Saturday Recap

A few readers have sent me messages saying they are enjoying the blog so far, and I am grateful for that. Having a regular set of readers is like putting gas in my writing engine. It’s much easier to sit down and write every day if someone out there is reading. So thanks to all of you who keep coming back. Feel free to comment here on the blog – not only does it make me look more legit, it makes me happy. (The first time you comment I will have to approve you. After that you can post at will.)

One reader had a lot to say in regard to my over-zealousness about the Upward Projects restaurants (Windsor, Postino and Federal). Another mentioned that I eat out a lot (implying too much.) Both accusations are true. I stand by my love for my restaurants and my love for having other people serve me food. Speaking of which, I did take a day off blogging this week to go out to another of my faves – Rokerji.

For those of you who live elsewhere, you probably think the best places to go in summer are tiki bars with patios. You enjoy the breeze while you sip mojitos. For us the best thing to do in the summer is go underground and sit by the fire.

07-20-13 Rokerji

 

It reminds us that cooler weather will come again one day. We won’t always be suffocating and oppressed by the sun.

While we were there, the first round of the British Open was on television. I know very little about golf, but I mentioned somewhere on Facebook that I was surprised at how the course looked brown and dry. It was as if the players had left Scottland and headed over to some public course in Glendale. Apparently this is how they like to golf over there, as a friend of a friend pointed out. It makes the game more challenging or something.

I also posted this week about the lack of monsoon activity. We finally got a storm last night – thunder, lighting, pouring rain, the whole sheboodle. I was sad the boys were asleep and missed it. It must have been a big storm too because a tree is down in our neighborhood blocking access to Central. I’m concerned because our new fridge is on its way – I hope the Sears guys find an alternate route.

We decided to take Lola to Smelly Dog since the fridge people will be here and she will either get in the way or cry because we cage her. If you have a dog I highly recommend checking this place out. Lola comes back clean and tired because she gets to play with other dogs. They have a bakery and all sorts of toys and treats. It’s really fun.

On my way to drop her I was reminded of the new French Grocery in our neighborhood. Joe tried to get dinner there one night right when they opened and apparently they had run out of almost everything. I don’t think they properly anticipated the pent-up need for a French market here in Phoenix. I will stop by there this week and give you all my review.

I’ve also had a request to write about the new Diamondbacks mascot. He’s apparently so awful that my friend Julie wants to move out of the state. (Considering all the other terrible things that go on in our state, I find this reaction a bit rash. But she’s very passionate about baseball mascots, apparently.) Since I will be attending a game on Thursday that will be the perfect time to discuss my thoughts on Luchador.

 

Friday Nights at the Club

Joe belongs to the Phoenix Country Club – he joined when we were split up and I was not a fan. More accurately I was what we call in my industry, a detractor. I don’t like the fact that the club had to be sued over the “Men’s Grill”. I don’t like that the entire board of directors is made up of old white guys. I don’t like the sense of entitlement one can taste in the air just by walking through the doors.

Back then, when he first joined, I had to drop my boys off for summer camp. They were 4 and 6 years old, and not used to the golf/tennis/swimming lifestyle. Jack was getting chapped lips, but didn’t tell me until it was time to get out of the car at the club. (I guess I could have noticed, as his whole face looked like he had been sitting too long under a heat lamp.)

On this particular day two years ago, I went into the golf pro shop and asked for some Chapstick for my son and his lips, since he was attending camp and the counselors didn’t have any. There was plenty of balm to be had, but the boys behind the counter looked perplexed when I took out my debit card.

“Uh, ma’am, we don’t take payments here.”

My turn to be perplexed. What does that even mean? Who doesn’t take payments for services rendered.

Places where you can only buy stuff if you are a member are the exact type of places that won’t accept payment. And I wasn’t a member. So I had them look up Joe’s name and signed away the $3. They even gave me his member number, so presumably in the future I could sign more things in the golf shop.

I now go to the club quite a bit. I am not really considered a member, but I have signing privileges, which is enough for me. I still wrestle with the overall idea of the place. But lord almighty is it nice. The gym is beautiful and never crowded, the locker rooms make me want to move in, the pool area has places for people to swim laps as well as a play pool for the kids. And every Friday night they have “Family Night”. During season – when it’s not 750,000 degrees out, they hold this on the back patio. It’s a buffet, so there’s no waiting to feed starving and tired kids, and then they run off to do this:

07-19-13 Club

I cannot explain how delightful it is on a Friday night to a) not have to cook, b) eat really yummy food that I did not have to cook, c) have people bring me wine and d) have my kids entertained. Not only do the children run around and play, there are teenagers around to manage them. It’s heaven.

Sometimes we sit there until the moon comes up.

07-19-13 Club 2

During the summer they have Family Night at the pool. Joe is not a fan because it is outside, and even with misters and outdoor coolers it’s still too hot for him. And he doesn’t like to swim so he can’t cool off that way. So tonight I am taking the boys while he cleans out the fridge. Seems like a good trade-off to me.

 

Out to Lunch

I was lucky enough to go to Chelsea’s Kitchen for lunch today. I don’t get out of the office much – I typically eat at my desk, staring at Power Point slides trying to present data in a meaningful way. This is way more fun than it sounds, at least for me. We recently upgraded to Office 2010, and I have to say the graphics are sweet. Everything looks like its in 3D. I do get an eensy bit tired of the color scheme, having to maintain brand standards and all, but other than that I am smitten.

20 years ago I started my first real job. (And yes, it was almost exactly 20 years ago. July 6, 1993 to be exact.) I worked as a reservations sales agent at Doubletree Hotels and I had just turned 21. Very shortly after being hired, I was promoted to the training department. (The call center environment is a great place to get promoted quickly, as I have learned many times over the years.)

We had extremely limited technology. By limited, I mean we did things like cut clip art out of books with scissors, paste together “newsletters”, make copies, and distribute to our agents. By hand. It was one step up from a mimeograph machine. We also utilized the flip chart excessively. We even attended something called “Flip Chart Clinic” where we learned the best way to present information.

I wish I could go back in time to my 21 year old self and show her these Power Point presentations I create now. I would like to show them to my friend CJW as well, who was a master flipcharter.

So back to my lunch. My dear, amazing, beautiful friend Kim is in town for one week. She has been living in China since right after Jack was born over 8 years ago, and is moving to Portland on Saturday. Somehow everything aligned between my work and her frazzledness of trying to sell a house, and we carved out an hour or so to meet. It’s funny that I felt stressed about picking a place. I settled on Chelsea’s because I do love it, but I feel like I could have done better. We had tacos – short rib and swordfish – and they were delicious. The tortillas seemed a bit off today though. Maybe it is because my friend Matt no longer works there.

I met Kim shortly after we moved back to Phoenix from the Bay Area. I had recently taken up knitting, and Kim started an official Stitch and Bitch group here. This really is a thing. (I even had a knitting blog at one time.) There is a point in my life when Kim and the knitters were my only source of adult conversation, sanity, and friendship in my life. We knit at Changing Hands in Tempe, we once attended a knit-in at an art gallery in downtown Phoenix, and we often went to Postino’s back when they were new.

I found this photo of Kim sitting on the couch at Postino during one of our afternoon knitting sessions. That’s Jack asleep on the couch next to her.

07-17-13 Kim

As I was scrolling through photos and thinking about that time in my life, I realized how many people I had around me to keep me afloat. I was not overly successful at the stay-at-home-mom job. I felt like the ball in a pinball game. These ladies held me still, fed me wine or tea, handed me yarn, held my baby, and somehow convinced me I would live through the next day.

Until.

We went for a playdate at Julie’s one day in the summer of 2005.

07-17-13 Julie

Our boys are a few weeks apart, and as you can see they are very very young. About one minute after this photo was taken, Julie advised me that she was pregnant. I wish I had discovered Xanax back then because I might have reacted better. I may have curled up in a ball on the floor, shaking.

Did I mention I was not a great stay-at-home-mom?

Lunch was a delightful mix of catching up with an old friend, eating good food, and thinking about this past difficult time in my life. This is what I wanted to write about gratitude yesterday, but was not in the right mindset (funny how a Cub Scout meeting can make me want to throw knives or eat glass or something similar.)

I’m grateful to have a job with a flexible schedule that allows me to have lunch with old friends, take my kids to the doctor, and create beautiful Power Point presentations. I’m grateful for the people in my life that keep me sane.

So thank you to Kim, Julie, Sherry, Carla, Michelle, Elissa, Becky, other Becky.  Thank you to my job and my new friends Mark, David, Dina, and Lenny (And even you Aaron and Bruno). Thanks to Joe for raising this mouthy, amazing, energetic kids with me.

I have a lot to be thankful for, and some days it’s easier to remember than others.

Monsoon-not

 

It just rained for about 75 seconds, and we were all so excited we went outside. I even took photos.

This is from the backyard, and the sky looks so lovely.

07-16-13 rain

 

The front yard:

07-16-13 rain 2

Here is what it is like to survive Phoenix in July. It starts by being so hot it typically makes the news. This year the recorded high prior to the monsoon was 119 degrees. You can die if you stay outside.

At some point around 4th of July the rains threaten. Tease, if you will. We wait for the clouds to come, our skin dries and shrivels when we walk to the car. It is the heat from inside an oven, we are not exaggerating when we complain.

Then the clouds come and bring a bit of humidity, which often lowers the temperatures. But sometimes not. Yesterday it was 110 degrees. A dry 110 is manageable. Add 50% humidity and it is the opposite of manageable.

The clouds continue to come. And they don’t rain. Or they rain for some people and not for others. Sometimes we cry when looking at Facebook photos of our friends drenched in Chandler, while we suffer. Sometimes there are dust storms too, and you can actually taste the dust in the air inside your house.

The expectation and hope for rain is constant. And the brief respite from the heat is almost worse. Like a weather version of Flowers for Algernon.

I started this post about 13 hours ago, and intended to talk about gratitude. I guess I’ll have to save that for another day.

 

Our trip to faraway Downtown Phoenix

We live about 6 miles from downtown Phoenix, but the way we act you would think it was as far as Tucson. (Which is 122 miles away, for reference.) When we lined up tickets for a concert last Saturday night and confirmed we had a babysitter, we also booked a hotel. This may seem extreme, but there are three solid reasons behind our decision.

  1. Hotel rates in July in Phoenix are ridiculously low. Because why would you want to come to July in Phoenix unless you are a masochist? Or cost-conscious.
  2. The hotel in question is new, super-cool, and walking distance to the venue.
  3. A cab from the venue to our house would likely cost the same as a hotel. We knew we would be having some cocktails, so driving was not an option.

The Palomar is a Kimpton Hotel at the new-ish City Scape complex. In a previous life I worked in the hotel industry in the Bay Area (Kimpton’s home base), and still retain a great deal of love for a particular type of fun boutiquey place to stay. Palomar does not disappoint on any level.* There used to be few choices downtown, all corporate chains with the personality of a paper plate. This addition to the scene confirms my suspicions that Phoenix is reinventing itself, albeit too slowly for my taste.

After we checked in we had a bit of time before dinner, so we headed to The Blue Hound. Pretentious in the hipster sense, not the country club sense, this place has an ok bar with a view of…Gold’s Gym. (You can also see the blue hound statue from this shot)

07-15-13 Blue Hound

 

Even though I wasn’t overwhelmed by the experience, I did like their setup:

07-15-13 Blue Hound 2

 

It looks like Martha Stewart advised them on the set up.

For dinner we had reservations at Breadfruit. I have wanted to eat here for a long time, but was always a bit skeptical of the Rum Bar aspect of the place. I cannot drink rum at all – likely because my drink of choice in college was to take a Big Gulp from 7-11, fill it half with Diet Coke and half with Bacardi, and drink that all night. I am pretty certain I created a rum allergy in my body. I know I cannot drink rum, so why did I allow the server to convince me to have a rum cocktail? I suppose she was really good at her job, because she described everything as if it would change me into Aphrodite herself.

The service and the food are beyond anything I imagined. Spicy and delicious and flavorful. I had grilled plantains to start and salmon for dinner. Joe had shrimp ceviche and street chicken. Everything was cooked well, and we cleaned our plates. Sadly we did not have dessert (although thinking back I am pretty sure I couldn’t have eaten anything anyway), and left to walk to our concert.

The rum did not agree with me, but luckily it wasn’t too bad. During the opening act (a band called Ours, whose lead singer has not yet learned to move the mic away from his mouth when he’s screaming into it) I started to feel weird. I couldn’t breathe very well and my stomach hurt. I went out front to get some air, but since it was 2.5 billion degrees outside that didn’t help. I went to the bathroom and put a wet paper towel on my face (a known solution to a myriad of problems.) I drank some plain diet coke. I wondered if I was going to pass out, ride in an ambulance, ruin Joe’s night of meeting Peter Murphy.

The Goth Gods were smiling on me, and I went from feeling like I was going to die to feeling completely fine. Go figure.

(*Our room was facing several nightclubs, including SkyBar. We did not arrive back until 1 a.m. but these clubs were still going, and it seemed as though the windows were vibrating. I would suggest if you stay there on a weekend you ask for a room on the opposite side of the property.)

Bela Lugosi’s Dead

Some of you will read this title and think “Duh, he’s been dead for over 50 years.” A lucky few will instead think “What a cool song. I wish those jerks hadn’t split up.”

The song Bela Lugosi’s dead was recorded in 1979 by the band Bauhaus. It’s 9 minutes long – quite a feat since the printed lyrics are only 15 lines – and is considered to be the first goth rock record to be released. (Thanks Wikipedia for that tidbit.)

I didn’t listen to a lot of Bauhaus growing up but Joe did. Last night, we saw former lead singer Peter Murphy at the Crescent Ballroom downtown. We had VIP tickets which included seats, a meet and greet with Peter where he signed a poster for each of us, and a shirt.

 

07-14-13 Peter Murphy

This is only my second time at Crescent Ballroom and I have to say having a seat makes all the difference. It’s small enough of a room that you can see everything perfectly, and the fans blow right on you so it never gets hot. When we saw Dinosaur Jr. there a few months ago it was difficult to see the stage and quite warm. It is far far superior to seeing a show at Marquee Theater, I will give you that.

Seeing Peter Murphy live was like going back in time for Joe – and clearly for many of the people in the audience. I saw many old school concert shirts – PIL and Samhain are the only two I can remember.

Joe wondered aloud what music will be like this for our boys. Quite likely the singers that will impact them are not even known yet. They are still in their garages and bedrooms, singing badly and practicing their guitars and drums. I know whatever they listen to from age 13 to about 25 will have a huge impact on them as it did for us, and I also know that I will likely hate whatever that music is. Such is the cycle of life I suppose.

Seeing Peter Murphy last night made me realize how different life is than we expected it to be as youngsters. When Bauhaus broke up, the other three members joined together to form Love and Rockets. Peter kept on singing – his voice is strong and clear and powerful and it was obvious he enjoyed the night even when he had to put on reading glasses to operate some complicated instrument. I’m betting the younger version of Peter couldn’t imagine this night at the Crescent in Phoenix, just like I often can’t believe I chase around after two kids and a dog.

Stay tuned tomorrow for my thoughts on the Palomar Hotel and Breadfruit restaurant. (And an exciting description of my allergic reaction to rum!)

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday Recap

In the past week, a few readers have raised some important questions.

1. Shouldn’t business owners be allowed vacation?

2. What’s so wrong with Gilbert anyway?

3. Does Obama have anything to do with Sam Fox restaurants?

4. What are the implications of paying $17 for a movie ticket?

I would like to address these items, but first I must rant a little about another local, independent restaurant right down the street from my house. Maybe this overlaps with #1.

Today we dropped the kids with Grandma Gloria, because we have a Big Night Out planned. (Come back tomorrow! Peter Murphy concert at Crescent Ballroom. The Palomar Hotel. Breadfruit Restaurant. Ok, you’ll likely have to come back for a few days for me to cover all these topics.)

It was lunchtime, we were hungry, and since we are trying to clear out the fridge for the new fridge’s arrival, we don’t have much to eat at home. Joe suggested perhaps we try to find somewhere other than our usual Windsor/Federal Pizza/Postino choice. We tossed around Hillstone (which I adore, even though it is a chain), but decided spending $100 on lunch was not a great plan. We searched for places with happy hours and found that Maizie’s Happy Hour starts at 2. Perfect.

Now, my relationship with Maizie’s is a bit spotty. I went once on a Sunday afternoon and they close at 4. They had a note that they close at 4 because the owners want to spend time with their families.

I completely agree that people should spend time with their families, they should have a break, they need vacation and down time. Why on earth does that mean the entire restaurant needs to be closed? Again, is there not a single person in the world you can trust to keep your store running in your absence?

I agreed to go, and give them another try. It’s a cute little place, not kid-friendly at all (I did take the boys there for breakfast once – huge huge mistake), decent wine and beer selection, and the food is ok. We got there around 2 and the place was practically empty. But still cute. Everyone was friendly and we got to choose our own table.

But then we noticed on the menu that Happy Hour doesn’t start until 4. Oops. The whole point of going out to lunch was to not spend too much money. So we asked about the discrepancy. The server nicely told us that it used to start at 2 but the owners decided to switch it to 4 a few months back.

That seems like such a good idea. I guess the five guests didn’t mind paying full price at 2 in the afternoon.

We left. And yes, we go here too much, but I have to say these guys are smart. While Maizie’s sits empty, Windsor is packed to the gills. (We clearly spend a lot of time at this place because our server asked where the boys were today. Ha.)

07-13-13 Windsor 2

So in a way I guess this does address #1. Yes, business owners have the right to go on vacation, close early on Sunday, charge more for wine in the middle of the day. Totally their choice. And my choice to go eat somewhere that serves me $5 wine.

Now on to #2.

Gilbert is a town East of Phoenix (and East of Tempe, and East of Mesa) where some people I know still live. I grew up on the Tempe/Chandler border. I know this area quite well, and it has zero draw for me outside of the people I know. My oldest friend in the world lives out there. It is far – like 30 miles away. And there is nothing of note in the entire city that would make me go there.

Does that make me snobby? I’m not sure. Maybe Gilbert needs to step up its game and have something to draw people in, other than Applebee’s and Subway. Having a Postino is amazing, but I’m not going to drive across town to go to a restaurant that is on my street.

So unless you live in Gilbert, or near there, I still can’t think of a reason to go. I also don’t go to Peoria, or Avondale, or Surprise. Mesa has a great yarn shop (and not really anything else), Scottsdale I can stand in small doses, Tempe has Ikea and my car dealership. Gilbert? They’ve got a whole lot of nothing.

#3

A reader suggested that only Obama supporters go to Fox Restaurants. Granted, that reader was drinking at the time of his comment, but it still makes very little sense.

There are some good Fox restaurants out there. I particularly like True Food. And Olive and Ivy is fun as long as you don’t get caught up in the scene. And it was better when I could eat bread.

So I have to say that eating a Fox Restaurant has nothing to do with political affiliation and more to do with what you want your dining experience to look like. If you want a scene, mediocre food, and a giant bill, you’re in luck. That’s all I have to say about that.

We are on to #4, where a reader suggested that $17 is too much to pay for a movie ticket. This reader has clearly never been to the Esplanade Cinema Suites. Recliners! Wine! NO CHILDREN. I cannot stress this enough. There are not children anywhere in the theater. I would likely pay $50 for that experience.

So there is the recap of the week. I’m getting ready to take a nap now, because we are going to the “Meet and Greet” with Peter Murphy after the show tonight. I don’t anticipate being in bed before 3. That is unusual for me, and I only hope I don’t fall asleep standing up somewhere.