Category Archives: Fun

Mustang Sally

20160204_222721We had expected cars to be expensive to rent while we were in California after we discovered we’d be there over the Super Bowl weekend.  We were pleasantly surprised that the prices were not jacked up. We were doubly surprised when we found a convertible for the same price as a standard/smallish regular car. The weather for the weekend was expected to be in the mid 70s, so we thought we might as well enjoy a bit of convertible weather in February!

The reservation said “Mustang Convertible or Similar” which we were looking forward to just for the fun of it. When we got to the rental counter, the young woman put on the full court press.

“Do you want to prepay your gas”  “No.”

“Are you sure? It can save you money.”  “I’m sure.”

“Do you want the insurance for the car.”  “No, our company has insurance that covers it.”

“Are you sure? Even for a convertible?”  “Yes, and even for a convertible.”

“Well, if you are sure they would cover you.”  “I am.”

“Ok. Oh, look, for only $20 per day, I can upgrade your Mustang to a Camaro.”

“Nope, that is fine, just what we planned for.”

“Are you sure?  It’s a pretty nice car.” “No, the Mustang will be fine.”

So, having failed at all her up-selling efforts, she sends us to the lot to pick up our car. We tell the attendant we are looking for the Mustang Convertible and show him our paperwork. He says they sent the last Mustang off an hour before, all they have is the Camaro Convertible.

Yes, we were already scheduled for the Camaro that the car rental counter person was trying to get us to pay extra for as an upgrade.

No, that doesn’t seem scammy at all.





Well That’s Just Super!

This is the conversation Philip and I had last night.

Philip said, “I made our reservations to fly into Oakland on the 4th. Our event with Bob is on the 5th and we’ll stay the weekend and have our meetings and training sessions through the next week. See what hotel you can get close to Fremont.”

So  I clicked away and checked out our regular haunts.

“Looks like there is some big event going on, the hotels are either unavailable or really high priced that weekend.”

Then I googled “Super Bowl.” I knew it was going to be in the San Francisco Bay Area, I just didn’t know it was that early in February.

Philip knew it was on the 7th, he just didn’t know it was in the Bay Area.

So, here is the ugly truth– we are sports illiterates.  We are not fans, we are not followers we didn’t watch the Royals in the World Series, but did follow the final games online. We didn’t watch the Chiefs in the play-offs, again catching the final score online. We are happy for both teams doing well this year. We are happy for our friends who follow every game, who watch the Royals in the burning heat or the Chiefs in freezing cold.

We are not those people.

But those people were driving up the cost of the hotel rooms we usually stay in when we are in California.

We spent almost 2 hours finding a hotel that was within driving distance to our event on Friday  and that cost less than a month’s mortgage. We’d  enter our dates, search for a hotel , find one that listed some reasonable price, click select and the next page would show that price for one night, a price 3 times as much for the following night, and a warning that rooms were paid immediately on reservation with no refund for changes.

Um, NO!

We finally used some (a bunch, actually) of Hilton points to offset the cost of one hotel and the on Saturday we’ll move to Windsor, north of the city. I haven’t got the rooms for the rest of the week yet, but we’ll figure it out. By then, the fans will have thinned out and the prices won’t be so hard to take.

And this way, I’ll be strolling the square in Healdsburg to taste some wine while the fans are cheering on their teams. And they and we will all be happy!

On the Road Again

We just got back from nearly a week in Texas.  It was 4 degrees when we left home and in the mid-50s when we got to Galveston.  Not sun bathe at the beach weather, but certainly warmer than home.

Not that we were heading to the beach anyway. This was a work week, so we spent most of our time in conference rooms, training centers, or working in hotel rooms.  That said, we try to have some fun on the road. But, we arrived on a Sunday, so we did take a bit of time.

I had googled “Wineries in Galveston” and found one nearby, in Santa Fe, TX.  We stopped at the Haak Winery  and tasted several of their wines.  When we are tasting several, we always share a tasting, both to save money and so we aren’t drinking too much.  We sat on their deck, which was possible because they had heaters, and enjoyed the sunny but chilly day. We bought a bottle of their White Madeira to take home, and walked around the vineyard a bit and drove on to our hotel.

Rooms were a bargain in Galveston, cheaper than nearer our client site, so we drove an extra few minutes in return for a view of the beach.  Originally we had a view of the back parking lot, but the sink in our room didn’t drain, so we were moved across the hall to a room with a patio/deck and yes, we could see water, if we looked across the Walmart parking lot and the road.  I’m not complaining, since I wasn’t expecting a view. And it wasn’t as if I was spending my time on the deck drinking margaritas!

We ate at a couple of local places.  It felt like the local prices were high (tourist town) so we also went to our fall back position for diet friendly,  fast and economical– Wendy’s salads. Oh, such connoisseurs are we!

When we finished with client work there, we drove for one last night in north Houston, and finally found what Philip had been wanting– Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen had cheap oysters on the half shell.  So he had a dozen oysters, I had a shrimp cocktail with 9 large shrimp and we each had a side salad and a glass of wine and we were very happy.

Client visits went well, had some different food, found a new Texas winery.  Working hard but taking time to smell the roses (you know, the ones planted at the end of the rows of grapes!) Great way to start the year!



Cry Me a River

I like caramelized onions and onion jams and other savory condiments, but making caramelized onions always seemed like a lot of work for a little payoff. Then I had an “Aha!” moment and Googled “Crock pot Caramelized Onions” and hit the jackpot.There were dozens of pages with more or less the same recipe (if one can call what is involved a recipe). And I’m going to offer you the quick and dirty on a tasty tidbit that is easy to make and goes with many things.

My version requires very little – Onions, of course, a little salt, a little oil (your choice—could be butter could be olive oil, could be Wesson—you decide) and, if you want, a little balsamic vinegar and a little brown sugar.

I use as many onions as my crock pot will hold, usually between 3 and 4 lbs. I use about a half teaspoon of salt, but you can adjust for taste(we just don’t use much salt for various reasons). I use a tablespoon or so of oil or butter or a combination. Some recipes call for up to half a cup of oil, but I have not gone with that much—though really, more butter usually doesn’t hurt anything.
Peel the onions, slice them thin (I’ve just used a sharp knife (cried more)  and I’ve used a mandolin (cried less)—you could use a food processor if you prefer) pile them into the crock pot.

Add the salt and oil, toss a little put the lid on and cook all day while you are at work, or all night while you are in bed—10 hours on low works for me, but if you have a fast crock pot, maybe a little less time.

Then, check out your onions. They will be cooked down and yummy. I usually will stir in a little balsamic vinegar (a spoonful you choose the size of spoon ; 0) and maybe a soup spoon full of brown sugar.  I put the lid askew so steam can escape, and cook them down some more. The balsamic and brown sugar add a bit of richness and color. I have not tried adding them at the beginning, but that would probably be fine. I cook them down until I like the color–another hour or so– and there isn’t much liquid left. I drain what liquid there is to use in cooking (Yummy in rice) and store the onions in the fridge in jars. I hear they can be frozen in various serving sizes, but so far we have gone through them fast enough that just the jars work.

We’ve used these on burgers, with fajitas, with chicken, with steaks and on crackers with cream cheese. We’ve put them on sandwiches and beside omelets. I am thinking I’ll add beef stock this fall and make French onion soup to top with croutons and cheese under the broiler. People we’ve served them to have all asked how to make them. I may use them on occasion as a hostess gift!
Philip is a huge fan of these and believes our house should never be without them again. And, as easy as they are, that may turn out to be true.

Happy Anniversary Baby, I’ve Got You on My Mind

We’ve been celebrating our anniversary for a month, and it has been a great month.

This year we celebrate 35 years of marriage.

Yes, that is a long time.

And, if you must know, yes, we were young when we got married. Around 10 years old, I think—at least that is my story and I’m sticking with it.

But I digress.

We had thought of going to Hawaii, or some big trip to France or Italy, but frankly, making the time wasn’t working, and we’d rather not have that cash outlay right now. So, we decided to have some fun here.

We bought new phones, which we love. They are fast, sleek, have big screens and do lots of thing—and the cameras on them are very good, for snapshots and things you’d need day to day.  And we got small tablets for ourselves, which make it easy to read books, nicer than the phones for searching without dragging out the laptop. Who doesn’t like new toys?  So, even though we bought them a month before our actual anniversary, we counted these as “Anniversary gifts”.

Then we went on the mega work trip. And it was work—not a vacation at all.  We were up early to go to client sites to prep the rooms, ate the free breakfasts at inexpensive hotels (expensive hotels don’t offer free breakfast!) where we stayed, lived on weak conference coffee and when available, ate free dinners, which are usually carb heavy (Lasagna, Potatoes and gravy, rice) and lots of lettuce, with maybe some cheap wine offered for good measure.  However, free is free, and really, on the road unless we are going someplace really special, most of the time   we end up eating salad for dinner anyway.

But, we also took a day off and toured the Missions in San Antonio, TX one Saturday. And went to the Lodi Zinfest the next Saturday when we were in California. And it was great fun.  For us, both counted as anniversary celebrations.  We stopped for a couple of wine tastings when we finished our appointments. We had small plates one night and people watched from a sidewalk table. On our way home on a Saturday, when they announced the flight was overbooked, we scored free tickets for an upcoming flight simply for waiting in an airport for a few extra hours—and while we were there we shared a glass of wine and some pâté at an airport restaurant that we never would have found without the extra time.  We define all of this as part of the anniversary celebration.

Since our actual anniversary was a “school night” we defined the day before as the actual celebration day. We went to a new restaurant that had just opened a few blocks from our home and had appetizers and shared a glass of wine before going to a movie at a new theater. After the show, we bought macarons and took them home for dessert for the official anniversary dinner at home—where we had filets, baked potato, asparagus and a split of 1997 Opus One wine in our own dining room.

I guess it is hard to define a celebration when life is to be celebrated. We may not buy cards or flowers or balloons to punctuate every life event, but we do tend to have a good time wherever we happen to be. I think we succeed in making the commas in our life story enough fun that we don’t have to wait for exclamation points!

Ten Pounds of Stuff in a Five Pound Bag

I’m on the road again and apparently felt I not only needed to take everything I own with me, but that it should all go in my purse.  Sounds good, but unless I buy a little red wagon to drag the purse along in, I’m going to have to lighten the load.  Not only am I carrying pounds and pounds of stuff in my shoulder bag, I’m lugging it though airports…. 3 different ones today. So, when I need something out of it, I have to dig, because inevitably the thing I want has filtered down to the bottom of the main area of the purse.  I have/had a system, but right before this trip, I changed phones, added a small tablet, and my carefully planned purse system is now just a little off. Here is a list of what I currently have in my purse.

First external zipper pocket:

  • Two lipsticks (which I usually forget to apply)
  •  Lip balm
  •  Small mirror, (in case I ever apply the lipstick
  •  Flying earplugs  in a case—since my ears have been bothering me
  • Black earbuds for listening to music
  • Two packets  of wrapped mints from restaurant last night.

Second external zippered pocket:

  • Phone –not too much else can fit, this phone is larger than my last one

Larger external zippered pocket

  • Driving glasses in hard case (So I can see to drive)
  • Sunglasses in hard case (So I can see in the sun)
  • Reading glasses in soft case—these are hardly ever used, but they there if I need them
  • Receipt
  • Paper napkin—from fast food place at an airport
  • Packet of lemon juice from fast food restaurant at airport
  • Pen
  • Two tea bags

Small internal Pocket:

  • Business cards–mine and other people’s
  • Electronic key card
  • 2 packets of Equal

Second small internal pocket

  •  Half roll of Tums  (For my tummy)
  • Package of dental floss
  • Larger internal pocket
  • Two  pens
  •  Small fold over note pad
  •  Two receipts
  • Conference badge on a retractable cord.

 Main Purse area

  • 7 Inch tablet in case (This is new, and I love it for reading my Kindle books—much better than my old phone that I used to use for reading books!)
  • Oversized Billfold.  (Love it, but it is too big and too heavy )
  • Sheet of paper with list on it. (Could likely toss this, since I usually use Evernote)
  • Small hairbrush
  • White earbuds
  • Blue scrunchy
  • Car charger and wall charger and two cords in a case that is too small for all that stuff
  • Checkbook (I write almost no checks, but I seem to always have it with me)
  •  Wendy’s coupons
  • Two emery boards in a plastic cover
  • Empty Ziploc bag
  • Quart Ziploc bag filled with:
  1. Five bottles nail polishes (Glass bottles are heavy—this should be in the suitcase, really)
  2. Allergy meds
  3. Four- 5 Hour Energy drinks (this is 20 full hours of energy, folks)
  4. Hand sanitizer      
  • Package of Southwest peanuts
  • Package of Southwest pretzels
  • Package of Wheat Thins, also from Southwest
  •  Three magazines
  • Rolling Stone (left for me by seat mate—saved for article on musicians favorite songs)
  • Psychology Today (bought at airport newsstand for the article on Reinventing Yourself)
  • Spirit magazine (Southwest free magazine kept for Sudoku puzzles)

So, yes, some of this is clearly temporary and travel related, but—I am going to find a tote or specific travel purse to deal with this, because a lot of this is now standard for any future trips.

And I’m not  even going to discuss what is in my briefcase— but it at least has wheels!

Flight of the Social Butterfly!

I might go for a month and stay home every night, and then, suddenly, I’m out every night.  That is what my last week has been like.  Philip’s cousin called that she was in town for a conference, so 6 of us got together and went to Oklahoma Joe’s for dinner before hitting the Country Club Plaza’s Starbucks for some late night cappuccinos for dessert.  This was before Oklahoma Joe’s was listed as the Number 1 Place for ribs in the USA by The Daily Meal–so it was a good choice to meet out of town guests.  We had a great time, then two days later we were invited to a Christening of a relatives baby girl, followed by brunch.  We went (of course–Brunch!) We visited with an assortment of in-laws and out-laws, drank Mimosas and commented on the general beauty of the baby.

The following Friday was First Fridays– our metro’s monthly art crawl. We usually try to go once or twice a year, but this time, which month to go was decided for us when one of our friends was invited to exhibit! It has been on our calendar for several months.  Then, when we got the invitation to another friend’s annual open house buffet supper that she hosts on the opening night of her neighborhood’s popular art fair– we decided we had to do both!

It was a perfect night for the art crawl–warm spring weather, no rain–just a great night to be outdoors—and the streets and galleries were packed with people. I wished I could stroll to the various galleries and shops, and people watch along the way.  But this time, we went straight to the gallery showing my friend’s work, (The party gods smiled on us and granted us a parking spot very nearby) admired her work, mingled and met up with old friends and acquaintances.  We stayed longer than we normally would at an exhibit, because we knew her and also knew so many of the people coming to the event, it was like a party itself.

We relinquished our fabulous parking spot to some other lucky soul and drove through town to the next party.  Since it is designed for people to stop by after going to the first night of this different art fair, it is an open house type affair.  We saw people we’d met before, made new acquaintances, ate sandwiches some of the best guacamole I’ve ever had and some outstanding chocolate cake. She always has some special treats for those of us who stay late, and this year it was a pomegranate- cranberry juice mix  on ice in large stemmed glasses that we sipped while the pianist and soloist finished the night with a final set filled with requests from the dwindling but appreciative audience.

I don’t often go to 4 separate parties from one Friday to Friday to the next, but it was a fun week!

A Good Time was Had by All

It was a nice evening, still too cool to spend much time outside, but the promise of spring was there. Our host made a perfect version of Julia Child’s Lamb Stew–and our hostess made a Buttermilk Lemon Panna Cotta. The wine flowed, the conversation carried the night, we got to know our hosts and the other couple they had invited better. After dinner there was coffee and conversation and friendly dogs wanting to be petted.

As much as I like to entertain, there is a different kind of pleasure in being the guest at a friend’s home. We go out so often with business associates–many of whom we are very friendly with–but there is a difference. No matter how friendly the relationship, when there is an ongoing business relationship in the mix there is always a bit of a shadow. I notice that when former clients have retired the relationship changes just a tiny bit, and becomes just slightly more comfortable.

Friends by choice instead of business colleagues just made for a more relaxing evening, and I can’t wait to try to make Panna Cotta at home!

My Funny Valentine

© Neil Mey | Dreamstime Stock Photos
© Neil Mey | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Valentine Evening and I’m at the office.  And so is Philip. And we are fine with that. We were invited to a corporate event last night and the wine flowed, the steaks were large and tender and the dessert was too rich to finish.  We had good conversation with business acquaintances we had met a time or two before, but we didn’t spend the evening talking business.  It was more like a nice, if large, dinner party than a corporate “thing”. So we’ve had our fun evening out for Valentine’s week.  

I am ready for the weekend!  I’d love to say I’d be relaxing or going out all weekend, but I suspect I’ll be working on a few things for that can’t wait at least part of the time. But that is OK. Sometimes when you work with a spouse, you get to mix business with pleasure.

And that is sort of the story of our life, lately… enjoy the treats that come with work (likely a fancier meal out last night than we’d have bought for Valentine’s on our own) and put in the hours when we need to work. Add a day or two at the end of a business trip, if we can, or if we can’t, just plan to return to the sites we don’t manage to see while on a work trip. Either way, this is our life, so we’d better enjoy it or change it so that we do!

Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

snow © Dale Wagler Dreamstime Stock Photos

It was supposed to be 10 below this week, and I can’t tell you if it made it because I was nestled all snug in my bed.  But this week, the schools in the area have been closed 5 days out of 5 because of cold, frozen roads and snow.  I’m not sure of our exact amount, but we had nearly a foot of snow in the driveway.  So, when a couple of teens came buy asking if we wanted it shoveled, the answer was “How much.” (I’m not stupid) and then, when they gave me a reasonable price, the answer was “YES!”    It appeared to be a brother and sister, they did a fine job and I tipped them about 1/3 of what they were asking, just because I didn’t have to do it myself, they weren’t charging that much and did I mention– I didn’t have to do it myself!  If it keeps snowing these big snows every year, I may have to break down and buy a snow blower.  Or just keep paying whatever kids comes by to shovel.

As usual, when it snowed, I worked from home.  This year, Philip was home as well.  He’s missed a couple of snowdays in the last couple of years by being off in some warmer climate while I was snowed in, but this year, he was home. Since we are hooked up to work at home anyway, it is not a hardship to stay home and we didn’t have to play “avoid the maniac” on the roads.

Wherever you are, I hope you are warm and safe and going to have a great weekend.