Friday, January 29, 2021

Fall in San Diego - October 2019

I begged. I pleaded. I dug my heels in the ground and said I wouldn't go. But. I spent five days of my October in San Diego anyway. (I know. I'm a brat. Who wouldn't want to go to San Diego)?

It was Cade's fall break and he begged and pleaded (obviously better than me) to go to SD. He has always been my beach baby. He could live in that water even if it is freezing and he needed a wetsuit. (Which we did buy day two of the trip). He spent four days surfing from sun up to sun down. He was in heaven.

Fall in San Diego is (as much as I hate to admit it) lovely. Temps were in the 60's-70's. I wore sweatshirts on the beach and the streets and beaches were far less crowded than summertime. The best part, however, was seeing this kid so happy. Mr. C was pretty happy too. (He also loves it there. I am the odd man out. Randi loves it too, but couldn't come with us because of classes).

Our VRBO was perfectly located on Mission and Beryl. We were a five minute walk from the beach, which made it perfect for two teenage boys. We were also walking distance from great restaurants and stores. We had some great meals out and were able to cook at our rental too. Some of our favorite places to chow down were: 

Taco Surf - burros, tacos, was all delish!

Breakfast Republic - scrambles, homemade jams, and the Presley... amazing!

Biggies Burger - burgers, chicken strips and veggie burgers were consumed and loved by all!

Mr. Moto Pizza - cheese, veggie, and sausage were hits!

Better Buzz Coffee - Best Drink Ever (that's what it's called) was amazing! We all liked our breakfast sandwiches and almond butter/jam toast!

Cade invited a friend along for the trip and the two of them were fun and easy. A couple of times we dropped the boys off at Mission Beach (we were at Pacific Beach), so they could hang with some friends from school (and have a little independence). I think they had a blast. (I mean, how could you not? Teenagers in SD with a little freedom)?!

From Phoenix the drive is so nice and easy. A short five hours and you are at the beach! 

Although the trip was better than I expected, I can't say it's one of my favorite places. I still prefer the mountains and smaller towns. I would probably like the beach better if I were in a small coastal town... just not a city gal! However, I loved our daily walks on the beach and seeing my boys so happy.


Be A Good Human - September 2019

"No matters what happens in life, be good to people. Being good to people is a wonderful legacy to leave behind."

The other day, Cade and I were at the grocery store. As we were approaching the checkout there was a nice, older man giving out samples of his salsa that he sells in stores. Cade and I both sampled, chatted with him and bought a jar. As we moved to the line Cade continued to watch. The gentleman would greet everyone with a friendly smile and ask if they would like a sample. I watched as my 15 year old keenly observed people. One woman rudely declined the free sample. I just looked the other way and began unloading groceries on the conveyer belt. Cade kept watching. As we were walking to the car Cade said, "could you imagine being such a shitty human being? Would it have killed her to take a sample? She didn't even say 'no thank you'. She was so rude." I smiled. Although I may not have been thrilled with his word choice, he was so right. This 15 year old person with a kind soul was more in tune with people and the human spirit than that middle aged woman.

The greatest thing I can do in this life is to be a good person and raise good human beings. (So far so good).  I have two teenagers that I actually like. (I know we all love our kids, but don't lie...there are moments when we may not like them)! Mr. C and I were talking the other day and I said, "we have pretty kids. I actually like them and enjoy being in their company." I really do. They make me laugh. I love watching them grow into young adults. They are maturing and growing from their decisions (good or bad). My heart swells when I see them being a good human being and when they recognize the grown adults who are being sh*tty ones.

"Being a good person doesn’t depend on your religion, your race or your skin color or your culture. It depends on how good is your heart and how good you treat others.” Anonymous

(Cute jacket from ThredUp. Jumper from H & M)


Book Review - September 2019

"There is no friend as loyal as a book." Ernest Hemingway

I love a good book. The kind that make you laugh out loud, grab a tissue to dry your sad eyes, or haunts you for days after closing the last page.  Books can take you to another place, another time. You can fall into step with a character and live in the shadows of their lives.

My kids grew up reading or being read to. They never went to bed without first turning some pages and hearing a tale. They know libraries are one of my most favorite places and a must stop when traveling. Our local indie book store (Changing Hands) has always been a favorite place to shop, trade, and listen to author readings.  Although only one of them became a ferocious reader, they both have a love for books and stories. 

As much as I love reading and getting lost in a new book, it takes me a while to get through one. I only slow down long enough at bed time. And by the time I get in bed I only last so long before my eyes get too heavy!  At this rate it could take me forever to get through my reading list and pile of books on my shelf. But. I found a solution. Audio books! Seriously. Best. Thing. Ever. My first audio book was Where the Crawdads Sing. I wasn't sure about the whole thing. I felt like I was cheating and I didn't know how I liked the voice. But then I got so enthralled with the story, I couldn't wait to go for a walk, a run, or drive somewhere just so I could listen! Now, I have a bedside book and audio book going at all times. Happy! Happy!

Ok. With all that said...

Here is a little review of books I have recently read or listened to:

Sharp Objects - A little disturbing, but good. It was a little slow to start, but once I got in it was hard to put down! (It's now a HBO movie).

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens - I feel like this extremely popular novel is controversial in that you either love it or hate it. I loved it! Ms. Owens' writing style was inviting and the character development of the Marsh Girl was perfect. I loved the intertwining of nature... birds, plants, the marsh. I even liked the ending.

When Life Gives You Lululemon by Lauren Weisberger - By the same author of Devil Wears Prada, this is a perfect beach read. This funny, light read follows Emily. (Remember Miranda Priestly's assistant)? There is a little bit of a mystery and lots of funny, middle age, mom moments.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - Funny, heart warming story. You will laugh and fall in love with Eleanor. You will find yourself wanting the best for her.

Where Did You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple - I was in a hurry to read (or listen to) this book because the movie was coming out. I was disappointed. It was ok, but kind of weird and pointless. I felt like the daughter acted much younger than she was supposed to be and there wasn't enough reason for Bernadette to leave. There were a few laughs, but overall, it wasn't my favorite. (And I still haven't seen the movie).

Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis - Such a hot book, I finally picked it up to see what all the fuss was about. I couldn't finish it. I laughed some, but cringed more. Although I know she has an audience, she wasn't talking to me. I kept thinking, "she is going to reread this in 30 years and wonder what she was thinking."

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate - A MUST read!! This is one of those books that stuck with me for days. Based on haunting true facts, this book will draw you in and hold you tight. Ms. Wingate's writing style was intoxicating. I found myself repeating her phrases, falling in love with her words.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty - I had already watched the first of the HBO series with Reese Witherspoon, but put off watching the rest until I read the book. And I'm glad I did! The miniseries is great, but the book is awesome! As usual, the book is better than the movie. Again, another author who has a fabulous way with words. She created amazing characters and a story that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

And some of my all time favorite books:

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee - favorite classic. If you haven't read this since high school, I highly suggest picking it up again.

The Tender Bar by J. R. Moehringer - favorite memoir.

Beartown by Fredrik Backman - great read! Slow in the beginning, but haunts you by the time you finish.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom - another love. This one also stayed with me for days, although a little slow in the beginning.

Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri - beautiful book! Gave me insight into another culture and I wanted to discuss it with anyone who would listen!

Descent by Tim Johnston - favorite suspense thriller. You will not want to put it down!

Favorite audio book apps: 

Audible - great membership, especially if you are an Amazon Prime member. (Two free books, $14.95 a month after that. You receive one credit a month - enough for one book. You can save your credits too).

Apple Books - ok. It doesn't seem to have as many books, but there is no commitment.

Local Library - perfect if you are looking to listen to an older book. Bonus - it's free!

"Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you."  - Louis L'Amour

Happy reading!

Working Mom - August 2019

A year ago I had a mid life crisis. No, not crisis, revelation. And who am I kidding? It wasn't just a year ago. I have had this revelation for the last several years and it always hits me about the time the kids go back to school.

I have been a stay home mom since 2003. Yes. Sixteen years. I would not trade those years for anything. Being a homemaker is at the core of my soul. Preparing nightly dinners, baking, sewing, cleaning, and making homemade play dough makes my heart happy. (I have also taught fitness classes for the past twenty years. They kept me sane). Although I have always been happy and fulfilled, I regret not keeping one foot in the career door. If my older self could tell my younger self anything it would be to have worked part time or steadily volunteered in my field. It would have paid off years later.

When my kids were little, I was so busy being mom and relishing in the fact that I could be home I didn't think about the gap that was growing in my resume. However, it's there. I always thought I could go back to work whenever I wanted. I have a degree. I have experience. I'm teachable. Who wouldn't want to hire me? Lots of people, that's who!

A year ago, I began my quest to find a part time job. But. There were stipulations. Hours needed to be week day - during the day. I still wanted to teach my classes and take and pick up from school. I also wanted something in my field and make a difference in the world. I was pretty much asking the impossible.(I became more flexible as the search grew). I applied for dozens of positions. The worst part? The business world has changed. Gone are the days of personally delivering a resume with a firm handshake and smile. Everything is computerized. I kept thinking to myself, "if they could just meet me! I know they would see I am perfect for the position!" It was very frustrating. I finally got two interviews. One with Marriott (because I had a friend who had a contact with HR) and the other with Nordstrom, (which my daughter convinced me to apply for). The Marriott position was full time with a commute. He asked if I could work from 7-4. When I said no he said it probably wouldn't work, but he would let me know. He called before I even got home saying they would accommodate my hours! (See? If they could just meet me they would see I would be a great employee)! As flattered as I was, I knew it was not the right fit at the time, plus Nordstrom had just called offering me a part time position which, turns out, was the best fit for me.

Ironically, I didn't think I got the job at Nordstrom. I left my interview thinking, "well, I will chalk that up to experience". It was a group interview and the other interviewee was a boutique owner with years of current experience. (The last time I worked retail was in college over twenty years ago)! It was the first interview I had done in seventeen years. As soon as I hit the button to the elevator that would take me to the meeting room, I got nervous. It dawned on me I was a little rusty. All I could do was be myself. Be real. All of my answers revolved around kids, volunteering in the schools, and being mom. I can handle unhappy people and fix problems. I can multi task like nobody's business. I know how to find the best outcome or ask someone who does. Well, apparently it worked and I got the position. I fell in love with the company immediately. 

They have worked with my hours (giving me those mom hours) and have given me some different purpose in my life. After a training I attended a few weeks ago, I got to thinking about the demographic I fall in and why we are ignored when it comes to the job market. I left this training on a high. I was so enthusiastic and ready to tackle my job. It's fresh for me. It's like starting a new career after sixteen years. This excitement and thirst is why we, 40/50 year old stay home moms, should be at the top of everyone's interview list. Forget about those gaps in the resume. Running a household, raising kids, volunteering, budgeting, etc. should be regarded as current experiences in life. Moms know how to get things done! And those power moms that have been building a career and raising kids? They are super women! Stay home moms, outside of the home working moms, part time working doesn't matter! We get it. We are organized go getters. We can move mountains! Just let us hear those empowering words, "we would like to offer you the position."

Perfect Pie Crust

Making homemade pie crust can be a little intimidating. It can be too dry, too sticky, too hard, or just impossible to roll! After lots of trials and errors, I have found my favorite pie crust recipe to share along with a few tips and tricks.

Whisk dry ingredients together.

Mix in butter and shortening with your fingers. It's best to have different sizes of butter/shortening pieces. (Pea size, marble size, you get the idea)!

After adding some ice cold water, you will have a dough. Divide into two disks, wrap tightly, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or several hours. (I've been known to keep one in the fridge for days).

When you are ready to make the pie, roll out crust on a lightly floured surface.

Tip: when you are ready to transfer dough to pie plate, roll dough on to your rolling pin then unroll on to your plate.  Works like a charm!

Crust should hang over pie plate. Trim excess with knife or scissors.

Tip: roll out extra dough, sprinkle with cinnamon/sugar and bake until golden. It's a yummy snack!

To finish off the edges, press your index finger (of your right hand) into crust while taking your index and middle fingers (of our left hand) and pinching around right finger. (Does that make sense at all)!?

Pressing a fork around the edges will also give you a nice finished look.

Fill with your favorite pie filling and enjoy!

Favorite Pie Crust Recipe (makes double crust)

2  1/2 C. unbleached - all purpose flour

1  1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. easy roll dough improver***

1/4 C. shortening (I like butter flavor Crisco)

10 Tbs. very cold unsalted butter

6-10 Tbs. ice water

***This product is from King Arthur Flour and I love it! It is a game changer.


Whisk together flour, salt, and dough improver.

Add shortening and mix until it becomes crumbly.

Cut the butter into small cubes.

Add butter to flour mix and work roughly with your fingers or pastry cutter. Don't be too thorough - mixture should be uneven. (See above picture).

Add 4 Tbs. of cold water and mix.

Add enough additional water until you have a cohesive dough. It should hold together in your hands.

Divide the dough in half, smooth into two disks and wrap individually in plastic wrap. Dough may appear cracked...that is fine.

Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (You can even freeze for two months).

When ready, let crust warm a little and roll out on lightly floured surface. 

Measure the size of your pie plate and roll out accordingly. See tips above for rolling out and placing on plate. (The big chunks of butter you see are a very good thing)!

If making a double crust pie, place filling in first crust and place second on top. Crimp edges together and cut slits on top. Brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Pop it in the oven and smile. Do a little happy dance. Relish in the fact that YOU just made a perfect pie crust!

(Recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour)

A Trip to Hawaii - July 2019

Summer family vacation is in the books! (And it was a good one). We picked our destination several months ago... after much discussion. Everything from Colorado to Europe were thrown in the ring, but a Hawaii vacation won the vote.

Hawaii may have been my last choice. I know, I know. Who turns down Hawaii?! I have been lucky enough to visit Hawaii several times and we have even done a family vacation there, so I was pushing for a mountain trip. Maybe Colorado! In an RV!! We could take the dog!!! Nope. I couldn't sell it. I lost 3-1.

Our last Hawaiian family vacation was in Maui (which I love). This time we decided to explore Oahu. (The teens like a little city life with the beach and Oahu has both). We had spent a day on this island on our last trip, so we had already seen the amazing Pearl Harbor and some other tourist attractions. However, this being the third largest Hawaiian island, there is lots to see!

Randi is our little tour guide and researches everything perfectly! Prior to the trip she had read blogs, yelp reviews, and travel sites. We had lists of ideas and suggestions.

We stayed in Ko Olina at the Marriott. We love staying in the Marriott suites because there are enough bedrooms and bathrooms and each unit has a full kitchen and laundry. (We stayed in their sister property on Maui). Plus, you can usually find them listed on VRBO or Air B&B at a fair price. (They are time shares that owners rent). Bonus - you still get to enjoy all of the resort amenities.

One of our first adventures was checking out the North Shore. Rainy and cooler, we wrapped ourselves in towels as we watched the surfers dance across the huge waves. They are pretty remarkable! 

This sweet girl found the best places. On her list was a little coffee shack that happened to be right across from the beach we were visiting. The Sunrise Shack was a darling, hippy styled shack right off the road. They had açaí bowls, coffee and juices. I loved it's colorful vibe.

The North Shore is home to the cute surfer town, Haleiwa. The streets are lined with one of a kind shops and restaurants. It's a friendly, walkable town with lots to see and buy! We visited this area a few times during our eight day trip and loved it each time.

On our last day, we ventured up there again and waited in a very long line to get the famous Matsumoto Shave Ice. (It's Obama's fav). It definitely has a cult following. It was good, but not my favorite. Maybe I didn't order right?

Because I'm a Parks and Rec major I have to take a second to rave about their city and state parks. I was very impressed! The above pictures are Queen's Beach Park in Waikiki. We also found ourselves here a couple of times during our trip. (Mostly because Cade loved the waves at Queen's Beach). We were able to find free parking both days at the park and walked the grounds to the beach. The parks were clean with huge trees everywhere providing lots of shade. (Seriously. Look at those trees)! All of the beaches and parks we visited were well staffed, clean, and had fun events on the calendar. 

Iolani Palace was a state park we visited. Randi and I peeled away from the beach one day and learned a little about the colorful history of Hawaii. With your admission you can listen to an audio self guided tour. We enjoyed the history lesson and the grounds were beautiful.

During most of the trip, we were all together. (My teens are old enough to do things without us, but they wanted to be with us and we with them). However, on two occasions Randi and I left the boys at the beach. While they did some body surfing, we checked off some things off her list! 

Ono Sea Food is a little hole in the wall with amazingly fresh and delicious poke. The line moves quickly and the limited seating opens up fairly quickly too.

Hawaiian Crown was another little hole in the wall with the absolute best pineapple juice I have ever had. Cute little shop with smoothies, juices, bowls, and fresh pineapple.

Leonard's Bakery is also a must. We stopped at the store front one evening and the line was crazy long. We just happened upon this food truck when we were visiting the area of Lanikai. This bakery is famous for it's Malsada's which are similar to a beignet or donut. They were pretty damn good!

The BEST place we dined, however, was Haleiwa Joe's. This place was jaw dropping beautiful with fabulous food and great customer service. There are no reservations, so get there early. We arrived shortly after they opened and only had to wait a few minutes. If you have to wait longer you are invited to grab a cocktail and walk the lush, tropical grounds.  There are two locations, so be sure and visit the one in Haiku Gardens.

Mr. C played ball for UH, so we made time to visit his old stomping grounds. It took him a little while to get his bearings, but we finally found the baseball field and his old dorm. School in paradise? I may get a little distracted!

Some other places we visited:

Sandy Beach - Where I made the mistake of getting in the water. Those waves tossed me around like a rag doll. It's a miracle I made it out with my suit still on!

Hula Grill - Right in the heart of the hustle and bustle of Waikiki. This a nice place for lunch or dinner. It's right next to Duke's  - another good place for a tasty meal.

Monkey Pod Kitchen - This yummy restaurant was walking distance from our hotel. We had dinner here twice we liked it so much!

It was a great trip! We drove all over that beautiful island and still wanted more! Although I'm pushing for a mountain vacation next time, this was a perfect family vacation. I don't think any of us would be sad if we did it again! (In fact, Cade has already asked if we can go back in October! (Not going to happen).   He also informed me he is moving there)!

We took a red eye home (which we didn't love). As amazing the trip was... there is nothing like coming home! We arrived in Phoenix right as the sun was peaking over the mountains. Happy heart.

City By the Bay, San Francisco - July 2019

Golden Gate Bridge

I'm a west coast girl. Actually, I'm a small town-country sort of girl, but if I visit the city I will take San Francisco every time! There is so much to see and do. The weather is usually nice. (Although I freeze at some point during the trip...even in the summer). I love the food, the people, the views, the shopping, and I really love visiting beautiful places outside the city.

Fortunately, I have been able to visit this magical city several times at various times of the year. However, we have done this specific summer trip about four times. It always involves some fun people, a yacht ride through the bay and McCovey Cove, and a Giants/Dbacks game. The last two years have included wine tastings and lunch at a vineyard in Napa. As much as I love the city, leaving the city for a day or two is a must! (Remember, I'm a country girl at heart).

We typically stay in the city. Favorite places to stay? The St. Francis in Union Square and Hotel Via right across from the ball park. If you want to be centrally located and surrounded by fabulous stores, St. Francis is the way to go. During the holiday season the center of the square is transformed into an ice skating rink. Nothing better than waking up Christmas morning and skating in the middle of this beautiful city!

Christmas time in Union Square San Francisco
Christmas time in Union Square San Francisco

(Christmas 2013)

If you are looking for less hustle and bustle, Hotel Via is a smaller boutique hotel. It sits right across from Giants Stadium and is walking distance from the wharf, the square, and all things to be seen!

On this recent trip we decided to do things differently and stay in Sausalito. We have taken the ferry over to Sausalito several times, but never stayed there. I love the slower pace and the beautiful homes. We stayed at the lovely and quaint Casa Madrona. It was perfectly located in the center of town. We walked to breakfast each morning and hit several restaurants, bars, and stores during the day. (Favorite breakfast place: Cibo). The weather was absolutely perfect. Sunny skies with temperatures hovering in the 70's.

This little town has darling homes by the sea.
This little town has darling homes by the sea.

And beautiful flowers. Everywhere!
And beautiful flowers. Everywhere!

On day two of this trip we were wined and dined in Napa. Some friends own a vineyard (Alpha Omega) and for the second year in a row they hosted a beautiful lunch for a group of us. (Friends and fellow AZ Diamondback Fantasy Campers).

It was lovely. Another gorgeous day with scrumptious food and wine.

We were hoping to catch some other wineries when we finished there, but most were closing. We had dinner reservations at the posh Press restaurant, but we were wined and dined out and decided to cancel and head back to Sausalito. 

The next day was more wining and dining, but this time we were on a yacht. (Vineyard friends own the yacht too). We boarded in Sausalito and cruised to the city by the bay to pick up the rest of the group. We have been lucky enough to do this excursion for several years. It's a nice cruise around the bay. Golden Gate, Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, Pier 39, and Angel Island are all the sites we see.

It was a fabulous trip. Good food, great wine, lots of laughs with wonderful friends, but as always, I was over the moon happy to be home! (Nothing beats home with my loves).