Less than 48 hours after returning from Las Vegas, my husband and I flew to Los Angeles to spend some time with one of my best friends (and to celebrate my 40th birthday). When I woke up that morning, the wind was howling and I thought to myself “this is going to make the flight fun.” The pilot tells us there were 90 mph gusts over the Rockies. Do you know what 90 mph gusts feel like at 30,000 feet? My stomach and I do. Even Allen said that was the worst turbulence he’s ever experienced. You know it’s bad when it shakes Allen up.
Anyway, we made it to L.A. alive and without throwing up, so we considered that a victory. We made our way to Santa Monica, where we’d be staying for the week, and then on to Thousand Oaks to celebrate my friend Nick’s marriage to the lovely Victoria. There’s this amazing spot in Thousand Oaks called the Gardens of the World that not only makes a lovely backdrop for pictures, but is a tranquil setting in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the Los Angeles suburb.
The rest of the weekend was meant to be relaxing but there’s so much to do and see in L.A. that we were on the go constantly. Our hotel was about 5 blocks from the Santa Monica Pier. The first morning we took a walk on the beach and then to the end of the pier where we met Herman. Herman is a seagull. He perched on the railing a few feet from us and stayed there (so, of course, we named him), studying the fisherman. I chuckled and said, “Herman is waiting for one of these guys to catch a fish,” which was funny because we’d just watched one fisherman cast his rod directly into the ocean. But soon, we realized that Herman was an even smarter bird than we’d realized. That same inept fisherman took one of his remaining rods down the pier, leaving his bait and tackle behind. The moment he stepped away, Herman swooped down, plucked up some bait and flew away to enjoy his morning catch.
Herman is smart. Be like Herman.
Over the next few days, we visited the Museum of Death, took a 5 hour tour of Hollywood and Beverly Hills, and found a lovely little Polish restaurant for my birthday dinner. I found Judy Garland’s prints at Sid Grauman’s Chinese Theater, enjoyed a Brownie Monster at the Los Angeles Farmer’s Market, and visited the original Muscle Beach. Between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, I think this was one of the strangest and most memorable holidays I ever had. I certainly won’t forget turning 40 anytime soon. We ate at a place called Solidarity in Santa Monica. The food was outstanding!
Now, I’m sitting back in my office in sunny Boulder, getting back into the thick of things. And I am reflecting on the teachings of the learned Herman. That bird had a plan. He sat patiently, kept his eye on the prize, and was rewarded with a delicious meal. I get the feeling Herman is quite practiced at his profession. So, my goal for 2018 is to be like Herman. My writing plans are in place, my next class starts in a few weeks, and I know that my patience and persistence will pay off.
Happy New Year! What are your goals?
What Happens in Vegas...
You know the saying, “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?” That useful little phrase that gives us all the green light to behave very very badly. Don’t worry. I won’t give away your secrets. But I would like to share my own holiday experience with you. I just got back from four days in Las Vegas celebrating Christmas with my parents, my sister and her boyfriend. It was quite possibly the least Christmasy Christmas, and yet, it will stand out in my memory as one of my favorites.
This trip was like entering an alternate universe. I boarded the plane in Denver at a balmy 10 degrees and landed in Sin City with a headache and too much clothing for the 60+ degree weather. As I stumbled off the plane, my eyes scanned past the sea of slot machines to the nearby Starbucks, a much needed caffeine pit stop. After throwing back some migraine medicine and an iced mocha, I made my way to the terminal to find my parents.
Now, my parents and my sister are my favorite people to spend time with, anywhere. I grew up in a large family – lots of aunts and uncles and cousins running around everywhere. And holidays were always huge in our family. At Christmas, we’d put up hundreds of luminarias and host a Christmas Eve open house complete with piping hot posole ad tamales. Over the years, we’ve spread out, with branches of our family stretching from coast to coast. But at the holidays, it’s not uncommon for us all to come together.
However, after my grandmother passed away four years ago, that trend began to change. She was the heart of our family, maybe more than any of us ever knew, and getting together has happened less frequently. We stay in touch, but it’s never quite the same. My mother, who was the primary caregiver for my grandmother in her final years, has been particularly affected by her loss, especially at Christmas. So going to Las Vegas made sense. We had our Christmas dinner at Carnegie Deli in the Mirage. We walked for miles up and down the strip. We ate, we drank, we gambled. We slept in late and stayed out late. And we laughed. We laughed so hard and so much that my face is still sore. We were together and very happy to be so.
We’re all very different people, but there is so much love that the differences don’t matter. In fact, those differences create hilarious moments and bring us closer together as a family. On our first night out, we saw the Tenors of Rock at Harrah’s, which my mother pronounces “hurrahs!” This show was not my sister’s cup of tea, but by the end of the night she was singing along at the top of her lungs as my mother jumped around like a teenager (no knickers were thrown on stage, but I think it was a close call). Me being me, when I heard that one of the singers, Jonathan Williams, played Jean Valjean in London’s West End, I sauntered over after the show and asked if he’d sing me a little Valjean for my birthday. Not only did he oblige, but he took me up in his arms and sang “Bring Him Home” in my ear. Be still my heart! (shh…don’t tell my husband…what happens in Vegas…)
We rounded out our stay with a delicious dinner at Gallagher’s Steakhouse (New York New York). The dinner was to celebrate my birthday (I turn 40 on New Year’s Eve), and as we sat around the table and talked, I was ever aware that I wouldn’t trade my family for anything in the world. We are odd, zany, high-strung at times, moody, funny, and all the things in between. We are everything.
Then, we headed over to Zumanity, Cirque du Soliel’s “adult” show. So, there I was with my mom, my dad, my sister, and her boyfriend, whom we’d only just met a few days before, watching topless acrobats and talking about sex. Merry Christmas to us! I would say don’t take your grandma, but the retired teacher they pulled up on stage was one of the highlights of the show (her comic timing was perfect despite being flustered by all the half-naked performers). And until you’ve seen the acrobats in the giant champagne glass, you haven’t really lived.
So, while what happens in Vegas may stay there for some people, I’m happy to say that I brought every bit of love and a whole suitcase full of memories home with me. (and a boatload of fodder for future stories....stay tuned).
Wishing you all a Happy New Year!
Of Holidays and Music
Having grown up in New Mexico, there are certain traditions that simply scream Christmas. Luminarias. Tamales. Posole. I come from a big Hispanic family and a lot of our traditions take place around the kitchen table. Every year on Christmas Eve, my mother would make a big pot of posole for our annual open house. The whole house smelled like red chile and cumin. That's the smell of Christmas to me.
I've lived in many places since my childhood and have tried to recreate some of these traditions to the best of my ability (it can be tricky to make a big pot of green chile stew using 4 oz. cans of Ortega green chiles). And lining the slippery walkways in Seattle with paper bags full of sand and candles doesn't always work very well. But the one thing that has remained a constant in my life is music.
My parents are folk musicians and I grew up in a home filled with music. I'd open my eyes each morning to the sounds of my dad playing his guitar in the living room. My mother's singing will always be a source of comfort and happiness for me. Christmas was no exception. Some of favorite Christmas carols are originals written through the years. School holiday programs. Christmas concerts. Endless hours of carols on the car radio.
Some of my favorite musical memories stem from caroling excursions. We'd bundle up and walk around various neighborhoods singing traditional Christmas songs. Some singers were better than others, but as a whole, there was nothing sweeter than the sound of our voices together. We cuddled. We laughed. It was a magical time.
It's November 30 and I'll admit that I've already listened to my favorite Christmas album twice and watched three holiday movies. So, let me say goodbye today by sharing one of my fav's and wishing everyone happy holidays with love, family and lots of great food and music.
Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop & Giveaways
Happy holidays readers! I'm participating in the Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop, a Facebook event spanning December 5-16 where you'll have the chance to get to know some great new authors and books, as well as getting the chance to win some great books and other prizes. My "hop" day is Saturday, December 10 so drop by my Facebook page and find out how to win one of two Kindle Fires! Don't forget to share with your friends and to check out the authors parirticapitng in the hop. Links to their Facebook pages are listed below along with the schedule. Enjoy folks!
Make the holiday season even merrier by discovering new reads from some of today's best chick lit and romantic comedy authors during the Holly Jolly Chick Lit Hop on Facebook.
Here's how it works: every day from Monday, December 5 through Friday, December 16, readers are invited to hop around to more than 60 authors' Facebook pages (with about five stops each day) to receive gifts and enter to win prizes.
Here is the schedule, which includes the list of authors posting each day and links to their Facebook pages in case you'd like to give them a "like" and follow along:
MONDAY, DECEMBER 5
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 6
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 7
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 8
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 9
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 11
MONDAY, DECEMBER 12
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 13
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 14
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 16
Happy Holidays to all and to all some fabulous reading!
I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.