Weekending: Bienvenido A Miami!

Instead of getting each other gifts for our first anniversary, Bill and I decided to take a page from my friends Laura and Christian’s book and treat each other to a mini vacation. (I, of course, still got Bill a present – a custom photo book chronicling our roadtrip out to Florida.) Since our bank accounts were pretty wiped out from the move and we only had a Saturday and Sunday since Bill works until midnight on Fridays, we needed to choose somewhere close. Well, lo and behold… MIAMI IS TWO HOURS AWAY.

If you couldn’t tell by all the caps, I still cannot wrap my head around this. I had never been to Miami, I had never even seen that Atlantic Ocean, except from a plane, and now this amazing city is close enough to just go shopping for a day and take a little jaunt home that night. (Actually, that sounds more dangerous than anything else…) So off we were to experience a new city together and celebrate making it through a whole year of marriage, which anyone out there who is married can agree is a bigger feat than it would appear. 

We drove out to I-75, which took us down through Naples and veers east across the state through what’s called Alligator Alley. Now I, of course, knew that this road was named for a reason, and I was both exhilarated and terrified that we were finally going to see an alligator. I spent a good amount of time obsessing over the fact that this state is full of them while trying to make the decision between staying in California and moving to Florida. And I mean, a GOOD amount of time. I kept picturing them invading our backyard and climbing fences and coming after Indy and coming after ME. Well, one month in and I have yet to see one of the stupid things. (But I wouldn’t be complaining if it stayed that way.)

So I had pictured something called Alligator Alley as full of, well, alligators. Fail. Long story short, even though I made Bill stare diligently out the window looking for one for over an hour while I drove and proceeded to yell at him to KEEP LOOKING every time he looked away for even a second, we didn’t see a single gator. Boo. Kind of.

Upon arriving in Miami, we dropped Indy off at her spa weekend at a boarding facility and headed over to South Beach in search of our hotel. The views over the bridge from the main city to South Beach were spectacular, with Star Island to the left, the marina to the right, and the cityscape all around us. We finally ended up at our quirky art deco hotel The Kent.IMG_6018I was pleasantly surprised by the timewarp feel in the lobby. Not too pleasantly surprising was a dirty, paint-peeling, half-furnished room, and I found myself hoping that next year our accommodations might include regular vacuuming and a repair or two every couple of decades. In that aspect, I wouldn’t recommend this place. However, when we threw our stuff down and headed out to explore, we realized we were one block from the beach and the club scene, both of which were already well on their way at 4:30 in the afternoon.

Between our growling stomachs and a hostess offering free shots, it wasn’t long before we were coerced into a sidewalk table and starting our own party. 

IMG_6003And obviously free shots lead to this.

IMG_5910Don’t worry, I shared.IMG_6004 After our quick, er, snack, we made our way back to the hotel to get cleaned up, dressed up, and fired up to go out. In Miami. At 8 p.m. I was in a dress and heels, and everyone else on South Beach was still in a bikini. Luckily, the first place we went was Palace, and I was no longer the most obviously fabulous lady there. Miss Tiffany Taylor Fantasia was. IMG_6006 This is what owning it looks like. On both sides.IMG_6007Every queen needs a palace.
IMG_6009 And it’s funny how after two drag shows, I was owning it too. Even just sitting at a table at the Clevelander eating a cobb salad.IMG_6010

After our second dinner and more drinks, we headed up to the rooftop of the Clevelander. We didn’t have too much of a plan, but apparently the guys operating the elevator like tall women in little black dresses. On a run to the ladies’ room, they coaxed me over and told me to go get my man and head upstairs, no cover. Yes, we will take that.IMG_6012While the view from the top was gorgeous, the drink prices were not. I received the well Tequila Sunrise below accompanied by a bill for $18, and nearly spit my first sip on the bartender. IMG_6014 Being the (financially strapped) grandma and grandpa we’ve become in a full year of marriage, we headed back to the hotel a little earlier than expected. But that meant we were up early enough to celebrate our actual anniversary with brunch at News Cafe. I will forever be filling my omelets with smoked salmon and a slab of cream cheese from now on.IMG_6015Cheers to the year!
Miami ChampagneLeaving the cafe, we found the perfect spot to commemorate the occasion, marking our date, time, and location in unabashed tourist fashion.IMG_6016Once back at the hotel, we suited up for the beach…IMG_6022…which was amazing. I have yet to find beaches to parallel Florida’s (except Hawaii’s, of course). IMG_6023IMG_6024One of the highlights of the trip was that time that I tried to wash the sand off my feet at the shower and accidentally hit the top button instead of the bottom one. Guess where the water came out? Not on my feet. Noob.IMG_6026But that’s alright, because my husband in the only person on the face of the planet that consistently wears tennis shoes to the beach. Double noob.
IMG_6027 So with the right side of my head clean and Bill’s laces tied, we said goodbye to South Beach.IMG_6021We called for the car and headed back to get Indy from her dog resort. On the way, however, I made a great case for Cuban food.  And not just any Cuban food. I mentioned before that Bill and I had seen the movie Chef, in which they take a roadtrip from Miami to Los Angeles. In it, there is a scene where Jon Favreau and Sophia Vergara take her father to one of the most famous Cuban Restaurants ever, Versailles. I was absolutely not leaving without it. So we went out of our way for our first taste of a Cubano and a Classic Cuban Taste Plate at a place that can only be called heaven.

IMG_6030 IMG_6031 The second best part? It looked exactly like it did in the movie.IMG_6029In the end, I found a new favorite food culture. Apparently, if you are going to try Cuban food for the first time in your life, this is the place to do it.
IMG_6034With our full tummies we grabbed our pup and whisked back to Fort Myers, just two hours away. Two. Hours. 

Happy anniversary, babe! Who would’ve ever thought we would have spent it… here?

I Left My Heart In San Luis Obispo

There is something that has been on my mind constantly lately, and that is this: I miss my friends.

It finally hit my the other day, this whole moving thing. Bill and I were driving back from whoknowswhat – probably another errand-running excursion battling the make-your-move-as-difficult-as-possible powers that be – and it happened. It was thunderstorming outside yet again, as Florida is want to do every day during the summer, and Bill just looked over at me. He could tell something was going on, so he asked if I was okay, which is great, and I just sort of… lost it. For the first time since we moved in (not counting the roadtrip when I was a fairly impressive mess), I cried. About everything. In fact, I think my answer to Bill’s question went something like this:

“Nooooo *SNIFF* I’m not okay *SNIFF* I miss my family *SNIFF SNIFF* and my friendssssss *SNIFF* and San Luis Obispoooo *GASP FOR AIR* and I want to go HOME.”

Yeah, that pretty much sums it up. Up until the last few days, I’ve felt like I’ve been on extended vacation. I’ve been working hard searching for and applying to jobs at the local colleges, and setting up a whole new house takes a lot of time and effort, but I’ve still been able to do it at my own pace. The beaches are unparalleled, the drinks are delicious, and I haven’t been cold in four weeks. Bill and I explored our first weekend here, Jen was here the second, and we went to Miami for our first anniversary the third. But with no upcoming plans this weekend, which means the glaring reality that I really don’t know a soul in Fort Myers and the fact that I haven’t seen my girls in close to a month, it’s been hard not to dwell on how much I miss them. I am so grateful for the many phone conversations I’ve been able to have, but there is something so much better about popping champagne and settling in for a movie with Danae, or getting ready and going out to Giuseppe’s with Courtney and Katie and Katherine, or watching the hubby’s play basketball while screaming and stomping and tearing my hair out with Lina, or sneaking a quick gossip in at work with Taylor and Laura, or having Paso wine excursions disguised as doggie playdates with Kristin, or doing The Barre Method DVD in Katie’s living room before salad-barring it up at New Frontiers. I would give anything to transport myself at this very moment to happy hour at the Cliffs with my beautiful friends and a beautiful margarita and a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean ten minutes from my house. But the reality is I can’t, and that’s the hard truth.

Wow, even typing that just now was a tough pill to swallow.

So what can I do to soothe the pain of being 3000 miles away from my wonderful former life in San Luis Obispo? I can return to an agreement I made with Danae as we hugged goodbye outside my house at 7 a.m. on June 26th and the tears started to fall even though we said they wouldn’t. I will deeply appreciate the time we had, and I will be grateful that it was given to me in the first place to hold in my heart for the rest of my life. 

Because if we hadn’t decided to embark on this amazing adventure to follow Bill’s dreams (and okay yes, mine too since he, of course, is one of my dreams) to the other side of the country, I wouldn’t have memories like our going away party, where so many people we know and love came to Luna Red, my favorite place in the entire world, to be together one last time. This amazing memory and the pictures that came with it are the warm teddy bear I hold when my heart starts to hurt too much. 
IMG_5590 IMG_5593IMG_5588IMG_5591 IMG_5589And here is my favorite. My loves from so many different areas of my life in California, all together in front of the Mission. In my eyes, this is perfection.IMG_5587And so here I sit on the same couch with the same rug under my feet and my fingers tap-tapping away on my same old computer while Bill and Indy nap next to me in a very different townhouse in a very, very different city. Each tear that rolls down my cheek every few seconds or so is a new one, but my heart gets bigger and bigger with the same love I felt one month ago today. And although I am 3000 miles away, I hope you can all feel how much I miss you… all the way from over here.

One Year Down

We made it!

One year ago today, Bill and I tied the knot with no idea what was in store for us. The year has been one of surprises, of bobbing and weaving, of taking hard left turns when we expected the straight road in front of us. Last year at Greengate Ranch in San Luis Obispo, we had no idea that we would go through eye surgeries, new jobs, a cross-country move, and saying goodbye to best friends to set out on our own new adventure. We have some amazing times, we’ve had some rough patches, and I know it sounds cheesy, but given the chance to do it all over again… I would. In a heartbeat.

So while we are living it up on an anniversary trip to Miami, here is a little video from our wedding put together by our photographers (and I’m so lucky they are also my brother and sister-in-law) Dusty and Amy from Drozian Photoworks.

In a heartbeat.

Florida Bound Day 5: The Long Haul

Early Monday morning, we punched our destination into the GPS as we pulled out from the curb in front of the Olivier House in New Orleans, and this is what we saw:IMG_5634

Oof.

791 miles. 12 hours and 13 minutes. But we knew it had to be done. We had gotten a call along our way across the country that we had been worrying about the wrong problem when it came to the movers. We were originally told it may take up to two weeks to get our stuff to the new house, which was a little worrisome in itself, until we heard that the driver they had scheduled had been taken off the job for some reason and they needed to find a new one. This meant that they picked up our furniture and boxes on moving day and unloaded it into storage that afternoon, unsure of when a new driver was even going to commit. Well, at that point, slightly unnerved that the movers had a few more chances to break our stuff, we were but thankful and even more frustrated when the company called to let us know a driver would be taking off on that next day – Tuesday – and that if he had known he would have just come straight to our house the day before. So that’s what we had been concerned about so far: when on Earth were our belongings going to make it to Florida? So then it turns out that the day the movers would arrive to help us move into our home was not going to be July 2nd like we had estimated. It would be July 1st instead, at 8 a.m., a full five and a half hours before we had even scheduled our meeting with the property manager to pick up the keys. Cue panic.

So this was to be our final day, in which we thought we would most definitely drive in the most extreme sense of the word, yes, but at least be able to see places like Mobile, Alabama, along the way. Nope. These pictures pretty much capture the extent of the highlights.

First, the Mississippi state line.IMG_5682Next, we did get our lunch in Mobile, but it was quick and inhaled on a smelly sidewalk in a much too quiet part of town. Indy, however, fully enjoyed her break in the park near the restuarant, with more squirrels to chase than she had surely ever seen in her wimpery little dog dreams.IMG_5684Even back in the confines of our car we were unable to get her attention. Bill’s (stolen, AHEM) pink sunglasses couldn’t take her eyes off the rodent wonderland just beyond the windshield.IMG_5685Until, of course, it was time to lose them both yet again. It was a long day and obviously time for a nap, damnit, squished by pillows or not.IMG_5683We found a little salvation at the sight of the Florida Welcome Center. That salvation was short lived, as it was hotter than hell outside the car. But we made it to the state at least, after four and a half intense days of traveling. Pretty momentous for our relationship if you ask me.20140630-123845-45525704.jpgAnd just for good measure, here’s a second look in case you missed just how important our new governor is.IMG_5687 After a brief celebration, we didn’t see much but highway and lush greenery as we sped through Tallahassee and finally got off of the 10, taking a sharp and much anticipated turn south onto the 75. We didn’t see much until… Florida SunsetHoly moly, THAT is a sunset.

Ultimately, we didn’t quite make it to Fort Myers, more because we didn’t have a house to sleep in and we wanted to see our new city in the morning light. We definitely were tired and broke enough to book the cheapest motel we could find, which also turned out to be the seediest motel we could find. From the weird guy quite obviously on drugs talking to himself outside the lobby just before jumping in his car and speeding through the red light at the intersection to the stained towels and dirty floor and beds I was literally afraid to sleep in for fear of contracting diseases, it was quite the luxury. Luckily, to quell the pain of certain contamination, we had Chicken McNuggets and a working microwave. It had to happen at some point.Florida Hotel RoomTomorrow our trip of a lifetime comes to an end, and a brand new chapter begins. But until then, sweet dreams Bill, Indy, and seedy motel room. I will cherish our 6 short hours together.

Florida Bound Day 4: Headed Down to NOLA

We had one goal today: New Orleans.

Okay, so maybe Indy had a different goal: Not get eaten by alligators. (Bill’s not helping.)

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This was our big welcome into Louisiana. Crossing the border from Texas, I had no idea what we were in for when stopping at the state’s welcome center. I did know two things, though, and those were that I was excited to see the South and I really had to pee. I knew we were getting into some different territory just based on stories from others, but I didn’t expect to have to basically swat my way through clouds and clouds of dragonflies to get to the restroom. Or to find myself trying fortheloveofallthatisholy to use the restroom when a pitch black wasp as big as my face kept buzzing down from the ceiling into my stall causing instant pee paralysis. Or to take Indy out to run around only to find that there would be no running for our perfectly lunch-sized dog due to the above “NO SWIMMING” sign complete with terrifying alligator next to the (not pictured) “Beware of Snakes” warning. So we hustled our way through the bug-thickened air and slipped into the car, slamming the doors as quickly as possible to keep out all the creatures and the beasts and the monsters that live in godforsaken Louisiana.

I was no longer excited. And I still had to pee.

As it would turn out, though, Louisiana is quite beautiful from the sanctuary of your car. It was so incredible to drive across the state on bridges over nothing but swampland, and I had never seen anything like the moss-draped trees growing straight out of the murky water. And let me tell you, New Orleans was worth braving the wild, as it had way fewer bugs and gators and nightmarish life-threatening situations and wayyyyy more music and booze and oh-my-goodness FOOD. But first we needed to check into the Olivier House, an adorable boutique hotel one block from Bourbon Street. We had read that every room was decorated differently just like my beloved Madonna Inn from back home in San Luis Obispo, so walking up the stairs with our heavy old key was full of Christmas morning-like anticipation.

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It was better than expected.

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It came complete with living room, loft, and gorgeous metalwork railings to really hit the unique French Quarter vibe home. The bed was perched high above the rest of the room and surrounded by exposed brick and beams, which Indy quite obviously admired.

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Stomachs growling but never a fan of tourist traps, I did some research online to check out the grub scene around us but ultimately asked the woman sitting at the antique wooden desk in the front hallway what she would recommend. I usually try this, as these people LIVE where I am exploring, and if they themselves frequent the place for some real food, then we’re talking. She sent us multiple blocks away from Bourbon Street on the hunt for a small bar called Coop’s at the very edge of the French Quarter, which promised and delivered a local vibe and authentic Louisiana cuisine.

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We wanted to try everything, so we ended up with a Coop’s Taste Plate and the Fried Oyster Dinner Plate. It’s a good thing the lighting wasn’t great, because the first dish out? Seafood gumbo. We had no idea it looked like this until we looked at the picture a while later… But oh my, was it good.

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Bill wasn’t so sure I could handle it.

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That’s only because he’s never seen this food-obsessed tourist in action before. If I can handle haggis in Scotland – enthusiastically and by choice – then gumbo’s got nothing on me. I’ll take your skepticism and raise you a crawdad claw in the teeth.

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Also on the menu: shrimp creole, Cajun fried chicken, red beans & rice with sausage, rabbit & sausage jambalaya, fried oysters, french fries and coleslaw. I found heaven in New Orleans.

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After dinner, we meandered over to the famous French Market, but with only a few evening hours to spare, we settled for a selfie in the deserted hall. Just one more reason to come back and catch the bustle.

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We took in some of the history through statues dotting the city, snapping quick pics of one of the most intriguing women to grace the earth, Joan of Arc.

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And what trip wouldn’t be complete without the fried, sugary goodness that is beignets from Cafe du Monde?!?! My mom had instilled a love of beignets in me from an early age (mostly at Disneyland’s New Orleans Square), but I’d always heard there is nothing like the ones in New Orleans. Point taken.

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And if you need proof, check out the sugar snob himself diving in full face.

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I knew I needed enough willpower to take a poised (and pretending not to be a sticky sweaty mess) picture…

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But let’s be real. This is more like how it happened.

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Not too enthralled with the smell of vomit wafting through the sidewalks of Bourbon, we chose a more romantic evening stroll along Jackson Square instead of the slop-fest of tourists drinking their faces off. Besides, we may have done a little of that ourselves the night before in Houston, and hey, livers need a break too.

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Almost a year and he still steals me heart with those GD baby blue eyes.

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We eventually did watch some shenanigans from the sidelines, although somebody does look like he himself was caught red-handed up to no good.

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But the wildest we got was finding our first gator among the beads and tchotchkes.

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We promised we would be back.

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Goodnight, New Orleans. You must think we’re so innocent.

Next time you may not be so lucky.

Florida Bound Day 3: Ten Hours of Texas

The herd was up and moving early on Saturday. We raided the continental breakfast, repacked the car, and hopped in, knowing we were in for the long haul today. Starting in El Paso, where we had splurged on a nice hotel room with wi-fi only to spend about 8 hours in it, we wanted to make it to Houston in time to see Bill’s childhood friend Jim and finally meet his girlfriend Sanja. Even though we had a long way to go, I made sure Bill knew I wanted to see Texas along the way. The main goals: eat some real Texas BBQ and stretch our legs in San Antonio.

As it turns out, the spontaneous stops along the way were exactly what we didn’t know we were looking for as well. We found an old crumbling schoolhouse on a random exit we took with the intention of a bathroom break for Indy (and maybe Bill… oops).

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Having just seen the movie Chef, in which we had no idea they were going to be taking our exact same road trip in the opposite direction – cue baffled looks at one another here – we HAD to get ourselves some brisket. So thanks to the help of Yelp!, we found Wagon Wheel BBQ in Ozona, TX. We missed it the first time we drove past, and when we walked in, it turns out it’s pretty much an old gas station converted into a restaurant (sort of) in the front and a house in the back. They served us out of crock pots that had been simmering all day, and I filled up my own sweet tea from a drink dispenser by the door.

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The (very) young woman inside took us to a wooden picnic table to the left of the building, shooing her pouty son away so the “nice people” could sit down. And even though we were doing some shooing ourselves (ugh, the FLIES), it was well worth it in the end.

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And even more worth it at the very end, when I devoured the homemade peach cobbler. So much for my gluten-free and low-glycemic eating habits, but I was not about to pass THIS up.

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From the moment we started talking about our trip, we knew we wanted to stop in San Antonio, but I’m not sure we knew why. Everyone kept insisting we visit the Riverwalk, but with all the chaos before the move and shotty internet after the trip started, I never got the chance to research our itinerary. This lead to exciting spontaneity and slight anxiety over worrying we would miss something, but it also delivered some amazing surprises, like one of my new favorite places in the U.S. Despite only having about 40 minutes to spare to walk around, the Riverwalk was gorgeous.

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I was in heaven with the sights, the restaurants, the music, the people… and the escape from the heat. Oh lord, it was HOT in San Antonio, but down there? Beautifully cooler and un-sticky.

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You can’t visit San Antonio without visiting the Alamo, so we ventured up to street level on the hunt for the landmark. The architecture along the way was so intriguing, I forgot about the humidity for a second in order to try to capture the energy of the town.

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And we found the Alamo. Obviously.

The Alamo

Take a look at Indy in that last photo… That’s how we all felt, poor little thing.

We finally rolled into Houston at about 8:30 p.m., and we were beyond excited to get out of the car and see Jim and finally meet his girlfriend Sanja. The plan had originally been to go out and “raise some hell” as Bill calls it, but Sanja had just broken her foot doing box jumps at the gym, making it very difficult for her to get up and down the two flights of stairs to their apartment. So while Bill and I showered (separately… out of the gutter, please), Jim whipped up some Strawberry Margaritas under Sanja’s scrutinizing seasoned-bartender eye. As you can see below, it was a pretty casual affair. And Indy looks possessed.

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But ultimately it ended up being a great night with great friends, and we were appreciative of a cozy place to sleep after a longggg day. Some of us took advantage while the party was still underway, but I won’t name names.

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This is what pooped looks like.

Moving Update

Well, reality officially hit. I got back home on Saturday night after 8 days out of town – first in San Diego with my best friends Jen and Amanda and then in Long Beach at a conference for work. Immediately upon returning everything became a blur as we rushed to pack as much as possible as quickly as possible to prepare for the actual move.

After the moving company informed of us some logistical problems regarding securing a driver, we inquired about potentially having them come a day or two later than scheduled. This would give us some wiggle room to actually get everything together before they arrived, which we most certainly had not yet accomplished. We hadn’t heard back from them yet, but we both had a feeling that it wouldn’t be a problem, so Bill and I both went to bed on Sunday night at the end of our exhaustion rope, simply unable to do/pack/handle anything more.

Monday morning I woke up in a panic, certain that we had not done nearly enough for the movers that may or may not arrive. Knowing we hadn’t yet received a call informing us what time they would be here, I did my best to calm the eff down and tell myself that I needed to sit down, shut up, and eat a good breakfast to get through the day ahead. So I sat down, I shut my brain up, and I tried to eat. But as soon as I brought my toaster-ovened frozen waffle from my paper plate to my mouth, I heard Bill’s phone ring upstairs. “ASH, THE MOVERS ARE COMING IN 20 MINUTES.” It was 7:30 in the morning. Instant anxiety attack.

After shoving my uneaten breakfast in Bill’s face, obviously so panicked that I lost my appetite, the movers proceeded to arrive in less that the 20 promised minutes, and we were nowhere near ready. But the day happened anyway, and we got it all done with the help of two more sets of hands, a lot of sweat, and a run or two to Home Depot. I went to work, Bill went to work, I came back from work and signed the papers, the movers pulled out… and then I sat in the middle of the floor of our big empty house and stared. Indy sat with me, and she stared too.

This is really happening.

20140626-054413-20653322.jpgWith so little time, we literally just threw anything we thought we might possible want with us into the guest room closet and hoped to goodness that we had everything.

20140626-054414-20654037.jpgIndy was so nervous we were going to leave her that when Bill and I stepped outside to order lunch, we turned around to find her lying at the base of the ramp into the moving truck. She was determined to go with us, no matter what it took.20140626-054412-20652937.jpgSo then there was nothing in our house, and dinner looked like this: homegrown tomatoes, which I picked out of what was left of my destroyed garden, mixed up with whatever the hell I could find on the counter. That included a little balsamic, a little olive oil, and some shredded parmesan from the fridge for a makeshift caprese. Sort of.

20140626-054414-20654840.jpgBreakfast looked like a plastic bowl of cereal with the last of a carton of milk and one piece of microwaved bacon, all served up on a cardboard box.

20140626-054410-20650511.jpgFree time looks like this: so many activities to be done in all that empty space.

20140626-054409-20649761.jpgSince our bed is on a truck someplace, we are having a regular old campout on the floor to sleep.

20140626-054411-20651279.jpgAnd poor little Indy is wondering what on earth is happening to her life.

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I guess that makes two of us.

What’s Beyond Proud?

That’s a great question. Whatever it is, I feel it.

Last night was Bill’s last show at his current station. The station where we met. The station where I got to see him shine. And the station that gave him the experience he needed to make it to Fort Myers. So forgive me if I just can’t help myself, but I just had to post this from his last sportscast as KSBY.

http://www.ksby.com/videos/saying-goodbye-to-our-weekend-sports-anchor-bill-halter/

So, so proud.

The Life of a News Wife

So this is what it feels like.

In a post that went up a little while ago, I wrote that Bill and I were staring down the barrels of two vastly different paths, and each requires some major life changes in the form of a hard, massive, aneurysm-inducing decision. And then I didn’t tell you a thing about what I was talking about, like a big jerk. Well, I finally have permission to announce that we have in fact pulled the trigger, there are some major life changes underway, and I actually am about this close to have an aneurysm.

In five days, Bill and I are moving to Florida.

Yes, you read that right. FLORIDA. Just about as far as you can get from my lifelong home – my beautiful Golden State of California – without leaving the United States. It is exactly 2846 miles – or a 42-hour drive (39 with no traffic) from our home in San Luis Obispo, CA, to the front door of our new townhouse in Fort Myers, FL. That is so ridiculously far that I simply cannot handle it.

It has been a long while since I’ve posted something on this little heart-of-my-heart blog of mine, and that is because the process has been overwhelming, exciting, stressful, and exhausting.  It has been so hard for me to sit down and gather my thoughts enough to write anything coherent, and I’m pretty sure that I still can’t so bear with me. We also made the decision not to share until contracts were signed and everything was officially official, which was excruciating for me. There is nothing I wanted more than to fill you in, but I couldn’t. So here we are now, and I’m probably smacking you in the face with this news in exactly the same way I was smacked in the face two months ago.

When I chose to marry Bill, I knew that I was choosing more than just a partner in life, but a specific lifestyle as well, and one that was very different from anything and everything I’d ever known. The lifestyle of someone working in news has its glamorous side, which most of you probably recognize. Being a “local celebrity” as people often put it, people saying “hi” on the street, never having a dull day at work, the perks that come with it, and the like. These are all great, and Bill handles each of these so humbly and kindly that my face nearly falls off just watching him sometimes. However, there is a side of the business that not many realize, and that is the nomadic nature of moving up and being successful as a journalist. When Bill and I first met, I wasn’t too aware of this commitment to this imminent upheaval. I was, however, committed to him from the start, and I soon found out that he was to me as well. Going way back to one of our first dates, I divulged a secret. I told him that even though I had just started my job at the station where we both worked, I had recently been accepted to grad school and had made the decision to go. I was so nervous about telling him, mostly because I worried for the security of my paycheck for the rest of the summer and the possibility of severely disappointing my new boss, who took me under her wing and called me her little protege. What I didn’t realize until he told me later in our relationship was that my committing to a two-year grad program could have also meant I might lose Bill, squashing any dreams of marrying the hunk of a man sitting across from me. That was because the end of his first two-year contract was fast approaching, and he had just recently gotten his reel and his resume together to fly off to the next opportunity. Luckily, I didn’t lose him, and he chose to quit his job search and re-sign a new contract for another two years, allowing us to date and eventually get engaged while I finish my grad program.

Within three months of meeting, Bill took me home to Minnesota to meet his family and attend a college teammate’s wedding. It was an incredible whirlwind of a trip, but I will always remember a specific conversation we had while he drove me to the airport to catch my flight back to California. (I was leaving a few days earlier than he was for work.) After such a crazy weekend, we finally had a moment to ourselves, and Bill took the chance to address a giant elephant in the backseat of the car on that Minneapolis freeway. He explained that his business came with interesting circumstances: the promise of relocating with no promise of where. Basically, an agent, if you are lucky enough to have one, manages the job search, blasting out feelers and resume tapes all across the country, incessantly checking openings and communicating with potential landing pads. If the materials catch a station’s eye, the correspondence begins, the journalist is flown out, negotiations get underway, and – BOOM – new station, new city, new life.

As a career counselor currently working in the liberal arts, I knew this, and I explain this process to many, many students in the journalism department at my university. “It’s a difficult business. You have to work your way up from station to station. You may have to take a job in an obscure market and live in a small town for awhile to build up your experience.” It’s a fact of life. I lay it out, no fluff. In fact, Bill and I have always joked about Bangor-freaking-Maine, as the place we could end up, settle down, and live forever until we died in our sleep of old age in that god-forsaken New England town. (I apologize to anyone in Bangor, Maine. I have never been there nor known when to take my foot out of my mouth.) However, despite all this unemotional real talk, it is another beast entirely to live it. Enter into our lives Fort Myers, which I had no idea existed until about two months ago.

It’s such a strange thing, to have someone else take control of the job search, if you can even call it that, as it really should be called more of a “job wait”. Once Bill got his reel and his resume together (with a little help from his personal career counselor), he simply sent them off to his agent in Chicago. After a few edits, he continued to chug along at his current gig, sometimes going weeks without talking to the big man in Chi-Town. Then all of a sudden, things changed. Quickly. Too quickly. So quickly that almost two months later, I’m still not sure what’s happening. It was as if Bill was a fish, swimming through silent water filled with fishing lines and hooks ominously hanging still all around him. Every once in a while, one would twitch slightly, causing panic but ultimately being dubbed a false alarm. Then, in the eerie quiet while Bill and I were looking left at the hook at the end of the line from, say, Minneapolis or Las Vegas, one snapped into his gills from the right and shot us both up and out of the water into a strange foreign world, where the sun was too bright and we didn’t know how to breathe the air and the noises were deafening compared to peace below the surface.

“Where in the hell is Fort Myers, Florida?” was likely my verbatim answer, the only possible deviation being the choice of expletive I used.

So fast forward a few weeks, and here we are. Bill flew out on his own and spent two quick nights there, mostly with the station. These days were agonizing for me, as his “interview” and “orientation”, for lack of better words, lasted 13 hours without a chance to call and update his poor little bird of a wife at home. Drawing up an offer seemed to take weeks, but when it landed in Bill’s hands it was all happening way to fast. We deliberated and anguished and lamented and marinated in this crazy idea, letting our imaginations run wild with the infinite possibilities (him) and the imminent crumblings of all that is good and holy in this world (me). We talked about our life plans for careers and a family. We hashed out logistics for three grueling hours at a time. We created pros and cons lists and talked to our parents and lost sleep. I rattled on about alligators and hurricanes and humidity and nile monitor lizards eating our dog and giant-ass bugs flying into my newly frizzy and unmanageable mess of hair. We almost made a decision, and then we didn’t. We got close to saying the words, but they got stuck in our throats. One day we knew we had to go, and the next we were sure we couldn’t. And then one morning before Bill went to work, he addressed what we had discussed so many times before: that the news business can be inconducive to having a family and a home and a steady and secure life. We knew this. While some of his colleagues had made it work through the flexibility and willingness of their spouses and others simply love their careers too much to be anything but truly happy, many of our other journalist friends had faced the difficult music in this area, and we had heard their regrets firsthand. Bill confessed that he saw his soon-to-be-expiring contract as an opportunity to get out of the business, to settle in San Luis Obispo, and to allow me to shine in my dream job, and honestly, a HUGE part of me wanted that more than anything. However, part of my very nature – and one of the reasons I love my job so much – is that I can fully see the light in someone’s eyes and feel the heat radiating from the fire in their bones when their work and their passions are one in the same. It was clear that one of the most vibrant examples of this was staring me in the face with his big, beautiful blue eyes. Bill had wanted this career since the day he came out of the womb, and I knew what I had to do. “You’re right, this might be a great opportunity to get out of the business. But look at us. I have my master’s degree, you’re done with your job, we don’t have kids. There’s nothing holding us back. Maybe this is the time to lean in, to really give this business a shot, and to take this opportunity. This doesn’t happen every day, and maybe we can’t let this slip away.” I didn’t want Bill to spend the rest of his life wondering “what if?” and regretting his decision or resenting me. The next morning I sat on the edge of the bed just after Bill had woken up, swallowed hard, and said, “Let’s go to Florida.” And then we cried.

So here we are, five days from moving day. Our house is utter chaos, and our belongings have been reduced to brown boxes. Goodbye parties have happened (with a few more on the horizon), and I’ve seen some people that I love nearly and dearly for the last time for what could potentially be a very long time. I have two days left at work before I leave a job and an office that have felt more like a dream and a family than work. We have a site unseen townhouse waiting for us in a gated community we don’t know in a city I’ve never been to. I have panicked and sobbed and grieved in sadness, and I have laughed and squealed and hugged in hope.

I do have pictures and tips and ridiculous anecdotes from the journey so far, but for some reason, this doesn’t seem like the time to include those. Thank you for letting me share this with you, and I hope you know that writing this and sharing this has helped me immensely, knowing that some of you are in this with me. Please know that you are invited to follow along on our adventure of a lifetime, from the roadtrip across the southern United States to the new house to the amazing new friends and opportunities we are about to find in our tropical paradise. And even though I waver between wondering what the hell we have gotten ourselves into and feeling the thrill of an uncertain future, one thing is for sure: we’re doing this.

This is the life of a news wife.

Brunch Me: Kale, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Goat Cheese Frittata

I know that Mother’s Day was more than a week ago. However, I hope that this is more of a testament to how much what I am going to write about is so freaking delicious that I’m still thinking about it 12 days later and less of incriminating evidence as to how long it took me to actually get my act together to write this.  Benefit of a doubt here, my friends.

So what the hell am I talking about? Well, my lovelies: THIS.

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Kale, Sun-Dried Tomato and Goat Cheese Frittata!

Many of you know that I live too far from my family to visit for a typical weekend, what with a 7-hour drive either way and no financially feasible flight options between San Luis Obispo and Redding. Seriously, check it out. It’s absurd. What this means around this particular time of year is that I miss my mom terribly on Mother’s Day. I call her multiple times, I send her plenty of cards, and this year I ordered her a curated album of our wedding pictures. I’m sure she feels the love, but something is still missing here on the lonely mom-less Central Coast. So what’s a daughter to do? Well, that’s where the extreme kindness that is my beautiful friend Danae comes in.

Danae grew up in the area, so she is lucky to have her own family close and local. Her husband Matt’s parents live a few hours south, and a quick drive up the coast is all it takes. Knowing that my family is ridiculously far away and that Bill was going to be at work, and being the amazing event/wedding planner that she is, Danae extended an invitation to join her family’s Mother’s Day celebration at their home. The theme: Brunch for dinner!

The only stipulation (which let’s be real, if I hadn’t complied I still would have been let through the door) was that I make something to contribute. Wanting to put my new cast iron baby – I mean, skillet – to good use, I immediately blurted the word “frittata” so loudly that I would have elicited concerned stares had I been in public. Being gluten-free myself (and note: we’re trying to work certain types of dairy back into my diet, including cheeses and goat milk products), it was easy to tailor the project to the other dietary restrictions and preferences present, which let me tell you, was quite a few. I figured that I couldn’t go wrong with eggs, kale, sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese, so I threw them all together and headed over to the Pearce’s house for an evening of gourmet brunch food, champagne, and the love of family – even if it wasn’t “my own”.

We started off by gathering in the kitchen, which as per usual was styled to the nines for the occasion. Danae had brought home roses from her event the night before and laid out the most beautiful table setting in soft feminine pinks and whites.

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No brunch would be complete without champagne, of course. But to be honest, it seems that no matter where I go I find the stuff, since my general affinity for bubbly has transformed from a preference to a lifestyle. Good thing Danae and I are extensions of one another – or soul mates, as I prefer to call us – so she was ready, bottle already chilling and incorporated into the decor.

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A special occasion calls for unique touches, so leave it to Danae to offer a splash of St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur in our glasses to class the champagne up further, it that’s even possible. Magnifique.

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I have mentioned before that Danae and her husband own their own businesses with Danae Grace Events and Old San Luis BBQ Co., respectively. So while Danae had set the scene, Matt was chopping, whipping, and sauteing up a storm in the kitchen. In addition to my frittata, he created a custom crepe bar, which included ordering up Bacon + Spinach + Feta, Caprese, Chicken Curry, or Sweet Nutella and Strawberry crepes. And go figure, he preceded to pour the batter, fill her up, and fold it right before your eyes before plopping it directly on the plate in your hand. Add into the mix roasted red potatoes and homemade ebelskivers, and we found our eyes and our stomachs in a bewildered state of pure bliss.

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So while I totally and completely wish I was capable of assembling such a fete on my own, I most definitely cannot. But I can tell you that I already have plans to recreate my frittata this weekend so that we may devour the whole thing ourselves in the Halter household. You’ll find my recipe below!

Kale, Sun-Dried Tomato & Goat Cheese Frittata

Ingredients

  • 2 cups torn fresh kale
  • 1 medium onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 9 eggs
  • Few dashes salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup drained oil-packed julienned sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 oz. crumbled goat cheese (such as Trader Joe’s)

Directions

  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Heat olive oil in a cast iron skillet (or nonstick, oven-safe skillet) over medium heat. Add kale and onion and cook about 10 minutes until onion is tender, stirring frequently.20140523-093923.jpg
  3. Meanwhile, whisk together eggs, salt, and pepper in medium bowl.20140523-093903.jpg
  4. Pour over cooked  kale and onion  mixture in skillet. Reduce heat to medium-low heat and cook.
  5.  While egg mixture begins to set, use a spatula to run around the edge of the skillet, tilting the pan so the uncooked egg mixture flows underneath. Continue lifting edge until egg is almost set but still shiny and moist.
  6. Sprinkle sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese over eggs.
  7. Broil in oven close to heat until eggs are set (about 1 to 2 minutes).
  8. Cut into wedges to serve.Voilà! Free-tah-tah.

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So there you have it! An easy-peasy frittata that can be whipped up in minutes BUT will bring in the accolades of hours spent in the kitchen. Believe me, I know… I could not for the life of me convince the entire party that my contribution didn’t take much no matter how hard I tried, and I’ve been told on more that one occasion that I could sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman in white gloves – er, something – sooooo….

Anyway, this was a great choice to bring to a party…

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… and it’s just as good for a quiet breakfast at home the next day. Happy frittata-ing!