Ah, Los Angeles. The setting for the second part of our California Family Adventure. [Part 1] After one last large and delicious omelet from Grandma Bev, Jay and I were off to visit more of his family in Los Angeles County. We began the LA portion of our trip around 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, February 16. Our original plan was to rent another car and drive up to the desert, where Jay’s paternal grandparents live. We were very fortunate that his aunt and father, Jerry, ended up driving down to pick us up.
Jay’s grandparents live in Littlerock, California, which I believe is in Antelope Valley. That’s where we spent Saturday, Sunday, and Monday morning. In addition to Jerry and Aunt Cindy, his other aunt and uncle – Aunt Mary and Uncle Brett – were also visiting his grandparents’ house for the weekend. It was one big party up in the desert. The first day, we pretty much all hung out at the house and caught up. You know how I said we ate a lot in San Diego? Well, that didn’t stop once we got to LA. I think by the end of the trip, I had eaten more in the week we were there than I would normally eat in 3 weeks.
Saturday was a lot of fun. When we arrived, we were surprised with a beautiful wedding quilt that Jay’s grandma and aunts were working on for us. They had asked us two years ago what colors or patterns we’d be interested in. We had said green and purple for each of our favorite colors and to surprise us with a pattern. Honestly, I had forgotten that they were making it. The quilt is stunning. It’s not quite done yet, but I cannot wait until it is finished. That night, Aunt Cindy, Aunt Mary, and Grandma Ruth cooked up some homemade chicken and noodles. That night was when the “fun” really started. They’re all really competitive. I’m pretty much the opposite. However, I love watching everyone play games and have just as much fun as a spectator as they do trying to kick each others’ asses, lol. The big event of the night was poker. They played for hours and it was so much fun. I think they called it a night around midnight, so we finished the evening by all watching the Saturday Night Live hosted by Christoph Waltz.
Our wedding quilt. Can’t wait until it is done.
Family poker gets heated…
On Sunday morning, we woke up and ate some more! Whereas Grandma Bev is famous for her omelets, Grandma Ruth is a champion sausage biscuits & gravy maker. There was also Aunt Cindy’s homemade organic jams and BACON! I could have gotten away with just a small helping of the sausage biscuits and gravy portion, but once I saw that there was butter & jam for the warm biscuits, I wavered in my “listen to your already stuffed full body!” resolve. When the bacon came out, I was done for. I sound like a broken record, but it was so delicious. After breakfast on Sunday, it was time for another family tradition: Cornhole. I’m awful at all things involving hand/eye coordination, so I thought I could get away with sitting it out, but Uncle Brett wouldn’t let me! I ended up scoring like 3 points out of 21, so…yay? It was a lot of fun, though. I played in my pajamas, which was even better! At some pointed, I decided to shower.
A shot of the cornhole playing field.
Cornhole in my pajamas.
After I showered, I discovered that Jay’s grandpa brought out a big jar of coins he’d been throwing his spare change into. Aunt Mary & I dumped it on the floor and started looking for all the exclusive state quarters. [If you’re not familiar with U.S. money, starting in 1999, the U.S. quarter was released with different backs. Each back was in honor of each of the 50 states and territories. Five were released each year in the order that each state was ratified.] We went through all of it, then had enough so that both of us had almost a complete set of state quarters. When I was younger, my dad and I collected coins together, so I’m always on the lookout for coins that could be valuable even though I don’t actively seek them out anymore. I’m missing Michigan and Minnesota; I believe Aunt Mary is just missing Michigan.
After we finished our coin collecting extravaganza, it was time to get crafty! This will be covered more in depth in a future blog post dedicate solely to it, but Aunt Cindy and Aunt Mary are craft extraordinaires. They’re newest kick is making things out of beach glass and shells – jewelry, Christmas ornaments, wind chimes, candle holders, etc. What they’ve made is absolutely stunning. Aunt Cindy gave me a necklace made out of a piece of beach glass shaped like a heart. I really wanted to see how they make such beautiful pieces of jewelry, so she gave me a tutorial. You’ve got to be really patient and incredibly talented to make this stuff, so I can see why their projects turn out so beautifully. I’m trying to convince them to set up a store on Etsy to sell some of the stuff they’ve made. I really think they’d be successful.
We hit up In-N-Out Burger for dinner. Everyone was shocked that we hadn’t gone yet. I’m truly not kidding when I say that we were so well fed during our time in California that I still don’t have my full appetite back two weeks later. It was worth every last calorie, though. Aunt Cindy, Uncle Brett, and Aunt Mary all had to go back home on Sunday night, but before they left, we got another good hour or so of poker in. I still sat out, but this time had a more active role as Jay’s “partner.” Everyone kept making me laugh, though, and just assuming that meant we had a good hand. I solved that problem by pulling the hood of my sweatshirt up, slipping on Uncle Brett’s sunglasses, and trying to sit as stoic as possible. Oh man, it was so funny. Another really fun poker night.
My pokerface get-up.
On Monday morning, we met one of Jay’s second cousin and her husband. We left the desert around noon and set sail for Uncle Brett and Aunt Mary’s house in Oxnard, CA in Ventura County. They were both at work, but Aunt Cindy met us all there and the six of us – Aunt Cindy, Jay’s grandparents, Jerry, Jay, and I – drove up the coast to the beach at Rincon Point. We walked along the beach for a while, looking for interesting finds. It was much chillier at that beach than it was mere days earlier at the beach in La Jolla! Post beach, we – surprise! – went to eat again. This time, it was at a little taco joint called Spencer Makenzie’s Fish Company. I got a chicken taco that’s one of the best I’ve ever had. With (even more) full bellies, we walked around Downtown Ventura. Let me tell you – that area is awesome! What a freaking cool town to walk around. We actually ended up having a thrift shop adventure. I’m not generally a big thrift shop shopper because the way things are organized is too confusing for me. My brain doesn’t work fast enough to be able to spot the real gems in those types of stores. We all got really lucky while checking out some thrift stores on that main street. A while back in 2008, I collected all the British editions of the Harry Potter series. I collected the children’s editions. At the first thrift store we were in, I spotted a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone out of the corner of my eye. It was the adult British cover! That find kicked off the start of what would be a four thrift store tour. We didn’t find any more books, but Jay did score the original Stars Wars on VHS at the second store. I’m talking VHS tapes from before George Lucas made any changes to them. He found A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. We looked in two more stores to find Empire Strikes Back, but alas, we came up empty handed. Seriously, though, we were both pretty stoked with the finds. It was so cool.
Outside the mission in Ventura.
Sunset in Downtown Ventura.
When we were finished in Ventura, we went back to the house and met up with Aunt Mary and Uncle Brett. It was time for one last family dinner. This time, we went to a Hibachi restaurant called O-Sabi. As everyone knows, I love me some Hibachi, so I was thrilled to have some West Coast Hibachi. They had told the waitress and chef that it was a belated birthday dinner for me, so the staff sang “Happy Birthday” to me at the end of the night. Our chef was hilarious. The food was good, but the family time was even better. It’s so nice to have not one great family (my own, duh), but three great families. I’m a lucky gal. We finished the night with another poker game. This time, I did play. No, I didn’t lose money!
The next day, Tuesday, Feb. 19, was our final day in California. Aunt Cindy took us to say goodbye to Aunt Mary at work and I got a smoothie and a shot of wheatgrass at a local Robeks. Oh, did I miss smoothies and wheatgrass. I had actually stopped in a smoothie joint as we were leaving Ventura the night before and gotten a shot of wheatgrass. I never thought I’d say this, but wheatgrass is so much cheaper in California. It was over $1 cheaper for a one ounce shot. I couldn’t believe it. The smoothie was awesome, too. I wish there were Robeks in Raleigh; I’d go there over Keva Juice now that they’ve raised their prices for the 3rd time within the past year and a half. After the smoothie, it was time to leave for the airport. We said goodbye to Aunt Cindy and headed down to LAX with Jerry. We took the Pacific Coast Highway down and got one last look at the pretty California coastal scenery.
We got to LAX pretty early, so we decided to – wait for it – eat again! We went to that In-N-Out Burger that’s next to the airport. I wasn’t hungry at all, but I had gone so far and filled myself up so much that I figured it wasn’t so much “Go big or go home” as it was “Go big because you’re going home.” That worked out, because we left California at 4:00 p.m. PST and didn’t land in Raleigh until 1:00 a.m. EST. Zoe was pissed when we got home, so I can’t say that I got much sleep that night. She didn’t just cry all night, she wailed. Jay had to be at work at 7:00 a.m., so he went to bed within 10 minutes of walking through the door at 1:35 a.m. I stayed up until about 2:00 a.m., then laid in bed trying to keep Zoe quiet until about 6:00 a.m. when Jay woke up. She wouldn’t just whine. She jumped all over me, rolled herself on my chest, and generally expressed her anger at being left alone/relief and happiness that we were finally home. My cat is spoiled. I finally fell solidly asleep at 6 because she followed him out to the living room to cry in his general direction at that point, haha.
We had a GREAT trip to California. I’m so happy we went and got to see everyone during a time when we weren’t zombies from Comic-Con. I hope we can get back there again next year. Thanks to everyone who hosted and fed us! We love you all and really appreciate it!