California Wineries

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Temecula

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.

Heaven.

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!

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Random Penguins

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Rancho Bernardo

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“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.

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Ramona/Escondido

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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!  http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1024677/)  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.

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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 mmillar24@cox.net 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!

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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!!

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

 

Wineries

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!).

Mike

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.

Maybe.

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.

Cheers!

 

 

Moving Again (Maybe)

 

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Iron Mountain, San Diego, 3/31/17 – I have hiked this mtn four times now.

I’m moving to Pasadena!

Maybe.  I think.  Perhaps.

On my company’s internal job posting website, I found and applied for multiple jobs.  Sure, I have a job now, in the beautiful city of San Diego.  More accurately, I’m updating internal processes while I wait for a program to pick me up, which would be the equivalent of hiring me, even though I already work for the company.  Basically, I can stay where I am and continue to get paid, or I can look for something else in the same company.

Still with me?

So I looked for something else.  Like in my dating life, in my work life, I’m always looking for something better.  Unlike my dating life, in my work life, I found it.  The job is in Pasadena, northeast of Los Angeles.  Pasadena is awesome on many levels:

  • The Rosebowl (famous for the football game, though the huge rose-covered floats are amazing as well)
  • CalTech – a center of learning.
  • CalTech – where the guys from “The Big Bang Theory” TV Show work.
  • Jet Propulsion Lab – NASA and CalTech founded JPL to work on space projects.
  • The Planetary Society – I visited and stood in the CEO’s office. Seriously, the office manager Chelsea was very generous with her time, and gave me a tour, which ended in Bill Nye’s office.  I touched a table which once sat in Carl Sagan’s office!!!
  • Adjacent to LA, which has many companies working on Space projects, including SpaceX!

If you’re not nerdy enough to follow all of that, it boils down to: Pasadena is heaven for nerds who like space.

I’m a nerd who loves space.  Therefore, Pasadena is my Heaven-on-Earth.  And I get to move there!  I applied for a position, and the hiring manager invited me up for an interview, which went GREAT!  I’ll be working for a female team lead and a female project lead, who report to another female.  Go Girl Power!

During the interview, the hiring manager said, “We have three jobs that you’re qualified for, and all three managers want you on their team.  They’ll explain the jobs, then you’ll get to pick one.”

WAAAAAAITT a minute!  I get to CHOOSE from three AWESOME jobs?!  Ya, buddy!  Without revealing too much about my work (that’s not really the point of this blog), the jobs were:

  1. What I did for the past 10 years, so I know that I can do it and do it well.
  2. What I’ve done a little bit of, and what Gala Pear does; a stretch for me, with new challenges.
  3. A job that would use my master’s degree and build on what I’ve done in the past.

I listened to the managers describe each job, knowing that I really could do any of them.  But #2 stood out to me.  I’d get to walk around, talking to different people on different teams, solving problems and writing up reports.  There would presentations in front of managers and experts.  The work would be challenging and keep me on my toes.  I’m so excited!

The team lead led me to meet another team lead, and said, “I like that you have STEM activities on your resume.  I like inspiring the younger generation, too.”

OMG this woman shares my passion for STEM?!  I am going to LOVE this job!

My interview started at 9 a.m. on Thursday.  At 9 p.m., a job offer was in my email inbox.

After returning to San Diego and spreading the word that I have the job, my friends encouraged me to have a going away party.  I planned it for the following Thursday, because my boss wanted me to start the Monday after that (just over a week away).  I spent the weekend going through my magazines, taking donations to Goodwill, and looking at Pasadena houses on the internet.  I told my San Diego realtor that I was moving, and she put me in touch with a Pasadena realtor.  I’d find a house there in no time.

“Whoa, buddy!  Not so fast!” said Fate.  I can’t imagine that God would put the brakes on at this point; I prefer to envision a gremlin, who stole the car which is my LIFE.  A green-scaled, evil-smiling, wicked little gremlin who thinks that f-ing with my happiness is funny.

This is what happens whenever I get excited about damn near anything, whether it’s a new guy or this new job.  Like Keith, who seemed amazing until he started talking about himself in third person and invited me to hang out in the woods with him, “Bad Keith.”  Or the contractor who had really low rates, so I was excited to have him work in my house, until he told me, “You need sex.”  Or the Coast Rican vacation with a handsome man, which seemed like I won the lottery, until it became a Trip from Hell.  Sigh, here we go again!

Since I just moved from Dallas to San Diego, the company doesn’t want to pay for a new Relocation Package.  Sure, I could move myself; Pasadena is just a couple of hours north of San Diego, no big deal, right?  Except…

  • I would be walking away from thousands of dollars promised under my current Relo Pkg.
  • I would have to pay for movers, which could be $2k.
  • Since this is an internal transfer, the hiring manager cannot offer me a sign on bonus. So any benefit ($$$$) must come in the form of a Relo Pkg.
  • If I move before a year is up (which would be the end of November), I have to repay all the money that the company paid to move me out here ($$,$$$).
  • For me to get another Relo Pkg so soon and avoid having to refund my previous Relo Pkg, I need an Exception Form signed by the Vice President*.

*That’s the VP of the company, not of the United States of America.  Altho, it might be equally difficult to obtain the signature!

To recap: I need a program.  Pasadena has a program.  I want to move to Pasadena. I can’t move to Pasadena.

I expect the Marx brothers to come out and go “Woot Woot Woot!” or throw a pie in my face.  I mean, this can’t be real, so it must be a Saturday Night Life skit, right?  I mean, companies are perfectly logical, so there is an easy way to fix this, right?

Why do my friends start laughing hysterically when I said, “Companies are perfectly logical?”

Dating

In the meanwhile, this is how all the above is affecting my dating life:

  • Cancelled a date with a great guy (a Longhorn, nonetheless!).
  • Changed my Match profile to show my location as Pasadena.
  • Received several winks and likes from 56-year-old men in Pasadena.
  • Found a cute guy who said that he worked in Space, emailed him a “Hey, Rocket Scientist! I’m a mechanical engineer!  Let’s get together,” and waited for him to email back.
  • Found out I might not be moving after all.
  • Deactivated my account. After all, I might not be moving; but I might.

So here I am, in limbo.  Again.  I feel like I’ve been in limbo for over a year; first, waiting to hear if I got the job, then waiting to learn my start date, then waiting to find a program.  I’ve been living in an apartment, waiting to find out whether I can get a job in Pasadena or LA.  If not, I can buy a house here by the end of the year and settle down.  I’m pretty blessed to know that I’ll be ok either way.  But limbo sucks.

Going Away Party

Thursday night, I went to my “Going Away Party,” which became a “You’re Going to Have To Put Up With Me For A While Longer Party.”  My friends were happy about that, and hopeful that there would be a quick resolution to my situation.  We drank and ate and were merry.

As for me, I’m still dreaming of moving to Pasadena and dating a CalTech professor.  Or maybe a rocket scientist who works at JPL.  Sally will attend graduate school at CalTech and move in with me.  She’ll be married to Penny by then, so we’ll all live happily ever after.

Did you hear that?  I swear, I just heard a gremlin snicker!

Cheers!

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Sunset as seen from my apartment’s balcony.

 

3 Mountains in 3 Days!

 

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Sally Strawberry, Penny Pineapple, and me (Jules Strawberry).  Hook ‘Em Horns!

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“Mom’s stripping, it’s fine,” Sally said to Penny.

I had stopped to unzip the lower half of my hiking pants, to convert them to shorts.  Penny had asked why we were stopping.

“That’s my daughter!” I said of Sally to Penny, showing her what I was doing, and that I was not, in fact, removing all of my clothes.

***

“Hike!” Sally responded when I asked what she wanted to do while she was here.

And so we did.

Sally Strawberry and Penny Pineapple came to visit last weekend, the second time since I’ve moved to California.  We hiked last time, too, but Blacks Mountain wasn’t very memorable.  And since we’re not beach people, our December trip to La Jolla was enough to keep Sally satisfied for a year or so.

We hiked Cowles to get a view of San Diego, and Sally said, “I’d rather see mountains than city.”

So I answered, “We’re going to Iron Mountain tomorrow.  It’s about the same level of difficulty and has great views.”

The next day, as we were huffing and puffing up Iron Mountain, Sally informed me, “This is harder than Cowles.”

“Oh, I guess if I can hike it, I figure it’s about the same,” I responded.

The view from Iron pleased my little girl, and Penny didn’t scowl too much (she’s not as into hiking as we are), so I figured it was a good hike.  At the bottom of the mountain, I had extra energy, so sprinted a few feet and back again, passing a road runner.  Meemeep!

Penny was looking like she was at the end of her energy reserves.  You know, kinda like a zombie, who keeps forcing one foot in front of another, determined to go on.  She didn’t argue when I offered to get the car and pull it around, saving her from walking 40 feet.

In the car on the way home, Sally asked me, “Should we serve enchiladas at your funeral?”

The question wasn’t totally out of left field.  That is, we’ve discussed my funeral before, when I told her that I wanted her to play, “One less problem without you,” by Ariana Grande.  I’ve always wanted more of an Irish wake then a tear jerker.

“That’s more of Mom’s thing,” I replied, referring to my mother, who passed in 2008.  She ate enchiladas almost every day.  She’d cook a large casserole dish of them and then eat one for lunch with a pile of chips and queso.  “Maybe gluten free pizza?”

“I’ll have to practice,” Sally said, referring to the family recipe that Mom perfected when she wasn’t cooking TexMex.  Of course, Mom’s version was full of gluten, so the recipe needs to be modified.

I laughed.  While we had been discussing my funeral arrangements, AC/DC’s Highway to Hell came on the radio.  “Is this a sign?” I asked.

Sally laughed.  “A warning!” she said.

On the third day, I took them to Mount Woodson so that we could get pictures on the famous Potato Chip Rock.  By “we” I mean “them,” of course.  I’m an engineer; I know that cantilevered beams will break after cyclic loads are placed on them.  The only question is, “when.”  And after seeing families of 4 and 5 people pose on the rock, and others jump on it, I avoided stepping onto it myself.  As in, hell to the no, I’m not getting on that thing!

The climb up Woodson was a lot longer than I remembered.  Like I said, if I can climb it, I figure it’s a good hike, but moderate.  The number of hours to hike or miles don’t register with me as much.

Two and a half hours later, when we reached Potato Chip Rock, I wondered if Penny would ever go hiking with me again.  She was breathing hard, sweating, and moving rather slowly.

Thankfully, standing in line to take a picture on Potato Chip Rock gave us time to catch our breaths.  We waited while an 8-year-old boy and his 13-year-old sister climbed up and posed for their parents.  Then we waited while their mother joined them and more pictures were taken.  And we waited some more while the father showed a nice stranger how to work the drone that he had brought (a quad copter), so that he could jump in the picture.  And they posed in several different poses.  FINALLY they declared themselves done and scrambled off the rock.

Then we waited while the next family did the same.  Damn.  Thing.  Except, everyone in that family wanted a picture of themselves alone on the rock, jumping, before they gathered as a family.  All the while, their little dog yipped and yapped, not liking all the strangers standing around him.  I may have told it to be quiet or shut up once or twice.

Really, people, if there’s a line, then take one or two pics and get off.  #Impatient #WTF #BeConsiderate

FINALLY it was our turn.  Sally and Penny climbed up as quickly as they could and sat on the edge of the rock.  They did not jump, and held only that pose while I snapped close up and wide angle shots.  One kiss, another pic, and down they came.  #ThatsHowItShouldBe #ShortAndSweet

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The climb down the mountain went more quickly than the climb up.  After all, the hardest part was behind us, we were refreshed, and there was the promise of air conditioning and a shower at the end.

“I’m starving,” Penny confided.  “Should have brought some cashews or something.”  The dried apple chips just weren’t enough for this 7.5 mile trail.

As we stumbled to the car, at the very end of this 4.5 hour hike, I thought, “They’re never coming hiking with me again.”

But then Sally said, “WE DID IT!” and I smiled.

We actually did more than *just* hike.  We shopped for Sally’s first professional business suit.  When we found out that Banana Republic was having a 50% sale, the clothes piled up, and we ended up buying Sally an entire wardrobe.  Then we found out that she could get an extra 20% off by signing up for a store credit card.  DONE!

One night, we met my friends Heather and Scott for dinner.  Sally loved them!

Scott’s first reaction to finding out that she’s an astrophysicist was to tease her, “Are you going to go after the really hard stuff, like Dark Matter?”

Her answer was, “YES THAT’S WHAT I DO!”

Then they were off on a nerd tangent that even I couldn’t follow.

Heather was equally charming and I think Sally was ready to move in with them.  “Can I invite them to my wedding on the beach next year?” she asked.

Wow.  After one meeting.

Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised, my friends are pretty darn amazing.

On Monday night, we had dinner with another friend, who was also named Heather.  When I first introduced Heather to Heather, I laughed and said, “I feel the need to watch the movie Heathers again!”

Since they are both a tad younger than me, and the movie with Winona Ryder and Christian Slader came out in 1988, I had to explain my comment.  “It’s a dark comedy about the popular girls and one other girl—Winona’s character—and how hard high school can be.”

“Oh!  It’s like Mean Girls!” Heather said.

“Ummmm…kinda?” I responded.  “But darker.  Christian Slader’s character is a bit like Johnny from the Breakfast Club, but darker.”  How does one explain Heathers without giving away the plot?

I scheduled a movie night at my house to watch it.  We laughed at the wacky plot and the 80’s fashion.

“Colored tights?!  I thought that was for children!” Heather exclaimed.

“The shoulder pads!” I said.

We’ve been fast friends ever since.  Nothing like bonding over old movies with retro fashion and homicidal plots.

Her last initial happens to be “S,” so I told Sally, “To keep them straight, remember that Heather S is Single.  Heather P is married.”

I felt a little bad assigning that label to Heather, since she is a beautiful, intelligent woman who may find a nice guy any day now.  But then I remembered that my last initial is also S, and I’m single too!  Doh.

We got on the subject of health, and Sally said, “My doctor told me that I need to take Vitamin D, since I’m not getting any.”  Her smile and reference to her lesbian lifestyle made it clear that this was an innuendo and the “D” stood for… “Dude.”  Yes, Dude.  We’re going with that.

Heather blushed and said, “I don’t take pills, I take my Vitamin D straight!”

WELL THEN!  I’m glad that my children are adults, so that we can have conversations like this.

Cheers!

P.S. My next post will be about Country dancing in California.  Yes, there are honky tonks in Cali, and I’ll compare one to Billy Bob’s.

P.S.S. As always, follow me on Instagram (jules_rules_strawberry) or Facebook for more pics!  And I tweet occasionally, too (@JulesSBerry)!

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Sally Strawberry, Explorer, Conquerer of Mountains

 

Bloggers on the Beach

 

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“Sorry I’m late, I stopped at the liquor store to buy some hooch,” Gary Mathews told me.  His accent is a thick southern Indiana drawl.  Don’t say, “Kentucky” because he hates that state, but the accent is super close.

We stood in front of Rubio’s Coastal Grill, a restaurant which specializes in fish tacos.  Since Gary had tasked me with finding the best fish tacos in San Diego, I had asked him to meet me here.  He crushed me in a bear hug, made the comment about the hooch (liquor, for those of you who are not well-versed in Southern slang), and we went inside.

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“OhmyGod these are so good,” he mumbled around his first bite.

Whew, he likes ‘em!  He likes ‘em!  Mission accomplished!

That was Wednesday night and we only had a short time together before he jumped back in his rental car and cruised into the night.  He was in town for a Dad’s Blogger Convention.  That is, a bunch of bloggers who are fathers and blog on fatherhood were having a convention in downtown San Diego.  Gary is so famous, that he received a scholarship to attend, and was as excited as a tick at a dog convention.

Gary and I met each other online, when this blog was new.  We became a Mutual Admiration Society, posting comments and likes on each other’s posts, until finally we moved to texting.  We skyped a few times and I became his dating coach.  Seriously, he’d send me usernames for the women that he was interested in on Match, and I would read between the lines to tell him what the profile was REALLY communicating.  I’m happy to say that I helped him woo Ms. Madison, a charming school teacher and single mom who is now his fiancée.  Hey, Gary, can I put you down as a reference when I become a full time Dating Coach?  I’ll count you as one as my first success stories!

He paid me back by reviewing Match profiles of guys for me, too.  Unfortunately, his dating coach skills aren’t as good as mine.  Gary, stick to what you know!  Don’t quit your day job!

BTW, Gary is a riot!  He made me laugh so hard I doubled over!  Honestly, this is a regular occurrence, whether I’m reading his blog or texting him.  For example: on Thursday night, he wanted to go out, so I told him to check out the Gas Lamp District.  It’s the famous downtown with all the clubs and bars.

Gary said, “If I were 20 years old and loaded, I’d tear it up!  This place is outta my league!  The bartender is dressed like a hooker.  Man, I’m outta here!” He sent a picture to back up his assertion, and I must admit, her short skirt was almost a belt.

The man can also be smooth, I found out.  He made a comment on one of my Facebook posts that rubbed little Sally Ann the wrong way—she’s very protective of me—and I thought World War III was about to commence.  Instead, Gary commented back to her, “I meant no offense!  Why, your mom talked my ear off about you on Wednesday, so much that I’m ready to adopt you myself!”

Sally was mollified and properly flattered.  She thanked Gary and called off the nuclear arsenal that she had been prepping.

Luckily, Gary (aka The Skipah) made time for me on Sunday, too.  We visited the famous Cove in La Jolla, which is only 30 minutes from my apartment.

Pause for a minute.  How awesome is it that the beach is 30 minutes from my apartment?!  And that the mountains are a short 20 minute drive in the other direction?!  OH MY GOD I LIVE IN A POSTCARD!!

Ok, I’m back now.  Gary looked at the sea lions and said, “You’re right, they do look kinda like slugs.”  A few minutes later, he added, “I smell ‘em now!  I’m ready to go – I need more fish tacos!”

He was a trooper!  Our hosts (one of my coworkers and his fiancée) led us a few miles around town.  We walked along the beach, then back through town for fish tacos (which weren’t as good as Rubio’s) and gelato.  Gary and I bought trinkets at some souvenir shops, which reminds me: Gary, I need a pic of Sloane in her new t-shirt!  It’s day-glo yellow, which I think is gawd-awful but which seems to be in style.  I hope she likes it!

Gary’s overall assessment of La Jolla was summed up in two sentences, “Waaaah!  I have to go home tonight!  WHY?!”

That’s how Sally & Penny felt when they visited, Gary, so you’re in good company.

Gary texted me after he got home, “#FriendsForLife.”

I replied, “#ForeverFriends.”

Yep, I’m headed to a wedding in Indiana in the near future.  Stockpile the hooch, there’s a Texan headed to Madison!

See more pics on my Instagram (jules_strawberry_rules) or Facebook page (Jules Strawberry).  I also tweet amusing things occasionally under the handle “JulesSBerry.”

Dr. Gary Lum sent in a question which I’ll answer next week.  He asked, “Why are Texans so friendly?”  I have a theory, folks, which will knock your socks off!

Ok, maybe the socks will stay on, but it’s still a fabulous theory, endorsed by several California engineers!  These engineers may know nothing about social engineering or psychology or sociology, but they’re friends of mine, so they *must* be right.  Right?

Anywho, check back next week for more entertainment!

Cheers!

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Sex is Just Scratching an Itch

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“Sometimes you need sex like you need to scratch an itch,” my date told me.  “I told that to my 15-year-old son.  He believes that you need to be love to have sex, and that just isn’t true.”

I choked on my wine.  “I’ll take awkward conversations for $1,000, Alex,” I said, pretending that I was on a game show.  This wasn’t a conversation that I wanted to have on a second date.

“This is awkward?  How is this awkward?” he asked. “Oh!”

The San Diego Gulls missed making a goal.  Or, rather, the goalie for Oakland was too good to let the puck through.

My date wouldn’t let the subject drop.  “It’s like scratching an itch, right?”

I took a deep breath.  I really liked this guy, up to this point.  I could agree with him, just to keep the peace.  But…I’m not a passivist; I believe in speaking my mind and he was asking for my opinion.  So I gave it to him.

“I believe that women in general, myself included, form emotional attachments easily.  I can’t do casual sex.  I tried; it’s just not for me,” I said.

There, how’s that for side-stepping the issue?

But still, he wouldn’t let it go.  “You don’t think that there are just times when you need sex?”

Wow.  He REALLY was seeking buy-in here; I just couldn’t give it to him.  “I believe that we should teach our kids to be better than us.  I would tell my kids—and have—to wait to have sex after they find someone special.”

What really bothered me about this conversation was the implications of his statement.  Consider that if I have a muscle cramp, I’ll go to a massage therapist.  If I had back aches, I might go to chiropractor.  If one considers sex to be an itch, then one might also pay a professional for a fix.  I wonder if he has frequented prostitutes; he mentioned frequent trips to Las Vegas earlier.  It’s a cheap, 45-minute plane ride from San Diego, he had said.  Of course, the two conversations may have been unrelated; but maybe not.

But, may be.

Another, more logical, thought process it to consider FWBs (friends with benefits) to be normal.  Hey, if you have one, that’s great; enjoy yourself. (Cough, NADIA!)  As I told my date, that arrangement never worked out for me; I always grew attached.

Was he gaging my reaction, to see if he could introduce me to his FWB in the future?  Wondering if I’d be cool?

“He wanted to sleep with you,” a guy friend told me.  “It’s a little sick that he used his kid to bring up the topic, but he was feeling you out to see if you’d be open to the arrangement.”

For the record, this particular guy friend is in another state and happily married, so he is not trying to get into my pants.  Or, at least, I trust his assessment as much as I trust anyone’s.

Or was my date trying to justify an affair?  He mentioned only vague reasons for his marriage ending.  Maybe when he said, “my marriage was over, so I walked away,” he meant, “We weren’t sleeping together anymore, so I found someone to scratch that itch.”

Supposition aside, it really bothered me that he’d teach his kid that.

“He’s teaching the kid the way the world works,” my friend Allie Apple said, “but, wow, some things, kids need to find out on their own.  Parents don’t need to tell kids that.  Is he trying to teach the kid how to be a player?”

I’m not sure of all his reasoning.  I only know that I disagree.  I’ll scratch your back if you ask nicely, but I have to a bit more involved with you before I scratch other things.

Next

On the way to the grocery store yesterday, I met a guy.  I live downtown now, so I walk to the store with my empty backpack and canvas bags.  I love that I don’t have to drive on the weekends. (Although I did drive earlier yesterday to hike in Torrey Pines State Park.)

A nice man said hello to me at the corner near the grocery store.  Turns out that he was going there, too, with his empty backpack.  As we chatted, we discovered how much we had in common: both engineers, both in the same industry, both writers, both interested in science fiction.  He bought me a gluten free chocolate chip muffin and we exchanged numbers.

That night, he showed me around our little corner of downtown.  He introduced me to a fabulous restaurant (Seasons 52), then showed me where Top Gun was filmed.

Y’all, I had a glass of wine in the bar where Tom Cruise sang, “You lost that lovin’ feelin’!!”

AHHHHHH!!!

The place is a small dive bar, nothing fancy, called Kansas City BBQ.  The way that my date explained it, the owner sampled different BBQ sauces in Kansas City and made his version based on the best.  I’ll have to judge another day; I was full from dinner.

As my date sat there and talked about his plans to move to LA or Canada, he’s not sure which, I soaked in the atmosphere.  Bras hung from a ceiling fan.  Ball caps from various sections of the Navy were tacked to the ceiling.  And, oh yes, there was movie memorabilia everywhere.

And, yes, my date is probably moving back to Canada.  So don’t expect a long-term romance.  I don’t like to date guys who live more than 30 minutes away; a different country would definitely be a deal breaker.

Still, it’s a fun story, right?!  He may be a famous Hollywood writer one day and pitch my book to some television execs as a mini-series.  He mentioned it, so it may happen.  I dream big.

The best part of the night was when Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” came on, over the speakers.  I shouted out, “Everybody, I’m from Texas, and we sing along to this song!”

“Go for it!” several people told me.

“Blame it all on my roots, I showed up in boots, and ruined your black-tie affair!” I sang.  And then I sang along with the rest of the song.  Heck, this may be the alcohol talking, but I did a damn fine job!  The bar patrons applauded after every verse.  All that karaoke finally paid off!

Later, when I recapped the evening to my friend Allie, she said with a laugh, “You Texas-up California!”

“Huh?” I asked, eloquently.

“A bunch of Californians moved to Texas, and are making it more like California,” she explained.  “They’re California-ing-up Texas.  So you are in California, bring some Texas to them, and Texas-up California.”

Took a minute for that to sink in.  “You’re saying that there are so many California transplants in Texas that it’s starting to feel like California, so I should make San Diego feel like Texas?” I asked.

“Yes!” she said.

“I can do that!” I said with a laugh.

And I will.

But don’t expect me to go around scratching itches.  I sing at the top of my lungs in little dive bars when Garth comes on, I’ll cuss like a sailor when the moment calls for it, but I’m still a lady, damn it.

Cheers!

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California Dreamin’ (Continued)

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Good news!  I haven’t received a rejection letter!  JPL sent me a rejection letter within 48 hours of my application to a requisition for ME IV, for which I wasn’t qualified (I don’t have flight hardware or space shuttle design experience).  Since I applied for the Cable Harness Engineer III position over 72 hours ago, I’m taking the lack of rejection letter as a sign that they’re still reviewing my resume.  WHOO HOO!!

Thanks for all the encouraging words and the good luck you’re sending my way.  I expected someone to tell me that I’m being silly and that I should be happy with the kickass job that I have now.  For the record, I am happy here, and will continue to be so if I don’t get the job in Cali.  HOWEVER, I am shooting for the moon, and I super appreciate everyone who wished me well!

Cheers!

P.S. I planned a vacay and Sally Ann pitched a fit!  I’ll tell about it soon.  She’s so adorable when she’s in a snit!  Who can say, “No” to that adorable blue-eyed angel?  #WrappedAroundHerFinger