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Friday, August 27, 2010

Free Cafe Rio!

As if we needed another reason to love Cafe Rio!

Matt and I had such a great Saturday last weekend with our friends Amy and Kenneth and their 13-month old, Danny. Amy and I go way back to junior high in Northern California and their little family just barely moved to Southern California from Utah. It was so nice to hang out with old friends in our new area! Having just left Utah, though, they--like us--were missing Cafe Rio in their lives. Luckily for our little band of former Utahns, there's a new Cafe Rio in Manhattan Beach so we decided to meet there for a delicious pre-beach lunch.

And even luckier for us--when we arrived, we were met with multiple signs happily announcing: "Free food today!" Seriously. We could hardly believe our eyes! They were offering everything on the menu for absolutely free and just asking for, quote, "one or two dollars" in donations to benefit foster children in the area. First of all, that's a fantastic PR/marketing idea for a new area. Second, good for them for working with local charities. And third, score! We gave ourselves a 50% discount on the food and donated the rest. Believe it or not, I think Cafe Rio tastes even better when it's half off and for a good cause. It was the perfect way to kick off our fun afternoon!
I dream about the yummy goodness of sweet pork salad.
Danny liked it so much, he was sad to leave :-)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Summer rain

I love summer rain. It provides such a refreshing respite from the heat and gives a regular ol' summer day a little something extra. These rainstorms come out of nowhere around here and only stay for a fleeting amount of time; although, they make the most of their limited time by dumping as much water as possible. The hour-by-hour weather report on these days looks something like this: sunny, sunny, sunny, sunny, sunny, mild hurricane, sunny, sunny, sunny, sunny, sunny. Seriously, it's crazy.

Just a couple weeks ago, we enjoyed our favorite rainstorm of the summer thus far. We were eating dinner with friends on a scorchingly-hot day, when I glanced out our dining room and saw this:
A fiery, vibrant sunset accented by water rushing down from the sky. It was so pretty! Naturally, we walked out onto our covered back porch to take this picture and watch the sunset. Our plans didn't last long, though. A mere 30 seconds after stepping outside, we spotted a family of black widows dutifully spinning their webs near the rear entrance of our home. Let me tell you, nothing creeps me out more than murderous arachnids. So we quickly swapped our fun frolic-in-the-rain plans for the safety of our couch and figured we'd try again during the next rainstorm.

To truly appreciate the next part of the story, you need a little background information regarding my parking habits. During winter, I park as close as humanly possible to my destination. If that means driving around in circles at Wal-mart for ten minutes until a front-ish spot becomes free, so be it. What can I say? I hate being cold. In every other season, though, I look at those "circlers" like they're crazy. I mean, what's an extra 25 steps in warm weather? In fact, I prefer those 25 steps, thank you very much, so I tend to park toward the back of the lot.

Which brings us to my Sam's Club trip yesterday. Just as the Weather Channel predicted, it was 105 degrees and the sun was blazing when I arrived at the crowded parking lot. Just to provide a visual, here's the lovely sunny, palm tree-lined view near Sam's Club that I originally shared in this post:
Anyway. Immediately after entering the lot, I turned down a center aisle and noticed an open 2nd-row spot just as I was passing by. There was no one behind me so I could have easily reversed a little and taken it. Instead, I decided that the extra exercise would be good for me and parked in the next open spot I found, which happened to be two rows from the back. I mentally patted myself on the back for making a good little fitness decision as I walked to the store entrance in the sweltering heat.

Fast forward about 45-minutes to me signing my name on the line for an expensive cart full of necessities. The cashier handed me the receipt and the lights suddenly flickered. There was a faint booming sound in the distance, and the lady behind me muttered, "thunder." That can't possibly be thunder, I thought as I walked to the exit. But boy, was I wrong. I made it to the doors only to find a torrential downpour outside.

Big drops of rain pelted me incessantly as I raced to my car with the cart. Then, since Sam's doesn't provide grocery bags, I stood there in the pouring rain as I painstakingly took items out of my cart one by one and placed them in the trunk. By the time all of the groceries were safely in my car, I was so drenched that one might think I'd been searching for Nemo.
I couldn't help but laugh at my plight. That, and thank my lucky stars that Sam's Club was the last errand on my list!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Angels in the outfield... and the nosebleeds.

It took half a season, but we finally made it out to the Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
To give you a little background on my Angels fan-ship: I officially became an Angels fan when I worked for their triple-A team, the Salt Lake Bees, back in 2007. It was such a great summer, getting paid to work in a fun minor league atmosphere and watch baseball games. Highlights included meeting players on the Angels' 40-man roster, hosting events for kids with the athletes, and having a mascot drop to a knee and propose to me on the field between innings. Ah, those were some good times.

Needless to say, it's hard to cheer on a team and its players (especially the ones who kept getting pulled up to the majors) every day for an entire season and not become a fan of the franchise. I've been rooting for the Angels ever since! Happily for me, Matt had no prior commitments to any other MLB team, so he hopped on my bandwagon. Last year, we caught a spring training game in Arizona and were super excited at the prospect of watching the Angels play on their home turf once we moved to California.
I was even more excited when the big day finally arrived! Matt and I proudly donned our Angels attire and prepared for a great day at the ballpark. The fact that said ballpark totally rocks was a major added bonus. I mean, an "infield" at the entrance--how fun is that? The little kids were loving it and, admittedly, so were we. (The concept and design, that is. Don't worry--we weren't actually running around the bases. Although, we might have been slightly tempted to have a friendly little race.)
We finally headed inside and made our way up to our seats. And when I say up, I mean UP! We were spoiled with 8th-row first baseline seats at Dodger Stadium, but we were on our own for this one. Since we're newlyweds, that equaled nosebleed $25 seats that I found for 50% off. But hey, it's still the same ballgame! And we kind of like the alternative birds-eye views of the stadium.
One thing we did not like, however, were the Angel dogs. In that area and that area alone, the Dodgers have them beat--by a long shot. I'd rather have my Angels and yucky hot dogs than the Dodgers and their delicious ones any day, though!
The game itself was an exciting one that came down to the very last pitch. I'm not going to tell you how it ended, but lets just say I was wishing I had some of those magical arm-flapping powers a la Angels in the Outfield. On a happier note--a good ol' former Bee, Howie Kendrick, hit one out of the park for the Angels. Way to represent, Howie!
As a bit of a consolation prize, the Angels and their fans were greeted with a lovely sunset as they left the stadium.
Alas, with the Angels currently 8 games behind Texas, it's probably time to start channeling Roger Bomman and his famous request:
"So, maybe you can help them win a little. Amen."

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Good Things to Come

The first time I saw this video, my eyes filled up with tears of gratitude to my Heavenly Father. It was exactly what I needed to hear right then; something that I already knew but needed to be reminded of. Life is never perfect. At times, it can be rather discouraging or even just downright hard. But it's so important to never lose faith and to remember the message found in Romans 8:28: "All things work together for good to them that love God."

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's message of courage, hope and faith is so uplifting that I've watched it many times since. After watching it yet again this morning, I decided it was about time I share. Although Elder Holland is a leader of our church, this message is applicable to members of any religion. If you have a few spare minutes this Sunday, please watch it. I promise it will brighten your day.

I especially love Elder Holland's words of encouragement at the end:

"Don't you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don't come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, they come.
It will be all right in the end.

"Trust God and believe in good things to come."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

We hate to miss a good party

Being a grown up isn't always what it's cracked up to be. Unfortunately, Matt's work schedule didn't allow us to make it to his family's summer getaway/mini-reunion in Utah this week. Matt and I felt bad that we weren't able to be there, so the night before Matt left for Texas we held a little family party of our own. We wanted to let his family know that we were thinking about them, so we did it in the most entertaining way we could think of. Matt and I checked out the reunion itinerary and did as many of their activities as we could... all while bringing the entire family along with us, of course!
Grocery shopping for our "Iron Chef" competition:
Beach volleyball:
A gourmet dinner:
Family Home Evening:
Challenge course #1:
Challenge course #2:
Talent show/guitar sing-along:
And last but certainly not least, cooking s'mores on the "campfire":
In one word? Yum!
This year's family reunion was almost as good as the real deal! We look forward to partying with everyone in person next summer, though :-)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A new favorite beach

During our most recent daytrip in Orange County, Matt and I stumbled upon a little gem of a beach. It's called Crescent Bay and it's practically perfect in every way. So perfect, in fact, that within the first few minutes there, we officially deemed it a new favorite. (Note: the fact that I have 17 favorites of everything is entirely irrelevant to this post.) I'm so excited to tell you about it!
But first I have to tell you about our lunch that day at the Crystal Cove Shake Shack. Our sandwiches were delectable, our shake was delicious and the view was divine.
But the best part was this little critter right here, eating the cherry that used to be on top of someone's ice cream shake:
Yes, that little lunchtime tangent was for the sole purpose of sharing a cute squirrel picture because, while I hate all other rodents and creepy-crawly things, I love squirrels. Anyway, let's get back to the beach story, shall we?

Crescent Bay is located in Laguna Beach at the end of a small street off of Pacific Coast Highway. We discovered it entirely on accident. See, we were loosely planning on hanging out at Crystal Cove but didn't really want to pay $15 for parking, so we just kept driving in search of another option. It was quite the pleasant surprise when we found this fairly uncrowded beach (on a hot Saturday!) with ample metered parking. Two points already!
It just got better from there. We fell in love with the cozy bay setting and the pretty beach homes with stairs leading down to the sand. The water there is warm for Southern California, and the steady waves are a great size for splashing around or boogie-boarding. The beach itself is amazing, with the tide rolling onto a good-sized hill (thus preventing "tragedies" like this) and lots of sand to play with. Meanwhile, the rocks and tide pools on either side of the bay are terribly fun to explore. Oh, and did I mention that it's all clean with no crazies? Yep. With its easy access, secluded setting, great waves, clean beach, fun rocks and pretty shoreline, Crescent Bay is about as good as a beach can get.
No wonder it's a new favorite, right?
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