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!

Mixed Reviews for The Happy Place

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If you have instagram you are probably well aware of all these pop-up museum-like “experiences” that you can visit and blow up your feed with weird cool pictures. I think I am just about officially over them. But I still have a weakness for them. Because I love love love cool weird photos!

You know what I don’t love? Long lines of people watching you take your weird cool photos. I’m so over it! Said the middle-aged woman wearing crop pants that seem to be painfully out of style.

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The Happy Place is not on my list of things to do if you are in LA. In fact, I’ll probably tell you to avoid it UNLESS you are a little bit crazy like me and you have a friend who is trying to land modeling gigs.

I love having a friend who is a model. Yep, Lubna grew up and now she’s going to acting school, getting her headshots done and hitting the pavement to land an agent and hopefully a decent paycheck. She is a really good model but it’s not an easy field. I wish I had my own agency because I love spotting people who I know will take good pictures and I’d love to give her a good paying job.

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We hadn’t hung out together in a while so I bought the tickets and we headed off to LA for a fun day of catching up and taking silly shots. It was the perfect photographer-model date. Especially since I’m liking to take my own picture less and less. (Age, damn you!) I took a lot of photos of my feet.

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There are definitely a lot of cool rooms with lots of great lighting to experiment with. But you have to move from room to room with a mob and there is nothing that makes me more nervous than having a group watch me set up for a shot. Lots of times I just bailed. I’m not waiting to take a turn for a shot and then have everyone else watch me do the same exact thing.

There is this one room where you can jump into an above-ground pool of yellow balls and the Happy Place Logo is placed predominantly behind you. It’s a great set-up BUT you have an audience of like 30-40 people watching you! I was so nervous to jump I actually got sweaty palms. What if I slipped and banged my head on the platform or what if all the balls flew out of the pool because I’m such a whale?!!  I’m not a whale but still, this is where my mind goes. In the name of fun I forced myself to do it but the assistant who was there to take my photo somehow got my camera wrong and missed the shot. She said I could do it again but I was OVER it. Forget that.

Lubna of course nailed it with a flip because she’s amazing and a fitness model but I only got it on video because I also got my camera wrong and missed the shot. Doh!

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I will say that in spite of my eye rolls and complaining, we were inventive. We came up with shots everyone else wasn’t doing because we are experienced badasses at photography. But still, I felt silly. It just kind of ruined the novelty of the event when you see how stupid everyone else looks doing these forced fake happy faces for their snapchat feed or instagram feeds. Do their followers know that two seconds before that shot that looks like they are having so much fun they were actually standing there bored out of their skull, mindlessly scrolling through their own feeds? Fakety fake fake.

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And yet still, I’m not completely cured of wanting to go to these things. I’ve got tickets to The Cado in June because, come on AVOCADOS!!!  But it does make me want to continue to cultivate my own free spirit.

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But the photos are cool right? Loobyloo is so much fun. She’s always up for posing any which way I direct.

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And she’s gorgeous! Even if she did fry her hair to death by attempting to go blonde. The Orange County ideal of beauty is so strong even Lubna fell victim to it but I’m in her ear constantly telling her that her natural beauty far surpasses any fake Barbie look that is so prevalent around here.

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As we left the crowds of The Happy Place and found our way down to my car in the underground parking garage, we spied these funny pipes on a wall with NOBODY WAITING THEIR TURN to take a photo!!!

I think it’s my best shot of all.

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Then we went out for tacos because duh, it was Cinco de Mayo. Not that everyday isn’t a good day for tacos.

Have you been to Guisados? So good! Mole tacos, some fried cheese taco that was out of this world and HORCHATA cold brew that tasted like a churro in a cup!

That’s my review: skip The Happy Place and go to Guisados instead which is conveniently right by The Last Bookstore! Yes, I will be blogging that experience here soon. Stay tuned!