Sunday, June 30, 2013

The Girls Go To Georgia Part 1 - Wine Shops and Kayaks

Afternoon Darlin's!

As I've mentioned a few times, two weeks ago a few of us girls boarded planes and headed for Atlanta to visit our friend Sakura who is getting her PhD at the University of Georgia.  Initially I had mixed feelings about the whole thing - I was a little concerned as we are a rather motley crew (no umlauts) and at a certain point, the other girls started talking about hiking and floating down rivers.  If it's not painfully obvious, I am not outdoorsy - not in the least.  But I was also very excited since I'd never been to the South and I miss Sakura terribly.  So, I went out and purchased some water shoes (yes, you read that right - I had a trip planned to the South and I had to go purchase water shoes...have those words ever been uttered before?), packed my bag and stayed up all night for fear of not waking up in time to get to LAX by 6:20 (!!!!) in the morning.

After almost missing our flight because we decided a $28 breakfast was a good idea (which for the record, it totally was) and five hours in a sub-zero airplane cabin, we FINALLY made it to Atlanta!

photo credit

It did not take long to feel that you were in the South.  Even at the airport where people do not tend to be on their best behaviour, everyone was nice and you could even see pride taken in the planters at the airport!  I don't believe there are ANY planters at LAX.  Oh, and if I had any lingering doubts, the humidity would have been a dead giveaway...

Tina was excited!

While we flew into Atlanta, the airport and the freeway were really all that we saw of it.  Sakura lives in Athens, which is about an hour and a half outside of Atlanta.  We landed around 3:30 and finally made it back to her house shortly after 5.  She lives in a cute little house in an older neighborhood with a nice big porch and, as is a requirement in the South, we all decided to decompress there for a bit.  Glass of wine in hand, feet up, and puppies under foot!

Janice, Henry, and Brianne
Janice being photobombed by Henry
Henry and Lucy were so wiggly from the excitement of having all their Aunties there!  This is literally the best shot I was able to get...
One of the things that I REALLY wanted to do on this trip was sip mint juleps on a porch with some old Southern women, the compromise was sipping nice wine with my girls (and puppies) on Sakura's porch while she kept working "Oh Mylanta!" and "Bless her heart!" into the conversation.  I love this girl so much!!  After about an hour on the porch, the five of us piled into the car and drove through the rustic neighborhoods to the oasis in the desert (with the Southern heat, this phrase isn't that much of a stretch).

Barber & Beauty Shop/Realty - when you don't have time to make two stops.
I wish I had ended up with more photos of all the beautiful buildings.  This is the only one I got -  enjoy!
Where did we end up, you might be wondering?  Shiraz!  This Athens wine shop far surpassed my expectations!  It didn't look like much from the outside, but once we got inside, I was super impressed!!

The ladies who work at Shiraz are absolutely fantastic!!  So friendly and incredibly helpful.
You could say we had a few choices...

After staying past closing, we had quite a few bottles that came with us.  It was a varied selection and I don't think we were disappointed with any of them.  We then popped into the grocery store to pick up a few things and headed back to the house.  Once there, Sakura lit some lanterns and bug repelling spiral doohickies so that we could spend the evening on the porch in peace.

Staring the evening off with a glass of wine, some olives, and a meat and cheese plate.
After enjoying the last remnants of daylight, we took turns in the kitchen to prepare the dinner. Admittedly, the fact that I had not slept at all the night before was catching up with me and my contribution was minimal.  There was some serious culinary greatness under Sakura's roof that weekend, so my lack of contribution, hopefully, went unnoticed.

Janice finishing the meat and cheese plate.  Waste not want not.
Roasted veggies for the pizza!
Roasted veggie pizza.  These girls have skills - not only did they roast all the veggies, but they made the tomato sauce from scratch.  The house smelled like heaven!!
Sakura appeasing the carnivores.

A short while later, dinner was had by candlelight.

And the next day, things got interesting.

It had been decided the night before that we were to drive a few hours in the morning and go...shudder...hiking.  When we all slept until about 11, I knew I was off the hook for that one, although I had started to get used to the idea.  Instead, the girls decided that we would throw on our bathing suits and water shoes and float down a river for a few hours.  With my aptitude for nature-related activities, I was convinced that we would encounter some rapids and that I would end up capsized.  But I sucked it up and, while I voiced my reservations, I'm pretty proud of myself for not outrightly complaining.  I'm a team player, so I threw on some sunblock, grabbed my big hat, and we were off.

Sakura had to stop for gas on the way and I found another indicator that we were truly in the South...

The joke was that I could not have looked like more of a tourist taking a photo of this sign in my over sized black hat and sunglasses...
I was DEFINITELY out of my element.  And I eagerly await the girl scout badge that Janice has promised me for stepping so far outside of my comfort zone.

They're serious.
Just put some string on it.
Getting shuttled upriver in an old school bus.

PROOF I actually did the outdoorsy thing!
Brianne is still able to be fabulous in a kayak.

Race to the finish.
After a few HARROWING hours on the river - okay, not really.  It was actually a really good, relaxing few hours of five fabulous gals just floating along, we showered and got all prettied up to go out for the evening.  Sakura chose VERY well - I don't think we could find any fault with the Last Resort Grill.

The Carolina Crab Cake starter was probably the best crab cake I've ever had!
When you're in the South, you HAVE to order the Fried Green Tomatoes.
My salmon and creamy grits.  Hands down the best grits I've ever had - if they would deliver to California, I would have them on speed dial!

Not sure what everyone else had, but by the end of the meal, there was no trace of it left anyhow.

Stay tuned, the rest of our adventures will follow shortly!

To be continued...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Brunch 06.22.2013 - Four Generations of Fabulous Ladies

Plums Café, Costa Mesa

Good morning Darlings!

I hope you slept well.  I slept like a baby for 10 hours which was desperately needed!  The last few weeks of hard and fast living have caught up with me (HAHA!  More like a busy schedule without an adequate amount of sleep).  I've got more than enough on my agenda this weekend to keep me busy...unfortunately it does not include Brunch.  Though I can relive Brunch last weekend to get me through it as it was fab - naturally.

You know that something is important to you when you wake up early on a Saturday.  And last Saturday, my alarm went off at an uncivilized hour for a weekend.  But there was much to do - my schedule was filled with some of the most fabulous ladies I know.  Ladies spanning four generations!

I started my day by driving down to South County to visit one of my best ladies, Stephanie, and her brand new baby, Avabella.  And when I say brand new, I mean BRAND new.  Avabella was born on the evening of June 17 and while I had popped in for a quick visit the next afternoon at the hospital, I wanted to check in on them again.  The Day 5 check-in is VERY important!  While she is very tiny and very new, I can already tell that she will be a beauty - just like her Mommy. Stephanie has made the decision to keep photos of Avabella off social networking sites, so this will probably be the only photo I share with this age babies don't look that much different.  I just wanted to share how excited I am that my niece has FINALLY arrived!

As with any new parents, Stephanie and her husband are in the process of figuring things out, but they are such a great team that they are making it look easier than I've ever seen - at least to an outsider.  Since they are establishing routines at this point, I decided to pop in for about an hour before I headed to Brunch - I didn't want to get in the way.

After that visit, I headed into Costa Mesa to meet my friend Britni for Brunch.  Since you have to go through Costa Mesa to hit Newport Beach and it was a beautiful day, everyone seemed to be headed for the beach and traffic was TERRIBLE!  I had never been to Plums Café before and one of the reasons that I picked it was that they take reservations.  In any coastal area - especially on nice summer days, this is a huge plus!  What impressed me about this place was the fact that they were also very accommodating when I called and told them that we were stuck in traffic, though they probably get that a lot!

I was surprised when my GPS routed me to a tiny little strip mall with an inconveniently small parking lot.  Plums probably gets a lot of phone calls from people pushing their reservations back while they're trying to find parking.  I highly recommend this place, but consider yourself warned!

Braving the beach traffic and the teeny-tiny parking lot was totally worth it once the drinks and food started to arrive.

Check out the fabulous menu!
Plums will turn any entrée into Brunch for the piddly amount of $8 which adds bottomless coffee or tea and an adult Brunch beverage!  Britni ordered the Oregon Berry Belini and I ordered a Mimosa.  We were both happy with our choices!

And then there was the food.  Everything.  Was.  Spectacular!  I ordered the Smoked Salmon Hash which was out of this world!

Britni ordered the Apple-Honey Sausage with Eggs which she was very happy with.

As we have learned, everyone loves a little sweet to go with their savory, so we also split the Willamette Hazelnut Pancakes with Marion Berry Compote.  I previously posted about the Klondike Sourdough Pancakes at Bubby's in New York...these hazelnut pancakes tied with them as the best pancakes I've ever had.  If you visit Plums, you MUST try these!

After we ate, we continued catching up over a second round of cocktails, and this time, I also ordered the berry belini.  That was delicious as well.  Based on the Yelp reviews and our experience, everything here is delicious!

I had a fabulous, albeit short visit, with Stephanie and then a fabulous Brunch with Britni.  After we parted ways, I headed over to Oma's.  My mother joined us and while my plans to start getting Oma's stories on film for the documentary were thwarted by the fact that her hair was in rollers, we had a fantastic afternoon!  She pulled out a book that had a photo of my paternal grandfather as a young man.  He was a musician in Germany that performed all over Europe - even performing for the King and Queen of Sweden at the royal palace.  Too bad neither my sister nor I inherited his musical abilities...  This photo is of him in the Musikkappelle in 1929!

Throughout the course of the day, I spent some amazing quality time with some fabulous Ladies!  It's not uncommon for me to spend time with three generations, but with the birth of Little Miss Avabella, this was the first day that marked FOUR generations.  And that, Darlings, is fabulous!

Here's to all the fabulous Ladies I know, spanning the generations!