Thursday, January 2, 2014

By Land and By Sea

Last fall, I received an unexpected call from my best friend advising that she would be working in the bay area for a couple of weeks. My best friend and I have not resided in the same state for eight years - she currently resides in Denver. When I left New Mexico in 2005, we made a vow that we would try to visit one another at least once a year. We've done pretty well - she's visited me in Houston, I've visited her in New Mexico and Colorado, and we've gone on vacations to Orlando, Los Angeles, Scottsdale, and Las Vegas through the years. I was worried, however, that 2013 was going to pass without our annual visit, so I was elated to hear she would be in California!

Being that she was in California primarily for work, and I also work during the week, we knew we only had the weekend before she started and one weekend while she was here to get together and hang out. I drove to pick her up at the airport in Sacramento (long story - mishap with her travel arrangements left her stranded!), and we made our way to Fairfield to get her settled in to her hotel. We had planned to spend all day in San Francisco, but the delay set us back a bit so we made the most of the time we had.

After toiling about in the various gift shops near Pier 39, my best friend and I spied a fishing boat offering tours of the bay for $10. I had taken a similar tour a long time ago, and assured her we'd be ok. The one hour tour was cold, wet, and lots of fun! We sat with two girls visiting from Spain on holiday, and they were a hoot. They got a kick out of trying to translate our Spanglish into words and phrases they could understand.

One of the main highlights of the tour was going under the famed Golden Gate Bridge. This beautiful bridge is a favorite of mine, and it was a treat to take my best friend under it. The day had been fairly foggy, but luckily the fog momentarily dissipated while we went under it. Legend says that wishes made under this bridge come true - fingers crossed!

The boat captain made sure to point out many of the attractions as we boated around the bay, but the other highlight had to be when we went very near and around Alcatraz. For those unaware, Alcatraz (aka The Rock) is a famed, now defunct prison located a mile and a half from the city of San Francisco. Although left largely untouched by natives who occupied the bay area, the Spanish attempted to build it on when they first arrived. It later served as a military base/prison and a federal prison, for which it is most widely known. It is said that no prisoner ever successfully escaped the penitentiary, although many tried. Our tour guide said the sea surrounding the island is known for great white sharks, but we happily didn't see any that day. After our tour ended, I took her to quickly see a couple of my favorite San Francisco landmarks, including Lombard Street (the city's famed crooked street) and The Cliff House (for one of the best dinners I've had in a long time). 

After a very long day, I took my friend to her hotel in Fairfield and stayed the night with her there. My friend told me that Fairfield is known for being the home of the Jelly Belly factory, so I immediately made plans to hit that tour on my way home the next day. The Jelly Belly factory, formerly known as the Herman Goelitz Candy Company, was founded in 1869. Although famous today primarily for their Jelly Belly beans, the company didn't actually start making them until over 100 years later. 

The Jelly Belly tour gave a great overview of the history of the company, the popularity catapult that came from Ronald Reagan, and showed you how Jelly Bellies (and Jelly Belly art) is made. The tour is well done, and includes video of the factory at work in case you happen to go on an off day like I did. I won't spoil the surprises that await inside, but would wholeheartedly recommend it. The tour takes only 45 minutes, and is totally free. One recommendation - go early! I was among the first in line, but the wait when my tour ended was already at 30 minutes... and this was on a Sunday!

The following weekend, my best friend drove down to SoCal to visit me. It was nice showing her where I live and work, but we both knew we'd have more fun if we drove a little further down to LA. So... off we went! I gave her my "quickie" tour, taking her to see the Hollywood Sign, the Universal Studios Overlook, and around many of studios in Burbank. 

My personal favorite studio to stalk if you're not actually going to go in and take the tour is Warner Brothers Studio. You can see so much without going inside. My best friend and I totally started singing the Animaniacs song as soon as we saw the water tower. We're such dorks sometimes.

All that driving made us hungry, so stopped in for a bite for our favorite Mexican place - Don Antonios! We first discovered this restaurant while on vacation in Lala land back in 2007. I was a big fan of The Hills at the time, and had watched the stars of the show dine there on more than one occasion. Being that we both love Mexican food, but neither knew the city well during our visit - we decided to give it a try. It was love at first bite! 

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and my best friend's temporary job in Fairfield came to an end. She flew back to Denver to go back to her home office the following weekend, and I've missed her ever since. We're both hoping she gets promoted to a position in the bay area soon, so perhaps more California adventures are in the works for the two of us in 2014. Only time will tell!

Until next time...

--- Becks 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A Farewell to 2013

Happy New Year, y'all!

It's time, once again, to say adios to the year that was. I can't say 2013 was awesome or bad... it definitely has to be reviewed month by month. The only "bad" months had to be February through May, but even then I couldn't describe any one part as awful or unbearable. And I definitely had a lot of wonderful moments this year that will last with me for a lifetime! Last year certainly beat 2012, which is more than I could have asked for. 2014 will bring many endings and new beginnings for me - some good, some bad, and some bittersweet. It will definitely be an interesting year! But before I get too far along into 2014, I thought I better recap the year that was before it becomes a distant memory. 


The start of my second full year in California! Woohoo!
Started off my new year sick with a cold, but eager to start the year off right.
Spent New Year's Day in Ventura, CA watching the first sunset of the year with my dog.
My very good friend E came to visit! So much fun having him here and showing him around my new home. 


Spent the first two weeks in Houston, TX for work. Enjoyed seeing coworkers, family, and friends!
Visited the Oscar red carpet, the space shuttle (Endeavor), and touring the La Brea Tar Pits. Read more here.
(Editors Note: The post was made after my brother left, but pictures/events were in February.)


No pictures to share this month. Spent two and a half weeks sick with pneumonia again. 
Reviewed my actual wants in life (vs. needs), and decided what I really want. 
Revised my bucketlist.


Attended Giuliana Rancic's keynote lunch at a business conference, spurring a whole slew of adventures!
Faced and made a decision that changed the course of so very many, many things for my life.
Finally met my longtime internet friend, Pinky Lovejoy!
The month of many celebrity meetings, including: Keith Coogan (the now-husband of my aforementioned friend), Lou Ferrigno, Diane Ladd, Jeremy Miller, MICHAEL FREAKING CUDLITZ (pictured), C. Thomas "Tommy" Howell, Omarosa Manigault, James Gandolfini, Jennifer Tilly, Blake Lewis, Brian Baumgartner, Shanna Moakler, and Adrian Young. Totally weird, cool, and fun!


Made another huge decision (geez - it was a weird first half of the year) that directed my path this year.
Met new friends at my lovely friend Pinky's birthday party in LA.
Went on an amazing trip to New Mexico with my friend E. We visited churches, I showed him around Albuquerque and Santa Fe, and introduced him to some of my best friends!


June was an incredibly busy travel month for me.
First, I went to Washington, DC for both work and pleasure. 
During my trip, I got to tour the sobering Arlington National Cemetery, toured the amazing monuments in town both during the day and at night, met some interesting politicians on Capitol Hill, and walked around the lovely Library of Congress.

My mom and brother visited to drop off my niece. I took them to both LA and San Francisco during their brief visit. 

My niece stayed with me for the rest of the month, leading to many adventures (part 1 and part 2).


July kicked off with a road-trip across four states and back with my niece. 
Spent the Fourth of July visiting Ouray and driving up the Million Dollar Highway
I spent most of this month working really hard - lots of unpaid overtime (salary... lame). ; )


I spent most of August preparing for a big year in my volunteer world. I officially started my post as a committee chair in Junior League and as the President of a local industry association.

My BFF came to visit! Technically, she went to the bay area for work... but we got to spend a lot of quality time together while she was in CA. I spent one weekend in the bay area with her visiting San Francisco and Fairfield, and she spent the following weekend visiting me in SoCal. We had so much fun! I really miss her.


September was the month of working hard and playing harder.
I started the month with a trip to San Diego for a work conference - not a bad view for the week. ; )
During the trip I visited Old Town, took a wine tour via train, and visited Balboa Park.

I also traveled to Seattle for a separate, work related trip. It was fun seeing old friends while making new ones!
 In addition to meetings, I did the Underground Tour, visited Chihuly Gardens, and had dinner with a friend.
I spent the remainder of the month planning events for the rest of the year. Never a dull moment.


I kicked off October with the Dearly Departed Tour with a new friend. It was creepy, but cool.
My mother came to town the following week to visit for my birthday. We had a BLAST!
We toured the Huntington Library and Gardens, visited Ventura, and went on the Paramount Studio Tour!
I was invited to several weddings in October & November, but was only able to go to two due to travel plans. : (
(Many congrats to my friends in Houston and to Miss Pinky Lovejoy of CA on their nuptials!!!)

I ended my month in Minneapolis for another work conference. The fall leaves on the trees were beautiful!
During my trip, I met colleagues from around the world, and also ran into Wilson Cruz!


November started with yet another wedding of a good friend and colleague in Camarillo. It was gorgeous!
Later in the month, a new friend of mine and I went to meet RJ Mitte from Breaking Bad down in LA! So cool!

I ended the month by driving east to New Mexico to visit my family for Thanksgiving. The trip was unexpectedly extended when my car broke down the day I left! (Stupid German-made cars!). Still, the extended visit was nice and I was glad to have the support of my family while I figured out a solution to get me home.


I ended the year incredibly busy with work. I can't believe how much I get done this time of year!
I enjoyed helping coordinate a donation drive for a local family in need for Christmas, and had fun making snacks for my colleagues at work (biscochitos, if you're curious).

I ended the month with yet another long drive back to New Mexico to see my family for Christmas.

All in all, 2013 proved to be an interesting year! I am truly blessed with my life, and don't take an ounce of it for granted. I had a lot of fun last year, made a lot of new friends both near and far, and made decisions that I am hoping will help catapult me into the direction of my dreams in 2014 and beyond. I hope each of you had an equally fun if not sometimes challenging year! It is these challenges, after all, that help us to grow! Here's hoping that your 2014 brings you all the love, laughter, and light your soul can handle! Cheers!

Until next time...

--- Becks

PS - I know I've been horrible at keeping up this blog, as evidenced by my lack of blog links post-July. I'll try to get y'all caught up, and will be better going forward. Promise! See you soon!