Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Can you say Æbleskiver?

This weekend, Dan and I had Monday off (thank you, Martin Luther King, Jr.!), so of course a road trip was in order. We've been wanting to visit a quaint Dutch town called Solvang since we heard about it a few months ago. The drive along the central CA coastline is really scenic, too (if you can just get through L.A. traffic), and Solvang is nestled in beautiful wine country just east of Santa Barbara. The town was founded by Dutch settlers who wanted to start a school within their own community. The original school is no longer there, but the Dutch-inspired architecture, history, restaurants, and shops are well worth a visit. We had a great time sight-seeing, and it was the perfect 2-day getaway so we still had Monday to relax at home before the work week started!

We loved seeing the colorful buildings, beautiful brickwork, cobblestone sidewalks, and hand-crafted gifts and foods

And windmills around every corner!

We split a sausage plate for dinner. It was delicious, but it made my stomach angry later. :(

There were Danish bakeries everywhere, torturing us with their sweet, buttery aromas

We visited the Hans Christian Andersen museum where we learned that he was the son of a poor shoemaker who made his own way in the world through his writings. Also, he was spurned in love many times, but the ladies probably regretted it after he became famous. :)
Dan is practicing his pose for his own statue someday.

The Solvang tour

Mission Santa Ines

Their cute wooden telephone booth. I'm not really calling anyone, or even holding the phone against my ear for that matter because I don't welcome ear cooties.

The whole town was this adorable

We tasted our first Aebleskiver at Solvang Restaurant. They are spherical Danish pancakes with raspberry jam and powdered sugar on top. Delicious!!

It is also the world's most fun word to say: "ee-bul-skee-ver"

We visited the nearby town of Los Olivos, where I was shocked to discover that olives grow on trees (like the tree right behind me)! If you had asked me before that moment, I would've maybe guessed that they grow on a bush like berries.

But nope, there they are hanging from tree branches! My brain just got a new wrinkle.

We continued to explore the beautiful countryside, and found this Ostrich Farm in Buellton.

Kind of random, but I like it!

One of the many vineyards in the area

Posers :)

One last deep breath of country air before we go back to the city.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Let the Holidays Continue!

I used to not appreciate the timing of my birthday very much, but I've changed my mind. As a kid, my January 11th birthday meant the holiday break was over, so I spent the day at (blah) school, and it was of course too cold to have a pool party with my friends. I dreamed of a nice warm summertime birthday in those days, and I think we even postponed my party until summer one year, but it was too weird.

Now if I stretch the celebration as far as it will go, I can get a good week off from cooking. :) The trick is to sign up for all the restaurant e-mail lists you can think of so they'll send you free meal coupons for your birthday! It's perfect timing since I'm semi-comatose at night from working full time after our two-week vacation with family. Having a birthday two weeks after Christmas also gives me a good excuse to postpone any responsible New Year's resolutions. You say "procrastination," I say "mental and emotional preparedness."

Anyway, it was a great birthday this year. I woke up to this beautiful sight:

Then these pretty ladies took me out to lunch

AND I had a hot dinner date at The Cheesecake Factory!

You should be more jealous of that cheesecake, so here, take a good look. Decadent chocolate...rich creamy peanut butter...mountains of whipped cream. :)

It. Was. Amazing.
And the good food continued this week with a delicious apple cake from my Bible study group and a birthday lunch at Buca di Beppo with my co-workers. Yum and yum!
Speaking of New Year's resolutions, I decided that this was the year. Actually, last year was going to be the year, but I made my decision too late and they ran out of space. I've been toying with the idea of it since we moved to San Diego, and I think it's going to be lots of fun! I mean, not that I'm doing anything about it right now exactly, but maybe (I'll give it a 50/50 chance) I'll start preparing next week.
Are you curious?
Wondering what it could be?
*******drum roll********
I registered for the 2011 San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon!!!!! It's one of the biggest events of the summer around here, and Dan & I have gone out to cheer on the runners in past years. They used to only offer a full marathon distance (I can't get motivated enough for that), but last year they added the half marathon course for the first time. It's something I know I can do, although it'll push me farther than I'd push myself without a goal to work towards. I'm excited about it! But not enough to start training just yet. Just give me a few more days of laziness...it's my birthday week, you know.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Coast-To-Coast Christmas

We had yet another amazing Christmas this year, filled with the people we love. Dan and I took two weeks off from work, and we planned to spend Christmas week with my family in TX and New Year's week with Dan's family in VA. We spent fun time with many aunts, uncles, and cousins in TX and also enjoyed hanging out with just my family at home. The east coast winter storm threw a minor kink in our plans and delayed our flight to VA for two days. It turned out to be a fun kink, though, because we were originally scheduled to leave TX the day after Christmas. So on Christmas morning, we opened all our presents and realized how little time we had to actually enjoy playing all the new games, listening to the new CDs and watching the new movies together. *dismay!* So when we unexpectedly got extra time to spend in TX, we put it to good use! Now we have a new house rule that "Christmas morning" will be scheduled at least a couple of days before everyone leaves. :)

When the east coast airports finally thawed out, we arrived in a beautiful winter wonderland covered in snow! We visited Busch Gardens Christmastown one evening, where they had decorated everything in Christmas lights and had special holiday shows & foods. They had a few rides & attractions open, too, and whenever the lines got too long, we threw snowballs at each other to pass the time. :) Friends & extended family came over to the Jester house for meals & games, and we even got to visit with some good friends from Colorado! We had our second "Christmas morning" and spent the rest of our time playing with our nephews' new Legos and Toy Story characters. Our nephews were involved, most of the time. :) We enjoyed every minute and can't wait to get to see everyone again!

One of our first evenings in TX, we got together with my mom's side of the family at a Mexican restaurant, then went to Braum's for ice cream afterwards.

My brother Steve, my mom, me, and cousin Tim enjoying the. best. frozen. yogurt. ever.
Cousins Kyle, Jeff, Laura (the cute one in the front), Addi (the cute one in the back), and Tricia

My brother Paul gave us a tour of his house & workplaces. This is the store where he works that sells hand-made canned goods & candy

Dan was especially attracted to the pickled quail eggs. haha!

Me, Aunt Wanda, Aunt Lillie, and my mom during an afternoon visit
Dan, my dad, Uncle Larry, and my brothers Steve & Paul
Cousins Emily & Kolby (at the head of the table) invited us over for dinner at their house

In Williamsburg, we all enjoyed a beautiful (and COLD) night at Busch Gardens Christmastown with the Jesters

Guess who we saw there!

For some reason, no one but Dan & I and our nephew Aaron wanted to get a picture with some of the most famous stars in America.

Some of our best friends from Colorado were in VA and came to visit us! Courtney spent the day with Mike & Kate and their kids, Charlotte & Cameron, and they all made the drive to Williamsburg to see us one night. We loved it!

We spent New Year's Eve with lots of family & friends, including Pete, Joyce, Christina & Kimberly. Christina and Kimberly were the flowergirls in our wedding once upon a time!

Dan with Uncle Tony & Aunt Irene

We took some family photos before we left - I love this one of the original Jester family! L to R: Robin, Dad J, Mom J, Dan & Tim

The whole gang

Definitely one for the Christmas card
And I'll end with something that will make your day. During Dan's work Christmas party, they had a game show theme based on "Minute to Win It". They pulled random (yeah, right) names from a hat and those people had to compete to win a prize. Dan's name just *happened* to be called for this competition, which was to shake/dance all the jingle bells out of a Kleenex box the fastest. He got all the style points, I'll tell you that much. :)