Solana Beach Weekend

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I wasn’t going to blog our weekend in Solana Beach because it was one of those rabble-rousing weekends of debauchery BUT as I was going over my photos (I took my camera with me!) I realized I had more to say about this fun little weekend trip than I thought! Added value, right?

First of all I cannot express how much fun the train ride is. On the way to the races it was quite crowded and rowdy and even though we had splurged on business class we didn’t actually end up in business class or reap any of the business class benefits. However, on the way home on Sunday we did and let me tell you, they treat you like first class!

Free snacks, free water, free coffee, free tiny bottles of wine, free smiles and jokes from the guy who collects your ticket… It was actually really amazing and you only pay $10 extra! You get way better treatment in business class than you ever would on first class on an airplane. It’s like the trains are still back in time.

So before they figure out they are losing money you should treat yourself to a little surfliner cruise. It’s really fun, peaceful (I love watching out the windows) and you meet new people. And I haven’t even mentioned the BEST PART OF ALL: you beat the traffic on the 405 on a weekend! It’s so satisfying to look out the window as you whiz past zillions of cars stuck in traffic. SO LONG SUCKERS! you’ll say in your brain. Trains are the BEST.

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Next best thing about our Solana Beach weekend is my friend Erika’s parents’ condo. Having a friend with a vacation condo is key. I really love her condo because it is all white and if I blur my eyes I can pretend I am vacationing on a Greek island. It’s close enough to the ocean to see it from their balcony but not close enough to actually walk, unless you really want to get a good walk in. But that’s okay because we were there for the Del Mar races anyway.

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I’m not like a super huge race or gambling fan but I can appreciate it once a year or so. There’s something fun and exciting about being in the stands with a bunch of people and rooting for a horse that has a pretty name. Payam is much more of a gambler than any of us and he actually referred to some stats in a book but that was way beyond me. I was obviously more into picture taking and having a drink or three.

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In fact I had so many drinks I had some pictures in my camera that I don’t even remember taking. These people look like fun.

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I’m not sure why I took their picture but it looks like they were a fun bunch.

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Most of all it was fun being with our friends. It was Erika’s birthday so we celebrated all day long, like you do. Lots of good food, lots of drinks and lots of being silly.

But before any of you worry about me being an alcoholic (believe me, I worry too) let me share that I have seriously cut down and because of that I’ve lost weight! Go figure! I used to love a glass of wine when I was cooking a complicated recipe but I’ve cut wine out completely (watching my sugar intake) and after a week of not having it I didn’t even miss it anymore! I think I was addicted to the sugar and not the alcohol. Of course, I still love a Persian margarita  (lime, lots of ice and expensive tequila) now and then but I’ll save the caloric drinking for special occasions with awesome train rides, white condos and friends.

Old Friends Are Good To Keep

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My friends, The Blues, are back in town from Thailand where they live now and work with the Charis Project. You probably remember them from this post and the Narnia birthday party (that was so cool!) and this post and that post…so many posts over the years! They are those kinds of friends, you know? The ones who were there for you for so many adventures, for so many sleepovers when you needed a place to stay, for that cup of chai and conversation when your heart was heavy…. Those friends. They are very special to Bug and me because they were a big part of our life when it was very tumultuous.

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But we haven’t seen them in years! Everyone has grown up so much! Bug was actually really nervous about seeing her friends again because she’s had a couple of experiences with old childhood friends changing and just not clicking at all. I was a little anxious for her too. But I shouldn’t have been!

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Everybody was exactly the same way they always were. I was so genuinely happy to see my old friends again.  It was like going back in time and feeling home and welcome. BluesAreBack-3

The first thing I saw was this little guy helping himself to pasta. Have you ever seen such a self-assured little person? What is he, like two?!  There are six kids in Carrien’s family and when you get that many kids the little ones get more and more brazen about helping themselves. But what’s wrong with that, right? I only had one kid for a really long time and because I took care of everything ever, she’s now twelve and  still asks me to untie the double knots in her shoes. I’ve sort of created a monster. I should have had five more kids. It would have been a service to her. Just kidding. But having Joon around really helps.

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Then I saw this dog. We bonded right away. Apparently he’s very shy of everyone but since he looked a lot like Whiskey, I made contact and then he followed me around like I was his new friend. That happens to me with animals a lot. It’s like they know I have anxiety and need an extra dose of oxytocin.  I look in their eyes and they look in my eyes and we both feel a little bit better.

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This kid is the most friendly of all the kids. I met him a few years back and he says he remembers me but I’m not so sure since he was only two then. It doesn’t matter because we acted like old friends who knew each other forever. He showed me all his tricks on the swing and I took pictures of his toes. No shy butterfly there.

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There was this monkey…he was so little when we last saw him. He talks now. Which is crazy because I always remember him as the quiet one. Quiet but smiley.

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And of course my friend, Carrien. I love her so much. She’s probably not going to love these pictures of her because I snatched them with very little warning, if any. No “plandids” here. These are real candids. But I love that about her. I love that she doesn’t mind me taking pictures of her and her family “in the golden light.” She knows I love that time of day and it’s like giving an artist a paintbrush to be able to snap away.

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After dinner we had s’mores out by the famous big old rectangle fire pit. I love that fire pit!

And now I know the secret to good s’mores!!! It’s finally been revealed to me!  I was never really a big fan of s’mores before because they never really worked for me. You know how it is, you have a big gooey marshmallow all soft with a chunk of hard chocolate and a crumbly graham cracker. You bite in and it all falls apart. The chocolate doesn’t melt, the cracker is in crumbs and pretty much you have a mess.

Guess what the secret is: CUT UP THE CHOCOLATE INTO LITTLE SHARDS!!!

What? What!! Seriously. This solves everything. The chocolate melts, the marshmallow oozes, the graham cracker holds it all together. How have I not known this all my life?!!  And it totally tastes delicious! Now I get what all the hullabaloo is about. I like s’mores now too! Ding Dong!

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So yeah, that was thoroughly enjoyable. We sat around and enjoyed s’more after s’more after s’more. Some wine was sipped too.

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This is what I love about Carrien and her family: I love the effortless enjoyment of simple things. Just a fire and chocolate and marshmallows and graham crackers and a little glass of wine and my heart was bursting with contentment.  Both Carrien and I have had to make do a time or two with less money than we’d like. Things get hard sometimes but she’s the one who always invited me over no matter what was in her cupboards. She always served me treats made with the simplest of ingredients and they tasted a thousand times better than anything. Isn’t that weird how that happens?

I know sometimes in the past I had neighbors come over and I worried that I wouldn’t have enough food. And then somehow when my table was filled with faces, one chicken breast would magically stretch to feed six people and there was always enough. How does that happen!? Is it a miracle? Five fishes feeding five thousand? I don’t know. I think everyone takes a little less because they know they are really there to feed their heart.  I think that is the most valuable lesson I’ve learned about food and friends. We are really there to feed our hearts. Let our tables be large…

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I miss them already. We were only there for a few hours but the fireside memories will last me for a long time. I love that Bug has memories like this stored up too. It’s so important to keep in touch with old friends. What do they say? The friends you keep for longer than five years last forever?

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Eventually I had to start thinking about the long drive home. It was late and I am not the best person to be driving late at night because I am a morning person to the core. I hate trying to stay awake when I am tired. It’s pure torture.

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We hustled the littles inside and we saw this: The next generation of chai and conversation. No “not clicking” here. We can be oceans apart but we’ll stay friends. Because old friends are the best friends. Miss you guys!