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Archive for the ‘excitement’ Category

This was the first Thanksgiving that I’ve ever traveled, and what a whirlwind trip it was.  My uncle recently purchased a house in Niles, Michigan, and we wanted to go out and visit him before the weather turned too cold for us wimpy Californians.

His house is so cool, especially the 2-acre grounds.  I imagined huge garden parties in the summer, my nieces running with wild abandon in the backyard, and sipping cocktails in lounge chairs.  At least, that’s what I’d do with the place if I had it.  Not sure if my uncle has those same plans, but maybe I can convince him.

The city of Niles, Michigan is very quaint, especially the downtown area, which is peppered with funky stores, antique “malls,” and old-time businesses.  They city is so much smaller than the one we’re from, so it was very interesting.  My uncle seems to be making some friends which is good.  The main thing that I noticed is that the people are much more conservative there than they are in the Bay Area.  Then again, I think most small towns in middle America are much more conservative than the Bay Area.  😉  The one example I have is that we went to a converted mansion in South Bend, IN for Thanksgiving dinner.  When we arrived in the dining room we ordered two bottles of wine – one white and one red – for the table of four of us.  You should have seen the stares!  The woman at the table next to us nudged her husband and sat there agape, as if we were slugging back wine by the gallon.  I looked around and saw that every other table in the room had either iced tea or water – no alcohol of any kind. So weird!

After a day and a half in Niles, we left for Chicago.  I had seen pictures, heard stories, but nothing compares to actually being there.  Chicago is a stunning, immaculate, architecturally gorgeous city!  I still think San Francisco is more beautiful, but I do love Chicago.  I wish we had more than two days in this fun, lively city.  I’ll definitely be back.

I could fill many more paragraphs with all of our adventures in the two day trip, but for now, I think I’ll let my 200+ photos speak for themselves.  I tried to get some artsy shots, so I hope you enjoy them.

Thanksgiving 2009 – Michigan & Chicago

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I know 1989 was 20 years ago, but from the constant hugs, huge smiles, and squeals of delight at seeing each other, you’d have never known it.  My 20th high school reunion was last night, and what a fun time it was.

Last year, when I first thought about going to my 20th reunion, I was quite anxious.  I hadn’t gone to any of the previous reunions, mostly because I didn’t think enough had happened in my life to warrant it.  I mean, at 5 years I was still in my credential program, so how much had changed?  At 10 years I was too busy working at Yahoo, and feeling a bit down about life because I didn’t have a boyfriend/husband to bring.  But I knew that I had to go to my 20th, because it would be so great to see everyone, despite feeling like I wasn’t looking my best.

Sure, it would’ve been amazing to have lost 140 pounds and look skinny.  But that wasn’t the case, and I didn’t want to let my weight stop me from attending what was sure to be a great night.  So, I joined the reunion planning committee, dealt with the “mean girl” syndrome that seems to have followed a few people into their adult lives, and made sure that we were going to have the best reunion possible.

As much as I had hoped to lose at least 20 pounds and feel even better about myself, it didn’t happen.  But none of that mattered as soon as I started getting ready.  I had a great dress that looked nice and was comfortable.  A fabulous necklace that added a funky flair, and shoes that put that much-needed splash of color into the outfit.  I’d gone to have my hair colored earlier in the afternoon, so my wild curls were blown out into a nicely coiffed ‘do.

As soon as I arrived, I knew it was going to be a wonderful time.  Everyone greeted me so warmly, gave huge hugs, and thanked me for helping to plan it.  The compliments flowed about everything – my makeup, my hair, my necklace, my dress – these girls had me feeling like I was a superstar.  I felt so confident and so happy, which was so nice.  It was really as if the 20 years hadn’t gone by and we were all back in high school just hanging out on a Saturday night.

Most of the girls (I went to an all-girls school) left their husbands and boyfriends at home, which made it feel even more like a night back in high school.  The few husbands that were there seemed to enjoy the hilarity of it all.  The old personalities soon emerged, and I’m sure it was wildly entertaining to see their wives the way they looked back in high school.

The best part of the evening was the slideshow of old photos from when were were in high school.  Other than a few inches in the waistline and a few cans of hairspray holding together our ‘dos, most people looked the same.  I was shocked to see that throughout my senior year as I was growing out a short 80s haircut, I seemed to be sporting a ‘fro.  Well, that’s what happens with curly hair, I guess.  Seeing all of us in our old plaid uniforms and penny loafers definitely brought back so many memories.

Outside on the pool deck as we sipped cocktails and enjoyed old stories, you could truly see that our sense of community hadn’t changed at all.  One of the husbands commented about how confident each of us looked back in high school, something that he never found in the girls who went to his co-ed school.  And it’s true; going to an all-girls school did instill in each of us a sense that we could do anything, be anyone, and accomplish whatever we wanted.  Nothing was off limits or too far out of reach.  And it showed in the great things that each of us has done with our lives.  We’re all still hugely confident women today, and we can thank our old alma mater for that.

The night passed by in a blur.  I think all greatly-anticipated evenings do, though, don’t they?  I wish I would’ve been able to talk to more people, caught up on more lives, and made my way through more of the groupings, but there just wasn’t time.  It was a fantastic reunion, and I’m so glad I went.

Here are a few photos from the night.  I wish I would’ve taken more, but I was enjoying myself too much.  Still, it’ll give you an idea.

My 20th High School Reunion

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Yesterday I had a fantastic Saturday:

  • Zumba in the morning
  • Headed to Los Gatos to pick up our latest wine club offering at Flemming Jenkins with Ish.  We stayed for a free tasting, just because.
  • Lunch at Willow Street Pizza to have their amazing summer salad special – skirt steak with peaches and goat cheese on mixed greens with a balsamic vinaigrette.  Yum!!!
  • A quick trip to Benefit to buy some new lipsticks.
  • A trip to Walmart to look for workout clothes – more about this on Bella on the Beach.

I was gone from 1:20pm to 6pm.  I was so tired when I got home, but as soon as I drove into the driveway, I noticed that my back door was open.  Not just unlocked, but OPEN!

At first I thought someone had broken in, so I quickly went through the duplex and saw that nothing was out of place.  (Well nothing that I hadn’t left out of place to begin with).

Which means that I left for hours without locking my door!!!  Stupid!!!!

I know exactly what happened, thinking back.  I was running late to meet Ish and I was trying to put the windguard up in the back of the convertible so that I could have the top down on the freeway without ruining my hair.  I couldn’t get the darn thing up (gotta read the manual) and I finally said, “F-it, I’m so late as it is, I need to go NOW.”  I remember putting the windguard in my little pantry area, and I thought I closed the door, but I definitely don’t remember locking the deadbolt.  One of the “tricks” with my back door is that it doesn’t close unless you really pull it.  I must’ve thought that I did, but I obviously didn’t.  When I looked at it, the bottom lock was “locked,” but that doesn’t really work unless the door is closed.

The thing is, I always lock my doors.  Always.  Always have.  Growing up, we lived in a really affluent area of the city with a very small crime rate, but we always locked the doors as soon as we came in the house.  Even in the middle of the day when we were all home.  I continue that habit at my own house, and always have.  Better safe than sorry.

Now what’s heart-warming about what happened yesterday is that even though my house was wide open and asking for someone to come in and steal the many valuable and expensive things I own, no one took a thing.  I live in a neighborhood that has a ton of foot traffic, much of it by homeless types who look like they’ve just gotten out of some sort of halfway house.  Some of them look crazy (literally), but they’re generally harmless.  Still, I make sure to keep things locked up, because you never know. It was such a relief to know that no one came in and took anything.  People respected the house.

I’ve always felt safe at home, and now I know that I truly am. That said, I still plan on locking the doors, just to be sure.

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!!!

I’ve noticed recently that when I make comments on Facebook, other people’s blog posts, etc. I am using a ton of exclamation points.  It’s sort of worrisome, because exclamation points are not something that should be overused, and as an English teacher, I should know better.

On the other hand, maybe my use of many exclamation points just shows how energetic and passionate I am? When I use them, it’s usually after writing something supportive, encouraging, or congratulatory.  Or, to show how much I enjoyed something I’ve been doing.  I don’t use them a lot in my “normal” writing (emails and letters), but I do use them quite a bit on the blogs.

I know this isn’t hard-hitting stuff I’m writing about today, but I’ve been noticing it, and thought I’d write about it.

What’s your take?  Do you use a lot of exclamation points when you write?  Do you think they’re overused?

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Today I should have cleaned the house, gone through cookbooks looking for new recipes, and done some laundry.  Instead I decided that since this was my first Saturday owning the new VW Beetle Convertible, I was going to take her for a spin.

My first stop was Michael’s, because what kind of Beetle owner would I be if I didn’t fill that bud vase right away?  I new I wanted a gerbera daisy, and I was hoping for a hot pink one, but they didn’t have much of a selection.  I settled on this one, and I really like it:

n502485425_2821887_7422427 It’s the must-have accessory that I needed to make the car feel like my own.

My next stop was Radio Shack, to buy an MP3 cord so I could listen to my iPod songs while driving.  I have tons of songs loaded on my iPhone, just waiting for a long car ride.

I’d decided on driving to Half Moon Bay, which is one of my favorite spots.  What better place for a convertible than the beach, right?  Half Moon Bay is a lot easier to get to (even though it’s farther) than Santa Cruz, because on a hot Saturday, everyone in my city heads over the hill to go to Santa Cruz to escape the heat.

I thought I’d take a “short cut” that my parents’ friend had told them about – taking Hwy 84 through Woodside to avoid the traffic on 92.  Well, the road was beautiful and lined with redwoods on both sides, but it was a scary, winding path that had my heart in my mouth a few times.  Come to find out, it was no short cut at all because it took twice as long and brought me right to 92 where all of the traffic begins.  Still, it was nice to drive along a beautiful road with “Swoon” from the Silversun Pickups blairing on the stereo.  It was along this road that I though of the Beetle’s name – Bettie!  Bettie the Beetle Convertible! Don’t you love it?!

The ride to Half Moon Bay was so beautiful that I just couldn’t resist snapping a few photos on the iPhone’s camera.  I know it probably breaks tons of traffic laws, but there wasn’t much traffic, and we weren’t driving too fast, so I took the risk, and I’m so glad I did.  The pictures are fantastic.  A bit blurry in some cases, but so gorgeous.

Once I got to Half Moon Bay, I headed directly to Granada Beach, which is my favorite spot.  It is the spot I used to go all the time to just get away from my life and clear my head.  I used to write in my journal while sitting on a boulder along the ocean’s edge.  So peaceful and tranquil.  It also happens to be the spot where the love of my life propsed to me many years ago.  (We split up over 12 years ago, but I still think of him and wonder “what if.”).  The spot holds so many great memories that I love going there.

Afterward, I headed into downtown Half Moon Bay to get something to eat.  There’s a little cafe that I like to go to because it’s very quaint and easy going.  The food is good and the prices aren’t too high.  I ordered a BLT, and it was delcious.  I didn’t realize how famished I was (it was 2:30pm) until I started eating.  I guess I was so taken by my beautiful surroundings that I wasn’t paying attention to my grumbling stomach.

I left shortly thereafter because I wanted to beat the traffic out.  As I was driving I just kept thinking about how lucky I am to live this life.  I have my health, my wonderful friends and family, and now I have this new, dream car.  Sure, I would’ve loved to have a cute guy sitting in my passenger seat today, but that’s not where my life is right now, and that’s OK.   I feel so blessed, and I don’t usually talk that way, but that’s really the only way I can describe it.  I’ve worked so hard for so long and struggled quite a bit to get where I am, but now I feel like I’m leading a charmed life and I’m so grateful that I’m able to enjoy it.

To see pictures of Bettie’s first trip to Half Moon Bay, click here.

BTW, as I was eating lunch I decided that I’m going to make “Adventures with Bettie” a regular feature on this blog.  I’m not sure how often I’ll post new road trips with Bettie, but I’d like to shoot for at least once a month.  There are so many fabulous places within an hour or two from my house that I really do want to take advantage of it.  Plus, getting out in the car and driving is so much fun and so calming to me.

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I finally got it!  A new, blue, VW Beetle Convertible!!!  I’ve wanted this car FOREVER and now I own it.  So excited.

The buying process was really smooth, although it took soooooo long.  I’m really not sure why it always takes HOURS to buy a car, but no matter what dealership you go to, it seems like it’s always a whole lotta waiting, right?

It was worth it, though.  My new car is a 2008, but it’s new,  because I’m the first owner.  It only has 128 miles on it, and it’s so nice.  I love that I got a great deal on it because it’s a little bit old, but that I’m the first one to drive it.  It is such a smooth ride, and I think it’s just such a fun car. Not only that, but the payments are quite a bit less than I was paying for the CR-V that I was leasing.  And I’m not leasing this one, I’m financing it, so in 60 months, it’ll be mine all MINE!  Gotta love that!

The thing I’m happiest about is that I did this all on my own.  This is the first time I haven’t had a co-signer, and I’m so proud of myself.  My credit history hasn’t been very good in the past, but I’ve slowly and painstakingly rebuilt it, and now it’s inching its way up.  It feels so good to have done this by myself, without anyone else’s help.  This car really does feel like a symbol of how much I’ve changed my life; in every aspect.

To see a cute picture of me with the car, you can click here.

One other awesome thing about this new car?  Owning a convertible is item #4 on my Life List, and now I can check that one off!  So exciting!!!

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I love wine, and one of my favorite things in life is discovering new wines and sharing them with family and friends.  Usually my wine discoveries take place at a local wine shop or at Trader Joe’s or World Market.  But yesterday I was lucky enough to get to spend the day in Napa with my parents.

As part of my birthday gift, we decided to take a day trip up to Napa to experience the wine country on a weekday.  As much as I love wine, I’ve only been to Napa two other times, which seems unreal to me, since it’s only about an hour and a half (2 hours with traffic) from where I live. My parents are experts on the Napa Valley, so I thought it would be fun to go with them.

We headed out and took the scenic route up to Napa, traveling along the Great Highway, crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, and then heading into Yontville.  It was a leisurely, beautiful drive that took us almost two hours, because we did hit some traffic along the way.  But it was worth it.  We had a great time talking, joking, and laughing.  The weather was gorgeous, and sometimes it’s the unexpected moments in a car during a road trip that are the ones we rembember the most.

We had decided to go to Mustard’s Grill for lunch.  I had been to Mustard’s once before, but my parents hadn’t been, and since the owner/exective chef at Mustard’s was recently featured on Top Chef Masters, I thought it would be fun for them to experience her menu.  There was a 35 minute wait, but we didn’t mind, especially after smelling the heavenly aromas coming from the kitchen.  By the time we were seated, we were definitely hungry, and had no trouble figuring out what to order.  Since it was 2pm, we decided to have lunch.  My mom and I had the Grilled Ahi Tuna Sandwich, which had a basil aioli and housemade pickled ginger.  It was devine!  I always like ahi tuna, and this sandwich definitely didn’t disappoint. My dad had the BBQ pulled pork sandwich, which he said was delicious, as well.  We opted for iced tea over wine, since we were hitting the wineries after lunch.  I told my parents that I’d love to go back to Mustard’s for dinner, to truly experience the chef’s cuisine.

After lunch, we went to Cakebread Cellars, because I had been dying to go.  My parents had never been to this winery, so it was a new experience for all of us.  I’ve had Cakebread Chardonnay in restaurants before and loved it, and I knew their other wines would be just as good.  When we pulled up to the winery, we saw a sign saying that wine tastings and tours were done by prior appointment only.  Undeterred, we entered the winery and asked about making an appointment.  Luckily, they had room for us at 3pm, so we only had to wait a few minutes.  The really cool thing about this wine tasting was that they take you on a tour of the grounds (which were gorgeous).  At each stop you make, you taste a different wine and get to learn a bit more about the winery.  I really love this type of tasting because it seems much more fun and interesting than simply standing in a tasting room and sampling wines.  (Don’t get me wrong, I love doing that, too, but when you’re in the Napa Valley, it seems a shame not to fully experience the winery).

They started us off in the gift shop with Sauvignon Blanc, which I didn’t enjoy.  I don’t care for that variety at all, but my mom said she enjoyed it.  Next, we really began the tour, and they took us into the garden to sample the Anderson Valley Chardonnay.  This was absolutely delicious.  I liked it so much that I splurged on the $37 bottle.  The guide explained that this was made “in the French style,” and whatever they do to it, it is remarkable.  Then we were led deeper into the grounds and got to sample the Reserve Chardonnay.  I thought I would enjoy this wine even more than the Anderson Valley Chardonnay, but I didn’t.  Don’t get me wrong, it was really rich and buttery, but I liked the crispness of the Anderson Valley Chardonnay better.  Next we headed into the wine making area and sampled the Carneros Pinot Noir, which was really good.  We watched them bottle wine as we tasted my favorite wine of the day, the Red Hills Lake Zinfindel. By far, this was the smoothest, richest Zin I have every had in my life, and I would have definitely purchased a bottle, except for the fact that payday isn’t until Friday.  The nice thing is, I can order it online, and I definitely will, when I have some extra money.  Finally, we headed back out to the garden, to the outdoor bbq, and sampled the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

It was so interesting to learn the history of the family, the winery, and the development of the wine from Barry, our guide.  When we overhead the tour group behind us, we were even more glad that Barry was guiding us, because the girl on the next tour sounded like she should be at Disneyland rather than a winery.  I’m all for having energy, but her fake enthusiasm was a bit much.  I loved the relaxed nature of Barry’s presentation.

We left Cakebread hoping to hit another winery, but didn’t have enough time.  This is the one problem I have with Napa – they close the wineries too early in the summer.  Why not stay open until 7pm in the summer, since it’s lighter later?  Most of the wineries close at 4 or 5, making it difficult to get to many, unless you start out really early in the day.  Still, the visit to Cakebread was really worth it.

After the winery, we went to St. Helena to go to Michael Chiarello’s Napa Style store.  It was nice, but didn’t really have much merchandise out.  He has an amazing selection of spices and marinades, but other that that, I wasn’t very impressed with the wares.  The website and catalogue are so much more visually appealing than the store itself, which I find odd.  Also, we have a Napa Style locally, so I guess I wasn’t amazed because we can go to the store whenever we feel like it.

Then we went to Dean & Deluca, which was great.  I loved looking at all of the exotic offerings, and my mom picked up a bottle of Moroccan marinade that we said we were going to use on some grilled ahi of our own.

After the gourmet food shop, we got back on the freeway and headed to the Outlets.  What’s a trip to Napa without some outlet shopping on the way home, right?  My dad and I both found shoes to purchase, and amazingly, my mom came away without anything.  She’s usually the first one to find something to buy, but this time nothing struck her fancy.  The shoes I got are simple flats from Clark’s (un)Structured line, but they are like walking on pillows.  I think they’re going to become my daily wardrobe staple once school starts again and I’m on my feet all day.

Then we headed back home, but we ended up taking the scenic route by accident.  There was so much fog on the Great Hwy that I told my dad to take the wrong exit, and we headed through Pacifica, through Half Moon Bay, along Hwy 1.  It was absolutely gorgeous to see the ocean over the curves of the cliffs, but it definitely added to our driving time.  We arrived back at my parents house at 9pm, tired, hungry, but very happy.

It was a truly fantastic day.  Beyond the delicious food and the terrific wines, the best part of the day was being able to enjoy time spent with my parents.  I am so very lucky to get along so well with them and have the type of relationship with them that makes us savor the moments we share together.  They are two of my best friends, which is so special to me.

Here are a few photos of our time at Cakebread:

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