Monday, July 26, 2010

Birthday Weekend

Friday was Sonny's birthday! He was one year old (even though he is HUGE). I had wanted to have him a big birthday party. I found CUTE invitations with a dog that looked just like him on the front.

I found a recipe for dog cake. I had the perfect party plan and a guest list. Unfortunately, I let time get a little away from me so I really didn't have enought time to get details nailed down, and on top of that my mom told me I was crazy to have a birthday party for a dog. A party is a party, right?? Oh well. Since we didn't have a lot of time we decided just to do it low key (meaning I had to take back the invitations-sad). Instead of a huge party, we decided we would go to the lake, his FAVORITE place, and spend the weekend. I also invited my cousin Stevie and his wife Melissa (who got married the week after we did) and their dogs Molly and Mia (technically my cousin Andrew's dog), who are a few months younger than Sonny.

With Stevie and Melissa on their wedding day

Mia and Molly

They are weimaraners/lab mixes so they are about Sonny's size. Stevie had been wanting to get them up to the water to see if they loved it as much as Sonny, so I thought this would be a great opportunity. On Thursday night I baked the puppy cake as well as some "human" cupcakes. The cake was actually super easy to do and actually tasted great (peanut butter, honey, flour, and shredded carrots, can't go wrong-see recipe below). I decided to draw Sonny's face on it in icing and in my head it was going to be easy and awesome. Not so much. It looks like Sonny did it himself. Maybe I should have just said that he did and let everyone be amazed instead of having them laugh at my sad attempt at cake decorating. I will leave that to the Cake Boss.

This was after a car ride, but still, I am NO cake artist!

Friday came and we still had lots to do. I had scheduled a time with the Humane Society of Etowah County to bring Ruffles by and sign her papers, since I had been neglecting that duty for months! When we got there she remembered exactly where she was. She greeted all of the employees and even ran and got in her old bed! It was so nice to see how she felt about the employees. They have a great group there and if my spoiled little puppy can go back there and be excited, they must be treating all of the animals with love and care! Everyone thought she looked so adorable in her little bow and said that she looked like she had grown and finally filled out! She was a little unhappy when they microchipped her, but she LOVED all of the attention! Now she is actually an official Bailey!
That night we went to dinner at our friends the Sollie's house. Have I mentioned that they bought the house we originally wanted and we bought the house they wanted? Great minds think alike! They were having a "bring your own meat" night, so we brought some marinated chicken for Adam to grill for us. Every couple also brought a dish, so I brought my baked rice. I had to double the recipe and I didn't think it was as tasty as usual. Also there were the Gladdens and the Banks. We really had a great time just laughing and chatting with each other! After a great dinner, we ran home to load the car and the dogs and went to meet Stevie and Melissa at my parents' house. We all wanted to get to the lake that night so we could wake up there in the morning, so they came and had dinner with my family until we were ready to go.

When we got to the lake, Sonny and Molly and Mia went crazy! They ran and chased each other and wrestled all night--it was so cute! That was NOTHING compared to Saturday, though. The dogs (all except Ruffles) got up at 6 am. Sonny immediately got in the water and basically stayed there all day.

He did this most of the day!

Floating with Stevie as Molly looks on

Molly and Mia weren't fans of the water but loved to chase tennis balls with Sonny and I know they enjoyed having a lot of space to run around in!

We laid out and watched them play until it got a little stormy looking. We went in to eat and ended up watching a Cake Boss marathon all afternoon--seriously--we got sort of addicted. My sister came and we decided we'd had enough cake so we went back out with the dogs. We ended up staying outside until at least 7!

Ruffles and Mary Margaret getting some sun

After showers, we had a great dinner. Stevie had brought porterhouse steaks marinated in olive oil, basalmic vinegar, and garlic (I may be leaving something out). We also had baked potatoes, left over baked rice, and a big salad. After dinner it was time for the birthday cake! Forrest cut all of the dogs their own piece and I had my camera ready to take Sonny's pic eating his cake. That never happened because he downed it in one bite!

Action shot of Sonny and his cake

They LOVED the cake! I was so excited! The would have eaten the entire thing, if we had let them! The cupcakes I made for the people were pretty good too (funfetti-my fave) as was the mint chocolate chip ice cream! That night the dogs were exhausted. I'm sure Sonny had the best birthday ever!
On Sunday we came home for Mass and I napped all afternoon before running to the grocery store. We took our weekly visit to Mom and Dad's for dinner (bbq chicken-delish) and were home and asleep, ready for Monday. At about midnight, a bolt of lightening hit right by our house, setting off our alarm. The power went out, confusing the alarm so we couldn't turn it off. It was SCREAMING for 1/2 an hour until we got the alarm people on the phone and they told us what to do! We had 4 unhappy animals (and 2 unhappy people). Ruffles hid in the closet and poor Sonny kept wimpering. We finally got to sleep about 1, but then the power came back on at 3 and it screamed at us again! It thankfully stopped and we had to settle everyone down again and get back to sleep. This morning the alarm company came and reset it and thankfully everything is fine now! We are both exhausted today, so I'm hoping our night is far less eventful tonight!
Puppy Cake Recipe
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup shredded carrots
1/3 cup honey (I probably used 1/2 cup)
1/3 cup peanut butter (I used closer to 1 cup)
1 egg
Mix flour and baking soda. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix thoroughly. Bake at 350 for 30 min in a greased 8in round cake pan. Let cool complete and frost with rest of the jar of peanut butter.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Kitty Cats

I have had a scary day with Brownie, one of our cats! Yesterday I took all 4 of our animals to the vet for their yearly shots. On the way home I noticed that Brownie was acting very sleepy, but I figured she had a hard day and probably just wanted to rest. All night she was very sleepy too, and then this morning I couldn't find her. Forrest stayed home later this morning than usual and called me on his way to school, saying he had left Ruffles in the house. I didn't think she should stay in all day so I went home to put her out. When I did, I found Brownie in my rag pile in the basement, still sluggish. I picked her up and she just laid limp in my arms! I knew this wasn't good so I called the vet, and they said she probably had gotten sick from her shots. I loaded her up in the car and took her in to get another shot to make her feel better. Well, on the way back home, I noticed she was shivering! She has on a pretty thick fur coat and it was 99 degrees today, so I knew this was bad too. The vet said I should probably bring her back to they could observe her. Needless to say, I was a nervous wreck! I just called, however, and they said she seems to be perking up--HOORAY!

The whole ordeal made me want to tell the story of how I became the crazy cat lady, since that happened long before the blog. I was never really an animal person. Don't get me wrong, I wasn't anti animal, but I just didn't want one of my own to deal with all the time. I am pretty germaphobic, not to mention a neat freak, so pets weren't really my style. My family always had a dog growing up, but they were outside most of the time and very low maintenance for myself. Anyway, the summer before I started my last year of law school (summer 08, the summer we got engaged), my sister noticed that I had kittens in my backyard at school. I noticed them a few times but didn't pay them much attention because there are always strays wandering around Tuscaloosa. Well, one night after coming home from dinner with my parents on a football weekend, we saw them again. They were SO skinny! My sister and I brought some of Buddy's food (the family dog who gets to go to Tuscaloosa on game weekends) out to them and one by one they came to eat. Well, I was hooked. I became basically obsessed with these tiny kittens! There were 5 of them (Prissy, Scamp, Panda, Brownie, and Stella) and I just hated to think that they were on their own, so I started putting out food for them. I would watch them eat and play from my window when I would get bored from studying. Now, Forrest had started at UAB so we were apart a lot and people might claim that I became a cat lady because I was lonely. I say I became a cat lady because they were adorable! Anyway, arguments aside, I decided that they were MY kittens. One day I came home from class and my sister was doing laundry at my house (she was living in Tutweiler, the dorm that year). What did I see when I opened the door? Piles of laundry AND a kitten on my kitchen floor! Brownie had followed her in the house and was watching her load and unload her laundry. They all started coming in after that. They didn't stay in, I would just let them in to run around and play and then I'd put them out. One weekend we had some left over fried chicken from a ball game and I fed them pieces of it. They made weird growling sounds while they ate, keeping the others away from their stash! When it got cold, I moved their food to my screened porch and put boxes and blankets out there for them so they would be warm. All of this changed right after Thanksgiving, though. It was freezing and I felt so bad for them, SO, in the middle of my last law school finals, I bought a kitty carrier, collected 4 of them (Prissy, I think, found a home on her own) and drove them to my vet (Isbell Animal Clinic) in Gadsden. They were able to clean them up for me so I could find them homes. Of course, I did this all behind my dad's back. He was NO fan of these cats (or any cats) and he had told us to leave them alone. I actually drove them up there on the SEC Championship Weekend before I met the fam in ATL for the game (which we lost that year, boo), and Dad had no idea. Anyway, I brought them back to Tuscaloosa and using the mass email system at the law school, was able to find homes for Scamp and Panda. I didn't try to find homes for Brownie or Stella because I wanted to keep them both! I loved the other 2 but I was really attached to B and S. My sweet neighbor, Meriweather, who was from Tuscaloosa, went to my house over Christmas break to feed them and change their litter while I was home in Gadsden. When I got back to town to start studying for the Bar after New Years, I was the proud mama of two precious kittens!

Right when they came home from the vet

They were so fun to watch as babies-the wrestled and chased each other around the house. They would sleep on the end of my bed, and later on, Brownie even started sleeping on my head on my pillow. They would curl up with my while I studied for hours on end for the Bar exam and even though I know it sounds creepy, it was nice not to be "alone" during that time because it really was stressful!

Brownie studying for the bar

After the Bar, I had to move home for a few months before the wedding. My dad still had NO idea that I was living with cats, but I had to tell him because they were going to be living with him! I called him to tell him and he was not so pleased, especially since I had hidden it from him (and so did everyone else) for months! I had gotten them fixed (another secret trip to the vet in Gadsden) so that made him happier. When we moved, the cats lived upstairs while the rest of the world went on on the main floor beneath them. Buddy, who hates all furry creatures except himself, had no idea they were even there!

When we got home from our honeymoon, the first order of business was bringing the cats home. They were VERY scared of the new house! Stella hid behind the washing machine for 2 days and Brownie HOWLED every night! They hadn't spent much time around Forrest since he had been living in Birmingham, so they were unsure of him as well. It took about a month, but they got used to their new home and to Forrest!

Peeking at me through the door at the new house

Even though it was definitely not a smooth ride, I am so happy with my cats. They are very loving and affectionate and are always doing something funny! They don't even mind the two crazy dogs we have brought into their lives. I know that I am lucky to have them (although I remind them all the time that they are lucky that I was such a sucker!)

My favorite pic of them

Monday, July 19, 2010

Wonderful Week and Weekend

After our trip to CA, we figured we'd be a little bored last week, since we had been so busy during the trip! That was luckily not the case! Our fun started on Wednesday night. Forrest's grandmother Frith from Selma was in town so we went to the Bailey's for dinner. We had some delicious baked chicken and veggies straight out of their garden. Mr. Bailey made Betty Crocker Turtle Cookie Bars topped with ice cream. I thought these were homemade, they were so delicious! I was shocked when he said it was a mix! I am definitely going to bake these next time I need to take a dessert somewhere! We brought Ruffles with us, and she was curious to meet the Bailey's roosters. I assume Sonny had been telling her about his stay with them. Ruffles, however, was NOT a fan of the rooster! He clucked and flapped his wings at my little girl! She was shaking all the way home! Needless to say, she will not be visiting any roosters any time soon! On the way home, we stopped by to feed Chipper, my aunt and uncle's golden. He is VERY particular and doesn't like to be boarded when they go on vacation, so we get to take care of him. He stays in the house the whole time, so we have to let him out during the day as well as feed him. He is so silly--we actually have to sit and watch him eat or else he won't! Plus, he only drinks water from the hose pipe! He is definitely a fun handful! It was actually because of a weekend of looking after Chipper that Forrest decided to look into Golden's for us! Luckily Sonny is not as picky as Chipper!

Thursday was such a quite day at the office. My dad had court and my uncle was still on vacation, so it was just me wandering around the office. I scheduled several interviews with potential secretaries for myself to pass the time. I had never interviewed anyone so I was looking forward to it! I am NOT looking forward to losing my current secretary, Felicia. She is the BEST and if I could keep her I would. She is in paralegal school so when school starts, she has to leave me! I met several nice ladies and I hope that one can live up to the job that Felicia has been doing for me! While I was in with my last interview of the day, I heard a weird crash outside, but dismissed it. Next thing I knew, a client was running in the office screaming that we call 911 because someone had been hit in our parking lot! I do NOT handle medical emergencies well at all, mind you. Apparently, one of our clients had somehow fallen out of her car, hit the car next to her (which belonged to the nice lady I was interviewing), and been drug by her own car until it hit the wall in our lot! Luckily she was only scratched up. We had several fire trucks, paramedics, and police officers in our parking lot for over an hour, and many of the other law firms up and down the street called us to make sure everyone was ok! It really could have been a much worse situation, but thank goodness the Lord was looking out for everyone!

Totally shaken up, I went home and flew into hostess mode, for we were hosting some of our favorite couples for dinner--Jonathan and Denise and Justin and Farrah! Forrest was handling the grill and everyone else was bringing sides so all I had to do was get the house and myself ready. We had so much fun catching up and hanging out! They are really fun, casual, and laid back so we always enjoy spending time with this group! Forrest had made homemade salsa with tomatoes from my dad's Topsy Turvys (yes, as seen on tv) and he grilled some delicious pork tenderloins! Denise brought a fresh salad and a baguette and Farrah brought roasted potatoes, peas, and a blueberry cobbler. We were all stuffed after such a great meal and I really hated for everyone to go since we were having such a wonderful time!

On Friday my dad closed the office at 12 and took us all to lunch at Applebee's! I love it when he takes us all to eat--it is a fun way to unwind together! After lunch I met Denise at Nail Palace for a MUCH needed pedicure. My poor feet were mad at me for walking them all over the state of California. Even the pedicure guy noticed! He said that I must have been mean to my feet! Thankfully now they are smooth and polished and I promised them that I would treat them with more kindness (even though this is hard, considering I wear heels at least 5 days a week). When I got home, Forrest had been hard at work around the house AND he bathed both dogs, something that desperately needed to be done! I also found a present on the table-pearl earrings surrounded by a circle of pave diamonds! I was so surprised! They matched a pearl ring that Forrest had gotten me while we were in college. He had also gotten me a matching necklace a few years later. I was so excited! I was tired after my long day of luxury and excitement so I laid down for a little nap, which lasted until 6:30! Oooops! We were supposed to be at a cookout at 6, but Forrest (and Ruffles) thought I would feel better if I got a little rest. I quickly got ready and headed to our friend Matt's for dinner. The burgers had just come off the grill--perfect timing! We also had some pretty tasty "double doozies" that Lauren made (two chocolate chip cookies with a mixture of peanut butter and marshmallow cream in between them). There were so many of our friends there that we hadn't seen in a while so it was a great time! I was really excited to see Jay and Claire, who had just started dating this past month (thanks to us!).

On Saturday, I folded PILES of laundry and laid around the house while Forrest went to Duck Springs to build some tables for our living room. When he got back he was watering the hydrangeas and got stunk by 5 yellow jackets, 3 times on his feet and twice on his hand! I had NO idea what to do so we just iced him up. (I will add here that we were sorely let down by google. We found zero tips on what to do!) His feet hurt so bad he couldn't walk! We set him up with all of the necessities (water, snack, phone, remote) on the couch and I got ready and went to church. After Mass I went to Belk to take advantage of their completion sale. When you register at Belk, you get invited to 2 completion sales a year, where you get 20% of ANY item in the home store, even if it is on clearance! We totally stocked up last year and since I still had some wedding credit left over (woohoo) I was prepared to do it again! I ended up getting some great buys, including a brownie pan that matches our every day china (Lenox Butler's Pantry), 6 Alabama Tervis Tumblers, a cool red bowl shaped like a flower, a set of our flatware (on clearance for 19.95!) among other goodies! When I got back home, Forrest was feeling a little better so we made our way to our friend Lauren's bday party! We always have fun at Lauren's. She is a great hostess and always has the greatest food and drinks! She makes this delicious hot bacon dip that is to die for! She makes it especially for us, and even though I don't like bacon, I LOVE this dip! Rachel also made 7 layer dip, so Forrest and I were pretty set for the night! I brought the birthday girl a super cute bottle opener shaped like a flip flop! I wish I had taken a pic of it because it was really cute! I did get a great shot of her bday cake from Laura, though! It was also a special night because our friend Casey got to come. Casey was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer in her knee a few months ago. After surgery, she is currently cancer free! This was the first time most of us had seen her so it really was a treat! Check out Casey's blog here!

On Sunday we were supposed to go out on our friend Patrick's boat with Laura, Lauren, Rachel, and some other "party people" but the weather did not cooperate. This was probably a good thing because I got so much work done! I even went back to Belk to get a couple more tumblers and while I was there I found a GREAT deal on a white duvet. Forrest and I always talk about how comfy hotel beds are simply because they usually have a big fluffy duvet on top. Well, now our bed is just as fluffy! I put it on the bed right away to surprise Forrest when he got home. The irony is that we basically burn up in our room so we won't be able to use it until winter, but we still slept with it anyway last night, just because it felt so nice! (Ruffles really liked snuggling in it). After some grocery shopping, we went to my mom and dad's for dinner. I hadn't seen my mom or sister in 2 weeks because we were in CA and then they left for the beach right before we returned. We also got to check out dad's new basement! My dad's basement is his own personal floor at our house. He has his bathroom and clothes down there as well as his tv and other man toys. It has always leaked and my mom had finally had enough! B-Dry came and dug a TRENCH in the floor which channels water to a pump that sends it outside. It is guaranteed for the life of the house! Since they had to tear up the room for that procedure, they totally renovated it. Dad has all new furniture, plush carpet, and an awesome 3D tv, complete with Internet hook up! We hadn't seen the finished product until last night, and we were truly amazed! Forrest played with the tv most of the time we were there. My dad is so happy to have his space back and I am so happy to be able to share in all the awesome-ness of the basement! We will definitely be watching the games at their house this fall!

Today is Forrest's first day back to school, so we will be in a new schedule. This semester he really doesn't have any real classes or tests, he just sees patients, so it is like working without getting paid. Hopefully he won't have any homework anymore! Hope you all have a great week!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Bailey's of the Valley

On Saturday morning, our last day, we sadly packed our stuff and prepared for our last day in California. We hopped in the car with Ben and Julianne and headed off to Napa Valley to celebrate Julianne's birthday. It was so exciting to see the vineyards! The area really is gorgeous! It reminded me of Tuscany and of course like the wine country in France. We got hungry first so Julianne suggested we head to Sonoma first to eat at her favorite place, The Girl and The Fig. It was in the quaint little downtown area of Sonoma that really looked like something out of the past; it was so picturesque! While we waited for the restaurant to open for lunch, we wandered in and out of the adorable shops. Once we were able to be seated, we were in for a treat! Our meal there was one of the best that we had the entire trip (of course, nothing beats In and Out). I had a delicious grilled cheese sandwich (not your typical cheese on bread, mind you), with shoe string fries and Forrest had a delicious bleu cheese burger. After lunch we shopped a bit more. I wanted to check out the "Barkery", a bakery for dogs! I really liked the California was so pet friendly. They had parks just for dogs to run around and play and people were allowed to take their dogs almost anywhere (in a sanitary way, of course). You would see people lunching outside with their furry friends at their feet! They also had several pet stores everywhere you went-not pet stores where you could buy pets, but that sold things only for pets. It really made me wish we had one in Gadsden (LT-hint hint). After shopping we headed up to Napa Valley, or so we thought. Ben pulled in to a bakery called Scandia to get Julianne a birthday surprise--a princess cake!

I must say this is one of the best cakes I have ever eaten!

We had a mini bday party right there in the store! What a sweet bf, that Ben!

After cake, we were really on the way to Napa. Again, the vineyards were beautiful!

We were so excited to start tasting. We saw a winery that just opened and decided to start there. However, when we got in the door, we realized that tasting were $30 per glass (meaning $30 per SIP)! We asked the receptionist if we could take a tour and she told us they were by appointment only. Fair enough, but she continued by saying that we could make an appointment by calling them on the phone. Really? She was totally snotty to us and we didn't appreciate that, especially when we didn't give her any reason to act that way!

We decided that it was NOT the place for us, so we headed to Robert Mondavi winery.

They were having an event with the Dixie Chicks that night so it was packed, so we headed toPeju in stead. It was an Asian themed winery and it looked like a pagoda-totally cool. They also had several mustards to sample with pretzels (YUM) as well as chocolate sauces (delicious). We did a tasting there before heading up the road to Alpha Omega. By this time, I was already over wine. I'm not really a wine lover so I was there more for the scenery. At Alpha Omega I sat outside enjoying the WARM sun while the rest of the group did another tasting. Forrest came and found me because they had tasted a wine he knew I would actually like. It was a rose and he was totally right, so we bought a bottle to take home. Next, we made a stop at Dean and Deluca, the grocery store. They sold so many cool things but it was really expensive! I saw a $522 wheel of cheese! For real! We headed out of there pretty quick and started on our way back to SF. We made one last stop for a complimentary olive oil tasting--you read that correctly--olive oil! It was pretty weird--you squirted the olive oil into little shot glasses and basically took a shot of it! It was pretty tasty, especially when the ladies would walk around with medicine droppers of different types of vinegar to mix in it. After a few too many oil shots, we decided we were in need of some actual food, so back to SF we went. We wanted to eat at a tapas place called Cha Cha Cha in the Haight, but it was packed and we were starving, so we went down the street to Asqew, a place that served different types of skewers. It was really delicious! It was getting late, so we went with Ben and Julianne to pick up their dog Max at the dog sitters and then they dropped us off at the airport for our red eye flight. While we were in the airport, we got to look at our pictures and remember all the great things we got to do on the trip. We also decided it was probably time for a diet--both physical and financial! After a long flight, it felt so good to be home!!! We spent the afternoon unpacking and cleaning the house. We went out to Duck Springs to pick up Sonny at the Bailey's. He was so excited to see us! As a thank you, we brought them a bottle of wine from CA, that is banned in AL (seriously). Can you guess why?

After the Bailey's we headed to my parents' to pick up Ruffles. She was super excited to see us too! When she gets really excited she gets "the scoots", and she runs around crazy for a few minutes! It was glad to know we were missed! (The cats just get mad at us for leaving them!) We ate a delicious steak dinner with Dad, who was alone for the week--my mom and sister had left for the beach that morning, after attending my cousin Chris's wedding in bham the night before. We headed home early to catch up on some sleep and get ready to go back to work and reality! We really could not have been blessed with a more enjoyable trip and we are so grateful for the opportunity!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

San Fran, Day 2

On Friday morning we packed up to change hotels. Our friends Ben and Julianne, who live in Turlock, CA, were coming to SF to hang out with us for the weekend and they had gotten us adjoining rooms at the Hyatt, which was conveniently located behind the Sir Francis Drake! We wheeled our stuff into our new room and then off we went! That day we had planned to visit Muir Woods, home of the Redwood forest! To get there, we rented another car, this time a Kia Soul (the gerbils drive it in the commercial). We loved this car too! It was so cute and peppy! The cool part about driving there ourselves was being able to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge! That thing is massive!

We stopped right on the other side of it to take pics before heading to the woods.

It was a gorgeous drive through the state park. When we got there, we had to park pretty far away from the entrance. This time I was armed with 5 shirts, so I was much warmer! While we were walking towards the entrance, someone called Forrest's name. We couldn't believe it! Our friends Caleb and Brittany, who were on our dental mission trip to Costa Rica (Brittany is a year above Forrest in school) were there in the woods! What a small world!

Upon entering the forest, we stood in AWE of these trees!

I knew they would be big, but I really had no concept of what BIG was!!

They were beautiful and seemed to stretch for days into the sky.

What was really neat was that at the entrance there was a baby Redwood, so we were able to see where it all began.

Some of these trees have been there for hundreds, even thousands of years! There are very well marked trails through the woods and a map that has all the highlights on it that is very easy to follow (maps are NOT my thing). We took several of the trails and took our time just enjoying being in nature. We saw Kent tree, the largest tree in the forest that had fallen not too long ago. The root structure of that bad boy was amazing! It was sad that it fell but it was cool to see what was underneath it! We walked through Cathedral Grove, and even down a bridge that had to be made over a fallen tree. We were there for several hours, just taking it all in. I probably took 100 pics of the trees!

Forrest and John Muir

When we finally left, we followed highway one through the state park. We were starving, so we hit up the In and Out Burger in Sausilito for one last taste! OOOO it was so good!

Next we drove back across the bridge and went shopping! We first went to a cute, trendy area around Chestnut Street. There were some good sale, but nothing there for me! Next, we went back to the Haight for some more shopping, and I got two REALLY cute dresses for just $14 each at a store called X Generation. Lucky me! Ben and Julianne called us while we were checking out so we went back to the hotel to meet them. After catching up a bit, we went to an Italian restaurant for pizza. Between the 4 of us, we downed 3 delicious pizzas! They chef at the store won a pizza making contest in Naples, Italy, so his stuff was bound to be good! After dinner, we went back to the hotel and changed to go out. First, we used our drink tickets at the Starlight room about our first hotel, the Sir Francis Drake. It was so cool and "night cluby"! They had velvet seats and low lighting and everyone was dressed up! Julianne introduced me to a drink called the Scooby Snack-delicious!

At Starlight room in my new dress!

Next, we went to Alembic, a bar in the Haight, and ordered a cheese plate to share. I was so excited because I had seen several signs for cheese tastings while we were in CA and hadn't got to do one yet. We had some wonderful cheese that they paired with different things like chocolate and almonds to taste. I totally could have put that whole plate away on my own! After Alembic we went to a "speak easy" downtown.

Julianne had to email them earlier in the day to find out the "password" that we had to tell the hostess at the door. The place was so cool inside! The walls were lined with books and they had carved ceilings. I really liked the idea of that place! We had another big day ahead of us, so after the speak easy, it was off to be to get ready for Napa the next day!

If You're Going to San Francisco, Be Sure to Wear...a Parka??

We woke up FREEZING in San Francisco! I couldn't believe how cold it was during July--it made no since to me! After we got up we went out and immediately had to go back in and put on more clothes in order to survive the weather, which was very unusual for us, since it was 100 degrees when we left Alabama! Our plan was to hit all of the touristy highlights, since we only had one day in the city. We jumped on a cable car and away we went. I ended up having to hang off the side, and while I did feel like I was in a Rice a Roni commercial and very authentic SF, I was pretty scared I would fall off or be hit by a passing car. I was basically smushing the kids next to me while Forrest was laughing and taking pics of me.

We made it to Fisherman's Wharf, the tourist district, and touristy it was. There were all kinds of shops selling "SF" hoodies and fleeces to tourists like myself who were freezing and had not packed the right clothes for their trip. I, unlike many of these people, choose to freeze rather than pay $40 for the awful things. We went to Pier 39 and shopped for a while in fun places like one store that only sold socks and another that sold left handed things like scissors and grill tools (which looked oddly like right handed grill tools, but who am I to know what left handed stuff looks like). There were several cool places where you could pick out an oyster with a pearl inside and the people would open it and clean your pearl for you. I did not do this, however. I was desperate to see the sea lions! They were much cuter than the elephant seals (even though not near as cute as the stuffed ones you could buy would suggest. It was neat to hear how they keep coming back to the same place year after year, for no apparent reason.

After the seals, we decided the best way to see the city was to take a tour. We had several options but we settled on renting a GoCar! It was like a little car/motorcycle that had a gps that told us where to go AND told us info about what we were seeing! It was totally cool!

We were able to go at our own pace and stop and take pictures when we wanted to. We drove all over town! In the morning we drove along the beach and saw of course the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, which we found out was the most visited landmark in the US (although we didn't visit it).

Even though I've seen the bridge in pictures, it is truly breathtaking! I mean is is just enormous! What a feat of engineering! I took so many pictures of it from as many angles as I could. I hope that we have one that is good enough to blow up and frame for our house!

We got to see Baker Beach and China Beach, as well as several officers homes. We then drove through a really swanky part of town (where Robin Williams lives) and Lands End. Who knew that was a real place? Our next big stop was the Painted Ladies, or the houses from the opening credits of Full House! I was so excited to see these, as Full House was my favorite show when I was a kid! Next we were on to Haight Ashbury, the epicenter of the Counterculture.

My American Studies teacher would be so proud of me! It was such an eclectic part of town and we really loved wandering up and down Haight Street. We saw the Grateful Dead house and Charles Manson's. Cool! I was FREEZING and ended up buying two sweaters (and a pair of yellow sandals) at a consignment shop. I was feeling very hip!

We jumped back in the car for more. We got to drive down the "crookedest" street in SF, even though that really isn't the truth, and we saw Coit tower, the Exploratorium, and the church where Marilyn Monroe and Joe Dimagio had their wedding pictures taken. We did get lost on our way back, apparently because the tall buildings in SF interfere with satellite signals! We made it back all in one piece, though, albeit freezing! We then walked to China Town through the Italian part of town (which smelled delicious).
Showing off my new Haight sweaters in the Italian district

We wandered the streets for hours. Forrest got a snack at the oldest bakery in town, where apparently Bill Clinton ate, and I got a "D & G" bag for a nice bargain!

We were so tired after our packed day we went back to the hotel, ordered room service and watched our movie. Forrest picked out "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" because it seemed light hearted. It really did have us laughing uncontrollably! It is a children's movie but it reminded us of several people we know rolled into one! Again, we pretty much passed out that night, exhausted after a long day of fun!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Life is a Highway, Part 2

On Day 5, we said good bye to Apple Farms and went to see Gum Alley, a disgusting alley with gum stuck all over the walls! EEEWWW! Forrest made a contribution and we got out of that nastiness!

We drove past the San Luis Mission before hitting the road again. Reggie, our plane friend had suggested that we see Hearst Castle. I had heard of this but wasn't that into it, but we decided that since Reggie said so, we should go. I am SO glad we did! It was one of our favorite places! It is the home of William Randolph Hearst and I must say it is magnificent. It has 3 guest houses, each larger than our house, 50 miles of coast (or something like that) a 5000 head beef farm, and much more! The house itself is very European looking and has tons of antiques inside. I could post pic after pic of this place!

My favorite part was the indoor swimming pool. It has real gold in the floor and skylights above it (in the tennis court, no less) that allow the gold to sparkle!

If you are ever in California, you MUST go to this place (and eat at In and Out Burger). We want to go back and tour it at night when they have actors there in period dress!

After sadly leaving Hearst Castle behind, we made our way to the Elephant Seal Beach, which of course was COVERED in elephant seals. They are not the most adorable of animals, I can assure you, but it was amazing to see such large creatures hanging out in the wild! They were mostly napping and cuddling up on each other, but we did see some come out of the water on their bellies and some threw sad at each other and others would call out "Aaarrr aaarr arrr". It was crazy! I could have watched those weird little (big) animals all day!

We also saw a snake wandering around, but he wasn't near as entertaining and was much more frightening!

We kept climbing north on Highway 1, witnessing some of the most breathtaking views we have ever encountered. They really kept getting better and better! We'd stop at each "Vista Point" and get out and be amazed by what we saw. I took so many pictures but looking back at them, I realize it is really something you have to see for yourself to appreciate! We went up and down, in and out of beautiful mountains, all the while looking down steep cliffs to jagged rocks below where the waves crashed, just like in movies! Our favorite places were definitely Ragged Point and Big Sur.

Ragged Point

Waves crashing at Big Sur

It took us several hours just to go a few miles because we kept stopping! For a while, we followed a car that said "FLG8TR", from Montana. A Gator fan from Montana? Really? We ended up meeting them at a "Vista Point" and made sure to give them a good ROLL TIDE! In Big Sur we stopped to eat at a restaurant called Nepenthe. It is GORGEOUS and has wonderful views of the coast. It was freezing but we ate outside anyway to be able to take it all in. Luckily they had heaters for us so we didn't turn to ice cubes! If you are ever traveling in CA, you must go here! The food is wonderful and the restaurant really is a gem. Apparently, it was the owner's home and his wife felt that the views were too beautiful not to share!
I know I appreciate that! We also visited their gift shop, which really has some cool stuff, before heading out again.

View from our table at Nepenthe

The rest of the drive was so beautiful. What was interesting was that at one point the mountains turned to farm land! We'd see miles and miles of crops planted in neat little rows that ended at the coast. What a lovely way to grow indeed! We went through Carmel and in Monterrey we paid to do the 17-Mile Drive, which takes you through Pebble Beach Golf Course, where they hold the US Open. I hate to admit that I was less than impressed with the drive. The golf course was pretty cool. We were able to get out and look around and shop in the gift shops, but the rest of the drive was not that interesting. I guess after you drive through Big Sur, there really isn't any need to go anywhere else!

Lone Cypress at Pebble Beach

After the 17 miles, we got back on 1 and headed up through the agricultural areas until we finally arrived in San Francisco. I was EXHAUSTED by this point and had not had any dinner. We dropped the car off at the airport and got a taxi to our hotel, the Sir Francis Drake, which is in Union Square, the shopping district. We got a great deal on it from Jetsetter. You should definitely join this website--they totally hooked us up! We got a great corner room for literally pennies plus a $40 drink credit for their nightclub, the Starlight Room, voted best club in San Francisco. It was also a Kimpton hotel (like the Palomar we stayed in while we were in ATL for our anniversary in June), so I found the "password" on their facebook page. Saying this at check in earned us a free Pay per View movie of our choice! We felt like royalty in the swanky hotel, but hungry royalty! We ordered pizza from room service and went to bed soon after that. We knew we had a busy day ahead!

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