Hot Marines – Picking up Guys at the Hotel


“There’s a cute guy at the next table,” I texted to Lacie Legume, as I sat in the hotel dining area, enjoying a glass of wine.  The man in question was enjoying a beer and the free snacks that the hotel provided at happy hour.

“Go talk to him!” Lacie answered.  She’s a new friend from work in San Diego.  Younger than me, with a bright smile and innocent eyes—don’t let those fool you!  She’s smart and has flashes of insight into people’s characters that astonish me!  “I won’t be with a guy who doesn’t see a future with me,” she once told me.  Geez, I wish that I were that confident and strong at that age!

Back to the hotel happy hour.

I considered the man: premature gray-white hair, 6’ or so tall, cut like someone who spends a fair bit of time in the gym.  He was younger than me – in his 30’s?  20’s?  Hard to say from this angle and without talking to him.  He shoveled some potato chips into his mouth while he watched the game on the large television set in the corner of the room.  I admired the tattoos on his arms; partial sleeves, which were colorful and attractive on his strong arms.

“Hello!” I said to him, standing by his table.  I didn’t remember standing up, but here I was, throwing caution in the wind.  “Do you mind if I join you?  I’m quite bored.”  Yikes, that’s a terrible thing to say!  Put that on the list of Jules Rules: Worst Pickup Lines Ever.

“Sure,” he said, glancing at me while I moved my book (which I had intended to read, like the good girl that I am not) and purse to his table.

“I’m Jules,” I said.

“I’m Keith,” he said.  He reached for his beer with his left hand and I saw his wedding ring.  This conversation just got downgraded from “Potential Make Out Session” to “Casual Conversation.”

“Where are you from?” I asked.  This *could* go on the list of Worsts, but I don’t think so; gotta start somewhere, and in a hotel, home town makes a good conversation starter.  I knew better than ask about his tats; some people don’t like discussing them.  Of course, some do, but you never know until after the question is asked, and by then someone may be offended or turned off.

“Bay area,” Keith said.  Californians separate their state into North and South, then into areas.  “SoCal,” or Southern California, is where I live.  The Bay Area is in the north, in and around San Francisco.  “I’m a Marine, down here for a leadership conference.”

“San Francisco!  I love that city!” I told him.

“The city’s uniform is a construction hat and a sock!” he said.

I tilted my head, picturing him in that outfit, then switched to a fat man and had to shake my head to clear the image.

Two more handsome Marines joined us.  I wondered whether I should leave, but they were friendly enough.  Hell, the hotel was serving us free drinks; why would they mind?

I recognized one; Lance had said hello to me on the elevator, at 5 a.m., on my way to the gym – urgh at my worst.  I wasn’t wearing makeup and my eyes were barely open.  And *he*, of course, had looked as fresh as a daisy and as pretty as a rose.  Well, handsome, anyway, with his straight blond hair and smooth skin.

“We were talking about San Francisco,” I said.  “Have you hiked Mount Diablo?  It’s a hike that the natives know about, but don’t expect outsiders to do.  I learned about it on All Trails; it’s a fabulous hike.”

Lance said that he hadn’t hiked it, and texted a reminder to himself.

Chad, the third guy, started talking about tattoos.  Ah!  Now that the subject was breeched, I could learn about the ones that Keith wore.

“This one is for my son; I need to get one for my daughter, she’s just a year old,” he said, and continued to count the rest.

“What’s this one for?” Chad asked.

“It’s just pretty!” Keith said, with a smile.  We laughed.  That’s not the usual reason that a Marine got a tat; but it’s a damn good reason!

Chad had tats that covered his arms and peeked out of the top of his shirt, climbing almost to his neck.  “If regulations would allow it, I would get USMC tattooed big across my neck!  Like, letters five inches tall!  That’s how much I love the Corps,” he said with pride.

“I knew a guy with his ex’s name on his neck,” I said.  “Roxanne.  He hadn’t dated her in years—said she was a crazy bitch—but her name is on his neck for the rest of his life.”

“Ah, nah!  That’s one thing you don’t do, is get your woman’s name tattooed on your body!” Chad said.  “My girl got my name tattooed on the back of her left ear, here; I didn’t ask her to!  Just came home from deployment and she had done it!”  He shook his head, like he couldn’t believe it.

“I have my kid’s name, and will have both kids’ names, tattooed on me,” Brian said.  “But I told my wife that her name will never be on my body.  She agreed; she has three tats and none of them are my name.  That’s cool with me, we have an understanding.”

I told them my tattoo stories, and added, “I like to tell guys that I have one, so that they wonder where it is.  Wanna do a tat check later?” I said, flirting with Lance.

He agreed, looking me up and down, as though he had x-ray vision.  I shivered under his intense gaze.

“What about you?” I asked Lance.

“I’m in the officer program,” he said humbly and almost shyly, “So I can’t have visible tattoos.  I have one small one on my ankle; a pig.”

“A pig?!” I asked.  Well, why not.  My mother collected pigs.

“Ask him why!” Chad told me.

“Ok, why do you have a pig?” I asked.

“Because roosters and pigs are the two animals most likely to survive a ship wreck and swim to shore,” he admitted, again in the shy way that was simply adorable.  “I have a pig tattooed on my ankle; my buddy has a rooster tattooed on his.”

I thought of The Life of Pi, a book about a boy, animals, and a struggle to survive on the open sea in a small boat.  However, the topic changed and I didn’t get a chance.  Which may have been for the best, since the book is rather philosophical and a bit much for a discussion with people newly met.

Collin, a man that I’d met the night before, texted me.  He was at a restaurant down the street listening to live music, and invited me to join him.  Collin was older (52, so 10 years older than me), a hiker from Colorado, and a homeowner.  In short, he’s the type of man that I should be looking for, rather than a younger man who may not be ready to settle down.

“We’re going for tacos,” Lance told me.  “Wanna join?”

“Sure,” I said, thinking Collin could wait.  He wasn’t expecting me until later anyway, and even that was uncertain; I had told him, maybe, I’m not sure when I’ll be back at the hotel.  “Where are you going?”

“We’re going to hop in the car and find a restaurant,” he said.

That bothered me.  I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hop into a car with strangers; even three guys who seem like perfect gentlemen.  Any one of them could over power me; why tempt fate?

“If you’re walking, I’d join you,” I said honestly.  “Why not go to the steak place next door?”

Lance shook his head.  “It’s Taco Tuesday,” he told me.

“Ok, get my number and let me know if you want to hang out tomorrow night,” I said, compromising.  And so we exchanged numbers.

When I left, there was so much unsaid.  Did Keith mention that he was a Lyft driver? How did he do that, work as a Marine, and have time for his family?

Lance was on the officer track, but how?  Had he earned a college degree? If so, in what subject?  If not, had he scored high on the entrance exam?  He seemed very intuitive; he read my body language.  Like when he asked if I worked out every morning and I said something affirmative, but that wasn’t the whole truth.  I had worked out at 5 a.m. every day, either going for a run or hitting the weights at the gym.  On and off my whole life, this has been my routine.  Other times, I chose to take yoga, work out at night, and (in the weekends) hike. But all this was boring, and I switched the topic to other things.  I could tell by his body language that he knew that I wasn’t giving a complete answer.  I wanted to tell all this to Lance, and find out his story.

I walked down the street to meet Collin.  Had a good time listening to amateur musicians and eating decent food.  I took pictures of a beautiful woman and her baby, while her husband strummed the guitar and sang.  Later I’d text them to her, to her great appreciation.  Pictures in the studio are nice, but candid photos like this are priceless.

Collin walked with me back to the hotel.  “Oh shit,” I thought, “he is not coming into my hotel room.”  For even though I had a good time, it wasn’t exactly a date.  And even if it were a date, Jules Rules states that I don’t sleep with guys on the first one.

“Good night!” I told Collin, holding my purse in front of me like a shield while I dug for my hotel key.

He considered me a moment, then leaned over my purse and gave me a peck on the lips.

I raised my eyebrows and again repeated, “Good night!”  The purse was still in my arms, and after a moment, he took the hint.

“Good night,” he said with a smile, and walked off towards his room.

Once inside my room, I picked up my phone.  “How were the tacos?” I texted to Lance.

“Three exceed my expectations and one failed miserable,” he texted.

After a little more chit chat, he asked, “Did you make good use of your time?”

Hmmm, was he asking whether I had a good time?  Or whether I was happy with my life choices?  “I enjoyed some good music and ate some decent food.  So, yes,” I answered.  “Can you suggest a better use of my time?”

“You’re bad,” was the reply.

“When I’m good, I’m very good.  But when I’m bad, I’m better,” I texted, quoting Mae West.

There was no reply, which is fine.  Maybe he was considering a witty response.  Maybe he fell asleep.  Maybe he was simply considering the fact that he had to get up at 5 a.m. and he should go to sleep.

But still, I wonder.  What would have happened if I would have gone for tacos with the handsome Marine?  I can dream about hanging out with Marines, and wonder.  But should I have the choice again tonight, I would answer the same.

If I were 21, would I have thrown caution to the wind and jumped in the car?  I thought back to when I was 18 years old, and I had jumped into a car with a poet from the local college.  He had driven me down back roads and parked on a dead-end road.  I didn’t know whether to run for my life or beg him to take me home.  I wasn’t sure whether he meant me harm or was just trying to scare me.  Since I saw no weapon, I assume the latter.  That night, though, I could only think about the fact that no one would hear me, if I were to scream.

Then a few months later, the same poet tried to convince me to drop acid.  I considered that similar to Russian Roulette – either I’d live or I wouldn’t.  Either I’d be fine or lose my mind.  I didn’t take the chance.

So maybe, just maybe, at 18 years old I wouldn’t have gotten into that car, either.

But damn, they sure were hot!  What would’ve happened if I had gone?

To all those who serve or have served in the military, thank you!  To those who still look hot in their uniforms, well, I may not jump into your car, but I may dream about going for a ride with you.

I texted Lacie that I had met a handsome guy.

She replied, “I hope you had great, safe sex!”

Her wisdom continues to astound me!


PS I found a condo in Pasadena!  Made an offer, which was accepted.  The next steps are inspection (Wednesday!) then appraisal (TBD).  After those are successful, I’ll tell you all about it.  I don’t want to jinx it by saying too much now!




Dresden Files – Out of the Frying Pan

Harry Dresden* spun around, flung out his arm to its full extension, and pointed his blasting rod.  On the dark street, nothing was visible to the naked eye – not a soul was out this late.  However, to the wizard’s eye, a shape in the shadows was veiled and watching.

“Show yourself,” Harry said.  “I know you’ve been following me.”  In fact, his bravado was for show; he sweated a little.  He had been fighting ogres which had left him tired and sore.  He may have missed the fact that someone had been following him, had he not heard the splash of a boot in a puddle.  Cursing himself for letting his guard down after the fight, he wondered who or what was behind him.  More importantly, how many.

“I am unarmed,” a feminine voice called, and the veil of illusion vanished.  A woman stood in the shadows slightly to the left of where Harry’s rod pointed, and he adjusted his aim.  Damn it, he was getting sloppy; she could have cut his throat or thrown a spell at him blocks ago.  How long had she been following him?

“Who are you?” he demanded, with more confidence than he felt.

“I am Galinda Cherry, Executive Attorney of the White Counsel,” she said.  His eyes fell to the gray cloak on her shoulders, which resembled one that he had in his closet at home.  Hers had a silver trim that signified that she was not a warden, which he was, but rather someone who worked at Headquarters.  “Can we go somewhere to talk?  We have much to discuss, Warden Dresden.”

She stepped forward into the light, and he studied her for a moment more.  With dark brown hair, high cheekbones, and pale skin, she did not look threatening.  However, most of the fairies that he knew were gorgeous, so he did not trust beauty; it truly was only skin deep.

Still, she could have sucker punched him, and she didn’t, so he was inclined to trust her, for now.  He lowered the blasting rod, but kept it ready by his side.  One sudden movement from Galinda would bring it up again.  After all, she may not have attacked yet, but that didn’t mean that she wouldn’t.

“Nothing’s open at this hour,” he said.  In this sleepy city in the middle of nowhere, Russia, lights went out by 10 p.m. and didn’t come back on until dawn.  “State your business here, now.”

She took slow, deliberate steps closer as she walked, but kept her hands by her side.  “I have papers for you from the White Council,” she said.  “We have filed a lawsuit on your behalf.  The hearing is in two days and you must be there, or the entire case will be thrown out.  We’ve filed continuance after continuance while we tried to find you, and the judge’s patience is running out.”

Harry tried to understand what she was saying.  “A lawsuit?  On my behalf?  Whatever for?”

“To release you from your contract with Mab,” Galinda said.

Harry reeled, as though he had been physically hit.  Mab, Queen of the Winter Faeries, had run his life for over 2 years.  She had almost killed him during his training and had sent him on countless quests and errands since.  He thought the rest of his life would be like this – a constant struggle to stay alive, and constantly second guessing his boss, the Queen.  He had agreed to be her Winter Knight in an hour of desperation; he had needed the strength and benefits that Mab had offered.

Then he was killed by a sniper.  Mab had pulled his almost-lifeless body out of Lake Michigan and brought him back from mostly dead to living.  She had hissed at him that he wasn’t going to get out of the bargain that easily.  Ha!  As if dying, being a ghost, and recuperating in her house, with her almost daily attempts to murder him, was easy!

Since his recovery, he had been at her beck and command.  Though he was a powerful wizard, most days he felt more like her errand boy.

“Wha-a-at?” he stammered, tripping over his own two feet, as graceful and articulate as ever.

“There’s a loophole in your contract.  It says—essentially—till death do you part.  You died, therefore, the contract is nullified,” Galinda said flatly.

“That was over two years ago,” he said, “and I’m alive now.”  Confusion set in.

“Yes,” she said, frustration in her tone, “We’ve been trying to contact you for some time.  We’ve requested, and been granted, three continuances.  Each time we try to get in touch with you, Mab promises that the messages will be delivered.  We finally realized that she never promised when.”

Fairies kept their promises.  The devil was in the details, though.  If Mab said, “The message will be delivered,” but didn’t specify a time period, then the message might be delivered a year later.  Or 50.  Or 100.  With immortal creatures, such a delay might seem reasonable, if it suited their needs.  In this instance, keeping Harry in the dark—and under her control—would certainly suit her needs.

“Why do you think that Mab has sent you on errands all over the world–including this remote corner of Russia?  Do you really think that she cared about the townspeople here?”  Galinda continued.

The townspeople had been slowly disappearing into the ogre’s cookpots for years.  Now that Harry thought about it, the timing was suspect.  Why would Mab care *now*, after decades of ignoring the problem?  It wasn’t like Mab had suddenly grown a conscious.  No, Mab was cold and calculating.  Everything she did was for Mab and the Winter Court.

“You are suing the devil for my soul,” Harry said, “Nice to meet you, Mr. Webster.”  (ref. )

Molly Carpenter appeared at his other side.  “Don’t go, Harry,” she said.

She touched his arm, and he was overcome by the lust which arose, stronger each day, when she looked at him.  His body tensed and he started to lean into her, until he caught himself and pulled away, turning away from her and averting his gaze as he did.  A couple of deep breaths, and he centered himself.

“Hello, Molly,” he said to her.  “What brings you out this way?”

“I came to tell you not to listen to her,” Molly said.  As a child, she had harbored a crush on Harry.  As she matured, so did her feelings.  When she became the Winter Lady and he the Winter Knight, the mantles came with feelings for one another, so that it was hard for either to resist.  Now she didn’t know where her desires ended and the mantle’s began; or maybe there was no separation, for she was the Winter Lady and the Winter Lady was she.  And She wanted her Winter Knight—Harry Dresden—by her side.

“Shit, Harry,” he muttered to himself.  “Once again, you’re between a rock and a hard place.  How do you manage to f’ things up so royally?!”


This is a diversion from my usual writing, because I like to test out different ideas and writing styles now and then.  Jim Butcher created the Dresden Files, a series of books chronicling the life and times of the wizard Harry Dresden, a detective and mage for hire.  I continue where the last book left off, offering a way for Harry to get out of the corner in which he found himself painted (metaphorically).  This is unauthorized and not affiliated with the great Mr. Butcher in any way, other than a short story by one of his fans.

I will return to my regular programming tonight, when I tell you about the Hot Marines that I met recently.  Oh yes, it is a delicious story.  And about the house that I found.  Good news all around!  Cheers!



Dating a Condo in Pasadena



“Hello, Big Boy!” I say, taking in the picture of one gorgeous living room, with recessed lighting and a gas fireplace.  “Are you the one?” I flip through to the kitchen, with its expresso cabinets and extra plugs.

Suddenly, I get nervous – what’s wrong with it?  This is too perfect, so it can’t be real.  Could it?

I quickly flip through the rest of the pics: built-in shelving in the dining room, open floor plan, enough space for king-sized beds in the bedrooms.  All that is perfect.  The walled patio, private but roomy, stretches from the living room to the second bedroom.  The interior entry makes the condo extra-safe.  I checked the address: California Avenue.  I giggled.  I’d be moving to 123 California Avenue Apt 8*, Pasadena, California!  Now *that’s* an address and a half!

OMG and it’s in the perfect location!  From there, it’s a 16-minute walk to CalTech; Trader Joe’s sells groceries just across the street; and the Planetary Society is a 10-minute walk north!  WOW!

The only thing this condo doesn’t have is a guest bedroom.  Sorry, Sally!  You and Penny will have to take the couch!

Trying too hard not to get emotionally invested, I looked at a few other properties, too.  Then I flipped over to Match dot com and shopped for a new boyfriend, repeating the process.  “Oh, this one looks perfect!  Wait, he’s Currently Separated.  Next.  Oh, let’s wink at this guy and see if he responds.”

My realtor and I went house hunting last Friday, and I impatiently waited for the California Avenue condo.

The first condo was in disrepair.  It was old and needed work on the outside, which was the purview of the Home Owner’s Association.  If the HOA wasn’t going to do their job and fix the fence, I could see myself getting resentful at the monthly $300 HOA fee.  Plus, my bedroom would have shared a wall with Jack’s; that’s not gonna work.  He stays up late playing video games and I get up early to run.  Plus, *someday* I might just get a boyfriend, and I don’t want him to hear my Bow Chica Bow Wow through the wall.

The second condo had too many stairs.  The square footage was adequate and the place was updated, including a fabulous charcoal grill in the kitchen.  However, it made me sad to think about taking dirty laundry down two flights to the garage, and clean laundry back up two flights to my bedroom.  And bringing groceries up the narrow staircase to the kitchen.  And walking up all those flights after Ubering back from the local bar.  Priorities, y’all.

The third condo was just right!  The California Condo had *no* stairs!  There were 3 elevators in the complex from the garage, two parking spots, all the recessed lighting and built-in cabinets and—this is what really excited Jack—hard wired Ethernet plugs in every room.  Every.  Single.  Room.

The condo complex also had a gym (small, but who cares?  I’ll be running down the gorgeous streets of Pasadena or hiking the picturesque San Gabriel mountains!).  And a sauna.  And a locked storage closet in the garage (for Christmas decorations and other things I only need once a year).  And a gorgeous courtyard.  And…and…and!!  I was in love!

I wanted to make an offer that day, but my realtor told me to sleep on it.  So I went home and printed out pictures, posted my crush on Facebook, told my kids, and started planning where to put my furniture.  I might be able to get rid of the bookshelves, since there were built ins.  Should I throw away my Wal-mart shelves now, or wait until I move in and confirm that there isn’t a place to put them?

The next day I emailed my realtor at 6 a.m. and said, “Put in an offer!”

“How much?  The comps support $565k,” she wrote.

Damn.  The list price was only $550k, which was great for the upgraded condo and location; I hated to pay more.  “$560k,” I emailed back.  At my realtor’s urging, I wrote a letter to go with the offer, saying how much my son and I would like to live in that great condo, and why.  Between the lines, it said, “Please sell your condo to me, because I’m a single mom and you like me.”

I walked around nervously the next 24 hours, waiting to hear back whether the seller accepted my offer.  Every text, every email, every phone call made me jump with anticipation that it’d be my realtor.

Finally, the call came.  “I don’t have good news,” she told me.  “The seller has an offer from an investor who is offering $580k cash and waiving the appraisal contingency.”

Oh.  My.  Goodness.  That’s $20k more than I offered and $30k over list price, on the same weekend that the condo went on the market!  EEEEEK!!  “Ok, so what do we do?” I asked.

“You need to ask yourself how high you’re willing to go.  Ask yourself, ‘if someone else offers $5k over my offer, would I be ok with that?  Or would I regret no offering more?’  Then let me know what you want to do,” she said.

I didn’t really like that answer.  “I can’t throw out the appraisal contingency, because I can’t make up the difference between the appraisal and the agreed-upon price with cash,” I said.  “I am not that rich.  How much do you think it would appraise for?”

“I am not an appraiser, and it’s not an exact science.  They don’t just look at the comps; it’s more complicated than that.  I’ve seen appraisers agree with the purchase price, but they may not.  I am somewhat confident that it would appraise for $575, but don’t base your answer on my opinion, you need to decide what makes you comfortable,” she answered very carefully.

There are enough laws tying the hands of real estate agents that she chose her words cautiously.  I appreciate that the laws are trying to protect me, but sheesh, I need some guidance here!

“Ok, I’ll get back to you,” I said.

Finally, she and I agreed to offer $588k.  The number “8” is lucky in Asian cultures, and happens to be Sally’s lucky number, too.  I couldn’t waive the appraisal contingency, but I could and did write another letter.

For a full day, I walked around like a raw nerve.  Would I get my perfect condo, in the perfect location, with perfect updates?  Would I have the chance to unpack my books into those gorgeous built-in shelves?  Would I get to show Jack how easy it was to walk to Trader Joe’s to buy me wine?

I tried to throw myself into my work, so that I wouldn’t think about it.  I went back on Match and updated my profile, and winked at a few more Pasadena hotties.  I even emailed a couple.

Renee emailed, “Did you hear back yet?”

Steve IM’ed, “Did you get the condo?”

Another coworker asked, “Find a place yet?”

Heather P. asked, “When do you find out whether your offer was accepted?”

I silently screamed and willed my realtor to call me.

“My friends mean well,” I told myself, “they aren’t intentionally driving me crazy.  Well, let’s be honest with myself, crazier.”

And FINALLY the phone rang!  I grabbed it so hard and fast that I almost dropped it.  “Hello?” I asked.

“Hi, Julie, I don’t have good news.  The cash investor offered $600k without contingencies.  Your offer was the weakest one,” my realtor told me.

The tension left my body and I drooped back down into my desk chair.  “Oh,” I said.

We finished the convo and I hung up the phone.  I felt like I had gone on a fabulous date, only to find out that the object of my crush was lured away by someone else.  Someone else with a lot of money and no strings attached.

Crushed, I wondered if I should settle for an apartment.  I wish I didn’t need to find a place to live; I could just float around from hotel room to hotel room.

But I’m a long-term relationship type of gal.  So I’ll keep looking, hoping, dreaming.  One day, I’ll find a great condo, and I’ll install Ethernet and recessed lighting in every room.  I can’t move a condo to California Avenue, but as long as I’m in Pasadena, I’ll be happy.

Did I mention that Bill Nye lives there?  And CalTech has astronomy events?  Oh, yes.  This is happening.  I won’t give up yet.

Still nursing my broken heart, I checked the website.  Look, some new condos are on the market.  Maybe one of them is The One.  Maybe, just maybe…



Hopeless Romantic

Eternal Optimist

PS This is a continuation of last week’s post.

*Not the real address.


SHHH!!! Be very quiet…I’m hunting houses!



Good news – I’m moving to Pasadena!

That’s Pasadena, California, to be specific.  My Texan friends were a little confused, since Pasadena, TX is down near Houston way.  “Pasadena” means “crown of the valley” in Chippewa.  Pasadena, TX was named after the city in Cali in a lame attempt to trick people into moving there.  Based on the number of people in Houston, I think it worked.  Damn that tricky city-namer!

Pasadena, California is home to CalTech, JPL, and the Planetary Society.  For those of you who don’t speak Geek, Pasadena is known for The Big Bang Theory (TV Show), the Rose Bowl, and Bill Nye the Science Guy.  Ok, so all that is still pretty geeky, except for the Rose Bowl.  I’m a geek, what can I say?!  I have plans to become besties with Bill and then he’ll introduce me to Neil Degrasse Tyson (a famous astrophycist).  I’ll date a CalTech professor, because professors are cool.  Sally will attend CalTech in a couple of years for grad school and live with me.  Penny, too, of course, since they’ll be married by then.

And we’ll all live happily ever after!

But first, I have to find a place to live.  And before that, I need a list of what I want.

Jules Rules for My New House

  • One Story
    1. Ground floor if it’s a condo
  • House
    1. I will look at condos, too, but house is preferred.
    2. Townhouses are usually 2+ stories, but if there’s a 1-story, I’ll consider it.
  • 3 bedrooms
    1. 2 plus a guest room, so if push comes to shove, may have to cut back to 2
    2. My daughter may attend CalTech in 2 years, so I’d really like to have a room just in case
  • Garage, one car
    1. Two would be nice, but unnecessary
  • <30 minute drive to work
  • Pasadena area preferred
  • Walking distance to a grocery store
  • Walking distance to bars/restaurants
  • School districts aren’t important
  • Move-in ready
    1. Not a fixer-upper.
    2. If a fixer-upper is all that I can afford, let me know.
  • <$550k
    1. I can go up to $600k, but it’d be a stretch for me
    2. If there are HOA fees, then must be lower


Half a Million Dollars!

I love saying that I’m buying a house for half a million dollars!  (Said with a pinky to the corner of my mouth.)  Sounds fancy, because if I were buying that in Texas, it’d be a mansion.  Here in California, though – especially in the LA area – I’ll be lucky to find a house that meets all of my criteria.  But you know what?  I gotta try.


The first place that I looked at was in Altadena, which is north of Pasadena.  “Alta” means “upper” in Spanish, so the name actually makes sense.  Take note, city-namers in Texas!  Anyhow, this was a super cute bungalow: old, renovated, and small.  Given the Tiny House trend, I thought that the kids and I could make it work.  Ya know, go for a more minimalist lifestyle, versus the 2000+ sf that we had in Dallas.

The bungalow looked super cute in the brochure and online!  The pics were fabulous!!  When I drove into the neighborhood, though, I was less than impressed.  It reminded me of one of the poorer sections of Dallas, where one of my ex-boyfriend’s families lived.  It was a place that I didn’t mind visiting during the day, but that I was sure to vacate before sundown.

Still, I went inside to see the house.  It was like a dollhouse, seen through my Texan eyes: so cute!  So small!  And OMG I don’t know if my couch would fit in there!

Surprisingly, the kitchen was big.  I think it was half the square footage of the house.  Pssht, who needs room for beds?!  Come into the kitchen and have some grub!  Wait, can I call it “grub” in Cali?  Maybe it’s “cuisine” here.  At any rate, I could see myself living here, if the neighborhood was safe.


Street view of the bungalow.  Not so cute in context.

I walked up and down the block, and stopped a neighbor who was getting into his car with his family.

“Excuse me,” I said, “Do you think this neighborhood is safe?”

“Of course it is!  Except, stay away from that house with the big fence around it; that guy is weird.  Doesn’t come outside much.  But the rest of the neighborhood, sure!  It’s safe!” the guy told me.  He was stocky, in a spends-time-at-the-gym way.

His wife nervously held hands with her two young daughters and said, “Oh yes!  Safe!  There’s a park around the corner…we go there to play…of course, you may not want to!”  She giggled self-consciously.

“Great!  Thank you!” I said, and continued on my walk.  I saw some nice houses, twice as large as the bungalow, and people doing yardwork.  Looked like almost any suburban neighborhood, except for all the cars on the streets.  And how close together all of the houses were.  And all of the fences, and the “Beware of Dog” signs, and…

I decided to get another opinion.

I walked down the street and around the corner to a small taco shop.  It was a hole-in-the-wall, the kind of place where you knew you’d either get the best food you’ve ever eaten, or a cockroach sandwich.  I was feeling bold, and ordered a plate of chicken tacos.

When the waiter brought me my food, I asked, “Is this neighborhood safe?”

The words had barely left my mouth, when he shook his head and said, “Oh no!  I live 5 minutes from here, and wish that I could move.  Go further north; it’s safer there.”

Raw honesty!  That’s what I needed!  I thanked the man and skedaddled outta there was fast I could.  But the tacos were excellent, so I took one for Amy Arrow, who was joining me on my search in another hour.  She later agreed that the tacos were excellent, BTW, so shout out to Mota’s!!  2397 Lincoln Ave, Altadena, CA 91001, check it out if you’re in the ‘hood!


Jules Strawberry (me!) and the Fabulous Amy Arrow!

Amy (a friend from high school who lives in LA) and I rode with my realtor to check out a few places.  The beautiful condo made me sad, because there were stairs.  It was perfect otherwise.  The awesome houses in Duarte had excellent views of the mountains, which were amazing!  But it wasn’t Pasadena.  So we focused our search in Pasadena, at houses without stairs.

And we found it.  The One.  The house that Amy and I agreed met my Jules Rules.  It was a 3-bedroom, 2 bath, 1922 house on the west side of the city, with a converted garage that I could use for my study and art studio.  The owner was there, and welcomed us into the house, showed us around, answered questions.  The carpets covered a hardwood floor that I was dying to see and refinish.  It needed new paint, new doors, and other small repairs.  Most importantly: I could afford it.

Of course, I had my doubts in the back of my mind: I really wanted something newer.  Old homes could be money pits.  I didn’t really want to sink my savings into repairs.  Also, looking around, the owner hadn’t started to pack.  That was odd, because the house had been on the market for 6 months.  But then, not everyone is as organized as me.  I start packing when I just *think* about moving.

Why had the house been on the market for so long?  We speculated that the house was on a busy street, which would turn off some buyers.  The owner had lived there for 20 years, so maybe he’s being picky about who he sells the house to.

I shook off my doubts.  This is what I could afford in Pasadena, with enough room for all of us.

Amy shared my excitement over the place.  “I can help you decorate, if you want,” she offered.

“YES!!” I practically shouted.  Amy has the BEST taste!  I love her apartment, her clothes, her…Well, she’s just generally amazing.  “I was thinking light gray walls in the living room, and repaint the fireplace from that horrid brick-red to a dark gray.  What do you think?”

“Yes, I definitely support painting the fireplace.  That’s one thing about old houses – you can paint and make them your own,” she answered.  And so we continued talking about all the work we’d like to do to the house, and how awesome it would be.

My realtor drew up the paperwork and I submitted a bid.  At her prompting, I wrote a letter saying why I love the house and introducing my family.  She limited me to one page, can you believe that?!  I feel like my letter didn’t do the subject—me!—justice, but I did the best I could when limited to two paragraphs.  Then I held my breath for hours while I waited to hear whether it was accepted.

Ok, not literally.  I would have passed out.  But I was on the edge of my seat with excitement.

Also, not literally.  That would be uncomfortable.

Anywho, I FINALLY heard back.  “Good news!  The seller accepted your offer,” she said.  “There was another offer, from an investor, but he really liked your letter and the whole package.”

I hear a cautious tone in her voice, so I didn’t jump up and down with excitement.  “Which goes to how awesome a realtor that you are,” I said.  “And?” I prompted.

“He wants a leaseback.  That is, he wants you to buy the house, then he will rent it back from you for 30 days.  He needs the money from the sale of the house for a down payment on a new one,” she said.

“No,” I answered.  “If he is in the house, then I’ll have to be in a hotel.  Why doesn’t he go to a hotel, and I’ll move into the house?”

We went back and forth for a week, but the end result was, I had to walk away.

Jack said, “No way should you lease the house back to him!  You’d be responsible for anything that happened on the property!  What if he decided to cook meth and deal outta the house?  That’d be on you!”

Ok, so I think that’s a bit far-fetched, but I certainly don’t want the complication of leasing the house back.  I mean, the guy hadn’t started packing, and his garage was full of 20 years’ worth of junk!  He might start and decide that he needs a few more months to pack it all.  Or, he might give up and decide to stay!

Moving on.  ßLOL, like what I did there?

So I went online and found a FABULOUS condo near central Pasadena.  It was so awesome, I couldn’t believe it!  I texted my realtor, “Drive by this condo and let me know what you think of the area!”

She agreed to, but then I was impatient (SURPRISE!) and poked around on the internet.  Seeing that the condo was right next door to Pintoresca Park, I checked Yelp for reviews.  “Pintoresca” means “Picturesque,” so it must be adorbs, right?

Wow, the reviews!

Some were glowing, some were…

  • “This park is GHETTO! GROWN Up’s smoking weed around kids. Young boys throwing the F word around. First and last time!
  • All I can say is, eh, I like more private parks this park is in the middle of Husslin and busslin
  • Great place to get high!! If you’re looking for a place slightly off the beaten path to look at gun clips, throw the F word around, deal the marijuana, or just go for a little Sunday afternoon Drug Addict Watching, this would be your park. It kind of sucks when the screaming kids show up with their lame parents. But hey, different strokes, eh? There’s a sweet spot to sling right across Raymond, if that’s your thing. You don’t even need an MP3 player if you want to enjoy music while bounding around the ample green spaces! Familiar tunes regaling of bitches and ho’s will engulf you around every bend of this dimly lit, lush ghetto gem…….But for real though, careful of the homicides……

I couldn’t decide on my fav part.  “Husslin’ and busslin’”?  or “It kind of sucks when the screaming kids show up with their lame parents.”  Classic!

I shared these with my friend Renee (coworker, not Ms. Raspberries), who texted, “u gonna send Jack to that park?!?”

I answered, “LOL he’d come back yelping with his tail between his legs, like a whipped dog!”  Poor Jack is a sensitive child.  Ok, so he’s 23 years old; he’s still sensitive.  And he’s still my child.

“so when r u visiting the park?” Renee texted, continuing to tease me.

“lol,” I responded.

“u gonna fail ur drug test living that close to a park like that?” Renee texted.

“From the contact high?” I texted.

Then I switched to my realtor and texted, “Nevermind.  I looked at the area, and I’m not comfortable living there.”

And so the search continues.  Maybe I’ll end up in a nice little condo near CalTech, and take up Party Crashing as a hobby.  Maybe I’ll live outside Pasadena, and drive in for the parties (and to stalk Bill Nye, of course).  Tune in next week to find out!

One thing is for certain: I’m moving to Pasadena!!


Pasadena is near LA (upper right) in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.


LA is in SoCal (Southern California), 2 hours north of San Diego.

Fun Fact: SD is only 15 minutes from the border with Mexico.


Pasadena, Texas is down near Houston, which is near Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.  I am not moving to this area.


Mystery Blogger’s Award

The mystery bloggers award image which looks like a foggy forest at dusk Gary LumGood morning!

Gaz (Dr. Gary Lum to some) nominated me for the Mystery Blogger’s Award.  As part of this, I am required to answer his questions five.  If I do not, I will be tossed into the pit of fire.

Wait, that was in a movie.

Image result for monty python and the quest answer me questions three

The deal with The Mystery Bloggers Award is:

  1. Post the award logo/image on your blog [see above].
  2. Thank whoever nominated you and give a link to their blog ✓
  3. Mention the creator of the award and give a link as well✓
  4. Nominate 10–20 deserving bloggers and notify your nominees by commenting on their blog ✓
  5. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; including one weird or funny question ✓

This award was created by Okoto Enigma and you can find her blog here.

The five questions that Gaz asked are:

  1. What is your favourite food?

Gaz is from Australia, so he spells words with extra vowels.  “Favourite” instead of “Fav”, for example.

Well, Gaz, as a true American, I could eat pizza every day.  Put cheese on just about anything and it’s delicious: cheeseburger (yum!), eggplant parm (oh yes!), mac & cheese (soooo decadent), creme brulee…ok, maybe not *everything*.  But these are a few of my fav things.

Caveat: I am gluten, soy, garlic, and diary free.  Except for cheese.  So any food referenced should be assume to be of the gluten free variety.  My sister says that I’m High Maintenance, and that’s why I’m still single 😉

I say that I have high standards.  Gluten, you don’t make the cut!

2. What one word describes you best?

Interesting question.  I am intense, innovative, a lifelong learner, energetic, and optimistic.  I am an engineer, a mother, a runner, a hiker, an innovator, and a writer.  Since I’ve moved to California, though, I’ve realized that no matter where I live, I shall always be a Texan.

I’m also a space enthusiast, which is why I’m moving to Pasadena.  More on that subject tomorrow!

3. How do you define friendship?

Oh, good question!  Friends are many things to me.  Here is a small, but important, subset.

I believe a friend will support you, but will also tell you when you’re doing something wrong or stupid.  “That guy is a douche!  But, you know, if you want, invite him to the party on Friday.  But, seriously, you should drop his broke ass.”

Friends will be happy for your accomplishments.  “You got the job in Pasadena?!  YAY!!!  OMG we’re going to miss you.  But, I’m so happy for you!  I hope it’s everything you want and more!  But I hope you hate it and move back to Dallas!”

Friends will understand when you don’t have the energy to move from the couch.  As a person with a chronic disease (Celiac), I sometimes have this problem.  Hard to believe, I know!  Seems like I’m always hiking a mountain or going out on a date!  But it’s true.  My friend told me last night, “I don’t feel like going out should totally be a reason to stay home.  People shouldn’t get mad about that.”  Right!  “But you can lie and tell him that you’re sick if you want.”

Friends should never say, I told you so.  Well, at least, not while the wound is raw.  “He broke up with you?!  That jerk!”  The I told you so will come later, for example, “I told you not to date his broke ass.  But, no, you said that he was good in bed, so you dated him anyway.  Ok, so that was a really good reason.  But STILL, I told you so!”

And a friend will always offer to help.  “You want me to help you hide the body?  Should I buy shovels or kerosene – is this a burial or a cremation?  Do you already have him tied up, or do I need to get rope, too?”

Ah, good times!

  1. What’s your favourite social media platform and why?

Facebook is so easy to use and reaches so many people instantaneously.  I also love that I can see what my friends and family are doing.  I have watched my nieces and nephews grow up through the pictures posted.  I can cyberstalk my latest crush and see if he’s worth dating, or if he was out with some ho on Friday night.

  1. Do you like the smell of your own farts?

Gaz, only you would ask such a question!  OMG, no!  I am smart enough to know that my shit *does* stink!  I think that if I thought otherwise, and was a true narcissist, that we wouldn’t be friends.

Now, cow farts should be captured, because they’re high in methane.  We could use them to power generators.  Ohhh, pig farts, too.  Why no one has figured out how to capture all that gold (in the form of nauseous clouds), I don’t know!

As part of this award, I must nominate fellow bloggers.  I must confess that I don’t follow a whole lot of other bloggers, but I would like to nominate:

  1. Gary Mathews of Skipah’s Realm
  2. Human Interest
  3. KS Beth, I didn’t have my glasses on
  4. Dacia, Britest Fyrefly
  5. Emily Lakdawalla of the Planetary Society, for promoting Space.

My questions to all of you are:

  1. What is your happiest memory?
  2. What is your passion?  That is, if you had a Mission Statement for your life, what would it be?
  3. If you had a million dollars and had to spent it in a month, what would you buy and why?
  4. If you were a superhero, what would be your power and why?
  5. What was your best blog, or the one of which you are most proud?

Thank you again, Gaz!  And I’d love to see you answer these questions!  ❤


P.S. I have awesome news to share!  Which, I basically already told you, but I have more details and it’s official now!  More tomorrow.


Samsung S8 has a Different Connector


“Urgh, why would they change the connector?” my friend asked, wondering why Samsung changed connectors from the Galaxy S7 to S8.  “None of your cables will work now!”

So I answered:

The Samsung engineer hiked to the top of Mount Everest to see the guru. He had a burning question in his mind about whether he should use the existing connector, or upgrade it to a better one. He hiked impatiently to the top, pushing his Sherpa to get him there more quickly.

Once there, he rushed up to the old man seated there in the lotus position.  The engineer said, “Oh guru, what advice can you give me?  Just one word, to solve my dilemma.”

The guru thought about it a moment.  It wasn’t often that he was asked to solve a problem without explanation, and especially with just one word.  He observed that the engineer looked at his phone too much.  The guru wanted to tell him to look at the beauty around him, and take note of the wonders of Mother Nature.  The guru looked at the engineer and guru said, “See!”

The engineer was surprised, but nodded, and said, “You are wise, oh Guru on the Mountain top!  Now, another question: how do we deal with change?”

The guru wasn’t sure if the one-word answer was still in effect, but he assumed it was.  So he answered the engineer, “Adapt.”

Thoughtfully, the engineer nodded.  He left the mountain, returning to his work.  There, he changed the connector from a micro-D to a C.

When his boss asked him, “What do we tell the customers?  They’ll hate the change!”

The engineer replied, “Ah!  The guru on the mountaintop told me how to handle that.  Customers can use their existing cables, for I designed an adapter!”


P.S. I serious made this up on the drop of a hat this afternoon.  Yoda would say, “Sarcasm, it runs strong in this one, it does.”

P.S.S. Big changes are happening at the Strawberry household.  I’ll write more when things settle down a bit.  Wish me luck!

California Wineries



Temecula sounds like a city in Transylvania, but it’s actually a city north of Rancho Bernardo by about 45 minutes (so about 1.5 hours north of downtown).  My coworker Steve and his family live there because the houses are less expensive and the school district is great.  I was a little hesitant to accept his invite to go wine tasting there, because I’d never heard of the city before.  How great can it be if I’ve never heard of it?  I mean, I’m a pretty big wino, and I know everything, right?  Uh, no.

Eva, Steve’s wife, handed me a pamphlet and told me to pick one.  I was overwhelmed!  There were at least 25 wineries!!

“What you’re favorite?” I asked.

“Lioness,” Eva answered immediately.  “They have great fries and a beautiful view.”

So we started there.  Steve was designated driver (DD), because, “I don’t like wine.  I drink beer.”

I don’t understand it, but that’s what he said, and we had a DD, so I went with it.  He sipped his Sprite while Eva and I enjoyed flights.  A “flight” is composed of 5 glasses with a different type of wine in each.  When presented all at once, wineries (or bars) serve them on cards or in special holders.  These simple, elegant holders were the best that I’ve seen; the spiral metal spine connected rings that held the glasses.  They were so pretty, I almost didn’t want to drink the wine.

Ha!  As if I could resist!

The fries were covered in truffle oil and parmesan.  The view was of mountains and vineyards.  The company was hilarious.


Steve drove us to Daniel’s, which was little more than a tasting room and gift shop.  We weren’t impressed with the wine or the ambiance.

Wilson Creek, however, was another slice of heaven.  From the fountain out front to the little bridge over a creek, to the huge gift shop and tasting room, it was an amazing experience.

“People pay to have prom pictures taken here,” Eva informed me.  I believe it!

We ran into some penguins.  Well, they were people dressed in penguin costumes.  Why?  Why not?!

Then I found a wine purse.  What an ingenious invention!  It is a cylindrical carrier with a corkscrew tucked into an interior pocket.  It is just the right size to carry a bottle of wine, and has a convenient handle to carry it.  I had to have it.

Then Eva had to buy a matching one.

So now we’re Wine Purse Buddies!

When we returned to her house and showed her teenage daughter, I thought that the girl might pass out from her huge eye roll.  She just doesn’t understand how cool a Wine Purse is!  Especially MATCHING wine purses!

And, ok, we were a little drunk, and may have been a bit enthusiastic about our purchases.  STILL, a WINE PURSE!  Genius!


Random Penguins


Rancho Bernardo


“After you get your glass of wine, you walk down the sidewalk to the confectionary, where the proprietor will give you a piece of chocolate which pairs with the wine,” the sommelier told us.

Dad, my Stepmom, and I said, “Ahhhh!” at the same time.  Chocolate and wine?!  This place was heaven!

“This place” was the Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo, California (north of San Diego but still in San Diego County, i.e. “North County” in local parlance).  There were several buildings grouped together like a small town.  All were very rustic, made of old wood and decorated with rusting tools.  Dad and I made a game out of naming the tools and what they might do.  Stepmom enjoyed looking at the flora and trying to name them; she lamented that she would like to be a landscape designer.  There were old tractors, covered wagons, and even a small museum.

We rather enjoyed the coffee shop, where we bought a cheese and cracker plate, where they had gluten free bread for me!  Then we checked out the purse shop, the clothes shop, the housewares shop, all while sipping on wine.  These places must sell a lot of merchandise!  Think about it: pair women with wine, lure them to the shops strategically placed between them and the free chocolate, and convince them to walk the gauntlet several times – and not all the women had Dad to keep them from buying anything.  I can see where this would be a fun (and expensive!) place for a girls’ night!

In a courtyard, workers were busy setting up for a wedding.  California is so beautiful that I have seen many proposals, weddings, and places set up for weddings.  I feel like I’m living in a vacation resort!

We also checked out the restaurant.  The food was good, not great, but the ambiance was priceless.  Sitting on the patio, sharing wine, sitting in the shade and watching the people walk by – wedding guests all dressed up, couples dressed nicely for dates, and tourists like ourselves in jeans and t-shirts – this was a great day.




Ramona is a city east of Rancho Bernardo, nestled in the foothills of the mountains.  The houses cost about the same as in RB, but come with land.  Some of them come with 2 acres, some more.  Some residents own horses and dogs.  While this may sound like my native Texas, it has a California feel: there are wineries, for example.  We met our friends in Ramona and drove north to Escondido, down a winding road, through beautiful country, to get to the wineries.  Thank God I don’t get car sick.

Cordiano Winery was just as beautiful, though distinct from, the previously mentioned wineries.  We sat on a patio overlooking the mountains, eating gluten free pizza and sipping wine.  My friends were charming.  A light breeze blew.  And I thought to myself – I am blessed.

Highland Hills Winery had just a small tasting room and was family run.  An independent film, “Beyond the Impact,” was being filmed there by Jeff Patton and his crew.  The proprietor said that they used drones to film some of the footage.  How cool is it to sip wine while watching a movie being filmed?!  Ok, so it wasn’t the first time for me; I did that in Tucson while at a work conference (Jim from the Office was there!  and again in Houston (I was in the film).  STILL, it’s pretty darn cool to think that we might be watching the scene on Netflix one day.


Back to the winery.  I love that we drove through the vineyard to get to the tasting room, and that the barrels of wines were behind a window on one wall of the tasting room.

Then we went for ice cream.  How’s that for a perfect day?  Wine, friends, AND ice cream?!

My new friend Marcy Millar re-purposes corks to decorate picture frames, tables, etc.  She also used pennies, alternating dark and bright, to create a design on her armoire.  I took many pictures!  [Marcy can be reached at if you are interested in commissioning a piece.]

“I found Stu Pedasso wine,” Marcy told me, “And thought it was just the funniest thing ever!  So I bought cases of it for family and friends for Christmas.  Unfortunately, the wine isn’t that good.  People called me and said, ‘Uh, Marcy, I hate to tell you, but I didn’t really like the wine.’  Well, DUH!  It wasn’t about the wine!  It was about the name!


I laughed so hard that I almost fell off my chair.  Marcy’s a hoot.  Her art is impressive, too; gives me inspiration.  She said that I could bring her some corks and she’d make me a trivet.  I LOVE TRIVETS!!


Marcy’s Dining Room Table.  The center pattern is composed of horse shoes.



The lessons learned here are many, including:

  • All wineries are different.
  • If you have a chance to try a new winery, do it!
  • Don’t judge a winery by its location. Even if the city name sounds strange, the experience may be amazing!
  • Corks can and should be up-cycled.

Texas has wineries, too.  I regret that I never visited the ones in Grapevine (near DFW airport) or Llano (though I’ve drank many a bottle of Llano wine!).


I have a new friend named Mike.  Yes, another one!  I’ve dated Mike the Plumber, Mayor Mike (also known as Mustang Mike, before he took office), The Great Mike M., the other Mike M., another Mike M.—all three have birthdays in the month of May, Mike B., and…I’m *pretty sure* that’s all of them.


So Sally sent me this video: “Stop Naming Your Children Mike.”

I shared all this with the new Mike, who shall henceforth be known as Mike the DM, because he is the Dungeon Master in a new Dungeons & Dragons campaign.  My last D&D adventure was approximately 20 years ago.  I quit playing because Alan (my husband at the time) played an obnoxious barbarian who specialized in belching and farting.  I decided that I could either play D&D with him or continue to sleep with him.  I chose the marriage (at the time).

D&D aside, Mike the DM answered the video with LOLs and the comment, “I think you’ve dated more Mike’s than the total number of Julie’s I’ve known.  There’s one at roller derby, a buyer at an old job, and a girl I had a crush on in 5th grade.”

I answered, “LOL, you should have gone to school with me!  There was Julie Ann, Julie Nan, Julie Eileen, and Julie Maxine!  Plus, one Julie who wouldn’t reveal her middle name.”

Mike and I met through work.  We were both on the same conference call; he works in a different building.  He sent me an instant message (IM) about a D&D Campaign—get a few nerds in a conference call, and gaming comes up eventually—and before I knew it, we were IM’ing regularly.  Then we moved to text.  And I had no idea what this guy looked like.

“Can people be best friends without ever having met?  Too late, we already are,” I texted him on Friday.

“It happens,” he replied.

We’re having lunch on Tuesday.  Don’t expect a love connection; I suspect that he’s half my age, based on the discussion around D&D.  I’m ok with that; I can always use another friend.

Even if he is named Mike.