Parrottrek Journal 2011

Check out our map page to see where we've been

January 8, 2011 - Keeping Busy Over the Last Few Weeks - Santa Barbara, California -
Okay, okay, enough with the hate mail, we profusely apologize for not updating the webpage for the last month, but we've been busy. What have we been busy with? Well, Frank and I found a "fixer-upper" that we couldn't say no to helping out with, so this new project has filled our days, evenings and a few weekends. Below you will find a few pictures of our progress so far. There is still a lot to get done and we will add more pictures as our project progresses. It's quite fun to remodel a house, especially when we get to make all the final decisions of what to put where... but I have to say that I have no desire to ever live in a house while it's being remodeled. With all the dust and dirt and noise and mess and dirt and noise that is caused while making improvements, would drive me nuts. And not being able to close the doors at the end of the day and leave the mess behind, might just put me over the edge. I have the utmost admiration for those out there that buy older homes, live in them, fix them up, sell them and do the whole process over again, but that is simply not in my DNA. Once this house is transformed into the beautiful home we plan on turning it into, we will find a nice family to rent it out and say goodbye to home construction for awhile. In the meantime we are having a blast seeing all the progress we and our helpful friends have made and when it's all said and done it will be quite an accomplishment. Good thing we don't have to be anywhere for a year or so.

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All the carpet is out of the house ready to be taken to the dump

After the first roll off arrived, it literally only took us 2 hours to fill it and another empty one was delivered later the same day

Can't see the house the roll-off is so big. It holds 40 yards of trash and yard waste

January 22nd - Lots of Progress -
Time sure flies when your remolding a house. And boy is it nice to see the progress finally. The first few weeks all we did was clean, clean, clean and throw, throw and throw some more. As of today we are on roll-off number four and we can finally see a dent in things. This old 70's style house is looking newer and newer everyday and by the end of February it won't have a hint of the last century's influence.
All the ceilings have been de-popcornized and given a fresh layer of modern day texture, let's hope this new fad lasts awhile. The entire house is now wallpaper free as well as rat carcass free, or so we hope. The kitchen cabinets are on order, the tile is ready to be put down and the front yard has real working sprinklers. Yiippeee!!!!

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The front of the house - before

The backyard - before

The side of the house - before

The beautiful 70's kitchen - before

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Wow, there is a window there - after

A nice manicured yard - after

All the firewood went to a good home

An empty canvas to create a new kitchen

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Good-bye ceiling popcorn

The enormous rat skeleton we found after removing the old tub. Eeeewww!

Days and days of scraping off various patterns of wallpaper lead to nice clean white walls

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Our very own beach house

Cody enjoys the views

Sailboats and sunsets

A walk on the beach

February 3rd-6th - Enjoying Winter, California Style -
There's nothing like falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing onto the shore outside, especially when you're curled up in your very own bed in your very own house with your loved ones nestled around you. This week our little cottage on wheels, is a beach house. Since the weatherman said the high of the week would be around 72 degrees with warm evenings, we decided to drive up the coast a bit to Port San Luis in Avila. Our front door opens to the sand and the views from our patio are endless. This afternoon we rented a couple paddle-boards and hit the water. Not knowing how well I would do my first time out, and not wanting to plunge my camera into the salt water, I decided to leave it at home. As it turns out the paddle-board was far more stable than I expected and am happy to report we were both successful in staying upright the entire voyage. This is definitely something we'll do again soon.

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February 19th - Coming Together -
We are happy to present a few (mostly) finished rooms. The new laundry room has even my husband looking forward to doing laundry.
What went from a room full of boxes is now a fabulous new kitchen just aching for the countertops and flooring.
The hall bathroom with its ginormous tub looks better than we ever could have imagined.
The new bedroom doors have their first coat of paint on them and are just waiting for us to pick the perfect knobs.
These next couple of weeks should show even more progress as the flooring will be going in, the painting should be complete on the inside, all new bedroom and closet doors will be hung, and all new picture windows will be installed. Thanks to our great and talented friend Contractor Bill, and his handy assistant Frank, it's finally beginning to look like a house again and not just a construction site.
Jim Scorso and his fleet of gardeners did such an amazing job with the backyard that we had to take out the old waterworn fencing and install a backdrop that makes the yard complete.

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Island hopping

A curious whale swims by the boat

The boys try to beat the Condor into a cave

Study group

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Captain Frank in the Making -
Perhaps you've noticed over the last few years that we thoroughly enjoy spending time on the water. Whether these bodies of water are filled with fresh or salt water, these locations seem to pull us to them as iron filings are drawn to a magnet. Just like iron filings, which are made up of hundreds of small separated pieces, we often feel as though we are being pulled in a multitude of directions until something as soothing as being together, on a boat, on the open water pulls us back into sync. Especially when the noise of a motor can be silenced and the sound of waves, wind and nature are all we hear.

Splash!! Frank jumps into the Pacific

Anchored for the night

The tranquility of sailing is something we have come to love and know that this is definitely our next calling. Being in California for the next few months is working out well. My hours of completing my national certification in massage are coming to an end and Frank's 720 days of being on the sea in order to get his captain's license are beginning. To quote an old TV star "I love it when a plan comes together" The pictures above are from a weekend course that Frank took with three others in which they sailed out to two islands over three days. This past week he got a job aboard the Double Dolphin, a 45 foot catamaran that embarks on two whale watching excursions each day and finishes off with a sunset sail, not a bad way to make a living. Oh, and a perk of being on crew is that family members sail for free, which both my dad and I have already taken advantage of. This is going to be a very fun summer, now all I have to do is figure out where the massage table will fit on deck.

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Surrounded by friends

A Wii tournament

Here come the candles

Happy Birthday to our sweet nieces

April 17th - Party Central - Hayley and Torrie's Birthday Bash -
I swear it was just yesterday that Hayley and Torrie turned 6 and 4, respectively, but we apparently blinked somewhere along the way over the last decade since today we are celebrating their 16th and 14th birthdays. The Smith house was full of activity tonight including a variety of Wii games, some sing along and lots and lots of friends and family. The Wii tournament was quite fun, and more challenging than I thought. I won a couple rounds of fencing, but then realized that playing against an 8 year old isn't something you should do too many times in a row when you have to perform massages the next day, so I handed off my controller and let a ten year old take my place. Watching these two girls grow up since they were babies has been a very fun experience. As we look back at all the holiday photos and birthday celebrations it doesn't seem like we adults have changed much over the years, but Hayley and Torrie sure have. And into wonderful young women I must say. Happy Birthday girls, we love you so much!

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Views of the Pacific from the huge windows that surrounded us

Easter dinner with family

The town paints all the clam shells for the holiday

April 23rd - Happy Easter -
Ooops! So somehow we completely forgot about Easter this year. This weekend and into next week Frank and I had planned to take a few extra days off to celebrate our anniversary, but when family started to call and ask us what we were doing Sunday, I took a look at the calendar and realized the up and coming holiday. Lucky for us we have great and flexible family members that were just as antsy to spend a day out of town as we were, so they drove up to where we are staying, in Pismo Beach and we all went to lunch at The Spyglass Inn, which has gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean and the nearby town of Avila. We toasted the holiday with a round of mimosas and decided to forgo the customary ham with all the trimmings and enjoyed some delicious seafood. In staying with the holiday theme, this afternoon on a walk around town Frank and I stopped for a photo op with the Easter Bunny.

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The big hill we rolled down on our bikes, we must have looked hilarious doing so

Crashing waves behind us on our ride

Nap time in our hammock by the sea

Cody happily eating a stump

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April 26th - Our 14th Wedding Anniversary, Pismo Beach, California -
Over the last 6 years of traveling we have spent our anniversary in many different places, but always the same 'home'. We spent our 9th anniversary in Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. Our 10th in Pigeon Forge. Our 11th in Atlanta, Georgia. Year 12 in Madison, Illinois, 13 in Nashville, Tennessee and our 14th in sunny, yet cold and windy, California, right next to the shoreline. Since we hit California back in November, we haven't had the chance to take much time off, so these last four days, with a couple more to go,

Campfires each night

Kite-boarders lined the ocean

have been wonderfully relaxing and just what we needed, since all five of us had gotten accustomed to a couple weeks off each month or so. We are now, almost, ready to head back to reality and our busy schedules but until Thursday, we are going to continue enjoying the sunny days, hunting for sand dollars, bike rides down the beach, reading by the campfires each night and letting the birds soak up the sun during the days, which puts them all in much better moods than spending their days in their cages.

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Grand Central Station

Lunch at Philippe's

The very long but fairly quick line at Phillippe's

Shopping on Olvera Street

Hayley Hits Hollywood -
As it turns out, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is about six miles from Hollywood, but being the proud aunt and uncle we are, it's close enough for us to count. Our darling niece, Hayley, and her high school choir was chosen to be amongst the ensemble of Eric Whitaker's Paradise Lost, which just happened to be performing at said Hall. And since we've both been aching to travel, even if it is a short distance, we decided to make a weekend of it and check off another item from our Bucket List, train travel. We boarded the Amtrak Surfliner Saturday morning in Santa Barbara and rode it into Grand Central Station in Los Angeles. We both read a bit, enjoyed the ocean views and took a short nap, not an advisable activity to do behind the wheel of a 40 foot vehicle, but since the reigns were in someone else's hands and the movement of the train felt like a comfy rocking chair, we thought nothing of it. We arrived in Los Angeles a little after noon, had lunch at Philippes, home of the best French Dip sandwiches ever, took a long walk all through Olvera Street and then hopped in a cab and headed to the Millennium Biltmore Hotel, where we unpacked and relaxed.

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The beautiful lobby of the Millennium Biltmore, yes we left the birds at home

The pool at our hotel

A shot of our hotel taken on our afternoon walk

Our room with a view

Our room, filled with vintage furniture, looked like something out of the 1940's with its tall ceilings, unique windows, narrow doorways with antique knobs. The lobby, hallways, pools and corridors had so much character you could almost imagine what it felt like to stay there back when it first opened and was fresh and new, almost a century ago. We spent an hour or so walking through the various rooms and levels and then headed out to the streets of downtown Los Angeles. This sounded like a good idea at the time, heck, we thought we might even see a movie star or two. Once, as we were walking down Bourbon Street in New Orleans we saw John Malkovich smoking a cigarette outside a bar, (I of course chickened out on asking to take a photo with him, since the four people in front of us beat me to it, not to mention I didn't want to look like a total geek) so the odds have to be greater of seeing more movie stars in Hollywood, right? In reality it was quite a ghetto experience and the only theatrical person we ran into was a vagrant who cussed me out because I wouldn't give her a dollar in order for her to get her meds refilled at the CVS up the street. After she asked me for a dollar and I nicely said "Sorry, I have no cash" she grabbed my arm and yelled "I just need one more blankity blank blank dollar and I can get my meds filled. Maybe after that I won't be so on edge, what the hell is a matter with you that you can't give me a dollar or two?" Lucky for her, the walk sign lit up in front of us and I didn't have time to explain to her the value of a dollar, a steady job or a good shrink for that matter.
After our gaunt through the neighborhood we headed back to the hotel for a recommendation on where to go to dinner. Portofino was the popular choice for the hotel staff, other their own fine dining locations of course, but being a bit curious of what might lurk on the streets north of us, versus our earlier walk south, we took our chances and walked the short distance to the italian restaurant, which was delicious. Once we were stuffed on fresh baked bread, caesar salad and a bit of wine, we took one last walk and found the Walt Disney Concert Hall, a few more family members and best of, our seats for the evening's event.

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We took a short walk to dinner

Enjoying some wine and appetizers

The very modern Walt Disney Concert Hall

And us outside of it

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A very happy Hayley and family after the performance

more proud family members

The stage and amazing organ

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Pops poses with Reagan

A piece of the Berlin Wall

The Oval Office during Reagan's presidency

Suzy at the presidential platform

May 30th - Memorial Day at The Ronald Reagan Library - Simi Valley, California -
Growing up, I remember how much my dad loved and admired Ronald Reagan and since this year would have been Reagan's 100th birthday I thought it might be fun to take my dad to The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. We took our chances with going on a three day weekend, and quickly discovered it was a great choice. We arrived at the library right as it opened and walked through all the various displays including Air Force One, an old East German bunker, rows and rows of the Berlin Wall and a replica of the Oval Office while he and Nancy resided in the White House. There was room after room that represented the different facets of his 93 years, including his life before and after his 8 years of being the 40th president of the United States. Frank and I visited the library about 7 years ago, and even since then quite a few things have been added, including the man himself who was laid to rest in the back lawn of the library in 2004, overlooking the amazing views of Simi Valley and its surrounding mountains. Pops sure had a blast today reminiscing down memory lane and I enjoyed spending the day with him and reading up on a bit of history.

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See, they do let Democrats in

The beautiful back lawn of the library

Dad tried to break into Marine One, but no such luck

R.I.P. President Reagan

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A picture perfect house

Lots of plants and trees all around

A gorgeous new kitchen

Skylights that let in great natural light

July 1st - A Job Well Done -
Almost 8 months from the day we stepped back into my old childhood home, that fell into slight disrepair, we are pleased to present our finished product. What began as a few dozen sketches, lots of brainstorming, hours and hours and hours of work that included planning, cleaning, demolishing, rebuilding, scraping, painting, weeding, planting, shopping (too bad we didn't own stock in Home Depot), yard sales and everything else that goes into home improvement, including a few tears and a couple bruises, has ended with our vision becoming reality. We have had so many great friends and family members helping us along the way that I'd have to add another page to our site just to thank them all. Looking at the pictures here you would never imagine what it looked like back in November, unless of course you scroll up a bit and see all the before shots. This little house on Alpine Drive has made so much progress, we should have made our own DIY TV show. The happiest person to see the house today in all its glory, is my dad. Who, by the way, is happily living in his new cottage in Santa Barbara. Photos of that are right below.

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A cozy stone fireplace

The fresh new hallway that leads to renovated bedrooms

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I hardly recognize my old room

The back patio screams for bar-b-ques and parties

A huge backyard to play your favorite outdoor games

And the best part... it is now in the hands of a property manager. Whew!

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Pop's Spanish style house

Frank chillin' in the living-room once it's all set up

The sitting room and library

His very cheery and bright kitchen


Pop's New Pad - Santa Barbara, California -
Once upon a time, in the little city of Newburg, Oregon, a young couple began to plan their lives. Bob Newsom and Gail Wright talked about getting married, buying a house and perhaps one day, starting a family. Their American Dream was to buy a house somewhere near their ideal city, Santa Barbara, California, in hopes of someday retiring in its beautiful hills above the Pacific Ocean. This dream became a reality when Bob married his Ms. Wright, had two babies and was offered a preaching position in Goleta, a suburb of Santa Barbara. The family spent summers at the beach, winters by the fire, springtime at family camp and autumns back at the beach. It was a hard life they led.

Joey, the man who brought us all the lemonade and ice tea we could drink, along with lunch!

Pop's library and very slyly hidden Murphy bed.

When the babies were old enough to attend school, Gail took a position as a substitute teacher. The perfect job that allowed her to work when she wanted and stay home when the kids were sick, or those days when the beach called her to its shores for a leisurely afternoon to herself. Once the kids were grown, off to college, and planning weddings of their own, Bob and Gail retired from their jobs and took up a few fun hobbies including walks to the park, gardening, and taking in a few stray cats. After 40 years of marriage, at the age of 76, Gail was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. This time the cancer came back so strong that there wasn't much she could do other than turn up her nose at it and say "you can't take away from me my last few happy days." After saying goodbye to all those she needed to, one night Gail went to sleep and awoke with the angels. Bob, knowing in his gut that his days on this earth weren't yet over and even though some days his heart tried to fight this thought, he decided to take their dream and bring it to full fruition. So this last week Bob moved into the hills of Santa Barbara. Into his own piece of heaven surrounded by friends, activities and more adventures than his daughter can keep up with, or perhaps know about, which she's slowly coming to terms with. After all, she's had a few adventures of her own, maybe even a couple her dad doesn't know about, so now perhaps they're even... ... perhaps! But more importantly, Bob, who now likes to go by Robert, is happy.

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Happy Fourth of July

Great friends and their little ones

Quite a unique float

Swim party with family

A Fun 4th of July - Solvang, California -
Sleeping in! I almost forgot what that felt like. Ahhh, a three day weekend, an extra day to get a couple extra hours of sleep in the morning. A day where most of the world is closed so those of us who have 287 things on our to do list are forced to actually breathe and take a day off. Soon after the sun came up my phone began to ring off the hook. And happily not with the usual calls we get. Not a single call from any of the contractors, or the tree removal guy or the neighbor mad that our concrete guy took out the entire block's cable and internet and asking us how the heck long is it going to take to get these items turned back on, or the emergency trip from a plumber when our stump grinder took out a water main. Not a single call from anyone having anything to do with the house, just calls from friends and family asking us what our plans were for celebrating the Fourth of July. Ooops, another holiday I completely forgot about. I forgot to plan anything festive, well, other than sleeping in. Lucky for us we have lots of loved ones that do like to plan things out, like celebrations, including some visiting from Arizona. And celebrate we did. The day started out with breakfast, followed by watching a parade in Solvang, a swim party where the weather cooperated quite nicely, a bar-b-que and a short walk to Mission Santa Ines where the evening was finished off with an amazing fireworks show at eye level, since the fireworks were shot from 250 feet below us.


Renee and Kelly relax a bit

The boys b-b-que a fabulous meal


Torrie and Chelsea

Ready for a walk to the Mission

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All the fireworks lined up below us

We're ready for the show with aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and siblings

Hayley and Matt. How is it that my niece is old enough to date??

And off they go into the sky. What a great day.

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First stop, Brander Vineyard

and a self portrait out front

Next stop, Fontes-Phillips, our good friends newly opened tasting room

Wine tasting with the winemaker

August 6th - Wine Tasting - Los Olivos, California -
Part of Frank's job description on the sailboat is, bartender. Yes, it's a rough job, he sails up and down the coast of Santa Barbara, watches seals and dolphins play in the surf and even catches the occasional sighting of various whales. On these 2 hour stints he serves drinks, takes a few photos for the guests and soaks in the sun. This weekend his assignment was to find a new red wine for the Sunset Kidd, so we decided to take Grandma and Grandpa Saulsbury along with us on this daunting task. Our first stop was Brander Vineyard just off of highway 154 where we found a very tasty Pinot and some great views of the hills that surround the Santa Ynez Valley. After our long scenic walk around the property we hit the quaint town of Los Olivos where all types of wine tasting rooms keep popping up, and stopped in to see our good friends Rochelle and Allan and sampled their line of wines called Fontes- Phillips.

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The moving crew unpacks the Boardwalk home

We emptied out the old house

Four pick-up trucks and a 35 foot trailer full of stuff headed to the new house

August 20th - Goodbye Ghetto, Hello Boardwalk -
Today we experienced Monopoly in person. Good friends of ours were living on the equivalent of Baltic Avenue, purchase price of $110 in the world of monopoly to buy the property and one house. Mind you, when they moved into the house almost a decade ago, it was a nice area. Since over the last few years the neighborhood went to heck in a hurry, they decided to get sell their home on Baltic and head to Boardwalk, literally. However they got a much better deal than the comparable Monopoly price tag of $600 for property, house and enormous backyard on Boardwalk Ave., so everyone is happier, especially their two labs who are in heaven with their new backyard.

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Part of the crew enjoying a break

Griffin is happy in his new home

The day began with the 12 of us packing up the old place into everyones trucks, cars and a friend's 30 foot racing trailer. Once the old place was packed, we headed to John and Andrea's new house in the quiet and safe city of Orcutt where we unloaded all the vehicles, unpacked a good chunk of the boxes and kicked back in what has been nicknamed the 'man cave' where the previous owners installed a beautiful fully stocked bar with glasses and bottles, that they left behind for its new tenants to enjoy. Not only is the house bigger, the yard larger, but it puts both John and Andrea 15 minutes closer to work, and closer to us.

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The hiking trail up to the falls

Cody takes a break to enjoy the views

Nojoqui Falls, so pretty

Yay, we made it to the base of the falls

September 13th - Fun at the Falls - Nojoqui Park -
Somehow the stars aligned today and we both had a weekday off. Since the house no longer needs all of our spare time we decided to pack a lunch, a couple birds and hike up to Nojoqui (pronounced Gnaw-Hoe- We) and check to see if there was any water in the waterfall. Keep in mind we are in California, so the rain levels here are usually quite low, but since this year has been an unusually wet and rainy one, the waterfall is still pouring a bit of water over its edge, so our hike was well worth it. And since it is a weekday, we had the place almost to ourselves.

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A fun evening at the Bacara

Enjoying the views

The Sunset Kidd crew enjoys the sunset on the veranda and a warm fire inside

October 5th - The Sun Sets on Frank's Career on the Sunset Kidd -
When we first arrived in California, Frank's wish was to work on a sailboat and get in enough days at sea to begin the quest for his captain's license. In a world of panic, with everyone telling us there aren't any jobs to be found out there, especially in your field of choice, he somehow did the impossible and made his wish come true by finding a job as the first mate aboard the Sunset Kidd, one of the only sailboat charter businesses in the Santa Barbara Harbor, and is working as a sub deckhand on the other, the Double Dolphin. Funny how a bit of determination, and a beautiful parrot that makes the perfect accessory to any pirate, can make any dream come true.
This evening, we went to the Bacara, a gorgeous 5 star resort on the beach, and had one last night with the rest of the staff from the Sunset Kidd, we enjoyed endless appetizers, great views, an amazing sunset and a long fun evening that was topped off by neither of us having to wake up early the next day.


Tyler models our wine for the evening

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The adults enjoy a round of margaritas

Chef George made us delish tacos

The ladies of Focus Physical Therapy

The kids enjoy the backyard

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October 9th - Farewell to Focus - Vandenberg Village-
Since early December of 2010 I have been working as a Massage Therapist/Physical Therapist Aide for a good friend of mine in the small town of Vandenberg Village. And on this beautiful warm fall day we had one last get together at Danielle, the chief therapist, and her husband George's home. George bbq'd carne asada and chicken for the tacos, cooked up the best jalapeƱo poppers we've ever sunk our teeth into and blended up a couple rounds of very tasty margaritas. The best part of the day was that we all were able to sit around and talk uninterrupted, which never happened at the very busy office.

Yum, homemade desert

Saying goodbye to dear friends

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