Taste a ton of wine? Check.
Learn from some of the best? Check.
Meet some cool people? Check.
Walk in the rain? Check.
Eat some incredible food? Double Check.
See random people I know? Check.
Get a free hotel upgrade? Check.
Worst hangover? Triple Check.
Come home w no voice? Check.
Experience life with love in a new place? Unforgettable.
Successful first trip to Charleston? Absolutely.
It has officially been one week since I said “au revoir” to any and all animal by-products. I spent my last weekend as a vegetarian with my best friend, and the best sister ever to exist. Amy flew in on Thursday and stayed through Saturday. The 4 days she was here was a complete whirlwind. We hit The Biltmore, our mom’s for two days, Old Salem, downtown Asheville with some awesome buds and a hike just hours before she was to take off on her plane ride home. I didn’t want the weekend to end, but I was excited to start my new lifestyle.
On my first day I managed to hike a bit of the infamous Appalachian Trail - in rain, cold temperatures, dense fog, high winds and muddy inclines no less. Though it was hard to see anything, it was still a beautiful experience. So much so that I am planning to do the entire trek, a whopping 2,181 miles, next year. Just in the last week I have done so much research on the Trail that having to wait another 10 months or so will prove difficult. When inspiration comes to me I typically have to create an outlet as soon as humanly possible, but I am also someone that feels the need to complete something in whole once I start it - so the waiting will be necessary.
On day two I woke up early, made myself a superfood smoothie and hit the road. First stop was the book store. I love grabbing a few books and magazines and snatching up one of the comfy chairs and skimming through each one. It used to be that I was the girl that was always in and out of a place, always in such a hurry, that I never got to appreciate what a little peace felt like. Next I stopped into Trader Joes for some essentials and to chat up the check-out lady I find to be most interesting. Then I was off to Whole Foods, which is like heaven on Earth to me. On average I make it in there a few times a week. The staff is always so engaging and helpful and I am always finding something new to toy with. I’ve recently become obsessed with kale and sweet potatoes. I go through kale like a baby goes through diapers. It is said to be the ‘perfect’ superfood. I agree. After my ‘normal’ two hours roaming through the store I headed home to get ready for what would end up being a great night out with a dear friend and wonderful cousin. We hit the road as soon as she got off of work and had dinner at Early Girl Eatery. Before I go on, let me just take a minute to tell you how in love I am with Asheville, NC. The diversity, the beauty, the culture, the food, the people … I love it. Ok, so I had the Vegan BBQ Bean Burger and fries with sea salt - which was delicious. Everything I have ever had there is nothing short of amazing, plus it reminds me of a former post I once served in LA called Swingers, except with a little more of a country twist. Anyway, after dinner we walked down to The Orange Peel. I scored some tickets to see Amos Lee and asked Lisa to join - since she’s one person I know that will always appreciate ‘the sexy’. It was an amazing show. The combination of PBR and sexy music always amounts to a great time. Amos is delicious and his voice, along with the likes of Otis Redding, Bill Withers and Ray LaMontagne just makes you want to grab a random person on the street to share a passionate kiss with. Ok, maybe not literally but it’s just sexy music. We also ran into Andie MacDowell, who was ever-so-cute. The ride home was just as good. I love grown-up, girl time with Lisa. We laugh over the stupidest things, and cry over things just as dumb but every second is so meaningful.
Wednesday marked my third day, and a very early start. I started watching the little ones again during the day and I must admit that vegan life really started to show it’s power that day. While my muscles were sore from the hike on Monday, I still felt energized. More than I had been in quite some time without the aide of a dash of caffeine - which I have also nearly said ”so long” to. I’m limiting myself to, at most, one cup of green tea a day. The rest of the day I drink fresh juices or hibiscus tea - another fave. Wednesday was fun, despite the number of poops I had to clean up that day, a minor hazard when spending the day with kids.
Thursday was the same except ’boy’ was with us. We played, Eli let me do her hair - after which she insisted that I put every bow she owned on her head, and then I ran off to work downtown that night, a job I love.
Friday was a repeat of Wednesday, except once again I ran off to work downtown. It was a slower night so we closed a little early and everyone got to indulge in their shift drinks a tad sooner. It’s great working with such a small staff, and for people that encourage personal style and being true to yourself.
Saturday was another errand day, though I hate to call them errands since I love making the trips. Off to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods I went, spending yet another few hours perusing the aisles. I never go in with a plan, I just sort of ‘eye’ things and create things in my head to make. Work that night was a little crazy, maybe it was the approaching ‘rapture’ that was said to occur or just the fact that there is always something going on in the city, but busy nonetheless.
Yesterday was yet another crazy day. Lisa had asked me to help out with a lunch she was making for some new friends that she had invited over. I, of course, obliged since I’ll use any excuse to create and cook. I made a Rosemary-Watermelon Lemonade, Basil-Mint Peach Lemonade, some roasted sweet potatoes, veggies drizzled in my own oil and herb creation, herb-infused basmati rice and Lis made some pan-fried trout and corn souffle. It was a brilliant combined effort and everything was a success.
So here I am, one week later and I am feeling more energized, healthier and most of all happier all-around. Along with my new ‘diet’ I am adopting a more natural over-all lifestyle, purchasing plant-based products for the house and myself. I bought some basil laundry detergent that I am anxiously waiting to use, I got some rosemary cleaner and even my personal hygiene products are all-natural. Even the herb garden got planted and being able to walk out and smell the herbs is just a heavenly experience. I know I sound like a total hippie, and part of me may actually be, but I still shave and you’ll never catch me smelling like patchouli. The smell actually nauseates me a little. I know my friends back home get a kick out of my new lifestyle, but still support and love my as they should. I am happier and healthier and I feel that anything that can achieve these things should be celebrated by the people you love and who love you. Thus, I am thoroughly enjoying the ‘kind life’.
Vegan life begins in less than one week. The next few days will help shape the perfect ending to one lifestyle and beginning for another.
My baby sister arrives for a visit in less than 48 hours. We have plans to tour The Biltmore Estate, taste some wine, eat some food and meet some people. From there we head east to Central North Carolina to visit our Mom, where we will cruise around Old Salem, catch up on girl talk and feast on some good ‘ole fashioned, homemade Southern food - perfect way to say goodbye to cheese. After we part with Mom we will be heading back to Asheville, do some hiking, have a few beers in Beer City USA with friends, soak in some art and dine on some local cuisine. A visit wouldn’t be complete without a trip to downtown Greenville to take in the scenery of Falls Park at the river and, again, dine on some deliciousness.
I know it seems like her entire visit will consist of eating, and it’s mostly true. We are lovers of food. Sunday marks my last day with dairy, and while the parting will be bittersweet I intend to make the most of my final days with it.
Finally, to celebrate my first couple of days in my new lifestyle, I will be attending the Amos Lee show at The Orange Peel. I love him and his voice has a way of making me fall in love .. not necessarily with anyone, but any thing. Love has an all new meaning these days.
Over 4 years ago I made a decision to give up something most of my friends and family back home in the South would have a hard time understanding: meat.
What started as an experiment to rid my life of chronic migraines turned into a new lifestyle and a path towards understanding what health really is. First, I gave up all pork and only bought organic meat. Then I narrowed the field to only chicken. Still, it wasn’t enough. The migraines and headaches became fewer and fewer but I still was not free and clear.
I happened upon a very interesting doctor. My ex did, actually. He acquired a prescription for a special kind of herbal aid for his anxiety, ADD and pain. While I sometimes partook in the calming effects of the same aid, I was still looking for a healthier alternative, thus declining the same prescription and making my own appointment to come back and see the doc. A few weeks later I returned and sat down and laid it all out for Dr. X, yes that’s what we’ll call him, Dr. X.
I explained to Dr. X that I had my first migraine as a teenager. I was in a bad car accident in high school. My head busted up a perfectly good windshield and rear view mirror - and yes, I was wearing my seatbelt. It left me with some nerve damage, a black eye and cheek and one of those bumps that you used to see on cartoons when something would get hit over the head with a mallet. Well, that was the initial damage anyway.
I went to see a neurologist for my headaches and migraines, and also to remedy the recent anxiety I had begun to experience. He prescribed me with various anti-anxiety and depression meds and also some pills to take at the onset of a migraine. I tried these out for a few months but the headaches and migraines continued to worsen. Back to the doctor I went. My neurologist was foreign - from South America. On my third visit to see him - probably tired of my incessant complaints - may or may not have suggested I get my hands on some marijuana. Yes, I said it - marijuana. A licensed professional suggested I smoke weed. At 17, this was but a dream .. well, no it was real. One problem: illegal. Of course it didn’t stop me so I got on the train and started to light up. It wasn’t on a daily basis, at least not at first. I go on to tell Dr. X how I started my ‘holistic’ approach with weed, but the addiction of pain killers, anxiety and depression meds already had a hold on me.
Skip a few years ahead and there I was, 24 and laying out the past 7 years of my life to this doctor in Santa Monica complaining about multiple drug prescriptions and an alternative to mary-j. *Sidenote: my addictions will someday be further detailed and re-accounted, but today I’m on a different story.
Dr. X’s suggestion was simple: do away with all meat products alltogether. Today it doesn’t sound so bad, but after 24 years of chicken: fried chicken, grilled chicken, bbq chicken, lemon-pepper chicken, chicken fried chicken and even the disgusting bourbon chicken you’d find in a mall food court just seemed like the equivalent to hiking Mt. Everest without any proper training. He also suggested that I gradually cut out chicken, my last connection to meat. Well, anyone who knows me knows that when doing things I tend to go balls-to-the-wall. Like smoking, I quit cold turkey. Luckily I had already gotten my body used to less and less of it but it was still something I had a couple times a week. My body hated me for about a week, and I considered Dr. X’s suggestion to be a total crock seeing as how I was having headaches every day BUT come to find out, that’s what happens when your body experiences withdrawal.
Four years later, here I am still committed to the task I gave myself all those years ago. Throughout the years I have also given up Rx meds (again, another story for another time) and have spent countless hours researching foods, herbs, vitamins, overall health and even tapped into the world of animals and how they are treated in the process of getting that slab of flesh on your plate. I have always loved animals and always been the first to go on rescue missions, but today it has a deeper meaning. I’ve started educating myself on not only the health and well-being of myself but now helpless animals who are part of an industry literally milking every last penny they can get and ruining the planet in the process.
Now I am about to commit myself to yet another task. I’m going one step further and going vegan. I mean it only makes sense for me. I’m lactose intolerant and never drank a glass of milk or put it in my cereal in my entire life. I also hate eggs. I realize they’re in many of the cakes and breads I have consumed over the years, but I avoid them at all cost. And, against the well-being of my tummy I still eat cheese in my pasta and on my salads. Mediterranean feta will, by far, be one of the hardest things to give up and that occasional guily-pleasure bowl of ice cream. In the end, though, it will be worth it to try. After hours of research I found Alicia Silverstone’s book, “The Kind Diet”. I wanted to know, on a personal account, what it’s like to be vegan and the kind of commitment it takes to be one.
I realize that my choice of lifestyle is not suited for every one and I never make it my business to tell people what to do, but only to offer my opinions in the safety of my blog. I think it is important to at least have education on hand for people to be aware of what exactly they are putting into their bodies and what those things go through before it gets there.
And here begins my journey. In exactly two weeks I will officially be a vegan. My last hoorah will include a visit from my sister and a trip to our Mother’s, where we will feast on all of our favorite things, mine being homemade mac-n-cheese - one of my many specialties. Over the next few weeks I will be openly writing about my experiences and what I’ve learned on my way to a plant-based lifestyle. Read, don’t read, but educate yourself nonetheless. We owe it to ourselves as well as the rest of the planet.
May 9, 2010. Approximately 7:45 pm. I have just landed in Burbank, California. I am patiently awaiting my luggage to drop down so that I can see my soul mate in the form of a Nicaraguan goddess. Linda has to be one of the most amazing people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. When no one else understands me, she does. She’s incredible. So I am nearly running to her car because mind you, I haven’t been back to L.A. since moving back to Florida - 2 1/2 years ago! Of course there’s hugging and excitement and all sorts of fun girly stuff, but then my first question: Can we PLEASE go to Swingers so I can stuff my face?! And we are off, trying to fit in as much catching up on the ride through the valley into Hollywood. We talk on a regular basis, but you have to understand that with some people, that human to human contact is far better. We have this understood about each other. We arrive at Swingers. The place hasn’t changed a bit, except maybe the placement of the Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies up on the counter (yes, I notice things like this - ESP when it involves placement of food). We sit in a back booth and my first question is to request a PBR - that would be Pabst Blue Ribbon - the place where I had my very first one. It’s only appropriate. My second question was if Dan (one of my absolute most favorite bosses ever) was in yet. Not yet, but momentarily. Seconds later he was creeping up behind us. It’s so exciting seeing my friends in California. You just want to take them by the neck and squeeze them, but not to death of course. The three of us sat and chatted for a bit about his married life and his wife’s amazing sense of the world, life in Florida and what / who I plan to see while I’m in town, until our food came. First up, Veggie Chili and Veggie Chili Cheese Fries for L. Perfect pairing with my PBR, I must say. On to the next course, Vegan Wrap and sauteed zucchini. And to top it off? 3 Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies (Side Note: 1 cookie = about 3 regular sized cookies). During our meal, L noticed she had some friends sitting behind us and after a brief conversation we were invited to a show at Harvelle’s in Santa Monica. Why not, right? Let me preface by saying that in all my years of trying new things, listening to all genres of music and experiencing first hand the absurdity of some musicians, I have never experienced anything quite like The Toledo Show. Honest to God felt like I was in Prohibition Chicago. There were girls burlesque dancing in lingerie, changing costumes between each song, and at one point there was even a girl hanging from the beams above the bar, still managing to dance. It was incredible. I decided right then and there that I would be taking a burlesque class. I couldn’t stop staring. Then there was the music. If I lived in L.A. I would most likely attend at least twice a month. I have an amazing time, and having one of my very best friends by my side made it that much better. After saying our goodbyes, we hit the road back to L’s. We hit the grocery store for a few snacks then finally arrived. After 4 1/2 days in Vegas and going non-stop since arriving in L.A., I was beat. We called it a night after my introduction to GiGi and some girl chat, until the next morning …May 10, 2010. I woke up fairly early. I think my body is programmed to wake up early. I laid around for a bit until Linda woke up. It was hiking time. Hiking is one of the things I miss most about living in California. As far as working out and exercising goes, I got spoiled living there. You are surrounded by these breathtaking views from everywhere you look. Always something new to discover, whether it be a mountain lion, lizards mating or a new trail. We went up to Mulholland Drive. I usually hit Runyon Canyon or Griffith Park so this was a lovely new change. We hiked for about an hour and a half. Had I not had lunch plans, I am more than positive we would have gotten lost on the trails - on purpose of course. But alas, I did have lunch plans that were much too important to cancel. Being the sweaty mess I was, I proceeded to West Hollywood, destination: Detroit Street. Jon Ma is another dear friend that will always have a piece of my heart. Somehow, we both managed to survive the wrath of entertainment law in Beverly Hills. One thing about Jon Ma that will never change: road rage! Driving with him is and always will be an experience in itself. There is not a patient bone in his body, and that goes off the streets too. Case in point, text message example: “umm are you ever going to come out?” Seconds later … “hello?” Oh, but it’s such an endearing quirk. After a quick change and application of some much-needed make up we were off to Beverly Hills. I was extra pleased when I learned that Arik would be joining us for lunch. As soon as I walked out of the parking garage, onto Beverly Drive, it all came back. My tenure at the firm (not so good) the friendships I made along the way (great). My favorite part of the day was lunch when I worked there. Just a hop, skip & a jump away from Rodeo, not to mention all of the food options within a minutes walk. That is one thing I LOVE about the city, walking everywhere and having everything at your feet - literally. After the three of us trying to pawn the decision-making upon each other, the final option was Bossa Nova. Brazilian food. Yum. We started with bread (a big DUH when I’m eating and it is available). Also ordered some Brazilian Cheese Bread. I had the most amazing Sauteed Vegetable plate with Rice, Black Beans and Fried Plantains. Melt. In. Your. Mouth. I seriously need to find a job where I fly around the world (at the expense of some tv network) and eat food for a living. We sat around talking for a while. Arik talked about his family and how he had to bargain for his trip to Las Vegas for UFC 116 and about his daughter who is adorable. We walked Arik back to the building and contemplated whether or not I should go up and cause a stir in the office. (I was basically ‘let go’ as a result of giving a boss - that shall remain nameless - a piece of my mind. Clearly, he is not used to women speaking their mind.) Ultimately I decided against it and Jonathan and I were off to Santa Monica. During my two year residence in California and multiple trips to the beach, I never made it to the Santa Monica Pier or Third Street Promenade. So, there we went. I made several purchases, and leisurely strolled up and down the promenade before we made our way to the Pier. Wise tip: don’t wear heels if you PLAN to go to the Pier. Walking those wooden planks got a little rough towards the end. Took some pictures and for once just became a tourist. I opted out of the ferris wheel ride - I think one ride a year is more than plenty and I had already redeemed mine back in Florida. We walked back to the car and headed back to the ‘wood, Hollywood that is. Next up: Iron Man 2 at The Grove. The Grove, during a tenure and yet another job, was one of my favorite places. I think at one point I was eating Cheesecake Factory at least twice a week, Maggiano’s twice and just shopping around the other day. The Grove is actually where I met Jennifer Spaulding - my friend I had just visited in Las Vegas - who also happens to be from Lakeland, Florida, my hometown. Funny story actually. My sister said that a co-worker of hers back in Florida was moving to L.A. to attend FIDM. Jenn and I became MySpace friends and emailed back and forth a few times, but never got around to meeting. One day, while leaving none other than The Cheesecake Factory, a girl coming up the escalator (as I was going down) caught my eye. We made eye contact and had recognized each other from pictures online. Of course I stopped and chatted because out of the millions of people in L.A., and all the Cheesecake Factory’s in L.A. County - we just happen to be in the same place at the same time? Yeah. So that was the beginning. We worked Fashion Week together the very next week and there it is. Ok, back to a more recent past … Iron Man 2, at The Grove. This, my friends, is where I came upon Gabriel Aubry, Halle Berry’s baby daddy. B-E-A-utiful! Mouth-watering, body of goodness. Back to reality, yes, I saw him. The movie turned out to be okay. Definitely a bigger fan of the first one. After the movie we sped along to Jones. It was time to meet up with one of the best, most genuine people I know, M’her. Seriously have some mad love for this guy. So me, Jon, Linda, M’her and one of L’s friends gathered around a corner booth at Jones. I LOVE the ambiance of this place. First order of business: the drink. If I’m not mistaken it was called a Joan Jett? Anyway, it was beyond sweet and sugary and in this moment just what I needed. I probably ate enough bread to feed 7 families for a week until my Arugula Salad arrived. Hello goodness. Not to mention M’her allowed me to pick off the white beans on his plate. Delish. For dessert we all split their infamous Apple Pie A La Mode. Oh. My. Gosh. If I could ship in one of their pies on a weekly basis I would be one super happy girl. We sat and chatted about this and that for about 2 hours until we had to part our ways. L and I got home and had some down time to just chat and reflect. Another great day for the books, but it was time for bed … I had two more days to go. May 11, 2010. I woke up to the vibration of my phone. I was getting a long distance call I couldn’t ignore. This was not the way I had hoped to start my day, but in a way I felt better. Wondering what I am talking about? Well, you are going to continue wondering. L made breakfast. Cheddar & Jalapeno Soyrizo and Soy BBQ tortillas. So good. I’m actually craving some now actually. This was our full day together, although there was one focus group standing in our way. We ventured out to Century City, where L had to attend a focus group. In the meantime, I crossed Avenue of The Stars into the Century City Westfield Mall. I roamed around, grabbing a cheese pizza pretzel from Wetzel’s Pretzels (which btw have the best pretzels around). I sat for a while, just people watching then decided to stop in LV because there were a pair of sunglasses in the window that nearly had me drooling. I abstained from making any big purchases, though it was tough. By this time L was done with her group and we set out on our way to Home. Home is like home away from home for L & I. We frequented this Los Feliz staple during my residence in L.A. The menu is extensive and the food is amazing. FYI, they have incredible Bloody Mary’s, too. We sat in one of the back rooms by ourselves - until a group of young businessmen decided to barge in. We still managed to enjoy our meal and I overindulged on their incredibly delicious fries. Best ever. Next up: a little Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. We visited The Ennis House and The Freeman House. Both have this unique Mayan architecture that make them unique to each ‘neighborhood’. Beautiful. After touring we were on our way to Melrose. I had vintage shopping on the brain. I think I tried on about 37 items in Wasteland. Biggest upset? The Marc Jacobs I fell in love with was too big. I may have shed a tear or two. But I found some amazing things. After Melrose we wound up at Lola’s on Fairfax. Holy martinis. Lola’s is an amazing place without the happy hour, but add the happy hour and a very friendly bar tended plus me and L you’re gonna get a good time indeed. We got there right as happy hour began (5:30 pm PST). I went with the Grapefruit Fizz Martini, L with the Peach Martini. We were both happy as clams. Our second drink? Easy. I asked the bartender to get creative and I wound up with a Strawberry-Kiwi Martini, but the ingredients would surprise you. L had a second Peach, which was a good choice because the first one was delish. We must have stared at the list of happy hour martinis for a total of 30 minutes because they all sounded wonderful. We went back and forth between our second and thirds. About half way through our second, Mr. Bartender decided that since we’d been oogling the Cantaloupe Martini he made us each one on the house. So that became our third. By this time we were hungry. We split their Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup. Oh my heavens, was that the BEST grilled cheese & tomato soup I had ever had! Delicioso. And on to number 4, The Dirtiest Martini Ever Made. That’s honestly how I ordered it. It was delightful. It was coming upon 7:30 pm, meaning it was the end of Happy Hour and it was nearly time to depart from my lovely Linda to make my way to El Carmen. I walked outside to use the phone and somehow between using the phone and walking back inside I had traded my scarf for a young man’s fedora. Fair trade. I rocked the fedora until it was time to depart Lola’s. When Tania AKA Banilla arrived to pick me up, I was most certainly headed towards a next-day hangover so I figured I would take it easy. A few cocktails plus lack of sleep isn’t necessarily the best combination - especially considering I rarely drink alcohol. After introductions, pleasantries and a quick goodbye to L, Tania and I were off. We got to El Carmen and found Cordelia waiting for us inside. I was so happy to be back with my Blowfish girls. We grabbed a table and sat down to eat. I ordered the most amazing potato tacos with black beans and tomatoes, as well as a glass of Sangria. I feel as though my documentation thus far has consisted of mostly food. That is my life. Anyway, it was great catching up with the girls. Cordelia is back in L.A. making a difference in people’s lives and Tania is still the fantastically bubbly Banilla that I know and love. It was hard saying goodbye to Cord that night. The dinner went so fast, but I am just happy that I got to see her at all considering how busy she was, studying for MCATs. Tania chauffeured me back to Linda’s and after some conversation I suppose I struck something in her to start ‘cleaning out her closet’, because that’s exactly what she started to do at 12 am. God I love that woman. One minute we were talking life, the next minute I was waking up and it was 4 am. My exhaustion had finally caught up to me. I woke up from a terrible dream. Someone very important in my life was hurt. Not just physically, but emotionally and I was just out of reach. I was reaching, screaming to help but it was as though I had no voice. One of my biggest fears in life in physical constraint. I do not like being held back, even constrained in a way that I cannot speak. It terrifies me. My voice and my longing to help people is what makes me who I am. After about 45 minutes of pondering my ‘nightmare’, I finally got back to sleep.May 12, 2010. My last day in the West. I had been dreading this day since before I even left Florida. I had not seen my friends in 2 1/2 years and all I wanted was more time. Don’t get me wrong, I am more than grateful to have seen and done all I did, but with people in your life that matter it’s as though you can never get enough. I woke up at 8 am. I had been asking to see more of Linda’s work. (She makes beautiful jewelry and head pieces). She finally obliged. My creative nerve had been struck. While she was busy working, I got the urge to create something. I picked out two fabulous peacock feathers and got to work. The end result was a beautiful pair of earrings. I did myself well. I guess seeing me start the process hit L’s nerve too. She made me yet another beautiful pair of earrings that I have probably worn 5 times since I got back home. We left the house and headed into West Hollywood to meet up with some more friends of mine. I met Marina working at Blowfish, and her boyfriend, Justin, was my co-worker and Swingers. Small world these days. Any btw, I absolutely adore them as a couple. We met up at Niko Niko, next door to Barney’s Beanery, an old haunt of mine. We sat in the front room overlooking Santa Monica Blvd. If there’s one thing I can do for hours, it is people watch, and West Hollywood has to be one of the best places for doing so. M & J finally arrived and we all sat down have some sushi. I may not eat meat, or fish, but for some reason I still love eating at sushi restaurants. I like to get different variations of the “Veggie Roll”. Plus, I LOVE wasabi. I’m a sucker for any kind of heat. After lunch it was time to say my final goodbye to my soul mate in the form of a curly-locked beauty named Linda. Thanks to the safe cover of sunglasses, my tears were able to go un-noticed. I left with M & J to spend some time with them before I hitched my ride to LAX. I got to see their new house which I fell in love with. We sat out back and talked for the few hours I had before it was time to go. Tania was in the neighborhood and stopped in to visit between shifts. I hate being rushed. I miss those times when we’d sit down, having coffee and taking our time. Jon got to the house to take me to the airport. His infamous impatience shone through once again “Hellooo, are you coming out? I’m here!” God I love that guy. I said my goodbyes and we were off. The sun was setting. My flight didn’t leave until 10:45 and I was hungry - again. Last stop in L.A.? Cheese fries from Carl’s Jr. I mean, what else?! So there we were sitting in Carl’s Jr. bs-ing until I had to check in, making fun of the other patrons for their ridiculousness. It’s what we are best at as a team. UB40 was playing overhead on the radio and of course I start singing along. I think I was pro-longing the inevitable. I didn’t want to go back to Florida. My life in California was all coming back, and though much of it was not pleasant, I missed my life there. I missed my friends. I missed the ability to wake up and walk to a museum. Have a pick at various shows to see. Walk downstairs for my morning coffee. Go hiking. The food. All of it was suddenly weighing very heavy on me. It was what I had been waiting to feel since touching down. I suppose that with all the hectic schedules and trying to meet up with as many people as possible, those feelings had been pushed back. I loved living in California, both San Diego and Los Angeles, but it is in my past. As much as I miss it, I don’t know that I’d go back. I’ve learned not to say “never”, but I think in my next adventure I’d like to try something new, someplace new. A new challenge. And so I say my final farewell to Jon. We get in our hugs and byes and all that jazz and I am off to tackle the jungle that is LAX. I waited in line - just to check in - for 45 minutes. It seemed as though everyone was headed somewhere on Delta. My bag turned out to be 57 lbs, 13 lbs heavier than it had been from FL to LV and LV to CA. Ut oh. Luckily I have the best pouty face in the world, as she tagged it as ‘heavy’ without charging me more money. She was my angel. Thank you, Shantal. You’re my girl. I snuck past the Luggage Nazi that would have told me my carry on didn’t fit in the designated space, but again … snuck on by. I always manage to forget that I’m carrying a bottle of water in my over-sized purse because they always flag me down at security and give me the ‘shame, shame’ speech, search me, search my bag manually then run it again. It just prolongs my having to be barefoot on that nasty carpet. It’s a good thing I carry antibacterial wipes with me everywhere I go. Yes, I hate germs. And yes, I may be a little neurotic, but if you’re judging me right now, you’re probably the person that is always glad I’m around because I have pretty much anything anyone will ever need in my bag. I finally make it through security only to find out that my flight has been delayed. It was bad enough it was a red-eye flight, that put me back into Tampa at 6:19 am. LAX is always full of interesting characters. Yet another great place to people watch - as was the Vegas airport. It was finally time to board. There was quite a stir because we had a few ‘celebrities’ on our flight to Florida. Hulk Hogan made his way into his first class seat. Yeah whatever. But I managed to wind up sitting next to Tony Dungy, who traveled in coach with all us ‘regular’ people. I had met him on several previous occasions, but it’s always nice to sit next to someone as nice as him. We exchanged a few words, I of course told him I am a fan - because I am - and that I think his son is an amazing athlete and will wind up at a great college. Then he read for a bit and tried to nap. I never sleep on planes. For me it is impossible. There is no comfortable way for me to adjust myself to close my eyes. So I read for the entire 4 hour, 30 minute plane ride.May 13, 2010. My dad was waiting for me at the terminal. He’s so good like that. Always a happy face and ready for a hug. I remember when I came back from California. My sister and him had made a “Welcome Home” poster that, of course, made me cry. He patiently waited with me for my luggage. Then, back to Lakeland we went. Two hours later I was sitting at my desk at work. I was a complete zombie. I spent most of the day in complete delirium. I already missed EVERYTHING … but I was happy to see my family. I am so very blessed to be able to do the things I do. Things I do are rarely planned and if any plans are involved it is done last minute. I like leaving myself open to whatever may come. You never know when I will just up and leave for some random destination. My trip has really put my thoughts to work, and that is all I will say …
The day is May 5, 2010. The hour is 5:47 pm Eastern. The place? Tampa International Airport. I am about to venture into unknown territory. Destination? Las Vegas.
Not long over take-off we were crossing the Gulf of Mexico. You’re just high enough to wisp through the clouds, yet not too high to see the whitecaps as they crash together below. That beauty soon turned to heartache. The oil spill, which was about the size of Ohio at the time, soon came into view. The sight of it was horrific. You feel helpless, and sadness for all the loss that this disaster will soon reveal. Moments later you see New Orleans, with the devastation still in view. Then came the turbulence. The remainder of the flight brought on many prayers and approximately 3.7 glasses of wine - not to mention the complimentary mini bottles (yes, that was meant to be plural) of Bailey’s. My coffee was quite enjoyable that flight. Then came the landing …
Just in time to see the sunset on the Western coast, I (just barely) land in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Pronounced Na-vadd-a, NOT Na-vod-a; a friendly tip I learned very quickly). Sunsets on the West Coast are incredible - even if you’re not right on the coast. Breathtaking, really, especially when the sunlight just barely touches the peaks of the Grand Canyon. A very spiritual moment when you can look down and see something of such greatness as it appears to be nothing bigger than an anthill. Had I not been to John & Jane (soon-to-be) Doe, I would have enjoyed that moment, but instead I had to hear the saliva exchange between their lips. I’m all for some lovin’ but when you are crammed against the window on the very last row of the plane, lacking personal space and legroom, it is definitely not a pro-lovin’ time for me.
My dear friend met me at the airport and away I went, ready to be lost in the commotion of one of the busiest cities in the world. Being that it was Cinco de Mayo, I quickly changed into my ‘Aztec’-ish, Mexican-inspired dress and zoomed on over to the Cantina to meet my lovely friend Jennifer. Upon my arrival, it was apparent she had already been enjoying the festivities for quite some time but still managed to hang in there long enough to introduce me to some very lovely Las Vegas natives, Miguel and Roberto and of course The Most Interesting Man In The World (who would later leave with and accompany us to the Hard Rock). I tasted my first margarita that night. I vowed never to taste the awfulness that is tequila ever again, but when in Vegas .. It was horrible, and luckily I had a nice cool Dos Equis in my hand to chase away the ick. About the time I lost the last few hairs of my (fake) mustache, we skipped across the street to the Hard Rock - and yes, I am pretty sure I skipped. Once inside we quickly became local celebrities - thanks to the company of The Most Interesting Man In The World. After a few photo ops, a little gambling, an almost-tattoo session and a pizza it was time to head to bed.
Thursday, May 6, 2010. The temperature that morning was in the 60’s and the sun was shining bright in a cloudless sky. This meant pool time. I scurried inside and came out donning my favorite bikini, with a tall order of water and a copy of “Eat Pray Love”. The picture of (almost) perfection. After a few sun-kissed hours in the sun my first random thought lead me to the spa. Mani-Pedi it was. Once I was painted and pampered my sense of adventure landed me on the strip. There were cab rides with strangers, multiple people-watching stops then finally wound up meeting my new friends at Wet Republic via the MGM. After a thorough bag check and a nice little stamp I was cleared to enter the outside oasis, featuring itty bitty bikinis, designer shades and cocktails aplenty. I made my way to the cabana. Once there, my neon purple leggings and baby tee momentarily made me feel a little out of place, but after I sat down any discomfort faded away. After some chit chat and lounging it was go time. Not only was I famished I had a time crunch to work with. I accompanied my new friends to the Rainforest Cafe. Best Earth Burger EVER. I passed on dessert and caught a ride back to spruce myself up some some QT with friends. Sushi was on the menu, with exhaustion lingering nearby. A pot of Sencha assisted in my removal of said exhaustion. After a lovely evening with friends we headed home, saving ourselves for Friday night and little did we know then just how much we would need it.
Friday, May 7, 2010. Another beautiful day in the desert. I woke up as Jen left for work and got myself ready for a day on the strip. I mosied on out to meet my cab and had the greatest cab ride to date. My driver, a woman who would turn 60 the very next week, encouraged me to see the world while I’m young; never to settle for a man that wasn’t a 10 on his worst day and to laugh at the little things. She got a nice tip for her upcoming trip back home to Africa. I had her drop me at The Venetian. After venturing through the casino and little boutiques I found myself on the balcony, overlooking millions of square feet of fun and excitement. I hit the pavement, without a plan and with my phone in hand - ready to snap my first shot of the day. I wandered around for hours, stopping for ice cream, a Peroni at Serendipity 3, taking pictures for couples who wanted to be in the same shot for once, often looking up to admire the grand architecture of some of the greatest resorts in the world. I wandered inside Caesars, putting myself directly into “The Hangover”. I made my way into the casino and dropped $100 on Blazing 7’s, just as I was told to, and lost every last penny. It probably should have been my sign when I had to page the attendant twice because it ate my $100 bill, then had to ask how to work the machine. Oh well, on to the next one .. I stopped at the Bellagio to enjoy the water show and the sounds of (my dream husband) Andrea Bocelli. It was moving and definitely got an 11 out of 10 on the goosebump scale. So good I stuck around for another. I then made my way further down, stopping at the New York, New York. This was actually one of my favorites. It had a sense of the city, the hustle and bustle, the ambience. I could be wrong in your eyes (whoever you are) but to me that is exactly what it was. I made my way through the arcade to the entrance of the roller coaster. I purchased a single ticket and made my way to the line for the front car. If I was going to do this, I was going to do it big. I was paired with a (married) man from Spain who literally knew 3 words in English, including “ahhhhhh”, and I found that is exactly what we had in common at that first big drop. Like any proper tourist I purchased 2 key chains, showcasing my big screaming mouth and the adorable Spaniard sitting next to me in the front row. I took my windblown self back down to the strip and made my way back down to the new City Center. I cruised into the new hotel, Aria, and managed to swindle my way into the pool. I lounged for a while with some additional new friends then got far to antsy to sit around any longer. At this point I was a little hungry, and while I do not eat fish I wanted a taste of Michael Mina and walked into American Fish. I had the most amazing Spring Greens salad and Truffled Mac & Cheese. I left there a very happy girl. It was time to cross back over to the other side - of the strip, that is. I got distracted and wound up in Miracle Mile. A mile’s worth of shops. Insane. After plenty more stops and circling the entire strip almost twice, it was time to leave - but only for a bit. After several wardrobe changes, some singing to the radio and lots of primping Jen and I were back on the road. First stop? The store, to purchase two disposable cameras. Yes, you read that right. Next stop? The Palms for dinner at Nove. We walked in to a sea of girls, all vying for their shot at meeting New Kids On The Block. After being escorted up the elevator to the 50th-something floor we arrived. First request? A drink. Mine was honest-to-God called the Pimp Cup. It was a goblet of some gin-inspired mojito-ish drink, which was quite delicious. Jen, unfortunately, didn’t have the same experience. I definitely ventured out there and tried things I normally wouldn’t order while on this vacation and it certainly didn’t end with this meal. I ordered the ravioli. Walnut pesto, spicy ricotta tomato sauce and a bowl full of absolute goodness. Are you salivating? You should be. Along with the various breads and dips we snacked on before our meal, everything was superb (except of course Jen’s drink). Now, my friends, it was Hofbrauhaus time. We met up with our pals and joined in on the German - Bavarian festivities. A round of shots were ordered, Jager for them, Apple Schnapps for me. They came out resting on what looked like a wooden paddle. It was indeed a wooden paddle. Following the consumption of said shots, we each had to bend over, elbows touching the table, and prepare for the paddle to make contact with our bums. Yes, that was the first time in about 15 years that I have been paddled. Annnnnd on to the next one … We cruised down the strip to the Encore. After a pit stop at the casino bar, a berry-infused vodka, photo ops, and trying to tear Roberto away from the craps table, we finally arrived at XS. Honestly, one of the coolest set-ups in my experience. We hit the floor, taking our time to settle in. Walked out to the pool, took more photos then wound up directly under one of the poles AKA dance platform. Being the incredibly superior females that we are, little blondie was pressure off the platform and we, of course, took over. After a few minutes in the spotlight Jen got my adorable little friend Louie Vito to come over. Picture? Umm yes. This kid is so cute that if I were about 15 and subscribed to Tiger Beat magazine, I’m sure his poster would be on my wall - or ceiling. We eventually ended up hanging out at their table and met a handful of other people. Thank you, Supercross, for blessing Las Vegas with so many people I follow in sports - well, and music. The party ended at XS approximately 2:30 or 3 am?! That’s a guess because at this point exhaustion and the over-zealous pours of my new friends, I consciously checked out, but I do remember finally getting that kiss .. Thank you (again) Las Vegas, for one of the best days of my life.
Saturday, May 8, 2010. I woke up wondering how I was perfectly dressed in my cute little pj’s. That’s how the night left me. On this morning I was supposed to leave for Los Angeles. It didn’t happen. After quite a few laughs and stories and my freaking out that we lost the one camera that contained my photo with Louie, we headed out for a bite. Here, my fellow diners, tried to get our little waiter boy to kiss me. It didn’t happen, but thanks anyway guys. It was decided that we would head to the pool. I was on the verge of what could have been the worst day-after ever, but a pitcher of strawberry mojitos saved me. That and the sun. The sun is always so good to me, especially in the desert. It can be 97 degrees and the desert out West is still incredibly superior to doldrums of Florida. It also helped that there was a high wind advisory throughout my entire Las Vegas stay. Once again met some chill people and lounged for hours. My prolonged stay in Vegas was attributed to some friends from Florida flying in that night. The plan (and I never have a plan) was to meet up once they arrived. After the pool and dinner and one of the best showers of my life the stay thus far finally hit me. I hit the couch and the next thing I knew it was 12 am and I’m getting a call from an unknown number. Alas, my friend. “Hey Tiff. My phone is kaput and this I’m using the driver’s phone. Let’s meet up.” I vaguely remember a similar form of this conversation.
Sunday, May 9, 2010. Apparently, between my sleep talking and no contact number for them, I woke up the next morning feeling quite refreshed. I somehow managed to book a flight for the following evening - thank goodness. I tagged along with Jen to church. Yes church. In Vegas. And no, not to get married. Actual church. With scripture, singing and even communion. God was speaking to me. He knew my conscience all too well. Following church I finally got my order of French Toast with peanut butter. The best combination ever. Add a little strawberry and you have culinary heaven. It was decided that we were going to the Stratosphere. Operation Sky Jump. Side Note: Sky Jump is a controlled free fall that adds up to about 855 feet, 108 floors. I can’t even sky dive, how the heck am I going to do this?! So the Sky Jump didn’t happen as a result of a time constraint. We did, however, get to enjoy the strip together though. Hit some souvenir shops, caught the back end of yet another Bellagio water show, photo op with Kiss and nearly got blown away by the wind. All in all, a great day. I got dropped at the airport, bound for Los Angeles. And what? My flight was delayed nearly two hours. At this point you’re at a loss. You head back to the strip, but for what? By the time you get somewhere it’s time to turn around so you can wait in the ridiculously long line for security then get back to the terminal just in time to board. So, I hung around. Met this fabulous (and by fabulous, I mean FABULOUS) guy who was heading to LA to see his boyfriend after 3 months. He was adorable and we chatted for the duration of the layover. He had been in Vegas for Supercross, as he was a sports news guy. I wound up in an aisle seat next to two very pretty models, Jemma and Alyse. Nice, which is odd because most models I met while working in LA were not so. Amid crying babies (which why do you take your FAMILY to Las Vegas for vacation) and a crankly elderly couple we safely landed in Burbank just under an hour later … And now, it was time to see my Linda and the place I once called home ..
Stayed tuned for L.A. Diaries ..
After my (long) weekend I am left with the following conclusions:
1. Allegiant Airline is the worst airline I have ever flown. They would sell a wing right off the plane if they could.
2. I will NEVER go two years without seeing my Mom again. Love her.
3. I ate my weight in food this weekend, but what’s new?! Homemade biscuits with tomato gravy, breakfast potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, mediterranean bruschetta, cupcakes, breaded eggplant, zucchini, & squash, pasta with garbanzo-garlic sauce, pound cake with raspberry coulis & fresh berries, chocolate pound cake, apple spice pound cake, spaghetti squash with fresh veggies, black & white cheesecake, eggplant parmigiana, chianti-vinaigrette garden salad, roma tomato, basil, black olive & pineapple calzone, pbr, merlot, coffee, green tea, hot apple cider, cabernet, peche lambic, and chocolate … lots and lots of chocolate!!!
4. North Carolina has my heart, sorry fellas.
5. I’m going to write a petition to put security past all airport restaurants. It just doesn’t make sense. Do they not know how much money they are losing?
6. Flying with a sinus infection is not the most pleasant feeling.
7. Climbing over 17 feet in the air to sit on top of a statue in downtown Winston-Salem for a photo op is not necessarily the wisest decision I’ve ever made. Oh, and if I happen to be looking over a wooden fence at someone’s garden and someone yells “SNAAAAKE!!!” I will most definitely jump approximately 3 feet in the air.
8. “Star Trek” was a great movie and while I may be the biggest nerd ever for admitting that, it’s still true.
9. My Mom is one of the funniest people I know and it is impossible to leave her without tears being shed - on both our parts. She also has the two ‘chunkiest’ doxies I’ve ever seen, but they are dolls.
10. You can get a 1,250 sf loft in the arts district of downtown Winston-Salem for $800 a month. Seriously?! North Carolina is the perfect combination of city and country. The people are the most down to earth people anywhere and if you trip and fall down they let out a hand to help you up instead of a laugh and smartass comment. Then once you’re up and fine, everyone laughs together. Not to mention all the history. It is amazing. It also doesn’t hurt that it is beautfiul there. Breathtakingly beautiful. Did you know that NC is the home of Texas Pete hot sauce? Krispy Kreme? Asheville also holds the record for most breweries per capita in the U.S. And just outside of Raleigh is home to the largest group of research facilities in the U.S. Yep. Also, when NC is the birthplace of the yumminess that is Zach Galifianakis you know you’ve found a great place!
11. Alergy Season can suck it. I loathe you.
After my weekend I am left with the following conclusions:
1. Luma on Park is nothing short of amazing. Try it.
2. The Wine Room is equally amazing and one of the greatest wine concepts I have ever seen.
3. I am the proud new owner of a Marilyn Monroe Merlot, two actually. One for tasting, the other to treasure.
4. Winter Park is full of yuppies but I can most definitely hold my own. I just left them with some fishnet stockings under a vintage dress & black suede boots and some fierce red hair to chew on.
5. I have some incredibly good looking friends.
6. I am going to start charging to be a wedding date. (I think they made a movie about that)
7. Weddings aren’t my thing, but should I decide to get married (for real) one day you will not be hearing “The Electric Slide” OR “The Chicken Dance” at the reception. Instead there will be a karaoke stage and I will be randomly selecting names to get up and sing for my and my attendees’ entertainment.
8. “(500) Days of Summer” is one of my new absolute favorite movies. So good I watched it twice.
9. I am not fully functional until I have had coffee. Black, three Sugar in the Raws.
10. While Super Bowl XLIV will be a good game, I was hoping for a Vikings Championship. I’ve learned that we don’t always get what we want in life. Since Brett is one of my future ex-husbands I am sure I will get plenty of Viking then. Go Saints. It is time for Peyton Manning to be thrown off of his high horse. Bring it, Brees.
11. I need a day of relaxation. A day of peace. A day of absolutely nothing but me.