Fish Out of Water

Musings and observations about life from an East Coast native now living on the Left Coast in the California State Capitol since 2004. This fish has made her home in Madison, WI (7 years); Portland, OR (2 years); Las Vegas, NV (7 months); Middlebury, VT (3 summers); Marne-la-Vallee, a small town east of Paris, France (6 months); Middletown, CT (3 years); and Marshfield, MA, the fish's coastal hometown 40 miles south of Boston (17 years).

Location: Sacramento, California, United States


Delayed Visit to Denver

Friday, December 15-Monday, December 18
Mountain Hike, Holiday Cookies, and Christmas Lights
I was originally planning to visit A, R, F, & baby C in the Denver area during the last weekend of October to help celebrate Halloween, but when C's surgery date got moved up, we managed to reschedule to mid-December instead. A wee bit colder!!!

A & C picked me up at the airport on Friday evening, and we stopped at a Thai restaurant for a late-ish dinner on the way home. This was my first time meeting Mr. C, who is now four months old and doing much better after his surgery. Yay!

On Saturday morning, I took advantage of the relatively warm morning weather (40s) to go for a run around the nearby reservoir before joining up with everyone else for coffee and breakfast. We eventually all got enough layers of clothing on to head off for our winter woods hike near Echo Lake Park, a bit more than halfway up Mt. Evans. The temperature at that 10,000 foot elevation was more than 10 degrees colder than at the base of the mountain, and I definitely felt the effect of the altitude during the hike -- a bit breathless and light-headed -- such an odd feeling! We stopped at Tommyknockers Brewery for lunch as we headed back to Lakewood, and then A, F, and I made sugar cookie dough so that it could chill prior to the next day, when we wanted to bake and decorate the cookies. We had planned to have chicken chili that evening for dinner, but the adults were all still pretty full from our late lunch, so instead F had his meal and the rest of us just snacked a bit as we played a game after F and C went to bed.

Sunday morning was quite a bit colder, so I used the large basement area for my workout. A, C, and I went to the Denver Art Museum to see the special exhibition, Her Paris: Women Artists in the Age of Impressionism, while R & F went to church. A & I both really enjoyed the exhibit, and C snoozed throughout the entire visit. We also walked around a few other galleries, and I recognized a sculptural piece by Nick Cave in one of the exhibits featuring animals in art. We finished up our Museum time with some hands-on attempts to create wire sculptures and then had lunch at the Mad Greens located nearby. Once we got back home, A & F & I worked on rolling out and baking the sugar cookies, which then had to cool before they could be frosted.

A's friend, J, who has a son F the same age as F and a 1-year old daughter G, texted to see if she and the kids could come over since her husband R was going out with friends. So we ended up with two 3 1/2 year old boys running around and playing and expending lots of energy for several hours! They did a great job of decorating the cookies (despite the green sugar incident), and we all managed to have some dinner of chicken chili, avocado, chips, and bread, with the two boys sitting at their own separate Paw Patrol table. We then bundled up, put G and C in their strollers and the two Fs in a wagon, and headed out to walk around the neighborhood to enjoy the holiday lights.

Side note -- I was pushing C's stroller for most of the stroll, and my FitBit interpreted that as "Outdoor Bike."(!!!)

On Monday morning, I made use again of the basement area and then spent some final moments with A & F before they headed off to work and daycare. R was on tap to take me to the airport for my flight home, and I actually arrived back in Sac early. Mr. E picked me up at SMF, I changed into my work clothes in the car, and he dropped me at the office so I could finish out my day at CPCA.

I'm so glad I finally got to meet C! And A & I had quite a bit of quality time to talk and get caught up. I wish we lived closer so that we could see each other more often, and I'm definitely going to prioritize more frequent visits as Mr. E and I plan our annual travel each year.


Away in Arizona (belated post)

Part 1: Tuesday, December 5-Thursday, December 7
Scottsdale: PCA Learning Team Face-to-Face Meeting
I traveled to Scottsdale for a two-day meeting with the new Innovative Training & Technical Assistance (ITTA) PCA Learning Team earlier this month. I've been part of a Learning Team since I joined CPCA in early 2012, and I've always really appreciated the annual Face-to-Face meetings as an opportunity to connect with peers at other PCAs across the country so that we can share ideas, challenges, and strategies. During two of the sessions, I presented some of the activities that we support at CPCA related to tracking our training activity and innovative delivery modalities.

The hotel where we stayed and convened was in close walking distance to Old Town Scottsdale, the Waterfront (!), and a couple of entertainment districts, so finding spots for lunch and dinner and picking up souvenirs was quite easy. I also enjoyed a run around the area one morning and swimming laps in the heated outdoor pool the other morning.

One of the best parts of this work trip was the opportunity it provided to extend my visit a couple of days to see our dear friends K & M, whom we haven't seen for nearly 3 years back when we all met up in Lake Tahoe.

Part 2: Thursday, December 7-Saturday, December 9
Cave Creek: Visit With K & M & J & A
K picked me up at the hotel after my meeting finished late Thursday afternoon, and we headed to the elementary school to pick up 7-year old J and 5-year old A. The four of us went to a nearby Barnes & Noble to hear holiday stories read by the kids' school teachers. J & A then ran around and climbed on the play structure outside the store while we waited for M to meet up with us for dinner at the California Pizza Kitchen next door. CPK was hosting a fundraiser for the kids' school, so a percentage of the proceeds of our dinner went towards that cause. Once we got home and the kids went to bed, the adults all enjoyed some Todd Taylor Cabernet Franc as we chatted and caught up on the last few years.

Friday morning, I started off the day with some yoga and was quickly joined by J & A and puppy L. M had warned me that the kids would likely come running into my room early, so I was prepared! After our group yoga session, I headed out for a rather chilly run -- 37 degrees to begin the day. Yikes! I got back and showered before M drove the kids to school. She took the day off to get some chores and holiday tasks completed, and I set up my laptop in the dining room to work for the day, although we did manage to go out for lunch in between my phone calls.

Once the kids finished school and K got home from the office and the sitter arrived, we adults got ready to head out for the holiday festivities, Las Noches de las Luminarias, at the Desert Botanical Gardens. K & M have gone to this event ever since they moved to Arizona, and I was so thrilled to join them this year. The grounds were all lit up, various musical groups provided entertainment throughout the various garden landscapes, and luminarias lined all of the paths to guide us from one area to another. The overall effect of the lights on the trees and cacti was quite magical!

We wandered around without any particular destination in mind, and M and I got some hot cider with tuaca at one of the beverage kiosks. That helped to keep us warm! By pure luck, we arrived at the small building with the hand-bell players just a few minutes before they resumed their performance. I love hand-bells! And the performers were absolutely wonderful. Such festive entertainment of holiday carols!

K had made late dinner reservations at the Botanical Garden restaurant, Gertrude's, but we managed to get seats at the bar earlier so that we didn't have to wait for our table. We shared the "Morsels" appetizer of local cheese, nuts, pickled veggies, and fruit. K ordered the beet salad and duck enchiladas for dinner. M and I both had the scallops, although I made some modifications to avoid any allium products, and we both also sampled the flight of Arizona red wines. So tasty!!!

By the time we got home, we were all ready to crash after such a lovely evening and such yummy food.

On Saturday morning, I completed a short Zumba workout before pulling out my yoga mat for another group session with J, A, and puppy L. We all had some breakfast and then headed out for a hike. Although the weather was chilly in the morning, by the time we got to the trail-head, we all shed our long-sleeved jackets and took off in t-shirts with plenty of sunscreen and water. We got a great view from the top of the trail:

After the hike, we went to Le Sans Souci in nearby Carefree for lunch. We were all pleased with the food and particularly impressed with the service, especially how the staff treated the kids so considerately and generously, even giving us some extra desserts to take home. Our next stop was the winter festival in the center of town, which included some "REAL SNOW" to play in!

Some of the decorations from the previous Halloween festivities were still in place, although several winter holiday elements had been added to the composition.

Eventually we headed back to the house so that I could finish packing and get to the airport for my evening flight home to Sac. What a fabulous visit! So wonderful to catch up with friends and see how the kids have grown and developed. We definitely need to make a repeat trip sooner rather than later!!!