The Best Way to Go Temecula Wine Tasting ...

11.27.2013 in a limo. And a Viva Limousine if you're really doing it right.

A couple of weeks ago my dad, my brother, and my brother's girlfriend, Claire came out to visit and it was wonderful. Having the three of them here, let alone at the same time, meant so, so much to me. I only get to see them about once a year and it's not nearly enough. Not to mention, my family hadn't met Ryan's mom, Cindy, and stepdad, Ray, yet (who are a big part of my life out here) and so I was super excited to introduce everyone. To celebrate, I decided to rent a limo to take us wine tasting in Temecula, about an hour north of where we live in San Diego.

To plan the day, I researched a LOT of limo companies and party buses and Temecula winery tours. There's a lot to consider: price of limo per hour, whether or not gratuity is included, how many passengers, do they include tasting tickets or coupons, do we rent the limo and buy the tickets separately, what about lunch etc. etc. Who knew? I finally settled on Viva Limousine and their tasting tour package. I will be forever glad that I did because they truly made our day. Ken, the owner, and Kathy, our driver, were so exceptional. Having done the research, I can tell you now... if you are ever planning on doing a day like this, avoid the headache and go straight to them.

Bonus? Our driver Kathy makes and sells the most adorable wine cork tiaras and had one as a gift for me for booking with Viva Limousine! I made her take a picture with me and my tiara at Bel Vino. Isn't it cute? If you're going to Temecula for a bridal shower or a birthday party be sure to pre-order one of these for your guest of honor!

Our awesome driver and the owner of Wine Cork Tiara, Kathy Poblano

For the tastings, I picked four wineries in Temecula: Danza del Sol, South Coast, Falkner and Bel Vino. This was my second time at Danza del Sol and it was just as meh as the first time... skip this one if you can. The award-winning South Coast was huge and had beautiful grounds, not to mention they served the most generous pours of the four. Kathy had boxed lunches ready for us to enjoy outside with the spectacular view and wines at Bel Vino. But my favorite wine of the day was the Hot Lips at Falkner, a mulled wine perfect for chilly holidays.

We had so much fun from the moment we got to Cindy and Ray's for brunch on their patio to our drunken limo ride home. It was one of my favorite days ever and I wish the three of them lived here so there could be more days like that. But I'll take what I can get and what I got was pretty great. :)

DIY: Restoring a Thrifted Teak Bar


Back when I was surrounded by disposable Ikea decor like most people in their early twenties, I didn't care about furniture at all. Despite a couple of apartments that I rented for a while in both NYC and Connecticut, I was a nomad for the better part of those years, shuffling between friend's couches and living room floors. The furniture I did own during that time was purchased with my transient lifestyle in mind, so I didn't put a lot of thought into it.

But when I got to California and finally started to achieve some semblance of permanence, I became very picky about the furniture that I chose. I started out fairly sparse with a desk I got for free on Craigslist and spent months refinishing and a bookshelf that I bought for $15 while drunk. That was when I started to form a  pretty strong belief that furniture should have a story. Now, every time I see my desk (which is currently in Ryan's shop), I think about the months I spent working on it in the garage with my dog Coaly, during our first winter in California. And every time I look at my bookshelf I think about that hilarious afternoon with my friend Elysia, getting drunk off of mimosas, stumbling into the old Pat's Thrift Shop in North Park and having to walk four blocks back from the thrift store with it to her old apartment.

Around that time, my rules for furniture were born. First, it must have a story. Second, I have to be in love with it. Third, it should be unique, not too overly mass manufactured, and if it isn't, I should make it unique through modifications. Fourth, it should be high quality, durable. And finally, if it didn't meet the preceding criteria, then it should at the very least be necessary and functional to get us through the time until I find something that does. That last one is how I excuse the only piece of furniture in our house that doesn't meet the rest of my rules: the couch I'm sitting on as I type this. 

The story of this particular piece of furniture happened during one of my regular Craigslist trolling sessions. I stumbled across it in April of 2012, shortly before we moved into The Sunset House. The ad said it was a Vintage Teak Bar that they would sell for $50 bucks, but when I got there, the teak was completely painted over with a gross brown acrylic (minus the bottom of the bar, which is how they knew it was teak), covered in cobwebs and bugs from being outside and had a broken wheel. I haggled them down to $40.  Little did I know that I was walking away with something that currently sells for $1,250 on Frontgate and $2,000 on Westminister.

Over the past year and a half, I have stopped and started work on this bar so many times. With all the crevices and corners, stripping it of the brown paint (and about 4 other layers of paint and stain) proved an almost impossible task. I needed to finish it and I needed help. So when my Dad came to visit a couple of weeks ago, I knew just the way to give this bar the story and memory it needed. My Dad is a house painter and he loves this stuff, so like any good daughter, I put him to work on his vacation. 

Over the course of the week, the two of us finished what I had put off for a year and a half. We started with SmartStrip, the only paint stripper my Dad will let me use, and finished stripping the brown paint from the inside. Then we scrubbed as much of the rest of it as we could with soap and water to get rid of the stripping paste. We sanded the whole bar down and I painted a few of the slats on the exterior to give it a bit of color and hopefully some of that surf shack vibe that I love so much. And for the last step, we sealed it with polyurethane.

It's not perfect, but it never could have been unless I had dumped $1,000+ on a new one. But the memory of working on it with my dad while he was here is perfect and worth so much more than that. I can't tell you how happy I am that we got to work on this together. I love the way it came out and I'm so glad to cross another resolution off of my list just in time! 

Motivation Monday: The Susan G. Komen San Diego 3-Day


Where do I even start?

Last year one of my closest friends/co-worker/cubicle neighbor walked the 2012 Susan G. Komen 3-Day 60 mile Walk for the Cure. She was a team of one during that walk, under the team name "Tit for Tat" that she has used for breast cancer fundraisers over the years, ever since her mom won a battle with the disease. This year, when she announced that she was going to do it again, I secretly considered signing up with her. But I kept that a secret for months because I wasn't sure I really wanted to commit.

Then I started reading a blog written by someone younger than me who was currently battling breast cancer. At the time she was having to drop out of a half marathon because of her diagnosis. Meanwhile, I was training for my first full marathon, so her situation hit just a little too close to home. And breast cancer does run in my family after all: I never got the chance to know my maternal grandmother or great-grandmother who both died because of it. I was inspired by her attitude and her story and decided then and there to register for the walk. As a proud new member of Team Tit for Tat, I would have to raise $2,300 to participate and walk 60 miles through San Diego over the course of one weekend.

Flash forward through 8 months of fundraising, including selling ads on this blog and crocheting beanies to raise money: the 3-Day finally arrived this past weekend. Our adorable Team Captain, Marisa (who somehow tricked 5 other people to join the team too) made us pins and Team Tit for Tat tank tops that we proudly modeled on Day 1.

Up at 5:30am at the Del Mar Fairgrounds for Opening Ceremonies

During the opening ceremony, I started to get an idea of just how emotional this weekend was going to get. Several men and women took the stage to read their reasons for walking and before long, I was bawling uncontrollably. Sometimes when you're fundraising for an event instead of doing service-related charity, it can be hard to understand the impact of what you're doing. Listening to these supporters and survivors, I started to understand what the Susan G. Komen foundation is actually able to do for people with the money we raise and that was a great way to start the weekend.

We started the walk at the Fairgrounds and walked through Del Mar on our way to Torrey Pines and La Jolla. As soon as we got into the downtown Del Mar area, I was overwhelmed with how huge this event really is. I could see a river of pink walking behind me and ahead of me and the sidewalks were lined with supporters, cheering us on, handing us snacks and beverages (one guy joked that it's called the 3-Day buffet), and doing whatever they could to make us laugh or thank us. And honestly? It all felt a little bit undeserved until we came across breast cancer survivors who told us via signs or cheers just how much our efforts meant to them (cue: more bawling on my part).

The lovely ladies of Team Tit for Tat at the top of our first big hill, Torrey Pines

Outside of Del Mar, our super sweet co-worker Kelli met us at the base of Torrey Pines hill and walked it with us. Kelli is one of those women who just lives life to the fullest. Whenever I talk to her she tells me about some awesome thing she's doing, like playing the uke in a meetup group or stand-up paddle-boarding. It was so great of her to come out and support us during our first major hill.

The course map said we walked 20 miles that first day but a lot of Walkers said their GPS's and apps read that we walked 25-27 miles. It sure felt like it. We started at 7:30am and crossed the Day 1 finish line into Mission Bay park around 5:30pm. My lovely bestie Bonnie came out to pick me up and give me a ride and after catching up on Scandal at her house (priorities), I headed home and went to sleep around 7pm.

One of the amazing groups of supporters who showed up every couple of miles to make us laugh - The Melon Men

We made it! The end of Day 1

At 6am on Day 2, I was hurting. Even though I am a runner, my running training did not prepare me for 8+ straight hours of physical activity, no matter how low impact it was. Yet, there I was, riding shotgun in Ryan's car on Day 2 at the crack of dawn, ready to do it all over again.

I met the team at Mission Bay and we headed through SeaWorld and along the San Diego River over to Ocean Beach where we spent the day walking amidst beautiful views in OB, Point Loma, Sunset Cliffs and Mission Beach. While Day 2 was the toughest on all of us physically, it was also the most fun. Our teammate Ashley's parents met us in OB with hot chocolate and Bailey's and between them, the SeaWorld employees, and the other supporters who cheered us on at Robb Field, we were really starting to feel the love - and understand why it was somewhat necessary to keep us going.

My favorite Walker Stalker, thanks to Team Hula Hooters

In fact, whenever my feet hurt or my back hurt or I started to get tired, I didn't have to look far for motivation. There were my beautiful and hilarious teammates, first and foremost, who were trucking on alongside me, there were Girl Scouts who were so excited to cheer us on with their chants and the pins they made us, there were the dancing SDPD bike cops cracking us up, there were survivors thanking us everywhere we went and just amazingly warm-hearted people rooting us on at every turn. Most of all, all I had to do was think about how insignificant my 3 days of achy, self-inflicted "suffering" was in comparison to that of the women and men who battle breast cancer. The outpouring of support and love and humor and generosity that you experience during an event like this is just unlike anything you could get anywhere else.

Still... the pain.

Motivation was constant, but so was the ache in my feet. Which is when we decided to call in reinforcements in the form of my favorite cinnamon flavored beverage, Fireball. The Fireball got us through all of our various ailments during the last few hours of Day 2 and left us finishing Mile 40 with happy, smiling faces.

Very discrete

More Fireball to get us through the "last 3 miles" of Day 2

Don't worry, contrary to what it may look like, I didn't actually lose a leg in a Fireball-induced haze

Day 3 was the final day that my amazing boyfriend had to cart my exhausted body over to the Starting Line at dawn. This time though, I had Brewer with me to pull me along for the first 5 miles. He made a pretty cute Walker in his pink bandanna and made my morning infinitely easier, even after he crapped all over my leg (much to my embarrassment, I didn't even notice until another Walker pointed it out). Ryan and Banjo met back up with us around Mile 45 in Mission Beach to relieve Brewer of his walking duties and I took advantage of the puppy photo op. 

Once Brewer left, it was a blur of nonstop pain and thorough exhaustion that neither Fireball nor cheerleading could really alleviate. We marched on though, putting one foot in front of the other, back around the San Diego River on our way to Old Town and the major hill (Juan Street) that awaited us there. Which is why we were so thankful to see Marisa's mom (a survivor herself) and mother-in-law and my dear friend Raina show us up to walk with us for what was arguably the most brutally boring part of the whole walk. Their presence came at a pretty crucial time during the day.

As we hobbled on through Hillcrest towards the finish line at Petco Park, none of us could really talk or think or feel our legs. I had shin splints and there was a surplus of bum knees and achy feet and painful backs. And this is where I started to get really emotional. The last five miles were just a flood of emotions for every reason you can think of. Finally, one Komen mile (the kind of mile that is actually anywhere from 1.1 to 5 miles long) away from Petco Park, a choir of singing children led by a survivor, absolutely annihilated me. In case you were wondering, I cried a lot this weekend. 

Then suddenly we were done. We crossed the finish line and picked up our t-shirts and stumbled over to South Paw to meet up with our family and friends and beer. Ryan and Bonnie and Ian and Anjali and Pre were waiting for me there and I could not have been happier to see them. I am always grateful to have such wonderful friends in my life. We managed to get a few beers in before the equally emotional closing ceremonies where everyone took off a shoe and raised it high in the sky in support of all those who couldn't walk with us and those we were walking for. It was a beautiful end to a beautiful weekend. 

There is so much that I'm forgetting and so many wonderful mammaries (sorry, my new breast friends and I have been speaking in boob jokes for days...) that I wish I could share. The thing is though, you just have to be there for this one. It's an unbelievable 3 days of camaraderie and love and strength and support. And while I don't think I'll walk another 3-Day, I will forever try to support the Walkers through cheering and Fireball stations and of course, donations. And now I'd like to thank those who donated to me, without whom, I wouldn't have had the privilege to experience this weekend firsthand:

My father and brother
My fantastic co-workers and company
Gayle Talabay - a beautiful and inspiring previvor and blogger
The Long Family
Peter Barker-Homek
My lovely friends Keri, Kemi, Anj and Pretesh
My Aunt Micki and Uncle Ed
One of my oldest friends Ashley and her mom, Grace
Devon DeMint - one of my favorite bloggers and whose cousin is the survivor who inspired me to commit!
Andie Lee

Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

11/4/13 - 11/10/13 Health and Fitness Stats:
  • ran 1 day for a total of 4 miles (31 miles below target) 
11/11/13 - 11/17/13 Health and Fitness Stats:
  • walked 3 days for a total of 60 miles (20 miles over target)

Motivation Monday: Aaaaaaaand we're back


It's been a long time since my last proper Motivation Monday post. Two months to be exact. But since I'm officially 12 weeks out from the Carlsbad Marathon, I figured it was about time to hit the road. Literally.

This time around I'm following the same marathon training plan from Runner's World, but I'm attempting to stick to it a bit better and to increase my speed. I'd love to get down to around 4:30:00 for my time, which is a major difference from RnR SD, where my goal was simply to finish. How big of a difference? Oh, you know... over an hour.

There is some good news though: if I don't manage to finish in the time I want at Carlsbad, I won't have to wait too long for my second chance. Because this girl? This girl who said she was one and done? And then said she only signed up for Carlsbad because she was drunk? Well, this girl signed up for the ASICS LA Marathon in March. She signed up in the middle of the day. Completely sober.

Did I mention the marathons are less than two months apart?

Yeah, I don't know. I don't know how I plan to do this or why I thought it was a good idea, but it's happening. Which means I might have just gone and addicted myself to marathons.

With this newfound addiction of mine, I am most definitely in need of motivation to step up my game. Which is why I've gotten a running partner. He's fast and furry and you can catch a glimpse of his adorable little face above. This week I took him out running for the first time and learned that our little Banjo is apparently a great running buddy. He makes me go faster than I would if no one was watching and now that it's getting dark earlier, I feel safer with him around.

But I don't think I can stop there. I'm thinking about getting a running coach to really help me get more serious this time around. So if you know of any good ones in San Diego, send them my way! In the meantime, Banjo here will be running the show.

10/28/13 - 11/3/13 Health and Fitness Stats:
  • ran 5 days for a total of 25.5 miles (6.5 miles below target) 

Guerrilla Gardening


It's November already!! Where did this year go?

Last night we celebrated Halloween with a little guerrilla gardening across the street from our house. When I say "we," I should clarify that I am usually the lookout, liability and/or photographer in these missions, whereas Ryan is the green thumb and the inspired guerrilla gardener.

We planted a cactus that Ryan had liberated a couple of weeks ago during our walk up to Nate's Point dog park. It's a bright little slice of greenery in an otherwise drab, often littered highway embankment. We've also planted golden poppies there before (and will again), so the cactus makes a nice addition.

After a successful mission, we headed into Aero for some Halloween nightcaps. It was a decidedly less hectic holiday compared to previous Halloweens that we've spent at Monster Bash downtown or at Nightmare on Normal in Hillcrest or throwing a huge house party. Truthfully, I was really uninspired this year. I couldn't think of a costume idea that I liked to save my life.

Now that November is here, I'm attempting to squeeze in a few extremely chill days before the craziness sets in. Next week my dad and brother and his girlfriend get into town and then the 3-Day is the weekend after and then Thanksgiving and then holiday parties and then Christmas and Ryan's birthday and New Year's Eve in rapid fire succession. I'm exhausted just thinking about it. Not to mention, I'll be training for Carlsbad the whole time. Which should actually be a good thing since it'll offset all of the food I'll be eating.

But even though the holidays bring a lot of stress and exhaustion among the good stuff, I'm excited. There's a lot to celebrate this year in our circle of friends and even more coming in 2014. So here's to an amazing holiday season... let the madness begin...