Monthly Archives: July 2015

A weekend away…

I’m taking this opportunity today to write about a wonderful weekend I recently spent with just women; and, to thank the ladies that made it a trip I’ll remember with delight for the rest of my life.


The ladies included my daughter, Amy; my sister, Bonny; Bonny’s daughter and my niece, Laurie; Laurie’s daughters & Bonny’s granddaughters, Beth and Mollie; and very close family friend and neighbor of Laurie and Bonny, Judy.


San Francisco, California – I swear, we saw every bit of it!


Many years ago – in 1970, to be exact – Bonny and her family left Minnesota and moved to Camarillo, CA due to her husband’s job transfer.  Though through the years, there have been regular visits, letters (snail mail back in the day), emails and phone calls, there has not been much opportunity for we sisters to spend any length of time together.


As time went on and Laurie became a mom, and her daughters became young adults, Bonny, Laurie, sometimes Beth and Mollie, and good friend, Judy, began taking trips together – just the girls!  And, to fun places, no less, like New York and New Orleans, just to name a couple.  I would hear about the trips and be envious.  (The envy in spite of the fact I do an annual girls’ weekend with Amy and dear friends we consider family, each year; but, that is another story.)


So, it was time for Amy and me to join forces with our California relies and have our own girls’ weekend with them.  San Francisco was chosen as our destination because (a) Mollie lives there and could be our tour guide – AND, oh what a fabulous guide she was; and, (b) San Francisco is a city with much to offer tourists for things to see and do.


Amy and I left Minneapolis on a 5:55 pm flight on Wednesday and joined Bonny and Judy, who drove to San Francisco from Camarillo that afternoon, and Mollie who, as I said already, lives in the city.  (Laurie and Beth were not able to join us until Friday evening.) We had time for a quick glass of wine before heading to bed that evening as we wanted a good night’s rest before embarking on a very full day of sightseeing planned for Thursday.

A side note here:  Mollie was delighted to have us visit “her city” and to welcome us gave each of us a gift of San Francisco/California treats:  chocolates in a tin depicting a San Francisco scene (mine was the Golden Gate bridge), flavored and very pretty macaroons made in San Francisco and packaged in a cute gift box, and an individual serving size bottle of champagne or Proseco…a very thoughtful gift and so sweet of her to think of us in that way.


Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge

We were fortunate to have Judy’s Trailblazer which had a third seat that eventually accommodated all seven of us, for our tour bus.  Mollie expertly drove us all over the city following a schedule of stops that she had carefully thought out.  We saw views of the city from Twin Peaks; drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and stopped at lookout points in Golden Gate National Recreation Area in Marin County;  trudged up a hill to look at the Painted Ladies houses;

Painted Ladies Houses
Painted Ladies Houses

drove down the crookedest street (not Lombard) in San Francisco, plus drove down the beautiful Lombard Street which is also very crooked and steep; ate clam chowder in the famous San Francisco sourdough bread bowl on Fisherman’s Wharf; bought chocolates at Ghiradelli Square; walked through the grounds of the  Palace of Fine Arts built for the 1915 Worlds Fair;

Palace of Fine Arts grounds
Palace of Fine Arts grounds

drove through the various neighborhoods – Mission District, Haight-Asbury, Tenderloin, Japan Town,  Embarcadero, Castro, (not necessarily in that order); rode a trolley car to the Castro area and had late afternoon martinis at a bar called Martuni’s on Market Street.


Back to our hotel – tired, but happy, for cheese, salami and crackers and some very tasty guacamole and chips provided by Mollie.

Fell into bead and asleep before my head hit the pillow.

It was a full, wonderful day!


Back in the car by 10:00 am – saw Mollie’s studio apartment in the Mission district; took a cable car ride in the Nob HIll area – praying the cable car brakes would not fail on those extremely steep, hilly streets;

Cable Car
Cable Car

got a glimpse of Chinatown from the cable car; and had a wonderful lunch in the Union Square area at Neiman Marcus where Mollie’s husband, Carlos, graciously served us an elegant meal of lobster bisque, yummy popovers and Proseco.  I felt very pampered at lunch, and the people watching (the other restaurant patrons that likely frequent Neiman Marcus) was great!

Friday afternoon after our delightful lunch, we drove across the Bay Bridge to Berkeley.  We spent some time driving through the streets of the famous UC Berkeley campus and picked up Laurie at the train station where she arrived to join us from Sacramento after attending a work conference there.

Friday evening we dined at the Tonga Room located in the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill.  It was fun to see the very elaborate, ornate lobby of the hotel.  Beth, who lives north of San Francisco a few hours, joined us at dinner.

After dinner it was on to the Top of the Mark – another Nob Hill landmark – for after-dinner beverages and a spectacular view of the city at night.  Nightcaps followed at the Japanese bar where Carlos holds down a second job as a bartender.

Exhausted by bed time – which with the time change for Amy and me translated to 2:00 am MN time.

Another full, wonderful day!


All seven of us finally together, we rode BART to Fisherman’s Wharf and from there took the ferry to Sausalito.  Time for one very strong Screwdriver drink on the short ride across the Bay, nice skyline view of San Francisco, plus a close-up look at Alcatraz.

Once in Sausalito we hit a couple of shops including one that sold charm bangle bracelets (Alex & Ani brand).  Bonny generously purchased each of our group a bangle with a San Francisco charm depicting a cable car, the Golden Gate Bridge and the skyline.  A perfect remembrance of this fun trip and our time together!

Our keepsake bracelet
Our keepsake bracelet

We stopped in a local bar on the street for yet another beverage and some lunch.  This is where the day got very interesting.  We proceeded to the rear of the bar where there was a small outdoor courtyard.  At one of the tables in this courtyard, sat a couple of older gentlemen playing chess.  Soon, an elderly woman named Joan, appeared and struck up a conversation with us.  We invited her to sit with us.  Joan said she was 80 and told us she sometimes plays chess with the two guys.  Obviously, all three were locals who are regulars at this bar.

Joan claimed she was some sort of national chess champion for 7 or 8 years (perhaps not currently, but many years ago?).  She also proceeded to tell us she worked as a spy in the 1950s.  With a somewhat surprised voice, she said she had never told anyone about her spy activities before – I felt honored.  If her stories were made up, she had us fooled.

I was somewhat disappointed that Joan had to depart before we could hear more about her spy gig.  She was entertaining her God-daughter for dinner.  In fact, she invited us to join them for dinner, but our transportation back across the bay being the ferry precluded us from accepting the invite.  It would have been an interesting evening, I’m sure.  I must say, however, I was a bit concerned about the dinner since she said the roast was in the freezer – and it was already 3:30 pm.  Dinner was likely going to be very late by the time the roast was thawed out!

Back to the City on the ferry in the late afternoon, and on to our hotel for some girl talk, wine and more cheese and crackers.

We spent the evening just visiting, laughing and enjoying our stories.


Amy and I had to leave our hotel on the airport shuttle by 9:00 am to catch our flight back to Minnesota.  After hugs all around and some tears (me), we said our goodbyes and left our California gals.


I think a fun time was had by all.  Personally, I enjoyed getting to know my grand nieces, Beth and Mollie, better, and catching up with Laurie and Bonny.  Bonus was gaining a new friend in Judy.

I am grateful I had the opportunity to take this trip with the California ladies, and thank each of them for their part in making the weekend special.

For any of you that were not part of the weekend, but still reading here, I strongly encourage you to plan periodic getaways, if you’re able, with your peeps.  A relaxed, fun time away from daily routines provides a perfect setting for re-connecting and re-freshing!

Love to Amy, Bonny, Laurie, Beth, Mollie and Judy!



Chalk it up to a good morning…

Chalk it up to a good morning that I was feeling happy and satisfied that I was very productive.  I took out the Chalk Paint and put a new look on three plastic patio tables that we’ve had for years.  I don’t think of this blog as a place to share my DIY projects because frankly, I don’t have many; but, I wanted to share my experience with this great paint.

A new look for table one.
A new look for table one.

Since I don’t quite have this whole blogging thing down pat (and again, thank you for those of you that are hanging in there with me – I may eventually get it!), I didn’t think to take pictures of the before product, but you can see the end result and perhaps get the idea of how much better these tables look now that the stains and worn spots are covered.

Twin tables refreshed.

Though I am pleased with the tables’ look now – a cheerful yellow color – my good feeling with the project probably came more from my recollections while I was painting, of how I came to know about this special paint, and the day I purchased it.

For the last couple of years, daughter, Amy, and I have gone to the Junk Bonanza held twice a year at Canterbury Park in Shakopee, MN.  We have great fun meandering through the exhibit hall looking at all the vendors’ (some 150+) wares…antiques, repurposed stuff, vintage items and just plain junk!  This past spring daughter-in-law, Karen, joined us for the day.  Karen loves all things retro from the 1950s and 1960s; Amy looks for vintage farm/country style stuff and I have a fetish for enamelware, pitchers and small vases or jars that can be used as vases.  All of the above can be found at the Bonanza.

On Amy’s and my first visit to the Junk Bonanza, we stopped at the Annie Sloan Chalk Paint vendor and were intrigued by what we saw.  The paint is available in a multitude of colors which we were able to actually see in use as the vendor had some furniture pieces on display that had been refinished with the paint.  We were impressed!

We picked up brochures touting the paint’s versatility and ease of use, and immediately began listing the furniture pieces we each had at home that would benefit from this fun paint. We noted where the vendor had shops and a couple of months later, we made a trip to the small town of Buffalo, MN to purchase our paint.

A quart of yellow paint goes a long way!

Buffalo is a short, but very pleasant, drive through the countryside from Amy’s house.  The small downtown area is dotted with antique stores – more junk shopping in which we could indulge!

We spent the morning wandering through the shops and had lunch outdoors at a cute little bistro.  We found the store selling the chalk paint and each made a purchase – red and gray for Amy, a pale yellow for me.  We left with high hopes of transforming some old furniture into magnificent pieces to behold!

Never mind that it took us several more weeks before we got around to painting our first pieces.  Then, we weren’t really sure what we were doing or how exactly to work with the paint.  Turns out we waxed the pieces too soon after painting – directions say to wait 24 hours (but, who reads directions?).  I had chosen a little plant stool for my first attempt with using the paint, so no harm done to my piece by our error.  Amy ended up re-doing the shelves she had worked on.

It was a learning experience!

I have since found painting pieces that are to reside outside as being the easiest method of using the paint – no need to wax.  That seems weird to me since outdoor pieces are exposed to the elements, but that is what the directions (we finally read) say.

chair 2
Another use for the yellow paint.

There are several finishes one can achieve with the paint just by changing the method of application – rustic, distressed, smooth modern, antique.  I have not yet ventured beyond the basic “vintage”look, and probably never will.  The best part about using this type of paint is there is no need for sanding or priming before painting.  Just slop on the paint and call it a day.  My kind of DIY project.  I’ve used the paint on wood and plastic with no problems.  Apparently, it can also be used on metal, concrete and terracotta…so, it is great for painting outdoor items.

The sales clerk that sold Amy and me our first cans of paint during our fun visit to Buffalo, told us we’d find numerous uses for it…it would become addicting.  She was right!

This is my favorite refinished piece so far.
This is my favorite refinished piece so far.

I have ideas for a few more chalk paint projects.  If you have items you want to re-do, you might want to join the fun!




erI don’t do much entertaining – my house is too small; I’m not a confident cook; it costs a lot of money to feed a group – I can come up with a whole host of reasons why I don’t often have friends over for dinner or whatever.

But, the 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays – primarily because it is mid-summer and the weather is usually sunny and warm…very conducive to outdoor entertaining.  My flower gardens generally look pretty good in early July, so I do usually invite friends over for a backyard 4th of July celebration and in fact, am doing so again this year.

flag pic

Casual entertaining seems to suit my capabilities better than formal situations.  I can serve fried chicken from the local supermarket and even purchase deli potato salad, coleslaw, etc. so my lack of cooking expertise is not so noticeable.  Dessert can be as simple as ice cream and brownies.  Topping vanilla ice cream with strawberries and blueberries is an easy and fitting red, white and blue dessert for the 4th.

When I do choose to entertain, which I have indicated is not often, my favorite part of the preparations is planning the table decorations.  Of course, for my 4th of July shindigs I always use a red, white and blue theme…table linens in those colors, flower arrangements in those colors (though blue flowers are often hard to come by in my garden which is where I gather the flowers for the table), starred votive candle holders or star-shaped floating candles, star-shaped glitter sprinkled on the table – you get the idea.  All are easy and appropriate decorations for the 4th.

Oh, and RC wears his shirt that looks like an American flag and has words from the Declaration of Independence written on it, so he is decorated appropriately also!

I subscribe to the Better Homes and Gardens magazine and fantasize about throwing the kinds of garden parties I see depicted on the pages of their summer issues…get-togethers where all the attendees are looking relaxed and happy, the gardens are looking well-groomed and beautiful, the candles and little twinkling yard lights strung on the trees are providing a festive glow, the food looks fabulous, and there are NO BUGS!  Unfortunately, in Minnesota, the no bugs scenario does not happen!

So, today, as I ponder and plan my menu, décor and preparations for the upcoming get-together, I am going to try and employ the following tips for hopefully, providing my guests with an enjoyable evening as well as minimizing my stress about hosting so I can enjoy the celebration also.    list pic

I will (and, these tips can and should apply to each time I choose to entertain others) –

  • greet my guests with a smile on my face so they feel welcomed
  • be prepared by doing everything that can be done ahead of time –
    • table set and decorating done
    • do-ahead menu items prepared or purchased
    • bathrooms and living spaces cleaned
    • bug spray applied to lawn
    • outdoor patio tables and furniture cleaned
    • ice made or purchased, ready for beverages
  • take time to RELAX before my guests arrive, so my calmness will allow them to feel relaxed and perhaps they won’t notice the weeds growing in the flower beds or the dust on the end table in the living room.

There, I’ve created my check-list for my entertaining gig this weekend.  Now, it’s acting on the old saying “make your plan and work it“!  I may not pull off a Better Homes & Gardens type party, but hopefully, we’ll have fun.

If any of you have good tips about how to pull off care-free entertaining, I’d love to hear them.  Leave comments below or comment on Facebook.

And, in any event, have a safe, enjoyable and happy 4th of July weekend!