Last Summer Hurrah at Dinkey Creek

cabin-at-dinky-creek-3School is about to start so we squeezed in one last camping trip into this short but very hot summer break. I can’t believe how fast it’s slipped by already. It seems like yesterday we were mapping out all the activities we’d do and now it’s almost already over.  We have a few more fun things up our sleeves but overall we’ve done a lot this summer and I’m feeling pretty good about it. These kids better not come up blank if they have to write a “What I did this summer” essay, that’s all I’m saying.cabin-at-dinky-creek-1Payam has friends up north who have connections at Dinkey Creek so we stayed at a sweet cabin in the woods. The girls were a bit disappointed that we weren’t tenting it this time but I was just fine with a nice cabin with a clean bed and a warm shower.  Give me some trees, a campfire, a glass of wine or a warm cup of coffee in my hand and I am the happiest camper ever.

cabin-at-dinky-creek-2It was my kind of roughing it. And of course nobody complained about the abundance of wifi.
campfire-at-dinkyAh… the campfire. What’s not to love?
cody-n-bug-n-joon-in-the-creekThe next day we took the dogs to the creek and Cody was in love instantly. He is such a water dog. You can’t watch him without feeling your own heart explode with joy when you see how much he loves the water.cody-n-bug-in-the-creekSometimes he would just walk up to the water and lay down immediately, like he was sighing inside to have finally found his natural habitat.cody-n-joon-in-the-creekSometimes he’d high center himself on rocks and just lay there. This dog was completely at home in the stream.cody-river-dog-1Cody butt.
cody-river-dog-2The girls and the dogs could have played in the creek all day and they kind-of did. I secretly wish we lived here and this is what they really did all day. I bet Minecraft addiction wouldn’t even be a problem here!cody-river-dog-3“All I need is this river and this stick”, says Cody in a Steve Martin voice from “The Jerk.”river-bugRiver, river, river… or maybe I should say creek, creek, creek. The water level is pretty low but not as bad as we were afraid it might be with the drought that just keeps going on in spite of the wimpy El Niño year we supposedly had.
joon-at-dinky-creekJoon being cute….river-rats-2After the river-romping, everyone was wiped out.sleepy-river-dogsEspecially the dogs.

The dogs love camping.  In fact, I think they are a bit depressed that we are now home in boring old suburbia. They stayed outside the cabin most of the day, lazing around in the dirt or hiking around with us and then they slept uncrated (!) at our feet in the loft at night. It was their first night sleeping indoors with freedom and I’m super happy to say that it went pretty smoothly.  They were tied to the railing by their leashes so it wasn’t complete freedom but I had worries that they would gnaw at the carpet or find random socks to eat and they didn’t! They were perfect little puppy angels.  They were also very tired puppies which makes for very good puppies.

See that scruffy mutt? Take a good look at him because he doesn’t look like that anymore. That’s a camping dog right there.
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The next day, right before we had to hit the road to head home, we took a quick hike up to an old milling camp that was built in the 1920’s. It was a dry, dusty hike but so worth it.

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The whole camp is preserved remarkably but yet not protected. It’s open for anyone to wander around and I couldn’t believe how untouched it was. There were even old rusty cans on the store shelves. If this existed down here in Southern California it would be a camp of homeless people or meth labs or burned down completely. It was a photographer’s dream location. There was a tiny bit of tagging inside some cabins but most of it was as if it had just been abandoned in the 30’s and never touched again.

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Cody was kind enough to pose for me.

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He’s such a pretty boy.

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Whiskey too.

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Whiskey is so funny with his scruffy fur that grows over his eyes. He constantly looks like an old stuffed animal that has been well-loved and not washed.
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So anyway, the mill. We went inside and it was huge. It was dark and all these little holes in the exterior shot tiny beams of light down onto the floor. It was so pretty and expansive, it kind of felt like you were stepping into a cool, dry, dusty observatory and the tiny beams of light looked like stars.
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The inside of the mill just added to my  photographer’s dream location. If I lived here I would come back constantly to shoot portraits. Bug took one of me but of course I don’t like it much because you know, I’m old and vain and stuff.
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I really love this time we had at Dinky Creek and I’m always going to hold a special spot in my heart for this road going down to the creek and this cabin. It was cute and little and just right.

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And these people!  They are always so good to us! Until next time guys!cabin-crew-2

It was our last camping trip and it was short and sweet and to the point. It was perfect for making good memories so we can start another year of the regular boring old grind. Just kidding! We love school too but you know what I mean, it’s nice to end summer feeling like you did a lot. Like we tied a bow on it.

Chinese Night

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We have dinner parties now and then because you know, we’re grown-ups and stuff and I can actually cook now so it’s fun to have friends over and show off.

I remember when I used to have parties like this I would always make sure my mom was coming and she would cook. I’d do everything else up to the nines because of my party-planning sickness but leave all the cooking to my mom who would be sweaty and exhausted and taken advantage of.

Well, guess what? I don’t have to do that anymore! I actually focus more on cooking and less on having the right decorations and the right playlist of theme-related music, the right costumes etc etc…which is huge because I used to waste a lot of unnecessary time and energy on the minutia of a dinner party and drive everyone crazy.

I still drive everyone crazy but they have a lot more patience when they are rewarded with tasty food.
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It all started with my tablescape job. I wanted to create a tablescape around this old Japanese rice urn I bought at a thrift store ages ago. I love this dish. It is perfect for rice or taking food to a potluck. It’s heavy and sturdy and it comes with a lid! And it looks cool which is the most important thing if you are me. Of course I thought it was a Chinese urn when I started out but quickly figured out it  was Japanese when I googled it and it showed up here. But I made Chinese food and not Japanese food because I am no good with raw fish. Sushi is way out of my league.
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As usual, I was in too much of a hurry actually cooking to take pictures along the way. I’m frustrated with myself too because making these pot stickers is super photogenic (as you’ve probably seen in my Instagram feed) but add guests and taking pictures sort becomes secondary.

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Payam humored (the crazy) me and drove me to a Chinese market so I could pick up a free newspaper as my table cloth. I know it’s kind of weird and maybe dirty seeming but I thought it was cool in a gritty, urban way. It brought the theme to the table and you can’t beat the price. Of course in the beginning I had visions of red raw silk but the newspaper turned out to be way more economical and less stain-attracting.

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Then when we were out picking up drinks at Bev Mo I found these buddha beers. They had to jump in our cart if not for drinking then for the possibility of becoming the cutest vases ever!!! They were perfect and even actually tasted decent, said the beer-drinking guests who are not me.  It was fun. Everything came together and we had a great time.

And that’s pretty much it if I leave out the part where I was super emotional the day before and almost cancelled the whole event before it even happened. Heh.

I’ve figured out that this is my typical mode of operation. I like to plan things, big things! But then if I perceive even the slightest hint of failure I blow everything out of proportion and cancel the whole shebang in a heaping pile of ugly crying. It’s terrible. I kept this trait from Payam for the longest time but it has come out with a vengeance and now he knows the real me.

Sigh.

BUT! I am learning this about myself and Payam has been so encouraging. This time instead of cancelling in a huff like usual I decided to just go through the motions and make it happen. I took my failures head on. I was prepared for people to come to my event and be polite but secretly wish they weren’t there and leave as soon as it was acceptable. I was prepared for my food to be cold and untouched. I was even prepared for my newspaper tablecloth to be made fun of. I was prepared to vow to never do another party again unless people got down on their hands and knees and begged me to. That was my attitude.

You know what? I’ve written this post before. I’ve been in this learning curve so many times!! If I learn anything in my lifetime it is this: If you put out the effort, you will be rewarded. This is my new mantra. Every time I put out the effort as a hostess I always am so glad I did.

Nothing else but effort matters. It doesn’t matter if food burns or you forget to make a salad or a dessert. It doesn’t matter if you forgot to clean the cat box or put out new clean guest towels or your sink had cat prints in it. It doesn’t matter if you have put on a few pounds in the last year and you aren’t the slim, sleek hostess you want to be. It just doesn’t matter! Nothing matters except putting out the effort. That’s what people want. That’s what people appreciate.

Everyone who came to our dinner party had such a great time. I had such a great time! Usually I’m a stress case and I can’t sit down and talk but I did this time! We all talked for hours.  We ate, we laughed, the kids played minecraft….Nobody made excuses to leave early. All the food got eaten (well, if you don’t count the potstickers that got eaten as a midnight snack by someone I won’t name.) and everyone was happy. I was so happy.

I guess that means I’m not vowing to never throw another dinner party again. In fact, I might already be plotting my next one. It might even be an exact repeat of this one except with cucumber vinegar salad AND a dessert this time. Heh!