The Downtown Disney/Newport Beach Birthday Trip

Yes, we did it. We finally decided to go forward with staying at the beach, booking outside dining at Tommy Bahama in Newport Beach for my birthday dinner, and the next day lunch and shopping at Downtown Disney. It was pretty awesome. And we felt totally safe. People were wearing masks (definitely at Disney) and most other places we went, too. Life felt almost normal – certainly nothing like what you read in the media. Ugh!

The tyrant governor newsom should investigate his “data” a little more thoroughly and figure out where, exactly, these spikes are coming from and the reasons for them. Because I could see no reason for them or the closures where we were. Of course, we stayed outside and chose wisely. It did seem a bit more loose when we drove by the donut shop on Newport Beach. People were wearing masks but I couldn’t say they stood 6 feet away from each other. Maybe that doesn’t matter as much if you’re wearing a mask?

Here are some photos from the trip starting with the birthday dinner at Tommy Bahama, Newport Beach, kicking it off with a Mai Tai:

First Sip

Incredible Calamari with Cilantro Slaw (shared appetizer)

Rich’s Ribs

Kathy’s Coconut Shrimp

Key Lime Pie to share (Rich insisted – lol)

First Cut

First Bite

Evening walk on Huntington Beach

Everything was delicious and we took half the rack of ribs and a couple of shrimp back to our beach hotel for dinner the next night.

The next day we drove to Downtown Disney at around 11 am to secure a parking spot in Simba Parking Lot before it was full.

The CMs teased us that Rich was wearing an Angels mask, and Kathy was wearing a Dodgers mask (to match her blue outfit,she explained). Yeah, right, they said – lol!

Not sure a Dodgers mask goes with a Mickey hat – lol!

We stood in line for about half an hour for entry to World of Disney (nothing compared to those who arrive later in the day).

In line, waiting to enter the World of Disney

After the walk from the Simba parking lot, temp check, and security, 30 minutes in line for World of Disney, 45 minutes and $200 of shopping later, we were desperate to take off our masks at the Uva Bar and have a drink and some lunch.

Scanning the menu from the iPhone

Rich toasts Kathy’s birthday with a glass of Spanish Chardonnay

Enjoying the atmosphere, company, and refreshments at the Uva Bar in Downtown Disney

Rich’s Fish Tacos (Garlic Fries substituted for Sweet Potato Fries)

Kathy’s American Cheeseburger, Garlic Fries, and a Glass of Argentinian Malbec

Lunching at the Uva Bar at Downtown Disney was Magical! We felt safe and it was so like us that we didn’t even feel cheated that Disneyland or DCA weren’t open. We’re just waiting for the Grand Californian to reopen. Oh, and our server noticed the Angels and Dodgers masks and said her boyfriend was Angels but she was Dodgers. lol! The food was delicious and we took half the fries back to our beach hotel for dinner, but they didn’t heat up well. Darn! They were so yummy!

We returned to our beach hotel and admired our World of Disney shopping haul: Baby Yoda plush, 65th Anniversary Photo Frame, “the child” top for Kathy, coral top for Kathy, the Mandalorian t-shirt for Rich, Disneyland 65th Anniversary socks for Rich, Star Wars mask for Rich, Baby Yoda mask, and Mickey Mouse mask (matches her purse) for Kathy.

All in all, it was an awesome and much-needed trip and great birthday celebration even though we were originally disappointed that Napa Rose wouldn’t be open. It was nice to change it up. We’ll see what’s open for Rich’s birthday.

We’ll be uploading some new videos on YouTube.

Birthday Trip: The “Plan C” Compromise

One reason I was up at first light is that I was thinking about Plan B (staying at Caesar’s), instead of driving to SoCal (Plan A) after Governor Newsom “dimmed” the lights on outside dining, bars, etc. At bedtime, we were both excited about Plan B. But somewhere during the night, I came up with Plan C, which is a bit of Plan A (SoCal) and Plan B (Vegas).

I still wanted to go to SoCal – it’s been too long since we’ve been during this house building project, and I need to see, smell, and hear the ocean. I need a road trip. It’s my birthday. So we will do the big dining celebration here in Vegas (Border Grill, one of my favorites), and then drive to SoCal for my birthday for a couple of days. It looks like Downtown Disney will open as planned with outside dining restrictions. You can read about it on AllEars. And we can drive down PCH to enjoy the ocean, and maybe even find a beach.

The other mood enhancers for today have been watching some DIS videos – here and here. I totally wouldn’t mind owning a Disney vacation home. 🙂

And I’m missing cruising. If you’re missing cruising, too, enjoy a virtual cruise here.

 

 

Breaking News: California Shutdowns (including Orange County)

When I lived in California, I must confess I sometimes flipped people off. Okay, I was much younger then, but how can you not do that as part of the California lifestyle? Thankfully, since I left, I don’t think I’ve flipped anybody off – lol!

But I’m now ready to flip off California itself after that ridiculous Governor declared shut downs for 19 counties, including Orange County. I can’t really celebrate my birthday in my beloved childhood county (indoor restaurants closed and beach parking closed), my annual tradition whenever I’m not living in Florida.

We cancelled the trip. I think. How could we not? What are we supposed to do, order delivery from our hotel room? Peek at the ocean as we drive down PCH? I can’t imagine that Downtown Disney will open at all until later because these shut downs aren’t just for the 4th of July weekend, but for the next 3 weeks. Not much of a celebration. Will keep abreast, though.

 Screen shot of the video so it’s a bit screwy

San Diego is not on that list nor Napa, Sonoma, or San Mateo. So there are other counties to visit, but the birthday trip is a short trip and we cannot really go beyond Orange County. If things change in Orange County for our August trip, we might go then. But I’m sad and mad, having looked forward to this trip for so long.

In the meantime, Plan B is a staycation at Caesar’s Palace. Drinks out by the pool and a nice dinner out.

I really like how the Florida governor is handling this. Check out what he said in this post.

I did a little research on Governor Newsom and he is a typical Bay Area liberal – I lived there for 23 years and I recognize the sort. I also learned he’s another one of those Democratic Catholics I disagree with. So, having discovered he’s a fellow Catholic, I may have to forgive him. Okay, so maybe I won’t flip him off. 🙂

But reading this pisses me off all over again.

 

 

Independence Day – the Irony of It

Happy July!

Reading the OC Register this morning, I see that the California governor is going to tighten restrictions today. Who knows what that means but I’m hearing “bars and beaches.” Laguna Beach is talking about closing before the 4th of July. In fact, all of this is happening now to prevent a huge spike over Independence Day.

Oh the irony of that name. You may as well cancel the 4th, because, frankly, we don’t seem to have any independence these days.

But what does independence in this context mean anyway? The ability to not wear a mask? Not to stay socially distant? But if you don’t wear a mask, or stay socially distant, things close. Not much independence in being forced to stay home because nothing is open.

I’m especially concerned because for all intents and purposes, we’ve been locked down in Vegas since the end of September. Returning from our trip to California, we decided to go ahead and build a home here. During that time we were so focused and financially strapped and uneasy about leaving the cats with a new pet sitter in that strange rental, that we stayed in Las Vegas.

Ten months in Las Vegas straight is a record for us. Geographically and culturally, we’re basically a suburb of SoCal. And it’s normal for us to visit every six weeks or so during the warmer months of the year. Mostly Disneyland and the beach. And my old neighborhoods, of course. 🙂

No Napa Rose for my birthday celebration. And now maybe no beach. We’d give California the finger and cancel the trip if it we weren’t in such need right now to see the beach – the beach that belongs to not only California residents, but the entire country. Closing the beach is not the way to celebrate “Independence Day.”

I get it, but I don’t like it. Some people can’t be trusted and they’re deciding what I get to do and what I can’t do right now. Not feeling very independent at all.

Oh the irony. We escaped lockdown well before the 4th, so now we may be back under lockdown orders by the 4th!

Mask Headache

Today we went to Home Depot. I wore my mask. After about ten/fifteen minutes, I was done. Instead of continuing our browsing, we finished our business so we could leave. I’ve noticed that after wearing a mask, I get a terrible headache around the back of my head, where I usually get stress headaches.

We keep hearing and reading of spikes in “The Bob.” Paul of The Motorhome Experiment, said in his Live show last night that the spikes in Florida are up because of the testing that’s being done everywhere. He calls it the “Corona Chaos.”

Sue, my DVC friend, calls it “medical theater,” and she works in some sort of state-run long-term residential facility.

I love their attitude.

I hate to hear of the spikes. But I have a feeling that none of my activities are spiking anything. Even without a mask. The spikes are probably more likely due to those who *must* gather closely together in crowds, throwing caution to the wind. But here in Nevada you must wear a mask as soon as you leave your home. Exercising in the fresh air? Must wear a mask. More than six feet from the next person? Must wear a mask. It’s getting ridiculous!

Thanks, Nevada governor. He’s definitely getting on my nerves again. He’s also still restricting churches to 50 participants, although restaurants/bars/casinos are only limited by percentage – not total number. There’s a lawsuit underfoot.

No more than 50 people can attend church and because some churches have thousands of members, we’re told we can only go to church once during Phase 2. And now the governor is delaying opening up to Phase 3. So church, for all intents and purposes, is still in the same camp as brothels and tattoo parlors.

What has horrified me the most about all of this is how much control the governors seem to have, although lawsuits are being filed questioning this.

Seriously still thinking about the full-time RV life when Rich retires. Then we can move from state to state if something is too distasteful to have to remain in one state.

As for the birthday trip, I’m also seriously reconsidering our plans to stay in a large hotel near Disneyland in case we can go to Downtown Disney. Disney has revealed no specific plans about who will be open, who will not. How do you get a reservation? Nothing. Nada. Zip. And it will be busy, mark my words. Especially since the theme parks will not be open anytime soon. People will clamor to get into Downtown Disney.

With California always on the verge of lock down, I’m thinking we might go back to Plan A, which was to stay at a smaller beach property and perhaps get food delivery and drive along the coast. Anything not to wear a mask. But I must see the ocean. Smell it. Walk it. Okay, I might have to wear a mask for that.

Knott’s Berry Farm, California Missions, and Friendly Masks

What I’m Watching:

Knott’s Berry Farm is one of my favorite childhood hangouts. We went there often as a family. The first time I knew what my parents were spelling out was when they said we were going to K-n-o-t-t-s B-e-r-r-y F-a-rm.

We were in the car and I recognized what my mother was spelling and shouted, “Knott’s Berry Farm!” lol! That’s when my mother knew spelling in front of the kids would no longer work. Ironically, Knott’s was also the celebratory place we went after I won the 6th grade spelling bee.

Impromptu visit to Knott’s after school with my cousins (me in the dress)

My favorite parts about Knott’s is the old Knott’s, the mining town, Mrs. Knott’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant, the Reflection Chapel, and the Missions of California.

I loved studying and visiting the missions in school. I would come home and talk nonstop about “Father (now Saint) Junipero Serra,” which was pretty funny since my grandmother was busy trying to impart her Jehovah’s Witness religion on us.

In those days, my mother put on pretenses whenever her mother was around and my grandmother influenced me greatly when I stayed with her. But I like to say I met Jesus in those Missions through Saint Serra.

So, instead of being all caught up with the things we can’t do, I’m trying to focus on the things we can do. And so we’re planning on having lunch at Mrs. Knott’s during my birthday trip. The Marketplace is now open and it will be fun to see it again.

  • Disney Springs with Tim Tracker

Also, I’ve noticed that seeing people wearing masks doesn’t freak me out quite as much when I see friendly people I recognize wearing them. And speaking of masks, Tim Tracker has been trying out several different ones and his latest one in his Disney Springs video looks promising.

I’d tried the neck thingie he wore in his Moss Park video, but it’s tight around my neck and I still can’t breathe wearing it, but the Disney Springs mask might be worth a try, especially with the strap thingie he wears so his ears aren’t being pulled – that’s another issue I’ve found.

We still haven’t heard what/if restaurants at Downtown Disney will be open when it opens July 9, so we’ve made reservations at a beach restaurant for my birthday (impressed by their social protocols they have in place). But we’re hoping to pop in to DD, if it looks like it will work for us. Disneyland and the hotels won’t be open before my birthday so they will have to wait until the August trip.

It’s hard to make any plans during this time because we just don’t know what things are available and what they will look like. So we will have to remain flexible. I’m looking forward to the trip, though, and getting back to frequent trips to Disneyland and the beach from our new home in Las Vegas.

“Dear Kitten” and Other Laguna Beach Fun

I’m watching Adam the Woo’s video for today, one in a series of local SoCal food locations offering take-out, pick-up, drive-thru, etc. Lo and behold, he’s at the first Taco Bell in Orange County in Laguna Beach.

Well, once again, the Woo is taking me back to my childhood and teen years. I even based a short story on Laguna Beach in Dear Kitten. Laguna Beach will be one of my first destinations sometimes this summer, hopefully, for my birthday.

Dear Kitten…

Dear Kitten, My Favorite Pussycat,

Love,
TomKat

Kitty Arness hasn’t been called “Kitten” since her college days. So when a chance encounter reunites her with an old love on Laguna Beach, she realizes she longs to be “Kitten” one more time.

Still hurting from the breakup all these years later, she must make a hard choice: to hold onto her pride or forgive and forget, especially when she reads the writing in the sand.

AVAILABLE NOW on amazon.com as a standalone or part of an anthology for your Kindle.

Turning 29 Again at Disneyland and the Beach, Day 3 (Final)

We woke up early and instead of relaxing by the pool at the Disneyland Hotel, we cecked out of the hotel and drove to Newport Beach for a morning walk and breakfast at Mutt Lynch’s, after enjoying it so much in July for my birthday.

Mutt’s was late opening the doors, but after our walk we just stood there and she finally opened them. First off, coffee. Then, I got my usual – corned beef hash, those amazing hash brown ribbons, and eggs. No toast this time – the waitress didn’t bring it and I didn’t really want any. This time Rich tried the pancakes with bacon (I had a slice or two), and I tasted the pancakes to compare to Norm’s. As I suspected, Norm’s is definitely the winner of the pancakes (nobody else comes close), but Mutt’s wins the best hash browns ever award.

It was overcast, of course, but it didn’t stop us from enjoying our breakfast at the beach. It’s quite a contrast to the daily bright morning sun in Las Vegas. But it was a week day and parking was a breeze – just a few surfers, early morning walkers, and us. Several people (more than on Saturday) joined us for breakfast soon after we were seated. It did open later so maybe that’s the difference. Or people got a later start on a Saturday.

After breakfast, we took care of us some business in Costa Mesa and then drove home. Overall, it was such a fun trip, catching up on the new stuff at Disneyland and DCA and getting a bit of beach atmosphere before heading back to the desert. We’re looking forward to our next trip, although we have a couple of cruises booked (busy, busy fall – everything is up in-the-air).

Kathy’s Birthday Trip to Disney and the Beach, Part 3

The next morning, Rich brought back some breakfast from the hotel and I heated up the leftover pork chop to go with, which was still so amazingly delicious. If you think you don’t like something, think again if Andrew Sutton is preparing it. That’s what I love about food – the surprise.

We packed up and got on the road via one more look at the beach. Ah….

Around Barstow we were thirsty so we drove through Del Taco for their “mini” shakes, but that location doesn’t have them. So we got one shake and a Diet Coke to share.

The road was pretty busy, especially where it narrows to 2 lines each way on the Barstow to Vegas stretch. But the line of cars heading back to L.A. on a Sunday were even longer than before. Note to LA to Vegas travelers: do not drive home on a Sunday or, if you must, get up early!!

Anyway, here’s a video of the pianist in the Grand Californian playing “The Sound of Music,” us relaxing and enjoying our home away from home. Can’t wait to go back for Rich’s birthday for a stay at the Disneyland Hotel and catch up with the parks.

Kathy’s July Birthday Trip to Disney and the Beach, Part 2

Around 5 PM, we headed out from Huntington Beach to the Grand Californian. After a 30-minute drive up Harbor Blvd., we arrived at the Grand Californian where we left the car with the valet and headed into the hotel. It’s always a fantastic feeling walking into the Grand Californian lobby.

We headed to the gift shop to browse around, and then took at peek into Hearthstone Lounge. We noticed our favorite spot had comfy new chairs. So we sat down and ordered a couple pre-dinner drinks: Prosecco for Kathy, Conundrum White for Rich.

As our dining reservation time of 6:30 PM at Napa Rose approached, we closed out our Hearthstone Lounge tab and carried our drinks over to Napa Rose and checked in. They noted that it was Kathy’s birthday.

Soon we were seated at a table for two in a section we had enjoyed before. Our server, Michael, was quick to greet and welcome us. Rich recognized Michael as the server we had at our first visit to Napa Rose twelve years ago when we’d had the Tasting Menu. Sure enough, we asked, and Michael has worked at Napa Rose since it’s opening nineteen years ago. He was a cook for three years and a server since then. He is the very, very best. We would dare say the best server we’ve had at any restaurant.

We ordered, asking that the wine be served with the entrees since we still had some of our pre-dinner wine left.

MENU

APPETIZER (Shared)
Hamachi “Crudo”
cured with Meyer Lemon Kosho, Cucumber Jicama Relish, and Prickly Cactus Pear Vinaigrette

ENTREE (Kathy)
Cedar-smoked Berkshire Pork Chop
with Cherry Orange Conserve and Mustard Potato Salad

ENTREE (Rich)
Skuna Bay Salmon
with Strawberry-Lime Dust, Summer Corn-Strawberry Relish and Orange Crema

SIDE DISH (Shared)
Truffled “Mac & Cheese” Orecchiette Pasta
with Parmigiano-Reggiano

DESSERT (Shared)
French Vanilla Creme Brulee
with Strawberries, Blueberries, and Blackberries

WINE
Pinot Noir, MacMurray Ranch, Russian River Valley

Napa Rose is one of the best restaurants on the planet. Chef Andrew Sutton is our favorite chef, bar none. If you’ve read our other reports of Napa Rose and Carthay Circle, you know we are huge fans of Andrew. His food is incredible. There is nothing that disappoints.

The appetizer was one of our favorites — fresh, sparkling, sumptuous hamachi crudo. Wow, we could eat this every night.

Kathy’s pork chop was amazing. We aren’t big fans of thick pork chops, but this overcame any objections. The tenderness and flavor was so good, it was addicting. It was huge, so we took the leftovers in a doggy bag and had it with breakfast the next morning. And the mustard potato salad was a delight too. There was none of this left over.

Rich’s salmon with flavors of strawberry and lime was delightful too. The perfectly cooked salmon was bright, rich, and refreshing. We shared a side of the truffled mac & cheese, and this was equally exciting.

For dessert, we asked if we could order off the menu for Andrew Sutton’s creme brulee, and that was no problem for Michael. Soon he came with lovely creme brulee with a candle and a Happy Birthday wish for Kathy.

Everything was fantastic, as always. We chatted with Michael a bit about Andrew Sutton and how he is publicity shy. I said that he must be the best chef no one has heard of. He lets his food speak for itself, and wow, does it speak! Amazing!

After another incredible meal at Napa Rose, we sat in the lobby and listened to some beautiful piano music before we visited the gift shop again where we got a new Disney top for Kathy for her birthday and sunglasses for Rich.

 

Kathy’s July Birthday Trip to Disney and the Beach, Part 1

I’m really struggling to write much of anything these days, but Rich’s birthday trip is coming up and so I really must write up my birthday trip report. I’m so much more into my music and videos these days.(I just finished song #16 for 50/90.) In the future, I may just focus on photos and videos here.

As a side note, we finally got into the pool area for the first time since we got the key (it’s been way too hot to be out there until today, the day after a big rain), and I’ve been promising videos, so here they are:

Summerlin Pool Tour (with narration)
Summerlin Pool Tour (no narration)

Anyway, on with the July birthday trip to Disney(land) and the beach.

We did our usual Friday getaway, but since we’re half an hour north of where we used to live and we were staying in Huntington Beach, that added another half an hour on the trip. Sigh. Really hoping to move back to our old neighborhood after this lease expires.

We did our usual lunch stop in Barstow at Tommy’s (tamale for me, chili hot dog for Rich), checked into our hotel in Huntington Beach, rested up from the trip (so busy in the summer and maybe anytime these days).

For dinner, we drove over to Surf City Tacos via the beach, but this time we knew to get only two tacos to share and they tossed in some chips and salsa.

I woke up really early the next morning on my birthday and knowing how crazy busy the beaches are in the summer, we got up and drove to Newport Beach around 6 am. We found a parking place (one of the few not taken by the surfers), and walked over to Mutt’s, which opens for breakfast at 7:00. We were early so we walked the beach for a bit and then headed over to Mutt’s for breakfast. It was a bit early for cocktails, so when they asked, we passed – lol!

This was the first time we tried breakfast there and it was amazing! Must-go-back!!!

The morning fog was still pretty thick, but it made for a nice morning sitting in our chairs and watching the waves and people. Really a wonderful way for me to spend the morning on my birthday, relaxing on my childhood beach, especially after being away for the last couple of years while we were in Florida.

I remember my mother and step dad used to sneak off early and have breakfast at the beach while we slept. I suppose they figured I was old enough to babysit. 🙂

Anyway, it started getting busy around 9:30-10:00, the sun was coming out, and it was time for us to leave. We ended up in Irvine to take care of some personal business, and then headed back to the hotel for a nap before birthday dinner at Napa Rose.

Residence Inn at Fountain Valley/Huntington Beach

Surf City Tacos

Rich’s Salmon Breakfast at Mutt Lynch’s, Newport Beach

Kathy’s Eggs and Hash with Hash Brown Ribbons (incredible hash browns!)

Port Canaveral: Cruising from Central Florida

Looking back at our most recent time living in Central Florida, we feel immense gratitude for yet another Florida adventure, this time living closer to the beach than Disney World, enjoying beach bars and hanging out at Port Canaveral.

We even celebrated Rich’s birthday cruising to the Bahamas on the Carnival Liberty. So I put together a little video celebrating that time.

Port Canaveral is expanding so whether you’re a local, cruising solely, or combining your cruise with a trip to Disney World, I hope you enjoy it. If so, please like and subscribe to this blog and on youtube.

Thank you!

#Mexico #cruising #Princess #Carnival #Liberty #Bahamas #cruising #Carnival #Cruises #CentralFlorida #DisneyWorld #Florida #fiction