santa barbara & sara’s wedding

I’m back and better than ever!  It’s Kelsey’s dad with a blog about our recent trip to Santa Barbara for my niece’s wedding.  None of the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

FRIDAY

Unlike the trip that Kelsey and I made out to San Pedro for my brother’s birthday a couple years ago, we left plenty early to drive to Hartsfield airport.  While on the way, I serenaded Kelsey and Phillip with a few powerful renditions of “Phillip The Man”.  Fantastic if I do say so myself.  Anyway.  We got to the airport and parked in extended parking row 63 (in tribute to 1963, the year that John F. Kennedy was shot).  Kelsey, Phillip, Kyle, Kari, and I all flew out together – a train wreck just waiting to happen.  We got to the gate and I began to chat it up with a lady sitting near us.  The lady loved my Chinese proverb “Humor is the passport to success.”  What can I say?  The flight itself was long and bumpy, but four and a half hours later we landed at LAX.  Victoria and Clark picked us up and we were on our way to Santa Barbara.

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Clark did a terrific job driving and also helped put together a specially requested “SoCal” playlist, a playlist only with songs about California or songs by artists from California.  We hit massive traffic going up Highway 1/PCH.  But eventually the traffic broke loose and we stopped at Neptune’s Net.  Neptune’s Net is a classic beach-front dive and we enjoyed their food and beer.  Some would say the highlight of Neptune’s Net were the two seagulls who were “doing the wild thing.”  Some would say this “doing the wild thing” was disgusting.  Anyway, just nature.

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We finally got to Santa Barbara where, guilty as charged, it was sunny and 72.  We found our hotel, The Inn at East Beach.  Only stay there if you DO NOT want air conditioning and DO NOT want an elevator.  Otherwise, it was okay.  Lucky for us that the Swedish girls’ volleyball team was staying there also.  😉

We rested and then were on our way to Dargan’s for a reception-type activity for those who were from out of town for Sara and Christian’s wedding.  Needless to say, the “Alabama Rednecks” traveled the furthest.  Anyway, Dargan’s was a huge hit.  All the Rednecks wore Hawaiian shirts, and I thought they looked great.

OMG.  While leaving Dargan’s, Victoria mentioned she was hungry.  Great idea and, even better, there is an In-N-Out in Santa Barbara!!!  Clark did another terrific job driving and got us there safely.  I ordered a double-double, animal-style for both the burger and the fries.  Heaven!!!

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#marryingmontoya #lakearrowhead #waffles #mylove #blessed

Back by popular demand, it’s me, Kelsey’s dad.  yes, that IS a picture of my fine looking “dome” that you are seeing.

my father's head, everyone.

my father’s head, everyone.

In the highly unlikely chance you happen to go to Lake Arrowhead, in the mountains outside of Los Angeles, I have the perfect place for you to go for breakfast or lunch, Belgian Waffle Works.  Note, from your friendly friends down here in the south, THIS IS NOT SIMILAR TO THE WAFFLE HOUSE THAT WE HAVE COME TO KNOW AND LOVE.  Nevertheless, this place is terrific and well worth the visit.

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For those of you wondering, “What’s the occasion for why you were in Lake Arrowhead?”  Well, we were all there for my niece Alison who was getting married.  More on that to come later.

Now, back to the restaurant.  First, arrive early.  Second, the menu is huge.  Probably too many choices, actually.  In addition to breakfast items they have a large lunch section of sandwiches, etc…We had a group of six:  Phillip, Clark, Kyle, Kari, my cousin Linda, and me.

The food is fantastic.  We all had different waffle selections.  In addition, Phillip ordered a biscuit with sausage gravy.  Even though we were in the mountains outside of Los Angeles, this gravy was very, very good.  The gravy might have come from a can, might have come from a box.  Who knows.  All I know is that Phillip, Kyle, and I shared it and we all loved it.

Probably the best part of Belgian Waffle Works was the staff.  All of them were witty, charming, and had terrific “patter.”  As all of my children will tell you, I’m big on the “patter” and these people had it.  I would hire all of them in a minute, their “patter” was that good.

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Terrific food, terrific staff.  If you happen to be in Lake Arrowhead, CA, go to Belgian Waffle Works!  And, even though this time I didn’t get to go to In-N-Out, Belgian Waffle Works made up for it.

editor’s note:  in addition to all these delicious waffles, take a look at some of the other fun stuff this weekend entailed.  congratulations again, mike and ali!  we love you both!

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p.s.  thank you to all my facebook friends/family for letting me use your pictures.  i only had to include them because you did such a good job taking them, lol!

a thanksgiving to remember

as i sit here, all done for at least today’s work day, i find myself thinking, “man, i wish we could rewind to a week ago.”  that’s right, i’m already sadly missing the thanksgiving holiday celebrated last week, and even though Christmas is on the horizon, i’m sure i’m not the only one feeling this way.

to keep this post from feeling too “down,” i want to share with you, my kind readers, all the fun we had last week up in the great smoky mountains.  it was my first major holiday away from my family (all grown up!), and although i dearly missed mom, dad, kyle, clark, and kari, i felt quite welcomed by phillip and his family on this special occasion.

it started last wednesday morning when mr. davis, mrs. davis, and emily came to pick up phillip and me bright and early for the drive up to gatlinburg.  we were packed in snug as bugs as we trekked up through north georgia in the great smoky mountains.  as you may know, there have been treacherous wildfires in that part of the state, and although they didn’t bother our trip up there too much, please keep in your thoughts the folks of tennesse and georgia around those parts, especially those right in and near gatlinburg for the fires they are suffering through right now.  this town is certainly more than a tourist attraction, and we all hope they can recover in no time.

our first destination was the cabin that cousin tony found and booked for our group.  with ten of us total, a large space was certainly necessary.  well, this three-story cabin (complete with hot tub and bunk beds) was just the ticket for our stay.  after quickly exploring, we kids unloaded the car of the luggage, treats, and drinks (can’t forget the wine!).

phillip and i were a bit famished afterwards, so we took the car into town for a bite to eat.  we parked in a deck towards the north end of downtown and moseyed along the sidewalks, taking in our first sights and sounds of this charming town.  as we walked, it was clear that we weren’t the only ones in gatlinburg for the weekend; the shops and attractions were already bustling with plenty of other visitors.  before we went too far, we spotted the pancake pantry and knew that’s where we’d be eating lunch.  this cozy restaurant is a welcoming combination of cracker barrel and the original pancake house (only helpful if you’ve ever been to either).  the service was amiable and the food was tasty.  phillip’s buckwheat pancakes were irresistible, and my buttermilk pancakes and sausage were hitting the spot also.

after paying we strolled around a little bit more before heading back to the cabin to greet the rest of the family.  once all there, it was mr. davis, mrs. davis, grandma lorraine, uncle steve, aunt pam, cousin tony and his girlfriend priscila, phillip, emily, and myself.  talk about a good group!  we spent the rest of wednesday night and all day thursday eating (constantly), playing card games (how about that euchre!), drinking (of course), and relaxing.  the weather was quite agreeable, especially thanksgiving day, and i couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant setting than the lush colors of the changing trees that surrounded us.  can’t you just picture it!

friday morning arrived and i think it’s safe to say there was a mild case of cabin fever going around.  see what i did there!  but really, we all needed to get out and stretch our legs, so we caravanned into town for some good old fashioned tourism.  while some folks went for breakfast, others of us were immediately interested in checking out the local ole smoky moonshine distillery.  that’s right, not even eleven a.m. and we were throwing back shots!  our friendly bartender briana was patient as we tasted and rated each of the thirteen moonshines they had available.  with no food in our stomachs just yet, you can imagine the hootin’ and hollerin’ time we were kicking up in there!

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o-h-i-o, ohio!

this past thursday morning i boarded an md-88 with several coworkers to fly to columbus, ohio for our annual company meeting.  between team gatherings, putt-putt golf, and drinks at brazenhead, the event was quite the success in melding many offices together as a united front for the successful business years ahead for which we are striving.  go team!

most folks flew back to atlanta friday night, but i had the wonderful pleasure of staying the whole weekend.  as it would be, phillip has family only minutes from our dublin location – such a small world!  so, it was a no-brainer for phillip to take some time off work and join me.

once work things wrapped up friday afternoon, phillip picked me up and we checked into the local embassy suites.  we rested our feet for a little bit and then were in the car again.  where to?  well, seeing as how our stomachs were grumbling, it was a good thing we were headed to dinner with grandma lorraine and cousin tony at the local favorite the rusty bucket.  they were seated at a booth just inside the restaurant awaiting our arrival.  both greeted me warmly as we scooched into our seats and got to know one another.  conversation came easy among the group among local brews and delicious food.  i highly recommend the wedge salad to start and then the buffalo chicken sandwich – it was massive!  the chicken parmesan that grandma lorraine had was a generous serving also.  tony’s quesadilla and phillip’s philly cheesesteak didn’t disappoint either.  so much else on the menu looked so appealing that i guess we’ll just have to visit again!

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after paying the checks, grandma lorraine called it a night.  tony, phillip, and i, though, were in the mood for another drink, so tony led us to a local bar called the dub pub.  most certainly a favorite dive bar of those who live nearby, we grabbed a high-top and continued visiting while enjoying some whiskey-gingers and a few ipa’s from the columbus brewing company (referred to by ohioans simply as “cbc”).  soon tony’s friend sean joined us, and i think eventually we blended in with the regulars as we chatted, cheered on team usa during the olympics, and took in some preseason nfl games.

as our glasses emptied and the early evening grew into the later night, phillip and i were about ready to call it a day.  we bid tony and sean farewell and hopped in the rental.  as we cruised along to the hotel, phillip pointed out the grater’s right nearby and the convenient fact that they were open until eleven p.m.  it was only 10:30 at that point.  phillip swung the camry into the parking lot and we helped ourselves to the counter.

now, any of you who know phillip know that he has quite the sweet tooth.  i used to “blame” his mother because she is an ice cream lover, but now i know it is grandma lorraine who started it all.  she revealed that each night she either has an ice cream or a cookie with some milk before going to bed.  old habits die hard, i suppose!  😀

with many more choices at the store as opposed to just the grocery aisle, i did a bowl of strawberry cheesecake and mocha chocolate chip.  whoa, that stuff was unbelievably good.  the strawberry cheesecake was undoubtedly my favorite, and it was lucky i even got to try it since it is a limited summer flavor!  phillip considered his options for a while and then settled (to no one’s surprise) on a scoop of the buckeye and a scoop of the peanut butter chocolate chip.  i am telling you, this boy could eat only reese cups for the rest of his life and be satisfied.  i suppose it’s hard to deny a man his ice cream when it makes him this happy.

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it was finally after over-eating on quite possibly the best ice cream ever created on this beautiful earth that we hit the hay.  with two more days to go in ohio, we needed our beauty rest!

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andrich invasion – chicago!

WOW.  What a trip.  It had a bit of almost everything:  travel drama, meeting famous athletes,  BYOB, etc…!  I hope that you enjoy reading about the trip as much as we had living it.  Kyle, Kelsey, and Clark know how important chronological order is to me, so, in the famous words of Jackie Gleason, “Away we go!”

Travel Drama #1.  Wednesday Night.

My original flight plan was Birmingham to Chicago.  Sounded easy and simple enough, but NO!  Flight was re-routed from Birmingham to Minneapolis (no extra charge for the stop in Minneapolis or the overnight stay in the Minneapolis airport, LOL!) to Chicago.  The overnight stay in Minneapolis was an “interesting” adventure, so I tried to make the best of it.  The Minneapolis airport at 1:29 A.M. was interesting and very, very deserted.  Anyway.  The next morning I was on a 5:15 A.M. flight to Chicago.  Early but okay with me.  The flight would have been even better if my baggage was with me but, again, NO!  Clark met me at the L and the baggage arrived on Thursday at about noon.  A nap and shower and I was ready to explore Chicago!

Chicago – Day 1 – Thursday

Clark suggested I try Dry Hop for lunch.  I took the L from Clark’s apartment to the Belmont stop on the Red Line.  After about a 15-minute walk, I was there.  A very, very good restaurant call by Clark.

In the early evening, I went to check our group into an apartment that Kelsey had booked for Kyle, Kari, Phillip (AKA Maxx Gruber), and I to stay in during the rest of the weekend.  In the famous words from the TV series Dragnet, “The names have been changed to protect the innocent.”  The location of this apartment was terrific, only a single block from the Belmont station.  Kelsey booked this apartment via an online service named very similarly to “ground B-N-B.”  I think the owner described this location as a condo, but it is NOT a condo.  It really was a large one-bedroom apartment.  Quirky and different but fine for the five of us.  I won’t mention anything about having to dodge the exposed pipes that were hanging below the ceiling…plus, the owner seemed surprised that three sets of keys were needed for our group.  Yikes!

Anyway, back to Clark.  Clark and I walked to dinner and then took the L to Target to do some light shopping.  Very, very important point here:  As Clark pointed out, Chicago is a very pedestrian town with lots of walking, which is okay because Chicago is very, very flat.  I did not see a hill the entire time I was there, but walking is walking.  Shopping at Target was very, very strategic because we had to carry all the items that we bought.  Plus, we then walked 4.8 miles back to Clark’s apartment.  Did I remember to mention that by now my FEET WERE KILLING ME?!

Later on Thursday night, Kyle, Kari, Kelsey, and Maxx arrived.  The humor started almost immediately!  Apparently Kari had packed her suitcase and then someone decided to unpack some of her delicates…Yikes again!  This someone explained how this unpacking occurred, which was interesting but still difficult to understand.

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carrollton girls’ weekend

last weekend i cruised west of atlanta to visit my dear friend sarah over in carrollton.  we were long overdue for some girls’ time, and since phillip was occupied for a couple days, i insisted i come into town.

the quick drive on i-20 led me to a few more turns and a relaxing whirl through her stomping grounds.  i pulled up to her humble abode and nearly jumped out of my car, i was so excited to see sarah and her home!  she came answering when i came knocking, gave me a quick tour of the house, and tried to keep her sweet pup maggie from attacking me with kisses.  i can’t say i minded the last one at all; everyone knows i’m a dog lover!

now, this visit wasn’t just about sarah and me catching up – it also was about getting to see her family.  her parents and siblings just have hearts of gold, and it wouldn’t be a complete visit to west georgia without seeing them, too.  so, sarah and i met up with her mom, dad, sister jenny, and other sister katie at a local antique shop.  hugs and stories were exchanged among us all as we perused the aisles and shelves in search of a hidden treasure.  although there were plenty of refurbished dressers and chairs i would love to have had, i knew phillip would kill me if i came home with another piece of furniture!  the condo and our storage unit are at maximum capacity!  i couldn’t leave the store without a souvenir from the weekend, though, so i found a lovely little rosemary mint candle from a darling little shop called uncommon scents.  the smell is subtle and relaxing and perfect to light for an hour or so before hopping in bed.

we all piled up and after shopping through another antique store and a local book shop, we met up at little hawaiian right near downtown carrollton for some dinner.

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february 16th – nyc

our last day in new york begrudgingly arrived tuesday morning as natalie woke and headed to the office and phillip and i packed a bag for the day and got things going, too.  now, even though we might have been sad that our last day was upon us, we were getting excited for what the day held.  what did we end up doing?  well, for starters we went to piers 92 and 94 on the hudson river to watch the day two breed judging for the westminster kennel club dog show!

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happy anniversary!

for those of you not familiar with the process, in the morning before each evening show, each breed is judged individually and the best of the breed is selected.  so for example, the golden retrievers are in the sporting group.  now, only one golden retriever is shown in the evening, so they have to pick the best out of the bunch.  how many goldens, you ask?  how about 50!  yes, folks.  there were 50 golden retrievers being judged tuesday morning, and since phillip and i are both golden lovers, that’s exactly where you would have found us.

now, before the pups are judged they have to get all dolled up.  one of the coolest things about westminster is that you get to go into the benching area where the dogs are chilling out and getting groomed.  after receiving our wristbands, i led phillip over to the benching area for the sporting group and i think he stopped dead in his tracks when he saw all the goldens.  these sweet faces are just irresistible!  now, i urge you.  no, i implore you!  please scroll through the album of golden retriever photos we captured.

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got your fill of goldens?  i thought you might!  now that their coats are glistening and smiles ready, it’s time to be judged!  over in ring 10 is where all the goldens were being judged, so phillip and i snagged a couple seats so that we wouldn’t miss a thing.

the judge brought anywhere between 10 and 20 goldens into the ring at a time, which gave me the perfect opportunity to take even more pictures!

we eventually got our dose of goldens for the day, but before leaving for the afternoon we moseyed along the aisles to check out all the other dogs.  i think something that always amazes me is how much stuff it takes to get these pooches ready.  hair dryers, nail clippers, product.  you name it, they have it.  regular pampering sounds like a pretty blissful life, doesn’t it?

we saw a couple great danes, the gentle giants they are.  this breed always brings a grin to my face when i see them, and this fellow was no exception.

look at that face!

look at that face!

and then right before we exited we found the vizslas!  phillip’s sister emily has a sweet vizsla named brandy and we couldn’t leave without sending her some pictures.  the one of phillip getting kisses is my favorite.  🙂

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february 15th – nyc

monday in new york arrived a little quicker than we probably would have liked because monday meant we were halfway through our trip – oh no!  well, even though we’d spent the last couple of days lounging in bed until the early afternoon, we couldn’t allow ourselves to just sit around on our hands three days in a row.  no, sir!  not while in new york!  so phillip and i bid au revoir to natalie for the morning and, you guessed it, hit up hot & crusty for more bagels!  i think at this point our bagel count was nearing ten.  um, should we be embarrassed?  wait, on second thought, let’s all keep our comments to ourselves regarding our bagel consumption on this trip.  yes, i think it’s safer that way and at the end of the day we’ll all still be friends.  🙂

we ordered more fresh baked bagels and hot coffee and, because we couldn’t resist, a boulder-sized chocolate, chocolate chip muffin.  well, if we’re gonna be bad, we may as well do it right!  phillip and i leisurely munched on our treats at a table inside as we people watched all the locals in their monday morning routine.  a gentleman to my left with lox and the newspaper, a couple beside him sharing a croissant, the local delivery man stopping by to get to-go bags (i’d bet good money one of them was for natalie!).  through the window we saw gentle snow flurries beginning to fall, so we figured if we were going to do some walking we’d better get to it.

it turned out that phillip and i pretty much had the whole day free to ourselves.  as much as i would love to have gone to the public library to curl up with a book, we decided to stay in the area.  since we’d already gone to the met on saturday, we decided to venture to the west side of town to see what we could see.  now, despite the fact that the snow was beginning to pick up, phillip convinced me to take a stroll with him along the sidewalks of iconic central park.  i must admit it was quite a lovely idea.  we saw several bundled pups dragging along their owners, couples arm in arm, and joggers aplenty.  the grounds were mostly quiet and although it was getting colder with each step, the scene was nothing short of picturesque.

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february 14th – nyc

sunday morning started much like saturday morning, three lazy almost late-twentysomethings bumming around indoors because the outdoors were still harsh.  it should come as no surprise that we proceeded to order more hot & crusty from their lexington location, except this time we opted for bagels with cream cheese and butter.  mm, how new york!  there really wasn’t anything on the to-do list this valentine’s day except a late lunch/early dinner, so we napped on and off until the early afternoon.

now, on our trek up to new york last friday phillip and i both agreed that he needed a new suitcase.  his old rollerboard was a bit beat up and the handle was stuck inside the suitcase, meaning that phillip had to literally carry his carry-on wherever he went.  we all know what that meant:  it was time to go shopping!

natalie, phillip, and i finally peeled ourselves out of bed, petted wyatt goodbye, and quickly grabbed a cab uptown to the local harlem marshall’s.  we figured this place would be a good bet for some new luggage and we were right.  phillip found himself a very stylish black samsonite, four-wheel suitcase.  it looks smart and sharp and expertly suited to him – it’s like it was made just for phillip!  he rolled that bad boy out of the store with a grin on his face.  nothing makes a day great like the perfect find!

we had just enough time to drop off the suitcase and then get back in a big yellow taxi to make our 4:30 reservation at the smith over in the east village.  the hostess took our name, grabbed some menus, and promptly showed us to our table.  this restaurant is, without question, a quintessential new york bistro and, if i do say so myself, quite spacious!  they have a long bar where you can rub elbows with other locals and travelers, large tables for family gatherings, and two- and three-seaters for intimate meals.  we were cozied up with one another at a smaller round table, right in the middle of it all.  although there weren’t many folks around us at the start of the meal, it wasn’t too long before the restaurant filled up with the early dinner crowd.

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now, we were originally under the impression that we’d be doing a late brunch together, especially considering that the table right inside the door was covered with plates full of french toast and egg scrambles.  unfortunately, though, we somehow hit a strange half hour of time between sunday brunch and actual dinner.  the waitress informed us we’d be dining off the twilight menu, so we just had to roll with it.  i’ll say, though, that the people around us who ordered dinner looked spoiled with their huge bowls overflowing with pasta and chicken pot pie.  although we ended up enjoying what we ordered (which i’ll describe next), i’d be lying if i said we weren’t slightly disappointed.  i guess we’ll just have to come back!

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we each put in a drink order and then natalie insisted we have a mound of the hot potato chips, homemade potato chips slathered in bleu cheese fondue.  oh my gosh, you guys, i’m not joking when i say i could have eaten the entire order of them and died happy right then and there.  this starter is a massive portion and can easily satisfy a group of three to five people.  the deep bowl means there are a lot of layers, but the kitchen does right by you to dress nearly every single chip with the fondue.  i don’t doubt that i could write a whole blog about just these chips.  mm!

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