Pumpkin Cottage

Pumpkin Cottage
sit and visit a spell

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


I am experiencing technical difficulties so my text isn't lining up. Sorry.

Oh, I know what you are thinking, my peeps. But you would be wrong..Bakersfield has everything.
Lee wanted a short road trip where we felt like we got away but could be back in one day.
So I started researching all the things we need for a successful road trip. Cupcakes, used book stores, thrift stores, yummy food and antique stores. We like just to roam and find cheap deals when we can.
Simple pleasures people.
We started our trip just outside Bakersfield in Buttonwillow at the Tule Elk State Reserve where we did indeed see elk.

Here are the elk. We could see them with the naked eye but Lee took this photo through the telescope (is that what you call it?).

First stop, Frosting Ink...the yummy cakes did not disappoint. Yummy goodness and a cute store front, too. With t-shirts with saying like "make cupcakes not war" and "love, peace and cupcakes."

Jacob and Holly got strawberry flavor, Lee chocolate and peanut butter, and I got raspberry. Oh goodness, not too much frosting and tons of cake with a little filling on the inside.

Just around the corner we found In Your Wildest Dreams Antiques. We found some amazing loot. I am an experienced shopper or I would never be able to absorb so much with two little ones in tow.

Lots of other interesting shops in the area but we were trying to make it for lunch at Wool Growers. We didn't make it for lunch. The restaurant closes at 2 p.m. and reopens at 6 p.m. I have to tell you, though, it smelled really good in there. We'll try tomorrow or the very next time we come to visit.

This is the ramp to the basement area of the shop. So much to see. Normally, I take a quick look and go through a second time but I had a hungry family so I only got to go through once.

Lee is always on the look out for alternative and used music stores. He lucked out. Right next to Frosting Ink is the Going Underground.

Lee's favorite stop? Dewar's candy and ice cream shoppe. Dewar's celebrated their 100th year making candy chews in 2009.

We collect stickers to commemorate our trips. The sticks cover our little ice chest which is normally filled with Diet Coke, water and juice boxes.

I scream you scream we all scream for ice cream. Happy faces, now that is the BIG pay off.

Russo's Books where we purchased a book bag that says: "Eat. Sleep. Read." Honestly it is all that is necessary in life. We also learn of the indie movement IndieBound.

Just a sample of our day.
Okay, it in night time and we are all tired. So good night.

We'll share more tomorrow. If you enjoy seeing our travels please leave a comment.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Little Break

Today we crossed more items off our list including a chalkboard for Jacob and Holly on their...wait for it...closet doors. Are we creative parents or what? This is just before bath time and their first chance to experiment.

For my birthday, Joe gave me Borders' gift certificates and the first thing I bought was Jennifer Perkins' book and hot chocolate all around. I still have enough left fr British mags the next time I need a little pick me up.
Jennifer just seems like the girl next door but is crafty extraordinaire. She lives in Austin which is on our list of cities to visit. The book is intended for for jewelry making which I do not do but I can use all her tips to make all kinds of other crafts. If you are interested, you can also watch Jennifer on HGTV's Craft Lab.

We had another surprise for ourt the little get-alongs ...a trip to
Irvine's Regionnal Park the Orange County Zoo. Jenny had given us a coupon for a free visit a few months ago and we finally had an opportunity. We had such a wonderful time. Notice the bear behind Jacob. The weather was cool, just like I like it.
On the way home we discovered a new used bookstore :

One Dollar Book Store
8520 E Chapman Ave
Orange, CA 92869 (714) 633-8055

It is the type of store you have to hunt for books but all the books cost just $1 plus tax, really. I found some real gems. The treasures we found were well worth the hunt. If you go, allow plenty of time to browse the huge store. Worth investigating if you are the thrift store type like us.

It hasn't been all fun and games here at the Pumpkin Cottage. We are cleaning. I mean really cleaning and organizing. So much has moved through and out of this house. We are in agreement, we just want to clean, decorate and purge. It is our goal to start the new year fresh and ready.

Joe if you are out there..see what you are missing?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ending 2009

Lee and I are list makers. We write a list every weekend and every vacation. It is how we keep track of the things we get done and make sure we capture all the things we want to do. Today I finished all the thank you cards for my mother. Lee and I made a slide show with music to commemorate our beloved's life and the people that were so important to her. We had photos and notes we wanted to write to the family and friends that contributed to our Riverside service, the graveside service and the receptions after the services. It was exhausting and emotional but Lee and I crossed this task off our list today.

With that behind us, we decided that I would create a journal to track our lists over 2010. So I took a journal and scrapped my Susan Branch 2007 calendar and magazine photos to keep us inspired. I never scrap my calendars too soon so our 2009 calendar is safe for at least two years.

We are planning a short road trip. Don't know where we will go but it will include thrift stores, used book stores, a little fabric, and antiques. Stay tuned.

I have set before you life.....now choose life. Deuteronomy 30:19

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas. This is a particularly sentimental Christmas. I was watching the Oprah.s White House Christmas Special when Oprah asked the President about his most memorable Christmas and that led me to think about my most memorable Christmases. There were three, at least from my childhood, the Christmas my sister made a Christmas tree from an evergreen branch and a coffee can full of rocks, the Christmas Joe and I received our only gifted bikes, and the Christmas I received my first SLR camera. I still have the camera and all the wonderful memories.

Here is a photo of the loot we brought back from our road trip last weekend. Notice the tree topper and the metal picnic basket. The topper ended up on our tree this year and the metal basket houses all our Christmas movies now. We always pick up and few ornaments.
Me being goofy. The topper is truly vintage and works. It was originally from Woolworth. Do you remember five and dime stores?
On the top of the tree. Isn't it beautiful. I prefer silver but I love this topper. Sweet angel.
Mark posing his new robe and slippers from Oma and Opa in VoVo fashion. VoVo would try on all her new gifts and pose for us. We promise to keep the tradition.

We also have a tradition of new pjs for Christmas. This is Christmas Eve right before bed. Below are some of the gifts the kids received. Holly's new pony. New bikes and golf clubs, too.

Check out Holly's new helmet. Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Only Five Days Until Christmas

I love Christmas so much. I have always loved the thought of of an extended family. As children, my family always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve. My anticipation and excitement was surrounded in waiting for my older brothers and sisters to come home with their spouses to open Christmas presents and have dinner with together.

It was really the dinner and being together that was the best. Yes we mostly received practical items like underwear, nightgowns or pjs if you were a boy, and chocolate but we looked forward to any gift.

Our children continue our traditions. We completed the first round of Christmas tree decorations tonight. It is so much fun to watch them decorate together.

It is my greatest hope that my children will look back at their Christmas as fondly as I do.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

One month later

Road trip. We drove Friday night, right after work, so we could get right up and get on with the real reason for a road trip: the destination. This little house was our ultimate destination on Saturday. We were in Turlock for my niece, Michele's, bridal shower. Michele has honored me by inviting me to officiate in February. So exciting. I love visiting with my nieces. They are so genuine. The girls are so sweet and creative. It is a joy to see how they have grown up. The shower was so much. As an added bonus I got to visit with family I hadn't seen in a while. The food was tasty, too.

The photos below are all out of order but I am too tired to fix anything. My apologies. The real time line goes something like this. We drove up Friday night up the I5 and drove back down the 99 on Sunday. We drove through Hilmar. Such a cute downtown with lighted Christmas street decorations. I don't ever think I have ever seen lighted street decorations. So vintage and simply wonderful. On Saturday morning we visited Turlock's downtown. The Vintage Market and Main Street Antiques, I attended Michele's shower, drove to Daly City to meet Joe at the Westlake Shopping Center, and drove to San Francisco for the Renegade Craft Fair at Fort Mason Center. On the Marina.

All we could all say as we drove pass the beautiful homes is, "Can you ever imagine living like this?" We all said no. The homes are huge and all decorated for the holidays and located directly across the street from the Marina. Can you imagine the view? Just beautiful every moment of it.

Below is a stage on the Fort Mason site. The amphitheatre is made from....look closely. Recycled car hoods. Are those the happiest children? They had just been jumping up and down and running away from Uncle Joe.

On Sunday, we drove down the 99. Below is the District in Fresno. We originally stopped to shop at the local Ross, TJMaxx and Goodwill. It is what we always do during our road trips. We also visited Starbucks-this time for tea. We still don't feel well. We finally visited the Tower District in Fresno. An artsy area that we have already decided to visit again soon.

Rocky Horror Picture Show live on New Year's Eve...we want to go.

Here is the greeting we received as drove through downtown Hilmar.

The picture above is the office of a psychic. You can't tell from the photo but just inside the door is a huge Jesus, the guy walking back and forth looked like Elvis. Just saying.

This is downtown Turlock. We visited downtown: the Vintage Market and Main Street Antiques.

We would have bought the Holly tin but it cost $55 for all three. I just wanted the Holly tin.

If we have time, I will post the loot we did purchase. Got to get some rest.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Have I shared that I love Elvis? Will always love Elvis. I mean REALLY love Elvis. Elvis had my heart from the beginning.

Check out what will be happening at the Grammy Musuem in downtown LA in January.

Monday, December 14, 2009

My Birthday

I will admit this has to have been the hardest birthday. The first one without my beloved mother. We had a tradition in our family that we all raced to to be the first one to wish the birthday girl/boy "Happy Birthday." That meant that as we moved out or got married (sometimes the only way to move out) my mother would call really early in the morning.

It went something like this: The phone would ring at some ungodly hour, we would glance at the clock radio and know that it was my mother. "Are you awake?" she'd say. "No, but I am now," I would respond.

Truth be told. We looked forward to her call and I looked forward to the new nightie or robe we would receive without fail. I miss her so much in big and small ways.

My friends really pulled together to help me celebrate and get through the day.

Becky made me an amazing bag. I love it so much. I also received flowers, cards and treats. It all helped me to keep it together. Thank you my darling friends and husband.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Looking forward

Today would have been my sister, Mericia's, 63rd birthday, St. Nicholas Day. Every year I think about her. This year is harder.

Nicholas was supposed to have been born on December 31 but instead he was born early on November 29. To me he was a Christmas baby and Mericia's birthday falls on St. Nicholas Day.

Each day I allow myself some sorrow and some joy.

We will making a trip soon. If you have friends in the area please spread the word.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Wrapping Up

Literally, Lee and I are completing VoVo memorial slide show and wrapping Christmas presents.

Fado is the traditional Portuguese folk music. Soulful. I can still hear my mother singing. Amalia Rodrigues'. Not even to the walls do I confess. Amalia is the queen of fado. We included other traditional songs like "uma casa portuguesa." The images are traditional Portugal. We included a new fado artist, Mariza.

I just want to cling to my roots, smell the ocean, hear my language, and eat my mother's foods. Not ready to do much else.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


Yes, it is true that I am grieving about the lost of my mother but I am also grieving because I am growing and it is painful. Change is painful even when it is good.

A few days following the loss of my mother I went to get a manicure for some quiet time. I know you all don't believe it but I am very shy and will not normally start conversations. Any way, I shared with my manicurist that my mother had recently passed away, a customer within ear shot shared that she, too, had recently lost her 68 year old mother. They had been told that she had six months but her mother passed in only six weeks. She had brought her grieving father to the nail salon for some comfort.

Hearing our conversation, he came over and gave me his condolences. He was so sweet and obviously suffering. He shared a program call grief share that helped him. The program is normally conducted through faith-based organizations. I signed up for the daily email option. So far, I have found each message insightful and comforting. At the nail salon, I was also approached by a young woman, she asked my name and if I would welcome her prayer for our family. Of course. How sweet is that? (That is my mother at work. She was always so charming and friendly not shy at all.)

God speaks to us every day. I've know this for some time but I don't always listen because His expectations are high and I am tired. Inspiration struck before we went up north, two books were brought to me, I say brought because I don't know what else to call the phenomenon of suddenly finding just the right book that brings comfort at just the right time here are two: Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.'s Kitchen Table Wisdom and Not Quite What I was Planning Six-Word Memoirs.

I know that we were blessed in my mother's journey and we continue to be blessed in our grieving journey with loving friends and family. God is good.

A little retail therapy and craftiness helps, too. Here is a shop we visited in Roseville, California. The shop was amazing with a wonderfully friendly shopkeeper, Sandy, and a beautiful creek/river that runs right behind the shop. The shopkeepers also sell in southern California at the Barn in Temecula. Both worth the trip.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

This is how we do it

I have been asked if losing my mother is bittersweet. I've given that question a lot of thought. Yes, I am in the bitter part but I have not reached the sweet. I am sure that the sweet memories will eventually overwhelm the feeling of loss. It is the loss, emptiness, and just being lost in this world that envelops me now. My mind reassures me that my mother is no longer suffering but my heart is not listening. The heart feels what the heart feels. Feelings are not right or wrong they just are.

So much to do, to accomplish, but at the same time the loss of ambition and desire for living. I don't even know where to start. For nearly five years our lives have revolved around VoVo's needs and now she doesn't need us any more...it is a bitter pill.

This was our last road trip with VoVo. Lee drove her while I followed with the rest of our family. Two vans with one mission. We left the Inland Empire around 7:30 a.m. on Monday morning and went to bed at 10:00 p.m. I am not going to lie, we made the trip fun because we have two little ones that really get the seriousness of our trip.

The minute we arrived in Half Moon Bay I felt at home. A deep sense of relief and comfort. I have always known that I grew up in a blessed place. While our visit was focused, I was able to visit the church I grew up in and light four large candles in my mother's honor. To be able to bring her to where she loved and be able to put her to rest between my father and sister means so much. I realize that most people would not want to make such a long trip with their deceased loved ones but we felt that it was the last act of kindness and love that we could bestow.

With the exception of two grandchildren, she had the remaining nine grandchildren and all six of her great-grandchildren at her grave side. It was a deep comfort to have my two friends from my childhood with me, Chrisy and Aileen. My two brothers especially Joe who has stood beside me or behind me every step of the way. My nieces, nephew and their beautiful children. This is the circle of life. We placed roses in her grave: Julia counted 22 red and 3 pink. Thank you.

My cousins, Fatima and her husband Norberto, hosted the reception. We were far away from home and they opened their hearts and home to all of us. We celebrated VoVo's life. We can not thank them enough for breaking bread with us, for decorating the grave site with beautiful flowers (Christmas cactus that VoVo adored) for sharing their home. Thank you.

To friends and colleagues from near and far that continue to embrace us through their thoughts, prayers, expressions of love, and notes of concern: God bless you all. Your acts of kindness have carried us through the deep fog. Thank you for continuing to read this blog. I promise that as time goes on we will return to our cooking, crafts, road trips and all that is our family.