About Me

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I am a new wife and a new addition to the adult world. I have finally started my career as a teacher and I am trying to live my life while waiting for the next step (house and family). I am trying to keep up with my love for writing. I do it because it allows me to relive an adventure already taken or to create an experience I may not have had. I am currently teaching, trying to write a book, working on this blog, and loving on my adorable and awesome husband.

Aug 9, 2014

Food in Europe

We have almost completed our 3 weeks of traveling in Europe and we have had some great meals and some not so great meals.
Eating in London:
- You will pretty much get what you expect... except for the "clotted cream" incident. This was served next to a lemon cake dessert and expecting it to be vanilla ice cream we had a big bite of warm, unsweetened clotted cream. Yeah.
- Desserts seem to be a little less sweet and spicy is quite a bit less spicy.
Some general things you should know about eating in Italy (where things are most different) are as follows: 
- Close your menus so they know You are ready to order.
-You do not need to tip, it is included.
-Stay away from restaurants near tourist attractions or with a great view (unless it's a high class restaurant). Just a few streets over will make a huge difference in price and quality of food.
-If you order fish in Italy it will all be these brown slabs of meat in a sauce (we had this happen 3 times). To be safe just stick to things with pictures.
- You're pasta will always be aldente (a little under cooked/chewy). And the noodles seem to all be more eggy then at home.
- DON'T eat the bread they put on the table unless you want to be charged for it.
- You have to ask for your check, they won't bring it to you. And you often have to go up to the front or bar to pay.
- Venice was particularly challenging to get food. Most restaurants actually do close for the siesta or whatever it is called here. Between 3 and 5 and then promptly close around 9. It's definitely not impossible to find a place during the "off" hours but you will get a lot of unfriendly "NO'S" and shooing...

*I'll add some restaurant suggestions when we get home and I get a chance to go through things.

Aug 8, 2014

Tips for Traveling Europe

We have almost completed our 3 week adventure through Europe. Starting just outside the EU in London. From there to Paris. On to Rome, then Florence, and finally Venice. These are some things I have picked up along the way.
- use Travelocity + Retailmenot for booking hotels
- use tripadvisor city guide apps for hotel reviews, as well as restaurant and itinerary suggestions.
- if your phone is in a case the compass will probably point you in the wrong direction...
- getting cash from an atm is usually "cheaper" then credit card fees. Check with your bank and credit cards!!! (Some Amex cards have no foreign transaction fees)
-city bikes are great use them (you can do it!)
-the underground (metro) pretty easy to traverse and super useful
- the pound has a higher exchange rate than the EU and on top of that London is not cheap.
- be at Notre Dame at opening time 7:45am and it's a great experience
- again the metro is great
- make sure to see the Eiffel tower at night, at the top of any hour.
- if you can afford it, take a tour (or three) with The Roman Guy. You don't wait in lines and get to see things you otherwise would not. Like the dungeons and 3rd floor of the colosseum and the sistine chaple with about 40 people vs 200.
- get free drinking water from ANY fountain
- you don't need to tip. It is included. If you want to tip just a couple euro extra you obviously can.
- go to the river at night to walk the tent line of restaurants and vendors (search for La Ranella)
- see the key hole (Google it)
- take the elevator for St. Peter's. It's worth the 2 euros trust me. Yup sul have 320 stairs to go. And it gets tight. 
- you can pack the big stuff into 3 days of you are prepared to do a lot of walking. Add a day for Pompeii if that's a must for you.
- prepare to actually relax here
- great waking town,  much smaller than you'd think
- go to Micheal Angelo's Piazza for the sunset. It's worth the climb. Bring crackers, cheese, and meat. You will spend a couple hours.
- see David right when it opens you will only wait 30 minutes vs 2 hours and beat the crowds (if you don't pre buy tickets)
- Pisa is a quick and easy day trip from here.
- head to castiglioncello to go to the beach. Exit the train station cross the street to the park walk through then down the steps to your far left and find a free (rocky) pretty beach.
- It's actually hotter here because it's more humid

Aug 5, 2014

Europe in the Summer...GO

My husband's schedule is super unpredictable and I am a teacher so when we decided to go to Europe we opened up any time in the summer as an option. When we told people we were going to Europe in late July early August they basically said don't go and told us how miserable we would be.
They were WRONG! Yes it is hot. And yes apparently most Italians are on vacation in August. But I'm sitting in my hotel room in Florence this morning and it's not even 8 and the city is buzzing. We have had no problems with restaurants or hotels being closed. A lot of monuments are under construction but those are 18 month or longer projects so it has nothing to do with summer.
Another thing is that people say "book ahead! It's the busy season." Well we didn't. We wanted to go where the wind blew us. Of course we had all our major destinations picked out and even a general time line but when we decided we had had enough of London we went to Paris early. So we booked our train just a couple days ahead and our hotels on the Travelocity app on the train to the next city (which has worked out great so far).
We live in Southern California so like I said the heat hasn't really been so bad. The humidity takes a couple days to get used to. Where sunscreen, bring a hat or buy one from one of the billion street vendors like I did. In Rome all the fountains are free drinking water so refill your bottles often. And in Paris and Florence we have had a couple nice rain showers to get a break from the heat. We even did Pompeii on a 90 degree day and it was alright. There is a lot of shade and more potable fountains.
Don't be discouraged about traveling to Europe in the summer!!

Trains in Europe / Using a Eurail Pass

Trains and eurail passes are difficult to use but not impossible. Warning: buying 1st class eurail passes does not guarantee you a seat in 1st class or even on the train. You DO need to make a "reservation", which really is an extra charge to be able to have a seat on the train. While eurail suggests making reservations 90 days in advance. We found we could get 1st class tickets by purchasing them just 3 days ahead or so (Traveling July 25th - August 12th). Our first ticket we bought day of and couldn't get on a very direct train and were only offered standard seats. Bottom line, even with the eurail pass you have to get an actual ticket per train ride and pay extra for each ticket if you want a seat. Also you must fill out the eurail paperwork attached to your pass BEFORE the train conductor checks your ticket, or he will be happy to lecture you about how it's fraud not to and may even fine you. Expect your conductor to be unfriendly and unhelpful. Another notable tip if someone's in your seat: old people, families, mean looking men, just tell them it's your seat. They risked not having a seat because they probably aren't going far but they will sit wherever and even if you give them the "Ah that's my seat LOOK and BODY LANGUAGE" they won't move unless you speak up. And they may give you the stink eye but do you really want to stand with all your luggage when you just paid an extra $30-$90 for a seat??
Buying your ticket is another task. You can go to the ticket window where you have to get a number in most places like we used to at
the deli but it will be awhile. Maybe even an hour or two. Another option is buying your ticket at the self service machine. Which you can do with your eurail pass and we tried to show you how here. All in all the trains vary in niceness (the longest rides won't always be on the nicest trains), they are mostly on time, and they are the best financial choice for traveling Europe.
OH! And there is this ear thing no one has ever mentioned. When you are on a train, especially the high speed trains,  and it goes through a tunnel your ears react like you're on a plane. Doesn't seem to happen in the subway, guess those are not going fast enough. But consider yourself forewarned.

Aug 28, 2013

Flagstaff, AZ / Shadows Foundation

So my husband was invited to play in a golf tournament this past weekend in Flagstaff, AZ.  The tournament was for a great cause called the Shadows Foundation which provides financial assistants for individuals and families threatened with or affected by a life threatening disease.  We were super excited to be involved and to be able to travel to a new part of Arizona.
The first thing I did before packing is look up the location and weather for Flagstaff.  When I looked on Google Maps and saw Flagstaff's proximity to Sedona I figured beautiful desert.  The weather report said thunderstorms and having spent lots of time in Louisiana I figured hot yucky quick rain showers and thunder.  Now that I have been I know everything I thought was wrong
Flagstaff is a gorgeous and lush forest area.  I was told by many of the locals that the temperature has never reached above 100 degrees.  And when it rains it pours, all day.  So, let's just say I did not pack appropriately.  But with some outfit repeats and a small trip to Ross that was rectified.  
When we arrived very early in the morning to our accommodations, Woodlands Hotel, our rooms were not ready yet (it was around 9am since it was suggested to take the earliest flight due to Monsoon season) so we headed to the Hotel Restaurant for breakfast.  The food was just okay.  I ordered the Banana French Toast which was tasty but very unlike french toast, it was more like a corn bread.  My husband ordered the Chicken fried Steak and he enjoyed his breakfast.  We were with someone else playing in the tournament and he sent his foo back because it was very cold.  All in all it was a hotel breakfast.  
After breakfast our rooms were ready so we headed up.  We had a King suite I think and it was small but plenty nice and clean.  Nothing over the top.  After knocking out for an hour or so the boys went out for a round of golf at Flagstaff Ranch.  When pulling up to the club house you cannot miss the amazing red rock set against the driving range.  After dropping them off I took the rental car and headed out to find the historic downtown.  After getting back on the main road I realized I was on Route 66 which was pretty neat and just off San Francisco and Route 66 was the Historic Downtown.  I parked on the street, for free, and walked up and down the streets.  The neat shopping area was not all the big so I probably only spent about 45 minutes there.  I went in a few nic nac shops and clothing stores but I didn't see anything I had to have.  If I had more time though there were quite a few eateries that looked pretty cool.  
After my short exploration I headed back to the hotel to kick back and then get ready for the first event of the weekend for the Shadows Foundation.  After the boys finally made it back and my husband got ready we were picked up and taken to the theater at Northern Arizona University.  There was a great cocktail hour with an acoustic guitarist outside on the lawn with some nice appetizers.  After awhile of mingling there was a short auction and then we moved in to the theater for the nights performances.  
First up was comedian Scott Henry.  He was extremely funny and not too crude or anything, which I appreciated.  After he went on a local band named Telescope was introduced and played about a 45 minute set or so.  The band was very friendly and entertaining.  After a short intermission America's Got Talent runner up David Garibaldi put on an hour show where he and CMYK painted 9 masterpieces in a very upbeat and entertaining way.  It is just incredible to see David create these fantastic portraits in 5 minutes or less.  After the incredible show some lucky members of the audience were able to walk away with David's paintings from the night during another short auction, to benefit the Shadows Foundation.
After the show nearly everyone moved to the Taverna Greek Grill for the Poker and Blackjack tournament and general mingling.
These wildflowers are everywhere in Flagstaff!
The Taverna Greek Grill was very lively inside and had a nice aesthetic, very current not too fancy.  It definitely seemed like a bar and grill type place.  Although we didn't order food there was an open buffet and the food was very tasty!  
The next day my Hubby and I slept in a bit and were starving by the time we got moving around 10am.  So we headed to Google to find somewhere for breakfast/brunch and found a Wildflower Bread Company a mile away.  We were stoked since we had been to one in Sedona last summer and loved it.  When we got there it was very crowded and it did take awhile to get our food but we were being leisurely anyway so we didn't mind.  I ordered the veggie frittata and my Hubby ordered the sausage and egg sandwich.  Both were delicious! And we even went back the next day to try their pie of the month which was a Tangy Lemon Pie that was custardy goodness!  After we got back from brunch the boys that were participating in the tournament in our group went back to the golf course for another "practice" round and the girls were treated to a massage at Massage Envy.  
I had never had a massage at any Massage Envy before but I always kind of looked at it as the fast food of the massage world and I am not saying all of them are like this but my experience didn't really change my view about it.  My masseuse was friendly the massage was relaxing but it wasn't great, she spent a lot of time stretching me and I was the last one in and the first one out.  But more importantly about this location.  There were about 6 or 8 of this in our group and I think only myself and maybe one other person had female masseuses.  So if this matters to you, it does to me, you may want to request a woman ahead of time.  
Saturday evening we met the boys back at the club house and ate out on the beautiful deck.  And I have to say the food at Flagstaff Ranch is very good.  My own mother works for another country club and I will even say this place was a step above.  
The next morning was the day of the Golf Tournament.  Although it was raining everyone participated and had a great time.  By hole nine for our team the rain let up until the end of our 18 and it was really beautiful and enjoyable.  Of course this day I took the most pictures.  My Hubby's team didn't win the tournament but we all had a good time, even me just riding around in the cart and eating at the sponsored holes ;)  A great lunch was served after the golfing was finished and the awards were distributed to the winners in the clubhouse.  
It was really a fantastic weekend, for a great cause, in a beautiful location!  I would definitely recommend Flagstaff as one of the amazing places in our incredibly diverse country.  Hopefully next time we will get to explore some more of what nature has to offer in Northern Arizona!

Flagstaff, AZ

Points of Interest:
Shadows Foundation   http://www.shadowsfoundation.org/
Scott Henry Comedian  http://scotthenrycomedy.com/
David Garibaldi    http://garibaldiarts.com/home/
Taverna Greek Grill   http://tavernagreekgrill.com/
Wildflower Bread Company   http://wildflowerbread.com/

Aug 17, 2013

Wicked Way Cafe (Westlake, Ca) UPDATE: CLOSED

The most amazing find was made by my hungry husband Yesterday.  He was headed to Del Taco for lunch and ended up parking in front of the Wicked Way Cafe. After eating lunch there instead and chatting with the Chef he decided that it was a must share place.  So he insisted on going for Breakfast this morning.  And boy am I glad he did!
We drove over to Westlake and pulled into a strip mall where this amazing foodie treat is camouflaged between a nail salon and a retail store.  We decided to sit outside at one of their cute two tops since the weather was perfect.  When I opened the menu to pick my poison for the morning I realized it was not going to be an easy choice.  Everything sounded amazing!
I finally decided on The George Lopez.  A spicy chorizo breakfast burger, with pepper jack cheese, fried egg, and jalapenos.  YUM!  My husband went for the classic Porky pancakes.  Which are huge pancakes sprinkled with meat.  It's a man's meal.  Not to say that I didn't make a good dent in those too.
At the cafe you take your order up to the counter and then they bring it out when it is ready.

Everything was so ridiculously good!  I immediately began telling everyone about it, and honestly I would be totally fine with making this a regular Saturday morning thing.  At least until I have tried every last thing on the menu.  This place has spunk, attitude, and the skill to back it up.  Try it! You will not regret it!

Westlake, CA

Point of Interest:
Wicked Way Cafe

Aug 7, 2013

Lake Arrowhead/Lake Gregory, Ca

Summer is almost over and we have finally had the time to get out of town.  For the day.  Our summer plans went from being: two weeks in Europe, to a weekend in Vegas, to a night in Ojai, to one day in Lake Arrowhead/Lake Gregory.  So obviously my husband has been VERY busy.  Which is good but has left me with little to share this summer.  But I will take what I can get.
So Friday morning my husband had taken the day off and we decided we wanted to go to the beach.  Well, while checking the weather we couldn't help but noticed how dark and gray the live cam was so we started rethinking.  I through out Lake Arrowhead thinking that there was really no chance he was going to go for that but he did!  So we jumped in the car in our beach wear with our pool rafts and headed towards Lake Arrowhead.  It was a little over two hours getting there but it was 10am so the drive was pretty easy (minus the ticket we got for using the phone...).  When we made it to the lake, you kind of drive right into the middle of town and I spotted the visitor center and suggested we stop to ask where a beach was, but my husband being of the male species said "Nah.  How hard could it be to find a beach around a lake?"  So we drove around like 15 minutes before he gave up and we went back to the visitor center.  
I could tell when he walked out that something was wrong.  And when he said "their not open" I thought okay the office is closed we will just have to ask around.  But no no the beaches are no longer open to the public...  They used to have one but now Lake Arrowhead is entirely private.  So luckily Lake Gregory was only 10 minutes or so back so we turned around.  We made it to our destination and walked up to the tickets taker for the lake with our rafts and she said "That's ten bucks and you can't take the rafts in."  So back to the car, put the rafts away, try again.  We made it in and the lake was great!  It was much smaller, therefore, much warmer.  The little beach wasn't crowded at all.  They had a food stand on the beach.  It was 80 degrees out it was absolutely perfect.  And awesome to have a different beautiful "beach" view. We some how managed to not take any pictures...this was really a go with the flow day.  Leave the phones in the car and just enjoy each other.  All that to say, thank you Google:

After a few hours on the beach we spotted a Mexican restaurant across the way and we can never really resist Mexican food.  So we walked across the street to La Cocina De Tony. This restaurant has obviously been here for a long time so it's not fine dining that's for sure.  But it is totally fine after a beach day and has a great view of the lake.  The salsa was awesome!  The food was pretty good.  I got shrimp tacos that were just so so but the Hubby loved his Carne Asada burritio.  After our meal we decided to head back over to Lake Arrowhead to kill some time before jumping on the freeway for Friday traffic. We walked through Lake Arrowhead Village, which is super cute and had tons of cool and some unexpected stores.  We grabbed frozen yogurt from McDonald's (they have an ice cream shop but no frozen yogurt there).  After making a mess with my chocolate dipped cone I embarrassingly had to rinse off before we could continue our walk.  We stopped and watched all the ducks and ducklings for awhile and then just sat down at the water line for awhile.
It was really a fantastic, leisurely day.  It didn't cost us much.  Just $10 for the beach, around $35 for lunch and $4 for ice cream.  The biggest cost was gas and time on the road but we love getting away.  And even though we didn't have time to spend the night it was a perfect day trip. There is really something to be said for changing your scenery.  We will definitely be going back!

Lake Gregory

Points Of Interest:
The Beach   http://www.cityofcrestline.com/lakegregory.html
La Cocina De Tony   http://www.yelp.com/biz/la-cocina-de-tony-crestline

Lake Arrowhead

Point of Interest:
The Village   http://www.lakearrowhead.com/village.html