Tea and Quilts

Today was a lovely day for me and The Girl. She goes back to school on Sunday and we decided to finally make our way to the Penn Museum in Philadelphia, a place she’s wanted to visit since we moved here nearly ten years ago. Turns out, however, the museum is closed on Mondays.

Undaunted, we still made our way into the city, managed to find a decent parking spot and met The Boy for a cheap, delicious and way too large lunch. Philadelphia is known for its murals and, in fact, there are more than 3,000 of the colorful works of art scattered throughout the city. I’m always awed by their vibrant beauty so I grabbed these pics with my phone. (I made the conscious decision to leave my camera at home. *sigh*)

Mural 2

After we ate lunch The Boy went back to work and The Girl and I walked four blocks to Miel Patisserie, a divine French pastry shop, so we could finally experience French macarons. They’re quite as colorful as the murals and look like the little cookies on the time wasting game, Cookie Jam, on my iPad.

Macarons 2 Tea and Macarons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They also had really good tea. My tea was caramel toffee flavored and Katie’s was called Noel and was flavored with cinnamon and cardamom.

We enjoyed our sweet refreshments and walked back the four blocks to the car with about 15 minutes to spare before the meter ran out.

On our way home we made a stop at IKEA because IKEA. It’s like Disneyland. It even has flags at the entrance to the parking lot. The Girl bought a plant and named her Mabel, while I bought a $5.00 cheese grater. I spare no expense for my cheese preparations.

When we got home Mr. Jenster was off bowling so we made more tea to go with the macarons we brought with us and watched a few episodes of “Call the Midwife”.

Even though our original plans were dashed, it was an absolutely delightful day.

And as for quilts, it’s my day over at Grace & Such.

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Texas Adventures – Part 2

Texas Adventures - Part 2When last we met, our people had just left West, Texas, and were making their way through the deluge in two cars, one black and one white, down to Austin.

We pulled out of Slovacek’s parking lot and hit I-35 S for the remaining 2 hour drive. The weather vacillated between a good, heavy soak and, as some might say, “pouring pee out of a boot.” (That means it was raining really, really hard. And that’s not the precise saying, it’s more of the PG version. But you get the gist.) The white car and the black car became separated, but both drivers knew where they were going so we just planned to meet up at the restaurant.

As we were gliding through the water driving down the road, I got on Facebook and was assailed with messages from friends asking if we were okay and posting links to the Weather Channel and the National Weather Service and various other news outlets. Turns out there had been a tornado south of Austin and we were under a tornado watch with flash flood warnings all around. I pointed these things out to Terri and, for some unknown reason, it made us giggle. Maybe it was the hysterical laugh of those who are looking an unfortunate end in the eye. I don’t know. It was inappropriate, to say the least, but there we were, huddled together, looking at my phone and snickering quietly because we didn’t want the guys up front to know.

I really don’t know why we behaved so. There’s often no explanation as to why my family behaves the way we do.

Finally we made it to the restaurant.

If you ever find yourself in Austin I highly recommend you try the original Salt Lick in Driftwood.

The Salt Lick

As one who appreciates good food, I would say it was definitely worth the trip through Armageddon. One friend of mine suggested I order the brisket and ask for the end cut, which I did. Oh my, people. Here’s a picture of my plate. I ordered a combo which had pork ribs also.

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But look at the brisket. See how charred and mouth watering it looks?

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So here’s my take. The brisket was beyond delicious. It was both crispy and juicy, all at the same time, and melted in my mouth. (The taco soup I’m planning for dinner, which I love, is starting to sound a little bland.) I was much less enamored with the ribs and wish I would have just had a big ol’ plate of the briskety magnificence. Next time. Yes – I vow there will be a next time.

The barbecue sauce is very good as well. I’m just partial to a tomato based sauce and theirs is mustard based.

The rest of the fixin’s were good, too. I may or may not have licked my plate. And if I didn’t, I wanted to.

We all decided to complete the experience with dessert. I mean, right? So I had the boysenberry cobbler with ice cream and a cup of coffee. Mmmm…

cobbler

Excuse me while I have a moment…

Okay. Sadly, I wasn’t even able to finish it. Oh, how I wish for a doggy bag right now.

The other offering was chocolate chip pecan pie and it looked pretty much droolworthy as well.

Pecan Pie

Dangit! I should have shared with someone. Why didn’t I think of that then? That’s what my greediness gets me.

Once the food was served conversation was a little sparse because we were all too busy making yummy sounds. When we did chat, the topic was pretty much the weather and the rain and the tornado farther south and the flooding and what a great blog post this was going to make.

When we left the restaurant we switched up the riding situation. Terri and I moved to Jarred’s car with mom and Michele moved to ride with Joe and David. Before we could leave Austin, however, the boys wanted to make a quick stop and see their tattoo guy. Unfortunately, the tattoo guy couldn’t make it into work because of flooding. But we were there long enough for me to get this picture:

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I then posted it to Facebook with the comment that my mom, sisters and I were getting Mother/Daughter tattoos in Austin. People believed me and wanted to see a picture when it was done. So I found this picture on Google and posted it:

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We laughed and laughed because, no. Even if we would get tattoos we wouldn’t get that tattoo. We’ll just have to put more thought into what we want before our next girls’ trip.

And just like that we were back on the road. Up I-35, headed back to West for a stop and then on to Fort Worth. Just out of Temple the interstate came to a near standstill. Jarred got off and found a way around to Bucc-ee’s and Joe eventually followed suit.

Bucc-ee’s alone was an experience. It’s an enormous gas station with a convenience store, deli, clothing and home decorating. Because you never know when you’re going to find just the right piece in a gas station. It really was a fabulous and magical place.

Anyway, long story just the teensiest less long, the interstate was flooded a few miles up the road and was shut down. A policeman at Bucc-ee’s was saying there was no way around it, but when Jarred and Joseph asked him about some roads they had mapped out he told them that should be fine. So we headed out again.

By this time it was dark and it was still raining, though not nearly as hard as it had been. Jarred was in front of Joe and all of a sudden this black sedan came whipping around us, over the double yellow line, and scooted in front of the vehicle ahead of us as a semi was coming the other way. Jarred said very unkind things about his brother for driving so recklessly and at the next opportunity he tried to catch up. But the little black car kept whipping around cars, trying to gain more ground. So Jarred kept whipping around cars, trying to catch up, questioning Joseph’s mental state the whole time.

Finally we came to a crossroads and there was the black car, waiting to turn right. We found out later from Michele that Joseph commented on Jarred’s idiot driving, wondering out loud why he kept going around all those cars and why he was in such a hurry. This, of course, caused us to dissolve into puddles of laughter.

You know – reading through this I realize that maybe we just think things are way funnier than they really are. Oh well. At least we have fun.

At one point Jarred said something about hoping he didn’t get pulled over. I told him I hoped not, either, but it would add considerably to the blog story. He did not oblige so I’m sorry. No story about getting pulled over by the police. Which is just as well. The rest of us in the car probably would have been laughing uncontrollably and Jarred could have been carted off to jail because of it. I have no idea what the charge would be, but I suppose it could happen.

One more stop at the Czech Stop in West for the much anticipated kolaches. As late as it was most of us just bought them to have for breakfast the next day. They made for a delicious morning repast!

We finally made it home unscathed and unticketed and saw this on-line:

Troy Flooding

That’s why we had to find an alternate route.

And to think, this is only Friday we’ve gotten through.

Texas Adventures ~ Part 1

Texas Adventures - Part 1A couple Wednesdays ago I flew from Pennsylvania to Texas for a special girls’ get away. My mother and sister from New Mexico flew in the same day and we were picked up by my Fort Worth sister.

The next day we just kind of hung out and enjoyed each other’s company. Then Friday came. But before I tell you about our Epic Friday (as it’s come to be known in certain circles), let me give you a little back story.

A few months ago my Texas nephews and I had a Facebook argument conversation about barbecue. They said Texas has the best barbecue and I said Texas isn’t the only barbecue in town and I’m really not sure how it all went down. I tried to find the thread but there have been a lot of status updates since then. Anyhow, they decided we would have to make a trip down to Driftwood, just outside of Austin, so they could take me to the original Salt Lick.

Turns out Waco is on the way to Austin and, as it happens, Chip and Joanna Gaines of HGTV’s Fixer Upper just opened a store in Waco and the grand opening was… wait for it… Friday! Not only that, but West is right before you get to Waco. West is famous for their kolaches – delicious Czechoslovakian pastries – and the boys had plotted our course with stops in West and Waco.

So Friday morning came and seven intrepid adventurers set out in two cars.

Friday morning, October 30th.

Do you watch the news?

Did you hear about the weather in Texas on Friday, October 30th?

Here are just a few of the headlines:

“Deadly Floods, Possible Tornadoes Strike Texas as Storms Sweep Through”

” Flipped trucks, widespread damage in south Austin, Texas, after rainstorms, flooding”

” Flash flood warnings continue in South Texas, with rainfall totals over 1 foot”

You get the idea. The weather was bad. But since we were foolish intrepid we went anyway.

So we drove through the pouring rain and sighed our relief when we made it to Slovecek’s in West. Slovecek’s is a gas station with a meat market, bakery, gift shop, and beer cave, among other things. It also has the nicest public bathrooms I’ve ever been in. Which was rather convenient due to the quick stop at Starbuck’s on our way out of Fort Worth. Here we indulged in Klobasnek, Czechoslovakian meat pastries, for breakfast.

Once sated, we returned to the cars and continued on to Waco for the grand opening of Magnolia Market. The rain had lightened significantly and we thought maybe it was passing.

We were wrong and not a one of us was willing to stand in the rainy line. Especially because I think there were two umbrellas between all seven of us.

So my car pulled up to the curb and I jumped out, hiding my camera in my rain jacket, and snapped a couple of shots. We never did see Chip or Joanna. Waco was a bust.

Finally we were on our way to Austin and the real reason for our road trip…

Coming up: Disturbing weather reports, delicious food, huge gas stations and more rain. Much more rain.

Myrtle Beach Adventures

I made it to Myrtle Beach and back in one piece. It was a quick trip, but I loved every minute of it. I even enjoyed the drive there and back. Mostly, anyway.

There is, no doubt, much more to Myrtle Beach than I saw, but what I did see was very commercialized. It was like Branson by the beach. Which is a lot of fun for young families and golfers, but I don’t know that it’s my kind of vacation place. I like slow paced, farmers’ markets, toes in the sand, an antique store or two, relax and read types of vacations. Still, my Katie was in Myrtle so it was the only place I wanted to be.

When I got settled into my room Monday night she came to see me for a couple of hours. Tuesday I did some of my own touristy stuff. Precious in hand, I set out to get some good photographs. What I got instead was some delicious sweet tea from McAlister’s (a foodie staple of the south) and a trip to Barnes and Noble. Not exactly what I had planned, but I wasn’t complaining.

I picked Katie up from her camp around 4-ish or so and we ran an errand or two before ending up at Joe’s Crab Shack at Barefoot Landing. This is where I found out she had never eaten crab before, other than in a crab cake or crab dip. Once I got over the shock of this parenting fail, we set about remedying the poor raising of her.  By the time we finished all those crab legs we were both a glorious mess of melted butter and crab juice. (It didn’t seem so horrible at the time, but reading crab juice kind of makes me shudder.)

After we got crabs (hehe – I said “got crabs”) we strolled around the landing, perusing the interesting shops and taking pictures of all the silly signs, t-shirts, etc. We made a couple small purchases and then landed at Kohr’s Family Ice Cream. It was the perfect ending to our outing.

We went back to the hotel, then, and got super comfy in our beds and watched Shark Week. Because we always seem to be at the beach when it’s Shark Week and what else should one watch? Especially when there has already been several shark attacks in the approximate vicinity. We also snacked a little. On Mega-Stuffed Oreos. They were on sale at the CVS we stopped at for bottled water and a few other things and this was our vacation and they looked so yummy and stop judging me.

Wednesday morning was super lazy and delightful. I got up and ensconced myself in the perfect reading chair while Katie slept on. I started a new book – The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty – for August book club. A book club I haven’t made it to yet, but August is a new month and I WILL FINALLY BE VICTORIOUS! By the time Katie got up and around it was too late for the free breakfast downstairs, which was perfectly fine with me. There was a coffee pot in the room and we still had Mega-Stuffed Oreos. What more could a girl with a caffeine addiction and a serious sweet tooth want? (I’ll talk about how I’m trying to get healthy again later. MUCH later. So don’t hold your breath for that post, m’kay?)

It was time for lunch by the time we got out of the hotel so we went to McAlister’s. I realize there were about a bajillion other places for us to go, but I really hadn’t satisfied my McAlister’s need and Katie was down with the choice, so there you have it. After lunch we headed to Broadway at the Beach. Our plan had been to spend the day there and then eat at the Hard Rock Cafe because eating at every single Hard Rock Cafe there ever was is a crazy and unspoken goal of mine. Well, now it’s spoken. Or written, which is even worse because you can deny the spoken word, but it’s hard to deny something that’s been written down. So now you know. But unless you’re independently wealthy it’s an impossible goal and one I think I’ve finally given up on. Unless I can someday write several NYT best sellers. Then I may revisit this goal.

Anyhoo, we walked and browsed and window shopped and took more pictures of ridiculous things that made us laugh and walked some more. Which makes me feel okay about my breakfast choice of that morning because it was pretty much walked and/or sweated off by the time we finished at Broadway. Oh. We also stopped in at Ben & Jerry’s for a kid sized cup of ice cream. Tonight Dough, how I love thee.

We had seen everything there was to see so we decided to forego the Hard Rock and head back to the hotel. More Shark Week to watch, more reading and a short nap for the girl. She wanted Mexican for dinner and we went to a gloriously authentic hole in the wall and it was delicious! And what trip would be complete without at least one run to Wal-Mart? We bought a few movie bundles in the discount bin and then ended our day back at the hotel.

Thursday morning Katie got up early and had to be back to camp by 7:45 or so. I got ready, went downstairs for a quick and free breakfast and then hit the road. I wanted to bypass DC because I knew I would head into the area right around rush hour so I took an alternative route. I didn’t think about the fact it would be a lot of highway with stop lights and such. OY! It took me forever to get home. But what a beautiful drive it was! I drove the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel – Bridge and it was fascinating. A little eerie, but very interesting.

On the way down I had listened to a book on tape – The Anatomist’s Apprentice by Tessa Harris. It was entertaining, but I don’t know that I would necessarily recommend it. On the way home, however, I listened to her second book in the series – The Dead Shall Not Rest – and found it to be much more interesting because it concerned real life people from 1780’s London. When I arrived home I had to do my own research on a couple of the characters and I liked how she wove the story around them. I’m sure I’ll eventually read the third in the series to see if she continues to get better or if book two was just a fluke.

It took me a little over 11 hours to get home so it was a lonnnnng day. My drive ended with a hellacious thunder storm with so much lightening it was blinding and so much rain it was hard to see more than about 10 feet ahead. But made it home I did. And I really enjoyed my own bed that night.

All in all, it was a great mini-trip and I loved hanging out with the girl. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat!

Peanut Butter What??

Hey you guys! You’ll never guess what I had for dinner the other night. You’ll never guess where I had dinner the other night, either. Unless you already know I went to Washington to hang out with my Brother-in-Law, Sister-in-Law, her mom, and my niece and nephew. Then you might be able to guess where I ate, although there are a ton of restaurants in the DC area.

So I’ll just tell you. Sunday night we ate at Ted’s Bulletin – a funky, fun family restaurant known for their homemade pop tarts.

Teds Bulletin

No. I didn’t have a pop tart for dinner, though I did get a brown sugar cinnamon pop tart to go and it made a delicious breakfast with coffee the next morning. But back to my dinner. I had Drew’s Peanut Butter Bacon Burger.

YES! There was peanut butter on my bacon burger!! AND sweet tomato jam on the side. The combination of the salty bacon, the smooth peanut butter and the sweet jam was insanely delicious. And to think I almost ordered something different because I a little leery of the odd combination. But I don’t do well under pressure and when the waitress asked for my order I just blurted out, “the peanut butter bacon burger!”

This may have to go on my Someday list so I can cross it off. I feel it was a pretty daring move on my part. And I’d do it again.

A Sweet Someday

caramel cornFor the longest time I’ve said I was going to make caramel corn someday, but I never got around to it. I didn’t really know how to do it and never took the time to look it up. A week or so ago a friend of mine posted a recipe on Facebook and last night I just decided this particular someday had come!

Oh.My.Gosh! First of all, it was much easier than I ever imagined it to be. And second, it was fabulous. Fabulous, I say. It was light and crunchy and melty and buttery and caramelly and oh, so delicious.

It’s all gone now. Because do you know why? Because I can’t be trusted around the stuff. It was too good.

It was crack.

I made crack in my kitchen last night and finished it this morning.

I might need help.

Here’s the link to the website with the recipe:

Cookies and Cups

If you dare.

Reminiscing Re: Rhubarb

I went ahead and made the rhubarb-strawberry crisp the other night.

Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp Collage

 

It was delish. Just ask Taylor. Or Katie. Or Todd. Um, no. Don’t ask Todd.  Poor guy didn’t get any. Guess I’ll just have to make another one.

All this talk of rhubarb reminded me of a funny story from long ago. Shortly after Todd and I were married my parents came to visit us in Arkansas. While I was at work one day my mother called and asked if I wanted her to make a pie out of the rhubarb in the fridge.

I was momentarily stunned/excited because I had never seen rhubarb in the store and frankly, I missed it. It’s not that I had it all the time in California, but my grandfather grew it and my grandmother made the tastiest of rhubarb pies at Thanksgiving.  After being so far from home for a while I had a powerful hankering for a little sweet and tart nostalgia.

“There isn’t any rhubarb in the fridge,” I told her. “You can’t even buy it in the store here.” She swore there was rhubarb in the vegetable crisper and my feeble little brain couldn’t quite compute this scenario.

All of a sudden it hit me. “Oh mom! Don’t make a pie out of that! It’s not rhubarb! It’s old celery!”

Yup. The celery had been in the crisper so long that it had molded a reddish hue and looked just like rhubarb! To this day I thank God that she called to ask instead of just doing. Though I’m pretty sure she would have figured it out when she cut into the first stalk.

I am proud to tell you I’ve never had celery turn red since.

 

Grocery Bliss

I did a little grocery shopping today.

NO! Don’t go! I’m not going to whine about it like I usually do. Promise!

Okay. Now where was I?

Oh, yes. I did a little grocery shopping today. And by that I mean I ordered my groceries online last night and today I pulled up to the designated spot and two young men graciously loaded my car for me. I didn’t even have to get out, but I did anyway. Mostly to ask if they would come to my house and put the groceries away for me. They said no.

There was no frustration, no angst, no drama. It was a thing of beauty. Now I don’t mind grocery shopping so much.

If only they would come to the house and put everything away for me.

And clean the kitchen.

That would be awesome.

I also stopped on my way to the grocery store to pick up my first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box today. I bought a half share so each Thursday I’ll stop at a friend’s house and pick up the fresh, locally grown vegetables, fruit and half a dozen eggs. I won’t know from one week to the next what will be in the box, but that’s cool. I’m just excited to have all kinds of healthy goodness on a regular basis.

Last night I mentioned that I would be picking up our first box today and I can’t remember if it was me or Katie, or maybe the both of us, who said that we hoped it would have rhubarb in it.

Guess what! It had rhubarb AND strawberries!

Strawberries and Rhubarb

Guess who’s making a rhubarb strawberry crisp tonight.

And guess who doesn’t mind grocery shopping anymore.

 

On the Christmas Day of Christmas

16 Days of Christmas

On the 9th Day of Christmas

We went back to the beach. Todd and the kids and I drove down to Del Mar beach just south of Newport, Taylor and I with cameras in hand. So much beauty to be captured! I saw a rather large, purple starfish on the rocks beneath the jetty, but the water was too swirly to get a good photo of it.

While we were there Tim and Rachele and their kids drove down to Newport Beach so we hopped in the car and drove the 8.29 miles to get right across the very small inlet.  No really. Look. We started at B and drove 8.29 miles all around the harbor to end up at A. We could have swam, swum, swimmed, dog paddled across the inlet and made it there quicker.

Newport Map

sealOnce all together much photographing ensued. There were a couple of seagulls and a pelican floating just off shore and while we were watching them a cute little seal poked his head out. I managed to get a couple of pictures of the seal, but I only had my wide angle lens on so I couldn’t get very close. Still, the photos are good enough to prove I’m not lying. Because I’m not that good at Photoshop.

On the 10th Day of Christmas

Christmas Eve was pretty leisurely. I made some pie crusts, but I’ve decided it’s hard to make something like that in a strange kitchen. Not that the in-law’s kitchen is strange. It is, in fact, an awesome kitchen. But you know what I mean. And when we eat the pies later today I can use this excuse if the crusts are bad.

I made my usual Dutch Apple Pie and then strayed from tradition and made a chocolate mousse pudding pie.  They look good. But, as we have all found out here, you can’t judge a pear by its skin.

Rachele and Katie and I played gin for a while in the backyard. But “gin” and “Jen” sound so similar and I was getting really confused so they started calling me Roxie at my request. Meanwhile, Todd, Taylor & Nicholas went to the tennis courts for a little tennis fun.

Nicholas decided he wanted to come back so Olivia went to get him, but there were other kids playing there so she decided to stay. So instead of tennis, it was Todd and Taylor throwing tennis balls at the kids. That sounds mean. I think the kids liked whatever “game” they were playing. But then Todd calls me and says, “you were supposed to come pick up one and now we have four. Come get them.” So Tim went to get all the kids off the tennis court. And then I got a text from Todd that said, “You were supposed to come get two and now there are three.” So I texted back, “I would send your dad, but then you’ll have four.”

All the while, Rachele, Katie and I were enjoying our rousing game of gin.

The best part of the day was when Taylor, Katie, Nicholas and Olivia made chocolate chip cookies for Santa. Serious cuteness occurred.


On the Christmas Day of Christmas

At 6:30 AM we awoke to the sounds of happy children squealing with delight at the sight of their Christmas stockings overflowing with goodies. We haven’t had small children around for Christmas for a very long time. We’re used to sleeping until, you know, morning. But it’s okay because it’s Christmas and we can take naps.

We drank coffee, opened presents, drank coffee, ate breakfast, drank coffee, played with our presents, drank coffee and took naps. Okay. I did all that. I don’t know about anyone else.

One of my favorite gifts this year was a 70-300 zoom/macro zoom lens. Now I want to go back to the beach and take pictures of Mr. Seal. I wonder if he would accommodate me again.

It is now 4:30 and the kitchen is all abuzz with people doing last minute dinner prep. This is my favorite part of Christmas day. Not opening presents. Not playing with the presents. But sitting around the table – everyone in one place and focused on good food and each other. But mostly the good food.

Just keeping it real.

Halfway Through

16 Days of Christmas

On the 6th Day of Christmas…

20131220-DSC_0018We played the tourists. I thought the kids should see Hollywood and Beverly Hills and Venice Beach. So we drove through the crazy, East L.A. traffic to get to Grauman’s Chinese Theater, which isn’t even Grauman’s anymore, but it’s still pretty cool. We walked around and looked at the foot and hand prints by all those famous people – my favorite being Shirley Temple. She was very young – maybe 4 – when she did it and those talented little feet were barefoot and super cute.

Chinese Theater

hollywood CollageAfter that we walked down to Mel’s Diner. You remember. From American Graffiti and Happy Days. Mel wasn’t there. Nor were Richie or Potsy or Fonzie or anyone else. But our waiter’s name was Gonzo and you don’t see that every day. The food was delish and the music was retro and good.

On our way back to the car we stopped in at Hard Rock Cafe because, well, because it’s a thing. We didn’t buy anything, but we met a guy named Rocky who’s from Reading, PA and knew all about the area we’re from.

They were showing “Saving Mr. Banks” at the Dolby Theater and check out the really cute display:

Mr. Banks

Then we drove down Rodeo Drive and Katie slept through the whole thing. Which was not much of a thing. It was just a bunch of really rich people and/or tourists walking in and out of really rich stores. I looked for Julia Roberts in her Pretty Woman get up, but she was nowhere to be found. When Katie woke up, though, I told her we saw all kinds of famous people. Movie stars everywhere. She didn’t believe me.

From there we went to Venice Beach to see muscle men. There were no muscle men to be found. What there was to be found were crazy drug people. I mean, I don’t like to assume or anything, but seriously. There were people holding signs that said, “Will take food or pot” and stuff like that. Some dude walked up to Todd and said, “Throw money at me. The harder the better. I like it when it hurts.” And he was one of the more normal folks on the strand.

By this time the sun was getting pretty low so we decided to head for our old stomping grounds. First we drove by the Hermosa Beach house Todd lived in when he was little.  The streets, the house, the alleys, they were all so much smaller than they used to be. I don’t know how it shrunk, but it totally did.

We continued south, drove by the house he lived in when we were dating, drove by our high school and then by the house I grew up in. It was dark, though, so we didn’t really get to see much. We finished our little trip down memory lane by eating at Y-Not Burgers – Patty Melt and Onion Rings, just like when we were dating. And it was still as good as it was back in the day.

Nostalgic eating and vacation are a really bad combination. I had to unbutton my jeans when we got back in the car. I make no excuses or apologies. It was totally worth it.

On the 7th Day of Christmas…

We went to see our good friends in Long Beach. Todd and I haven’t seen them since March of ’05 and it’s been even longer for the kids. Cathy and I don’t keep in close contact, however, we didn’t miss a beat. It was so great to see them – made my heart so very happy. Except for the fact that Cathy happened to mention an incident or two from long ago in front of the kids. And all this time I’d had them convinced I was a super good girl and never did anything bad. Ever.

Okay. That’s a lie. They weren’t surprised in the least and, in fact, when we left Taylor said, “I can see why you and Cathy were such good friends.” I asked if that was a good thing and as I’m writing this I just realized, he only grinned. What does that even mean?

Their oldest daughter has graduated from college and she’s off doing her grown up thing so we didn’t get to see her. But the other girls were there for a bit and it was fun to see them.

And their powder room smelled really, really good.

When we got back to home base, Todd’s brother and his family had arrived from Northern California.

On the 8th Day of Christmas…

We chillaxed. A lot. Katie and I went for a walk with Rachele and the kids (6-year-old twins) and that was pretty much all the exercise we had for the day. Except when Taylor and Katie and I ran to a very crowded Target. Managing the human obstacle course with a shopping cart should count for something. And it’s just a good thing they sell wine at Target in California because it was a medicinal necessity after that short little trip. Not only that, but it went really well with the crab dip Rachele had made with fresh crab that Tim and the twins had caught.

We’re now halfway through our 16 Days of Adventure Christmas. I wonder what the next half holds in store.