California…Last Day

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It’s a little sad that it has taken me almost three weeks to complete my blogging about my trip to California.  But, that’s what happens when you work 12 hour days.   For the most part, I don’t do anything but sleep, eat, and get ready for work on the days I work.  So, here is the end of my saga, better late than never!

Our final day in California was Thursday.  I still remember feeling a mix of emotions that day.  I couldn’t believe how FAST that week had gone.  It seemed like the plane had just touched down, and I was being surrounded in a big bear hug by Frank.  I don’t think I’ll ever forget that wonderful feeling.  And then all of the beautiful sights, the tasty meals, the blissful relaxation, the interesting conversations…everything was so great.  But yet I missed my babies, my cats…I missed my friends…I missed the comfortableness of my own apartment.  So even though I had a memorable time, I still was looking forward to being home again as well.  I guess I’ve always known this, but I really am a homebody.  I LOVE staying in and just relaxing in my own place, surrounded by the familiarity of my own stuff.  It’s always nice to visit, but it’s just so comforting to be home.

The really bummer of our last day in California was that Frank had to be at the hospital early in the day and our flight was a red-eye.  We had thought (based on information that Frank received from the hospital) that he would be going to the hospital at 10 am.  However, when we awoke, we found out, to our dismay, that he was asked to be there by 9 am.  So we basically got a quick hug before he had to leave.  It was not the goodbye I think either of us wanted.  It turned out to be frustrating as well because later in the day as we heard from Frank, it turns out that he didn’t even get into his room until later in the morning and there were no doctors orders written so he never even started his next round of chemo until late in the afternoon.

So we spent the day packing and enjoying our last afternoon on the front porch, reading and relaxing.  We had dinner and then Frank’s partner drove us to the airport.  Our flight was scheduled to leave at 10:30 pm, but actually took off an hour late.  It was very tiring.  We arrived in Hartford the next morning at 9:45 am.  By the time we got our luggage and the car and drove home it was close to 11 am.  The WORST part was dragging 50 pound suitcases up 4 flights of stairs!  Not fun!  Since I had to work that night, I immediately went to bed for a nap.

After that the vacation seemed like a dream.  I worked the next three days in a row, had one night off, then worked two more.  By then I was EXHAUSTED!  I think finally now, after three weeks, I’m finally not as tired.  I’m back in my old routine.

As of now, Frank has completed his first round of chemo (which was two separate cycles).  He’s had some complications as far as low blood counts and another hospitalization, but has had lots of support in the form of his family and additional friends staying with him.  I’m just incredibly glad that I was able, even with my crazy schedule, to see him after so long.  Now I can’t wait to go back!

Published in: on July 29, 2008 at 12:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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California–Day 6 (Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Wednesday was the second to last day of our being in California 😦 Why did the time go by so fast? On this day we relaxed in the morning…coffee and breakfast in the backyard, while being amused by Oliver in his Johnny Jumper–boy does he love this thing! He would jump and laugh and jump and laugh…rest…and repeat…it was so cute.

Here he is in a moment of rest…I can’t say it enough…WHAT a cutie!

During the afternoon, me, Kimm, and Frank’s mom went to the beach. And in getting to the beach, we had another unique Los Angeles experience–we took the bus! It took about an hour (although to me it didn’t actually FEEL like an hour since I was so busy people watching). The only thing we knew about when to get off the bus was that once the bus got to the beach, it would turn to the right and turn around and head back the way that we had come. Well, I think we were all kind of spaced out because all of a sudden the bus turned the corner and I said, “Umm, the bus just turned the corner, I think we should pull the bell and get off.” It was funny, but maybe you had to be there. We had to walk a little bit to get to the beach, and where we were let off was at the beginning of the Venice Beach Boardwalk. At first it was fun, looking at the shops and stopping to eat some pizza, and walking in the water along the shoreline. But then we wondered if we would ever get to the Santa Monica Pier. Well, we eventually did, after a LOT of WALKING. And of course, this would be the day that we forgot to put sunscreen on. Let’s just say that by the time Frank picked us up, Kimm’s neck was as red as a lobster and she had a very unusual “tan” line on her arms.

The boardwalk…lots of shopping and good food…

I still can’t get over all the palm trees…

The ocean…ABSOLUTELY beautiful!

View from the beach…

Kimm and I (this may be the ONLY picture of the two of us on the whole trip!)…and NO, that is not a purse Kimm is holding, it is a bag of souvenirs:)

Far off view of the Santa Monica Pier (when we still had quite a while to walk!)

Shaved cherry ice on the pier…refreshing!

There were two sad things that happened after we finally got to the boardwalk. One, as soon as I took this picture, my camera broke! Yup! Completely stopped working. And it had to stop working when the lens was still extended out. It would not turn on or off. I was SOOOO mad. Two, we were just about to explore the pier after walking and walking, when Frank called, said the traffic was horrendous and he would have to pick us up in 40 minutes. Sad face. It would take us about 10 minutes to walk to where he was going to pick us up, so we only had about a half an hour on the pier. We did have a California sweet treat though…we all got a churro–a fried-dough pastry that was YUMMY! (they were all over the boardwalk).

After we were picked up, we could really feel our sunburns. And we were tired! Good thing we relaxed that night. Frank made another great dessert that night–homemade peach and blueberry cobbler….mmmmm…it was so tasty. But only one more day, and then back to reality…

Published in: on July 24, 2008 at 5:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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California–Day 5 (High Voltage Tattoo!)

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

After such an exhausting day at Universal Studios, the next day was pretty low-key. However, my sweetie REALLY wanted to go to High Voltage Tattoo, the tattoo shop from the hip TV show L.A. Ink, with Kat Von D. We were introduced to her tattooing style in Miami Ink, when she was part of that tattoo team. Then, when she left to open her own tattoo shop, we watched that as well. If you don’t know anything about her or her tattoos, she is AMAZING. Her forte is portraits which look so real it’s crazy. Anyways, Kimm has been thinking about getting another tattoo for a while, and thought, “hey, why not try to get one while I’m in LA.” She knew that she wouldn’t be able to get one from Kat because she is wicked expensive (probably around $1000) but she was willing to spend a little extra to at least get one done by some “unknown” in her shop.

After looking up information online, we found out that the show was apparently taping during the day since the shop was only open from 9pm to 12am. Kimm called (“phone first”) to make sure that they could complete tattoos in that time period and they said yes, although it was a first come, first serve basis and it was best to be there early so as to ensure a spot. So we decided to try to get there for 8:45 pm. Frank was again gracious enough to offer to drive us there. We got there right at 8:45 pm and there were already people waiting in line. Thankfully we didn’t have to wait too long.

As soon as the doors opened, we went right to the desk and Kimm put in her “order.” They said that the tattoo (Team Canada for hockey–don’t worry, if you don’t know what this looks like, you’ll see shortly) would cost $400 (gulp!). But we were there…it was cool. Right away we determined that this was NOT the same shop that was used for the TV show. It looked completely different. Turns out there was a back to the shop that was used for taping. But, as I said, it was still cool. Thankfully my camera was completely charged this time and so I just went to town taking pictures.

Outside the shop

Kat Von D (front), and the rest of her tattoo team/cast on L.A. Ink (photo from inside shop)

Chandelier hanging above the reception desk when you first walk in

Posters of Kat on the wall…

Inside the shop, to the left…it’s PINK!

The back of the store…I sat in one of those chairs watching the tattoo process (the red curtain to the right is where it leads to the second shop, the one used on the TV show)

The right side of the store, toward the back is where Kimm’s tattoo was done

Row of skateboards above the door…

Kimm, pre-tattoo…look at that smile…in case you can’t tell, she’s excited!

The guy who did Kimm’s tattoo was named Khoi. He was a very down-to-earth, nice guy. Very friendly. Very intense in his work. Answered all of my questions. Took a picture with Kimm after the tattoo was done. All in all it took about an hour. I was able to watch the whole thing up close, without feeling any of the pain. Kimm said it wasn’t too bad–just a burning sensation.

Here’s the outline of the tattoo–looks pretty good under Taz (now you can see the Team Canada Hockey logo–basically a hockey player in the middle of a maple leaf, the traditional emblem of Canada, with the team colors of Team Canada–black and red–by the way, Team Canada plays internationally and in the Olympics–in case you hadn’t noticed my sweetie LOVES hockey and Canada!)

The tattoo has begun! This is the back of Khoi’s head…don’t worry you’ll see what he looks like later…

The tattoo continues…

The final tattoo!

So here is Khoi from the front; Kimm’s tattoo is all wrapped up

One last view…

After it was done, turns out the tattoo was only $350–a deal! We called for a taxi to take us back to Frank’s. That was another experience in itself. After 20 minutes of waiting, still no cab. So finally, Khoi, the tattoo artist said, “you just need to hail down a taxi, or else you’ll be standing here all night.” He in fact tried to hail one down for us, but they kept driving past. Finally I stuck my arm out, and a cab pulled over…25 feet past us. We hopped in and found out that the reason the cab had pulled up so far was because the tattoo place was right on the border of two competing cab areas and the cab driver could get arrested for stopping in an area that was not his section. He said he was arrested once for that the first year he drove a cab, was fined heavily, and has never made that mistake again. So by pulling up to his area, he was safe–and we got to go home. Of course, it did cost us $26 (isn’t that absolutely CRAZY!!–and we kind of knew how to get back to Frank’s house–I can only IMAGINE how much it would have been if we were completely clueless!)

P.S. Forgot to mention, but Frank made awesome sandwiches for dinner that night–Pesto, Tomato, and Mozzarella Panini–oh they were sooooo good. I am salivating now just thinking of them. Good thing I should be able to make them since they came from Barefoot Contessa At Home, a cookbook that I own!

Published in: on July 23, 2008 at 9:35 pm  Comments (1)  
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California–Day 3 (Farmers Market, The Grove, and a lesson…)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

On Sunday, Frank took us on a little trip. We went to Farmers Market and The Grove.

Farmers Market is a historic Los Angeles landmark, located on the corner of 3rd Street and Fairfax Ave, which opened in 1934. It offers a variety of dining and shopping options–we had a GREAT meal there. Kimm, Frank and I ate at an authentic Mexican restaurant called Loteria. Kimm and I shared the vegetarian nachos, and a vegetarian burrito with roasted potatoes and red peppers, with a Lime Agua Fresca to drink. It was so yummy! After eating we headed over to The Grove, an outdoor shopping mall located adjacent to Farmers Market, to find a new hat for Oliver. Daddy and Papa found him not one, but two, at The Gap.

Hat #1, looking very dapper!

Hat #2, Mr. Big Brown Eyes!

That night, we again had dinner outside, and Frank’s partner made a beautiful flower arrangement for the table, which I tried to capture with my camera–but the picture turned out looking washed out. Well, here’s where the LESSON comes in. Frank gave me some hints about using my camera. The first rule that he told me was to avoid using the flash unless taking pictures of people who have light behind them. He then took a picture of the same vase of flowers that I had taken, and it was transformed, from dull, to gorgeous! Amazing what learning one simple thing about taking pictures can do for the quality of the pictures that you produce. Then Frank gave me a few more tips: fill the frame when taking pictures since it makes for a more captivating and interesting photo, use the “flower” mode for close-up pictures to capture the most detail, and steady the camera–on a table, against a post, etc–to get the best picture that won’t have jiggled right at the crucial moment of pushing the button. For the rest of the night I was practicing away!

With flash…dreary

Without flash…WOW!

Nighttime ambiance…see what I mean…now you know why I keep saying beautiful over and over again!

Another day was done…the time was slipping by so fast in CA…

Published in: on July 19, 2008 at 4:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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California–Day 2 (Pure relaxation…)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

I find it kind of ironic that I am writing about my second day in California, which was a Saturday, exactly one week later, on a Saturday!  That’s procrastination for ya! (oh yeah, and having to work 12 hour shifts!)

So…after sleeping soundly my first night in California, Kimm and I received a “wake up” call from Frank on Saturday morning–and it was pretty early–8 am!  (yikes, I don’t EVER get up that early, unless I have to…granted with the time difference it would have been 11 am in MA, but, we were there, and it just felt wrong to get up so early).  Oliver had of course been up already, had his breakfast, and was entertaining himself and whoever would watch him.  He is such a HAPPY baby!  Kimm and I grabbed some breakfast–coffee made with the espresso machine and some WONDERFUL rhubarb bread that Pam had made (I never did get that recipe!).  We relaxed in the backyard until the sun started to really bear down and then we all moved to the front porch.  Frank says that generally it’s too hot to sit out in the backyard during the day.  It was cool and breezy on the front porch and it was so nice to just sit and relax and not think about going to work or doing anything.

It was fun taking a shower in the claw foot tub, although I do have to admit that I almost fell out of it since the edge was so high up.  I don’t know how Kimm managed to get in and out of it since she is shorter than I am.  Thankfully we didn’t injure ourselves!  Then for lunch, Frank made homemade quesadillas–with spicy black bean dip (whoa that had a kick!), sweet corn relish, chipolte salsa (another hot one), and cheese–very yummy.  Oliver had his own homemade food (go Frank!) and then crawled around on the porch.  Boy, can he move!  He was so darned cute!  He would do this crazy little hop-crawl, where he would push himself along with one of his feet and then kind of scoot ahead.  He was really fast!  In the afternoon we played Catch Phrase, the music edition.  Good thing you could describe the words in the song since my knowledge of music is pretty slim.  Some of the looks that Kimm gave the game while playing were priceless!

Oliver, post-meal–look at those curls!!

You want me to try to get someone to guess the title of this song HOW?

We all went for a walk before dinner.  It was interesting to see all the architecture of the houses–so different from around here.  Frank made us a treat in the afternoon–Watermelon Lime Aqua Fresca–a wonderful, refreshing drink flavored with, wouldn’t you know it, watermelon and lime.  Dinner was in the backyard–almost all of the meals are eaten outside–the weather is just so gorgeous!  We had rice with stir fried veggies (meat for the rest), rice/corn salad, cucumber salad–light and refreshing.  The meal came from one of Frank’s many wonderful friends who have pitched together and made a rotation of meals for him and his family.  It’s just so nice to see neighbors and friends work together to help out a neighbor in need.  Not to mention, it was DELICIOUS!

Pam, Kimm, and Oliver enjoying the walk

Kimm and Frank fooling around after dinner

I love this picture…

That night we watched The Kite Runner on DVD.  I have to say that the book was so much better than the movie.  The movie was drawn out and hard to follow if you didn’t know the background of the story.  Nevertheless, I’m glad I saw it.  I don’t like to judge something until I’ve seen it.  But now that I’ve seen it, I can definitely say that I’d recommend the book, but not the movie.

It was off to bed after that.  It was another purely relaxing day.  I LOVED it!

Published in: on July 19, 2008 at 3:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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California Dreamin’

Friday, July 18, 2008

It does seem like a dream that just one week ago, I returned from California.  I had made a fairly impromtu decision to visit my friend Frank, who was recently diagnosed with cancer.  I hadn’t seen him in over 5 years and really wanted to be there for him in whatever way I could.

I had known for quite a while that I had a good chunk of time off (Friday July 4 through Thursday July 10–I was scheduled to work Monday July 7, but was quite certain I could find someone to work for me) but was unsure if Frank’s chemo schedule at the hospital would coincide with this time off.  Well, at the last minute (Wednesday July 2) Frank informed me that he would not be in the hospital at this time, so I hopped online, purchased the tickets at Travelocity, and began to plan for a trip in two days, knowing that I would be working the two nights prior to leaving.  Let me just say, it was STRESSFUL!  But exciting as well.  I think both of us were in shock that we would finally see each other after so many years.

I worked on Wednesday night, and asked pretty much anyone who was not working on Monday to take my shift.  Turns out I had a harder time than I originally thought I would because almost everyone that was working that night with me was already scheduled to work that Monday as well.  It was only in the wee hours of the night that an LPN who is retired, but works extra hours, told me she would be more than willing to take the whole shift.  Yeah!  But of course I still had to get it approved by my nursing supervisor.  She was due in that morning at 7 am.  I waited for her…and waited for her…and waited for her.  When it got to be 7:30, and she still wasn’t there, I wrote her an email, explaining the situation and my request, emphasizing that I didn’t want to simply call in sick when that was not the case.  I told her to call me at home that day if there was any concerns.  Went home, crawled under the covers and awoke at 3 pm (an hour and a half earlier than what I am used to!) and began packing.  Never received a call from my supervisor, so I wasn’t sure if all was well, or what…extremely nerve-wracking.  I went to work that evening and in an email she approved the switch!  Whew!

I worked that night (and had to have SEVERAL cups of coffee, since I was so tired), and left work at 7:15 am.  Got home, grabbed a quick shower, hauled our luggage down the four flights of steps (after which I felt like I needed ANOTHER shower!) and left for the airport at 7:56, only 11 minutes after my goal time–not too bad.  We arrived at the airport  just a little after 8:30 am which was right on schedule since our plane was taking off at 10:30.

The first plane, from Hartford, CT to Atlanta, GA was 2 1/2 hours long.  I think I slept through the whole ride.  Then the second plane to LAX was four hours long.  I slept for part of this as well, but have to admit I was fascinated with the free TV and music (watched a little HGTV and Food Network).  Before I knew it, we had arrived.

Now Frank had told us that he would pick us up at the airport and the plan was for us to get our luggage, and then go outside and wait since he would be driving around the airport so he would not have to pay for parking.  That’s all fine and dandy.  But that is not what happened.  Instead, my friend Frank decides to almost give me a heart attack by tapping my on the back and surprising me with a great big bear hug!  IT WAS CRAZY!!  I think we hugged each other so hard that we couldn’t breath.  It was just SO good to see him again.

Here’s a picture of Frank, me and Kimm outside of the airport (just ignore the blurriness of the picture!)

What is it like to see someone that you haven’t seen in five years?  Well, he did look different.  I knew he had shaved his head due to the chemo, but it was still a shock.  But I got over it quickly.  Once I saw his smile and heard his laugh, it was the Frank I remembered.  I couldn’t stop smiling.  All I remember is feeling so incredibly happy and feeling like I was in a dream that I was seeing him again after such a long time.

After about a half hour ride to his house (during which I couldn’t help commenting over and over again about how strange it was to see palm trees blowing in the wind!) we arrived at his house.  He warned us that he lived in the ghetto, but I didn’t believe him.  The street he lived on was like a storybook street.  The houses were beautiful, with such interesting architecture, and the landscaping was immaculate, and the there was no trash on the streets.  It just looked so peaceful.  (However, later during the week when we ventured onto the two main streets flanking his street, I could understand when he said he lived in the ghetto…COMPLETELY different!)

I told you it was beautiful!

We met his partner, Laurent–an incredibly sweet man, his mother, Pam (whom Frank swears I met before, but if I did, I don’t remember), and his adorable son, Oliver!  What an armful of cuteness!!  Then a quick tour of the house (which I will describe in more detail later), placing our luggage in the guest bedroom, and then we were off to a BBQ (it was the fourth of July, you know.)

So we headed across the street, to one of Frank’s neighbors.  Such a nice couple (Troy and Louise).  Beautiful house (in fact it was for sale…only for 1.2 million…WOW!!!!!!!)  We met some other of Frank’s friends who I have only known through his blog–Roger, Marquerite, and their daughter Makende.   A few other couples rounded out the party.  We had a WONDERFUL meal–appetizers (guacamole to die for, salsa that was HOT!, artichoke dip), veggie burgers, corn on the cob, pasta salad (by Frank–superyum), romaine salad, tomato salad, fried potatoes, and for dessert, elegant, straight from the oven puff pastry with nectarines and ice cream (I’m drooling just remembering how superb it tasted).  It was such a nice evening.

Here’s Oliver, checking things out at the party!

I was EXHAUSTED by the time we got back home and I fell asleep with a smile on my face, anticipating the remainder of my time in California, with my dear friend.

Published in: on July 18, 2008 at 4:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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