Friday, June 29, 2007

Emma turns 14!

An ice cream sundae after breakfast...why not?

Yes, it's true: my "baby" is 14 years old! Emma celebrated her birthday with a fun day out with her best friend, Kaitlyn, her mom, Kathy, and me. The original plan was to go to Kait's Feis (pronounced "Fesh" - an Irish dancing event) down in Irvine on Sunday, then spend the night down there and go to Balboa Island on Monday - her actual birthday. God had other plans! Emma came down with the flu on Saturday morning, which caused us to spend Sunday at home.

On Monday, she was feeling mostly better, so we started with breakfast at Green Street Restaurant in Pasadena - an old favorite of ours. We had a delicious breakfast and then made our way to the new shops on Colorado Blvd. in Pasadena. What used to be a tired old indoor mall has now become an outdoor colonnade of shops and restaurants called Paseo Colorado. The girls had fun in the unique clothing stores there and each ended up finding a cute dress. After we finished there, we travelled a few blocks down to Old Town Pasadena for a little more shopping, and then headed home. Emma had requested for her birthday dinner the Bool Kogi Ribs from Trader Joe's, corn saute, salad with blue cheese dressing, and garlic bread. Unfortunately, her appetite wasn't quite back so we put off the birthday dinner until later.

It is delightful to watch Emma grow into a young lady. She is a very sweet, thoughtful, good natured girl. She has a tender heart as well, and is very teachable. She is a pleasure to be with and my best girl companion. She is the sunshine of our life! We love you, Emms!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tea and Much More

Last Friday I had the pleasure of having tea with two dear, old friends - Delphine Bates and Roxane Shoemaker. Delphine found a cute new tea place in Santa Clarita and invited us to come. It is called the Tea Gardens Tea Room and Bakery. What is nice about the place is that you can make a reservation for a formal tea or you can just walk in and order off the menu. They have a selection of tea platters including sandwiches, pastries, and scones, as well as other sandwiches and salads. The place looks more like a cafe and has outdoor courtyard dining as well. The food was really delicious and quite reasonable in price.

These ladies are actually more like family to me - Delphine being like a second mom to me and Roxane like a sister. I met Delphine when I was 18. I actually met her son, Brenden, at Glendale High School back in 1984, and soon thereafter began to get to know Delphine as well as the whole Bates family (husband John, daughters Wendy (Kane) and Brooke (Moore), other son Tyler). Delphine is very special to me because she is the person who shared The Gospel with me. At that time, I was a Jewish girl by heritage, and though I knew what Christianity was, I never heard the good news that one could be forgiven of sin and have eternal life. Over the course of several months, Delphine gently challenged me to think about my life, and whether what I believed lined up with God's Word, the Bible. For the first time in my life, I began reading the Bible and I truly believe that God opened my eyes to believe. The Bible clearly says of itself, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Cor. 1: 17-19). I know that my conversion was a supernatural event because I did believe that it was the power of God, not foolishness. I wasn't searching, and frankly had no desire for Christianity, but God pierced through the darkness of my heart and showed me His truth. I repented of my sins, and asked Jesus Christ to be my savior in the summer of 1984, and it has been my great joy to walk with Him ever since.

Well, that was a condensed version of my conversion. I'm sure over the course of time there will be opportunity to elaborate more.

Roxane and I met through the Bates family. She had been a neighbor of the Bates and she was from a dysfunctional home. The Bates took her in, and Delphine was instrumental in Roxane's conversion as well. So, it is like Delphine is the spiritual "Mom" and we are her children. One thing that has bonded my heart to Delphine's is that she, too, has suffered the loss of one of her sons. Tyler was just 21 when he died in a diving accident in Hawaii in 1992. Having the understanding support ofshe and John during the loss of Brady was such a comfort to us. Roxane and her husband Don have also been dear friends for many years, and we lived in the same small apartment building, "Club Verdugo" as newlyweds many years ago. They have four boys, ages 7-17: Clay, Cole, Cody and Carson.

The three of us have a tradition of getting together in the springtime to celebrate our birthdays, which are close together. We usually do breakfast out, which is really fun but takes the whole morning! We laugh a lot, probably because we have such a heritage together. For one, Roxane and I have a tradition of giving each other what I like to call "cheesy angel gifts." This all started when I criticized her for having this cheesy angel print on her wall. Somehow it evolved into us giving each other gifts that have to do with angels as a gag. Last year for Christmas I gave her an angel keychain with an "R" on it, along with a super cheesy bath gift set with angel stickers all over it from Walmart. She gave me an angel garden statue. We have a million jokes, I tell you. Don't even ask about the bathtub joke (Well, alright. One of us, which shall remain unnamed and was not me, forgot to come to our birthday breakfast a couple years back. Upon calling her to inquire of her absence, it was found out that she had forgotten and was having a leisurely soak in the tub. Although she jumped out and got to the restaurant in no time flat, she never lived it down.)

Like I said before, these ladies are like family to me. They have encouraged me, taught me, and been an example to me. I thank God that he has given me these precious ladies as dear and beloved friends in Christ.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Disneyland with the boys

This year, we decided it would be fun to take each of the DeShong boys to Disneyland for their birthdays. We have yearly passes, and in the spring go about once a month, usually with the Guyles and the Dempseys. We started in March by taking Luke, then Vance in April, finishing with Austin early this month. Each got to go in their birthday month. While they each seemed to have a great time, it turned out to be more of a gift for us, since we made so many wonderful memories!

The boys had been to Disneyland once before with my parents, but were each about 4-5 years old then, and didn't remember that much. It was fun to see how each of them reacted to the different possibilities of Disneyland. For example, Vance could have just walked from one food stand to the next and would have been completely happy just eating and not even going on any rides. The first thing on his list of things to do that day was to get a big, round, colorful lollipop and he made this wish known from the get-go. Luke was initially extremely apprehensive about going on anything at all, but by the end of the day, he would go on everything - and with gusto! His face would be lit up with excitement when he came off a ride! Austin walked around bright eyed all day, almost in a daze, taking it all in. While he enjoyed many of the rides, I really think he liked picking out his souvenir best of all! While they each had different reactions reflecting their own unique personalities, there was one thing they all agreed on - Space Mountain was awesome!

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Apple Pan

This small unassuming building is home to one of the best burgers in L.A.

I'm sure most of you have already observed that I'm all about food. A little while ago, I made reference to our recent experience at the Apple Pan restaurant (on the blog about our anniversary trip). I said it would be a whole other blog, so here it is.

It started with the Apple Pan article we read in the L.A. Times Food section. They highlighted the restaurant because of its 60th anniversary. I highly recommend reading the article (click above) as it is very interesting. Being foodies and liking to experience things that are a part of our city's history, we were compelled to go. So, we decided to stop on the way home from our anniversary trip in La Jolla. I know, I know...not the most appropriate way to end a weekend full of luxury and gourmet food, but it sounded really fun!

We arrived around 2:00, so the place wasn't too busy. When you enter, you feel frozen in time - sometime in the 1940's or 1950's. That is certainly the last time they changed the decor. The photo below shows some longtime employees. This photo does looks old but it really isn't. I found it on some guy's website and it was taken recently.

We sat to the left of the old fashioned (working) cash register. Note the burger on the counter!

We got a seat fairly quickly. There is no hostess - you just hover over someone who looks like they are about to finish. As soon as the people get up, you quickly slide onto the stool. The place is a U-shaped counter with a small open cooking station in the middle and a waiter for each side.

Pick a side: We went to the right
As soon as we sat down on our stools, the waiter was in our face - Whaddulya have? Rich ordered us two steak burgers with cheese and an order of fries. Drinks? Two iced teas. That's it. He was gone and our fries appeared in front of us immediately. Not sitting under the warmer fries, mind you - but hot, perfect fries. Amazing - how did he do that? And just like the article stated, he got an additional cardboard plate out, and squirted lots of ketchup on the plate. Then he was gone. A few seconds later, he slapped down two iced teas in clear cups, with such force that some tea actually flew out of the cups.

We were just finishing up our fries when the burgers appeared. No plate - just wrapped in paper and smacked down right in front of us. Rich asked for another order of fries and the waiter disappeared without a word, returning in seconds with another perfect, hot order of fries. Now we were truly baffled. Rich concluded there must be some guy in the kitchen whose sole responsiblity is listening for the word "fries" to come out of a customer's mouth, just waiting to pounce.

The Apple Pan burger - it's a beautiful thing.

We then tasted the burgers...YUM! The bun was greasy and crisp. The meat was juicy and actually had flavor - what a concept! It also had real cheddar cheese, a cool, thick stack of iceberg lettuce, pickles, and a delicious ketchup/pickle relish spread. No tomato. No onion. Yup, they decided 60 years ago that these items were unnecessary to the Apple Pan burger. And you won't miss them.

Like I said, this was a juicy burger, and it dripped right down my face. No worries -the waiter was very sympathetic to my plight. There was a napkin holder right in front of me, but nevermind that. Whenever the waiter zoomed by us, he grabbed a napkin out of the holder and handed it to me personally. I found that to be extremely amusing. Here he was, running like crazy to serve all his customers, yet took care of me as a mother would her child. And you better wipe your face when he hands you a napkin, believe me!

The second we had devoured the last delicous bite of burger, the waiter appeared and said very matter of factly, what kind of pie? He didn't seem to be asking us IF we wanted pie, but what kind, which makes you feel rather obligated and defiant if you were to say no. However, we were stuffed and politely declined. He did look a little disappointed in us, however, he quickly whipped out the bill and seemed to expect immediate payment. Basically, if you're not going to have pie, you're done -leave. So, we paid, got up from our seats, which were immediately taken by waiting customers. The whole experience must have been only 15 minutes top.

The Apple Pan was not just a great meal, but a great experience. Maybe some would say it's just a burger, but I like this kind of place - it had a story. I figure, if a place has been around this long, it must be good. And I wasn't disappointed. I must say that I've had a craving for another Apple Pan burger since we left!

Yosemite Photo Album

Yosemite in all its grandeur
Emma & Steph

Top of Vernal Falls - we hiked it!

Fun in the river
Contemplating the view
DeShong Fam
I love this picture of Austin!

Rich & I at Glacier Point


Isn't this cute of Jimmy & Molly?

Girls at the top of Vernal Falls

Harasick Fam at Lower Yosemite Fall

Big strong men

My kiddos

The blog for Yosemite is below.....

Kickoff to Summer Camping

A new view - hiking the rocks next to Lower Yosemite Fall

We just kicked off summer with our annual camping trip to Yosemite. This is our 4th year in a row - we just can't get tired of this place. It is such a getaway - 4 glorious days surrounded by God's awesome creation, and packed full with great activities.

There is so much to do in Yosemite. Fantastic hikes, bike rides, dips in rivers...but you have to spend some time just sitting in a camp chair soaking it all in as well. We come home sore and exhausted from all our activity - but it's well worth the pain!

We had quite a group this year - the DeShongs, Berggrens, Tubbs, Brooks and Hoyers. A total of 28 kids ranging in age from 4 months to 16 years old! As we took hikes or rode the tram, we were asked "what group are you?" and "is this a school?" It was so much fun to fellowship together with such wonderful families.
Whatever our day's activities were, we always gathered at night for our traditional group dinners. We eat good. The first night is always Soup Night, with a selection of soups, salads and rolls. I never eat my own soup (Corn Chowder) as I am eager to try all the other kinds! The other nights included chili dogs with Diane's great chili, and barbecued tri tip complete with a deluxe baked potato bar. The last night we tried something new - Quesadilla night. Based on the kids' reactions, it was a hit. They loved fixing their own tortillas filled with a variety of fillings, and heating them on the barbecue. And of course, there's the s'mores. Every night. One sure thing is that Billy Brooks, marshmallow connoisseur, will be roasting the perfect marshmallow for you. He has his clients and they count on him.

There were so many pictures to choose I decided to make a separate blog just with photos...see above entry...enjoy!