St. Petersburg Garden

St. Petersburg Garden

Monday, December 19, 2011

Out With a Bang

I am moving back to New York City. There I've said it. I'm still not really sure how I feel about it. I haven't talked about it much. Partly because my California friends have banned me from speaking about it.  They know how they feel about it.

Yes, we all know how they feel about it. So I haven't said much other than I'm moving. I knew the date was approaching. They knew the date was approaching. We just didn't realize it was approaching this fast. I had too many things that I still wanted to do. Still needed to do. I wasn't ready to go yet. I'm still not sure that I am ready to go.

 People keep asking me if I'm excited. I don't know what to tell them. I know, I know, it's New York. I love New York. Really, I do. It's where I'm from. It's the city, a great city. I don't need to be sold on that. I don't know what's holding me back. I realized before I started worrying about leaving I needed to focus on my final days.

It happens every time we go to an amusement park though. We live only an hour away from most parks. Two hours at the most. I have an amazing time. Dilemma you ask? No. But the thrills, joys and highs you get are fabulous. Especially when you know you live close by. That's right, close by. I won't live close by anymore.

But I'm still here. I will enjoy every last second. I had to get in some last important items. I knew there were some places we'd wanted to go forever. Now was the chance. We had to do it. It was time to end our year with a bang. We had to make it the best. weekend. ever. No pressure. None at all. I knew we were up to the task. So we went to top. The peak. The mountain. The mountain of magic.

Yes, we planned this. Shocking, I know.
What could be more perfect? A park filled with roller coasters. Nothing but coasters. It's pure genius. I had only dreamed of a place like this when I was little. It's all about the speed and drops. I love to feel like I'm flying.
We were excited all morning. We got there for the opening of the park. Winter in the park is phenomenal. No lines. Well, almost no lines. We breezed through almost every ride. Coaster after coaster - flying, soaring, looping, dropping - my face hurt from smiling so much. I walked around like I was living the perfect life. We were having fun and we were carefree. Even if it was only for a day.

Thoughts of moving were pushed away. Even though I knew I would be getting on a plane soon, too soon, I didn't think about it. I'm only thinking of it now, as I write this. We walked around the park for hours. No, really. Eight plus to be exact. It just meant we could eat more. Perfect.

I have always loved the feeling of flying through the air. That first launch where you feel the wind whipping through your hair and you can smell nothing but the air around you is amazing. Each time we went on a new coaster I felt free. I'm not a screamer. I'm a smiler. I couldn't stop smiling on every ride.

If I could ride those coaster every weekend I would. Line free of course. My teeth hurt from the wind rushing at them but I couldn't close my mouth. All ride photos showed screamer after screamer. People scared or nervous or just yelling for the hell of it.

Not me. All of my photos had the look of pure joy and the smile. It was as if I was on a photo shoot and I was supposed to keep that smile going to whole time.

Which is ironic since growing up I was the frowner. Had my mom known then that all she had to do was introduce a little high thrills to me to get me to smile things might have been a little lighter.

We thought it was all over and slowly headed for the exit. We didn't want this magical day to end. But then, as we neared the gates, we saw our final ride. It had lights. It had music. It had magic. It met all of our requirements. The carousel was perfect to end the night on.

Besides, it's the only time I'm going to get Mike on a horse so I couldn't pass up this opportunity. We chose our stallions and hopped on. The music began and we took our final ride.

For an alternate story and for different pictures go to my other blog at:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Zombie Capitol of The U.S.?

When I received an email from JetBlue warning me that my TrueBlue points were set to expire I knew I couldn't let that happen. I'd been saving those bad boys forever. I had to book a flight. I didn't want to mess up. As part of our "Tour the West Coast Before We Leave" plan, we knew we had to pick a location we'd never been to. It was a toss up - Seattle, WA or Portland, OR.

It was a tough call. Rain or rain. Hhhmm. We went with rain and Seattle it was. Once we made our decision, I figured I would call a reservations agent before I booked the flight to get conformation on the dates to make sure all was right. She assured me that all was a go. Keep that in mind. I'll get back to this later.*

We were pretty excited. In case you haven't guessed it by now, I feel best when I'm traveling. Home is on the road. I even sleep better when I'm traveling. It's always been like that. In a hotel, in a car - I sleep through the night when I'm not in my "normal" bed. As soon as I get back to my regular place of residence, I never have a good night's sleep. I couldn't wait to be in a new city.

Street Art
 When we arrived we had everything all mapped out. We knew exactly what we wanted to do and we knew we would do it all. From the moment we arrived we were in heaven thanks to my friend Sandrine. She steered us to the Hotel Max. All we needed to see was that there was a pillow menu. Every variety you can imagine. We were sold from the moment we stepped into our room.

We only had a few days so we knew we had to be on the move. First stop - the Space Needle. Now I'm usually not a big fan of spending a lot of money just to ride up, walk around, and ride down. But hey, this is the Space Needle. It's not like we're just going up and down an elevator ride for that price.
Even Bigfoot visits the Market

Besides, how can I say I went to Seattle and didn't go up in the Space Needle? Exactly. I couldn't. So I won't. Because I did. The views were pretty nice. It was only a little overcast. The rain was actually starting to clear up. *Gasp*. That's right, the sun was fighting for equal time. I may have even pulled out my sunglasses.

We headed back down and it was on to Pike's Market. This city is really the easiest city to figure out and I mean that as a compliment. The streets, the train, it's great for people that aren't used to cities. If you are a city person, it's a a great change of pace. Once we got to Pike's, I could have lived there. Okay, well, maybe not really, but no, I could have.

That place is great - the flowers, the fruits and veggies, the seafood. I've never seen things so inexpensive and of such quality. Of course that's probably the only place where you'll find things so inexpensive which is why I said I could live there. We couldn't leave without watching the fish being manhandled so we hung
A Little Fish Toss
around for a little bit. A little crab toss, mussel toss and fish toss and then we were good to go.

Then there was the great Starbucks debate. Which one holds the claim to fame of being the first. Is it the one on 1st & Pike's or is it the one in Pike Place Market? Apparently each one says they are but only one has the official stamp. We weren't taking any chances. We posed by both. Hey, we're coffee people, we needed that picture.

Next stop on the tour was the underground. We had been hearing about this for months and we were pretty excited about it. We pulled up to the tour location, got ready for the first segment and saw the children. The ones under five. The one in particular that was screaming through our orientation.

Now people, please let me make myself clear. We pay good money to go on tours. If you can not find someone to watch your children, please, please do not take them on a tour that lasts over one hour. That will be in dark, confined spaces that echo. That require silence so a tour guide can speak. Why do people do this? Also, please silence your cell phones and do not take that call and start talking while on our tour.

But back to the underground. It really is a fascinating place. Crazy to think people actually lived down there. We only walked a small portion of the city and once we were shown what the entry points looked like, every where we went after that we knew how extensive they actually were.

Of course, what would a dark, musty, "basement-like" place be, without a ghost or two. Supposedly there are a few hanging around some of the areas. They must have been hiding. We saw nothing. Felt nothing.

The most surprising thing of all was when we got out of the tour and came back up. The sun was shiningAnd so it was time. Time for the piece de resistance. The unexpected bonus to our trip. Who knew just by flipping open the magazine in our hotel we would have discovered gold of such amazing proportions. That's right my friends. I'm talking about.....ZomBCon 2011.

We could hardly contain our excitement. Are you kidding me? Zombies? In Seattle? What's going on here? The article said Seattle was the zombie capital of the United States. What luck! And this weekend. We happened to be in town for the weekend of a zombie convention. Holy Sh*t. We've hit the mother lode.

We knew we had to get there. We didn't care what it took. We would rearrange our schedule to make sure it happened. We found the train, hopped on and we were on our way. Once we arrived we couldn't contain ourselves. Literally. I tripped over a huge sign in the lobby, knocking it over and really made a grand entrance. I sure had arrived.

The cast of The Walking Dead was supposed to be they had a steep "sitting" fee. Plus, we were late comers, not advance ticket holders. My goal for the day was just to pose with a zombie. Eating me of course. There were quite a few "B" list actors there which for us zombie aficionados was pretty cool to see. Not cool enough to pay $50 to pose for a picture with though. I don't pay to pose. I have enough fun taking my own pictures, why would I pay someone for theirs?

Don't eat me!
If you'd like to check out the sites that we visited, go to the websites below:

For an alternate story and for different pictures go to my other blog at:

*I want to thank customer service at JetBlue for giving me inaccurate information when they assured me that my flight dates would fall within the restrictions of my TrueBlue miles. They were incorrect and I lost off of my miles. When I called them on it they said it was my fault for not reading my rewards membership. After explaining that I did read them but got verification from a JetBlue rep that it was acceptable to fly on those dates I was told, "too bad, it's your fault". Thanks again JetBlue.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Cupcakes & Cornpops

When we first planned our trip to Seattle, it was just that - a trip to Seattle. It's part of our Conquer the West Coast Tour. Now that we are leaving there are so many things that we need to do. Too many things. Why didn't we ever do any of these excursions in the eight years that we've lived here? No one ever does, do they? Until it's too late. We weren't going to let that happen this time.

We started preparing for our trip when it hit us. Vancouver. I'm not talking the one in Washington State. I'm talking the one you need a passport for. You know, the good one. No offense Washington. We got excited about our little side trip. Ah, Vancouver. We'd never been to the west coast of Canada before. East coast, sure. We were old pros. Well, at least I was, but the west? Nope. Never been. We knew we had to get there.

We were all set with our Seattle plans. There was plenty to see, plenty to do but we weren't sure what we were going to do in Vancouver. We looked through a few books at Barnes & Noble but that only gave us a few ideas. The problem - it was going to be cold & rainy. We were limited in our choices. I decided to take matters into my own hands. I settled on the important things. I didn't care what we did once we got there as long as we completed my missions.

Mission one: Cupcakes. I started watching a show called The Cupcake Girls a few months ago. It's set in Vancouver. Lucky me. I needed to try these little cakes. We set our GPS on cupcake and drove. Over the border, through the rain we went. We arrived at the trademark cupcake awning and I had to contain myself. I ran out of the car when we saw the meter and realized we forgot to change our money. Oops. Mike ran to the bank while I waited. And watched. So close and yet so far. Finally we entered and saw them. A sea of little cakes dancing in front of us. Mini cakes, little cakes and even big cakes. I didn't know what to choose.

Death by Cupcake
Of course you can't just have one. Or two. Or three. Well, you see where I'm going with this. We packed up two for later and sat down with two for now. I went with a lemon cake with lemon frosting. Mike went with chocolate on chocolate. I consider myself a cupcake pro. I've eaten my fair share of cupcakes & I bake them all the time. This was the first time we found ones that we both enjoyed. The cake was moist and delicious. The frosting was so soft and fluffy.

In case anyone is wondering, I had to substitute the chair for the floor when I had my death by cupcake. Remember, it was raining. I was feeling good. And full. Mission one accomplished. But we couldn't stop now. There was more to do, more to see and another mission to fulfill.

Mission Two: Canadian Corn Pops. As soon as I realized that we would be going to Canada, I knew I had to have these. For anyone that loves the pops, you have to believe me when I say that these golden puffs far outshine their American counterpart. I don't know why they are made differently but they are. They even look different. They taste like actual corn, they are round, light in color and are tasty treats. Plus the box is in French and English which I always like better anyway. Bonus! Whatever we decided to do, I didn't care as long as we got my pops before we left the country.

They make 'em bigger in Canada
We put mission two on hold while we drove through the city and aimed for Stanley Park. On a sunny day this is probably a stunning place to walk around and picnic. Unfortunately we didn't have that opportunity because, did I mention it was raining? It was still a beautiful place but we didn't get to linger too long at the photo spots. Although at each spot you have to feed the meter so we weren't staying long anyway.

When it's raining you're on the run in, run out plan. We got to see the whole park, stopped and got some nice souvenirs at the gift shop and even got a lovely souvenir from the park on our windshield. Thanks for the ticket Stanley Park. We'll remember you fondly. We decided we had enough after that and headed back to the city to complete mission two.

I needed my pops. We hit up a few smaller grocery stores and nothing. We drove through some really cool neighborhoods. We needed to come back here. There it was - the Safeway. I know, I know, it's a sad thing. I was excited to see a supermarket. We ran in and made a beeline for the cereal aisle and there they were. I think I even heard some angel music in the background. My pops. Oh sweet lovin', there were my pops. I grabbed two boxes and crap. Cereal is expensive in Canada. $5.50 a box with our club card. It was worth it. I needed these. We headed out. Mission two accomplished.

Golden puffs of heaven
Time to head back to Seattle. But not without a final trip to duty free. No one heads back across the border without that last stop. We thought we would commemorate our trip with some British Columbia wine. And like that it was all over. Back to the U.S. It was a successful trip. We may not have seen all that we wanted to but we accomplished our missions and for a day trip in the rain we got the job done. Who knows. Maybe we'll be back some day. In the summer next time.

To find out more about the places we visited go to:

For an alternate ending and for different pictures go to my other blog at:

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bringing Back the Classics

I believe it all started in Manchester, England. The year was 1997. Sarah and I had just arrived at her Uncle's house for spring break. We were walking down the hall to our room when I spotted the bathroom. It was perfect. The layout, the lighting, the bathtub with the steps - everything just screamed "crime scene".

An idea began to take shape. I ran to our room and threw my bags down. I couldn't stop to unpack now. I grabbed Sarah and the camera. Dead Man Pose was born. It's a classic. It became a favorite of ours. I was always the model of course. Sarah was the photographer. It didn't matter where we were. I was a willing victim. My favorite was in Paris. On our hotel balcony. It's a classic and you would see the picture here if only I could find it.

But alas, like many things over the years Dead Man's Pose came and went. Like an old friend that you lost touch with over the years, it was gone but most certainly not forgotten. Until a few weeks ago. Mike and I had gone on a ghost tour in downtown San Diego. I know some of you have read about it on a previous blog. Well, at least I hope you have.

We had come to the end of our tour when I saw it. The piece de resistance. The mother lode. The crime scene of all crime scenes. The Grand Staircase. I stopped dead in my tracks. Ha ha ha. No, wait. I'm not joking this time. I really did. My eyes were open wide. I was in awe. I couldn't move. I caressed the newel post. You know, the thing you hold on to at the end of the stairs. The newel post. Or, the thing my mom likes to hang her purse on.

I looked around. There were so many people on our tour. I didn't know if I could do it. Should I throw myself down on the stairs right here? Damn. The dilemma I was facing. I moved on. We toured the room for another 10 minutes and my eyes kept returning to the stairs and lost opportunities. I thought of Sarah. I knew I would regret it. I had to bring back the classics. No regrets, no regrets. I had to do it for me, for Sarah and for old times.

I ran to the stairs. Our tour group looked at me with wonder. I excused myself. Told them it was all about the Dead Man Pose. As I threw myself on the floor to the sounds of laughter I couldn't help but smile. Mike snapped away. I had forgotten how entertaining this was. I didn't even think about the dirty floor I was laying on. Until now. Remember it's all about getting that shot, all about the shot.

That was the beauty about those days. I didn't think about certain things. Or over think. I just had fun. I went for it and sometimes that's what it's really all about. That's what I miss. Just go for it. It's time that I bring that attitude back. Even if it's just starting small.

So I thought I'd honor the past and keep it current. Let's keep that pose coming. On the stairs, on a rock, where ever the mood strikes me. But the pose is always with you in mind Sarah. Always.

For an alternate ending and for different pictures, go to my other blog at:

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Spooky Fascination

I have always been fascinated with all things scary. Some might even say obsessed. I don't know why, I don't even know when or how it started but for as long as I can remember I have always enjoyed anything related to all things scary. Books, movies, rides, games, I'll take it all. I'll try it all. It's ironic really. My mom is terrified of anything scary. Definitely not her first choice. I don't know where I got it from. I'm telling you, an obsession.

I remember going to the library and picking up my first Dean Koontz book. It was called Darkfall. Great book. I couldn't wait to finish it. Until my mom saw me reading it and took it away. Said I was too young. What?? Nine is definitely not too young. Do you know how hard it is to finish reading a book when you have to sneak read chapters every time you go to the library and do covert ops? Leave your mom and brother in the kid section while you run to the adult section looking for Dean Koontz? Not an easy task. Same thing happened when I tried reading The Exorcist when I was eleven. Confiscated. This time by a teacher. What's with this censorship? I even had to sneak my movies in. A classic like Poltergeist. Imagine that. I had to wait until the parents were out before I could catch up on my horror classics. What's a girl to do? Thank goodness for Nana and the babysitter. Whew.

My friends can attest that it's been like this forever. They've all been sucked into my world of ghosts and horror movies. Yes, we've all watched great movies and cheesy movies. Those are the best ones of course. I'm not ashamed to admit it. They might be but I'm not. Classics. That's what I'll call them. As I got older I discovered the mother lode. All over the world. This was brilliant. Everywhere you went you could be entertained and learn. Yes, that's right, it was a history lesson. Sure, that's what it was. I was learning all about the history of where I was. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Ghost tours and museums and much, much more. Now these were definitely the kinds of museums I could visit all day long.

Throughout the years I've been on a few ghost tours and a few interesting "horror" tours as well. Whether or not they are scary I guess is up to the individual but you definitely learn some cool facts and depending on who is in your group you can be entertained. I'm pretty lucky. I always have a good group with me. It's always me and whoever I take. So yes, that's a good group. We know how to entertain ourselves, no matter where we are.

First stop - London Dungeon on Tooley Street. It looked like Sarah need a little head chopping. I was up for the task. This place was fascinating. It told 1000 years of London's most dark and gory history. There are different rooms that tell the tales of what went on throughout history and most of it is in the dark. The anticipation of what you think is going to happen is probably what is the most scary. We loved it. Of course you can't leave London without going on a Jack the Ripper Tour. Also a night tour, which you'll find is the best for a ghost tour. Trial and error, my friends. I remember a lot of walking down cobblestone streets for this one. Sure, not as scary as a traditional ghost tour might be but still a pretty interesting walk when you try to think of walking down the same paths as others did so long ago.

By far one of the coolest ghost tours I have ever gone on was in Edinburgh, Scotland. I was flying solo for this little bad boy. Walking around the old streets of this beautiful city was amazing and to cap it off with a visit to the underground haunted vaults was fascinating. You would never think while you are walking around above ground that there is a complete city underneath you. These vaults have been featured on T.V. as being the most actively haunted and paranormal experiencing locations in the world.

Much like in London, you learn about the historical dark side of Edinburgh. I think it's time I go back for another tour. I see they've added some new things. At the end of the tour they now take you to Scotland's most haunted pub for a drink, The Banshee Labyrinth. Wait a minute. Look at all this history. This is actually a very educational fascination. Learning and getting entertained at the same time. Really, what more could you ask for?

Now it was time for us to hit up San Diego. We'd done a brief tour on our own before. The Whaley House in Old Town. The Chamber of Commerce had dubbed it the most haunted house in America. Now that's a pretty good title. However, we had made a mistake. Day time. I know I mentioned that earlier. Never take a day tour of a haunted location.

Now I'm not saying you're guaranteed to see anything at night but hey, it's more fun. Plus, there aren't children running up and down the stairs going "wooooooooo I'm a ghost". This does not make for a good atmosphere. I do actually recommend going to The Whaley House. I'd like to go back at night. It was interesting. But this time we decided to take a walking tour of the Gaslamp District in downtown San Diego. San Diego is perhaps known as the most haunted city in the United States. We started off at the Georges V Hotel on Fifth Street which was once owned by Wyatt Earp, but not haunted by him.

This is haunted by former women of ill repute. Well what to you know because we also found out that the Gaslamp used to be the red light district. I love history. We had fun running up and down the stairs at this location and it's a good thing we did because unfortunately many of the buildings that we were shown we could not enter. One, which used to be a mortuary and was very haunted, was now a private jazz club. So private that there was no phone number and had a fake law office door to fool people into thinking it was something else. Really? Also on Fifth Street. It costs $300 to get into. I'd rather be a ghost. Another building that we couldn't enter was a restaurant. The owners believed it was not good to mess with spirits. What the hell is going on here?

Our last stop on the tour was the Horton Grand Hotel. It was actually two hotels split by a lobby. This place was haunted by two ghosts. The Horton Grand was graced by the ghost of Ida Bailey. She preferred showing herself to the men and didn't appear to women. Sure, I can understand that. Which is why I gave up Mike as a sacrifice. Our tour guide said she was fond of money. Well, duh, who isn't? Mike pulled out that cash and sat on the stairs. I didn't want to leave him out there too long so I just made him pose for a few pictures and I let him come back down.

The other side of the hotel is called the Kale Saddlery and is haunted by Roger Whittaker, who was a gambler. He haunts room 309. Of course we were told that we couldn't go up here either because it was occupied. Well of course it's occupied. There's a ghost in it. Apparently if you want to see ghosts you have to make a reservation to stay at the hotel for which there is a three year waiting list. For room 309 anyway. Looks like I'm going to have to find my ghosts somewhere else. I wonder if the tour group is in cahoots with the merchants around San Diego. Apparently the only way to get inside these buildings now is if you pay. Or if you're a ghost.

For an alternate ending and for different pictures, go to my other blog at:

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Way Camping Should Be

I've always loved camping. Been doing it all my life. Literally. From the time I was a baby I've been hitting those woods. Sleeping bags, tents, firewood, roasting marshmallows over an open fire, yes, it's an old familiar feeling to me. I've always been a big fan. When I was growing up I couldn't wait to get out in those woods. The campsite we used to go to had so many things to do - even blueberry picking. That was one of my favorites. I love berry picking.

Even now when I smell wood burning the first thing I say is ooh it smells like camping. It's a great smell. It takes me back to good old Mongaup Pond in the Catskills of New York State. We used to go there every summer. Or at least it seemed that way. It was almost like a home away from home. The crisp, fresh air. The cool, clean lake. Relaxing in the hammock. That was good stuff. Until one day it all changed. Mosquitoes? Humidity? Sweat and dirt? Where the hell did all this come from? Where was the fun? Where was the relaxation and zen-like aura? Was this what camping was now all about? I think we might have a problem.

Don't get me wrong. I don't mind getting a little dirty here and there. I like to play. I'm all for adventure. But I have to draw the line somewhere. At this stage in the game, do I really want to go on vacation and "rough it"? I don't think so. But I was willing to give it a try again. Last year we really did try to go camping. A new way. On the beach. We'd never been beach camping and we thought it might be fun. Apparently so did everyone else. All of the sites were booked. So we did what every normal person would do - we improvised and went camping in our backyard. It was a perfect plan really. We already had a fire pit. We had the s'mores and everyone knows that this is really the most important part to any camping adventure. We had the tent, the air mattress, our sleeping bags and we were all set. We got our pillows, put little Charlie Brown inside and we were all set. What could go wrong?

Apparently someone forgot to tell the flea that he was not invited. Damn. Just when you think you're safe from all the perils of regular camping, you can't even make it without a scratch from backyard camping. What had happened since I was younger? It was all so innocent and fun. I knew those days were over. We had to change our tactics if we ever wanted to use our tent again. We had to clean the sleeping bag and air out the tent well. All because of one uninvited guest. Charlie wasn't too happy either. He had to go to the doctor. It was his first camping experience and I'm pretty sure he was done with it. We packed up our equipment and were done with the tent.

Until one year later. An idea came to me. They generally do. I like to entertain myself. Sometimes others. But mostly I need to keep myself entertained so this is why I am always coming up with new things to do. This time it was camping. In the living room. Why not? Bug-free, heat-free and it was a nice change of pace. I told Mike my idea and we ran with it. He moved all of the furniture into the office and we set the tent up. Charlie wasn't happy at all. He remembered his nemesis. He could have done without the tent - inside or out. But hey, we were loving it.

It was perfect for a couch too. A couple of snack tray tables and we were good to go. I've decided that maybe this is the way to go - who says camping has to be in the woods? Camping is all in what you decide to make of it. I can camp out where ever I want. I used to love making tents in my room with my brother when I was little. Who says you have to stop? The only difference now is that we can use an actual tent in my room. Brilliant I say. Want s'mores? Just use that fire pit in the backyard. Same results, same smoky campfire smell. Then run back into your tent in the living room. With the air conditioner keeping you cool. Luxury camping. Now this is much more like it.

For an alternate ending and for different pictures, go to my other blog at:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Just like Venice...but with Fireworks.

The Grand Old Gondola. We've all heard of it. Seen pictures. Envisioned floating down the canals of Venice as your gondolier belts out beautiful music. Well, perhaps most of us have. And perhaps it doesn't always go exactly as you have might have dreamed it would. It usually doesn't but then again, that's what makes the best memories. I was in Italy with my cousin Margaret in the summer of 1998. We were staying at an apartment in Florence but we had a Euro rail pass and on the weekends we would travel all throughout Europe. We decided it was time for Venice. We didn't have a game plan. We never did.

I'm generally a wing-it type of girl. A basic game plan is fine but nothing was set in stone. We had a few ideas. Shopping. Check. Drink wine. Check. Did I mention shopping? I wanted Venetian glass. I knew my shopping. I was a professional. Oh and of course we knew we wanted to go for that gondola ride. I mean, seriously, who goes to Venice and skipped out on the gondola? We didn't waste any time.

Day one - shopping. Mission complete. Drink wine. Mission complete. Day Two. Uh oh. Drank too much wine. Get on a gondola after too much wine. Damn. Apparently I didn't think this through. I knew I couldn't skip out on this so I had to suck it up. We were pretty excited. We boarded our gondola and couldn't wait for the music to begin. What fine opera would we hear this morning? Pavarotti? Bocelli? Nope. Elvis Presley. That's right. Our gondolier excitedly pressed play on the tape recorder and said for us he would play Elvis. We couldn't stop laughing. Don't get me wrong, it was an amazing ride and I like Elvis but we were in Italy. On a old fashioned gondola. But hey, he was thrilled so we went with it. The history and architecture of the buildings was absolutely amazing. I could have ridden all day. Almost. When you decide to ride a gondola, or any kind of sea-going vessel, remember to do it on an alcohol-free stomach. I learned my lesson that day.

It's ironic. Italy had never actually been one of the countries on my "to visit" list and yet I had the best time ever and I have always been plotting a return trip. The gondola is also another ride that I needed to revisit. I didn't know when it would happen but I knew it would. I put it out of my head though and moved on. Then came my birthday. Mike had a surprise for me. I'm not a good surprise person. I detect. No, I don't snoop, I detect. It's not my fault if I just figure things out. Sometimes with no clues at all. It's a gift. But I promised that I wouldn't even try and I didn't. So this time I had no idea what I was in store for.

We headed South. When we reached our destination I still didn't know what we were doing. We were on Coronado Island and that's when Mike pointed it out to me. There it was. The Grand Old Gondola. Whoa. I smiled and started to tell him about my first gondola experience. It brought back so many memories. This one would bring new and different ones. For starters, I could happily say I did not drink too much the night before. This is always a great start to any boat excursion. This time we actually had the wine with us. This is definitely the way to go. Drink the wine on the boat. On the boat.

I've definitely learned so much through the years. We also had snacks and a blanket. Now that is what I call planning ahead. We settled into our gondola, food in lap, wineglass in hand and pulled our blanket all around us. We were toasty warm and settled in. All we needed was our musical selection. Uh oh. What would we get? A flashback to my 1998 Venice gondola ride where the gondolier was trying to be more American? Or would we actually get an authentic Italian experience, right here in the heart of San Diego? Authentico it was. We cruised the bay for the next hour, relaxing to the sounds of Italian opera, enjoying our Italian wine - compliments of our friend Kevin - and eating our antipasto. For a brief moment, we didn't think about anything else. It was just the two of us. And the gondolier. Enjoying the peace and tranquility of everything around us in San Diego. One last time.

It was a perfect day. No rushing, no worrying about what to do, where to go or who we were going to do it with. It was just us. And for that day Mike transported us back to Italy. It started with homemade pizza for lunch. Compliments of Chef Mike. After we left "Venice", we went to Il Fornaio for dinner and completed the taste of Italy. There was even a fireworks show put on outside our restaurant window. How many people can say that they have a fireworks show put on just for them on their birthday?

That Mike sure is an amazing guy. I don't know where we'll be for the next birthday but it doesn't matter. We can transport ourselves to anyplace with an idea and a little imagination. As long as we enjoy ourselves along the way. And don't drink too much the night before getting in the gondola.

If you'd like to experience a taste of Venice in San Diego, visit The Gondola Company at to find out how.

For an alternate ending and for different pictures, go to my other blog at:

Friday, August 12, 2011

On Second Thought, Can't YOU Color Me Mine?

I love planning events. I'm sure many of you know this about me. Yes, there are also many of you that don't know this but are just as quickly finding it out. I like to find new and unusual things for me and "the gang" to experience and every now and then I even like to bring back an oldie but goody. This time I was bringing back an oldie.

Back in the day, way, way back in the day, my mom used to take my brother and I to ceramics class. I don't remember too much of the details but from what I do recall I know it was definitely much different than the way things are now. For starters, it was in a house. Uh oh, wait. The basement. I think it was in the basement. Isn't this how horror movies started? Interesting. I'll have to revisit this later.

I don't know how long we went for but I know it was a pretty happening gig - all the neighborhood kids were going. The only thing I remember making was a cupcake. My mom still has it. It's sitting on her dresser. She refuses to get rid of it even though I gave her my blessing. It has a pink bottom, chocolate frosting and a cherry on top. I think it even might have sprinkles. Or does is have strawberry frosting and a brown bottom? Damn that memory. Well, you can see where my artistic talents stretched. I had fun. I liked to paint that cupcake. It was cute. I knew I was not an artiste. But hey, I was okay with that. I still am. Which is why I decided a few weeks ago it was time to revisit ceramics class. That's right. I was bringing pottery back.

I knew Mike would be in. He's usually up for all of my plans and adventures. I found my other willing participant - Mellissa "2 L's" - and we were ready to go. Well, technically we did have two others join us but as they did not partake in the artistic adventures they are not permitted to be mentioned in this blog.

Just kidding. Lyndon acted as 2 L's "artistic supervisor" and Vicki was our photographer. Every group needs those. We arrived at Color Me Mine in Rancho Bernardo and at first we didn't know what to do. There were too many choices. Two huge walls filled with ceramic just stared back at us. We stood there for 15 minutes in complete silence. We didn't know what to do.

That's when it hit me. Mike is an artist. Mike can draw. Really well. I mean, really, really well. I can not. An idea popped into my head. Well, more like a scam. What if I convince him to pick a more expensive item and instead of both of us painting, just he does and I'll have creative control? I tried to work it. He wasn't falling for it. He insisted that he wanted me to have fun too and paint. Damn. I really wanted that large funky bowl. As we kept circling the choices, 2 L's got right to work.

Apparently she had arrived with a game plan. Seriously, a game plan! All along she planned to work a dog bowl and from the moment she arrived she got busy. We finally settled on the original bedrock mugs and got to work. I decided to go with simple elegance. It looked great in my head. And then Mike started on his. We all knew we were in trouble. Especially when he busted out the pencil and started free-forming. I should have known.

Once you are finished painting, it takes another 5 days before your work is completed. We didn't know what our final projects were going to look like. Well, we all knew what Mike's was going to look like. Fabulously awesome. This is what it's like when you play with the top dogs. I knew what I was getting into. As we stepped into the studio I realized my mistake.

Next time, we make sure we tell Mike ahead of time that he's doing all of our mugs. That way there's no confusion once we get there. Here is a shot of Mike's mug eating mine. Yes, I am happy with my final product. It does look much better than it did when I left the studio. But then I look at that fish. Some people just get all the talent.

For an alternate ending and for different pictures, go to my other blog at:

If you'd like to check out your own ceramics skills visit

Friday, August 5, 2011


I am not a big fan of summer. Of all the seasons, it ties with winter as my least favorite. Ok, maybe that's not completely true. Maybe winter slightly edges summer out as my least favorite but then again maybe not. In case you haven't already guessed it I don't like extreme weather. Don't like it hot. Don't like it cold. It's currently summer. And hot. So at the moment summer wins that title. I wouldn't even say it's a love/hate relationship. It's more of a like/tolerate relationship.

Sure, I like everything that summer brings - barbecues, swimming, warm sun - but did I mention the heat? There was never really anything that got me so over-the-top excited about summer that I couldn't wait for it to be here. Well, of course with the exception of my birthday on August 13th but that's just a given. That was already a previously known holiday and was celebrated throughout the land. For those of you who are just learning this fact, you may now proceed with the festivities as you like.

Every year, there is something that I look forward to. We've already established it's something besides my holiday, er, I mean my birthday. As the months get closer to August, I get excited. I count down the days with eager anticipation. Like a little kid at Christmas, the excitement builds. I know it's August when I see those fins swimming across the T.V. That's's Shark Week.

Shark week is currently upon us. Night after night, Mike and I sit on the couch to see what kind of education the Discovery Channel will give us. One of the first programs we watched was called "Summer of the Shark". It was interesting. Experts were trying to explain why there was an increase in shark attacks. I have my own take on the attacks but first I'll give you the expert opinion.

There was a change of weather patterns - warm water currents pushed cold water currents - which increased the number of great white sharks in the area (off the coast of Australia). They were juvenile sharks, or as I like to call them, "teenagers". Yeah, you know what I'm talking about. The juveniles don't have parents to guide them and as many animals do, they take test bites to see if something is edible. They were learning how to hunt. Great whites generally take a test bite and spit out. Unfortunately humans sometimes can't spare a piece, even just a taster. It's the other sharks you have to worry about. Those damn Tigers and Bulls. Those bad boys don't just want the sampler platter. So the increase attacks came down to lower water temperature which brought more sharks and they were learning how to hunt for new prey.

Here's my theory. Revenge. Plain and simple. The sharks have had enough. It's bad enough that years of over fishing have depleted their food source but now they are being ripped out of the ocean for some lousy shark fin soup. What's up with that? Cut off the fin, throw the shark back in the water and leave it to die? Of course they're pissed. I'd be pissed too. I'd be on the hunt. If people can hunt them down than really, what's so wrong with a shark hunting down a person? After all, the ocean is their domain. It's not like they're running out on land, shooting a man and running back into the water.

It's amazing how people get so angry when a shark attacks a person and they want to kill all the sharks. Aren't you were swimming in their domain. Why do people think they are entitled to everything - land, sea, air? If something gets in their way then they need to be taken out? I say go for it shark. I'm not getting in their way. Yes, I respect them. Yes, I would love to go cage diving with the great whites. Notice, I said cage diving. With use of cage. I'm not just jumping in the water, swimming freely, oblivious of my surroundings. I've always had an overactive mind. Many of you might refer to this as one of a paranoid or delusional variety. Say what you will. It will save me from being eaten. Crocodiles in the lakes, piranhas and giant sharks in the or oceans, you name it I can imagine it.

I also never go in the water alone. Safety in numbers my friends, safety in numbers. I also recognize that I'm getting into their ocean. If something were to happen is it the shark's fault? Not so much. Now if the shark came into my house that would be a different story. And incredibly interesting as well.

In honor of Shark Week, we thought we would let Charlie Brown join in the festivities. This is a little something we like to call Chaws. The way this little guy has been eating lately he can most definitely be compared to the Great White.

For an alternate ending and for different pictures, go to my other blog at

Thursday, July 21, 2011

House of Suds

Ah, the laundromat. It's been years since I've seen you. I've had nothing but fond memories of you. Strolling down Harvard Avenue in Boston with my little laundry cart, suds in one hand, reading material in the other. Lets not forget the quarters, pocket full of those. Call me crazy, I know, many have, many will, but I enjoyed my days in the laundromat. Why? I have absolutely no clue. I still don't. Really, I don't. It's not like I was a laundry pro from the start. You can ask my college roommates if you can find them.

Me and laundry - we had a rocky relationship from day one. I'll admit, I was a late bloomer. I didn't start doing my own laundry until I was in my late teens. Wait, that's a lie. Maybe it was more like my early twenties. Yes, that seems a bit more accurate. That's when I went away to college. There. The truth is out. Sure, I may have "helped" when I was little but really, what's throwing a shirt in the machine really teaching me when it comes time to choosing what soap to put in? I recall my first load. I was so proud. I pulled it out of the dryer and couldn't understand why it didn't smell fresh and clean and some items were still dirty. My roommate approached and read my detergent. I used Clorox color safe bleach. Trial and error my friends, trial and error.

I've come a long way since those college days. I can now admit that I actually like doing laundry. Again, I have no explanation for this. Now I'm not as big a fan of folding but cleaning those clothes is always a task I'm up for. I'm sure you're wondering what the deal is with the laundromat. Taking a trip down memory lane? Just bored and looking for a new place to hang out? Well, I am up for anything and I do like to amuse myself with interesting places to go but no, not this time. We have been taken over by the Stinky Towel Phenomenon.

What the hell is this you ask? It's nasty, it's stinky, it's something that just won't go away. It started off feint. We would wash our towels and everything was fine. And then, once water hit them it was like they were reactivated. BAM. A funk would waft off our towels and permeate the air. I didn't know what it could be. I read about a solution called sudsy ammonia that was supposed to take care of issues like this. We tried it for a while and it worked. Until it got worse. We were so confused. This was only happening to the towels.

We couldn't take it any more. We were running out of options. Actually, I mean towels. We only had two more left. We were getting desperate. We had to do something. Buy new towels? While this sounded like a really nice option we knew it wouldn't solve the problem. To the laundromat we went. We drove around for a while until we found one that looked suitable for a photo session. Er, I mean, nice enough to wash our clothes. We hopped out and set up shop. Things sure have changed since those college days. I think they shrunk the machines.

If you want the machine to fit all your towels you have to go to the deluxe machine and we all know what deluxe means. Deluxe prices. And the dryer! Sure, I'll admit, the prices had us in shock but I can't lie. I was enjoying myself. Where else can you sit in a basket, stick your head in a washer and try to make an emergency phone call with no phone all while getting your clothes nice and clean? Why, at the House of Suds of course. Ah, the joys in life can be found almost anywhere my friends, all you have to do is look. But just make sure you have your cell phone. In case of emergency.

*For the record, my towels are snifferiffic. Looks like I'll be at the laundromat more often.

For an alternate ending and for different pictures, go to my other blog at

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Butterfly House

For those of you that don't know me and for those of you that are just starting to get to know me there are obviously many things about me that you don't know. That's what I'm here for - to help fill in the gaps. Open my world up a little bit to you. In case you haven't guessed it already I'm a pretty adventurous person. I like to explore, do new things, see the world. I like to think of myself as the event coordinator. There are so many different activities to discover and I want to be able to take advantage of them and I want to share it in the process.

Too often we just sit around doing nothing or just complaining that there is nothing to do when all you have to do is look around and see how much is going on around you. I'm not alone in my quest. I have some research tools to guide me. Each month I receive Sunset & Westways Magazines that highlight all the festivals and fairs that will be going on up and down the coast. I know, I know - a whole month? Who wants to wait that long? Not me. That's just my back up. Thankfully I have discovered another handy little gem called "365 things to do in San Diego, CA". This is one of the places I use that have allowed me to discover amazing hidden treasures. The most recent one was The Butterfly House.

I was so excited when I read that we could go see the butterflies. Who doesn't love butterflies? When I first moved to San Diego I remember coming back from a job interview and as I was driving down the street I saw thousand of butterflies headed straight towards me. I was amazed. I had never seen anything like it before. I had to pull over so I could watch. They just kept coming, like a cloud of color, fluttering over my car.

I later found out they were migrating from Mexico. It was absolutely beautiful. I've never seen it again and I've heard that it's a rare sight to see. I told Mike about my new adventure and he was in. We were off. From the moment we arrived at the Butterfly House the butterflies were all over Mike. We were told they were attracted to his white shirt but Mike was pretty sure it was him. I won't lie. I was jealous. Those little beauties were even on his arm so this white shirt thing was wearing thin. I had to resort to holding a piece of watermelon to get a nice photo op. Hey, sometimes you do what you have to do. Butterflies taste with their feet. I guess Mike is just a sweet guy.

It was really quiet and peaceful. The house is not too big, not too small - 1200 square feet - and there are benches set up where you can relax and enjoy yourself for as long as you'd like. We were getting ready to leave when Mike saw the perfect butterfly and couldn't let this little beauty get away. I waited patiently. Very unlike me. No, really. It must have been the atmosphere. The butterflies, the serenity, the....ok, I'm done. What's next on the agenda?

To learn more about the Butterfly House and the Monarch Program, visit their website at

For an alternate ending and for different pictures, go to my other blog at

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Fun Begins

It was time to kick off the summer festivities and what better way to do that then with a wedding. Isn't that how we all start the summer? No? Maybe it's just something our family does. Or maybe it just seems that way. Or maybe it's because, oh who cares it's just another excuse to celebrate and party. That pretty much works for us. Ever since we got our save the date card we've been looking forward to June 2011. It was another chance to head on over to the East Coast.

Virginia Beach was the destination this time. It was all we could talk about for months. What to wear, what to do, what to see, did I mention what to wear? Ironically, Mike had his wardrobe choice all set months before I did. What's up with that? Finally the trip arrived and we were off. We flew Southwest. Not exactly my favorite way to go. I'm a Jetblue girl myself. I'm all about individual T.V. screens. And snacks. Remind me to stay true to the blue. I should get loyalty points in the future. But more on this later. Don't worry, I'll get back to this....

I was actually pretty excited to be welcomed to warmth. I know, strange concept. I have to fly from California in June to get some heat. What's up with that? True story. We landed and I took my jacket off. Aaahh. Wait. Did I actually welcome the humidity? Who am I? What did I do with the old me? We got ready for the rehearsal dinner at Waterman's and look at that - nighttime and I didn't need my sweater. Ah, this was nice. What a concept. To wear your dress and have it be seen instead of having to cover up. We basked in the warmth all night and it just kept on coming.

We woke up the next morning and opened the door. Woosh. Yup, it's hot. Yup, it's humid. But ironically we were enjoying it. Sure, we might not enjoy it forever but at that moment we were loving it. Mike and I sat on the porch and soaked it in. We arrived at the Norfolk Botanical Gardens for the Wedding Ceremony. We noticed how everything around us was just so green. We had forgotten just how green everything on the East Coast is. It was beautiful to be sitting there in the gardens -yes I will admit it was hot - and just see how alive everything was. In comparison, San Diego is kind of brown. We are in a desert after all. Sometimes you never really stop to think about it until you are sitting there in the garden surrounded by all of those trees.

But in the end, hot is hot. West Coast, East Coast, in the end really it's all the same. Hey, I'm still not a fan of sitting in the sun all day unless there's a big pool next to me and I have the option of jumping into it. Needless to say, I was relieved when it was time for my next wardrobe change and the party was about to begin. Don't get me wrong, I love weddings. The flowers, the dresses, the fashions, the party. What's not to love? Everyone knows it's all about the party. It was a great night.

Sadly we had to say good-bye to Virginia Beach. We had just enough time to run down to the boardwalk and burn our feet on the sand. Yes, you read correctly. I don't think I've ever run to the water so fast in my life. One minute we were strolling along the boardwalk enjoying a hot beach and loving life. The next it was run for the water, run for the water. Literally. But I wouldn't have changed it because it gave our family watching on the beach some good entertainment value and we all know I am here to amuse. I was glad to be of service that morning on the sand.

One of the best parts of the trip was running into the storm of lightning bugs. That's right my friends lighting bugs or as some people like to call them - fireflies. Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto, blah, blah, blah. It's a lightning bug. We were en route to my Uncle's house in Maryland and these little gems were everywhere. We love lightning bugs. Used to catch them all the time when we were little. Ok and maybe when we were teenagers too. Unfortunately there are no lightning bugs on the west coast.

These are the coolest bugs. It's a part of summer - when the sun goes down and you see mini lanterns glowing all over your yard it makes you feel like a kid again. I thought about bringing some home but I didn't think the people at the airport would be too happy about that. Bummer. It was time to head back to the airport. I promised to get back to this story didn't I? We flew Southwest. First come first serve my a**. Unless you're flying solo, this is not the way to go. No one likes to give their seat up. Even if it's not an assigned seat. No one likes to let people travelling together sit together. True story. People won't make eye contact with you. They will avoid you at all costs. The price of our Southwest flight was not that much cheaper than any other airline. Sure, they give you a little "stand up" comedy. A bag of peanuts, a bag of pretzels. Two checked bags for free. I think I'll take my chances on the Blue.

For an alternate ending and for different pictures, go to my other blog at