic self, it's like taking care of two-year-old twins. But as my grandma used to say: "This too shall pass." And then I will continue to envision my trip to Seattle and Canada. That is doable and will suffice.  Caveat: If the weather is dry and the wind is calm (I forecast it will not be), I may change my mind in a heartbeat and book a B.C. ferry for the thrill of experiencing Victoria.
Coming back home to Tahoe--my home--complete with snow, a crackling fire in the fireplace, swimming at the resort pool in early mornings (to dodge ski-goers) and cuddling up with the fur kids will be nice, too. It's mindful to save Victoria for a crisp autumn day. Where is my heating pad? The Brittany and Aussie are staring at me again. They want more food, a walk. I feel sicker than a dog. Fine. I'm getting up.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Here Comes the NEW Olive Oil Book with Surprises!

By Cal Orey

Discover Olive Oil's Extraordinary Powers!
Revised and updated, this indispensible book reveals why chefs, doctors, and nutritionists all love extra virgin olive oil, a key ingredient in the Mediterranean Diet--and why other healthful oils from vegetables, fruits, and nuts are not far behind. You'll find easy recipes for satisfying foods like Pizza Baguettes with Garlic Oil, Fudgy Coconut Oil Brownies, Honey-Citrus-Olive Oil Fruit Kabobs, and Macadamia Nut Oil Cookies. Also included: home cures that beat colds and reduce pain, beauty and household secrets, and pet care tips that really work!
Pre-order by clicking your mouse right here
 Deliciously healing surprises. ...
The art of using olive oil for mind, body, and spirit goes back 6,000 years. Hippocrates, "the father of medicine," used olive oil in over 60 healing remedies.
New research confirms that olive oil can help lower the risk of heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes, and it can stall age-related diseases.
Combining olive oil with other oils (like coconut and macadamia nut oils), can help combat fatigue, infections, and insomnia, and help you fight fat and shape up!
Bring on the butter--especially the right kind and right amount. When paired with oils, this twentieth-century "forbidden" saturated fat is a new twenty-first-century health food.
"Orey gives kudos to olive oil--and people of all ages will benefit from her words of wisdom." --Dr. Will Clower, CEO Mediterranean Wellness

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

California Food Author--Canada Dreamin'

By Cal Orey

Vancouver Downtown-my dream coming true! 
then to  charming Victoria B.C.
 (after a Jan. 10  Seattle 
Barnes and Noble 
book discussion/signing)
Today. Tuesday, marks one month since my out of country trip to Quebec, Canada. I'm over the post-travel blues but I've got finding a new, improved adventure on the brain.  In September it marks a time in my life that I left my fear of the unknown at home and experienced life...

Autumn at Lake Tahoe but craving Canadian adventure

I left my fur kids, flew a long distance all by myself (munching on purple grapes and cheddar cheese, gabbing with fellow passengers, including a passionate doctor (who confided in me about her marriage) and generous attorney (claimed he didn't have a fear of flying but Bach and drinks seemed to be his remedies), both from Georgia; was grilled by a no-nonsense young, Canadian customs agent who asked me: "Do you have pot?"--and was on a mission to irk me; stayed in a 28th floor hotel room (which I arrived at 2:00 A.M. after traveling 3000 miles) and wasn't scared to be all by myself; survived a fearless cabbie whom drove 100 mph; and I learned that I can trust a hotel safe for money and passport.
In the dark, cold morning air I will always remember how I sprinted solo, clad in warm clothing with mittens, scarf, and a hat, on a downtown street and caught the 6:15 early (business class) train to Quebec City, and not to forget a spontaneous horse and carriage ride in the French-speaking town of Old Quebec. Whether it was "rough air" on the plane or weathering 10 degrees on September 18 when I awoke--I did it. And I'm ready to go do it all over again.
Rural Quebec en route to Quebec City

City Room view that'll cherish
I miss Quebec City and the French speaking people
HOME AT LAKE TAHOE... Living at Lake Tahoe I realize my life is isolated and lacking excitement. I miss the city life (as I had going to S.F. State University) and new experiences. Fifteen years ago, it was my dream to leave the San Francisco Bay Area, move to the mountains and make the transition from magazine journalist to book author. Done. Now I feel I want to spread my wings. I'm not sure if it's the fact that I want to move to Canada or just flirt with the different provinces as I did in my early 20s. Now, via phone as an intuitive reader for the networks, I can tell if a caller is from Canada. It's not an accent, though, it's an air of sophistication that I can pick up 95% of the time. And I love my Canadian clients from all the provinces (yes, I can sense which ones, too).

I've settled in during the days and weeks and it's been a challenge. The firewood arrived and is stacked in the garage. The chimney cleaner is coming tomorrow at 9:00 A.M. I wanted to return to my swim routine but today's report is the resort pool is cold. Too cold for tourists or locals.
Lattes and shopping were part of the city life; I have a
cross necklace and black and red checkered jacket
from Quebec City; a black leather purse and navy
infinity scarf from Montreal
It was bliss to wake up naturally with a city view of Montreal--I felt like a princess--and to grab the phone for room service. I'd rang up a Gaufre/Waffle. Translation: a large waffle with hand whipped cream, Quebec maple syrup, powdered sugar, and fresh strawberries; and a carafe of coffee. Back home, on Sunday morning, I did whip up homemade organic chocolate chip pancakes and a pot of of mocha flavored coffee. It was comforting but not Quebec syrup.

Hot organic pancakes at home
I should have stayed longer in QC
Yes, it was sublime with my warm fur children amid me.  The clock(s) do chime as the I heard in Quebec City, the place with a European vibe. 

At Tahoe, my new earthy, chocolate brown blinds are up and make me feel cozy. Pumpkin spice candles are everywhere next to baskets of pine cones. The pine trees outdoors are showing vibrant hues of yellow and red. It's Mother Nature at work. But something is missing for me here in Northern California. I yearn to click my mouse and; book a flight to another city in Canada, somewhere different.

BRITISH COLUMBIA, I AM COMING TO YOU... Years ago, I did go to Vancouver. It was a weekend trip with a friend. I fell in love with the city but wasn't thrilled with my controlling traveling partner. I vowed to return alone. I have chosen the flight plan, pondering the hotel to befriend and sights to see and I forecast it is likely I will take the trip before 2015 arrives.

Meanwhile, I sit here next to two dogs and a cat. I look at my treasures: A Via Rail ticket stub,  a greeting card to my hotel room (with memories of a fruit basket gift from the manager) and kind words: Nous vous souhaitons un excellent sejour et une magnifique visit a Montreal! And indeed, I did have a great stay and a wonderful visit in their lovely city... It's getting close to that time when I book another flight--the West Coast of Canada; I hear you calling my name... Unless I can find a big aircraft that will land in Toronto.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Coping with the Post-Travel Blues

I want the happiness aura of a pre-trip
By Cal Orey
Framed art of Montreal in my dining room

Black and white framed in my study
I admit it. More than once or twice during my September trip to Quebec City, Canada I fell victim to homesickness. One man boarding the plane heard me say I was from Lake Tahoe. He quipped, "Why are you going to Quebec?" He had a point (why leave paradise, a world-renowned resort town) but both mountains and city life have their good points-- I let the comment fly into air as we separated. And the breathtaking city view(s) I savored each day and night were well worth getting the best of both worlds: The slow-paced isolating sierras and fast French-speaking city.
A fellow passenger in SLC asked
why I was fleeing Lake Tahoe

In my hotel room late at night after being on the go adventure-seeking all day, there were times I missed my fur kids. On the upside: It was amazing to hog the entire king bed and not have to get up at 5:00 A.M. each morning to let the dogs eat and do their outdoor business.  Still, separated from the cuddly, warm dog duo and my beloved Siamese kitty was on my mind. I was feeling the blues. One time at a gift shop I almost bought a stuffed dog that looked like my Aussie (but it was a Siberian Husky and I snapped out of my desperate purchase). I missed Skye's fluffy, big white paws.

Coming home to Zen was zen-like
I'M HOME. NOW WHAT?: When I arrived at South Lake Tahoe the first night was heaven. It was me and the cat Zen. Sleep was heavenly in the cozy and clean waterbed complete with comforters.
While the hotel I stayed at did sport four stars the bed was nothing like my own sanctuary. In the morning I fantasized about having an awesome reunion with my young Australian Shepherd and senior Brittany when I came home. We picked them up separately sensing the excitement would be overwhelming. top. It's like no time passed. True, the boys got extra walks, brushings, teeth cleanings, nail trimmings, and well--gosh, they were at doggie spa. So, there were no Kodak moments. The dogs came home and it was like I never left. Caveat: Skye did have a little accident on my bed on night two (one time only). Was he marking or making a statement for me not to go away again? Only the dog god knows for sure. I choose two.
Service dogs stole my limelight at B&N

GETTING RESTLESS, PACKING MY BAGS: In my 20s, when I hitched and hiked with a dog around the country and Canada I'd come back to California, again and again. But I'd soon get the drive to go somewhere else and I did just that. Fast forward decades later, it's a bit different due to more roots. But I'm restless and hardly alone with my feeling down.  I did take in a movie, walk the dogs, savor the lake and trees but I've been here doing that for 15 years. 
Before and after the next getaway (it's not an if but when), I'll be going away on short trips to Sacramento and Reno: A guest at Barnes and Noble bookstores for signings for my past and new books. But it's work and not enough.
New fantasy to revisit for reality
About ten times I found a perfect flight plan and hotel to Vancouver and a few times to Toronto--almost clicked my mouse but I hesitated due to the chaos of new Ebola screenings at airports, eerie flight surprises (i.e., "cosmetic" problems with a flight from SFO to hazmat workers removing  an"idiot" passengers), and more of the unknown. 
My prediction is that more than likely (80% odds) I will book a trip to Canada in the upcoming weeks. I've been to three provinces and want more.  I have lasting images of people and places I experienced--much better than a new stainless steel fridge or used hot tub (although these would be nice); the fridge would get smudges and I'm probably mess up on the chemicals in the water. But a trip back to Canada will give me new dishes to cook, more photos to print, frame and hang--and will allow me to feel alive not just hot or cold for minutes like big ticket items.
My room was like this on the 28th floor

Vancouver may be my next final destination
GIVING MY CABIN FRENCH FLAIR: I did add ivory flannel sheets and a duvet cover to my bed complete with a bed scarf like I enjoyed in the hotel room with Mediterranean flair. The framed black and white art piece of Montreal arrived and added class to my dining room stuffed with books and magazines I've penned for years. The cross on my neck, need to get another French manicure, infinity scarves, smokey eyes (done right) are part of my new, improved look. And my photos of Quebec in the living room on the fireplace mantle make me smile and feel more worldly. 

So, as the firewood is stacked in the garage, the earthy brown colored blinds are now up in the living room, clocks chime on cue like in Quebec City, pumpkin spice candles fill the air, and chocolate chips cookies will be baked tomorrow, I feel at home. Still, I am busy filling my brain with thoughts and fantasies of planning the next Canada trip that'll give me that bounce in my walk, a genuine smile on my face, and a reason to get up in the morning. Perhaps it's the grilled cheese sandwiches, purple grapes, coffee and gourmet chocolate (two friends to beat jet lag) that remind me I need to feel warm and fuzzy somewhere else in Canada, a place I visited when I was young and makes me feel youthful again. A boat ride, and flying to a faraway place is the remedy that will fix my longing for more and take me out of my comfort zone again, a place I need to be.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Dream--Taking the Train to Quebec City

By Cal Orey
 Quebec City--Coffee, Pastries, French Canadians, 
and Down-to-Earth Warmth 
Made a Lasting Impression on My Mind & Spirit

In retrospect, for decades I've experienced a vivid and surreal dream. Each time I am solo on a train (without people) moving Northeast amid a lush forest--it has a "Twilight Zone"-ish feel to it. At times after awakening I linked it to my past travels hitchhiking from California to Florida northbound to Quebec--a province I was not ready to face and I didn't visit more than a few hours. After dealing with Montreal culture shock--at 21--I fled to Toronto, Ontario (it was more Americanized to me) but knew I'd return one day to Quebec and Quebec City when I was more mature, more ready to deal with French-speaking people, and an intense city. It was my plan to be more self-reliant rather than relying on my thumb and people to flag down rides...

Since I went to QC I haven't had the dream of me on
this train
traveling Northeast
LEAVING ON A JET PLANE TO THE "PLANE TRAIN"...Fast forward to mid-September 2014. I finally left my cozy and safe cabin (minus coyotes, bears, quakes, wildfires, winter snow, and flooding) in the sierras and headed out of the country. I did love the "Plane Train" at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
--a subway to cover ground and make a flight connection, more fun than moving walkways at larger airports. This time I came prepared: A passport, four star hotel reservation, layered clothing, and funds--no panhandling this time around. Still, a hippie chick but dog-less (both my boys were in the kennel) I left my fears in California and headed towards Quebec City--my final goal. 

After I arrived in Montreal I knew that I was closer to my fantasy Oz--much like Dorothy--in the sleepy daze--in the field before she arrived at Emerald City.  After a few days, on Friday I was up at 5 A.M.--on time to walk in the dark (it was close to the hotel) to the train station and catch a real-life 6:15 A.M. train ride to  Quebec City. The comfy business lounge for traingoers was more than awesome. All types of coffee--lattes to gourmet java drinks--as well as high-end mags, newspapers, bottled drinks, pastries and more were available at no cost. (Well, you are charged when you pay for your ticket.) As noted in my last post, I was nursing a "French Kiss" film-like case of lactose intolerance from the cheese incident the night before and passed on the goodies. I did snag a can of ginger ale and made my way downstairs to catch the train (reminding me of my SFSU commute days).
Once moving--it hit! This was my dream come true. The train and trees were what I envisioned in my dream. However, years ago, I did not have the money to take a train let alone know one existed to take me to the city. I did sleep in the cold, dark forest, though, with my dog. And this time around while I missed my canine companions, past and present, I felt warm and fuzzy fulfilling my traveling fantasy with French words filling the air. I passed on the vegan breakfast (pre-ordered) and accepted an antacid from the train staff.  Rarely do I get heartburn unless I devour a well-meaning and generous chef's special high-fat fare after 7 P.M. (which I did). 
I rode in business class--it wasn't full like my dream. It was calm, cozy, and inviting. One Italian-looking businessman was working on his laptop (I chose to go off the grid). He treated the female staff like Stepford Wife goddesses so no love connection on the train. Passing by tiny towns and rural regions made me think: "I should have come straight to Quebec City for the week--not Montreal." It was earthy. It was serene. It was more me.  I had one day to savor the place and that was doable, sort of.

Gare du Palais is a train and bus station in Quebec City
served by Via Rail
GOOD MORNING, QUEBEC CITY! After three hours I arrived at Quebec City--my final destination. No turbulence or derailed train like I imagined. It was cold. Clad in sweaters, jeans, T-shirt(s), a wool neck scarf, mittens, and boots I was warm. But another glitch hit.  My eyes were attacked by a stylish smokey eye make-up I used making me look like a tired party raccoon from my home at Lake Tahoe. My eyes were red, inflamed and watery...

Adored my city room view and Mediterranean decor
The night before, I called hotel room service for SOS. Did you know for $300 you can get a one-on-one room doctor call?  I received a phone call from the M.D.  We agreed it wasn't a multi-dollar ER visit but cold compresses were doctor's orders. In the morning, I was better but my eyes were wet, similar to grad school when they were bloodshot and dry due to over use, but this time it was reverse--puffy like I had been crying for eternity.  So I needed a remedy to see Quebec City...

DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?...  I was in a French-speaking province (more than 90%) and while Quebec City has bi-lingual locals, English-speaking tourists, the vast majority of people I ran into spoke only French. That said, I was on a mission in another world to find a pharmacy who could read me. One cabbie later (broken English) I was brought to a compassionate, semi-bi-lingual pharmacist who led me to over-the-counter help. Cortisone cream and a non-drowsy type pill to dry up my eyes was the Rx. I was cursing the maker of the eye make-up and praising the French Canadian medicine doctor. By noon while feeling a bit off (the drug was strong), my bloodshot eyes were on the mend and I was ready to see what I could see.

COFFEE, COFFEE, COFFEE...Once I sipped a latte, I was feeling normal in a new city. I ended up in the old town area, a busy tourist trap-- cobblestone streets, bistros, and shops--much like Fisherman's Wharf at S.F.--probably not the place I should have been but I did make the best of it. I purchased a cross necklace (this was a challenge since the merchants spoke minimal English), and a thick black and red checkered hooded jacket sporting a small Canada flag on a pocket. A perfect find for cold fall/winter Tahoe days. The soothing sound of church bells outdoors reminded me of the pair of chime clocks I adopted for my cabin. And I was feeling kind of homesick...

Quebec City scene away from tourists 
It was a big horse that caught my attention--a four-legger like my canines--and he rescued me. I sprung for a pricey 45 minute ride--it was worth it to keep me grounded and see the sights of the foreign city. The driver, I discovered, did not own my horse friend but wish she did. She was aloof, a tad masculine, and before I saw it coming (I know, if I were psychic I would have known) I was being worked for more money...
The driver's dog story got the extra tip--
I missed my fun-loving pooch
As the story goes, it was a corporation she worked for that only dished out minimum wage. Read: She lives on tips and was having a difficult time making ends meet. I told her "no worries" and settled up to enjoy the ride. Karma, due to my tales on the road for food and money.  In her thirties (but the outdoors did seem to take a toll on her age), she told me tales of woe living in Quebec City. She did not like her job, nor the minus 35 degree winters and snow for six months a year.  I could feel the big chill--which we need here in our drought--stricken Golden State. Her dog from the pound was leashed outdoors all day, she said, while she and her partner worked the horse and carriage gig.  Soon, I was giving her a  free "psychic" reading to uplift her spirits (and mine) and wishing I could escape with the horse with no name--and hug my dog(s).