After our glorious and somewhat rigorous morning at Point Lobos, we were ready to rest and refuel. I had bookmarked a lot of dining options on Yelp before the trip, but I changed course completely the previous night when it suddenly occurred to me to search for ramen, one of my husband's favorite meals. The nearest noodle house turned out to be Carmel Coffee & Cocoa Bar which happens to be in the same plaza as The Cheese Shop, our next destination! I knew that must be our lunch spot, and what unfolded over the next couple hours totally confirmed that...
After we enjoyed our kimchee and won ton ramen bowls, we waddled...er, walked over to The Cheese Shop, where we met Brooke, who became one of my favorite people over the next half hour, as she let us sample a gazillion different cheeses. To me, Brooke was an angel because cheese is right up there with books, so tasting so many kinds of it was pure heaven. It brought me back to the best job (with boss) that I ever had - I was in eleventh grade and Trader Joe's opened its first Northern California store, right across the street from my high school. I was hired as a "cheese girl" - I cut, wrapped, priced, and gave out samples of cheese, and did unglamorous tasks like mopping and hauling cheese in an out of the freezing refrigerator, but the perks outweighed the drudgery...and so did I...just kidding - that was back when I had the word's fastest metabolism - it was the perfect season in my life to be surrounded by cheese from 3-10pm several nights a week and on Saturdays.
We left paradise, I mean The Cheese Shop, with an assortment of slivers (all we could afford) of our favorites - cotswold (chive & onion double gloucester), double cream gouda, triple cream brie, havarti, and Jeff's Select, as well as a tub of castelvetrano olives. We were planning to leave and go to a thrift store I had staked out in Pacific Grove, but first we needed to go to the bathroom, so we rode the elevator up to the third floor of the plaza. After we did our business, I was curious to see what stores were on this level, which felt like a bit of a ghost town compared with all the activity below.
While my husband was messing around on his phone (probably checking fishing conditions or texting his angler friends about their latest catch), I wandered down the lane, nothing catching my eye until I saw an art gallery with brightly colored paintings that looked interesting. I am pretty picky about art, so I pass up a lot of galleries, but my husband walked up and I told him I wanted to go in and check it out. He's an artistic soul, too, so he was game. We were taken in by the first set of paintings, a series on cosmology - a unique blending of art and science - and I was even more intrigued when I noticed a title on one of them - The Grand Design. I was beginning to have an inkling that there might be more to this impromptu visit than looking at pretty pictures.
As we continued along, I was impressed with the variety of subjects, colors, and techniques (not that I know much about art other than what my tastes are), which appeared to all be the work on one artist. Then my husband found a small picture toward the back which had Christian symbols and Aramaic words. He's an extravert, so he had no problem walking right up to the gallery owner (he had been on the phone when we first came in) and asking him if he was a Christian. He answered in the affirmative enthusiastically. His name was William Eatmon and he was both a scientist and artist, a modern day Davinci. Now that he had retired from his engineering job at Boeing, he could devote more time to his painting. We talked about our faith, about the world, about our families, encouraging each other not to lose heart, nor to become weary in doing good. My husband asked if we could pray for him, so we all held hands and closed with that. We practically bounced all the way back to the car after that, so filled with hope and joy!
That wasn't to be the last of our divine appointments on this whirlwind adventure. After we went thrift shopping and found a few treasures (I'll just mention here that it was the Second Chance Thrift Store and they were playing Christian music), we returned to our hotel with just enough time to change clothes, grab some cookies for later, and head out to dinner.
We had a reservation at Yafa in downtown Carmel. When we arrived, the people next to us were engaged in conversation with people at the table on the other side of them, so we kept to ourselves and focused on the menu...and the beautiful painting on the wall next to us, which transported me back to the Mediterranean, but to the Greek part, which I never made it to on my stay in southern France (another story for another time). I loved how God was continuing the art theme.
We ordered their most popular starter - grilled octopus in a "special sauce" (it really was) of olive oil, garlic, lemon, and oregano. It truly hit the spot. After we mopped up the sauce with bread, they whisked it away, and two lively middle-aged couples were seated next to us. We overheard that it was one of the wives' birthday and that they were in the area for Car Week - the kick off being the classic car concourse in Carmel (say that ten times fast!) the next day, at which point we would be leaving town, just in time to avoid the crowds.
I bet you can guess what happened between our starter and our main course. That's right we heard them speaking our language. Again, we waited a while, so as not to be intrusive or to assume anything, but as in previous times, there came an opening, which was when they were discussing what to order, pondering the octopus, so we had to butt in and rave about that delicious dish. Well, one thing lead to another, and soon we were engaged in deep conversation about following Jesus, marriage (each of them had been married over 30 years), parenting, etc...and when I wondered initially whether the husbands were Christians (we had just been talking to the wives because they were right next to us), it was funny because one of the men, looked over at my husband and said, "are you a believer, too?" It sounded more like a command (lovingly) than a question!
Once again we related our concerns over the state of the world in this post-Christian era of moral relativism, while encouraging one another to trust God. We were also able to share with them all of the divine appointments we had had in the last 24 hours, and so to build up their faith, and possibly send some more Christians over to William's gallery. When their food came, just as we were waiting on dessert, we held hands and prayed together, rejoicing in our fellowship.
When the Eggplant Delight, Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola, the Pistachio Rosewater Pudding, and Moroccan Tea were but a memory, despite the load in our stomachs, it was like we were floating on air as we walked back to the car. On the drive to the inn, we marveled at how God had orchestrated our every step of this trip. It was funny, too, because I'm such a planner, and yet I had barely planned anything this time - just a rough, last minute sketch of what we might do.
The night was young, so my husband gathered up his fishing gear and we walked down to the beach. Carmel beach allows bonfires except on weekends, so I had been looking forward to seeing that. As the sun went down, my husband cast his line into the sea (he caught one!), while I traversed the sand, listening to the water lapping peacefully just inches from my feet and gazing at the the glow of the flames dotting the beach. The beauty and peace overwhelmed my soul with praise to my Creator who had revealed himself to me, and to us, in such personal ways through people, art, and the natural wonders all around us. I could not imagine the morning holding more, but I was about to be surprised once again...
Enter the Buffet Lunch... (a kind of sociology experiment on my kids ;)
So in the three days since I began fasting from alcohol, white sugar & flour, I've already had my ups and downs...
Staving off the cravings:
-On Wednesday night, while shopping at Trader Joe's, I couldn't put sugar in the sample coffee. I even asked if they could give me honey, but no, they didn't have any open, so I only had one small cup instead of my usual two, which was probably better or I might have stayed up even later - I've been on a night owl streak since then.
-We had Chinese take-out for our Valentine's dinner and I had to forego the chow mein & sweet n sour chicken, as well as what were described as sushi rolls, but turned out to be salmon and avocado deep fried in spring roll wrappers. I also couldn't have the fortune cookies, but that wasn't really a big deal.
-Tonight is book club - can't have wine or chocolate or whatever other sweet treats might be served.
-Pretzels somehow mysteriously entered the house (husband somehow acquired them) - I immediately hid them high in the pantry.
-At TJ's, I bought honey roasted peanuts and their new cheese rocket crackers for the kids, who have been snacking on them the last two days.
-I've felt like having a Jolly Rancher a few times, just to have something sweet in my mouth.
-The It's Its we were too full to eat on Fat Tuesday have been staring at me every time I open the freezer.
Now for the delicious bits:
-I discovered two new foods at Trader Joe's that I can eat, which are quite tasty and have very few ingredients: Dark Chocolate Honey Mints (honey, chocolate liqueur, oil of peppermint) and Whole Wheat Tuscan Pane Bread (whole wheat flour, water, sea salt, yeast).
-The above means I can still enjoy my favorite snack of toast with coconut oil, honey, and cinnamon.
-I had one of my favorite Chinese dishes - lettuce cups - and my husband gave me his after we discovered the sushi rolls were actually spring rolls, so I got to have two of them. I also had rice with shrimp, which I realized afterwards probably had sugar in the sauce - same thing for the bell peppers I ate out of the sweet and sour chicken. I was so focused on breading than I forgot about sweetness.
-I can still eat cheese, my favorite food!
-I'm having more fruit and juice (100%) but not overdoing it.
-Lox, cured meats, eggs, peanut butter, nuts, etc., are more enticing to me than carby stuff.