Sunday, November 28, 2010

Giving Thanks

When I was little, I really wasn’t that big a fan of Thanksgiving.  Probably because it couldn’t hold a candle to that other holiday that comes 4 weeks later that just so happens to involve a whole lot of PRESENTS, and while I’m a big fan of mashed potatoes I could really care less about turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce.  I know, I was a regular Thanksgiving Scrooge.  The older I get though, the more I appreciate that Thanksgiving is one of the few times a year that is really sacred for families.   I don’t know many people who have entire extended families sharing zip codes anymore, so having that time reserved for family get togethers is more important than ever and I’m pleased that despite the busy, work-work-work culture we live in, most businesses continue to give people the time off to gather together with their loved ones.  Of course, we have the added challenge of the emergency room residency schedule that doesn’t always allow for traditional time off!  For instance, this year Matt was working 5:30pm-5:30am the entire week of Thanksgiving, with a day off on Saturday and a 24 hour shift on Sunday.  Needless to say, when he wasn’t working, he was sleeping.  Both of our families have been really awesome about working around our crazy schedule, whether it’s meant celebrating our holidays on days other than the actual holiday-day or making the trip to come see us when we don’t have enough time off to get there. 

This year my parents drove down to Charlotte, where we celebrated Thanksgiving at Katie and Dylan’s home.  I have to confess that Katie and my mom did pretty much all the cooking, while I took full advantage of a lazy day off and read, napped, walked my doggy around Katie’s cute uptown neighborhood, and chatted with my fam.  (Don’t be fooled by that picture of Katie sleeping – that’s after hours of food prep!)  I did contribute a pecan pie, so I wasn’t a total culinary mooch.  Our meal was delicious, and I was super sad to have to leave my family Thursday night but given that either route home from Charlotte involves passing a mall I decided it was in my best interest not to wait until Friday to make the drive.






On Friday, my hubby slept off another night shift and I used the free day off to get caught up on some housework and projects.  Saturday my family came up to Winston, and Matt, Dylan and my Dad spent a chilly day on the golf course while I recruited Mom, Katie and Michael to help me lug Tupperware tubs of Christmas decor out of the attic.  Lucky them.  After the boys got back, the children embarked on a secret mission to obtain my parent’s Christmas present (not telling) and then we reconvened at Riverburch for a yummy, wine-y, happy family dinner together.  It was hard to say good-bye to my fam after what felt like an incredibly short weekend, but I’m thankful to know that they’ll be in just a few weeks for Christmas and that we’ll also get to spend some time with Matt’s family in a few weeks too. 

And with that, the holiday season has kicked into high gear!  Somehow I think that 4 weeks away other holiday is going to be here before I know it.  Happy Thanksgiving, ya’ll!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Animal Style

Our last day in San Diego!  Hard to believe vacation is coming to an end.  I had heard that when in San Diego, one must go to the zoo, so to the zoo we went! 

The only other zoo I have been to is the National Zoo in DC, and I was there specifically to see Butterstick (the baby panda) and he was sleeping.  In a tree.  Out of sight.  I can't even remember if I saw the rest of the zoo, so bitter was my disappointment.  I don't think I did (Matt?  Did I?) because I literally was in shock at some of the animals we saw at San Diego.  It was definitely the first time I’ve seen many of them in real life.  Giraffes, and elephants, and lions, and jaguars (oh my!) and Meer cats and monkeys - I felt like a little kid looking at all these creatures.  They were fascinating!





After nearly 3 miles of walking around the zoo and two attempts to see the polar bears, we took the skyfari back to the front entrance and called it a day.  Our final west coast "must do" was a trip to In-N-Out Burger and we checked that off the list on the way home.


This ended up being the perfect balance of doing stuff and relaxing (thanks to West Coast time allowing for some serious sleeping) and eating and seeing - the kind of vacation where you're not exhausted at the end of it, but happily content and prepared to dive back in to real life.  Even better when you fly back on a Wednesday, and only have to do 2 work days before the weekend shows up!  (Unless of course, you happen to be starting a month of Trauma ICU like my poor hubby who will rack up a mere 128 hours of work over the next 9 days, including 4 24-hour shifts.  Ugh.)  Our flight back home was uneventful, our greeting from the pupdog was exuberant and our own bed, welcoming.  A good end to a great trip.

Monday, November 15, 2010

All Who Wander

Ok, I'll do my best to refrain from waxing poetical about food again today.  Today was another big adventure, compliments of our amazing tour guide/host Michael.  Mike kept talking about us going hiking out in the desert, and truth be told, I'm not a big hiker - I often get bored and wonder why I'm not running.  Fortunately, after this trip, I might be will to give hiking a second opinion.

First, we drove to an area called Cleveland Forest and did a 45 minute hike up, up, up and even farther up to a peak called Garnet Peak.  Wow - the view.  I felt like I was looking clear out to Arizona.  I had a sudden epiphany when sitting up high on the mountaintop that those who had come to California for the gold rush had to have crossed these very same mountains - without a Jeep to take them halfway up, without a camelbak to keep their water cold, and certainly without a GPS cell phone telling them how far they'd gone.  It sort of stunned me, to realize what those people had gone through to get to the west coast.  I'm pretty sure I would have set up camp after crossing the first mountain.  If I had had to have crossed those mountains, today there would be a small settlement at the foothills of Arizona called Megville where I would have called it quits and set up camp.




At the top of the mountain, we found a geocache - a small tube of PVC pipe with a notepad inside to sign our names and date and a little note.  We added ours, after reading through who had been there in the days and weeks preceding us.


After our mountain climb, we headed farther into the desert for a flatter and easier, albeit longer trail.  The destination for this one was an "oasis."  This is what my brother kept saying but I really couldn't figure out what he meant until I saw it.

After about two miles of dusty rocks, all of a sudden I saw a small pocket of bright green bursting out of the dusty ground.


So that's what an oasis is.  It was just what you think - desert totally surrounding a little pocket of green palm trees, grass and a little creek trickling through it.  Very neat to see.


On our way back, we spotted a bunch of long horned ram on the other side of the path.  We both stopped to investigate each other for awhile, before the rams moved on. 


We have been getting quite the wildlife tour, and this is before even going to the zoo!

For dinner tonight (can't help but bring up fodo again), we went on pursuit of Matt's #1 vacation priority: really good sushi.  Thanks to yelp and a recommendation from a sushiophile friend of Michael's, we ended up at Sushi Ota.  Matt and Michael ordered some crazy sampler platter and I tried not to look while Michael ate a huge roll filled with salmon roe (the utter thought of the texture of that gives me the heebie-jeebies) while I stuck with my delicious but very boring California Roll.

Sushi mission accomplished.

After sushi, thanks to some awesome Google skills by my husband, we ended up at Babycakes.  Umm, no, not a strip club, thank you.

Babycakes was a bar/lounge that shared a home with a cupcake counter.  Cupcakes and champagne.  Hello, Heaven?  It's me, Megs.  I'm here, let me in, okay?

(Yes, that would be our 2nd cupcake of the trip, but who is counting?  I mean, that hike had to have cancelled out at least the frosting.)

Jamie and I sometimes daydream opening a cupcake shop - even though neither of us have a proclivity to extreme cupcake baking OR the know-how of running a business (although Jamie would have a leg up in that department considering she has a degree in it, whereas I don't know that anatomy and physiology classes would come in handy when it comes to bookkeeping and staffing and inventory.)  I think we basically just want a cupcake shop in Winston, and we see ourselves opening it as the most direct route there.

Specifically, a cupcake shop that serves champagne.

Specifically, an exact replica of the place we went to tonight – which of course, I failed to take any pictures of.  Sigh.

(So, can this outing be considered market research and all cupcakes tax-deducted?  Please say yes.)

As you can imagine, this ended up being an early night between 5 hours of hiking and a post-cupcake-sugar-crash.  Oh yea, and that whole east coast time zone (which is becoming less and less of factor with our wake up calls.)  Hard to believe we are almost to the last day of our trip.  That must be the sign of a great vacation.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

La Jolla Kayaks and Old Town Tortillas

When we got back to San Diego on Sunday, we debated a surfing lesson but nixed it due to the potential frigidness of the Pacific this time of year.  Instead, we took to the water in kayaks!  We set off from La Jolla, and paddled around the coast til we got to an area populated with seals.  Seals!

Seals are really, really loud.  Who knew.

Our kayak outing was not particularly strenuous - the water was very placid, the sun was setting and the breeze was light.  I found it almost meditative, especially once I found my rowing rhythm.  Now, all I need is a lake to wake up on every morning and my very own bright green kayak to achieve total bliss.  OHMMMMM.

The highlight of our kayak adventure, though, was when we got home and went to upload the seven or so photos my brother had taken on his roommate's nifty waterproof camera.  I plugged it into my iPad only to see over 200 pictures pop up!  We broke into a fit of giggles when we realized he had set it on "every 5 seconds" and our entire trip was documented from the perspective of my brother's lifejacket.  Lots of awkward pictures of chins and knee caps, but a few neat ones we found in the mix.

La Jolla Kayak La Jolla Kayak2

After our kayak (and photo) adventure, we set off on another culinary adventure.  Yes I am keenly aware that the only thing that kept me from weighing twice as I do by the end of this trip was all the activity we did!  One of Matt's attendings had told him to visit a specific Mexican restaurant in old town because they had "the best margaritas in town."


Only apparently, that's like saying "go to the Chinese restaurant in China town."  Old Town IS pretty much all Mexican restaurants and tourist shops!  Fortunately she had provided specific name and address that Matt pulled up on his email, and we were able to find it.  When every other restaurant was empty at 6pm on a Sunday night, this one had people spilling out into the street waiting so we were pretty optimistic.

It was indeed the best margarita I have ever had.  Hands down.  I rarely get margaritas in restaurants because they seem to be all sugar.  This one was the exception.  A 6 count of tequila (which according to former bartender brother is 2 shots), a 3 count of Triple Sec, a squirt of sour mix all into a pre-chilled, pre-salted glass. 


Oh and the food?  Almost forgot about that.  It was also the best Mexican food I have ever had.  Lo siento Carolina del Norte, you've got nothing on San Diegan Mexican cuisine.  (I assume being about 25 minutes from the border has a little something to do with that....).

Anyways, we enjoyed our Mexi-meal and headed home with our bellies full and happy.  Another day, another adventure, another meal.  We are loving our West Coast vacation. 

In An LA State of Mind

Somehow Matt and I managed to talk Anna and Pablo into being super tourists and taking a double decker bus tour of Los Angeles.  Pretty sure we saw everything.  The bus tour started in Santa Monica, at the pier, wandered through Brentwood and Beverly Hills and then we swapped lines at Rodeo Dr.  Then it wound through Hollywood and Sunset Blvd.  Such different aspects of a city, so close together.  I pictured “Hollywood” being so different.  We thought we were going to get off at Pink's to have a famous hot dog, but it was getting late and the bus driver had other ideas.  He pointed out our delicious destination as we sped past, distraught and delirious with hunger. 

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After a long day on the bus (and only a cupcake to tide us over, since our hot dog plans were foiled), the 4 of us threw together a magnificent feast - guacamole nachos and bruschetta, followed by steak and asparagus with prosciutto.  Obviously, our eyes were bigger than our stomachs when it came to grocery shopping, and the Pinks drive-by had left us all ravenous!  We had a fun evening at Anna and Pablo’s, where us girls whipped the boys in 90’s-themed trivial pursuit.  I know my 90s, ya’ll.


Sunday morning, we wrapped up our whirlwind Los Angeles tour with a delicious (and hearty) brunch in a quirky little cafe near Anna's house and lots of hugs and promises not to go another 3 years before our next visit!

Friday, November 12, 2010

West Coast Birthday

6:30 am. I was close.

Sorry, brother. I realize it's not 9:30 for you but it is for me and although I'm tiptoeing, there's a dog and cat following my every move and oh hey, now that you're up, where's the coffee?

Miracle of miracles, Mike actually did get up (at 7:00 am, Mom!! I witnessed it with my own eyes!!) and joined Matt and I for a run. We took a route that went down to the beach and north along the shore, past a beach specifically for dogs (love!), through a parking lot of surfers coming back from predawn outings, past a skateboard park and back through his architecturally eclectic neighborhood. We stopped, conveniently, in front of a bagel place and refueled with carbs and coffee.

Then Matt and I set out on our Los Angeles road trip. We had mapped out a route that oh so conveniently took us by a Cafe Rio, a restaurant introduced to us by Zac and Jamie when we were in Utah that we are enamored with. It was the perfect birthday lunch for my husband! HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY!

I realize I talk a lot about food in my blog. But just look at this gorgeous salad!

Yes, we made a 75 mile road trip for food.

On the second leg of our journey, Matt indulged me by skipping the expressway and heading west to the Pacific Coast Highway via my hand written directions. I was so nervous I was going to get us lost but I am my father's map reading daughter and in about 12 minutes, the sparkling coast stretched out before us.

The drive took longer but we weren't in a hurry, and it was much prettier and less hectic. (Thank heavens Matt did drive when we were on the freeway, because I might have closed my eyes a few times.). On the PCH, we drove through beach towns like Laguna, Newport and Huntington. I kept expecting to see LC and Lo strolling down the street in Laguna. (Sadly, I did not.)

We got to Santa Monica, where Anna lives, a few hours before she got off work and just killed time- first, bumming wifi in her apartment lobby and second, discovering a happy hour along the marina.

My 3 favorite things in life: my husband, the Internet and wine. Content.

Anna called to say she was back from work, so we headed back to her place. After three or four hugs in the lobby, we just kept holding each other going "I can't believe it's really you!" After 4 years of living together at Wake, our friendship has been cemented and has withstood time and distance, but we haven't actually seen each other since my wedding in 2007! I also finally got to meet her boyfriend of 4 years, Pablo, who I have heard about so much during our monthly phone calls I almost forgot I haven't met him before.

Our hosts took us out to a great restaurant in Venice, famous for their array of burger choices - Kobe, salmon, buffalo, bison, flamingo, you name it.

Ok, maybe not flamingo. There just seemed to be about every type of edible animal and plant on the menu. I had the salmon burger - gotta get my omega-3's!

After dinner we picked up their cute puggle from daycare and headed home. Anna was so thoughtful to have picked up a birthday ice cream cake for Matt, so we had a little birthday celebration before turning in for the night.

Happy birthday, Matt! Hope it was a memorable day!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, November 11, 2010

California, Here We Come

Ever since we got here, I've had the theme song from The O.C. Stuck in my head.

California, here we are.

Our travel was wonderfully uneventful. Neither of us even had to go through the x-ray machine. We got to San Diego mid-afternoon, and my brother was wandering around baggage claim looking for us.

We headed to his home, a cute beach bungalow he shares with his two grad student roommates, a sweet kitty named Eddie and an adorable Aussie shepherd named Sebastian. Seb has been providing us our doggy fix already. On our way to his house, we crested a huge hill and looked straight down into the sparkling Pacific Ocean.

Yup. I get why so many people love living here now. Wow.

After we dropped off our stuff, we changed into workout gear for what I anticipate to be the first of many outdoor exercise outings. From what I can gather, exercise is a way of life here. I likes.

Mike took us over to Torrey Pines State Park, where we hiked up dusty desert trails to see some more a-maaazing views, then ended on the beach. I can't get over a beach that goes right up to a high craggy roll of rock. Very different from our East coast beaches!

After we burned off some calories, we headed back to his neighborhood to consume some. Considering both my mom and my sis texted me to ask if we were going for fish tacos, I was anticipating a good meal. I was not disappointed. We finished up our evening with some Baileys on the rocks back at Michael's house and crawled into bed exhausted... At 10:30. Clearly we are still on east coast time, and with the addition of the travel, the hike and the baileys, didn't stand a chance. See you in the morning.

Probably at 5 am.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dear A Lot of You... Happy Birthday to You!

Happy Birthday, Matt! Happy Birthday, Akanksha! Happy Birthday, Kate! (And Happy Birthday Minez, because I'm naming November birthdays and you come to mind and I'm feeling generous like that.)

I have a lot of friends with November birthdays. Ponder that.

(I did. And figured it out. Ohhh...)

Anyways! In honor of all these birthdays, Jamie and Zac hosted a birthday celebration on Saturday. Matt and Akanksha were the birthday honorees in attendance, as Kate had parents in two AND two twenty-five page papers impending. Thanks for hosting and toasting my hubby, Jamie!

It was decided it would be a Mexican theme and the fiesta food and drink were in full force. And s'mores! We had s'mores! (Our one deviation from the theme.)

I love our friends. I love that birthdays are never forgotten. I love that hosting a party for our little group becomes an "all hands on deck" affair where everyone contributes. I love that feeling of absolute contentment and good fortune that just whooses over me whenever we are all together.
Happy Birthday, November babies. Looking forward to what this year has in store for each of you.