Saturday, August 30, 2014

#BBC14 Pre-Conference Pub Crawl: Independent Style…

We already had travel arrangements to fly into San Diego when the Pre-Conference Excursion was announced.  Since another couple from NOLA, friends of ours, were in the same boat we decided to split cab fare and create our own pre-conference excursion in beautiful, temperate San Diego. 

First stop?  For lunch and beverages of course at Blind Lady Ale House (BLAH).  The décor is welcoming.  The color scheme is a palette of browns but the place is well lit so it’s welcoming.  There are skateboard decks lining the walls (they could have used a Gnarly Barley deck) and nostalgic beer lighting (a turning Miller Genuine Draft Light was near our table).  The music was loud enough to hear but low enough to talk over.  These guys have a lot of things going right in this establishment.  Most tables seat six, so this is really a place to come and hang with a group of friends and share some food, drink, and fun.  Favorite beer?  The Golden Ticket, a Belgian golden strong infused with vanilla beans and oak with Dark Horse Coffee.  Think Coffee Stout has a stepchild with something gold and it ends up being blonde but having a delightful coffee kick.  BLAH also had St. Louis Geueze and Monk’s Café Flemish Sour Ale on tap, so I traded off Coffee and sour for the time we were there.  The Cheese and Charcuterie Plates were awesome!  I would definitely hang out here again if in San Diego again.  Once we were done here, it was time for an afternoon nap to cut the time zone confusion.

Then we were back out and about at Toranado.  The selection included several local beverages.  I had a New Belgium Love-Felix and a taste of Toby’s Chip Shot Coffee Porter.  The establishment was on the small side and not well lit.  Toby had the Smoked Mac and Cheese.  It was very cheesy and seasoned with smoked paprika.  It was good, but the serving size was huge.  I had a BLTA (the A is for avocado) with a cucumber salad.  It was all right, but the bacon was on the soggy side (I am a stickler for crispy bacon) and the cucumber salad was heavy on a white dressing.  We did have window side seating that allowed us to look out at what was going on outside on the street.  This is not a stop I would be inclined to repeat.

Our final stop was Waypoint Public.  I loved the campy décor, the bear logo, and the bar rail around the perimeter which allowed for rail seating facing the street to see what was going on outside.  I enjoyed a Berry Nice and Bacon & Eggs by Pizza Port and a Three Sheets by Ballast Point.  The beer was good, the lighting was good, the setting was good.  I loved that they accommodated couples with young children by providing a toddler play ground and a big screen that was playing Harry and the Henderson’s while we were there.  I wish I had waited on eating, because I think the menu would have delivered.  I would definitely make a return visit if I chance to visit San Diego again.  And then, it was time to turn in for the night to gear up for the conference day that was to come…

Sunday, August 24, 2014

2014 Beer Bloggers Conference - San Diego

This conference was perfect for the way I like to schedule recreational travel: a four-day weekend with a pre-conference day for independent wandering and a full conference schedule.  We selected a direct flight from New Orleans International Airport to San Diego International Airport on Southwest Airlines.  We took a taxi from the airport to the conference hotel, the San Diego Mission Valley Marriott.  For our independent ground travel, we used UBER for the first time.  The trip went well, what follows are my thoughts on our lodging and transportation services for the duration of the trip.

Things I appreciate about Southwest:
1.  Select your own seat.  I prefer the exit row on the wing because you get extra legroom.  On the A/B/C side of the plane, you get more elbow room as well.  The extra space helps with the cooped up feeling on the long flight.
2.  Direct flights.  It's worth the drive to New Orleans.
3.  The planes are roomy.  No worries about hitting your head on the ceiling while entering the plane or walking down the aisle.
4.  The seat belts don't make me feel like I need to lose 25lbs to fly.
5.  The flight attendants are friendly and have a sense of humor about the long flights.
While my butt was hurting for half the flight, that more about my butt than it is about Southwest.

Marriott properties are my favorite for travel.  There is a consistent quality at a good value that I've come to appreciate, and the San Diego Mission Valley Marriott was no exception to that expectation.
1.  The room rate was a great value for the site. 
2.  The staff were courteous and responsive to my requests.  I was able to get a feather free room with a king size bed for a small wait on check in.
3.  Strawberry enhanced water was available in the lobby 24/7.  This is quite refreshing and beats bottle water.
4.  The room was spacious.  There was a sitting area with a love seat and coffee table and a work space with a charging station.
5.  The dining area provided a variety of breakfast options.  We ate there everymorning.  The fruit was fresh and the bacon was crispy.  The coffee was Starbucks, so it was decent.
6.  The conference center was connected to the hotel by covered walkways.  The weather was beautiful, but this was a great feature for a conference in the event of rain.
7.  There were beautiful outdoor seating areas.  Landscaping ranged from palm trees to rose bushes.  The sofas and chairs were oversized and comfortable.  There was an outdoor breakfast area and a lounging area with a fire pit.  The pool was inviting, and they played family movies on a big screen at the pool at night.

1.  The vehicles were clean.
2.  The drivers were well dressed and pleasant.  It was like being picked up by a friend for a ride because you were in town.
3.  We never waited more than 10 minutes for a ride (most waits were around 5 minutes).
4.  You don't need cash and your credit card information is shared with only one point of contact.
5.  The UBER app lets you confirm if your driver is on course to the destination you selected.  This is a great feature when you are traveling somewhere that is unfamiliar.

On a return trip to San Diego, I would definitely use all of these transportation and lodging services again.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Tale of 2 Daisy's...28 years apart...

It was the early days of the summer of 1986.  My braces had been taken off a couple of months earlier, and the orthodontist had referred us to an oral surgeon to get my wisdom teeth removed.  We had arrived at the office, and I had fallen asleep standing up at the counter while my Mom finished the paperwork.  The nurse saw me, and took me back into the surgery room so that I wouldn't fall.  I was really out of it because I had had valium to relax me before the procedure.

The doctor comes in and wakes me up.  "Is there someone we can call?"  I was really confused, my Mom was with me, why would we need to call someone.  "How can we reach your Dad?"  "You can't, my Dad is offshore.  Where is my Mom?"  "Your Mom passed out, we need someone to take her to the hospital and then come back and get you."  I think I babbled the name of the place my sister worked at.  By that point, my Mom had revived, and was in a lot of pain, so they called for my sister.

I ended up recovering from my wisdom teeth removal and my Mom ended up with a fractured hip (I think) from passing out when she signed the anesthesia permission form.  It seems the "may cause mental impairment or death" part of the form really got to her.

So yesterday, as I watched the color drain from my child's face as the surgeon explained the risks, I knew it was going to be a long few days.  I could see her wanting to freak out, but not.  When he listened to her heart, he heard an "extra sound" and needed me to get clearance for surgery from her regular physician.  Last night was rough.  We get to the pediatrician this morning, and she hears "an extra sound."  She gets us in with the cardiologist for an EKG.  The cardiologist asks me, "What brings you hear today?"  I tell the tale.  He says, "Well, her EKG is perfect."  I say, "Well, my gut tells me the surgeon should have listened to her heart before he freaked her out and we wouldn't be sitting here."  We both have a laugh and talk about the potential hazards of raising a micro-preemie, and better safe than sorry.

Both of my experience with wisdom teeth oral surgery have been pretty drama filled when it comes to Daisys.  I hope and pray that tomorrow goes well, and hope the weekend is less eventful...

Saturday, May 24, 2014

And Summer Begins...

Thirty nine years ago this weekend, a little known actor was releasing a big fish story from a major film studio, and so goes the birth of the summer blockbuster...

In 1974, Steven Spielberg was a little known director with one major film, The Sugarland Express with Goldie Hawn, and a made for TV movie, Duel with Dennis Weaver, under his belt.  Because of their experience working with him on The Sugarland Express, Zanuck and Brown had faith that he could bring the novel JAWS to life on the big screen.  By all accounts the  process of making the movie was challenging for a multitude of reasons: screen actors guild strike, a mechanical shark that didn't work, filming in an ever moving environment (the sea), and a location that really did not want to be taken over by a film crew for as long as shooting lasted (Martha's Vineyard).  All of these challenges forced the innovative director to work hard to keep his cast together and keep film production going whatever the cost.

The end result, a classic film that began the phenomenon known as the summer blockbuster.  The creation of a film that caused fear of the water and the slaughter of many sharks.  It also inspired a generation to take interest in studying the environment and made it cool to be a marine biologist.

As the remake of Godzilla is in theaters now, I have to say that I am glad that thus far no one has discussed remaking JAWS.  I think any remake of the movie would not do it justice.  The shock and blood and gore that CGI could provide would do nothing to enhance the well developed characters and well developed da-dum, da-dum suspense of the summer of 1975.  I was three that summer, and was taken to see JAWS as a family theater outing with my Mother, Brother (and his girlfriend) and Sister.  After all, it was rated PG.  I was so excited because I was getting to go somewhere with my brother and my sister, they were both teenagers.  I remember wanting to sit near my brother.  When Ben Gardner's head popped out the bottom of the boat, I jumped over my brother, his girlfriend, and my sister and landed in my mothers lap - where I stayed for the rest of the movie.

That summer, JAWS was everywhere.  I remember being scared to go in the toy department because of the game.  I remember being scared to close my eyes in the bathtub because I was "in the water."  I remember going to the beach and sitting in the sand where the waves could lap over me but refusing to "go in the water."  I remember hating the JAWS towels at the local pool.  My Dad wished my Mom had never taken me to see the movie because of the fear of what was in the water that it put in me.  For years, I couldn't look at pictures of sharks without freaking out.

Thirty nine years later: JAWS is a classic, Steven Spielberg is an international superstar,  I do go to the beach and will go in water up to my waist, I watch Shark Week every August, and I have shark art by marine artist Paul McPhee in a majority of the rooms in my home.  So enjoy the first weekend of summer, take in a movie, and come on in - the water's fine!

Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Resolutions - 2013 The Year of Getting a Life!

I typically avoid making New Year's Resolutions. I know many people make them, but don't see the sense of making them for myself. After a week of house cleaning and reflecting, I think I'll take a gander at making a few resolutions for 2013...

To insure I do this right, I looked up the definition of resolution:

res·o·lu·tion (rezəˈlo͞oSHən) Noun 1. A firm decision to do or not to do something. 2. A formal expression of opinion or intention agreed on by a legislative body, committee, or other formal meeting, typically after taking. Synonyms: decision - determination - resolve - solution

Since I'm not a legislative body or committee, I 'm going with definition number 1 as I state my resolutions...

In 2013 I resolve to:

1. Better balance work and home. I often let things lag at home, something I would never do at work. I need to transfer the organizational skills I use at work to home. I am often frustrated because my home is not like I want it to be. I have no one to be frustrated with but myself because I do not schedule time to do the things around the house I want done.

2. Plan menus weekly and have company for dinner once a month. I love to cook! I want to get back in the groove of cooking for the week over the weekend and eating leftovers during the week. I also used to enjoy entertaining when I lived in Houma. We had several couples that we used to take turns cooking Friday or Saturday night dinner and getting together. The times I enjoyed the most was when we would get together and cook together and trade recipes. This ties to Resolution #1 because since we moved here I have been so focused on work, I haven't tried to find folks to start a "Supper Club."

3. Fit in the jeans in my closet. I have five pairs of jeans in my closet that I want to wear again. They are in a size that I should be able to attain. This goal actually includes fitness and dietary goals. If I eat right I should lose weight, if I exercise I should lose weight and be healthier. I want to get back in the routine of walking the dogs in the morning and going to Jazzercise in the evening.

4. Worry less and enjoy more! I have become entirely too serious. I need to "let my hair down" and have fun, human moments more often. I want to complete all of my incomplete projects. I also want to read for recreation. I realize that the majority of what I read is for work and I rarely read for pleasure. When I organized my office, I organized shelves of books I bought that I have not read. I want to get through most of those in 2013.

In 1991 a doctor told me I wouldn't make it past 25 and I'd never have children. I've managed multiple medical conditions for more than half of my life. I'm now 40 and I have Daisy, who is about to turn 13. What do doctor's know? After all, they are just practicing medicine. It's well past time to start enjoying things! I have been blessed with a wonderful husband. He is my best friend and my husband. He has put up with me for 17 years. He has partnered with me to raise a delightful daughter. We have our furry family members: Sirius-Pup, Wabo, Cabo II, Mocha, and Nola Brown. They provide much love in the form of snuggles, scratchies, and laughter.

I resolve to make 2013 a happy, fun year for my family. I wish the same for yours...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

On Hurricanes and Such...

Growing up a South Louisiana Girl, hurricanes are a way of life. I can remember as a child spending many a storm on a blanket in the hall listening to the wind whip around the house and watching my mother nervously fret about something breaking the windows. My Mother worried so about windows breaking, that when she had the opportunity to change out the large picture window in the living room, she replaced it with a rock wall and a small window. My father used to add to my mother's nervousness by insisting on not participating in the "hunker down in the hall away from the windows" activity. He would sleep on the sofa in the room with the large picture window, or go to bed in a bedroom with two windows near two sides of the bed. The horror!

So, when I arrived in DC on Monday, I wasn't really too worried about the storm knowing I was scheduled to return on Tuesday night. Believe me, for years my mother worried enough to cover the entire family for eternity. What I did become concerned about late Monday night was the airport closing until Friday and me not being able to get home. The vision of my husband, child, and assorted critters 'roughing it' without Mommy was not a pleasant one. I talked with Toby, predicted the hurricane would stall (I was a former Environmental Science teacher, from the days when you had to be certified and know something to be able to teach, I can read weather maps), but decided it was better to come home and make it than to stay in DC, be stuck until Thursday or Friday, and regret it.

When the storm stalled half on land and half on water, I knew we were in for a long, windy, wet ride. I knew the added water would cause many more trees to fall. I also knew the longer period of exposure to category 1 or tropical storm winds had the potential to be much worse than shorter exposure to stronger storms. Hurricanes are trackable, but unpredictable acts of nature. They are a force to be reckoned with and can be devastating to a community and/or state. One of the things that I agree with my late mother on, is that you should listen to the news and be aware of how the storm is progressing and where it will hit. We used to do that by watching Nash Roberts on Channel 4 and when the power would go, listening to it on the radio. As such, when I arrived home on Monday, I turned the Weather Channel on and proceeded to secure the outside of the house.

At some point on Tuesday, I gave up on The Weather Channel. A storm can be nerve wracking enough without the added sensationalistic journalism tact that The Weather Channel was taking. The whole, struggling to stand on the street and go outside thing was neither amusing, nor realistic. Throughout the storm my hubby and I took our dogs out for potty breaks (this is true for every storm). Wind gusts can be challenging and the whipping rain is stinging. We've also spent a great deal of time in New Orleans, one of our favorite getaways. Sometimes on a regular day, the wind from the River down Canal St. is substantial. As several points, they were saying, this storm could be worse than Katrina. Really? At times, they seemed disappointed that the storm wasn't worse than it was and that New Orleans didn't take a direct hit. When they said it made landfall but there was no city, I found myself wondering what they think Bootheville, Venice, and Orchid are. They are not major cities, but they are towns, significant to industry in our state, with people who live and make a living there.

I will admit that in some areas, the flooding was much worse than Katrina. However, if you look at the overall impact, I think you will find that this storm was not as damaging as Katrina. This morning, 39% of the state is without electricity. Post Katrina, 95% of the state was without electricity. For Katrina, we were out of power for most of the storm and 5-7 days after the storm. I really don't know how the reporting for this storm compared with the reporting for Katrina. I didn't have power or access to TV during that time. If I had, I may have been just as frustrated if not more with the coverage. I do know that there was a major focus on the events in New Orleans and little coverage on areas of Mississippi and Alabama that were completely demolished. I do know this, I'll stick to viewing the maps on The Weather Channel's site for future storms. A storm is bad enough without sensationalistic journalism making it worse than it is. I'd prefer, "Just the facts, ma'am."

Monday, April 23, 2012


So today, as I headed into work, one of my team members sends me a Happy Birthday wish. I respond with, I'm 39.9. I refuse to turn 40 before Saturday, don't speed me up to getting there. :-)

I get to the office, and another colleague hits me with a Happy Birthday, followed by another who says, I wasn't sure about wearing black...I was a little confused.

My very thoughtful team mates threw me a surprise birthday party, with an awesome cake from Baum's. Everyone was wearing black to commemorate my officially being old. I haven't had this happen in a long time. As a matter of fact, in 40 years, it was only my second surprise birthday party!

I am so thankful that I have (almost) made it to 40! I am also thankful that I work with people who are willing to take the time to celebrate a colleague's life event.