Catching Up With Tasty Treats at Disney and the Beach, Day 1

We left Las Vegas at around 9:00 but since we’re 30 minutes north of where we used to live, we basically left at our usual 9:30 departure time, arriving around 1:30/2:00 pm with our usual lunch stop at Tommy’s in Barstow.

TamaleTommy’s Tamale – Yum!!

This was our first trip from LV to SoCal in our Black Challenger, although the one we rented at LAX last summer was exactly the same – lol!

Btw, Las Vegas is booming again and has grown quite a bit since we left in May of 2017, and this is felt on the Vegas freeways and on I-15 from LV to SoCal. We also noticed the change in Inspection station, which is now much closer to the Cal/Neva border than it was before. Fridays used to be pretty smooth sailing, but now it feels more like a Saturday.

Also, instead of staying near Disneyland, we chose to stay in Huntington Beach so we had another half hour on the other end of the drive. But we were more in the mood to relax at the beach than spend most of our time at Disneyland since we weren’t planning on entering the parks this trip.

After settling into our room, we took a nap and instead of going out for dinner, we opted to make something in our villa. Pizza, as I recall, with some wine we’d brought from home. It felt so good to be here again!

The two-story villa (instead of high rise) is nice for a change

Studio with King Bed

Convenient to have a kitchen – our version of DVC

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip/Cruise, Day Six: LAX to MCO (Final Thoughts)

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to Ensenada cruise, Disneyland Resort, Newport Beach
What: Carnival Imagination, Residence Inn, Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
When: July 11-16, 2018
Why: Kathy’s Birthday Celebration (Catching up with SoCal)

We got up early the next morning, had coffee in the room, and dropped off the rental car at National. The shuttle was waiting for us and then we were dropped off at the American Airline terminal at LAX. We didn’t get Pre-TSA this time so we had to take off our shoes. I hate walking on the bare floor and I kicked myself for not bringing socks.

So then we walked to our gate, scoped out some breakfast and Rich got us each a coffee and something, which I don’t remember. Dunkin Donuts had a huge line so he got something else. He also stopped at Sees Candy (favorite West Coat candy company) and got us a box of milk chocolate/dark chocolate creams.

We had a pretty uneventful flight – we had the usual turkey wrap but this time also got a glass of wine. We were both dreading going home to a house without Skipper, but we were eager to be there to comfort Shadow and Daisy.

Overall, this was a fantastic trip! We had so many things we longed to touch and didn’t get to them all – like the Disney parks. But the Napa Rose dinner was so awesome that I felt like I’d had the best Disney experience I could have had as part of the trip.

The sadness of losing Skipper hung over it all, though, and we are still grieving. First, I was mostly depressed. I longed to cry but tears were very far away – buried deeply. He may have been a cat but he’d been our special boy for 18 years!!

Shadow has been racing around letting out primordial screams. Skipper had been his “big daddy” for almost 4.5 years and he adored him. He seems to be getting better and yesterday I started to release some tears and we grieved together so maybe we’re on our way. It took three months after Lovey to even think about moving on without her so I’m sure we’ve got some time to heal.

And losing Skipper has caused us to miss Lovey and Buddy all over again. They were the 3 Musketeers, the family we had had for so long. How could they be gone?

Skipper, April 9, 2000 to July 11, 2018

But Shadow and Daisy are special, too, and we’re just beginning to see what this family might look like. They love to snuggle with each other and Daisy is a lot like Skipper – she even has his tail. We sometimes call her “Skipper girl.”

Daisy with her “Skipper” tail (left) and
“Big Brother” Shadow

We’ve booked a cruise for Rich’s birthday next month. These cruises are a much-needed release from all that’s going on and we’re so looking forward to it.

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip/Cruise, Day One, Part Three: Napa Rose

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to Ensenada cruise, Disneyland Resort, Newport Beach
What: Carnival Imagination, Residence Inn, Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
When: July 11-16, 2018
Why: Kathy’s Birthday Celebration (Catching up with SoCal)

Birthday Dinner at Napa Rose

We were enjoying sipping our Pinot Noir in the Napa Rose Lounge when a server came by, told us our table was ready and carried our wine as she led us to our table. We were seated at a table for two near the open kitchen where I could watch Andrew Sutton cook. If you’ve read our prior Napa Rose reports, you’ll know I am a big fan of Andrew Sutton and his food.

Our server, excellent throughout our meal, took our order and brought us a basket of delicious breads, including tasty rosemary rolls and delightful parmesan crisps.


Appetizer (Shared)

Barbequed Bristol Bay Diver Scallop
with Forager Mushrooms, Apple Bacon, and Summer Peaches

Entree (Rich & Kathy)

Grilled Creekstone Farms “Prime” New York (Medium Rare)
Bone Marrow Fritter, Onion Fondue, and Mustard Crème

Wine (Rich & Kathy)

MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir

Dessert (Shared)

Valrhona Blond Chocolate Crunch Covered in Dark Chocolate Ganache
Caramelized Bananas and Honey Sauce

We always wanted to try the diver scallop appetizer at Napa Rose, and we finally got our chance. Andrew Sutton changes the preparation often, and this preparation was exquisite. This has to be the best scallop we’ve ever had. Amazing!

We both ordered the New York Strip. Sometimes a steak is just a steak, but not at Napa Rose. Cooked perfectly, the steak was luscious, juicy, and seasoned splendidly. The accompaniments were good, but the steak was the star.

Since it was Kathy’s birthday, our server offered her a free dessert from the menu. She chose the Valrhona chocolate dessert that we shared. What can we say? YUM! That about sums it up. It was rich, chocolaty, and, well, incredible.

This was our best Napa Rose experience, even better than the Chef’s Counter. The service, food, and atmosphere were delightful. This was a fantastic way to start the celebration for Kathy’s birthday and kick off her birthday trip.

Bread Service

The Amazing Scallops

Awesome Steak

Complimentary Birthday Dessert

Kathy’s Comments: Looking at the photos, it might seem as if we were skimping but neither of us could finish our steak – Rich left a couple of bites on his plate and we took about half of mine back to the hotel, stored it in the fridge, and the next morning heated it up with the hotel eggs and had Steak and eggs for breakfast, which was absolutely scrumptious the next day.


“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip/Cruise, Day One, Part Two

Who: Rich and Kathy
Where: Los Angeles to Ensenada cruise, Disneyland Resort, Newport Beach
What: Carnival Imagination, Residence Inn, Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
When: July 11-16, 2018
Why: Kathy’s Birthday Celebration (Catching up with SoCal)

Picking up the story where we left off in Part 1 (pulling over to figure out how to get to 405S and to make arrangements for Skipper with our pet sitter), we found our way to the freeway, amazingly enough. We were both quite devastated over the news and I suggested we cancel my birthday dinner at Napa Rose and just rest up at the hotel before boarding our ship the next day. The good news was that when we picked up our car in the Emerald Aisle, a black Challenger just like ours at home was sitting there waiting for us. Amazing. We’ve never seen a sporty car like that in the Emerald Aisle. So we were at least feeling comfortable driving a familiar car in the midst of all this craziness.

We were also happy we’d chosen the Residence Inn in Garden Grove just a few miles from Disneyland. We’d stayed there many times when we came in from Las Vegas and it felt like home. We’d booked and unbooked so many choices before we finally settled on this hotel, and we were glad we’d stuck with this choice. By the time we arrived at the hotel, we decided we should go ahead and celebrate and keep our dinner reservation at Napa Rose. Skipper would have wanted it that way.

We checked in and relaxed for a few hours and then valet parked the car at the Grand Californian. Unfortunately, the porte cochere was under some sort of refurbishment and we had to park over by the Conference Center, which meant a roundabout walk to the lobby. We admired the lobby, the oh so familiar Hearthstone Lounge, and our favorite gift shop before heading into Napa Rose a bit early. They seated us at a table in the Napa Rose Lounge and asked if I’d like a birthday pin. I said yes and we ordered a couple of glasses of MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir for old times’ sake.

Rich will write about the actual dinner. But let me say that this was our best experience at Napa Rose and the Napa Rose staff surprised me with so many wonderful birthday touches – far more than they had before. Maybe because Andrew Sutton was in the house and everybody outdid themselves. 🙂

And now for a few pics – we’d made a pact that we wouldn’t take any photos of each other because after travel day and the news about Skipper, we decided it would be best not to.

“Good Neighbor” Residence Inn Hotel along Hotel Row, Harbor Blvd., Garden Grove/Anaheim with our Black Challenger rental car (just like Home)

The Grand Californian Lobby – a site for sore eyes!

Our usual table at Hearthstone Lounge – ah….

A glass of MacMurray Ranch Pinot Noir in the Napa Rose Lounge while we wait for our 7:30 p.m. reservation

“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip (Pre-Trip Report) Updated

So excited, I’m jumping up and down! We’ve been going back and forth with how to celebrate my birthday in SoCal. Longing for home, we’ve booked and unbooked hotels near the beach, near Disneyland, and then finally booked a cruise. But I started to miss Disneyland. So, here are the latest plans:


MCO to LAX, check into Anaheim Hilton. Dinner at Napa Rose


Drive to Huntington Beach, breakfast at Norm’s, then drive up PCH to Long Beach where we will board Carnival cruise ship at the new terminal – can’t wait to try the new terminal! Cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada, round trip.


Day at Sea – Sea Day Brunch, Chef’s Table birthday dinner


Ensenada – booked a wine and lunch excursion in the vineyards. Were so wowed by the vineyards in Ensenada several years ago. Who knew Ensenada had such a wine culture? You usually think of Tequila when you think of Mexico.


Return to Long Beach. Drive to Disneyland – get park hopper – do Disneyland in the morning, check into Anaheim Hilton for afternoon rest, and then back to DCA for the evening – Dinner at Carthay Circle (martinis and amazing biscuits, here we come!)



I’m so stoked about getting to do Disneyland, the beach, and a cruise for my birthday! In the meantime, we’ve got a little overnight trip planned for Epcot and the MK as a pet sitter test run. She seems really great and was recommended by our visit but it’s always good to do a short trip close to home before flying across the country and going out to sea. Just in case anything needs to be ironed out.


“Highlights of SoCal” Birthday Trip (Pre-Trip Report)

You might recall we’d booked the Paradise Pier Hotel at Disneyland Resort for my birthday in July. It’s a semi-milestone year for me and feeling homesick, I really want to get back to SoCal. On a side note, Valerie, our Vegas petsitter, originally from Long Beach, and her husband moved to Long Island, NY two years ago and she’s having the same homesickness. “I didn’t know it would be this hard,” she said. I knew it was hard, but I didn’t know I would miss “home” so much so early this time around.

Anyhoo, what to do, what to do to make the most of this trip to get that feeling of home? We have booked and unbooked and rebooked so many different things. Including Paradise Pier. Some of you may remember the time we stayed there about 10 years ago (the “Big Kahuna Family”) with all of our trials and said we’d never stay there again. For one thing, it’s an awfully long walk to the parks and you can no longer cut through the GC to get to DCA due to security reasons. Bummer!

And we love to cruise. And, as I mentioned in yesterday’s Flower & Garden post, we’re missing Mexico!

Really thinking hard about spending the whole trip hiking around the parks and getting to/from them, especially with this latest hip flare-up at Epcot. It’s too bad the GC is so outrageously expensive these days – that’s the resort we truly love. So we changed it up. Here are the new plans:


MCO to LAX, check into Queen Mary area hotel (not staying at the Queen Mary again – yikes!) Have dinner/drinks at our favorite restaurants/bars on the Queen Mary.


Board Carnival cruise ship at the new Long Beach terminal – can’t wait to try the new terminal! Cruise from Long Beach to Ensenada, round trip.


Day at Sea – Sea Day Brunch


Ensenada – booked a wine and lunch excursion in the vineyards. Were so wowed by the vineyards in Ensenada several years ago. Who knew Ensenada had such a wine culture? You usually think of Tequila when you think of Mexico.


Return to Long Beach. Drive to Huntington Beach, grab a burger at In N out, catch up with my beach cities and check into hotel in Anaheim. Birthday dinner at Napa Rose that night.



Valerie said she flew back to LA to visit family and it made being back in Long Island harder! I’m hoping that hitting the highlights in SoCal will satisfy that need and that returning to our beautiful home in the Orlando area will show me how great life is here.

Some of the fun we had at Hussong’s the last time we were in Ensenada:

Spring Break Surprise Weekend Retreat Trip Report TOC

Now that the “surprise” trip report is complete, I’ve added a TOC to link to each day’s posting, which can also be found on the “Disneyland Adventures” page. The trip was a much-needed Lenten retreat and break from the desert and the personal challenges we’ve been having with our little family.

Unfortunately, we’ve had to postpone our Food and Wine Festival trip due to family health issues, so this trip was even more special.

Spring Break Surprise Weekend Retreat Trip Report: Day 1

Spring Break Surprise Weekend Retreat Trip Report: Day 2, Part 1

Spring Break Surprise Weekend Retreat Trip Report: Day 2, Part 2

Spring Break Surprise Weekend Retreat Trip Report: Day 3

Spring Break Surprise Weekend Retreat Trip Report, Day 3

I forgot to mention stopping in at Sprinkles before we left Downtown Disney the night before. We spotted it on the way in and said we’d stop on the way out to get a cupcake to take back to our room for a bedtime snack. True, there’s a Sprinkles in Las Vegas, but we wanted to do this at Disney.

The Red Velvet Cupcake caught our attention, and so we ordered one of those.

When we arrived back at our hotel in Newport Beach, the fog had come in, and it was quite chilly. Anaheim was about 10-15 degrees warmer. We stopped in at the gift shop to see if it had milk and found a lowfat organic carton so we got that.

We shared the cupcake, and it was so delicious and just the perfect size for sharing – about 230 calories apiece. We were delightfully surprised – we’d expected some over-the-top super sweet super big thing. But it was just right for a calculated splurge. We’d logged about 3.6 miles for the day, which helped.

The next morning – the morning after DST – we were tired so we took our time getting up for coffee, packing, and heading off to Norm’s for breakfast. We absolutely love their “Bigger Better Breakfast” – especially their pancakes. Even if you don’t want to eat everything they give you, it’s still less expensive to buy it and eat just what you want. We basically eat once a day when we start off at Norm’s – nothing more than a little evening snack.

It’s such a great little community coffee shop – the sun was shining in Huntington Beach and, frankly, I didn’t want to go home. But the kitties were waiting, and we told ourselves we’d be back in four days. This was the first time we’d been gone since we lost Lovey – I mentioned how our pet sitter had said he missed Lovey, too, didn’t I?

Skipper was a bit stressed with us being gone, and his kidney problems seem to be getting worse. We took him to the vet today, except I couldn’t stay. I was overcome with emotion after losing Lovey here just last month. I ran out and drove home and popped a chocolate in my mouth, which helped me feel a bit better. Rich and I texted each other and I drove back and picked them up when they were finished. Skipper is down a pound, and we should have the kidney results back tomorrow. Always a big kitty, it scares me to see him losing weight, especially with how thin Lovey had become right before she was gone.

In the meantime, we’re testing out some special food for him that should support his kidneys better than the food we’d been giving Lovey for her diabetes, which is the opposite of what Skipper needs. So we cancelled our Food & Wine Festival trip for this weekend to see how things go and not to leave him and stress him out again so soon.

This trip was a fun surprise trip, and I’m so glad we went. I wondered if it would compromise the Food & Wine trip just a week later, but I couldn’t stay cooped up in Las Vegas for another week. As it turns out, we had to postpone the trip, but, hopefully, we’ll get to reschedule it later.


Spring Break Surprise Weekend Retreat Trip Report, Day 2, Part 2

After a brief nap, we had our “wake-up” snack of soda and a couple of squares of chocolate, and discussed our plans for the evening. We weren’t really into the beach after all and thought we’d swing by Downtown Disney for a little Disney magic.

We parked at Downtown Disney and saw, for the first time, the new security entrance, which we now know replaces the Valet parking area they once had. This secures Downtown Disney and allows you the freedom to enter the parks without going through Security in that congested area. People were friendly, and it went quite smoothly.

As we were walking toward the Security gates, we noticed a bride and groom riding inside Cinderella’s carriage – how romantic and magical is that! You can see that video here.

As we were heading toward World of Disney, Rich pointed out the people sitting at a table to our right. “JWs,” he said. I’m still in shock! I think I’ll write a separate post about my thoughts on that. Suffice it to say I think it’s a bad idea to open up the possibility of all kinds of non-Disney type entertainment setting up shop on DD property.

We also noticed the empty place where House of Blues used to be. They moved to Gardenwalk – the story is here. Splitsville takes its place at Downtown Disney – story here.

We must have arrived at Downtown Disney at the perfect time, because it wasn’t really crowded and World of Disney was the emptiest I’ve ever seen it. We spotted all the Minnie Mouse Merchandise immediately – she’s my girl (Real Mice Wear Red). I picked up a couple of red Minnie tapas plates.

Rich spotted a really cool Mr. Toad t-shirt and I assured him he must have it!

We then backtracked to the Grand Californian, noticing that on the way out, we’ll have to enter Security again. We were wondering where hotel guests would enter Security now that it’s been moved to the beginning of Downtown Disney instead of in front of the parks.

We stopped to enjoy the lobby and the pianist, and then on to Hearthstone Lounge, our home away from home.

This is one of our favorite places, but the last time it was a bit off. But we are happy to report, the fabulous service and experience was back on point, and I feel so totally at home here, I could just move in.

We shared our usual Robusto Flatbread and had 2 glasses of Malbec and tossed the idea around of stopping by the front gate to purchase an Annual Pass. It’s so hard to be asked, “Do you have an AP” when we’re dining or shopping and we have to say, “No!” lol!

We thought about getting the AP and popping in to DCA to check out the Food & Wine Festival, which had just started this weekend. Alas, we decided not to break the Downtown Disney parking rules and not enter a park, and wait for the “real” trip to purchase the AP.

On our way out of the GC, we stopped in at our favorite gift shop, and then through Security and back to the parking area with a brief stop to listen to our favorite Ry Bradley sing, and I took a bit of video from my iPhone. Or watch it here:

I’m still reuploading the iPhone videos to our YouTube channel but hope to reupload the GoPro videos soon. Unfortunately, on this trip, we didn’t have a better quality cameras with us.

The California vs. Florida “Don’t Think, Just Surrender” Trip Report, Part 3

After our nap, we had a wake-up snack of a shared Reese’s PB cups and the rest of our sodas from the drive. Then we drove to Downtown Disney, expecting to use the Valet service. On our last trip, we’d complained about the nasty surprise in the rate hike. Well, surprise, surprise, valet parking is completely gone – at least for now. We waited in line but didn’t see any valets and then we realized it was gone. Thankfully, we found a parking spot nearby, so self-park was pretty painless.

We walked past the Disneyland Hotel and then turned left toward Downtown Disney. Ry Bradley and his band was playing so we stopped for a song or two. They are so fabulous! Then we had to stop for another cool band, new to us. I took some video but I still can’t upload it to YouTube after that latest iPhone update. Will try to get to them via the computer. Anyway, I think they were called “Street Lighting Cadence.” Way cool!

Then we strolled down toward the GC to grab a bite and drink in Hearthstone Lounge. We ordered our usual Robusto Flatbread to share and this time, instead of our usual Habanero Margarita, we decide to each have a glass of Argento Reserva Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina. This is where we first discovered Cupcake Winery so it was a nice nod to that time.

After our nosh, we stopped in at the GC gift shop (Acorn’s), and a Mickey ring caught my attention – all sparkly and everything! I love rings so Rich couldn’t resist buying it for me. We also picked up a box of Mickey shortbread cookies dipped in chocolate to take home. All buttery and chocolaty! YUM!

We then made our way to World of Disney, hoping to find our annual Disneyland calendar. Well, it was so packed and we got distracted and forgot to look for one. Last year, we ordered on online so we may have to do that.

We hiked back to the parking lot to pick up our car and drive back to the hotel. Overall, it was a fun night, but something was off this trip. Maybe because we were just there a month before. Or maybe we just have Florida on our minds.

Speaking of that, at this point, we were still booked for the Disneyland trip later this month, but I woke up early the next morning and told Rich, “I can’t come back here in just a couple of weeks.” So we cancelled that trip and looks like we’ll be headed to Florida after all. More on that in a future post.

We had our morning coffee and skipped breakfast, I think. We headed for the road, stopped for gas and snacked on some of our leftover cheese and crackers and had lunch once we arrived home at around 1p.m.


The California vs. Florida “Don’t Think, Just Surrender” Trip Report, Part 2

We were a bit restless Saturday morning and didn’t know what we wanted to do this day. We’d had such an amazing weekend getaway just a month before and we were a bit discombobulated on this trip after not getting the corner room we’d imagined and checking out of Huntington Beach and then checking into Anaheim. For a brief moment we thought about getting tickets for the parks, but we really dislike doing it that way and were missing our APs. Besides, we planned on returning in a couple of weeks. We’d save the parks for then.

We talked about driving up to Saddleback to look at some properties. I’d had an interview with a company in Irvine and while they weren’t interested in letting me telecommute for a few months until we could make the move, at the right time, another opportunity might appear.

Rich made us coffee and grabbed a bite of breakfast for us – their breakfasts have really deteriorated. No more potatoes of any kind. So he got us 2 mini biscuits with gravy and a bagel. Then we hopped in the car and drove down Chapman. Rich forgot to get directions so I suggested he pull into Christ Cathedral and we could plug the address into the GPS then. Rich pulled in and parked and got out to take a photo. But when the bells went off, I got out of the car, too, and took some video.


Unfortunately, my iPhone won’t allow me to upload it to YouTube ever since that latest update, which has caused me so many problems, I don’t think I’ll get another iPhone.

We walked the property, noticing another wedding taking place on the grounds and the progress that had been made since our last visit. Then we hopped back in the car and drove to Saddleback. It was a beautiful drive and we thought how nice it would be to live there, but the property was quite disappointing.

By this time we were starving for lunch, so we headed to Laguna Beach. I’d seen a new restaurant on “Real Housewives of Orange County” called Tortilla Republic but it was in that very busy section of PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) and we couldn’t find a parking place. We kept driving, thinking we’d stop in at Las Brisas, one of our favorites, but it’s a tricky place to spot and we must have driven right past it.

Heading north, we crossed over into Newport Beach and remembered “Sol,” another Mexican restaurant we’d tried after spotting it on “Housewives” a few years ago. We left the car with valet and were seated in a booth with a waterview, and each ordered a “Pineapple Serrano Margarita” and a “Garlic Ribeye Steak Taco” with rice and beans.

The Margaritas were AMAZING and the Tacos were WOW WOW WOW! The tortillas were made from scratch and cooked the way I remember my mother making them when I was a kid. There are tons of tacos out there – it seems everybody has a version of taco, but these were “THE BEST EVER.” Too many places either serve them in a hard shell or a soft shell or double the soft shell that are so thin, they break. These were cooked hard enough to hold the ingredients yet soft enough to fold. And the flavor! Oh my!



After lunch, we returned to the resort and took a nap to rest up for an evening at Downtown Disney.