Saturday, December 26, 2009

Dessert Appetizer

We'd just finished a gigantic meal of turkey with ALL the trimmings as our Christmas feast and decided to "let the food settle" before dessert. Fast forward about 15 minutes, the dishes were done, and remember? we were going to wait for dessert? But one can't let too many minutes pass by on Christmas without tasty treats, so this appeared. And so we had a "dessert appetizer."

Originally posted at:

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Originally posted at:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

F*cebook Thanksgiving Challenge

This Thanksgiving challenge showed up on F*cebook earlier this month. I decided to take it on, and try to post one thing per day I'm thankful for, and I'm listing it here as well so I can remember the whole list at once.

A couple times I got a day behind, but found that my omission was only online... I had taken time to be grateful for a blessing each day, but occasionally forgot to document it.

Today, I'm thankful for...

7 - Lots of cuddle and play time with my cute nephew, Charlie.
8 - A wonderful afternoon with aunts, uncles and cousins, and especially for connecting with out-of-state cousins on Skype.
9 - Leftover chocolate cake and ice cream. Yummy!
10 - A beautiful sunny day and that I don't have to drive to class in the dark since it starts at 4 before it gets dark.
11 - Extra thankful today for the freedoms afforded her by the sacrifices of all veterans. I probably can't fully appreciate that everything they have done makes my life so much better.
11 (again, I was really thankful today!) - Got to do some early birthday celebrating today by having breakfast with friends I don't see enough, and then going to Disneyland with Jeanine to see the Christmas decorations.
12 - Enjoyed a fun girls night out with Genevieve, Sarah & Jeanine at The Melting Pot. Chocolate fondue... yummy.
13 - Spent a day shopping with my mom and SIL, which was lots of fun, and very thankful to get some Christmas shopping done.
14 - Today's my birthday! I'm enjoying all the birthday wishes from friends and family.
15 - Great fellowship at church this morning and a nice dinner out with my family tonight to celebrate my birthday.
16 - Got a lot of work done on my final project today. Plenty more to do before deadline Thursday, it's crunch time!
17 - Thankful for a few precious minutes cuddling with her newest cousin, and seeing his mom, dad and big sister, all visiting from Alberta. Is there anything sweeter than a baby sleeping in your arms?
18 - Feeling better today after a week+ of headaches, which I'm blaming on stress.
19 - My final project for my masters is finished, printed and turned in!
20 - Two things: I received an unexpected refund from San Diego State due to receiving a grant. How Cool is that??? Secondly, and even more wonderful, celebrating the birth of Susannah to my dear friends the Sharps.
21 - A wonderful afternoon with the Ligtenberg family for an early Thanksgiving celebration. Great times!!
22 - A very relaxing and enjoyable day with my good friend Rebecca. A day to just play and have fun is a welcome break in the routine.
23 -Got a few things checked off the to-do list today, this is good. Also, I'm gratefully anticipating a few days off this week.
24 -My cousin went into early labor today (2 months early) and I'm thankful docs were able stop contractions in an effort to keep her baby growing a little longer. So far, so good. We're hoping he makes it about 5 more weeks.
25 -I prepared 4 lbs of green beans for tomorrow's big dinner, and gratefully note that I'm blessed with plenty of food to eat, a warm place to sleep tonight, and loved ones to spend Thanksgiving with tomorrow. God is good, ALL the time.

November 26, 2009 - Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!-- Originally posted at:

Friday, November 20, 2009

I stand corrected... but not for long, I need to go to the bank

My very last post was about making my last payment to San Diego State, only 10 days ago. A payment I deliberately waited to make until the due date, since I resented just a bit that this payment is what was responsible for the majority of the huge increase in college costs this semester.

Well, that increase estimate requires an adjustment, because I got a check BACK from the college today, a result of being awarded a grant specifically towards the extra costs. I feel blessed. And now I need to go to the bank. :)

Originally posted at:

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thank you for your payment

I made my last payment to San Diego State this morning. I think. I hope. I can't believe I'm going to be finished next month!! People keep saying, "Wow, that's fast!" to which I can only reply: "I know!" Trust me, it's gone by quickly. Why is it that when I thought about what 18 months was going to feel like at the beginning, it seemed like forever, but now it feels like that was yesterday?

So I've decided I'm not going to attend graduation. They don't hold a ceremony in December, so I'd have to wait until May. I'm realizing this is the second time I'm graduating in December, as I finished my Calvin degree then, too. Amidst all the holiday stuff, it's hard for it to not get lost in the other seasonal festivities. At Calvin, I actually walked in the May graduation before I finished, so getting my degree was sort of a non-event. Although I did get some cool presents, including a Calvin Alumni t-shirt I still have to this day. :)

Last week was "grad fest" at the bookstore, so I checked out all the (expensive) extras: graduation announcements, diploma frames, class rings. I've always wanted one of those super-fancy diploma frames, and Calvin has them, too. Now I need two of them. Maybe I'll wait until I actually have some wall space to hang them on, but wouldn't these look nice on that imaginary wall? (Links for the curious: Calvin frame here and SDSU frame here.)

I may eventually indulge in these, but I think I'm going to forgo the other extras. Instead, the money I'm saving is going towards the big party I'm having in January. Doesn't that sound like more fun than sitting through a long graduation ceremony?

Originally posted at:

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Great Giveaways

I can't remember how I first ended up on the 5 Minutes for Mom blog... since, um, I'm not a mom. I do enjoy some of their related sites, 5 Minutes for Books and 5 Minutes for Giveaways. Oh, right giveaways... that was probably it. And they just kicked off their biggest giveaway season of the year, with 30 great giveaways during the month of November. Check it out here.

In conjunction with their giveaway for readers, they also sponsor a great program called Under the Tree, where identical gifts to the ones given away on their blog are given to families in need. At this post, you can read more about it, nominate a family, or just start on some early holiday warm fuzzies by reading about doing good things for people who need it. :)

This just in (11/20/2009) - today's giveaway is a SWEET new computer. Check it out!

Another one I can't resist: this adorable Minky blanket (11/24/2009.)

Originally posted at:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Month of Sundays

I missed church a lot in October. I went to a wedding one Sunday, was out of town the next, and walked in the Race for the Cure on the third Sunday, the last being an event I do every year. Although I made it back to church last Sunday for the first time in a month, I had volunteer responsibilities. Today, I was able to simply be at church, enjoying the worship, hearing the teaching, and indulging in some coffee, fellowship, and a lesson about the Reformation in Sunday School after the service.

I remember thinking a month ago, that it felt kind of good to have a break. I am usually volunteering in one way or another at least 1-2 times a month, and sometimes church feels like a duty and not a joy. But today, it was so good to be back and just soak in all the goodness of being part of it. It is good to give, but it is a blessing to receive.

Originally posted at:

Books: Mark of the Lion Series

I previously wrote about the first book in this series, A Voice in the Wind, and have since finished the second and third books as well.

The second book, An Echo in the Darkness, picks up with many of the same primary characters and continues their story. In this book, we see how unwise decisions made by many of the characters lead to heartbreak and destruction in their lives, but that the gospel of Jesus brings healing, hope, and redemption.

The last book, As Sure As the Dawn, picks up the story of one character not in book 2, and follows his life. He too is drawn by the irresistible grace of God. This story was very different from the first two, and one might consider it sort of a "spinoff," to use a TV term. However, it is the characters in this story who most boldly share with others the love and grace God has poured into their lives.

At our church, we've been hearing lessons on becoming "Bold Jesus Proclaimers." We're studying together the scriptures of early Christians, like Paul, who dedicated his life to sharing the gospel, and boldly and unashamedly did so. Although fictional tales, I find that the stories and characters of these books can be as inspiring as true stories of those that boldly share their faith.

A Voice in the Wind, An Echo in the Darkness, As Sure As the Dawn
by Francine Rivers

Originally posted at:

Book: In an Instant

I've learned in the last few years that I really enjoy reading biographies, and this one was no exception.

Bob Woodruff, a well-known and loved reporter, was famously injured while traveling as an journalist embedded with a military unit in Iraq. Although the story centers around Bob, it is primarily his wife Lee who writes the story of his injuries, treatment, and recovery.

But really, those details set the stage for what Publisher's Weekly calls a "beautiful story of marriage for better and for worse." I felt this was a good description, as what shines through in this story is the Woodruffs' dedication to and love for one another.

Bob's intense career as a national journalist in the years prior to his injuries meant his family traveled all over the country and the world, often moving every year or two. Through the challenges of frequent relocation and Bob frequently traveling, they built a strong relationship that stood the test during the difficult season. The stories of moments in their marriage prior to Bob's injuries and during his recovery were heart-warming. I really enjoyed this book.

In an Instant
by Lee & Bob Woodruff

-- Originally posted at:

Book: Into the Wild

I've enjoyed the two other Krakauer books I've read, Under the Banner of Heaven and Into Thin Air, so naturally I've been anxious to read this one for a while. I don't follow new book releases, so I didn't learn of this book until the movie was due to come out and the book was re-released with a movie tie-in cover. My dad enjoys Krakauer, too, so naturally I bought the book immediately and gave it to him for Christmas last year... knowing I'd have the chance to borrow it back when he finished it. I know, I know, totally selfish. My penance was waiting 10 months until he got around to reading it!

Krakauer again tells a compelling story, and I can't help but enjoy a book that is enjoyable to read, even when the topic is one I wouldn't normally select. Nope, I can't relate so much to a young guy who decides to walk into the Alaskan bush just to see if he can make it on his own. Making it on my own to me just means not having roommates in a modern shelter with heat, a/c and running water, preferably convenient to decent shopping. My dreams of visiting Alaska someday include travel by cruise ship. I've never been, but I hear it's an amazingly beautiful piece of earth, and I fully intend to make it there someday.

Christopher McCandless died in the Alaskan bush, forsaking society and anything he felt was a luxury. Part of me can't help but admire his desire for adventure, despite his apparent lack of judgment on some things, and a few bad choices. My dad's perspective on this story was that Kraukauer spends the entire book trying to convince the reader that Chris was not, in fact, crazy, despite what many thought. My perspective was a bit different, that he treated the story fairly and objectively. The state of Chris's sanity when he walked into the bush will never truly be known, but there is room to believe that he was - or not.

In any case, not a book everyone would enjoy, but again, an interesting read.

Into the Wild
by Jon Krakauer
Originally posted at:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween

Couldn't resist sharing this photo of my favorite little cutie, all dressed up for his first Halloween.

Originally posted at:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Climate Change Doesn't Matter

Provocative, right? At this point some readers are probably cheering me on. Some readers are probably ready to jump immediately to the comments and publicly berate me. But hang on for a second, and let me explain.

Like so many of the most important topics in the world, climate change is confusing. I've completely given up on my local media presenting any useful information. I've yelled at the TV when they've reduced their coverage of this topic to proving global warming with a sound bite (byte?) based on a statistic that even I can shoot holes in. As in, "the fact that average temperatures in San Diego have risen over the last six years proves global warming."

Seriously? The earth is how old (and no, I'm definitely not getting into that debate today) and temperature records have been kept for how many of those years (100, give or take) and you want me to buy global warming based on a 6-year trend? I don't think so. I was pretty much not excited when I found out that climate change was the selected topic for Blog Action Day.

On the flip side, I've talked to friends who have taken time to dig more deeply into this topic. They've read the books and seen the movies. One of them is scientist with a PhD. These friends tell me there is reason for concern. They tell me that the arguments and the science have merit and are worth taking seriously. They've convinced me that climate change isn't something to immediately dismiss just because the local news can't manage to report on it meaningfully.

So why doesn't it matter?

At some point, completely confused by all of the mixed messages, I threw up my hands in despair, ready to walk away from the whole thing and not make a statement. But then, I heard the still quiet voice: this is my Father's world. I realized that whether or not I believe in climate change, I have a responsibility to be a steward of my blessings. If recycling is good for the earth, I should do it because it's the right thing to do for the gift of God that is this planet. In that context, it doesn't matter if the climate is changing or not, it's empirically a good thing to do. It's what you might call a win-win situation because the right things to do in caring for the earth are many of the same things that the climate change voice advocates as being the right things to do.

I am far from doing everything I can do in this area. I frequently come up against the fact that doing the right thing is an inconvenience, and sometimes the easy thing wins. But I try. I take a reusable coffee cup and water bottle just about everywhere. I don't drink bottled water. I pack my lunch in reusable food containers instead of plastic bags. I almost never use paper plates, and on occasion I've volunteered to do the dishes so others won't use them. I recycle when I can, and reuse containers when they can't be recycled in my community. I believe very much that every little bit helps, and because of that, I keep trying to do more.

Thinking of it in this way has helped me understand how to approach this important but confusing topic, and I post this today because my hope is that what I've learned might in some way help your thinking about it. Thanks for reading.

Originally posted at:

Monday, September 28, 2009

Just when I needed it...

I'm in some crazy weird place this week, and I've been considering blogging about my current state which is a bizarre intersection of complete stress over finding a job when I graduate, freaking out over my final project, and in the middle of it all questioning both what on earth I was thinking when I decided to go back to school in order to totally change careers and if I can actually do what I'm hoping to.

Then I read this post over at my friend Sara's blog, and I think it was just what the doctor ordered. So instead of trying not to throw up over my current worries, I'm going to try a little more believing in myself and the One who I'm convinced sent me on this journey. Thanks, Sara, you rock.

Originally posted at:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I am a 5K runner... kind of

Last year, I worked like crazy for several months to run a 5K, which I did in October. It was great! Since then... well, I've not been as diligent in my exercising, and I definitely would only be able to run 5K right now because I would force myself... but it would not be pretty.

So the annual 5K I participate in is coming up in 5 weeks, and I'd love to run it again. So, I'm forcing myself to get to the gym 3 times a week between now and then so I can at least say I've given it my best shot. I want to be able to say "I am a 5K runner" not just "I ran a 5K once."

I have a friend who is training for a 10K right now, and another friend who is training for a marathon. A marathon! Part of me - OK, nearly all of me - cringes at the thought. Seriously, this 5K (3 mile) thing is hard for me, I'd have to be completely nuts to try 26.2 miles. (YOU, marathon friend, YOU are NOT nuts. You are amazing and inspiring. Sanity judgments are reserved for me only.)

But a little part of me, this voice in the back of my head, wonders if I could do it too. This is the same voice that watched the finish of the women's triathalon during the last summer Olympics and wished I was a brilliant enough athlete to win something that amazing. Probably not, but it's fun to dream a little. Sometimes a crazy dream is the thing that gets me through the last 5 minutes of my puny training run at the gym.

Originally posted at:

Monday, September 14, 2009

"I hate you!"

I don't hear these words very often. But I do hear them. Usually in the winter. Usually when I'm talking to a friend who lives somewhere that it snows. Usually when they ask me about the whether where I live. Well, I live in San Diego, so unless it's one of those infrequent days where it's pouring rain or on fire around here, or if it's extremely hot (100+,) the weather is probably just about perfect.

Today was a perfect day. I'm sitting here looking out a window that faces west. The sun went down a while ago, and the sky is still a yellow color at the horizon and fades into a whitish pink farther up. The hills I can usually see are being overtaken by a gigantic coastal fog bank. The air is still crystal clear here, but in a little while the fog will arrive here, too. When I wake up tomorrow morning, I will probably not be able to see as far as the neighbor's house, let alone the hills in the distance.

I left the windows open all day today, as temps rose only to about 75 or 80. Tonight's cool fog means tomorrow will probably be similarly wonderful. Today, I worked and studied at home, so I could enjoy this view and the great weather all day. Tomorrow will be a busy day, working in a windowless office followed by school in the evening. But right now, for this moment, I'm just enjoying this amazing, beautiful place I am blessed to call home.

Originally posted at:

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Volunteer Needed

** Thanks everyone for reading this and for those who have considered it! A couple of you volunteered and those profiles are being reviewed by the professor for suitability... then on to the real work! Thanks again! **

Blog readers, this is not the kind of thing I normally post, but I need a volunteer for a project I'm doing for school and thought this would be a great way to get the word out. As many of you know, I'm working on a degree in Financial Planning, and this is my last semester (Yippee!!!) During this semester, I will be completing a final project that involves writing a Financial Plan for a real person or family. Only I need to find that volunteer first!

So here's what I'm looking for. I need someone who would like help with at least 2-3 of the following financial goals/assessments:
- Retirement savings
- Education/College savings for you or your child(ren), grandchild(ren), or someone else (niece, nephew, etc.)
- Saving for one or more financial goals of any size: vehicle purchase (car, minivan, boat, RV, etc.,) big vacation, first home, vacation home, private island, lear jet, etc. (If you can dream it, I will be happy to help you plan for it!)
- Insurance analysis & planning: auto/home/life/health/long-term care, etc.
- Analysis of current financial position and cash flow

Other requirements:
- Must live within or near the San Diego area (sorry, I know a couple of my out-of-town readers were already hoping they'd be picked!)
- Must not be a family member (sorry, Mom!)
- Will need to be available to meet with me a few times over the course of the semester

One further note: Sharing your financial information is something you should rightfully be cautious about, and I promise you and your information will be treated with utmost confidentiality, including the fact that no information about the identity of you or your family or information about your situation will be discussed in a public forum of any kind including this blog. However, since this is an educational project, it will be reviewed by faculty at SDSU (because you want me to graduate, right?)

If you are interested in considering this opportunity, please e-mail me at RJLRebo at gmail dot com . If you know of someone else who may be interested, please feel free to pass on this link!
If possible, please contact me by Wednesday September 16. I will update this post (at the top) when a volunteer is selected.

Thanks so much for taking time to read my request!
Originally posted at:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Book: My Sister's Keeper

I'd been wanting to read a Jodi Picoult book for a long time, so when I saw this one on the store shelf during my vacation, I bought it immediately. I've seen this particular title on the favorites list of many friends as well, so it comes recommended.

This story is heartbreaking. Although a work of fiction, the characters and their life choices and decisions quickly enter your heart and mind: how would I handle this? How could I begin to make these choices? The lines between legal and moral and ethical are blurred, and the costs to one family member are for the benefit of another... but at how great a cost? And how does one make a decision in terms of costs and benefits when life is on the line... life itself as well as quality of life, and length of life?

Heartbreaking choices every one. And a story very well told. Although the themes and subject matter are difficult, the book is well-written and what I would call a page-turner. I will be looking for more Picoult books to read, with one title she has convinced me to be a fan. Not to mention that I just realized the movie is now showing at my local discount theater, so a screening may be in my near future.

My Sister's Keeper
by Jodi Picoult

(A sidenote: my last post was about a book that helps you make decisions. The decisions in this book are not the kind that could be made easily, quickly or without great consideration. I wouldn't normally make this kind of sidebar comment, but the subject matter of these two books is kind of oddly placed side-by-side because I happened to read these books right after one another.)

Originally posted at:

Book: Just Do Something

When I first heard about this book, it sounded so good, I recommended it to a friend... before I'd even read it. My recommendation turned out to be a good one... my friend called me halfway through to tell me how great it was.

Naturally it took my procrastinating self a couple months to acquire my own copy, but I'm so glad I did. I think it was the alternate title of the book that really grabbed me initially: "How to make a decision without dreams, visions, fleeces, impressions, open doors, random Bible verses, casting lots, liver shivers, writing in the sky..." And, the subtitle is not an oversell: it was liberating.

The idea of God's will can seem elusive. How to know if you're doing the right thing? But this book encourages a bold approach: if your decision is not a moral one or specifically addressed in the Bible and you are striving to walk in faith and seeking wisdom, then go ahead, make a decision. Make it confidently.

The author does briefly discuss the alternate forms of decision-making on the cover, as well as reasons why good decision making doesn't have to be a burdensome task. He doesn't discount that some decisions certainly do require great consideration and he discusses some strategies to help with those bigger decisions. At the same time, he firmly points out that choosing eggs or pancakes for breakfast, as well as many other life decisions, don't require a sign from God.

This book a short, informative read, only 128 pages, and I wish I'd read it a long time ago, probably late high school or college. The advice is still relevant today for any life, I would think, so it gets my recommendation.

Just Do Something
by Kevin DeYoung

Originally posted at:

Friday, September 4, 2009

Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

Penny wise, pound foolish is one of my pet peeves. Drives me crazy when other people do it. This week, I drove myself crazy with this folly.

Last week while on vacation, my cell phone sustained some damage. Let's just say it's very, very clean. Because it went through the clothes washer. And dryer. That's how I learned it had gone through the washer, actually, when my friends and I determined that "funny noise" coming from the dryer was actually my cell phone. You can imagine the exclamation that went through my head at this point.

Sadly, my first thought was that I was never, ever going to live this down, since this is actually the second time I've drowned a phone on vacation. Last time it was snorkeling in Hawaii. Seriously, as I was leaving for vacation, one of my friends reminded me to check my pockets before going swimming. Remarkably, although salt water completely fried the last phone, this laundered phone was actually working the next morning.

After another day or two, it became clear that the phone was going to be just fine but the battery was toast. Well, that's livable, right? Sure it is. As long as it's convenient to always be within 5 feet of an outlet when you want to talk on the phone. Or if you want to spend more on a replacement battery than you did on the phone to start with.

Here's where I got crabby. My phone was free, but prices to replace the battery started at $40 from the cell phone company. Online, I could find a relative bargain price of $6-13, plus shipping. The highest price was $50, and that salesperson recommended I contact my provider to see if I was eligible for upgrade. So I stopped by the nearest giant electronics store and found a $20 battery.

Here's the foolish part: I didn't buy it on the spot. I agonized over parting with $20. Big time. I failed to see that the cost of not spending $20 was significant inconvenience. I was irritated by the crazy pricing and marketing in our culture that means this is not the only situation where it's cheap to make an initial purchase but any small necessities later are astronomically priced to make up for it.

Sheepishly, I returned to the store the next day and bought the $20 battery. I wrestled open the package with my car key and installed the battery into my phone. Much better.

Our family is about to upgrade to new phones, so I hated to spend $20 to keep mine functioning for another week or two, but since it does function... at least I have a backup phone for the next time - heaven forbid - something happens to my phone.

Originally posted at:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Thankful Thursday: Free!!

Just got word late yesterday that I was selected to receive a scholarship (all expenses paid!) to attend a conference in October that is presented by the Financial Planning Association. From the conference website:

NexGen is a unique community for up-and-coming professionals who represent the future of financial planning.

As a community with distinctive goals and objectives, FPA NexGen 2009 has been designed to give the next generation of financial planners the tools and knowledge needed to be successful in today's ever-changing profession.

With specialized educational sessions and effective networking opportunities, FPA NexGen 2009 is the perfect place to find inspiration, support and encouragement.

I had been hoping to attend this conference all year... it was originally scheduled for July in Colorado but was rescheduled to October in Anaheim, CA. (One of my friends has pointed out already that the Anaheim Convention Center is a mere 1 block from D*sneyland, so this will be a double-bonus kind of event!)

I am so excited!!

Originally posted at:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


Today is the first day of classes for me. Only a year ago I went to my very first class, and today is the first day of my last semester. This seems like it's gone by really fast. Because it has. One of the reasons that I decided a year ago to attend classes full-time was because there were rumors of a notable fee increase for graduate business students. I figured I may as well get as many units as possible completed before the increase became effective, because it was going to be big.

How big? 97%

Almost double what it cost for the same semester last year. Yikes.

One small note is that I don't expect to spend nearly as much on books as I did a year ago. Of course I'm saying that without knowing how much books are going to be, but that's what I expect. Thank goodness for that!

Originally posted at:

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Vacation: Michigan

The vacation continues with a week in Michigan. This week, I spent my time meeting friends for a meal, or just hanging out in real time to catch up life. There weren't really any huge events or landmarks visited, just simple pleasures shared with good friends.

This is the kind of post that I write just so I can remember everything... feel free to come along for the ride!


Rain today in MI, like in IL yesterday. I kind of forgot that it rains in the midwest in the summer. Ooops!! Oh, well, I won't melt (as my mother was fond of saying when I was a kid.) When the weather cleared in the afternoon, my friend Sarah and I loaded up her kids and headed over to Calvin College for a walk around campus. It was amazing how strong the memories returned as I walked among and through those familiar buildings! Other Calvin-ites will recognize this spot:

After our walk around the familiar campus, Sarah took me to the Grand Traverse Pie Company, a new addition to 28th Street, for pie and cherry coffee. Yumm!!


Enjoyed a leisurely lunch and wander through Meijer Gardens this afternoon with my friend Ruth, a former co-worker. The Gardens have become a favorite, it seems that every time I'm in town, I meet her there!

Later, I met friends Dave, Beth and their almost 1-year-old Jonah for dinner. Sadly, I completely forgot to take a picture (how did that happen??) but I really enjoyed meeting Jonah for the first time and the tour of their first vegetable garden. I really enjoyed the fresh zucchini for dinner!


This is where things got a little busy trying to squeeze in as much as possible! And, it would seem, when I forgot to use my camera. A friend from Florida, Jon, happened to be in town also, and we managed to meet for breakfast, an unexpected surprise!

Later, I drove out to Ada to meet other former co-workers Phyllis and Twila for lunch, then wandered around at Baker Publishing to say hi to many, many others and see what's changed since I left 6 years ago. I'm sure I will forget somebody in this list, but it was great to talk with Sara, Debbie, Nathan, Dan, Pat, Kristin, Kara, BJ and Steve.

In the evening, I went to Holland Tunnel Park with Sarah, Kevin and kiddos and met Beth & Joe there also. And of course, what trip to the beach is complete without a stop at:


... started early with a walk and breakfast with Tracie, then an afternoon with Kathy & Jeff and kiddos. Again, no pictures, but a relaxing day just catching up with friends!! After dinner, I headed out to Grand Haven to Rob & Joanna's to spend the next two nights.


On Wednesday at the beach, the lake was calm and still and made for perfect swimming conditions for the kids in the group. Today, strong winds were blowing in, creating surf and waves bigger than I think I've ever seen on the lake! The waves were crashing over the Grand Haven pier and sometimes splashed as high as the lighthouse out at the end. Joanna and I braved the wind for a walk out to the beach to take a look. Joanna took this photo for me, one of my favorites from the whole trip!

After getting completely windblown, I met my friend Heather for lunch. Heather and I used to work together, and we were roommates for a year. She picked the Kirby Grill, where we mutually agreed to indulge in the Goat Cheese Fondue.

In the evening, we enjoyed a Grand Haven tradition - Pronto Pups (kind of like a corn dog) - and an ice cream social. Unfortunately, an error in the local paper meant that Joanna and I missed the Musical Fountain, and an lapse of brain cells on my part means that although I had my camera with me a lot, I forgot to get a photo of Joanna or her family, which is a big bummer. Hopefully they will still send me a Christmas card, and then I'll have one!


Saturday morning I left GH for Holland, and spent the weekend hanging out with Beth & Jeff and Beth's family. I had lunch with her and her sisters, then we did some shopping and later her parents hosted dinner for everyone. I spent a lot of time with Beth's family during college, and it's always so fun to see them all!

Sunday we went to church at Mars Hill and then had lunch at Culver's with Jeff's brothers and some friends. The food was super-yummy despite me not getting to have my favorite Cheese Curds, they were unavailable due to a recall. In the evening, I was able to connect with Sarah & Joel, who I met when they lived in CA for several years and now live in Holland, just a 15 minute walk from Beth's house!

Beth and I haven't spent so much time together since we were last roommates in 2003, so I'm afraid that we were pretty silly at times, and her husband could do nothing but roll his eyes and laugh at us. We had a great time, though, and even squeezed in a late-night trip to Me*jer.

Here's a fun photo of our goofy selves... right before this was taken, we were exchanging rapid-fire instant messages with each other and therefore laughing a LOT. Jeff just kept looking across at us like we were crazy, and then became convinced when he found out that we were having an electronic conversation while sitting in the same room.

And a last snapshot on Monday before I got on the train to head back to Chicago. I hate goodbyes. But you know you have a good friend when they get up at 0'dark-thirty to bring you to the train station. :)

Originally posted at:

Friday, August 14, 2009

Vacation: Girls Weekend!

For most of the last 10 years - as in all the years since college - a group of my girlfriends has been talking about planning a girls getaway together. Finally, we did it. Not perfectly, since there were a couple faces missing we would have loved to see, but it was a good start.

For me, this weekend kicked off a long vacation between my summer job and my fall classes. It was wonderful to enjoy many hours of girl talk, some shopping, great food (including my favorite Gino's East pizza!) and some of the sights in downtown Chicago.

I love getting to see the famous Cloud Gate sculpture (AKA "the bean") in downtown's Milleniumm Park.

My friend Sarah took this photo of me with the cityscape in the background.

And here's all of us, after enjoying a yummy dinner & dessert at Claim Jumper. From left: Sarah, me, Sarah, Annie, and... Sarah. Yes, really, 3 of the 5 girls are named Sarah!!

Originally posted at:

Friday, August 7, 2009

How are you? No, WHO are you?

You might think from the title that this post was about someone who called the wrong number in the middle of the night. But it's not.

Or maybe it was a random call from one of those poor souls who feed their families by working as telemarketers.... Nope. Not that either.

Instead, I talked by phone this week with a friend from high school that I'm pretty sure I haven't even seen since we walked down the aisle to Pomp & Circumstance in our blue gowns and mortarboards. The title words were hers and they were exactly right: after this many years, we don't really know each other anymore. But we're about to find out, because I'm going to meet up with her in a couple weeks when I happen to be in her city.

Her question has really made me think these last few days. Who am I really? What's different about me since high school...? Since college...? Since I moved to California 6 years ago? What's different about me since last week?

I am not good at answers to these kinds of questions on the spot. This is why I fear interviews. I can always think of good answers to questions with time, so if I can anticipate the questions, all is well. Out of the blue? I come up with the perfect answer approximately the next Wednesday. But the good questions do percolate in my mind.

This one's been fun to think about. I may have a few things to say about the answers ... when I get around to figuring out what they are.

-- Originally posted at:

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

HOW far?

I just got home from a fabulous weekend in the Bay Area. I'm exhausted, but it was so worth it. I got to play in the park and go out for yogurt with Luke & Lucy. I visited San Francisco. I went boating on a lake with some of the greatest friends a girl could ask to grow up with. My good friend was the guest speaker at church on Sunday. I had a delightful and indulgent dinner with my cousin at The Cheesecake Factory. It was a jam-packed, so it's no wonder I can't seem to keep my eyes open!

I even managed to bring home a souvenir that also managed to fill a hole in my wardrobe. You see, for literally MONTHS I've been trying to find a basic zip-up hoodie sweatshirt. For months before that, I kept telling myself I would eventually want a San Diego State hoodie badly enough to fork over $60. (Yes, $60. Ridiculous.)

Well, guess what. Despite the fact that even in California, sweatshirts are necessity year-round, I haven't been able to find one. But this I know: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco" is a reputation gained honestly. For uninitiated tourists, the shops of Fisherman's Wharf are happy to help you out with a modestly priced sweatshirt, fleece or windbreaker. No sarcasm, either. For a $17.99 plus tax, I went home with a warm & fuzzy sweatshirt that I will probably wear until it falls apart. I didn't really fly 500 miles just for a sweatshirt, but as desperate as I was getting... it wasn't entirely out of the question.

As for the reputation of the city being cold in the summer, it was doing its best to change it's image the day we were there: sunny with a nice breeze. I even got a little sunburned. It was wonderful.

This is the only photo I have of the weekend, which my friend Sara took with her iPhone. She also - and this is proof of her friendship - served as my fashion consultant while keeping two kids occupied in the touristy store that was decidedly not kid-friendly. Thanks, Sara! Loved our day, and our weekend, together.

Originally posted at:

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Nephew in Motion

Yeah, I'm waaaaaay behind on blogging, it's been a month! How does that happen? Oh well. Here's some videos of my adorable nephew in action.

First, bathtime at Oma's. That's Oma's voice in the background, trying to get him to smile. Eventually, he loses interest in the aunt behind the camera and shares his cute grin.

And after his bath, showing off his funky army crawl... notice he propels himself mostly with his left arm and right, but his left leg is also constantly in motion. He really really wanted to get his hands on his dad's flip flop so he could try to eat it (of course,) so we kept throwing it across the room so we could watch him crawl.

If you're reading this on Facebook, you'll want to check out the original post at: to see the videos.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy 4th!

Best 4th so far: watched fireworks on the deck of the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier museum in San Diego. Definitely on my "things to do again" list.

This is me with my friend Rebecca checking out some of the museum's aircraft before dark. This was a helicopter that was involved in the recovery of several Apollo Missions.

Yes, actually, I thought it was funny to sit IN the airplane's engine for a photo. Even better? Nobody stopped me.

"... and the rocket's red glare,
the bombs bursting in air,
gave proof through the night
that our flag was still there."

Happy Birthday, United States!

Originally posted at:

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Charlie is 6 months old

Thought I'd share a photo of my nephew from last week. He is 6 1/2 months old (already!?) He is very generous with his cute smile when he's around people he knows, but cries sometimes when faced with a room full of unfamiliar faces. (Don't worry, little guy, I sometimes feel like that, too!)

This one was taken while he was hanging out in the ExerS*ucer - bet you can't tell he just LOVES that!!

Charlie ~ June 20, 2009
Originally posted at:

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The longest day of the year

Monday was the first day of summer and the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Yesterday, the sun went behind the hills a few minutes before 8:00 pm here in San Diego. As I looked out the window and enjoyed the view for a moment, I was remember the longest day of the year during a summer that I think was 10 years ago. Maybe 11.*

I lived in Michigan then, and it was my second summer there. I still consider it a great injustice that I survived five very cold, snowy and long Winters followed by five still-cold, mushy, gray Springs in Michigan before I experienced my first glorious, green, amazing Summer there. Ah, summer. But back to the real story.

One of the glorious things about summer is that daylight just lasts forever. Seriously. Sunsets around 9:30 pm were something I had never before experienced, and it was just awesome. I guess it's a perk received as you go farther north, that one gets more daylight hours in summer in trade for a shorter warm season. Did I mention the five long, cold winters?

So that summer, I decided that the only suitable way to mark the official start of summer and the longest day of the year was to drive out to the beach, put my toes in the sand and watch the sunset. With friends. And wine. Really, it was wonderful. So wonderful that I imagined I would make it a tradition and do it every year.

Somehow, it did not become a tradition. If I did it again once or twice, I don't at all remember it. I live about the same distance from a beach now as I did then, and I haven't done this once since relocating to California six years ago. Maybe the magic is lessened by six years of nearly perpetual summer and no snow, but I think it's just forgetfulness because I still think that sunsets are the greatest show on earth.

So magical, that I often fail to notice them, despite the view from the beautiful place I call home. Here's a little piece of magic from tonight.

* Correction: the official scrapbook has been checked, and this was actually only 8 years ago, in 2001.
Originally posted at:

Friday, June 19, 2009

Frequent Flyer

Recently I realized that it's been more than a year since I've been on an airplane. This is rather unusual for me. I love traveling and usually find myself compelled to get out of town at least a couple times a year. I guess I've been sort of distracted by a little thing called grad school.

However, that being the case, I have some flexibility this summer and I blocked out two full weeks for a vacation in August. In January, I plan to be back to work full-time, so for at least a short while after that, I will have less flexibility (read: vacation time) and I therefore decided there's no time like the present.

So I bought plane tickets.

And then I panicked.

What on earth am I doing spending hundreds of dollars on plane tickets on my budget? Am I crazy?

In a conversation with a friend, I told her I was having buyer's remorse over my non-refundable purchase. Being the good friend she is, she talked me out of it. The regret, that is. I had already explained to her that my plans included traveling to three states to visit family and good friends. She pointed out that by choosing to spend my money to invest in people and relationships, I was investing in something good.

With that... a weight lifted, and the vacation planning fun begins. :)
Originally posted at:

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Quick Update: Grad School

A lot of people have been asking how things are going with school, or maybe it's that I've been talking to a lot of people I don't see very often. :)

Either way, I thought I'd just write a short update on what's happening with school. I finished the Spring semester just before the Memorial Day weekend. I had exactly 6 scheduled days off before I was due to begin my summer class and a part-time intership for the summer. I enjoyed seeing my cousin Ashley and her husband Mike that weekend, doing some shopping and catching up (if only briefly) with friends Kim, Andrea & Randy up in Temecula (I don't get up that way very often anymore) and a day at D*sneyland, which probably surprises no one.

Highlights of the day at D*sney included spending most of the day dripping wet after a careless decision to get on the Grizzly River Run "because I didn't get that wet last time," ruining the attraction photo of the people sitting behind me on Hollywood's Tower of Terror because I kept my hands up and therefore in front of their faces the whole time (Who really wants to spend $14.95 on a 5x7 of you screaming and with bad hair, anyway?) and riding in the front of the Monorail. Yes, where the driver sits and you have a 180-degree view of the entire ride. Very cool, I highly recommend it!

I am taking a summer class for two reasons. I registered initially because I didn't want to overload on units in the fall, and in the process earn my degree at the expense of my sanity. After registration the fall schedule was published and as it turns out, taking a summer class become necessary because I couldn't have taken enough credits in the fall semester to graduate because certain classes overlapped. So, two nights a week for six weeks I'm studying Real Estate Appraisal. Actually, I should be studying right this minute because I have a test tomorrow, but well, obviously I decided that could wait a few minutes.

After my class ends this fall, I will continue working 3 days a week at my internship job, then I am taking 2 weeks off at the end of the summer before the fall semester begins. I'm also still doing some part time work from home for 5-10 hours a week. The first three days of the August vacation are going to be meeting up with some girlfriends in Chicago, the rest is still undecided. I have to say I'm looking forward to visiting the midwest in the summer... which I haven't done since 2004 for Beth's wedding.

The fall semester will be my last semester - already! I can't believe it, with two semesters done, and only a total of three, it feels like this has gone really fast. Probably because it has gone really fast. :) Then... the plan after that is to go back to work full-time in the financial planning field, study to take my CFP (Certified Financial Planner) exam in February, move to San Diego to be closer to where the jobs are... and dive in to a new chapter in life. Life is busy, but good, and I'm excited for the future!

Originally posted at:

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thankful Thursday: First Day

I started another new job today. I was blessed with a paid summer internship at a financial advising firm, Waddell & Reed. The team I'm working with seem really great, and willing to let me dig in and learn some financial planning skills along with helping out with some of the usual internship stuff like... filing. Which I love. Not. But overall, it promises to be interesting. They have been very flexible, allowing me to schedule hours around my summer class and to avoid the worst commute times so I don't spend hours in traffic.

God is good, and I am grateful.

Originally posted at:

Book: Dating Big Bird

I went on a brief shopping spree at the library used book store last week. I was feeling temporarily liberated from my textbooks, and ready to feast on some brain candy. Only after reading this book, I was already tired of brain candy and ready for something better. Too bad the other books I bought are also brain candy.... I think I need to make work of spending my time in books with a little more substance.

This book is about a 35-year old single girl who is desperate to have a family, although she hasn't quite managed to find the right guy to be the father in her ideal scenario. She and a friend in a similar state of want begin discussing a deadline, a date on which they will make a decision about starting a family with or without the perfect guy. In the end, she and her friend make different decisions about how to reach their goal.

I suppose the story has some interest, but it was also rather predictable.

Dating Big Bird
by Laura Zigman
Originally posted at:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sewing Project: Drawstring Bag

I've had in my mind for a while a sewing project I've wanted to do, and with a few days off between spring semester ending and summer classes starting, I decided there was no time like the present. For a few years, I've been holding on to old jeans, mostly for a big sewing project that is still in my future, but also because I thought it would be great to make a purse/bag out of denim.

Recently, I've been spending a lot of time at D*sneyland. When I go someplace like that, I just can't stand carrying a purse, it's got to be a backpack so my hands are free. So for a while, I've been using this simple bag where the draw strings are also the backpack straps.

This was a freebie. No offense to the Eastern Municipal Water District, but I always wore it so the words were against my back because they're kind of ugly. The fabric is cheap and it's not going to last forever, so eventually I'd need something else. At some point, I realized that the style would be pretty simple to copy without a pattern, so an idea was born to make one out of some of the denim fabric I've been hoarding.

I'm not by any means a super seamstress, but I've started following a few blogs for sewing tips, and have been loving the tutorials and free ideas at Stardust Shoes. When I saw this post, an idea was born to use one of her techniques on my bag, so I bookmarked her tutorial on Reverse Applique.

Fast forward to this weekend, and I have some time to "play" with the sewing machine. Keep in mind that when I "play" it is not without the making of many mistakes, so there was some seam-ripping involved when I had to fix a few things. Remember, no pattern was involved, so I occasional sewed part of it together only to realize that I should have completed another step first... and therefore spent some quality time with the seam ripper.

I dug through my stash of fabrics and found some fun patriotic prints to use for the accents on the bag, and this is the result. This first photo shows the bag laid flat. You can see the basic rectangle shape. Rather than stitch together pieces of denim to make the right size, I used the legs of the old jeans, including the existing seams.

I made a couple design adaptations here. First, the original used grommets to anchor the bottom end of the straps, and I wasn't feeling like I wanted to attempt grommets in my finished project. (Not to mention I had neither the grommets or the tool to set them.) Second, I think the bag will be easier to use (that is, pack full of stuff) with a simple box bottom. So I added a box bottom, securing the backpack straps into that seam. Second, the original used grommets to anchor the bottom of the straps, but I am less confident of using hardware on my fabric items than in my sewing, so instead, I decided to sew the straps into the seams that formed the box bottom.

So what about that great reverse applique idea I raved about? My camera isn't the best at close-up shots, but here's a tidbit of the design:

And finally, here's the front of the bag with the full design, and also folded over to show the coordinating fabric I used to line the bag:

Yes, I know. I'm officially M*ckey crazy. But isn't it cute?? Can't wait for my next trip to the happiest place on earth.

Originally posted at:

Book: Redeeming Love (Re-read)

By the same author as A Voice in the Wind, Redeeming Love is a retelling of the story of the prophet Hosea, set in California during the 1840's gold rush era. Like his counterpart in the Bible, Michael Hosea is called to marry a prostitute. Like her counterpart, Angel shames him by returning to her old ways time and again.

Through her retelling, Rivers shows a picture of a God full of grace, love and tender mercies. She shows us a man obedient to God through challenges so great, he must only be able to endure them because of the God's grace.

This is a wonderfully written love story, but the love Michael Hosea for his wife is only half of it. The real love story is the life-changing love of a God for his people. And that is what makes me want to read this story again and again.

Redeeming Love
by Francine Rivers
Originally posted at:

Book: A Voice in the Wind

I am a fan of Francine Rivers, and up until now, had read quite a few of her books. I've actually had a copy of this one for years, and haven't gotten around to reading it. I tried once or twice before, but it was a "slow starter" and I just couldn't get into it. A month or two ago, as I was running short on fresh reading material, I picked it up again. And I can't figure out why I waited so long.

With a bit more patience, I would have discovered this was not an exception to Rivers' ability to weave a good tale with strong, distinctive characters, and enjoyable to read. Set in the early Roman empire, sometime not long after Christ's death and the fall of Jerusalem, we meet characters from various backgrounds who find themselves struggling to find their way in Rome.

Hadassah, a slave from Jerusalem and a Christian, quietly and humbly serves her spoiled mistress Julia and her family. Julia's brother seeks the wealth Rome has to offer despite his father's wish that he take over the family business. Atretes, captured in Germania, is a slave of the fighting arena, forced to kill or be killed in vain, as he serves as entertainment in Rome's insatiable thirst for blood.

Each makes decisions that affect their own lives and those around them, until at the end, their stories are intertwined, and the heartbreaking choices of one threaten all of them. As soon as I finished reading, I requested the second book in the series from the library, I will look forward to it arriving!

A Voice in the Wind
by Francine Rivers
-- Originally posted at:

Book: The Red Tent (Re-read)

I did not spend my entire holiday weekend reading. However, I've slowly been accumulating a stack of books that I've finished reading without blogging about them, this is the first of three.

~ ~ ~

I love this book. I think this reading was probably at least my 3rd time, possibly the 4th or maybe even the 5th. I received my copy as a gift, on my birthday in 2001, from a friend who loved it, too. (I know this because she was kind enough to write in it, ensuring I will never part with this copy!) Diamant is terrific story teller. I have since read some her other novels, and while I generally recommend her has an author, I have enjoyed this one the most.

The Red Tent is a fictionalized history of the four wives of the Biblical Jacob, and "their" daughter Dinah, born to Leah. Other than a brief mention in the Biblical account, we don't know what happened to her after her brothers avenged her honor at Shechem, thus the fiction which tells of her life both before and after that.

The title dwelling was a place where women had a respite from their usual work for a few days during each new moon. A few days spent only in each other's company. Babies were born in the red tent. Friendships were formed. The bonds of sisterhood deepened. As the only daughter in the family, the story tells her upbringing by four mothers not just the one who gave birth to her.

Some may not like this book because it embellishes the Biblical account and fills in narrative where it is quiet. It is a work of fiction, so like any book in that genre, it can't be read as truth. However, it is a beautiful story, one I highly recommend.

The Red Tent
by Anita Diamant
Originally posted at:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sing Me a Memory: My Savior, My God

Worship at my church was awesome today. I was singing on the praise team today, which I love, because I get to worship at Wednesday rehearsal AND on Sunday. The songs this week included several favorites that hadn't been in the rotation recently, so it seemed like our rehearsal was punctuated with an, "I love this song!" for pretty much every one of them.

One of today's songs I remember singing for the very first time at this church, only a few weeks after I'd started attending there. I don't remember the exact circumstances, but I remember that my heart was not at peace. I was frustrated, or upset about something. I think that in my state of mind, I most likely did not feel like even going to church that day, so it was one of those Sunday mornings when I showed up out of obedience and not out of desire.

Then we sang these words:

My Savior loves, my Savior lives,
my Savior's always there for me
my God He was, my God He is,
my God is always gonna be

I was overwhelmed with the reminder that God is eternal, He is powerful, and most of all, His plan for me is SO much bigger than any crazy, earthly, temporary circumstances in my life. This was over three years ago, so I no longer remember anything about that particular Sunday. But every time I sing this song, I remember God's perfect timing in using it to teach me exactly what I needed to hear the first time I heard it.

My Savior, My God is written by Aaron Shust.
Originally posted at:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

At least this wildlife was outside...

Here in Fallbrook where there is lots of open space, there are a lot of critters around the house. Usually they are outside, although it seems more than a fair share of spiders find their way inside. Lots of crickets, too, and once - a lizard.

Outside, various critters have been spotted: an owl , a hawk, hummingbirds, finches, and orioles (among other birds,) gophers, rats, mice, rabbits, scorpions, a tarantula, and more than one kind of snake, including rattlesnakes. Two summers ago, I came much closer to a rattlesnake than I ever wanted to without a thick layer of glass separating us.

Today, I noticed this guy right outside the window:

Isn't that just great? I actually heard him before I saw him... well, I heard some scuffling outside when he attacked the unfortunate critter that became his lunch. Later, he slithered off toward a patch of sunlight, presumably for an after lunch nap, and I snapped this photo. This is a gopher snake, and I'm guessing he's about 5 feet long. These aren't poisonous, and they are actually useful for controlling the population of rodents, so I left him alone after snapping a few photos.
-- Originally posted at:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Red Bull Air Race

For the third year in a row, the Red Bull Air Race came to San Diego this weekend. I first saw the race two years ago, and it was so cool I was disappointed to miss it last year. So this year, when some of my family decided to make a weekend of it and go camping in Coronado (across the bay from San Diego) to be close to the big event, I definitely wanted to join the fun.

Picture small planes flying 200+ miles an hour through an obstacle course that floats on the water. They must fly low enough to pass through each gate, but high enough not to end up in the drink. It's quite impressive to watch.

My cousin Michael is a huge fan of all things aeronautical, and took these terrific photos. This is what really fast looks like:

For some of the gates, the pilots must fly through at a 90-degree angle, they call it "knife edge." There's a 2 second penalty for not executing the angle precisely. One of the final four flyers dropped from 2nd to 3rd place due to receiving this penalty.

Other targets must be flown through exactly level, like this one. Because the turns on the course are quite tight, it's a balancing act to pass through the gates in the correct orientation and maintain the speed required to win. This particular gate was hit several times on Saturday, essentially shearing off the top of the cone. The gates are inflatable, and can be replaced in under 5 minutes by a team that arrives at the floating gate by boat. (Sorry no photos of a destroyed gate.)

For all the targets, the pilot must fly so that the cockpit is vertically between either the red or blue areas on the gate. In both of the above photos, the pilot is positioned correctly. The penalty for flying too low through a gate is bigger than the penalty for flying too high through a gate. The penalty for flying too low other than at a gate is an unscheduled swim, and this pilot came really close. There were scuba teams ready throughout the race to go diving after sinking pilots, just in case.

Interested in seeing more? Check out this video from the race website, it shows the planes in action.

Originally posted at:

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Disneyland's Club 33

Disclaimer: This post is about my magical experience at Disneyland's Club 33 this week, and might be just a little too much detail for a non-Disney fan. I just wanted to capture all the details before I forget them, so feel free to come along for the ride....

The adventure begins at some point in the afternoon as we wander through Disneyland's New Orlean's Square, and past the doorway marked only with the address "33." Other than the sign, and an inconspicuous intercom box inside the doorway, there is no indication of what lies beyond the door. I got so excited the day before that I, naturally, did a web search and did some reading about it.

We are told to arrive early for our 6:15 reservation, but then are asked to wait until then before we are invited inside. Let the picture taking begin! We took individual photos of each member of our party by the sign, and then again as we stepped inside.

The staff was very accommodating of our obsessive photo-taking, which is great, since I'm sure this is the only time I will every be walking through this door! The ground floor lobby includes only the hostess desk, the staircase and the lift to the second floor restaurant. We take another photo here, as we are informed this is a popular photo spot - I'm guessing they see a lot of starry-eyed first-time visitors!

At the top of the stairs, there is a smaller dining room to the right, which is directly over the Blue Bayou restaurant entrance. We are walked to the left, and down a hallway which I later realized takes us over the street below, to a larger dining room which overlooks the Rivers of America.

The ambience is impeccable. The room has high ceilings, gorgeous dark wood crown moulding, a beautiful fireplace, and fresh flowers. The staff is friendly, and indulgent of our savoring the experience of eating at the one and only Club 33, giving us plenty of time to take in our surroundings and ponder the menu before we order. The table is set for a multiple-course meal with dishes that were designed especially for Club 33.

The menu is divided into two choices: a pre-selected 5-course meal of the chef's choosing or a la carte selections for appetizer, main dish and dessert. Jeanine and I both opted for the 5-course meal, and it was amazing!

-- * --

1. Romaine Lettuce Salad, Balsamic Caesar Dressing

2. Seared Rare Ahi, Garden Carrot Risotto, Jalapeno Mousse

3. New York Steak, Roasted Fingerling Potato, Freestone Peach Reduction

4. Regional Artisan Cheese

5. Valrhona Chocolate Creme Anglaise Barr, Hazelnut Nougatine

-- * --

I think my favorite part of the meal was the Seared Ahi, which literally melted in my mouth. So delicious! Although, it's hard for a dessert lover like myself to admit that anything was better than the beautifully prepared chocolate creationg that ended my meal! Besides the fact that everything tasted wonderful, the presentation was beautiful and being such a visual person, that only added to my enjoyment.

Jeanine was presented with a special birthday creme brulee dessert, complete with a glowing Tinkerbell. (I just realized as I posted this photo, that the chocolate design on the edge of her plate says "Birthday," further proof that every detail was perfect.)

The entire meal was a relaxing, unrushed experience. It was hard to believe at times that this oasis, a beautiful, quiet delightful restaurant, was right in the middle of what is usually one of the busiest areas of the park. I had no idea how much time had passed while we enjoyed our meal until we stepped outside just before dessert to see the view from the balcony to find Disneyland was empty... the park closed at 8:00, and was empty and quiet.

And then, although nothing about the evening was rushed, it was over too soon. Because the park was closed, we are escorted from New Orleans Square through Adventureland and back to Main Street USA. This was the most surreal part of the experience, walking through an empty Disneyland, the memory of a dinner at Club 33 fresh in my mind.

This was an experience I will never forget. Given the chance, I would go to Club 33 again, although truly, I feel I've been lucky beyond my wildest imagination just to go once.

***This post is especially for my friend Chris, who loves Disney way more than I do. If lightning strikes twice, and I am lucky enough to go to Club 33 again, I hope that it is with you.***

Originally posted at: