Category Archives: Restaurant Review

Life Moves Pretty Fast

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So many exciting things have happened in the past few weeks! Our oldest son, Patrick, and his fiancee, Samantha, bought a cute little house just 1.5 miles from our home. A small crew of us spent a weekend painting over the hideous colors on the walls which required a base of primer and two top coats of “Linwood Sands” by Lowes, a very calming beige color. I painted from 10:30 til 8:30 with only bathroom breaks and a small lunch break for pizza, and when I woke up on Sunday morning, I said, “OOOWWWW!!!”  Everything hurt.  My arms had rollered all day, I’d squatted to paint at the baseboards, and I’d gone up and down a ladder 100 times to do the areas at the top.   I hope they will enjoy being homeowners, and since both sets of parents are can-do people, their house will look “House Beautiful” in no time.  Seriously, I could not be more proud of our kids.

This week Hubby  got a new iPhone 6S plus– which is a Very Big Phone.  The first day he had it, he complained that his thumb did not reach the huge screen, and I suggested he create a “thumb extender” out of clay. Hubby looked it up, and apparently someone else already invented this apparatus. DRAT.  You may recall I invented the Concert Diaper which I thought of during a Dave Matthews Band show when beer vs. body collided, and I missed my favorite song while waiting in line for the loo at Desert Sky Pavillion back in 2009.  I had another “inventive” idea this week after a friend told me she’d been offered a shawl at a fancy restaurant.  I thought that was hilarious, but . . . wouldn’t it be fun to have a “costume” restaurant?  Guests would change into formal wear when they arrived. You’d be offered sparkly sequined or poofy ball gowns, tuxedos in many sizes, and bow ties and top hats, and tiaras, and faux-diamond necklaces.  We’d serve old-fashioned elegant dishes like Beef Bourguignon, Oysters Rockeller, Vichyssoise, and Chateubriand. We’d have chandeliers and lots of mirrors on the walls so guests could admire themselves, with low lights and candles on the tables . . . and people could feel like they were someone else for a few hours.  What to name it.  Hmmmmm.  The Cultured Cafe.  Chic Bistro.  Cafe Chandelier?  I’ll ruminate on it some more.

William was home for a whole week for Spring  Break, which was so wonderful.  But then the week was over too quickly and as he drove away on  Sunday afternoon to return to NAU for seven more weeks, I allowed a few tears to fall.  I felt sad all afternoon, but I know he’s where he is supposed to be and is working hard. I must say, all this coming and going is really hard on a mom (and a dad–Hubby was sad, too).

I have so much to look forward to!  It’s been a slow few months, but April 1st will find us at our favorite beach in Rocky Point for a long weekend.  April 11 we are seeing Bastille (my favorite band) who are playing in town at the Comerica Theater, and we are driving to seem them AGAIN at the Cosmopolitan Resort in Las Vegas on April 14 and staying for the weekend. Hubby is going to Berkeley, CA later in April on business, and I’m trying to talk him into letting me come along.  I’ve never been to that area of California and think it would be fun. William is coming home to take his best girl to Prom in early May, then just a few weeks later, we’ll be driving up to pack up his dorm and move him back home for the summer.

Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop to look around once in awhile, you could miss it.  I hope you all are taking time to enjoy life in this beautiful first week of Spring.

Cheers,

Mary

 

 

 

 

 

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Saturday

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Is there a time of the week more heavenly than Saturday morning?  The whole weekend lays before you with so many possibilities for fun.  Tonight I hope Hubby will take me out on the town–maybe stop by the new Samurai exhibit at the art museum, then over to Angel Trumpet Ale House to try one of their 31 flavors of beer on tap, or maybe over to Taco Guild for their drool-worthy beef&blue cheese&cherry tacos (I swear they are the best food invented, after chicken shwarma).   I’m going to zip up my sexy tall leather boots and find my reddest lipstick, and uh oh, now I have Lyle Lovett’s song, What Do You Doin my head:

“You could put on some makeup
And you could pile up your hair
And at least try to do something
With what you’ve got there
You could tell me you love me
To put off my blues
But what do you do
Say what do you do?”

But now we are suiting up for a hike over at the War Paint Trail.  I’ve been walking a lot this past month, but not really getting my heart rate up.  So even though I prefer to bear to the right and go on the flat trails, I’m going to be brave and say, “let’s go left” which means steep inclines that leave me gasping.  Or maybe we’ll go straight and do the zig zag trail Corona del Loma trail that rewards you with a beautiful view of the Gila River Indian reservation to the south.  It’s the best time of year for a dusty walk among the blooming creosote and stately saguaros.

The tension is gone from our quaint little neighborhood (which I talked about in my last entry).  Our mentally unstable neighbor is in jail awaiting his bail hearing.  SO SAD.  There is a bustle of activity at their house as his wife prepares the home for sale.  It’s lovely with high-end everythings so will probably sell quickly.  Come be our next door neighbor!  I’d say the only annoying things about living next door to us is Cosmo occasionally walks the fence and might take a wee catnap on your patio, and Ruby the Wonder Spaniel barks every time I take out the trash.  She thinks the bag is a doggy pinata and often manages to bite a hole in the bottom, rewarding her with some stinky trash.  Good dog.  I hatched a plan to scare off any undesirable potential neighbors touring the house:  I’m going to fill a bag with beer cans which will be thrown on the lawn, and in my bikini will do yard work while listening to rap music played at a loud volume.

Happy Saturday!!!

Mary

 

 

Stalked by Mary Louise Parker

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Finally it’s the weekend!  Hip, hip, hooray!  Last night we celebrated Friday by meeting our old friends, Pete and Gail, at Wilderness Brewing Company.  We’ve had lots of adventures with them over the years including a weird weekend at Mormon Lake when our kids were toddlers. We thought it would be fun to stay in a cabin, enjoy the woods, do some fishing, and get out of the summer desert heat.  Well.  What they didn’t tell us upon booking is that there was an archery tournament in the woods where we had planned to hang out all weekend, so the whole area was roped off with DO NOT ENTER signs.  We looked over our shoulders the whole weekend waiting to get struck by someone’s errant arrow.   We also had no idea that in the summertime, Mormon Lake is more of a mud puddle.  NO FISH.  It was the worst.  Much better was our trip to Europe a few years ago, again with our children who are now all grown up!

Last night was a small adventure:  Wilderness Brewing has yummy beer brewed on the premises, good food (burgers and fried cod–YUM), and the atmosphere is cheery and loud.  While waiting for a table, we sat in the bar area on some homemade log stump chairs that were so uncomfortable I kept thinking sitting on the floor would be better.  We joked later that the owner’s grandpa must’ve made them.  I picture an old beardy coot in overalls with a pipe in his mouth listening to blue grass tunes on an old transistor radio.  I told my friends I should buy one of these torturous chairs for our school to be used as punishment.  “Johnny, go sit in the Uncomfortable Chair and think about making better choices!”

Apparently the greasy fish and fries did not agree with me, because I had bad dreams all night.  After dreaming a tornado hit our house, I dreamed Mary Louise Parker was stalking me.  She kept calling and leaving threatening messages . . . or worse yet, she’d call repeatedly and not leave a message at all.  It was totally creeping me out because I knew why she was calling . . . . and I felt really guilty about it.  I woke up in a cold sweat and had a hard time getting back to my REMs.

Now, if you don’t know who Mary Louise Parker is, google her and likely you will have seen her in something over the years.  She’s been in movies, but her biggest claim to fame is starring in the amazing sitcom Weeds about a young mom selling drugs to support her family after her husband dies.  It’s hilarious.  I love it.

I know Mary Louise Parker.  More accurately, I should say I “knew” her.  I went to high school with her at Marcos de Niza in Tempe.  In all honesty she was very snotty and did not want to be my friend.  She sat behind me in typing class, and I tried so hard to chat her up, but she looked down her nose at most of us and rolled her eyes at me each time I tried to talk to her. Maybe way back then she already knew she was destined for stardom and didn’t have to put up with the likes of us.  She was friends with  my friend Debbie, but I don’t think Debbie’s heard from her lately.

Anyway, a few years ago some male friends were going on and on about how sexy and gorgeous she looked, and I felt really irritated.  It was very small of me, but I brought out the junior high and high school year books to prove how much work the woman had done to achieve her admittedly very attractive look she has now. I’m talking about plastic surgery.   We who knew her in school are irritated by how she won’t admit she’s from Arizona.  She attended at least six years of school in Tempe, but her bios always say she’s from Georgia.  I don’t know why I felt so outraged and why I felt it was my business, but in a very mean-spirited moment, I went online to one of her fan sites and posted a terrible photo of Mary Louise from junior high.  And in my dream last night, THAT is why she was calling me.

All those many years ago, I felt truly terrible about posting the picture and went back the next day to take it down.  Guess what?  It had already been removed.  I don’t remember, but I hope karma caught up to me that week and gave me a cold sore or a flat tire.  Looking back, I’m sure at the time I was feeling unsatisfied in my role as stay-at home mom, and was likely very envious of Mary Louise’s glamourous movie-star life that likely did not involve sticking to a modest budget, doing laundry, and carting small children around town.   I’m not normally mean or petty . . . and I hope Mary Louise Parker never calls me again (even if it’s just in my dreams).

Cheers,

Mary

Interpretive Dance

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I am in Mexico.

Hubby, Ruby the Wonder Spaniel, and I drove down Saturday to our tiny condo on the beach in Puerto Penasco (or as I like to call it, Heaven).  All is the same as when we left it in October.  The majestic osprey perch on their post overlooking the ocean, venturing out to fish at sunrise and sunset.  Pelicans fly by in (mostly) groups of odd numbers, and the ocean waves roll in and roll out, just like always. Small pods of dolphins play just beyond the reef, and vendors walk slowly by pedaling their silver jewelry with tired smiles.  The sun shines brightly over the beach, making diamond patterns on the surface of the sea.

We’ve been doing this trip for many years.  I first visited this beach when I was 13 years old, and it was love at first sight.  Lucky for me, Hubby feels the same way, and every chance we get, we make the four-hour drive to our favorite place.  Each time it goes like this:  We unlock the front door, I jump up and down for joy a few times, we unpack the car, take off our shoes, open cold bottles of Mexican beer, and walk out into the warm sand.

One thing I love about visiting this beach in January is how deserted it is.  There are a few “regulars” who quietly read on their patios, waving shyly from afar.  Look east.  Look west.  Nobody on the beach.  Not one soul!  This weekend it seems there are fewer visitors than usual.  Ruby and I took a shell walk and to my chagrin, she took a HUGE poop.  She looked up at me happily, but I was mad. I hadn’t brought a bag with me because she’d already pooped twice today:  once in Gila Bend and once in Ajo!  There’s nothing a dog enjoys more than pooping in unfamiliar territory.

Anyway:  We were a good five-minute walk from the condo, so lucky me, I see Hubby appear on the patio ready to come down and join us.  I wave my hands and get his attention. I yell “BAG!!!” but the wind carries my message away.  Hmmm, this was a tough one.  I think hard and begin spelling out B-A-G with my hands and body.  “Good thing the condos are all empty,” I laugh to myself.  Hubby shakes his head, hands in the air. I decide to reverse the letters.  Again I spell B-A-G, this time with more emphasis. Still he shakes his head.  I point at Ruby, then pretend to scoop something from the sand.  THAT DID IT! Thank goodness, because my next move was squatting in the sand and pretending to do the deed myself!

And well, golly, that’s when I noticed several people out on their patios, hands shielding their eyes to get a better view of this chubby blonde woman doing what must have looked like some strange sort of interpretive beach dance.  Oh, well.  Hubby brought the bag, Ruby felt lighter, and I did not have to walk all the way back up to the condo.

Last night we had a yummy dinner at Flavio’s on the fish wharf.   How weird to be some of the only Americans out on the town on a Saturday night!  It occurred to me many people might be participating in the Women’s March in Phoenix that day, but also Google weather forecasts told us to expect rain (only sun with weather in the seventies).  Today Hubby flew his two-stringed kite, requiring me to wade into the chilly tide pools to help relaunch after many crashes.  (If that’s not true love, tell me what is.)  Ruby is all smiles, though her bad hips prevent her from chasing the birds as she’d like to.  I missed the cats so much in the night that I balled up my sweatshirt and placed it between our feet at the end of the bed and slept soundly pretending they were with us.

If there was a better weekend to escape from the world, I’m not sure when it would be. But after all that’s happened in our country in the past few months, isn’t it nice to visit a place that seemingly remains the same?  I’m trying hard to not feel abject terror about recent changes in our great country, and every day it feels like an awkward balance of getting along, being heard, deciphering news, and taking care of business.  It’s important to just get up each morning, put your shoes on, and place one foot firmly in front of the other. I’m realizing as I write this that lately at home I’ve been doing a strange sort of interpretive dance, and it’s not a happy one.

With Love and Hope,

Mary

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

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It was a dark and stormy night, and while thunder crashed and lightening zig-zagged through the sky outside, Mary sat quietly inside typing drivel on her blog, nursing a cocktail, and contemplating the Mysteries of the Universe.

Yep.  Pretty much what’s happening at the moment. It’s pouring cats and dogs, and our elderly flame point Siamese cat, Cosmo, keeps meowing at the back door to go out, returning just moments later to say, “Let me back in. I’m wet!”  And this is repeated every ten minutes throughout the evening. Good cat!

While life has felt like it was out of control in recent weeks, today I’m feeling like I’ve got a grip.  Bills have been paid, appointments have been made and kept, chores completed, food prepared, pets cuddled, and correspondences with loved ones accomplished.  I think back to just three months ago when I was 100% certain that living without children in my house would make my life dull and not worth living and have to laugh.  Life is grand!  Our kids are flourishing on their own and are kind enough to check in at appropriate intervals. Life is good.

We’ve been so busy: We’ve attended concerts, we’ve seen friends, we’ve taken more interest in the upkeep of our home. We’ve procured new cars and dumped the old ones. We’ve spent two weekends at the beach . . . and didn’t have to worry about trouble our teenagers might be getting into while we were away.   I’ve managed to get Hubby on board with my S.W.D.N. (shit we don’t need) Project, and was proud as punch last week when he took four old computers out of our garage for donation.  After browsing in my closet with Eve for a dress she could borrow (a pitiful experience), I put 15 old dresses in the Goodwill pile.  After she left, I attacked my pile of 30 pairs of jeans.  OH SO SAD.  I will likely never again be a size 8 . . . and bell bottoms appear to be not the style du jour.  Oh, how I adored you, my jeans with gems on the back pockets and silver stitching on the seams!  Your flared legs diminished the size of my arse, and for that I will always be grateful!  Go in peace, and know that I loved you with all of my heart!

And last weekend (this is big):   We planted a vegetable garden in the backyard!  We’d used the lovely garden space in the side yard precisely four times and after having lackluster results decided it didn’t get the right sun.  But after gardening at the community garden last year, I figured out it was a problem of the soil not being balanced.  After “borrowing” some compost from my community garden, I’m pleased to say I have mesclun (leaf lettuce blend) and pole beans sprouts which are about a 1/2 inch high. It fills my heart to inspect our garden’s progress each day.  Ain’t nature grand?

Aside from gardening and home projects, this week we tried a new restaurant this week called Tompopo Ramen.  Now let me be clear:  I am not saying this is a bad restaurant.  I am saying I did not like the food.  It’s known as serving the best Japanese ramen in the Valley, but apparently, Top Ramen is the only ramen I like.  When my bowl of noodles arrived with a weird slice of pork roast and a soft boiled egg floating in the broth, my heart sank. I bravely dug in, but eeeuuwww, for me it was not delicious in any way.  But we left this vibrant diner feeling like we’d had an adventure and with lots of broth splashed on our shirts.

Lastly, how much fun was it to watch the Cubs win the World Series?  For years we were huge Diamondbacks fans, but when all games were moved to cable tv  (10 years ago), we stopped being fans.  (We have never had cable tv.)  Watching the World Series games reminded me of how much I miss baseball.  I was born in Illinois, so, go Cubs!  And what a great reminder that we need to get back out to the ballpark.

Cheers,
Mary

 

 

 

 

Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties

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We have just returned from two weeks in the  UK on a family vacation.

One of the joys of traveling is experiencing unfamiliar cuisines and observing cultural dining traditions that differ from our own.  Even though in Scotland they speak the same language as we do, we were sometimes stumped as to what exactly we were ordering off the menu.  We saw “Haggis, Neeps, and Tatties” on most pub menus.  It sounded silly and gave us the giggles, but here is Haggis defined: Haggis is a traditional Scottish dish containing sheep’s offal (heart, liver and lungs), minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and traditionally simmered in the animal’s stomach for approximately three hours.  YUCK.  DOUBLE YUCK. NOT IN A MILLION YEARS!  Hubby is an adventurous eater, but even he turned up his nose at the idea.  And Neeps and Tatties? Simply turnips and potatoes.  None of us tried those, either.  Other oddities showed up on the menu at our Edinburgh hotel restaurant. Are you tempted by a Pork Terrine with Stewed Prunes or Goat Cheese Lollipops served with Pea Custard?  Nope.  Me neither.

We discovered that throughout the UK, bacon is NOT bacon and is what we call “rough red ham” here in the U.S.  It’s not like American bacon in any way, but is still tasty and super salty. Because there’s so much farmland, for breakfast each day we had organic fresh eggs, and let me tell you, fresh scrambled eggs are a treat I could get used to And the breakfast sausages?  Amazing . . . excepting at the Columba Hotel in Oban where I greedily bit into a breakfast sausage the size of a bratwurst and found the texture, the temperature, and the flavor SO disgusting that I may have caused a bit of a scene when I shouted across the table to my daughter Eve (who had a slice of sausage poised to enter her mouth), “DON’T PUT THAT IN YOUR MOUTH!”  But in every other city, we found the sausages to be unique to their locale and definitely tasty!

It’s hard to find a good cup of coffee in Scotland, and in fact one morning (again in Oban), we were served INSTANT coffee in a pretty pot disguised as if it were actual a drinkable liquid.   WTF?  I very very very rarely complain in restaurants, but a line must be drawn when something THAT wrong happens. Early in the morning. While traveling in a foreign country with your grown children.   I put on my most stern face and asked for filtered coffee or French Press, please, not even caring if our grumpy waiter spat in the new pot. Our family needed coffee, and we needed it stat!

And then each evening . . .  there was fish and chips. Ahhhhh.  Light, flaky, large fillets of breaded haddock. (My mouth is watering now at the thought.)  I’ve eaten fish and chips in many places:  the northern and southern Mexican coasts, in southern and northern California, in the BVI, Florida, in Ireland, in England, but NOTHING compared to the quality of fish we had in Scotland. And the hamburgers!  I could write a sonnet to the beef I ate in Scotland!  Rich, fragrant patties which dripped over my fingers and melted in my mouth.

We are budget travelers, so yes, it would have been nice to have the steak with mushrooms or the lamb rump with fondant potatoes or the herbed pork chops with basil crumb, but for 10 GBP I could have a huge heavenly burger with a pile of french fries (chips) or a fish and chips platter. It’s been explained to me that Europe has strict rules about beef hormones and such and that is why the meat tastes so much better than it does at home. We were highly amused by at two-minute tv ad that showed a mom meeting with a farmer on his cattle ranch.  The pace was much slower than any advertisements we have in the States.  Anyway:   The sun is shining and the trees blow gently in the wind as the the mom gently pets the cows and listens as the farmer describes what happens on his ranch each day to produce such great tasting beef.  Then the mother smiles and says (her hand still on the cow), “I only want the best beef for my family!” While I appreciate the candor and the efforts taken by the rancher to be humane to the cattle, the whole thing was SO un-American that it gave us a good giggle.

About salads:  When they tell you your burger or fish and chips comes with a side salad, do not get excited at the thought of a full cup of lettuces with tomatoes, cucumber, and loads of Ranch dressing like we’d get here in the States.  Expect approximately eight leaves of arugula (which they call “rocket”) with a dab of balsamic balanced at the edge of your plate.   You will be eyeing your neighbor’s plate, hoping you can snag one more tangy nutritious leaf when they aren’t looking.  Halfway through our adventure, Eve claimed she was getting scurvy, and I also felt a definite lack of veg, though fruit was offered generously at breakfasts.

I’ll wrap up this brief discussion of eating in the UK by saying tipping is not expected, at least not in the more casual dining establishments.  We left a pound in change on our table for the person who brought us coffee at the hotel breakfasts, but at most pubs, we did not tip.  In 95% of the pubs where we dined, we walked in, found a table, looked at the menu, then placed our order for food and drink at the bar.  You pay immediately, are given your beers, then a few minutes later the food comes to your table.  No tipping.  So imagine my surprise when we arrived at a pub in Oban and kindly (with a smile), I asked a waiter if we could seat ourselves and he barked at me, “I’ll get a table for you when I can!  Can’t you see I’m BUSY?”  Holy shit!  THAT would never fly in the U.S.! That was the one exception to the order-at-the-counter rule during our travels, and the only reason we did not leave that place is because we were exhausted.  And yes, the burger was divine even though the servers were all so rude.

I do not plan to discuss the whiskey, which is wildly popular among locals and tourists in Scotland. We toured the distillery at Glenmorangie and even though it was fun and educational, we all decided whiskey tastes absoulutely yucky.

Cheers,

Mary

Exposed

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I am in Mexico.

It’s perfect.  It’s exactly what both Hubby and I needed after that crazy month of May in which our youngest son graduated from high school and  we had a huge grad party, Hubby traveled on business to India and China, our daughter studied and passed her EMT certs, a family member was anticipating a big surgery, and I finished up my school semester working as a Kindergarten assistant.  As they say, all’s well that ends well.  But it was very stressful, and being here at the beach is the complete opposite.  We are being so lazy. This morning I took a long walk but other than that I can count my activities on one hand: read a novel, played Words with Friends, sipped cold Pacificos, snacked, and swam in the ocean.

The ocean has been rough for the past two days.  I prefer it when it is calm and fish are hopping out and you can see the dolphins glide by . . .  and no sea spray jumps into your beer. So instead of floating until I am pruny as I do with a calm sea, today I braved the waves for ten minutes at a time until I grew tired of the ocean flinging salty water into my eyes, splashing my hair, stealing my sunglasses, and generally acting like a school yard bully. And after that brief ten minutes, my suit would be completely filled with sand. Every time.  Under my suit, my body looked like a finely breaded chicken nugget.

A large Mexican family is staying in the large rental house behind ours.  They erected a shade structure on the beach in front of us and have happily lounged there all day, listening to banda musica (love) but shouting a lot (hate).  Actually there is only ONE man who is shouting.  ALL THE TIME.  And when he goes for a swim in the ocean, he whistles a loud, repeating  call to his friends on the beach.  I’m certain he must have been dropped on his head as a baby, so I’m trying to be sweet and not imagine him buried in sand up to his neck and being pecked by seagulls.  Because that would be unkind.

So about that walk:  This morning I woke up at the crack of 7:30, made the coffee, then excitedly took a long, brisk walk down the beach to visit my new friend, Leslie, who is staying about 3/4 of a mile to the south.  I happily had the beach to myself and was amazed again at the lovely temperatures and abundance of sea shells brought up by last night’s high tide.  It was then I noticed a seedy looking young American guy over by a sea wall in front of a large house.  I looked back and YIKES, he had pulled his pants down and was smiling at me!  I’d been FLASHED!   I quickly looked away, shook my head, and continued my walk.  So here was ANOTHER person who’d been dropped on their head as a child!  I have read about Peeping Toms and men who like to expose themselves and know they are not dangerous—just weird.  I was happy to see a beach patrol security guy and told him about it.  We both laughed when he asked me, “What was he wearing?” and I replied, Nothing!” On my walk back home, I looked suspiciously at every thin young man I saw, but shoot, I have no idea whether or not I saw him again or not.  Leslie and I thought up a bunch of funny one-liners I could’ve said to him, but we concluded it’s probably best not to engage the crazies.

And now?  A pod of dolphins just swam by.  Hubby took a quick snorkel swim and saw many sargeant major fish and a nice-sized ray. I have found only one jelly fish on the beach (yay). We are trying to decide where to have dinner.  Our favorite place, Flavio’s, served us soggy tacos last night, and sitting on the swings at Boo Bar wasn’t as much fun as last time because the music was too loud and we were just tired.  But these are small problems.  I am trying to talk Hubby into “working from beach” on Tuesday so we can have one more day in Paradise.

Life is good.

Cheers,

Mary