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The Apple’s Final (Best) Chapter

Before I relay this story to you, I preclude it with this note. This is my final post to Mona’s Apple. After reading, you will perhaps understand why. I am in the process of coming up with a new blog/site for the next page in my life. The Apple was defined by a certain period/era that faded once I moved to Los Angeles. And now that I enter this exciting next chapter, Mona’s Apple feels further and further away from where/who I am today. Stay tuned, but first, stay a little while, and read…

Friday the 13th.

The infamous date, which conjures images of black cats, bad luck and the horror movie franchise, has been a fabulously lucky day twice in my life.

The first time, as my dad surprisingly remembered with his hyperthymesia-esque date memory, was April 13 1997, when I was accepted to the University of Virginia. My mom teased it wasn’t just Good Friday, but Great Friday. It also, coincidentally, is the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, the founder of UVA.

The second time this date made my history was last Friday.

I barely know how to capture a moment so profound and momentous in one’s life, but I will do my best, with a tissue not far from my left hand.

Despite it being one of my least favorite words in the English language, we’ve been busy. I continue to have clients almost every weekend for dog-walking and pet-sitting, and we’ve been trying to save some money and stay put. I think July 4 got my wheels turning. I missed the outdoor adventures we so often took when I first moved to Los Angeles. If we weren’t camping, we were scuba diving, if we weren’t scuba diving, we were taking a road trip somewhere. Our neighbors would joke when Friday rolled around, “Where are you off to THIS weekend?”

When I mentioned the possibility of a camping trip to MaineMan he shook his head in affirmation, “Let’s do it!” We have a couple of parental visits coming up so now was the time.

Tuesday I looked for campsites. I clicked on the usual suspects Malibu Creek SP, Leo Carillo, Point Mugu, Sycamore Canyon… all of them were booked. I’d heard good things about Lake Arrowhead and was curious to check that out. There was one site available.

“How about Big Bear?” MaineMan asked.

When I got around to making the reservation on Wednesday, the Lake Arrowhead site was booked. I guess we were driving the extra hour to Big Bear.

We snagged the last campsite, #11, at Serrano Campground. It wasn’t on Big Bear Lake, but it was just off it. I couldn’t wait to test out our new tent and grill — the two items we’d purchased with giddy excitement at Sports Chalet.

After a 3-hour drive, half of it through traffic, half of it through windy mountain terrain, I jumped out of the car and did the Julie-Andrews-as-Maria Alps twirl. The hills, the air, the trees, the sky, the brush were alive. It was the most perfect campsite.

We raised the tent, uncorked a few craft beers and decided to take a dusk stroll to the edge of the lake. We weren’t sure where it was exactly, but after a few encounters with fellow campers, we found our way.

I stared with longing at the rural scene before me. I wanted to pitch a tent on the sandy banks and never leave. Lately I’ve been getting really tired of the concrete jungle that is Los Angeles (sorry, fellow Angelenos, it’s true, unless you’re at Ocean Ave. in Santa Monica, driving PCH or kicking it at Venice Pier). I needed this break and I soaked it in like a wet seal on a dry rocky beach. Mother ducks and their ducklings floated by. One set to our left. Another set to our right.

“Look at the ducklings, honey. Oh my god, they’re so cute!” I fumbled to open my phone’s camera app.

Agnes was two paws in the water, two paws on land, staring at the open water like she’d never seen it before. Her leash was taut.

“I want to spend the rest of my life with you, honey,” said MaineMan.

I barely turned around to look at him. I was enthralled by the lake and our surroundings. And besides, we often exchange such lovie-dovie niceties.

Then it happened.

MaineMan, who stands about a head over me, dropped down on one knee. His head was at my waist and he looked up at me with his big brown eyes. My brain was short-circuiting and I couldn’t decipher the mixed messages. What is he doing? He’s proposing! What is he doing? He’s proposing! What is he doing?!

“Will you marry me?”


Probably not the words anyone wants to hear after asking a loved one the most nerve-wracking question known to man.

I face-palmed. Shock and disbelief won over any sense. I thought I was going to be prepared for this. I thought we’d probably have one, two, a dozen more talks about getting married before this.

“Can you answer the question?” Poor MaineMan. Smiling up at me.

“Yes yes YES!” I said in a crescendo.

He struggled to get a ring out of his pocket. I worried he might have dropped it. He tried to slip the beautiful ring on my ring finger, but it wouldn’t fit. It now sits on my pinkie, a beautiful gold diamond heirloom. MaineMan probably sat there for over five minutes until I grabbed his hands and made him stand up. We kissed. I was shaking, crying, screaming, jumping, then I’d repeat the cycle. Agnes was oblivious.

We stayed there for a few moments holding hands.

“Honey?! WHAAT?!” I exclaimed.

MaineMan started to tell me how he managed to pull this off. Packages came to the house filled with “electronics.” We exchanged family phone numbers for “emergency purposes.” Meanwhile his parents sent him jewelry and he and my dad played phone tag before he asked for my dad’s blessing. I was beyond impressed and blown away.

A couple of days have gone by, but as I just told my mom on the phone, it hasn’t sunk in. I’ve logged countless minutes of phone conversations, text messages and e-mails to friends and family. I’ve pinched myself a dozen times.

As we unloaded the truck back at our home in Los Angeles, I shook my head with a wide smile.

“I can’t believe this moment has actually happened to me!” I told MaineMan. “For the longest time it seemed I would forever be sharing in other people’s life-altering moments,” I said.

Engagements. Marriages. Pregnancies. Births. Enthusiastically celebrating, but wondering when would I get to experience such bliss.

“Honey, your whole existence has been made up of life-altering moments,” MaineMan said.

I almost cried then, like I’m almost crying now. So true. So perfect. So in love. With MainMan.

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The Best Salmon Recipe

Salmon Recipe from Ina Garten "Barefoot Contessa at Home"

*photo courtesy of someone else*

My dad’s been making this salmon recipe for about five years or so, maybe more, and it wasn’t until recently that I had the gall to attempt it.

I often order salmon encrusted in (fill in the blank with any chopped nut) in restaurants, and this one drenched in panko crumbs is tough to beat.

It’s from Ina Garten’s cookbook “Barefoot Contessa at Home” and she calls it “Eli’s Asian Salmon Recipe.”

Don’t even try to leave out the oyster sauce. It adds a sweet thickness to the marinade (vs. just using soy).

And I still haven’t managed to find chili paste in the grocery store so we leave that out (and we skip the scallions and fresh ginger, too, if they’re not lying around).

Get. It.

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Monet (and Mona) in New York

Water Lilies at NYBG

I finally made it back east for a weekend and boy, did I pick a hell of a steamy few days to visit.

Thursday and Friday were well into the 90s and I nearly started a punching match with my cab driver from JFK whose “A/C” was conveniently not working in the back seat. I’d never been so uncomfortable in my life, well, besides my flight home where I sat next to a former colleague from Fox News (who luckily didn’t recognize me), but that’s another story.

I was home in Connecticut for my friend AlyCat’s wedding celebration. I am calling it that because I got a mysterious phone call a couple of months ago where she told me she had some news.

“Are you pregnant? Are you calling it off?” I asked in a total panic. Her and Carp were so much in love and so perfect for each other I could never believe the latter.

“NO NO NO! We just kind of already got married… down in Hilton Head,” she responded mid-laughter.

“Oh my god. WHEW!” I exclaimed.

They had their blowout party at the Penfield Pavilion in Fairfield, and if anyone’s reading this in Connecticut and looking for a lovely place to get married, this is the spot. I was confused and thought we’d be on a golf course, but instead we were overlooking the Sound. It was beautiful. Sadly, no pictures to show for it. I was too nervous about the toast I was to give later that evening to take a moment and smell the seafood, cocktails and ocean breeze.

Prior to the wedding bash on Saturday, MaineMan and I spent two wonder-FULL days spending time with friends and both of our parents. I flew into JFK early enough on Thursday to meet up with the likes of Fashionista, BYOWino, FoxyLady et al. We got our booze on and ended the evening with a dance party at everyone’s favorite dive bar Milano’s. The highlight of the evening was definitely meeting Fashionista’s boyfriend who stayed in the city specifically to meet me before heading east to Sag Harbor. Thank you to everyone who came out.

The next morning I met FoxyLady for a quick breakfast at Grand Central, then I took the train to Greenwich where I met up with my parents and MaineMan’s parents. We had a lovely group lunch at Indian Harbor overlooking the boats and some ominous rainclouds, before we separated so I could spend a few hours with my mom along Greenwich Ave. After some hopping in and out of stores (we were on a mission to hit up the consignment shops), we grabbed a beer at The Ginger Man, then ran into the rain to meet up with my dad for dinner at Beach House Cafe (ironically AlyCat used to waitress there). I hadn’t been in a good rainstorm like that since moving to Los Angeles so I was hopping through puddles like a kid who’d never seen diagonal rain before. MaineMan and my mom were not so amused.

My parents headed back to New Canaan and I joined MaineMan at the house their parents were staying in.

Following a delicious breakfast at the Cos Cobber on Route 1, we ventured to the New York Botanical Gardens to witness something I hadn’t experienced in nearly 20 years. My family lived overseas in Paris (’91-’94) and my family and schools took many a field trip to Giverny (zsgee-vayr-NEE).

The NYBG has an exhibit going from now until October 21 (you have plenty of time to see it, but I bet it would be interesting to go once during the summer and once during the fall months) where they’ve recreated a little piece of Claude Monet’s garden utopia, Giverny, at the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. My mom had gone just a few days before with a few girlfriends and she said it was marvelous. We were all excited to check it out. And lucky for us, the temperature had cooled down roughly 10 degrees.

If you live anywhere near New York (or visiting like I was), this exhibit is a must see.

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My new favorite color is Monet green. I don’t know if it’s an official Crayola color, but now whenever I’m buying something I’m going to seek out this beautiful green hue first.

We slowly meandered through the conservatory, pausing to read flower labels and various Monet quotes along the way. We all posed for our photo on the famous bridge before we headed out to the see the water lilies. I had no idea there were so many different species of water lilies. And they looked extremely complicated to plant. Several professional photographers stood in various corners of the pools getting that perfect shot of a dragonfly mating or a lily in bloom or some water drops that were so delicately and perfectly centered on the lily pads they looked like they’d been placed there by a fairy syringe.

After viewing the plants in the conservatory environs, we took the tram tour throughout the rest of the grounds (not Monet-themed) to end up strategically at the last stop, the Rondina Gallery, where they had two Monets on display. My only wish is that they’d been able to borrow a few more paintings, but all in all, what a beautiful ode to Monet and his love of gardening and painting. One of the coolest things about the entire exhibit was you could dial a phone number and a special pound key and pick up a small chunk of audio tour wherever you were. Technology these days!

As it read on one of the exhibit notecards, Monet wrote, “I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”

I learned that day that Monet lived to be 86. Perhaps his adoration and appreciation for Mother Nature is a lesson in life and inspiration for all of us.

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It’s Only Tuesday? A Day in the Life

Monday was a hectic day for me. For those wondering what I’m doing with my life as a new pet sitter/dog walker here’s a little example of my Monday schedule.

7 AM: Wake up in neigbor’s house to two hound dogs clawing at door whining at me to wake up. (If I let them in my room, we’d be up at 4:30 AM, or so I was told.)

7:10: Let them out to pee in small side garden. Hose down pee.

7:20: Begin hour walk around the neighborhood. Poop bags and strong command voice in tow.

8:30: Quick shower/change/computer time/breakfast.

9:30: Leave to pick up dog at her house in Beverly Hills for Runyon Canyon hike.

10:30: Runyon Canyon hike.

11:30: Bring dog back to her BH home.

12 PM: Walk doggie #1 in Culver City.

12:45: Walk doggie #2 in Culver City.

1:30: Return to neighbor’s house. Walk hound dogs around the block. Pray for no scooters and skateboards.

2: Walk my top rascal Agnes B. around the block. Hang out with her, have lunch.

2:45: Depart for client pick-up.

3-7: Help Mar Vista family and their many animals (chickens, rabbits, puppies, birds, turtoise, etc.)

4:45: Fed my first chickens and picked up my first three freshly-hatched eggs.

6:00: Saw my first three chickens roosting.

7:30: Hound dogs get dinner/walk.

8: Visit my family and give them all hugs for 30 seconds.

8:00:30: Couch with the hound dogs.

10:30: Hound dogs evening stroll.


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Hoping to Get Published? Just Keep Trying…

This came in the mail the other day. Out of a dozen or so attempts at finding an agent for my children’s picture book based on Agnes, I’ve gotten seven responses. I’ve sent most queries out by e-mail, but put together a couple of hard copies for some who prefer snail mail. Don’t forget the SASE!

To the tune of Dory’s ditty in “Finding Nemo,” I’m going to just keep trying, just keep trying!

A friend who finished his first novel told me he sent his manuscript out to 50 agents so I have a long way to go. It just takes time to personalize every query letter.

I’m pet-sitting this weekend and when I told MaineMan the family didn’t set me up on their wireless network he said, “GOOD! That means you can write more!”

Crack. Me. Up. But I guess he has a point.

He continued, “You’re not supposed to be on Facebook when you’re supposed to be writing!”


Back to the pitching board…

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