Coaster to (Little) Italy

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We have a marvelous little transit service on the coast here from Oceanside to downtown San Diego, called the Coaster.  It’s a train on the Amtrak lines  called the Coaster  with clean comfortable 2 level cars, reasonable rates and a schedule not really conducive to a night out on the town from North County but, great to meet my husband coming in from the airport.  I took it to meet Dan who was flying in from Phoenix on Friday evening.

I picked up the train in Encinitas at a roomy train stop with lots of free parking and self serve ticket kiosks.  It’s a pleasant 40 minute trip to the Santa Fe Depot downtown from there.  This particular afternoon was the usual eclectic mix of commuters with high tech looking bicycles, a couple moms with cute kids, trendy millennials doing whatever it is they do (and looking super cool doing it) and the random suburban, middle aged white woman going to meet her husband downtown for a nice evening (me!).

The train arrived right on schedule with it’s usual prolific honking, as Encinitas is a  largely pedestrian community and quite busy along the train route, and we had a brief moment to hop on before we were off to the next stop, Solana Beach.  I just took the first available seat in the car I hopped in on, facing forward on the west side so I had a great view as we gently chugged down the coast.  A beautiful evening in late October made for terrific scenery and I was motivated to record the stretch of beach known as Cardiff or Cardiff Reef as I thought about people who don’t live along the coast and how this must look to them.  The window was dirty, but I think it came out ok.  Nice thing was, the car I was in had no one talking on their phone or playing music, just the quiet and the sound of the train so if you want to watch with the sound turned on you can get the full effect.

After a very pleasant ride devoid of all human chatter we arrived at the end of the line, the downtown station: Santa Fe Depot.  Dan was flying in and planned to take the shuttle to leave his luggage where he had parked his car and then walk to meet me in Little Italy at Davanti Enoteca a restaurant we like there.  I was to walk from the train. In one of our usual happy coincidences/results of great planning we walked into the restaurant within seconds of each other.

Davanti Enoteca has a very good chicken liver pate that Dan adores so we were going to at least start there with some wine and the pate at the bar, but it being Friday night we were unable to find a seat in the bar and decided to just stroll until we found somewhere that we could.  Across the street we found a cute little grouping of chairs around a coffee table right by the open railing to the outside in the lounge/bar of the restaurant Sorrento.

We settled in there and found they had a very hospitable bartendress who came to help us.  They had a nice little list of craft cocktails and she was happy to help with her suggestions.  They also brought some great bread with a little dish of amazing pesto dipping sauce which was a real treat for me.  Here’s Dan looking very comfortable in this romantic little nook he found.

After a nice little while there we decided to see if we could squeeze in for our pate across the street but found they were even more crowded than earlier so we needed a new plan.  I remembered that there was a Filippis Pizza Grotto about a block away and Dan had never been before.  Filippis was something that I grew up with in Pacific Beach, and is rather iconic for most San Diegans.  There are now Filippis  in many locations including this charming one in Little Italy.  I am happy to say that little has changed.

Check out this menu they had hanging on the wall from the 1950’s!   Cheese pizza for a buck!  Prices have changed..20171020_200932But the stemware hasn’t!

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The red checkered tablecloth,  chianti bottles hanging from the ceiling, no nonsense wait staff,  it has that perfect pairing of over the top character and authenticity that is impossible to fake.  Dan was charmed immediately,  I was comfortably transported back to memories of family outings 45 years ago.  I heard an out of town visitor call someone on his cell phone and tell them “You’re not going to believe where I am right now.”…how great is that?

Dan wanted pizza, so did I but I wanted to see what they would do with eggplant parmigiana too, so I ordered that.  Look what we got!

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Enough food for us to take home and have 2 more meals!  Dan, the cheese lover,  was even heard to utter the words “Who would order extra cheese on this pizza?”.  It was dripping down the sides of an already cut slice as we watched.  The dough was thick and delicious, the cheese plentiful and chewy the sauce great and toppings very tasty.  My eggplant and lasagna were good as well, even better the next day though.

Add to the plentiful, delicious food and quirky ambience a good dose of sassy humor from our attentive waitress and we had a great time at Filippis Pizza Grotto.  A short walk back to Dan’s car, drive to Encinitas to get my car and then home after an impulsive little adventure in our own town.  It doesn’t get much better than that, and it wasn’t even Saturday yet!

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Beak to Schnoz at Last

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Cecil is our male cockatiel family member.20160614_111656

Ummm, no.

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Still no.

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There he is!  Cute, right?  He is an extremely social little guy with a lovely repertoire of calls, whistles and mumblings that he uses to great effect to express desire for attention and his affection for the recipient of his mumblings.

Enzo is our male German Shepherd Dog family member.

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             No, that’s not him.

20170121_180333                                                                  Awww, c’mon!

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     o

Okay! Handsome fellow and sweet boy.

Cecil’s large cage takes up most of one of the windows in our kitchen where he keeps us company with his cheerful chatter and he can enjoy the birds outside as well.  He calls to us when he hears us in other rooms and we noticed he would call to Enzo and then switch to softly whistling to him or murmuring to him if he would come lay down by the cage.  It ends up Cecil has a major fascination with Enzo and Enzo seems to indulge it.

Cecil likes to be out of his cage, riding around on a shoulder, getting his head rubbed while watching the news and taking brief flights around the house.  I have been very careful to make sure that Enzo doesn’t get to Cecil during these uncaged times.  As friendly as they appear to be I always thought Cecil might look too much like a toy and Enzo might decide to play.

Recently I was watching TV with Cecil happily grooming himself on my arm and Enzo walked by and just looked at him, did the dog version of a shrug and settled down next to my chair.  Cecil moved over to where he could see the dog and began his special little Enzo song for the next 30 minutes which Enzo seemed to ignore.  You could tell he was listening though, those radar dish ears don’t lie!

Suddenly Cecil hopped down and was whistling animatedly right into Enzo’s very large ear.  I have trained Enzo that “feathers”, whether on or off the bird, are off limits so he gave me a wide eyed look without even lifting his head and just lay there while Cecil tried to get his attention.

Seeing that Enzo was going to adhere to his training, I started recording their first close encounter.  I can’t help but feel Cecil is more interested in getting close to Enzo than Enzo is.  What do you think?

Harvest Moon Paddle

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Full moon paddle crew, led by Maggie

Thursday October 2nd, 2017 was a beautiful harvest moon and Blue Paddle SUP coordinated a full moon paddle at Agua Hedionda Lagoon. Maggie Adams is a wonderful part of the Stand Up Paddleboard community here in San Diego and runs Blue Paddle SUP, a paddleboard lesson, training and outing company.  That’s her holding the camera stick for the group selfie above.  She always has something fun going on for fellow paddlers and words of encouragement for anyone she meets on the water.  If you want to dip your toe in the water of SUP,  Maggie would be a terrific guide to assist you with that.

Dan and I full moon paddleDan leading the charge full moon paddle

This particular evening we met up about a half hour before sunset and headed west across the lagoon towards the sunset. The water was uncharacteristically smooth and we just glided through the water. With a cloudless sky it was a rather tame sunset, just slipping into twilight.

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As it was getting dark we slipped under the I-5 bridge in a stiff current and milled about in the calm waters of the other side.  Normally I would look for baby sharks and rays in the shallows over here, but it was too dark for that.Under the I-5

 

When it was almost too dark to brave the bridge again we headed back out into the main lagoon, and straight into the moon rise.  From where we were on the lagoon the large orange orb was rising out of a canyon on the other side of the lagoon with an orange robe spread in front of her on the water leading directly to us.  Spectacular.

full moon on lagoon

We were all stopped in our tracks and floated reverently watching her rise.  The paddle back was much quieter, we spread out across the lagoon and leisurely paddled, enjoying our quiet time watching the biggest moon you’ve ever seen rise quickly over the lagoon. Such a special evening, thank you Maggie, fellow paddlers and Great Mother Nature.

 

 

Coolest Demo Ever…Whiskey Ice

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Normal Heights, Adams Avenue is a cool, quickly renewing area in San Diego with a lot to offer so when we were going to kill an afternoon downtown we decided to check it out.  A quick internet search revealed a trendy craft cocktail bar called Polite Provisions on the corner of 30th and Adams and we decided that was the perfect spot to anchor our visit.  After a lovely walk among the  bungalows, built starting in the 1920’s,  mixed with apartment buildings back in the neighborhoods, we strolled down antique row on Adams Ave until we reached our destination of  Polite Provisions.

Polite Provisions

I mean, how cute is that?  Originally an old drug store on the corner, they have kept the feel of the neighborhood pharmacy counter with back and white checkered tile floors, wood shelves  behind the long bar, well dressed bartenders who will see to your every affliction and lovely, eclectic, old fashioned glassware.
We were lucky enough to score seats at the cheery bar and ordered from their encyclopedia of craft cocktails, nicely organized in thick menus that are constantly passed around patron to patron with lots of friendly discussion and advice.  After getting our noses out of that fun book, we looked around and saw at the back bar what looked like a snow machine in action.  Upon closer inspection we found out that a  very strong and capable man named Juan was busy taking thick slabs of ice and cutting them into perfect cubes that just fit into tumblers for whiskey.  I was completely mesmerized by the ice chips flying, the knife a blur, Juan’s total focus and control and the perfect cubes coming to shape so quickly in his capable hands. Juan agreed to be videoed.  Take a look at hand making ice cubes.

 

 

We know where we are going to go sit during the next heat wave!

A Perfect Hour in Ocean Beach

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We had a fabulous party to go to in Point Loma, an hour to kill and we needed the right vibe…off to Ocean Beach, OB as we natives say.  It has been a long time since I have played around down there, Dan never has, and I am thrilled to report that some things never change!  The same skateboarders down the middle of the street, the same colorful youth hostel (no youth to be seen), the same eclectic crowd and anything goes (except prissiness) that makes it one of the few remaining authentic beach towns left in Southern California.

One of the best things about OB really is the diversity.  It isn’t from block to block, it is more like blink to blink.  Here’s 2 pictures taken from the  same spot on the sidewalk, Taken one right after the other. One facing East, the other West.

 

Those pictures were taken just in front of a very dark doorway to a bar.  The kind where the door turns to a hall parallel to the sidewalk so you can’t look directly in and see what’s going on in there.  No windows to peer through either.  We were looking for a drink and I can go for either a good dive bar or a fancy lounge but I was a bit leery about this spot.  For all of Ocean Beach’s attributes, there is definitely a rough element there too and I didn’t want to blithely walk into the wrong situation dressed for a party.  Dan sensed my apprehension and quickly peeked in, came out with a little smile at the corner of his mouth and said “It’s a bar.”  I could tell from the expression that it was OK, but he followed up with “It’s dark, but clean and not scary.”  So in we went.

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I don’t know how he could tell a thing with the glance he took.  I was blind for a good 3 minutes inside the dark interior.  It took that long for my eyes to adjust.  There was a country music song on the juke box, strike 1.  I did grab the back of a barstool at the ample bar and found a comfy padded seat so I was surprised, then as I swung it around (it was fixed to the floor) it let out a wretched squeak and I kind of fell in love with the place.  I don’t know why but somehow that luxurious seat with the tired sounding protest just made me feel so comfortable and happy.  The bartender ignored us for a comfortable amount of time, making it clear in the best  possible way that this was a bar for certain people only (we read that to mean there are some scary looking types in here, we don’t serve pupus or blended drinks and it’s cash only) and if that wasn’t ok with us we could leave, no harm no foul.  No way!  My eyes were adjusting, I was comfortable, we were being politely observed by a scant but eclectic mix of people and the music had changed to one of my favorite tunes from college.  Home Run!

Paciic Shores, we are now initiated.  If you ever have the opportunity you must go find this place at 4927 Newport Ave in Ocean Beach, CA.   We had definitely dove into another world.  Opened in 1941 this little jewel has luxuriously cushioned bar chairs, booths, a pool room and an extremely well curated juke box.  The underwater theme is over the top, campy, charming and somehow just exactly right.  The longest wall has alcoves with lovely, vivid underwater scenes painted and lit beautifully, above the bar is an elaborate structure that looks like it is made of shell and is in the shape of scallop shells, mermaids and bubbles are everywhere.  Here are  a few pictures, although there is no way to do it justice and you must visit for yourself.

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Mermaid, star of the bar

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Shell shaped structure over the bar

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Painted panels of ocean scenes in wall

Ben, the bartender on duty, was helpful and clearly proud of the place.  He explained how old it was, talked about the few times kids had kind of taken over the place over the years but that now that is not tolerated and that they are a busy popular fixture in OB.  He told us they don’t care about Yelp reviews, they’ve been there 75 years, they’re packed in the evening and they tell people if they don’t like it, leave!  Whatever they are doing, it has a friendly neighborhood vibe to it that immediately opened up and welcomed us.  We found it very hard to pull away from our new friends after only an hour, but we had a fantastic party to go to.  It was amazing to us that we came in strangers and left, laughing, joking with and waving to everyone as we left.  What a special place.  Thanks Ben,  Dan loved the muddled cucumber and Hendricks gin concoction that you claim is your one fancy drink!

Swimming with Sea Turtles

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Honu, wise and wonderful

Honu, wise and wonderful

There is just something about the Green Sea Turtle. Mystical, elusive, playful, wise, patient, coy, sedate, blissful, magical…somehow it’s impossible to quite pin down all the qualities that they possess. And their mere presence is somewhat capricious. Some people can go to Kauai and spend a week practically hunting for them and never see one, others are literally tripping over them as they enter the water each time. We are blessed to fall into the latter category and get to have some wonderful experiences with what the Hawaiian people call honu.

 

First of all, these beautiful creatures are listed as protected on the endangered species list, so they are not out of danger, but they are making a very good comeback. Unfortunately for them, many people find them delicious. They have a possible life span of 80 years, commonly reach lengths of 5 feet and weight of over 300 pounds. It is illegal to touch or harass these beautiful creatures.

Is this friend or foe?

Is this friend or foe?

On our first trip to Hawaii we were on the island of Kauai at Tunnels beach on the very north end, snorkeling around to the north side. It was turning into a beautiful little snorkel, a nice large ray, some good schools of fish, nice slanted afternoon sun streaming through some pretty clear water. Fairly idyllic, the usual Kauai snorkel! Out of the murky distance came gliding a large honu. We had done no research on the ocean life of Hawaii so we were not at all prepared for this creature! We exchanged those funny round-eyed looks you can only give each other through a dive mask and quickly turned back to the turtle. Now, my round eyed look was excitement. By the way Dan started trying to swim backwards in his fins I am forced to believe that his round eyes were a little more adrenaline induced. He admitted later that he did not know if honu were dangerous and he was going to err on the safe side! Did I mention they are 5 feet across? I did still find it kind of funny though.

Light streaming through on honu

Light streaming through on honu

This beautiful giant came right up to investigate us as we waited, carefully motionless to see what he would do. He swam around us then seemed to go about his business in the rocks and waters near us so we were able to observe him close up without bothering him. Oh, we were so careful thinking this was a rare sighting of a skittish sea creature! His sweet gentle face, deep, wise eyes and multi-shaded shell were beautiful in the rays of sun streaming down through the water. We held hands and floated with him for several minutes just enjoying the experience. Eventually he swam off and we popped our heads up to talk about it. The excitement of the encounter had us so giddy! When we looked back down, he had come back and was circling below us, so we watched again and soon he swam off in the same direction.   He repeated this a few times and I got the feeling we should follow him, so we did, at a respectful distance. He actually checked over his shoulder to watch us as we swam behind him, at first I thought we might be bothering him but if we fell behind he slowed and turned to look for us. I know, sounds crazy.

Where the honu are

Where the honu are

After a couple hundred yards we came to a large volcanic rock formation in the middle of a sandy bottom about 25 feet down.   On closer inspection we could see that there were about 8 turtles floating around or nestled in on that rock! He had led us back to their cleaning station. There they were, a couple of them actually in line for the helpful fish that were cleaning the shell and skin of the turtle at the head of the line. What a special treat. We have been going back to Kauai and diving and snorkeling for 14 years now and we have never seen this activity again. They were completely unconcerned with our presence, leaving the rock to swim around us when they needed to come up for air. They were swimming right past us, making eye contact through the mask, giving us a glimpse of ageless wisdom. They were not disturbed when we dove down to check out the feeding station close up at the rock and let us hang out with them for over an hour, until we got concerned about the long swim back to our entry point. We reluctantly left them there after carefully marking  our spot relative to the shore and the mountains, hoping to be able to find them later in the week. We did visit there nearly every day that week and were lucky to be able to hang out with them routinely. Often we were led there by one or more turtles swimming on the outskirts then showing us the way. Maybe they were showing us the way intentionally, maybe they were just headed that way when we saw them, either way it was helpful! As we talked to people in town and around the resort we heard over and over that they were looking for turtles and still hoping to have the opportunity to swim with them. Many were excited by our experience but when they learned how remote the site was they were reluctant to try and find it. When we went back the next year we were unable to locate that spot again either.

Follow me

Follow me

We began at that point to branch out and snorkel in other spots and found that nearly everywhere we went in the water we were greeted with a honu encounter. What a delight and an honor, I never fail to offer a mahalo for the opportunity and I never want to take for granted this extra special treat. Most of the time we end up swimming along with them, flowing on currents that they find, admiring their seemingly effortless strokes that propel them gracefully and powerfully forward.  They are not sleek acrobats like seals or dolphins.  They are heavy, unwieldy creatures for underwater maneuvers, but they still manage to be very graceful and can be quite swift as well.  It is very peaceful to swim with them, matching them stroke for stroke, letting them lead.  Sometimes they will nestle in to a still spot in a reef where they don’t need to fight current and they can just rest.  I read somewhere that they can stay down for hours resting that way.

Swim along with me

Swim along with me

Still we hear out and about that many people are frustrated by their inability to find them. As we listen more, we hear others commenting on their encounters and we begin to sense a theme. The frantic, goal oriented, “I have got to have a turtle encounter before I leave” mentality did not seem to be drawing these gentle giants in. The grateful, admiring, relaxed approach seemed to have people bumping into them left and right. Do they sense our anxiety? Our hunter mentality? Does that signal danger to them and keep them away? I have also talked to some people who are conflicted. They want to see the turtles because it would be an experience, so they look for them, but they are also afraid that they will see them because they just aren’t too comfortable with sea creatures the size of coffee tables. It seems like these kinds of people do not see the honu either. Do the honu sense the fear? That would certainly signal danger. We have now become so accustomed to them we are not surprised when we are sitting at the water line and we hear them come up to breathe at our feet in six inches of water. We are literally careful not to step on them! Unfortunately, I hold the same attraction for mosquitoes with not quite the same positive interaction. At least it isn’t jellyfish!

Up there?

Up there?

One of our most entertaining honu encounters was actually on Maui. We were snorkeling in a kind of rough surge around some volcanic rock and getting tossed about pretty good. We noticed a large turtle getting tossed around with us, only he would disappear in a rush of water and then reappear a little later in a big cloud of bubbles. We swam over to see what he was doing and found him munching happily on a green bed of seaweed right at the only inlet of a pool that was acting like a washing machine in the surge. As the wave went in, he would reach down and grab a mouthful. He would get knocked almost upside down and swept into the rocks forming a whirlpool with sand streaming from his mouth as he contentedly chewed slowly on the seaweed he had plucked on the run. They don’t really have a lot of facial expression, but I swear he looked like he had found his bliss! He would get tossed around in the bubbles and rough water for a couple rounds, finished his mouthful and then he lined up to come swooshing back out, grabbing another bite on the way through. He seemed to have no control of his exit, sideways, upside down, left or right, but he never missed the seaweed no matter how fast he shot past there. A couple times he ran right into Dan, but he let nothing deter him from enjoying his meal. A trait I can relate to and respect for sure.

This last time we were in Kauai I was picking shells on Tunnels Beach a little before sunset and a couple honu were feasting on the seaweed right at the water line a couple feet away. A man came strolling down the beach strumming his ukulele and stopped to serenade the honu for about a half an hour as they dined. I was lucky to be in the area and enjoyed the music and the spirit in which it was offered. Something about that just made me really, really happy.

Ah... Fresh Air

I hope that everyone will have the opportunity to hear a honu snort upon surfacing to breathe, and be moved to serenade them at sunset.

Humbled by Washing the Dog Bed

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This is a tremendously exciting topic.  You’ve been searching everywhere for the definitive blog on this, and here it is.  After much soul searching and agonizing inner debate I have finally found what I would like to share on the subject.  Hmmph.

In Enzo’s crate is a humble Costco dog bed.  It is rectangular, with a pseudo-Tuscan looking damask tapestry cover over a foam egg crate style pad, with a zipper up one long side.  You have all seen them.  Enzo seems to like it just fine.  When purchasing this dog bed somewhat carelessly at Costco it never crossed my mind that at some point I would, of course, end up needing to wash it.  Actually, come to think of it, I don’t know of any easy to wash dog beds so this could be a universal, colossally overriding issue.

So, here we are a couple months later.  Yeah, ewww.  And we are sniffing suspiciously in the bedroom shortly after washing the dog and cleaning the house and wondering why it has that strong, distinctly dog odor that only I seem to be able to tolerate.  The dog bed.  Okay, one more step to complete the cleaning of the house.  Well worth it for my faithful furry friend.  I strip the cover off, shake it out in our driveway, treating the entire neighborhood downwind to a furry coating of German Shepherd, and toss it in with my Costco detergent for a good hot wash.  The foam I threw in the driveway, poured some more of that lovely Costco detergent on it and soaked it with the hose.  A little squashing of the grapes dance on the foam (a la Lucille Ball in that wonderful episode) a good rinse and throw the wet foam over the back of a bench in the sun to drain and dry.  It’s sunny and hot so that shouldn’t be hard right?  Turns out that foam is made out of the most hydrophilic stuff known to man.  It took three days to dry and I think that was from the water dripping out of it, not from drying in the sun.  I don’t know how we are going to get it dry in the harsh Southern California winter.

Okay, so here is where I need a little extra help.  Why is it so hard to get the covers back on things like duvets and dog beds?  I always end up inside the cover, with it somehow twisted wrong before the whole ordeal is over, not even necessarily successfully.  So I grab the now clean and dry cover and the clean and dry egg crate foam insert and try to sheath it.  Let’s just say good thing I didn’t do much dating before I met Dan.  It will not go on!  I am going to have to go in with it, so there I go and get about half way there before I remember Lassie’s Law Of Fur: Fur cannot be created or destroyed, it can only be hidden until least convenient.  Suddenly the “clean” bed and cover are fur bombs and since I am nice and sweaty, wrestling with them I am getting happier by the minute.  Inhale slowly, ” I love Enzo, I love Enzo, I love Enzo”, keep going, get it all the way on.  Whoops, untwist the darn thing best as I can tell and shimmy the heck out of there, avoiding the mirror on the closet door mocking me as I emerge.  Zip it up, shake it into submission and best I can back into shape because it doesn’t seem to fit right anymore and toss it on ground, maybe a little harder than was absolutely necessary.  Oh crap.  Dog bed taco.  Really?  Why won’t it fit right?  Why doesn’t it ever fit right again?  Heck with it, it doesn’t exactly fit right in the crate either, so in it goes, followed happily by Enzo who settled right down on it and I swear winked and grinned at me.

Very funny.  And it will need to be done again soon.  Or maybe I’ll just buy a new one.  Wait.  Tree hugger here.  Where the heck do I think all that egg crate foam is going to go?  And what, we’re made of money?  There has got to be a better way.  I am going to research it.  Someone has to have come up with a washable dog bed.  I can’t be the only one that turns the whole thing into an episode of I Love Lucy.  Oh God, can I?